The Daroxi security agents whisked Matt away without saying much else. Tom’s immediate reaction had been to instruct the Challenger to lock onto the communicator Matt had been issued with and beam him up. The problem with that was two fold; first, they’d placed a transport inhibitor on him to prevent the Challenger from doing just that and two, there was no agreement in place to grant Matt diplomatic immunity so he was subject to local laws like everyone else.
“Sir, you can’t go in there.” The young woman rose from her chair hurriedly in an attempt to get in front of the Starfleet captain but there was no slowing him down.
Tom brushed past her and burst through the doors of the Prime Minister’s office to find acting Prime Minister Renos studying a PADD with Commander Oreth standing over his shoulder. “I should’ve known I’d find you two together.”
The comment drew a smirk from Oreth. Tom’s fists clenched instinctively as he briefly considered launching himself over the desk and wiping that smirk from the smug Romulan’s face but he dismissed the idea as quickly as it occurred to him. While it may have felt good, it would have done Matt no favours and that’s what he had to focus on; that’s why he had to keep his cool.
Renos, though, looked like he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He set the PADD on the desk so that it’s screen was facing down. He refused to meet Tom’s gaze, his eyes darting around the room save for a few moments where their eyes briefly met. Over his shoulder, he could hear Renos’ assistant apologising but the acting Prime Minister just waved her off.
“Captain, I understand your anger but I can assure you it’s not me you should be angry with.” The acting Prime Minister told him calmly but the beads of sweat on his forehead betrayed his nerves. “The person you should be angry with is Doctor Bentley. He’s the one who assassinated Prime Minister Larell.”
Tom’s heart pounded in his chest and he could hear blood rushing past his ears. “Doctor Bentley is not responsible for the death of the Prime Minister!” He told them forcefully, pointing an angry finger at the acting Prime Minister. Closing his eyes, Tom took a deep breath. Losing his cool wasn’t going to get Matt out of this. “What’s the evidence against him?” He asked in a more even tone.
“The evidence against Doctor Bentley will be presented during the trial.” He patted his forehead and upper lip with what looked like a handkerchief. “The investigation is still ongoing and I’m not at liberty to release details at this time.”
Tom pointed at the still silent Romulan over Renos’ shoulder. “But you’re at liberty to share it with him?”
“Com…Commander Oreth is advising me on this matter.” Renos replied, tripping over his words. His nervousness stood in contrast to Oreth’s cool, calm demeanour. His cold green eyes were laser focused on the Starfleet captain. He had no problems meeting Tom’s gaze.
If Tom hadn’t suspected Oreth’s involvement in the death of Prime Minister Larell before, he certainly did now. “I’ll bet he is.” Tom muttered as he cast the Romulan a disdainful look. “I want to speak with Doctor Bentley.”
“He is being interrogated as we speak.” Renos folded his hands together. “As soon as that is done, I will allow you to speak with him.” He unfolded his hands again as his eyes briefly met Tom’s.
A chill ran through Tom at the thought of Matt being subject to Romulan interrogation techniques. “By Daroxi security or by Oreth’s people?”
“Daroxi Security.” Renos was quick to reply, wiping his brow once more.
Relief washed over the captain and he quickly moved onto his next question. “Does he have legal counsel present?”
“Yes.” Renos seemed more relaxed with this line of questioning; clearly lying didn’t come naturally to him. “He’s been assigned an advocate who is present during the interrogation.”
Tom barely had time to register that news before a new voice joined the conversation. “We may have questions for you too, Captain.”
“Ah, finally.” Tom cast his arms wide dramatically. “The ventriloquist speaks.” He smiled inwardly as Renos’ brow knitted in confusion, not getting the reference. “I will be more than happy to answer any questions Daroxi security has for me. Just have them contact the Challenger and I’ll arrange to beam them aboard.” He turned to the acting Prime Minister. “You will have my full cooperation.”
The smirk slowly grew on Oreth’s face once more. “And if we wish to search Doctor Bentley’s quarters?”
“You keep saying ‘we’ but what you mean is Daroxi security, because this isn’t your investigation.” Tom shot back.
Renos spoke next, supporting his Romulan ally. “Will you give us permission to search Doctor Bentley’s quarts aboard the Challenger?”
“Sure.” Tom replied with a nonchalant shrug. “Once you’ve obtained the necessary warrant, you can have access to his quarters.”
The Romulan’s cool demeanour finally slipped. “It would take days to obtain the necessary permissions from your government.” The annoyance in his tone and written across his features quickly disappeared, replaced by cold indifference again. “I believe you told us that we would have your full cooperation?”
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to give you the chance to plant ‘evidence’ on my ship because anything your people find aboard the Challenger would be just that; a plant.” Tom shot back, folding his arms. “You can search Doctor Bentley’s quarters when you’ve obtained the necessary warrant.” His eyes narrowed. “What’s the big deal about having to wait a few days?” Of course he knew from experience that waiting a few days could be decisive, but he wasn’t about to make this process easy for them.. “Surely it’s better to take your time and make sure you have the right person rather than rushing things and sending an innocent man to prison?”
Renos pushed himself to his feet. “You’ll be contacted when you can visit the prisoner. The Challenger must remain in orbit until our investigation is complete.”
“The Challenger,” Tom placed his palms on the surface of Renos’ desk and leaned forward, “won’t be leaving without Matthias Bentley.”
After returning to the Challenger there was little Tom could do but worry. The Daroxi had forbidden Starfleet personnel from beaming down and continued to refuse to provide them with details of the evidence against Matt. Finally, more than seven hours after the captain’s meeting with the acting Prime Minister, he was given permission to visit Matt.
He beamed down to the prison complex with Doctor Miller in tow. The presence of two Starfleet Officers seemed to set the officials on edge but Tom couldn’t care less. He wanted Miller to check Matt over, to make sure that he hadn’t been harmed and he wasn’t about to let the Daroxi tell him no.
The official came to stop outside a door. When the two Starfleet Officers entered, Matt wasn’t there. Instead, they found Security Minister Hutek waiting there. “Minister Hutek, what ar-”
She held up a hand to silence him as she reached into a pocket with the other. Withdrawing a small cylindrical device with a few controls and lights on it, Hutek pressed a few of the controls and the lights began flashing in sequence. Eventually it beeped and the Minister lowered her hand. “That’s better. We can speak freely now.”
“What’s going on?” To say that Tom was confused was an understatement. “I was supposed to be visiting Doctor Bentley.
Hutek glanced over his shoulder and nodded at the official who’d escorted them, a silent instruction for him to wait outside. “You’ll see him shortly, but I wanted to speak with you first.” She waved the device. “And I didn’t want anyone listening in.”
“Like who?” Tom’s patience was rapidly wearing thin. He just wanted to see Matt.
The Minister leaned against the desk in the room. “Acting Prime Minister Renos.” She replied. “He’s behind Gret Larell’s death, him and his Romulan master.” The disgust in her voice was palpable.
“Can you prove that?” Tom asked, hopeful that they might be able to get Matt out of this nightmare.
Hutek let out a long, frustrated sigh. “No. It’s just a suspicion.” She told him. “I need your help to prove it.”
“Why me?” Tom asked. “You weren’t too keen on having Starfleet involved when the reactor was sabotaged.”
The Minister’s commanding brown eyes were unapologetic. “We don’t have much time, Captain. The investigation is over. Doctor Bentley’s trial is set to begin at 10am tomorrow. By 5pm, the trial will be over, the verdict delivered and the sentence announced.”
“What?” That wasn’t possible. The Daroxi system of jurisprudence wasn’t far removed from the Federation’s. “How can they have completed the investigation already? And how will the trail be over so quickly?”
The flash of anger he could see in her eyes was intense. “Renos has fixed the trial. The judge is one of his oldest friends.” She told them hotly. “Doctor Bentley will be found guilty and sentenced to death. The sentence is due to be carried out at sundown tomorrow.”
“The hell he is!” Tom took several steps towards the Minister but she held her ground. “I’ll rip this planet apart to get him back if I have to.”
A knowing smile lit up her face. “I’m sure you would, Captain.” She replied softly. “But that won’t be necessary.” Reaching back into her pocket, Hutek retrieved an isolinear chip which she held out. “This contains a copy of the evidence against your friend. His DNA was found on the integration matrix of the transporter in the Prime Minister’s outer office. It had been tampered with and is the cause of his death.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.” Tom accepted the chip and studied it. “Matt spent his career as a diplomatic officer. He doesn’t know the first thing about transporters and wouldn’t be able to sabotage one if his life depended on it.”
The cylindrical device beeped again. “We only have thirty seconds left. If you can prove that the evidence against Doctor Bentley is fake, bring it to me. Renos cannot be allowed to sign a treaty with the Romulans. It would be catastrophic.”
“I agree. I’ll let you know what we find.” He told her as the Minister returned the cylindrical device to her pocket and Tom slipped the chip up his sleeve as the two officers left the Minister behind and followed the official deeper into the complex.
Matthias drummed his fingers on top of the desk nervously. He’d been pulled from his cell and brought to a holding room without being told why. The interrogator had already told him that he’d been found guilty of Gret’s death and would be executed. Matt wondered if this was it. From here he’d be taken to his death. There was no doubt in his mind that Tom was working to get him out of this but he would have to work within Daroxi law, but since Darox didn’t have a death sentence, it seemed that Daroxi law was a lot more flexible than he remembered.
When the door opened, he was stunned to see Tom and Josh Miller step into the room. “Hey Matty. How’re you holding up?” Tom seemed unsure of himself, nervous even. Matt launched himself out of his chair, knocking it over in the process, and into the warm embrace of his friend. “It’s okay, it’s gonna be okay.” Tom whispered reassuringly into his ear.
Tears pricked at his eyes and quickly spilled over as his body trembled in the arms of his friend and lover. If he managed to survive, he might look back on this moment with embarrassment. Not for letting Tom see him like this but because Josh Miller was watching it happen. But in that moment he didn’t care, he was scared for his life and being in Tom’s arms made him feel safe, if only temporarily.
As the tears subsided, Tom helped him back to the chair which had been righted by Josh. “Doctor Miller’s gonna check you over, okay?” Tom asked softly, still holding his hand. Matt nodded and within seconds the familiar sound of a medical tricorder could be heard buzzing around him. “How have they been treating you?”
“Fine.” Matt replied as he wiped the remnants of his tears with the sleeves of his prison jumpsuit. “They haven’t mistreated me.” He grew quiet as Miller continued his scans. When he spoke again, it was barely above a whisper. “They’re going to execute me.”
Tom’s grip on his hand tightened. “No they’re not.” He reassured him firmly. “I won’t let them.”
“They kept asking me about some data module.” Matt sniffed and wiped his eyes again. “They think Gret gave me some sort of data module before he died and they want it. Oreth even offered to commute my death sentence if I gave it to them.”
Judging by the look on his face, the mention of the Romulan commander came as a surprise to Tom. “Oreth? He came here? To speak to you?”
“Yeah.” Matt nodded sadly. “He offered to commute my sentence and allow me to be placed in Federation custody if I told him where this data module is.”
Doctor Miller deactivated the tricorder and replaced it in his medkit. “A little dehydrated but other than that he’s fine.”
“Thanks, Doc.” Tom’s eyes darted back to meet Matt’s. “Do you know anything about the data module?”
They were being watched. Renos and Oreth probably had the surveillance feed patched directly into the acting Prime Minister’s office. That meant Matt would have to communicate the location of the data module to Tom in an indirect way. “Do you remember the first night you stayed at my place?”
“Uh…yeah.” Tom was caught off guard by the sudden change in subject. “We’d gone to London for ice cream from that place you suggested. Afterwards we went for a walk and ended up outside Buckingham Palace. Then things started getting hot and heavy and I thought it would be a bad look for the Challenger’s new captain to be caught in flagrante in the middle of Green Park so we headed for the nearest transporter station and beamed back to San Francisco.”
Matt smiled genuinely at the memory. “I’d forgotten what a mess my place was.”
“It’s okay.” Tom reassured him with those beautiful hazel eyes. “I didn’t even notice until the next morning.”
The memory elicited a groan from Matt. “I can’t believe you tidied my bedroom before you left.”
“I had to.” Tom explained defensively. “There were more clothes on the floor and draped over the chairs than there were in the drawers. And there were nik-naks in the drawers that just didn’t belong there.”
Matt shrugged. “I had nowhere else to put them.” He locked eyes with Tom, willing him to pick up on the hint he was trying to give him. Tom’s eyes narrowed as he tried to figure out the intense look he was getting but Matt saw the moment that realisation struck when Tom’s eyes widened.
“I can’t believe you still live like a cadet.” Tom mused with a shake of his head, clearly an attempt to act naturally.
A smile pulled at Matt’s lips. “I have a system. It may look like a mess to you, but I knew where everything was.”
The pair were pulled out of their conversation when a loud knock came on the metal door. It opened seconds later and the official that had escorted them entered. “Your time is up.”
Matt’s grip unconsciously tightened, the idea of Tom leaving him alone in this place, leaving him at the mercy of Renos and Oreth, potentially leaving him to his death. Matt stood, helped Tom to his feet and took both his hands. “Listen, if I don’t get out of this-”
“I’m going to get you out of here.” Tom’s voice was thick with emotion and he was fighting back tears, it almost set Matt off again. “I’m not going to let them hurt you. You understand?”
Matt nodded, his own tears threatening to spill over. “Be strong for me, okay? I’ll see you soon.” Tom said before leaning in and kissing him gently.