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Course Correction by Travis Anderson

Chapter One

The Federation starship NCC-26632 USS Gandhi was cruising along the Demilitarized Zone separating the bulk of the border with the Cardassians from Federation space. The venerable Ambassador-class ship was a match for older Cardassian Galor-class types but she'd be hard pressed if met by a Galor Type IV. But the whole point of the DMZ was to prevent adversarial contact between the two stellar powers.

Lt. Tom Riker, the ship's OPS Officer, had just reached his quarters when he heard a husky voice behind him say, "Hey Lieutenant, want to exchange some fluids?"

Riker grinned as he turned to face the newly minted Lt. J.G. Annalise Vallis, "I hear congratulations are in order, Lieutenant."

Vallis suddenly looked a little downcast, "I'm sure your own promotion is in the works, Tom."

"I doubt it," Riker said matter of factly, "My last performance evaluation was like playing target at a live fire exercise."

"Commander Halifax just has it in for you," Vallis accused.

Frankly, Riker agreed that Megan Halifax was gunning for him but he had to pretend otherwise, "I think she honestly thinks she's defending Starfleet's best interests."

"It's because you're different," Vallis grumped, "That makes her hate you."

Riker thought that was a delicate way of saying he was a result of a transporter accident that duplicated a then-Lieutenant William Riker. Will Riker had been recovered and was now XO aboard the USS Enterprise. Tom Riker had been stranded for eight years and now served as a junior officer aboard the Gandhi.

Part of Halifax's objections were that Riker wasn't a team player and he frequently stepped out of the chain of command. Riker had been isolated and alone during his confinement on Nervala IV. He'd relied upon his wits and his own skill to stay alive in a hostile environment. He wasn't used to waiting for someone to tell him what to do. If he saw a solution to a problem, he was prone to act upon it.

"You're a clone," Riker reminded Vallis, "That makes you 'unique' as well. Yet you just got promoted. Trust me, Halifax's problem with my style are the entire issue here."

"She just hates that you're usually right," Vallis complained, "Which just goes to show she's useless."

"Careful," Riker warned, "Corridors have ears."

"But she's simply prejudiced," Vallis opined, "Can't she be charged with something?"

"Maybe," Riker said hesitantly, "But Captain Moneii will back Halifax and the burden of proof is on me."

Vallis knew a lost cause when she heard one. Captain Aryn Moneii was grooming Halifax for a command of her own. There was no way she would entertain accusations against her prized pupil.

"Ah, the hell with it," Vallis decided, "Buck for a transfer instead."

Vallis looked wistful, "But I'd certainly miss you."

"And I'd miss you as well, Annalise," Riker assured her.

"Look, how about dinner?" Vallis offered, "My treat."

Riker was loath to decline but he did, "Sorry, I have computer core issues to debug tonight."

Vallis looked incredulous, "You're kidding right? You've actually got a hot date that you're standing me up for."

Riker grimaced, "I wish. Halifax accused me of not caring enough about my work to continue my duties into my off hours."

"No wonder she doesn't have a life," Vallis was nearly livid, "I'll file the damn complaint."

"Drop out of warp and take the evening off," Riker urged, "I'll catch up with you when I get done."

"If you get done," Vallis groaned.

"Annalise, the longer I stand out here the longer it'll take me to get done," Riker cajoled her.

"Okay, I can take a hint," Vallis began to walk off, "But you'd better check in later."

"I promise," He called after her.

Entering his quarters he headed straight to the replicator and ordered a light dinner and plenty of coffee. Line code required copious amounts of caffeine. And it was going to be a long night of scrubbing away the unnecessary patches the crew had been attaching to the core programs.

An hour later the door chimed. This provided Riker with a merciful distraction. He ordered the door to open as he approached it. Revealed to be standing out in the corridor, Lt. Shwren ann'Weri waited for Riker to invite her in. The Chief Tactical Officer looked a little impish if the twitching of her antenna was any indication.

"Come in, Wren," Riker offered and the Andorian accepted.

"I notice you're still in uniform," Wren dryly noted the display on his comp/comm as she made the remark.

"Well, these Class B uniforms are a lot easier to wear than the Class A's," Riker commented. And it was true. Riker did prefer the yellow shoulder paneled, black bodied uniform variant. The mock turtleneck that went underneath the jumpsuit was far more comfortable than the stiff collars of the traditional Class A uniform.

"I agree," Wren grinned, "Which must be why I'm wearing mine as well."

Riker knew Wren had to be her for an ulterior reason rather than just to tease him. Although she generally took great delight in that as well, "Not to be rude but why are you calling?"

Wren wore a rueful expression as she began to explain herself, "We've been intercepted by a Federation scoutship."

"They're friendly?" Riker doubted they were hostile. Wren would be manning, or overseeing, the Tactical station if they were currently in a fight.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say 'friendly'," Wren hedged, "Let's just say, the scoutship is a decommissioned Blackbird-class starship. She began life as the USS Tiberius but she's currently registered as the SS Odyssey."

"All right," Riker was baffled as to why Wren was drawing this to his attention, "If the ship isn't a hostile, why are you here?"

Wren looked doubtful but lunged on anyway, "The scout's commander wants to talk to you. This has irked Captain Moneii and Commander Halifax enough that I'm to bring you directly to the Captain's Ready Room so she can decide on whether or not you can talk to the other captain."

"Isn't that censorship?" Riker wondered.

"There's conjecture the ship maybe involved in illegal activity," Wren revealed, "So the captain feels a little caution is warranted."

"Anything else I should know?" Riker thought it couldn't get worse. He was wrong.

"Yeah, Commander Halifax is chewing deuterium over this. She's already considering court martialing you for 'associating with potential criminals'." Wren warned.

"Wouldn't they have to be 'known' criminals for it to deserve a court martial?" Riker wondered.

"If she can make it stick, she will," Wren warned.

"Of course she will," Riker murmured.

Riker endured instant glares from the CO and XO of the ship when he entered Moneii's Ready Room. Moneii gruffly instructed Riker to remain standing. Halifax began to prowl around the room, circling Riker. If her intention was to anger him, she was succeeding.

"Who do you know, Lieutenant Riker?" Moneii suddenly demanded to know.

"I'm not certain I understand the question," Riker replied.

"Who do you know off of this ship, Lieutenant?" Halifax snapped at.

"Not many people," Riker admitted.

"Name them," Halifax commanded.

He gave her an incredulous look and then Moneii intervened, "Settle down, Commander. Lt. Riker, if you would indulge us."

Riker recited a very short list. Moneii seemed somewhat amused, "I see you neglected your father and your doppelganger."

"I don't want to know them," Riker tersely replied, "Permission to speak candidly?"

Moneii weighed her options before deciding, "Very well."

"What the hell is this about?" Riker wanted to know.

"Keep a civil tongue, Lt. Riker," Halifax warned, "That bordered on insubordination."

Again, Riker graced her with an incredulous look. Moneii balanced her priorities again, "What has Lt. Wren told you of our current situation?"

"Not much," Riker admitted.

"Please elaborate," Moneii ordered.

Riker did as he was bade. For some reason Moneii frowned, "And does any of this strike you as odd?"

"This whole damn scenario is odd. Especially this bit," Riker stated.

"Riker, I'm warning you..." Halifax growled.

"Take a deep breath, Commander," Moneii suggested, "Lt. Riker is within his rights to wonder why we're treating him this way."

"Not in my book he doesn't," Halifax declared.

Moneii sighed, "Try decaf next time, Megan. Lt. Wren, please brief Lt. Riker on the Odyssey and her captain."

"The Odyssey, as previously mentioned, is a decommissioned Starfleet vessel. She has Federation registration out of Bajor," Wren described.

"How can Bajor issue Federation registrations?" Riker wondered, "They're an independent planet."

"They are a protectorate and we're courting them for Federation membership," Moneii explained, "As such, we're ramping up trade ties with Bajor. In order to facilitate free access to Federation ports, Bajoran freighters enjoy dual registration. Both from Bajor and the Federation."

"Convenient," Riker mused, "How does this affect our current situation?"

"Lt. Wren?" Moneii deflected the question.

"The Odyssey's captain is a former commander in Starfleet. A career officer in Starfleet Intelligence," Wren divulged.

"What could he want from us?" Riker asked.

"He wants to talk to you and only you," Moneii shared, "He says he has information vital to the Federation's security and the security of Bajor. But he'll only show the data to you. And inside the DMZ."

"Why?" Riker was baffled.

"That's what we're asking you, dammit!" Halifax grated.

"I have no idea who this could be," Riker confessed.

"His name is Brin Macen," Wren supplied a key note.

"Never heard of him," Riker admitted.

"Commander Macen spent the bulk of his career on the Cardassian desk. He rose to Chief Analyst, and then in the height of the Border Wars, Macen went out into the field. He spent ten years on the front lines," Wren elaborated on Macen's history, "He saw the creation of the Demilitarized Zone as a betrayal of the Federation colonists along the border and subsequently resigned after the Maquis formed up."

"Did he say why?" Riker inquired.

"He's on record as stating that the sacrifices made by the border colonies were effectively betrayed by the treaty and spat on the memory of those who have fought and died for the Federation," Wren recited from memory.

"Sanctimonious sonuvabitch," Halifax spat.

"These sentiments, and Macen's own security clearances, are why Starfleet Intelligence marked him for observation," Wren continued.

"How does Macen and his crew make a living?" Riker asked.

"They're listed as freelance information brokers," Moneii spoke again; "They have a thriving business supplying Federation and Bajoran luxury items to select Cardassian clientele. Their routes are specifically chosen to spirit them through active sectors affecting the border regions and the DMZ. Starfleet's Admiral Nechayev is one of Macen's chief clients of intelligence on this side of the border. She also mandated that he retain his security clearances when he resigned. Which puts to us question if he really did resign or this is some covert operation."

"Covert my ass," Halifax retorted, "He sells the same data to Admiral Nechayev and the Maquis."

"Which has yet to be proven," Wren interjected.

"So what do we do about this situation, Lt. Riker?" Moneii asked.

"I beam aboard Macen's ship and Wren comes with me," Riker suggested.

"That's not a bad idea," Moneii mused, "He won't like it though."

"If Captain Macen wants me bad enough, he'll negotiate," Riker asserted.

"What do you think, Commander?" Moneii asked Halifax

"I say we board them and arrest the whole lot for conspiring with terrorists," Halifax urged.

Moneii started to roll her eyes but she caught herself in time, "You know there won't be any evidence whatsoever. This man is a professional spy."

"It'll shake him up," Halifax insisted, "Maybe something will drop loose."

"If I may?" Wren spoke up. Moneii nodded so the Andorian plunged ahead, "We have no legal merit to board Macen's ship. However, living assets aboard his ship may observe something illegal in progress."

Moneii weighed the heaviest options and reached a decision, "Very well, Lieutenants. Pack lightly because I want you back ASAP. And please dispose of the uniforms. I suspect they won't be received well."

Riker and Wren exchanged grins and exited the Ready Room. Halifax groaned, "I trust Wren not to screw this up. But Riker?"

"Have a little faith. Lt. Riker is far more capable than you perceive him to be. Think you have a blind spot where he's concerned," Moneii cautioned her XO.

"Well, here's hoping he even comes back," Halifax commented.

Moneii wondered what elicited that statement.

The Odyssey's transporter room was half the size of the Gandhi's. One of the ship's engineers was there operating the controls. Later, the Starfleet officers would learn that she was one of the two engineers aboard.

Riker was momentarily taken aback by the woman's appearance. She was terribly young and a natural brunette. But she had chunky blonde lines streaking through her hair in the "minked" style. It had been a fad off and on since the 21st Century but it hadn't been popular since Riker was a youth. Apparently fashions moved slower on the frontier.

"Hi," the crewman said, "I'm Heidi Darcy, Engineer's Mate at your service. I'm supposed to take you to the bridge but our Chief is awfully cranky today and I don't think I should leave him alone with the warp core, if you know what I mean."

"So how do we get to the bridge?" Riker wondered aloud.

"Follow me," Darcy led them out into the corridor and pointed down its length, "The turbolift is that way. You can't miss it because there's only one. You're on Deck Three right now and like all good little Starfleet designs, the bridge is on Deck One. There are only five decks so you really can't get lost."

Riker and Wren wondered how Darcy was going to get to engineering. Darcy grinned, "It takes up Deck Four. So I'm just going to drop in through the emergency stairwell. It'll surprise the hell out of Tom. On a small tub like this you take your thrills where you can get them. See ya!"

Wren was delighted b the irrepressibly cheerful Darcy and said as much. Riker was a little more cautious, "Here's hoping she's a reflection of the rest of the crew."

The turbolift opened on Deck One to reveal the bridge. And every eye turned their way. They were obviously expected.

Riker was astonished by the bridge layout. The Battle Bridge of the Galaxy-class starships owed a lot to these scouts. What was surprising was they went into production in 2318, nearly fifteen years before the Gandhi was constructed, and another twenty beyond that build before the Galaxy-class went into full construction.

The bridge, it seemed, was populated entirely by women. Macen was nowhere to be seen. At OPS, an eccentric looking Vulcan manned the station. Beside her at CONN was another impossibly young crewman. And, in an anachronistic fashion, she wore eyeglasses. But as she turned to face the Starfleet officers, the lenses had a faint luminescent glow to them. They were probably displays of some kind and linked to the navigation array.

Wren studied the woman at Tactical. The woman obviously dyed her hair red, and then highlighted her bangs in a shade of blonde, and sported tattoos up and down her arms, and who knew where else. But Wren could see that she didn't want to challenge the redhead inside of her own domain.

A Trill manned the Sciences station. Wren recognized Lt. Commander Lisea Danan from Starfleet Intelligence's records pertaining to the Odyssey. Danan was a respected astrophysicist, astronomer, and stellar cartographer. She was also the current host to the Danan symbiot. What was known is that Danan resigned her commission to join Macen. But no one knew why.

Macen emerged from the briefing room accessed from the rear of the bridge. The ship predated the age of Ready Rooms so Macen employed his staff briefing room as a dual purpose office and conference room.

"Hello," Macen began, "Lt. Riker, Lt. Wren, I'm glad you came aboard."

Macen began to nod towards his crewmen, "T'Kir is at OPS. Tracy Ebert mans the CONN. Christine Lacey is our tactical specialist. And the ever estimable Lisea Danan is our sensor specialist. But you can call her Lees. You already met Heidi. Tom Eckles is our chief engineer. I'm Brin Macen."

"So you're the captain," Riker posed it as a statement rather than a question, "I see you have yourself quite a harem."

A cold bristle passed through the bridge. Wren suddenly wished she had a phaser. Macen merely gave Riker a wry look.

"That appellation is usually applied to our chief engineer. It's equally false in this case," Macen said dryly.

Before either Starfleet officer could comment further, Macen turned to Ebert, "Tracy, break away from the Gandhi and set course for Ronara Prime."

"That's well within the DMZ," Wren noted.

"So it is," Macen quipped, "It's also where I was hired to take you."

"So who hired you and what do they want from me?" Riker wanted to know.

"I don't know the why," Macen countered, "just the who."

"I seriously doubt that," Wren commented.

Macen gave her a wry look, "For my own protection, details have been withheld from me."

Seeing skepticism on his guests faces, he added; "Follow me into the briefing room and I'll tell you what I can."

Wren looked to Riker for a lead. He nodded and they both moved forward to follow Macen. He in turn stopped at the Sciences station next to the door leading to the briefing room.

"The bridge is yours, Lees," Macen grinned, "Don't call me unless we're under attack."

Danan just gave him an amused look as he disappeared.

As befitted a standard Starfleet briefing room, the space was dominated by a centrally located oblong table. Eight chairs were placed around it facing the comp/comm units built int the table. Additionally, a desk with a comp/comm was situated against the bulkhead near the apparent head of the table. This was Macen's private work space.

Macen sat down at the chair located between the table and desk. He scooted up against the table, "Please have a seat."

As they sat down, Macen wore a grateful smile; "I can't tell you how appreciative am that you both had the foresight to step out of uniform. I don't think my clients want to draw attention to the fact that they have official witnesses to their upcoming excursion."

"I thought you didn't know what the mission was," Wren said snarkily.

"I don't know the mission per se," Macen rebutted her, "But I do know that your presence is requested in an unofficial/official capacity."

"That doesn't make sense," Riker argued.

Macen gave him a wry look, "You're officially witnessing an event in your professional capacity. You just aren't officially there."

"That sounds illegal," Riker protested.

"Starfleet Intelligence engages in clandestine operations all the time," Macen reminded them, "Consider yourself volunteers."

"So you're still with Starfleet Intelligence," Wren surmised.

"I take it you've read my file," Macen didn't bother to present it as a question.

Wren nodded so Macen continued, "Then you know I'm a civilian. And it's in a civilian capacity that I'm delivering you to my clients."

"Who are these people and what do they want with me?" Riker inquired sharply.

"It isn't so much a 'they'. It's more like a single person," Macen replied.

"Who?" Riker grated.

"A man named Chakotay," Macen supplied the name at long last.

"And who is that?" Riker was getting exasperated now.

"He's another former Starfleet officer that operates a ship in the DMZ," Macen revealed.

"He's a Maquis," Wren accused.

"Well, there is that rumor," Macen admitted.

"Why would this 'Chakotay' want to talk to me?" Riker wondered.

"Well, as I gather, it was Kalita's idea actually," Macen divulged.

Riker vaguely thought the name sounded familiar, "Who?"

"You met her on Hadon II," Macen reminded him, "She suggested a career change."

Now Riker recalled, "She did say she'd be in touch."

"Consider yourself touched," Macen quipped.

"So basically, this Chakotay and Kalita are recruiting Tom to aid in some terrorist act," Wren theorized.

"I don't know," Macen repeated again, "They aren't sharing and I'm not asking."

"I'm certain you vet your clientele very thoroughly," Wren said tightly.

"I do," Macen confirmed it, "But sometimes certain rumors and innuendo have to be overlooked. I deal in facts."

"Hardly," Wren argued, "You were the Chief Analyst of the Cardassian desk. Sometimes all you had to go on were rumors."

"And when that happened a very real cost was paid in lives," Macen said with the first tinge of anger lacing his voice, "I'm trying not to do that these days."

"So when will we be meeting these 'so-called' Maquis?" Riker asked.

"Very, very soon," Macen warned them.

 

Chapter Two

Macen transported down to Ronara Prime with Riker and Wren. They rematerialized in the spaceport customs office. They then travelled on foot through Dayton City to a public house named the Old Biddy. Macen escorted them in.

Once inside, he directed them to a table in the rear seating four people; "There's my client. Have fun."

He excused himself and left the pub at that time. Riker and Wren moved through the space. Hard gazes followed them. The freighter crews and local riffraff that frequented this establishment were certainly camouflage for groups like the Maquis. Judging by some of the presumably criminal classes represented as well, the Maquis were hardly the only illegal group present.

Riker studied those at the wraparound booth he and Wren were proceeding towards. The male human, who must by the mysterious Chakotay, was obviously of Native American extraction. He also had a facial tattoo on the left side of his face.

Chakotay had a visible sense of serenity that belied his rumored actions. That was until one beheld his eyes and the anger that burned within them. He was a Starfleet trained killer and was now set loose with no restraints.

Beside Chakotay sat a rather severe looking Bajoran woman. Riker didn't know why but she appeared to look threatened. And it seemed her response to threats was hostility. A perfect rationale for a Maquis.

Beside the Bajoran sat a seeming Bajoran with violet hair. But upon closer scrutiny it was revealed her nasal ridges were much more pronounced and extended into her brow. Beside this stranger, Kalita relaxed with a saucy grin.

"Tom, glad you could make it," Kalita offered, "Take a seat."

Six men then jumped Wren and pulled a hood over her head. She disabled two of them while she struggled. They finally got a hypospray to her wrist and moments after it hissed, Wren went slack and collapsed into the waiting arms of her attackers.

As they carried the Andorian away, Riker gave Chakotay a sour look; "Was that really necessary?"

"You made it necessary by bringing her here," the Bajoran accused.

"Seska, we need to move on," Chakotay gently chided her. She subsided but cast one last loathing look Riker's way.

Riker sat down and addressed the near-Bajoran, "Excuse me, but are you Bajoran?"

"No," she said blithely.

Seeing he wasn't getting anywhere yet, he tried again; "May I ask where you're from?"

"You can ask," she replied merrily.

"Can I at least have your name?" Riker was getting frustrated.

"Alea," she said mirthfully, "But don't tell anyone."

"Alea is our cell's intelligence officer," Kalita boasted.

"There's seems to be a plethora of them today," Riker remarked. And then he asked, "Aren't you all in the same group?"

"No," Chakotay answered, "Kalita and Alea represent our partners in the Ronaran cell. My crew is a mobile cell operating out of my ship, the Val Jean, rather than a geographic location."

"Aren't you telling me a lot I shouldn't know?" Riker had to ask.

Chakotay wore a ready smile, "Kalita says I can trust you."

"What does she know?" Seska suddenly blurted, "She only met him that one time on a scrub planet."

Chakotay took this in stride, "You know Kalita is an excellent judge of character."

Chakotay also knew Seska resented Kalita because the human had reservations about the Bajoran. Which no one realized yet that she was a genetically disguised Cardassian agent directly responsible to Gul Evek. Evek felt Seska was in a pivotal position because Chakotay was one of the most accomplished Maquis commanders.

"Tom, you're here because we need a witness," Chakotay mercifully got straight to business.

"Then why choose me?" Riker asked.

"Because, like Chakotay said, I trust you," Kalita informed him, "And since Chakotay trusts my judgment, that decided who amongst Starfleet we would choose."

"Why do you need a witness?" Riker decided to pin Chakotay down.

"We've found a hidden military target within the DMZ," Chakotay said succinctly.

"So why not inform Starfleet directly?" Riker wanted to know.

"Because diplomatic channels require time," Chakotay replied, "And that's one thing we don't have a lot of."

"So you intend to strike out at this target," Riker surmised.

"Exactly," Chakotay was pleased Riker was on the same page.

"Look, I'm sorry, I honestly empathize with your cause but I can't condone your methodology," Riker admitted.

"I told you," Seska huffed.

"Just hear us out and then decide," Chakotay requested. He turned to Alea, "It's your show now."

"All right, Tom. I came across an Obsidian Order facility inside the DMZ," Alea reported. Seeing she had Riker's complete attention, she moved forward, "The observation base is in the Valo system. The Valo star system was claimed by Bajor before and during the Occupation era. The first three planets in the Valo system have Bajoran settlers. The colonies swelled with refugees escaping Bajor. But most opted to stay on their planet of choice when Bajor was liberated."

"The point of all this is that Valo VI hosts a Cardassian observation base. It did so throughout the Occupation and up until now," Alea described the situation, "From Valo VI, the Obsidian Order can not only oversee the Valo system but they can also spy on the entire Bajoran Sector as well as the entirety of the DMZ. Coupled with their observation bases near the Argus Array and Starbases 129, 211, and 310. And of course, this doesn't include mirroring the Starfleet Intelligence Outposts 47 and 61."

"The base on Valo VI represents a clear and present danger not only to the colonists within the DMZ but also to Bajor and the Federation border," Alea finished.

Riker was impressed. He had more than a sneaking suspicion that Alea actually was a career intelligence officer. But for whom? And why support the Maquis?

"Have you corroborated this intelligence?" Riker pointedly asked.

"I used my contacts in the Valo system to confirm it," Seska asserted acerbically, "They all know about the base."

"Yet they never told anyone about it until now," Riker's rejoinder almost slapped Seska's face.

"If Seska says it's true then it is," Chakotay firmly stated.

Seska glared at Riker while Chakotay pondered her sources of information. Seska frequently brought previously unknown intel to the fore. He never asked about her sources because she had assured him they were confidential and lives were on the line. Chakotay could readily accept that concept.

What no one among Chakotay's crew had realized was that Seska's source of information was Cardassian Military Intelligence funneled to her through Gul Evek. Evek had cleared this assault on the Obsidian Order. It was a means to eliminate potential rivals for political control over the Cardassian interests within the DMZ. The Maquis would absorb the risks and potential casualties while Evek reaped the benefits.

"So Tom, are you willing to come along and verify the nature of this base and report any data we may recover?" Chakotay presented the pistol question.

"I am," Riker instantly decided, "But Wren is the one you really want. She's the tactical expert."

Chakotay glanced at Kalita. Her nod was almost imperceptible. Chakotay made his decision.

"Very well, your friend will be brought aboard the Val Jean prior to liftoff," Chakotay assured Riker, "Anything else?"

"Is your ship in orbit?" Riker was curious.

Chakotay grinned, "It's in the city's shuttleport. She's a bit big for her berth but most of the freighters that land are twice her size."

"And this is where we say goodbye," Kalita and Alea rose and strolled away.

"They're not coming?" Riker was confused.

"They're local assets," Chakotay explained, "Their job was to persuade you. They accomplished that."

Chakotay stepped outside to discreetly use his communicator Seska snorted derisively, "Kalita thinks highly of you despite the fact you're a failed science experiment."

Riker took in Seska's measure. She had access to Starfleet personnel jackets. Which made her far more than the guttersnipe she appeared to be.

"Do you always warm up to people so charmingly?" Riker retorted.

"Don't even think about betraying us to Starfleet," Seska warned, "I'm making it my mission to watch you."

"Have fun," Riker quipped, "But who will be watching you?"

He could tell that struck a sensitive nerve.

Chakotay returned to find Seska giving Riker a sullen stare. Chakotay found it mildly frustrating but it was also part of who Seska was. He was fond of her because she cared for him in her own way.

"All right, our rides will be here in a moment so we'd best wait outside," Chakotay announced.

Riker found that to be a relief until he actually went outside. The threatening clouds were done with posturing and a torrential downpour was covering the land. The wait for the ground transport was a lot longer than Riker cared for.

Once aboard the Val Jean, Chakotay brought Riker to the Maquis raider's cockpit. There the bridge crew was already assembled. Chakotay made cursory introductions.

He presented a taciturn man seated at the navigation console, "This is Ayala, my second in command."

Chakotay explained that he himself was the pilot before he introduced a dark skinned Vulcan named Tuvok. Tuvok studied him in a disconcerting manner. Even Seska's scrutiny paled in comparison. It turned out Tuvok was the weapons officer.

The ship's chief engineer turned out to be a moody half-human half-Klingon woman named B'Elanna Torres. She angrily pointed out that there was no room for passengers since the cockpit was cramped enough already. Chakotay took this in stride as well.

"Don't worry B'Elanna; Seska is loitering at the hatch to take Lt. Riker back to a storage locker. He'll be safe enough in her care," Chakotay reassured her.

Riker wasn't as sure about that last bit as Seska marched him off into the bowels of the ship. Seska practically shoved him into the locker. It turned out it had two crash seats in it so it was obvious the Maquis had stowed passengers in here before.

Seska sat across from him fingering a Klingon disruptor in her lap. Riker couldn't resist baiting her, "You seem awfully fond of that thing."

Seska regarded him coolly, "I actually favor Cardassian disruptors. Bajor had plenty of them to go around."

"But what if I try to take that from you?" Riker joked.

Seska moved almost faster than Riker could track. The disruptor was now aimed at his face and she wore a smile that dared him to try and snatch it. She tipped the disruptor back slightly and grew even more pleased with herself.

"Zap. You're dead," Seska taunted him.

Riker could tell she'd do it in a heartbeat. She stared at him like he was a bug she wished to squash so evidently his life meant very little to her. She'd kill him and justify it with a concocted story about needing to defend herself. Frankly, Riker was wondering why she hadn't done so already.

"When do I get to see Wren?" Riker finally inquired after the lights stopped flickering.

"Soon enough," Seska was ostensibly watching the lighting panels. Riker knew well enough her entire focus was on him, "This ship is over seventy years old. Gravity wells tend to wreak havoc on its inertial damper. So when Chakotay calls the 'all clear' we'll visit your blue skinned girlfriend."

As if on cue, Chakotay's voice reverberated throughout the ship; "All hands, stand down. We've cleared Ronara's gravity and are en route to the Valo system."

"Come on, lover boy;" Seska rose, "Your fair maiden awaits."

She took him to a larger room with bunk stacked three high. It was a crew's barracks. Wren lay motionless on a cot guarded by two Maquis.

"I thought you said your sedative is harmless," Riker was instantly angry.

"You'd best keep a civil tongue, human;" Seska warned icily, "Meet Chell and Mariah Henley. They've been caring for your little friend. They'll rouse her."

Chell had to be the Bolian male, Riker assumed. That made the woman with the exorbitantly festive head scarf Mariah Henley. Riker calmed himself.

"Can you wake her?" Riker kindly asked.

Chell moved for the med kit but Henley snatched it from him, "Chell, you remember what happened last time."

Chell's cheeks flushed an even deeper shade of blue as he subsided. Riker knelt beside Wren as Henley leaned in. She cast an amused look his way.

"She'll come out of this in a hurry," Henley warned, "So you might have to duck."

There was a snap hiss of the hypo and Henley quickly retreated. Wren's eyes snapped open and Riker could see the fury in them. He barely got to his feet in time to avoid her punch. Seska nearly choked on her laughter.

"I give already," Riker said as he held his hands up.

Wren put her feet on the deck but didn't get up. Instead she took a look around at her surroundings and who was in them. Finally, she grimaced.

"What the frinx have you gotten us into, Riker?" Wren asked wearily.

Riker sat down on the bunk opposite of hers, "Do you really want to know?"

Wren cast him an angry glare so Riker plunged ahead with everything that had happened while she'd been out. When he finished, Wren groaned, "I give up. Put me back to sleep."

Seska hurriedly motioned for Henley to dose Wren again. Riker stopped Henley, "Why?"

"Get Commander Chakotay down here," Wren instructed Seska, "And I'll explain why this is a fool's errand."

"Don't order me about, Starfleet;" Seska growled, "And that's Captain Chakotay to you."

"Sure. Just get Chakotay here," Wren shrugged. She didn't have time for pissing contests.

Seska stepped out of the room to use the intraship intercom. Wren looked at Henley and Chell, "Is she always like this?"

Chell and Henley just grinned. Chell conspiratorially explained, "Seska has been a little protective of Chakotay since she started bedding him."

"It's pretty casual," Henley piped in, "At least for him."

Wren looked at Riker and rolled her eyes, "Wonderful."

Chakotay made an appearance. Riker could tell from the Maquis commander's expression that Seska had warned him of potential trouble. Still, he was cordial, "You wanted to see me, Lieutenant?"

"You're after an Obsidian Order facility, right?" Wren asked without preamble.

"Riker told you?" Chakotay wondered exactly who the leak was.

"No," Wren said dryly, "A hummingbird transported aboard and spilled your secrets."

Riker watched the flash of anger in Chakotay's eyes. When he spoke, it was with a stern measure of control; "You have something to add to our mission planning?"

"The Obsidian Order is technically a civilian entity," Wren pointed out, "The DMZ forbids either side from posting a military presence inside the Zone. Starfleet has no jurisdiction or recourse to expunging the presence of an Obsidian Order station. They can hand a complaint over to the diplomats and then they can work their magic."

Chakotay appreciated Wren's sardonic tone, "If you haven't noticed, we're not Starfleet."

"You're still not getting it," Wren tried a different approach, "The Order isn't the Central Command. An attack upon them will merely feed into the Cardassians' rhetoric regarding your cause."

"We know that," Chakotay assured her.

Wren and Riker both wondered if Chakotay was just colossally stupid. Chakotay could see that in their expressions so he decided to address that concern, "The Obsidian Order listening post on Valo VI is tied into their network. If we get in without alerting them we can gain access to their computers and find out where every Order base and agent within distance of the DMZ is located. This data will be shared with Starfleet. Maybe it'll buy us some goodwill."

"How generous of you," Wren snidely remarked, "Especially since you'll need Tom to access the Cardassians' computers. Or do you have a qualified OPS officer aboard?"

Chakotay didn't know about Seska's hidden skill set so he replied in the negative, "So yes, I'm asking Tom to contribute to a mission that will serve Maquis interests while it serves Starfleet's security concerns as well."

"You want me to aid and abet a terrorist strike?" Riker asked.

Chakotay smiled, "Essentially."

Riker thought it over, "I'm in."

Wren thought about bouncing her head off the bulkhead a few times. Then she reconsidered. She'd rather bounce Riker's instead.

"Does Starfleet know about this base on Valo VI?" Wren asked.

"You should know better than I do," Chakotay countered, "And if Starfleet knows, why haven't they done anything about it?"

"If they do, diplomatic channels take time," Riker finally voiced a little reason.

"We're hoping to accelerate the timetable a bit," Chakotay grinned, "We're just going to skip diplomacy this time and let Starfleet, the Obsidian Order, and the Central Command all catch up. With any luck, the Bajoran Militia will take a stance as well. This base directly threatens Prophet's Landing so they'll have a vested interest."

"There's no talking you out of this, is there?" Wren asked.

"No," Chakotay exited on that note.

Seska stepped out as well and then returned a moment later, "You two will remain here until we land on Valo VI."

"I suppose your charming self will be here as well," Riker ventured.

Seska smiled like a caged Bajoran razorcat, "Of course. Ready to try me yet?"

Chell and Henley settled into unoccupied bunks and watched as the Starfleet officers verbally fenced with Seska.

 

Chapter Three

Chakotay brought the Val Jean in on an oblique course towards Valo VI. The protocol held that precise turns and banks had to be made at designated times. Chakotay related it to ancient submariners running precisely charted undersea canyons based upon turning at times intervals.

Alea had obtained the chart and the navigation chart for remaining within Valo VI's dedicated sensor blind. The course kept one out of sight of Valo 1-III as well as that of Valo VI as well. Chakotay wondered again on how Alea had obtained her data. Her methods were as mysterious as her origins. But Ro Laren trusted her so Chakotay felt forced to as well.

Besides, Seska had confirmed the data through independent sources. She always distracted him in tantalizing ways whenever he pressed her on how she obtained her intelligence. But she always came through in a clutch. Still, for some strange reason he'd curtailed the crew's missions into Cardassian space for a while now.

Gul Evek had been a little too close for comfort when they last approached Dorvan V. His home planet was occupied by Cardassians and Evek had "just" happened to be tucked behind a moon in the solar system when the Val Jean appeared. He suspected there might be a leak amongst the Maquis cell commanders but he trusted his crew implicitly.

Chakotay refocused on what he was doing as he almost blew a turn. Ayala turned to him, "Problems?"

"No," Chakotay asserted. Starfleet had drilled into him the necessity of a commander appearing infallible. He didn't quite buy into it, "Just distracted for a second."

"A second is all it'll take to alert them," Ayala cajoled his leader.

Chakotay wore a sheepish smile, "Duly noted."

They cleared the sensors and landed on the backside of the planet. The base was on the side facing the Valo star. Valo VI was a Class P glaciated world. It was warmer than Pluto but colder than Mars by a fair degree. The Maquis had stocked up on polar survival gear and breath masks. Valo VI had an atmosphere but it needed to be filtered.

Torres and Tuvok were leading Yosa and Lon Suder in a trek halfway across the globe to erect a transport relay. The components had cost the Maquis plenty but they were military grade. The Maquis had been specifically warned against asking which military.

It took two long hours but Torres finally signaled Chakotay they were ready to tap into the Cardassian transporter array. Chakotay didn't envy those that he'd dispatched on this little chore. Torres and Tuvok's ancestry were evolved for high temperature worlds. They had to be utterly despising the cold and their commander right now.

"Ready?" Chakotay asked Ayala.

"How hard is it to hold down the fort in case a hasty retreat or extra firepower is needed?" Ayala asked ruefully.

"I need someone dependable to stay behind," Chakotay counseled his deputy.

"Sure, sure. That's the kiss of death, you know:" Ayala mocked protested.

"Keep tabs on B'Elanna and Tuvok. I'm worried about their tolerating the cold," Chakotay requested.

"That's why Yosa and Suder are driving the skimobiles," Ayala, "But I know you'll fret anyway."

Chakotay thought of the group remaining behind to fly the Val Jean should the worst happen Doyle, Hogan, Jackson, and Jarvin were manning the ship's various vital posts. Kenneth Dalby and Gerron were minding Wren. Dalby was watching over Gerron as much as he was watching out for the Andorian Starfleet officer.

A long line had formed towards the ship's cargo transporter. It also served as the main transporter since the "official" personnel transporter only had two pads. Chakotay was leading the first foray into the Cardassian base. With luck the Cardassians wouldn't post a watch officer on the transporters. If they did, this effort would die while still being born.

Chakotay gathered his selected group. Riker stood beside him. Chell, O'Donnell, and Henley also stepped onto the transporter grid. Jarvin did the honors and locked the transporter onto the Cardassian transporter room through Torres' relay.

The team materialized in an abandoned transporter room. Riker immediately fired up the unit and solidified the lock and added the security of a second buffer to the transporters. He, above all others, knew the advantages of having a second buffer in play.

Seska's group came next. Michael Jonas and Jor were included. Seska saw Riker at the transporter controls and snorted. Seska didn't let the inevitable acidic barb loose. Instead she and her unit went out into the corridor. O'Donnell, Chell and Henley followed them.

While Seska's group secured one end of the corridor and O'Donnell, Chell, and Henley defended the other approach, Riker brought the next team across the distance from the Val Jean. Ann Smithers led this group. Tabor and Carlson were assigned to her. Riker noted that the all seemed to enjoy a light repartee.

Out in the corridor, Seska navigated a hall monitor's display. Getting a layout of the base, she transferred the schematics to the team leaders' padds. They were of Bajoran issue. Programmed to interpret Bajoran data encryption as well as Cardassian and Starfleet digital languages, Bajoran padds were ideally suited to the Maquis.

Chakotay led his team to the operations center. Seska's group proceeded to the power plant. Meanwhile, Smithers and her unit proceeded to the crews' barracks.

Seska quickly accessed the base security network and bypassed the lockout guarding the reactor core. Jonas and Jor laid down suppressive fire as Seska made her way through the engineering space.

As she crept through the room, she shot the unarmed engineers. One engineer managed to sound the alarm before he died. It wasn't the first time Seska had killed fellow Cardassians in the line of duty. They certainly wouldn't hold back because they'd think she was a damn Bajoran terrorist. Her people had already had a bellyful of Bajoran extremists.

The room was pacified in seconds. The engineering staff was decimated. Seska took the controls of the fusion reactor and pushed it to one hundred and fifty percent capacity. Then she blew out the controls. In twenty to thirty minutes the reactor would erupt in an orgasmic display of destructive power. The entire base would be taken out by it.

Seska than led Jonas and Jor to the operations center but the security force was finally responding to the reactor alert. The Maquis opened fire and then retreated into the bowels of the base. This would alleviate Chakotay's team because Seska's group would draw them off.

Chakotay's team stormed the operations center in similar fashion. Cardassian guards had been posted in the ops center. Four to be precise. Three were now dead but the analysts themselves had taken up arms. There were six of those. The only good part was that they had been driven from their stations before they could react.

Henley joined Chakotay in laying down cover fire while Chell and O'Donnell crossed over to the other side of the room. Sporadic burst of particle beam fire illustrated the point that both sides were still alive. Although Henley and O'Donnell had each scored hits on members of the opposition.

Kneeling beside Chakotay, Riker suddenly interjected; "Give me a phaser."

Henley cast a questioning eye Chakotay's way. He solemnly nodded. She pulled a spare Son'a built phaser out of her waistband. Riker studied the model before he began tearing it apart.

Once he had it field stripped, he reversed the polarity of the phase emitter. Reassembling it, he pulled the trigger and it began to slowly whine. He leaned towards Chakotay again.

"Have everyone cover me," Riker insisted.

Seeing that Riker had overloaded the phaser, Chakotay yelled instructions across to Chell and O'Donnell. Then he and Henley began barraging the Cardassians. Chell and O'Donnell lent the weight of their firepower into it and Riker stepped out unmolested.

Tossing the phaser down the length of the room, he stepped back as Cardassians started surging forward to disarm the phaser. The Maquis dutifully shot them as they tried.

When the phaser detonated, there were only two living Cardassians by Chakotay's count. The Maquis all rose with their weapons ready. Not seeing any movement through the smoke, Chakotay faced Riker.

"Good think, Tom;" Chakotay said encouragingly, "That's the type of thinking that the Maquis need."

"That's good because I just effectively threw my Starfleet career away," Riker ruefully realized.

"And blew up a perfectly working phaser," Henley grumped.

"Set it aside, Mariah;" Chakotay chuckled, "Tom will buy you a new one."

Henley looked at Riker with an expectant gaze. Riker looked caught in the crosshairs, "Sure. Pick a model."

"Anything as long as it's not Ferengi crap," Henley stated.

"Tom, if you don't mind my saying, it didn't look like you had much of a career anyway," Chakotay observed, "I saw the way your Andorian babysitter was looking at you. She doesn't trust you to make the wisest decision."

"After this, do you blame her?" Riker wondered.

"There's a wide world outside of Starfleet. Trust me, I know;" Chakotay assured him, "But I didn't used to think so. So I can understand where you're coming from."

"Maybe, but how do you sleep at night?" Riker wondered.

"Guilt free," Chakotay grinned, "Now come with me. You need to grab the data as fast as you can."

Riker gave him a quizzical look so Chakotay explained, "Seska rigged the reactor to explode. By my count we have less than ten minutes left before this base goes up in a nuclear firestorm."

"Sure. No pressure," Riker chuckled. Sitting down at a station he found the agent assigned to it hadn't logged out. Pulling a Cardassian isolinear rod out and inserting it into the data receptacle, he recorded the bulk of the database. He repeated this process and then stood up.

"Let's go," Riker urged.

Chakotay didn't hesitate. He knew Cardassia equipment was designed to reject Federation isolinear rods. But Federation computers could be adapted to accept Cardassian rods. So they'd prepared for this eventuality.

The Maquis exited the operations center and proceeded towards the transporter room. Along the way they encountered Smithers group. Chakotay wanted an update, "Any problems, Ann?"

"No, we caught them napping. Literally," Smithers reported.

"Where are Carlson and Tabor?" Chakotay wondered.

"They helped Seska establish a crossfire and eliminate the guards. She's beaming people back to the Val Jean right now," Smithers explained.

Chakotay relieved Seska and beamed her back with a group of four Maquis. Riker was joined by Henley and Chell. Henley was being a tad protective of Riker now. She had a phaser on the line. Maybe more considering the look in her eye.

Chakotay beamed out last. He did so with three minutes to spare. The reactor overloaded and destroyed the base in a burst resembling a solar flare.

Chakotay returned to the Val Jean to find Torres' team had safely returned while his crew was away. Chakotay pulled up Riker, who was being closely watched by Seska again, and instructed him to wait with Wren while they flew to Valo I.

"Why Valo I?" Riker wondered, "Do the colonists support the Maquis?"

"Some do," Chakotay shared, "But we're really going to its moon. A Bajoran Resistance fighter named Orta used its caverns and caves for a base. We stockpiled the necessary equipment to translate the data you're carrying there."

"Besides, you need to settle down your friend's ruffled feathers," Chakotay urged.

Wren wasn't so much angry as she was severely disappointed, "You know I'm going to have to report this."

"I know," Riker replied simply.

"Look, I don't actually know what you did on this little raid but these Maquis now trust you," Wren looked towards Seska, "Certain Bajorans notwithstanding."

Riker watched her eyes and the turmoil within them, "That kind of trust is earned and it speaks volumes."

"The data will be worth it," Riker promised her.

"I hope so," Wren said wryly, "For your sake."

Inside Valo I's moon, the caves and caverns within it underneath the surface, were oxygenated by atmosphere processors even older than the Val Jean. Wren honestly wondered when they'd give out and they'd all asphyxiate. She'd come up in the world. Gerron and Dalby were once again joined by Chell and Henley. And she noticed that Henley was watching Riker more than Wren herself. That irked Wren to no end.

Torres adapted the fitting to the Federation built portable computer. It was at least two generations out of date but you worked with what you had. Riker spent the next few hours unpacking the files. When he was done, he helped Chakotay, Tuvok, and Seska go over the data by copying it to their padds and running through it himself.

Riker almost groaned when Seska sat beside him. She shot him a scathing glare before picking up her padd and beginning to peruse its contents. The others silently plowed into the information.

What they found in the end was that the identities and locations of the deep cover operatives were sealed away in an encryption that the portable computer couldn't fathom much less break. But various sites were revealed all throughout the DMZ.

Most baffling all were two items that hinted at a much greater story behind them. One was that the Obsidian Order was tracking Central Command's deep cover operatives in the Maquis. Seska barely held it together for that. But she played it cool and found comfort in the fact that no names or location were given. She was surprised to discover that Evek had doubled down and sent more undercover agents in to infiltrate the Maquis than just herself. She understood the reasoning why and she was insulted by it.

The second were personnel and material transfers to the Orias system. Seska picked up on that, "You read it wrong, Riker. The Orias system is uninhabited. There nothing there but a few Class D planetoids, three asteroid belts, and a number of gas giants."

"Look at the section yourself," Riker fought to keep the anger out of his voice.

Seska read the summaries and then shook her head, "It has to be a mistake."

"Seska, you know as well as I do that the Order rarely makes mistakes," Chakotay cautioned her.

Seska lasered another look Riker's way, "Who are you going to trust? Starfleet or me?"

"I'm afraid I have to go with Tom on this one," Chakotay admitted.

Seska stared at Riker and her eyes announced that she had just declared war. Riker was getting rather tired of it, "Look, I'll be out of your way soon enough. Give someone else the death stare after I'm gone."

"But why are they transferring all of these resources into a nowhere system?" Riker asked.

"We may never know," Tuvok warned him, "It is logical to assume we will never gain access to a system that deep inside of Cardassian space."

"I don't buy that," Riker asserted, "The right people with the right ship could get there."

"There may be a way," Chakotay mused, "But it would take just the right commander. Maybe we'll discuss it later."

Riker found himself looking forward to that talk.

The Val Jean returned to Ronara Prime and the Odyssey was in orbit over the planet waiting to transfer the Maquis' Starfleet guests back to the Gandhi. Chakotay and Seska escorted Riker and Wren to the transporter. Seska manned the equipment and gave the pair a surly look.

"Well? Aren't you leaving?" she demanded to know.

Riker looked at Wren and she was crestfallen, "You're staying, aren't you?"

"I have to," Riker declared, "I need answers and only the Maquis can provide them."

Wren pulled him in and fiercely kissed him, "Take care, Tom Riker. Stay lucky and don't do anything more idiotic than this in the future."

"I'm afraid I'll just have to take my chances," Riker replied.

Seska gloated over the hurt look in Wren's eyes. It served the little Andorian strumpet right. She gleefully engaged eh transporter and sent Wren back to the Odyssey.

Aboard the scoutship, Macen awaited her along with Tom Eckles, who operated the transporter. Macen looked puzzled, "Weren't there two of you at the beginning?"

"Tom defected to the Maquis," Wren said woefully.

"Good for him," Eckles blurted.

Wren shot him an angry glare. Mellowing, she turned to Macen, "You've worked for the Maquis?"

"Is this on the record?" Macen asked, "Because if it is, I've worked with suspected Maquis."

"This is completely off the record," Wen sighed.

"Then yes, I've worked for them at times," Macen admitted.

"What about Chakotay?" Wren asked, "What type of person is he?"

"Meaning you want to know if Chakotay will throw Riker to the Cardassian wolves," Macen surmised.

"Kind of," Wren confessed.

"Chakotay is one of the movement's best and brightest," Mace assured her, "He'll only send people into a situation if he thinks there's a reasonable chance of survival."

"That's good," Wren brightened a bit.

"Be warned though," Macen cautioned her, "reasonable is a relative term."

Chakotay and Riker beamed back to the surface of Ronara Prime. As they exited the customs house, Kalita welcomed them, "Hello Tom, I see you made the right choice."

"Chakotay said you had a way of getting to the Orias system," Riker stated.

"We have contingency plans regarding the perfect vessel for an incursion into Cardassian space," Kalita informed him "We could go to Orias if you want."

"Our cell commander, Ro Laren, has a scheme of how to capture the Defiant at Deep Space Nine. Learning of your joining us, she found the perfect way of accessing the ship and stealing it."

"How is that?" Riker wondered.

"We send you aboard," Kalita smirked.

"That plan is dead in the water as soon as Wren gets back to the Gandhi and Halifax reports me as AWOL and with the Maquis," Riker countered.

"Megan Halifax will stall the report for as long as humanly possible," Chakotay promised.

"You don't know Halifax then," Riker opined.

"I know her very well," Chakotay chuckled, "We went to the Academy together."

Riker gaped so Chakotay decided to spare him the endless hours of wondering, "The Central Command has its undercover agents and we have ours. Megan's been quietly pushing you towards joining us for months now."

"'Push' isn't the word," Riker griped.

"Well, she had to be persuasive," Chakotay grinned.

"She was," Riker admitted, "Believe me, she was."

Captain Moneii nearly hit the ceiling when she learned of Riker's defection. She basically wanted him clapped in irons and crucified. She immediately ordered Halifax to report his status to Starfleet Command. Halifax kowtowed and went away happy.

Vallis stopped Wren as the Andorian was on her way to drown her sorrows in the crew's lounge. Vallis was fretting, "Is it true?"

Wren sadly nodded, "Yes, Tom joined the Maquis."

Vallis cast her a sympathetic look, "Did you ever tell him how you felt about him?"

"I gave him a major clue at the end but he still went traipsing off to certain doom," Wren sighed.

"I'm so sorry," Vallis expressed herself.

"I'm due on Andoria in a few months anyway. My bond group wants to have a second baby. Me, I'm not s thrilled with the idea," Wren admitted, "Why I had to be born into a four sex species is beyond me. Balancing two people's lives together is hard enough. But four? You might as well put a phaser to your head."

"Don't say that," Vallis was horrified, "Look, I say we eat decadent food and drink a few glasses of synthehol."

"Any port in a storm," Wren caved in.

"That's almost the spirit," Vallis smiled.

As promised, Halifax camped on the report outlining Riker's new affiliation. It wasn't until she received an innocuous message regarding the weather on Ronara Prime that Halifax mentally decoded the underlying verbal text. Tom Riker was going to impersonate Will Riker and steal the Defiant. Kalita was backing his play so there would be two senior Maquis aboard for the mission.

Now that Halifax knew the plan was already in motion, she transmitted the report. Now no one could accuse her of not doing her duty.

 

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