Season 2, Episode 10:
While on an errand of mercy on Betazed after it's liberation from Dominion occupation, Doctor Aurellan Markalis learns a devastating secret about one of her colleagues.
While the USS Lambda Paz is under repair, Shinar sh'Aqba dreads the possible consequences of breaking Andorian mating taboos while also having dishonored Klingon marital tradition; and Mandel Morrison is uncertain what to make of Sara Carson's new romantic partnership while struggling to define his relationship with Lisa Neeley.
Deep Space Nine, Expanded Universes Characters:
Ensemble Cast - USS Lambda Paz, Kozar, Ronnie, Markalis, Aurellan, Morrison, Mandel, Sullivan, Rebecca, Vircona, Limis
Action/Adventure, Drama, Friendship, RomanceWarnings:
Adult Language, Adult Situations, Graphic Het, Violence
Star Trek: Lambda Paz
01 Mar 2012 Updated:
06 Mar 2012
I admit that I wound up backing myself into corner introducing the premise of finding a cure to the Changeling virus in the guise of curing a Dominion-engineered plague that quickly, but read on to find out what that's about...
1. Prologue by Enterprise1981
2. Chapter 1 by Enterprise1981
3. Chapter 2 by Enterprise1981
4. Chapter 3 by Enterprise1981
5. Chapter 4 by Enterprise1981
6. Chapter 5 by Enterprise1981
7. Chapter 6 by Enterprise1981
8. Epilogue by Enterprise1981
Prologue by Enterprise1981
Personal log, Doctor Aurellan Markalis, stardate 52497.4: This is the third week that the USS Semmelweis has been in orbit of Betazed providing medical assistance since the planet was liberated from Dominion occupation. These last two weeks have been more like a working vacation devoted mostly to cleaning up the mess left behind by the Dominion. At least we’re not under heavy fire. We can leave the last remaining stragglers to the warships…knock on wood.
It was a busy day in Triage Center Four aboard the USS Semmelweis. The center was far more spacious than the primary intensive care units in a starship’s sickbay. The area devoted to the more critical cases was almost a separate room from the area where patients just entering the care ward.
Aurellan Markalis scanned a human male patient who had a massive burn on his chest and most of his abdomen. She had already administered painkillers and topical antibiotics and was now employing a tricorder and various other instruments to assure that this plasma burn did not damage any internal organs.
“I’m conscious, ain’t I?” he jokingly asked. His personnel file identified him as Starfleet Marine Sergeant Jack Gibbs, a man of early middle age. His head was fully shaved, with stubble indicating he had gone bald some years ago. “If any of my organs were damaged, I’d probably be sprawled on the deck gasping for air.”
“We can never be too careful,” Aurellan calmly retorted. Gibbs began coughing profusely, prompting her to add, “That just made my point.”
“Major Parker warned us of the risks,” Jack remarked. “But it was well worth the risk considering we incinerated five columns of Jemmies when we ignited that fusion core. And while I may not share their belief in any kind of gods, I have to think there is one and you’re one of his angels.”
Aurellan just gave a light grin before quickly diverting her gaze from the patient as she sorted through a few different devices on the instrument tray. She was very often a target of casual flirting from various male patients. Even knowing to maintain a certain professional distance from even those patients, such compliments were highly uncomfortable for her. She applied a hypospray to counter the damage to his lungs while trying to avoid making eye contact with him.
She almost welcomed seeing Commander Ziminske Aris and Lieutenant Commander Chi’lek entering the ward with two more seriously injured patients with two additional doctors right behind them with a patient on a gurney. It was all she could hope for in order to get away from who was, despite his recent injuries, one of the most attractive men she had ever seen.
“Apply a dermal regenerator to those burns,” Aurellan instructed a young female Vulcan nurse. In a hushed tone, she added, “And don’t worry if there’s still scarring on his pecs.”
The Vulcan woman raised an eyebrow in confusion, but quickly attended to the patient once she was given the needed medical instrument.
“Markalis,” Ziminske shouted, “We need a crash cart, stat! Betazoid male with severe subdural hematoma. Hunt, Wilson, we need a burn unit on these two.” The blonde Bajoran woman then gestured to two Starfleet doctors attending to less serious patients lend a hand with her patient and Chi’lek’s. Ziminske had a human male’s right arm draped around her shoulders. His lower right leg was completely limp while he collapsed under the weight of his good left leg. Chi’lek, a middle-aged Vulcan male, was coaxing an Andorian male who had burns on his face onto a biobed.
“Geiger, Lockhart,” Ziminske barked to the doctors, a human male and a human female, attending to the patient on the gurney. “Needless to say, keep the hemorrhaging under control. Markalis, you what to do, monitor his neural readouts while keeping the blood pressure at a manageable level.”
Aurellan said nothing. She just nodded and continued setting up the portable EKG monitor and fumbling around with a blood-gas infuser. Geiger snatched the device before it fell to the floor. “You don’t have to do all of it yourself,” he assured her, knowing of her tendency to assume unrealistically singular responsibilities.
During a break in treating wounded soldiers, Ziminske entered her office for some quiet time. It would probably only be five minutes, but she needed it to be time well spent for the second-in-command and medical team leader of the USS Semmelweis. She walked over to the replicator-- seemingly oblivious to the usually transparent barrier separating the office from the main triage center covered by retractable screens or that the back of her desk chair was facing the door-- and ordered a glass of tonic water. She was also unfazed by the shadow that was cast on the wall in front of her at the same moment her chair swiveled in her direction.
“Cole,” she said without having to see the statuesque blond-haired man sitting in her chair. She sipped her beverage and turned around to face her Section 31 handler. “I was wondering when you’d get here.”
“Good to see you, too, Miss Huberstock,” Cole acerbically replied. Seeing her maintain her professional demeanor, Cole smirked and decided to get right to the point. “How are you progressing on a cure for the virus?”
“It’s very slow going,” Ziminske replied with a frustrated shake of her head. “It’s a very tricky virus you guys engineered. Even with the resources available on this ship, developing a cure is not something I can do myself. I need to bring in others.”
Cole sighed. “Can you promise that your staff will be none the wiser?” he impatiently asked. “Especially Markalis. We don’t want to risk bringing her into this, even if she is our pupil.”
“You have my complete assurances, sir.”
“Good. I don’t want to have to bail you out again.” He set a padd that he had been cradling in the chair onto the desk. “Do what you have to do,” he added, “short of letting your staff in on what you’re really up to.”
He swung the chair around until the back was once again turned in Ziminske’s direction. She slowly paced over to the desk to look at the padd that he left. She lifted it with both hands, but her concentration was thrown by the now unoccupied. Cole was gone even though she had neither seen him walk out nor heard him beam out.
The heading on the padd read, “Operation: Biological Warfare Counter.” Below that was a subheading that read, “Proceed with caution in devising and administering counteragent to Changeling morphogenic virus.”
The opening scene uses the surnames of characters on various medical dramas: Geiger ("Chicago Hope"), Lockhart ("ER"), Wilson ("House"), and Hunt ("Grey's Anatomy").
The name Jack Gibbs is a blending Mark Harmon's characters on "Chicago Hope" and "NCIS".
Chapter 1 by Enterprise1981
An alarm sounded, getting the attention of Markalis and two of the nurses.
The unconscious patient Aurellan had been attending to just a few short minutes ago was beginning to seize. His head bobbed back and forth as he was grunting in pain. Aurellan manically entered commands on the biobed monitor in order to assess his present brain activity. She gazed in horror seeing on the display that neurons were firing at random and various blood vessels were in hyper-drive. “Oh, hell,” she gasped. “He’s hemorrhaging all over the place. I need two CC’s of nitrophorozine!”
The human female intern who had been monitoring the patient obligingly sprinted over to the nearest medicine cart. She nervously fumbled with the hyposprays while locating the requested drug. She jammed the vial into the bottom end of the hypo and Aurellan impatiently snatched it from her hands.
Aurellan injected small doses of nitrophorozine in varying increments throughout the patient’s neck and head depending on the severity of each hemorrhage. She also activated a laser device in order to counter increases in blood pressure. The two nurses, a Vulcan female and a Ktarian male, were beside themselves watching Aurellan try to take up saving this patient on her own.
“Some of them have stopped,” she told the nurses, “but others keep popping up. Damn it! Four CC’s thiazine.”
“He’s already been given more than he can normally handle,” the Ktarian nurse insisted.
“He’ll be dead a lot faster if we don’t stop these hemorrhages,” Aurellan shot back. “Thiazine, now!”
Without another word, the Vulcan nurse handed her a hypospray loaded with the set amount of thiazine. But before Aurellan could administer the treatment, the cardiac readings flat-lined. “To hell with that,” she snapped. “He’s in cardiac arrest. Cardio-stimulator!”
The human intern handed Aurellan the device use to stimulate heart function. Aurellan then ripped open the patient’s gray undershirt to expose more of his chest and attached the stimulator. “Clear,” she called before applying electrical stimulation to the non-functioning heart muscle. The readings were the same. She tried it five more times, applying the stimulator with increased vigor each time, but it made no difference.
“Doctor Markalis!” the younger human woman shouted as Aurellan was about to try yet again.
Aurellan sighed, swallowed her pride, and decided to call it. “Time of death, 1418 from rampant cerebral hemorrhaging and cardiac failure,” she said numbly. She then flung an empty hypospray to the floor to vent her anger at this latest failure. “Bollocks,” she sneered at no one in particular.
His breathing became slow and labored. His wrists and forearms were wrapped around her shoulders. The muscles in his face tensed, and his grip on her tightened.
Her lips and cheeks locked up as she felt his breath on her neck and waves of euphoria across her body from her chest downwards. She rubbed her hands across his stout shoulders and down his muscular arms. She slowly leaned backwards, landing softly on her back, while he leaned forward on top of her.
Mandel Morrison rolled over on his back, breathing contentedly. His bare chest was drenched in sweat. He stroked a strand of Lisa Neeley’s red hair and smirked as he stared at the beads of sweat trickling down her shoulders and her chest.
“Amazing as usual,” Lisa moaned pleasurably, holding the sheet up to her shoulders. She took a few moments to catch her breath, and then lunged out of bed, sorting through undergarments scattered about the floor. “I have a battle drill that I’m going to be late to,” she remarked as she slipped on her bra and panties. She then gathered up various articles of clothing on the floor and flung them towards Mandel saying, “You’re in my quarters, and that means get dressed and get the hell out of here.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Mandel deadpanned. He sorted through the pile of garments while he was reminded of another woman who said that to him after a moment of carnal bliss.
A trail of garments, including two Starfleet uniforms, was spread haphazardly on the floor of the living area and bedroom of a set of crew quarters. Two sets of women’s undergarments hung from the foot of the bed as Sara and Rebecca held each other in their arms, a cotton blanket draped up to their shoulders over their naked bodies.
Sara rolled over on her back with a look of both confusion and elation in her eyes. She looked at Rebecca and took slow and deep breaths as she rolled away some of her half of the blanket to reveal beads of sweat on her shoulders and chest. Both of them were at a loss for words as they stared up at the ceiling.
“Some shore leave,” Sara remarked. “Even if guest quarters on a starbase are not exactly what I had in mind.”
“At least we won’t have to worry about any interruptions,” Rebecca replied with a chuckle. “Unless the Jemmies plan another sneak attack on the starbase.”
“I’m sure they can take a few days off,” Sara retorted while stroking Rebecca’s dark hair with her left hand and clasping Rebecca’s right hand with her right hand. “A few days won’t make a difference between who wins or loses.”
“Doubtful,” said Rebecca as she angled her head towards Sara’s and planted a few soft kisses along her cheeks. “But we should still savor these moments for as long as we can.”
Sara rolled over on her left side, letting her eyes meet Rebecca’s and they kissed each other on the lips. “What does your day look like?” she asked while Rebecca’s kisses moved down the side of her chin and along her neck.
“Replacing some of the linear memory crystals and overhauling the ODN relays,” Rebecca said between kisses. “Just another day of getting the ship battle ready again. You?”
“Rebuilding the deflector assembly, recalibrating the navigational array,” Sara replied with a grin reacting to Rebecca’s lips along her bare shoulder. “Rather mundane.”
“I can live with mundane for a while,” Rebecca quipped, stroking strands of Sara’s still sweat moistened hair.
Sara caught a glimpse at the clock on the nightstand while stroking the contours of Rebecca’s left cheekbone and clamping her lips on Rebecca’s upper lip. “I don’t want to keep you from your mundane duties.”
“Is it 0800 already?” Rebecca jokingly asked, as her lips met Sara’s.
“0747 to be precise,” Sara corrected.
“Don’t do that,” Rebecca sighed in reference to Sara’s sometimes annoying need for precise verbal expression, among other rigid mindsets. She nudged Sara’s shoulder for that.
Rebecca slowly rolled away from Sara and towards the edge of the bed. She threw the bed covers aside and arched herself upward into a standing position. Since she was heading for the shower, she didn’t bother to cover herself, and so just casually strutted naked towards the bathroom.
Sara, meanwhile, sat up on the bed, making sure the blanket still covered much of the front of her body. She wrapped the blanket around her back while separating her undergarments from Rebecca’s. After untangling two black strapless braziers, she set one aside, slipped the other underneath the blanket, and hooked it on her chest. She then grabbed one of two pairs of panties and slid them up her legs. It seemed ridiculous to be this discrete in dressing herself, especially around someone who had seen her naked. She never put much thought into stripping off all her clothes or to Rebecca taking off all hers in the heat of passionate bliss. Now that it was over, Sara again had this irrational fear of being seen naked and of seeing other people naked.
“Assuming we could get away for a few days,” Rebecca called from the bathroom after she set the shower to dispense water. She walked over to the doorway--unfettered by her complete nakedness--and saw Sara in nothing but bra and panties gathering up her uniform. “I thought we could go to Betazed; check out the real Janaran Falls.”
“Isn’t Betazed still under some kind of medical quarantine?” Sara rhetorically asked, acting as if she was still gathering up the rest of her clothes, hoping to avoid eye contact with her lover.
“Good point,” Rebecca replied, heading back for the shower.
Mandel Morrison paced down a corridor of Starbase G-6 when he saw Sara Carson exit one of the crew quarters just as he turned a corner. This was the last place he'd expect to see her, as her temporary guest quarters were not in this section of the station. He backed away slowly. The two former lovers kept a united front on the bridge during the alpha shift, but other chance encounters were still awkward.
He froze upon seeing Rebecca Sullivan exit the quarters. The two women exchanged long, soulful gazes while clasping each other's hands. Sara used to look at him that way. Mandel may have been a little jealous seeing Sara with a man, but the idea that she was now romantically involved with another woman excited him.
"Well, I don't want to be late for my shift," Rebecca murmured.
"Bye," Sara replied gleefully. She was letting her partner walk away when she saw Morrison peering from the adjacent corridor. She grabbed Rebecca's shoulders and kissed her on the lips. In the midst of that, she opened her eyes and glared in Mandel’s direction.
He immediately got the message and headed back the way he came. Once he was gone, Sara pulled away and giggled playfully. She waved goodbye to Rebecca again and skipped off on an emotional high she hadn’t been on in years.
After the ordeal in the intensive care unit, Aurellan was staring out of a viewport alone with her thoughts. It was all she could do to calm herself from her latest failure. At least she would not have to face any of the deceased’s relatives and tell them he was dead. No, that was of little consolation. Official messengers were tasked with traveling to the home of his next of kin, if he had a next of kin. But she had his life in her hands, yet came up empty.
Commander Ziminske slowly walked towards Aurellan, making her presence known by the reflection cast on the transparent aluminum surface, letting Aurellan know that this was not a formal visit, while not startling her at the same time. “I heard what happened back in ICU-Three,” she calmly began.
“I know, I know,” Aurellan said with an embarrassed sigh. “I cannot save every patient. But I can try.”
“Yes, you can,” Ziminske assured her. “But you shouldn’t punish yourself for every patient’s death.”
Aurellan gave a remorseful nod, hoping to shake off the remaining embarrassment at her performance. “It’s all part of maintaining a professional distance,” she said, repeating another platitude she heard over and over since the first day of medical school. “On an intellectual level, that makes sense.”
“But it can still be emotionally wearing on all of us,” Ziminske finished.
“Exactly. When Neeley almost died, I could tell how devastated Morrison was. Their relationship is just coitus and nothing else, but during that minute when she actually was dead, he may have realized his feelings were a lot stronger.”
“You’ve been carrying a heavy weight on your shoulders these last few weeks, Aurellan. That much is evident when you foolishly chose to infect yourself with a Dominion-engineered pathogen.”
Aurellan chuckled. It was something she could look back on and laugh now that a cure had been devised for genetically altered strains of cholera and bubonic plague. The Dominion had engineered the bacteria to resist standard antibiotic treatments and even alter their chemical structure to worsen symptoms. Those not faced with suffering on such a grand scale would have called it a brilliant method of deterring any uprisings on Betazed. Aurellan even infected herself with one of the samples to get a better understanding of differing immune responses. In retrospect, it was a foolish decision, but she could now laugh at herself now that an effective retrovirus had been devised.
“I have a new project I wish to include you in,” Ziminske continued. “But first, I want you to take the next three hours off. What you do with that time is up to you.”
“You may need me with all the new patients coming in,” Aurellan insisted.
“That’s an order, Lieutenant,” Ziminske sternly replied, anticipating the exchange of words that would have happened had she not put her proverbial foot down then and there. “And I better not catch you in any of the labs until 1730 hours,” she added with a friendly smile.
Aurellan turned her head to face the commander and gave a barely noticeable smirk. “Yes, ma’am,” she conceded. And with that, she sauntered away and headed for her quarters.
Chapter 2 by Enterprise1981
Erhlich Tarlazzi manned a console in front of the warp core monitoring the stability of the flow of matter and antimatter. Shinar sh’Aqba, meanwhile, sat at a nearby situation console browsing an assignment padd. She seemed emotionally withdrawn and disinterested in everything that was happening around her. She handed a Tellarite male ensign the assignment padd with her approval while she massaged the right side of her neck, something that appeared to be just a stress related muscle strain.
“We’ve fixed that problem with the antimatter regulators,” Tarlazzi eagerly reported. “We’re ready to engage the warp drive on a few test runs.”
“Proceed,” sh’Aqba replied, rolling her head while continuing to gently rub her neck as if all these repairs and maintenance schedules were just something to have over and done with.
The warp core quickly hummed to life with matter and anti-matter flowing through it. But before anyone could gather significant data on warp field stability, the core shut down again.
“What now?” sh’Aqba huffed. She leaned over her console to double-check the matter and antimatter calibrations. Almost as if she was never in an indifferent mood just a few minutes earlier, she trudged over to Tarlazzi’s console, nearly nudging him aside.
“It could be either a dilithium circuit burnout,” Tarlazzi replied, “or one of the flow regulators. We’ll need to send maintenance teams to get a closer look.”
“Fine,” sh’Aqba huffed, feeling more pain on her neck. Nursing the presently unseen wound, she muttered, “Take care of it. I need to get to phaser maintenance.”
“Cruz, Larkin,” Tarlazzi called to two engineers. “get a look at the flow regulators on Deck Nineteen. I’ll join you shortly.” After seeing them off, he slowly approached sh’Aqba, who was on her way to the main entrance with a tool kit in tow. “Lieutenant sh’Aqba, is everything okay?”
“Everything’s fine, Mister Tarlazzi,” she insisted, setting down the toolkit while continuing to look away from Erhlich. “I had a wonderful two weeks on Risa. Now I’m glad to be back at work.”
“Okay,” Tarlazzi replied as if he didn’t buy her claim that nothing was bothering her, “but you haven’t been doing your job with the same level of enthusiasm.”
“Which one of us is the superior officer?” sh’Aqba rhetorically asked, resisting the urge to use more forceful language with him.
“We have the same rank.”
Sh’Aqba sighed, not at all amused by his usual witticisms when a conversation became heated. “I have seniority by about five years,” she replied with a disarming angry stare. “And I would thank you to stay out of my business.” And with that, she whisked up the toolkit and stormed out of the room.
Mandel Morrison sat in the command chair on the bridge of the Lambda Paz observing repairs and taking reports from various bridge officers and maintenance technicians. He signed off on a weapon calibration request and handed a padd to a male Benzite ensign while he observed Sara Carson walk from the helm to the starboard mission ops station.
His attention to her was then diverted when Lieutenant Willis Huckaby handed him a padd containing a new power calibration subroutine. He signed the padd and gave it back to Huckaby. His eyebrows perked up when Sara headed towards him with a padd in hand. Mandel silently studied the padd, while Sara looked around the bridge trying to avoid any kind of conversation.
The silence became more and more awkward, even if Sara wanted to say as little words as possible with her former romantic partner. And Mandel wanted to broach the subject of Sara’s newest partner. He was playing out two different scenarios in his mind--one where she was willing to share a few details and one where she quickly dodged the subject. With each passing second, Mandel was anticipating the latter.
"I didn't know you swung from that side," he matter-of-factly stated.
Sara shook her head in disgust, once again reminded that Mandel had gotten a perverse pleasure about her romantic affiliation with a woman. "Why do people still use that metaphor when baseball died out over two hundred years ago?” she wondered aloud. “I didn't either. But there's something about Becca.... I sort of envy her ability to not be so uptight."
Mandel smiled, reminded that she found those qualities in him rather endearing. That elicited Sara to shake her head in realization of whom she was talking to. "Why is this any of your business?" she asked rhetorically.
"It's not," Morrison replied. "It's just that if I had known then..."
Sara groaned and snatched the padd from Mandel’s hand and walked back to the helm. That was all she could do to keep from slugging him square in his left jaw.
A team of doctors was gathered in one of the research labs on the Semmelweis. Aurellan Markalis and David Geiger were among the Starfleet doctors present in the lab when Commander Ziminske presented a set of sample pathogens. Several civilian doctors were also present, dressed in light blue surgical scrubs. Three of the civilian doctors were xenopathology specialists wearing white medical smocks bearing the logo of Starfleet Medical, while the others were interns and residents seeking to further their professional development.
“A Special Ops strike team on Betazed stumbled on a biogenic weapons lab,” Ziminske explained, indicating capsules of the collected virus samples on a display screen. “These viruses are still in the experimental stages. But for all we know, they are still being developed in other locations behind enemy lines.”
“It’s quite a serendipitous intelligence find,” Aurellan remarked flatly. “So I guess the assignment is to develop a cure.
“Not to put any pressure,” Ziminske retorted. “Needless to say, developing cures and vaccines for Dominion bioweapons is no easy task. But you all have the resolve and determination to seek a solution to this difficult puzzle. I wish you all luck. And god speed.” She then exited the lab, leaving Markalis and Geiger to delegate the tasks for this difficult assignment.
Throughout the next day, the doctors ran various examinations of the virus samples without taking meal breaks. Every once in a while, someone dropped by with appetizers and beverages. The first phase involved assessing the genetic structure of the viruses compared to notes already gathered on the virus. Further examination involved infecting the blood samples to learn how the antibodies responded.
Markalis and Geiger concentrated on tests of retroviral agents, subjecting the virus samples to various forms of radiation, interferon refinement, and anti-viral nucleoside analogues. Early in the evening, when a human crewman delivered mugs of coffee, Aurellan dropped her head down on the edge of the table in frustration at having gotten nowhere.
“Even for a Dominion bioweapon,” Geiger remarked while peering through a microscope, “this virus has one of the most complex genetic structures.
“Almost as if the virus itself has its own immune system.” Aurellan retorted while studying a sample through another microscope.
“Now that would be a strange notion,” Geiger chuckled as he applied a refined anti-viral agent into a petri dish.
“Maybe not,” Aurellan mused, looking up from her microscope. “Think about it,” she continued, pacing back and forth in front of her microscope station. “This is a virus that can adapt to almost anything used to try to kill it. And I mean faster than any known virus with trans-sequential amino acid properties or any other characteristics that allow a virus to evade natural immune responses and conventional anti-viral agents.
She felt an internal sense of triumph, but kept it to herself knowing this was nothing more than an unproven hypothesis. She still wanted to curse Ziminske for her subtle method of steering her in the right direction. Ziminske had conceived of a method of combating artificially mutated bacteria that caused normally treatable diseases. Aurellan wasn’t sure if Ziminske hadn’t purposely withheld improved treatments until Aurellan had conceived of them. Ziminske never specifically confirmed or denied that belief, not that Aurellan ever suggested it directly. Ziminske had claimed to be helping her think outside the box in terms developing these kinds of antigens. But hopefully, even a Section 31 doctor would have the sense to distribute the medicines once they were developed.
“But what you’re talking about isn’t possible in single-celled organisms,” Doctor Pral, a male Denobulan intern chimed in.
“Based on our understanding of disease causing pathogens,” Aurellan replied. “Even if initial attempts to destroy a virus are unsuccessful, we can still learn about its unique properties and develop a way to at least slow it down with enzyme inhibitors. Let’s run through every agent we’ve tried so far. This time, we’ll more closely scrutinize processes involved in this virus’s survival.”
“We’ve already been at this for twelve hours,” said Nora Reed, a human female intern. “And you want us to start over?”
“I might be on to something,” Aurellan excitedly stated. “We need to find out if my hypothesis is correct.”
Nora rolled her eyes and threw up her hands in disbelief, but that didn’t seem to matter to Aurellan, who began manically gathering up the padds where she had made notes.
The research on this virus continued throughout the night. Some of the interns and residents were anxious to turn in, but Aurellan kept them working almost as if any sense of empathy was switched off.
“I’ll be damned,” she remarked while studying a sample. This thing also contains neurotropic properties, allowing some of it to bypass the immune system.” But then seeing that no one seemed interested, she said nothing else and turned back to her microscope.
“These particles are indeed similar in protein structure to antibodies,” Geiger remarked while analyzing computer readouts.
“That’s a start,” Aurellan replied while reminding herself not to get too excited. “Now we need to beat this thing at its own game.”
The time was 0307, and some of the interns had keeled over and fallen asleep. Others had gone over Aurellan’s head and were allowed to get a few hours of sleep. However, the veteran doctors and medical researchers, plus a few of the interns still awake, were still going strong, determined to solve this challenging puzzle. Ziminske had allowed them to continue, including Aurellan Markalis.
Less than an hour later, Aurellan snapped her fingers in triumph. “Radodine, lidestolinine, asporanine, adenine,” she gasped. “That's it!”
While she and other doctors began synthesizing antigens based on those chemicals, a passing researcher accidentally dropped one of the blood samples. That caught Aurellan’s attention when she heard the vial housing dark blue Bolian blood break on the floor.
“Put that vial in the disposal unit,” she calmly instructed the nervous human male.
With a quick glance at the blood that fell on the floor, Aurellan thought something seemed odd about this tiny drop of blood. Kneeling down, she could tell that this substance seemed thicker than blood. “I want to get a sample of this before we sterilize,” she told a technician towering over her.
Geiger curiously walked over to the table where Aurellan was taking preliminary scans of the blood sample in a petri dish. Her expression was one of increased confusion as she consulted the readings appearing on the medical tricorder while holding a hand sensor to the dish. “I’m reading foreign chemicals in this blood sample,” she remarked, “as if to dilute it, but not so much that we wouldn’t be able use sample viruses and counter-agents on it. How strange. Get me a few more vials.”
“Another hunch?” Geiger asked.
“We’re scientists, Geiger. The word you mean to use is hypothesis.”
“Pardon me,” Geiger sarcastically scoffed.
All kinds of thoughts were racing through Aurellan’s mind as she examined additional blood samples. Perhaps Section 31 set up this “project” as a cover for more sinister activities. But then the question was why 31 would resort to misleading Aurellan after she had learned of one of their experiments in biological warfare.
“This isn’t humanoid blood,” she soon concluded. “It’s Changeling protoplasm.”
Chapter 3 by Enterprise1981
“So all this time, we’ve been working on a cure for a disease that affects shapeshifters?”
Aurellan was a bit taken aback by Geiger’s derogatory term for Changelings and by his tone indicating opposition to treating a disease that afflicted an enemy.
“But Ziminske said these virus samples were found in a Dominion biogenics lab,” Nora cut in before Aurellan could speak. “Why would she lie about a thing like that?”
“Maybe she didn’t,” offered Pral. “She could have been misinformed as to where these samples came from.”
“But what about the fake blood samples?” Geiger added. “She had to have helped smuggle them aboard.”
“We don’t know anything just yet,” Aurellan insisted, trying to put on her best poker face. She had her own suspicions about where this Changeling disease came from after her recent dealings with Section 31, but didn’t want her colleagues to know about them. She kept her gaze on her subordinates, but made sure it was not so firm that she appeared to be assessing whether they believed her lie. “I will speak to the commander myself later in the morning. In the meantime, you are not to discuss these findings with anyone, not even with the rest of the medical staff. Understood?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the three others replied at varying tones and pitches.
During a break in arduous repair schedules, Tarlazzi stopped by one of the crew lounges for a quick meal. He ordered a sandwich, that resembled grilled cheese but with various spices, from his native Rigel Seven and a mug of lukewarm tea. He looked around the crowded lounge, looking for an empty seat. He was about to take the empty seat on a sofa next to an human male engineering technician he didn’t recognize when he saw sh’Aqba on the other side of the lounge blankly staring out a viewport.
Erhlich slowly approached her table as he remembered that this was the same place where Shinar poured her heart out to him while in a drunken stooper about a month ago. While she normally kept to herself, even threatening to break the Emergency Medical Hologram’s “holographic neck”, she had confessed to having had a sexual liaison with a Klingon, hence forsaking her betrothal to her bondmates. Of course, back then, the room was dark and no one was else was around. But now, she was not consuming any alcoholic beverages. In fact, there was food or drinks on the table.
“At least you’re not getting drunk on the job,” he remarked as he seated himself across the table from Shinar and took a sip of his beverage.
“You’re on thin ice, Mister Tarlazzi,” Shinar hissed, as if still oblivious to his physical presence on the other side of the table, “Very thin ice.”
“What are you going to do?” Erhlich retorted, taking a bite from his sandwich. “Break my neck? You can’t use the shel’laat as an excuse this time.”
“Excuse me?!” Shinar defensively asked, wincing from another flash of pain in her neck.
“Shel’laat subsides after the shel’treth or on its own after about a month.”
Sh’Aqba snorted derisively, not sure how to react to her colleague’s knowledge of Andorian mating practices, especially after her request that he stay out of her business. “I should both admire your curiosity and pummel you for prying into my affairs,” she said with a roll of her eyes.
Tarlazzi grinned, but chose not to back down. In the next few moments, he would know whether or not persistence was futile. “Since you got back from Risa, you’ve seemed a lot more withdrawn,” he said, “and that’s saying something considering you already keep to yourself a lot. And isn’t the point of a vacation is to unwind? You seem like you could use a friend. But if you don’t want to talk about it to me or even to a counselor, that’s up to you.”
He got up to leave and finish his meal somewhere else, when sh’Aqba spoke. The words flowed from her as if she was in some kind of meditative trance and was unaware of the identity of the person standing next to her. I don’t know if I can face him,” she lamented.
“Face who?” Tarlazzi asked, even though he knew she was referring to Commander Karlek.
“I’d rather tell you about that in a more private setting. And if you tell anyone, I will snap your neck.”
“You all just heard her threaten me, didn’t you?” Erhlich jokingly asked the crowd of people in the lounge as he was making a beeline for the door.
Sh’Aqba flashed a disarming stare at him, but made no threatening moves as she followed him out of the lounge.
One Month Earlier
After a party celebrating the latest victory in the Kalandra Campaign, where the Lambda Paz and other Starfleet ships saved Starbase G-6 from an attack by a formidable Dominion heavy cruiser, Karlek invited sh’Aqba to a celebratory sparring match in his quarters as a tribute to their personal victory. While the Lambda Paz was in battle against enemy forces, the two of them were trapped in a cargo bay with life support quickly failing. No repair crews could be spared, so they had to improvise an escape before they either ran out of air or froze to death. Because they were engaging in symbolic combat, they had sparred using bladeless plastic swords.
Afterwards, Shinar still felt her hormones racing as a result of the Andorian mating cycle known as the shel’laat. She had still refused to take a leave of absence in order to perform the shel’treth with her bondmates, three people whom she barely knew very well, but to whom she was betrothed since her youth. In order to get more of a blood rush, Shinar felt she needed more genuine combat.
She grabbed a genuine sharp metal bat’leth from among those adorning the walls of Karlek’s executive suite aboard the IKS Tigoth, and wielded it in the commander’s direction. “MoVas ah-kee rustak,” she proclaimed.
Karlek was beside himself with confusion, not sure if the Andorian woman was actually propositioning him.” Wait,” he said, “are you actually… ?”
“MoVas ah-kee rustak,” she repeated.
Karlek took a few moments to consider Shinar’s words before whisking a second bat’leth off the wall. “Kosh tomah ehpaq Lukara kaVeir,” he growled, swinging the sword towards her.
“Ish-tovee chuCH thling nuq?”
“Meklo boH ka Mech.”
“Te-doQ roos ka Mech-TOH.”
The two swords clanged together. Shinar was able to dodge several swings from Karlek and banged her sword against his three more times from all directions. Karlek backed off and took a high and forceful swing, knocking Shinar’s bat’leth from her hands. He then swung his bat’leth underneath and behind her right leg. She rolled away from her opponent and whisked her sword off the floor and employed the same maneuver on him that had knocked her off her feet, surprisingly sending the hulking Klingon nearly twice her size to the deck.
Before he could slink away from her, Shinar grabbed Karlek by the collar, nudged him to the floor and tightly clasped his wrists. Her throat made a low purring growling noise as her fingers crawled down his arms and across his shoulders. She ripped open his lei, exposing his bulbous and muscular chest.
Karlek let out a slow guttural hissing growl and rolled over her. In one motion, he tore open her uniform jacket and tunic through the middle of her chest and threw his head down, sinking his fangs into the side of her neck.
“Whoa, stop right there,” Tarlazzi cut in. “I don’t need all the graphic details. That was a month ago. So what happened with you guys afterwards?”
Sh’Aqba sighed defensively, not sure how to answer that question. She took another sip of tea and set it down on the coffee table in her quarters, across from where Erhlich was sitting. We really didn’t have a chance to discuss it,” she said, ruefully shaking her head. “The Tigoth was part of a wing of Klingon ships running reconnaissance missions into the Zhamur system. I thought a few weeks away would help. But I’m going to have to tell him I have no intention of taking The Oath.”
“The Oath?” Erhlich asked, trying to rack his brain for what that meant in the traditional Klingon vernacular. “The Rite of Marriage?”
Shinar nodded silently.
“You’re not a Klingon. I’m sure he’ll understand.”
“How can you know that?” Shinar scoffed. She rose from her seat, took a few slow paces and dropped down her head while facing away from Erhlich. “I could be declared mokat’slivach in the Empire. But that’s the least of it if word gets out on Andor that I broke my oath of celibacy and have forsaken my betrothal vows.”
Erhlich was unsure how to react to hearing such antiquated terminology, but then saw that Shinar flashed an amused smirk at how she was speaking. “What can happen then?” he rhetorically asked, expecting that the penalties for such indiscretion would not be so severe.
“Exile,” Shinar replied with an annoyed grin. Knowing what his next question would be, she added, “I know how it sounds. How could a Federation member world allow such a practice? Arranged marriages are as outdated as a caste system, but they have become more commonplace since the Aenar became extinct and our scientists learned our race was dying.
“Just concentrate on solving one problem at a time,” Tarlazzi confidently advised. “Tell this Karlek fella you don’t want to marry him. Then you can worry how the families react to you skipping out on your bondmates, or whatever they’re called. Part of life is facing up to the consequences of your actions, good and bad.”
A long and awkward silence followed. His skin flushed, as often seemed to happen while in sh’Aqba’s presence. As much as he wanted to be a friend to her, he wanted so much more than that. Listening to her talk about her other relationships with other men, or whatever term Andorians used in their four-gender system, was nothing easy for him even if she had turned him down once.
Her antennae tightened, sensing all the feelings of uneasiness that were often consistent with Erhlich being around Shinar. She seated herself next to him on the sofa and puts her right hand on his left cheek. “I know how hard this must be for you,” she assured him. “But you know the right things to say. You’re such a gentleman.” And with that, she kissed him on the cheek.
Tarlazzi’s cheeks blushed. He stared down at the floor in a silent daze, not sure how to interpret that gesture.
Never a turbolift around when you need one.
Aurellan was playing out all kinds of scenarios in her mind regarding how Ziminske would react to her latest finding. It was not out of the realm of possibilities that Section 31 itself had engineered this disease, considering its biological warfare experiments. It certainly brought up a lot of questions about the group’s willingness to use such weapons after her mission to infiltrate a group that had broken away from 31 with the intent of using one of its biological agents. Perhaps Section 31 wanted to limit the use of weaponized viruses to military targets rather than large civilian populations. Of course, that would not explain its willingness to infect the Founders of the Dominion with a deadly disease. Ziminske would probably say there were no civilians among the Jem’Hadar, the Vorta, or the Founders. But however that was rationalized, it was still genocide.
As she was waiting for what seemed like forever, Aurellan heard two passing research technicians sharing a few giggles. She thought nothing of it until she caught a glance of them and recognized them from the marathon session in the lab earlier that day. One of them grinned at her, a grin that didn’t seem sincere.
“You notice how her voice gets kind of high and whiney when she’s barking orders?” one of them asked.
“I know what you mean,” said the other. “’Get me a few more vials.’”
“’We’re scientists. The word is hypothesis.’”
Aurellan felt an urge to smack both of them even knowing that was not conduct worthy of a Starfleet officer. “Just ignore them,” her mother, her schoolteachers, and college instructors would repeatedly say to her. That was certainly the right thing to do in this context, but refusing to respond didn’t take away how hurtful the exaggerated mimicking of her felt.
Finally, the turbolift doors parted. Aurellan stepped inside thinking that divine intervention had whisked her out of an uncomfortable situation. And now her mind went back to the uncomfortable situation ahead of her.
Ziminske stepped into the main living area of her quarters while adjusting her blue uniform tunic and drying her damp hair with a towel. She then flung the towel aside on one of the chairs arranged around a table and picked up a breakfast biscuit with half-spread jam on it. She bit into it just as the doorbell chimed. She quickly chewed and swallowed while picking up a hairbrush on the desk. “Come in,” she called as she haphazardly stroked her blond hair with the brush.
Aurellan stepped into the cabin, doing her best to hide her surprise at how messy the commander’s quarters were. She gave a subdued nod at seeing how unkempt Ziminske still appeared. “I wanted to talk to you about the virus samples,” Aurellan began with a little hesitation seeing Ziminske’s mind apparently on something else.
“There it is,” Ziminske said, retrieving a Bajoran earring from a pile of carelessly arranged padds on the desk. “The symbol of our covenant with the Prophets,” she remarked to Aurellan as she pinned the earring on her right ear. Sensing a look of impatience in Aurellan’s expression, she flashed an apologetic grin. “What is it? How’s finding a cure going?”
“It took all night, but we found one,” Aurellan responded, holding up a padd. “It’s a simple cocktail of radodine, lidestolinine, asporanine, adenine.”
“Wow, a new record,” Ziminske retorted. “We’re on course for Starbase G-6 for resupply. We’ll coordinate with starbase medical staff to start making up hypos.”
Aurellan gave no visible expressions of pride in her accomplishment. She simply stood in silence wondering how to properly accuse a superior officer of deceiving her. “Strange that a chemical compound found in humanoid DNA would be in the mix,” she timidly remarked.
Ziminske immediately assumed Aurellan was making a joke, holding in a light giggle. “What’s so strange about that?” she wondered. “If it’s a counteragent to a virus intended to be used against humanoids.”
“About those ‘blood samples’,” Aurellan said nervously. “They’re actually Changeling protoplasm made to look like humanoid blood.”
“What?” Ziminske asked with a snort of feigned confusion. “That shouldn’t be possible. All laboratory specimens are carefully examined before being approved by the captain or myself.”
“It’s all right there in my report,” Aurellan insisted, indicating the padd.
Ziminske scrolled down the padd’s readout screen. Once she saw the incriminating evidence, her eyes widened, suggesting she was just as surprised by this revelation or she had been caught red-handed smuggling aboard contraband. She gave a relenting a sigh and carefully set the padd down near the edge of the desk. “Sit down,” she instructed Aurellan.
Aurellan compliantly seated herself on one of the guest chairs, as if naively expecting a logical explanation for why she was asked to cure a virus meant to be used against the Founders, one that did not implicate a branch of Starfleet. But considering Section 31’s possible involvement and its efforts at secrecy, it was highly unlikely.
Ziminske pulled up a chair out from under the nearby table and seated herself across from Aurellan. “Section 31 did, in fact, synthesize this virus,” she explained calmly. “But that was when it was under different leadership. They didn’t bother to devise a cure since humanoids face no danger of accidental exposure. After a recent changing of the guard, our doctors have worked exhaustively on a cure. And what we couldn’t develop in three years, you devised in a day. Congratulations.”
Aurellan rolled her eyes, such praise feeling hollow knowing what she knew. “But you’re still covering it up,” she said, unable to contain her unadulterated shock that members of the morally superior Starfleet had conspired to commit genocide.
“Of course we are,” Ziminske snapped. She stood up and towered over Aurellan. “Because, as far as the Founders are concerned, all non-shapeshifting races are a threat to them. And for something like this to become public knowledge would only validate that perception. So you are not to breathe a word of this to anyone. And that is an order.”
No way in hell, Aurellan wanted to say. But when dealing with Section 31, subtlety was an important virtue. She still couldn’t help thinking how she would turn Ziminske in to the proper authorities. But in a split second, Aurellan chose to put such thoughts aside to make appearing to follow Ziminske’s order convincing. “Fine,” she reluctantly stated. “I understand completely.”
After leaving Ziminske’s quarters, Aurellan returned to the research lab where she had pulled an all-nighter. Luckily, no one else was around, leaving her to ruminate on her own for a while. After her dealings with the human augments who had broken away from Section 31, she had hoped to never again be faced with one of these moral quandaries. It was bad enough that being undercover assignments involved infecting four of the augments with samples of a virus they had planned to use against the Cardassians. But now she was faced with keeping quiet about mass murder on a greater scale.
Aurellan quickly composed herself upon seeing a shadow cast on the floor. Geiger had stepped out of the head and saw her in a trance, which was often the case when she was in deep thought. “Doctor Markalis,” he called to her. “Everything all right?”
She turned around to see Geiger, showing no visible signs of surprise in her facial expression or her posture. “Everything’s fine,” she said with a sheepish grin.
“What did Ziminske say about the ‘contraband’?” he calmly asked, while also scared that Aurellan knew something universe-shattering.
“She’s just as surprised,” Aurellan lied, “but she and the captain will begin an immediate investigation.”
“But you know something, right?”
“Yes, but I’m under orders not to discuss it with anyone. You know the drill.”
“Of course,” Geiger replied, still seeming a bit confused.
“Excuse me,” Aurellan said, walking out of the lab with a very rigid posture. She stepped into the corridor, beside herself that she had so easily lied to one of her fellow officers. The first duty of every Starfleet officer, after all, was to the truth. Now, she just as complicit in a cover-up. When she ordered the other participants in the project to keep quiet the first time, it was a worthy expectation. She did not want anyone causing a panic with unsubstantiated accusations. This time, however, such an order was meant to conceal the truth.
Chapter 4 by Enterprise1981
A holographic image of a Dominion aerial sensor drone soared through an empty cargo bay. Two charges from a phaser rifle quickly incinerated the drone.
Mandel Morrison was overseeing tests of the new phaser rifles. After he destroyed the simulation, he handed the rifle over to Lisa Neeley with his approval. Lisa then handed that rifle off to her second-in-command Sam Bowers, who placed the rifle back in the rack. He handed Lisa a second rifle, and she instructed the computer to start the next simulation.
A trio of Jem’Hadar materialized, and she quickly took aim. In a few quick motions, she set the rifle for wide-beam dispersal and fired three charges in the direction of the simulated enemy soldiers. The three Jem’Hadar then fell to the deck and dematerialized. Next, an aerial sensor drone swooped in from behind her. She swung around and fired two more bursts at the drone, blowing it to pieces. Yet another came at her from behind and swooped in so close, she was forced to duck down to the deck. She did a full body tumble and fired three disintegrating bursts at the holographic drone.
“Twenty-six point four-eight seconds,” Bowers said with an approving smirk, looking up from a portable chronometer. “Very impressive.”
Lisa took a look at the rifle to see that it still had more than enough energy to spare. “Courtesy of a much faster recharge cycle,” she remarked. “I’d say it passed inspection. Wouldn’t you agree, Commander Morrison?”
Mandel was in a trance, staring blankly at loose strands of her hair and beads of sweat that glistened across her brow. He was also distracted at the sight of Sam having the same look in his eyes. But he was quickly roused when he heard his name called. “Agreed.”
Before the three of them could test the next weapon, the comm chimed. “Bridge to Commander Morrison,” came the disembodied voice of first officer Ronnie Kozar.
Mandel picked up his black and grey uniform jacket off the floor and tapped his combadge. “Go ahead, sir.”
“You and a security team are needed aboard the USS Semmelweis.”
That page also caught the attention of Sam and Lisa, curious as to what kind of scenario aboard one of the Seventh Fleet’s hospital ships warranted summoning security personnel from the Lambda Paz. “Don’t they have their own security personnel?” Mandel rhetorically asked.
“Doctor Markalis specifically requested you and one of your security teams,” Kozar explained. “It concerns Doctor Ziminske Aris.”
Even more curious. “I’ll be there ASAP,” Morrison replied. He slipped his arms through the sleeves of his gold tunic and jacket, one over the other. “Keep testing those new rifles,” he instructed Bowers and Neeley. “Lieutenant Ra Hoth will be here shortly to supervise.”
He slowly strode towards the main entrance of the empty cargo bay, about to tap his combadge to summon the Edosian deputy chief of security when he was again distracted by playful flirting between Bowers and Neeley.
Mandel Morrison entered intensive care unit three with two human male security officers behind him, both armed with Type-2 hand phasers. This was where the computer said Doctor Ziminske was after the security team had beamed aboard. Upon entry into the ICU, he saw a youthful looking Bajoran woman with straight golden blond hair of medium length and a confused stare at the sight of three security officers not assigned to the Semmelweis.
“Commander Ziminske,” he said. “Lieutenant Commander Mandel Morrison, USS Lambda Paz chief of security. Doctor Markalis urgently requested my presence.”
“For what reason?” Ziminske asked, trying to sound as dumfounded as possible.
Aurellan Markalis then stepped into the primary ICU from a nearby storage closet. “Mister Morrison,” she said, as if she had rehearsed what she was about to say. “Please place Commander Ziminske under arrest for possession of an illegal biological agent.”
“What?” Ziminske gasped. “You,” she sneered at Markalis, while completely at a loss for words as the two security guards approached her and escorted her away.
“I’m sorry, please don’t be mad at me,” Aurellan blurted out remorsefully, as if her words were a conditioned response. But once Ziminske was gone, she felt some measure of contentment having just followed her conscience. It was tempered by the sense that having one of the middlepersons arrested would do little good, considering how long Section 31 had been shrouded in secrecy.
Shinar sh’Aqba nervously sat in the food court of Starbase G-6’s while sipping a cup of tea. As each second passed, she was hoping more and more that time would just slow to a crawl. Knowing that the IKS Tigoth had already docked at the station, she knew it was only a matter of time before a large number Klingons came storming onto the promenade.
Almost right on cue, a horde of Klingons stepped out of the airlock and sh’Aqba stood up while taking a few slow and deep breaths. Some part of her was hoping Karlek was not among them. That hope didn’t last very long when he slowly emerged from the crowd. It had to be done, she knew, especially when he caught a glimpse of her. It had to be done. No turning back now.
“Commander Karlek,” she called out to him as she was weaving through the crowd, “if you have a moment.”
“Ah, Lieutenant Shinar sh’Aqba,” Karlek enthusiastically replied. “We have much to discuss.”
“Yes, about all that.” She then motioned him to a more private corner of the promenade. He followed her to a small nook at an adjoining corridor. She was still at a loss for words, even after seeing no passers-by. “That time we were together,” she stuttered, “… before you left on your mission…”
“We have a lot of arrangements to make,” Karlek interrupted, completely oblivious to Shinar’s nervousness.
“Yes, well… um…,” Shinar cut in before Karlek could continue. No turning back now, she reminded herself during a moment of hesitation. “I don’t intend to take The Oath with you. It meant nothing and after escaping a near death situation and in the heat of the moment…”
“I was a just a means of satisfying your sexual urges?” Karlek hissed, trying to contain his disappointment and anger.
Sh’Aqba, usually very sure of herself, nodded timidly.
“Mokat’slivach!!!” he bellowed. He then spat in her face, which caught the attention of a few on-lookers, and stormed off.
She quickly wiped the saliva off both her cheeks and looked around to see a few concerned on-lookers staring in her direction. She had a desperate urge to dig a hole and bury herself in it, knowing that some of her most private of secrets were exposed for the rest of the world to see. Feeling a sense of powerlessness, she darted down the nearby corridor in the hope of eventually finding someplace to hide.
At the other end of the promenade, Limis Vircona made her through the crowds from a corridor leading to the docking bays of Starbase G-6. She was among a dozen passengers of varying races returning from Bajor. A month removed from rescuing her son from criminal scientist Crell Moset, she hoped to make up lost time by spending time with him. But even after two weeks on Bajor, she had very little time to change into uniform after she received an urgent summons from Ronnie Kozar and Mandel Morrison.
Morrison had been eagerly awaiting Limis’s return. He kept his expression professional even while seeing her dressed in more informal attire. “Sorry to cut your vacation short,” he jokingly remarked. She had already been on the transport when she received this summons. But that meant Limis was called back to duty the second she passed through the airlock.
“It could be worse,” Limis retorted as they sauntered down the corridor. “I could have been called back while I was standing in sunlight for the first time in almost two years. It sure does wonders for people with seasonal affective disorder. But I’m still glad to be back. So where’s the prisoner?”
She was talking so fast that Morrison could barely keep up. But Limis did have his full attention when asked about Ziminske’s whereabouts.
Morrison and Limis entered the main cellblock to see Ziminske seated on the bench in her cell grinning smugly. It was almost as if she was certain that being released was not a matter of if, but when.
A human female deputy was seated in front of the main console while a human male stood guard to the left of the cell’s entryway. “I’d like a few minutes alone with the commander,” Limis instructed.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the male guard replied, “but Lieutenant Commander Nussef’s orders are…”
“Then remind Lieutenant Commander Nussef that I outrank him,” Limis interrupted. “Now get out,” she barked, turning her gaze to the other guard, “all of you. That means you, Morrison.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Morrison replied with a nod.
Limis waited for the officers to leave and then shot a grin of contempt at Ziminske. “Computer, seal the doors and disable all recorders in this room, security authorization three-four-seven omega,” she instructed. Once the computer acknowledged, she smirked again at the prisoner. “It’s just you and me, Miss Ziminske,” she said coldly. “Or, as my chief medical officer is now telling me, Huberstock. When I accidentally slipped into an alternate universe last month, I prevented Starfleet from carrying out the destruction of Cardassia Prime. At the time, I thought I would be okay with it if the Founders or the Jem’Hadar were the target. Now that I know that it’s actually going on, it sickens me. And just when I was beginning to think Section 31 had a few redeeming qualities.”
Ziminske remained coldly silent, as did Limis.
“What’s wrong?” Limis taunted. “Can’t think of an excuse that I’ll buy? Reminding yourself that you’re not dealing with Markalis anymore?”
“Where is that bitch anyway?” Ziminske demanded. “I have the right to face my accuser.”
Limis slammed her fist on the entryway’s control panel, which deactivated the forcefield. She stormed into the cell and grabbed Ziminske by the collar. “How dare you!” she scowled. She then grabbed the back of Ziminske’s neck and slammed her head down on the bench. “How dare you invoke civil liberties when your people trample on the principles the Federation stands for. As I see it, the only bitch within a parsec of this room is you. Who else is involved, ‘doctor’?”
Limis let go of Ziminske to allow her to speak. She sat upright while coughing and nursing the bruise on her forehead. “That’s big talk from someone who sought our help twice in as many months,” she hissed. “First to save that naïve girl who serves as your medical officer from a mission that was too big for her, and then to rescue your son. So don’t presume to judge the rest of us, sli’vak.”
Hearing that Klingon swear word was a painful reminder of some of Limis’s more intimate undercover missions. Limis slugged Ziminske in the right eye, and then grabbed her by the collar and shoved her to the deck. “That’s fair, Doctor,” she snarled, “assuming you are really a doctor.”
“I am a doctor,” Ziminske insisted. And with a more taunting tone, she added, “You won’t be able to prove a thing, Captain. The cure has already been erased from the Semmelweis’s database and all the sample viruses were destroyed.”
“Nothing you say will be admissible in court now,” Limis replied. She leaned down and yanked the earring from Ziminske’s ear and held the sharp edge of the pin to her nose. “But I still want the names of all you’re associates in this little project. To give you a little extra motivation, let’s see how real these ridges are.”
“You’re despicable,” Ziminske spat.
“I thought we weren’t going to presume to judge one another.”
Ziminske launched her head into Limis’s forehead, sending her to the deck. The earring flew out of her hand. Ziminske made a beeline for the cell entryway, but Limis wrapped her leg around Ziminske’s ankles and knocked her over. Limis swung herself upright and slugged Ziminske in both eyes.
As Limis backed out of the cell and reactivated the forcefield, she heard a lock coming undone. Morrison and the two guards had returned, and this time with station security chief Nussef accompanying them. “Captain, what’s going on?” he asked, speaking with a slight Arabic inflection.
“Ah, good,” Ziminske gasped between wheezes. “Get this woman the hell out of here! She’s insane.”
One look at Ziminske, and the security officers could deduce that Limis caused the two black eyes, the bloody nose, and the forehead bruises and gashes. “What did you do to her?” Morrison asked of his captain.
“Self-defense after she tried to escape,” Limis calmly replied while nursing the gash on her own forehead. She then glared at Ziminske as if telling her that neither could prove otherwise. “Escort her to the infirmary. And I want those fake ridges removed as well.”
After deactivating the forcefield, Morrison grabbed Ziminske by the left arm and walked her out of the cellblock through the main entrance. “What about you, Captain?”
“I’ll catch up,” Limis replied, still trying to catch her breath. As everyone else filed out of the room, she leaned against a wall taking a few deep breaths. All she could do now was wonder silently how many people who represented the Federation, yet would resort to the atrocious methods of the enemy. At times throughout her life, she had desires to kill every Cardassian she could, yet never envisioned this level of mass murder. And while her Maquis cell did resort to using chemical weapons against Cardassian colonies in the Demilitarized Zone, it was never with the intention of committing genocide. She seemed relieved that it never came to that during the Occupation, but at the same time wondered if she was truly capable of carrying out the extermination of an entire race if desperate enough.
Chapter 5 by Enterprise1981
Hours later, Ziminske awoke on one of the main biobeds in the starbase infirmary feeling an odd sensation on her face. She felt the bridge of her nose and the ridges that made her appear Bajoran were gone. That made her feel more exposed than when she was arrested, more exposed than when Limis addressed her by her real name. And there was no going back to Section 31 after this failure. In all likelihood, she would take the fall and stand trial for experiments in biogenic warfare.
And the reason for her downfall walked in. Aurellan entered through the primary ICU and made a left turn into the lab to pick up some medicines for the Lambda Paz’s sickbay. Aurellan just went about her business of picking up a fresh set of medical supplies, without looking in the direction of the main surgical bay. The contempt in Ziminske’s eyes soon turned to pity when Aurellan exited the lab and headed straight for the infirmary’s main entrance--pity for all the misguided idealists. At least I can carry on a conversation with her without worrying she’ll beat the crap out of me.
“I’d ask why,” Ziminske deadpanned, “but the answer is obvious.”
Aurellan sighed and gently set down the two cases in both of her hands. She asked the two security guards to step outside, and they quickly obliged. “You conspired to commit genocide,” she said in disgust while she slowly paced over to the main surgical bay.
“I did nothing of the sort,” Ziminske corrected. “I was simply charged with working to find a cure and to do it in secrecy.”
“I stand corrected,” Aurellan sarcastically retorted. “We wouldn’t want the general public to know that a rogue Federation organization is the reason the Founders are dying. And the Federation’s image as a benevolent multi-planetary alliance would be tainted. And we don’t want that, do we?”
“I’m glad you see it that way.”
Aurellan gritted her teeth. “The choice was clear,” she confidently stated. “You reminded me that we can’t save every patient no matter how much we might want to. We can’t fix every problem.
“When I first heard about Section 31, it was like finding out a childhood hero was anything but a hero. I was shaken to learn that a branch of Starfleet was okay with using biological and chemical weapons. But what could I do about that? Here, I saw a chance to do right and I took it.”
Ziminske stood a few feet from Aurellan, looking eye-to-eye with a forcefield separating the two women. “Now that all the cards are on the table,” she said plainly, “I think you are too much of an idealist for your own good. And that’s why we need Section 31 to let people like you have your ideals.”
Aurellan scoffed and paced away, unable to look at Ziminske anymore. “Sorry, you don’t get to play the victim here,” she huffed. “Not with me, and certainly not with Limis.” Not wanting to be reeled into an endless philosophical argument, she walked to the main entrance, making sure to fetch the two cases of medical supplies.
Ziminske woke up in the middle of the night, still on a biobed in the starbase infirmary. Her face was blank, her eyes were dilated as if some outside force was controlling her thoughts and actions. She shook her suddenly regaining her equilibrium, her mind absorbing the instructions she had been clandestinely sent from a long distance. She smirked, gloating to the security officers, albeit absent ones, who had chosen not to have her strip searched as she removed a rectangular device from her left sleeve. She slowly tiptoed over to the forcefield surrounding the surgical bay, which still caught the attention of the two security guards at the main entrance. They pointed their rifles at her while she set the device on the floor. It instantly shorted out the forcefield.
Ziminske tumbled out of the way of phaser fire and rolled closer to the guards. She kicked one of them in both knees and then punched him in his abdomen as she positioned herself back into an upright standing position. She jabbed her right elbow at the back of the second guard’s neck. They both swung around, facing each other, and Ziminske delivered a right hook to his jaw. The first guard had barely enough time to get on his feet when Ziminske grabbed a middle-aged human female nurse and held a hand phaser taken from one of the guards to her neck. “Back off,” she shrieked at the guards. “Or she’s dead.”
Seeing that the phaser was set to kill, one of the guards put up a hand signaling the other guard to lower his weapon. Ziminske then stepped out of the infirmary with her hostage in tow.
Limis Vircona was in a daze as she lay flat on her bed. She hadn’t bothered to change out of her uniform, but simply unzipped both the outer jacket and the inner tunic. A comm chime suddenly had her bobbing her head back and forth. “Captain to the bridge,” came the familiar voice of Ronnie Kozar. “Urgent.”
Limis sat herself up and brushed a few beads of sweat from her brow before tapping the comm panel on the nightstand. “What is it, Kozar?” she groggily asked.
“Commander Ziminske’s escaped the station infirmary,” Kozar replied. “And she’s managed to override docking bay lockouts and disable the station’s tractor beams and defensive systems. We’re in the best shape to pursue an escaping Type-9 shuttle.”
“Get us underway then,” Limis replied. “And skip the usual pre-launch protocol.” After closing the channel, she gulped down the last bit of now tepid water in a glass on the nightstand and jogged over to the head to make herself presentable as quickly as possible.
“Report,” Limis called while barely half off the bridge’s starboard turbolift.
“We’re at full impulse closing to within fifty thousand kilometers of the shuttle,” Rebecca Sullivan reported from the helm.
“Slow to half,” Limis replied as she sauntered over to the command chair. “Morrison, hail the shuttle.”
Morrison keyed a command sequence to page the escaping shuttle even knowing that effort was futile. “No response,” he reported, shaking his head in frustration.
“Can you get a transporter lock?” Limis asked, turning her attention to the ensign at operations.
Kozar was looking over the ensign’s shoulder when he saw an error message appear on one of the readout screens. “Negative,” he plainly said.
“Keep the channel open,” Limis instructed. “Ziminske, listen to me,” she said with a strong sense of doubt in her voice. “You don’t have to do this. The courts are prepared to grant you amnesty if you…”
“I’m reading a power buildup in the anti-matter injectors,” Morrison interrupted. “Core breach in five seconds.”
“Back us off, Rebecca,” Limis called. “Fast.”
Rebecca barely had time to carry out the order when the shuttle exploded in a blinding fireball that slightly jolted the bridge. All the officers on the bridge could do was stare at the viewscreen with looks of horror and powerlessness.
Shinar sh’Aqba stood in front of a mirror applying a dermal regenerator to the hickey on her neck. The scarring was far less conspicuous than it had been over the last few days, but she was still aware of it. And the dark blue rash was still very pronounced, so it was still a reminder of one of the biggest mistakes in her life no matter how much antibiotics she applied. All those feelings of dread over the consequences of that one night of indiscretion gave way to anxiety that she would be more exposed than she already was when her doorbell chimed.
Shinar applied the regenerator one more time before throwing on her gold tunic and black and gray jacket. “Come in,” she said with feigned cheerfulness.
Tarlazzi stepped into the cabin before the doors were all the way open and looked around the cabin. “I was wondering where you were,” he said once Shinar emerged from the bedroom. “You weren’t answering the comm.
“As a non-bridge department head,” Shinar replied while gently nursing the rash, “I have some discretion over when I report for duty. Being ten minutes late isn’t a court martial offense.”
“No, but repeated tardiness is,” Erhlich jokingly retorted.
Shinar rolled her eyes. “Don’t presume to invoke protocols with me, Lieutenant.”
“Sorry,” Erhlich deferently, but also reluctantly responded. “What was the other reason I came here? How’d it go with Karlek?
Shinar sighed and landed on the sofa. “Terribly.”
“So he declared you movat whatchacallit?”
“Movat slevach,” Shinar corrected. “The closest translation is ‘open-legged one.’ I am someone to be avoided. Wives will be told to keep their distance from me even though Karlek isn’t married.”
Erhlich’s left eyebrow twitched, wondering being an outcast in the eyes of the Klingons was such a bad thing for Shinar.
“I know. What’s the big deal if I’m not a Klingon?” she continued in anticipation of his question. “I’m considered a good luck charm among the Klingons in the Seventh Fleet. I can imagine what they think of me now. And it’s only a matter of time before other Andorians learn of this disgrace.”
Erhlich shook his head in disbelief. “Would they really exile you from your home planet? I mean, that seems counter-productive if your species is facing extinction.”
“Long-held traditions don’t always have to make sense, Mister Tarlazzi. I wouldn’t be formally banished, but even informal sanctions can have a profound impact on one’s life.” Again, she winced in pain and gently touched the rash on her neck.
“You should get that looked at…” Erhlich offered, slowly stepping towards the sofa and took a curious look at the portion of her rash not covered by her uniform collar, “…whatever that is.”
Shinar adjusted her collar, futilely hoping to hide what he had already seen. “Something about the chemical composition of Klingon saliva that doesn’t agree with Andorian skin cells,” she explained. “I wanted to see a doctor, but it was so embarrassing…”
“I understand how much it feels the whole universe is against you. But you don’t face this alone, Shinar.”
Shinar was nearly moved to tears by Erhlich’s kind words. She quickly rose from the sofa and hugged him gently. “I always thought you weren’t my type,” she whispered. “But I never gave you much of a chance. You’ve selflessly offered a hand of friendship. You understand me better than my bondmates do. Better than Karlek.”
She tenderly kissed him on the cheek, and then held his face allowing his eyes to meet hers. He raised his hands, at first wanting to remove her hands from his cheeks. After that hesitation, he kissed her on the lips.
Shinar looked soulfully into Erhlich’s eyes and planted a longer kiss on his lips. She moved her hands down his neck and along his shoulders, slowly removing his uniform jacket. They slowly walked into the bedroom, as their hands slipped off the other’s clothes one by one.
“My people can do without me for a while,” Erhlich remarked as he leaned downward to slip off both his boots, “and so can yours.”
Shinar smirked devilishly while seating herself on the bed and began unfastening Erhlich’s uniform trousers.
Markalis was in the process of treating sh’Aqba’s month-old hickey with a dermal regenerator when Limis entered sickbay through the primary ICU. Aurellan looked over at the captain indicating she would be with her in a minute, and then turned back to sh’Aqba.
“If you had come in a lot sooner instead of consulting a computer database,” she told sh’Aqba as she set the regenerator aside, “it would not have been as hard to treat.” Aurellan loaded a hypospray with an analgesic and handed sh’Aqba a packet of topical cream. “Take two cc’s of this twice a day,” she explained, indicating the hypospray, “and apply the topical analgesic as often as needed.”
Aurellan then dismissed her patient and saw Limis waiting near the door with a somber look on her face that instantly said to Aurellan her captain had some very bad news. “What is it, Captain?” she asked, sounding terrified that Limis was bringing news of a death in the family.
“At oh-two-seventeen this morning,” Limis said grimly, “Commander Ziminske escaped the starbase infirmary and left in a shuttle. I’m sorry to say that the shuttle was destroyed shortly afterwards.”
“Did you get her out in time?” Aurellan asked, even knowing what the answer was.
“I’m afraid not,” Limis grimly replied.
“Oh, god,” Aurellan dejectedly gasped. She paced back and forth across the ICU, fighting back tears. Realizing her emotional state, she took refuge in her office. “This is my fault. She didn’t deserve to die for her role in this.”
She turned to face Limis while brushing one eye. Limis was about to speak, having followed Aurellan into the office, but words flowed out of Aurellan’s lips at a near manic speed. “What really sucks is that she was a friend and I betrayed her.”
“That’s not fair, Aurellan,” Limis assured her. “You did nothing wrong.”
“I know what it’s like being betrayed by people I thought were my friends,” Aurellan insisted, as if she hadn’t absorbed any of what her captain had said. “Like my semester abroad on Deneb Two when my ‘friends’ locked me in a storage closet with two dozen tribbles in heat.”
“Aurellan, listen to me,” Limis said both gently and firmly. She touched both Aurellan’s cheeks with both hands. Tears were still flowing from the young woman’s eyes. “You did the right thing. You don’t have to ever apologize for that, no matter what anyone might tell you. You can’t blame yourself for any negative consequences. You understand?”
“Yes, I think so,” Aurellan said, choking back sobs.
Limis wrapped her arms around Aurellan’s shoulders and held her in a consoling embrace. Normally, Aurellan would recoil from such close physical contact. But given her current emotional state, she welcomed it.
Chapter 6 by Enterprise1981
Sara Carson rested her head on Rebecca Sullivan’s right shoulder while clasping her right hand on Rebecca’s left shoulder. Rebecca stroked moist locks of Sara’s hair with each of her fingers and caressed her palms on the edge of her bare shoulder and upper arm. They stared into each other’s eyes in a long moment of silent bliss, where time just seemed to slow to a crawl. For now, there was nothing to be said. They just wanted to hold each other close and savor this moment for as long as it lasted.
Sara’s lips softly touched Rebecca’s upper lip and moved along her right cheek. Rebecca smiled contentedly and pursed her lips on Sara’s forehead. Sara gave a soft blissful moan while caressing Rebecca’s shoulder and neck. She rolled over and fidgeted with the edge of the blanket covering her up to her shoulder, breathing slowly while her heart continued beating at a fast pace.
She looked at Rebecca’s smiling face with a question on the tip of her tongue, which couldn’t come out. Rebecca soon sensed something was on Sara’s mind and stroked her hair hoping to ease the tension in her eyes.
“Not that this is usually something to be discussing right after we just made love,” Sara said, recalling a similar discussion with Mandel almost a year and a half ago, “but what exactly are we?”
“I’m not that sure,” Rebecca replied sheepishly. “Do we really need to define our relationship right now?”
“No,” Sara deadpanned, clasping Rebecca’s left wrist. “I don’t want to make the same mistake of prematurely assuming too much. I know you don’t exactly want to jump into anything quite yet…”
Rebecca arched her head slightly to face Sara and stroked her cheek with the back of her hand. “Let’s not dwell on our past relationships…” She kissed Sara’s cheek, the side of her nose, and up to her forehead. “…or even about the future. Live for the present.”
Sara clasped the hand on her cheek and smiled. “See where it takes us.”
Rebecca returned the smile and pressed her lips against Sara’s. They kissed and wrapped their arms around the other’s shoulders, rolling over slowly across the bed.
Mandel Morrison paced down the corridor with a sense of subdued concern on his face. His steps became smaller and smaller as he got closer to the door to Lisa Neeley’s quarters. Lisa was very well known for her punctuality in the last year; something he knew all too well from the last time they had been physically intimate. That made her absence from today’s battle drill rather perplexing, if not deeply alarming.
He kept telling himself that he was showing concern for the head of the Starfleet Marines stationed on this ship. That was a legitimate reason to stop by her quarters. But as he got closer to the door, he was again wondering whether or not he was falling in love with her. They both agreed that their relationship would be limited to sexual liaisons without all the obligations of a romantic partnership. Maybe, he now wanted that with Lisa. Or maybe he was trying to atone for having struck out with Sara.
He tapped the door chime, but no one answered. “Lisa,” he called, tapping the chime a second time. No one answered, even though the computer said she was in her quarters. Mandel started to assume the worst when he entered his security authorization to unseal the door. He stepped inside, looking to his right towards the bedroom under the assumption that she might have fallen into a coma while she slept. Then, in the corner of his eye, he saw two humanoid figures on the sofa, one on top of the other.
In nothing but her undergarments, Lisa Neeley had her back turned to the door breathing in ecstatic pleasure as she felt a man’s chin glide down her neck. The man she was on top of rolled over on top of her. Mandel recognized the man’s face as belonging to Sam Bowers.
His eyes widened in horror at having seen the two of them in similar states of undress in a lurid and passionate embrace. Lisa’s eyes momentarily opened with a similarly horrified expression at seeing Morrison burst in on a private moment while Sam was caressing her shoulders slowly trying to slip off the straps of her bra. He turned around in response to Lisa’s gasp and flashed a disapproving stare in Morrison’s direction.
Time had seemed to come to a dead stop, as if Morrison would have bolted out of there in less than a second. Maybe it was a shock or a sense of powerlessness. But once both Sam and Lisa were looking in his direction, Morrison took a few steps backwards and scurried out of the room at warp speed wanting to simply run and hide.
Epilogue by Enterprise1981
Ziminske Aris stood in a dark room that had nothing but a computer console near the tall metal double door. As each second passed, she became more and more nervous, not sure where she was and who had whisked her off the shuttle just in the nick of time.
Then the doors slid open and made a loud crashing noise once they had fully parted. A middle-aged human male of average height stepped into the chamber accompanied by two taller human male guards. All of them were dressed in the black leather jumpsuits that were the uniforms of Section 31. The lead agent had short golden blond hair and showed very few visible signs of aging other than around his eyes.
“Welcome back, Miss Huberstock,” Luther Sloan enthusiastically greeted.
Ziminske rolled her eyes, annoyed by this man’s inappropriately jovial attitude. “That’s all you have to say after I barely got out of there alive, Director Sloan? Just ‘welcome back’?”
“It was necessary to fake your death so we could maintain our plausible deniability,” Sloan explained with a more stoic business-as-usual expression on his face. “Captain Limis, Commander Kozar, Doctor Markalis can make all the accusations they want, but Starfleet Headquarters will just deny everything. You have the cure, I assume. And the DNA sample?”
Ziminske sighed before removing a vial from her right sleeve, and then one from her left. “Right here,” she said while rolling her eyes, not sure what exactly these agents wanted with the genetic sample she was providing or what would happen to her afterwards.
“Good,” Sloan replied as he read the labels on the two vials. “This will only take a minute.” He placed the vial with the green label in a slot on a computer terminal. The service record of Aurellan Markalis appeared on the right hand side of the screen while other biographical profiles appeared on the left hand side, flashing at lightning speed. Next, he tucked away the vial with the blue label in his belt while motioning the two other men towards Ziminske. “In the meantime, we will delete the pertinent information from your cortical implant.”
The computer chirped, catching Sloan’s attention. He nodded approvingly, as if what was on the screen confirmed something he had already known. “Our business with Aurellan Markalis is at an end for now,” he remarked as he kept his gaze on the screen a few more seconds. Then looking at Ziminske, he smirked. “Cole had his objections,” he continued, “and understandably so. But you were right to seek a second opinion from one of our, should we say, guns-for-hire. She will be a useful asset in the future, while I intend to recommend you for a promotion.”
Ziminske scoffed, certain that Sloan wasn’t serious. “After all that went wrong?”
“Of course not,” Sloan said with a wicked grin. “Guards! Take her away!”
The two guards grabbed Ziminske by her arms to coax her out of the room. And she barely put up much of a fight despite an expression of fear in her eyes as if she was afraid for her life.
On the computer screen, next to the Starfleet service record of Aurellan, was the biographical profile of Sarina Douglas. Both had the same face with long and straight blond hair. In red letters on the top of the screen read the words: “99.99998 percent genetic match.” And under both their names on the two respective capsules were: “Father: George Samuel Douglas” and “Mother: Lorena Markalis.”
The name Ziminske is derived from the name of a 29th century temporal investigator
in the Star Trek: Hidden Frontier
episode "Two Hours
", portrayed by Renee Huberstock, who would later portray Admiral Alynna Nechayev
throughout that online fan-film series. This Ziminske (aka Huberstock) will later be revealed as a former pupil of Nechayev's when the admiral oversaw an undercover surveillance mission to Bajor during the last years of the Occupation.
When first writing the character of Aurellan Markalis, I began to envision DS9-alum Faith Coley Salie in that role (see Character bios
), who portrayed Sarina Douglas simply because of the similarities in the two characters. Initially, I had planned it to simply be a coincidence-- where not even the eidetic memory of the genetically enhanced Julian Bashir could see a resemblance-- until the novel Zero Sum Game
where Sarina had become an operative for Starfleet Intelligence caught up in the machinations of Section 31.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.