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Pursuit 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

Ian Delaney crept through the back warrens of Molnar V. The information he'd obtained had to be delivered to James McKinley aboard the USS Intrepid immediately. The moment the "Club" had been waiting for had arrived: Bertram Sindis would be entering the Federation in two weeks. Starfleet would finally be able to arrest him.

That is, Delaney griped to himself, if I can get away from these stupid transport and communication inhibitors so I can report in.

Brin Macen, El-Aurian; founder of Outbound Ventures, Inc; and CO of the SS Obsidian was ready for his next madcap adventure, "I'm telling you Amanda, much more quiet and I'm going to go mental."

Admiral Amanda Forger, Director of Starfleet's Special Investigations Division, smiled; "You're already there. The both of you."

T'Kir sighed, "Why does everyone gotta bring up the fact that I was locked up in an asylum?"

Macen looked at his Vulcan wife, "Actually, you brought that particular fact up."

T'Kir stuck out her tongue, "Nyuh!"

"All right children," Forger smiled, "If we're done?"

The "children" remark bit deep. T'Kir was over seventy years old and Macen had seen over four hundred years pass by. However, they retained their youthful playfulness.

Adding to the blend were T'Kir's emotions. Her parents had been colonists on Shial. It had been settled by students of Sybok's tenets, who held that emotional expression unlocked the secrets of the universe, and Romulan defectors. That, added to her mental instabilities, provided a volatile mix to any situation.

Forger wished that she had an available assignment for Macen and his crew. They were amongst the best of her irregular forces. The SID had begun as a regular Starfleet forces outfit. That had changed over time as privateers had been included into the mix.

That change had been largely a result of Macen being cashiered and being granted a Letter of Marque. By employing privateers, the SID could retain his services. The final transformation had been the most drastic. Now all SID field operatives were civilians.

Privateers, private investigators, and independent security agencies were now the Division's front-line forces. Starfleet still handled the logistics, intelligence analysis, mobilization, and communications of the SID's irregular forces but Forger could foresee a day when that would no longer be the case. As it were, Outbound Ventures supplied nearly a third of the SID's personnel and ships.

Considering future days, once she had her experimental back surgery, she might be able to walk again. The therapy would be rough, requiring her to learn to walk all over again, but she was rapturous over the thought of reclaiming what had been stolen from her.

The trick to the operation was a spinal by-pass. The nerves above the injury would be connected to the nerves below the injury by a biochemical shunt. It was a radical approach that required inhuman precision. This is why Tessa, the Obsidian's EMH, had been called in to work with Voyager's Doctor. Together they would either restore Forger's ability to walk or they would permanently cripple her.

Forger was about to speak when the office intercom chimed. Forger called up the image of her aide. Lt. Commander Ambril Delori's features appeared. The Bajoran woman's excitement was far beyond anything Forger had seen from her before.

"Ambril, what is it?" Forger grew concerned.

"We're receiving a comm signal you need to see." Ambril informed her, "Captain Macen and T'Kir need to see it as well."

Ambril routinely screened her calls and was informed of which topics were of interest to her. Forger nodded, "I'll take it in here."

Forger routed the imagery to the main screen next to her desk. McKinley's face appeared. His features reflected the same mix of excitement and fear that Ambril's had relayed. McKinley was the CO of one of Starfleet's designated trouble-shooters. Crises were his forte so Forger had to ask what had alarmed him.

"It's not exactly alarm, Admiral." McKinley explained, "It's more like anticipation."

"What's up, Jim?" Macen enquired.

"As you probably know, Bob has been sent out to the Molnar system." McKinley referred to Admiral Robert Tavar Johnson, Starfleet's diplomatic specialist; "They're having difficulties with Tarsus again. Rather than see another war between the two worlds, the President ordered Starfleet to mediate. As always, Bob got selected to handle the situation. The Intrepid's here to prevent the Molnarian fleet from starting a shooting war with the Tarsusian picket forces."

"I'm aware of the situation, Captain." Forger replied, "What do you have that affects my division?"

"Bertram Sindis is going to be at Deep Space 3 in twelve days." McKinley reported, "After two years of waiting, we have a chance to nab him in our own sovereign territory."

"Are you certain of your information?" Macen inquired.

"Ian Delaney gathered the intel himself on Molnar V. The Molnarians have us mediating but they're importing weapons from the Meirkus Conglomeration and having them run through the blockades by the Orion Syndicate." McKinley explained.

"Which means Sindis is doublin' his profits." T'Kir opined. Sindis was the head of both the criminal Orion Syndicate and the industrial Conglomeration. The two entities had begun cooperating on joint ventures since Sindis' ascension to the dual thrones.

"We can't get there in time to do anything about it but you can." McKinley pointed out.

"That was the whole point of the Club." Macen mused. He turned to Forger and she saw a familiar darkness in his eyes. She knew casualties were imminent and a lot of property damage would follow. Macen finally had his shot at Sindis and he wouldn't let anything or anyone stand in his way. She decided she wouldn't try.

McKinley signed off and Forger asked, "Should I contact Captain Reyes and alert him?"

"No." Macen firmly killed that notion, "Sindis would be tipped off."

"What do you need?" Forger wondered.

"I need Elias Vaughn and Ro Laren to disappear for a while." Macen revealed, "Let's say for a month? Longer if we don't get him on our first try."

"Anyone else?" Forger enquired.

"I have a few ideas but I can handle them from my end." Macen hedged.

"Fine." Forger didn't hide her relief, "I'll cut Vaughn and Ro's orders and then you can escort me to the transporter pad and then to your ship."

Macen smiled and T'Kir grinned, "It'd be a pleasure. And just forget all the nasty things I've said about ya. I almost take 'em back."

Forger knew T'Kir was being her own twisted way. She barely understood why Macen put up with T'Kir. Back when the two of them had been in the Maquis, he'd been her only friend. She'd been completely mental then.

Of course, Macen wasn't exactly the most stable soul in the galaxy. Traumatized by the assimilation of his homeworld by the Borg, Macen had developed a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This condition was further exacerbated by his time spent in the Border Wars, with the Maquis, and serving in the Dominion War's front lines. And, it wasn't like his missions for the SID were cakewalks either.

In a society that valued life above all else, Macen had become something of a monster. His response to a threat was greater violence. His days as a "terrorist" had taught him that the most committed wins. Macen's natural stubbornness and idealistic zeal lent itself to carrying out any and all acts that he deemed necessary.

Coupled with these attributes was his concrete belief that it was his solemn duty to unite the galaxy by means of a paramilitary force of warrior-philosophers. The El-Aurian Seekers of Truth were the role model for this enterprise. As far as anyone could determine, Macen was the last of their number. He was determined to see the Order revive itself.

Macen knew that the rebuilding of the Seekers would take generations. With his extended lifespan, he could expect another three to six hundred years to complete the task. After receiving a near fatal dose of theta radiation poisoning, his unnaturally prolonged life was set back to its natural span. However, that still meant that he could live three hundred years longer than his wife.

Since El-Aurian "souls" transmuted into beings of pure energy after the physical form dies, Macen and T'Kir had hatched a desperate plan to remain together even after death. She would emplace her katra within him prior to her death and then their link would allow her to move on with Macen. Something similar had happened before when they died on a previous occasion so it was a viable approach.

Macen "walked" Forger to the ship's Sickbay. "Walk" was a euphemism since Forger travelled via hoverchair these days. Hopefully that was all about to change.

Inside they found Tessa chatting with the Doctor. Tessa was frowning, "You need to get a name. Everyone is going to mistake you for a Time Lord."

"You keep saying that." The Doctor complained, "What are you referring to?"

"Hang around after the surgery and I'll download the info to your program." Tessa grinned.

The Doctor noticed Forger, "Ah! Here we go! Are you ready?"

"As ready as I can get." Forger said.

"Good." He replied, "If everyone else will leave, we'll get underway."

Macen glanced over to T'Kir. She shrugged. Not finding this to be of any help, Macen ushered her out of the area and they went to the bridge. It was time to recall the crew.

Celeste Rockford, Joachim Dracas, and Radil Jenrya strolled along the Great Wall of China. They'd just left Egypt after a weeklong stay there. The Aztec, Incan, and Mayan temples were next on the list. They were going to end their exploration with a tour of the Roman artifacts left behind across Africa, Asia, and Europe.

"I hate to admit it," Radil said, "but this is impressive. It rivals Bajor, or at least, what's left of Bajor after the Cardies got done with it."

"And I hate to bring it up, but it's been fifteen years since the Cardassians left your planet." Rockford reminded her, "You've got to let go of it someday."

"Let's swing by a little country called Israel and we can explore the meaning of the words, ‘Never again!'" Radil countered.

"Ladies," a weary Dracas interrupted, "Enjoy the view and take in the wonder...or I'll kill both of you."

Rockford doubted that he could since she was really an Angosian Augment in disguise. Then again, Dracas might give her a run for her money. He may have been cloned from an Ardannian Troglyte but he'd been raised on Magna Roma. He was a soldier born and bred.

Radil had many of the same thoughts. Born to and raised by a Bajoran Resistance cell, Radil had later left Bajor to work as a mercenary to raise funds for her cell. That had all ended when she met Macen's SID team and unexpectedly joined up.

"Wanna gang up on him?" Rockford asked.

"Sure." Radil answered and they both pounced on him. The tickle fight lasted several minutes and tourists from the quadrant over took holopics of the scene. Dracas finally surrendered and the ladies stopped.

"I wish Stan could have been here." Rockford expressed her sympathy for Dracas.

Stan Guthrie was Dracas' boyfriend. He was also a member of Starfleet's Special Operations Command. SOC kept him quite busy. Fortunately for the pair, they each had a high enough clearance to discuss the other's work.

It had been over a year since Radil had lost her love. Abby Collins had been her deputy and then the Security Chief aboard the Indomitable. She'd lost her life in the line of duty and Radil had been broken by it. She'd recovered herself, largely due to the efforts of her friend and former lover, Kort. The Klingon doctor had mended her heart as neatly as he did others' flesh.

Rockford's badge began to chirp. She wore it on a strap around her wrist. She tapped it, "Rockford here."

"Sorry to cancel your travel plans, Celeste, but we've got a mission." Macen's voice informed her.

"Any details?" she asked.

"We're going after Sindis." Was all he said.

Rockford grinned, "We'll be aboard in an hour."

Hannah Grace and Lisea Danan ran through the jungle underbrush as fast as their legs could carry them. Exploring the regions surrounding Ho Chi Minh City, they'd stumbled upon a narcotics ring. They were processing the drugs out in the jungle but remained close enough to the city to be able to easily distribute their wares.

Danan's Trill physiology wasn't handling the heat well. However her experiences with the Maquis were proving invaluable. As was her vast scientific knowledge. She was finding hiding places all over the place.

Grace appeared human but in truth she was an extragalactic Kelvan. Her human form was created to be the ultimate expression of humanity's current form. While Danan was swiftly tiring, Grace was barely registering the afternoon's exertions.

"I think we've lost them for a while." Danan panted.

"About time." Grace opined, "You need the rest."

"I won't argue." Danan replied.

Danan's comm badge began chirping from where it was affixed to her tank top, "What?!"

"Lees?" Macen queried her, "Everything okay?"

"No!" she snapped, "We're running for our lives."

"Telrik has a lock on you." Macen replied, "Prepare for transport."

Once aboard, they hugged one another and called the bridge. They then contacted the Vietnamese police and reported the location of the drug cartel. Afterwards, Telrik beamed them to their hotel where they gathered their things and then returned to the ship. Nothing would prevent them from being in on Sindis' capture.

Gantz reined in his horse. The Australian outback was everything he'd been told. He watched the sun start its westward decline. He appreciated the chance to escape from everything.

His comm badge chirped and he swore, "What?"

"Come back aboard." Macen ordered, "We've got a mission."

An exasperated sigh escaped Gantz's lips, "It'll take me at least eight hours to get back to the corral."

"You have twenty." Macen informed him, "We're leaving in twenty-four. Don't be late."

Macen signed off and Gantz darkly muttered, "I should've retired."


Chapter Two

Amanda Forger was awake. Tessa was testing her reactions to stimuli applied to her feet. The Admiral was hesitant.

Tessa used her needle. Forger's foot flinched with every prick, "Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!"

Tessa grinned, "You not only felt everything but you had a visible reaction. You've been moving your feet and that's fantastic news."

The Admiral turned to her sister, Shannon Forger. Forger was the ship's XO. She'd been anxiously awaiting word on Amanda ever since the procedure started.

"Looks like the easy part's done." Amanda grinned.

"I planned on being there with you but..." Forger faltered.

"Shannon, you're going to be here." Macen told her, "Amanda took time off to be with you during your time in rehab. Now you can do the same for her."

"But Sindis...?" she wondered.

"Will be caught whether you come with us or not." Macen assured her, "I've got a replacement lined up. Don't worry. We'll be fine."

"But...who did you find?" she asked.

"A chap I worked with before. You were his replacement. So it's only fair he pitch in and help during a squeeze." Macen answered.

"Captain Riker?" she realized.

Macen grinned, "The one and only."

Forger relented, "All right...but only because it's him."

Macen smiled and went to Amanda's side, "Once they've got you back in your chair, the Doctor and Shannon will take you to the recuperative centre."

"Thank you." The Admiral said, "For everything."

Macen kissed her on her forehead, "Just get better."

"That's a promise." Amanda replied, "See me when you get back. All of you."

"That's our promise to you." Macen vowed.

With the stragglers collected, the Obsidian set sail for her home base. Serenity Station orbited Odin. Odin was the fifth planet in the system while Barrinor was the third and the most heavily populated. It was the home of Outbound Ventures' corporate wing.

Outbound Ventures was the umbrella organization that had collected a group of privateers. Outbound Ventures had been conceived of by Macen and Alynna Nechayev. Four SID teams came from the corporate entity.

One of the other teams was led by Tom Riker. Riker had been Macen's XO for several years before accepting his own command. He'd assembled a team of specialists and now served the SID on his own.

There was a distinct difference between the teams though. Macen commanded a Nova-class surveyor. Riker commanded an Emden-class escort. The Obsidian carried forty crewmen, which was half of her maximum staffing. The Indomitable had a full complement of twenty.

The major difference lay in the fact that the Indomitable was designed to draw off fire from larger ships and had the wherewithal to withstand the barrage. The Obsidian was a purebred science ship. Her strength did not lie in her weapons package, which was minimal, but in her sensors. She could detect foes before the other vessels or planets could threaten her. Added to these systems were T'Kir's custom designed ECM suites.

Although she wasn't designed for combat, her customized ablative armor supplied by the SPYards, gave her an added resiliency. She'd been through hell a few times before but she always gave her all. The crew adored her and kept her trim.

Enrick Gaston reported to Sindis and asked, "You do realize that this so-called ‘Club' of Macen's will be waiting for you?"

Sindis turned to his Lantillian lieutenant, "Of course they will. If they get to DS3. I have dispatched the Night Coven to Serenity Station. There, they'll kill Macen and his closest followers."

Gaston shuddered. The Night Coven were the fiercest and most bloodthirsty assassins from his race. Like all Lantillians, they were vampires. They worked for the sport of it and the blood of their victims. Their rituals were infamous for their gore. They were so repellent they'd fled Lantillia to avoid execution.

"I actually pity them. The Coven are the only ones amongst my people who feed off of sentients." Gaston admitted, "They keep their victims alive through most of their evisceration rites. It's a slow, agonizing way to go."

A cruel smile blossomed on Sindis' face and his eyes merrily danced, "Isn't it though?"

Gaston suppressed a shudder. He knew his life was forfeit if he ever crossed Sindis. He would fall victim to some horrible "accident" and be found in several pieces. That, or as befell one victim, to be found totally paralyzed, locked within one's own body until you went mad from the weight of it.

"I've alerted the Security staff on DS3 to be ready for us. They will supplement our guards and keep the Command staff from learning of our presence." Gaston changed the subject.

"Excellent foresight, Enrick, as always." Sindis rewarded his lieutenant, "Now on to more serious matters. I have named you as my successor should the worst happen. I'm confident that you won't utilize this as an opportunity to be rid of me. You know what would happen if you failed."

Gaston did. He'd be alive when they turned him into the aforementioned pieces. Gaston knew he'd never try to oust Sindis. Not only because of his great loyalty but also because of his sense of self-preservation.

The Obsidian arrived at Serenity Station to find every commercial berth occupied. Although the station was primarily tasked with being Outbound Ventures' HQ it also served as Odin's commercial hub. Macen and T'Kir owned the company and the station but Claudia Tyrol actually ran the company from Barrinor as the corporation's CEO. Former Starfleet administrator Christine Pike served as Starfleet's liaison with the company.

As the crew disembarked, Macen found Rab Daggit and Parva waiting for him and T'Kir. The towering Angosian and his statuesque Orion wife looked delighted to be on the station. Macen's limited empathic ability confirmed his analysis as he approached. T'Kir's subtle telepathic comment to that effect also helped.

Daggit had once been the team's Special Operations Specialist. Parva had been the Engineering Specialist and the Chief Engineer of the Obsidian. Parva had suffered brain damage in Macen's service and had left the ship to try and recover her former abilities. Daggit had resigned from the team and taken up a teaching position at the Security Alliance Academy to be near his wife.

He'd since abandoned his post as Parva transferred to the station. Macen had other intentions for them rather than them settling into obscurity. Now it was just a matter of convincing them to go along with his plans.

As Macen greeted them, Elias Vaughn and Ro Laren made an appearance. Vaughn was a legend in the Starfleet Special Operations Command and currently served as XO aboard Deep Space 9. He also frequently commanded the Defiant in its surveys of the Gamma Quadrant.

Macen's history with Ro nearly went back fifteen years. Ro had been his cell commander in the Maquis. T'Kir had served as well and it was Ro that had foisted an unstable T'Kir off onto Macen's intelligence unit. After that history was made.

Ro had been reinstated into Starfleet after a brief tenure with the Bajoran Militia. Her post was that of Chief of Security for DS9 and the Bajoran sector. Dealing with various crises and the newly resurgent Cardassian threat, Ro had made an indelible mark upon Starfleet.

T'Kir made the introductions between the two pairs. Macen then invited them all to Quark's. Quark had made such a success of it on DS9 and his reputation had grown so much he was now able to franchise his name. Each Quark's had to meet exacting standards and was inspected by the founder himself. It was the best place on the station to hold an informal meeting.

Small talk and general catching up dominated the conversation until after their food had been consumed. Afterwards, drinks were served. Macen and T'Kir ordered lattes. Spirits destabilized their paranormal abilities and it became an ugly sight when they imbibed.

Macen began the after dinner talks by addressing Daggit and Parva, "So are you two settled in?"

"Yah, but the station administrator doesn't know what to do with us. We basically wonder 'round all day." Parva replied.

"I have a job for you, the both of you." Macen said, "Serve aboard the Obsidian. I need a Chief Engineer and a SpecOps Specialist."

"I thought Joachim was your engineer." Daggit said with an edge to his voice.

"He was." Macen stated, "However, I need a Chief that can stay on the boat while Joachim is with the team. Aboard ship, he would serve under the Chief and therefore wouldn't be critical enough to destabilize everything when he was gone. Gilan has been doing a good job but it's not good enough."

"But I'm a bunny head." Parva protested.

"Look kiddo, we've seen y'r latest aptitude scores. Y'r a frinxin' mechanical genius." T'Kir retorted, "There's nuthin' 'board that ship y'couldn't repair."

"Really?" Parva innocently replied.

"Trust me, y'might be more qualified than Joachim." T'Kir said slyly, "Just don't tell 'im I said so."

"That's nice but I made a promise to Parva that I wouldn't go into harm's way anymore." Daggit reminded the crowd, "I'm not going back on that."

"Don't be silly." Parva giggled, "I just didn't want you on the ship when I was stuck at home. Now we could be together like just we used to be. I want to do this. I really do."

"But I..." Daggit started to say.

Parva interrupted, "Don't you dare protest. I know how much you miss the excitement. The programmed part of you still craves action. It's what the conditioning was designed for and that's never gone away."

"We're going after Sindis." Macen suddenly declared.

Daggit's eyes narrowed. The last time they'd gone after Sindis it turned into a massive clusterfrinx. He'd beaten Macen within an inch of his life and Daggit still felt responsible for that since he himself was being beaten by Annika Ryst at the time. However, Ryst was now a member of the team under the name of Celeste Rockford. Between them Sindis wouldn't stand a chance.

"I'm in." Daggit declared, "But the moment Parva wants to leave we're gone."

"Fair enough." Macen agreed, "Have my assistant, Bryce Fanning page Radil and you can get equipped to be members of the crew again."

"Fair enough." Daggit finished his drink and set it down, "Are you ready?

Parva downed her last swallow of root beer and grinned, "Sure am."

"Before you go, we'll be having a team briefing in the station's conference room tomorrow at 1000 hours." Macen informed them, "The rest of the team knows about the meeting but not the reason why. You'll both make some people really happy by coming back."

"We'll see." Daggit enigmatically replied and then he and Parva left.

Macen turned to Vaughn and Ro, "Now for you two. I think we should move to my office for this."

"All right." Vaughn said, "After you."

Having settled down in Macen and T'Kir's offices, they got down to the business at hand: Sindis. Ro began the conversation, "My sources tell me that Captain Reyes' command staff has been compromised. One or more of his executive officers have been bought by Sindis. This really put a crimp in my plan to call Alfonso and tell him I'm coming."

"Y'll have 'nough time f'r y'r love life after we bag the big man." T'Kir consoled her.

"But what if he's involved with Sindis?" Ro asked.

Everyone just stared at her. She looked around at them, "We have to consider the possibility."

"You're a credit to your profession." Macen said softly after a moment, "That's why I'm bringing you two. When we make our move, I want the two of you, in full uniform and armed with phasers, to march into Ops and secure it. If Reyes is on our side, that's when he'll prove it."

"What makes you think he'll surrender the station?" Vaughn asked.

Macen pulled a padd out of his utility belt, "Because you'll be armed with a copy of this."

Vaughn accepted the offered padd and perused its contents. Whistling, he handed it to Ro. She looked at it. Promptly displayed were orders from Admirals Nechayev and Forger to cooperate with Vaughn, Ro, and Macen in any way they deemed fit. In other words, it was a blank check. Such comprehensive warrants were rarely issued.

Ro wore a stunned expression. Finally, she composed herself; "That ought to settle any arguments."

"That's the idea." Vaughn opined, "I've only seen the Avalon Protocol used once before. My team was assigned to stopping a Borg probe on a frontier colony. We used the warrant to suborn three starships. It still wasn't enough."

The melancholy in Vaughn's voice was hard earned. He'd lost his wife on that mission. That singular incident had changed his life more than any other up until he'd had some Bajoran Orb experiences. Those events had shaped his modern life.

"I had the Avalon Protocol assigned to me during my days with the Maquis." Macen revealed to Vaughn. Ro already knew the story but she remained silent, "I invoked it at DS9 and practically made Captain Sisko apoplectic."

Seeing Ro's smirk Vaughn asked her, "You knew about this?"

"I was on the station when it happened." Ro informed him, "I wasn't there in Sisko's office but I heard all about it. Kira explained what happened after she and I settled our differences." Ro held a sly grin, "Of course there was also Brin's version of it at the time."

"I bet." Vaughn shared her grin.

"I told you what you needed to know at the time." Macen defended his choice of words at the time.

"You told me that the Avalon Protocol was in place to keep you out of jail not that it was intended to keep me out of prison." Ro shot back, "You and that damned plan to make me Maquis Commander. You should have known Eddington was the heir apparent."

"I didn't know about Eddington." Macen replied, "That information was the privilege of cell commanders and the last time I checked I wasn't a cell commander and you never bothered to tell me about him until he rose to the throne."

"The throne?" Ro guffawed, "It was hardly that. More like a vedek trying to keep order in a room full of unruly children."

Macen opened his mouth but T'Kir spoke first, "C'n we skip this shuk? We got bigger problems. Y'told 'em 'bout the Protocol. Ya also told 'em their part in our caper. Can we leave now?"

Macen graced her with a wry look, "Yes, I think we can go now. Besides, I need to make arrangements with Chris Pike to see about having an Outbound Ventures ship in the area in case we need back up."

"You don't trust Starfleet?" Vaughn asked.

"It's too dangerous to trust Starfleet at this point." Ro answered for Macen, "We don't have any idea of how far the internal corruption goes."

"Right now I trust Amanda, my crew, and you two." Macen shared, "Everyone else will have to prove themselves to me."

"Even Christine?" Vaughn asked about Pike.

"Even Chris." Macen affirmed, "Now, we were about to adjourn?"

"Hold it buster!" T'Kir interjected, "I ain't goin' nowhere 'till I take a shower and change my clothes."

"We could stand with a change of clothes ourselves." Vaughn pointed out, "Our uniforms are a tad conspicuous."

Macen broke into a rueful grin, "I'll tell you what. You two change clothes. T'Kir will as well. Then the three of you will take a shuttle down to the Alpine Shores Lodge on Odin and I'll join you when I can."

"But..." T'Kir pouted.

"I won't be long." Macen promised, "I'll walk with you to our quarters. I need to change if I'm going dirtside."

They all took in Macen's uniform. He wore a variation of the Earth Starfleet desert uniform. It was generally conceded that he would need to change clothes before joining them in an alpine pasture during winter.

They exited the offices and made their way to their individual quarters. Vaughn and Ro had been assigned guest quarters near Macen and T'Kir's so the couple was able to take the erstwhile Starfleet duo to their cabins. After dropping their comrades off, Macen and T'Kir proceeded straightaway to their quarters and began preparing for a surface excursion.


Chapter Three

Hannah Grace pulled thermal pants and a heavy jacket out of her closet. T'Kir had called her and asked if she could pilot a shuttle headed for Odin's surface. Hannah had eagerly agreed.

She loved Odin and its winter sports. Her enhanced physiology made her better suited to the harsher climes than most humans. Also, as she'd been told, the rosy blush to her cheeks brought on by the weather only made her cuter. Call her egotistical but she wanted to take advantage of that.

She unstrapped her gunbelt and laid it at the head of her bed while she sat at the foot and changed her pants. She had just finished doing the fastenings to her blouse when she heard a thud against her bedroom wall. Sensing danger she ducked behind the bed.

The wall exploded. As smoke filled the air, and the ringing in her ears subsided, Grace cautiously came to her feet. As she did so, a figure leapt out of the smoke.

Instinctively Grace held out her hand and literally caught the man in midair. The Lantillian was suspended in midair snarling and snapping his fanged teeth. Grace flexed her fingers and the alien went sailing backwards into her living room.

Two more Lantillians appeared. These wielded disruptors. They aimed and fired.

Now Grace erected a shield of hardened air between herself and the incoming beams. She turned her head and saw her phaser on the floor near her headboard. She started to move toward it but her attention wavered and a disruptor bolt got through and nearly clipped her.

Willing the gun to come to her, it disassembled itself; the parts flew through the air, and reassembled themselves in her hand. She took aim and permanently dispatched the three Lantillians. Next she scooped up her gunbelt and tapped the comm badge secured to it. Nothing. Knowing that OPS must have been hit as well she deduced that her entire team was in danger.

She strapped on the belt. Next, she searched the corpses for ID. Seeing nothing, she happened upon an old fashioned flip style communicator. She took that and placed it in one of her utility belt's pouches. She took the discarded disruptors and locked them in her gun safe.

Fully prepared, she cautiously entered the corridor outside. Her lock had been stripped open and rewired. Grace was increasingly uneasy with these peoples' intimacy with Cardassian technology. Alarms weren't sounding and forcefields weren't blanketing her quarters to keep whoever was in here trapped in here.

In short, these Lantillians knew exactly what to hit and when to hit it. Grace's personal study of Enrick Gaston made her familiar with the Lantillians as a race so she recognized the species. They dwelt beyond Federation space in Enforcer territory.

Despite their rather terrifying way of obtaining a meal, the Lantillians were a rather passive race. They eschewed violence and were committed to peaceful coexistence with their neighbors. All of the Lantillians save one faction. It was the thought of these predators that made her Kelvan blood run cold as she picked up the pace and set out to find T'Kir.

Rockford strolled out of the third crossover bridge connecting the Habitat Ring to the Promenade. She smiled and waved at others that she knew. She dropped by the Rockford Investigations office and chatted with the associates about all of their latest cases. She was on her way out and headed for the coffee and tea kiosk when she recognized the customer ahead of her.

She came up behind Vaughn and placed two knuckles into the small of his back, "The cappuccino or your life."

She could feel him relax as he stepped aside, "I see you're in good spirits."

"I should be." Rockford grinned, "It's a good day."

"Actually, I'm glad I ran into you so soon. I have a few things I need to discuss with you." Vaughn admitted while she ordered and received her drink.

"Let me guess: we should only be friends." Rockford ticked off, "No worries because that's all we are. Next would be: we had a wonderful time but we should let it remain in the past. Again, not a problem. The past should stay in the past so I heartily agree with you."

Rockford grinned, "Here's my favorite: I'm too anal to comprehend the term casual sex means that the sex was casual and bore no lasting repercussions thanks to medical science. Fond memories not counted as a repercussion but as a bonus to be had."

Vaughn's expression was a wry one, "You seem to know this game better than I do."

Rockford took a swallow of coffee and then shrugged, "I know your type. You'd take responsibility for a fly farting in the wrong direction."

Vaughn grinned. He'd been an eighty year veteran of Starfleet's Special Operations Command. He'd heard metaphors and euphemisms from across the quadrant. Despite all of that, or maybe because of it, the fly comment amused him.

"Why Celeste, you have such a way with words." He chuckled.

"Don't get all polite on me now." Rockford chastised him, "I know how you are in the sack. You've got a mouth, and some moves, that'd make an Orion slaver blush."

Vaughn leaned in closer to her, "Be that as it may, do you think we could move this to a more discreet location? Say, like to your offices across the way?"

To be honest, she didn't want to. She knew she had Vaughn by the short and curlies out here like this and she hated to forfeit her advantage. Her verbal sparring aside, she was disappointed that Vaughn was opting to end their occasional trysts. She'd enjoyed herself and she'd thought he had too. Still, if he wanted to end it that was fine with her. She had other people to recreate with.

They playful banter ceased as Rockford suddenly turned her head slightly. She cast a sidelong glance towards Vaughn. He could see in her eyes the exact moment when she transformed from being private investigator Celeste Rockford and became Annika Ryst, an Angosian Augment.

Vaughn had seen Angosians fight before. Rab Daggit had once served under his command during the Dominion War. Vaughn had been surprised at the amount of carnage that an Augment could do. They rivaled the Jem'Hadar in destructiveness. He'd just never seen Celeste in action as an engine of destruction.

She grabbed him by the jacket and threw him behind her, landing him inside of Rockford Investigations reception area. While that was occurring, she deftly drew her phaser from its holster. She spun and fired as fast as the phaser would discharge. Three Lantillians went down. Those civilians inhabiting the Promenade sought cover.

A disruptor burst sliced through the air in front of her and she ran for the nearest pillar. Firing while running she nailed another assassin. Her hyper-vigilant senses heard, through all the panicking civilians chatter another above her. She dove out and slid across the floor on her back.

Doing so, she saw two Lantillians on the upper catwalk of the Promenade. She quickly dispatched them both. She wished all the assassins eternal torments in the afterlife.

Rockford almost smiled at that nonsensical notion. Her people's belief in deity or an afterlife was nebulous at best. Still, being around Macen tended to fan the embers of whatever faith that you had. His absolute certainty in deity made one wonder of they'd been correct to dismiss the whole affair.

She didn't know Kort well enough to be swayed by his absolute belief in Sto'Val'Kor. His quest to earn a place in the Klingon "Valhalla" shaped every facet of his life. She knew that Kort was driven but she didn't know by what.

Vaughn interrupted her drifting thoughts, "Celeste, are you all right?"

She smiled at the question. It lacked the emotional drive of a lover's enquiry. It was the interrogative of one comrade in arms to another. She'd handled a thousand of those requests over the last fifteen years. It told her that Vaughn's heart was truly closed and there would be no blurring of emotional lines.

"Why? Don't I look all right?" she asked.

"Frankly, you're a mess." Vaughn gently smiled.

She knew her hair was, at least. Her loose updo was now flowing freely in places and still bound in others. Of course sliding across the floor and rolling back onto her feet hadn't helped matters any.

"My God!" Tom Riker's voice could be heard from behind Rockford, "What happened?"

Rockford shrugged, "A group of Lantillians tried to ambush us. I dealt with them."

"How'd they get aboard?" Riker wondered.

"More to the point," Vaughn interjected, "Why aren't the alarms going off?"

"They must've taken either Security or OPS." Rockford surmised, "Probably both."

"OPS?" a panic stricken Riker repeated, "Lees!"

He ran to the turbolift and found it inoperable. He headed straightaway to the access tunnels. Rockford called his name and he froze. She tossed him her phaser. He nodded his thanks and began to climb.

Further down the Promenade phaser fire could be heard. Vaughn grimaced, "Ready to meet them unarmed?"

"Not hardly." Rockford smirked and entered her offices. She went into her area and unlocked a safe. She withdrew two cases. Setting them on the desk, she unlatched both of the cases and opened them. There, sitting in foam were two pistols.

Vaughn picked one of them up and examined it. Stenciled into the side of the barrel were the words, "Walther Firearms Model PPK". Vaughn knew of the blued weapon because Macen had showed him a film series from the 20th and 21st centuries where the protagonist carried such a weapon. Later in the series the PPK was used alongside the Walther P99. Those films had inspired Vaughn to read the James Bond novels; a series that lived on to his era thanks to the passing of the writing mantle from one author to another.

"Projectile weapons?" he asked, "Isn't that a little dangerous on a space station?"

"These aren't projectile weapons." Rockford assured him with a grin as she plucked her own PPK out of the other case and headed for the door, "As you know, Walther Arms is one of the chief contractors for Starfleet's phaser weapons."

"Yes, they were the first to develop phase pistols for Earth's Starfleet. Before that they designed and built the plasma weapons in use at the time. But these, whether their replicas or not, are still PPK's. They fire a 7.65 mm projectile." Vaughn lectured.

"Don't forget .380 ACP cartridges." Rockford still smirked as they strode down the extra-wide corridor towards the source of the troubled noises they could hear. It looked to be coming from the Infirmary.

"These are replicas." Rockford said as she came to a halt, "These are also fully functional particle beam weapons. Levering the hammer back increases the power level. Right now, with the hammer decocked you're at "Stun." Jacking back the hammer all the way sets it to "Kill." There's no in between so be careful and don't confuse the two."

"Malcolm Reed would've loved you." Vaughn muttered.

"Who?" Rockford was uncustomarily confused. Vaughn shook his head, "Never mind. What's the decocking lever for?"

"It safes the weapon. It also returns the power setting back to "Stun." Rockford explained. She grew serious, "Are you ready for this?"

"Always." He somberly replied.

"I know you're used to charging in and being command but this is my jurisdiction. You follow me. Got it?" Rockford was adamant.

"Right behind you, ma'am." Vaughn crisply replied.

Appreciating his professionalism, she started forward along the shop fronts towards the medical bay. Vaughn crept up behind her. The doors to the Infirmary were jammed open.

Rockford pointed two fingers at her eyes and then motioned towards the door. She moved in close to the doors and slid herself into the opening far enough to see with one eye. Not liking what she saw she moved back and signaled Vaughn to get to the other side of the doorway.

Still crouching, he shuffled across. Next, after he was set, she signaled for him to go high while she went low. That arrangement only made sense. Vaughn stood at 6' while she was a slight 5'4". Finally, she signaled for them to go on "3" and then began her count.


Chapter Four

Riker reached the plateau of the stairwell. He stepped onto the threshold of the hatch that led into OPS itself. The hatch, like all of the interior sections and walls, was composed of four alloys: kelindide, polyduranium, rodinium, and toranium. Of course, it was a really a Kelindide core with the other alloys layered atop of it to either side. Still, with his ear pressed to the hatch, he could hear disruptor fire. Not wanting to waste another second, he went in...

Earlier, in the Infirmary, Daggit and Parva dropped by to see Kort. They were delighted to find Radil there as well. The couple immediately recognized how utterly relaxed the former lovers were with each other. There was also a newfound fondness shared by the two of them. Daggit could see the gleam in Parva's eye.

"Don't go there." He murmured his warning.

"Don't go where?" she asked with doe-like innocence. Daggit wasn't fooled but he let it go.

"So," Parva began innocuously enough, "you're both stationed on Serenity."

"Yes." Kort replied, "When Captain Macen moved Outbound Ventures' operatives to this station, he asked me to come along as CMO."

"I'm here for the obvious reasons." Radil replied.

"Which reason? To be with your team or to be with Kort?" Parva eyes twinkled with mischief.

Kort loudly cleared his throat and Radil wore a cat-like smile, "I'd say more of your memory has come back."

"Nope. I'm still a fluffy bunny head. I just know the obvious when I see it." Parva asserted.

"Maybe the obvious isn't as obvious to us." Radil rebutted.

"Oh yes, it is." Parva insisted.

The door chimed and Kort breathed easier, "Thank Kahless. A patient. Excuse me."

"Now you've gone and run him off." Radil whined.

"And the obvious isn't obvious." Parva smirked.

Radil merely scowled.

Kort reached the waiting area and found his nurse lying on the ground with his throat slashed open. Six Lantillians were licking their lips. Traces of blood could still be seen at the corners of their mouths.

Kort knew they were Lantillians, without referring to their obvious appetites, by their physiology. They each had bright yellow, orange, or red eyes. Their foreheads protruded and formed a ridge over their eyes. They all possessed heavily muscled physiques and they were coiling up to strike.

The closest one pounced up Kort. The Klingon's mentality switched from that of being a physician and it became one of a warrior born. Kort used Klingon martial arts to fight his attacker. Meanwhile, the others swarmed into the medical bay.

Radil drew her weapon in one fluid motion and killed the lead vampire. The next in line tackled her and tried to wrestle her into a position where it could feed off of her neck. Parva was attacked by a third. Although possessed of an Orion's great strength, she'd never bothered to learn any unarmed combat techniques since her accident. She was at a severe disadvantage.

The fourth and fifth Lantillians simultaneously attacked Daggit. Daggit flattened out his hand and jammed it into the throat of one of the vampires, thereby impaling him. The creature fell to the floor as his life's blood, recently stolen from others, drained out of him.

The last one bit his arm. Daggit grunted in response to the pain. The vampire then tried to bite his neck. Daggit caught his jaws and pried them apart. Like most humanoids, the jaws on a Lantillian were his strongest appendage. It was all Daggit could do to keep him at bay.

The scene in OPS had begun with three Lantillians disembarking from the service turbolift. How they'd spoofed the computer into allowing them access was anyone's guess. What was immediately apparent was that they weren't there for a social call.

They'd opened fire and killed several of the civilian staffers. Danan had returned fire, being the only one in OPS that was armed, and she'd killed one of the attackers. Her being here was by mere chance. She'd been running a spectral mapping project of the nearby Hamburg Nebula. Comparing her scans to those taken twenty-odd years ago had revealed a great deal about the drift of the cloud and the dispersal of the ion storms within it.

Now she was beginning visual, electromagnetic, and subspace scans of the area. Only...the Lantillians had interrupted by killing people. Irritably, Danan wondered what it would be like to have a real day off. A day without gunfire or violence?

She exchanged more shots with the Night Coven. Ducking below her station again, she grudgingly admitted to herself that she had just enjoyed three months of relative sanity and inactivity. It'd been long enough to return to her true passion: stellar cartography.

Suddenly wild disruptor fire barraged her position while she could here another assassin scurrying around to flank her. She had no idea of what to do next. Then everything changed with the opening of a hatch.

Tom Riker threw the hatch open and quickly sighted the Lantillian bombarding Danan. Riker killed him without a second thought. The last Lantillian leapt to his feet to kill Riker but Danan got him first. Afterwards she slumped onto her back.

Riker scrambled to her position. Her eyes were closed and she was deathly pale. Her breathing was shallow and she seemed unresponsive.

While he was checking her vitals he whispered, "Please, Baby, don't be dead."

Her eyes snapped open and she took a deep breath. The breath fuelled her reply, "Who're calling ‘Baby'? I think you lost any and all rights to call me by an endearment."

"Lees, I..." he began.

She cut him off, "And why was it you came to my rescue? Where's Security?"

"Lees, I..." he tried again.

"Who are these people? They're obviously Lantillian but what the hell are they doing on this station and why the hell are they trying to kill everyone? And where's the damn alarms?"

"Lisea!" Riker snapped.

She blinked, "What?"

"Security is probably dead, so there's no cavalry. Alarms all over the station have been cut as well command functions from OPS. My guess is that they're running everything from Security." Riker explained.

"Then why are you here and not at Security?" she wanted to know.

His eyes bored into hers, "I'm here because I love you."

"You have a funny way of showing it." She bitterly retorted.

"I'm sorry about that. After all the time you spent trying to convince me that we should never get married, your proposal didn't sound kosher." Riker explained, "To be blunt, I didn't trust you."

"But now, seeing my pain, you know I was earnest." She said flatly.

"Pretty much." He hated to admit that, "I'm sorry I didn't trust you. It won't happen again."

"What makes you think there's going to be a next time?" she asked.

"Because I'm asking you, will all the bullshit and pretence set aside, to marry me. If you'll have me you'll have all of me, no reservations and no holding back." He proposed.

Danan wasted several seconds considering it, "I don't know." Finally she broke into a bright smile, "Yes!"

She threw herself into his arms and landed a fiery kiss on his lips. Withdrawing her tongue from his mouth she asked, "When?"

"When do I want to get married?" he asked in reply. Seeing her nod her head, he grinned, "Does today work for you?"

"You're kidding, right?" she double-checked.

"Nope. First we save the station and then we tie the knot. Sounds like a plan to me." He suggested.

"You're insane but you're on." She kissed him again, "So, I take it the lifts are out."

"Exactly but it's only a short ways down to the Promenade." Riker assured her.

"Riiiight." She said skeptically.

"Oh, trust me will you?" Riker chided her.

"I guess I'm going to have to." She smirked.

Riker knew by the twinkle in her eye that this evening was going to be a wildly tumultuous event. He couldn't wait.

Rockford and Vaughn swung into action. From their different perspectives, they saw different targets. Vaughn called, "Kort!" while Rockford called, "Parva!" They each killed the Lantillian attacking those individuals. They then cautiously advanced into the interior of the Infirmary.

The sounds of fighting filled the air. When they reached the medical offices they saw Daggit and Radil each fighting to stay alive. Vaughn chose Radil. He killed her antagonist with a headshot.

Rockford took aim but Daggit looked over the vampire's shoulder and met her eyes. He shook his head and then reapplied himself to the problem. Dislocating the Lantillian's jaw, the assassin ceased his efforts to kill Daggit. He then became an easy victim of a sucker punch.

"We might want one alive." He grimly explained. Then his eyes fell on Parva. His wife was huddled in the corner shaking uncontrollably. The once proud fighter had been erased by the brain damage inflicted upon her.

Daggit sat beside her and wrapped his arms around her. At first she started and then resisted but his words and his loving tenderness broke through her fear. She then buried her face into his shoulder and cried.

Vaughn turned to Rockford, "Now we hit Security?"

"Exactly." Rockford wore a tight smile, "Jenrya, are you coming?"

"Damn straight I'm coming." Radil growled.

"Good. You're in charge." Rockford declared.

"But you...?" Radil faltered.

"I'm just a P.I.. I'm not a commando anymore.C Rockford explained.

"Could've fooled me." Vaughn softly murmured. Rockford elbowed him in the gut.

He grinned, "Watch it. I'm an old man."

"You won't be any kind of man if you don't behave yourself." Rockford playfully warned him.

Radil looked at one then the other, "Do you need to go back to your quarters?"

Rockford just smirked while Vaughn fell silent. He was mentally preparing for the next step. Meanwhile, Radil strolled up to Kort, took hold of his neck and pulled him in for a kiss.

"I'll be fine. Just wait for me." She said.

She walked away leaving the Klingon standing there gaping.

The three staggered their positioning and slowly approached the Security Office. Once Radil reached the doors she realized that Riker and Danan were approaching from the opposite direction. She waved them off.

Pulling her Bajoran-made tricorder from her utility belt; she used it to peer inside of the office. The walls of the security block contained kelbonite but the windows were ordinary transparent aluminum. The Lantillians definitely held the office captive. Corpses littered the floor and there was blood everywhere. The Lantillians were liberally painting each other with it.

A cold fist wrapped itself around her heart. She waved Rockford and Vaughn closer. She did the same to Riker and Danan. The two groups were on either side of the double doors. Rockford quickly slid past the transparent doors and joined Riker and Danan.

"Y'think you can pick the lock?" Rockford whispered to Danan.

Danan smirked and pulled her tricorder free of her belt, "You really should have T'Kir doing this."

"No one knows where she or Macen are." Rockford whispered back.

Unlike Radil's earlier reaction, Danan's heart was gripped by icy fear. Although she and Macen hadn't been lovers for eight years now she still cared for him in a special way that would always make her heart leap anytime he was in danger. Riker saw this and rubbed her back.

"Lees, it'll be okay." He reassured her, "Those two have more than lives than a Cardassian vole."

"But what happens on the day that those lives run out?" she asked.

"The sooner that we secure the Security Office the sooner we can address the problem of Macen and T'Kir's health." Rockford hissed, "Now, can you open the door or not?"

Danan nodded, "All right. Give me five seconds."

As promised, the door's locks cycled five seconds later. A Lantillian opened the door and stuck her head to see what was going on. Radil grabbed her by the neck and pulled her out of the office. Vaughn shot her and she was out of the fight.

Radil and Riker gunned down three of the remaining Lantillians. The last two hid behind the Security Director's desk. Rockford and Radil each pulled disk shaped charges out of their belts and tossed them into the office. The explosions ferreted out the Lantillians and they were swiftly disposed of.

Afterwards, Riker and Danan separated and dragged the bodies into separate rows. Radil used her access codes to release the comms, sensors, and forcefields. She started a sensor sweep looking for the remainder of the team's little lost lambs. When she found them, she frowned.

"This isn't good." She remarked. She manipulated the controls, "They've disabled the forcefields at the local emitters. I can't raise the shields."

Vaughn pointed at an icon on the screen, "Look. Ro's with them."

"They're under attack and I can't do anything about it." Radil said, "They're on their own."


Chapter Five

"What d'you mean y'r not comin'?" T'Kir yelled inside the sanctity of their station-side quarters.

"Do you really need to yell so loud?" Macen asked wryly, "After all, you're the one with the sensitive hearing."

"Stop tryin' to change the frinxin' subject!" she shouted at him, "They're my quarters and I'll yell as loud as I damn well please!"

"Technically, they're our quarters." Macen sagely pointed out.

"Frinx you, Brin!" T'Kir snapped, "I'm tryin' t'do something nice here and you're screwin' it up."

"Look, I would love to go but I need to do more research on our current predicament so I can hand out planning assignments to the team. At Bolshevik I discovered a little delegation was a good thing." Macen admitted.

"Couldn't ya d'that after..." T'Kir wheedled.

He approached and took hold of her arms. Kissing her on the forehead, he said; "Don't you think Sindis is spending every moment leading up to his visit accounting for every scenario Starfleet or the SID can throw at him?"

"Okay." T'Kir sulked, "Y'r right. I don't like it and I don't like you but y'r right."

An indulgent smile graced Macen's features, "C'mon, I'll walk you to the Delight."

The Idiot's Delight was T'Kir's very own ship. A Skylark-class scout, it was the civilian forerunner to the concept that would become Starfleet's Danube-class runabouts. The name was filled with irony since T'Kir said only an idiot would take delight in the craft...yet she did.

T'Kir had been dealt a staggering number of losses in her life. The death of her parents and everyone she knew on the colony of Shial at Cardassian hands was one. Losing her sanity due to her runaway telepathic abilities was another. Except for Macen, Danan, and Ro; she acutely felt the loss of her Maquis "family" for a third. The SID teams had lost members as well which just kept the pain alive.

The diminutive ship was one of the few things that she could call her very own that had lasted for almost ten years. She'd invested time and latinum in the Delight and now it was completely tricked out. It could easily hold its own against the team's runabout. That was, until it suffered a major systems failure. After all, the Skylarks weren't known for their rock solid reliability.

It was both a sign and a symptom of T'Kir's sense of liberation and freedom to be able to take the Delight to Odin. Outbound Ventures, as a corporate entity, had runabouts and shuttles aboard the station but this was a deeply personal matter. Macen didn't want to insult her by offering her an alternative means of transportation when he knew how much this meant to her. Besides which it would just start another fight while the first one hadn't completely wound down yet.

The door chime sounded and T'Kir scowled, "Now what?"

Macen smirked, "If you recall, you asked Laren to meet us here."

"Is she comin' at least?" T'Kir asked hopefully.

Macen winced and T'Kir locked onto that, "What d'you mean she's not?!"

"Laren, Elias, and Tom are helping me go over the raw data. I asked Elias to gather up Celeste as well if he ran into her." Macen confessed.

"When he runs into her y'mean. That boys like a targ on the scent of a vole." T'Kir grumbled and then she grew irritable, "See? Y'r screwin' everything up!"

"At least you and Hannah will have a nice time." He smiled weakly.

She shook her fist at him, "We'd better or I'll blame you! Now answer the damn door before she rings the frinxin' doorbell again."

"Yes, dear." Macen chuckled. As he moved off to answer the door T'Kir yelled out, "And it ain't funny, you shukhead."

He shook his head, still gripped in mirth over the domesticity of the scene, and called out; "Come."

The door opened and Ro barged in, "What the hell? I've been ringing that damn door chime for ten minutes now."

"More like five." Macen corrected her with a good natured rebuff.

"Waitaminute." Ro stood very still and very erect, "Oh shuk. She's in a mood, isn't she?"

"You could say that." Macen smirked, "She'll be fine once she's on Odin with Hannah."

"I'd better be!" T'Kir shouted from the other room.

Ro shook her head, "Her and those damned ears of hers."

She studied Macen, "I'm surprised at you. You're the one she's going to take this out upon. Shouldn't you be consoling her?"

Macen shrugged, "In a minute. She needs to calm down first. The part that gets her is that she understands why everyone isn't going. She can't argue with the reasoning and that burns her. That and the fact that I called everyone and changed our plans while she was in the shower."

"What?!" T'Kir exclaimed as she stormed into the living room.

"Maybe she hadn't realized that yet." Ro murmured.

"Y'think?" Macen asked dryly.

"You had the gall to ruin my get together while I was in the shower?" T'Kir demanded to know.

"That's when the idea came to me." Macen said, "I realized that I didn't have time to spend on fun when I had work to do. I also needed the help of half of the skiing party."

"But you didn't tell me." T'Kir growled.

"I did tell you. That's how this fight started." Macen reminded her.

T'Kir blinked. She'd been so caught up by the emotions of the fight her facts had gotten a little twisted. Still, she decided to brazen on.

"Whatever. The fact remains that y'r disappointin' me. I expect and demand somethin' nice in return." She declared.

"Would a week-end on Risa do it?" he asked.

"Make it a week." She counter-offered.

"We can squeeze five days in." Macen decided.

"Awl-right!" T'Kir crowed, "We're goin' to Risa!"

Macen drew her close, lifted her chin, and gently kissed her; "It'll be fun."

"I know it will." T'Kir grinned, "I've got plans."

"As usual." Macen sighed, "Will I survive them?"

T'Kir smirked, "As usual. Y'might even thrive."

"Wouldn't that be a change?" Macen quipped.

T'Kir backhanded his arm, "Keep it up buster and y'll never get any again."

"Nope. Never going to happen." Macen replied, "You'll break down before then."

"Oooh you!" T'Kir planted her fists on her hips and leaned in on Macen, "If y'weren't right I'd hand you that smug look back right after I ripped your flamin' head off."

"Excuse me, but I could step outside and wait in the corridor." Ro softly complained.

"No." T'Kir sulked, "Lemme get m'jacket and we c'n go."

"Thank the Prophets for small favors." Ro murmured.

"I heard that!" T'Kir yelled from the other room.

"You were meant to, m'dear." Ro called out.

T'Kir swore and Macen and Ro exchanged amused smiles.

The closest bridge to the Docking Ring was Crossover 2. They easily navigated the arm that stretched from the central hub of the station to the two outer rings. The conversation was light and even T'Kir seemed to have put her poisoned feelings aside.

The shuttlebays were located between docking ports and cargo bays. There were one docking port, two cargo bays, and one shuttlebay per segment and they were four segments away from the Idiot's Delight's berth. Each segment was separated from the other by one of the all too familiar arches that littered the station. It was at these points that a forcefield could, and would, be dropped in an emergency.

"Of course, the hard part's gonna be keeping Hannah from actin' like a nervous ninny. She gets weird when other people fly the ship." T'Kir opined.

"Well, I'm sure..." Macen's voice trailed off as he noted the quizzical look on T'Kir's face, "What is it?"

"Someone's just outta range. I c'n feel 'em once in awhile. When I do, all I sense is anger." She said as they passed by under an arch.

"Let me look into it." Macen sought the Currents of probability. He gasped and threw T'Kir up against the bulkhead. He backpedaled with his arms outstretched, catching Ro and propelling her into the wall.

"What the hell?" she managed to say as disruptor fire filled the corridor. They were sheltered behind the arch so the weapon's fire was useless. "Well, I guess all's forgiven." Ro relented.

"Who're these yobbos?" T'Kir called out.

"I think they're the Night Coven." Macen answered.

"The who?" she asked.

Macen thoughtcast the answer to her mind. Included were the scenes of previous Night Coven attacks and the SI reports that described them. T'Kir paled, "An' I thought the Cardies were sick."

"A sad universal truth is that there's always a bigger monster out there." Macen ruefully commented.

"You ready to shoot back at these bums?" T'Kir wondered as she pulled her phaser free.

"Ready when you are." He also pulled his phaser free. Ro pulled the Type I "Cricket" phaser out of the small of her back and nodded. She went low as Macen went high. Their answering volley quieted the Coven down...for a second.

The ensuing firefight was as intense as it was brief. Emerging from Crossover 2, Grace ran out into the middle of the weapons' fire and erected a shield that blocked the Coven's weaponry. She turned, "Behind you!"

The other three turned in time to see three Coven warriors rushing them. Macen and Ro shot their attackers but T'Kir was distracted by Grace's situation. She turned in time for the assassin to grab hold of her left wrist to deflect her phaser and her throat. He widened his mouth, revealing razor sharp fangs, and tried to draw her in for a bite. Despite her superhuman strength, the Lantillian was inexorably drawing her in.

That all ended when a phaser burst caught him in the head. The dead alien fell to the ground. Macen rushed to T'Kir's side and he held her tightly as she shook.

"Elements Brin! I thought he was going to eat me!" she gasped.

"Hey! A little help here?" Grace called out.

"Laren, will you see what Hannah's complaining about?" Macen asked Ro.

"Of course." She readily agreed. The Bajoran Starfleet officer cautiously approached Grace. The Kelvan stood with her hand stretched forth before her. A green energy shield was erected between her and the Coven. Traces of that energy danced along her fingers.

The Coven killers had emerged from hiding and were standing before Grace randomly shooting the field trying to get at her. Ro arrived and asked, "So how can I help?"

"Shoot them!" Grace demanded, "I can't keep this shield up all day."

"Yeah, but..." Ro started to say.

Grace pulled her pistol free and killed one of the Lantillians. The others began to break and run. Ro dispatched another while Grace killed the third. She dropped the shield with an audible sigh of relief.

"It seems we need to have a little talk, Hannah." Macen said from behind her.

"I don't have an Attuner." Grace promised, "They've always focused our natural born gifts. I've just discovered a few clumsy tricks that I can do without one."

"It seems those 'clumsy tricks' have saved our lives so I'm going to thank you and then tell you you should have discussed it with the two of us." Macen referred to T'Kir.

"I think we should discuss why the security alarms didn't sound or why Security didn't drop forcefields and gas us." Ro interrupted.

Rockford, Vaughn, and Riker came running out of Crossover 2. Rockford was at immediately at ease. Vaughn showed signs of fatigue while Riker was severely winded. "Too many hours in the center seat." He complained.

"So spend more time in the gym." Vaughn advised, "After all, It has to be embarrassing being shown up by a man twice your age."

"Yeah, it is." Riker ruefully admitted. Riker knew that 54 years was just the tip of the longevity he could expect. People easily reached 120 to 130 nowadays. Vaughn's strict diet and exercise regiment seemed guaranteed to push him much further than that. The man was a 108 years old and going strong. Dr. McCoy held the modern record with 154 years and the former SOC agent seemed destined to at least tie that number.

Vaughn's only health issue had been the brittleness of his bones. Supplements had helped but only to a point. He'd had a choice, accept a desk job or undergo the same procedure that McCoy had pioneered. His bones had been replaced by biosynthetic replacements. It had taken six months and a lot of physical therapy to replace every bone in his body but it had been worth it in Vaughn's opinion. He could stay as active as he wanted to now without fearing the fractures caused by his exertions.

Riker was also certain that Danan would heckle him into losing the extra pounds that he'd gained since becoming master of his own ship. The Indie was an Emden-class escort built back when escorts were cannon fodder to shield larger starships. Its crew of twenty had come together but it wasn't family.

Riker couldn't complain about the professionalism of his crew. They were consummate professionals. He just wasn't close to them. He'd walled himself off. He had a family, dammit, and it was Macen's SID team. No one else came close.

One thing that remained constant between the two crews was that Riker didn't deploy with the ground team. He directed them from afar. The pattern of staying with the ship had begun with Macen's team and it just felt natural now. Unfortunately it just created more distance between him and his investigative team. This had been one of the aspects of Starfleet that he hadn't appreciated during his tenure with them but now it seemed perfectly logical. Go figure.

"I need a sitrep." Macen said.

Vaughn filled him in on the events that had transpired thus far. Macen tapped his comm badge. Radil had managed to restore communications so she answered his hail.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

"We're fine." He assured her, "Have you tracked down which ship the Lantillians arrived on?"

"Yes, I have." She replied.

"Are they accepting the station's atmosphere?" Macen wondered.

"Yes. Why?" She asked.

"Lock the airlock and then pump anesthezine gas into that ship. I want the passengers and crew unconscious and ready for pick-up." Macen ordered.

"I'm on it." Radil sounded much happier and then she turned grim, "Captain, I've tried to contact the security detail outside of the airlock that the Obsidian is docked to. There's no reply. I can't hail anyone on the ship either."

"Understood. Give Ro the slip location of the Lantillian ship and have Daggit meet her team there." Macen instructed.

"You've got it." Radil signed off and paged Ro.

"Elias, I want you to lead the team in. Tom, Laren, Celeste, go with Elias to the Lantillian transport and secure it and its occupants. I want them in the station's detention cells. Hannah, T'Kir, and I will investigate the scene aboard the Obsidian."

"All right." Vaughn nodded, "Ro, lead the way. The rest of you, keep up."

Macen's team found the two external guards dead. They'd been eviscerated. The airlock was open. Macen cautiously led the way. They reached a data terminal and T'Kir accessed it. She frowned, "I'm reading six Lantillian bodies but no lifesigns."

"Who's near to them?" Macen asked.

"Galen 3." T'Kir replied, "His vitals don't look so good. I'd say he's in shock."

"What's the scene in Sickbay?" he inquired.

"Tessa's got her hands full. She has six patients, all critical."

"Hannah, call Kort. Get him over here." Macen instructed.

He turned back to T'Kir, "Where's Joachim and Gantz?"

"Headed our way." She replied with a grin.

They soon appeared. Gantz wielded a phaser rifle and Dracas bore his sword in one hand and his pistol in the other. They were both visibly relieved to see their CO and his team.

Such a display was rare for either one of them. Dracas was a clone of an Ardanian Troglyte but he'd been created and raised on Magna Roma. Born and bred a Roman soldier the engineer had left his home at the Emperor's behest. The gambit was a move intended to protect Dracas from the harsh new laws regarding clones enacted by the Senate. It was a futile gesture since the SID became involved with the clones' revolution. Free by the Emperor's decree, Dracas went into self-imposed exile rather than rebel against his emperor as well.

Gantz was an Acamarian Gatherer turned bounty hunter. Now he was a tracker for the SID. Gantz was almost as steady as Daggit in a fight and had been made the team's squad leader as a result. He'd been there and done that. It was a rare thing to see him shaken but he was. T'Kir scanned their surface thoughts and transmitted them to Macen. The wanton carnage practiced by the Night Coven ignited a cold anger within him. This anger had caused him to destroy a pirate ship despite orders to hold off. It had carried him through the Maquis rebellion and the Dominion War. It was a dangerous thing.

In their minds came the scene where Dracas and Gantz had been keeping Tessa company. Tessa, being the Ship's EMH, had access to the entire ship thanks to the holographic projectors mounted in every space but the crawlways. Although she had access to the entire ship she was still restricted to the ship.

Galen 3's presence was to be expected. He had a crush on the EMH. Tessa was beginning to reciprocate but she was moving slowly. There were major hurdles to overcome and she wasn't sure either one of them, or both of them together, could overcome the challenges. Galen 3 was all enthusiasm but Tessa urged caution. The first hurdle was his impatience. She'd simply replied if that he truly loved her he would wait until they'd triumphed over every obstacle in their way.

The trio had scrambled when the first reports of the Lantillian invasion. Fortunately, Telrik had been calibrating the transporter so he was able to transport Tessa's patients to Sickbay. She'd already lost three and was fighting hard to save the last six. One of her nurses was among the victims. The other two were aboard the station and she couldn't raise them. She'd triaged them as best as she could and proceeded from there. She almost cried out of relief when Kort came bursting through the door with two of his nurses. She realized that was a human reaction that hadn't been programmed into her matrix and she took a small measure of comfort from that. Mostly she concentrated on the tasks at hand.

Macen met up with the detention detail. Kort's orderlies had cleared away the corpses. Automatic cleaning 'bots were scrubbing the floors to clear away the blood. In the outer office, Daggit had his arm wrapped around Parva but he still brandished a phaser rifle in the other hand. Danan and Riker had returned to Station Ops. Radil ran one last check through the security system and then in frustration said, "Okay Parva. See what you can do with it."

"'Bout time." Parva huffed as she approached the equipment.

Within seconds she had the equipment responding according to specs. Radil snorted, "Figures."

"Where are Elias and Laren?" Macen asked as he entered the office.

"Vaughn and Ro are watching over our ‘guests.' They're waking up and they're grumpy." Radil reported.

"Good." Macen remarked, "So am I."

Radil detected a hint of danger but she decided to let it go. Whatever Macen had in mind for the Night Coven survivors it wasn't nearly harsh enough. T'Kir and Grace accompanied Macen into the detention cells along with Radil. Once there, he dismissed Vaughn and Ro. Vaughn was decidedly uncomfortable but Ro assured him it was okay. She winked at Macen on her way out.

Macen confronted the flight crew first. The freighter was owned and registered to one Gerick Nash. According to Starfleet Security Nash was a freelance smuggler. He primarily worked for the Orion Syndicate but he also accepted outside contracts. It only T'Kir a second to strip his mind.

Macen knew everything she did thanks to their rapport. He smiled at Nash, "Accepting the job from the Orions was bad enough but when you started suspecting that they were assassins, you should've turned yourself, and them, in."

"Hey! What the...?" Nash sputtered.

"Hopefully they'll throw away the key this time." Macen said and moved on.

Next they confronted a Lantillian. Macen coldly observed the fidgeting vampire, "What's your name?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" the assassin hissed.

"Honestly I don't care." Macen admitted, "Your cooperation is the only thing that'll save you from getting tossed out an airlock."

"You're bluffing. This is a Federation space station. Federation types don't do things like that." The Coven warrior sneered.

"Obviously Sindis didn't tell you much about me." Macen surmised, "This isn't a Federation starbase. This is my station. I make the rules. If I decide you go out an airlock, you go out an airlock."

"You're still bluffing." The Lantillian's smile revealed razor sharp teeth.

"T'Kir?" Macen handed off to her.

She roughly probed his mind. She released it after a few seconds with a gasp. The imagery found in his memories was ghastly. Bathing in the spraying blood of his victims while he dismembered and disemboweled his target. Always leaving the heart for last so as to eat it.

The horror of it wasn't why she broke off the contact. Merged with him, she enjoyed the killing. It reminded her too much of her own bloodlust and the thrill she felt at permanently closing down someone's mind. The rush as that mind struggled as she crushed it. The pain and panic associated with the death. She craved all these things and more.

"You understand." The Lantillian hissed, "You know the rush. You...urk!"

He staggered backwards as his throat closed off. Grace's outstretched hand gleamed with green energy, "She's not the only one that can kill with impunity. To me, you're less than an insect. It's in my racial imperative to kill anything not like me. That includes you."

"I guess we won't need an airlock." Macen opined.

The Lantillian began to slap his cot and Macen turned to Grace, "Ease up, Hannah. Let's hear what he has to say."

She maintained pressure on his throat but she allowed him to take ragged gasps of air. He pawed at his throat, trying to relieve the pressure found there. Finding that he couldn't, he began to talk.

"I'll tell you what you want to know but you have to protect me." He pleaded.

"Jenrya, prepare to take down his confession." Macen ordered.

Radil pulled her tricorder free and activated it. Macen began to ask a series of questions that ultimately led to Sindis' doorstep. The Lantillian answered all of his questions and then some. Apparently he was feeling quite revelatory as he described various abductions and killings perpetrated by the Night Coven.

When the assassin had exhausted himself and Radil had turned off the recorder, Macen spoke a warning; "If you've lied, I will find you and kill you. Do you understand?"

The Lantillian vigorously nodded. Macen turned to Grace, "Release him."

She was disgruntled but she complied. Macen wondered if he had a new problem to worry about. With her reborn powers, Grace could prove to be a challenge to take down. He'd discussed her racial imperatives with her before so this came as no real surprise but it was disturbing all the same.

"Jenrya, see to it that Kort supplies cloned blood stores to feed our ‘guests.' After that reassemble the station's security team and have them take over. I want two people on hand during feeding time. One to deliver the blood and the other with a rifle trained on the Lantillian prisoner." Macen instructed.

The rest of the station's security force was running a sweep of the entire station looking for any hidden Night Coven members. Radil had arranged for the sweep as soon as she'd reestablished communications and could page the off-duty security officers. The search had been underway for half an hour and was expected to take at least four hours to complete.

It was moments like these that Radil sorely missed Abby Collins. Having Collins stand by her side and help coordinate everything would soothe her agitation and bespeak of a promised gallivant in bed later to wind down and celebrate surviving. Abby's loss was still a fresh wound in her heart but with Kort's help, she was nearly healed. In fact, Kort had once again moved into her heart with a passion that occluded their previous trysts.

She knew Kort felt the same way. She'd seen it in his eyes a thousand times. He'd abandoned Hayley Galloway and left her alone with her own intentions towards Kort. The physician hadn't spoke to Kort at all in the months that followed Radil's showing up on his doorstep seeking help in coping with Abby's death. Galloway felt Kort knew where to find her. He'd seek her out if he wanted to.

Part of Radil felt guilty over separating the two doctors. They'd been a good match for each other. Possibly a better match than Kort and her. However, Kort had never truly gotten over Radil when they went their separate ways so his decision had been made almost before Radil came to him. She wasn't going to argue.

She and Kort had become the best of friends and now she wanted to be best friends and lovers. Before, they'd never gotten past themselves to truly form a relationship. Now both of them were older and hopefully wiser. Kort wasn't so demanding and she wasn't so leery of trusting him. Abby had taught her that and she'd be eternally grateful.

Radil buried her personal feelings and returned to the duties of the job. After she handed off the reins here, she had to do a damage assessment of the security of the Obsidian and see how many security agents she herself had lost. She knew she'd be shorthanded and she wondered if Daggit could recommend any recent graduates from or students of the Security Alliance Academy. He'd been an instructor there until a few days ago and should still be in the know.

She wondered what had brought Parva and Daggit to the station. Surely they weren't rejoining the team. Daggit himself had insisted on leaving it. Although, she'd heard rumors of Parva's incredible recovery. Apparently, her mechanical aptitude scores were off the charts and her engineering brilliance was being seen once again. Radil didn't know how that had happened but she was grateful. She'd been a member of the mission team that Parva had been a part of when she'd been injured and Radil had always carried a sense of guilt over that. She probably always would.

Daggit watched Parva at work. She was all enthusiasm and light. She loved the challenges of her work. It was only natural that she'd want to return to starship duty.

Daggit was still apprehensive regarding their return to the world of Macen's SID team. Although Parva wouldn't be part of the actual team she would be aboard the Obsidian and the ship was a magnet for random phaser fire. Macen had lost three ships so far and almost destroyed his Nova-class surveyor on several occasions. Daggit just couldn't guarantee Parva's safety.

Intellectually he knew he couldn't guarantee her safety even on Barrinor. Life was one massive risk. What was important was that she'd asked for this opportunity. She rarely expressed her personal desires so he loathed disappointing her when she had made a simple request. Yet, it wasn't simple at all.

Macen approached and asked in a low voice, "Something bothering you?"

"We can't do it." Daggit's voice shook as he spoke, "I can't place her in any more danger."

"Rab Daggit! How dare you speak for me!" Parva snapped as she rounded the security desk, "I've signed up to serve aboard the Obsidian. I'm not going back on my word."

Surprised by her sudden fire, Daggit quickly acquiesced. Macen grinned, "It looks like signing up may have done her some good."

Reflecting on how much like the old Parva that outburst had been like, he had to agree; "It definitely jogged her memory."

Daggit wasn't certain how he felt about that. He'd fallen in love with the feisty fireball Parva had been. Then he'd fallen in love with the docile, childlike Parva. He knew he'd love whoever she was becoming now and that was good enough for him.

Macen patted him on the back, "Good for you."

It took Daggit a second to remember that Macen was mildly empathic. He could sense the emotions of those in his immediate vicinity. He had certainly followed Daggit's emotional journey.

"C'mon Rab, let's pack what we'll need aboard the ship." Parva was tugging at his arm. With a grin he slipped out with her.

Macen watched them go. Off to the side, T'Kir and Grace were quietly talking. T'Kir had been shaken by what she'd encountered inside the assassin's mind. It'd released a barely suppressed hunger and Hannah was helping rebuild the behavioral walls. Normally Macen would also be involved but mini crises fires needed to be stamped out.

Ephrim Zyrain, the station's administrator, had contacted Claudia Tyrol and requested replacement personnel. Riker's crew would stand in for the decimated Security force. The Obsidian would disembark shy a dozen crewmen but she would still sail.

Riker and Danan approached Macen. They were mysteriously happy and excited despite all of the losses. Knowing of their recent break up, he was curious as to why they were giddily holding hands. Then they asked him to officiate at their wedding.

"I'd be delighted! When's the ceremony planned?" he replied.

"It'll take three days to get to DS3." Riker answered, "We were thinking on the second day of the voyage."

"None of your crew will be present." Macen reminded him.

"They're not family. I want my family there." Riker referred to the Obsidian crew.

Macen understood, "Once we're underway let me know if you have any special requests. Kalista can handle any decorative requirements that you have. Let Chef know about your plans before we board and she can handle the catering."

He suddenly came up with an idea, "Talk to Tessa. She's the mistress of the holographic network and she can help tailor any environment that you want."

Danan perked up, "I also have an idea for her to have a part of the ceremony."

Riker gave her an Oh really? Look. Macen grinned, "Sounds good. Keep me updated."

"We will." Danan blithely exclaimed as she drug Riker off.

Maybe this news will improve T'Kir's mood, Macen hoped as he went to tend to his wife.


Chapter Six

The Obsidian set out at 0700 Starfleet time which of course was GMT -8. The entire team brainstormed ideas of how to capture Sindis on the first day. Riker handled the bulk of the command duties while Danan, not being overly involved with the planning or capture, focused on wedding preparations.

Parva slipped into the engine room as though she'd never left. Gilan and the other veteran engineers threw a "welcome back" party. Engineering, since the entire staff had been aboard performing a recalibration during the Night Coven's attack, was hit the hardest of any department outside of Security. Five engineers had been slain compared to Security's seven. Both departments were hoping for a nice, easy mission.

Planning was put on hold after the first day. They would be arriving at DS3 three days before Sindis. It would give them an opportunity to scout out the station and finalize plans. Besides, there was a wedding to be had!

The following day, the attendees gathered in the cargo bay. Tessa had created the perfect environment. The actual, physical cargo was hidden beneath, behind, and away from decorations. There were few seats. Only a handful of guests had been allowed to attend. The rest were on duty or asleep waiting to go on duty.

Gilan, Telrik, Ceryx, Kalista, Galen 3 and the sciences department represented the crew. Vaughn and Ro were also invited. Point in fact, Ro was Danan's Herald. The Herald acted as a guardian over the bride as her presence was announced and she was given to her prospective groom. It was the Herald's duty to challenge the marriage if there were any doubts as to its viability.

T'Kir was a flower bearer and Grace was a ring bearer. Hannah's part in the ceremony was a peace offering from Riker, who had held her manipulations of his memory against her for many years. He'd decided to bury the hatchet and incorporating her into the wedding ceremony was a symbolic gesture.

Daggit stood by Riker. Tom would have preferred for Macen to be his best man but since he was officiating that was impossible. The ceremony was a blend of the human and Trill traditions that the couple approved of. It was distinctly "their" ceremony.

Macen asked the couple if they were prepared for this journey. They affirmed that they were. Ro, T'Kir, Grace, and Daggit all gave testimony to that affect. Macen asked the obligatory questions and received the highly anticipated "I do's" and he pronounced them man and wife. Then the party began...

The following day they docked at DS3. Riker and Danan were excused from duty for the next three days and had the run of the station. The others went to work.

While T'Kir was tapping into the station's internal sensors with her padd Riker and Danan were collecting frames for all of the holopictures Tessa had taken. She had also sung at the reception. Her delivery was getting more nuanced and human all the time. It didn't sound "canned" but it came across as an authentic "live" performance, something she had been working very hard towards.

Ro accessed the station's computers and found out where Sindis' ship was going to be docked. She also thought that she'd discovered the mole. Commander Sheila Hall, DS3's XO, has ordered a security detail to escort and defend Sindis while he was present. They had strict orders to keep other Security personnel from him.

Security's local files on him had been altered by her to no longer reflect his positions as head of the Meirkus Conglomerate or the Orion Syndicate. Both of those titles were official but were now expunged from his official file. His escort was an "unofficial courtesy" provided to a prominent foreign business leader. The fact that other such notables were excluded from such courtesies didn't seem to faze Hall.

The deception seemed to revolve around keeping Security Chief Thomas Barclay and Station CO Alfonso Reyes from discovering Sindis' presence. She'd micromanaged every detail of the crime lord's stay including recruiting the officers that would form Sindis' protection detail. Ro and Vaughn used all of their time trying to track down incriminating evidence against Hall.

The aforementioned pair restricted their pursuits to the bowels of the Outbound Ventures surveyor. Reyes invited Macen and T'Kir to dinner with him and his senior staff. Reyes, as if knowing that Ro was nearby, waxed poetic about her many virtues. T'Kir performed a surface scan and saw that he was being genuine. Macen merely asked if he'd shared these feelings with Ro. Reyes was embarrassed to admit that he'd held his tongue in check so far. His staff belied that and confessed that they'd all heard it before.

Hall's file indicated that she had a high esper rating for a human. That precluded telepathic probes of her memories. She'd sense the mildest of probes and would utilize her escape route, because they knew she had to have one.

Reyes asked why they were at the station. One could see that he didn't buy Macen's "rest and recreation" excuse. Riker and Danan's cavorting added to the cover story. Apparently Will Riker and Deanna Troi had been here recently and Tom and Lisea's exploits were gossip fodder aboard the station since the wags thought Tom's "brother" was cheating on Troi with Danan.

Barclay predictably made a few snide comments about Macen and his team going about armed. Reyes took him off to the side and Barclay was an obviously chastised man when they separated. Barclay's prejudices were well known.

Daggit and Parva played in the station's water park. Grace, Rockford, and Radil joined them. Gantz and Dracas took in local theatre productions. Tessa used the station's connection to the local vendors to purchase new books, music, and holo programs. She also tapped into the latest fashion registers and copied patterns. She tried out one of her new ensembles on Galen 3 in the Team Room during dinner. The boy was so busy ogling, he nearly didn't finish his meal. If Tessa hadn't cajoled him, he never would have.

Three days passed without incident and then Sindis arrived. Commander Hall and the four person Security detail met him at the airlock. He travelled alone, having arrived in a runabout. The SID team watched the reception via the station's internal monitors and they tracked him as he was escorted to Quark's.

Macen, T'Kir, Daggit, Rockford, Gantz, and Dracas set out to arrest Sindis. Radil remained aboard the Obsidian with the ship's Security detail as back-up if Macen needed it. Ro and Vaughn, dressed in their Class-A uniforms, armed with phasers and warrants headed for Ops.

Ro had contacted Admiral Noyce, the Director of Starfleet Security, and obtained arrest warrants for Sheila Hall and her cronies. Internal Affairs was sending their best and a comprehensive investigation was to begin. Vaughn and Ro's job, acting under SID and Starfleet Security parameters, was to hold Ops and keep the station running until the designated investigators arrived. The JAG offices aboard the station would willingly contribute as best they could to the initial screenings as would Alfonso Reyes and Thomas Barclay, the latter two facing charges if they refused to cooperate.

Ro and Vaughn stormed into Ops. Holding aloft her padd, Ro declared; "Cease and desist all non-vital activities now! Please summon Captain Reyes to Ops. Commanders Hall and Barclay, if you would be so kind as to wait with me in front of the Captain's Office?"

"On what authority are you charging in here and taking over?" Barclay demanded.

Ro showed him her warrants. He frowned, "All right people, do what she says. This is direct from Starfleet Command."

Barclay turned to Hall, "This contains a warrant for your arrest."

She went for a Type I phaser but Barclay disarmed her, "My God, Sheila. What have you done? Four of my people are implicated as well. What's going on?"

Hall stiffened up and refused to speak. Reyes arrived. When he saw Ro, his eyes lit up with joy. Then his training took over and he assessed the situation. He was not happy.

Barclay intervened, "It's legitimate, Alfonso. It's all right here." He handed Reyes the padd with the warrants.

Reyes studied the padd, "Where are the four Security officers implicated here?"

"On a special assignment arranged by Commander Hall. They're escorting a business official." Barclay explained.

"That ‘official' is Bertram Sindis." Ro interjected, "An SID team is on the station to arrest him."

Barclay blanched. Reyes shook his head, "So that explains Brin's presence. I suppose you and Vaughn caught a ride aboard the Obsidian?"

"That's right." Ro was embarrassed, "Our orders were to be discreet since..."

"Since I was a suspect too." Reyes chuckled, "Is Internal Affairs getting involved?"

"They're taking over the investigation as soon as they're on scene. This is just what the SID and Starfleet Security have discovered over the last three days." Ro replied.

"And yet we missed it." Reyes said with a heavy heart.

"You had no reason to look." Ro tried to alleviate his guilt.

"How can we help you, Commander?" Reyes asked.

"First, you can quietly alert your Security force. Brin is many things but restrained is not one of them. If Sindis' Security contingent resists, there's going to be a fight." Ro warned.

"Thomas, see if you can prevent that." Reyes ordered Barclay.

Ro discreetly squeezed the Captain's hand. He would be eternally grateful for that bit of encouragement.

Macen and T'Kir proceeded alone into Quark's. Sindis' position was easy to mark. It was the only table flanked by Starfleet Security officers.

Seeing that Macen and T'Kir were armed, the Security personnel closed ranks and formed a wall between the SID agents and Sindis. Macen gave them a wry look, "Would it be possible to see Sindis?"

"Mister Sindis is busy." Goetz, the ranking Petty Officer 3rd Class, sneered.

"'Mister' Sindis is under arrest. Here's my warrant. He comes with me. Now!" Macen countered.

Goetz went for her phaser but Macen got there first and she went down, a victim of a stun blast. Two of Goetz's conspirators hustled Sindis out of the pub. T'Kir stunned the remaining Security officer.

"What're ya waitin' for? Move!" she yelled at Macen as she sprinted after Sindis. He quickly passed her by.

The two rogue Starfleet crewmen guided Sindis back to the runabout pad holding his ship. Rockford, Daggit, Gantz, and Dracas were waiting for him. The Starfleet men went for their phasers only to be stunned by Daggit and Rockford. Sindis held up his hands.

"I might as well surrender." He said.

Dracas drew his sword and Gantz pulled a pair of binders out of his belt. Dracas approached first but he was woefully unprepared for Sindis' speed. Sindis clamped an iron hard grip on Dracas' sword hand, twisted the wrist and hand, and relieved the Roman of his sword.

Gantz cried out and started to lunge forward as Sindis swung a backhand with the sword, beheading Dracas. Gantz plowed into Sindis, carrying him into the wall. Slamming the Iridian's sword hand into that wall, he managed to disarm the startled crime lord.

Sindis broke his arms free of Gantz's grip. He twisted the Acamarian's head in one swift motion. There was an audible crack as his neck broke. With a roar of rage, Daggit slammed his first into Sindis' face. The Iridian smiled and began to display his formidable knowledge of the martial arts.

Sindis was overpowering Daggit. Rockford called him off and Daggit shoved Sindis back. Rockford shot Sindis and he went down. Seconds later, as she was examining him for a pulse, he punched her in the lip, splitting it. Next came a shot to the nose. She went down.

Sindis scissor kicked Daggit's legs out from underneath him. Sindis then dove and rolled over the top of Daggit. He was headed back for the sword. A clacking sound caught him short.

Macen had chambered a round into Gantz's flechette gun. T'Kir flanked Sindis with Dracas' sword. Sindis smiled victoriously.

"Do it, or I'll make you watch as I filet her with that sword." He boasted.

T'Kir saw a flash in Macen's eyes and sought cover. As she was clear, Macen pulled the trigger. The razor blades from the flechette gun shredded Sindis' head. All that was left of it was a blue grey smear across the opposing wall. His body looked decapitated as it fell, lifeless.

"Freeze!" Macen and T'Kir heard Elias Vaughn yell. Vaughn, Ro, Reyes, and Barclay were flanked by a dozen Security officers. Vaughn continued speaking, "Drop the gun, Brin, and lace your fingers behind your head."

Macen set the rifle down and laced his fingers. T'Kir looked indignant as she did the same. Vaughn stayed out of range for T'Kir's telepathy and kept her covered as the Starfleet crewmen stripped the SID agents of their weapons.

The pair removed their utility belts and handed them over all while being carefully scrutinized. Next, their wrists were bound and they were led off to the Security Office. The couple remained eerily silent during this period. A debate arose whether or not Starfleet JAG had jurisdiction over them or if they needed to be handed over to a civilian court. JAG HQ handed down a decision that since the agents had been arrested while contracted by the SID, carrying out a SID mission, and bearing SID warrants, that JAG did possess the jurisdiction.

Senecka was assigned as counsel to each of the suspects. Originally assigned to Macen, she'd practically begged to become T'Kir's lawyer too. The Vulcan's logical façade threatened to fall apart over this situation but she managed to cope. She had to; her idol was being held on accessory to murder charges.

Macen was being held on a 1st degree murder charge. T'Kir's charge revolved around the suspicion that she knew what was coming beforehand and did nothing to prevent the death. Macen merely smirked when he was read his charge.

"I didn't kill Sindis, I executed him." Macen defended his choice.

"You do realize that Federation law precludes the death penalty?" Barclay asked.

"The spirit of the law precludes the death penalty. The letter of the law is nebulous." Macen argued.

"You seem to have prepared this argument in advance." Vaughn, who was assisting Barclay in taking down Macen's statement, commented.

"This was always a possibility in regards to Sindis." Macen explained, "A phaser set on kill would only stun him for a moment. He was thrashing my two Angosian teammates. How are they doing?"

"I don't..." Barclay began to turn down Macen's request.

"I'll check." Vaughn said and rose from the table. He exited the interrogation room. Barclay gathered his padds and said, "We'll be right back."

He caught up with Vaughn, "What kind of crap is this? You should leave him dangling."

"How long do you want him to stay in custody?" Vaughn asked.

"What?" Barclay sputtered.

"I personally taught that man how to break out of facilities like yours and how to get off this station within two hours of breaking free. Two things are keeping him in there. The first is his sense of personal honor. He respects the law enough to go to prison for what he did. The second thing is concern for his crew. We alleviate the concern about the crew then he will focus on the legal consequences of his actions." Vaughn described the situation.

Vaughn got his confirmation and returned with Barclay to the interrogation room. Vaughn was happy to report that Rockford and Daggit were fine. Rockford's condition had alarmed Vaughn. He'd never seen her bloodied before. Macen's request was an excuse to satisfy his own curiosity.

"I'm happy Celeste is all right, too." Macen replied to the news.

Vaughn chuckled. The El-Aurian would detect his relief at Celeste's recovery. Which meant also that Macen would sense his grief at the loss of Dracas and Gantz. Both men were remarkable and didn't deserve death at Sindis' hands.

"Let's get down to brass tacks." Barclay decided, "Why did you kill Sindis?"

"Sindis had killed two of my people. He'd put the two most capable fighters on my staff flat on their backs. Then he had the gall to threaten my wife. Knowing he could take the sword from her without trying to, he'd carry out his threat unless I acted. I decided to intervene at that point." Macen confessed.

"Helluva intervention." Barclay snorted, "And you mean to tell me you couldn't come up with something less lethal?"

"To be honest I wasn't certain the flechette rifle would take him down." Macen admitted.

"So you wanted him dead?" Barclay asked.

Macen pondered the question before answering, "Not initially. I wanted him on display as an example of Federation justice and an object lesson for the Orion Syndicate and the Meirkus Conglomeration. I didn't change my mind until I came on the scene and my pursuit squad was in shambles. Two of my best were dead. The two that were arguably the best were being battered and seemed helpless." Macen described the scene, "Sindis had been careful to neutralize the sword man and the man with the flechette rifle, thereby ostensibly neutralizing them. That in turn meant that he feared them. I used these weapons to threaten Sindis. I didn't act until he threatened T'Kir."

"Yet he didn't make a move and, in fact, baited you into firing." Vaughn pointed out, feeling terrible as he did so.

"He was going to kill her." Macen declared.

Vaughn sighed, "I'm afraid all the evidence says otherwise."

"Would you like to make any further statements?" Barclay asked.

"No." Macen replied.


Chapter Seven

For three days Macen and T'Kir were kept apart and away from any visitors other than legal counsel. Senecka reluctantly agreed to combine their cases. T'Kir, in her statement, had damned herself as badly as Macen had. It went something like this...

T'Kir sat opposite Ro and Reyes. She'd been thinking of how cute a couple the pair made when Ro snapped her fingers to get T'Kir to refocus. T'Kir frowned. To her delicate hearing and in such tight quarters, the sound was both deafening and painful.

"No need t'get rude, Laren." T'Kir grumbled.

"Space out on your own time. We've pressing business here." Ro warned, "Did you know Brin was going to kill Sindis?"

"Y'mean did he warn me telepathically or did we discuss it beforehand? The answer's ‘No'." T'Kir replied, "However, if you mean did I know he was going to kill Sindis seconds before he did it? Then the answer is ‘Yes'."

"But how...?" Ro asked.

"I saw the look in his eyes. When Sindis threatened me, it was the last thing he would ever do." T'Kir blithely stated.

"Why didn't you try and stop Brin?" Ro inquired.

"Why would I want to?" T'Kir laughed, "Brin and I got there to see Joachim and Gantz dead and Celeste and Rab getting their asses handed to them. This was probably our last shot to stop Sindis. Might as well do it right."

No further statements were solicited.

Senecka arranged for visits from Riker and Grace. They were led into a room divided in half by transparent aluminum. Dividers separated the area into individual booths. Tables stretched across the breadth of the aluminum wall. Comm equipment was embedded into the tables. Chairs were set up at every booth. Macen sat opposite of Riker at one booth, T'Kir and Grace faced off at another booth.

"'Lo Tom." Macen forced a smile, "It seems we need to invoke the "Invicitus" protocol."

"Invicitus" was a protocol in the Obsidian's main computer that transferred command functions from Macen to Riker. Riker had always been kept as the alternate commander of the ship despite his accepting command of another vessel. It would also unlock Macen's last will and testament.

"Brin, I..." Riker started to protest.

"Tom, I'm probably going to a penal colony. I need someone that I respect and trust to assume command of my team. Celeste is an experienced investigator. She'll make a good mission specialist. As for the crew, they know you and will obey you as readily as they would me. Shannon needs the continuity." Macen stated.

"You know, we could..." Riker faltered.

"No one's breaking us out. Who knows, the judge and jury could be very understanding and we'll be set free." Macen offered this ray of hope.

"But you don't expect it." Riker realized, "Even with seeing the Currents."

A humorless smile formed on Macen's lips, "Let's just say the Currents are against me this time."

The trial began a week later. Admirals Nechayev, Noyce, and Johnson; all members of the Council of Five, comprised the jury. Admiral Jellico and Admiral Forger had recused themselves for personal reasons. Admiral Hallicose, one of the most respected JAG judges presided. Macen and T'Kir's statements were read. The video and sensor footage of the event were shown as well as taking eyewitness testimony from Vaughn, Ro, Reyes, and Barclay.

Macen and T'Kir stood on their previous statements. Their psychological and psychiatric records were produced by the defense as a partial explanation into their pair's seeming indifference. The expert testimony was fresh for Noyce and Johnson, who were previously unaware of the classified contents of the archives.

The defense wrapped up and closing arguments were made. Deliberations lasted a mere three hours. The accused were brought before the judge. The trial had been sealed from the public. Riker, Grace, Rockford, and Danan had been allowed to witness the events. Vaughn, Reyes, and Ro sat in on Starfleet's behalf. The verdict was "Guilty".

Macen was sentenced to twenty years at the Yuros penal colony. T'Kir was given seven years at Yuros with an option to stay on and finish out Macen's sentence with him. This boon was granted out of deference to their interdependence upon one another.

The USS Sovereign, Nechayev's personal command, dropped the prisoners off at the colony. She then ferried the Council members home to Earth. Macen and T'Kir were processed into the colony's ranks and taken to their new quarters.

They'd been unable to bring any clothing. They'd been issued prison garb instead. Their domicile was barren and drab. It possessed comfortable, if utilitarian, furniture. Even the toothbrushes were nondescript.

"At least it's not Cardassian." Macen joked.

That riled T'Kir out of her funk, "I thought that Cardassian space station you bought was bad but this dump is worse!"

"It's like a Starfleet Academy dorm room. We'll survive." Macen wrapped his arms around her.

"Twenty years. Of sheer boredom." T'Kir griped.

"Somehow I don't think it'll last that long." Macen enigmatically replied as he held her.

Aboard the Orion frigate/casino Liki-Evan, Enrick Gaston bustled through the busy corridors as he threaded his way to the ultra secure, ultra private office/stateroom buried at the heart of the ship. The guards stopped him and he buzzed in. Sensors confirming his identity and that he was unarmed, the door slid open. Inside, Bertram Sindis greeted him.

"So my greatest nemesis is out of my way for the next twenty years?" Sindis crowed, "Excellent. My clone's sacrifice paid off a bigger dividend than we could have ever imagined."

"But why didn't Starfleet realize that he killed a clone instead of you?" Gaston asked.

"Starfleet Security did but the prejudices of one Thomas Barclay buried that fact in his quest to imprison Macen. All that initiative and he isn't even on my payroll. More's the pity." Sindis chuckled.

"So what now?" Gaston wondered.

"Now, my dear Enrick, we pretend that I am dead. You are my heir and will carry on as my public face but I shall remain here and direct your actions." Sindis commanded.

Gaston bowed at the waist, "As you command."

Gaston chuckled darkly, "As it always should be."


Last modified: 02 Jan 2014