Lieutenant Ilyia Vikas had elected to accompany her security team to meet the Bajoran Captain who would be guiding them to the Cardassian ships that were allegedly aligning themselves with the Romulans. As the Tesla hovered in orbit around the planet of Bajor, Ilyia with her selected company took a shuttle down to meet with the Captain who had informed the Bajoran council of the Cardassian threat. Ilyia and previously informed her squad she would not be with them in the field but would oversee the mission from her security station aboard the Tesla, and Akeno had been happy to learn that he would be heading up the ground team of his familiar crewmates, but as Captain Vitinius now extended a meaty paw in greeting, Akeno got a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach.
The Bajoran Captain Alvaro Vitinius was a large figure of a man with shoulders that strained the seams of his large overcoat. His lips held what must have been an attempt at a smile, although to Akeno the upturned lips looked more like a snarl. But it was the dark eyes that held no spark of humanity causing Akeno’s stomach to turn. He had met men like this before, men covered in such a shroud of darkness that it made you question if there was even a shred of compassion left in them. Akeno didn’t know of Vitinius’s history, but he could take a guess at the chaos and butchery that lay in this man’s wake.
“It’s an honor to have the Federation show such an interest in the affairs of the Bajoran military, however, I do believe this collaboration to be entirely unnecessary. We are more than capable of handling any threat the Cardassians may pose.” Captain Vitinius was careful to use words that did not outright speak to his disapproval of their presence, but the undertone in his voice spoke volumes.
“Well, Federation Command and your Bajoran Ministers have decided otherwise,” Ilyia spoke directly, refusing to return the play at false niceties. “So my security team has been assigned to accompany you to investigate the level of threat this Cardassian support for the Romulans may pose.”
The Bajoran Captain managed to keep a forced smile pasted on his face but his voice lost all warmth. “As I have informed the Council of Ministers multiple times, I can adequately handle the Cardassian threat. I have no idea why they chose to involve the Federation in this matter at all. It would save us all a lot of time and trouble if you would simply accept my report on my findings and allow me to keep you apprised of the situation. If a situation should arise where I and my crew require assistance, I will be sure to inform you.”
Ilyia took a step forward, clasping one hand in the other behind her back, eyeing the Bajoran down with an unyielding gaze. “My team will accompany you, and report back to me. They will be present at every officer’s briefing and you will collaborate with them for each mission. If there are any issues, you or a member of my team may reach out to me. This is what has been agreed upon by both our superiors, and this is what will be happening,” Ilyia finished briskly and then stepped aside to wave Akeno forward. “This is Lieutenant JG Akeno Chung who will head up the security detail, he will be your primary contact within the team.”
“We look forward to working with you,” Akeno stepped forward to thrust out his hand in greeting.
Alvaro’s dark eyes did not leave the face of the unrelenting Vulcan female who had so concisely shut down his attempts to dissuade a Federation team from boarding his ship. Refusing the offered hand and not even deigning to glance at the security team that he would be working with, he instead wheeled about to stalk away, motioning for his men to follow with a quick flick of two fingers.
Ilyia turned to Chung with her typical stony visage. “You and your team have two hours to prepare and then you will board the Bajoran vessel. Keep me apprised of the situation at all times.” And with those terse commands, she took her leave.
It was a long and low whistle from John that finally broke the silence as the little security team took a moment to process the scene that had just unfolded before them. “Well he seems like a nice guy,” John said sarcastically.
“The kind you wanna have over for Sunday dinner,” Akeno agreed, turning to head back to the Tesla.
“Introduce him to your momma,” John continued with a grin, falling in step next to him.
“Bake him a nice apple pie.” Akeno’s face broke into a smile as he jabbed John in the ribs with a playful elbow, but their light mood quickly changed when Jovi spoke from behind them.
“I know him.”
Akeno and John quickly turned back to the Bajoran doctor who had hung back.
“Maybe I’m reading things wrong, but I’m not getting happy reunion vibes,” John observed.
“We knew each other a while back,” Jovi tried to keep her voice nonchalant but the boys could hear the strain in her words. “Years ago, we were practically kids,” she brushed it off. “But things didn’t end well.”
“Jovi, is this too much for you?” Akeno turned back to face her, both hands on his hips as he studied her closely. “You don’t need to go on this mission if you don’t want to.”
“I’ll be fine,” Jovi assured him with a firm set of her jaw that told Akeno she would not be deterred from making her own decisions. “But I can’t guarantee I won’t punch him in the face at some point.”
“I’ll hold him for you,” Akeno backed her with a grim smile.
* * * * *
Back aboard the Tesla, Captain Savik had finally succeeded in getting the Chief of Science to attend an officers briefing, though it had required Senri Ruka to practically herd him there as he spewed forth a rather colorful rant concerning the shortcomings of corporate gatherings and the failure of the Federation, in general, to produce a healthy working environment for the advancement of science. Tia had made it quite clear that she expected to see LC Aldrich in all future team meetings, with a special glance at Ruka that served to convey all responsibility for attendance onto the assistant’s tiny shoulders. Senri succeeded in her task only by implying that important decisions concerning the missions should not be made without the voice of the Chief of Science, a voice of which Tia was now receiving an earful.
“We need my ship here so I can see what specimens can be found in this region. Based on the planet’s layout I believe this area will provide the greatest variety of foliage for me to sample,” Jasik tapped his finger on a spot on the map and Tia sucked in a quick breath.
Jasik’s gaze shot up to meet Tia’s eyes and she saw only blank innocence on his face, but she determined to be firm and set a precedence for future meetings.
“For the second time, this is my ship. I give the commands here, you give suggestions.”
Jasik’s nonplussed expression did not change as he quickly processed this statement, and when he responded his tone was neither aggressive nor hostile, only innocently factual as though explaining a concept to a small child.
“This is a scientific exploration vehicle. I am a scientist. It is for me to explore. And I need to explore this region here,” he again tapped the end of his pointer finger on the map.
Tia heard a muffled giggle escape from the direction of her helmsman, and she could not control the blood that rose to her cheeks but forced herself to take a deep breath before she spoke.
“I am the captain of this scientific exploration vehicle,” she could not hold back the sarcasm as she repeated his terminology for her ship, “and as such I will determine what is best for this ship and everyone on board. This-,” she jabbed her finger at his chosen spot, “is not a safe place to land, and before we attempt any sort of landing, we will first send out a shuttle to thoroughly investigate the planet and study our scans to ensure we don’t encounter any natives once we set down.”
“It’s a class L Planet. There are no natives,” he shrugged.
“I would rather be safe than sorry.” Tia’s tone was firm and succinct.
His eyes narrowed as for a brief moment he leaned forward to peer into her face. “You’re not a very trusting person are you,” he deduced.
“As a rule, no,” Tia answered.
“Very well then,” he blew off the incident with a casual wave of his hand as he turned around. “Just let me know when you’re ready and I can begin collecting my samples. I will be in my lab.” And with that their Chief Science Officer rose to make his departure.
“LC Aldrich, you have not yet been dismissed!” The deep furrows in Tia’s forehead would have warned any normal officer to issue forth a profuse apology and take a quick seat, but the quirky scientist did not process his surroundings in quite the same way as a normal officer.
“I’ve conveyed all the factors relevant to my research. I am confident you can plan the remaining details without my assistance.” He continued on his way out the door.
“Lieutenant Commander Jasik Aldrich, as we previously discussed, while you are a senior officer of this crew you will be required to attend all officer briefings,” Jasik opened his mouth and Tia hurriedly continued, “and remain for the duration of the meeting, regardless of how relevant you may deem the information to be.” Tia didn’t realize she had risen to her feet till she found herself standing over the holotable, both palms flat on the table’s surface as she directed the most authoritative gaze she could muster at the irreverent scientist.
Adams waited for Tia to finish before speaking up “I concur with the Captain’s assessment. You are a part of the staff and you are to act like it. Briefings are still important regardless of what you think. Start acting like a Starfleet officer.” She concluded with the stern voice she had used many times before.
Tia appreciated the united front her XO provided, and Jasik gave a light shrug of his shoulders and sat down without further argument. Tia released a sigh of relief, perhaps she would be able to manage this crew yet.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, the Tesla’s security detail was having issues of their own. Captain Alvaro Vitinius had been cold and unwelcoming to the security team as they were introduced to the Bajoran ship’s bridge crew. His threatening implication still rung in Akeno’s ears. “It would benefit you and your team to follow my lead on these missions. It would be unfortunate for an accident to befall one of your group while you are here.” As seemed to be the custom with Alvaro, his words were politely cordial but his tone implied far darker intentions.
As Akeno now stood on the bridge of the Bajoran vessel, he was glad to have both John and Jovi on his team although they were not with him at the present. The glances Alvaro had been casting at Jovi since he saw her had not gone unnoticed. Akeno felt protective over Jovi, like an older brother, and he suspected that John may be developing far deeper feelings for the feisty little doctor. He was certain that was the reason behind John’s suggestion to take Jovi and tour the remainder of the ship as Akeno met the bridge crew. They would certainly have to keep an eye on Captain Vitinius. No man would be safe if they made a move to harm Jovi, not even a captain protected by the diplomacy of political relations.
Alvaro had completed the introductions around the bridge, and the crew was now preparing for takeoff but Akeno was as yet unaware of their heading.
“Do we have a location for the Cardassian rebels,” he inquired. He only received a cryptic response with a sly grin from their captain.
“We have an ace up our sleeve, Lieutenant.” Alvaro nodded and Akeno turned as the sound of a scuffle attracted his attention.
The slight figure of a lithe, young woman was dragged into the room between two hulking Bajorans. The girl struggled in their grasp, but with her wrists cuffed tightly together and one soldier gripping a metal collar about her neck, her efforts were easily subdued. Peeking from between strands of thick dark hair that hung loose and wild about her face, Akeno could see the captive’s dark eyes, shining dully against pale skin but with a spark that warned of a raging fire within.
“Let her go,” Alvaro ordered with a subtle grin.
The soldiers released her and she immediately lunged for Alvaro, but then the enraged captive seemed to be halted by some invisible force as for a moment she froze in her charge and then collapsed to the floor writhing in pain with her jaw tightly clenched. Alvaro slid from his pocket a small controller which he once again pressed the button on, and the girl’s muscles tensed and strained as waves of electric shock rippled through her body. It was clear the pain experienced by the prisoner was immense, but not a sound escaped her tightly sealed lips as the shocking force pulsated from the collar around her neck. The pleasure Captain Vitinius received from pressing that button was transparent upon his features. He watched the thrashing captive twist about on the ground with eyes that shone like a thrilled cat preparing to pounce on a toy.
“Not only is this little missy a Cardassian-.” the captain crouched down and the prisoner pushed herself up with unsteady hands till her eyes were level with the captain’s. Alvaro reached out to grip her chin and she quickly jerked it from his grasp. “But she carries Organian blood in her as well.”
“Impossible.” Akeno scoffed at this statement but his voice also held a twinge of doubt.
The prisoner refused to meet her captor’s gaze, and he slowly withdrew his hand with a maniacal chuckle. “All too true, Lieutenant Chung.” Captain Vitinius rose to his feet in a brusque manner, instructing his men to deal with the prisoner with a passing wave of his hand.
The girl was scooped up and shackled securely to a chair. Her half-hearted attempts to fight back told Akeno that she had long endured this sort of treatment, but had somehow still managed to keep a spark of fire alive. The Bajoran captors stepped back and Alvaro brushed the comms officer aside to tap on a few buttons, the controller for the prisoner’s shock collar resting lightly in his hands.
“Soon you will see the power she wields,” Alvaro promised.
“Is the council aware of this?” Akeno questioned, finding it hard to believe the Bajoran leaders would authorize such treatment of a prisoner.
“The council knows the severity of the Cardassian threat and allows what methods are necessary for the protection of the planet.”
Akeno noted the evasive answer and he began to suspect that he would discover many things Captain Vitinius had been keeping hidden from the Bajoran Council.
Alvaro turned from the conn station to stalk towards the captive. She glared at him with defiant eyes that gave no sign of surrender, her body taut, her breath heavy as Alvaro neared her. Alvaro’s long fingers absently toyed with the shock controller in his hand.
“Are you going to cooperate today?”
Her lips curled back and she showed bared teeth at her tormentor.
Her useless defiance only served to amuse the captain. He chuckled darkly. “She’s more beast than anything. But she does as she’s told.” Alvaro leaned forward till he was at eye level with the girl. “Go on now. Show him what you can do. Find one of your ships for us.”
The girl’s eyes dropped and she shifted uncomfortably in her shackles, the metal rings digging into already chaffed wrists.
“Don’t be difficult now.”
Alvaro prodded but her jaw remained firmly clamped.
“You know it’s useless to resist,” Alvaro pointed out.
Her gaze slowly rose back to meet his, the fire in her eyes flaring. She would not give up the information so easily.
Alvaro briskly turned away to address Akeno. “I apologize but it looks as though she’s being difficult today. I’ll have someone show you to your quarters so you can get settled in and I’ll notify you once we have a heading.”
It took all Akeno’s strength not to protest, but he knew when he was outmatched and with the threat of an unfortunate accident still ringing in his ears, he held no doubt in his mind that Alvaro would not hesitate to eliminate him should he interfere. At least for the moment, he would have to comply. He left without a word, not wanting to see what he knew was to come next. Akeno was all too familiar with the uncomfortable task of interrogating a prisoner, but Alvaro’s methods seems diabolical. Akeno cursed under his breath. What had he and his team gotten themselves into this time?