Mission 6: Turbulent Waters

While breaking in her new engines, Atlantis is assigned to the Port Arthur system to assist in preparations for the Century Storm.

New orders just came in.

USS Atlantis, Highcroft

“Thank you for being on time,” Tikva said as she walked into the conference room and spied her assembled senior staff. “Ra, how’s the shakedown going?” While her staff were all seated, she merely walked up beside her own chair at the head of the table and rested a hand on the back of the chair, opting to stand for now.

“Two weeks to break the new coils in, I’d say we’re good to go. Those yardies took a chance to install some updated hardware in fire control which Gantzmann and I are still working through, but I’d say Atlantis is good to go ma’am.”

“Excellent.” Now she pulled her chair out and sat herself down. “Because I hate to do this to you, but I need maximum warp for as long as you can give it to me.” That got everyone’s attention and she couldn’t help but smile slightly at that. “New orders just came in. Apparently since we’re out here breaking in our engines, Command is retasking us in the light of some sort of state of emergency around the Paulson Nebula and our current proximity.”

“Excuse me ma’am,” T’Val spoke up, leaning forward to be seen past the others present. “But surely there are closer vessels that could assist, yes? At maximum warp we’re days away from the region.”

“No arguments here. I tried to explain that but apparently since we’re in the Federation and one speedy little ship, we’re getting roped into this mess. We’re to make course for the Port Arthur system at best possible speed,” she said with another apologetic glance to Ra-tesh’mi, “and render assistance as required to the system government there. Apparently, the Paulson Nebula has decided to become an ion storm birthing ground and is spitting them out all over the show. Port Arthur needs some assistance in setting up some protection, corralling folks back to the safe spaces and then we’re to shelter in space with them till the storm passes.”

“Port Arthur?” Mac asked, then punched in a few commands on the limited controls built into the conference table before him, bringing information up on the large monitor behind him and opposite the windows facing fore. Half those assembled spun their chairs to look and Mac nodded to himself. “Thought so. Two M-class bodies, a planet and a moon. Stormlea and Highcroft. Majority of the population are on Stormlea, just under a third on Highcroft. Something like fifty or so spread out mining and scientific stations throughout the system.”

“That’s the one,” she responded, getting to her feet to walk over towards the large monitor. “Stormlea and Highcroft are going to be the shelters for this storm. Stormlea scientists have come up with a method for reinforcing the planetary magnetosphere and need some assistance in setting things up. Highcroft needs the same, but less hardware as it orbits Brisbane and gets some assistance from the gas giant’s magnetosphere.” She pointed towards both inhabited bodies on the system display. “We’re going to deploy every small craft we have and as many as the system government can spare to corral those off-planet and get them on solid ground.”

“There’s an entire third of the system that’s a good distance from either colony right now though. Atlantis is plugging that gap?” asked Adelinde.

“Got it in one. Our shields mean we can hang out in the system and act as a base of operations until everyone is safe, then we’ll bring Atlantis in close to Stormlea and help out best we can.” She waited for a round of head nods as her crew processed the high-level plan. “Mac, you’re going planetside at Stormlea when we arrive. Coordinate with the governor and the University of Port Arthur to get these devices of theirs built and deployed. You’ll get Ra with you,” then she turned on Ra before he could interject. “You’re our best deflector specialist. They need you. And Maxwell can hold the ship together just fine.”

“Aye ma’am,” the Efrosian said with a nod.

“Adelinde, I want you and T’Val to coordinate on evacuating all the outer system platforms as soon as arrive. Most are already starting, but we’ll have a few falling behind as always. No word yet on active resistance to the order, but your people are also best suited to helping keep the peace during this situation.”

Both Adelinde and T’Val looked at each and nodded in agreement before looking back at her and doing the same.

“Gabrielle, you’re going with Mac as well. By the time we get there UPA researchers will have a decent enough read of the ion storm bearing down on them. Work with them, see if we can figure out our piece of the puzzle as to why this storm even exists. We’ll transmit to Starfleet as soon as we can so big wigs somewhere can come up with some sort of mitigation plan.”

“We’ll lose the majority of long-range scanners once the storm breaks over the system ma’am, but I’ll also come up with a plan for some probes dotted around the system we can recover afterwards. More datapoints for the storm watchers to look over as well,” the young woman offered.

She counted help but smile at that. Gabrielle was losing the shy streak and becoming more willing to just offer ideas, which was what she wanted in a science officer. Curiosity and a willingness to just give something a go.

“Right, well that’s the plan of attack. Ra, get your people shovelling coal please. T’Val, set course for Port Arthur and get us underway. We’ll get together again on this in a few days and make sure we’re all set to do what we can. Dismissed all.”

“Have you seen this?”

Gavin looked up from his lunch at his long-time friend Charles with a quizzical look, then waved at the noodles on the chopsticks halfway between bowl and mouth. “Kinda eat’n lunch ‘ere Chuck. Seen what?”

The two men were sitting on an outcropping up rocks in the foothills around the city of Brunswick, Highcroft’s largest single settlement, numbering a few million souls. Their particular vantage point today afforded them a look down on the city and the harbour to it’s east. The sun was high in the sky, with the washed-out curve of Brisbane just peeking over the horizon. Not far from them was their truck, the flatbed covered in boxes and a drab green tarp.

“More Stormlea lies. Something about some ion storms threatening the system and needing to evac the outer system stations. Just another excuse to try and control us, all the people of Port Arthur really.” Charles threw his padd on the ground next to Gavin, landing it just right that with a twist of his neck he could read the story while continuing with his lunch.

He nodded as he read it, reading between the obvious lies of the Stormlea media establishment, the blatant power grab that was going on. But unlike Charles, he could at least finish eating before voicing his anger. A hand would reach down to correct the angle of the padd, to scroll the story so he could keep reading while finishing his noodles.

“Yah, I ain’t buyin’ it either,” he finally said. “This talk about umbrella towers…just a cover story for watch towers. But you read this bit about Starfleet?”

“No,” Charles said, biting angrily into the second half of his sandwich. “Fucking lies pissed me off too much.”

“Some Starfleet brat is coming. Mayhap we can get them to tell the Federation what’s really going on in Port Arthur before that traitor Governor Susan poisons their minds.” He shrugged his shoulders before drinking the broth left over in the noodle cup. “Let’s get these supplies back to the hideout and then we’ll get the boys together. We’ll have to be drastic to get past the collaborator security, but it’ll be worth it to get the Federation to come in and arrest those imperialists on Stormlea.”

Charles nodded in assent, stood and threw the last of his sandwich into the long grassy shrub just off the trail they were driving along, a rustling signalling that something in the shrub was helping itself in quick order to the remains. “About fucking time.”

We only want to work with dour, depressive sorts

USS Atlantis, Stormlea, Highcroft

“That’s the last of the shuttles away,” Rrr said from Ops. “And Lt Carmargo’s probes as well.”

“Excellent. Mr Orson, full impulse towards Stormlea would you please?” The captain said before turning to face him once more. “You were saying Mac?”

“Port Arthur Manufacturing reports they’ve got two of these so-called umbrella towers ready to beam aboard Atlantis and be transported to Highcroft. Sites are being prepared. They’re essentially kitset so Maxwell and crew shouldn’t have much difficulty working with the locals to set them up.” He’d already taken over the majority of communications with Governor Makarov’s office and was looking forward to getting planetside to help coordinate the work needed to get everything set.

“How we looking for time?” Tikva asked.

“If we put Atlantis in the unenviable position of carrier and freighter, we should be able to support a full evac and get all the towers to Highcroft that they’ll need to weather the storm. First few will be the worst, but once a few crews are trained, they can train others, then it’s a production bottleneck.” He shrugged but smiled. “It’ll be a fine race, but doable. Rrr, what’s the weather report looking like?” he asked to the front of the bridge where Rrr was sat at Ops.

“Leading edge of the ion storm will hit the system in about twelve hours at which time we’ll lose the warp drive. Another twelve after that and we lose long-range subspace comms. Three days till the storm properly breaks over the system.”

He nodded in understanding, then offered a reassuring grin to Tikva. “Plenty of time. Besides, Port Arthur is one of those laid back good-vibes systems. We’ll have all the help we need and get everything sorted with a day to spare.”

“Let’s hope so Mac. I was reading a report that the storm that hit Cornel brought with it a particle wave from the nebula and it’s messing with the colony’s atmosphere. News is a bit sketchy but it doesn’t sound good.”

“Trust me, we got this,” he said. “I’ll go get Ra and his team so we’re good to beam down when we hit orbit. Best not delay Atlantis longer than we need to.”

Not five minutes later he and his team of engineers materialised in the quad of the Governor’s Residence in the city of Sydney. A warm breeze was blowing, just enough to move trees gently, bringing with it a hint of sea-salt. The whole place had a very well-established look, the likes of staff working to make the place look clean and tidy as well as always having been here, not something that was only completed a decade ago as per what he’d read of the place.

“Welcome, welcome!” was shouted across the quad as a gentleman in a light grey suit came in their direction. “Commander MacIntrye, Lieutenant Velan, so glad you could join us,” the man said quieter now that he’d closed the distance. “Brian Toombs, Governor Makarov’s chief aide. You need anything, just let me know and I’ll either sort it out, or find someone who can.” He offered his hand for handshakes all round, making note to catch all the engineers names. “Welcome to the Port Arthur system and specifically to Stormlea. Shall we head inside? Governor Makarov and Dr Birmingham are eagerly awaiting you.”

“Certainly, please lead the way Mr Toombs,” Charles said. He waited a few moments for the man to start walking, then whispered to Velan quietly enough hopefully not be heard. “Awfully bubbly fellow.”

“Oh, the worst. We only want to work with dour, depressive sorts,” Velan retorted with a smile. “Didn’t you say this is one of those happy go-lucky colonies the other day?”

They didn’t get much time as Toombs slowed down and started talking loudly, giving them an impromptu tour through the heart of government for the entire system. Labyrinthine corridors gave way to a flight of stairs, more corridors, though thankfully less winding and more with windows of the quad or out into the city. Alcoves or paintings with little trinkets of public service history, each with a little anecdote.

If they’d been in a hurry to see the mayor Charles was certain this man wouldn’t have been leading them around like this. This was performative theatre and he and his people simply had to suffer through it to keep appearances.

“And here we have the governor’s office,” Toombs said as they brushed past a secretary and through a set of large, if plain, hinged double doors into an office with a magnificent view of the natural harbour which Sydney was based around.

Two women were present, both in well-tailored suits, and turned to face the new arrivals. Charles recognised the mayor straight away, having spoken with her a few times over the last few days. A woman in her sixties, blonde-grey hair, a little gaunt in the face, but with a zeal in her eyes.

The other woman however took him a moment to recognise and she must have noticed as his expression likely faltered. She went from curiosity to shock herself to smiling as she recnogised him as well.

Doctor Lisa Birmingham, or as he last knew her, Lisa Cooper – the one that got away. Soon enough even his own shock faded, a smile coming to his face. It was then he realised that someone was talking. “…and this is Doctor Birmingham,” Toombs said by way of introduction. “Commander MacIntrye, Lieutenant Velan, Ensigns Grant and Belleci, Petty Officers Wayne, T’rin, Gomu and Chunesku.”

“Commander, Lieutenant, please sit,” the governor said, indicating the two empty seats opposite her desk, where a third was already occupied by the fair doctor. He was considering which seat to take himself when Velan elbowed him as he pushed past and took the furthest, leaving him to sit next to Lisa. The only thought he had was a need to talk to Velan about how a senior officer gets to choose first dammit.

“Thank you, madam governor,” he stared, hearing the others behind him shuffling, likely to sit on the sofas in the office for large groups at the direction of Toombs, who he could make out whispering. “I trust by now that Atlantis has uplifted the first umbrella towers for Highcroft and departed. Mr Toombs was quiet through in his rather excellent tour.”

“That they have. We received notification they departed only a few minutes ago,” the older woman said as she leaned back in her seat, a palpable air of someone used to being in authority about her. “This is Doctor Birmingham, of the University of Port Arthur. She’s our lead solar weather expert and principal overseer of the Umbrella Project. Hopefully you’ll have no issues working with her and her people to help speed up production, resolve any unforeseen technical difficulties and assist in setting up the towers for the protection of our colony?”

He blinked at that a moment. He wasn’t expecting to just five right into things like that. He’d mentally prepared for some initial small talk. This was more his speed. “It’s why we’re hear ma’am. Doctor Birmingham and I have worked together in the past, I assure you, we’ll see this project through.”

“Chuck, Commander MacIntrye sorry,” Lisa spoke up, “and I can manage the project from the university with the PAMC engineers. We’ll do everything we can to get this all sorted out and deployed with time to spare.”

“Excellent. Normally I’d waste time with small talk and maybe a snack or two, but time I understand is of the essence,” Makarov replied.

“In that case should we adjourn to your offices?” he asked, turning the question to Lisa who was still smiling at him.

“Well?” Gavin asked as he sat in his seat of the truck, on the wrong side to be doing much observing of the construction site a few kilometers outside of Brunswick. One of their number, Samson, had seen the site crop up the other day and Gavin had decided someone should drive down a hill road overlooking it every few hours to stop and obverse what was going on.

“No change hoss,” the young man in the passenger seat, Tommy, said. “Some foundational work, a security fence more to keep animals out, two guards on site. Don’t look that fancy to me.”

“Yah, that’s what they want us to think,” he chimed in, reaching forward to start the motor of the truck back up. “We’ll head into town, get some more supplies. Maybe ask a few folks.”

“Yah figure that’s where they be putting that watchtower? Figure they’ll give them fleeter types a tour?”

“Makarov loves to show off and Drummond is a collaborator. If she tells him to give them fleet boys a tour, he’ll do. Just need to know when so we can try and get to them.” That said he reached forward, turned the music back on, his choice, not Tommy’s awful racket, and started the truck down the road once more.

No harm remember?

USS Atlantis, City of Brunswick, Highcroft

Was it professional for a starship captain to sit at her desk, elbows on the desk and head resting in upturned hands while having a conversation with a subordinate? Likely not. But that wasn’t stopping one Tikva Theodoras right now as she was in her ready room and speaking with Adelinde aboard the shuttlecraft Waihou. Though calling the Waihou a shuttle was a bit of a stretch. It wasn’t as multi-purpose as a full runabout but the type 11 shuttles were short of a comfortable half-way point that Tikva had opted for when she’d modified the Atlantis’ loadout.

“…and it would appear Lieutenant Chalmers was able to resolve the issue at Gamma 3, so the holdouts are boarding the mining skiff now and should be headed for Stormlea within the hour. Turns out all Chalmers did was use the shuttle to simulate a radiation source and asked the miners to confirm the radiation levels in their bunker.”

“Smart kid Chalmers,” she spoke up, resulting in Adelinde looking up from her notes. “Was thinking of having a talk with him about career advancement. Get him doing a few more courses and the such. Mentor him up with you.”

“Think he’d enjoy it actually. He’s got a diplomatic streak to him, as well as some tactical smarts. Might be good to consider forming our own hazard team and bring him on,” Adelinde said, smiling. “That said, I should go in a moment. T’Val and I are approaching the Barghest shortly. We’ll be beaming De León and Weber over to look at their engines while taking them undertow to Stormlea as well. Eighty-nine scientists and a handful of miners who’ve left their ships at Lorelai Station for the storm. If we get Barghest’s engines running again, we’ll turn them loose and head back out to the belt.”

“Sounds good to me. What about the other shuttle crews?” she asked. “Nothing we need to worry about?”

“No, not really. Most of the stations are pretty good at self-evacuating. We’re just spreading out to give assistance, when need be, as per the plan. We’ll likely have everyone off these stations in a day after they’ve locked down and secured as best, they can and taken their own ships in.” Adelinde turned to listen to something off screen and just outside of the audio pickup’s cone. “We’re coming up on the Barghest.”

“Stay safe out there,” she said to Adelinde, giving her a wink. “Dinner when you get back?”

“Sounds good. Waihou out.” With that the comm line went dead, her computer terminal momentarily blank, then replaced with the standard blue and Federation logo.

We really should get that changed to the ship’s crest.

We have a ship’s crest?

We need a ship’s crest. Then change that to the ship’s crest.

With a shake of her head, Tikva stood, pulled her uniform tunic down to straighten creases, then stepped out onto the bridge of her ship, working like a well-oiled machine. “No need to stand Rrr, just passing through. How we doing for time?”

“Highcroft Control has just given us an orbit and cleared us to beam the tower assemblies to two locations. One outside of Brunswick, the other about a thousand kilometers in the middle of nowhere.” The gaen spoke, their voice rumbling from deep in their being.

“Communication from the mayor’s office,” the young ensign at Ops spoke up. A glance to Rrr and they mouthed ‘new transfer’ in response to the unspoken question of ‘who is that?’. “Mayor Drummond extends an offer to beam down and travel with him to the nearby construction site to survey the work.”

She couldn’t help but smile and chuckle. Right on cue, the local politicians wanting to show off. From her own readings however, it was probably because Arthur Drummond was a genuinely proud mayor who loved to show off the accomplishments of his people. A forever politician who’d been in office as mayor of Highcroft’s largest city for decades, he’d apparently become a bit of an institution as chief cheerleader and capable, scandal free leader of a city of millions.

“Tell the mayor’s office that I and Lieutenant Maxwell will be beaming down shortly to take him up on his offer.” She could already feel the protest from Rrr and the static she normally felt from Ch’ttk’va ramped up as well. “It’ll be fine. There are no security threats, we’re deep in Federation space and I’m just touring a construction project. Maxwell and I will be safe.”

“Captain,” Ch’tkk’va spoke, the clicks and hisses just hidden under the universal translator, “there are regulations. A security team should accompany you.”

“I’ll have the mayor’s security. Don’t worry about it.” With that final statement she departed the bridge, via Engineering to collect her assistant chief engineer, then planetside via the wonders of the transporter.

As they materialised at the stated coordinates, it was easy to see why the mayor had given them. A tranquil garden in the middle of the city, tall buildings of steel and glass a few hundred meters away at least. She knew Brunswick had a large park at its heart, but this was stunning and this particular part was…so quiet. She could hear the sound of a city in the distance, but the dominant sound here was a babbling stream over rocks and an older man humming to himself as he greatly spread something from his hand with a wave over a pond.

“Please walk calmly Captain, you’ll scare the fish.”

“Mayor Drummond,” she responded, moderating her steps as she approached.

He was wearing a simple blue suit, nothing fancy, of a style perhaps a few centuries out of date by now, but still fashionable. “Please, call me Arthur. I only make the city counsellors call me Mayor. Reminds them who actually is in charge,” he said with mirth in his voice and his thoughts. “Let me just finish feeding these koi and we’ll head for my vehicle. My driver is likely getting bored now anyway.”

“Excuse me sir,” Maxwell chimed in. “But why are you feeding fish in a public garden?”

“Why aren’t you?” the older man responded, then smiled, offered his bag with fish pellets to Maxwell and waited for him to take some. “Gentle like,” he said before demonstrating how to throw and spread the pellets out over the water. “You too Captain Theodoras.”

She didn’t protest, just indulged the man in his pastime, though taking larger handfuls to help finish the bag off faster, which to be honest didn’t take long.

“You still didn’t answer my question sir,” Maxwell stated as the three started walking to where the mayor said his vehicle was.

“You’re perceptive, I didn’t.” He clearly waited, expecting a protest, then continued. “And you’re patient too. I like that. As for the fish…it calms me and is one of my little quirks. Everyone knows the mayor feeds the fish in the botanical gardens. It’s sort of a public engagement time. I’ve had a number of constituents just approach me and ask questions. Help feed the fish too.”

“I…see?” Maxwell said, trailing into a question as he doubted his own answer, looking to her for any answer and she just smiled, shrugging her shoulders.

Okay, favourite politician.

What, cause he’s grand-papa’s age? And gives the same feeling of…calm?

He’s also weird. Good weird mind.

“Arthur,” she tried to use his name as naturally as possible, “is it a long trip out to the construction site? I don’t mean to rush, but Atlantis needs to get back underway to return to Stormlea to pick up the next tower assemblies.”

“Oh, it’s a trip yes. Perhaps you should send your ship along and you can return when they get back? I could use the extra time to squeeze in a short tour and see if I can’t persuade you to take leave during the storm here in Brunswick versus back in Sydney with the governor.” He smiled as the neared his mode of transport, a black hover-car with a driver standing outside of it.

“Alright, that sounds like a plan.” And with a tap of her commbadge, a quick conversation, she was the last into the vehicle, not including the driver. “Atlantis is away. Should be few hours before they’re back. Shall we look at the site first Arthur, then you can give us a tour on the way back in?”

“Gav! Gav! Just had a call from Branson. The mayor already has the Starfleet people and is heading out to the construction site. Only reason to be heading this way, right?” Charles shouted as he entered into the cave that their little group had made into their base of operations.

Gavin nodded, then stood from the table he’d been sitting at, reading one of the books that he’d brought here to help while away the time. “Yah, has to be Chuck. Get the boys t’gether and go deliver our message to the Starfleet folks. Might be the only chance we get. And Chuck,” he squeezed in as his oldest friend and chief lieutenant had started to turn around. “No harm remember? Get in, deliver our message, leave the comm device so they can call us, then get out.”

“Yah yah, I remember the plan.”

He let out a sigh as Charles then walked away, barking orders at a few of the men to go with him, get vehicles ready, grab weapons and the such. With a shake of his head, he sat back down, picked up his book and found where he’d left off. He knew he could trust Charles to get it right.

And we insisted things would be okay.

USS Atlantis, Highcroft

“Hey Chuck, you mind?”

He stopped, completely stopped, brain freezing at an interruption. Then turned to face the other occupant in the cab, a young man half his age, sitting with his rifle across his lap, window down and looking like he had committed some gross crime. His glare must have spooked the man, who then pointed at his fingers on the steering wheel, which jogged his own memory. He’d been absent minded drumming his fingers, a nervous tick.

“Fine,” he finally said through his teeth, then reached forward to comm the old-style radio on the dash. “Anyone got eyes on them?”

The radio crackled, then cleared. “Mayor’s vehicle just pulled into the site. All the workers are stopping and milling around.” Another pause, then the voice continued. “Confirm Starfleet. Two of them. Can’t make ranks but one is red.”

He couldn’t help but smack the steering wheel in triumph. “Yes!” Another smack, then he was turning the engine back on. “Fire up that jammer Sammy,” he said to the young man, who started flicking switches on the center console, bringing an old piece of technology sitting in the back of the truck to life.

“That thing really gonna work?” the young man asked.

“Better, or this will be awfully embarrassing.” He gunned the engine, driving the truck forward with the other three in the group. A total of ten men to make this work. “Get that scanner thing out of the glovebox. We’ll need to check for other transmitters too while we say our piece. Can’t have them just beaming out from under us because of the bitch’s lies.”

“I hear that,” Sammy said as he pulled out a tricorder just as old as the jammer, both surplus from wars goneby that found their way eventually into the hands of true defenders of freedom.

“Foreman Debrovnik,” the large man said with a handshake to match, leaving Tikva shaking her hand afterwards. “Sorry, forget my own strength.” The man’s mindglow reaffirmed his words and she just smiled as way of acceptance. “My crew. We’re all done with the foundation and just about done with the first tower segment. We’ll be hovering the main truss into place within the hour to prepare for the upper section tomorrow morning.”

When they’d arrived, introduction had gone by rapid fire, as Mayor Drummond, Arthur, had started, leaving Debroknik last to introduce himself while his people stopped work while visitors were on site, for safety and with the sun nearing its zenith lunch too.

“I’m not sure if we have that long Foreman, but I’m sure we can stay long enough for your men to have some lunch and Lieutenant Maxwell to have a poke around, as engineers are wont to do.”

The large man chuckled, a hearty thing to give Rrr a run for his earthen money. “Served ten years in the fleet. Engineers are second only in curiosity to blue shirts. And second only to boldness after helm officers. Eh?” He chuckled like he knew that joke was funny, unaware of her own career choices.

But she took it in the good-natured manner it was intended and gave a few chuckles before stopping as the sound of ground cars, actual ground cars, screeching to a halt in a cloud of dirt and dust. A collection of men poured out, all obviously armed though she didn’t recognise the weapons. It wasn’t even a conscious action as her hand came up to her comm badge, slapping it, command halted in her throat as the little device gave a rather unhappy chirp. Again, another unhappy chirp.

Third times a charm?

She heard Maxwell doing the same with his commbadge, that unhappy little chirp the most annoying thing in the universe right now.

And we insisted things would be okay.

They still are.

One of the men held his weapon pointed straight up and a single loud bark washed over the site. Workers oblivious to the goings on by way of boisterous conversations and the all-important lunch suddenly fell quiet, heads turning. Everyone went quiet in fact.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there is no need for anyone to get hurt,” another man said, walking forward from the skirmish line the others were forming, though one man fell into step with what looked like a tricorder from another era. “We’re just here to deliver a message and stop this obvious watch tower from being built.”

“Maxwell,” she hissed through her teeth.

“Must have a subspace jammer on one of their trucks,” he replied equally quietly.

“What is the meaning of this?” Arthur said as he stepped forward, his plain suit actually a sensible choice here as it didn’t pick up the dirt in the air as easily as perhaps a finer garment would have. “Who are you people?”

“The folks who are going to get your collaborative regime overthrown old man,” the talkative one said as he brought his long arm to bare on the mayor. “But I’ve got orders not to harm anyone…much.”

“No other transmitters boss,” the young man said as he finished his scans. “But that one’s got cybernetic limbs,” he said, pointing to her.

“Now wait a minute,” Arthur continued, stepping forward again and only stopping when more guns were levelled on him. “You haven’t answered my first question.”

The older man, the boss, rolled his eyes and casually brought his gun back on Arthur and pulled the trigger of the old style slugthrower, the projectile piercing the old man’s leg and sending him to the ground. “Shut up traitor.” Then his gun turned on the workers, as did his compatriots as they had all taken a few steps forward. “Stay where you are or your blood gets spilt as well.” After a few moments of nothing happening, he waved the young man near him over. “Change of plan.”

“But Gav said…”

“Fuck Gavin, I’m here, I’m in charge. Drop the spare radio, the fleeters can call us on it. We’re taking these two with us. They have to listen to us if we happen to have their Captain,” he said, looking at Tikva with a look she didn’t like and a mental state she really didn’t like. “And get the power drainer. I don’t trust cybernetics.”

“Lieutenant, we’re receiving a hail from the mayor’s office and the Brunswick Police Department.”

Rrr’mmm’bal’rrr looked up from where they’d been sitting next to Gabrielle going over the latest sensor readings from the probes. “One or two hails?” they asked, pushing themselves to their feet and walking towards the center of the bridge.

“Two, but perfectly timed,” Ensign Taru replied.

“Well put them through, together I suppose,” they continued, straightening their posture and clasping hands behind themselves. At two hundred twelve centimeters they made an imposing visage, but it was slightly lost over comms. The real effect had to be personal.

The viewscreen snapped up both hails at once, the mayor’s chief of staff on the left, the police chief on the right, if uniforms for the locals could be remembered correctly. “Ladies, I’m Lieutenant Rrr’mmm’bal’rrr, how can I be of assistance?”

“We’re hailing to inform you of a situation we have developing planetside that involves Starfleet,” the police chief started. Her nameplate read Dredd and her visage suited it. “The tower site outside of town was attacked five minutes ago by a group who’ve called themselves the Highcroft Liberation Front. They’ve kidnapped your people, shot the mayor and left their manifesto and list of demands, as well as a radio communicator.”

Rrr glanced over their shoulder to both Gabrielle and Chh’tkk’va, both taking the unspoken commands to start looking, before turning attention back to the viewscreen. “Did you say radio communicator ma’am?”

“I did. They also shot the mayor with a projectile rifle. Initial reports indicate they attacked with a portable jammer, though I suspect subspace only.”

Rrr internally winced. Standard equipment circumvented or defeated by someone willing to go more primitive to do their job. Course radio was limited whereas subspace could beam a message through a planet. It was all trade-offs. “We’re returning to Highcroft orbit right now,” which seeing as they’d only been underway for an hour at impulse, they weren’t far off. Quicker if he took a risk at a short warp hop. “I’d like a copy of that manifesto and list of demands to forward to my commanding officer.”

“On it’s way to you now Lieutenant. I want to apologise; we never saw this coming.”

“Neither did we,” the mayor’s aide said. “Lieutenant, until the deputy mayor gets in, I’m running operations here. We’d…we’d like your people’s help on this. I know Angie will agree once she’s in the office.”

“We’ll be in orbit in five minutes,” his decision made. “Lieutenant Ch’tkk’va will be coming down with a security team to assist.” With nods all around, the comm channel was cut leaving the bridge in silence for a moment. “Get me Commander MacIntrye and Gantzmann. Helm, get us to Highcroft orbit and please don’t warp us into the planet.”

It’s been a spell, hasn’t it?


The trip over from the governor’s residence to the University of Port Arthur had taken everyone assembled through the heart of the city of Sydney and around to the opposite side of the large harbour. Sprawling grounds unhindered by the city on one side allowed the university to sprawl out versus upwards, which showed by a collection of low buildings, the tallest a mere three stories. Expansive lawns, tree-lined walkways, a predominance of green spaces all made the university feel more like its own township.

And for Charles, the whole ride had been spent mostly listening to Velan and Lisa discussing scientific and engineering matters. Frequency regulators, harmonic stabilisers, field emitter interactions, magnetosphere scanners, self-regulating control systems – all of these were the topic of conversation as Lisa brought Velan up to speed on what her people had initially designed, what the Port Arthur Manufacturing engineers had been able to build and the state of the project.

Velan for his part seemed to like the design, when he’d been handed a tablet with the designs on it, he’d even whistled, then stated how they were updated to what he’d seen a day ago and already incorporated a modification he was going to discuss. A few more modifications, even suggestions that he could use some spare parts from Atlantis, with higher tolerances, to improve performance were bandied about by the chief engineer who was already mentally fully committed to the project.

When they arrived at the engineering sub-campus, where Port Arthur Manufacturing had a branch office in collaboration with the engineering college, Velan and his team rapidly departed, meeting the PAM lead engineer outside for a round of introductions, before disappearing inside to lend whatever assistance they could.

And then it was just himself and Lisa in the back of the car, driving sedately towards the science buildings. “You’re Lieutenant seems an affable sort,” Lisa said as she shuffled along on the seat opposite where Charles and Velan had been so that she was now directly opposite him. “It’s been a spell, hasn’t it?”

“Ten years Dr Birmingham,” he replied with a smile. “How long have you been married?”

“Coming on eight years next month.” She played with the gold band on her hand briefly, then held it up for Charles to inspect, lowering her hand once he nodded in approval at the ring. “He’s a good man. You’ll like Grant. You’ll have to come for dinner while you’re here, meet the kids too.”

“Christ Lisa, kids as well?” Now that hit him hard, for reasons he couldn’t explain. The one that got away now married and with kids? Was that why it hurt, that he could have had that? He shook his head gently, as much to clear the thought for now as to show he hadn’t meant that the way it might have sounded. “I’m happy for you, honestly.”

“Thanks, Charles. You’re looking good as well by the way. Better now than when we broke up.”

“I was a different person back then. Heck, I was a different a year ago,” he admitted as the car came to a stop. “I…I’m sorry I wasn’t much of a partner back then.”

“I know Charles. We were good and bad for each other. I just didn’t have what was needed to get you out of the rut you got in.” She offered a smile and then reached to open the door. “This is us.”

He waited for her to exit, then himself before the door closed and the car whisked off on its own to its next task. “Don’t tell me you designed this building as well? This whole place looks brand new.”

“No no, it was a committee project. The whole science district is less than six years old. We were still in original feature buildings and needed more space, so since I was on maternity leave from teaching, I got nominated to sit on the design committee to ensure each department got what we wanted.” She started walking towards the front door, offering greetings to a few colleagues as they want. “So, who kicked you in the backside and got you moving again, Commander?”

“Oh, noticed that eh? Yeah, spent way too long putzing about at Lieutenant Commander, thought I was going to be either mustered out or given a desk job, then came along this hotshot Commander, younger than me, XO on two ships, a command of her own before coming aboard to serve as my CO and I just thought, I can’t stay still otherwise I’ll never get my own ship.” He had adjusted his stride to account for Lisa’s without even trying, though his gaze was moving around, taking in his surroundings. “Turns out, she’s a reasonable motivator. Got me back in my groove seemingly.”

“Well, you’re looking good for it Charles.” She led him through the building, stopping at a café in a common space for an actual cup of coffee, beans grown in the system even before eventually her department and her office. He waited patiently for a grad student who had been waiting outside her office to say his piece, get an answer and then scurry off when he realised she was being accompanied by a Starfleet officer.

“Were we ever that young?” he asked, stepping inside and making himself comfortable in one of the guest seats.

“They get younger each year. Oh, before I forget, we have a spare office down the hall if you want, but I think Harold is sorting out an office over in Engineering for you and your people.” She finally sat down herself, sipped at her coffee and then sat it down, relaxing finally. “Why are you here Charles? Your engineer could handle all of this yes? Did you come to see me?”

“Honestly Lisa, I didn’t even know you were here. Even if I knew, I’d still have come. I can be an adult. And besides, my job is to help coordinate and run interference for Velan and his folks so they can focus on helping all of your people. It’s weird how much the uniform can open doors or get supplies in an emergency.” He leaned forward to place the cup on her desk, then looked her in the eyes. “I’ll take that office with my people, but I’d still love to catch up with you. And the husband and kids.”

“I was honestly prepared for sulking and brooding Charles, not reasonable and adult Charles.” She smiled. “We could have been great.”

“Yeah, but fate had different ideas. Friends though?”

She smiled mischievously. “And drinking buddies. You still a lightweight?” she teased, though her attention quickly turned from Charles to the door as it opened.

A handsome enough man, bald though with a well-maintained beard, about Charles’ age, stepped in, his eyes immediately settling on Charles and narrowing suspiciously, before turning to Lisa. “Who’s this?”

For his part, Charles was on his feet, offering a hand in greeting. “Commander Charles MacIntyre, USS Atlantis. Here to help manage my people on the umbrella project that Dr Birmingham is the principal scientist on.”

The man stared at him like he had just emitted some foul wind, or said something vulgar about a beloved one. “That Charles MacIntyre?” he asked, not of Charles, but Lisa.

“Grant, don’t be a jerk,” Lisa chided him. “It’s ancient history, but yes, that Charles MacIntyre.”

With the verbal warning the man took Charles’ hand in a grip and immediately applied pressure, which he was surprised when Charles’ responded with a trick he’d been practising with Atlantis’ in-house amazon, applying just enough pressure to let the man know if he tried, he’d be walking away with a sore hand. “Doctor Grant Birmingham,” he said by way of introduction before letting go, shaking life back in his hand.

“Sorry about that,” Charles said smiling. “Numb hand,” he lied by way of explaining his grip.

“You boys done with the macho male stuff?” Lisa asked.

“Yeah, we’re done. I’ll talk to you later hun,” Grant said, then looked back to Charles. “Commander.” With that he then departed, closing the door behind him.

“I don’t think I made a friend there,” he eventually said before returning to his seat. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, he’s just being a jerk for some reason. Must be the old boyfriend thing perhaps?” Lisa said. “So, you still a lightweight?”

After a half-hour, Charles had excused himself when Lisa’s students started to show up for office hours. Plans had been made for dinner in neutral territory, a nice restaurant that could accommodate large parties, such as a Starfleet engineering team and important figures from across the project and their partners. It was Lisa’s idea, to use the public forum as a way of moderating her husband should his animosity rear its head once more.

It had taken another half hour on foot, getting lost twice, before Charles had found the engineering building that they had dropped his people off at. Kindly reception staff met him, issued him a pass and even escorted him to the main working floor where everything was being built. Handoff to someone there who issued him a hardhat and hearing protection, to be worn at all times on the floor, then another escort to a set of offices that overlooked from an elevated position.

Those offices, open plan naturally, were filled with work stations and holotanks for designing and looking at parts before ordering or manufacturing them. Here was where Velan and a man he’d been introduced to as Harold were, discussing the finer points of some part of the tower design, Velan’s expertise coming in handy.

“…and the best part is, we can make the changes now for the rest of the towers and they’d be able to compensate for the lower performance in the first batch,” Velan said, looking at a holographic rendition of some emitter head or the such. “Oh, Commander, nice of you to join us. We’re going to probably need your help bullying some parts out of local entities. Up for some horse-trading?”

“You leave me all the best jobs Ra. How about you give me the turbolift briefing, then I catch up with Harold here, then I’ll go about talking with folks to get what you two need, what you want and what I might need to arrange to fall off the back of trucks.”

Velan’s smile was genuine and he glanced at the other man. “Told you.”

Before he could interrupt, to enquire as to what Velan was on about, someone barged into the room, glanced around and jogged over to him at a decent clip. “Commander, there’s an urgent call from the Atlantis for you. We’ve got a conference room ready for you.”

“Lead the way,” he responded without thinking, following the young woman. “Keep at it Velan, I want a progress report when I’m back.”

The conference room itself was just down the hall and barely would have sat ten people, but the viewscreen on one whole wall at the end of the table, the blinds that looked like they could come down and block all outside light, the comfortable chairs, all gave the impression of a room that could be occupied for hours and hours while important people made important decisions. On the viewscreen already waiting for him was a split view of Lieutenants Rrr’mmm’bal’rrr and Gantzman, both alone wherever they were, with Rrr looking to be in the conference room and Gantzman likely in the back compartment of one of the larger shuttles.

“I was told this was urgent Rrr,” he said, walking in and sitting at the head of the table opposite the screen.

“Sir, five minutes ago we got informed of an attack on the tower site closest to the city of Brunswick, where the captain and mayor were visiting to inspect the work. The captain and Lieutenant Maxwell were both taken captive by some group calling themselves the Highcroft Liberation Front. We’ve just returned to Highcroft orbit now,” Rrr said.

“You went to warp?” he asked, Rrr’s nod in the affirmative a suitable answer. He was merely asking to understand how Atlantis had covered the distance. “No signs of the captain yet?”

“None. We found both of their commbadges about ten kilometres from the site. The attackers have a subspace jammer, so likely some sort of dispersion field as well. We’ve been informed that some of the hills east of Brunswick also have magnetite deposits.” Rrr paused for a moment, clearly reading something. “Brunswick police have recovered a radio from the site with a note about how to turn it one and when. As well as a manifesto and list of demands. I’ll forward them to you, sir.”

“Good. With all our shuttles and the system shuttles all busy, I’m not going to be able to get back to the ship. Adelinde, how are you placed?”

She looked cold to him. Focused. He’d never been afraid of her, but right now he certainly didn’t want to be on her bad side. “Waihou can divert. I can be back aboard in under five minutes.” That wasn’t a request to use warp travel in a star system, that was a statement.

“Lieutenant, can you be professional about this?” he asked, the same question he’d asked her a few times.

“Someone has assaulted the crew of Atlantis.” He heard it there – professional anger. Oh sure, personal feelings were likely mixed in, but he could tell by her tone of voice that she could be.

“Very good. You’re in command when you get back to the ship. Rrr, you’re her second. Call me if you need anything. Work with the local police and get our people back. I’ll make my way to Atlantis as soon as a shuttle is free.”

“Yes sir,” Adelinde practically growled and Rrr echoed with a slight rumble afterwards. “Waihou out.” With that the comm was cut, leaving just himself and Rrr on the line.

“Doctor Terax isn’t command trained, hence why I’m not putting him in charge. But let him know what’s going on and keep an eye on Adelinde will you?” he asked, hoping it wouldn’t come to needing to relieve her from duty. He wasn’t sure who he’d want to send on any rescue mission anyway – a pissed on Lieutenant Gantzmann or their resident Xindi-insectoid, Lieutenant Ch’tkk’va.

“Will do boss. Will do. Atlantis out.”

With the comms finished, the screen reverting to the university seal, Charles sat there in the room for a few minutes before shaking his head. “Fuck…”



While the arrival of the shuttle Waihou back to the Atlantis was a calm and orderly affair, the figure that stormed out of the shuttle was anything but calm.

“Ma’am,” Chief Andrews, Shuttlebay 1’s deck chief said as he approached, falling into step alongside Adelinde as she marched towards the bay’s main doors. “We’ll have Waihou turned around and back out in ten minutes.”

“She’s not going back out on evac duty Chief. I might need Waihou. Get it ready for launch and clear out the rear compartment for a security team.” Her tone was icy.

“Aye ma’am,” Andrews replied and broke off just before the large doors. “Prep Waihou for a combat drop, on the double!” the man shouted as the doors closed.

The nearest turbolift was her first alone moment since she’d heard the news and an order to the computer brought the carriage to a halt to stretch the moment out, to let her vent then catch her breath and recentre herself. Her arrival on the bridge was only delayed by thirty seconds whereupon she found Ch’tkk’va and Rrr’mmm’bal’rrr both at Mission Ops.

“What are we looking at?” she demanded as she approached.

“Brunswick Police don’t have much at all, to be honest. The manifesto has over five hundred signatures and they’re running through them as fast as they can, but a majority of them are either retirees or deceased. They’re trying to track down the ones they think are viable threats but they seem to have disappeared off the grid.” Rrr looked sympathetic. “I don’t like it either.”

“I’m the chief of security first Lieutenant,” she answered coldly. “We have a job to do and that is to get our people back.”

“Aye ma’am,” he responded. “Ch’tkk’va, bring up the map the locals sent us.”

Complying with the request the Xindi-Insectoid entered a few commands, bringing up a map of hills around Brunswick. “The Brunswick Police believe the Highcroft Liberation Front is based somewhere in these hills and specifically near the magnetite deposits,” they said, the occasional click or chirp getting past the universal translator. “It is an area of approximately 1500 square kilometres.”

“Sizable piece of terrain,” she admitted. “What else have we got?”

“The attackers came in vehicles, so I am assuming that while their hideout is off the trails, it won’t be too far off available paths. There is also the slope of certain hills to contend with, so I am confident we can eliminate these sections from immediate search patterns,” Ch’tkk’va continued, entering another command to shade out nearly a third of the entire area. “This should help us to maximise any ground or low-level search work that needs to be done, though we are limited in that capacity as well.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Lack of available shuttles. All of our shuttles are currently on evacuation duties and Highcroft only retained emergency services craft. Everything else that they have is purely civilian models intended for such duties as public transport or cargo transportation between cities.”

Rrr’mmm’bal’rrr cleared their throat. “We also do need to get Atlantis back on transport duty as soon as possible Lieutenant. We need to get those towers from Stormlea and get them set up as soon as possible or Highcroft will suffer when the storm breaks over the system.”

“There won’t be any more towers going up until we’re certain there isn’t a threat to them,” she replied. “Ch’tkk’va, prep a team and embark on the Waihou. Phaser rifles authorised. I’ll meet you shortly. Rrr, have Shotover and Haast prepared for duty as well. Fighters at least can fly search patterns over the area. Once we’re all on our way make for Stormlea. Grab everything you can and get back here. Liaise with local authorities. There must be a transhipment facility or the such you can dump materials at for now to get the flow of material going again.”

“Aye ma’am,” both of them answered.

Fifteen minutes later the shuttle Waihou was settling down at the primary starport of Brunswick, the majority of the facility occupied by small ships from around the system or those smaller freighters in the system when the news broke. But as it turned out a handful of spots had been cleared for the shuttle and her escorting fighters to set down.

She’d taken the chance during the trip planetside to ditch her normal uniform jacket for the outdoor jackets that Atlantis had aboard ship – a dark grey jacket with a single thin line of pipping around the shoulders and matte finish rank pips to make them harder to see. Her only non-standard piece of kit was the knife she’d collected from her own quarters and strapped to her right leg, a promise to her younger self never to go hunting without it.

Waiting for them as they arrived were four Brunswick police, kitted for rural work, two individuals in uniforms that Adelinde didn’t recognise and the one woman on the entire planet she had wanted to speak to this entire time – Chief Inspector Darcel Dredd. As she stepped out, she waved for the team with her to stay inside, her intent to be airborne once more as soon as formalities where completed.

“Chief Dredd,” she spoke, offering a hand. “I was hoping we could count on local support to recover our people.”

The older woman’s grasp was firm, but not overly so. “I want this sorted as quickly as possible too Lieutenant. This looks bad for me and mine and I want it resolved. I also want those towers put up without any problems before that ion storm hits. This is my home after all.”

“I’m glad to hear we’re on the same page then.”

“That we are,” the older woman replied. “These four officers are yours as I understand a lot of your people are busy evacuating civilians across the system. As for these two,” Dredd indicated to the individuals in the unfamiliar uniforms. “Rangers Rance and Marshall of the Highcroft Forestry Service. They’re your experts on those woods your Lieutenant Chtickva informed me about before Atlantis broke orbit.”

“Ch’tkk’va,” she corrected of the Chief, emphasising the breaks in the name to give it the closest a human mouth could achieve to their real name. “And a pleasure to meet you Rangers. Assuming we have permission, we’ll get all our assets in the air again and begin overflights. See if we can’t refine our efforts before boots hit the ground in earnest.”

“HFS has opened up all air space for Starfleet ma’am,” the older ranger offered to the conversation. A man in his fifties from the look of him, he stepped forward offering his hand. “Ranger Marshall, call me Sam. This is Lou,” he gestured to the woman with him. “Best we do overflights of the roads first. Lou and I can tell if someone’s driven on them lately. But once off the road we’ll likely have to get ground side to see anything worthwhile though.”

“In that case Sam, I’ll sit you next to my pilot. Welcome aboard the Waihou,” Adelinde offered as she gestured to the open hatch.

“I’m beginning to think there’s trouble in paradise,” Maxwell said from his spot by the cell door, ear pressed up against the wall to try and make out what was being shouted on the other side of the barrier.

For her own part, Tikva was lying on the one singular cot they’d been provided, her one good arm behind her head as she stared at the rock ceiling above. Sure enough, the leader of their captors had indeed ordered someone to produce an energy-draining device of some sort, though from the casing colour she suspected Ferengi in origin. Their combadges had been drained, then thrown out a window, though she suspected located pretty quickly thanks to rather unique materials within. Then just as their leader had threatened it had been turned on her.

The look on his face was likely the same look he gave anyone he thought had power over. She could feel the desire from him to see embarrassment from her, to see her made low by losing the function of an arm and a leg. But she just smiled at him and refused to give in. She had already spent six months once before without them even being physically present, losing power to them was just damned annoying.

Then their captor had saddled Maxwell with assisting her in walking in from the vehicles to this cell. Maxwell for his part just rolled with it, her dead arm around his neck, held in place by his own grip, so she could lean against him while walking. That had perhaps been the most embarrassing part of this whole ordeal. If the Fates however had anything to say about it, the worst was yet to come.

“Sorry, you said something Maxwell?” she suddenly snapped back to reality.

“I said there’s trouble in paradise. Sounds like someone else is ripping into the guy who brought us in. I’m hearing the word credibility thrown around a lot.”

“Trouble within the Highcroft Liberation Front eh?”

“Splitters,” Maxwell blurted out and only a moment later did she feel a slight wave of embarrassment from him.

“Gérard, by chance, did you just make a Monty Python reference?” she asked, not looking away from the ceiling, but smiling nonetheless.

“Wait, you know Monty Python ma’am?”

“As only cultured people do.” There was a slight pause. “I need to force Adelinde to sit through a few movies with me. You’ve just moved one to the top of the list.”

“Ma’am, what I know of Lieutenant Gantzmann, I’m not sure if I’m not better off barging out this door and taking on the HLF with my bare hands,” Maxwell answered.

“Least you wouldn’t have to listen to them regurgitate that manifesto again. No no, we’ll sit tight. I can’t run, let alone walk anyway and trust me, Mac will get on top of this and sort it out.”

Waihou had been in the air for nearly three hours, everyone in the back of the shuttle starting to get restless, before Ranger Marshall spotted something, Rance confirming his suspicion. “Get something. Remote track, no one should have gone up it in months, looks recently disturbed.”

“How confident?” Adelinde asked at the door between the front and rear compartments.

“Eighty percent,” Rance offered, her voice surprisingly deep. “I’d put my reputation on it.”

Marshall nodded, then waved to the shuttle pilot that Adelinde had absconded with, having released T’Val for one of the fighters. “Set us down about here son, should find a clearing big enough for this barge.”

“Lieutenant?” the ensign asked.

“He’s the expert in these parts Ensign. Take us in.”



The door to the cell was opened and in the much brighter light from outside all Tikva could make out were silhouettes of three men. “Take him for a walk,” the middle one said. “And I mean just that. Handcuff him, don’t leave the caves.”

Maxwell for his part was on his feet and backing away from the two men that entered the dimly lit cell, soon enough with his back to the wall. “Ma’am?” he asked.

“Play nice Maxwell. Take the chance to stretch your legs,” she told him as she sat up and swung one leg over the side of the cot, then dragged the other with her good arm. “I’ll be fine.”

“Respectfully ma’am,” he started before she cut him off with a hand wave.

“What choice do we have Lieutenant? Take an easy walk.”

For their part the two men who had approached Maxwell hadn’t forced the issue, just stood there with a pair of handcuffs being offered to the Lieutenant. With a sigh and deep concern, he turned around and let them cuff him before they escorted him out of the cell with a push in one direction before the door was pulled shut by the third man.

Tikva indicated the one seat in the cell, adjacent to the little table they’d been allowed to set food or drink on at least. “Please, have a seat.”

“You’re under the impression I needed your permission,” the man said as he sat down. “This has all been a serious misunderstanding brought on by my second in command. But, with his actions, I’m forced to play to them in some respects.”

“I’ve heard the manifesto. The conspiracy theories that Stormlea is a tyrannical regime that’s been oppressing Highcroft for a generation now. That Governor Makarov is a changeling infiltrator playing an incredibly long game. That the city councils here on Highcroft are complicit in managing a surveillance state to keep everyone in line,” she said, shaking her head at the end. “But I still haven’t heard any demands.”

“Because why waste breath on the woman who won’t be able to comply? You’ll hear them when I inform your executive officer. Though he’s likely now tainted by whatever lies Makarov has spun around him. We’re patriots Captain, men and women who want to live life to the fullest with freedom for all. We’ll violently oppose your panopticon towers and you’ll stay our guest until our demands are met.”

“Panopticon? You mean the umbrella towers? They’re to protect Highcroft from an ion storm that’s due to hit in a couple of days. They’re not some global surveillance system.” She’d laugh if she couldn’t tell it would upset the man even more than her refusal of his worldview already was. “Highcroft needs those towers or that storm will hit this system and bring who knows what level of carnage to this world.”

She could feel the anger and frustration welling up in the man as he spoke, then forcefully got to his feet. His veneer was cracking and he was leaving before it failed him. “You’re too far gone. But you make a powerful bargaining piece Captain. I’ll have someone bring you a crutch so you can go for a walk as well, use the facilities.” With that, he departed, closing and locking the door behind him.

“Well shit,” she said to herself.

“You two stay with the shuttle,” Adelinde said to two of her security personnel as she accepted a phaser rifle from Ch’tkk’va who was handing them out from a crate. “Anyone not in a uniform who gives you grief, stun them.”

She caught in her periphery one of the police officers raising a hand to protest but stopped by one of their compatriots, giving the younger officer the ‘let it be’ look. Others were checking their weapons as well, verbally stating the setting of the weapon as they gave them the once over. It worked to confirm the setting, confirm their fellows had checked and finally to allow everyone to act as a double-check for each other. With everyone’s weapons on heavy stun, including their pilot’s hand phaser, Adelinde indicated for the two rangers to lead the way into the woods.

They had started by mid-morning local time and while the day grew on and a remarkably clear sky contributed to a rising temperature, tree cover and elevation worked to keep it to a nice twenty degrees as they got started.

They’d been fanned out in a line, walking for hours before Sam, Ranger Marshall, summoned everyone to him with a whistle that could have been heard for kilometres around. By the time everyone had gathered, Adelinde in the last stragglers, it was clear the purpose of his summons – lunch.

“Lieutenant, sit, eat. You’re no good to anyone if you’re hungry and miss something,” the man said from where he sat on a fallen tree and on queue someone produced a sandwich for her.

“Five minutes, then we’re back to work,” she conceded.

“Works for me. The last one to break always gets the shortest rest,” Sam said as he lifted a cup to his lips. “Also, found something,” he continued after a few moments. “A trail, but it splits in two. Both look recent. Can’t decide which is which though.”

She mulled it over as she chewed, then started to point and people as she finished. “You lot with Lieutenant Ch’tkk’va and Ranger Rance. Ranger Marshall and I shall take the rest and we’ll split up to check both trails.” She’d split her security people and the police equally between both teams.

“Sounds good,” Ranger Lou Rance said. “You want the high or low path Sam?”

“High of course. Let’s me look down on people,” the old man said with a smirk, then emptied his cup. “Right folks, finish up, use a tree if you need to.”

A few hours later her team pushed out of the tree line onto a hillside covered in long grass and at ground level, it was pretty obvious where a vehicle had driven right through the grass. They’d been following slight ruts in a dirt floor, broken tree branches, other tracking signs that Sam was familiar with, but right in front of them was an obvious trail even a first-year cadet could follow.

“Tell me, Lieutenant, if your communicators are playing up in these hills and we haven’t got a line of sight to your shuttle, just how are we supposed to call for help should we run into this HLF lot?” Same asked as he fell into step beside her as they crossed out into the relative open.

“Flare gun on each of us. Fighters will pick it up on sensors, then they can laser comm the shuttle. The other makes a supersonic pass to let the other team know to fire their flare. The shuttle goes to the second flare first to pick everyone up and then makes its way to the first. In the meantime, we get air support that we can’t talk to.”

“Sounds like my time in the Dominion War all over again,” the man said. “Officers with nice simple plans that always have a flaw.”

“Unless you have some way of communicating past magnetite interference I don’t know about?”

“No no, nothing on me at any rate.” The man went quiet again and the entire team continued along the trail ahead of them.

Another break, then another hour passed. Down into a valley, up a switchback, down into the next and back into woodland finally saw the entire team crouched behind a series of rocks. Only herself and Sam were peering over the top, Sam relying on a monocular, while she used the sight on her rifle to look at what one of the police officers had seen and managed to alert everyone to without giving them away.

“Yeah, that’s big enough for a vehicle. Caves in this area can go pretty deep too. Two guards outside.”

She grunted in acknowledgement to his assessment. Calling them guards wasn’t accurate at all. They weren’t attentive at all, too busy chatting with each other to notice anything. “Movement in the cave mouth,” she said barely above a whisper.

It took half a minute for three figures to emerge from the cave’s darkness and with that, they knew they had the right place. “Eyes on Maxwell,” she said for the benefit of her own people who took that as the call to arms it was. Their readiness inspired the others and she heard a series of checks taking place once more.

“Ten of them hit the tower site,” Sam stated.

“And two on guard here. A minimum of one more cave mouth somewhere makes fourteen. Assume that’s a third of their number,” she thumbed a control on the rifle’s side to zoom in as far as she could. “Maxwell looks fine.”

“Well Lieutenant, this is your game,” Sam said. “Call in reinforcements or go in?”

“Jootu, prep your flare. When I say, let it off. We’re not waiting but they can damn well be on their way.”

“Aye ma’am,” came from behind her.

She waited, checking all four of the presumed HLF members a few hundred meters from her position. The two ‘guards’ were still oblivious to anything. The prison escorts were more focused, but only on Maxwell whom they seemed to be taking for a short jaunt, likely to separate him from the captain she supposed. The one directly in front of Maxwell is where her reticule ultimately settled on. “Sam, one behind our man is yours. Can you get him?”

“Girl, I’m nearly twice your age, of course I can get him,” he replied.

The sounds of phasers meeting rocks around them and confirmation that the other guards had been selected confirmed all four were lined up.

“Jootu, now.”

The flare gun burped as a bright green ball went skyward, its little chute opening at its apex to keep the flare airborne. Attention from everyone on the valley floor went to the flare, then eyes began to swivel to where the flare launched from.

“Fire!” Adelinde shouted as she pulled the trigger on her own rifle.

You don’t ask for much do you?


There was nothing else to do but wait now, Mac told himself. Wait for news, wait for a decision to be made, wait for trouble to arise that he was uniquely qualified to squash. So instead of getting in people’s way he had taken to looming by the window looking onto the manufacturing floor and simply watching everyone go about their duties.

His engineers, including Chief Velan, had long left the design office to lend their talents to actually producing the arrays and emitter heads for the umbrella towers. They wouldn’t be needed for installing them on Stormlea since the people of Port Arthur Manufacturing had that down pat. If all went to plan, they should have the Stormlea array completed by end of day tomorrow.

Highcroft was the pain point. They could manufacture the towers and arrays, but getting them to Highcroft was going to be tight, as was installation. And now all work was halted until authorities there could confirm there wasn’t a threat to anyone trying to install such a tower.

And they got back Atlantis’ missing people. His people. His crew.

A fist clenched, then unclenched. Then his jaw after he realised it was aching.

It just made no damn sense.

The manifesto was a half-edited collection of conspiracy theories that blamed a collection of imaginary problems and slights on people who had nothing to do with them. A drought in certain parts of inland Highcroft was apparently the fault of a secret weather control grid to display farmers. Not being able to source certain farming equipment was because of non-existent import regulations meant to keep them impoverished.

He couldn’t keep thinking about it and had to trust that Lieutenant Gantzmann would handle it.

His reverie was interrupted by a chirp from his communicator. Atlantis to Commander MacIntrye.”

“MacIntrye here,” he replied after tapping his combadge. “What’s the story Rrr?”

“We just got into orbit sir. Warp drive is officially out of commission till this storm passes. I’ll be calling Commander Velan in a moment sir to start transporting materials aboard ship. Without Waihou or the fighters aboard, we can also use the shuttlebays as cargobays as well. Should get us back on schedule for freight runs.”

He let out a relaxed sigh at that. Little miracles, brought on because of disasters elsewhere, were still miracles. “Sounds good Rrr. Pack Atlantis to the rafters with parts. Hopefully, by the time you get back, Gantzmann will have resolved the problem and those towers can start being stood up.”

“Roger that sir. We’ll get on it. Atlantis out.”

Not even two minutes later he watched as entire sections of tower, similar to those used to stand construction cranes of old, started to disappear in blue light, then shipping containers full of parts followed, leaving huge empty sections of the work floor like some unseen god was putting their toys away. Which just meant that the engineers and more importantly engineering students now had free space to start the next round of tower construction.

He watched for another few minutes, took a call from Rrr informing that Atlantis was on its way back, then decided he needed to do something. He’d come down planetside to support operations and so far was finding little to do. The people and institutions here were genuinely happy and pleased to assist Starfleet in preparing their worlds for trouble.

That was how he came to be, ten minutes later, walking across the manufacturing floor with a coffee in both hands as he approached one Harold Zimmerman, PAM’s director, chief engineer and head designer. Apparently, a man of many talents and boundless energy for someone in his late fifties. “Harold!” he shouted over the noise and held the left most coffee up high as the man turned to look at him.

The grin on the man’s face told Mac he’d made the right decision in bringing coffee to start this conversation off with. “We need to talk,” he said as he handed the cup over. “Highcroft is going to be in trouble.”

“How so?” Harold asked as he sipped at the coffee in his possession, visibly savouring the beverage.

“There’s been a delay in standing up the towers there. Only tower number two has been finished and no more work is being done right now. We’re hoping to resolve the problem soon, but I’m worried we won’t get the rest installed in time.” He could see the other man’s face scrunching up as he spoke. “How many people can PAM spare to head to Highcroft to assist once we remove the blocker?”

“You want to pull people from tower work on Stormlea and send them to Highcroft?” Harold asked, his eyebrows furrowing at Mac’s affirmative head nod. “I’m not sure how realistic that is. This storm could get bad and I don’t want anyone stuck on the wrong planet if these towers don’t work.”

“If we don’t get some more people, and I’m talking a lot of people, Highcroft won’t have enough towers up by the time the storm hits.” He knew he was pushing, but it was his job. He didn’t want to wait for someone to tell him they had a problem when it was too late to sort out a solution. He wanted to head this off before someone brought it to him. “How many can PAM spare? And who amongst your competition here do you recommend to fill the ranks?”

“I wouldn’t trust anyone else with these towers. There’s a reason my company is the premier manufacturing company in this system,” Harold stated, took another sip of his coffee, then pointed at Mac with a finger from that same hand. “I’ll ask for volunteers. But only if you promise me that first sign of trouble you whip them all up and keep them safe on that fancy ship of yours. I know that sucker can weather a storm.”

“I’ll do everything in my power to keep them safe, but I need as many as you can give me. A couple of hundred should help get Highcroft ready.”

“Christ man, you don’t ask for much do you?” Harold exclaimed. “I’ll have numbers and names to you by the afternoon.”

“Sounds fair to me. Finish up Stormlea’s array tomorrow, then pack up to Highcroft straight away.” Mac nodded as he did some admittedly bad math. It might just work.

Depending on what was going on Highcroft.

“Even better,” Harold offered. “I’ll scare up some of the foundation guys to ship out on the next run. Get the groundwork done at least so the towers can go up.”

“Do that Harold and I owe you.”

“Already do Starfleet, already do.” With that, the older man smiled, sipped at his coffee and turned to walk away, back to managing his own people.

That done he wandered off, leaving the building altogether to go and find something on campus for lunch. Which in its own way turned into an impromptu question and answer time with a number of students. With nothing else to do he happily entertained questions that he was pretty confident no recruiting office would answer, directing a few eager souls back to their studies, others onto Starfleet.

It was all interrupted however by a rather exasperated looking Doctor Lisa Birmingham as she approached him in the middle of a group of students asking day to day types of questions about life aboard a ship. The welcome interruption of someone actually needing him was appreciated, the look on her face wasn’t.

“What’s the matter?”

“Something’s happened to the storm front. It’s accelerating towards the system. We don’t have two days till it hits, it’s more like one. Come, I’ll show you.” She grabbed his hand and started pulling him through the campus towards the physics department.

You shot me!



Four phasers fired, four lances of energy streaked across the intervening distance and before anyone could react four people went tumbling to the ground leaving one very confused Lieutenant Gérard Maxwell standing just outside a cave mouth by himself.

Adelinde was about to shout at the engineer to start moving but he started on his own anyway, running as best as he could towards whoever was firing at his captors. While freedom was likely a decent motivator, the sounds of shouts from inside the cave likely served as a more immediate incentive to run. Loud barks could be heard issuing from the cave, announcing the arrival of two individuals with longarms to the cave mouth.

Both were levelling weapons again at Maxwell when a phaser blast took him square in the chest, collapsing him like a pile of rags. The other managed to squeeze a round off before he too went down, hitting Maxwell in the left shoulder and sending the man to the ground just shy of a line of bushes.

“Move up!” The immediate threat neutralised it was important to maintain the initiative but also check on their wounded comrade. For their worth her security personnel, Otieno and Balandin, took firing positions on the cave mouth, pointing the Highcroft police to a position for crossfire. That left herself and Ranger Marshall to converge on Maxwell.

“How bad?” she asked, dropping to a knee beside her comrade.

“Oh, you know, fucking agony,” Maxwell said through gritted teeth. “Fucking hell that hurts.”

“Stay still boy,” Marshall ordered, putting on his best and likely well-practised grandfather voice that surprisingly worked in Adelinde’s opinion. He dropped his own weapon, swung his pack around and was digging out a first aid kit. “I ain’t done anything like this in years outside of refresher courses, so kindly make like a training dummy would yah?”

Maxwell sighed, then tried to relax best one could while lying on the ground face first with your hands cuffed behind you. “Captain’s still inside. They used some sort of energy dampener on her.”

Marshall barely started when he suddenly stopped. “This isn’t going to be quick and I don’t feel comfortable just putting patches on him and leaving him for backup.” He waved one of the cops over who thought about it, then sprinted over. “Jackie and I will stay here with your man. I’ll keep an eye on him and we’ll draw attention for the shuttle when it gets overhead.”

She merely nodded, then moved forward towards her people, then waved their last loaner cop over. “Sweep and clear each room and cavern. Get in, find the captain, get her out. Heavy stun everyone, leave them and move on. Clean up when backup arrives.” Nodding heads all around proceeded entry into the cave.

Barely fifty meters inside the cave opened up into a cavern that while mostly natural had clearly been worked at some point to smooth out the floor and square off the walls. With half a dozen vehicles spread around at charging stations, racks of equipment and a couple of people working it clearly shouted motor pool to Adelinde. Three shots, rapid succession as her team moved forward sent HLF members to the floor, one cracking their head pretty bad on the way down.

They stopped just long enough to confirm he was breathing, pulse was okay and no heavy bleeding before rolling the man into a recovery position and moving forward, all at the insistence of the cop.

They continued down the only tunnel they had before them, sweeping two side rooms clearly cut into the rock, stunning another four HLF members either asleep on bunks or in a kitchen preparing dinner. But their luck had to eventually fail as they ran into two men coming their way. Shots missed and before much longer return fire was coming their way, the loud barks of gunfire reverberating up and down the cave tunnels much louder than the whine of phasers. No one in this cave would mistake that noise and from now on it was an uphill battle.

“Keep moving!” Adelinde encouraged as she peaked out from around the corner had been pinned behind, lined up a shot and pegged one of the two men holding them back right in the face as soon he looked up from behind some boxes for a shot himself.

A loud crack right beside her face stunned her, chips of rock and metal shrapnel cut at the left side of her face, her hearing just a high-pitched whine. Logically she processed the near-miss, but everything was so slow. She couldn’t hear, couldn’t focus her eyes for a moment. Another flash of orange and something in the distance, out of focus, crumpled to the ground.

“LT!” She was shaken by someone. “LT, you okay?” Balandin give her another shake of the shoulders then held up his hand, two fingers up. “How many?”

“Two. I’m good.” She shook off the shock and wiped at her cheek, hand coming back with some blood, but not a lot. “Let’s move.”

“Fucking Starfleet! It has to be!” Charles bellowed at Gavin as those in the HLF’s command flipped tables over or moved crates to form barricades they could fight behind.

They’d planned for this. Make a fall-back position then push forward. That way if they had to retreat, they at least had something to retreat to. As soon as they heard gunshots echoing down the tunnels, they knew what it meant.

“Chuck, calm down,” Gavin said to his friend of many years. “We can handle this. We’ve got their captain, we can negotiate with them.” He wasn’t hopeful about it, but he knew it was a chance. Stop firing, offer to talk, play for time. Get people out the back way so the HLF could live on.

“Fuck that. Talking hasn’t worked. They want a fight, I’m going to give them a fight,” Gavin spat at him as his own rifle.

“Chuck, stand down.”

“No! You’ve lost the way. I’ve been telling you for years to be more active but instead, you wanted to wait for the right moment. We have that moment now and you want to talk! No! I won’t stand down.”

Gavin looked at his friend and realised he wasn’t looking at the man he knew, but someone else. Someone with a lot more hate and spite in him than his old friend. A quick look around, to see how many of the HLF were seeing this at least, confirmed for him it was just the two of them in the room now. “Charles, we need to evacuate. Trust me on this. We’re farmers and miners and ranchers, not soldiers. Those Starfleet folks will be trained for this work.”

“Piss of Gav. If you haven’t got the stomach to fight, you can run.” There was no emotion on Chuck’s face but anger. “Fucking coward.”

He sighed, then turned to walk towards the cell door, fishing the keys out of a pocket. “Cowards live longer. Go fight your fight Gav. I’m taking our hostage and getting out of here. Least one of us can keep the dream alive.”

He was five steps short of the door when he heard the crack behind him. The searing pain in his back, his front, the ping of metal on metal in front of him off the door. Then the floor came up awfully fast. A boot found his shoulder and helped him onto his back as his breathing became laboured.

“I am the dream. Traitor.” Gavin spat at him, collected the keys and proceed towards the cell door. He couldn’t see his friend, his killer, open the door, just what was said. “Get up, you’re coming with me.”

“Going to have to help me remember?”

“Clear!” Otieno shouted as the last of this wave of HLF members went down.

Adelinde looked over at Balandin who was tending to Jersey, the cop who was still with them. She’d taken a bullet to the leg, what looked like a nasty graze, but was enough to slow her down. “Balandin, stay with her. Otieno, with me.”

They moved, one overtaking the other from cover to cover, aiming down the corridor and stopped when a pair of figures, backlit by the chamber beyond, stepped out into the open.

“That’s far enough Starfleet.”

Her eyes adjusted to the change in conditions and she could see a man, about half a head taller the Tikva, holding her in front of him, a weapon to her temple. His stance was off though as he was having to support someone who was clearly incapable of supporting their own weight properly. Maxwell was right, they had drained her prosthetic limbs.

“Otieno, halt.” She watched the man a moment, watched Tikva and realised something. He was left-handed so he was holding her with his right arm. Her left side was what was covering most of his body. That presented a unique situation.

“Otieno,” she said quietly, trying to keep it between the two of them. “When I say go, I want you to get his attention.”

“Hands up where I can see them Starfleet or your captain gets it.” The man’s voice had a manic quality to it that she didn’t like.

She relied on distance, on Otieno drawing attention, on her own skill. She relied on the Fates guiding a shot. Her thumb switched her rifle’s power setting up, then another control to adjust another setting, all done on feel. This man had to go down.

“Now.” She moved slightly to look down her scope and draw the shot. Tikva was in the way, she couldn’t comfortably hit just her captor, so she compromised.

Otieno’s actions drew attention just like she hoped. The man’s gun went from his hostage to pointing at Otieno and with that, she fired.

The blast was way above heavy stun, into levels typically used for blasting through thin barriers. Thin barriers like someone else’s arm. Someone else’s non-functional prosthetic arm. It ripped right through Tikva’s left arm, hitting the man behind her. If she had chosen the right setting the prosthetic would have taken most of the blast and stunned the man. If it was wrong, she just killed a man.

All in all three bodies hit the floor, only one of them rolled back to their feet, weapon raised. “Clear.”

“Fucking hell!” came Tikva’s voice from down the hall. “You shot me!”

She and Otieno were on her in moments, pushing her captive off of her. The smoking hole in his chest, the blank look in his eyes, all the confirmation she needed on his state of being. “Are you okay?” she demanded of her captain.

“You blew my arm off!” Tikva said, though not in anger. Shock? No. The grin confirmed it. Amusement. “How can I be okay when my chief of security goes about blowing my arm off.”

“She’s fine,” Otieno confirmed with no attempt at all in assessing Tikva’s condition. “I hear footsteps coming our way.” He moved back the way they came. “Reinforcements are here.”

“About time,” Tikva commented. “Give me a hand will you. I’m just about done with this place.”

Adelinde shouldered her rifle and then helped Tikva to her feet and in doing so realised just how slow it was going to be getting out of here with her hobbling on only one good leg.

“I’m not getting out of here with any dignity, am I?” Tikva asked as she leaned into her.

“No, you’re not. Princess or fireman?”


USS Atlantis

While she’d had to carry Tikva out of the cave system, Adelinde was relieved not to have carried her through the halls of the Atlantis thanks to a site-to-site transport as soon as they were free of the interference of the magnetite region. They’d departed with their injured and with two of the most grievously wounded members of the HLF, leaving the rest of the stunned insurgents to be rounded up by rapidly arriving police forces.

A nurse had arrived, a young man of some mixed heritages going by some of his features she was unfamiliar with, who was more focused on Tikva’s prosthetics than on any bedside manner. Which didn’t seem to matter as she finally turned on her captain to find her looking up her. “Out with it,” Tikva said gently, before wincing as the nurse made a brief apology then tugged at the prosthetic which separated at a service joint above the elbow with a slight pop.

The nurse offered just another slight apology, scanned Tikva’s leg and then departed with a warning he’d be back in a few minutes, taking the ruined prosthetic arm with him.

“Do you want my professional or personal opinion first?” she said, keeping her voice as low as possible and thankful that someone, likely Doctor Terax, knew enough to give senior officers some space and had declared the next biobed over not to be used.

And then there was that damnable smile from Tikva, the one that had hooked her. A little mischievous but from the heart, a reflection of the person. It infected Tikva’s whole face and came with a slight sideways nod of the head. “How about professional Lieutenant Gantzmann, then Adelinde after that?” She tipped her head toward sickbay as a whole. “Though the latter can wait till we get more privacy if you want.”

She wanted to respond to the latter comment first, was thinking about it when she just found herself speaking, hushed but insistent. A tone she’d heard others use when you’re trying to chastise someone in public but don’t want anyone to actually hear. “You went planetside without either a security team or a phaser. There are security protocols in place to prevent the majority of situations just like this. If you had at least your phaser this likely could have all been avoided.” She stopped and looked down, noticing her balled up fists and placed both on the biobed beside Tikva, continuing to look down at them as she continued. “I’m going to be officially noting this in my log and citing his formally with the first officer.”

There was silence between the two women for a moment, then a minute that felt like it would stretch until the heat death of the universe when Tikva finally spoke up. “Lieutenant Gantzmann you are right. I should have at a minimum been armed despite the security reassurances of the mayor’s office. I in fact encourage you to report this to Commander MacIntryre upon his return to the ship.”

Tikva’s tone had been cool and level. Flat. Controlled. Lacking her usual emotion, whatever it may be at any given time. That actually stung her as she was just so used to hearing it as her only emotional gauge into her lover’s mindset.

Just as she looked up Tikva reached out with her one good hand and set it on her right fist. “Now Lieutenant, could you give me a hand and we’ll appropriate the Doctor’s office so you speak more freely?”

It didn’t take long to help Tikva to her feet, hobble across sickbay under the withering gaze of Doctor Terax as he undertook surgery and into the office, door closed and windows frosted for privacy. Tikva had opted to perch on the edge of the desk versus one of the chairs.

“You’re pissed,” the shorter woman said and Adelinde felt the release valve of her emotions go under strain at that utterly obvious statement. Shock however slowed an outburst as Tikva went to remove her commbadge but came back empty-handed, the device yet to be replaced, then pointed at Adelinde’s own, the implication obvious.

She took it off, stepped forward and slammed it down on the desk, looked at her now empty hand for a moment and then slapped her lover. It wasn’t as hard a slap as she could have mustered, but certainly had enough weight behind it to let Tikva know just how angry she truly was.

Silence followed for a good moment before Tikva looked back at her, working her jaw. “Okay, I deserved some of that.”

“You had me fearing for your life,” she hissed, then stepped back, out of arms reach, to pace the small space. “Taken prisoner, who knew what they were doing to you! No security, no weapon! What were you thinking?”

“That it was a perfectly safe Federation world and I was going down for a goodwill visit,” Tikva defended herself. “Look, love, I’m sorry. I’ve learned my lesson about always having security or at least a phaser with me. If Maxwell and I were armed…”

“He’d not be out there getting surgery right now,” she cut Tikva off, a hand coming up to point in the direction of the surgery suite. “That’s on my record too!”

“No it isn’t,” Tikva insisted, even so much as to stand, which was an abortive attempt. “It’s on me. I took him down there, I insisted we didn’t need escorts or weapons. This is all my fault.”

“Damn right it is,” she blurted out. The passions that had been building in the room seemed to melt with the venting and with Tikva’s acceptance of the blame and fault in this situation.

Tikva was just nodding her head in agreement before she tried to stand again on just one good leg. Seeing a fall coming, she stepped in and caught Tikva, who just looked up at her with a smile. That damned disarming smile from before, the one that had hooked her in and did every other time.

“I deserved all of that and more. You’re pissed at me professionally for endangering the crew and myself. You’re pissed at me personally because, well,” she paused for a moment, “you love me and were worried. I’m sorry.”

“You a counsellor now?”

“No, just half-betazoid and a little crazy for my personal amazon. And someone who can admit when fucked up.” Tikva grinned at her, eyebrows rising momentarily. “Damn you looked good out there, kicking ass and saving my backside,” Tikva joked. There was that positivity she was so used to from her.

“Don’t make a habit of it,” she said, then leaned down to kiss Tikva.

Said kiss however was interrupted by a chime at the door, or more precisely the third chime at the door followed by the door hissing open after a short override code had been inputted and Doctor Terax stood in the doorway to his own office.

“Both of you sit,” he commanded as he walked, not caring for the scene in front of him and around to his stool, perching himself on it just as both women were sitting down in the visitor’s chairs. The door thankfully had sealed once more so no one could see Tikva’s blush outside of the Edosian doctor.

“You,” he said pointing directly at Adelinde, “good job. Always have a medic on your team. Maxwell’s injuries could have been worse, but the medic kept things from getting worse. He’ll be back on light duty tomorrow but will still need regenerative work and physio for a few weeks.”

“That’s good news,” Tikva offered, which wasn’t the smartest thing as it drew Terax’s attention to her.

“You Captain,” he said in his most unamused, annoyed, ‘I’m the doctor and this is my domain’ voice. “Nurse Bendi will see to giving minimal charge back to your leg’s power systems. Then I’m recommending a particular diet for a few days which will help with the built-in charging systems getting back to speed.” He pulled something up on his computer terminal. “You’ll be dismissed within the hour.”

“Well, that’s better news than I expected.”

“I said dismissed, not returned to duty.”

“Pardon?” Tikva asked incredulously.

“Not until Counsellor Hu gives you the all-clear. Reckless endangerment, serious injury, unexplained facial discolouration,” he pointed to her cheek, the one Adelinde had slapped. “Counsellor Hu has the final say.”

Protest, counter-protest, plea-bargaining, threats of medical relief all resulted in Adelinde helping Tikva out of Sickbay an hour later. She was short an arm but on her own two feet at least. “Let me see that diet,” she ordered, then scrolled through the padd that Tikva handed over. Then a few taps and by the time they hit the turbolift she had used it to filter viable recipes that fit.

“Deck 6,” Tikva ordered with a sigh. “Best go see Gav now and get this counselling session over.”

“Computer halt,” Adelinde commanded, then turned to Tikva. “Take this seriously, please?” she asked, somewhat pleading and could see her tone had the right impact on Tikva. That or her emotional state of worry had.

Her response was Tikva popping up on her tiptoes and kissing her on the cheek briefly. “I promise,” she responded sincerely.

“Thank you. Computer resume.”

The rest of the short trip was in silence save for the beeping of the padd as she flicked through the recipes on screen and stopped at one just before the doors opened.

“Dinner later?” Tikva asked.

“My quarters.” She waved the padd as an explanation. “I’m cooking.”

Tikva held her hand over her heart and smiled. “She saves my butt and cooks. What else does she do?”

“Kicks your butt if you don’t go.”



Living aboard a starship got a person used to visiting labs without windows, squirrelled away bunkers of analysing data and making discoveries, of darkened rooms or overly harsh lighting bringing everything into stark focus. Mac found himself just a little off guard when he was shown into the control room for the Stormlea Nebula Array and Recording Centre, for the natural light of the mid-afternoon was just perfect.

The main monitors took up an entire wall of the room, with banks of consoles, all clearly labelled, facing towards it. But the left-most wall of the room was just a floor to ceiling window facing out over the harbour. And with the building orientation, the sun wouldn’t wash out the main screens either.

He couldn’t help but stop and snicker at the acronym on the wall with the mission logo present. Students, or faculty staff with a sense of humour, had gotten to name the project. No doubt Starfleet had its jokers, but no doubt those projects either never went anywhere or the Admiralty’s Fun Police would rename them.

Following in Lisa’s footsteps, they weaved through a couple of banks of consoles and approached someone who looked like he was maybe in his late twenties and hadn’t slept in days. A good night’s rest might take a few years off of his assessment, as well as just do general wonders for the man’s appearance. “Look,” the man said as he spotted them approaching and kicked a display up onto the main screen for all to see, not that there were many people in the centre at the time.

What was presented was a patchy set of readings gathered by a series of satellites in orbit over Stormlea and a few more spread around the Port Arthur system. Overlayed on a map of the system and nearby space it showed the storm wall approaching from the left of the screen, then a zoomed in box of the system itself showing the locations of the planets and a dozen blips moving in straight lines, the largest of which was returning back to Stormlea – the Atlantis.

Our of comms until they got a lot closer though thanks to the storm now.

“The storm is playing havoc with the sensors Doc,” the man said, “but as it gets closer, we can punch through the static. It’s definitely accelerated as Doc Birmingham though.”

And as it summoned by the use of his name, Grant Birmingham stepped into the control room, walking with a determined pace to his wife’s side as Mac himself started to walk towards the main screen the get a better read of the figures presented there. “Of course, it’s accelerated and it’s all Starfleet’s fault,” Grant accused.

“Grant,” Lisa snapped back. “You have no proof of that.”

“Yes, I do. Adrian, bring up the timeline I just sent you.”

Complying with the request, the data on the screen, which Mac wasn’t finished reviewing despite his total lack of comprehension, changed to a timeline of events going back hours. It showed the storm’s speed, then a blip in acceleration before returning to its prior speed, then another blip of acceleration, many times the previous, but the storm stayed at that closing speed. Then over the top came a timeline of Atlantis’ movement, with a singular spike when Rrr had taken the ship to warp speed many hours ago. A singular spike with occurred just prior to the storm’s permanent increase in speed.

“Well, that’s interesting,” Mac said as he looked over the rather pretty graphic before him.

“Your ship goes to warp, even just briefly, then the storm accelerates. Starfleet, causing more problems again it would seem,” Grant said. “Your people are at fault and I want to know how you’re going to fix this mess.”

Turning around, he could see Grant staring at him, the charge in his eyes. Clearly he’d done something to upset this man, or he’d built up a hatred for him based on stories from Lisa. But it likely wouldn’t matter in the long run. He’d be gone in a few days anyway, or so the hope went. And the look on Grant’s face didn’t improve when Mac just offered a slight smile.

“You’re right, this is Starfleet’s problem and we will do what we can to fix it. It’s why we’re here after all.” He turned and pointed to the first blip on the storm’s speed chart. “Though perhaps you’ve got an explanation for this blip? Anyone else in the system using warp drive around we don’t know about?” He gave Grant a moment to answer before continuing. “Or why it seems to have taken the storm three minutes and fifteen seconds after Atlantis went to warp to decide to pick up speed?” Then he turned back. “No, I didn’t think so. You’re a scientist, correlation isn’t causation.”

He noticed the student, maybe a post-grad working on a masters or doctorate perhaps, snicker, turning away to hide his face from Grant, using his body to shield a thumbs up offered to Mac.

“Shifting the blame huh?” Grant asked before turning to his wife. “I’m taking this to the press.”

“I’m the director of this project and no you’re not,” she said to him, her tone flat and calm. “We’ll make a proper press release in a few hours.”

“And in the meantime,” Mac said as he returned to the console bank everyone was around, “I’ll head back over to PAM and get ready for when we can talk to Atlantis so we can get all the final materials and personnel over to Highcroft as quick as we can.”

With bluster Grant left, with an apology Lisa left, leaving Mac and the student, Adrian. “Send me all the information you’ve got on the storm, would you? I want to flick it to my folks when they get here.”

“Yah, no worries boss man,” the student said, then offered his hand up for a high-five as Mac went to leave.

He made sure not to leave the man hanging.

Shortly after he found himself once more in the offices of Port Arthur Manufacturing and before Harold Zimmerman. “Bad news, bad news,” the said by way of greeting.

“Storm’s moving up, we’ve got half the time we thought and we need to get the Highcroft towers built before it hits,” Harold said, not even looking up from some data before him.

“How’d you know?” he asked.

“Murphy’s Law. Mother Nature is a bitch.” Harold looked up. “Wait, you’re serious.” With that, he leaned back in his chair. “We don’t have enough time. We’d need a day and a half at best with the people who I can rustle up to help.”

“Add Atlantis’ entire engineering staff to those numbers.”

“Bullshit. You have minimum crew requirements. And it takes time to get your people up to speed anyway.” Harold looked out over the workshop floor for a moment. “Highcroft Engineering can handle the foundations and some of the tower work. My folks can tackle the arrays, along with your people.” He was then on his feet, pacing. “I’m going to be taking Stormlea down to the bone to help out.”

“I’ll formally recommend PAM for any Starfleet work that needs doing in this system in the future,” Mac offered.

“Damn right you will,” Harold said. “Top padd there,” he pointed to a stack on his desk. “All the folks that will go with you. Take it downstairs, Bill and Liz can start calling and getting them ready.”

“Thanks Harold, much appreciated.” With that Mac was on his way with the padd, delivering it downstairs as suggested before his commbadge went off.

Atlantis to MacIntyre,” came not Rrr’s voice, or Gantzmann’s but Tikva’s own.

“MacIntyre here. I thought I told Gantzmann to shoot you and claim it was an accident,” he joked.

“She did shoot me,” Tikva replied, and he noted seriously. “We’ll talk about it later. We’ve just entered orbit. We’re about to call Velan and start beaming up the last lot of towers.”

“Good idea, but don’t leave just yet. Apparently, the storm is moving in faster than we thought. I’ve got arrangements for extra workers to come along and help install the Highcroft towers but it could take an hour to call them all.” To their credit, Bill and Liz took the encouragement to work faster.

“What do you mean the storm’s picked up speed?” Gabrielle suddenly spoke up over the comm channel. “We can’t see much of anything at the moment.”

“University here has a nebula observatory with more sensors than Atlantis a few dozen times over Camargo. I’ll send you what I’ve been sent in a moment so you can verify it. I’ll also include some readings I was presented with a short while ago I’d like you to investigate and try to find a cause too.”

“Alright,” Tikva said, a disembodied voice, “We’ll get started on the transporting. Then getting extra folks aboard. Once we’ve got everyone we’re off. You coming with Mac?”

“I’ll stay here ma’am, take command of the shuttles and their crews when the last of them arrive planetside. At least then I can coordinate with local services if we need them for emergency services.”

“Alright Mac,” she said. “Stay safe.”

“And you too Captain. Good to have you back.” With that, the comm channel went dead.

Turning, Mac faced Bill and Liz with a smile. “Least I do is get you two some coffee.”

“Just give it some time.”

High Croft Tower 19, Shuttle Selwyn

Ra was most certainly not impressed with the weather that he found himself in right now. The impact of the ion storm on the atmosphere of Highcroft would result in a planetwide storm of truly disastrous levels. This on the other hand was just ordinary run of the mill bad. The rain was horizontal, the wind was steady but with gusts that made trying to erect the magnetospheric reinforcement towers an absolute nightmare. Though Tower 18 was nearly complete, the entire experience had been just that – an experience.

Normally he’d have waited for the rainstorm to have blown over the completely uninhabited territory before rushing in to get the tower, but unfortunately, time was not a commodity that he had in great quantities. Most of the other towers were at least going in more hospitable locals right now, those teams reporting in regularly and all of them having some snarky thing or another to say about their sedate by comparison weather. A few reported rain, or wind, one even had snow, but none had the totality of regrettable weather choices as Tower 18.

The horizontal rain, the driving wind, the altitude and cold all combined to make this a spectacularly bad site for the tower, but modelling said it had to go here, so here it would go. All this combined is why they had one of the few shuttles at their disposal. It served as a place for workers to warm up on occasion, as a heavy scale tractor haulier when needed and on a few occasions and thanks to the precision flying of Atlantis’ chief helmswoman, a windshield, using the shuttle’s bulk to give workers up in the gantry some cover.

“Really wish,” one of his junior engineers said in a shout over the wind, “that this world had a weather control grid right about now.” Jamieson was a stocky fellow, slightly taller than Ra’s own impressive height, but he’d been a professed advocate for warmer temperatures ever since he’d boarded the Atlantis a year and a bit ago at the tail end of their last major refit cycle.

“Oh, I don’t know Jamieson, I’m starting to like it,” he said, trying to inject as much sarcasm as he could in his voice. “Another fifteen minutes or so and we can call this one done, then be on our way.”

The man nodded and indicated the guide wires stretching out from the tower to the ground in four different directions. His hand was gloved, like most of the crew, but even the gloves were having difficulty with the driving rain. “I’ll go give the securing points one last check. The last thing we need is this thing toppling in the storm.”

“Good idea Lieutenant!” Ra had to shout over a gust then watched as Jamieson tilted his head down and walked into the wind to the further wire securing point. Oddly enough it was slightly downhill from where they were, but the wind would have made it more of a struggle than the walking uphill. He chuckled once to himself about that thought before leaving the slight shelter of the lee of the shuttle for the base of the tower.

One of the PAM engineers was there, struggling with the generator at the base of the tower. It wasn’t what truly powered the entire magnetospheric reinforcement, but just the power generator to start everything up, including the wireless power receiver that was built into the array at the top of the tower. The tower’s batteries were only good for powering comms and attempting to start the generator a half dozen times and lacked the ommpf needed to start everything up either.

PAM, Harold in particular, had opted for an old but reliable portable generator tech that relied on a hydrogen fuel cell. Typically, a robust piece of technology, with little in the way of complexity, PAM had been able to acquire them off the shelf to fill that part of the tower process. But right there, right now, was an example of a generator not working. The little diagnostic screen for it was an angry combination of greens and reds, with a flashing orange banner at the top. “What’s up?” he offered, crouching down next to the man so neither would have to shout, but also because part of the tower’s construction gave another one of those lovely wind shelters.

“Generator won’t start. I’m checking the error codes and resolving them, but when I try again, they just come back up. None of them makes sense either.” The engineer, a human woman about his own age, didn’t even look up from the screen. “I’ve got two more tries before I drain the battery on this sucker and it’s dead in the water, but I can’t see anything wrong.” She tapped away at the screen a few more times, then looked to him. “Starting to think it’s either a dead starter or a faulty ECU.”

Ra nodded, mulled his options, not stroking his beard at this time as that would mean exposing more of his chin to the cold than he really wanted to. “Let’s skip the generator then. Grab Mickelson and run an extension from the Selwyn. We’ll just use the shuttle to provide the jumpstart to the tower. Then grab the emergency generator from the shuttle and wire it in just in case the tower restarts.

A rattling of the tower superstructure caught both of their attention, Ra was concerned something was falling down and relieved when it was just Ensign Trel jumping down to ground level. The man seemed to have an aversion to proper ladders but he’d been pretty smart about using them today save for this latest escapade. “Ensign!” he shouted out at Trel, waving at him. A pat on the PAM woman’s back sent her off so he could deal with his Ensign.

“It’s wet, cold and windy. Use the ladder! You could have killed yourself!”

“Sorry sir,” Trel said. If Jamieson had been a stocky fellow, then Trel was a powerhouse. Over two meters tall, seemingly made of nothing but dense muscle. Apparently, they made them big on Bajor, though with a sample size of one in person and live specimen, he couldn’t really confirm that just yet. “We’ve got a problem with the array. We were just running some alignment diagnostics and it’s not giving four green.”

Which wasn’t the most helpful error message that could be given, but was enough. Harold and the designers at PAM had made the systems relatively simple and that included relatively simple error messages. Four green on diagnostics would mean the system was aligned and primed for start-up. Anything less meant some sort of error up to the dreaded four red, or as Harold called it ‘Four Dead’ when he described the error case for four red lights. ‘Throw it away as that array is dead’.

He looked up and up and up, the whole height of the thirty-meter tower, whose top, despite the sturdy construction and heavy materials, its latticework design to let the wind through and the securing guide wires, was swaying in the wind with the all-important array mounted on the top. “Great bird of the galaxy,” Ra muttered. He didn’t relish the idea of climbing one of these towers on the best of days, let alone in this howling storm.

“And straight on to the Prophets,” Trel followed up with. “It’s really not that bad a climb sir, especially if you use the ladder light you say.”

Thankfully for all involved, the ladder was surrounded by a safety cage to prevent someone from falling straight off the ladder, keeping them in proximity to grab onto something, anything really should they come loose. But in weather like this with their gear on, the cage was just a touch tight. You’d have to work hard at falling down, which was of little comfort as distance to the ground crew and the tower’s ability to flex became more and more noticeable.

Ra really couldn’t remember much of what he did when he got up there. He recalled the climb, the swaying, the biting cold even worse off the ground than it already was at ground level. He remembered three green lights, a single solitary red light, a quick conversation with Ensign Potts and then the light going green. As he climbed back down, he tried to recall what he did but the anxiety of the height and conditions clearly was doing a number on his recollection. Had that error light just disappeared simply because he’d gone up there? Was that spiritual entity Maxwell kept invoking cursing him now too?

“Power’s on now,” the PAM engineer said, helping coil the extension she’d used and heading for the shuttle. “Tower 19?”

“After the last two hours Caro,” he said following her into the shuttle along with the rest of the team, the door closing behind them and only the sound of pelting rain on the hull to annoy them now, “I’m pulling rank. Maxwell can have 19, we’ll jump to tower 20. Last I heard it’s in the tropics and expecting nice weather all day.”

There was a general muttering of agreement there as Ra squelched forward through the shuttle to the front. “T’Val, tower 20 if you please and don’t spare the horses.”

“Why do you use human idioms?” the Vulcan woman asked as she moved the shuttle Selwyn away, punching up through the clouds as quick as she could to remove the difficulty of an alpine rainstorm from her flying.

“Because they’re colourful, because most of his lot are human and because I know it annoys you T’Val,” he replied and sat down in the co-pilot seat, his wet gear giving out another squelch as water started to seep into the seat, just like all the seats in the back of the shuttle already. “Don’t worry, we’ll groom the shuttle when we get home. Don’t want it smelling like a wet carpet after all.”

“It already does,” T’Val snapped back. “Just give it some time.”

“Captain, we’ve got a problem”

USS Atlantis, in orbit over Highcroft

“Well, if it wasn’t us, then who?” Gabrielle asked, not to anyone specific, just the universe in general, hoping that some omnipresent entity would suddenly bestow upon her the answer to her question.

Before her on the assembled monitors was an absolutely dizzying array of information regarding the storm bearing down on the Port Arthur system, the system itself, Atlantis’ emissions – essentially anything that could possibly be responsible for a sudden shift in the storm. Their last data burst from Starfleet before comms got washed out by the storm’s interference had hinted at chroniton and tachyon radiation concerns, but these hadn’t been noticed at all so here. Thank goodness for little miracles.

Because of that, she’d even included those readings into her puzzle, which hadn’t helped at all. Nothing at all made any sense.

“Definitely wasn’t us,” Ensign Krek said as they set a padd down on Garielle’s desk next to her abandoned and now cold coffee. “Engineering confirmed at no point has our warp field ever done something like this,” they indicated the acceleration curve of the storm. “Only used it once since being here and never with this pre-shock event.”

“Thought as such,” Gabrielle said, her tone not entirely unsurprised. She reached forward and closed down a few of the windows on her monitors, expanding others to now take up the valuable screen real estate. “Thanks, Goresh.”

The tellarite’s huff of acknowledgement was a marked improvement over previous interactions, something they’d been working on apparently since earning the nickname Starkiller amongst the crew. Then without warning and completely violating the sacred rule of ‘don’t touch the boss’ desk’, picked up her coffee cup, sniffed it once, then huffed again. “You need stronger coffee,” and with that departed for the replicator, Gabrielle staring at the back of her junior for a moment before returning to her puzzle with a shake of her head.

An instant later, or five minutes, maybe a few days, the cup was returned. Steaming hot and richly smelling, it was also much larger than the cup Goresh had taken away. “Try,” came the demand, though for a tellarite maybe that was polite asking? She really needed to look things up. Or talk with an expert in tellarite culture. The coffee was very rich as well full of sugar to the point of just about being too sweet. Bitterness and sweetness combated each other as she swallowed. “What in the sweet merciful name of coffee is this?”

“Go-juice 6,” Goresh replied. “From the Antimatter Café near the Academy.”

“Go-juice? That horrible over-caffeinated, over-sugared stuff they blended and brewed for cadets?” She experimentally sniffed at it, took another sip to confirm it was indeed what she thought. “Goresh, I appreciate the thought, really, but I’m not a cadet anymore and I don’t pull all-nighters.”

“Yes, you do,” they replied matter of fact. “Have you considered looking at historical events that might fit this double bump pattern?” Then with an out-reached hand grabbed the back of a vacant chair and dragged it over to sit next to Gabrielle. No asking, just doing, the tellarite way it seemed.

“Well then, the question is how far back do we want to go. At impulse speed from Stormlea to where the storm sped up would be, a few months?” She shrugged, then jammed in a query to the computer to pull up more records. “And we can eliminate emissions or ships that were travelling in the opposite direction,” followed by another command to exclude some results.

“Not a lot of traffic here is there?” Goresh spoke up.

“Not a lot of traffic from here going into the Paulson Nebula,” she corrected, having excluded most of the rest in the last filter. “In fact, none in the last three months.” She then applied the time and directional filters to all the other data she had and was instantly met with a ‘processing’ dialogue box. “Let’s let that run and get a proper coffee Ensign.”

With the Go-juice appropriately consigned back to the reclamation systems and no doubt artfully redeployed as the superior coffee she had been drinking before, and another cup that was now being sampled begrudgingly by Goresh, Gabrielle took the chance for a walk around the lab. A chance to stretch legs, just check on her staff and more importantly take a look out the window that this lab was lucky enough to have.

A benefit of a smaller vessel with such a large surface area compared to internal volume is more workspace had windows than some other ships might have. Which right now afforded her the chance to watch the sunset over Brisbane, the gas giant that Highcroft orbited. Of course, Highcroft would only experience total darkness for a few hours before emerging from the umbra on the other side, but still, it afforded a pretty view, including the large prominence being ejected from the star made visible as the disk of the star was blotted from view.

“Huh…” she said out loud, punctuated with a sip of coffee. Rich Colombian blend, a single spoonful of sugar and a dollop of cream. Sunset and the coffee both seemed to have done wonders for her brain though as she suddenly had a thought.

Her rush back to her workstation wasn’t slowed by the slosh of coffee onto her hand and the sleeve of her uniform, or the spill on her front either, the cup hitting the table with a loud clatter. “Computer, display all CME activity for Port Arthur for the last six months, class X and above, heading in the direction of the Paulson Nebula.”

The dutiful chirp that followed was accompanied by a new window on her screens, the information she’d dutifully asked for. “Goresh, W’a’le’ki, over here,” she called out, hands pinching at some of the information on the screen and finding what she had been looking for this whole time.

“Knew it wasn’t us,” Goresh commented when they arrived and saw the data.

“Thatssss a very large CCCCME Lieutenant,” W’a’le’ki hissed. “XXXX37.” One truly has to experience a hissing whistle to truly appreciate it. “With an XXXX12 precccceeding it. Thissss would have caussssed conssssiderable magnetic dissssruption.”

“To the entire star system. The local bubble, solar wind, the heliopause,” Gabrielle continued. “I want you two to model the disruptions these two flares would have had on the greater magnetic environment on the system and then model how an ion storm months later coming along would interact with them.”

Head nods, acknowledgements all around and they both left her to carry out their assigned task. She hadn’t meant to then hover over them, asking for updates, but clearly had ended up as Goresh and reminded her she had assigned them the work and to let them. They knew time was of the essence, which is why when they finally did return a result, it sent her running straight for the bridge, padd in hand.

“Captain, we’ve got a problem,” she burst out from the turbolift. “Stormlea is in bigger danger then we thought.”

Arrogant Breed


“I have to be honest with you Governor, it doesn’t look nice out there,” Mac said as he stepped into Governor Makarov’s office, guided once more by Mr Toombs who this time didn’t delay with a guided tour and instead bulldozed through crowds and gatherings with a speed he’d expect from angry admirals and runaway shuttles.

Makarov raised a hand and waved him over to the window to look out across the harbour and out to see where storm clouds were brewing, dark and brooding with purpose, punctuated with the odd flash of lightning as the storm moved towards the shore. “Thankfully it’s just a run of the mill summer storm, for now.” She pointed towards a nearby readout, just a small little display next to the window that displayed out a rooftop mounted weather station relayed.

Warm moist air, rapidly cooling, pressure dropping. Not to a dangerous point, but certainly worthy of a decent storm. “Not a tropical cyclone?” He wasn’t terribly familiar with weather systems, but everyone knew what a cyclone was, not that Earth had dealt with the consequences of a cyclone’s landfall in nearly a century or so.

“No no, the season is all wrong for that. It’ll break over Sydney Harbour in a few hours and we’ll get quite a show, but nothing the city isn’t built for. Likely have sunshine again before nightfall.” She sighed, then turned to face him. “I would have asked my question over comms but I didn’t want prying ears to hear.” A glance at Toombs, waiting patiently by the door, sent the man out of the room with a small nod of his head and pulling both doors shut.

“I’m here to help Governor, as you know.” He could sense there was something getting to her. Didn’t need to be a betazoid to see that. Concern? Worry? Much the same really.

“Why would Atlantis quit Highcroft ahead of schedule and be making her way to Stormlea at what I’m told is her theoretical maximum sublight speed?”

Mac’s left eyebrow, traitor that it was, shot up without warning, the crack in his façade of normality. “Greater than full impulse?” Makarov nodded in confirmation. It couldn’t be much, there wasn’t that much reserve in the subspace driver coils and they’d be under pressure soon as well with the weight of the storm bearing down on the system. “I’d have to surmise then that they’ve got something they need to get here for in a hurry. Though isn’t the storm front supposed to hit Highcroft in a few hours?”

“Three hours at current modelling. I’ve been told by SNARC that they can tell the umbrella array seems to be working. I’m no scientist, but I sure do hope Dr Birmingham’s theory holds true, or there is going to be a crisis here of epic proportions.” Makarov sighed then stepped towards her drink cabinet and its tastefully hidden replicator. “Tea? Coffee? Atlantis will be another hour, might as well wait here.”

“I’ve grown rather fond of the Durberry blend of coffee if you’ve got some,” he replied.

Not even a full ten minutes and coffee and scones with the governor was interrupted by more guests arriving, this time vaguely heralded by thunder, which Mac should probably have taken as the warning it was. Though without prescience, how was he to know that both Drs Birmingham would be arriving?

“We’ve got a problem,” Lisa managed to get out without interference, her husband’s attention seeming to immediately focus on Mac, who remained seated, one leg crossed, with a cup in one hand the corresponding saucer in the other. Yeah, it probably wasn’t the best look, but he’d stopped caring what the man thought. They’d never managed to have that dinner because of his objections, though the PAM team had ordered in a feed that night he wouldn’t be forgetting anytime soon, so win-win.

“And a pleasant afternoon to you too Dr Birmingham,” the governor said as she looked past both of them to Toombs who looked absolutely embarrassed. He was meant to be her chief aide, which at times included door warden, and he’d failed. “It’s fine Brian.”

“Certainly ma’am,” he said, then closed the door, face returning to neutral.

“Now Dr Birmingham, perhaps you’d like to sit and explain yourself?” Makarov said, indicating the two empty seats opposite her desk directly in front of her and to her left, Mac himself in the right most seat.

“SNARC has shown the storm developing in ways we didn’t predict. It’s already outside of what we modelled and by the time we do more modelling, it’s changed again.” Lisa sounded stressed. “We think by the time it hits Stormlea it’ll be a category three. We can’t explain how it’s gotten this strong and the umbrella towers were meant to deal with a high one, low two.”

Makarov slowly set her own cup down, just as Mac himself was uncrossing his leg and sitting straighter, a small part of his mind trying to decide if he should reach out and set his cup down on the governor’s desk or not, opting in the end not to. “My money Governor is that’s what Atlantis is running back here to tell us.”

“Fat lot of good it’ll do,” Grant snapped. “First your ship lures the storm in quicker, then it’s running to tell us something we already know. Does Starfleet actually have competent officers?”

Mac suspected his eyeroll could be heard all the way in his mother’s house and her accompanying of ‘don’t you roll your eyes’ would be making its way back across the cosmos any second now. “This again.”

“What’s this about luring the storm in closer?” Makarov questioned.

“Grant,” Lisa jumped in, “has a hypothesis, that Atlantis’ little warp jump the other day back to Highcroft to rescue their captain may have acted as a lure, bringing the storm down on the system faster than expected.” She then turned on her husband. “But the theory still needs refinement and lacks definitive proof.”

“Is it possible?” Makarov asked.

“Yes,” Grant answered.

“Possible,” Mac answered at the same time, stared at the other man for a second, then added, “but highly unlikely.”

“Fuck you’re an arrogant breed aren’t you?” Grant blasted out.

“Grant!” Lisa shot out. “This isn’t the place for bravado. Your theory lacks proof, so give it a rest until you have some.” She stared her husband down until he tossed his hands in the air in resignation.

“I’m sorry Governor,” she continued. “We don’t know what’s caused the storm to move faster, but we have some good news. It seems to be funnelling around Brisbane at least, so Highcroft probably won’t even notice it outside of some pretty lights in the night sky.”

Makarov seemed buoyed by that slightly. She’d shared the emergency response plans with Mac earlier in the day and her relief was understandable. Highcroft was underdeveloped in that area, just not enough people really to support more infrastructure. To find out the colony was going to be spared even mild damage was a relief and the mental resources spared for it could now be spent elsewhere.

“Right,” Makarov finally said. “Commander MacIntyre, please let your people know we’ll be needing them. We’ll activate the colony emergency plan within the hour and begin getting as many people to shelters as we can. Drs Birmingham, can you please keep me appraised with updates on the storm every fifteen minutes until SNARC is most likely destroyed by the storm?” A single affirmative from Lisa is all she got. “In that case be about it people. I’ll wait here for Atlantis and keep everyone appraised.”

That bit you won’t like

USS Atlantis

“So, you’re saying that a CME, six months ago is the cause for the storm to accelerate towards the system? How can a CME make a storm move faster?” Tikva asked after having had to wave her science officer into a seat, then get her to calm down and deliver her report.

“It hasn’t directly made the storm move faster,” Gabrielle reiterated. “The two CMEs in question were powerful. Extremely powerful. Would have caused a crisis months ago if they hit Highcroft or Stormlea powerful. But they didn’t. What they did was basically warp the magnetic bubble of the entire star system, which would have sorted itself out eventually.” She offered her padd once more. “It’s all here. The storm is going to start slowing down as it hits the more recent magnetic field lines, but by then it’ll be too late. Its energy will have been funnelled for the most part straight at Stormlea.”

“And Highcroft?”

Gabrielle shook her head. “Modelling shows it will be absolutely fine even without the umbrella towers. With them operating all they’ll get is some pretty lights in the night sky.”

“What can we do to help Stormlea?” Tikva asked, now concerned that her crew’s efforts the last few days have been made moot by historical events no one even thought about.

“I’ve got the team working on ideas, but I’m just not sure what we can do right now. But we’ve got to get to Stormlea, fast.”

“Agreed Lieutenant. Rrr, tell Velan either he or Maxwell have two minutes to get back to the ship, then we’re out of here. T’Val, set a course for Stormlea, full impulse as soon as it’s confirmed one of those two are aboard ship.”

“Aye ma’am,” came two answers.

“Gabrielle, I need a plan to get Stormlea back within what we thought would happen at a minimum. Whatever you need you can have it, understood?”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Gabrielle replied as she pushed herself up out of the seat. “I’ll have something by the time we get to Stormlea.”

While the trip at impulse would take three hours to complete, thanks to the subspace disruption of the storm preventing the use of the warp drive, it would be less the thirty minutes before Tikva called her senior officers to the conference to discuss the plan that was put before her not just by her Chief Science Officer, but her Assistance Chief Engineer as well.

“Thank you for joining us Doctor Terax,” Tikva greeted the last of their number to join them. “Lieutenants Camargo and Maxwell, the floor is yours.” With that, she turned to face the large monitor opposite the forward-facing windows.

“We’re proposing that we uh, well, we,” Gabrielle started, blushing slightly at the prospect of once again briefing the senior staff. With just a smile and a thumbs up from Tikva however, she straightened her back and started again. “We’re proposing that we take a page from mother nature’s own playbook.”

With a tap of the screen, Gabrielle brought up a simplified diagram consisting of Stormlea, the ion storm, magnetic field lines and the Atlantis itself. “We don’t begin to have the sort of energy a star would have, especially in relation to a CME. But what we do have is excessive energy in a localised form.”

Gérard, with a smile on his face, stepped forward to tap the screen himself, starting an animation. “Gabrielle’s people came up with the idea of releasing warp drive plasma around Stormlea starting about ten light seconds away from the planet in the direction of the storm. Well outside the strongest points of the planetary magnetic field and in space more dominated by the stellar magnetic field. And from what I’ve read basically just outside the puffed-up magnetosphere from the umbrella towers. While it dissipates it’ll basically work diversions into the stellar magnetic field.”

“Which,” Gabrielle took over, “will give the storm an easy path around the planet. Of course, in the face of the full storm this won’t stop it, but it’ll divert a considerable amount of the energy away from Stormlea and back into space on the other side of the planet where it’ll just keep going into the interstellar void.”

“How bad will it be on Stormlea then?” asked Rrr with a rumble in their voice that Tikva was associating more and more with contemplation. Reading him was difficult, so learning inflexions were just as important.

“Instead of the mid category three storm we’re currently predicting, we’re looking at very low two, maybe high one if we’re lucky,” Gabriella admitted. “But Gérard then came up with the other part of the plan. Tell them.”

“We part Atlantis right about here,” he said, dragging the silhouette of the ship into a spot between the storm and Stormlea on the diagram but which both Tikva and T’Val noticed was precariously close to the planet, sharing their concern with a glance at each other, “and fire up the main deflector in a fashion similar to the umbrella towers. With a few simple modifications we turn Atlantis into the biggest umbrella tower in the system, dial up the warp core to about say, warp two or three energy and dump it all right into the deflector and into the planet’s magnetosphere.”

“Committing Atlantis to stay on station until the storm passes,” Tikva said.

“Until the brunt of the storm passes,” Gabrielle corrected.

“Lieutenant Maxwell, I can not help but notice that you placed Atlantis very close to Stormlea on the diagram,” T’Val stated, a preface to her follow-up question. “What is your proposed orbital height in order to achieve the maximum effect?”

“Uh, yes, that bit you won’t like. We’re looking at just over a hundred kilometres,” he responded.

“A precise answer if you please, Lieutenant,” T’Val continued.

“One hundred and five kilometres above the planet’s surface.”

T’Val only nodded then looked to Tikva, again with characteristic Vulcan calm. “There will be no worries with this Captain. My only concern would be if the magnetosphere gets pushed in by the storm and this them imparts a force on Atlantis, we could find ourselves pushed into the atmosphere.”

“Well if that happens Lieutenant, you have my permission to take whatever actions you need to stop this ship from falling out of the sky,” Tikva said, then looked back to Gabrielle and Gérard. “Any other worries?”

“We’ll want to evacuate certain compartments of the ship while the main deflector is at full power to minimise radiation concerns, then follow-up with appropriate cleaning afterwards,” Gérard answered. “I’ll provide the affected areas to Rrr shortly and then ask Doctor Terax for radiation kits in case any mid-operation servicing is required.”

“I’d prefer not to have to deal with irradiated crew,” the doctor said. “Though if this works, I’m hoping my efforts can then be diverted to assisting planetside if required.”

“Of course Doctor. But before we start planning on how to help clean up on Stormlea, let’s make sure we have a Stormlea to clean up. You two,” she pointed to her officers giving the briefing, “make this happen. Rrr, give Maxwell whoever he needs and we actually happen to have aboard to make this work. Adelinde, keep trying to get a hold of someone on the ground so I can tell them the good news. Now shoo!” She waved them all out of the room and was left in the end with just Doctor Terax.

“I spoke with Hu,” she immediately defended herself.

“I know. You should still be on light duty,” the Edosian said from his seat. “This isn’t light duty.”

“Yes it is. I’m listening to plans, giving orders. Not doing the actual, well, doing.”

“Why is it that Captain’s are the most stubborn patients?” he asked.

“Because we’re all two meters tall and invincible,” she answered, then waved the stump of an arm she currently sported. “Present vulnerabilities aside that is.”

“Or heights,” Terax retorted. “We lack the parts needed aboard ship to fabricate a new prosthesis for you, after running an inventory. We’ll need to put into a starbase, preferably with decent medical facilities.”

“First thing after we solve this problem here, I promise.” The look she got from Terax could have withered a healthy biosphere. “Seriously, I do! It’s not even been a full day and this is already super annoying.”

With a ‘humpf’ Terax excused himself from the conference room, leaving Tivka to stare out the windows for a moment.

“Computer, start a new message to the Fantastic Four.” She waited for the confirmation beep before continuing. “Hey team, your girl Tikva again. So, we have a winner in the Shot by Their Own Security Team sweepstake. Let me tell you…”

Where was this Charles MacIntyre ten years ago?


“We’ve got a breach in the sea wall near Baker Street!” came a shout out from the local emergency team.

“Gavinton is reporting a potential hurricane forming just off-shore,” came a much calmer update from a team responsible for updates about events on one of the other continents which Mac couldn’t recall.

“Winds in the Rainbow Mountains just took out another tower,” advised someone from the PAM team that was watching over the umbrella network. “No holes in the system yet, but the southern arcs are taking a beating.”

“And this,” Governor Makarov said from beside him in their little bubble of calm at the back of the disaster control centre, “is only as calm as it is because of your ship.”

Atlantis had briefed them on the plan as soon as they could, which coincided with them being close enough to start their runs, laying down plasma streamers which while quickly faded from view, were detectable and more importantly had done as predicted. Then when it took up sentry as a planetary guardian, it had been given its own status monitor in the disaster centre. Nothing fancy, just a field output and altitude value. All present were briefed that if either value dropped, they’d be in for a hell of a time.

If the main deflector gave out, then more would be demanded of the umbrella towers, which weather was already felling. If the ship dropped altitude, it would be forced to quit its activities to seek a higher orbit, if not in fact seek shelter in the shadow of Stormlea. But so far neither of those situations looked likely.

“We’re what, four hours into this storm? How much longer can it rage for?” Makarov asked.

“Estimates give it a couple of days. We are talking about an interstellar storm after all.” Mac shrugged, then paced himself a little in the area they had. “That said though, it’s usually the storm wall that’s the worse. The worst of it should be over in another six or so hours. Then Atlantis should be able to free up and lend assistance planetside. Should hopefully see the worst of the weather effects as well.”

Makarov nodded in understanding. “And your people even managed to salvage some of the university’s sensor array I understand.”

“Not all of it. Pinched a few satellites from orbit, stashed up on Atlantis or at the spaceport. We’ll put them back before we leave, but the SNARC is going to need to be rebuilt, Governor.”

“It’s not a priority, I assure you, but I’m sure Starfleet would appreciate it being back online as quickly as possible. Our readings of this storm and the Paulson Nebula no doubt will provide the scientific community with a few years’ worths of study.”

Mac pointed to one of the monitors on the walls of the room, a visual feed from emergency workers here in Sydney behind the shimmering of emergency forcefields holding back a rising body of water mixed with debris and refuse, the hallmarks of a city experiencing a natural disaster. “Looks like those emergency forcefield generators are already coming in hand.”

“Hopefully they’ll hold the water back long enough for something a bit more concrete,” Makarov said. “I need to speak with my people, then address the planet.”

“Of course madam Governor,” Mac said, shook the offered hand and watched her go before he himself made for a nearby comms terminal. A few commands of the system, a ‘please wait’ while a taxed system found him some bandwidth and he was presented with the bridge of the Atlantis. “Afternoon Captain.”

“Morning to you too Mac,” Tikva said. “We need to talk about this mission. It’s cost me an arm. Nearly a leg.”

He couldn’t help but chuckle in the face of the woman’s seemingly endless jovial nature in the face of losing an arm, though losing it once before likely makes it easier the second time. “How’s it looking from up there?”

“We’re monitoring the storm, even launching the odd probe into it to gauge the storm wall and it’s looking promising. Gabrielle thinks the storm wall should pass within three hours, then we’ll be down to a mid category one storm after that for a couple of days. Umbrella’s will be more than enough and the wild weather will end. We’ll then liaise with the disaster centre and help out where we can.”

Mac actually smiled at that. Better than he thought and he was being slightly optimistic in what he said to Makarov. “Plenty of folks will be happy to hear you calling the disaster centre.”

“Well till then we’re still stuck here and can’t help out. Talk to you again when we’re free Mac. Atlantis out.”

“Did she say the storm will pass in a few hours?” came a voice behind him, causing Mac to turn about and see Lisa standing there. He knew the look on his face was the question ‘what are you doing here’ as she just shrugged and continued. “Special advisor to the Governor remember? Means I can come and go pretty much as needed till this whole thing blows over.”

“Ah. Well, not over over, but the storm wall will have passed. Atlantis can then start helping out as best they can, even make for Highcroft again if we suspect they need to,” Mac said, answering the first question. “Hey, before I get back to ordering what people I do have here, I just wanted to say something. Not sure if we’ll get a chance in all the clean up and then no doubt our warping off to the next emergency.”

She looked at him expectantly and he took that as the cue to continue that he needed. “You and Grant need counselling.” He said it. He hadn’t really wanted to but the man’s reaction to him the whole time had pushed him to say something finally. “Or Grant does at least. He acts like a jealous meathead around me and I can’t figure out why.”

Lisa shook her head. “He needs counselling? We need counselling? Where was this Charles MacIntyre ten years ago?” She stepped closer and smiled at him. “You’re right Mac. And I will sort things out. Your coming here has brought a few things to a head that have been bubbling away for a while now.”

“I didn’t mean to cause any trouble, but yah…” He trailed off for a moment. “Look Lisa, if you need anything, anything at all, just call. I’ve got friends all over the place, even in the Fleet. Can help out best I can.”

“Mac, that’s sweet, but I’m a grown woman, I can handle myself. I can handle Grant,” she said, forcing Mac to meet her eyes. “I’m glad you’re no longer that rut-stuck ass I broke up with. Now, go do your Starfleet thing. And promise me it won’t be ten years before we talk again?”

“Only as long as you promise the same.” With that he gave her a brief hug, two ex-lovers, now friends, getting ready to head back to their jobs, unsure if they’d get a proper goodbye at the end of this. “Right, time to go be awesome.”

“Or at least moderately capable,” Lisa said with a smirk on her face.


USS Atlantis

It was actually pretty rare to see Tikva in Engineering aboard her own ship, though the size of the vessel meant she should realistically visit more often. It was just circumstances rarely conspired to date to bring her down here. Normally her engineers came to her with problems first, versus her going looking for them. But today was a different story.

There were plenty of people around from Engineering and Operations around, all with tasks and duties to perform, stopping by Engineering as they went about their tasks. But the most important people she wanted to speak with were all here at the centre of things, standing around the system display table, colloquially known as the pool table for some reason that was no doubt a deeply held engineering secret passed along in shadowy cabal meetings.

Velan, Maxwell, Rrr and Michaels were all present, with the seniors on one side looking exhausted, which was a feat for Rrr, and the juniors on the other side, looking rested but wary of the task ahead of them. And then came Tikva through the crowd, stepping up to the end of the table. “Morning all,” she injected in a conversation that she was clearly interrupting.

“Captain,” Velan spoke, his tone suspicious. “Don’t often see you in Engineering.”

“Though I’d come down for the morning briefing instead so that you two,” she pointed with her only hand at Velan and Rrr, “can get off duty straight away and not come and see me.”

“Well, I won’t object to that,” Rrr rumbled.

“Thought you wouldn’t. So, how’s my ship?” she asked, casting her gaze down to the table.

“Well since we’ve got everyone back aboard ship now, we’re doing pretty well. We’re still undertaking anti-radiation measures,” Velan pointed at orange sections of the ship display, “but we should have all affected sections clear by midday tomorrow. Maxwell,” he said with a flourish of his hand.

“Right, we blew a few power transfer conduits running the deflector as we did, but nothing critical. We’re still good for high warp travel. I’ve got two teams in EV suits already replacing them and we should have everything sorted by end of alpha shift. That said we’ll want to replace stores before we head back out to the delta quadrant. Assuming we are?”

She looked up at Maxwell with a smile. “Without a doubt Gérard. And we’ll get spares. After all, I need to stop and get a new arm so while that’s happening, I have faith in Rrr here getting supplies via the quartermaster or whatever nefarious means he deems acceptable.”

Velan’s smirk beamed through his exhaustion. “We finally going pirate?”

“Ha!” she exclaimed. “No, no, no. It’s just classic enmity with the quartermaster’s office is all. Get the list of spares you want before we make for Barzan. We’ve been treated alright by Supply so fingers crossed we get everything we want and we can make transit without any issues.”

“Speaking of ma’am,” Michaels spoke up. Samantha Michaels was Rrr’s nominal assistant, though not officially on the books currently as such. Where he was large and bulky, she was slight and even shorter than Tikva herself. “When are we getting underway for Barzan?”

By like half a centimetre. She’ll grow, I bet you.

Take her out at the knees!

Seriously, the height thing still? We need to talk to Hu about that.

We’re concerned about height but Adelinde is way taller than we are.

Yeah…isn’t she just? Sigh…

A shake of her head and she looked at Michaels for a moment, blinked, recalled the question and engaged her brain. “Oh, that was another reason for coming down. Are we all good to jump to high warp and sit there for a week and a bit?” Her gaze switched between her two engineers.

Velan shrugged his shoulders and looked at Maxwell. “Your call, I’m hitting the sack shortly.”

“Yeah, we’re good Captain. We’ve committed to giving a touch of assistance planetside later this morning, but it’s more consultation work for a few hours. After that, we’re good to break orbit and get out of here.” Maxwell then looked to Michaels. “Oh, we also need to help with a telemetry issue with one of the SNARC satellites.”

“Being sorted right now actually. Taru took a team out with the Acheron to see what’s up,” Michaels answered.

“Right, well I’m satisfied,” Tikva said, moving to clasp her hands together and stopping, looking at her open, lonely palm, then looked up. “You all saw nothing.”

“Saw what?” asked Velan.

“Exactly.” She glared at him and his smiling face for a moment, then cracked a smile herself. “Michaels, let me know when your team gets back. Maxwell, tell me your team is done as well. We’ll do a final headcount and then we’ll get out of here.”

After a series of ‘aye ma’am’ she turned and was walking away when she could just hear the stroking of a beard in thought, though on reflection maybe she was just backfilling that in before the philosophical question wafted through the air to her ears. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

We’ll kill him later. Painfully.

I’m just surprised he waited that long to say it really.

Her next stop on a morning tour of the ship saw her to sickbay. Part destination on the morning briefing tour, part she needed to report in any way. “Morning Doctor Terax,” she announced as she stepped in, looking for her chief medical officer.

Emerging from his office, the Edosian had his world-weary look about him as usual. “Captain. I just submitted scans to medical at Guardian Station. They should have a replacement ready for fitment by the time we arrive.”

“Now that’s good news!” She was expecting to have to get there, have scans done, then consult on new designs, waiting for ages, but no, the process was starting now. “Thank you very much, Doctor. Though, I’ve actually come about two other things.”

“Take a seat,” he waved at a biobed, collected at tricorder and was already waving it in her direction by the time he attended to her. “What’s the matter.”

“Phantom pain,” she admitted with a wave of her stump. “When the prosthetic was there, I had sensory input so didn’t feel anything, but right now there’s this…burning sensation in my fingers. And my elbow is being crushed.”

“Scale of one to ten,” Terax stated, not needing the follow-up question.

“Three or four.”

The hrumpf noise that issued was the standard-issue disappointed doctor sound, seemingly universal to sentient life in Tikva’s experience. “When did it start?”

“About two in the afternoon.” She paused, looked at him sheepishly. “Two days ago.”

“Captains and other doctors,” Terax muttered to himself before closing the tricorder and heading for the hypospray station. Ordering a cocktail up he returned and with minimal fuss injected it into her left shoulder. “See me again tomorrow for another dose. If pain returns beforehand, report to me immediately. I’m warning you now, I may relieve of duty until you get a new arm.”

She opened her mouth to protest, then stopped herself and nodded in acceptance. “I’ll brief Mac then just in case.”

“But since we’re going to be in transit soon enough, I doubt it’ll be a major issue.” He stepped back to let her hop off the biobed. “Now, what was the second issue?”

“Oh, yes. I wanted to talk to you about the bridge officer’s exam. You’re one of two lieutenant commanders aboard ship and I want,” she stopped when both of his empty palms.

“I’m not interested.” His rejection was flat but firm. “I’m a doctor, not a starship commander. I have no intention for command outside of sickbay.”

“Terax,” she pleaded, stopping when he shook his head in the negative.

“I would suggest you promote someone and force them to take the exam if you need someone for the job.”

She nodded, the emotions she was tasting off him clouded somewhat by his alien physiology and maybe the painkillers in her system confirming for her that right now she wasn’t going to be winning this argument.

And so went the rest of her morning, taking the opportunity to take extended visits to departments, seeing what individual parts of her ship were up to as the need for her on the bridge was minimal right now. No doubt T’Val was ‘doing an adequate job’ just being present should a command decision be needed.

By the time she did make it to the bridge, aside from her flying visit first thing to relieve Lieutenant Ch’tkk’va, she was greeted by Michaels with a padd full of updates. “All crew and shuttles accounted for. No visitors left aboard ship ma’am. No further orders from Starfleet Command to attend to other disasters in the area either. Looks like the storms in this area are clearing up.”

“Good news abounds then.” She settled into her seat, slipping the padd beside her to read in a moment. “Lieutenant T’Val, set a course for Barzan, maximum warp.” She waited, then shrugged with a smirk. “Páme!”