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6


Amaya Donners, the woman he was in love with, dressed like an outlaw, leading a band of mercenaries, had Westren Frobisher, his brother’s killer, dead to rights as she kept a menacing-looking hand phaser leveled at his head, while his brother Matthew, very much alive, and his father, who had already died once only to unexpectedly return to the land of the living, watched on.

The situation was beyond bizarre in a time and a place where bizarre had become the new normal.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t disintegrate your worthless ass right here and now.”

“Let’s everybody just calm down,” Michael said as he took a step closer to the heated Amaya, repeating a mantra that he had uttered not for the first time as of late.

He was rewarded by his intervention with Amaya pointing the weapon at him instead, prompting him to quickly raise his hands.

“You look awfully familiar,” she said as she considered him with suspicious eyes. “And I don’t think I like your face.”

He tried not to take that as the insult it was likely meant to be. “Michael Owens,” he said, hoping that it would spark something in her.

She shot a sidelong glance at Matthew. “Any relation?”

“Yes, but no,” he said.

This naturally did nothing but confuse her further. “I’m not playing games here.”

“It’s a long story. If you just lower your weapon I’d be more than happy to explain why we’ve come here,” Michael said.

“I don’t care for stories,” she said and turned her attention back to Frobisher on the ground.

Michael could see that Garla was visibly tense as if waiting to jump into action, not unlike he had seen her do just before she had gone off on the Jem’Hadar on Arkaria. He didn’t like their chances here, not with Amaya’s men holding them at gunpoint, and he gave her a subtle shake of the head to let her know to stand down. He hoped she’d listen to him.

“I’m still waiting,” she said to Frobisher. “You’ve cost me a lot of money, not to mention damaged my reputation, when you sold me that piece of junk energy core.”

“I told you at the time that it was experimental,” Frobisher said, sitting up on the dirty floor, leaning against his shuttle behind him. “And it was never meant to be used as a weapon.”

“You knew what I wanted it for and you still sold it to me.”

“We can give you your money back,” said Matthew. “Just as soon as we can get back to our workshop. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option right now.”

She pierced him with a dark scowl. “So, let me get this straight, you’ve come here with nothing? That was your plan?”

When Matthew didn’t know what else to say, Frobisher continued. “There has been a development. The entire galaxy--the entire universe--is at great risk and we need help--“

Michael was convinced that the Amaya Donners he knew would have listened attentively to any words prefaced with such a dire warning but this woman was clearly very different. Her thoughtful expression promptly morphed back to one of ironclad resolve as she cut off Frobisher in mid-sentence. “Fine. We’ll go back to your lab together. You pay me back everything you owe me, plus interest, and all this ends without anyone getting spaced.”

“That could be a problem,” said Matthew.

“Why?”

“Probably because of the little issue of the dead Jem’Hadar squad we left behind,” said Garla with far more amusement than the occasion called for it.

Amaya considered the other woman with a surprised look. “You killed Jem’Hadar? Now, why would you go and do something that stupid?” She shook her head before anyone had a chance to answer. “You know what? I don’t even care. Nor do I like the idea of having Krellonian refugees on my ship. There’s enough scum onboard already.”

This prompted some laughter from the rest of her people.

Garla was naturally not pleased with her pun and seemed all but ready to confront the armed Donners but Culsten smartly held on to her arm to keep her from getting too close.

“Touched a nerve there, did I?” Amaya said with a crooked smile.

Frobisher was slowly pulling himself back onto his feet. “Please, you have to listen to us. This crisis is very real and it is putting all our lives at risk unless we act now.”

Michael found it difficult to hear Westren Frobisher sounding so concerned about human life considering that this had been the man who had put his own achievements above the safety of millions while he and his brother had developed their dark anti-matter technology years earlier.

“A crisis, you say?” Amaya said. “Risk to all our lives?”

He nodded.

“It may have escaped your notice while ensconced in your workshop day and night but for the rest of us, our lives are at risk from the moment we get out of bed in the morning. If it’s not the Dominion, it’s the Borg. We’re all living on borrowed time until we end up as collateral damage in their damned war.”

“The Dominion and the Borg are at war?” said Culsten with astonishment.

“Only ever since I’ve been alive,” she said with a glare that spoke more to her annoyance than her surprise. “I know Krellonian refugees don’t get around much, but boy, I’d think that kind of news would have reached even your backwater haunts.”

“We are not refugees,” Garla said between clenched teeth.

Amaya looked her up and down again. “You certainly don’t carry yourself like one.”

“Look,” said Michael, trying to play mediator once more. “The fact remains that we need your help to get into Outlander space. I’m sure we could find something to compensate you for your efforts.”

Amaya laughed at that. “Outlander space, huh? Why didn’t you say so from the start? Here I was thinking you were trying to accomplish something difficult. I don’t know where you people have come from but I can tell that you’ve got nothing to offer me that could make me forget your debts and help you embark on a suicide mission,” she said but then her eyes found Frobisher’s shuttle. She stepped up closer to its hull to touch it. “I think maybe I’ll keep your little ship. Consider it a down payment of what you still owe me.”

Frobisher briefly exchange a glance with Michael and it was clear from the look in his eyes that he was not eager to part with his shuttle. Considering what it was capable of, Michael felt much the same way but he understood that they didn’t have much else to bargain with.

“You’ll find that shuttle to be much more valuable than it looks,” said Michael.

That captured her attention. “Oh?”

Frobisher uttered a little sigh before he spoke. “It has a dark anti-matter power plant. Probably the only one in existence. At least in this quantum-reality.”

“Tell me more,” she said as she began to inspect the unassuming little shuttle with renewed interest.

“I’ve rated the core’s maximum power output at nineteen-thousand six-hundred teradyne per second.”

That made Donners whirl back around to face him with an unmissable gleam in her eyes. This revelation had also surprised Michael and much of everyone else assembled in the shuttle bay, both Windjammers and his motley crew alike.

Michael wasn’t an engineer but he knew that even Eagle’s recently upgraded warp core was not able to produce anywhere close to that much energy, and he very much doubted that Amaya’s weathered and beaten-up freighter could muster even a fraction of that number. Considering what Frobisher had used his dark anti-matter engine for, however, he now realized that he shouldn’t have been surprised by its vast capacity.

“You cannot be serious,” she said.

“I’ll stake my life on it.”

She had her weapon back up in flash, pushing him hard into the hull of the shuttle with a forearm against his chest and the phaser in his face.

Both Michael and Matthew jumped forward at the same time, trying to keep her from atomizing his head but they were both stopped in their tracks by the rest of Maya’s people.

“He’s telling the truth,” Matthew said desperately. “I think,” he said, suddenly not entirely sure anymore himself.

“I think I’d still prefer to rid the galaxy of you,” she said as she refused to let up. “And I’d still get to keep your little ship. If it is as powerful as you say, great. If not, I’m sure I can sell it for scrap and at least recoup some of my losses.”

“You’d make a big mistake,” said Frobisher, trying to sound calm with a phaser emitter so close to his face, and not being entirely successful. “And you’ll need somebody to show you how it works.”

“I’m pretty resourceful.”

Michael managed to free himself from the tall Bolian holding him in place but only managed a couple of steps before Amaya’s phaser was now pointed squarely at his head, forcing him to stop in his tracks again, once more holding out his palms. “Listen, I get that you’re mad.”

“You have no idea.”

He nodded. “Trust me, and I know this sounds crazy, but there was a time, not long ago, where the idea of ridding the galaxy of a man named Wes Frobisher would have been on the top of my to-do list as well.”

She regarded him with undeniable skepticism.

“I wanted that man dead but things have changed quite dramatically as of late. And I know you don’t care about the fate of the universe and all the talk about trying to save it. But I’m convinced that we can help each other if you’re just willing to listen.”

He could tell that he was getting through to her. He wasn’t sure if it were his words, or perhaps he was getting good at trying to convince people called Amaya Donners of his cause.

Whatever it was, he had her attention and he knew he had to exploit it for however short it would last. The only problem with his plan was the fact that he was making it all up as he went along.

“You need to be compensated for the losses you’ve suffered. And you need to be further rewarded before you will ever consider helping us get into Outlander territory.”

She didn’t respond to this which he took as a good sign for now. Although, the weapon still in his face, was much less so.

“I have a starship nearby. We can’t reach it at the moment on the account of those Jem’Hadar we mentioned earlier but we will be able to get back to them and when we do, I will be able to offer you a significant reward for your assistance.”

Her eyes said to continue.

“Latinum. A whole lot of it.”

“How much are we talking?”

Michael had to admit that he didn’t know the first thing about gold-pressed latinum, the currency favored by Ferengi and many other races operating outside Federation space. He knew that Eagle carried a non-insignificant amount of it to allow them to operate in those areas. He also knew that Star had given much or all of it to Hutchinson in return for materials to aid repairs. “One-hundred,” he said, only vaguely remembering the ship’s manifest and deciding that this was the time to gamble with it. “One-hundred bricks of gold-pressed latinum.”

She lowered her weapon and smiled. “Well, why didn’t you lead with that?”


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