STAR TREK: SUTHERLAND – MUTATIS MUTANDIS
By David Falkayn
The More Things Change…The More They Remain the Same
Star Station Echo
November 28, 2377
Hunched over his desk, Rear Admiral Morgan Bateson, commander of Border Squadron Seven stationed at Star Station Echo, ran a hand though his thinning hair as he vainly attempted to work his way through the pile of padds on his desk. Sighing in relief at the comm chime, Morgan responded, “Yes, Ellen?”
“Sutherland has just entered into parking orbit around the station, and Scamp has docked at Berth Six.”
“Thank you, Ellen.” Morgan replied, “Have Captain Rodenko report here at his earliest convenience.”
“Aye, Sir.” His receptionist, a pretty auburn-haired lieutenant, responded as the transporter pads shimmered.
Rematerializing on the transporter pad, Admiral William Ross, accompanied by Captain Elizabeth Shelby and Dr. Denise Murakawa, walked towards the receptionist. Giving the young woman an avuncular smile, the admiral announced himself, “Admiral Ross, Captain Shelby, and Dr. Murakawa to see Admiral Bateson.”
“Yes, sir.” Ellen crisply replied, trying to keep the butterflies in her stomach down. After all, it wasn’t everyday that the Chief of Starfleet Operations spoke to you personally. “Come right in, sirs.” Ellen smiled as the door to the admiral’s office opened, “He’s expecting you.” As the three senior officers walked past, Denise turned to Ellen and flashed her a quick smile and a mouthed, “We’ll talk later.”
“Sir.” Morgan promptly rose to his feet on meeting his guests, “Captain Shelby.” The bearded admiral smiled, “Dr. Murakawa.” He also greeted, his smile growing wider at the sight of the woman he saw far too little of. Gesturing with a nod towards the liquor cabinet, he prompted, “If you would like some refreshments?”
“Later.” Admiral Ross replied, the smile still on his face. “I think we’re waiting for one more person.”
“He should be here shortly, Sir.” Bateson replied, “His ship had just docked and he’s on his way up.” A few minutes later, Ellen’s voice again came from the comm speaker, “Sir? Captain Rodenko is here.”
“Send him in, Ellen.” Morgan responded as the burly Russian captain entered the room, his eyebrows raising as he saw who else was in the room.
“If it’s all right with you, Morgan.” Admiral Ross beamed, “We’ll wait on the drinks until after we finish this. He then took a deep breath as both Denise and Liz took out a pair of jewelry boxes and approached the bearded admiral until they stood on either side of him. The head of Starfleet Operations then read from his padd, ““Attention to orders! The President of the United Federation of Planets, acting upon the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief, Starfleet, has placed special trust in the loyalty, integrity and abilities of Rear Admiral Morgan Bateson. In view of these special qualities, and his demonstrated potential to serve in the higher grade, Rear Admiral Morgan Bateson is promoted to the grade of Vice Admiral, effective Stardate 54907.9, by order of the Commander-in-Chief, Starfleet.”
Ross’s smile growing even wider, he commanded, “Captain Shelby…Dr. Murakawa…if you would do the honors. Both women then opened their jewelry cases to reveal the insignia of a vice admiral. Taking the pins out of their cases, they first removed the surprised and somewhat stunned Bateson’s rear admiral insignia from his collar and then replaced it with his new rank. After they had done that, each woman kissed the bearded admiral on his cheek before returning to Admiral Ross’s side.
“Congratulations, Vice Admiral Bateson.” Ross grinned. “We’ll get to the briefing and your new orders after you’ve had a chance to recover from this.” Ross chuckled as his eyes went to the liquor cabinet. “I think now would be a good time to break out that booze you offered us earlier.”
“Right, Sir.” Morgan responded as he opened the liquor cabinet and took out a bottle. “Cognac.” He said as he poured glasses for each of the occupants in the room, inviting Ellen to join them. “I was saving it for a special occasion. I’d say this qualifies.”
“Congratulations, Sir.” Boris announced and then proposed a toast. “To Vice Admiral Bateson…A man I am honored to serve under at any place and any time.”
After everyone had finished their brandies, Admiral Ross cleared his throat. Taking his hint, Ellen quietly slipped out of the room as the admiral gestured for everyone to have a seat. “Morgan…I’m giving you a difficult job—but it needs doing and you’re the best man for it. As I’m sure you’re aware, a lot of our resources in ships, equipment, and personnel have been prioritized for Task Force Vanguard. The danger out there is real…make no mistake about that. The Federation faces a threat that is potentially as devastating as the Hur’Q were for the Klingons or the Germanic migrations for the Roman Empire. However, the problems here aren’t going to go away because of a threat in the Delta Quadrant, and they’re every bit as dangerous for the Federation—if for no other reason than because they’re closer.”
“You won’t hear any argument from me, Sir.” Admiral Bateson agreed as the others attending the meeting also nodded their heads in consensus.
“At the same time though…we can’t afford to neglect deep space exploration.” Ross continued, “Putting aside the recruitment slogans of ‘Going Where No One Has Gone Before’ or ‘Exploring New Worlds and New Civilizations’, the simple truth of the matter is that it is better to find the bear in the woods rather than in your front yard.” The admiral declared, again receiving nods of agreement. I need people I can trust to man the walls…to keep the Federation safe from the wild dogs next door while Vanguard deals with the bear in the far woods. And I need someone with a level head and who is not afraid to call them as he sees them in command of those people. And that someone, Morgan…” Admiral Ross gazed straight into Morgan’s eyes as he spoke, “…is you.”
“What do you want me to do, Sir?” Morgan asked in a soft voice.
“You’ll be responsible for a stretch of territory extending from Sector 0324 to the Dubhe Sector. I know it’s a lot of space…” Ross said through thin lips “But we’re stretched thin.”
“What sort of assets will I have to call on?” Bateson asked.
“You’ll have Third, Seventh, and Twelfth Border Squadrons along with two Nebbies: The Sutherland and the Bellerophon, the Kearsarge, the Perseus, the Victory, and the Madrid and other assets as needed and as I can spare them. I know it might not seem like much, but I’m giving you two good captains, both of whom you know well in the center seats of the big boys and a damned good captain in the Perseus whom you also know, and, you also know the captain of the Madrid. You’ll also have access to Indefatigable as needed. Captain Hoffman’s a good captain—a bit unorthodox, but then…” He smiled, “So’s the rest of your little circus. We’re retiring the Bozeman, Morgan. Her time has passed, and you know it. We’ve offered Gabe the command of the Madrid and he’s accepted, and he’ll be bringing over much of his old crew.”
“Well…” Morgan sighed, “I’m sorry to hear that the old girl’s being put out to pasture, but it’ll be good to still have Gabe on my team.”
“I figured that’s what you’d say.” Admiral Ross smiled. “I also want you to know that the captains of the Victory and Kearsarge know their stuff too. Not to mention the cutter captains you have working for you now and in the other squadrons. They’re good people.”
Morgan smiled as he regarded his old friend seated to the left of him, “I know Liz well, but I’m unfamiliar with the captain of the Bellerophon.”
Smiling, Admiral Ross replied as he once again looked down at his padd, “That’s the reason why I asked Captain Rodenko to be here. Captain…” The admiral stated as he rose to his feet, accompanied immediately by the others in the room standing up as well, “I am offering you command of the Bellerophon effective immediately.”
“But, Sir…” Boris protested, “I’m just an old Border Dog…”
“An Old Border Dog who knows his way around a Nebbie better than most people I know.” Morgan grinned at his old subordinate and friend. “Remember when I said that you should consider moving up to a bigger ship? Well…my friend…here’s your chance.”
“You can do this kis apam.” Liz said encouragingly.
“Please, Boris…” Morgan entreated, “If I’m going to make this work, I’m going to need you in that center seat and Liz in the other.”
“What about Joseph?” Boris asked, referring to their mutual friend, Joseph Akinola.
“Joseph’s a good man, a good captain, and a good friend.” Bateson declared, “But he doesn’t want command of the Bellerophon even if it were offered to him. He’s a Border Dog through and through. Boris…you do belong in the center seat of a Nebbie. I’ve seen you in command of one and even though you wouldn’t admit it at the time—I could see it in your eyes—you enjoyed it. You can do this.”
Bowing down to the inevitable, Captain Rodenko took a deep breath and exhaled, “Very well…I accept command.”
“Excellent!” Admiral Ross replied. “Bellerophon, Perseus, and Madrid will be here in two standard days. When they arrive, I want to have a sit-down with you and all of the captains and their first officers—we have important matters to discuss. “Until then, we have lots of work to do and I know you’ll want to make preparations and say your goodbyes to your old crew.”
“Sir?” Captain Rodenko ventured, and then proceeded with his request on receiving Admiral Ross’s nod, “I’d like to request that Commander Vribb be promoted to Captain and given command of the Scamp. She is an excellent first officer and would make an excellent captain.”
Seeing Admiral Bateson’s subtle nod of the head, Admiral Ross grinned, “From what I’ve seen of her record, I agree. Very well, I’ll put in the orders and recommendation for promotion. Go ahead and tell her that she has command of the Scamp and give her that fourth pip. Starfleet Command’s approval is just a formality. By the time Bellerophon, Madrid, and Perseus arrive, everything will be official.”
“Aye, Sir.” Boris replied with a big grin.
“Well…Admiral Bateson…Captains…I’ll take my leave for now.” Sighing, the head of Starfleet Operations remarked, “Let this be a lesson to you, Morgan…the higher up you go, the more paperwork you have.”
As Ross left the office, Denise drew closer to Morgan while Liz and Boris stepped off to another part of the office to talk amongst themselves. “Congratulations, darling.” Denise said in a low voice as she gave her long-time lover a kiss. “You deserve it.”
“Thanks.” Morgan whispered as he kissed Denise back. “At least we’ll be spending more time with each other.”
“Yeah.” Denise smiled as she took Morgan’s hand. “That’s good.” Then her smile brightening, she exclaimed, “You’ll never guess what I got from Mom and Dad for my birthday!”
“What?” Morgan asked.
“It’s an icon of my patron saint, St. Luke, the patron saint of doctors.” The devout Catholic replied.
“That’s wonderful.” Morgan said, adding, “I was happy when you told me your parents were reconciling their differences.”
“Well…they’re not getting back together again.” Denise remarked, “But at least they’re talking to each other and getting along and that’s a good thing.” Her lips then turned up in a mischievous grin, “I also got your birthday present…I’ll wear it tonight when we’re alone.” Seeing the lascivious grin on her lover’s face, Denise quipped with an impish twinkle in her eyes, “I’ve got to have something to tell the priest when I go to confession tomorrow…”
“Congratulations, Boris.” Liz smiled as she sipped her brandy, “You deserve this.”
Sighing, the curly-haired Russian responded, “I hope I can live up to everyone’s expectations.”
“You’ll do just fine, Boris.” Liz placed a supportive hand on the burly Russian’s arm. “You did an excellent job subbing for me on the Sutherland.” Her smile growing wider, she joked, “I think you’re going to thrive on the challenges you’re going to meet now. Not that you didn’t have big tests sitting in the center seat of the Scamp…” She quickly qualified, “But these encounters will be different.” Her smile now replaced by a thoughtful look, she remarked, “I think you need this.”
“Da…” Boris replied, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is time for me to test myself in new waters.”
“That’s the spirit!” Liz grinned as she stood up on tip-toes and kissed the big Russian on his cheek. “I better go now and check on my ship. I’ll see you later.”
Sighing, Captain Rodenko returned his friend’s kiss, “Da. I must go back to mine as well and break the news to Comm…Captain…Vribb”
As he made his way to his office on the Scamp, Boris ignored the surprised looks coming from some of his crew on their noticing that instead of the Border Service combadge, he was now wearing a Regular Fleet badge on his chest. Sitting down at his desk, he tapped the comm button. “Commander Vribb…see me in my office please.”
“Aye, Sir.” The Bolian XO promptly replied. Moments later, Rodenko’s office door slid open.
“Come in, Ronata.” Boris requested, “Sit down. I have something important to tell you.”
“I assume it has something to do with that Fleet pin you’re wearing now, Sir.” Vribb noted as she sat down in front of the captain’s desk.
“It does.” Boris nodded his head as he pushed a padd towards her while also taking out a small jewelry box. “Read this.”
As the Bolian commander read the padd, her facial features showed first surprise, then disbelief, and finally a mixture of elation and…sadness. “This isn’t a joke…is it, Sir.”
“It’s no joke.” Boris smiled as he got up from his seat, walked around to where his first officer sat, and then, opening the box, pinned the fourth pip on her collar tabs. “Congratulations, Captain.”
“Thank you, Sir.” A breathless Ronata replied as she fingered the four pips on her collar.
“Boris…” The burly Russian grinned, “You’re in the club now.” His smile growing wider, he said, “You’ll be taking over the Scamp effective immediately. Admiral Ross has already signed off on both. It’ll take a day or so for your promotion and orders to work through channels, but Ross is fast tracking it, so don’t worry—you’ve got the pips and the Scamp. We’ll have the official change of command ceremony in a couple of days when Bellerophon, Madrid, and Perseus get here. Give me a day or so to clear out my quarters and my gear from this office and they’ll all be yours—along with its ship and crew—except for Dr. Vordus and Lieutenant Rydell. I’ll be taking them with me to the Bellerophon.”
“You’re taking command of the Bellerophon?” Seeing her former captain’s nod of the head, she grinned, “That explains the Regular Fleet pin.”
“Da.” Boris replied, “And that’s not the only change.” He then took a deep breath, “Admiral Bateson has been promoted to Vice Admiral and is now in command of both border and exploration operations along much of the frontier here.”
“Damn.” Vribb swore. “Wonder what Captain Akinola’s going to think of all this. Bluefin is supposed to be docking here in a day or so as well. Oh frinx!” She cursed, “That means that…”
“Elizaveta and Joseph will be here at the same place and at the same time…” A hand went to the big Russian’s forehead, “Bozhe Moi!”
After changing into civilian clothes and stopping off at the jewelry kiosk to pick up a special order he had made several weeks ago, Morgan stepped into a familiar place, smiling warmly as he entered the old tavern, the admiral paused momentarily as his eyes scanned the pub. Sloopy’s had been a fixture at Star Station Echo almost since its establishment back in the mid-23rd century shortly after the Four Years War. A lot of memories and ghosts lived here. Maybe…he mused…that’s why I like this place so much. One of the waitresses, upon recognizing the man standing on the threshold, smiled, “Hello Admiral. Your usual booth?”
“Yes. Thanks, Vicky.” Morgan smiled as he let the waitress lead him to the same booth he’d sit in back in the days when he was an ensign, fresh out of the Academy, on the old Kestrel-class border cutter, Merlin.
Moments later, the waitress returned with a frosty mug of beer, “Here you go, Sir.”
“Thanks again, Vicky.” Morgan smiled as his gaze again wandered about the pub. The time-displaced admiral saw sitting on stools at the bar the shade of his old commanding officer from the Merlin, Commander Sonny Parker talking to a dusky-skinned woman with emerald green eyes and dark hair whom he immediately recognized as being the Merlin’s first officer, Brooks Erdun. Lifting his mug up in salute, he murmured, “Here’s to you Sonny…Brooks. It’s been a long time.” For a moment, the admiral thought he saw the two of them lifting their mugs back in return. Shaking his head, he sighed, “I’m sorry Brooks that you never got the respect or recognition that you deserved. And Sonny—you were a helluva skipper. It was an honor for me to serve under you.”
Further down the bar, Morgan spotted the shades of two beautiful women whom he knew immediately to be Delores Del’ Vecchio, the helmsman for the Saladin-class Ajax, a gorgeous platinum blonde woman with a killer smile and killer boobs, better known by her nickname, Dee-Dee; and her partner in crime, a stunning red-headed woman who was the Ajax’s communications officer, Samantha Case, better known as Sammie, checking out the young men as they came into the bar. Chuckling as he remembered the…incident…that happened when he first met those lovely ladies here so long ago, a warm smile crossed his face as he lifted his mug to them. Again, he shook his head in surprise as he thought he saw the two women smile back at him and blow him a kiss. “Working too hard.” Morgan muttered as he took a draught from his beer.
His eyes now turning back to the entrance, he saw the ghost of Commodore Paski entering the bar. “Bridgette.” Morgan smiled at her, and again, shook his head as he thought he saw the Commodore smile back at him. His eyes then fell to an isolated corner booth where he spied the shades of two very dear friends of his, Aliz Bathory and Robert Wesley, sitting together, cuddled up and lost in themselves as usual whenever they could grab a small moment in an out of the way place where no one was looking. His smile growing wider, he brushed away a tear, “I just want to let you know, Aliz, that I’m keeping the promise that I made to you a long time ago. I’m looking after your little Elizaveta, even though sometimes she can make it pretty difficult. She loves you both, and, Aliz, she treasures the sacrifice you made for her. She sees it every morning when she looks in the mirror now and loves you all the more for it. She and I also know that she’s carrying a piece of your soul inside her and believe me, she treasures that precious gift you gave her more than anything else. Our wayward angel might not be perfect, but deep down, she’s a good person and it’s because of you two.”
Looking up upon hearing Denise’s voice, Morgan smiled, “Just checking in with some old friends of mine.” He slid over as the lovely Japanese-Centauran doctor sat next to him, making herself comfortable in his embrace.
Coming over quickly, Vicky smiled at the couple. “Your usual, Denise?”
“Yes.” The doctor smiled, “Please.
“Refill for you, Sir?”
“Thanks, Vicky.” Morgan smiled back.
“Big day.” Denise grinned.
“Tell me about it!” Morgan chuckled. “Thought it might be a good idea for us to get in early—before Liz turns her people loose and this place turns into a madhouse.”
“Good idea.” Denise grinned as another couple entered the bar, “Looks like Talana and Jadon had the same notion. Is it ok if they join us?”
“Sure.” Morgan beamed as Denise waved the other couple over to their booth.
“Congratulations Admiral.” Talana grinned as she and her Trill escort took the seat on the other side of Morgan and Denise. “This place brings back memories, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah.” Both Jadon and Morgan nodded their heads as they replied in unison. “One of my prior hosts, Tesa, was a dilithium speculator and she used to come here often.” Jadon explained. “Lots of new memories to be made now though.” He grinned as he took his blue-skinned companion by the hand. I hear Perseus will be here in a day or two.” The Trill commented.
“Yup.” Morgan replied. “Along with Bellerophon and Madrid.” His smile widening, he declared, “Boris agreed to take command of Bellerophon.”
“Good!” Talana exclaimed. “He did a great job conning the Suthy a while back—he’ll do an even better job now that’s he sitting permanently in the center seat of a Nebbie.”
“You seem to be adjusting pretty well, Talana.” Morgan smiled warmly at his old friend.
“Yeah.” The lovely Andorian science officer nodded her head. “Jadon and Captain Shelby and everyone else has been really great in helping me get caught up and everything.”
“Miss the old days?” The Admiral asked.
“Sometimes.” Talana nodded her head. “I enjoyed my time on the Lady and I have fond memories of the Commodore and Aliz and Alexei and Jennifer and Cilla and everyone else, but…it was time for me to move on and the moment I set foot on the Sutherland, I knew that was where I was supposed to be, and I haven’t regretted a moment of it since.”
After about a half an hour of genial small talk over their beers and drinks, Talana and Jadon grinned at the other couple, “Hope you don’t mind us shoving off now.” Talana smiled, “But Jadon’s taking me to the observation deck…”
“You two have fun.” Morgan beamed as the couple waved goodbye. Taking a deep breath, Morgan decided that if he was going to do it, now was the time. If he waited much longer, the Sutherland crew would be here, and bedlam would ensue, and he wouldn’t have a chance to do it again until just before heading off to his new home base at Starbase 375. Besides…he wanted to do it here in front of the shades of his old friends now looking on with anticipation. Subtly taking the jewelry case out of his pocket, the admiral held it enclosed in one hand while he took his long-time lover’s hand in the other.
“Denise…we’ve known each other for a long time and I love you very…very much…and you have made me so incredibly happy…”
“I love you too, Morgan, and you’ve made me very happy. I remember the first time we met at Liz’s party so long ago…that’s when I fell in love with you.”
“That’s when I fell in love with you too.” He smiled as he took the jewelry case and opened it, “Denise Murakawa…would you marry me.”
Breathless, Denise sat in stunned silence for several moments as her eyes gazed into the loving eyes of the man next to her, his facial expressions a mixture of hope and anxiousness. Smiling, she took the ring out of the case and put it on her finger. “Yes, Morgan. Yes!” Hugging him tightly, she gave him a long, lingering, passionate kiss. “I love you.”
For a moment, Morgan imagined he saw all of his old friends cheering and toasting the happy couple. He then could have sworn that he caught the scent of a perfume he had not smelled in many, many years. Looking out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw a beautiful woman with olive complexion and luscious dark hair, wearing the blue minidress of a 23rd century science officer with the Lexington symbol on her chest smiling at him. He then could have sworn that he felt a kiss on his cheeks as he heard the words, “Way to go, Morgan! It’s about time.” Then, the ghostly apparition was gone, but, the happy Morgan swore that he could still smell the perfume that only one woman he knew wore—Jennifer Watley—his former love on the Lexington. Thanks, Jen.
Perseus, Madrid and Bellerophon have assumed standard orbits and Captain Hobson and his first officer are ready to beam down.” Ellen reported as the Vice Admiral entered his office with his new fiancé by his side.
“Excellent, Ellen.” Morgan smiled, “Oh…by the way…you might want to pack your bags…you’ll be going with me to Starbase 375…that is…if you want to go.”
“I’m already packed, Sir.” The lovely auburn-haired receptionist replied. “You know I have to come with you, Admiral. You’d be totally lost without me.”
“You’re right about that, Ellen.” He grinned, “Please show Captain Bush, Captain Hobson and Commander Rysyl in when they arrive. The other captains and first officers, along with Admiral Ross, should be arriving soon as well. Show them in when they get here too. Oh…” He added, almost as an afterthought, “Be sure the filtration systems are configured to take into account Deltan pheromones. That office is going to be packed and the last thing we need is for most of the men in that room, not to mention Captain Shelby, getting antsy.”
“Of course, Sir…Oh…Is that what I think it is?” She exclaimed, noticing the engagement ring on Denise’s finger.
“Yeah.” Denise’s smile grew even wider, “Morgan proposed to me last night.”
“Congratulations!” Ellen beamed as she got up out of her seat and kissed both Morgan and Denise on the cheeks, “It’s about time you two did the deed. So…have you set a date yet?”
“Not yet.” Morgan replied, “We need to get situated at Starbase 375 first and then we’ll be looking at setting a date.
“Honey…” Denise pleaded as she fingered the crucifix hanging around her neck, “If we could, I’d like to be married in the Church.” Her lips turning up in a sardonic smile, she quipped, “Don’t worry…you don’t have to convert. But…it is important to me.”
“Of course, darling.” Morgan replied as he kissed his bride-to-be. “We’ll have it wherever you want. What’s important to me is that I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“What the hell is going on at Star Station Echo?” Joseph Akinola asked as his eyes focused on the Bluefin’s viewscreen.
“Not every day you see two Nebulas, a Centaur, and an Intrepid orbiting here.” Lieutenant Commander Delta Simms remarked in her Southern accent.
“Who are we dealing with?” Akinola asked, gritting his teeth in anticipation at the name of one of the ships.
” The Intrepid is the Perseus.” Commander Inga Strauss, the Bluefin’s Executive Officer announced, “Captain Christopher Hobson. The Centaur is the Madrid…” Inga couldn’t hide the pleased expression on her face, “Captain Gabriel Bush.”
“Well…” Joseph grinned, “Gabe got a new command in the Regular Fleet. Going to miss him in the Border Service. Wonder who’s going to get the Bozeman now or if they’re going to decommission her.”
Inga then continued her report, “One of the Nebulas is the Bellerophon. No listing for a captain or first officer. I’d say they’re probably either at the station or on their way.”
“Good guess, XO.” Captain Akinola replied. Taking a deep breath, the Nigerian skipper inquired in a deceptively calm voice, “What’s the other Nebbie?”
“USS Sutherland.” Inga replied, “Captain Elizabeth…”
“Shelby.” Akinola finished through tight lips. “Bring us in XO, I’ll be in my office. Once we’re docked, you and I are going to Admiral Bateson’s office to find out what the hell is going on here.” As he turned to leave for his ready room, he added, “Tell Dr. Castille to come by my office with an analgesic, I feel a headache coming on.”
“Aye, Sir.” A confused Inga Strauss acknowledged as the captain disappeared into his ready room. After she was sure that the captain was safely off the bridge, the young German walked to where her lover, Lieutenant Nigel Bane, sat. In a low voice, she asked, “What the hell was that all about? Why did he react like that on hearing that the Sutherland was here? And what’s the story with him and Captain Shelby?”
“You don’t know?” Nigel chuckled.
“Know what?” An increasingly irritated Inga retorted as Lieutenant K’lira Rune barely repressed a snicker.
“There’s a history there, Commander.” Nigel replied with a wicked grin. “For now, let’s just say that those two captains do not like each other. None of us were here at the time, so we’re not really sure of the exact circumstances—it happened before the War. You might want to ask Chief Brin or one of the other old timers if you want to know more. Chief was there at the time and had a ring-side seat through some of it. You could check with Chief Deryx too. He was there for much of it.”
“What do you know about this Lieutenant Rune?” Inga requested, persisting in her inquiry.
“Like Lieutenant Bane said.” The green Orion grinned, “Chief Brin and Chief Deryx know more about it. I wasn’t here at the time, so I don’t know anything. It’s too bad Commander T’Ser isn’t here. From what I understand, she was around pretty much through all of it. You might want to ask the Sutherland’s first officer about it—he could probably tell you something.”
“Admiral Ross…” Ellen greeted as the Chief of Starfleet Operations entered the foyer to Admiral Bateson’s office. “Please come this way. Admiral Bateson and the rest of the captains and first officers have already arrived. And Admiral Bateson has left strict instructions that your meeting is not to be disturbed”
“Thanks, Ellen.” The admiral replied with a grin as the door to Bateson’s office opened and he walked in.
“Attention on deck!” A voice called out as the various officers in the room came to attention.
“As you were.” Ross smiled warmly at the gathering.
“Before we begin, Sir.” Admiral Bateson cleared his throat, “Denise and I would like to make an announcement.” Taking a deep breath, he hugged his fiancé closer to him as he declared, “I just want everyone to know that this lovely lady here has consented to be my wife.”
Congratulations poured forth from everyone in the room. “I’m so happy for you.” Anara said as she kissed first Denise, and then Admiral Bateson, on the cheeks.
“All my love.” Liz smiled as she also hugged and kissed both her chief doctor and her dear friend, “I’m so happy for you both.”
“Thanks, Betts.” Morgan whispered, “For bringing us together.”
“Yes, thanks Liz.” Pausing for a moment, Denise took a deep breath. “There’s also a favor I’d like to ask of you.”
“Sure, Denise.” Liz smiled, “What is it?”
“Ummm…would you be my maid of honor?”
Touched deeply by her friend’s gesture, Liz wiped away a tear as she hugged the bride-to-be. “I’d love to, Denise.”
After several minutes of congratulations and well wishes for the happy couple, Denise took her fiancé’s unspoken hint, “If it’s ok with you, Morgan…” She said as she gave the bearded admiral a quick kiss, “I’m going to go outside and gossip with Ellen for a while.”
“Sure thing, Denise.” Morgan grinned as he returned his future spouse’s kiss. “I’ll see you after the meeting.”
After Denise had left the office, Admiral Ross cleared his throat, “We’ve got a lot to discuss, so let’s get started…”
As Captain Akinola and his first officer entered the foyer to Admiral Bateson’s office, he wasn’t surprised to see Dr. Murakawa there gossiping with Ellen. “Hello, Denise.” Joseph greeted with a smile.
“Captain.” Denise smiled back.
“Is the admiral busy?” Akinola asked Ellen.
“I’m sorry, Captain.” Ellen apologized, “But Admiral Bateson’s in a closed-door meeting right now.”
Taking a deep breath and exhaling, the Nigerian captain plastered a smile on his face, “Well…we’ll just wait here until he’s done.” Then, remembering his manners, his smile grew wider as he introduced, “Dr. Murakawa? This is my executive officer, Commander Inga Strauss. Inga…this is Dr. Denise Murakawa, Chief Medical Officer on the Sutherland.”
“Doctor.” Inga smiled as she took the Japanese-Centauran woman’s hand in hers.
As the two women were shaking hands, Joseph at once noticed the ring on Denise’s ring finger. “Is that what I think it is, Denise?” The Nigerian captain asked with a wide grin on his face.
“Yes, Joseph.” Denise smiled back as she held the ring up to show it to the captain and his first officer. “Morgan proposed to me last night.”
“Well, congratulations!” Joseph beamed. “I’m glad to see that you’re finally making an honest man out of him. Have you two set a date yet?”
“Not yet.” Denise shook her head, “There’s a lot of stuff we got to get done first before even thinking about setting a date.”
“Yeah.” Joseph nodded his head, “I imagine there is. So…” He grinned as the three officers took seats near Ellen’s desk, “Otherwise, what have you been up to recently?”
“We’re going to be spread pretty thin.” Captain Hobson observed, speaking in his usual patrician voice. “Maybe we should take a page out of the old Roman system of border defense.” Seeing that he had everyone’s attention, the Iceman continued. “Essentially, the border squadrons primarily consist of Albacore-class cutters, although there are plans to phase them out for a new class once they work out the problems with that design, am I not correct?”
“That’s right.” Morgan nodded his head in agreement, “The original name for the class was Sequoia, but there’s been some confusion with the Sequoia-class heavy cruisers, so the class name is most likely going to be changed. Also, as you have correctly pointed out, there are some serious design flaws that have to be fixed.”
“I’ve spoken to Admiral Bouvier about that frinxup.” Admiral Ross affirmed, “It’s being corrected. Continue, Captain.”
Morgan allowed himself an inward smirk, I thought I heard the sound of Diedre’s ass being chewed not so long ago.
“Aye, Sir.” Hobson punctiliously responded, “They will serve the same purpose they do now: border patrol, search and rescue, anti-piracy and anti-smuggling. But they will also be our sentries on the walls…monitoring traffic and communications while they pursue their usual roles. For that, they will need upgraded communications and electronic surveillance capabilities.”
“Giving them an intelligence gathering role as well.” Morgan stroked his beard. “That should be feasible. Boris…” The Vice Admiral turned his gaze to the new captain of the Bellerophon, what do you think? You were skipper of a cutter a couple of days ago…you should know best.”
“It can be done, Sir.” Boris nodded his head thoughtfully. “I would suggest someone skilled in decryption and electronic analysis be assigned the task though, and the electronics suites on the Albacore’s would have to be upgraded.”
“We might very well need to do that.” Admiral Ross stated. “The Satie administration is dedicated to the use of unmanned warp capable defense platforms. Getting appropriations for the construction of a lot of new hulls is not going to be easy, so we’re going to have to make do with what we have.”
Shaking her head, Shelby grumbled, “A Maginot Line approach.”
“Exactly.” Ross nodded his head in agreement. “And if we go with that, we’ll the suffer the same results.”
“The idea of defense platforms in and of themselves isn’t a bad one.” Captain Bush pointed out. “However, using them as the sole or even primary means of border security is flawed. They work well to secure chokepoints and valuable systems…not so well spread out over many parsecs of space.”
“Absolutely.” Liz nodded her head. “We need more border service cutters and back up for them.”
“That’s the next element of my plan.” Captain Hobson dryly stated. “The border cutters, along with strategically placed unmanned platforms will provide the initial line of defense—the tripwire. Our starships will serve as a mobile cavalry reserve—rapidly responding to any threats; ending small scale raids and intrusions and serving as a ready defense until sufficient forces can be mobilized to deal with major incursions or invasions.”
“But at the same time…” Liz pointed out, “We need to continue explorations in order to catch any potential problems before they can emerge.”
“Correct.” Admiral Bateson agreed. “The starships will also be tasked with conducting exploration within their areas of control. Each starship will patrol within a zone that includes unexplored space. The zones will be situated in such a way that starships can rapidly reinforce each other or the cutters on the border. I think that is the most effective way to maximize the limited resources we have available at this time.”
“So…” Anara inquired, “Will the Border Service be fully integrated into Starfleet?”
“No.” Admiral Ross shook his head. “For several reasons: One, it would be difficult to do logistically—we can’t just issue new combadges and call it a day. A full integration would require extensive expenditure of time and resources we just don’t have right now. However, the Border Service and Regular Fleet will have to coordinate closer to each other than they have in the past.” Seeing everyone nodding their head in agreement, Ross continued to spell out his points, “Second, a sudden full integration will bring about a drastic reduction in morale amongst Border Service personnel that would be potentially disastrous right now. Very likely it would lead to key individuals within the Border Service resigning or retiring at a time when we need them in service.”
“Da.” Boris nodded his head in agreement. “Joseph and a few other old-timers would resent a forced integration and probably would retire or resign their commissions now that there is no longer any stop order.”
“Right.” The admiral affirmed and then concluded on a cautionary note, “However, there most likely will be…in the long run…a full integration. There are going to be more frequent transfers back and forth between Border Service and Regular Fleet personnel with the eventual goal of bringing about first a de-facto integration and then a de-jure one, but I don’t see full integration happening any time in the near future.”
The meeting continued for a good two hours as points and counterpoints were raised until Admiral Ross cleared his throat. “I think for now we have pretty much hashed everything out that’s going to be hashed out.” He then flashed a wide grin, “I know that you all have a lot of preparations to make, not to mention a bunch of parties and celebrations you want to plan.” Shaking his head, he chuckled, “We’ve had within the period of about four days, at least two promotions, three changes command, one engagement, and I don’t know what else. So, everyone. My orders are for you to enjoy yourselves the next few days, because we have a lot of work to do. Dismissed.”
Getting up and pacing, Joseph’s bad mood quickly returned as Denise had to leave to return to the Sutherland. Eyeing the admiral’s door, the old cutter captain grumbled, “I don’t like the idea of being kept out while the ‘grown ups’ talk.”
Inga, having learned that when her captain was in this mood, the best thing for her to do was to stay quiet, kept her own council, although, she did have to admit to a curiosity as to what was being discussed in that room.
As Joseph turned about to pace back towards the Admiral’s office, the door slid open. “Finally.” The grizzled cutter captain grumbled under his breath. The first individual out brought both Akinola and Inga to immediate attention.
“As you were.” Admiral Ross smiled as he quickly exited the office.
“Was that who I think it was?” Inga asked in a hushed voice.
“Yeah.” Joseph nodded his head, “Admiral Ross. Now…what the hell is a big whale like that doing in this little pond?”
The next pair out were individuals Akinola had met long ago. Shelby’s old first officer, now wearing captain’s pips denoting him as the commanding officer of the Perseus and his Deltan first officer, Anara Rysyl. Hobson walked past both Akinola and Inga, giving them a polite nod of the head, but otherwise, showing no emotion at all on his face; while Anara greeted the pair with a sunny smile and “Hello.”
“Now I know why they’ve nicknamed him the Iceman.” Akinola grumbled.
“Is his first officer Deltan?’ Inga inquired, knowing that there weren’t that many Deltan first officers in the Fleet.
“Noticed that didn’t you?” Akinola replied testily and then muttered an apology. “Can we go in now, Ellen?” Joseph asked.
“Let me check, Sir.” Ellen replied as she contacted the Admiral on the intercom and, receiving his reply, smiled at Joseph. “Admiral Bateson says for you and Commander Strauss to come on in.”
“Thank you, Ellen.” Joseph’s lips turned up in a slight grin as he and Inga strode into the office to be greeted first by Gabe, now wearing a Regular Fleet combadge, but otherwise, the same affable and friendly man he’d always been.
“Hey, Joseph…Inga!” Gabe greeted, “Sorry you missed the big meeting.”
“Didn’t think I was invited.” Joseph grumbled.
“Nah.” Gabe shook his head, “You just got in too late. By the time you got here, the meeting was already underway. No one was looking to keep you out. Well…” He smiled, “I better be going—got to tend to my ship.”
“See you later, Gabe.” Joseph grinned back.
Entering Bateson’s office walking beside Joseph, Inga saw the admiral talking to small group of officers including a dark-haired man who, the youthful German had to admit, looked very dashing and attractive, a man whom she immediately recognized as Boris Rodenko with his back at the moment turned to her, and a petite blonde woman who looked to be very similar in age to her—maybe even a little younger. Then, noticing the four pips on her collar, Inga at once deduced that she had to be Captain Shelby.
Whispering to her CO, Inga noted, her eyes focused on Shelby, “She looks so young…but I know from her record she’s got to be at least ten years older than me.”
Recalling their prior few encounters where Shelby did appear older to him, Joseph took a deep breath and exhaled, “I have no idea why she’s looking so young now. Maybe she drinks the blood of young virgins or something.”
Shaking her head at her commanding officer’s seeming animosity towards the Sutherland captain, Inga walked silently as the pair approached the admiral.
Looking up, Admiral Bateson quickly recognized his old friend, along with his first officer. “Joseph! Inga!” The admiral called out in a cheery voice, “Come on over.”
Drawing closer to the admiral and the other officers, Inga practically felt the temperature in the room drop several degrees as the blonde captain made eye contact with her skipper. Damn! Inga thought. If looks could kill, those daggers Captain Shelby is shooting at the skipper would have killed him ten times over. Glancing out of the corner of her eye at her captain, she saw that he was matching the young blonde glare for glare with neither one showing any sign of weakening or giving way to the other.
Immediately moving to defuse tensions before they reached a critical mass, Admiral Bateson flashed his widest grin as he pumped Joseph’s hand. “Joseph! Glad you could make it!”
“Sir?” Akinola’s eyes were immediately drawn to the admiral’s collar pins. “Are those what I think they are?”
“Yeah.” Bateson nodded his head, “You guys have been doing such good work that Admiral Ross and Starfleet Command decided to punish me by promoting me to Vice Admiral.”
“Well congratulations, Sir.” Joseph replied with genuine sincerity as he again shook his old friend’s hand.
“That’s not the only change around here.” Morgan declared as he called out to Captain Rodenko, who was at that moment doing the same thing his admiral was doing—easing strains between the two volatile captains before they blew up at each other. “Boris? I’ll let you break the news.”
“Spaceba, Admiral.” Rodenko grinned as he turned around to face his fellow border captain. “Joseph! We have so much to talk about!”
“I’d say we do.” Akinola agreed as he noticed the Regular Fleet combadge on his old friend’s chest.
“You noticed that, didn’t you?” Boris smiled, “Guess who got stuck with the Bellerophon old friend.”
“You?” Joseph exclaimed. “When?”
“Just a few days ago, Joseph.” Boris replied, “I was as much surprised about it as you. Ronata is taking over on the Scamp. Her official promotion just came in today. She’s a captain now.”
Turning to Shelby, Akinola glared as he remembered Boris telling him about the time that he had assumed temporary command over the Sutherland while the blonde captain commanded the Lexington in the 23rd century. “Is this your doing?”
Matching the old cutter captain glare for glare, Liz answered back in an equally low voice, “I don’t have that kind of pull…although Boris is more than capable of sitting in the center seat of a Nebbie.” Her opinion that Akinola wasn’t being left unsaid, but obvious to most of the people in the room.
Moving quickly to head off yet another confrontation between his two good friends, Morgan cleared his throat, “Joseph…the orders came from Admiral Ross and Starfleet Command. There’s a general reorganization going on in this region right now. I’ll fill you in on the details in a bit.”
“I have to be going anyway, Sir. By your leave…” Seeing the admiral’s slight nod of the head, she pulled her first officer’s sleeve, “C’mon, Sam.” Liz smiled at the admiral, Boris, and Inga. Then, once again glaring at Joseph, she brushed aside a lock of hair and turning about, flounced out of the office. Before leaving with his captain, the Sutherland first officer flashed a slightly roguish smile at Inga that reminded her somewhat of Nigel’s grin while at the same time shrugging his shoulders apologetically at her.
‘Hey, Betts.” Sam whispered as the two left the admiral’s office and entered the foyer. “Mind if I stick around for a while. I gotta feeling Akinola’s first officer will be coming out soon and…well…
“The poor thing looked like a deer caught in the headlights.” Liz chuckled, “Sure Sammy. I’ll see you later.”
“Why don’t you go on, Inga.” Joseph urged, “Me and the Admiral have to talk.”
“Of course, Sir.” Inga replied as she left the room, only to be met by the Sutherland first officer.
“I’m sorry we weren’t properly introduced.” He grinned, “I’m Commander Lavelle…Sam. First officer on the Sutherland.” Shaking his head, the Canadian first officer exhaled, “I’m sorry about our two captains not getting along.”
“So I gathered!” Inga replied with a sigh of her own. “No one on the Bluefin would tell me what the hell’s going on with those two, except to say they don’t get along. At first, I thought they were exaggerating, but now, after seeing those two together…they really can’t stand each other, can they?”
Chuckling, Sam replied, “Oh they’ll work together if they have to, and believe it or not, they do make a good team. But no…they hate each other’s guts. Tell you what…” He grinned, “I’m meeting our operations officer for lunch, why don’t you join us—we can tell you all about it.”
“You sure I’m not intruding?” Inga replied, not wanting to butt in where she wasn’t wanted.
“Nah.” Sam answered back, “Maria will probably snipe at you…but don’t mind her…she snipes at everyone she first meets. C’mon!” He encouraged as he again flashed that roguish grin at her, “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”
“I’ve got to admit to being pretty hungry too.” Inga grinned, “All right…lead on.”
Walking into a cafeteria, Inga at once noticed how easily the Regular Fleeters in there were mingling with the crew of the Scamp, while, with a few noticeable exceptions such as K’lira and Chief Deryx, the crew of the Bluefin seemed to keep pretty much to themselves. Seeing Nigel making his way to the replicator, the German XO called out, “Nigel? Come here. There’s someone I want you to meet.”
Turning at the sound of Inga’s voice, the Australian helmsman immediately spotted his friend…really more than friend, standing next to a regular Fleet commander. Feeling more than just a twinge of jealousy, Nigel approached the pair.
“Lieutenant Nigel Bane…” Inga introduced, “This is Commander Sam Lavelle…first officer of the Sutherland.”
“Lieutenant.” Sam greeted with a smile.
“Commander.” Nigel replied with a tentative smile of his own.
“We were just about to grab a bite for lunch…would it be alright if Nigel joined us, Sam?” Inga inquired.
“Sure.” Sam replied with a grin as he saw the dusky-skinned woman who was both the Sutherland operations officer as well as his lover already sitting at a table. “Looks like Maria’s already staked out a spot for us. Let’s go grab something to eat and we’ll join her.”
His jealousy subsiding somewhat as he noticed the look that the Sutherland’s first officer gave the woman already sitting at the table, Nigel’s lips turned up in a grin, “Sure thing, mate. I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”
After the three had fetched their lunches from the replicators, they joined Sam’s companion at the table. “Inga…Nigel…” Sam introduced, “This is the Sutherland’s operations officer, Lieutenant Commander Maria Django.”
“Hello…” Nigel and Inga both smiled as Maria simply nodded her head. Already warned by Sam about his lover’s volatile disposition, the Bluefin officers sat down next to each other as Sam sat next to Maria.
“So, how did the meeting go, Sam…and who fired the first shot? Our captain or Akinola?” Maria quipped.
“I think it was a standoff.” Sam chuckled, Inga nervously giggling with him. “Although the captain hit him good with her brush back and flounce routine when we left.”
“Figured that’d get him.” Maria snickered.
“What got this whole thing started?” Inga inquired, her curiosity eating her.
Chuckling, Sam replied, “It’s a long story…and quite a bit of it’s still classified.” He said, his laughter going away. “Here’s what I can tell you. It started before the Dominion War We answered a distress call and found that the Bluefin had gotten caught by Maquis raiders.”
“The captain got caught—just like that.” Nigel exclaimed, almost in disbelief.
“It happens.” Maria tersely replied.
“Captain Akinola had a bad day.” Sam replied, “All captains have them.” He sighed, “Even Captain Shelby’s had one or two.”
“He’s right, Nigel.” Inga interjected, “We’ve seen the captain have a bad day once or twice.”
“I guess you’re right.” The Aussie nodded his head, “So…what happened.”
“Well…Captain Akinola had fallen into a trap set by Sabrina Diaz, so, he’s got nothing to be ashamed of.” Sam declared, “Diaz used to be one of our best starship captains before she defected to the Maquis.” The Canadian first officer then continued his heavily abridged account of what happened, with frequent sarcastic interjections from Maria and genuine inquiries from both Nigel and Inga until, finished, he declared, “And they’ve been at each other’s throats ever since.” He shook his head, “It doesn’t help matters that Akinola reminds the captain of her father—and that is not a good thing.”
“Added to that…” Maria groused, “Akinola’s an old prude.”
Acting quickly before Nigel and Inga could rise to the defense of their captain, inviting Maria’s inevitable counterattack and ruining an otherwise good lunch, Sam quickly interjected, placing his hand on the dusky-skinned Brazilian’s arm, “Easy Maria.” Turning his attention back to the Bluefin officers, Sam flashed a conciliatory grin. “As you might or might not have heard, Captain Shelby enjoys her off duty time and…well…let’s just say that her and Captain Akinola have different views about the way she spends her time and leave it at that…. ok?”
Consciously aiding the Canadian first officer in his effort to lift the growing tensions, Nigel grinned, “That’s fair dinkum. Different strokes for different folks…right, Inga?”
“Yeah.” The Bluefin first officer agreed, her smile returning as the conversation turned to more benign matters with even Maria beginning to open up to the funny and charming Nigel and the more introverted and shy, but still personable, Inga, until, their lunch completed, Sam grinned, “Well I hope we’ll be seeing you two at the party tonight. It should be a blast. It’s a combination congratulations party for Admiral Bateson, Captain Rodenko, and Captain Vribb and for the engagement of Dr. Murakawa and Admiral Bateson.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, mate.” Nigel replied as the couples shook hands and parted. Walking together, Nigel whispered in Inga’s ears, “They weren’t so bad…although that Maria sheila’s pretty high strung.”
Chuckling, Inga replied, “From what Sam told me before we all met up, she’s actually mellowed out a lot.”
“Yeah.” Nigel teased, “I guess that third pip will do it to you.”
With all the starships in orbit, the Star Station Echo promenade was bustling with activity—much to the delight of the merchants and artisans who possessed stores, shops, and kiosks there. Walking down the promenade, Senior Chief Solly Brin shook his head at the crowded walkway—even though his fellow pedestrians made sure to give the giant Red Orion a wide berth. As he was walking about, he spotted what seemed to him to be a face that he had recognized from long ago. A Bajoran woman—pretty, her hair short, but growing out, and blonde in color. Racking his brain, Solly finally figured out who she was, “Lieutenant Sito!” He called out.
Hearing her name called out, Lieutenant Sito Jaxa turned about to see the giant Red Orion chief petty officer, “Chief Brin!” Jaxa called out as she walked to meet him.
“How have you been, Lieutenant?” The senior chief asked as he noticed that not only was she letting her normally close-cropped hair grow out, but also that the Andorian vengeance tattoo that she had worn had been removed.
“Better, Chief.” Jaxa replied with a smile. “There’s only one voice in my head now.” She explained, “Mine.”
“Glad to hear that, Sir.” Chief Brin replied, his grin growing wider. “And…”
“He’ll get his when the time’s right.” The young Bajoran replied, referring to her old Cardassian tormentor, Gul Rejak. “But I’m not letting him control my life anymore.”
“That’s excellent, Sir.” The Red Orion responded, “He’s not worth it.”
“No…” Jaxa shook her head, “He isn’t.”
“Well…Lieutenant…” Solly said as he extended his hand to the young woman, “I’m glad to see you’re doing better.”
“Thank you, Chief.” Jaxa smiled back as she took the big Orion’s hand in hers and shook it. “I’ll see you around.”
“Looking forward to it, Sir.”
Lieutenant Commander Angela Barrows, better known as Treasure because of her well-endowed chest, was enjoying her walk along the promenade, taking delight at the eyetracks she was getting from the various beings walking with her. Seeing a little curio shop, she stopped in, only to see a familiar face from not so long ago. Her lips turning up in a tentative smile as she saw the attractive, dark-haired, slightly plump form of her estranged friend, she called out, “Pammy?”
Looking up, Lieutenant Pamela Rydell saw her old friend now wearing the pips of a lieutenant commander, “Treasure?” She smiled.
“Hi Sugar.” Treasure said as she tentatively approached, “How’ve you been?”
“A lot better than last time, Angie.” Pamela replied, “You know I hated you for a while. When I first got on the Scamp, Captain Rodenko warned me that if I messed up, he’d boot me out so fast and hard that I’d be wearing his boot prints on my ass for the rest of my life.” Chuckling, she quipped, “I didn’t believe him at first. Then I screwed up and he busted me down to ensign before I even knew what hit me. That’s when I got the message.” She said, her laughter vanishing. “Got my act together after that.”
“I’m glad to hear that, sugar.” Treasure grinned, “You’re a good engineer.”
“That’s what Captain Rodenko said when he gave me my pips back and then promoted me a few months ago.” Pamela smiled. A part of me is going to miss the Scamp, but I’m looking forward to going with the captain to the Bellerophon.
“I’m happy for you, Pammy.” Treasure’s smile grew wider, “You’re gonna love it on a Nebbie, and who knows, you might end up chief engineer one day.”
Her face taking on a serious expression Pamela said in a low voice, “Thanks, Angie…for the tough love. I needed it.”
“Think nothing of it, sugar!” Treasure smiled as she hugged her old friend, “Got my ass chewed out good by Hobby cause of that too. Almost was an ex-chief engineer.” Her laughter subsiding, she remarked, “I think we both grew up some that day.”
Walking down the promenade after his meeting with Admiral Bateson, Joseph Akinola shook his head at all the changes that had occurred in such a short time. Never had the grizzled old cutter captain seen the strip here this busy—not even during the War. Young officers and crewmen, along with some older officers and CPOs, mingled with civilians in the shops and kiosks and along the walkway. It reminded him of Deep Space Nine in some ways. “And all because of a few starships and an admiral.” Joseph grunted, his grunt soon turning into a wry chuckle as he reflected on how quickly things could change. A few days ago, his good friend Boris Rodenko was a cutter skipper like him, now, Boris commanded a Nebula, still one of Starfleet’s capital ships. Morgan was now a vice admiral in charge of both border and regular Fleet ships and responsible for several sectors. Vribb was now a captain and in command of the Scamp.
“And here I am…” Joseph chuckled as he stopped and looked down a railing at the hustle and bustle on the level beneath his, “…an old mustang flying the same ship I’ve been on since most of those young kids were in diapers. And…I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Damn, Joseph…what the hell’s going on here?”
Hearing a familiar voice, Akinola smiled, “Hello, Margaret. I was wondering when you’d show up.”
“I got orders from Admiral Bateson to show up for a meeting with him and when I got here, it looked like I’d stumbled into a fleet. What’s happening—please tell me the Talarians aren’t acting up again. I don’t think we can handle another incursion right now.”
“No…” Joseph shook his head, “Nothing like that. Come walk with me, I’ll tell you everything I know.” As they walked and talked, the expressions on the old captain’s friend’s face shifted from surprised to pleased to shocked back to surprised again.
“So…” Margaret shook her head, “Let me get this straight. Boris is commanding the Bellerophon now; Ronata’s skippering the Scamp, and the admiral’s been promoted and is relocating to Starbase 375 and—oh yes—he finally popped the question to Denise and she said yes.”
“That about sums it up.” Joseph chuckled.
“I wonder who they’re going to get to take over Star Station Ech…Oh…shi…crap!” Margaret swore as Joseph’s chuckles turned into laughter, “That’s why Morgan wants to see me. That balding, smirking son of a bitch. He’s going to stick me with you mugs.”
“That’s how I see it, Margaret.” Akinola grinned, “Congratulations in advance, Rear Admir…”
“Don’t you dare finish that statement, Joseph!” Margaret warned, “Not until after I’ve had a drink or ten.”
“Well…you’ll have plenty of chances to have those drinks tonight.” Akinola grinned, “They’re having a big party tonight for everyone…bad news…” Joseph grumbled, “Is that it’s being thrown by Shelby and her people.”
Chuckling, Margaret retorted, “C’mon, Joseph…it’s not like there’s gonna be an orgy or anything like that. There’ll be some drinking and some dancing and I’m sure more than a few of our crews are going to go off with each other, but I don’t see it getting out of hand.” Sighing, she shook her head, “Sometimes, I think the reason the two of you fight each other is because you like getting under each other’s skins. I swear you both remind me of children sometimes.” The rest of her reply was cut off by the sound of singing. “Damn.” She whispered, “Whoever’s singing is good!”
Hearing the words to “Oh What a Beautiful Morning…” being sung by a young Vulcan woman with long free-flowing auburn hair cascading down to the small of her back wearing a pale green blouse and short skirt with pumps, Joseph smiled warmly as he heard her melodious voice. Gazing at her face, the old cutter captain remarked, “I think I met that woman once.” Approaching the Vulcan along with his friend, Joseph’s lips turned up in a smile, “Sorry to interrupt you, but, and please don’ t mind me for saying so, you look awfully familiar.”
Smiling at the two captains, the Vulcan woman replied, “I think I met you both during my cadet cruise on the Bozeman back when Admiral Bateson was her skipper. My name’s T’Pren.”
“Now I remember!” Joseph exclaimed.
“Yes, Sir.” T’Pren smiled, momentarily throwing Margaret for a loss until she remembered T’Ser was vtosh k’tar and then quickly figured out that T’Pren must be too. “I met both of you while I was on my training cruise on her. When Captain Bateson gave me the opportunity to take my cruise on the Bozeman, I couldn’t resist”
“Forgive me for saying so, T’Pren…” Margaret observed, “But it’s pretty unusual for cadets to volunteer to go on training cruises in the Border Service. Those that score high enough to serve on working starships generally tend to want to go on the big boys.”
“Captains Bateson and Shelby, and Lieutenant Lar’ragos pointed out to me that by doing my cruise in the Border Service I’d encounter more situations where I’d be put in positions where I’d need to use my initiative and that I’d have a better chance to develop leadership skills by actually leading boarding parties and doing real work rather than just scut work. Although…” She grinned, “I did enough of that too…that’s called paying your dues.”
Both captains chuckling as they approved of the young Vulcan’s answer and joke, Joseph remarked, “Ain’t that the truth. So…you don’t regret your time in the Border Service?”
“Not at all, Sir.” T’Pren smiled, “I learned a lot from it that I’m still using today in my current assignment as the tactical/security department head on the Perseus.
“So…” Margaret inquired, her question intended to tease the man next to her as well, “…Captain Shelby recommended you do your tour in the Border Service too?”
“Yes, Sir.” T’Pren replied, “Believe it or not, Captain Shelby has a lot of respect for the Border Service and in particular you, Captain Akinola. While…if you’ll pardon me for saying so…I know there are personal issues between the two of you and I’ll leave it at that…I know that she has the utmost respect for your ability as a leader and as a starship captain.”
With a somewhat sheepish look on his face, Joseph replied, “Don’t tell her I said this…but I think she’s a damned good starship captain too. She’s one of the most creative and innovative tacticians I’ve ever seen.”
“So…” Margaret asked, changing the topic, “How are you enjoying your shore leave?”
“Having fun people watching and singing…” T’Pren replied.
“You’ve got a lovely voice.” Joseph remarked with a smile.
“Thanks.” She grinned, “Larissa…” The Border Service captains quickly picked up on the longing note in the Vulcan’s voice as her lips turned up in a sad smile, “Gave me some good advice once and I’ve been following it ever since. She told me to always be true to myself and sing while I’m doing it.”
“That’s good advice.” Margaret replied with a gentle nod of her head.
“So…” Joseph smiled, “We were on our way to grab a bite to eat…wanna join us?
“Thanks, but I’m waiting on my date…” T’Pren smiled and then waving, called out, “Over here!”
A lovely Trill woman rushed up to the young Vulcan, greeting her with a kiss. “Hey, T’Pren.”
“Hi, Leza.” T’Pren responded, returning her kiss. Then turning to the cutter captains, she introduced the newcomer. “Commander Leza Astar? This is Captains Joseph Akinola and Margaret Gunderson.”
“Hello, Sirs.” The Trill responded and then turned to her date, “So…we still on for the three o’clock show, and then just hang loose until the big party?”
“Yep.” T’Pren grinned. Turning to the two captains, the young Vulcan took her leave, “Hope we see you at the party, Sirs.”
“Cute couple.” Margaret grinned as the two women walked off with their arms around each other’s waists.
“Yeah.” Joseph smiled back, “You know…I could have sworn I heard that Trill’s name mentioned somewhere…but I can’t remember where.” Shrugging his shoulders, he remarked, “I’m sure it’ll come to me sometime.”
“So…” Leza asked as she hugged T’Pren closer to her, “What are you going to sing tonight at the party?”
Her lips turning up in a sly grin, the lovely Vulcan responded, “Uh Huh…I’m not telling…it’s a secret…”
“Whatever it is…it must be good.” Leza teased, “You and that other girl were busy rehearsing with the band for over two hours.”
“I promise you.” T’Pren giggled as she gave her companion a kiss on the cheek, “You’re gonna love it.”
Walking along the promenade in the opposite direction with a Vulcan female he had met from the Bellerophon, Lieutenant Sarnek nodded his head in greeting on seeing the couple, “Greetings.”
“Hi.” T’Pren smiled back at the two Vulcans and then quickly recognizing the female Vulcan, her smile vanished, “V’lar.”
“T’Pren.” The Vulcan woman responded in a flat voice that bordered on being frosty.
“You two know each other?” Leza asked, already deciding that she didn’t like the standoffish Vulcan woman.
“Yeah.” T’Pren replied, “We went to the Academy together. She didn’t exactly approve of some lifestyle changes I underwent during my plebe year.
“Vtosh k’tar.” V’lar flatly responded. “You have turned your back on your culture and your heritage.”
“Tell you what, V’lar…I’m in too good a mood right now to let you piss me off, so me and Leza are going to go now before I really do lose it.” Turning her attention to Sarnek, her lips turned up in a smile as she made the Vulcan salute, “You seem like a nice guy, so…live long and prosper.”
“And you also.” Sarnek replied, returning T’Pren’s gesture. As the two couples walked away from each other in opposite directions, Sarnek, remembering his friendship with another vtosh k’tar, gently reproved his companion, “It is not logical, V’lar, to render an individual or individuals outcast merely because of philosophical or other such differences. After all, is not IDIC the cornerstone of Vulcan society and culture?”
“Come on in, Sammy.” Captain Shelby grinned as her first officer and close friend entered her ready room. “Grab yourself something to drink and an iced tea for me, if you would please.”
“Sure thing, Betts.” Sam grinned as he fetched two glasses of iced tea and, giving one to his captain, sat down on the luxurious leather upholstered couch with her.
“How’s things going with the party, Sam?” Liz asked.
“Good so far.” Lavelle answered, “The music’s going to be mostly mid-twentieth century rock and roll. I got Maria to agree to sing and it didn’t take much for Anara to get T’Pren to sing as well.” Laughing, he continued, “Maria told me that the two of them have just gotten done rehearsing with the band, and that they’ve got a couple of numbers lined up—including a duet—guaranteed to knock everyone out.”
“Great!” Liz chuckled, “I wasn’t sure she’d do it.”
Shaking his head, Sam replied, “You know Maria. She always complains about it, but she loves it. I’ve also passed the word for everyone not to get too rowdy tonight and I’ve reserved rooms for people who want to sneak off for some private time, so that’s taken care of.”
Shelby grinned and nodded her head approvingly, “I don’t mind everyone having fun as usual, but I also want to be sure that Morgan, Denise, Boris, Ellen, Ronata, and even Old Prune Face and the rest of the Border Service people who aren’t quite used to how raucous we can be have a good time too. So…” She quipped with a rakish grin, “If you would please, discreetly slip the word to Anara when you meet her later on to gently suggest to Treasure that she should keep her phaser banks covered tonight.”
“And you?” Sam chuckled, “What were you planning on wearing tonight?”
Laughing, Shelby answered back, “Oh don’t worry, Sammy. I’m going to dress to impress…but it won’t be anything too outrageous.” She then joked with a twinkle in her eyes, “Although it is going to be fun seeing the reaction on Akinola’s face when he sees my new nose stud and navel ring.”
“You’ve got a new one?” Sam laughed.
“Yep. Just got it today—along with the nose stud—in a little jewelry shop on the station promenade—I think it’s the same one where Morgan got Denise her ring—they make excellent jewelry by the way. I picked up a bracelet and anklet too. You might want to consider getting Maria something from there before the party.”
“Not a bad idea.” Sam nodded his head. “A little insurance might not hurt.”
“Smart man.” Liz grinned. “Now…” She sighed, “On to business. How are we as regards readiness?”
“Top of our form, Sir.” Sam responded, immediately switching into on duty mode along with his captain. “We’ve been reprovisioned and each shift has performed exemplarily during their drills. I even ran an unscheduled surprise drill last night—outstanding response times. The new crewmembers are integrating well…there are a couple I have my doubts about though. Here’s their names and service records,” he said as he handed a padd to the captain, “I’ve got my eye on them and if they don’t improve…”
Liz commented as she read the information on the padds. “Looks like they came in thinking this was a nonstop party boat and found out we work for a living. Let’s ground their asses—maybe they’ll get the message. Make sure they’re on the duty shift during the party. If they continue to be a problem, just let me know and I’ll support whatever recommendations you make.”
“Aye, Captain.” Sam replied, “I think that just about covers it.”
“Thanks, Sam. I’ll see you at the party.” Taking a deep breath, she murmured, “I have a meeting I have to go to first though.”
“Later, Captain.” Sam grinned as he took his captain’s empty glass, along with his, and placing them in the replicator, recycled them before leaving.
After her surprisingly pleasant run-in with Pamela, Treasure decided to check out some more shops along the station’s promenade, again enjoying the attention she was getting from most of the males as well as a few females. Although Treasure’s tastes ran strictly towards men, she didn’t mind being ogled by a woman—just showed she had good taste. As she entered a shop specializing in women’s clothing, her lips turned up in a wide grin as she met a pair of old friends.
“Candy! Atris! How ya’ll been!”
“Treasure1” Candy Johnson, the blonde science officer from the Sutherland, wearing a fringe jacket and pants, beamed as did her friend, Atris Nylysa, a lovely Troyan woman with long and luscious white hair tinged with mauve and wearing a short red dress, both called out on seeing their old friend.
Rushing towards each other, the three women shared a group hug and then began to rapidly gossip about virtually everything as they eyed dresses and blouses, discarding this one…trying on that one…until all three had bought at least one outfit apiece.
Entering the store a few minutes after the buxom Perseus engineer, Ensign Maya Vashtee, the Bluefin’s young Sri-Lankan descended operations officer, idly pulled out a few blouses and held them up to herself to see how she looked in them, and then shaking her head, discarded them. Seeing the growing frustration on the young ensign’s face, Treasure nudged her friends and whispered, “Wanna help her out?”
“Sure.” Candy and Atris whispered back as Treasure called out to the young woman.
“Hey, Sugar! C’mon over here and join us!”
Turning her head towards the sound of an accent that sounded a lot like that of her second officer, Delta Simms, Vashtee saw a buxom blonde woman waving her towards where she was standing next to another blonde and a green-skinned woman with white hair.
“Come on over, Sweetie.” Candy also called out, “We won’t bite.”
“Speak for yourselves.” Atris giggled and then motioned for Maya to join them. “You look a little lost. Why don’t you come over here and join us?”
As the young ensign walked over to the three women, they smiled at her, welcoming her to their little club. “Having a problem finding an outfit for the party tonight, Sugar?” Treasure asked as Maya nodded her head.
“I’ve never gone to something like this, so I’m not sure what to wear.” Maya confessed.
“You’ve never been to a party?” Candy exclaimed.
“Oh…I’ve been to parties…” The young Sri-Lankan said somewhat defensively, “But…” she confessed, “…never one this big.”
“Hey…don’t sweat it.” Atris said cheerily, “It’s all about having fun…you know. You can hang out with us tonight—that way you don’t feel lost—ok?”
“If that’s all right with you?” Maya replied with a shy grin.
“Sure, sugar!” Treasure grinned, “Now let’s get you some party clothes for tonight, and then we’ll go and do the girl thing—get our hair and nails done and hang out, do some more shopping, and get to know each other, ‘kay? And then we’ll knock ‘em all dead at the party.”
“All right!” Ensign Vashtee smiled as the Three Amigas took the young ensign under their wing with Treasure yelling as they found outfits for the young ensign to try on, “Charge!”
“Are you sure about this, Admiral Ross…Admiral Bateson?” Captain Margaret Gunderson asked as she sat at a conference table in the station commander’s office with Admiral Bateson sitting on one side of the table, her on the other, and at the head of the table, Admiral Ross.
As Ross nodded his head at Morgan, giving him approval to speak, the newly promoted vice admiral replied, “We’re sure, Margaret. You’re the best choice for the job.”
“But Joseph…” Margaret protested.
“Joseph might have seniority, Margaret.” Morgan countered, “But…and you know he’s a friend of mine and I think he’s a helluva cutter captain, the simple truth is that he doesn’t have the temperament for this position. Also…” Bateson reluctantly admitted, “He carries too much baggage for him to ever get promoted to flag rank.”
“Admiral Bateson’s right.” Admiral Ross declared in a grave voice that he rarely used, “Captain Akinola—provided he doesn’t step too far over the line—which nearly has happened a time or two—will retire as a cutter captain. He’ll also never attain command of a larger ship. His attitude precludes him ever being offered anything other than what he’s commanding now.”
“You make it sound like he’s a dead-ender.” Margaret objected.
“Far from it.” Admiral Ross politely rebutted, “He’s an excellent cutter commander and leader. We need a lot more like him. It’s just that he would be ill suited to anything else.”
“Something he’d tell you himself, Margaret…” Bateson added with a smile, “Also, he’d be miserable stuck here all day working his way through piles of padds.”
“Heh…” Captain Gunderson snorted, “It’s not going to be fun for me either.”
“I’ll let you in on a little secret, Margaret…” Both Morgan and Admiral Ross chuckled, “We don’t like doing it either.” His laughter dissipating, the balding admiral argued, “But it has to be done and you are capable of doing it. You’re right for this position—that’s why I put you in for it.” He then pushed forward a jewelry case. “Open it, Margaret.”
Opening it, the cutter captain saw two rear admiral collar pins. “They were the ones I wore a couple of days ago. They’re yours now, Margaret.” Getting up, he walked around to where his captain sat and, after taking off her captain’s pips, put on the admiral’s pin.
Standing up, Admiral Ross extended his hand, “Congratulations, Admiral Gunderson.”
Standing up as well, Margaret shook the admiral’s hand and replied, “Thank you.”
Smirking, Morgan also shook his former captain’s hand and offered his congratulations to which she whispered back with a chuckle, “I’ll get you for this one day, Morgan.”
“Thank you for coming here.” Captain Hobson greeted his guests as they were escorted into his quarters on the Perseus by Anara. “Please be seated.” As they entered Hobson’s quarters, his guests found themselves in an immaculately kept space, well and tastefully furnished with a mahogany wood bookcase containing actual bound books. Pausing to peruse the Perseus captain’s library, Morgan’s eyebrow raised on seeing Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, St. Augustine’s City of God, Frankenstein, 1984, the Bible in several translations, the Quran, the Vedas, works from Buddha, the writings of Lao Tzu and Confucius, Marx, Adam Smith, and many other works of classic philosophy, political science, and literature.
“Extensive library.” Morgan commented, clearly impressed.
“Thank you, Admiral.” Chris replied as he gestured for Anara and his guests to sit. “We’re just waiting on one more person and we’ll be ready to commence.” A few moments later, the door chime to his quarters rang as his security chief announced herself. “Enter, T’Pren.” Hobson commanded as the door swished open. “I apologize for having to intrude on your leave, but I felt your presence here would be helpful.”
“Not at all, Sir.” The young Vulcan smiled. “Leza understands these things.”
“I’m sure she does.” The Iceman replied noncommittally. His normally stoic expression even more of a poker face now, Hobson spoke in a clear, crisp voice, “As Captain Shelby, Anara, and T’Pren are aware, Admiral, I keep abreast of certain…developments within the intelligence community and elsewhere. As a result, I have cultivated certain sources that have been pointing me towards a direction that is frankly speaking, frightening. What T’Pren and I are about to tell you must not leave this room. It concerns certain information that she came into during a recent extended leave on Vulcan to take care of personal matters. I have found that this information seems to link in to some suspicions I have been having for some time that might also pertain to the death of my wife. I’ll turn the floor over to T’Pren now.”
As the captain nodded his head for her to speak, the security chief cleared her throat. “It would help to clarify my account if I play certain log entries of mine. Much of it is personal, so, I ask you to please be discreet with it. Seeing everyone nod their heads and feeling Anara’s supportive hand on her arm, T’Pren played the first log entry: “Hey baby…I know it’s been a while…too long…” Pausing the recording, T’Pren explained, “She’s Larissa. Her and I were close…very close. I loved her.” She then resumed the recording, “…but with everything going on…the war and all…I guess we got kind of separated. I wouldn’t blame you if you cut me off right now, love, but I hope you’ll at least listen to the rest of this message first—it’s important—as in ‘lives—my own especially—on the line’ important. To make a long story short, after the war, I continued my research into pre-Romulan War Vulcan history—you know the stuff I was working on dealing with the return of Syrannists to power and T’Pol and Tucker’s role and possible tie-ins to the Terra Prime movement and all. Well…I found something. Something big. Something I don’t think I was supposed to find. And it was out there all the time—all someone had to do was look hard enough for it. If…when…this gets out—a lot of people—I mean a lot—are going to get extremely pissed off. T’Pren….I need to see you. You can find me on Vulcan at the Valaran Hotel…suite 4314. Please…please…come. I’m scared, honey. Really scared.”
Turning off the recording, T’Pren continued her narrative. “Captain Hobson granted me extended leave to check on Larissa. When I arrived at her hotel suite, I found her body lying on her bed. She’d been murdered.” Closing her eyes, the young Vulcan took a deep breath before exhaling, “However, she was smarter than her killers.” T’Pren declared with a note of pride in her lover in her voice, “She left me a series of clues that took me to the ruins of the T’Karath sanctuary where I was able to retrieve her notes and T’Pol’s missing manuscripts after having to deal with a certain individual and his friends who we believe belonged to the V’Shar.”
“The Vulcan Security Service?” Morgan exhaled and then asked, “What could be in T’Pol’s manuscripts that would be so dangerous that the Vulcan secret service would kill for after all these years?”
“She wrote using a very complex code that we’re still deciphering.” Hobson explained, taking over for T’Pren. “We believe that there might be evidence not only tying in the Romulan Tal Shiar with the old Vulcan High Command, but that it had also infiltrated and still has infiltrators in the V’Shar. Added to that, the manuscripts point towards a tie in between the Romulans and the old Terra Firma movement—primarily providing the movement with weapons and finances with the goal being to foment tensions between Earth and Vulcan, Andoria, and Tellar who were beginning to come together to form the Federation.” Unfortunately,” Hobson continued, “The Terra Firma movement has never completely gone away. Over the years, it has morphed into a variety of different factions and political parties, all with the same basic goals: Terran autonomy and autarchy with a xenophobic and isolationist outlook.”
“Hmmm…” Sounds like some parts of the Satie administration platform.” Morgan mused.
“While there most likely are Terra Firma sympathizers within her party…” Hobson demurred, “By and large I would categorize her party platform as being more conservative and isolationist than xenophobic. The Satie administration is still supportive of the goals and ideas of the Federation—it’s just a more conservative political philosophy than the previous administrations.”
“What about this shadowy intelligence agency I’ve been hearing whispers of—this Section 31?” Liz asked.
“Section 31 most definitely exists.” Hobson stated as Bateson confirmed with a grim nod of his head, “And while it has carried out more than a few…questionable…acts…I don’t think that it is the responsible body here. Its essential goals are the preservation of the Federation—by any means necessary. However,” He qualified, “I would not discount the likelihood of Terra Firma supporters and infiltrators within its ranks.”
“So…who do you think might be responsible?” Morgan asked. “And do you think these people might also be responsible for your wife’s death?”
“What a lot of people do not know…” Chris confessed, “Was that Natalie—my wife—and I—were in Starfleet Intelligence. She and I operated as a team. While we were stationed on the Livorno, she came across some information and had taken a shuttle to rendezvous with a contact on Deneb IV. Her shuttle exploded during the voyage while in deep space. The explosion was ruled accidental by a board of inquiry. Jadon was stationed with me on the Livorno at the time and he swore to me that when the preflight engineers checked that shuttle out, it was in perfect working order. After making some discreet inquiries, I determined that Jadon was telling the truth—that Natalie’s shuttle was in perfect shape. So far, I have not been able to find out who carried out the act, but I do have my suspicions that the information she possessed might well be linked in to what T’Pren’s friend found.”
“So…” Liz asked, “Where are these theories taking you?”
“I’m not completely certain yet.” Hobson allowed, “However, I do have a line of inquiry open that I think might be worth pursuing.” He then outlined his theory. “We are just now dipping our small toes into a much wider ocean than even the exploration of our galaxy. We are discovering that there are entire alternate universes and dimensions and it seems that we are finding more and more gateways to these universes and dimensions. Beginning with the Enterprise NX-1’s entry into one of the ‘mirror universes’ where, instead of the Federation, there existed a tyrannical Terran Empire…”
“One of the mirror universes?” Shelby interjected, “I thought there was only one.”
“There is no reason to think that there can’t be more than one.” Hobson corrected. “There could be an infinite number. Just as there could be an infinite number of universes with the Federation and universes where neither entity exists.”
“I think I’m beginning to see where you’re going with this but go on ahead.” Shelby encouraged.
“We’ve also seen that individuals from one or more of these mirror universes can transit to our own, just as we have transited to theirs.” Hobson continued, “So, I think it highly probable that they could have infiltrated their doppelgangers into different positions within local planetary governments, Starfleet, and within the Federation bureaucracy.”
“Whew…” Morgan exhaled, “So…assuming these infiltrators exist, how do we go about ferreting them out?”
“That’s the difficult part.” Hobson admitted. “In all probability, they would have eliminated their counterparts here very quietly and then assumed their positions. To do that would require extensive preparatory work as they would have to be able to perfectly pass themselves off as the original—including fooling intimate friends and family. Added to that, they would have to move slowly—move too quickly and people will take notice of the aberrant behavior.”
“That makes sense.” Shelby nodded her head. “So, how many do you think we’re talking about and how extensive is their infiltration?”
“Probably not that many…at least from one universe.” Hobson stated. “As for how deeply they’ve infiltrated?” The Iceman shook his head, “Hard to say at this time. I don’t have enough information.”
“From one universe?” Morgan raised his eyebrows in astonishment.
“My worst-case scenario…” Hobson took a deep breath before continuing, “…is that our universe might be being used as a battleground between two or more rival universes.”
“So…what can we do?” Liz asked.
“Right now…” Chris shook his head, “There’s not much we can do but watch, listen, and gather information. And…” He declared, his eyes taking on a steely glint, “Make sure that this stays quiet. We cannot let the opposition know what we’re about. We wait, we gather information, and when the time is right…then we move.”
Shaking his head, Morgan remarked in a mournful tone, “It was a lot easier when I was just an ensign on the old Merlin. This is the stuff gives you ulcers and long nights.”
Placing a comforting hand on her surrogate father’s arm, Liz comforted, “What we have here Morgan is worth preserving. You know what nagyapa would say…”
“Do better.” Morgan smiled.
“And I’m telling you right now what nagyanya is telling me…kick those szmetek in the herek.” Liz smiled.
“Aliz always did have a temper.” Morgan chuckled.
“Now you know where I got mine from.” Liz laughed.
Standing up, Chris showed his guests out, telling them, “I will keep you updated on any new information I find.”
“And we’ll do likewise.” Morgan stated, speaking for Liz who nodded her head in agreement.
Sitting at the bar in Sloopy’s, Sam sipped his bourbon and cola as he enjoyed the ambience of the old pub. Examining the patches from the various starships and cutters that had called Star Station Echo home or that had docked here at one time or another, he spied the patches for the Merlin, Scipio, Ajax, Scamp, Finback, Bluefin, Lexington, and many other patches from ships of the 23rd and 24th centuries. Calling the bartender to him, Sam handed him another patch to add to the display, “Here’s one from the Sutherland. Commander Rysyl, Captain Rodenko, and Captain Bush should be by later on today or tomorrow to give you patches for Perseus, Bellerophon, and Madrid.”
“Thanks.’ The bartender grinned as he handed a fresh drink to the Sutherland first officer, “Here. This one’s on the house.”
“Thank you.” Sam replied with smile, His grin growing wider as he saw a petite blonde woman entering the bar, “Hey, Inga! Come over here and join me for a drink.”
“Thanks, Sam.” Inga smiled as she joined the roguish Canadian, ordering a rum and cola for herself. “I talked to Chief Deryx about our two captains…” She began.
“Pretty much as you said. He added a few more details that I didn’t know.” Shaking her head, she said, “I probably would have done what Captain Shelby did when she asked Chief to defuse that bomb.”
“Yeah…well…you gotta remember, I was sitting at the helm through pretty much all of this, so I didn’t exactly have a ringside seat.”
“There’s something else I’ve been noticing though…” Inga ventured, not sure whether to continue or not.
“Go on ahead.” Sam encouraged.
“Ummm…I’m not sure how to say this…” Inga stammered, “But I’ve noticed that the crews of the Sutherland and Scamp seem to intermingle fairly well with each other, but there’s not that much intermingling going on between the crew of your ship and the Bluefin. I was wondering if our captains’ problems with each other are impacting on the crews.”
“Hmmm…You were in the War, right?”
“Yeah.” Inga replied, “I was on the Thunderchild at First Chintoka and Cardassia.”
“We were at Cardassia.” Sam shook his head, “That was a rough one. We were also doing behind the lines raiding with the Klingons and Romulans.”
“Yeah…” Inga nodded her head, “I heard about those. Some of those raids got pretty hairy from what I was told.”
“A few did.” Sam recalled, “Sometimes we got out by the skin of our teeth—especially when the Breen decided to join the war.”
“So…” Inga persisted, “I assume you’re trying to make a point.”
“Right.” Sam exhaled, “Sorry we got sidetracked. What do you know of Caernarvon IV?”
“It was early in the war.” Inga recalled, “Captain Shelby commanded something of a scratch task force with orders to cover a withdrawal and hold up the Dominion advance.”
“Right.” Sam nodded his head, “And…as I’m sure you’re aware, both Bozeman and Scamp were part of the task force.”
Her face reddening in embarrassment, Inga gave the Sutherland first officer an apologetic look, “I’m sorry…I should have realized that was the reason.”
“Nothing to be sorry for.” Sam gave the Bluefin XO a friendly grin, “That battle created a bond between us. Every year all of us try to get together for a remembrance dinner where each captain recites the names of everyone who died on their ship that day and Captain Shelby, besides reciting the names of those that we lost, also calls out the names of everyone who died on the Renown. By the time she’s done, she’s announced the names of all 750 of the Renown’s crew and three hundred of ours. Captain Rodenko and Admiral Bateson do the same thing for their losses. And if we’re not able to get together, we hold the dinners separately.”
Smiling at the young German, Sam continued, “We don’t have anything against the Bluefin or her crew and neither does Captain Shelby. You’re a good ship and a good crew and you’re all welcome to come to the party tonight. I hope to see you and Nigel and the rest of your people there.”
“We’ll be there.” Inga grinned and then, again unsure as to whether to continue, she asked, “You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but I noticed that you and Lieutenant Commander Django seem to be…”
“Involved?” Sam chuckled, “Yeah. I take it that you and Lieutenant Bane are…”
“Yeah.” Inga giggled, “How do you…”
“Make a relationship like ours work?” Sam finished for the petite blonde.
Nodding her head, Inga affirmed, “Yeah. How do you do it?”
Sighing, Sam replied, “It’s not always easy as I’m sure you’re aware.” Seeing Inga’s nod of her head, Sam continued, “The big thing is to keep work separate from our personal lives—and yeah, that can be tough sometimes. But…we’ve hammered out most of that. I’ve outranked her all the time we’ve known each other, so she knows when I’m talking to her as first officer and when I’m talking to her as her boyfriend. But yeah…there’ve been more than a few occasions where we had to take a time out from each other until things got sorted out. Why? If I might ask?”
Exhaling, Inga admitted, “I don’t want to get too much into it, but I had a situation where Nigel’s brother got into some trouble…”
“And you were put on the spot.” Seeing Inga’s nod of her head, Sam nodded his own in agreement, “Yeah…that’s tough. About all you can do…” Sam declared, “…and I know it sounds trite, but it’s true, is do what you think is the right thing to do and then be ready to take the heat, because whichever way you decide—you’re going to get heat.”
“That’s pretty much what happened.” Inga snorted.
“Well…” Sam chuckled as he raised his glass in a toast, “Here’s to us—not only do we have to keep our captains from killing each other, but we also have to keep ourselves out of trouble with our SO’s and keep them out of trouble at the same time.”
“I’ll drink to that!” Inga grinned as she tossed back her drink. Then, getting up to leave, she smiled at the rakishly handsome Canadian, “Thanks for the talk, Sam.”
“Any time, Inga.”
“Come on in, Boris!” Admiral Bateson smiled as he ushered his old friend into his office. Pouring him a vodka and himself a scotch, Bateson bade the big Russian to have a seat by his desk. Sitting down and sipping his scotch, the admiral inquired, “So…any ideas who you might want for your first officer.”
Sighing, Boris shook his head, “I was thinking about Lieutenant Commander Django for a while, but our firecracker hasn’t really had enough time in grade yet. I was also thinking about poaching Lieutenant Commander Simms from Joseph, but he’s had enough turnover in crew for now and again, she hasn’t enough time in grade yet. Neither Treasure nor T’Pren are ready to make the jump to command yet…So…” The Russian sighed, “I’ve been reading over dossiers. I think I have a candidate. I’ve scheduled a meeting just before I get ready for Elizaveta’s bash.”
“Great!” Admiral Bateson replied as he rose from his desk. “Guess I’ll see you at the party tonight.”
Laughing, Captain Rodenko joked, “I wonder what our wayward angel has planned for tonight.”
“Whatever it is…” Morgan said, joining in the laughter, “I’m sure it’ll be something wild.”
“Someone better tell Doctor Castille to be ready with painkillers for Joseph—I have a feeling he is going to have a headache the size of a red supergiant!” Boris chortled as he left the office, “Dosvedanya, Admiral.”
Making his way along the promenade towards Sloopy’s, Lieutenant Yitzhak Shalev, helmsman and flight control officer on the Perseus, smiled as he met an acquaintance of his. “Hey, Bralus! Over here!”
“Yitzhak? Is that you?” Lieutenant Bralus, helmsman for the Bluefin, called back as he approached the young Eretz Israeli. “How’ve you been? Regular Fleet treating you right?”
“Yeah.” Yitzhak grinned as the pair entered the bar. “So…what are you having? First round’s on me.”
“Bolian tonic water.” Bralus replied.
“Bartender?” Yitzhak called out, “One Bolian tonic water and one beer, please.” Moments later, a frosty mug of beer in his hands, Shalev inquired, “So, how’s life on the Bluefin?”
“Pretty good.” The young Bolian answered back as he sipped his drink. “And you…how’s the Perseus? I hear Hobson’s a real tight ass.”
“Nah…Not really. Long as you do your job and don’t frinx up, he’s ok. Just don’t expect a hug from him.” Shalev quipped.
“Heard about Fu’Puk.” Bralus shook his head, “Tricky situation.”
“Yeah.” The Eretz Israeli let out a breath, “Got hairy a few times. I gotta admit…Windslow came through in the clinch, but that doesn’t completely get him off the hook. Still think the bastard’s a coward—not just for deserting his people, but for covering it up afterwards.”
“That’s going to stay with him forever.” Bralus nodded his head in agreement. “I’m surprised he didn’t resign.”
“I guess the man feels he’s doing some sort of penance.” Shalev shook his head. “Enough about bad times.” Yitzhak grinned as he tossed back his mug, “Anything juicy going on with the Bluefin.
“Well…” Bralus replied, “Did you hear through the grapevine that K’lira got stationed back on the ship?”
“No, I didn’t. I’m glad she’s getting a second chance.” Shaking his head, Shalev commented, “It was a freak occurrence, that civilian dying of a heart attack like that.”
“Yeah.” Bralus sighed as he finished his drink, “You never know…”
“Tell me about it.” Shalev snorted as he downed the last of his beer, “Well…guess I’ll see you at the party.”
“See you later, Yitzhak and…” The Bolian grinned, “Don’t be a stranger.”
As she approached a shop she once knew, Talana shook her head as she saw that it was now a Klingon restaurant. “Who’d have thought there’d ever be a Klingon diner here.” The lovely Andorian remarked to no one in particular.
“Why’s that such a surprise?”
Turning about, Talana smiled at her Trill lover, “It’s just that the last time I was here, it was an antique shop and we and the Klingons were shooting at each other.” Standing up on tip-toes, she gave him a kiss, “Have a good talk with Treasure?”
“Yeah.” Jadon returned her kiss and chuckled. “It didn’t take long for her to hook up with Candy and Atris again and looks like they’ve got a new member in their little sorority.”
“Who?” Talana asked, her antennae twitching with curiosity as the pair walked down the station promenade hand-in-hand.
“One of the Bluefin crew. Nice girl.” Jadon chuckled, “Bit on the shy side, but it won’t take long until the Three Amigas get her out of her shell.”
“You know…” Talana remarked, feeling pensive all of a sudden, “I’m happy for Morgan. His promotion and engagement are two of the best things that’s ever happened to him. It’s good for him to get off this station.”
“Too many ghosts here.” Smiling, Talana explained, “I’ve known Morgan for a long time.”
“I know he was with you on the Lexington.” Jadon commented.
“Yeah, but I knew him before then…back when he was an ensign on the Merlin. He was quite the lady’s man back then.” The lovely Andorian laughed.
“Did you and he…” Jadon gently teased.
“Nah.” Talana chuckled as she playfully slapped her Trill lover. “Not that I didn’t think about it.” She confessed, “But no…Dee Dee and Sammie had claimed him for themselves and were constantly trying to one-up each other to get to him. It was really funny to watch.”
“So…where were you?”
“I was on the Ajax—where else? It was a couple of years before I transferred to the Lexington back when Nogura was in command.” Talana laughed, “At the time, I was still a lieutenant. Morgan and I became friends. We’d have drinks at Sloopy’s whenever he could get clear of Dee Dee and Sammie, that is, and we’d just generally hang out. That man could tell a story even back then.” She laughed. Her laughter fading as her pensive mood returned, the lovely Andorian sighed, “His problem is that sometimes he hides in the past, and, because of that, he fails to see how good things are now.”
“What do you mean?” Jadon asked.
“Leaving aside the fact that it’s often difficult to maintain a relationship in the line of work we’re in…” Talana explained, “I think part of the reason it took him so long to commit to Denise was that he was still stuck on Jennifer.”
“His old girlfriend on the Lexington?”
“Yeah.” Talana nodded her head, “But what we went through several months ago…” Jadon nodded his head, knowing that his lover was talking about the Sutherland’s trip back to the 23rd century, “…I think that gave him closure. He was able to finally say goodbye to Jennifer and fully commit himself to Denise. Getting him off this station will allow him to say goodbye to all those other ghosts—Dee Dee, Sammie, and the rest—and build a new life for himself in the present with Denise.”
“Makes sense.” Jadon nodded his head and then chuckled, “You know, maybe you should switch fields to counseling.”
Laughing, Talana retorted, “And put Max out of a job? No thanks.”
“Well then…” Jadon responded, half joking, “Maybe you can help me get Chris and Anara back together again.”
“Perhaps we can open up a side business where we put couples together and then back together again after they break up.” Talana laughed as he kissed her lover again
“Why not?” Jadon laughed as he twirled his beautiful Andorian companion in a dance move before kissing her again in front of an appreciative audience. “We’d clean up.”
A strikingly beautiful woman brushed aside a strand of purple hair as she walked towards her destination, the docking berth for USS Scamp. Approaching the officer on duty, she reported, “Commander Illya Zhreven requesting permission to come aboard.”
“Permission granted, Sir.” A young bronze-skinned human ensign with dark black hair replied.
Boarding the cutter, she spotted a man with thinning brown hair and lieutenant’s pips. “Lieutenant?”
Turning towards the sound of the voice calling his name, Lieutenant Eerdman, upon seeing the woman’s rank pins and noticing her Regular Fleet combadge, respectfully addressed her, “Commander? May I help you? I’m Lieutenant Johannes Eerdman, operations officer.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Illya acknowledged with a grin, “Could you direct me to Captain Rodenko, please. I have an appointment with him?”
“Yes, Sir.” The lieutenant politely replied as he gestured with his hand and arm, “This way, please.”
As they walked down the border cutter’s cramped corridor, Illya noticed that she was getting more than her fair share of looks. While a beautiful, curvaceous woman such as herself would in the normal course of things attract attention, her purple hair, creamy alabaster skin, and lilac-hued eyes set her apart from most people. Pausing before a door, Lieutenant Eerdman announced, “This is our galley, Captain Rodenko is in here. Then, the door sliding open, the operations officer escorted her to a table where a burly curly-haired man sat drinking what appeared to be coffee or tea from a mug.
Looking up, Captain Rodenko let out a breath of air as he caught site of his first officer candidate. Gesturing with a nod of his head at the seat opposite his, he commanded, “Have a seat, Commander.” As she sat down and presented her padd, Boris apologized, “I’m sorry for the informal surroundings, but Captain Vribb has moved into my quarters and I still have things to finish here before transferring fully to the Bellerophon.” Reading her service record on the padd, Boris nodded his head, “You have an exemplary record, Commander.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Illya replied in a low, sultry voice.
“You’re Halenoi, Da?” Seeing his interviewee, Boris cocked his head to the left, “I don’t believe I’ve encountered your species yet.”
“We’ve been full Federation members since Earth Standard Year 2360, Sir. Before that, we held associate status and for a few years were a protectorate.” Illya answered back and further elaborated. My home world, Halen, was contacted by USS Lexington in 2266. At the time, we were conducting our first warp drive tests and were under attack by the Shlavka. There still aren’t a lot of us in Starfleet now, but more Halenoi are applying to the Academy.”
“Yes…” Boris nodded his head, “I remember reading that Commodore Wesley intervened when Halenoi representatives asked for assistance.”
“Yes, Sir.” The Commodore discovered that…” A faint shudder ran down the woman’s back as she continued her narrative, “The Shlavka were raising captured Halenoi and using them as livestock. A Lexington landing party had also managed to just contain a catastrophic matter-antimatter containment explosion as the Lexington prepared to make contact.”
Nodding his head, Boris agreed, “Da. That’s what I recollect.” Looking down at her service record, the Commissar also noted, “I see you served in the war.”
“Yes, Sir.” Illya nodded her head. “I served on the Tecumseh.”
“A good ship.” Boris declared, “Captain Raymond states that you are a fine officer and has his highest recommendations. I also see that you earned the Silver Palm for your actions at First Chintoka.” Nodding his head in approval, the Russian captain smiled, “I think you will make an outstanding first officer.” Standing up, he extended his hand, “Congratulations, XO. You will find that I expect only the best from my officers and crew and in return, I will give you all my best. While I run a tight ship, I also give my officers and crew a fairly wide latitude as regards what they do when they are not on the job so long as it does not violate Starfleet rules and regulations, or any other Federation or local laws. Anyone who violates my trust will find my boots stamped on their backside and off my ship.”
“Understood, Sir.” Illya crisply acknowledged as she took the captain’s hand and shook it.
“Welcome aboard, Commander. You can go ahead and stow your gear on the Bellerophon and get settled into your quarters. I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not…” Boris related, “but there’s going to be a very large celebration tonight. As my new first officer…” He smiled broadly, “You are invited to attend.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Illya grinned back, “I love parties.”
“Then you are going to get along with many of the people you will be working with just fine, Commander.” Rodenko grinned, and then, his grin vanishing as quickly as it appeared, he also cautioned, “So long as you do your job and do it well.”
“I will, Sir.” Illya acknowledged with a serious expression.
“Then we will get along famously, Commander.” Boris’s lips once again turned up in a grin, “Dismissed.”
“Your evaluation?” The disembodied voice asked Lieutenant Commander Devon Miller who was at that moment sitting in an isolated booth at Sloopy’s, an anti-eavesdropping device glowing pale blue on the table.
“It is difficult to gain Captain Hobson’s trust and I am far from earning it. So far, my abilities to gain information from him have been mostly unsuccessful, but it does not appear that he intends to act in opposition to our efforts. In fact, depending on the situation and where our interests align, he could be an invaluable ally.”
“He seeks to preserve the Federation as we do. However, he will not go beyond both his oath as a Starfleet officer and his personal code of honor. So long as he is not forced to cross those lines, he could be useful.”
“His record as an operative in Starfleet Intelligence was very good and aligns with your analysis of his personality.” The disembodied voice noted, “It is a shame his wife was killed in that ‘accident’. They were a most effective team and were of invaluable assistance to us without their knowledge. We know he has never fully given up his investigation of her death. Do you have any inkling of his suspicions?”
“While he knows of Section 31.” Miller reported, “He does not suspect us of his wife’s death. I believe he is leaning towards Terra Firma sympathizers as being the most likely culprits.”
“In this instance, he is correct. We were not responsible for her death. She was a helpful, albeit unwitting asset as was her husband. Her loss was a serious blow. We will provide covert assistance as necessary to facilitate any investigations he makes concerning Terra Firma or their sympathizers. Understood?”
“Good. For now, maintain your cover. That is all.”
His debriefing concluded, Miller quietly pocketed the eavesdropping scrambler in his pocket and walked out the door.
Hearing the sound of loud music, Nigel’s lips turned up in a grin as he spoke to the petite blonde woman wearing an attractive blouse and slacks combination, “Well, darl…I think we found the party.”
Smiling back at the man holding her hand wearing a shirt and jeans, “Yep…let’s join ‘em.”
“Damn!” Nigel laughed as he led Inga to the bar, enjoying the beat as he eyed the dancers already on the floor, “There’s a big mob already here!”
“Hey!” Inga pointed, raising her voice to be heard over the music, “There’s Sam and Maria!” Then, waving her arms, she called out, “Sam! Maria!”
“Over here!” Sam, wearing a t-shirt and jeans and holding a big mug of beer, called out, waving the two Bluefin officers towards the bar where he was leaning up with Maria, wearing a tube top and low-cut tight short-shorts and white go-go boots standing next to him, drinking what looked like an antarean sunrise. “Grab yourselves a drink and kick back.” Sam urged as Nigel ordered a whiskey and Inga a schnapps.
“Big blow out.” Nigel grinned as he sipped his drink. “You lot even got a damned band to play!” He exclaimed, pointing to the band playing something that sounded like mid-twentieth century rock and roll.
“We don’t do anything half-way!” Sam answered back, raising his voice so that it could be heard.
“Party hadn’t even gotten started yet.” Maria chuckled as she embraced her Canadian lover, “Wait ‘til Candy and Atris and the rest get here—then this place will really get rocking.”
“Not to mention the Captain.” Sam laughed, imagining the expression that was going to be on Captain Akinola’s face. “She loves to make an entrance.”
“Party’s in here.” T’Pren grinned as she walked in with her date, Leza, both women looking stunning in their low-cut dresses, the lovely Vulcan’s long auburn hair flowing freely as the pair made their way to the dance floor.
Making their way to the party, Joseph gritted his teeth as he heard the loud music. “C’mon, Joe.” Margaret teased as she grabbed his arm, “Lighten up! They’re just kids having fun.”
“I know.” The Nigerian cutter skipper laughed, “But someone’s got to play the part of the old grump.” The smile still on his face, he walked in with his friend next to him, “Let’s go on in. Maybe we can get them to play some blues later on.”
“I knew you were a big softie!” Margaret chuckled, then, seeing Nigel and Inga, grinned, “There’s your XO and Nigel hanging out with the Suthy’s First officer and—I guess that’s his date…” Shaking her head, she quipped, “Those shorts look spray painted on.”
“What she’s wearing is probably going to be tame compared to what we’re liable to see later.” Joseph grumbled as Margaret rolled her eyes.
“Come on…let’s get a drink or three in you…maybe I might even get you up on the floor dancing with me.” Margaret teased as she grabbed her fellow captain by the hand.
“Makeup?” Treasure called out.
“Check.” The girls all replied as they made final adjustments to their primping.
“Party!” All four girls called out in unison as they barged into the party as if they owned it.
“And here’s the…. Four…Amigas?’ Sam exclaimed, quickly noticing the young newcomer to the group.
“Jesus wept!” Nigel laughed, “Who’d have thunk that Vashtee would be game as a piss ant!”
Captain Akinola almost dropped his beer as he saw the four women making their way to the dance floor like they owned the place. First, the blonde, buxom woman wearing a white midriff top and short skirt whom he immediately recognized as Treasure. The second woman, another blonde, this one wearing a sky-blue fringed minidress. The third, a green-skinned Troyan girl wearing a low cut black bodice and matching tight pants with a slender gold chain around her waist. But it was the last girl that caused the cutter captain’s eyes to almost bulge in astonishment. The normally shy and quiet Ensign Vashtee wearing a low-cut, strapless, midriff top and leather miniskirt with thigh high boots and wearing a gold necklace, earrings, and bracelet.
“Looks like your little ensign grew up, Joseph.” Margaret teased.
“That’s it, Sugar!” Treasure smiled as Maya let herself go on the dance floor. “Have fun!”
“Looks like the party’s starting to pick up.”
Turning about, Captain Akinola smiled as he recognized Admiral Bateson and Denise, Bateson in shirt and slacks and Denise wearing a black cocktail dress with her gold crucifix hanging around her neck. “I’d say so.” Joseph grinned. “Buy you two a drink?”
“Sure.” Morgan grinned as he took a whiskey and water, while Denise settled for Trillian aurea.
“Wonder where Boris is?” Margaret vocalized as she sipped her drink.
“He said he’d be here soon.” Denise replied, “He wants to introduce everyone to his new first officer.”
A wide grin spread appeared on K’lira’s face. “I need this.” The green Orion woman laughed as she strode towards the bar. “First a drink…then dancing…then maybe get lucky and get laid.”
“Does that girl ever stop!” Joseph gasped as he saw the blonde-haired woman with the blue fringe dress dancing up a storm. “She’s a damned perpetual motion machine!”
“You mean Candy?” Morgan laughed, “Hell, she’s just getting warmed up.” Looking up, he saw Captain Rodenko walk in with a purple haired woman on one side of him and Captain Vribb on the other. “There’s Boris!” He announced, pointing to the big Russian and the women on either side of him, “And there’s Ronata and…the other woman must be his first officer. Over here, Boris!” He called out, waving the Bellerophon’s new captain over to the bar.
“I see Candy’s already in form.” Boris laughed as he introduced his first officer, “This is Illya Zhreven. Enjoy yourself, Illya!” The burly Russian encouraged as he shoved a shot glass of vodka in her hands, “Drink! Dance!”
Coming into the party, Yitzhak grinned as he saw everyone dancing and having a good time. Walking over to where the green Orion woman was standing, drinking her drink, the Eretz Israeli helmsman quipped, “Helluva party, K’lira.”
“Yitzhak?” K’lira exclaimed as she set her drink down and gave Shalev a hug, “How long has it been?”
“Too long.” Yitzhak chuckled, and then asked with a concerned look on his face, “So…how’re you doing? I talked with Bralus and he said you were working through some stuff.”
“I’ve gotten most of it worked out.” K’lira replied with a smile, “But we can talk about it later, ok? For now, why don’t we get out there and dance and have some fun…” She then gave the young man a flirtatious wink, “Never know how the night’s gonna end.”
“Damn. Is that who I think it is?” Inga exclaimed as she saw a petite blonde woman approaching the bar wearing tight pants with black midriff top that exposed her gold Kibberian fire diamond studded navel ring. Around her neck, she wore a matching gold Kibberian fire diamond necklace. Completing the ensemble, was a pair of black go-go boots. Then, as she drew closer, Inga noticed that the woman was also wearing a gold Kibberian fire diamond nose stud.
“Yep.” Sam grinned, “That’s Captain Shelby.” He then turned to the bartender, “Champagne…the real stuff…Kristal…you should find it below.”
Nodding his head, the bartender filled a long champagne flute as the blonde captain arrived. “Hi, Sammy…Maria…” Liz greeted as she took the champagne glass from Sam. “Mmmm…just what I needed.” Turning to the two Bluefin officers she smiled, “I don’t believe we met.”
“This is Commander Inga Strauss…” Sam introduced, “First Officer on the Bluefin and the guy next to her is Lieutenant Nigel Bane, the ship’s operations officer. Nigel…Inga…this is Captain Shelby.”
“Hi.” Liz smiled as he held out her hand, “Hope you’re enjoying the party.”
“We are Captain.” Inga, curious about the woman who has apparently earned her captain’s ire, replied. “I don’t think I’ve been to as big a party as this.”
“It’s a right big bash.” Nigel agreed.
“Glad you’re having fun. I heard you were a gymnast.” Liz responded, addressing her question to Inga.
“Yes, Sir.” The blonde German replied. “I preferred balance beam and vault.”
“My nagyanya was a gymnast too.” Liz said with a warm smile, “She was very good on the balance beam and floor exercises. As for myself…I went into dance.”
“What sort of dance, Captain?”
“Mostly jazz with some modern interpretative.”
“They wanted the Captain to turn pro while she was at the Academy.” Sam interjected.
“Really?” Nigel exclaimed.
“Yeah.” Shelby nodded her head, “And…I gotta admit, it was tempting…for all of thirty seconds. But…” Her smile widened, “I think I made the right choice.” Then, her eyes falling on Morgan and the others, Liz made her excuses, “Well I better get going. I’ve got to check in with the Admiral then I’m going to hit the floor and do some dancing.” Her smile widening, she turned to Maria, “Can’t wait to see what you and T’Pren have got lined up.”
“She seems nice enough.” Nigel remarked, “Can’t see why her and our skipper keep fighting.”
Shaking his head, Sam quipped, “It’s simple…Irresistible Force versus Immovable Object.”
“Morgan! Denise!” Liz grinned and then kissed her dear friend and his fiancé on their cheeks. Then, turning to the big Russian she smirked, “Hi kis apam. Give us a kiss.”
“Docha Elizaveta!” Boris chortled as he kissed the young blonde on both cheeks. “Still drinking champagne. Here…drink this…peppered vodka!” Finishing her champagne, Liz set down her glass and, taking the shot glass from Boris’s hand, tilted her head back and drank down the fiery liquid in one gulp as Boris’s laughter grew louder.
“And that’s how it’s done!” Liz laughed.
“I like the ring and stud.” Illya grinned as her eyes took in the form of the blonde standing next to her.
“Thanks…” Liz replied in a breathy voice as she took in the curves of the purple-haired woman standing next to Boris. “I picked them up in a little jewelry kiosk on the promenade.” Sighing, she remarked, “I was torn between the Kibberian fire gems or the Terellian diamonds.”
“I think the fire gems work better with the gold.” Illya said as she licked her lips.
“I thought so too.” Liz agreed as she placed her shot glass back on the bar, deliberately grazing the Halenoi officer’s arm with her hand while doing so.
“Elizaveta…this is Illya, my new first officer. Illya, I want you to meet our Elizaveta—Captain Elizaveta Shelby.” Boris introduced, his laughter growing as he watched the two women standing close to him flirting with each other.
“Captain…” Illya took a deep breath as Liz’s fingers once again grazed her arm.
“It’s Liz for tonight. I’m here to play.” The mischievous blonde corrected with a coy wink. Her eyes then focusing on the dance floor, she took the lovely Halenoi woman by the hand and grinned, “Let’s dance.”
Nodding her head, Illya let the petite blonde lead her to the floor, noticing as they moved off together just how well shaped her hips were.
Illya soon discovered just how graceful and…sexual…Liz’s moves were once the pair began dancing. It wasn’t long before the pair were dancing closer, their dancing growing more sensual as they began to dance closer to another pair—a green Orion woman dancing with a well-built, handsome dark-haired human male. Seeing Liz’s eyes drifting from her to the couple and back to her again in unspoken question, Illya shrugged her shoulders and gave a slight nod of her head and a wicked grin, receiving in return a wink from the captain.
Watching with growing amusement as Shelby and her dance partner’s movements grew more heated—and as they drew closer to her and Yitzhak, K’lira licked her lips. “What the hell! Why not? With all the crap I’ve had to put up with—I deserve this.” She murmured to herself as she guided her partner closer to the two women. Dancing closer him, she whispered in his ear, “Looks like this is going to be our lucky night, Yitzhak.”
Then band leader then called out, “Maria! Come on up here!”
Hearing her name called out, Maria strode to the band stage and then, standing in front of the band, nodded her head and then began singing. “You keep sayin’ you got somethin’ for me…” As she sang the old song, the dancers on the floor danced to the rhythm as Maria sang and strode purposely to Sam. Then, much to the amusement of Nigel and Inga, she grabbed the dark-haired Canadian by the hand and dragged him to the dance floor still singing, “…these boots are made for walkin’ and that’s just what they’ll do…one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you…”
“She’s good.” Margaret chuckled as the lithe Brazilian belted out her song, using her boyfriend as a prop.
Letting out a breath, Joseph agreed, “Yeah, she’s got a set of pipes on her.”
Vashtee, having fun dancing on the floor with her new friends, spotted a handsome chestnut-haired man wearing jeans and a t-shirt sitting at a table drinking a beer.
“You like him, sugar?” Treasure asked as she danced closer to the bronze-skinned ensign, receiving as her answer a nod of the younger woman’s head.
“Then go get him!” Treasure urged.
“Yeah…get him before someone else grabs him!” Atris further encouraged as she danced off and grabbed a man of her own from the bar.
Her lips turning up in a smile, Vashtee danced towards the man and then, reaching him, took his hand and dragged him with her to the floor.
That’s it, Maya!” Candy laughed as her dancing grew even more frenzied, “Yeah…”
As Maria sang, Liz, touching Yitzhak, began dancing with him as Illya started dancing with K’lira, the four switching partners as the song continued.
Whispering in her date’s ear, Leza quipped, “Looks like they’re having fun.”
“Just wait…” T’Pren flirted as her fingers grazed the Trill’s side, “We’re gonna have some fun of our own later.”
“Are you ready boots…start walkin’!” Ending her song with a final flourish, Maria kissed her lover and bowed and waved to the audience before taking Sam by the hand and leading him to the dance floor, the pair joined in the dancing as the band picked up with another song.
Shaking his head, Joseph admitted to the woman standing next to him, “Gotta admit, Margaret, she’s good.”
“Looks like everyone’s enjoying themselves.” Morgan grinned as he kissed his fiancé.
“Yeah.” Denise smiled as she kissed her man back. “Even Liz and Joseph are behaving themselves….” Then watching as the foursome on the floor had now become a party of six as Vashtee and her man joined Liz and her group, “…well at least they’re not sniping at each other.”
“You’re on T’Pren!” The bandleader called out as the lovely Vulcan kissed her Trill companion and then dashed on to the stage. Taking a deep breath, she began singing, snapping her fingers to the sultry bass, “Never know how much I love you…never know how much I care…”
“Come on…Joe!” Margaret urged as she practically dragged Akinola on the dance floor, “…you give me fever…fever in the morning…fever all through the night…”
As T’Pren’s sultry lyrics filled the room, Liz and her companions’ dancing grew more sensual as even Vashtee found herself being taken by the music, grazing sensuously up against first her man, then K’lira, then Shalev, and then finding herself in the middle of Liz and Illya, rubbing against them as they rubbed against her.
T’Pren’s song finally coming to an end, the small group walked off the floor and, finding a table, sat down with each other. Fanning herself, Liz brushed her leg against Illya’s leg while placing her other hand on the chestnut-haired man’s thigh, “That was nice.”
“Yeah.” The man answered back, introducing himself, “By the way, I’m Lieu…”
“No ranks now…” Liz interrupted, putting two of her fingers on his lips, “…just first names…for now we’re just having fun…right? Then back to business tomorrow.” As everyone nodded their heads in agreement, Liz gave the man next to her a playful wink, “So…you were saying…”
“Hi, Jens.” Liz smirked as he kissed first him and then Illya on the lips as Maria once again took the stage, this time with T’Pren as they sang a duet.
“When you’re movin’ right up close to me…”
“C’mon!” Liz grinned as she dragged Jens and Vashtee by their hands, “Let’s dance!”
“Ladies?” Shalev chuckled as he took K’lira and Illya by their hands and led them to the floor.
“Quivers down the backbone…I got the shake down the knee bone…Shakin’ all over!”
Shaking his head as he saw Liz’s little group dancing together on the floor, Boris joked to his old friend, “Cookie’s going to have to brew up some extra-strong coffee tomorrow to take care of all the hangovers.”
Ending their song with a final flourish, T’Pren and Maria blew kisses to their audience as they went back to their respective significant others. “You knocked them dead, Maria.” Sam grinned as he kissed the dusky-skinned Brazilian.
“Baby…you were hot.” Leza breathed as she kissed T’Pren.
Then, as the band segued into a medley of surf tunes, Candy motioned for Liz to join her on the floor. Smiling, the blonde captain turned to the others in her group, “Why don’t you all go on back to the table and watch the show…” She grinned, “You won’t be disappointed.” Then, joining her fellow blonde on the floor, the two dancers began to dance with such frenzy that they soon had the floor to themselves.
“Damn!” Margaret exclaimed, “How’s Shelby still standing?”
Laughing, Morgan replied, “Liz is the only one I know who can even come close to keeping up with Candy when she’s going full tilt.”
The band finally ending their medley with “Wipeout,” Liz and Candy hugged each other before the blonde captain, wiping the sweat off her brow, made her way back to her table.
“That was something.” Yitzhak exclaimed. “I got wiped out just watching you two.”
“Helluva party.” K’lira grinned.
“We’re just getting started.’ Liz said in a sultry voice as she placed her hands on both Yitzhak’s and Maya’s thighs. Lowering her voice, she breathed, “Why don’t we take our party to one of the rooms…we can break the ice with some poker…strip poker that is.” Liz flashed an evil grin as the looks of disappointment that first appeared on the faces of the others quickly turned into another kind of look altogether.
Watching as Liz and the others in her little circle departed, Morgan’s lips turned up in a sly grin, “Well…looks like the party’s beginning to wind down.” Giving Denise a meaningful look, he suggested, whispering in her ear, “Maybe we should follow their lead.”
“Sounds like a good idea to me, honey.” Denise whispered back and then raised her voice so that Boris and the others could hear, “We’ll see you guys later.”
“Time for us to have some fun for ourselves…” Leza propositioned, kissing her date on the lips.
“What are we waiting for?” T’Pren replied, giving the Trill a sly wink.
While the big party was going on at the station, another gathering was taking place in Captain Hobson’s quarters on the Perseus. “And diamonds are trump.” Hobson announced as his partner, Talana, laid her cards down on the table. Pleased at the Andorian science officer’s bidding skills, a slight smile crossed his face as he laid down the first card.
“I’m surprised you and Jadon didn’t go to the party.” Anara said as she laid down her card.
Shrugging her shoulders as her partner picked a card from her hand on the table and laid it down, Talana answered, “Been to one big blowout, you’ve been to ‘em all. Besides…” She gave her Trill lover a playful wink, “Me and Jadon have plans for later on tonight.”
“So, Chris…” Jadon’s lips turned up in a sly grin as he spoke to his old friend, “Are you and Anara going to give that holoprogram that me and ‘Lana gave you a try after our game?”
“What holoprogram?” A surprised Anara asked as Chris took the trick.
A slight smile crossed the Iceman’s face as he replied, “It’s a recording of this year’s Andorian Ice Dance Festival.” Taking a deep breath, Hobson exhaled, “Would you like to join me?”
“I’d love to!” A very pleased Anara exclaimed, “I haven’t been to an Ice Dance Festival since the war.”
The genial conversation continued as the cards were shuffled and dealt and the players played to the sound of gentle jazz music until, their game finally ended, Talana and Jadon stood up to say their goodbyes.
“So…” Anara asked, “What are your plans for the rest of the night?”
Smiling, Jadon replied as Talana wrapped her arm around his waist, “We’re going to do some stargazing on the station observation deck. Just the two of us and a bottle of uttaberry wine.” The couple then left Chris and Anara with a cheerful wave, “You two have fun!”
“Think it’ll work?” Talana asked as she and Jadon walked down the Perseus’s corridor to the transporter room.
“It all depends on those two.” Jadon shrugged his shoulders. “Anara knew what we were up to the moment the holoprogram got mentioned. The fact that she went along with it is a good sign. It means she’s open to a reconciliation.”
“And the fact that Chris offered it in the first place is encouraging too.” Talana noted as the doors to the transporter room swished open.
“Yep.” Jadon nodded his head, “Our work here is done. Now it’s all up to those two kids.”
Cookie smiled as he put on extra strong pots of coffee for the crew who would soon be straggling into his domain. Seeing Ensign Vashtee dragging herself in first, he gestured with his head towards the pot, “Fresh brewed, Ma’am.”
“Thanks, Cookie.” A bleary-eyed Maya responded as she poured a cup of the dark liquid, adding cream and extra sugar. Then, as she took her seat, an equally bedraggled K’lira entered, grabbed a cup and joined the young ensign.
Smiling at her fellow reveler from the night before, K’lira asked in a low voice, “Did your gal pals explain The Rule to you?”
Vashtee nodded her head, her cheeks blushing crimson as she recalled the events of the previous night, “What happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors.”
“Right.” K’lira nodded her head. “Last night we didn’t wear ranks…or anything else for that matter…” She grinned as her face turned a slightly darker shade of green, “But today we do. So, if you meet Captain Shelby or Commander Zhreven it’s…”
“Captain and Commander.” Vashtee finished.
“Good.” K’lira smiled as she sipped her coffee. Her smile replaced by a serious look, she cautioned, “There’s one big exception. You always break The Rule if you’re forced or feel like your being forced into doing something you don’t want to do, or you see or hear someone being forced into doing something they don’t want to do. That’s when you get the frinx out of there immediately and get the captain or XO or Boats or me or anyone with authority ASAP.” She then gave the young ensign a meaningful look “No one forced you to do anything you didn’t want to do—did they?”
“No!” Maya shook her head, “Everything I did was because I wanted to. No one made me do anything.”
“That’s what I thought.” K’lira chuckled and shook her head, “Girl…I thought I’d seen almost everything but when you and Shelby…” She then whispered in Vashtee’s ear, causing the ensign to giggle as she once again blushed. “I guess that human saying about still waters is true.” Pausing for a moment, she advised, “It’s also probably a good thing if the skipper or Chief of the Boat never hear about this—it’s none of their business anyway, but best to not involve them in the first place—right?”
“Yeah.” The young ensign nodded her head in agreement.
Her lips turning up in a smile as she took another sip of her coffee, K’lira gently teased, “It was fun though—wasn’t it?”
“Yes. It was.” Maya replied in a soft voice as she once again replayed the events of last night in her mind, her face turning even redder.
“Here’s the keys to the store, Admiral Gunderson. “It’s all yours now.” Morgan’s lips turned up in a sad smile as he officially turned over command of Star Station Echo and Border Squadron Seven to his replacement. “Take care of the place and everyone.”
“Don’t worry, Admiral Bateson.” Margaret replied with a sad smile on her lips as well, “We’ll keep the light on for you.” Then, giving her old friend and his fiancé a hug, she cried, “You two take care of yourselves.”
“Joseph.” Morgan shook his old friend’s hand. “Look after yourself and that ship of yours.” He said, his eyes beginning to moisten.
“Will do, Sir.” The old mustang answered back, his own eyes tearing up. “Good luck and fair winds for both of you.”
Taking his place at the center seat of the Perseus, Captain Hobson permitted his lips to turn up in a slight smile as he regarded his first officer, “Take us out, Commander Rysyl.”
“Helm? Take us out.” Gabriel Bush’s first officer ordered from the bridge of the Madrid.
“Aye, Sir.” Lieutenant Jens Otten acknowledged.
“Sir?” Commander Lavelle reported to his captain on the Sutherland who had just settled down in her seat, “Admiral Bateson and Dr. Murakawa have beamed up and Admiral Ross sends his regards.”
“Thank you, Commander. Take us out, please.”
“Aye, Sir. Helm…take us out at one-third impulse until we clear the station and then take us to warp 5 and lay in a course for Starbase 375.”
“One-third impulse…course laid in for Starbase 375. Engaging warp…now.” Chief Helmsman Lieutenant Atris Nylysa responded.
“All stations report ready and the station has cleared us to depart, Sir.” Commander Illya Zhreven reported as her Captain entered the bridge.
“Very good, Commander.” Captain Boris Rodenko acknowledged as he took his seat on his new command. “Set course for Bajor Sector, warp five once we clear the station.”
“Aye, Captain.” The Halenoi first officer crisply responded. “Helm, one third impulse until we clear the station, then warp five. Course—Bajor sector.”
“Scamp is clear for departure. Good hunting.”
“Moorings clear. Moving out on thrusters.”
“Very good, Helm.” Captain Vribb acknowledged. “Take us to impulse when we clear and then warp factor five. Set course for the Mollari Badlands. Time for us to go to work.”
Days later, Vice Admiral Morgan Bateson watched through an observation window as the mushroom shaped form of his new home, Starbase 375 drew near. Hugging his love closer to him, the bearded admiral gave her a kiss and then, with a smile on his face as he held his lovely Denise close, smiled, “Here’s to new beginnings.”