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Christmas Lights 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

The scene aboard the SS Eclipse was a festive one. Streamers and garland filled the corridors. Festive lights, exhibiting colors in and beyond the human spectrum, were festooned in the common areas such as the Team Room, Rec Room, and even the gyms and even the briefing rooms. Stenciled art had begun to appear tracing the outlines of cabin doors. The decorating within those spaces was private and shared only with friends.

Macen saw the joy in the eyes of his crew and once again he thanked Deity that T'Kir had been driven to resurrect Christmas within her own circle twelve years ago. He was even more thankful that Ro Laren had bought into the holiday. Their Maquis cell had desperately needed the light of the Christmas spirit to remind them that there was more to life than killing and dying.

Since then their celebrations had been interrupted by the Jem'Hadar slaughters of the Maquis, the Dominion War, and T'Kir's being institutionalized. That Maquis family had been scattered across the galaxy. Most were dead. A few were fugitives, still living a life of bravado. Having lived with the gun, they could no longer set it down for any reason.

Macen had moments of dark humor when he wondered if he fell under that last category. He had gone from a respected Starfleet officer to a notorious terrorist/freedom fighter. That career had ended in disgrace as well and now he and his crew were privateers. Licensed by Starfleet to wage antipiracy campaigns and conduct scouting missions the Outbound Ventures group, that Macen had founded, also handled private investigations on Starfleet's behalf.

He found the allusions to his having become a "hired gun" disturbing. He was no mercenary. Mercenaries were paid to fight for anybody. Privateers served a sovereign government generally regulated by that nation's military forcers. Macen was regulated by Starfleet. His orders came from Starfleet. His Letter of Marque was issued by Starfleet and the Federation Security Council. He essentially was Starfleet...just with fewer rules.

Still, Macen mentally winced, it'd be nice not to be remembered as a monster.

Macen's fears, while quite real, hadn't actualized yet. He was thought to an extremist. He was seen as being willing to do anything in the name of his cause.

Alternatively, he was viewed as being too scarred emotionally and psychologically to correctly interpret reality anymore. This was the favored view of Admiral Edward Jellico and his brood. Frankly, the feud between Jellico and himself had begun to bore Macen to tears. It was time for more productive matters.

The reason behind their feud was simple: both were idealists. Jellico saw the universe through his own ideological lens and everything was colored by that paradigm. Although this was common enough, this time it was coupled with the ways and means to literally reshape the physical and intellectual world into his way of thinking. He'd gone far and fast in Starfleet with this attitude because he had the political and personal will to doggedly pursue his agendas without equivocation or apology.

Macen was the same way. The problem was that their paradigms differed so they were in constant conflict. Another distinct difference lay in the fact that Jellico generally quailed at certain application of force to accomplish his means. Macen had no such compunctions.

Macen saw the means just as justifiable as the ends. Both had symbolic and real value behind them. The actions would dictate the shape of the new worldview and that worldview would be a product of its birth pangs. They were inexorably drawn together and could not be separated. It's just where Jellico and Starfleet wanted honesty and light in every dealing, Macen saw a necessity for occlusion and secrets as well. He had more in common with Section 31 then Starfleet Operations.

Macen also recognized what he saw as the necessity of force in revolutionary action. His years on the Border Wars and with the Maquis and taken a severe toll. He now saw active resistance as the most viable ways of accomplishing great political turnovers in history. Yet at the same time, he knew his viewpoint was flawed on so many levels as to be untenable.

As for intellectual revolution, discussion, explanation, dissertation, and debate were the way to achieve his goals. Religiously spreading the mantra would sway people used to sober debate. This "firebrand" approach would first play to the crowd's emotions and then the bulwark of reasoning would be relayed as the new adherents demanded new information and education.

Education was everything. Academic freedom and the absolute freedom of thought were the linchpins to the Federation that had made Macen, Guinan, and hundreds of others decide to migrate to the Federation after the loss of their culture. Sadly, less than a hundred had made it. Within the welcoming embrace of the Federation, they could share their culture, sciences, history, and philosophies. The liberality of Federation society made them the perfect choice for resettlement. The UFP was also big enough to get lost in if you just wanted to blend in and disappear.

Macen had arrived with a mission. He'd spent the first ten years as an immigrant learning about his new government and its people. Afterwards he headed for the organization that was the most energetic in bringing about change: Starfleet. At the Academy his training as a cultural researcher came to the fore and he was given a billet in Starfleet Intelligence upon graduation.

Macen found SI to be ideal for his intentions. He wanted to shape the Federation's perception of the greater galaxy and SI was the best place to do so. He wanted Starfleet to be able to react to the discovery of the Borg with appropriate concern and caution. Once the link between the Borg and the El-Aurians had become general knowledge, they had all been interviewed by SI.

Rather than devote his life to the study of the Borg and of mounting a defense against them, Macen returned to the species that had captured his attention for the better part of fifteen years. He worked the Cardassian desk. The Borg weren't within Macen's technical grasp and his emotional issues clouded his judgment. The Cardassians were just within his reach and he understood them all too well.

The doors to the Rec room opened and the sound of laughter jarred Macen back to his current "Mission": retrieving T'Kir. The Obsidian had docked with Serenity Station twenty minutes ago. It was time to go back to their cabin and pack a few things. They were spending the holiday on the nearby planet of Barrinor. They had a house there and they had rented out a lodge so that their holiday guests could stay in one location. The couple would be staying there as well.

The guest list was a who's who of Starfleet. Admiral Alynna Nechayev had managed to steal away from her desk. Admiral Amanda Forger was also running away from Starfleet HQ. Coming along were Admirals Edward Noyce and Robert Tavar Johnson. Between them they represented the Heads of Starfleet Intelligence and Security, the Director of the Special Investigations Division, and Starfleet's Diplomatic Liaison. This party would present a tempting target to the unwise.

The crew of the USS Intrepid frequently shuttled Johnson about so he'd extended the invitation, at Macen's request, to the ship's command staff. James McKinley, Jonathan Striker, Robert Caplan, Andreja Sikorsky, Ina Delaney, Elizabeth Liefers, and Alessandro Pedrossi were all coming as well. Macen's team and theirs had forged enduring bonds under fire. It was always pleasant to meet one another without an impending crisis overshadowing the event.

The last three guests were also Starfleet luminaries. Calling by way of Starfleet Special Operations Command came Stan Guthrie, a sore sight for Joachim Dracas' eyes. From Deep Space 9 came Elias Vaughn and Ro Laren. Vaughn had been a friend to Macen for decades and Ro had been his Maquis commander. Ties had been made between Macen and Ro that could never be broken. Vaughn, on the other hand, had nearly sacrificed their friendship on the altar of duty. Macen respected Vaughn's near decision but kept a weather eye on his friend now.

Such had been the price of the Maquis Rebellion and the DMZ Treaty that spawned it. The single most divisive act in Federation history had been done on the name of "Peace." Colonists and colonies had been ceded over the Cardassian Union. Maps had been redrawn and settlers that had defended their homes against the Cardies for decades now found themselves inside of Cardassian space. And the Cardassians wanted them gone.

Despite the DMZ's ostensible purpose, the settlers began arming themselves to fight when and where the governments refused to do so. The final straw for the settlers came when the Federation sided with the Cardassians against their own citizens. Branded outlaws by both governments, the Maquis rose to fight for their independence from all parties.

The "official" problem with the Maquis from the Federation's point of view was that they employed terrorist tactics. These negated their legitimate complaints and made them outlaws in the UFP's book. The fact that such revered heroes as the American Revolutionaries and the French Resistance had also employed terrorist tactics upon occasion was overlooked.

Macen sighed as he stepped into the Rec room. Those issues were long dead in everything but discussion and debate. The fortunate thing of the Maquis rebellion was that it had introduced him to his wife, T'Kir. He saw her across the room enjoying a round of egg nog with Celeste Rockford and Hannah Grace. He felt the feather touch of her telepathic query as her eyes met his across the way and his heart skipped a beat. Even after thirteen years, she still had that effect upon him.

I'd better, she thoughtcast into his mind.

Macen grinned, You know you do. Are you almost ready to leave?

`Course. I w's just waitin' on ya. She replied.

T'Kir had come a long way in thirteen years. When he'd met her, her mind was fractured. Her previously uncharted psionic abilities had been pushed to their maximum by the associated trauma of discovering she was the last survivor of her native colony thanks to the Cardassians. Added to this she was a Vulcan trained in the Sybokian way. Her emotions were rampant and her mind was ablaze.

Having nearly unlimited telepathic abilities, she absorbed everyone's thoughts on a planetary scale and hadn't known how to shut them out. Macen had become her mentor, her protector, and her friend. After she had been hospitalized after a particularly violent episode, he'd devoted every spare moment outside of his duties during the Dominion War to seeking a cure for her. His researches with the Vulcan Science Academy had paid off and she was given deliverance from her own abilities.

In the interim though, she'd learned to kill with just a thought and had grown addicted to the rush of power. Now every effort was kept to keep her powers below the required levels that were needed to indulge her dark whims. Macen worked with her on bolstering her impulse control and everyone was safer with her abilities pared down.

Macen moved to his wife's side and drew her in for a kiss. She smiled as he noticed that her tongue and lips were still sweet from her drink. Not as sweet as her... he ruminated as she cleared her throat.

Her olive complexion was slightly more jade as she blushed but her sapphire eyes twinkled at the thought. "Aren't you a sore sight?" she asked with a throaty laugh.

"Am I interrupting?" he asked with mock innocence.

"Of course you are." Grace chuckled, "But we forgive you on T'Kir's behalf."

"Why thank you, Hannah. You're far too kind." Macen remarked.

The four of them made an interesting sight. T'Kir was obviously Vulcan, but the other three appeared human yet none of them were. El-Aurians had long passed for human. Rockford was an Angosian and Grace was a Kelvan. Rockford's purple scar on her right temple attested to her non-Terran modifications as an Augment. Grace's alien origins were betrayed by the fact that she was a natural blonde with brown eyes, a combination not naturally found on Earth.

"If you'll excuse us, I have to steal T'Kir and prepare for our trip to Barrinor." He declared.

"They know, silly." T'Kir lightly replied, "They're comin' with, remember?"

"No, I don't. When was that decided?" Macen asked, slightly perturbed.

T'Kir's eyes impishly danced, "I musta forgot ta tell ya. They're ridin' with in the Idiot's Delight to Barrinor."

"Would they be staying in our rooms at the Barrinor Arms?" Macen dryly asked.

T'Kir's eyes lit up, "No. They'll be stayin' in their assigned rooms."

"Except I'll be joined by Ian." Grace delightedly announced. She and Ian Delaney had been actively involved for over a year now. Their schedules rarely allowed for face to face meetings but when they did meet, it was as if they'd never parted ways. Three days together with no interruptions or hindrances was sheer joy.

T'Kir had known that her friend would prefer things that way so that had been the way she booked the rooms. Dracas and Guthrie would be sharing a room as would Tom Riker and Lisea Danan. Rab Daggit and his wife Parva would also have a room together. She'd almost paired off Caplan and Liefers as well but she wasn't certain where those two stood. No one was. Not even them. The same was true for Radil Jenrya and Kort. Separate rooms just seemed to make sense for those situations.

"Then I suggest we disembark as fast as possible." Macen said, "Traffic Control has us cleared for departure and a run to Barrinor in two hours. The next window will be several hours away."

T'Kir snapped off a sloppy salute, "Yes suh!"

We'll be ready." Rockford assured him.

Macen didn't doubt her. He never had. He never would. Trust had been another matter.

When Macen and T'Kir had first met Rockford she went under her birth name of Annika Ryst. She'd been a mercenary in the employ of the Orion Syndicate. Under the Syndicate's orders she'd tried to kill them on repeated occasions. Finally she abandoned the Syndicate and started over using her long time alias of Celeste Rockford, Private Investigator.

Macen had bumped into Rockford and come up with idea of hiring her. He wanted a professional investigator on his staff so he purchased her agency as a subsidiary of Outbound Ventures and put her on personal retainer. She now served as an integral part of his SID investigative team.

Rockford had overcome many obstacles and even won friends amongst her peers. Macen and T'Kir first and foremost among them. The earlier conflicts weren't forgotten but they were forgiven and that made all of the difference with Rockford. She'd never willingly turn on them or betray them again.

The quartet exited the rec room, gathered their things, and joined the queue to exit the ship.


Chapter Two

Macen and T'Kir picked up travel bags and other items from their quarters. Included were brightly packaged gifts. They made their departure time. The rest of the group would be travelling down via corporate runabout.

It was snowing in Barrinor's capitol city. People tended to forget, especially with Barrinor's recent admission to the Federation, that it had been a frontier planet for a century. Over that course of time, it had become a banking center for Ferengi, Breen, Cardassians, Bajorans, and other racial groups. Now it maintained those same banks with little or no change in business policies.

As the guest lodgings of powerful and influential people, the hotels and lodging houses of Barrinor specialized in airtight security for their guests. The Barrinor Arms was amongst the finest and most exclusive member of this elite class of establishment. Considering the welfare of the Admiralty attending the soiree it seemed prudent to acquire the services of the best. Starfleet Security would supplement their workings, effectively becoming employees of the hotel's security branch.

Macen and company arrived at the Barrinor Arms before anyone else had checked in. The couple took the Presidential suite. Grace was assigned to lavish quarters as well. Rockford's needs were sparse so she received a pedestrian room in comparison, as she herself had requested. They unpacked and then went to the expansive main hall to place their presents under the tree. The Lodge had kindly revived the custom upon request. It wasn't an unusual demand since many of Barrinor's citizens still honored religious holidays.

Joint celebrations had become commonplace. The ire and friction between religious groups long since evaporated. In an increasingly secular culture, any positive attention to one's cause was a good thing. A cooperative spirit went further in gaining adherents than a combative one.

T'Kir had insisted upon using her own decorations for the tree. She and Grace began putting them on the tree while Rockford mulled a mug of hot cider. She and Macen sat off to the side while he awaited the guests. Their conversation was light, only addressing work where it involved her agency and her employees. They discussed the cases the agency was handling and the foibles of the individual detectives on them.

Macen felt comfortable enough with her to discuss his own shortcomings as team leader and she carefully listened, "Seems to me you have a problem that everyone has: you're mortal. You're going to make mistakes. Trust me; I've made more than my fair share of them over the last fifteen years."

Rockford's tone was glum. Her decisions had also affected lives. They'd undoubtedly cost lives. That was hard to live with, as Macen knew, and it took a lot to move on. At least she was still trying to.

"Let's agree to keep living day by day and call it good." Macen suggested.

"You? The grand schemer? Live on a daily basis? Heavens forefend!" Rockford teased.

Macen grinned. She'd come to know him awfully well in a short time. Macen had lived for over four hundred years already. He saw things in terms of decades not months or years. He had plans...quite a few of them. The SID was merely the stepping stone for his ultimate ambitions and his teammates were beginning to realize that.

His plans were epic in scale and would require a span of time greater than his extended lifespan. He saw nothing less than the spread of the Federation throughout the Milky Way and out into the galaxies beyond. His role was to keep the UFP and Starfleet safe from themselves and from threats beyond. The second part of his mission was to train others to follow in his footsteps. These goals would take generations to accomplish so Macen would be able to firmly establish each step before moving on to the next.

Vaughn, Ro, and Guthrie arrived together. Guthrie had been temporarily stationed on DS9 in the weeks leading up to the holiday. The Cardassian's transition of power from the Democrats to the Unionists had wreaked havoc in the region and Gul Maret only had more carnage in mind.

Guthrie was disappointed that Dracas hadn't arrived yet but took solace in the fact that his early arrival would allow him to surprise Joachim even more. The new arrivals gathered refreshments and joined Macen. Vaughn and Rockford fell into an easy rhythm as was suiting since they had been lovers on one prior occasion. They'd mutually broken it off and were now content to be friends.

Ro was pleased to see her old friend again, "If I'd known T'Kir's hair brained idea was going to keep growing, I would have encouraged her even more."

Macen shook his head, "Too much encouragement and she would have insisted upon celebrating any and every holiday that she heard about."

Ro smiled, "True. But I sometimes wonder of that would've been a bad thing."

"Laren, there are a lot of holidays out there." Macen warned.

Ro chuckled in realization, "You're right. She would've gone nuts with the idea."

"Hey!" T'Kir protested from across the room, "I heard that!"

"Good!" Ro called back.

"Aren't you going to defend me?" T'Kir demanded.

"Nope. I agree with her." Macen replied.

"You're gonna get yours, pal." T'Kir growled.

"Remember the holiday and think happy thoughts." Macen advised.

She stuck out her tongue at him and returned to work on the tree. He looked to Ro, "See? It's all settled."

"For now." She opined.

"Yeah. That's true. This'll revisit me tonight." He admitted.

"And if you end up needing a place to stay for the night?" she asked.

"I have a house on the other side of town. I'll be fine." He assured her.

"If you're sure then I'm sure." Ro replied.

"It'll be fine." Macen promised.

Daggit and Parva arrived next. They were followed by Riker and Danan, Dracas, Radil and Kort. Tom Riker's being here was a treat since he was also Captain of the SS Indomitable and had barely arranged for his crew to be free from any obligations during the holiday. Danan was especially appreciative. It would be nice for them to spend uninterrupted time together again.

Three hours later, after dinner had already been served, the rest of the guests arrived. Macen greeted the four admirals while the rest of the team mingled with the Intrepid crew. Macen approached Forger first, "`Lo Amanda. I can't tell you how glad I am that you could make it."

Forger's face lit up, "I can't stay cooped up in my office all the time. This is wonderful."

"Yah, I know." T'Kir came up beside Macen and rested a hand and a head on his shoulder.

"I should've known. It has your touch, T'Kir." Forger smiled.

"I know." T'Kir grinned, "A touch of brilliance."

"Or lunacy." Nechayev countered playfully.

"Hey!" T'Kir sulked and Nechayev laughed, "I'm only teasing and you know it, you psiwitch."

"Doesn't hurt to make a play f'r sympathy though." T'Kir confided conspiratorially.

"Brin!" Johnson called out as he approached Macen and caught him in an embrace, "I can't tell you what this means."

Extricating himself from Johnson's embrace, Macen wryly grinned; "Life's been that bad, huh?"

Johnson's matching expression was a rueful one, "You have no idea. Have you ever tried to negotiate the Sylzene Migration rights through Romulan territory?"

"I can't say that I would want to." Macen shook his head in sympathy, "Have the Sylzene ever thought about colonizing a world for good?"

Johnson's expression became wry, "It'll never happen. They don't want to and they've evolved this way so they're happy. At least now they're cognizant enough of interstellar politics to ask for permission to sail across someone's territory."

"That's an improvement, I suppose." Macen agreed.

"Quite an improvement." Johnson chuckled, "Remember the Klingons? They thought they were being invaded. They amassed an armada to stop a species that is essentially comprised of sentient puff balls."

"Psychokinetic puff balls." Macen reminded him, "They manipulate matter with their minds. An enviable talent."

"Enough shop talk, Bob." Jim McKinley wormed his way into the conversation and extended his hand, "God, it's good to be here."

Macen shook his hand and smiled, "I thought this would be a pleasant diversion from everyone's latest trials."

T'Kir elbowed him in the ribs, "He means we thought it would be a good diversion."

McKinley took T'Kir's hand and kissed it, "And a welcome diversion it is."

T'Kir beamed, "Now that's how it's done."

"Let me see about getting everyone a late supper while you all find your rooms and settle in." Macen advised.

"Some of us may be skipping a meal or two." Johnson grinned and nodded past Macen's shoulder. Delaney and Grace stood by the tree passionately kissing. Macen grinned, "I'll see about room service."


Chapter Three

The main hall filled with bodies. Chairs and tables abounded so there was no danger of being stuck standing. Clusters had formed as friends reunited. Sikorsky, Danan, and Riker formed a huddle. Dracas, Guthrie, Caplan, Daggit, Parva, Radil, and Kort formed another cloister. Grace, Delaney, Liefers, and Pedrossi formed yet another group.

The admirals formed their own informal talk shop. Although they worked closely together in the Council of Five, they rarely saw each other in social circles. This was a good time of them all to truly learn more about each other and relax and have fun.

Macen, T'Kir, Ro, Vaughn, McKinley, Rockford, and Striker occupied another corner of the room. Rockford detached herself to pursue another drink and Striker followed her. The corners of her mouth lifted into a smirk, "What, Commander Striker, are you following me?"

", yes." Striker wasn't as poised as usual since he'd been caught off guard by her question.

"What do you want, Commander?" she playfully asked.

"You haven't said much. I thought I'd try getting to know about you while I had the chance." Striker confessed, "And call me Jonathan."

"Well Jonathan, I'm lying low. I'm a wanted fugitive here on Barrinor. If the local constabulary catches me here I go back to Arcadia Prison to be held without trial like I was before I escaped." She revealed.

"What?" he was blatantly confused.

Rockford's smirk intensified, "Let me tell you about someone I know named Annika Ryst."

Macen and T'Kir, like Rockford, usually wore sidearms in a holster. The entire team did. However, for this occasion, only the aforementioned three carried weapons. They were discreetly tucked into the small of their backs. They closely resembled ancient Walther PPKs. The Walther Firearms Company was still in existence, offering a full complement of sidearms for Starfleet and other security agencies.

Macen preferred these weapons as a back up since the PPK was the favored weapon of a fictional spy that Macen adored. The character's popularity was such that literary and holographic efforts were still licensed. Macen had most of them. Walther also still produced exceptionally fine weapons and he'd never been disappointed in their performance.

Ro was relating a story of when her former Maquis cell had attacked a Cardassian outpost in the Badlands. The Cardies had set up a secret base with which to strike into Federation territory and blame it on the Maquis much in the way they had previously blamed the Bajoran Resistance for over the border strikes. The Maquis had dealt swiftly with the base in order to preserve the fragile peace that the Maquis and Starfleet had enjoyed during the Cardassian-Klingon war.

Vaughn and McKinley each shared their ends of Starfleet's operations to contain the Cardassian Union. The Cardies' aggressive posturing had ignited several incidents across the border. The Intrepid had ferried Johnson to Cardassia to avert any more incidents. The starship had then run a border patrol route while waiting for Johnson to be ready to return. This transpired while Vaughn had cooperated with Guthrie in getting his SOC team in and out of Cardassian space. The SOC had been tasked with neutralizing Cardassia's surveillance posts along the border as well as an intelligence nerve center. Although official hostilities had not broken out the spirit of the Border Wars was alive and well again.

Macen wouldn't be serving in the front lines of that conflict. The SID might get called in on specific missions but for the most part they would continue with what they knew best and leave the strategic and tactical maneuvers to the Starfleet Operations and Starfleet Intelligence. The SID would handle the subtle threats to the Federation while leaving wars to Starfleet proper.

Macen was both relieved and disappointed to be excluded. He'd devoted twenty years of his life to the "Cardassian question" and staying away from the fight seemed to betray everything he'd worked so hard to achieve. But, he wasn't officially a member of Starfleet anymore. He was a reservist but he had no active commission. He was a contracted employee of the SID and served at their behest. He'd go where they sent him and Forger had already informed him that he'd be kept away from Cardassia.

Ro, on the other hand, was on the front line stationed aboard DS9. Bajor had been flooded with millions of Cardassian refugees fleeing execution at the hands of the new regime. Those same refugees had in turn been relocated to Federation colonies scattered across the UFP's frontier.

It had been the largest mass migration in Federation history and had taken every spare resource that the government could muster. Supply routes had been disrupted as had defensive posts. Starfleet's greatest fear had been that the Union would strike while the fleet was otherwise busy...but they hadn't. The Cardassian fleet was still half of what it was before the Dominion War and it was cautious in using its resources while the government was still locking down the Union itself.

At this point, T'Kir insisted that they'd discussed work long enough. She wanted to discuss happier times. Johnson arrived at that point and inquired as to how they'd resurrected the Christmas holiday. Ro, Macen, and T'Kir took turns outlining how and why it had happened and described Christmases that had followed.

McKinley told a story of how he and Sikorsky had celebrated Christmas in the Alps. That had been back when Sikorsky and McKinley had been a couple. That fire had died since then but they remained hard and fast friends. Vaughn could relate since the same had happened to he and Rockford.

Macen had also daily brushes with a former lover. Lisea Danan and he had enjoyed a tumultuous affair before his meeting T'Kir. It had been Danan, in fact, that pushed the two together. Danan's relationship with him had stabilized and now they were close confidants.

Macen in turn had encouraged her to continue with her affair with Riker even when she felt anxious and wanted to run away. In the end, she'd persevered and all had worked out. That wasn't to say that there hadn't been some major hurdles to cross. Tenacity and continued hard work made things viable. It was just a matter of trust and of a willingness to cooperate.

T'Kir pinned Johnson down and got him to reveal how his love life was going. McKinley was next. Vaughn begged off the question. Ro reported her ongoing dalliances with Captain Alfonso Reyes, the CO of DS3. Both of their respective areas of responsibility had heated up so there face to face meetings were few and far between but for the first time in her life, Ro had found a man she could confide in and be romantically attracted to. So things were progressing as slowly and as rapidly as they needed to.

Things went on this way until 9:00 pm local time. Then T'Kir gathered everyone's attention. It was time to open their gifts. Playing helper elves, she, Grace, Delaney, Riker, and Macen distributed the gifts. They then opened them, one at a time, in a round robin. Surprise, delight, and hilarity ensued.

Outside, Valen Galt cautiously approached a service entrance. Valen was a Bajoran. An ex-member of the Resistance, he'd since learned to sell his services as an assassin to the highest bidder. Although there was no specific contract on this gathering, everyone one assembled had a price on his head assigned to it by Bertram Sindis. Valen assumed that credit would still be good since it hadn't been announced that the bounties had been withdrawn. Valen was determined to make a veritable fortune in one fell swoop.

Valen had reluctantly approached the problem at first. Macen, T'Kir, Ro Laren, and Lisea Danan were heroes of the Maquis and the Maquis had been the heirs apparent of the Resistance. To make matters worse, Radil Jenrya was a member of the Resistance, the old saying being; Once in, never out.

And it wasn't as though any of them were collaborators. Macen's continued exploits against the Cardassians had become legendary. Their only crimes had been crossing Sindis as far as Valen could see. Still, he had to make a living. He'd killed people for less. It's just this time it would bother him. Although...he'd earn enough to retire on and wouldn't have to worry about his conscience ever again.

Valen approached the door. He was festooned with equipment and weaponry. He hadn't studied up on his targets but they had fearsome reputations, even the admirals, and he wanted to be prepared. Another shortsighted move was underestimating his private and Starfleet Security opponents in this game.

He reached the door and withdrew an electronic picklock. He activated it and waved it over the door's locking mechanism. An internal alarm sounded. The security center activated an electrical field that caused Valen to scream as his picklock shorted out and his hair rose on end. Hearing sirens from approaching constabulary vehicles, he scampered away.

Two house security agents entered the main hall looking for Macen but it was Rockford that intercepted them, "Can I help you gentlemen?"

"Are you a member of Captain Macen's crew?" the Agent In Charge asked.

"Yes, I am." She confirmed it.

"Follow us, ma'am." They insisted.

Rockford was led to a room that was one part surveillance center and one part arsenal. There she was shown the footage of Valen's attempted break-in. She watched it with some amusement.

"Doesn't appear to be much of a threat, does he?" she opined.

"Do you recognize him, ma'am?" the AIC asked.

"No." Rockford chuckled, "I think I'd recognize that level of incompetence."

"Do you think he'll return?" the AIC inquired.

"Agent, the combined value of the bounties on the heads of your gathered guests is somewhere in the neighborhood of two million bars of latinum. I would not only expect him to try again but I'd expect others to join in." Rockford informed him.

"Like whom?" the AIC wondered.

Rockford shrugged, "Anyone the Orion Syndicate or the Meirkus Conglomeration can talk into it. Then there's the Cardassians, of course."

"I'll have to discuss this with the management. There may be an adjustment in the room rates." He warned.

"I'll warn the Captain but I'm sure there will be no problem on his end. He's very understanding." Rockford replied.

The management did indeed call a meeting with Macen and adjust the rates. Macen was fine with it. If the security center was being kept on its toes it was only fair that they be compensated for it.

The most important aspect of the exchange was the waiver Macen signed. Any damages resulting from their would-be intruder would be paid by him alone. Macen couldn't be held responsible for another's actions.

Upon returning to the main hall, he found most of the gathered revelers heading for bed. T'Kir gave him a knowing smile regarding Valen's activities. He'd kept their telepathic rapport open so she'd known what he was doing while he was away. She handed him a cup of coffee, prepared just the way he liked it, and then the couple settled down with Forger and Nechayev. They were all night owls so they stayed up for several more hours.


Chapter Four

Breakfast awaited them the next morning. Following breakfast, they took a bus to a nearby snow park. There, there was sledding and snowball fights to be had. Vendors also provided cider, cocoa, and coffee.

They stayed there for four hours and then returned for a late lunch. Valen saw the bus come and go with some consternation. All of his plans called for an attack on a static location. Mobile targets would have eluded him and he knew it.

When the bus returned he began to solidify his new plan. While the guests ate lunch, he scurried over to an external ladder that led to the roof. He took hold of the ladder and began to climb.

Inside the security center, a runner was dispatched for Rockford. Meanwhile, they allowed Valen to nearly reach the roof before they altered the density of the ladder. Composed of smart metal, it could be rigid or as pliable as rope. Being near the top of the fourth floor, Valen had quite a fall onto concrete as the ladder morphed.

He groaned as he collected himself off of the ground. Checking for broken bones, the Bajoran slowly rose. He was still hunched when he heard the sirens. He slowly shambled away out of sight. The ladder returned to its normal configuration and density.

Rockford watched the event on the monitors and enjoyed quite a laugh. She thanked the proprietors for the show and returned to lunch. After the meal Macen, T'Kir, and Rockford conferred over what had happened. Macen asked Rockford to keep quite on the strange events in order not to alarm anyone.

"I don't think they'd be alarmed, boss." Rockford snickered, "I think they'd laugh until they peed."

"Y'got to admit that he appears t'be persistent." T'Kir remarked.

"And persistence often pays off." Macen warned, "Let's just keep it quiet. The security forces seem to have it under control. Let them handle it."

Just before dinner, Valen pulled out a photon missile launcher and set himself up on the rooftop across the way. He activated the targeting system and alarms resounded throughout the lodge. Macen was brought to the security center as they raised the building's shields. The missile slammed into the shields and severely weakened them but they held.

Starfleet Security scrambled to find Valen. The local police backed them up. They found his portable missile launcher but he was nowhere to be found. The launcher did yield skin samples and fingerprints though. They pinned down his identity inside of ten minutes.

Macen explained to the group what had been going on. Most rolled their eyes. A few chuckled at Rockford's tales of the assassin's antics. Only Daggit and Parva looked alarmed.

It had been a while since Parva and Daggit had been in the front lines. Daggit's concern wasn't for himself but rather for his wife. Parva had been brutally injured during an SID mission and the consequences were permanent. Although Parva herself was insisting on closer ties with the SID team, she still had a few qualms about going back into action. Macen took a moment to privately address their fears.

"In-house security and Starfleet Security are all over this guy. He won't get to us. Even if he does Celeste, T'Kir, and I are armed. I'm willing to bet that Laren is too."

"If he threatens Parva, I'll kill him. Courts or no courts." Daggit vowed.

"Fair enough. I feel the same way about T'Kir so I understand." Macen confided, "Now, everything is fine. Would you like to get the party underway?"

"Please Rab! Can we?" Parva was excited, "Hannah told me that we're about to play party games. I love party games!"

The Parva of old would have loathed party games. The post brain damage Parva had regained a childlike innocence. It was a collective goal of the entire team and extended family to keep that innocence alive and untarnished. If their would be assassin managed to harm her he'd wish that they'd killed him before they handed him to Daggit.

The games were old staples from dozens of worlds including an official deck of Fizzbin cards. The mind numbing instructions made the game a source of countless pratfalls. Laughter echoed throughout the dining hall out into the main hall and the rooms above.

Valen skittered along the ground until he reached the external generators. He mounted the explosives and then ran. The explosion was deafening. The lodge's power grid was disrupted. Lights flickered even as the facility shook.

Emergency lights flared to life as Macen, Rockford, and T'Kir exited the dining hall. They passed by the main hall and the tree lights were out.

"Bastard." T'Kir snarled, "Now he's gonna pay."

They reached the security center. Valen was on the main screen rolling around in the snow trying to extinguish his trousers. The four Starfleet officers approached him. He evaded them with a flash bomb and took off.

"That's it!" T'Kir declared, "This idiot is mine."

"Ours." Macen assured her. He turned to Rockford, "Coming?"

"Uh-hunh. I have a morbid fascination about our unwanted pest." She grinned.

They stopped by the hat and coat racks and suited up. T'Kir put on a wool pea coat, a scarf, fingerless gloves, and a beret. Macen donned a Starfleet surplus Captain's Field Duty Sweater from the 2280's and a pair of gloves. Rockford pulled on a lined trenchcoat and wrapped a scarf around her head. Having lifted a tricorder from the Starfleet equipment cache, they pulled their phasers free and set out.

They reached the Starfleet officers first. The local police and medical response team was treating them. The cops were tracking down Valen's footsteps in the snow. They went into a nearby alcove and the footprints vanished. Sensors revealed nothing.

T'Kir smirked, "It's a duck blind."

"Where?" Macen asked.

"Right there. In front of us." She insisted.

"Ma'am, we're not detecting anything." A local peace officer announced.

Rockford merely raised her phaser and fired. The wall in front of them developed a hole. Behind the hole was a tent. The SID trio fired until the holographic projection was down and the holographic projector itself was trashed. Inside of the tent, Valen clutched a plethora of weapons.

"Don't come any closer. I'll kill everyone. I'll kill you and you and you..."

"Frinx this." T'Kir groaned. Valen stiffened and then he gazed upon the SID agents and shrieked. The locals dragged him out of the tent but every time he looked at an SID agent, he began to scream.

Macen shook his head. He was irritated more by the noise than the trauma itself. Knowing what T'Kir had done, he almost felt sorry for Valen. Almost.

"I'll bite." Rockford proclaimed, "What did you do?"

"Nuthin'" T'Kir wore a naughty grin.

"I've seen evidence of your handiwork before." Rockford reminded her, "So spill."

"Mr. Valen Galt there has a deep rooted fear of arboreal spiders. He spent several months of Bajor's moons where the spiders and the Resistance fighters alternated trying to eat one another. Valen was bitten several times and the Resistance was low on anti-venom and he almost died. He's been afraid of them ever since." T'Kir smirked, "All I did was cause him to see hordes of spiders coming at him anytime he sees a member of our guest list."

"Oh, that's cruel." Rockford laughed.

"Tell me about it." Macen murmured.

T'Kir wrapped her arms around his right arm, "Let's go back to the party. We only have Boxing Day left tomorrow and then our holiday is over."

Macen smiled, "Sounds like a plan."

The festivities continued until the 27th of December and then everyone packed up and went back to their respective duties. Macen and team had an extra day off before Forger sent a mission profile via Christine Pike. It seemed people were smuggling industrial secrets to the Breen. Since the Breen primarily relied upon biotech, it was anyone's guess as to why they wanted Federation manufacturing techniques. It was a job for the SID.

Macen gathered his crew and with one last Christmas wish prayed that they would get through their mission safely.


Last modified: 02 Jan 2014