By Jack Elmlinger, with Christina Moore and Brydon Sinclair
Tempered steel sliced through the air, striking more steel as Tattok jumped back from his opponent and landed on his feet, kneeling downward. Attired in simple brown robes, the diminutive commander of the 11th Fleet leapt forward again, striking his blade again in a forward thrust. His opponent blocked the attack with her own katana blade, swinging it upward to swipe at him. Her attack failed as he dodged it and hit her in the midsection with the mek’leth in his left hand.
Dropping down to the floor, Captain Motoko Kimura looked up at the victor and smiled. “It’s a good thing that this is the holodeck. Or else you’d be on trial for my murder.”
“My intention wasn't to kill you,” the Roylan answered with a grin. He offered her a hand to help her back up to her feet. “I wouldn't want to lose a valued captain.”
“Bridge to Captain Kimura,” said the voice of her first officer over the intercom.
“Go ahead,” she said after tapping the commbadge on the front of her gi.
“Captain Natale just called, looking for the admiral, sir,” Rogan continued.
“Any reason why she's looking for me, Commander?”
“She didn’t give a reason, sir.”
“Natale is becoming curiouser and curiouser to figure out sometimes,” Tattok said, sheathing both of his weapons. Kimura did the same as he looked around the landscape, feeling a little homesick. It was a recreation of the training school where Kimura had learned martial arts as a child, but it also reminded the Roylan of his childhood home near the Naxovah River on Royla.
“Yes, I’m curious as well, especially since she’s taken a lot of conference calls this week.” They walked outside of the holodeck, the doors opening before them as the scenery around them disappeared.
“Have you been monitoring her?”
“No. I know that would be a violation of the regs, sir. Ensign Dane just noticed that the communications array’s been working overtime lately, ever since the Wolfsong arrived from Deep Space Nine.” She put a hand on the holodeck controls outside in the corridor, saving her holo-program. “I also noticed that Captain Kaav left with Captain Telka when they moved on to Cardassia.”
“Yes, I appointed him to oversee our facility there since SCIS said that they can spare him for now.” Tattok tapped his own commbadge, realizing that they had left Rogan hanging. “Commander, inform Natale that I'm on my way and that I'll meet her in Ops.”
Captain Synnove Natale was waiting for him at the turbolift when it rose up to the Ops level of Sanctuary. Beside her was the newly arrived replacement for Captain Rkasi Cen, the Bolian who had previously been Vice-Admiral Tattok’s chief of staff. She was a blonde-haired Human woman in her forties and according to her service record, Captain Carrie Buchanan had just come off of medical leave after recovering from injuries that had occurred during the Battle of Cardassia, when she had been captain of the starship Horizon.
“What was so important that you had to interrupt my swordplay, Captain Natale?” the little man with the three-star pins said as the turbolift finished its climb. He had taken a few moments to stop by his quarters on the Trident to change out of his exercise robes. Since the attack on him after his arrival on the station, he had chosen to remain billeted aboard the Excelsior-class starship until the security and engineering issues could be cleared up.
“Well, I have two surprises for you, Admiral,” she said, turning her head towards Buchanan. “May I introduce Captain Carrie Buchanan? Captain Buchanan, Vice-Admiral Tattok.”
The blonde smiled at him and her face was filled with excitement. Ever since graduating from the Academy, she had been a fan of the little Roylan. His tactical and diplomatic strategies were required reading, and she had always hoped to meet him.
“Admiral Tattok, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you, sir,” she said after a minute of hesitation.
“Ah, my new chief of staff finally arrives. My staff is new,” Tattok complained, “and comprises of only you so far.”
“Well, I’d be glad to rectify that, sir. Do you have any ideas on personnel or should I just select personnel from any avail—”
“I require a yeoman, since my belongings were destroyed with my shuttle. I've been living out of the replicator and Captain Kimura’s good graces.” Tattok turned his attention back to Natale, looking up at her. “You said that you have another surprise?”
“Yes, of course, Admiral,” the Orion said with a rare smile. She led both Buchanan and Tattok down to the center of Ops and the ‘pool table’. The Roylan, with great skill, climbed up onto one of the stools that sat around the table so he could see both women better. “Mr. Kelley,” she continued, looking over at her tactical defense officer, “would you please show the admiral the ship that just arrived?”
The holographic window shimmered and a Sovereign-class starship was shown docked to one of the upper pylons, the image provided by a few of the exterior cameras that Chief Grafydd’s engineering teams had been able to restore. The admiral’s curiosity and attention grew when he saw the new ship.
“Attention on deck!” Dal Eton Kirek said gruffly. Apparently he was a party to Captain Natale’s surprise, Tattok thought, as the Starfleet and Cardassian members of the Ops crew came to attention. The Orion woman in question picked up a PADD from the table and started to read. “To Vice-Admiral Tattok, commanding officer of the Eleventh Fleet, you are requested and required by the order of Starfleet Command, to assume command of the U.S.S. Veritas, registry NCC-71177 as of this date. Signed: Admiral Alynna Necheyev, C-in-C-Starfleet.”
“This is a surprise.”
Tattok’s eyes grew wider and they moved between Natale and the new ship. An exterior camera went for a tighter view of the Sovereign-class vessel and on the saucer section was the new ship’s name etched out before him.
“Admiral Necheyev and the rest of Starfleet Command felt bad that you lost your ship, Admiral, and because you’re the fleet’s commanding officer, they wanted you to ride in better style.” This answer came from Natale who was surprised when the admiral hugged her.
“A better deed has never been done for me,” he said. “Thank you, Synnove.”
“I hate inspections,” Tattok said hours later. It had taken some time to put his affairs on the station and aboard the Trident in order. After the ceremony in Ops, he had taken Captain Buchanan aside and discussed fleet operations and the situation around her. She seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, especially when she had gone from gushing teenager to an experienced member of Starfleet’s officer corps in an instant.
“Yes, but it does give the junior officers a chance to shiver in their skivvies,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Wayne Hollis as he sat in the co-pilot’s chair of their shuttlecraft. As per tradition throughout the fleet, a new commanding officer was carried by shuttlecraft to their ship and with Tattok, tradition was very important to him.
“These days, they're children,” he agreed. The senior non-com had been assigned to the admiral at the request of Deep Space Nine’s Colonel Kira Nerys, after serving on the station many years before in Security. With the previous threat on his life, Hollis had been assigned to him as his bodyguard while also serving as the Veritas’ chief of the boat.
As the shuttle got closer, the Veritas grew in size and dimension, and Tattok found himself admiring her design and construction. The file that Natale had given him on the ship had said that she had just finished her final space trials before being assigned to Cardassian space and that she had been under the command of Captain Sathen.
“Shuttlecraft Icarus, requesting permission to land,” Buchanan said after hailing the ship. As was her privilege, she had opted to fly the shuttle from the station to the ship. Despite the naval tradition involved, she had already suggested using the transporter to get to the Veritas but the admiral had overridden her because he had never been that fond of having his molecules broken down, one by one.
“Icarus, this is Veritas,” a voice filled the cockpit. “Transmit your security clearance now.”
“Security clearance?” Buchanan protested. “This is Admiral Tattok’s party on final approach.”
“Transmit your security clearance or we will fire upon you.”
“That's unprecedented,” Tattok commented. He climbed out of his seat and moved towards the front of the cockpit. Touching the communications panel, he cleared his throat. “Veritas, this is Vice-Admiral Tattok. Allow us to land.”
“Sir, I have my orders.”
“Orders be damned. You will allow us to land!”
“Sir…” the disembodied voice said, hesitantly. Tattok huffed out a breath before closing the channel.
“What a damned idiot!” Hollis murmured. “To think that a Federation starship is going to fire upon a three-star admiral! It’s ridiculous!”
Engaging the comm system, Tattok nodded at him. “Tattok to Natale.”
A moment passed and the Orion responded. “Natale here.”
“Veritas is denying us permission to land. This has got to be a joke.”
“What?” she answered with surprise. “What is going on over there?”
“I'm uncertain, Captain. They've threatened to fire on us.”
“Give me a minute. I’ll clear this up. Natale out.”
Hollis turned around in his chair and faced him. “Are you sure that this is going to work, sir? Because I have a feeling that this is just a mistake by some whey-faced ensign.”
“I would agree, sir,” piped in Buchanan.
“I agree with both of you both. They knew that we were coming.”
“Shuttle Icarus,” a different voice said over the intercom. It sounded more authoritative and older than the previous one, “this is Captain Sathen. Please excuse the previous transmissions received from this ship. You have permission to—”
“You will beam us aboard!” Tattok said angrily, even though he disliked transporters so. “Someone is going to answer for this!”
“What about the shuttle, sir?” asked Buchanan.
“Someone can collect it later. Energize, Veritas.”
The blue energy of the transporter beam dissipated around the occupants of the shuttle as they materialized in one of the Veritas' transporter rooms. A dark-skinned Vulcan wearing captain’s pips on his gold collar awaited them as the admiral stepped down from the platform.
“Welcome aboard the—” He didn’t get the chance to finish his sentence as the angry Roylan stormed off the dais. He executed a hand-chop to the man’s knee, and the officer fell to the deck with a grunt.
“I'm disappointed! Where is the commanding officer?!” he demanded with a fury that both exhilarated Buchanan and scared her.
“Security to Transporter Room Three,” the transporter technician said, stepping back from the controls. He was afraid that he would be next.
“Ensign, that’s not really necessary,” Buchanan said, stepped down and approaching Tattok. “Sir, maybe you should calm down and—” She didn’t get a chance to finish either, as he grabbed her right arm and swung her over him. Landing on the deck next to the Vulcan officer with a thud, Buchanan was instantly rendered unconscious. Hollis, checking his phaser, stared at Tattok who stared back at him.
“Sir, I don’t want to shoot you,” the human said, lifting his weapon up to take aim. He was about ready to fire when out of nowhere, the Vulcan grabbed Tattok between his neck and shoulder to administer the famous Vulcan neck pinch. He was instantly rendered unconscious.
“What the hell’s going on here?” a green-skinned woman with pointed ears demanded after she and three security officers rushed into the transporter room seconds later.
“Nothing has occurred but a misunderstanding, Lieutenant. Please escort the admiral and his party to Sickbay.”
“Yes, sir,” Lieutenant T’Linn said as she moved over to assist Buchanan who was quickly returning to the world of the conscious. The master chief had already lifted the admiral up into his arms and he allowed the security officers to show them the way out.
“It’s PTSD, or better known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Doctor Daniella Running Deer said as she looked over the readings from her tricorder. Tattok lay, still unconscious, in the surgical suite of the Veritas’ sickbay while Buchanan and Captain Sathen, the Vulcan officer who welcomed them aboard, were sitting on nearby biobeds. “I’m surprised that Sanctuary’s doctors didn’t detect it.”
“So am I,” Captain Natale said. The Orion had hurried aboard after hearing about the incident in the transporter room. “Though from what I’ve heard—rumors only, mind you—he’s never really sought out psychiatric help before.”
“He’s also never been betrayed by a man who was as close to him as a brother,” said Lieutenant Ken DeMarco, the ship’s counselor, from the opposite side of the bed. The older human looked over the little man and felt nothing but sympathy for him. “Dr. Garcia and Counselor Roijiana should have ordered him to report directly to counseling.”
“Now is not the time to point fingers, Counselor,” Sathen suggested, walking over to them. “Now is merely the time to give him the help that he requires.”
“I agree,” Buchanan said, rubbing her neck, “but will this interfere with his ability to command?”
“It shouldn’t, as long as he keeps open about his feelings and emotions.”
“That is just a bunch of hippie talk,” Hollis said from the far side of the room. He and Lieutenant T’Linn, the chief of security, stood on both sides of the sickbay doors and he had his arms crossed over his chest. “I served with Admiral Tattok on the Camelot and—”
“Good, past associations with friends and colleagues will help the healing process,” DeMarco said, not looking at him. He looked at Natale with a curious look on his face. “I understand that the Trident’s captain served under him before the war?”
“Yes,” was her answer. “In fact, they’ve been spending a lot of time together over the last few weeks since the attack on his life. From what she’s told me, it’s just been dinners in the mess hall and a few holo-programs.”
“It won't make me better, staring at me,” a voice said, and they noticed that the subject of their discussion was looking up at them. “You talk about me like I'm not even in the room.”
“Admiral,” DeMarco said, stepping forward to introduce himself. “I’m Lieutenant Ken DeMarco, the ship’s counselor. Dr. Running Deer and I believe that you might be suffering from—”
“PTSD doesn't affect Roylans.”
“Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t, sir. I still insist that you undergo a psychiatric evaluation.”
“That won't happen,” Tattok said, glaring up at the counselor. “I'm fine.”
“Then I’m forced to relieve you of command until—”
“Then I'll relieve you of duty, Counselor, if you intend to threaten me. Now isn't the time to play such—”
“Bridge to Captain Sathen,” spoke over the intercom.
“This is Sathen,” he said, answering the summons.
“This is Lieutenant Torren, sir,” the voice said. “We've received a distress call from the U.S.S. Pericles. They've come under attack from two Galor-class cruisers.”
“Are there any other vessels in the area to assist them, Mr. Torren?”
“There aren't any in range to render assistance.”
“We're the fastest ship,” Tattok said as he sat up. “We should respond.”
“I am an engineer, Admiral,” the Vulcan said, looking back at him. “Do you believe yourself capable of commanding this ship, even though Counselor DeMarco believes that—”
“Captain Sathen, I’ve seen the admiral defeat a man who was twice his size with only a sword and one leg,” Natale said, feeling the need to stand up for her commanding officer. “If he says that he’s fine, then we should take the man at his word.” She looked at DeMarco as well who still remained skeptical at best. “For now.”
“I'm only here to work, but I can sit on my ass while you continue this witch hunt.”
Sathen thought about this for a moment before saying, “Computer, this is Captain Sathen. Transfer all command codes to Vice-Admiral Tattok. Authorization: Sathen-Delta-Sierra-2-2-9.”
“Authorization verified,” the computer replied. “U.S.S. Veritas is now under the command of Vice-Admiral Tattok.”
“Let's get to work.”
“Red Alert! All hands to Battle Stations!” was heard throughout the ship as Tattok, Carrie Buchanan, and T’Linn walked out of the turbolift and onto the Sovereign-class starship’s bridge. The Roylan had been unprepared for the large spaciousness that it offered since his last command, the Camelot, had been a much smaller vessel.
“Clear all moorings. Set starboard and port thrusters to station keeping,” he called out as he climbed up into the command chair at the center of the bridge. He ran his hands over the armrests as he sat down, feeling a familiar sensation that he had missed in the bureaucracy of Starfleet Command after his promotion to the admiralty.
“Thrusters are at station-keeping,” the man at the helm called back to him, his hands moving quickly over his panel.
“All moorings are retracted and all airlocks are secured,” an Andorian lieutenant commander at the ops position reported. “Transporter Room Three reports that Captain Natale has left the ship.”
“Get me Captain Kimura.” A second later and Motoko Kimura was looking across at him from the bridge of her own ship. The background behind her showed the same signs of readiness that were taking place around him.
“We’re ready to move out, even though you’ll beat us to the party by a few minutes,” she said.
“Where's the Triumph?”
“Unavailable at the moment. Captain Wallace is escorting a humanitarian convoy from Bajor to Cardassia with the Gladiator. I guess we’re the only two ships available for this one, sir.”
“Looks like we have to save Galloway’s ass from the fire.” Tattok accepted a PADD from Buchanan, who sat down in the first officer’s chair on his right. “We'll lead the way. Tattok out.” The image on the screen returned to an exterior view of Sanctuary and he set the PADD in his lap before saying, “All departments, report.”
“All defensive systems are ready,” T’Linn reported from tactical as cool and as logical as a normal Vulcan would.
“Flight systems are ready,” Torren answered next.
“Engineering reports ready. Warp drive is available at your command, Admiral,” reported the Andorian at ops.
“Good, it is, Mr. …?”
“Good. Get us under way, Mr. Torren. Set a course for the Pericles’ last reported position.”
“Course set and ready, sir.”
“Ahead full impulse.”
“Regulations state only the use of thrusters in spacedock,” the pilot said, turning his head from his panel.
“Ahem,” Buchanan coughed and Thalkav rolled his eyes.
With a smile growing on his face, the admiral leaned forward in his seat. “You heard the order, Mister Torren,” was his answer.
Tattok turned his head to Buchanan with an ‘I’ve still got it’ look on his face.
Slowly backing away from one of the upper pylons of the station, the Sovereign-class starship moved forward and away at a quick pace, along with the Trident moving away from another upper pylon. As soon as they were clear of the station and any other traffic, both ships sped away at warp speed.
Captain’s log, supplemental…
We're received a distress signal from the U.S.S. Pericles and we're on course to assist. Of course, I'm curious about why two Galor-class vessels are attacking them.
The Saber-class starship dodged phaser blast after phaser blast as the smaller vessel was chased by two Galor-class warships. They had encountered them attacking one of the Federation freighters assigned to carry humanitarian aid to Cardassian worlds devastated by the Jem’Hadar. Of course, Fleet Captain Galloway, being the bull-headed man that he was, decided to take them on without any assistance.
“This was a bad idea!” Commander Tess Allenby shouted over the chaos around her. The blonde-haired woman had assumed the helm position after Lieutenant Simon Duvall had been rendered unconscious by an opening salvo against the ship.
“You don’t need to keep repeating that!” Galloway shouted back at her from his command chair. “Damage report!”
“Shields are down to forty-nine percent!” Lieutenant Commander Praaze said from behind him at the tactical station. “The aft torpedo launcher is down and phasers are down by twelve percent efficiency!”
“We have hull breaches on Decks Two, Three, Four, and Seven,” Lieutenant Eyalai Maz said from the ops console next to Allenby. “Warp drive is down along with long-range communications.”
“Do we know if our distress signal got out?” the first officer asked.
“Unsure, Commander,” the Trill said before she checked her sensor readings. “The Cardassian vessels have taken little damage and… Captain, sensors are detecting more ships coming out of warp!”
“No, sir… they’re ours!” She changed the view on the forward screen and a Sovereign-class vessel could be seen swinging by both Cardassian vessels before turning to port in front of the Pericles. An additional vessel, an Excelsior-class moved along the port side of one of the Cardassian warships, her weapons ready to strike. “They’re hailing the Cardassians!”
“On screen,” Allenby said before the captain could speak.
The screen shimmered to reveal Vice-Admiral Tattok dwarfed by his command chair. “This is Vice-Admiral Tattok of the Federation starship Veritas. You will cease your attack on the Pericles, or we will fire on you. You have ten seconds to decide.”
“This is Gul Evek of the Vetar,” the Cardassian commander said as he appeared on the left side of the viewscreen with Tattok on the right side. “We were assigned by the Central Command to escort the freighter Sally Mae to Remok V. If you’re looking for someone to punish, then I suggest that you look to your own ranks, Admiral Tattok.”
“Oh, my ass is in the fire now,” Galloway murmured.
“Explain this situation, please, Gul Evek, but I recommend that we discuss this aboard the Vetar,” the Roylan suggested, though usually he would have asked them to come aboard his ship. Allenby believed that he had made this suggestion in a way to promote trust among the Cardassian commanders.
“Agreed,” Evek said with a nod of his head. “Shall we say thirty minutes?”
“Treachery is not my intention. I'll meet you in half an hour,” the admiral continued before the Cardassian commander discontinued the communication. The admiral’s image on the screen grew larger as communications were opened between the Veritas and the Pericles. “Captain Galloway, you and your first officer will report aboard the Veritas immediately.”
“You have made a fool play here!” the admiral said, smashing a PADD down on the face of his desk. Master Chief Hollis had escorted Galloway and Allenby to the admiral’s ready room and they both stood at attention before his desk. On a nearby couch, Captain Buchanan was reviewing the Pericles’ sensor records on a PADD while Lieutenant Commander Lissea San, the admiral’s administrative assistant, took notes on her PADD.
“I did what I believed to be right!” Galloway said with a hint of his Texas accent showing. “Those Cardassians are lying! They’re members of the True Way and they intended to steal that freighter’s cargo from the mouths of their countrymen!”
“What proof do you have, Captain?” The Roylan glared angrily at him, his hands clenched and ready to strike at him. Buchanan saw the bare naked aggression in his façade and she understood Counselor DeMarco’s concerns about his state of mind. Ever since this situation had begun, he seemed like he was, as Captain Galloway would describe, ‘chomping at the bit, ready to buck’.
“I don’t need proof. Cardassians are as notoriously treacherous as Romulans,” the Pericles’ captain continued. “They’ll both stab you in the back as soon as you turn it. We need to maintain a proper vigilance at our borders!”
“Vigilance? The Cardassian Union has fallen and we're here to help them! Your behavior… it's disgraceful.” The admiral stood up from his seat behind his desk. Walking around his desk, he looked up at the tall, bearded man before him. “You're relieved of command and I'm ordering an investigation into your actions.” He then turned to Allenby. “You should have been the one to relieve him of command. I question your loyalty to the man… and I won't be putting you in command of the Pericles. Captain Buchanan?”
“Yes, sir?” asked his chief of staff.
“Instruct Chief Hollis to confine Captain Galloway and Commander Allenby to quarters aboard the Veritas.”
“Aye, sir. Who’ll command the Pericles?”
“I'm disturbed by this crew’s behavior. Commander San?”
“Sir, might I say that this is a bad decision?” Galloway interrupted, trying his best to salvage his career. “I’ve been in Starfleet for the last thirty years. I’ve fought the Cardassians, the Tzenkethi, and the Klingons. Relieving me of command will show the Cardassians that they can dictate whatever terms they want with us.”
“The decision is mine to make!” Tattok shouted over him. “You're lucky that I don't confine you to the brig! Take them away!”
At Buchanan’s signal, Hollis stepped forward and led them out of the admiral’s ready room. Left alone with the captain and the Trill, he looked at both of the attractive women. “Lissea, do you have any command experience?”
“I have a few hundred hours, commanding the night watch on Deep Space Four before my promotion, sir.”
“Do your other hosts have any experience?”
“Well, yes, Admiral. Elaris San was captain of the U.S.S. Farragut before—”
“Sir, I think that we should consider Captain Sathen as acting commander of the Pericles,” Buchanan said. “Sure, he may have stood down as captain to be the chief engineer but he has command experience. Besides, his assistant chief is an experienced lieutenant commander who can run Engineering in his absence.”
“Sathen it is, Captain Buchanan,” the admiral said walking over to the replicator. Stepping up on a step ladder, he turned his head back towards them before ordering, "You're both dismissed.”
“Thank you, sir,” both women said before they filed out.
“Computer, one root beer, slightly chilled,” he ordered the replicator. A few minutes after Buchanan and San left, the door chime rang. Taking his drink from the replicator, he walked over to the middle of his office. “Enter!”
The door opened and Lieutenant DeMarco walked in. The look on the human’s face made the Roylan think that their earlier conversation in Sickbay was far from over.
“What can I do for you, Mr. DeMarco?”
“Our conversation earlier in Sickbay, Admiral… you need counseling. PTSD doesn’t just go away just because you will it to,” the counselor said, taking a seat on the couch underneath a portrait of the Veritas orbiting the planet where its namesake came from.
“I don't have the time for this discussion,” was the Vice-Admiral’s response as he took a generous sip of his drink. The root beer tasted sweet on his lips.
“But a drink? You have time for that?”
“I’m not just a psychiatrist, Admiral. I also have a degree in general medicine,” the counselor explained, “and when I heard that you were going to be my commanding officer, I looked up your Starfleet records. Much of it, my security clearance couldn’t get me a look at.”
“Maybe you need better glasses?”
“Admiral, I’m serious about earlier. If you don’t agree to some kind of counseling, whether it’s with me or Counselor Roijiana, then I’ll be forced to relieve you of duty.”
“Really?” Tattok took another sip, a smaller one, of his drink before setting the glass down on his desk. “I haven't had much use for counseling, Mr. DeMarco. I've survived without it for the last sixty-eight years.”
“Yes, well, there probably wasn’t much need for people like me back during the Jurassic Period when you were running and hiding from T-Rex.”
Tattok stared at him, stepping close enough that DeMarco could smell the root beer on his breath. With a mighty loud burp, the admiral crossed his arms over his chest. “I might consider counseling but I have a situation to resolve, first. Do we agree on that regard?”
“If you’re actually willing to consider it, I guess I can consider that a win,” DeMarco said, standing up from his seat. “But I will be checking, sir. If not me, then Counselor Roijiana or the Chief of Starfleet Medical herself.”
“I can drink her under the table.”
“I’ve met Admiral Yamava, sir. I think anyone could drink her under the table.”
“Buchanan to Tattok,” the chief of staff’s voice came over the admiral’s communicator.
“This is Tattok,” the little man said, tapping his commbadge.
“Sir, the captain of the freighter Sally Mae has been in contact with us. She has some new information that I think you’re going to want to have a look at.”
“I'm on my way.”
Tattok felt naked without a weapon on him as he beamed aboard the Vetar.
Thankfully he had transported aboard with Chief Hollis, Commander San and Captain Kimura of the Trident. All three of them whom he knew were well-trained martial artists. The Cardassian transporter room was filled with soldiers and Gul Evek walked through the door leading into the room with another Gul, who the admiral suspected was the commander of the other warship that had attacked the Pericles.
“Vice-Admiral Tattok,” Evek said, “welcome aboard the Vetar.” He looked to the officer beside him. “This is Gul Daro of the Bokkar.”
“I would have to say that this is… unprecedented, Admiral.”
“To understand the Cardassian people, we must spend time among them.”
“To know your enemy, you must understand him. I agree,” Daro said as Evek led the way out of the transporter room. “I spent some time aboard one of your starships some time ago. I must admit that the Federation is made up of an impressive amount of races and ideals.”
“You can't invite only Humans and Vulcans to the party.”
“Even when Humans run most of the Federation and its Starfleet?” Evek asked with a snarl.
“I'm confused. Have I become a Human lately, Captain Kimura?” Tattok asked, looking over at the Japanese woman.
“Not that the medics can determine, sir.”
“Instead of trading racist remarks against Humans, gentlemen, I would like to discuss the situation with you firing on one of my ships.” The Starfleet officers were led into a conference room that closely resembled the wardroom on Sanctuary. Evek and Daro sat down at one end of the long rectangular table while Tattok, San, and Kimura sat at the opposite end. Hollis stood on one side on the doorway as did one of the Cardassian soldiers that had accompanied them from the transporter room.
“Your captain fired on us first!” Evek shouted, skipping past any pleasantries. “We’re still repairing the damage!”
“We can assist you if you require it.”
“We don’t need help from the likes of Starfleet.”
“Now let’s not judge them too harshly, Akirem,” Daro advised, picking up the Cardassian equivalent of a PADD and sliding it down the table. San caught it and handed it to Tattok. “Those are the Bokkar’s and the Vetar’s sensor readings from the battle. As you’ll see, the Pericles fired on us first and we responded in kind.”
“I received the same report received from the Pericles’ sensors. Something else… bothered me.” The Roylan accepted a PADD from Lissea San before he slipped out of his chair and walked down to stand between Evek and Daro. He handed the PADD to Daro while looking at Evek, crossing his arms in front of him. “We talked to the captain of the Sally Mae. We discovered from her that they were carrying refugees. You've committed an unprovoked attack on a Federation freighter.”
“The sphere of internal Cardassian politics are—”
“Save me from the hardliner speech, Gul Evek. The Central Command has fallen and the Federation is offering humanitarian support and protection to your people. Now I demand an explanation or I'll arrest you both, and your crews.”
Daro sighed and looked at Evek. The more experienced military commander remained tightlipped and he leaned back in his seat. Tattok looked back at San and nodded.
“The evidence from the sensor readings that we gathered,” the Trill started, “suggest that the Sally Mae made contact with another vessel before you encountered the ship. However, our investigation of the freighter’s internal sensors show that—”
“Admiral Tattok,” Daro said, interrupting the administrative assistant, “we have reason to believe that elements of the Maquis have hidden themselves among the refugees aboard your freighter. We’re in Cardassian space and as the military of the Union—”
“Your government has fallen and it's fallen to the Federation to administrate the Cardassian people.”
“That is where you are wrong,” Evek said. “The Detapa Council has reformed, therefore the citizens of Cardassia are in charge of Cardassians. So—”
“So nothing!” the Roylan barked at them, his anger starting to become more apparent. “You should have contacted Starfleet. You've taken this matter into your own hands and it was wrong to—”
“Enough!” Evek shouted, pushing back his chair angrily and rising up to his feet. He looked at the guard at the door who drew his sidearm. “Admiral Tattok, consider yourself and your staff, prisoners of the Cardassian people.” He tapped the communicator on his left arm. “Bridge, this is Evek. Execute Order 66.”
“Acknowledged, Gul Evek.”
Through the windows in the conference room, the Veritas and the Pericles could be seen in the distance by the naked eye. All of a sudden, energy streamers shot out at them and struck their shields. Tattok watched, uncrossing his arms as he stared through the window. He had known that some form of treachery would take place but he hadn’t imagined that it would be so soon.
“Admiral Tattok,” Gul Daro said, rising up to his feet, “I didn’t know that—”
“Shut up!” Evek growled, shooting him with the phaser pistol that appeared in his hand out of nowhere. Daro hit the deck, unconscious as the guard by the door covered Hollis before he could react. Kimura and San rose to their own feet, shocked by this series of circumstances.
“Easy there, Gul,” San said, raising her hands in a form of surrender. “We wouldn’t want to do something that we’ll both regret.”
“Yes,” the little admiral said, looking out the window, “it would be unfortunate.” Through the transparisteel pane, he could see the Veritas and the Pericles attempting to dodge incoming weapons fire. The Trident had come into view now, and the Excelsior class vessel was trying its best to guard the unarmed Sally Mae.
“Unfortunate for you, you mean.” Evek smiled back at him with pride but he didn’t expect what would happen next. Tattok jumped toward him, his fist striking him square in the gut. The Cardassian leader fell backwards as the Roylan turned and ran towards the guard covering Hollis and the others. With a side-kick from his left leg, he knocked him against the wall, rendering him unconscious as well.
“If he has PTSD, then I’m a one-legged parrot,” Hollis said with a smile as he collected Evek’s and the guard’s weapons.
“So how are we going to get out of here?” Kimura asked. The chief handed her a phaser and she checked its power charge.
“Captain Buchanan and I planned it out.”
“What? Tat,” she said, dropping the nickname that she had for him on the Camelot, “I’ve seen you pull off a lot of tricks in your time, but I don’t think even you can perform miracles.”
“Why do you say such a thing?”
“She’s saying that she doesn’t see a way out of here and I don’t either,” San said, accepting Daro’s weapon from Hollis. It was illogical that they hadn’t been allowed to carry their own weapons and the Cardassians had. Of course, the Trill thought, they hadn’t expected to tangle with an officer of the admiral’s ilk before.
The doors to the conference room opened suddenly with a whoosh. Hollis and San quickly aimed their borrowed weapons at the door, ready to fire. In the entryway was a man mostly human in appearance—except for the slightly pointed ears suggesting Vulcanoid ancestry. He wore the armor of a Cardassian officer and carried a Cardassian phaser rifle; the guards in the hallway were lying on the deck, unconscious.
"I believe you were expecting me, Admiral?" the man asked Tattok.
"Warm feelings come to my heart at the sight of you, Mr. Alok," he said, taking a spare phaser from him. Turning towards his staff members, he made the introductions. "This is Alok. He works for Starfleet Intelligence."
"Admiral," San said, “as your administrative assistant and liaison with Starfleet Command, I should been aware of—"
"There wasn't time to tell you." Tattok peered his head outside the door before looking back and up at Alok. "Will you be able to get us out of here?"
"Just follow me, sir."
"Forward deflectors are down to sixty percent!," Lieutenant Commander Thalkav shouted from ops. The Andorian was yelling out damage reports as the Cardassians continued their assault on the Veritas.
"Back us off again, helm," Captain Carrie Buchanan ordered, standing up from the captain's chair.
On the main viewscreen, the Pericles was drifting in space after losing one of her nacelles while the Trident covered her. Sathen had been forced to order an evacuation when a possible warp core breach had been reported.
"Have you been able to find the admiral's implant signal?" Buchanan asked, standing behind him. Like every admiral in Starfleet, the Roylan had a locator implant that helped his subordinates keep an eye on him.
"The Vetar is generating an intense subspace interference field, sir. I'm having trouble penetrating it."
"Keep at it. Lieutenant T'Linn?"
"Captain?" the Vulcan woman asked.
"Get your response team ready. As soon as we get a break in—"
"Captain, I'm detecting a signal from the Vetar. It's the admiral!"
"Bridge to Transporter Room Three!"
"Ferav here," the transporter chief responded.
"Lock onto the admiral's transponder signal and scan for any lifeforms surrounding him," she ordered as she began to pace. Her first week on the job and she was determined not to get her commanding officer killed on their first mission.
"I'm detecting the admiral, Commander San, Chief Hollis, and a fourth individual, Captain."
"Security to Transporter Room Three," T'Linn said, tapping her commbadge. Carrie looked at her and they shared a look. The Veritas' security chief had been briefed about the admiral's plan before he had beamed over to the Cardassian warship but she wasn't willing to take any chances.
"Message from the Trident, Captain," Thalkav reported. "The Bokkar is surrendering."
"Hail the Trident, Mr. Thalkav."
The view on the screen changed and a young Bajoran man looked back at her. There were a few areas of the bridge where they had taken hits but it looks like the older ship had taken very little damage.
"Yes, Captain?" the Trident's first officer asked while he helped her operations manager return to his station.
"Yes, what's your status?"
"Minimal damage. Lieutenant Yraxis reports that our warp drive is down but we should be underway within the next two hours."
"And the Pericles?"
"Almost a loss, Captain Buchanan," Captain Sathen said, stepping into view. He had been assisting the Trident officers put the bridge back to rights. "We were able to deactivate the warp core but it will require a complete replacement. A team from the Veritas can get it back to Sanctuary as soon as the environmental systems are repaired. They took a direct hit from the Vetar."
"That's good to hear," Tattok said, walking out of the turbolift. He was followed by the members of his away team and by a man wearing Cardassian armor. Behind him were two security guards, phasers holstered on their belts. "Status report, Captain."
"Like the Trident, minimal damage, according to Lieutenant Commander Greggan," the blonde reported, turning to face him. It didn't show but she felt some relief at seeing Lissea San with them. "And I guess you heard about the Pericles?"
"It is unfortunate."
"What about the Cardassian vessels, ma'am?" the man in Cardassian clothing asked.
"The Bokkar has surrendered," the answer came from Kimura as she stepped into view on the Trident’s bridge. "Commander Rogan just informed me that Daro's second-in-command was ordered to stand down if Evek attacked us, but he decided to disobey him."
"That's because Evek's a member of the True Way," the stranger said.
"I've forgotten my manner. Captain Buchanan, I'd like to introduce you to Alok."
"Yes, we're lucky that you were aboard Evek's ship."
Alok nodded at her before looking at Tattok. "Evek's been a member of the True Way since the war ended. In fact, he resurrected it with a small fleet that he's been assembling."
"Do you know of the fleet's location?"
"Not yet," Alok said, “but I need to get to Sanctuary and—"
"The Vetar's gone to warp," Thalkav interrupted.
"Evek's probably gone off to warn the others," Tattok said, moving over to sit in his command chair. "We'll deal with him another day. For now, we'll return to Sanctuary.”
"Helm, set a course for home," Buchanan said, taking the seat next to him. "Engage."