Bolarus Sector: Federation Approaches to Romulan Neutral Zone
Annabeth leaned forward in her chair and stared down at the blank PADD in front of her. She owed her daily report to Admiral Wainwright, but somehow was unable to put words to screen. She gazed up at the activity on the bridge.
Cevastei was busying herself at the tactical station on the arch behind her. Soloth was tormenting poor Rutaan at the helm, lecturing her on some minute course correction that would be more efficient, but in the end would only shave a few seconds off her previously chartered heading.
Annabeth couldn't get Childar's words out of her head. Had Laria really found the captain? It had been over a month since the funeral, and logically there was no way he was still alive. If Alex's experiences with the Romulans were any indicator, he would have been tortured for information until he broke, and then once he had nothing useful left to confess, he would be either executed or worked to death. She clenched her eyes shut.
"Alex…" she thought to herself. Just thinking of what those green-blooded barbarians did to her wife made her stomach heave. "No, not on the bridge. Keep your composure here. The crew needs to see it."
Her mind drifted back to Laria: alone, wandering the stars, fighting battle after battle to be reunited with her lost husband. It would be tremendously romantic if it weren't so utterly tragic. Even if the Bajoran was somehow able to make it across the Romulan border, she would stand alone against the entire Romulan fleet.
In her grief at Alex's capture, Annabeth once thought such reckless action was possible, but it was Tigranian himself who stopped her from going after Alex.
She shut her eyes again and remembered:
"What other choice do I have, Dan?...The Federation abandoned her."
She was standing in the Pershing's shuttlebay again, her captain pleading with her to lay down her arms and trust him.
"I'm just so scared, Dan. I can't lose her. I can't."
"Call the bridge. Ask them what our current heading is," Tigranian replied to her with the confident, reassuring tone of a brother.
"Geist to Duty officer…What's our current heading?"
"Ma'am, Captain Tigranian just ordered us to set course for the Romulan Neutral Zone. We'll arrive there in 68 hours, present course and speed." He seemed so sure of himself, so resolved to return Alex to her arms.
"Before they took her away, I told her this wasn't over," he said with the will to fight.
"What are you going to do?" Annabeth remembered asking with more trepidation than she wanted at the time.
"Whatever it takes."
And he meant it. Daniel Tigranian risked everything to get Alex back: his ship, his career, even his life, just for the chance that Annabeth could hold her wife again.
"Captain…Captain!" Cevastei's words jarred her from her mind.
"Yes, what is it, Emma?" Annabeth said shaking herself back to reality.
"We're being hailed…" Cevastei said with more than a little confusion in her voice.
"From where?" Annabeth said furrowing her own brow. The nearest vessel was over five lightyears away, well out of the range of hailing frequencies. Soloth's ears perked up and he crossed back towards his chair.
"I don't know, Ma'am," the tactical officer replied.
"What do you mean, 'you don't know?" Soloth asked.
"I mean, 'I don't know,' Sir. Every time I try to get a fix on the transmission, the computer freezes and resets."
"Curious…" Soloth said with more than hint of frustration. However, Annabeth immediately knew who was on the other end of the signal.
"Emma, open hailing frequencies. Onscreen."
"It'll be alright."
Cevastei compiled. The image of the back of a Klingon captain's chair appeared in front of them. Slowly, it turned around and the face of Tigranian Laria stared back at her. The rest of the bridge gasped as Annabeth slowly climbed to her feet.
"Captain Geist," Laria said with a nod of her head, "I am Captain Tigranian Laria of the Klingon Bird of Prey, Dri'goth. I should have known you would be the one to figure out where I was really going."
"I know you very well, Little Sister," Annabeth said with a smile. The rest of the Venture's bridge watched their exchange in stunned silence. "I suppose it would be worthless to trace your signal."
"You suppose correctly. I've shielded the carrier wave with so many levels of quantum encryption, I doubt my own ship knows where it's coming from."
"But, if I know you, you're VERY close."
"I'll put it like this," Laria replied with a grin so large it made the braids on the sides of her head bounce. "I wouldn't make any sudden movements. Both for your sake and mine."
"Shields up!" Soloth shouted. "Ready a tachyon burst from the main deflector to detect cloaked vessels. Prepare a tractor beam…"
"Belay that order!" Annabeth shouted over her shoulder. "If I want your help, Mr. Soloth, I will ask for it…" she said through gritted teeth. Soloth silently took his seat.
"I see that your new first officer is just as protective of his commander as you once were, Annabeth. Hopefully, he'll learn to trust Klingon surprises as much as you have."
"I still don't trust all Klingon surprises, L," Annabeth said. "Just yours." Annabeth paused, readying herself to ask the question on her mind. However, Laria knew her friend well enough to answer first.
"I found him, Annabeth. He's alive."
"I should have known," Annabeth replied shaking her head. "Death hasn't been able to catch a Tigranian yet."
"I'm sending the details to your personal account now."
"Why?" Annabeth asked.
"Because I know you as well, Big Sister. You would never let family go into the lion's den alone. It's in your blood."
"Laria, if you know where he is, tell Starfleet! He got Alex back through diplomatic channels. We can get your husband back the same way. I'll lobby command on your behalf. There's nothing that's been done we can't fix."
"I can't do that, Annabeth. Too many people on Earth would rather see Daniel spend the rest of his life in captivity than admit the Romulans got the better of Starfleet. Besides, it's personal now.
I'm heading across the border. If you can't follow, I understand, but don't try to stop me."
"And if I do decide to follow?" Annabeth blurted out the words before she had a chance to stop herself.
"Give me just enough time to get him out of there and then come in with phasers charged. Remember, the Romulans don't exactly like you either."
"The feeling's mutual…"
"Goodbye, Annabeth. You will always be my family. If I don't see you again, be sure you give Alex a hug for me."
"Laria…" Annabeth said fighting back tears. "Qapla', Daughter of Amira."
"Qapla', Daughter of Geist."
The screen went blank and the Venture once again found itself alone.
Annabeth didn't even hesitate.
"Yes, Ma'am?" The pair said in almost perfect unison.
"You're with me."
Rutaan pushed back from the helm and joined Cevastei next to the aft turbolift. Annabeth turned to follow, but Soloth interjected.
"Captain," he asked sternly. "What are you doing?"
"Out there is a man who saved someone I love when no one else would. Now he's waiting for someone to come save him. His wife is already on the way. I intend to join her."
"Ma'am," Soloth continued. "Might I remind you have an obligation to Starfleet Command and this ship? Taking your crew members aboard a Klingon vessel, violating the Neutral Zone, is not only against your orders to detain Lieutenant Tigranian, it is illegal."
"I don't need you to remind me of a damn thing, Soloth. Besides, I'm not going aboard Laria's ship…"
"Do you really mean to tell me that you are putting this ship at risk for a man who might not even be alive?"
"I'm not putting this ship at risk, Mr. Soloth," Annabeth said in an increasingly agitated tone. "I'm going to put half this ship at risk. Your orders are to evacuate all non-essential personnel to the saucer section. Once we separate, you will proceed at maximum impulse towards Starbase 10. If you signal Starfleet Command, they will be able to send a pair of warp tugs to recover you in less than two days. You can make whatever the hell report you want. I don't really care."
"Captain, I am afraid I cannot allow you to do this. If you proceed, I will be forced to take you into custody and charge you with dereliction of duty, disobeying Starfleet General Orders, and theft of Federation property."
"Try and stop me," Annabeth said turning back towards the open doors of the turbolift.
"Very well!" Soloth shouted. "By authority of Starfleet Order 104: Section C, I relieve you of command. Lieutenant Cevastei, place the captain into custody."
Annabeth looked over to her lieutenant. The Chief of Security did not move.
"Lieutenant!" Soloth said more forcefully. Still no response.
"There is a Starfleet officer, one who has been recognized for valor and heroism on too many occasions to count, being held captive by the Romulans. God knows what hell they are putting him through as we speak," Annabeth announced to the bridge. "Using my authority as captain, I am going to mount a rescue mission. However, this is in direct violation of our orders and no one is obligated to follow me. If you object, I will note it in my log and you will be free to remain with Commander Soloth in the saucer section. If you wish to follow…" she said turning to Rutaan and Cevastei, "…head below."
The two officers stepped into the turbolift without another word. Soloth turned absolutely green, using all his Vulcan discipline to suppress his growing rage. Annabeth grinned as she joined her helmsman and tactical officer.
"Commander Soloth," she added before the doors closed. "There's something I've always wanted to say to you…"
"Yes, Captain?" he said scowling in her direction.
"You suck as a first officer." He took a step backwards in surprise.
"Battle Bridge!" Annabeth commanded the computer. She held back laughter as the doors closed.
The turbolift doors parted and Annabeth and her skeleton bridge crew stepped onto the Battle Bridge, the smaller auxiliary control center deep inside the drive section of the Venture. It was a space designed for combat, not exploration. Cevastei and Rutaan took their stations, powered them on, and prepared for separating the ship into two halves.
Annabeth took her seat and began initializing the tactical display on her armrest.
"Ma'am," Cevastei called out from the station behind her. "Engineering reports they are at minimum manning, but still mission capable."
"Have all excess personnel been evacuated to the saucer?"
"Yes, Ma'am," Rutaan called out. "All decks report ready."
"Initiate separation sequence," Annabeth said leaning back and looking at the viewscreen. "Ten seconds from my mark."
"Aye, Ma'am," Rutaan called out.
"This is your last warning, Ma'am," Soloth spoke through the intercom. "It is not too late for you to reconsider."
"Mark," Annabeth said muting his audio.
Rutaan made a final check of her instruments.
"Separation in six, five, four, three, two, one..."
The magnetic interlocks holding the Venture's saucer to the neck of her drive section disengaged. The saucer gently rose away and continued towards the Federation at full impulse.
"Alea iacta est…" Annabeth muttered. "Red Alert! Full power to phasers, load all photon torpedo tubes. Shields up. All remaining hands, battlestations!"
Alarms echoed across the drive section.
"Set course 090 Mark 24. Warp 8. We're heading straight for those Romulan assholes," Annabeth commanded.
"Course laid in, Ma'am," Rutaan replied as she steadied herself at the helm.
"Engage," Annabeth said tugging at the bottom of her uniform jacket sharply.
The drive section came about and warped into the Neutral Zone…
TO BE CONTINUED…