"Counterpoints," Part Three by Charlynn Schmiedt

Part of the Continuing Earl Grey Fiction Mini-Series

by Phillip Gilfus, with contributions from Daniel Proulx and Darren Moser

Let’s do this, thought Ensign Hegg, as he stepped inside the ship’s main shuttlebay for the first time. I’m excited but scaredEver since I got that commendation, I never know how a new senior officer will treat me.

It was almost a year ago since Hegg had received the Pantares Ribbon of Commendation. The Bolian had hoped he could remain silent about the incident after leaving the U.S.S. Merrimac. On that fateful day, all of the flight deck officers (FDOs) had been injured on the Nebula-class ship, following a series of plasma explosions in the power grid and a coolant leak in the main engine. Hegg had single-handedly organized a shuttle evacuation of all civilians and non-essential personnel to safety. In the end, the ship’s chief engineer managed to eject the warp core and save the ship, before shortly dying from her injuries.

Hegg could still remember the screams of his injured shipmates, the smell of plasma burning flesh, and the look of fright on his friend’s children, as he directed them into shuttlecrafts. The flashing red alert klaxons, smoke everywhere, the faces of terror…

Hegg closed his eyes, shook away the memory, and told himself, You’re on the Enterprise now, you have a duty to do, ensign. Let’s get to it.

He instinctively made his way to the center of the shuttlebay and walked up the main stairwell to the deck three upper main shuttlebay. Hegg assumed he would find his new commanding officer in the flight control room. Hegg soon found himself looking slightly down at a Tellarite lieutenant. Hegg knew about the race’s argumentative and confrontational reputation, but decided to stick to protocol when it came to introductions.

Hegg straightened to a position of attention and said, “Ensign Hegg reporting for duty, sir.”

“Well, well, look who finally made it to his required place of duty,” retorted the lieutenant, making a series of snorts in displeasure, as he turned to face Hegg. “If it isn’t Ensign Commendation himself, well, let me take a look at the newest officer gracing us with his presence.”

Hegg didn’t know whether to relax or not from his stiff posture as the Tellarite slowly circled him.

“Evacuated a whole shuttlebay with one hand tied behind your back, huh? I’ve read your personnel file. That’s all right. Not bad,” said the lieutenant. He suddenly pointed his left hoof-like hand in Hegg’s face.

“But this is the Enterprise, not some backwater science ship. Let’s see what you know about shuttlecraft protocols. How many shuttles must be kept operational at all times?!” the Tellerite screamed the question out, following it with another series of snorts.

“Well, um, sir, it depends on the…” Hegg struggled for a moment, trying to remember the Galaxy-class specifications, unsure if he was mixing them up with his old ship’s regulations.

“Eleven! That’s the answer,” the Tellarite bellowed, appearing almost to spit on the floor in disgust. “How many shuttlecraft must be kept on immediate standby at all times, with as little as thirty minutes prep time?!”

Hegg looked him directly in the eye. “Four.”

“Wrong, it’s fo-…oh, uh, yes, that’s right, ensign.”

The Tellarite ceased his circling and, despite the fact that he was almost half a meter shorter than Hegg, he gave the Bolian his most piercing stare.

“Looks like we got a smart one here.” The lieutenant looked over his right shoulder. “Hear that, lieutenant? We’ve got a smart one.”

Hegg quickly stole a glance to his left and saw a female lieutenant junior grade who was squatting underneath a console conducting repairs. She gave him a wink and a smile. Hegg translated the Terran’s gestures as saying, Yep, that’s how he is, sorry.

“Well, since I’m stuck with you, ensign, you’ll remained assigned to the main shuttlebay as a FDO here. But if…!” the Tellarite poked Hegg in the chest with his left hand-hoof for emphasis. “If! If you prove your mettle, and I remain dubious, we’ll put you in charge of shuttlebay three. How does that sound?”

Hegg’s nervousness started changing to amusement. He had to fight himself from smiling over the lieutenant’s overdramatic behavior.

“I’m happy to serve wherever you need me, sir.”

“Happy to serve…well, Ensign Crusher reported some issues with the shuttlecraft Justman that he piloted you new officers in. Why don’t you go service it and see what the problem is. Unless that’s too menial of a task for such a highly-decorated officer as yourself?!”

“No, sir, I’ll get right on it. What bay is it in?”

“Bay three. Do I have to tell you everything?!” With that, the lieutenant turned around quickly and walked to a flight control station.

Hegg walked down to the flight deck, found a maintenance kit, and walked to bay three. He found theJustman, opened the shuttle’s rear door, and walked over to a diagnostic control panel. 

“Excuse me!”

Hegg almost dropped his tricorder at the sound of a woman’s voice. He looked up to see the lieutenant junior grade he had noticed earlier.

She was a blonde human who looked to be in her early 30s. She reached out her hand in greeting.

“I just wanted to give you the official welcome. New people don’t usually get one from Lt. Fwaaks. My name is Jenna.”

Hegg shook her hand, happy to see a friendly face.

“I’m Ensign Hegg. That’s Lt. Fwaaks? Well, it’s been an…interesting first day here.”

“Oh, I bet! But, don’t mind Fwaaks. He can be a, well, typical Tellarite, but he can also be a real sweetheart at times, too,” said Jenna, in an almost sing-song voice. “If you need a tour of the ship or anything, let me know. Jeff always says we need to look out for each other on this ship.”

“Is Jeff another FDO here?”

“Huh? Oh, no, he’s my boyfriend,” she said, giving a small laugh. “Oh, I know Fwaaks assigned you to repair this shuttle. I wanted to let you know that Ensign Crusher said he thought the problem was in the thruster assembly. But I have a feeling it could also be a problem with the conn computer system. Do you need any help?”

“Sure, I don’t mind an extra hand.”

Jenna walked over to the shuttle’s conn and powered it up. “I remember the first day I came onboard, I was so nervous! I didn’t know anyone and kept getting lost! I think my first friend was the ship’s computer, since I kept having to ask it how to get everywhere. Then there ended up being a mix-up in my quarters assignment, and then I ended up making Fwaaks mad when I turned over an entire…oh no! Here I am babbling when you’re trying to get your first mission done. I’m sorry, I just tend to babble sometimes. I’ll go access the EPS control panel on the exterior nacelles, you can keep doing your diagnostic.”

Jenna walked out of the shuttle, leaving Hegg alone in the cabin. The diagnostic revealed four fused EPS conduits on the port thruster assembly. The Bolian knew he would have to replace them. He told Jenna what he had found, and she showed him where to replicate four new conduits from the shuttlebay’s stores.

“Here, I have to go report to cargo bay four and help supervise a mission over there. Will you be all right on your own?” asked Lt. (jg) D’Sora.

“Oh, yes. Thanks. And thanks for the help,” said Hegg, giving her a grateful nod.

“Sure, anytime!” She smiled. “Just look me up if you need anything.”

Hegg gave her a small wave and began to work. He had to admit that it had been awhile since he had worked on a Type VI thruster assembly. Maybe I should have asked for help after all, he thought. Oh well, it’s the Enterprise, I need to prove myself. Hegg managed to install two conduits quickly, but was struggling with the third when Lt. Fwaaks walked into the shuttle cabin.

“Aren’t you done yet with this, I might add, very simple assignment?” barked the Tellarite.

“I was able to diagnose the problem and was just installing these replacements,” answered Hegg.

“You know, perhaps I’ve given you too much to do on your first day. Either that or I need to think about reassigning you to captain’s yacht duty. How about you let a more experienced officer get this done and you can go about redecorating your quarters for the rest of the day?” he snarled.

Hegg thought about arguing, but decided that on his first day, as humans say, discretion was the better part of valor. He put down the conduits, said, “Yes, sir,” and exited the bay.

Not a great first impression, Hegg thought, as he walked the ship’s corridors on deck four. But I’m sure things will get better.

Any more thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of the ship going to red alert. 

"Counterpoints," Part Two by Charlynn Schmiedt

Part of the Continuing Earl Grey Fiction Mini-Series

by Phillip Gilfus, with contributions from Daniel Proulx and Darren Moser

Ensign Thovin walked the corridors of deck nine, full of determination. It was nice having his quarters on the same deck as his new duty station, the ship’s astrometrics lab.

It’s going to be a change going from Starfleet Academy instructor to junior science officer on a starship, thought Thovin. I’m used to giving the orders, not taking them.

He arrived at the entry to the lab and paused. Thovin’s antenna stood up straight as he took a moment to clear his head and attempted to look imposing. He took a step forward, the doors opened, and, as he looked around his surroundings, he instantly tried not to look disappointed.

Thovin had imagined that the Federation’s flagship astrometrics lab would be more impressive. The lab, which was poorly lit, looked to be no more than 10 by 30 meters, with only six computer access consoles and chairs. At first it looked to be empty, but then he noticed another science officer hunched over a far console, his back to Thovin.

Thovin cleared his throat, as only an Andorian could, and said, “Excuse me.”

The only response Thovin received was that the officer began to mumble to himself. Thovin’s antennae caught the phrases, “I think I need to carry the five and use the Throcian Energy Assumption Theory…” and “Twenty cochranes just to ensure a proper course vector…”

“I said, excuse me,” repeated Thovin, with an impatient tone.

The officer’s face did not move away from the screen. He merely waved his left hand and said, “I’ll be with you later. If you’re here to fix the microntelescope…”

Thovin interrupted him. “No, I’m not here to fix anything. In fact, I’m reporting for duty for the first time, if you care to pay attention.”

The officer quickly turned around. He was a human lieutenant, who looked to be in his early 30s. His expression went from pensive to friendly, and he reached out his hand to greet Thovin.

“Oh yeah, yeah, you’re Ensign…um….Ensign…” the lieutenant’s face went blank, and he started to fumble with a pile of PADDs that were next to his console.

Thovin thought, This is my new commanding officer? I see me taking over this place by next week.

“Thovin. The name is Thovin.”

“Oh, yes, Ensign Thovin. Of course. Yes, wonderful, great. I’m Colin. Colin Jones. It’s good to meet you,” responded Jones, blushing slightly with embarrassment.

The two shook hands. Lt. Jones immediately returned to his console and began pressing buttons on his console. Colin’s eyes did not leave the screen as he spoke to Thovin.

“Sorry I was distracted; I’ve been working on this problem,” said Jones, “but I’m so glad you finally arrived, I’ve been waiting for someone to be assigned here for awhile. You don’t know how much work I’ve had to deal with alone in the two years I’ve been here. And now with the mapping mission we’re starting in the Arteline Sector, I don’t know how it’s expected for me to process that data by myself.”

Thovin arched his left eyebrow in answer; however, Jones still had his back to him and continued speaking.

“Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but working by yourself for a long time can really get to someone. Which, I do have a question for you, and please be honest.”

“I will,” said Thovin, expecting a scientific inquiry or a question about his credentials.

Jones turned his chair and looked directly at the Andorian. “You’re not just here to move on to stellar cartography are you? Those guys over there think they run this deck.”

“I’m here right now to get as much experience as I can in this duty position,” answered Thovin, who began questioning whether he had entered someone’s Holodeck program.

Jones smiled, let out a breath he had been holding, and turned back to his console. “Good, I’m glad. Man, stellar cartography. They do great work, don’t get me wrong. But they really think they are … oh, wait! Now that I have you here, you can help me with my special project.”

Jones motioned for Thovin to examine his console. Thovin had no idea what to think about what this absent-minded lieutenant’s idea of a “special project” was, but he stepped closer in curiosity.

“A lot of people studying the Borg want to know how to improve our shielding and weapons, but they are missing the most important element,” said Jones, pausing a moment. “Their propulsion! How did they get here from the Delta Quadrant? Look at this, I’ve been calculating the position of the Borg cube encountered by the Enterprise in System J-25 on stardate 42761.9 and comparing it to the position of the cube encountered on stardate 43993.5. Nobody is asking how they got there. I think it’s fascinating. Would you be interested in helping?”

Thovin’s antennae began to slowly twirl in slow concentric circles. “I think your premise is flawed,” said the ensign. “You are assuming that it was the same Borg vessel encountered at both times. The Borg may be located closer than the Delta Quadrant. We do not have enough information at this time.”

“Hmm, maybe,” said Jones, disappointment visible on his face. “Well, I suppose we should get to work. You should be able to access the long-range sensors. I’ll save you the grand tour of the lab, since I know it’s not your first time in one. See if you can do any long-range scans of the Baselad system in the Arteline Sector. It’s the first system on our mapping mission itinerary.”

Thovin walked to a console on the other side of the lab, sat down, and began accessing the appropriate science sensor systems. The scanners soon informed him that the Baselad sector contained five planetary bodies, with an asteroid belt separating the third and fourth planets. The only habitable planets appeared to be Baselad II and Baselad III, Class M and H respectively. However, no life forms had ever been detected on either planet. Thovin was surprised to see an unknown radiation signature in the vicinity of Baselad II. He readjusted the long-range sensors to focus on the radioactive anomaly near the Class M planet.

Thovin moved his face closer to the console and studied the readings. The ship’s computer was unable to properly classify the composition and nature of the radiation, however it was perfectly capable to showing him that twelve ships were near the planet, all with Romulan-type ship signatures.

Thovin opened his mouth to report to Jones, and then, thinking that his commanding officer did not seem quite capable, stopped himself, and instead he activated his comm badge.

“Ensign Thovin to…Lieutenant Commander Data,” said Thovin. The ship’s second officer seemed the logical person to contact. The Andorian knew of the android’s reputation as a scientist, engineer, and decorated senior officer.

“Data here,” came the emotionless reply.

“Sir, I know you don’t know me. I just transferred aboard. But I found some readings in preparation for our mapping mission that I think you should be aware of.”

“What are the precise nature of those readings?”

“I don’t know if I should describe them openly on the channel but-“


Thovin looked up to see Colin leaning over the Andorian’s console. The lieutenant accessed a few additional ship scanners. “Mr. Data, this is Lt. Jones. We have twelve Romulan signals coming from the Baselad system that we are approaching.”

“Thank you, lieutenant. I will confirm those findings here on the bridge and act appropriately.”

The lieutenant looked down at Thovin. He looked uncomfortable and shifted his weight from one foot to another. “Look, ensign, I know you’re new here. But you report all findings to me first before anyone else, is that understood?”

Thovin wanted to point out that Lt. Jones’ attention span didn’t seem to be the most encouraging for reporting a ship emergency. But instead the ensign answered, “Yes, sir.”

The red alert klaxons and lights began to sound on the ship.

Jones looked again at the console. “Good sensor work, though. From what I can tell, there are three scout ships, seven transports, and two freighters. What are Romulans doing in Federation space?”

"Counterpoints," Part One by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Phillip Gilfus, with contributions from Daniel Proulx and Darren Moser

Rating: K+

Synopsis: This is an ongoing mini-series written by Trek.fm’s Earl Grey podcasters that follows a handful of “lower decks” crew members newly appointed to the Enterprise-D.

Chronology: Several weeks after the battle of Wolf 359.

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"The Cause" Chapter Five by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

The Artemis made her approach. Riley noted the presence of a Blackbird-class scoutship. He informed Aellai that the ship’s ID transponder pinged it as the Odyssey.

“I wonder what Macen is doing here?” Aellai pondered aloud. She knew Macen by reputation alone. She also knew he’d worked closely with Hudson and Chakotay before their passing and still worked hand in hand with Ro and Korepanova. It seemed Eddington would be getting rid of yet another potential thorn in the side.

“Eddington’s report just arrived,” Riley advised Aellai. “There are two starships assigned to this patrol region. The first is a Springfield-class ship called the Courageous and the other is a Cheyenne-class named the Navajo. But they both seem to be out of the vicinity right now.”

“Scan the Odyssey,” Aellai ordered. “I want to know what she’s capable of.”

“Ye Gods,” Riley breathed, “she’s intact.”

“Of course she’s intact,” Aellai grated. “She’s right in front of us.”

“No, I mean she’s listed as being decommissioned but she’s in service trim. Starfleet didn’t remove a blessed thing when they handed her over to Macen,” Riley described.

“Who is he?” Aellai mused.

“A freelance investigator, or so he claims,” Riley recalled. “No one seems to know much about him except Ro and Korepanova.”

“What’s a ‘freelance investigator?’” Aellai wondered.

“That’s commercial talk for ‘spy for hire,’” Riley retorted.

“Isn’t he a former Starfleet officer?” Aellai seemed to recall.

“That’s what put him in the club with everyone he worked with,” Riley informed her. “They’re all ex-Starfleet.”

“What’s Eddington have to say about it?” Aellai wanted to know.

Riley scrolled through the report. “He says Macen isn’t an active member of the Maquis, but he is a vital support asset.”

“Too bad he’s about to become a dead one,” Aellai snorted.

“Eddington may not approve of killing him,” Riley warned.

“Eddington can kiss my gorgeous butt,” Aellai quipped. “We’re doing this for him.”

“You know, Ro could be a problem.” Riley delved further into the file. “Eddington believes that Ro will go to great lengths to stop the deployment of biogenic weapons.”

“So she’s a traitor to the cause,” Aellai mused. “She’ll just have to be one of our first targets when we get back.”

“It says Ro completed Starfleet’s Advanced Tactical Training course, a feat Eddington couldn’t pull off.” Riley thought it over. “It means she’ll be very dangerous in a fight.”

“She hasn’t met me yet,” Aellai mused. “I’ll show her the meaning of the word ‘dangerous.’”

“But Ro may have hired Macen to spy on us,” Riley considered, “and if so, Ro could be here as well.”

“How would they know we were coming here?” Aellai breezily dismissed the notion.

“I don’t know. We didn’t share this plan with anyone, but Eddington seems to be a bit of an ego maniac. He may have bragged it up to some loose lips,” Riley countered.

“Okay, I grant you the fact that the plan to make and use biogenic weapons may have leaked,” Aellai conceded, “but how would they know to come here?”

“It may be coincidence that Macen’s here and that he’s friends with Ro, but I also don’t believe in coincidence,” Riley stated.

“You might have a point,” Aellai granted him. “Have Don offload the weapon and then he’ll stay aboard to guard the ship while Siobhan, you, and I deliver it, arm it, and get the hell away from here.”

“Does Siobhan think she can penetrate Life Support?” Riley wondered. “It is a secure area.”

“Siobhan has a former lover that gave her the standard access codes for these types of things,” Aellai explained.

“Remind me to thank him someday,” Riley requested.

Aellai smirked. “Actually, it’s a her.”

“She’s never said a word,” Riley admitted.

“Siobhan is quite cosmopolitan. She’s attracted to both sexes,” Aellai shared.

“Just so long as Starfleet Security doesn’t come crawling up our ass,” Riley opined.

“Agreed,” Aellai said heartily.

Macen’s predictions came true as the Maquis stepped off of the transporter pad. Security hurriedly confiscated all of the visible phasers. But as expected, they were so consumed by the larger Bajoran models, they confused their readings and didn’t find the compact Type I’s.

Ro traveled under a falsified ID that T’Kir had whipped up. It wouldn’t withstand a retina scan activated probe, but it was enough to initially get her past security. It seemed to Ro that there was no end to T’Kir’s illicit activities.

The Maquis spread across the station. The docking ring was divided into four quads. Lee and Vorhoven took up position in Quad One to observe the comings and goings there. To allay suspicions, they struck up conversations with various dock hands and freighter crews.

Tebler and Mayweather watched Quad Three. They chose to mingle with unemployed day laborers looking to load and offload cargo. Gutierrez and D’ofo took up their vigil in Quad Four.

Ro watched over Quad Two, which sat next to the station’s main commercial transporter. Macen was designated to join her when he was done haranguing the station CO. All of the Maquis had been given restraints and comm badges along with their weapons.

The silver comm badges were identical to the gold comm badges worn by Federation law enforcement agents. It turned out that silver badges were issued to quasi-legal enforcement authorities such as privateers, private investigators, security specialists, and bounty hunters. T’Kir had linked the badges to the station’s central comm network. They’d reach anywhere inside the starbase as well as utilize the comm array to reach the Odyssey. As an added bonus, T’Kir had set up a private channel but Starfleet’s internal channel could be accessed with a phrase uttered before speaking the intended message.

Macen joined Ro fifteen minutes later. He wore a rueful grin. “Well, that went as well as expected.”

“M’rarr is still being a pigheaded jackass?” Ro wondered.

“That’s probably an even greater mixed metaphor with a Caitian than the usual,” Macen mused. “His Chief of Security seemed interested though.”

“Is he or she going to do anything?” Ro tersely inquired.

“Maybe, maybe not,” Macen shrugged.

“Great,” Ro groused.

“Something else bothering you?” Macen wondered.

“These stupid badges make my people stand out,” Ro complained.

“You should wear them on your belt like I do,” Macen repeated his earlier suggestion, “but they grant you an air of legitimacy that you’d otherwise lack. Standing around waiting for people to arrive would be suspicious behavior, but with our comm badges, your group appears to have legitimate business doing so.”

Ro removed the badge and reaffixed it to her belt. “Happy?”

“Thrilled,” Macen deadpanned.

“Good,” Ro asserted, “because I’m not… they’re here.”

“Where?” Macen asked.

Granger exited Docking Port 8, in Quad Two. He sat down a large duffel bag, gave some final instructions to Hennessy and then reentered the ship. Riley hefted the bag and then he left the quad with Aellai and Hennessy at his side.

“Get going,” Macen urged Ro.

“Are you going to be okay?” Ro asked.

“I’m having Lees, Christine, and Tom beam over to the station so we can access the Artemis. They only left one person aboard, so we’ll be fine,” Macen assured her. “Now scoot!”

Ro immediately departed. As she dropped back and followed the Artemis crew from a discreet distance, she signaled the other Maquis and had them converge on the station’s Life Support plant. They all arrived in time to find the two Starfleet Security officers assigned to protect the oxygen, heating, and cooling providers already stunned.

“Aellai, don’t do this,” Ro called out to the other leader. “Once you do, there’s no going back.”

“Siobhan, go faster!” Aellai demanded.

Ro stepped around the pressure seal and fired. She missed Aellai and Hennessy but she struck Riley. He crumpled to the deck as Aellai returned fire. Tebler and Gutierrez joined Ro and added their weight to the phaser barrage. Aellai slapped the door controls and the hatch sealed.

“We’re trapped,” Hennessy complained. “We’ll be stuck here until this thing goes off. I’ve already started the ignition process, and in two hours, this thing goes off and I can’t find a way to stop it.”

“We’ll die for the cause,” Aellai declared with a manic edge to her voice. “Don will deliver the weapons and we’ll still have our revenge.”

“I’m not dying for your revenge,” Hennessy snarled as she stood up from the ventilation shaft she’d been working on.

Aellai stunned her own crewman and went to work sliding the biogenic weapon into the shaft.

“What’s going on here?” Lt. Commander Aerick of Starfleet Security demanded to know as he and a handful of Security officers descended upon Life Support.

Ro pointed to her badge. “We’re trying to apprehend Maquis terrorists who are attempting to plant a biogenic weapon in your ventilation shafts.”

Aerick eyed Ro. “You must be with Captain Macen.”

“You’re smart,” Ro said acerbically.

“Macen captured the other Maquis crewman and my men have seized their transports, as well as the eleven biogenic devices in their hold,” Aerick informed her. “The Navajo has been recalled to transport the prisoners to Izar where they can stand trial.”

“You can’t do that here?” Ro was surprised.

“We only have one JAG officer aboard the station, so we don’t have enough legal representation to conduct a trial ourselves,” Aerick explained. “Now, I’d recommend you return to your ship.”

“I want to see this through,” Ro insisted.

“Can we step out into the corridor?” Aerick requested.

Ro nodded her acquiescence and they left the area. Aerick gave Ro a pained look. “Lt. Ro, I strongly urge you to take your Maquis and get aboard the Odyssey.”

Ro studied him. “How long have you known?”

“I served aboard the Wellington when you did,” Aerick revealed. “I thought you got a raw deal then and I think so now.”

Ro continued to weigh the Rigellian’s words as he continued. “I’ll give you a twenty minute escape window. Afterwards, the Navajo will be here. Her XO is Shannon Farley and her Chief of Security is Onyx Drell. I don’t suppose you recall them?”

“I do and I see your point,” Ro consented after hearing the names of the prosecution’s chief witnesses against her at her court martial.

She gathered her people and as they withdrew, Aerick called out after them, “You’re welcome.”

The Odyssey headed away from Starbase 621 and back towards Ronara Prime at warp 6. Ro joined Macen on the bridge, despite her obvious exhaustion from being up for over thirty-six hours straight. She asked for a private conference with Macen.

Danan rolled her eyes at his imploring look. “Look, either make her the ‘other’ woman or put her on staff.”

Ro cast a quizzical glance Macen’s way. Danan laughed. “Go, get off my bridge.”

Ro followed Macen into the briefing room, casting a beleaguered look Danan’s way as the Trill past her by while heading for the center seat. As the door closed behind her, Ro asked, “Is there something you should tell me about you and Lisea?”

“Is there?” Macen asked merrily.

“I feel like I’ve stepped into a mine field here,” Ro confessed.

“Don’t worry about it. She’s just playing with you,” Macen assured. “Now, what’s on your mind?”

“I take it everyone aboard Starbase 621 didn’t die a horrible, agonizing death,” she surmised.

“No,” Macen smiled. “The crisis has been averted thanks to brilliant deduction work by Starfleet Security. The weapon was beamed into space. And the Maquis are being properly vilified yet again.”

“Of course,” Ro said ruefully. “It figures.”

“Commander Aerick isn’t an active Maquis, nor is he a collaborator, but he is a sympathizer,” Macen analyzed the Rigellian’s behavior. “Which is valuable information.”

“He pretty much told me the same thing,” Ro shared, “but I don’t know if he sympathizes with the Maquis cause or me.”

“Maybe it’s both,” Macen suggested, “or it’s even that he sympathizes with the cause because of your involvement.”

“What are you suggesting?” Ro was instantly defensive.

“I don’t know if I am suggesting anything,” Macen admitted. “Take my statement for what you will.”

“At least we got away and the biogenic devices aren’t in Eddington’s hands.” Ro tried to put a positive spin on the mission.

“So it counts as a ‘win?’” Macen wondered.

“Not really,” Ro grumped. “I really wanted to confront Eddington with his handiwork.”

“Too dangerous,” Macen warned. “The rest of his followers, and that’s practically every Maquis, would have taken the weapons and used them anyway. You and Sveta would have only ostracized yourself further. And Eddington would have known you were personally involved. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.”

“Brin, we’re traveling in a vacuum right now,” Ro retorted.

“But we’re moving. We have motion, a life sustaining construct around us and life forms from several different worlds inside of it,” Macen lectured her. “That alone should tell you nothing is stagnant in this universe. All life interacts and intrinsically affects other life, even if it’s only on a microscopic level.”

Ro derisively snorted. “That’s what the vedeks taught us as children.”

“There’s wisdom to be found in those teachings,” Macen opined.

“I didn’t believe it then and I won’t believe in superstition now,” Ro asserted.

“Truth can be extracted from superstition,” Macen countered, “but my real question is ‘what next?’”

“We go back to business as usual,” Ro shrugged. “We still have a war to win.”

“And if Eddington completely cuts you off from the rest of the Maquis?” Macen had to ask.

“Then we scale back the magnitude of our operations but we keep fighting,” Ro decided.

“I’ll feed you what intelligence that I can,” Macen assured Ro. “Tell Sveta that she’s in the pipeline as well. Eddington and his supporters won’t be.”

“What? Why?” Ro was astounded.

“I can’t support Eddington’s new direction for the Maquis,” Macen stated. “Genocide is not the way to win and Eddington and his loyal little minions need to learn that.”

Ro suddenly felt like kissing him despite however Danan would feel about it, and told him so. Macen looked uncomfortable. “Let’s not get drastic.”

Ro reunited with Tulley at their base on Ronara Prime. Every Maquis that had been aboard theIndomitable was trading war stories with those that had been aboard the Odyssey. Ro had already quite a few exaggerations from the latter group to make their trip sound more exciting.

“I hear you were successful,” Ro congratulated Tulley. “You even escaped from three Starfleet ships and two Cardassian cruisers.”

“Never leave me behind again,” Tulley begged. “I almost had a nervous breakdown.”

“Poor baby. I’ll try not to,” Ro consoled him. “I got back to find a message from Eddington on my comp/comm.”

“What did he have to say?” Tulley sneered the word ‘he.’

“That we’re too independent and we should have cleared the Orion strike through him. Apparently he’s upset that the freighters were intercepted and destroyed,” Ro informed him, “so now we’re truly independent operators that are Maquis in name only. All the other cells have been warned to avoid us and not to cooperate with us our support any of our operations in any way.”

“So he tossed us out on our ear,” Tulley said bitterly.

“Not really,” Ro mused. “It seems our little group is too successful to simply throw away, so we’re now viewed as a splinter faction whose logistics are completely up to us.”

“What about the Architect?” Tulley wondered.

“Sveta has received the same message and she already left a separate message to insure me we have her full support,” Ro told him.

“So they’re not going to let her plan group missions anymore?” Tulley was incredulous.

“Nope,” Ro shook her head. “They have one of Starfleet’s finest strategists at their disposal and they cast her aside simply because she wouldn’t bow before the new king.”

“Still, with you and the Architect on our side, we should be able to kick some royal ass,” Tulley enthused.

Ro smiled. “I’m glad you think so, because a major part of making that work will be a result of your work.”

Tulley groaned and Ro chided him. “It’s part of being my deputy. You want to step down? That’s fine. I’ll ask Sam to take the job.”

The thought of Richards leapfrogging him in the cell’s seniority rankled Tulley. Although, he knew Richards was a former law enforcement officer, whereas Tulley was just an inspired amateur. But he was especially motivated.

“I’m fine with the way things stand,” Tulley promised Ro.

“I understand you paid Athos IV a visit while I was away,” Ro recalled. “How did you explain my not making an appearance?”

“Shanra just told everyone you were down with Rigellian fever and were being quarantined in what passes as a med bay aboard the Indie,” Tulley explained.

“Bajorans can’t get Rigellian fever,” Ro said to much chuckling from Tulley.

“Ro, the Architect has requested that you contact her. She says you two need to start planning a new offensive,” Alea informed Ro as she approached.

“Yes, we do,” Ro said with some satisfaction. “You two stand by. I’ll need to consult with the pair of you in a few minutes.”

“We’ll be waiting,” Alea promised.

Ro suddenly felt more confident about her cause and her cell then she had since she first joined it. She also felt as bold and forceful has she had under Hudson’s wing. She was still committed enough to win the lousy struggle the Maquis faced as a daily reality. And in this game, the most committed one won.

And with any luck Eddington will get killed or captured before that victory is achieved and he can set himself up as a demigod over a Maquis Confederacy, Ro thought to herself.


U.S.S. Andor and U.S.S. Blackbird designed by Bernrd Schneider.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"The Cause" Chapter Four by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

The S.S. Indomitable soared through DMZ space and ventured beyond Gryma into the Cardassian border with the Zone. Tulley knew that Cardassian Outpost 47 monitored the space around Gryma and would alert the High Command of the Indie’s attack on the Orion convoy. The Cardassians felt far less constricted about deploying military units in the DMZ than Starfleet did, but Starbase 129 and the Argus Array watched over this region of space as well, and would dispatch starships in response to an incursion by the Cardassian Guard.

Macen’s information regarding the number of Orion vessels had been incorrect. The actual number of freighters was six, that and their two Wanderer-class escorts. Tulley’s gut clenched as he saw the freighters and fully realized just how many ground based disruptor banks were being brought to Gryma and Quatal Prime.

Tulley also fully realized he had to knock out the blockade runners before he engaged the lightly shielded freighters. Sam Richards scanned the escorts. “They’re armed with disruptors but they’re lacking torpedo tubes.”

Tulley nodded his acknowledgement. Richards was occupying his usual post at Tactical. Ro usually commanded as she also piloted the ship. Tulley hadn’t wanted any distractions, so he was seated at the oft neglected Auxiliary Station.

“From what I read on Jane’s Starships about these things, they’ll easily outmaneuver us, so we have to come in hard and fast,” Tulley thought aloud.

“I recommend an approach along their z-axis,” Alea spoke up. “Their sensors are pretty muddled along that line by their shields.”

“Got that, Audra?” Tulley asked.

“Laying in a course now,” North announced.

“Sam?” Tulley looked across at Richards.

“Photons are loaded and phasers are charged,” Richards reported. “Guidance and tracking are up and running.”

Tulley turned towards Halep. “Athena, you’re monitoring Engineering. Sing out if Thool starts to lose power. I don’t want to experience a sudden catastrophic power failure.”

“You should have used a different ship,” Halep snorted.

Tulley ignored the comment. “Do they have us on sensors?”

“Yes,” Alea informed him. “They’ve been actively scanning us for some time.”

“The escorts have interposed themselves between us and the freighters,” Richards shared.

“Good, that’s just what we wanted them to do,” Tulley commented.

“Hopefully they know that,” Richards remarked.

“Audra, now!” Tulley ordered.

The Indomitable suddenly vectored towards the Orions along their dorsal plane. The blockade runners maneuvered to intercept. Outpost 47 began broadcasting warnings toward the Indie.

Richards opened fire. He fired one photon at each interceptor. When their shields wavered, he opened up with a phaser barrage. The Orions responded with their disruptors.

The Maquis and the Orions strafed each other as they passed by. The Indomitable then concentrated firepower on the hapless freighters. Richards expended the torpedo magazines in destroying the freighters. North then cut and ran.

The Indie flew along the curved belt that comprised the DMZ with the Orion blockade runners in pursuit. The Orion craft were already damaged, so their best speed merely matched that of the Maquis raider. The Cardassian Guard pulled two Galor-class cruisers off of patrol to mirror the Maquis and Orion movements within the DMZ. Starfleet dispatched the Centaur-class U.S.S. Hydra and alerted two Saber-class Starfleet Border Patrol ships.

The Indomitable broke free of the DMZ and headed straight into the Bajoran Sector. The U.S.S. Centaur, the U.S.S. Vigilance, and the U.S.S. Steadfast joined the pursuit. The Orions opened fire upon the Starfleet ships to warn them off.

The Vigilance broke off and dealt with the Orion ships. The Hydra and the Steadfast slowed as theIndomitable slipped into the Badlands. The Cardassian cruisers traversed nonaligned space and dove into the plasma storm field.

The lead Galor-class ship, the Tergal, fired several photon torpedoes at the fleeing Maquis raider. They struck a plasma funnel and created a plasma storm eruption. The Indomitable maneuvered underneath the blast wave but the Tergal, and her sister the Tipitz, were beaten by the plasma wave.

The Hydra and the Steadfast moved in to assist. They found the Tergal was a gutted ruin while the Tipitzwas merely disabled. Towed out of the Badlands, the crew of the Tipitz decided they’d be able to restore minimal power and limp back into Cardassian space.

Meanwhile, Starfleet temporarily impounded the Orion blockade runners to find out why the Maquis targeted them. Tulley fired off a subspace radio message to the starships and laid out their reasoning. Captain Victoria Oshera read the missive and then proceeded to file her report laying out specific charges to lay against the crew of the Indomitable and urging Starfleet Intelligence to focus their efforts on finding which cell the ship and crew belonged to.

Eddington fumed as word spread of “Ro’s” strike against the Orions. He angrily wondered who she’d received her intelligence from. He then wondered why she hadn’t informed him of her plans. The part of Eddington that thought like a Starfleet officer railed against Ro’s unilateral action.

Ro was far too independent an operator to include him in her master plans. Ro had obviously wanted to derail the Cardassians’ attempt to install disruptor networks on their chief colonies within the DMZ. Eddington had wanted them in place so that the Maquis would have them after the Cardassians died en masse.

Eddington felt that Ro was far too shortsighted in these matters. Ro had worked best with Hudson, Chakotay, and Korepanova. Chakotay and Hudson were dead and Korepanova was proving to be a thorn in Eddington’s side. And now Ro was too.

Eddington’s vanity didn’t allow him to see that he held a large degree of jealousy towards Ro. Ro had completed Starfleet’s Advanced Tactical Training program. Eddington had taken the course himself earlier in his career. He’d been one of the sixty percent statistic that washed out every year.

Ro’s accomplishments, both in Starfleet and the Maquis, made others look up to her. And Ro had thrown in behind Korepanova in the battle for succession. Unfortunately, only one victor would stand as Maquis Commander when the psychological war was concluded and Eddington would be that man—no matter what it took.

It took the Odyssey eighteen hours to cross the Bajoran Sector and reach Kalandra. Ro and the Maquis were in command of the ship. Ro followed Danan’s plan and inserted the starship into an orbital track between Kalandra VIII and Kalandra IX. D’ofo reported that she had a clear sensor sweep of Kalandra IV.

“The Artemis is breaking orbit,” D’ofo informed Ro, “and she’s plotting a course towards Federation space.”

“Mayweather, set course to follow her,” Ro ordered. “Keep us within sensor range, but don’t close the distance.”

“Easy enough,” Mayweather boasted.

Ro wondered where the transport was headed to next.

The Odyssey’s crew relieved the Maquis. After each station officer reported the ongoing situation to their relief, the Maquis left the bridge except for Ro. She and Macen exchanged quiet words. Macen signaled a very curious Danan to join them.

“We’ve been following the Artemis for four hours,” Ro informed the pair. “She hasn’t deviated from her course once, but I have no idea where she’s going.”

“T’Kir, are we still in the Artemis’ subspace wake?” Macen asked the young Vulcan.

“You betcha,” she flippantly replied. “I would’ve told you if we lost them in the last two minutes.”

Ro was really getting curious as to T’Kir’s mental state. She was totally unlike any Vulcan she’d ever met. Of course, the fact that her parents had been disciples of Sybok rather that Surak said a lot. Macen had clued Ro into the fact that T’Kir had experienced a total emotional breakdown when her parents were killed by a Cardassian raid.

“We’ve skirted the Breen Confederacy,” Danan announced as she studied her charts. “Now we’re closing in on the Tzenkethi Coalition’s territory. We’ve actually followed a circuitous path back towards the Bajoran Sector again. We’re nearing Starbase 621, but I’d bet that’s not their destination. I’d guess that we’ll end up at Temechlia.”

“What’s our ETA for the system?” Macen inquired.

“Half an hour at our current speed,” Ebert stated.

“Care to wait up?” Macen asked Ro.

“I’d just be in the way,” Ro deferred.

“The platform behind me has three stations and only two are occupied,” Macen informed her. “Slave the Auxiliary Station to Lees’ sensors. You’re not going to relax until you know what’s going on anyway.”

“Bastard,” Ro chuckled knowing Macen had figured her out too well.

Danan proved to be correct because the Artemis plunged into the Temechlia system and achieved standard aboard over the planet…parallel to a Tzenkethi cruiser. The cruiser followed Tzenkethi aesthetics and appeared to be a silvery tear drop.

“What the hell are they doing?” Ro wondered aloud.

“That’s a very important question,” Macen mused. “Lees, I know the Tzenkethi have more sensitive sensors than our friends’, but keep an eye on everything they do. Tracy, keep us out here in the system’s hinter land. If the Tzenkethi are going to prove to be hostile, I want time to react.”

“No problem,” Ebert readily agreed.

Three Tzenkethi beamed aboard the Artemis. The sight of them awed Granger. Aellai was also taken in by their appearance. Many humanoids considered the Tzenkethi to be the most beautiful species in the quadrant, and now Aellai and Granger knew that firsthand.

Tzenkethi bodies were essentially a transparent carapace filled with a gel-like internal fluid. The gel was tensile enough to act as a muscle fiber and yet, without bones, flexible enough to allow Tzenkethi to contort their bodies in ways unimaginable to most humanoids. The gel was also luminescent and gave the Tzenkethi a soft glow.

Their society was composed of genetic castes. Each individual was born into the role they would play within Tzenkethi society. There no advancements in that society only downgrades. Repeated or catastrophic failure would reduce a once proud caste member to the menial classes. The lowest of the low were mind wiped to purest simplicity and they lived only to perform basic functions.

The Tzenkethi saw the Federation, with its myriad species and autonomous actions as anarchy personified. The fact that the Federation espoused self determination and democratic choices offended Tzenkethi to their core. They were utterly dependent upon their Autarch. And there was only one Autarch allowed to live to rule the Tzenkethi in a generation.

But the Tzenkethi had come to realize they were vastly outnumbered by the Federation’s scope and its member worlds and colonies, so their plan of neutralizing the Federation’s expansion was to destabilize it and to plunge it into conflicts with other races.

Chaos would expand into greater chaos and rend the Federation apart. And then the other stellar nations would tear the offal apart. For their part, the Tzenkethi would absorb the closest Federation worlds and impose order and genetic controls upon them. After all, the menial classes always needed to be bolstered by fresh blood.

Eddington had made Aellai aware of the Tzenkethi’s motives for assisting the Maquis plan and Aellai didn’t care. The end result would exterminate all Cardassian life on Gryma and Quatal Prime. There was enough biomimetic gel to create a dozen biogenic devices so there would even be leftovers to threaten worlds within the Cardassian Union itself. Frankly, Aellai hoped the Cardassians would provoke Eddington into using them.

Aellai escorted the three Tzenkethi to the main cargo bay where Granger had laid out their “special wares.” After arriving, the Tzenkethi made brief introductions. The medical expert glowed a pale shade of blue. The warrior escorting them glowed shades of silver. The facilitator was a light green.

The facilitator’s name was Arikene. Just Arikene. Aellai had been briefed that Tzenkethi had an alphanumeric designator attached to their name to publically demonstrate their caste rank. Without knowing the caste rank, Aellai had no means of knowing whether or not she was dealing with anyone of influence.

“What are your targets?” Arikene inquired.

Aellai listed them all and Arikene made a decision. “All are acceptable except for Chin’Toka.”

“But it’s a strategic position that will block Starfleet’s advance into Cardassian space,” Aellai argued.

“We are aware of that; nevertheless, the prohibition stands,” Arikene insisted, “precisely for that reason.”

“But the military base on Chin’Toka will launch a reprisal at Maquis worlds,” Aellai protested.

“That will not occur until the Cardassians unleash their own biogenic weapons,” Arikene lectured Aellai. “That will prompt an intervention by Starfleet. That intervention will primarily come through the Chin’Toka system and they shall meet considerable resistance.”

“You mean to start a war between Cardassia and the Federation,” Aellai grasped it all of a sudden.

“That would suit my Autarch,” Arikene admitted, “and it shall allow the Maquis the time and opportunity to fortify their positions within the Demilitarized Zone.”

“If you don’t want us to hit Chin’Toka, then where would you like us to use the last device?” Aellai inquired.

“We shall prepare a portable delivery system,” Arikene explained. “This device will be placed within the life support network of Starbase 621. There, it will release an aerosol agent that will eliminate all humanoid life within the station.”

Aellai struggled with that and said as much. Eventually, Aellai convinced herself it was a reasonable trade off.”Fine, we’ll deliver it.”

Arikene was pleased. “Then we may now proceed with creating your weapons.”

Tensions were rising aboard the Odyssey. Ro’s impatience was growing by the minute. “Why don’t we go there and find out what they’re doing?”

“Well, like the last twenty times you’ve asked that particular question over the last six hours, we don’t have definitive proof yet,” Macen retorted.

“Then what do you think they’re doing?” Ro tried again.

 “Best guess?” Macen asked.

“Anything,” Ro huffed.

“Tzenkethi society revolves around genetic engineering, so I’d say if you were going to have someone build you a biogenic device, you’d want them to be Tzenkethi,” Macen stated. “The problem is that help will come with a steep price.”

“What kind of price?” Ro wondered.

“Let’s just say that all the latinum in the galaxy wouldn’t motivate them,” Macen replied.

“Brin, the Artemis is breaking orbit,” Danan reported.

“Where are the Tzenkethi headed off to?” Macen wanted to know.

“Coalition space,” Danan informed him, “but the curious thing is that the Artemis isn’t headed back towards the Bajor Sector or the DMZ.”

“Then where is she going?” Ro asked irritably.

“On a straight line for Starbase 621,” Danan told her.

“Why?” Ro didn’t quite get it.

“That’s the price,” Macen said heavily.

“They’re going to detonate a biogenic device in a Federation starbase?” Ro didn’t want to believe it.

“It would line up with Eddington’s ‘you’re either with us or against us’ philosophy,” Macen remarked. “Aellai is his first convert.”

“Tebler would be his second,” Ro said sourly.

“Is he going to be a problem?” Macen wanted to know.

“Probably not,” Ro guessed.

“So what do we do now?” Macen asked her.

“What do you mean?” Ro wanted to know.

“Laren, you’re my employer. My ship and crew do what you tell us to do within the confines of our contract,” Macen explained.

“Of course we prevent then from doing whatever they intend to do.” Ro was a little outraged by Macen’s mercenary attitude.

“You and your Maquis will probably be arrested if you step foot on Starbase 621, and my crew isn’t combat trained,” Macen informed her.

“You’re the captain of a licensed starship bearing a letter of marque,” Ro reminded him. “You’re also the owner-operator of a business concern that has dealings with Starfleet. Just contact the commanding officer and tell them what’s coming their way.”

“I’m a freelancer now, not a Starfleet Intelligence agent, so they’re going to view me with suspicion,” Macen warned her. “And we have no proof whatsoever that the Artemis has hostile intentions. Just a guess.”

“I thought you used to be an analyst, not an agent,” Ro pointedly thrust back at him.

“Agent, analyst, all the same thing,” Macen said dismissively.

“Here’s the deal: My people will be ‘working’ for you when we board the station. If the CO hasn’t believed you by then, you’ll come aboard to argue the point with him while we get busy,” Ro suggested.

“It’s just stupid enough to work,” Macen mused.

Ro’s ire was raised by the appellation of ‘stupid’ being applied to her plan. “Just trust me.”

“Tracy, set course for Starbase 621,” Macen suddenly ordered. “Make it an elliptical approach so we won’t pass the Artemis by. We have a speed advantage, so we can use that to get there first.”

“I can get us there before them, but I can’t estimate how much ‘before’ them,” Ebert warned.

“Do what you can,” Macen urged. “Lees, you have the bridge.”

“Sure, run away just when it’s getting interesting,” Danan mock complained.

“Laren, if you’ll join me in the briefing room, I’ll call Starbase 621 and see what happens,” Macen requested.

“All right.” Ro was feeling more amiable now that she was getting what she wanted.

Macen was true to his word and contacted Starbase 621. After navigating through a sea of bureaucracy, he reached Captain M’rarr. M’rarr was a Caitian and his ears were flattened against his head. Not a promising sight.

“Why are you interfering in our work day, Commander?” M’rarr demanded to know.

“Technically, it’s ‘Captain’ now,” Macen asserted.

“I don’t care about your civilian position, Commander,” M’rarr shot back. “You invoked several Starfleet security protocols to get my attention. If you’re now saying you aren’t Starfleet, then stop wasting my time.”

“I’ve retired, Captain,” Macen explained, “but I have reasons to believe that Maquis collaborators will be attacking your station within the hour.”

If you’re a civilian now, I need your business license, transport credentials and registration, cargo manifest, and personnel list before I can discuss your so-called ‘terrorists,’” M’rarr insisted.

Macen transmitted the data. M’rarr cut the transmission and Macen and Ro waited in silence for several minutes—several more minutes than it took to verify Macen’s credentials. After ten minutes had passed, M’rarr’s visage returned to the screen.

“I’m sorry, Captain,” he sneered, “I don’t listen to what ‘freelance investigators’ have to say.”

The screen went dark again. Macen gave Ro a wry look. “Now we do it your way.”

“Come with me; we need to brief my people,” Ro requested.

Everyone but D’ofo and Vorhoven were awakened for the meeting. Lee asked one of the obvious questions. “How do you know we’ll reach Starbase 621 before the Artemis?”

“This ship is capable of a twelve hour burst at warp 8.3. The Artemis maxes out at warp 6.3. In her day, theOdyssey was one of the fastest ships in the fleet. Transports? Not so much,” Macen replied.

Lee and Vorhoven grinned as she said, “Good to know.”

“To do this, you’ll each be drawing a Bajoran Militia issue phaser from the ship’s armory,” Macen informed them. “You’ll also be issued a Starfleet Type I ‘cricket’ phaser. While security is busy relieving you of the Bajoran gear, you’ll still have your Federation phaser to fall back on.”

Ro looked at all her teammates. “Starfleet Security will hold onto Macen’s pistols for the duration of our stay. He’ll be reporting to the CO’s office to press our case. Seeing as how Captain M’rarr doesn’t like Macen already, it should prove to be quite distracting to the station’s senior staff.”

Macen pulled up Starbase 621’s layout and downloaded it into prepared PADDs. Ro advised them to quickly study. “We have less than twenty minutes until we arrive, so I need opinions on where Aellai could deploy a biogenic weapon and have it effectively kill everyone before we get there.”

“Sure, no pressure,” Gutierrez complained.


U.S.S. Andor and U.S.S. Blackbird designed by Bernrd Schneider.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"The Cause" Chapter Three by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

“No! I forbid it!” Tulley was reacting to the news Ro had brought him. “You’ll be on the bridge of theIndomitable where you belong. Let Macen chase down Aellai across god knows where.”

“I think I can decide for myself where I belong,” Ro said coldly.

“Ro, I’m not you. I can’t command an attack,” Tulley pleaded.

“You do it on the ground all the time,” Ro adamantly quashed his argument. “My decision stands. The Maquis are pretty loose-knit, but when the cell commander issues an order, she still expects it to be obeyed. The only difference between an extra-atmospheric attack and a ground attack is the one in space is waged in three dimensions.”

“Even if the order is stupid?” Tulley lashed out.

“That’s what command prerogative in the field is for,” Ro asserted. “Once you’re on scene, you’ll know what to do.”

“And if I don’t?” Tulley groused.

“Retreat is always an option,” Ro consoled him, “but it’s a costly one in the long run.”

Tulley gathered around the cell’s leadership. Ro briefed them on what was going to occur and she listed off the personnel she’d be taking with her. Giving the time, coordinates, and payload of their target, Ro was pleased when everyone enthusiastically agreed to go on the mission despite Tulley’s qualms. Alea, the cell’s intelligence officer, wanted to verify all of the data with the Odyssey crew.

As the woman hustled off to find a comm unit, Ro reflected once again on the mystery that Alea represented. Alea had nasal bone ridges even more pronounced than a Bajoran’s and yet had naturally purple hair—which definitely wasn’t a Bajoran trait. No one knew what planet Alea hailed from and she wasn’t talking. Yet she was far too good at her job to press her into an ultimatum of revealing her secrets or leaving the Maquis.

Emjin Thool approached Ro after the meeting had adjourned and the room had cleared. The Bolian licked his lips. “Are you sure about this? Aric is untested.”

Ro knew Thool’s worry was more for the Indomitable than her crew. Engineers, even Maquis ones, were slavishly devoted to their vessels. And Thool had a definite love affair going on with the Ju’day-class raider.

“Just prep the ship, Thool,” Ro insisted. “Aric will do fine. I have faith in him and so should you.”

Tulley herded Ro’s team into the meeting hall. They were a fairly assorted lot. Humans dominated the group. There exceptions though and Hev Tebler was one of them. The Cappellan was a better fighter than an engineer but both of his skill sets might be needed.

Lee Ziyi was Thool’s deputy. She was of Chinese descent and was quite proud of her heritage. She was also a walking burst of color since she dip-dyed her raven hair blue.

Larn Vorhoven was another engineer. He was more skilled than Tebler, but he just knew basic maintenance, unlike Lee and Thool. But he was also a fair hand in a fight.

Nadima D’ofo was one of the two medics the cell boasted. She was of African descent and also engaged in hair color playfulness. Her hair was currently blonde.

Juliana Gutierrez was one of the cell’s squad assault leaders. Lance Mayweather was a general hand and transporter chief. The other members of this group were going with the Indie.

Shanra Neet was among them. The Gideonite settler was the other medic. Athena Halep was an ops officer aboard the raider. The young Romani was yet another hair colorist, her current choice being platinum blonde. Audra North was a pilot and also half human and half Galenite, her alien heritage reflected by her bright green hair. Sam Richards rounded out the group. Richards was Tulley’s deputy, and as much as Ro would like to have his steely nerves aboard the Odyssey, she judged that Tulley needed him more.

Ro briefed the group. As usual, Tebler and Gutierrez were ready for a fight. Lee and Vorhoven were eager to get inside a starship even if it was a decommissioned one. D’ofo was slightly anxious about the new setting until she learned the Odyssey had a fully stocked Sickbay. She was much happier after learning that.

Ro got her team to the rendezvous point and wondered when someone would meet them. Seconds later, an annular confinement beam locked onto them and then they were transported up to the Odyssey in its position in orbit. They looked around and realized they’d rematerialized in a cargo bay. Macen and his Engineer’s Mate, Heidi Darcy, stood at the transporter controls.

“Thanks, Heidi. We can manage from here,” Macen informed her.

Darcy was stopped by Lee as she was exiting. Darcy’s own brunette hair was dip dyed blonde and Lee was delighted. “I love your hair!”

“Thanks.” The younger woman smiled and then reported back to Engineering.

“Excuse me, but who was that?” Lee asked Macen.

Macen explained who Darcy was and what her position aboard ship was as well. Lee lit up. “I knew anyone that fabulous had to be an engineer.”

“Does that include me?” Vorhoven teased.

“There are exceptions to every rule, Larry,” Lee quipped, “and you’re obviously one of them.”

Vorhoven clutched his heart. “Cut to the quick…again.”

Even the stoic Tebler smiled at that. Ro had had enough. “Can we get serious here?”

“Follow me and I’ll show you all to your quarters,” Macen decided. “This ship was designed with a crew of twenty-two in mind. There are six officer’s quarters with five permanent crewmen, so that leaves most of you in the enlisted barracks, since I have a feeling Ro will take the last single cabin. How you divvy up the rest of the rooms is up to you.”

What the Maquis discovered was that there were four rooms remaining that could house four crewmen in each. Ro did take the last officer’s cabin. Tebler got a barracks to himself. Vorhoven and Mayweather took a second room. Gutierrez would sleep alone and that left Lee and D’ofo sharing the last room.

Macen let everyone sort themselves out and then took them to the nearby galley. He left and Ro conducted an informal meeting. Lee was the first to speak.

“We’re already underway. I can feel that the warp core’s vibrational harmonics have shifted,” she shared.

Mayweather asked the obvious question on everyone’s mind. “So where are we headed anyway?”

“And just why the hell did we come along?” Gutierrez gruffly demanded to know. “This ship should be able to swat one lone transport.”

“We don’t want to lose the ship. It’s a transport that itself is a former Starfleet starship. We could use it in many different ways,” Ro explained, “and as far as Captain Aellai and her crew, that depends on how they react to our presence and if we have to board them or not.”

“What are we expecting to find?” D’ofo noticed all the stares her question drew. “Hey, we have to be after them for a reason.”

“I don’t know what we’ll find or where the Artemis will travel to,” Ro admitted. “This is a fishing expedition with firepower. What I do know is Eddington came to the Maquis with several dozen liters of biomimetic gel. Enough to build several weapons.”

“I can’t believe Aellai would go along with biogenic weapons,” D’ofo argued. “After all, her ancestors lost their planet to one.”

“Perhaps that is her motivation and perhaps these weapons would provide the tipping point to insure our eventual victory,” Tebler reasoned.

Ro glared at the Cappellan. “We may be labeled as ‘terrorists,’ but even we have rules of conduct.”

“Maybe that’s why we haven’t won already,” Tebler argued.

Ro suddenly saw that many in the Maquis would be swayed by a similar argument. After all, her own cell was being swayed even now. “This isn’t right. Once the bottle on biogenic weapons gets uncorked, the Cardassians are going to reply in kind and both sides will escalate until no one is left alive inside of the DMZ.”

Everyone but Tebler was with her again. “And no one will intervene unless Starfleet decides to step in. Do you really want to rely upon Starfleet?”

Tebler was still resistant. Ro wondered if he would prove to be a problem later on, so she decided to outline the hastily agreed upon plan. “The Odyssey is going to tail the Artemis at a discreet distance. We’ll be seeing where they go and who they meet with. If Aellai meets with someone capable of building a biogenic weapon, or several, Odyssey will pursue and engage when the Artemis is alone again,” Ro shared. “Our team will stand by if boarding action is required. We’ll aim for taking prisoners and then we’ll decide what to do with them after we’ve secured the Artemis and pilot her back to the DMZ. Then Eddington will be forced to justify his intentions.”

“So what are we going to do on this little voyage until we need to shoot something?” Mayweather inquired.

“Good question,” Ro admitted. “Let me ask the ship’s captain.”

Macen reported to the galley, leaving his executive officer, Lisea Danan in charge. Ro was uncertain as to the exact nature of the relationship between the El-Aurian intelligence agent and the Trill stellar cartographer. What Ro had gathered was that Danan and Macen had known each other for quite some time, and possibly through several lifetimes since Danan was Lisea’s symbiot. She’d also learned through Cal Hudson that Danan had abruptly resigned Starfleet and left a premier posting in order to join Macen on his freelance enterprise.

But the interactions between the two suggested that there was something greater than a simple platonic friendship. And Ro knew that no one was allowed to needle Macen as effectively as Danan, with the possible exception of Ro herself. Ro considered herself in rarified circles.

“I’d prefer if you restricted your movements to the cargo bays, Sickbay, and the galley when you’re not in your quarters,” Macen announced. He called up a deck layout on the galley’s main information screen. “As you can see, there are five decks total. Deck One is the bridge and I’d rather doubt you’d have a need to be there. You’re on Deck Two. Sickbay and the cargo bays make up the accessible portions of Deck Three. Deck Four is Engineering and Deck Five is monopolized by antimatter storage.”

“This would all go a lot smoother if you let us help out around here,” Lee interjected. “Have your engineers shadow Tebler, Vorhoven, and I. Ro can command while your crew sleeps. Mayweather also knows how to pilot ships. Gutierrez can man virtually any tactical board. D’ofo is a fair hand with Ops and sensors when she isn’t needed in Sickbay.”

Macen cast a quizzical glance Ro’s way. She nodded her approval. “I trust them with my life, so I suggest you loosen up and do the same.”

“All right,” Macen decided. “If you’d all follow me, I’ll show you to your future stations.”

The group moved to Deck Three where D’ofo was introduced to the Sickbay. She was left behind to examine the equipment and stores to be found there. Everyone else descended into Deck Four.

There the Maquis were introduced to Tom Eckles. Eckles and Darcy were a long-standing technical team. Eckles had first taken Darcy under his wing when she’d come aboard a tramp freighter he worked on. They’d been inseparable ever since. But they’d never moved past their age difference—greater than twenty years—to change their working relationship into a romantic one.

Eckles and Darcy both loved the prospect of working with additional crewmen. Eckles decided on the spot that he would supervise the Alpha watch while Darcy would oversee the Gamma. There was no Beta watch and the crew stood for twelve hour rotations. Fortunately, the Odyssey didn’t embark on long term missions. The crew’s longest voyage thus far had lasted for two and a half weeks.

Darcy would have Lee assisting her in overseeing Tebler while Vorhoven would work with the more experienced Eckles. Darcy quickly dismissed her group to get some food and rest before their watch commenced in five hours. Lee was more than delighted to have Darcy nearly to herself.

The Maquis were led back to Deck Three to pick D’ofo up and take her to the bridge. Upon arrival, the Maquis discovered that the ship was queued up to pass through the closest Federation checkpoint near Ronara Prime. Their wait had been estimated at two hours—plenty of time for the crew to show the Maquis their future duties.

Christine Lacey showed Gutierrez the tactical board and ran a few simulated scenarios to get Gutierrez comfortable and competent with the systems. Gutierrez mentioned that she’d seen Lacey on Ronara Prime on a couple of occasions. She’d been curious as to how Lacey got her hair to be its particular shade of red. Off the cuff, Gutierrez also revealed she missed Lacey’s blonde bangs.

T’Kir ran D’ofo through the Ops systems. D’ofo had been a nurse on Umoth before the Cardassians shut the clinic down. It was easy for her to deduce that T’Kir had been a mental patient and was probably an escapee from the Ardra Psychotherapy Institute on Ronara before it was cut off from Federation support and had shut down, thereby releasing its patients upon the general populace.

Tracy Ebert was surprised to learn Mayweather would pilot the ship in her off hours. Mayweather shrugged. “I come from a long line of freighter owner-operators. My family has been in the shipping business since the 22nd Century. I had a relative aboard the NX-01 USS Enterprise.”

Mayweather tried not to stare at Ebert’s spectacles. “I’m just as surprised that you have to wear those things.”

Ebert shrugged. “I’m allergic to Retnax.”

Mayweather accepted that simple explanation. As Ebert got him comfortable with the CONN station, he began to note that Ebert’s glasses also functioned with a heads up display feeding her navigational sensor data. For the first time in his life, he wished he were wearing spectacles.

The Maquis left the bridge after the ship cleared the checkpoint. They only had three hours before they’d pull a twelve hour shift controlling the starship. To a greater degree, they were all comfortable with that, but there was still an edge of trepidation because this was a starship and not simply a scout ship converted into a raider.

As her Maquis reported to Deck Two, Ro followed Macen into the briefing room located behind the bridge. As Ro sat down at the table, she noted the displays mounted into it. Keyboard controls predating the LCARS interfaces dominated the terminals.

“Now it’s time to talk about the practical aspects of our mission,” Macen decided. “We’ll be intercepting theArtemis in the Kalandra system. We have the sensor range to observe her transit through the inner system from the Ort Cloud. When she nears the habitable zone, we’ll move into the outer system.”

Macen pulled up a star chart of the Kalandra system. “As you can see, the primary has sixteen planets held captive. Lisea calculated the orbital mechanics of the system while we’ll be there. For several days, Kalandra IX will be in alignment with Kalandra IV.”

“And Kalandra IV is home to the system’s natives,” Ro recalled.

“True, there are colonies on Kalandras III, V, and VI, but the race evolved on Kalandra IV.” Macen gave her even more information. “This will place us well out of sensor range of an Andor-class transport. Everything about the Artemis has remained at constructed norms except her offensive weapons were removed prior to decommissioning.”

“But Aellai replaced them with Klingon Class V disruptors. Rumor has it she unblocked the torpedo tubes and has a few photons aboard as well,” Ro remembered.

“While I’d prefer to void an armed conflict or a ship to ship battle. Even though the Odyssey retains all of her original armament and defensive capabilities,” Macen advised Ro. “Of course, that means we have fixed phaser banks rather than Type IX or X phaser strips. But we do have fully stocked photon torpedo magazines. We have thirty-six photons in the forward launchers and eighteen in the aft launcher.”

“Now, we can observe suspicious activity all we want. We can’t prove criminal activities without boarding the ship,” Macen warned. “If we’re wrong, Aellai cab press charges and we’ll be tried for piracy. Everyone aboard would end up on a penal colony except you, Lees, and I. We’ll end up on Jaros II.”

“Next, you have to decide ahead of time what you’ll do with the prisoners,” Macen told her. “I’d recommend handing them over to Starfleet.”

“Why not over to the Bajoran Militia?” Ro wondered.

“The Militia supports the Kohn Ma and the Maquis,” Macen forced her to acknowledge. “An arbiter would simply release Aellai and send her back to the DMZ where she would become a very vocal, and potentially belligerent, foe of yours.”

Macen softened a bit. “Also, it doesn’t pay to antagonize the Provisional Government. Shakaar has extended the amnesty for Bajoran Resistance fighters who return home to the Maquis as well. If things go badly for you, you may want to take that option.”

“And do what?” Ro scoffed. “Farm?”

“You could always join the Militia,” Macen suggested. “They need someone with your training and experience. And most of them are ex-Resistance.”

“Why the sudden free advice?” Ro was suddenly suspicious.

“The Cardassian government is teetering on collapse. The Klingons have broken the will of the Cardassian Guard. Only Dukat’s raids even sting the Klingons. In other words, the Cardassian Union is in shambles and people under those conditions usually seek desperate measures to make all their problems go away,” Macen advised. “The Maquis are viewed as a major problem and an even greater embarrassment to the Cardassian people. Don’t be surprised if the Cardassians strike out and escalate the conflict or acquire allies who will do it for them.”

“You’re serious,” Ro suddenly realized.

“The Cardassians are hardly the first people to go down this path,” Macen warned, “nor will they be the last. But desperation makes extreme options tantalizing whereas they weren’t palatable before.”

Ro was caught short. Finally she said, “I’ll take it under advisement.”

“I really don’t think you have much more time to consider it,” Macen opined. “If Eddington does heighten tensions in the DMZ in a very real and catastrophic way, he opens the door to his own destruction and he’ll take all of you with him. Because the Detapa Council and the High Command are teetering on an abyss and that kind of provocation will throw them over it.”

Ro suddenly had a chilling feeling Macen was right.


U.S.S. Andor and U.S.S. Blackbird designed by Bernrd Schneider.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"The Cause" Chapter Two by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Captain Aellai guided Eddington through her Andor-class transport. The Artemis had been built nearly at the beginning of Starfleet’s hull construction run beginning in 2322. The ships had endured in service until the late 2360s and had recently all been decommissioned en masse. The SS Artemis had begun life as theUSS Artemis and had proudly served Starfleet’s needs throughout its forty plus year tenure.

Over the last two years, the ship had changed hands and owners three times. Each prior owner-operator had secured the necessary clearance to purchase a decommissioned starship, but they had all been woefully ignorant of what kind of life an itinerant trader led. Aellai had led that life since the Setlik III massacre, so when the owner of the vessel let Aellai know his ship was up for sale, she leapt at the opportunity.

Cal Hudson had devised Aellai’s role in the Maquis but she chafed under its restrictions. She wanted to inflict a great deal of harm back upon the Cardassians for what they’d done to the settlers on Setlik III and her own people. She’d begun by replacing the removed phaser banks with Klingon disruptors and unblocked the torpedo tubes that now carried four photons.

Fortunately for Aellai’s line of work, and her secret life as well, the Artemis’ sensor suite was intact, as were her shield array. Her engines were also unaltered so she could easily outpace the fastest conventional freighter. No other Maquis ship could catch her or escape her.

“How did the Quatal assignment go?” Eddington inquired as they neared the transporter room where the tour had begun.

Aellai fished an isolinear rod out of her bra and handed it to Eddington. “That encompasses all of our orbital sensor readings as well as those taken on the ground with tricorders. The atmospheric studies will be of particular interest to you.”

Eddington stopped in his tracks. “Why would you say that?”

“Let’s just say if someone wanted to deploy an aerosol agent into Quatal’s atmosphere, these wind current projections would be valuable,” Aellai fenced with him.

“Too bad I’m not doing that then,” Eddington parried.

“Just keep saying that,” Aellai said smugly. “After our next little ‘job’ is completed, what do you have in mind for us?”

“I need a similar study of Gryma,” Eddington answered.

“Gryma is more of a challenge,” Aellai mused. “It was the funnel point for the Cardassian Guard’s assistance to the colonial paramilitaries. Despite that support having dried up to a trickle because of the Klingons, the Cardassians will still suspect anyone moving across their world of being spies.”

“Then it’s a good thing you will be,” Eddington chuckled. “I’d hate to disappoint them. And I never thought I’d say this, but thank God for the Klingons in this. Now that they’ve broken faith with the Khitomer Accords treaty, I’ve been in contact with representatives from the High Council. We may have a new door for material support opening up for us.”

“They’re interested in throwing weaponry our way but not of fighting beside us,” Aellai immediately grasped.

“They see putting out the ultimate effort as a virtue in warfare,” Eddington smirked.

“Like a cloaking device is honorable,” Aellai snorted.

“Like Commander Worf recently said, ‘There’s nothing as honorable as winning’ and the Klingons do intend to win,” Eddington summed up.

They reached the transporter room and the impromptu tour concluded. Aellai eyed Eddington skeptically. “Well, what do you think of my ship?”

“With only five decks, this ship is comparable in size to the Defiant,” Eddington commented. “Of course, the Artemis has much greater cargo capacity.”

“And I’ll be filling its holds with various trinkets to buy my way onto Gryma’s surface as well as taking care of your other little errand. That process is going to take several weeks,” Aellai warned him.

“Really?” Eddington was disappointed. “That long?”

“Starfleet has become aware of Captain Yates’ involvement with the Maquis,” Aellai forced him to recall. “In doing so, they’ve tightened security and are sending out exploratory patrols into nonaligned space with greater frequency and intensity. I can’t tip my hand just yet.”

“And getting your little weapons assembled will also take time,” Aellai warned. “My people had experience with biogenic weapons. They’ll be worth the wait. They completely poisoned Platonius so that no one can inhabit it.”

“We’re not destroying any planets,” Eddington countered. “We need the planets intact for settlement. Of course, they’re also going to require one helluva burial detail.”

“Well, our losses forced us to interbreed with humans just to survive,” Aellai lamented.

“As I have heard it, you’re half human yourself,” Eddington pointed out.

“Through no fault of my own,” Aellai retorted.

“Oh, we’re not so bad. If you have to interbreed with someone it might as well be us,” Eddington jovially remarked.

His good humor was lost on her. “I’ll call someone in to handle the transporter. Good day.”

As Eddington watched Aellai depart, he realized he’d just found a major vulnerability in her emotional shields. It was good to know these things. He patiently waited for Don Granger to return to the transporter room.

Granger served as the Artemis’ cargo master as well as the transporter chief. Since the entire crew was made up of four people, everyone undertook multiple specialties. Aellai was not only the captain, but she also handled the conn and ops. Donal Riley was her first officer and also controlled weapons, sensors, and communications. Siobhan Hennessy was the chief engineer and also the munitions handler. All in all, they were a highly efficient operation.

“Just step on the pad, Commander Eddington, and I’ll have you on the surface in a heartbeat,” Granger said jovially.

“I’m no longer in Starfleet, so you don’t have to refer to me by my former rank,” Eddington deadpanned.

“But you’re the next Maquis commander,” Granger quipped, “so I’m still right.”

Eddington smiled. “I’ll give you that.”

He stepped onto a pad and looked around at the unit. “Is this still a Mark V transporter?”

“It works,” Granger shot back. “With all the care Siobhan and I give this baby, she’ll outperform any Mark VII.”

“I believe you,” Eddington assured him.

Granger grinned. “Good, ‘cause otherwise Siobhan would hand you your ass.”

Eddington recalled the feisty engineer. “I believe you’re right again.”

“Energizing,” Granger smirked.

Aellai ran a tight ship with so few crewmen because greater numbers increased the security risks around what they really did and the cargoes they handled. Everyone aboard hated the Cardassians as much if not more than Aellai. So their little conspiracy ran unabated until someone outside the circle grew the wiser.

Ro contacted Elijah Waters. Macen had told her about Waters, but she’d never seen him before. His advanced years startled her. Waters was at least eighty years old. Humans were now living past the century mark, but Waters was still far older than Ro expected.

Her only estimate of his age before this was based on the comment Macen had made that he’d worked with Waters for sixty years. Given that Macen was an El-Aurian, that made his own age very deceptive and rounded out appropriately for Waters’ own appearance.

“Hello Ro, I’m afraid your reputation does go before you,” Waters smiled.

Ro appreciated Waters’ snowy white beard and hair. The twinkle in his eyes also swayed her towards immediately liking him. “So does yours. I think I’m safe in assuming the reports are from the same source.”

“Not quite. Admiral Nechayev had some choice things to say about you behind closed doors,” Waters chuckled. “Just as Brin does.”

“I have a few things to say regarding Nechayev myself,” Ro confessed. “What were hers?”

“Her metaphors were mixed and very colorful,” Waters admitted. “The sort of language you’d hear from a Klingon whorehouse.”

Ro liked that thought. “And Macen?”

“Only the best,” Waters assured her.

“Okay, setting all that aside, I need…” Ro began.

“To hire the Odyssey and her captain,” Waters surmised before Ro could finish. “You’re in luck. They just finished an investigation into the Boslics for a certain Ferengi.”

“I hope Quark paid well,” Ro said dryly.

“Far more than he expected to, I assure you,” Waters said slyly. “The Odyssey will be returning to Starbase 412 from Bajor in two days time.”

“Why Bajor and not Deep Space Nine?” Ro was instantly curious.

“Macen is confirming a rumor,” Waters said simply.

Ro waited for the man to elaborate but it quickly dawned her he wasn’t going to. “Tell Brin to meet me in the usual place on Ronara Prime.”

“I will indeed, and if I were forty years younger, I’d be a very jealous man.” Waters’ eyes twinkled with delight as he signed off.

Ro wondered just what the hell Macen had shared about her.

Two days later, Ro cautiously entered the Old Biddy. The tavern had become such a draw for the planet’s Maquis cell that she was surprised that Starfleet and the Cardassians hadn’t targeted it yet. Then again, Starfleet might have done so and no one realized it yet. The Cardassians, however, would have stood out even in the bar’s usual crowd.

The “usual” crowd was an eclectic mix of freighter crews and locals. Various fringe elements also found the Old Biddy to be a haven of sorts, which is probably why the Maquis felt at home there.

Ro had been recruited to the Maquis in an establishment similar to this, at least in the eclectic mix of patrons’ arena. That watering hole had been light years far and away in class. The Old Biddy was simply a place where one drank their cares away — or conducted clandestine meetings such as Ro was about to have.

Ro’s right hand was in her jacket pocket. Inside was a Type I “cricket” phaser. Starfleet had stopped issuing the diminutive weapons so they’d found their way into surplus dealers’ hands and the black market. As Ro worked her way through the tavern, she ordered a drink and then spotted Macen at their usual table in the back of the establishment.

Ro made her approach and as she drew closer to the table, she realized there was a male Galenite lying unconscious on the floor next to the table. His ancestry was obvious because of his green hair. His people were native to Galen III, a pre-warp culture whose planet was near the Federation colony on Galen IV. Ro knew from personal acquaintances that the colonists had violated the Prime Directive on more than one occasion.

“Did you really have to stun him?” Ro dryly asked.

Macen shrugged. “He wouldn’t vacate your seat.”

“We could have used a different table,” Ro wryly suggested.

“And break tradition?” Macen queried her with mock horror.

“It’s no wonder you’re no longer in Starfleet,” Ro snorted.

“You’re a fine one to talk,” Macen quipped.

“Too true,” she said with some satisfaction as she sat down opposite Macen, “but I’m not sure we have time for the usual repartee.”

“Elijah said you seemed to be in a hurry to hire me,” Macen began. “I suppose you’ll want my special pro bono rate.”

“What are you now?” Ro retorted. “A latinum grubbing Ferengi?”

“I know quite a few Bajorans that grub a lot too,” Macen threw back at her.

“We’re not here to discuss them,” Ro growled a warning.

“No, we’re here to discuss Michael Eddington’s intentions for the Maquis,” Macen surmised.

“How did you know?” Ro wondered. “I didn’t tell Waters anything.”

“I know you don’t like Eddington,” Macen admitted, “and if I know it, he knows it as well. That could prove to be dangerous when you’re dealing with a megalomaniac.”

 “Bully for him,” Ro retorted.

“A very free word of advice: While standing up for principle is a vital part of life, it doesn’t pay to needlessly antagonize the boss,” Macen warned her.

“So you think Eddington is a shoo in for Maquis commander?” Ro wondered.

“He already is in everything but name only,” Macen stated.

Ro sighed. “Eddington has Aellai surveying Quatal Prime. I can only guess that Gryma is next. I need to know why.”

“So do the governors of Quatal and Gryma,” Macen divulged, “and they’re willing to cover my expenses for the job.”

“So you’ll still make a profit while helping out us poor, struggling Maquis,” Ro said snidely. “Poor baby.”

“Laren, I’ve been quite generous with the Maquis in general and your cell in particular. I’d do the assignment for you gratis,” Macen shared, “but if I can get the Cardassians to finance a Maquis operation, then I’m all for it.”

“Good point,” Ro murmured.

“The Cardassians are afraid that Aellai is working for the Maquis — a fact we know to be true,” Macen remarked. “They’re of the opinion that the Maquis will learn something to enable them to deploy a weapon of some sort. I think you share this opinion.”

“Yes, but Eddington still needs Aellai’s cover intact,” Ro opined, “but the vindictive little guttersnipe wants her revenge, so I think if she enables Eddington to acquire some kind of super weapon, she’ll be likely to use it herself.”

“Aellai covered her ostensible reason for being at Quatal, which was supposedly a trade venture, by scouring nonaligned star systems to acquire exotic wares and goods that the Cardassians would want to buy,” Macen described. “Some of those planets are under protection from the Prime Directive, but apparently Aellai doesn’t feel constrained by that law anymore.”

“Should she?” Ro asked acerbically.

“Even if you don’t agree with many of the Federation’s policies, you have to admit that the Prime Directive is a valid one,” Macen conjectured.

“Unless your home planet is being occupied by a foreign aggressor when the Federation invokes its lofty principle of ‘noninterference’ and throws that in your face,” Ro snapped. “And for what? To avoid a war that they’d already been unofficially fighting for a couple of decades?”

“Then why did you swear an oath to uphold that same principle?” Macen inquired.

“Well, I didn’t fulfill that oath very well, did I?” Ro asked sardonically.

“You didn’t join the Maquis because you hated the Federation,” Macen stated the obvious fact. “You did it because you were disappointed again by the Federation’s failures to live up to its own ideals.”

For once in a rare occasion, Ro was rendered speechless. Macen brushed it all aside. “Anyway, Aellai will be stocking up her wares again so we can observe her in action and see if Eddington has any special stops arranged for her.”

“How will you find her?” Ro wondered.

“Easy. Captain Rionoj gave me Aellai’s usual route and a list of where she frequently stops,” Macen grinned.

“A little perk of working for Quark, I take it,” Ro deduced.

Macen shrugged. “Quark wanted to know where Rionoj had found her new supply of fire gems. He wanted to undercut her. She was willing to trade my silence for Aellai’s itinerary.”

“So you lied to your employer,” Ro said ruefully.

“Quark didn’t need to know the truth,” Macen decided, “and my willingness to withhold the true percentage of what he was taking off of the sale of Rionoj’s gemstones was bartered in exchange for his accepting my report at face value.”

Macen suddenly smirked. “With a twenty-five percent reduction of my standard fee, of course.”

After Ro’s mirth died down, she asked, “Will you help us?”

Macen nodded in the affirmative, “I’ve been worried about Aellai for a while now. She was clearly unhinged back in ‘57 when the massacre on Setlik III occurred.”

“And how would you know?” Ro queried him.

“I know what I saw at the time,” Macen gently replied.

That rattled Ro, so she hesitated before inquiring, “So what’s your plan?”

“That’s all up to you,” Macen informed her, “but I’d stick with the simple game plan of following theArtemis and seeing who she meets up with.”

“I agree with the idea,” Ro said after a moment’s consideration. “I’ll prep a team to come aboard your ship.”

“I’d also suggest you leave your usual staff officers behind so they can take the Indomitable out to create the illusion that you’ve never left Ronara except for this mission,” Macen urged.

“I suppose you have a mission already in mind,” Ro surmised.

“As it turns out, the Orion Syndicate is shipping Class IV ground based disruptor banks to Quatal and Gryma. The convoy will be comprised of four stock light freighters and two Wanderer-class blockade runners. The cargo manifests will show that they industrial replicators rather than weapons in order to get past any Starfleet patrols on their way to Cardassian space whereby they will transit to Gryma,” Macen shared.

“All right, I’ll inform Tulley he’s on this,” Ro agreed. “I’ll also assemble a team of reliable Maquis and meet you at Second Quad Settlement in Division Four of Primal City.”

“I have to know,” Macen interjected, “just how committed to this objective are you?”

“Normally I’d go after the Orions in my own raider,” Ro asserted, “but I’m letting Tulley do that and I’m riding with you.”

“You have to know Eddington will respond,” Macen warned her. “He has an overinflated sense of personal betrayal and he will take measures against you in response to this. You could easily be ostracized from the communal Brigade Council and the joint supply line. This would leave you utterly dependent on your own financing initiatives and logistics support.”

“I guess I really would be an independent operator afterwards,” Ro ventured.

Macen had to appreciate her courage and dedication.


U.S.S. Andor and U.S.S. Blackbird designed by Bernrd Schneider.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"The Cause" Chapter One by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Series: TOS, DS9

Rating: K+

Synopsis: Michael Eddington has left Starfleet, but his arrival in the DMZ heralds in a new era for the Maquis.  What Ro Laren wants to know is will it be an era of newfound success and/or a period of unrestricted extremism?

Chronology: Two weeks after the Deep Space Nine fourth season episode “For the Cause.”

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"True Faith" Chapter Six by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Anara got permission to insert the Ark into standard orbit over Bryma. Permission to do so had been denied during their first visit since it would have granted the crew unlimited usage of the ship’s transporter and the Cardassians wanted to control strangers’ movements. Apparently, they were a known quantity now that Rakan had vouched for them.

Neela transported down alone near the square where the infamous eatery lay. Neela flagged down a passing constable. She asked him to pass word on to Rakan that she was on Bryma. The constable played dumb, but Neela could see the recognition in his eyes.

Neela proceeded to wait in the eatery. She grumpily cursed the fact it didn’t offer espresso. She made do with gray leaf tea again.

Rakan appeared to arrive alone but Neela knew that was an illusion. She could practically smell Rasal and Garan salivating nearby. Rakan, as always, just sat down.

“Do you have visual and sensor logs for me?” he asked.

“No,” Neela bluntly replied.

“Then why did you bother to return?” Rakan was growing angry.

“I brought something better,” Neela informed him.

“And what could be better?” Rakan’s interest was piqued despite himself.

“I brought Lang, Hogue, and Rekelan here,” Neela boasted. “This way you get to mete out any form of justice you deem fit.”

“Oh really?” Rakan was still skeptical.

“Have your minions move outside the shop’s main window,” Neela ordered.

Rakan activated his comm cuff and issued his own orders. Rasal and Garan appeared into the window. Garan looked as disgruntled as Rasal appeared clueless.

Neela gave Garan a jaunty wave. The Cardassian turned livid. Rasal waved back.

“Your turn,” Rakan said with a tinge of menace in his voice.

Neela tapped her comm badge. “Anara, transport the prisoners one hundred meters to the east of my current position.”

A transporter effect emblazoned in the middle of the street. Anara appeared holding a phaser pistol on Lang, Hogue, and Rekelan. Rakan’s jaw dropped.

“But their security…?” he stammered.

“Anara and my primary specialty would be considered combat engineering,” Neela shared, “which you really should have taken into account after reading our personnel jackets. You counted on Keplek’s mercenary forces on disposing of us after we publically executed these people. Pity you were disappointed.”

“I’m far from disappointed,” Rakan assured her, “and I promise never to underestimate the pair of you again.”

“We’ll see,” Neela said dismissively. “Did we pass the test?”

“Of course!” Rakan looked close to kissing her, which totally revolted Neela.

They went outside and joined the others.

Rakan disappeared down the street while the passing crowds took notice of Rasal, Garan, Anara, and Neela holding Lang and her research assistants prisoner. The sight of Bajorans being involved in such a sight angered many. But as long as the Bajoran pair were accompanied by Rasal and Garan, no threats were issued or actions taken.

Rakan reappeared in a six-wheeled vehicle identical to that Anara had used to pick Neela up from prison. Everyone loaded into the vehicle, willingly or not. The prisoners were held in the middle row of seating while Rasal held them at phaserpoint from behind. Anara and Neela sat in back with Rasal while Garan sat down like a queen on a throne beside Rakan.

Neela took a moment to observe that Anara’s cosmetic touches to the three prisoners were perfect. Anara was cross-trained as a medic, so she could skillfully recreate bruises and cuts with a laser scalpel and a dermal regenerator. As a member of the Militia Special Forces, she’d “doctored” Trojans before.

Unbeknownst to their captors, Lang and her students had two items strapped to their bodies. One was a miniature chemical explosive Neela had devised. The second was an electronic lock pick Anara had whipped up. Both were to be used to liberate the activists at a designated time.

They rolled into an abandoned industrial sector and headed for a manufacturing plant that had been vacated for quite some time. Rakan boasted that from this “headquarters” he could monitor True Way activity across the DMZ and the Bajoran Sector. Anara gave Neela a wry look.

Neela had predicted that Rakan was directly responsible for the attacks on DS9’s personnel, as well as the Bajoran ministers and Shakaar himself. But she also contended that he wasn’t the ultimate authority behind the shadowy True Way. However, that didn’t limit his usefulness as their most vital field commander. A surgical strike against Rakan’s faction would likely cripple True Way activities in the affected regions for quite some time — or at least that was the assumption they were working from.

Inside the former manufacturing center, the True Way had set up a block of makeshift cells. They consisted of old fashioned metal cages. Each cell boasted mechanical and electronic locks, but fortunately they lacked force fields. Lang, Hogue, and Rekelan were well stocked for both contingencies.

After the dissidents were locked away, Neela and Anara were taken to the True Way’s “war room.” The terrorists conducted their operational planning and control from this center. Most of the equipment had obviously been purloined from military suppliers. The few pieces that weren’t military surplus were obtained from various neutral traders operating within the DMZ and Cardassian space.

What could easily be acknowledged was that the Cardassian Guard largely overlooked the True Way’s activities…at least for now. But things were shifting within the Central Command. Supposedly “progressive” elements were rising through the ranks. The True Way’s ultimate master had approached the Legates and offered to purge these new up and comers from the Cardassian Guard’s ranks.

He had subsequently been rebuffed and material support was cut off. This also placed the True Way under scrutiny as a “radical fringe.” Their industrialist benefactors had also cut them off. The True Way was now at a crossroads trying to determine how to continue their crusade with no outward support.

Rakan explained these facts to the Bajorans. “I know the Resistance faced similar supply problems. Do you have any suggestions on how we can continue?”

Garan bristled as Rakan asked the question. Neela looked over towards Anara. Anara simply shrugged.

Neela laid out the fundamentals of fundraising. Rakan wondered how one compelled penniless slaves to contribute. Neela simply informed him the Resistance didn’t force anyone to contribute. Every act of Cardassian aggression was motivation enough. People contributed because they believed in the cause.

“So simply put, you need to make people believe in what you do and funds will begin to flow in,” Neela explained.

“But Bajoran industry had been mothballed during the Occupation,” Rakan countered.

“I’m not talking about industrialists,” Neela said dryly. “I’m talking about the common citizenry.”

Rakan blinked in surprise and Neela elaborated. “The Resistance went directly to the masses. We also stole a lot from the Bajoran Occupational Government as well as from the Cardassian Guard itself.”

“So we should steal our supplies from our enemies themselves,” Rakan mused.

“In all their various forms,” Neela added.

“What do you mean?” Rakan inquired as Garan sucked in her breath.

“We targeted collaborators alongside Cardassian military depots,” Neela divulged, “and we had a saying: ‘Either you’re with is or against us.’ It’s a great operating strategy.”

Neela could practically feel the anger radiating off of Garan. It would make her upcoming revelation that much sweeter. And fortunately, Rakan took the bait.

“Who are you implicating here?” Rakan cautiously inquired.

“If the Cardassian Guard won’t back you, then they’ve turned against you,” Neela said simply. “The same holds true for your former industrial contributors.”

“This is madness!” Garan shouted. “She wants to turn us against our fellow Cardassians.”

Neela slid the knife in. “But you already have. Lang and her associates are Cardassians. The Obsidian Order plays every Cardassian off of each other. The Detapa Council only plays to their respective voting blocs and the Central Command is an authority unto itself. Isn’t that right, Dalin Rejet?”

Neela’s eyes were fixed on Garan. Rakan gaped in mute horror at Garan. Garan attempted to protest her innocence.

“Rakan, use your access to the Cardassian Guard’s Bureau of Personnel. Look up the file jacket of one Dalin Itrya Rejet,” Neela insisted.

Rakan moved off to a computer while Rasal put a restraining hand on “Garan’s” shoulder. Rakan angrily returned and thrust a PADD under “Garan’s” nose. “Is this you?”

“Yes.” The haughtiness that permeated Rejet’s voice was a slap in Rakan’s ace. “The Central Command ordered me to infiltrate your pathetic rabble. No one even knows how many Obsidian Order agents play along as well.”

Neela knew that a Cardassian dalin was synonymous with a Starfleet lt. commander or a Militia major. Rakan had had enough. “Take her away!”

Rasal manhandled Rejet out of the room. Neela asked the obvious question. “What will you do with her now?”

“What do you mean?” Rakan asked suspiciously.

Neela presented the facts. “If the Central Command learns that you’ve detained one of their officers, there will be a reckoning. They’ll send more after her, and next time they’ll be armed and hunting.”

“I have to talk to others about all you’ve revealed. We’ll decide Rejet’s fate. Not you,” Rakan warned.

“So be it,” Neela acquiesced.

While all eyes had been turned on the drama unfolding around Rejet, Anara had slipped away. Natima Lang’s contacts within the Cardassia underground had revealed Rejet’s true identity and mission. Neela had been the one to decide to capitalize upon the truth. Neela had subsequently explained her strategy while they all flew to their fateful meeting on Bryma.

So far, Neela’s plan seemed to be a runaway success. The True Way had eaten up her words and the scariest part was Neela was telling them the truth and not just what they wanted to hear. But she presented it in such a way that Rakan and his followers hung on her every word. Once again, Anara wondered just how Neela had occupied her time in prison.

Anara recalled everything she’d every known about Neela. Her faith had been her hallmark throughout her still rather young life. Neela was also utterly bold and confident when presented with a challenge. Those aspects had only been enhanced by her time in prison. So what were Neela’s limitations these days, if she even still claimed any?

Anara heard Rejet’s cursing and she ducked into an alcove. Rasal dragged Rejet by and neither of them noticed the Bajoran. Rasal swiftly passed by again. Anara thought it over and realized that while Rasal might be utterly obedient he definitely wasn’t observant.

Anara checked her chrono. She decided to move closer to the cells ahead of time. As was the case when she’d last been this way, it was guarded by a solitary figure.

Lang checked her chrono. “It’s time.”

Rejet perked up despite being held in a cell across the way. The dissidents all removed the lock picks from their abdomens. The locks all cycled. Rejet began yelling for the guard’s attention.

Lang’s group affixed their bombs to the mechanical locks. The guard finally arrived to threaten Rejet into silence. Rejet finally convinced him to inspect Lang’s cell.

Lang innocently sat on the cot in her call. As the guard withdrew, the explosives detonated. The dissidents all swung their cage doors open and stepped out.

“Back in your cells!” the guard ordered, looking down the barrel of a disruptor rifle. “Now!”

Anara shot him from behind. “Let’s go.”

They all ducked into the alcove Anara had hidden in before and waited as she contacted the Ark and waited to cycle the transporter.

Neela checked her chrono. Everyone should have been in motion by then, which meant it was time to move herself. And that was a good thing because she was getting impatient.

Neela confidently strode across the war room and entered Rakan’s office. He sat behind his computer staring off into the middle distance. It took Neela closing the door behind her before he acknowledged her presence.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said flatly. “My superiors are very excited by the prospects you’ve presented to us. They’ve become so emboldened as to order Rejet’s death.”

“She would probably thank you for a clean death,” Neela commented.

“What are you carrying on about now?” Rakan impatiently wanted to know.

Neela drew her phaser and promptly killed Rakan without a moment’s hesitation. Neela locked the door and then unceremoniously dumped Rakan’s corpse out of his chair. Fortunately, he was still logged into the system. Navigating the network, Neela quickly found the security measures.

Neela deactivated the transport inhibitors first. Tapping her comm badge, she raised Anara. “You’re good to go. Release the package and send it to my location.”

Neela knew Anara and her Cardassian charges were safely aboard the Ark when a five hundred kiloton bomb appeared before her. Neela activated the timer, set it for ten seconds, and the requested a transport to the Ark.

The explosion that destroyed the True Way’s headquarters was easily detected by the Ark’s sensors in orbit. During the resultant chaos on the ground, the Bajoran ship broke orbit and headed deeper into the DMZ. Neela asked if the genetic samples taken from Lang and her students had been left in the cell block before the bomb went off.

“Of course they had,” Anara confirmed. “I sent them down before I sent you the bomb.”

“And that precaution will prevent the True Way from sending anyone else after us until we have our own security back in place,” Lang admitted. “By the time they figure out we’re still alive, we’ll have moved on from Keplek.”

“It was the least we could do for your cooperation,” Anara assured them.

Lang scrutinized Neela, “And why did you play this out?”

“It was the will of the Prophets,” Neela stated, “so I did my part.”

“You really believe that, don’t you?” Lang was astonished.

“And I find your disbelief as incredulous as you find my faith,” Neela promised her. “We’ll be turning ourselves in at the Federation checkpoint and then returning to Bajor. The Militia will arrange for your return to Keplek.”

“All wheels within wheels,” Lang sighed. “Will it ever end?”

“Someday,” Neela said with utter certainty.

Lang decided not to take her word for it.

The debriefing on Bajor took three days. Afterwards, Anara found out when Neela was being let out of her investigative committee session and waited for her at the steps to Militia Command headquarters. Neela seemed jovial enough.

“Headed back to your unit now?” she asked Anara.

“They were very relieved to learn I was under orders and hadn’t turned renegade,” Anara confessed.

Neela nodded and started down the street. Anara lightly held her from going. “I tried to get you reinstated. Or at least have an offer made.”

“I already have an offer,” Neela brightly admitted.

“Working for the Militia?” Anara was stunned. Command had seemed adamant about keeping Neela out in the cold.

“I’ll be working directly for the Kai,” Neela explained.

“Sounds like a dream come true for you,” Anara realized.

“It already has been,” Neela said happily. And then she strolled down the street until she could flag down a transport. Meanwhile, Anara drank in the full implications of Neela’s usage of the past tense.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"True Faith" Chapter Five by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

The Bajoran pair swiftly discovered why Keplek wasn’t a Cardassian hot spot. Unlike Bajor, which was the system’s eleventh planet and still temperate, Keplek orbited a red sun and was barely habitable, even though it was the third planet in the system. The equatorial ranges were fertile but the rest of the planet was snowy and icy.

Adapted to warm climates, Cardassians would naturally be prone to hypothermia anywhere but the equator, and even then, they would be uncomfortable. Even Anara and Neela had to dress more warmly. As the Ark approached Keplek, Neela had read off a fact sheet on the planet.

There were five continents altogether. The largest was a supercontinent. There were two polar breakaway shelves and two spread across Keplek’s massive ocean. One was halfway around the world and the other was between it and the supercontinent but was furthest down in the southern oceanic range without touching the southern polar continent.

Keplek’s capitol was located in the equatorial belt. It was a hub for grains, fruits, vegetable, and livestock. Heavy industry was located farther north and south. There was little habitation on the polar continents. The two breakaway continents were largely used for resource extraction since they were too cold to grow food upon. The settlers had to rely upon greenhouses and hydroponics just to subsist.

The primary landing site was in the industrial town of Kallipa on the supercontinent’s northern range. It was a shipping hub for all of Keplek’s goods. An orbital dry-dock network built and maintained the domestic shipping fleet. The defense force was akin to Bajor’s in that it relied upon in-system impulse driven ships.

Anara and Neela utilized local transportation to transit from Kallipa to Cardone. What became apparent was that the Orions had a strong presence on Keplek. Both Bajorans knew that meant the Orion Syndicate would have a strong local presence as well.

The Ferengi also had a strong mercantile presence. While Keplek was a very minor trading partner with the Federation, it had a much larger penetration into other markets. It had been denied Federation membership shortly after Coridan was successfully admitted, but it was found that Keplek’s criminal enterprises were embedded into the legitimate ones and membership was denied on that basis, since then the interweaving of the legal and illegal had only magnified.

Recently, Keplek had been engaged in an insurgent civil war. Mercenaries had been brought in to supplant the native police forces since the police had served as troops for the current government and the opposing faction no longer trusted them. The native Sector Defense Force had sat out the conflict and instead kept the system free of opportunists looking to maximize profits at the expense of Keplek during its troubles.

The Bajorans discovered a “relaxed” form of martial law had been imposed — or at least it had until “stability” had been achieved. Both Anara and Neela knew from the Cardassians that such promises were never fulfilled.

En route to Cardone, Neela had mused over what political activists like Lang and her students thought of recent events. Anara had to wonder why it mattered at all. Neela gave Anara a rueful look.

“If Lang and her charges were willing to speak out against the Central Command and the Obsidian Order, what makes you think they won’t aggravate the locals here?” Neela inquired.

“They’ll be watched,” Anara groaned.

“Now who’s the quick study?” Neela teased. “So the question is, how will these mercenaries react when we go after their surveillance targets?”

“The bigger question is will they stop us or help us,” Anara pointed out.

Anara knew she should have been the one pointing out these factors. She’d been trained to, after all. Once again, she was seeing a side of Neela that discomfited her.

Once in Cardone, Neela approached the closest available public information kiosk. It turned out to be a Ferengi built system that yielded unexpected information just in the primary languages that it displayed information in. The languages to choose from were Keplekan, Federation Standard, Orion, Ferengi, and Romulan. The last came as a surprise because none of the data Neela had perused through had even hinted at a Romulan presence on Keplek.

Neela chose Federation standard and prayed she wasn’t too rusty to understand what would be displayed. She’d hardly been fluent when she’d been arrested. Five years in a cell surrounded by Bajoran texts hadn’t bolstered the skill any.

Still, Neela managed to discover that Natima Lang was a professor at Hovis University, the planet’s largest. It doubled as a neutral party political think tank renowned throughout the Alpha Quadrant and even sections of the Beta Quadrant. Rekelan and Hogue were research fellows in the university assigned to Professor Lang’s department. Little surprise there.

Further inquiry revealed that the three Cardassians shared an address. It was on the edge of the city. Looking into the engineering and design of the building, she discovered it was a four bedroom townhouse suitably equipped with environmental controls capable of replicating Cardassian environments.

After a quick conference, they chose to confront the Cardassians in their home. So they boarded mass transit and went across town. The professor and her teaching assistants were still at the university for the day, so Anara and Neela sought out a nearby eatery with a view of the street leading from the mag lev strain station to the targets’ home.

The shop offered teas, coffees, and pastries from across the quadrant. Anara ordered raktajino and a scone. Neela chose a Terran latte and a cinnamon roll. Anara was astonished.

Neela shrugged. “They served human coffee and pastries in prison. If you obeyed the rules and were attentive at the vedek’s lessons, you’d earn credits to buy coffee and sweets.”

“I bet you never missed out,” Anara quipped.

Neela wore another half smile as she softly said, “You’d be surprised. But I can be very compliant when I need to be.”

Anara felt another chill run up her spine. “So are we actually here to kill them?”

Neela seemed to consider it. “It would certainly be the easiest course of action.”

“But they aren’t a threat to Bajor,” Anara began to argue. “They’re actually a threat to Cardassia.”

“That’s a matter of opinion,” Neela said wearily. “According to my source on Deep Space Nine, Natima Lang advocates for a democratic system similar to those enjoyed by the Federation and Bajor for Cardassia.”

“And the problem is?” Anara asked testily.

“A nonhostile Cardassia is even more invasive than an openly hostile Cardassian Union,” Neela lectured. “They’ll want cultural exchanges, technology transfers, commercial trading routes, mutual defense pacts, and finally when the grand democratic experiment languishes and the citizenry want a return to perceived strength and security, they’ll descend upon Bajor like voles to an unprotected carcass.”

“The Federation won’t allow it,” Anara argued.

“That’s debatable.” Neela sipped her coffee. “Have you ever heard the expression ‘Never Again?’”

“Not in this context,” Anara admitted.

“Earth had a nation state called Israel,” Neela offered. “Look up their history sometime.”

“I’m not killing these people,” Anara finally protested.

“Keep your voice down. You’re drawing attention,” Neela advised. “We don’t necessarily have to kill them. I just said it was the easiest option.”

“You have another idea?” Anara desperately grasped at that straw.

“The Prophets showed me another path,” Neela revealed. “It’s not an easy one but it may accomplish our goal.”

“So what is it?” Anara wanted to know.

“Not now,” Neela shut the conversation down. “They’re walking down the street.”

“Not now?” Anara almost yelped, “Then when?”

“Just follow my lead,” Neela instructed. “Everything will become clear to you.”

Neela headed for the door and Anara grumpily followed.

Lang was asking Rekelan and Hogue how their day’s research went. Hogue snorted, “The Central Command laughably calls troop movements into the DMZ ‘colonization.’”

“But why does the Federation put up with this fiction?” Lang wondered.

“It gets worse, Professor,” Rekena warned her. “The troops are officially discharged from the Cardassian Guard. They’re then transported to Bryma or other colonies. Because of the Maquis threat, every ‘ex-soldier’ is issued a rifle and a few hundred power packs.”

“There is no way one trooper could use hundreds of power packs,” Lang frowned.

“But Cardassian paramilitaries could distribute the charged packs amongst themselves,” Hogue suggested. “And then they’d have a nearly inexhaustible supply because while a few hundred are charging, a few hundred more would be used. Frankly, it’s quite a coup on the Maquis.”

“Well, never forget the Maquis are just as much criminals as the Cardassian paramilitaries,” Lang urged.

“But the Central Command started this conflict by dispossessing colonists and forcibly evicting people from their own colonies,” Rekelan argued.

“But they’ll never accomplish anything good by killing,” Lang retorted. “But enough of that. Anything else?”

“The Detapa Council’s struggle to interfere in the Central Command’s sphere of responsibility has gone public,” Hogue reported, “thus creating a backlash whereby citizens are calling for a return of military control over the Cardassian Union. It’s even bred terrorist groups advocating this position.”

“What groups?” Lang asked sharply.

“The foremost is called the True Way,” Rekelan answered.

“What a laugh,” Lang cynically commented.

“Professor, the True Way has successfully lashed out at the Federation and Bajor,” Hogue explained. “They’ve also failed on occasion. But their rhetoric is escalating and now they’re threatening to strike at the Detapa Council itself.”

“And,” Rekena stated, “any threat to the establishment of renewed military power is considered a viable target by the True Way.”

“I…” Lang frowned. “Did the front doors just open?”

“Be careful,” Rekelan urged as Lang moved to investigate.

“We should be safe in our own home.” Lang was upset. “After all, we paid Quark’s cousin enough to be certain of that.”

“He was overpaid,” Neela said as she and Anara entered the room.

The Cardassians saw the Bajorans were armed. Hogue moved to intercept but Neela aimed at his chest. “I wouldn’t if I were you.”

“Why would Bajorans hunt us down?” Lang wanted to know.

Neela lowered her phaser so Anara did the same. Neela began her explanation. “Actually, we were sent here by the True Way.”

The Cardassian trio all exchanged looks. Lang pointed out the obvious. “But you’re Bajoran.”

“Which is why we were tasked with proving our loyalty by killing you,” Neela divulged.

“Then get it over with!” Hogue yelled out.

“Getting excited isn’t helping you out any,” Neela observed. “If I wanted you dead, you’d be so already.”

“Then what do you want?” Lang asked.

Neela turned to Anara. “Explain our mission.”

Anara relayed how the Militia had sent her and Neela to infiltrate the True Way with the hopes of crippling it. Lang turned to Neela. “So you’re both Bajoran Militia officers.”

“You’re wrong,” Neela admitted. “Anara is an officer. I was an officer.”

“Then what are you now?” a still hostile Hogue demanded to know.

“Someone who was chosen for this,” Neela answered enigmatically.

“Then why involve us if you don’t intend to actually kill us?” Lang needed to know.

“We can lure the True Way into adopting a strategy to immolate itself,” Neela revealed. “But in order to do so, we need bait to distract the True Way from what we’re doing.”

“Us,” Lang suddenly grasped. “And if we refuse to cooperate?”

“Then our mission is already a failure and you’ll hide here until the next assassin really does kill you,” Neela decided not to spare the trio.

“Thank you for your candor.” Lang ushered her protégés off to her bedroom to discuss Neela’s plan.

“I had no idea this would be your alternative,” Anara admitted. “It’s either absolutely brilliant or it will get them all killed.”

“Either way, it’s the will of the Prophets,” Neela said simply.

“What if they refuse to leave with us?” Anara wondered.

“It’s the will of the Prophets,” Neela shrugged.

“To stay here or go with us?” Anara was a little confused.

“Wait and see,” Neela suggested.

Lang and her associates returned to the living space after some deliberations. Lang asked the obvious question on everyone’s mind. “Can you guarantee our safety?”

“No,” Neela freely admitted. “We’ll do the best we can to protect you, but in the end, there’s only two of us and an unknown number of them.”

“You’re not really selling this idea to us,” Lang complained.

“I’m not trying to sell it,” Neela informed them. “I’m putting your own convictions to the test. Are you willing to help remove a blight from Cardassian society? A society you profess to cherish so to help ennoble itself? Are you willing to stop talking and take direct action and by taking direct action are you willing to risk your own lives for your own professed cause?”

“You’re speaking from experience, I can tell,” Lang surmised. “How does any of this help Bajor? Because that’s what you’re really here for, isn’t it?”

“It eases a very real threat to my people that has even reached as high as the office of First Minister,” Neela divulged, “and by removing a societal trigger that could plunge your worlds into war with mine, I’ve improved future relations between our two societies.”

“And why would you do that?” Lang was curious. “Because you both strike me as former Resistance members.”

“The Prophets guide my people,” Neela stated. “You may refer to them as ‘wormhole aliens’ like the Federation scientists but that doesn’t mean they haven’t guided my people through the millennia. But I’m convinced they have a plan for Cardassia as well. It wasn’t an accident that brought ancient solar sail vessels from Bajor to Cardassia. Neither was it an accident that brought Cardassians to Bajor. You were led.”

“I could argue with your interpretation,” Lang quipped.

“But what good would it achieve?” Neela asked. “We’d both still be entrenched in our own positions. Why not show a little tolerance and let me be what you’d phrase as ‘superstitious’ and I’ll forgive you for apostasy. Fair enough?”

“You’re a very strange Bajoran,” Lang commented. “You’re not at all the type I met during the Occupation.”

“No, during the Occupation I would have just killed you and called it good,” Neela confessed, “but that was then. I’ve had a few years to wrestle with my faith and how I perceive things. My faith has only grown through the process. I don’t need you to believe in the Prophets. I just need you to not deny me my right to do so.”

Lang glanced back at Hogue and Rekelan. They both silently nodded. Lang squared her shoulders.

“We’re in,” she announced. “Thank Hogue and Rekelan. They’re far braver than I am.”

“Then get ready for an uncomfortable ride back to the DMZ,” Anara warned. “We came in a stolen military transport. It’s designed for ferrying troops to discreet locations, not for comfort.”

“Could we bring a few things with us?” Lang asked.

“It would be best if you didn’t,” Neela conveyed. “In fact, we’re going to have to make you all look a great deal more ‘distressed’ before we ‘deliver’ you to the True Way.”

The Cardassians exchanged another look. Lang spoke for them. “We understand.”

“Anara’s good,” Neela promised. “Really.”

Anara didn’t look like she shared Neela’s confidence. “Stand over here and hold these.”

Anara handed over comm beacons. “In due time we’ll transport you to our ship.”

“But we have permanent transport inhibitors in place,” Lang warned them.

Anara smiled. “You haven’t since we arrived. I’d have someone look at them after you return.”


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"True Faith" Chapter Four by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Anara and Neela did as the waiter had instructed and ordered drinks after lunch. Both ordered gray leaf tea. Neela seemed disappointed by the meager selection. Anara was pleasantly surprised that the replicator’s formula was almost exactly the same as the typical Bajoran crop yield.

“They’re here,” Neela softly informed Anara.

Anara casually swept the area with her eyes. Three strangers had entered the eatery. All three were Cardassian, as expected. What came as a surprise was that one of the three was a woman. The strict Cardassian regulation of the roles of the sexes normally prohibited females from undertaking such work. But then again, many agents of the Obsidian Order had proven to be women.

Less than one hundred women served within the Cardassian Guard. Famously, Malyn Ocett had achieved command rank. It had been Ocett’s picket cruiser that had discovered the life form that became known as Odo.

“Here they come,” Neela murmured.

The three Cardassians sat down at the Bajorans’ table without an invitation. Anara challenged, “Did we invite you to sit?”

“You did by coming to our world,” one of the males answered.

“How so?” Neela jumped in before Anara could speak again.

“You’re fugitives from the Bajorans,” the man began to explain, “and you’re seeking shelter on a Cardassian world. That’s invitation enough.”

“So you’re with Central Command?” Anara baited the trio. “We were told to expect representatives.”

“We’re representatives of what they should be,” the man grated.

Neela decided to intervene. “Do you have a name?”

Anara thought the game was up. She’d pushed too hard already and now they were angry. Neela’s probe seemed to be the last straw.

“Why do you need to know?” the leading man inquired.

“Because you’ve already gathered our names from constabulary and I want to level the playing field,” Neela replied. “Even members of the True Way shouldn’t be afraid on their own territory.”

The man closely studied Neela for a moment and then he chuckled. “I suppose I should expect you to be rather brash after that assassination attempt on Terok Nor. The Bajorans claim you also tried to kill the First Minister after he pardoned you. Is this true?”

“The Bajorans say what they say,” Neela deflected the question.    

“So they will,” the man said. “You were both in the Bajoran Resistance. It must gall you to now seek refuge on a Cardassian world.”

“They say the enemy of my enemy is a friend for at least a short while,” Neela countered. “My enemy is the Provisional Government. Your enemies include that same government and the Federation. I’m no friend to the Federation either. There’s a very real possibility we could come to a mutually beneficial arrangement and assist each other in removing our problems from our horizons.”

“Why the Federation?” the man sharply asked.

Neela shrugged. “One overseer is as odious as another. But if you have to choose, the overseer that openly conquers you is preferable to the one that undermines your society with honey and a kind word.”

Anara was astonished at how the True Way leader was buying into Neela’s lies. At least, she hoped they were lies. Neela was so convincing she was swaying Anara as well.

Anara had never seen the duplicitous side of Neela. Neela always had her nose buried in a PADD reading musty old religious texts and wondering how the words of the Prophets translated into her daily existence. Now she was spinning an entire web of lies and the Cardassians were being sucked into them. And the beauty of it was that everything Neela said could easily be verified with a little interpretation of the Militia Command’s official story. Omissions would be seen as a government cover up to spare itself embarrassment.

“I’ll tell you what,” the leader said after a moment’s consideration, “come back tomorrow and we’ll see what we reveal to you then.”

“We’ll be here at the same time tomorrow,” Neela promised.

The three Cardassians simply exited. Anara stared at Neela in amazement. Neela prevented Anara from speaking.

“We’re still under observation so I suggest you pull yourself together before you blow this,” Neela urged. “We can speak aboard the Ark.”

Anara numbly nodded. “All right.”

Later aboard the Ark, Anara gushed, “That was brilliant! I couldn’t have pulled that off.”

Neela shrugged. “It simply had to be done.”

“But how did you?” Anara had to ask. “Back in the day, you couldn’t lie to anyone. At least not convincingly.”

“Faith can open many doors,” Neela said enigmatically.

“Faith?” Anara sputtered. “Your faith in the Prophets has made you a consummate liar?”

“This is the path the Prophets laid out for me. When I chose to follow it, they gave me the abilities I needed to accomplish their task as set before me,” Neela attempted to explain.

“Like you did on Terok Nor?” Anara dared ask.

Neela shook her head sadly. “I know your belief is thin, Anara. But my entire life I’ve followed the Prophets’ dictates. Their path is mine and mine is theirs.”

Anara suddenly had a cold clench in her stomach. “What if they asked you to kill me?”

“Let’s hope they don’t,” Neela cagily dodged answering the question.

Anara didn’t like the sound of that answer. “So what happens next?”

“Think back to our days in the Resistance,” Neela instructed. “They’ll ask for a demonstration of good faith. When we accomplish that task, they’ll embrace us.”

“Faith doesn’t seem to be a problem for you,” Anara muttered.

“Pardon?” Neela was puzzled by the comment she hadn’t quite heard.

Anara waved the comment aside. “Never mind. What do you think they’ll ask us to do?”

Neela shook her head. “I have no idea. But the real question is how far are you willing to go in order to fulfill your current role?”

“I don’t know,” Anara admitted.

“I think you’re going to find out,” Neela sagely predicted.

The following day, the Bajorans returned to the eatery to await the True Way’s verdict. The pair opted to make the most of the opportunity and sample more food. The Cardassians returned halfway through the meal. Once again, they simply sat down uninvited.

“Don’t let us stop you,” the leader said magnanimously.

“Don’t worry. We won’t,” Neela responded.

The Cardassians merely sat there and stared at the duo until they’d finished their meals. Neither Neela nor Anara did so much as blink under the scrutiny. Afterwards, the lead Cardassian was smiling.

“Your story checks out,” he informed them. “It has holes, but only in those places where the Bajoran government would rather the truth not be known to the public.”

“I’m Gen Rakan,” he began the introductions. “This fellow is Corban Rasal. Our associate is Lyt Garan.”

Neela noted the last name. Winn Adami had been held in a detention center bearing the name of a great Cardassian family. That name was Garan.

“We have a test of your veracity and intentions,” Rakan informed them.

“That was expected,” Neela said with a preternatural calm.

“If you wish to earn the True Way’s trust, you’ll accomplish this task,” Rakan challenged them.

“What’s the task?” Neela asked dryly.

“There are three dissidents that escaped the Central Command’s grasp,” Rakan explained. “They fled into neutral space. We want an example to be made of them.”

“What are their names?” Anara wondered.

“Natima Lang was a professor on Cardassia Prime. She departed with two troublesome students named Rekelan Garan and Bek Hogue,” Rakan explained. “Being Bajorans, you should have any easy time infiltrating a world loosely allied with the Federation. Do you have access to weapons?”

Anara and Neela suddenly held compact phasers on the trio. They were all visibly unnerved. Rakan recovered first.

“Very well then,” he blustered. “You can be off then.”

“What are these people accused of?” Anara wanted to know.

Rakan eyed her suspiciously. Neela brushed the question aside. “Never mind her. Half the time she still thinks like she’s in the Militia.”

“I’ll answer the question,” Rakan chose. “They agitate for reforming Cardassia into a democracy. For this they must die.”

“Good to know,” Neela replied before Anara could. “Where are they located?”

“On Keplek, a neutral world two systems away from Coridan,” Rakan answered.

“If it’s neutral, why don’t you kill them yourself?” Anara interjected.

“My people do not frequent Keplek because of the climate,” Rakan grated. “Therefore, we would stand out.”

“So we should dress warmly.” Neela went into damage control through distraction. “Do you know what Lang and her students do for employment?”

“I have no idea,” Rakan admitted. “Lang was a news service investigator before joining the political science department of one of Cardassia’s greatest universities. Her mere presence sullied its hallowed halls.”

Neela rather doubted that. “Now we have two avenues to pursue.”

Neela turned to Garan. “You share a surname with one of the dissidents. Is she a relative?”

“Rekelan is a cousin of a cousin,” Garan responded. “She is a disgrace to our noble family name and is no longer fit to be called by it. If she ever dares reenter the Cardassian Union, she will find herself an outcast with no family to claim her.”

“Once again, good to know,” Neela remarked.

By this point, Anara was feverishly trying to deduce what Neela was playing at. That’s when Neela got down to business. “Do you want visuals to go with this or will tricorder scans alone do?”

“We want both,” Rakan informed her.

Neela turned to the brutish Rasal. “Do you ever speak?”

“What?” The question confused Rasal.

“That’s what I thought,” Neela mused.

Rasal remained clueless but Rakan and Garan seethed on his behalf. Neela ignored their righteous indignation. “We have a Federation checkpoint to get through and the Militia has undoubtedly posted warrants on the two of us, so we’ll be finding out shortly if my new ID transponder will get us past them,” Neela announced as she rose, “so that will take time, as will racking down Lang and her protégés.”

“Then you’d best leave now,” Rakan insisted.

This greatly amused Neela. “Thank you for your permission. I don’t know what Anara and I could do without your guidance. Right, Rasal?”

Rasal looked blankly at Rakan. Rakan sighed heavily as Neela added, “Don’t feel bad, Rakan. I’m sure he’s highly effective muscle.”

Neela signaled Anara it was time to go. “Feel free to talk about us after we’re gone.”

And so the Cardassians did. Garan spoke first. “I don’t like the talkative one. She’s far too smart for her own good. And I don’t think she takes this seriously.”

“And why should she?” Rakan chuckled. “She’s Bajoran. She’ll only be a temporary ally at best. But she’s smart enough to recognize the winning side even if she’ll never be a true believer in our cause.”

“But they were in the Resistance. They killed our people,” Garan grated. “Both of them. Do Bajorans ever really change?”

“Recall that the one you distrust so much was just released from prison. She was there because she blew up a Federation school and attempted to murder a religious leader,” Rakan reminded Garan. “Many Bajorans harbor distrust of the Federation, but they all united to a degree by their religion. This one thinks outside that box. Perhaps she could be molded into something greater than her people.”

“Why don’t you ask Gul Dukat?” Garan sniped. “You can see where that kind of thinking got him.”

“I’m not Dukat,” Rakan said wryly. “I’ll never forget that our people are inherently superior to Bajorans.”

“Bajorans are mindless, savage beasts unworthy to be called sentient,” Garan elaborated. “Keep that one on a leash and inside a cage or she’ll rip your throat out.”

 Rakan changed the subject. “What do you think of the darker-haired one?”

“What about her?” Garan scoffed. “She hardly speaks more than Rasal. She’s simply a soldier and fit only for taking orders.”

“I disagree,” Rakan countered. “I studied her as her companion spoke. She studied the leader and gauged her every word. I can only presume she has an agenda outside of what was agreed.”

“So?” Garan quipped, “We simply kill her when she gets back.”

“Perhaps,” Rakan mulled.

“Can we eat now?” Rasal plaintively asked.

Rakan and Garan exchanged an eye roll. Rakan relented. “Why not? Order up, Rasal. We’ll even join you.”

Aboard the Ark, Neela broke the silence that had descended during lift off. “Have your friends in Militia Intelligence informed Starfleet Intelligence to tell Starfleet’s Border Patrol to look the other way?”

“With our vessel registered to the Bajoran Merchant Marine, Starfleet will flag us as a ‘safe’ vessel,” Anara replied as she set the course for the nearest checkpoint. “Starfleet won’t inquire further than that.”

“Good,” Neela said, “because if they board us and discover a Militia-stocked armory, they’ll detain us until Militia Command blows our cover and that will end our mission.”

Anara knew that was certainly true. As an assault ship, the Ark was discreetly armed and designed to ferry troops — in this case, the Special Forces — to and from combat. The Ark was also replete with a detention cell and an automated medical bay. It wasn’t as fancy as an Emergency Medical Hologram, but the autodoc was far more comprehensive than the medical kits the Resistance had been lucky enough to steal.

“The True Way has friends in Traffic Control; otherwise, we’d still be there waiting for a launch window,” Neela observed.

“I wonder how the True Way is related to the colonial paramilitaries,” Anara commented.

“Forget them,” Neela advised. “They’re a Maquis problem. That is what the Federation resistance fighters are called, right?”

“Once again, you’re a quick study.” Anara was slightly amused.

“The paramilitaries on both sides want to control the Demilitarized Zone,” Neela pointed out. “The True Way wants to push the Central Command into reinvading Bajor. I say we focus our priorities on the immediate threat and then move on to the Valo system when we’ve secured our own borders.”

“But Nerrit is our pipeline to the Kohn Ma and the Maquis in the Valo system,” Anara reminded her companion.

“That’s a risky stratagem,” Neela opined. “I’m surprised a First Minister would sign off on it.”

“None did,” Anara revealed. “It’s a black bag operation within the Special Forces on behalf of the Bajoran colonists in the Valo system. No one asked the Federation to annex that system or to cede it away into a DMZ. Since the Militia is prohibited from landing troops there ourselves, we’re taking steps to insure the colonists’ safety.”

Neela wore a half smile. “I’m beginning to see why you joined the Special Forces. It’s all a moot point anyway. The DMZ is an experiment doomed to failure.”

“So now you’re a Prophet?” Anara teased.

“You don’t have to be one to see what’s going to happen,” Neela responded. “Once Cardassia feels secure enough to threaten the Federation again, they will. And nothing short of overwhelming force will stop them.”

“But they’d need at least one ally,” Anara made her own prediction.

“Who says they aren’t already looking for one?” Neela asked.

Anara received a hail and she activated an automated reply as she dropped out of warp. “We’re approaching the checkpoint. Starfleet has requested we slow to impulse and queue up with the rest.”

“It’s better than the alternative,” Neela reminded Anara.

“Are you really ready to kill these three people?” Anara suddenly asked Neela.

“They’re Cardassians, so it wouldn’t be a first,” Neela allowed, “but it all comes down to what the Prophets direct us to do.”

“And just how will they let you know?” Anara wondered.

A full smile bloomed on Neela’s features. “They have their ways.”


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"True Faith" Chapter Three by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Anara arrived the next morning and Neela could tell she was quite expectantly awaiting Neela’s answer. Neela spared her an agonizing wait. “I’ve decided to cooperate.”

“Really?” Anara brightened even more. “That’s great.”

“I also studied all of the mission briefs,” Neela revealed. “I found some of them rather lacking.”

“How so?” Anara was mildly amused.

“The intelligence data clearly defines the True Way as a Cardassia movement, yet they seem to regularly employ foreign agents. While these efforts are intended to shift Cardassian society and politics back towards an older mindset, they actually serve to break the True Way’s own xenophobic tendencies.”

Anara blankly stared at Neela as she continued. “The True Way is said to be deeply suspicious of the Detapa Council and prefers the Central Command’s leadership for society, yet the Cardassia Guard itself is wary of the movement. They are pushing to annex Bajor by force again and abrogate the treaty with the Federation and reignite the Border Wars.”

“Yet in all of this, their founder and potential leader has never been identified,” Neela pointed out. “Is this by choice or by a systemic failure committed by both the Obsidian Order and the Cardassian Guard?”

“You always have been a quick study,” Anara replied somewhat ruefully before bluntly stating, “and you could have had a brilliant career in the Militia.”

“It appears I don’t have to be a member of the Militia to serve the Militia,” Neela wryly observed.

“Then why are you doing this?” Anara asked.

“That’s a conversation for another day,” Neela stiffly replied.

“Is it?” Anara acerbically asked.

“If you would bother to recall, I told you my reasoning for my previous actions was off limits,” Neela said firmly. “This is the same.”

“Who is pulling your strings, Neela?” Anara finally asked.

“Do you want me to participate in this little scheme?” Neela asked tersely, “because I will walk away if you don’t let it go.”

Anara still wondered what had provoked Neela to try and kill Vedek Bareil. It just wasn’t Neela’s style. She revered religious teachers. During the Occupation, Neela had spent what little free time she had attending services at a nearby temple or studying religious texts.

Only two things motivated Neela to violence. One was a threat to Bajor, such as the Cardassians when they occupied the planet. The second was a threat on her beliefs in the Bajoran religious system. So the question was how did Bareil threaten Neela?

The only one Bareil had seemed to threaten were Vedek Winn Adami’s ambitions to become Kai. Bareil had been more popular amongst the members of the Vedek Assembly. Neela practically revered Winn. Did Bareil’s ability to quash Winn’s chances at being Kai qualify as a threat in Neela’s mind? And if so, did she act alone or with Winn’s knowledge and potential blessing?

Anara practically shuddered at that line of reasoning. Even if she wasn’t a devout follower of the Prophets, it still didn’t avail one to implicate one’s religious leader in an attempted murder. At least not on Bajor.

Anara told Neela to grab her meager things and prepare for a journey. But first they had to get supplies to construct several explosive charges and some electromagnetic and subspace scramblers. Neela was understandably curious as to why.

“Because in order to keep this an off the books operation, we’re going to steal a warp capable assault ship and head off to the Demilitarized Zone,” Anara explained.

“Before I was imprisoned, the Militia didn’t have any warp capable craft,” Neela reminded Anara.

“We still only have a handful,” Anara admitted, “and most are only capable of warp 2 and even then for short ranges. Mostly they’re used to support the outer colonies.”

“Then why the DMZ?” Neela wondered.

“The Maquis have confirmed that the True Way operate off of the Zone world of Bryma,” Anara shared.

“Why would the Maquis share that information with Starfleet?” Neela felt a little confused.

“They didn’t,” Anara informed her. “They shared it with us. The Militia has been in partnership with the Maquis since they began their campaign. A Special Forces lieutenant named Nerrit Wen is actively advising the Kohn Ma and the Maquis operating out of the Valo system.”

“So I take it our role is to infiltrate the True Way as prospective foreign operatives while actually trying to undermine them,” Neela ventured.

Anara smiled. “Like I said, you’ve always been quick.”

Anara guided Neela on their shopping trip. Even though the Cardassians had withdrawn years before, there was still a viable black market in their weaponry and explosive components. It only took them the rest of the morning to acquire what they needed.

They then relocated to Tempasa. There had once been a base there utilized by the Cardassian Heavy Weapons Unit, Third Assault Group, Ninth Order and now it was the headquarters for the Militia’s Second Battalion. A platoon of Special Forces troops were also billeted there. Anara freely admitted she’d chosen her own home base because of her intimate knowledge of the defenses.

It just also happened to have one of the Militia’s two high warp ships sitting on the landing field tarmac alongside two impulse driven assault ships. Even then, the former impulse craft was modified and equipped with civilian market warp engines. It only boasted a max speed of warp 5 with a cruising speed of warp 3.5. Still, as Earth had discovered in pre-Federation days, a warp 5 engine granted one true interstellar flight capabilities.

Neela quickly spotted the base’s vulnerable points and began formulating where to plant the charges. Anara once again wished her friend could rejoin the Militia. Neela’s skills were too valuable to let go.

The old Cardassian static fences had been replaced with an electronic frontier. Sensor sweeps covered the ground leading to the perimeter. Watch towers littered the landscape, providing eyes on coverage in case the sensors failed to detect someone or something.         

The perimeter was lined with sensor shrouds. They limited the range of the active sensors as well as acting as passive sensors, recording any active sensor beam transmitted towards the base. Neela was tasked with planting explosives across the frontier at the shrouds’ locations.

She’d also prepared mobile bombs that would hone in on the sources of the active scans. Mated with proximity fuses, they would detonate only after clearing out of range of a life form. The explosions would be the distraction that would enable Anara and Neela to penetrate the frontier unnoticed. Any further resistance would be dealt with using their black market phasers.

Both Anara and Neela were qualified to operate and fly the assault ship. Anara had more experience with the weapons systems thanks to her cross-training in the Special Forces. But Anara also freely admitted that Neela was the better pilot.

Which brought her to a conundrum. The Militia wanted Neela locked out of the command and control systems with only basic access. Anara felt this was unfair for several reasons. First and foremost, Anara trusted Neela despite her recent past. And in an emergency, should Anara be rendered unconscious or incapacitated, denying Neela control of the ship would prove invariably lethal. Anara had already decided to invoke her command prerogative for the mission and ignore her orders to that effect.

Neela detonated her surface charges and then deployed her mobile anti-sensor devices. An explosion ripped through base as the sensor emitters were destroyed. Alarm klaxons sounded and all lights and personnel were directed for the breach in the secure corridor.

Of course, this turned everyone’s attention away from the landing pads. Anara then activated her engineered contribution to the fray. A sensor scrambler and subspace transceiver inhibitor doused the base and crippled its remaining detection abilities as well as its communication equipment. The Second Battalion’s base was now on its own.

The tower observers were fixated on the destruction of the outer perimeter and the base’s western sensor grid. They didn’t seem perturbed by the fact that their own tricorders were also down. They’d mistakenly assumed it was a side effect of the carnage across the way.

The entire battalion had been roused and was now fanning out across the fields surrounding the base. So far, all of these efforts were focused westward. Anara and Neela were counting on that.

Anara had warned Neela that the Special Forces might be deployed to the landing field if a threat was deduced to be headed there. There were already four Militia troopers guarding the three ships. The pilots would be placed on standby in case a lift off was called for.

Anara and Neela split up as they reached the outer boundary of the landing pads. Anara approached the two guards protecting the interceptors. She silently came up behind one of them. Placing a chokehold on the woman’s neck and clamping her hand over the soldier’s mouth, Anara smothered her into unconsciousness.

But the Militia trooper’s companion still heard the struggle. He tapped his comm badge twice before he fully realized her wasn’t going to get a response. Anara phoenix punched him as she stepped towards him. As his airway swelled shut, he glared at her with hatred in his eyes.

Anara could tell she’d been recognized and despised that fact. Militia Command wasn’t going to break operational secrecy and inform the Second Battalion and her own platoon of her mission. They’d think she’d turned traitor until she returned and the truth was revealed. That is, if she came back. She might die castigated as a traitor to her people.

Neela also choked a soldier into unconsciousness. His companion began speaking to him and sounded guarded when he didn’t receive a reply. Neela took a gamble on which end of the assault ship he would appear at. Choosing the cockpit section, she lay in wait.

As the guard rounded the cockpit, Neela noted that he had his pistol drawn. Neela threw a backhand chop into his throat. The soldier gurgled as he stepped back and clutched his throat. Neela kicked his dropped phaser away and monitored him while he sank into oblivion.

Anara joined Neela at the ship’s hatch. “Special Forces was monitoring the landing pads with macrobinoculars. I didn’t set up anything to inhibit those. I saw them already on their way here.”

“Then I suggest we be elsewhere,” Neela said as she opened the hatch. Stepping inside the ship, she purposefully headed for the bridge. “Do you have command access?”

“I’m on the list of potential commanders,” Anara answered as she sat down at the conn as Neela took ops, “but Command sent a data squirt to the ship’s computer earlier today. I’m the solely authorized commander now. I’ll be setting up a command authorization for you once we leave the system.”

“I’m surprised,” Neela admitted.

“We’re partners in this,” Anara explained. “Our lives depend on each other. It’ll be just like the old days with new priorities attached.”

Neela revised her current opinion of Anara. “What’s the ship’s name?”

“The Ark of the Prophets,” Anara revealed.

Neela’s board chimed. “Your Special Forces friends are trying to gain access.”

“Hetwick is a decent code slicer but I seem to recall you were pretty good yourself back in the day,” Anara smirked. “Give him a run for his money.”

Neela smiled to herself as she went to work. A second chime sounded. “The base has burned through your jamming field. They’re attempting to seize control of the ship’s computer.”

“Good luck with that,” Anara snorted. “I’m done with the checklist. I’m activating antigravs and firing RCS thrusters.”

“The Special Forces personnel are scattering,” Neela reported now that her sensors were active again. “They actually look ready to try and takes us down using small arms.”

“If they could they would,” Anara sighed. “We’re high enough now. I’m cutting in the impulse engines. Keep an ear on the Militia GUARD channel. They’ll probably scramble interceptors to engage us.”

As the assault ship cleared orbit, the Karemma-inspired ship was chased by the gull-winged Bajoran interceptors. Anara ticked off the seconds until they cleared Bajor’s gravity well. “Since Bajor’s the eleventh planet in the system, that puts us out of ready range of Deep Space Nine. If they deploy any runabouts, we’ll already be gone before they reach Bajor. The Defiant could overtake us but I doubt Starfleet is going to scramble a warship to chase down a rogue Militia assault ship.”

“There’s a lot riding on that hope,” Neela commented.

“We’re clear of the gravity well,” Anara announced. “Warp speed…now.”

Anara waited for several more minutes before asking, “Any sign of pursuit?”

“Militia Command put in a request to Starfleet for a pursuit but Sisko is otherwise occupied,” Neela reported. “Command didn’t press the issue.”

“Because they don’t actually want Starfleet chasing us,” Anara reminded her comrade.

“I’m surprised you want me logged as a command officer,” Neela suddenly admitted.

“Why would I exclude you?” Anara wondered.

“The Militia hardly considers me a reliable asset right now and I had two years left to serve on my sentence,” Neela asserted. “They don’t let people out of the Kran-Tobal prison without a compelling reason.”

“Shakaar pardoned you. That’s all I know beyond the mission brief,” Anara divulged. “I don’t know any of the politics behind it. You fit the profile we were looking for and that’s it. Although, the rumor mills say that Kai Winn has been appealing your case since she was elected.”

Neela suddenly seemed reassured about the entire situation. Anara smiled at her. “I know you’ve always felt Winn was selected by the Prophets. It seems your faith was justified.”

Neela kept silent as Anara elaborated. “It’s also said that Winn badgered every First Minister about your case until Shakaar finally relented. But that being the case, I don’t know why she didn’t act on it herself when she held political power alongside ecclesiastical.”

Neela knew Winn didn’t want to seem biased. If a connection between Winn and Neela’s actions was ever discovered, the Kai might be forced to resign. Even if she refused to, the stigma would follow her.

“I’ve set course for the Demilitarized Zone,” Anara told Neela, “so we have time to set up your command authorization.”

“All right,” Neela warmly smiled.

Their end destination was a world named Bryma. Bryma was a Cardassian colony that had ended up inside the DMZ. It was also the funnel through which the Central Command distributed weapons amongst the various Cardassian paramilitaries scattered throughout the DMZ.

The information that the True Way had begun operating off of Bryma had been gathered by Maquis sources. Those reports had made it to Nerrit Wen and she had passed them along to Militia Intelligence, who in turn sent them on to Starfleet Intelligence — the difference being that the Maquis and the Militia were committed to do something about it while Starfleet sat by and “preserved the peace.”

Neela was a convicted criminal and Anara had been spotted attacking fellow Militia officers and stealing one of their assault ships, so both were considered rogues. Anara also informed Neela that Militia Command had trumped up a series of charges against them as well, so hopefully they would be appealing to the True Way leadership when they attempted to sell their services to the group.

The Ark cleared the Federation checkpoint and entered the DMZ. Entrance into the zone was only permitted at established checkpoints. The rest of the frontier was monitored by sensor buoys. Penetration of a buoyed area or a detected tampering with the buoys would receive an immediate response from Starfleet’s Border Patrol. The Cardassian side was guarded but much more permeable by design. But a Bajoran vessel trying to enter the Demilitarized Zone through Cardassian space would warrant an official investigation.

Neela had scrubbed the Ark’s ID transponder and registration of Militia codes. It was now registered in Bajor’s official merchant marine roster. She idly wondered if this mission failed if she and Anara really would end up being mercenaries.

Bryma’s Traffic Control Center pelted Anara with questions but finally allowed a planet fall. Even then, Anara and Neela were met at the tarmac by the local constabulary. They were semi-politely, but assertively, “asked” to present themselves at the constabulary’s headquarters. Once there, their IDs were processed.

The law enforcement agency was directly tied into Central Command’s network. In turn, Central Command queried Bajor about the pair’s status. Central Command listed the duo as ex-Resistance fighters, which slightly agitated the constables, but the Militia’s report soothed their fears.

Neela was listed as a criminal who had rewarded First Minister Shakaar’s pardon by attempting to assassinate him. Anara was listed as a rogue Militia officer who had thrown in with Neela rather than perform her sworn duty and arrest her former cell member. The attack upon a Militia base, the assault of four officers, and the theft of the Ark of the Prophets were also listed. They were both wanted by the highest level of Bajoran law enforcement.

The logic behind Anara and Neela’s landing on Bryma was self-evident by the charges. The Federation was one of Bajor’s allies and there were far too many Bajoran colonists on those worlds within the DMZ that used to belong to the Federation. The same held true of the Federation itself.

The Valo system was closed to them as well. Nerrit Wen and the Kohn Ma weren’t in on the ruse and may attempt to apprehend them in order to trade the duo off for Kohn Ma prisoners either on Bajor or inside Cardassian labor camps. And unbeknownst to the Cardassians, Bryma was exactly where the pair wanted to be.

But the Cardassians had to be careful. The Maquis and the Kohn Ma had struck out at targets on this world on multiple occasions. But neutral human traders frequented Bryma, as did neutral arties such as the Xepolites, the Ferengi, the Yridians, and the Boslics.

Given the interstellar flavor of the trading community, it wasn’t hard for Anara and Neela to find an eatery that served Bajoran food, amongst other cuisine. They ordered up and waited. As they did, they openly conversed.

“I wonder why the Chief Constable said he’d send someone for us,” Anara admitted. “I thought we’d cleared their security check. I’m willing to wager that the government here is even more in bed with the Central Command’s paramilitaries than anyone has suspected.”

Neela shrugged. “It’s only natural. It’s a Cardassian colony no matter what a treaty says and Cardassians will probably always be xenophobic.”

“That’s what I’ve always appreciated about you,” Anara commented. “You’re a pragmatist despite being a religious idealist.”

“Why do the two states of being have to be mutually exclusive?” Neela wondered.

The waiter arrived with their food. “Wait here until you’re contacted.”

“Aren’t you making contact?” Neela pointedly asked.

“Just eat,” the waiter snarled and stalked off.

“Rude,” Neela opined, “but what can you expect?”

Anara was smirking. “Let’s just enjoy our food while we still can.”

Neela smiled. “Now who’s being pragmatic?”


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"True Faith" Chapter Two by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Neela brought Winn and Serif to a cave hidden by several boulders. Inside of the cave was food, blankets, and a pair of rifles. As a member of the penetration team, Neela had merely been issued her personal disruptor that she’d brought with her when she’d joined the Holn cell.

As expected, Chaz never rejoined them, even after the sun set. Winn finally addressed a concern. “Won’t the Cardassians be able to detect us in here?”

“The boulders obscure the entrance so our lights and our thermal signatures are hidden,” Neela explained, “but the hillside is rich in kelbonite. The mineral blocks sensors so their tricorders will need line of sight to acquire us, and with the obstructions, that isn’t going to happen.”

“So can’t we just wait here until the Cardassians give up and abandon their search?” Winn inquired.

“We have a rendezvous not far from here where all of the members of the Holn cell and the liberated clergy will be reuniting,” Neela divulged. “We’ll be safe afterwards.”

“Very well.” Winn seemed nonplussed. “And now child, how do I know you?”

Neela told her. The story jolted Winn’s recollection. “I remember your family. Your sister is truly a prylar now?”

“For two years now,” Neela shared. “She joined her order a year after I left to join the Sekra cell.”

“But I thought you said you were with the Holn cell,” Winn recalled.

“I am now,” Neela said sadly. “Most of my old cell is dead now. But the Prophets spared me and my friend Anara in order that we might liberate you, your Ladyship.”

“And your travelling companion?” Winn asked.

“Chaz brought us into the Holn cell,” Neela explained. “She’ll be missed.”

Winn started to ask another question but Neela warded it off before it was even asked. “You’d best get some sleep now. We’ll be setting out after dawn before the Cardassians rouse themselves.”

“Very well, child,” Winn relented, “but try and get some sleep as well.”

“I will,” Neela promised.

“Wake up,” Neela hissed as she roused Winn and Serif. “The Cardassians searched throughout the night. They’re very close.”

“Give me a rifle,” Serif requested.

“Serif, no!” Winn was adamant.

“Vedek, your light must carry on for the glory of the Prophets,” Serif insisted. “If I can humbly contribute to that cause, then so be it.”

“Walk with the Prophets,” Winn conceded.

Neela handed Serif a Cardassian disruptor rifle. After several minutes of straightforward instruction in its use, she slipped him a cylindrical device with a thumb trigger. “This is a photon grenade. If you can lure them into a perimeter around you of at least five hundred meters. Press this and you’ll see the Prophets in the Celestial Temple and the Cardassians will go wherever Cardassians go in the afterlife.”

“Will it be painful?” Serif’s confidence wavered a little.

“The grenade will be instantaneous,” Neela assured him. “However, the spoonheads’ weapons will inflict a great deal of pain.”

“The Prophets will give me strength,” he hoped.

“Exit the cave and head for the rising sun,” Neela instructed. “Push that way for as long as you can and we’ll head out the other direction.”

Serif nodded and then bravely headed out to meet his fate. Moments later, he was heard shouting at the Cardassian pursuers. Weapons fire was exchanged and then the noises faded into the distance.

As Neela led Winn into the open, a tremendous flash filled the air. A shockwave threatened to bowl them over. In the distance, trees fell.

“That should buy us some time,” Neela commented.

“How dare you!” Winn hissed, “Honor his sacrifice.”

“I do, your Ladyship,” Neela promised. “Choices like this are made every day on Bajor and I honor all that I know of and those that I do not. The Prophets reward their bravery and also share my respect for the fallen.”

Winn looked chastised. “I’m sorry I doubted you, child.”

“We have to keep moving though,” Neela urged. “I sincerely doubt that Prylar Serif was able to disable all of our pursuers. They’ll find our trail and be after us with revenge in mind.”

“Then lead on and I shall follow,” Winn vowed.

The continuing trek was arduous and frequent rest breaks were necessary. Winn wasn’t conditioned for such exertions any more. Five years of relative stagnation inside of rotating detention centers had left her out of shape.

Neela was guiding Winn with a map reader. The calls between Cardassian troops continually drew closer. Finally, Neela brought Winn into a box canyon.

Winn was on the verge of panic. “Surely you misread the map! We aren’t supposed to be here.”

“I’m afraid we’re precisely where we’re supposed to be,” Neela shared. “This is the path the Prophets laid out for us.”

Winn looked ready to argue when four Cardassians entered the canyon and slowly trod their way toward the Bajorans. They all wore cruel smiles.

“Don’t worry, we won’t kill you for a very long time,” the bravest Cardassian spoke. “We’ll be extracting the lives of our fallen soldiers out of your hides for hours to come.”

Disruptor fire rained down on the Cardassians from the edges of the canyon. Anara appeared. “We’d almost given up on you. You’re one of the last to arrive.”

Neela assisted Winn as she climbed the canyon wall. Other Holn cell members gathered the Cardassian weapons as another team disposed of the bodies. Anara grinned at Neela.

“Holn has a special task for you,” Anara smirked. “He’s tired of moddlecoddling the former prisoners. It’s your job now.”

“I can assist you, child,” Winn volunteered.

Two more teams of Resistance fighters and clergy came in and the trap was sprung twice more. Afterwards, the cell led the clergy back to a monastery and left them there. Winn took Neela aside.

“The Prophets have touched you, my child,” Winn assured her. “Go with my blessing and my thanks. I shall be in touch.”

Neela left with a swell of gratitude and pride.

The Earth year 2369 found the Cardassians in a wholesale retreat from Bajor. The withdrawal scarcely took a week. The Cardassians converged on strategic cities and transported out as much material and personnel as they could. Still, hundreds of scout cars and other less offensive vehicles were abandoned, as well asTerok Nor itself.

The Bajorans gathered and quickly appointed a Provisional Government with elections to occur in a year’s time. The very first decree from the government reconstituted the Militia and the Militia Constabulary. Recruiting was heavily tilted towards the ex-members of the Resistance.

Many Resistance fighters sought a life of peace after the lifelong struggle. Others leapt at the chance to continue to protect their home world. And a few found themselves vacillating.

This was the state Neela was in as the Militia recruiters found her. She asked for a day to pray about it. Another knock came to her door at the boarding house she was temporarily residing in. To her surprise, it was a prylar whom she didn’t know.

“Vedek Winn sends her regards.” The prylar bowed low after handing her a padd and then he departed.

Neela activated the padd’s playback and the screen showed a miniature of Vedek Winn’s face. “Neela my child, I know you are probably surprised by this message reaching you. I know you have been extended an invitation to join the newly founded Militia. Join them! It is the will of the Prophets for you to do so. I know this to be true. I need a friend in the Militia and I can think of no greater friend then you. Please heed my words and let me know what you decide.”

Neela’s mind was instantly made up.

Neela contacted Anara and they arrived at the assessment center together. After a series of challenges, they were both designated qualified engineers. They were also fully rated to work on the captured Cardassian equipment that the Militia had “inherited.”

With their designations came a commission of the rank of lieutenant. Anara was immediately chosen to accompany Major Kira’s assessment team to Terok Nor. Neela was scheduled to follow Anara’s footsteps after the latter served a nine month rotation. Neela would become the deputy of the station chief of operations after she arrived.

That was when the pair learned the Provisional Government had asked the Federation to deploy Starfleet toTerok Nor. From there, they would oversee the Federation’s relief efforts directed at Bajor. Not every Bajoran was pleased by this decision and the chief fomenter of discontent aboard Terok Nor was Major Kira Nerys. But that changed even as Terok Nor became Deep Space Nine.

Anara remained aboard the station until the “Pup” incident and then she rotated back to Bajor. Neela came aboard at that point. And the rest was history in the making.

The Earth year 2374 brought changes to a few specific lives. Shakaar Edon had been First Minister for some months now, but his life had recently been threatened by Cardassian interests. Constable Odo had thwarted the assassination attempt aboard Deep Space Nine but many in the Bajoran government cried out for justice. And justice seemed in short supply from the Cardassian Union despite the treaty that existed between the two stellar powers.

It was into this environment that Neela was released from Kran-Tobal’s prison. To her shock, Anara met her at the gate as she exited the place she’d served her time in. Anara met her with a smile.

“How about a ride?” she offered.

“All right,” Neela said a little warily, “but I won’t discuss what brought me here.”

“So I’ve been told,” Anara chuckled. “Not once in five years.”

“Well, consistency is key to a well laid-out life,” Neela quipped.

Anara was happy to see that her former friend could feel somewhat comfortable with her. They climbed into a six-wheeled, open carriage Cardassian scout car. Neela grunted.

“I was hoping these beasts would have been replaced by now,” she admitted.

“They’re still a mainstay of ground transportation with the Militia,” Anara admitted. “Still think you could tear one apart and rebuild it in four hours?”

“Easily,” Neela replied, “but why don’t you get to the real point? The Militia isn’t in the habit of sending captains from the Special Forces to picking up stray convicts when they get released from prison.”

Anara handed over a padd. “Scroll through this and get caught up on the highlights of the last five years.”

Neela did as she was bade and then asked Anara, “That’s the basics. What are the nuances?”

Anara ran down a prepared list that included the Circle, the Maquis, the Dominion, Kai Winn’s assumption of political office and her subsequent electoral loss to Shakaar. Neela seemed to bristle at the last bit of news.

“So why was I released two years early?” Neela decided to get straight to her own point.

“Access the secondary file,” Anara instructed.

Neela did so. After scrolling through the document, she looked over at Anara with an incredulous look on her face. “Are they serious?”

“Serious enough to release you,” Anara assured her.

“You didn’t say anything about a ‘True Way,’” Neela accused.

“The True Way is a group of Cardassian extremists that harbor hostility for the Bajor and the Federation. So far to their credit they have blown up a Federation runabout ferrying Deep Space Nine’s senior staff. They also killed two of our own officials and recently tried to kill First Minister Shakaar. The entire government is united behind an effort to achieve justice in this case,” Anara recounted. “Kai Winn herself has been very vocal about the need to show Bajor can defend itself. She personally suggested placing someone within the Cardassians’ ranks.”

Anara let Neela digest that. “Next, we needed to find someone who was disaffected with the government or could at least plausibly appear to be. There was a very short list of candidates and you filtered to the top of it after a cursory reading.”

Anara brought Neela to a free boarding house run by prylars from the very same order that Kai Winn had formerly belonged to. The monks had made the room available prior to Neela’s release at the Kai’s request. The prylars greeted Neela warmly and invited Anara to stay the evening as well.

Anara declined. “I have to report to the local base tonight and let them know my progress. Neela, please think about the request.”

“I’ll pray about it and let you know in the morning,” Neela offered.

“I couldn’t ask for more.” Anara admitted, “I’m glad I volunteered for this.”

Anara boarded her scout car and drove off into the distance. A prylar guided Neela to a room within the building. “Do you only have the one bag?”

Neela sat her backpack on the bed. “You travel light just getting out of prison.”

If the word “prison” triggered anything in the monk, he hid it well. “I am to give this to you.”

He handed a padd to Neela. “It’s secured and only you can access it.”

“May I ask who it’s from?” Neela inquired.

“The Kai herself,” the prylar announced as he departed.

Neela stared at the padd for several minutes. There was a level of excitement in her that she’d thought expunged. But there was also trepidation.

Utilizing her thumbprint, she accessed the padd’s archival memory. Winn’s image appeared. “It is good to see you again, my child. I have made discreet efforts to have you freed at the government’s mercy but my efforts have been in vain, particularly with Shakaar. Knowing of the impetus to pursue the Cardassians responsible for recent deaths and other attempts on lives, it instigated my suggestion of infiltrating the True Way knowing their chief candidate for doing so could only be you. It is pleasing to see the Prophets reward my stratagem.”

Neela knew the Prophets had greatly rewarded Winn already. Despite Neela’s failure to assassinate Vedek Bareil Antos, he’d subsequently removed himself from consideration to be named Kai and left Winn as the only remaining candidate. Her last mission for Winn had cost her five years of freedom. She wondered what price could be attached to her service now.

“Shakaar was finally ready to listen to my pleas because his own life is in danger,” Winn carried on. “You must undertake this mission, Neela. It will strike a decisive blow against the Cardassians that dare threaten our people’s peaceful reconstruction. Their actions undermine my treaty with Cardassia. It will also serve to lower Shakaar’s prestige amongst the people when my gambit is the one that delivers the True Ways’ heads.”

“Your reward for this service will be substantial,” Winn promised. “Perhaps you will be allowed to rejoin the Militia if you so desire, but I have another proposal for you. I have need of a discreet agent and you have already proven your loyalty through your silence. So I pray the Prophets will guide you not only to undertake this mission but to also accept my offer to become my personal agent within the larger framework of Bajor and the worlds beyond.”

“You will find your supposed disgrace will be the key to your exaltation,” Winn enthused. “Everything depends upon your next decision. Have you lost faith with me, or do you still wholeheartedly trust in the guidance of the Prophets?”

The screen went blank after that was said. Neela had sat through five long years to consider her previous service to Winn. It seemed rewarded when Winn became the Prophet’s chosen vessel despite Neela’s incompetence. For the Kai to now offer her this chance at redemption could only mean it truly was the will of the Prophets. How could she refuse?

Neela used the open link the padd had with the monastery’s comm array and used the reply function to affirm to Winn that Neela would serve the Prophets however they demanded of her. She’d wait until Anara returned to inform her of the decision.

Meanwhile, Neela would scrutinize the mission briefs Anara had left with her. It would be novel to read official documents again. The prison library had largely consisted of religious texts. Neela had a lot of catching up with local and interstellar politics, it seemed, particularly between the Federation and the Cardassian Union.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"True Faith" Chapter One by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Rating: K+

Synopsis: Neela didn’t just happen to be a puppet of Vedek Winn Adami. Events in her life placed Winn in the pinnacle of importance to Neela. Five years after the failed assassination of Vedek Bareil, Neela is given a second chance at life. But will she free herself of Winn’s influence or will she remain a willing instrument of the Kai?

Chronology: Pre-First Season episode “Emissary,” then post-Fourth Season episode “Crossfire.”     

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"Redeemed" Chapter Five by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Earth had been struck by Breen and many of the Maquis, even those that had never set foot on humanity’s birth world, were dazed and fearful. Riker just looked distraught. Sito tried to be accommodating but she finally threw up her hands in disgust.

“Come on, Tom, life hasn’t ended,” Sito cajoled him.

“Maybe it has. The Klingons never struck Earth and the Romulans never succeeded, but the Dominion has,” Riker lamented.

“Tom, the Xindi hit Earth centuries ago and that was before there was a Federation,” Sito argued, “but it sets a precedent. No planet is immune from sneak attacks.”

“But…” Riker began.

Sito held up a single finger. “Stow it. Whatever feeble excuse you’re about to come up with, just stow it.”

Riker had never seen her in this light as she pressed on. “You survived Nervalla IV. You survived Letau. You’ve survived the last three years as a security specialist. You know what that says to me? You’re a survivor. So act like it!”

Riker was almost afraid not to. “Why do you still look after me?”

That irked her even more. “How can you ask that? I watch your back and you watch mine. That was the deal, right?”

“Yes, it was,” Riker agreed, “but I’m aboard the Indomitable now and you’re still flying the Razorcat.”

“But I still watch your back,” Sito promised. “Never doubt that.”

“You two!” Ro yelled across the paddock. “We’re lifting off.”

Riker and Sito jogged over to Ro’s side as she started down the flight line. Ro addressed Riker, “I’m hopping a ride aboard the Indomitable. Do you have an objection?”

“No, but I’d like to know if you’re assuming command,” Riker admitted.

“No, I’ll be in charge once we reach the ground,” Ro assured him.

“What’s the op?” Sito wondered.

“Orions have taken hostages on Golana,” Ro informed them. “The IndomitableNathan Hale, and Valhallaare lifting off with the Razorcat and heading there straightaway. Two Orion Wanderer-class-V blockade runners have landed on the planet and two more are in orbit. The Constabulary had them held down in the town hall. We’re coming in as support.”

On Golana’s surface, Tulley led the Indomitable crew in aiding the constables holding action. The Nathan Hale and the Valhalla stayed in high orbit in case more Orions arrived. The Razorcat strafed the Orion ships on the ground before she landed and they were no longer space worthy.

The Indie crew was specifically helping block the path to the shuttleport. Six ships were currently landed there: The Indomitable herself, the Razorcat, one civilian runabout, three civilian Type 6 shuttle analogues, and a number of Bajoran interceptors. The Orions were demanding passage to the shuttleport, access to the ships, and a withdrawal all under the cover of hostages. And to make matters more interesting, The militia’s response had been to send Ro in to “negotiate.” Her preferred method of talking was sneaking around back and committing a full incursion in order to disable all of the Orion pirates.

Ro reached the rear entrance to the hall. The pavilion was used for bazaars, town meetings, and religious festivals. With her phaser drawn, she went to one side of the door. Sito and Riker took the other side.

The constables that Ro was fending off had initially objected to Riker’s participation in this part of the intervention. The chief constable had wanted one of his own deputies to be included. Ro simply told him off and insisted she use someone she’d worked beside for years. She then asked if the Maquis hadn’t done a good job defending Golana for the last three years, and if so, why couldn’t they be trusted now?

Ro signaled the Nathan Hale, which in turn contacted the Valhalla, and the two Maquis raiders each beamed up two Orions. The Orions were stunned as soon the annular confinement beams of the transporters released them. The Orions on the ground flipped on their transport inhibitors at that point, realizing that help from their fellow pirates wasn’t coming.

The Maquis in orbit signaled Ro and updated her. She smiled as she spoke to Sito and Riker. “They took the bait.”

“Which means they’re coming to us,” Sito nodded.

Ro contacted the chief constable. His deputies pulled out and circled around to flank the Orions, should any get past Ro’s triad. Sito sounded off that the Orion life signs read by her tricorder were now down to eight and there were still one hundred Bajorans. So at least none of them had been killed yet.

Ro had noted Sito’s improved confidence since she enlisted in the militia. Like so many coming out of the Occupation, Sito felt a need to contribute to Bajor’s well-being. Her assignment with the Maquis was just a more practical application of helping than serving in Starfleet — or so Sito argued. Ro just felt Sito had gotten a raw deal out of Starfleet and was looking for new horizons from her own people.

Riker towered over Sito as she stood poised with a two-handed grip on her militia-issue phaser. She was crouched while Ro stood opposite her with a similar grip on her own phaser. The locks on the door cycled and Ro silently nodded at Sito and then Riker. Everyone was ready for anything.

An Orion poked his head out and Ro shot him in the temple. Even if she’d set her phaser to “stun,” a head shot would have been lethal. But Ro wasn’t playing by such niceties. She was sending a message to the Orion Syndicate and that message was “stay away.” The Orion dropped and his head, lying in the door track, prevented it from closing.

Two Orions tried to drag the body away. Ro swung into the building and killed both pirates. The pirate chieftain bellowed for Ro to disarm or hostages would start dying. Ro tossed her phaser aside and raised her hands.

The Orion captain sneered as he took aim at Ro. Sito swung around the corner has Ro dodged to one side. She shot the Orion captain in the forehead and he fell dead before his crew. Sito ordered the Bajoran hostages to hit the ground as the Orions panicked and Sito tried picking them off one by one.

Ro had dodged in the direction her phaser laid and she scooped it up and added her firepower to the fray. Riker was late to arrive and only targeted the very last Orion as he was drawing a bead on Sito while she killed another Orion. Sito grinned at him.

“Nice to see you still have my back,” she said jovially.

Chief Constable Erim Veld rushed his deputies in only to find the hostages liberated and the Orions dead. He gushed to Ro that he admired her style…among other attributes. She smirked and gently told him patience was a virtue.

When Ro reached the shuttleport, she found an excited Tulley. Korepanova had announced that the war with the Dominion was over. The Dominion and the Breen had surrendered. The Cardassians had turned against their allies and Cardassia Prime was being occupied by the Federation Alliance.

Ro told him to calm down and quickly got on the horn with Korepanova. Once she had Sveta Korepanova’s attention, she quickly reminded the former Starfleet officer of a few facts. “Sveta, we’re criminals in the eyes of Starfleet. They have long memories when it comes to things like that. The chances of us getting to return to the DMZ are highly unlikely. The only place Federation justice is going to send us to is a penal colony or two.”

“But Bajor…” Korepanova clung to her last hope.

“Will extradite us if the Federation presses too hard. The only exceptions to that rule are Sito and I. We’re both Bajorans. We’re both militia officers, and Sito has the added virtue of never having been a Maquis. And despite their making an exception for Odo, the militia is a Bajoran force and it’s going to stay that way,” Ro calmly let her friend down.

“The militia generals have spoken to you about this day, haven’t they?” Korepanova realized.

“They have, and so has First Minister Shakaar,” Ro informed her. “Shakaar has a legal trick to play that he hasn’t shared, but he’s advised me to warn you to evacuate Bajor and get to the outer colonies.”

“We’re leaving now,” Korepanova promised.

Ro and the Maquis with her listened in to Shakaar’s communication network-wide message. In short, any and all Maquis inhabiting the Bajoran Sector would be extradited to the Federation organs of justice. That explicitly left the outer colonies as safe havens. Everyone knew that Starfleet would be howling over this proclamation.

In the end, Ro and Sito got some official instructions regarding their next assignment. Riker, Tulley, Thool, and the crew of the Indomitable would be heading out into nonaligned space in order to continue to offer their services as freelance security specialists. Half the Maquis were going with them. The other half were spreading out across Free Haven, Golana, and Dreon VII and forging new lives as colonists.

Korepanova was leading the colonial faction and Riker was heading up the spacer faction. He tossed away Sito’s objection that he was merely becoming a mercenary. “Sorry Jaxa, but you could say I was a mercenary for the last three years. As you know, we’ve all become very good at providing convoy escort services so that’s what we’re going to continue to do. And at the same time, we’ll put down stakes in some world or worlds along the way.”

“Good luck, Tom. I can’t follow you this time,” Sito said.

“Ro said you two received a new assignment,” Riker recalled. “Can you share what it is?”

Sito smirked. “It seems the militia wants Ro’s and my Starfleet service record to work for them. So with Colonel Kira in command of Deep Space Nine, Ro is being assigned as its executive efficer and as the Bajoran liaison. I’m taking over Constable Odo’s position as chief of security.”

“That’s wonderful, Jaxa!” Riker enthused.

“Yeah, but it’s going to be weird being on a space station and not out there,” Sito admitted.

“You’ll do great,” Riker assured her. “You’ve always been more of a detective than a simple gunfighter. And the mysteries you couldn’t solve, Ro pitched in and you solved them together. You’ll both do great.”

“Glad you think so,” Ro said dryly from behind Riker.

“I guess we’re leaving now,” Sito surmised.

“Yes, we’re on the clock now,” Ro informed her. She turned to Riker and offered her hand. “Take it easy, Tom. Just remember you’ve got nothing to prove. You’re one helluva a man and your brother would be lucky to accomplish half as much under similar circumstances.”

“Thanks.” Riker shook Ro’s hand and then hugged Sito. “Thanks for always being there.”

“Good luck, and don’t do anything stupid,” Sito admonished him.

“Would I do that?” Riker grinned.

Sito rolled her eyes and then followed Ro to the Razorcat. “I can’t believe they’re letting us keep her.”

Ro gave her a rueful look. “They’re not. We’re handing her off to the militia when we reach Bajor. Deep Space Nine is sending a runabout to take us to the station,” Ro explained.

“I just hope I’m up to my new job,” Sito fretted.

“Tom was right. You’ll do fine.” Ro paused. “As long as your first official order upon arrival when Starfleet tries to arrest me is, ‘release her.’”

“They wouldn’t!” Sito protested.

Ro gave her a wry look and Sito shrugged. “Okay, so they would. I’ll keep it in mind.”

“Just remember, you’re in charge of the holding cells,” Ro chuckled. “If Starfleet is unwilling to see reason, Quark owes me a favor. You get me out of the detention center and Quark will get me off the station.”

“It won’t come to that,” Sito said with iron resolve. “I’ll see to it.”

Ro gave her an appreciative smile. “Somehow I don’t think it will.”


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Redeemed" Chapter Four by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Sito evaded a disruptor bolt. “Where are they getting the power for weapons and shields?”

Riker had informed her of the power drop off that occurred every time the isokinetic cannon fired. “They’re routing power from their impulse engines to feed their weapons systems.”

“Doesn’t that eliminate their impulse drive from active service?” Sito rolled away from a trailing staccato of particle beam fire.

“Yes, they’re pretty much limited to RCS thrusters while their EPS conduits are rerouted,” Riker explained.

Sito wore a wry grin. “You could simply say ‘they can’t maneuver right now.’  Okay?”

The ship suddenly bucked and Riker sardonically replied, “Maybe you should spend less time chastising me and more time evading disruptor fire.”

Sito suddenly threw the Razorcat into a violent set of rolls, jerks, and loops. The inertial damper couldn’t keep up and neither could Riker. “I take it back!”

“Wimp,” Sito deadpanned. Riker always had to marvel at the breadth of the interstellar slang she’d acquired while on Earth, and it always revolved around someone named “Nick Locarno.” The former leader of Nova Squadron still weighed heavily in Sito’s memory. But instead of it being a positive one, it was a reminder of what kind of ethos not to fall prey to.

The Breen ship suddenly fired into the distance. Riker checked his readouts. “They’re firing on theIndomitable.”

“Really? And here I thought the Enterprise was inbound,” Sito quipped.

“Smart ass,” Riker replied.

“I bet you say that to all the girls,” Sito grinned.

She flew the Razorcat in on a tight approach on the Q-ship’s port side. Pulse phasers flared to life as she released two microtorpedoes. They detonated against the Breen ship’s shields as the courier banked away. It took several more seconds before the Breen disruptors began to fire again.

“You just reduced thirty percent off of their shield rating,” Riker reported.

“Watch me fly,” Sito advised.

She came up over the privateer ship in a spiraling loop. Breaking out of the loop, she reengaged the target from the port side again. She randomly threw in jukes to the right and left and up and down before bearing down on her last target site at the last second. She repeated her previous strike.

“Photon signatures!” Riker called out.

The Razorcat dove along the Breen ship’s z-axis. Two photon torpedoes flew past where they had just been. Sito smirked.

“That should be the last of the torpedoes from the port side,” Sito predicted.

“How can you say that?” Riker wanted to know.

“This is a Breen Lemba-class freighter. They converted a cargo hold into being a photon launcher. This class of freighter is known for its small holds — which, by the way, are supposedly ideal for turning into detention cells. They’re the most popular model amongst the Breen privateers.”

“I still don’t get something,” Riker admitted as Sito flew them away to start another attack run. “The isokinetic cannon is eating up all the power from their warp core. The impulse reactor is fueling their defensive systems. Where are they getting the power for life support?”

“They aren’t!” Sito suddenly realized. “They’re running without life support. That’s why they’re in a hurry to finish us off and start boarding the Bajoran convoy ships.”

“So if we keep pounding at them, they’ll eventually run out of air and freeze,” Riker surmised.

“You must be a tactical officer,” Sito dryly remarked.

“Stow it,” Riker warned as he contacted the Indomitable.

Alea gave Ro Riker’s report. Ro ordered Tulley to “pour it on” as soon as they reached optimal weapons range.  Alea now acted as Ro’s eyes on the primary sensors. Ro had the nav sensors and Tulley was tied into the targeting sensors. Since Alea had little else to do, she had every other system reading at her Ops station.

“Energy buildup from the Breen ship,” Alea calmly warned.

Ro barrel rolled hard to starboard. The isokinetic weapon’s discharge flew by where the Indie had just been. Now the crew knew they had at least thirty seconds before the cannon could fire again. That was a veritable lifetime in a battle such as this.

“We’re in weapons range,” Tulley announced. “Trim us out so I can get a shot.” 

Ro obliged him and he released two full sized photon torpedoes. Ro suddenly ordered, “Aric, hand over phaser control to me.”

Tulley happily did so and the two wing-mounted Type VIII phaser cannons were Ro’s to command. Ro began taking potshots at the Breen freighter. Alea interrupted the concentration of both bridge officers.

“The Razorcat is attacking the Breen ship’s port side. They’re taking fire from standard disruptors,” Alea informed them.

“Which means that the isokinetic cannon isn’t built as a strip emitter and that the Breen’s power is solely dedicated to their weaponry,” Ro theorized aloud. “Scan the ambient temperature of the freighter’s interior.”

“It’s zero Celsius and dropping,” Alea announced.

“Alea, warn Sito against attacking the ship’s dorsal plane,” Ro instructed. “We’re going to make a run along that aspect.”

“She acknowledges and stands advised,” Alea said crisply.

Finding themselves in a combat role, the newly-minted Militia officer and her Maquis weapons officer found it easy to sit back and forget about Alea’s admissions. Her veracity could be double-checked later. Right now, Alea was in her zone and her zone could save their lives.

Ro considered it and it had always been obvious that Alea had combat experience. She was not only a well-trained intelligence gatherer and analyst, but she was an above par tactician and something of a strategist. In the Maquis, Korepanova had always been the premier strategist while Ro was the leading tactician. Ro had appreciated Alea’s input because it stretched her planning into the long term repercussions of their intended actions.

Ro saw the flare from the Q-ship’s RCS thruster firing. Alea was on it. “Target is initiating an aspect change.”

“They’re trying to target us,” Tulley ventured.

“No, they’re angling away from us,” Alea corrected him.

“They’re targeting the Bajoran freighters!” Ro realized. “Sonuvabitch! They just destroyed one!”

“Those ships are all crippled,” Tulley assessed. “That weapon can slice an unshielded freighter in half. If they hit the right spot, the inner pressure seals won’t be able to properly deploy.”

“Lieutenant, Sito wishes to speak to you,” Alea informed her commander.

“Patch her in,” Ro ordered. “Sito, you want to talk?”

“Lt. Ro, we’ll keep the Breen occupied so that they will concentrate their firepower on us. That will free you into disabling their warp core and their impulse reactor,” Sito spoke.

Ro hesitated. “We won’t be able to assist you. You’ll be on your own.”

“Understood. I don’t think we have much choice,” Sito replied.

“We’ll try to hurry,” Ro assured her.

“That would be appreciated,” Sito confessed.

“This is nuts, Jaxa,” Riker complained.

“Trust me,” Sito said smugly. “When have I ever led you wrong?”

“You said that with the Nausicaan raiders at Golana,” Riker ruefully reminded her. “I ended up with six broken ribs and a punctured lung.”

“But you lived, didn’t you?” Sito argued. “Look, this is simple. These civilians don’t stand a chance. The Breen want us, not them. They’re simply baiting us so we get in range of fire, so I’m simply obliging them.”

“You’re talking like a Starfleet officer, Jaxa,” Riker pointed out as she positioned them away from the freighters but close enough for the Breen to easily swing into position to fire at them.

“You were a Starfleet officer too, Tom,” Sito shot back at him. “All I’m saying is we’re supposed to guard these people. That could mean with our very lives. And if it does, we’ll walk with the Prophets.”

“I’d rather not spend my eternity, if there is one, with stodgy old wormhole aliens,” Riker countered.

“But I hear they’re nice wormhole aliens. They’ve certainly been with my people,” Sito postulated.

“The Cardassian Occupation notwithstanding,” Riker quipped.

“Look, we’re doing this,” Sito said firmly.

“That’s a very cold comfort, Jaxa,” Riker protested. “This isn’t a potential sacrifice. It’s a guaranteed suicide.”

“It is what it is,” Sito said grimly.

The Breen powered up their isokinetic cannon again. Riker grew alarmed. “They’re not targeting us. They’re targeting the freighter ID’d as the Prophet’s Glory.”

“Damn it.” Sito threw the courier into action.

“Too many prophets hanging around today,” Riker grumbled. “Wait a minute, what are you doing?”

“We’ll never be able to stop them from firing,” Sito spoke with an eerie calm, “but we can interpose ourselves between the Breen and their target.”

“You said this weapon can slice a starship in half,” Riker recalled. “We’re not even a starship.”

“An unshielded starship, sure. We’ll have shields though,” Sito countered.

“Oh, the hell with it,” Riker said in resignation. “Hurry up and put us in harm’s way.”

The Breen targeting sensors locked onto the Razorcat and the cannon fired. Having found a way to insure their victim would simply evade the shot, the Breen watched with satisfaction as the Razorcat survived the blast but was dead in space. They waited for the isokinetic cannon to recharge in order to blast the courier into atoms.

“Holy hell!” Tulley blurted. “The Breen just killed Riker and Sito!”

“Negative,” Alea interjected. “My scans indicate there are still two life signs aboard the Razorcat. However, two of their four warp cores are offline and the ship seems to have suffered overloads in every system. I doubt they’ll ever get their shields up again.”

“But the stinking Breen will still target them again just to be sure,” Tulley grated.

“Hold on.” Ro changed the Indie’s vector as they came in for a strafing run. “We’re giving them something new to shoot at.”

“Sounds like something Captain Sulu would say,” Alea quipped.

“Which Captain Sulu?” Tulley asked. “Hikaru or Demora?”

Both Sulus had charted out major portions of what would later prove to be the Cardassian and Tzenkethi borders. They’d proven themselves to be heroes to the colonists living there time and time again. Hikaru Sulu had even been part of the first contact team that met the Bajoran colonists in the Valo system for the first time.

Ro curved the Indomitable around the Q-ship as the Indie passed over it. She bade Tulley to avoid using photons even as she hammered at the ship’s shields with the raider’s phasers. Heading out towards the stricken Bajoran freighters and defender, Ro committed herself to an Immelmann loop and rolled the ship so its dorsal plane was situated along the Q-ship’s.

“Hammer the bastards,” Ro ordered.

Tulley was all too happy to comply.

Sito awoke to the sound of wracking coughs. Then she realized she was the one coughing. And so was Riker.  Thick smoke hung in the Razorcat’s cockpit.

“Gimme a second and I’ll get this cleared up,” Riker managed to rasp between coughs. He engaged the filtration system and the smoke dissipated.

“I take it you’re alive,” Sito wryly said to Riker.

“No, I’m not,” Riker grumbled. “I’m officially dead.”

“The Indie is engaging the Breen,” Sito could make out on her distorted sensor board. “We need to get operational and help out.”

“Jaxa, life support is barely operational.” Riker was running a damage assessment program. “We have two warp cores offline. The impulse reactor scrammed, our primary systems are fused and in some cases we’re running on the auxiliaries of the auxiliaries. I don’t know how long it’ll take to get us mobile again.”

“Just don’t sit there! Find out!” Sito demanded.

“God save me from Bajorans,” Riker muttered as he slipped back into the access way.

Sito could hear Riker making makeshift repairs and she saw her sensor board clear up. The Breen had fired off the isokinetic cannon at the Indomitable but Ro had neatly evaded the shot. Sito’s body was practically ready to burst from the need to do something.

“Haul ass, Tom.” she called back to Riker. “I’m not going to die because some Breen slaver thought I was target practice. We need to get moving before something bad happens.”

“Bad versus what?” Riker asked in a serious tone.

“Bad as being taken alive by the Breen and spending the rest of our miserable lives on a Prophets forsaken mining colony. Think Letau on steroids,” Sito conjured the image.

The auxiliary systems suddenly came to life and Riker reentered the cockpit. “Am I good or what?”

“And oh so humble too,” Sito dryly remarked.

“On my better days,” Riker said as he returned to his seat. “We don’t have warp drive and the impulse engines are still down, but you do have RCS thrusters.”

“It’ll have to do,” Sito decided.

“Isn’t this a lot like being a lame turkey at a shooting match?” Riker wondered.

“Are turkeys the ones that gobble?” Sito suddenly asked.

“Yes,” Riker sighed as he slipped back into the access way. “Let me know when we’re about to die.”

“Would I lead you to certain death?” Sito teased.

“Yes, I thought that was your whole damn point a few minutes ago,” Riker retorted. “You went gallivanting off to send us straight to the Bajoran version of hell.”

“That would be internment in the Fire Caves,” Sito said primly. “There we would be tortured for all eternity by the pah-wraiths.”

Riker began cursing and Sito couldn’t tell if it was directed at her or the ship. Her impulse control board flared to life and she yelled back, “You did it!”

She engaged the impulse engines as Riker came back to the cockpit and Sito happily said, “This is going to work.”

“What is?” Riker asked dubiously.

“I’m not going to tell you,” Sito replied, “You won’t like it.”

Riker scowled and decided he didn’t like it already.

“Ro, we’re running out of torpedoes,” Tulley suddenly announced.

“What’s our remaining inventory?” Ro asked.

“Two,” Tulley proclaimed.

“And you’re just now telling me about this?” Ro was somewhere between incredulous and livid.

“We have two forward launchers with six round magazines. Add to that our two round aft launcher and we’ve got eight torpedoes to start with. At this point, we’ve used up everything but two forward rounds,” Tulley rattled off.

“I know that, Aric,” Ro snapped, “but why are the Breen still fighting after that much munitions expenditure?”

“Actually, they’ve lost shielding to every compartment but their bridge module,” Alea reported, “and their EPS network is wildly fluctuating. Every time they fire the isokinetic cannon it overloads the EPS conduits.”

“The cannon is charging,” Tulley warned.

“Aim right at it,” Ro ordered.

“Alea, tell him when to fire,” Ro instructed.

Alea automatically understood that Ro meant to overload the cannon by hitting it with the torpedoes when it was firing and the shields protecting it were weekend. She watched the buildup and then calmly said, “Now, Aric.”

Tulley fired as the Indomitable veered off center from the Breen ship. Explosions burst throughout the freighter as systems overloaded in a cascade effect. One last disruptor bolt fired from the Q-ship has its impulse reactor failed and it was left to fend for itself on its battery system.

“She’s dead in the water,” Alea pronounced and then blurted, “Ro, climb up the y-axis. The Razorcat is coming in fast.”

Ro did as Alea instructed and the Peregrine-class courier flew by underneath the Maquis raider. Sito volleyed all four of her remaining microtorpedoes in sequence into the Breen freighter’s bridge module. Detonations destroyed the bridge as the Razorcat passed over the vessel’s dorsal plane.

Sito strafed the stricken freighter, further gutting it. Aboard the Indomitable, Tully had to chuckle, “I knew there was a reason why I was starting to like that kid.”

“Ro, the surviving Breen are signaling their surrender,” Alea informed Ro, “but I advise we move off instead.”

“Why?” Ro inquired.

“My people have had dealings with the Breen over the last few centuries.” Alea added weight to her statement. “When they’ve been hostile, the Breen rarely are captured alive. They tend to scuttle their ships rather than be taken prisoner.”

“Inform Sito to keep her distance,” Ro ordered Alea. “Tell them to conduct system patrols until relief arrives. Aric, gather up relief teams to assist the convoy crews.”

“We don’t have a sickbay,” Tulley reminded her.

“But we have lots of experience with combat injuries,” Ro reminded him. “The order stands.”

Tulley exited the bridge just as the Breen destroyed their own ship. Ro looked over at Alea. “Good call. Now let’s have a little chat.”

Alea was suddenly filled with dread.

Two Ju’day-class Maquis raiders relieved the Indie and the Razorcat. All of the freighters had to be towed out of the system and back to Bajor by warp tugs. The Razorcat was another casualty that had to be towed as well. Sito and Riker joined Ro’s crew aboard the Indomitable while she ran escort for the freighters.

The Bajoran Militia had sent disassembled Bajoran interceptors that would be permanently stationed on Free Haven. This bolstered the Militia military and constabulary units on the planet. Ro figured one could do worse than a year’s tour on Free Haven. Golana and Dreon VII were also getting interceptors and their crews.

Once on Bajor, Ro reported on the existence of the Mishrya to her Militia superiors. In turn, they had her personally brief First Minister Shakaar before he met with Alea herself. Ro spoke with Sveta Korepanova while Shakaar conducted his interview with Alea. If Alea were to stay with the Maquis, she was off of Ro’s crew.  

Korepanova thought it just as well that Alea was assigned to Militia expedition craft that took a Bajoran delegation to her home world. The odds were good that Ro would never have contact with Alea again and that’s how Ro wanted it.

But one good thing had come out of this all for Ro. She’d been promoted past captain and now held the rank of major. Sito had been coaxed into formally joining the Militia and now served alongside the Maquis as Ro’s deputy liaison officer. 

Ro knew her new rank came with a price. She’d be serving on Bajor alongside Korepanova. Sito would be the field officer. Ro tried to convince Sito to take her place aboard the Indomitable

Sito merely wore a sly smile. “The Razorcat has put out for me, so with all due respect, Major, I’ll perform my duties from aboard her. I know Tom will be glad of the reprieve.”

“Tom is taking command of the Indomitable,” Ro warned Sito. The younger woman’s face almost fell. “I thought you might want to consider that when making your decision.”

Sito rallied, “Thank you, sir. I will.”

Ro rolled her eyes as Sito walked away. So she was a sir now? Stranger things had happened in Ro’s life, so she figured she’d just roll with this one as well.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Redeemed" Chapter Three by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

A few routine months went by before the Maquis saw action. Increasingly boring patrols were finally punctuated with a little excitement. It seemed that the drop off in piracy was a temporary measure owing in large part to the pirates’ general lack of resolve in facing an armed opponent. But with the inclusion of the Breen into Dominion’s camp, patrols around Free Haven, the Bajoran colony closest to the Breen Confederacy’s borders, were stepped up.

The day’s patrol began simply enough. Sito and Riker manned the refitted Peregrine-class courier Razorcatand were running scans of Free Haven’s near-space as they approached the colony world itself. Riker manned ops because his specialty ran in that direction and Sito was an inspired pilot. She’d finally told him about being a part of the elite Nova squad during her days in the Academy. She also told the torrid story of how she’d been disqualified from the team and had her flight status revoked.

Running a few light years behind the fighter craft was Ro’s “flagship,” the Maquis raider registered as theIndomitable. While the raider was more heavily armed, the courier had better sensors, so the Razorcat had pushed out ahead to scout around and warn the larger Indie of trouble.

Orions, Acamarians, and Cardassians had started harassing local shipping. Riker jovially referred to them as “freebooters.” Sito just drolly asked him one question.

“Why do people on your planet romanticize pirates?” she wondered.

“The spirit of freedom. No one telling you how to live — just setting sail and tacking into the wind in search of plunder,” Riker waxed poetic.

“They’re rapists, murderers, and thieves,” Sito said with a hint of danger. “Do you really want to go there with me?”

Riker fell silent and finally Sito sighed, “I can see now why you were drawn to the Maquis. You’re a romantic. A romantic idiot but a romantic nonetheless.”

Sito paused before asking, “Your twin is very rule oriented. What happened to you?”

“I spent eight years alone on Nervalla IV. I depended on me, myself, and I alone for survival,” Riker reminded her.

“You were all alone?” Sito smirked.

“For eight years,” Riker stressed.

“Then you must have become your own best friend.” Sito was having a hard time keeping a straight face.

Riker wondered where she was leading with that and said as much. Sito used the jerking motion eponymous with male masturbation and Riker scowled. “Very funny.”

“Oh come on, Tom,” Sito laughed. “We were in prison for two years together and you never once mentioned a woman to go back to. Was there anyone or do you prefer men?”

“I prefer women,” Riker grated, “but there haven’t been anything but fly by night encounters since I left Nervalla.”

Riker waited and then thrust the question back in her face. “What about you?”

“What about me?” Sito asked innocently.

“Any lovers in the Academy or aboard the Enterprise?” Riker posed the inquiry, “What about at Letau?”

“Tom, every member of the guard contingent was my so-called lover at one point or another, usually while being held down by two or three others waiting their turn,” Sito said angrily.

“I don’t know what to say,” Riker admitted.

“Neither do I,” Sito confessed, “but I’m coming to grips with it.”

Riker could tell by every cue she radiated and displayed that she was far, far and away from coming to grips with it. “Is that why you didn’t go back to Starfleet? They put in the Cardassian’s reach again while you were in harm’s way?”

“Mostly,” Sito shared. “That and I couldn’t watch your back if I’m aboard a starship or starbase.”

Riker was stunned. “I never wanted you to derail your career for me.”

“I haven’t,” Sito divulged. “I’ve just altered my career vector.”

“Jaxa, you’re not in love with me, are you?” Riker suddenly blurted.

It was the wrong question. Sito was instantly insulted. While Riker was glad to discover her feelings were strictly platonic, he was also a little let down.

“You spent eight years on Nervalla. I grew up on Valo II during the Occupation. In the Valo system, the three colonies leaned on each other for support just to survive. We grew up relying on the person next to us in a way that transcended love, duty, or honor. We trusted those around us with our very lives. Starfleet tries to teach that, but practical experience does the job better,” Sito said archly. “That’s what I thought we shared.”

“We do,” Riker desperately assured her. “Consider the matter dropped.”

“Good,” Sito huffed.

Alarms sounded in the cockpit and Riker locked his board down. He began scrolling over the communication burst that had come in. “It’s an SOS.”

“From whom?” Sito was suddenly all business.

“A freighter scheduled to be departing Free Haven.” Riker perused the flight plan logs. “It’s a convoy of six ships.”

“Did they send an ID on the attackers?” Sito was already boosting their warp factor.

“A Breen freighter that’s armed to the teeth,” Riker winced.

“A Q-ship,” Sito grimaced.

Q-ships were civilian vessels boasting military-grade armaments. This was frequently done illegally by civilians for defense or by government forces for covert actions. Others were equipped for blatantly illegal acts. The Breen in question qualified under the latter.

The Breen often times captured ships and took the crew and passengers as slaves for mining operations and other hazardous duties. The captured cargos were just a bonus along the way. Free Haven had been threatened by the Breen before, so the act wasn’t unexpected.

“Call it in,” Sito advised Riker.

Riker conferred with Ro. The Indomitable was already travelling at its max speed of warp five. She ordered the Razorcat to push ahead, so Sito pushed the small craft to its maximum emergency speed of warp eight.

The Razorcat dropped out of warp at the edge of the Free Haven system and then proceeded on at maximum impulse. Riker reported that the Bajoran freighters were crippled but they were still generating enough electrostatic shielding to prevent transporters from penetrating the ships, so the Breen hadn’t boarded the civilian vessels yet. And now the brunt of the Breen’s sensors were aimed at the oncoming Federation courier.

“The Breen ships’ shields just went up,” Riker read off his sensor display. “I’ve released weapons to your control.”

“Weapons, aye,” Sito replied matter-of-factly.

The targeting grid overlapped her navigational sensor display and the cockpit before her projected a smart display mirroring her displays. The armed courier possessed two pulse phaser emitters and six photon microtorpedoes.

While the Maquis had retrofitted the Peregrine-class couriers in their inventory during their struggle with the Cardassians, they’d never been able to field any as well stocked as they could now. The Bajoran Militia’s funding insured that the torpedo magazines were fully stocked and the phaser banks had been updated to the latest technology available to the Bajorans.

“Phasers locked,” Sito announced. “Sing out if they get hostile.”

Alarms sounded from the ops panel and Riker wore a rueful grin. “That count?”

“Q-ships can be tricky,” Sito recalled. “They rarely use standardized armaments.”

“Now they’ve locked a primary weapon emitter onto us and its charging and it…” Riker frowned. “What the hell?”

Sito paired the readout to the center console between pilot and operations officer. “Oh hell.”

“What?” Riker was suddenly worried. Sito rarely sounded this worried.

“They just armed an isokinetic cannon,” Sito revealed. “It’ll finish charging in ten seconds.”

“A what?” Riker was oblivious to that tech.

“Hold on,” Sito grimaced as she slowed so she could engage in a strafing run along the Breen’s dorsal plane. The Razorcat flew past the Q-ship’s aft quarter.

“Okay, we have a chance to talk while they try to realign the cannon,” Sito breathed.

Riker recognized that Sito was setting up an approach to attack the armed freighter’s starboard side. “What is an isokinetic cannon and why are you worried about it?”

“Worried may be an overstatement,” Sito protested.

“Jaxa, I’ve seen you face down Nausicaans armed with shivs barehanded and you didn’t break half the sweat you’re building right now,” Riker argued.

Sito scowled as she began a second strafing run on the Breen ship. “Damn it. We’re barely touching them.”

“Let me prep a tachyon burst to force their shields to remodulate.” Riker began punching commands into his console. “Meanwhile, talk.”

“Some Beta Quadrant merchants travelled to the Alpha Quadrant with weapons tech they claimed derived from the Delta Quadrant,” Sito spoke as she looped the courier around for another pass. “They gathered a consortium of major powers and some minor players when they gave a demonstration. A single discharge can effectively cut a Galaxy-class starship in half.”

“Ouch,” Riker winced.

“The Breen won the bidding and received the weapon and all its technical specifications. In order to insure they had a monopoly, the Breen killed the merchants. Good for the Breen, but bad for the merchants,” Sito said indifferently, “but the Breen never overcame the cannon’s primary limitation.”

“Which is?” Riker asked then changed the topic. “I’m firing the tachyon burst in five…four…three…two…one!”

This time the Razorcat’s pulse phasers tore at the Q-ship’s hull. Sito smiled as she resumed her tale. “The isokinetic cannon is a black hole power-wise. It may not be for whoever built it, but here it’s a one-shot weapon while you wait for your systems to restore power to your ship.”

“How do you know all of this?” Riker wondered.

“Lt. Worf was very thorough in his briefings.” Sito’s smile widened. “He also shared Starfleet Intelligence reports indicating the Breen had lost several ships while trying to adapt the technology to their vessels. Supposedly the Breen military gave up on it.”

“Are you sure this really is an isokinetic cannon?” Riker had to ask.

“They have a unique power signature. You’re not likely to forget something that pronounced.” Sito attacked the freighter again and nimbly danced away.

Riker had to admit it was like watching a supernova build within the ship they were attacking. Suddenly, the Breen ship rolled and fired her thrusters so her forward cannon could engage the Razorcat. And it did.

“Lieutenant, long range sensors are detecting weapons fire and an energy burst like nothing I’ve seen before,” Tulley reported.

Ro snorted. “Stop using my rank, Aric. You never have before.”

“Yeah, but back then you were a Starfleet lieutenant, not a Bajoran Militia officer,” Tulley remarked, “and you seriously have to check out these readings.”

“Patch it into my aux display,” Ro ordered. Seeing the energy wave form she frowned. “I’ve never seen anything like this. Has anyone else?”

Thool replied that he hadn’t from the engineering console. Alea fell silent and Tulley dryly remarked he obviously hadn’t seen the pattern before. Ro clutched at Alea’s silence.

“Alea, what aren’t you telling me?” Ro wanted to know.

There were a lot of things Alea hadn’t told Ro. Things like where she came from. She largely looked like a Bajoran, but her violet hair was more akin to a Boslic. Also, it was plain to everyone that Alea was a trained intelligence officer and investigator. But no one knew who had trained her or why she’d chosen to aid the Maquis.

“It’s an isokinetic cannon pulse,” Alea said slowly. “It’s weapons tech from the Delta Quadrant brought here through the Beta Quadrant. My people were interested in it at one time.”

“That’s a lot of quadrants,” Thool opined.

“Thool, get down to engineering and do something to bolster the shields,” Ro instructed the Bolian.

“How? Prepay the power bill?” Thool quipped.

“Just go,” Ro sighed.

Thool grumbled as he made his way towards the rear of the ship. Ro cast a glance over her shoulder. “Talk to me, Alea. And make it quick. We reach the Free Haven’s system’s outer boundary in two minutes and then we proceed on impulse into the system itself.”

Alea obviously struggled with what to say. “Let me start by assuring you my people are friends to Bajor and enemies of the Cardassians.”

Tulley asked, “Why? No one has ever seen anyone like you. We’ve all lost someone to the Cardies. Why would you be their enemy?”

“Because we’ve been at war with the Cardassians almost as long as they occupied Bajor,” Alea shared. “They found our world and colonies almost at the same time they discovered Bajor. Fortunately for us, we were a lot less peaceful and much better prepared so we weren’t occupied ourselves. Then between the violence of the Resistance and the border wars with the Federation, we were never attacked in strength, so we were able to hold our own until the Cardassians just felt it wasn’t worth it anymore. They didn’t know we were at the breaking point by then and would’ve collapsed had they invaded one last time.”

“But when my people arrived in the Alpha Quadrant, we arrived in the Bajoran system,” Alea stated. “That was over two centuries ago as the Federation reckons them.”

“You’re from the Gamma Quadrant?” Ro could hardly believe it.

“Yes, but our investigations on Bajor revealed we shared a common ancestor with your people, Lt. Ro,” Alea revealed. “Our bloodlines may have gotten muddied with Gamma Quadrant locals, but we originally came out of Bajor.”

“Ain’t that a helluva thing,” Tulle mused.

“Our histories showed that we were colonists in the Gamma Quadrant, but no one could account for where we came from besides an astrogation marker,” Alea recited from memory. “When we were later pushed out of our colony in the Gamma Quadrant, we tried to return to our mythical home. We ended up at Bajor.”

“I’ll be damned,” Tulley commented again.

“One more word out of you and you will be,” Ro warned. “So why didn’t you settle on Bajor?”

“Because our presence was disruptive, so we went looking for a world we could call our own,” Alea divulged. “We plunged deeper into what you consider unexplored Alpha Quadrant space and made a home for ourselves, but we never forgot our cousins on Bajor.”

“So what do you call yourselves?” Ro wanted to know.

“We’re called the Mishrya,” Alea shared.

“That’s a Bajoran word!” Ro yelped. “It means ‘sojourner.’”

“It does in our tongue as well,” Alea acknowledged.

“So why haven’t your people contacted us?” Ro grated. “Particularly during the Occupation.”

“My people absorbed losses against the Cardassians we couldn’t afford,” Alea deemed fit to share. “Our population stands poised to plunge over the tipping point into eventual extinction. But even with that, volunteers went out to help other worlds against the Cardassians. In my case, I chose the Maquis and the Ronaran cell in particular.”

“But if your people are well-armed, why didn’t you equip our cell with a fleet?” Ro demanded to know.

“We don’t have a fleet!” Alea snapped. “We never did. We had patrol and survey ships that could defend themselves. At the end we barely had any of those left. We were down to armed couriers and runabouts.”

“Sounds like the Maquis to me,” Tulley quipped.

“I don’t buy it,” Ro decided.

“I knew I shouldn’t have told you,” Alea complained.

“Then why did you?” Ro sharply inquired.

“Because I’m tired of lying to you,” Alea confessed, “and because I trust you all. I wanted you to trust me as much.”

Ro’s nav sensors chimed and Tulley straightened up and reported, “We’re coming into weapons range.”

“Ours or theirs?” Ro asked.

“Both,” Alea answered for Tulley.

“Dammit! The Breen are already targeting us,” Tulley alerted Ro.

Ro threw the Indomitable into a series of evasive maneuvers to avoid the isokinetic cannon’s wrath. “I hope Thool bolstered those shields.”

“It won’t do any good,” Alea direly predicted.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Redeemed" Chapter Two by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

A long and arduous two years followed, but the incarcerated prisoners had no idea that the span of time was so short. All they had to measure time with was the death, release, or induction of prisoners. Brief spurts of brutality from either the guards or their fellow prisoners punctuated Sito and Riker’s daily existence.

But for both Starfleet officers, one listed as KIA and the other as AWOL, the spats of violence were nothing compared to what they had already endured at the hands of their captors. The Cardassian jailors actually adopted a “hands off” approach toward the Bajoran and human, which just enraged the gangs dominating life amongst the First Level dwellers all the more…which was Rokai’s intent all along.

Riker collapsed down onto a makeshift bench, utterly exhausted. Sito plopped down next to him. She surveyed the broken bodies strewn about.

“You’d think they would have given up by now. However long ‘now’ is,” Sito mused. “Prophets know however long we’ve both been here now.”

“It’s got to be at least ten years,” Riker grumbled.

Sito gave him a rueful look. “I don’t think so. You don’t have enough gray in your beard or hair for that.”

“But I do have some now. I didn’t before I got here,” Riker complained.

“But it gives you a dashing appearance,” Sito tried to console him. Riker’s self image as a ladies’ man had suffered while he was on Nervalla IV, and his dreams of a life with Deanna Troi had also been shattered afterwards, but he still knew he’d been a desirable male for most women.

“Yeah, but you’re the one who’s popular here,” Riker teased.

“Just the same, I’d prefer a little anonymity,” Sito sighed. “We seriously had to hurt them this time. The guards may take it out on them by not sending them to the infirmary this time — which would serve them right.”

Riker winced. “There are quite a few bones jutting out.”

Flashing lights flared to life and a siren began to sound. Cardassian guards lined up at the hatch leading down to the inner corridors of the administrative section. The airlock lay that way.

“Another new prisoner,” Sito said warily.

The hatch opened and a human male and a Bajoran female were shoved through it. The hatch closed behind them. Riker’s jaw dropped.

“I know them!” he blurted.

“Really?” Sito’s interest was piqued. The woman was familiar to her for some reason. “Should we do the meet and greet then?”

Riker grinned at Sito’s knowledge of Earth slang learned while at Starfleet Academy. “The woman is Ro Laren and then man is Aric Tulley. They were senior Maquis cell leaders on Ronara Prime. They planned my last mission.”

Now Sito remembered Ro. Ro had been the first Bajoran to ever serve aboard the Enterprise and Sito’s fellow officers had initially gauged Sito’s behavior by Ro’s precedent. Ro herself had been away attending Starfleet’s advanced tactical training course during Sito’s eight months aboard Starfleet’s flagship.

“So, are we saying ‘hello’ or what?” Sito impatiently asked.

“Follow me,” Riker chuckled.

Sito and Riker approached the Maquis pair. Ro greeted Riker with a smile. “It’s good to see you again, Tom. And you look healthy enough for a dead woman, Ensign.”

Sito digested the fact that she’d been declared KIA. “It’s just Sito now.”

Riker looked at Ro. “You wouldn’t know how long we’ve been here, would you?”

“You’ve been here two years.” Ro then looked to Sito. “And it’s been three for you.”

“How did they capture you?” Riker wanted to know.

“They didn’t,” Ro answered. “We surrendered.”

They went to Riker’s cell to explain. Sito’s sleeping mat had been moved into it years before, shortly after Riker arrived. Ro could tell from Sito’s body language that there was nothing overt about it. It was simply a measure of protection. And the broken and bleeding bodies outside the cell attested to the need for it.

“I think you’d better explain yourself,” Riker said.

“Watch your mouth, Riker,” Tulley snapped.

“Calm down, Aric,” Ro said quietly but with a measure of authority that made Tulley cower. Ro explained how the Maquis had blossomed while the Cardassians were losing a war against the Klingons, but then Dukat had come to power and had forged an alliance between the Cardassian Union and the Dominion.

The Maquis were subsequently butchered wholesale by the Jem’Hadar. Starfleet had then been pushed out of the Bajoran Sector and the Federation had been invaded while Dukat transferred his seat of power to Terok Nor and tried to learn how to destroy the self-replicating minefield sealing off the Bajoran Wormhole.

Starfleet had finally recaptured Terok Nor and had it redesignated Deep Space Nine again. Michael Eddington persuaded Captain Benjamin Sisko to undertake a mission into the Badlands. There, a handful of Maquis survivors were barely holding out against the Jem’Hadar. Eddington’s wife led them to safety aboard Sisko’s runabout, but Eddington himself died holding the Jem’Hadar shock troops off of the departing runabout.

In the weeks that followed, the Bajoran government had issued an amnesty offer to the Maquis survivors — not just to the Bajoran members, but all members regardless of race. Sveta Korepanova had led a bulk of the Maquis to safety on the Bajoran colony of Dreon VII near the Badlands. There, she spread the word and most of the Maquis had come in from the cold.

“Why is that significant?” Sito asked.

“Korepanova was code-named ‘the Architect.’ She was the primary unified mission planner, as well as one of the people who made the plan to break you out of here,” Ro stated.

“If there was a way out, we would have found it already,” Sito asserted. “All you did was trap yourselves in here with us.”

“You really think so?” Tulley scoffed.

“Yes, I do,” Sito challenged.

Ro suddenly posed the question, “Why weren’t we tortured before being brought here?”

Sito frowned. “I don’t know.”

“Think about it and get back to me.” Ro turned to Riker. “Think you could still handle OPS aboard a ship?”

“You know someone on the inside?” Sito blurted.

Ro nodded. “Which is how I knew about you even though Starfleet has you listed as ‘deceased.’”

“You’ll never get the rest of the Maquis out of here,” Sito warned. “They’re detained on the Fourth Level in permanent lockdown in their cells, they’re completely broken, and there’s only one spaceworthy craft and it’s a courier ship with room for four. That’s not exactly a transport liner waiting to be stolen.”

Sito challenged Ro. “Besides, I don’t think you can do it.”

“Are you certain you haven’t been broken as well?” Ro asked harshly.

“As long as I’m alive they’ll never break me,” Sito growled.

Ro nodded. “I like the attitude. You can come with us.”

Sito stared at her with an incredulous look on her face. For her part, Ro stood and started out of the cell. “Follow me.”

“Why should we?” Sito asked Tulley as he rose as well.

“Just do it if you know what’s good for you,” he said as he exited the cell.

Riker was already out the door. Sito caught up with him. “Who is she to come in here like she owns the place?”

“She’s Ro Laren,” Riker said matter-of-factly.

“That’s not an answer,” Sito said dourly.

Riker whispered to her a brief sampling of Ro’s résumé. Sito began to understand. “Okay, I may be a little impressed now. Over a third of the advanced tactical classes wash out every cycle.”

Riker smirked. “So she told me.”

Sito suddenly looked worried. “Did you ever sleep with her?”

Riker grinned. “Sort of.”

“Isn’t that typically a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question?” Sito was getting confused.

“She slept with my twin,” Riker relieved her bafflement.

“Commander Riker slept with her?” Sito was indignant.

“If you’re done talking about me, we can get to work,” Ro said from the edge of a corner. That corner opened into the hatch that led into the restricted zone housing the administrative center and eventually led to the shuttle bay.

“Why is it you seem to know where you’re going?” Riker asked Ro.

Ro smirked. “If you recall, Aric and I were conscious when we were escorted into the complex. And then there are all the briefings we attended. So you figure it out.”

Sito glared at Ro but Riker gave her a side hug. “It’s okay, Jaxa. You need to trust Ro.”

Ro reappraised Sito. “Anger’s good. It’ll keep you going strong. But don’t let it cloud your judgment or rush you into easy assumptions. Anger kept me going in the Bajoran Resistance, Starfleet Academy, and ever subsequent assignment and training. It can be a valuable tool if you know how to shape it and master its energy for your needs.”

Ro had just given Sito two valuable insights, the first into one aspect of perseverance and the other into Ro herself. Sito suddenly knew without a doubt not to underestimate the woman.

“Now we’re going straight into those guards. Your help would be appreciated but it isn’t necessary,” Ro informed them.

“Of course we’ll help,” Sito volunteered before Riker could even react.

Ro wore an honest smile. “Good to know. Just follow Aric’s and my lead.”

Ro led the contingent to the four guards posted at the hatch and Sito wondered just what the older Bajoran had in mind. The Cardassians challenged them. “Halt! This area is off limits.”

They came to a halt in front of the guards anyway. The garresh in charge snarled, “No admittance to prisoners.”

“I’m afraid cargo arrived during the prisoner transfer,” Ro spoke up. “We were detailed with bringing out of the cargo bay.”

“No, it didn’t,” the garresh argued.

“Sir, some cargo did arrive.” A gorr behind the garresh checked his padd.

The garresh snatched the padd from his subordinate’s hands and checked the display. Then he wheeled on the four prisoners. “Just don’t stand there gaping like simple primates. Get in there and unload that cargo!”

The squad escorted the “prisoners” to the cargo bay. Two gorrs joined them inside the bay while the garresh and another gorr stood at the entrance. But Ro went straight for a cargo container labeled in both Federation Standard and Efrosian marking. She popped the seal and the container opened.

The garresh began barking warnings while Ro lifted a metal sphere out of the container. Depressing her thumb on a small circle imbedded in the sphere’s surface, she sat it down. Tulley reacted by punching a nearby guard and ripping his disruptor rifle out of his hands. Ro smacked the palm of her hand into another’s nose.

Dragging the two bodies behind cover while the garresh and the remaining gorr opened fire, Ro gave her gorr’s rifle to Riker while she retrieved the fallen soldier’s pistol. Tully did the same for Sito. Then they gunned down the Cardassians who were still trying to get heir communicator cuffs to work.

“Aric and Tom, drag the bodies in here and get them under cover,” Ro ordered. Grabbing Sito, Ro returned to the cargo container. She plucked a padd out of it and handed it to Sito. “Guard this with your life.”

“What is it?” Sito wondered.

“Beyond the obvious, it’s our ticket out of here,” Ro informed her. Ro then fished a tricorder out of the container.

“So why didn’t the guards raise the alarm?” Riker asked after he and Tulley had completed their task.

“The sphere creates a subspace distortion field,” Tulley explained. “No FTL communications are possible while it’s on.”

Ro shut it down. “But if we leave it on it will be detected.”

Ro and Tulley returned to the exit. “Come on. We’re still just at the beginning.”

The quartet navigated the interior of the administrative hub. Neglecting to actually approach the operations center, Ro led the escapees to the troop barracks. There they gunned down the off-duty Cardassian troops. Sito discovered she had an almost orgasmic release from shooting her tormentors.

Ro checked on Sito afterward. “Are you all right?”

Sito was flushed but eagerly smiling with a satisfied radiance. “Never better.”

Ro’s party then moved onward to the shuttle bay doors. The Maquis gunned down the two Cardassian guards before they could react. Ro asked for the padd back from Sito.

She patched it into the door’s interlink with the prison’s computer. Activating one command sequence, she opened every secure door. That included the ones on Levels Four through Six. Alarms sounded throughout the complex as the lower levels rioted. Additional guards called on duty but they never arrived because they were all dead.

The Maquis prisoners entered the hangar. Riker went to the operations booth and cleared the courier ship for takeoff. Transferring all control functions to the fastboat shuttle, Riker boarded the ship. Sito and Tulley sat in the auxiliary station seats. Ro told Riker to sit down at the ops station.

Riker deactivated the force field keeping the vacuum at bay just as he released the artificial gravity. Ro pushed the ship’s impulse engines to their maximum thrust and the courier boat launched out of the hangar bay. Ro then handed off the essential padd to Tulley before concentrating solely on piloting the ship.

Tulley patched the padd into the courier’s comm array and transmitted a signal. Sito’s board registered a massive explosion in the prison’s first level originating in the cargo bay — an explosion that gutted the administrative wing and gouged a hole into the second level as well. Sito found herself grimly enjoying the prison’s fate.

Tulley then checked his board. “Central Command got a data squirt concerning the prison being overrun. Then they queried us. I ran Administrator Rokai’s ID past them so, for the moment, they believe we’re the prison officials running like hell from their worst case scenario.”

“Well, the names and places may have changed but it’s a fair assessment,” Ro grinned. Slipping free of Cardassia Prime’s gravity as well as clear of Letau and the other two moons, Ro slipped the ship into warp.

“Central Command is demanding we return to Cardassia Prime at once,” Tulley snickered.

“Give them our reply,” Ro ordered with a straight face.

Tulley hit the transmit key and blew the listeners a “raspberry.”

Outside of the former Demilitarized Zone, Ro dropped out of warp long enough for everyone to beam over to a Boslic freighter. The escape shuttle, operated by computer, lurched out towards the Badlands and streaked off, hell-bent to reach them. The Cardassians destroyed the vessel in short order. Tricorders had emitted falsified life signs and a liter of biomemetic gel would provide the organic residual matter, but there was still a chance the Cardassians would confront the Boslic captain.

This was a fact Captain Rionoj impressed upon her passengers. “If the Cardies get uppity and board my ship, I will hand you over without a qualm.”

“That’s what I understood at the beginning of this,” Ro assured her.

“Follow me and we’ll get you into the shielded smuggling bins,” Rionoj insisted. “The Cardassians won’t be able to detect you, but anything is possible for those damn Jem’Hadar. It doesn’t help that you’re late to begin with.”

“I never could keep a schedule,” Ro retorted.

“This is a hell of a time to discover your sense of humor, Ro,” Rionoj scolded her.

“Better now than when I’m dead,” Ro countered.

“Whatever,” Rionoj said dismissively as she opened a hatch door. “Just get in.”

The former prisoners did so.

The Cardassian border patrols did come alongside Rionoj’s freighter and scan her, but they didn’t find any trace of anyone that wasn’t listed on the crew manifest that was provided by the captain. Rionoj’s poise swayed the Cardassian patrol leader more than anything and the Boslics were sent on their way.

The freighter skirted the Badlands plasma storms until it neared the Rolor Nebula. Finally, it came within sensor range of the Bajoran colony of Dreon VII. This was her passengers’ ultimate destination. Rionoj escorted the liberated prisoners to the transporter room as the freighter made orbit and wished them luck as they beamed down to the surface. Rionoj herself followed them down but to a different location. She had business with the Colonial Governor’s Office. Ro and her party would be meeting with representatives of the Maquis survivors and the Bajoran Militia.

The Bajorans had first settled Dreon VII before the Occupation. Relative hordes of refugees had settled upon the world when the Cardassians claimed Bajor as their own. A similar rush had been made to the Valo system where three Bajoran colonies had been established, one each on each habitable world. Valo I-III had received the greatest influx of refugees. Although Valo had been located in nonaligned space, the Federation had incorporated it into the DMZ and now it was occupied territory.

The Bajoran Militia’s offer to the Maquis was a simple one. In exchange for policing Bajor’s outer colonies, the Maquis would receive legal protection from the Federation and the Cardassians. Piracy had increased around the colony worlds and shippers were loudly proclaiming they would abandon their routes if Bajor didn’t provide a modicum of protection.

That being said, the Militia’s pool of warp capable craft was comprised of roughly three runabouts. The Maquis had over eight and most were the larger Ju’day-class raiders that the Maquis favored. Most of the rest were the modified Peregrine-class couriers retrofitted into fighter craft.

The list of colonies was fairly short. Bajor VIII, also known as Andros, was within the Bajoran system itself. Prophet’s Landing was the closest colony to the Cardassian border. Starfleet patrolled these regions for Bajor. Then there was the unfortunate Valo system. Until the Dominion’s lines could be broken, those settlers were cut off from Bajor.

But that left Golana, Free Haven, and Dreon VII. All were in nonaligned territory and all had become targets as of late. No troops were involved, despite rumors of the Cardassian Union hiring ex-soldiers to harass Bajoran shipping, but no standing military forces were engaged in piracy.

Ro had been formally offered a commission within the Bajoran Militia. She’d enlist with the rank of Lieutenant and be the Militia’s official liaison with the Maquis. Ro would also retain command of her Maquis raider, the Indomitable.

The Maquis, in turn, were being chartered as a private security firm incorporated on Bajor. As privateers for the Militia, they would be duly authorized law enforcement agents. A fact that would rankle Starfleet Command. In addition to that legal pretext the Militia would also supply funds for additional weapons and ships.

Sveta Korepanova would head the Maquis as their Commander. Since the vote was overwhelmingly to adopt the new post, Korepanova took Sito aside. “Ensign, I understand you’ve endured hell on Letau for the past three years. If you’d like, I can arrange for transportation to Deep Space Nine where you can report for duty.”

Sito grimaced. “If it’s just the same to you, I’d rather not throw myself under the treads of the war machine. I’d like to pitch in here instead.”

Korepanova smiled. “Well, I’m certainly not going to throw away anyone with your training and potential.”

Sito smiled as well.

The Maquis moved from Dreon VII to Bajor. Captain Sisko personally challenged them and Ro appeared on his viewer in Militia Special Forces gray. “Hello, Captain. Sorry to ruin your day, but we’re reporting for duty.”

“The Bajoran government and Militia Command has informed me of the so-called status of you and your Maquis, Ro,” Sisko said with an edge to his voice. “The legal trickery supposedly shielding you all from Federation justice will only hold up as long as the war lasts.”

“Maybe, but then again, maybe not,” Ro replied. “The Federation is going to have more on its mind after this conflict ends than a few privateers serving an allied government.”

“You sound like Michael Eddington,” Sisko grated. “When he died, he thought he was a hero.”

“Captain,” Ro said dryly, “to my people he was a hero. Are we going to have a face off with Starfleet now or can we transit the rest of the way into the system?”

“You’re cleared to proceed. Just watch yourself very closely because I will be watching you too,” Sisko warned her.

“I just feel all warm and cuddly now,” Ro said flippantly before signing off.

“Major, I want them observed every time they leave or approach Bajor’s surface,” Sisko ordered.

“Can I speak with you?” Kira wondered. “Privately.”

Sisko led the way to his office and as he sat down, he noted Kira remained standing. It was her usual posture for an impending confrontation. “Speak your mind, Major.”

“I don’t think you should be harassing the Maquis,” Kira stated baldly. “They’re providing a vital service to Bajor while Starfleet is refusing to engage the pirates.”

“The colonies in question are in neutral space,” Sisko replied. “Under peace time conditions, we’d be happy to oblige, but…”

“But there’s a war on and Bajor found a solution to our own problem,” Kira retorted. “Why do you object to it?”

“They’re terrorists,” Sisko said simply.

“So was I, yet here I am,” Kira reminded him.

Sisko struggled for a reply when his computer chimed to alert him that the communications officer had traffic for Sisko. “Go ahead.”

“Sir, we just received a resignation letter from one Ensign Sito Jaxa,” the comm officer reported.

Sisko knew it would fall on his desk because he was sector commander, but he was curious as to why this warranted his immediate attention and said as much. The comm officer was quick with a reply. “Sir, she was listed as KIA off of the Enterprise three years ago. Commander Dax triangulated the subspace message to its source and it’s a Maquis ship. If she’s dead, then what the hell is she doing with the Maquis?” Catching himself, he quickly added, “Sir!”

Sisko let the junior officer’s lack of protocol go. “Thank you, Blevins. I’ll look into it.”

“Major, does the Militia have a record of every Maquis that bought into this amnesty deal?” Sisko wondered.

“Probably,” Kira warily answered.

“I want it,” Sisko stated.

“Why don’t I look into it for you?” Kira asked. “I’m more inclined to be less…rude about it.”

Sisko almost laughed at this new reality where Kira considered herself more diplomatic than he himself. “Carry on, Major.”

A few hours later, Kira reported to Sisko. “The Militia is refusing to hand over a list of contracted ‘security specialists,’ but the general was willing to tell me that Sito Jaxa and Tom Riker were liberated from the prison complex on Cardassia Prime’s moon, Letau.”

Sisko repressed a shudder. Letau was as legendary as Rura Penthe and possibly even more brutal. Sisko knew Gul Dukat had revised the prison along the lines he would later employ on Bajor during his stint as Prefect. Having seen those results firsthand, he could only dare imagine what Dukat’s vision for a captive “society” would be when he had an unrestricted hand.

“Why won’t the Militia share the personnel files with us?” Sisko wondered.

“Does the Militia ask for the files on all of Starfleet’s personnel in the sector?” Kira retorted.

Sisko had to give her that one. “Very wel,l Major. What were your superiors willing to share?”

Kira handed him a padd. “These are the results of medical examinations of both Sito and Riker. I think they’re rather informative.”

Sisko perused the summaries and what he found made him glad he’d skimmed over the actual details, “I’m beginning to see Ensign Sito’s point of view.”

“Starfleet simply left her there to endure violation after violation. It’s no wonder she doesn’t want to return to active duty,” Kira ventured. “It wouldn’t matter to her that Starfleet thought she was dead. That sense of abandonment would still be there and then the Maquis came along and rescued her. She’d feel obligated to them just out of a sense of gratitude.”

“Are you authorized to tell me how she and Riker were rescued?” Sisko wondered.

“Not precisely,” Kira replied, “but I can tell you it was a two person infiltration of Letau led by Ro Laren.”

Sisko didn’t know whether or not to applaud Ro’s efforts or condemn her for them. To escape Letau, and then Cardassian space, while the Dominion was in a war footing bespoke of a certain amount of genius. Sisko suddenly worried where Ro would lead people like Sito Jaxa and Tom Riker. Certainly Ro answered to the Bajoran Militia now, but it seemed they were giving her free rein.

Sisko didn’t agree with Bajor’s position on the Maquis, but he wasn’t in a position to argue with the government over it. Starfleet needed Deep Space Nine and its strategic position, and he certainly wasn’t willing to abandon Bajor to the Dominion for a second time. So he would bide his time and wait until the war ended to see what the political climate was then.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.

"Redeemed" Chapter One by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Series: TNG, DS9

Rating: M (dark themes)

Synopsis: In the TNG season 7 episode "Lower Decks," the Enterprise detected debris indicative of a Federation shuttlecraft’s life pod’s destruction. There was no mention of organic material. In fact, the crew had to hear about the death of Sito Jaxa though Cardassian military reports. But again, no body was ever presented as evidence. Is Sito Jaxa alive, and if so, what happened to her?

Chronology: The following are a series of vignettes beginning in 2371 post-DS9 “Defiant” and stretching until post-DS9 “What You Leave Behind.”

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"Course Correction" Chapter Three by Charlynn Schmiedt

by Travis Anderson

Chakotay brought the Val Jean in on an oblique course towards Valo VI. The protocol held that precise turns and banks had to be made at designated times. Chakotay related it to ancient submariners running precisely charted undersea canyons based upon turning at times intervals.

Alea had obtained the chart and the navigation chart for remaining within Valo VI’s dedicated sensor blind. The course kept one out of sight of Valo 1-III as well as that of Valo VI as well. Chakotay wondered again how Alea had obtained her data. Her methods were as mysterious as her origins, but Ro Laren trusted her so Chakotay felt forced to as well.

Besides, Seska had confirmed the data through independent sources. She always distracted him in tantalizing ways whenever he pressed her on how she obtained her intelligence, but she always came through in a clutch. Still, for some strange reason he’d curtailed the crew’s missions into Cardassian space for a while now.

Gul Evek had been a little too close for comfort when they last approached Dorvan V. Chakotay’s home planet was occupied by Cardassians and Evek had “just” happened to be tucked behind a moon in the solar system when the Val Jean appeared. He suspected there might be a leak amongst the Maquis cell commanders, but he trusted his crew implicitly.

Chakotay refocused on what he was doing as he almost blew a turn. Ayala turned to him. “Problems?”

“No,” Chakotay asserted. Starfleet had drilled into him the necessity of a commander appearing infallible. He didn’t quite buy into it. “Just distracted for a second.”

“A second is all it’ll take to alert them,” Ayala cajoled.

Chakotay wore a sheepish smile. “Duly noted.”

They cleared the sensors and landed on the backside of the planet. The base was on the side facing the Valo star. Valo VI was a class P glaciated world. It was warmer than Pluto but colder than Mars. The Maquis had stocked up on polar survival gear and breath masks. Valo VI had an atmosphere, but it needed to be filtered.

Torres and Tuvok were leading Yosa and Lon Suder in a trek halfway across the globe to erect a transport relay. The components had cost the Maquis plenty, but they were military-grade. The Maquis had been specifically warned against asking which military.

It took two long hours, but Torres finally signaled Chakotay that they were ready to tap into the Cardassian transporter array. Chakotay didn’t envy those that he’d dispatched on this little chore. Torres and Tuvok’s ancestry were evolved for high-temperature worlds. They had to be utterly despising the cold — and their commander — right now.

“Ready?” Chakotay asked Ayala.

“How hard is it to hold down the fort in case a hasty retreat or if extra firepower is needed?” Ayala asked ruefully.

“I need someone dependable to stay behind,” Chakotay counseled his deputy.

“Sure, sure. That’s the kiss of death, you know,” Ayala mock protested.

“Keep tabs on B’Elanna and Tuvok. I’m worried about how they’re tolerating the cold,” Chakotay requested.

“That’s why Yosa and Suder are driving the skimobiles,” Ayala reminded him, “but I know you’ll fret anyway.”

Chakotay thought of the group remaining behind to fly the Val Jean, should the worst happen. Doyle, Hogan, Jackson, and Jarvin were manning the ship’s various vital posts. Kenneth Dalby and Gerron were minding Wren. Dalby was watching over Gerron as much as he was watching out for the Andorian Starfleet officer.

A long line had formed towards the ship’s cargo transporter. It also served as the main transporter since the “official” personnel transporter only had two pads. Chakotay was leading the first foray into the Cardassian base. With luck, the Cardassians wouldn’t post a watch officer on the transporters. If they did, this effort would die while still being born.

Chakotay gathered his selected group. Riker stood beside him. Chell, O’Donnell, and Henley also stepped onto the transporter grid. Jarvin did the honors and locked the transporter onto the Cardassian transporter room through Torres’ relay.

The team materialized in an abandoned transporter room. Riker immediately fired up the unit, solidified the lock and added the security of a second buffer to the transporters. He, above all others, knew the advantages of having a second buffer in play.

Seska’s group came next. Michael Jonas and Jor were included. Seska saw Riker at the transporter controls and snorted. Seska didn’t let the inevitable acidic barb loose. Instead, she and her unit went out to the corridor. O’Donnell, Chell and Henley followed them.

While Seska’s group secured one end of the corridor and O’Donnell, Chell, and Henley defended the other approach, Riker brought the next team across the distance from the Val Jean. Ann Smithers led this group. Tabor and Carlson were assigned to her. Riker noted that they all seemed to enjoy a light repartee.

Out in the corridor, Seska navigated a hall monitor’s display. Getting a layout of the base, she transferred the schematics to the team leaders’ PADDs. They were of Bajoran issue. Programmed to interpret Bajoran data encryption as well as Cardassian and Starfleet digital languages, Bajoran PADDs were ideally suited to the Maquis.

Chakotay led his team to the operations center. Seska’s group proceeded to the power plant. Meanwhile, Smithers and her unit proceeded to the crews’ barracks.

Seska quickly accessed the base security network and bypassed the lockout guarding the reactor core. Jonas and Jor laid down suppressive fire as Seska made her way through the engineering space.

As she crept through the room, she shot the unarmed engineers. One engineer managed to sound the alarm before he died. It wasn’t the first time Seska had killed fellow Cardassians in the line of duty. They certainly wouldn’t hold back because they’d think she was a damn Bajoran terrorist. Her people had already had a bellyful of Bajoran extremists.

The room was pacified in seconds. The engineering staff was decimated. Seska took the control of the fusion reactor and pushed it to one hundred and fifty percent capacity. Then she blew out the controls. In twenty to thirty minutes, the reactor would erupt in an orgasmic display of destructive power. The entire base would be taken out by it.

Seska then led Jonas and Jor to the operations center but the security force was finally responding to the reactor alert. The Maquis opened fire and then retreated into the bowels of the base. This would alleviate Chakotay’s team because Seska’s group would draw them off.

Chakotay’s team stormed the operations center in similar fashion. Cardassian guards had been posted in the ops center — four, to be precise. Three were now dead, but the analysts themselves had taken up arms. There were six of those. The only good part was that they had been driven from their stations before they could react.

Henley joined Chakotay in laying down cover fire while Chell and O’Donnell crossed over to the other side of the room. Sporadic bursts of particle beam fire illustrated the point that both sides were still alive, although Henley and O’Donnell had each scored hits on members of the opposition.

Kneeling beside Chakotay, Riker suddenly interjected. “Give me a phaser.”

Henley cast a questioning eye Chakotay’s way. He solemnly nodded. She pulled a spare Son’a built phaser out of her waistband. Riker studied the model before he began tearing it apart.

Once he had it field stripped, he reversed the polarity of the phase emitter. Reassembling it, he pulled the trigger and it slowly whined. He leaned toward Chakotay again.

“Have everyone cover me,” Riker insisted.

Seeing that Riker had overloaded the phaser, Chakotay yelled instructions across to Chell and O’Donnell. Then he and Henley began barraging the Cardassians. Chell and O’Donnell lent the weight of their firepower into it and Riker stepped out unmolested.

Tossing the phaser down the length of the room, he stepped back as Cardassians started surging forward to disarm the phaser. The Maquis dutifully shot them as they tried.

When the phaser detonated, only two Cardassians remained alive by Chakotay’s count. The Maquis all rose with their weapons ready. Not seeing any movement through the smoke, Chakotay faced Riker.

“Good thinking, Tom,” Chakotay said encouragingly. “That’s the type of thinking that the Maquis need.”

“That’s good, because I just effectively threw my Starfleet career away,” Riker ruefully realized.

“And blew up a perfectly working phaser,” Henley grumped.

“Set it aside, Mariah,” Chakotay chuckled. “Tom will buy you a new one.”

Henley looked at Riker with an expectant gaze. Riker looked caught in the crosshairs. “Sure. Pick a model.”

“Anything as long as it’s not Ferengi crap,” Henley stated.

“Tom, if you don’t mind my saying, it didn’t look like you had much of a career anyway,” Chakotay observed. “I saw the way your Andorian babysitter was looking at you. She doesn’t trust you to make the wisest decision.”

“After this, do you blame her?” Riker wondered.

“There’s a wide world outside of Starfleet. Trust me, I know,” Chakotay assured him, “but I didn’t used to think so. So I can understand where you’re coming from.”

“Maybe, but how do you sleep at night?” Riker wondered.

“Guilt-free,” Chakotay grinned. “Now come with me. You need to grab the data as fast as you can.”

Riker gave him a quizzical look so Chakotay explained, “Seska rigged the reactor to explode. By my count, we have less than ten minutes left before this base goes up in a nuclear firestorm.”

“Sure. No pressure,” Riker chuckled. Sitting down at a station, he found that the agent assigned to it hadn’t logged out. Pulling a Cardassian isolinear rod out and inserting it into the data receptacle, he recorded the bulk of the database. He repeated this process and then stood up.

“Let’s go,” Riker urged.

Chakotay didn’t hesitate. He knew Cardassian equipment was designed to reject Federation isolinear rods, but Federation computers could be adapted to accept Cardassian rods. They had prepared for this eventuality.

The Maquis exited the operations center and proceeded towards the transporter room. Along the way, they encountered Smithers’ group. Chakotay wanted an update. “Any problems, Ann?”

“No, we caught them napping. Literally,” Smithers reported.

“Where are Carlson and Tabor?” Chakotay wondered.

“They helped Seska establish a crossfire and eliminate the guards. She’s beaming people back to the Val Jean right now,” Smithers explained.

Chakotay relieved Seska and beamed her back with a group of four Maquis. Riker was joined by Henley and Chell. Henley was being a tad protective of Riker now. She had a phaser on the line, and maybe more considering the look in her eye.

Chakotay beamed out last. He did so with three minutes to spare. The reactor overloaded and destroyed the base in a burst resembling a solar flare.

Chakotay returned to the Val Jean to find that Torres’ team had safely returned while his crew was away. Chakotay pulled up Riker, who was being closely watched by Seska again, and instructed him to wait with Wren while they flew to Valo I.

“Why Valo I?” Riker wondered. “Do the colonists support the Maquis?”

“Some do,” Chakotay shared, “but we’re really going to its moon. A Bajoran Resistance fighter named Orta used its caverns and caves for a base. We stockpiled the necessary equipment to translate the data you’re carrying there.”

“Besides, you need to settle down your friend’s ruffled feathers,” Chakotay urged.

Wren wasn’t so much angry as she was severely disappointed. “You know I’m going to have to report this.”

“I know,” Riker replied simply.

“Look, I don’t actually know what you did on this little raid, but these Maquis now trust you.” Wren looked toward Seska. “Certain Bajorans notwithstanding.”

Riker watched her eyes and the turmoil within them. “That kind of trust is earned and it speaks volumes.”

“The data will be worth it,” Riker promised her.

“I hope so,” Wren said wryly. “For your sake.”

Inside Valo I’s moon, the caves and caverns underneath the surface were oxygenated by atmosphere processors even older than the Val Jean. Wren honestly wondered when they’d give out and they’d all asphyxiate.

She’d come up in the world. Gerron and Dalby were once again joined by Chell and Henley. And she noticed that Henley was watching Riker more than Wren herself. That irked Wren to no end.

Torres adapted the fitting to the Federation-built portable computer. It was at least two generations out of date, but the Maquis were used to working with what they had. Riker spent the next few hours unpacking the files. When he was done, he helped Chakotay, Tuvok, and Seska go over the data by copying it to their PADDs and running through it himself.

Riker almost groaned when Seska sat beside him. She shot him a scathing glare before picking up her PADD and perusing its contents. The others silently plowed into the information.

What they found in the end was that the identities and locations of the deep cover operatives were sealed away in an encryption that the portable computer couldn’t fathom, much less break. But various sites were revealed all throughout the DMZ.

Most baffling were two items that hinted at a much greater story behind them. One was that the Obsidian Order was tracking Central Command’s deep cover operatives in the Maquis. Seska barely held it together for that, but she played it cool and found comfort in the fact that no names or location were given. She was surprised to discover that Evek had doubled down and sent more undercover agents to infiltrate the Maquis than just herself. She understood the reasoning why and she was insulted by it.

The second were personnel and material transfers to the Orias system. Seska picked up on that. “You read it wrong, Riker. The Orias system is uninhabited. There nothing there but a few class D planetoids, three asteroid belts, and a number of gas giants.”

“Look at the section yourself.” Riker fought to keep the anger out of his voice.

Seska read the summaries and then shook her head. “It has to be a mistake.”

“Seska, you know as well as I do that the Order rarely makes mistakes,” Chakotay cautioned her.

Seska lasered another look Riker’s way. “Who are you going to trust? Starfleet or me?”

“I’m afraid I have to go with Tom on this one,” Chakotay admitted.

Seska stared at Riker and her eyes announced that she had just declared war. Riker was getting rather tired of it. “Look, I’ll be out of your way soon enough. Give someone else the death stare after I’m gone.” He turned back to Chakotay. “But why are they transferring all of these resources into a nowhere system?” Riker asked.

“We may never know,” Tuvok warned him. “It is logical to assume we will never gain access to a system that deep inside Cardassian space.”

“I don’t buy that,” Riker asserted. “The right people with the right ship could get there.”

“There may be a way,” Chakotay mused, “but it would take just the right commander. Maybe we’ll discuss it later.”

Riker found himself looking forward to that talk.

The Val Jean returned to Ronara Prime and the Odyssey was in orbit over the planet, waiting to transfer the Maquis’ Starfleet guests back to the Gandhi. Chakotay and Seska escorted Riker and Wren to the transporter. Seska manned the equipment and gave the pair a surly look.

“Well? Aren’t you leaving?” she demanded to know.

Riker looked at Wren and she was crestfallen. “You’re staying, aren’t you?”

“I have to,” Riker declared. “I need answers and only the Maquis can provide them.”

Wren pulled him in and fiercely kissed him. “Take care, Tom Riker. Stay lucky and don’t do anything more idiotic than this in the future.”

“I’m afraid I’ll just have to take my chances,” Riker replied.

Seska gloated over the hurt look in Wren’s eyes. It served the little Andorian strumpet right. She gleefully engaged the transporter and sent Wren back to the Odyssey.

Aboard the scoutship, Macen awaited her along with Tom Eckles, who operated the transporter. Macen looked puzzled. “Weren’t there two of you at the beginning?”

“Tom defected to the Maquis,” Wren said woefully.

“Good for him,” Eckles blurted.

Wren shot him an angry glare. Mellowing, she turned to Macen. “You’ve worked for the Maquis?”

“Is this on the record?” Macen asked, “because if it is, I’ve worked with suspected Maquis.”

“This is completely off the record,” Wren sighed.

“Then yes, I’ve worked for them at times,” Macen admitted.

“What about Chakotay?” Wren asked. “What type of person is he?”

“Meaning you want to know if Chakotay will throw Riker to the Cardassian wolves,” Macen surmised.

“Kind of,” Wren confessed.

“Chakotay is one of the movement’s best and brightest,” Macen assured her. “He’ll only send people into a situation if he thinks there’s a reasonable chance of survival.”

“That’s good,” Wren brightened.

“Be warned though,” Macen cautioned her. “reasonable is a relative term.”

Chakotay and Riker beamed back to the surface of Ronara Prime. As they exited the customs house, Kalita welcomed them. “Hello, Tom. I see you made the right choice.”

“Chakotay said you had a way of getting to the Orias system,” Riker stated.

“We have contingency plans regarding the perfect vessel for an incursion into Cardassian space,” Kalita informed him. “We could go to Orias if you want.”

“Our cell commander, Ro Laren, has a scheme of how to capture the Defiant at Deep Space Nine. Learning of your joining us, she found the perfect way of accessing the ship and stealing it.”

“How is that?” Riker wondered.

“We send you aboard,” Kalita smirked.

“That plan is dead in the water as soon as Wren gets back to the Gandhi and Halifax reports me as AWOL and with the Maquis,” Riker countered.

“Megan Halifax will stall the report for as long as humanly possible,” Chakotay promised.

“You don’t know Halifax then,” Riker opined.

“I know her very well,” Chakotay chuckled. “We went to the Academy together.”

Riker gaped so Chakotay decided to spare him the endless hours of wondering. “The Central Command has its undercover agents and we have ours. Megan’s been quietly pushing you towards joining us for months now.”

“‘Push’ isn’t the word,” Riker griped.

“Well, she had to be persuasive,” Chakotay grinned.

“She was,” Riker admitted. “Believe me, she was.”

Captain Moneii nearly hit the ceiling when she learned of Riker’s defection. She basically wanted him clapped in irons and crucified. She immediately ordered Halifax to report his status to Starfleet Command. Halifax kowtowed and went away happy.

Vallis stopped Wren as the Andorian was on her way to drown her sorrows in the crew’s lounge. Vallis was fretting. “Is it true?”

Wren sadly nodded. “Yes. Tom joined the Maquis.”

Vallis cast her a sympathetic look. “Did you ever tell him how you felt about him?”

“I gave him a major clue at the end, but he still went traipsing off to certain doom,” Wren sighed.

“I’m so sorry,” Vallis expressed.

“I’m due on Andoria in a few months anyway. My bond group wants to have a second baby. Me, I’m not so thrilled with the idea,” Wren admitted. “Why I had to be born into a four sex species is beyond me. Balancing two people’s lives together is hard enough. But four? You might as well put a phaser to your head.”

Vallis was horrified. “Don’t say that. Look, I say we eat decadent food and drink a few glasses of synthehol.”

Wren caved. “Any port in a storm.”

“That’s almost the spirit,” Vallis smiled.

As promised, Halifax camped on the report outlining Riker’s new affiliation. It wasn’t until she received an innocuous message regarding the weather on Ronara Prime that Halifax mentally decoded the underlying verbal text. Tom Riker was going to impersonate Will Riker and steal the Defiant. Kalita was backing his play so there would be two senior Maquis aboard for the mission.

Now that Halifax knew the plan was already in motion, she transmitted the report. Now no one could accuse her of not doing her duty. 


Many thanks to Bernd Schneider of Ex-Astris-Scientia.org for designing the Blackbird-class scout vessel mentioned in this story.


Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.