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Chapter Three

Doctor Markalis entered her office through the corridor joining the primary ICU with the research lab. She came to a sudden stop when her desk chair swiveled around. Cole, now in a Starfleet uniform, was the chair’s occupant. “May I offer you some refreshments, ‘Commander’?” Markalis sarcastically asked, noticing the pips on his collar.

“No thank you,” Cole retorted. “But I see you passed the first test. I have a follow-up assignment.”

“You’re going to tell me whether I show any interest or not.”

Cole rose from the chair and sauntered around the desk. “And you’d be correct,” he said with a grin. “I understand you’ve been temporarily re-assigned to the Semmelweis. And she’ll be making a detour to Tagra Four.”

“Yes, we’ll be picking up medical equipment before rejoining the rest of the medical convoy at our fallback position.

You’ll be doing more than that,” Cole cut in, knowing of Aurellan’s tendency to ramble. “When convenient, you’ll slip away to meet with your contact. He or she will arrange for you to meet Rhys Darcen.”

“And how will I meet this contact? And who is Rhys Darcen?”

“To answer your first question, I’ll have the details sent to your quarters. The answer to the second question is that he is the leader of a group of genetically enhanced humans my agency has been tracking the last six months.”

Markalis’s eyes widened. The existence of such humans hardly seemed possible since that type of genetic resequencing had been outlawed for centuries. While some would surely have circumvented the law, that would not produce as many super-humans as those existing during the Eugenics Wars. “As in augments,” she demurely asked. “Like from the Eugenics Wars?”

“For lack of a better descriptor, yes,” Cole answered with a nod. “They have various characteristics in common with Khan Noonien Singh and his brethren. Your job is to gain Darcen’s trust and learn his plans.”

“That simple, huh?” Markalis sighed.

“As soon as you read the mission briefing on the trip to Tagra. And if you still feel a need to contact me--though I would advise against it--ask for Commander Casey Johns, first officer of the Derna.”

Markalis almost wanted to laugh at the absurdity of her upcoming mission. Of course, she was going by Limis’s instructions, she remembered. Aurellan just smiled grudgingly. “No problem, ‘Commander’,” she said.

Cole then walked off, not caring that anyone on duty in sickbay might regard him as an intruder. After all, he got away without arousing suspicion the night before.


During the day’s crash course in self-defense, Neeley’s MACO’s were sparring partners for the other Starfleet officers present. Morrison stood in a huff the entire time Tarlazzi was pitted against Mik Tannin, a Brikar. Hence, Tannin’s strength was that of five Jem’Hadar. Morrison actually preferred holographic Jem’Hadar, even knowing that simulations provided limited experience. Neeley, meanwhile, complimented Tarlazzi on his deflections of Tannin’s punches. “Excellent,” Neeley interjected. “Now try the chop and kick.”

Tarlazzi lunged at Tannin delivering a right chop while raising his right leg. Tannin grabbed his opponent’s arm and effortlessly threw him to the floor. Morrison was visibly annoyed. Tarlazzi winced in pain, but quickly got back on his feet.

Neeley was about to speak when Morrison cut in. “That’s all for today,” he announced.

Neeley’s eyes widened, but she said nothing, feeling a mix of anger at his sudden dismissal of the class and coupled with lingering arousal at the sight of his sweat soaked brow and his muscular arms. Instead of addressing the class, she just followed Morrison out into the corridor as he stormed off. He did not want to discuss the matter any further, but Lisa wanted an explanation for the early dismissal. She followed Mandel to the end of the corridor, where he stood waiting for a turbolift. “What was that about?” she demanded.

“That whole demonstration was out of line,” Morrison hurriedly replied, seeing the turbolift doors open. He stepped inside hoping to be rid of her, but Neeley anxiously followed as if wanting to resume arguing with him.

“Deck six,” Morrison called.

The lift barely moved when Neeley called out, “Halt!”

“Tannin went easy on him,” Lisa continued, glaring at Mandel. “And Tarlazzi got right back up. He had no broken bones or dislocated joints.”

“I’ll suggest Markalis add you to her medical staff,” Morrison sarcastically quipped. “Resume. You’re lucky I didn’t collapse from a heart attack. What were you thinking pairing a Brikar with a Rigellian?”

“He has mixed Vulcan and Kaylar ancestry. And I was trying to make the conditions as realistic as possible. The Jem’Hadar are not as generous.”

“All I’m saying is that if you’re people can’t dial it down, I’m calling this off.”

The lift doors opened and Morrison stormed out. Neeley sighed and rolled her eyes. An on-duty male officer stepped onto the turbolift with a curious stare. Neeley gave a stern glare at the young man mentally undressing her, but resisted the urge to tell him off knowing that she and Morrison radiating sexual tension.


The medical facilities aboard the Olympic-class USS Semmelweis were a lot larger than those on most other Starfleet vessels. The spherical primary hull below the bridge was largely comprised of intensive care and triage facilities. In that sense, this ship was like the field hospitals in which Markalis had served hurdling through space.

While the ship headed for the Tagra system, all the doctors and nurses gathered in the medical briefing room. Heading the briefing was a blond Bajoran woman of early middle age. Commander Ziminske Aris, the first officer and medical team leader, had the task of delegating various assignments to her staff. Markalis began to sense that Ziminske was looking in her direction during most of the briefing. That much was certainly true when the commander assigned her to examine the atmospheric conversion units. That took place early in the briefing, yet Ziminske seemed to look towards her by the counting of twenty different times. She never met the woman before, but was she rubbing her the wrong way already?

Once the crowd dispersed, Markalis hoped to walk past Ziminske without making eye contact. She nearly succeeded when the commander spoke. “Queen to queen’s level three,” she said.

“Pardon me?” Aurellan asked, before turning around to face her superior.

“Queen to queen’s level three,” Aris repeated. “What’s the countermove?”

“Queen to king’s level one,” the younger woman replied.

“Good,” said Ziminske. “I am your special contact. I will have the plans for you to meet Darcen uploaded to your quarters.”

Markalis grinned lightly. Once Ziminske sauntered off, Aurellan sighed in annoyance. How many people were going to speak in riddles before this covert mission was over?


Commander Keith Ellison glanced over at the bridge’s port auxiliary stations aboard the Constantinople. The youthful looking middle aged man paced over to the primary communications station while noticing Admiral Jellico enter the bridge from the observation lounge’s port egress. “What have you got Keith?” the admiral inquired.

“Nothing yet, sir,” Ellison replied. “We’re still waiting on the USS Revolution and the IKS Koord to report back in.”

Speak of the devil, the communications station chimed. “That’s them,” said the human male ensign manning the station.

“On speakers then,” Jellico replied heading for the center seat.

The voice of a human male officer pierced through the bridge’s speakers. “Cardassian Galor-class destroyers massing along the outer planets,” he reported.

“Confirmed,” a male Klingon added. “They should reach your position in ten minutes.”

“Copy that,” said Jellico, sitting in the command chair. Then to the Efrosian at tactical, “Mister Jeth’ron, raise shields and ready weapons. Ensign Nave, full ahead.”

“Aye, sir,” the freckle-faced blond woman at conn answered. Jellico noticed from her service record that Sarah Nave was only twenty years old. That made the seasoned veteran wonder how many officers young enough to be his grandchildren were part of this fleet.

The Constantinople, the Kaneda, and the Tetsuo moved off to make the rendezvous.


On the bridge of the Lambda Paz, the officers and crew awaited the order to engage the enemy while the ship waited at a fallback position. Ronnie Kozar glanced at the portside auxiliary stations, while Limis Vircona reviewed battle plans with Mandel Morrison at the starboard mission operations station. At that station, Morrison reported a hail from fleet command.

All ships,” Jellico said over the speakers, “ready attack formation.”

The rest of the alpha shift came on duty at that moment. Huckaby assumed Ops, while Carson relieved Sullivan at Conn. Morrison caught a glimpse of the two women’s banter. The officer going off-shift would usually have to brief the officer relieving him or her. Morrison got the impression Sara and Rebecca’s interactions were moving beyond discussions of their common station when he saw his ex smirk.

“It’s only your helm a third of the day,” Rebecca joked.

“But of the three of us, I’m the senior officer,” Sara shot back.

“Aye, aye, sir.”

Limis nodded to Sullivan as the later headed for the starboard turbolift. “You heard the man,” Limis announced to the bridge. “Let’s move out.”

“New course, bearing 1-4-6 mark 2-7,” Carson reported.

“Weapons and shields are online,” Morrison added.

“Ship-to-ship communications in stand-by mode,” said Huckaby.

Without thinking, Limis raised an index finger and waved it forwards, vaguely recalling that a more seasoned starship captain made this gesture. “Punch it.”

The Lambda Paz, the Derna, and the Epimetheus were the leading three ships. Several Defiant and Akira-class destroyers flanked them, while about a dozen Klingon Birds-of-Prey and D’Deridix-class Romulan warbirds took up the rear.

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