“Good lord,” Larson repeated for about the fifth time watching the interrogation tape from Saanik's mind-meld with Salek. Ranma, who had no real interest in seeing Saanik kill himself again, stood against a wall a couple of meters away from the SitCon.
“Ranma,” Genma said quietly, walking over to his son. “Are you okay?”
Ranma shook his head. “No. But I will deal with that later.”
Genma put his hand on Ranma's shoulder. “You did all you could.”
“I know,” Ranma acknowledged. “I think what's bothering me the most is the fact that I am glad he did it. Otherwise, we'd have nothing to go on.”
Genma nodded. “He made a great sacrifice.”
“Yes,” Ranma sighed. “But he messed up Salek pretty bad too. So, on one hand, I don't know how different that was than having Makoto beat Salek into confessing.”
Genma could understand the ethical quandary Ranma was having. “I guess the primary difference here is that you didn't have to order him to do it.”
Ranma sighed. “I guess.”
“Ranma,” Larson called. Ranma turned and walked over to the SitCon. Larson pointed to the screen. “The main fleet appears to be fragmenting.”
Ranma slammed his fist onto the console. “Dammit. Did they move the assault up again?”
“It would appear so. I have not gotten another status message yet. We should have another thirty hours, but if they are breaking into formations, they are likely going to depart within twenty-four hours.”
Larson checked another screen. “The Vulcans also appear to be preparing for battle. They are establishing a line around the planet, as well as a forward line.
“Their defenses have increased quite a bit, but the Starfleet group is still vastly superior.”
Ranma nodded. “Well, sure, if you have every ship in Starfleet assembled together.”
“So, what do we do now?” Genma asked.
“We need to connect Young to Salek like we connected Salek to Young,” Larson stated.
“Young is on Earth,” Ranma replied.
“Then that's where we need to go,” Larson said, pointing to the Federation Council building diagram he brought up.
“We can't get there in under twenty-four hours at 6.5,” Ukyo pointed out.
“It will only take nine at 9.9,” Larson replied.
“We can't fly that fast cloaked...” Ranma trailed off. “In a Romulan ship?!”
“We don't have a choice. Get everyone on board and set a course,” Larson ordered.
“What about the prisoners on the planet?” Ukyo asked.
“Flood the building with bahoride. It will knock them out for about sixteen hours, but otherwise leave them unharmed.” Larson explained. “Make sure you take off their restraints so they don't starve once they wake up.”
“Aye,” Ukyo replied.
Ranma and Genma walked towards the turbolift. Ranma smiled at his father. “And here I thought the flight to my court-martial was my most tense ride to Earth.”
Genma laughed as the pair got into the turbolift.
Rei looked up from her desk as her door buzzer rang. Through the window next to the door, she could see Sgt. Schaefer standing against the wall, so it was a reasonable assumption that it was CWO Yuki pestering her.
“Come in,” she called.
Her assumption was correct as Kio walked in and snapped to attention. “Do you have a moment, Commander?” Kio asked.
Rei nodded and pointed to the chair across from her. Kio slowly walked to it, her boots making a distinctive clang with each step. Finally, she reached the chair and sat down.
Rei looked at her, waiting for the smaller girl to say the first word.
“I apologize for my actions earlier,” Kio said, directly, which Rei thought was a bit out of character for her. “I was emotional, but that was no excuse. I was disrespectful and out of line.”
“Indeed, you were,” Rei agreed.
Not quite the response Kio was hoping for. “Okay...” Kio trailed off.
Rei looked back down at her paperwork. “I have no intention of accepting your apology, Chief,” she stated. “Maybe someday when you fix the personality disorder of yours that caused the outburst, but not now.”
Rei looked up. “Yeah. I mean, that must be it, right?”
Kio simply looked at Rei both confused and angry.
“You've had it since you got here. I chose you for your service record, but you did not have to come. Yet you did, so I assumed you were leadership material. Yet it's been nothing but 'waa waa I can't do this' time and time again.
“I'm not your mother and last time I checked, you're not a puppy. I shouldn't have to constantly pat you on the head and give you reassurance and a biscuit every time you do a good job.”
Rei tossed a PADD in Kio's direction. “Technically, you've been damned near flawless, so I don't know what the hell your problem could possibly be other than some kind of personality disorder that makes you such a baby.”
Kio looked over the PADD. “I lost a soldier-”
“Dammit, Kio. It's combat,” Rei snapped. “Do you want to know how many friends, colleagues, shipmates I have seen die right in front of me?”
Kio didn't answer.
“If you don't want to deal with death, get out of space and go get a fucking job in a bakery,” Rei growled.
Kio sighed. Rei pulled out another PADD. “We'll be arriving at a new destination in about nine hours or so. Here's the preliminary mission briefing. Take Corporal Kagurazaka from Charlie Team to replace Sgt. Simpson.”
“Replace,” Kio softly said.
Rei sighed and turned away. “If you are going to cry, please take it into the hallway with Sgt. Schaefer. I really don't need to see it. Dismissed.”
Kio stood and began to turn.
“Take that other one with you too. Study it. Might help you fix your disorder,” Rei called.
Kio picked up the second PADD and quickly walked out the door. Once it slid shut, Anthony looked at her. “Well?”
Kio shook her head. “We have a mission to prepare for.”
Kio stormed off leaving Anthony behind. Anthony looked on the ground, noticing Kio dropped a PADD. He picked it up and began to read it as he walked. The top of the PADD stated ‘CWO KIO YUKI; NSO SERVICE RECORD.’
Shampoo stood as Ranma and Genma walked out of the turbolift and onto the bridge of the Salvation. She turned to Ranma and followed him with her eyes as he quickly walked down to the engineering station.
“How are the engines?” Ranma asked Usagi.
Usagi looked over her monitors. “All green!” she smiled. She was assuming even on Romulan ships, green meant good.
“Good. Have damage control teams on stand-by. We're in for a bumpy ride.”
Usagi nodded and began to relay orders. Ranma motioned with his head for Shampoo to join him and Genma up at Makoto's station. Jansen walked over from her security station as well.
“We're heading to Earth,” Ranma informed them.
The trio who were just learning this nodded.
“We'll be uncloaked,” Ranma added.
“Oy!” Makoto exclaimed. Ranma nodded in agreement.
“The Romulans still have certain rights of passage in Federation space thanks to our cooperative agreements after the Dominion War, but a Romulan ship barreling towards Earth will look mighty aggressive.”
“Not to mention we don't know what lies have been seeded about us as well by Councilman Young,” Genma added.
Ranma nodded. “Obviously, we will have the Infinity with us, and hopefully a Federation ship escorting us will show we are not hostile, but the problem is that the Infinity is not going to show up on any Starfleet registry and will essentially appear as a doppelganger ship.”
“Well, we shouldn't have too much problem fighting off the minimal defenses they have left at Earth,” Jansen shrugged.
“We will not fire on any Federation vessel,” Ranma stated. “Regardless of whether or not they fire on us.”
Jansen started to protest, but Makoto cut her off. “Understood. The shielding on this ship is pretty solid.”
Ranma nodded. “Good. If needed, we'll evacuate to the Infinity.”
“Hopefully, there won't be any shots fired at all,” Genma stated.
Minako turned to Ranma. “Sir, the Infinity reports ready.”
Ranma nodded and turned to Shampoo. “Take us home. Maximum warp.”
“About twenty minutes ago both the Infinity and the Romulan ship decloaked and entered warp,” The SI admiral reported, reading from his PADD. “High warp, no less, which explains why they decloaked.”
“Leave them alone,” JC pleaded.
“Where are they going?” James asked.
“Here,” The SI admiral replied, pointing to the viewer where the path of the two ships had been marked. The line drew the ships proceeding through empty space and intersecting with Earth.
“They are bringing evidence to the Council to stop the invasion,” JC continued.
“What kind of evidence?” Douglass asked.
“It doesn't matter,” NK sighed. “What matters is that you allow them to reach Earth unmolested so that the Federation can be saved.”
“The path they are taking puts the Reclamation Fleet too far to do anything anyway,” James pointed out.
“What about the Terran Defense Fleet?” JC asked.
James looked at Douglass. “Instruct them to allow the two ships safe passage.”
James looked to NK and JC. “So help me God, if you two are wrong about those ships I will make a point to kill you myself.”
NK scoffed a bit as JC grinned. “Admiral, if we’re wrong, we’re all dead anyway.”
Young blinked at the information scrolling past him on his terminal. Nothing on it made any sense to him. Why exactly would Starfleet be granting safe passage to a Romulan warship?
“Along with NCC 100371,” Young mumbled out loud. “Computer, access ship information, NCC 100371.”
“Unable to comply. NCC 100371 U.S.S. Infinity information is classified Black Five,” the computer replied.
“Damn it all to hell,” Young snarled. He quickly grabbed his suit coat and ran out of his office. Young sprinted down a flight of stairs and around a corner, knocking staffers and officer works to the ground as he went.
After running for what seemed like kilometers, he finally reached the Federation Council President's office and rang the buzzer.
The president's secretary looked at him and waved him in.
“I need to see Mr. Tre. It's an emergency.”
“I'm sorry, he's gone to Geneva to be with the Federation President so they can make a joint statement once the invasion begins.”
“Is there a problem?” the secretary asked.
“Yes, needed his authorization for something, but I guess it's too late now.”
The secretary shook his head. “I have his code. If you have the PADD, I can punch it in for you.”
Young blinked. His fifteen years on the council, all the ass-kissing, all the line-toting, all the political bullshit he's played is actually going to pay off.
Young pulled a small PADD out of his pocket. “It's an aluminum acquisition authorization.”
“That's an emergency?” the secretary asked.
“Well, it's from the Ferengi, and if I don't get it in by close of business, they are going to triple the price.”
The secretary nodded and entered the code. “Good you got down here when you did then. I was just about to head out.”
Young nodded and took back the PADD. “Thank you.”
“Take care, Councilman.”
“You too,” Young turned and walked out, slower than he came in. Young whistled a happy tune all the way back to his office. Not only had he managed to acquire aluminum at a rock bottom price, but he had gotten the president of the Federation Council's authorization code recorded on his computer.
Once Young had returned to his office, he causally began to type up a new PADD. He especially enjoyed typing in the last words on the PADD.
'Stop the ships at any cost.'
After deciding he was content with his handy work, he did his best forgery of the president's signature, which he – not surprisingly – had gotten good at over the years, and cheerfully punched in his ill-gotten authorization code.
Once that was complete, he connected with Starfleet's communication network.
“Computer, encryption mode beta ten; connect me with the lead ship of the Terran Defense Fleet,” Young ordered.
Onboard the bridge of the Prometheus class U.S.S. Asuna, the communications officer was knocked out of his semi-slumber by his terminal chirping at him wildly. He silenced it quickly and studied what he saw for a moment before turning towards the COMM.
The admiral in direct command of the Terran Defense Fleet and captain of the Asuna, Rear Admiral Kaede Sasaki, turned to him. “Yes, Lieutenant?”
“I'm getting a heavily encrypted request to speak to you.”
The communications officer shook his head. “No ma'am. The Federation Council.”
The Admiral looked at her command staff, who was just as confused as she was. She finally stood up, adjusted her hair and her uniform, and turned to the main viewer. “Okay then. Put it up.”
The image of Young appeared on the viewer. “Hello, Admiral. I am Councilman Zack Young. I am the chairman of the Peace and Protection Committee, more commonly known as the Defense Committee. I am also the vice-president of the Federation Council.”
The Admiral nodded. “I am Admiral Kaede Sasaki, Commander of Starfleet’s Terran Defense Force. What do I owe the pleasure of this unexpected communication?”
“I will be blunt, Admiral,” Young frowned. “I am sending you an order directly from the Council President. He is unavailable, so he had me, in my capacity as committee chairman, to take care of this.”
The communication terminal chirped as Young continued. “There are certain people within Starfleet command, including Admiral Douglass, who wish to see the Federation fall.”
“Excuse me?” Sasaki asked.
“They are working against us by trying to stop the reclamation of Vulcan, which is why they ordered you to stand down and let two ships, which we have information to be hostile, pass and proceed to Earth.”
Sasaki looked to her XO who looked as stunned as she was at what she was hearing. “What evidence do you have?” she finally asked.
“As much as I would love to give you a full briefing right now, there just isn't time. As well, if those in Starfleet find out that you know they are aware of their deception, you will be at risk.”
Young tapped on his console. “The order I sent you is from the president of the council. It supersedes the order from Starfleet Command. Be safe and be confident in knowing that everything you do is for the good of the Federation.”
Young ended the communication. Sasaki turned to the communication officer. “Well?”
“I ran the code. It's valid, ma'am.”
She turned to her XO. “What do you think?”
He scratched his head. “It's pretty farfetched, Kaede,” he admitted, “but Starfleet Command does get their marching orders from the Federation Council. And if there was a hostile link between us and them, well then perhaps it would make sense to bypass that link, especially if time were an issue, like it appears to be now.” He pointed at the tactical display of the Infinity and the Salvation, a mere five hours out.
Sasaki sat back down in her chair. “Well then. Inform the fleet. If those ships cross the defensive perimeter, we intercept them then.”
“Aye,” the XO replied.
TWO HOURS FROM EARTH, EIGHT HOURS FROM INVASION
Ranma probably would have worn a path in the carpeting from his pacing if the Romulan ship had any. He was moving constantly from his seat to engineering to tactical to operations and back.
Shampoo, from her station, was getting nauseous from watching him pace.
“Ranma,” she said, grabbing him as he moved past her.
Ranma turned to her.
“Sit down,” she ordered.
Ranma, surprisingly, complied with her and sat down in his seat. He did not sit still though. Both of his hands kneaded the armrests, and his feet would not quit moving.
“We have two hours,” Shampoo said, walking over to him and squatting so she was eye level with her captain. “You are going to break yourself.”
Ranma sighed. “I know, I know,” he admitted, calming down slightly. Genma slowly walked down and stood next to him. “I am just concerned about the fact that we've been traveling for so long without so much as a 'hello'.”
“They're too busy preparing to fight each other to care about us,” Genma pointed out.
Ranma knew that. He also knew that it was a seven-hour flight from Earth to Vulcan at 9.9, so all those ships assembled at Wolf 3-5-9, about two hundred and eighty of them now, would be departing in a little over an hour.
He hoped that the Vulcans would hold their ground at Vulcan, allowing them the full eight hours to find and implicate Young, rather than try and intercept them halfway, only giving him about three and a half.
“When is the last time you slept?” Genma asked.
“Couldn't tell you,” Ranma answered.
Genma sighed. “The minute we are done, you are going straight to bed, even if I have to have security escort you.”
Ranma smiled. “I can assure you that won't be necessary.”
“Captain...” Makoto called.
“Yes?” Ranma asked.
“The Terran Defense Fleet...” she said, concerned. “They are moving towards Sol's defensive line.”
Shampoo stood. “Are there other ships?”
“They're waiting for us,” Jansen growled.
“Larson said they were going to let us through,” Ranma sighed.
Kaii's terminal chirped. “Captain, it's Admiral Larson.”
Ranma nodded. “On screen.”
Larson appeared on the main viewer. “Ranma, I assume you see the Terran fleet moving.”
“They apparently...” he paused, “…they apparently have begun to ignore instructions from Starfleet Command.”
“Why?” Shampoo asked.
“From what I have been told, three hours ago they received a heavily encrypted message from the Federation Council-”
“Young,” Ranma concluded.
“So much for safe passage,” Shampoo sighed.
“Captain,” Larson began, “the successful completion of our mission is of utmost importance.”
“Admiral, they don't know what they’re doing,” Ranma argued. “I'm not going to kill good Starfleet officers who just think they are following a valid order.”
Regardless of whether he agreed with Ranma, he deeply respected his principles. “Okay. What is your plan.”
“I don't plan on coming out of warp until we hit Earth.”
Ikuhara blinked. “Oh my,” he quietly said to himself.
“I think you remember what happened last time you came out of warp that close to a planet.”
Ranma nodded. “Yeah, well, this time we have engines.”
“Not going quite as fast either,” Shampoo helpfully added.
Larson nodded. “It should work. The defense fleet will likely be waiting for you by Neptune. It'll take them several minutes to get to you from there at full impulse.”
“By then we should have all the ants at the picnic, so to speak. And if need be, we can bail.”
Larson agreed. “Okay. See you there then.”
Ranma smiled. “Yup.”
Larson closed the channel and Ranma slumped down in his chair. Both Genma and Shampoo looked at him with concern.
“What?” he asked them.
“You are looking stressed,” Genma pointed out the obvious.
“Get back to me when I look 'really freakin' stressed,'” Ranma groaned.
95 MINUTES TO EARTH
Kio, Anthony, and Kagurazaka walked out of the holodeck and moved in silence down to the room assigned to them as their ready room. Kio lazily tossed her gear onto a table and tromped over to the replicator.
“Water, one degree,”
The replicator complied.
Kagurazaka placed his gear in his assigned place and had a seat at the table next to Anthony. “I hope you were satisfied with my performance, Chief.”
Kio drank the water entirely, then ordered another one. She drank that one too, before turning around. She paused, a little taken back by seeing Kagurazaka sitting in the same place where Mike used to sit.
“Yes... Corporal,” she replied finally, walking over to the table herself. She stopped herself though, instead choosing to sit at the next table over where she had dropped her vest and her rifle. Anthony watched Kio as Kagurazaka again tried to gauge her opinion of him.
“I appreciate you taking me on, though I am sorry for the circumstance.”
Kio set down the PADD she was looking at for a moment and stared across the room. She then picked it back up and began to read it again. “I didn't have a choice. But I am sure you will be adequate.”
Kagurazaka nodded. Anthony stood and turned to Kagurazaka. “Pardon me.” Kagurazaka nodded to him as Anthony walked over to Kio and grabbed the back of her jacket, pulling her off her chair.
“WHAT THE HELL?” she yelled.
“We need to talk,” he stated.
“Don't grab-” she resisted, trying to pull away from Anthony, but he continued to pull her from behind, towards the door.
“SARGENT LET GO OF ME.”
Anthony ignored her and pulled her into the hallway. Once there he pulled her in front of him and pushed her against the wall.
“So, what. Now you've decided that you're going to be like her?”
Kio balked. “Excuse me?”
“You have a solider in there who knows he's going to go on what might be the most important mission of his life, who's unfortunately replacing someone that is irreplaceable and all he is looking for is for you to let him know that his leader actually wants him here.”
“I don't want him here. I want Mike,” Kio growled.
“Mike is gone.”
“How can you say that so coldly?” Kio asked.
“Because I have to,” Anthony replied. “Dammit, Kio. Do you have any idea how much I want to just go into my quarters and cry?”
Kio shook her head slowly.
“Mike and I have known each other for years. Even longer than you and I. But we need to hold it together. For the job. For the Federation. For Mike and for that Corporal in there who needs you to guide him so that someday he can be as important to someone as Mike is to us.”
Kio put her hand on her face. “Dammit Tony, what is wrong with me.”
“Because it feels so similar to what happened with Nick, you’re fighting yourself,” Anthony said, hugging Kio. “Unfortunately, you’re using the Commander Hino method, which is not helpful.”
Kio allowed herself to be held by Anthony for a moment before pulling away and nodding in agreement. “I don’t want to be her,” Kio bit her lip for a moment, “and I don’t want the people I care about to die.”
“No one does.”
Kio shook her head. “What I mean is maybe I feel like if I treat people like crap, they won’t care about me and I won’t care about them.”
Anthony laughed. “Even as a brat, you’re wonderful. People will care about you, regardless.”
“Brat?” Kio laughed. She then shook her head in disgust. “I’m acting far worse than like a brat.”
Anthony leaned forward and kissed Kio’s forehead. “Brat, jerk, asshole, it doesn’t matter. I will always be with you.”
Kio held her head against Anthony's.
“Mike will too, but you won't be able to see him, so be careful when you change,” Anthony added, causing Kio to laugh.
“Damn you,” she chuckled.
Anthony motioned towards the door. “He needs to know you're friendly.”
Kio nodded, straightened out her uniform, and walked in. Kagurazaka started to stand, but Kio silently instructed him to remain seated.
“Corporal, I need to apologize,” she said, sitting down across from him.
“I've been having a difficult time dealing with Sgt. Simpson's death and I appear to have taken it out on you. I shouldn't have done that.”
Kagurazaka shook his head. “I understand. It's okay.”
“No, it's not,” Kio disagreed. “I've reviewed your record and I think you will make a fine addition to our team. We're the best in Starfleet, and it's good to know that we're going to stay that way.”
Kio extended her hand. Kagurazaka took it and shook it. “Thank you, Chief.”
“Now, if Sgt. Schaefer is done hiding in the doorway, we can begin looking at our mission briefing,” Kio smiled.
Anthony popped his head in. “I wasn't hiding.”
60 MINUTES TO EARTH; 7 HOURS TO VULCAN
“I have tried every single subspace band, we just cannot establish contact,” the communication officer in Starfleet's war room informed Admiral Douglass.
“I told you already,” NK fumed. “They are IGNORING you.”
JC had stopped bothering trying to contain NK. She had already swatted him twice and stepped on both of his feet. He assumed the next time he tried to physically hold her back, she would hit him.
He had no interest in knowing what that felt like.
“Sir,” another aide called to James. “It's time.”
James nodded. “Send them. Authorization-”
“Admiral!” NK called.
“ADMIRAL!” NK once again yelled.
“Miss, I don't care if you are Section 31,” Douglass barked. “Shut up or you will be removed.”
NK stomped off to a different end of the room as James continued to launch the assault against the Vulcan homeworld.
“Well, I hope you're happy,” NK snarled.
“I don’t have a fucking choice,” James retorted. “Go bitch at the President.”
JC walked over to the SI Admiral who was working with several other SI officers. “Have you had any luck decrypting or tracing that transmission?”
“No,” he glowered.
“Who would have the authority to override a Starfleet Command order?” NK asked.
“You guys?” Douglass asked.
NK just snarled at him.
“Obviously, the Federation President or the Council President, but they are both in Geneva, and both of them have been in the General Assembly all day,” James answered.
“No one else?” JC asked.
James shook his head. “Only those two have the authorization codes to issue commands.”
“Oh ho ho...” one of the SI guys giggled.
“What?” Everyone asked.
“I didn't crack it, but I figured out where it originated,” he replied.
“Where?” everyone again asked.
Young could not get the grin off his face as he continued to watch the updates on his terminal. Both the reclamation fleet and the fleet with the troop transports had left their staging locations. As well, the Terran Defense Fleet was doing what he told them to.
They were ignoring Starfleet Command, and they were staged to engage the ships which he believed contained the evidence of Salek's involvement in the plot.
Once they were destroyed, he assumed everything would be grand.
He of course did not quite think very far ahead, like how he would explain why or how he usurped the Council President's codes to reroute Starfleet ships, but perhaps the ensuing chaos would provide enough of a distraction that he wouldn't have to.
Young looked around. Five in the evening could not come soon enough. This day was becoming so long that he was starting to hear voices in his head. Young chuckled and took a drink of his coffee.
Young spit the coffee onto his desk as that voice was a bit clearer. Clear enough for him to know it was Salek's voice.
“Sa-Salek?” he stammered.
Young began to look around. He did not see anyone or anything. He began checking under his desk, behind curtains and window shades, even for some reason, between the pages of some of the books he had on his shelves.
*FLEE*, the voice told him again.
“Flee?!” Young asked. “Why?”
Young blinked. He knew Vulcans had some telepathic ability. Could it be that Salek was warning him that Saotome was here and knew what they were up to?
“Where are you?” Young asked again, locking his door.
The voices stopped. Young ran to his monitor and pulled up one of Starfleet's tactical displays. He eyed the Infinity and the Romulan ship 54 minutes away and heading to Earth at warp 9.9.
“No way,” Young said.
A knocking at Young's door caused him to jump about two meters. He turned and slowly walked to it, releasing the lock. He opened it to see his secretary.
“Jules,” he sighed.
“What is it?”
“I was just wondering if you knew what that was all about?” she pointed to the window. Young went to look. Outside from the second floor, he could see transporting into the parking lot were a couple of dozen Starfleet security officers.
“Probably just to make sure we're safe after the invasion,” Young lied. He had a really good idea why they were here. Young grabbed his jacket. He decided to take the advice of the voice in his head.
“I have a dinner date tonight. I'll see you tomorrow.”
Jules nodded as Young moved out the door.
50 MINUTES TO EARTH
“We have no idea what happened,” the Assistant CMO said to Ranma. “His brain waves were going nutty, and we thought we were going to lose him, so we sedated him.”
“Nutty?” Ranma asked.
The ACMO nodded. “Yes sir. All over the chart.”
Ranma looked down at a slowly breathing Salek. “Will he live?”
The ACMO shrugged. “I think so. Everything seems to have stabilized.”
Ranma eyed the monitors above Salek's head. “Do you have any idea what caused his episode?”
The doctor shook his head. “No. He was fine one minute, the next...”
Ranma nodded. “Well, keep me informed.”
Ranma turned and walked to the door, Akane next to him. “Ranma,” she stopped him.
Ranma turned to her. “Yes?”
Akane began to scan him. Ranma pushed the tricorder away and sighed. “You don't need that. My blood pressure is through the roof. I am sure all my chemicals are either too low or too high and I've slept maybe an hour and a half in the past three days.”
Ranma shook his head. “Less than an hour this will be over with. After that, I plan on expecting you to wait on me hand and foot.”
Akane laughed. “I am sure Ukyo would love to do that.”
Ranma blinked. “Who told you?”
“It's a small ship, Ranma-honey,” she mocked.
Ranma looked at Akane, wondering if she was being serious jealous, or joking jealous.
Akane, not wanting to add any more stress onto Ranma smiled. “I, as your chosen wife, will be happy to wait on you.”
Ranma smiled and kissed Akane. “I will be sure to hold you to that,” He moved to the door of sickbay before stopping and moving back to Akane. He leaned into her and smiled slyly. “There will be other holdings as well, but we will discuss that in a more private setting.”
Akane blushed as Ranma exited the room.
5 MINUTES FROM EARTH
The red alert lights pulsed on the bridge of the Salvation as Ranma stood and moved behind the helm station. “Status?” he asked.
Ikuhara looked at his terminal. “Five minutes. I am almost certain I have these coordinates right. We should come out of warp somewhere between Mars and Earth.”
Ranma nodded. “Any closer and we risk hitting the planet.”
Shampoo turned to Jansen. “The ships?”
“Still at Neptune,” she replied.
“Hail them,” Ranma ordered.
“No response,” Kaii replied.
“Open a channel,” Ranma ordered.
Kaii complied and opened communications. Ranma turned to the viewscreen. “This is Starfleet Captain Ranma Saotome of the U.S.S. Salvation, a seized Romulan ship operating under the authority of the United Federation of Planets to the Starfleet ships patrolling the Sol system.”
Young looked up from his work at his residence in California to the data terminal on his desk. Was he hearing more voices, or did he just hear Ranma Saotome?
Was Salek right?
“We are on an urgent mission and need to get to Federation Headquarters. Please do not interfere with us or impede our passage. It is imperative that you comply.”
Ranma turned to Kaii.
He shook his head. “They heard us.”
Ranma sighed. “Please respond.”
Ranma started to speak again but was cut off by the viewscreen coming to life. On it was Admiral Sasaki. Her bridge was at obvious combat readiness. She looked at Ranma, a bit confused, but sternly.
“Captain,” she stated.
“Admiral. Please, we need-”
“Captain,” she interrupted. “Both of your ships must drop out of warp, lower your shields, and prepare to be boarded.”
“Admiral, I can't do that,” Ranma replied.
Sasaki sighed. “Then what must be done, will be done.”
“ADMIRAL, DO NOT DO THIS!” Genma yelled from behind Ranma.
Sasaki looked at the group for a minute, before ending the communication. Ranma scowled and turned to Usagi. “As soon as we get the away teams off the ship, I need every ounce of power we have to the armor and the shields.”
“Yes sir,” she whimpered.
“They going to beat the crap out of us,” Shampoo whispered.
Ranma nodded. “Yes. Yes, they are.”
Sasaki watched her display. “Where are they? Shouldn't they have dropped out of warp by now?”
The XO nodded. “Yes, they-”
“ADMIRAL!” The tactical officer yelled. “THEY SHOT RIGHT PAST US.”
“No way,” the second officer stated in disbelief.
“They're warping straight to Earth,” the XO stated.
“TURN US AROUND! FULL IMPULSE!” Sasaki screamed.
“We're past the defense fleet,” Makoto informed the group.
“Dropping out of warp in twenty seconds,” Ikuhara stated.
“The defense fleet is coming about. ETA three minutes,” Jansen called out.
“Ten seconds,” Ikuhara reported.
Ranma silently counted down as the clock ticked.
“Now,” the helmsman acknowledged as first the Salvation and then the Infinity flashed into normal space. Ranma looked at the viewer. Off in the distance sat a beautiful blue marble, floating there.
It had seemed so far away two months ago. Now here he was. Still, too far away.
“Still out of transporter range,” Minako reported.
“Go!” Shampoo ordered Ikuhara, who had already set in a course. Both ships began pushing towards Earth at full impulse, in a race with the armada of ten warships about six planets back.
“In range in about thirty seconds,” Minako called.
“Teams are standing by,” Makoto called out.
Ranma did not say anything. He knew that everyone knew their roles and did not need his constant reassurance. He was more concerned with the ships behind him, creeping closer.
Shampoo's terminal began to beep. She looked at it, then turned back to the screen. At first Ranma did not say anything, assuming she would tell him what had caused the alarm, but when she didn't, he turned to her.
“What was that?”
Shampoo leaned to him and whispered. “Infinity.”
“What about her?” he asked quietly.
“She power up weapons.”
Ranma turned back to the screen.
“Ranma?” Genma asked.
“It isn't my decision. It's not my problem,” Ranma stated, as the Salvation began to pull into orbit over Earth.
“We're in range,” Minako called out.
“Transport,” Ranma ordered.
“Aye,” Minako called.
“What isn't?” Genma asked.
Ranma ignored his father and simply watched his home rotate below him.
Rei's team beamed into the semi-vacant Federation Council headquarters. Rei quickly turned to her group. “Move fast and shoot only who we need to shoot,” she ordered.
Parker and Shelton nodded. The group scurried up the hallway towards Young's office. It was late, but because of the pending invasion and large press event later, they were hoping that he would still be at his office.
The number of office workers that they passed seemed to indicate that there were still people, including council people working, however, it did concern them that some of them seemed rather nonchalant about the group of folks running down the corridor with large guns.
Once they reached the section where the council member's offices were, they found out why.
They had already seen a much bigger group with guns come by.
Rei, Parker, and Shelton walked into a group of about twenty-five Starfleet security officers. Each one quickly turned their guns towards Alpha Team.
The three knew they were caught, and quickly dropped their weapons.
“Bixby to Owasso,” one called.
“Get in here sir. We just had an... Incursion.”
The head of the group, Commander Owasso, walked in with a couple of people in SI uniforms. “Lower your weapons,” he instructed his officers. The gaggle of Starfleet security did as they were ordered as Owasso walked over to Rei.
“You're from the Section 31 ship?” Owasso asked. “Larson's ship?”
Rei looked at him. “Captain Saotome's ship, yes.”
Owasso nodded, squatted down, picked up Rei's rifle, and handed it to her. Parker and Shelton also gingerly picked their rifles back up.
“We were investigating who sent the message to the Defense Fleet ordering them to intercept your ships, despite Admiral Douglass' order to the contrary.”
“It was Councilman Young,” Rei stated.
“Hmm,” Owasso sighed. “He's gone. I should send people to his residence.”
“That's being taken care of,” Rei nodded. “We need to send his computer logs to Admiral Larson. We're looking for specific evidence to link him to a conspiracy that is about to start a war between Vulcan and the Federation.”
Owasso nodded. “This way.”
“Hino to Salvation...”
“GO!” Minako yelled.
Ranma nearly fell over as the ship rocked. “Dammit, that little ship hits hard.”
“Young is not at his office, but we're securing his office and sending his computer logs to Admiral Larson.” Rei's voice informed the crew.
“ACKNOWLEDGED!!” Minako yelled.
Ranma turned to his father. “Please ask the good Admiral to find what we need quickly.”
“Ranma...” Shampoo tugged at Ranma's sleeve. Ranma turned to the viewer to see the Infinity begin to launch her fighters.
“Worry about us, Shampoo,” he ordered, turning to Makoto. “Status?”
“Shields at-” Makoto was cut off by another ship rocking shot. “72 percent.”
“Divert all power from the cloak and the weapons into the shields!” Ranma ordered.
“Aye!” Usagi said, relaying orders into engineering.
Anthony, Kio, and Kagurazaka slowly crept up the walkway to Young's posh home. The rocks in the walkway were making a silent approach slightly difficult, but luckily the constant squawking of the marine fowl that infested the nearby beach covered them.
The sun crested the western horizon. The bright orange sky was quite bright, casting everything with a long shadow.
Young, who was hastily packing everything he thought he needed, was frustrated. He had tried to use his power to get transport to Risa for half an hour from now but could not.
He guessed he had used up all his power credits getting the Council President's authorization codes.
That and the explosives. After all, he could not leave and start a new life if people thought he was alive.
Blowing up his house and making it look like a terrible kitchen accident seemed like an easy enough plan.
Young looked up and turned quickly as something in his mirror caught his eye. He looked at his bedroom window for several seconds. He could have sworn that he just saw someone's shadow on it.
Of course, though he had been hearing voices in his head and other voices that couldn't possibly exist on his communication terminal, so at this point, seeing things was to be expected.
The next event though was quite real. The front door of his home exploded.
Young dove for cover. He slowly poked his head up to see a small device bounce in. It beeped twice before exploding as well, knocking Young back to the ground.
Through what used to be Young's door, Anthony, Kagurazaka, and Kio burst in, weapons pointed. They began to search for Young.
Young again began to poke his head up. He looked at the group and knew exactly who they were. He reached into his duffle bag and pulled out a phaser. He slowly took aim.
“CHIEF!” Kagurazaka yelled, seeing Young.
Young fired, hitting Kio in the arm. Kagurazaka fired back, hitting Young in the hand, knocking the phaser to the ground. Both he and Anthony ran in, diving over the bed and tackling Young.
“YOU CAN'T DO THIS! WHERE IS YOUR WARRANT?!” Young screamed.
Kio walked over, rubbing her arm. “Councilman Zack Young?” she asked.
Anthony and Kagurazaka pulled Young to his feet. “The Chief asked you a question,” Kagurazaka growled.
“I asked where your warrant was,” Young replied.
Kio nodded, pulled out a PADD, and smashed it over Young's head. Anthony stifled a laugh. “Surely, Councilman, you know as well as I do, that under Federation law and Starfleet regulations if I have probable cause, I don't need a warrant.”
“Probable cause?” Young scoffed, continuing to play the innocent victim, trying to ignore the small amount of blood Kio drew from smashing the fiberglass device on his head. “Do tell.”
“Your buddy, Salek, implicated you,” Kio smiled.
Kio leaned into Young. “Treason, mother fucker,” She wiped the blood off of Young's head and onto her uniform pants. “Murder of Starfleet officers. Murder of Vulcans. Should I go on?”
“You have no proof of anything.”
“Oh?” Kio paused. “Oh, yeah I smashed it on your head.”
Anthony shook his head and pulled out his PADD, handing it to Kio.
“Thanks,” she looked at it. “It says here that they've just recently gotten more on you. Traced information back to you that you sent a false order in the Council President's name to the Terran Defense Fleet to stop us.”
Kio nodded at Young's silence. “Yeah,” she read on. “His secretary squealed. You were just in his office getting his code just before the order was sent.”
Young continued to stay silent.
Kio turned to first Anthony then Kagurazaka. “Cat must have gotten his tongue.”
Both enlisted men laughed as Kio pointed to a chair. “Tie him up. We need to look around. Quickly.”
“Yes ma'am,” they replied.
“Yuki to Salvation,” Kio called, hitting her communicator.
The Salvation had been left alone for the most part since the Infinity has begun firing on the Defense Fleet ships.
Ranma refused to do anything. It did not sit well with either Genma or Shampoo, but neither of them intervened. Larson and Ukyo appeared to be using some restraint as well, mainly targeting the ship's weapons and shields.
Both Shampoo and Genma had hoped that the Defense Fleet would leave and regroup, but they understood that leaving was not part of their job description.
“Go ahead,” Minako replied.
“We are in possession of Young,” Kio reported, her smile being broadcast over the audio communication. Ranma stood and moved up to Minako's terminal quickly.
“Chief, I need you to quickly find anything that backs up Salek's claim that he was working with Salek on this...” Ranma paused. “Separation.”
“Yes sir,” she replied.
“Captain...” Makoto called. “The Denver has taken critical damage.”
“Has the Infinity ceased firing at it?” Ranma asked.
Makoto paused. “No.”
Ranma stormed down to the main viewer. “Lock weapons on the Infinity and hail her.”
“Ranma?” Genma asked.
“Sir?” Makoto also asked.
“FOLLOW MY ORDERS,” Ranma ordered.
Larson appeared on the main viewer. “Captain, am I reading this right? Have you targeted us?”
“Sir, that ship is no longer a threat. Ceasefire on it. I will defend it,” Ranma sternly stated.
Larson shook his head. “You won't defend your own ship, but you will defend one that's been shooting at you?”
The communication cut off. Ranma turned to Makoto.
“The Infinity has stopped firing on the Denver.”
Ranma dropped into his seat. “I used to enjoy this job.”
“The Asuna is making another pass at us,” Jansen called.
“How that for grateful,” Shampoo scowled as the ship rocked under the smaller ship's torpedo fire.
“Nothing you find can be used in court against me,” Young said from his bedroom as he struggled against the hand restraints Bravo Team placed him in.
Kio scowled. Not at what he said, but at the fact he had been babbling for the past ten minutes.
“I liked you better when you weren't talking,” she called back.
“This is a blatant violation of my rights!”
Kio stopped digging through Young's desk, turned, and started to walk towards the bedroom.
“Kio,” Anthony called.
Kio ignored him and walked to Young. She pushed on the back of the chair, sending him crashing to the floor, his back to the carpet, looking up at her.
“You want to talk about rights?” she spat. “What about the rights of all those LDF soldiers you and Salek killed? What about the rights of my crewmates who died when you and Salek sent us transwarping halfway across the galaxy? What about the rights of the millions of Vulcan and Federation citizens who are about to die when the 'reclamation' fleet arrives at Vulcan?”
Kio dropped to one knee and leaned close to Young. “You selfish son-of-a-bitch, you don't care about rights. All you care about is yourself. Quite frankly I do not care if any of this can be used in court against you. If it stops this war, I've succeeded.”
Kio stood and turned to walk away. “Besides, even if you do escape justice, I can take some pleasure in knowing that with all the enemies you've made you will spend the rest of your life constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering which person walking behind you was the one sent to kill you.”
Kio chuckled as she walked back into Young's home office area, leaving the Councilman to consider what she just said.
His smug, arrogant attitude had never allowed him to think, or even consider the consequences of his actions in the way she described. He had made some powerful enemies in this. Larson in particular. Someone with friends in Section 31 and apparently the Romulan Empire...
Young began to squirm.
...he would be safe from extradition on Risa, but not from Section 31 or Romulan assassins.
He squirmed a bit more.
Was it too late for him to cut a deal? After all, they could not kill him if he was in a Federation prison, could they?
“Chief!!” Anthony yelled.
Kio ran into the kitchen where Anthony was. Kagurazaka trailed behind her. “What?”
“Look what I found.”
Anthony opened the oven door to show quite a few explosive packs. With them were also several data cubes.
“Fuck!” Kio called. Kagurazaka pulled off his backpack and pulled out a small data terminal. Anthony, very cautiously, took out the data cubes and handed them to the young corporal.
Kagurazaka began to run the search perimeters on them. “These things have terabytes of data on them,” he complained.
“They're obviously important, otherwise he wouldn't want to blow them up,” Anthony said.
“HEY!” Young called out. “TELL LARSON I WANT TO MAKE A DEAL!”
“NO!” Kio yelled back.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO?”
Kio sighed. “WE DON'T HAVE TIME. ADMIT YOUR GUILT OR SHUT THE HELL UP.”
Anthony again had to cover his mouth to keep from laughing at Kio.
“I WANT IMMUNITY!”
Kio ignored him as she noticed the search screen stop. “That's useful,” she downloaded it to a PADD as Kagurazaka started on a second data cube.
“I CAN STOP THE FLEET!”
“I DON'T NEED YOU NOW,” Kio replied. “WE JUST BUSTED YOU.”
“That shut him up,” Kagurazaka noted.
Anthony and Kio nodded as the screen stopped again. Kio smiled and patted Kagurazaka on the back. “Yuki to Salvation.”
“Larson seems to not have appreciated your earlier threat, Ranma,” Genma pointed out. “He's no longer firing on the ships shooting at us.”
Ranma sighed and nodded. “I see that.”
“So do they,” Shampoo pointed out as the seven still capable ships began to converge on the Salvation.
“Go ahead,” Minako sighed.
“Shields at 49 percent,” Usagi reported.
“We have obtained evidence of Councilman Young meeting with Salek and Commadore T'Kuk, the head of the Lincoln Park Shipyards. As well, evidence of him altering inventory logs and logs of Salek's visits.”
Some yelling could be heard in the background.
“Eh, the Councilman is, unhappy, about our lack of a warrant,” Kio continued. “But this should be enough for now, we have six more data cubes that can be examined for more evidence.”
“It's perfect, Chief,” Ranma smiled. “I'm sending security down to deal with the Councilman. Stay there and prepare for further instructions.”
Larson appeared on the viewer. Ranma turned to him. “Did you get all that, sir?”
Larson nodded. “Yes. Excellent work and it should be enough to get those ships stopped,” Larson grimaced as a volley of torpedoes knocked Ranma and anyone else standing to the ground.
“SHEILDS AT 33 PERCENT!” Usagi yelled.
Ranma quickly pulled himself up. “We need to go,” he said to Larson.
Larson nodded and closed the channel. Ranma turned to Shampoo then his father. “Shampoo, Pop, let's go.” The trio sped walked to the turbolift. “Minako, you have the bridge,” Ranma paused and turned to Makoto.
“My order still stands,” he softly said. “This ship burns before a single Starfleet ship is fired upon.”
Makoto nodded. “Yes sir.”