Desperate Alliances by Enterprise1981
Summary:

Season 3, Episode 4

After a failed errand of mercy within Cardassian space, Ronnie Kozar is forced to relive both ecstasy and heartbreak with his former lover, Mariana Katel. Through these experiences, he finds an unlikely ally in criminal scientist, Crell Moset.

Up in orbit, Lieutenant Commander Lisa Neeley attempts to salvage the mission, and makes a disturbing discovery about the secret Oralian Way colony.

Aboard the USS Lambda Paz, Captain Limis Vircona learns the finer points of diplomacy in trying to string together a fighting force against Cardassia's ancient enemy.


Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: Ensemble Cast - USS Lambda Paz, Kozar, Ronnie, Markalis, Aurellan, Morrison, Mandel, Sullivan, Rebecca, Vircona, Limis
Genre: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Family, Mystery
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: Lambda Paz
Chapters: 5 Completed: No Word count: 6749 Read: 9111 Published: 30 Jul 2014 Updated: 26 Sep 2014
Story Notes:

Historian's note: The main events take place in March of 2376 (Earth Gregorian calendar), two and a half months after the end of the Dominion War as seen in "To the Bitter End" and the DS9 series finale "What You Leave Behind" The flashback scenes depict events occurring from 2357 to 2368.

1. Prologue by Enterprise1981

2. Chapter 1 by Enterprise1981

3. Chapter 2 by Enterprise1981

4. Chapter 3 by Enterprise1981

5. Chapter 4 by Enterprise1981

Prologue by Enterprise1981

He ran his hands across her shoulders and down her arms while arching his body upward with hers. He gently puckered his lips along the contours of her cheeks and let the kisses run down her neck. She tilted her head backwards while moaning pleasurably. They clasped each other’s hands as they leaned back down on the bed. Their noses touched nimbly as they smiled blissfully. She tightened her grip on his hands and arched herself back into an upward position.

Her breathing was slow and labored; her mouth gaping open; and she let out a sustained ecstatic moan. As the euphoric tingling across her skin subsided, she lowered her body downward and rested her head on his bare chest.

***

A male human smiled contentedly even as he lay unconscious on a medical examination bed.

An elderly Cardassian man stood over the human patient while staring pensively at a set of readings on a readout screen situated on the wall just at the head of the biobed. The Cardassian doctor then loaded a hypospray and adjusted the dosage to be administered. He applied the hypospray to his neck and injected the drug into his carotid artery. The Cardassian nodded lightly as the readout screen revealed a new set of numbers.

The doctor slowly backed away from biobed and turned around to study another patient. This one was a dark-haired human woman. He adjusted a pair of monitoring devices perched atop her forehead. Glancing at the biobed readouts, he grunted triumphantly. He had been having a harder time extracting the most basic information from her mind. After hours of adjusting the settings on the mental probes, he was finally able to extract what he already knew about her—that she was Mariana Katel, a civilian law consultant for both the Starfleet Judge Advocate General and the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps. He looked back at his male patient and wondered why he had easier time performing the same baseline tests on Ronnie Kozar, a twenty-five year Starfleet veteran.

“Doctor Moset?” a booming masculine voice called, slightly startling the doctor.

Doctor Crell Moset saw a middle-aged male Cardassian in a military uniform enter the lab, much to his annoyance. Gul Draylek had visited the lab on what seemed like an hourly basis. Moset dreaded having to once again tell the Gul he had no pertinent information on the human interlopers’ purpose on Kimorius. The impatience in Draylek’s voice this time indicated to Moset such an answer was not acceptable to him. Military officers could be notoriously impatient, demanding nothing but results and for those results to be delivered in an unrealistically expedient manner. And because of that, Moset had been forced to take many shortcuts throughout his career as a scientist.

“Again, I have learned nothing other than confirmation of their identities,” Moset offered, even knowing that statement would not sufficiently pacify Draylek.

“Then you were able to disable the woman’s neural depolarizer?” Draylek said while approaching Moset with slow and intimidating steps.

“Seeing as she is alive,” Moset replied, with a glance at Katel, “I’d say I was. I’m curious, though. How did you know how to manipulate such a device? Obsidian Order and True Way operatives haven’t made much progress beyond poison.” 

“That is not your concern,” Draylek hissed with a cold stare into Moset’s eyes. “You are concerned with extracting information from the prisoners, not to use them as research subjects for one of your pet projects.”

Moset became increasingly apprehensive that one ill-chosen word would lead his latest employer to physically harm him. “I understand,” he said with quick glances at his research subjects. “I have learned a few things that might speed matters along.”

Draylek squeezed Moset’s chin, applying pressure to his cheeks with the tips of his fingers. “What have you learned, Doctor? Consider yourself warned that if I don’t like what I hear, I will be very displeased.”

Moset lightly massaged the muscles in his cheeks once Draylek let go. “Like I said, learning any pertinent information will take time,” he grudgingly reiterated. “This is merely a baseline comparison. The humanoid brain still remains the most enigmatic organ.

“I did find chemical traces of what is colloquially known as the Venus drug within Miss Katel’s aphrodisiac,” he went on taking slow steps towards Katel’s biobed, “which could theoretically serve as an effective additive to the latest experimental drugs designed to distort a subject’s sense of reality. The artificial enhancement of her pheromones by itself has triggered memories of home and happier times in Mister Kozar. And by these readings, I’d guess he’s remembering making love to her. I will proceed with a series of experiments to determine what combination of drugs will be necessary to allow either of them to freely reveal their purpose here.”

“You have two solar days, Moset,” Draylek said with a less intimidating tone.

“That may not be enough time,” Moset nervously offered.

“It will have to be. For all we know, they are the first of many spies seeking to turn Cardassia into a Federation world. You are very resourceful. You will find a way to know what they know.”

Moset grudgingly nodded. “Of course. And there’s also the matter of when I receive my payment. Some details seem unclear.”

Draylek leaned towards Moset. “The finder’s fee has been transferred to the Klaestron Central Bank. If I get no satisfactory results in the time you have left, that payment will be voided. And I will have your head on a pike. Does that make those details clearer?”

Moset exhaled as he felt a morbid chill on his skin. “Absolutely,” he assured the Gul.

***

Ronnie stared blissfully into Mariana’s sparkling blue eyes. Beads of sweat trickled down her forehead as she smiled with an ecstasy that Ronnie found hypnotic. It was an image he wanted to keep engrained in his memory when he left to assume his first Starfleet Marine posting.

They had been lovers for nearly a year since that night they met at a diplomatic function near the Meles Two training facility. During her time off from law school and his from Marine training, they met at convenient locations.

Here, he wanted so badly not to have to leave her. Even when they were separated for significant periods time, she was the one constant in an ever-changing universe. This was different, though. He dreaded that this moment would be the last time he held her in his arms.

“Do you really think this can work out?” Mariana asked him, as her chin was perched on his chest.

“I really hope so,” Ronnie answered, stroking her bare shoulder. “We’ve made it this far. Each time distance separates us, we’ve grown that much more attached to each other.”

“When do you have to leave?” she asked, as if fearing the answer to that question.

While clasping her hand that rested on his heart, Ronnie took a quick look at the chronometer on the nightstand to his right. “The transport ships out in about two hours,” he said. He kissed her on the lips before gently nudging her aside and bolting towards the shower.

After five minutes in the tiny shower alcove, Ronnie stepped out and wrapped a towel around his waist. As he headed towards the bedroom, he grinned mischievously at the still naked Mariana. She had flung the bedcovers aside and sat at the edge of the bed. And with a contemplative stare at him, she leaned forward with her neck perched on her hands and her elbows perched on her thighs.

He knew that look all too well. It was one meant to guilt him into staying longer. For a brief second, he was tempted, but he would never give in. They had said their goodbyes, and hanging around for much longer would make him want to stay despite his new duty assignment.

“Too bad that shower doesn’t have room for two,” Mariana teased.

“Yeah,” Ronnie said with a sigh. “Too bad. It’s all yours now.”

Mariana stood up and put her arms around his shoulders. “Just don’t get killed on your Marine assignment,” she half-jokingly urged him.

Ronnie took a quick up and down look at her fully nude body. “You’re my reason to survive,” he said with a soulful stare into the pair of eyes that glistened like the stars of the Beta Hydri cluster.

Mariana kissed him on the lips. “I love you. Be safe.”

“I love you, too,” Ronnie replied.

After one more kiss, she sauntered towards the shower alcove. She waved goodbye and puckered her lips as she stepped into the shower.

He stared longingly in her direction for a few moments after she engaged the water flow. A quick peripheral glance at the pile of clothes on the chair to his left and he brought back to reality.

Now was the time to leave. No more putting this off.

Chapter 1 by Enterprise1981

Chapter One

Captain Limis Vircona paced through the darkened engineering section of the USS Lambda Paz. The hours since a virus knocked out the ship’s computers seemed to drag by very slowly. And the coming hours would pass by just as slowly while Limis heard officers and technicians throughout engineering speaking in technical jargon she could barely understand.

Lieutenant Commander Shinar sh’Aqba and Lieutenant Rebecca Sullivan were among the officers working to resolve the systems failures caused by this computer virus. Limis paced towards one of the master situation monitors where the chief engineer and her assistant were conducting an inventory of the affected systems.

“We’ve run a full diagnostic on the warp and impulse engines,” sh’Aqba tersely informed the captain, “…that is, as full a diagnostic as possible without the computer. Everything is in full working order; the engines are just not receiving commands from the helm.”

Limis looked in the direction of Lieutenant Sara Carson, who was conferring with an engineering technician about that particular problem with helm control. “Any luck with manual override?” she asked her flight controller.

“None,” Carson grimly replied. “Whatever it was that crashed our computers somehow branched out into most of the power distribution manifolds, including those that control manual steering. And reserve power packs just aren’t feeding enough energy into the emergency batteries, which are already past their limit for keeping life support and basic functions like turbolifts and doors operating.”

Limis rolled her eyes to avoid thinking of how much trouble the crew was in when life support did eventually fail, and the choices were to either choke to death or freeze to death. “Don’t the power distribution manifolds have seven redundant safety interlocks to keep most of the main systems running without the computer?”

“This virus was programmed with algorithms that anticipated those emergency procedures,” Sullivan chimed in. “Sounds like something the Maquis used to disable the Cardassian munitions depot on Heldra Seven.”

Limis briefly recalled that victory fondly, but wasn’t so amused when her ship the latest victim of a similar attack. “I wouldn’t put something that clever past the Obsidian Order.” But wanting to get back to heart of current matter and how to resolve it, she looked back to sh’Aqba for answers. “How long would it take to clear this virus from the computer?”

“The crews that aren’t surveying the engines are working around the clock to isolate all the corrupted partitions in the mainframe,” sh’Aqba explained. “That’s complicated by the fact that the protected archives were also corrupted.”

Limis bit her lower lip to avoid expressing impatience for her query not being answered. At that same moment, she noticed Lieutenant Commander Mandel Morrison entering engineering from the upper level of the warp core chamber. He had just arrived from the bridge to provide a status report in person, as internal communications were offline. “Have Huckaby and M’Rev made any progress in that area?” she asked him.

“Slow going,” Morrison bluntly replied. “I told Huckaby to make engines and life support a priority. Even with a sizeable portion of those files corrupted, anything’s better than nothing.”

Limis took quick glances at each of her senior officers. “Any good news?” she demanded in a slightly amused tone.

“The virus does not appear to have disabled weapons, sensors, or external communications,” sh’Aqba weakly attempted. “Those won’t do us much good if we have to retreat from a firefight.”

“Not to mention we won’t be able to make our deadline for delivering our relief supplies to the Akrynites,” Limis added. “Morrison, locate the nearest Starfleet vessel and ask them if they can lend a hand.”

“I’ve already sent out a coded signal,” Morrison abruptly replied. “The Derna’s on her way.”

“Very good. But we have no way of communicating on any ultra-secure channels, do we?

“Afraid not,” Morrison reluctantly answered. “That means Commander Kozar and Lieutenant Commander Neeley are on their own.”

“They’ll find a way to survive,” Limis offered to assuage his concerns about two people important to him. “How long before we’re back up and running?”

“Once we’ve isolated all the corrupted partitions,” sh’Aqba said, “a full shutdown and restart should take upwards of another eight hours.”

“Let’s not waste any time,” Limis enthusiastically responded. “Let me know what I can lend a hand with.”

“Captain,” Morrison cut in, “when’s the last time you ate?”

“What exactly is it to you?” Limis snapped.

“Even Sh’Aqba and Sullivan were able to stop for a bite to eat these last three hours,” Morrison offered. “The Derna will get here when it gets here. And sh’Aqba only manages to shave an hour off her usual repair estimates. As acting first officer, I’m fully capable of overseeing the finer details.”

As much as Limis hated to admit, he was right. She had once praised Kozar for protecting her from her own stubbornness, and now Morrison was doing the same as a temporary second-in-command. “I’ll relieve you in two hours then.”

“Three hours,” Morrison countered.

“Two and a half.”

“Done.”

Limis scoffed at having been outsmarted for the second time in less than a minute. “Just don’t bury yourself in the part, acting first officer. Becca, are the replicators at least working?”

“Our saboteur managed to crash those, too,” Sullivan answered.

Limis rolled her eyes while heading out of the engineering section. Maybe what was so irritating about all the broken machinery was that she wouldn’t have complained three years ago. She lived most of her life with very little. Now, to her own embarrassment, she had gotten used to all the amenities of a Starfleet vessel. “Mmm… field rations,” she derisively muttered.

Chapter 2 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Two

Gul Arek Latham paced into the office of Legate Soltan on the temporary Sarpedion listening post.

The small sentry station, manned by a very minimal skeleton crew, was charged with supervising the construction of a new starbase. That starbase was one of the most heavily fortified installations in the Cardassian Empire’s core systems. In the final weeks of the Dominion War, the base’s commander, Legate Goras, ordered an emergency redeployment of his fleets to Cardassia Prime. He had then put the starbase on self-destruct before the Vorta supervisors’ suspicions were aroused. The loss of the starbase had put the Dominion and Breen fleets at a tremendous disadvantage when a Federation Alliance armada came bearing down.

Unfortunately, Goras was promptly killed when Gul Revok had dealt the rebellion a potentially crippling blow by luring large numbers under the command of Goras and Damar to the homeworld. The new sector commander was now the newly minted Legate Soltan, who very nearly became another casualty of Revok’s treachery.

“The Pakar was a good ship,” Soltan remarked to Latham as the double doors slid shut. “It’s a shame it was lost in battle to the ancient enemy.”

“Your sympathies are much appreciated,” Latham responded with an acknowledging nod while seating himself in one of the guest chairs. “On a happier note, congratulations on your promotion, Legate.”

Soltan circled his desk and sat upon the leather chair. “I was lucky to have survived the Dominion purge. When Damar’s troops had not arrived at the designated coordinates, I knew immediately that either Gul Revok or Legate Goras had sold him out.” He poured himself and Latham single shots of kanar. “Ironically, I now occupy Legate Goras’s office. Many of our most brilliant military strategists were lost.” He raised his glass in a toast. “Here’s to one day avenging Gul Revok’s treachery.”

“Easier said than done considering he’s ex-Obsidian Order,” Latham deadpanned, lifting his glass, “but much more satisfying when that day comes. Speaking of the Obsidian Order, another of their former agents may be among my crew.”

“What led you to that supposition?” Soltan inquired before quickly downing his drink.

Latham then finished his beverage in one gulp. “My second-in-command, Glinn Orlak, suggested unleashing a virus that would disable the library computers of the Starfleet vessel that had come to our rescue. A suggestion I instantly rejected.”

“As you were right to do. That is no way to repay such gracious hosts.”

Latham sighed with reluctance at providing further details about his recent sting operation. “I still had the sense that Orlak, Glinn Maret, or both would still choose to circumvent my orders. And if that is the case, I am hopefully one step closer to learning the identity of this traitor.”

“I have Intelligence Bureau informants aboard the Cralgar who will monitor their movements,” Soltan offered.

The word that resonated in Latham’s mind was the ship name. What good would informants on that ship do, unless…? “The Cralgar?” he repeated with hopeful anticipation that he would soon get a new ship.

“It has been undergoing a major refit since the war’s end,” Soltan explained. “Its captain and much of the senior crew are on extended leave. In the meantime, I have assigned you as its temporary commander. It’s a Galor-class warship, but it’s the best Central Command can spare given how divisive our politics are. There have been additional attacks in Sector two-six by seven-one by eight. We need experienced Guls on the front lines.”

Latham slowly rose from his chair and stood at attention. “I aim to serve in any way I can.”

Soltan stood up to acknowledge Latham’s acceptance of his new command. “As we all do. Good luck, Arek.” He put out one hand, and the Cardassian officers shared a handshake.

“Thank you,” Latham replied with a light grin. With a prompt glance at the Legate crest on the once fellow Gul’s uniform, he added a hesitant, “…sir.”

###

Glinn Printus Orlak fidgeted in a hardwood desk chair while studying the monitor. Something seemed a little bit off about his cabin aboard the Cralgar. Maybe he had gotten used to slightly larger quarters on a Dracon-class heavy cruiser, but he wasn’t much to complain. These quarters were as spacious and luxurious as those of any Gul’s aide. Of course, the lights were usually fully functional and the sonic shower had a more lasting comforting effect.

It was a necessary evil, he reminded himself as he saw an indicator light flash on the monitor, considering many other soldiers of his rank were consigned to a life of semi-luxury so soon after the war. He placed a listening device next to his right ear. Recognizing the voice he heard as that of the USS Lambda Paz’s tactical officer Mandel Morrison, he adjusted a control on the monitor to increase the volume.

“This is high priority. Convoy liner six-seven-nine alpha-red has capsized. Repeat. Convoy liner six-seven-nine alpha-red has capsized. Please render any assistance possible.”

Orlak set aside the earpiece and tapped the monitor screen to enlarge the dialogue box containing that audio recording. “Computer,” he instructed, “extrapolate from that transmission the position of the Starfleet vessel sending that transmission.”

A star map appeared on the screen with a set of grid coordinates. Per Orlak’s instructions, the computer highlighted the location of a Federation starship. He was momentarily perturbed when he noticed the Lambda Paz was at the same coordinates as when the Pakar’s crew disembarked. He quickly ignored that peculiarity to issue the next set of instructions. “Computer, can you locate any other Starfleet vessels that might have received that transmission?”

“Affirmative,” the computers feminine voice responded.

Orlak then entered a set of commands to attach locational data on the other Starfleet ship that appeared on the display screen to an outgoing message. He was momentarily distracted by the doorbell. He kept his attention on the screen and ordered the message transmitted.

“Come in,” he called, as he deactivated the screen.

Dalin Pirella Thomar entered the room, wearing a tightly tied black robe that covered her body down to just above her feet. Orlak flashed a scheming smirk. He recognized her attire as one meant to hide the fact that they were lovers, which also piqued his curiosity as to what she was wearing, or not wearing, underneath. While Gul Latham did know of their romantic affiliation, they still wanted to keep it quiet among their subordinates. Besides, Orlak didn’t want any of the junior officers leering at his woman.

Thomar closed and locked the door while untying her robe to reveal a form fitting diaphanous dress. Orlak quickly paced towards her and they kissed. Their hands crawled up the other’s bodies—she unlatched his uniform armor while he lowered the straps on her dress, sending it to the floor.

Chapter 3 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Three

Dexter Hall stared with trepidation at a visual recording of events leading up to the abduction of the USS Lambda Paz’s first officer and his mission colleague. His uneasiness with the kinds of dangers might be facing Commander Kozar, and quite possibly himself and a team of Starfleet Marines he had ferried to this distant world, was tempered by his astonishment at what he was seeing before him. Not even the most advanced and accurate sensors could display such precise imagery on a bridge viewscreen.

Yet, here it was right in front of him. An aerial sensor drone transmitted an image of Kozar and Katel being coerced into exiting a ground-based vehicle when the road in both directions had been blocked off by local law enforcement vehicles. A mysterious figure on a hover-cycle swooped in, incapacitated the police officers, and whisked the Starfleet team away to who knew where. Even if the team shadowing them was not tasked with maintaining the secrecy of a Cardassian colony of ancient religious worshippers, they could not prevent the abduction since the images were transmitted on a ten-minute delay.

Lieutenant Commander Lisa Neeley stood behind and to the left of Dex watching the video footage and contemplating how next to proceed. “Kwon,” she said to the Marine soldier on her right, “see if any ships might have left orbit after that time index.”

A tall man with a distinctive Asian skin complexion obligingly sauntered towards a secondary station on the cockpit’s starboard side. “On it,” he replied.

“Hall,” Neeley added, “roll back the footage to when they first met their contact.”

“What exactly are we looking for?” the young blond-haired wondered aloud while executing that order.

“For a point of comparison to extrapolate where he might have gone after he met with the law enforcement officer and Kozar and Katel escaped the temple.”

As Dex watched the fast-moving backwards action on the video footage, another question came to mind. “If this drone of ours is able to monitor the colony with such accuracy even from the planet’s magnetic poles, couldn’t it be used to locate our people?”

Neeley shot him a glance that made him think he was asking a stupid question. “You know,” he stammered, “in case they might still be on the planet?”

“We’re just covering all possibilities,” Kwon explained, looking up from combing through the sensor logs.

“Wherever our people are being held, it’s a very secure location not easily located by any sensor scan,” Neeley continued. The video footage then returned to normal playback at the point where the Cardassian contact Callum Pran approached the undercover team. Neeley then indicated Callum with her right forefinger. “But he knows more than he’s letting on. He had to have known something like this was coming when the police came knocking on his door. He goes back inside and a few minutes later, Kozar and Katel slip out of a subterranean egress. If we can locate him, he’s going to tell us what he knows and how to find our people.”

“Well, for right now, we can rule out any indications of ships leaving the planet,” Kwon said, pacing towards the two primary piloting consoles. “That doesn’t necessarily mean…”

“Right,” Neeley cut in. “But here is still a good place start.”

Dex looked up from a sensor display that appeared on a tiny monitor in front of his console. “I may have a fix on Kozar and Katel’s informant. I’m reading his lifesigns in a network of subterranean caverns in close proximity to the temple. I’ll try and narrow down the location.”

“How very curious,” Neeley mused. “Good work, flyboy,” she told Dex with a tone of feigned complimenting.

Flyboy, huh? He never cared for that derogatory term, given that it implied that all he was only good at was flying fighter shuttles. He had seen a fair share of ground combat. It was nothing to brag about considering he had been a commissioned officer for less than a year, and halfway into his Academy tenure. All he could do was not take offense at the epithet and try to prove himself by any contributions he made in the immediate future.

“If I may ask,” he said, “doesn’t protocol demand that we call retreat and call for reinforcements? We may not be in much of a position to mount a rescue.”

“Maybe so, but time is not on our side,” Neeley explained. “We don’t know where Kozar and Katel were taken, or if they are still on the planet. We can’t contact the Lambda Paz, so we can assume they are not in a position to help us. We are on our own, and Callum Pran is our best lead right now.”

Dex nodded his understanding, having been reminded once more that Starfleet admired those who showed initiative. Commander Neeley was seemingly jumping on an opportunity to get noticed. For Dex, though, doing the things that got him considered for promotion still seemed like a tall order. Just don’t try too hard, he would hear his flight training instructors say. Opportunities for advancement will come on their own.

A chirp from a sensor panel quickly caught Dex’s attention. “I’ve got coordinates on our target.”

“Beam him aboard,” Neeley abruptly ordered.

“I should note that this is tantamount to kidnapping,” Dex remarked, locking in the transport sequence.

“Objection noted.”

***

Callum Pran materialized in the shuttle cockpit and became instantaneously startled at the sight of three humans dressed in combat fatigues pointing hand phasers at him. He let out a terrified gasp and turned around to see three more humans brandishing phasers.

Neeley raised a hand, signaling the rest of her team to stand down. Hall, Kwon, and the three other Marine slowly holstered their phasers.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Callum demanded. “How did I get here?”

“We’ve been monitoring the events that led to the abduction of two of our colleagues,” Neeley tersely explained. “In the interest of maintaining the secrecy of this colony, we decided not to come down with guns blazing.”

“Thank Oralius,” Callum said with a relieved sigh. He peered out the front viewpoint with a gaping stare at the planet below. “I thought for sure they had found me when I felt myself being… lifted off the ground.”

Neeley took a quick glance to deduce what Callum was hoping to see. “Who’s ‘they’?” she asked, feeling that her hunch about Callum had been confirmed.

“Local law enforcement,” Callum snappily replied, giving Neeley a long stare, suggesting to her that his answer wasn’t the entire truth. “They had offered to take me to a secure location based on rumors that Federation spies were plotting my assassination. I couldn’t let them or the whole operation would have been a failure.”

“With the local police now on high alert,” Kwon interjected, “your operation to funnel out refugees already looks to be a bust. They’ll suspect anyone trying to leave the city of being a Federation spy.”

“You anticipated something like this happening,” Neeley said, pointing an accusing finger at Callum.

Callum stammered while starting to wander aimlessly about the cockpit: “I-I-I can assure you,” he insisted, “that I was just as unprepared for this occurrence as you were.”

Neeley marched towards Callum and gently clutched his robe collar. “Why’d you help our people escape? Was it to use them as cannon fodder to draw attention away from your little smuggling ring?”

“No, of course not,” Callum emphatically insisted. “It’s because they would have been arrested and detained in a matter of minutes.”

“Which they were anyway,” Neeley huffed. She grabbed him by both shoulders and forcefully seated him in the starboard pilot chair. “It doesn’t take a Betazoid to intuit that you know more about what’s going on than you’re telling us. And you’re not leaving this chair until you tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And then what good are you to the refugees?”

Kwon and Hall held down Callum’s forearms to restrain him.

“The True Way,” Callum relented.

“The Cardassian splinter group responsible for terrorist acts against the Federation four years ago?” Dex wondered skeptically.

Callum glanced at each of the men who were restraining him. “Their numbers are growing again,” he clarified. “Many of the top agents of the former Obsidian Order were dissatisfied with how Legate Damar led the rebellion. They felt that helping the Federation reverse engineer Breen weapons meant putting our fate in their hands after the war. The election of Alon Ghemor to First Castellan in last month’s voting competition has only stoked their fears.”

“You know an awful lot for the administrator of a colony does not officially exist,” Neeley curtly remarked.

“I was recruited into the new Intelligence Bureau when the provisional government came to power,” Callum explained tentatively, “Recently, I’ve been acting on rumors that more conservative elements in the government were getting closer to learning of this colony.”

“And these True Way are somehow involved?” Kwon inquired. “What could they be up to?”

“I don’t know,” Callum said. “I only heard rumblings about them after the voting competition.”

“They may have some kind of hidden encampment where they’re holding Kozar and Katel,” Hall offered.

“And you’re going to help us find it,” Neeley declared.

Callum started fidgeting, but the men restraining him only strengthened their grasps. “I’ve told you everything I know,” he contended. “I must assure someone at the temple that I am safe and sound.”

“Let him go,” Neeley quietly instructed the men. With a more stern inflection, she then addressed Callum. “Haven’t you been paying attention, Pran? Your operation has already failed. You help us find our missing officers, and then you’re free to go. Besides, you owe us for dragging Starfleet into this fiasco.”

“Of course,” said Callum. “But we’ll have to make a discrete return to the medina.”

Neeley turned her attention back to her team. “Kwon, we’ll need to find a way to blend in. We’ll use whatever equipment Katel has in her shuttle. Hall, on our signal, you’ll beam Pran and us into a vacant room in the temple.”

“Will do,” Hall acknowledged.

Neeley sighed, having realized that assuring Callum’s cooperation was fairly easy compared to the shot in the dark that would be retrieving her missing colleagues.

Chapter 4 by Enterprise1981

Chapter Four

Printus Orlak stared at his lover while conflicting thoughts rushed through his mind. He wistfully stared at her as she lay face down on the bed, grateful for some intimate time with her, however short it was. Then again, he was about to confront her about some curious information he had stumbled across before she directed him into a lusting trance. For the first time in months, he saw a woman rather than the officer who served as his chief engineer. He wanted to bask in the afterglow for as long she slept, even as he knew he might not able to trust her entirely.

She grinned seductively at him as she blinked her eyes open and leaned over to kisses him on the lips. He responded with a light peck on her upper lip and arched his head away from hers.

“Something on your mind?” Pirella asked playfully while resting the palm of her hand on his cheek.

Printus nudged her hand away and gently clasped her wrist. “You did disable the Lambda Paz’s library computer, didn’t you?” he asked.

“Of course. Why do you ask?”

Printus sighed, still leery of broaching the subject of her insubordination. “During my surveillance of Starfleet activity in nearby sectors,” he said while coaxing her hand away from his face, “I noticed the Lambda Paz was at the same coordinates as when we disembarked.”

“I wouldn’t know about that,” Pirella attempted. She continued planting light kisses along the side of his face while stroking his neck and shoulder. “Perhaps they were awaiting an important rendezvous.”

“They were on their way to deliver supplies to the Akrynite system when they came to our rescue,” Printus reminded her, trying to meander his body away from hers. She responded by persisting in her foreplay. Her kisses moved down his neck and her fingers puttered along his chest, prompting him to tightly squeeze her wrists. “That means,” he hissed into her ear, “whoever planted the virus programmed it to disable the engines and most of their main power systems.” He then shoved her aside, allowing room for him to sit in an upright position.

Pirella sat herself up while wrapping a bed sheet around her body up to her chest. “Captain Limis would have immediately come after us and demanded that Gul Latham begin an immediate investigation.”

Looking away from her, Printus had already gotten out of bed and began dressing himself. “Nevertheless, you disobeyed my orders,” he said as he hiked up his gray uniform trousers.

Pirella stood up and circled around the bed. “I saved your operation from a lot of unnecessary scrutiny.”

Printus continued to avert his eyes from her while he slipped on a black sleeveless undershirt. “Despite your initiative, you’ve demonstrated that I can’t trust you in these matters.”

Pirella slowly sauntered towards him and put a hand on his right shoulder. “Printus, do not let your pride…”

With a quick glance at her, Printus yanked her hand off his shoulder and shoved her into a sitting position on the bed. “Be gone, woman,” he sneered as he grabbed his uniform armor. “I can’t stand to look at you right now.” He stomped towards the entrance to his cabin while Pirella remained silently motionless, clutching the edges of the sheet that concealed her nakedness.

The doors leading to the corridor parted just as a communications alert chirped. “All crew to duty stations,” Gul Latham announced. “We get underway in an hour.”

###

Captain Lenaris Holem had come aboard from the USS Derna to confer with Limis. She had not been accustomed to guests materializing on her bridge, even if it was the only alternative to using her ship’s presently unreliable transporter system. At least she had the satisfaction of knowing that an old friend and colleague from the Occupation days was lending her a hand rather than a veteran captain known for questioning her fitness to serve as a starship commander.

“Thanks for getting here as quickly as possible,” Limis said. She took a glance at both sides of the door frame, pleasantly surprised that her ready room door opened on cue to admit herself and Lenaris. “I was dreading the idea of not being in a position to retreat from hostiles.”

“It’s not like you were ever one to run from a fight,” Lenaris retorted.

Limis grinned, fondly remembering how stubborn she could be in her youth. “We were always at a tactical disadvantage in those days,” she said while circling around her desk and sorting through all the different padds. “As Starfleet captains now, you and I expect to have the upper hand against raiders on the prowl. And we were already a bit behind schedule on our supply run.”

“That’s what the two other starships and the freighter are for,” Lenaris explained, taking quick glances around the darkened ready room. “They’ll deliver the most urgently needed provisions while the Derna will stick around and help out with the repairs.”

“Wouldn’t Admiral Gundersen have insisted on having my ship towed back to Starbase 401?”

Lenaris leaned on one of the guest chairs, clasping the top of it. “I reminded him how much you dislike being taken off an assignment and how he wouldn’t hear the end of it if you were. I was tempted, of course, after we were ambushed by the bluegill aliens.”

Though she rarely believed in luck, Limis considered herself and her ship lucky that the Lambda Paz did not come under attack from a hostile force, especially one that took out a Dracon-class Cardassian heavy cruiser.  “Another reason to hope we don’t come under attack, then,” she replied. “Thank you again for all your help. Once we’re back up and running, I’m going after the Pakar’s crew.”

Lenaris’s eyebrows curiously twitched upon his hearing of her plans. “How will you know where to find them? The transport ship’s ion trail has probably already decayed by now.”

“Well, let’s just say we’re not that far from the Sarpedion system,” Limis cryptically answered.

Lenaris nodded, knowing that Limis was privy to Starfleet Intelligence files, for which the rest of her crew did not have clearance. “I got you,” he said. “I promised the admiral I’d make sure you complete your mission. But if you should happen to ‘drift off course’, Gunderson won’t hear it from me.”

***

Engineering to bridge. We’re ready to begin the reboot.”

“Understood,” Limis said in acknowledgement of sh’Aqba’s page. She handed a status report she had signed back to Lieutenant Carson. “Hail the Derna,” she then told Morrison. “Captain Lenaris, we’re ready to proceed. Recommend you extend shields around us during the reboot process.”

“Already done,” Lenaris replied over the ship-to-ship audio feed. “Good luck, Lambda Paz.”

Throughout the ship, every section and every corridor had gone pitch black. The officers on the bridge could not see even a millimeter ahead. About a minute later, the lights started to flicker back on.

“What’s our status?” Limis inquired with uncertainty as to whether she would like the answer.

“All tactical and communications systems fully functioning,” Morrison replied.

“Power distribution manifolds operating at specified norms,” Goris M’Rev, the Tellarite ensign at operations, added.

“All propulsion systems in standby mode,” Carson reported from the helm. “Warp power available at your command, sir.”

Limis seated herself in the command chair and keyed a command transmitting data from her side console to the helm. “Set a course, six-three mark one-eight-one, along this bearing.”

“Course plotted and laid in,” Carson replied. She then took a look at the new data the captain had transmitted, “That bearing takes us to the Sarpedion system,” she curiously remarked.

“Yes, Lieutenant, it does,” Limis confirmed. She swung a glance at Morrison, whom she expected to be more vocal in questioning a sudden change in orders. To her relief, he deferently nodded. “The Derna has taken on our original mission.”

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