Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Exit Strategy"

By Christina Moore
_____


“Captain, they’re increasing speed again!”

“Then you know what to do, Mr. Faris,” Captain Lindze Regan replied to Columbia’s pilot.

“Yes, ma’am,” Lt. Jacen Faris acknowledged, and entered the commands into his console to increase the Nebula-class starship’s speed.

“They can’t possibly think they’re going to outrun us,” came the deep rumble of Rokha Tyrel, the large green Orion who was the ship’s Tactical officer.

“In desperation the mind often conjures thoughts that are considered by most to be impossible, Commander,” said Silmar.

“Ain’t that the truth,” Tyrel quipped back at him.

“Mr. Tyrel, charge phaser banks and prepare to disable the freighter’s weapons and engines,” Captain Regan ordered. “And please, Rokha, let’s not have another incident like the one with the Iptaran pirates.”

Tyrel laughed. “Captain, I told you that my finger slipped. These touch pads can get real slick sometimes.”

Regan fought to suppress a grin as she looked up and over her shoulder at Tyrel. “If believing that helps you sleep at night Commander, go right ahead.”

The incident of which they joked was not entirely a laughing matter. They’d been ordered to intercept an Iptaran vessel known to be attacking shipping lanes in January, and Tyrel, who’d been ordered to fire photon torpedoes to disable the weapons system, had fired a salvo of quantum torpedoes and not only disabled the weapons, but destroyed nearly a quarter of the ship. They’d had to take the Iptarans onboard Columbia and leave their ship for scavengers.

The Iptaran captain had sworn vengeance against Tyrel, which, of course, had not frightened the Orion not in the least.

“Captain, we will be within communications range of the Denobulan freighter in ten seconds,” announced Operations officer Chariza Guinan.

“Mr. Steb, prepare to hail the freighter,” Regan said.

“Yes, ma’am,” the Selkie replied. Six seconds later, he said, “Hailing frequency open, Captain.”

She nodded, and standing, said briskly, “Denobulan freighter, this is Captain Lindze Regan of the Federation starship Columbia. You are carrying a fugitive of the Federation on board your ship. Drop out of warp and prepare to surrender your vessel.”

“No response, Captain,” Lt. Steb said.

“Are they receiving the transmission, Lieutenant?” Silmar asked.

“They’re receiving, Commander, but not responding to our hails.”

Very well, if they want to do this the hard way, Regan mused silently. “Denobulan freighter, if you do not stop and surrender your vessel we will be forced to fire on you.”

“Weapons range in twenty seconds, Captain,” announced Guinan.

“Mr. Tyrel, are my phasers ready?” the captain asked her tactical officer.

“Charged and ready, ma’am,” Tyrel replied.

Silmar stood and moved to stand next to Regan, though when he reached her side he looked back over his shoulder at the Orion. “Please make sure your console is dry, Commander. It would be most inconvenient if your finger slipped again.”

Several members of the bridge crew laughed out loud. Though he had delivered his speech in the same emotionless tone he always used, they all knew that the Vulcan first officer had intentionally made a joke. When Regan had once asked him why he occasionally did that, he had replied that in his years with Starfleet, he had learned that jokes often helped people relax in tense situations. Besides, he’d said, she of all people—being part Vulcan herself—should know that though Vulcans did not express their emotions, they were not without an understanding of them, and thus not without a sense of humor.

However droll that sense of humor might be.

“Five seconds to weapons range,” Guinan said.

Regan turned to the viewscreen, and decided to appeal to the man that they were after. “Rkasi Cen, if you can hear me, please convince your comrades to drop out of warp and surrender. I’ve spoken with Counselor Roijiana, Cen, and she’s told me that you are not without remorse for your actions. Don’t make things worse for yourself by running away.”

“Captain,” Guinan spoke up yet again, “the freighter is dropping out of warp and coming about.”

“And charging weapons!” Tyrel added.

“Shields up, Commander, and prepare to fire phasers,” Regan said. “Drop us out of warp and ready evasive maneuvers, Mr. Faris.”

Almost as soon as Columbia dropped out of warp their shields were hit by disruptor blasts. The ship shook, but Regan and Silmar were able to remain on their feet.

“Shields down to ninety percent,” Guinan reported automatically.

“Fire phasers!” the captain ordered.

As Faris brought them around to face the freighter, the screen showed Columbia’s red-orange energy weapons streaking across the space between the two ships. The freighter’s shields flared. Weapons fire was exchanged for the next few minutes as each ship tried to hit the other to knock out weapons and shields while also trying to avoid getting hit themselves. And although the Denobulan freighter had been outfitted with Klingon disruptors, their shields proved no match for Columbia's phasers. Once the shields were down, Regan ordered a spread of torpedoes to take out the weapons array.

“Direct hit on their weapons array, Captain,” Tyrel announced triumphantly a moment later. “They won’t be firing on us again.”

“Captain, they’re powering up their warp drive again,” Chariza Guinan called out.

“Mr. Tyrel,” Silmar prompted.

“Already on it, Commander,” Tyrel returned, and as they watched the freighter fly past they saw another streak of phaser fire. The much smaller ship suddenly stopped in mid-flight as their drive system was disabled.

“Direct hit on their engines, Captain,” Tyrel said.

“They were foolish to think they could outrun us, or to think that their weapons and shields would be anywhere near a threat to us,” pointed out Jacen Faris.

“Indeed, Mr. Faris,” the captain said, turning and walking back to sit down in her command chair again. Once Silmar had done the same, she looked over at Communications. “Mr. Steb, hail them again.”

“They’re still not responding, Captain,” Steb told her a moment later.

“What the hell are they waiting for?” Tyrel asked. “We’ve done disabled their engines and weapons.”

“If I may pose a hypothesis, perhaps they are preparing to destroy the ship,” Silmar offered. “Some Maquis have been known to choose death over capture.”

Regan tapped her commbadge. “Transporter Room One, lock onto all lifesigns aboard the freighter and beam them directly to the Brig.”

Aye, Captain.”

Silmar called down to the Security office. “Bridge to Security.”

Ryan Bennington answered calmly. “Bennington here, sir.

“Mr. Bennington, in a few seconds you should be receiving some guests in your department,” Silmar explained. “Please make sure they are thoroughly searched and separated, please.”

Roger that, Commander, they just arrived. Will give you a sit-rep momentarily. Bennington out.

*****

Catptain Ryan Bennington, the Marine Corps officer in charge of Security, stepped out of his office and walked into Columbia’s detention center with two of his security officers, and watched as a motley crew of mostly Human people materialized in the first holding cell.

“Roger that, Commander, they just arrived,” he said over the comm channel with the Bridge. “Will give you a sit-rep momentarily. Bennington out.”

Bennington gestured to the two security officers who were in the room with him and the man and woman drew their phasers, pointing them toward the holding cell. At the moment, none of the prisoners were speaking, just looking out at the three security officers with trepidation.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to your new accommodations,” the Marine quipped. “I’m going to be lowering this forcefield in a moment and you will all behave by staying on the other side until called for, is that understood?”

The Maquis prisoners nodded wordlessly. The fact that they weren’t saying anything disturbed Bennington, and he wondered whether any of them had weapons the transporters hadn’t detected. He wondered if they would surge out of the cell and try to overpower him and his two colleagues, as there were a good fifteen or twenty people crammed into the cell. With his hand hovering over the control that would drop the forcefield keeping the prisoners in the cell, he turned his head to the two officers.

“Set your weapons for wide-beam dispersal. Fire even if you have to hit me, understood?”

The young woman, a newbie ensign fresh out of the academy, nodded and swallowed heavily. Her male companion—a fellow ensign with a few more years under his belt—nodded, and said, “Yes, sir.” Both of them reset their weapons and pointed them back at the cell.

Bennington nodded and then he pressed the control. The Maquis surprised him by actually shrinking back from the doorway to the cell. “You,” the captain said (whose rank was the equivalent of being a Navy lieutenant, as the Marine ranking system differed from that of the Fleet), pointing at a small Bajoran female. “Step out of the cell with your hands raised.”

The woman, whose look was such that she could easily pass for a teenager (and probably was one, for all he knew) swallowed as she raised her hands to shoulder level. Tentatively she stepped forward and over the lip of the cell, and as soon as she had cleared it, Bennington pressed the control to raise the forcefield again.

“Turn around and put your hands up against that wall,” he directed her, pointing to the wall between two cells. “Step back from the wall and spread your legs shoulder width apart.”

Wordlessly the frightened girl complied with his orders. It wasn’t until Bennington approached her that one of the Maquis spoke up, another woman some years older than the girl.

“Don’t you touch her, Marine,” she said snidely.

Bennington stopped halfway to his target and glanced over. “You recognize the difference between a Fleeter and a Marine, good for you.”

“I don’t want you laying your hands on that girl,” the woman said.

“She has to be searched, Maria,” said a tall Bolian quietly. “We all do.”

The woman turned to her alien companion. “Yeah, fine, but not by him. Who knows where the hell he will put his perverted hands? Juni is just a girl, she doesn’t deserve to be violated anymore than she already has been.”

So she is just a kid, Bennington mused. “Not that I would ever do such a thing, miss, but if it will satisfy your desire to see Juni protected, Ensign Archer will conduct the search of her and all of the women in your party,” he said.

Maria only nodded her agreement. Bennington gestured to Kayleigh Archer, who moved to his side and handed him her sidearm. She then moved over to stand behind Juni, saying, “Do you have anything on you that’s going to poke me? Anything that could hurt me?”

Juni shook her head, and so the ensign began a thorough search of her pockets before patting down her body. When Juni was deemed clean of weapons or other contraband, Archer guided her to one of the empty cells and ushered her inside, waiting until Bennington had erected a forcefield before she moved away from it.

“Why did you put her over there?” the one called Maria asked.

Bennington looked at her pointedly. “Would you rather all of you were crammed into one cell?”

Maria snorted and turned her head away, crossing her arms defiantly.

“Matter of fact, why don’t you come out next?” the security chief went on. “Since you seem so concerned with Juni’s welfare, you can share a cell with her.”

The woman looked at him. “Fine,” she snapped, stepping through to stand at the front of the group. Archer stepped closer to be ready to receive her on the outside, and although both Bennington and the other ensign had their phasers trained on the group as the forcefield was lowered, neither was quick enough to catch the lightning-fast movement of the Vulcan man who leapt past Maria and grabbed Kayleigh Archer in a two-handed grip around the neck. The young woman’s eyes went wide with fear as he brought her back against his chest.

“Even if you fire those weapons, I will still have time to break her neck before I fall,” the Vulcan said coldly.

The Bolian stepped forward. “Tahir, don’t do this,” he said. “They’ve caught us. It’s time to give up.”

The man who had aided Rkasi Cen’s escape stepped up next to him. “No, brother, Tahir is doing the right thing. We must get free if we can.”

Though he still kept his weapon trained on the group, Ryan Bennington raised his other hand in a placating manner. “Alright now, everybody, lets remain calm, okay? No one has to get hurt here.”

“Precisely, Captain,” said Tahir. “And no one will get hurt as long as you and your comrade put those phasers down.”

Bennington looked at the frightened ensign he held prisoner. Archer’s eyes were as wide as dinner plates, but she seemed to be breathing okay. She stood there against the Vulcan with her hands down against her sides, making no movement in any direction.

“Kayleigh, you alright?” he asked.

“Fine, sir,” she whispered.

“She will continue to be fine,” Tahir said, “unless you do not comply with my order to put…your weapons…down.”

After another fifteen seconds of staring into the other man’s eyes, Bennington nodded. “Alright, just take it easy, man,” he said slowly. “Wilson, lower your weapon.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as the younger man complied, his eyes darting nervously between his commanding officer and the Vulcan holding his partner hostage.

The Human man stepped over and snatched the phasers from their hands. He raised the one he’d taken from Ensign Wilson and pointed it.

“No, Quinton,” said Tahir. “Do not shoot them—the longer we remain undetected, the better for us. Internal sensors will register the phaser fire.”

“And just how do you plan to do that, by the way? Remain undetected, that is,” Bennington asked. “What do you plan to do with us? Getting off this ship is going to be pretty difficult, Tahir.”

“Nothing is impossible, Captain,” the Vulcan replied. With one hand he reached down and plucked Archer’s commbadge off of her uniform, then guided her over to her fellow officers, taking theirs as well. By this time, the other members of the Maquis crew had stepped out of the holding cell.

“You may now take our place in the holding cell,” Tahir said.

Bennington waited until both Archer and Wilson had walked across the floor to stand at the back of the cell. He then marched resolutely toward the cell, turning in a smart about-face to stare at Tahir as soon as he was over the lip. Tahir was already standing at the console, raising the forcefield on their cell and lowering the one holding the Bajoran teen. Juni ran to Maria and threw her arms around the older woman.

“Don’t you see what you’re doing?” Bennington queried. “That girl is frightened. I can see that she’s not the only one of you who is. Just where do you think you’re going to go? How are you going to get off the ship?”

“You have a large complement of shuttlecraft, Captain,” Tahir answered. “We will unfortunately have to deprive you of one of them. A fitting exchange, given that you have deprived us of our original mode of transportation.”

The Marine officer shook his head. “The main shuttlebay is eleven decks up and the other one is seven decks down. The transporter rooms are seven decks above us, as well. You go traipsing through this ship, someone is going to see you.”

All the while they had been speaking, Tahir had been rapidly entering commands into the control console for the holding cells. He looked up at Bennington and gave the barest hint of a smile. “I am not unfamiliar with the layout of a Nebula-class starship, Captain,” he told him, then stepped around the console. Tahir affixed one of the three commbadges to his own shirt, one to Quinton’s, and one to Maria’s. He then instructed his people to hold hands and then, turning to spare the trio of officers one last look, the Vulcan and the entire group of Maquis fugitives disappeared in a sparkle of transporter energy.

When they had gone, Bennington slammed his fist into the bulkhead, muttering, “Pointy-eared bastard.”

He then turned to his cellmates and joked mirthlessly, “Either of you got a spare communicator on you?”

Both of them shook their heads and Wilson spoke up, saying, “Won’t the ship‘s internal sensors alert the bridge to the unauthorized transport, sir?”

Kayleigh Archer snorted. “Somehow I doubt it. Did you see how long his hands were on that board?”

Bennington watched Wilson drop resignedly onto the bench jutting out from the wall. He stepped over and put a comforting hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Ensign. The captain will be expecting me to report in soon—if Tahir doesn’t carry out whatever crazy plan he has in mind within a few minutes, I’m sure when they call down here and get no answer that Captain Regan and Commander Silmar will send some help to bust us out of here.”

*****

The seventeen members of the Maquis who had been aboard the Denobulan freighter materialized in Columbia’s main shuttlebay seconds after they had disappeared from the brig. Several members of the party started, looking around as if they expected to be surrounded at any moment.

“There is no one here,” Tahir assured them, leading the way over to a runabout. He keyed the hatch open and gestured for the others to get inside. They hurriedly complied, except for Rkasi Cen.

“I’m not going with you,” he said.

Quinton turned back angrily. “Oh, no you don’t!” he seethed. “We didn’t risk our necks for you just to leave you behind now.”

Cen tilted his bifurcated head to the side. “Just why did you help me, Quinton? I thought the Maquis credo was ‘If you get caught, you’re on your own.’”

Quinton drew breath to reply, but he was stopped by Tahir. “Gentlemen, we do not have time to argue. Quinton, get on the runabout and prepare it for takeoff.”

Though he clearly wanted to argue, Quinton nevertheless complied and turned around, stomping up the ramp and into the shuttlecraft. Tahir turned to Cen.

“Mr. Cen, while your delayed sense of remorse is admirable, I will not agree to leave you behind. Quinton is right in one aspect—this mission was not for nothing. You need to come with us.”

The Bolian sighed. “If I go with you, it means I’m going to be running for the rest of my life,” he said. “I can’t… I can’t live like that. I’m sorry you wasted your time coming after me, but I just can’t do this. I’ve spent too many years of my life living a lie, a lie that led to me nearly killing a man who’d never done me any wrong. Not to mention the fact that the true cause of the Maquis has gotten lost—it’s all just random violence now. Once our purpose was clear, but now…?”

He shook his head. “I really hope the Maquis can find their way again, but I just can’t do this anymore, Tahir. It’s time I accepted the consequences of my actions, and if that means spending the rest of my life in a hellhole like Garon II, then it’s what I deserve.”

Tahir studied him a moment, then nodded. “Open the door for us so we do not have to destroy it to get out.”

Cen nodded and then headed over to the control console. He waited until Tahir had entered the runabout before he began to enter the controls to open the bay door. By the time the door had fully opened, the runabout was already hovering over the deck, waiting to pass through the atmospheric forcefield and out into space.

*****

On the bridge, an alert began to chirp on Rokha Tyrel’s tactical console. He looked down at his readout, then called out, “Captain, there’s an unauthorized launch in progress in the main shuttlebay!”

Captain Regan stood and turned to look at him as Commander Silmar called up to Chariza Guinan, “Lt. Guinan, ready a tractor beam and lock onto the shuttle that just left the bay.”

“Which shuttle is it, Mr. Tyrel?” Regan asked the Orion as Guinan acknowledged the commander’s order.

He keyed in a couple more commands. “Nimrodel, Captain.”

The captain tapped her commbadge. “Regan to Bennington.” She waited a beat for the Marine’s response, then called out, “Security to the Brig and Main Shuttlebay.”

Aye, Captain,” replied a female security officer.

“Captain, we’re receiving a transmission…” Guinan called out, turning back to the captain with a look of surprise on her face. “…from the shuttlebay!”

Nimrodel’s just gone to warp, Captain,” called out Jacen Faris.

“Lay in a pursuit course, Lieutenant,” Silmar told him. “Engage when ready.”

“Aye, sir,” the Trill said, entering the appropriate commands into his console.

Regan turned to the viewscreen. “By all means, let me see who’s calling from inside the house, Miss Guinan.”

Guinan turned back to her console and keyed in the commands to bring up the video. The viewscreen came to life with the image of a Bolian in the middle of it.

“Rkasi Cen,” Regan greeted the man. “Why didn’t you go with your friends?”

He chuckled, though it was without humor. “They are not exactly my friends, Captain,” he said. “And the reason I stayed was because I realized I could not keep running away from what I have done. In a way Tahir was right, the mission was not for nothing.”

“Chariza, mute audio,” Captain Regan said, then turned sharply to her first officer. “It can’t be… Surely Tahir is a common enough name.”

He raised an eyebrow. “I regret that it is not, Captain,” he told her. “Although I understand how a person bearing it in this situation is sufficient to give you pause, I can, however, assure you that it is given often enough that this man’s presence us surely coincidental.”

Bridge, this is Bennington.”

“Mr. Bennington, what happened down there?” Regan replied.

Ensign Archer was about to conduct a search on one of the female prisoners when a Vulcan by the name of Tahir jumped out of the cell, right after I lowered the forcefield so the woman could step out. He grabbed Archer before Wilson or I had time to react, and he threatened to break her neck if we didn’t do what he wanted. I’m sorry, Captain.”

“Was Ensign Archer harmed, Captain Bennington?” Silmar asked.

No, sir. Not physically, anyway. They took our commbadges and herded us into the cell, then Tahir and the others transported out—he knows our systems, Captain, because he fiddled with the security console before they vanished on us. I’m assuming they went to the shuttlebay.”

“Indeed they did, Ryan,” Regan told him. “But apparently one of the prisoners has a guilty conscience. Sanctuary’s escaped convict did not board the runabout we are now chasing. He’ll be brought back down momentarily.”

Good. Again, I’m sorry I screwed up, Captain.”

“It’s not a screw-up when you’re saving someone’s life, Mr. Bennington. Bridge out.”

With another look at Silmar, Captain Regan turned back toward the viewscreen. “Resume audio, Guinan.”

The El-Aurian operations officer keyed her console. “Audio on, Captain.”

“Mr. Cen, I believe you should have some company now,” Regan said.

Cen nodded. “I do, Captain. Don’t worry, I’m not going to resist.”

Regan nodded. “I’m glad to hear it. And I’m glad to see that somewhere inside you the Starfleet officer you used to be still exists.”

Cen was silent for a long moment before he simply ended the transmission.

“Lt. Guinan, how long before we intercept the Nimrodel?” Silmar asked.

She checked her readouts. “Three minutes, sir.”

Regan turned to Tyrel. “Commander, get me the video feed from the Brig,” she told him.

Tyrel nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, keying the commands into his console. A minute later, the viewscreen switched from streaking stars to an overhead view of the Brig. They all watched as Kayleigh Archer patted down the teenage girl and placed her in an empty cell, then approached the first holding cell while Bennington and Wilson held phasers ready. Bennington pressed the control for the first cell’s forcefield to drop, and as he had said, there was no time to react before a dark-haired Vulcan man jumped out and wrapped his hands around Archer’s neck.

“Freeze video and enhance grid two-one-nine,” Silmar instructed.

Guinan wordlessly entered the command into her console, and the face of the man holding Archer in his grip filled the screen.

“It is him,” Regan said, turning to her first officer again. “How the hell could he be Maquis?”

Silmar stared at me man on the screen. “I do not know,” he said at last.

“Uh, someone want to clue in the rest of us?” Tyrel spoke up.

Regan looked at him sharply, then turned back toward the viewscreen as it changed a third time to show the Nimrodel.

“We have intercepted the runabout, Captain,” Jacen Faris announced.

“Miss Guinan, lock on that tractor beam,” Regan ordered, her surprise causing her to speak a little more harshly than she usually did.

“Yes, ma’am,” Guinan replied.

“Captain, the Nimrodel is dropping out of warp,” Lt. Faris called out. “Their engines are powering down and she’s coming about.”

“All stop,” Regan ordered.

Faris brought Columbia to a stop ahead of the runabout, then turned the ship back so that they were facing each other. The bridge crew watched his maneuvering on the viewscreen.

“We’re being hailed from the Nimrodel, Captain,” Lt. Steb announced from Communications. “Also, Lt. Serri is hailing, wondering why we left him and the engineers behind.”

Lindze Regan fought a grin. “Give Lt. Serri my regrets for our abrupt departure, Mr. Steb, and be sure to let him know we will return momentarily. And bring our mysterious caller up onscreen, please.”

Steb acknowledged, and a moment later Tahir’s stoic face appeared. “My regrets that circumstances have forced this situation, Captain Regan—I can assure you that there is an explanation for my actions.”

“I should sure as hell hope so,” Regan said, “because for the life of me I cannot fathom why you would be working with the Maquis. The Tahir I know would not have done this to his father or his sister. He wouldn’t be dishonoring his mother’s memory—”

“Lindze.”

With one softly spoken word, everyone on the bridge knew just who Tahir’s father was.

Regan looked at Silmar, and the XO confirmed the suspicions of everyone watching when he said, “I think we should allow my son to explain himself.”

*****

Half an hour later, Columbia’s captain and first officer sat in the conference room listening as Tahir, who had revealed himself to be an agent with the Federation Security Bureau (a claim which Regan had verified before she allowed him to speak further), gave a report on Maquis activities in the region. He informed them that the reason he had arranged for Cen’s escape was so that he could come in without suspicion to report to his superiors—the escape from Columbia’s brig and theft of the runabout was only to keep up appearances.

“The Maquis have recently received a new piece of technology they’re calling a ‘holo-cloak,’” he said, placing a small, disk-shaped metallic object on the table. “I am not yet certain precisely how it works as I have not had chance to examine one closely. I do know that it has the ability to project a hologram around a living person, enabling them to look like someone else entirely.”

“A fascinating piece of technology,” Silmar said. “I am reminded of a report I read concerning new technologies discovered by the crew of Voyager out in the Delta Quadrant. One such device was a mobile holographic emitter that enables their EMH to leave Sickbay.”

Tahir nodded. “I have read that report also, and suspect this device works on much the same principle, Father. Unfortunately, it’s presence outside of Starfleet’s Research and Development Division means that someone has leaked the information.”

“It is possible that Rkasi Cen’s position as Admiral Tattok’s aide gave him access to the report made by Voyager’s EMH when it was onboard the Prometheus last year. Perhaps he disclosed the information to his Maquis contacts, and that is how they came to have these devices,” his father suggested.

Regan nodded her agreement, though her expression was grim as she told them, “Unfortunately, Tahir, your exit to reveal this information is just a little too late, because the Maquis aren’t the only ones who have them. We've heard rumors that True Way has them as well, or they have something very damn similar.”

“I do not believe that these two organizations having the same technology and using it in the same manner is a coincidence,” Tahir said.

“I agree,” said Regan. “The question is, where are they getting it from? It has to be the same source, because only Starfleet should even know about that mobile emitter. Considering we haven’t yet found a way to make permanent, live contact with Voyager, I daresay no one’s been listening in on our long-distance phone calls.”

She sighed. “Like we don’t have enough to deal with, now there’s someone committing treason somewhere very high up in the pecking order. Admiral Necheyev is going to love hearing this.”

“I must make my report to my superiors at the Federation Security Bureau, and then I should be escorted back to the Brig,” Tahir said then.

“Tahir, why bother?” Regan asked. “You stunned an entire runabout full of people—I think they know by now you’re not one of them.”

“Captain Regan is correct,” Silmar pointed out. “It would be illogical to return to their midst.”

Tahir conceded their point with a nod. “It is true that my ‘cover is blown,’ as I once heard a Human say. In that case, I would appreciate the opportunity to apologize to Ensign Archer for threatening her.”

“How did you come to be involved with the FSB anyway, Tahir?” Regan asked.

“In much the same manner my father was recruited by Starfleet Intelligence—by excelling in my studies at university,” he replied.

The captain smiled at the two men. “You followed in your father’s footsteps just like Sylari followed in your mother’s. I think that’s sweet.”

Each Vulcan raised an eyebrow, and Regan laughed, thinking Like father, like son as Tahir said to her, “I do not believe ‘sweet’ is an applicable description, Captain. I only followed a logical course of action in regard to my career, the direction of which parallel’s my father’s only by chance.”

“And I suppose you’re going to tell me Sylari didn’t become a starship pilot in Starfleet because your mother was one?”

“Sylari’s aptitude as a pilot is remarkable,” Silmar said. “It is only logical that she pursued a career in that profession.”

Regan shook her head and grinned as she stood. “Vulcans,” she mused. “Is it any wonder I married two Humans?”

As she passed by Tahir, she pointed to the device he had laid on the table. “How many of those did you guys have?”

“Two,” Tahir replied. “Quinton Pohler and myself were issued one.”

“Think the FSB would let us have one?” she asked. “Sanctuary’s got an Intel officer on staff, and I bet he would love to have a look at that thing. Not to mention the fact that SI will want to look into who leaked the report on the mobile emitter.”

Just then Darien Serri entered the conference room. The Betazoid carried a PADD over to Captain Regan, though he cast a hesitant look at the man at the table he didn’t know.

“It’s alright, Lieutenant,” Regan told him. “You can speak freely. Tahir is actually one of the good guys.”

Serri nodded and indicated the PADD he had given her. “A complete list of the repairs the freighter requires, ma’am,” he said as she began to read his report. “Except for the dorsal disruptors, which were destroyed, it shouldn’t take us more than an hour.”

She nodded. “Good. I’d hate to leave it sitting out here. Someone’s bound to be able to make use of it.”

“May I suggest returning it to Sanctuary, Captain?” Silmar said. “Perhaps the Intelligence officer there might find something aboard the ship that would indicate where the Maquis got the holo-cloaks from, if Captain Bennington’s interrogation yields no results.”

Regan nodded. “You and Bennington can take it. We’ll transport the prisoners to their original travel destination and come back for you.”

Tahir looked up at her. “Captain, may I suggest that Nivik Juni, the Bajoran teen, not be sent to a harsh penal colony? She has only recently joined our cell and did so only out of an emotional need to belong—the girl has no family.”

Captain Regan nodded. “I’ll pass your request on to the courts when I speak to them. I can’t guarantee anything of course, but given her age, I doubt she’ll be sent to an adult facility anyway.”

Silmar looked across the table at his son. “Would you care to accompany Captain Bennington and myself, Tahir, when we take the freighter to Sanctuary?”

“If my superiors do not require my services elsewhere, I will make the trip with you, Father.”

“Then it’s settled,” Regan said brightly. “I hope you’re not needed anywhere right away, Tahir. It would be good for you and your father to spend some time together. He’s always complaining how he never gets to see his children.”

Serri tried vainly to stifle a laugh; his efforts resulted in a snort he then tried to cover with a cough. The Betazoid was always amused when his quarter-Vulcan captain teased her fully Vulcan first officer.

Once again, father and son each raised an eyebrow in an identical arch. “Vulcans do not complain,” Silmar said in his usual droll tone.

“Indeed,” echoed Tahir. “That is a most illogical statement, Captain.”

“It was a joke, Tahir,” she said with a shake of her head. “Just a joke.” 

As Lindze Regan walked with her chief engineer out of the conference room, she once again thought the words, Vulcans. Is it any wonder I married two Humans?


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