Spider in the Web
Disclaimer : Certainly, you should by now know what‘s supposed to stand here! If Paramount wants to sue me, off they go, but I doubt that they‘d gain very much from doing so. Anyway, yes the universe belongs to Paramount...Hail to the chief baby!
But, this story belongs to me, as do some characters and some technical equipment..well, yeah.
Archiving, downloading, even printing is no problem as long as ya e-mail me, and keep the name and that bloody disclaimer attached...oh yeah. My notes too.
Background : Yatta Yatta...Let‘s make something clear...if you haven‘t read the previous ones, don‘t even try this story. But, probably, you will.
So, here‘s a summary:
Voyager is back home! Yeay! But they were pretty surprised when Dominion war was still going on. When Paris and Tuvok were captured on a mission, they were even more surprised. But their surprise was stretched to its limit when they were rescued of a Cardassian Prison by a joint Federation/Romulan task force. Surprise however, was no longer adequate when they learned that now there was an alliance between the Rommies and the Feds, and they were forced to resort to astonishment. Not that much surprising however will it be, when I say that helm-boy and our favourite chief engineer have found out that they are...quite fond of each other, after all.
Author‘s Note :Ha! Did you see? There was some P/T in the last one, AFTER ALL! :) So, I‘m trying to keep that up now, but perhaps there will be more concentrated efforts on the story. For a change. Or perhaps not. Because if there were, I‘d have to look for another site to even post it. Tsk, tsk.
Feedback will be appreciated, enshrined, and carefully read! Oh yeah, and answered by the way. And even personnally answered! Feel free to write. You liked it? You hated it? You survived it (severely wounded) ? Tell me about it! Everything, from praise to scorn, goes to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dedicated to Robert Mason, Pilot, Bravo Company, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st US Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in Vietnam, from August 1965 to July 1966.
I recommend his book, ChickenHawk, where he recalls his time in Nam, to everyone. It‘s not a book for weak stomachs, but it‘s one bloody, painfully honest and courageous book, and its powerful message will stay in the memory, long after the last page has been turned. PS : In the prequel to this thing, I seem to have forgotten to thank a certain Matthew Edwards (or so), for introducing me to Section 31, of which I had no clue up to that point, and for giving me feedback, which is, hardly need to tell you, vitally important, for any author. If I can be descirbed as such. So, in his own words, Cheers !
There is a greater darkness than the darkness we fight. It is the darkness of the soul, that has lost its way. The war we fight is against powers or principalities, but also against chaos and dispair. Greater than the death of flesh, is the death of hope. The death of dreams. It is a peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us; waiting, in moments of transition, to be reborn, in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only, that it is always born in pain.
Now fades the glimm‘ring landscape on the sight, And all the air a solemn stillness holds, Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight, And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Thomas Gray, Epitaph
Three days after the events in "Price of the Admiralty"
PrologueParis, EuropeOn Earth, the assassin was called Carl Cole. Whistling merrily to himself, he made his way through Luvonparc. When he passed the ice-skating ring, he heard the happy laughter and giggling of children, and huddled himself deeper in his warm coat. It was winter, icy-cold, and he drew his green scarf closer, not so much as to cover his face, but to keep the frosty wind away.
Carl Cole had no reason to hide. On Earth, he was as unknown and inconspicuous as any other citizen, who had come here, and worked half-days at a flower shop.
Beneath his boots, the frozen snow cracked. Most people had gathered at the skating ring or the Snack-shop. But there were some two or three tracks, of daring and intrepid people, who had defied the almost hip-high snow, and taken the way Cole was now walking. Some metres away, a couple of children were lying in the snow, moving their arms up and down, to draw angels in the snow.
If he had really been Carl Cole, the cold would have driven him home, very quickly. But as assassin, he could afford such a weakness. In his usual morning newspapers, he had found the expected message, under "Lost-Found" :
« Searching :Fled wolfhound, answers to the name LITA. 2yo, Reward » The message in itself wasn‘t extraordinary, but it contained the keywords he needed.
Before long, he came to an old, shabby-looking hut, made entirely of wood.
Carl Cole would have walked by, without looking at it. But the assassin approached the east-ward wall of the house, and knelt before it. He lifted up a big stone, and from underneath it took a small bit of paper. It looked very old, and torn. One half missed, and it seemed that it had contained a major part of the message.
Now, only 2 lines were left :
He re-read the message twice, then threw the bit of paper in a waste container.
Slowly, as if continuing his little walk, he approached the computerized citymap. First, he just walked by. Then he halted, and turned, as if he had forgotten something. For three seconds, he looked at nothing in particular, then he touched a number of glyphs on the display. It now showed a scheme of the monorail stations in Paris. One hour later, the assassin arrived at the ‚Gare du midi‘, and left his monorail compartment. He crossed the entrance lobby, only stopping once, to give Carl the opportunity to admire the architectural design of the building, then he approached a row of lockers. He found locker 36-4, and entered the access code.
The display showed him that he had to pay a fee of 45 credits. He entered his ID card, and fed the computer. The display changed, to show him a flashing, green OPEN.
From inside the locker, he took a small isolinear chip, and put it in a pocket inside his coat, and left the lobby. The assassin could have afforded a taxi, but Carl Cole waited for the next monorail. It was already dark when he finally arrived at his home.
In his appartment, he took the chip and inserted it into his computer.
He switched it on, and the machine began working. A dialog-box appeard on his screen, with a question mark and a blinking cursor in it. He entered the name of the lost dog, Lita, and checked the orthography, before he pressed the CONFIRM glyph. A mistake would have led to the destruction of the chip and the data it contained. Such a mistake would have been inexcusable, and he would not get a second chance. His computer accepted. The program on the chip was activated, and the computer began foraging all the planet‘s newspaper of this particular day. The majority was useless. Of the rest, pages and articles were searched for particular keywords. Another part of the program took these words, and re-grouped them. When the action was finished, the computer beeped. On its display there was a seemingly random succession of words. To everybody else, it would have been nothing but gibberish. The assassin read it. The first word was made of 5 characters, so he passed the next four words, and read the fifth. That one had 7 characters, so he passed the next six words, etc. Slowly, he constructed the real message. When he had read it, he activated the last part of the program. The screen went black; the chip was formatted, and rendered useless. After taking it out of the machine, the assassin threw it away. Two months.
He would have to wait for at least another two months.
And then Carl Cole would die.
Chapter One - Shattered Steel
Katherine Janeway was fuming, and anyone could see it. She stomped out of her office onto the bridge and sat down in her chair. After giving her a few minutes to calm down, Chakotay ventured to ask what was wrong. With an airy wave of her hand, she told him to wait, and turned around in her chair to look at the young Ensign manning the Ops-Station. ‚Ensign Kim, status report,‘ she demanded.
Kim checked his console.
‚All systems up and running sir, except of course the warp-drive.‘ Janeway nodded. In their last engagement, the Dominion had scored severe hits on Voyager, and Carey, the young engineer replacing B‘Elanna Torres, had been forced to dumb the warp core, leaving them stranded in the Cardassian Realm.
‚We‘re currently heading into Federation Space at full impulse,‘ Kim continued. ‚No Dominion ships on long-range sensors. Looks like they lost us.‘
Janeway nodded grimly.
‚Bridge to Engineering.‘
‚Lieutenant Carey, what‘s your status.‘
‚All systems nominal, sir. Tachyon emissions are stable, and I don‘t think we‘ll be getting any problems soon. Of course...‘ He hesitated. ‚Of course, since we‘ve dumped the core, we‘re effectively going nowhere.‘ Janeway ignored that last remark. ‚Thank you Lieutenant,‘ she said, rising from her chair.
She paced the bridge for a while, then stood to attention in front of the viewscreen which covered the entire front of the bridge. She coughed, to get everyone‘s attention, but that really was unnecessary. ‚Gentlemen,‘ she said. ‚I‘ve just had a call from StarFleet Command, and, to be very frank, we‘re in big trouble. The remaining ships of our Squadron have made it back to StarBase 89, though most of them are heavily damaged, and it looks like one of the Intrepids is beyond repair. This leaves us here, alone. Command hasn‘t got any ships to spare to stage a rescue operation, and we‘ll probably be detected by the Dominion, anyway. So that leaves us two options.‘
Janeway paused, mainly for effect.
‚Either we can try and evacuate Voyager using the Shuttles, or we surrender the ship to the Jem H‘Adar.‘
Kim was the first to recover from his initial shock.
‚I say fight.‘
There were agreeing nods all over the bridge.
Janeway shook her head, but Chakotay gave her no chance to protest. ‚Sir, of course I can‘t speak for the entire crew, but, personally, I‘d never surrender to the Dominion.‘
‚I feel exactly the same, Commander. And, giving the circumstances, we don‘t seem to have any other choice but to try it. I know there will be some crewmembers who‘d rather surrender, but, as is often said, we‘re here to preserve democracy, not practice it.‘
Romulan Warship Endruga
With a gasp and a sob, Talina bolted upright in her bed. Her hands and lips trembling, her face covered with wetness, she tried to focus on where and who she was.
‚Who is it!‘
With an unnerved moan, Talina sat up in her bed and tiredly rubbed her forehead. The same dream she had been having for the last three days had returned this night. Her last talk with Ian, and then...
‚Sal‘tasnon!‘ She grabbed her pillow and flung it at the door. The soft fabric collided with the duranium-hardened doors, and slid off its surface to the ground.
Painfully controlling herself, she swang her long legs over the edge of her bed, and grabbed the black robe lying on the far end of the bed.
‚Lights,‘ she ordered the computer when she got up to let her late visitor enter.
‚Open,‘ she said, standing some meters in front of her door. With the familiar hiss, the doors slid aside and revealed a tall man standing in the doorframe.
‚Captain Ryan?‘ Talina exclaimed.
‚Christopher, while I‘m off duty. Please, may I come in?‘
Talina nodded her agreement and waved him in. She directed him to the couch and hesitated.
‚Can I offer you something to drink?‘ she finally resolved to say.
Ryan smiled slightly and shook his head. ‚Hardly. Those things can‘t replicate a serious Ale,‘ he said, gesturing to the replicator.
Unfolding the arms before her chest, Talina moved to her wardrobe. Seconds later, she emerged again, holding a bottle of blue fluid and two small, narrow glasses. She placed them on the table and poured in two glasses of Romulan Ale.
Ryan took his and drank of it. ‚Why doesn‘t that surprise me?‘ he asked.
Talina did her best to maintain a neutral expression. ‚Forgive me Captain, but it is very late...or very early. May I ask why you have come here?‘
Ryan took a deep breath. ‚It‘s because of Ian. We have been friends since I was fifteen. You could always rely on Ian. When you needed him, he was there to help you. In good and in bad times, he‘d stick to you, no matter what others said, or what happened. I was always proud to have him as friend, and I would‘ve been very ungrateful if I wouldn‘t have sticked to him. Now that Ian‘s...gone, I somehow feel concerned about you.‘ Talina looked at him. ‚Why should you?‘ she asked, her voice surprisingly calm.
‚He told me about you when he had that fight with the Klingons, the day before you both left for Corvus II. Well, I reckon I‘m no Don Juan, but I‘ve been in love myself before, and I do recognize the symptoms. I don‘t know what happened after that mission, but...let me put it this way: when you two were together, he was happy. Everyone noticed it. At least we noticed it. Before he left, he told me it was over, and...well, whatever happened between you, I knew Ian very well, and he...believe me, he loved you.‘
Biting her lower lip, Talina blinked her tears away and nodded slightly.
‚Now, the reason why I have come here is quite simple. As his CO, I have to see through his personal belongings, to see what should be kept, stored, and what should be send back...to his family back home. He gave me the access code to his personal logs long ago; In any case, he said. Well, I went through them, and I found this.‘
Out of his pocket, he took a small data-crystal, enfolded in a paper-ribbon.
Talina took it carefully and examined it.
‚Knowing Ian, you will already know what unit we both belong to, too.‘
At her slight nod, Ryan thought ‚speak of Romulan efficiency‘
‚We doesn‘t use isolinear chips, because they‘re too easy to crack. Data-crystals like that one are almost impossible to access without permission. Scan it with a tricorder, and it will ask you the access code. I have written it down his on that bit of paper; enter it, and the tricorder will display the message.‘
Talina looked at him silently.
‚Why do you give me this?‘ she asked.
‚You will understand when you see the message. I just thought, you might want to take a look at it.‘
‚Thank you,‘ she whispered. ‚Could you just...‘ Her voice trailed off.
‚Of course,‘ Ryan said, rising from the couch and heading towards the door. When they had opened, he turned in the doorframe ‚If you want to talk,‘ he said. ‚Later I mean, please, don‘t hesitate.‘
She nodded. ‚Thank you.‘
With the finality of a coffin-lid, the door closed.
When Sela saw the human Captain Ryan leaving Talina‘s quarters, she knew that something wasn‘t right. She eyed him suspiciously, as he went down one of the ship‘s seemingly endless corridors. She didn‘t know - yet - how he had managed to beam, onboard this ship, but suspected Jera‘s, the nekekami‘s, hand in this. Apparently the two units, Rabid Fox and the Spirit Cats, were bonding, something which Sela observed with growing unrest.
When she had entered the room, Sela was somewhat surprised to find Talina kneeling on the floor, in front of a grand window. The entire room was dark, the only light coming from a handful of candles. When her eyes had accustomed to the darkness, Sela saw that the other woman was clad in a ceremonial white kimono, and apparently meditating, oblivious to her presence. She heard the young woman chant, in a long-forgotten language.
Sela coughed, and the chanting stopped.
‚Duì-bu-qui Sang-Jian-Jun Sela,‘ Talina apologized. ‚Forgive me, I had not noticed your arrival.‘
Sela saw her own reflection in the window, and smiled. ‚Qui. That much is obvious. It is I who should apologize, for intruding in your chamber.‘ She nodded. ‚Though, I must say, I am surprised to find you in mourning.
Is your family alright?‘
Talina straightened. ‚My family is well, thank you Jian-Jun. I mourn the loss of a very good friend.‘
‚I don‘t suspect it has anything to do with the human, Ryan, being here?‘ Talina spun around as if she had been struck, and for the first time, Sela noted the tears in her face. ‚So it does have something to do with the human, has it?‘
As the younger woman tried to protest, Sela stopped her with a wave of her hand.
‚Don‘t bother,‘ she said. ‚Did you really think your little liason with the human would go unnoticed? I know you and your equals have no respect for the Tal Shiar, but we aren‘t that blind.‘ Talina lowered her head, but didn‘t reply.
Sela looked down at the woman, and her expression softened somewhat. ‚Talina.‘ Sela let her voice drop to a whisper, and tried to put as much warmth into the name as she could. ‚Look at me. My own mother was a human. I know them. They have their mistakes, they are weak, but they also are special. Both our races have more in common than those old, xenophobic fools of the senate realize. Both our races can be compassionate, but also ruthless. Both, we are capable of love and mercy, but also of extraordinary cruelty. Granted, they tend to complicate things unnecessary, but I don‘t hate them for that. They intrigue me, much in the same way that guinea-pigs intrigue scientists. Of course, I‘d never admit that to anyone. And if you did, I should have to kill you.‘ The colonel kneeled down in front of Talina and grasped her shoulders.
‚I didn‘t know Malenkov, and I doubt that I‘d have approved much of
your relationship, or even liked him, but as your kin, I am saddened
by your loss.‘
So saddened, in fact, that I will graciously oversee what you have done here. Sela let her eyes wander disdainfully over the room. The Cult of Varesh is forbidden, you know that as well as I do, and death would be the appropriate punishment for your crime. Though I doubt the Tal Shiar would be able to get at you. She looked at Talina. And you know that, too. The nekekami definetively are getting too powerful. They have forced this cooperation with the humans on us, and for that alone they shall have to pay.
‚Now,‘ Sela said after a while. ‚What did Ryan want?‘
As the data-crytal was inserted into the tricorder, the banner of the Federation appeared on a computer display on the opposite wall. The password was entered, and the logo was repaced by the image of Ian Malenkov. He was holding a PADD, the shirt of his uniformed unbuttoned, and rubbing his eyes tiredly. He looked up at the camera briefly, then back at his PADD. ‚Sergej‘s mission was succesfull. He returned from....‘ There was a brief pause as the computer blended out a part of the log entry classified as secret. ‚...last Tuesday. Intel Reports keep coming in from --------- and everything seems to be running smoothly. If that keeps on we‘ll be able to retire Eva from her assignment ahead of schedule.‘ He tossed the PADD aside, and leaned forward, burying his face in his hands.
‚I just got a report that they caught Adams while he was trying to get some information out. Chances are that he‘ll be tried for high treason and executed. Of course, he won‘t let that happen. The report got in yesterday. I suppose that he‘s done it by now. That leaves me with only one operative in ----------. He won‘t be of much help of course. But for now I have decided for him to remain in position. It‘s just as dad always used to say : If you‘re falling of a cliff, you might just as well try to fly. You‘ve got nothing to lose.‘
He paused a moment, and supported his head with his right hand. ‚In a way...I feel the same way about Talina. I know it‘s ridiculous...I mean I fought Romulans. I killed Romulans. I saw good friends die, from Romulan hands. I should hate them all, and I should hate her. But I can‘t. As much as I try I can‘t hate her. When I am with her, it‘s jut like falling off a cliff...and yet...when I look into her eyes, I sometimes let myself think maybe....maybe, I really can fly.‘ His image on the screen froze.
A slender hand reached out and touched the screen, where his mouth would have been.
In Enterprise‘s Main Shuttle Bay, Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge knelt beside a pile of debris, running his tricorder over each of them. All throughout the room, other, larger, chunks of the Baruni, the shuttlecraft that exploded three days ago, taking with it its only passenger, some Ian Malenkov, of the StarFleet Security Branch. Geordi and his team of engineers had already run the usual series of tests, to determinate the cause of the accident. All they knew was that the antimatter-shielding went down, causing a massive explosion in the craft‘s reactor. But yet they had no clue whatsoever as to what caused the shielding to break down, in the first place. Geordi stood up and turned around, when he heard the bay‘s large doors open. He knew who had entered, even before he saw Jean-Luc Picard and Will Riker walking towards him. The bald Captain walked up to Geordi, glancing at the various debris that bordered his path. Geordi nodded at both of them. ‚Sir.‘
‚Mr. LaForge,‘ the Captain said, ‚I understand you have found something?‘ ‚Yes, sir.‘ Geordi led them over to the large computer panel that stood next to the door, and activated it. After he had touched some glyphs, an alien script appeared on the display. It read:
Elen Sila lumemn omentielvo
Cuyo mellon! Na sila galad Sihaya
And below it was the computer‘s translation into Federation Standard:
A star has shone upon the hour of our meeting.
Farewell, friend! Never forget, Sihaya.
‚The Computer has identified it as Romulan, sir,‘ Geordi said. ‚From what we learned of the BlackBox, it was sent to the shuttle shortly before the explosion.‘
Riker frowned. ‚Sabotage?‘
‚It looks like it, sir. It could be some sort of code, which triggered the explosion. I‘ll have the computer thoroughly checked, as soon as we have fixed Data.‘
Picard looked up thoughtfully. ‚How is Mr. Data?‘ ‚Well sir, the Cardassians almost ruined his processors. They weren‘t exactly careful on their search for information. But I think we‘ll have him ready by tomorrow. Almost certainly there will be no long-term damage.‘ Picard nodded, then looked up and tugged at his uniform. ‚Very well,‘ he said, turning to leave. ‚Keep me informed.‘