“This chatter makes no sense to me,” Admiral James acknowledged, looking at the intelligence report the young SI officer handed him.
The SI admiral in Starfleet's war room nodded in agreement. “I was thinking the same thing. Unless there is something you want to tell me.”
James glared at the admiral. “That's my question to you. You're the one who is usually all cloak and daggery.”
The SI admiral chuckled.
Another admiral, Robert Douglass walked into the room and lit up a cigarette. He inhaled deeply before walking over to James. James scowled at him. “You do realize that this is a no-smoking building.”
“Bah. If Section 31 can do it, so can I,” he replied, changing the subject. “Is it true what I have been hearing?”
James nodded. “Apparently, assuming the Vulcans aren't just making shit up.”
Douglass took the report from James and read over it. “What have the Romulans said?”
James rolled his eyes. “They deny knowledge and report that none of their ships are unaccounted for.”
“Did you tell them that we weren't mad?”
James laughed. “Yes.”
“And they still denied knowledge?”
“To hell with the Romulan ship,” The SI admiral barked. “I want to know where this mystery Starfleet ship came from and why it's not getting its ass back to Wolf 3-5-9 to assist the rest of the fleet.”
“I'd also like to know where it got a cloak from,” James added.
“Wait, it cloaks?” Douglass asked.
Both James and the SI admiral nodded.
“What was the registry?”
James looked at his report. “NCC 100371, U.S.S. Infinity.”
James looked at Douglass oddly, as did the SI admiral. “You know something we don't?” James finally asked.
“That ship's construction was scrapped over three years ago.”
The SI admiral pointed to the PADD Douglass was holding. “It blows up Vulcan ships pretty damned well for a partially constructed ship.”
Douglass rolled his eyes and brought up some information on one of the viewers in the room. “I was only a vice-admiral at the time, but I oversaw the fleet she was going to be assigned to. We were going to construct five of her; Seneca Class ships.”
“Seneca class? If she's the Infinity, does that mean there is another one out there?” James asked.
“Assuming they kept the names, yes, it would seem so,” Douglass replied.
“Who's in possession of these ships, and where were they built?” The SI admiral asked.
“We had,” Douglass paused. “Perhaps still have, a shipyard in the Delta Quadrant.”
“Yes, I know of it,” James stated. “Newfoundland Yards. They were shut down after the war.”
The SI admiral sighed. “No, they weren't.”
James shook his head. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“There are only so many places you can build experimental ships,” the SI admiral complained. “We took that place over, but I don't remember seeing any of those in it.”
“Well, regardless...” Douglass continued. “They apparently completed construction on at least the Infinity and gave her to someone.”
“Can we account for all Starfleet officers?” James asked.
“It will take a while, but probably,” Douglass replied.
“There are over fifty million Starfleet officers and enlisted between the three branches!” The SI admiral exclaimed.
“Which is why it will take a while!” Douglass shot back.
“Some of them cannot be accounted for as well.”
James put his hand up. “Look. All I want to know is who is in control of that ship.”
“We are,” a female voice called out from the back of the room, causing the three admirals to jump.
“For fucks sake, would you two at least knock or beam in or send down a warning before you do that,” James complained, grabbing his heart.
“Maybe we can get them a cowbell,” The SI admiral grumbled.
JC chuckled as his less amused female partner from earlier, NK, walked forward and pointed to the display of the Infinity on the viewer.
“The Infinity and the Romulan ship with her are our only hope right now. You mustn't interfere with them.”
“Who is on board?” Douglass asked.
“I cannot tell you, because they would then be compromised.”
JC nodded. “Trust us.”
James rolled his eyes. “Really?”
“You know we work for the same goal, even if we do work in different ways,” JC replied.
“They need to be more effective,” Douglass growled. “The Vulcans obliterated three of our outposts.”
“Their task right now is not to save three outposts, but the entire Federation,” NK replied.
James exhaled deeply before JC turned to him. “Please, Admiral, continue to do what you can to hold off the invasion and we will do our part.”
James nodded. The two Section 31 agents walked back towards the rear door. James watched the pair walk out and turned to the other two admirals. “Well, I guess that is one mystery solved.”
“Sort of,” Douglass scoffed.
The SI admiral chuckled as James' communicator started to beep.
“This is James,” he answered.
“Sir, the Council needs to see you ASAP,” an unnamed aide informed him.
“Ah jeez,” James groaned. “Okay, thanks.” James turned to the pair. “I guess I will be back later unless of course this is my mandatory retirement notice, which at this point I would not necessarily refuse.”
The two other admirals laughed as James initiated a site-to-site transport.
“You say you're from Illinois?” JC asked the young, blonde Infinity engineer who was assisting him on one of the Vulcan facility's many computer cores.
“Mmhm,” she replied, never looking up from her PADD. It was the third time JC had attempted to engage her in small talk, and from the way it was starting it seemed like the third time that he would fail.
“I'm from Illinois too. Springfield,” he told her as he began a search string. “Too humid for me though.”
“Yup,” she replied.
JC sighed. Apparently, what he heard about female computer science majors was true.
“They didn't seem to have initiated any kind of defensive measures,” she noted. “Are all your file allocation tables intact?”
JC wanted to reply with a smug remark but assumed both the lieutenant he was working with and his wife would probably end up punching him. “Yes.”
“Okay. I'm beginning a download. They can search faster on board.”
“Okay,” JC answered, determined to find out if she disliked one-word answers as much as he did.
Apparently, she didn't as she quickly moved on to a second terminal. JC quickly scurried behind her.
“Oh, this system is encrypted,” she smiled.
“They're all encrypted,” JC groaned.
“Not like this one,” she tapped her communicator. “Dawson to LaBond.”
“Go ahead,” a male on the other end replied.
“Vic, I got a good one for you, can you come in here?”
“Yeah, be right there.”
JC simmered slightly. So, she can be friendly, he thought to himself. But only to other computer geeks.
A minute or two passed before another of the Infinity crew came into the room. He walked up to the terminal and began to look at the readout on the PADD.
“Damn, Becca,” he smiled at the young lieutenant. “This thing is wrapped up good. You might have found the gold mine here.”
“Can you crack it?” she asked.
“Of course I can!” Vic gloated before beginning to type on the terminal. JC then angrily watched as the pair chatted and laughed while Vic typed away on the terminal. The system occasionally buzzed at him, but for the most part he was met with compliant beeps and pats on his bald head from Becca.
“Is there anything I can do?” JC finally asked.
“Could you get me some water?” Vic asked, never looking up.
JC just stared at him for a moment, before turning towards the door.
“Me too, please,” Becca called out.
“Yeah, I'll get your water, you shiny-headed goon,” JC mumbled quietly to himself as he slowly shuffled out the door to find a working replicator.
<Nifty Star Trek Romulan Doorbell Sound>
Ranma leaned up from the couch he was lying on in his quarters and opened his eyes. He slowly looked towards the door and yawned before speaking. “Come in,” he groggily requested.
The door slid open and Saanik walked in. Ranma slid his feet off the couch and quickly stood. Dressed only in his uniform pants and sleeveless gray shirt, he quickly went to get his jacket but was waved off by Saanik.
“I am sorry to disturb you, Captain. I can come back later.”
Ranma shook his head and motioned for Saanik to sit in one of the recliners that furnished the Captain's quarters on the Talon class cruiser. “A visit from you is never disturbing, Minister.”
Saanik smiled and sat down. Ranma moved to the replicator and ordered a tea. “Can I get you anything?”
“No, thank you.”
Ranma picked up his glass and sat across from Saanik. Saanik looked at Ranma's couch, then back to Ranma. “I woke you.”
Ranma shrugged. “I was just catching a quick nap. I am sure I can catch another one later,” Ranma smiled reassuringly. He had not slept much and was trying to nap when he could, but of course, he was not willing to put off any time to speak with the Defense Minister.
“What do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”
Saanik leaned forward a bit. “Have you learned anything?”
Ranma shook his head. “Not much. Salek is a stone wall and refuses to tell us anything that helps us. Though if you ever need a manual on the day-to-day routine of a Vulcan office drone, I am sure my interrogators can write it for you.”
Saanik nodded. “Salek may be a traitor, but he is good at what he does. Getting information from him will be hard.”
“I don't expect we will get any information from him,” Ranma conceded.
Saanik paused for a moment. “Vulcans are like humans physically and to an extent psychologically. Perhaps-”
“If you are suggesting what I think you are suggesting, then you have wasted a trip down here.” Ranma sternly stated. “I will not use any kind of 'enhanced' interrogation techniques on him, even if it means failing.”
Saanik nodded. “Larson told me you would say that.”
“Larson asked you to ask me?”
Saanik shook his head. “No, I suggested it to Admiral Larson before coming to you. However, he told me that it was your decision.”
Ranma was impressed. He was curious too though. “Do you think I am wrong? Do you think putting my ethics above the good of the Federation is a bad idea?”
“Logic points to a different Federation, regardless of the outcome. However, the one thing that will continue to allow the Federation to exist, even with the other issues that will have to be dealt with is our morals and our values.”
Saanik leaned forward and put his hand on Ranma's knee for a moment. “People like you are why the Federation survives, even though there are people like Salek and even people like me.”
Ranma thought about this as Saanik leaned back. “I have continued to try and think about Salek, to try and be more help. I do recall that Salek went to Earth quite often, and it annoyed me to no end as he always demanded one of my ships for an escort.”
Ranma nodded. “He admitted that he visited Earth a few times for 'business.'”
Saanik shook his head. “No, not a few times, Captain. Hundreds. Especially over the last year.”
Ranma drank some more of his tea as he took this in. “What would he be doing there?”
“The ship logs would only have records of him going to orbit. Who he visited would have to come from Starfleet or his own logs.”
Ranma nodded. “We have teams ripping the planet apart now.”
“You won't find much here. Some of the main MoI database is mirrored, but any useful logs of his transiting would be on the main server on Vulcan.”
“Salek destroyed that.”
“Bridge to Captain Saotome,” Shampoo's voice called.
Ranma tapped his communicator. “Go ahead.”
“Admiral Larson needs to see you, quickly.”
“On my way,” Ranma looks at Saanik. “I need to go.”
Saanik stands with Ranma. “Thank you for your time, Captain.”
Ranma nods as he grabs his jacket and walks with Saanik to the doorway. “Thank you, Minister, for the information.”
James appeared in the Federation Council room to see a very distraught group of council members. James eyed the three empty chairs, normally filled by the Vulcan members, then turned to the council president.
“You folks needed me?” he asked.
“Yes, Admiral,” the Council President stated. “Why are you not keeping us advised on Vulcan fleet movements?”
“You mean the attacks?” he asked. “I sent reports-”
“No, I mean the increasing number of ships flowing into the space surrounding Vulcan,” the President snapped.
“I am not exactly sure what there is to tell you. They see us building up forces, they're trying to build up forces-”
“Admiral, we cannot allow them to mount a counteroffensive,” Young called out from his seat. “If they attack our forces before they are fully assembled-”
“They will be slaughtered,” James interrupted. “The Vulcan fleet is no match for our current fleet assembled at Wolf 3-5-9 nor will it be for the fully assembled fleet.”
“Mr. Young disagrees,” the President replied.
“Well, with all due respect to Mr. Young, he is not the one here with 37 years of military experience,” James countered.
“Admiral, a dozen Vulcan cruisers scared away your task force sent to secure one Vulcan colony,” Young smugly stated.
“Those were smaller ships with a single battleship for support. The reclamation fleet as it is right now has eight Sovereign class battleships with five more less than a day out. There are several other Galaxy and Nebula class battleships with the group as well,” James growled.
“Look,” the President interjected. “I didn't call you here for a ship roster update.”
“Then what did you call me here for?” James asked.
“Attack now,” Young demanded.
“We don't have the occupation forces ready yet,” James lied.
“You're lying,” Young smiled. “I know for a fact that you're hiding two million LDF forces near Andoria.”
The President looked at James. “Is this true?”
“We cannot risk having our ground forces compromised if the main fleet were to be.”
“I thought you said the main fleet was invincible?” Young smirked, pleased with his work so far.
“There are more than just the Vulcans out there you planet-bound jackass,” James growled.
“ADMIRAL!” The President barked. Young had to bite his tongue to keep himself from laughing. The President turned to the group. “All in favor of moving Operation Reclamation up?”
“Aye,” everyone stated.
The President banged his gavel. He looked at James. “I want boots on Vulcan soil within 36 hours.”
James stood there for a minute before snapping to attention. “Yes sir,” he said before he quickly transported out.
Larson, Genma, Ranma, Ukyo, JC, Makoto, and Rei all gathered around SitCon to discuss the information gathered from the facility slowly rotating below them. Like Saanik said, most of it was useless, however not all of it.
“The forensics team from the Infinity managed to break the encryption on a pretty solid database and found something very interesting,” Larson smiled.
“Oh?” Ranma asked.
“Look familiar?” Larson pulled up a bank of numbers. Everyone examined them for a moment. While most of the group simply looked at them with blank stares, JC began to jump up and down and point.
“THE SERIAL NUMBERS!!!” he screamed.
“You got it,” Larson confirmed.
“From that junk that was on the Sisko's engines?!” Ranma asked.
Larson nodded. “We have established a solid link with the MoI.”
“Holy shit,” JC smiled. “Way to go, shiny-headed goon.”
The group turned to JC who waved them off. Ranma turned to Larson, still concerned. “We still don't have a link to the Federation or to any of the other stuff that has been happening.”
Larson sighed. “No, we don't.”
“Though...” Ranma started, remembering his conversation with Saanik. “Minister Saanik said that Salek did visit Earth often.”
“Salek admitted to that,” Makoto stated.
“Well, Saanik said 'often', especially since this stuff started happening,” Ranma further clarified.
“Hrm,” Larson mumbled as he started typing some things into the console. “I'm trying to get some transport logs. Perhaps we can see where he went.”
The group nodded and waited.
“Jeez,” Ranma finally said.
“Well, we are getting a year’s worth of transporter logs,” Larson explained. “And we're not exactly getting them through official channels.”
Ranma nodded in understanding as the group waited some more.
Finally, the console beeped. Larson transferred the logs over to Genma's side as he continued to read a message that was included with the logs.
Ranma watched Larson read the message. The look crossing Larson's face was not a good one. Ranma looked to Ukyo and the others who could also see the upset expression on the admiral's face.
“Something wrong?” Ranma finally asked.
“Very,” Larson acknowledged. “The Council has ordered Starfleet to push up the attack.” Larson turned to Ranma. “We have 36 hours.”
Ranma turned to his father. “Anything?”
“A ton of entries for Salek beaming down to the Federation building in Paris,” Genma replied.
“Paris is where the Council and the President's office is,” Larson explained. “The General Assembly meets in Geneva.”
“Who would he know on the council?” Makoto asked.
Larson slammed his fist down. “Young.”
Ranma knew that name. “He was one of the ones at my court-martial too, wasn't he?”
Larson nodded looked to Ukyo. “Have your teams look for a connection.” He turned to Ranma. “See what he knows about Young.”
Everyone turned to do their jobs. As the Salvation group approached the turbolift, Larson called out to them.
“The world ends in a day and a half, people.”
Ranma was growing quite frustrated – no, pissed off at Salek's circular stonewalling. He freely admitted that he knew Councilman Young. Of course, that was no help. Ranma knew that before he even had Salek in the brig.
What he did not know is how deep their relationship went, and that is exactly what Salek wasn't telling them.
Ranma was angry at his own ethical standards as well. He quite possibly could end this right now if he just let Makoto have her way with Salek, but then he of course would have to wonder if he would be able to live with himself afterward.
That's assuming he wasn't (again) court-martialed and jailed for breaching about a dozen Starfleet regulations and treaties regarding the treatment of prisoners.
Ranma sighed exasperatedly as Rei began her turn yelling at Salek as he watched from the brig's control room. He turned when he saw the door open and Saanik and T'Pah standing there.
Saanik nodded to the guard at the door to allow them in. Both walked in, with only Saanik proceeding into the control room.
“Any luck?” Saanik asked.
Ranma shook his head. “No. And it's getting worse. Starfleet has moved up the timeline on their assault.”
Saanik paused. “That is, unfortunate.”
“Tell me about it,” Ranma groaned, continuing to watch the interrogation.
“Captain, I can be of more assistance,” Saanik offered.
Ranma turned to him. “How?”
“I can meld with him. I can get the information from him that way.”
Ranma thought back to his mind-meld with Saanik. “What is the risk?”
“All things considered, negligible.”
“That isn't what I asked.”
Saanik sighed. “Both Salek and I may be killed from it. Normally I would be the only one at risk, but because of Salek's strong mind, I will have to probe hard to get him to confess.”
Ranma shook his head. “I can't allow that.”
Saanik nodded. “Very well then. I accept your decision.”
Ranma turned back towards the interrogation. Saanik turned towards T'Pah and nodded at her. She slowly began walking towards the control room. Saanik, quickly and very stealthfully, grabbed Ranma's shoulder, incapacitating him with a Vulcan nerve pinch.
The guard, standing with them, began to turn, but was also quickly incapacitated by Saanik and his neck pinch.
Saanik then grabbed both Ranma's and the guard's phasers, handing one to T'Pah. T'Pah walked out of the control room as Saanik deactivated the force field on Salek's cell.
Upon hearing the force field deactivate, both Rei and Makoto turned, only to be quickly stunned by T'Pah.
“Did you finally get your loyalties straight?” Salek asked.
“My loyalties have always been straight,” Saanik stated, sealing the brig. He then walked into Salek's cell and helped T'Pah drag Makoto and Rei out into the open area just outside of it.
Once that task was done, he stopped and grabbed T'Pah. The pair looked at each other for a good minute before Saanik kissed her. “Whatever happens, know that I love you.”
“And I you,” T'Pah replied.
Saanik nodded and walked into the cell as T'Pah went into the control room and reactivated the force field. Once that was done, she went back to the edge of the cell and took up a defensive stance with both hers and Saanik's phasers.
Saanik, meantime, placed his hands on Salek's face.
“It won't work.” Salek frowned.
“We'll see,” Saanik stated as he positioned his fingers. Salek grimaced as the meld started to take hold.
“Your thoughts to my thoughts...” Saanik said.
“My mind to your mind...” Salek replied, obviously against his will.
“Who is your contact on Earth?”
“I have business with...” Salek started.
“Councilman Young,” Saanik replied.
Both appeared to be in slight pain, but Saanik pushed on. “What kind of business?”
“I am Minister of...”
“Vulcan Intelligence...” Saanik finished. “What is your true business?”
“I am Minister of...”
“Vulcan Intelligence...” Saanik pushed harder, nearly causing Salek to let out an audible gasp. T'Pah closed her eyes for a moment, afraid to look and see the kind of pain Saanik must be enduring as well.
“WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS WITH COUNCILMAN YOUNG?” Saanik yelled.
Ranma began to stir. He slowly sat up, then suddenly realized what had happened. He quickly stood and ran down into the brig, but T'Pah's phaser pointed at him stopped him.
“Please, Captain, don't,” she pleaded.
“He'll die!” Ranma argued.
“We'll all die,” T'Pah said, a tear coming to her eye.
Ranma began to back up and slapped his communicator. “Saotome to security, get people to the brig now.”
Salek clenched his teeth hard, using every ounce of will he had to not reply. Again, Saanik yelled. “WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS WITH COUNCILMAN YOUNG?”
“...separation,” Saanik finished.
Ranma, who was trying to unseal the brig doors, looked up.
“Why?” Saanik asked.
“To free Vulcan from human control,” Salek replied, now broken.
“Why Councilman Young?” Saanik asked, weakly.
Salek tried to fight, but Saanik was in his mind too deep now. “He also wants...”
Saanik's head started to droop, but there was one more thing he wanted to know. One more thing he had to ask if he was going to die.
“Why attack the LDF base?”
Salek blinked and managed a slight, but smug smile. “It sped...”
Saanik fell over backward, losing his grip on Salek. Salek also fell over. T'Pah, upon hearing the two men hit the ground, dropped to her knees. Ranma stood there in shock for a minute before hitting his communicator again.
“MEDICAL EMERGENCY TO THE BRIG!!” He turned to T'Pah. “Damn it, get the force field down and unlock the doors!”
T'Pah slowly got up and walked to the control room. She decoded Saanik's encryption and lowered the force field and unsealed the brig, allowing a swarm of security officers to enter, the majority of which bared their weapons on her.
“Stand down,” Ranma ordered.
The guards complied and made way for the medical teams that were now pushing their way in. After checking on Makoto and Rei, who were starting to come to, Ranma walked into the cell.
“He needs to go to sickbay,” Akane said, referring to Salek.
Ranma nodded and allowed the medics and security to take him out into the corridor where he could be transported. He then moved over to Saanik.
Akane looked him over and turned to her assistant chief medical officer. “He's really bad.”
Saanik smiled. “No, I am dead,” T'Pah came over to him.
“You did it,” she said.
Saanik took her hand. “We did it.”
“Dammit, Minister,” Ranma said, going to his knees. “I told you no.”
Saanik took Ranma's hand with his free one. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. My death will save millions of not only my people but all our people. I have been sworn to do that since I joined the military eighty-some years ago.”
Saanik released Ranma's hand and held up the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper, Captain Saotome.”
Ranma repeated the salute to the best of his ability and placed his hand against Saanik's. Saanik closed his eyes, and within a moment, his hand slid off Ranma's and dropped to the ground. Ranma looked to the doctor who just shook his head.
T'Pah turned to Ranma. “His sacrifice was for both our worlds.”
Ranma nodded and hit his communicator. “Saotome to bridge. Tell Admiral Larson I need to see him immediately.”