"Greetings, Mr. DeSabel," said foreman Kevin Judd. "It's nice to see you again."
"You too," replied Jax. "How's the farm?"
"Oh, it's doin' well enough. 'Course, we've just gotten started plantin' for the season. No problems to report. Oh, 'cept somethin' odd happened just a couple days ago. We caught a pair of little robots tryin' ta break into your house. Nasty buggers, and damnably hard to catch, let alone hold onto. But we're managing. They're locked up where they haven't been able to get out. Claim to be friends of yours, though."
Jax, Sam, and Alex smiled. "Hmmm," said Jax, "Why don't you take us to see these intruders?"
"Right this way, sir." Judd led them to the barn. Inside was a cell, in one corner. Judd turned on the viewscreen to see inside, and then the intercom. "There they are."
"Jax! It's about bloody time you got here. Now get us out, wouldja please." It wasn't a question.
"Nice to see you too, Bole. And Nug. It's ok, Judd, they are friends of ours."
"Damn straight, and I'll have your job for this!" shouted Boulder.
"Sorry to have inconvenienced you-" began Judd, not sounding or feeling very apologetic. He was interrupted.
"That's quite alright." said Jax. "Actually, I'm surprised you managed to capture them, or to hold them. that you did proves two things: That you and your staff are far more resourceful than you could reasonably be expected to be; and that our little AIs here aren't quite at their peak performance."
Judd opened the door for Nuggit and Boulder, who both floated out. Boulder was ready to keep ranting, but Nuggit silenced him. "Thanks for the lesson in humility, foreman Judd, and congratulations on a job well done. I don't think you know how well you did."
"But I do," said Jax, "and I'll keep it in mind. I know the farm's in safe hands now, even from Dominion attack, or Borg, or anyone. I feel safer leaving in in your care."
"Thanks, Mr. DeSabel. Will that be all?"
"For now, yes." Judd turned and left. The party of five followed, and headed for the main house. They took their bags to their respective rooms (Jax to the master bedroom, the others to guestrooms). The Musketeer of course was already parked in a spare barn.
Jax then took his friends on a tour of the house, and the rest of the farm. Then they decided to go out for supper. "Ya know where I've always meant to get to, but somehow never have?" asked Jax.
"Where's that?" asked Sam.
So they went back to the transporter room in the main house, and moments later were in New Orleans. They took a cab to the restaurant, and found a good table. They instantly recognized the man waiting on them, whom they had never actually met, as their former captain's father. He, in turn, recognized them from the news. (Oh, it's just the 3 humans here; the AIs are still back at the farm.)
"So, on vacation, boys? And I hear you've deserted my son. What'll it be? The jambalaya's particularly good tonight."
"Yessir, for a month or two. I'm sure we're very sorry to be leaving DS9, and Captain Sisko. Damn exciting place, and a great CO. But what can ya do? Careers, ya know? I'm sure I'd love some jambalaya, spicy as it comes."
"The same," said Sam, "and some Romulan Ale, if you have it."
"Sorry, we're fresh out, but I have some on order... You are sure you're off duty, officers? You wouldn't say anything to the authorities?"
"Yeah, we're off duty. Jax and I you can certainly trust, in any case. Can't say for sure about Alex...."
"Well, seeing as I'm not only off duty, but we're on leave... I'll overlook it. Just don't let me catch you serving contraband when I am on active duty."
"Consider yourself very lucky, Mr. Sisko," said Sam with a grin. "...Anyway, I think I'll settle for milk, to drink."
"And Mr. Franx?"
"Jambalaya, if that's what everybody's having. And a pitcher of water."
Sisko left to see to other diners and cook and talk and all he had to do. Just then, a familiar voice called out, "Hey, what're you guys doing here?"
"Nog!" the 3 shouted. Jax added, "Come on, join us." Which he did. Before long, 3 orders of jambalaya and one order of tube grubs showed up, and they all ate and talked merrily. "If you have time, come visit the farm" Jax offered.
"Maybe another time. I have finals this week."
"Damn, and we'll be gone next week. Say, if you're gonna be free, wanna come with us?"
"Not if my suspicions of where you're going are right. But I will want you to tell me all about it when you get back."
They spent the next few days at the Kirk farm, mostly just relaxing. There was a hell of a lot to relax from, these days. But soon they were ready to start off again to find new adventure.
"Ah, well," said Jax, "it's been a most enjoyable stay in Lorien. But we've Mordor still to face." Alex didn't have a clue what he was talking about, and Sam only knew it must have something to do with an old book Jax had been reading this week. That, in fact, was one of Jax's favorite things about this place: it had a library filled with old-fashioned paper books, collected by various past owners of the farm, Kirks and others. Jax himself was doing his best to add to the collection. And to partake of what was already here. No doubt he would one day retire to this place, once he'd explored all the galaxy had to offer.
And so, the 3 musketeers boarded the Musketeer, and the 2 AIs boarded the Colossus. They left the farm once again in the hands of Judd and his staff, and departed. They stopped at DS9 briefly. They hadn't been away that long, and already the most incredible things had been happening. But don't they always, around there? The most surprising thing to all of them was that Commander Eddington had recently turned out to be with the Maquis. And no one was more surprised than Alex, who had worked under the commander for a few years. Alex of course was the most level-headed of the trio, and certainly the most law-abiding. He had had some reservations about this excursion Sam and Jax had been planning, but the shocking revelation about his former superior, a man he had greatly looked up to, a man he thought he had known... it made him reconsider. Now he was eager to do something crazy. To do the sort of thing that could only be one of Jax's ideas.
And so, after a couple of days back on the station, they finally departed for their mission. Starfleet had an idea of what it was all about, and officially they were against it. But unofficially, the possibilities intrigued them, and they were very interested in any information the musketeers might bring back.
They were ready for their little mission. Jax had first thought of it...oh, probably at least a year ago, now. And he and Sam had been preparing for it ever since, whenever they had time. The Musketeer was fully stocked with all they could possibly think to bring. In fact, it was in far better condition itself than it had been a year ago, what with the major refits made to it during the Musketeer Project for Starfleet. And just recently, Nuggit and Boulder had helped them incorporate a new technology they had on their own ship. Something Sam and Jax hadn't known existed yet, exactly, but Nug and Bole got it around the time of the Musketeer Project, from contacts they had that Sam and Jax didn't.
They also had been working on more frivilous-seeming aspects of the mission. Like picking out what they'd wear. It couldn't be anything connected with Starfleet or the Federation, though it was assumed that where they were going, nothing about such organizations was yet known. Early on, Sam had suggested black jumpsuits similar to the ones worn by special ops, sometimes. But finally they decided to go with more plain, civilian clothes. Truth be known, the one thing Jax liked least about Starfleet was wearing those jumpsuits.
Then there were the communicators. They couldn't use their regular ones of course. So they built themselves new ones, of new design, and slightly more advanced than standard Starfleet issue. It was jax's idea, instead of the normal delta-shield design of Starfleet, to use an alpha-shield of their own design.
When they were all ready, the five of them took off in their 2 ships, and headed for the wormhole. Once inside, they recreated the accident that had sent their friends to the mirror universe a couple years ago. They came out the other side in Mirror Gamma. From here, Boulder led the group, as he had been here before, briefly (around the time of Sam and Jax's entrance in the original rounder). They came to a small planetoid, apparently uninhabited. But Boulder had a surprise for them, something he hadn't told anyone about as yet. He had plans of his own for this mission, plans which would require the others to slightly amend their own...
The Musketeer and Colossus set down in a cave which Boulder chose for them. The planetoid would serve as their base of operations on this mission, Boulder informed them. Sam ran scans of the area, but was finding nothing much of interest.
"Nug," asked Jax, "has Bole told you anything about what he found when he was here before? 'Cause he sure never told me much."
"I suspect he's told me no more than he has anyone else. I don't think he's ever kept a secret so well."
Boulder merely smiled.
Sam said, "Scans complete. I find no signs of life or technology of any kind. But it will sustain life just fine."
Everyone got off their ships and looked around. Suddenly the cave was filled with light, as a large door opened in one wall. Everyone turned toward it. Beyond the door they saw a ship, apparently a raider of the type used by the rebels at mirror-Terok Nor. All around were crudely rigged computer systems. Sam, Jax, Alex, and Nuggit barely had time to take it all in before a man dressed in black stepped through the doorway. He had a hood covering his face, so that they couldn't see it.
He spoke, but they could tell his voice was being altered electronically. "Well, Boulder. it's about time you got back here. We were beginning to think you'd forgotten us."
"Sorry about that. Things've been much more hectic than usual in our universe this year. But we've got a little free time now."
"Little summer break, is it? How nice." The man turned to Jax. "Ah, Jax, can't say how glad I am to finally meet you. Boulder told me you had been planning to get out here. I do hope you enjoy yourself, now you've finally made it."
"I'm sure I will. But now, Bole's told none of us anything at all about you. Who are you?"
"And," put in Sam, "might I ask how it is you hid from our sensors? They're better than average, you know."
"Our cloaks and shields are better than average."
"For this universe, perhaps."
"Yes, well... perhaps you should ask your friend about that."
"Um..." said Boulder, "well, there wasn't much I could do for them the first time I was here. But I did what I could."
"You gave them cloaks that even we couldn't detect?" asked Alex. "You must trust them pretty well."
"Which brings me back to my question," said Jax. "Who the hell are you?"
"We..." began the man in black, who was then interrupted by another man running in. He was also in black, but his hood was down and his voice was normal.
"Sorry I'm late. I just heard they were here," he said.
The entire party of visitors stared at the second man in shock, except for Boulder. But Jax snapped out of it quickly, and smiled. The first man put his hand over his face, lowered and shook his head. Then he turned to the other and said, "I wasn't done playing yet. They didn't know yet."
"Oops. Sorry. Oh well, might as well get down to business then, eh?"
"Yeah, yeah..." he turned off his voice-changer, flipped back his hood, and turned to the visitors. "It's time to tell you all what Boulder has been keeping such a good secret. Though you can already plainly see the main part of it. C'mon, let's get you set up in guest rooms, then we can go talk in the den."
Sam, Jax, and Alex went into the Musketeer wordlessly, got some things together, and came back out. Then they and the AI's followed the other two through the doorway.
"Well," said Jax, "I've always wondered how I'd look in a goatee. Guess now I know. ...Can't say as it's workin' for me, though...."