Odyssey - Chapter 1 of 8

Chapter 1
by Travis Anderson

Brin Macen leaned back into the comforts of his command chair. Macen was flying a Starfleet scoutship. The single occupant design of Starfleet's latest creation suited Macen's tastes. There was only so much a person could be expected to say during a three-day warp voyage.

He chuckled at his last thought. He supposed it came from a cultural bias. El-Aurians were known as listeners, not orators. Even so, Macen was forced to admit that he took the stereotype to a bit of an extreme.

He unzipped the collar of his uniform blouse. He was wearing the blue Sciences departmental colours again. Before that, he'd spent several years out of any form of Starfleet uniform. He was surprised at how little that had bothered him.

He'd spent the last eighty years of his life serving Starfleet. He'd even received command of his own survey vessel. He'd surrendered all of that when Admiral Nechayev and Starfleet Intelligence offered him the chance to infiltrate the Maquis.

Macen had been sympathetic towards the Maquis' cause since their inception due to his people's history with Borg. Any forced assimilation of another society disturbed Macen. One of his primary motives in joining Starfleet had been to help dissuade any such efforts that may arise within the Federation.

He had co-operated with Nechayev for the first year of his mission. After fighting alongside the self-labelled "freedom fighters", Macen found that they fought for the same principles he believed in. Macen's "defection" was labelled as treason, a charge that neither Starfleet nor the Federation took lightly.

Both Starfleet and the Cardassians hunted the Maquis and, consequently, Macen. He finally surrendered to Starfleet when the Dominion aided the Cardassians in finally crushing the resistance movement. He was able to deliver his ship, crew, and a handful of other survivors to Starfleet's unsympathetic hands.

Macen expected to stand trial. That trial never came. He was offered a choice: he could assist Intelligence with a new operation. or he could face imprisonment. The offer was loaded by the reduction of sentence by those that had served under him as well as the conditional pardon of Macen's first mate and fellow Starfleet renegade, Lisea Danan.

Filled with both concern and regret over convincing Danan to join him on his mission to the Maquis, Macen accepted Starfleet's deal. Macen and Danan were reinstated, reduced by one rank. That fact had been irrelevant to them. The other stipulation of the deal was the hardest: they were to serve the war effort at separate assignments without the privilege of communications with one another.

Macen soon discovered why he'd been selected for the deal. Starfleet had enlisted the aid of Angosia's biologically enhanced commandos. They were to be utilised on hit and run missions behind enemy lines. Those enemy lines were now the same territories that Macen had fought behind for the last several years. The mission rankled Macen. It gave the Federation access to the very bio-enhancement techniques that had cost Angosia their admittance into the Federation.

The former commandos were thrown away rather than cured. Macen knew that it had cost the lives of many soldiers that had wanted nothing more than to lay down their arms forever. The war was now concluded. Macen's mission was concluded as well.

As he hurtled through the starless void of warp space, he wondered if he'd ever forgive himself for either betrayal. As he'd once told Ro Laren, the dead have no qualms. It is the living that have to deal with the loss and guilt. The soldiers of Angosia and the Maquis rested at last. Macen envied them.

Macen awoke as the scout's sensors chimed an alarm. He tilted his seat back into a fully upright position. He was detecting to vessels occupying the same system he was travelling through. One of the power signatures was Romulan. Macen was thousands of kilometres inside of Federation space.

Ally, or no ally, neither side had ever renegotiated the treaty establishing the Neutral Zone. The Romulan Warbird's presence was technically an act of war. Macen dropped his ship out of warp in order to investigate.

The second ship was a Miranda class starship. The Romulans were obviously working with Starfleet. Macen could continue on his way.

The ship shuddered from a phaser blast. Macen was grateful he'd raised shields reflexively upon leaving warp. He checked his sensors. The Warbird was cloaking. While cloaked, she couldn't fire her weapons, effectively removing her from the fight. The damned Starfleet vessel continued to blast away at him.

His scout's manoeuvrability was all that was keeping him alive. He went to warp six. With luck, the starship wouldn't follow. So much for luck, he thought as he watched his sensors. He tried raising them on the comm,

"This is the U.S.S. Herodotus to unidentified Starfleet vessel. Hold your fire. I repeat, hold your fire. I'm a friendly." Another blast rocked the scout. "I'll take that as a 'sorry, but I'm not friendly'," he muttered under his breath.

The starship still wasn't sending off an identifying code. All Starfleet ships had transponders built into them that transmitted a ship's ID when queried. Someone had disabled this ship's. Either it was stolen, or her captain was up to something that he didn't anyone to know about.

Macen plotted his course for the system's primary. His only hope was to lure the larger ship into following him. He hoped that the starship's greater power and speed had lulled her captain into overconfidence. That error would be his only chance at survival.

Warnings sounded as he neared the sun. He threw all of his auxiliary power into the shields. Any system that wasn't needed for this manoeuvre was deactivated to add power to the shields and environmental systems. Even with all of that, the temperature was rising swiftly. He edged his ship down further and further into the heliosphere. Without his shields, his ship would have melted already.

Macen was coated in sweat. The cockpit was a sweltering sauna. He'd already shucked his uniform jacket and his blouse. He retained the undershirt only because he needed all his attention to prepare for the next manoeuvre.

He double-checked the distance between his scout and the Miranda. He was low enough, and they were close enough. He fired two quantum torpedoes towards the primary's core. He threw all of his ship's thrust upward. He needed to escape before the torpedoes detonated, igniting a solar flare. He shunted all the extra power he'd allocated to the environmental controls to the warp drive. He needed all the thrust he could manage. The Miranda, unable to manoeuvre as quickly as the smaller craft was only now trying to change direction.

Too late, Macen thought as the torpedoes detonated. The detonations caused a chain reaction. The star belched out a tremendous amount of heat, gas, and particles. The rising inferno squarely caught the Miranda class starship. She was engulfed in forces no starship had been designed to withstand.

Macen's scout cleared the star's gravity well and sped away. His course was vectored away from the flare. It lashed out into space, but claimed no further victims. Macen collapsed back into his chair and tried released the breath he hadn't realised he was holding. He began to re-route power back to its standard operational norms. His next activity was to re-set his course for sector one. He had an appointment with Starfleet Command. With all of that done, he decided he needed a drink. He would prepare his report in the incident after that... and a shower.

"StarDock Traffic Control, this is the Herodotus. Requesting docking billet." Macen spoke into the comm.

"Roger that, Herodotus. Please stand-by to surrender your helm to Traffic Control." A female voice instructed him.

"Copy, Traffic Control. Ready on your command."

"Transfer on my mark. Three...two...one...mark."

Macen felt the slightest shudder as Traffic's computers took control of his vessel. Although they knew the exact location of every ship in and around the massive station, they had no feel for flying. Turns were made according to programmed standards and lacked any grace or style. He supposed he shouldn't be so picky, but Macen had always enjoyed spaceflight. The nuances of it fascinated him.

StarDock's computers brought him into the massive dockyard within the station's confines. Dozens of Starfleet ships lay moored to the station. He glanced to his right as he passed a class of starship he didn't recognise.

"Computer," he spoke to get the ship's attention, "identify Starfleet vessel off our starboard side."

"According to Starfleet records, that vessel is the NCC-59599, U.S.S. Odyssey," the computer's female voice informed him.

The name struck a resonant chord within him. The ship he'd commanded during his tenure with the Maquis had been named Odyssey. She'd been a Blackbird-class scout built for Starfleet in 2319. She'd been retired from service in the mid-2260's. Retired until Macen took her for himself. Starfleet had confiscated the ship upon his capture.

"What class is she?" Macen asked in fascination.

"She is a Hydra-class starship."

Macen gazed at the ship in wonder. It was essentially a dagger with two warp nacelles serving as the hilt. The new Akira-class borrowed a lot from it. The craft was sleek and dangerous in appearance. She bristled with phaser emitters and torpedo launchers. She had the power to go where she pleased, and the speed to get there as soon as she wanted.

"Who's her commander?" he asked wistfully.

"Starfleet records do not contain that information."

Macen sighed. He'd thrown away any chance of reclaiming command. He only regretted it now gazing upon this ship. His record would forfeit any chances of obtaining another command.

The scout continued on through the dockyard. It began to slow as it neared a docking pylon. The scout landed atop of it. The pylon's clamp arose and fastened itself to the underbelly of the scout.

"You are cleared to disembark," came a male voice over the comm.

Macen scowled for a brief second. He'd preferred the female's voice. He transmitted the ship's logs to StarDock's computer network. From there, it would be transferred to Command. He put the ship's systems on stand-by. He rose out of the cockpit and descended the ladder that led to the main portion of the ship. He retrieved his duffel and his padds from the storage locker he had placed them in. He slung the duffel over his shoulder and proceeded to yet another ladder.

He checked to see of anyone was below the open hatch. Seeing that there wasn't, he threw his bag down the open hole. Macen climbed down the ladder to find a very attractive human female waiting at the base of the ladder. She thrust out her hand.

"Hello, you must be Commander Macen."

"So they tell me," he replied as he took her hand and shook it. She had a firm grip. He broke into a lop-sided grin, "Can I ask your name, or has that been classified 'top secret' by SI?"

She gave him a strange look that he didn't understand before answering, "I'm Ensign D'art."

"And you came down here just to tell me that?" he asked teasingly.

She broke into a warm smile, "I'm supposed o escort you to Admiral Nechayev's office."

Macen rolled his eyes, "What? She doesn't trust me to show up for my 'appointment'?"

D'art shook her head, "I don't know anything about that. I'm just supposed to make sure you are on your way to the Admiral's office, and then I'm supposed to transport your belongings to your next assignment."

Macen looked at her quizzically, "You wouldn't happen to know what that assignment would be?"

"I was told you would learn that at your meeting." D'art informed him.

"Thank you anyway," he replied dejectedly.

As he walked away, D'art overheard him mutter, "It's going to be a garbage scow." D'art lifted his duffel with an amused smile on her face.

Macen headed for the closest transporter station. He didn't have far to walk. He strode up to the Master Chief manning the unit's controls. The Chief eyed him with an intense disapproval allowed only to Admirals and Master Chiefs.

"Can I help you?" the Chief asked.

Macen handed him a padd, "Orders to report directly to Admiral Nechayev's office."

"All right. Step onto the pad. I'll transport you to Starfleet HQ," the Chief replied sourly.

"Sorry, Chief," Macen replied. "That won't be good enough."

"Excuse me?" the Chief asked incredulously.

"My orders specifically state that I am to appear directly at the Admiral's office after disembarking form my ship. I'm off my ship, and now I need to be there," Macen informed crisply.

The Chief glanced over the orders, "Yes they do. Point for you." He lifted his head and met Macen's eyes, "You also know that it's a breach of regulations to beam you there."

"Regulation 134, paragraph C allows the use of transporters directly into HQ, if specifically ordered to do so."

The Chief shook his head, "Do you know what they'll do to me?"

"Give you a commendation for following orders properly and expediently." Macen smiled. "Then next time they'll know better than to write their orders this way."

The Chief broke into a mischievous grin, "That they will." He activated the transporter. He set the destination co-ordinates. He glanced up, "I wish I could see this."

Macen smiled wickedly, "You'll undoubtedly hear about it later."

With that he dissolved into a glimmer of energy. Macen re-appeared standing atop Nechayev's desk.

"Sweet Jesus!" Nechayev shouted as she came out her chair.

Macen smiled and leapt off the desk. Several Security officers burst into the room with their phasers drawn and ready. Macen put his hands up as they shouted for him to do. Nechayev waved them away from the wall she leaned against, clutching her heart. The disgruntled Security officers holstered their sidearms and withdrew from the room. Nechayev returned to her chair, still slightly shaken. She was recovering swiftly, Macen thought. He accepted the chair she waved him towards.

"Thank you," he said with a victorious grin.

"Stop being so smug," Nechayev snapped. "That's an order."

Macen shrugged, "That's another one I'll have to refuse to obey."

Nechayev rubbed the bridge of her nose, "Your stubbornness is going to be the death of me." She stabbed a finger at him. "And of your career."

"I didn't know you cared," Macen snorted.

"Brin," she sighed, "Your one of the best operatives I ever had, and the best damn analyst I've ever seen. I can't always protect you. Don't throw what's left of your career away needlessly."

"Every insubordinate act I've ever committed has been deliberated and calculated before hand," he explained.

"You're an excellent tactician, but you're a lousy strategist," Nechayev commented. "Your methods generally alienate every potential ally you have for your position."

Macen shrugged. Nechayev shook her head sadly.

"You would've been a flag officer by now if you'd just co-operated," she explained.

His eyes grew hard, "You've know that I don't want to be a flag officer. I have no political ambitions."

"Yes, you do," Nechayev sneered. "You want to found the Federated State of Brin Macen. You want the freedom to do whatever you want, and the rest of us be damned."

He stared at her coldly. She smiled.

"You see, I do know you."

"What do you want?" he asked gruffly.

"I want to offer you your own command," she informed him.

Macen's eyes bulged in disbelief. "My own what?"

"I need you to take command of a ship and investigate something for me."

"I knew there'd be a price," Macen muttered.

"Of course," she admitted candidly, "There's always a price."

"What's the investigation?" he asked sullenly.

"You already know something of it," Nechayev said cryptically. Macen's right eyebrow rose. "It involves that rendezvous you happened upon."

"I take it this isn't the first time a Starfleet ship has been caught meeting with a Romulan ship within Federation borders?" he asked archly.

"No." she admitted in exasperation, "We've received reports of throughout the war. Your encounter was the first where one of our ships turned up missing."

"Which ship was it?"

"The Slipstream." Nechayev noted Macen's lack of recognition of her name. "She was a reserve vessel called into wartime service."

"Who was her captain?"

"A Lt. Commander Herris was supposed to be patrolling the border near Tholian space."

"How'd they end up that close to the Romulan border, then?" Macen asked, rolling the possibilities around in his mind.

"Exactly," Nechayev concurred. "They should have been dozens of light-years away instead of only a half-dozen."

"What other information is there?"

Nechayev's sharp features grew dark, "There have been reports from sources inside the Romulan Empire that claim there are Federation prisoners being held by the Romulans."

"Where?" Macen asked sharply.

"In the Beta Quadrant."

Macen sighed. That meant it was on the opposite side of the Empire than the Federation bordered. The area further from the galactic core was the Klingon Empire. Core-wards, it was space that had been charted, but not yet affiliated with the Federation. That way was faster, but far riskier.

"I see you realize the implications." Nechayev nodded in approval. "Then you also realize that we also need to operate with the utmost discretion."

"Have you any leads as to who the Starfleet insider is?"

"Or are," Nechayev corrected miserably. "We finally rid Starfleet of all the Changelings, then this has to happen."

Macen understood. The Changeling infiltration of Starfleet had been one of the darkest moments in Federation history. Everyone was a suspect. Spouses and families turned to one another with suspicion in their eyes.

"We think a group known only as Section Thirty-One may be involved," Nechayev told him. "A young doctor out at Deep Space Nine has been badgering my office with stories of an ultra-secret conspiracy group operating within the Federation."

"Have you listened?" Macen growled. He'd had previous experience with Section 31. He'd stolen his scoutship, and several others, from them.

Nechayev's eyes met Macen's. She saw the bitter fury blazing in them. She hesitated. She reconsidered what she originally planned to tell him.

"Yes," she admitted. For a moment, she feared that Macen may come over the desk to physically harm her.

"Have you done anything about it?" he snarled.

"I can't!" she snarled back. "Not officially." She sat back in her chair, visibly shedding her anger. "That's why I need you to accept this mission. I need someone I can trust."

"Why me?" he asked with a tinge of bitterness.

"I needed someone that I knew couldn't have been reached by Section Thirty-One. Both Command and Section 31 blacklist you. They'd sooner kill you then recruit you. You have the skills and the motivation. The combination makes you the perfect choice."

Macen nodded, "Thank you." His eyes grew flinty. "Now, for the real reason?"

Nechayev sighed, "You were my second choice. The first wasn't available."

"Captain Calhoun up to his eyebrows in Thallonian troubles?" Macen retorted.

"Precisely," Nechayev admitted, then shrugged. "Besides, I needed to someone who didn't have an already established command."

"It's a new command?" Macen asked. "Are you to send out an untested crew into a situation like this?"

"They are professionals," Nechayev replied with conviction. "It is no more or less than assigning a new captain to a ship."

"What ship is it?" he asked in resignation.

"The U.S.S. Odyssey." Nechayev laughed at the gleam that appeared in his eyes upon hearing that name, then she continued her answer. "She was an early prototype for the Defiant-class."

Macen was familiar with the infamous class. The first true warship designed by Starfleet. His eyebrow arched. "A prototype for a prototype?"

She shrugged. "They needed to test the weapons arrays and direct power relays on a familiar hull configuration before trying something new."

"Good point," he conceded. "You will proceed immediately to the Odyssey. The rest of your crew will be boarding within forty-eight hours. After you have everyone aboard, you depart for the Beta Quadrant."

Macen stood to leave, but Nechayev motioned for him to wait. "First, you'll be going under the guise of charting unknown sectors in the Beta Quadrant. Second, be sure to change your uniform before you assume command."

Macen shook his head. Nechayev flushed in consternation. She held out her hands to signal that he should express his objections now.

"I'll do it, but on certain conditions."

Her eyes narrowed and her voice was brittle, "Offers of command are accepted or rejected. They are not negotiated."

"You'll like the first one," Macen replied reassuringly. "After the investigation, our guise becomes fact."

"You want this to become an exploration mission?"


She nodded slightly, "I'll see what I can do."

"Pull any string you have to," Macen added. "Just make it happen."

"And the second?"

"I won't wear Command departmental colours," he said flatly.

"What?" she snapped. "It's a bloody shirt! Just wear it."

"I'm a Science Division officer," he replied, "An intelligence analyst, to be precise. I have never been Command track. I don't want to be Command track."

"But you want command?" she asked, enjoying the irony. Macen nodded. Nechayev pondered it. It actually didn't matter what department the ranking officer belonged to. All that mattered was that there was a competent commander. She nodded in acceptance. "Very well," she said in resignation. "Wear whatever uniform you want, as long as its regulation."

Macen's face lit up, flushed with victory. He turned and started for the door. He had reached it when the Admiral called out to him. He turned with a puzzled expression.

"If you won't wear the right colours, at least have the decency to wear the correct rank insignia, Captain."

She enjoyed the stunned look on his face as he comprehended what she'd just told him. The look of radiant joy that followed it was priceless. He left after that. Nechayev sat back with a sigh. There weren't very many opportunities for reward in her field. She thoroughly enjoyed the rare moments when she could surprise someone with one of those rare treasures.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Macen's next stop was a transporter pad. He had himself beamed back to StarDock. After arriving he proceeded straight towards the pylon the Odyssey was moored to. He had to stop and ask for directions twice. Having finally arrived, he was then challenged by two Security officers. They refused to let him pass until he could verify his orders.

Macen was about to call for Admiral Nechayev when Ensign D'art appeared. She wore a broad smile of amusement when she recognised the plight he was in.

"It's all right, Derrico," she assured the officer in charge. "He's the new captain."

"He's wearing Science colours," Derrico protested.

"And I'm going to continue to do so," Macen replied obstinately.

"You can check with Admiral Nechayev's office," she assured him. "He's cleared."

"I'll let him pass, under your recognisance," Derrico informed her. "And then I'll contact the Admiral's staff."

"Fine," she replied pleasantly, patting him on the arm. She turned to face Macen. "Would you like a tour, Captain?"

Macen wore a wry expression, "Let me guess, your part of the crew?"

Her smile grew, "Your Chief Helmsman, to be precise."

Macen shook his head, "Figures. You could have told me my assignment earlier, you know."

"And deprive the Admiral of her fun? Never!" she replied with mock horror.

"If we've dispensed with the banter," Macen said, turning serious, "maybe you can tell me about this ship as you escort me to the bridge."

D'art's smile became one of pure joy, "I would love to."

As they exited the turbolift onto the bridge, D'art was concluding her lecture. "So when they decided to flesh the ship out and make her operational, they were able to expand the bridge layout, and make it slightly more traditional."

Macen's eyes swept over the layout. It was a design he approved of. The command chair sat alone. Directly in front of it lay the Helm and the Ops consoles. Directly behind the Captain sat the Master Systems' console. To the captain's extreme right lay the Engineering console; the extreme left lay the Tactical console. Between Engineering and Master Systems lay the Environmental controls. Between Tactical and Master Systems lay the Science station. Each station was designed as its own alcove.

"How many officers do we have aboard?" Macen asked.

"About half the crew," D'art answered. "I flew the ship during some test runs and have stayed with her since. Same holds true for most of Engineering. Everyone else is transferring in."

"Which senior officers are aboard?"

"The Chief Engineer, Science Officer, Chief Tactical, and your truly," she ended with a flourish.

Macen studied his helmsman for a moment. She was graceful and lithe. She had a naturally ebullient personality. Her brunette hair was braided behind her head.

"Who is the Security Chief?"

"You've already met him."

He rolled his eyes. "Derrico?"

She nodded. "Precisely."

"Oh, well...I'm sure we'll get off to a better start later."

"Doubt it."

Macen glowered at her. "And the others?"

"Lt. Commander Garm Tarrik is the Chief Engineer. He's a Tellarite."

"Have something against Tellarites, Ensign?"

She shook her head adamantly. "No, sir. Tarrik's just a little...well, you'll see."

"And the Science Officer?" he asked wearily.

"A Trill named..."

"Lisea Danan?" Macen asked.

"You know her?" she asked, startled.

"You could say that." He mused, "Where is she?"

"Down in Astrometrics, helping them calibrate their equipment."

Macen nodded. He had a faraway look in his eyes. D'art didn't want to try to guess what that look entailed. She waited for him to speak.

"Have her join me in my Ready Room," he said at last.

"Aye, sir." D'art replied. From the way he said it, she knew that he didn't expect the conversation to go smoothly. Perhaps the earlier fall-out with Derrico was the least of the new Captain's problems.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Macen paced nervously in his waiting room. It had been almost three years since he'd last seen Lisea. Their parting had not been a happy one. They'd been forbidden any contact in the interim. He could only wonder how she'd react to his presence now.

His heart momentarily stopped as the door slid open. Lisea stood in the doorway. She hesitated before stepping in. She took a few tentative steps, then stopped and stood silently watching him.

She was very much as Macen remembered. The only change he could see was that the scar on her right cheek had been removed. It had received when a Galor-class cruiser destroyed the ship they'd been travelling in. A fragment had been imbedded in her cheek. Owing to the Maquis' limited medical resources, the scar had resulted.

"Reporting as ordered," she said slowly.

"It's good to see you again," Macen told her.

A flicker of a smile tugged at her mouth. Macen studied the lines of her face. She possessed a slightly oval face. Her high cheekbones granted her a look of unexpected strength. She had full lips that smiled easily highlighting a strong, angular jaw. Her eyes were the deepest brown, canopied by dark lashes and brows. The irregular spots of her race framed her face and neck.

During their time with the Maquis, Danan had taken to altering her chestnut hair to blonde. She still maintained that practice. Her hair had grown over the last three years. It now floated just above her shoulders, her bangs held back by a black band.

He realised that she was returning his scrutiny. He appeared virtually the same as well. He still wore his red-gold hair short. He meticulously maintained his neatly trimmed goatee. His green-blue eyes still changed colour to reflect whatever he was wearing.

"I didn't know you were aboard," he informed her softly.

"I knew you were being posted here," Lisea admitted. "That's why I requested the assignment."

Macen's eyes bulged in surprise. "You did? How?"

Danan grinned. "Nechayev asked me if I thought you'd accept another command. She explained the mission to me, and I volunteered."

"Really?" Macen asked, not believing his ears.

She'd been standing with her hands behind her back. Now she brought her hands forward, clasping them together.

"Brin, I know that we haven't seen each other in three years. I also know that things may be rough between us for a bit. I was wondering if we could move past that?"

He nodded. "I hope so." He broke into a relieved smile. "I thought I'd have to search Starfleet records for weeks to find you."

Her eyes twinkled, "I can't let you be the only one with tricks up your sleeve."

Macen moved from around the desk. He stopped inches from her. "I'm really happy to see you." His voice caught slightly.

"So am I," she choked.

Their embrace was filled with the sadness and lonely despair of their forced separation. It was also filled with the vibrant hope of their reunion and an unspoken pledge to avoid future separations.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Chief Medical Officer assigned to the Odyssey came as something of a surprise. Commander Viddan was a Romulan. His parents had defected to the Federation during the latter half of the twenty-third century. Despite the recent alliance with the Empire, many in Starfleet were unwilling to trust Romulans or any one of their lineage. It was especially surprising since the entire mission was essentially a Starfleet Intelligence operation.

Macen shook his hand warmly. "Welcome aboard."

Viddan regarded him with a look characteristic of the aloofness for which Vulcans and Romulans were typified. "Thank you, Captain. I must confess my sense of relief upon discovering that this vessel's commander would not be a human."


"Yes," Viddan replied with disdain. "I have encountered...difficulties with human commanders in the past. It takes another non-human to understand."

"I'm sure it does," Macen replied, fighting the urge to punch his new CMO. He was already certain that Viddan's "difficulties" had far less to due with his ethnicity than with his attitude. Macen forced himself not to inform the Doctor of his opinion.

"I'm sure we'll have ample opportunity to hear about your experiences," he said with feigned interest.

"I look forward to it," Viddan replied with genuine delight.

I wish I did, Macen groaned inwardly.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Twelve hours later, Macen was in the briefing room with Derrico, D'art, Tarrik and Danan. He finally understood the ensign's comments regarding the Chief Engineer. It wasn't that he was a bad sort, it was simply that he smelled. He didn't smell bad. He smelled like mud. A porcine race, Tellarites enjoyed mud baths to moisten their skin. Apparently, Tarrik was fanatical about his hygiene and "bathed" daily.

"Almost all of the crew is aboard and accounted for," Derrico reported. "The primary exceptions being our Exec and our Ops officer."

Macen drummed his fingers together. "Any word on when we can expect them?"

Derrico shook his head. Macen sighed. They were due to ship out in less than thirty-six hours. Both officers were expected to have checked in several hours ago.

"Contact Starfleet Command," Macen ordered. "See if they know anything."

"Aye, sir," Derrico nodded.

"If there's no other business?" Macen asked. No one spoke, "All right then, dismissed."

Derrico and Tarrik were the first out the door, which suited Macen.

"Commander Danan, Ensign D'art, a moment of your time?" They returned to their seats. "Neither Commander Willis nor Lieutenant Margoro will be joining us," he informed them sadly.

"Why not?" D'art asked.

"They're dead," Macen replied flatly.

"What a wonderful way to start the mission," Danan commented dryly. "How did they die?"

"No one's sure," Macen replied sourly. "They both died in 'mysterious' accidents. Willis died in a shuttle accident four hours ago. Margoro drowned in the Pacific Ocean off of Fiji. "

"Are there replacements?" Danan asked.

Macen shook his head, "There's no one available that Nechayev has cleared."

"What's that mean for our mission?" Danan asked, a tinge of desperation in her voice.

"It means," Macen answered, his voice steel, "that you are now the first officer. I am free to recruit an Ops officer at my own discretion."

"Do you have anyone in mind?"

An enigmatic smile crossed Macen's face. "That all depends on if you want to have an adventure or not."

Thirty minutes later, they were still arguing over Macen's proposal. D'art watched them go at each other with great amusement. She'd originally harboured interest in her new captain after meeting him. That had ended now that she'd these two together.

"Are you as nuts as she is?" Danan asked, throwing her hands in the air.

"She's not crazy." Macen argued.

"That's why she's in a mental institution, right?" Danan quipped sarcastically.

She turned and stormed to the other side of the room. D'art turned her head towards Macen to see how he'd reply. His face was a stony masque of rage. It faded by sheer force of will.

He took a deep breath. "Listen, we need someone we can trust," he said. "She's the only qualified person that we know that can't have been corrupted."

"I wouldn't say that," Danan retorted.

Macen's shoulders sagged and his head hung low. "C'mon Lisea, we know her. She can be trusted."

"She tried to kill you," Danan said accusingly. "Have you forgotten that?"

"No," Macen answered. "But I have forgiven."

"You may have," Danan replied harshly, "but I haven't."

Macen shrugged his hands on his hips. "It's the past. I looked up her records, they have no record of any 'incidents' over the last nine months."

Her arms spread wide. "So that means she's cured?"

He shook his head. "No, but it means she's better."

D'art looked at one then the other as though watching a tennis match. Macen and Danan both stopped and stared at her.

"What are you doing?" Danan demanded.

D'art's head jerked back. "I'm just waiting for you two to finish arguing."

"You could put forth an opinion," Danan snapped peevishly.

D'art's hands came up as though she were surrendering. "I don't even know who this T'Kir person is. It's your call."

"No," Macen growled, "It's my call."

Both Danan and D'art stared at him in mute silence as he spoke. "We're going to release her from the Andes Institute."

Danan glowered at him. "I hope you know what you're doing."

He smiled thinly at her, "I'm about to break a prisoner out of a Rehabilitative Penal Colony and make her a member of this crew."

She rolled her eyes. "Well, as long as you know what you're doing, what the hell?" She threw her hands into the air and made for the door. She stopped before exiting and stabbed an accusing finger at him. "Just so you know, this is not the way to regain someone's affections." She stormed out of the door.

Brin stood silently, watching the door slide shut. He turned to look at D'art. She sat in her chair, carefully not making any noise.

Macen gave her a wan smile. "It's a long story."

She gave him an understanding smile. "I gathered as much."

Macen stood for a moment before turning back to D'art. "Ensign?"

"Yes, sir?"

"The meeting's concluded," he informed her gently.

"I thought you might want some assistance planning the break-out," she said eagerly.

Macen gave her a baleful look. "Ensign, you're dismissed."

"But, sir..."

He pointed at the door. "Ensign, you're dismissed."


"Didn't they teach what 'dismissed' means at the Academy?" he asked sarcastically. "It means 'leave now, before you get put on report'."

"Aye, sir," she replied crisply.

"I'll contact you and Commander Danan in fifteen minutes and fill you on the plan."

"Aye, sir," she acknowledged and departed.

She might work out after all, Macen mused.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thirteen minutes later, they were re-gathered in the briefing room. The table's holo display had recreated a map of the facility. Two sections were highlighted in red, one atop the roof, and one within the facility. Macen pointed at the one within the facility.

"This is T'Kir's room," he explained. "She's being held in Section Seven, Quad Nine, room thirteen."

Danan leaned closer to the display, resting her chin in her hand. "There's a lot of security posts."

"Coming in from the front door, there are three security stations before reaching the objective," Macen said flatly. His voice carried no emotion. He was in his analytical mode. Nothing but facts mattered to him now.

"Wouldn't it be easier to beam the target out?" D'art asked.

Macen smiled thinly. "The entire facility is shielded by a transport inhibitor." He pointed at the second highlighted section. "The emitter array is located on the roof."

"How do people get in and out then?" Danan asked.

Macen pointed to an area right in front of the complexes main entrance. "That is the only unshielded point in the facility's sphere."

"Which makes it easier to screen unwanted guests," Lisea commented.

"The facility is located on a cliff in the Andes," Macen added. "If you're refused admittance, the weather's cold enough to discourage loitering."

"So what's your plan?" Danan asked, pulling herself upright.

"I've arranged the use of a shuttle. We assume orbit over the facility. D'art and I transport down and enter the facility," Macen answered.

"Why her?" Danan asked sharply.

From her tone, it would have been easy to assume that the question was spawned form jealousy. Macen knew better. He and Lisea had been partners for years now. They knew each other's methods. A stranger did not have that advantage.

"Because I need someone in the ship overwriting their security systems," Macen replied, "You're a better systems engineer than she is."

Danan nodded agreement, "What happens after you reach T'Kir?"

Macen grinned, "Then D'art and T'Kir will relocate to a designated spot. They will wait there for the transport inhibitor to be deactivated. Once it's down, they'll be transported back to the ship."

"I take it you'll be doing the deactivating," Danan commented dryly.

"It's my plan," Macen replied with a shrug. "The responsibility for sabotage should fall squarely on my shoulders."

Danan's shrug was the slightest movement of her shoulders, "How d'you plan on withdrawing?"

"I'll make for the cliff face," Macen answered.

Danan's eyes went steely. "That's a sheer face. It's a two kilometre drop."

"That's why no one will expect me to go that direction," he said confidently. "Besides, I'll have you in orbit ready to beam me up."

Danan's face shifted expression as she began calculating options.

"Stop it!" Macen intoned darkly. "You won't be rid of me that easily."

She pantomimed a disappointed snap of her fingers. She smiled warmly all the while.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Shut up," Danan hissed.

"I can't breathe," D'art complained miserably.

"Quiet," Macen turned in the cockpit and scolded.

"But I can't breathe," D'art complained more loudly.

"I'll make that a permanent condition if you don't shut up," Danan informed her comrade in an eerie voice.

D'art sighed. She and Danan were in the storage locker of the shuttle Oberon. Macen had arranged for the shuttle under the ostensible purpose of practice with the new class of shuttle. They had escorted him into the shuttle, but weren't logged in as occupants. They hid wrapped in layers of sensor defying blankets.

"We're clear of StarDock," Macen informed them.

Danan emerged first. She took her station beside Macen. Although she disagreed with the purpose of this mission, she was too much of a professional to let it bother her. Macen was her Captain. He'd made his decision and she would support him in it. Although, most of his decisions don't usually include breaking out lunatics, she mused.

"I don't care what anyone says," D'art complained bitterly as she extricated herself from the locker. "I am not going back in there."

"Yes, you will," Danan replied without turning around.

"No, I'm not," the Ensign blustered.

Danan turned slowly, her eyes flashing lasers. "Yes, you will. Conscious or unconscious, it doesn't matter to me. You will get back in there when ordered to do so."

"Yes, sir," D'art stammered, plopping down into the nearest seat.

Macen smiled to himself. Danan was the perfect first officer. She knew his command style intimately. She knew when to raise objections, and when to let things lie. Most of all, she knew how to maintain discipline.

"Assuming parking orbit," Macen announced and vacated his seat. He went to the back of the shuttle and programmed a set of co-ordinates into the transporter.

Danan went to work at the comm panel. She swiftly accessed the Andes Institute's mainframe. She nodded to Macen as he and D'art stepped onto the small transporter platform.

"Good luck," she said softly.

"Thanks," Macen replied with a laconic grin. "Energise."

Macen and D'art materialised in a snowdrift. Before them lay the expansive Andes Institute. The view was breathtaking. They could see for hundred of kilometres in every direction.

Macen would have enjoyed spending hours in appreciation of the view, if it hadn't been so bloody cold. He looked over towards D'art. She was suffering more from the change in temperature then he. He motioned towards the Institute. She nodded dully. Even though Starfleet uniforms were resistant to cold and heat, they had their limits. Although D'art was human, Macen did not where she was from. She obviously had little tolerance for cold.

He helped guide her as they trudged through the snow towards the Institute. As they entered the shield that prevented transporting, they discovered that it had other properties. It also shielded the Institute from inclement weather. They warmed as they mounted the steps leading to the entrance.

They stood before the double doors and they slid open. Entering, they faced an expansive courtyard. There was a desk at the centre of the room. Two men armed with phasers sat at the desk.

"Can I help you?" one of the men asked in a desultory manner. Both his manner and his ebony skin reminded Macen of Derrico. Whereas Derrico spoke in with a resonant bass, this man spoke in a nasal wheeze. The whiny voice belied the stern exterior so greatly as to be a great source of amusement.

Silent amusement, Macen chided himself. He handed a padd to the man. The security officer activated it and read the orders Lisea forged for them. He nodded his approval regarding what he read and handed the padd back.

He pointed towards a turbolift shaft. "Go there and request Level Seven. Disembark and show the officers there your orders."

Macen offered his thanks. Taking D'art by the elbow, he guided her towards the lift. He stopped in front of its doors and waited. When the doors swooshed open, he entered, pushing D'art in before him.

"You don't have to guide me around like I'm a child," she snapped.

"That remains to be seen," Macen replied calmly. "You may be a great pilot. We'll see soon enough. On the ground, though, you have a tendency to drag your feet." His eyes bored into hers. "If you hesitate, you draw attention. To remain inconspicuous, move with confidence and purpose."

She opened her mouth to protest, then stopped herself. There was logic behind what he'd said. There was also what Nechayev had told D'art about Macen. The Admiral had claimed that Macen had been her best analyst, and "a damned fine field operative". Experience counted for something.

"Yes, sir. I understand," she asserted confidently.

Macen smiled. "That's more like it."

The lift slowed, then halted. The doors opened with swoosh. Macen realised that he hated that sound. He'd served on Starfleet vessels for nearly eighty years, and they all made that cursed noise.

As promised, the lift opened to reveal another security booth. Once again, there were two guards. This time it was a Bolian male and a Deltan female. Neither was armed.

He handed his orders to the Deltan. She gave his padd a perfunctory glance, then settled her gaze on him. He could tell from the Bolian's reaction that she was flooding the room with her pheromones. Even D'art was getting a little hot under the collar. Obviously, the Deltan had no prior experience with an El-Aurian. His people were immune to the biochemical aphrodisiacs her race produced.

Her eyes became sullen as she pointed down the hallway. "Quad Nine is that way."

Macen murmured his thanks as he took D'art by the arm and led her down the hall. She still seemed overwhelmed and confused. He led her out of the booth's sight, then stopped. D'art leaned against the wall and collected herself.

"What the hell just happened?" she asked angrily.

"A slight pheromonal overdose," Macen answered, trying to conceal his amusement.

"I thought Deltans had to take an oath of celibacy before joining Starfleet," she growled.

"They do," Macen replied, then shrugged. "This installation isn't part of Starfleet. Who knows what protocols they've established?"

"They need to establish a few," D'art said, her rage increasing. "I've never even thought about sex with another woman. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was rip off her clothes and taste her..."

Macen held up his hands. "I really don't need to know."

D'art flushed. "I'm so sorry. I don't know why I was about to..."

Macen patted her on the shoulder. "It's all right. Are you ready to continue?"

She nodded. "Yeah, I've got myself together." She stood and straightened her uniform jacket. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it," he said, then in conspiratorial tones, "Especially not to Commander Danan. You'd never hear the end of it."

D'art managed a laugh. "I'll keep that in mind."

"C'mon, let's go," Macen said, pointing down the hall.

They proceeded to the next booth. This one sat before the corridor leading to Quad Nine. Yet again, there were two guards. They were female, a human and a Trill.

Macen repeated the ritual. D'art fidgeted under the Trill's scrutiny, still uneasy about the reaction the Deltan had evoked. The human studied the padd. Her head rose and her face was hard.

"What is your business with the prisoner?" she asked in a fierce tone.

"I've been asked to consult on the case," Macen lied, thankful for his Sciences divisional shirt. "That's easier if you've actually met the patient."

The guard broke into a smile. "Don't scare easy, eh? That's good, means you'll stand a chance against her. I'll warn you though, she's a wily one."

Macen nodded. "Thanks. I'll keep that in mind."

The officer nodded to her Trill companion. "Drix here will unlock the door for you."

"Thanks again." Macen threw her a jaunty salute.

The trio proceeded down the hall until they reached room thirteen. Drix motioned them to stand aside as she waved a passkey over the lock. The door emitted a chime then opened. As it opened, Macen pressed a hypo against Drix's neck and depressed its injection stud.

The hypo hissed and the Trill fell unconscious into Macen's ready arms. He drug her into the room. D'art followed him, glancing about nervously for the room's occupant. She found her huddled in the corner.

The darkness of the room did little to occlude its purpose. The walls were padded. The furniture was barren, and bolted to the floor. Breaks and deep scratches etched into the floor tiles indicted that the bolts had not been effective against Vulcan strength in the past.

T'Kir sat in a feral crouch, watching them. Her dark eyes flashed with conflicting emotions D'art could not identify. The Vulcan's hair was wild. It looked as though someone chopped it off with a dull hatchet. It was of varied lengths that stuck out in every conceivable direction.

T'Kir's head canted in an odd angle as she watched them. Macen turned and there was the light of recognition in her features. The wariness in posture disappeared. She slumped into a lounging sprawl on the floor.

"Well, you've certainly taken your time getting here, Brin Macen," she scolded, her voice rising and falling in a strange, child-like cantor.

"I've been busy," Macen replied brusquely. "Would you like to leave?"

She sat up, pleading in her eyes. "More than anything."

Macen pointed at D'art. "Then follow her," he instructed her sternly. "Don't let anything happen to her." His eyes narrowed. "And more importantly, don't do anything to her."

D'art thought for a moment that T'Kir was pouting for a moment, but dismissed the idea. Who'd ever heard of a Vulcan vamping before? It was an absurd idea. She quickly dismissed it.

"I don't want to go with her," T'Kir protested. "She doesn't like me."

"Yes, she does," Macen assured her. "She has no reason not to."

"She thinks I'm strange," T'Kir accused.

"You're different than any Vulcans she's known," Macen explained. "Give her time, she'll grow to love you."

"She'd better," T'Kir muttered then rose to follow D'art.

Macen turned to the young ensign. "You know what to do."

D'art nodded. "Get to the pick-up site, stay out of the way, and most of all, don't get caught."

Macen nodded proudly. "Good girl. Get going."

D'art motioned for T'Kir to follow her. She slipped out of the room. She noticed that T'Kir was dressed only in the typical blue jumpsuit common to Federation medical facilities the quadrant over. She was also barefoot, which gave her a considerable advantage in walking softly.

She paused while Macen passed them. He strode up to the security booth and went to the other side of it, distracting the officer there from D'art and T'Kir's approach. Macen's sudden reappearance and her partner's absence puzzled the woman. She barely had time to register T'Kir's presence behind her before the Vulcan's hand snaked out and squeezed the vulnerable nerve junction in her neck. The guard tensed, then went limp.

"Good job," Macen commended T'Kir's effort.

T'Kir's eyebrow rose in disdain. "It was far too simple."

"Just remember that if you two encounter any more guards," Macen urged and then proceeded alone further down the hall.

"Where is he going?" T'Kir demanded to know.

"He has another mission," D'art stated simply.

"What other 'mission'?" the Vulcan asked archly. "I should be the only 'mission'."

"Don't we think highly of ourselves?" D'art shot back. T'Kir's eyes flashed. D'art could see danger rolling behind the frozen masque of a Vulcan face.

"You have taken a great risk to free me," T'Kir nearly snarled. "It is only logical to assume that it is because I am of great worth to you."

D'art noted the sarcastic tone surrounding her use of the word "logic", but couldn't argue with the reasoning behind it.

"He has to disable the shield that prevents the transporters from working."

T'Kir's head quirked to one side. "Then we should go wherever it is you're supposed to take me and be ready for our imminent departure."

The Vulcan's mercurial mood swings (did Vulcans have mood swings?) were really beginning to bother her, but once again, she couldn't refute the 'logic' of the suggestion. "Follow me."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Macen had reached a maintenance hatch. He opened it. On the other side a Jeffrey' Tube style access tunnel lay revealed. Macen reached out and took hold of the ladder. He began his climb towards the roof.

He had to climb six levels before reaching the roof. He keyed the door panel. It opened slowly. He stepped out onto the roof.

The section he stood atop was one of the few flat sections. Behind him rose a tower. He instinctively knew that it contained a security detail. Before him lay the array. To either side, the roof slanted towards the ground. To the right, it led to a thirteen-story drop to the ground. To the left, a two-kilometre drop to an outcropping of the Andes awaited.

He moved forward purposefully. He made straight for the array, careful not to look sideways as that panoramic view. He went to the other side of the array, blocking him from the tower's view. He opened an access panel.

Macen quickly went to work pulling out chips and connectors. The field began to waver. He worked faster, knowing that he was undoubtedly tripping alarms. Voices drifting in from across the roof confirmed his suspicion.

He ripped out the last circuit board. All the indicators went dead. The array was deactivated. He hit his comm badge.

"The field's down," he hissed to D'art. "Get out now."

"Acknowledged," she replied in a whisper.

Macen reached to the small of his back and withdrew a surprise concealed there. It was a pistol grip with a hinged cylinder atop it. He released the safety and the cylinder rolled into place over the right side of his hand. He peered around the right side of the array, gun hand ready.

Several Security officers were approaching him. He raised his right hand and fired. A green ball of energy erupted from the diminutive weapon and sailed over the officers' heads. The stairwell they had just vacated erupted into a shower of sparks as the energy burst cut it in half.

The volley of phaser fire that he drew in response was as overwhelming as it was futile. The random bursts they were wildly firing at him were causing more damage to the array then he could have ever hoped to accomplish. Macen shook his head in disgust. They'll give anybody a phaser these days.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

D'art and T'Kir materialised atop the two person transporter pad within the shuttle. T'Kir glanced quickly about the shuttle before breaking into a beatific smile. D'art's eyes went wide and her jaw went slack. She'd never seen a Vulcan smile before. There was something about it that made it more frightening then any of T'Kir's oddities.

"What, you've never seen someone smile before?" T'Kir asked sarcastically.

"No, not like that," D'art admitted.

"Get used to it," T'Kir replied forcefully, then turned and waved towards the cockpit. "Lisea, how nice to see you again!"

Danan never turned, never budged. Slowly and calmly she said, "Get off the transporter pad and try to get a lock on Macen."

"Certainly," T'Kir replied cheerfully. "I wouldn't want Brin to get hurt. He has only just rescued me."

Oh my God, D'art thought to herself, she really is crazy.

T'Kir turned. Her eyes were venomous. "I heard that," she hissed, then stepped off the pad.

D'art's eyes swelled wide, as though they would burst.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sparks flew over Macen's head. The phaser bursts were not overloading various systems within the array, causing them to discharge. The blasts weren't getting through, yet.

He tapped his comm badge. "Macen to Oberon, are you ready yet?"

"Just a moment, we need to get a lock on you," Danan replied.

"Well, hurry up," Macen said irritably.

"It's your plan," Danan snapped back. "Live with it."

"Just keep a lock on my comm badge," Macen replied. He turned and fired several shots over the Security officers. He broke and sprinted to his right. He had almost made it to the slant before the first phaser blast sizzled by.

He jumped. His body was angled when he landed. He slid down the roof feet first. The edge was nearing.

"Anytime now!" he shouted into the comm badge.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Well?" Danan asked in a surly tone.

"I'm trying to!" D'art answered, voice rising in panic.

"Hurry," Danan urged. "I've got him on sensors. He's headed off the edge!"

"I'm trying!" D'art repeated.

T'Kir rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Let me do it."

"I can do it!" D'art protested.

"Stop arguing and activate the damn transporter!" Danan shouted back.

T'Kir grabbed D'art and threw her aside. Her eyes flitted over the board. Hands flew across the controls. Her mouth twisted into a satisfied smile as she activated the transport beam.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Macen's feet slid over the edge, followed shortly by the rest of him. He was plummeting in freefall. He wouldn't reach the ground until he had fallen for two kilometres. He would reach terminal velocity far before then.

His mind was still distantly analysing this possibility when he felt the familiar sense of dislocation common to the transporter. He faded and then rematerialised on the shuttle. He had changed locations, but he had not had a chance to shed all of his momentum. The moment he became solid, he flew forward off the pad.

Everything was a blur. He knew he'd collided with something, but had no idea what. Whatever it was, it was underneath him. Its warmth and suppleness surprised him.

"I'm happy to see you, too," T'Kir purred.

Macen pushed himself off the floor, and her. "We need to stop meeting like this."

"No need to leave," she said silkily, rolling onto her stomach. "I was just getting comfortable."

"I'm sure," he muttered as he took his seat at the helm. He glanced over at Lisea. Her expression was livid. He gave her an "I know" shrug.

She snorted and typed plotting instructions into her board. Macen was surprised she didn't break the panel with the degree of force she was employing. Behind them, he heard T'Kir's manic giggle.

Okay, maybe this wasn't the greatest idea, he thought.

"I heard that," T'Kir said accusingly.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"What the hell did you think you were doing?" Nechayev roared. Within the confines of Macen's Ready Room, it was nearly deafening.

Macen sat in his chair behind his desk alcove. His hands were laced behind his head, supporting it as he leaned back in his chair. He wore a small, satisfied smirk across his face. His twinkled with mischievous delight.

"I thought I was obeying your instructions," he answered.

"Damn you." She pointed a finger at him. "Don't you dare twist my words to suit your actions."

He leaned forward, lacing his hands together. His expression was sombre, "I'm not twisting. I just...improvised." He gave a slight shrug.

"Next time you want to 'improvise', ask for my permission first," she said, her rage subsiding. She took a seat opposite him. "Why did you do it?"

"I needed someone I could trust." He held up a hand to ward away her obligatory objections. "My missions been compromised."

His eyes locked with hers. There was no doubt there, she saw. She nodded for him to continue.

"My Exec and my Ops officer both die before they can get here. Reasons unknown," Macen said sardonically. "I'm willing to wager that two 'qualified' candidates mysteriously appeared while I was incommunicado."

She nodded. "You're right. Commander Torres and Lieutenant Avery both came up in our records search."

Macen snorted. "It doesn't surprise me. Whoever is handling this is getting sloppy. They're taking unnecessary risks."

She caught his underlying tone. "You mean besides the deaths of Willis and Margoro?"

He smiled. "Whoever thought they could slip a Romulan into the crew with such a weak cover story has serious mental deficiencies."

"A Romulan?" she asked. "What Romulan?"

"Doctor Viddan," he answered disdainfully.

She shook her head. "No, that's not right. Dr. Viddan is Hynathean."

"Not anymore," he replied.

The Admiral released the deepest sigh Macen had ever heard. She rubbed the bridge of her nose and muttered evicatives to herself in Russian. Macen had never learned the human tongue himself, but understood from others that it contained choice metaphors. After a few sentences, she opened her eyes.

"Any others?" she asked in resignation.

"Confirmed or suspects?" Macen retorted.

"Either," Nechayev said sharply.

Macen shrugged. "No confirmed, but as far as suspects..." He swept his arms expansively. "Take your pick."

"What a way to start the mission," Nechayev commented dryly. Macen snickered. "Is there something I should be aware of, Captain?"

"No, sir," he replied with a straight face. "It just seems that that's a popular opinion."

Nechayev nodded her understanding. No news, or opinions, travelled quite like those of the negative variety. It was a phenomenon that could fill volumes of social science research periodicals, If they could ever actually quantify it in the first place. No matter, now was the time to contain what damage they could.

"What do you require at this time?" she asked pointedly.

"I could use a replacement CMO for when the current one 'blows' his cover," He informed her.

She thought for a moment, then replied, "I'll ask Admiral McCoy."

Macen looked at her sceptically. "If you don't mind my asking, isn't he a little old for a human?"

Nechayev chuckled. "I'll ask if he has anyone to recommend." She shook her head. "If you want to run around the galaxy acting like James Kirk, you'll need a good physician. McCoy will be the expert on who qualifies."

She looked at him sadly. "I just wish I had a Mr. Spock for you."

Macen shook his head. "I'm quite happy with Lisea, thank you."

Her smile was one of approval. "I'm sure you are."

"Although..." Macen said.

"What?" Nechayev asked wearily.

"I could use Arich Tulley."

"No." Nechayev said flatly. "I'm not setting up a Maquis reunion here. When...if...you get back, we'll talk about his release."

After Nechayev departed, Macen had T'Kir sent to his Ready Room. Someone had taken a comb to her hair, but it was still dishevelled. Macen doubted any amount of brushing could bring her wild tangle under control. The rest of her was dressed smartly in a Starfleet uniform and yellow Division shirt.

"I'm giving you the brevet rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade, is that acceptable?"

She stared off towards the wall. "Fas…cin…a…ting," she replied.

Macen's head spun from that one. An officer had one's made a joke about such dictation, referring to it as "Valley" speak. The officer had made the reference scornfully. Macen could understand why.

His eyes narrowed and his voice lowered. "Can you do the job?"

Panic flashed across her features. "Of course." She plopped down into the seat across from him and reached for his hands. "I can do it, really!"

His expression remained dubious. "I read your fitness reports. This kind of behaviour wasn't in them."

She leaned back into the chair, a smug smile settling across her face. "Their encryption was sooo easy to break."

A wry expression flashed across Macen's face. "Well, it's nice to know your skills haven't atrophied." He extricated his hands from hers. "Seriously, I need to know...can you do the job?"

She looked at him, eyes large and pleading.

He leaned closer. "If you tell me you can't, I won't send you back. When this mission is done, I'll drop you off wherever you want to go."

There was a mixture of relief and sadness in her eyes. "I can do it. Trust me."

The longing and conviction in her voice convinced Macen of her sincerity. "All right. The job is yours. If at any time, you don't think you can handle it, let me know. You'll have as much time off as you need to pull yourself together."

She smiled gratefully. "You'll be the first to know."

"We're launching in ten hours. You should spend some time getting acquainted with your post," he suggested.

She nodded, then winked at him. "I could also spend some time showing you how grateful I am."

He shook his head. "That won't be necessary."

"All right, but if you ever change your mind..." she shrugged started to leave. "...you know where to find me," she called over her shoulder as she went through the door.

If you think that's going to happen, you really are crazy, he thought to himself.

"I heard that!"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

An hour before their scheduled launch, Macen received word from Derrico. Their newest, and final, member of the crew had arrived. Macen informed Derrico that he would meet the new doctor in Sickbay. He authorised Security to seal the ship in preparation for departure.

Minutes later he entered Sickbay and received one of the greatest surprises of his life. The new doctor was there, and he was a Klingon. A Klingon in full battle dress who seemed to be in the midst of a personal crusade of applying every Klingon curse known to the layout of the Sickbay. He was creating several of his own towards the hapless staff caught in the midst of his tirade.

"What's going in here?" Macen demanded.

The Klingon turned. His fierce eyes burned with rage as he glowered at Macen. He was several inches taller than Macen. He drew himself up and moved towards the Captain.

"Who are you?" the Klingon bellowed.

"I'm Captain Brin Macen, the commander of this vessel," Macen said levelly, his eyes never wavered from the Klingon's.

"What do you wish of me?" the Klingon snarled.

"I want you to stop screaming at your fellow officers like an Orion hag," Macen replied coolly.

The Klingon's eyes narrowed and his voice dropped several octaves. "If you were not my commanding officer, I would kill you."

"Try it," Macen replied.

Derrico and a Security team rushed to Sickbay, responding to a report of a riot. When they arrived, they found half a dozen Medical personnel standing terrified outside of the room. Guttural yells and loud crashes could be heard emanating from within. Derrico positioned his men on either side if the door before opening it.

The door opened and they rushed in high-low pairs. They found the Klingon lying on his back, blood dripping from his cracked lips and bruised nose. Macen stood warily nearby. His uniform was torn, and he was bleeding as well.

"Sir?" Derrico asked unsteadily.

"At ease, Lieutenant," Macen replied, dropping his guard position. "The good doctor and I were just getting acquainted."

Derrico nodded. He didn't understand the situation, but understanding was unnecessary. The Captain said it was all right. The question remained how would the Klingon "doctor" respond?

The Klingon sized Derrico up. "You appear to be a warrior."

Derrico remained impassive. "I am the Chief Tactical Officer."

"I knew it!" the Klingon boasted proudly as he stood. "Those massive shoulders, that proudly shaven head, the dusk, Klingon-like features. A warrior born, like the Captain!"

The Klingon turned to Macen. "I am Kort, I am honoured to serve with you."

"The honour is mine," Macen replied respectfully.

"If there is no call for Security's presence...?" Derrico asked.

Macen waved his hand. "It's all right, you can go. Tell the Medical staff to come back in here."

The Security officers departed and the Medical staff returned. A worried looking nurse approached Macen. "Sir, would you like me to tend to those wounds?"

He smiled, facing Kort. "No. I'll wear the bruises in remembrance to a fine opponent."

With that he departed from Sickbay. Behind him he could hear Kort bellow for all to hear, "A true warrior!" Macen just hoped he wouldn't regret delaying medical treatment too badly.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

An hour later, Macen was on the bridge. He was in the centre seat. Everyone was flush with excitement. Macen swivelled his seat around to steal a glance at the faces of his new bridge staff.

Derrico sat at Tactical, his face an inscrutable masque. Danan sat next to him at Science. She'd opted to remain at her post rather than transfer her station to Master Systems. That post would now double as a relief position along with Environmental. Danan's face was bright and eager.

An Engineering rating was seated at the Engineering station. Tarrik opting to stay with his warp core. Macen appreciated an engineer reluctant to leave his charge behind to go sit on the bridge. It stank of trying to gain the Captain's attention, in Brin's humble opinion.

D'art and T'Kir's backsides were facing him. They were both occupied with their panels, being the two busiest people on the bridge. T'Kir seemed more controlled, although her movements were still accented by odd tics. D'art's focus was razor sharp. Nothing mattered to her except her plot.

Kort and Viddan had both come to the bridge, albeit opposite sides of the bridge. McCoy had briefed Kort on Viddan's true allegiances prior to his arrival. Macen could tell by Kort's kinsetics that he longed for the moment when he could rip the Romulan's spleen out and force-feed it to him. The Romulan, on the other hand, seemed taken in by the spectacle of a starship departing from dock.

"Status, Mr. Tarrik?" Macen asked via the comm.

"Ready when you are," Tarrik called back. "In that case, activate running lights, Mr. T'Kir," Macen called out.

"Running lights enabled," T'Kir announced.

"Clear all moorings," Macen ordered.

T'Kir manipulated controls, then replied, "All moorings are cleared."

"Odyssey to StarDock Traffic Control," Macen spoke for the comm.

"StarDock here, Odyssey. How may we be of assistance?"

"Requesting permission to depart," Macen informed them.

"Permission granted, Odyssey. Traffic will update Sector Control and grant you immediate transit status."

Brin smiled. That cleared the ship to engage warp at the Io boundary. "Thank you, Traffic."

"Godspeed, Odyssey," Traffic replied before terminating the transmission.

"Helm, take us out. One quarter impulse," Macen ordered, as a feeling of satisfaction rushing over him.

The Odyssey slipped away from her moorings and vectored towards the awaiting open space doors. She easily slid past them out into open space. As she cleared the confines of StarDock, Macen ordered full impulse. The ship throbbed with power as she increased velocity.

She cleared the moon within moments. Mars' orbit passed by. Sensors alerted them to approaching ships. Several Starfleet fighters swept in to give their larger sister a send-off.

At the Io boundary, the fighters broke off. D'art barrel rolled the ship in a salute to them. Silence enveloped the bridge. They were about to go to warp.

"Engineering, are you ready to engage the warp drive?" Macen asked.

"Just give the word," Tarrik replied confidently.

"The word's given," Macen replied in kind. He glanced towards D'art's back. "Plot course for the Ktarrian frontier. Warp six."

"Aye, sir," D'art answered crisply. "Course laid in."

"Let's do it," Macen ordered.

D'art tapped the warp control on her board and the ship altered time-space. The warp field enveloped the ship. The starfield became a miasma of colours, then faded altogether. Nothing but brilliant streaks were visible as they travelled faster than visible light.

"Go to warp eight," Macen ordered.

D'art complied accelerating the ship even faster. The ship responded perfectly.

Macen leaned forward. "Warp nine."

The ship accelerated even more. The Odyssey, unlike her siblings, could maintain speeds of up to warp nine point six for sustained periods. That made them one of the fastest ships in the fleet. Macen ordered the ship, decimal point by decimal point, accelerated until she reached her maximum speed. They maintained there for several moments.

Macen called to Engineering. "How's your status, Mr. Tarrik?"

"Everything's perfect!" Tarrik called back proudly. "Better than the design teams expected."

"Glad to hear it," Macen said with a laugh. "Helm, drop speed to warp six. Maintain that speed and current heading."

"Aye, sir," D'art replied with the satisfaction they were all feeling. All save Viddan, who was putting on quite the show.

Macen couldn't fault the Romulan's acting abilities. Macen leaned back into his with a general sense of well being, and a lot of soreness. He was already regretting his earlier refusal of treatment. That's the price of living over four hundred years, he mused.

Go to Chapter 2

Let us know what you think!

What is your name?

E-mail (Optional):

Where are you from?

Name of Story:


Our writers appreciate feedback!


Email: bennett_trish@hotmail.com