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Redemption - Part I by Travis Anderson

The Spy, the Rebel, the Daredevil, the Fighter, the Lightbulb, the Muscle, the Fixer, the
Rock, the Brain, and one ship shared by all. The tale continues...

Chapter One

Lt. Commander Senecka was in her office within the JAG Corps' designated space inside of Deep Space 3. She was reviewing evidence pertinent to an old case that had crossed her desk once again. It had been two years since Brin Macen and his wife T'Kir had been sent to the penal colony on Yuros. Macen had received a twenty year sentence for murder. T'Kir had gotten a seven year sentence as an accessory. She had the option to stay on with her husband as he completed his term.

Senecka had been their defense attorney and it still galled her that she'd lost. Macen had killed Bertram Sindis, the notorious head of both the Orion Syndicate and the criminal Meirkus Conglomeration. Her first initial appeal had been tossed out. Now, two years later, she was allowed to appeal again.

Senecka's outer logical calm was a façade that she adopted to allow her to avoid scrutiny from the Vulcan authorities. She secretly belonged to an emotional dissidents' movement and T'Kir was their hero. All of the Vulcan colonists that had lived on Shial were their heroes. Unfortunately, the Cardassians had wiped out the colony and its inhabitants, who followed the tenets of Sybok rather than Surak. T'Kir's family had been wiped out in that attack along with everyone she knew.

While Senecka, as a loyal Starfleet officer, couldn't approve of T'Kir's reaction to those events, she could certainly understand how they drove her to the Maquis. And it seemed to have been an act of fate since that's where she'd met her husband. Their courtship had been turbulent, almost resulting in a literal murder but they'd moved beyond those woeful days.

Senecka was examining the forensic evidence when she noticed something odd with the DNA. She ran it through library search and it was the appropriate DNA...only it wasn't. She checked every tissue, blood, and DNA sample and ran them through a comprehensive battery of tests. She filtered the autopsy reports through the same lens and discovered that Bertram Sindis wasn't the murder victim...his clone was.

It took all of Senecka's considerable restraint not to jump and scream, "Yes!"

She hurriedly filed her results under a new folder within the same investigation. Activating the comm function of her comp/comm, she contacted the Judge Advocate General's office. She was informed that Admiral H'k'k'k'k'l was busy but if she'd leave a description and a copy of her case file, he'd get back to her.

Her fervent hope was that H'k'k'k'k'l would get to it today. The admiral was the first insectoid to climb to the Admiralty in Starfleet. Although to be fair, the admiral's love of structure translated itself into the law. He breathed, ate, and drank rules, regulations, and legal precepts. No other branch of Starfleet could have developed his talents and pushed them so far.

Now, all she had to do was wait...

Two hours later...

Her wait was a short one. The Admiral replied personally, "Commander, it seems you have discovered a great travesty. I have conferred with my fellow officers about dispatching Internal Affairs to DS3. They can get to the bottom of this in short order. I'm ordering you to re-present your briefs and motions in light of this new information."

"My first filing will be for a declaration of a mistrial." Senecka warned him.

"An appropriate choice." H'k'k'k'k'l commended her, "I look forward to reviewing your case."

The comm went dead and Senecka finally cheered. Her coworkers stared at her but she quickly comported herself with dignity and began redoing her entire defense.

Two weeks later...

Macen came through the door of his shared quarters. He shared them with T'Kir and he couldn't imagine it any other way. He knew her sentence was officially up in five more years but she fully intended to stay and wait out the rest of his twenty year sentence. As an El-Aurian and a Vulcan, that time was felt but nowhere near as badly as a human would experience it.

Macen taught at the day college program. His students worked the night shift. Of all people, it had to be Taryn Argus that taught at night. She was here to serve a life sentence. Macen wondered if Starfleet had any idea of just how long that would be; after all she was another El-Aurian.

T'Kir ran a software company out of an office space provided to her. Her every action on the computer was monitored to make certain she wasn't contacting someone off world and planning an escape. She'd discovered that her "minder" was a trustee. She'd taken up a policy of indignation in her presence. So far it hadn't gained T'Kir anything but the satisfaction of the snub.

"So how was y'r day?" T'Kir asked as she came bounding into the room. Macen sat down his padd at the door and looked over T'Kir. He'd been prepared to tell her a brief overview of his day but when he saw that she was completely naked, all thoughts of students went out the window.

"So, y'got anythin' that y'want t'give me?" she asked with a naughty grin.

"I can think of a few things." Macen admitted.

"Y'd better hurry. They way y'r bulging, I expect your coveralls to split open any second now." She chewed on her finger while she said this.

"How about I give you a five second head start?" Macen grinned slyly.

"Oh goodie!" she declared as she scampered towards the bedroom.

Macen was stripping out of his colonial coveralls as he swiftly moved into the room after her. She jumped onto the bed and tried to crawl away but he grabbed her ankles and dragged her back to him. Cupping her breasts, he lifted her up and back so that she leaned into him. He nuzzled her neck and she began making soft little moans.

The door chime rang out. At first Macen ignored it but it kept ringing and was getting really annoying. He moved away from T'Kir and went to answer the door. T'Kir twisted to say, "Waitaminute!" when she fell off the bed. Macen closed the bedroom door.

He released the front door and it slid aside to reveal two guards and the warden. Macen was wearing a black tee shirt and blue denim shorts so he wasn't as exposed as T'Kir was at the moment. She thoughtcast an angry retort into his mind and he grinned.

"Professor Macen, could it be you know why we're here?" The warden asked.

"No." Macen chuckled, "I was laughing at something my wife said."

It took a moment for the warden to recall the couple's permanent telepathic rapport. It unnerved most of the colonists. He cleared his throat, "We have been informed that your time with us is done. These deputies will take you to the administrative center where you will gather your belongings and change into them. From there you will meet with your legal counsel and she will provide transportation off of Yuros."

"We're free?" T'Kir bellowed as she threw open the bedroom door. She wore her coveralls but they were unzipped, revealing more than a little bit of her bosom.

"T'Kir, you might want to zip up." Macen cajoled her.

She jerked the zipper up, "Yah, yah, whatever."

"We expect all of your present belongings to be recycled. I look forward to processing your release." The warden bowed and went away. The two guards lingered.

"Look, a little privacy please." T'Kir pushed them out the door and closed it. She turned to Macen and pumped her fist, "Yeeeesss!"

"Not that you're thrilled by this." Macen smirked.

"Of course I am, you doof. Y'really thought that I wanted to spend twenty years here? The last two have 'bout driven me nuts." T'Kir complained.

"Not that you would know what that's like." He cheekily said.

"Watch it buster, an' remember, you busted me outta the nut house." She reminded him.

"Best decision I ever made." He grinned.

She smiled, "Y'r just sayin' that."

"Nope. Ranks right up there with asking you to marry me." His grin broadened.

She slid in underneath his arms as he began to hold her and rested her head on his chest, "Tell me y'knew this was gonna happen."

"Actually, it's pretty much a surprise. I only saw one probability where we got out early. I guess we're lucky." He admitted.

She excitedly bounced out of his arms, "C'mon! Let's clear outta here and get our lives back!"

After that she was a whirlwind. They were ready in less than ten minutes. The guards took them to the administrative center where they each received a basket. Each basket contained the clothes they'd been arrested in. Their utility belts and phasers would be returned to them as they prepared to depart the planet.

Yuros was blanketed in transport inhibitors so one had to use a shuttle or a runabout to depart. The warden had said that their counsel, presumably it was still Senecka, would be providing transportation. The couple wondered how far that transportation would take them.

They were brought to a well appointed conference room. Senecka sat at the table fidgeting and playing with her padds. She sprang to her feet when the couple was brought in.

"At ease, Commander. We're here now." Macen joked.

"How are y'doin', sweetie?" T'Kir hugged the other woman.

"I am doing much better now that you two are freed." Senecka admitted, "I had always suspected foul play in your case but until I recently confirmed it there was nothing to be done." Senecka revealed.

"What kind of foul play?" Macen wondered.

Senecka motioned for them to sit down and then passed each of them a padd, "The man you killed wasn't Bertram Sindis. It was his clone. This information was covered up by Thomas Barclay, who until recently, was DS3's Chief of Security. He has been removed from that position following an investigation by Internal Affairs. His malfeasance tainted every aspect of his investigation into your alleged crime."

"A so-called crime we were convicted of." Macen reminded her.

"Your convictions have been overturned and a mistrial declared." Senecka smiled.

"What about the clone?" Macen asked, "Under Federation law we could still be found culpable of his death."

"The investigation was so tainted that it has been thrown out. Even sensor logs were erased and altered and eye witness accounts differ to the point of cancelling one another out so there really is no recourse for the courts but to reinstate you back into society with an apology for holding you against your will for the last two years." Senecka revealed.

"Damn straight!" T'Kir heartily agreed.

"Does that include reissuing my Latter of Marque?" Macen inquired.

"Yes." Senecka confirmed it, "The way is clear for you to return to Outbound Ventures and for you to accept contracts from the SID."

"Is that from Admiral Forger?" Macen asked.

"You can ask her yourself. She's in orbit and wishes to speak with you ASAP." Senecka explained.

Macen exchanged a grin with T'Kir. He commented with, "Then we'd best not keep the Grand Lady waiting."

Admiral Forger was aboard the Ambassador-class USS Yorktown which was breaking orbit as it readied to receive the Type-6 shuttle they rode in. As the shuttle landed, two runabouts could be seen in the bay. Since runabouts weren't typically part of an Ambassador's complement Macen wondered why they were here.

Senecka said her goodbyes in the bay and went to one of the waiting runabouts upon hearing from a yeoman that her pilot was awaiting her. The lawyer's trip back to DS3 was well in hand. Macen and T'Kir exchanged a knowing nod. The other runabout was for them.

The yeoman took them to Forger's offices. That the admiral had a dedicated office suggested that this ship was her flag command just as Nechayev had the USS Sovereign. Amanda would be a gentler commander than Alynna though. Nechayev had commanded starships while Forger had always been an investigator. She'd let others do the driving.

The yeoman took his place behind the reception desk and paged Forger. The door to Forger's office opened a minute later and revealed Forger herself. She was ecstatic to see them both and gave each a warm embrace as dear old friends should. As Macen and T'Kir sat down in the chairs provided, Forger returned to her desk. They each noticed that her right foot dragged slightly as she walked.

She noted their concern, "I see you've noticed my little infirmity. Considering I was paralyzed from the waist down the last time you saw me I'm just happy to be able to walk again at all."

"Too true, Amanda. For reasons out of our control we weren't able to check in with you to see how your recovery was going." Macen replied.

Forger smirked, "Just because Starfleet Security thought I might try and break you out?"

"They really thought that?" T'Kir asked.

"Ed Noyce certainly did. Alynna was convinced as well so a communications black out was instituted." Forger explained.

"Not only with you but with everybody." T'Kir grumped.

"Well let me fill you in on the highlights. First on Starfleet's side. The membership of the Council of Five remains unchanged. The SID still remains an almost entirely civilian affair. Run by Starfleet but with paramilitary operatives."

"Elias Vaughn retired last year on his 110th birthday. Kira Nerys became an admiral and Ro Laren was promoted to Commander and made CO of DS9. She's fast tracked for Captain. I was promoted as well." Forger showed off her bracketed double pips. Macen and T'Kir congratulated her and Forger continued, "About your team, Tom Riker took command of the Obsidian. My sister Shannon remains his XO. The team roster remains unchanged. All of the surviving members are still with the unit but they've never filled the vacant slots which limits their flexibility. Frankly, I've relegated Riker's team to secondary assignments."

"The best news concerning them is I asked for some investigators from Starfleet Security to look into Annika Ryst's case on Barrinor. She's been cleared of all charges seeing as how she was falsely imprisoned." Forger reported.

"How is Celeste taking being relegated to the backfield?" Macen wondered.

"She's the only one complaining. She's threatened to return to her PI agency if I don't start taking the team seriously." Forger sadly admitted.

"We'll see how our return affects that." Macen offered a ray of hope.

"It'll certainly change what kind of contracts I offer." Forger promised.

Macen grinned, "That's good to know."

Forger smirked, "In fact, I have one right up your alley."

"Do tell." T'Kir suddenly brightened with anticipation.

Macen gave her a wry look, "I thought you were the one that always said we should minimize our field work."

"Look, I've been borin' my butt off f'r two years. Two years. I ain't about to turn down the chance f'r some mischief." T'Kir retorted.

"All righty then." Macen was contrite.

"One week ago, Bertram Sindis magically came back from the dead. Evidently he knows we know about his dupe. He's going to be on Ferenginar in a week at a high stakes tongo tournament. We've managed to secure two things: access to the tournament and extradition rights. Outbound Ventures is among the security firms providing coverage for the tournament and its players. Each player has their own security contingent but they are excluded from the gaming room. Grand Nagus Rom won't let us arrest Sindis in the gaming room so it has to be done discreetly outside of the casino." Forger revealed all of that without taking a break, "I can get you in. Can you get Sindis?"

"He's already proven he's a hellcat. I won't lose any more people to him so I can't promise I can get him alive." Macen warned.

"I've been authorized at the highest levels to inform you that Sindis is to be removed. The means are up to your discretion and governed by your conscience. His ultimate disposition is negotiable." Forger divulged.

Macen smirked, "I think we can get the job done."

"Then we need to get you back home." Forger declared. She commed her yeoman, "Philip, have Roberts get off of her butt and get the Volga prepped for immediate launch. It's time she did something besides play poker with the shuttle pilots."

"Yes, ma'am." The yeoman's amusement could be heard.

Forger looked crestfallen, "I wish I had more time to spend with you but I'm cleaning up a diplomatic mess that one of the SID teams created on Andor."

"Good luck with that, Chief. The Andorians are even more hard headed than Klingons." T'Kir offered.

"Tell me something I don't already know." Forger stood and came around her desk. The couple rose and Forger smiled as she hugged each one, "I know we already did this but we've lost so much time already."

"Have no fears 'Manda, we're back!" Macen assured her.

Forger opened her office door and peeked out, "Philip, it's time."

The yeoman led Macen and T'Kir back to the shuttlebay and straight into the open arms of the waiting Volga. Roberts was impatiently waiting for them, "We've already got our clearance to leave so if you'll take your seats we can lift off."

"Y'r takin' us to Serenity Station, right?" T'Kir had to ask.

"That's the destination on my orders but I'd never heard of it before. Apparently it's the hub for some security firm." Roberts relayed.

"Outbound Ventures." T'Kir supplied the name.

"Yeah, do you work for them?" Roberts asked.

"We own the company." T'Kir bequeathed a sweet smile upon her.

Roberts looked like she swallowed a very tart lemon, "I'll be sure to get you there in record time, ma'am."

"We have faith in you." Macen promised as he tugged at T'Kir's arm. They went to the crew lounge in the rear compartment and had a late dinner. Afterwards they cuddled on one of the two beds since there were no couches.

 

Chapter Two

Several hours later, Roberts retreated to the aft compartment. She was in heavily patrolled traffic lanes so it was safe to let the computer do some of the flying. When she arrived, the lights were already dimmed and Macen and T'Kir were asleep on one bed, fully clothed and spooning. Roberts felt a pang of jealousy and stripped off her uniform jacket and blouse. She pulled the other bed's blankets over herself and nodded off.

She was awoken by her passengers having breakfast but she pretended to sleep. They quietly moved to the cockpit and she waited for the alarm to go off. When it did she used the bathroom to relieve herself and brush her teeth. Then she grabbed a quick bite to eat and joined the others in the cockpit.

She'd done some research after they retreated to the passenger lounge. She was assigned to Starfleet Intelligence and routinely handled confidential flights with priority passengers. She was startled to discover that SI considered Macen and T'Kir to be top priority subjects as well.

SI's records contained a brief overview of their careers but she knew more had been left out than included. She asked them some general questions to get a better handle on what had been presented. This conversation dominated all topics for the four days that it took to reach Serenity. By the time the runabout docked and the airlocks were opened to the station, Roberts was in awe.

Macen and T'Kir registered with the Security officer attending the landing and then gave Roberts directions to Quark's local franchise. Up in station Ops, the registry caught the attention of the deputy administrator who reported it to Ephrim Zyrain. Zyrain didn't believe the form despite it being confirmed by biometric data.

"Alert Security." He ordered, "I want these people's identities confirmed."

"Yes sir!" the deputy went for his communicator.

"They sealed it." T'Kir frowned as she saw the external lock emplaced over the door.

"You can't mean to tell me you can't pick this lock." Macen scoffed.

"Watch the wisecracks, buster." She went at it and stripped the lock off in fifteen seconds. Freed, the door's sensors registered them as being the rightful inhabitants and opened so they could enter.

It was dark inside and T'Kir called for the lights. Everything was where they'd left it and was kept clean by the regular maintenance routine of the cleaning 'bots. T'Kir immediately headed for the bedroom where she began to strip. Testing the sonic shower, she found it to be perfectly in order and soon basked in its emissions.

The doors opened suddenly and Macen had his hand on his phaser but saw it was station security and relaxed, "How can I help you?"

"Could you and your companion accompany us to the Infirmary? We need to settle a dispute as to your identity." The Security Chief requested.

"My wife is in the shower but she'll be out in a moment." Macen promised.

Several minutes later the bedroom door opened and T'Kir looked fierce. Wearing a V-necked black leather duster, a black tank top, black leather pants, and black Angosian combat boots. Added to the effect were her utility belt and holster.

"Now we c'n get this show on the road." She testily declared.

Kort's jaw nearly dropped out of his head, "Macen! T'Kir! You're free!"

"Doctor, can you confirm these individuals' identities?" the Security Chief asked.

"Didn't I just do that?" Kort thundered.

"Very well. I will inform Director Zyrain that the misunderstanding has been cleared up." The Chief announced.

"Tell Zyrain that I'll be paying him a visit tomorrow." Macen stated.

The Chief gulped and bustled his people out of the Infirmary. Kort was still beside himself.

"I don't know how you did it but thank Kahless that you have." He exclaimed.

"Admiral Forger told me the team's hit a rough patch." Macen said ruefully.

"Yes, they have. They're all about to quit." Kort regretted to say.

"How's the crew of the Obsidian doing?" Macen asked.

"Wonderfully. They are thriving, except for Hannah." Kort said. T'Kir bristled at the news of her best friend doing less than "thriving". Kort picked up on this and softened the blow.

"She just feels underutilized. The entire team does. At first the reduced workload was a relief but now they crave a challenge." Kort described the situation.

"Well I have a challenge for them. One that's going to require everyone being at the top of their game." Macen replied.

Kort smiled, "Excellent. The Obsidian is returning to port today. Can I inform them that you're here?"

"We'll be at Quark's for the next few hours. Send everyone there if they come calling." Macen instructed.

"Gladly." Kort beamed.

The Obsidian met the docking collar with barely any vibration. Tom Riker praised Hannah Grace on it and she shrugged. What was one more tedious duty in a day full of them?

Riker could sense her frustration but there wasn't anything he could do about it. His wife, and Trill Sciences Specialist, was manning OPS for Yeriden, who was ill, "Tom, Ephrim Zyrain is on the line for you."

"Put it on speakers." Riker ordered. Grace was locking down her board when Zyrain spoke.

"Do you know Brin Macen and T'Kir are back? Why wasn't I informed of this? Are they fugitives?" Zyrain fretted.

"T'Kir and Brin are back?" Grace asked in a hushed voice.

"Excuse me, but where are Macen and T'Kir?" Riker asked.

"They were last seen in the Infirmary." Zyrain responded.

Grace bolted for the turbolift and vanished out of sight.

"Hannah! Wait!" Riker shouted after her. As the lift doors closed he snarled, "Goddammit!"

"Easy, Tom. She's understandably excited." Danan pointed out, "She'll calm down once she sees T'Kir."

"I just don't want this to get out of hand. A mad rush for the airlock could get someone hurt." Riker complained.

"I think it'll be okay." Danan said with a twinkle in her eye.

The lift deposited Grace on the appropriate deck and she barreled through those lining up early to disembark. She plowed through them shouting, "Make a hole! Coming through!"

Training and the desire to protect oneself from the mad Kelvan facilitated her quest as the crew gave way. She sprinted for the airlock, which Radil Jenrya got open just in time. Grace flew past her and broke into a dead run, breezing past Station Security.

"She can't do that!" one of the Security officers complained.

Radil smirked. The Bajoran enjoyed seeing the station crew thwarted, "It seems she already has."

"Is there a problem?" Celeste Rockford asked as she approached the airlock. She'd moved out of the way for Grace and knew something dire must be up.

"Your crew can't blow past the checkpoints. We're here to verify that you're all authorized personnel." The security officer said.

"Do civilian transports and freighters have to undergo this check in?" Rockford asked.

"No." the officer said, suspecting a trap.

"Then I don't see why we should either." Rockford said.

Riker and Danan arrived at that point and Rockford jerked a thumb in Riker's direction, "He's the captain. Argue with him."

"Wait a second." Radil interrupted, "Before anyone argues with anyone, why did Hannah blow through here like her life depended on it?"

"Macen and T'Kir are back. They're in the Infirmary with Kort." Riker answered.

Rockford dropped her bag and bolted down the corridor. The security guards grew angry, "Damn it! There goes another one. You're hereby ordered to report to Director Zyrain!"

"Gladly." Riker pushed past the guards and the rest of the crew followed.

Grace ran into the Infirmary. Not seeing T'Kir or Macen she looked to Kort, who was sitting in his office smirking.

"Where...?" she began.

"Quark's." he said and she took off again. She ran through the entrance into Quark's restaurant and froze. Her eyes and other senses desperately sought her friend. She suddenly realized that they were seated in the middle of the room at the largest table.

T'Kir grinned ear to pointed ear. She rose and met Grace halfway to the table and embraced her tightly. After several minutes had passed they separated revealing tears streaming down Grace's face.

"Are you cryin'?" T'Kir asked with some concern.

"I'm just so happy you're back. They convicted you and they hauled you away. They wouldn't let me see you or write you or anything." Grace lamented.

"Well, I'm out now so we don't have to worry 'bout it anymore." T'Kir consoled her.

"Thank the stars for that. I..." Grace began when Rockford interrupted.

"It's true!" she exclaimed from the entrance to Quark's. She stumbled into the restaurant in a daze. Macen steadied her by taking hold of her shoulders. He held her for a heartbeat and then he hugged her. She melted into the embrace.

Macen let go of her and she whispered, "I'd almost given up."

Macen smiled, "Can't have you doing that."

"But how...?" she faltered.

"Let's wait for the others before we delve into that." He suggested, "In the meantime I'm buying drinks."

Lug, the proprietor, arrived with an order padd. Rockford looked relieved, "Bourbon, no, make it a double."

Grace ordered a screwdriver while Macen and T'Kir stuck to a malted for her and a vanilla milkshake for him. Grace asked why they were drinking the obvious treats.

"I think we deserve it, Hannah. Besides, they aren't 'nutritional' so they weren't allowed to the prisoners on Yuros." Macen explained.

"Good enough for me." Rockford said from her seat beside Macen. T'Kir sat on his other side and Grace sat beside her. It was a gathering of family.

Riker charged into the Infirmary. He didn't see Macen. Kort suddenly bellowed out, "Quark's!"

Riker and Danan headed there and saw the gathering. Riker stopped on the other side of the table from Macen, "I can't believe you're here."

Macen rose and shook his hand, "It caught us by surprise as well."

"Hello T'Kir." Riker said. She hefted her glass in salute. Danan came around the table and leaned over and wrapped her arms around T'Kir's shoulders and squeezed. Next she approached Macen and kissed him on the cheek.

"Welcome back." She said and then she rejoined her husband. Lug swooped in and took orders. Both of them ordered stiff drinks as well.

Rab Daggit and Parva were next to arrive. Parva doted over T'Kir and she cried as T'Kir hugged her. Daggit sat down and ordered as Lug hovered nearby. Parva took a seat next to him and also dealt with Lug.

"Where's Jenrya?" T'Kir asked.

"Oh, she'll be around." Grace slyly smirked, "After she visits Kort."

Tasting juicy news in the air T'Kir leaned close and said, "Do tell."

Radil stopped by the Infirmary. The door chime sounded and Kort bellowed, "Quark's!"

"Oh really?" Radil shouted back, "Does that mean you haven't got time for your wife?"

There was a loud clatter and then a crash. A Klingon obscenity filled the air, followed by some dedicated banging noises, and then Kort emerged from the back. He was slightly rumpled but appeared to be unharmed.

"Is it dead?" she snickered.

Kort sighed, "Now I have to get the station's engineers to look at it."

"Nab Parva. She'd love to fix it." Radil suggested.

Kort brightened, "Excellent suggestion."

"Are you free?" Radil asked.

"Dr. Paella relieves me in ten minutes." Kort smiled.

"Then I'll wait and we can go meet 'n greet Macen and T'Kir together." Radil grinned.

"Somehow I thought you'd say that." Kort revealed.

Her grin grew as she kissed him, "Don't you just know me too well?"

"I could never know you well enough." Kort replied.

Radil wrapped her arms around his neck, "Good answer."

Back at Quark's, the group had ordered finger foods and snacks to get them by until dinner. Kort and Radil arrived fashionably late. Macen and T'Kir greeted them.

"Y'little scamps. Getting' married without us." T'Kir grinned.

"We would have been there but we were unavoidably detained." Macen managed to say with a straight face.

"You were in our hearts and on our minds during the ceremony." Kort said, "So in essence you were there."

"Aww, isn't he sweet?" T'Kir gushed.

Radil grinned, "Why do you think I married him?"

"I figured it was because of the great shagging." T'Kir said conspiratorially.

Radil laughed, "That too."

"Please, join us and order up. It's on me." Macen said.

"Can you afford this?" Radil wondered, "After all, you just got out of..."

"Prison?" Macen smirked, "Outbound Ventures earned money while we were away and we own Outbound Ventures. Besides, I have untapped reserves of latinum left over from when Barrinor was independent."

"If you're sure, I'm sure." Radil happily conceded.

Macen and T'Kir retook their seats. Riker interjected the next comment, "I suppose we'd better transfer the Obsidian's command codes back to you ASAP."

"That won't be necessary." Macen said, "I'm not here to resume command of the Obsidian."

Conversation died and everyone stared at Macen. He wore a wry expression, "I fully intend to command the investigative unit but I will have no authority whatsoever over the ship and her crew."

"Brin, we tried that. It was a failure." Riker reminded him.

"Prison changes a man. It forces them to re-examine their positions and priorities." Macen said, "Amanda said the crew is thriving under you. Why change a winning combination?"

"But you're still taking control of the SID team?" Riker wondered.

"They're chafing under your leadership. Starfleet is concerned that they lost their premier unit. I'm being reinstated in order to solve the problem." Macen said.

"Are you legally allowed to that?" Riker asked.

Macen explained the details of their release and why it came about, "I've been given a new Letter of Marque and a contract to bring in Bertram Sindis."

"But that's how you ended up on a penal colony in the first place." Danan interrupted.

Macen smiled, "But this time I've been ordered to stop him by any means necessary. It's at my discretion."

"Are you sure?" Danan pressed harder.

Macen handed her a padd, "Here's the contract. Take special note of the language employed."

She perused it for a moment and then her eyes widened, "By the Pools, Brin. This is a blank cheque."

Macen nodded, "Exactly my point. Starfleet has bumped Sindis up to 'Imminent Threat' and 'Clear and Present Danger' status. We're to clean house."

"You're not even going to try and bring him in, are you?" Riker asked.

"I'm open to all options but I'm not letting any other members of the team die at his hand." Macen's tone was one of finality.

No one argued with him over the topic after that.

 

Chapter Three

The reunion party had broken up and Riker was leading Macen and T'Kir to their old station-side office, which Riker had taken over. He'd kept their assistant on and when Bryce Fanning saw them, she broke down into tears. T'Kir wrapped her arms around her and consoled her. The office contained three desks but it was obvious one of them was never used.

"I took over your desk and no one has used T'Kir's." Riker explained.

"We'll bring in another desk with a link to form an 'L' shaped fixture on this side of the room that T'Kir and I will share and you'll be able to keep your place in the office." Macen declared.

"Brin, I can leave. It's no bother." Riker protested.

"Nonsense. I'd just have to call you in every time we got a contract. This way we can confer and begin the planning before we set out." Macen decided.

Riker was still skeptical, "Okay, we'll try it your way."

"Bryce?" Macen addressed the formerly distraught assistant, "Are you okay?"

She sniffled, "I'm fine now."

"I need you to contact the Obsidian's crew and SID team and inform them that we have a 0900 departure time tomorrow. Can you do that?" Macen requested.

"I'm on it." She said with renewed determination.

"We're setting out?" Riker asked.

"We have to be on Ferenginar in 3 days. On the way we have to stop at Dulces VI and pick up our new Engineering Specialist for the SID team." Macen explained.

"Dulces is in the opposite direction from Ferenginar." Riker frowned.

Macen smirked, "Is it? I guess we'll just have to hope that Parva has kept the engines at peak performance."

Riker scowled. Macen patted him on the shoulder and then he addressed T'Kir, "C'mon Snickerdoodle, let's go check out our rooms without having Station Security crash the party."

"Sounds good." T'Kir waved goodbye to Bryce, "See ya later!"

Later in their room, T'Kir changed the sheets on the bed; "Ye gods, these are dusty."

Macen called out some encouragement and then went back to contacting Ro Laren. As CO of Deep Space 9 her time would be eaten up by a thousand different things. He could only hope she could squeeze him in.

It turned at that she was off duty and in her quarters. She was delighted to receive his message and to hear his news, "I can't believe that they let you go. I've heard stories of how they find ways to keep prisoners incarcerated despite tainted evidence."

"They need us. Sindis is making a public appearance and they want someone dedicated to stopping him to confront him." Macen explained.

He'd transmitted a copy of his orders to her and she frowned upon reading them, "These are only quasi-legal. They may be authorized by the C-in-C and Nechayev but they still amount to a death warrant and execution is illegal in the Federation."

"He'll be resisting arrest." Macen countered.

"Now you sound like a Cardassian." She accused, "How do you know he'll resist arrest?"

"He always resists arrest." Macen said coldly.

Ro's features softened, "Look, I'm sorry about the Cardassian crack. But you have to admit that the second time you faced 'Sindis' it was his clone not the man himself. You're basing your plan on a single encounter."

"An encounter where he nearly killed me and enjoyed himself while doing so." Macen reminded her.

"Which brings me to my next point, this is personal for you. You're too close to the problem. This isn't just going to get Sindis killed. I'm worried for you and your team." Ro admitted.

"Even me?" T'Kir asked as she swooped in behind Macen and kissed his neck.

"Yes, even you." Ro confessed.

"Awl right!" T'Kir crowed as she skipped out of the room to sample the latest offerings on the replicator network.

"She's certainly happy." Ro observed.

"Weren't you when you got out of the stockade?" Macen wondered.

"No. I had illegal orders to obey in order to stay free and I didn't like my chances of carrying them out with the Enterprise crew around." Ro divulged.

"That would put a damper on your mood." Macen agreed, "But it all worked out. You joined the Enterprise crew, ran off to the Maquis and then joined the Bajoran Militia. When elements of the Militia were incorporated into Starfleet, you rejoined Starfleet and are now CO of a Starfleet space station."

"Technically it's still a Bajoran station. Starfleet just administrates it." Ro corrected him.

Macen grinned, "Spoken like a true commanding officer."

Ro's smile was radiant, "I guess."

"I have to say, Laren, that your mentality has radically shifted since you returned to Starfleet." Macen pointed out, "In the Maquis, you would have been leading this charge."

"I was also a renegade." She dryly commented, "Now I uphold the law. All of the law, not just what's convenient to obey."

Silence fell upon them.

"So, how's Captain Reyes? Are you two still...?" Macen wondered.

"Yes, and thanks for asking. Alfonso and I coordinate our leaves so we can spend them together. We also alternate time at each others' station. And of course there's the subspace calls every day." Ro disclosed.

Macen smiled, "Congratulations, Laren. I'm happy you've found someone."

"Of course, each of us is trying to get the other to transfer but we're both too stubborn to do it." Ro said ruefully.

"Have faith. You're both at the top of your game right now but eventually one or both of you will want to slip away quietly." Macen promised.

Ro grinned, "Is that a prediction?"

"Of sorts. I've taken his measure and I know you. It'll come to pass." Macen opined.

"I wonder if you truly know me now." Ro said.

Silence fell again. This time Ro broke it.

"Is there anything else?" she asked.

"Where's Elias?" Macen asked.

"He's on Caldos II. Alfonso is letting him use his grandfather's cabin." Ro answered.

Macen smiled, "The retirement site for the great Diego Reyes? Elias has to be loving that. Is the planetary society still modeled after the Scottish Highlands?" Macen wondered.

"Yes. Elias is enjoying himself immensely." Ro said, "You should call him."

"I will as soon as I'm settled in here." Macen replied.

"Did you ever think that you'd miss Cardassian architecture?" Ro wore a knowing grin.

His rueful smile was answer enough, "It kinda caught us by surprise."

"Me too." Ro admitted, "What an irony."

"Ah, so now we're going to wax philosophical." Macen teased.

"You know better than that." Ro had the grace to smile, "Take care, Brin. Don't do anything to get locked up again."

"I can promise that." Macen agreed.

"Good." She hesitated, "Give T'Kir my love and see how long she gloats about that."

Macen grinned, "I will."

"Ro out." The screen went blank. Macen sat staring at it for several minutes, reflecting on what Ro had said. T'Kir interrupted his thoughts.

"Quit broodin' an' get in here." She called from the kitchen.

He stepped into the area and found her still perusing menu options. She was frowning as she read the descriptions of item after item.

"Sucks to have so many choices again." He joked.

"Don't laugh or I may have t'hurt ya." T'Kir retorted, "I'm tryin' t'find 'mood food'."

"And what, pray tell, is 'mood food'?" Macen had to ask.

"Food that'll get us in the mood." She said suggestively.

He came up from behind her and wrapped his arms around her, "Too late."

She twisted around and wore a sly grin, "Oh, it is, is it?"

"Much, much too late." His eyes never left hers."

"So what are y'gonna do 'bout it?" she asked breathlessly.

"Just this." He said. He leaned in and their lips hovered near each other. They brushed and T'Kir held her breath but Macen pulled his head back.

"Maybe I am hungry after all." He said with a twinkle in his eyes.

"C'mere you! I'll show ya hungry." T'Kir said in a throaty voice.

This time they're lips did meet.

"'Kay, now I'm hungry." T'Kir said as she draped herself over Macen's naked form. Her naked flesh was still far warmer than his and she had been content just to lie there. Unfortunately, her stomach protested and it's growling could be heard.

"What is that?" Macen idly asked.

"That's my stomach, shuk for brains. I keep tellin' ya, I'm hungry." T'Kir protested.

"Come m'dear, let's satisfy you." He offered.

"An' then y'can satisfy me again." She said with a sly smile.

"Aren't you just insatiable tonight?" Macen teased.

"Nyuh!" she stuck out her tongue.

"As you always say, don't stick it out unless you plan on using it." Macen warned.

"Oh, I'm gonna use it." She promised.

"Then what are we waiting for? Let's eat." He excitedly said.

"I think I've created a monster." She grinned.

At 0700 the next morning, Macen was in Ephrim Zyrain's office. He wore a grim expression when he left the office 35 minutes later and Zyrain didn't emerge or accept communications for several hours. When he did, it was from Claudia Tyrol, the Outbound Ventures CEO. Her words, although softer than Macen's, reinforced the owner's message: the prejudicial ID checks for Outbound Ventures ship crews, while avoiding noncorporate traffic, would end immediately if not sooner. Zyrain sagged in defeat.

The Obsidian's crew prepped for launch. Grace, Riker, and Danan were the only SID members with bridge duties. Radil ran Security while Rockford and Daggit gathered with Macen and T'Kir in Briefing Room 2. Parva joined them after finishing the last diagnostic and she was content to let Gilan oversee the departure.

"What can I do for you?" she happily asked Macen.

"I need this space converted into a working office with four desks and terminals. It also needs access to the holo-emitter array so we can project imagery into the center of the room." Macen described.

T'Kir handed over a padd, "Here's what we were thinkin'."

Parva perused the data and then began modifying it, "This will work."

She handed the padd back to T'Kir, who whistled upon viewing its contents; "Impressive."

"I'll get some of my boys on it as soon as we clear warp speed. It should be up and running before the watch is out." Parva declared.

T'Kir hugged her, "An' you thought y'were a bunny head."

"I am. I'm just a smart bunny head." Parva laughed.

"No denyin' that." T'Kir affirmed.

Parva left with a satisfied air about her. Rockford and Daggit looked at Macen expectantly. It was Rockford that broke the silence.

"You wanted Rab and I here for some reason?" she asked.

Macen grinned, "Yes Celeste, I did. You'll note that I specified four workstations. You and Rab will each have one."

"Really?" she asked, "Riker was content to let us use the Team Briefing room." Rockford said.

"I'm not Tom. I need my lead investigator and Strategic Ops Specialist to have access to the Infosys Center. You up for it?" Macen asked.

Rockford's smile was a pleased one, "Have I mentioned how glad I am to have you back?"

Macen looked pensive, "I think the matter came up yesterday."

Rockford and Daggit merely smiled as Macen said, "I think we should clear out and let Parva do her magic in here."

"Good thinking." Daggit agreed. He above all people knew how cranky Parva could get if someone were in the way of her pet project. Still, the Orion seemed happier than she had in years. Some measure of that derived from Riker's leadership.

The quartet ended up in the Team Room. Macen and T'Kir had been herded here by the two Angosians. As they entered, Rockford finally explained why.

"Outside of the bridge, this place has the best view. It's great for departures and returns." She grinned.

The Team Room served as a general purpose cafeteria. It had also taken the place of an Observation Lounge as found on larger starships. A whole crowd of off-duty personnel were gathered to witness the debarking from the station and the planet Odin. Most had drinks and a few had finger food snacks.

"Can I get anyone anything?" Daggit inquired.

"Sure can." T'Kir spouted off, "But I'll come with and help you carry it all."

Rockford and Macen made their requests and then they were alone. Rockford looked edgy so Macen decided to bull on in and find out why.

"You've been nervous ever since we came aboard. Mind telling me why?" Macen asked.

Her first instinct was to deny it but Macen was a low level empath and his wife was a high grade telepath, lying would do no good; "I almost gave up. I came aboard to fulfill a dream of a better tomorrow. A good dream, by the way and I almost gave up on it."

"Understandable. It must have seemed impossible with T'Kir and I on a penal colony out of touch and out of the way." He replied.

"It's more than that." Rockford insisted, "It's been a few decades since I believed in anything or anyone. To have all of that taken away was crippling. Trying to fill your shoes in the Investigative Team didn't help. No matter what I did I felt I wasn't measuring up. The others certainly made it plain that I wasn't."

She absent mindedly twirled a loose strand of hair, "And to top it all off, I made a realization."

That hung in the air for several moments before Macen blurted, "What?"

Rockford's gaze was steady as she confessed, "I've fallen just a little bit in love with you."

She held up her hand, "It's just an infatuation and it can't lead anywhere but there you have it."

Macen studied her and tasted the truth of her words, "I'm flattered. I really am. Thanks for the heads up but as you said, it can't go anywhere. I'm happily married. If I weren't I'd be pressing you for more information right now."

"I didn't know if I should say anything." Rockford confessed.

"Celeste, honesty is always best. This way I'll know better than to send off any confusing signals." Macen informed her.

"You never did before." She admitted.

"But I was blissful in my ignorance. This way I can make sure." He said.

"I've totally frinxed up our relationship, haven't I?" she bemoaned.

"Nonsense. Life was grand before. It'll be fine now." Macen assured her.

"T'Kir's gonna freak isn't she?" Rockford moaned.

"Well, she did spew her first mouthful of her drink all over Rab but she's taking it much better now." Macen warned.

T'Kir and Daggit returned with drinks for all and T'Kir scooted closer to Rockford, "Celeste, would y'open y'r mind t'me? I need t'see if we're gonna have a problem."

Rockford relaxed as best she could and she could feel T'Kir in her mind. For the first time, the two women shared their intimate secrets from their past and present. When T'Kir withdrew, both felt a sense of intimacy and relief.

"No problems." T'Kir announced.

Daggit was still trying to figure what was going on. Macen distracted everyone by observing that the Obsidian had broken free of the station and was now free navigate. As they beheld the beauty of the planet beneath them and the stars around, Macen couldn't help but wonder what T'Kir had learned. He was left to wondering because she wasn't sharing.

 

Chapter Four

Riker watched as the stars on the viewer became streaks of light. They'd cleared the inner system boundary and leapt into subspace. Riker congratulated his bridge crew on their performance. Grace snorted but he purposefully ignored her. They'd have words when her watch was over. He'd teach her some manners by God or die trying.

He activated his comm badge and paged Parva. She sounded happy when she replied.

"How can I help you, Captain?" her chipper voice asked.

Now that's how the crew is supposed to react. He thought before saying, "Excellent work with the engines. We translated into subspace flawlessly."

"I'm afraid you'll have to thank Gilan for that. Although...it was my maintenance program that allowed our engines to work so well." Parva said.

"You're not in Engineering?" Riker was baffled.

"No. I'm in Briefing Room 2 converting it into an Information Systems Center." Parva explained.

"And who authorized that?" Riker felt a migraine coming on.

"Commander Macen." Parva revealed.

"Thank you, Parva. I'll get back to you." Riker said. Next he commed Macen, "Brin, can I see you in my Ready Room?"

"Certainly." Macen replied with a carefree attitude.

"Tom?" Danan was worried.

"Lees, you have the bridge." He gruffly said and then he disappeared into the Ready Room.

"All right people, I have to go now." Macen called out above the clamor that the Team Room had turned into. When the off duty crew recognized him they immediately began pelting him with questions regarding the command structure. He'd gone into a very careful and precise explanation of how things were going to work but all that did was provoke more questions.

He exited the Team Room and T'Kir caught up with him, "Won't you need me?"

"I think Tom wants a one on one." Macen replied.

"C'n I at least wait f'r you in the Rec Room?" she asked.

Macen smiled, "Sure. Why not?"

"What the hell were you thinking?" Riker bellowed as soon as the doors to his Ready Room sealed.

Macen smirked and calmly sat down in a chair.

Riker leaned across the desk, "Well?"

"If you're trying to intimidate me with your size, remember, I'm used to having Rab for an exercise partner. For sheer lethality he outclasses you by several degrees." Macen stated.

Riker was stymied and he knew it. Retaking his seat he tried a calmer approach, "Why did you do it?"

"Do what?" Macen wondered.

"Why did you task Parva with retooling Briefing Room 2? She's a member of my crew and I might have had plans for that Briefing Room. Dammit Brin, you aren't Captain any more. You have to clear these things through me. This is my ship and any changes go through me." Riker argued.

"You're right in saying I'm not Captain. I'm not. I just spent twenty minutes in the Team Room explaining that. As for Parva, I asked her if she could spare anyone from her department to modify the room. I had no idea that she'd volunteer her personal services." Macen explained.

"Of course she volunteered. You're the former captain. This crew would bend over backwards to accommodate you. Which brings me to modifying the briefing room. You can't go around picking rooms to modify or designate as yours. It's my ship now and I won't have it." Riker said.

Macen looked amused, "That's the second time you've said this ship is 'yours'. It's not. I own this vessel. Her papers and registration are in my name not yours. The same holds true for Serenity Station. I own that as well. You're Captain of this ship but I authorize your pay credits so you'd best be a little respectful."

"I checked the usage records for that room. It's been used once in two years. Everyone prefers Room 1 because it's larger and has nicer amenities. The investigative unit has their own dedicated briefing room. This makes Room 2 expendable and the investigative unit had a real need. Think of it has a dedicated space for research, not unlike the Astrometrics bay." Macen declared.

Riker wore that horrified, stunned expression of someone who'd just been slapped. Finally her recovered and he grated, "Damn you. Do you know how hard it has been to replace you? The crew expects me to be you. Rockford and Daggit give me their disapproving glances. Radil avoids me. My wife pities me and Grace...! Let's not forget dear, sweet Hannah. She challenges every order with a sigh, a glance, an eye roll, or a snort. If she challenges me one more time I'm putting her in the brig!"

Riker had started out barely controlled but in a low voice. At the end he was shouting. Macen took in his roiling emotions and his frustrated words and asked one question.

"How can I help?" Macen inquired.

Riker gaped, "You want to help?"

"Tell me what you want me to do to shore up your authority." Macen said.

Riker was at a loss and finally he said, "At least pretend to check in with me concerning ship's business. You'll be surprised, I'll usually agree with you."

"And I'll be leaving all crew matters to you." Macen promised.

Riker huffed, "That's a given."

"Give me a list of people with authority issues and I'll try to straighten them out." Macen offered.

"We'll straighten them out. Together." Riker counter offered.

Macen nodded, "Fair enough."

"We might as well start with the hardest case." Riker declared. Tapping his comm badge, he summoned Grace.

Grace appeared and she looked expectant. Finding Riker at the desk and Macen on the couch, her dismay was palpable. Riker caught the scent of blood in the water and motioned for Grace to take a seat in one of the two chairs laid out in front of the desk.

Grace sat down and Riker began, "Well Hannah, aren't you wondering why you're here?"

"Not really. I assumed it has to do with you usurping the Captain's job." Grace answered.

Riker bristled, "Hannah, I'm the Captain."

Grace's eyes sought out Macen and he nodded, "It's true. He's captain."

"But..." Grace started to protest.

"Hannah, I have my reasons." Macen informed her.

Stunned, she blinked a few times and turned to face Riker. He sternly laid down an ultimatum, "Hannah, you will perform your duties without sighs, rolling of the eyes, snippy comments, muttering, or any other displays of attitude or you'll be relieved of duty."

"Fine." She said coldly, "Relieve me."

"Excuse me?" Riker couldn't believe his ears.

"I said relieve me." Grace verified for him, "I resign as the Chief Helmsman."

"Do you know what you're saying?" Riker was stunned.

"My loyalty is to him." Grace pointed at Macen, "I'm a member of his Investigative Unit. He gave me one chance after another when he had no reason to. He convinced the rest of you to accept me for what I am."

"Hannah, you've served under me for years and you've never had a problem with my authority before." Riker pointed out.

"You weren't Captain." Grace told him, "You've been the so-called Captain for the last two years. We were stripped of our status as a front line SID team. We did grunt work. That's not what we do. You wouldn't step up to the plate and you left everything to Celeste. She knew she was overwhelmed and reached out to you. You said you were a starship captain, not a field hand. That sealed our fate."

"The only thing that kept us here was Celeste. She insisted that we give you a chance to fill your role. Even she was ready to give up when the Captain returned." Grace concluded her diatribe with her own ultimatum, "I'll stay aboard but I serve him."

Riker looked to Macen for support. Macen was unnaturally calm when he spoke, "Okay Hannah, you're on the field team."

"That's it?" Riker was dumbfounded.

"Her mind is made up. It's easier to find a new CONN officer than it is to change Hannah's mind." Macen explained.

His comm badge chirped and he tapped it, "Macen here."

It was T'Kir, "Check out FNS. Quick!"

Riker called up the news service and Macen and Grace gathered around his desk. The report was of the destruction of Romulus and the disappearance of Ambassador Spock. Spock was presumed dead having been swallowed by a singularity. Apparently a Romulan mining vessel had been sucked up as well. There were no known survivors.

"My God." Riker breathed.

"Hopefully they knew Him." Macen remarked.

Both Riker and Grace gave him skeptical glances.

Macen turned to Riker, "Tom, make whatever announcement you want to make regarding the command situation. I'll deal with the aftermath on a case by case basis."

He turned to Grace, "C'mon Hannah, T'Kir could use a shoulder to cry on."

"You got it!" she readily agreed. She turned to Riker, "Captain."

She turned on her heels and followed Macen out. Riker sat back down in his seat and wondered what the hell had just happened?

They met T'Kir in the Rec Room. Tessa was holding T'Kir's arm and waist. She was shaken but not distraught, which is what Macen had hoped for. He came in and embraced her.

Kissing her on her forehead, he said; "I have to go."

"Gonna check on P'ris aren't ya?" she said with a glimmer of a twinkle in her eye.

"Yup. She may be dead for all we know." Macen confirmed it, "I have to know."

"How long will y'be?" she wondered.

"I don't know. Romulan communications are probably a mess right now. It could take hours." He brightened, "In the meantime, Hannah can share her news."

"Y've got news?" T'Kir perked up, "Somethin' t'do with Ian I hope?"

Grace grinned, "Not quite but you'll still like it."

Macen excused himself and went to his shared quarters. He and P'ris had always had a strange relationship. It was one part playful banter and the other part deadly intentions.

After twenty minutes of navigating a foreign network, he paged her personal comm center. To his relief, and possibly his chagrin, a harried looking P'ris answered.

"What?" she barked, and then recognizing her caller, her cheeks flushed emerald and she asked, "Commander?"

"Yes P'ris, it's me. Obviously you're alive so all I can ask you is do you need help? I can contact Starfleet and they can send a relief convoy." He offered.

P'ris looked anguished, "I wish I could accept your aid, Commander. I truly wish I could. Elements know that our colony worlds could use the assistance but policy is already being made."

"Policy?" Macen warily asked.

"The surviving Senators from the Outer Marches and the Inner Colonies have banded together and are forming a new Senate. They are not friends of your Federation." P'ris revealed.

"This has to do with Spock's failure, doesn't it?" Macen guessed.

P'ris nodded, "Indeed. The Senate voted him their full backing yet it came to nothing. The loss of the Remans is no great issue but Romulus..."

"I understand all too well." Macen tried to console her.

P'ris's eyes flashed fire until she recalled to whom she was speaking, "I suppose you can. Thank you for alerting me to the problem before it happened. If the Senate had been left to its folly, we would now be a dying culture."

"I hear a 'but' coming." Macen said sourly.

"But my people want to rebuild on their own strengths." P'ris stated.

Macen nodded, "So did my people. Unfortunately there aren't enough of us left to maintain a viable culture. I take it that isn't the case with the Romulans?"

"I am not at liberty to discuss that." P'ris stiffened.

"I see." Macen mulled it over, "If you ever need an unofficial backdoor channel to Starfleet Command, let me know."

P'ris smirked, "Still claiming to be a humble privateer and not an agent of the Federation? And aren't you supposed to be on a penal colony?"

Macen grinned, "In order: I am, I'm not, and they let me go."

Life began to return to P'ris's eyes as she spoke, "Yet truly the facts are: You are not, you are, and I am glad. I missed...keeping track of you. Indeed, my duties had become quite commonplace. I expect you will be back in the thick of it?"

"I'm going after Sindis." Macen revealed.

P'ris looked concerned, "A third encounter when the first two have gone askew?"

"This time Sindis has made a fatal mistake." Macen declared.

"And that is?" P'ris wondered.

"He's turned the whole team against him. Before we've always acted as individuals. This time we'll be a team." Macen shared.

P'ris scrutinized him and observed, "You are a changed man. You seem to be less...agitated. You still have a restless spirit but some of your demons have abandoned you. It is a pleasant change."

"It is indeed." Macen smiled.

"You are also in different quarters. Your quarters I would presume. Why are you not in your 'Ready Room'?" P'ris wondered.

"Because it isn't mine anymore." Macen answered.

"You are no longer Captain of the Obsidian?" she was stunned.

"Tom Riker grew into the job during my absence. He can keep the role." Macen said easily.

"Then what role do you play aboard ship?" P'ris asked.

"I lead the Investigative Unit and serve as staff intelligence officer." Macen explained.

P'ris was reeling, "To lose the homeworld and to discover this in one day. It is too much."

"How are you doing?" Macen asked.

"How am I coping, you mean?" P'ris smirked again.

"Essentially." Macen confirmed it.

"I have had three years in which to prepare. I have a small estate on this world and a voice in the interim Senate. I have lost friends and loved ones that thought I was mad with my dire predictions and I have not yet begun to grieve for them. I am still in what you would call 'survival mode'. The grief will come and when it does it will shatter me for a time but I have my duties to return to so I will be forced to carry on." P'ris admitted.

"I've known the feeling. Just don't give up...ever." Macen urged.

P'ris's smile became shy, "Why Commander, you sound as though you care."

"I do." Macen confessed.

P'ris blushed and made to respond but she was distracted by something off screen. Pursing her lips and frowning she said, "Drat. The Senate is calling. I must go now. Have no fears, Commander. I will keep the faith."

"So will I." Macen promised.

P'ris gave him a beatific smile and cut the channel.

Macen pondered her shyness and her slight blush. He'd never seen such behavior from the typically brash Romulan. He shook his head.

"Will wonders never cease." He murmured to himself.

Placing the comp/comm on stand-by, he left the quarters and sought out T'Kir.

 

Chapter Five

Parva was as good as her word. Riker wisely left her to her pet project, after receiving a tongue lashing from his Chief Engineer. Macen and company quickly decided to give their equipment a test drive. Macen assigned T'Kir to hacking the Hall of Games on Ferenginar. She pulled every high security file and distributed them between Rockford and Macen.

After several hours Rockford cried out, "Got 'im!"

Macen got up and holding onto Rockford's chair and desk, leaned over her to see her work, "What've you got?"

"The security plan for Sindis's suites during his stay." She explained, "He'll have the center suite with the two adjoining rooms, on either side, occupied by his private guard detail."

"How many people in each room?" Macen asked.

"Four each in the guard rooms. It's a safe bet he'll have four with him in his suite." Rockford answered, "Plus he'll probably have four guards in the corridor."

"Like you said, it's a safe bet." Macen agreed, "Rab, can you deal with those numbers?"

"Jenrya and I will have the corridor and the guard rooms swept in minutes." Daggit promised.

"Which leaves you, T'Kir, and I on Sindis's suite." Rockford described. That's three to four odds, not counting the big man himself. I hope you've got a contingency to deal with him because his clone handed our asses to us. I know from experience that the man himself is twice as deadly."

"I not only have a gambit prepared, I have another body lined up to even out the odds." Macen revealed.

"You've a recruit for the Investigative Team?" Rockford's eyes gleamed.

"That's why we're headed for Dulces." Macen said.

"I was wondering why we were headed in the opposite direction from Ferenginar." Rockford admitted.

"I convinced Eric McMasters to join us as our Engineering Specialist." Macen grinned.

"Why does that name sound familiar?" Rockford wondered.

"Have you heard of McMasters' Refits?" Macen wondered.

"That's it!" Rockford stabbed a finger in Macen's direction, "Right after they put you two away I was looking for some performance upgrades for my runabout. McMasters was recommended to me but Parva and a couple of the SPYards guys volunteered to do it as a hobby project. Vision Quest can now keep up with the Corsair."

"That's the same Eric." Macen stated.

"Why would he give up a lucrative business to work with us? Is he an action junkie or something?" Rockford had to ask.

"Lemme handle this one." T'Kir begged. Getting a nod from Macen, she grinned; "Eric was the chief dry-dock engineer for the Maquis. If you had a raider or any other kind of ship and y'wanted her tooled up, Eric was the guy to see."

"So, he is an action junkie." Rockford wore a knowing grin.

"He's also carried a torch for Lees all of these years." T'Kir shared.

"But she's married." Daggit voiced the obvious objection.

"He don't care." T'Kir snickered.

"So how is he going to spend his time while we're aboard the Obsidian?" Rockford wondered.

"Eric is suborned to Parva's staff during our idle moments. I figure between the two of them this ship will exceed her specs in no time." Macen's grin grew.

"Speaking of whom, I promised my wife that I'd eat dinner with her." Daggit made to rise.

"Give Parva our love." T'Kir requested.

"If we're done here, I agreed to meet Jenrya for the same." Rockford said. Registering the surprise on Macen and T'Kir's faces, she smiled; "We put aside our differences over the last two years. After all, we have more similarities than differences."

Macen beamed, "That's great."

"C'mon, let's find Hannah. It's also time to catch up with Tessa." T'Kir suggested.

"Hannah's in the shuttlebay." Macen said, "I don't know where Tessa is."

"I'll hit Sickbay." T'Kir announced, "You grab Hannah."

T'Kir darted out of the room before Macen could say anything. Rockford gave him a rueful look.

"Want to tag along as I go to the shuttle bay?" Macen asked.

Rockford brightened, "Sure."

They all gathered in the Team Room. Rockford and Radil sat with Gerrit Gren and a few deputies. Riker, Danan, Daggit, and Parva shared a table. Grace, Tessa, T'Kir and Macen monopolized a table of their own.

"So, how're things between you and Galen 3?" T'Kir asked.

"Great." Tessa said in a perky voice, "We discovered sex. I don't know how Felix programmed me but sex...wow! We've had sex on every deck including the bridge and the Captain's Ready Room."

Seeing the incredulous grins of her companions, Tessa pressed on; "Tonight, Galen's gonna eat my...what?"

Grace had been wagging a finger and shaking her head. Tessa frowned, "What's wrong with what I was going to say?"

"It isn't said in polite society, Honey." T'Kir tried to explain.

"Fine. He's gonna lick my clitoris. Is that better?!" Tessa's voice carried and the diners at the nearest table stared. She stared back at them, "What?!"

"Generally people whisper when they discuss these things." Grace offered.

"Okay." Tessa whispered, "Don't tell Galen but when Radil gets lonely she and I get together and I lick hers."

Grace positively blushed, "D'you think Kort knows?"

Everybody stared at her and she wore a rueful expression, "Oh c'mon, we're all wondering."

"She said he didn't care." Tessa said, "He knew she was a bisexual when they got married. She can be with any woman she wants as long as she comes back to him. I just get to be that lucky woman."

"Congratulations?" T'Kir wondered.

"I...drat!" Tessa vanished.

"Must've been a medical request." Grace ventured.

"Brin, our baby is all grown up." T'Kir lamented, "And she's a slut."

"Are you sure you want to be the one to cast around that particular label?" Macen mused.

"Nyuh." T'Kir stuck out her tongue.

"Actually, Tessa's obsession with sex has led to a couple of hilarious encounters." Grace offered, "One time when she and Galen 3 were hot and heavy somebody requested the services of the EMH and Tessa arrived stark naked. The patient was so startled she ran out of Sickbay and didn't come back."

"How many people d'you think she's sleeping with?" T'Kir asked.

"What do you mean?" Grace inquired.

"Well she's on 24/7 and Galen and Radil only cover a portion of that time." T'Kir described the situation, "I wonder how many people view her as their dirty little secret?"

"She wouldn't." Grace protested.

"I would've." T'Kir stated.

"You did." Macen reminded her.

"Anyway, she learned about sex from me so who knows what she's up to?" T'Kir wondered.

"On to greener pastures." Macen redirected the conversation, "How are things between you and Ian?"

Grace blushed, "They're good."

"What's with the blush, chica?" T'Kir asked.

"I think Ian's going to propose the next time we see each other." Grace gushed.

"Really?" T'Kir was almost as excited as Grace.

"The last time we were together he asked me about all of my favorite things. The clincher to the deal was his not so subtle attempt to deduce my ring size." Grace elaborated.

"Did ya give it t'him?" T'Kir was literally on the edge of her seat.

"Of course I did and then I played dumb. I don't want to dissuade him in any way." Grace shared.

"Are you sure this is what you want?" Macen asked.

T'Kir backhanded his shoulder but Grace's smile lit up, "Ohhh yeah. I've known for a while now. Ian Delaney is the man for me."

"Another wedding. I can't wait." T'Kir was gleeful.

"You'll be my matron of honor of course." Grace squeezed T'Kir's hand.

"Damn straight." T'Kir affirmed it.

"Hannah, we need to talk about your shipboard role. I..." Macen looked up to see Daggit looming over him, "Can I help you, Rab?"

"Can we step out?" the Angosian asked.

"Certainly." Macen followed Daggit out into the corridor, "What's on your mind?"

"I've spent the last two years attached to Jenrya's security force. I'd be really happy to stay with them." Daggit confessed.

"In lieu of sitting in the Infosys Center and taking part in the planning sessions." Macen clarified. Daggit nodded. Macen asked, "Who will take your place?"

"You've got T'Kir. She's nuts but she's creative. Celeste is a strategist besides being a tactician. She's also a top notch investigator. Then there's Hannah."

Macen perked up and Daggit drove his point home, "Hannah's got a killer instinct for these things. Probably a side effect of being Kelvan. Anyway, I think Hannah should have my slot."

Daggit returned to Parva's side and Macen presented his proposal to Grace. She was stunned.

"Me?" she said...again.

"Rab has a point. Will you do it?" Macen asked.

Grace looked to T'Kir. The Vulcan frantically bobbed her head up and down for a "Yes."

"Oh, why not?" Grace agreed to it.

Later in the Rec Room, Danan approached the huddle that Macen, T'Kir, Kalista, and Rockford had formed. Daggit, Radil, Gerrit Gren, and the security force were dominating one part of the room while Parva, Gilan, and the engineers had another corner. Rhiann and Grace had the shuttle pilots cornered. And Telrik had a group of newer crewmen hanging on his every word. Riker stood by to correct Telrik's obvious hyperboles.

"So, once again you have a harem." Danan smirked at Macen.

"And once again, the reports of my escapades are greatly fantasized and not actualized." Macen rebutted.

Rockford and Kalista wanted to know about this so-called "harem". Danan described Macen's Maquis crew and how it was composed of five women and two men. It had been all the talk of the Ronaran cell. Even Ro had stuck her nose into it.

"Seems to me that you like being surrounded by women." Rockford teased.

"I like being surrounded by certain women and one woman in particular." Macen retorted.

T'Kir nestled in close to him, "Is it any wonder why I keep him?"

"Seriously Brin, why are we going to Dulces?" Danan wondered, "It's completely out of the way."

"Ask Tom." Macen's eyes twinkled mischievously.

"I did. He said you wouldn't tell him." Danan accused.

"Oh really?" Macen played innocent, "Must've slipped my mind."

Danan scowled, "Drop the games and come clean. All this tiptoeing is giving me the impression that it's for my benefit."

"That's awfully conceited of you, Lees." Macen warned.

"Brin..." Danan growled.

"Okay. You're right. I have been toying with you. We're going to Dulces to pick up our new Engineering Specialist."

"Really? Anyone I know?" Danan was pleasantly surprised.

"You might say that." Macen snickered.

"Spill Brin, or I swear to you you won't be able to walk." Danan threatened him.

"Does the name Eric McMasters mean anything to you?" Macen asked.

Lisea's creamy complexion turned bright scarlet, "Eric? I haven't thought of him in years."

"Well, he's thought of you. It's been a bit of an obsession really." Macen grinned.

"Pools Brin, you did tell him I'm married?" Danan grasped at straws.

"It didn't seem to faze him." Macen admitted.

Danan buried her face in her hands, "I'm doomed."

"Aw, it won't be that bad, Lees. Just frinx his brains out and he'll leave you alone f'r the next fifteen years." T'Kir grinned.

"I may have a solution." Kalista said.

"Didn't you take an oath of celibacy?" Danan asked.

"Point in fact, I didn't." Kalista said, "I just refrain most of the time in order to avoid taking advantage of sexually immature species."

"You're saying you want to sleep with Eric? You don't even know him." Danan protested.

"The Commander showed me Mr. McMasters' file. He seems yummy. I'm just offering to distract him. If that leads to sex, well Heavens know it's been awhile for me and I'm downright hungry." Kalista grinned.

Danan glared at Macen. He held up his hands, "What? I say more power to her."

"That's only because you're married to her. She's a terrible influence. Look what happened to Tessa because of her." Danan scolded.

"Why're y'talkin' 'bout me as though I'm not here?" T'Kir grumped.

"You should be in Sickbay trying to talk some restraint into that poor girl." Danan declared.

T'Kir sprang to her feet, "Fine! I'll talk t'her but I ain't promisin' anything." T'Kir stormed out of the Rec Room.

"Not to mince words, Lees; what do you really think?" Macen dryly asked.

"Ohhh!" Danan stomped off to join her husband.

Later in their quarters, Macen and T'Kir were undressing. T'Kir was describing her "chat" with Tessa, "She's really receptive. Mostly she's just been horny and confused."

"Sounds like your typical teenager." Macen quipped.

"Yeah, 'cept this one's got her techniques down." T'Kir sighed, "So, you 'n Celeste?"

Macen grinned, "She's not a threat. She's under control. She knows nothing's going to happen and she's willing to get over it."

"But y'like her." T'Kir replied.

"Of course I like her. She's my friend." Macen rebutted.

"You could love her." T'Kir argued.

"If you weren't here then Celeste and I might stand a chance. But you're here and no one, absolutely no one, can compare." Macen said sincerely.

T'Kir wrapped her arms around his neck, "Is it any wonder that I love you?"

"Sometimes I wonder." Macen drew her in for kiss.

T'Kir grinned, "We haven't broken the bed in from its two years of not bein' used. It's practically a virgin."

"Heavens forefend." Macen mocked.

"Laugh it up. What're y'goin' t'do 'bout it?"

"Only this." He declared and drew her in again. This time he took her breath away.

 

Chapter Six

The Obsidian assumed standard orbit over Dulces VI. It was early evening aboard ship but it was mid-morning on the surface in Dragnet City where McMasters Refits was headquartered. The orbital works centered around the largest of the three moons. A civilian space station hung in orbit over Dulces but it was currently on the far side of the globe.

Dulces orbited a white dwarf star and even in the sixth orbital track in the system it was still an arid world. Primarily mountainous with high desert ranges it had no salt oceans. The planet was littered with fresh water lakes, some as large as the Caribbean on Earth.

The biosphere was filled with native life but no higher life forms had been present when Starfleet surveyed the world a hundred years ago. Colonization had begun within weeks of the announcement of first discovery. Settlers had come from all corners of the Federation.

The most recently arrived émigrés came from Cardassia. The deported and terrorized fleeing the Unionist grip of terror had come in droves. Over a million Cardassians had settled on Dulces and that created friction with older settlers who had relocated after the DMZ treaty had been established or had supported the Maquis cause.

This emigration wave was one of many reasons why McMasters had thrown his lot in with Macen. Dulces was a little too crowded and the government was a little too invested in protecting the Cardassian immigrants' rights so he thought he would leave. He thought about folding up shop as well but too many good people relied upon his business for employment so he wasn't shuttering the business in a fit of pique.

Macen contacted McMasters and made certain the engineer was in his offices. Macen and T'Kir moved to the transporter room. Radil and Daggit voiced their displeasure at being left behind.

"Are you basing this on security concerns?" Macen wondered.

"Not really." Radil admitted, "It just isn't fair that you two get to stretch your legs while we sit up here boring our butts off." Radil complained.

"Talk to Hannah and Celeste. They can help you commiserate." Macen joked.

That failed to elicit any laughs. Macen sighed, "We're still in the Federation, Jenrya. Albeit the frontier but it's still Federation space. Your presence just isn't required. I don't need Eric to think that we're invading his offices. He knows us so we should go alone."

"Maybe we should bring, Lees." T'Kir snickered.

Macen grinned, "I already asked. She turned me down cold."

"Too bad." T'Kir laughed.

"Have we settled who is going or not?" Telrik asked, "Because I have a coordinate lock outside of the office structure and time is of the essence."

"Why's that?" Macen wondered.

"To be blunt, Rhiann isn't Miss Grace. She inserted us into orbit with too much momentum to bleed off. We'll be out of transporter range in 31 minutes." Telrik said.

"Then we'd best be off." Macen stepped up to the transporter's pads. T'Kir followed. Telrik touched the screen controls and they dematerialized.

Irvin Gotz was walking along the sidewalk, minding his own business when an annular confinement beam formed up and shoved Gotz aside. He yelped and then watched as Macen and T'Kir solidified. He started to protest when he noted Macen's wry glance.

Gotz looked Macen over. The El-Aurian wore a brown bomber jacket, khaki pants, a grey Henley, and most noticeably, a Bajoran phaser strapped to his leg. Gotz looked over to T'Kir and he gaped.

The Vulcan was smiling. On top of that she wore a black leather duster and black leather pants. An Indigo zip front blouse topped off the outfit. T'Kir folded her coat back around her phaser and then her eyes sparked.

"Shoo!" she waved her hand at him. Gotz took off and ran down the street. The local constabulary would hear of this!

Macen gave her a reprimanding look, "You enjoyed that."

"An' y'didn't?" she snickered.

"C'mon, time's wasting." He ushered her into the office front and a secretary intercepted them. Seeing their weapons, he froze.

"Just let Eric know that Brin Macen and T'Kir are here to see him." Macen instructed.

The secretary stumbled away, still obviously distraught. He reached his desk and paged McMasters. It only took him a moment to emerge from the warrens of the executive offices.

"Brin! T'Kir! It's great to see you!" McMasters practically shouted across the reception area.

The secretary relaxed a bit as his boss led the two strangers to his personal office. He'd heard rumors that McMasters was a former Maquis. He'd also heard that his boss had spent ten years on a penal colony before suddenly relocating to Dulces. Whatever the truth was, he liked his job and he just hoped the two armed strangers didn't kill McMasters.

"Sorry about the maze." McMasters said as he led the couple through the warrens, "The architect wanted to 'preserve my privacy'. He didn't understand that clients like to talk with me personally whether I'm actually going to be involved in the project or not."

"I get the same with Outbound Ventures. That's why I hired a CEO." Macen replied.

"Yeah, I just finished breaking in the guy that's taking my place." McMasters admitted. He ushered them into an expansive office, "Let me grab my stuff and we can go."

"That's good. Our transport window is narrowing." Macen said.

"I have to ask, weren't you on a penal colony for murder?" McMasters asked.

"For two years. That's how long it took for them to discover the evidence was tainted. They just let us go." Macen explained.

"Then you're awfully damn lucky I was looking for a new challenge." McMasters grinned, "How's Lees, by the way?"

"Dreadin' your arrival." T'Kir snickered.

"Ah, the homes fires must not be burning so bright anymore. Gives a man hope that his spurs will still work." McMasters chuckled.

"That's what she's afraid of." T'Kir smirked.

"Let's worry about Lees when the time comes." Macen suggested, "For now, we need to leave."

Just then, a deafening explosion rocked the building.

In the front office, the street front façade suddenly detonated. As the smoke cleared and the rubble stopped falling from the roof, a dozen Klingons barreled through the gaping hole. They were dressed in armor, but not IDF armor. No House sigils could be found. These Klingons were renegades.

Point in fact they were a mercenary company. They were one of the best and they knew it. Being pitted against Outbound Ventures' flagship was the largest challenge that they had faced in quite some time. Having worked alongside Solarian Security Systems and finding them highly competent, the Klingon commander wished to pit his mettle against the commander and crew that almost leveled that proud corporation.

"You two, watch these PetoQ!" The squad leader barked as he gestured at the receptionists. That accounted for two of the mercs. The other ten ventured into the office maze. Stopping at each office, they rousted the occupants. Discovering that none of them matched Macen or T'Kir's ID visuals, they moved on to the next office.

McMasters dropped his bag as he heard the screams. Pulling a phaser free from the desk's frame, he said; "Well? Just don't stand there!"

"Stay behind us and stay out of the way." Macen instructed.

He and T'Kir pulled their phasers free. They triggered the door and Macen hustled out sideways with his phaser drawn in a two handed grip. T'Kir whipped her left hand around the opening and visually scanned the area. Her sensitive ears could hear the Klingon's approach.

Macen took the lead and T'Kir dropped back behind his shoulder. McMasters followed, watching in awe. Macen and T'Kir had made a formidable pair in the Maquis but he had the distinct impression that he had unleashed an engine of destruction.

"You two, scout ahead. Find us a way through this damnable mess." The squad leader ordered.

The two Klingons went around the nearby corner just in time for Macen and T'Kir to round the opposite corner. The firefight lasted for two seconds. The Klingons went down. Macen and T'Kir shuffled forward and grabbed the Klingons' weapons. Opening an office door, they threw the accoutrements into it. The startled office worker calmed down when McMasters shushed her.

The couple went around the next corner and shot the closest Klingons. Bottled up, they were getting hammered. The squad leader sounded the retreat in order to meet up with his reserve in the reception area. He's lost seven of his men counting the two scouts that had obviously failed.

Upon arrival, the squad leader found the Refit workers dead, "You fools! We could have used them as hostages."

The braver of the two killers retorted, "Hostages are for the weak."

The squad leader thought about killing his subordinate but he thought better of it. He might actually need the fool. Mmm...what kind of diversionary tactic can I use him in?

Macen came around the corner and T'Kir reached around but the Klingons were ready for them this time. McMasters herded his employees back further into the maze. He ran back as Macen ducked back around the corner and let T'Kir group her shots for a minute.

"Your receptionists are dead." Macen warned McMasters.

"That's it. Kill these frinxers." McMasters angrily demanded.

Macen gave him a dry response, "We've been doing that. Speaking of which, give me your phaser."

McMasters handed it over all the while wondering why Macen wanted it. Fiddling with the Starfleet surplus "dust buster" phaser, he sidled up next to T'Kir. She observed his actions and frowned.

"Oh hell. You're going to overload it." She accused.

"Yup." He acknowledged the truth behind her words.

"Damn it, Brin. You know I hate that." She protested.

"Can't be helped." Macen said nonchalantly.

The phaser began to whine as its prefire chamber began to overload. The whine intensified and Macen began counting down. T'Kir was occupying the Klingons this whole time. She was in obvious distress over the increasing noise and finally she turned to face him.

"Well? Throw the frinxing thing already!" she yelled.

"Cover me." He yelled back.

As she swept the target area with a lancing phaser beam, Macen threw the distressed phaser. He and T'Kir ran back deeper into the buildings alcoves. The phaser exploded with a cacophony that matched the initial explosion.

"Are you two all right?" McMasters inquired.

"I'm fine." T'Kir said testily. Looking at Macen she coldly announced, "I hate you."

"Someday you'll laugh about it." Macen countered.

"Yeah right." T'Kir huffed.

Macen's comm badge chirped and he frowned; "Now they call?"

Tapping the offending badge he said, "Macen here."

"We've got five minutes before that window closes. Are you sure you don't want to be transported back?" Telrik said.

McMasters darted off, carving a hole through his bewildered and frightened employees. Macen told Telrik to wait for a moment. McMasters returned with his large duffel and Macen smiled.

"Three to beam up." Macen instructed.

The fateful trio rematerialized in the Obsidian's transporter room. Macen slapped his comm badge, "Macen to Riker!"

"Riker here." Came the disembodied voice.

"Tom, break orbit and head for Ferenginar at maximum warp." Macen ordered.

"And why should I do that?" a relaxed and nonchalant Riker asked.

"Because we were attacked by Klingons, you ninny! Their ship has to be in orbit." Macen explained.

"Riker out." The connection was terminated.

"Captain! A Bird of Prey is decloaking off of our aft quarter." Jaycee reported from Tactical.

"Shields up! Rhiann, emergency breakaway. Set course for Ferenginar and proceed at maximum warp." Riker ordered.

The ship shuddered. Jaycee relayed the damage, "Shields at 87% and holding."

"Rhiann..." Riker growled. He was beginning to miss Grace's deft hand at the CONN.

The stars began to streak and Rhiann happily announced, "We're away and we're climbing to maximum warp."

"Parva to Riker." Came over the speakers.

"Riker here." He said.

"Why are you pushing my engines?" she angrily wanted to know.

Riker looked to Shannon Forger for help. She merely smirked and threw up her hands. Riker groaned and began to explain the situation, what he knew of it, to Parva.

T'Kir toggled the intercom. She'd asked for Kalista and the Deltan was quite happy to report to the transporter room. She breezed in with a bright smile.

"Hi, you must be Eric." She took his bag from him and appraised him at the same time. McMasters was a good six inches shorter than Macen. He had a weathered face with lots of character lines. His sharp blue eyes were lively and very engaging. His hair had been a dark brown but now was mostly gray. He was trim, compact, and moved like a cat. Kalista found him entirely yummy.

"If you'd follow me, I'll take you to your quarters." She walked abreast of him so she could engage him in conversation.

As the doors closed behind them, T'Kir and Telrik each unzipped their shirts. T'Kir wiped her brow, "Man, is she pourin' out the pheromones or what?"

"Deltans excrete more pheromones when they're aroused. Eric doesn't have a clue for what he's in for." Macen chuckled.

"It ain't fair that y'r immune." T'Kir pouted.

"Your charms are more than enough to do the trick for me." Macen lifted her chin.

A creamy jade flush came to her cheeks, "Y'r just sayin' that."

He drew her in for a decidedly aroused kiss. Telrik tried staring at the ceiling for a while. Finally, he cleared his throat. They both blushed at that point and departed the transporter room.

Telrik squirmed from his own pheromonal arousal. All of the females on the ship were decidedly squishy. He'd have to content himself to a third supper and call it good.

 


Proceed to Part II

 

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