Mission 3: Soldar

Centaur must do everything they can to save their First Officer without starting a war with the Romulan Free States

Chapter One

USS Centaur en route to Devron Fleet Yards

Ajis stood there as he sipped his tea, staring at the holographic screen before him that displayed the vessel before him, the vessel where his target was currently on. And on the right side of that, was a display of the deep systematic and structural scan that the Advance AI had been conducting for the past couple days. He could see the progress bar just sitting there at Ninety-Nine Percent. It had been sitting there for the past ten minutes.

“Did you enjoy your breakfast, Ajis?” Angel asked after her holographic form appeared beside him.

He took one final sip of his tea before setting the saucer and cup down on the large edge of the console before him. “I did. My compliments to the chef.”

“I am pleased to hear that.” Said Angel.

“Is there something wrong with the scans?” Ajis asked.

To the left of the vessel they were following, a list of diagnostics that were performed appeared, all in the green. Ajis was pleased that all the installed components were operating without a hitch on such an old vessel. Unfortunately, not much of its 23rd Century self is left except for the frame and a few historical pieces here and there. But he did keep the aesthetics to the style of the 23rd Century, so it felt like he was still on board an old vessel.

“Negative. The last bit always takes a little longer. It should be complete…now.” At the same time she said ‘now’ the progress bar hit One Hundred Percent and the entire holographic display changed. The rear view of the vessel that they were following shrank and moved to the left corner of the display where a display of the Centaur Class vessel of its Dorsal, Ventral, Port, Starboard, Forward and Aft now occupied the center. Several areas on each view of the vessel had some red spots on them, including the very large one where the torpedo pod is.

“Aside from the serious structural damage to their torpedo pod here, the Centaur appears to have several other damaged areas all around the vessel. This is due to its engagement with a Vorcha Class Attack Cruiser. The damaged area on the port nacelle is also important, as it takes about thirty-two point seven percent of the nacelle’s structure. It also had been roughly patched together, which is why they have only been able to sustain warp five.” Angel explained.

“Warp six, now.” Said Ajis, pointing at the speed that they were currently holding to stay perfectly behind the Centaur without gaining or losing ground.

“I stand corrected. Apparently their Engineering team has been able to squeeze another warp factor out of the engines. Nonetheless, this gives us two options for an attack.” Angel then began to point at the Ventral view of the ship. “Their ventral phaser banks are fully operational, and we would likely sustain some phaser fire if we were to do below and strike from underneath. We could simply target their port nacelle to knock them out of warp, or if you wish to strike more harshly, I estimate two torpedoes to their currently weakened torpedo pod would be sufficient to, suppose the term would be, cut their legs off. Destroying the pod would severely damage and most likely cut their pylons right off of the ship, leaving them with no warp nacelles to establish a warp field. Reason for the second torpedo is due to the fact that it would most likely cause damage to their warp core. I estimate that it would not cause a warp core breach but it would be enough to shut it down, causing them to lose main power, which will make their ventral phasers less efficient.”

Angel then pointed to the Dorsal view. “Or we can go with this point of attack. We can use the same method of knocking them out of warp, targeting and damaging the port nacelle. We can also target this here, the Impulse Drive Plasma Feed Conduit is located there. Taking it out would take out their impulse engines entirely, damage their warp core, and likely damage their torpedo fire control. They also only have one fully and one partially operational dorsal phaser banks. We can easily take those out. Both plans will essentially cripple the vessel, they will most likely be able to make the necessary repairs and perhaps try to pursue us, but we would be far outside their long range sensors by the time they do.”

Ajis examined both plans carefully before making his decision, as making this attack as swift as possible so that they can beam their target off the vessel and leave without giving himself or his ship away, would be the most appropriate attack to take. The less chances they have of knowing his ship and who he is, the more grim their chances would be in ever finding out where he took the target or anything else for that matter. “We will take the high road. Choose your targets. I want to cripple this vessel quickly, grab the target, and get out of here. We need to return home to see what else the boss lady has in store for us.”

“Understood.” Angel smiled and disappeared from his side.

In the mess hall, a group of crewmembers, roughly twenty if not thirty of them, were all sitting there staring at the large screen before them, where they watched the movie that was being played. It was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In one of the rows, was Eli and K’Roll, sitting together as they munched on popcorn, staring at the screen as they watched the kids deal with a troll in the bathroom.

“Eeewwww, he got it stuck up his nose.” Eli whispered. “Going to seriously have to disinfect that.”

“Shhh.” K’Roll hushed her while his eyes never left the screen.

Eli smirked, “Getting into the movie, are we?”

K’Roll shrugged his shoulders, “Just curious as to how children are going to defeat a troll. What tactics do they use?”

Eli rolled her eyes, “It’s just a movie. Who cares.” Everyone then exclaimed in imaginary pain when the troll’s club was dropped on its head.

K’Roll shook his head, “Pure luck.”

“Of course it was pure luck, they’re kids.” Eli told him until they were hushed by others. Eli lowered her voice so low, that she knows he can hear. “I heard there are books that these movies are based off of.”

K’Roll looked at her with a head tilt. “There are more of these movies?”

Eli smiled and started going over the number of books and the number of movies as well with him.

Ryker laid there in bed with his arm around a very petite lady, where she had her head on his chest and an arm around him. Nothing much needed to be said at that point, aside from the fact that some of the crew had been given some extra time off due to the long travel back home, and after the crisis that they had to deal with, some down time was very much needed.

“You know, I am kind of glad that it is taking us about a week to get to the Devron Fleet Yards. We then at least can take some time off and enjoy ourselves.” James smirked.

“Well unfortunately I have to get back on duty tonight.” Ashley told him.

James frowned, “What?”

“Yup. We already squeezed Warp Six out of the damaged engines, and yet the Chief wants to try to squeeze some more out of them. So we’re going to be running diagnostics and figuring out what needs to be tweaked.”

James shook his head, “I’m going to have to have a word with the Chief, get you tonight off or something.”

Ashley smacked his chest, “No! This is exactly what I don’t want you to do.”

James laughed, “I was kidding! Just pulling your leg.”

She rolled her eyes, “Sure you are.”

“I wouldn’t interfere with your schedule just because we’re in a relationship.”

She sat herself up on her elbow to look into his eyes. “You better not, or we’re through, mister.”

James smiled, “Yes, ma’am.” He then grabbed the covers and pulled them over their heads.

Up on the Bridge, Ruby was manning the helm while Mizu sat there beside him at navigation. “Seriously, I got this.” Ruby told her.

“Are you sure? I mean, it’s really complicated to fly a starship.” Mizu teased him.

Ruby, on the other hand, didn’t see it as such. “Seriously? All I have to do is enter some coordinates and press a few buttons here and we’re off. Besides, right now I don’t need to do anything because the course is already set.”

“Uh huh. What about dropping out of warp? You’ll have to slow us down, make sure we don’t collide into anything…”

Ruby frowned even more. “We’re going to be at warp for several more days, Mizu. I don’t think we will be dropping out any time soon. Even if we did, right now, it would be nothing but empty space.”

“What if there’s a rogue asteroid or rogue planetoid or a comet or some space debris?” She asked.

Ruby sighed and shook his head, “You’re just here to annoy me, aren’t you?”

Mizu shrugged her shoulders, “Kind of. I am your navigator anyway, just nothing to navigate right now.”

“An annoying navigator.” He squinted at her and then looked back at his console.

Mizu laughed with a shrug of her shoulders again, “Hey I gotta get back at you somehow for that prank.”

“Oh my god, woman! That was like a week ago or something. And it was just shaving cream!” Ruby complained. Mizu just laughed even more.

Carter stood there by his seat with Vakai, staring at them while holding a data padd in his head. “Look at them. After all we’ve been through, the stress and pressure we had to deal with since the crisis…not to mention nearly getting torn up by that Vorcha.” Carter shook his head, “Yet we still have those who know how to push it all to the side and have fun.”

Vakai smirked, “The crew will do whatever it takes to keep their own morale up. Or help each other in that department. We got a movie playing in the mess hall, laid a few crewmembers off to relax. Honestly, I don’t know what else we can do on board this ship to give people a chance to recover.”

Carter nodded his head before holding the padd up. “We will once we get back to the Fleet Yards. The Fleet just received orders. Everyone is to come home and take a load off.”

Vakai raised his brows. “Shore leave for the entire crew?”

Now Carter was the one to smirk. “You betcha.”

Vakai chuckled softly, “I know a few who would enjoy that time off. Sivol had been talking about visiting Vulcan one of these days, I might just go with her if she decides to go during shore leave.”

“It would be a fantastic idea, Vakai. You’ll get to learn a lot about your cousins. And maybe they can help you out on other things as well.” Carter told him.

Vakai nodded his head, “That’s what she thinks as well.” He then saw the look on Gomo’s face and pointed for Carter to see before walking over to Gomo at his station. “Something wrong, Gomo?”

The Cardassian looked up from his display at the Captain and Commander before looking back down. “I don’t know, to be honest. But for the past couple of days, I have been noticing a tiny energy surge directly behind us.”

“How tiny?” Carter asked.

Gomo sighed, “Like a zero point five difference. I don’t know, it fluctuates sometimes but it doesn’t get anywhere to cause concern. Just…I checked our logs and this signature was not there before. I can’t tell if it is because of our damaged port nacelle or what.”

Vakai and Carter looked at each other before looking back at Gomo. “What would your opinion on this be, Gomo?” Vakai asked.

Gomo shook his head, “Honestly, without anything more to go on, it could simply be a glitch in the system. Or a blip from the damaged engines. I don’t know. I will not say without solid evidence.”

“Say what, Lieutenant?” Carter asked.

Gomo sighed again. “I think we are being followed. I’ve been studying Romulan tactics ever since we’ve been on board the Centaur and assigned to this region of space. We know that the Remans had perfected a cloaking device that was used on the Scimitar when it engaged the Enterprise. How do we know that kind of technology hasn’t been passed around? Or stolen?”

Vakai looked at Carter. “Or acquired from the black market.”

It was now Carter’s turn to sigh, not at all enjoying this conversation, nor was he liking where it went. Carter was about to say something when the console began chirping an alert. Gomo’s eyes went wide, “Vessel decloaking behin-” He was unable to finish that sentence when the ship was struck. Multiple disruptor bolts from a series of cannons had fired simultaneously, two hitting the patched port nacelle, while others struck any remaining dorsal phaser banks that the Centaur had left. The assault had caused an empty station to combust in sparks and flames due to an overload.

Ruby watched his display as they were losing warp speed until they were no longer at warp. “Sirs! We’ve dropped out of warp!”

“All Dorsal phaser banks have been destroyed. Shields are not responding.” Gomo reported before they were hit again, two disruptor bolts directly on top of the impulse engines, right at the plasma feed conduit, enough to rupture the section but safety systems activated and prevented the whole thing from cascading to the warp core. Sadly didn’t stop another console on the bridge from being engulfed in flames after an overload caused it to shower an ensign with sparks.

Ruby laid there on the deck on his right side as he tried not to touch his left arm, where third degree burns covered most of it. Mizu was right next to him trying to calm him as he groaned loudly in pain, muffled by clenching his teeth shut.

“Ensign, get him to sickbay!” Carter ordered as Vakai went over to one of the engineering stations to assess the damage.

“Captain, we’re-” Vakai couldn’t finish his report when he was showered in a green light before disappearing before everyone.

Carter turned to Gomo. “Get a lock on him!”

Gomo’s fingers worked frantically on his board but then his hands stopped and the color had drained from his face. “The ship went to warp.”

“Track it!”

Gomo swallowed and shook his head. “I can’t.”

Chapter Two

Adrift / Falcon

Carter went over to Gomo’s station to verify why they could not track the attacker and he saw that the trail was dispersed as the ship had gone to warp. There was just no tracking that. “Damnit. I need a full damage report in an hour.” He told Gomo before stepping down to the center. “And contact Ryker, I need him up here, right now.”

Gomo nodded his head and went to work, while Carter pressed the intercom button on his right arm rest that went directly to engineering. “This is the Bridge, I need to know what our status is, Chief.” But there was no response. “Chief?”

“Internal communications are offline.” Gomo reported.

Carter was not in a good mood for bad news but he knew there was going to be a lot. “What about long range comms?”

“All comm systems are offline, sorry sir.” Gomo replied.

Ryker and Gomez arrived in Main Engineering in their sweats, the quickest way to get dressed in a combat situation, but now they were in a much different situation. They watched as the whole engineering team stood there, with looks on their faces as if they had seen a ghost.

“The hell are you all standing around for?” Gomez asked. “We got work to do, people! Where is the Chief?”

One of them looked at her, “The Chief’s dead.”

Gomez stopped in her tracks, “What?”

They swallowed and licked their lips, “He…the warp core…the magnetic interlocks were damaged, only way to get to them was through maintenance shaft B but there was a plasma rupter in the shaft, and a fire…it…right after he fixed them…he…he’s dead, ma’am”

Gomez felt her breathing getting heavy, her emotions welling up and ready to burst but she closed her eyes, cleared her throat and shoved it all down so the second she opened her eyes, was the moment she was ready to give orders. “We will mourn later when we have the time. But right now the ship is in danger and adrift. If we do not restore power to the thrusters, we will continue to drift. Then we need to figure out how badly damaged our impulse and warp engines are. So let’s go people!” She clapped her hands together and the team started moving.

Ryker came up to her and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Are you all right?”

Gomez shook her head, “No, but I will be. I need to get to work. You should be on the Bridge, Sir.” She emphasized on the ‘sir’ to prove her point to him that right now, it was time to be professional and not personal.

Ryker nodded his head and drew his hand away, “Just get in touch with us as soon as you can, on the damage.” He told her before he walked away and left Main Engineering.

As Mizu was helping Ruby with his uninjured arm around her neck, she was witnessing the chaos in the corridor not too far from Sickbay. There were several crewmembers sitting or standing just outside Sickbay against the walls, either holding some injured limb or a makeshift bandage against a cut somewhere. Some of the medical staff were attending to them, like one she knew all too familiar with. “Eli!”

Anyone who had any medical training of any kind, even just a field medical, were all called in to assist the medical team with the situation, even those who were off duty. Eli was one of them obviously, who just finished giving a crewmember an injection when she turned her head to Mizu’s voice. Her eyes widened when she saw that it was Ruby who Mizu was bringing in. Eli quickly hurried over to them and checked his left arm. “He’s got severe third degree burns, he needs to be seen right away!” Eli led them into Sickbay, the door that hasn’t been closed since Eli got there. She pointed to one of the empty bio-beds for him to lay down on.

Mizu helped him to the bio-bed before Eli pulled her away to a somewhat empty corner of Sickbay. “Is it really this bad?” Mizu asked her.

Eli sighed, “A lot of these are just from the outer hull of the dorsal section. And some overloaded conduits, cuts, burns, just the norm. But it is a bit frightening to see almost a quarter of the crew here.” She said as she folded her arms across her chest and looked around. “Where was he?” She asked as she looked towards Ruby.

“Helm station. Volunteered to do Bridge duty when the Captain laid a good size of the crew off to relax. Including most of the Flight staff, even if there were only like three of them.” Mizu told her.

“What happened?” Eli asked.

Was Mizu’s turn to sigh. “We were attacked. Just…without warning. The ship decloaked, immediately opened fire, knocked us right out of warp, took any remaining dorsal phaser banks we had, and completely blew out our impulse engines. We’re literally adrift. Where’s K’roll?”

“He’s out doing what he can to assist damage control. He said he learned a little bit of engineering, just the basics you know? But he knew all hands would be on deck, so he’s out there doing what he can.” Eli explained. “Any idea why they attacked?”

Mizu shook her head. “Well…actually…the oddest thing. After we were pretty much crippled in one salvo, the First Officer was transported off the ship,” Which the news got someone’s attention, as Sivol was not too far away. “After he was gone, the ship went to warp. They’re good. Damn good. The Cardassian couldn’t even trace where they went, something about the warp trail having been dispersed as they left, just absolutely no way to track.”

Eli shook her head, “Who would want the First Officer?”

Mizu shrugged her shoulders. “I have no clue. But hey…take it easy, okay? Don’t let seeing all these people here bother you. We’ll get through this.”

Eli nodded her head and quickly wiped a finger right under left eye real quick. “I’m trying, Mizu. We lost three people here…not counting whomever else out there.” Mizu hugged her and ran her hands over her back, while Sivol had stepped away for a second to compose herself. She wanted to go to the Bridge to demand some answers, but she knew better, especially when she was needed in Sickbay.

Ryker stepped onto the Bridge to find Gomo at his station, looking rather flustered. He couldn’t see the Captain anywhere, who he was looking for, but he wanted to check and make sure Gomo was all right. As he approached the Cardassian, he could see the man was going over previous sensor logs, looking at data, over and over again. “Gomo?”

The Cardassian jumped in his seat before turning to see Ryker. “Ah, Commander.” That’s right, Ryker almost forgot about the recent promotion. Still has no clue what the whole crisis was about that the Fleet had to deal with but a lot of people on board got some recognition for it.

“You seem to be troubled by something, Gomo. What’s up?”

The Cardassian sighed before rubbing the bridge of his nose. “I’ve been trying to make sense of the energy signature that the rear sensors had picked up. We’ve had it on our tail for several days, but the signature was so insignificant that the sensors didn’t flag it. But it was there, and by standards, because of how insignificant it was, it would have been ignored anyways. Could have been something faulty with the sensors or maybe because of the damaged port nacelle or … I don’t know. It just was not significant enough to warrant it as a problem.”

Ryker nodded his head, “Except when it turned out to be a cloaked ship and attacked us?”

“Precisely.” Said Gomo as he turned back to his display and stared at the readings. “I’m simply trying to find something else that would have given some hint that it was unnatural.”

Ryker patted Gomo on the shoulder, “There was no way you could have predicted that it was a cloaked vessel, or even hostile for that matter.”

“But I should have! At least this way we wouldn’t have lost the First Officer.”

This was news to Ryker, “I’m sorry, what?”

“That was all the ship wanted after they disabled our systems. They took Vakai and left.” Gomo explained.

Carter suddenly returned to the Bridge from the turbolift, but not in the best of moods. “Why the hell has the Communication system not been repaired yet?”

“Repair teams are still trying to figure out what got damaged from the conduit that was overloaded, that is tied to the comm system.” The comm officer explained.

“God damnit. We need to inform Starfleet of what happened and that we need a tow vessel.” Carter fumed, placing his hands on his hips before rubbing his brow with the back of his hand.

Ryker came over to him, “I just heard, sir. They took Commander Vakai?”

Carter huffed followed by a nod. “They did. Whoever the fuck they are. This means you are now acting First Officer. Better get used to the demand of one real quick.”

Ryker grew concerned about Carter’s current attitude but decided right now was not the time nor place to address it. Especially when they started hearing a warning sound coming from Gomo’s console. “What is it?

“Short range sensors picked something up. It’s dropping out of warp but I have no way of figuring out who it is. The sensors are still damaged.” Gomo reported.

Officer at the navigation station turned in their seat to look at Carter and Ryker. “I’ve diverted helm control to this station but maneuvering thrusters are just not working, cant turn us around to bring our ventral weapons to bear.”

“What about how the ship is drifting, rotating on its own? That’ll give our ventral phaser banks a chance to fire on whoever is approaching us.” Carter suggested.

Ryker immediately frowned. “I cannot believe what I am hearing. Who says that the incoming vessel is hostile? Nevertheless, we cannot fire first, it is against everything that is Starfleet.”

“And who is to say that that ship isn’t the vessel that attacked us? We can’t take the chance of letting them fire first, not this time.” Carter told him.

“Vessel dropped out of warp. I can’t tell if their weapons are online or not, still not getting an accurate reading.” Gomo reported.

“Prepare to fire phasers!”

“Belay that order!” Ryker pointed at Gomo before looking right at Carter.

“Don’t make me relieve you of duty, Commander!” Carter looked back at him.

“Don’t make me relieve you, sir.” Ryker stared hard into his eyes.

Before Carter could say another word, a bright light and a familiar sound of a transporter beam filled the Bridge from the center, only to disappear to reveal a woman in a strange uniform. As some officers drew phasers on her, Ryker raised his hands and approached her. “Explain why you boarded this ship.” Ryker asked.

She had looked around at those who had drawn phasers on her and those who hadn’t before locking her eyes with his. “My ship and crew detected your vessel on our long range sensors, drifting, certainly not under your own power. When we got closer, we realized you were in trouble. When you failed to answer our hail, we decided to investigate and found out that your communication systems were offline. So…”

Ryker lowered his hands while looking at those who had their phasers drawn, essentially signalling them to lower their weapons. He then looked back at her. “So you are here to give us a hand?”

She smirked, “More than that. I know what ship this is, and I know who serves on board it. I have contacts who have been keeping me up to date on a certain individual. Contacts who pay well to make sure that certain individual is safe. They seem to care a great deal about him.”

Carter stepped down and stopped beside Ryker. “Who are you referring to?”

She shook her head, “Haven’t figured it out yet, old man? Your First Officer, Commander Vakai of course. I know exactly where he is being taken to. I have the coordinates and the data that you need to successfully extract him. But you need to hurry, because what he is about to endure will be a very unpleasant experience for him.”

“But your ship is small, smaller than ours, so how exactly can you help us?” Gomo asked.

She smiled at him. “We have supplies. Enough to get your impulse engines back online, patch up your port nacelle, get you back up to speed…because you’re going to need at least Warp Seven to get there in time to save him from the torment he’ll be facing.”

“What about our weapons?” Carter asked.

She sighed and shrugged. “As your Cardassian officer said over there, we’re a small ship, smaller than yours. There is only so much we can do.”

Ryker took a step forward, standing between her and Carter. “Who are you?”

She smiled at him. “My name is Rosa. Me and my crew are with the Fenris Rangers. And we have a common enemy.”

The vessel was quiet, despite the fact that it had an artificial singularity core powering its systems and was at maximum warp…it was still rather quiet. It almost bothered him, to some degree but he had the AI system that was installed upon restoring this ship, to keep him company. Angel as it were, she was definitely pleasant to talk to, kept him from going insane on this mission. Still, he hoped that his boss won’t get too upset that he took his own ship out for a mission, even as brief as it is. More brief than the mission they did before.

“Is he still asleep?” He asked, before taking a bite of the hard boiled egg he had in his hand, the shell removed of course. It was a rather large egg, an egg from a species of a world in Free State’s space that was going extinct. He should be more concerned about preserving a species, but their eggs were so delicious and excellent in protein, it was hard to resist.

“He is actually just waking up.” She informed him after appearing right beside him.

Vakai slowly rose to his feet and started to look around, realizing that he was not on board the Centaur anymore, especially since where he was did not look like a Bridge but more of some quarters. Then his eyes stopped at the open door with the slight green hue that was apparent enough for him to see, to know that there was indeed a forcefield. Vakai approached the doorway and stopped just inches from the forcefield. “Where am I? What have you done to me? Who the hell are you?!”

Ajis licked his lips as he finished chewing on the bite he had, swallowing it down just so he could answer his prisoner’s question without being rude. “The name is Hawk and you are on board my ship, the Falcon. Remarkable ship too, I might add. It is a very old T’Liss Class Bird of Prey. Restored her myself.” He heard Angel clearing her throat. “With the help of this fine lady, of course.” She cleared her throat again. Ajis rolled his eyes. “Please, dear. I will not go into too much detail in front of our prisoner. Can’t give away any hints now.”

She sighed. “Fair enough. To answer your question of, what did we do to you, is quite simple. When you were transported on board this vessel, we also adjusted the transporter return to effectively stun you. It was the proper course of action, really.”

Ajis nodded his head as he waved around the quarter eaten egg. It was twice the size of an Earth chicken egg. “Point is. We can’t just allow you to roam around and try to figure out how to escape or send a signal. Not that you could anyways, these guest quarters…that also function as prison cells…were designed to keep people in, such as yourself. There is really no escape.” He then took another bite.

“I will find a way and when I do, I will make you pay.” Vakai told him.

Ajis sighed as he rolled his eyes again before looking at Angel, pointing at his mouth that he was still chewing. Angel shook her head. “That would be impossible, and a complete waste of your time. Someone wanted you captured and brought to them. That someone hired…Hawk…here and we are simply delivering you to them. They are the ones that you should be going after, but you should also be afraid of them. Very afraid. I do believe that their torture methods are quite extreme and unorthadox.”

Ajis finished what he was chewing on and swallowed quickly so he could add, “I do believe he uses those, virtual reality devices that they have, to create all sorts of gruesome torture methods but in the mind. Methods that would normally kill a person but with the mind…depending on how strong your mind is, they could potentially,” He raised his hands and used air quotes. “Kill you dozens of times before your mind decides to finally give up, to the point that you basically accept death and die in the real world.” With that, he popped the last bit of egg he had into his mouth.

Vakai knew exactly what he was referring to, what they both were. “Tal’Shiar. They hired you to capture me?”

“So he knows.” said Angel.

“Of course I know. Why wouldn’t I?” Vakai asked.

Ajis snapped his fingers as he swallowed the last bit and licked his lips. “Now I get it. There was nothing in your file that explained any of this but now I get it. Your parents were members of the Tal’Shiar, or still are, and instead of allowing you to grow up in this secret order, becoming some special bred soldier, no doubt the Tal’Shiar would do all sorts of things to have the perfect agent in their ranks. Your parents basically dropped you off on Earth as an infant, without the Tal’Shiar High Command knowing. But now that they know… their little ‘secret police’ wishes to question you…” He snapped his fingers again, “To gain information about your parents.”

Vakai shook his head. “I won’t. I will not give them anything.”

Ajis threw his hands up and let his arms drop back down to his sides. “Sorry kid. But I heard about these torture methods that my contact uses. You won’t have a choice.”

“We are nearing the coordinates.” Angel informed Ajis.

Ajis sighed, “It was nice talking to you, Vakai. But I have a job to complete.”

Vakai tried to get closer to the field. “Whatever the contact is paying you, I swear, Starfleet can triple it.”

Ajis chuckled and shook his head. “Unfortunately, this is not a matter of money. This is a matter of information. The information that my contact has, is not only priceless but also no one else, not even Starfleet, has in their hands. Sorry kid, but you’re not going to bribe your way out of this.” Ajis then reached for the controls by the door and pressed a button, where Vakai would suddenly fall backwards, now unconscious.

“You enjoyed that.” Said Angel.

Ajis shrugged his shoulders. “I like to get to know about my prisoners a little bit. See if I can gather some information, something I can use later on in the future in case I need it. I think ahead, Angel. But come on, we got a delivery to make.” He began to walk away, heading for the ladder to take to the Bridge, feeling like the turbolift was just a lazy way to go.

Chapter Three

Falcon / Centaur / Centuar?

The classic bird of prey dropped out of warp after having reached an optimal range while it was flying at maximum warp. Now it slowly travels across the vastness of space at half impulse, as it nears a small installation. It was roughly the same size as a Jupiter Class station but not at all the same design, a singular, large oval section with a few dry docks attached to it, or docking stations, whichever the Romulans would consider them to be.

Ajis stood there on the Bridge of his ship, the Falcon he calls it. He wanted to stay away from ‘bird’ names but he felt the name ‘Kratos’ would have been preposterous. So he tossed away the idea of staying clear of ‘bird’ names and just went with it. Besides, he kind of liked it the more he thought about it. “All right. Bring us to a full stop here. Signal our contact that we have the package.”

The holographic form of Angel stood there like she was completely brainless…emotionless, nothing apparent on her face aside that she appeared to be not there, until her eyes blinked and looked at him. “Signal has been sent.”

“Is our prisoner ready for transport?” Ajis asked.

Angel gave a single head nod. “He is. Still unconscious too.”

Ajis smiled, “Good. Less they go out bickering and threatening my life despite how empty those threats would be…the better.”

“He wishes to speak to you.” Angel told him.

At first Ajis thought she meant the prisoner but he then quickly realized that she meant the contact. Of course. “Bring up the holographic display and put him on.” Before him a large holographic ‘monitor’ as it were, appeared and soon did the face of his contact.

“Soldar. Thought this would be a contactless delivery. You never know what’s swimming around these days.” He joked, not that a simple disease could transfer over communications.

Soldar grunted, “You’re early.”

Ajis shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t like to keep my clients waiting. I gave you a fair estimate of how long it would take, and I somehow managed to beat that estimate by two days.”

“Two days, eight hours and twenty three minutes. To be precise.” Angel added, which she had both Ajis and Soldar scolding at her.

“No matter. Lower your shields and we will transport him off of your vessel.” Soldar ordered.

Ajis looked back to Angel and nodded his head, who would then lower the shields as requested. “Lowered.”

“Was he any trouble?” Soldar asked.

Ajis shook his head. “Slept like a baby the entire trip here.”

“You knocked him out?”

Ajis shrugged his shoulders. “The less the prisoner knows about his capture and why…the better.”

“Perfect. Transferring the data to you now.” Soldar turned his head just a bit and gave a nod to someone before looking back at Ajis on their screen.

Angel was then standing there, emotionless again, before she looked at Ajis with a smile. “We received the data. It’s legitimate.”

“Of course it is. I keep my end of the bargain. Always.” Said Soldar.

Ajis smiled, “It was a pleasure doing business, but I hope this is the last time we meet.”

“Agreed. Stay out of Free State’s space.” Was the last thing Soldar said before he visibly hit a button and the transmission ended. The holographic display even disappeared afterwards.

Ajis raised his brows and shrugged his shoulders. “That was interesting. Wonder what he meant by that.”

“Romulan Free States are dealing with a lot of flak ever since the Tal’Shiar was discovered to have been the cause of the Mars attack. Of course they deny and do not sanction what the Tal’Shiar did, point is…the diplomatic tensions between the Federation and the RFS is not doing well.” Angel explained to him.

“Like I give a damn.” Ajis told her. “Far as I know, the Tal’Shiar can burn to the ground. Engage the cloak and set course back to base.”

“Done and done. Then why work with them?” She asked.

“You know exactly why, so why ask.” Ajis told her.

“A simple question. I’m sure you could have gotten that information you wanted some other way. Could have sent me in to hack into their database and stolen it. Their firewalls are not that sophisticated.” Angel explained.

Ajis grunted, “If I had known that, I would have asked you to do that in the first place. No matter. What is done, is done.”

“Do have one slight problem though.” Angel added.

Ajis raised a brow. “What is that?”

“It appears that they have been probing my firewall system while we were in communication with them. They were successful in breaching and stealing some data from the ship’s computer core.” Angel told him.

Ajis frowned. “How? What did they take?”

“I am uncertain. I suppose the Tal’Shiar are as devious as they claim to be. Nevertheless, I have improved my firewalls. The odd part is the only data they stole was the entire structural scan of the Centaur.”

Ajis frowned, confused now. “The one that took us two days to get every nook and cranny, every fine detail…locating every single system even down to the isolinear chips that they use?”

Angel nodded her head. “The very one.”

Ajis began to rub his chin. “They don’t have any ships docked. Not that we saw anyways. So they can’t possibly be planning on going after the Centaur. Unless…”

“Unless they plan on creating the perfect simulated environment for their torturing methods.” Angel finished.

Ajis pointed at her, “Don’t finish my sentences. But yes. They are indeed devious. Don’t tell the boss about the breach though. She’ll be pissed with me for even taking this job, having a data breach would only make matters worse.”


“Who has him?” Ryker asked, only repeating because everyone on the senior staff finally managed to get to the Bridge for the briefing, including Sivol and Gomez who both had been incredibly busy.

“Soldar. Commander in the Tal’Shiar Agency. He’s part of the secret police or whatever you call it. He is responsible for interrogating traitors. Questioning those who are disloyal to both the Government of the Romulan Free State and the Tal’Shiar. His methods are unorthodox.” Rosa explained.

“How unorthodox?” Gomo asked.

She looked at the Cardassian who asked before looking at everyone else. “Tal’Shiar have been experimenting with virtual reality devices, small little things that you apply to your temples. It creates a highly realistic but fictional world in your mind. It feels real, smells real, tastes real…and the pain is real. They don’t use it too often, due to the complications of some weak minds getting the fake world mixed up with the real world and going clinically insane. So those who have proven to have a strong mind, after performing a number of scans on your brain…they then choose to put them through virgous training with these devices. You can learn just about anything three times as fast than you could in the real world because you are literally training the mind directly. Not feeding information into one ear that could come out the other, or witnessing it through your eyes and failing to process it.

“Point is, Soldar also uses these devices to torture his prisoners. He’ll either create a world that they are comfortable with. Make them think that they are safe…until they realize that they are not and normally by then, it is too late for them. Furthermore, Soldar can use these devices to enter this virtual reality with them…and cut them open…cut a limb off…rip an eye out…even kill them only to snap a finger and they’re perfectly healthy again, nothing missing, alive, breathing and beating. Depending on the mind, Soldar can do this a dozen times before the mind finally gives up and the host dies. But Soldar won’t let them die. He will use everything he has at his disposal to revive them in the real world. Adrenaline to the heart. Highly potent, highly illegal and highly addictive drugs to restart the nervous system. Anything that can bring a person back to life, he will use, regardless how much damage he does to the brain itself, or the other organs of the body. He will not stop until he gets his answers, and then he will eventually allow his prisoner to die, but a slow…and painful death with flesh eating leeches.”

That was more than enough for Sivol to stomach, who took a step back for a moment before walking right back into the turbolift, Gomez right behind her, who knew that she was going to need someone right now. Plus Sivol wasn’t alone in that matter. Ryker on the other hand, did not have the luxury to just walk out after feeling his stomach roll over several times already. “How do they allow this man to do these things?”

Rosa shrugged her shoulders. “He gets results, obviously. That’s all they care about. As long as he gets exactly what they want to hear, he’s clear to do whatever he wants.”

Carter looked to Ryker, “Get Sivol and Gomez back up here right now. We’re not finished.” The tone in his voice was not a pleasant one, sounded like a man on edge or past that and was ready to do anything, regardless of lives.

Ryker looked to Rosa before back at Carter, then he went to the turbolift to find Sivol and Gomez were still there, the lift hadn’t even left. Ryker just gestured for them to return, where they came out and stood off to the side on the Bridge, while Ryker returned to his place near Carter.

Carter turned to look at Gomez and Sivol. “We will mourn our dead later. But we are not going to let our First Officer suffer to the hands of a madman. What is the status of our warp engines?”

“Thanks to the help of Rosa and her team, we were able to patch the Port Nacelle again. Warp Core is online, so is the main power. Shields are operational. But for some reason we are having trouble establishing a stable warp field. The Chief was having this problem before but…I…I don’t know what he did to correct it.” She reported.

“Get it corrected. We leave in one hour. Dismissed.” Carter ordered before turning back to face Gomo. “Weapons?” He heard the door to the turbolift again, knowing that she had left completely.

“Torpedo pod is as it were before. Only one working launcher and that’s the forward one. Dorsal Phaser Banks are completely gone. We would have to return to the Devron Fleet Yards to get them replaced.” Gomo reported.

Carter shook his head. “Not going to happen. We will make do with our ventral banks.”

Gomo frowned, or at least tried to as he tilted his head. “We don’t even have aft weapons, Captain. I’m sure we will save the First Officer but we won’t have anything to fire back if we’re being chased while fleeing from Free State space!”

“Then we will just have to double the aft shields and pray we make it back to Federation Space before we lose them. But we will not leave him over there. Understood?” Carter ordered.

“Yes, sir. I’m just going to go see if maybe we can turn the whole torpedo pod around. At least we’ll have something to shoot back with…” Of course that was a poor attempt for a joke right now, but Gomo tried and the looks he got weren’t pleasing. So he just shut his mouth and left the Bridge.

Rosa raised her brows. “Well, my team did all that they could do, Captain. We don’t have a lot of supplies, so you’ll just have to make do. Good luck.”

“Now hold on. You helped fix our warp engines, and gave us the coordinates of where Vakai is being held, and who is holding him. But you’re not going to help us break him free? Why kind of horse shit is that?” Carter asked.

Rosa raised her brows even more, a bit surprised but not too much. “I may hate the Tal’Shiar as anyone else in the Quadrant does, but I’m no fool. My ship is smaller than yours, less armed, even in your ship’s current state. We may be crazy enough to enter Romulan Free State space half the time, but we’re not stupid enough to go up against the installation of where Vakai is being held. I told you where he is, and I told you what will likely happen to him. Your choice to leave him there or rescue him, is on you. I didn’t suggest it, nor do I recommend it. Why I said, good luck.” She then hit a button on the device on her arm and was engulfed in a beam of light before was completely gone.

Carter cursed under his breath, “Great.” He looked at Ryker. “Tell Gomez to double her efforts on getting the warp field stable, and find a way to mask our signature. I want to look like anything else but a Starfleet ship on their sensors when we enter their space.”

Ryker sighed, “Can I have a word with you first, Captain?”

Carter frowned, “We don’t have time for small chat, Commander! I suggest you do what you have been ordered to do, and get!” Not even realizing that he had raised his voice.

Ryker sighed again, “With all due respect, sir. But until we have a chat, I won’t be carrying out your order.”

That changed the color on Carter’s face all right. “With me.” He nearly shouted as they went to the turbolift, leaving the Bridge. After the small awkward silent moment they had on the lift to Carter’s quarters, the heat began.

“You mind explaining to me what the hell that was about? And on my Bridge?!” Carter exclaimed.

Ryker cleared his throat to keep his composure, “Simply doing my job as Acting First Officer, sir.”

“Like hell! You don’t know a damn thing as to what it means to be a First Officer, Commander!” Carter pointed at Ryker.

“With all due respect, sir. But you certainly are not acting like the Commanding Officer we all knew well! And if you would let me do my job, I can certainly prove you wrong!” Ryker clasped his hands behind his back while he glared into Carter’s eyes.

“I find that hard to believe. Now since you are refusing to follow a direct order, I will personally go to Gomez myself and tell her what I ordered you to do! While you sit in your quarters and think about what to say at your Court Martial.” Carter was about to step around Ryker when Ryker got in his path and held up his hands to show he wasn’t going to put his hands on a superior officer.

“You’re leaving me no choice but to relieve you of duty, per Starfleet Regulation Six One Nine. And if I have to, I can ask the Chief Medical Officer to come over here and make her assessment of your emotional state.” Ryker told him. “Or.”

Carter frowned. “Or what?”

Ryker took a step back and lowered his hands as he took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly, relaxing his nerves. He didn’t like confrontation and bringing up a Starfleet Regulation that could relieve the Captain of his duties was not entirely what he wanted to do. “Or you could admit that you are not allowing me to perform my duties as the Acting First Officer.”

Carter took a step back himself, frowning even more, more confused than annoyed. “Why are you giving me this choice, Commander?”

Ryker sighed, glad that the Captain was asking the right questions. “Because, sir, the crew right now in their current emotional and mental state, are unstable. The morale is at the bottom. We just got out of a crisis where our Captain took command, made decisions and destroyed a civilian installation without telling any of the crew as to why he did so. I’m sure I will find out some future in my career, but most of the crew never will and they will live the rest of their lives thinking…why did Captain Carter do that? Not to mention we almost lost our entire warp capability to a Klingon madman. If that torpedo had been a higher yield, we would be having a tow ship towing us back to Devron Fleet Yards, without a single nacelle attached. Or worse, could have hit the warp core and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The stress and the uncertainty that this crew has right now after our previous mission, has them all on edge. And then this sudden attack by an unknown vessel, without provocation, has made the morale situation far worse. I have no doubt that the crew will find out that the reason for the attack was to kidnap the First Officer, it’s a small ship.”

Ryker took a deep breath and exhaled slowly again. “Fact remains, the crew needs a reason why, why would we put all of our lives in danger, to save one officer. We may know Vakai, the senior staff may know him, but not the entire crew. They’re going to want to know why we would sacrifice their lives, for one life. And if I relieve you of your Command, that is only going to start a riot, possibly a mutiny.”

Carter scoffed. “Please, I know my crew, they wouldn’t dare.”

Ryker raised his brows, “Really? Some of the crew may side with you, but did you forget? When you took Vakai, me and our old team on board, you also took nearly half of new officers and crewmembers. Sides will be chosen and a fight will break out. And if not that, if we do manage to get back to the Devron Fleet Yards, I guarantee over half the crew will transfer off the ship. They will not want to stay on board a vessel where Command has been compromised, ship sucker punched twice, damn near fully crippled and no sure way of knowing if this ship will ever fly again, if Starfleet even wants to repair it.” Carter was about to say something but Ryker raised his hand. “I know, I know. It’s the Centaur, first of its class. They’ll repair it and probably lock it away in a museum to keep this crap from happening again. But then what? The entire crew would be reassigned.”

Ryker took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly one last time. “Point is, this crew needs to be uplifted. And your attitude on the Bridge was not helping, at all.”

Carter let out a heavy sigh and plopped down into his chair, while rubbing the bridge of his nose. He then looked at Ryker, his entire expression having changed to the look of an exhausted man. “I’ve been training a replacement, James. You already know that I have been keeping my eye on you, him and his old hazard team.” He waved his hand, “You know the whole story so I’m not going to repeat myself like a broken record. Point is, I am not training a replacement to take my command of the Centaur. I am training a replacement to take my command of this crew. You’re right. Someday, I don’t know when, maybe in a couple years or so, Starfleet will anchor this ship in a museum. Why lose a ship that has been around for almost a hundred and ten years, survived the Dominion War, and all the other conflicts we’ve had over the years. But that’s not the reason why. I am planning to retire from Command. Take a desk job. Something. I don’t really know or care at this point. Doctor Summer Pearce and I plan on tying the knot. We haven’t done it because I am her Captain, and we didn’t want to give any crew, young or old, any ideas of what was going on. Besides, it’s none of their business anyways.” Carter licked his lips. “We want children. I’m hoping to have at least five kids before I grow too old. Pearce. Well. She may be up there in age but she’s still able.” Carter smirked. “But I am hoping that our kids will continue our legacy in Starfleet. The Federation is the greatest thing that could happen to this galaxy, at least I believe so, call me a patriot, a lunatic, I really don’t care. But I want my kids and grandkids and great grandkids to keep the legacy going. Centaur has been the only ship I had served on since I left the Academy. The only ship I have commanded. And she will be my last.”

Carter rose up from the seat and patted Ryker’s arm. “I apologize for my comment earlier, James. You will make a fine First Officer. Just do me a favor and don’t question your Captain again, especially on the Bridge.”

Ryker shrugged his shoulders, “Long as he doesn’t become emotionally unstable, we won’t have any problems. I’ll go tell Gomez to try and get that warp field stabilized quicker. But you got a speech to make, or this crew will falter.”

Carter sighed before nodding his head. “I’ll come up with something. I just need this old girl ready to run again.”

“If I know Gomez well enough, she will.”

Carter nodded his head again before looking up at the ceiling then paused. “Is the ship intercom working yet?”

Ryker snorted. “I’ll gather them up in Cargo Bay Two.”

“Vakai…Vakai…wake up. Come on. Wake up.”

He groaned, slowly opening his eyes but everything was all blurry. He blinked them a few times and slowly his vision started to clear up. But he recognized the voice. It was Sivol. “Where…am I?” He asked as he started to sit up.

Sivol placed her hands on his shoulders. “Easy now, slowly. You’re still suffering from the effects.”

Vakai frowned, “Effects?” Why was it so hard to remember?

She stared at him, expressionless. Odd, Vakai thought. Then again, it looked like he was back on the Centuar, and if the ship was hit as bad as he remembered, she was probably trying to keep her emotions from taking over. “You were unconscious for a while. I believe that mercenary used some sort of drug or some stunning system that didn’t quite agree with your nervous system.”

Vakai frowned again, “What?”

Sivol raised a brow. “You’re suffering from mild effects, but you appear to be fine now.” She said as she ran a quick scan with her medical tricorder before Ryker and Carter came into view.

“Of course he’s fine, Doc. Look at him.” Ryker grinned.

Vakai looked at the three of them. “How? I thought the Centaur was adrift.”

Carter smiled, “Thanks to Gomez, she restored main power, got the warp engines back online and we were able to catch up with the Mercenary’s ship and give him a thing or two about messing with Starfleet.”

Vakai raised his brows, a little surprised. “She did? Wow. Guess she’s one hell of a miracle worker.”

Ryker smiled, “You could say that! Sure am proud of her.”

Then Vakai saw another man, one who he did not recognize, another Romulan in a Starfleet uniform. “I’m sorry, but have we met?” Vakai asked.

The man approached the bio bed and extended his hand out to him. “We have not. I am Commander Solbar, Starfleet Security.”

Vakai reached out to shake his hand before looking at Ryker and Carter. “We made it back to the Devron Fleet Yards with no trouble and Starfleet Intelligence found out that the Mercenary was paid to capture you for the Tal’Shiar. So…Starfleet Security is here to ask you some questions, to make sure you were not compromised. Standard procedure kind of thing.” Carter explained.

“I see.” Vakai then looked back at Soldar. “Please to meet you, I-”

Soldar pulled his hand away, “I know who you are, Commander Vakai. If you are absolutely feeling up to it, I would like for you to come with me to your quarters, so that way we can chat. Privately.”

Carter frowned, “Hey now. I told you, we will use my office and I will be present during the questioning. He is my officer after all.”

Soldar let out a heavy sigh of frustration. “In this current situation, Captain, I am afraid he is no longer your officer…until I am done questioning him and able to determine whether or not he is eligible to return to duty as your First Officer.”

Carter frowned even more, “Hey now! That is not what we agreed upon, Commander!” He emphasised the rank at Soldar.

Soldar sighed once more, “Such impudence. Captain, by Starfleet Regulation, I am in charge now until my investigation is over. Considering the fact that you took your ship into Romulan Free State space in pursuit of an unknown Bird of Prey that was heavily armed, at the risk of your crew’s lives over the life of one officer, we will also be questioning you on whether or not you are still eligible to command.”

They all looked around at each other before looking right back at Soldar, “That is absurd!” Said Ryker.

“Don’t make me have to drag you into this as well, Lieutenant Commander. Your responsibility to relieve your Commanding Officer of Command when he took action that could have jeopardized the lives of your entire crew, while acting as First Officer, could potentially lead to questioning as well on whether or not you are fit to remain as a Senior Officer on any starship ever again. So I suggest you remain quiet.” Soldar scolded Ryker before looking at Vakai. “Are you ready, Commander?”

“Do I have a choice?” Vakai asked.

A very large grin formed on Soldar’s face, a very vile grin as his head was tilted downward slightly, the view of his eyes nearly cut away in half from his brow as he stared hard into Vakai’s eyes. “No, Commander. You do not.”

Chapter Four

Centaur / RFS Space Station

Soldar looked around in Vakai’s quarters, as small as they were on a Centaur vessel, they were still as decorative as Soldar had expected. He could see some of the Japanese paintings and writings up on the walls, with what space Vakai had for them. What intrigued him the most was the sword stand that held a Japanese Samurai Sword. “Is this authentic?” He asked as he went to pick it up carefully.

Vakai nodded his head, “It is. My father is a craftsman, or a blacksmith if you wish to be technical. He made them himself, staying with the strict guidelines of our culture.”

Soldar pulled on the sheath gently, and slowly pulled the blade free to study it more closely. He even dragged his thumb over the blade to feel that it was incredibly sharp. “Your Captain is comfortable with you having a weapon such as this in your quarters?”

Vakai tilted his head a little. “It is more than just a weapon, Commander. The Katana is a work of art, crafted with the purest steel, which is incredibly strong and has the most amazing cutting ability.” Vakai stepped over and politely took the sword from Soldar’s hands. “It is said that the Katana represents the soul of the Samurai and is generally passed down from generation to generation.” Vakai took the sheath as well and gently slid the blade back in before setting it back down on the stand, where just below it was the wakisazhi.

“Does your father have his own?” Soldar asked.

Vakai turned to face him after making sure that the Katana was returned properly to the stand. “He does. He told me, when the time comes, he will pass it down to me. These were a gift from him when I graduated from the Academy.”

Soldar then stepped away for a moment, clasping his hands together at the small of his back before making a sharp one-eighty and looking directly into Vakai’s eyes. “I want to talk about your parents. Your biological parents. Not the ones who raised you and took care of you back on Earth.”

Vakai frowned for a second, he knew that was something that Starfleet was well aware about but still. “What about my biological parents?”

Soldar took a step forward. “Is it true that they are agents of the Tal’Shiar?”

Vakai’s frown deepened. That was something he did not inform Starfleet about. “I am uncertain as to where you are getting your resources from, but no.”

Soldar’s facial expression had remained neutral but the look in his eyes said he did not believe in Vakai. “My resources are extremely reliable and they tell me that your biological parents are indeed agents of the Tal’Shiar. Do you have any idea of the repercussions there are in lying on your Academy Application Form?”

Vakai figured that such repercussions would simply be a slap on the wrist, or a demotion, or worse…forced out of Starfleet. “No, I do not.”

“You very well could be facing a Court Martial, as well as being imprisoned and working for the Federation for the rest of your life.” Soldar spoke rapidly, his tone more serious.

Vakai felt that was odd but he decided to play it out. “A little harsh but understandable.”

Soldar took one final step closer. “Quite frankly, if you were indeed in the Tal’Shiar, such dishonesty would have you thrown out in front of a firing squad.”

Vakai frowned at Soldar, “Why are we talking about the Tal’Shiar so much, Commander?”

Soldar sighed, “Because they were the ones who hired the mercenary. Or do you not remember that little detail that your Captain gave you in Sickbay?”

“Of course I remember.”

“Then tell me who your biological parents are!” Soldar demanded.

Vakai shook his head, “Even if I did, which I don’t, they do not work for the Tal’Shiar!”

Soldar let out a heavy sigh of disappointment. “I grow bored of this. Time to spice it up.” He closed his eyes and suddenly the entire scenery had changed and Vakai would find himself strapped down to a metal table, his uniform missing. In fact, Soldar’s clothes had changed as well.

“What the hell?!” Vakai exclaimed as he tried to break free.

“I know you are lying to me, Vakai. I can not only see it in your eyes but I can read your thoughts. The device that we are hooked up to allows me to do just that, and you are hiding something from me. Something that I want, and you will give it to me.” Soldar paused as he picked up what looked like sheers. “Or I am going to start snipping off your digits…one for every ten seconds. So tell me what I want to know!”

Vakai was looking around frantically, trying to understand how he would be standing for one second, then laying on his back on a table, strapped down for that matter, a second later. A holodeck program couldn’t be that sophisticated, unless. Yes, it did feel familiar. Was exactly what he was warned about, a virtual reality, real as ever, that is used for training. Or in this case, gather information through any means necessary without afflicting any damage to the real body. He needed to think up some defenses and fast.

“Yes…yeessss…I can feel your mind racing, your anxiety rising, your fear growing. You do know where you are and you know exactly what is coming next, you understand it. That only further proves that your biological parents are in fact agents of the Tal’Shiar.” Soldar’s smile grew wide as he then approached Vakai and catches Vakai’s left thumb with the sheers. “So tell me who they are! Now!”

Vakai lifted up his head as best as he could to look at Soldar in the eye, “Go to hell!”

Soldar tsked, “Wrong answer.” And with that, he squeezed slowly, taking his time cutting Vakai’s thumb right off of his left hand, enjoying the sound of the man crying out in agonizing pain. After the audible thud of the thumb falling to the floor, Soldar moved to the left index finger. “Shall we try this again?”

Gomez slammed the palms of her hands on the display screen of the main console attached to the railing around the warp core, swearing up a storm. “Why the hell is this not working!?”

Ryker came up to her side, though a little cautious as he was afraid she might turn around swinging. “Something wrong?” And she nearly did, startled by his voice as she had definitely not expected him to be there.

She took a deep breath and sighed heavily and quickly in frustration. “Thanks to our guest, the patch job is actually better than before. By my diagnostics, we should be up and running, ready to go. But for some goddamn reason, we cannot establish a f-” She paused for a second and remembered a strange series that Ryker got her watching, “a fracking warp field!”

Ryker held back a chuckle when she used that word but he refrained as he didn’t want to make her even more frustrated than she needed to be. “Something wrong with the patch job?”

She sighed, again, but now annoyed. “No. As I said, it’s better than the first one. I just can’t figure out what the hell is wrong. It should be working.” An engineer came over to her with a padd with the results of the latest diagnostic, which she then threw across the room and threw her hands up in defeat.

Again, Ryker had to try to refrain from laughing, as she was being a bit comedic about this, though not being able to establish a warp field is rather serious. “Do I want to ask?”

“You’re going to anyway. The report states that everything is working within optimal parameters. We’ve even tweaked a few systems based on the Chief’s notes to increase the efficiency, and the diagnostic says that it SHOULD be working!” Gomez told him before pointing at her console. “But this thing here, says we cannot establish a stable warp field and will not tell me why.”

Suddenly a voice came over the intercom, “Chief Gomez?”

She tapped her badge, “What?!” Took her a second to realize she just shouted at someone but she will have to apologize to them later.

“We were just going over the hull to inspect for any more damage that we have missed,” It was the damage control crew that she sent out to patch anything outside, especially the damage to the Impulse Drive Plasma Feed Conduit, sealing up that hole was top priority. “And our sensors are getting something highly unusual from the starboard nacelle pylon.”

Gomez frowned, “Like what?”

“Some EM signatures but we can’t see anything.”

Gomez tapped her chin, “Link up your forward visual with the main console over here, I want a look.” They did just that but all they could see was the pylon, nothing unusual. “Try using a highly concentrated tachyon beam at the pylon.” She suggested to them and waited for them to do just that, which took them some time but they notified her that they started using it. For a few seconds, there were no results but then they could see a slight shimmer.

Ryker frowned, “A cloaked device?”

Gomez started entering some commands at her station, linking it up with the craft’s sensors to see the display readout. “I want you to use the shuttles’ phasers, at one percent power and target that area.” They watched as a beam hit the object but nothing happened. “Increase it to two percent and keep increasing it until it is revealed.” She ordered and there were a few phaser shots, but once it was up to six percent, whatever had the device cloaked had been neutralized and a circular green looking device was revealed.

Ryker raised his brows, “Well I’ll be damned. What do your sensors say now?”

Gomez was going over the data from the shuttle and let out a heavy sigh, annoyed but relieved. “This is what was causing the problem of establishing a stable warp field. If this had not been found, we would have to be towed by a tug ship or a utility ship to the Devron Fleet Yards. What’s good about it, is that it is not attached to the pylon by clamps or claws or anything that punctured the hull. If it were, I would be very worried about removing it.”

“How is it attached then?” Ryker asked.

She looked at him for a second then back at her console where her fingers were dancing about, typing away and entering commands. “It’s attached magnetically. I just need to reverse the polarity on the structural integrity field carefully, I don’t want to send it flying right at the shuttle.” She said as she worked on doing just that. After a few minutes, they witness the device detaching from the pylon and floating towards the shuttle. “Bring it in carefully boys, I don’t want it reattaching itself to the hull.”

The crewmen acknowledged but before they could snatch it with a tractor beam, it suddenly started to crumple in on itself before it eventually just shattered into pieces. Gomez and Ryker looked at each other, confused before she looked back at her console and went over the sensor data. Gomez let out one more sigh, “Damn. I should have seen that coming.”

“What happened?” Ryker asked.

Gomez turned around fully and leaned back against the edge of the console. “It imploded before splitting apart into what pieces remained. It was basically a self-destruct mechanism, to prevent us or anyone from analyzing the technology behind it.”

Ryker shook his head then shrugged his shoulders. “That mercenary is good. But you are able to get that warp field going, right?”

Gomez turned around and started entering commands on her console before looking back at Ryker. “We can go to warp.”

Ryker clapped his hands together, “That’s good news! How long do you think you can set up our engines to mask our warp signature to look like a Romulan vessel for the Free States?”

Gomez entered some calculations before looking back at him. “Half an hour. We can go to Warp Seven by the way but with these modifications, I don’t recommend going more than Warp Six if we don’t want to give ourselves away to anyone in Free State space.”

Ryker smiled, “Good to hear. I’ll let the Captain know, right after I speak to our Bajoran couple.”

“Are you going to choose who will be the one in charge of the Hazard Team?” She asked.

Ryker raised his brows, “You know about that?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Sivol told me about it, after Vakai told her…so yeah. You and Vakai want to establish a more primary use of the Hazard Team, make it a full department on the ship Vakai will be commanding…if he gets one I mean.”

Ryker smirked and shook his head, “Yeah, that be it.”

She nodded her head, speaking up before he turned to leave. “I would suggest Maya.”

Ryker grinned, “Is this because this is some girl power thing?”

She squinted at him before smacking him on the arm. “Dork. No. I just feel more comfortable with Koyda being the Chief of Security, when that time comes, as he definitely knows how to run a security department. Maya is just the kind of gal that I would prefer as Head of the Hazard Team department of yours, just because I know that if anyone gets in her way, she will knock you down and not give a damn.”

Ryker chuckled softly before nodding his head. “I’ll keep that in mind the next time I am able to discuss it with Vakai.”

Gomez nodded as well, “We are going to get him back, right?”

Ryker placed his hand on her shoulder, “If Maya is as badass as you say she is, then yes, we will get him back. If what Rosa said is true, no one should be left in the hands of that madman.”

Suddenly Captain Carter’s voice rang all around them in Main Engineering that people had to cover their ears. “What is the status of our warp engines?”

Gomez shook her head and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Great. Someone fixed the intercom without notifying me first.” She turned her head and shouted, “The volume is way too goddamn high! To whomever fixed them. You know who you are. Get back there and fix it before I make you scrub the plasma manifolds for a month!”

Ryker chuckled a little, “Someone’s tense.”

Gomez looked at him and rolled her eyes. “I know they’re still mourning over the loss of the Chief, I will once we get Vakai back and get this ship in a drydock for repairs. But the point is, they are forgetting to notify me about certain things.”

Ryker patted her shoulder, “I’m sure it’ll pass shortly.”

“Hello?” Carter’s voice boomed again.

Gomez groaned, turned around to her station and started bypassing herself into the intercom settings, booting out whoever was in them earlier, and did some adjustments. Then she turned back around to face Ryker, leaning back against her console with her arms crossed over her chest, not looking very pleased. “Sorry, Captain. Experiencing some technical difficulties with the intercom. The warp engines are back online, we can go to warp as soon as I mask our warp signature.”

“Then I suggest you get to it quickly.” Carter ordered.

“Of course sir, as soon as someone stops bothering me.” Gomez looked at Ryker and smirked.

“Ryker, hurry back to the Bridge and leave Gomez alone.”

Ryker shook his head, “I’ll be there as soon as I speak to Lieutenant Maya.”

“Understood. Carter out.”

“See you later?” Ryker asked her.

Gomez shrugged, “We’ll see. Work is very important to me.” She teased him and then gently pushed him on his way out.

Vakai clenched his teeth tightly together, his lips drawn back as with every heavy grunt of pain a little spiddle of saliva escapes. Soldar, who has asked several times and Vakai had delayed or given him the answer he didn’t like, has sheared off the last digit. Vakai knew that this was all just in the mind, that the pain wasn’t real, that this reality wasn’t real. But the device that they were hooked up to, made it so real that it was so difficult for him to force his mind to ignore the pain that doesn’t exist.

“You are making this more difficult than it needs to be, Vakai. But no matter,” Soldar set the shears down on the counter nearby and picked up something new. “Your resistance only makes this much more enjoyable for me.”

Vakai was so trained, so focused on trying to separate his mind from this false reality, to ignore the pain that he did not see that Soldar had picked up what looked like a flask with some sort of liquid with a top that you would only let a droplet escape if tapped just hard enough. And then suddenly, he felt the cold metal of the table on his rear and looked down to see that whatever clothing he had left was completely gone. He then looked at Soldar, his eyes wide as he saw the flask.

Soldar chuckled heavily, “I suppose you are already thinking about what this might be. Well if you had thought of acid, you are spot on.” He said before he stood there beside Vakai. “So, I will ask again. Who are your parents?”

Vakai gathered whatever saliva he had and spat at him. “I will never tell you.”

Soldar sighed, “You seem to think that resisting is going to help you win this battle. But it absolutely will not. You have no idea how much I enjoy my work, how much I enjoy torturing my prisoners. You see, it’s not about the fact that you will tell me what I need to know, it is about the fact that all those defenses you have, all those barriers that are keeping me from cracking into your mind and getting the information that I want…will eventually break down. All I have to do is, keep doing what I am doing…hurt you, even kill you repeatedly, until finally…your mind opens up to me and all that information will come rushing out as if someone had opened up the floodgates.” Soldar leaned down, resting his arms on where he could on the table and brought his face close to Vakai’s.

“I know you have been trained very well to defend your mind from torture, especially this kind of torture. But the thing is, you have not trained yourself well enough because if you did, you wouldn’t be feeling any pain. There would be no pain at all! In fact, you would be able to take control of this reality and break free from the device.” Soldar licked his lips and then smacked them. “But whoever taught you and trained you, was pathetic. You have no power here, Vakai. No one is coming to save you, no one even knows where you are. You are at the mercy of me…and I will get what I want from you and I assure you…I will enjoy torturing your parents as much as I am enjoying this.” Soldar then pushed himself off and stood up straight. “If you survive this, I may even let you watch me work on your parents. Having an audience is far more pleasing for me.” He laughed cynically before hovering the flask over a very specific area, the reason why Vakai was completely naked now. “But it seems that despite all that I have said to you, you still intend to resist. Well then I hope you enjoy the feel of acid eating away at your most precious nethers.” He then tilted the flask over and hit it hard a couple times, a single drop for each one below his waistline. As much as Vakai tried to separate his mind from the pain, this kind of pain…he could not as there was simply no way to imagine how excruciating the pain was, and to separate his mind from it was impossible at this point. And as the acid slowly ate away, Soldar stood there snickering away with his arms crossed over his chest. “If you think that is bad, wait until I give your eyes a drop!” He then laughed as Vakai continued to cry out in pain.

Chapter Five

Tal'Shiar Space Station Omicron
November 29th, 2399

It was dark, no matter where you looked, you could not see anything. Just pure blackness. Vakai knew that his eyes were open, at least he could feel the muscles that he were using to open and close his eyelids, so he knew that his eyelids were open. He couldn’t feel any pain, so that also told him that this reality has been reset, again. How many times has that been? Has it been two days? Three? He couldn’t tell, he completely lost track of time, as this virtual reality was wreaking havoc on his mind. But he used every bit of training that he learned from the virtual reality nodes his parents left him, used every training simulation he had available to him, and trained himself to strengthen his mind. Hell he even meditated like a Vulcan, not that there was anything wrong with it, but it was the point of it. He prepared himself for this and yet, what this man has done to him has done significant damage to his defenses.

He absolutely does not know how much longer he can take this.

Suddenly the whole area illuminated under a big bright light, forcing him to shut his eyes and turn his head away to try and shield himself from it, but he could feel that his wrists were tied together behind something…. A chair, it has to be. What else could he be sitting in?

“So. Here we are again.” Came a familiar voice, Soldar. The man walked into the light with a stool in his hands. He placed it down in front of Vakai and then took his seat. Soldar took a deep breath and exhaled slowly but loudly to express how frustrated he had been becoming. “You are the most stubborn Romulan I have ever met. Truly remarkable work, in preparing yourself for something like this, which only further solidifies that you have had Tal’Shiar training, and the only way you had that kind of training is because of your parents.”

Vakai leaned back as comfortably as he can be in his chair before opening his eyes, having finally adjusted to the light shining so bright above them, staring hard into Soldar’s eyes. “I’m not telling you who they are.”

Soldar took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly, and loudly once again. “I do not completely understand your resistance, Vakai. They may be your biological parents, but they abandoned you while you were merely an infant. Your real parents are the ones who raised you, fed you, clothed you…” He smacked his lips and sighed. “Let me make something perfectly clear to you, but first I have to let you know that this is the sixth time we have revived you in this virtual reality. That is the sixth time your brain has suffered damage from this reality, not significant damage yet from what our instruments tell us, which is quite remarkable. I’ve seen excellent Tal’Shiar agents start to have severe brain damage by this point, so you have done remarkably well in your training.”

“Vulcan Meditation does help. You should try it.” Vakai told him.

Soldar smiled, “I know. I’ve been doing a lot longer than you have, boy. Now.” He smacked his lips again, “Point is, we know for a fact that no one, and I mean no one, continues to go on like this without any severe brain damage after the sixth time. So I kill you here, one more time, and we revive you, you’re going to start having problems. You could have issues with speech, possibly walk funny, unable to see very clearly or perceive words as you hear them, the possibilities are endless of what kind of damage your brain could suffer. What I am trying to say is, you need to start telling me what I need to know, or I will keep this up until you are nothing but a vegetable, returned to Starfleet as nothing but a meat bag with no conscience. You do understand what that means, correct?”

Vakai nodded his head, “I do. But-”

Soldar raised his hand. “I’m not finished.” He took another deep breath and let out a long heavy sigh before smacking his lips once more. “The other reason that I do not understand your resistance to my question, is because I don’t even care that your parents got together to conceive you. The Tal’Shiar does not care. True, we would have liked that they kept you here, with the Tal’Shiar so we could have molded you into a perfect Soldier or the perfect covert agent, or maybe the greatest Tal’Shiar Admiral we’ve ever had.”

“You mean brainwash.” Vakai interrupted.

Soldar squinted at him and held up a finger. “Do not interrupt me again, boy.” He cleared his throat as he put his hand down. “The point is, we do not care about the fact that your parents orphaned you on Earth, giving up their responsibilities of taking care of you to some other couple. That is just completely irresponsible. No. What we care about is the fact that they not only gave away Tal’Shiar technology to you, which I have no doubt that Starfleet got their dirty little fingers on, but it is also the fact that they have been giving out classified information to our enemy! They’re traitors! And traitors must be found and eliminated!!!”

“Just say it like it is, scumbag! You mean executed!”

Soldar leapt up from his stool. “Of course I mean executed you filth! Now tell me their names so I can have these traitors found and shot for treason!”


Soldar scoffed and backed away, rubbing the bridge of his nose as he began to think. “I cannot believe how incredibly frustrating you are. I have snipped your digits off. Even cut off your limbs. I dropped acid on your most sensitive extremities, even given your eyeballs eye surgery with it. I’ve had flesh eating maggots go rampant on your body. I’ve slit your stomach open while you were hanging from the ceiling face down, watching your intestines and organs spill out. I’ve branded all over your body. I skinned you alive. And just for fun, I slowly lowered you centimeter by centimeter into a pool of lava!” Soldar shouted at the end while twisting around to look at Vakai. “What will it take to make you talk?!”

‘Not much longer…’ Vakai thought. “I guess you will just have to kill me again.” He smiled, ‘That’s it. Just accept death. At least my parents will live on.’ He lowered his head.

Soldar tilted his head to the side a bit and grinned. “Aahhhh… You are getting tired.”

‘Shit.’ He lifted his head back up and looked at him. “You haven’t been letting me sleep at all, so of course I’m tired!”

Soldar shook his head. “No, no, noooo. You’re tired because you want this to end as much as I do. It’s really quite simple, Vakai. Tell me who the traitors are, and I will have you returned to your ship, fed and well rested.”

“I will not…”

Soldar sighed once more and shook his head. “Let me put it in another way. I have complete and utter control of this reality. Just the snap of my fingers,” which he did and the whole room changed. They were now in space. He snapped again and they were in the town square of some place Vakai couldn’t quite figure out. Another snap and they were high in the atmosphere, falling. Another snap and they were in some active volcano surrounded by lava, the heat was intense too. Final snap and they were in some room, filled with instruments in Romulan language. “See, I literally can do anything. I can even do this.” He snapped his fingers and Vakai’s wrists were no longer bound to each other. In fact, his hands were now resting on the arm rests of the chair but he was still strapped down with straps around his upper and mid chest, his stomach and several straps around each leg but his arms were free. Vakai didn’t like where this was going.

Soldar walked up to him and took Vakai’s hand in his. “I can even be god.” And with just a simple squeeze, he was suddenly crushing Vakai’s hand, hearing the bones snapping and popping. Vakai couldn’t stop himself from crying out, as no matter how much pain he had to endure from this man’s countless torture, coming back to a fresh new body in this reality was like wiping everything, a clean slate. Or perhaps the machine they had him hooked up to was intensifying the pain, making his brain believe that whatever pain he endured was three times more than it would have really been. Not that Vakai would know. Soldar let go of Vakai’s hand, took a couple steps back and snapped his fingers. Suddenly the pain was gone, just gone and when Vakai looked down at his hand, it looked perfectly fine. He could ball it up into a fist, clench and unclench over and over and he wouldn’t feel anything out of place.

“Why do I need to keep proving to you that I can do absolutely anything in this reality that you can’t possibly imagine?” Soldar asked. “I can even do-” The second he stopped speaking was the second he completely vanished before Vakai’s eyes. This made Vakai frown and wonder what could have made him disappear.

Soldar’s eyes opened up and widened with fury as he reached up and pulled the devices off of his temples before rising up quickly from his seat and turning sharply at his Centurions. “Who brought me out?!” He shouted. The two Centurions looked at each other and then looked at the third who stood there, out of place.

Soldar looked at him before quickly traversing right up to his face. “I specifically ordered not to be disturbed while I am interrogating the prisoner!” He shouted right at the Centurion. Soldar then reached behind him and grabbed hold of his disruptor pistol before yanking it out of its holster, taking a step over and away at the Centurion’s side and pressed the tip of the disruptor right up against the Centurion’s temple. “You have five seconds to explain yourself!”

The Centuron quickly held up a padd. “You wanted to be notified about the Starfleet ship, Commander!”

Soldar looked at the padd and growled, “What of it?! Three seconds!!

The Centurion gulped and began to stutter. “I-i-it’s n-no l-l-longer t-there, C-C-Commander!”

“What?!” Soldar grabbed and yanked the padd out of the Centurion’s hand with his own free hand and looked over at the data, to which his eyes widened as far as they could go and he looked right at the Centurion. “This. Is. Over. Twelve Hours OLD!!! His finger pushed down on the trigger and the Centurion was vaporized in a second. “I am working with incompetent idiots!” He shouted before looking at the padd once more. “Blast. They could be here any minute. You!” He pointed his disruptor at one of the two remaining Centurions. “Get to the Operations Center and put the station on high alert. You have five seconds to leave this room and do as I command. Five…four…”

The Centurion jumped out of her seat and ran for the door. “Three-two-one.” He pulled the trigger and the beam hit the door frame. He scoffed and brought his disruptor close. “Blast it. I told them to fix the bloody emitter.” He grunted in frustration before reaching behind and shoving the disruptor back into its holster, to which made the remaining Centurion sigh in relief. “You there. What is his status?” He pointed to Vakai who laid there on the table with similar devices attached to his temples, but connected directly to the terminal.

“His vitals remain the same as before. He has not moved since you were pulled out of the reality, Commander.”

Soldar dropped the padd on top of the terminal, “Good.” He said before he went back to his seat and grabbed the two virtual reality nodes and placed them on his temple. “Put me back in, I need to finish this interrogation immediately.” He then closed his eyes and felt his mind being tapped into, so that when he opened his eyes again, it was in the reality that he had left Vakai in. But for some odd reason, Vakai was no longer in the chair. Soldar walked up to it, clenching his fists, “That is not possible.” Soldar also realized they were not in the room that he had left Vakai in, they were back in the dark empty room with nothing but a bright light above him.

Out of nowhere, a fist came out from the shadows and connected to Soldar’s left cheek, with a force strong enough to knock him right down onto the floor. “Oh it is possible.”

Soldar put his hand to his cheek, his eyes wide with fury but also with confusion. “How?! How can this be?!”

Vakai stepped out of the shadow, smiling. “Simple really. While you were busy torturing me, I was busy testing your system’s security. I probed it and I probed it until I found the weakness I was looking for and when I got through, I carefully played around with some of the settings. I wanted to see what I could manipulate without alerting your Centurions.”

Soldar quickly got up to his feet and immediately threw a punch at Vakai, but to no avail. As Vakai caught Soldar’s right fist in his right hand, Vakai began to squeeze and they both could hear the bones starting to snap, throwing Soldar down to his knees, crying out in pain. “This isn’t possible!! There is no weakness to my security system!!”

“You’re wrong! There’s always a weakness, always a loophole, always a gap somewhere. Every time you try to close it up, it just opens up a new one. It’s inevitable. Of course, you have to be trained to find it. So yes, my parents did prepare me for this, they did give me everything I needed to train myself to find these loopholes. Of course, I must pay my compliments to you, yours was difficult to find but once I found it, that was the end of it. I changed your settings and now, I am in control. In this reality, I am god.” Vakai let go of his fist, to which Soldar brought it to his chest and held it with his left hand.

“Terminate! Terminate!!” Soldar shouted.

Vakai laughed, “I also found your kill code too. Come on dude, you left it out right in the open for anyone to find. And you’re supposed to be some master interrogator? Pathetic.”

“How dare you insult me! How dare you soil my name!!” Soldar shouted at him.

Vakai knelt down before him and sighed, “After this, you won’t have much of a name left. Before I leave, I got something special for you.” Vakai stood up and snapped his fingers, where they are now in low, sub-orbit of a planet. “Welcome to Earth. Sorry, but it is a long way down. Hope you don’t mind burning up in the atmosphere. Oh and, every time you die…I have the system set to reset right back to this very point, bringing you back to life and making you experience this over and over and over again. So…I hope you like having your mind turning into jello, because after today, you and I will never meet again.”

“No. No, no, no! Nonononononoooo!!!” Soldar shouted, “This is impossible! Get me out! Now!”

Vakai chuckled. “They can’t hear you. To be fair, you deserve a lot worse than this.” Vakai then reached up to his temples to where the nodes are and pulled. Suddenly he completely vanished before Soldar’s eyes.


Vakai’s eyes then opened and he could see that there was a completely different scenery around him, nothing at all like where he had left Soldar. ‘Is this it? Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?’ He moved his eyes in their socket towards the left, not wanting to alert anyone, if there was anyone, that he was awake. He could see a single Centurion operating a terminal and he had no clue. Perfect. Vakai had left a fake trail of his vitals in the system to make it appear that he was still in the virtual reality, and it has completely fooled them. Although, it may not be long until the Centurion realizes that something is very wrong with Soldar. And it was not long at all.

The terminal began beeping at him, some sort of warning, and then the Centurion got up and started to walk over to Soldar to check to see if the nodes were malfunctioning. His back was turned to him, this is his only chance. Hell, he wasn’t even strapped down to the table! They absolutely had not expected him to break into their system and get out. Vakai quickly rolled off the table and onto his feet before coming up right behind the Centurion with his right arm around his neck, grabbing the wrist of his right arm with his left hand and applying all the pressure he could muster to knock the Centurion unconscious. The moment the Romulan went limp in his arm, was when he just released him and allowed him to tumble to the floor.

Vakai reached down and grabbed the disruptor from the Centurion’s holster and then felt the deck start to shake. Suddenly the alert klaxon was going off and he felt the deck under his feet have another gentle like shake. Vakai smiled, “You guys timed it perfectly. Now to see if they left the command functions open on this thing.” He went over to the terminal and started entering commands, changing menus, looking for the very thing he needed. His smile grew wider and he started to chuckle. “Oh man…your superiors are going to love you, Soldar. Let’s see, should I turn off the base’s weapons…or should I just overload them? How about…”

Chapter Six

USS Centaur / Tal'Shiar Station
December 2399

The Rescue

“We dropped out of warp.” Ryker notified Carter.

“Evasive maneuvers, Mr. Ryker.” Carter ordered. “Gomo, what do you have?”

“It registers as a standard Romulan Research Station, but sensors register powerful shield generators and high energy plasma beams and disruptor cannons, as well as standard photon and high plasma torpedo launchers.” Gomo reported.

“Nothing of which we need to worry about.” Said Gomez as she had been leaned over the engineering station for about an hour. She stood up straight and looked to Captain Carter to had looked to her for an explanation, among other people. “For some reason the power grid to their offensive and defensive systems has been disabled, they are completely exposed right now.”

“We’re not looking to take down an entire space station. Starfleet may know that we are here but they don’t know why and I’m certain that they would not be pleased that we took the liberty of eliminating a Tal’Shiar facility, whether we know that to be true or not. As Gomo said, it registers as a Research Station and if we eliminate it, the State will certainly demand Starfleet for our heads.” Carter shook his head. “But we will use this opportunity to send both Alpha and Bravo Teams in to get our First Officer back.”

“Well I wasn’t implying on taking the station out at all. For starters, the torpedo launcher is in worse shape than we had thought. The reloading system is fried and with only three torpedoes in the tube, it wouldn’t make much of a dent.” Said Gomez.

“Bringing us in transporter range now, Captain.” Ryker informed Carter before turning in his seat. “Permission to join the rescue teams, sir.”

“Denied. I need you here, Ryker. You’re our best pilot. If those weapon systems come on line, going to need you to use your skills to avoid getting hit.” Carter told him.

“It wouldn’t matter if we shunt all power into the shields, even one facing shield. Those high energy weapons will pulverize our defenses and cut our hull like a hot knife on butter.” Gomez added.

“More reason to keep you here, Mr. Ryker.” Carter told him before tapping on the comm button in his chair. “Bridge to Transporter One and Two. Alpha, Bravo, we’re closing in on the station. Their shields and weapons are offline. This gives us a perfect opportunity to send you over, get our First Officer and get the hell out. I advise that you work very quickly.”

At Transporter Room One. Maya checked everyone’s gear one more time before looking up at the ceiling. “This is Alpha Team, we’re ready to go, Captain.” She then looked at her team members one more time. She had Ensigns Elidia, Mizu and Ortiz with her. Maya then went over to the transporter terminal and checked the sensor display that the transporter chief pointed her to. There were several blips near their transport site, but they will have to deal with it. “Get on the pad everyone, we’re going in hot.” Maya soon joined them on one of the empty pads and then knelt down with her rifle raised into a firing position, everyone else doing the same. “Ready to go on your mark, Captain!”

At Transporter Room Two. Koyda, Lieutenant Commander Sivol, Ensign K’Roll and a random security crewman were the members of Bravo Team. After having checked the sensor display from the transporter terminal and finding their beam in point to be less crowded than Alpha’s, he nodded to his team and they all stepped onto the pad. “Bravo Team ready for transport, Captain.”

“Good Luck, Hazard Team.” Carter’s voice rang in the transporter room. “Transporter Rooms One and Two. Energize!”


Tal’Shiar Facility

Through the eyes of Lieutenant Koyda Daco, he watched as his vision was filled with sparkling light and the scenery of a Starfleet Transporter Room changed to an unfamiliar scene of a Romulan Cargo Bay. All around him were crates and containers, likely full of standard supplies for a station like this. With his rifle up at the right, held up by his right hand gripping the pistol grip, he rotated his left arm so the back of his hand rested under the foregrip. On the top of his forearm was a device that they had quickly put together for both him and Maya to act as a tricorder and an active communicator. All he had to do was whisper to it and it would bring up a sensor display to show him their surroundings and if any Romulans were near by.

But after he got the tricorder display to turn on, he heard a blaster fire. Looking to his left, he saw a silhouette and in an instinctive reactor, he turned the rest of his body until the barrel of his rifle was aimed right at the target and pulled the trigger. After that it all happened so fast. What he remembered is he took down the target before him, rotated to his right rapidly and immediately pulled the trigger on another Romulan. The firefight was essentially over in matter of seconds, as Koyda remembered from earlier, there were only a few blips on the transporter terminal’s sensor display.

“Lieutenant.” Said the Caitain, Ensign K’Roll.

Koyda lowered his rifle once he was certain they were clear before moving over to the Ensign, only to find one of their team members has fallen. He saw Sivol was checking the crewmember’s vital signs before looking at Koyda and shaking her head. Koyda sighed heavily before reaching over and double tapped the crewmember’s badge, signalling the transporter chief to transport. He then tapped his own, “Bravo Team reporting in. We encountered hostiles at our beam in point, we lost a member. We’re proceeding on mission. Alpha Team, how are you doing over there?”

“I little busy at the moment!”

Maya, and Elidia were pressed against the wall at one side of the door, Elidia closest to the door frame and knelt down, while Ruby and Mizu were on the other side of the frame, Ruby mirroring Elidia. Outside the open door, was a corridor branched out three directions, straight, left and right and each one were filled with Romulan soldiers.

“What is your status, Alpha Team?” Came from the Captain.

“We’ve encountered a higher volume of hostiles than we expected, Captain. But we got it covered.” She then looked to Ruby, “Grenade!” With that, she yanked her stun grenade out of her pouch and handed it down to Elidia. Ruby did the same, reminded her how to activate it and pointed that she was going to roll hers down the corridor on his side, and he would do the same on hers. They counted from three then Ruby rolled his hard, immediately after she did the same and waited to hear them go off, or at least hear the bodies drop.

Then Maya took out one more and tossed it down the last corridor after activating it and gave it five seconds before stepping out of cover and walking out of the room with her rifle drawn. Ruby and Mizu followed suit, Ruby looking down the left while Mizu looked down the right and if they saw any soldier flinch they fired. Maya then looked at everyone to check on them, all three nodding to her that they were okay before she nodded back at them. Maya tapped her badge, “Alpha Team is good to go and heading out now.” She then looked to Elidia, “I hope that picks him up, because I don’t want to be here for too long.”

Elidia looked at her tricorder before she nodded her head. “If what Commander Ryker and Commander Sivol say is true, we should be able to find the trace.”

[Three Hours Ago]

“So how are we going to find the Commander in…that.” Carter pointed at the slightly stable holographic image of the station.

“Well about that.” Ryker looked to Sivol, who looked directly back at him before looking to Carter to explain.

“When we realized that we were going to be actively helping the border colonies near the three Romulan Governments, we were concerned that we could end up losing Vakai in the crowd.” Sivol explained.

“There was also the fact that, when Vakai ever used those nodes of his that he places on his temples to visit this virtual reality training, mainly to see his parents now since he says he has learned just about everything they had stored in the data padd that came with the nodes…his parents would tell him that the Tal’Shiar may come for him and to be prepared for when they do.” Ryker also explained.

“So we followed his instructions, and created our own version of a Tal’Shiar tracking device. With Vakai’s help of course. Also with some tweaks, so that the Tal’Shiar themselves cannot detect it.” Said Sivol.

Carter frowned, “How come I am learning about this now?”

Ryker sighed, “Honestly, I was hoping it never happened. I didn’t think the Tal’Shiar be this dumb. Or clever. I mean, how were we suppose to know that there was some mercenary out there with a cloaking device identical to the one that the Reman Warbird used when it engaged the Enterprise? Let alone being armed to the flipping teeth!”

“Point is, Commander. I should have been informed about this. He is my First Officer after all.”

Sivol nodded her head. “You are right, Captain and we do apologize.”

“So how does it work?”

Ryker sighed again, “Well, one of the tweaks to keep the Tal’Shiar from detecting it was reducing its signal strength by eighty percent.”

“More like ninety five percent.” Sivol corrected.

Ryker nodded, “Right. It means that, even though we changed the trace and the signal for which only we know of and can search for, we would have to be within thirty meters.”

Carter sighed heavily, “Bloody hell. And with this station filled with corridors, and decks, you’d have to transition to whichever deck he may be on, if there is a way to get to that deck without losing him.”

“I’m certain we will find him, sir.” Said Maya.

“Absolutely.” Koyda chipped in.

“You better.” Carter told them.


Carter stood there at the very center of the Bridge before his chair, staring at the view screen as the teams carried on, moving through corridor after corridor in search for Vakai. They were both heading for the interrogation room of which they were told Vakai would likely be in, but both teams were coming from different points of the station to try and cover more ground, in case Vakai had escaped. With the weapons and shields being down, it is most likely that Vakai had escaped the interrogation but hopefully had not gone too far. Sooner they find him, the quicker they can leave and get back to Federation Space.

Bravo Team was the first to make it to the interrogation room and there, they saw bodies on the floor but nothing else. The team reported their findings and moved on, as now they had to solely rely on the tricorders to pick up the tracking device.


A Romulan Soldier came charging into the interrogation room, “Commander!” He shouted only to see Commander Soldar laying on the interrogation bed and thriving about. He quickly went up to the terminal and began terminating the system before going over to the Commander and pulling the nodes off of his temple. The second the nodes came off was the second that Soldar’s eyes flew wide open, rising up from the bed and grabbing the Romulan Soldier by the throat instantaneously. Breathing and grunting heavily through clenched teeth as he glared hard with his bloodshot eyes, growling as his grip tightened more and more around the soldier’s throat. But just as the soldier was seconds away from losing consciousness, Soldar realized that the man he was choking was not Vakai and that was when he relaxed and released the man.

Soldar rested his arms on top edge of the terminal as he caught his breath, clenching his fists as he could still feel the intense pain of the atmosphere burning his flesh off his bones. “Commander.” The soldier coughed. “Starfleet ship…entered…space…boarding party…we’ve been boarded!”

Soldar growled heavily in frustration as he walked fully around the terminal and began to access its systems, only to see that he has been locked out of both weapons and shields. “How is this possible?” He said under his breath. “There is no way he could have my codes.” He continued to speak under his breath, keeping his words to himself before a wicked plan came to mind. “If I cannot stop them from taking you home…then I will end you along with them.” He accessed the reactor control systems and then shut down the coolant system, as well as increased reactor output. Then he locked the control system completely and began corrupting the logs of his actions so that if the data recorder was recovered from the wreckage, it would look like a simple malfunction. In theory. The soldier had gotten up just in time to see that Soldar was going to overload the reactor. “What are you doing?!”

Soldar began to chuckle uncontrollably until it turned into a full blown hysterical laugh but the second he felt the soldier’s hand on his shoulder, he grabbed the wrist, twisted, turned to face the man, pulled him in and at the same time, slugged him right in the face, causing the soldier to stumble across the floor. Seeing that that was not enough, Soldar went to one of fallen centurions on the floor that still had a disruptor, reached down, pulled the disruptor out of the holster, stood up straight and began adjusting the power settings. “You’re mad!” The soldier said as he rubbed his jaw. “You’re going to kill us all, for that one traitor!”

Soldar chuckled. “No. That traitor is the one who killed you all. You just don’t know it yet.” Soldar told him as he tilted his head to the side before instantaneously raising the pistol and fired, vaporizing the soldier. Without hesitation, Soldar left the interrogation room in a hurry to grab one of the few scout ships left in the hangar so he can depart immediately. And just as he went around the corner at one end of the corridor, Bravo Team came around another from a different end, the two groups missing each other entirely.

Gomez eyes went wide as she saw the sensor readings on the station’s reactor go off the scale from her terminal. “Shit!” She jumped out of her seat, turned around, placed her hands on the rail and leaned forward as she looked right at the Captain. “The team needs to find him now! Some psychopath is overloading the stations reactor, it’s going to go critical in five minutes!”

Carter’s eyes grew and he looked right back at the view screen. “Did you hear that, Hazard Team? You got less than five minutes to find him, get back to a beam in point and get the hell out of there so we can get away from the blast!”

“You heard the Captain, double time it people!” Maya’s voice chipped in.

“Move move move!” Said Koyda.

“Wait! I got him!!” Said Elidia. “This way!” She then took the lead and after a few bends, they found Vakai on the floor with his back against the wall, grasping his right wrist.

Maya knelt down beside him, “Commander. It’s okay, we’re here to get you home.”

“My hand…” He complained, wincing and breathing sharply as if he was in pain. “It burns. Burns so much.”

But as they looked, nothing was wrong with it, even when Elidia scanned it with her medical tricorder, she looked to the team before looking back at Vakai. “Your hand is fine, Commander.”

“Don’t you see the lava?!” Vakai shouted.

They then knew what was going on, Maya looked at Elidia and nodded. Elidia opened up her kit and pulled out a hypospray, where she pressed it up to his neck and pressed the injection button where they heard the all so familiar hissing sound. In seconds, they saw the look of pain on Vakai’s face went to a look of relief and concern, his breathing relaxing and released the grip on his wrist. “What did you give me?”

“A cocktail. Something the Rangers told us about that would help with whatever it is that madman did to you.” Maya explained. “But we don’t have time, we need to go, now!” She snapped her fingers as she stood up, both Mizu and Elidia taking an arm and helping him to his feet. But as soon as he got to his feet, he pulled himself free.

“I’m fine. Really. Whatever you gave me, it’s really helping.” He told them.

“Good. Because we need to run!” Maya told him and took off running, the rest of the team and Vakai himself running after her. Along the way she tapped her badge. “Alpha Team has the Commander. Get to the Beam in point, now!”

“Yours is closest, we’re heading there right now!” Said Koyda.

“I don’t care, just go go go!”

Carter paced back and forth, between the two stations and his chair, from port to starboard to port and repeat. “Come on, come on. How much time?”

“Two minutes!” Gomez reported.

“Bridge, Transporter Room Two. I got Bravo Team.”

“Transporter Room One. I got Alpha and the Commander!”

“Bloody hell,” Carter went and stood next to Ryker at the helm, “Get us the hell out of here, Commander!”

Ryker’s fingers immediately began tapping in commands on the console. The ship pulled a hard one twenty degree turn to port and punched it to full impulse power. “I need warp power!”

“Working on it!” Said Gomez.

Ryker changed the viewer to reveal the station behind them and saw that it was beginning to go with all the micro explosions going about. “Gomez!”

“Now! Punch it now!”

With one tap, the ship jumped into warp just before the station’s reactor went critical, avoiding the explosion and the shock wave entirely.

[Hour Later]

Vakai sat there at the end of the biobed as Dr Pearce finished her check. “Well, all your vitals are returning to normal. That cocktail they gave us seemed to have repaired the damage they had done to you.” She told him.

Vakai sighed, “I certainly hope so.”

“Do you still remember everything?” Ryker asked. Everyone looking right at him, all wondering the same thing.

Vakai sighed once more before nodding his head. “Everything.”

Pearce placed her hand on his shoulder. “Give it time. Right now, what you need the most is to drink fluids and eat.”

Vakai was about to answer when the ship shook violently and the Red Alert klaxon went off. Gomo’s voice echoed throughout Sickbay. “We’re under attack, Captain!”

Vakai hopped off the biobed but both Ryker, Sivol and Carter stopped. “We just got you back, man.” Ryker told him but Vakai looked to Pearce before looking back at Ryker and then Carter. “She said I was free to go eat…why this any different?”

Carter exhaled heavily through his nose. “No time to debate, let’s move!”


Soldar plopped down in the pilot seat as he powered up the scout vessel, entered his commands to release the docking clamps and cranked up the ships engines to speed away from the station so he can go to warp before it could explode. As soon as he made his escape, he brought up the comm holo display and hailed the nearest warship.

“Commander Ri’lek.”

“Commander Soldar. By the authority of the Tal’Shiar, I order you to pursue this vessel.” He entered the information and the transponder signal of the Centaur. “It is in our space, destroyed my station and is harboring a traitor of the State!”

Ri’lek verified the security codes that he also received in the transmission before nodded his head. “Orders received and will be carried out, Commander.”

“Good. One last thing. Don’t destroy the ship, not yet. As soon as you capture that traitorous slime, then you are free to obliterate that garbage scow from our space!”

“Understood, Commander. Ri’lek out.” The holo display blinked out, leaving Soldar there to uncontrollably laugh hysterically like a mad man before crying out loudly in pain as he could once again feel his flesh being seared off of his bones. It was difficult for him to try and convince his mind that the pain wasn’t real, but once he did he was panting heavily, sweating, hands trembling, he was losing control. “Computer. New course heading. Bring me home. And inform my loyal friend, Tomek, that I need his help.”

Chapter Seven

Devron Starbase / Task Force Executive Office
12th January, 2400

[Guest Character: Captain Gar’rath, TFCO. – Thank you very much, Lord Cur!]

Captain Gar’rath stood gazing out at the many dry dock platforms scattered around his field of view. A great many of the vessels were awaiting their initial construction, while others were in for repairs or refits. Some of them belonged to the Task Force that Gar’rath now commanded, while others were destined to join other parts of Starfleet for any number of missions once their time in the docks was over. Though the shipyard wasn’t under his direct command, the Gorn felt that it would do him no harm to be familiar with the operations of the facility, which had led to him staring out of the large window in contemplative silence. It was only when he heard someone walk in that he pulled himself out of his ponderous thoughts.

“Commander,” he said, his voice being translated as a very deep one despite Gorn language being much different.

Maxwell found Captain Gar’rath where he had expected him to be, right here in his very office. The meeting with a particular Captain was important, considering some details that came across their desks. Maxwell went over to stand near the Captain. “Captain.” He noticed the Gorn was staring out through the large view port, seeing those eyes darting little by little, which when Maxwell looked, he could see why. The view was beautiful, least to him it looked that way. So many dry dock platforms, so many vessels docked getting repairs, resupply, or even under construction. Ever since Maxwell departed the Sovereign when it arrived here at Devron for its refit, and soon learned that he was now the Executive Officer of Task Force Ninety-Three, he took every liberty he had to study every single vessel that they had in the Task Force and here in the fleet of dry docks. “When I was on board the Sovereign, I was expecting to receive the Captain’s Chair at some point. I had never once imagined to be in this position, with a Task Force such as this.” Maxwell then exhaled slowly. “But I am glad to be back at helping the Romulans again, even if it’s just border colonies on our side. And I would certainly strive at the chance of peaceful negotiations with the three Romulan powers.”

“Our mission is a noble one,” the large Gorn intoned as his eyes continued to stalk the shipyards, “One that my own people would never consider let alone execute. It is good that I am here, in the Federation brood, as I have always believed differently from other Gorn.”

Commander Henry Maxwell then looked through the view port towards the dry docks, one of which was now housing the Centaur. Powerless, lifeless, an empty shell. A shell that is now beginning to be pealed off, piece by piece. The extensive damage that the vessel had taken from its trip from the Sector Fero Psi to here was enough to put the ship out of commission for repairs for a few weeks. Maxwell was briefed on the classified operation after being informed about the classified Omega Directive when he became the Executive Officer of Task Force Ninety-Three. So Maxwell knows of the surprise attack from some Klingon Vorcha Attack Cruiser belonging to a Klingon Captain who’s ship was reported to have been helping the Fourth Fleet deal with the rebels of D’Ghor in the Archanis Sector. Apparently the Captain was merely working for his own personal gain, someone who Maxwell will keep an eye on. Last thing the Task Force needs while conducting its ongoing objective, is yet another rogue Klingon. But the Centaur was enroute to Devron Fleet Yards when the classified operation was concluded as a success, and yet the ship never arrived. What he found to be intriguing was where the Centaur was located and towed back to Devron from, thanks to USS Ceshras, a four nacelle version of the Nebula Class, and to her escorts, the USS Grafton an Akira Class and USS Icarus an Intrepid.

The Centaur was recovered in Romulan Free State space, just a couple light years away from the border too. There was also a Free State Warbird with the Centaur that was just as crippled. Per reports from all three Captains of the rescue ships, the cause was a quantum filament. But also in those reports, was that the Warbird’s Singularity Core was shut down, something that is highly unusual. Also to the fact that being they were in better shape than the Centaur was, some of the Centaur crew were being treated in the Warbird’s medical facilities. This is where Maxwell has to now write up a report of the contribution and assistance that the Romulans of the State have given to Starfleet personnel and submit it up the chain for review, most likely Command will be personally thanking the Romulan Free States, maybe adding some positive points to the current relations. But Maxwell needed to get to the whole story and get straight to the bottom of it.

Then his eyes trailed from Centaur to another dry dock housing yet a familiar vessel, an old friend. The Sovereign. Still undergoing her refit, a lot of those ten year old systems were being replaced with more up to date and advanced equipment. For one thing, a lot of terminals were getting their ‘holographic’ projection upgrades. A lot of streamlining and optimizations were being done. And yet. While a part of him yearns to see the ship fly again, another part wishes he were the one to command it.

His thoughts was interrupted when the door chime went off, signaling that his request for Captain Carter to visit him in his office has been acknowledged and accepted. Was merely a request, the man was still recovering from his injuries after all. Course, it could be someone else at the door, but only one way to find out. He turned his head to look at Captain Gar’rath and smiled, “Must be him. Not expecting anyone else at the moment. Come in.” He said as he turned away from the view port to face the door. He watched as it split in half and slid away from each other, just to see the very man he had hoped for walk right in, allowing the two halves to rush back to each other and embrace themselves once again.

Maxwell smiled, “Captain John Carter.” He navigated around his desk to meet the man half way in his office to shake his hand. “I hope you’re recovering well?”

Carter smiled, grasped the man’s hand and shook it. “I am. Not certain if I am suppose to address you as Commander or as Sir.” Carter then noticed the Starfleet Captain Gorn in the room and immediately knew who it was. He couldn’t think of many that were at the rank of Captain these days. “Captain Gar’rath.”

Maxwell chuckled as he soon released Carter’s hand and returned to his side of the desk. “Well, in a month or so, you may see a change. But just go with Commander.” After all, Henry Maxwell has been Commander for over ten years, it really is only a matter of time and patience at this point. Maxwell then cleared his throat, “Since you already know who Captain Gar’rath is, like you to know that he is our Task Force Commander.”

Carter raised his brows, “What happened to Fleet Captain Azras Dex?”

“She stepped down.” Maxwell answered.

Carter nodded his head and smiled at Captain Gar’rath. “Congratulations, Captain.”

“Thank you, Captain,” the Gorn said in response, “I look forward to serving in this new capacity.”

Maxwell then brought up a holo display of a small pad, air tapped some commands and brought up a few displays. While he was getting to where he wanted to be to ask the questions he wanted to ask, he did ask one real quick. “How’s the crew doing, Captain?”

“Doing all right as far as I hope. They’re on shore leave, so I don’t have a lot to go with besides that my Senior Staff are still here on station.” Said Carter.

Maxwell nodded his head, “Yeah, that would be the case since we are trying to piece together a puzzle with several missing pieces.”

“Right.” Carter nodded.

Maxwell sighed after he finally got himself set up, several holo displays with reports, records and one slightly larger, three-dee display of the Centaur. “The reason for this, as I had already said just a moment ago, is to piece together a puzzle with there being several pieces missing. Rephrased it better for the record.” He cleared his throat lightly. “But it is also due to the fact that, Captain John Carter, you nearly lost your vessel and lost several crewmembers, twenty-eight of them to be precise.” Maxwell took in a deep breath. “Now, the reason why this isn’t being conducted in front of an Inquiry or Court Martial, is because you did not completely lose your ship. But,” Maxwell pressed a button and almost entire three-dee holo display of the Centaur went red. “Severe hull damage, some stress fractures on several sections of the frame itself. Both nacelles took damage but the port nacelle is the more severe, looked like it has been repaired or rebuilt a couple of times. All dorsal phaser banks have been destroyed. If your torpedo launcher was hit any harder, you not only would of lost it entirely but may have risked losing both your nacelles rather than just the one.” He pointed, half of the port nacelle was visibly missing.

Carter cleared his throat. “That’s exactly what my Chief Engineer said.”

“Your Acting Chief Engineer or the one that sacrificed himself to prevent a warp core breach?” Maxwell asked.

“The Acting Chief Engineer, sir.”

Maxwell rubbed the back of his head as he exhaled sharply. “Point is, Captain, it took the engineers a week to clear out and fully diagnose your ship. They tell us it is going to take at least three weeks to fully repair the Centaur. And that’s with extra manpower running double shifts.”

Carter frowned, “Double shifts, sir?”

Maxwell gestured to all the dry docks behind him. “You see all those ships out there. They’re either,” He held up one finger, “Fully crewed and are being resupplied before they return to active duty and are given a mission.” Then he held up a second finger, “Undergoing a refit and thus won’t be in service for several weeks to perhaps a month if not more.” Then he held up a third finger, “Still being constructed and may not be finished in a month or several months from now.” Then he held up a forth finger. “Or they’re undergoing repairs much like the Centaur is. The Task Force has no ships to give, Captain. And quite frankly, I rather that we get your ship fully repaired and back into service as quickly as possible, within regulations of course.”

Carter nodded his head, “Of course, sir.”

Maxwell sighed, “Of course that’s not entirely an issue since your crew has accumulated enough shore leave time for a couple more weeks. But once their shore leave time comes up, you’re going to need to coordinate with the Station’s Operations Chief to give them assignments, because I don’t want officers or enlisted personnel lazing about.”

Carter nodded again, “Of course, sir.”

Maxwell swiped a display away, having gone over that bit and then he pulled something else up. “How about your First Officer and his ‘team’? How is the program working out?”

“They’re doing very well, Commander. They are catching on with their duties quite quickly and a lot of the manual work, considering that you have to self diagnose systems on the Centaur without computer assistance, I think it has really improved their comprehension and professionalism,” Carter explained.

Maxwell nodded his head, looking at the form before him. “Their test scores also show that they are doing very well in the program. Having Officers rise in ranks as rapidly as they have is a huge risk. Also can cause a lot of unfairness and frustrations among peers.” Maxwell scrolled through the scores before swiping the display away. He believed that now was the time to get back to it. “The damage that your ship sustained has essentially left important logs corrupted and damaged. But thankfully, our experts were able to piece back together and show us exactly what happened to your ship while enroute back to the Devron Fleet Yards.” With that, he went to play a visual recording from one of the rear dorsal sensor packets. The video showed mostly space and stars streaking by until suddenly, a T’Liss Class Bird of Prey decloaked and fired almost a dozen disruptor bolts from its two ventral cannons. When Maxwell brought this video up, he also had the three-dee holo image of the Centaur reset in showing the damage the ship had before the encounter of the BoP, only to start showing the damage that the BoP had caused. That of which is where Maxwell’s eyes darted back and forth between the video and the three-dee display to understand how badly that vessel crippled the Centaur. Once the impact to the Impulse Plasma Feed Conduit was shown, the visual recording ended. Maxwell looked at the holo display and then at Carter. “They got dangerously close to hitting your warp core.”

Carter exhaled heavily with a nod. “They did.”

Maxwell took in a deep breath, “That’s what I wanted to show you, Captain. Myself and Captain Gar’rath have already reviewed rest of the logs. We know that your First Officer was captured and taken to some facility and you ordered your ship into Romulan Free State space to attempt a rescue,” Maxwell paused for a second while raising a hand, telling Carter that his acknowledgement was not necessary. “My question to you is, why? Why did you not come back to the Devron station?”

“There was not a lot of time, sir. For one, we didn’t know if there was any ship available here that could fly. Two, if we had been any later, Commander Vakai would of likely been dead.” Carter explained.

Maxwell looked at another display with Vakai’s medical report and scans. “Yes, about that. What is he doing now?”

“He is currently seeing a counselor.”

“He chose to do this by his own free will?” Maxwell added.

Carter nodded, “He did, sir.”

Maxwell took in a deep breath again with a small nod. “I respect a man who knows that he needs to seek professional help. I personally cannot imagine what he went through nor how he could of. His report was… detailed.” Maxwell then swiped the displays away and looked at one more display that he saved for last. “My issue right now is the logs after you rescued your First Officer. You ordered to depart the area and return to the Devron Fleet Yards but after you left, the sensor logs show a critical reaction from the station’s reactor.”

Carter sighed, “I don’t know what happened, Commander. Captain.” Carter looked to Gar’rath then back to Maxwell. “But someone destroyed that station from the inside.”

“Perhaps,” the Gorn said vaguely.

Maxwell pursed his lips, “We are still piecing together the last pieces of the ship’s logs, especially those on weapon systems. Reason for being is, someone got off that station, besides your rescue team and Commander Vakai. And that someone is telling the Free State Senate that you blew up a Romulan Civilian Research Station.”

Carter frowned heavily, “That’s absurd!”

“However absurd it may be, Captain Carter, it remains a fact in the minds of those in the Free State who do not require evidence to support their already low opinion of Starfleet and the Federation as a whole. I would remind you that we are not looked upon favorably by the Romulan people, no matter their affiliation, and that any action we take has the potential to be taken out of context and used for their own political purposes should there be even a grain of truth to the rumors being spread. Currently the only fact that matters to them, and one we cannot refute is that you were there. It will be up to us, collectively, to prove that your being there was not the trigger for the station’s destruction, just coincidence,” Capt. Gar’rath said finally after letting the Commander speak for the majority of the meeting up to that point.

Maxwell raised his hands. “For right now, the delegates that we’ve spoken to are not pointing blame. Not yet. They are looking through the wreckage for their own… type of black box… and while they are doing that, as I said, we are piecing together the last bits of logs to figure out if your weapons were ever fired before you fled with your First Officer.”

“Have either of you spoken to any other officers on my senior staff?” Carter asked. “I’m telling you, we have not fired a single shot.”

“Your crew will be debriefed individually, and their accounts will be logged. This investigation will take time,” the Gorn said, barely moving.

“Again, Captain, no one is pointing fingers yet.” Maxwell then went over to the replicator to replicate a few empty glasses and a pitcher of water. He then brought them over to his desk and carefully poured water into each glass. He then sat the pitcher down and pointed at the seat across from his own for Carter. “How about we start with what happened when you were on your way back to Federation Space. The logs there are too damaged, all we know at this point, is that your ship was found and rescued in Free State space by the three Starfleet vessels and that the Romulan Warbird was using its medical facilities to treat some of our own.”

Carter slowly stepped over and then sat down in the empty chair. “As we were heading back to Federation Space at best speed that we could go with our patched port nacelle, we were attacked…”

Carter, Vakai and Ryker stepped out of the turbolift onto the bridge to find Gomo at his station per usual. Ryker went to relieve the crewmember at the helm while Vakai went over to the tactical station beside Gomo. “What’s the status?”

“We got a State Warbird on our tail, firing right at as. I’ve diverted power that we have to our aft shields and I will keep doing so until we got no available power left.” Gomo reported.

“How much longer are we from Federation Space, Ryker?” Carter asked.

Ryker shook his head, “Ten minutes.” The ship shuttered underneath them.

“Aft shields won’t survive ten minutes! They won’t even survive five!” Gomo responded.

Carter pressed a button on his arm rest. “Bridge to Engineering, we need to keep reinforcing aft shields.”

“There’s nothing left that we can do, Captain. All of our reserves are depleted. All non-essential systems have been shut down. Even if we switch to emergency lighting, it won’t be enough.” Reported Gomez. “All that is left is diverting power from the other facing shields towards the aft. But that’s really it. Unless we reduce our warp speed and push more power to the shield generators from there.”

Carter shook his head, “No. We need the speed we have or we’ll never make it to Federation space.” The ship shuttered once again.

“Hate to burst the bubble, but that last attack brought the aft shields down to fifty percent. I can bring them back up to eighty with the other facing shields but that’s it.”

Carter clenched his fists, swearing that this could not be it for them. He looked to the comms officer. “Hail the State Warbird.”

The officer shook their head, “No response.”

“Then open a channel.” Carter ordered as he stepped in front of his chair. “This is Captain Carter of the USS Centaur. One of your people captured one of mine. We had no choice but to venture into your space and get him back. If you keep up your assault, you will not only be compromising the treaties we have with each other but you could potentially be starting a war that you know your empire cannot win.” Carter paused and waited but the ship lurching about from another attack was evidence enough that they called his bluff. Carter made the cut gesture and the comms officer closed the channel.

“So much for that idea, huh?” Vakai asked Carter.

“Was worth a shot. How much longer, Ryker?”

“Five minutes!” Ryker told them.

“Can we push the engines just a little more?” Carter asked.

Ryker shook his head, “Not without redlining it and if we do that, we risk blowing the port nacelle.” Once again the ship lurched from another attack.

“Shields at forty five percent!” Gomo’s eyes then went wide. “They’re charging a torpedo!”

“Any idea what they are targeting?” Vakai asked.

“Oh shit, they’re targeting the port nacelle.”

“Ryker, can we maneuver at warp!?” Carter asked.

Ryker started inputting commands but the ship barely moved. “Maybe moving slightly to the left will surprise them?”

The tip of the warbird’s beak where the weapon port was, bright green light could be seen emanating from it, illuminating areas around the port before it was then launched, piercing through warp space to not just slam into the port nacelle but pierce right through it, leaving a gaping hole where only bits of hull struggled to hold onto each other. But the moment that lost all power and the warp field began to collapse, the sheer velocity tore half the nacelle clean off just before the ship dropped right out of warp. The warbird managed to anticipate this and dropped out of warp right behind the Centaur as the small ship tried its best to flee at full impulse.

“Engineering to Bridge. I’m trying to reestablish a warp field around the ship with just the one warp nacelle. But we won’t be able to go more than warp two!” Said Gomez over the intercom.

“At that speed, we won’t make it to Federation space for like an hour or so.” Ryker said over his shoulder.

“What does it matter at this point? Our shields are failing.” Said Gomo.

Carter cursed and turned to look at the comms officer. “Send out a general distress call, direct it towards the Devron Fleet Yards. I want you to-”

As Carter was starting to tell the comms officer to send out a distress call, Gomo saw something for a split second on sensors and knew immediately to not second guess his instincts. “Ryker! Hard to Starboard! NOW!” The Cardassian interrupted the Captain in hopes to prevent the worse from happening.

Ryker didn’t question when never heard how frightened Gomo sounded in his voice as he cranked the ship over to Starboard to avoid whatever it is that Gomo had seen. If it could be seen to the naked eye, the Centaur and the warbird were heading straight for a quantum filament. But the Centaur veered hard to Starboard, managing to avoid the entirety of the filament except for a corner…a sliver? Either way, it struck and grazed just the ventral side of the Centaur from the front of the saucer, across and around the tactical sensor dome, all the way down avoiding the already holey torpedo pod and over the port nacelle pylon. Unfortunately for the warbird, it hit the filament head on.

When the Centaur grazed it, the ship lurched everywhere, throwing everyone out of their seats and onto the deck. Everyone could hear what sounded like metal being torn apart, the sound of gas hissing into the air, sparks and explosions emanating from consoles due to power overloads, wires bursting out from the ceiling, ceiling light panels falling to the deck and shattering. Those who were still conscious could see the consoles going dead, complete blankness across the board and the emergency lights themselves blinking out. They’ve been succumbed to utter darkness.

As for the warbird, they too suffered similar fate. The Centaur was already damaged from a series of events and the light blow of a quantum filament was enough to push it very close to the edge of the breaking point. But the warbird, hitting it head on was enough to bring a perfectly good vessel, no damage at all, to a crippling mess. Fortunately for the warbird, most of their primary systems were offline, their emergency lights were up and running, a lot of their basic systems were functional. But they had no weapons, shields, engines, communications, nothing of the sort that would allow them to accomplish their mission or request help.

But the worst of it all, both vessels main power cores were building up to an overload. One more slowly than the other. Nevertheless, if both crews can’t stop both of them from overloading, both vessels were at risk of being destroyed.

“And that is all that I remember.” Carter told Maxwell.

“Right. Report here says that one of the support beams fell on you.” Maxwell told him.

Carter nodded his head, “So I have been told.”

“Well there is not much more for us to talk about then, Captain. We will get the rest from your First Officer.” Maxwell stood up from his seat and held out his hand to Carter across his desk.

Carter rose from his and grasped it.

Maxwell shook his hand. “I appreciate you for coming here, Captain. Again, your ship will be out of commission for repairs for at least three weeks. And in two weeks, please coordinate with the station’s Ops to give your crew something to do until your ship is back in action.”

Carter nodded his head and took his hand back. “Of course, sir.”

“Once we’re finished gathering all the information, you will receive a letter of our decision in the matter, whether that you acted in negligence or if you have performed admirably.” Maxwell told him.

Carter nodded his head once more, “Of course. I for one still have some letters to write.”

“I understand.” Maxwell almost forgot and looked to Captain Gar’rath. “Do you have anything to ask Captain Carter, sir?”

“At the moment, no,” the Gorn said with a slow shake of his head, “That may change depending on the direction the inquiry takes once all the relevant reports have been compiled. I will ask that you do not stray too far from the station during the next few weeks, if you wouldn’t mind, Captain Carter. Also, if you happen to remember anything else during that time, please let us know. The fewer gaps we have in the timeline we have, the better it will be when the time comes to make our official recommendations up to the Admiralty.”

Carter nodded his head once again, “I understand completely, sir. I won’t be going far, I have nothing to hide and nothing to lose.”

Maxwell raised his brows, “Let’s hope that’s not overconfidence, Captain. Dismissed.”

Carter pushed himself out of the chair before he headed right for the door and left Maxwell’s office.

Later that evening, the Senior Staff of the Centaur gathered together at the Sulais, a Romulan owned restaurant filled with wonderful Romulan cuisine and of course, refreshments that Sulais had to sign extra licensing for. Everyone was at the two tables that were brought together for them. Carter, Vakai, Ryker, Gomez, Sivol, Gomo, Koyda and Maya.

“To be perfectly honest, I am just glad that we made it. I’m really happy to have deck plating below my feet that aren’t being jerked out from underneath me.” Said Gomez before she grabbed her mug and gulped down some beer.

Ryker watched her, as gulping down some became more and more by the second before he watched her drink half of her mug already. He chuckled with the shaking of his head before looking at the rest of them. “Wonder what kind of missions they’re going to slap us with once the Centaur is fully repaired.”

“Probably milk runs. Nothing but milk runs.” Maya slammed a shot before leaning back in her seat. “Which means my whole plans of leading a Hazard Team goes straight out the airlock.” She went and imitated a decompression and air rushing out of an imaginary hole.

“I’ll do my best to keep you busy.” Koyda told her with a sly grin on his face, which he got slugged in the shoulder for by Maya.

“They’re not really going to Court Martial us, are they?” Sivol asked Carter.

Carter shook his head, “I will mostly be the one Court Martialed. Vakai will probably be let off easy since he was the one captured, and tortured. Only evidence he has is the medical scans, as well as the scans made for brain activity.” Carter took a sip of his mug before sitting back into his seat. “The rest of you, because you’re in this risky program, will likely end up receiving demotions. Most of you will end up as Ensigns, and rest of you likely Junior Grade Lieutenants. Then be assigned separately, to keep you all apart.”

“No way Starfleet would be that harsh.” Vakai chipped in.

Carter shrugged his shoulders. “They very much can be. I have never been in this deep with Command before. I’ve never gotten this close to losing the Centaur. They take losing a command very seriously, not to mention someone in the Free States is accusing us of destroying a Civilian Research Facility.”

Ryker was gulping down his beer to try and match Gomez before slamming the mug down, “Bull! We didn’t fire anything!”

“We had three torpedoes in the tube, with no capability of reloading. Three torpedoes could not have done sufficient enough damage. They would be able to see that.” Gomez explained.

Carter raised his hands and looked around before leaning forward. “There’s no point in discussing this, guys. The weapons logs are the last logs that they are piecing together. Surely they will find that we didn’t fire a single shot when we were rescuing Vakai. And once they find that out, they will accuse this person who got off the station before it blew, of lying.”

“I bet it was Soldar.” Sivol spoke up, everyone looking at her now. “What? It’s the only logical reason for this. He was a high ranking member of the Tal’Shiar. He most likely had security clearance to overload the reactor. I mean, the Rangers said he was a mad man. Look what he did to Vakai. Clearly he did this and clearly he is the one telling the Free State Senate that we blew up a station that obviously was not a Civilian Research Station. And the Senate knows that as well. The fact that they are going along with this lie is proof right there. The Tal’Shiar controls the Senate.”

Vakai shook his head, “My parents did not say that the Tal’Shiar ran that deep. I don’t know if it is because they themselves don’t have the clearance to know that kind of information, or they just absolutely do not know. All I know is what they do, and that the Tal’Shiar are still as paranoid as ever. I mean, what they did to Mars and what Wu tried to do last year. Clearly they are insane, all of them. The Tal’Shiar sacrificed the lives of their own people, whether it was Wu acting alone or not. They destroyed the rescue armada that Starfleet worked so hard to build, and condemned their own to death on Romulus. That kind of information should be throwing the Romulan Star Empire and the Romulan Republic right at the walls of the Romulan Free State, but no one is doing a thing.” Vakai paused as he had realized he grabbed his fork and was poking at his food. “Fact is, they know how to cover their tracks and how to manipulate information. Fact that no one is at war with the Free States over the Tal’Shiar’s actions, is proof that they are not idiots. And Soldar is the worst one of them all. But.”

“But?” Ryker asked when Vakai had paused some more.

Vakai sighed and set his fork down. “Soldar’s mission was to capture me, extract information, find the traitors in the Tal’Shiar that was giving out classified information to their enemies, and eliminate them.” Vakai then started looking at everyone one by one. “The moment that Starfleet gets all the proof they need to show the Free State Senate that the Centaur never attacked the station, they will be put into a corner and they will be forced to condemn one man for being behind everything that has strained our relationship. They will condemn Soldar, strip him of his rank and probably either exile him or execute him for his failures.”

Gomo clapped his hands, the Cardassian who was very much enjoying the Romulan food, was finally speaking up. “Then that means we are forever done with the madman named Soldar! Yeah!” But not everyone was cheering. “What?”

“You heard the Rangers. Soldar is not the kind of man who will go down without a fight.” Maya told him.

“And it is a fight we will get if he ever shows his ugly face again.” Said Koyda.

Vakai shrugged his shoulders. “We may not see Soldar for a long time. A man like him, is patient. That’s what makes him even more dangerous. He will wait until he finds the right opportunity, a weakness in our defenses, and we won’t even know it until he strikes.”

Carter cleared his throat after he finished his beer and set the mug down. “It doesn’t matter at this point, ladies and gents. As of this moment, that man is no longer our problem. We are stuck here on this station until the investigation is over. And Vakai. You will be the next person they question.”

“Of course. I witnessed pretty much everything and led the team onto the State Warbird to forcefully shut down their singularity core to prevent it from overloading and creating an implosion that would have destroyed both our ships.” Vakai answered.

Carter nodded his head. “I want you all to get some rest as well. If you don’t get questioned by the Captain or Commander of the Task Force, you will most likely be questioned by other officers in the investigation. Be honest. Tell them everything. Leave nothing out. We will win this.”

“Aye, sir.” They all said in unison before they pushed out their chairs and stood up.

Sivol wrapped her arms around one of Vakai’s, “You need your sleep, too. You got another session tomorrow.”

“How are your sessions going, Vakai?” Ryker asked as Gomez done the same as Sivol, wrapping her arms around one of Ryker’s.

Vakai smirked and shrugged a shoulder. “They’re going. Doctor Vax is helping me to cope with the memories and she’s also helping me pull myself out if I am ever triggered again.”

“That’s good. We also have not seen you grasping your hand at all tonight.” Said Carter, as the man was still there as curious as anyone else.

Vakai smiled, “Yeah. She also prescribed me something to help suppress it but she is weening me off so that I learn to have better control.”

“If worst case ever happens, I’ll just perform a mind meld on you.” Sivol smiled.

“No you will not. I don’t ever want you to see what I went through, never again.” Vakai told her.

“When I am your doctor, I give the orders and if I see that I have to interfere, I will.” She glared at him.

Vakai sighed and then pointed at her while looking at everyone. “See what I have to deal with?”

They laughed as the group started to make their way out of the restaurant. It was going to be a long couple weeks for them, with questioning and the fact that the Centaur won’t be ready to fly for a while. But the one thing that they all can agree on, is what Gomez said. Having a deck under their feet that wasn’t jerking out from underneath them was a very good feeling. The peace and the sounds of activity of traders, tourists, officers…it was music to their ears as it was a sign to them that they had survived and they were, in a sense, home.

Stay tuned for Chapter Eight! The Warp Core Breach!

Chapter Eight

Devron Fleet Yards
18 January 2400

He looked down at his hand and could visually see that it the flesh, muscle, tissue, all of it melting right off of the bone. The pain was beyond intense, he felt himself starting to seize but quickly started to breath heavily. Breaking through the urge to hold his breath, he filled his lungs up full of fresh air and then pushed it all out as he tried to calm his nerves. Vakai could hear a faint voice, soft and sweet, desperately trying to bring him out of this hallucination that he was having. He knew it was not real but the pain felt too real, visually seeing his right hand melting away looked real. But as the voice grew louder, the more he focused on the facts and closed his eyes.

‘You are on the Devron Starbase.’

‘Your crew, your friends, they rescued you.’

‘This is not real. This is not happening. Your hand is fine.’

The moment he clenched his right hand was the moment he opened his eyes and saw everything was back to normal. He was in the Counselor’s room, the temperature was Starfleet standard, Doctor Vax sat there across from him in her chair and his hand was perfectly fine. Best part was, there was no pain. He opened and closed his hand over and over to remind himself of that feeling, the feeling that his hand existed and there was no pain. Vakai then looked at his Counselor. “How long?” He hesitated to ask, in fear he had been in this trance for too long, long enough that would not fit for duty.

But then she smiled. “A minute and thirty four seconds.” She told him.

Vakai sighed and shook his head. “I need to improve that. A minute and thirty four seconds is a long time when in command of a starship.” He told her as he eased himself onto the couch and relaxed. He stared at his right hand, thinking of more ways to try and convince himself that it is over.

“You are still very hopeful for command, are you?” She asked.

Vakai looked at her. “It’s what I have always wanted since I was old enough to learn that my foster parents were not my real parents. Well, no, let me rephrase that.” He cleared his throat. “Of course I knew they were not my real parents, the ears and the color of my blood to theirs was a dead give away. But, when they handed me the Romulan data device that had a storage compartment where the VR Nodes were in and I put them on, that was when I wanted to command a starship.”

“Interesting. Was it really because that is how you felt or was it because you felt obligated to rescue your parents?” She asked.

Vakai licked his lips, “I know what my parents are in, I understand that more than I ever had back then. But no, this is not about saving my parents. They absolutely built that goal for me…no,” He shook his head and cleared his throat again. “They fulfilled that goal. My foster parents told me all about Starfleet, how great they are, how it is an honor to be exploring the unknown, meeting new civilizations, being the one to make First Contact. But my parents fulfilled that goal even more just because they gave me the opportunity to choose whether to serve or not to serve. I chose to serve Starfleet and my ultimate goal is to command and I am honored to have gone through this rigorous program that has helped me and my friends advance in rank faster than most. But the exams are incredibly difficult.”

She nodded her head, “They have to be in order for it to work. They’re going to want mature officers in charge of a starship. Giving it away to someone who has little experience would be very reckless. Do you feel that after all of your accomplishments, that you feel mature and ready for command?”

Vakai nodded his head, “I absolutely do.”

“Even after your incident with this…Soldar?” She asked.

Vakai sighed, “I don’t think me or my friends will ever see Soldar again. From my understanding of how my parents explained it to me, the Tal’Shiar are not at all forgiving for failures. Soldar failed big time and not only that, we will have proof that we did not blow up that station. I absolutely, one hundred percent, believe that Soldar was behind the destruction of that station and he killed innocent lives just to get rid of me, which would have never got him to his ultimate goal in the first place, which was finding my parents, who he calls traitors, because they’re slipping classified information to the enemy.”

“And you absolutely believe he is gone from your life forever?” She asked.

Vakai rubbed the bridge of his nose with yet another sigh. “I don’t know.” He answered honestly. “I really do believe that we will not see him again. But the more I think about it, the more I know what he is capable of, the more I feel like he will creep up somewhere. And it scares me.”

She smiled and took her little wand/writing utensil that she was twirling around in her fingers, only to scribble something onto her PADD that was then converted into text. “That is the most honest, and emotional answer, Vakai. I believe we are done for today.”

Vakai nodded his head and slowly stood up. “I need to improve my time with these…hallucinations.”

Doctor Vax nodded her head, “Yes I agree. Unfortunately, our last session was the last dose. I won’t be giving you any more medicine.”

Vakai frowned, “Then how am I going to be able to control this?”

She patted his arm. “You’re strong and you’ve been doing a remarkable job so far. Just remember your training and remember where you are.” She then paused to think before smiling. “There was one patient that I remember, they had similar issues, bad trauma from an incident. She found a way to pull herself away from it by using happy thoughts. Which reminds me that that is a really good trigger to help you get out of a trauma induced hallucination. Just focus on a happy thought or someone that makes you happy, focus on their voice and it could potentially help you recover much more quickly.”

Vakai nodded his head, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Good! Now I am supposed to remind you that you have a meeting with Commander Maxwell.” She told him.

Vakai sighed, “Of course I do. It was going to come eventually. Thank you, Doctor Vax.”

“Oh no, no thanks necessary. Just doing my job. See you tomorrow, Vakai!”

Vakai was then out the door and on his way to Commander Maxwell’s office.

Maxwell found himself staring out of the viewport once again in his office, out towards the various types of dry docks that they had. He could not help but stare at all the vessels that were housed by these dry docks, either under construction, routine maintenance, resupply, repairs or a routine refit for being in service for so many years. He knew of a couple vessels that were going through those major refits right now, and he knows a certain smaller vessel that is undergoing repairs could use a major refit as well. But there was no paperwork for that vessel to upgrade their systems to the latest. Least not one that has come across his desk.

Maxwell and his staff have been conducting the interviews of each Senior Officer of the Centaur to get a clear picture of what happened three weeks ago. A process that was taking quite a while, as both parties, his and the Free State Government, were investigating all leads to get to the truth. Latest report from the State indicated that they found their ‘black box’ and are going over the data now. All that is left is the story from Commander Vakai, their First Officer. Speaking of, the door chime went off. “Come in.” Said Maxwell as he turned in place to face the door while it opened to allow Commander Vakai to step through. “Please, Commander. Have a seat.”

Vakai did as he was told and took one of the empty chairs that Maxwell pointed to.

Maxwell sat down in his chair on his side of the desk, only to start pulling up display screens with various logs and reports.

“No Captain Gar’rath, sir?”

“Captain Gar’rath is a Task Force Commanding Officer. He has a lot on his table, as much as I do, Commander. But I chose to take this burden off of Captain Gar’rath’s shoulders. After all, it is my job to try to lighten the load on my Commanding Officer.” Maxwell explained while he continued to go through some data.

Vakai nodded his head, “Understood.”

“It matters not, Commander. The point is, this investigation does not stop until we have all the evidence we need and the truth. Would you like to know the results so far?” Maxwell asked.

Vakai frowned, “Is that even allowed?”

Maxwell leaned back into his seat, “This is about whether or not you and your friends are telling the truth, Commander. I’m not really giving you our judgement.” Maxwell paused for a moment before he leaned forward and pulled up a separate display screen with results. “Everyone we interviewed has been telling the truth. Now, we can’t go by this because the Romulans will either say that our system is faulty, information is wrong, or you are all very, very good liars. Romulans want hard facts, and as the information on the Centaur weapon logs comes through, we will have those hard facts. Yes, our team finally pieced the weapon logs together and we’re going through them now. But I still need to know what happened after the Centaur hit that quantum filament. Logs after that are sketchy and since your Captain was unconscious for most of it, you and your Senior Staff are all that remains. So tell me from your view point.”

As Vakai began to tell the story from his perspective, Maxwell went and got some water.

The bridge was dark, illuminated in only a split second in red light by a second apart, but the light only revealed how much smoke was on the bridge. There was some of it coming out of the ceiling, but only so lightly, not like some times where it’s bellowing out like it was under pressure. No, this was a small leak of sorts. But the smoke did not just consist of some leak from any sort of coolant, but also from electrical fires of a couple consoles, one on each side of the bridge it seemed.

Least that is what Vakai could tell when he tried looking around the bridge to take in detail of what state they were in. He had just pushed himself off of the floor and onto his knees, only to revel in the state the bridge was in. He couldn’t see any lights coming from the consoles, which told him that they were not receiving power. But why just the consoles? Were the lights and stations really on a separate power network? Suppose that would make sense, not sure why he was even questioning that. Maybe it was because it felt like his head was hit by a shuttlecraft.

That’s it. Concussion. His conclusion of having one was increased ever so much when he went to feel the side of his head and hissed when he touched something that stung, only to check his hand and see the palm of his hand was covered in his blood. Course he could barely tell the color because of the poor illumination, but he didn’t believe he had someone else’s blood on him. His conclusion of what he hit from where he was at, was probably one of the railings around the midsection of the bridge, the kind of railing that cuts off rear stations from the mid to front stations, or in this case, the command chair, the helm and operations stations.

He turned his head in a bit of a jolt when he heard a loud noise, only to see a silhouette and something being sprayed onto one of the consoles that was on fire. He concluded that someone was trying to extinguish one of the fires. Good, this means that he is not the only one conscious. “Is everyone all right?” He called out before coughing, the smoke was thick and it did no good to inhale after he spoke. So he covered his mouth and nose the best he could with his sleeve to get some oxygen into his lungs. He got several responses from the bridge crew, which was good, but he was also keeping tabs on the voices and there was one voice he didn’t hear that worried him.

Vakai hurried over to the command chair to find it empty, only to look down at the floor near it and saw a silhouette there. He knelt down beside the body to feel for the pips on the man’s shoulders and when he found them, he felt four pips. “I need a light over here! And a medkit, now!” He yelled. In a few seconds, he had a couple officers shining their flashlights on their Captain, seeing that he too had a gash on his forehead but it looked really bad.

Ryker came over with a medkit and stared at the Captain’s head before looking around to find a piece of metal on the floor nearby then he looked up. “Damnit! Part of the ceiling came down.”

“Just get that medical tricorder out and find out what’s wrong with him!” Vakai ordered.

Ryker nodded his head and did just that before he grabbed a hypospray and picked the one thing that the tricorder recommended to inject into the Captain’s neck. “Captain Carter will be stable for a few hours on this, it will help slow down the swelling but he needs to get to sickbay as soon as possible! That metal chunk that hit him in the head, it’s causing his brain to swell and if we don’t get him to sickbay to be operated on, he’s going to die!”

Vakai grabbed Ryker by his arms. “He is not going to die! Not while we are his crew! But you got him stable for now?”

“It’s what the medical tricorder recommended, but it also recommended immediate treatment. We need to get to Sickbay.”

“Someone get that turbolift door open and pop the emergency hatch! And I need your undershirts, all of them. We’re going to make something to help carry the Captain, and we will get him to sickbay. Come on! Get those jackets off, move it!” Vakai ordered.

Ryker placed his hand on Vakai’s shoulder. “Commander, relax.”

Vakai looked at him. “I am not going to be made Captain on some technicality because whatever the hell we hit out there that killed our Captain, I won’t accept it. We are getting him to Sickbay and we are going to save him.” He told Ryker before he unzipped his jacket and peeled it off before tugged his black undershirt up and off of himself. He’ll soon put the jacket back on and zip it back up before he grabbed the undershirts from everyone and start to make something, straps perhaps, that’ll help them carry the Captain. “You’re not going to die on me, John.”

With some well secured knots and wrap-arounds, Vakai now had Captain Carter on his back like a backpack. But he still needed some help, so Ryker went first through the emergency hatch of the turbolift and helped Vakai through by making sure his feet landed on some of the ladder posts, as well as get John through without hitting his head. They don’t need to cause any more damage than there already is. Once Vakai was situated and ready, Ryker went down first to be the one ready in case Vakai were to miss a step or something goes wrong with the wraps. “Hey, one good thing about this. At least we’re not on a Galaxy Class, or we’ll be climbing down to Deck Twelve.”

Vakai knew Ryker was trying to ease the stress that Vakai was under but he just wanted to get this man to Sickbay. The stress he was dealing with was mainly due to the thoughts that ran around in his head, thoughts that said that the ship had no main power, auxiliary power is for some reason not coming online, back up power was drained to keep the aft shields up which may likely be the same issue with auxiliary power but they were suppose to have other kinds of backups. Least, critical areas should. But it is possible that they tapped into those, whether against regulations or not, to try and keep the aft shields up. Certainly not good now. And with these thoughts in his head, he feared that it would not matter if they brought Captain Carter to Sickbay, with no power, none of the stasis units would work and if they can’t put him in stasis, then the man is going to die. But there was some part in his mind that was telling him that there is still hope and that Doctor Pearce will figure it out. “Climbing this ladder down to Deck Three doesn’t sound all that bad.”

As they were nearing the door to Deck Three, the ship suddenly lurched which caused Vakai to slip but he quickly grabbed one of the posts with his left arm which with the combined weight of his own and Carter’s, it hurt like hell when he dislocated it. He quickly got his feet on the posts and wrapped his right arm around the bar to stabilize himself before letting go of the post with his left hand. He stood there, hissing and breathing heavily to get through the pain but part of him did not believe the pain to be all that bad. Still, it hurt a lot. “The hell was that?” Vakai voiced his thought out loud in anger.

“Sure would like to know myself. You all right?” Ryker asked as he forced the door open to Deck Three.

Vakai nodded his head, still catching his breath. “Yeah. Pretty sure I dislocated my left arm though.”

“Can you make it down here? You’re only a foot or so away.” Ryker told him, though Vakai was a bit more than that but he wanted to try and motivate the man.

Vakai took in a few deep breaths before gripping the bar tightly, took a couple steps down and carefully slid his hand down over the posts to get a firm grip further down. He did this for what felt like forever until Ryker helped him plant his feet on the ledge and helped pull him through onto the deck. Panting heavily, Vakai looked back at the turbolift shaft then at Ryker. “If this was a Galaxy Class Starship, I probably would have just handed him off to you.”

Ryker smirked, “Not sure how you’d be able to do that but let’s not dwell on it. Come on, Sickbay just down this way.”

It was not long until they noticed all the injured that were either lined up or sitting down with their backs against the walls while Nurses and Medical Specialists, even those with just the absolute basic of Medical Training were tending to the wounded. Hell if Vakai had not dislocated his arm and did not have more important things to do after bringing the Captain to Sickbay, he would likely be helping the injured with what little Medical Training he has. As they stepped through the open doorway into Sickbay, they could see the chaos. Some of the staff had wrist lights, others figured out on strapping them around their head with the palm light on their forehead shining down where they looked.

Doctor Pearce looked up from one of her patients, where she had just finished pulling a piece of metal out of their leg, thankfully missed the artery, and sealed it up with a dermal regenerator as best as she could. Luckily some of the hand tools were still working, so why wouldn’t they? She then realized who was on Vakai’s back and she called over Sivol to help her get Carter off of Vakai’s back and onto a bio bed, after having rushed a patient off of it that Sivol too had just finished tending to. “What happened?” Pearce asked.

“We don’t know. We saw that he had a very bad gash from the left side of his forehead up to the center of his head. We believe a ceiling beam may have came down on him.” Vakai explained.

“You didn’t look?” Pearce asked.

“We were only concerned on figuring out what was wrong and how to stabilize him and get him down here to you, Doc!” Vakai told her.

Pearce took a deep breath and raised her hand as an apology. She saw Sivol was running a scan with her medical tricorder. “What do we have?”

Sivol shook her head, “They gave him what he needed to slow down the swelling but he needs surgery and soon. If we don’t get in there and operate, he’ll end up with severe brain damage, or worse.”

Pearce slammed her hands on the cushion of the biobed. “God damnit. We were planning on retiring together, in like a month or two. And with none of our hardware working, we can’t operate.”

“What about the stasis chamber?” Vakai asked.

Pearce looked at him. “Again, with none of our hardware working, we can’t do a damn thing!”

“What if we hooked up a power pack to a stasis chamber?” Ryker asked.

Pearce shook her head, “That will only last for like an hour or so. Do you know if Starfleet knows that we’re in distress?”

Vakai looked to Ryker, who looked right at him before they looked to her and shook their heads. “But it’s worth a shot.” Ryker told her.

Pearce closed her eyes and nodded her head. “There should be an emergency power pack in one of the medical storage units in the back. I’ll go get it.”

“I’ll get it, once I get it plugged in, you’ll have to get the chamber ready.” Ryker told her before he left, Pearce following right behind him.

Sivol, who still had her medical tricorder out, did a quick scan on Vakai and noticed his injury. “Come over here.” She told him as she stepped a few feet away from the bio bed.

Vakai did as he was told, as he did not feel like questioning his doctor, or the woman he loved. But the second he stopped at her side, she grabbed his left arm, lifted and with the proper tug and a sharp hiss of pain that came from his lips, his arm was back in place. “A little warning, lady.”

She smiled at him. “Better to get you when you least expect it. How bad is it, really?”

Vakai sighed and lowered his voice. “As you can see, we have no power. The auxiliaries should have kicked on, even if we used them up to try to keep the aft shields online, they should have recharged by now and we only need them for the most critical systems. Like sickbay for that fact.” He shook his head.

“Then why do we still have gravity, life support?” She asked.

“It’s likely our reserve atmosphere processors have kicked on. Those are completely separated from the network, no chance we could have sapped power out of those batteries for the aft shields. Plus, those batteries wouldn’t even give us one percent if we did.” He told her.

Her eyes shifted, looked like she was distant, most likely thinking. Then her eyes shifted, looked right at him. “So we have less than six hours?”

Vakai smiled, “Now you remember that we have them.” He teased her before nodding his head. “Yeah. But we should be able to get help from the Devron Fleet Yards before time runs out.”

“How would they know to come for us?” She asked.

“We should be on the edge of their long range sensors. I think. Maybe further in?” He sighed with a shrug. “The Unity Station sensors are powerful, so they should have detected us and the weapons fire as well. And with major systemwide failure that we currently have, the black box transponder should have kicked on and their signals are incredibly strong, if not also wide in range. It’s really only a matter of time before-” Suddenly the ship lurched again but not as bad as before.

“Are we still under attack?” Someone asked.

“Everyone relax.” Doctor Pearce said when she came out of the back room. “That was just a shockwave of some kind.”

“How would you know?!” Some crewman asked.

“I know you’re on edge, trust me, I know. But I have been on this ship as long as the Captain has been. I know the difference between a shockwave and a weapons impact. That was no impact from weapons. Just take a deep breath and relax, I’m sure our First Officer will find out what it is and inform us that it was nothing.” She then walked over to Vakai and Sivol. “I need help getting John to the stasis chamber, it’s ready for him.”

Ryker was the next one to come out of the back room and headed straight for Captain Carter, where Vakai assisted him and lifted the man up and carried him over to the back room, where they eased him into the chamber, closed it and activated it.

Suddenly Gomez came running into sickbay, “Where’s the Captain?”

Maxwell pulled up a log. “You want to read what Lieutenant Gomez said in her debriefing? It explains exactly what happened in her perspective. We’ve included the two Ensigns in with the report as well, to tell the whole story.”

“Sure. I mean, I would love to know, sir. I have not gotten the chance to ask her.” Said Vakai.

Gomez groaned as she pushed herself to her feet, only to wobble until her back was pressing up against a terminal. She took a moment to gain her composure before she looked around. She could see the room by the warp core still being active as well as slightly being illuminated every split second by the red light but there were areas where she could see some people using palm lights. Soon as she could stand straight, she headed over to the source of the palm lights only to witness what they were doing.

There were five clothes over five silhouettes, which she understood. “We will mourn later. I promise. But we need to figure out what the status is on our primary systems, most importantly, the warp core.” She told the two, who acknowledged. “I will focus on the warp core. You two figure out auxiliary generators and life support.”

Suddenly Gomez could hear people grunting somewhere, which forced her to investigate just to see two Ensigns forcing one of the halves of the regular doors to Engineering open. “Ensigns.” Gomez said to them once they got in.

“Ensign Mizu and Ortiz ready to assist ma’am.” Said the woman as they worked on catching their breath.

“Did you two come all the way from the transporter room?” Gomez asked.

Mizu shook her head. “We were storing away the equipment when the ship tried to throw us into the bulkhead,” After she said that, Gomez took a palm light and shined it on them, where she saw that Ortiz had a gash on his forehead. “I’ve tried telling him to go to Sickbay but he won’t listen.”

“Well I’m going to give him a direct order to do just that.” Gomez said, staring hard at him.

“With all due respect ma’am, but I am going to disobey. I’m fine, really, the main important thing right now is getting power back before life support runs out.” Said Ortiz.

“Ruby, I swear to god, I am going to drag your butt to Sickbay and strap you down on a bio bed.” Mizu told him.

“Kinky. But seriously. We have way more important things right now and Sickbay is likely being flooded with injuries. Which is another reason to get power back online.” He explained.

Gomez sighed, “I won’t stop you but I will make a note of you disobeying orders.”

Ruby shrugged his shoulders, “Frag it. I don’t care. Lives are at stake. Why worry about a dam cut?”

Gomez sighed again and walked towards the warp core, having pulled her tricorder out as she did so to run her scans. Meanwhile, Mizu glared at him before she went over to one of the dead terminals, knelt down and pulled off a panel. Ruby knelt down beside her, “What are you trying to do?”

“We got to have power somewhere. Life support is still operating, which means there is power to tap into.” She told him.

Gomez overheard and turned her head, “The reserve atmospheric processors have kicked in. They operate on their own batteries, separate from the main network.” She looked back at her tricorder. “You won’t be able to…” Her eyelids began to spread wide open. “Oh fu-”

“What is it, ma’am?” Ruby asked after he noticed that she cut off so he got up to check.

“We need to get the warp core out of here, somehow and fast. I was wondering why it was still active and not shut down, which made sense because the safety protocols would have forced it to shut down to prevent something like this. But it’s not providing power to the ship at all.” Gomez began to curse under her breath as she put her tricorder away.

“What does that even mean?” Ruby asked.

Gomez looked at him. “It means the warp core is building up to an overload and we got less than ten minutes to get it the hell out of here or everyone is going to have a very bad day.”

“Oh.” Said Ruby.

Mizu came up to them, “Isn’t there some manual release for the ejection hatch below?”

Gomez shook her head, “There is but the system was completely fried when the torpedo pod nearly got blown to hell.”

“What about manual releases for the locking clamps?” Ruby asked.

“Yes but then what?” Gomez looked at the two of them.

Mizu snapped her fingers. “One of the shuttle crafts has to be functional, right? We can use it to transport the warp core out of here.”

Gomez pointed her finger at Mizu. “Yes but we have that runabout-”

“Yes I remember that! That will have a better transporter system than the shuttles.”

Gomez then grabbed Mizu’s badge and pulled off her own, only to set them down on the center main system terminal and start to tinker with them. It took her like twenty seconds before she tossed Mizu’s back to her. “I manually set them to be actively linked to each other so we have comms but only temporary.” Gomez put hers back on. “Now you have to set the transporter range on the runabout as far as you can without blowing out the system, because you will need to increase power to it in order to do so. But once you get the warp core out, you have to dump a lot of power into your shields but only at the second the shockwave is about to hit you or you’ll burn out your shield generator as well.”

“Got it! Ruby, come I need you to fly!” Mizu told him as they bolted for the door.

Gomez raised her voice quickly, “Ensign! Also scan that warbird! We need to know what their condition is and send the data to my tricorder!”

“Yes ma’am!” Mizu said back just as she stepped through the doorway with Ruby on her tail.

Gomez then looked to her two remaining crew members, figuring the rest must be out trying to do damage control. “I need you one of you to go to the very top deck and bottom deck, get to the manual releases and free this warp core. Do it now! We got less than eight minutes now and you two got five!”

It took the two Ensigns a minute to get to the shuttle bay, in which they did find the runabout had slid from the pad and that the starboard nacelle casing was smashed open in the middle of it but Ruby said they could bypass and cut off that engine. They both got on board and immediately began to lift the runabout off the deck right after powering up. “No time to warm up the engines, we gotta get out there now!” Mizu told him as she began to divert power to the transporter, cranking it up to a hundred and thirty percent.

“Isn’t that a bit much?” Ruby asked as he looked at the shuttle bay hangar door. “And we have a problem.”

“Maybe and no we don’t.” She had powered up the phaser banks and fired, blowing a hole big enough for the runabout.

“That works.” He said as his fingers darted over his terminal, flying the runabout through the hole and away from the ship. “Just tell me when to stop.”

Mizu set up a nav point, “Stop there.” She told him as she went over to the station to her right and started running scans on the warbird. Then she went to the center terminal and began locking onto the warp core. “How are we doing, Lieutenant?”

“They’re at the manual release, I’ll let you know once it’s ready.”

“Cutting it a little close, ma’am!” Mizu told her as she stepped away from the center console to check on the sensor data.

“Now! Beam it out now!”

“Sending the data!” Mizu said when she noticed the scans were done she pressed the command that sent a data burst to Gomez’s tricorder. Then she went to the center console and transported the warp core. In the process, the lights dimmed inside the runabout and they could hear the engine starting to die down.

“Where did you transport it to?” Ruby asked.

“With the Centaur as far behind us as we could go with the transporter, I sent it on the complete opposite side from us. It’s as far as I can put it.” Mizu told him as her transport was complete, power was coming back to the lights as she was sitting back down in the co-pilot seat.

Ruby looked and he could see the core drifting away. “How soon-” Before he could finish that sentence the core exploded. He looked to Mizu, “Mizu, shields!”

“Not yet!” Mizu told him while her fingers were darting over her terminal, hoping she dumped enough power to the shields.

“It’s almost here!!” He told her as he looked again, his eyelids widening. “Mizu!!”

“Now!” She said, mainly to herself and pressed the button. When the shields came on, the display showing the power bar to the shields was redlining, just as the runabout was hit by the shockwave. One of the reasons why she didn’t turn them on right away, was not just because she didn’t want to blow out the generator before the shockwave came, but she wanted to modulate the shields in a bit of a cone to try and disperse as much of the shockwave as she could before it reached the Centaur. Luckily she was successful and that the shockwave was gone before the generator blew out, which unfortunately caused a feedback to the power grid and knocked out their power. Lights, terminals, everything went dark. “Ruby?”

“Yeah.” He said.

“Oh good. We’re not dead.” She said with a heavy sigh of relief.

“Not yet.”

“Shut up.” She then remembered about the comm link. “Lieutenant?” She waited before she said it again but when she got no response she figured they lost the link due to the shockwave.

Meanwhile, Gomez felt the deck lurch under her feet and was a bit surprised that it wasn’t as bad as she thought. “Ensign? Ensign Mizu?” She called out but when she didn’t get a response, she figured that the link was lost. She then checked her tricorder and reviewed the sensor data. “Weapons offline. Shields offline. Engines Of-…” She then took off running, right through the open door and down the corridor. As she was heading for a turbolift hatch, she nearly ran an Ensign over. “Jesus, I’m so sorry Ensign, I bar-…wait, are you Ensign K’roll?”

“Yes ma’am.” Said the Caitian as he pushed himself off the wall that he practically clung to to avoid being knocked over.

“Security, right?” She asked.

He nodded, “Indeed I am, ma’am.”

“Good! Find Lieutenant Koyda and Maya and tell them to gear up and be ready just outside of the shuttle bay. Oh and have EV suits ready too!”

“Ma’am?” He asked, confused.

“That’s an order, Ensign!” Gomez yelled at him after she took off running again. She immediately found the turbolift shaft, the door already opened, likely from the Ensigns or someone. Either way she tucked her tricorder away and started climbing to the third deck, where she hoped to find the Captain in sickbay, likely checking in on the wounded.

Soon as she got on the deck she bolted towards Sickbay but slowed down to not trample over anyone outside of it and just stepped through the open door, ‘busting’ right in. “Where’s the Captain?” She nearly shouted.

Suddenly Gomez came running into sickbay, “Where’s the Captain?”

Pearce held her hands up, “He’s injured and in the stasis chamber right now.”

“Then where’s the Commander?! Ryker? Someone from the Bridge!”

Both Ryker and Vakai came out from the back room when they heard the commotion. “What is it, Ashley?” Ryker asked, concerned as he could hear the fear in her voice.

Gomez quickly grabbed Vakai and Ryker’s arms and dragged them into the back room, Pearce and Sivol joining them. Gomez looked to make sure no one was looking or eavesdropping before she pulled the tricorder out and showed them the data on it. “The Ensigns sent this data to my tricorder from the runabout.”

Vakai frowned, “What? Runabout? What were they-”

Gomez held her hand up. “No time! I’ll explain later but we have a much more serious problem at hand! Look at the data!”

Sivol’s eyes went wide and she looked at Vakai, who looked at her just to see the look on her face then grabbed the tricorder to review the data. “God da-”

“Exactly. Romulan’s Singularity Core is building up to an overload. Lucky for us, the build up is slower than ours was. But we got twenty minutes or that thing is going to implode, sucking a large chunk of that warbird into it then explode, sending all kinds of debris and a massive shockwave at the Centaur. With no power, no shields, we’re going to get torn the hell up by basically a shotgun blast.” Gomez explained.

“Wait, we had a warp core breach?!” Ryker asked.

“Not anymore, thanks to the Ensigns. Who hasn’t gotten back to me yet, which is making me worry.” She told them. “But it is possible that the temporary comm link I manage to create between me and Ensign Mizu has been interrupted or disrupted or just completely knocked out by the shockwave of our warp core.”

“We need to assemble a team and board that warbird immediately. I know exactly how to shut down that core before it overloads.” Vakai told them.

“Luckily I passed by Ensign K’roll earlier. I told him to find Lieutenant Koyda and Maya and to assemble their hazard team and meet outside the shuttle bay door.” Gomez told them.

“Why not in the shuttle bay?” Ryker asked.

“Well in case you didn’t notice, that first lurch we had was the Ensigns blowing a hole in the shuttle’s hangar door. You know, considering no power to open them.” She explained.

“I dislocated my arm because of that.” Vakai joked.

Gomez threw her hands up. “I’m so sorry but saving the damn ship from a warp core breach was kind of a top priority!”

“Except he was carrying Captain Carter on his back.” Ryker joked as well, although they were seeing that she wasn’t taking it.

Gomez looked at the two. “What do you want me to say?! We had no comms. And how the hell was I supposed to know?”

Ryker chuckled and took her hand just to pat the back of it. “Relax, Ashley. We’re just pulling your chain.”

She yanked her hand back, “You can pull on my chain when I’m not stressed the frag out and once we’re out of the goddamn mess!”

Ryker held up his hands in apology and surrender, while Vakai handed her the tricorder back. “Just do what you can to restore power to the ship. I will lead the team to get that core shut down on the warbird.”

Sivol frowned at him. “Can’t you just tell Maya or Koyda what to do? You’re in no shape to go over there. Especially after what they did to you.”

Vakai looked at her. “None of them on board were responsible for what Soldar did to me, Sivol. And I have a responsibility to this crew. I am not going to let that core overload and kill us all. Besides, it would go a lot faster if I was there to shut it down than hand some instructions to someone who has no clue what to look for.”

Sivol then stepped out for a minute, only to return with a hypospray and a couple vials, along with Ensign Elidia. “Then you’re taking this Ensign with you, and she’s going to monitor your vitals. The second you have an episode, she’s going to inject you.”

Vakai smiled at her. “Thank you.”

“All right, Commander. I think we will take a break here.” Said Maxwell, who looked at the pitcher of water he brought over being completely empty. “See that you’re a little thirsty.”

Vakai smiled, a little embarrassed. “Maybe.”

Maxwell smirked. “How about we come back to this in a few days? Give you some time to get things sorted out with your therapy.”

Vakai shook his head, “That won’t be necessary, Commander. Tomorrow will do just fine.”

Maxwell nodded his head. “All right. Just as long as you are not pushing yourself, Vakai.”

“Of course not, sir.”

“All right then. Dismissed.”


Devron Fleet Yards / T'Met
4th February 2400


Feb 4th, 2400

Vakai sat there at the bar with his friends, James, Ashley, Sivol, Gomo, Maya and Koyda, all chatting away amongst themselves and drinking the night away. Vakai was going over the things he said at the last meeting with Commander Maxwell on the nineteenth of January.

“So Vakai,” Ryker’s voice was now less distant and more directed at him. “What did you tell the Commander on your last day?”

Vakai shrugged his shoulders before he took the glass of Saurian Brandy by his right hand, brought the rim up to his lips and tipped it enough for him to drink it. Then he set the glass down and looked at Ryker, only to notice everyone was looking at him. He snorted, “Simply exactly what happened.”

Vakai then cleared his throat, “I told the Commander that I was the first to transport over with the Ensign from the Runabout into the chamber of where the Singularity Core was. Had an encounter with a Uhlan who drew their weapon on me and had to talk them down to avoid them discharging that weapon while the Singularity Core was unstable. Then the rest of you guys beamed in, Uhlan was disarmed, I shut the core down and had a long conversation with the Commander of the ship.”

“And what a conversation it was too. Took you some effort to convince the Commander that we did not fire on that station and even more convincing to transport our crew on board so that their medical needs could be attended to.” Ryker added.

Vakai nodded his head as he took another sip before he continued. “It really didn’t take too much convincing to tell him that assisting our crew while starfleet vessels arrive to pick us up would greatly improve our relations with the Free State Government.”

Suddenly, Captain John Carter arrived at the restaurant and had joined them at the bar, with a padd in hand. “I knew I would find all of you here. Saves me the trouble of having to repeat myself.” Carter told them before looking at the bar tender. “Another round for my crew, good sir! As for me, Jack and Coke on the rocks please.”

“I do believe the Captain is in a good mood.” Said Gomo.

“You are correct, my Cardassian friend.” Said Carter as he finally raised the padd up to his reading level and cleared his throat. “By the Office of the Task Force Headquarters of Task Force yada yada yada… Ah here it is. After reviewing the evidence and confessions of all Senior Staff of the Centaur involved in the destruction of a Romulan Civilian Research Station Case, it has come to our conclusion that the Crew of the Centaur were not responsible for the destruction of the facility and were not at all acting carelessness when made a successful attempt in rescuing their First Officer. As such, we hereby drop all charges on the Senior Staff and on the Captain of the Centaur.”

The group cheered loudly with handshakes and hugs amongst themselves only to finish off with joining their glasses of their preferred drinks and took a sip, or to some, gulped down the entire contents of the glass before their refresher arrived on the Captain’s request. “What the hell took them so long, Captain?” Ashley asked.

Carter raised a finger, “Glad that you asked.” Then he pointed at the padd, scrolled up and pointed at it again to find his place before clearing his throat once more. “The Romulan Free State have finally come to their conclusion that, after reviewing the evidence they found, including their equivalent of a ‘black box’, they have concluded that the Centaur had indeed never fired a single shot at the station and they will conduct an internal investigation. As such, the Romulan Free State has issued a formal apology for accusing the crew of the Centaur and would like to extend their thanks to the three Starfleet vessels that assisted one of their own. The Senate looks forward to further improving relations with the United Federation of Planets.”

“Surprised that the Romulans apologized for anything. Well, the Free State of course.” Said Maya.

“What is the status of the Centaur’s repairs, Captain?” Vakai asked.

“Well, while repairing the ship, they decided to do some tweaking and refitting as well. We will have self diagnosing systems, no more manually diagnosing anything…which kind of makes me sad to be honest. Where’s the joy in that? How do you train and discipline a crew if they can’t manually diagnose a system?” Carter scoffed and shook his head as he took his drink in hand and finished it off in one gulp. “Another one please.” And all the bartender had to do was refill the glass, the ice barely melted.

“What modifications are we talking about?” Ashley asked.

Carter shrugged his shoulders, “Nothing serious really. While we will still have our internal navigational deflector array in the front of the saucer, they decided to add an external secondary deflector just on the ventral side of the torpedo pod. I don’t know. They think it will come in handy for certain things, which makes no sense to me, I mean we could just remove the hull plates around the internal one in the saucer if we need to make some super beam weapon out of it. Knowing you, Ashley, you probably can.”

Ashley laughed, “Give me a week with some tools and I could turn the entire thing into a plasma launcher.”

Suddenly, Doctor Pearce came bursting in and slapped her hands on the bar counter. “Quickly, turn on the news.” A holo display popped up and then they saw the ‘FNN’ Logo. What they were seeing now was more of a repeat, along with some follow-ups, about the ‘Century Storm’ that was happening in the Paulson Nebula.

“Isn’t the Fourth Fleet Starbase located right next to that thing?” Ryker asked.

“It is. Starbase Bravo.” Said Sivol.

“A lot of us came from there.” Said Ashley.

“It’s not the base that’s in trouble. It’s what’s going on in the nebula that’s the problem.” Said Gomo. “I heard about this the other day, but for them to have a follow-up must mean the storm is getting worse.”

“Will all Commanding Officers and First Officers report to Briefing Room One.”

Carter and Vakai looked at each other before two cups of black coffee were set down in front of them. “Just in case,” said the bartender. They both took a couple sips before they took off.

At the Briefing Room, this is where they were informed in further detail of the situation that was happening at the Paulson Nebula. Commander Maxwell was briefing them all on it, “Some of you will be assisting in evacuations, as you will have the most capacity to do so. Rest of you will be tasked in closing the subspace rifts. Use whatever means possible with your vessel in closing those rifts but do be careful. We have no idea what those rifts could do, a lot of them are unstable and unique. I will be with the Task Force Commanding Officer on board our Flagship, so we will be much closer in communications range. That being said, any requests that you need, any materials, equipment, any of the sort, we will do our very best to provide that for you while we remain in contact. This is a group effort, ladies and gentlemen, much like the last situation that this fleet had to deal with. But most importantly, stay strong and stay safe. Dismissed.” Maxwell then noticed Carter and Vakai. “Captain Carter, Commander Vakai, I need you two to stay please.”

The two looked at each other and then waited until it was just the three of them. Maxwell approached them, “I would like to congratulate you both. Everything you and your staff had told us was consistent with the logs that we were able to recover, restore and review. For that, I thank you for your honesty and I am glad that we did not have to resort to a Court Martial.”

Carter smiled, “I am just glad that my ship will be ready to fly again. Being cooped up in that dry dock is just not healthy for her.”

Maxwell smirked, “At least she has a new pair of shoes, and then some. But I did not ask you two to stay to discuss about the inquiry. You see, something has come across my desk and as much as the program has been successful, I still feel that one more test is required before I approve it and submit it forward to Captain Gar’rath for final review. What I am trying to say is, Captain Carter, I am going to need you to step down as the Centaur’s Commanding Officer and remain here on station. I will be pointing Commander Vakai here, as the new Commanding Officer.”

Carter frowned, “But Commander, I’ve always given my First Officer full Command Decisions since the day he became my First Officer. Except for the last Fleet Wide issue we had to deal with.”

Maxwell nodded, “I know but this is to make it official, Captain. It needs to be shown in his record of officially being in Command and I believe this current situation will be the ultimate test to see if he is truly fit to be in Command.”

Carter looked at Vakai who looked right back. “Seems like I don’t have much choice in the matter. Are you ready for this, Commander?”

Vakai nodded his head. “Absolutely, sir.” He then looked at Maxwell. “I won’t let you down.”

“Good. The Centaur will be ready to leave tomorrow. Your crew has already been given notice and they all should be arriving today and getting prepared for tomorrow’s departure. You just need to inform your Senior Staff and you will be set to go.” Maxwell explained.

“Aye, sir. Thank you, sir.” Said Vakai.

“All right then. Dismissed.” Maxwell smiled.

They all nodded in a silent acknowledgement to each other before Carter and Vakai left the briefing room.


Meanwhile, At Soldar’s Private home on T’Met…

A padd crashed against a wall, hardly being broken at all since they were not made that flimsy. Nevertheless, it was thrown out of anger, clearly. “I cannot believe that they capitulated to the Starfleet swing! What’s worse, I’ve been discharged from service!” Soldar shouted loudly.

“Clearly the Senate’s form of punishment is cruel and irresponsible.” Said Tomek as he came over to Soldar with a hypo. Soldar had been laying on a medical bed that was created via a holo emitter while Tomek had been working on a serum to counteract the damage to Soldar’s brain and the effects of dying numerous times in a VR simulation. “This should effectively reduce your trauma, if not cure it.”

Soldar looked at him with much concern. “What do you mean not cure it?”

Tomek sighed. “It is possible that the damage is permanent. What I created may cure you but if the damage is permanent, then all it will do is reduce the trauma and your hallucinations.”

Soldar growled, “Fine. Just do it.” And with that, the hypo was pressed to his neck and the serum was injected. “I have to plan on a way to get back at that traitorous pig.”

“Why do you insist on calling him a traitor?” Tomek asked as he began to put his equipment away.

Soldar slipped off the bed and onto his feet, only to deactivate the holo. “Because he was born on one of our ships, for that he is a citizen of the Free State and a traitor wearing a child’s uniform.” He spat before he went to his office, Tomek right behind.

“Yet we have no way of proving it, nor are we any closer to finding his parents. Yet why does it matter? You’re no longer in service of the Tal’Shiar.” Tomek explained.

Soldar sat down at his desk and brought up several holo displays and started moving files around. “It matters. Because of him, I lost my career, years of countless service, hundreds of successful interrogations and I lost it all because of him.”

Tomek rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Technically, you lost everything when you decided to overload the station’s reactor and kill everyone on it just for one man, which would have still resulted in a failure in your interrogation because your main objective was finding his parents, the real traitors in the Tal’Shiar.”

Soldar slammed his fists onto his desk and glared at him with such anger. “Who’s side are you on, Tomek?!”

“Yours, of course. Simply pointing out the facts.” Tomek then headed for the replicator and had some hot tea replicated. He then brought it over to Soldar’s desk and placed it in front of him.

Soldar sighed heavily in defeat before he grabbed the cup and took a sip before relaxing into his chair. “You always know what I like.”

“Of course, Soldar. Would be pointless to be joined together if I had not known anything about you.” Tomek explained. “After all, all the things you have done for me, I am forever in your debt.”

Soldar set the cut down with yet another sigh. “As I’ve told you, being joined means no debts. We are in this together.”

“So how do you wish to deal with this Vakai?” Tomek asked.

“Oh. I have my ways.”