The Price of Admirality
The past holds wise men as well as fools;
Why, then, do we listen only to the foolish
When we have another choice?
Chapter 10 - Imperial Fist
Beyond the demilitarized Zone
For the sixth time in just half an hour, the young, blonde man looked up from the screen and smiled.
‚...had a lot of time to think and...well, let‘s face it. We can‘t let it end like this! I talked to Suzie not long ago and she‘s with me. So, when you‘re back from that mission, we can talk. If you want to, that is. I love you. Bye.‘
The tiny monitor turned black for a second, then showed the StarFleet delta. Underneath it, a screen caption blinked in and out, indicating the end of the message.
The door bell chirped.
The typical hiss of the automatic door sliding apart filled the room.
‚Katherine. Come in. You said you wanted to talk to me?‘
‚Yes, sir,‘ Janeway said as she seated herself.
‚Well? What can I do for you?‘
‚It‘s about my crew...‘
‚I understand that you are in charge of that?‘
‚I have the personal assurance of the President that no charges will be pressed against the Maquis members of your crew. He looks at it as a kind of reward, and, after your log, I daresay that they have earned it.‘ Janeway breathed a sigh of relief.
‚As to the Talaxian,‘ Paris continued. ‚he‘s free to join StarFleet, if so he wishes, but he‘ll of course have to attend StarFleet Academy. If - when - he graduates, I‘ve arranged that he‘ll be transferred back to Voyager. If so he wishes.‘
Janeway nodded. ‚And Seven?‘
Paris sr. stirred uncomfortably.
‚You will understand of course that we will have to interrogate her.‘
‚Of course. And afterwards.‘
‚Well, from what you and your crew have told us, she apparently has become human. Or at least partly so. Our scientists have discovered that her link to the collective was indeed severed. Personnally I don‘t see any reason why she shouln‘t be allowed to live a normal life. Of course, from her Borg knowlegde we may gain valuable information, and she will have to be prepared to work his our scientists on some occasions, but otherwise...If it is her and your wish, she can stay on Voyager. Is that acceptable for you?‘
‚Completely.‘ Though she tried to keep her voice even, inside, she could have laughed with relief. This was going better than she thought ‚Thank you, Owen,‘ she said, and raised out of the chair. She turned to leave, but was halted by the Admiral‘s voice. ‚Oh and Katherine; I received a message from Thomas today...he wants to talk.‘
‚Will you agree?‘
‚He‘s my son. Of course, I will! 4 years are a very long time...‘
She scanned the corridor for movement, from the corner of her eyes. It was an old trick, passed on to her by her father: the corners of the eye can detect motions easier than the centre, because of the lesser concentration of light receptors at the edges. No-one there.
The weight of her body pushed Ian Malenkov against the cold metal of his quarter‘s door, and while they kissed, his left hand raised to caress her cheek, before he extended his arms and began tapping in his combination code. He had to try it several times, before he finally managed to get the five digits-long sequence right. Now if he could only reach the final confirmation button, which would open the door...His forefinger climbed up the panel, freezed only milimetres over the button, and finally pressed down. The controls gave a short beep, and the electronic impulses travelled across the circuits, until they reached their destination. The door‘s servo-motors took up their work, and began pulling the two parts of the door apart. From the time since he had pushed the button to the opening of the door, less then point-four seconds had passed. After another second, the door was open, and Ian stumbled inside.
Indra Iri System
When Admiral Paris and Captain Janeway entered the bridge, the red alert lights were on, and alarms beeping everywhere.
‚Report,‘ the old Admiral barked.
Ensign Kim looked up from his station. ‚We have entered the system point-five minutes ago sir. Scanners indicate one Jem H‘Adar capital ship and three support vessels. Long-range sensors show a formation of two Galor-class destroyer on an intercept course.‘
‚When will they get here?‘
‚In about 7 minutes sir.‘
‚Allright. Katherine...‘ he said, turning to Janeway. Janeway nodded, and went over to Tactical, next to Commander Chakotay, who was replacing Tuvok.
She leaned over Chakotay‘s shoulder and studied the console.
‚Mister Kim,‘ she said. ‚Inform the Ilias and the Gaelstrom that they are to follow us and proceed according to plan. All other ships are to engage the enemy.‘
According to plan, she thought.
The Ilias and Gaelstrom were two Intrepid-class ships. When two days ago Janeway had first learned that there were actually Intrepids other than Voyager, she had felt a somewhat absurd feeling of pride. Having lived and survived so long on Voyager, she had actually grown very fond of this class, and its advantages. Now these advantages were part of the plan. The Intrepids‘ unique capability of descending into the atmosphere of a planet were a crucial element of the equally intrepid plan devised by StarFleet‘s masterminds. Team One, Voyager, Ilias, and Gaelstrom, were to enter the planet‘s atmosphere while the rest of the task force engaged and destroyed the enemy vessels.
Such an air strike would certainly be unexpected by the Dominion troops, and the outpost‘s defenses would be softened up, before the main infantry force would be transported to the planet. Timing was crucial. While the three Intrepids would circle inside the atmosphere over the outpost, to bring their weapons to bear if necessary, the Zulu, a Nebula-class starship would break through enemy lines and enter orbit. Then the infantry force of two-hundred soldiers would be beamed down, to complete the operation, and to salvage any useful data they might find.
‚All ships are acknowlegding readiness sir,‘ Cakotay reported.
‚Very well.‘ Admiral Paris sat in the Captain‘s chair. ‚Initiate attack pattern. All ships are go for invasion.‘
When the door opened, Christopher Ryan looked up from the conversation he was just having and turned to the door. What he saw made him whince. His friend Ian rapidly snapped to attention, barked a ‚sir‘ and tried a military palm-outward salute. His face hadn‘t decided yet wether it should be death-pale or tomatoe-red.
Talina only stood to attention.
But they both blanched.
‚At ease Commander,‘ the elder male on the couch said. ‚And your companion is...‘
Ian looked back.
‚Major Talina, sir, of the Romulan Armed Forces.‘ The male nodded gravely. ‚Pleased to meet you Major. Allow me to introduce myself. I am the President of the United Federation of Planets.‘
The ship shuddered again and again, when further turbulences hit Voyager. Along with the two other ships of Team One, she made her way through the thin layer of air that constituted Indra III‘s atmosphere. The stabilizers protested heavily, but Janeway ordered the young Lieutenant to hold the course. At over five miles per seconds, the ships screamed through the air, and finally broke throught the layer of clouds. When its course brought it over the Dominion outpost, fiery lances of pure, orange light cut throught the air and hit their targets. The ground below the StarFleet vessels errupted in a series of giant explosions, and, flying at only at a rough fifteen thousand feet of height, Team one began to circle its prey, constantly firing and hitting the defensive perimeters of the outpost. When the sensors indicated that all targets were eliminated, Owen Paris sent the signal that would bring the Zulu in orbit. Three minutes later, the Intrepids turned away and were off to their landing zone, five miles away. The infantry force was beamed down, and the final slaughter began.
After Talina was gone, and some colour had returned to Ian‘s face, the President began the introducing.
Ian of course knew Ryan and Captain Shelby, and greeted each with an amicable nod. Then the President pointed at the last person, a tall man in his late thirties, clad in black trouser and jacket, with a black leather belt around his waist. A small, bronze badge was attached to his left chest, a three-armed candleholder engraved on it.
‚And this, Commander Malenkov,‘ the President said. ‚is Mister...‘
‚Murdock,‘ Ian growled at the man.
Despite himself, Ryan grinned.
Murdock smiled coldly. ‚Nice meeting you too, commander,‘ he said.
The President nodded. ‚Mister Murdock is of Section 31, as you should know.‘
‚There seems to be some kind of hostility between Mister Murdock‘s and your organization, Commander. Captain Ryan here reacted just like you did. Frankly, I don‘t understand why. Your units are similar enough.‘
Ian glanced at Ryan, who nodded.
‚That‘s not true, sir. Not entirely. The Fox is a purely military unit.
We do not assassinate civilians,‘ he hissed, glaring at Murdock.
‚No. Only military officers.‘
Ian opened his mouth in protest, but was cut off by the President.
‚Gentlemen, please. This is not the place for such arguments. There are more serious matters that need to be discussed.‘
Ian gritted his teeth. ‚Yes sir.‘
‚Good. Please, sit down.‘ The President nodded at Murdock, who stood up and started wandering across the room.
‚Captain, Commander, I don‘t need to tell you that all you‘re about to hear is highly classified. During your mission on Corvus II, the Romulan Warbird picked up a Dominion ship, who entered the system. Two persons were transported from the surface to the ship.‘ He folded his hands in front of his face, and paused. ‚A day earlier, one of my operatives onboard this station picked up a transmission into Cardassian space. It was carefully hidden, and used the station‘s deflector arrays as antenna. The technical details will hardly interest you, but it seems obvious that it was recorded and sent by a Dominion or Cardassian spy. We were able to track down the source of the signal to the Officer‘s Quarters on deck 5. It is highly probable that the subject we are talking about, the traitor, is one of our own high officers and that it was also probably him who gave away the plans for out first assault on Corvus II, which resulted as you know in a desaster. We have a subspicion on who our traitor might be, but as yet we don‘t have solid proof. The trouble is, our suspect has gone back to Earth by now.‘
Ian couldn‘t believe his ears. A traitor in StarFleet? Impossible. Unthinkable. But then, it may have not been a real StarFleet officer, no human or Vulcan or...
‚A Changling?‘ Ryan asked.
Murdock nodded. ‚We have to assume it.‘
Ian shook his head violently. ‚That‘s impossible. As far as I know, you personnally have introduced regular blood tests.‘
Murdock looked uneasy. ‚Those tests can be faked.‘
Silence settled over the conference.
Then Ryan asked, ‚So? Why haven‘t you killed the traitor yet?‘
Murdock looked at him strangely. ‚As I said, we only have a subspicion, and still need to acquire real evidence. It wouldn‘t be very useful going around shooting Admirals who might prove irreplacable in the war. No, until we have the solid evidence we need, someone has to be on Earth, on constant stand-by, someone who can take over that job, as soon as it is safe to do so. And, Commander Malenkov, we want you.‘
‚Me?‘ Ian yelled. ‚Why me? Why don‘t you take one of your own people Murdock?‘
‚The few operatives I have are either spread out along the front, or...currently assigned to a mission of high importance. I don‘t have any men left. And you don‘t have much of a choice. We will insert you on Earth, where you will, for the time being, just wait. You‘ll get an appartment near StarFleet Command in San Francisco, a new identity, a new life. You will leave the investigational work to us, and lead a perfectly normal life on Earth. You will do absolutely nothing subspicious or unusual, until we send word to you.‘
Ian‘s hands were working on his temples, his ellbows on his knees.
‚Yes, but why me?‘
Murdock pulled a card out of one of his pockets and held it up in his hand. He sent it flying through the air, and it landed in Ian‘s lap.
‚You‘re the perfect choice.‘
Ian picked up the card and looked at it.
A greyish-white skull in front of a black heart gazed back at him.
A young soldier dressed in green combat fatigues snapped to attention when Admiral Paris, his aides, and Voyager‘s command staff approached the smoldering ruins of what had once been a Dominion command post.
‚At ease son,‘ Owen told the young man. He glanced at the soldier‘s name tag. ‚Mister...Briggs?‘
‚Leftenant Briggs; would you tell me where I can find Commander Matthews?‘
‚The commander is inside the building sir. He‘s awaiting you sir.‘
Paris nodded. He murmured a ‚Thank you son‘ as he walked past the soldier, closely followed by his staff.
The building‘s door had been blasted out by the infantry, and the endo-steel construction was still smouldering. Paris ducked under some loose-hanging cables, and found himself in a dark, smelly room. Where it was illuminated by the flashlights on his wrist, Paris saw the dark stains where phaser beams had hit the building‘s walls, instead of their target.
Muffled voiced were coming from a corridor on the opposite side of the room. As Paris approached their source, the voices became louder, until he finally saw a tall man, whom he suspected to be Commander Matthews, the infantry commander, talking to a group of soldiers. When he was finished, they saluted and he nodded them away. Paris cleared his throat, and the Commander turned and snapped to attention when he noticed the rank pips on Paris‘ collar.
‚At ease Commander,‘ Paris said and held out his hand.
Matthews wiped his own hand clean on his trousers, before taking the admiral‘s.
‚Well, let‘s see then,‘ Paris said. ‚What have you got for me, Matthews?‘
‚Well sir, fighting was pretty fierce down here, and the local Vortha destroyed most valuable data on his personal computer before blowing his brains out. For the rest, rather everything down here has taken pretty much damage during the operation, and we weren‘t able to salvage much. But...‘ He waved at a guard in the far corner of his room, which in turn grabbed a squarish object, covered by a rough cloth from a table and came hurrying towards them. Matthews took the thing from the man, and sent him off again. He unfolded the cloth, and beneath it was a display-like device. On its backside, the covering plastic had been taken off, and its electronical insides were revealed, cables dangling from it, and another squarish object had been attached to some of the cables.
‚See, we have found this. When the corporal who found it entered that room, it was still running, but apparently it was encrypted, or in some strange language we can‘t understand. The whole technical equipment here is very unstable, and we opted to at least save this thing here, and we seperated it from Main Power. It‘s now running on batteries.‘
‚Well done Commander. I‘m sure you will be rewarded for your quick thinking there.‘
Matthews smiled proudly, but said nothing.
‚If you would now hand over that device, Commander, I will take it back to Starbase89.‘
Just as he had gripped the device, Paris‘ communicator beeped.
He tapped it, and handed the device to one of his staff.
‚Admiral, this is the Valar. We have picked up mulitple warp signatures. About a dozen, probably more. Possibly Jem H‘Adar. They‘ll be in weapon‘s range in about 25 seconds.‘
‚Understood, Valar. I‘ll return to Voyager presently. As soon as you have any definite data, contact me.‘
‚Roger sir. They‘re in visual range now. Ops, go to maximum magnification...Oh no! Tactical, engage Pattern Omega One. Tell the others to open fire. Admiral Paris! We have Dominion warships here. Engaging, but...‘
Paris tapped his commbadge repeatedly, but he heard only the crackle of static.
Then a shrill noise, approaching.
Seconds later, the room exploded into fire and noise, and the world went black. When Paris opened his eyes again, Katherine Janeway kneeled beside him, her hand on his chest.
He tried to say something, but his vocal chords refused to serve. When he finally managed to utter some faint words, his voice was trembling heavily.
His view of Janeway faded, as tears and smoke clouded it.
And then, Owen Paris, aged 59, and HighAdmiral of the Federation died.
At full impulse velocity, the ships of Team one shot through Indra Iri‘s atmosphere. When it broke free into space, two steely-blue lances shot towards it. Its protective shields shone up, glittered, and shimmered under the effort of deflecting the energy of Dominion disruptors. Then, in turn, two torpedoes emerged simultaneously, left and right of the deflector emitter. They raced through space, and crossed the distance to its target in no time. One torpedo only hit the shields of the Jem H‘Adar fighter but, weakened, the shields gave way, and the second torpedoe scored a clear hit on the left warp nacelle. The ship exploded silently.
With a silent thud, the heavy bag landed in the corner next to his quarter‘s door. Now with all his personnal belongings packed, and his Runabout back to Earth due in three hours, Ian Malenkov only had one thing left to do.
He activated the wall-panel.
‚Computer. Location of Major Talina.‘
‚Tachyon particles are leaking into the propulsion system Captain. I don‘t know how long we can keep up Warp Speed.‘
‚Understood Mister Carey. Janeway out.
Chakotay leaned over to her. ‚That didn‘t sound too good,‘ he said.
‚No. Not at all. Lieutenant Moers, how long until we cross Federation border?‘ she asked the young Lieutenant at the helm.
‚Approximatively three minutes, thirty-five seconds sir.‘
Janeway nodded. ‚Anything on sensors Harry?‘
‚I can‘t give you a precise reading ma‘am. The sensor arrays were damaged pretty badly on out last target run. But as far as I can tell, we‘re clear of pursuers. Looks like the Dominion ships‘ve broken up. All the Intrepids on the planet made it. Gantor and Silver Tower are destroyed. The Valar is crippled and drifting.‘
Janeway‘s face turned into solid stone, as it always did in situation of great danger.
‚Very well. Keep up looking Harry. Keep up looking.‘
Engineer Joe Carey looked up from his console, when he heard the young Lieutenants calm voice. ‚Yes Vorik, what is it?‘
‚The tachyon particles in the warp core are reaching critical mass.
We should seriously consider shutting down...‘
The Vulcan officer couldn‘t finish what he was saying, as he was violently interrupted when one of the conduits leading to the - to his - warp core ruptured. There was a flash of light, a hiss of smoke and sparks, when the ditranium metall gave way to the incredible build-up of heat and energy inside. The ship lurched forward, as it was violently brought down from Warp eight-point-five to relative zero speed in a fraction of a second, and the inertial dampeners couldn‘t cope with the stress.
The illumination changed to red.
‚Janeway to Engineering.‘
‚The tachyons are flooding the warp-core Captain!‘
‚If you can‘t stabilize it, evacuate Engineering.‘
Joe didn‘t bother to acknowledge.
‚Vorik,‘ he yelled over the klaxons and alarms, ‚cut power to the core.‘
The Vulcan‘s fingers hushed over his console.
‚I have closed all energy relais. The leak is continuing.‘
‚Damn! Allright; everyone out! Now! Vorik you stay; we‘ve got to neutralize the core. Try decoupling the dilithium matrix.‘
Joe grabbed a tricorder, and slipped under the railing surrounding the warp core. Standing in front of the tall engine, he performed his scans. ‚It isn‘t working Vorik. Try it again!‘
While he was still speaking, another explosion shook the ship, and he was sent hurling to the ground.
When he regained consciousness, he felt a strong hand grabbing his arms and dragging him to his feet. He couldn‘t have been knocked out for very long, two or three seconds, time enough for the Vulcan to get over to him. ‚Sir,‘ the ensign shouted, ‚the core is about to breach. We need to evacuate.‘
‚No!‘ Carey struggled, but he couldn brake the Vulcan‘s grip on him. ‚Vorik, without warp core we‘re trepped here! We have too-‚ ‚There is no time sir. We need to leave.‘ Vorik dragged him along across engineering, until Carey finally managed to stand up and run himself. ‚Oh dammit, all right. Computer, prepare to eject the warp core.
Authorization Carey Omega Nine Five Three.‘
When they got out into the corridor, and the door was closed and sealed behind them, Carey leaned against the wall, his hands on his knees. ‚Computer,‘ he said. ‚eject the warp core.‘
On the underside of the starship Voyager, a large square hatch opened. The light from inside flooded into space and illuminated the grey hull of the vessel. An eleven meters-tall thin tube slowly drifted out of it. As soon as the sizzling end left the hatch, trailing a cloud of blue dust behind it, Voyager accelerated to full impulse. The warp core drifted through space, the blinding blue light of the matter/antimatter-reaction flashing irregularly...
‚Carey to bridge.‘ He took a deep breath. ‚We dumped the core.‘
‚I‘m leaving,‘ Ian said.
At his words Talina turned around.
‚You‘re leaving ?‘ she asked. ‚Where to?‘
‚Earth. I got my orders this morning. I‘m to report as an adjudant to some high-level Admiral at Fleet HQ.‘
‚And when will you be coming back?‘
Ian took a deep breath. Now or never, he thought.
‚What? Wha... ?‘
‚Not anytime soon, anyway. They‘re saying it‘s a "long-term mission", and, well, it could last a while.‘
Talina didn‘t answer, but he could see her breathing heavily.
He tried to smile.
When the door opened, Ryan saw his friend enter Shuttle Bay 4, wearing a depressed look.
‚So?‘ he asked. ‚How did she take it?‘
Ian looked up at his friend and sighed. ‚Better than I would have. God, I hate this assignement, and it hasn‘t even started yet!‘
‚King and Country, James.‘
Ian snorted. ‚Oh please, mercy. I am not James Bond, and you‘re not Molleypenny.‘
‚Moneypenny,‘ corrected Ryan.
‚Whatever. This isn‘t the movies, this is life. Besides I hate my country for taking my one and only love from me.‘
‚And you dare accusing me of being pathetic!‘
‚Oh but you are, my friend. Otherwise you wouldn‘t have come here.
Christ, you‘ve said farewell two times all ready.‘
Ryan shrugged. ‚I‘m a hopeless romantic.‘
‚No you aren‘t. If you were you would take my place and do this stuff instead of me.‘
Ryan smiled. ‚You know I would, if I‘d think it would work.‘
Ryan clapped his hands. ‚Anyway, you got everything?‘
‚Yes, yes...No, wait.‘ He searched his pockets, and at length he produced a small crystal, and handed it over to Ryan.
‚For Talina.‘ Seing his friend frown, he added ‚Don‘t worry, it won‘t give anything away. I‘ve made it look like a log-entry. Would you give it to her please? Just in case...‘ He smiled wrily. ‚...in case anything happens to me.‘
‚Of course,‘ Ryan said,putting into his own side-pocket. ‚Now sir, if you would please follow me, your Runabout is ready for take off.‘
Captain Schwarz looked up from his console when the face of a young officer appeared on the screen. ‚Mister Malenkov,‘ he said. ‚You are cleared for launch.‘
‚Understood, sir,‘ the man replied. ‚Take-off in sixty seconds.‘
‚Acknowledged. Good voyage.‘
‚Thank you Captain. Baruni out.‘
On the outside of the StarBase, a large, square hatch opened. After a short while, the lean shape of a Federation Runabout lifted itself off the deck. The forcefield glistenteg faintly, outlining the silhouette of the ship, as it passed through the invisible barrier. Travelling at impulse speed, the Baruni parted from the station, and reached a great enough distance to go to warp. The warp nacelles gloomed bluely, and for the shortest time, the vessel was stretched over thrice its length. Then the explosion consumed it.
Some Last Words: What? Yes, I know. I did that already last time, yes.
I know...no, you...I...shut up, will you? Thanx a bunch. Naw, seriously, I don‘t know why I am doing this, and I ain‘t talking about the story. Well, perhaps the story too. Left you hanging there again, haven‘t I?
Well, look out for a continuation :)
Why am I writing this...? Good question.
Personnally, I even prefer the Sheridan/Delenn Lovestory...much more mysterious...or even the Ivanova/Marcus one...she doesn‘t even suspect anything...What? No, that‘s Babylon 5. Yes...Babylon 5. One of my - WAAH!! Allright folks, who threw that...ripe red juicy fruit? No, I‘m talking about the tomatoe here, mate.
Seriously (repetition). This story is...over. Wow.
For the future, I have noticed that in all fanfic I read so far, it is either : a) Tom and B‘Elanna, how tragedy strucks and how they
get together, or
b) how Tom and B‘Elanna are together, and how tragedy
strikes, and they get even closer together, or one dies, which is rather rare.
But no-one (apparently) ever thought of them getting together, being together, and tragedy striking, but, and that‘s important, not on them! That is to say, they being together, but there being another story, on which tragedy strikes...er...I‘m lost.
Well, anyway all in all, "Midnight on the Firing Line" is made of four parts, two of which you have already seen/read/heard about or printed out and burned in an unholy and highly satanic ceremony. So, logically, there will be two more coming. Lemme tell you though, the end is already set. I know how it‘s going to end. And you won‘t like it. :=Þ Perhaps, if I‘m very weak of character, there‘ll be a fifth part, but I dunno yet. And this time I mean it.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed. Mail me, blokes ! :)
Another thing : What on earth happened to the feedback ? I only got... what, 4245 e-mails concerning the story !
No, seriously, I‘m suffering from withdrawal !
Do something for my ego ! Be critic ! Anything !
MAIL ME !
Where ? At email@example.com
Special Thanks this time go to :
Pamela J., whatever her real name is, for beta-reading, whatever that word means.
Amanda B., who gave me some ideas on Ro and the whole thing, which I didn‘t realize in this part, after all.
Anyone who posted and/or read this thing here. Whoever was responsible for the eps "Redemption"; introducing a blonde Romulan did me no end of good.
And last, and probably least,
My family, for taking absolutely no interest whatsoever in this story... I can best repay their kindness by not mentioning their names here.PS : I wasn‘t drunk, no, but don‘t take my Some Last Words personal or even serious. Was just kidding, blokes! Luv yas all the same.
Yours Faithfully, ChrisTR