Author: Anthony Butler
Commander Conway gripped Suva’s chair tightly as the first volley of fire from J’hana’s ship slammed into the Jatrall.
“Raise shields and arm the weapons!” Suva cried, glaring up at Conway. “It appears your officer is not quite as reliable as you thought she was.”
“I can’t explain.” Conway said, trying to keep hold of Suva’s chair.
“Maybe she’s just trying to make her act convincing!” Ford suggested, cowering in D’aht’s grasp.
“I’m f***ing convinced!” Conway cried.
“Damage report!” D’aht barked, looking to her operations officer.
“They were able to breach our hull in several sections before we could get our shields up. Moderate damage to the lateral shield grid.” The officer replied.
“Return fire, all weapons!” Suva ordered. “Get us out of here!”
“Shields failing!” The navigator cried. “Their weapons are far superior to our own.”
“Open a channel to the Gadvash.” Conway said. “Tell them to get some help. We won’t be able to stop this ship ourselves.”
“Are you suggesting we sacrifice ourselves to cover your friends’ retreat so that they can bring reinforcements?” Suva asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, you got a problem with that?” Conway asked.
“Actually, I like the way you think.” Suva smiled, as the ship shook again, several panels exploding around them. “Do it, Namor.”
“We’re getting a message, text only.” Tilleran said, as Lt. Commander Larkin watched the firefight between the Jatrall and the other ship on the viewscreen. “Commander Larkin… pull back and go for help. J’hana is now in charge of the Shalta’prax. We will hold them off. Commander Conway.”
“What an odd message.” Larkin said. “I wonder what would cause Lieutenant J’hana to change loyalties so suddenly.”
“What should we do, Commander?” Tilleran asked. “Should we help them, or leave?”
Larkin thought a moment. “We are severely underpowered. A ship that matches one of the ships we faced in the Brinmar system would easily dispose of us. Besides the fact that Commander Conway’s message is an order, it also seems the wiser choice.”
“So we’re just going to leave them there?” Tilleran asked.
“Affirmative.” Larkin replied. “Plot a course to rendez-vous with the Explorer.”
At Tilleran’s command, the Gadvash pivoted around and shot off into warp.
“The other ship is getting away, Mistress J’hana.” Charix reported from the weapons console. “What should we do?”
“Let them go.” J’hana said coldly. “It is a weak ship. I want you to disable the Jatrall and capture its crew.”
“Readying a team now, sir.” Charix replied. “It shall be a massacre.”
“I want the bridge crew alive, Charix.” J’hana commanded. “If one of them dies, you do.”
“Very well.” Charix replied, making for the turbolift.
J’hana sat back in the command chair uneasily. She was wondering if attempted murder of a superior officer was a court martial offense.
“Time to intercept?” Captain Baxter asked, leaning forward eagerly in the command chair as the Explorer streaked through Andorian space.
“Five minutes, sir.” Ensign Madera replied from the helm.
“What’s the status on the Gadvash?” Baxter asked, turning back to Lt. Gellar.
“Hard to tell from this distance.” Gellar replied. “I can tell you it’s still in once piece, but not much more than that.”
“Damn.” Baxter said. “I knew we should have gone in there with the Explorer and shot our way to the Shalta’prax base.”
“Stop it, Andy.” Peterman said from Baxter’s left. “You know you did the most sensible thing you could have done. What have I told you about beating yourself up?”
“Tell that to Commander Conway.” Baxter sighed. “Him and Ford could be dead right now.”
There was a soft chuckle from Ensign Madera.
“Hey, that’s one of your crewmembers, missy!” Baxter said angrily. “And he could be dead, and you think that’s funny?”
Madera shrunk a bit in her chair. “He grabbed my chest, sir. Several times. And he was always trying to get in my pants.”
Peterman sniffed sadly. “That’s what made him so special. He had so much love to give.”
“Save the memorial, Kelly.” Baxter said. “How much longer, Madera?”
“Take us out of warp. Prepare to lock transporters onto Tilleran and Larkin and bring them back here.” Baxter ordered.
“The rebel base is actually an ancient cache of technology known as the ‘Vaxva,’ which, loosely translated, means the ‘Poison Apple.’” Larkin said, indicating the graphic of the huge installation on the conference lounge’s viewscreen. The senior staff had assembled so quickly, Tilleran and Larkin didn’t even have time to change out of their Andorian getups.
“As in Adam and Eve?” Baxter asked.
“The same, sir, at least, in the context of Andorian mythology. Nevertheless, it simply means a forbidden treasure.”
Tilleran swiveled in her chair towards Baxter. “About a thousand years ago, the Andorians were one of the most advanced races in the quadrant. They had everything from cloaking devices to disruptors, to quantum torpedoes, hundreds of years before most of today’s advanced races.”
“What happened?” Lt. Commander Richards asked.
“They were too violent.” Tilleran explained. “The planet’s elders realized if they were allowed to keep their technology, they would tear theirselves apart. So they had most of the war technology of the planet destroyed, and the rest buried deep in an asteroid, presumably to be accessed once they had grown mature enough to use it.”
“So they unwrapped their Christmas presents a little early?” Browning asked.
“Affirmative.” Larkin replied. “An Andorian by the name of Lular found it during a mining expedition, and, along with his co-workers, captured the installation and the two or three ships sent to oversee the operation. Within two weeks, they had seized control of the Andorian government.”
“Enter the Shalta’prax.” Baxter sighed.
“Correct.” Larkin said, taking her seat.
“So where does J’hana fit in to all this?” Peterman asked.
“She is Lular’s sister.” Larkin explained. “And evidently, she has taken over leadership of the Shalta’prax.”
“She must have a reason.” Peterman said. “She wouldn’t just ignore her oath to Starfleet like that.”
“Could you get any readings from her, Tilleran?” Baxter asked.
“Andorians are quite difficult to read to begin with, Captain. And since I had no visual contact with J’hana, and was not in a close proximity to her, I was unable to get a reading.”
“What about the Andorians that are helping Conway and Ford.” Baxter said. “Suva and D’aht.”
“Very horny, in my opinion.” Tilleran replied. “Full of pent up sexual frustration.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Baxter said. “I meant, where do they fit in?”
“Two agents from the defunct Andorian government.” Larkin said. “Their mission is to renew the former government and destroy the Shalta’prax at all cost.”
“Andy, we have to go there and help them.” Richards said. “We can’t just let J’hana and these…Shalta’prax continue this.”
“I agree.” Baxter said. “Where did you say this installation is located?”
“The Tarcoba belt.” Larkin replied.
“Very well.” Baxter said, slapping his comm badge. “Baxter to Madera. Set course for the Tarcoba belt. Maximum warp. And rig us for silent running. I don’t want to be picked up until the last possible moment.”
“Acknowledged.” Madera replied.
Baxter turned his head to watch the stars outside the conference room rush towards them as the Explorer shot into warp.
Standing up, Baxter glanced over to Tilleran and Larkin. “As soon as Dr. Browning restores you two to your former…hue, I want you to begin working with Mr. Richards on a way to pierce this installation’s defenses. Use whatever data the Gadvash gathered on it.”
“Sir, that doesn’t give us much to work with.” Tilleran said.
“It’ll have to be enough.” Baxter said. “Because one way or another, I’m going to smash the crap out of that poison apple.”
“Our shields are down!” D’aht shouted. “They’re sending over boarding parties!”
The Jatrall rattled as the other ship locked on its tractor beam.
“I hope you can fight better than you make love.” Suva said, withdrawing her blade and preparing for combat.
“Well, I’ve had more experience fighting.” Conway said matter-of-factly.
Suddenly purple beams appeared all around the bridge, coalescing into rather angry-looking Andorian warriors.
Conway withdrew his phaser and shot at the first three warriors that approached him, ramming his elbow back into the gut of the one behind him.
“We shall not give up!” Suva cried. “You all will fight until you have expired your last breath!!!”
“Welcome to the Chorbak.” Charix sneered, shoving Commander Conway into his cell.
Conway winced as he slammed up against the bulkhead.
Next to him, arms crossed, Suva appeared extremely upset. “I thought we agreed to fight to the last breath.”
“I didn’t agree to anything.” Ford said from the opposite end of the brig.
“Don’t worry, Suva. J’hana will get us out of this.” Conway said, taking a seat next to the Andorian and leaning back.
“She got us into this, you imbecile.” D’aht said, glaring down at Lt. Ford. “You humans are so stupid.”
“She has a plan, I know it.” Conway said resolutely. “She wouldn’t just betray us.”
Suddenly the doors to the brig opened up, allowing Lt. J’hana to enter.
She walked over to the cell and examined Conway and Ford. “You two should not have come.” Her eyes then wandered to Suva and D’aht. “And who the hell are you?”
“I am Suva.” Suva said proudly, raising her chin. “And this is my sister D’aht. We are of the hive P’cran. A most noble hive. One that does not believe in treason.”
“Too bad.” J’hana sneered, looking them over. “You obviously do not believe in fashion, either.”
“What are you doing, J’hana?” Conway whispered. “We could have been killed!”
“You should be glad that you weren’t, and leave it at that.” J’hana said. “I am not the same person I was when last you saw me, Conway. I lead these rebels now, and I have an enormous cache of weaponry at my disposal.”
“That weaponry belongs to the Andorian people! Not some upstart faction!” Suva shouted. “You are insane to believe that one person can control such a power.”
“Silence!” J’hana shouted. “You will speak only when spoken to. Now, Commander Conway. Where is the rest of your team?”
“They escaped, no thanks to you.” Conway said. “They’re going to bring the Explorer back, and Captain Baxter’s going to put a stop to this nonsense once and for all. And you’ll be court martialled. Is that how you want it?”
“It is not how it will be. One way or another I will fulfill my honor.” J’hana said, turning to leave. “Now the four of you will be left here to ponder your ignorance. Perhaps you can find some way to… scrape up some iota of dignity.”
“She’s as lovely as you made her out to be.” Suva muttered. “I hope you see the error of your ways.”
“I don’t know.” Conway said, rubbing his chin.
J’hana silently made her way down the corridor, towards the room she had been held in a day before.
Lular was crouched inside the room, knees drawn up, his eyes intent on the door as J’hana stepped in.
“Good afternoon, brother.” J’hana said, squatting down in front of him.
“I have nothing to say to you.” Lular growled. “You took my greatest achievement from me. You convinced my followers that your place in the family was superior. That you could use your Starfleet knowledge to help defeat the Federation. You have united my group against me and taken away my one chance at honor.”
“I thought you had nothing to say to me.” J’hana said. “Listen, Lular. Your plan was doomed to fail. You can’t take on the entire Federation. All you can hope to do is send our people into another regression. One that we’ll never recover from.”
“And what do you hope to do?” Lular asked angrily.
“Save us.” J’hana said, standing up and leaving.
“Okay, everyone, this is the installation.” Lt. Commander Richards said, adressing everyone that was gathered in engineering.
A graphic of the sprawling installation appeared on the main systems screen, tiny arrows pointing to all its major features.
“It’s made up of an alloy we can’t identify, and it has a shield grid like one we’ve never seen before,” Richards went on. “The question is, can we find a way to get through with our transporters.”
“Not a chance.” Lt. Tilleran said, rubbing the sore spots on her forehead where the antennae had been. “The shields are several steps past the metaphasic design. They have a constantly changing signal variance that makes it impossible for us to break through with a beam.”
“What about a shuttlecraft?” Ensign Stuart asked. “If we could adjust the shields to the same frequency, it might have a chance of getting through.”
“But that is the problem, Ensign.” Lt. Commander Larkin said. “The shields’ phase modulation changes faster than we can compensate for. We would have to find a processor that is faster than anything we have on a shuttle.”
“I think I know where we can find one.” Richards said, staring at Larkin.
Suddenly everyone turned to look at Larkin.
“Commander, certainly you do not mean to use my brain to-“
“You read my mind.” Richards smiled. “Okay everyone, open her up. We don’t have much time.”
“Come.” Captain Baxter said, looking up from his terminal.
Counselor Peterman strolled into Baxter’s readyroom, plopping down on his couch. “What are doing, Andy?”
“Changing the Explorer’s prefix codes.” Baxter said, looking back to his terminal.
“Because of Lt. J’hana?”
Baxter nodded. “We’re not sure where her loyalties lie anymore. And I don’t want to risk this ship finding out.”
“As J’hana’s therapist, I feel fairly certain that she wouldn’t do something like that.” Peterman said. “She has a great deal of respect for the Federation. And she feels quite a bit of loyalty for you.”
“It’s not showing right now.” Baxter muttered, not looking up. “She’s captured two of my officers.”
“I’m sure she has a reason.” Peterman replied.
“If not?” Baxter asked, looking up again.
“Well, Lt. Gellar has always wanted a promotion.” Peterman said, managing a weak smile.
“I hope you are happy.” Suva said angrily, glaring at Conway from her cot. “Thanks to you my vessel has been captured, we have been imprisoned, and your precious Lieutenant has been left to rule the quadrant as she pleases.”
“I’m not worried.” Conway said. “This is nothing we can’t handle. Starfleet has certain protocols to be used when dealing with alien technology, and I’m sure our Captain will…”
“What is it?” Suva asked.
“When J’hana left, she said ‘perhaps you can find some way to scrape up some iota of dignity.’ ‘Iota.’”
“So?” D’aht asked.
Lt. Ford leaned up. “Protocol Iota Three Two Seven.”
“Exactly.” Conway said with a smile.
“And what exactly is ‘Protocol Iota Three Two Seven’?” Suva asked exasperatedly.
Conway’s smile faded. “When a Starfleet officer comes across advanced weaponry that could be misused by the enemy, it is that officer’s responsibility to make sure that weaponry does not get into the hands of the enemy, at any cost.”
“Even death.” Ford said solemnly.
“A most Andorian-sounding protocol.” Suva said fiendishly.
“I like it.” D’aht agreed.
“We have to get out of here and stop her.” Ford said. “She’s planning on taking out that whole installation, and her with it.”
“We’re not going to stop her.” Conway said, slapping his thighs with resolve. “We’re going to help her.”
Captain Baxter emerged from his readyroom, as officers scrambled around the Explorer’s bridge. “Report, Lt. Gellar.” Baxter shouted over the Red Alert klaxon.
“Four Andorian raiders just appeared about fifty thousand kilometers of our stern, on an intercept course.” Gellar reported.
Baxter walked to the front of the bridge, looking back at Counselor Peterman, who sat nervously on the edge of her chair. “A welcoming party from our dear friend J’hana.”
“They’re arming weapons, Captain.” Gellar said urgently.
“Raise shields, weapons at the ready,” ordered Baxter, “and give me an analysis on those ships. Are they like the ones we faced in the Brinmar system?”
“No, sir.” Lt. Gellar said uneasily. “They’re running on a much higher power signature?”
“What for?” Baxter asked.
Suddenly the Explorer shuddered.
“High powered antiproton cannons sir. Almost as potent as the Flarn’s.” Gellar reported. “Our shields are down to eighty percent. And the other three ships are coming into firing range.”
“Load all torpedo bays and fire when ready.” Baxter ordered, returning to his command chair. “Can we make it to the Vaxva in one piece without taking them out?”
“Not a good idea, sir.” Gellar said. “We’d be fighting on two sides.”
“Good point.” Baxter replied, pressing a button on his command chair. “Bridge to engineering. I need you guys to give me some suggestions on how to take out these Andorian raiders, or we’ll never even make it to the Vaxva.”
“We’re going to need to exploit their one weakness, Captain.” Lt. Commander Richards replied. “What we’ve come up with down here is that the Andorian raiders are too bulked down with high-powered technology. Much like the Defiant, they’re just to powerful for their size.”
“Direct hits from three of the ships.” Gellar said over the din of the antiproton assault. “Our own shields are down to fifty-six percent.”
“So how can we exploit this weakness?” Baxter asked.
“The shields, sir.” Richards replied. “Based on what we’ve gathered, the shields are running way too much power through the grid.”
“So if we can channel enough energy in there, they’ll overload.” Baxter reasoned.
“Exactly. And all we need to do that is run a focused polaron beam through the phaser emitters and focus on their shield generators. That will cause a cascade throughout their shield grid.”
“Thank goodness for technobabble.” Baxter replied. “You guys get the polaron beam ready; meanwhile, Mr. Gellar, I need you to plot a shield generator point on all four of the ships.”
“Yes, sir.” Gellar replied.
The Explorer heaved again, as the Andorian raiders bore down.
“We can’t take much more of this, Andy.” Peterman said from beside Baxter.
“Everything is under control, Kel.” Baxter said. “You have nothing to-“
Another shot rocked the Explorer.
“Shields down to thirty!” Gellar shouted.
“Where’s that polaron beam, Richards!” Baxter cried, stabbing the comm button.
“Online, Captain!” Richards called back.
Baxter called up the diagram of the other ships on his monitor. “Ensign Madera, take us into the middle of their echelon. Gellar, target one phaser bank on each ship, and prepare to fire the polaron beams!”
Gellar quickly entered the commands. “Targeted, Captain!”
Baxter leaned forward, gripping his chair as his ship shuddered around him. “Fire!”
Four blue beams lanced out of the Explorer’s saucer and upper engineering section, holding on the smaller ships until each ship was overcome with a wave of yellow electricity.
“We’ve done it, sir!” Gellar cried out. “Shields down on all vessels.”
“Take out their engines with the phasers and leave them here, then go back to Yellow Alert.” Baxter ordered, settling back in his chair. “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”
“Reports coming in from our squadron in the Banla system, sir.” Charix called out. “They engaged the Explorer and were defeated.”
“Shelat.” J’hana cursed, grinding her teeth angrily. “Then they are coming here.”
“It would seem so, sir.” Charix replied. “Shall we ready our defenses?”
“No.” J’hana replied, standing from her chair. “I am putting you in command of the Chorpak and ordering you to evacuate the Vaxva.”
“To what end, mistress?” Charix replied.
“Do not question me.” J’hana ordered. “It is what must be.”
Charix seemed to consider this. “When you took over this operation, I did not hesitate in following you, despite the fact that you came on board this ship a prisoner. After all, you are the elder sister, and your decree, by law, supercedes Lular’s. But you must understand–”
In the blink of an eye, J’hana’s blade was unsheated and pressed against Charix’s neck.
“Dare you question my ability to lead?” J’hana asked through clenched teeth. “Shall I remind you of my prowess with the blade?”
“That-that will not be necessary, J’hana.” Charix replied. “I apologize.”
“I have no need for your apology. All I require is your obedience.” J’hana seethed.
“And that you will recieve, mistress.” Charix replied.
J’hana put her blade away and stepped toward the turbolift. “Very well. Have all personnel aboard the Vaxva transported to this ship. Lular and I will take over command of the Vaxva and use it to stop the Explorer. In the meantime, you will take the Chorpak to the Dendra system to meet up with the rest of our ships. Is that understood?”
“Completely, mistress.” Charix replied, turning to bark commands at one of the crewmen.
The guard peered into the brig that contained Conway and the others. “You Terrans being good?”
“Stinking up the place.” D’aht sneered angrily. “Is it really necessary for you to put us in here with such filth?”
“You are the one that associated with them to begin with,” the guard said.
“Shut up.” Conway said, thumbing his nose at Suva.
“Now you see what we have to put up with.” Suva groaned. “Could you at least put us in the other cell?”
The guard considered this. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt. But no funny stuff?”
“Not unless you want any…” Suva said suggestively.
The guard shrugged, punching up a code next to the cell. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Suva and D’aht ducked out of the cell. The guard turned the field back on as soon as Suva and D’aht were out.
“Now which of us do you want first?” Suva asked.
“Are you kidding?” The guard replied. “I want both.”
“My kind of man!” D’aht said, leaping onto the guard along with Suva.
The three of them fell back against the brig’s control console.
“Hey, not so rough!” The guard said, as Suva and D’aht pummeled him with their fists.
“Wimp.” Suva asked, ramming her fist into the guard’s chin, instantly knocking him unconsious. She then hit a sequence on the control panel, powering down the whole block of cells.
“Let’s get out of here.” D’aht cried, grabbing phasers from their places on the wall and throwing them to Ford and Conway. “We’ve got a station to take.”
“This is extremely undignified.” Larkin said, as Lt. Tilleran finished wiring her head into the shuttlecraft
“As an android, you are not capable of experiencing emotions, including indignance.” Lt. Tilleran replied, adopting her best android tone. “Now be quite while I rewire your logic circuits.”
“Indignance is not a trait of emotion. It is simply a fact.” Larkin replied, twitching as Tilleran worked. “Besides, the bannana battery has its window ray clock snart.”
“Oops.” Tilleran said, reaching into the top of Larkin’s head. “I must have loosened your speech processors.”
“Spank you, Lieutenant.” Larkin replied. “Spank you berry clutch.”
“That’s still not right.” Tilleran frowned, glancing at Larkin’s head, which now looked up at her, scrunching up and twitching as she worked.
“How’s it coming?” Lt. Commander Richards asked, stepping over Lt. Commander Larkin’s headless body as he entered the shuttlecraft.
“It could be better.” Tilleran replied. “Ms. Indignant here is putting up a fight.”
“Now, Larkin,” Richards said, bending down and looking Larkin in the eye. “I expected you to give your mommie a little more cooperation.”
“It tis snot a splatter of communication, Lieutenant Gerrymander Lizards.” Larkin replied. “I pimply–terd– trot–blit-“
“I knew I should have run a head cleaner through the last time I did her maintenance check.” Richards said, examining Larkin with a tricorder. “Her head’s all full of dust.”
“Actually, there’s still some sand in there from when we took her to the beach on Corsica.” Tilleran said, turning Larkin’s head upside down and shaking it.
Along with dust and sand, a tiny object fell out of Larkin’s head and hit the deck with a metallic clang.
“Hey,” Richards said, bending down and picking the object up. “It’s my yin-yang pin. I’ve been looking all over for this thing.”
“Crotch mitch barn flop.” Larkin observed, as Tilleran flipped her head back up.
“Her wiring’s still funny.” Tilleran said, sticking her hand back inside Larkin’s head and feeling around. “It will be a while before we can get her integrated into the shuttle’s computer system.”
“Well, be quick about it.” Richards said. “We’ll be at the Vaxva soon.”
“I assume we will be pickling our flag on the Amsterdam.” Larkin said.
“Keep at it, Tilleran.” Richards replied, ducking out of the shuttlecraft.
When he went to step over Larkin’s body, the android’s leg suddenly flew upwards, hitting Richards directly between the legs.
Richards fell too his knees, falling over Larkin’s body and crying out in pain. “What the hell?”
“Plardon me, Compender.” Larkin said.
“All decks, make ready to go to warp.” Charix’s voice said over the intercom.
“We don’t have much time.” Conway said, leading Ford, Suva, and D’aht through the cooridors of the Chorpak.
“We have to transport aboard the Vaxva before they go to warp.”
“The transporter room should be this way.” Suva said, pointing down a side corridor.
The group burst into the transporter room, stunning the operator and mounting the pad.
“Can you track down J’hana’s signal?” Conway asked, as Suva worked the controls.
“Hold on…got it. Prepare to transport.” Suva said, typing in some commands.
Before Suva joined the rest of the group on the pad, she entered some commands into the terminal.
“What are you doing?” Conway asked.
Suva jumped onto the pad. “I am disabling their secondary command functions. They will not be able to use the security systems to find out where we went.”
“Good thinking,” Conway said, as the group dematerialized.
“What are you doing?” Lular asked, as J’hana worked at the panel surrounding the Vaxva’s massive reactor.
“Making us martyrs.” J’hana replied, pressing some commands into the panel.
“You’re going to destroy the Vaxva, aren’t you?” Lular replied angrily.
“Maybe.” J’hana said. “If, by some chance, overloading the reactor causes the station to blow up, well, that will be a happy coincidence.”
“I don’t understand.” Lular said. “I thought you respected this power as much as I did.”
“I do.” J’hana replied. “That’s why I must not let it get into the wrong hands. Our people will never advance as long as the temptation of this technology looms around us. It must be destroyed.”
“I…don’t…think…so!” Lular cried, rushing forward and knocking J’hana up against the reactor core. He rammed his bound fists into her chest, bringing them up into her face.
“You still punch like a girl, Lular!” J’hana shouted, kicking Lular back into a panel and following up with a head- butt.
“You’re just jealous because I’m more of a girl than you are!” Lular cried, sliding underneath J’hana and hosting her into the air, slamming her back into the bulkhead.
J’hana struggled to right herself, yanking out her blade and ramming it into Lular’s shoulder, pushing him down and straddling her legs on top of him. “This is for attacking an elder sister.” J’hana twisted the blade. “And each twist reminds you of your ignorance.” J’hana pulled the blade out and held it up high. “The next time you defy me, this blade will pierce your heart.”
“J’hana!” Conway cried, running into the room, followed by Ford, Suva, and D’aht.
J’hana looked up from her impaled sibling. “Oh, Commander Conway. Fancy seeing you here.”
“Fancy seeing you here!” Conway cried, running over and grabbing J’hana by the uniform and pushing her up against the wall. “Is that all you can say? What the f*** is going on?”
“Really, Commander, it is all quite self-explanatory.” J’hana said.
“Well, we’ve got plenty of time to talk about this now.” Conway replied, letting go of J’hana.
J’hana straightened her uniform indignantly. “Actually, we don’t.”
“What does she mean?” Suva asked, stepping forward.
Lular stood up, clutching his wounded shoulder. “She’s going to overload the reactor and blow up the station.”
“With us on it?” Ford asked. “Oh, that’s brilliant!”
“I did not expect you two to be here.” J’hana said. “But as it is, you will recieve a death more honorable than you would otherwise have had.”
“Enough with the doubletalk.” Conway said. “Stop the overload now. The Explorer will be here soon and we’ll be able to turn the Vaxva over to the authorities.” Conway looked back at Suva and D’aht. “Then they can do with it as they see fit.”
“Thank you, Commander.” Suva said, folding her arms.
“Authorities?” J’hana asked, eying Suva and D’aht. “These two? I don’t think so.”
Suva shrank back as J’hana came closer. “What ever do you mean?”
“I didn’t get a good look at you earlier, but now I recognize you both.” J’hana sneered. “I should have known you two would come here.”
“Who are they?” Conway asked.
“Two of the most sinister minds in the Andorian underworld, Commander. They are expert assassins, mercenaries, and thieves.” J’hana said. “And you think *I* run with the wrong crowd?”
“That’s enough!” D’aht cried, grabbing Lt. Ford and wrapping an arm around his neck, jamming her phaser against his head. “No one move! The station is ours now!”
“You could have done that before J’hana stabbed me, you stupid bitch.” Lular said, taking Conway and Ford’s phasers and aiming them at J’hana. “Well, well, well, I guess the tables have turned.”
“This changes nothing, Lular.” J’hana said, standing over next to Conway and Ford.
“We’ll see about that.” Lular said, motioning to Suva and D’aht. “D’aht…stop the reactor overload. Suva, keep an eye on these three Federation fools.”
“You really f***ed this up, Commander.” J’hana said angrily.
“Sorry. We were trying to help,” Conway replied.
“I did not require your help. I had the situation well in hand.”
“At least you were right about one thing,” Ford said. “J’hana did have a plan.”
“What is he talking about?” J’hana asked.
“There was some…doubt…of your loyalties.” Conway said. “I think everyone assumed you had betrayed Starfleet.”
“I wasn’t sure.” Conway said. “But something told me you weren’t going to betray us.”
J’hana huffed. “I am honored by your faith in me, Commander.” She narrowed her eyes in Ford’s direction. “Unlike some others.”
“Nearing the Tarcoba belt, Captain.” Ensign Madera called out from the helm.
“Take us out of warp,” Baxter ordered, “what do we have on sensors, Mr. Gellar?”
“A large installation matching the sensor logs of the Gadvash, sir. It’s extremely high powered, running with advanced polyphasic shields. Sensors can’t penetrate deep enough to get anything else.”
“Not even defenses?” Peterman asked.
“No, but I’m guessing they have at least the same firepower as the ships we faced in the Banla system, Counselor.”
“At least.” Baxter said. “Ready all weapons and put us back on Red Alert.”
“Aye, sir.” Gellar replied.
“Baxter to Richards, how far are we from launching that shuttle?”
“Not long now, sir.” Richards replied.
“Be ready to launch as soon as possible, Richards. I don’t know how much time we can give you guys.”
“Understood. Richards out.”
“Hail the station Mr. Gellar.” Baxter said, approaching the viewscreen.
A female Andorian appeared on the viewscreen. “How can I help you, Captain?”
“Who is this?” Baxter asked, peering at the woman. “Where is Lieutenant J’hana?”
“I am Suva of the house P’cran. J’hana is indisposed at the moment.”
“Suva, thank goodness the station is under friendly control. We’ve heard that you are here representing the Andorian government. What happened to my officers?”
“They are…safe here, Captain. I suggest you drop your shields in order to beam them aboard.”
“Acknowledged. We’ll drop shields as soon as we’re in range.” Baxter said.
“This feels wrong, Andy.” Peterman said uncomfortably. “Where are all the other Andorian raider ships?”
“Beats me. I just want to get my officers back and get out of here. Now that the Andorian government has the Vaxva, and the rebel group’s threat is minimized, things should return to normal.”
“We’re in transporter range now,” Ensign Madera reported.
“Drop shields and prepare to recieve our team, Mr. Gellar. But keep on your toes.”
“Prepare to recieve transport.” Captain Baxter’s voice said over the transporter room’s comm system.
“Ready down here, Captain.” Lt. Hartley said, hitting the proper controls on her terminal.
Three beams coalesced on the transporter pad, and Hartley was about to welcome them back aboard the Explorer. But the beams didn’t resolve into the shapes of three humanoids. They became three long, glowing green cylinders.
“I’ll be damned!” Hartley shouted, slamming her hand back on the “Return to Sender” button on her panel. “Hartley to Baxter. They just transported a load of quantum explosives over here!”
The moment the cylinders disappeared, they began to reappear. Hartley hit the return button again, causing them to disappear again.
“Get the shields up, Captain!” Hartley shouted.
“What are they doing?” Peterman asked.
“I’m not waiting to find out. Mr. Gellar-“ Baxter shouted.
Suddenly a blast slammed into the Explorer, causing the deck to pitch wildly under Baxter’s feet.
“It’s okay. I got the shields up in time.” Gellar replied.
“Fire all phasers.” Baxter shouted. “Hartley…what’s the status on that explosive little christmas present?”
“I sent it back before they could get thier shields up. Then they beamed it out into space right outside our port bow.”
“Damn it, what’s going on over there?” Baxter asked, gripping the deck as the station’s weapons pummeled the Explorer.
Suva hovered over Lular’s shoulder as he worked. “How much longer, Lular?”
“Patience, woman, this is delicate work. Work which would be much easier if we weren’t being fired upon.”
“Destroy that starship!” Suva barked, turning back to D’aht.
“It is not as simple as that, even with this weaponry.” D’aht said, as she worked the station’s controls.
“What are you doing, Lular?” J’hana asked, straining against the electronic bonds that had her, Conway, and Ford tied down to the bulkhead.
“You’ll see soon enough, J’hana!” Lular cried. “And you think you know what the Vaxva is! Won’t you be surprised!”
“Something is happening aboard the station.” Gellar said, checking his panel. “Power is doubling, the hull plates are…shifting!”
“On screen.” Baxter said, stepping forward.
On the viewscreen, the massive glowing station glowed brighter, actually pulsing…growing, busting right out of the asteroid it was trapped in.
“What the hell is happening?”
“It’s sprouting warp engines, sir!” Gellar reported. “It’s turning into a starship!”
“Wow.” Baxter said, watching as the ship rose out of the remaining chunks of asteroid, wings spreading out of its stretching conical shape. “It’s a trasformer.”
Lular gripped a railing as the Vaxva began to shudder around him. “I’ve done it!”
“I don’t believe it.” J’hana sighed, as the station continued to rumble. “He’s unlocked the Vaxva’s most deeply hidden secret.”
“The Vaxva is a transformer?” Conway asked.
“I should have known.” J’hana grunted. “It only makes sense that the Vaxva would be mobile.”
“Maybe you were sick the day they taught this in your Andorian history class.” Ford suggested.
“Shut up!” J’hana cried angrily.
“Baxter to Richards. The Vaxva is a starship, and it’s about to leave. You guys need to get over there now, before it’s too late!”
“With the level of technology the Vaxva supposedly contains, no doubt the warp engines are far superior to our own.” Lt. Commander Larkin noted, her head comfortably nestled on the shuttle’s dashboard.
“Which means we have to get over there before it goes to warp.” Tilleran said.
“Which is any minute now.” Richards said, sliding into the pilot’s chair and activating the shuttle’s engines. “We’re ready for launch, Captain. Open up the bay doors.”
“You’re clear, Commander.” Baxter replied.
Richards piloted the shuttlecraft out of the bay, bringing it around towards the massive Vaxva.
“That thing is humongous.” Tilleran noted.
“Go get ‘em, guys.” Baxter called out over the comm. “We’ll cover you.”
“Find a good space to park this thing, Tilleran.” Richards ordered. “Larkin: you start calculating the shield configuration.”
“May I remind you that this process has not been blessed–ert–I mean tested yet?”
“I thought we’d fixed that!” Richards said, as the Vaxva loomed closer.
Tilleran winced as bright beams of phaser fire flashed by the window. The Explorer sailed by them, its weapons blazing at the Vaxva. “Don’t look at me!”
“Configuration ready!” Larkin said. “Just melt two slices of cheese on top of the cream of chicken soup for a yummy winter treat!”
“She’s crosslinked her file chains!” Richards said, steering the shuttle around a beam from the Vaxva.
“But that does sound good, doesn’t it?” Tilleran asked.
“Do you have us a place to clamp down, yet?” Richards asked, looking out over the massive hull of the Vaxva as they skimmed along it, weaving in and out of weapons fire.
“Got it.” Tilleran replied. “There’s a power transfer node four hundred meters to port. It’s putting out enough power to throw the graviton sync on the shields off.”
“Recomputing.” Larkin said. “Shield frequency attained. It is four point nine pounds of cooked pasta, to which you should add approximately eight ounces of your favorite spaghetti sauce.”
Richards slapped the side of Larkin’s head several times. “Come on you two bit hunk of junk, work!”
“Do not blame me, Commander. As I recall, it was you who built this brain.” Witmann replied.
“And I’m starting to regret it. Now recompute the shield configuration.”
“Working.” Larkin stated. “Frequency attained.”
“It better be right.” Richards said testily. “Or we’re all as good as chowder.”
“Clam or corn?” Larkin asked.
Richards just smacked her again as he took the shuttle in towards the hull of the Vaxva.
Both Tilleran and Richards closed their eyes as the shuttle glided through the shielding of the Vaxva as if it wasn’t even there.
“We did it!” Tilleran said joyfully. “We actually did it!”
“Was there ever any doubt?” Larkin asked.
“Hold on…” Tilleran said. “The polyphasic shielding is adjusting. It’s closing in around the shuttle.”
“We have to get out of here.” Richards said, yanking Larkin’s head off the dashboard and programming the shuttle’s escape transporter.
“What about my body?” Larkin asked.
“Tilleran-“ Richards commanded, running towards the back of the shuttle as the forward panels began to spark and explode.
“Got her!” Tilleran said, slinging Witmann’s body over her shoulder, stabbing the energize button.
“The shuttle just exploded!” Lt. Gellar reported.
“Were they able to transport off?” Peterman asked, looking back.
“Affirmative.” Gellar replied. “They’re on board.”
“What about the Vaxva?” Baxter asked.
“It’s powering it’s engines.” Gellar said. “The engines aren’t configured any way I’ve ever seen. No telling how fast that ship can go.”
“Be ready to pursue them, Ms. Madera.” Baxter commanded. “Baxter to engineering. Prepare to pour everything we have into the engines.”
“What if we can’t catch them?” Peterman asked.
“Then it’ll be up to the others.” Baxter sighed.
“Now we take our places in history!” Lular said victoriously, climbing out of the maintenance shaft and running to the front of the reactor room. “Ready us for immediate departure, D’aht. First stop, Andor!”
“What about the Explorer?” Suva asked.
“A petty inconvenience at best.” Lular replied.
“We have an intruder alert.” D’aht called out. “It seems that shuttle we destroyed was able to breach our shields and beam a team aboard.”
“You were saying?” Suva said angrily.
Lular looked back at J’hana. “Friends of yours?”
“Undoubtedly.” J’hana said, “now you will learn a painful lesson. Do not f*** with Starfleet.”
“Go find them and stop them, Suva.” Lular ordered, staring at J’hana. “Dead or alive, I want them neutralized.”
“Right away.” Suva said, grabbing a phaser and storming out of the reactor room.
“Engines ready.” D’aht called out.
“Engage!” Lular cried. “It is time to claim my empire!”
J’hana watched the viewscreen at the front of the room as the stars rushed towards them.
“Lular…the Explorer is following. They’re increasing speed to overtake us.” D’aht reported.
“Well, punch up our speed. These engines are better, are they not?”
“Surely.” D’aht said, hitting several controls. “That ship is no match for us.”
“We shall see.” J’hana said confidently.
“We don’t have much time.” Richards said, looking to Tilleran. “Have you found the control center?”
“This way!” Tilleran said, indicating the direction the group should move in.
“Are you coming, Larkin?” Richards asked, looking back at Larkin.
The android brought up step behind Richards and Tilleran, head tucked comfortably under one arm. “Affirmative, Commander. And might I thank you for jury- rigging a remote link between my head unit and my body. It is almost as convenient as actually having my head attached.”
“I do what I can.” Richards said, withdrawing his phaser. “Now let’s move!”
“Engines are holding at Warp Nine point nine.” Madera reported. “But I don’t know how long we can keep this up.”
“Can we get a clear shot at the Vaxva?” Baxter asked. “Maybe slow it down a little?”
“Negative.” Gellar replied. “Not with all the power dumped into the engines.”
“So even if we can stay with them, we can’t fight them, Andy.” Peterman said. “This is useless.”
“I can’t just leave all my officers over there.” Baxter said.
“Engines nearing critical.” Madera reported. “At this rate we’ll have to come out of warp in five more minutes.”
“Then keep us going until then, Ensign.” Baxter ordered. “I want us to be in the game as long as possible.”
Lular paced the area in front of the viewscreen thoughtfully, considering his next move.
“What do you plan on doing when you get to Andor?” J’hana asked. “Are you just going to blow it up? Is that how you’ll claim your destiny?”
“Not at all.” Lular said, turning. “I’m simply going to make an announcement. I’m going to announce my coronation as supreme leader of the Andorian people.”
“Oh, that’s rich.” Conway said. “You think they’ll fall for that?”
“Yes, they will.” J’hana said. “He has the Vaxva. He controls the supreme power of our people–for now.”
“And for all time, J’hana. I suppose now you can see that it is I who will be remembered when our hive is spoken of?”
“Only when stupidity is spoken of, Lular.” J’hana said.
Lular was about to reply when he saw Suva appear in the doorway. “Well, Suva, what of the Starfleet invaders?”
Upon closer inspection, Lular realized that Suva was unconcious, leaning limply against the doorway.
“They’re right here!” Tilleran cried, jumping out from behind Suva’s body and firing her phaser.
Richards and Larkin followed, managing to stun D’aht before she could reach for her sidearm.
“Free us!” J’hana shouted, watching the fray with anticipation.
Lular jumped behind a console, grabbing a weapon he found in a locker near the console.
“Duck!” Tilleran shouted, pushing Richards to the deck as Lular fired the weapon, which vaporized a large chunk of the deck and ceiling.
“Yikes, that’s one hell of a gun!” Richards said.
“Gotta love those ancient Andorians.” Tilleran noted, taking up position behind the reactor.
Lt. Commander Larkin sat her head down and worked diligently to untie Ford, Conway and J’hana.
“What the hell happened to you?” Conway asked.
“It is a long story.” Larkin replied.
“Still, it’s nothing to lose your head about.” Ford laughed.
No one else seemed to think the joke was funny.
“Bring us out of warp.” Baxter sighed, watching on the viewscreen as the Vaxva soared out of range.
“One more second and we’d have been space dust.” Peterman said, glancing over to Baxter. “Could you have cut that any closer?”
“Maybe.” Baxter said, looking back to Gellar. “Where are they headed, Gellar?”
“The Andor system, sir.” Gellar said. “We can still get there fairly quickly at warp four, which, coincidentally, is all we can sustain now.”
“Better than nothing. Do it, Madera.” Baxter ordered.
Lular peered out from behind the console he was using as cover. All the Starfleet officers had taken cover, no doubt to avoid another blast of his weapon.
A sudden beep from the console caused Lular to jump. They had reached Andor.
Punching in the command to come out of warp, Lular stepped out from behind the console. “You Starfleets can come out now. We’ve reached our destination. Now, don’t you think it’s time we finish this without getting anyone hurt?”
“You’re outnumbered, Lular!” J’hana’s voice called out.
“But I have the big gun!” Lular said, prompting one of the officers to emit a shrill squeak of fear.
“Shut up Ford!” Another voice said.
“In one minute I’m going to start blowing things up!” Lular cried.
“And risk hitting the reactor?” J’hana asked. “I don’t think so. Give it up, Lular.”
“Never.” Lular said. “You all will surrender, or I’ll kill every one of you right now.”
“And how are you going to do that?” J’hana’s voice asked.
“Computer, activate a polyphasic forcefield three hundred sixty degrees around me. Then evacuate the oxygen from the rest of this compartment.”
“Oh.” J’hana responded.
“We’re screwed now.” Conway said, suddenly feeling the air become thinner.
“Not exactly, Commander.” Larkin said. “You still have me.”
“Joy.” Ford said. “If you haven’t noticed, Commander, you can’t even keep yourself together. How the hell do you think you’re going to save us?”
With her last gasps of air, Lt. J’hana pulled Larkin’s head close to her, “Blow up the reactor, Larkin.”
“Don’t do it!” Conway gasped. “That’s an order!”
“Do it!” J’hana gasped. “For honor!”
“I have no concept of honor.” Larkin said, as Conway and J’hana fluttered out of conciousness. A smile spread across Conway’s face. “However,” Conway’s smile disappeared, “it would seem J’hana’s advice is the only way to assure that this technology does not fall into Lular’s hands. And in this case, Protocol Iota Three Two Seven would seem to apply.”
Larkin approached the reactor, pointing her head toward the controls so that she could reset the reactor overload with the other hand.
“What are you doing?” Lular asked.
Larkin did not respond. Now that she was in a vacuum, she could not be heard anyway.
“You can’t destroy the reactor! You’ll kill us all!” Lular ran towards Larkin, bouncing against the forcefield and flying backwards. “Computer–drop fields and restore oxygen!”
Lular lept towards Larkin, who flung him away effortlessly with her free hand.
J’hana rubbed her head as conciousness began to return. The first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was a blue blur flying towards her.
Groggily, J’hana grabbed Lular by the scruff of his neck and rammed him into the bulkhead.
Lular swung his fist back into J’hana’s face, jumping to his feet and running for the ship’s control console. “We’ll finish this once and for all, my dear sister!”
“Reactor overload set.” The computer’s cold male voice reported.
“Excellent.” Larkin said, smashing the controls with her fist.
“What have you done!” Lular cried out. “You’ve killed us all!”
J’hana rammed into Lular from behind, slamming him into the console. “It’s over, Lular.”
Conway and the others had awakened quickly enough to ascertain what Larkin had done.
“How the hell are we going to get out of this one?” Ford asked.
“We’ll have to use the Vaxva’s transporters.” Richards said, running over to the only console that wasn’t smashed. “Tilleran, I’m going to need some help over here!”
“This ends here!” Lular said, flipping J’hana over him and slamming her to the deck.
“Done.” Tilleran said, hitting a final control on the transporter. “We just need to move a little closer to the planet and we can beam down.”
Once he found the helm controls, Richards maneuvered the huge vessel down towards the planet, just as J’hana and Lular slammed into he and Tilleran.
“We’ve gotta get out of here!” Conway shouted, helping Ford lift up Suva’s unconcious form, while Larkin grabbed D’aht.
“The coordinates are programmed.” Tilleran said, picking herself up. “Come on, J’hana, we don’t have time for your little brother-sister feuding!”
J’hana continued to struggle with Lular. “You guys go ahead. I’ll catch up.”
“We’re not leaving you here!” Conway said.
“Wanna make a bet?” J’hana asked, reprogramming the transporter to leave her and Lular and stabbing the “energize” control. “Have a nice trip!”
“I’ll be a son of a-!” Conway shouted, as he and the rest of the group dematerialized.
“You should have gone with them,” Lular said, picking himself up and slamming a fist into J’hana’s stomach. “Now you’ll die here with me.”
“If that is what it takes!” J’hana grunted, slamming Lular up against the bulkhead.
“We’re nearing Andor, Captain.” Madera called out.
“The Vaxva has taken a direct vector for the planet’s surface.” Gellar called out. “And its reactor core is set to overload!”
“Where are Conway and the others?” Baxter asked, turning to Gellar.
“Everyone but J’hana is on the surface of Andor.” Gellar reported.
“What about J’hana?” Baxter asked.
“I can’t…wait a minute,” Gellar’s brow furrowed as he studied his panel. “Sir, I’m reading two Andorian life forms still aboard the Vaxva.”
“The Vaxva’s nearing Andor’s atmosphere.” Ensign Madera called out. “They’ll reach the surface in another four minutes.”
“Get them out of there.” Baxter ordered.
“No can do, Captain. I can’t get seem to get a positive lock through all that radiation.”
Gellar shook his head. “No response, sir.”
Ignoring the beeping comm light on the barely functioning control panel, J’hana heaved the Vaxva to port, making her best attempt to aim the massive starship towards the expansive Sea of Rexax. It was her only chance to crash the ship without endangering the population of her home planet.
“No you don’t!” Lular cried, throwing J’hana out of the chair and pouncing on top of her.
J’hana rammed a fist into Lular’s face, sending him reeling backwards to the deck. “Yes, I do.”
Tossing Lular to the side, J’hana searched out a map of the ship. Finding one on one of the remaining unsmashed data panels, J’hana quickly located an airlock. Even the ancient Andorians needed a way out.
“Aha!” J’hana said, finding a hatch about fifty meters from her position. “We’re getting out of here, Lular.”
“I don’t think so.” Lular grunted, grabbing J’hana’s legs and pulling her down.
Meanwhile, the Vaxva continued to plunge.
Commander Conway, Lt. Commander Richards, Lt. Tilleran, Lt. Commander Larkin and Lt. Ford rushed out onto the bridge.
“The two Andorian sisters were working for Lular, Captain.” Commander Conway explained. “We stowed them in the brig for now.”
“We’ll worry about them later.” Baxter said. “What about J’hana?”
“She’s still over there.” Tilleran said.
“Two minutes to impact.” Madera called out.
“Come on, J’hana!” Conway said, watching as the Vaxva sank into the atmosphere, flames licking at the sides of its hull.
J’hana dragged herself along the deck, Lular tugging at her feet. “This is insane, Lular. You can’t win!”
“But I can, if you lose!” Lular cried out insanely. “I’m taking you with me to the Bed of the Dishonored. Where we shall lie forever, burning, twisting, melting in eternal agony!”
“Shut up!” J’hana cried, kicking Lular in the face and leaping to her feet, bolting for the airlock.
The reactor would be critical any minute now.
“No fair!” Lular cried, grabbing at J’hana’s legs as she scrambled up the ladder towards the hatch. “Look what you’ve done, you Zhackmakakt!”
“Do you kiss our mothers with that mouth, hiveling?” J’hana asked, twisting the seal to the airlock.
The hull was warm to the touch, which meant the Vaxva was well through the atmosphere, and the outer hull was probably burning up.
Lular scrambled up the ladder, grabbing for J’hana’s feet.
Wincing at the bright afternoon light of the Andorian sun, J’hana climbed out of the hatch, watching clouds whizz by at an unbelievable speed. They’d be past the cloud cover in seconds. And then they’d dip into the sea.
J’hana tried to remember that she didn’t want to die, but every instinct she’d ever had told her that it was best to die honorably. But was this so honorable? J’hana had to think about that. If it wasn’t, it wasn’t like she could do things over again.
Before J’hana could consider the matter any further, Lular jumped out of the hatch, pushing J’hana over and causing her to fall against the hot, singing hull of the ship.
“And they say you can’t go home again. Well they’re wrong. Goodbye, sister!” Lular cried out, slamming his fist down on J’hana’s fingers.
“I’ll see you in hell, Lular!” J’hana screamed, free falling straight down the side of the hull, and out into open air…
Lular cringed as he watched the fast approaching seascape, a welcoming blue eternity, ready to pull him under.
At least he could die knowing J’hana would be dead as well. Lular considered this a small victory.
A very small one.
With a deafening rumble, the sea welcomed him into its arms.
J’hana screamed out in pleasure, reveling in the feeling of the wind whipping past her face, opening her eyes wide to face the approaching sea. She would face Death as she had always planned, since the dawn of modern Andorian wisdom.
“Sweet merciful Death, I scream out in defiance of you!” J’hana cried. “Feel my fiery soul cut through your void like a blade of pure duranium! Shrink back in fear as I enter your domain, never to leave again! Great Hivemother, welcome me into your chubby arms of love!”
Suddenly a massive explosion propelled J’hana back up towards the heavens, feeling almost as if hell was refusing to let her in…
“Why do you refuse me, Hivemother? Am I too dangerous for even the likes of you?” J’hana cried out as she materialized. Her momentum carried her right into Commander Conway, knocking him to the deck with a thud.
J’hana lifted her head up, just in time to see the huge explosion shaking through the Sea of Rexax on the viewscreen. Like a massive fountain, a mushroom cloud of water reached toward the heavens.
“Welcome back.” Conway grunted, sliding out from under J’hana.
“Confirmed, sir.” Lt. Gellar reported. “The Vaxva has been totally destroyed, along with sixteen square kilometers of marine life.”
“Nice to see you again, J’hana.” Baxter said, returning to his command chair and giving the Andorian a sidelong glance. “Next time you have a family tiff, try to keep us out of it, please.”
J’hana leaned up, looking around the bridge. Her face was still plastered with a smile, something her crewmates had rarely seen. “What of Lular?”
“The other Andorian?” Baxter looked back to Gellar, who shook his head. “We couldn’t get a lock on him. I’m sorry, J’hana.”
“Think nothing of it. I have eighteen more where he came from, thanks to the Andorian custom of multiple marraiges.” J’hana laughed, putting an arm around Conway and Ford. “Come now, fellow warriors. It is time to drink to a good battle. One that will be remembered for much time to come.”
“I just want to forget it.” Ford whined.
“Just go along with her.” Conway muttered, as J’hana shoved the two into the turbolift.
“I will require some time off, Captain, to celebrate my brush with death, and the death of my brother.” J’hana said, laughing as the doors closed.
“Granted.” Baxter said, glancing over to Peterman.
“I’ll start scheduling the counseling sessions now, Andy.” Peterman said hurriedly, calling up her appointment book on the computer terminal.
“The sooner the better.” Baxter replied.
Stardate 52444.3. The Federation Diplomatic committee reports that things on Andor will be back up to speed in less than a year. With the imprisonment of Suva and D’aht, along with the rest of the now defunct “Shalta’prax,” the citizens of Andor can once again rest easy. In related news, after two weeks of celebrating, mourning, drinking, and counseling, my chief tactical officer is reporting back for duty. I must admit, I’ve missed having her around the bridge.
Captain Baxter strolled out of his readyroom, ice cold glass of grapefruit juice in hand, ready to take on another morning.
“Where have you been?” J’hana asked from the tactical station. “The shift began ten minutes ago.”
“I was reading some engine efficiency reports, if you must know, J’hana.” Baxter said, rounding the aisle down to the command center. “You have a problem with that?”
“Not at all,” J’hana said, straightening. “Why would I have a problem with the decadent abuse of the strict schedule of starship operations? After all, this isn’t really a starship, is it? No, just your own personal playground.”
“Do I detect a note of sarcasm, Lieutenant?” Baxter asked, setting his glass down in the holder and turning back to the Andorian.
“Affirmative, sir. After having the oppurtunity to serve again on an Andorian vessel, I am even more convinced that this ship must function in a more efficient manner.”
“You know, J’hana, I’ve got a special slot for all the complaints and suggestions my crew have on how to run this ship. Wanna stick your suggestion in with the others?”
“I would be glad to, Captain.” J’hana said.
Baxter stood up and bent over, thrusting his buttocks in J’hana’s direction. “Here you go. Right here, baby!”
The Captain was so busy laughing at himself, he didn’t notice Commander Conway approach from behind him.
“Here’s my complaint, Captain.” Conway said, shoving his boot as hard as he could into Baxter’s behind.
Baxter pitched forward, painfully smacking against the deck.
“Suggestion noted, Commander, carry on.” Baxter said, his face smushed against the deck.
“You deserved that one, Captain.” J’hana said.
Conway chuckled at Baxter as he ordered a cup of coffee from the replicator.
“I have the week’s security reports, Commander, if you wish to take a look at them.” J’hana said, withdrawing a padd from under her station and holding it out for Conway’s inspection.
“Let’s see,” Conway said, paging through the items on the padd. “Looks good to me. I–wait a minute…”
Conway peered at the final item.
LT. J’HANA AND COMMANDER CONWAY WERE FOUND LURKING AROUND THE QUARTERS OF CAPTAIN BAXTER IN A DRUNKEN STATE. ACCORDING TO AN INSIDE SOURCE, THE TWO THEN PROCEEDED TO EMPTY A BOTTLE OF ANDORIAN NIL-BUGS UNDERNEATH THE CAPTAIN’S DOOR. THIS REPORT HAS BEEN REFFERED TO THE EXECUTIVE OFFICER FOR HIS CONSIDERATION.
“What is your verdict, Commander?” J’hana asked, maintaining her stoic posture.
“My verdict?” Conway asked, thumbing a button on the padd. “Whoops, what do you know, I accidentally erased that item. Too bad.”
Captain Baxter looked back at J’hana and Conway, reaching a hand down the back of his uniform and scratching madly. For some reason, for the last day or so, his whole body itched. “What are you two conspiring about?” He asked.
“Just the weekly security reports, sir.” Conway chuckled.
“Oh,” Baxter said, still scratching. “Anything interesting?”
“Nope,” J’hana said, putting the padd away. “Not one thing.”
NEXT: Is the crew of the Explorer getting out-of-shape? Their new visitor seems to think so. This surprise-guest puts the crew on an exausting program of jazzersizing, but they have even worse problems: Try Barney-style face-huggers on an inhospitable planet! Be here in seven!