Chapter 1 - Cold

The U.S.S. Benjamin L. Sisko sat in its high orbit over the frost and tundra-covered planet known as VC-92A 5. The high orbit proving necessary after their approach into a standard orbit landed them into a net of cloaked, transphasic mines.

Most of the damage was minimal, however, it was annoying. As well, Captain Ranma Saotome and the rest of his bridge crew were certain that the mine detonations informed the people on the planet that they were there.

That wasn’t Ranma’s biggest concern, though. Transphasic torpedoes and mines had a nasty habit of phasing in and out of ‘normal space’; allowing them to bypass the shields and explode in the interior decks of starships.

If one of the remaining mines, assuming there were any, phased into the engine room, the Sisko would be destroyed.

As a precaution, the Sisko had all four of her antiproton cannons deployed and was sweeping with a tachyon field as she orbited. The ship’s automated point-defense software would target and obliterate any mine that was discovered before it even had a chance to get a target lock on the ship.

Ranma glanced over a PADD as Shampoo returned to her seat. She looked to the viewscreen for a moment before turning to Ranma.

“Ranma seem nervous,” the purple-eyed Amazon commented.

Ranma set down his PADD, sighed a bit, and nodded.

“It doesn’t seem right that we’re only scanning four Breen,” he explained, tapping the PADD. “Why would they leave something this valuable so poorly guarded?”

Shampoo shrugged slightly. “You think there more?”

“I certainly wouldn’t leave it guarded by only four people.”

Both command officers turned towards operations as Lt. Kaii’s voice blared out over the speakers.

“Nighthawk to Sisko,” he called.

“Go,” Minako replied.

“I’m in position over the coordinates.”

“You sound a bit confused,” Ranma said, standing and walking to operations. Shampoo looked to the viewscreen at the image coming back from the shuttlecraft before swiftly moving to catch up with Ranma.

“Yeah,” Kaii agreed. “I have located the area where the four Breen are, but it’s simply a small trench.”

Ranma sighed. “A lookout post.”

“That would be my guess,” Kaii confirmed. “There is a cave about a kilometer north of them, however.”

“Can you scan?” Shampoo asked.

“Barely,” Kaii answered. “The cave has a deuterium alloy deposit lining it, that seems to be reflecting and refracting my scans badly.”

“Could we do a better job?” Minako asked.

“I doubt it,” Kaii sighed. “It’s not a power issue.”

Ranma rubbed his face in frustration and nodded. “I guess they will just have to go into that cave and see if that is where it is.”

“There look to be two entrances,” Kaii said, bringing up a split-screen. “I can send one team to one, one to another, and a third to the lookout guards.”

“Alright,” Ranma nodded. “We’ll move in a few minutes. I want to make sure they know what they’re getting into.”

“Aye,” Kaii replied.

“I’ll let them know what’s going on,” Makoto called out.

Ranma shook his head. “No, Commander,” he said, walking to the turbolift. “I’ll run up there and tell them.”

“Aye,” Makoto nodded, watching Ranma get into the lift.

Shampoo watched him walk off as well. She then turned to Makoto.

“He worry about them,” she explained.

Makoto nodded. “We all do.”


“I’d pay all the gold-pressed latinum I have if they would stop changing our uniforms,” Kio grumbled, adjusting the sleeves of her jacket.

Again, the NSO uniforms had changed. While they still maintained the Starfleet Digital Camouflage pattern to them - these the ‘white’ variation for the frosty climate they would be fighting in, they were no longer jumpsuits.

Now, they were a separate pants/jacket combination, similar to a standard Starfleet uniform, with their tactical vests that would go on top.

The rank insignia moved back to their collar and while still in the SFPAT color configuration, the Sisko NEO mission patch was on the left shoulder, a UFP flag on the right.

Rei, who was sitting on the edge of the transporter pad, looked to Kio and smirked.

“If you guys would stop complaining and making ‘suggestions’, maybe they would,” she smiled.

Kio shrugged as she smiled. It was true, they did complain about the jumpsuits and the lack of mobility they had in them. And thanks to Commander Jitsia Gras still being with them, their complaints were quickly dealt with and processed by Admiral Genma Saotome, who despite his insistence to the contrary, did seem to have a crush on the young Trill commander.

The doors to the transporter room slid open and Ranma walked in. Everyone stood and snapped to attention to greet him.

“As you were,” Ranma smiled. The NSO teams relaxed slightly but remained standing. Ranma was very impressed by the discipline the group had, and despite his many attempts to get them, especially the enlistees, to relax in front of him, it just wouldn’t happen.

He realized he was fine with that since that’s one of the things that made them the best of the best.

“So, here’s the situation,” he explained looking to each of them. He told them about the cave, and how they thought what they were looking for was likely going to be in the cave. He explained how they couldn’t scan into the cave, and about the four perimeter guards.

He turned to Rei.

“I’ll leave it up to you to decide who goes where and how to proceed. Just contact Nighthawk when you’re ready to roll,” Ranma smiled.

Rei nodded. “Yes sir.”

Ranma patted Rei on the shoulder and moved towards the doors. He stopped just shy of them, however, and turned back around.

“I say this a lot,” he smiled, “but I assure you, it’s not just patronization. I really do consider you guys the best of Starfleet. Be careful and return safely.”

“Yes sir,” the room replied in unison.

Ranma nodded to Rei and walked out. Rei looked to Jitsia who smiled a bit smugly.

“I guess in a couple of weeks I will have to be content with being second best,” she grinned.

Rei shrugged. “Someone has to be second.”

Jitsia laughed a bit as Rei smiled and turned towards Delta team. “You guys want the lookout guards?”

Lieutenant Aileen Nelson, one of the team’s snipers, grinned widely. “Please.”

“Sounds good then,” Rei smiled back, looking over her PADD with the scans from Nighthawk. “Kio, your team can take this entrance, we’ll take the other one. Once we get inside and figure out where we’re going, we can decide where we’ll meet up.”

Kio nodded.

Rei turned to Delta team. “Once you guys take out the lookout guards, please split up and move to secure the entrances.”

Delta nodded. “Aye.”

“Okay then,” Rei said, placing her PADD in one of her cargo pockets and powering up her rifle. “Let’s go play.”


“The NEO teams have left the ship,” Makoto called out.

Ranma nodded, rapped his fingernails on his armrest for a second, then turned back to Makoto.

“Please have assault teams one through three put on standby, in case we need to send them to the planet,” Ranma instructed.

“Yes sir,” Makoto replied before beginning to issue orders into her terminal. Shampoo leaned into Ranma.

“Having flashback to Badlands?”

Ranma shook his head.

“No, and I don’t intend to either,” he sternly stated.


Delta team had gotten used to this arrangement. Both their snipers had honed their skills to the point of where they could likely do this in their sleep if they had to.

Considering they may slip into hypothermia at any moment, that was likely a good thing.

“Fucking balls it’s cold down here,” Nelson whispered as she plopped into a snowbank about a half kilometer from the lookout trench.

Her partner, Corporal Jessica Shelby nodded as she dropped into the snow as well.

“What do you expect from the Breen?” she asked as she set up her rifle.

“I only see two,” Nelson sighed, looking through her scope.

Shelby looked around a little more. “The other two must be down in the trench.”

“Well, that doesn’t do us any good, now does it?”

Shelby shook her head. “Hey, Lieutenant?”

“Yeah?” Lt. George Carson, the team lead called back.

“Two of our targets might be ducked down in the trench, and we can’t hit them.”

“Okay,” he replied. “We’ll set up a mortar. That should deal with them.”

“Kinda noisy, don’t you think?” Nelson asked.

Carson sighed. “I don’t really know what else to do. The cave is a couple of kilometers away, hopefully, it’ll be fine.”

Nelson looked to her partner and shrugged. “Okay.”

The pair waited a few minutes before the trench exploded. Nelson checked her tricorder.

“Well, that certainly was... effective...” she mumbled.


Rei scowled as she turned in the direction of the explosion.

“What the hell was that?” Lt. Parker shivered.

“I think it was our cue to go inside,” Lt. Commander Shelton said, looking towards the opening of the cave.

“Delta to Alpha and Bravo, the lookout has been eliminated,” Carson reported over comms.

Jitsia smirked slightly as Rei shook her head in frustration. She motioned for the group to start moving. The five slowly crept through the caverns, which had sparse, but adequate artificial lighting installed, both allowing the group to see, and letting them know that this was indeed the facility they were looking for.

“Commander,” Parker whispered as he walked, glancing down at his tricorder.

Rei looked at him. “Yeah?”

“It’s not just the cave that’s deflecting the ship’s scanning,” he explained. “There is a subspace dampening field in place here.”

Rei stopped her group. “Hino to Yuki...”

No response.

“Hino to Carson.”

Again, silence.

“Hino to Sisko.”

Rei mumbled some profanities before looking to her team. “I guess that means we’re stuck in here till we can get back outside.”

Rei looked to her rifle and flipped a switch, changing it from its phaser setting to projectile mode.

“No playing.”


Kio angrily growled at the information Xiang had relayed as well as the non-responsiveness of her communicator.

“Do we turn back?” Anthony asked?

Kio shook her head. “No,” she looked down the tunnel before turning back to her group. “Commander Hino is likely moving forward, so we should as well.”

“I’ll leave the breadcrumbs,” Yayo mumbled.

Kio smiled slightly as the group slowly ambled forward. Anthony looked to Kagurazaka, who was shaking slightly.

“You okay, Ian?” he asked.

Kagurazaka nodded. “Yes sir,” he said between teeth chatters. “I’m from Hawaii. We don’t like cold.”

Anthony smiled. “My first post was on Andoria,” he said, smiling at the blue medic, Yayo, who was grinning as well. “You want to talk about co-”

Kio quickly stopped and slapped her and over Anthony’s mouth. The rest of the group stopped as well and moved into defensive positions against the walls.

“Bzzrzzzrrrzrzrrzrzrrzrrzrrzrzrzzttt,” was heard coming towards them.

Anthony, after checking and making sure he still had all his teeth, positioned himself next to Kio.

“Bzzzzrrrzrzrrzrzrrrzzrrrzrzrrzrrzrzrrzrzrrzrzrz!” a second voice replied.

The two Breen came walking around a corner and found themselves quickly incapacitated as both Kio and Anthony’s rifles fired simultaneously. The pair quickly moved forward, with the three others right behind them, preparing to restrain and hide the stunned Breen when they noticed there were several other Breen standing there.


The exchange of gunfire was quick. The Breen were outnumbered. There were four of them, five of Bravo team. However, all it took was one lucky shot before the fourth Breen was taken down.

Kio slammed into the cave wall. Hard. She coughed as she slid down the wall and to the ground. Once the group was sure all the Breen were downed, Anthony and Yayo ran over to her.

“Secure those guys,” Anthony ordered Kagurazaka and Xiang. They both nodded as Yayo began to look Kio over.

“That hurts like hell,” Kio growled.

Anthony took Kio’s hand and squeezed it tightly as Yayo pulled Kio’s vest up, then pulled her jacket and undershirt up and inspected her stomach.

“The vest and uniform absorbed most of it,” Yayo reported as she began to apply some of the usual magical Starfleet medical hyposprays to Kio. “You do have a pretty nasty second-degree disruptor burn though.”

“Can I keep going?” Kio asked, gritting her teeth, not sure if her injury or Yayo’s manhandling of her injury hurt more.

“Don’t be so damned stubborn, Kio,” Anthony growled.

“Would you be lonely without me?” Kio half smiled at him.

Anthony rolled his eyes. Yayo sighed a bit, unsure if anything she could say would actually convince Kio to go back to the entrance of the cave and return to the ship.

“Yes,” Yayo sighed. “But you need sickbay to take care of this as soon as possible.”

Anthony turned to Yayo and gave her a disapproving look. Yayo simply shrugged as she injected Kio with a pain killer. She then leaned in and whispered to Anthony.

“What could I have said?”

Anthony sighed as Kio moaned in happiness; the painkillers kicking in and sending a wave of blissful numbness over her body.

Anthony knew Yayo was right. Short of losing a limb, there was little that could get the stubborn First Lieutenant to return to the beam out point and go back to the ship. Yayo put her kit away as Anthony stood and helped Kio to her feet.

“You’re just like her,” Anthony whispered to Kio.

Kio turned to him. “You did not just go there.”

Anthony half-smiled before starting to turn off. Kio stopped him, however, and pulled him back to her.

She quickly kissed him on the side of his face.

Anthony grinned a little more before picking up his gun. Kio went to tuck her shirt and jacket back in, grimacing in pain when she touched her stomach. After making sure her vest was secure, the quintet then resumed their march through the cave


“BRRRRZZRZRRZRZRRZRZRZZRZRRRZZTTTTTTTTTT!” was the last words the Breen guard could get out before several rounds from Jitsia’s rifle blew right through his helmet, through whatever the hell his head looked like, and out the back.

Jitsia, not happy about being shot at from behind, kick the dead Breen in what she assumed were his - assuming it was a male - genitals and ran to catch up with Rei and company.

“Well, okay then...” Shelton mumbled, looking at Jitsia with a look that bordered between concern and fright.

“It’s rude to shoot someone in the back,” Jitsia scowled.

Rei laughed. Shelton nodded. “Fair enough.”

“Stop,” Parker, who had point, called out. The group came to a halt as Parker looked over his tricorder.

“There are high chroniton levels detected in this area,” Parker explained.

Shelton looked to Rei and Jitsia. “I think we found what we’re looking for.”

Rei nodded before turning to Parker. “Life signs?”

“A dozen.”

Rei sighed. “Still can’t tell where Bravo team is, can you?”

Parker shook his head. “My effective scanning range is less than 50 meters.”

“Guess it’s just us then,” Jitsia said, loading a fresh magazine into her rifle.

Rei nodded but switched her rifle back to phaser mode. “They said there is a Romulan working with them. They want him alive.”

Jitsia groaned as she switched her rifle as well. “Fine.”

“Let’s go,” Rei ordered, moving the group through the next doorway.

It was another quick gunfight. Most of the Breen in the room were unarmed. The ones who weren’t had time to maybe look and see who was about to shoot them before they were shot.

The rest were downed quickly.

Soon, there were simply two Romulans standing next to a computer, both with stunned looks on their faces.

“HANDS!” Rei yelled at them as Alpha team approached them. “LET’S SEE THEM!”

The two Romulans quickly put their hands up.

“Who are you?!” one asked.

“Not important,” Rei answered as Parker and Shelton slammed them to the ground and restrained them. Jitsia and Masters began to look over the oversized torpedo sitting on a table before they both pulled out a pair of spatial charges.

“What...” the other Romulan gasped, “...what are you doing? You’ll destroy this whole facility!”

“That’s kinda the point,” Rei said as she began to upload computer data to her terminal.

The group heard footsteps. Jitsia quickly swung around and fired once.

Kio, again, was slammed up against the cave wall as the phaser blast from Jitsia’s gun slammed into her.

“OH SHIT, LIEUTENANT!” Jitsia cried, running over to Kio.

Rei blinked as both Ensign Masters, Alpha’s medic, and Yayo ran to her. Anthony also ran to her side.

Kio groaned as she coughed a couple of times. She then turned to Kagurazaka and shook her head.

“And you were complaining about being cold...” she mumbled.


“Sir,” Minako called to Ranma. Ranma looked to the operations station as Makoto and Jansen also began to chat quietly.


“A freighter just dropped out of warp at the edge of the system. It was on a course towards the planet but suddenly stopped,” Minako explained.

“Because they see us?” Shampoo asked.

“That would be my guess,” Makoto piped up.

Ranma pondered this for a second before standing.

“Intercept it,” he ordered Ikuhara, the helmsman.

“Aye,” Ikuhara replied, pulling the ship out of orbit.

“They’re turning away,” Minako reported.

“Soon as we’re on it,” Ranma turned to Makoto, “take out its engines.”

“Yes sir,” she replied.

The Sisko made a short warp and landed nearly on top of the freighter. Makoto quickly fired a single shot, hitting the smaller cargo ship’s nacelles, causing them to change from bright blue to an offline black.

“They’re hailing,” Minako said.

Ranma nodded.

“Scan them,” Shampoo added.

The captain of the freighter, a man of a race Ranma was unfamiliar with, appeared on the screen.


Shampoo’s terminal chirped as Minako sent her a message. Shampoo read it and whispered into Ranma’s ear. Ranma smirked slightly.

“I see you’re carrying Benzothermite.”

The freighter captain calmed down slightly. “I am not in Federation space. What’s illegal there is not illegal here.”

“Yes,” Ranma shrugged, “well you’ve entered a Starfleet security zone and I am afraid I am going to have to seize your cargo.”

“WHAT?” he yelled. “Under what authority?”

“Under the protocol of my current mission,” Ranma explained, “I can take any action necessary to ensure the safety of Federation citizens.”

The freighter captain scoffed. “Your protocol means nothing to me! I am not a Federation flagged ship. I am in neutral space. I-”

“Look,” Ranma interrupted. “This is going to end in one of two ways. One, you lower your shields and allow me to transport your cargo off your ship and I allow you to leave,” Ranma chuckles a bit, “eventually. Or two, I lower your shields for you, board your ship and your cargo, your crew, you and your ship come with me.”

Ranma cracked his knuckles. “Your choice.”

The side of the freighter captain’s mouth twitched a couple of times before he growled and hit a couple of buttons. The communication then ended.


“BACK US OFF!!!!” Shampoo yelled at Ikuhara.

Ikuhara quickly threw the Sisko into full reverse.

“ALL HANDS, BRACE!” Ranma called out.

The freighter exploded. The Sisko’s shields glowed brightly as debris from the freighter struck her.

The bridge crew was knocked around, but everyone was seemingly okay.

“Well, that was unexpected,” Ranma admitted.

Shampoo nodded before turning to Usagi. “Damage?”

Usagi shook her head. “None.”

“No casualty reports,” Minako added.

Ranma nodded before returning to his seat. “Take us back to the planet.”

Ikuhara nodded. Usagi looked to Shampoo and Ranma. “So, what was that Benzowhatever for anyway?”

“With the proper reaction,” Minako explained, “it can be used to generate a transwarp conduit.”

Ranma nodded. “That freighter pretty much just confirmed that the Breen is using this facility to develop transwarping, chroniton torpedoes.”

Shampoo shuddered. “They could attack from anywhere.”

Ranma nodded.


Both NEO teams slowly made their way back to the cave entrance. Kio, wary about now being shot by Delta team, was in the middle of the group, where she assumed she’d be safe.

If all else failed, she’d use their prisoners as shields.

“We need to move faster,” one of the prisoners said. “If we’re still in these caves when those charges blow, we’ll die.”

Rei looked at them. “There was only one torpedo.”

“Assembled, yes,” the second nodded. “But there are a lot of explosives down there.”

The first nodded. “As well, the chroniton charges could end up phasing a lot of this cave out of existence, causing it to collapse.”

Rei sighed. “Nice weapon you’re building.”

“We didn’t make it,” the Romulan explained. “We’re just upgrading them.”

“You’re being awfully talkative,” Jitsia pointed out.

The second Romulan shrugged. “We’re doing this for money. Now that the opportunity is gone, what’s the point in protecting the Breen?”

Kio smirked. “Very honorable.”

“Honor is for the Klingons,” the first pointed out. “Besides, technically, we’ve done nothing illegal, so as long as we don’t resist you and cooperate with Starfleet, we’ll likely be released.”

Rei shook her head in frustration. She knew what he said was true. While they were developing a horrid weapon that could - no WOULD - wreak havoc on the Federation, they did not do it in Federation space and likely could not be convicted of any crime.

“You know they would have used these torpedoes against the Romulans too, don’t you?” Kio asked.

Neither of the Romulans answered.

“Yeah,” Kio mumbled. “We were alone in kicking the crap out of them in the war.”

The group chuckled a bit before turning and seeing Kio drop to her knees.

“Kio?” Rei asked as Yayo and Anthony moved over to her.

“Keep going,” Kio groaned. “I’ll be right behind you.”

Anthony nodded to Rei. “We’ll catch up in a second, Commander.”

Rei hesitated for a moment, but then nodded back, taking most of the group with her. Yayo pulled her kit back out and scanned Kio.

“The cold is not helping,” Yayo said. “Plus, that second phaser shot caused more damage to your disruptor burn.”

“We’re almost out,” Kio whimpered, standing back up. Yayo quickly injected Kio again, grabbed her stuff, then put one of her arms around her as Anthony took the other one.


Rei passed off the prisoners to the two Delta team members waiting at their entrance.

“Take them to the brig,” she ordered. They nodded and the four beamed away. Rei then began to move back towards the cave.

“Where are you going?” Jitsia asked.

“To get the rest of my officers,” Rei replied, running into the cave.

Parker looked to his tricorder. “72 seconds...”


Kio was in tears her midsection hurt so much. Despite the pain, she continued to walk as fast as she could. It wasn’t the cave or the explosion she was worried about, it was the need to see Anthony and Yayo safely free from the planet.

It was the last thing in the world she wanted.

The thought of even more people dying because of her.

“KIO!” Rei called out.

“Coming,” Kio cried.

Rei rounded a corner and saw the trio. “We have like 30 seconds,” she told them. “Put her on my back.”

Yayo and Anthony did as they were instructed. Kio wrapped her arms around Rei and carried her piggyback. They ran as fast as they could towards the exit.

Kagurazaka waved them out of the cave as the first rumbles of the explosives triggered below, hunkering down in a depression a safe distance from the cave entrance.

Slight tremors threatened to topple the running group, waves of fire chasing them out of the cave as they made it to Kagurazaka and safety. Flames curled up the cave entrance, shooting from the cave behind them, bathing the teams in the heat of the explosion. Secondary explosions rippled under the teams, proving the Romulans correct.

“Ahhh, warm...” Kagurazaka grinned, looking up at the rest of the group, slight smudges of ash coating his features.


‘Captain’s log. Stardate 62800.3. With the Breen research facility obliterated, Starfleet Intelligence now believes that their research on any transwarping chroniton torpedoes has been eliminated, buried under what little remains of that cave. The facility was isolated, as to not allow any leaks, so Starfleet believes the Breen has no ability to recover the research. With the prototypes destroyed and the lead researchers in Starfleet custody, they will have to start from scratch.’

Ranma leaned back in his ‘thinking chair’ and sighed a bit.

‘I was worried that once Starfleet was done with the Romulan researchers they would be released back into the wild, free to sell their secrets to the highest bidder again, but it seems that won’t be the case.

‘Apparently working with the Breen is not something that is considered ‘proper’ on Romulus, and the Tal’Shiar would like some time with them once Starfleet Intelligence is done.’

Ranma shook his head in disapproval yet couldn’t help smirking a bit.

‘This will likely be the last time we have to deal with them.

‘Lieutenant Yuki was given a couple of days of leave to deal with her injuries. I’m constantly astounded and proud of how resolute those guys are. I like to think I am pretty tough, but I don’t know how tough I would be after receiving a second-degree disruptor burn.

‘The incident with Commander Gras was determined quickly to be accidental and there will be no further need for action on that.’

“End log,” Ranma called out. The computer chirped in compliance. A few moments later the door chimed for the Captain's attention.

“Come in,” Ranma called.

The door slid open and to Ranma’s surprise, Anthony was standing there.


Ranma quickly bounced out of his chair and nodded towards him.

“Good evening, Sergeant.”

“If this is a bad time, sir...”

“No,” Ranma shook his head and motioned for Anthony to come in. He pointed towards his living room table as he walked to the replicator. “Can I get you something to drink?”

“Coffee will be fine. Thank you, sir.”

Ranma nodded and ordered a coffee and a tea from the replicator. He then walked back to the table, handed Anthony his drink, and sat down across from him with his own.

“And it’s...” Ranma smiled, “...usually never a bad time. I always have time to chat with my crew, especially the exceptional ones.”

Anthony smiled. “Thank you, sir.”

“What can I do for you?”

Anthony cleared his throat. “Well, sir, I was actually wondering if I could ask a favor of you.”

“Oh?” Ranma asked.

Anthony nodded and handed Ranma a PADD.

“I have a far more likely chance of being accepted if I get a letter of recommendation, especially from someone of your stature.”

Ranma smiled as he read the PADD. “Officer candidate school.”

Anthony nodded. “Yes sir.”

“Well, it will certainly give you a lot more flexibility in your career,” Ranma nodded. “I would be happy to...” Ranma trailed off. He sensed something wasn’t quite right.

“This is what you want, right?” Ranma asked.

Anthony remained silent for a moment before looking to Ranma. “I’m not sure, sir.”

“Then why?”

Anthony hemmed and hawed for another minute before sighing. Obviously, if he didn’t want to admit it, he shouldn’t have bothered coming here.

“I want a relationship with Ki- Lt. Yuki,” he said softly. “She wants one with me, but...”

Ranma took a sip of his tea. Professional matters he was a wiz at. Things involving girls... Well, that was an entirely different story.

Why was there never a red alert when you really needed one?

“Sergeant...” Ranma said, smiling slightly. “Anthony. Yes, ours is a warship. One of a few, but Starfleet, the LDF included, is not a military.”

Anthony eyed Ranma intently as he continued.

“We’re a peacekeeping force at most, and while WE may be far more proactive at it than most, it doesn’t change the nature of Starfleet, nor does it change protocol.”

“I’ve just always assumed,” Anthony admitted.

“It’s discouraged,” Ranma admitted. “Do you really want your C-O being your ex-girlfriend?”

Anthony chuckled.

“Quite frankly, though,” Ranma continued, “with the professionalism you guys show, I don’t think that would ever be a problem.”

“She and I have known each other for a long time,” Anthony added.

Ranma smiled. “Look, I will leave it up to you two to decide what you think is best.” He looked down at the PADD Anthony handed him. “If you decide, at any point in time, that you truly want to go to OCS, I will gladly write you a letter of recommendation. No questions asked.”

Ranma looked to Anthony. “However, I want you to want to go there for the right reasons.”

Anthony took the PADD back and stood. “Yes sir. Thank you, sir.”

Ranma stood as well and shook Anthony’s hand.

“Good work today,” he said.

Anthony nodded thanks and walked out the door.

“You should have been a counselor,” Akane called out.

Ranma jumped about ten meters.

“OH MY GOD!” he yelled, “You scared the hell out of me!”

Akane walked into the room, laughing.

“What? Did you forget that I live here too?”

“I didn’t even know you were home!” Ranma laughed, pushing Akane onto the couch and hopping on top of her.

“I was cloaked,” she joked.

“Disable cloak,” Ranma grinned as he started to unzip her jacket.