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Chapter Five

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.


In "A Cause of Greater Worth"

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