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Shaking her head as she slowly struggled back into consciousness, Shelby’s body slowly began to react to the various sensations around it. Feeling the bindings around her wrists, Liz pulled at them, only to cease moments later as she realized that her struggles only resulted in them growing tighter. Hearing first a groan coming from the person lying next to her, the captain then heard a distinctly female voice as rough hands jerked her to her knees.

“The prisoners are awakening Sturmfuhrer!”

“Excellent!” A masculine voice replied as Liz, squinting her eyes, Liz made out the form of an average male humanoid from amongst the images swirling about her. As the man approached, the starship captain immediately recognized his uniform, complete with swastika armband and Sam Browne belt crossing his chest, as belonging to the outlawed Nazi Party. “Welcome back, Captain.” The man greeted, his lips turned up into an arrogant sneer.

“Who the hell are you and where the hell have you taken us?” Liz spat out defiantly, wincing as a woman standing next to her, also wearing a Nazi uniform, delivered a sharp kick to her side. That’s one! Liz thought to herself as she began making her payback list.

“Don’t they teach you manners in Starfleet, Captain?” The man, maintaining his smug grin, snorted as he looked down haughtily on his prisoner. ” No matter…” He remarked dismissively as he turned his attention next to the prisoner kneeling next to Liz, “And as for you…Zeon swine…” He sneered as he delivered a painful blow with the back of his hand across the face of the cringing old man.

“Why?” Ledron asked simply, crying out in pain as another Ekosian guard pulled back on his hair.

“Hey…bitch! Try that with someone who can fight back!” Liz shouted and then, looking up at the Sturmfuhrer, sneered, “Some Master Race—get your rocks off torturing eighty-year-old men…”

“Silence, Whore!” The woman snapped as she once again delivered a kick into Shelby’s side, deliberately striking the same spot she did earlier. Then with a snort, she mocked, “We know all about your reputation, Captain Shelby.”

“At least I’m getting some!” Liz fired back, “That’s more than you can say!” She taunted as yet again the woman’s sharp toed boot impacted on her side.

Turning his attention to Anara, the Sturmfuhrer flashed a lecherous grin, “What have we here? Maybe I’ll save you for last, eh? I’ve heard stories about Deltan women—I wonder if they’re true…”

Looking up at her tormentor, Anara managed a derisive snort, “I have a feeling that you would prove inadequate to the task of finding out.”

Way to go, Anara! Liz quietly cheered on, and then winced sympathetically as she saw the back of the man’s hand slash across her operations officer’s face, the Deltan woman recoiling from the blow. “I’ll return to you later, stirrat.”

Reaching the last prisoner, the Sturmfuhrer grinned triumphantly, “And Ambassador Offenhouse…we’re most honored by your presence, sir!” The terrorist leader mocked.

Stepping back, the Nazi leader took a central position where all of his prisoners could see him. “I am Sturmfuhrer Merok and you are prisoners of the Soldiers of Melakon, the vanguard for the eventual restoration of the Reich and Ekos. You have all been tried and convicted of crimes against the Reich—the sentence is death.” Pointing at Ledron, Merok declared as two guards yanked the old man to his feet and placed a hood over his head, “The Zeon will be executed first. He will serve as an example to all who would defy the Soldiers and the New Order.”

As the guards slipped a smelly hood came over the head of the elderly scholar, he begged, “Please…don’t…I have a wife…children…grandchildren. Don’t do this to them!”

“Don’t!” Liz cried out. “Please!” She pleaded, struggling to get to her feet only to be forced back down again by firm hands on her shoulders. “He’s a good man who’s never harmed anyone!”

“Silence!” Merok bellowed as he glared at Captain Shelby. “If you say another word, I will kill the Deltan woman as well!” As he jerked his thumb towards Anara, one of the terrorists pointed a pistol at the bald woman’s head. A cold smile crossing his features, Merok added in an icy voice, “Further, you will watch the execution of this Zeon pig. If you avert your gaze one way or the other, the person next to you on that side will be killed.” With that, Liz saw out of the corner of her eye the other guards all press their pistols on to the back of the necks of her other companions. “Do we understand each other, Captain?”

Clenching her teeth, Liz nodded her head once. Then, as the terrorist leader made his speech, tears flowed from her eyes as she recalled her final conversation with her old teacher in which he expressed his firm belief that the Ekosians had finally exorcised the ghosts of John Gill’s Nazis. As the single shot rang out and as the kindly old man’s head disintegrated into a crimson mist, her tears suddenly vanished. Intending to gloat at his actions, Merok looked into the eyes of the captured starship captain. Instead of seeing the eyes of a cowed woman, the Sturmfuhrer blinked in surprise as he saw a pair of eyes glaring at him with the intensity of a supernova. Debating as to whether to kill her now or stick to the plan, the terrorist leader, fearing the possible anger of those directing his actions, reluctantly rejected that idea. For now…He thought, She and the others will live. There’ll be ample opportunity to deal with them later.

As she stared into the gleaming eyes of the fanatic who had killed her mentor, Liz vowed, If it’s the last thing I do, you son of a bitch, I’m going to kill you with my own hands.

**********************************

As the horrible tableau played itself out on the screen before them, Commander Hobson and Lieutenant Commander Tol looked on in stunned silence. Turning towards his friend after the screen went blank, Jadon immediately recognized the cold fury hidden behind the icy expressionless face of his old friend. “I’m sorry, Chris…” Jadon remarked in a soft, consoling voice, “I know how close you and Professor Davron were.” Also recognizing another source of worry for the introverted executive officer, Tol added, “She’ll be alright, Chris. We’ll get them out—you know that.”

Nodding his head once, Hobson, fighting down his grief and remorse, looked into the eyes of his engineering officer, “Return to the ship, Mr. Tol.” As his old friend moved to follow the first officer’s instructions, Chris placed a hand on the Trill’s shoulders. “Don’t rush, Jadon. Odds are the bastards have one of their people here watching us. I don’t want them thinking that they have us disconcerted. Take your time.”

“Understood, Chris.” Tol responded as Hobson touched the communicator pin on his chest. Walking away from his old friend, Jadon heard the first officer give the same instructions he had just given him to both Lieutenant Atoa and Lieutenant Commander Varok. Sauntering over towards where Ensign Django and Lieutenant Lavelle were standing, Tol noticed immediately that both junior officers keyed for action. Placing an arm around each of their shoulders, Jadon whispered, “Nice and easy, Sam…Maria. We don’t want to let the bad guys know they’ve got us spooked. See how Varok and Atoa are taking their sweet time getting over to the transporter pads? We’re going to do the same thing.”

“How are we going to get the Captain and the others back?” Sam asked as he placed a protective arm around Ensign Django’s waist.

“And what are we going to do about those bastards that took them and killed the old man?” Maria added in a challenging tone.

“Commander Hobson’s on it, Ensign.” Jadon replied confidently, “And you can bet that Captain Shelby and Anara haven’t given up either. Knowing Chris and the Captain…” he added with a grim smile, “When those two get done, those scyllyn worms will wish they were never born.”

********************************************

Taking advantage of the solitude of the Sutherland’s lift cab to gather his thoughts, Chris, emerging on to the bridge, projected a strong and solid image of self composure as he took the command chair vacated by Lieutenant Dryer.

“Sir?” The tactical officer called out as she resumed her normal duty station, “The Ekosian Foreign Ministry is online…”

“Main viewer, Lieutenant,” Hobson ordered, squaring his shoulders. As the image of an obviously shocked and dismayed Foreign Minister Tana filled the screen, Chris greeted her politely, “Madame Minister…”

“Commander Hobson…” The Minister began, her voice tone betraying just the slightest hint of nervousness. “Please allow me to apologize for what happened. This is a sad day for all of us—Ekosians as well as our Zeon and Federation friends; and I want you to know that you have my solemn promise that we will rescue your people and the ambassador and that we will punish those responsible for this outrage.”

“Thank you, Madame,” Chris replied in as affirmative a manner as possible, adding, his voice tone indicating that this was a nonnegotiable position, “And I want you to know that, while I appreciate your efforts on our behalf, we are beginning our own investigation into locating our people.” Noticing the brief expression of outrage crossing the face of the Ekosian diplomat, Hobson flashed a reassuring smile, in an effort to smooth any ruffled feathers, “Of course, we would welcome any advice you or your Security Service might be willing to provide, and we will share all information with you.”

“I see…” The Minister vocalized, her irritation at both the implied criticism of the competence of the Ekosian security forces and at the intrusion into Ekosian sovereignty not completely assuaged. Grateful; however, for the face saving gesture offered by the stone faced Starfleet officer on her view screen, she nodded her head once. “Please allow me to contact Internal Security and I will try to arrange a meeting…would that be acceptable to you?”

“That would be most acceptable,” Hobson agreed, allowing a slight smile to cross his features. “I look forward to hearing from you soon,” he finished as he cut off transmissions. Turning towards his science officer, the first officer directed, “Mr. Varok…I want you and the other senior officers in Conference Room One in thirty minutes. I expect you gentlemen to have some ideas for me by then.”

*********************************

Oof! Liz grunted as she was propelled by a strong hand to the floor of her cell, followed by Anara and the ambassador. As soon as the door closed, the captain turned to her fellow prisoners, “Ambassador…Lieutenant…how’re you holding up?”

“A few bumps and bruises, sir…” The Deltan woman replied, answering first, “But otherwise I am fine.”

“What about you, Ambassador Offenhouse?” Liz then asked.

“I…I…I’m…alright,” The time displaced ambassador replied, his cracking voice betraying the fear growing within him.

Seeing his growing anxiety in the diplomat’s eyes, Liz reluctantly set aside her own feelings of loss at the death of her old friend and mentor as she moved immediately to put him at ease, “We’re going to get through this, Ambassador,” She stated in as confident a voice as she could muster to the man crouched on the floor in front of her. “The Sutherland and the Ekosian authorities will be doing everything they can to find us,” She then flashed a wry grin, “We’ve got the easy part…all we have to do is hold on.”

“Yes…” Ralph responded, his spirits buoyed, at least for now, by the captain’s pep talk, “I understand.” Then, cracking a wry grin of his own, he nervously joked, “You know, I never thought I’d find that executive’s terrorism survival course I took back in the twentieth century would come in handy now.”

Cracking a smile of her own, Liz rejoined, “That’s the spirit, Ambassador.” Addressing both of her fellow inmates, she instructed as she winced at the chafing being caused by the bonds tying her hands together behind her back, “Ok…our first order of business is survival. And I think we’ll have a much better chance if we can get ourselves untied.”

******************************************

Looking first at the vacant chair at the head of the table that would have normally been occupied by his captain, and then at the rest of the senior officers gathered around him, Commander Hobson cleared his throat, “Report.”

“We haven’t been able to raise them on their comm. badges, which indicate that they were probably removed, as expected.” Lieutenant Atoa responded, “Also, our planetary scans haven’t turned up anything.” He added his frustration evident in his voice tone and mannerisms.

“That’s to be expected.” Hobson noted, maintaining his normal poker face even in the midst of bad news. “As Ekosians are transplanted humans, there wouldn’t have been enough time for genetic drift to have made that much of a difference.” Pausing for a moment, he mused, “But Lieutenant Rysyl is Deltan. The only Deltan on the planet, I might add.”

“Yes sir,” Atoa agreed, “Which leads me to point number two, “In all probability, the terrorists have them hidden in an area that either naturally or artificially blocks our scanners. Flashing a slight smile, he continued, “Which…in a way…gives us something to work with by narrowing our search area somewhat.”

“While Mr. Atoa is correct in that this would limit our search area slightly…” Varok interjected, “We are still faced with a formidable task as, even once we eliminate the areas that we have scanned, we are still left with approximately a quarter of the planet to search—that is assuming they are still on Ekos.”

“What about that possibility?” Hobson inquired “Is there a chance that they’ve left the planet?”

“Possible…but doubtful, sir,” Atoa answered back. “Records indicate no transporter activity immediately prior to the broadcast and the Ekosian authorities have since placed tight movement restrictions—I’d bet they’re on the planet…probably fairly close to where they were kidnapped.”

“Why would you say that?” Dr. Murakawa asked.

“Partly…it’s a hunch,” Manuele admitted, “But it’s an educated hunch. You see, Sir…” He explained, “Surprise, shock and a quick and clean getaway are vital elements in a terrorist action such as this. The terrorists would know that transporter patterns could be traced as could a shuttle launch. Add to that there’s the fact that the capital city is a large archopolis with millions of inhabitants—some of whom are sure to be sympathizers who would be more than willing to offer hide outs to the bad guys. That tells me that they are probably still somewhere within the city.”

“And a large urban area would also have an abundance of locations such as naturally or artificially shielded tunnels that would be difficult…if not impossible…to scan,” Varok interjected, raising an eyebrow, “A logical hypothesis, Lieutenant.”

“Ok…” Hobson deliberated, “Let’s limit the search parameters to the capital, then,” Addressing Manuele, he inquired, “Do you think that someone within the Ekosian Foreign Ministry might have had a hand in this?”

“The Foreign Ministry…Internal Security…any of a dozen military or police agencies…” Atoa ticked off, “…could have and probably have been easily infiltrated by the terrorists.”

“This would seem to imply a flaw in the social and political structure of Ekosian society…” Varok interjected, “A flaw that might very well prove a hindrance to their efforts to achieve Federation membership.”

“That’s for the politicians and diplomats to decide,” Chris declared in a matter of fact tone. Turning his attention back to Lieutenant Atoa, the commander asked, “Do you have any ideas on who the infiltrator or infiltrators might be and how we might catch them?”

Sighing, Manuele answered back, “Not really, Sir. Although…” He speculated, remembering his encounter with Mere Lindos, “…there could be someone who might be able to help us.”

Nodding his head, Hobson responded, “Follow up your lead, Mr. Atoa and let us know what—if anything—you come up with.”

“Yes, sir,” Atoa crisply replied.

Addressing the other officers, Chris asked, “Does anyone else have any ideas on how we can more effectively direct our search?

“Sir…” Lieutenant Commander Tol said, immediately speaking up, “Doctor Murakawa and I were discussing something—I’ll admit, it’s a shot in the dark…but it just might work…”

“Well...a shot in the dark is better than no shot at all…” Commander Hobson replied dryly. “What is your plan?”

“I think I’ll let the doctor explain,” Tol answered back, fidgeting slightly in his seat.

“Well…” Doctor Murakawa began shyly, “First, I remembered Anara telling me that Deltan pheromones had a greater effect in closed in spaces with poor ventilation. Later on, after the incident on Deep Space Nine that Lieutenant Rysyl was involved in, I read that Deltans produce an increased amount of pheromones in stressful situations…”

“That’s all very good, Doctor…” Hobson interrupted, somewhat testily, “But how is this going to help us find our people?”

“As I was about to say, sir…” The doctor replied, her own voice carrying an edge to it, “Mr. Tol and I have found a way to modify our medical tricorders to be able to detect this increase in Deltan pheromones.”

Allowing a rare smile to cross his features, Chris speculated, “I assume that this will only work at short range—that we can’t augment it to where we can scan from the ship?”

“I’m sorry, sir…we can’t,” Denise replied, shaking her head. “The concentrations of pheromones can only be detected in close proximity to their source.”

“Well…I’ll take what we can get,” Hobson declared and then, remembering what had happened at DS 9, he asked somewhat tentatively, “What effect would this increased concentration have on the others, Doctor?”

Denise, deciding that discussing her talk with Anara would not in this instance be a violation of patient-physician confidence, responded, “I had a conversation about that with Lieutenant Rysyl as well. She said that while those who would normally have feelings of sexual attraction towards a given Deltan might feel an increased attraction, the pheromones wouldn’t make the other person do anything that they normally wouldn’t do anyway—they don’t work anything like they’re portrayed in the cheap holo-novels, sir. At worst they would prove to be a minor distraction—but nothing more.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Chris replied, relieved at the answer to his question. “I want you and Mr. Tol to begin immediately to modify the tricorders for the security details,” Turning his attention to Lieutenant Atoa and Lieutenant Commander Varok, he ordered, “You gentlemen will join me on the surface for the meeting with the Foreign Minister.” Standing up, Chris dismissed the assembly, “All right, people…you have your orders…”

***********************************

Rubbing her now free hands together, Liz ignored the increased beating of her heart as her eyes glanced quickly in Anara’s direction before landing on the ambassador’s, “How’re you holding up, Ambassador…”

“Ok…I guess…” The time displaced man replied, and then, shooting a quick glance at his Deltan aide, he added, “It’s just that I’ve never been in this close quarters with…someone like Anara before…” He said, giving the Deltan woman a look of apology, “And well…”

“I know what you mean…” Liz remarked sympathetically.

“I’m sorry…” Anara interjected, a note of irritation in her voice, “I don’t mean to…”

“It’s not your fault, Lieutenant,” Shelby replied in a soothing tone. Flashing a wry grin, she added, “In any event, I don’t know about the two of you, but even if I were in the mood for it, right now we’ve got more important things to think about than having an orgy.”

“So…what do we do, Captain?” Ralph asked, his voice taking on a slightly higher pitch as he once again began to panic as he felt the control slipping away from him.

“First thing we do is we wait. We take some time to relax and gather our strength and get the lay of the land.” Liz directed. Then, in an effort to ease the ambassador’s growing fears, the captain suggested, “While we’re doing that, why don’t you explain to us what you learned in that survival course you took. I’m sure what you learned could help us.”

“Thanks, Captain,” Ralph, thankful to the captain for providing him at least the illusion of having a slight measure of control, responded. “It’s been a while since I took the course, but here’s what I remember…”

************************************

Immediately after materializing on the Foreign Ministry’s transporter pad, Commander Hobson and his staff were greeted by Minister Tana, “Gentlemen…” She said, her more confident tone of voice reflecting her regained composure. “I’m sorry we have to meet again under these circumstances. If you’ll accompany me, please, representatives from Internal Security and the Ministry of Police are already here.”

Following the Minister down the corridor, the Starfleet officers immediately noticed the increased number of armed internal security troops carrying holstered the pistol gripped Federation issue 2287 type two phaser. Then, as he saw the two men standing guard at the end of the corridor bearing at port arms modern Federation standard phaser rifles, Hobson’s eyebrow lifted slightly. Snapping to attention as the Minister neared their position; the guard on the left activated the door, causing it to slide open to reveal a standard conference room with all but four seats already occupied by men and women in various military and civilian dress.

“Please, Commander…gentlemen…” Minister Tana directed, motioning in the direction of three of the empty seats clustered together, “Be seated. We have a great deal to discuss.”

“Thank you, Minister,” Chris acknowledged urbanely as he took his seat. “If I might ask, have your people turned up any more information as to who or what these ‘Soldiers of Melakon’ might be?”

Letting out a sigh, the Minister explained, “The Soldiers of Melakon are part of an illegal movement that seeks to restore the Nazis. There is also another organization called the Rebirth Movement that seeks to ‘purge’ Ekosian society of all ‘alien’ elements—including the Nazis. These two groups are mutually hostile—the only thing they have in common is a mutual animosity towards outworlders—especially Zeons.”

“I see.” Chris replied, carefully mulling over the Minister’s words. “So…how does this Rebirth Movement figure into the kidnapping of our people?”

“We might be able to use them to help find your people.” Minister Tana answered back. “If for no other reason than because they wouldn’t want the Nazis to gain political ascendance.”

“Because they view them to be just as much a foreign intrusion as the Federation?” Lieutenant Commander Varok supplied.

“Just so.” The Ekosian Foreign Minister responded nodding her head.

“So…” Chris inquired, “How do we go about enlisting the help of these…people?”

“There is also a legitimate political party called the Restoration Party that we believe has links to the Rebirth Movement.” Minister Tana replied. “It’s headed by Senator Durkan…”

“I’m curious, Madame Minister…” Lieutenant Atoa interjected, “Why your people haven’t arrested this Senator Durkan if you know that he is linked to this Rebirth Movement?”

“The problem is…” Tana sighed, “We can’t definitively prove that those links exist, and the Senator possesses a great deal of influence. You see…he comes from one of our wealthiest and most populous prefectures…”

“So…he’s too powerful to risk moving against.” Hobson finished and then asked, “Do you think it might be possible to arrange a meeting with Senator Durkan?”

Nodding her head, Minister Tana answered affirmatively, “We’ve already anticipated your request and the Senator has agreed to meet with you or whomever you wish to represent you in two standard hours.”

“Please express my thanks to the Senator for taking time out of his day to arrange this meeting,” Chris responded, turning the diplomatic offensive on full, “I and Mr. Atoa will meet with him.” Flashing a quick polite smile, he added, “We would…of course…appreciate any help you can provide us.”

“Thank you, Commander.” Turning towards the new voice, Hobson saw a man wearing the tan uniform marking him as a member of the Internal Security forces as well as the three diamonds indicating general’s rank sitting next to the Foreign Minister. “I am General Nerran…commander of the Ekosian Security forces for this region. I look forward to working with you…” The general said in a polite, yet standoffish manner, “…and I have assigned a liaison to work with your Lieutenant Atoa.” As the door to the conference room slid open once again, the general continued, “This is one of my best officers—Captain Mere Lindos…” Then, glancing in the Lieutenant’s direction, the general flashed a quick smile, “I believe the two of you are already acquainted?”

“Yes,” The New Kauaian said, smiling politely, “I had the pleasure of meeting the captain at the reception.”

“Excellent,” The general proclaimed. Then, turning towards his officer, he directed, “Captain—would you fill our guests in on the latest developments?”

“Yes, sir,” Mere replied, and then, turning towards where the Starfleet officers were sitting, she reported, “Approximately ten standard minutes ago, we received this communiqué apparently sent by the Soldiers of Melakon. It demands, amongst other things, the immediate withdrawal of all ‘alien’ personnel from Ekos, the immediate dismantling of all ‘alien’ structures, recognition of the Nazis as a legitimate political party with the Soldiers of Melakon as its legitimate private militia, and finally, the resignation of all senior officers of the current government and military and their replacement by chosen representatives of the Nazis.” She then took a deep breath before concluding, “Failure to meet these demands in a timely manner will result in the ‘public and humiliating’ execution of the prisoners.”

“They don’t ask for much…do they?” Atoa, his voice dripping with sarcasm, snapped before asking, “I don’t suppose they spelled out what they mean by ‘a timely manner’, did they?”

Frowning, Captain Lindos replied, “The communiqué said that a timetable for meeting the demands would follow shortly.”

Shaking his head, Manuele remarked, “They can’t honestly think that these demands will be met?”

Her head held erect, Minister Tana said, her voice reflecting both her stubbornness and her pride, “I can say with complete confidence that the Ekosian government will not agree to these outrageous terms.”

“There are only two logical reasons for making such sweeping demands,” Varok mused. “The first reason would be to stake a negotiating position.”

“Forcing the Ekosian government to come up with a counterproposal?” Hobson interjected, “Maybe…but somehow I don’t think that’s the reason.”

“I agree,” General Nerran said, “These demands are so extreme that even if we wanted to make a counteroffer, we wouldn’t know where to begin.”

“Then…” Varok said, “In all likelihood, the second reason is probably the correct one—that they know their demands will not be met and so they are making them for reasons of theater.”

“I agree.” Chris interjected. “It’s the only logical explanation. They intend to execute Captain Shelby and the others regardless of what we do.”

“How do you support that conclusion?” Minister Tana inquired as she nervously took a drink from the water glass sitting on the table in front of her.

“Their main goals appear to be twofold,” Varok taking over for Commander Hobson, explained, “First, they seek to disrupt and weaken the legitimate government on Ekos. Second, they want to drive a wedge between the Federation and this planet. The public and, one would assume from the communiqué, brutal murder of a Federation diplomat, a starship captain, and a Starfleet officer would most definitely go a long way towards the accomplishment of both these goals.”

Nodding his head in agreement, the general said, “Yes…it would present a powerful visual image—that if we couldn’t protect the lives of a few visiting dignitaries, then how are we ever going to be able to legitimately claim that we can protect our planet’s sovereignty or the safety of the Ekosian people.”

“And once the Federation News Service picked up on it…” Manuele added, picking up on the second point Varok was about to make, “I’d be willing to bet that popular support within the Federation for Ekos’ admission will rapidly disappear—in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a strong push to withdraw from any contact at all with Ekos.”

“Giving the terrorists what they want,” Hobson concluded grimly.

“So…what do we do?” Mere then asked.

“We find our people,” Hobson replied. “The rest…as far as the Soldiers of Melakon is concerned…is strictly a matter for Ekosian authorities to handle.” Looking directly into the eyes of the Foreign Minister and the general, Chris added, “Starfleet has no desire or intention of interfering in Ekosian internal affairs.”

General Nerran and Minister Tana then stood up, “Very well then…” The general said, “We know what we have to do.” Turning towards Mere, he directed, “You and Lieutenant Atoa have a great deal of work to do, Captain, we won’t keep you from it.”

Seeing Commander Hobson nodding his head in agreement, Manuele smiled at his opposite number, “Well, Captain…let’s get to work.”

*******************************************

“Executing the professor was reckless...” The disembodied voice of Senator Durkan chided angrily as Sturmfuhrer Merok listened, a bored look on his face, “…and has the potential of introducing unwanted consequences.”

“Such as?” The Nazi leader retorted with a snort. Pouring a drink from a tumbler on his desk, Merok pressed his attack. “If you want the Federation off Ekos, you are going to have to be willing to accept the need for…drastic…actions. The member races of the Federation are weak…decadent. Once they get word of what happened here and that a similar fate will befall all who interfere in Ekos’ destiny, the Federation core worlds will be forced by their own people to withdraw and leave us alone.”

“I think…” the senator persisted, “…that you are underestimating the resolve of the Federation. There is a time and place for everything…” Durkan rebuked, “…and it was neither the time nor the place for the execution of Davron. You should have kept to the plan.”

“The execution was both tactically and strategically the correct decision.” Merok countered. “I saw the opportunity and seized it—as Deputy Fuhrer Melakon once did.” The Sturmfuhrer laughed, “You just don’t have the stones to admit I am right. Now…” The Nazi leader growled as he set his drink down, “…unless you have something important to say, I have business I must attend to.”

“This is not over, Merok.” The senator snapped back, “Remember who it is you answer to.”

“For now…” The Nazi muttered under his breath as the transmission cut off, “But not for much longer, I think.” Turning towards his subordinate, he sneered as he poured an amber liquid into two glasses, gesturing for the woman standing before his desk to take one of the glasses, “Did you hear that stoneless molak?”

“Yes, my Sturmfuhrer.” The woman replied as she took the proffered drink. “He is obviously a weak coward.”

“But not stupid, Asil.” Merok cautioned, his lips turning up into a sly grin. “He seeks to distance himself from us should our plan fail. His smile vanishing as quickly as it appeared, the Sturmfuhrer considered his next move, “I think we should prepare for our ‘ally’ losing his nerve.” Gulping his drink down, he ordered, “Bring me Captain Shelby, Asil. It’s time we had a talk.”

“Sir?” Merok’s second in command carefully inquired.

“Speak, Asil…” Merok encouraged. “You know you’re always free to ask any question you wish of me.”

“Why bother talking to her?” The blonde Nazi asked. “She’s nothing more than a soft, pleasure seeking…”

Chuckling softly, the Sturmfuhrer interrupted, admonishing his subordinate, “Be careful, Asil. Despite the good captain’s reputation as being something of a hedonist, as our associates have warned us, she’s also very dangerous.”

“Perhaps…” Asil partially conceded, “…provided our associates’ intelligence is accurate regarding the Captain and her crew.” Pausing for a moment, she cautiously advanced, “And as for our associates…”

Shrugging his shoulders, Merok replied, “I know…and I share your distaste at having to deal with them. But…” He continued, “…for now…we need them.” Sighing, the Nazi leader confessed, “We need their wealth…their connections…for us to succeed. After we have reassumed our rightful place, then we can see about eliminating them as well.”

“And Captain Shelby?” Asil asked, turning the discussion back to the original topic.

“Oh yes, Captain Shelby.” Merok grinned. “I’m curious as to what sort of individual the good captain truly is. Can she be tempted by security and comfort? Or will she be willing to sacrifice not only herself, but also her companions for her principles?” Pausing for a moment, he ordered, “Bring her to me…let’s see how she responds to my little test.”

************************************************

“Give him a chance, Liz…” Sophomore Cadet Jadzia Idaris insisted as her friend and roommate, Cadet Elizabeth Shelby settled her petite frame in the seat next to her in the Academy classroom where Professor Ledron Davin was scheduled to teach his Introduction to Aesthetic Theory course.

“I don’t know…” The earnest young officer-candidate replied dubiously, “…this course conflicts with Captain Foster’s Intermediate Tactics course…”

“You can take Captain Foster next semester…” Shelby’s Trill companion persisted, “But Professor Davin only offers this course every other year…”

“Well…” Liz reluctantly conceded, “I guess the least I can do is sit in for the opening lecture…I can always drop the course and add Intermediate Tactics after class…”

“That’s the spirit!” Jadzia grinned as a slight, wiry framed elderly human appearing figure took the stage. “That’s him.” The Trill exclaimed in a soft voice, directing her roommate’s attention to the lecturer, who was at that moment fussing over a stack of old fashioned note cards behind the podium.

“Hmph…” Elizabeth snorted, “Doesn’t seem like much.”

Shaking her head in mild dismay, Jadzia gently chided, “Give him a chance, Liz…he hasn’t even spoken yet.”

“All right…All right…Jadz!” Liz sighed with frustration as she gave her friend a playful slap, “I said I’d listen to him—didn’t I? Now, shut up—he’s about to speak.”

“Good morning, class!” The elderly professor introduced himself to the class, the strong timber of his voice in sharp contrast to his slight frame. “Some of you are probably asking yourself, ‘Why am I here? What possible use could a class on aesthetics have for a future starship captain like me?’” As the frail old man spoke, Liz felt as if he was addressing his words to her, specifically. Shrugging his shoulders, the old man continued, “Perhaps, nothing. You might become the Commander in Chief of Starfleet and never once have a use for anything I’ll teach you this semester. But maybe…” Davin held out, his voice taking on an almost teasing quality, “…maybe…you’ll find that there’s more to being a starship captain…and a leader…than the mechanics of leadership.” The old man seemingly gazing right into Shelby’s eyes, he concluded his introductory remarks, “Do you know what the difference is between a good leader and a great leader? I’ll tell you. A good leader knows his people. A great leader knows their souls—as well as her own. In this class, we will attempt to look into the soul—I hope you’ll stay with me for the journey.”

As the passionate speaker finished his opening remarks, a spellbound cadet Elizabeth Shelby knew one thing—she was hooked.


****************************************

Shaking her head, Liz cleared the memory that had rushed involuntarily into her mind, “We’re all clear on what we’re going to do?” Turning first to Anara, she quizzed, “All right, Lieutenant, what’s your part?”

The Deltan woman whispered in response, her voice shaking ever so slightly. “I’m to act as…bait. When the guard comes in, I’m to distract him…to pull him into position…and then, once you and the ambassador jump him, I’m to secure the door.”

“Right,” Liz said with a quick nod of her head. Immediately noticing her operations officer’s unease, the captain added in a reassuring tone, placing her hand on the younger officer’s shoulders, “Don’t worry, Anara. You’re going to do just fine.”

“Thanks Captain.” Anara replied with a shaky grin, “It won’t be hard, sir,”

“That’s the spirit!” Shelby grinned back before turning to the other prisoner in the cell, “Ok, Ambassador…what do you do?”

Fighting down his fear, Ralph replied, his voice a little higher pitched than he would have liked, “I try to put myself into a position where I can hit him low from his non-armed side while you hit him high and try to disarm him.”

“Very good, Mr. Offenhouse!” Liz responded, maintaining her encouraging tone. “Looks like we’re set then, all we need to do now is wait for the bad guys to show up.” Her smile vanishing, she cautioned, “Now…if there’s more than one guard or if it doesn’t look like we can pull it off…we abort and wait for another chance.”

***************************************

“Merok is a fool! And a murderous fool at that!” Senator Durkan swore as his fingers tapped a steady rhythm on his desk. “Killing that Zeon was not part of the plan.”

“Still…” A silky-smooth voice said from the shadows, “…we can turn this to our advantage.”

“How so?” The politician asked, tilting his head towards the voice.

“Merok was right about one thing…” the shadowy figure declared, “…this will magnify by a considerable factor the doubts possessed by many within the Federation regarding Ekos. But you do have a point. Executing the Zeon was a sound—albeit heavy handed—tactic. However…”

“If he executes the Starfleet officers and/or the Ambassador…” Durkan began only to be cut off by the voice

“Then that will probably invite an unwelcome response.” The voice acknowledged, “The Starfleet officers…they are expendable. But the ambassador—he is even more valuable as a freed hostage than a dead martyr. Dead—he’s just a symbol. But alive…”

“Alive…” Durkan smiled, “His presence and his words would be a constant reminder of how unstable and untrustworthy Ekos is for the Federation. I see your point.”

“And we see yours.” The voice responded. “Merok does have a tendency towards sadism. There is a time and place for everything—including brutality. But Merok enjoys it too much. It seems that he relishes cruelty for its own sake. He is far too fond of chaos for his—or Ekos’—own good.”

“Agreed.” The senator responded, his lips turning up into a sly grin, “And I think I have found the perfect way of dealing with all our problems…”

********************************************

“Ah…Christopher!” The elderly scholar exclaimed, getting out of his chair to greet the Starfleet lieutenant who had just entered his office. “How are you, my boy…how are you?” He inquired as he offered his hand in greeting. “And who is this lovely young woman standing beside you?”

“Professor Davin…” Chris announced, his voice reflecting both pride and affection, “I’d like to introduce you to Lieutenant Junior Grade Natalie Boek, my wife.”

“Actually…it’s Natalie Hobson.” The young woman shyly corrected, “I come from New Pretoria…” she explained, her Afrikaans accent marking her as coming from that Boer descended colony, “…and most of us still prefer to take our husband’s name after marriage. Chris…” she playfully remarked, gently chiding her husband, “…sometimes forgets that.”

“Well…this is good news!” The old man replied, shaking first his former student’s hand with great vigor and then taking the hand of the beautiful young brunette standing beside him. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, my dear…I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of having you in any of my classes though…”

“No…” The young woman said regretfully, “I’m afraid I wasn’t able to attend the main Academy on Earth and so I had to go to the Pacifica branch until my senior year and by then…”

“Your curriculum was pretty well set…” The professor finished with a gentle smile as he ushered the young couple into his office. “Oh well…” The old man sighed as he ordered three coffees from the replicator, “My loss, I’m afraid.” Handing both Chris and his wife cups of the steaming brew, the old man took his seat, “So, Christopher…” he inquired with a fatherly grin, “…are you going to tell me how you met Natalie or are you going to be your usual taciturn self and force me to get it out of her?”


*************************************************

While part of Commander Hobson’s mind was busy reliving this happy memory, the other part was trying not to listen into the personal conversation being held between his tactical officer and the beautiful Ekosian liaison walking next to him.

“I’m sorry we have to meet again under these circumstances,” Mere said as the two officers walked behind the Sutherland’s first officer down the corridor of the Ekosian Senate Office Building.

“Same here,” Manuele agreed and then propositioned, “But maybe…when this is over…”

“Yeah,” The Ekosian officer smiled, “I think I’d like that.”

Clearing his throat, Hobson interrupted the young couple, “Captain Lindos? What can you tell us about this Senator Durkan?”

“Senator Durkan? He’s very well spoken…his popularity and the popularity of his party is growing…unfortunately.” She said, all but spitting out her final words.

“Why unfortunately?” Atoa probed, “What exactly does this Restoration Party stand for?”

“It’s a very…I guess you could call it a mixture of populist and reactionary…” Mere explained. “Its platform is ‘Ekos for Ekosians’ and is based on a combination of distrust towards outworlders and a variety of social reform programs for the lower classes.”

“I see,” Hobson replied in his usual patrician tone as they neared the door to the senator’s office. As the door slid open, it revealed a large, plush carpeted antechamber with an attractive blonde woman sitting behind the receptionist’s desk. Immediately noticing the two officers standing at the entranceway to the office, the secretary flashed a polite smile as she pressed a button causing a door to the left of her desk to slide open, “Greetings, the Senator is waiting for you.”

Entering the equally plush inner sanctum, the three officers stopped as a distinguished looking man apparently in his early fifties, with seal brown hair touched by grey and wearing a dark blue business suit stood up to greet them, “Welcome. Please…” He said, motioning with his hand to three chairs sitting in front of his desk, “Have a seat…I understand we have much to talk about.”

“Thank you; Senator,” Hobson replied as he and the other officers took the offered seats, “I am sure that you have been informed about the unfortunate recent events.”

“Yes,” Senator Durkan frowned, “While naturally, I hope that your ambassador and the rest of his party can be found and rescued safe and sound and that the murderers of the Zeon philosopher…” He then took a moment to look at a paper on his desk, “…Ledron Davron…

“Davin…” Hobson interrupted, the slightest note of irritation in his voice at the mispronunciation of his old teacher’s name, “His name was Ledron Davin.”

“My apologies, Commander.” The senator replied, smoothly correcting himself. “Professor Davin. As I was saying, I want to assure you that the professor’s murderers will be found and punished. His lips turning down into a frown, the polished politician shook his head, “However, I honestly cannot say that I am not surprised at this happening.”

“Not surprised, Senator?” Commander Hobson interjected, his eyebrow raised in an almost Vulcan manner, “Can I ask why?”

“Commander…” The senator explained patronizingly, “…while I am sure that you have seen more than a few beautiful buildings in the capital and I am also sure that you’ve met many fine Ekosians such as the lovely captain here…” He then flashed an equally patronizing grin at the Ekosian security officer, “…there is so much more you haven’t seen.” Durkan’s face taking on a grim expression he continued his lecture. “I’m willing to wager that no one told you about the unemployment amongst our youth…or about those who have lost their jobs due to the introduction of alien technologies by the Federation and the Zeons? Or about our skyrocketing crime and drug abuse rates? No…” The politician orated, raising a hand to cut off the objections from Captain Lindos, “…of course not; and of course, neither you nor the Zeons intended us any harm by your actions. But tell that to the factory worker whose unemployment dole is about to expire or the young university graduate who can’t find a job in their profession because it was outsourced to a Ferengi or Trill firm.”

Pausing for a moment, the nationalist Ekosian leader continued his extemporaneous speech. “Also, thanks to off world cultural intrusion we Ekosians risk losing that very distinctiveness that makes our people unique. Look around you, what do you see? Ferengi owned taverns; music halls and theaters where, instead of Ekosians going to see Ekosian artists, they are paying to see Vulcan lyric poets, Klingon opera, and Terran drama! Our culture…our very essence…is in danger of being swallowed up by the Federation.”

“That’s why the Federation is governed by the Prime Directive, sir,” Manuele interjected, “To prevent those very sorts of economic and cultural dislocations from happening.”

“Of course, it is,” The senator replied with an ironic grin, “But then, the Prime Directive didn’t stop John Gill from introducing your Nazi movement into our society now…did it?”

“No, sir,” Lieutenant Atoa acknowledged somewhat shamefacedly.

“Also, at the time the Zeons introduced most of their technology; they weren’t members of the Federation and so weren’t governed by the Prime Directive…” The senator continued to press home his case. “So, when the Federation returned, it had found the damage done to be too great to be ‘fixed’. As a result, it ‘magnanimously’ granted Associate status to Ekos.” A grim expression once again overtaking Durkan’s features, he concluded, “So…is it any wonder that many Ekosians are now willing to express their discontent with the current situation violently? Can you blame them?”

“Kidnapping and murder are never justifiable—I don’t care what the reasons are!” Atoa riposted, his anger growing as he glimpsed briefly into the eyes of the fanatic.

“Easy, Lieutenant…” Hobson cautioned in his usual clipped voice

“Oh…It’s all right.” The Senator remarked, seemingly waving off the New Kauaian’s outburst. Of course, acts of violence such as what happened to the professor and your captain and the ambassador are not justifiable.” The Senator replied, smiling as he regarded the Ekosian security officer sitting next to Manuele, “I think I see what part of the problem here is. I’m sure that you’ve been told that the Restoration Party is linked to all sorts of evil—the Soldiers of Melakon…the Rebirth Movement…the Nazis…the Evil Ones themselves…” Chuckling, the senator shifted his position in his chair, “Please, let me assure you, gentlemen…” He said, the patronizing tone in his voice returning, “Remember, I told you that the primary goal of the Restoration Party is to restore Ekosian cultural values and morals—and as I have already pointed out, the Nazis are an alien intrusion into our culture—we neither want nor need them here—as far as I am concerned, Mr. Hobson…Mr. Atoa, you can take them with you when you and your people leave.”

*************************************************

“They’re coming!” Anara whispered as she rushed back from her listening position near the door of the cell she and her two companions shared.

“Don’t forget…” Captain Shelby cautioned as her blood began to race, “If it doesn’t look right…we abort and try again later.”

As the door slid open to reveal two armed Ekosians and a third one, all three wearing Nazi Party uniforms, Liz frowned as she subtly turned her head, giving the abort signal. Pointing to the captain, the lead Nazi, a blonde-haired woman, ordered, “You…on your feet.”

Standing defiantly, Liz looked the terrorist squarely in the eyes, “What do you want?”

Momentarily tempted to deliver a backhand to the arrogant alien, the Nazi settled for sneering derisively, “Come with us…the Sturmfuhrer wishes to see you.”

Flashing her companions an encouraging look, the captain, complying with her captor’s orders, fell in between two of the guards behind the leader. Walking down the winding passageways, Liz carefully noted directions and corridor markings as they passed various side tunnels and forks. “Quite a maze you have here,” The captain said, her voice edged with sarcasm.

“Complicated enough to keep the entire Ekosian Security Service from finding you…” Asil replied smugly, “Not to mention the fact that the walls and ceiling are composed of duralynium…”

“Blocking any scans of whatever might be inside…” Liz finished glumly.

“Right,” Asil said, maintaining her smug tone, “So you can forget about anyone rescuing you.” Then, as they approached the end of the corridor, the leader, turning to her men, ordered, “Wait here.” Addressing Shelby, she then directed, pointing to the door, “Proceed.”

*****************************************************

“That’s interesting…” Hobson remarked, “I was always under the impression that the Ekosian Nazis were nationalists.”

“They are…were…” Durkan reluctantly confirmed. Recovering quickly, he elaborated, “Yes, they do pose as the defenders of a pure Ekos—and many in their number probably actually believe that; but as I pointed out earlier, they’re all hypocrites in that they adhere to an alien philosophy.”

“I’m curious…” Lieutenant Atoa asked, “How do the Nazis differ from other movements such as the Restoration Party or the Rebirth Movement—other than being an alien import, that is?”

“While the Nazis…” The Ekosian politician lectured, “…say they seek to remove all alien influences; they would, in actuality, impose an alien social and governmental structure on Ekosian society while the Restoration Party seeks to restore—hence the name—traditional Ekosian structures.”

“Which were based on the clan if I recall correctly?” Hobson interjected, receiving a confirming nod from the senator.

“Just so, Mr. Hobson. Traditional Ekosian society draws its strength from the clan with the dominant family or clan governing.”

“However, Senator…” Mere interrupted, “This led to civil wars and anarchy as rival clans competed for authority.”

“True, that did occur in those rare…” The senator emphasized, “…circumstances where you had no dominant clan or clans to maintain order.”

“As I recall from my history classes…” Mere countered, “…those rare circumstances weren’t so rare…”

Chuckling softly, the politician replied indulgently, “My dear…who writes the history books? That’s right…the winners. In this instance the Unionists who have dominated Ekosian politics since the fall of Melakon, along with their Zeon and Federation patrons.” Pausing for a moment to take a breath, the senator continued his lecture. “The Unionists and the Nazis also happen to share one very important point in common: They both seek a ‘greater destiny’ for Ekos. Yes…” Durkan qualified, raising a hand to silence the mounting protests from both Lindos and Atoa, the Unionist view is a much more utopian and benevolent vision than the Nazis. The Unionists see Ekos’ future as a fully participating member of the Federation while the Nazis want to see Ekos as the capital of a new empire.”

“And how does the Restoration Party see Ekos’ future?” Hobson queried.

“To be honest…” The senator replied, rising slightly out of his seat, “The Restoration Party wants you all gone. Dark clouds are gathering, Mr. Hobson—a storm is coming—you see it as clearly as I do, do not deny it. Whole worlds…possibly sectors…maybe even this entire quadrant…will be ravaged by the time it passes. The Restoration Party sees the best—the only—means for Ekos’ survival is through a return to our traditional values and isolation. While you are being tossed about by the storm, we of Ekos will stay safely sheltered. And once the storm passes us by, we’ll come out of our shelter—alive and whole. Rising from his chair, the senator once again plastered a polite smile on his face, “Now, my friends…I’m afraid that I must conclude our interview…I trust you found what you came for and once again, I wish you good hunting.”


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