Season 2, Episode 4:
After Doctor Aurellan Markalis appears to betray her colleagues, she rejoins Rhys Darcen and his fellow augments to learn their next move using a deadly biological agent. Meanwhile, Captain Limis Vircona's shuttle crashlands on a desolate planet. While awaiting rescue, she recalls her first mission with Starfleet Intelligence when she first became aware of the existence of Section 31.
Deep Space Nine, Expanded Universes Characters:
Garak, Elim, Kozar, Ronnie, Markalis, Aurellan, Sullivan, Rebecca, Vircona, Limis
Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Friendship, Mystery, RomanceWarnings:
Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Star Trek: Lambda Paz
25 Aug 2010 Updated:
19 Sep 2010
Title refers to a quote from Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man
(1791), where Paine stated, "Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.
"Historian’s Note: The flashback scenes take place in the Earth year 2361. The present-day events of this story take place concurrently with the events of “Take Me Out To the Holosuite” (DS9) and are a continuation of "Midnight Ride".And now the continuation...
1. Prologue by Enterprise1981
2. Chapter 1 by Enterprise1981
3. Chapter 2 by Enterprise1981
4. Chapter 3 by Enterprise1981
5. Chapter 4 by Enterprise1981
6. Chapter 5 by Enterprise1981
Prologue by Enterprise1981
The rain fell harder and harder. The sound of the raindrops falling on the concrete housing unit gave the Bajoran woman living inside a feeling of contentment like no other. Tonight, she would be able to sleep soundly. While cradling a phaser pistol, she kept one eye halfway open to watch as her nine-year old son slept.
Their lives were no better on Volan Three, a Federation colony on the Cardassian frontier, than on Bajor. Her days working at a manufacturing plant were long and thankless. She and her son lived in a one-room house with hardly any privacy. At least they now had a house. And she did not have to sell sexual favors to Cardassians or worry about getting a black eye from a Cardassian client or her abusive ex-husband.
A crashing noise outside the house shook her awake. Her first instinct was to make sure her child was safe. She sat at the side of his bed and stroked the boy’s hair. She then headed for the front door, phaser pistol in hand, to find the source of the noise. Outside, a humanoid figure was skulking next to the house. She shined a flashlight on the figure to see a dark-haired Terran male. She grabbed the Terran man by the back of his collar.
“You again,” the woman gasped, shining her flashlight in the man’s face. She instantly recognized his black leather jumpsuit, his graying hair, and his muscular upper body. She had seen this man while she was at work, at the local taverns, and at her son’s school. “Who are you and why are you following me?” she now demanded of him.
“I’m with Starfleet Intelligence,” the man calmly replied. “I’ve been watching you to find out if you’d be a good candidate for participating in special operations on this planet. And you’ve passed the first test.”
“Me? Starfleet?” the woman asked, letting go of the man. “No way, man. I don’t see myself in classrooms for four years.”
The human agent adjusted his collar and his sleeves. “Not all of our agents are Starfleet officers,” he explained of Intelligence. “A lot of our agents are regular people such as yourself. We recruit people who have gone into a lot of dangerous places. It’s just a one-month training program.”
The Bajoran woman momentarily looked away to conceal her annoyance, having realized she was being spied on for a lot longer than she initially believed. “I’m not going back to Bajor if that’s what you’re suggesting,” she insisted
“I don’t mean Bajor. But we could use people like you to help us keep an eye on the Cardassians.”
The prospect of going after Cardassians was suddenly appealing to her. “Now that you mention the spoonheads,” she said. “What does it pay?”
Chapter 1 by Enterprise1981
The captain’s yacht attached to the USS Lambda Paz was spiraling towards an asteroid. Following a confrontation with two Cardassian patrol vessels, the yacht lost its port nacelle, as well as its ability to stay upright--as the term applied to the vastness of interstellar space. The occupants of the Starfleet support vessel’s cockpit had been thrown out of their seats after the last hit.
Captain Limis Vircona and Ensign Rebecca Sullivan were clutching the deck to get back to the primary and secondary piloting stations. Sullivan got the main piloting station first and tried to steer the ship away from the asteroid. Limis took the other station to get an idea of the situation. Lieutenant Lisa Neeley and Elim Garak returned to the aft side stations from which they were forcibly removed. “Can you get us away from that rock?” Limis impatiently demanded.
“No response from maneuvering thrusters,” Rebecca answered. “I can tell you we will not survive the impact.”
“Greaaat,” Vircona retorted. “That’s some definite encouragement.”
Looking over at Garak and then Neeley, she asked, “Can you transfer power from auxiliary circuits or from some non-essential system.”
“Define ‘non-essential’,” Neeley quipped.
“Anything not relating to propulsion.”
“All transfer circuits are fused,” Garak shouted over the loudening hum of the engine.
“Of course they are,” Limis mumbled. Didn’t think I’d meet my demise this way, she silently mused. “Becca, you and Garak go down to thruster control and try to put some more juice in the system.”
Limis took over the primary piloting station once Sullivan headed below. “Not to put too much pressure,” Limis added, “but impact is in two minutes and twenty seconds.”
“We could try firing two quantum torpedoes at the asteroid’s surface,” Neeley offered. “The shockwave could take us off a collision course.”
“Or it could blow us up,” Limis shot back.
“We’d have to time it perfectly.”
“Every risky decision comes down to perfect timing,” Limis grumbled, rolling her eyes. In other words, death by crashing into big rock or death by explosion. “Prepare the torpedoes, Neeley. Becca, how’s it going down there?”
Down in the lower deck, Garak set down two power packs near an access panel. Sullivan pulled retractable cables out of the packs and plugged them into the panel. She frowned when she saw how slowly power was transferring. “May take longer than we have.”
“At least we can straighten this thing out once we implement Neeley’s plan,” Limis replied. “I’d suggest finding something to hold onto. Fire the torpedoes, Lisa.”
“We’re not close enough,” Lisa protested.
“There’s the asteroid’s gravity well to consider. We still have some margin of error. Fire!”
Two quantum torpedoes erupted from the ship and rammed into the asteroid. As expected, the backwash of the explosion sent the yacht hurdling away. Limis and Neeley clasped their stations as a readout indicated inertial dampeners had failed. “We have an additional problem,” Neeley sang out. “Structural integrity is failing.”
“Anywhere we can set down?” Limis asked.
“There’s a Class-M planet we passed just before the Cardies showed up.”
“I’ll take it. All hands to the escape pod.” Limis entered a command beaming herself and the rest of the yacht’s crew, along with emergency provisions.
A spherical pod jettisoned from the yacht and streaked towards a nearby planet. The yacht exploded once the pod was in the atmosphere.
Limis had taken the captain’s yacht to pursue her missing chief medical officer. Aurellan Markalis left the ship after the captain had planned to arrest a group of human augments residing on Tagra Four. They had already used a listening post in the Epsilon Trianguli system as a proving ground for a deadly biological weapon. Markalis had infiltrated the group as part of a mission for Section 31. She was not initially interested in being recruited, but Agent Cole took her non-answers as maybe.
Dressed in a short-sleeved navy blue shirt and navy trousers, Aurellan entered the residence of Rhys Darcen, the leader of the augments on Tagra Four. “Hello,” she called out, upon entry into the stone building. No one was in the foyer, which seemed darker than the last time she was there.
Accompanying her was a tall blond-haired human male. He was the lone survivor of the proving ground. He had been in the Lambda Paz’s sickbay before Markalis escaped with her. She found herself unable to look at him during the shuttle ride, as he was a reminder that she had withheld his genetic status from her captain.
The lights brightened slightly as a familiar face stepped into the room. “Aurellan,” said Darcen. “You’re back already. And, Seamus, you got out of there alive.”
Darcen and the man who came with Markalis quickly embraced. “I was the only survivor,” Seamus O’Dell reported, wincing with something of migraine headache. “But I may be showing other symptoms of the virus.”
“I could administer something for the headache,” Markalis replied, reaching into her medkit hanging from her right shoulder.
“I’ll be all right for now,” Seamus lied, managing a squint.
Markalis was about to insist when she noticed the two women she had met during her previous visit. A youthful blond-haired man with an ambivalent facial expression also entered. Looking at Grimaud, Aurellan felt what could be described as a telepathic echo. She remembered a subliminal message in her mind, from after Limis announced her intention to arrest the super-humans. Grimaud looked as human as Rhys, Seamus, Ileana Roshanak, and Snežana Ilochko, yet telepathy was never part of the genetic enhancements on humans.
“Does he know?” Aurellan asked him, even knowing he would not answer.
“Of course I know that he’s a Betazoid augment,” Darcen firmly replied, stepping in front of Markalis as Grimaud walked away speechless. “Do you think I would let him probe my thoughts without my permission or even without my knowledge?
“Of course, the doctors at the Daystrom psychiatric center on Galor Four were hoping to suppress his abilities entirely. That’s why we broke him out. Why should such an extraordinary gift go to waste? He knew you were some kind of double agent. He was just trying to make sure exactly where your loyalties lie.”
Markalis quickly blinked her eyes and felt her temples seeing a field of roses. As quickly as they appeared in her mind, the flowers were gone. “He just did it again,” she gasped, looking over at Grimaud. “I saw a field of roses.”
“He’s telling you he likes you,” Darcen explained.
“Great,” Aurellan mumbled almost inaudibly, not knowing whether to be flattered or annoyed that someone was freely probing her thoughts.
“Do you have the gel you had promised us?” Darcen asked while Aurellan was lost in a thought.
“What?” she asked, waking from her momentary trance. Then she remembered the bio-mimetic gel she had offered to sell him when she had first met him. “Oh, yes, it’s on the shuttle.” She forced a smile, considering how direct this man was.
The external hatch of an escape pod flew open. Limis and Neeley used a heavy cargo container as a makeshift battering ram in order to force the door open. The pod has landed on the edge of a dank and musty jungle. The area had patches of swamp. The sun shone very brightly from the west in a dimming sky, suggesting either dawn or dusk.
Sullivan followed them out of the pod. Behind her was a dark skinned human male dressed in older-style military fatigues carrying a fair-skinned auburn haired human male, who was drifting in and out consciousness. The wounded soldier was laid down on his back. Neeley kneeled down in front of him and set down a first-aid kit while the others went back in the pod to recover more emergency provisions.
Neeley began scanning Les Galloway with a medical tricorder. He began gasping in pain each time he inhaled. “Take slower breaths, Les,” Neeley suggested. “You have a fractured sternum and a punctured lung. You could also have internal bleeding. We’ll get you out of here and you’ll be good as new.”
Breathing was painful enough, so Galloway just answered with a nod.
The rest of the team hastily returned with additional medical supplies. Samaritan Bowers handed Neeley a hypospray loaded with painkillers while Limis opened a case of disinfecting clothes and placed one on the gash on Galloway’s forehead. The captain then walked over to Sullivan to help her haul a bulky piece of equipment.
“Can you get this com-unit working?” Vircona asked.
“Can’t really say yet,” Rebecca answered pensively. “We don’t even know if the right people received our distress call.”
Limis looked back at the MACO soldiers. Neeley and Bowers continued to encourage Galloway to hang in there. Bowers even suggested Galloway would soon be wishing for something that would serve as insect repellent. But Limis could tell from their repeated promises that even they knew their wounded colleague would not see tomorrow. She inhaled slowly to keep from breaking into tears around her subordinates. “What have I done, Becca?” she sighed. “This was my fool’s errand.”
“You’re the captain, Vira,” Rebecca responded shooting her friend a stern look. “You’re always putting your people at risk.”
“They’re prepared to lay down their lives fighting in the Dominion War,” Limis insisted choking back a sob. “I’m only acting on my obsession with bringing down an organization that stomps on everything the Federation stands for. And now that man will die because of my foolishness.”
Limis took slow breaths to keep her emotions in check. She was now recalling how she first became familiar with the rogue intelligence organization that resorted to the kinds of underhanded methods the rest of the Federation and Starfleet outwardly condemned. That was fourteen years ago, coincidentally, about the same time she first met Rebecca. She could not have known then that they would become each other’s dearest of friends.
Alizée: "Moi Lolita"
Fourteen years earlier, a young Limis Vircona was living on Volan Three in a sector in dispute between the Federation and the Cardassians Union. She worked long hours at a manufacturing plant owned by a multi-planetary mining company. The hours were long, and the pay was lousy. At least she made enough to support her son and her overseers didn’t strike her for not working up to par. She frequented the local taverns after her twelve-hour workdays.
She normally got dirty looks from various aliens who could identify her as a Bajoran. At this particular establishment, she was getting curious stares. Perhaps they were enamored by a characteristic that was foreign and exotic. Except most of the patrons were women. Some of them had masculine features: tall, short hair, muscular upper bodies. One of them stood out. A dark-haired adolescent human girl gave inquisitive stares.
Since her childhood, Vircona had heard stories from pre-Enlightenment times that same sex couples were considered sinners, and thus were treated like outcasts. She never believed that to be true, yet her native language had no other term besides “lost souls” for individuals who “lay with mankind like he lay with womankind.” The idea of such coupling still made her feel awkward since she was not ever sexually attracted to other women.
Vircona took a seat at the bar and leaned forward snapping her fingers to get the Tellarite bartender’s attention. The nostrils of his porcine snout slightly widened to let out a snort. She wasn’t sure if this was an expression of disdain, as she not been around many Tellarties. “Let me get a whiskey,” she snapped, trying restrain her derision.
The bartender placed a bottle out from under the bar, and then slammed a glass on the bar.
“This some kind of place for the balik’pagh?” the Bajoran woman asked.
“The who?” the bartender asked, not familiar with the foreign term as he finished pouring her drink and put the bottle back on the shelf underneath the bar.
“What you Federations call lost souls…sinners.”
“Yeah, well we don’t discriminate,” the bartender retorted walking away. He mumbled something unintelligible, which Vircona guessed was a Tellarite swear.
“Nice to meet you too,” Vircona shot back.
She had heard all kinds of stories about Bajoran refugees settling on other worlds. The colony worlds were ideal resettlement locations during the early years of the Cardassian Occupation. Resources quickly dried up as the colonists were gradually forced to fend for themselves. Neighboring races throughout the region welcomed alien visitors. Yet as more and more Bajorans began settling on these worlds, the natives became more contemptuous of the “unwashed.”
The Federation, of course, was more tolerant. Or so she had heard. She had yet to see that kind of tolerance for “her kind” from the various Federation member races residing on Volan Three. But who was Vircona to judge? She had a strong hatred of Cardassians for their callous devaluing of sentient life.
That girl was looking in her direction again. Only this time, she walked towards her. She sat down on the stool on Vircona’s right and smirked. “Mind if I buy you that drink?” the human girl asked.
“I’ve got money,” Vircona sneered. Though she didn’t put any thought into how Federation citizens paid for drinks if they supposedly did not use more conventional currency.
“I’ve never seen you here before,” the girl remarked.
“I don’t date women if that’s what you’re wondering.”
Those words slipped out, though Vircona was not certain this girl only had romantic relationships with other women, or it was something she had “experimented” with, as adolescent human girls were known to do.
The human girl smirked. “Nothing wrong with that,” she quipped.
“I just didn’t feel like my usual place,” Vircona said gruffly, taking a big sip of whiskey. “I’m used to being looked at funny, but not today. Tough day at work.”
“What do you do?”
“I work at that deuterium plant a few blocks from here. It’s exhausting, but it beats working in the Cardassian ore processors.”
“You’re Bajoran,” the human girl stated in order to indicate interest.
“The nose wasn’t enough of a giveaway?” Vircona retorted, finishing her drink. “Whatever, I’m out of here,” she said standing up.
“You sure you don’t want to stay for awhile?” the girl asked, clasping Vircona’s right hand.
“Get your fucking hands off me, you valki,” Vircona angrily hissed. “I told you, I don’t sleep with other women!”
“That’s not it at all,” the girl implored. She never heard what this Bajoran woman just called her, but her anger suggested it was a Bajoran swear word. “I was just looking for someone to talk to. I don’t meet that many people.”
Vircona gave a remorseful sigh, now regretting having hurt this poor girl’s feelings. “I’m sorry,” she said, sitting back down. “I’m just not used to non-Bajorans being nice to me.”
“We humans are supposed to be more tolerant. But some do think they’re superior to those who didn’t live privileged lives. I’m not one of them.”
“Even after what I called you? I work long and stressful days and I have a kid to take care of.”
“You don’t have to explain. Name’s Becca, by the way.”
“Vira,” Vircona answered with a smile. For the first time since coming to this world, she felt accepted by a non-Bajoran. This encounter gave her a new sense of purpose and a renewed sense that maybe she had made the right choice in relocating herself and her son to this place.
In a far corner of the tavern, a man of advanced middle age shot a quick look at Vircona. For a very brief moment, Vircona saw him staring at her for what felt like five seconds. She wasn’t certain, but he might have been the same man watching her as she dropped off her son at school. Who was he and why was he following her?
Chapter 2 by Enterprise1981
Doctor Markalis scanned Grimaud with a medical tricorder, having expressed curiosity about his enhanced telepathic abilities, as well why he rarely ever spoke. She held a hand sensor to the young man’s forehead while looking at the tricorder readouts. After her last visit to Tagra, Markalis downloaded some basic information on Betazoid physiology and genetics into the tricorder for a point of comparison.
“Higher psilosynine levels in the paracortex,” she observed aloud. “It’s as if the telepathic centers of the brain are never turned off.”
“At least the telepathic inhibitors he’s taken all his life do temporarily silence the voices,” Darcen explained. “And he used Vulcan meditation techniques to learn not to involuntarily see into others’ minds.”
“Glad you’re not always poking around in my head,” Aurellan retorted to Grimaud. “And I read no evidence of traumatic brain injury, or damage to the vocal cords. He can speak. He just chooses not to.”
Grimaud squinted, which sent another telepathic message to Markalis.
“How rude of me,” she replied. “You’re right. I shouldn’t refer to you in the third person when you’re right here. Overall, you have a clean bill of health. Thank you for your time.”
Keeping his ambivalent expression, Grimaud stood up and walked away without even a “You’re welcome.” And people say I don’t have the best of social skills, Aurellan mused, lightly shaking her head.
Markalis then followed Darcen to a laboratory in the catacombs. Seamus was already waiting for them, seated in front of a table with a microscope and about a dozen petri dishes. “You remember Seamus?” Rhys rhetorically asked. Without letting her speak he answered his own question. “Of course you do.”
“We need to learn how to improve the streptococcus strain,” Seamus explained. “We’ve tried to follow the specifications of the Chrysalis Project as best we could. Yet those records are fragmentary at best. I am proof of that.”
Seamus again winced in pain and felt his temples. “Are you sure you don’t require an analgesic?” Markalis asked.
“No drugs,” Seamus insisted, squinting. “They could corrupt your studies of the antibodies.”
Markalis nodded, even though she knew that statement was not entirely true. She had heard of instances where genetic modifications made to create immunity to certain medicinal agents. These humans may have undergone such genetic modifications. She paced over to the table and picked up a hypo-syringe and placed an empty extraction vial in the opposite side of the syringe’s tip.
Seamus tilted his head to the left, so that Aurellan could extract a blood sample from his carotid artery. Afterwards, she quickly removed a vial and injected a chemical into it that would allow her to more easily see the antibodies under a microscope. Her haste was to hide her disgust with using her medical knowledge to improve a pathogen intended for use as a weapon. The sooner this façade was over, she felt, the better.
At the top of the stairs, Ileana stared down at the newest member of her group. Once Rhys saw her, he knew his lover was conducting reconnaissance. She knew from the first time she saw Aurellan, that Rhys was attracted to the doctor. Though knowing that Grimaud had read Aurellan’s thoughts, Ileana considered her more of a threat to steal her man.
Rebecca Sullivan poked around the emergency comm-unit hoping to increase the transmitter’s range. Garak was lending a hand by dismantling a tricorder and converting the power cell to boost its central transponder. If only it had enough power for any kind of transponder to be useful. Rebecca ran a coil spanner over a circuit board in order to recharge it. After placing the board back into its housing, she entered commands for test simulation. The unit slowly hummed to life for a few seconds before all the readout screens went blank. “Damn,” she muttered.
Limis was checking on Bowers and Neeley’s progress with Galloway when she heard Sullivan’s momentary expression of frustration. She walked over to Rebecca to inquire on what the problem was with coaxing the comm-unit to work properly. “No luck?” Vircona asked, already knowing the answer.
“I can’t seem to keep it running long enough for it to do any good,” Rebecca huffed, wishing their one-time Maquis colleague and now shipmate Erhlich Tarlazzi had accompanied them. “If Erhlich was here… “
“I’m saying if I had some help, I’d sooner be able to diagnose the problem.”
“You mean Garak’s not much help?” Limis asked, looking over to the Cardassian mission specialist who had come aboard the Lambda Paz prior to the Kalandra campaign for his expertise in coded Cardassian communications.
“I’m dong the best I can, Captain,” Garak insisted. “With Federation technology, I often forget the difference between a wave-guide converter and a subspace transceiver.”
“You escaped from a Dominion internment camp using alien communications technology,” Limis recalled of Garak’s time in a Dominion prison in the Gamma Quadrant almost two years ago.
“It wasn’t hard to master. Federation technology is a lot more complex. I suppose that’s why the engineers put brown stickers on all their tools.”
“I understand the basic construction,” Sullivan added. “I’m still not able to nail down what’s wrong with this particular unit.”
Limis looked over at the MACO’s to make sure they were not actively listening in on their conversation. “I’m not much of an engineer, and neither are Neeley or Bowers. “Galloway could help if he was in better shape. He was an engineer before the war.”
“I thought you didn’t want to dwell on assets we didn’t have,” Rebecca retorted.
“I’m considering all our options,” Vircona replied, “I don’t plan on dying of malaria in this jungle.”
Limis shot a glance back the barely conscious body of Galloway. Despite those efforts of Neeley and Bowers to keep up his spirits, Limis was still certain those efforts were futile. She was sure hoping to be wrong, meaning forcing Galloway back into consciousness could result in his death rather than his injuries.
When she left Bajor, Vircona swore she would never sell herself to Cardassian military officers. Though that was what Agent Chadwick had her doing on her first infiltration mission to the military base on Volan Three. And she looked the part of a common street prostitute, yet she stumbled to keep her balance in her silver stilettos. She was also making minor adjustments to her miniskirt that barely went down to her thighs during the walk to the main entrance of the base. Of course, she thought the maroon lipstick and eyeliner was overkill.
Vircona’s first mission was a month after Chadwick had recruited her, in the middle of the night after her son was sound asleep. She wished she could protect him from burglars, but this mission was also to protect her child as well. She began to notice numerous Cardassian Union logos as she and Chadwick neared the base. Until now, she thought Chadwick was referring to a secret Obsidian Order base of which only a select few were familiar. “Is this a Federation colony or not?” she asked Chadwick, who was posing as her dealer.
“Federation citizens have settled here,” Chadwick explained, “but this sector is in dispute. Cardassians are allowed to settle here so long as they leave us alone. This base is to assure we keep up our end of the bargain.”
Vircona looked away from Chadwick rolling her eyes. A similar arrangement with the Cardassians on her world led to increased tension between the two races. Before too long, largely thanks to political opportunists, the Cardassian Union had tightened its grip on Bajor to the point where there was no getting rid of the alien invaders. She knew, even if Starfleet did not, that this arrangement was a recipe for disaster. The Federation and the Cardassian Empire were at war. This planet would only stoke the fires of conflict, not douse them.
“Have they kept up they’re end of this tenuous agreement?” Vircona asked skeptically.
“So far, they have,” Chadwick tersely answered. “The mizinite deposits here are plentiful enough to make up for collateral damage suffered during the Betreka Nebula Incident. But the Cardies are naturally suspicious of alien species. Intelligence wants to make sure they are not antagonizing Federation settlers.”
The pair soon approached the gate where two night watch guards were stationed. The young man on the right eyed them suspiciously. He wasn’t sure what to make of a woman with a man so much older than her.
“She has an appointment with the prefect,” Chadwick calmly stated.
“Is that so?” the guard asked giving an up-and-down visual inspection of Vircona.
Vircona quietly snorted in disgust as the guard stared lustily.
“I may want to sample her myself,” the Cardassian added.
“For the right price,” Vircona replied, slightly pulling down the top of her shoulderless attire, though it just barely concealed her breasts. “Three slips of latinum. Though I don’t think you’re experienced enough.”
The guard growled, pointing his rifle at Vircona’s head. Chadwick put his right arm out to nudge the rifle downward. “Now you wouldn’t want to explain a phaser wound on your prefect’s ‘merchandise’,” he said jovially.
The guard lowered his rifle, and then entered a code on the keypad to open the gate widely enough for the two to enter.
Gul Zarrel took a sip of kanar before taking another look at Vircona. He set the glass on the table and motioned for his “purchase” to come closer in order to make sure she was not hiding any weapons. He asked her to make a 360-degree turn so he could make absolutely sure. “For a spiritual people,” he said, “you Bajoran women have strong sexual appetites.”
“I never believed in any of that crap,” Vircona replied.
“We have something in common then. It all strikes me as superstitious nonsense that is a reminder of a part of our culture most of my people want to forget.”
“So when do we get started?” Vircona asked, unfastening her attire, leaving just black undergarments.
“My, you seem eager,” Zarrel replied, standing up. He squeezed Vircona’s chin tightly, and then ran his tongue down the left side of her neck and along her bare shoulder.
Vircona looked straight ahead, her eyes widening with fear. Zarrel backed away to remove his military armor and boots. He then gave Vircona a hard shove onto the bed. He mounted her, holding down both her wrists. That was a problem since a sedative was hidden in one of her bracelets.
Nearly an hour later, the hulking Cardassian was falling asleep on top of her. Vircona diverted her gaze from the man’s face to keep his foul-smelling breath off her skin. She felt for the hypospray in a bracelet on her left wrist, and then jammed it against the back of his neck. Vircona nudged Zarrel’s unconscious body off of her. She then walked over to the desk while dressing herself.
Entering a decryption code Chadwick had given her to break into Zarrel’s personal database. She placed a blank isolinear data-rod into the computer port to copy the information. Once the transfer was complete, Vircona placed the rod in her cleavage.
Vircona shot one last glance at the unconscious Zarrel. “Sweet dreams,” she sneered, before puckering her lips.
Several blocks from the base, Vircona fidgeted with her right stiletto when she saw a humanoid figure walking towards her. The masked humanoid in a black jumpsuit was too skinny to be Chadwick. She headed in the opposite direction and turned a corner at a back alley. Another masked humanoid was running towards her. She tried going back the way she came, but the first humanoid was in front of her jamming a hypospray on the left side of her neck. The second grabbed her from behind and laid her down gently on the ground.
The first humanoid Vircona ran into removed a wand-like device. The device lit and the humanoid waved it over Vircona’s neck and shoulder. The two masked humanoids then ran off leaving Vircona unconscious on the ground.
Chapter 3 by Enterprise1981
Rebecca Sullivan had decided to finish her final two years of secondary school while considering her career prospects. Her parents could not understand the decision. Her academic record was good enough to get her into a good college or trade school before the rest of her peers. Though she had been encouraged to enter Starfleet Academy, Rebecca had no interest in Starfleet. She tried not to think about her parents’ infinitely high expectations, as well as her argument with them that morning over wanting to bring a girl as her date to the school dance while walking to classes.
She didn’t consider that she would stumble across a person lying unconscious on the ground. One minute, she was walking; the next, she tripped and fell. She rolled over to see the Bajoran woman she met in the tavern a few weeks earlier. Vircona woke up suddenly, squinting her eyes open to see the girl who made quite the impression on her.
“B-Becca?” she stuttered.
“Vira?” Rebecca replied. “Why are you sleeping out here?”
Vircona felt her forehead, still feeling groggy from the sedative she was given and trying to think of a cover story for her mission. “I had to work a late shift,” she said, her voice nearly trailing off. “I was too tired to go back home.”
“What about your kid?” Rebecca inquired, helping Vircona up. She wasn’t sure she bought Vircona’s claim about working late given that she dressed like a street prostitute. But Rebecca decided she wasn’t going to judge Vircona and did not ask about the Bajoran woman’s clothing.
Despite Rebecca’s claim to being a more open-minded person, a particular defense mechanism clicked on in her mind. “He can take care of himself,” she snapped. “He knows I have to work late occasionally. I didn’t have much of a childhood myself.”
“I was just curious,” Rebecca apologetically replied.
“I know. I’m used to people thinking that because I’m a single parent, I can’t raise a kid and hold a job at the same time.”
“They’re full of themselves,” Rebecca assuredly stated, as they began taking small steps down the street. “It’s not the most ideal situation for a child. But I’m sure you do the best you can.”
“Thank you,” Vircona answered with a smile. “I’m glad you understand.”
“Earth wasn’t always the paradise it is today. That’s probably what makes some of us a little complacent. Not everyone in the universe has it as easy as we do. New challenges make life worth living, and reminds us of all the challenges that came before we built this utopia humans live in.”
“You’re very insightful at such a young age, Becca. We should hang out again some time.”
Rebecca’s cheeks blushed. For a second, she thought Vircona was asking her out. The she remembered Vircona didn’t date women. “Sure,” she quickly blurted out.
“I get off work early. Pick you up after your classes?”
Rebecca just gave a quick and nervous nod, and then slowly began to walk away. She turned around, trying to contain her excitement. This was not a date, she told herself, but she still felt a connection to this woman like no other person she had ever met.
Limis was lost in recalling events of fourteen years earlier when Neeley and Garak returned from scouting the jungle. Limis was hoping they had found some edible vegetation. She sighed discontentedly when seeing they were just carrying the water canteen they were sharing. “Nothing decent?” she asked dejectedly.
“I wouldn’t eat anything in that jungle,” Neeley pointedly replied. “Looks like we’re stuck with boring old field rations.”
“Hopefully not for too much longer in this excruciating heat,” Garak added.
“Don’t Cardassians love the heat?” Limis asked.
“Desert heat,” Garak corrected, tugging at his collar. “I can barely tolerate this humidity.”
“You’re not the only one,” Limis answered, taking a few steps backwards and trying to hide her displeasure with a certain odor. How had Neeley dealt with it the last hour? Cardassians certainly valued personal hygiene, but it was still rather poor by the standards of other races.
“We’re going to need Mister Galloway’s help,” Limis continued, “if we’re to get off this planet.”
Once again, Neeley rolled her eyes in annoyance at the very suggestion of asking for a barely conscious man’s assistance. But Limis had made up her mind since Galloway would be dead sooner or later. “Wake him,” Limis instructed Bowers.
Bowers reluctantly complied, injecting Galloway with a stimulant. Limis looked over to the MACO soldier, whose breathing was still labored even though his broken sternum had healed. “We need that comm-unit fixed,” the captain stated. “You up for talking Ensign Sullivan through the repairs?”
“Sure,” Galloway wheezed. “I may still die in this muck, but I can still strive to leave here alive. I thought you Maquis types were experts in repairing outdated equipment that’s supposed to be damaged beyond repair.”
“'Outdated' being the operative word,” Sullivan quipped. “My expertise is in sending clandestine messages with still working outdated equipment. This thing’s harder to navigate than a labyrinth.”
“First, you need to give the triaxilating circuits enough juice,” Galloway continued through pained breaths. “We want to make sure a Federation or Klingon ship finds us.”
“I’ve been concentrating on those even though they’re no good in the rest of the unit’s condition.”
“One less thing to worry about,” Galloway remarked through coughing and wheezing. Neeley began scanning his chest with a medical tricorder to monitor the punctured lung. “Next,” Galloway continued, “see if the four torodial antennae dispersed are throughout the unit.”
While Galloway continued to talk Sullivan through the repairs, Bowers gave Limis a disgusted stare. That stimulant I gave him better not kill him, he had wanted to say to her.
Rhys and Snežana entered the lab where Doctor Markalis was working to deliver additional equipment. Aurellan was still looking through a microscope scrutinizing antibody samples. She was heavily concentrated on analyzing the samples, she did not react to their footsteps. Ileana and Seamus, who were setting up petri dishes and hypo-syringes, motioned their cohorts to set the crates down next to the table.
“How is the analysis coming?” Darcen asked Markalis.
“This is one of the most intricate pathogens I’ve ever seen,” Aurellan replied still staring into the microscope and injecting streptococcus samples into a petri dish suspension.
Ileana walked over to the crates to open them. She hid her annoyance at Rhys staring in the general direction of Aurellan’s posterior, but also had felt a measure of relief that Snežana was staring lustily at Aurellan. Rhys could still sense that his lover was giving him an “eyes up here” glare and shot her an innocent grin. Her nostrils flared slightly every time he stared at her cleavage for longer than half a second.
“It’s a major feat of genetic engineering,” Darcen replied. “We’ve still had to build from scratch. Much of Kaur’s data was destroyed after the Eugenics War. And rightly so. Letting basics play around with this thing would have been disastrous.”
“That’s why I am starting to manifest symptoms,” Seamus explained.
“Basics?” Markalis asked Darcen. Though she studied the Eugenics War in school, the term “basics” never came up. She had an idea of its meaning in this context.
“Neurotypical is another term,” Ileana answered, setting down orange and blue cylindrical containers on the table. “People who do not possess our intellectual and physical prowess.”
“What are these?” Markalis asked of the containers Ileana and Snežana were placing on the table.
“The T’Lani and Kelleruns called them harvesters,” Snežana answered. “They are genetic disruptors used in their centuries long conflict.”
Markalis felt a twinge in her chest and abdomen. She remembered not to let her eyes widen to conceal her horror at the capabilities of this weapon and that these people were planning to use it.
“They’re mutual hatred consumed them as much as this weapon,” Seamus added. “They were so determined to exterminate each other, they nearly destroyed their planets’ ecosystems. Luckily more enligthened individuals from both planets saw the wisdom in destroying them.”
Markalis was lost in the thought of how Earth would have fared had such horrible weapons been used during the Cold War between the United States and Snežana’s ancestors when Seamus began coughing. She thought nothing of the first coughs. Then the coughs became wheezing, as if he would cough out his intestines. Aurellan saw the augments would not act, and moved to intercede.
“You should lie down,” she offered.
Seamus shook his head as he clutched the table. He grabbed a beaker, which slammed to the floor and shattered as the man fell into unconsciousness.
Markalis took a hypospray out of her medkit. Before she could kneel down and administer it, Darcen effortlessly grabbed the hypospray from her hand and flung it across the room.
“No,” he insisted. “No medicines.”
“He’ll die without treatment,” Markalis implored.
“We can’t guarantee he’ll survive with it,” Darcen hissed. “He knows more important things are at stake. And that he will only be a burden if you needlessly prolong his life.”
Markalis just nodded to hide her shock at Darcen’s disregard for the life of a fellow augment. If he could devalue Seamus’s life, he certainly thought even less of “basics.”
Vircona landed her hopper, an electronic scooter-shaped vehicle that glided slightly off the ground, near the main entrance of the local high school. Once classes were dismissed for the day, students of varying Federation member races began filing out of the building. A few human boys looking in Vircona’s direction gave approving glances. Maybe the sight of a woman wearing a leather jacket over a pair of form fitting jeans was what appealed to them. She nodded to them and they nodded back. Soon afterwards, the girl she was waiting for appeared.
Rebecca was accompanied by two of her female peers, a human with long dark curly hair and an Andorian girl. She was telling them she had to postpone their plans for after school. She pointed to Vircona to identify the person with whom she would be spending the afternoon. The other girls shrugged, wondering who this new friend, especially since she was a Bajoran about ten years older than they were.
“I hope you weren’t planning anything too important,” Vircona remarked to Rebecca.
“No, just the same old stuff we high school girls do,” Rebecca answered with a shrug. “Hang out, talk about cute boys… and girls.”
They both grinned. Vircona then handed Rebecca an extra helmet on the back seat of the vehicle and put on the helmet on her seat. Rebecca draped her arms over Vircona’s shoulders to hold on as she activated the ignition and the vehicle took off.
Vircona took Rebecca to a range of large bluffs and small canyons just outside of the settlement area. They sat at the base of a cliff where they watched the wind brush up clumps of sand. It was unlike any phenomenon on Earth or Bajor. Periodic wind gusts in this arid region would cause clumps of sand to brush up like a cyclone. Rebecca just gazed in awe.
“My son would come here a lot when we first came to this planet,” Vircona recalled. “Soon I had to come here to find out what was so fascinating.”
“Where is his father?” Rebecca curiously asked.
For a split second, she thought Rebecca was judging her, but then considered that part of her life she left on Bajor. “Probably still on Bajor,” she answered hoarsely. “I loved that man when I was your age. Maybe we married too young. He carried a lot of repressed anger, wondering what our people had done to deserve what the Cardassians were doing to us. He would start to take that anger out on me until two years ago. Yanith was getting old enough to know how screwed up his parents’ marriage was. I didn’t want him thinking that sort of thing was acceptable in a marriage.”
“That’s rough,” Rebecca sympathetically replied.
During about a minute of silence, Vircona had hoped avoid any further discussion of her abusive former spouse. “So,” she said, not sure how to approach this particular question, “how did you decide you were attracted to both women and men?”
Now who’s judging? Rebecca wondered. She giggled at the wording of the question. “We don’t always decide whom we’re attracted to,” she said plainly. “In a game of truth or dare, I kissed a girl… on the lips. It was totally random, but then I found myself open to dating both genders.”
Vircona did not know how to respond. She just listened to the howling of the wind. “Wait until you hear this,” she instructed Rebecca. “It’s something relating to the construction of the rocks.”
The howling slowly became a high-pitched melodic hum. “Amazing,” Rebecca gasped in awe.
They stared off into the distance as the hum continued for nearly a minute until it dispersed. “Truth or dare?” Vircona then blurted.
“Dare,” Rebecca replied, gazing into Vircona’s eyes and clasping her hand.
Vircona gazed into the Rebecca’s eyes. She leaned over and kissed Rebecca on the lips. Rebecca’s eyes widened in surprise. Just a few days ago, this woman said she didn’t date other women. Now she was kissing her. Rebecca then leaned over planting a longer open-lipped kiss on Vircona’s lips.
Hours later, when the sun was setting, Vircona landed her hopper in front of Rebecca’s house. From inside, a woman gazed out the window. She did not know what how to react to the Bajoran woman kissing her daughter. Rebecca was slowly walking backwards towards the door when her mother grabbed her by the right arm. “Where have you been?” the older woman impatiently demanded.
“I was just out with a friend,” Rebecca calmly answered.
“You mean her?” her mother sneered, pointing at Vircona.
“I don’t mean any harm, Mrs. Sullivan,” Vircona insisted.
The older Sullivan quickly cut her off. “ Get off my property before I call the police,” she demanded. “I don’t want you pushing your backwards superstitions on my daughter.”
Vircona wanted to respond, but quickly held her tongue. She knew where was not welcome and didn’t decide to push it. She sat in the driver seat of her hopper and sped away.
Darcen kneeled in front of a short table, gazing at a flaming lamp, while holding his index fingers together like a steeple. He was performing a Vulcan meditation ritual where he would focus all his mental energy on the flame and tune out any other external stimuli. He heard many historical accounts of how violent others like him were, especially the infamous Khan Noonien Singh and his followers. Given the Vulcan people’s history of violent warfare millennia ago, their meditation techniques seemed an effective way of keeping strong emotions in check.
Of course, he let himself be distracted by the sound of footsteps behind him. “Come in, Aurellan,” he said slowly opening his eyes. He turned his head slightly to see the shadow that Markalis had cast against the wall.
Markalis grinned in embarrassment at being easily identified even though Darcen hadn’t seen her. “That’s a Vulcan meditation lamp, isn’t it?” she observed of the antiquated light source.
“I’m intrigued by their mediation rituals,” said Darcen, still staring at the flame. “But you didn’t come here to talk about Vulcan meditation.”
Markalis was surprised and amazed at how well he knew her already, yet also intrigued by his directness. “Seamus is in really bad shape,” she pointedly replied. “I don’t know that he’ll make it through the night. Not even Vulcans would be as cavalier as you are being.”
Darcen stood upright and growled at Markalis, while shooting her a hostile glare. Her eyes widened in terror. It was the same look of anger her mother gave her if she ever she challenged her authority. So much for keeping his emotions in check. He smiled at her terrified expression and backed off.
“He was my friend since childhood,” he said ruefully as he looked away from Markalis. “He understood the risks involved when we went through with the plan on Epsilon Trianguli. He knew that in the worst-case scenario, he would die in the same gruesome manner as the basics on that outpost. We wouldn’t have thought less of him had he refused to volunteer himself. But he was willing to lay down his life for a greater good.
Those words frightened her more than the threatening posture Rhys took just a few moments ago. The three words she heard over and over again since she entered medical school were, “Do no harm.” Yet this man was using someone he called a friend as a guinea pig in experimentation considered immoral for over four centuries. Darcen had hoped to hide his own emotions by avoiding eye contact. He then looked back at Aurellan.
“I understand people of your breed,” he continued, “often struggle to grasp the concepts of empathy and compassion. You may not be entirely like us on a genetic level, but I would you think you would understand my position.”
Those words were like a punch in the stomach to Markalis. What did he mean by “people of her breed”? That kind of prejudice was one thing that made “basics” afraid of “augments.” She had often struggled with basic social interaction, and she looked at the universe in a more rational manner than most humans. But she never thought herself capable of Darcen’s level of coldness.
“When my sister was a baby,” Aurellan began to recall of her childhood, “I could never understand why she would start fussing whenever I held her. My mother said I was always too rough on our dog, even when I didn’t think I was.”
Ileana passed by the entryway to Rhys’s room. She caught a glance of Rhys showing interest in a story Aurellan was telling him. After she passed by, she tiptoed backwards to keep from attracting Rhys’s attention while listening in.
“My mother would hold me in her arms when I became highly agitated,” Markalis continued. “I often recoiled from physical contact. She was so gentle though. That was how I began to truly understand empathy.”
Darcen’s eyes twinkled, as he became deeply moved. He then refocused his mind when he got a glance of the meditation lamp. “Empathy and compassion are for the weak-minded,” he insisted. “We are prepared to do what others are too afraid to do to end this devastating war. If a few people have to die for the cause, I can live with that.”
Markalis felt a chill on her skin. She realized persuading Darcen was futile and decided not to push it further in order to maintain her cover. “I have to get back to work,” she said demurely, slowly stepping out of the room.
With no warning whatsoever, a hand grabbed Aurellan by the neck and shoved her whole body against the wall. Ileana looked into eyes with a murderous rage. “I don’t know who you really are,” she hissed, “or where you came from. But I will not let you derail our plans. He may find you intriguing, but he loves me.”
Aurellan tried to speak, but couldn’t for as long as this super strong woman was gripping her neck.
“If you steal him from me,” Ileana continued, “or if you sell us out, I will snap your neck, which, as you can tell, I am fully capable of doing.”
Ileana then let go of Markalis and stormed off. Aurellan felt her throat and began coughing. She stared down the hall where Ileana had walked away wondering what kind of sociopaths with whom she had gotten involved.
Chapter 4 by Enterprise1981
Aurellan Markalis watched the sunrise over the mountains on the horizon. She analyzed the red giant star and the bright colors that surrounded it intellectually, comparing the lighting effect to that of Earth’s yellow sun. She wished she could watch and appreciate the sheer beauty of a sunrise or sunset as most others could. She was distracted from these thoughts when she heard water splashing in the nearby artificial lake.
Snežana emerged from the water. Aurellan gave a light smile. She did not bother to look away, expecting that Snežana would be wearing some type of bathing suit. That was why she let out a surprised gasp when turning her gaze away from Snežana’s fully nude body.
“You mind handing me that towel?” Snežana asked.
Continuing to divert her gaze, Aurellan grabbed a towel draped over a reclined lounge chair on her right and held it out to the Russian-accented woman. Snežana patted her chest with the towel before fully covering herself with it. “You’re a doctor,” she remarked. “You see naked people all the time.”
“Naked dead people mostly,” Aurellan replied, slowly looking back at Snežana, hoping not to see certain feminine body parts. “Those cadavers from med school still give me the creeps.”
Snežana had been aware of Aurellan’s presence for some time before Aurellan was aware of Snežana’s. Snežana had deduced that Aurellan was ruminating over the events of the day before. Seamus’s impending demise and Rhys’s cavalier attitude bothered her as well. Of course, Snežana was never one to question any of Rhys’s decisions. “You seem troubled,” she offered, clasping Aurellan’s left wrist. “Tell me what bothers you.”
Markalis began to feel tense at what seemed like a gesture of affection on the other woman’s part. But she was willing to listen to her, so Aurellan did not want to pass up this chance to unburden herself. She sat down on the lounge chair, and Snežana sat down next to her. “That Rhys doesn’t seem to care a close friend is dying,” she said hoarsely. “What does he plan to do with this virus he’s having me work on that he said will end the war?”
“He hasn’t said anything to any of us either,” Snežana replied, placing the palm of her right hand on Aurellan’s left cheek. “I understand the need to make difficult decisions in war, decisions our leaders are not willing to make. The Dominion is unlike any other enemy the Federation has fought. Seamus was willing to give his life so that others of us are not accidentally infected.”
Aurellan still was not feeling any better. She slowly slid Snežana’s hand off her cheek and looked away. She could understand Klingons and Romulans easily volunteering for death. Cardassians were notorious for using sentient life as a means to an end. She had never encountered humans this indifferent. As much as they claimed these decision were difficult, their lack of emotional responses said otherwise.
“You seem uncomfortable around me,” Snežana continued. “But how do you know you are not attracted to the same gender if you’ve never been in a successful romantic relationship?”
Markalis, again annoyed that these people knew so much about her just by her body language and facial expressions, was not sure whether Snežana was asking a rhetorical question. She considered the question for a second, visually analyzing Snežana’s wet black hair and drops of water dripping down her bare shoulders. “You just know,” she answered plainly.
“I never believed that.”
“Stop,” Aurellan insisted, raising her right hand thinking Snežana was leaning over to kiss her. She quickly stood up and walked away leaving Snežana to wonder what drove her off so suddently.
Inside the house, Darcen felt a hand stroke his cheek. He opened his eyes, knowing full well that Ileana was in bed next to him, and clasped her hand to kiss it. Ileana smiled and leaned over to kiss him on the lips while stroking his bare chest. Realizing why she asked him to make love to her last night, he placed two fingers on her lips after a second kiss.
“You were a little hard on Aurellan last night,” he said calmly.
Ileana rolled over, lying on her back and sighing. “I see the way you look at her. Usually, I wouldn’t mind, but she’s tough to figure. How do we know her loyalties are not truly with Starfleet or the Section 31 agents who turned on us?”
“You are correct, my love. That is why I will not reveal the specifics of our plan until she finishes work on the virus? And at the first sign of treachery, I will eliminate her myself.”
Ileana moaned pleasingly as Rhys stroked her right ear. She shot him a devilish smile before getting out of bed. Rhys gave the same devilish smile watching as Ileana walked naked towards the shower.
Thanks to Sergeant Galloway’s crash course, Ensign Sullivan was able to get the emergency comm-unit in working order. She was able to handle the basics of sending out a distress signal on a Starfleet frequency, while Neeley and Bowers tended to their fellow soldier-- observing that he was going into shock—by scrounging together some mangled up blankets in the emergency provisions.
The general feeling of optimism was interrupted when a legion of ten Jem’Hadar unshrouded. The Starfleet team began running for cover and whisking essential equipment out of the way of enemy weapons fire. Limis and Neeley laid down cover fire with hand phasers while the others moved Galloway and the comm-unit into the jungle. They managed to hit two of the enemy soldiers, but the rest kept coming unfazed.
Bowers and Garak joined the women, handing them extra phaser rifles before using their own rifles to keep shooting at the Jem’Hadar. The shots managed to take down the left and right most soldiers. The four left standing paired off on two sides, continuing to fire their rifles. One Jem’Hadar lunged at Bowers from the left. Bowers pulled a knife from his holster, a Capellan kligat, and hurled it straight into his chest.
Neeley, meanwhile, prepared to arm a photon grenade, but it had no power. That caught her off guard, as the two advancing Jem’Hadar lunged at her and Limis. They were about to go in for the kill when blasts from a hand phaser took them out. Neeley stood upright to see Galloway was holding the phaser. Limis was equally astonished to see a wounded man save her life. Galloway suddenly collapsed with Neely and Bowers scrambling after him.
After coming home from her outing with Rebecca, Vircona found Agent Chadwick waiting for her outside her house. The first thing that came to her mind was the welfare of her son. After the night before, she did not entirely trust Chadwick, intuiting that he sent those masked men to ambushed her. “You better not have touched a hair on my boy’s head,” she snapped.
“I didn’t harm your son,” Chadwick insisted. “He’s inside sleeping. I have another assignment for you.”
“Nevertheless, let’s go in the back, so you don’t draw too much attention.”
Chadwick curtly nodded and followed Vircona around to the back of the house. “Our Cardassian insiders report that Legate Gorat will be a VIP guest,” Chadwick stated pointedly. “His shuttle arrives tonight.”
“And who is Legate Gorat?” Vircona asked in confusion.
“He’s a influential member of Central Command. Getting into Gul Zarrel’s personal database was big. Gorat would be a major fountain of information.”
Vircona considered the proposal for a long moment. Any chance to gather incriminating information on the highest levels of Cardassian government was an opportunity she could not pass up. “I’m in,” she said quietly.
“Good. It’s the same routnine as last night.”
After finishing her business transaction with the legate, Vircona again encountered the same masked men. Only this time, she put up less of a fight. Again, one of the masked men used a laser device extract cell samples from her neck and shoulders. Vircona waited until her assailants were a considerable distance from her and opened her eyes.
Prior to her latest undercover operation, Vircona had ingested a large quantity of makara herbs, normally a medicinal agent for pregnant Bajoran women, in order to counteract any sedatives she would be given. She followed the sounds of the men’s footfalls down an alley. Upon turning the corner, she looked right, then left. She saw the two masked men on her left and quietly tiptoed after them.
Vircona followed the two men to the cellar of an empty building. She slipped through the door as it was closing, crept down the stairs, and hid behind a set of old wooden crates. The two dark-haired men who had accosted her removed their masks. An older heavy-set human with thinning gray hair was already there waiting for them. She could not make out much of what the three of them were whispering, but they did mention obtaining another sample and having a better understanding of Cardassian genetic and physiological idiosyncracies.
Ileana and Snežana watched Markalis as she continued her modifications of the virus. Grimaud stood in a corner quietly observing the women. Ileana looked up when she saw Rhys walk down the stairs of the cellar. Though he always tried to keep a cool head and a stoic demeanor, he could not hide his somber expression from Ileana.
“Seamus has died,” Darcen said plainly.
Ileana and Snežana lowered their heads in a moment of silence to mourn their dead friend and colleague. Markalis caught glimpses of the other women’s momentary emotional vulnerability. She could even tell that Grimaud was feeling a sense of loss though his face didn’t show it. After her converstion with Rhys, Aurellan thought she would be able to exploit this from Darcen’s followers.
“But we must make sure his death was not in vain,” Darcen added as he continued down the stairs. “Aurellan, have you finished modifying the virus?”
“I have four different strains of the virus,” Markalis replied. “Human and Betazoid augments could be immune to one or all of them. I don’t have enough antibody samples to run further tests.”
“Of course you do,” Darcen answered sharply. “The four of us.”
Markalis was at a loss for words. Was he actually suggesting that she infect him and his followers with the virus? “You don’t mean… “ she began with hesitation.
“Yes,” Darcen snapped. “I want you to infect each of us the virus.” Seeing the look of worry on his lover’s face that only one of them would die, he added, “Some ideals are worth dying for, Ileana.”
“Yes, my love,” Ileana replied, as they kissed.
Markalis prepared vials of the four different virus strains and injected Grimaud, then Ileana, and then Snežana. When she stepped over to Rhys, she had a morbid feeling just from his cold demeanor. “Come on,” he snapped. Aurellan placed the last vial into the hypospray injected him with the virus.
“Now that that’s over with,” he said with a slight grin. “Our destination is Ventani Two.”
Darcen saw Markalis’s eyebrows twitch at that planet’s mention. “I trust you know of it, Aurellan,” he continued.
“It was the home of Tret Akleen,” Markalis replied. “He’s considered the father of the modern day Cardassian Union.”
“Correct. It is not one of the most strategically significant sectors of Dominion space. But it would be a demoralizing blow to the Cardassians.”
“It would send a message that the same fate would befall other planets in the Cardassian Union,” Ileana added.
“Even their home planet,” Snežana chimed in.
The three of them exchanged devilish grins, but Aurellan kept quiet, biting her lower lips to hide her own fears. Even though the residents of Ventani were Cardassians, many of them were innocent civilians. And so far the Dominion had not used biological weapons in its war against the Federation and its allies. An attack of this magnitude would give the Founders an excuse to do just that.
Markalis looked up at the ceiling unable to sleep that night. She was not sure what bothered her more. That she helped with the virus Darcen and his group were planning to unleash, or that she would be partially responsible for so many deaths. Since this was her first undercover assignment, the fact that her actions were part of that assignment offered little consolation. Having not changed out of her daytime clothes, she figured she could make a run for it.
Aurellan tiptoed around the house to make sure everyone was sleeping. Rhys and Ileana were asleep in one room, while Snežana was asleep in another. She could not find Grimaud anywhere, but maybe that was a good thing. But then she had no idea the full range of his telepathy. From a dark corner, the Betazoid did see her exit the front door.
Chapter 5 by Enterprise1981
Erhlich Tarlazzi was pulling another all-nighter two days after the USS Lambda Paz lost contact with the captain’s yacht. The last message from Limis indicated the yacht encountered two Cardassian patrol vessels just outside star system M-317. The transmission terminated in the middle of the message, so the crew was uncertain as to the fate of the away team. Erhlich was tasked with extrapolating broken up pieces of the last message and to make every effort to reestablish contact. He knew that Vircona and Becca could look out for themselves, so could the MACO’s who had accompanied them. No matter how many times he told himself that each time one of his colleagues went missing, he would not be satisfied until these crewmates were safely back on board.
Though senior engineering officer Charles Logan had been temporarily elevated to executive officer in the captain’s absence, he could not stay out of engineering while Tarlazzi was in charge. Tarlazzi had been reminded numerous times how eccentric Starfleet engineers were, and that kept him from going over Chaz’s head by complaining to acting captain Ronnie Kozar.
Tarlazzi was in the process of extrapolating a course based on the location and time index of the emergency distress beacon’s activation when Logan called him out to the dilithium chamber. What now? Granted, Logan was the chief, but Tarlazzi was starting to wonder when the commander would leave and let him get some work done.
“This dilithium alignment is off by point six microns,” Logan chided the former Maquis.
“You’re now going to tell me that isn’t within safety specifications,” Tarlazzi huffed. “Those plasma storms we passed through this morning were interfering with the nacelle field emitters…”
A communication alert sounded on the situation room console Tarlazzi was working. He cut his explanation to Logan short to answer the hail “Code Seven emergency transmission,” he said, reading the words blinking on a readout screen in red letters.
“The captain?” Logan asked.
“I doubt that. He’s in his quarters sleeping.”
Logan rolled his eyes wondering if Tarlazzi could go two minutes without cracking a joke. “You know who I’m referring to,” he snapped.
“It’s an encrypted transmission addressed to Captain Limis.”
“But she’s not here. The sender might not know that.”
Ronnie Kozar had been a light sleeper since he first became a troop commander during the last Federation-Cardassian war. It came with the territory of being called in to oversee an emergency situation at a moment’s notice. He was immediately shaken awake when a communications chime sounded. “Go ahead,” he called out while sitting up and slowly increasing the light level.
“It’s Logan, sir,” Logan replied over the audio channel. “There’s an incoming encrypted message for you. We’re routing it to your quarters.”
“Understood,” Kozar sighed. He grabbed a robe draped over the bed and put it on before walking over to the wall-mounted monitor across the room. “Computer, receive transmission. Recognize Kozar, authorization one-one-seven Beta Bravo.”
Pixels on the screen assembled into the seal of the United Federation of Planets. The face of Aurellan Markalis then appeared on the screen to Kozar’s astonishment. He had offered to temporarily relieve her of duty when Limis announced her intentions to arrest Darcen and his fellow augments for their actions on Epsilon Trianguli. “Commander Kozar,” she said, looking over her right shoulder. “Where’s Captain Limis? I have an urgent message for her.”
“She’s off-ship looking for you actually,” Kozar impatiently replied. He bit his lip trying to hide his anger that a Section 31 agent had served as his chief medical officer for the last fifteen months. “Give me one good reason why we shouldn’t have you discharged from the service.”
“I know how this looks,” Markalis implored. “But I am not with Section 31. I left the ship with the survivor from Epsilon Trianguli because of a telepathic subliminal message. One of Darcen’s people is a Betazoid with enhanced telepathic abilities.”
Kozar sighed in disgust not sure whether to believe this explanation. He knew from accounts of her patients that Aurellan had certain tells on her face when she was being less than truthful. This time, she truly believed what she was saying--unless she was being telepathically manipulated to say this.
“Section 31 may trample on the core values of the Federation,” Markalis continued. “But they are charged with protecting the Federation. They tracked down these super-humans to find out what they plan to do with a biological weapon. The target is the Ventani system, home of the founder of the Cardassian Union.”
Kozar kept a calm demeanor as he considered the devastating effects of a group of humans using a biological agent to attack one of the most sacred Cardassian colonies. It would validate the Founders’ fear of Solids. He started to speak when static filled the screen. He tried to no avail to reestablish contact.
He walked back to the bed and pressed the comm-panel on the nightstand. “Kozar to bridge. Yellow alert. And set up a secure comm-link with Admiral Dennings in my quarters.”
“Understood,” replied a masculine voice on the audio channel.
Darcen had fired a phaser at the monitor screen Markalis was using. She turned around to see Darcen lunge towards her and clutch her neck. She instinctively grabbed his arm to get him off her. “I had hoped you were spying on Starfleet,” he hissed. “But now I see you are with them spying on us.”
Markalis continued trying to get Darcen’s hand off her neck, even knowing efforts were futile. “I have five times your strength,” he continued. “Do not resist it.”
Markalis released her grasp and Darcen released his. She fell to the ground coughing.
Lisa Neeley held a medical tricorder over the dead body of Les Galloway. The tricorder emitted a high-pitched whine indicating the patient’s vital functions had ceased. Neeley breathed heavily, tears streaming down her face. She was mostly angry with herself for selecting such a young man for this seemingly routine mission. She should have known that no mission in a war zone was routine. She gathered herself and tapped her combadge. “Time of death,” she said calmly, “1600 hours, 13 minutes.”
Bowers stood behind his MACO colleagues watching as Neeley closed the dead soldier’s eyes. He then turned around and shot Limis a disgusted glare. She and Sullivan were observing from several meters away. “Was his life was worth getting us off this planet?” he snarled. “Now that we barely dodged a Jem’Hadar ambush, we may have given away our position. And we’re all as good as dead.”
“Hopefully, a Starfleet ship will find us before then,” Limis ruefully replied.
“What if one doesn’t?” Bowers asked, storming towards the captain, “The Jem’Hadar will send reinforcements once their friends don’t report back.”
Neeley got up, and seeing her subordinate lunging at Limis in a cold rage, turned to him and decked him in the jaw. “Before you start complaining,” Neeley snapped as Bowers felt his sore jaw, “I just saved you from a court martial.”
“He is right about one thing,” Limis announced to the rest of the group. “More Jem’Hadar will be here eventually. So we need to get out of here, even if the computer’s grating voice tells us that’s against protocol.”
Not wanting to leave his dead colleague behind, Bowers stood upright and picked up Galloway’s corpse. Limis and Neeley picked up the emergency comm unit, and began leading the way into the jungle.
Darcen held an unconscious Markalis in his arms as he entered the house. Ileana was waiting for him in the foyer. They did not need to exchange any words regarding what Aurellan was up to. Grimaud, who had warned Rhys and Snežana entered the room as Rhys came throught the front door and set Markalis down on the floor. “She contacted Starfleet,” he explained.
“Then we need to leave right away,” Snežana replied.
“Exactly,” said Rhys.
“What about her?” Ileana asked, indicating Markalis. “Kill her like you said you would?”
“I’d rather use her as a hostage if Starfleet tracks us down,” Rhys answered. “Load everything into the ship.”
A few hours later, a Hideki-class Cardassian patrol vessel belonging to Darcen’s group ascended from the surface of Tagra Four. With this vessel, the group would be able to enter Cardassian territory without arousing much suspicion. Once the ship cleared the planet’s atmosphere, it streaked into warp.
TO BE CONCLUDED...
In "A Cause of Greater Worth"
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