ADMIRAL FRANKLIN FITZPATRICK'S OFFICE
Seated at his desk, Janet's uncle activated his log as he continued his work."Personal Record:Stardate 4956.6. That neice of mine is something else. Only she would've thought to carry a portable scanner with her when she beamed aboard the 'medical research outpost' in Sector Nine.Once inside the jammer's perimeters , the scanner picked up research labs and a computer core that only major starbases should have. From the looks of these scans, not only is the outpost the origin point for the engineered disease, it also seems to have several decks devoted to the development and construction of the delivery system as well.
"No wonder they were going through dilithium so fast.
"And this girl- Amanda Stevens. I remember her. Same class year as Jan. Her turn in the center seat was only a month later. How'd she end up in this mess? And how involved is she?"
Fitzpatrick turned off the log and turned to another section of his work station. A request for Amanda's personel file soon had the information on his viewscreen."...Graduated six months ago. Assigned to Medical Research Outpost in Sector Nine by Admiral Micheal Turner.' He looked up at that in confusion. "Why would the Starfleet Advisor to the Union President be bothering himself with dilithuim deleiveries and personel transfers?"
The intercom on his work station buzzed for attention and he activated it. "Yes?"
It was his yeoman."Sir, Admiral T'Pel just called requesting your presence."
"She said as soon as you were available, sir."
"Alright, Yeoman. Call her back and tell her I'm on my way."
Upon leaving the office, Fitzpatrick had something of a hike since he had to go halfway around the station. But he soon found himself standing in front of another door with a different plaque mounted beside it:
He entered to find himself in an outer office occupied only by a humanoid female with spots that started at the edge of her brown hair and continued down each side of her face and into the collar of her uniform. A Trill. Fitzpatrick had never met one before, but the spots were a definate giveaway. She looked up from her work as he approched her desk."Can I help you, sir?"
"Admiral Fitzpatrick. Admiral T'Pel wanted to see me."
"Yes, sir, Admiral. You can go on in. She's expecting you."
He nodded to her and entered the inner office. As he did so, the only red headed Vulcan he ever met looked up from her work.It was hard to know how old T'Pel was just by looking at her. But Fitzpatrick had known her for over ten years now and knew her to be sixty-seven standard years- which was still somewhat young by Vulcan standards. She held up her hand in a clear signal for silence, then reached over to one side of her desk where she pressed a switch. "A jammer to block out anyone who might be listening," she explained as she came round her desk. "We can talk freely now."
"Why'd you want to see me?"
"You tripped a notification flag when you accessed Amanda Stevens' file."
"She works for you?"
T'Pel nodded and went on to explain."Since you know about Amanda, I assume you also know about the Outpost in Sector Nine?" Fitzpatrick nodded. "At first we did not know what was going on- only that men and materials were being diverted for some project that was not part of any offical program.
"Then our agents began hearing rumors- personel were being approached and interviewed for positions in some 'Top-Secret' project. None of our usual agents were able to penetrate the operation- the only answer was that someone with high-level clearence was running background checks and finding out that they were Starfleet Intelligence.
"The only remaining option was to bring in someone with no ties to us. Amanda had just finished her fourth training flight. Her record showed no ties to any group or affiliation. Everything suggested that she was the one we needed. The details of how I managed to meet with her are of no importance. She agreed to work for me-knowing that nothing could be put on the record. Two days later, she was approached."
T'Pel now stood in front of her desk. As she spoke, she leaned back against it , her arms folded."She's been on the outpost for the last three months acting as their head of security as well as their Starfleet liaison. It was only two weeks ago, that she found the computer records for the research they've been doing."
Fitzpatrick stepped toward her. "So why haven't you shut it down?"
T'Pel gave a very human shrug as she answered."Because we do not know yet who is behind it. Amanda was told, that in an emergency, she was to contact 'The Director'- it was his lieutenant that recruited her. If we move now, this person will only go deeper into hiding."
She watched the human as he stepped away."And yet, you're taking a chance on telling me?"
"We have known each other for twelve years, six months, three weeks, six hours and forty-seven minutes."
He turned and met her gaze. "No seconds ?"
"I have learned to round off figures when dealing with humans,"She replied in a dry tone.
Fitzpatrick smiled and shook his head. Then the smile faded and he tilted his head slightly before he spoke again."I know who's behind it. He had me arrange a dilithium shipment for the outpost." He quickly explained about the call and how he had turned to Janet for the delivery. He then crossed to her work station, tied it into his and showed her the scans Janet had made.
T'Pel studied the scans and then looked to her friend."So who do you suspect?"
"Admiral Micheal Turner."
The red headed Vulcan was silent for a moment."Military aide and advisor to the President?"
Fitzpatrick nodded."It fits. He'd have the clearence to run background checks on anyone, re-route supplies, man-power, finances- all right from the President's office."
T'Pel nodded, then she tilted her head slightly."Coming on top of the loss of the Constitution, this could tear Starfleet apart if we expose this."She shook her head. "And yet, we cannot allow him or that outpost to continue operating."
Fitzpatrick stepped toward her. "Maybe it's time for some maneuvers of our own."
As he explained, T'Pel's eyebrow began to rise.
THE CAPITAL SPACEPORT
Hidden between two hangars, Janet watched as an Orion male moved past. Then she stepped out behind him. "You guys are harder to find than a twentieth century cop."
The Orion spun around in shock and his eyes narrowed. This was the one everyone was looking for- They'd all been briefed on what she looked like. But why was she standing out in the open like this? His eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What are you doing, Human? Surrendering?"
"Not quite. Where's your leader at?"
"Ballen is in the terminal building awaiting word of your capture."
"Take me to him."
The Orion tilted his head slightly. This human just refused to act like the prisoner she was. "Why should I take you to her?"
Janet's eyebrows rose slightly. "Her? okay. Because I have information she just might be intrested in."
The Orion carried a disruptor rifle. He now shifted it in his hands as if he intended to use it as a club. "And why not beat this information out of you myself?"
Janet's look of disgust was not in the least faked. "Because you don't know how- and we don't have time for you to learn." She then headed for the terminal building, leaving the male with no choice but to follow.
Janet spotted Ballen as soon as she entered the building. She was standing by the Customer Service desk in an Orion flightsuit that did absolutely nothing to hide every curve of her body. If Janet had taken time to consider it, she might've been a little envious. With curves like that, any male in the universe would have considered her a dream come true.Raven black hair full and flowing, reached below her shoulders and moved freely as she moved, suceeding when combined with her green skin, in actually enhancing her exotic look. She turned as they approached with the grace of a dancer and took Janet in with a single glance. "You are the human that freed the slave?"
"The name's Janet Kirk. I have a proposition for you."
Ballen watched this red headed Human closely."What kind of proposition?"
Knowing this would be a hard sell, Janet took a deep breath."You free all the Caitians you've captured and never return to Cait- in return, I'll give you vital information."
The green-skined female's eyes narrowed."What kind of information would be worth that much?"
Janet let it fall. "Information that could save your race from extinction."
Ballen studied her for a long moment- then shook her head. "No deal till I hear more."
The Human nodded. "How about a bio-weapons outpost geared toward Orion genicide?"
Ballen's eyes grew slightly wider at that. "And you know where this outpost is?"
Janet glanced around as she answered."I do. You can have it's location after you agree to our deal."
Ballen studied her closely once more. She knew the Human had to have something else up her sleeve. Why else would she be so forth coming with this? Yet, if she was on the level, it was something Ballen couldn't afford to pass on. "If you are lying Human, there will be no place in this galaxy where you will be safe." She reached over to the service desk where a communications device had been sitting and activated it. "Ballen to Task Force, release the Caitians- all of them. Transport them back to the surface immediately."
One voice replied. "Commander, that'll leave our holds empty."
Ballen nodded even though the distant crewman couldn't see her. "I know, but we may have come across something more important." She met Janet's gaze as she continued."If we've been lied to, we can always come back later. Ballen out." She spoke to Janet as she shut the device off. "You will come with us...Kirk- until I am certain you are telling the truth."
"May I call my ship?" Janet asked. "Order it to follow?"Ballen nodded and Janet took her communicator from her jacket pocket."Kirk to Enterprise."
"Computer here, Janet."
"I'm with an Orion female named Ballen. She's the one in charge around here. We'll be going up to her ship in few moments and heading back to the Outpost. I want you to recall the James T. and follow- but stay out of the Orions' way. Be ready to beam me back when I call."
"Kirk out." She looked to Ballen as she returned the communicator to her pocket. "Ready when you are."
PERSONAL RECORD, STARDATE 4956.7. WE BEAMED UP TO BALLEN'S FLAGSHIP- AN ORION FRIGATE- A FEW MOMENTS LATER. IT WASN'T LONG AFTER THE LAST CAITIAN HAD BEEN RETURNED TO THE SURFACE, THAT HER THREE SHIPS AND ENTERPRISE BROKE ORBIT.
AS I LOOKED AROUND BALLEN'S COMMAND DECK, I COULD UNDERSTAND WHY THERE WERE SOME IN STARFLEET THAT WERE NERVOUS ABOUT THE ORIONS. THEIR TECHNOLOGY IS ALMOST A MATCH FOR ANYTHING STARFLEET HAS. ON THE OTHER HAND, WHIPPING OUT AN ENTIRE RACE IS NEVER AN OPTION.
IF ONLY IT WAS POSSIABLE TO MAKE THOSE PEOPLE SEE THIS MORE CLEARLY...
Aboard Enterprise M'ress had made her way to the cockpit and was now seated in the pilot's chair, taking in the spread of instruments in front of her. Control lights blinked and the computer spoke. "Intresting."
"What is?" M'ress asked.
"When Janet went aboard the bio-weapons outpost, she took a portable scanner with her that allowed me to scan past the outpost's jammer. The scanner is still in her pocket and still functioning."
M'ress' eyes widened as her tail wipped about behind her. "What's it getting?"
"The entire lay-out of the Orion frigate- and something else."
"If these scans are to be beleived, I am detecting surgical and bio-chemical alterations throughout Ballen's body."
M'ress leaned forward in her seat." Are you saying she's not an Orion?"
Janet looked around Ballen's command deck as her communicator bleeped. She quickly took it from her pocket. "Kirk here."
"It's M'ress. Can you talk?"
The human looked around, seeing Ballen involved in running the ship. "Yes- but keep your voice down."
"Your scanner's been on all this time," M'ress whispered. "Ballen's not an Orion. Computer's having a hard time trying to figure exactly what she is. Get out of there as quickly as you can."
Janet glanced over at Ballen and the momentary confusion was clear on her face." Understood. But I don't think she'll pull anything- at least until we reach the outpost. Whatever game she's playing, she has to maintain her cover as long as possi-" Janet stopped in mid sentence, then shook her head. "Damnit. That's what she meant.
"Computer, when we scanned the outpost earlier, did you get any scans of Amanda?"
"Pull up her readings and stand by. Kirk out."
THE OFFICE OF ADMIRAL FRANKLIN FITZPATRICK
He looked up from his work as the door buzzer went off. "Come." He watched as the unit slid open to allow Admiral Micheal Turner to enter. Turner was only a few years older than Fitzpatrick, but the lines in his face and his receeding hairline made him look far older. "Well, what rates a visit from the President's Office?"
Turner got right to the point. "Why did you switch the Third fleet's maneuvers from Sector Eight to Sector Nine?"
Fitzpatrick shrugged. "Because Sector Eight has an ion storm moving through it."
Why not Sector Seven then?"
Janet's uncle leaned back in his desk chair."Too close to the Klingon boarder. They'd see it and assume we were preparing for war."
Turner stepped closer to the desk. "But you know there's a medical research outpost in the middle of Sector Nine."
Fitzpatrick nodded. "That's what you said. But I checked both civilian and Fleet starcharts and they show nothing in that sector- not even a rogue asteroid."
The President's military advisor turned away and waved that off. "Then your charts are out-dated."
Fitzpatrick shook his head. "No. I downloaded the most current copies this morning. I don't know where your dilithium went,"He lied,"But I will once my neice calls back."
Turner spun back to face him."I order you to cancel the maneuvers."
Turner's frustration was begining to show in his tone. "I don't have to explain myself to you."
But Fitzpatrick wouldn't budge. "You will if you want the maneuvers canceled. Half the ships involved are already in transit."
The military advisor stared at Fitzpatrick for a moment as if in shock. "Damn it, Frank! You have no idea what's going on!"
"So tell me."
"I can't- it's classified."
Thanks to Fitzpatrick's doing, the office door had remained open. Now, from where she'd arrived in the outer office after receiving word from Fitzpatrick's yeoman of Turner's arrival, T'Pel quietly stepped into the room. "Then, since I am head of Starfleet Intelligence, you can tell me."
Turner backed away from both of them as Fitzpatrick came behind his desk."Why don't we tell you ?" her friend suggested. Fitzpatrick didn't wait for Turner to answer. "When the Constitution exploded, it made the Union- and Starfleet- look weak in the minds of races like the Klingons and the Orions. At least that's what you thought."
The President's advisor looked from one to the other."It does make us look weak- like we're not capable of doing our jobs anymore. The Orions have been carrying out raids deeper and deeper into our territory for months now."
Fitzpatrick's own brows came together in growing anger. At one time, he had considered this man a friend. "So instead of bringing this imformation to the attention of Starfleet Command, you decided to deal with it yourself!
"You illegally appropriated funds and materials for your own little outpost- then staffed it with researchers who sole purpose was to create an illegal bio-weapon geared toward the total destruction of the Orion Race!
"My god, Mike..." Fitzpatrick turned away in clear disgust.
Turner stepped toward him- almost pleading with him to understand. "We have to strike first- especially when we don't have ships strong enough to defend us. Removing the emeny is the only option left!"
T'Pel shook her head and her red hair bounced about her shoulders. "Illogical. Such an action will not remove enemies- it will only create new ones."
Fitzpatrick turned back toward Turner and his tone was sharp. "If you use that damn thing just once, you'll alienate half the quadrant! Bio-weapons can not be controled. eventually they affect the user as well as his victim- why the hell do you think everyone agreed to outlaw the damn things?"
T'Pel's voice remained vulcan calm as she spoke."Admiral Micheal Turner, you are under arrest for illegally supporting an action that was in direct opposition to the Union's best intrests and for supporting the use of outlawed technology."
In a practised blur of motion, Turner had a personal phaser in his hand."No. I took actions that were neccessary to protect the Union! I won't be sent to some damn penal colony for doing what was right!"
Fitzpatrick glanced in T'pel's direction, then shifted his position- forcing Turner to follow his movements. "Put it down, Mike. No matter how it goes, too many people know now."
Turner shook his head. "No!"
A moment later,his head twitched to one side and he slumped into unconsciousness as a result of T'Pel's nerve pinch.
The two friends exchanged glances over the unconscous form as silence settled over the office.
THE ORION TASK FORCE
PERSONAL RECORD, STARTDATE 4956.84. WE'LL REACH THE OUTPOST ANYTIME NOW. AS I WATCH BALLEN INTERACT WITH HER CREW, ALL I SEE IS AN ORION FEMALE DOING HER JOB.COULD THE SCANS BE WRONG? IF THEY'RE NOT, THEN WHAT THE HELL IS SHE? THE SCANS COULD BE SHOWING ANYTHING FROM GENDER REASSIGNMENT TO A SPY. SHOULD I MAKE AN ISSUE OF IT OR LET IT GO?
RIGHT NOW, I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION TO BASE A DECISION ON. BESIDES, SHE'S CLEARLY THE ONE IN CHARGE AROUND HERE AND IF I'M GOING TO GET AMANDA OUT OF THIS MESS ALIVE, I'M GOING TO HAVE TO WORK WITH HER...
Janet glanced around the command deck once more and then stepped toward the green-skinned female. '"Ballen, there is one favor I need to ask."
The non-orion's eyes narrowed. She knew something would come up. "And what is that?"
"There's one person aboard the outpost that I need to get out before you destroy it- a friend that told me what was going on."
Ballen shook her head. "You can leave after we have confirmed that you have told us the truth- not before."
"You'll be sending a boarding party to the outpost, won't you?" Janet asked.
The raven haired female nodded. "Of course- with enough explosives to destroy everything on board."
Janet nodded. "Let me go with them. We can find her and she can lead us right to the research that needs to be destroyed. Then we can all go our seperate ways."
Ballen thought about it for a long moment, before finally nodding.
Janet wasted no time as she took her communicator in hand. "Kirk to Enterprise. Listen up..." She then went on to explain what was going to happen.
"You're crazy!" M'ress replied. "That outpost'll open fire as soon as we're in range- and the Orions'll shoot back!"
The computer chimed in then. "Janet, ducking and running from Raiders- even fighting them off- is one thing. But I don't have the navigational programs needed to fly in and around Orion ships, fighters, the outpost and all the exchanges of fire in order to get close enough to guarantee a transporter lock."
Janet sighed and the frustration was clear in her tone. "Now you tell me."
Aboard Enterprise, M'ress' tail twitched in agitation. "I can do it."
Her communicator was closer to Janet's mouth in a second. "A cargo ship is a hell-of-alot more involved than a flyer! You'll be dealing with alot more than two seats and an engine!"
M'ress returned her frustration in equal measure."Your computer just said it couldn't do it and you're going to be busy. Do you have someone else in mind?"
Janet could only shake her head. "You get one scratch on the hull and it's coming out of your pay. Kirk out."
M'ress reached for the communications switch- then tilted her head. "What pay?"
On the lead Orion frigate, a crewman turned toward his commander. "Ballen, the outpost has just come within scanning range."
Janet turned to the female."You won't be able to scan it's interior. It has a jammer that blocks all attempts."
"She's right," the same crewman reported."We can't scan past the outer hull."
Another crewman spoke up then. "We are being scanned."
Ballen nodded. "Sound battle Alert. Bring weapons on-line." She turned to someone standig behind Janet."Torlen, take Kirk. You'll both in the first boarding party."
Janet turned to face the being- aand hesitated, for this was the same male she'd kicked back on Cait. He shook his head. "Don't worry human." Then he laughed. "You fight like an Orion!"
Aboard the outpost, the command center was in chaos as the staff responded to their uninvited guests. "Dr.Stone, the Orions are surrounding us!"
Dr.Samuel Stone was in his late fifties and a strong supporter of Admiral Turner's views. It had made sense then to put him in charge of the outpost.
Someone with some command experience might have been a better choice. Standing at his work station, his hand came down on the intercom. "Stone to Stevens. Amanda where are our damn shields?"
Ten decks down, in Engineering,three crewmen lay stunned on the deck- with Amanda standing over them, phaser in hand and the maintance panel to the shield generator open. Several circuits inside were already dark. She activated a nearby intercom. "Stevens here. Don't worry about it, Doctor. I'm working on it now. Out."
She then changed the setting on her phaser, took aim on the open panel and fired- destroying connections and making sure the shields never worked. She then activated the intercom once more."Stevens to Stone. I found the problem. there's been a massive overload in the shield generator.
"There's no way of getting the shields up."
She left Engineering on the run as Stone's voice came over the PA system."This is Dr.Stone to all personel. We're about to be boarded by Orion slavers. Prepare to repel invaders!"
Five decks up, Amanda left the turbo lift, headed for her security office- only to stop at the sight of several poeple beaming onto the station.Most were Orion- then Amanda sighed in relief at the sight of Janet."It's about time you got back."
"Didn't know I had a deadline,"the red head replied. "Where's the research stored at?"
Amanda pointed. "Down this corridor- same as the labs you saw." With that, she led the way at a run.
In the cockpit of a certain cargo ship, M'ress was studying the flight console- and was totally lost. This was nothing like the flyers she used to race. "Computer?'
"I need some quick orientation. I point- and you tell me what it is."
"Understood- but it better be a short lesson. The Orions are firing on the outpost and it's shields are down."
Things shook and rattled along with the thunder of Orion disruptor blasts striking the outpost's hull. Everyone knew it wouldn't be long before things started blowing up on their own.
Amanda finally brought the group to a halt and pointed left and right. "These are the labs- they have to be destroyed if nothing else is."
Torlen looked through one of the viewports and saw the same Orion female Janet had seen a few days ago- only now, she was coverd in sweat and far too weak to move. "By all the gods- "
He started for the lab's airlock door- and Amanda grabbed his arm." It's too late for her. If you go in there, you'll die as well. The plague they've designed destroys the immune system. Then, while every disease you can think of attacks the body, it goes striaght for the brain." She looked toward the viewport as she went on. "She's lapsed into a catatonic state. If nothing else happens, she'll be dead by this time tomarrow. Even the cure won't help if it's been over eight hours."
The outpost rocked, systems shorted and a ceiling support beam inside the sealed lab fell on the treatment couch, killing the female laying upon it. It took Janet's sharp tone to get the Orions moving again."Torlen, set your explosives." he met her gaze for a moment with a blank one,then blinked,nodded and began issuing orders to his men. Janet then turned to Amanda. "Where did you say the research was stored ?"
Her friend pointed to the end of the corridor. "We can use that office to call it up."
The red head nodded. "let's do it then."
They headed in that direction, only to stop at the sight of a four man Starfleet security detail coming round the far corner. Janet barely had time to shout a warning and shove Amanda to the ground before the shooting stared."We've got to get past them!"
Amanda looked at her like she was crazy as Union phaser beams and Orion disruptor blasts flew over their heads. "How without getting our heads blown off?!"
"You have the authority here,"Janet reminded her. 'Use it!"
Amanda stared at her for a moment more, before turning in the direction of the Starfleet forces."Cease Fire! I'm Lt.Commander Stevens! Cease Fire!"
The male in charge of the detail waved for his men to stop firing and stepped into the open. "Commander?"
Amanda spoke as she and Janet stood up and approached. "These men are volunteers, Lieutenant."
He looked at her, then at the Orions standing behind her and Janet and then back to her."If they're volunteers, then why are they armed?"
The two females traded glances and Janet shrugged. "Good question."
As if her remark and been the signal, the two females attacked the detail with every fighting technique they could bring to bear. When it was all over, four security guards lay sprawled on the deck. Janet wiped stray hair back out of her face and turned to Torlen." Do it!" As he and his men set to work, she turned to Amanda. "Let's go."
The outpost rocked again and the explosions were louder. Amanda glanced at Janet." Those explosions were inside."
Janet nodded as they reached the door. "We're running out of time."
Once the door was open they ducked inside and Janet watched as Amanda went straight to the work station and started digging.The outpost rocked and the lights flickered. "What took you so long to figure it out?" Amanda asked as she worked. "You used to be quicker."
"Four years of turning my back on an organization that turned it's back on me,"Janet replied with a clear edge to her voice.
Amanda glanced over at her, then back at her work. "Guess I can't blame you for that." Two data discs emerged from the console and she grabbed them both. "One for Torlen and one for us."
The outpost rocked again more violently and this time when the lights went out they stayed out- replaced by emergency lighting. A moment later, Torlen had the door forced open."The charges are set."
Janet took one of the discs from Amanda and handed it to him as she spoke. "Get your men together. We'll beam out to Enterprise and then beam you back to the task force from there."She took her communicator in hand as they headed for the corridor. "Kirk to Enterprise. Now."
Seated in the Pilot's seat, M'ress took a deep breath. "Alright, Computer. It's time to get this race started. Stand by to transport."
There was an increased hum of power as the engines kicked in and then the Enterprise shot into the fray- ducking in and around frigates and fighters while diving clear of phaser beams and disruptor blasts- all under M'ress' guiding hand.
Janet, Amanda and Torlen grabbed for support as the outpost rocked to the most violent explosion yet. Amanda glanced at the ceiling then to her companions. "That was main power lines. That means we only have about five minutes till the core itself blows."
But as they neared the point where they'd left Torlen's men, they found a new security detail standing over their bodies. At the sound of their approach, one of the guards turned and shouted."More of them! Open fire!"
"Use stun!" another guard shouted."They've got Lt.Commander Stevens!"
Damnit,"Janet swore. "Back to the office- Now!"
They got back to the office and Torlen got the door closed just as the first stun burst struck. Janet had her communicator in hand once more. "Kirk to Ballen."
"The charges were found- but the outpost is about to blow up on it's own. Keep pounding at it."
"Understood, Ballen out."
"Kirk to Enterprise. M'ress where the hell- "
The transporter effect faded just as the door was blown out of the bulkhead.
As Enterprise pulled away from the outpost, there was a blinding, glaring explosion and then the outpost was gone. Aboard the cargo ship, three beings arrived on the cargo transporter platform. Janet and Amanda quickly left the platform and Janet spoke as she stepped over to the control console."Alright, Torlen, let's get you home. Make sure you give that disc to Ballen."
"I will," the Orion replied. "And Kirk? It was good fighting beside you."
Janet nodded in reply, brought the console on-line and a moment later, Torlen was gone. By then, M'ress had reached the guard rails on the level above."Everything alright?"
The red head sighed and nodded. "It is now."
Amanda nodded toward the feline female."Who's she?"
Janet waved a hand toward the Caitain. "My First Officer."
M'ress' ears twitched in surprise. "Since when?!"
The ship's owner actually checked the time on the transporter console before she answered. "A half hour ago- if you want it. It's a faster promotion than you'd get in Starfleet."
The Caitain tilted her head slightly to one side as her tail wiped about behind her as she thought it over for a moment. Then she nodded."ALright- you're on."
Amanda turned back to Janet. "So now what?"
Her friend nodded toward her new first officer."First, we go back to Cait so M'ress can get some decent clothes. Then we'll take you back to Starfleet Command. In the meantime, we'll call Uncle Frank and fill him in."
The Orion task force was on it's way home. As for Torlen, as soon as he arrived back aboard Ballen's ship, he headed straight for her cabin. Now, she answered the door buzzer and watched as he entered. "How did it go?"
Torlen stood before her desk, the data disc in his hand."Kirk, her friend and I made it out. The others are dead." He handed her the disc. "The research for the plague and it's cure."
Ballen stood up in surprise as she accepted the disc. "How did you- ?"
"Kirk." He shrugged. "I guess she wanted us to be able to recognize and counter it if it should surface again some day."
Ballen met his gaze for a moment, then turned toward the viewport positioned behind her desk. As she did so, she laid the disc down- her hand brushing a control Torlen would never see. On the far side of the cabin, the eyes of an erotic stature- actually custom-built targeting sensors- began tracking Torlen. "Did anyone else know you had this?"
He shook his head as the targeting sensors locked on. "No. No one."
Ballen actually relaxed with that bit of news. "Good. the Praetor 'll be pleased."
This confused Torlen even as weapons began their build up toward firing. "'Praetor'? I don't- " Two disruptor beams lanced out from the statue's eyes and struck Torlen down in mid sentence. He was dead by the time his body hit the deck.
A female hand hit an intercom switch. "Ballen to Medical."
"Send a litter team to my cabin. Torlen has died of wounds he received aboard the outpost."
"Understood. they're on their way."
"Ballen out." After turning off the intercom, she reached over and picked up the data disc. Ballen then glanced down at the body and a slight smile came to her face as she spoke. " Don't worry, Torlen. You will be remembered for helping to preserve your race-
"- for the Romulan Empire."
PERSONAL RECORD, STARDATE 4956.9. UPON CONTACTING UNCLE FRANK, WE FOUND OUT THAT THINGS HAVEN'T EXACTLY BEEN QUIET AT HIS END OF THIS MESS. ADMIRAL T'PEL WAS WITH HIM WHEN WE CALLED, WHICH ALLOWED EVERYONE TO BRING EVERYONE ELSE UP TO DATE.
ADMIRAL TURNER'S RECORDS HAVE BEEN SEIZED AND MORE ARRESTS ARE EXPECTED ONCE THE REST OF HIS CO-CONSPRATORS ARE DISCOVERED. I'VE GOT A FEELING THIS MESS IS GOING TO CREATE ALOT OF VACANCIES IN STARFLEET COMMAND- AND COMING ONLY SIX MONTHS AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CONSTITUTION, IT'S NOT GOING TO MAKE FOR VERY GOOD P.R. EITHER.
WE SHOULD REACH CAIT IN A FEW HOURS- PROVIDED NOTHING ELSE POPS UP IN OUR WAY....
EPILOGUE; ONE WEEK LATER
The Orion homeworld was a brown and green ball, ice caps at each end- both smaller than Earth's- with a scattering of lakes of various sizes instead of anything approaching the size of an ocean. In orbit around this world, was a brand new Orion frigate fresh from the dockyards- and in it's commander's cabin, sat Ballen. It wasn't her ship though. While she was in command, it actually belonged to the leader of the Orion Syndicate named Maket.
At the moment, Ballen's attention was on a section of console none of the ship's designers ever laid eyes on. She watched as the highly secretive device ran through it's codes and passwords before completing the connection it was trying to make. As an image formed on the screen, she bowed her head. "Praetor."
The leader of the Romulan Empire returned her nod- and Ballen knew a great concession when she saw one." Ballen. I have read your report. How soon can you have the plague ready to be released into an Orion colony's atmosphere?"
"My Praetor, I propose that such measures may not be needed."
He tilted his head slightly. "Explain."
His top agent took a deep breath and did so. "Since my return to their homeworld, Maket has been very lavish in his praise for the 'Hero of the Orion Race'. Not only has he promoted me to command of his personal ship, he has requested my presence every evening for somewhat...intimate visits."
The Praetor's eyebrows rose at this. "And you were able to respond?"
She shrugged. "The training and indoctrination were quite complete. He suspected nothing- infact he is quite enamoured of me."
The male on the screen lifted his head slightly."Can you push him to the next level?"
Ballen nodded. "Without even trying. If I show him enough devotion and loyalty, we'll be married before the year is out. As his wife, I'll be able to stear him toward certain trade agreements with the Empire. Then if something should happen to him, no one will begrudge the grieving widow if she should turn to our number one ally for support- say in the form of Protectorate under the Romulan Empire?"
The Praetor nodded."Very nice and neat and nothing the Union can interfer with. Proceed as you've outlined- and Ballen? I hope you'll come to like married life."
The being seated in the command cabin of Maket's frigate shrugged."I beleive I will be able to tolerate it until, as the Humans say, 'Death do us part'?"
The Praetor's laughter echoed off the bulkheads even as his image faded from the screen.
SHIP'S RECORD,STARDATE 4966.7. WE'LL BE ARRIVING AT STARFLEET COMMAND IN ABOUT FIFTEEN MINUTES. WE'LL DROP AMANDA OFF, TOP OFF OUR SUPPLIES AND MAYBE STOP IN TO SEE UNCLE FRANK BEFORE HEADING OUT ONCE MORE...
Seated at the work station in her cabin, Janet turned off the log as the computer spoke. "Janet, since it appears that M'ress will be staying on board, should I give her full access to the ship's systems?"
The red head nodded. "Yes. With her racing experience, she might have some ideas for the engines- which reminds me, we still need to take a look at the Number three warp manifold. Let's try to do that before we break orbit. Also, give M'ress full access to the business records. I want her to know she can check them anytime she wants."
"Yes, ma'am. we've just received a signal from your uncle. He asks that all three of you come to his office once we've acheived orbit."
"Did he say why?"
Janet sighed. "Alright. Make sure that M'ress and Amanda know."
"M'ress is in the cockpit, Amanda is asleep and Starbase One has just come into visual range."
Leaving her cabin, Janet turned right in the short corridor and reached for the switch to the cockpit hatch. Slidding it open, she found M'ress seated in the pilot's seat- where she's spent most of the flight from Cait. "You all right?"
The Caitian nearly jumped out of her seat. She glared at the Human as she drew near."You scared the hell out of me."
"I'm surprised you have any left,"Janet replied."What's got such a hold on your attention that you didn't hear the hatch?"
M'ress nodded toward the forward viewport and the sight of Starbase One steadily growing larger as they drew closer. Her voice was a near whisper. "I've never seen a space station that big before."
Janet leaned forward to take a better look. "You might as well start getting used to it. From what I've heard, they're all this big."
Two hours later, the intercom in Admiral Fitzpatrick's office buzzed for attention. he glanced over at T'Pel where she stood nearby as he answered it. "Yes?"
"Your neice and her friends are here, sir."
"Send them in."
The three females entered and Amanda's gaze went to the Vulcan. "Admiral."
T'Pel nodded in greeting. "You accomblished your mission with great sucess, Lt.Commander. We here at Command, had been unable to conceive of a method of destroying the outpost without revealing some kind of Starfleet connection."
Amanda nodded toward her friend."The credit goes to Janet, ma'am. I was just hoping for a ride out of there before all hell broke lose. I didn't know she was going to bring in the Orion Cavalry!"
T'Pel turned to the other red head in the room. "And the Orions remain unaware that the outpost had Starfleet connections?"
Janet shrugged. "They never asked- and I never offered."
The Vulcan nodded- satisfaction as clear on her face as it could ever be."Then I think we can consider the matter closed except for a few minor details.
"Lt.Commander Stevens, now that you have some idea of what Starfleet Intelligence is about, would you be willing to continue as one of my agents?"
Amanda glanced at Janet and M'ress before she answered. "As long as I continue to answer directly to you, Admiral."
T'Pel nodded. "Very well. I shall see to the formal paperwork. "She turned to her fellow admiral. "Franklin?"
Janet watched her uncle as he turned to the desk and picked up an actual folder containing hard copy print-outs which he then handed her. "T'Pel managed to pull a few strings last week."
Janet glanced at the Vulcan, then at her uncle. "What kind of strings?"
He indicated the folder. "Read it and find out."
She opened the folder and began to read- then she stopped and looked up at each admiral in turn. "This is the transcript of a review board hearing."
Fitzpatrick nodded. "Why don't you skip to the summary?"
Janet turned to the last page and began to read aloud."...In conclusion, it is the decision of this Review Board, that the investigating committee erred in their judgement of stardate of 4723.5, in which they stated that their findings concerning Cadet Kirk's part in the break-in of said program control room was inconclusive.
"It is clear to this Review Board that it would have been impossiable for Cadet Kirk to be both at the Academy and in Riverside,Iowa at one and the same time.
"Therefore, it is the conclusion of this Review Board, that person or persons unknown used cadet Kirk's biometric profile to gain access to said program control room for reasons unknown. Cadet Kirk should be considered the victim of this action- not the perpetrator and the veridct of "inconclusive'" should be replaced with a verdict of "Not Guilty".
Janet looked up from the transcript and met her uncle's gaze with one of near disbelief. Fitzpatrick nodded in understanding. "I know. It took four years- but it's better late than never."
She slowly nodded and spoke as she looked down at the print out once more."True."She looked to T'Pel. "I am grateful, Admiral. But it doesn't answer the questions of 'who' and 'why'- and it doesn't reinstate me, either."
T'Pel nodded as she stood like most Vulcans- with her hands behind her back."As to the questions of 'who' and 'why'- those are answers which- after four years- we may never have. As for reinstatement, I beleive you can be of more use to Starfleet- and the Union- as a free agent."
Janet stared at her for a moment, glanced at M'ress, then back again."You want us to be operatives? Agents?"
The Vulcan gave a slight shrug."When I processed the request for the review, I called up your record. After reading it, I have no doubt that your sense of right and wrong will lead you into situations we at Starfleet Intelligence know nothing about."
Fitzpatrick cleared his throat as he leaned against his desk."You've been on your own for four years now, Jan. Do you really want to put on a uniform and start jumping to someone else's orders now?"
Janet traded glances with M'ress and Amanda as she stepped away in thought."All I've ever wanted was to be in Starfleet- to serve the greater good." She turned back to face her uncle. "Now you're telling me that I can serve the greater good better by not joining?"
Fitzpatrick sighed. "If this were six months ago, I'd hand you the uniform myself. But it's a different universe now."
T'Pel nodded. "Your uncle is correct. With the destruction of the Constitution and the indefinate suspension of that program,Starfleet and the Union are in a position they have never been in before.
"Empires, factions, organizations that would never have considered moving against us- will now consider doing just that, thinking that we don't have the strength to stop them."
She stepped over toward trhe office viewport as she continued to speak. "In one respect, Admiral Turner was correct in his assessment. we do need to make the first move.- but not by extermination or genicide." She turned to face the others. "Moving first means gathering information on our enemies. Finding out who they are and how they are organized. How advanced are their plans and do we have time to counter them?
"The process of gathering information can be just as important as knowing which end of a phaser to point at the enemy. It can also be the most dangerous. Those that gather information tend to have short life-spans.
"If you decide not to join us in this endeavor, I will not fault you."
Janet turned to M'ress. "What do you think?"
The Caitain shrugged. "In a way, it sounds more important than serving on a starship. You're already captain of your own ship. If you join Starfleet, what are you then? Just another crewman, right?"
Her human friend sighed. "I can't argue with anything any of you have said. There's also the little detail that most of starfleet will never read this transcript. Even if I were reinstated, I'd still have to deal with the same hostilities I would have had to deal with four years ago." She sighed once more and nodded."Alright. It's a deal."
Janet looked to M'ress once more. "Let's go before we end up smuggling the Klingon Chancelor to a meeting with the F.U.P. President."
Fitzpatrick raised his hand toward her. "One more thing, Jan- a cargo run if you're intrested."
She looked at him like he was crazy."After the last one? What is it? Smuggling Romulan ale to Vulcan?"
Her uncle glanced at T'Pel and smiled gently."No. A small colony on Seriann in the Durianous System. The colonists miscalculated how long it would take to make the trip and now their power supplies are running out."
Janet took a step toward him and her look was filled with frustration. "Damnit. It's never easy with you is it?"
M'ress looked from one to the other. "Where is the Durianous System?"
"Half a light-year from the Romulan Neutral Zone,"Janet told her.
Janet met her uncle's gaze. "You keep this up, and I'm going to raise my rates to include combat pay." Then she sighed." Where's the stuff at?"
"Cargo Hold Nine,"He answered.
Amanda spoke up then. "I know where that is. I can show you."
"After you have done so,"T'Pel stated,"Report to my office for a formal debriefing."
Amanda nodded and as the three females left the office, Janet shook her head and M'ress noticed."What's wrong?"
Janet sighed. "Just thinking about how crazy the universe is. I keep hoping it'll start making sense some day- but I guess I'm just dreaming."