Summary: Book One of the Star Trek: Federation series
Centuries ago, Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprise encountered a group of aliens representing the Kelvan Empire, a vast interstellar nation based in the Andromeda Galaxy. Now, years after that first encounter, the Federation is ready to return the favour...
The USS Pioneer: first ship of her class, equipped with a revolutionary foldspace drive that makes possible the opening of a new frontier, intergalactic travel. On the eve of the four hundred year anniversary of a Federation that now spans all four quadrants, Pioneer prepares to launch a mission to the Andromeda galaxy. Captained by Marta Soong, Starfleet’s first Orion commanding officer, the crew of Pioneer are ready for anything in order to complete their mission.
But when underlying tensions explode in a deadly attack on Pioneer, the ship finds itself stranded in another galaxy with a damaged foldspace drive and no apparent way home. So when the ship picks up what appears to be a Federation comm signal coming for a nearby system, they set out looking for help. But Pioneer will soon discover that a friendly name may hide a deadly enemy...
Categories: Original Series, Expanded Universes Characters: Kirk, James T., McCoy, Leonard (Bones), Spock
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, General, Humor, IDIC, Mystery, Other
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations
Series: Star Trek: Federation
Chapters: 4 Completed: No
Word count: 7930 Read: 7431
Published: 25 May 2014 Updated: 12 Jun 2014
1. Prologue by CaptainSarine
2. Chapter 1 by CaptainSarine
3. Chapter 2 by CaptainSarine
4. Chapter 3 by CaptainSarine
Prologue by CaptainSarine
The following takes place between The Original Series episodes "Spock's Brain" and "Is There in Truth No Beauty?"
Near the Galactic Barrier
"Do Vulcans believe in deja-vu?"
Captain James T. Kirk, captain of the Federation starship Enterprise, stifled a grin at Bones' blatant attempt to goad Spock into a reaction. He did not need to look over to know that his first officer would have fixed McCoy with a single raised eyebrow.
"If you mean the sensation of having experienced an event or visited a place before, neurological studies have proven that it is nothing more than a construct created by the brain in order to make up for partial perception. Considering the fact that human explanations of the phenomenon date back to the early 20th century, I can only surmise that you are referring instead to the belief in precognition or prophecy. To which I would respond, doctor, that whether I believe it or not is besides the point. There is not enough scientific evidence one way or another to prove or disprove the theory."
"Damned pointy-eared devil," McCoy muttered loud enough for Kirk to overhear. "I ask him a simple question and he gives me a scientific treatise."
"In fact, doctor, a treatise requires-"
"Captain, we are about ready to launch the probes."
Thank goodness, Kirk thought, getting up off his chair and walking over to stand behind Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu. The Asian helm officer glanced up at him with a wry smile - McCoy and Spock had been at each other's throats even more than usual ever since the Enterprise's encounter with the Eymorgs a few weeks before. McCoy seemed to take great pleasure in reminding Spock that he was responsible for reattaching his brain, while Spock seemed determined to ignore that fact at costs.
Tapping Sulu on the shoulder as a show of thanks, Kirk looked up at the main viewer. A flickering, flaring pink and purple field filled the screen, the origin of McCoy's deja-vu crack. While he knew that McCoy had only brought it up to get under Spock's skin, the doctor did have a point. In their five year-mission, Kirk and his crew had already encountered the Galactic Barrier twice, passing through it both times. An unhealed ache arose in his chest and Kirk's memory flickered briefly with a single image: a man with silver eyes pointing to a gravestone with Kirk's name on it.
Shaking his head to banish the image, Kirk stared into the Galactic Barrier again. Deja-vu indeed.
"I don't understand why Starfleet thought we should be the ones to do this," McCoy said, this time from Kirk's side. "Do they think we haven't had enough encounters with this thing?"
"I think we're the closest thing Starfleet have to experts on the Barrier, Bones. And on the Kelvans."
McCoy grunted, but he didn't make any more unhelpful comments. Kirk looked over at Spock.
"Are the probes ready?"
Spock nodded once. "The prerecorded signal has been installed on all three and the treaty - in audio, electronic, mathematical and textual forms - has been carefully stored inside."
"And we're sure that their shields and other systems have been modified according to Rojan's specifications."
"I saw to it personally, Captain."
Kirk smiled. "Not doubting you, Spock."
"I see no reason why you should, Captain."
Rolling his eyes - Spock did seem to be more sensitive since the whole brain incident - Kirk returned to his chair and sat down. McCoy moved over to stand beside him.
"Do you think they'll make it?"
"The probes?" Kirk sighed. "Why wouldn't they? It isn't as if they have to survive passage through one of the most volatile energy fields known to the Federation, then make their way across untold lightcenturies of pure void before entering a galaxy we know next to nothing about and somehow navigate their way to a planet whose coordinates were provided to us by an alien race who a few months ago tried to hijack this ship. What could possibly go wrong?"
McCoy looked at Kirk for a long moment, then leaned forward slightly, lowering his voice. "You miss him, don't you, Jim?"
Kirk opened his mouth to say something, but whatever it was vanished from his mind the moment Sulu spoke up. "Probes ready, captain."
His friend gave him a this-isn't-over look that Kirk knew all too well. Well, psychoanalysing me is just going to have to wait, I'm afraid Bones. He stood up, smoothing his gold uniform jacket with his hands.
"Launch on my mark, Lieutenant. Mark."
On the screen, three brilliant stars suddenly appeared, racing across the distance between Enterprise and the barrier. Kirk watched them until they were swallowed up by the dancing violet energy, then turned to Spock.
"Telemetry coming in now, captain. The probes appear to have survived entry into the barrier. They are being buffeted by the energy eddies inside, but the modifications described by Rojan seem to be working as promised."
No surprise there. The three probes carried a treaty signed recently by Rojan, the representative of an extragalactic race known as Kelvans, and Federation President McLaren. The Kelvans, led by Rojan, had come across the void between galaxies from the Andromeda galaxy, looking for a new home for their people. As ruthless and warlike as the Klingons, the Kelvans had been determined to return home to tell their Empire that the Milky Way galaxy was ripe for conquest. Kirk and his crew had been the unfortunate tools Rojan had chosen to achieve his objectives.
"The probes are approaching the edge of the barrier, captain. They should be safely on the other side in thirty seconds."
After taking over the Enterprise, Rogan and his men had modified its systems to make it safe to pass through the Barrier. Whatever they had done had protected the crew from suffering the same adverse reaction as Kirk's friend, Gary Mitchell. Once again, Kirk glimpsed those silver eyes. I don't know what would have been worse, Kirk thought. Surviving the passage through the barrier and being forced to help those Kelvans or seeing another of my friends fall like Gary did.
"Probes leaving the barrier in five, four, three, two... All three probes have safely passed through the barrier, captain."
"What now?" McCoy asked.
"Each probe is equipped with a very small warp drive and enough dilithium crystals to get them to the Andromeda galaxy in about three hundred years."
"Courtesy of Rojan and his people," Kirk added.
"And they still won't share those modified warp drive specifications with Starfleet?"
Kirk shook his head. "It was clearly stipulated in the treaty, Bones. Whatever they did to make their warp drives go faster, it'll die with them."
"Still, three hundred years... A lot can happen in three hundred years."
Kirk had been watching the Barrier all this time. Now, he finally tore his eyes away. "Who knows, Bones. By the time those probes arrive and inform the Kelvans that we have an alliance with them, we may have found a way to get their ourselves." He smiled. "And who knows what kind of ship and which type of captain might be chosen to undertake that mission. I do know one thing though."
"And what's that?"
Kirk looked at his friend and winked. "It sure as hell won't be us. Lieutenant, set a course for the Halava system. The Medusan ambassador is expecting us."
Chapter 1 by CaptainSarine
The following takes place almost 300 years after the events of the Prologue
"In the run up to Federation Day, every eye in the Federation is likely to be fixed on Bajor, currently half way through its four year term as the Federation capital. When it was announced that Bajor would have the privilege of hosting the president and council at the height of the five hundred year anniversary, many beings discussed its merits. However it is difficult to argue against the Bajoran system's claim to the honor. Its position as the door to the Gamma Quadrant makes it a key part of tactical and economic policy and its long history as a bastion of freedom and forgiveness in the aftermath of the Cardassian and Dominion occupations makes it a keen symbol for an alliance that has lasted for almost five centuries."
- Federation Today holocast, August 11 2561
"We don't see many of your kind this far from Vulcan," said the woman who owned the small bar in the Bajoran capital, looking Tiran over.
The Liberator will not be happy, he thought sourly, his heart beating a little faster at having to face his mentor's displeasure. Turning away from his examination of the bar's occupants, mostly Bajoran with a handful of other races - humans, Vorta, even the occasional Cardassian convert - he regarded her with what he hoped was an ingratiating smile. Let her think me a Romulan, he told himself. She will not fear me as much.
"I have never been here before," Tiran said softly. "I thought to make the most of the festivities, though. I had heard Bajor was a beautiful world, but..." He trailed off, allowing her to imagine the rest.
As the woman studied him, he noted that she was older than he had first imagined, probably in her late hundreds when you factored in prolong treatments. Her clothing was rich - the bar must be doing good business. Not surprising considering its position near Liberty Court and only a few steps from the Grand Avenue of Lights.
"Still, quite different to your own home I would imagine."
She's fishing, Tiran realised, trying to guess which of the vulcanoid brethren he was. In the two centuries since reunification, it had become harder to tell from a purely physical standpoint which race was which. In fact, for most, the difference between a Vulcan and a Romulan was now more of a philosophical question than a racial one.
"It is greener," Tiran said, smiling again. "Though the world where I was born had lush vegetation, as well. The flowering of the kissana flowers were especially bountiful when I was a child."
Lies, of course. He had been born on Vulcan and the closest he had been to vegetation had been the rare flowering in the Forge after a high storm. Still, for his purposes, this woman could not think of him as Vulcan. It was safer that way.
She did seem to relax, an indulgent smile playing at the corner of her mouth. People had so much less to fear from Romulans nowadays. "Yes, I had heard vegetation in the Republic was more grey than it was green."
Tiran forced his own smile to widen, reassured that she seemed to be convinced by his deception. Not that the Liberator would not be disappointed when he eventually arrived. Still, logic dictated he should not worry about such a problem until it presented itself. "It depends on the world, lady. I lived for many years on Karatra and the forests there were a green as deep as the Great Assembly building."
He waved his hand in the vague direction of Liberty Court and the Bajoran council hall, currently serving as the Council Chamber for the United Federation of Planets. He had stood opposite it the day before, watching as Bajoran workers draped the dome in bunting and flags, preparing for the huge celebrations that would take place on Federation Day. Illogical, he thought now. They celebrate that which they do not understand.
"Well, I hope you enjoy the party tonight," she said, her smile taking on a playful tone. "A strapping young man like you, I'm sure you won't wake up alone in the morning."
Is she trying to seduce me? He felt his hard-won control slip a little, his cheeks burning at the unfamiliar sensation. If he had been alone, he would have closed his eyes and run through the exercices the Liberator had taught him, but out in the open he could only force another smile. "I... Uh... I..."
Thankfully, the woman seemed to find his embarassment endearing. Leaning forward to put her hand on his, her blouse falling open slightly to give him just a glimpse of an ample bosom, she winked at him.
"If you are alone, my door will be open all night. For the celebrations, of course."
Smiling at him again, the Bajoran woman turned and walked away. Tiran found himself watching her go before he realised what he was doing.
"She is an attractive woman, Gosal."
Jumping slightly, Tiran turned to find the Liberator sitting at a table behind him. He must have entered the bar while Tiran was distracted by the woman. Tall, dressed in a simple white shirt and dark trousers, the Liberator's face had been surgically altered to resemble a Bajoran's. The handful of times Tiran had encountered the Vulcan he had always had a different face. Once he had been human. Another time he had the elaborate ears and violet eyes of a Vorta. Tiran would not have been surprised to see the man changed into a Jem'hadar. Or even a Kazon. Only the fact that he knew Tiran's operative name - Gosal - told him that he was the man he had been waiting for.
"Join me, please, my friend," the Liberator said, indicating the chair opposite him. Tiran hopped down off the stool at the bar and took the seat. He studied his mentor, trying to discern any sign in that alien face of the man's true thoughts. Of course, as a true Vulcan and a survivor of the kholinar ritual, the Liberator had total control over his emotions. He would show only what he wanted to. I wish that I could enjoy that same control.
"You were not followed." It was not a question but Tiran shook his head anyway.
"I did as you asked... Neryl."
"Good. It would be unfortunate if our plans were to fail so close to completion."
Tiran suppressed a shiver of fear at the man's tone of voice. The Liberator allowed for no doubts as to who would be blamed if those plans did fail to come to fruition. Still, Tiran had followed his instructions to the letter. His departure from Vulcan had been explained as a visit to his sister, currently working for Starfleet on Earth. He had disembarked from his shuttle at an out of the way refuelling station in the Karaka system, transferring over to a Klingon monastery frigate on its way to Boroth with pilgrims from throughout the sector. When the frigate had moored at Deep Space L near the old Ferengi border, Tiran had slipped away, hiding aboard a Cardassian trading vessel until it arrived at Basen V. From there, he had recovered the papers identifying him as Gosal and taken a Federation spacehopper all the way to Bajor.
As though reading his mind, the Liberator smiled. The expression appeared to be entirely natural on the man's Bajoran face. "Tell me, Gosal, are you devoted to our cause?"
Surprised that his mentor would even have to ask the question, Tiran hesitated. Was it a test? Had someone in his cell been making false claims about him? Did the Liberator suspect what Tiran had done the morning he left Vulcan?
"I would give my life for it," he said.
The Liberator surprised him by lifting a single eyebrow. Such a... Vulcan expression, incongruous on that alien face. "Are you sure about that?"
Lowering his voice, Tiran looked around before saying: "I follow the edicts of Surak. I cannot lie."
His mentor leaned forward. "Even a true follower can obfuscate, Gosal the Romulan."
Feeling his cheeks flush again, Tiran shook his head. "What I do, I do for the good of the cause."
"I hope so. For the mission I must ask of you can only be accomplished by one who is entirely devoted to the cause of liberation."
Tiran lifted a shaking hand, cursing himself for his lack of control. I must seek the quiet of meditation. I must seek the calm of the kholinar. "What do you wish of me?"
Instead of answering, the Liberator stood abruptly. "Walk with me." He strode out of the bar and into the light of the Bajoran sun. Tiran followed as quickly as he could, falling into step alongside his mentor as they walked out onto the Grand Avenue of Light. The sound of their feet on the cobbles was almost drowned out by the throng of people - from Bajorans to Vidians to Klingons to Jem'hadar - gathered in anticipation of the beginning of the celebrations. Why can none of them see what we have lost?
"Our great plan is coming to fruition," the Liberator said, his voice perfectly modulated so that Tiran could hear over the noise but no one else could. His mentor made his way easily through the crowd while Tiran struggled not to receive an elbow or a shoulder to his side. "Soon, the Federation will realise our true strength and they will have to listen to our demands."
"A logical outcome."
"Indeed. One that depends on any number of factors in the days to come. But it will all start with the lighting of a torch that our allies will witness across every world of the Federation."
Before Tiran could respond, they arrived on Liberty Court. Across the milling crowds, the Great Assembly rose into the skies, golden domes and white marble columns highlighted against the blue skies. Stalls surrounded the Court, selling everything from figurines of important Federation figures to replica starships. Many of them served delicacies from a dozen Federation worlds - Tiran recognised the tart smell of shav-rot soup amongst the sweet and savoury aromas assailing his nostrils. He was surprised that someone was selling Vulcan food, considering the way most Federation citizens currently considered his people, until he remembered that the soup had become popular among the worlds of the reunified Republic.
Above the Assembly fluttered both the Bajoran flag - a golden oval on a brown background - and the Federation one, the familiar star-filled seal of the Federation intersected by a white cross that represented the four unified quadrants. Tiran gritted his teeth at the sight.
"They fly that flag as though they know what it means, Gosal," the Liberator whispered from behind him. "As though they understand the principles that went into making it a reality. And yet every day they put the lie to that understanding." He waved his hand out across the crowd. "Look at them. Every single one of them dressed in the same manufactured clothes, celebrating the same festival day, ignoring their differences as though they did not exist. All of them bowing to the human need for similitude."
Though he would never admit it, Tiran did not quite see what his mentor saw. Most of the people wore traditional garb - in fact he found it hard to find any one member even of the same race wearing the same clothes. Still, he knew that at heart the Liberator was right. The Federation had turned away from its heritage. It no longer embraced change - it embraced new races and forced them into the same mould.
"And there go the standard bearers of that similitude."
A group of Starfleet officers moved through the crowd, their grey uniforms slashed across the chest with three wide lines of red. Security officers, then, here to help the Federation Guard and the Bajoran Militia assure the safety of the celebrants. Tiran saw a Klingon out in front, followed by a Ferengi, a Kazon and an Efrosian.
"They hide their racial heritage behind the faceless mask of the military," the Liberator hissed, his anger evident as he glared at them. Tiran felt uncomfortable at the show of emotion before reminding himself that his mentor was supposed to be a Bajoran. What better way to hide his true Vulcan heritage than by showing emotion? "Every single man, woman or being that enters one of their illfounded Academies comes out as just another drone. They're might as well be Borg."
"They are... dangerous."
"And now they are going to spread their sickness to other stars."
Tiran suddenly realised why his mentor had brought him here. He felt his breath catch in his throat, his cheeks flush. Could it be-?
"The Pioneer. The spearhead of Starfleet's Outbound Project. The symbol of the Federation's hubris and its desire to expand. As if our galaxy were not large enough." The Liberator stepped out in front of Liran, his eyes fixed on the Federation flag. Though he could not see his face, Liran could tell his mentor was smiling. "And we are going to destroy it."
Chapter 2 by CaptainSarine
Starfleet Security Forces Clash With Protesters
Members of the Federation Council today condemned a "blatant overreaction" on behalf of Starfleet Security forces facing vulcanoid protesters in front of the Federation Prefecture on Andoria. After violent clashes, seventeen protesters were stunned and transported to the USS Gathin. This follows a series of similar protests across Federation worlds in recent days.
- Federation Associated Press Dispatch, August 11 2561
In orbit of Bajor
"Computer, activate Bridge Pattern Soong Alpha 3."
The black latticework of the bridge's holographic matrix rippled, vanishing behind beige walls. The floor to either side rose and curved upwards, creating two levels. The chairs - the only things that were actually real - moved along with the holographic image, rearranging into a three seat set in the very centre, two seats in front and five seats in front of the holographic consoles right at the back.
Captain Marta Soong turned and looked at the other two officers who shared the bridge with her. "Well? What do you think?"
"It's a bit retro, isn't it?" Commander Gabe McHamilton, Chief Engineer of the USS Phoenix, screwed his nose up a little. "What is it? 23rd century? 22nd?"
Beside him, the small, almost fairy-like Ocampan woman laughed. "Gabe, you might be one of the best engineers in the fleet, but your knowledge of history is horrendous. Even I know that the Galaxy-class was 24th century."
"Still, that's over two hundred years ago," the burly Scotsman protested. "I thought you'd chose something more modern."
Marta sighed, turning in a slow circle. Pioneer was a state-of-the-art vessel, fitted with all of the Corps of Engineers newest bells and whistles. One of those bells was a fully holographic bridge, allowing each captain to personalise the design to his or her preferences. The Corps had programmed the ship's library with almost every single bridge design dating back to the founding of the Federation. Of course that was part of the problem. Too many choices.
"I think it's a classic," Commander Laurae, the Pioneer's Ocampan first officer, said. "And I know how much this particular design means to you, Captain."
Marta couldn't deny that the Galaxy-class design held a special place in her heart. Ever since she was a girl, her father had regaled her with stories of the Enterprises on which he had served, but her favourites had always been those concerning the Enterprise D. She had spent long hours exploring the ship's logs and the holographic recreations to the point where she sometimes thought she knew the D almost as well as, if not better, than her father. And he had a positronic memory. Still, part of her felt uneasy at using this design for her own bridge.
"Computer, tactical view."
The bridge of the Enterprise D fell away, the chairs began to rearrange themselves in a circle surrounding the center of the ship, and the holographic matrix was quickly replaced with a real-time view of the space outside. The brilliant blue light of Bajor suddenly filled the space, bathing Marta, Laurae and Gabe. Behind her, Marta could see the insect-like form of Deep Space Nine, while somewhere out in the darkness on her left, the wormhole slumbered.
Gabe groaned, putting his hand out to grab the back of the nearest chair. "Damn it, Captain, warn a man."
Laurae smiled. "You need to get used to it, Gabe. If we have to go into battle, you'll be here with the rest of us when we go into tactical mode."
"I still don't understand why Starfleet thinks having a nausea-inducing 360 degree view of space when you're in the middle of a battle would be anything but distracting."
"Oh come on, Gabe, even you have to admit that-"
Marta tuned the two of them out, stepping towards Bajor and looking down at the planet spinning below. Blue sea and green land, it could almost have been Earth. Since she had lived there ever since her thirteenth birthday, Marta had come to think of the human homeworld as her own home. Almost as much as she did the Enterprise J. It felt reassuring to look down on such a familiar sight. Especially considering the mission that awaited them all.
"Captain?" Marta realised that Laurae had spoken to her.
"We were just wondering whether you had any other possibilities to show us?"
"Well, you need to have made some kind of decision by tomorrow, captain. You can't exactly launch the Pioneer from a black holodeck."
Marta shook her head. "If I still haven't made a decision, I'll set up a temporary command post in the battle bridge."
Designed in case the Pioneer found itself without enough power to maintain the holographic matrix, the battle bridge had a fully functional, if utilitarian, command and control centre, complete with entirely analog stations for every major ship's section. Closely mirroring the design of the Resolute-class bridge, it had a dark, militaristic feel to it that Marta hated. Still, she was not going to be rushed into this decision. Whatever bridge design she chose would be final - Starfleet could not afford to have a captain changing the bridge configuration on her crew every few weeks.
"How about this one? Computer, activate-"
Marta's chest chirped at her. Reaching up, she tapped the subcutaneous communication's chip. "Captain Soong."
"Captain, this is Chief Gir. Federation One has just informed us that Councillor Haman is ready to beam over."
Marta's initial confusion at hearing Federation One - even after two years of Bajor being the temporary Federation capital, she still considered the station to be Deep Space Nine - was quickly replaced by waves of apprehension at the mention of Councillor Haman. Chosen by the Federation Council to serve as its representative on Pioneer's mission to the Andromeda galaxy, Haman was renowned in the political sphere as a manipulative, powerful and forceful personality, who had no love for Starfleet or its officers. Why on Earth anyone in the Council thought he would be a good choice as representative was beyond her.
Sighing, Marta acknowledged the information and told the chief she would be right there.
"Well, there are about a million things that need doing before the launch tomorrow," Gabe said. "I understand why Command thought launching us on our way the day after Federation Day was a good idea, but as I have said a thousand times, symbols and engineering don't mix."
"I'm sure you'll have her ready on time, Gabe," Laurae reassured him.
"Because if you don't, you'll have me to deal with," Marta added.
"God save me from beautiful women," the engineer grumbled, heading towards the turbolift.
Laurae also began to back away. "Well I have personnel files to go over and shift rotations to-"
"Not on your life, Commander. You wanted this job, that means you follow me into the pits of hell if you have to."
The Ocampan scowled, a strange expression on those elf-like features. "I think I'd rather face a horde of Kazon raiders than Haman."
"And that's exactly why I need you with me," Marta replied. "You know you're the diplomatic one."
"Oh, is that why you brought me on as your XO?"
"And don't you forget it."
The familiar rise and fall of the transporter faded, leaving a tall human man with a well groomed white beard and short cropped white hair. Dressed in a black and beige tailored suit, the shirt giving way to a long robe that hovered just above the transporter pad surface, the Councillor was accompanied by a younger human woman whose hand rested on the handle of a large case.
Marta stepped forward to greet Haman as he stepped off the transporter pad.
"Welcome to Pioneer, Councillor. I am Captain Soong and this is-"
"I would speak with you, captain." Haman glanced at Laurae, his lips twitching as if he were about to sneer. "Alone."
Marta felt her cheeks flush with anger and she opened her mouth to tell the Councillor that on this ship, she was the one who gave the orders, but Laurae stepped into the breach before she could.
"I'll be just outside, Captain."
Throwing her XO a dark glance, Marta turned back to Haman, prepared to say what she had been planning to say regardless, but the Councillor spoke before she got a chance.
"I am sure you realise the importance of this mission, Captain Soong. The Federation's first foray into another galaxy should not be entrusted to just anyone."
For one of the few times in her life, Marta found herself struck speechless. He could not possibly be saying what she thought he was saying. There was no way that-
"I hope that you will live up to the trust that has been placed in you. I have seen your file and you have a good record in your previous postings, though I am sure that there were other candidates with just as illustrious a... history."
Marta realised that she had clenched her fists without realising it. She wanted to lash out at the man, but she knew that would be a swift end to her career. You're better than this, Marta. And yet the feeling of helplessness overwhelmed her. For a moment, she found herself back aboard the Kartagena, Harudan standing over her and laughing as he unbuckled his belt. No, she reminded herself, banishing the image. You are not that girl anymore. You are not powerless anymore. Especially not before this man.
Her people had a concept central to their way of seeing the universe, one that she had learned the hard way. Cluros. The Cold Path. She would not allow Haman to dishonor herself. So she would simply bypass him completely.
"We have placed the Councillor in the executive suite on deck fifteen, and the rest of his staff in the adjoining rooms," Marta said, looking past Haman at his assistant. The young woman's eyes, already wide as she had listened to her boss, widened even further. "I made sure that the ship's personnel officer followed your instructions, but if there is anything further that you might need, you can contact my first officer, Commander Laurae."
"I- Uh- That is... Thank you."
Marta nodded, then turned her attention back to Haman. She saw the hint of a smile on his lips, but the expression vanished the moment she looked at him. "I will be briefing senior staff at 0700 hours tomorrow morning. You are more than welcome to join us. Observation Lounge 1."
Before Haman could respond, Marta turned and left the transporter room.
Laurae was waiting just outside, as she had promised. The Ocampan winced the moment she saw Marta's face, falling in beside her as her captain headed for the nearest turbolift.
Marta did not respond until she reached the turbolift. The moment she was inside, though, she slapped one hand against the wall, putting all of her anger and hatred and - as loathe as she was to admit it - fear, into the gesture. Something whined inside the lift and the lights flickered. Cluros, Marta. Cluros.
"That jachseh all but accused my father of using his influence to get me the posting over officers with more experience and better records." She slapped the wall again, much more softly this time around, her anger draining away. "Basically said the same thing every Starfleet captain with half a brain has been saying ever since they found out I had been given Pioneer."
Laurae reached out, placing a hand on Marta's shoulder. Even after all these years, Marta still flinched slightly at the contact, but she did not move away. "You know that none of that is true, captain. Your record speaks for itself."
Do I? How do I know he isn't right? Long suppressed feelings came rushing to the surface. Did I earn this? Or was it given to me because of who I am? Am I no better than Renata and her ilk?
As the turbolift rose towards the bridge, Marta closed her eyes and hoped the answer was no.
"That was a tad... harsh, don't you think, sir?"
The turbolift hummed as it made its way towards Deck Fifteen. Councillor Edward Haman rested his arms on the semi-circular railing and looked at Jennifer Sanders, his chief of staff and bodyguard. The woman, a former Federation Special Operations officer, looked deceptively pleasant and harmless, but Haman knew that if anyone on this ship or outside it attempted to harm him, she had the ability and the know-how to incapacitate them in a heartbeat. He had seen her on the holodeck, fighting everything from Jem'hadar to Borg, and had been impressed by her abilities.
He shook his head. "It was necessary, Jennifer."
"Still, Captain Soong would probably make a better ally than she will an enemy."
"Oh, I have no doubt that the captain and I will get on fine once the ship has launched. She is an excellent officer whose record is without reproach."
"There are things about this mission that even she does not know, Jennifer. Elements that must be carefully controlled, for the good of the Federation. And for me to do my job, I need to keep Captain Soong off balance. I may need to manipulate her into doing something that she doesn't want to do. Today, I showed her that I have the leverage needed in case that day should come."
"You're playing a dangerous game there, Councillor. If I know one thing about Starfleet, it's that they don't take kindly to civilians interfering with their operations."
Haman smiled, though there was no humour in his voice when he said: "That is exactly why I may need Soong under my thumb if push comes to shove. We can't allow Starfleet to set the course out there. And the captain's relationship with her father - and everything that it implies - is exactly the pressure point I can use to make sure they don't."
As the turbolift began to slow, Haman reassured himself that what he had done to Marta Soong had been necessary. He had not enjoyed it - he very rarely took pleasure out of manipulating others. Still, sometimes it had to be done. In this case more than any other. All his life, Edward Haman had maneouvered and used people: to get into university, to jump start his political career, to attain the high position in government he had sort. More recently, to assure himself of a place aboard the Pioneer on her extragalactic mission. For once, though, he knew that he was using the finally honed tools he had developed for a good reason. The best reason.
Something was waiting for him in the Andromeda Galaxy. Something very important indeed.
Chapter 3 by CaptainSarine
Klingon Monastery Frigate Comes Under Attack
In other news, the HKS Qur'vach barely escaped destruction in the Honara Sector earlier this week after coming under attack by what has been described as a 'swarm of unknown starfighters'. Starfleet ships in the area have been tasked with investigating the attack, while the Holy Emperor has called on all faithful to pray for the safe delivery of the ship's monks...
In orbit of Bajor
As the transporter beam released her, Talia t'Kae stumbled a little at the sudden change in gravity. She had been on Bajor for a week now, waiting for her security clearances to be processed through Starfleet Command, and she had gotten used to being back on a planet surface again. Although Federation One had served as a relay to get her from the surface to Pioneer, she had not dematerialised sufficiently there to feel the station's gravity grab a hold of her. Now, though, she felt as though she had been freed from quicksand.
Two people waited for her in the transporter room. One was a young Bolian, a simple brown jumpsuit identifying him as a non-commissioned officer. The other was more imposing. Pebbled grey skin, a fringe of bone-like horns, eyes so dark they might as well have been black - Talia felt an illogical surge of fear at the sight of the Jem'hadar, one that was only slightly alleviated by the Starfleet uniform, chest slashed with security red, that he wore.
"Doctor t'Kae, I need you to come with me."
Talia suppressed another peak of fear, Surak's tenets providing her with much needed grounding. The calm mind is one that really knows.
"I was expecting Captain Soong to meet me," she said, her voice as calm as it should be despite her inner turmoil. "We have much to discuss before the launch tomorrow."
"The captain has been called to Federation One on an urgent meeting with the Admiralty," the Jem'hadar officer said. "When I informed her that I needed to discuss security arrangements with you, she decided that I should meet you when you arrived."
Talia noted that he did not say "welcome" her onboard. Although she managed to maintain her emotionless countenance, her anguish almost overwhelmed her. It's happening again.
Banishing the thought, she lifted her head, refusing to be cowed by the man. "Very well. Where would you like me to go?"
"We will go to the security office. I have some questions for you."
"Since I do not know the layout of the ship, I will follow your lead."
The Jem'hadar nodded and spun on his heel, assuming that Talia would follow him without any further questions. Talia did as expected, forcing herself to walk slowly and calmly out of the transporter room, ignoring the astonished expression on the Bolian's face.
Pioneer's corridors followed standard Starfleet design - dark grey walls whose surfaces wore moulded fittings, light grey floor panels broken by a bright red line running down the middle, circular interface screens every few metres affording the ship's crew easy access to the onboard computer. A handful of crewmembers, grey jumpsuits slashed with red, gold and blue, walked purposefully to and from their duty stations, providing a background buzz of conversation.
Talia tried not to stiffen with every surprised look or irritated glance from the crew she passed. They all studied her Vulcan profile, but their curiosity turned to fear when they recognised the circle and triangle above her breast. Most of those seemed to relax somewhat when they saw her being accompanied by the Jem'hadar - they obviously felt safer knowing she was in his hands.
The security centre was a few dozen metres from the transporter room - Talia wondered whether she had been purposefully diverted to that specific pad when she was entrusted to the Jem'hadar's care. Realising that she was concentrating on minutae in order to calm her qualms about the coming interrogation, she once again reminded herself of one of Surak's teachings - The moment is its own world, full of potential and problems.
The Jem'hadar led her past a handful of security officers - mainly Klingons and Kazon, with a smattering of other races. They all watched her pass with barely concealed distrust. Talia felt an illogical surge of relief once they stepped into the relative safety of the security chief's office. Talia looked around for a chair, but realised that there were none. The Jem'hadar walked around the desk and stood, looking at her.
"I am responsible for security aboard this ship," he said without preamble. "Pioneer is mine to protect and I take that duty as seriously as my forebears once considered their service to our gods. Victory, even in security, is life."
Talia nodded. So far he had not said anything that seemed to require a response.
"As such, I must be aware of every threat to that security. When I was informed of your presence aboard this ship, I realised that you pose such a threat."
Forcing her face to remain expressionless despite the surge of resentment that threatened to overwhelm her barriers, Talia waited for the Jem'hadar to continue. When he simply stood there, watching her, she silently repeated one of her teacher's mantras - Calm and a quiet mind defeat many obstacles. She would not allow this security chief to disarm her. She would not allow him to shake her control.
After a few moments of silence, the Jem'hadar scowled. The expression appeared even more fearsome on his craggy face. "Do you have anything to say?"
"I do not pose a risk to the crew of this ship or the systems onboard. I am here as a civilian consultant, whose expertise is essential to the succes of its mission."
Pride? Talia heard her mentor's voice in her mind, chiding her gently. Perhaps, she replied. But is it truly pride when what I say is simple truth?
Her teacher had no response to that.
Instead of responding directly, the Jem'hadar reached down and picked up a glowing ball sat on his desk. He unfurled it, revealing a glowing, immaterial page. He studied it for a moment and then sent it floating towards her with a flick of his wrist. Talia waited until it was just in front of her before reaching up and plucking it out of the air. Lowering it, she looked down and felt her control shatter.
A young Klingon child - male from the prominent markings on his forehead - lay on his side on a pallet. Harsh purple boils covered his cheeks and neck. One of them had burst, leaking blood and pus. Bile burned Talia's throat and she fought down the sudden desire to weep.
"Hoji V. A colony world on the edge of the Delta Sector. Home to five million Federation citizens - human, Vidiian and Klingon. Chosen by the terrorist known as the Liberator as the first target in his war against the Federation." As he spoke, the picture on the holoper faded, replaced by the face of a dark-skinned vulcanoid. "The person responsible for the release of the biotoxin that wiped the entire colony from the face of the planet. A Vulcan professing to follow the Way of Surak, born and raised on Vulcan, answering to the name of Sulok."
"A murderer and a terrorist."
"A member of your family, I believe."
Talia looked at the Jem'hadar, unable to hide the tears stinging her eyes. Did this monster have any idea of the depth of emotion she had to be feeling for such an outward show of emotion? She doubted it.
"A distant cousin."
"And yet you remained on Vulcan after the Way of Surak rose to power, along with the other members of your family."
"My work was there, my laboratory and my papers. The government threatened to confiscate my findings if I left along with the other refugees. I had no choice. The moment my work was finished, I contacted Starfleet and arranged safe passage for me and my family to Earth, where I handed the foldspace drive over." Going against everything her father had believed in. When he had left her the foldspace formula, he had made her promise not to give it into the hands of the military. But surely, considering what it would have cost her to remain on Vulcan, he would have understood?
"According to Starfleet Command, your entire family did not leave. Your brother remained behind."
Would this never end? She had spent months debating this very point with Starfleet Command, convincing Admiral after Admiral that her brother's decision had no bearing on her own loyalties. When would they realise that she was not him?
"My brother joined the Way of Surak after our father's death. He fought in the battles that toppled the government. I tried to convince him to come with us when we left, but he made it clear where his loyalties lay. We left him. The rest of my family, apart from two cousins on my mother's side, fled Vulcan aboard the USS Farragut when Starfleet extracted us. They all live on Earth." Where they suffer the mistrust and hatred of everyone they meet.
"I cannot help but notice that despite your claims to loyalty, you continue to wear that." The Jem'hadar pointed at her chest. "The symbol of the Way."
"The symbol of everything the Federation stands for," Talia said, hearing the heat in her voice. She needed to regain control, to rebuild her walls, but the security chief was not giving her the time. "The symbol of a philosophy that saved my people and countless others. IDIC and the tenets of Surak are not to blame for the actions of the Liberator and his followers. I follow the true path of Surak. I will not be ashamed of my people's past." Seeing a possible way to turn the conversation around, she added, "As you are not ashamed of yours."
The response seemed to surprise the Jem'hadar. His whole body leaned back slightly. Finally, he nodded. "Starfleet Command believes you pose no threat. I do not agree with taking chances, but Captain Soong agrees with Command. I do not have the authority to forbid you passage aboard this ship. However." He leaned forward again, his eyes boring into hers. "I do not trust you. I do not trust your people, nor the beliefs that led to the death of five million people on Hoji V. I will be keeping an eye on you for as long as you are aboard this ship. At the slightest sign of treachery..."
He did not need to end the thought.
Talia just felt tired. She had hoped - as illogical as the sentiment may be - that once she was aboard Pioneer, her fears would prove to be unfounded. Instead, she was swiftly coming to realise that they were no longer fears. They were now her reality.
"I accept your scrutiny," she said, forcing herself to calm. "I accept your challenge. And I will accept your apology when you are proven wrong."
To her surprise, the Jem'hadar smiled. "I look forward to it."
"May I leave?"
"Yes. The computer will direct you to your quarters. Do not leave them until Chief Engineer McHamilton contacts you."
As she turned to leave, the security chief spoke. "For many years after the War, my people were mistrusted, even hated by the people of this Federation. My father's father's father was one of the first of my clan to join Starfleet. Many of his fellow officers believed that he had become a member of the fleet only to betray them to the Founders. He stood firm, proved that the fear was foundless. Now, many of my clan serve aboard Starfleet vessels. Often, only time can remove the stain of one's ancestors."
Talia paused. "A logical argument. But a fallacious one."
"My ancestors were loyal members of the Federation. It is my peers who are at fault. And I do not believe even time will be able to erase the stain of their sins."
She left, carrying the weight of a planet on her shoulders.
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