Ranma looked at the two cards sitting in front of him. He groaned.
Akane complied, smacking Ranma in the back of his head.
“Idiot! You have seventeen! She’s got sixteen! Don’t hit!”
“Too late,” the dealer smugly informed Ranma as she dealt him a jack of clubs and scooped up the chips set out in front of him.
Ranma buried his head in his hands. Akane just threw her arms up in exasperation.
“Hopeless!” She whimpered as she walked across the casino floor.
Ranma quickly gathered up the few chips he had left and ran after Akane. He nearly slammed into her when she suddenly stopped, her jaw hanging wide open.
“Wh-what are you doing?!” Ranma hollered.
Akane spun around and put her hand over his mouth. “Be quiet.”
Ranma shook his head as he pried Akane's hand off his face. “I can barely hear myself think in here. No one else is going to hear us.”
Akane grumbled and pointed to a slot machine in the back corner of the casino. Sitting there, with her hair in a ponytail, was Ranma.
But it wasn’t Ranma.
“Is that the Captain?” Ranma pondered.
“How many other people look exactly like you?” Akane asked rhetorically.
“I don’t know. A few,” Ranma stated. His eyes moved down, towards his chest. “And she doesn’t look EXACTLY like me…”
Akane slowly turned to him.
“You’re cut off.”
Akane began to walk towards the redhead that was quietly pulling the handle on the slot machine in one of the Ferengi casinos in Las Vegas.
“I haven’t drank that much,” Ranma reaffirmed to himself before tripping slightly and following Akane again.
Once again, he nearly slammed into her when she made a sudden stop.
“What are you DOING?” Ranma grumbled.
“Look at her,” Akane said softly.
Ranma took a long, hard look at the short redhead. Ranma noticed that she had grown out her hair and that it was now about ten centimeters longer. He acknowledged that she looked like she was very dressed up, wearing a formal dress, one that almost looked like a wedding dress. She seemed far too dressed up to come and play slots.
Then he noticed what Akane had noticed.
She was crying.
He would not have noticed if he weren’t looking. Hell, only Akane could have noticed if they were not looking. But she was sitting on the stool, mechanically pulling the slot handle, softly crying, the tears slowly running down her face.
“Sh-Should we go talk to her?” Ranma questioned.
“I’ll go,” Akane stated bluntly, knowing Ranma's tendency for insensitivity. “You go get us some water.”
Akane walked towards Karyn as Ranma sulked. He could not wait till they got back to the Sisko where he could give orders to Akane. She would not follow them, but simply giving the orders instead of receiving them would make him feel better.
Ranma paused for a second.
At least he assumed it would.
Ranma shook his head quickly and marched off to get the water as Akane slowly approached Karyn.
“Captain?” Akane whispered.
Karyn jumped slightly upon hearing Akane’s voice. She quickly dried her eyes with part of her dress and turned around.
Her eyes were as red as her hair, and some of her make-up had run. She forced a smile on her face.
“Commander,” she sniffled. “What a surprise seeing you here.”
“I was thinking the same thing,” Akane said half a smile on her face. “Are you okay?”
“Hmm?” Karyn asked. She wiped her eyes again, acknowledging to herself that Akane knew that she had been crying.
“Yeah, I’m fine, thank you,” she lied. “So much smoke in here…”
Akane tilted her head. “What’s wrong? You can talk to me. I’d like to consider you a friend if you’re willing to consider me one as well.”
Karyn fought hard to keep the smile on her face.
“Everything is okay. I just thought I’d kill some time down here.”
Karyn looked past Akane at a couple walking across the floor. The woman was wearing a wedding dress, the man a tuxedo.
Karyn lost the smile.
Then she just lost it and began to cry. Hard.
Akane dropped to her knees to put herself at the same level as Karyn. She embraced her captain as Ranma walked back up. Akane flailed an arm at him, silently telling him to get lost.
Ranma grumbled, turned around, and walked away. A moment later a crash is heard, and a female began to scream.
“WHAT DID YOU DO THAT FOR?”
Akane ignored her husband turned wife and squeezed Karyn tighter.
Karyn bawled for a minute or so more before gently pulling away from Akane. Akane reached into her purse and pulled out a tissue and handed it to Karyn.
“Th-Th-Thank you,” she whimpered as she dried her eyes. Karyn paused for a moment and then turned to Akane.
“My fiancée brought me here.”
Akane raised an eyebrow.
“We met about a year ago before I came aboard the Sisko,” Karyn explained. “We came here about a week ago.”
Karyn resisted the urge to begin to cry again and continued.
“While we were engaged, we weren’t planning on getting married for a while. But a couple of nights ago he asked if we could get married here.”
Akane had to hold in her normal excitement when someone she knew was getting married. Obviously, this story did not have a happy ending, and she was trying to STOP Karyn’s crying.
“We were going to get married tonight. But last night we had an argument about me returning to space tomorrow. He wanted me to resign.
“I told him I couldn’t – that I had worked so hard to become what I’ve become. He said he was going for a walk to think about things.”
Karyn inhaled deeply. “He didn’t come back this morning. I had hoped he was just still thinking, so I got dressed and came down to the chapel.”
Karyn sniffled some more.
“He never showed up. I went back to the room, but the security code had been changed on the door. So, I called security and had them let me in.”
Tears began to stream down Karyn's face again.
“When I went inside, he was with another woman.”
“He said that he needed to be with a woman who had her priorities straight.”
Karyn began to cry loudly again. Akane moved and put her arm around her.
“I noticed that they were both wearing wedding rings...” Karyn trailed off.
“Ca-Captain,” Akane stammered, her desire to murder the next person she saw that had testicles growing.
To Akane’s surprise, Karyn began to laugh.
“You know what the real bitch is? Every goddamned hotel in this god-forsaken city is booked. So, I’m stuck down here till the transport back to the ship comes tomorrow.
“I’ve been on ships for the past ten years, so I don’t have a home here. And my parents live on Risa.”
Karyn was both laughing and crying. Akane had never been so angry and sad before in her life.
“Captain-” Akane began.
“Karyn, we have room. Please stay with us.”
Karyn shook her head. “I can’t impose.”
Akane scoffed. “Nonsense. I insist. And if I must, I will get an Admiral over here to order you.”
Karyn chuckled and dried her eyes some more.
“I would really like to get out of this stupid dress.”
Akane stood and helped Karyn up. She turned to the slot to cash it out for Karyn but noticed there were no credits on it. Karyn paused and began to speak, staring off across the casino floor.
“He brought all the money. I – I was just sitting here pulling the handle.”
Akane shook her head and took Karyn’s hand as they headed towards the turbolift.
On the way, they stopped at a still wet and still female Ranma playing a slot machine. He pushed the button, it beeped, then lights started flashing and bells started ringing.
“WOOOOOOOOOOO!” Ranma yelled, jumping into the air.
After the bells finished, Ranma turned to Akane.
“And you said I suck. I just won seventeen-hundred credits.”
Akane rolled her eyes. “That’s a sliver machine. You’ve won seventeen slips.”
Akane walked off with Karyn, leaving Ranma to glare at the machine. All that noise, all that commotion for less money than he put into the machine to begin with.
Ranma turned red.
Akane and Karyn looked up to see security toss Ranma into their room.
“She’s not allowed in the casino for the rest of the night,” the guard informed Akane.
Lieutenant J.C. Devall and Lt. Commander Usagi Tsukino looked up at the warp core towering over them. J.C. tilted his head, while Usagi developed a confused look on her face.
“It looks exactly the same,” she commented.
“All the changes are on the inside,” Commodore T’Kuk stated.
“What exactly did you change?” J.C. asked.
The chubby Vulcan laughed.
“Well, the details are classified.”
Both Usagi and J.C. slowly turned to look at T’Kuk.
“You’re kidding,” Usagi asked in utter amazement.
“Not at all!” T’Kuk grinned.
J.C. began to shake his head furiously.
“How the hell am I-” he looked to Usagi who had already scolded him about not including her in such matters, “-we supposed to fix the damn thing if we don’t know what’s in there?”
T’Kuk raised an eyebrow. “Why do you think you will need to fix it?”
“Oh, I don’t know!” J.C. exclaimed. “Maybe because this ship has been shot at more in the last eight months than every other ship in the fleet combined?”
J.C. began to walk around engineering, muttering to himself, but making sure T’Kuk heard it.
“Oh no Mister Cardassian, please don’t shoot our engines ‘cause they won’t tell us how to fix them!”
J.C. stormed into his assistant chief engineer’s office and demanded the sliding door slam. It did not, which seemed to infuriate him more.
Usagi, who had been watching J.C.’s tantrum, slowly turned to T’Kuk.
“You’re not serious, are you?”
“Why does everyone think I would be joking?” he asked, turning towards the warp core, which still sat dark.
“If by chance, there is a failure, we will immediately send out a repair ship and tow you back here and remove the upgrades.”
The Vulcan stroked the thin goatee he adorned. His voice deepened and he began to talk much more methodically.
“The technology inside of this machine is far too valuable to risk it falling into enemy hands.”
Usagi sighed in resignation and nodded.
“You have nothing to worry about, my dear,” T’Kuk said, returning to normal and placing a hand on the petite blonde’s shoulder; an act that for some reason sent a chill down her spine.
“We’ve been testing phase two of the new engines for months and we haven’t had a single failure. I think the risk is worth being able to hold warp 9.9 for almost 72 hours.”
Usagi slinked away from T’Kuk and nodded.
“Can we start the restart sequence yet?” she asked, putting some distance between the two.
“My team needs just a couple of more hours to finish up checking connections, conduits, that kind of stuff,” T’Kuk laughed. “I’d almost think you were in a hurry to get out of here. Your crew won’t all be back for almost another twenty-four hours.”
Usagi nodded. “Yeah, I know, but when the Captain wants to leave, I want us to be able to leave.”
T’Kuk walked over to Usagi and put his arm around her.
“Oh, don’t worry, you will.”
T’Kuk smiled a big, toothy grin at Usagi and walked away and to the turbolift.
J.C. came storming out of his office, throwing PADDs in every which direction and stormed towards a different turbolift.
“...and no, not one nebula has ever fried a warp core out in the middle of nowhere. We should drag their sorry asses out with us...” he trailed off as he stepped into the turbolift.
“What’s his problem?”
Usagi turned around to see Makoto standing there, smiling at her. She was still wearing her civilian clothes and carrying a suitcase.
“Hi!” Usagi grinned as she ran over and hugged her friend. “How was Risa?”
“Perfect, as usual,” she grinned. Usagi lost her grin as she looked around.
Makoto frowned. “They wouldn’t allow him into the nebula. So, he’s stuck camping out on a Runabout just outside the defense perimeter.”
“What? Why not?”
“He’s a civilian, and they’re just being cautious. I left him plenty of food and water.”
Both women laughed.
“Hey, I need a favor,” Makoto asked.
“I – Lieutenant Jansen and I REALLY need more room in the tactical station. Every time we turn to hit a button, we slam into each other. Is there any way you can have someone push forward the forward panel?”
The turbolift opened and J.C. came storming back into engineering.
“...god forbid an asteroid gets through the deflector array and nails the nacelle...”
“HEY!” Usagi called out.
J.C. stopped and turned to his boss. “Yeah?”
“Is there a way to move the forward control panel in the tactical station forward?”
Makoto looked to J.C. and batted her big, dark green eyes at him.
“That doesn’t work when a married woman does it, Commander,” J.C. stated. Makoto groaned.
J.C. pondered the situation to himself for a moment. “I think I can do it pretty easily. I’ll get on it right away.”
“No hurry,” Makoto smiled.
“It beats sitting down here next to that death trap,” J.C. grumbled as he grabbed a tool kit and headed towards the turbolift.
“Deathtrap?” Makoto asked.
Salek looked around as he approached the Vulcan Administration Building. The planet seemed exceptionally red today. If he hadn’t repressed the emotion that appreciated both beauty and irony, he would have found it both beautiful and ironic.
Beautiful because of the way the colors were hitting the clouds; ironic because red was the color of blood.
Salek continued inside and showed his identification to the guards at the door who allowed him into the secured area. He then proceeded down the corridor, nodding a greeting to the Vulcans who walked past him.
Eventually, he found himself at turbolift 16A. He pushed his palm up to a palm reader next to the turbolift doors.
“Confirm identity please,” the computer requested.
“Salek, Vulcan High Command, Ministry of Intelligence.”
“Identity confirmed,” the computer replied dryly. The turbolift doors opened and Salek stepped in.
“High Command chambers,” he ordered.
The turbolift complied and quickly took him up the seven levels to the floor that contained the High Command chambers, the office of the Chairman of the High Command, and the Vulcan Federation Council members’ offices.
Salek walked down the corridor, occasionally pausing to look out the window and out into the Vulcan capital. Soon he stopped outside of the High Command chambers door.
Salek paused, put on his best game face – which of course looked exactly like his everyday face – and stepped in. The fifteen other members of the high command turned when they heard the door open and looked to Salek.
“I apologize for my tardiness. I wanted to make sure I had everything in order, and everything confirmed.”
The High Council chairman nodded in understanding.
“We appreciate your attention to detail, Salek.”
Salek nodded thanks and took his seat.
Salek sat through about an hour of the meeting in silence as the High Command discussed everyday, mundane Vulcan issues. Salek found these meetings to be incredibly boring, but of course, being bored was an emotion, so they did not bore him.
Salek was a walking contradiction.
He could be both what Vulcans strived to be, and what Vulcans hated about themselves. He had emotions, and he would occasionally show them – just never in public. He was sarcastic, even for a Vulcan.
And he hated the Federation.
He did not hate humans though. In fact, he often admired them. To him, it was a big achievement to advance like they did, even with their handicap.
But he and a growing number of Vulcans were beginning to resent how the Federation was beginning to overshadow the Vulcans and Vulcan achievements.
To them, the Federation had used the Vulcans, abused them, and now had them as their pets.
Four months ago, a Federation ship fired a torpedo at the planet and destroyed a Vulcan village. While Salek’s attempt to hang the man responsible for that had failed, it did stir public discussion.
Salek, and his group, used that to their advantage, showing how the Federation disregarded the safety of Vulcan but not only allowing the act to happen but allowing it to go unpunished.
More and more, the public grew weary of the Federation and its intentions. Salek knew now was the time to strike.
“Salek, you have a presentation from the Ministry of Intelligence?”
Salek nodded and stood.
“Thank you, High Commander Vora,” Salek bowed to the group.
“I have a rather disturbing report from Earth. I assume that you are all aware of the Federation organization known as ‘Section 31’, yes?”
“We have reliable intelligence that Section 31 is planning covert operations on Vulcan, including the bombing of both Vulcan government installations and civilian targets.”
“What?” some of the members called out. One, an older man stood.
“Why would the Federation do this?”
Salek inhaled deeply. “Captain Ranma Saotome, the man who murdered six Vulcan citizens, has a former Section 31 operative as his chief of security.
“It is our belief that she was angry over our request for justice and asked Section 31 to punish us.”
“What proof do you have of this?” the old man asked.
“We have no proof of the motive, but we do have proof of the planning of the attacks.
“The Ministry of Intelligence has had a Vulcan inside Section 31 for several years now. This agent has sent us these operational planning documents.”
Salek began to hand out PADDs to the other members.
“Section 31 isn’t one to normally keep records and write down their plans, but for an operation this coordinated and this massive, they had to.”
One of the Vulcan officials reads the PADD halfway and then sets it down.
“Have you contacted the Federation Council about this information?”
“Yes. However, the Council refuses to acknowledge Section 31’s existence, and by default, refuses to do anything about it.”
The man shakes his head again. “And you know for a fact this ‘Section 31’ exists?”
Salek has never really liked this guy and was beginning to remember why.
“Asides from the fact that we have an operative in deep cover with them, their ships have been detected flying in and out of the Chii Nebula, where Starfleet has an experimental shipyard.
“We know they operate out of a front business in the Earth city of Chicago, and we know, from intercepted communications, that the Sisko’s security chief was an operative.”
The members all mumbled to themselves for a moment before Vora stood.
“What do you recommend?”
“A covert strike of our own on both the shipyards in the Chii Nebula and their headquarters on Earth. We should also increase planetside security.”
“I don’t think I am ready to authorize an assault on Federation installations,” he walked to the window. “I agree with the additional security precautions here, but nothing more.
“I will personally travel to Earth and speak with the Federation president about Section 31 and your intelligence reports.”
Salek nodded and sat back down. It was not what he was hoping for, but the gasoline had been poured. All that was left was for his partner to strike the match.
Councilman Zack Young smiled at the pretty, young Petty Officer who filled up his coffee mug as he sat in the Federation Council Chambers in Paris.
The young, enlisted officer smiled back and walked to the next councilman as the Trill representative droned on about trade routes and some other nonsense that interested Young about as much as grass growing would have.
Being a politician had its drawbacks, and this was certainly one of them.
Young’s mind wandered as his spotted counterpart began to talk about warp field damage to an asteroid belt.
Young was nowhere near as complicated as Salek. Like Salek, Young did not hate Vulcans. He did not really like them, but he didn’t dislike them.
However, he hated the peacenik nature of the Vulcans.
That is how he ended up working with one in his current scheme.
Young, and several other high-ranking officials within the Federation and a whole lot of Starfleet commanders were tired of being attacked by every single faction in the quadrant. They were tired of constantly being on the defensive.
They wanted to go back to being what humans do best.
Peace and love had not worked. In the three-hundred-year history of the Federation, they had gone maybe fifteen years without a major conflict.
The people who thought like Young were realizing that they were going to have to send a message.
The Federation was NOT to be messed with.
What better way to do that than by invading and destroying a major superpower?
The Breen were at the top of the list right now. Their alliance with the Dominion was not forgotten, nor forgiven. The Cardassians had been a thorn in the Federation’s side for years. The Klingons were friendly – for now. But the minute Martok was gone, who would know.
And obviously, the Romulans were never to be trusted.
But the Vulcans didn’t want to be drug into another war, especially an offensive war of conquest. They had enough problems of their own, with the rising number of Vulcans who were beginning to embrace emotions becoming a threat to the High Command and other, less obvious domestic issues that tend to plague any civilization.
Plus, there was a split beginning to form in the High Command. With the Federation’s military capacity diminished from the Dominion War, several Vulcan politicians wanted to make building a large military of their own a priority. Others, including the Vulcan military, did not, and preferred to work with Starfleet.
“Councilman Young?” one of the suits called out.
Young sat up and nodded. “Yes, sorry.”
“You had something you wished to discuss?”
Young nodded and stood.
“Starfleet Intelligence has learned that groups of separatist Vulcans are planning a covert, terrorist attack on Starfleet and Federation installations here on Earth.”
Everyone in the room seemed to gasp in unison. The two Vulcans on the council looked to each other and then turned to Young.
“What proof do you have of this?” one asked.
Young began to pass out PADDs.
“We have been working very closely with the Vulcan Ministry of Intelligence. Based on our evidence we believe that the insurgents are planning on attacking an unnamed shipyard and a Federation facility based in Chicago.”
The Vulcans looked over the PADDs.
“Has the High Command been informed of this?”
Young shook his head. “The Ministry believes that the separatists have infiltrated the High Command.”
“What sect?” the other Vulcan asked.
“A large group, including many in the military, who follow the teachings of Sybok,” Young explained.
The Vulcans both cringed at hearing a forbidden word spoken. They read over the PADDs as one of the other council members speak up.
“What do we do about this?”
“We know that they have control of some Vulcan ships. I would suggest that we place our defenses around our shipyards on high alert for Vulcan ships and increase the LDF presence in Chicago.”
Another councilman piped up.
“I wasn’t aware that we had any major installations in Chicago.”
“We have a couple.”
One of the Vulcans stood.
“Are you suggesting that we allow Starfleet to fire on Vulcan ships?”
Young shrugged. “If they get within weapons range of any of our shipyards, yes.”
“That’s absurd,” he stated before sitting back down.
“Now, now,” Young smiled. “there’s no need to get *emotional* about it.” The Vulcan turned to Young and gave him a stare. “I’m not talking about simply destroying these ships. If one comes by, we scan them, ask their business, and search them. If they fail to comply, then we do what must be done.”
“These are FEDERATION citizens,” the Vulcan growled.
“These are terrorists, sir. They seek to destroy what Vulcan has worked very hard for by trying to separate Vulcan from the Federation and causing more Vulcans to embrace their emotions.”
The Vulcan sighed.
“I call for a voice vote on the authorization of Mr. Young’s plans,” one member called out.
“Second,” another said.
“All in favor?” the Council President asked.
“Aye,” many the twenty members of the council called out.
“Nay,” the two Vulcans replied.
“This should be taken up with the general assembly,” one of the Vulcans protested.
“Defensive military operations are the responsibility of the council, not the general assembly,” Young replied.
The President nodded in concurrence and turned to a different Councilmember.
“What’s next on the agenda?”
The second human began to drone on as Young leaned back in his chair and grinned.
*It’s beginning,* he thought happily.
Ranma slowly opened her eyes. The sunlight streaming in through the window immediately forced them closed again.
“Why do I drink so much?” she mumbled.
She sighed upon hearing her voice. She didn’t remember everything, but apparently, she got wet last night and never bothered to change back.
She sighed and rolled over, and promptly slammed into the floor.
“What the hell?”
Ranma looked up and saw that she rolled off the couch placed in the corner of her and Akane’s hotel suite. She slowly sat up and looked around.
“Did we fight?” she pondered as she pulled herself to her feet.
“10:14,” the computer replied.
“HOLY SHIT!” Ranma exclaimed, running towards the bedroom. “AKANE!”
She slammed to a halt when she saw Akane sleeping in the bed, the comforter on the floor. She screamed when she saw herself sleeping in the bed, snuggled up with Akane wearing nothing but a lacey blue bra and a matching pair of panties.
Akane stirred. “Ranma?”
She looked at the tousled red hair that was in her face.
“Why are you a girl still?” She asked.
“I don’t know,” Ranma replied.
Akane shot up when the voice replying to her came not from the redhead next to her, but from behind her.
She turned to see Ranma. She turned back to the redhead in the bed.
Ranma tilted her head. “Is that the captain?”
“Who else would it be?” Akane asked.
“Stop looking at her!” Akane exclaimed, realizing that Karyn was half-naked.
Akane pulled the comforter over Karyn and slid out of the bed. Ranma quickly turned away as to not incur any wrath that would make his hangover even more painful.
“Akane, it’s a quarter after ten.”
“WHAT?” Akane screamed. She quickly began to gather some clothes, stopping next to the captain.
“Captain - Karyn, wake up,” Akane shook her gently.
“Mmmm?” Karyn mumbled.
“We have forty-five minutes to catch our transport!”
“Okay...” she mumbled.
Akane and Ranma just stared at her for a moment. Finally, Akane’s words sunk in.
“WHAT?” Karyn screamed.
She hopped up and began to look around.
“Where are my clothes?” She turned to Ranma. Ranma quickly turned away again.
*No wrath... No wrath...* she prayed.
Akane inhaled. “Um...”
Karyn remembered. “Oh yeah.”
“I am sure I have something you can wear,” Akane grinned.
Karyn smiled. “Thank you.”
Ranma continued to stand, looking at the wall.
“We need to get dressed! Ranma, finish packing!” Akane ordered.
“Yes, boss,” Ranma sighed as she began to walk around, picking up their belongings.
“You’re going to Titan?” the conductor asked Karyn, Akane, and the still female Ranma.
“YES!” Akane said for about the sixth time.
“There is no transport to Titan today,” he stated.
“The tickets say 60917 at 11:00,” Akane protested.
“Well, that’s today,” the conductor acknowledged, looking at the PADD Akane nearly smacked him in the face with. The conductor did some things on his terminal for a little bit, before looking up at the group sadly.
“Sorry, I don’t know what to tell you.”
Akane nearly jumped the counter when she felt a large hand on her shoulder.
“Glad you could make it,” a man stated.
The three girls turned around to see Admiral Larson standing, dressed in a floral print shirt and khaki cargo shorts, looking almost like he’d just gotten back from a time-share conference in Maui.
“Admiral,” the three acknowledged.
“Your transport is this way,” he smiled, motioning for the group to follow him.
The trio nodded and followed Larson across the Spaceport lobby. He came to an area and stopped. Ryouga and Minako were standing there, kissing.
“Ahem,” Larson coughed.
Ryouga swatted in Larson’s general direction.
“LIEUTENANT!” Karyn screamed.
Ryouga knew that voice, as did Minako. Both let go of each other and spun in the direction of Larson and their three shipmates.
“Admiral?” they both asked, confused.
“Sorry to surprise you all like this, but unfortunately there isn’t time for a leisurely ride back to the ship,” Larson hit his communicator.
“Larson to Hacienda, six to transport.”
Within a moment the six and their baggage vanished.
Larson waited for everyone to get seated in the Sovereign class ships conference room before he began.
“We have a situation with the Cardassians,” Larson stated.
Ranma, who had finally transformed back to a male, groaned. Loudly. He was so happy to no longer have to patrol the border, and now they were going back. Larson smirked at Ranma’s audible frustration before continuing.
“Six days ago, a fleet of Hideki class cruisers attacked a Federation colony. DS9 sent their ships, which managed to destroy the Cardassian task force but were not able to stay. Yesterday, long-range sensors detected another small fleet en route to another colony.
“As usual, you are the only available ship that can get there before the attack force does.”
Karyn raised her hand.
“That’s almost a two-day trip.”
“Your engine upgrades can hold warp 9.9 for 72 hours. If you go at 9.9 the whole way there, you can get there in a little over a day and intercept the task force before they arrive. They have an ETA of 33 hours.”
Karyn whistled. 9.9 was fast and took a lot to keep that speed. If they could hold it for 72 hours before starting to lose their warp field they could be almost anywhere in no time.
“I hope you don’t mind, Captain, but I’ve had your crew begin pre-flight. We’ll be in the Chii Nebula within an hour, and you should be ready to go immediately.” Larson explained.
“Not at all, thank you.”
“I know this isn’t you guys want to do,” he again smirked in Ranma’s direction, “and I know that this isn’t what I want your ship out doing, but unfortunately we have a developing situation here that is tying up a lot of ships.”
“What situation?” Ranma asked.
Larson sighed. “It’s really nothing for you to worry about. Just intelligence reports that will probably end up being unfounded.”
Ranma nodded, knowing that Larson was keeping something from him.
Karyn noticed it too and hoped that everything was going to be okay.
The turbolift doors to the bridge slid open and Ranma, Ryouga, Minako, and Karyn stepped out.
“CAPTAIN ON THE BRIDGE!” Makoto called out.
Karyn nodded a weak acknowledgment.
Everyone took his or her place, except Karyn. She stood and looked around the bridge. Ryouga was sliding into his seat at flight ops. Ranma was taking his seat to the right of the captain’s chair. Shampoo was seated in the new seat to the left of the captain’s chair.
The CONN had been reconfigured from two seats to three, saving Shampoo from having to sit on the retractable bench on the far-left side.
Makoto and Lieutenant Amanda Jansen were standing in the tactical station. Karyn was not quite sure what, but something seemed different about it.
In the operations station, Minako was getting reacquainted with her computer, while Lieutenant Kaii began to silently question her about her vacation.
She thought being back on the bridge would make her happy, but something was different. Standing there, staring at the back of her seat was not making her feel any better.
In fact, being here was making her feel worse.
Karyn shook off those thoughts. She had plenty of time to deal with this later. Right now, she had people who needed her help. She inhaled deeply as she walked down to her chair.
“Departure status?” she asked.
“All stations report ready,” Ranma replied.
“Clear all moorings,” she ordered.
Outside, the magnetic tethers that held the massive Trinity class warship suspended in space released their hold, and snapped away, retracting into the giant claw that surrounded the Sisko.
Karyn looked to Shampoo. “Take us out, Commander.”
Shampoo smiled and nodded. She stood and walked behind Ryouga.
“Ahead, full thrusters.”
Ryouga complied and the ship began to drift forward. Ryouga smiled when the ship cleared the space dock without hitting anything. Shampoo even gave Ryouga a little pat on the head.
Ryouga did not even realize he was being patronized. Even if he did, he probably wouldn't care.
“As soon as we clear nebula, set course and engage,” Shampoo instructed.
“Um, Captain,” Makoto called out.
“We have a Runabout sitting outside of the nebula.”
Karyn looked to Ranma, then stood and turned around.
“Why? Who’s in it?”
“My husband, ma’am. They wouldn’t let him into the nebula.”
Ranma snorted to hold in his laughter. Karyn sighed and sat back down.
“Tell him to hurry up and dock. We’ve got to get going.”
Soon the massive ship had cleared the nebula and Gosnell quickly piloted the Runabout into her aft shuttle bay. Once the bay door closed, her engines glowed bright blue, and with a massive white flash, she was gone.
A small Vulcan ship sat about six light-years from the nebula, watching it.
The captain of the ship looked to one of his subordinates.
“Did you get the transponder information?”
“Yes sir. NX-95077, USS Benjamin Sisko.”
“Interesting,” the captain stated. He turned to another subordinate. “Contact the Ministry of Intelligence. Let them know and let them know they picked up a Runabout prior to leaving.”
The Vulcan captain took a seat in his chair.
“Why would THAT ship be in a Section 31 shipyard?” The captain thought to himself. He wanted to find out.
“Helm, take us to the perimeter of the nebula.”
The Vulcan ship got about halfway there before three ships uncloaked in front of him.
Three Federation ships.
“What?” The captain asked.
Several volleys of torpedoes told him exactly what before the ships re-cloaked, vanishing into the darkness of space, leaving nothing but a green nebula and the sparking debris of the former Vulcan ship.