“You know damn well why you’re here,” Sisko replied. He and Constable Odo stood in front of Mazur’s holding cell.
“You’re a con artist, using your listening skills as an El-Aurian to weed into your victim’s lives and then take all that they have.” It had been Odo who had said that, stepping forward so that the energy barrier was so close he could here it humming. Odo sneered before moving back next to his Commander.
Sisko’s commbadge whistled for attention, “Sisko here,” he answered.
It was Dax in Ops, “Benjamin, the Galaxy just arrived and is requesting permission to dock.”
“Permission granted,” Sisko replied, “tell Captain Brevik that he may want to visit someone in our holding cells when he comes aboard.”
“Understood.” The channel closed as Sisko tapped his commbadge and returned his attention to Odo and Mazur.
“Did you say Brevik?” Mazur stammered.
“Yes. I presume you know him; you are of the same race,” Sisko grinned. He himself had met the imposing Valian Brevik almost immediately after the Battle of Wolf 359; the massive USS Galaxy had arrived moments after the Enterprise had left, picking up the survivors of the Saratoga and several other ships. Brevik had attempted to befriend Sisko at the time, but Sisko had been too traumatised to notice. He had rectified that when the Galaxy had put in for repairs at Utopia Planitia, when Sisko and Brevik had become good friends and the bigger man had even pitched in some ideas to the Defiant-class Development Project.
Mazur backed away from the forcefield and sat down heavily on the small bunk provided in the cell. He put his head in his hands and began shaking his head, muttering something about being killed and being punished for past crimes.
Ten minutes later, the tall form of Valian Brevik entered the room, his hands clutching a Padd. His deep red eyes widened when he saw Mazur shaking his head in his hands.
“Martus!” Brevik boomed. Even Odo flinched at Brevik’s loud voice. Mazur slowly turned around in horror at the voice, his eyes full of fear. Brevik stood there, like mankind’s mythical Angel of Death.
“C-Captain Brevik,” Mazur stuttered, “what a pleasant surprise.” Odo smiled at Mazur’s sudden reversal of confidence; days ago, the El-Aurian conman had been confident, even arrogant, now he was scared out his of wits; there was obviously history between the two El-Aurians.
“Martus, I told you to stop using your listening skills to con people out of their money,” Brevik sneered, moving closer to the forcefield. Odo deactivated the forcefield, curious to see if Brevik would launch himself at Mazur and rip the conman’s throat out. But he was disappointed as Brevik just stood there at the threshold of the cell, glaring at Mazur.
“Captain?” Sisko asked, curious to know what kind of history the El-Aurians had together.
Brevik saw his friend’s questioning look. “This sunuvabitch,” he explained, pointing to Mazur, “sold out my homeworld to the Borg, for money. My people have never been able to prove it was him, but a lot of the evidence points to him. And he’s the only one of us that would be so depraved to sell out his own race.”
“I-I never sold out our homeworld,” Mazur protested, “I would never do such a thing!” But his protestations were unconvincing.
“If you don’t mind, Ben,” Brevik addressed his friend, “I’ll throw him in my brig until we get to Jaros II.”
“Please do,” Odo replied. Sisko nodded his consent. Within seconds two Starfleet security officers were escorting Mazur back to the Galaxy. Brevik smiled at Mazur’s cries for leniency.
“I’m surprised you didn’t want to kill him,” Odo mused in his gruff voice.
“Oh, I do want to kill him, but being a starship Captain has its drawbacks. I can’t get away with murder.” Sisko and Odo weren’t entirely sure if he was joking or being serious. As if only just remembering, the El-Aurian handed Sisko the Padd he had been carrying, “the Galaxy’s repairs.”
“I’ll get this to Chief O’Brien immediately,” Sisko said cheerily.
“Thanks Ben,” Brevik smiled.
“I hope mister Mazur likes it on Jaros II,” Odo pondered, “I hear its quite barren.”
“Marla,” Harry exclaimed. “What are you doing here?” Then he saw the uniform and the rank pips and wondered who in their right mind promoted the former Equinox engineer. The light from the Din Rona twin stars shone brightly through the long observation window. Harry Kim was just on his way back to the Hanson with some novels downloaded from the DS5 database; something to keep the crew occupied when we’re off-duty, he said to himself. He never thought he’d run into Marla Gilmore.
“I’m over here to get some supplies for my ship,” she answered; her smile faded when she saw the look of anger on his face. “Nice beard,” she commented, pointing to Harry’s new addition to his face: Chakotay had mentioned that a beard made a man look older, which had prompted Harry to stop shaving; it wasn’t an especially thick beard, just unshaven fluff. It wasn’t against regulations to have a beard, but they were rare among the lower ranks. Admirals were usually the only ones to have beards, just because they could.
“Your ship? What ship are you on?” He asked, ignoring her comment about his beard.
“That one,” she replied, pointing to the massive Horizon docked at Deep Space Five. At first he couldn’t see it, the ship was directly in front of the system’s binary stars, making it almost impossible to see the ship due to the immense glare from the stars; then the ship’s orbit took it away from the stars and Harry’s eyes widened, looking at Marla, then the Horizon, then back to Marla again. “I’m the chief engineer,” she pointed out. She clasped her hands behind her back and stared at the breath-taking Horizon; she was its engineer and was proud of it, like a mother proud of her children.
“Wow,” he said, not hiding his surprise.
“Tell me about it; I didn’t think anyone would want me to work on another starship again, let alone be a ship’s chief engineer.” She stared down at the floor, then the ceiling then back at the Horizon, trying to look everywhere except into Harry’s eyes. To this day she regretted betraying Voyager’s crew.
“It’s good to see you, Marla,” Harry said with some envy. The Hanson was a fine ship no doubt about it, but the Horizon was one of those ships that all crews worked to try and get on, like the Enterprise, Voyager and Excalibur. The Sovereign-class Horizon was immense, longer and more powerful than any other vessel in Starfleet. In its first mission it had saved the ill-fated mission to investigate a blind Borg Sphere; Admiral Janeway had led the mission and taken the fleet into a tetryon-heavy nebula where it had been ambushed by four Borg cubes; Janeway had then been captured by a newly-activated Borg Queen, a Romulan fleet had decloaked and rescued the Admiral, managing to destroy the cubes; but the destruction of the cubes had ignited the tetryon and destroyed the at sensors of the retreating starships; a Borg Diamond ship had then appeared behind the survivors but was subsequently destroyed when the Horizon finally turned up.
“Is it?” Marla asked, being unusually direct; she cursed herself for being rude, the Horizon really is starting to affect me. Both Commander Teran and the Captain had acknowledged the fact that her confidence was improving every day, and she was becoming a valued member of the crew.
“I’m sorry, I have to go,” Harry said quickly, walking off, his face going red with embarrassment and anger. “Don’t answer my question then,” she said to his back, not realising how sarcastic that had sounded. He didn’t hear it, or if he did he paid no attention to it.
“I hate it when people do that,” a voice said from behind her. She turned and looked straight into the eyes of Commander Chakotay.
“Commander,” she said, finding it hard to cover her embarrassment. Her cheeks flushed a deep red, made more evident by her pale skin.
“It’s okay, Lieutenant,” he smiled, “I heard the whole thing.”
“I don’t hold grudges like Harry does. He’s taking his first officer duties a little too seriously; but then he is pretty new to the job.”
“I know the feeling.” She’d forgotten how handsome and reassuring his face was, like looking into a sea of calm. His tribal tattoo and the few grey hairs he had gave him an air of wisdom, just as Captain Brevik did. “Is there something I can do for you, Commander?”
He smiled, “I just thought I’d say hello that’s all.”
“I’m just kind of new at this whole officer thing.” Her commbadge chirped, slapping it she answered, “Gilmore here.”
It was the Horizon’s Andorian first officer, “Marla, it’s Teran on the bridge. Have you got those supplies yet?”
“No, Commander. I’m just on my way.”
“Don’t bother; we’ll pick them up another time, we’re being sent out again. Beam back; Admiral Solok is here to explain.”
“I’ll be there in a second. If you’ll excuse me Commander?”
“By all means,” Chakotay answered, shrugging. After a few swift words with transporter room three, she was gone, taken by the blue-white light of the transporter. He smiled, shaking his head before making his way back to the Hanson, his ship.
The officers all stood as the three senior officers entered; Brevik waved them down. Solok naturally took the seat at the end of the table: the Captain’s usual place. Brevik grudgingly took the seat to the Vulcan’s right whilst Teran sat opposite his Captain. The senior officers were sat in seemingly random places: Marshall, Heinfeldt and Cole all sat on the Captain’s right, whilst Conbiir, Gilmore and Merenna sat opposite.
Solok interlaced his fingers in front of him, placing a Padd on the table. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the Admiral. Despite being a Vulcan and suppressing his emotions, Brevik could see that Solok was uncomfortable with being stared at by the Horizon’s odd senior staff: an El-Aurian Captain, an Andorian first officer, a tattooed security chief, a Bolian ops officer, a German helmsman with a goatee, a chief engineer who once killed nucleogenic lifeforms for energy, and a bald black South African Doctor.
“Admiral,” Brevik addressed the Vulcan, “would you care to explain why you’ve gathered us here?” He swept his hand around, encompassing the rest of the senior staff.
“Captain, I am here to brief you on your new assignment,” Solok answered matter-of-factly.
“Assignment?” Teran questioned, slightly confused, “I would have thought Starfleet would want us to sat here with the fleet.” Teran sat back in his chair, crossing his arms.
“That would be a logical assumption. However, the government on Ginintaph has requested assistance in dealing with a problem that has arisen on their planet.”
“A problem?” Brevik groaned. He’d met several Han’ia-ns, an indigenous race to Ginintaph, during a tour of duty on the Excelsior under Captain Sulu.
“Yes, a rectangular vessel fell from orbit and crashed on one of their southern cities; the authorities lost all contact with the city and every expedition they sent to investigate has similarly lost contact. They sent us all the data they have on the city and the ship that crashed on it.” He handed a Padd to Brevik with a thin green-tinged hand. Brevik’s eyes widened considerably when he read the data, then rubbed his eyes as if he were suddenly tired. Teran looked questioningly at Brevik.
“It was a Borg scout vessel,” Brevik said aloud as he reviewed the data, “similar to one Voyager confronted in the Delta Quadrant.” The senior staff stiffened at the mention of the Borg.
“That is correct, Captain. The T’Kumbra will be accompanying Horizon, but we will remain in orbit.”
“Why in orbit, sir?” Teran asked, trying to hide his annoyance with a Vulcan. “Surely even a Vulcan crew needs rest and recreation? Isn’t that logical?” Only Brevik was aware of the history between the Vulcans and Andorians; they had once been enemies, fighting a drawn-out war until Captain Archer and the Enterprise NX-01 negotiated a peace between the two races; the enmity had stayed though even after two centuries as founding members of the Federation.
“I do not wish the T’Kumbra any harm.” His voice seemed strained, almost as if he was under a tremendous amount of pressure.
Felix was about to say something along the lines of, “what the hell is that supposed to mean?” but Brevik gave him a look to shut him up.
“What’s wrong, Admiral?” Brevik asked, concern spreading into his features, despite his dislike for the Vulcan.
“My health is no concern of yours, Captain,” Solok replied decidedly un-Vulcan-like. The senior staff threw each other bemused looks.
“Fine, whatever,” Brevik mumbled, turning back to the data on the Borg incursion on Ginintaph.
“Sir, what about backup?” Marshall asked, raising his voice so that everyone could hear, forcing the issue.
“Backup, Commander?” Solok asked.
“Yes, sir, backup. We’re going up against the Borg; we’re going to need help if the Borg decide that Ginintaph needs assimilating. That kind of planet would take years if they just assimilated one city at a time. There’s over a thousand of those floating cities, not to mention the underwater bases and settlements. The Borg would need to bring in several cube-ships.” Brevik and the rest of the senior staff nodded and looked at Solok.
“I will place the Hanson on standby; you will have to talk to General Du’Qan about any Klingon ‘backup’, as you call it.” Solok stood unsteadily from his seat and mumbled something that sounded like “good luck” but Brevik wasn’t sure. Then the Admiral left, leaving the officers gawping and staring down at the table. Brevik sighed.
“Mister Marshall, contact General Du’Qan on the Gh’Kla, see if he’ll be able to spare a couple of ships.” The big security chief nodded and left the conference lounge. “Felix, plot a safe but quick course to Ginintaph.” The German helmsman shrugged and left to do his job. “Everyone else, I want you to review all your personnel, promote them if you have to; I need everyone working as good as they’ll give.” They all left, leaving Teran and Brevik sitting opposite each other.
“I got a bad feeling about this,” Teran stated. Brevik nodded solemnly and moved next to one of the observation windows.
“So have I, Chi’Sar.” The big El-Aurian folded his arms and stared out at the build-up of Starfleet and Klingon ships. It had been just over two years since war had ceased with the Dominion; that conflict had bonded the Klingons and Federation together like brothers, but the War had seen the largest fleets of Starfleet ships to ever fight in a conflict. Wolf 359 and the war with the Tzenkethi paled in comparison to the Dominion War. But Brevik had known worse: massive-scale ground battles with the Borg, Hirogen and Species 8472; space battles that had engulfed entire races; the destruction of his army.
Despite being a soldier for more than eight hundred years, Brevik despised war; small battles that had no major consequences had been a specialty for him, even one-on-one combat, but war brought whole civilisations to their knees, war eventually killed the innocent, war brought disease, famine, poverty and martial law. War was an ugly thing, even compared to Brevik’s hundreds of small-scale battles.
“The Borg aren’t after the Han’ia-ns are they? There’s something on that planet that they want, some strange technology that could help them against us.” Teran stood next to his captain and looked at Brevik, who kept staring out into space.
“It looks that way,” Brevik replied glumly. Teran nodded and left Brevik to his thoughts, alone in the conference lounge.
As she sat there, she couldn’t help but think of her beloved husband, how he would handle the situation; he would probably bellow something in his native Andorian and slam his fist down onto the nearest politician. Her husband Chi’Sar Teran was assigned to a starship, as first officer. He prefers being the right-hand man rather than the one making all the decisions, she mused, playing with her long ginger hair. Unlike her husband, she was decidedly human, born in Texas to a pair of rodeo-loving parents. She smiled when she remembered Chi’Sar trying to ride a horse; Andorians were not made for Earth horses and he’d fell off quite a few times during their honeymoon in Arizona.
She was a lovely girl, long curly ginger hair, with freckles on her cheeks. Chi’Sar had once said she looked podgy; she had slapped him for that, and then kissed him. She called him Chi, something she remembered from ancient Chinese philosophy and the first part of his name; according to Chi’Sar’s zhavey, Andorians who refused to participate in the shelthreth -the mating ritual- or any traditional Andorian ritual, were unable to use their name in any informal way. It was a silly rule, but it was still Chi’Sar’s race and culture. So he had asked her to call him something informal. It still brought a smile to Jessica’s face whenever she thought about Chi’Sar’s defiant attitude towards his race.
Her attention snapped back to the Authority’s argument when one of the ministers shouted that the Federation liaison should say something. She looked at the High Minister, the leader of the Authority, who nodded. She was caught off guard for only a second; she stood and cleared her throat to make sure she had everyone’s attention.
“I have been in contact with Deep Space Five,” she drawled. Her Texan accent was unmistakable, and made it hard for the Han’ia-ns to understand her sometimes. “They are sending the Starships T’Kumbra and Horizon to assist Ginintaph with its dilemma; the Starship Hanson is on standby, ready to come to this planet at a moment’s notice. The Klingon Empire has also promised at least two Birds-of-Prey. Admiral Solok himself is coming to Ginintaph to oversee all Federation and Klingon personnel and ships in this system. Starfleet Command and the Federation Council have reassured me that the Borg will be stopped from assimilating this planet.”
“That is good to hear,” the calm soft voice of High Minister Jen-lan floated across the Authority’s main congregational hall. “I think we will be safe in the hands of the great Federation. Jessica May Teran, you may tell your Federation Council that the Authority would like to apply for Federation membership after this crisis has died down.”
“It would be my pleasure to convey the message,” Jessica smiled. “I’m sure they’ll be happy to accept your membership.”
“I call this meeting to a close, unless there are any objections.” He banged a small metal cavil against his table and stood up. Everyone in the room stood as a sign of respect, just like in Federation courts. Jessica followed Jen-lan into his private chambers, where he sat down in a massive cushioned armchair. The Han’ia-ns as a race were not dissimilar to humans, except for a few differences, like gills that went largely unused, webbed feet, two crests that sprouted from the bridge of their noses and ran over the tops of their heads, and all the way down to their heels; the other major difference was that their skin was a pale purple with green tints in certain places.
She had come to think of Jen-lan as a kind of fatherly figure, he was softhearted when he needed to be and had a wisdom that came from years of combat experience. Many races had tried to raid Ginintaph, Romulans and Klingons among them, but none had ever actually been able to conquer the planet. The Han’ia-ns were a tough breed, though a little too paranoid sometimes. Jen-lan was one of the first to begin changing the way the Authority interacted with other races and the rest of the Han’ia-n race.
His efforts had been fought by the isolationist section of the Authority every step of the way; but the isolationists were beginning to dwindle in number, especially since first contact had been established between the Federation and the Authority by the USS Excelsior under the command of Captain Hikaru Sulu.
“Realistically, I don’t think the Authority is really ready for membership to the Federation, High Minister,” Jessica stated glumly. A frown of confusion creased the High Minister’s already wrinkled brow.
“But you said in the main congregational hall that we would be welcomed into the Federation.”
“That was to keep them happy. As a race, the Han’ia-ns are too paranoid and suspicious to be truly part of the Federation. Not to mention the fact that your race hasn’t even left your planet, save for three individuals eighty or so years ago.” Jen-lan nodded in understanding. It would be several generations before the Han’ia-n racial paranoia and suspicion could be bred out of its culture on a planetary scale.
“What do we need to do to prepare for Starfleet’s arrival?” he asked, rapidly changing the subject.
“The Horizon will enter the atmosphere and dock here on 1-A. The T’Kumbra will remain in orbit. Unfortunately, Starfleet haven’t sent us any specifications on the Horizon as its brand new and the specs are classified.”
“Classified?” the High Minister asked sceptically.
“Something to do with its new technology and its crew,” Jessica shrugged. “They don’t tell me everything,” she explained. She suddenly wondered if Jen-lan were to step down or be replaced as High Minister, would he move to the Federation?
Jen-lan nodded and handed her a curved Han’ia-n data Padd. It was nothing like a Federation Padd, which were all quadrilateral-shaped and usually grey, but the Han’ia-n version was oval-shaped, with purple coverings and just as sleek as its Federation cousin. Jessica could decipher the complex Han’ia-n language and imagery she was flummoxed as to what the Padd was showing her.
“What is this?” she asked, looking up at the High Minister.
“They are some kind of energy distortion waves; our best scientists can’t positively identify what they are. But they seem to be just sitting up in orbit.” He went to the office’s food synthesizer and ordered a cup of kl’ak brew. It was a popular drink, similar to Earth’s tea; when made by hand the leaves were harvested from the kl’ak seaweed nurseries on the seabed and then ground into a fine powder to be placed in special filter paper and then stirred into hot water until it had sufficiently brewed; Jessica had seen whole shops selling different varieties of kl’ak leaves and all the extras to go with them.
“You say they can’t positively identify them, I assume they have theories,” she said concernedly.
“Oh, they have theories,” Jen-lan replied wearily. “The most probable theory they have is that there is a fleet of cloaked ships in orbit. But that’s just paranoia.” Jessica wasn’t so sure but she kept her observations to herself, deciding not to try and argue with the old man.
“Perhaps you should show this information to Starfleet when they arrive,” Jessica suggested tentatively.
“I think that would be a wise idea, young Jessica.”
“You so do,” Felix replied, badly imitating her voice. Felix Heinfeldt, the Horizon’s premier pilot and the ship’s unofficial matchmaker, was handsome, or so Marla thought, with his cropped brown hair and charming personality. She only admitted to herself in the last day or so that she really liked him. They had spent an inordinate amount of time together since she had given him a tour of the Horizon, drinking and eating in the large crew lounge and in their quarters.
“I’ve seen the way you look at him,” Felix continued, “you make it so obvious that you have a crush. It’s okay, most of the single female members of the crew have a crush on him.”
“I don’t have a crush on him.” Felix heard the emphasis and saw the strange look in her pale thin face.
“So who then?” He was baffled, though a little suspicious that he was looking more and more naïve.
Marla blushed furiously and looked down into her coffee.
“Harry Kim?” he ventured. She glared at him at the mention of the Hanson’s first officer. The she stood and began to walk as fast as she could to the door. Felix got in her way, “What the hell’s wrong, Marla?” His German accent was unmistakable, especially when he was worried or angry, or both.
“You’re being childish, with your stupid matchmaking ideas and theories.” Then her arms snaked around his neck, pulling him down to her face. She kissed him, not letting go of him, as if to say, if you don’t kiss me back, I’ll never let go. He returned the kiss finally, completely baffled by her sudden change of character. He had always known her to be a timid fragile girl, now she was a passionate strong woman in the space of a heartbeat. His arms were round her tiny waist, almost lifting her up, her hands played with the hair on the back of his head. By the time they released each other, everyone in the mess was staring at them, including Commander Teran who had just sat down for some of his favourite Andorian soup.
The Andorian first officer smiled and shook his head in amusement before returning back to his soup.
With a beaming smile, Marla left the mess, with Felix stood perplexed in the centre.
Hours later, after her shift in Engineering, Marla slumped onto her bed. She enjoyed not having to share quarters with anyone, one of the luxuries of being a Lieutenant and chief engineer. On Equinox and at McKinley Station she had shared quarters with other people and it had been a nightmare; she was an only child and had never experienced having a brother or sister to share a room with. Even on Voyager she had had to share with Noah Lessing, who snored a lot.
As she looked up at the ceiling, she wondered how things would turn out with Felix Heinfeldt. She hoped they could have a relationship; she remembered an almost identical couple on Voyager: Tom Paris and B’elanna Torres, the helmsman and chief engineer, just as Marla and Felix were. She hoped things turned out the same with Felix as Torres had had with Paris.
The door chime almost made her jump out of her skin. She was in her underwear after stripping off her uniform and flinging it against the nearest wall in frustration. She threw on her purple dressing gown and stumbled to the door. Tapping in a quick command on the small control panel next to the door, she opened the door to stare straight into Felix Heinfeldt’s eyes. He was smiling.
She stepped back from the door and gestured for him to enter. He stepped through; still wearing his uniform, though it was considerably less tidy than it had been before. His hair was unkempt, and stubble was clearly visible where he hadn’t shaved fro a few days.
“Look, about earlier,” he said, looking at the floor, “I didn’t mean to accuse you of having a crush on the Captain and everything.” He drew his hand through his mop of brown hair. “I’m sorry.” Then he smiled again, “If it makes you feel better, that kiss was pretty amazing.”
“It was pretty amazing,” Marla agreed, blushing.
“Is this going to carry on any further? You and me?” He waggled his finger between them to emphasise his question.
“I don’t know,” she admitted, plunging her hands into the deep pockets of her dressing gown and shrugging. “We both hold senior positions on the ship, things could be complicated by our work.”
“Tom Paris and B’elanna Torres made it work, they even got married and had a daughter; I don’t see why we can’t try and see if this leads anywhere.” He looked over at her, though she was still looking at the carpet, stealing quick glances up at the helmsman. The next time she looked up, he had moved from beside her desk to right in front of her. He tipped her head up by the chin and kissed her lightly on the lips. Then they were all over each other, not caring what it might do to their careers.
When Teran knocked on Gilmore’s door, he hadn’t expected Felix Heinfeldt to answer. He was in his red turtleneck shirt, his collar undone, and his trousers; he was barefoot, and his shoes and jacket appeared to be strewn unevenly on the floor.
Teran had come to pick up a progress report of engine status from Lieutenant Gilmore.
“Commander,” Felix smiled sheepishly, his cheeks reddening with complete embarrassment. Teran stepped into Gilmore’s quarters at her beckoning and was instantly hit by the intense impulses his antennae detected. He could smell the distinct aroma of recent sex and was slightly surprised by the notion of the fragile pale engineer participating in sexual activities with the roguish former-washout helmsman.
He shrugged and asked her for her report.
“Urm, sorry Commander, I haven’t finished it yet; there were extenuating circumstances to consider.” She shared a quick embarrassed look with Felix that told Teran all he needed to know.
“That’s okay, I’ll let it go this one time. Just be glad it was me asking for the report.”
“Why is that, sir?” Felix asked, a baffled look on his face.
“Because I persuaded the Captain to take some time off with his daughter and not bother himself with reports and schedules for a day or so.” Teran smiled and then made for the door, “I want that report as soon as is humanly possible, Lieutenant Gilmore.”
“Yes, sir,” the engineer replied, “Thankyou, sir.” Before the doors closed behind him on his way out, he heard the two Lieutenants giggling childishly. Teran smiled.
“You’ll have to wait and see, Feebs,” he smiled. She found it strange that she had inherited his odd looks -the pure white hair and the red eyes. Their hair wasn’t old or just gone from grey, it was naturally that colour, just as the pupils in their eyes were naturally red. She had also inherited her late mother’s other attributes: plump body, large chest and a general cute appearance despite the frightening white hair and red eyes.
“You know I don’t like surprises, Dad,” Phoebe protested weakly. He looked at her sceptically, thinking, my daughter had sex with every human male in her Academy Year and she’s complaining that she doesn’t like surprises? He shook his head and went back to his piloting. Phoebe saw the look on his face and tried desperately to read his thoughts, but to no avail. Despite inheriting her father’s looks and long life, she did not, however, inherit his amazing abilities of telepathy, telekinesis and whatever other powers he had gained over his nine-hundred-year life. He had explained to her that his powers were not genetic, as many El-Aurians could only access a form of psychic power known as the El-Aurian ‘sixth sense’; Brevik had also told Phoebe that this sixth sense was only apparent in El-Aurians that had experienced the Nexus phenomenon.
The sensors bleeped at Brevik, the stars, previously elongated in warp speeds, reformed into their normal dotted selves. Ahead was a strange system, uninhabited according to Phoebe’s sensor readouts, with two lifeless planets and a barren rock with an atmosphere. Somehow she knew this system, this place; it was something important to her and her family, but she couldn’t quite remember.
The sensors beeped again, detecting a small object on the atmosphere-covered rock. That was their destination.
The El-Aurian Captain set the shuttle down next to the small object. When the rear door opened and father and daughter stepped out onto the rocky planet, Phoebe saw what it was: a brass plaque.
Phoebe crouched down to read the inscription: “To our dearly beloved, though you are gone from our lives, you are not gone from our hearts and memories. You will be sorely missed. We love you. Valian and Phoebe.” The two names were carved in such a way as to look like the signatures of Valian and Phoebe Brevik. Then Phoebe remembered that she had actually scribbled that signature on the plaque with a laser scalpel. The signature was a messy affair, untidy and child-like. She had been only fourteen when it happened, when the Romulans had snatched her mother away from her and her father. She remembered the ceremony on the Galaxy, the mighty ship hanging in orbit whilst the senior staff had flown down to the planet to lay the plaque.
“Duranan,” Phoebe breathed, looking around the lifeless planet.
Brevik nodded, taking Phoebe’s hand in his. “I brought you here to remember who you were before the Academy, so that maybe you’ll finally be a Starfleet officer. Also, seeing as it is my birthday, I thought I’d spare you the laborious task of trying to convince me away from the ship so that the officers can organise a ‘surprise’ party.”
“Not much of a surprise then,” Phoebe grinned.
“It’s hard to surprise a telepath, especially when you don’t know they’re a telepath.” Brevik grinned back and hugged his only child. She hadn’t been through as much violence as other Starfleet children had been exposed to, Brevik had seen to that. She had watched as all around her, children were orphaned during the Dominion War and the endless conflicts with the Klingons, Romulans, Breen, Cardassians, Borg and Tzenkethi. But her mother, Natalya, had been killed on the Amargosa Observatory when Romulans had attacked and killed all but five of the scientists. One of those scientists had been a good friend of the Brevik family: Tolian Soran. Phoebe remembered feeling relieved that Captain Picard had spared her father from killing Soran after what he had done to the crew of the late Enterprise-D.
“It’s been seven years, and I still miss her, daddy,” she said, her eyes welling up with tears and sadness giving her a mindset like that of the Phoebe that had cried by her mother’s battered body seven years ago.
“I know, honey,” he replied, stroking her hair, letting her head bury into his muscled chest. They stood like that for an hour, until Phoebe’s legs began to tire. Brevik laid a purple rose below the dedication plaque of his late wife, and together father and daughter stepped back into the shuttle.
She began fretting about what to wear and what to give the Captain.
“What do you give a nine-hundred-year-old man who’s seen everything?” she had asked of her brother. He was just getting ready to leave for a double shift to help repair some of the glitches in Horizon’s systems.
“Seeing as you fancy him so much, maybe you should give him something that reminds him of you,” James suggested, slapping his commbadge onto his chest and heading for the door.
“I don’t fancy him!” she protested. She knew it sounded weak, but hoped it would convince James to give up his notions of her and the Captain getting together.
“You do, and I know that you do, so just ask him out already,” he ordered. “Then I won’t have to listen to you prattle on about how gorgeous Captain Brevik is, and how noble and heroic he is. If you don’t Amy, I’m gonna ask him for you.”
“You wouldn’t,” she complained. He nodded dismissively and left the quarters, leaving Amy standing in the middle of the room, biting her lower lip and fiddling with her towel. Like many of the Horizon’s crew quarters, Amy and James had had a water shower connected to their replicator so that the water would be continuous without the need for water tanks elsewhere in the ship. She had a shower, constantly thinking about the tall, muscled, handsome figure of Valian Brevik. She shook her head, as if it would dislodge him from her mind. She had heard that he had certain telepathic powers; if that was true, maybe he was putting these thoughts in her head.
Again she shook her head, and dried herself off. She looked through the items her father had sent in the last shipment from Earth. Sat at the bottom of the small box was a Padd with the details to a small ship her father wanted her to have. She had no interest in owning a ship. She smiled nervously, hoping the El-Aurian liked her present. Then it took it her an hour just to decide what to wear to the party.
At 1750 hours, she arrived in the shuttlebay to find at least a hundred of the ship’s personnel milling around. Most held presents or cards, something traditional on Earth. She and James had been born on their parents’ freighter, the Red Kite, and as such had been exposed to many alien cultures, none of which had been human. She had only recently learnt some human traditions, and that was only because of her job as the ship’s bartender. She liked bartending, she got to meet new people and hear the crew’s problems. She was a kind of unofficial ship’s counselor.
Thanks to her figure, several men, and even a woman, had made passes at her, though she had gently let them down each time.
She pushed through the crowd, attempting to find Commander Teran. She found him at the front of the crowd, talking to the rest of the senior staff. All the senior officers were present: Gilmore, Heinfeldt, Teran, Doctor Conbiir, Merenna, Marshall, and Cole. Among them stood four starship commanders and two Admirals: Commander Chakotay of the Hanson, Captain Goodwin of the Resolute, Captain Donna McBride of the Trafalgar, Commander Teklan of the Mayflower, and Admirals Janeway and Solok. Silently stood next to Teran was the hulking General Du’Qan, the commander of the Gh’Kla and all Klingon forces in Sector 224-A. He held a bat’leth, the long curved blade that was famous all around the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, or so Amy had heard.
Amy tugged on Teran’s sleeve to get his attention. “Why did you invite me here?” she asked him.
“Well, you’re the ship’s bartender and unofficial counselor, plus...” his voice faded away, not wanting to say what he was about to say.
“Plus, Phoebe Brevik has been talking to you about me,” she finished for him. He nodded. “Good,” she said cheerily. The shuttle arrived earlier than expected. The Hemingway touched down onto the shuttlebay floor with grace even a veteran shuttle pilot could not achieve.
The crowd erupted into claps and whistles as the Captain and his daughter appeared from around the back of the shuttle. Amy could still not believe how Brevik’s unique features had been passed down to his daughter: the red pupils and the pure white hair. Her skin was darker than her father’s though, and her general frame was stockier and shorter than Brevik.
“CAPTAIN ON DECK!” Teran bellowed at the top of his voice. The entire crowd, save for Amy, snapped to attention, the hundred pair of boots slapping together at the same time. Amy couldn’t help be surprised that the two Admirals were also at attention, along with the four ship commanders. Brevik blushed at the attention he was receiving, obviously not used to it. Phoebe was stood to attention next to Brevik as he mock-saluted Teran, who returned it.
“As you were,” Brevik ordered. Everyone relaxed. Amy couldn’t help but blush and smile sheepishly when the big El-Aurian looked at her with a smile on his lips. Phoebe saw the exchange of smiles and rolled her eyes in amusement.
Aside from the occasional Vulcan, there were smiles all around the crowd. Teran was the first to bring his gift to the Captain. It was an ancient Andorian knife, encrusted with some strange red-silver metal. Next up were Gilmore and her partner, Heinfeldt. Amy didn’t recognise the gift, something Gilmore had obviously picked up in the Delta Quadrant on Equinox.
The senior staff all presented their gifts to the Captain: the big security chief Marshall gave Brevik an exact replica of a twenty-third-century away team jacket; Ensign Merenna, the Bolian, gave him a whittled stick made from Din Rona (the planet which Horizon and Deep Space Five now orbited); the black South African Doctor gave Brevik a tall black and white shield, one that belonged to the Zulus of old; Ensign Cole, the man who looked too old for his rank, gave Brevik a pack of what looked like uncooked rump steak.
Teran whistled loudly to get the crowd’s attention, “Everyone else can leave their gifts outside the Captain’s quarters. Cadet Brevik will be there to make sure nothing gets damaged.” Everyone grumbled in his or her various native languages and then made their way out, leaving Teran, Brevik and Amy stood in the middle of the shuttlebay.
Brevik put his new jacket on and smiled, slashing the knife through the air. Amy frowned at how expertly Brevik did his little manoeuvre and wondered just what else there was to discover about him. She decided then and there that she wanted to find out.
Teran looked at his Captain and Amy and suddenly made himself scarce. As if only just remembering, Amy handed Brevik the present she had been holding. He gently took the Padd, and his eyes widened in surprise as he read the contents.
“Wow, this is incredible, Amy. You didn’t have to give me a whole ship.”
“You’re nine-hundred-years old, that doesn’t happen every day. Anyway, to be honest it was free.” Brevik shrugged, obviously very happy that someone had given him a starship for his birthday, no matter how cheap or how small it was. She looped her arm through his and let him guide her to his quarters on Deck 2. He frowned the whole way, but thought nothing more of it.
They arrived at his quarters and found Phoebe just coming out after arranging all the presents inside. She smiled and winked at Amy, entering her own quarters adjacent to Brevik’s.
“Would you like a drink?” Brevik asked, holding up a bottle of Brikar beer. He placed it carefully on the nearby desk and went back to searching through the multitude of presents for something that was less likely to blow his head off.
“I’d love a drink, Captain,” she answered, looking at the collection of photos on his desk.
He grunted and slowly pulled a bottle of French wine from between a Vulcan kal-toh game and a collection of stylised Padds. “You have a lot of admirers,” she said, gesturing to the photos and presents.
He nodded, “Much of the Horizon’s crew served on the Galaxy with me, or on the various ships I served on working for Starfleet Intelligence: Challenger, DaVinci, Typhoon, Sentinel, Olivier. It means I have a crew I know and trust. And my friends call me Val, by the way.” She smiled at that, it meant that their relationship was becoming more intimate by the minute.
He handed her a glass of red wine, pouring one for himself. “I suppose you know this wine without looking at the label?”
“Of course,” a beaming smile on his face, “it was made about five miles from my apartment in Sète.” Her eyes widened at the thought of Brevik sipping top-class wine on the balcony of some large apartment overlooking the French Riviera.
“You have an apartment in the South of France?” she asked, her interest piqued.
“It was a present from the Director of Starfleet Intelligence. Got it forty years ago.” He took another sip of wine and knelt down on the floor next to the pile of presents. Amy knelt awkwardly beside him, surveying his eternally young face. He looks only forty, which is amazing considering he’s nine-centuries old, she thought. He saw her staring at him, forcing her cheeks to blush; she quickly turned her attention to the presents.
He couldn’t stop himself from chuckling. In a bold move, she punched him lightly on the arm; he feigned the pain, clutching his arm. “Ow, that hurt.” She was nervous as hell, not sure how the indomitable captain would take her obvious show of affection. He grinned.
“You and I both know that did not hurt.” He pushed her arm gently, softly trying to push her over. She pushed harder and he reeled over onto his back. She heard him hit something on the floor, possibly his head; she could only see his closed eyes and the steady falling and rising of his chest. “Oh god, I didn’t mean to hurt you!” She rushed to his side, taking his pulse and trying to wake him. A mischievous smile played across his lips, his snapped open full of mischief, and then he tenderly grabbed her arms, laughing like a little who had sprung a prank on a young girl.
Then his lips were on hers, hungry, greedily kissing the other passionately.
Their lips parted for a brief pause, Brevik asking, “Are you sure you want to continue with this?” She simply nodded, running her fingers through his soft white hair. They continued the kissing, lost in each other’s arms. She was finally happy, she finally found someone willing to be with her for a reason other than profit or fame. She had found love...
“Who?” he asked, feigning ignorance. She punched him on the shoulder, hard enough for him to feel a slight twinge of pain.
“You know who, Dad,” she answered, frustrated, “Amy. You’ve been glancing over at her whenever you think I’m not looking.”
He sighed, looking at his croissants, something else he had picked up living in France. He would have to talk to Captain Picard about his obsession with France. For now though, he tried to avoid his daughter’s probing into his love life, despite her being the only biological family he had left. He had plenty of friends to talk to about relationships, though he suspected that Phoebe had already been talking to Marshall and Teran about him spending time with Amy Ryder.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” he offered weakly. Phoebe gave him a look of incredulity. “Alright, so maybe I do have feelings for her.” Phoebe giggled excitedly at this.
“You love her,” she repeated. He nodded. He caught her eyes looking at something behind him, just over his shoulder. Despite Doctor Conbiir’s warnings against using his telepathy, he psychically probed the space behind him and found warm and comforting presence of Amy Ryder. He smiled, and turned to see her smiling as well. Quickly finishing her bowl of mixed fruit, Phoebe stood up and winked at Amy.
“Amy, what can I do for you?” he smiled, gesturing for her to sit in Phoebe’s vacant chair.
“I wanted to ask you if our relationship is going to continue to grow.” She placed her hand on top of his, stroking the back of his hand.
“I am the Captain of the Horizon and it would not be appropriate to fraternise with one of the crew,” he explained, but cut her short when she was about to say something. “But you are not a member of Starfleet, and therefore that particular rule does not apply to you.” He smiled, leaned over the table and kissed her lightly on the lips. “Does that answer your question?” She nodded and leaned over the table, returning the kiss.
They both sat there, laughing, smiling and talking for an hour, with Amy occasionally leaving to serve at the bar. Phoebe watched the whole thing from her position next to the door into The Pit. He’s finally found someone; she smiled at the thought and left her father and his new girl to carry on talking.
The two Sovereign-class and Nebula-class starships glided away from Deep Space Five, heading for the outer rim of the star system. At the edge of the Din Rona system, the two giant ships leapt to warp seven. Ginintaph was a day’s travel from Din Rona; it was a system with only three planets, of which only the third planet, Ginintaph, was inhabited. It was a planet covered almost entirely with water, with only the north and south poles covered in landmasses and the occasional mountain that popped up on the equator.
Brevik had heard rumours circulated from various science and defence councils that the mysterious Preservers protected Ginintaph. Some protectors; they can’t even beat the Borg, the Captain mused as he sat watching the stars streak by on the main viewscreen.
They were only a few minutes out from the Ginintaph system’s edge when Marshall, at his tactical station, announced, “Captain, I’m picking up a strange distortion directly astern.”
“Strange distortion? Can you clarify?” Brevik looked at his chief of security questioningly.
“No more than the fact that there is a distortion there, sir.” He tapped his controls constantly, trying to discover what he had picked up. By now, Ensign Max Cole -the ship’s senior science officer- had joined Marshall and was assisting in more furious tapping. They looked at each other with puzzled expressions and then at the Captain.
“Sir, it’s a subspace distortion of a kind I haven’t seen before,” Cole admitted, “It could be anything from a cloaked ship to a subspace transmission.” The tactical console started bleeping furiously. Marshall’s eyes widened in complete shock.
“If it’s a cloak ship behind us, then there’s a whole fleet in orbit of Ginintaph, Captain. I’m reading at least five dozen distortions identical to the one behind us.” Brevik cursed and nodded.
“Send all the data we have to the T’Kumbra, see what they make of it. It could just be a natural phenomenon, but I don’t want to take any chances with the Borg nearby.” Teran was now sitting at the back of the bridge, looking over the scans of the subspace distortions. He frowned as if he had seen the distortions before. “Something wrong, Chi’Sar?” Brevik asked of his friend.
“Not sure, Captain; I’m sure I’ve seen something like these distortions before, but I can’t remember where or when.” He shook his head thoughtfully and returned to his seat next to his Captain. He blinked when he saw Phoebe sat in the third command chair. It was generally left empty, the ship’s counselor not choosing to be a part of the bridge crew.
“Coming out of warp, Captain,” Felix announced from the helm. On the viewscreen, the streaking stars returned to their normal non-moving selves. The bulbous form of the T’Kumbra lay ahead, with the three planets and the one star all within view. They came closer and closer to the third planet rather quickly, and everyone on the bridge gasped when they saw that the third planet was not rotating.
“How the hell can it be not rotating and still keep all that water in its atmosphere?” Felix cried. No one had an answer, how could they? The rumours of the Preservers’ influence surfaced in Brevik’s mind again, becoming more and more a reality.
“The Preservers?” Cole ventured, voicing what Brevik had been thinking.
“I’m getting massive energy readings from the poles and the equator,” Marshall reported.
“Gravity Generators?” Phoebe suggested. Cole looked at her like she was an idiot. But he began thinking about the possibilities of such a thing; everyone could see the concentration on his face, the wheels turning in his mind as worked out the problem.
“The logistical problems of building gravitic generators on a planetary scale are immense. No current race has been able to construct generators on such a large scale; if they did try, they’d use up every resource they have.”
“No current race?” Teran asked, puzzled. “You mean the Preservers could have built planetary-scale gravity generators specifically for this planet?” Cole simply nodded. “What about the distortions? Could they be side effects of the generators?”
Cole shrugged, “If we’d only detected the ones in orbit of Ginintaph, then that would be a possibility, but one of them is still following us. So that would mean that the distortions are not related to the generators.”
“So no then,” Teran groaned. Cole had served on Galaxy as science officer right up until the great ship’s destruction. He was renowned for long answers, and used to continue with long answers just to annoy Teran. It was a running joke among former Galaxy crewmembers.
“Entering orbit of Ginintaph, Captain,” Felix announced.
“Wow,” Jini Merenna said from beside him at the Ops station, “the whole planet’s a ball of water. I love it already.”
Brevik and Teran looked at Felix questioningly, who just shrug and looked apologetically as if to say, I haven’t got a clue what she’s going on about.
Brevik rubbed his eyes, thinking, what the bloody hell have I got myself into?
The blue orb of Ginintaph grew ever closer as the huge Horizon began its descent into the atmosphere.
“Blue alert,” Brevik called, “inertial dampers to maximum, prepare the ship for landing. Mister Heinfeldt, descend on full thrusters if you please.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.”
“Marshall, get a fix on their capital and when you’ve found it, tell them to get their docking facilities ready for us.”
Jessica stood in her Starfleet Lieutenant’s uniform next to High Minister Jen-lan with several of the Authority’s most important Ministers. She hated wearing the uniform, something she thankfully only had to do on special occasions. This was one of those occasions. This particular occasion made her proud to be in Starfleet, watching the graceful flight of the massive Sovereign-class USS Horizon. She realised the ship resembled a bird in some ways, with its backswept nacelles and long sturdy neck. It descended through a puffy white cloud, instantly evaporating it as it came in contact with the nacelles. Birds dove out of the way, along with several light aircraft that were normally used as scouts. It came in close, the noise from the nacelles and thrusters overpowering.
Some nearby technicians ran away from the ship screaming, holding their ears. None of the Han’ia-ns had ever experienced anything like this before; the huge ship dwarfed everything except the immense administration tower. The tower sat at the pinnacle of the great city 1-A, the capital city of Ginintaph. Around the base of the admin tower, there stood many empty landing plots similar to the Horizon’s chosen site.
The Horizon settled into a small cradle, built for smaller vessels. Massive ship-sized clamps ascended out of the deck below and grabbed a hold of the engineering hull of the Horizon. Jessica reckoned that despite the clamps, if the Horizon to get away, it could. The nacelles darkened, engines powering down. Massive docking platforms moved next to the airlocks across the sides of the ship, allowing anyone to gain access to the ship’s innards.
The closest airlock opened and out stepped three Starfleet personnel. Jessica couldn’t make out any details of them other than the black and grey of their uniforms. They came closer and she realised that one had blue skin, like an Andorian or Bolian. They were all male; she could tell that by the way they walked. One was bald, she noticed, the other two had pure white hair.
And then she saw their faces up close as an open-top monorail car brought the three men closer to the Ministers’ balcony. She couldn’t help but giggle excitedly when the three men stepped off the monorail car onto the balcony. Captain Valian Brevik stepped off first, followed by Commander Chi’Sar Teran and a bald Lieutenant Commander she didn’t recognise. She ran to Teran and jumped on him, wrapping her arms and legs around him.
He hugged her tight, kissing her despite the audience of the Ministers and his Captain. She let go and landed on her feet. She was shocked, everyone could see that. Jen-lan was smiling like a proud father; several Ministers were looking nervously at Brevik and the Lieutenant Commander.
“If they sent you two,” she waggled her finger at Brevik and her husband, “then things must be serious indeed.” Brevik rolled his eyes; Chi’Sar draped his arm over her shoulder.
“High Minister,” Brevik began, “I am Captain Valian Brevik, commander of the USS Horizon,” they shook hands. “This is my first officer, Commander Chi’Sar Teran, and Lieutenant Teran’s husband.” Teran shook Jen-lan’s hand. “And this is my chief of security, Lieutenant Commander Marshall.” Jen-lan seemed wary of the tattooed Marshall, though he shook the bigger man’s hand anyway.
“You look just as young as you did thirty years ago, Captain Brevik,” Jen-lan smiled. Brevik frowned in concentration, attempting to match Jen-lan’s face to someone in his memories. Then it hit him.
“You were the captain of the recon vessel the Excelsior picked up.” His first officer and security chief looked at Brevik with puzzled looks. “Before your time,” he explained, “When I was in command of the Excelsior, we made first contact with the Han’ia-ns on a small ship commanded by a young Captain. Their ship’s power was fading along with life support and engines. We towed them back to their home planet and left.”
“Our ships are not designed for long periods of travel,” Jen-lan replied rather sheepishly, “we were rather taken by surprise at the size of Excelsior. But Excelsior pales in comparison to this new ship you command.” He gestured at the immense Sovereign-class Horizon sitting in its docking cradle.
“It does indeed, High Minister,” Jessica replied, surprising everyone around her...except her Andorian husband, who just grinned and twitched his antennae. Jessica smiled back and kissed her husband on the cheek, giving rise to several frowns from the Han’ia-ns and Captain Brevik. “But I believe Starfleet was called in for a different reason other than reminiscing about that past.”
“Of course, young Jessica,” Jen-lan smiled. He gestured for everyone to follow. Brevik walked by the aging man’s side, his hands clasped behind his back, with Marshall by his Captain’s left. Teran and Jessica walked behind with the remaining Ministers, answering questions about Andorians, the Horizon and Starfleet in general.
Jen-lan took them onto the massive enclosed promenade that served as the city’s main commercial centre. It was huge, large enough to fit the Horizon in with room to spare. Brevik quickly glanced back to check on his first officer and saw the Andorian’s antennae twitching uncomfortably, exactly as they had done whenever Teran had been in close vicinity to Guinan or another El-Aurian refugee.
Brevik stopped walking, surprising Jen-lan and his security chief. He scanned around the promenade with his psychic senses, and found a familiar mind.
“Mazur,” Brevik growled. He felt rather than heard Teran spit something unintelligible behind him.
“Who?” Jessica and Jen-lan asked simultaneously. Brevik and Teran ignored them and silently crept through the bustling crowd. In a few seconds they had disappeared from Jessica and Jen-lan’s view.
Brevik waved for Teran to go further into the crowd and flank Mazur. The Andorian nodded and disappeared from sight, following his Captain’s orders. Brevik slowly made his way to the stall and its owner, who was telling Mazur a sob story about their life. He managed to creep up behind Mazur and plant a hand on the other El-Aurian’s shoulder. Mazur turned slowly around with abject terror. He tried to escape, but ran straight into the chest of Chi’Sar Teran, the Andorian.
“Martus,” Brevik smiled sinisterly as he walked around Mazur’s chair. They had pulled him into the nearest security office and found that he was a wanted man even on Ginintaph: a revolutionary! “How the hell can you be a revolutionary? Was someone talking about a revolution and promised you a lot of money?”
“The isolationists have a good cause going,” Mazur replied weakly.
“And a lot of money I’ll bet,” Teran growled from the corner. His antennae were twitching like hell, but he seemed to want to stay and find out why Martus Mazur was a revolutionary on Ginintaph, and not a jailbird on Jaros II.
Mazur shrugged helplessly and gave a sheepish smile.
“How did you get out of the stockade on Jaros II?” Brevik demanded. The vicious scar that ran through his left eye seemed to darken with rage, making the bigger El-Aurian look more and more demonic. Mazur’s hands began to shake.
“I managed to bribe a Ferengi trader to rescue me,” Mazur explained. “When I arrived on board his ship, he demanded I pay him more money, which I didn’t have. He left me here on Ginintaph, where space travel is almost non-existent.”
“What about these isolationists?” Brevik asked. “If they’re so interested in being isolated, why did they hire an alien?”
“Maybe they wanted to make an example of an alien when became less useful,” Teran suggested. Brevik agreed that was a possibility, and probably the one most likely to happen. It meant any non-Han’ia-n personnel were a target, even the crew of the Horizon. There were aliens of all kinds on the planet that had come from the stars to trade or live: Ferengi, humans, Vulcans, Tellarites, even the occasional Thallonian and Danteri. But they were in a tiny minority and lived in their own section of the cities.
“Are they a planet-wide organisation?” Brevik asked, turning back to Mazur.
Brevik turned to his first officer. “If this is planet-wide, then this incident with the Borg could feed the isolationists more ammunition for their campaigning.” Teran nodded.
“BORG?” Mazur screamed. “There are Borg on this planet? Captain, I want to get off this planet.” As much as he hated Mazur, Brevik couldn’t help but cringe at the other’s desperation. El-Aurians had always tried whatever they could to avoid the Borg, the race that had destroyed their homeworld. All but Brevik that is, he had done his best to keep himself in the line of fire, wanting to take vengeance on the Borg for what they done to him and his people over the centuries. He had always been the exception among his race. He had always been a soldier, whilst his people had sought peace and explored the galaxy.
Brevik turned back again to his first officer, “Tell Marshall to take Mazur back to the Horizon and keep in the brig. And tell Jack to interview him about the isolationists and give all the information to Han’ia-n security.”
“Aye, Captain,” the Andorian replied, leaving the office. Brevik followed a few minutes later after a quick ‘chat’ with Mazur. When Marshall finally arrived, he found several bruises on Mazur’s face that hadn’t been there before. When asked how he got the bruises, Mazur told everyone that he fell off his chair. Though unconvincing, he gave Brevik a wide berth for the rest of his naturally long life.
“What can I do for you, Jamie?” the South African asked. The short, strong man stepped into the office, slightly stiffer than usual. Conbiir frowned at Towey’s strange behaviour, the nurse tended to stay away from sickbay when he was off-duty. This gave cause for concern to Doctor Conbiir as the man pulled out a strange weapon and screamed, “Get off our planet!” His skin peeled back messily as a screaming Han’ia-n seemed to burst out of the short man’s skin.
The Han’ia-n, still covered with pieces of Towey’s skin, screamed again and fired his strange energy weapon. The blast made Conbiir duck under his desk, part of the beam still catching the small of his back. He yelped in pain and collapsed to the floor, his wound smoking from the intense heat.
He managed to slap his commbadge and call for help when the Han’ia-n exploded in a shower of purple blood and guts. When the security guards arrived, they found Doctor Conbiir in his office, treating his own wounds and covered in vile purple goo.
When Marshall had finally arrived at his tactical console on the bridge, he reviewed all security evaluations and incidents that had happened since he had left the ship with the Captain. His board flashed suddenly, a call for assistance from sickbay; a security guard, Roberta Callahan, detailed what had happened to Doctor Conbiir in Sickbay. Similar reports were coming in from all departments on the ship, Han’ia-ns using the skin of crewmen to infiltrate the ship and attack vital members of the crew: Engineering, Sickbay, shuttlebay, and deflector control. That left the bridge.
Marshall whipped his head round to look straight into the dead eyes of Ensign Jini Merenna, the Bolian Ops officer. Her skin seemed to be bubbling; something inside was trying to push its way out.
“Not you as well, Jini,” Marshall pleaded. He did only what he could: he punched the Han’ia-n that burst from Jini’s skin. The fanatic was stunned, knocked back for a second, before Felix hit him with a phaser blast on full stun. The Han’ia-n flew back into the master systems display, smashing the huge technical readout of the ship. The Han’ia-n exploded, as had all the others like him on other parts of the ship.
When Marshall finally came to his senses, he found Brevik staring at the mess that had been Jini Merenna. Beside him were Commander Teran and Lieutenant Jessica Teran; both had sickened pale faces on them. The Captain was clearly used to seeing such brutality and goriness, whereas the others weren’t, even Marshall, and he’d survived the Border War with the Cardassians. The Captain’s scar was darkening to a purple colour.
“Report,” Brevik ordered.
“Nine crewmen dead; five of them were already dead before the attack, the other four were killed in the attacks. The attackers blew themselves up. We have seven personnel wounded, including the Doctor.” Marshall sighed and looked at the mess left by the Han’ia-n’s death, “Judging by what the attackers told their victims, they were Han’ia-n isolation extremists.”
“Fanatics are so hard to fight in their own territory,” Brevik moaned. Everyone nodded, though only a few knew what he really meant. “Contact High Minister Jen-lan and tell him to expect company in the form of a fully-armed security team led by me.” Marshall nodded and went back to his job, ignoring the blue bloody mess next to his station.
Brevik headed for the armoury, intent on picking up a phaser and rifle.
Five minutes later, Brevik, Marshall and a team of four security guards arrived in transporter room one, all with a phaser rifle slung over one shoulder and a phaser on one hip.
Jen-lan almost jumped out of his seat when six Starfleet officers materialised in his office. Captain Brevik had a mean look in his red eyes, carrying the phaser rifle in a threatening manner.
“High Minister,” Brevik growled in a low voice that unsettled his own security personnel, “You may have heard about the attacks on my vessel a few minutes ago.” Jen-lan nodded, and could feel his collar constricting.
“Good,” Marshall shouted, “Because you can bloody well explain who, why, and how!” He slammed his hands onto the metal desk, making the old man visibly jump out of his seat. “NOW!” Brevik seemed surprised at Marshall’s behaviour, though quite happy that he was not the only one getting seriously angry at the Han’ia-ns.
“Th-the Isolationists want all aliens off our planet, they’re led by one of the Ministers Of Authority, Hon-len, and he’s the Minister of Defence. He represented the two cities that we lost contact with. He has given the Borg, as you call them, three hours to leave the cities, or they will be bombarded by our Navy. As to how they got on board your vessel and killed some of your crew, I wouldn’t know about such things. That’s something for the Science Ministry.”
Brevik was tightening his grip on his rifle; Jen-lan was afraid that the rifle would be crushed and overload, killing everyone in the office.
Brevik slapped his commbadge, “Brevik to Horizon.”
“Horizon. Teran here,” the first officer answered.
“Chi’Sar, round up anyone with knowledge of the Borg and take a shuttle over to the two cities that are suspected to be carrying Borg incursions. I’ll join you in a few minutes.”
“Aye, Captain.” The line went dead as Teran went to do as ordered.
“Jack,” the big El-Aurian said to his security chief, “You think you’ll be able to carry out an investigation on the Isolationists?”
“Consider it done, Captain.”
Brevik nodded and beamed back to the Horizon.
“Now, High Minister,” Marshall said threateningly, “tell me more about this Hon-len...”
“Send all our sensor data to Horizon and T’Kumbra,” Brevik ordered from the co-pilot’s chair. Teran nodded, keying in the commands on his console behind the Captain. Felix was at the helm, Max Cole behind him at the science console. In the rear of the Runabout were a five-man security team, all heavily armed, packing hand phasers, rifles, tricorders and isomagnetic disintegrators.
“Captain, I’m detecting Han’ia-n lifesigns surrounding the cities on board ocean surface vessels. These things are armed pretty well considering their level of technology. Some of them are targeting their own ships: a large group of them to the south west of the northern city. I think they’re the Ginintaph Navy. The rest must be the Isolationists.”
Brevik nodded, looking over his own sensor readouts. The Navy were trying to stop the Isolationists from annihilating possible survivors. The Borg had assimilated the entirety of the northern city, but had only so far managed to assimilate the administration section of the southern floating city. Brevik had to admire Han’ia-n architecture; on a world covered in water, they had built thousands of giant floating cities, with huge underwater engines to move the cities out of the way of incoming storms.
Brevik found it strange that the Han’ia-ns were land-based mammals, and chose to live in cities on the surface of the water. He scanned the boats and found that some were putting out Borg signatures.
“Some of those vessels have been assimilated,” Teran swore.
“Chi’Sar, put me on a an open broadcast.”
“Aye, sir.” A beeps and clicks later, the channel was open.
“This is Captain Valian Brevik of the Federation Starship Horizon; all Isolationist forces retreat from the area and do not fire on us or the cities.”
“I don’t think they care about us, sir,” the Andorian suggested.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because they’ve got missile target locks on us.”
Brevik sighed. “Try and find the flagship and target its weapons with phasers.”
“Got it; a three-hundred-metre long vessel, the largest I can find.”
“Good,” Brevik replied, “Fire.” Two phaser beams leapt out of the Taw’s forward arrays and slammed into the large flagship’s weapons, destroying them and setting off a chain reaction in the vessel. The entire ship blew up in a small mushroom cloud that swept over and destroyed nine nearby ships.
“Whoops,” Teran apologised, “their ships were weaker than I realised.” Brevik shrugged, feeling no sense of loss or guilty conscience. “The Isolationist and Navy forces are backing away from the cities, but not out of weapons range.” The first officer looked glumly at his Captain. “We’re still going to be under their guns if we land on one of the cities.”
Brevik nodded, staring out at the southern city. It had been turned dark colours, green lights glowed forth from the insides, and Brevik could even see drones going about their work near the water’s edge. “Land us on the south western side of the northern city. I want to be reasonably near the Navy in case we need their guns.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Felix answered from the helm. The Runabout glided above the half-assimilated southern city and came into land on top of a large observation tower near the water’s edge.
“I’ll leave Callahan on board with you, Felix, and then you take off again once the rest of us have left the ship. Make flybys on the other cities, see if you can pick up any survivors.”
“Yes, sir,” the German pilot replied.
Five minutes later, Brevik, Teran and the four security guards were stood away from the Taw as it lifted off and sped toward the other city.
“Let’s move out; we’ll head for the strongest Borg transmissions. That should be the central control.” Everyone nodded silently, some whispering prayers to their race’s deities. The infiltrating party was an odd mix: an ancient El-Aurian, an Andorian, two humans, a massive Brikar, and a joined Trill. Brevik knew that the human and the Trill had survived the massacre on New Berlin, the Brikar -a distant relative of Zak Kebron of the Excalibur- had participated in the repelling of the Dogs of War on a Brikar colony; himself and Teran had both been through so much that they were like brothers.
He knew he could count on everyone, with the exception of Ensign Nesbitt, the daughter of the late Captain Tina Nesbitt; the girl had been brought up on serious charges of murder and assault, but had been cleared each time. It was rumoured among Starfleet’s upper echelons that Section 31 had taken quite an interest in the Nesbitt family some years ago. Kelly Nesbitt was strange among a crew of aliens: she had the long black hair and perfect features that most humans would die for, but the evil glint in her cold grey eyes kept others away. Marshall and Brevik had been keeping an eye on her since she had been assigned to the Horizon a week ago. Her assignment had been passed on down from some snobby Admiral who didn’t want her around him.
The team, in single file, managed to navigate their way into what was once the administration tower, situated at the very top of the city. They were about two hundred metres from the source of the Borg’s transmissions when all hell broke loose; a rusted pipe fell on Nesbitt. Unharmed, Nesbitt began firing wildly with her phaser rifle, blowing Borg drones and consoles to pieces in showers of sparks. Then the Borg began fighting back: drones began waking from their regeneration cycles and advancing on Brevik’s team.
The fight was a blur for the team, phasers pounding the oncoming Borg drones, Borg personal shields failing under the amount of firepower being thrown at them. The Brikar, Lieutenant Rakon, brought out an isomagnetic disintegrator and began systematically blowing Borg drones into pieces with single shots. Parts of the ceiling caved in further up as conduits exploded and bits of drones wedged themselves into the walls.
Sparks flew and chunks of metals and plastics crashed to the floor until the firing stopped: there were no drones left. The team’s phaser rifles were almost on empty, having accounted for at least a hundred drones. Among the Borg dead was a large being that Brevik had only glimpsed a few times during his time as General of the Dark Legion. It had a drone’s torso, head and arms, but instead of humanoid bi-pedal legs, it had six legs arrayed around a black orb, like a spider, with the drone torso stuck squarely on top of the small spider-like body. The torso had been detached from its legs by means of an energy shot from Rakon’s disintegrator.
Brevik turned to Nesbitt, who was nursing a scratch on her arm, received from a drone’s pincer. The Trill, its previous host a doctor, was bandaging the cut, preventing it from being infected by whatever bacteria was hanging in the air.
Teran watched in horror as Brevik stormed over to Nesbitt and lifted her by the throat with one hand and slammed her against the nearest bulkhead, his grip never faltering. Rakon grunted and moved next to his Captain, whilst the rest of the team shouted their protests. Teran placed a hand on the bigger man’s shoulder, attempting to stop the El-Aurian from crushing the life out of a subordinate officer.
Brevik shrugged Teran’s hand away and brought his face closer to Nesbitt’s so it almost touched. “If you EVER do that again, I will shoot you myself, or leave you to the Borg! DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR, ENSIGN!?” Nesbitt blanched and cold sweat permeated her forehead; it was obvious to the rest of the team that she was more scared of the Captain than the Borg.
“Crystal, sir,” Nesbitt managed. Brevik let go of her neck, letting her slump to the floor.
He turned to Teran, “Hold the fort here, wait for me.”
“You’re going alone?”
Brevik nodded, glancing at Nesbitt. “I don’t know how long I’ll be gone for.” He walked around the corner, and out of the team’s view.
“I hate it when he does that,” the Andorian sighed. He turned back to the security team and set about forming a defendable position.
Smoke, or something less tolerable, rose from vents in the walls and ceiling; the smoke blurred everything: assimilated consoles, drones, even the floor seemed to have no consistent form, but rather a moving, writhing shape, as if the floor were made of snakes. Brevik stamped the ground to see if any animals attacked him, but nothing happened. Just this smoke playing tricks with my eyes, Brevik grimaced.
His phaser rifle at the ready he rounded a corner and almost walked into one of the Borg spider-things that Rakon had killed. It stood taller than Brevik, by about a metre. This one had a crab-like claw where its left hand should have been.
Brevik threw caution to the wind and shot the spider-thing point-blank, carving a massive dent in its chest. It toppled over and crushed three drones. He gathered his powers within himself, ready for when his phasers ran out of energy. He pulled out a hand phaser and began firing indiscriminately, holding the fire button down so that he carved black lines over everything within range.
Then the objective was before him: the control core. There were no Borg drones in his way, only dead bodies. Blasting away at the door that stood in his way, he wished he’d brought an isomagnetic disintegrator with him to take care of the door and any other obstacles. The door caved in under the energy and Brevik stepped into something that looked almost identical to the Unicomplex’s control room.
“Welcome, General,” a seductive female voice whispered, almost as if it were in his ear. An attractive human woman stepped out of an alcove, seductively swaying her hips as she neared Brevik, not realising that he found the Borg repulsing beyond comprehension. It was a new Borg Queen; the same one Admiral Janeway had reported communicating with when the Borg had captured her only a few weeks ago.
“Glad to see the Collective still remembers me,” he grimaced, slightly annoyed at the use of his former title. He’d expected the Borg to remember him; after all, over the centuries he had killed over a dozen succeeding Queens, not to mention untold millions of drones. This Queen, though, hadn’t been chosen from the multitudes of drones like the previous few, but had been purposely assimilated to become the Borg Queen. This one’s skin was darker, as if it had only recently been assimilated, with a gleaming new prosthetic arm and eye.
“It’s just Captain Brevik now,” he sneered, pointing to the uniform and rank pips on his collar.
“Our mistake,” she replied, “Captain. I have heard many assimilated humans say that the Borg’s greatest enemies are Captain Picard and Admiral Janeway. But none of them know what you have done to us in the past.”
Brevik shrugged, disinterested. “Why are you here, on this planet? Why haven’t you simply assimilated a spaceship and left this planet? There’s nothing technologically valuable here. Unless there’s something under the oceans, under the crust, at the centre of the planet, say... some piece of ancient technology that’s keeping this planet from destroying itself.”
“It seems we under-estimated your intelligence, Captain Brevik. We have detected a planetary gravitic generator at the centre of this planetoid, built by an ancient race you call the Preservers.” Brevik nodded his head and groaned.
“And you intend to extract the technology.” He shoved the end of the rifle’s barrel under the Queen’s chin, who laughed when Borg drones began filtering into the control centre. Her smile died instantly when the top of her head decorated the far wall, the smoke from the phaser blast permeating Brevik’s nostrils.
The drones collapsed, shuddering and shaking as the pain of the Queen’s death spread throughout the Collective.
Then the whole building began to shake. Those Isolationist fools are trying to destroy the Borg, Brevik moaned inwardly. He fired with both phaser and phaser rifle at the central power core that stood at the end of the chamber. It began to overload, unable to withstand the phaser fire now that there was nothing to protect it. Arcs of blue and purple energy spat out at Brevik. Using his telekinesis, he was able to nudge the energy away from him and back at the terminals around him. Unfortunately, not even his powers could stop some of the larger energy beams, but did stop them harming his skin; the energy shredded his uniform, revealing his skin underneath. He ran for his life, going back the way he came, and found a confused security team, who were all staring at different parts of the ceiling, trying to determine where the banging was coming from.
“It’s the Isolationists’ warships firing on the city,” Brevik explained as he ran straight past the team. They followed, Rakon lagging slightly behind because of his enormous bulk and unusual physiology. Minutes later, they broke out into fresh air, and could see the devastation up close and personal.
Plumes of smoke and fire were thrown up all around them as they ran toward the edge of the city.
“Brevik to Heinfeldt, extraction required immediately.” Felix and Callahan breathed a sigh of relief when they heard the Captain’s weary voice over the comms channel.
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Felix replied, turning the Runabout around to collect the others.
The Runabout rocked when a large shell slammed into the central admin tower and blew it to shreds, fire pouring from the stump that was once the heart of the city. Massive ship-sized pieces of shrapnel flew in every direction, barely missing the Taw by metres.
“Callahan, get to the transporter and start beaming the team up. The injured first.”
The last of the team, Commander Teran, was onboard when the city exploded. A mushroom cloud expanded from the ruins of the flowing city, slamming into everything on the surface of the water with the force of an asteroid. Only the Taw and the Navy forces were lucky enough to escape.
Marshall felt the shockwave hit 1-A, but the force of the blast was light and only a few fragile ornaments were broken throughout the city. Everyone ran to the nearest balcony to see the mushroom cloud in the distance, and the Runabout gliding through the air away from the explosion. Jen-lan stood beside Marshall as the Taw glided in to land in the Horizon’s shuttlebay.
Jen-lan shook his head mournfully. The only way that explosion could have happened was if something destroyed the city’s power source, and Jen-lan doubted that either the Borg or Starfleet would want to destroy. The Isolationists, he said to himself, have just signed their death sentence. Starfleet is either going to come down hard on them like a swarm of sharks after a juicy fish steak, or it’s going to leave this planet until we can settle our own problems.
Jen-lan mused that they would probably do both. His heart filed with sadness as the thought of not seeing Ginintaph join the Federation.
Two days later, after the trials of fifty Isolationists had been conducted in separate cities, all non-Han’ia-ns were evacuated from the planet and taken back to Deep Space Five onboard the T’Kumbra. Marshall’s investigation of the Isolationists had uncovered several failed attempts by Romulans and Cardassians to secretly control the Isolationists. The investigation had also brought to light the Isolationists’ use of skins of dead aliens to cover their fanatic martyrs in their attempts to infiltrate the Horizon.
The Han’ia-ns passed on all their sensor data of the strange distortions surrounding the planet. Max Cole had spent days going over his own data, attempting to construct a hypothesis as to what they could be. According to High Minister Jen-lan, the distortions seemed to ‘arrive’ rather than appear in orbit of Ginintaph.
“I cannot sponsor your entry into the Federation, High Minister,” Brevik told Jen-lan from the other side of the planetary leader’s desk. Jen-lan simply nodded, letting Brevik walk out of the office, a sad look on the Captain’s face.
Jen-lan sobbed, the events of the past few days catching up on him, the knowledge of not seeing peace in his lifetime sinking into him.
Teran sat down at the opposite side of his Captain’s desk in the ready room. The painting of the Galaxy hung on the wall to his left, the model of the Daedalus-class Horizon at the end of the Captain’s desk.
“I’ve got to admit, I really thought you were going to kill Nesbitt back in the Borg complex, though I can certainly understand why you would want to.” Teran fiddled with the knife he had given his friend on the El-Aurian’s nine-hundredth birthday. He slipped it back into its scabbard and placed it back on the desk.
Brevik sat down in his own chair, sipping at a cup of earl-grey tea, a habit he had picked up from Captain Picard.
“I really wanted to kill her,” Brevik said sadly, putting the cup and saucer down on the desk. “I almost couldn’t control myself.”
“I’m glad you did control yourself; Starfleet would not have been happy if had murdered Nesbitt, no matter how much of an evil bitch she is.” Teran took a sniff of the earl-grey and his nose wrinkled, Give me Andorian cuisine any day of the week, he said to himself.
“I’m glad we’re leaving this god-forsaken planet.” Teran snorted and nodded his agreement. “I’m thinking of asking Jessica to stay aboard as our official Diplomatic Corps representative, and so I don’t have to listen to anymore of your complaints of you missing her.” They both laughed, the first time in weeks.
Then the red alert sirens sounded, blaring as the two senior officers rushed through the door onto the bridge.
“Report,” Brevik ordered.
“Those distortions we’ve been monitoring just transformed into starships,” Max reported from his science station. Brevik and Teran stood behind Max’s station to view the readings; both blanched.
“Numrians,” Brevik breathed. He had hoped to see the last of the Numrian Assembly when the Galaxy had escaped from their territory after being betrayed by Guinan. Brevik, Teran and Cole exchanged worried glances; on the Galaxy they had fended off dozens of Numrian warships and barely survived, but now there were hundreds of them, possibly thousands in orbit.
“Admiral Solok for you Captain,” Marshall announced.
The grim, pale face of the Vulcan Admiral Solok appeared on the forward viewscreen, sitting in his command chair on the bridge of the T’Kumbra.
“Admiral, I’m glad you called. We’re picking up at least two hundred Numrian warships decloaking in orbit of Ginintaph. We’re at red alert and preparing to launch from the planet’s surface.”
“There is no need, Captain,” Solok replied calmly. “Stand down from red alert and bring your ship into orbit with T’Kumbra.”
“Admiral,” Teran protested, “the Numrians are dangerous, and hostile to other races.” The Vulcan glared at Teran for his impudence.
“You have your orders, Captain. T’Kumbra out.” The screen went blank, leaving the bridge crew bemused.
“Maybe they want peace,” Max suggested. Even he knew it was a weak claim; the Numrians were up to something that was evident to Brevik, but he didn’t know what they could possibly gain from making peace with the Federation.
“Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 55390.1. Despite my opposition, the treaty between the Federation and Numrian Assembly has been signed. Despite showing us only kindness and good faith, I still can’t shake the feeling that the Assembly is up to something sinister. Commander Teran and several other former Galaxy crewmembers have also protested to the treaty, but their voices are falling on deaf ears.
Horizon is currently in orbit of Ginintaph, waiting for further orders. Every few hours, our alarms are set off whenever a Numrian warship scans us. Ensign Cole has told me that there over four hundred Numrian vessels in the Ginintaph system. For a race trying to make peace, they seem overly hostile.
I’ve recommended that Lieutenant Jessica May Teran stay on Horizon for the time being, and that Ensign Nesbitt be transferred off the ship. Letters have been sent to the families of those who died in the terrorist attacks on the ship; one of the hardest parts of being a commanding officer is those letters home, I just hope Phoebe doesn’t get one concerning me.
I have spoken to a dozen starship commanders and Admirals concerning the Numrian treaty, but none of them are willing to comment on the subject. Many, though, have told me of rumours spreading of a rogue starship. I fear this can’t be good at a time like this. A rogue starship could start a war if the Numrians decide to take offence at the ship’s actions. Reports have come in of colonies being attacked by an unknown vessel. I hope Solok will assign Horizon to the mission so I can get away from the Numrian fleets.
|Last modified: 10.04.12|