Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"The Escape"

By Jack Elmlinger and Christina Moore
_____


Personal log, Vice-Admiral Tattok…

The Veritas and the Trident have returned to Sanctuary. The Pericles was damaged, so I’ve ordered her to Starbase 375 for repairs. I must admit some concern regarding Gul Evek and the resurgence of the True Way movement. Originally I thought that this assignment would simply entail bringing needed supplies to the Cardassian people.

Instead, I feel lost. I feel unsure of myself.

Counselor DeMarco of the Veritas suggested counseling. Though I dislike having to discuss my feelings with anyone other than Telka, I might just follow his advice. Rkasi Cen was more than a friend—he was like a brother to me. I’ve known him for twenty-three years, since I commanded the Lusitania.

I feel I have failed him...

*****

The Veritas led the way, maneuvering close to one of Sanctuary's upper pylons while the Trident moved to another. Tattok walked onto the bridge, the doors to his ready room closing behind him. Everyone seemed to be ready for his next command as they either sat or stood at their stations.

“Report,” Tattok said as he moved towards the center of the bridge.

“We're receiving docking clearance from Ops,” Buchanan reported from the first officer's position. “And the Triumph has returned from their escort mission, just a few minutes ahead of us.”

“Maneuvering to dock now, Admiral,” the pilot announced from the helm.

Tattok merely nodded and looked at Buchanan. “I will be on the station,” he said, turning toward the back of the bridge. The Roylan was going to speak again but he didn't, escaping into the aft starboard turbolift.

*****

Rkasi Cen was escorted through the corridor, closely guarded by a trio of Starfleet security officers. The Bolian barely looked up except to avoid hitting anything while he moved. There was a lot of regret in his heart and his sessions with Counselor Roijiana where helping, though there was still one person that he needed to have forgive him.

His left arm still ached where Tattok had severed it but it itched more after the medics had reattached it.

Cen looked up and saw that they had finally arrived at the airlock. He turned to face fellow Bolian Dilik Zram, who stood with his arms crossed.

“Your new accommodations are on Garon II. You might like the place, Cen. All you do is sweat there and—”

“I've been to Garon II before, Chief Zram, and I don't need you to spell it out for me,” he said, lowering his head again. “I know that I'm going to die in prison.”

“If you had committed your crimes against one of my people,” Dal Eton Kirek said, walking up from the opposite side of the corridor, “then you would be dead already, Bolian.”

“What are you doing here?” Zram asked.

“Captain Natale asked me to—” The Cardassian was too swift when he drew his phaser and fired it point-blank at Zram. Zram stumbled and fell as Kirek fired at Cen's guards.

Cen looked at Kirek and said,” Why?”

“You have friends in the Maquis, brother,” the Cardassian said before he tapped a device on his belt. The image of Dal Kirek disappeared and a human in civilian clothes replaced him. He took another device from his belt and pressed it to the Bolian's chest. “And you don't deserve what the Federation has in store for you.”

They disappeared in a haze of transporter energy.

*****

Zram to Natale,” a groggy voice said over the Orion's communicator.

Synnove Natale tapped the commbadge on her nightstand, raising her head up. “Go... go for Natale,” she said, fighting sleep for consciousness.

Cen, he... he's escaped, ma’am.”

“What the hell happened?” she asked, fully alert now and already getting out of bed.

Ki-Kirek... he shot me, Meyers and Albano outside the... the docking bay dur-during the...

“Chief, are you all right?”

Med-medics to Run…about Pad E. Secur-security alert,” the Bolian said before he went silent.

Natale swore before tapping her commbadge again. “Natale to Ops!”

Lieutenant Drakomavitch here,” the Gamma-Shift Officer-in-Charge answered her.

“Drako, shut down all departures and lock down the station! We've just had a breakout!”

*****

It was getting late, but Jordan didn’t care. He’d stayed up this long because he was waiting for the Trident to return from their impromptu trip with the Veritas. He’d seen the reports and he knew everything was fine—they just needed some dock time for repairs. No one had even been too seriously injured.

But he couldn’t shake the anxiety, and that disturbed him. He was a defense man, and his fear that Rogan had been hurt—despite knowing otherwise—continued to linger, making him feel defenseless. Vulnerable. It reminded him yet again that he hadn’t taken that last step, hadn’t told the Bajoran that he had feelings for him that went beyond friendship. He’d wanted to. But because Rogan was the first man in a very long time that he’d had these kinds of feelings for, he was damn scared. Nobody liked being rejected, and he’d been through it so profoundly that he’d sworn off relationships. It wasn’t worth getting your heart cut out with a dull spoon.

He’d begun to think he was never going to fall for anyone again, and as bittersweet as that was, he’d come to accept it. It was better that way anyhow, because if he didn’t fall, he couldn’t break like he had before. He’d discovered over the years that when he felt the urge, the need for a physical release, there were those who were willing to provide the no-strings-attached companionship he demanded—and when there was no one living, there were always holograms.

Yet here he was, sitting at his desk in his quarters, waiting for the Trident and the Veritas to return. He could have called before now—they’d been gone for three days, after all. But like a freaking teenager he’d waited because he didn’t want to seem too eager, didn’t want to seem too forward. Now, though, they were on approach to the station and were preparing to dock, and he figured the timing had to be right. He just hoped he didn’t wake him up as he keyed the monitor on and opened a comm channel, swallowing heavily when Enek appeared on the screen a few moments later without his shirt on.

“Damn, I woke you up, didn’t I?”

“Not at all,” Rogan said, waving his words off. “I’ve always been a late to bed, early to rise kind of guy. What can I do for you?”

“Nothing really,” Jordan said, hoping his shrug was as nonchalant as he’d wanted it to be. He was looking at Rogan and seeing he was fine—that was a relief. But seeing him shirtless was doing things to him he was hard-pressed to control, and he swallowed again as he tried to tamp down on his stirring libido.

“I just thought I’d check in, see how things were holding up,” he said. “I heard you guys took fire protecting the Pericles and that civilian freighter.”

“The Sally Mae, yeah,” Rogan said with a nod. “Repairs are coming along, thanks in no small part to Yraxis, our engineer. I’m beginning to think that girl loves the engines just a little too much—you shoulda seen how pissed she was.”

Kelley laughed, but before he could reply, the red alert klaxon sounded. “What the hell?”

Rogan uttered the same words simultaneously, and Jordan watched him enter commands into his computer. “We’re being ordered away from the dock.”

Kat Drako’s voice came over the intercom—one of the few things Grafydd had managed to keep in working order—and he heard her declaring General Quarters.

“Shit,” he said, standing. “Sorry to cut this short man, but I gotta go.”

“Me too,” Rogan said with a nod. “Hey Kelley—”

“Yeah?” he said, raising his eyebrow at the face on the computer screen.

“Be safe.”

Kelley nodded. “You too, Rogan,” he said, then reached down and switched the computer off. Then he tapped his commbadge. “Kelley to Natale.”

Natale here, Commander. I need to you take a tricorder down to Runabout Pad E. Scan for transporter residuals and Cardassian DNA. When you’re done, meet me at Eton Kirek’s quarters.”

If he hadn’t been curious before, he sure as heck was now. But he didn’t ask questions, he just acknowledged, and grabbing a tricorder from a drawer, he set off to do as she’d ordered.

*****

Tired and hungry, Tattok stepped off the transporter pad in Ops, yawning his fatigue. He hadn't slept or ate in the last three days since the Veritas's first mission under his command because it was the Season of Fralene. Wishing that tomorrow would come sooner so he could partake of a feast, he suddenly perked up when the red alert klaxon sounded.

“Report!” he shouted over the instant chaos. He had beamed aboard the station alone, letting his staff settle any last minute details involving the Veritas and its crew.

“Oh, Admiral, I almost didn't see you!” the El-Aurian watch officer exclaimed, looking up from the 'pool table'. Her eyes returned to the display before her as she spoke, her Russian accent thick but understandable. “We just got a report that Rkasi Cen escaped during the prisoner transfer to one of the runabouts. Chief Zram reported that Dal Kirek helped him escape.”

“Impossible!” one of the Cardassian officers said with surprise. “The Dal—”

“Maintain your station,” the admiral said sternly, walking down to the middle of the room. “Where is Captain Natale?”

“She's here, sir,” came her voice as she walked out of the still-rising turbolift. “Report, Drako.”

“We've locked down all docking bays as well as the upper and lower pylons, and Security is en route to cover each of them,” the watch officer reported as the captain joined them. “Veritas and Trident have been alerted and they've discontinued their docking procedures.”

“Ok, let's sweep the station with the internal sensors and—”

“Internal sensors are still down,” Grafydd reported, walking out of the turbolift on the opposite side of Ops. He had been awakened, too, by the sudden red alert. “Don't you read my progress reports? That damned saboteur's been at work again!”

“Saboteur?” queried Tattok.

“Admiral, that's something to talk about—”

“—now,” the admiral said, finishing her sentence.

“I gave the latest report to Captain Buchanan and—”

“Cen has escaped and there is a saboteur on the station? You didn’t report this!”

Natale’s expression hardened as she looked down at the Roylan. “Yes,” she said forcefully, “I did. I turned in my report to your new Chief of Staff, sir. I cannot be held accountable if she did not make you aware of it immediately, as was her responsibility.”

“I have a ship leaving from Docking Bay 9!” Grafydd said, checking over the external sensors.

Natale looked over at Drakomavitch. “I thought the docking bays were locked down?”

“They were, Captain!” the El-Aurian declared. “He must have undocked before the lockdown.”

“It's a Denobulan civvie freighter but it looks like it's been fitted with weapons and—its firing!” Grafydd called out.

Tattok closed his eyes waiting for the station to shake from the blow, but it didn't. “Where did they strike?” he asked the four-armed Terellian engineer, turning to face him.

Grafydd tried to put an exterior image on the viewscreen, but found that, once again, that part of the sensor system was down. At least he was still able to get a conclusive sensor scan. “It hit the Triumph—if she’s knocked off her moorings…”

“Tattok to Triumph, report!”

*****

“Engineering reports a direct hit to the port nacelle,” Lt. Lorynathka reported as the Defiant-class starship shook violently. “Damage to the primary plasma conduits and the matter injectors.”

“Are we still moored? Has there been any damage to the docking port or the airlock?” called out Captain Brian Wallace as he stepped onto the bridge.

“Amazingly, sir, we’re still tethered, although there is minor structural damage to the station’s docking port, as well as microfractures in the hull where we’re connected,” Lory replied.

“Deploy damage control teams,” Lt. Commander Colin Milligan ordered as he stood and vacated the command chair for his captain.

Wallace looked over at the tactical station as he took his seat and Milligan stepped aside. “What hit us, Ensign?” the Scotsman asked the young lady sitting at the station.

“The energy pattern resembles Klingon disruptors,” the gamma-shift tactical officer reported. “Thank goodness for deflector shields.”

Tattok to Triumph, report!” Admiral Tattok's voice came over the intercom.

Triumph here, Admiral. This is Captain Wallace.”

What is your status, Captain?

Wallace looked at Lory and nodded.

“We took some structural damage in the way of microfractures on our hull, sir,” the operations officer said. “Warp drive is down, but then our core was at minimal power since we’re docked. There was also some damage to plasma conduits and matter injectors in our port nacelle. Our sensors are reporting damage to the station-side docking port, but it’s minimal. We’re still tethered and environmental integrity has not been compromised.”

“Lieutenant Haro will be so pleased to have more work to do,” Wallace joked, though his tone belied his relief that the damage was not more extensive.

Coordinate with the Veritas if you require assistance.”

“Aye, sir.”

Any injuries to your crew?

Triumph’s captain looked once again toward Tactical, where Milligan and the Gamma shift officer were checking their readouts. The Human security chief straightened and shook his head. “No reports yet, sir,” he said.

I’m pleased to hear it. Tattok out.”

Wallace sighed as he tapped some commands into one of the consoles next to his command chair. “Alright, Mr. Milligan... Get me a full damage report. Let’s see what that bugger did to my ship.”

A moment later the captain bolted out of his chair. “I’ll be on the station,” he said. “Have someone bring me the report.”

Aielle Tam, Triumph’s first officer, stepped onto the bridge then. “My apologies for being tardy. Are we alright?” she asked.

Wallace nodded. “Commander Milligan can update you. I’m headed over to the station to find out what just happened. You have the ship, Ms. Tam.”

Tam nodded. “Aye, sir,” she replied, stepping over to the command chair as Wallace left.

As he headed toward the transporter room on Deck 1, Wallace tapped his commbadge. “Wallace to Natale.”

He waited through the few seconds of lag as first his comm channel was patched through the ship’s internal systems, then from the ship to the station. He sighed audibly when he heard her voice as he was walking into the transporter room.

Natale here. Brian, where are you?

“About to transport over to find out what the bloody hell is going on,” Wallace replied to his long-time friend.

Bring Lieutenant Haro with you,” Sanctuary’s commander said, and he paused as he was entering commands into the control console. Her words, her tone of voice, had him immediately concerned.

“What happened?”

Her uncle was attacked. He’s going to be alright, but I thought—”

“Say no more, we’ll be there. Wallace out.” Triumph’s captain tapped his commbadge to end the transmission, then tapped it again to open another channel. “Wallace to Haro.”

Haro here, Captain. Looks like the damage isn’t as severe as the sensors made them out to be. Nothing a couple hours and a little bit of elbow grease can’t fix.”

Relief that they hadn’t suffered major damage spread through him. “Aye, that’s good news. Means your people can spare you. Standby for transport,” he told her.

Captain?” Haro queried.

“It’ll be explained once we get there, Lieutenant,” Wallace returned, keying more commands into the console to locate Haro—she was indeed in Engineering—and setting it to transport the both of them to Ops.

Aye, sir,” the young Bolian replied.

The Scotsman tapped the last few keys, setting the transporter for a five second delay, and hurried over to the transport pad. Ten seconds later, he appeared next to Falora Haro on the pad in Sanctuary’s control center.

“Captain Wallace, I am pleased that your ship and crew fared well,” said Admiral Tattok as soon as the beam had dissolved around them.

Wallace nodded as he stepped down off the platform. “Thank you, Admiral.”

Triumph will have to undock in order for my team and Commander Grafydd’s to repair the external damage to the ship and station, though scans showed it should only be about two hours’ work. Maybe less,” Haro reported.

Tattok nodded.

Natale stepped up to them then. “Lieutenant, Commander Grafydd is going to beam you directly to Medbay.”

Haro frowned. “Medbay? You mean the Infirmary?” she asked, not familiar with the new name Sanctuary’s doctor had given their medical facility. Then her face fell. “My uncle? Is he alright?”

The Orion put a sympathetic hand on her arm. “Dr. Garcia said it looks like he’s going to be alright—it was only a phaser stun. But he did hit his head when he fell. I thought you should know he’d been hurt.”

Without a word the engineer stepped back up on the transporter platform. Natale turned to Grafydd, who entered the commands to beam her down to the hospital to see her uncle.

After she’d disappeared, Wallace looked between Natale and Tattok. “Now would somebody please tell me what is going on? Why was my ship fired on?” he asked. “And by whom?”

Natale glanced down at Tattok. “Someone helped Rkasi Cen escape custody as he was being led to Runabout Pad E for transport to Garon II. When Zram contacted me, he claimed it was Kirek.”

Before even the Cardassian who’d protested before could speak again, Brian Wallace scoffed. “No way,” he said. “I know, I’m hardly the man’s biggest fan, and I’m well aware of how he and Zram feel about one another. But helping a Maquis operative escape? Even one that tried to kill a three-star Starfleet admiral? Where’s the benefit? What’s his motive? It doesn’t make sense.”

“He is right,” a large Cardassian security officer by the name of Pavet spoke up. “I have worked with Dal Kirek for several years—he would never assist a Maquis dog.”

The little Roylan admiral began to tremble, and Natale could tell that, despite Cen’s betrayal, he didn’t much care for his being referred to as a dog. She placed a calming hand on the admiral’s shoulder, turning to Pavet to say, “Thank you, Dalin Pavet. I will take your opinion into consideration.”

The way the dalin snorted told her he believed otherwise, but he did not speak again and turned back to his console.

“Where is Kirek now?” Wallace asked.

“Confined to quarters,” Tattok replied.

“And chomping at the bit, no doubt,” mumbled Grafydd.

“Synnove?” the Triumph's captain queried.

She turned to him. “When Zram told me Kirek attacked him and the two security officers who were escorting Cen to the runabout, I ordered a lockdown on his quarters, including a communications blackout. He’s no doubt wondering what’s going on, why he can’t talk to anyone, and why he can’t walk out the door. Commander Kelley is conducting detailed scans of the airlock for evidence as we speak, though he should be finished by the time we get to Kirek’s quarters to question him. He’ll meet us there.”

“And I take it Cen is the one who fired on the Triumph, then?”

Natale nodded, though it was Tattok who said, “Cen, or the one who helped him escape.”

“Either way, Cen is gone and the Denobulan freighter he escaped in had gone to warp before we had a chance to react. We alerted all ships in the vicinity to keep a watch out for it,” the Orion went on. “The Veritas and the Trident took damage during the Pericles affair and both ships need time to make repairs and catch a breather, or we’d have sent one of those after him.”

“I agree.” Tattok stopped and looked up at Wallace. “It’s unfortunate that the Triumph was also damaged during Cen’s escape. You could have gone after them.”

“Yes,” the Scotsman said gruffly. “I’d like to get my hands on him for damaging my ship and causing my engineer heartache.”

“We will catch him,” Tattok said determinedly. “But first, we need to speak to Kirek.”

Natale nodded and gestured toward the turbolift. “Lead the way, sir,” she said, following behind the Roylan with Brian Wallace falling in last.

*****

On the way to Kirek’s quarters, Tattok questioned Natale again about the saboteur. She reiterated what she’d told him earlier, that she’d delivered a PADD with an updated report to Captain Buchanan when she’d arrived—that she had, in fact, been making regular reports to Cen since the incidents began. Cen had assured her Admiral Tattok was aware of the situation and wanted her to keep him apprised.

Tattok emitted what sounded very much like a growl. “Cen did not tell me about the sabotage,” he said. “His offenses are grievous indeed.”

When the three of them arrived at Eton Kirek’s quarters, they found Commander Kelley already waiting outside the door. The two Starfleet security guards she’d ordered posted stood at attention at the sight of the diminutive admiral.

“Mr. Kelley, report,” Natale said.

“Well, you’re one for two, Captain,” Kelley replied. “I scanned that airlock and the corridor leading to it in both directions. I did pick up a residual transporter signature, but no Cardassian DNA—at least none less than three hours old. I also picked up recent traces of Bolian and Human DNA, the latter of which were three different samples. I’ve already checked them against the medical database, and two of them are ours.”

“Means Kirek couldn’t have been the one to attack Zram and the others,” Wallace observed. “Whoever helped Cen escape was Human.”

“It would appear so,” Tattok agreed. “But Chief Zram said he was the one who attacked them. We must still speak to him.”

“Even Zram can’t hate him that much, to accuse him if he’s innocent,” Kelley pointed out. “He had to have seen something.”

Natale shook her head. “I’m inclined to agree with you, Commander. Even knowing him as I have come to these last few months, I just don’t see Zram accusing an innocent man of anything, even one he hates. It’s against his moral code. It would be nice if the damn internal sensors were working, because then we’d have a visual record to show us for sure what went down. Thank you, Mr. Saboteur.”

With a sigh, the dark orange Orion stepped up to the doors to Kirek’s quarters. Nodding to the security guard by the key pad, she waited while he turned and keyed in the override code that would allow them to open the door. She braced herself in those few seconds, knowing that an angry Cardassian was capable of just about anything.

She suspected he would shoot first and ask questions later, for surely he had a weapon on him—he always carried one.

It wasn’t a phaser or disrupter blast that came flying at her head, thank goodness, but what did come through the door could have done nearly as much damage. Natale barely ducked in time to miss being hit by the chair he let fly as soon as the doors were parted enough. The security guards moved in to restrain him, followed closely by Brian Wallace and Jordan Kelley. Tattok walked in at her side, and they found Kirek down on his knees, being restrained by the two guards.

“You are lucky I am in no mood to go on trial for murder, Orion,” Eton Kirek snapped savagely, spitting out the last word as if it burned his lips to speak it. “Otherwise your blood would be spilling all over that corridor right now.”

Natale caught sight of a muscle in Brian’s jaw twitching out of the corner of her eye, and he took a step forward. He was stopped by Commander Kelley, who laid a restraining hand on his arm. “And you’re lucky I’m not in the mood to charge you with attempted assault on a superior officer, Kirek,” she returned, crossing her arms over her chest. “Very mature for a man of your age to be tossing furniture about in a fit of pique.”

“Try a fit of rage!” he bellowed. “By what flakking right to you keep me prisoner in my own quarters?!”

Tattok seemed content, for the moment, to give her the lead, and so she took it. “You were accused of assaulting three Starfleet officers during the escape of Rkasi Cen, that’s what right.”

Kirek laughed bitterly. “Whoever uttered that lie ought to be shot.”

“As a matter of fact, he was shot,” Natale snapped back, her temper flaring. “Dilik Zram, Jake Meyers, and Kobe Albano are in the hospital wing right now, being treated for phaser stuns. Chief Zram also hit his head when he fell and developed a concussion.”

“And I suppose you’ve come to tell me that psychotic Bolian has accused me of shooting him?” Kirek snorted. “Believe me when I tell you that if I were going to shoot him, I wouldn’t have set my weapon on stun. The concussion alone ought to tell you that the idiot was seeing things that weren’t there.”

“Where have you been for the last thirty minutes?”

“Here in my quarters,” he snarled. “And yes, I was alone. Of course, if we had internal sensors you’d know that already.”

Natale let the dig about the sensors slide. “I do already know that, or at least I already know that you weren’t anywhere near Pad E when Rkasi was transported away by someone who apparently did a damn good job of impersonating you. Any idea why someone would want to impersonate you, Dal Kirek, while helping an admitted Maquis terrorist escape custody?”

“It is obvious that whoever helped that dog wanted to throw suspicion onto me, to keep you here wasting your time questioning me rather than going after him,” Kirek replied snidely. “I am suddenly amused by how well you fell for his ploy. Bravo for proving yourselves as gullible as he thought you would be.”

“Enough, Dal Kirek,” Tattok spoke up, in a tone that brooked no argument. “You have been cleared by Commander Kelley’s scans. Officers, release him.”

The two crewmen holding Kirek’s arms behind his back looked reluctant to do so, but nonetheless complied. The Cardassian shrugged them off angrily as he got to his feet.

“I want justice for this,” he demanded.

“Justice for what, Kirek?” Natale asked.

“I have been falsely accused and unlawfully detained, that is what,” her first officer spat.

“You’re wrong about that, Kirek,” said Tattok. “Though it wasn’t actually you, you are the person Chief Zram saw. It is standard procedure to detain a suspect until questioning.”

Kirek snorted derisively. “You can believe this is not over. I will not stand for—”

“Kirek, let it go,” Brian Wallace said. “You’ve been cleared of any wrongdoing, and I’m certain Synnove will make sure Zram is aware of that.”

“If I may, what we need to be concerned with now, besides recapturing Cen, is finding out just how his liberator impersonated you,” added Kelley. “I should think you’d be a lot angrier with that guy for getting you accused in the first place, for daring to insult your honor as a Cardassian by even suggesting that you would aid a Maquis prisoner’s escape.”

“He’s right, Dal Kirek,” agreed Tattok. “With him you should be angry, not Dilik Zram.”

For a moment Kirek glared angrily. When he replied it was only to say, “I’d like you all to leave now.”

Natale nodded and gestured for the security officers to go. They nodded and walked out without a word. As she was leaving with Kelley, Wallace, and Tattok, she spied the chair Kirek had thrown still lying on its side in the corridor. She picked it up and carried it to the closed door, then rang the buzzer.

“What the hell do you want now?” Kirek snapped when he opened the door to find her standing there.

She gestured to the chair. “Thought you might want this back,” she said. “Be glad I didn’t throw it at you—I wouldn’t have missed.”

“You can be sure, Captain Natale, that next time…” he began, then leaned closer. “…neither will I.”

*****

“He didn’t even ask for an update,” Kelley observed as they left at last.

Natale shrugged. “He’s probably too pissed off to care right now.”

“I don’t like that threat he made against you, Synnove,” Wallace said. “Perhaps you ought to consider having a bodyguard around you for a while.”

“Captain Wallace,” she replied, purposely using formality, “thank you for your concern, but I can handle Kirek.”

Wallace stopped, and though he controlled it quickly, she hadn’t missed the look of hurt that flashed through his eyes. “I’m aware of how skilled a fighter you are, seeing as I’ve known you for nearly twenty years. But Cardassians are like elephants—they never forget, and that man has a serious grudge against you.”

“I know the man despises me, Captain. Doesn’t mean I need to start acting paranoid, and I certainly don’t need a bodyguard.”

Natale dismissed the subject by turning to Admiral Tattok. “What would you like to do about Cen, sir?”

“Unsure,” Tattok confessed as they started walking again. “My feelings on the matter are questionable. I would be most unreliable to chase after Cen.”

At that moment, Natale’s commbadge chirped. “Grafydd to Natale.”

She tapped her badge, answering, “Yes, Commander?”

I’ve got some good news for you, Admiral Tattok, and Captain Wallace, ma’am,” her engineer replied. “We just got word from the Columbia that they came across a Denobulan freighter on their long-range sensors. Captain Regan said given their trajectory, it has to be the same one what took off from here, so they’re giving chase.”

Jordan Kelley grinned. “No way that old freighter can out-run a Nebula-class starship.”

“Indeed, Mr. Kelley. Thank you for the update, Grafydd, that is good news. Natale out.”

“Good news indeed,” Tattok said as they continued down the hall. A turbolift was at the end and he entered it. Natale and the others did not follow the diminutive man.

He turned to Natale with a dissatisfied frown. “You must find the saboteur. Sanctuary must be defendable, inside and out. Vigilance must be constant, Captain.”

“Of course, Admiral. We’ll catch him,” Kelley said before his CO could answer.

“Try not to be overconfident, Commander. Now you must excuse me”

The turbolift swallowed him then, leaving them to carry out their orders.



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