World 7: Star Trek TNG – Episode One

A Conclusion Devoutly to be Wished – Episode One

ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE

Previously: Episode Zero – East is East

Themesong: In Time by Self Esteem

The year was 2360 and by the Earth reckoning, it was the middle of September when I returned to the Alpha Quadrant and the Vulcan homeworld. When I’d left, back in 2274, I’d been a relatively young Vulcan at sixty-seven standard years old. I’d been a Commander with a sterling record, and I’d been serving as Potemkin’s Chief Medical Officer for two and a half years.

Now, eighty-six years had passed and S’Janus’s life had not ended the moment I’d left. Not even a little bit. I/She had spent another thirty-nine years in the fleet, making Captain in 2279, and being given command of USS Ascelpus, a medical frigate and first of her class. I’d done good work there and provided substantial humanitarian aid on dozens of occasions.

In 2291, after twelve years in rank, and three years teaching medicine at the Academy, I’d been promoted to Commodore and been given command of Starbase 4077, nicknamed Hawkeye. It was located in the Sol Sector, and was a plum assignment to be certain, but the job was extremely dull, so deep inside the Federation. Still, I was nothing if not professional, and as a Vulcan, boredom was irrelevant.

Rather than succumb to the monotony of the task put before me, I used the seven years on Hawkeye to write a number of texts on a dozen topics ranging from quantum theory to trauma medicine to the anatomy of giant space fauna. I also wrote and published (under the pen-name of Sunny James) a series of novels for young adults about the adventures of Ziggy, a ferret given command of the USS-Wolverine, a deep space federation scout ship. Sigmund T. Ziggy, who was just a ferret, and lacked such useful things as opposable thumbs or the power of speech, had nevertheless graduated third in his class at Starfleet Academy and managed, almost entirely through pure luck, to gain command of a starship. He communicated entirely in interpretive dance and silent wordbubbles, and the series (comprised at that point of nine books) had sold over two-hundred and fifty million copies and had been optioned for a media franchise, though nothing had materialized by the time I left Starbase 4077 in 2298.

The reason I left was because I was being promoted once again, this time to Rear Admiral and to Earth itself, where I assumed command of Starfleet Medical as the Surgeon General, which (despite the name) involved relatively little actual surgery. It was a five year post, and usually the last one in a medical officer’s career, as the general rule of militaries at command rank is up or out… in that in order to keep a progressively longer lived society from clogging up the upper ranks with ‘old’ fogies and to ensure that there would continue to be places for new people to aspire to, you retired your leadership before they actually became glued to their seats.

Thus, I was deeply astonished (or as much as a Vulcan can get) when, in 2302 (eight lunar months before my term was to expire), I’d been given another promotion (to Vice Admiral this time) and asked to assume the post of Medical Intelligence Director of Starfleet Intelligence. This position, the highest ranking medical officer in the entire federation, served on the Federation Council and set policy for medical security, a vital task for a nation spread across two dozen sophont species and a hundred worlds with multiple hostile nations bordering it.

Only knowledge that this document will never be read inside the Star Trek Universe allows me to commit to unclassified documentation what I am about to reveal to you. As the 24th century progressed, tensions between the Federation and the Romulan Empire began to surge as well, as the Federation slowly curled around the edges of the largely stagnant Empire. More than once provocation had been narrowly avoided but it was only a matter of time before those provocations became acts of war.

It was clear that, while the Imperial Senate didn’t really want a war, the captains of their fleet were practically gagging for one, and if nothing changed, a coup de main against the Federation would almost certainly follow the coup d’etat that would topple the Senate and install puppets in their place. Thus, a daring, and frankly insane, idea was hatched. 

History would recall the result of the conspiracy as the Tomed (toh-med) Incident, as it involved the terroristic crashing of the Romulan fleet flagship, the Ivarix-class warbird Tomed, into Starbase Foxtrot on the edge of the Neutral Zone. The Tomed, under the command of the extremist High Admiral Aventeer Vokar, smashed the base at high warp, where its singularity warp core destabilized, disrupting space-time throughout the sector. Dozens of asteroid bases and the starships USS Agamemnon and USS Tripoli were destroyed, with the Enterprise-B narrowly escaping. Tens of thousands died, and the Romulan Empire was publicly shamed.

Two months later, the Romulan Star Empire, the Klingon Empire, and the Federation all signed the Treaty of Algeron, where the Federation officially foreswore any research into cloaking technology while the Romulans agreed to recall all diplomatic missions and citizens, then withdraw their forces behind their borders, effectively isolating themselves from the astro-political arena indefinitely.

All that is public record… and much of it is fiction. In reality, the only fatalities of the Tomed Incident were Vokar and his five senior officers, and they were all dead by the time the Tomed impacted Starbase Foxtrot. Similarly, everyone on the Agamemnon and Tripoli were deceased, and everyone assigned to the asteroid bases, and to Starbase Foxtrot itself, were similarly either fictional or predeceased.

The entire process took an incredible amount of coordination… and secrecy. As Director of Military Intelligence, it had been my department’s job to slide over ten thousand deaths quietly off the records. It took three and a half years, years in which accidents that resulted in fatality were misrecorded as recoverable, where sicknesses, suicides, and catastrophes were harvested for entire families that could be vanished from the books and reassigned to Foxtrot sector, with existing personnel being shuttled back to more important and less doomed positions in the rest of the Federation. 

As for Agamemnon, a core inversion had flash-killed the entire crew after a blackhole had collapsed into a pinpoint quasar near the Tholian expanse. Tripoli’s crew had been driven insane by, of all things, a telepathic nebular mass, and although the Enterprise-B had managed to destroy the threat, the crew of the Tripoli (as well as a baker’s dozen civilian ships) had already perished. With the help of automation and a staff of gig writers who never knew who they were writing to, Starfleet Intelligence emptied the already sparsely populated sector and repopulated it with the dead.

And so, at the ripe old age of a hundred-and-four, I helped perpetrate a war-crime and framed a dead man who’d had dreams of conquest for mass murder. Three years later, in 2314, I turned over the Medical Directorship to my successor and retired from Starfleet, returning home to Vulcan where I joined the Academy of Sciences and began working on transwarp theory.

That fact was enough to cause me to pause my review of the past I’d both missed and experienced. Transwarp theory should have been exceptionally obscure, and there were pretty much only three reasons I (EssJay) could think of to want to study it in the first half of the 2300s; transwarp Drives, like the ones used by the Delta Flyer and Borg, transwarp communications like those used by the Borg, and transwarp transporters like those developed by Montgomery Scott in 2387 and again in the alternate reality of the Kelvin-timeline.

The problem with all of those is that having any clue that those were important and not the utter dead-end suggested by the failure of ‘The Great Experiment’ aboard the USS Excelsior in 2285 would have required S’Janus to know about the future history of the Star Trek Universe… but there was no indication that she’d retained any such knowledge. Rather than spend the intervening decades pushing advances in multiphasic shielding and phasors, bioscanners that might detect Changelings, or ways to stop the Romulan Sun, 128 Trianguli, from going Supernova, all tasks that might have helped shape the future in large ways, we’d dedicated almost thirty years to the study of an obscure and largely discounted field of study… and to raising sehlat, a highly intelligent ground mammal prized as pets by Vulcan children… effectively the equivalent of having a bear with 15cm fangs as a pet.

I’d also had, much to my surprise, three children… whose real names I will not record here because Vulcan names are effectively impossible to render into any human language, even using a Universal Translator (yes, names like T’Pau, Saavik, and even Spock are more in the nature of nicknames than actual ones), but they were named Gevik (born 3320), Genim (born 3331), and M’Tok (born 3338) to three different fathers, none of whom I’d been in long-term relationships with. M’Tok, the only girl of the three, was half-Betazed, while the other two were technically full Vulcan. I say technically, because Genim’s sire was a reformed Rehansu who’d refused to return to Romulus when the Star Empire had recalled its citizens. 

What’s spectacularly odd about this was that, despite evidence of having been impregnated at least three times… I had no memory of S’Janus ever having had sex. Never. In fact, I realized that, despite my clear knowledge that I, EssJay, had been molested as a child in my original timeframe… I had no memory at all of anything related to sex outside of a purely academic frame work. And even thinking about the mechanisms of reproduction made me a bit… queasy? Like a child who’d been given sex ed but who was too emotionally immature to put that knowledge to any use, good or bad.

Regardless, I might have remained comfortably ensconced in academia and research all the way up to 2360 and the moment of reinsertion… had it not been for the Cardassians. Beginning with their conquest and occupation of Bajor, only five light years from Cardassia itself, in 2319, and rising through their formal annexation of the planet in 2328, the formerly impoverished and republican Cardassians began transforming themselves into a totalitarian military dictatorship and began infringing on numerous systems already colonized by the races of the Federation… many of them human. 

By 2340, it was clear to me (S’Janus) that, unless something drastic changed in the very near future, conflict between the heavily expansionistic and conquestadory Cardassian High Command and the more peaceful but pioneering Federation and the always ready for a fight Klingon Empire would become unavoidable. Had I (EssJay) been present, we’d have known damned well that the war that was about to start would encompass just over twenty years of open conflict and almost a decade more of side conflicts. 

In 2347 the Federation-Cardassian War broke out and in 2354 the Betreka Nebula Incident initiated an undeclared conflict between the Cardassian Union and the Klingon Empire that would end (if everything played out as it had in canon) with the invasion of Cardassia by the Empire and Cardassia’s joining the Dominion. Hopefully I’d be able to do something to avert that… if I still remembered enough of the details. 

Regardless of my own future plans, S’Janus had returned to Starfleet in 2344, moving our family to Mars, where she’d taken the slot as Chief of Design at Utopia Planitia, where she began work on the Argus Class Scout Ship, Archer Class Runabout, and Galaxy Class Cruiser designs, in addition to the construction of the eighteen sections of the soon to be commissioned Argus Array… both scout ships and array being named for the mythological being Argus Panoptes, a being with eyes all over his body.

In 2357, with the Galaxy Class finally approved and the hulls being laid down for the first dozen, S’Janus had once again begun to drift back to theoretical physics, when the post of Provost at Starfleet Medical Academy opened up and she’d been pressured by long time friend Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy into taking the position.

This was to have long lasting ramifications as, during a medical conference in Beijing in late 2359, one where we’d been the keynote speaker, a Cardassian sympathizer had released a bioweapon that had killed three-hundred and eleven thousand before it could be contained. The conference, which had been attended by over 2/3rds of the faculty and student body of the Medical academy, had had a single survivor from among the nearly five thousand attendees, all of whom had been exposed in the initial blast.

Despite an immediate lockdown of the former Chinese capital city, the initial explosion had exposed nearly four million people, but like most contagions, the initial dosage was hugely important in terms of survival. Human, Andorian, Vulcan, Betazed, Klingon, Cardassian, Bajoran… it didn’t matter. The bioweapon blocked ATP receptors and the bodies started piling up. 

ATP, aka Adenosine triphosphate, is a precursor for DNA and RNA and is, more or less, what fuels biological processes in every known carbon-based lifeform, from muscle contractions to nerve impulses, from cellular reproduction to protein production. Without it, you die. Simple as that.

My children had been in Beijing. Two of them, Gevik and M’Tok, the oldest and youngest, had decided that they would spend the day at the Forbidden City, thirty-one kilometers from the symposium center. Genim, all of eighteen, the biological equivalent of twelve, had already decided to become a medical doctor like his mother, and so he’d insisted on attending what would have been dreadfully dull for anyone not a Vulcan. It was, in fact, dreadfully dull even for an eighteen year old half-Romulan as well, but four hours into the day, he’d shown no sign of surrendering to his growing fidgetiness, despite my numerous assurances that it would be entirely understandable if he wanted to do anything else.

We were just emerging from Dr. Hofforth M’k;nz’ik’s lecture on recombinant gene treatments for advanced neuro-muscular degeneration, a topic I had found, in the immortal words of Spock “Fascinating” when the convention center’s early warning bio-scanners started going off. The early warning bio-scanners I’d headed up development on more than sixty years earlier.

The warning was too little too late. An antigen was developed within a week, every survivor treated within ten days, and the entire city inoculated and stores of the antigen distributed within fourteen… but only I, of all the people who’d been in the convention center, had lived. No one could explain how, and I had not been in any fit state to help with the cure, as I’d been in a medically induced coma after the fiftieth hour. A condition I’d been placed in thanks to Doctor McCoy, at a hundred and forty-two, who’d risked his own life to enter the quarantine zone and take over the deathwatch. 

And it had been that. I’d managed to hold onto my Vulcan calm for the first day, taking samples and beginning the process of sequencing and characterizing the pathogen. But by the end of the first day, those hit hardest began dropping, their biosigns redlining despite our best efforts. Genim had been given priority in a medbed, despite the fact that there simply weren’t enough of them in all of Asia for the need. Replicators on a dozen starships and starbases were producing more as fast as they could, but a Medbed is not a simple thing and even an industrial replicator can only turn out ten of them an hour.  By the end of the second day we were seeing more than 40 deaths a minute.

Genim breathed his last in my arms, forty-nine hours, fifty-six minutes, and sixteen seconds after the alarm sounded. To say I went berserk is to put it mildly. Vulcans are creatures of logic not because we are inherently calm. We are creatures of logic because we have had to be to survive our own violent natures. The violence that lies at the heart of every Vulcan dwarfs that of the rage that fills humanity. We all too well understand the drive to mutual destruction that nearly wiped out Humanity in the Eugenics Wars, and that anger is at the heart of the divide between Romulan and Vulcan ideology to this day.

I had not slept in sixty-seven hours, I’d seen friends, colleagues, and students cut down by a cruel act of treachery, cut down in their primes, cut down for daring to maybe offer medical aid to Starfleet armed forces personnel. That the Cardassian High Command would later go on to condemn the attack as the action of a madman and offer reparations even in the midst of open warfare would not bring those people back… would not bring my son back.

So yes, I, S’Janus, was furious. I was also heavily infected, delirious, and a threat to everyone around me. Sedating me was the only correct call. I woke up nearly dead, nine days after the cure had been synthesized from my own system… the sole survivor of the Beijing Bioweapon, Phase 1.

My retreat into grief was understandable. My public statements supporting an intensification of the war? Less so, but still within the normal scope of behaviour for a grieving mother. My absolute fury at the idiots who’d taken command of the Medical Intelligence Directorate? My public, vitriolic, rage-filled diatribe on the floor of the Federation Congress condemning them as criminally negligent and demanding not just their removal but prosecution and incarceration? That might have been a little too far. Attempting to bludgeon Vice Admiral Merrideth Raner to death with the Federation banner? That was going a lot too far.

I was placed on medical leave indefinitely… and that was where I was, sitting in my office writing a very nasty letter to the editor of a news-site… when Insertion happened.

INSERTION

To say it was the roughest I’d ever experienced at that point would be meaningless, since at that point in my timeline I could not remember all my insertions. But from a point of remove (spoilers here for those who questioned if my chain would not continue past a jump I could only fail if I actually gave up? No. I didn’t) many hundreds of jumps further down the road, may I say that this was the worst Insertion to that point, and to this day remains one of the most intensely personal and traumatic. 

I, EssJay, was consumed in the grief of the moment, the intense sense of loss unlike anything in my framework… though later me would of course be able to compare it to more than one death of a child among the Manifest of the Maegi… but none of them had been so tragic. None of them had been so raw. The Maegi had been a supportive people. Vulcan culture is not supportive. It shuns grief like it shuns all emotionality. It shuns the illogic of survivor’s guilt, the sense of failure of a mother and doctor and bio-terrorism expert to protect her child from a disease spread by a madman.

Had I had my full capabilities at that time, who knows what kind of carnage I would have unleashed. Instead, I had a bit of a nervous breakdown… in the middle of already having a nervous breakdown. The joys of being a jumper, let me tell you.

Which made what happened next all the more infuriating.

See, I was not Genim’s only parent. To be certain, Etrin was not particularly involved in his son’s day to day life, but as much as any Vulcan male, he did care for his offspring… probably more so since he’d been born and raised Rihannsu. And, no doubt, because he’d chosen to be Vulcan, he approached being Vulcan with all the zealotry of a convert.

Thus, when he found himself unable to contain his grief and his rage… he did what any convert does when he believes he’s failed the test of his faith… He ran.

“Mother,” M’Tok said, coming into my office followed by her personal sehlat, Grunthos, “Uncle Etrin just borrowed the shuttle.” It was exactly seven minutes after Insertion.

“He did?” I asked, blinking, trying to sort through my paired emotions to focus on the riddle of why the eleven year old (approximately the equivalent of eight in human terms) had felt she needed to tell me that… and then realizing that she’d said the words rather than use telepathy… and remembering that my shuttle was, in fact a Starfleet semi-retired admiral’s shuttle, warp capable, and equipped with a military grade phasor array. 

Etrin, to be frank, was not a military officer. He hadn’t even been a Romulan military officer. He’d been a playwright. Still was, in fact. Romulan Dramas are awful. Vulcan Dramas are worse. Etrin? Was excellent at both. Brilliant. He almost made the fusion of the two tolerable to non-Vulcans.

He also drank too much Romulan ale and couldn’t keep a secret if his life depended on it. Frankly, it was the only thing that had made it clear he wasn’t a spy… or if he was one, his cover was so deep even he believed it. He’d even apologized for going all Pon-Farr on me after the act… not that I had any memory of it. That he’d apologized implied that it hadn’t been particularly consensual… but to be fair to males of the Vulcan/Rihannsu species, it’s not particularly consensual to them either.

Regardless of her ‘uncle’s’ little peculiarities, M’Tok just shrugged and climbed up on my lap and gave me a hug. After a moment she said, “You feel different.”

“I do?”

“Yes. like you remembered something important… can we have cookies while you yell at people?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Why would I be yelling at people?”

“I dunno, but you’re gonna get very angry and do something rash,” the little girl said. “Can we have cookies?”

“We being?”

“Ziggy and me and Gevik if he’s not too busy being a dweep.”

“It’s pronounced dweeb,” I explained, then chuckled. Of course Ziggy had inserted as my daughter’s pet… the question was, where were the rest of my team? Was she one? There was only one member of my team who was a Betazoid, but she wasn’t a half-breed. “Is your name sometimes Francine?”

“Maaaaybe,” she singsonged. “If I say yes, can I have a cookie?”

“I can have the replicators decompile all the spoons you know,” I teased. That earned me a pout, not a confused look. Definitely Francine. “Zaaaaane!” I yelled.

“Whaaat?! I’m busy!” came a cry from elsewhere in the house. Since the only other person in the reasonably sized estate was Gevik, even if I hadn’t known my own son’s voice, I would have known who Zane had incarnated as. Of course, that was doubly confusing, since a) I wasn’t certain about how I felt having my best friend be my son… a son well over a century younger than me, and b)…

“Weren’t you going to be a Klingon?” I yelled back.

“I am a Klingon!” he shouted down from upstairs and then I remembered… well, S’Janus reminded the rest of me of our son’s little… obsession.

“Well, grab your batleth, strap on your battlegarb, and pack a bag. We’re going to find your uncle!” I picked up M’Tok. Although she was twenty-two (approximately the equivalent of sixteen for a half-vulcan half-betazoid) she was small, not to mention emotionally immature, acting like she was the human equivalent of twelve more often than not. Her brother was not small for his age (forty, roughly the equivalent in human terms of nineteen), and was quite muscular for a Vulcan and broad shouldered to boot… which meant that, since Vulcans are nearly 180% as strong as Humans and Humans are, kilo for kilo, about 20% stronger than Klingons, he was close to being three times as strong as the typical Klingon Warrior. In Vulcan terms, he was a meathead. Also, behaviorally challenged, since he had far too much emotionality for anyone’s comfort… S’Janus included.

“I’ll have the replicators get everything ready while you go pack for yourself and Ziggy,” I said, setting my daughter down, then picked up my communicator and pinned it to my blouse. I needed… hmm… “Computer, give me everything we’ve got on Bajoran smugglers… male or female.”

By the time lunch had been eaten and bags had been packed, I’d contacted Starfleet and told them to be on the lookout for my personal shuttle, then asked if they could send a ship to transport me to Starbase 66, the base closest to the conflux of Cardassian, Romulan, and Federation space. I’d also sent a coded message to every less reputable port of call I could think of or find in my Intelligence notes, looking for a piratical duo, one Bajoran, one Klingon Pirate.

It is a testament to how frazzled I was coming into all this that I hadn’t thought to pick a rendezvous spot, or ensure I even knew what names my people would be under. Were they overwhelmed with their own life histories? Zane had imported in Mass Effect, Harry Potter, The Elder Scrolls, and the original Star Trek… though his import into Mass Effect hadn’t had much in the way of memories to speak of… while AJ, Francine, Petra, and RayRay had only been to Harry Potter. Dyna had never imported before full stop, since she’d never had any interest in being human.

The problem ended up partially solving itself not too long after I realized it was a problem. A shuttle from the USS Excalibur arrived within the hour, piloted by one Ensign Stephan Miklosh, who saluted, then asked, “Well? How do I look? Would you believe that in this timeline, Red Shirts are Command, not security? Does that mean Yellow Shirt is the new Red Shirt?” Of course, he asked that with a russian accent.

“Uriel?” I asked. Only Uriel and Zane had been part of the idiocy of being the Redshirt of the week game last time and only an ensign who knew me personally would dare address a senior admiral, even one on the beach, so casually.

“Fresh from the midshipman’s course, Admiral!” he agreed. “I’m the shuttle crew chief for Excalibur. Captain Picard would like you to join him at your earliest convenience and says he’d be more than happy to transport you to Starbase 66.”

“Picard?” I asked. S’Janus knew of him only as a young captain who’d been court martialed over the loss of the Stargazer in the Battle of Maxia against an unknown alien vessel back in 2355. EssJay, of course, knew that he was to be the captain of the Enterprise-D and E, assuming the timeline remained largely intact. EssJay also knew that the unknown aliens were the Ferengi, though first contact with the little capitalistic assholes wouldn’t occur (officially) for four more years. What EssJay hadn’t known was what, exactly, Picard had done for the nine years between the loss of Stargazer and being picked for command of the Federation’s Flagship. The answer, apparently, was commanding the USS Excalibur (NCC-26517, an Ambassador, just like the Enterprise-C, lost with all hands in 2344 at the Battle of Narendra III). I wondered if he still had hair.

Getting up to the ship with my children (and Ziggy) in tow took a little over two hours, which was fine because Excalibur was still taking on supplies when we arrived. There I met up with Lt. Myor, the Caitian who served as third shift helmsman, and Lt. Commander Ajax Sandhurst, the weapons officer… or as I knew them, RayRay (who no one ever seemed to notice did the absolute bare minimum needed to fulfill her duties) and AJ (Who went so far beyond what was needed that he’d been promoted literally that morning despite being the only one of the three who didn’t have the Speedy Promotions perk.

Picard welcomed me aboard his ship, expressed his sympathies for my loss, and asked why I was taking my family so close to the war that had claimed my middle child’s life. Of course, he did all that diplomatically, but one doesn’t have to have a century of intelligence experience to know when one is being gently interrogated.

“My son’s father has borrowed my personal shuttle and disappeared,” I said. “I suspect he’s going to do something foolish. If I know the man, he’s heading towards Cardassian space, full of some romantic notion of avenging Genim.”

“I hope I’m not out of line when I ask if your goal is to stop him, rather than assist him in this hopeless cause?” the frenchman asked (and yes, if one listened, one could hear the Piedmontese French beneath the british of the universal translator… or the Wulnish Nightlands accented Vulcan that I was hearing. Universal Translators are fucking weird.

“Hopeless and helpless doth Etrin wend, but to procrastinate his liveless end,” I said, mostly quoting the Bard. “The agents of that deed are, to the best of my knowledge, deceased. I hold the current heads of Medical Intelligence and Internal Security more to blame than the Cardassians, though of course, their territorial ambitions are entirely at the proximate cause of this war. I have no desire to punish random people.”

“And if you do find the identities of those responsible?” he asked.

“I would do my best to see them brought to justice,” I said calmly. “I was not the only person who suffered because of their actions. My personal desire for vengeance should not outweigh an entire city’s need for closure.” To be honest, I wasn’t at all certain that I was telling the truth, so it would be fair of Jean-Luc to doubt my words, but if he did, his expression didn’t show it.

Instead, he rose from behind his desk, looking faintly ridiculous in the onesie of this era of Starfleet uniforms, and offered me his hand. “Well then, welcome aboard Excalibur, Admiral. We’ll do our best to get you to your destination swiftly and in one piece.”

“Technically four pieces,” I said, smiling slightly. “I would hate to arrive as an amalgam of myself, my children, and our family pet.”

He blinked. “Humor?” he asked.

“I have spent a great many years around humans,” I pointed out. “I understand the need for occasional levity. Live Long and Prosper Jean-Luc.”

****

By the time the ship arrived at the edge of Cardassian / Romulan space, several things of minor import had happened, though I won’t go into the details in depth. Suffice it to say that M’Tok had endeared herself to the captain (as long as she stayed off the bridge) and Gevik had infuriated the captain (largely by refusing to stay off the bridge… and once challenging him to an honor duel). On a less personal front, my contacts had found the pirates I was looking for and left messages for them… and Starfleet’s black bag operation had sent a representative to speak with me.

“Your husband has entered Cardassian space,” the shadowy figure said from the recesses of the shadowy section of the stereotypical bar in the Civilian side of the Starbase when I responded to the request for a meeting some five hours after arriving at 66, also known as Big Bob. I do not know why.

“Etrin is not my husband,” I said calmly. “Merely my former mate and the father of one of my children. Do you know what his goal is?” Considering the lighting technology of Starfleet, this bar was probably in violation of several safety regulations… The bar was known as Big Bob’s Boiler Room and unless the lights came on full during an emergency, it was dark enough to provide a hazard. 

“We might,” my contact said. “But we’d like a little quid pro quo if we tell you.”

“You’d like me to join Section 31,” I corrected. “Assist you in your covert operations to ensure a more stable Federation.” It wasn’t a question.

“We could use your assistance,” he agreed.

“Of course you could. My assistance is invaluable. A strange turn of phrase that,” I said. I was speaking English and neither of us had our universal translators even on our persons, let alone on. “Invaluable… sounds like it should mean ‘without value’ but really it means ‘too good to put a price on’. Strange.”

“If you’re done parsing our language, Admiral?” 

“Indeed. I am not willing to formally swear allegiance to the Section, but perfectly sanguine in assisting you as long as you are open about your motivations and forthcoming with your intelligence to me. I do not take orders from those with no formal place in the chain of command.”

“That is… acceptable,” the contact allowed, then slid an actual dossier over the table. “Nothing electronic. Your… Etrin is heading to a rendezvous with a cell of Bajoran freedom fighters who claim they have evidence of the identities of three Guls who provided materials and funding to the sympathizers who released the bioweapon.”

The agents who’d actually released the weapon had died as a result of it, failing to understand just how deadly it was or willing to sacrifice themselves, it was impossible to determine which. Their control, the actual sympathizer cell, had not been located despite being hunted by both Cardassia and the Federation, but the identities of three of the four members were well known. An Andorian business woman, an Orion philosopher, and a Human religious fanatic had all spoken from their ‘we take credit for this and here’s why’ video. The fourth member of their cabal, a Cardassian biochemist, had also spoken, but hadn’t identified herself and hadn’t been known to any of the intelligence agencies of the area.

 But the question of who’d supplied the labs and transports and funding had been a very open mystery, with the Cardassian High Command claiming that none of their own had had any official role in the strike. But if Guls were involved… The Guls were the work-a-day military leadership of the Cardassian military, ranking just under the Legates, who were the flag officers. A Gul could command a freighter… or be military governor of an entire planet, so there was a huge range in the personal power of a Gul… and as a Military state, a Gul’s personal power and wealth depending on just how lucrative their position was. 

Still… I was having a hard time figuring out what a cabal of Guls might have gained from the attack that had publicly shamed their own government… and the Obsidian Order would almost certainly have publicly punished any Gul whose actions had so shamed the regime. It sounded far too much like a trap… but was it a trap for Etrin? Or for those who would come looking for him? If the second… I’d have to be insane to bring my children into harm’s reach… and I’d have agreed with that assessment if the children in question hadn’t been Francine and Zane and thus technically all but impossible to kill, and even if killed they’d be back… wouldn’t they? 

Doubting fiat… a horrible fate for a Jumper. But once my chain was restored, I’d have the tools needed to retrieve the fallen. Of that, I was certain…. But would I have the strength to go on if, at the end of the twenty years it was down to just me? I’d have to see.

 ****

Once the meeting was over, I retired to the quarters I’d been given by Rear Admiral Crusher (no relation to Beverly or her husband who’d died on the Stargazer) who’d requested I dine with him that evening. After assuring him that I would be pleased to do so, I began studying the notes S-31 had provided, all the while waiting for notification that a message had come for me.

The documents were a series of coded transmissions between Etrin and a Vedik (Bajoran religious leader with rank equivalent to a Catholic Cardinal) Marile, a second set of transmissions between Etrin and a smuggler by the name of Quark (race unknown), and a third set between Quark and Marile, all arranging that Quark would rendezvous with Etrin’s shuttle at a set of coordinates just outside of the current conflict zone, and bring him to Marile’s contacts who would show Etrin the proof and assist him further in his quest for revenge.

There were also profiles on Etrin (S31 pegged him as unreliable but harmless), Quark (extremely mercenary and almost completely untrustworthy), Marile (a fanatic but dedicated to freedom for Bajor), and a dozen Guls from the Bajoran sector, most notable among them Gul Dukat, newly assigned to command of Terok Nor… the space station that would eventually become Deep Space Nine and, for the last fourteen years Prefect of Bajor. He’d been a Legate before begin reduced in rank and transferred to Bajor, at the time little more than a recently conquered and largely pacific planet. The reason for his disgrace was not known. Two other names on that list were known to me, either as S’Janus or EssJay, those being Cazanjain (a Prefect of the sector  bordering Starbase 66) and Darhe’el (a labor camp overseer on Bajor with a reputation for unspeakable cruelty).

The three of them were, notably, on the Bajoran Underground’s most wanted dead list, and if the horrors hinted at by the narrative of Deep Space 9 had been unpleasant to contemplate, the details of the reality were, even reported third hand, horrifying. Millions of Bajorans had died during the forty plus years of the occupation, and the formerly peaceful and ascetic people of Bajor had slowly become divided into collaborators, oppressed masses, and guerilla terrorists willing to kill their own under the belief that anyone who worked with the Cardassians was a race traitor.

As I finished reading the details of Gul Lezzik’s career (command of a mining outpost in the Markovsky system) my communicator pinged. “You have a message from the Klingon Bird-of-Prey Uzbek.”

“Put it through,” I commanded, raising the screen in my desk and thanking the fates or whoever that in this timeline, the Klingon Empire and Federation were allies.

The least convincing Klingon ever appeared on the screen. “This is Captain D’na of the Free Klingon Vessel Uzbek,” the figure that looked like a plastic faced Klingon warrior said. Free Klingon was the Klingon version of the merchant marine, where surplus ships were often given new life as transports and house forces. The Empire was hardly an example of a cohesive military force… Something about D’na’s features made me think, was Dyna a shapeshifter? That would be odd (but not Odd-o… I’m a riot, shut up!).

“Hello Captain,” I said. “You got my message?”

“Uzbek is at your disposal, Commander… how many are in your party?”

“Four… is Petra with you?”

“Mehrit Lahmeth?” D’na clarified. “Yes. We’ll be arriving in three days. Be ready when we arrive.” and he signed off.

****

Nine days later, and six near diplomatic incidents caused by Gevik’s Klingon cosplay, and was certain of two things. One, Gevik / Zane was the Bad Comic Relief and it was entirely in character for Zane… and that I should have taken the Keeper, since he was going to be a pain in the neck for the foreseeable future. Second, Someone was out to get me.

There had been altogether too many accidents that could have seriously injured me if I hadn’t been preternaturally fast. A falling lighting unit, a malfunctioning door, a pressure valve blowing hard enough to send a chunk of self-sealing stembolt rocketing down the corridor. All entirely deniable, but too much coincidence… Yet, was this Q being his creepy Archmage trickster or the Secret Society or the Alien Threat? Couldn’t be a crazy technician with an irrational hatred of logic since those nine days had been spent on three different space stations (a Starbase, a Klingon Deep Space outpost, and a Cardassian civilian trade depot) as well as aboard Uzbek, which was much better lit than a typical Klingon Bird-of-Prey… but also sixty years old and showing it.

The Deep Space outpost, Mawron Base, was where Etrin had left my shuttle, moving deeper into Cardassian held territory through transportation arranged by the forces that had lured him into this mess. After reclaiming the shuttle from a parking attendant that hadn’t been above gambling other people’s property we followed the ion trail of the transport Etrin had left on. The task had been just hard enough to almost set aside the suspicion that we were being guided to a desired destination. Almost.

The trade depot, Narmok Par, was run down, half derelict thanks to damage suffered in one of the actions of the war, but its key position kept it going, even though it hadn’t gotten the repairs it so desperately needed. We arrived, thanks to the difference in speeds between a tramp freighter and a cloaked Bird-of-Prey, just as Etrin’s vessel was docking and I transported over, ready for anything, arriving in an area my scans told me was likely not to be under direct observation.

What I found was Etrin, blind drunk, railing at the station security who (for some reason) didn’t want to allow a Federation citizen aboard. It was looking like an arrest was imminent when a Cardassian merchant bribed the guards and escorted Etrin deeper into the station. I followed as stealthily as I could, hooded and silent.

“Are you having fun yet?” Q asked, clearly invisible to everyone around us as he phased through solid matter.

“No. Go away,” I hissed.

“Are you certain?” he asked. “I could just snap my fingers and you’d all be safe at home back on Vulcan.”

“You aren’t serious,” I said. “You have never once gotten people out of trouble. It’s not your thing.”

“True… True… But are you certain you know what you’re doing?” 

I didn’t answer for several moments as my whispering had attracted a shopkeeper’s attention and I needed to wind around some crates and boxes that were almost blocking the main passage. When I finally did, it was with the curt statement, “Yes. Walking into a trap. Now hush.”

It was, in fact, a trap. Big surprise. But not a trap for me. It wasn’t even a trap for Etrin. Etrin was the bait. The trap had been set up by the Bajoran underground for the Obsidian Order. The idea was simple enough; bring a bumbling outsider in to meet with terrorists, have the secret police learn of it and send in an extraction team to perform Rendition on the outsider and shoot the rebels… then shoot the extraction team and maybe scoop up their leader.

It was, all things considered, a clusterfuck waiting to happen. It would have been too, had it not been for my presence, since the Cardassians had brought more troops than the situation entirely warranted. I, on the other hand, had brought Ziggy, D’na, and Gevik… and the very pissed off Mehrit. Petra was a combat beast at the best of times, but as a Bajoran pirate she had decades of hatred built up for the monsters who’d conquered her homeworld.

The combat spilled out into the halls of the station, and in less than an hour, the Underground was (technically) in command of Narmok Par, with fifty Cardassian military personnel and six Obsidian Order officers in custody or dead. 

Etrin, shamefaced, broke down and wept, alternating between begging me for forgiveness for his foolishness, angrily blaming me for… something…, and thanking me for coming to his rescue. After sedating him, I turned to the Bajorans and demanded answers and the evidence against the Guls they claimed to have.

It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to warrant further exploration. I can’t say I trusted the Vedik, who was clearly playing his own game and had crazy eyes, but over the next few months, I investigated the three Guls to see if they had done more than supply backing for the bioweapon action cell. I also participated in a number of raids against Cardassian outposts while staying one step ahead of the Obsidian Order… not terribly difficult when you’ve got two cloaked vessels and they have no way of detecting either.

My companions did insist I change up what the snack of the week was because eating it for multiple meals a day did get old fast… for them. I was more than happy to stick with my beef and egg rice bowl. The need for variety is for the weak. 

All the investigations kept bringing up a name, a Dr. Magrot Vess of the Cardassian Institute of Biosciences. She’d had contact with each of the three Guls, and they’d arranged for shipments of contraband and suspect materials to reach her, in addition to just over a thousand Bajoran test subjects.

Unfortunately, she never left the Cardassian homeworld… so that’s where we ended up, slinking through the underbelly of the third largest city, temporarily looking like Cardassians (I am a medical officer, in case you’d forgotten). 

“Took you long enough to get here,” Magrot said, stunning me from behind when I entered the lab space under her estate. She had done very well for herself.

“Uhhhnnn,” I managed to groan from the ground. That wasn’t a Cardassian stunner… it was an Agonizer. 

“Yes yes,” she said, voice mocking. “I’m certain you have all kinds of questions, but the biggest should be ‘why?’ Am I right?” She knelt in front of me, tapping the device against her lips. Her eyes were too dark to be Cardassian, though she otherwise fit the bill. Tall, gracefully limbed, black hair. “To pay you back for your little trick at Algeron,” she whispered in Romulan. “The Tal Shiar sends its regards.”

“And my brother sends his from the grave,” said M’Tok, standing in the doorway and shooting the scientist-cum-double-agent with a phasor set to stun.

“You’ll have to try harder than that,” the Romulan agent said, an emergency transporter engaging. It was a pattern I didn’t recognize, but I’d bet you latinum to lollipops that it was a Romulan one. A moment later, a charred and smoking body was transported back into the lab and I knew that the military police would have been notified and would be on their way.

A communications blackout meant that we couldn’t just call for extraction, so, leaning on my daughter (small but, you know, half vulcan) we made our way back to the lot where the stealth runabout would be parked.

“I guess that… that’s the scaling enemy,” I commented. It made sense. A medical doctor and spy… she’d probably also have engineering background and clearly had the support of the Tal Shiar. Well, that explained why both Romulan and Cardassian State Security agencies were coming after me… this would be a very interesting twenty years.

I passed out from the pain just as Mehrit lifted off, sending signals to detonate under the five nearest military barracks in the city. Oh good, I was now accessory to terrorism. Good thing there was a state of war, right? Military targets are military targets, even if they’re home world police force.  Had the Cardassians really been framed by the Romulans? Or was this Magrot playing her own game? I guess I’d have to catch her to find out.

Next: Episode Two

Resources: BuildStar Trek TNG DocumentGeneric First Jump Document

If you like what I do, please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’d especially like to thank Deltoren, PlateGlassArmor, bearblue, and Sonic0704, but all of you who read my work and comment are wonderful.

I also have an original Novel (it’s space opera) in very slow progress here. Please check it out. Let me know if I should create a Blog for it too. I also have two separate bonus stories here called EssJay’s Omake Theatre #1 (Big Box Isekai) and #2 (Zed’s Chain)And if you’re on Questionable Questing (No link provided) I have an adult story you might want to check out… if you’re of legal age. If you need the link, hunt me down in one of the forums.

Level 1: Adventure

2360 – 2361

2360 – Gul Dukat assigned to command Terok Nor

2361 – Lewis Zimmerman begins working on Holo-Doc, Jupiter Station

That One Drawback [+300/900]

Fantasy: Archmage’s Interest [+200/3600][RV=+100]

Adventure: Secret Society [+100/2200]

Adventure: Bad Comic Relief [+200/2400][RV=+100]

Adventure – The Quick and the Dead [100/1650/3850]

Tragic Past: Almost everyone will question your stability 

Recurring Character: Cross paths with the Enterprise / DS9 at the worst possible times

Alien Threat: targeted the Cardassian Obsidian Order and the Romulan Tal Shiar

Black Coat Society: Section 31 wants me

  • Ziggy: Pirate, Sehlat, Stealth, Combat, Espionage, Honorary Xeno, Cosmic Awareness, Mental Alarm, Space Pirate, Our Darkest Hour, Latinum, Universal Translator
  • Zane / Gevik: Defense, Vulcan, Weapons, Combat, Investigator, The Anti-Worf Effect, Our Darkest Hour, Overpowering Authority, Speedy Promotions, Universal Translator
  • Francine / M’Tok: Health & Science, Betazoid, Physics, Robotics, Surgeon, I Am Not God, Augmented, Mental Alarm, Cosmic Awareness, Universal Translator
  • AJ / Lt. Comm. Sandhurst: Defense, Human, Espionage, Stealth, Investigator, The Anti-Worf Effect, Augmented, Universal Translator
  • RayRay / Lt. Myor: Command & Operations, Caitian, Navigation, Engineering, Speedy Promotions, Would Follow You into a Supernova, Augmented
  • Uriel / Ensign Stepan Miklosh: Command & Operations, Human, Piloting, Communications, Speedy Promotions, Would Follow You Into a Supernova, The Corbomite Scam
  • Petra / Mehrit Lahmeth: Pirate, Bajoran, Weapons, Piloting, Navigation, Honorary Xeno, Cosmic Awareness, Grand Theft Starship, Runabout, Cloaking Device, Universal Translator
  • Dyna / Captain D’na: Pirate, Klingon, Combat, Weapons, Communications, Honorary Xeno, Space Pirate, Augmented, Cosmic Awareness, Universal Translator