Necessary Evil by John Erik Ege - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
Lt. Commander, and First Officer of the New Constitution, Kitara responded: “Opening hangar bay doors. Is everything alright? You’re returning ahead of schedule.”
Undine looked to the Captain.
“We’re fine,” Captain Garcia said. His tone suggested otherwise.
“We haven’t received the supplies. Are you carrying them?” Kitara asked.
“No,” Garcia said.
“Captain?” Kitara asked.
“Tuer will file the report as soon as we’re on board,” Garcia said, reaching over to close the channel.
Captain Garcia was the first one off the shuttle after it landed and he went straight way to the Bridge. Kitara stood as the deck watch announced his arrival: “Captain on the Bridge.” She saluted, right fist closed over her heart, and became instantly aware that he was sporting a cut and a black eye. She knew first hand what a skilled fighter he was so she suspected his apparent bad mood was due to the fact that someone had achieved a lucky hit, or two, on him. Of course, it was also possible, she concluded, that he had had taken on injuries in order to avoid causing another person injuries, which was one of Garcia’s weaknesses, from her point of view. The quickest way to end a fight was to put the enemy down.
“Captain?!” Kitara asked.
“Get me Star Fleet Command,” Garcia said without stopping to chat. “I’ll take it in my Ready Room.”
“Captain?” Second Lt. Indira Sookanan’s voice was soft, almost pleading, as if she had information to convey but would rather not interact with the Captain in his present mood. Like all people of Trinidadian descent, she had her legal name, the one on her birth certificate, and she had her street name, the one everyone called her. She answered to, and preferred, Trini.
Garcia stopped. “What, Trini? Can you patch me through to Star Fleet or is there some kind of spatial anomaly or misaligned zodiac signs causing interference?”
“No interference, Sir,” Trini said, remaining business like even in the face of heavy sarcasm. “Star Fleet Command called us a few minutes ago and they want to speak to you. I put them on hold, pending your arrival.”
Garcia turned without further ado to go take the call. As soon as the doors to his Ready Room closed, he remote activated one of the wall monitors with his neural implant and waited for Star Fleet Command to come on and berate him. To his surprise, and dismay, it was retired Admiral Leonard H McCoy that had been assigned the task of scolding him. Genetically speaking, McCoy was his biological father, and though their relationship was hardly father and son, Garcia was expecting McCoy’s chastisement to take the form of parental discipline.
“What in Heaven’s name is going on over there?!” McCoy demanded.
Garcia frowned, thinking so much for the paternal approach. “It was just a small misunderstanding, Admiral.”
“A small misunderstanding?!” McCoy asked. “You were supposed to give a concert in exchange for some supplies and instead you start a riot?”
“The people here have a very elaborate hand washing ritual, rooted in an archaic religious belief system,” Garcia began.
“Oh, dear God,” McCoy said. “Don’t tell me you disparaged their beliefs and offered meds to treat them for obsessive compulsive disorders.”
“No, Admiral, I didn’t disparage them,” Garcia said.
McCoy waited for an explanation. After a reasonable moment passed, McCoy said, “Well?” It came across as a bark.
Garcia frowned. “One of my Officer’s mistook a hand-wash sink for a urinal.”
Someone on McCoy’s side laughed and McCoy’s eyes shifted from his monitor to the man laughing. The look McCoy gave the man resembled the very look Garcia had shot at Tatiana some thirty minutes ago. It was a very effective look; the laughter stopped.
“They couldn’t find the humor in the mistake,” Garcia went on. “There was a small altercation, which blossomed into a full out battle for our lives as we made a mad dash for the shuttlecraft.”
“In all my days of Star Fleet,” McCoy said, trying hard to maintain his patience. “I have never heard of such a blatant, stupendous error in judgment.”
“Nor I,” Garcia said.
“You’re a Star Fleet Captain, Tammas,” McCoy said, pointing out the obvious. “You are ultimately responsible for the behavior of your crew, regardless if they are Klingon or Star Fleet. I expect you to better prep your Away Teams.”
“Yes, Sir,” Garcia said.
McCoy softened, not to the point of laughing, but enough to put Garcia at ease. “I managed to speak to the Ambassador while I waited for you to arrive. He has agreed to handover the supplies as previously arranged, the caveat being you must make a public apology to appease the masses.”
“Of course,” Garcia said. He frowned.
“Was there anything else?” McCoy asked.
“Off the record?” Garcia asked.
“Sure,” McCoy said.
“I was just wondering if Kirk ever had anything comparable that may not have been in a report,” Garcia asked.
“You’re not Kirk,” McCoy said. “Stop comparing yourself to him.”
“Aye,” Garcia said.
“Everything else going alright?” McCoy asked. “Your Klingon crew playing nice with the Star Fleet crew?”
“Everything is going just about normal, for me,” Garcia said. “Don’t be surprised to find that you have a lot of grand kids on the way.”
“Rivan is having twins?” McCoy asked.
“Twins wouldn’t be a lot,” Garcia said. “I got to go. The Ambassador is on the other line, no doubt looking for that public apology. I suppose if that doesn’t quell the riot, I can always use the ships phasers and stun a whole city block.”
“Don’t even joke about such a thing,” McCoy said.
“Captain Kirk did it,” Garcia said. “On Iotia, if I’m not mistaken.”
“You’re not Captain Kirk,” McCoy repeated.
“I will get back to you soon,” Garcia said.
“You always say that and then I don’t hear from you until you need me to bail you out of trouble,” McCoy said.
“Really, I’ll call on you soon,” Garcia said. “Garcia out.”
Garcia looked at the blank screen as he took a moment to compose his apology and then he answered the Ambassador’s call.
“Captain’s Log, Star date 45352.4,” Tammas Parkin Garcia began his third official entry as Captain of the USS New Constitution. “Having completed my social damage control, the USS NC has finally collected the supplies from Starbase 42 and is en route to the Kartala Nebula, where we will rendezvous with USS Hakudo Maru to deliver said supplies. In addition to these supplies, my orders are to entertain the troops in the field, so to speak, and so I’ve recruited from my crew those with the minimum talents necessary to put a small musical ensemble together. The Klingons took a liking to the Mikado, for some unfathomable reason, but it may just work. Some of it does translate into Klingonese well enough, so it’s going to be quite an interesting adaptation of this comic operetta as we have an eclectic mix of English, Japanese, and Klingonese. The fact that we’re to rendezvous with a Starship with a primarily Japanese crew hasn’t been lost on me. Synchronicity is an interesting phenomenon.”
Garcia closed out the New Constitution’s Captain’s log and opened up his personal logs all the while trying to suppress one of the Mikado’s songs from occupying his brain. “Let the punishment fit the crime,” had gotten itself stuck in his head. He paused as he considered how to start his private entry, sipping a cup of hot, tomato soup, fresh from the replicator. He had to resist the urge to call another grilled cheese from the replicator, since he had already eaten two for the day and two sandwiches were more than sufficient. His dietary beliefs held that if you couldn’t pick it, or hunt it down and kill it, then it shouldn’t be eaten. That meant since sandwiches didn’t grow on trees, he shouldn’t be eating them, but he had wanted the comfort of a grilled cheese before his concert. True enough, the replicator made it more nutritious, so it wasn’t like it was an egregious break with his dietary needs to eat another sandwich, but the other concern he was factoring in was the fact that he hadn’t been as active today as he would have liked, except the short run for his life. In short, he could do with less calories. He had had sufficient comfort food the last few days that he should be feeling better already. It was time to start feeling better, he told himself. “Punishment fit the crime!” flared in his mind.
“Personal log,” Garcia said, holding the bowl with both hands, absorbing the warmth radiating out from his soup. “The Einstein’s crew reassigned to the NC have blended in well with the mix of the Path Finder’s crew, which is comprised mostly of Klingons. I would be happier if all the Einstein’s crew were privy to the information about my dark secret, the afore mentioned Path Finder and her mission: to find and expose enemies of the Federation and Klingon Empire and eliminate any Borg using the modified Genesis device, called the Starburst. But, on counsel of the Path Finder’s Senior Officers, I am keeping up the appearances that the NC is my only ship and only mission. So far, only three of the most senior Einstein Officers assigned to me have been recruited into my little circle. The others are on review and will be notified on a need to know basis. All of those in the ‘know’ refer to me as Captain, keeping up the charade, even though everyone in on my secret refer to me as Admiral, in charge of a small, growing fleet of ships on special assignments; the ‘Silent Running’ and ‘Cloak and Dagger’ type assignments. I would prefer to keep the title Captain, but my posse prefers otherwise. I have Gowr to thank for that.”
A light on his desk had started blinking halfway through his personal log entry. Ignoring it failed to make it stop. He knew it was an incoming message for him, live, no text options, otherwise he would have rerouted it to his implant. Intuition told him it was Simone and he needed to take the call, but he was determined to resist.
Garcia sighed and took in some more soup. “The Path Finder’s mission is still a go, though it no doubt irks those who set it in motion to no longer have complete control over it and the crew. The parable of two masters keeps coming to mind. I have to answer to Star Fleet, as the Captain of the NC, that’s one, and I have to answer to Admiral Pressman for secret ops which is technically Star Fleet but more unofficial, that’s two, and I have to answer to Admiral Sheaar, Klingon Empire’s special ops, for the same reasons as I must tend to Pressman, and that’s three. Fortunately, the NC’s mission is primarily ‘band’ duty, pomp and circumstance, ferrying supplies, personnel, or dignitaries, so there should be no arduous assignments that might interfere with the secret agenda of the PF. In fact, it may help facilitate that mission, by giving me an alibi.”
Garcia hit the pause switch on his log entry and accepted the call, wondering why Trini had put her on hold, as opposed to just taking a message. Simone appeared on the view screen in front of him. She did not look pleased. Agitated actually seemed to describe her appearance.
“Why are you stalling?” Simone demanded.
“Can you be more specific?” Garcia asked, putting his soup down.
“Don’t you feel it? How can you resist?” Simone asked. He had never seen her so emotional.
“Are you telling me you’re deliberately doing this?” Garcia demanded, growing suddenly, equally impatient.
“Deliberately? You think I like being unstable? You’ve put off coming to Vulcan long enough. Now, I demand that you turn your ship around at once, while we still have time,” Simone ordered.
“I don’t have time for these rituals, Simone. You’re just going to have to make do,” Garcia said.
“We’ll die,” Simone said, her voice full of pleading.
“Nonsense,” Garcia said. “It just feels that way.”
“Tammas, please,” Simone said, her tone and mood changing so fast that he thought it was a tactic, as opposed to sincere negotiating. “I will die and you will follow. Remember your reaction when Sarek died? Magnify that times a hundred. My twenty first birth day is in two weeks. If you do not turn around, you will arrive too late.”
Garcia rubbed his forehead. As if he didn’t have enough on his plate. He did want to be with her. He had noticed the frequency of which he was thinking of her had increased, which was annoying, as he needed to stay focused. He had passed it off to an OCD reflex coupled by the fact that he had not seen her since the graduation ceremony on Earth, where Picard had given the commencement speech and Garcia had conducted the final choral orchestra ensemble. It had been a bitter sweet ceremony, since Joshua Alberts had been killed in an accident. His mind began to recall details of Joshua.
“Tam,” Simone cried. “I want you. And though my ability to reason may be clouded with passion and emotions, and my judgment is growing thinner with each passing moment, I am still capable of thinking through this logically and I can find no reason for you to delay in our union.”
“I can think of a half dozen,” Garcia said.
“Fine! Then come here and reject me and our business will be concluded,” Simone snapped, full of rage. She tossed the contents of her desk to the floor. “Either way, you must be here.”
“Fine,” Garcia said. “I’ll be there in three days.”
“Three days? It will take you at least eight from your current position traveling at a rate of warp nine,” Simone said.
“Three days,” Garcia said. “Don’t ask how. But I will be there. You just have this ceremony thing ready to go.”
“Three days,” Simone said. She frowned and put her hand to the screen and then burst into tears. “Do not be angry at me, or this biological compulsion we share. It is what it is. I will be waiting for you.”
“Try to meditate, will you,” Garcia said. “It’ll help take the edge off both of us.”
“I will try. It is difficult. I…” Simone failed to find the words, which caused her some anger. She never had a lack for words. She wiped her eyes, stood up straight, trying to remain stoic and logical. She swallowed air.
“I understand. I’ll see you soon,” Garcia said. He cut the transmission and leaned into his desk, closing his eyes. He took a moment to force himself to think of something else, and then he continued his report from where he had left off.
“Add another boss to my growing list of people making demands on me,” Garcia said, frowning. He hated himself for giving into her, but mostly he hated himself for his own wanting. He was a bottomless pit for wanting. He could find dozens of ways to rationalize himself into a relationship with Simone, but less ways of denying the same, and so the fact that they were going to be compelled due to Pon Farr issues just seemed too convenient, which, interestingly enough, was increasing his desire to resist. His natural tendency to resist any and all kinds of authority seemed to have little sway over his biological compulsion to mate, though. So much for his practicing self denial and delayed gratification, he thought. Three days. He sighed. Surely I can go three days, he mused aloud.
“Delete that last sentence. The Path Finder’s Senior Officers act as a committee to deliberate over which situation warrants our immediate attention, with me making the final decision. It seemed like the only equitable thing to do, to spread the wealth, since my bosses are rather demanding. Lord help us if the Federation and the Klingon Empire ever go to war against each other again, for that will no doubt divide the loyalties of the crew that are already questionable. It is no secret that many of the Path Finder’s crew had been given secret orders to eliminate the others and take control of the ship. Even I was given orders to kill the Klingons and take the ship using my Kelvan technology. For now, though, the Path Finder crew is abiding by the truce and there is a reasonable balance of power,” Garcia pressed on. Three days seemed too far away.
Garcia closed out his personal logs and proceeded to open up the Path Finder’s log. “The Path Finder is currently silent running, monitoring Cardassian troop movement. I am able to get updates by using the interstellar portals provided by the Preservers that connect NC and the PF via a permanent, stable wormhole. The Gateways are primitive versions of the Iconanian Gateway dimensional transport system, created over 200,000 years ago. The Gray Queen informs me that the Iconians stole the technology from the Preservers and there are Gateways hidden all across the Universe. My gates lack the sophistication to send me anywhere in the galaxy. They only work in tandem with other gateways, attuned to my network of gates, but the Gray Queen believes it might be possible to upgrade them once her colony is better established.
“Either way, I don’t know how people ever got around without Gates before. I prefer Gates to Transporters, that’s for sure. Sorry, tangent. The PF’s assignment to Cardassian space seemed to fit both the Federation’s and the Klingon Empire’s immediate needs for more intelligence. I would rather be scouting the neutral zone studying Romulan ship movement, but, hey, I’m just a lowly Captain. What would I know about intelligence? I am going to have to interrupt the Path Finder’s current intel gathering in order to conclude my business with Simone in a timely manner. I’m still not sure how I am going to explain that trip to the crew.”
Garcia paused, hoping his thoughts of Simone would fade. When that didn’t work, he realized he was probably going to have to seek some sort of physical distraction. Exercise or an adventure on the holodeck without the safety protocols. Perhaps he could just spar with his Klingon First Officer and have her beat him to a pulp.
“Meanwhile,” Garcia said, moving on, “I have the IKV Tempest, formerly the IKV SaLing, which I commandeered during a war game with Klingon Admiral Sheaar, headed towards an out of the way star system where we have been led to believe we will find an abandoned Preserver technology cache. We’re ‘borrowing’ technology from the preservers to aid in the establishment of the Gray colony, a colony I am providing sanctuary to, paybacks for saving Admiral McCoy’s life. Further, I have hired the Pa Nun to take care of a private mission for me, as I simply can’t be in all the places I need to be at once. I’ve been told that the Preservers made a clone of me; it would sure be nice if I had him now. Ha. Two of me. There will be enough of me soon enough. Sorry, tangent. If you’re not use to my logs, you will have to forgive the occasional bunny. It doesn’t help that I’m distracted by my thoughts of Simone. I don’t have time for this!”
Tired of chasing rabbits, Garcia picked up his soup again, found it sufficiently cold that he could now drink it without fear of burning his mouth. He switched back to personal logs. “I’m fortunate to have so many I can rely on, for keeping Admiral Pressman’s ‘Starburst’ project, and the Path Finder itself, a secret is a challenge I doubt I could do alone. I owe a great debt to Captain Picard, of the USS Enterprise, who not only helped me return to duty as a member in good standing with Star Fleet, but he is one of the few that openly sanctioned my attack against the Borg at TelKiar, demonstrating the effectiveness of the Starburst weapon. (Openly behind closed doors, that is. His efforts in this area got me out of a court marshal and got me an automatic pass at the Academy, so I’m through with school, and don’t have to go through the pomp and circumstance ceremony to be called graduated. (Ironically, I just have to provide the song and dance for everyone else, being in charge of the band and all.)) All the data I collected at TelKiar before wiping out the entire star system with the Starburst weapon suggests that had we not stopped the Borg there, we would not be stopping them at all. Admiral McCoy, my father, is not please with the level of destruction and hopes that that single demonstration will be sufficient to deter any further Borg incursions. I personally think it will only make the Borg more determined. Time will tell. There is no word yet what the Romulans think about the TelKiar situation.
“And finally, after an intercession with my Senior Officers, I have agreed to limit my access to the Kelvan computer on the Path Finder, due to the lack of self discipline and lack of good judgment that occurs when I am plugged into the device. Again, I am fortunate to be surrounded by such good people, otherwise, there would no doubt be criminal charges levied against me for the liberties I took while under the influence of Kelvan technology. Though Doctors McCoy, Crusher, and Jurak, all assure me that the lack of inhibition while under the influence of Kelvan-tech is similar to being inebriated, I can not forgive my trespass. Not this time. Legal sanctions or not, my abuse of the technology weighs heavily on me, and it will probably not be any easier as time goes by, for I will pay for the mistakes, soon enough.”
Garcia closed out his logs, musing over his ramblings, and became annoyed that his thoughts again turned to Simone. He used his implant to delete the file he had just dictated to the computer. A prompt asked him if he was sure and he said yes. Almost immediately after saying ‘yes’ he had a change of heart. He had the computer reassemble the files before they became permanently irretrievable. He pushed up out of his chair and headed for the Bridge. Unlike the Ready Room on the Path Finder, the New Constitution didn’t have a fireman’s pole to make his entry more fun and dramatic. He really did miss being on the Path Finder. He missed Losira, the artificial intelligence that was the result of all the Path Finder’s computer systems being in gestalt with an alien computer system, created by an extinct race known as the Kalandans.
“Captain on the Bridge,” Undine said.
“At ease,” Garcia said. The crew was much more formal when it came to military courtesies and discipline than any ship he was familiar with. That was no doubt the Klingon influence. There seemed to be a competition between the Klingons and Fleet to see who could extend the most courtesy and discipline. “I’ll be on holodeck three, going through the rituals. Your ship.”
“Aye,” Undine said.
“Rituals” was Garcia’s tradition for his crew. Prior to the start of each shift, that shift would assemble on the hangar deck to participate in a modified Tai Chi slash Line Dancing routine. Rivan was there for the start of each ritual, for she enjoyed it thoroughly, probably more than anyone on the crew. She had proven so apt that she was giving lessons for those who proved less apt at learning the sequences to be performed. Garcia often thought it humorous that people who were extremely tech smart tended to have so little kinesthetic smarts, making dance difficult for them to master. Repetition was slowly bringing everyone up to speed, however. To his surprise, the Klingons also seemed to enjoy the daily rituals, for they liked routines that kept them in sync with their fellow warriors. In addition to the discipline of daily rituals, they also seemed to like the “country” song selections, comparing them to an outdated form of Klingon Opera. Garcia was just happy to go through the motions of the ritual and not think about his responsibility for a time. And, he had to admit, it was a real “hoot” seeing Klingon, Andorian, Nausicaan, an Orion Slave Girl, and Ferengi, all in step with humans of every race. The ship wasn’t a true melting pot, but rather, more analogous to a salad, well tossed. Everyone came together for rituals and it was evolving into something bigger than even he had expected, which was nice since it had initially started as a bet between him and Admiral Pressman to see if he could get his Klingons to comply.
After the exercise, Rivan greeted Garcia with a hug. She practically glowed. Though she had never tried to hide the fact that she was pregnant, there would be no hiding it now. It wouldn’t be long before the first of the many mistakes arrived.
“How are you feeling?” Rivan asked.
“Okay,” Garcia said. He noticed Rivan’s eyes as they glanced at his hands. He forced himself to let go of his left wrist, where the Kelvan bracelet had been before it had been confiscated by his First Officer. And now that he was consciously missing it again, he wanted it badly. Perhaps Simone could help him with this, adjusting his mental obsession with a mind meld.
“Give it some time,” Rivan said, taking Garcia by the arm, and resting her head against him. “There is no shame, Tam. Your actions saved the crew. You saved the crews of several ships, including the Enterprise. And a whole world full of life. You have a lot to be happy for.”
Kitara, First Officer of the New Constitution and Path Finder approached and saluted. She was a formidable, female Klingon Warrior, with enough Spirit and Fight that she should have been a Captain in the Empire’s fleet many times over, but due to old traditions dying hard she was stuck with Garcia as her Captain. She was wearing the silver with gold highlights, minus the full armor upgrade considered by most Klingon warriors to be the bare essentials. She was wearing the armor ‘lite’ option instead of the full gear, which Garcia encouraged, but didn’t insist upon. If it made his “warriors” happy to wear their full armor for the full extent of their shift, he was happy to oblige them. Kitara was probably only wearing the dressed down version of the armor to be an example to the other Klingons.
“May I have a moment of your time, Captain?” Kitara asked, keeping eye contact with him, ignoring Rivan. “Alone.”
“Joy and love, Kitara,” Rivan said, and excused herself, kissing the Captain before departing.
Kitara frowned, but nodded to Rivan out of respect to the Captain. The Klingons didn’t like her, and not just because she wasn’t a warrior but because she would try to tame them. Rivan would have them all hugging and cooing, and the Klingons just weren’t going to comply. “We’re Klingons! Not Tribbles,” Kitara had snapped once. The fact that Rivan seemed unfazed or even scared by Kitara’s gruffness was either a sign of Rivan’s fearlessness, stupidity, or ignorance. Either way, Rivan was obviously the Captain’s girl, so she was safe as long as the Captain was strong. One of his many girls, Kitara thought, suppressing a growl.
“Would you accompany me to Sickbay, please,” Kitara asked.
“Yes,” Garcia said, almost resigned.
They walked quietly to the lift, only pausing so that Kitara could yell at one of the Klingon crew members. “That’s not where that goes, Lt.,” and felt satisfied that he hurried his business along, closing the panel that hid the GNDN conduits. The doors closed on the lift and she ordered the floor. Without turning to face the Captain, she said: “It’s official. I’m pregnant.”
“But you were on the planet,” Garcia said. “I thought only the females that I transported with the Kelvan transporter before I went off on my suicide mission with the activated Genesis weapon to destroy the Borg were impregnated.” He needed to take a breath of air to recover from the long, impromptu sentence. He also needed to force himself to breathe just to force himself to breathe. His ability to resist his urge to be with Simone increased ten fold due to his self hatred and anger. Relax, he told himself. What was this, now? Twenty two mistakes? If only Guinan were here to force peace on him by just being present.
Kitara looked at him. “Perhaps you have forgotten that we shared time, prior to that event. You got me the old fashioned way,” Kitara said.
Garcia rubbed his forehead. He hadn’t forgotten that he had ‘shared time’ with her, violating all sorts of protocols and regulations. “Maybe you should let me access the Kelvan computer once more and let me correct all of this,” Garcia said.
“Computer, hold lift,” Kitara said. She faced him, not bothering to hide her anger. “What are you saying? You want to just abort all the problems? That’s what it would be, right? You just transport them out of our wombs? Make your life all nice and neat again?”
“It is an option,” Garcia said.
“It is not an option!” Kitara shouted. “And I would just assume throw every female that took that option out the closest airlock.”
“I can’t force people to participate in unwanted pregnancies,” Garcia said. “What I did was tantamount to rape.”
“Right, and to correct that, you want me to sanction you using the same Kelvan technology that created the problem to commit murder. That reveals just how much negative influence that technology has over you and if it wasn’t integrated so thoroughly into the Path Finder’s systems, I would have it discarded already,” Kitara said. “Kelvan technology has no honor, and whether it was by Kelvan designed that you are so negatively influenced, or simply a lack of self control and discipline when in control of that much power, the end results are the same; you become a menace and a threat to the personal liberties of the crew. We will not go lightly into that jeopardy again, if ever again, not just for the crew, but for your own sake. It changes you. It warps you. Mentally and physically it takes its toll on you and we want you healthy. For your crew’s sake, for the sake of your mission, for the sake of all the children you have coming, you will remain in good health, even if I have to lock you in the Brig to guarantee that outcome. There will be no more debates on this issue. There’s a reason humans aren’t immortal with Q powers, so get use to your human boundaries. Computer, resume.”
The lift started up again and didn’t go far before it hit the floor they wanted. Garcia walked with Kitara, side by side and entered Sickbay with her. Doctor Jurak was busy working on something Garcia was not immediately familiar with. Doctor Misan came right to Garcia and started to complain. The moment he started complaining, Doctor Jurak came over to join, pushing Misan out of the way to occupy the Captain’s center of attention. Misan pushed back, but Jurak grasped his wrist and twisted at a pressure point, taking Misan to his knees as if he were a child, easily manipulated.
“Enough of that!” Kitara snapped, slapping Doctor Jurak. “You will both behave like professionals or I’ll see you both in chains!”
Jurak let go and Misan stood, massaging his wrist, but judging by his face, his pride was hurt much more than his wrist. His antennae lay flat against his head, like an angry cat’s ears, and he seemed a little bluer than his Andorian pigment normally allotted for.
“Doctor Misan, continue,” Garcia said, satisfied that his First Officer had handled the infraction.
“Doctor Jurak is setting up a bank of artificial wombs to offer those who would want an abortion an alternative,” Misan said. “This goes against the principal of your directive that he will provide anyone that wants an abortion under these circumstances to have one.”
“I do not believe that Star Fleet Officers, who’s standard mission is to seek out new life, would be so ready to avail themselves of abortions when there is a viable alternative to carrying an unwanted child,” Jurak said. “I’m at least providing them an option.”
“Captain,” Misan interrupted. “Has it occurred to you that it might be possible that the Kelvan are using you once again? When they were programming your great brain and physical nature, perhaps they hardwired into you the need to procreate frequently in order to ensure that the Kelvan mindset would not go extinct. It would explain your virility, even while under the influence of male birth control, and the fact that several of the people you impregnated are not known for their compatibility with the human genome only seems to validate this possibility. Karsat, for example, should not have been able to procreate with you.”
“My offspring may inherit good genes, but they will not be Kelvan,” Garcia assured Misan. “Not without the Kelvan neural imprinting procedures, which must be started prenatal.”
“But if the Kelvan were to get a hold of any of these offspring, they could breed them to restart the experiment. Since the Kelvan know that they were successful in creating you, Human/Vulcan Kelvan hybrid, then it seems likely that they would want to ensure the continued success of their work by giving you an elevated libido and the fertility of a Tribble,” Misan said. “In addition to that, all species have an innate desire to procreate, to preserve their genes, and the Kelvan technology not only enhanced your ability to disseminate those genes, but it chose from each of the females’ available eggs the best possible combination of genes to better ensure the survival of your offspring.”
“Are you suggesting that faced with the possibility of immanent death at the confrontation with the Borg, my Kelvan programming sought out to ensure the survival of those genes, and so the Kelvan technology sought out the perfect egg and sperm combos to produce children that would be capable of using Kelvan technology, imprinting or no?” Garcia asked.
“That’s exactly what I am saying,” Misan said. “And quite frankly, one of you is enough. I recommend all the fetuses be destroyed because you don’t know what evil you are bringing upon us.”
“And you call yourself a Doctor!” Jurak growled.
“Please, it’s not like you don’t kill stuff just to dissect it,” Misan said.
“I don’t butcher children!” Jurak growled.
“They’re not children at this stage,” Misan pointed out. “If we stop them now.”
“Whether it be one cell, or a fully developed fetus, it is still a life!” Jurak argued.
“It’s a life, but it’s not a child,” Misan said. “And if you can’t make the distinction between a few cells and a complete, self sustaining organism than you’re a fool or a hypocrite. Human cells die and sloth off every day, and I don’t see you going around catching them and nursing them back to health! We could sustain every human cell if we wanted, even turn them all into clones and make them self sufficient, but we don’t do that.”
“You’re being ridiculous and you know it,” Jurak said.
“The Kelvan have a great propensity for evil,” Misan said. “You know this more than any one, Captain.”
“It’s not evil, per say, it’s just poor social etiquette based on the fallacy that they are superior life forms,” Garcia said. He heard the voice of his dead sister, Jovet, saying “you’re a monster.” He heard Simone saying she wanted him. He swallowed and continued. “With proper raising and the instilling of human morals and values, they should prove not to be monsters.”
“You mean, like the human values and morals that you were instilled with?” Misan asked. “I don’t see how that stopped you from using the Kelvan transporter to artificially inseminate all the females on Path Finder and SaLing. And you may not have known this, but Lt. Kelly was one month pregnant. Your human morals didn’t prevent you, while under the Kelvan influence, of aborting her and her husband’s child and replacing it with one of your own.”
Garcia paled. “Why wasn’t I told of this?” Garcia asked.
“I just ran the checkup on her today,” Misan said, handing Garcia a PADD. “You can see for yourself the genetic profile of this new fetus is of you and Kelly.”
“What happened to the other child?” Garcia asked.
“Who knows? Maybe you beamed it out into space, or maybe you converted it to energy and absorbed it directly into your veins,” Misan said. “What do Kelvan do with the unwanted babies? Are you like lions, killing off all the cubs once you’ve conquered the pack?”
“That will be quite enough, Doctor,” Garcia said. He read over the genetic profile of Kelly’s lost child and he knew if he had been connected to the Kelvan computer, he could run a simulation on the genetics to see what the child would have looked like had it not been aborted in favor of his own genes. He had no recollection of having done any of this, but there was no doubt that this was his doing. “There will be no more debate on this. Doctor Jurak, I can not, and will not, force any of these people to carry through with the pregnancies.”
“Yes, you can,” Jurak said. “You are the father and you have equal say in whether these lives are terminated or allowed to continue.”
“These pregnancies were not mutually agreed upon, therefore I have no rights,” Garcia said. “Anyone who comes to you for a procedure to terminate the pregnancy will be treated with respect, regardless of what you think of their decision. Is that understood?”
“Clearly,” Jurak said, a bit of a growl leaking through his lips.
Misan looked vindicated, but he would have clearly preferred all the pregnancies be terminated. Garcia handed the PADD back to him in such a manner that the Doctor flinched.
“However, I see no harm in offering the alternative to abortion, Doctor Misan,” Garcia said. “If an artificial womb is acceptable over an abortion, I will take full legal responsibility for raising any offspring, releasing anyone from further responsibility in this matter. I have already drafted several legal documents for those who want to keep their offspring, whether that entails joint custody or full custody. I will pretty much agree to whatever terms the mother wants.”
“Captain, you can’t offer this option,” Misan protested. “You’re in a position of authority and offering artificial wombs as a viable alternative to abortion could be construed as you trying to force compliance with your agenda. As a Doctor, I have to be an advocate for their rights and you are using your power as Captain to unduly influence them.”
“And who’s the advocate for the unborn?” Jurak asked. “Captain, you could delay this matter and wait for a ruling from a higher authority, perhaps the nearest Starbase has a judge advocate…”
“You just want to delay to allow the fetuses to develop past the legal abortion threshold,” Misan asked.
“Doctor Jurak, I’m not pursuing legal options. What part of there will be no more debates over this matter do you two not understand? This matter will be resolved here, with us. We’re all adults and we will figure this out. Doctor Misan, I support the patients’ right to choose,” Garcia said, a calm falling over him that suggested he might lose control and break someone’s neck. “And a patient can not make choices unless they are informed of all of their options, is that clear? Everyone knows that I prefer life, however, I will allow people to choose in this matter, and no one will suffer any ill consequences for choosing something that might otherwise oppose my preference. There will be heavy sanctions against any member of my crew that acts negatively against any person choosing to abort. Further, if any patient comes to you and feels they can no longer function as a member of this crew because of their choices, I will sign their transfer. Are we on the same page now?”
“Aye,” Misan said.
“Is this all?” Garcia asked the three of his officers. He was gripping his left arm fiercely enough to leave marks.
“Would you like another treatment?” Jurak asked.
Garcia let go of his arm. “No,” he snapped. “I’ll be in my quarters if anyone needs me. And no more fighting. This is Sickbay, after all.”
Garcia departed. He felt sick at his stomach knowing he had murdered Kelly’s child. The rogue Deanna Troi program that had been installed in his head by a Kelvan computer appeared before him, as if transporting in. She was in every way exactly like the real Deanna Troi, for the Kelvan who had abducted the real Troi had made a mirror image of her to make the template for the program that they had stuck directly into Garcia brain to influence him towards their agenda. It didn’t help matters that Garcia was linked to the real Deanna Troi by means of a psychic bond, which he was quite certain the Troi program accessed to update her own personality quirks.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Troi asked.
“No,” Garcia said, and started walking.
Troi followed. “It’s not your fault,” Troi said.
“Really?” Garcia asked, amazed that she could even say such a thing. “And how did you come up with that brilliant conclusion?”
“You were under the influence of alien technology,” Troi said. “You would not hold anyone responsible for their actions if they were drugged or otherwise ill so much so that their judgment was impaired, so, I think you should lighten up on yourself. You don’t hold Picard responsible for all the people he killed when he became Locutus of Borg. It’s the same thing.”
Garcia turned to face her, not caring if anyone else in the corridor was witness to him speaking to himself, for that’s what it appeared to be since no one else saw his mental companions. “And I think you’ve lost your mind. Did you hear what Misan said in there? I killed a child!” Garcia snapped. His inner voice rang with the mantra, ‘I am the Destroyer of Worlds.’ He killed a lot of children when he blew the planet up at TelKiar to destroy the Borg infested planet. His resistance to his compulsion to be with Simone increased again as his self hatred increased. Simone was pure and good and he was this out of control, maniac killer. “Bloody hell, Deanna. Don’t you get it? I can’t lighten up. This message needs to be driven in me deep and hard so that their will never be a repeat performance. Whether it be drug induced or technology induced, I had choices, and I made poor choices. There is no excuse for what I did! Now, I’d like to be left alone so I can torture myself in private.”
Garcia stormed away, but on a ship, there were very few places he could escape to be alone, and he could never be alone from the people sharing his brain. Deanna was still there with him, even if she was out of sight. As if karma was out to prove the point, he was intercepted by Karsat, the ship’s cook, before he had even made it to the turbolift. He was so caught up in his own thoughts he hadn’t seen her until she touched his shoulder.
Garcia had hired Karsat partly to protect her and her offspring from the Gorn, partly because he was the father of her children, but also because he needed a cook, after having killed the Path Finder’s original cook in a ritualistic Klingon challenge. One of the reasons he needed a cook was due to the fact that the Klingons have an aversion to replicated foods, even though if he put a plate of real food and replicated food side by side, they couldn’t tell him which was which in a blind folded study. Bottom line, the Klingons required fresh food which meant most of the time they wanted to kill it themselves, making Karsat indispensable, since after the hunters killed it, the meat was traditionally turned over to a woman to prepare. Killing to eat was basic nature, he reminded himself, trying to lessen his personal disgust. Nature was not always nice and neat. All animals had to eat, whether it was killing a plant or another animal. Some animals would even engage in infanticide if it improved the odds of their own genetics winning out. So much for being more evolved, Garcia chastised himself.
“Captain, will you be dining alone again tonight?” Karsat asked.
“I’m through eating for the day,” Garcia said, trying not to let his anger at himself be misplaced towards her, which was his inclination especially after she had just startled him. He closed his eyes. Five kids with Karsat, and a child with Persis, nearly twelve years ago, who he would never be able to see… And how many more on the way? Twenty two? Twenty three? That wasn’t even counting the potential for twins. Garcia had often been compared to Captain Kirk when it came to his affinity for alien females, and yet, he knew of no stories of Kirk and hundreds of children produced from his numerous alien encounters. If Kirk had chosen dalliances with aliens in order to avoid having children, then emulating Kirk was no longer an option because this strategy obviously wasn’t working for him. Why was he obsessed with aliens? He wondered. Maybe he needed a new role model. Who did he know that had lots of children?
“Captain,” Karsat interrupted his musing. “As far as I’m aware, you haven’t eaten since breakfast and I have had a number of requests from people wanting to dine with you at the Captain’s table. Tatiana, Trini, Rivan, for starters. Sendak. Rivan calls it the Commune, but there are others on board who would like your company. It is also my duty to make sure you eat well. Doctor’s orders.”
“Fine,” Garcia said. “I’ll dine at 1900, set the table for six. First come first serve.”
“Anything special?” Karsat asked.
He nearly said peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. “Surprise me,” Garcia said, and took the turbolift up to deck three and his quarters.
The New Constitution didn’t have a Ten Forward, such as the Enterprise D, but it had an elegant table setting for the Captain and any potential guest that he might entertain, and a room offering a forward view by four, large, oval windows. The Captain’s table could easily sit twelve people if the mood struck. When not used for dining, the Captain’s mess doubled for a conference room. A hidden stair went down a deck to the kitchen and the crew galley, which had had to be upgraded to make it fully functional, since it had previously been the main replicator for crew to meet outside their quarters for meals. A dumb waiter brought everything up to the Captain’s dining level, where Karsat would then proceed to distribute the food, having already had the table set. She was sucking on a cigarette as the Captain entered.
“You’re early,” Karsat stated, she seemed flustered at having got caught with her vice. She used a mini air-vac, attached to the end of her cigarette, to try and contain most of the smoke, but there was no way to capture a hundred percent of her exhale. The airvac functioned on both sides, catching smoke and ashes from the cigarette itself, and most of the smoke as Karsat held it close to her mouth and exhaled. She blew a deliberate stream of smoke across the top of it, which caught the smoke in a static electric field and closing, luminescent force fields designed to look like a mini black hole. She then touched the air-vac and caused it to extinguish the cigarette. She could always finish it later.
“I figured I should be present to meet with people as they arrive,” Garcia said.
“I’m sorry,” Karsat said. “I shouldn’t smoke here, but, I needed a fix.”
“Are you okay?” Garcia asked.
“The little ones are driving me crazy,” Karsat said. “They’re climbing the walls and ceilings.”
“Is that a euphemism describing their boredom?” Garcia asked.
“No, I’m saying they’re literally climbing the walls and ceilings,” Karsat said, touching Garcia’s hand to remind him of the slight suction ability in her finger tips, a characteristic of her species.
“How can I help?” Garcia asked. He hadn’t forgotten about her gripping abilities. A shiver ran down his spine. Simone crossed his mind.
“I don’t know if you can. I just got to make sure there are no sharp corners or places to crawl into, and make sure if they fall they don’t hit anything sharp or hard,” Karsat said. “In the wild, they would just run free and be one with nature, but here, the rules are different. They are resistant to early socialization. Their brains simply aren’t developed sufficiently to understand anything but the present. I tell them no, or down, and they will comply because I’m the alpha female, but ten minutes later, they’re back to pushing that boundary again.”
Garcia nodded. “We could simulate their natural environment on one of the holodecks, if you think that would benefit them,” Garcia offered.
“They would no doubt like romping through high grass and climbing trees and swimming,” Karsat said. “It might tire them out.”
“I will see to it, then,” Garcia said.
“Something to drink while you wait for your guest?” Karsat asked.
“Yes, please,” Garcia said. “A mimosa.”
Karsat looked at him flirtatiously. “A real mimosa?”
“Yes, why not,” Garcia said. Perhaps a little alcohol would take the edge off, he thought, giving up on one of his hardened rules of not drinking. After all, McCoy condoned the medicinal value of an occasional drink, even an illegal one at that.
“Freshly squeezed orange juice and a bottle of chilled champagne coming up,” Karsat said, happy to provide for her Captain, employer, and the father of her children. She didn’t hide the fact that she held love for him, as most people did. She brought him the drink as he stared out the closer of the four windows. “Here you go.”
He accepted the drink. “Thank you,” he said, and tasted it. He nodded, pleased. He would have preferred a little more pulp from the orange, but he kept that to himself as the first of his guests arrived.
Rivan entered, with Garcia’s “Orion Slave Girl,” Ori. Rivan was wearing the standard ship’s uniform, white highlights and no rank, but instead wore a badge that gave her the honorary title of Ambassador. Ori was dressed simply; a kaki skort, a loose fitting, cotton shirt, a gold arm bracelet, but nothing on her feet. She refused to wear shoes. The moment Ori saw Garcia, her eyes brightened and her face became more animated. She practically flew to him, as light on her feet as if she were a ballerina. She hugged and kissed at him and he nearly spilled his drink. Karsat took the drink from him, laughing.
“You sure are popular, Captain,” Karsat slipped in, playfully.
“Aye,” Garcia agreed, leading Ori to the table.
Ori made her sign for food.
“Yes, we’re going to eat together,” Garcia said, using sign language as well as words. “Please, sit.”
“Ori learned some new signs today,” Rivan said.
“Really?” Garcia said. He asked Ori, “What’s new?”
Ori made a sign for cat poop. It was a sign made with arms crossed, one hand acted as the animal head barking, with fingers arranged in ears and mouth position, and the other hand making an expelling motion.
Garcia looked to Rivan, wondering where she learned that sign from. Rivan signed to Ori to tell the full truth.
Ori signed the phrase: ‘don’t play with cat poop.’
“Yes,” Garcia signed, shaking his head. Why Ori was fascinated by the automatic litter-box cleaner mechanism was beyond him.
Tatiana Kletsova, Indira “Trini” Sookanan, Sendak, and T’Shanik entered. Garcia went to meet with them, as did Rivan, who greeted each with a hug. She did so as eloquently as if she were the actual hostess, or the Captain’s wife, taking each first by the hand with both of her hands, and then hugging them, sustaining the contact and inhaling, and then kissing them lightly. Rivan’s warmth was always sincere; regardless of stranger, family, friend, or lover; they were all given love equally and unconditionally.
“The Garcia commune, together again,” Rivan cooed.
“Speaking of communes, I heard from Sandra,” Trini said.
“Sandra?” Kletsova asked.
“Sandra Rhodes,” Trini said. “You know, the brunette from warp physics class. The one that was always hitting on Garcia.”
“I don’t remember Rhodes ever hitting on me,” Garcia said.
“You never remember them hitting on you,” Kletsova said.
“What about her?” Kletsova asked.
“She was assigned to the Enterprise, 2nd Lt, security,” Trini said.
“I don’t remember her hitting on me,” Garcia continued to protest. First Officer Kitara entered. “May I join in on short notice?” Kitara asked.
“Please,” Garcia said, gladly willing to change the subject and get the meal going. “Please, everyone, be seated.”
Karsat had only prepared for six guests, but it was just as well, since Kitara would most likely not eat what she had prepared for the humans and Vulcans. She paged down to the kitchen to have one of her staff rush something special up for Kitara. Meanwhile, Ori kept trying to share the food off her plate with Garcia, a plate that was specifically created for her nutritional needs, to maximize neural development.
“No, thank you,” Garcia said, putting utensils down to sign. “Yours. Eat.”
“Have you’ve been ignoring your little flower?” Kletsova asked.
“Obviously,” Garcia said, shooting her a look.
“You’re going to have to do better,” Kletsova said. “We’re going to have to turn all of deck four into a nursery soon enough.”
“Yes, and we’re going to have to hire some more staff, that’s for sure,” Trini said.
“I’ll volunteer,” Rivan chimed in.
“You can’t do it all,” Kletsova said.
“Some of the children are no doubt going to have special needs,” T’Shanik said. “Some will be telepaths.”
“Kors has notified me that she will be staying on with us,” Garcia said. Kors was an Aenar, a variation of the Andorian species, the characteristic of being all white instead of the typical Andorian blue, and highly telepathic. She was also the first female Garcia had ever kissed. The first real female, he corrected, since he didn’t include his holographic encounters. He closed his eyes to push the thoughts of kissing Simone out of his head.
“Is she…?” Kletsova asked.
“Yes,” Garcia answered, almost too quickly, not allowing Tatiana to ask the full question of “Is she pregnant.” He sounded angry.
“But she wasn’t on the ship,” Kletsova pointed out.
“It occurred when I transported her away from Bliss and to safety,” Garcia said.
“What about Dryac?” Trini asked.
Garcia only nodded, sipping his mimosa. He was going to need a lot more alcohol, he decided.
“I didn’t think Humans and Medusan’s were capable of genetic exchange,” Sendak said.
“We’re not,” Garcia said. “But the Kelvan technology found a way to produce a viable offspring. Consequently, there are no specialist available to help us on that one, so we’ll be forging new ground. It’s going to be the most difficult challenge, since we’ll more than likely all have to have visors to even be around that child. I don’t have a clue how that’s going to come out.”
“Fascinating,” T’Shanik said.
“A child so ugly, only its mother can look at it. Good times,” Kletsova said, toasting with her drink. She was one of the few of the Path Finder’s crew not impregnated, as she was on the planet’s surface trying to apprehend the Orion Slave Trader, Bliss, in order to recover the stolen Starburst weapon. In fact, she was the only female at the table not impregnated with a Garcia child. “I guess you’ll have to resign yourself to playing Mat Helm on the holodeck to get your fix of fast women.”
Garcia only frowned, not wanting to argue with her.
“Who’s Mat Helm?” Rivan and Trini both asked.
“Think Go-go girls, bad acting, bad dancing, cliché lines, umm, pretty much a typical day in the life of Garcia,” Kletsova said.
Garcia finished one item on his plate and went to the next one, having started with the least favorite item, leaving his most favorite item for last. Any other time he would have just mixed it all together, but he was trying to remain in a pleasant mood, despite Tatiana’s jabs and sarcasm. Perhaps after dinner he could be Mat Helm, just for a little while.
“Tam, are you ever going to smile again?” Rivan asked.
“Is that appropriate table discussion?” Kitara asked.
“No,” Kletsova answered.
“All subjects are open at the Captain’s table,” Garcia said. “What’s said at the Captain’s table, stays at the Captain’s table.”
“Good,” Rivan said. “Cause I have something to say.”
“Not a surprise there,” Kletsova said.
“Tanya,” Garcia corrected, using the English form of Tatiana. “I gave you a pass on the ugly baby comment because your opinion is welcome here. Just allow others theirs.”
“Aye,” Kletsova said.
“Proceed, Rivan,” Garcia said.
“As you know,” Rivan said. “On my planet when someone breaks the law and is caught in the act, they are executed on the spot. There are times when people have broken the law and have not been caught by officials, and yet, they act as if they had been caught. The simply give up the will to live, become lethargic, and some even go as far as to seek out a place where law officials are monitoring to commit a second crime in order to receive the punishment they felt they deserved from the previous crime, even though they were free and clear of all demands by society at large.”
“What are you saying?” Kitara asked. “You want Garcia to commit suicide?”
“No!” Rivan said, shocked. “I guess I can see how you might think that was coming but, no! No! How can you even think that?”
“Get to the point,” Kletsova said. Garcia shot her another look, but she didn’t back down.
“The point I am trying to make, Captain,” Rivan pressed on. “And perhaps I am not doing it well, but truth be said, you violated social rules of conduct. More specifically, you violated the rules that you hold most precious, the spatial boundaries and liberties of personhood. This violation has had, and will continue to have, serious consequences. However since no one is seeking equity through the law, you are free of everyone’s obligation except those which you apply to yourself. None of us can tell you how to think or how to feel, so if you want truth, then you’re going to have to find a way to forgive yourself and deal with the realities at hand. If not for your sake, then for ours and for the children that are on their way. The children, I dare say, are the only innocent ones in this situation, the only ones without any choice, and they deserve the right to know you. The real you. The you that I met and fell in love with. The one that everyone here loves and would gladly sacrifice their life for. It is times to move on, because if you don’t, well, then you’re just the walking dead, and subconsciously, that will become the resolution that your mind will seek. Selfish or not, I want you alive, healthy, and happy. That’s all I got to say on the matter.”
Garcia set his fork down on the table, well aware that he had everyone’s attention. Even Ori was still and attentive to what he may do, but then, she was peculiarly sensitive to high emotions. Garcia placed his hands in lap, his right hand falling naturally over his left wrist, which irked him and he shifted his hands to the table face down, as if he needed to get a grip on reality. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and reached out for Rivan’s hand on his left, and Ori’s hand on his right.
“Truth be known,” Garcia said, tears in his eyes. He couldn’t stop the stream. In truth, he didn’t understand where all of his emotions were coming from. He felt out of control and he hated it. Was this his body moving him closer to Pon Farr? Or was this just the accumulation of stress from all the drama surrounding him lately? “You’re absolutely right.”
Kitara grunted. And then started to laugh. Everyone turned to her for an explanation. “And I was afraid I was going to have to kick his ass to make things right again.”
Every one but the two Vulcans began to laugh. Ori’s laugh wasn’t an oral thing, and she was probably laughing because everyone else was, but her joy was very visible on her face. She touched Garcia’s face, affectionately, wiping his tears.
“I don’t see how violence would have changed his mental state,” Sendak said. “Indeed, I can only see how that might fuel his current bent for self persecution.”
“The goal would have been to fight him to the brink of death in order to trigger his fight or flight response and remind him that he wants to live,” Kitara said.
“And if his biological propensity for survival didn’t kick in?” Sendak asked.
“Then he would be no better off than he has been for the last several days, moping about,” Kitara said.
“I’ve not been moping,” Garcia snapped. He shook his head, and said, much softer, “I am just a little moody. Personal reasons.” He said this last while looking directly at Sendak, as if giving him a hint. “Everything will work out, one way or the other. And I’ll change my name to Jacob.”
Trini burst out into laugher, spraying food. Kletsova rolled her eyes.
“I don’t get it,” Rivan said.
“It’s a Biblical reference,” Kletsova said. “It wasn’t funny.”
“I know this reference,” Kitara said. “Isn’t this the man who sacrifices a son for God?”
“The son gets a stay of execution at the last moment,” Trini said.
“What kind of god would ask that of a man? And what sort of man would comply with such a request?” Rivan asked, appalled.
“A man wanting to prove his faith,” Kletsova said.
“I find it an inspiring story,” Kitara said.
“Well, I would have liked a little more consistency, if you ask me,” Kletsova said.
“How so?” Trini asked.
“Well, if God could stop Jacob at the last moment from killing his son and free will was maintained, so that he still knew that Jacob was faithful even though he didn’t complete the task assigned him, then surely god could have also stayed Cain’s hand right before he killed Able and punished Cain for murder without Able having to die.”
“Free will would have been violated,” Kitara said.
“Free will was violated with Jacob, what’s the difference? Better yet, he could have stopped Adam and Eve from both eating of the forbidden fruit and maintained free will, because god would have known they couldn’t be faithful the same way that he knew Jacob was faithful even though there was no follow through. Maybe the world would have been a better place had Able lived, or if Adam and Eve never sinned, because god could have contained the issues with them,” Kletsova argued. “After all, God was supposedly more pleased with Able than Cain. Where was He when Able needed him?”
“Spoken like a true atheist,” Trini said.
“You are missing the point of the story,” Kitara said, chiming in.
“And this, Rivan, is why people avoid discussing politics and religion in general,” Garcia said. “Especially when they have to work together.”
“I find it very interesting,” Rivan said. “Much of your justice system is built on Judeo-Christian values, which, if I understand my sources correctly, are influenced by Greek and Roman philosophy.”
“Will anyone be wanting dessert?” Karsat inquired.
At the word dessert, Ori grabbed Garcia’s arm and signed to him.
“I guess that would be a yes,” Garcia said, actually smiling. “Hot chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream, melted chocolate, streaks of caramel, oh! and some peanut butter on the side.”
“Ahh!” Kletsova shouted. “What is it with you and peanut butter?”
Ori signed frantically, her hands describing rain.
“And lots of those little, eatable sparkly things,” Garcia added.
Ori hugged and kissed Garcia.
After dessert, Kitara asked for some time with Garcia alone. The others excused themselves. Karsat brought them Klingon coffee, lowered the dumb waiter, and departed down the stairs. She closed a door, sealing off the stairwell from the dining room, securing the Captain’s and First Officer’s privacy.
“You have good friends, Captain,” Kitara said. “Most of them speak truth to you, and most of the time at that. Respect without inducing fear. That is most honorable.”
“Captain Glor reported in,” Kitara said. “They have arrived at New Fabrin and have secretly started construction on a Gateway inside the Yonada spaceship. I don’t see the point, however.”
“The point is, we need a place to fall back to. A secret base of operation that only we know about,” Garcia said. “The Yonada spaceship is the perfect hideout. No one would suspect it. It’s just a floating monument, a testament to the Fabrin people. Once the gate is functional, I intend to send a Losira agent there to install a Losira computer system and tie it in tandem to the Yonada computer system, well, what’s left of it after it was stripped, and then have her download a copy of herself into that system. Once that is complete, we can make that station operational and begin upgrades so it will be ready to receive us.” Garcia knew that once the Losira computer system was operational there, she could make as many Losira agents as she needed to do the work. No one on the planet looking up at their small, artificial moon would suspect a thing. It was a place Garcia had dreamed about visiting ever since he was a child, watching it travel across the sky. At the time he had considered turning it into a secret hideout to hide from the Kelvan who had wanted to kill him, but getting there had always proven problematic.
“The Yonada ship isn’t capable of warp drive,” Kitara said. “But I suppose, as a base of operation, it is far enough outside normal traffic lanes to not be considered a likely host for a secret base. The ship is big enough to conduct business without anyone noticing, especially if we only use the Gateway to access it.”
“That, or cloaked ships,” Garcia said.
“The Queen wants her gray back,” Kitara said.
“He can return to the Queens service once the Yonada Gateway is functioning,” Garcia said. “I’m going to want another Gateway, though.”
“How many gates do you need?” Kitara asked
“I don’t know, yet,” Garcia said. “One for every ship in my growing Armada, that’s for sure. We can add another to the list, by the way.”
Kitara raised an eyebrow.
“The T’Pau, a D’Kyr class starship, has been put at my disposal,” Garcia said. “Vulcan is going to send it to planet Bliss with a science team, to meet with the Queen and study any of the artifacts retrieved from the Preserver base we intend to raid. McCoy had a secret meeting with T’Pau and she is hand picking the crew. They should be ready to go in three or four days.”
“D’Kyr class. They still make those?” Kitara asked, not hiding her disgust at the D’Kyr class.
“I kind of like the annular warp coil, which rotates into position, but tucks away nicely when not in use,” Garcia said. “Kind of like the slide outs on the cone section of the Path Finder, which provides us more working space when not at warp.”
“I don’t like slide outs or moving warp coils,” Kitara said. “The more mechanical items you have, the more likely you have to repair things. I especially don’t like the rotating sensor drum on the Path Finder. Sweet and simple is more practical.”
“Indeed,” Garcia said. “Send Glor my compliments and have him warp over to Iotia as soon as he finishes at New Fabrin. Once there, have him contact planet Bliss to borrow a couple of the grays to establish the next planet side Gateway. I have an offshore site I’ll want to set up for my next base.”
“Another secret base?” Kitara asked. “Don’t you think you’re expanding further than our resources allow?”
“Possibly,” Garcia said. “But, this one is more of a personal thing for me. I suspect I am going to have children there, given what I now know to be true, and I intend to take care of my obligations. That world is still operating under an open economic exchange theory, with paper money as currency. Further, I have a few warrior friends that might be useful to have at our sides, if we ever need some extra hands. You’ll like the Iotians. They fight like Klingons. They don’t give up.”
“I have never heard of Iotians,” Kitara admitted.
“Not surprising,” Garcia said. “Their system is on the far side of Earth in relationship to Kronos, and, they’re not warp capable. That will be their down fall if I recruit any of them for missions. They’re not tech oriented for the most part. Smart, adaptable, and will fight to the death, but it will be necessary to train them in basic Fleet tech. On the positive side; they’re dying to get a piece of the action, so they will come eager to learn.”
“I’ll pass the word to Glor,” Kitara said.
Garcia was quiet for a moment. “I’m going to have to go to Vulcan in a couple of days. I intend to take the Path Finder. You’ll have to cover for me. Standard ruse, I’m engaged in war game simulation on the holodeck,” Garcia said. “I’ll be gone two, maybe three days at the most.”
“Why are you going?” Kitara asked.
“I have some personal business I must tend to,” Garcia said. “Let’s just leave it at that, please. Anything else left on the table for us to discuss?”
“Yes,” Kitara said. “We need to discuss how and where we will raise our child. And the other children. I am happy enough for ours to be raised on a Starship, but most importantly, I am adamant it be raised versed in Klingon culture.”
“I agree,” Garcia said. “It should be versed in both our cultures.”
“No,” Kitara said. “Only Klingon culture, at least, for the primary years. It needs a good foundation to ground it.”
Garcia nodded. “I understand the point of view, however, our ship is not completely Klingon, so there will be a meshing of cultures, unless you intend to take the child to Kronos,” Garcia said.
“I want you involved,” Kitara said. “This is going to be difficult.”
“We’ll face the challenge together, Kitara,” Garcia said. “I will defer to your desire that Klingon culture be our son’s primary foundation. However, you should be aware that the other children, from the other species, will have their needs, too, and I will not play favorites.”
“I would not like it if you did,” Kitara said.
“Well, don’t you see how rivalries could be establish if I treat ours roughly, Klingon style, while I treat the Vulcan with tempered logic?” Garcia asked.
“No two children are alike. Even if they were all from the same mother, they would each have their own special needs, their own temperaments, and so you can’t expect to raise the first one as you would the last one,” Kitara said. “You give each according to its nature and needs and the rest will work itself out. When they’re older and wiser, they will understand that life is not always fair, because we will have taught them well.”
Garcia’s badge rang and he answered it. “Garcia here.”
“Captain,” Undine answered. “You have an emergency call.”
“Priority one?” Garcia asked.
“Negative. It’s a general public line, emergency, immediate attention requested,” Undine said. “From planet Delta. Real time.”
“I’ll take it in my Ready Room. I’ll be there in a moment,” Garcia said.
“Aye,” Undine said, closing out the communication.
“Excuse me,” Garcia said, and departed quickly. There could only be one person calling him from Delta and that would be Persis. They had exchanged mail and videos, but there had not been a live, real time, dialogue between them since… God, he hated complications, he thought. He loved her fiercely, perhaps even more so because they could never be together again, due to a peculiar allergic reaction he had had to her. They had been kids, messing around on his birthday, and he and she had bonded telepathically which caused him to have seizures. The episode had nearly killed them both, and would have had Doctor Selar not intervened and saved their lives. The end results were that they could never be together again, physically, in the same room, or he would die. They had limited contact, perhaps to allow each other the chance to move on with their lives, and so Garcia had never known he and Persis had produced a child on their one time encounter, until a news reporter unwittingly revealed it to him. McCoy had later confirmed it and had taken responsibility for keeping Garcia in the dark. At the time, he had told McCoy he would never keep a secret like that, and now, here he was, keeping lots of secrets.
Garcia’s mind returned to worrying about what sort of emergency might have prompted a call. Was Persis okay? Was she ill? Was her husband treating her well? He barely heard the call to attention as he stepped out onto the Bridge and went straight way to the Ready Room. The door whispered shut behind him and he activated the screen and was relieved to see Persis in person, standing there, breathing, and apparently in good health physically. And then he took in the signs of distress on her face and the obvious signs of having recently cried.
“What’s wrong?” Garcia asked her. There was no hello, or need for it, as if there had been no years of separation. He felt a terrible yearning in his heart and throat. He wanted to reach out to her and embrace her and comfort her and it was gut-wrenching to know that it would never be.
“It’s our daughter,” Persis said. “She’s missing.”
“I need you to be more specific. Clarify missing,” Garcia said.
“It appears that she ran away,” Persis said. “There’s a note saying that she is going to see you, but I don’t buy it. She knows that would kill you.”
“I’ll be right there,” Garcia said.
Persis blinked, confused. “You mean, you will come here?” Persis asked.
“Absolutely,” Garcia said.
“But it will take you a month at best warp,” Persis said.
“I will be there in an hour,” Garcia said. “What are the authorities doing about this?”
“They’re not doing anything. She has to be missing for another twenty four hours before they will look into it, and if they assume she’s just a runaway, at thirteen they won’t pursue the matter intently,” Persis said. “She’s close enough to adult status here, they will just think she’s moved on. And Tam, she has a locator tag imbedded subcutaneously. I would know if she were on this planet. Alive or dead.”
“I’m on my way,” Garcia said.
“I hear you say that, but that doesn’t make any sense,” Persis said. “I just wanted you to pull some strings with Star Fleet and see if they would begin a search at your request. There’s Starfleet ship here in orbit. The Patton, I think.”
“Persis, I will be there in an hour. Don’t ask how and don’t tell anyone I’m coming,” Garcia said. “Just believe me. I’ll talk to you soon. Garcia out.”
Garcia stepped out onto the Bridge. Undine stood and was about to announce him.
“Undine, listen to me,” Garcia said, interrupting her. “I want Alpha Team to report to holodeck one for war game exercises. You are in command of the New Constitution for the duration of this exercise. We are not to be interrupted for anything. Is that understood?”
“Aye, Captain,” Undine said.
“Your ship,” Garcia said, and left the Bridge.
Garcia stepped into his quarters only to find it occupied. Rivan was propped up on his bed, reading. Ori was curled up with a pillow clutched to her stomach, sound asleep. Rivan watched as Garcia walked over to the two Preserver Orbs he had been given, which were the equivalent of Remotely Operated vehicles, tied in tandem to him telepathically to his mind in such a way that the extra personalities residing in his mind could manifest themselves into real life. The Orbs created real matter, as opposed to holographic matter which was unstable at best and only within an Omicron field.
“What’s up?” Rivan asked.
“I thought you and Ori were going to start sleeping in your own quarters,” Garcia commented.
“She likes your bed,” Rivan said. “It smells like you.”
“Yeah, well, we need to train her to sleep in her own bed,” Garcia said.
“Okay,” Rivan said. “Are you going on an Away Mission?”
“Yes. I’m going to the Path Finder. Sorry I can’t stay and talk,” Garcia said, activating the orbs by sending them mental energy. “Duana, Ilona, you’re with me.”
The orb illuminated and floated up from his hands. Duana and Ilona materialized, the Orbs disappearing into their bodies as if they had been chakras. They each took a deep breath, orientated, and had to run to catch up with Garcia who was already on his way out of the room. Duana waved at Rivan.
“Joy and love,” Rivan called after them.
Ori looked up, blinked, and then went back to sleep, hugging Garcia’s favorite pillow to her face.
Alpha team consisted of Doctor Misan, Kitara, Kletsova, Trini, Sendak, and six Klingon warriors. There were other teams, each designated with a specific grouping of talents in expectations of future needs, but Alpha team was generic enough to cover a host of potential issues.
“What’s the deal?” Kitara asked.
“My oldest daughter is missing, possibly a runaway, and we’re going after her,” Garcia said. “Anyone have a problem with that, say so now.”
No one said anything. “Very well,” Garcia said. “Computer, recognize Captain Garcia, authorization, primary colors are bent.”
“Captain Garcia, command access available,” the computer responded.
“Open the secret compartment and power up the Gateway, Path Finder coordinates,” Garcia said.
The back wall slid open to reveal an empty space to the uninitiated. Those wearing rings given them by the Preserver Queen, formerly known as the Princess, saw the large, circular Gateway. The Gate’s iris spun open to reveal a pooling of lights, twirling like a cyclone that indicated an active wormhole. The energy of the spinning vortex decreased until it was gone and the gate looked like nothing more than a gentle pool of water, standing vertical. The other side of the wormhole was barely visible, like looking through a clouded lens, or a glass of murky water, but the other side could be seen. The flutter of lights and the absence of darkness on the other side was the first confirmation that the opposing iris was now open, followed by a series of lights as the computers on either side linked together. Losira, the Path Finder’s artificial Intelligence manifested itself on the other side, awaiting the arrival of the guest to be. At a signal from Garcia, the Alpha team started through the portal.
“Computer, secure door to holodeck one, and run Garcia war game exercise, variation alpha one,” Garcia said.
A holographic simulation began to play, with holographic versions of the Alpha team members. There was a shadow in the holographic projection the size of the hidden compartment where the portal rested. Garcia stepped up to the Gateway, hit a button on the inner wall of the compartment, which caused the ‘hidden’ compartment to return to the concealed mode, while at the same time stepping closer to the wormhole. He stepped into the wormhole just as the wall came to a full close against his back…
And came out the other side, on board the Path Finder. Losira was there to greet him.
“Garcia, the sky is up,” Garcia said.
“Voice recognition accepted,” Losira said, stepping up to take Garcia’s hand, pulling him closer to inspect his eyes. By taking his hand she could determine his finger prints where ever his fingers lighted against her skin, as well as accurately measure the size of his hand and the length of his fingers; a complete biometric profile was compared to the previous identification process, noting it to be with in the accepted parameters. Finger and hand size had some variability depending on season, temperature, and health conditions. Her pupils dilated as she scrutinized his retinas; retina prints were as unique as finger prints. “Biometric, finger prints, and retina scans, complete.”
Losira kissed Garcia hard on the mouth, her eyes closing as she sighed and moaned with delight, drawing in his air, saturated with his molecules. “DNA scan, complete. Welcome back, Captain. I’m so happy to see you.”
“Are we through with security check?” Kletsova asked.
“Ah, sure, you all pass,” Losira said, waving them off with a flick of a hand while hanging onto the Captain with the other.
“Prep the transwarp drive, Losira,” Garcia said, ignoring Kletsova’s look of disgust. The Transwarp Drive tended to make every one on board “sea sick,” for a lack of a better term. “Notify Dryac we’re going to make a jump. Any one who wants a Dramamine can pop one now. Who’s at the helm?”
“McKnight,” Losira said. She seemed genuinely concerned. In truth, she liked predictability and routine; not knowing things bothered her. “Is there a problem?”
“Don’t know yet,” Garcia said. “Kitara, I want a team ready to beam down to investigate Persis’ home, look for clues to where my daughter may have gone. Doctor Misan, go to sickbay and I’ll join you there directly.” Garcia hit his comm. badge. “Captain to McKnight.”
“Um, McKnight here,” she answered. “Everything okay?”
“Put in the coordinates for a transwarp jump to the Delta home world,” Garcia said, attempting to leave the Shuttle Bay, but finding it difficult to pass through the door with Losira hanging on him. Most of the alpha team had already departed. “I’m on my way to the Bridge. Losira, can you give me some space.”
“But I’ve missed you,” Losira said.
“Walk beside me,” Garcia said.
Garcia wasn’t ten paces down the corridor when Mr. Smith, Dryac’s personal attendant, intercepted him. “Is this necessary? You know transwarp makes Dryac sick.” “It makes everyone sick,” Garcia pointed out.
“None as much as her,” Mr. Smith said.
“That’s why I gave her a heads up,” Garcia said. “She’ll have to cope, just like the rest of the crew. And you’re in my way.”
One of the Klingon pulled Mr. Smith aside and Garcia continued to the lift, with Trini right behind him. Trini seemed like she wanted to say something, but she kept quiet. Garcia said “Bridge,” and the lift began to move. Garcia turned to say something to Trini, only he found one of his mental companions suddenly between the two of them. The rogue counselor Troi program had manifested herself right between him and Trini, utilizing the holographic capabilities that the Path Finder had to offer. The Path Finder was basically a giant holographic emitter, which comprised both Fleet emitters and Kolandan emitters, the same kind that made it possible for Losira to manifest herself, and with Garcia practically one with the ship, all his mental companions could move about the ship just as easy as they could maneuver around the hidden recesses of his mind. He preferred them on the ship, out in the open, than in his mind, but he was a bit angry that his Troi had popped in so unexpectedly.
“How many times do I have to tell you, don’t do that?!” Garcia snapped, startled by her sudden appearance and proximity.
“Do you realize you’re always a bit harsh to Mr. Smith?” Troi asked.
“Are you my conscience?” Garcia asked her.
“Perhaps I should be,” Troi said.
“I’m in the midst of a crisis,” Garcia said. “I don’t have time for niceties.”
“Have you noticed that every time you’re on the Path Finder, you’re in the midst of a crisis?” Counselor Troi asked.
“Your point?” Garcia asked.
He was saved from having to listen to her as Tuer met Garcia as they arrived at the Bridge. Trini worked her way around Garcia, Tuer, and Troi and went to her station, relieving the Klingon that had been monitoring signals and data flows between Cardassian ships in the sector.
“You realize jumping out of this system will alert the Cardassians that someone had been monitoring their maneuvers?” Tuer said.
“I do,” Garcia said. “We’re still cloaked, right?”
“Aye,” Tuer said.
“Good, then what they don’t know, will just make them be more hesitant about instigating a fight,” Garcia said.
“Engine room to Bridge, we’re ready for a transwarp jump,” Gomez said.
“McKnight, take us there in three,” Garcia said. “All hands, prepare for jump.”
McKnight counted down and pushed the button. The stars spun around a central point on the view screen, star points becoming lines, circles and then flooding the whole screen with white, before spiraling back to circles in the opposite direction, then lines, then star points once more. Several of the Klingon on the Bridge became ill and had to leave their post to keep from being sick all over their terminals. Garcia displayed no concerns for their well being, partly because this was pretty much routine every time they activated the transwarp drive, and partly because the Klingons preferred to handle their illness without a lot of attention placed on it. He went over to Trini’s station and punched in Persis’ home number while she was being sick into an air sickness bag. He patted her gently on the back. She paused for a moment in her being sick, decided she had a hold of herself, and then put the call through for Garcia. She turned to be sick again just as Persis appeared on the screen.
“Give me the transporter coordinates to you home,” Garcia said. “I’m sending a team down.”
Persis nodded, pushing a button on her terminal. It was obvious that she had been crying, but now she was openly crying again. “Thank you, Tam.”
Persis closed out the screen on her end, not wanting to maintain eye contact, literally not wanting Garcia to see her in her present state.
“I’ll be in Sickbay,” Garcia said. “Tuer, your ship.”
Garcia entered Sickbay, activated a screen, and started filing through the medical files as if he were rummaging through a medicine cabinet. Doctor Misan came up behind him, watched for a moment, and then finally inquired.
“Can I help you find something specific?” Doctor Misan asked.
“I need some sort of immunosuppressant that will prevent me from having an allergic reaction to Persis when I beam down,” Garcia said.
“You’re joking, right?” Doctor Misan asked.
“Do I look like I’m joking?” Garcia asked. “Her DNA is on file, you’ll find it attached to my medical records, due to the severity of the reaction.”
“I’ve seen it and what you’re asking for is too dangerous. It’s more than just an allergic reaction, you know,” Misan said. “There’s some telepathy issues involved here. You bonded with her.”
“That was a long time ago. Surely there’s something available to counter this by now,” Garcia said.
“You can’t change basic chemistry, Captain,” Doctor Misan said. “If you’re body reacts negatively to a chemical, then it reacts negatively to a chemical. Snake venom is just a protein, after all, so, if the proteins that comprise Persis’ body are not compatible with your human chemistry, it is what it is.”
“Nice snake analogy,” Garcia said. “Now, give me the snake venom antidote.”
“I can give you an immunosuppressant, a toxin that will make you sick at your stomach, and kill all of your current t-cells, which will reduce the like likelihood of you having an episode. That’s the easy part. The hard part is keeping you from having a seizure. I guess I could give you a psychotropic drug to reduce the likelihood of you having an epileptic seizure, but it’s no guarantee. Not to mention the fact that these two drugs are incompatible. The first one is going to leave you open to potential infections and the second one is going to decrease your mental acuity.”
“Drug me,” Garcia said.
“With Jurak still on the New Constitution, I’m acting Chief Doctor and I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” Doctor Misan said. “It could kill you.”
“Just think of it as a late term abortion,” Garcia said. “And if you’re successful in killing me, Admiral Pressman will no doubt put you in command. It is, after all, why he originally recruited you, right?”
Doctor Misan turned a darker shade of blue, ordered up some chemicals from the replicator, filled a hypo with the cocktail, and shot it into Garcia’s arm not caring if he caused any pain. In truth, he didn’t want Garcia to die, but only because if he killed Garcia, then his life was surely forfeit. Kitara would probably kill him soon after.
Garcia smiled pleasantly, thinking, that wasn’t so bad, and then he turned towards the closest receptacle and hurled. After a couple minutes, he got himself under control, forced himself to breathe deep, and then went to the nearest lavatory to clean. He returned and Doctor Misan ran a check.
“I’d rather not give you anything for the nausea,” Misan said. “You’re probably going to feel strange, and may have a headache later, but you’ll live, for now.”
“I do feel strange, like I’m underwater,” Garcia said.
“That’s one of the side effects of the anti epileptic meds,” Misan said. “I would also prefer you not leave the ship in this condition.”
“Your preference is noted. Now, let’s go,” Garcia said, hitting his comm. badge. “Duana and Ilona, prepare for a site to site. Tatiana, lock onto me, Misan, Duana and Ilona, and beam us down to the coordinates Persis gave you.”
“You’re going down?” Kletsova asked, concerned.
“I am, now energize,” Garcia said.
A transporter wave caught him and Misan, and a moment later, he, Misan, and two of his mental companions were on the surface, in the middle of a living room. Someone dropped a glass of water. Garcia orientated himself to the sound. Persis was mouthing the words ‘no,” and backing up. He went to her and embraced her.
“It’s okay, shhh, it’s okay, I’m here,” Garcia said.
“How is this possible?” Persis asked.
“The miracles of modern medicines,” Garcia said. And then he pushed her away to rush to the sink where he made it just in time to be sick. He ran the water, cleaning the sink and then his face. Duana handed him a towel.
“Thank you,” Garcia said. He turned around to see Kitara.
“Have you lost your ever loving mind?” Kitara snapped.
“I had to come,” Garcia said. “I had to try.”
“No you didn’t,” Kitara said.
“Tam?” Persis asked.
“I took some drugs so we could meet, so you don’t have to worry about killing me,” Garcia said.
“No, she just has to worry that the drugs will kill you,” Kitara said. “It’s not like she doesn’t already have enough on her plate.”
“Tam, I am glad to see you, to touch you, after all these years,” Persis said, hesitant, but allowing herself to be pulled towards him. She sobbed on his shoulder.
“I can handle this investigation, you know,” Kitara said.
“Have you found anything?” Garcia asked.
“No immediate evidence of foul play,” Kitara said.
“Captain,” Sendak said, coming into the room. “I would like to get access to her computer records, check out her emails and stuff, but there’s a block on it.”
“Persis?” Garcia asked.
“Information is stored at a remote location, and it will take an act of congress to get into it,” Persis said. “Our society respects privacy, even of minors, and unless she is declared legally dead, or a criminal suspect for murder, there’s no real way to get in there.”
“Sendak?” Garcia asked.
“I can do an illegal tap using the Path Finder’s computers,” Sendak said. “Do it,” Garcia said.
“You’re taking a big chance authorizing that,” Kitara said. “If we get caught…” “Do I look like I care?” Garcia said.
“You look like you’re sick,” Kitara said. “I want you to go back to the ship and let me handle this.”
“And I will,” Garcia said. “After I inspect Tama Orleans’ room.”
“You’re sweating,” Persis said. “Do you want me to lower the temp?”
Garcia swallowed. “I’ll be okay,” he said. “Show me her room.”
Persis led Garcia to his daughter’s room. The smell of Persis was almost unbearable, and if it weren’t for his constant distraction at possibly being sick, he probably would have tried to kiss her, even with an audience. He sat down on Tama Orleans’ bed, holding a hand to his mouth. Duana brought him a bucket, his daughter’s trash receptacle, to be sick in just in case he needed it. He nodded, setting it beside him, trying to take in his daughter’s room. It seemed like a normal teenager’s room. There were photos of friends tacked to the wall. There was a small vanity table, a desk, a pile of clothes on the floor. Garcia noted Ilona examining items on the vanity. She picked up a portable media player, which offered audio and video options.
“If I were running away, I wouldn’t have left this,” Ilona said.
Garcia nodded, motioned for Ilona to bring it to him. He resisted the urge to be sick.
“Tam, I really think you should get back to the ship,” Kitara said.
“I’m okay,” Garcia said. He turned on the media player. One of his songs cued up with the start up page, requesting a pass code.
“That sounds familiar,” Duana said, referencing the start up melody.
“Do you know the pass code?” Garcia asked Persis.
Persis shook her head.
“How long has your husband been beating you?” Duana asked.
“Duana!” Garcia snapped.
“What? You don’t see it or are you just going to ignore the signs?” Duana asked.
“It’s none of his business,” Ilona said. “She made her bed, she can sleep in it.”
“Ilona, shut it,” Garcia ordered. “Persis, are you being treated well?”
Persis looked down, hesitant to answer.
“And you wonder why she ran away,” Ilona said.
Garcia quieted Ilona with a look.
“Anything you can add to complete the picture here will only help us find your daughter sooner,” Kitara said, surprisingly compassionate for a Klingon.
“What’s going on here?” a man entered. “Who are these people in my house?”
“Captain Garcia, my husband, Mio Halington,” Persis said.
Garcia stood, not bothering to shake hands. It took all his strength not to immediately rush the guy and pound him, but he held his prejudice in check and used all his senses to get a good feel of the man standing before him. He wondered if his hatred for the man came from his love for Persis, or because he just didn’t like him.
“Ah, so your true love has finally come back into your life,” Mio said. “I suppose it was only a matter of time.”
“It’s not like that,” Persis said.
“I told you I would find Tama. What, you didn’t believe me?” Mio asked. “I just have this feeling,” Persis tried.
“Feelings?! Like, you can trust your feelings,” Mio said.
“Do you know where Tama Orleans is?” Garcia asked him.
“Oh, don’t even go there with me,” Mio said. “After all these years you finally show up and want to play Dad? I’m the one who puts food on her plate.”
“I’ll buy her a replicator and save you any more trouble,” Garcia said. “Now, do you care to answer my question?”
“If I knew where she was, I would have already dragged her ass home,” Mio said.
Garcia stepped closer to Mio. “If I ever get wind that you have hit or inappropriately touched Tama or Persis, you and I are going to have issues.”
“How dare you come into my house and threaten me,” Mio said. “Do it again and I’ll kill you.”
Garcia stepped even closer. “Bring it,” Garcia said.
Kitara had already anticipated the fight as Garcia was stepping up but she wasn’t there in time to prevent Mio from punching Garcia in the gut. Duana pulled Persis back, while Kitara put Mio in a joint lock, and Garcia went to the ground to be sick. Ilona handed him the bucket and towel.
“You’re even weaker than I imagined,” Mio said, resisting the pain as Kitara manipulated his arm. “What, you have all your women fight for you?”
“You need to be to quiet, now,” Kitara warned him, pinning him against the wall.
“Is this the big man you’re always dreaming about?” Mio asked Persis. Kitara twisted his arm a little more. “Break my arm, bitch, and I’ll kill you.”
Kitara used Mio’s resistance against him. As she pushed him to the wall, he was trying to push away, so she increased her push towards the wall so that he would increase his resistance, and then suddenly she jerked Mio away from the wall to give her space and momentum. He tried to counter his fall back, and just then she pushed him into the wall head first, knocking him out cold and dropping him to the floor. It all went much quicker because of her anticipation of his reactions. She called Doctor Misan and two of her men to take Mio to the other room. “Keep him sedated, but treat his wound,” Kitara said.
“I want a back ground check on him,” Garcia said. “And check the computer on his vehicle. I want to know everywhere he’s been in the last two weeks. Check his credit account to see where he’s spent money.”
“You don’t think he has anything to do with Tama’s disappearance, do you?” Persis asked.
“The step father, or second husband, is eighty five percent more likely to rape and or murder a rival offspring than any other agent,” Ilona said.
Persis leaned back against the wall and slid to the floor, sobbing. Garcia looked at Ilona, but he was uncertain if we was angry at her for stating a known fact, or because he was actually an example of that statistic, having recently killed Kelley’s offspring in favor of his own.
“What?” Ilona asked. “That is the correct statistic.”
“Not on this planet,” Garcia said.
“I’m sure it’s close enough,” Ilona sulked.
“Why did you stay with him?” Garcia asked, simultaneously with Duana and Ilona. There voices blended like musicians singing.
“It was nice in the beginning. It grew worse with time, his jealousy changed him,” Persis whispered. “And the longer I stayed, the harder it was to leave. It’s all my fault…”
“That’s enough of that,” Garcia snapped.
“It is partly her fault,” Ilona said.
“Ilona!” Garcia snapped.
“If she doesn’t take responsibility for her part in this, she is doomed to repeat the patterns that brought her here,” Ilona said.
“If I want psychological advice, I will ask Counselor Troi,” Garcia said. “Persis, I want you to pack your bags. You’re leaving with us.”
“I have nothing to pack,” Persis said. “I have nothing. All I want is my daughter back.”
Garcia moved over next to Persis and held her to him. “I know,” Garcia said. “We’ll find her. Meanwhile, why don’t you get some things. You mentioned in a letter once to me that you still had the star shells I gave you.”
“Mio destroyed that,” Persis said.
“Come, let’s go back to the ship together,” Garcia said.
“I can’t go with you,” Persis said. “My life is here. And, I can’t risk making you sick. Look at you, you’re barely able to keep from puking.”
“There is another option,” Garcia said. “This is temporary.”
Garcia’s comm. badge rang and he answered it. “Sendak, here, Captain. You’re going to want to come up and look at this.”
“I’ll be right there,” Garcia said. He nodded to Duana and she helped Persis to her feet. Kitara gave Garcia a hand up.
“I’d like to stay a bit longer, search around the house, and talk to the neighbors, see if anyone saw anything,” Kitara said.
Garcia nodded. “Path Finder, four to beam up,” Garcia said.
Duana, Ilona, Persis, and Garcia arrived on the Path Finder. Garcia turned and offered Persis his hand as he stepped down off the transporter. “Persis, I want you to go with Duana. She’ll show you to guest quarters and will make you comfortable. I promise to inform you of the first piece of information I find, okay? If you need anything, you can ask the ship, or correspond with me direct.”
Persis nodded, but before leaving with Duana, she risked kissing Garcia on the cheek. “Thank you.”
Garcia held firm as Persis was led away. The doors closed and before Kletsova could get her sarcastic remark in, he rushed over to the wall, pushed in on a hidden recess, revealing a waste chute, and again was sick. While Garcia was indisposed, Kletsova replicated a towel and a glass of water, using the site to site replicator system, and brought the items to him. She rubbed his back as he continued to be sick. kjº
Garcia arrived on the Bridge, feeling a bit under the weather, but hiding it fairly well. He made for the Science Station where Sendak was ready to give a report, but Trini interrupted him.
“Captain,” Trini said. “The Tempest is reporting in. They require your immediate presence.”
“They’ll have to wait,” Garcia said.
“They say it’s urgent,” Trini said.
“Tell them to wait,” Garcia snapped, and approached Sendak. “What do you have?”
“I have downloaded Tama Orleans emails,” Sendak said. “Her last email was from someone by the name of Niki Carter, inviting her up to visit her on a starship.”
“Excuse me?” Garcia asked.
Trini came over to Sendak’s station. “Nikita and Tama know each other?” Trini asked.
“As far as I’m able to determine,” Sendak said. “Their correspondence started shortly after you returned to Earth from Iotia. Based on the first email from Nikita, I surmise that Tama Orleans initiated the contact after reading a news article about her time with you on Iotia.”
“Get me Niki on the viewer,” Garcia said.
“It’s at least a four hour delay from here to Earth,” Trini said. “I can’t get you a live feed.”
“Open the Gate and patch it through the New Constitution, but get me Niki and Nancy on the line, now,” Garcia said,
“Aye,” Trini said.
Garcia turned back to Sendak, wondering why it seemed everyone was having trouble following his orders. He tried to calm himself down, noticed he was squeezing his left wrist, and decided to try a stick of gum. “Can you tell me which Starship that last message supposedly came from?”
“The transmission markers suggest that it was the USS Enterprise, however, I suspect it to be a forgery seeing how the Enterprise was not in this region of space at the time the message was said to have been sent,” Sendak said. “The time stamp corresponds with Tama Orleans disappearance.”
“I have Lt. Nancy Carter, Jupiter Station, online,” Trini announced.
“On screen,” Garcia said.
“Tam?” Nancy asked.
“Hello, Nancy. Did I wake you?” Garcia asked.
“It’s okay,” Nancy said, wiping her eyes. “Your message said urgent. What’s going on?”
“I need to speak with Niki,” Garcia said.
“She’s visiting her Dad on Earth,” Nancy said.
“Can you call them and conference this call?” Garcia asked. “I really need to speak with her.”
“Hang on,” Nancy said. After a moment of Nancy pushing buttons, a male voice answered Nancy’s hail. “Sorry to bother you, Boris, but I need to speak with Niki.”
“So, why are you calling here? You canceled on me,” Boris said.
“She’s not with you?” Nancy demanded.
“No, she’s supposed to be with you!” Boris argued.
Garcia interrupted what was obviously about to become a fight. “Nancy, listen to me. I believe Niki has been kidnapped. Contact Starfleet Security, start tracing her steps. I’ll contact you soon.”
“Alright,” Nancy said. “Carter out.”
“Trini, get our Away team up, we’re going to Earth, ASAP,” Garcia said.
“Calling them,” Trini said.
“Engineering, prepare to make a transwarp jump as soon as the Away Team is on board,” Garcia said. “Losira, alert Dryac we’re about to jump again. McKnight, set coordinates for Vulcan.”
McKnight pivoted her chair about to look at the Captain. “Did you say Vulcan, sir?” she asked.
“No,” Garcia said. “Why would I say Vulcan?”
“You did say Vulcan,” Sendak said.
“Alright, fine, I meant set the coordinates for Earth,” Garcia said, rubbing his forehead.
“Captain,” Trini said. “The tempest is on hold. They say they need to speak to you, urgently.”
Garcia sighed. “Put them on,” Garcia said.
Captain Gowr, of the IKV Tempest appeared on the screen. The name Garcia had intended for the Tempest was “Wolverine” but it didn’t stick. Gowr had chosen the Tempest and it was voted in. Everyone’s Shakespeare fan, Garcia had bemoaned. “Admiral Garcia,” Gowr said, saluting.
Kitara arrived on the Bridge, utilizing a site to site transport. Garcia held a finger up to Gowr, asking for one moment, and nodded to his First Officer. “Have Trini catch you up to speed,” Garcia told her before giving his full attention back to Gowr. “Captain Gowr. What’s the problem? Have you arrived at Pollux Five? Have you found the Preserver cache?”
“We have arrived and we’re being held hostage. At the risk of sounding crazy, a giant hand has grasped our ship and is threatening to crush us,” Gowr said.
“Apollo!” Garcia said, frowning.
“No, Sir,” Gowr said. “Someone named Athena. She wishes to speak to you and refuses to let us go until that happens.”
“Damn it, I’m busy,” Garcia snapped.
“Captain,” Kitara said.
“What?” Garcia said, turning to her.
“Why don’t you attend to that and allow me to pursue this new lead,” Kitara said.
“Because my daughter appears to have been kidnapped and it’s my job to find her,” Garcia said.
“Captain, we should speak in private,” Kitara said.
“You’re not going to persuade me to relinquish my duties in this matter,” Garcia said.
“I am not asking you to relinquish your duties in this matter,” Kitara growled. “I’m asking you to let us do our jobs. You can not do everything. Now, this pseudo god apparently wants to speak at you and you can do that, but there is nothing more you can do at this moment to help Tama Orleans, otherwise you would already be doing that. Now, go to the Tempest, see what you can do about that situation, and I will contact you as soon as we have any new information about your daughter’s disappearance.”
Garcia pointed at her, ready to present an argument, but he couldn’t find anything to counter what she was saying.
“Notify me the moment you find out anything,” Garcia said. “Lieutenants Tuer and Kletsova, Duana and Ilona, and Doctor Misan, report to the Gate. Number One, your ship.”
Garcia stepped into the turbo lift with some deliberation and was whisked away. As soon as the doors closed, the rogue program of Counselor Troi took that moment to beam into the lift so she could have a private counsel with Garcia. The one good thing about Counselor Troi being in front of him via the Path Finder’s holographic emitters was that she was not in his head. Technically, she was still in his head, it just felt as if she wasn’t. And, the transporter lights that she imitated was a nice compromise to just appearing in front of him, startling him again.
“Captain,” Troi said. “You’re being unreasonably harsh on everyone. They know their jobs. You don’t have to shout or raise your voice.”
“Like McCoy never snapped or raised his voice,” Garcia said, directing the turbolift to proceed via his implant.
“First, you’re not McCoy,” Troi said. “Second, McCoy was never a starship Captain. As a starship Captain you have an obligation to present yourself in a certain kind of light. A light you’re failing to achieve. Snapping at your officers is unreasonable, and snapping at your friends is intolerable. I know you have been under a lot of stress, but you’re going to have to lighten up.”
“How dare you,” Garcia began, stepping closer to her. He was nearly distracted by the warmth radiating from her, the smell of her filling his senses.
“It’s my job,” Troi said.
“You’re job is just to stay out of my head,” Garcia began.
The lift doors opened on the intended floor. On exiting the lift, he was confronted by a large, Royal Bengal tiger. Only, he didn’t see a tiger, he just knew everyone else saw her as a tiger. What he saw was an attractive female, of apparent Egyptian descent, dressed in all the accouterments of an era long since past. Gold armbands pressed into her tanned flesh. A gold headband helped to define her dark hair, which fell just above her shoulder and was cut at severe angles. A gold necklace with a large, amber jewel fell just above her bosom, a bosom apparently held firm by a push up bra. A gold belt hugged her hips, accentuating her hourglass figure and pulling tight her white dress which tapered and flared out over her thighs. Her sandals were gold in tint with straps that wound to her knees. All in all, she reminded him of the holodeck version of Isis he had created to fulfill a particular fantasy, which made her appearance to him a little distracting and unnerving at the same time. Her name was Aahla and she was a temporal agent in the same manner that Gary Seven and his cat Isis were temporal agents.
“I would like to go with you, Tammas,” Aahla said.
“I don’t really have time for you,” Garcia said, walking. Even his mental companions didn’t see Aahla as a human, but Troi knew enough not to question the fact that he was talking to a large cat. Everyone on board knew that the cat had free run of the ship and was obviously the Captain’s pet. Garcia wondered if the crew doubted his sanity at this point. Only the Klingons didn’t seem to care, for they seemed to appreciate that the smartest, bravest warriors all had their eccentricities.
“If you’re going up against the gods, my presence could bring balance,” Aahla said.
“I still don’t know what you’re agenda is, Aahla,” Garcia said.
“You don’t need to know everything, Tammas,” Aahla said. “And much of it you would dismiss or ignore because of your scientific paradigm. There is a war coming. A war of good versus evil, light against dark. The best outcome arrives by maintaining a particular continuity in this time line.”
“Please,” Garcia said, only slowing his pace a little. “There is no evidence of evil in nature. If a tornado wipes out a trailer park or a volcano takes out a village, it’s not because the gods are angry, but because you should build trailers stronger, and not build villages next to a volcano. If you build your house near a volcano or on a beach, you shouldn’t be surprised if a wave or a lava flow rolls through your living room. The only evil in the universe is derived through the choices of men, who are either bio-chemically unstable, or just badly educated.”
“That is one perspective,” Aahla said. “There are also forces manipulating people to behave in certain ways.”
“The devil made me do it didn’t work in the dark ages, it isn’t flying in the 24th century, either,” Garcia said.
“Good point, Tam,” Troi said. “Perhaps you can bear all of this in mind when you’re interacting with the crew.”
“Are you through lecturing me?” Garcia asked Troi.
“Either way,” Aahla said, ignoring Garcia’s and Troi’s conversation. “You have to admit you’re going up against a potential rival that out classes you in technology, intellect, and strength. You’re going up against my own kind.”
“Technology, perhaps, but intellect?” Garcia asked. “If Kirk can out smart Apollo, I imagine I can handle Athena.”
“Your pride may be your downfall,” Aahla said. “It would not hurt you to cultivate good friends and trust in their abilities.”
“I’m not so prideful that I won’t accept help,” Garcia said. “You may come.”
“Thank you,” Aahla said. “Oh, and by the way, you should know. I’m pregnant.”
Garcia screamed, gritted his teeth, and waved his hands in frustration as he sought words to express his feelings. Troi touched his arm, wanting to help him process all the conflicting emotions running through his head. “How is that even possible? What are you? You’re not human, you’re not tiger. What are you? And aren’t you like a million years old?”
“Calm yourself,” Aahla snapped, the way a grandmother might to silence a grandchild. “And I’m not that old. Maybe several thousands, but not millions. Be nice. Besides, I’m not displeased by the turn of events. I am surprised, partly because I, too, didn’t think it was possible, but mostly because I didn’t see this turn of events. I suspect the Counsel who sent me to watch over you knew.”
“I thought you knew everything,” Garcia complained.
“Contrary to popular belief, I do not know all things about all space and time. I know some things, and some particulars, and I’m quite versed in 23rd century history, and not just the histories written by various species which can be bias towards a particular perspective,” Aahla said. “As it turns out, this was meant to be.”
“What do you mean by that?” Garcia said.
“Our child will play a pivotal role in ending the Kzinti Human war,” Aahla said.
“That war has been over for a hundred years now,” Garcia said.
“Predestination paradox,” Aahla said. “You and I will not raise him. He will be raised on Kzinti by Kzinti.”
“Why? What happens to us?” Garcia asked.
“I don’t know,” Aahla said. “We’re in flux, but the reading I did on the child was very clear. It is what it is. It has already happened. That’s why I can see it so clearly now.”
Garcia resumed walking and instead of grabbing his wrist he took hold of Troi’s hand. They arrived at the hangar deck where the Away Team waited to pass through the Gate to the Tempest.
“What took you so long?” Lt. Kletsova asked.
“Are you still sick?” Duana asked.
“I feel like crap,” Garcia admitted.
“I tried to warn you,” Doctor Misan said.
Garcia ignored him. He forced himself to breathe and turned to Troi. “You have valid points, as always. I will consider your advice and work at being more calm.”
“Oh, and he’s bringing Kitty,” Ilona said.
“Watch who you’re calling Kitty,” Aahla said, but all everyone heard was a growl, accompanied by a show of teeth.
“Let’s move out,” Garcia said. “We’re burning daylight.”
Garcia was the last to go through the gate, pausing only long enough to hug Troi. “Thank you,” he said, whispering it in her ear.
After Tammas Parkin Arblaster Garcia, the clone, had pitched the rock at the Gorn, striking it square between the eyes, he had come to a remarkable conclusion. His first thought wasn’t, “you just made him angry, run for your life,” but rather, “Oh, that’s interesting.” Given the arc the rock had taken, and factors including aim, weight of the rock, and amount of force applied to tossing said rock, the math suggested to him that whatever planet this was, it had gravity so close to Earth normal Gs that he couldn’t tell the difference. Had the gravity been more or less than Earth normal, the stone’s flight path might have been greater or lesser, causing him to miss the target on the first throw, because his brain and muscle memory only knew how to throw in Earth gravity. His awareness stepped up a notch as the ‘fight or flight’ response took over his nervous system, making the world seem as if it were moving in slow motion.
The Gorn hit by the rock cried out, alerting its fellow hunters that there was new prey in the area. One of the Gorn responded by throwing a spear. Garcia caught it, turned it about, and spun to add momentum to the spear before returning it to the Gorn. Like the rock, it flew perfect and hit the target exactly as anticipated. The new cry was a war cry, mixed with the spits and hisses that would be associated with pain from an injury. Garcia had their attention and decided it was time to run. Another Gorn hurled a spear at him. He caught it and turned to flee. He had to force himself to moderate his departure to entice the Gorn to continue their pursuit with the hope of actually capturing him. This would allow the Seven of Nine clone time to rescue his friend Afuhaamango, and company, who had been captured by the Gorn in question.
Instead of following the meandering stream, Garcia chose to climb the hill side. This kept him in line of sight of the hunters. It almost seemed that the higher he climbed the more intent they were in catching him. He came to the realization as to why that was when he topped the hill and viewed down into the valley below. There was a Gorn village, with Gorn women and children, hunters, and aged, perhaps ten thousand strong. Most of the buildings were of huts, built of bamboo and other woods, with leaves and straw comprising the walls and roofs, a number of communal fires were also scattered about, but the most interesting sight, almost dead center of the village, was a monolithic structure of a grandiose design beyond the apparent technological means of the Gorn. Garcia recognized it almost immediately. It was of the same design of a building Kirk had discovered on Miramee’s planet, believed to be an artifact built by the Preservers. It was technology that offered protection to the Native American tribes that had been relocated from Earth. This could only mean one thing. This was a Gorn colony under the protection of the Preservers, who Garcia now knew to be alien invaders from outside the Universe, posing as gods as they conduct their experiments on the unsuspecting populations.
The sight of the monument occupied Garcia’s attention too long. He escaped back the direction he had come, passing to the right of the closest approaching Gorn. They continued to pursue him. They came slowly, methodically, spreading out in hunting fashion, working in cooperation. In truth, hunting wasn’t their specialty. They were ambush predators by nature, and so, Garcia had to wonder if perhaps they weren’t leading him into a trap. Then again, though they weren’t great hunters, they were very adept at cooperative hunting, more so than humans, and again, it was out of biological necessity. Anything that slow would have to be smarter than its prey if it was going to continue eating. The only advantage Garcia had over them was his speed, which he used to stay just far enough ahead of them to keep them in sight. He paused under an occasional tree or cluster of trees to enjoy brief moments in the shade, acting as if he were more winded than he was. If he weren’t in a run for his life, he would have enjoyed the hike and the scenery. Within a half hour of their continued pursuit, Garcia’s suspicions came to fruition. They had indeed been herding him towards a trap; a cliff. Garcia stared over the cliff and frowned at the amount of animal bones at the base. They had been herding the dinosaurs to the very fate that he now found himself facing. The sound of the stream flowing over the cliff was the only peaceful sound in earshot.
Garcia turned back to face the Gorn, planting the spear he had caught, leaning into it as if he needed its support. He decided this is where he would have to make his last stand, giving his friends more time to escape. The Gorn created a semi circle, fourteen strong blocking all egress except towards the cliff.
“So, is this going to be a fair fight?” Garcia asked.
One of the Gorn stepped forwards, spear ready to jab.
“You know, we could find a way to coexist in peace,” Garcia offered, wondering if his Universal translator was functioning. Gorn was one of the few languages that he did not know and mostly that was because it was almost impossible for the human physiology to reproduce the sounds and so, why waste the time and energy when technology was sufficient to overcome the obstacle.
The lead Gorn stabbed at him. Garcia moved out of the way, going around his own spear, using it for leverage to support himself in a double foot kick. He planted his feet squarely into the Gorn’s ribs, catching him off guard. The Gorn fell back on his ass, winded. This established one thing in Garcia’s mind: these Gorn knew nothing about modern warfare. Garcia’s odds of survival had just increased slightly.
The other Gorn laughed or booed, it was hard to tell with all the hissing, but a second Gorn joined in the fray with the first. They both circled, holding their spears at ready, looking for an opportunity to strike. The first uttered a guttural command and a moment later they both made a stab at the prey. Garcia grabbed the closest spear, pulling it down to block the second spear, trapping them both against the spear he had planted in the ground. He then kicked the closest Gorn in the knee, already bent during its lunge. This move would have broken a human’s leg, but merely caused the Gorn to fall back, favoring its injury. As it fell back, it relinquished its firm hold on its spear and Garcia pulled it to block the second blow from the other Gorn. This blow glanced off and Garcia twirled his new spear like a staff and hit the Gorn on the back as it went by. He drew a nice line with the edge of the stone blade from shoulder to mid back. The wound immediately began to drip blood. The Gorn cried out in pain, arching its back, but it was not mortally wounded.
“Now, guys, look, someone is going to get seriously hurt if you keep this up,” Garcia said. Using his knee, he broke the spear in half.
The first Gorn to attack made a grunt and another Gorn entered the conflict. Three Gorn now circled, a little weary but still exuding enough confidence that they would have Garcia skewered before the end of this. Garcia held the two ends of the broken spear in each hand, taking the stance of a Pilipino stick fighter. After the three lunged simultaneously, and lost, they could barely understand how Garcia had bested them. All three ended up cut and one had ended up unconscious due to a blow against the base of the skull. The remaining Gorn were now enraged.
“I don’t think he’s dead,” Garcia said. “But we should really end this now.”
Garcia considered his options as the remaining Gorn closed the circle. The only way he was going to get out of this was to badly wound and or kill them, neither of which he wanted to do. The other thing was that there was no way he was going to avoid getting hurt, for it would only take one of them grabbing his arm or leg and it would be all over for him. Garcia backed closer to the edge of the cliff.
“This really sucks, you know,” Garcia said. They didn’t seem to care.
Without further ado, he made his decision. He tossed the two ends of the spear hitting the two closest Gorn in the head. He then grabbed the spear he had stuck in the ground, batted a Gorn over the head, hitting another in the leg, and managed to maneuver beyond their line. He ran towards the stream and leaped off the side of the cliff, using his spear to pole volt to get some distance. The Gorn made it to the edge just in time to see Garcia hit the water below, just beyond the water fall. When they did not see him emerge, they figure that was that, but they all agreed that because they needed proof of the day’s events, they needed to go collect the body. It would take them three hours to get down to the base of the waterfall, taking the route they took to go and collect the prey they would normally drive off the cliff, but the thought of the prize was worth the walk. Hopefully it would compensate them for the herd they had given up on.
By the time the Garcia clone had worked his way back to the portal drop off site, his clothes were dry and the sun had set. He had tried tracking his friends, but apparently Seven and or Afu had wisely concealed their escape in an effort to avoid the Gorn following them. When his communicator failed to produce a response, he considered calling out to them. It was probably safe calling out, but he held his silence because there were Gorn still on the prowl. He had managed to evade several teams patrolling the immediate area, looking for signs of him and his friends. There was also meat eating dinosaurs that would just love to snack on a soft human being; quiet just made good sense. He had just barely escaped a T-Rex earlier and only out of shear luck at that.
The stars provided ample light to navigate by. The view was amazing and he was almost certain the glow of stars was the Milky Way. He could only imagine where in the Milky Way he was. In addition to the star light were billions of lightening bugs, a cloud of bugs for every bush and tree. The air was thick with flying insects, but fortunately the mosquitoes seemed uninterested in him. The sounds of crickets, cicadas, and other insects were overwhelming, and with the lack of artificial light, it made the reality of it all unsettling. This was more than likely going to be his home for the rest of his life, so he might as well memorize the sounds, and get use to them. He passed through a cluster of trees looking for evidence of his friends having been there. He was in the thick of the shadows and about to depart when he was ambushed from behind. Whoever had attacked him was a superior fighter to him and he quickly went to the ground. He was effectively pinned and could just barely see the fist coming down to pound him in the head. It stopped before hitting him.
“Garcia?” she asked.
“Seven?” Garcia asked.
Seven got off him and aided him to his feet. “I’m sorry,” Seven said. “The way you were sneaking around, I took you for a Gorn.”
“I was sneaking around because I wanted to avoid the Gorn,” Garcia said.
“Did I hurt you?” Seven said.
“No,” Garcia said, but his voice carried a ‘wounded’ quality, perhaps because of the question. “Were you successful?”
“Yes,” Seven said. “Come with me.”
Garcia accompanied her towards the silhouette of a mesa that reminded him of a place in Texas he had seen photos of: Enchanted Rock. The closer they got to it he could hear the moaning sounds the rock made as it gave off the heat that it had collected during the day. It was an eerie sound which he had only read about but it now made sense why the Native Americans would have considered Enchanted Rock haunted.
“Why aren’t our communicators working?” Garcia asked her.
“I suspect the Preservers deactivated them when they originally abducted us and brought us into their base,” Seven said. “Afu is using the tricorder to try and reinitialize them.”
Seven led him to the base of the mesa where they climbed to an opening. Once in the cave she led Garcia by hand through the dark until they came around several bends and into the light of a camp fire. There was a hole in the ceiling that looked straight up, towards the night sky and the stars.
Afu rushed to Garcia and hugged the air out of him. “My god, I am so happy to see you alive. I thought for sure you died when the ship blew up!”
“Garcia made it out,” Garcia said. “You realize I am a clone, created by a Preserver transporter.”
“Seven did try to explain it to me, but you know, I don’t care,” Afu said. “I am still happy to see you.”
“You sure did find a nice little cave to hide in,” Garcia said.
“We lucked out,” Afu agreed. “It’s a very defensible place, something we’re going to need if we’re to stay here any length of time. Between the Gorn and the dinosaurs, we’re a bit out classed and out numbered. Any idea what planet this is?”
“I am not familiar with the arrangement of stars,” Seven said. “However, I am confident that we are still in the Milky Way galaxy. This planet may be the site of an ongoing Preserver experiment.”
“I concur,” Garcia said. “And, I discovered a Preserver artifact. If this isn’t an experiment, then it’s a sanctuary for extinct Earth animals.”
“Do you think this artifact has another Iconian Gateway we can use to get somewhere other than here?” Afu asked. He hit another mosquito that had lighted on his neck.
“I doubt it,” Garcia said. “It looks more like the artifact Kirk found on Miramee’s planet. It’s probably an asteroid deflector.”
“You should take me there in the morning to let me see it,” Seven said. “Perhaps I can find away to access it. At the least, it may have subspace communication capabilities.”
“Getting to it may present a problem,” Garcia said. “It’s smack in the center of Gorn central.”
“Wonderful,” Afu said. “I don’t suppose the Gorn are going to be reasonable or hospitable to guests.”
“Not likely,” Seven said. “We’re dealing with a primitive culture here. These are not Gorn of the 24th century.”
“How can you be sure?” Afu asked.
“I know,” Seven said.
“But how?” Afu asked. He killed another mosquito and cursed.
“My first assessment was that I intuitively would not attempt to assimilate them,” Seven admitted.
“Whoa,” Afu said.
“She’s no longer Borg, Afu,” Garcia said. “But, I suspect some habits and thought patterns die hard. It’s a fair way to evaluate a species’ value, I suppose.”
Seven looked away not pleased that Garcia seemed to know her so well. Garcia’s attention fell on the sleeping woman near the fire and the conversation switched to the girl.
“Her name is Elika,” Afu said. “From what I gather she was thrown into a volcano by the people of her village. When I found her, she was frozen in some form of suspended animation. She has no memories of how she came to be in that state. The last thing she remembered was falling and then the next thing she knew was that I was touching her.”
They continued to talk for another hour, until Elika finally arose. She moved closer to Afu and leaned against him, hugging him for comfort as she stared at the new stranger. Garcia needed to stretch and as he stood, he looked up and saw the moon framed in the space over head.
“Oh my god,” Garcia said.
Afu looked up. “That can’t be,” Afu said.
“It’s okay,” Elika assured them. “It’s just the full moon.”
“It’s the Earth’s moon,” Seven said.
Garcia scrambled for the tricorder and rushed back to the mouth of the cave. Seven, Afu, and Elika followed, slowing to make their way through the dark passage which obscured their camp from outside eyes. At the mouth of the cave, they could see down over the land, the hill country that was beginning to look more and more like the Hill Country of Texas. The moon lit up the landscape, revealing dinosaurs moving across the land in the cool of night. But Garcia saw none of the creatures. His eyes were only for the stars.
“There,” Seven said, pointing. “That is probably a planet.”
“Jupiter,” Garcia said. “And that’s Mars. We’re definitely on Earth.”
“This can’t be,” Afu mumbled.
“If that star is what I think it is,” Garcia mumbled, shifting through the star charts in the tricorder. “Then, based on my calculations, we were transported several million years into the past.”
Garcia turned to the voices of Duana and Ilona, who were now singing, “When the moon is in the seventh house. And Jupiter aligns with Mars. Then peace will guide the planets. And love will steer the stars.”
“Oh, don’t start that,” Garcia snapped at them, trying to suppress the song “Aquarius” by the old rock group the Fifth Dimension before it became repetitious in his head.
Seven looked at Garcia suspiciously. “Are you having stress induced hallucinations?” she asked.
“Oh, he has them all the time,” Afu tried to reassure her. “Some kind of mind meld accident which created extra personalities that took up residents in his head.”
“He is a Shaman,” Elika stated, as if she recognized Garcia’s power now.
“Tell them how long we have,” Ilona said.
Garcia frowned. “Further, if my calculations are right, we have at the most, six months before the cataclysm that annihilates the dinosaurs.”
“Not good,” Duana said.
“Then I guess it’s a good thing the Preservers left an asteroid deflector with the Gorn,” Afu said.
Garcia turned suddenly to his friend. “Oh my god,” Garcia said. “We’ve got to destroy that monolith.”
“Are you crazy?” Duana asked.
“If we don’t, we, hell, for that matter the whole human race, will never have existed,” Garcia said.
“Oh, good times,” Afu said.
Garcia stepped through the portal and was greeted affectionately, Klingon style, by Lt. N’elent. She had made a claim on Garcia some time ago and it was no secret the two of them had been intimate. At the time, she had been unknowingly infected with a parasite that had prevented her from getting pregnant, or she would have been closer to term. As it was, it was because of his encounter with N’elent, that the same parasite had infected Garcia. Unfortunately for Garcia, being infected was a terminal condition if the parasite wasn’t removed, which prompted an emergency medical procedure to save his life. Since there was only two ways of getting this parasite, eating the raw heart of an infected Targ, or having sexual relations with someone who was infected, the parasitical infection had been traced back to her so that she could be cured. Consequently, that meant it was possible for her to conceive and it had happened one of two ways: either when Garcia and she had been intimate a second time, or when he had transported her off the SaLing with the Kelvan transporter. It didn’t matter which method; it was definitely his baby. Her current enthusiasm at her condition showed in the exuberant manner in which she met Garcia.
N’elent pulled back just enough to see his eyes. “Where is my warrior tiger?” she asked. She ignored Ilona who was pointing at Aahla. “You are being too timid.”
“I’m under the weather,” Garcia said, excusing himself.
N’elent turned to Doctor Misan, punching him in the shoulder. “Why aren’t you doing your job? Make him better.”
“N’elent, I’ll be fine. We’ll talk later, but for now, I’m due on the Bridge,” Garcia said. “Oh, and prep a shuttle for going planet side.”
“Aye,” N’elent said, angry that it was all business, and not bothering to hide it.
Garcia headed for the Bridge, followed by Tuer, Duana and Ilona. He should have been considering ship business, but he was wondering how he was going to cope with a lot of angry, pregnant Klingon women, mixed with all the other women, and all of them vying for his attention at the same time. Not to mention they would all probably come to term about the same time; he shuddered at the thought. A number of the female “Klingon” officers stared Garcia down as they passed. And rightly so: he had done this to them against their will. Tuer commented on their staring, but Garcia told him to ignore it. They had a right to look at them the way they were doing and he was going to tolerate it. They all took this right to life business serious, and more than that, some very old, almost instinctual rules had taken over making them see Garcia as a powerful clan leader who had simply claimed them for his own. It probably wasn’t so, but that was how they were acting.
“They did ask for battle trophies,” Duana tried reassuring Garcia with humor, trying to be funny. “What a better way to commemorate?!”
Garcia fumed, but held back his response. He squeezed his left wrist.
It didn’t take long to get to the Bridge and when Garcia was announced, everyone stood. Gowr greeted him with a salute, closed fist to the heart, hitting his chest twice. The officers on the bridge, of which only two were male, echoed the salute, minus the chest pounding, which was reserved for earned friendship. The tempest crew had more female Officers than any Klingon ship due to the fact Kitara had recruited friends that had been over looked for promotions in the Klingon fleet. Garcia could almost feel the stares as if they were shooting daggers at him.
Garcia emulated the salute. “Status report,” Garcia said.
“We’re still unable to break free of the hand,” Gowr said. “However, we have determined that the hand is comprised of force fields and holographic matter. It’s not an actual hand.”
“Have you been able to detect an omicron field?” Garcia asked. “Or a power source on the planet?”
Before Gowr could answer, the main viewer came to life with the image of a woman. The perspective showed the full woman, dressed in a toga and other Greek accouterments, such as sandals with straps winding to her knees, and thin gold bracelets on her left wrist. She also wore a hunter’s bow and a quiver of arrows, as well as a sword. She walked forward so that only her upper torso and head was framed in the viewer, but it was clear she had her arms on her hips, akimbo style like an angry mother.
“I’m not accustomed to having to wait for a mortal to answer my call, Tammas Parkin Arblaster-Garcia,” she said.
“That’s Captain Tammas Parkin Arblaster-Garcia to you,” Garcia said, and was actually amused by seeing the anger on the god’s face. “Athena, I presume. I’m sorry for the delay, but I’m not accustomed to jumping just because someone claiming to be a god says jump.”
“You will beam down and speak with me in person,” Athena ordered.
“You will release my ship and I will consider it,” Garcia said.
“I will release your ship after you have beamed down,” Athena said.
“Well, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to wait, as I prefer not to transport,” Garcia said. “I’ll be down in about forty five minutes. Viewer off.”
“You want me to carpet bomb her location?” Gowr asked.
“No, but keep scanning for a power source,” Garcia said. “We may have to take that out with a surgical phaser strike.”
“Permission to go to the planet with you?” Gowr asked.
“Why not,” Garcia said.
“Kurak, your ship,” Gowr said.
“Aye,” Kurak said, saluting before she took the command seat. Her eyes never left Garcia.
Once the lift doors closed and they were on the way down, Garcia asked Gowr: “Did the Gray Queen provide you with any Kaluza-Klein particle lasers?”
“She was able to provide us with the basic principles, but claimed to lack the resources for building an actual working model,” Gowr said. “Gates are easy, she said. Weapons are difficult. I have a weapon’s master working on the construction of a prototype as we speak.”
Garcia nodded. The lift opened and they were met by Officers armed to the teeth, carrying extra weapons and armor so as to prep the Away team as they continued towards the shuttle bay. Garcia accepted the sword and sheath with a strap that went over his shoulder, putting the sword against his back, and a gun belt that carried the Gorn miniature rail gun he had appropriated from an earlier run-in with the Gorn. The weapon was illegal according to the Star Fleet charter, but if it gave him an edge against a god, he intended to carry it. Duana and Ilona strapped the same on, so they resembled him, only cuter. Garcia had intended to stand on the shuttle ride down, but the officers insisted he be seated, which meant he had to remove the sword.
“So, is this your ship’s mascot?” Gowr asked, referring to the tiger. “I thought you rescued a targ for that duty.”
All the Klingons laughed, a couple of them braving to slap the Admiral on the arms.
“The tiger’s name is Aahla,” Garcia said. “And she has a taste for Klingon blood.”
The laughter stopped.
Garcia smiled up at Gowr, who exploded suddenly into laughter, hitting Garcia. Everyone joined in. And then someone started to sing a war song, appropriate for their descent into potential battle. Garcia added counter point, using a classic Klingon form of the cannon that doubled as chorus and background melody. Only Gowr was not surprised. The newly recruited warriors stood a little taller, out of respect to Garcia, realizing the rumors they had heard about him were no doubt true. Garcia sat down and slept the rest of the descent, which only further raised his esteem in the Klingon’s eyes. A human who could relax well enough to sleep before a potential battle was a rare man. And the human who trusted his life to his fellow Klingon warriors enough to sleep near them, was even rarer. It was the most complementary thing Garcia could have done, short of dying at their side.
The shuttle landed and Gowr took charge of the exit, the Away team falling out in a prearranged order. Garcia woke on his own as the shuttle powered down. He stepped off the shuttle and advanced, flanked by warriors, and followed by Duana and Ilona behind him and to the right and left. He was wide awake, for he always transitioned from sleep to full wake instantly, but he did have drool on his chin, which he wiped away on his sleeve. Duana always seemed to be on his left side, he realized as he noted the positions of his mental companions. He approached a classical Greek temple, iconic pillars supporting a flat, marble roof. Athena sat in a large marble chair, her bow and sword set aside. To her right was a member from a species Garcia had thought extinct: a female Cheronian, instantly recognizable due to the remarkable feature that half her skin was black and the other half white, as if someone had drawn a line right down the center of her. Garcia knew that the race had driven itself into extinction during a civil war, but that did not mean that the Preservers hadn’t managed to ‘save’ a number of specimens. Could the Preservers themselves have been responsible for starting the civil war? Garcia wanted to believe that, as opposed to believing that racism could be so prevalent that a species would fight to the point of extinction or participate in genocide. The other female was Minaran, a species Garcia recognized only because he had mind melded with McCoy. The fact that she was extremely empathic made it possible for him to confirm his suspicion, but she remained neutral in her response, neither smiling nor frowning at his attempt to communicate with her telepathically.
Athena uncrossed her legs, stood, and slowly descended down the marble steps, lifting her hand as if she expected Garcia to take it and kiss her knuckles. Instead, she paused as she caught sight of the tiger and pointed at it.
“You were not invited,” Athena addressed the tiger.
“None the less, I am here,” Aahla said.
“Garcia, are you aware of what sort of company you keep?” Athena asked.
“I choose my company,” Garcia said, as if that was all that needed to be said. “Unlike you, I don’t have to create a race of slaves or buy my friends.”
“If you are referring to my companions, they are not slaves,” Athena said. “They choose to be with me.”
“Right,” Garcia said. “I’m not here to argue with you, but I am here. Now let my ship go.”
“Your ship is free,” Athena said, nodding.
Garcia looked to Gowr, who placed a call to the ship to confirm the situation. Garcia heard the response but waited until Gowr nodded in satisfaction.
Athena and Garcia stepped closer together simultaneously. “What is it you want, Athena?” Garcia asked.
“You are in possession of Preserver technology and are harboring a Gray renegade,” Athena said.
“Wouldn’t that be a rene-Gray?” Duana asked in jest.
Athena and Garcia gave a sour look to Duana and then ignored her. “I thought it was funny,” Duana mumbled to Ilona.
“If you’re referring to the orbs manifesting my back up singers, I’m afraid I can’t give them up,” Garcia said. “I’m rather attached to them. Telepathically speaking, of course. As for the Gray, I offered her and any of her kind that chooses freedom, sanctuary.”
“There is no sanctuary,” Athena said. “They have made a commitment to us and they will follow through on that obligation or suffer the consequences.”
“I will not condone or participate in the slavery of any species,” Garcia said. “To you or anyone.”
“You say this out of ignorance,” Athena said. “They are no more slave to us than a Trill host is to the symbiont. Their function is to serve us. That is the way of it.”
“The difference with the Trill, and the way I see you, is that the Trill host has a choice,” Garcia said.
“Do you really think that no host was ever taken against their will?” Athena said.
“This is not open to discussion,” Garcia said. “I will not turn her, or any in her colony, over to you.”
“I am prepared to offer you a truce,” Athena said.
“A truce would suggest that we’re at war,” Garcia said. “And I don’t recall any open declarations made to that effect.”
“You really don’t want a war with us,” Athena said. “I’m sure your bitch cat whore will tell you that much. Give me what I want and I will guarantee your Gray colony’s safety and you may keep your Preserver technology, on the condition that you refrain from making any more Gates, and do not attempt to duplicate the Orbs.”
“I don’t see any reason why I should listen any further to you,” Garcia said.
Athena stepped closer to him, touched his collar. “If you think the Kelvan and the Borg were the worse threat your species ever faced then you need to think again. There is a temporal war coming, has come, will come, is currently raging. You species could be eliminated before it has even become a species.”
Aahla stepped forward. “Are you threatening to break the temporal truce?”
“Be silent,” Athena snapped at her, pointing. “You already know what’s coming and you could no more prevent it than I could.”
“If neither of you can prevent it, then tell me again why I should listen to you?” Garcia said.
“Like her kind, you have endeared yourself to us as a species,” Athena said. “If you were to create an alliance with me, it would strengthen the bond we share, which has the potential of improving the outcome for all of us.”
“You see, I don’t like these sorts of conversations,” Garcia said. “It’s all cryptic and stupid and I don’t feel you’re really bargaining with me as much as toying with me.”
“Afu is alive,” Athena said. “I will see to it that he is returned to you, unharmed.”
“You’re holding him prisoner?!” Garcia asked.
“No,” Athena said. “I just know where he is and can facilitate his return.”
“Tam, she’s playing you,” Duana said.
Garcia turned to her. “No, you’re kidding?” he said, flippantly.
“Don’t take that tone with me,” Duana said. “I’m just trying to help.”
“I say we kill her and get this war started,” Ilona said.
“Oh, god, why are you two in my head again?” Garcia demanded.
“I could exercise them,” Athena said.
“You’re not messing with my head,” Garcia told Athena point blank. “There has been enough of that already. Alright, fine, what is it you want from me exactly?”
“I want you to father a child with me,” Athena said.
“Oh, everywhere we bloody go,” Kletsova said.
Garcia laughed. “That’s all?” Garcia asked.
“You gave her one!” Athena said, pointing to the cat. “She knows that it changes the balance. I will have one as well.”
“The cat’s pregnant?” Gowr asked Kletsova.
Kletsova shrugged. It was the first she had heard of it. Duana and Ilona looked at each other and said, “Kittens?”
Garcia took Athena by the wrist, pulling her right into him. She locked her hand onto his wrist.
“Deal,” Garcia said. “If that’s all it takes to get some peace and quiet, an end to a war, and my friend Afu back, you can have one.”
Thunder rolled across the sky and lightening struck the temple. Apollo appeared, lurking in the clouds larger than life, spying down on them, hands out stretched. “Betrayer!” he yelled. “You will die, bitch. All of you will die!”
Lightening ripped from Apollo’s hand. One of the warrior’s fell, layers of muscles and his skeleton visible as the lightening coursed over and through his body.
“Take cover!” Garcia ordered, drawing his miniature rail gun. He tried to pull Athena towards the cover of a marble slab, but she held her ground, raising her hand to fire lightening back. In the process he took an indirect hit with lightening. Athena’s companion, the Cheronian, pulled Garcia out of the fire fight, and the Minaran healed Garcia, taking his wounds upon herself, and then becoming unconscious as her body tried to heal herself.
Gowr was suddenly by Garcia’s side. “Are you alright? Is she alright?”
Garcia felt her pulse. “She will be,” he said, standing up. He motioned for Gowr and the Cheronian woman to stay and stepped back out into the open.
Apollo was much closer now and no longer appeared to be part man and part cloud, but was just a giant of a man stepping down from the temple as if it had been nothing more than a foot rest. He continued to shrink in size as he approached as if the angles of perspective were reversed and he was really falling away instead of coming closer. Garcia fired at Apollo, which caused injuries and blood to fly from a torso so perfect that it seemed as if Michelangelo had carved it out of marble.
Apollo seemed shock by the injuries and paused in his progress. With karate style push of his hands, he sent Garcia flying back as if hurled by a wind. Garcia hit a pillar and slid to the ground, but managed to scramble right back to his feet. Apollo was angered by the fact that Garcia didn’t even appear hurt and was about to redouble his efforts to strike him with lightening, but he was hit square in the chest by lightening hurled at him by Athena. Apollo blocked, sending the energy off in random directions and clapped his hands in a call for help. A hole was torn in the day sky, which was technically an open portal framed between two pillars. It might have appeared more ominous to primitive cultures, but everyone present recognized it for what it was. On the other side of the portal, numerous heads turned, eyes glowing. A stream of ‘uglies’ started pouring through the gate, obscuring the hellish background. ‘Uglies’ was the only word Garcia could think of to describe the flow of demons launching themselves through the portal as vigorously as tigers jumping through a burning hoop to please a circus trainer bearing a whip. Suddenly there was a seemingly endless horde of demons abound to struggle with, the mass of creatures pouring through the gate so thick they could hardly tell where one started and one stopped, a sight that almost stilled Garcia with horror. It was definitely distracting him from his original goal of shooting at Apollo. Apollo gave Athena his full attention.
“HIv Suv!” Garcia yelled, which was “Attack Fight” in Klingon, a redundant string that was an easy enough mistake for anyone not versed in Klingon, or overwhelmed by an approaching army of darkness. Garcia fired his M-rail gun into the cloud of demons, perhaps dropping a dozen of them with his weapon before it was out of ammo. He drew his sword and went full at it. He was about to be overwhelmed by ten demons at once, but Duana and Ilona took them out with their own miniature rail guns, firing the rest into the horde that continued to pour through a Gate like water from a broken damn. By this time, all the Klingons were actively engaged in battle against the demons, bat’leths moving in fluid motions, sparking against the noon day sun. It became evident in battle that it was necessary to work back to back, because it only took one of those things latching on to ones back to pretty much end the fight. Kletsova, unable to match the strength of Klingon with sword or knife, fell back and opened up on the creatures with a phaser. She hit three consecutive creatures with short bursts of her phaser set to kill. Each creature doubled in size and ferociousness, forcing her to discard the phaser as a useful weapon.
The Cheronian touched her bracelet and became invisible. A moment later, the Minaran disappeared in a similar manner, as if the Cheronian was picking her up and holding her close to her.
Duana struck a killing blow to one of the monsters with her sword, kicked up her miniature rail gun she had discarded after it was empty and tossed it to Kletsova. Duana dispatched two more demons before retrieving an ammo cartridge from her belt, tossing that to her as well. “Use that!” Duana yelled.
One of the demons had managed to sneak up on Kletsova’s position, climbing over the shuttle, expecting to leap down on her unawares. It would have taken her out, too, except Tuer hit it with a throwing knife, right between its eyes, dropping it at her feet. It startled her so, that she shot it with the Gorn weapon anyway. She made a decision to watch for attacks coming from the top of the shuttle as she fired into the horde.
“More ammo!” Kletsova yelled.
Garcia, Duana, and Ilona managed to simultaneously throw ammo cartridges towards her without breaking stride in their attacks. Ilona’s cartridge hit Kletsova in the forehead, nearly knocking her out.
“Sorry,” Ilona yelled.
Kletsova staggered in pain, stunned, but finally managed to reload her weapon. She did it just in time to drop one of the creatures as she fell back to a sitting position against the shuttle, holding her forehead with one hand and firing away with the other. From here out, her aim was a bit off, but she kept in the game.
Apollo and Athena were engaged in hand to hand battle, their equal powers having been canceled out. Consequently, they were forced to rely on their individual strengths of character, mind, and body. Apollo expected to win over Athena, driving her to the ground with brute force, and perhaps would have, had he not been attacked from behind by a Royal Bengal tiger. Apollo cried out in pain and the Gateway unleashing the horde of demons closed. The demons were not great fighters. Their strength lied in their numbers, their ravenous hunger for all things flesh, and their level of scariness. Once the gate closed the horde was quickly eliminated, leaving an incredible pile of carnage. Bodies and parts littered the ground hardly leaving a bare spot to see earth or grass, a stream of blood flowing towards the shuttle, and a stench that would take months to get out of their clothes, if they didn’t decide to burn them first, was upon them.
Athena seemed winded, but otherwise fine. No open wounds, unlike Apollo who looked like anyone might who had just been bitten on the back of the neck by a tiger. Aahla brushed up against Athena. The Fact that Athena tolerated Aahla’s attention was a testament to just how badly she must have been hurting. All of Garcia’s personnel still standing seemed a bit winded. At least four were dead and two lay wounded on the ground. He hit his comm. badge. “Tempest, get a medical team down here immediately.”
Garcia went to Apollo and pressed the tip of his sword to Apollo’s chest.
“This was unnecessary,” Garcia told him.
“You can’t kill me, mortal,” Apollo said. “I will have my vengeance against you.”
“What is your problem with me?” Garcia asked.
“I curse you,” Apollo said. “You will live to watch most your children die. You will have to decide who will live and who will die. And you will be forced to kill one of your own or allow it to bring such evil upon your kind that you will think you spawned Lucifer himself. The war is on between us, Garcia. Prepare to suffer like no man has ever suffered before.”
“Oh, how cliché is that?” Garcia whined, and then shoved his sword through Apollo’s heart. Apollo cried out in surprise and pain, then surprisingly laughed as his eyes locked one final time on Garcia, his hand reaching up to smear blood on Garcia’s face, and then he feinted dead away. His body evaporated away into a mist, revealing an Orb which fell to the ground. The Orb was already illuminated, but it began to grow in brilliance and began emitting an ominous sound.
Athena rushed over to the Orb and threw it towards the temple. “Take cover,” Athena yelled.
One of the warriors standing near Garcia anticipated what was about to come. She grabbed Garcia by the arm, swept his feet, and took him to the ground, putting her body on top of his as a shield.
No sooner than Athena had finished saying the words ‘take cover’ there came a tremendous explosion that sent pillars crashing. The flash of light whited out the sky and sent a rush of heated air outwards. A miniature mushroom cloud blossomed. The sound continued ringing in their ears even thirty minutes after the burst. Few of them had had time to find sufficient cover. The warrior on top of Garcia was as good as dead, lying limp on top of him, a sizeable chunk of marble imbedded in her armor and obviously penetrating her back. Aahla rolled the dead weight off of Garcia and rolled him over, checking his vitals. He brushed her off, and tried to get up, hating the fact he was literally laying in a flow of blood, but he was still too disoriented to even sit up, his vision blurry. He could see Gowr standing over him, talking, but couldn’t hear. Then Doctor Misan was kneeling beside him, pumping his arm full of something. Garcia closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Blue skies capped the hole over the cave fortress that Afu had found. They had continued to discuss their plight while morning turned into day, and though the air was fresh and sunlight pleasant, it didn’t remove the weight of what they were deliberating over. In addition to that, they were all hungry, thirsty, and little rested having nothing but hard rock for cushions. Only Garcia seemed unmolested by the numerous biting insects that had pestered the group.
“So what is this, a predestination paradox?” Afu asked, scratching the back of his neck.
“Yes,” Seven said. “We are obviously here to prevent the Gorn from colonizing Earth.”
“Well, obviously we’re successful, whatever we decide to do,” Afu said.
“Don’t think like that,” Garcia said. “We could still easily get ourselves killed and then everything else we know just goes away.”
“Not necessarily,” Afu said. “We could do nothing and the whole thing still be okay because we couldn’t be here now if our past wasn’t our future. Did I say that right?”
“That’s why they call it a paradox, Afu,” Garcia said.
“Garcia is right. We must destroy the monolith, even if it results in our own destruction,” Seven said.
“Wait a minute,” Afu said. “I remember reading a book once where time travelers went into the past as tourists and one of the tourists went off the official path, accidentally stepped on a butterfly and completely destroyed the time line. Could that happen?”
“If we’re successful, 97 percent of all life on earth will become extinct,” Seven said. “I doubt any one butterfly that we kill will make a difference at this juncture.”
“Unless that butterfly is the one whose descendants repopulate the earth and evolve into people,” Afu said, killing another mosquito and suddenly regretting it.
“It wouldn’t be a butterfly, but a rodent. So don’t kill rodents. Either way, we can’t obsess over those details,” Garcia said. “Or we won’t be able to function. Let’s focus on eliminating the monolith.”
“What about finding a way off the planet?” Afu asked.
“Right. We’ll cut some trees down and build a spaceship,” Garcia said, being a smart ass. “Look, I don’t have an answer Afu. This may be the final game for us. If it is, we know our mission and we know that the end results justify the means. We’re already dead, we just have to win the game.”
“Screw that,” Afu said. “I was thinking of changing my name to Adam and starting the human race.”
“Funny,” Garcia said. “We’re still twenty million years too soon for that.”
“Very well. I suppose if you want to march on the Gorn village, I could use the phaser to stun half of them if they charge us,” Afu said.
“You could take out more than that if you shoot to kill, wide beam dispersal,” Seven said.
“Here’s the problem with that. We can’t justify killing all the Gorn,” Afu argued
“What difference does it make if we shoot them or blow up the monolith and allow an asteroid to take them out?” Garcia asked.
“Not much, I guess, except knowing that I didn’t shoot them,” Afu said. “We need to come up with a plan for getting to the monolith with the least amount of issues. Killing one Gorn will only enrage the rest of them, and killing half of them will magnify the trouble even more. And I do not want to kill all the Gorn in an unfair fight.”
“I think one phaser against ten thousand, spear throwing Gorn is a fair fight,” Garcia said. “But I agree, the best idea is sneaking in during the night, perhaps under the cover of a thunder storm.”
“We’ll need a way to enter the monolith once we’re there,” Seven said.
“We need to eat,” Elika said, saying the only thing that made sense to her, since she was unable to follow the conversation at all. And the fact that she was starving motivated her to speak up.
“And water,” Seven agreed. “Elika is right. Our first order of business is survival so we can make further plans.”
“I guess I can go hunting,” Afu said. “Anyone up for dinosaur barbecue?”
“I’ll do the hunting,” Garcia said.
Afu looked at him. “Really?” he said, surprised.
“I’ve always said, I’m not going to eat any meats I didn’t kill,” Garcia said. “And, I will need a source of fats and proteins in order to keep my strength. Dinosaurs are the easiest, cheapest source of food available, and it might be considered a mercy killing, considering their fate. The majority of the survivors are doomed to starve.”
Afu handed Garcia the phaser rifle.
“No,” Garcia said. “I’ll find another spear.”
“You’re joking, right?” Afu asked. “You’re going to go up against a dinosaur without a phaser?”
“We need to conserve the phaser’s battery for a potential show down with the Gorn,” Garcia said. “Plus, I’m not leaving the Garcia commune defenseless. I will choose prey of appropriate size and ease of catch. Preferably eggs. Or a Gorn supply stash.”
“I think you should avoid the Gorn,” Seven said.
“I’ll try,” Garcia said. “Afu, the stream is the closest source of water. See if you can’t find a way to bring some here. Seven, take the tricorder and skirt the Gorn village. We need to know exactly how many, their strengths and weaknesses, and whether or not it’s going to be feasible to sneak up on the artifact. Afu, if you can get our communicators working again, that would give us an advantage.”
“I’ll get on it as soon as Seven returns with the tricorder,” Afu said.
“What do you want me to do?” Elika asked, eager to be an active part of her new community.
“Stay with Afu,” Garcia said.
A bit of fortune had favored Garcia as he had been able to recover the spear he had chunked at the Gorn the previous day. The Gorn had most likely ripped it out of his arm and had thrown it down, the weapon no longer valuable due to some superstitious belief that if it had spilt Gorn blood, it was no longer a lucky spear. It was definitely lucky for Garcia, for it was going to make hunting and or fishing much easier. He also found a bit of rope where Afu and Elika had been tied to the tree. It wasn’t of great length, but he couldn’t see wasting it. He tied the strands together, wrapped it around his waste, and tied it off. He then took a path up stream to get well out of the Gorn hunting grounds. After about an hour walk, he was starting to get a little disillusioned about how easy it was going to be to find food. The day before he had seen hundreds of dinosaurs ranging, but today he had barely even felt a tremor or heard a roar.
The Mesquite tree population became increasingly denser as he continued to follow the stream, making not quite a forest, but almost. He stopped to test some berries at a bush and decided they were eatable. After sampling a few, he looked for signs of any animals that might also have been sharing the berries with him, any thing easy to catch. He was kneeling down, examining tracks when he heard a scream. He got up and rushed towards the river.
What he saw amazed him. There was a camp site that could have passed for a modern day camp site, with a rubber life raft doubling for a bed, an actual sleeping bag, a small natural gas stove, and a coffee pot. The creature that had screamed was humanoid, bi-pedal, and reptilian, but nothing at all similar to a Gorn. She was backing away from a baby T-rex, holding something like a cam-corder in one hand and a Klingon pain stick in the other. The T-Rex came forwards and she touched the stick to it. There was large electric discharge and T-Rex reared back, but it was not dissuaded in the slightest. It swung its head at her and knocked her to the ground.
Garcia charged the T-Rex, screaming at the top of his lungs, “Get away from her!” The T-Rex tilted its head and then turned its body towards Garcia as he entered the alien’s camp site. It actually took a step back, probably not certain what to make of Garcia’s antics, for it had probably never been charged at before. Garcia poked at it with the spear, trying to drive it back. It brushed the spear off with no consequence and came forward, hitting Garcia with a direct head butt. Garcia flew back into a tree and slid to the ground, his left arm broken. The T-Rex roared, spit, and tilted its head to better perceive the morsel it was about to devour. Garcia forced himself to stand, his left arm hanging uselessly. The T-Rex charged and at the last second Garcia lifted the spear and braced it against the tree. The stone tip end of the spear went in the T-Rex’s mouth and out the back of its neck. It reared back in wretched pain, staggered, tried to roar, tried to shake the spear out, began to choke on its own blood, and then fell on its side as it kicked, its front claw unable to reach the spear to pull it free.
Garcia leaned against the tree and slid to the ground again, raw emotions pouring out of him, not just because of his pain, but because of his overwhelming sense of empathy for the animal and how badly it was suffering. The distress the animal was in was reflected in its pathetic cries, its body convulsing. This hadn’t been a hate killing, but a killing for mere survival, and it still saddened Garcia to no end that it was going to be a long, tortuous death. Had he the tools, he would sedate it, heal it, and send it on its way.
The non-Gorn reptilian approached the T-Rex, a new weapon in her hand. She fired it at the creature, sending several projectiles into its head. It went still. She turned to Garcia, both her camera and her weapon aimed at him.
“This is not the creature I’ve been tracking for several days now,” she said out loud, for the benefit of the camera. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Notice its clothing. And you saw the way it rushed in to protect me. It has to be sentient.”
She approached closer. “Shhh, easy now,” she said. “I only want to help. I want to look at your arm. Do you understand?”
Garcia was struggling to stay conscious. “Help me.”
“My god, it speaks common,” she said. She pocketed her weapon and pulled out a radio, with a gold, flip top lid slash antennae. With a flip of her wrist, the antennae extended revealing the inner mechanisms and it made a chirp as it self activated. “Computer, activate transporter for an emergency beam out. Lock on to my GPS coordinates and beam two directly to my dad’s laboratory. Energize.”
A moment later she and Garcia were in a place more civilized, looking much like a modern day medical clinic. She started yelling for assistance.
“Father! Father, I need you, quick!” she yelled. She set down her camera, arranging it so it could continue filming, and tried to help Garcia up. “Father! Computer, find my dad and tell him there’s an emergency in his lab.”
The computer acknowledged her command as she lifted Garcia to a medical table. He was surprised at her strength. Another of her kind entered. Taller and older.
“What’s all the ruckus, Ket?” the older, male reptilian asked. “Don’t tell me you brought in another stray, wounded pup…”
“Dad, you got to help me. Its arm is broken,” she said.
“What the devil is that?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but it saved my life,” she said.
“Saved your life?” he said.
“I was in the badlands, chasing a new species and was nearly eaten by a T-Rex,” she said.
“I’ve told you to stay out of the badlands,” he admonished her.
“Dad, help him!”
“The best thing we can do for it is put it down,” he said.
“Dad! It’s sentient,” she protested.
“It appears to be a mammal,” he argued. “Mammals are not sentient.”
“Explain its clothing,” she challenged.
“It’s probably somebody’s pet,” he offered. “The Meel clan has been performing some interesting genetic experiments on rodents. This is probably the result.”
“Please!” she continued to argue. “In all of Atlantis, have you ever heard or seen anything like it? I got video of it saving me!”
“Probably a trained reflex,” he said, inspecting it a little closer. He poked it gingerly. “I think it’s in shock. Not much muscle mass. You would think if anyone were going to genetically alter something like a rodent, they would give it some upper body strength so it can be used for general labor.” He examined the arm. “Compound fracture,” he said.
“You can fix that. You’ve fixed worse,” she said.
“True,” he agreed, musing. “I would be interested to see how the regenerator works on this type of tissue.”
“Easy,” the male reptilian said. “I’m going to try and help you.”
“Who are you people?” Garcia asked.
“See, it speaks,” she said.
“I heard,” he said, flabbergasted. “It has learned to mimic forms of speech.”
“Dad, it spoke our language!” she argued.
“No,” Garcia corrected. “I have technology that enables us to communicate. A universal translator. If you play back your recording, you would hear the difference.”
The male reptilian picked up a scanner and ran it over Garcia. “It’s speaking true,” he said. “There is technology imbedded in the clothing, in the medallion, and, oh my, there is technology inside your brain. How can this be? This is well beyond anything we have.”
“It’s an implant,” Garcia tried to explain. He could barely keep his eyes open.
“Dad, he’s an extraterrestrial,” Ket said.
“You’ve been watching too much fiction,” he said.
“What else can he be, Dad? He’s not Voth and you clearly see his technology is not Voth,” she said.
“We’re going to have to run more genetic scans for anything conclusive,” he said. “Look, this genetic marker is Terran based genetics. He’s from here.”
“What about these markers?” she demanded.
“Bad reader message,” he offered.
“I am from several million years into your future, the descendant of the people that evolved on this planet, though I was not born on this planet,” Garcia said. “Please help me. I will try to explain.”
“Ah, wonderful. An alien and a time traveler. That pretty much completes both clichés, doesn’t it? What was that movie you were so fond of, Ket, where the astronaut thinks he’s going to another planet but lands on Terra some unspecified time in the future only to find it run by talking mammals? Classic,” he said. To Garcia he said: “Time travel is impossible. Science fiction. I can’t believe I’m even speaking at you.”
“Dad, who knows what will evolve in several million years,” Ket said. “Why have you come back in time? Was it because of the climate change? Global cooling is our fault, but we’re trying to bring it back into balance.”
“Global cooling?” Garcia asked. “Am I dreaming?”
“You dream? You have sleep cycles? Dad, we got to heal him. If we want the full story we have to repair him and ease his distress,” Ket said. “Surely you have enough scientific curiosity left that you are willing to at least listen to what he has to say?”
“Fine,” he said. “Prepare a sedative while I get my kit. But, I have bad feelings over all. Nothing good is going to come of this, mark my words.”
Ket returned with a hypospray that might have been at home during McCoy’s time. She put it against Garcia’s arm.
“Don’t worry,” Ket said. “This won’t hurt a bit.”
“Wait,” Garcia tried. “I need to stay conscious.”
But it was too late. He was gone.
When Garcia came to, he found himself lying on a table, covered with a single sheet. His clothes were gone and he seemed to be alone. He sat up, squinting, taking in the sights of the room. He heard gentle laughter in the background and when he focused he heard conversation. The voices sounded familiar. He looked around for his clothes, but saw none of his stuff. He eased out of bed, trying to be quiet.
“Dad, I’m telling you I saw another reptilian species in the badlands,” she said.
“Next thing you will be telling me is you have made cast of big feet,” the older one chuckled.
“Be serious,” Ket said. “I may have found the missing link.”
Garcia tried opening a cabinet and discovered it opened easy enough, but did so louder than he anticipated and the contents fell to the floor. The conversation upstairs went quiet.
“Is that you?” called the female voice belonging to Ket.
Garcia frowned, but didn’t speak.
“Please come up and join us. We have prepared food,” Ket called to him.
This was no doubt a test, perhaps to see if he was social and capable of rational choice. Garcia wrapped the sheet around himself like a toga and climbed the short flight of stairs. The two reptilian creatures were sitting in lounge chairs, made especially for their comfort, watching for him to make an appearance. The chairs they sat in, in fact all of the furniture, had a central focus, which was the fireplace, center of the room. Garcia found the coolness of the wooden floors against his bare feet pleasant. There was the hint of pine in the air. Garcia approached them cautiously and sat on the hearth, his back to the fire. A monitor on the far wall was playing video of Garcia’s brave rescue attempt.
“Are you cold or are you modest?” the male asked.
“A little of both,” Garcia admitted.
“But we’ve seen you naked,” Ket said.
“May I have my clothes back?” Garcia asked.
“In time,” the man said. “We’d like to talk to you. How’s your arm?”
“It’s good, thank you,” Garcia said, moving his arm through all points of articulation. “You did good work.”
“The tray of fruit there is for you,” Ket said. “We weren’t sure what you would eat, so we chose a variety. The diet of mammals varies from species to species, but we figure based on your teeth and digestive tract that you’re an omnivore.”
“Thank you,” Garcia said, picking a slice of fruit from the tray that he didn’t recognize. He wondered how many plant varieties of the fruit bearing kind would not make it to the twenty fourth century. “This is good.”
“Now, let’s start with where you’re from,” the male reptilian said.
“No,” Garcia said. “Let’s start with names. My name is Tammas Parkin Arblaster-Garcia. My friends call me Tam.”
The reptilian nodded. “Social etiquette. Nice. And I concur. It is much more civil to start with names. My name is Gilgamesh. And you’ve already met my grand daughter, Ketimer, or Ket.”
“Gilgamesh,” Garcia repeated, to make certain he heard what he thought he heard.
“Yes, or Gil if you prefer,” Gil said.
“And thank you for helping me,” Ket said. “Normally the beasts run off with a zap of electricity.”
“Had she listened to me, you would not have had to risk your life to save her,” Gil said.
“I was following signs of a sentient species,” Ket said. “I think they may be distantly related to us.”
“She likes to imagine things,” Gil said.
“I suspect you’re referring to the Gorn,” Garcia said. “They’re a reptilian species, not indigenous to this planet.”
“You’ve seen them!” Ket said, sitting forwards.
“They’re alien invaders?” Gil asked.
“They don’t belong here, that’s for sure,” Garcia said. “But neither do you.”
“What do you mean, neither do we?” Gil asked. “Terra is our home. We just spent the last two hundred years trying to save our planet and our people from extinction and you say we don’t belong here?”
“I meant no disrespect,” Garcia said. “I’m just admitting that I know nothing of your species.”
“All that work to save the planet and there isn’t one thing left of us in the future?” Ket asked.
“How do you mean saved the planet?” Garcia asked.
Gil sounded a bit upset, pursing his lips in dissatisfaction. Ket laughed. “You must excuse his feelings being hurt. He was certain that his reputation was sealed in the history books for all time,” Ket said.
“What did you do?” Garcia asked.
“You have the fortune of speaking to the great, great grand son of the most famous Voth in all the world,” Ket said.
Garcia looked to Gil.
“You really don’t know?” Gil asked.
“Please, tell me,” Garcia said.
“Two hundred years ago, our people realized our world was going to come to an end,” Gil said. “There was an insufficient supply of water to sustain all the living matter on this planet. The bio diversity was expected to significantly decrease, and with that diversity, we were expected to die off. So my great, great, great grandfather, Noah, devised a plan. He had watched the stars and planets, and realized that the fourth planet in our system had an abundant source of surface water. So he designed and built a fleet of space ships, ten of the biggest mechanisms Voth kind had ever created, and we flew them to the fourth planet, took all the water, and brought it back to Terra. It took all of that two hundred years to build the ships and move the water, but we did it, nearly drowned ourselves in the great flood that ensued, but by god, we saved our planet.”
Garcia was beside himself with disbelief, but he tried to hide it so as not to insult his host, the people who had healed him.
“Of course, no one counted on global cooling, and we’re predicting an ice age will probably eliminate most of the bio-diversity that survived the great flood, so we’ve moved most of our society towards the tropical zone, and we have been collecting specimens of every sample of life so that after the ice age, we can bring back most of the species that we predict to loose,” Ket said. “Gilgamesh is the chief scientist in charge of saving our planet from our own short sightedness.”
“How many Voth are there?” Garcia asked.
“Oh, there is probably six million here in Atlantis city,” Gil said. “Total world population is about twenty million. Most of our resources were put into the Noah project, so lots of people died, and then more died during the floods, and we were just starting to see population growth when we noticed the cooling trend. Our models say we probably have a couple hundred years to prepare ourselves, but we don’t like surprises and so we’re preparing for the worst now.”
“We lost too many people during the Noah project,” Ket said. “Our goal as a society is not to let that happen again.”
“Are you really from the future?” Gil asked again.
“I am,” Garcia said.
“And you know nothing of this?” Gil asked.
“There are stories of a great flood, of a scientifically advanced city named Atlantis, even the names Noah and Gilgamesh are known to my people, but these are treated as no more than myths and legends, and the stories are peopled by homo-sapiens, the name given to my species,” Garcia said. “No one has ever heard of a Voth.”
“How could mammals take over the planet?” Gil asked. “That doesn’t make sense. The land mammals are too small, frail, and weak to be considered anything other than a nuisance.”
“If it wasn’t for the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, we probably wouldn’t have evolved to sentience,” Garcia said.
“Mass extinction?” Gil asked. “From the ice age?”
“No,” Garcia said. “An asteroid is due to strike the planet and it will destroy nearly all life on Earth, or Terra as you call it.”
“An asteroid?” Gil asked. “This can’t be. Do you understand just how massive an object would have to be to have such devastating effects and what the odds of such an object actually hitting the planet are?”
“I do,” Garcia said. “And, for me, it isn’t a matter of calculating the odds, but rather it’s a matter of pinpointing the actual collision date. It’s going to happen. From my perspective, it already has happened. The real question for me is whether or not we can save your people from going the way of the dinosaurs.”
“Can you take us back to the future with your time machine?” Ket asked.
Garcia frowned. “I’m afraid it won’t be that simple.”
“If I learned anything from my great, great grandfather,” Gil said with a sigh. “It never is.”
“Lt. Undine,” Lt. Owens said, looking to the acting Captain from his station on the Bridge. “I have detected five starships on an intercept course, warp nine. They’re Klingon.”
“Five?” Lt Undine said.
Owens merely nodded. “And at warp nine…” he said, emphasizing urgency.
“Yellow alert,” Undine said. “Contact the lead ship.”
“Don’t you think we should notify the Captain?” Owens asked.
“The Captain gave us very explicit orders that he was not to be disturbed,” Undine said.
“But under the circumstances,” Owens began.
“He has faith in our abilities,” Undine said, remaining calm. “I think you should have equal faith. Now hail the lead ship.”
“Aye,” Owens said.
An angry looking Klingon appeared on the main monitor and tried to stare her down. It was no angrier than any other Klingon face Undine had ever seen, and since it was necessary to try and gauge the level of intended aggression by ascertaining how ferocious the Klingon was acting, she stared back. He seemed fairly serious to her, but she did not blink or in any other way show discomfort.
“You will heave to and prepare to be boarded,” the Klingon said.
“I am Lt. Commander Undine,” Undine said. “State the nature of your grievance.”
“I will speak only to Captain Garcia,” the Klingon said. “Now heave to, or face the consequences.”
“The Captain is currently indisposed; you can deal with me, or wait until he is free to speak to you,” Undine said.
“We will fire on you if you do not heave to,” the Klingon said.
“It will be an honor to meet you in battle,” Undine said.
“You’re bluffing,” the Klingon said. He didn’t feel the need to point out the fact that she was out numbered and out matched.
Undine displayed a hand, revealing her webbed fingers. The Klingon modified his tone and attitude when he realized Undine was a Zaldan, a species not known for bluffing. “I request to speak to Garcia.”
“As I said, the Captain is currently indisposed,” Undine said. “Of course, if you must fire on us and we’re destroyed, you will never know if the rumors of Garcia’s skill as a warrior are true. Should you fail to destroy us, you will have the reputation of being bested by a female. Which ever the outcome, I get my way in this.”
“I’ve been ordered to rendezvous with your ship and speak with Captain Garcia concerning matters of the state,” the Klingon said. “And I have been authorized to use all the force necessary to have this dialogue.”
“I will notify the Captain that you wish to speak with him,” Undine said. “Until the time he decides to respond, you are welcome to accompany us.”
“Do not try to escape,” the Klingon said. “I’ll give you one hour and then I will re-evaluate our situation to determine if you still want that battle.”
“One hour,” Undine said, giving Owens a nonverbal gesture to cut the transmission. She stood. “I’ll be in the Captain’s ready room if anyone needs me.”
Undine disappeared into the Ready Room and the Bridge staff quietly evaluated everyone else’s discomfort with the situation that had developed. Once in the Ready Room, Lt. Undine accessed the computer using her security clearance and posted an urgent message, which would be routed through the Gateway directly to the Path Finder. Path Finder received the message and Trini responded with a brief message of her own: “Message received. Please stand by for instruction.”
“Excuse me?” Undine asked.
The computer responded: “Please redefine question.”
Garcia awoke to the gentle prodding of Doctor Misan. He sat up suddenly.
“Easy,” Doctor Misan said. “You’ve been out for about two hours. How do you feel?”
“Like crap,” Garcia said. He became aware that he was naked under his blanket. Kurak entered bringing him fresh clothes. “And I have that stupid fifth dimension song in my head.” When he said ‘stupid,’ he wasn’t commenting on the quality of the song, but rather his annoyance at how easily it had become stuck in his head. Without modesty, he got up and began to dress. He paused to smell his hand.
“The beasts,” Gowr explained. “The Doctor says it will be a day or so before we’re completely free of the smell.”
“I’m working on a formula that should eliminate the aroma,” Misan said.
“Have you tried tomato soup?” Garcia asked.
“No. Why?” Misan asked.
“It works on skunk spray,” Garcia offered.
Doctor Misan didn’t know how to respond to that, so he remained silent. He looked to Lt. Tuer and Captain Gowr. Tuer shrugged.
“What happened?” Garcia asked.
“The Apollo orb exploded,” Doctor Misan said.
“And given the level of destruction, I think we should re-evaluate whether we allow you to keep your orbs on the ship,” Tuer said.
“How many casualties?” Garcia asked.
“Six wounded. Three dead due to the conflict with the demons,” Gowr reported. “Four dead from the explosion. One of them was Lt. Pensar, who gave her life to save yours.”
“Who the hell told her to do that?” Garcia asked, his memory of the last moments before he had blacked out coming to him all in a rush.
“She was doing her job, Admiral,” Doctor Misan said.
Garcia softened. “Was she given honors?” Garcia asked.
“Not yet. We must wait until her body dies. We’re keeping it alive artificially for now,” Gowr said.
“And why are we doing this?” Garcia asked.
“She has a living will,” Doctor Misan said. “Her unborn child still lives and it will requires us to sustain her body as long as there is any hope that the child will continue to develop and be born with reasonable health.”
“Of course,” Garcia said, agreeing with the sentiments of the will. They could transfer the fetus to one of the artificial wombs on the New Constitution, but the original body was better if she could be sustained. “Does the will stipulate what is to become of the child and does the next of kin have any claims or require an obligation from me?”
“I’ll contact the family on your behalf,” Gowr said.
“Thank you, Gowr. Where’s Athena?” Garcia asked.
“Come with me,” Gowr said.
Garcia nodded for Tuer to accompany them and they proceeded to a room where they found Athena pacing. Her two companions came instantly to their feet, as if prepared to defend their ‘god.” Aahla sat comfortably on the couch, grooming. She took up the whole couch.
“You’re alive,” Athena said, pleased, and obviously relieved.
“I am,” Garcia agreed. “Why did Apollo’s manifestation orb blow up after I killed him?”
“You can’t kill us,” Athena said.
“Um, well, apparently I can,” Garcia argued. “So, why did his manifestation orb blow up?”
“He’s a poor sport,” Athena said. Garcia prompted her to continue. “As I said, you can not kill us, but should you cause sufficient damage to his body, he takes a penalty and must leave the game for a certain time. In the time of his absence if another god chooses to take control of the manifestation orb, he looses access to it until they receive a penalty or they decide to give it up on their own. He has the option to destroy the vessel he is using to prevent occupation by another.”
“So, basically, I can kill you,” Garcia said.
“For lack of a better analogy, you can kill our bodies, if you’re extremely lucky, but we have hundreds of other bodies scattered throughout the Universe that we can go to. Apollo will keep coming back.”
“Good,” Garcia said. An old earth song, “To Your Scattered Bodies Go,” began to play in his head, with a whole new meaning, thanks to Apollo. “I look forward to killing him again. Pollux Five was supposed to be no longer occupied. What are you doing here?”
“I came here because of you,” Athena said. “I knew you would come searching for the technology left here.”
“Speaking of the Preserver technology cache hidden on this planet,” Garcia said. “Do you know where it is and can you get us access to it without further loss of life?”
“Robbing the cache was not part of our deal,” Athena said.
“I understand that,” Garcia said. “Now, will you answer the question?”
“I will open the cache for you,” Athena said.
“Thank you,” Garcia said. “Gowr is in charge of this operation. I expect you to cooperate with him. I have other important matters to attend to. I will return when I finish with my duties to conclude our affair. If you finish here first, you may join me on the Path Finder. Aahla, stay with Athena.”
“You will not see Afu until I am verifiably pregnant,” Athena said.
“Fine,” Garcia said. “We’ll discuss this later.”
Garcia turned and left, followed by Tuer and Gowr. As soon as the door closed Garcia began speaking, but he didn’t slow his pace. “Gowr, don’t trust her. Keep Aahla close to her, I think they cancel each others powers out. Not sure yet how that works, but I do believe Aahla is on my side. Get the stuff the Grays want and then get out of this system. Contact me if you need anything. Tuer, inform Doctor Misan he can stay here to tend to the injured. I want the rest of my team to accompany me back to the Path Finder.”
Garcia then went to the Gateway where Tatiana met him, handing him the two orbs that had carried Duana and Ilona until he had passed out. When his brain shut down, so did the telepathic connection that sustained them, for they were as unconscious as he was. They re-manifested themselves as soon as he took the orbs from Tatiana.
Tatiana turned to dial the gate, but discover that the gate had already gone into a start up sequence, and began to operate on its own, accepting a wormhole from another gateway. Garcia watched the gate going through its operational process and wished it were a fully developed Iconian Gateway, with a programmable drop off point that didn’t require a second gate. He wondered if he could open a Gateway next to a particular individual so he could go right to his daughter, or maybe open it up one any planet of his choosing regardless of distance. The Gateway came to life, the outer rim spinning like a combination lock until the locks engaged, and then the iris spun open. He could see the other side, like looking through a murky aquarium. He recognized Kitara on the other side stepping into the gate. Her appearance became a silhouette, and then she emerged from Garcia’s side of the Gateway.
Kitara made an annoyed face. “What is that smell?”
“Battle glory,” Garcia said, not wanting to explain. “You found her?”
“No, but we have another situation you need to attend to,” Kitara said. “The USS New Constitution has been intercepted by five Klingon warships and they are threatening to destroy it if you do not respond to their query within the next fifty minutes.”
“Oh, bloody hell,” Garcia said. “Where’s my clone when I need him?! Set the Gate for the New Constitution.”
Kitara adjusted the controls and waited for the Gate to reset itself for the New Constitution. Garcia, Kitara, Duana and Ilona walked through, not waiting for the others to arrive. They emerged on the holodeck, the war game still in progress.
“Computer, exit,” Garcia said. “Close door behind us and maintain high command security lock out on this holodeck.”
“Acknowledged,” the computer responded, with Losira’s voice.
“What have you got on the kidnappings?” Garcia asked.
“We know that Nikita Carter was on the shuttle that departed Jupiter station bound for Earth,” Kitara said as they made their way towards the turbolift. “But she did not arrive on Earth. The message sent to her father saying she had decided not to go to Earth was sent from a terminal at Jupiter station. Security systems monitoring the terminal where the message was sent was temporarily disabled during that exchange. No leads there. Security systems on Earth show everyone disembarking the shuttle on arrival at Earth, but no Nikita Carter. There were no transporter logs or power surges detected during the shuttle’s operation, according to the Star Fleet Security report we were able to access, so it is not likely she was beamed off during transit.”
“Ilona, Duana, that will be all. Go power down. Could she still be on the shuttle?” Garcia asked Kitara as the two of them stepped into the turbolift. He ignored the sulking his two mental companions were doing, going as far as to shut the door on them by pushing a button. He sympathized with their wanting freedom, and it was exhilarating being plugged into the devices telepathically, adding to his senses, but it also decreased his mental acuity. That was something Doctor Crusher had discovered when he first used the devices on the Enterprise. “Bridge.”
“The shuttle made three runs after the time of her disappearance. Star Fleet is still investigating and has blocked all access to the shuttle,” Kitara said. “But I would say she is no longer on the shuttle, if she ever actually got on it.”
“Wonderful,” Garcia said. “I can’t believe someone was able to tamper with those security cameras and alarms weren’t triggered. It would almost have to be an inside job.”
“I concur,” Kitara said, and then put a finger on the door controls to keep it from opening. “Should I return to the Path Finder and transwarp jump to this location? If we’re going to have a fight with Klingons, it would be nice to be evenly matched. This ship isn’t battle ready. And even if it were, it would be no match for five Warships.”
“Let’s see what they want, first,” Garcia said.
The turbolift opened and Garcia and Kitara stepped out onto the Bridge. Security on deck announced their arrival and did a double take, scrunching up his nose.
“At ease, everyone. And no comments on the smell. We’re working on it,” Garcia said, dismissing their honors and their faces of uncertainty with a wave. “Owens, hail the Klingons and let’s get this over with. Thank you, Lt. Undine. Take over ops.”
“Aye,” Undine said, hustling to her next position.
“Captain,” Kitara said, having assumed the tactical position. “These ships are loyal to Gowron.”
“Wonderful. Am I on?” Garcia asked, looking to Owens for confirmation. Owens pointed at him. “Whoever the hell you guys are, you’ve interrupted my war game exercise, and I’m a little pissed off, so unless you want me to respond to your first message by destroying the lot of you, you best pick up now or be on your damn way.”
A Klingon immediately appeared on the screen. “Brave words for a human,” the Klingon snapped. “If I didn’t have orders to bring you back to Kronos alive, and specifically not to fire the first shot, you would be dead already.”
Garcia looked to Kitara.
“His name is Trolos, one of Gowrons favorite henchmen,” Kitara said. “He has Royal Guard status, elite training.”
“You will keep your bitch silent or I’ll put her on a leash,” Trolos said.
“Arm photon torpedoes,” Garcia ordered.
“What are you doing?” Trolos demanded, sitting forward, and pointing to several of his men. Their shields started going up.
“You insult my First Officer and expect to live?” Garcia asked.
“You are no match for us!” Trolos said. “You will die.”
“That’s what the dozen Gorn ships that moved against me thought. That’s what Admiral Shear thought when he engaged me in war game exercises. I assume you heard about those incidents, or you wouldn’t be acting so cowardly by talking smack about me and my first officer from behind your shields,” Garcia said. “Five ships indeed! Were you that scared of me you couldn’t come alone?”
Trolos stood and pointed. “I will see you in chains!” Trolos shouted, pointing directly at him, his face contorting in anger.
“Until that time, you will treat me and my officers with the respect that we have earned, or I will know the reason why,” Garcia said.
“You have not earned respect,” Trolos said, spitting. “You have stolen Klingon technology. You have brainwashed loyal Klingon warriors with promises you can’t keep. Do you really think just because you promoted that Targh waste to First Officer that she will get any kudos or promotions in the Klingon Fleet?”
“If the Klingon Fleet refuses to utilize the talent they have available to them, then, yes, I intend to give them what your outdated social paradigm can’t,” Garcia said. “Recognition, glory, and honor. And when I’m through with them, they’ll have their choices of any ship in any Fleet they wish to serve, and you’ll be begging me to do the same for you.”
Trolos roared. “You have been summoned to answer to the Counsel and Gowron. You are being challenged.”
“Really?” Garcia asked. “And who has issued this challenge?”
Trolos smiled. “You will have to come with us to Kronos to find out,” Trolos said. “You may have been given a pass by your precious Star Fleet Academy, but we Klingons don’t play that game. If you want to command Klingons, you must past the Klingon Academy’s challenge. You have been summoned to face the final three challenges and prove once and for all, publicly, that you deserve the respect you are claiming you deserve.”
“Viewer off,” Garcia said. He turned to Kitara. “I don’t have time for this crap.”
“If he carries an official challenge endorsed by Gowron, you must accept,” Kitara said. “If you do not, your Klingons will cease to follow you. We must agree, or accept immediate dishonor, and death without glory.”
“I am not a Klingon!” Garcia snapped.
Kitara came around the tactical station and took a pose directly in front of the Captain. One arm akimbo and the other hand putting a finger right in his face, she said: “You chose to play Klingon, you knew the dangers when you accepted your mission, and you will follow through with your commitment. I will not let you bring us all down in disgrace, ruin any further chance I have of a promotion to Captain, and bring dishonor on my family, my crew, on me, or our future child. You are going to Kronos, you will face the challenges that Gowron presents to you, and that is final.”
Garcia stepped in closer to Kitara, using his implant to inform the computer to temporarily shut down all universal translators in the sound of his voice, and then he spoke to her in Klingon: “If you ever tear into me like that again in front of the crew, I will gut you where you stand.”
Kitara pulled out her d’ktahg, reversed the handle and pushed it into Garcia’s gut, her hand holding the blade towards her belly. “Go ahead and kill me,” Kitara said, also speaking in Klingon. “I will not back down on this. You have an opportunity to make our mission public. No more sneaking around. You have the chance to win glory and honor beyond what any human ever dreamed of. It is my job as your First Officer, as your mate, and the mother of your future children to make sure you meet your full potential.”
Garcia took hold of the Klingon Knife. Kitara tightened her grip on it so that her hand started to bleed, her nostrils flaring, her eyes fierce and determined.
“Let go,” Garcia said.
“Decide,” Kitara said.
“I have,” Garcia said.
Kitara let go of her knife and Garcia secured it under his belt. Kitara could no longer resist her passion and put both hands to Garcia’s face, pulled him towards her, and kissed him, biting his lower lip. She let him go and returned to her post. Garcia stood there for a moment, stunned, coming to little by little, taking in the silence, minus the computer noises, and then he became aware that his Officers were trying to remain occupied to avoid looking at him. He turned back to the viewer, motioning to Owens to reopen the signal. Garcia seemed unconcerned about the blood on both his and Kitara’s face, and he didn’t care what message the blood stained knife stuck under his belt sent, but Trolos saw the knife, the blood, and the resolution set on Garcia’s face. A light of amusement or new understanding flashed in his eyes. Garcia’s reputation appeared to be exactly what Trolos had heard.
“I accept the challenge,” Garcia said. “The New Constitution will accompany you back to Kronos. Do not make any more demands on my time until we have arrived. I must prepare myself mentally and physically for what is to come.”
“It will take us a little over a week to arrive at Kronos,” Trolos said. “If your preparations allow, I would be honored to have you and your First Officer as guests at my table.”
“It would be an honor to share company with you,” Garcia said. “NC out. Lt. Undine, contact Star Fleet Command. Apprise them of our change in destination and the potential delay of about a month. I’ll be in my Ready Room.”
Garcia crossed over the threshold into his Ready Room while simultaneously using his implant to make a separate, direct call to Star Fleet, on a priority one channel. “Admiral Pressman, I need to speak with you,” was his audible message and he sent it marked urgent.
As Garcia waited for the return call, Undine reported in that Star Fleet did not approve of the change in schedule and ordered him to continue towards his previous heading. Garcia told Undine that they will continue towards Kronos, regardless of what Star Fleet said, on his authority. A text message response from Admiral Pressman finally arrived, inviting Garcia to join him in his office, as well as a specific window for him to be there. It gave him eight minutes, which was almost exactly the minimum time he would need if he were to transwarp jump to Earth, obtain orbit, and beam down, plus or minus a few minutes depending on whatever excuse he needed to extricate himself from his New Constitution crew. What Eric Pressman didn’t know was that the Path Finder was already in Earth’s orbit, and it would take less than two minutes for him to step through the Gateway to the Path Finder and beam directly to his office.
Garcia stormed out of the Ready Room and headed for the turbolift. “Kitara, we need to finish our game. Lt. Undine, your ship. And I don’t want to be disturbed again.”
“Aye,” Undine said.
Kitara followed, not saying anything. She was able to match the Captain’s stride, easily enough, and soon they were back on the holodeck, and crossing through the Gateway back to the Path Finder. Losira met them, reaching out for Garcia.
“Not now,” Garcia told her. “Are we in Earth’s orbit still?”
“Affirmative,” Losira said, touching him anyway. She ordered up a hot, moist towel using the site to site replicator system, and when the towel appeared in her hands, she began to clean the blood off his face.
“Thank you, but I can do it,” Garcia said, taking the towel away from her to clean his own face. He handed it back to her when he was finished. “Site to site transport, directly to Admiral Pressman’s office, now.”
“Both of you?” Losira asked. She handed a second towel to Kitara so that she could clean her own face.
“No,” Garcia said. And then he quickly changed his mind. “Yes, why not?”
In a flash of light, they were both suddenly standing before Admiral Pressman’s desk. He looked up at them both, noticed the elapse time on his computer, and smiled.
“Garcia, how are you doing?” Pressman asked, and then made a face. “What is that smell?”
“Success,” Garcia said.
“Well, I see you also brought your playmate,” Pressman added.
“Don’t give me that crap,” Garcia said. “What are you and Sheaar up to? Are you trying to get me killed?”
“Why, Admiral,” Pressman said, full of sarcasm. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I have been summoned to face the Klingon Academy’s challenge,” Garcia said, leaning on Pressman’s desk, turning his knuckles white. “Are you saying you don’t know anything about it?”
“You mean the fast track?” Pressman asked, putting his PADD down and picking up a worry stone. “You should be good at that.”
“You could get me out of it,” Garcia said, ignoring the look of discontent on Kitara’s face. She stayed silent and at parade rest, none the less.
“I’m sorry, I have no sway over Gowron or the Klingon Counsel,” Pressman said. Then he smiled. “But perhaps your friend Picard could help you with this matter. Or Worf? You and Worf are pretty tight, aren’t you?”
“Killing me will not protect your secret,” Garcia said.
“Don’t threaten me, Captain,” Pressman said, standing up. “Sheaar and I have taken steps to protect ourselves, so if you think exposing your secret will take me down, you’re sadly mistaken. I can’t take away the Captain’s rank I gave you, but you can forget this self promotion to Admiral and all your little friends can just go scurry back into the darkness from which you dragged them. I can’t even take away your honorary pass at Star Fleet Academy, but you will earn your rank and reputation with the Klingons or die trying. We’re tired of your arrogance and Sheaar is determined to tame you. As for me, I will have control over my project again, with or without your compliance.”
“If I’m not mistaken, you recruited me because you liked my arrogance,” Garcia said.
“I chose you because I knew you would get the job done,” Pressman said. “You did a great job on your first assignment. Not only did you eliminate a Borg threat, but you sent a powerful message to the Romulans to not screw around with us! And, speaking of missions, here’s your second.” Pressman slid the PADD on his desk over to Garcia. “Admiral Sheaar and I have determined that a particular Cardassian has become a threat to the security of Star Fleet and the Klingon Empire. He has been conducting illegal bio weapons research. We want you to get copies of his research material as evidence, destroy his lab, and kill him without casting suspicion on Fleet or the Klingon Empire. The PADD has the complete dossier for you and Kitara’s eyes only. Try not to blow up the whole planet, this time round.”
“I think you’ve forgotten who’s running this dog and pony show,” Garcia said. “I’m not assassinating anyone.”
“Oh, yes, you are,” Pressman said.
“I will not be a part of this,” Garcia said.
Admiral Pressman squeezed on his worry stone and Garcia went to his knees in pain. Kitara turned to go to his aid, but found herself suddenly frozen in place. She was cognizant of what was happening around her, but she couldn’t move her body, not even her eyes. Pressman came around his desk and kicked Garcia in the chest, and then again in the head, and then picked him up by the scruff of the shirt and threw him onto the couch, where he lay in fetal position, unable to even gasp he was in so much pain. The door to the office opened and a female entered. She touched a button on her bracelet and Garcia’s pain subsided enough that he was able to begin breathing again. It was Kelvan technology and the woman who had entered was full Kelvan, born Kelvan, currently residing in human form. She was, biologically speaking, his grandmother.
“You work for me,” Pressman told Garcia.
“Grandmother?” Garcia asked, looking to the woman who had the appearance of a twenty eight year old, even though she was at least a hundred and forty. She didn’t appear a day older than the day she first kissed Kirk. Variations in her appearance were capable through Kelvan technology, but she preferred her original, youthful, human body to everything else she had tried on for size.
“I prefer Kelinda,” she said, her finger still on the button. Garcia wanted his own Kelvan bracelet badly and at the same time he wondered how it was that she was able to stay plugged into the computer interface, surrounded by all sorts of virtual options and yet not seem distracted from her focus on the present moment in time.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t take precautions?” Pressman asked, tossing his stone up in the air and then catching it. “Are you that stupid? You probably think the Path Finder is the only one of its kind. I have people placed all over the game board and all I have to do is speak one word and you will be eliminated. But I don’t want to do that. I like you. I recognize the inherit value of your service. I actually think you might be the last best hope for the Federation’s future.”
“That, and he and I have a deal. You can stop trying to send messages via your implant,” Kelinda said. “I’ve blocked all communications with your ship.”
“Why are you helping him?” Garcia asked, trying to sit up.
“He serves my purposes, for now,” Kelinda said.
“You helped to open a wormhole from here to the Andromeda Galaxy and allowed Kelvan to escape. They will be back and with reinforcements,” Pressman said. “She and I have an arrangement. I needed Kelvan technology for the Path Finder and she wanted to start a legacy. How’s the family life?”
Garcia gritted his teeth. He now had confirmation about his elevated libido and his total lack of control over reproduction when utilizing Kelvan technology. “You don’t really trust each other, do you?” Garcia said.
They both laughed. “Of course not,” Pressman said. “I expect her to try and stab me in the back the same as you would if I gave you the opportunity. And I’m warning you, if you threaten me again, you will regret it.”
“And what do you get out of this?” Garcia asked Kelinda.
“I get to watch you populate the galaxy with my grandchildren,” Kitara said. “You didn’t really think the project would end with you, now did you? You’ve all but guaranteed that my family line will still be here when the Kelvan occupy this Galaxy and I will be queen, to use the Earth colloquialism. It’s good to be queen.”
Losira transported in directly behind Kelinda. Reaching around her to grab her wrists, Losira separated Kelinda’s hands so she could no longer access the Kelvan technology and pinned her arms behind her back. At the same time, Garcia kicked Pressman in the gut and then leaped to his feet. He went right towards Kelinda, his right hand sliding down her left arm in search of the bracelet. He touched the button on her bracelet with intentions of using its power to help contain the situation and escape. Instead, he was suddenly incapacitated with pain. Again, he fell to his knees, dragging his hands down Kelinda as he tried to hold onto her for support. He barely managed to press the button on her bracelet before the pain drove him to let go.
Kitara was suddenly free. She instantly drew a weapon and put it to Pressman’s neck, grabbing him by the head and pulling him to her. She would have no problem cutting his head off if he so much as flinched.
“Release him,” Kitara ordered. “Or die.”
Pressman squeezed the stone in his hand and Garcia’s pain subsided. He gasped for air, leaning his head against Kelinda.
“Drop the stone,” Kitara said.
Garcia pushed himself to his feet, staggered, but held himself tall, still holding onto Kelinda for support. In his pain and weakness, he discovered an Oedipus impulse towards her, and a new wave of self revulsion brought vile to his taste buds. He closed his eyes, trying to force all the imagery and hate away, and found himself trying to explain the impulse through some sort of logic. Kelinda smiled at him as if she understood his torment and was even willing to entice him along that tangent. She winked and pursed her lips playfully. He pushed himself away from her, grabbing at his wrist. He wished he was with Simone.
“Are you okay?” Losira asked.
Garcia forced himself to breathe and nodded.
“How did you summon her?” Pressman began.
“I am going to kill you,” Garcia told him, as he struggled for breath, reaching for his own dagger.
“If either I or Admiral Sheaar end up dead or missing, your fault, someone else’s fault, my fault, no one’s fault, a number of my agents will act on preset orders, and people you know will begin to die of mysterious causes, unexplained accidents,” Admiral Pressman said. “I give you one week to complete your latest mission, or someone that I know you love will suffer the consequences. You and your crew better make a priority of seeing to my well being and happiness.”
“Tama Orleans?” Garcia said. “You got her!”
“I don’t know anything about that,” Admiral Pressman said.
Garcia didn’t know whether to believe him or not. Kitara pushed Pressman away from her, keeping her weapon pointed at him. She knelt down and retrieved the stone, careful not to squeeze it. She also recovered the PADD from the desk and then took Kelinda’s bracelet from her.
“Losira,” Garcia said. “Beam us up.”
“I’ll see you soon, son,” Kelinda said, and blew him a kiss.
No sooner than they were on the deck of the Path Finder, Kitara turned to him and Losira. Losira was supporting Garcia as if he were hurt. “How did Losira know that we needed help?”
“She and I have a telepathic bond,” Garcia said. “Now, if there is nothing else, I need to go rest for a few moments.”
“You need to report to sickbay,” Kitara said.
“No, I’m fine, really,” Garcia said.
“You came into contact with Kelvan technology again,” Kitara argued. “You need a treatment and we probably need to tell Star Fleet command to give every female in your sphere of influence the morning after pill.”
“I wasn’t connected to the Kelvan computer that long,” Garcia said, actually worrying that he could be wrong. What if his stray thoughts for Kelinda were resonant manifestations of thoughts he had been exploring in the Kelvan virtual reality before the pain from Pressman’s weapon drove him to let go. He had a flashback to Apollo’s curse, the part where he said he would have a child so evil it would be as if he had spawned Satan himself. Kelinda might be that vessel!
“What is this?” Kitara asked, holding up the stone, Pressman’s pain device.
“It is Kelvan technology, created to provide any non-Kelvan in positions of authority a measure of power over key slaves,” Garcia said, taking it from her. “Given the fact it had no apparent effect on you, I suspect Kelinda made it for Pressman as a defense against me.” He handed it to Losira. “Destroy this, recycle it, I don’t care. Just make it gone.”
Losira took the stone, holding it in the palm of her hand. The transporter took it away.
“Kitara, pass the dossier on the Cardassian to the senior officers. I want a conference in one hour. Also, while we’re still in Earth’s orbit, I want as much information on Admiral Pressman that we can steal from Star Fleet’s computers, short of beaming in and taking all the memory chips from his office. Also, have Trini contact Lt. Nancy Carter. I’m going to want to speak with her. Give me about a fifteen minute power nap. If you don’t hear from me in thirty, come wake me up. I’ll be in my quarters.”
“Aye,” Kitara said.
“Losira, I can walk on my own, thank you,” Garcia said, and headed towards his quarters.
On his way, Garcia heard singing in the galley. He went in to find a number of Klingons singing a victory song and knew that several of the officers there had been planet side with him on Pollux V. The singing slowly came to a halt as the Officers went to attention.
“I would hardly call us victorious,” Garcia said. “We lost eight people and that was just the first skirmish.”
Garcia turned to leave, paused, and then turned back to them. “Was it Patton or George C Scott that said battle glory is fleeting?” Garcia asked. He approached the closest Klingon Officer and took his drink. “To our fallen and our future battles,” Garcia said, raising the mug in toast. He took a big swig and handed the mug back to the Officer. “Nice vintage,” he told the Klingon. “We need a little more tenor to balance out the base. But otherwise well done. Carry on.”
They cheered and returned to singing. Garcia went to his quarters and threw himself on his bed. He curled up into the fetal position and began to sob. Losira made her presence known, materializing and putting a hand on his back.
“Please don’t,” Garcia said.
“I will not tell anyone,” Losira said.
“No, don’t touch me,” Garcia said, correcting her misunderstanding. That was one of the problems with modern technology, you could never have a moment of weakness or display human frailties without safeguards kicking in to assure your well being. In the old days if a man lost his temper and punched a wall, he would just fix the wall. Now a days, not only did the wall fix itself, but it attempted to pacify the human, too, and usually made an appointment for the nearest psychological therapist.
“You’re in pain,” Losira noted. “I wanted you to know I am with you.”
Garcia didn’t respond to her. His breathing leveled out and became deeper as he practiced a meditation technique, and soon he was asleep. Losira put a blanket over him and de-materialized her body. She was still present, watching over him from ship board sensors, but this was less intrusive.
It seemed to Garcia that he had no sooner gotten comfortable than he was being paged, but indeed he had slept for twenty minutes, non REM sleep. He answered his communicator.
“Bridge to Captain Garcia,” Trini said.
“What?” Garcia said, sounding tired. He wanted more sleep. He wanted to go see Persis. It was killing him that she was on board and he hadn’t had a moment to try and spend with her. He needed to go see Simone. Perhaps he should just avail himself of the holo-technology that Path Finder offered. He didn’t even have to visit the holodeck, for he could just bring the hologram right to his room.
“There’s a call coming in for you on the NC from Star Fleet, Priority One,” Trini said.
“Patch it through the Gateway to me here,” Garcia said, wanting to maintain the illusion that he was still on the New Constitution. He nearly bit his lip when Admiral McCoy appeared on the screen.
“Captain Garcia,” Admiral McCoy said. “I’m glad to see you are actually on the New Constitution.”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Garcia asked, his apparent grumpiness going away.
“That’s a good question,” Admiral McCoy said. “I have a report on my desk that says you and your officers assaulted a man in his home on Delta Prime.”
“Actually he assaulted me,” Garcia said, and then actually did bite his lip.
“You assured me the Starburst Project was dead,” Admiral McCoy snapped.
“I don’t actually have the authority to kill the Starburst Project, but it was necessary to make it appear so,” Garcia said.
“I want to see you in my office, ASAP,” McCoy said.
“I can be there in thirty seconds,” Garcia said.
“Thirty seconds?!” McCoy asked, surprised. “You got thirty seconds! And you better have some good explanations for what’s going on.”
“I can guarantee the thirty second part,” Garcia said. “On my way. Garcia out.”
“Trini, I’m leaving the ship,” Garcia said. “Losira, site to site, McCoy’s office.”
“Do you want me to come with?” Losira asked.
“No, but I’ll call you if I need you,” Garcia said.
“Look, I don’t have a starship, I don’t have a time machine, and I don’t have access to any of my technology,” the Garcia clone said. They had given him his clothes back, including the communicator that they had pulled free to examine closer. “My team and I were exploring a Preserver artifact and we were accidentally transported to Earth of this time period.” Part of that was true, Garcia figured. The whole truth was unnecessary and more complicated than anyone in attendance needed to know.
“There are more of you here?” Ket asked.
“Yes, three others,” Garcia said.
“But you have technology that can stop this asteroid,” Gilgamesh insisted, unable to get past the impending destruction of his planet.
“Look, even if I could stop the asteroid, I am ethically compelled not to. Doing so would literally kill billions of lives and has the potential to change the dynamics of the entire Alpha Quadrant,” Garcia explained for the umpteenth time.
“What is the Alpha Quadrant?” Ket asked.
“For our convenience, the map of the Milky Way Galaxy is divided into four quadrants: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta,” Garcia said.
“So, you would just sit back and watch my people die?” Gilgamesh persisted.
“If I could save your people, I would,” Garcia said. “But I don’t know how to even begin. You have spaceships. Can you not get in them and flee this solar system?”
“Our space ships are not capable of interstellar travel,” Gilgamesh said. “That’s impossible.”
“You have transporters, but you don’t have warp drive?” Garcia asked. “To have taken all the surface water off Mars, you have to have some pretty big ships and a reasonably sound engine concept to push that much mass.”