Pembroke blinked sweat from his eyes as he peered down the corridor.
That was one of the things he really didn't like about the Marines'
combat armor. He always ended up with rivulets of sweat trickling both
down his back and face. Yet he put up with this minor inconvenience,
especially when it meant being involved in operations like this.
He leaned over to the man beside him. "Commander, the colonel
instructed me to secure the engineering section and to eliminate all
intruders, but so far I haven’t seen anyone but you on board. Have you
any idea where everyone is?"
The Saratoga Chief of Security didn't answer for a moment, looking
with a certain degree of indignation at a large rip in his uniform. He
fingered the frayed edges and frowned. "Most of the Jirzzaque appeared
on the bridge from what I gather," Spahn finally replied. "At the time I
was attending to matters in Security. Some also appeared there, but my
people managed to fight them off and those we didn't kill headed up. One
can only assume that a major force showed up in engineering as well, as
it is a vital area. Unfortunately, intra-ship communications are out, or
I would verify all this." He gave the stocky Marine crouched next to him
a sidelong appraising glance "Actually, I was surprised to see you,
lieutenant. Surprised, but relieved."
Pembroke gave the Fleet officer a lopsided grin. "Just doing our job,
sir. I'm glad to see you too. With all the Jirzzaque running around
disguised as us, you should be able to point out whose part of your crew
and who isn't."
"They say you can tell by a scar on their forehead and the green
eyes, Mad Dog," offered Private Edwards from behind.
"Maybe, but I don't plan on getting that close. Edwards. Now, if you
don't mind," he continued, nodding to Spahn and pointedly adjusting the
impressive weapon in his hands, "my men and I are going to get on with
saving your ship. Want to help?"
"Ship secured, sir," reported Pembroke, breathing a little heavily."
All sections report clear."
"Good work, lieutenant," answered Morrison. He turned to Captain
Donaree who stood beside him on the bridge. "There you are, Captain.
Take good care of her."
"Many thanks, Colonel," she replied, smiling slightly. "Don't know
what we would have done without you."
"I've got to get back to the Excalibur," continued Morrison.
"The Jirzzaque were sloppy enough to use some of your transporters to
beam themselves and some members of your crew down to the planet. We've
got the coordinates and will be heading there ASAP. We just need to pick
some additional personnel. Captain Lawrence is going to concentrate on
the Bismarck as soon as we're clear."
"We'll be joining her when we can, Colonel."
Morrison nodded, then turned and motioned for Pembroke to follow him.
He paused, however, for only a moment, to meet Donaree's troubled eyes.
"He’s all right," the Marine stated. "We will find him and bring him
Donaree said nothing. She only watched until the turbolift doors shut
before going back to her work.
The Saratoga is clear, sir," reported
Lieutenant Mahoney, turning to face everyone on the bridge. "And,
Captain Donaree requests a word with you, but it will be audio only."
Sighs of relief echoed throughout the room as Lawrence gestured for
the communications officer to put the message through.
"Kit? Everything all right?"
"Fine, TE. Those Blue Devils of yours were a sight for sore eyes, they did a
great job. We seem to be all clear. Unfortunately some of my crew were captured
and transported down to the planet by the Jirzzaque. Using the coordinates
retrieved from the computer, Morrison is heading down to the planet."
"Yes, he has informed me," replied Lawrence. "Is there anything else we can
do to help?"
"I almost hate to ask, but the Jirzzaque took a lot of key staff, probably on
purpose. If you could spare some personnel--"
"What do you need'?"
"Mainly some engineering people, they hit us hard down there. And if you've
got someone who knows Tactical and the like, I could really use some battle
experienced help up here. Like I said, they really knew how to cripple us."
Soen Mon’Teith stood immediately and stepped forward. She'd been following
the thread of conversation quite keenly and somehow knew what was coming up.
"Captain, I will go."
She almost smiled at Lawrence's expression as the human turned toward her.
Why was the captain so surprised?
"Captain, Lightfoot and Bhevlek are more than equipped to handle matters
here, and Huang can take over in any other capacity. And there is also Commander
Randolph. The Excalibur would in no way be short-handed by my absence. And I
would be honored to serve."
"Is that Mon'Teith?" Came Donaree's voice. "Is she volunteering?"
"So it seems," answered Lawrence wryly. "Would that be acceptable?"
"I might end up keeping her," returned Donaree, sounding relieved. "Send her
"Will do, Kit. Lawrence out." The captain nodded to Soen. "All right, you've
got your wish. I'll have an engineering team meet you in the Transporter Room
"And if you serve the Saratoga half as well as you've served this ship,
Donaree should have nothing to worry about," Lawrence continued with a
half-smile. "Just see that you get back here in one piece."
"You have my promise on that, sir, and thank you." With that, Soen turned on
her heel and left the bridge.
"You understand, Pembroke?" asked Morrison as he ushered the
last of the additional personnel aboard the Chosin. The colonel
seemed unusually driven.
"Aye, sir. Once we get planetside your contingent will hang back and circle
around to the north side of the alleged facility. My party will wait at the
landing site for clearance from you," Pembroke said even as he wished that he
were in the colonel's group.
"And the Excalibur crew will be with you as well," continued the
colonel. "I don't want to risk their lives unnecessarily."
Pembroke remembered all the ship's personnel he'd just seen enter the
transport, including that diminutive, but feisty diplomatic officer who'd given
him a brief smile as she'd passed.
"Why are they with us anyway, sir?" He asked as he followed his commander
into the Chosin. "Wouldn't it have been safer to wait until we'd handled
Morrison shook his head. "Normally, yes, but the Excalibur will
be engaging the Jirzzaque ships; there will be no time to arrange transport for
anyone if we need medics or the like. This is more feasible."
The transport shuddered slightly as it approached the slowly
opening bay doors Pembroke grabbed on to a fellow Marine's shoulder for
support as he began to feel overbalanced. It was Nighthunter, who
grinned widely and gave a thumbs up.
"Understood, sir. We won't move until we get your signal. Just one
thing--leave some Jirzzaque for us. We deserve some fun, I think."
He knew Morrison's history with the enemy, and hoped that some lighthearted
bantering would ease the colonel's obviously troubled mind. But another side of
him pointed out--just a little too late--that lightheartedness might only make
things worse. Pembroke was never sure which of the two reactions his remarks
elicited from Morrison. The colonel continued to face forward and never
Soen exited the shuttle after the engineering team, and
watched them hurry away along with some of the Saratoga crew. She
straightened her uniform and looked around for her escort, if there was
one. Everyone looked very busy and after a moment she stepped toward a
technician. "Excuse me, but--"
He looked up from the circuit board before him with surprise. "Oh, you must
be Commander Mon'Teith. I'm sorry, sir, I got all caught up in my work. Captain
Donaree sent word that you were to go directly to the bridge. Can you find your
Soen nodded. "I'm sure it's not too difficult. Please continue."
Soen headed for the corridor and then looked for a 'lift. She had never been
on a Cyane Class Frigate before. A tall thin man from Life Sciences as evidenced
from his uniform joined her on her search. He seemed preoccupied with the floor,
his thin brown hair falling over his eyes. She waited for him to speak, but he
never did, so they walked in silence to the lift.
The doors opened onto the bridge of the Saratoga and Soen immediately looked
for Captain Donaree. The man who'd accompanied her still stood behind her as the
captain finally looked up with a faint grin.
"Commander Mon'Teith, welcome aboard. We're about ready to engage. 1'd like
for you to take tactical for a while if you would."
"Yes sir. Whatever you need "She located the station and sat, familiarizing
herself with the console and its functions. Curious, she looked up to see what
the man had come to the bridge for, and she managed to catch Donaree giving him
a puzzled nod as he turned to re-enter the lift. What she didn't catch as she
returned her attention to tactical was the equally puzzled glance Donaree gave
"It's been almost an hour, any news?" asked Commander Travis,
coming to sit beside Pembroke. The Marine sheltered beneath a rocky
outcropping overlooking the valley that indeed contained a Jirzzaque
base. Another Marine who looked even younger than Travis sprawled beside
Pembroke, busy with monitoring the complicated-looking tracking/scanning
device before him. Everyone else waited back by the Chosin.
Pembroke lowered his field glasses, somewhat surprised to see the woman here.
"You really shouldn't be here, sir," he admonished gently. "But no, no word yet.
As far as I can tell, the colonel's probably just now begun the advance." He
drew Travis' attention to the right. "There is a dampening field generator in
that building at the top of that ridge over there, which explains why no sensors
could discover this little Jirzzaque vacation spot."
"Should we do something about that?" asked Travis.
"My orders were to wait here, commander. I'm sure the colonel picked up on it
too and it will be taken care of soon." His eye caught movement down below them.
"Down!" he ordered, and all three crouched immediately.
Pembroke carefully maneuvered his rifle in front of him, and eased forward.
He could clearly make out an approaching figure making a hurried frantic ascent
toward their location. He reached for his field binoculars and took a closer
The figure was wearing a Starfleet uniform.
Pembroke felt a headache coming on. He rubbed his forehead with a groan.
"Tell me once again what happened." He said to the two privates in front of him.
"We heard a noise about 15 meters to the south-east, sir. Upon investigation
we discovered a figure lying in the brush. Closer inspection revealed it to be
"The check for Jirzzaque life signs came up negative," offered the other
young man smartly. "We're fairly sure it's human, lieutenant."
"Forget 'fairly sure’," said Sylvana Giuliani, coming up to lay a hand on
Pembroke's shoulder. "That's Colonel Tyton McQueen," she confirmed, nodding in
the direction of the Chosin, where the man lay. "He's pretty badly hurt,
but that's him."
Pembroke swore under his breath. "Just my luck. Seriously, Giuliani, how is
"Stable, but unconscious, sir. If we can get him to a better equipped
facility soon, he should make a full recovery."
"The key words in that sentence being 'if and 'soon?"
"Exactly. So who is this you've brought along with you?" she asked,
jerking a thumb at the uniformed figure held tightly between two Marines some
"She claims to be Lieutenant Commander Nabiki Kuno, a propulsion scientist
who was captured along with the Bismarck and has since been held in this
science station " He threw a look at the woman, who sagged in exhaustion between
her two guards. She certainly seemed legitimate, and yet something nagged at
Giuliani caught the look in his eyes "What's wrong? You don't trust her?"
The older man sighed. "At this point, I barely trust myself. I just seem to
remember hearing that one, there were no survivors of that attack, and two, even
if there were, all personnel were accounted for."
"But you're not sure, are you?"
"No, blast it. I’m reasonably sure she's not Jirzzaque, but I still don't
"Maybe she was the subject of one of those consciousness transfers, and
something's nagging at your instincts about that. You do have good instincts,
His mouth involuntarily quirked up at the compliment. "I thought about that,
but that's not it. It's the bare bones of her story. 1 could swear that everyone
was accounted for during that incident!"
"Well, I'm sure you'll think of it soon, sir. Have you heard from the colonel
"Not yet, although if I don't soon I'm going to rush the front door. Damnit!"
"Bloody hellfire! I'm going to have to leave some men behind to guard these
two 'acquisitions,' and that's manpower l can't afford to spare!"
Giuliani rolled her eyes. "I'm sure you'll think of something, Mad Dog. Now,
if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go examine this Commander Kuno."
Pembroke watched her walk away and frowned. He checked his chronometer. Ten
minutes. If he hasn’t heard from Morrison in ten minutes he was going in.
The battle wasn't proceeding exactly as planned. The Saratoga
had been hit badly again, and the entire crew was scrambling to the
defense. At least this time they weren't alone. The Jirzzaque were being
besieged by the Excalibur, Lexington, and Starquest all at once,
with the Endeavor and Hornet expected soon.
Soen had to admit that she was thoroughly enjoying herself. It was a fine
group she was working with, and Donaree was a fine commander. They had managed
to take out several enemy fighters with unique moves that Soen mentally tucked
away for later consideration. Now their focus became the Bismarck again,
now that they could reach it. And, Donaree was ordering all systems go.
Soen concentrated on her work, fingers flying, but she remained alert enough
to be aware that the ‘lift doors had opened. She waited for a report of the
latest disaster, but no one spoke. An uneasy feeling prickled down the back of
her neck, and she raised her head. That Life Sciences officer was approaching
Donaree from behind, his eyes locked on her back. Soen exchanged a glance with
Commander M'Reia, who shrugged. Who is that? She mouthed, indicating the
man. The uneasy feeling intensified.
The Catian frowned and said, "I thought he was with you."
Soen didn't even think, just reacted. She swung around and leapt at the man,
sending them both tumbling to the floor. He grunted in surprise and then began
shouting in anger. Donaree whirled. She began to speak when the turbolift doors
opened again and in stepped Spahn.
"Captain, there is still one more--" He broke off as he noticed the struggle
and dove in to assist.
Soen was pummeling the man for all he was worth. With me, are you? Not
likely! I assumed you were from the Saratoga. She fought to keep him from
reaching the weapon she became aware of in his belt and met furious green eyes.
I knew it! He snarled at the triumph in her expression and rolled the two
of them over again, managing to get to his feet. A powerful kick sent the
Andorian to the wall, and another one caught her in the stomach. A punch fuelled
by overpowering rage almost broke her jaw, and if the second one had landed it
would have done even worse damage. But, Sphan arrived, tackling the man in his
own turn. Soen slid to the floor as the Saratoga security chief finished
the job she'd started and the Jirzzaque was restrained and hauled to the brig.
Through a red haze she overheard Spahn's explanation to his captain. "I don't
know how it happen sir, but apparently we missed this one. 1 must take full
"How did he go undetected for this long?" Donaree demanded, kneeling beside
"Apparently everyone assumed when they saw him that he was from the Excalibur.
He was seen in Commander Mon'Teith's company in the corridors upon her
Soen waved a hand as she attempted to rise. Donaree helped her up. "He joined
me on my way here," she managed to say, rubbing her cheek gingerly. "I assumed
he was one of this crew."
"Assumptions can be fatal, as we've just almost witnessed," said Donaree
grimly. "I admit I even thought he was with the commander. Mon'Teith, report to
"But, sir, I'm needed here. 1 will be fine, just a little bruising at the
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, sir. I'm fine, sir. "
Donaree gave her a measuring look, and then nodded. "Very well." She looked
around at everyone else. "Back to work!"
Soen resumed her seat carefully, wincing a little at the twinges of pain that
seemed to be coming from everywhere. She rolled her shoulders and shifted in her
seat, trying to find a comfortable spot.
Spahn laid a hand on her shoulder. "Nice job, commander," he said in a low
voice. "Are you sure you are fine?"
"Does no one believe a poor bruised Andorian on this ship when she says she's
all right?" Soen asked lightly, not turning around.
The Romulan didn't answer. His grip tightened briefly, and then he was gone.
Good! That meant he wasn't there to see her hunch over as a brief spasm of
pain contorted her features. That second kick had made an all too solid
How did she escape? Why did she escape now? If her story is true, then
she's been in the station for a while and should have known that there was one
else on the planet, no where to run even if she did gel away. Unless… she
knew we were here. Which means they know we're here. But then why no action
other than letting her go?
Pembroke furrowed his brow as he regarded his "prisoner." Though Giuliani had
pronounced the woman physically fit, she hadn't spoken a word since arriving.
Doubts had been plaguing him ever since.
He consulted his chronometer.
He looked back at Kuno. She had her eyes closed, slumped against a boulder
She certainly looked harmless enough.
But so did a hand grenade before it exploded, unless you recognized it for
what it was. And he was having problems figuring out exactly what or who Nabiki
Kuno was supposed to be.
"Sir! Sir!" Sheridan loped up to Pembroke as he stood there a
few minutes later, about to give the order to move out
"What is it?"
"We finally broke through the shields in the base, sir. There's practically
no one in there!"
"Practically all we are picking up are human life signs, and some Vulcan and
the like. Only one or two Jirzzaque! And, the colonel's party is right in the
middle of them!"
Several possibilities popped into Pembroke's mind. Could Morrison and his
contingent have taken out the entire enemy without needing backup? Not too
likely. Then why hadn't he contacted them yet? Perhaps the colonel had been
taken, but then where were all the Jirzzaque? Unless the Jirzzaque had for some
reason evacuated the station earlier, leaving all their prisoners behind? But
were these prisoners still themselves or victims of successful
consciousness-transfer experiments left to confuse anyone who scanned the area,
leaving any would-be rescuers to think there was no danger in going in? A
low chuckle interrupted his thoughts and he turned to gaze at Commander Kuno.
She met his eyes calmly. He didn't see any sign of possession in hers, just a
touch of madness.
"They're coming," she said, still laughing softly. "They left before, but now
they're coming back."
"Where did they go?" He demanded
"To the other base! The bigger one! The better one! The one with all the
weapons and fighters and warriors... Not one of us went with them. Failures,
they called us! Barely worth killing."
"What other base?"
She looked surprised. "The one on the other side of the planet. They knew you
were coming, so they left. But they're coming back. "
A horrible suspicion began to dawn in Pembroke's mind. "They're coming back
to destroy their own station, aren't they? With everyone in it."
Kuno giggled and rocked. "Ka-boom!"
He spun, and began shouting orders. "Activate the emergency beacon! Fire up
the transport! By God, get moving!"
On the bridge of the Saratoga, M'Reia turned. "Picking
up emergency beacon from the planet, sir! It's the Blue Devils!"
Donaree faced the view screen. Debris almost completely clouded the scene,
but ahead she could see the Bismarck. Though she moved sluggishly, the
prototype wasn't down yet. Even as the captain watched phaser fire lanced into
the Excalibur, which was already surrounded by a cloud of tiny fighters.
Lawrence's ship responded with a volley of torpedoes, which mostly did no
damage. Still, the heaviest toll was being taken by those little Jirzzaque
fighters who swooped in and out, too close for conventional weapons to target.
But slowly the Marines were taking care of those. If only they could hurry...
Without turning her head, she answered her officer "Yes, M’Reia?"
"There's another base, sir. A military one on the far side of the planet! The
Marines report even more fighters are preparing to launch from there. And, the
Jirzzaque are also going to destroy their own science station, with all our
people in it."
Soen glanced up, alarmed. The science station was where the Chosin had
gone, with a lot of people she knew. Including Kate! Oh, no! This
is not going to happen! "Sir, we've got to stop them!" she declared. "If
we can reach the military installation before the fighters take off, we can
Donaree frowned. "We can't get there in time, I fear, commander. We can’t,
but maybe someone else can. M'Reia?"
"On it, sir."
Soen looked back down at her console to hide another flash of pain. Agony
still washed up in waves from her abdomen and she was having difficulty drawing
deep breaths. She had to take several short ones every minute. And once in a
while she rubbed her jaw, which ached but not as bad as she'd expected. Unless,
of course, the nerves had shut down and she just wasn't feeling anything. But
hopefully that wasn't the case. She tried not to let any of it show. She
couldn't abandon her post now.
"Sir." M'Reia again, only grinning this time in real relief "The Hornet
and Endeavor have arrived."
Donaree's shoulders sagged. "Tell them about the other base and fast. And the
other can take on the Bismarck. Thank God for the cavalry."
Some hours later, Donaree turned to Soen, who stood as fast
as she could. "Thank you for your help, commander. You did a fine job."
"Glad to see you made it," said the Andorian.
"Same for you," replied the human. She cocked her head. "I hear you were
involved in some heroics over on the Saratoga."
Soen shrugged. "Nothing major, just saving the captain's life, that sort of
Kate's grin echoed the security officer's. "So just your everyday sort of
thing, huh? Want to tell me about it?"
"I don't know. Want to hear about it?"
"Maybe… over dinner?"
"Why not? Meet you in my quarters?"
"I'll be there."
Kate walked away, and Soen's eyes followed her until she rounded the comer.
You don't know how glad I am to hear you say that.