“Starfleet Command is hailing us again on subspace, Admiral,” Operations informed an exhausted Admiral Hanson.
It had been twelve days since they had taken refuge inside the nebula. Hanson could not believe that the interceptors had waited outside for as long as they had. The fact that they did proved one thing though. They knew that the St. Paul was in there.
He thought about making a break for it during what he described as their shift change, but the enemy spread it out so that there was always a full complement of ships out there.
Then he had Starfleet Command. He knew that they would be looking for them. Fortunately, no Starfleet ship would be able to scan into the nebula as well.
Hanson had deactivated the ship's transponder and lowered the power consumption to bare minimums. The nebula, while disruptive to sensors, was harmless so there was no need to keep the shields up.
A little dangerous but he knew the interceptors would not fire into the nebula. Igniting the hydrogen would create an explosion that would not only destroy the St. Paul, but anything within a parsec of the nebula.
“Do not respond,” Hanson finally ordered.
The young operations officer complied and silenced the chirping of his station.
Hanson stood up and looked around. He was keeping the bridge minimally staffed. Tactical, Ops, Helm, and himself. Plus, two security guards in case anyone decided to try and take control of the ship.
He also kept a phaser by his side.
Hanson, when he did sleep, slept on the bridge in the command chair. He left the bridge only to use the bathroom. When he was gone, he took one security guard with him and gave the other one orders to kill anyone who left their station.
He had gotten that paranoid.
It was a justifiable paranoia though. Many of the crew was getting tired of sitting in the nebula with low lighting and extraordinarily little freedom to move. Some talked about taking control of the ship and surrendering. Those were arrested.
Hanson had most of the youngest crew members, the one with the least amount of experience – and therefore the most loyalty to the chain of command – converted into security officers.
They spent the nights roaming the corridors and making sure the people in the brig maintained order.
It was getting difficult. Hanson now had fifty-four people locked in the brig. Overcrowding was causing restlessness. There probably would have been a riot already if Captain McNamara had not kept everyone calm and cool.
And while everything seems grim and the hopes of escape for McNamara and the others seemed impossible, McNamara kept talking to Ensign Thompson (who had been given a field commission by the admiral to Lt. Commander), trying to convince him that he was on the wrong side – the wrong team - and that he should help them.
Unfortunately, every time it seemed like he was making some progress, Ensign Stevens (now Lieutenant Stevens) came and took him away, scolding him for chatting with the prisoners.
It was becoming very frustrating for everyone involved.
“Hey Sarah,” McNamara called out.
Sarah was staring out the brig and at the chief of security’s office door. On the door was the placard that read ‘Commander Hideki Montasori.’
“Yeah?” she asked, not taking her eyes off the door.
“Come here,” he requested.
Sarah slowly turned and walked to McNamara, stepping over a couple of people who were sleeping and around one person who was simply sitting, quietly talking to himself.
McNamara patted the floor next to him. Sarah sat down where she was instructed.
“You okay?” he asked her.
Sarah shook her head. “No.”
McNamara wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close to him.
“You know what the worst part is?” she asked as a couple of tears began to run down her face.
“What?” McNamara asked softly.
“The fact that I don’t know,” Sarah sniffled. “I lost both my parents in the Dominion War and my brother at Wolf 359. I think I could deal with it better if I knew that he was dead.”
McNamara leaned his bearded face down and kissed Sarah on top of her head.
“How do you know?” Sarah cried.
“I’ve known Hideki for fifteen years. And I kid you not, that man wouldn’t die if he shot himself.”
Sarah, much to her own chagrin, laughed.
“He loves you so very much, Sarah,” McNamara continued. “He won’t die simply because of that.”
Sarah turned slightly and placed her head on McNamara’s chest.
“You really stink,” she laughed.
“Yeah, well you’re no box of roses either,” he laughed in return.
“Captain,” Thompson stated as he walked over to the brig cell.
McNamara looked up.
“The admiral would like to speak with you.”
Sarah pulled herself from McNamara. She leaned up against the wall as McNamara stood and walked to the perimeter of the cell. Thompson deactivated the force field and allowed McNamara out. He then quickly reactivated it.
As they were walking to the door, Stevens walked in.
“Where are you taking him?” Stevens asked Thompson.
“Admiral Hanson wishes to speak with him.”
“No one said that to me.”
Thompson pointed to the pips on his collar.
“No one needed to. As you were.”
Stevens looked at the pair for a moment before walking onwards. Thompson and McNamara continued walking to the turbolift.
“Deck four,” he ordered the lift.
McNamara sized up Thompson.
“Did you think about what I said?”
“No talking, sir,” Thompson ordered.
McNamara sighed as the lift came to a stop. Thompson led the captain out of the lift and down a dimly lit hallway. After about a hundred meters, Thompson stopped them.
McNamara looked to Thompson who was holding out his gun for McNamara to take.
“Shoot me. It’s the only way you can escape.”
McNamara took the phaser rifle and looked at it.
“It’s on kill.”
“You have to kill me, sir.”
“I’m not going to kill you.”
Tears were beginning to form in the young ensign’s eyes.
“If you don’t, someone else will when they figure out what I’ve done,” he looked to the deck as he cried. “I’m going to be executed for treason when we get back anyway.”
“No, you won’t,” McNamara grumbled as he tried to lower the setting on the phaser, but it wouldn’t lower.
“They locked them in. The setting can’t be lowered.”
“I can’t kill you.”
McNamara handed the gun back to Thompson.
“Fine,” Thompson stated. He took the gun, turned it towards himself, closed his eyes and fired.
The concussion sent the young man’s lifeless body five meters down the corridor and the rifle slamming to the thinly carpeted deck with a thud. McNamara almost screamed as he watched him bounce on the deck and roll another meter.
McNamara ran over and checked Thompson’s pulse.
“Damn it,” he stated as he picked up Thompson’s gun and ran down the corridor.
McNamara knew why Thompson picked deck four. The captain’s quarters were on this deck. In the captain’s quarters was an emergency subspace transmitter.
It would only have enough power to transmit for five minutes, but hopefully, that would be enough.
On the bridge, the internal sensor screen that would normally show a phaser discharge stayed black, as they had been shut off because of Hanson’s power-saving scheme.
The door to Hideki’s jail cell slid open. Hideki looked up from the mattress he was napping on to see General Johansson and Lt. Hassan walk in.
Hideki rubbed his eyes and sat up.
“Is it morning already?” He groggily asked.
Being held captive for over a week, the usual routine has become, well, routine for him. Every morning, after he was given breakfast and a chance to shower and do other bathroom essentials, Hassan and Johansson would come in, tell him how the negotiations with the Federation were going, and then question him some more.
His captors were running out of questions about his mission, so they began to ask about his life, about his family, and about Sarah.
He almost felt like they were getting the reverse of Stockholm Syndrome, whatever the clinical term for that was.
This morning was different though. The two men did not have the usual comforting smiles on their faces. They almost looked angry. In fact, Hideki couldn’t remember ever seeing Hassan that angry since the first day he was questioned.
“Things are not well, Commander,” Hassan stated.
Hideki sat up, completely awake. Hassan had not called him Commander in over a week. The pair was on a first-name basis.
“What’s wrong?” Hideki asked as he took his place in the rather comfortable new interrogation chair.
The commotion woke Brett up. Hassan had brought Brett a mattress over Hideki’s objections. Brett slowly and groggily sat up and look towards the windows.
There was no sunlight coming in.
“Early today?” Brett pondered.
The two CSS officers turned to Brett and nodded to the guards who moved in.
“Oh, come on, I won’t talk!” Brett complained as duct tape was reapplied to his mouth. Brett who had become used to this daily ritual groaned and did not resist as he was gagged.
“Commander,” the General stated, turning back to Hideki. “The Federation is not only refusing to hand over Admiral Hanson, but they say if we don’t release the Councilman the planet will be assaulted.”
Hideki thought about this for a minute.
“They’re bluffing. They must be. For that to happen they’d have to make public what happened.”
“And you don’t think they would want to do that?” Hassan asked.
Hideki shook his head. “No way. You know what would happen if people found out that there are rogue admirals and councilmen running around using Starfleet ships to launch their own little vendettas?”
“You need to speak to them,” Johansson stated.
“What do you want me to say?”
Hassan sighed. “First, they assume that since some of your officers got killed, we must be treating you badly. We’d like you to set the record straight.”
“Second, we want them to hear from you that we are willing to compromise and make a deal, but SOMEONE must be held accountable for this act of war.”
Hassan nodded. “And Councilman Alexander.”
Hideki grinned. “Really, if you shoot him now, I’ll say he was trying to escape.”
Hassan and Johansson looked to Brett as he cried out some muffled and unintelligible profanities.
“I don’t think anyone would believe us if we said he was trying to escape,” Hassan mused.
Johansson turned back to Hideki.
“Third I want you to tell the Federation what happened, and what the result was. That because of this little adventure that Hanson and Alexander took you on six of your shipmates were killed.”
“You want a full confession,” Hideki read between the lines.
“You know they will think I am being forced,” Hideki stated.
Johansson shook his head.
“You are not. You are free to not record anything. You are free to stay in here and hope that the people at the Federation come to their senses and give up two criminals to save the fourteen people here and the hundred or so on your ship.”
Hassan continued. “You will be in a room by yourself. We won’t be in there, no guards, nothing. Just you and a communications terminal.”
“How do you know I won’t call for help?” Hideki asked.
“The Federation knows where you are. They know where your ship is,” Hassan stated.
“Commander,” Johansson continued. “You are calling for help. You’re calling for your government to transfer the people who planned this assault into our custody in exchange for your freedom.”
“It would be better if you let me talk to someone live, as opposed to a recording. A recording will look manipulated. If I can answer questions the Federation will be more than likely to believe it’s really me.”
Johansson nodded. “I agree with that. We’ll contact your government and come and get you when we’re ready.”
Hassan and Johansson got up and headed towards the door.
“What time is it?” Hideki asked.
Hassan looked to his watch. “04:19.”
“Is it too early for breakfast?”
Hassan chuckled. “I’ll send some in a short while.”
The door slid shut. Hideki looked to the floor.
The guards in the room took the tape from Brett’s mouth.
“What are you doing, Commander?”
Hideki scowled at the guards and turned towards Brett.
“I’m trying to save my men.”
“By taking sides with the enemy?”
Hideki shook his head as he walked back to his mattress.
“They’re not my enemy. And if you knew how to do ANY kind of operational planning you would have seen that they aren’t yours either.”
The Sisko slowed to impulse as it reached the outer defense perimeter of Earth. She then began to orbit at a comfy 1,000 kilometers above the planet’s surface.
Shampoo looked out the window in Lt. Fuchs's office at the planet below.
“You can almost see my house from here,” she mused to Lt. Jansen as the Asian continent passed below them.
“Mine won’t be coming up for another thirty minutes,” she stated. “Southern England.”
“That where Amanda get such sexy accent?” Shampoo smirked as she leaned into Amanda.
The doors to the office opened with a hiss and Akane and Lt. Fuchs walked in. Shampoo and Amanda both shot away from each other and did their best to appear nonchalant.
Jeff raised an eyebrow at what he nearly witnessed. Akane, who had tons of material for a day like this, forcibly contained herself.
“Commander, Lieutenant,” Jeff smiled.
“Lieutenant, Commander,” Amanda and Shampoo both replied.
Akane held up a PADD that she was carrying and began to read it.
“I, Commander Akane SAOTOME; Chief Medical Officer of the USS Benjamin Sisko, Starfleet registry number NX-95077, do hereby find fit for duty Commander Shampoo. Acting as Chief Medical Officer with the power granted to me by Starfleet Command and Starfleet Medical do hereby authorize Commander Shampoo to be returned to active duty effective today, Stardate 60702.”
Shampoo, who ignored the emphasis Akane placed on her last name, smiled as she was embraced by Amanda.
Akane nodded to Jeff and then to Shampoo and Amanda. She then turned around and walked outside of the office.
Once outside and she was sure the doors were closed, Akane smiled.
“Good for you, Shampoo. Good for you.”
Akane continued to smile as she walked down the corridor and back to sickbay.
Inside Jeff’s office, Shampoo and Amanda were still hugging.
“Ahem.” Jeff ahemed. Both girls turned to him. “First off, let me say ‘hurrah!’ I was getting kind of lonely on board.”
“Huh?” Both questioned.
Jeff pointed to a picture he kept on his desk. The picture was of Jeff and a handsome young man also wearing a blue medical uniform.
“That not your friend?” Shampoo asked.
Jeff grinned. “Oh, we’re friends.”
“Oh?” Both girls questioned.
Then they got it.
“Don’t be embarrassed or shy. As I have always said, you don’t choose love. Love chooses you.”
Amanda turned to Shampoo.
“Are you embarrassed by me?”
Shampoo turned to Amanda.
“Well, it is little embarrassing to date Lieutenant.”
Amanda stared bug-eyed at Shampoo. As did Jeff.
Shampoo grinned and kissed Amanda on the tip of her nose.
Amanda groaned and poked Shampoo in the breast. The pair began to paw at each other once again.
“Ahem,” Jeff once again interrupted.
“Sorry,” Both women replied halting their playfulness.
“No problem,” Jeff replied with his usual cheerful understanding.
“Secondly, Shampoo I would like it very much if you continued to see me on a regular basis. Just until we are sure that you are over this.”
“And if anything happens. If you ever get that urge, please call me. Day or night, I don’t care.”
Shampoo once again nodded.
“And thirdly, don’t volunteer for duty tonight. Go down to Earth and see some sights. Enjoy your last day off. You’ll be begging for one in a month, I’m sure.”
“Thank you for everything.” She smiled and walked over to Jeff. She gave him a hug and walked to the door.
“Where you want to go?” Shampoo asked Amanda.
“Well, I have to be on duty in four hours.”
Shampoo grinned devilishly as she ran her hand down Amanda’s back.
“I know where we go.”
“Commander! Enough with the tactical report! Are you okay?” a Federation official asked the image of Hideki that was on the conference room's view screen.
“Yes sir. We have been treated very well,” Hideki replied. “Well within the requirements of the Eighth Geneva Convention regarding prisoners of war.”
Two of the five Federation suits sighed a sigh of relief. The other three, who also expressed less audible signs of relief, pondered Hideki’s self-declaration of himself as a POW.
In the conference room at Starfleet Headquarters, asides from the five suits were two admirals in red Starfleet Command uniforms and one in a black Starfleet Intelligence uniform. He was the next to speak up.
“Who is in the room with you, Commander?”
Hideki looked around. “No one.”
Hideki picked up the camera he was speaking into and showed the people the room. As he stated, he was alone. There appeared to be no one-way glass either. Just a single door that was closed.
“Why did they leave you alone?” The intelligence admiral asked.
“They trust me, and I trust them,” Hideki stated. There was a short murmur between the suits before one of them spoke up.
“What have they told you of our negotiations?” The suit asked.
“They informed me that you refuse to hand over Admiral Hanson and Councilman Alexander to them. That you seem to want to allow them to execute us, those who were just following orders, rather than let them punish the people who orchestrated this mess.”
One of the red admirals stood. “Commander, we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”
“They aren’t terrorists, sir,” Hideki countered. “They are the security services for this facility that were acting against a threat.”
“He’s got Stockholm Syndrome,” one of the suits stated.
“With all due respect sir, I do not,” Hideki complained. “Just because I understand what is going on doesn’t mean I sympathize with them. Hell, if I had enough guns, I’d shoot them all to get me and my men out of here.”
Hideki groaned. “Besides, for that to happen we’d have to be hostages.”
“If you’re not hostages, what are you?” Another suit asked.
“Prisoners of war, sir,” Hideki once again stated. “We were captured, fair and square, during combat. It’s no different than during the war.”
The suits began to mumble to each other once again.
“Sir, these people are willing to compromise. Two lives for fourteen plus the remaining complement on the St. Paul.”
“We are not going to turn over Federation citizens to be executed without a trial to prove their guilt,” one of the suits replied.
“TRIAL?” Hideki yelled. “Don’t you get it? I wouldn’t be here – my men wouldn’t be here – six people wouldn’t be DEAD if they weren’t guilty!
“Admiral Hanson and Councilman Alexander planned and executed this assault against the wishes of Captain McNamara. They killed a Ferengi arms dealer with no trial. They went behind your back and stole a Federation ship.
“And now one of them is sitting in a damn nebula, probably about to get the Saint Paul destroyed killing another hundred people. Why? Because you cannot see what’s important here. Because you can’t see that all these people want is someone held accountable.”
Hideki groaned and stood up.
“Commander,” one of the Admirals called out.
Hideki turned around.
“The admiral and Mr. Alexander will be tried in a Federation court and if found guilty imprisoned.”
Hideki shook his head.
“Accountable to them. Not to you,” Hideki turned around again and walked across the room. “Besides, what does an Admiral and a Councilman get for six counts of murder?”
Hideki walked back to the console.
“They were right. Nothing has changed in the past five hundred years. Still corruption and short-sightedness.”
Hideki hit a button and the viewscreen changed to the logo of the Chidori Security Services.
The suits all began to talk amongst themselves.
“We can continue to negotiate,” one said.
“I am sure we can talk them into releasing the hostages,” another said.
The Admiral in black stood up.
“Talk. That’s all you guys do. Talk.”
All the suits stopped talking and turned to the admiral in black.
“We need to do more than talk. We need to launch a full assault on the planet.”
“We don’t have a ship that’s able to do that,” One of the admirals in red stated.
“Then we send a fleet,” The admiral in black replied.
“We don’t have a spare fleet to send. We barely have enough ships to secure the borders as it is,” The other admiral in red stated. “You more than anyone should know the toll the war took on us. There is no way we can spare a fleet for a rescue mission.”
“It’s not just a rescue mission. We’d be killing two birds with one stone,” The admiral in black stated. “We rescue the hostages and eliminate a dangerous weapon from falling into the Klingon’s hands.”
“We don’t have enough ships!” The second red admiral exclaimed more emphatically.
“I have a ship,” a man in the corner, who had remained silent up to this point, stated.
The entire room looked to the darkened corner as Admiral Larson stood and stepped into the light.
“One ship?” The admiral in black asked.
“One ship,” Larson nodded. He looked at the suits. “But it has to be a last resort.”
One of the suits looked to the rest.
“Let’s contact the Klingons. Maybe they can talk them into releasing them since they are their biggest client.”
“Don’t take too long,” one of the admirals in red stated. “They aren’t going to keep them alive if they aren’t going to be useful as collateral.”
The suits nodded, gathered their belongings, and walked out of the room. Larson and the other admirals walked to the exit when the admiral in black turned to Larson.
The admiral in black stopped in his tracks.
“That’s my line.”
“Well?” Hassan asked.
“It didn’t go well,” Hideki replied as the guards began to escort him back to his cell.
“That’s too bad,” Johansson stated.
Hideki looked up to the senior officer.
“The board contacted me just a few minutes ago. The executions are to be in four days.”
Hideki lowered his head as Hassan patted him on the back.
“Someone must be held accountable,” Hideki stated, resigning himself to his fate.