Author: Anthony Butler
GULF OF MEXICO
Clad in khaki shorts and Starfleet red t-shirt, which read “Admirals Do it with Two Bars,” Andy Baxter kicked his feet up on the aft bulkhead of the mighty vessel, the fishing skiff Southwind, named as such after his father’s first command.
The Southwind, a no-frills, 10-meter fishing boat, was one of the few items he inherited when his Father passed. That and a few trunks of items from Starbase Two-thirty, his last posting, were the sum total of a man who was obsessed with living, not with personal belongings.
Baxter grabbed his rum and grapefruit and sipped. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of his iPadd, which blinked, a sign that he had new messages.
Baxter set his fishing rod down in its holder and eased over, grabbing the iPadd. “Hm let’s see here…” he paged through the messages.
Four messages from Kurg, with random office updates. Nothing important. Just Kurg going out of his way to remind him he still had a job, whether he liked it or not.
Twelve messages from Airyn over the last twelve hours, demanding that he see her again and discuss ‘matters of grave importance to the Federation.’”
“Fool me once,” he said, and downed the rest of his drink.
A message from Stef about her first starship posting. Baxter raised an eyebrow and grinned at that one. One from Raymond about his treatise on the Breen conflicts of the past decade.
And one message each from Browning, Richards, and Peterman, saying they were “just checking in” in three different ways.
Baxter gave a hearty belch as he thumbed through the padd, then, in a fit of pique, flung the padd out into the gulf.
“Time to really unplug,” he said to no one in particular, and leaned forward, reaching for his fishing rod.
Is this what Harlan wanted him to do? It would make sense. The elder Baxter had long believed in taking advantage of life’s simple pleasures. No one worked harder than him, but no one vacationed quite like him, either. Whether stationed on Breen or Pacifica, Earth or Portico. He always found time to fish, laugh, smoke, and play.
“I love you, Dad,” Baxter said, over the gentle roll of the Gulf under his boat. “It’s okay, you don’t have to say anything. Let’s just keep this whole ‘talking to myself’ thing between us.”
Eventually Baxter put the rod back on its holder and leaned back, pulling his Space Cowboys hat down over his eyes and leaning back, enjoying the warmth of the sun.
Until a slender shadow fell over him.
Baxter pulled the hat away and looked up: Ashley Donovan stood over him, hands on her hips. “We need to talk.”
“I think I’ve done enough talking,” Baxter said, pulling his hat back down.
“I warned you, and did you listen? Nope.” Donovan sat down on the bulkhead next to Baxter as the boat rock. “You know I get seasick, don’t you?”
“Then why’d you come out here?”
“Have a good chat with Roddick?” Donovan asked, her lips pursed.
Baxter peered out from under his hat. “What, do you guys compare notes after each time you drop in and try to spook me?”
“Roddick is gone,” Donovan said, and stood. “Poof!” she made an expansive gesture with her hands.
“Isn’t that what you Section Thirty-One people do? You’ve done it to me several times.”
“No,” Donovan said, looking out over the water. “This is a different kind of ‘poof.’ This one leaves wreckage.” She flipped a padd at Baxter. He lifted it up, looking over the report. “A Logan-class frigate destroyed with all hands. Looks like Dominion antiproton cannons.”
Baxter raised a finger, but Donovan cut him off. “Yeah, don’t get me started on why there was Dominion weaponry involved.” Donovan took a breath. “But it wasn’t destroyed with all hands. I can assure you, Roddick wasn’t aboard that ship when it exploded.”
“Then where is he?”
“Probably with whoever blew the ship up,” Donovan replied. “But that’s just speculation.”
“And as a member of Starfleet Intelligence, this is all information you’d be privy to,” Baxter said, sitting up and lifting his hat so he could see Donovan clearly.
“Oh, Starfleet Intelligence doesn’t know anything about this. Section Thirty-One covered up any sign that Roddick’s ship ever even existed.”
“They’re efficient, I’ll give them that.”
Donovan knelt by Baxter. “Section Thirty-One ships are difficult to track, to say the least. Whoever found Roddick is not going to stop there. Chances are they’ll eventually find their way to you.”
“Yeah, and I can tell them to go fishing, if that’s helpful.”
“You’re not following,” Donovan said. “Whoever destroyed Roddick’s ship has Roddick, and is going looking for this omnipotence thing you and your father won’t seem to shut up about!”
“Well, as so many people have told me, it’s a dead end.”
“Roddick didn’t think so.”
Baxter stood, facing Donovan. “Wait. Like five minutes ago, you were telling me to give up on this thing.”
“That’s before someone waltzed up and blew Roddick out of the stars! People are looking for this thing now, and right or wrong, they think it could work, and what’s worse, you’re caught right up in the middle of it!”
“You care about me,” Baxter said, clutching his heart.
Donovan gripped him by the neck and pushed him toward the edge of the boat, nearly pushing him overboard. “I care. About the universe.” She gritted her teeth. “And you should, too. So we need to go find whoever captured Roddick, and stop them from finding whatever it is your Father was hiding!”
“He wasn’t hiding anything,” Baxter gurgled.
“Then it’ll be a short mission.” Donovan let him go and turned around.
Baxter sighed, rubbing his throat. “You’re not going to give up on this one are you.”
Donovan’s only response was a steely glare.
“We’ll need a ship,” Baxter said.
“Shouldn’t be too difficult for a man of means such as yourself.”
“I don’t have the means I once had,” Baxter said. “I don’t exactly have a fleet at my disposal.”
Donovan turned toward him, hands on hips. “Well, what do you have?”
Captain Susan Madera strolled down the corridor, nodding at her officers as they passed by. The Maverick was on its way back from Galornden Core, and while the mission wasn’t successful (the Romulans were still assholes) she was comforted that ship and crew performed well, and had said so in her log.
Madera had only been Captain for two years, and in that time, the Maverick had developed a solid reputation, especially considering she wasn’t the strongest or fastest ship in the fleet, and her missions weren’t exactly choice by any standard. Madera was satisfied. Since her days as an ensign some thirty years ago, her friends had told her that she was crazy for picking the assignments she did. Backup helmsperson on the Explorer? Was that really a good choice? She played second harp on an unimpressive vessel, and then moved up the ranks to Lieutenant, becoming lieutenant commander and first officer in a scant seven years. A few years later, a transfer to the Aerostar-A. And then, after only a decade and a half, her own ship, once again under the purview of Admiral Baxter.
Each time, Madera had found a job she liked, crewmates she enjoyed, and a sense of comfort in the mundane and ordinary. Until things started blowing up. Which only served to keep life interesting, right?
But transfer to the Maverick had calmed things down quite a bit. A few angry diplomats from the Romulan Free State were about the most excitement she could get on her current posting, and she wasn’t exactly disappointed about that. Gave her time to focus on practicing with her harp, and other leisurely pursuits.
Speaking of which, Madera considered she might work on the new orchestral arrangements he’d received from her Tholian friend, R’mix, as soon as she’d changed clothes, showered, and settled in.
She didn’t even get to her door when her combadge chirped: “Bridge to Captain Madera.”
“Go ahead, Mister Brock.”
“We’ve got an incoming comm, priority, your eyes only, from Admiral Baxter; he’s aboard a raceabout approaching off our port bow.”
“I’ll take it in my cabin,” Madera sighed, and keyed her way inside. She slumped behind her desk and pushed a control. “Admiral, I’m not due back for another day…”
Baxter’s hologram appeared next to her desk. “Captain, sorry to bother you, uh…”
“Everything okay, Admiral?” Madera leaned forward. There was something in Baxter’s tone, or inflection, or…maybe it was that he was wearing khaki shorts and a red t-shirt.
“Not…exactly. Can we come aboard?”
Baxter looked off to his left, then his right. “Yeah, I have a few people with me.”
“Oh, this should be fun,” Madera quipped. “Yeah, I’ll clear you to land in shuttlebay one. There isn’t a shuttlebay two, so, yeah…”
Baxter looked around the relatively cramped conference room at Madera and her First Officer, Commander Jameson Brock.
“So, I guess you’re wondering why we’re here,” Baxter said, leaning his elbows casually against the wood grain table.
“You could say that,” Madera said.
“I was content to stay behind in the office. I have a lot of messages to sort through,” Kurg muttered.
Madera looked from Baxter to Kurg, then turned to Donovan. “Why do you have a Section Thirty-one operative with you?’
Next to Baxter, Donovan pursed her lips. “I’ve been with Starfleet Intelligence for twenty years. I haven’t been working for Thirty-one for a while.”
“I guess that’s a relief. What about these two?” Madera gestured to Baxter’s traveling companions.
“Oh, how silly of me, I should have made some introductions,” Baxter said. “Captain Madera, one of my most trusted officers, who I’ve known since she was an ensign, and, uh, this is…” he gestured at Kurg. “My adjutant, Lieutenant Kurg. You can call him Eric.”
“Why don’t you let her make that choice?” Kurg asked, raising an eyebrow and turning in his seat.
“You know,” Baxter said, looking at Kurg fondly. “I’ve never had an adjutant before I was an Admiral, and now I couldn’t imagine living without him.”
Kurg sank a bit in his chair. “You could try.”
Baxter turned to the woman at his side. “And this is…Airyn Satine, better known as the El Aurian Historian. See what I did there?”
“Nobody calls me that,” Airyn said, smiling warmly. “Charmed, by the way. You’ve got a nice ship here.”
“It’s not nice,” Madera said. “Admiral, it would help to know just what in the two hecks you’re doing here.”
Baxter stood up and leaned on the conference table. “There’s a threat to our galaxy, greater than anything we’ve ever known.”
“Ooh, this is getting nostalgic,” Madera said, leaning forward. “Someone causing an infinite time loop? Parallel universes? Giant pleasure magnet?”
“You’ve had some weird adventures,” Brock said, folding his arms. “Sir, if you could…move the exposition forward?”
Baxter nodded. “Of course. So, as you know, my Father was killed by a wild targ.”
“Oh yes, sir, condolences,” Madera said, and slyly reached for a padd, tapping something on it. “Flowers,” she said, under her breath. “Knew I forgot something. Anyway, go on.”
“Well, remember that whole bit with Doctor Drake and her research?”
Madera nodded. “Vaguely.”
“Well, turns out Airyn here thinks that my Dad had access to the missing pieces of Drake’s research. The key to human omnipotence, as it were.”
“Oh, that,” Madera said, and looked nervously at Brock. “Yeah, that was…bad.”
“Universe almost exploded,” Donovan explained, folding her arms. “Yeah, bad.”
“And so we went to Kronos to figure out what my Dad’s last words were, because we thought there might be a clue in there.”
“Logical,” Madera said, casting her eyes sideways.
“And was there?” Brock asked. “A clue?”
“Oh, no,” Baxter said. “He just said I should go fishing.”
“Which is why you’re dressed like you’re on vacation,” Madera said.
“Exactly,” Baxter said, moving halfway down the conference table toward Madera and sitting on its edge. “So, anyway, long story short…”
“Too late,” Brock said.
“Roddick, remember that Section Thirty-one guy? Well, he was on the trail of this omnipotence thing, when some repurposed old Dominion warship blew his ship up and maybe grabbed him.”
“Definitely grabbed him,” Donovan said.
“So we need to find him,” Madera said. “And hope he leads us to this research?”
“And hope this refit Dominion ship doesn’t blow us up too,” Kurg said, turning to Baxter. “Don’t forget about that part.”
“How could I,” Madera said dryly. She looked at Brock. “Well, you’re my admiral. And I take that kind of thing seriously. She stood up and rested her hands on the conference table. “So where are we going?”
Brock cleared his throat. “Captain, can we talk about this? You know…somewhere they aren’t…at?”
“Nope,” Madera said. “Nope, I wish we could but…” she looked at Baxter, and then trailed off, as if trying to think of a way to finish that sentence. She turned on a heel. “Well, don’t just sit there. Let’s lay in a course.”
Kurg brought up the rear as the group filed out of the conference room. “A course to where? Do we know where we’re going?”
Airyn’s eyes were wide and she clapped her hands together, then put a hand on Kurg’s shoulder as they stepped out of the conference lounge. “The scene of the crime, Eric. The scene of the crime…”
“Great morning to you!” Gul Duvet announced, clapping his hands together and stepping into the interrogation chambers, a steaming cup of red leaf tea in hand. “It is a brisk day in space. Fine day for an interrogation.”
Major Renta Fays stood there with her hands clasped beside her back, next to the table on which Roddick was strapped. He was covered in bruises, no doubt from the ministrations of Major Renta.
“His pagh is strong,” she said, turning to Duvet. “But it won’t be for long.”
“Excellent.” Duvet sipped his tea and pulled up a stool next to Roddick. He sat and sipped his beverage, eying his prisoner for a long moment. “Has he told you anything useful?”
“No,” Renta said. “He hasn’t even given me his first name. But he will break.”
“It’s better if he breaks sooner than later. I suspect I’m not the only one looking for this fascinating technology.”
“What technology?” Roddick spat in Duvet’s face. “You’re on a wild sehlat chase, Duvet, and the sooner you figure that out, the better.”
“We’ll see about that soon enough,” Duvet said, wiping the spit off his face with the back of his hand. “But I have to say, your famous Terran charm leaves much to be desired.”
“I’ll get him to talk,” Renta said, cracking her knuckles.
“I’m taking over this interrogation,” Duvet snapped. “I’m a Cardassian. This is kind of our thing.”
“The Griller of Gavardia will take it from here,” Duvet said firmly. “Return to the bridge and maintain our current course. Make sure our phase cloak is stable and we aren’t being followed.
“You Cardassians are all talk.” Renta sneered at Duvet and turned, filing out the door.
Once he was alone with his captive, Gul Duvet leaned forward. “Hungry?”
“No,” Roddick said, as the doors once again parted and two guards wheeled in a long table, setting it alongside Roddick’s.
“Bringing someone else in here?” Roddick asked, brow furrowed.
“No. I’m just preparing us a little lunch,” Duvet said, and stood, as another guard brought in several trays of food, cooking instruments, and tableware. “You like taspar eggs and Bringloidi ham?”
“I said I’m not hungry.:”
“Well wait until you smell what I’m dealing,” Duvet said, and nodded at one of the guards as they set up an ion grill on the table. Duvet reached for a nearby bowl of taspar eggs and began cracking them on the sizzling ionized surface. “Three eggs or four?”
“I don’t want any eggs,” Roddick shot back.
“Four eggs it is,” Duvet said, as he cracked a third egg on the griddle and as the taspar flesh began to sizzle and pop. “They do have a lovely smell, don’t they?”
“I’m more of a muffin guy,” Roddick admitted.
“Now the ham,” Duvet said, and used some tongs to drag a few pieces of ham onto the griddle. Now it was crackling and snapping as steam rose.
Roddick shook his head. “Look, Duvet, spare yourself some embarrassment and torture someone who might actually give you information. I’m not talking. I’m Section Thirty-one. We don’t break.”
“Oh, you’ll break like these four eggs,” Duvet said, dipping his spatula under the three eggs and sliding them onto a plate. He gestured at Roddick with the plate, putting it nearly right up against his nose. The steam from the eggs flowed into his nostrils.
“Three eggs,” Roddick said.
“Oh, I believe you’re quite mistaken, Mister Roddick,” Duvet said, his voice dripping. “There are four eggs here.”
“Oh, you’re not doing…” Roddick said. “For pete’s, ugh…I mean there are three eggs there.”
“There are four eggs. I know because I prepared them myself, Mister Roddick,” Duvet said, and flipped the scalding eggs over onto Roddick’s face, one over each eye, and another on his forehead, leaving deep, red burns. “Now tell me what you know of this Starfleet weapon and the scientist who created it!”
Roddick arched and twisted against his binds as the eggs seared his flesh. “ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
The Maverick shot through space at maximum warp.
Back in his Admiral’s uniform, Baxter stood on her bridge, which was grey-blue, well carpeted, and functional, looking much like the ships of the era when he was captain. The bridges were larger now, more holographic panels, larger stations, more controls, brighter lighting. Fewer towel racks.
“Time to Zendab system?” he asked, turning to Madera.
Madera leaned forward in the command chair, then glanced at Brock.
Brock folded his arms. “Fifteen minutes. But I still think this is a bad idea.”
“Noted, Jameson,” Madera said, and looked to Baxter. “Any idea what we do when we get there?”
“We beam down to the station,” Baxter said. “And we check things out.”
“Beam down?” Brock asked. “That station has been off-limits to visitors for over twenty-years. Starfleet quarantined it after the whole Explorer incident.”
Madera steepled her fingers. “There are a lot of Explorer incidents. You’ll have to be more specific.”
Brock grimaced. “You know the one I’m talking about.”
“We won’t be there long,” Baxter said.
Madera swung back and forth nervously in her command chair. “To Brock’s point, why do we need to go down there? We have all the data from the Explorer’s visit…”
“And believe me, I’ve pored over it,” Airyn said, leaning over the tactical railing. “The Explorer must have missed something.”
“It’s altogether possible,” Donovan said.
“If we find the key to human omnipotence, can we go home?” Kurg asked, standing next to tactical. Then he muttered. “More like human incompetence, if you ask me.”
“We can go home,” Donovan responded, before Baxter could, “as soon as we destroy whatever it is.”
Madera arched an eyebrow. “And if we can’t destroy it?”
“Then there’s probably not going to be a home to go back to,” Donovan said.
Baxter watched the exchange and shook his head. “We’ll be fine. We always have been.”
“I don’t know if you’ve looked around,” Madera said. “But we don’t quite have the resources we once did.”
“We have enough,” Baxter said. “We have the wisdom of my father.”
“Did you download it before you left?” Airyn asked. “If so, that’s cool.”
“No,” Baxter said, tapping his head. “I have it right up here.”
“Approaching Zendab system,” Ensign Tark said from helm.
Madera stood up and walked up next to Baxter, addressing the Vulcan. “Take us out of warp and head for Zendab Five.” She looked to Brock. “Commander, form an away t–”
Baxter held up a hand. “No. You, me, Airyn, Kurg, and Donovan.”
“Oh, I’m good,” Kurg said.
Baxter glanced back at him. “You’re an attache. You should stay attached.”
“Why?” he said softly, his shoulders falling.
“So you can learn something,” Baxter said with a wry grin.
Madera leaned in close to Baxter. “Me, you, and Donvan I understand. Kurg, even. At least he’s Starfleet. But this El Aurian…how well do you know her, sir? She’s a civilian, and she’s…a little young for you, don’t you think?”
“First, I’m not dating Airyn, so get your mind out of the gutter,” Baxter said. “Second, her age is indeterminate!”
Airyn sidled up next to Madera. “I can be persistent.”
“I have no trouble believing that,” Madera sighed, and walked to the turbolifts. “All right, folks, on me. Brock, you have the bridge.”
“I’ll just file my objections while you’re over there,” Brock said.
Madera, Baxter, Kurg, Airyn, and Donovan filed into the turbolift. “Good idea,” she said, as the doors swung shut.
“Your Kavarian cream cookies are ready, Mister Roddick,” Duvet said, slipping his potholders on and ducking beneath the table, emerging with a steaming tray of delicious oblong discs. “You’ll find they’re too hot to eat right now, though. Mind if I put them somewhere to let them cool…”
“No! No more hot food!” Roddick shouted as Duvet leaned over him with the tray.
Duvet knew he was getting somewhere when his subject screamed before he actually did anything, paralyzed with fear at the mere thought of another assault.
Duvet set the cookies aside on his cook table and then sat down next to Roddick. “You poor man, you’ve been through so much.”
Roddick stared into Duvet, his eyes going unfocused. “How many cookies are those…a dozen?”
“A baker’s dozen,” Duvet said, clicking his tongue. “I thought your people were precise.”
“It’s a dozen,” Roddick said, but Duvet could tell he now doubted himself.
“You were strong, but your brain is weakened,” Duvet said, touching Roddick’s forehead and leaning close to him. “You’re fully cooked.”
“So hot…turn off…the oven…” Roddick repeated, dazed.
“Now,” Duvet said. “You will give me the location of the weapon. And of…” he consulted his padd. “This Maura Drake.”
The last time Baxter had beamed down to the Zendab Five outpost, the place was a stale, disgusting, wreck.
If possible, it actually looked worse. The darkened control room was coated in dust and crawling with Zendabian spiders. A tree grew straight through the roof of the control room and revealed the green-grey sky outside. A swampy breeze blew in. Zendab wasn’t known as a vacation spot.
“This makes me actually miss Kronos,” Kurg said, looking around.
Airyn withdrew a tricorder and waved it around. “Your people didn’t stay here for long, according to your reports. They found what they were looking for in the backup computer core.”
“Those logs were classified,” Donovan said.
“Yeah, not very well,” Airyn said, and shouldered her way down the corridor. “I think the backup computer core is this way, no?”
“Annoyingly, she’s right,” Donovan huffed, withdrawing her phaser and pushing past.
Baxter gestured for Kurg to follow and headed down the companionway.
“You think Drake actually left behind something of value?” Madera looked around, waving her cufflink sized beacon on the sleeve of her uniform around, bathing the corridor in light.
Donovan shrugged. “Doubtful, but it’s our only lead.”
“And if that ship comes looking for us?” Baxter asked.
“We’ll probably all die,” Donvan said.
“Thanks, glad we could chat,” Baxter said, moving past Donovan as Airyn ducked past a fallen beam and into the backup computer core chamber.
“Wow!” Airyn exclaimed as she stepped into the room.
Baxter and Madera pushed in behind her. “What?”
“This room is filthy!” she looked around the dark and dusty space, hands on hips.
“Attention to detail must be important for historians,” Baxter said.
Donovan approached the computer core and attached her tricorder to it, staring at the slim palm-sized device as readings scrolled across. “Nothing new here.”
“It’s not going to be the computer core itself,” Airyn said. “Admiral Baxter would have left some kind of clue close by, though. He would have known we’d have come here.”
“Excuse me?” Baxter asked.
“Oh, sorry,” Airyn looked up. “The other Admiral Baxter. The dead one.”
Baxter opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted as Airyn exclaimed.
“Yeah, it’s dirty, we get it,” Kurg said.
Airyn sprung to her feet, a small nanolinear crisp in the palm of her hand. “It’s tiny, but it’s definitely…something.”
Donovan turned and looked at the crisp, scanning it with her tricorder. “That technology wasn’t in use when the Explorer visited here.”
“Damn right it wasn’t,” Airyn said proudly. “It’s got a biosignature on it…” she looked at Baxter. “One you’ll find familiar.”
Madera looked at Baxter as Donovan turned to him and handed him the crisp.
“It was Harlan’s,” Donovan said.
Baxter stared at the crisp in his hand.
“It’s a holographic file,” Airyn said. “We should plug it into the Maverick’s computer and see what’s on there!”
Madera stepped in front of Airyn, looking at Baxter. “WE won’t be doing anything, Ms. Satine. That message is for the Admiral.” She softened, putting a hand on Baxter’s shoulder. “From the Admiral.” She looked at Baxter for guidance, but he just stared at the tiny data module. She slapped her combadge. “Madera to Maverick. We got what we came for. At least I’m pretty sure we did…”
Baxter stood in the cabin on the Maverick and turned the nanolinear crisp over and over in his hand. He had held it closely in his palm the whole way from the transporter chamber to his temporary quarters.
Donovan had ushered Kurg and Airyn, under Airyn’s objections, to the Maverick’s lounge, No Strings Attached. Madera, for her part, headed back to the bridge.
Baxter sighed as he slipped the crisp into the desktop terminal and stood back. “Computer, identify the program on this crisp.”
“The program originated from Admiral Harlan Baxter. It is a holographic message.”
“Can you play the message?’
Baxter steeled himself. “This message requires identify authentication, eyes of Admiral Andrew Baxter only,” he computer replied.
“Well, that’s me,” Baxter said, cracking his knuckles. “Computer, authenticate Admiral Andrew Baxter. Authorization Baxter Alpha Phi Alpha. Play the message.”
“Authenticity confirmed. Playing message,” the computer replied.
Baxter turned toward the holographic display as an image of his father sprung to life in front of him, cigar in his mouth.
“Srn, ths yr dd,” the image said.
Baxter eased back against the desk, looking on. “I know who you are.”
“Ths mprtant,” he said, and pulled the cigar out of his mouth. “More important than an aged mocambo.”
“That’s pretty important,” Baxter said, but could tell the hologram wasn’t responding to him. That would have been a little too much to hope for.
Harlan Baxter’s image paced the small projection area, looking at Baxter. “Spose you wanna know why you are here. Well, I imagine if you’re watchin’ this, I’m dead. So, that’s too bad, but it happens.”
Baxter bit his lip and watched the hologram intently.
“Anyways, I knew you’d come looking for this old research. You were always a curious boy. And I knew you’d figure out there were some loose ends.” The hologram lifted a replica of the crisp Airyn had discovered at the outpost. “I left this little guy in the first place I thought you might look–the Zendab system. Thought I owed it to you to give ya as much information as I could.”
Baxter breathed deep and watched Harlan Baxter speak.
“You know we had research. You know I’m not proud of what we did. It could cause a big ruckus. I didn’t mean for that to happen. Thought I was doing my duty. Protectin’ Starfleet secrets.”
Baxter shook his head. “Yeah, great job you did of that, Dad.”
“I wanted to eliminate the whole thing, so no one would ever come and find it and try and use it against us.” He chuckled. “Guess I did a bad job’a that, huh?”
“Dad…” Baxter took in a deep breath.
“You’ll find everything you need on Valtar Seven. Maura Drake is there, held by Section Thirty-one. They have her, and all the answers. Find her, find her data, destroy it, and try and get out in one piece, if ya can.” The holographic Harlan leveled a gaze at Baxter. “Do it for your old man.”
And with that, the hologram disappeared, and Baxter’s shoulders fell.
A few minutes later, Baxter punched a control on his desk. “Captain Madera, set a course for Valtar Seven. Maximum Warp.”
The Elegiar came out of warp and Duvet approached the screen. “Here we are, at last,” he gasped, and pressed his hands together. “Mister Roddick was most accommodating, once I finished grilling him.”
“I call next,” Major Renta said, stepping up next to Duvet and looking at the viewscreen.
“Fine,” Duvet said. “By the way, his first name is Fred, if you’re interested.”
“I’m not.” Renta looked over her shoulder. “Glin Sohat, scan the planet.”
Sohat looked up from her readings. “There’s…nothing there.”
Duvet nodded. “Look harder. Interphasic scan.”
“Section Thirty-one is wily,” Renta said.
Sohat punched a few controls. “Reading a phased energy signature below the planet’s surface.”
“Of course you are,” Duvet said, turning toward his command chair and stepping up on his dais. “Now then, I want you to lock on to the source of that interphasic signal.”
“That will take a minute,” Sohat said.
“Take your time,” Renta said. “We’re in no hurry.”
Duvet put his hands on his hips. “Speak for yourself.”
Sohat looked up. “The interphasic signal is coming from a power station buried two hundred kilometers south of the planet’s equator, beneath the floor of its largest and deepest ocean.”
“Sounds about right. That power source must be masking the rest of the outpost. Bring us within weapons range and prepare to destroy that power source. Neutron torpedoes.”
“Arming neutron torpedoes,” Yovern said, studying his station.
“This will no doubt arouse a response from Section Thirty-one,” Renta said, turning toward Duvet. “Are we prepared for that?”
“We will not be here long,” Duvet said, and turned toward the screen. “Well?”
“Torpedoes ready,” Yovern said. “Locked in on the power source.”
Duvet sneered. “Fire!”
The Elegiar angled toward the planet and unleashed two neutron torpedoes, which drilled through the ocean, and into the planet’s crust, causing a huge explosion and sending a fountain of water into the sky.
Duvet watched on the viewscreen. “Captivating. Now…about that Section Thirty-one fortress.”
Renta looked at her screens. “This must be a mistake.” She turned to another panel and brought up scan after scan. She looked up at Duvet. “Nothing. Just a power source. The planet is a barren rock.”
“You’ve scanned every inch of phase space?” Duvet asked, approaching the console and resting his hands on it.
“Do I look like a dumbass?” Renta shot back.
“No need to make this personal,” Duvet said. “I don’t get it. I thought my interrogation was well done. He told me all he knew.”
“Two possibilities,” Renta said. “He fooled you, or as far as he knew, this is where they were holding Drake.”
“Either of those possibilities infuriate me,” Duvet growled.
Renta folded her arms. “Well, given this new development, I say we rob that Orion munitions dump like I was suggesting. Much less trouble than this whole omnipotence thing, and I’ve always wanted to trade blows with the Orion Syndicate.”
“NO!” Duvet snapped. “We will have the secret to omnipotence!”
“Ho boy,” Renta sighed, as Grox’s panel chimed.
Grox turned around. “Gul Duvet, new contact bearing zero-one-five mark three-two zero.”
Duvet looked up. “On screen!”
On the screen, a silver ship with swung-back nacelles shot out of warp and angled into the system gracefully.
“Federation starship. Nova class,” Renta said. “Not much of a threat.”
Duvet rubbed his chin. “What are they doing here?”
“Undoubtedly, they’re trying to get to Doctor Drake, just like we are,” Renta said. “Must be a slew of bad information out there.”
“Indeed,” Duvet said. “One wonders if we should introduce ourselves.”
“I fail to see what good that would do,” Renta said.
“Then you have a limited imagination.” Duvet got up and walked toward the viewscreen as he watched the starship take up orbit of Valtar Seven.
Baxter stumbled out onto the bridge, breathless. “I got here as fast as I could.”
“Fat lot of good it did,” Donovan said, pointing to the viewscreen. “What do you think you’d find here anyway? Another secret lab?”
“Section Thirty-One is holding Maura Drake here,” Baxter said. “Or at least that’s what my Dad’s recording said.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Donovan said, stepping up next to Baxter. “Thirty-One doesn’t even have a base in this system.”
“You haven’t been part of Thirty-One for twenty years,” Baxter said. “They could have built a few new bases since then.”
“I feel like I would have known,” Donovan rubbed her chin. “Something about this doesn’t add up.”
“Well don’t hold us in suspense,” Madera said, turning toward tactical. “Surface readings?”
“Massive neutron torpedo impacts on the surface,” Brock said, looking up from tactical. “But no sign of any outpost. Even if they’d destroyed it, there would be wreckage.”
Madera caught Baxter’s eye as he stepped toward the front of the bridge. “Someone got here before we did.”
“I can see that,” Baxter said. “Do we know who?”
“Looks like a cloaked Dominion battlecruiser based on the phase match,” Donovan said, pushing Brock aside and looking over the scans. “The weapons signature matches the ship that attacked Roddick’s vessel. Definitely a few armament upgrades.”
“Fantastic,” Baxter said. “Are they still in the system?”
Donovan looked over the scans. “No earthly idea, but I hope not. Based on what they’re packing, they’d make short work of us.”
Madera stepped up next to Baxter. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
“No kidding,” Baxter said, rubbing his chin. “Why would my Dad send me here if this wasn’t where they were keeping Doctor Drake?”
Airyn crossed the bridge and stood next to Baxter. “You think I could have a look at that chip?”
Baxter stared at the viewscreen, dumbfounded, and handed the nanolinear crisp over to Airyn. “Yeah, sure.”
“Recommend we get out of here,” Brock said.
“Admiral…” Madera looked at Baxter.
“Yeah,” Baxter said. “Let’s go.”
Madera nodded and moved toward the helm. “Conn, lay in a course out of this system, maximum…”
“New contact decloaking astern!” Brock called out.
Baxter and Madera turned to the screen just in time to see a Dominion warship reveal itself with a space-bending shimmer.
“Red alert!” Madera called over her shoulder, balling her fists. “Shields and weapons hot!”
Baxter turned to Airyn. “Sit down,” he whispered.
Airyn pushed her way between Baxter and Madera. “Why?”
“Because you’re not gonna like what happens next.”
“Incoming!” Brock shouted.
“Helm, hard to port!” Madera ordered, grabbing the conn seat.
The warship launched twin neutron torpedoes at the Maverick, glancing amidships as Ensign Tark spun the vessel about.
The deck reeled, pitching and knocking Airyn and Baxter to the deck. Baxter grabbed Airyn by the arm holding her up. “Instinct kicks in after a while,” he said wryly. “Damage report?”
Donovan swung behind the engineering console. “Shields down to twenty percent.”
“Return fire! Helm, escape course!” Madera stalked back to the command chair as another blast rocked the Maverick.
Baxter dragged Airyn over to the command chair and pushed her into a seat. He looked up at Brock. “They didn’t have the decency to chat with us first?”
“I’m hailing, but not getting any response,” Brock said, managing a few potshots with the Maverick’s quantum torpedoes. “Returning fire. Glancing blows. Their shields are down to seventy percent.”
“We’ll have to do better than that,” Madera said, tugging her uniform down. “Damage report?”
Donovan gripped the engine console as she watched the Dominion cruiser give chase on the screen. “Shields are gone. The last shot buckled the hull on decks four, nine, and thirteen. Damage control teams responding.”
“Mister Tark, warp speed,” Madera said, looking at Baxter.
Tark looked over his panel. “Warp engines not responding.”
“Welp,” Madera gripped the arms of her command chair as another blast rocked the Maverick. Sparks rained as an aft station exploded, sending a crewmember flailing to the deck.
Donovan ducked as a beam slashed in front of her. “Impacts on saucer section. Massive hull decompressions. Power conduits compromised on several decks, rerouting…” Donovan looked at Baxter. “Well, Admiral, got any bright ideas?”
Baxter looked at the screen. “Open a channel, broad band.”
Brock nodded. “Go.”
“To the enemy vessel currently blowing the crap out of this, this is Starfleet Admiral Andy Baxter: You are here for the same reason we are. To find the secrets of Maura Drake and the Zendab Science Station. Destroying us won’t get you what you want. It won’t get you the secrets you’re looking for. But my father guarded those secrets for five decades, and if anyone knows where to find them, it’s me.”
“Andy, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Donovan asked, looking up from her console as lights flickered throughout the bridge and another blast rocked the ship.
“Engines gone,” Donovan said, punching her panel. “We’re adrift and they’re right on top of us. They have us and they know it.”
“No response,” Brock said. “Another shot will finish us…”
“Prepare to sound general evacuation,” Madera said, pushing out of her chair.
“Keep the channel open,” Baxter said. “Enemy vessel: our shields are down. Beam me aboard. And I’ll give you what you want.”
“Admiral,” Madera said, marching toward him. “Wait just one…”
Suddenly the attack just seemed to stop. Baxter turned toward Donovan and grinned. “Guess I learned a thing or two from my Dad, after all.”
A wisp of golden light appeared around Baxter, about to beam him away.
“No you don’t!” Airyn cried out, and leapt at Baxter, wrapping her arms around him. Baxter looked shocked, and they both disappeared in a cascade of withering light.
Madera swallowed and looked at the viewscreen. “Can we get him back?”
“We don’t have transporters,” Brock said. He looked at his panel. “Or, life support, if you’re interested.”
Donovan marched toward the viewscreen, stood next to Madera. “Captain, you can’t just let them…”
“Not seeing any alternatives right now, Commander,” Madera said, folding her arms. She breathed in deep. “Let’s just hope they decide not to finish us off…”
Donovan and the bridge crew stood and waited as the Dominion cruiser turned on the crackling viewscreen and leapt into warp.
“Guess we got lucky,” Brock muttered.
“Hardly,” Madera said. “Get down to the engine room, commander, and get life support back. Mister Tark, sound a general distress call. Let Starfleet know we…we’re minus an Admiral.”
Donovan stared at the empty space on the screen. “Well. Fuck.”
“You’ve got to give me more than that,” Kelly Peterman said, pulling on her muted navy jacket, the one she used for the serious news reports, as her assistant, Meklor the Formidable, trotted behind her putting the finishing touches on her hair, his six arms jostling around her.
“I don’t have any more,” Rachel, her producer, said, holding in iPadd. “Just an attack on a Starfleet vessel in one of the outer systems. More coming in.”
“Why do I always get the tough assignments,” Peterman quipped, snatching the iPadd and sliding behind her desk as the holocameras swung into place. “Get me as much as you can from Starfleet Intelligence.”
“They’re being tight-lipped,” Rachel said, as Meklor finished the last few touches on her hair.
“Imagine that,” she sighed.
“You’re on in three, two…” Rachel said, and mouthed the last number, stepping away.
Peterman levelly addressed the holocams. “Good evening. We interrupt this regular holocast of Chef Baughb’s Kitchen Miracles to bring you a special report.” She looked down at the iPadd. “According to reports just coming in, a Starfleet vessel was attacked by an unknown ship in the Valtar Systerm, near the edge of Federation space. Now, the identity of the ship is as yet…wait, I have more coming in.” She looked down at the iPadd. “Yes, the ship is the USS Maverick, and it is currently believed to be dead in space and…” she read further silently. Rachel gestured wildly at her, pointing at the holocams.
Peterman looked up from the iPadd. “Back after this,” she said, and pushed out of her chair, running out of the studio.
“I’m afraid the Admiral is tied up at the moment.”
Her nameplate read “Serena,” and she was impossibly young. Which only served to agitate Kelly Peterman further.
Peterman glowered at the youthful adjutant. “You tell him Kelly Peterman is waiting for him.”
“Oh, he knows who you are,” Serena replied. “And so do I. I’ve been reading your books since I was a kid. I LOVED ‘A Case of the Blues: Smart Strategies for Counseling Andorians.’”
Peterman leaned over the desk and smiled politely at the Ensign. “I’m not sure you understand me. I want to speak to the Admiral, right the hell now.”
Serena leaned back a little. “I’m sorry, but he’s a busy man. He’s also quite influential, so lots of people want to see him.”
“Ugh,” Peterman narrowed her eyes. “He makes you say that, doesn’t he?”
“Yes,” Serena whispered.
“I’ve got friends in Starfleet. I can get you a transfer. I know this must be awful.”
“How much coffee do you make a day? He makes you brew it, doesn’t he? And I’m sure he’s ever so thankful when you bring it in.”
“You can really get me a transfer?” Serena bit her lip thoughtfully.
“I can find you a place where people treat you like you matter, yeah,” Peterman said. “Just get me in there.”
“…well, let me know if anything changes,” Admiral David Conway said, and tapped a control on his desk, spinning in his chair as he heard the office door whisk open. “Serena, that’s all the appointments for today, I…”
“YOU!” Peterman stalked over to his desk and leaned over it, grabbing him by his tunic and pulling him across the desk.
“You’re not Serena,” Conway said flatly.
“I gave her the rest of the day off,” Peterman snapped. “She’ll be working for Doctor Sefelt at Starfleet Psychology starting tomorrow.”
“And who the hell do you think you are waltzing in and…” Conway pushed Peterman away and backed up against his book shelf, which was adorned with coffee mugs.
“Andy has been kidnapped.”
“Yeah, tell me something I don’t know,” Conway muttered, folding his arms. “What do you expect me to do about it?”
“Send a ship to save him,” Peterman fumed. “You even know why he was kidnapped? Do you care?”
“I’ve got a vague idea,” Conway said, turning toward his window overlooking San Francisco Bay.
“He’s trying to find out his Father’s last words, his wishes for him…the secrets of which could destroy the quadrant as we know it. Maybe the whole galaxy!”
“Oh, please,” Conway said. “He went off half-cocked, like he always does, and needs someone to rescue him. That’s not my job anymore.”
Peterman balled her fists and made her way around the desk to stand toe to toe with Conway. “Oh no? How about when he saved your ass in the Delta Quadrant?”
Conway swallowed. “That was a team effort.”
“He needs you. After all he did for the Explorer project…”
Conway backed away, pacing around the desk to put some distance between him and Peterman. “You know what I like about serving in Starfleet? The relationships. The friendships you make over the years.”
“What are you going on about?”
“I just love the people. You get to know them, they get to know you, and you create such lasting bonds. Those friendships really do stand the test of time.”
“Oh, I can’t believe this.” Peterman scrubbed a hand over her face.
“Harlan Baxter dies and I don’t get an invite to the service!” Conway snapped.
“You WHAT? You’re mad because we didn’t invite you to Harlan’s service?”
“Everyone who was anyone was there. Picard, Nechayev, Jellico, Harkleflap! Massive networking opportunity!”
Peterman put her hands up. “This is a lot, even for you, Admiral!”
“No, don’t make me out to be the petty one, Peterman,” Conway said. “I tried to stay friends with everyone. But do you reach out to me? Do you ask to see how I’m doing? The toll that four divorces takes on a man?”
Peterman pursed her lips. “I’m sure you’re going through a lot…but…”
“A lot, nothing. And when I finally got the promotion I’d been waiting for, could you all even be the least bit happy for me?”
“You stole the Explorer Project out from under Andy, and you wanted us to congratulate you?’
“He gave it up!” Conway through up his hands. “He’s been slacking for years, and it finally caught up to him. You can’t blame me for capitalizing on it.”
“You stubborn, asinine, petty, piece of Kavarian cow manure!” Peterman snapped. “Lives are at stake, and you make this about your wounded pride.”
Conway gestured for the door. “It’s so nice to know you care,” he said with a police smile. “And it’s been great catching up. Tell your friends I said hello.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!”
The doors to Conway’s office swung open again, and two gold-uniformed security officers appeared.
“Fellas, please escort Ms. Peterman out of the building.” He smirked at her. “She’s very important, so please show her every courtesy.”
“I thought you’d have grown up a little over the years, Conway,” Peterman muttered. “But you haven’t. You’re actually worse.”
“Thanks,” Conway said. “And…by the way, I love your show.”
“ARGH!” she muttered as the officers gently took her by the arms and pulled her out.
Conway waved Peterman goodbye, and as the doors closed, he sunk into his chair, turning to the padds full of Explorer Project business. He gave a glance at the doors and shook his head, returning to his work.
“Admiral Andrew Jackson Baxter,” Gul Duvet said, draping his hands behind his back and circling Baxter as he and Airyn Satine stood inside a confinement beam at the center of a room. “Named for one of Earth’s most distinguished and famous rulers, if I recall correctly.”
“Not exactly,” Airyn said. “Actually, he was kind of a…”
“Your knowledge of Earth history is impressive,” Baxter cut her off. “But we’re not here to talk about history, are we?”
“Oh, on the contrary, Admiral, we’re absolutely here to talk about history,” Duvet said, clapping his gloved hands together. “MAKING history. For Cardassia.”
“With a low-level admiral and an El Aurian historian?” Airyn asked. “You’ve clearly misjudged your targets.”
“You’re not helping,” Baxter said. “Let me handle this.”
Airyn put her hands up. “Oh, please, do handle it. Do you know how to escape from class nine confinement beams?”
“No. Only classes one through eight, unfortunately,” Baxter huffed.
“Are you finished with the prisoners? Helm wants a course,” Renta said, strolling into the interrogation chamber.
“We’re still working,” Duvet said, his eyes leveled on Baxter. “Admiral, my second-in-command, Major Renta Fays of the Bajoran Retaliation Force.”
Airyn tugged on Baxter’s sleeve. “Bajoran extremists. They’re ruthless.”
“Well, screw you too,” Renta snapped at her.
“Great,” Baxter said, still looking at Duvet. “What do you think we’re going to do for you?”
“You’re going to tell me what I want to know. Where Harlan Baxter hid the research into omnipotence.”
“Harlan Baxter? Never heard of him.”
Duvet stepped closer to the beam, quite close to Baxter’s face. “That’s no way to talk about your father, Admiral. You do know him. And quite well.”
“Can we hurry this along?” Renta asked, stepping up next to Duvet. “We just attacked a Federation starship. So now not only is Section Thirty-One after us, but Starfleet will be, too.”
“We haven’t heard anything from Section Thirty-One,” Duvet snapped. “Suggesting that they’re giving us a wide berth.”
“Is that what that suggests?” Airyn mused.
“And Starfleet can do their worst. I’m not concerned,” Duvet said. He returned his gaze to Baxter. “What I am most concerned with is the location of the research of Doctor Maura Drake.”
“Well, you just answered your own question,” Baxter said with a shrug. “It’s with Doctor Maura Drake.”
Duvet pursed his lips and looked at Renta, then back to Baxter. “She was supposed to be on Valtar Seven. She wasn’t.”
“So you’re just going to give up?” Baxter asked. “What a loser.”
Duvet ground his teeth. “You cannot provoke me that easily. I have ways of getting the answers from you. I’ve cracked tougher nuts, and used them as exquisite garnish!”
“What?” Baxter blinked. “Look, I’m as mystified as you, Duvet,” Baxter said. “Why do you think I risked life and limb going to Valtar? I thought I’d find the answers there, too. We were both made fools of.”
“Had fools made of us,” Airyn corrected, earning a glare from Baxter.
“If that’s true, then by whom?” Duvet rubbed his chin. “Because whoever misled us most certainly has the real key to the research, and simply tried to throw us off the trail.”
“Enough talk!” Renta snapped from behind Duvet. “Let’s blow something up.”
Duvet looked at Baxter. “Oh, we will. But first we will find out what Admiral Baxter knows. And what he’s hiding. Prepare the interrogation kitchen.” And with that, Duvet and Renta left.
Airyn looked at Baxter. “You’ve got a plan for getting us out of this, I assume?”
“Nope,” Baxter said, staring at the door to the brig. “I’m fresh out of plans.”
“Did he say ‘interrogation kitchen?’”
Baxter swallowed. “Yup.”
Admiral Conway strode along the path to his Starfleet Command adjacent apartment and mounted the steps to his command-level suite. His travel mug brimmed with steaming French roast and he sipped at it gingerly as he approached his door.
Janice Browning stood in front of the door.
“Admiral,” she said. “How’s the coffee?”
Conway glared at her. “It’s fine.”
“Sisko’s French Quarter Roast, if I’m not mistaken.”
“What of it?”
Browning stepped closer to Conway, reaching in the satchel that hung at her hip and pulling out a canister and handing it to Conway. “Got you a fresh supply here. You know…friends help each other out. In this case, I know that’s one of your favorite coffee blends. So rich and flavorful.”
“Yeah,” Conway said, inspecting the cannister with raised eyebrow. “So why are you here?”
Browning pursed her lips. “You know why.”
“Are you going to climb across my desk and come at me like Kelly did?” He sniffed. “Unprofessional.”
“No, I’m not going to do that,” Browning said, looking squarely in Conway’s eyes. “I’m going to remind you who your friends really are.”
“Please. You all aren’t my friends. Haven’t been for a long time. If ever.”
“Not the others. You and I.”
“Yeah, we talk all the time.” Conway pushed past Browning and keyed his way into his suite.
Browning followed him in, looking around. She hovered by the entry way, her eyes scanning the room. “We went through a lot together. Relationship mistakes…yours, mine…” she swallowed. “Ours.”
“Drama,” Conway said. “Nothing but drama.” He knelt down to pet Bucky, his Welsh corgi, who toddled out to meet him. Bucky was twenty-three years old, and while he had definitely lost a step or two, and had one or two organs replaced, he was still there lapping at Conway’s cheek every time he came home. “You want to see a friend? Right here, this guy. Bucky. He has never let me down. Never turned his back on me. Him, I can believe in. You, the others…you’ve forgotten about me. And I’m done with the whole lot of you.”
“You’re mad at us, because we’ve all drifted apart. And you’re so mad you’ll risk Andy’s life?”
“Andy has been in a downward spiral for months. It was only a matter of time until it caught up with him.” He shrugged. “He can find his own way out.”
Browning nodded. “And I can’t change your mind?”
Conway turned on Browning and stared out his picture window of the San Francisco Bay. “Nope.”
Browning nodded and moved to the door. “Well, then I guess that’s that.”
Conway stared at her. “You’re not going to try to convince me?”
Brown shrugged. “Would it do any good?”
Conway folded his arms. “Nope.”
“Enjoy your coffee,” Browning said, and drifted toward the door. “A gift from a friend.”
“No strings attached. Yeah right.”
“Yeah,” Browning smiled at him, and slipped out the door. “Right.”
“I can’t believe you went to see him,” Peterman said, jogging to catch up with Browning as they crossed the Starfleet Command presidio.
“You went to see him too,” Browning said.
“Slow down!” Peterman said, chasing Brown over a hill and around a garden of freshly planted petunias. “Why do you have to insist on jogging every day!”
“You could always go with me.”
“Maybe later?” she snapped. “Now, what did Conway tell you?”
Browning sighed. “Nothing helpful.”
“I knew it. Wasted your time.”
“Not exactly,” Browning said, and reached in the satchel that hung at her side. “You’ve got to know how to deal with him. Yelling at him isn’t going to get anything done.”
“So you were nice to him and it still got you nowhere!”
“Wrong again,” she said, and pulled an iPadd out of the satchel, tossing it to Peterman.
Peterman juggled the padd and flipped it over in her hand. “What the hell is this?”
“Coordinates for all of the Explorer Project ships in the quadrant. He’s ordered them on silent running. So no one could do what we’re trying to do right now.”
Peterman scanned the information. “That asshole.” She stopped, prompting Browning to stop and turn around several steps away. “So what good does this do us? They’re on silent running. Our personal comm units aren’t going to be able to reach them.”
“Yeah, but you forget, we have connections,” Browning said, and took off across the grassy quad. “C’mon!”
STARFLEET OPERATIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS
“You want me to what?” Commodore Anna Kimmel stared across her desk at Peterman and Browning.
“Do what you do best,” Peterman said. “Contact one of our ships and give them some helpful expository information.”
Kimmel shifted across her desk, leaning on it and looking from Browning to Peterman. “And who’s idea was it to bring me into this?”
“Mine,” Browning said. “Anna, Andy’s in trouble. We thought you’d want to help.”
“I get it,” Kimmel said, and rubbed her temples, leaning forward. “I really do. I lost a father too, you know.”
“Yes, our condolences, um, on that…” Browning said, leaning forward and touching Kimmel’s hand.
Kimmel sighed looking from Peterman to Browning. “You realize this violates about a dozen regulations. Could get me Court Martialed. Conway is a superior officer. He’s ordered his fleet to silent running. For someone in my position to provide alternate mission briefings to a vessel running silent…why, it’s against everything my predecessor held dear…” she looked up at a watercolor painting of Admiral Kathryn Janeway, standing atop a mountain, hands on hips, giving crucial mission instructions to a Captain on a comm screen. “It’s bad exposition.”
Peterman pushed back from the chair. “C’mon, let’s get out of here, Janice.”
“Stop,” Kimmel said. “I have just one question for you.” She leveled her gaze at Peterman.
Kimmel’s eyebrow darted up. “Which ship should I contact?”
Browning and Peterman looked at each other.
“You know which one,” Peterman said, a slow smile spreading across her face.
TO BE CONTINUED…