written by Travis Cannon

He stood in front of his father, as the old man lifted a small pip, and pinned it to his collar.

“Congratulations, Lieutenant,” the old man said, as he shook his hand.

He smiled. His father had never looked happier in his entire life.

“I’m proud of you boy,” his father said smiling.

His father seemed to back away without moving and the room became dim and dark until he was no longer in the room, but in space. He spun around and saw a battle waging on. His father’s ship was caught in the middle. Suddenly two So’ja battle cruisers came out from behind, heading for his father’s ship. He tried to run forward to warn his father, but it was too late. Bright light over took his sight and when it subsided his father’s ship was a bunch of rumble floating aimlessly in space.

Dr. Chase Braga awoke in his quarters with sweat soaked sheets over him. He sat up and rubbed his forehead. Soaked. He inhaled deeply. What was this? Two nights in a row. He shook his head, and slide out from underneath the sheets and placed his feet on the floor, the cold floor. He yawned and stretched his arms into the air. He then lowered his head, and rested his arms on his leg. Braga brought his left hand up and rubbed the back of his sweat soaked neck.

“Computer,” he said in a hoarse voice.

The computer responded with a chirp sound.

“Time?” he said.

“The time is o-six hundred hours.”

He had overslept. He was supposed to be on duty. He stood up and walked over to the bathroom. He removed his night wear and stepped into the sonic shower, and muttered “on”. With in minutes he felt more awake, and shook off his two nights of dreams as a result of stress. After his shower, he quickly dressed and went to sickbay.

As he walked in the Bolian, Dr. Rhell, came up to him, looking very much worried.

“Is everything alright, sir?” Rhell inquired.

“Yes,” Braga nodded. “Everything’s fine, Rhell.”

Braga continued on to his office. Rhell followed a stepped behind.

“You have slept in again,” Rhell said. “This is the fourth time.”

Fourth? Braga only remembered last night. Perhaps he just forgot.

“Its nothing, Rhell,” Braga said as he picked up a pair of data pads on his desk. “Just stress, that’s it.”

“You should take something, sir,” Rhell said. “You don’t look well.”

“I feel fine, Rhell,” Braga said, grinning.

“No you don’t,” Rhell said bluntly. “You look tired and pale, sir.”

Braga nodded. Rhell was a good doctor, and Braga was pleased to have him on his staff. In fact, Rhell had been covering for Braga for the past couple of days.

“What do you think?” Braga inquired.

“Something to help you sleep,” Rhell said. “Before you go to bed you should stop by here and I’ll give you something to help.”

Braga nodded.

“I forgot you were on the night duty,” Braga said. “I really should change that. You should be working in the day.”

“It is fine, sir,” the Bolian said, smiling. “I have no complaints.”

“You’re probably tired,” Braga said. “You should get some sleep.”

“Yes, sir,” Rhell said. “I’ll be back at twenty-two hundred hours.”

“Okay,” Braga said. “Sleep well.”

Rhell nodded in response and then left. Braga stood there for a while, playing with the data pads in his hands, before he turned and walked around his desk. He sat down and put the data pads down on his desk. He leaned back in his chair and thought about his dream. Maybe he should see the ship’s counselor, Jacqueline Sawyer. But he quickly talked himself out of it, convincing himself that he was just stressed. He pulled up his computer terminal and tapped the screen to bring it to life. The LCARS display came up. He went through the menu until he found the morning report which was posted each morning at six hundred hours by Commander Braxis. Braga skimmed through it. Nothing seemed relevant to the medical staff, so he logged out and decided to go about his morning routines of checking the equipment.

Captain’s Log - stardate 58137.71:

The matter over Dr. Lucus Kesar has been settled and the Alkanden’s were pleasant with us for the rest of our stay at AO-5, but I noticed a sense of relief upon our departure. We have been ordered to investigate the Trajan Nebula, which is located at coordinates five-eight here in the Oralian Sector. The nebula, itself, is located not far from Velos. Starfleet wants us to investigate the nebula to determine what, if any, value it has. The Velos claim that they have never saw it as anything but “eye candy”, as Commander Burt puts it. I am optimistic about our upcoming investigation. According to Counselor Sawyer, the crew are in high spirits. Hopefully that will last. End log.

Captain Benjamin Kelsoe sat in his ready room, staring at the window at the stars as they streaked by; the Pioneer was in warp. He leaned back in his chair. He had just finished making his morning log on the ship’s operations. It was now time to read Commander Braxis’ morning report. Kelsoe reached over and picked up a data pad that the Commander had left - a hard copy of the report. Kelsoe stood up and walked over to the replicator.

“Coffee, black.”

A cup with the starfleet logo appeared on the small platform. Kelsoe picked it up and held it below his nose. He could smell the replicated rich blend. He turned around and stepped over to the couch, which was positioned with its back to the window. He sat down and sipped the coffee, while glancing at the data pad. Just as he began to read the report, the door chime chirped.

Kelsoe set the data pad down, and looked up.

“Come in.”

Dr. Rhell stepped into the room.

“Ah, Dr. Rhell,” Kelsoe said. “What can I do for you.”

He sipped his coffee.

Rhell nodded. “Captain,” he said. “I am concerned about Dr. Braga. In my medical opinion he is suffering from a lack of rest.”

“Is there anything you can do for him?” Kelsoe inquired as he sipped his coffee.

“Physically, yes,” Rhell said with a nod. “But he requires counseling, sir.”

“Are you suggesting that he meets with Counselor Sawyer?” Kelsoe asked.

“Yes, Captain,” Rhell said. “I believe that Dr. Braga is beginning to come to terms with what has happened to his father.”

“It’s been two years,” Kelsoe said. “Can that happen?”

“Oh yes,” Rhell nodded. “Sometimes an event, such as the death of a parent, can be so traumatic, that the patient suppresses his or her true feelings. I believe that Dr. Braga’s feelings are breaking out. The result: he is loosing sleep.”

“And your official recommendation is that Dr. Braga should see the ship counselor?” Kelsoe asked for clarification.

“Precisely, Captain,” Rhell said.

“Dr. Rhell,” Kelsoe said, placing his cup down on the coffee table in front of him. “Why have you brought this to me?”

“You might have to order Dr. Braga to see Counselor Sawyer, sir,” Rhell said. “He is very stubborn about these sort of things.”

“Have you talked to him about this?” Kelsoe inquired.

“No, sir,” Rhell admitted. “Not as yet. But I will mention it to him.”

“Very good,” Kelsoe said. “Do that. If you still think I need to intervene, don’t hesitate to let me know.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Is that it?” Kelsoe asked, smiling.

“Yes, sir.”

“You should get some sleep now, Dr. Rhell,” Kelsoe said. “Dismissed.”

Rhell turned and left. Kelsoe smiled and picked up his cup of coffee. He reached over to the data pad, picked it up with his other hand, and began reading it.

The day had gone by fast with no events. Ensign Soto had come in with a headache, but that was quickly fixed with a hypospray. Dr. Chase Braga had spent most of the day in his office catching up on some reading. Dr. Richards, a colleague from Earth, had sent him some of the latest copies of the Federation Medical Report, which listed new diseases, procedures, vaccines, and cures that had been discovered or invented over the past months. Braga skimmed through the reports, looking for anything that might peak his interests. There was one; it was on the Wismaga flu. Braga soon found himself envisioning Dr. Lucus Kesar with the terrible purging virus. Braga’s musing were ended when Dr. Rhell walked into his office.

“Is it twenty-two hundred hours, already?” Braga asked.

Rhell nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Braga stretched and stood up.

“The day sure goes by fast,” he said.

Rhell followed him out into the sickbay. He turned around and grinned at the Bolian.

“I suppose you want to give me something to sleep,” Braga said.

Rhell nodded. “Yes, sir.” Dr. Rhell was already next to one of the stations, preparing a hypospray. “I would also like to discuss the reason for you troubled nights.”

“Rhell, please, don’t,” Braga said.

“Sorry, sir,” Rhell said. “But you are losing sleep over it.”

“I know,” Braga said. “I know. What do you recommend?”

“In my professional opinion?” Rhell said. “A trip to the counselor’s office, and plenty of sleep.”

“See Sawyer?” Braga inquired. “I don’t know.”

“Sir, it is the only way,” Rhell said. “This hypospray will only help your body rest, not your mind.”

Braga nodded. “Your right, Rhell.”

“Here,” Rhell said, placing the hypospray head against Braga’s neck. “This should help you sleep. If it doesn’t, promise me that you’ll see the counselor.”

Rhell pressed the button and the hypospray made a hissing noise. Rhell withdrew the device. Braga brought his hand up and rubbed his neck.

“Well?” Rhell said as he placed the hypospray back in its place.

“Okay,” Braga said. “I promise. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll see Sawyer.”

“Good,” Rhell said, and smiled. “Now get some rest, Dr. Braga.”

Braga nodded. “Good night, Rhell. I’ll see you at six hundred hours.”

“Yes, sir.”

He walked down a shadowy corridor. With each step he could feel his heart grow heavier. Soon he reached a dead end. The corridor ended in complete blackness. There was a bright light in the distance. He stepped towards the edge of the corridor and looked down. He almost lost his balance. Down below his feet was the vast Venka Nebula. He looked up, slowly, to rest his eyes upon a starfleet vessel coming out of warp, followed by two So’ja destroyers. He wanted to run and tell his father. To warn him! But he could not. If he would take a step he would fall into the nebula. He tried shouting, but space was silent. The So’ja destroyers spun around the starfleet ship, taking pot shots at it. He couldn’t watch, it was too hard. Then, from below him, appeared a So’ja battle cruiser. He watched in utter horror as the big ship placed itself in front of his father’s ship. And then with one bright blast his father’s ship was no more. He no longer cared for his safety, and ran forward. So he fell. Down, down, down... into utter darkness.

Dr. Chase Braga awoke in his quarters to find himself soaking wet. He could literally smell the sweat. He pushed off his covers and bolted up to his feet.

“Lights,” he mutter softly, but it was enough.

The room become illuminated. Braga grabbed his night robe and slung it on. He dragged himself into the bathroom. He stared at himself in the mirror. Pale. Bloodshot eyes. He shook his head. Rhell’s right, he thought. I need to see Sawyer. He backed away from the mirror and left the bathroom.

He went over to the replicator. “Water with ice.” The replicator hummed and  a glass of ice cold water dissolved onto the small platform. Braga picked it up and turned.

“Computer, lower lights to level three.”

The computer chirped in response and the lights became dim. He slowly walked across the room, over to an arm chair. He sat down and sipped the water. He leaned back and rubbed his neck with his free hand. Even though he had received sleep medication, he still woke up in the middle of the night. Rhell was right. He closed his eyes and sipped the water.

Captain Benjamin Kelsoe came out of his ready room at seven hundred hours. He stepped down into the center of the bridge. He stared up at the view screen and could not help but smile. The screen showed random particles of blue and orange floating in the blackness of space: the Trajan Nebula. Kelsoe turned to face Lieutenant Norman Craig.

“Anything on the sensors?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Yes, sir,” Craig said. “Plenty of readings.”

“Transfer them to the science station,” Kelsoe said.

“Aye, sir. Transferring.”

Kelsoe turned and stepped up to the science station. Burt jumped up along side him.

Commander Braxis sat at his station, staring intently at the monitors. Kelsoe and Burt stood over his shoulder. He ignored them. Burt turned to Kelsoe.

“What’s Starfleet’s interest in the Trajan Nebula, anyway?” he asked.

Kelsoe shrugged.

“Who knows... perhaps their hoping to find that it holds the same qualities as the Venka Nebula does,” Kelsoe said. “I don’t know... it seems a bit smaller.”

“Small... indeed,” Braxis said, raising an eyebrow. “As when the Venka Nebula takes up nearly four parsecs, while the Trajan Nebula is roughly the size of one. Of course this is all by Kobalian measurement.”

“Yeah... Well, anyway,” Burt said. “Why would we be interested in this nebula.”

“Scientific knowledge, Commander,” Braxis said, still completely focus on the readout data from the consoles.

Burt shook his head. Kelsoe grinned. Burt turn around and went back to his chair, still shaking his head. Kelsoe remained there, and watched Braxis work. The monitors changed quickly showing new data that looked extremely complicated to Kelsoe, yet it appeared to come naturally to Braxis.

“Any information yet, Braxis?” Kelsoe inquired.

“No discernible information has been gathered by the sensors as of yet, Captain,” Braxis reported and then added. “It may help to send a shuttle inside to take internal readings of the nebula, instead of using the ship’s sensors to take external readings.”

“Yeah, sure,” Kelsoe said. “That would be fine.”

“I’d need to remain onboard the ship to analyze the readings,” Braxis said. “A link can be kept with the ship and the shuttle.”

“Of course,” Kelsoe agreed.


Kelsoe turned to face Craig.

“Yes, Lieutenant?” Kelsoe said.

“Sir,” Craig said. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to volunteer to pilot the shuttle into the nebula and scan it from within for Mr. Braxis.”

“Any objections, Braxis?”

“No, Captain,” Braxis said, nodding. “Lieutenant Craig is quite acceptable for this assignment, sir.”

“Let’s get to it,” Kelsoe said, grinning. He liked it when his crew was enthusiastic about their mission, even one that could become dull and boring as this one presented itself to be.

Craig smiled. He stepped out from behind his station and went to the turbo-lift. Kelsoe turned back around to look out at the nebula. Looking at it gave him a tranquil feeling, making Kelsoe think that nothing could go wrong with this mission.

Jacqueline Sawyer sat with her legs crossed, her black hair combed back, and her eyes fixation on her patient: Dr. Chase Braga, who sat on the couch in her office. Sawyer held a data pad in her hand.

“Would you like to continue, Dr. Braga?” she inquired.

Braga shifted on the couch. “Okay,” he said. “Where did I leave off?”

Sawyer glanced back down at the data pad.

“You started having nightmares...,” she said pressing her lips together into a flat line.

Braga nodded. “Yes...,” he said. “I remember.”

They sat in silence for a minute. Sawyer made a gesture for Braga to continue.

“Please, Dr. Braga... Chase,” Sawyer said. “Continue...”

Braga nodded.

“Nightmares...,” Braga said softly. “I don’t know what to call them, but whatever they are, they are keeping me from sleeping.”

“Do you remember what happens in these dreams?” Sawyer asked calmly.

“At the beginning they vary,” Braga said slowly. “But the end... the same... always the same.”

“And how do they end, Chase?”

“An explosion,” Braga said, staring off into nothing. “A ship, my father’s ship. Destroyed by the So’ja.”

“Ah,” Sawyer said nodding and making a notes. “How was your relationship with your father?”

Braga stared at her. He shrugged.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Fine, I guess, for a father and son.”

“Do you think he was proud of you?”

Braga nodded. “Yes,” he said. “He even told me so. When I got the assignment to the Pioneer... he was the one to tell me. He told me how proud he was of all that I had accomplished. He, too, had been a doctor.”

“Indeed, I did not know that,” Sawyer said.

“Yes,” Braga said, trying to smile. “He always wanted me to follow in his footsteps, and I did. I don’t know if I’ll become an admiral, like him, but I am a doctor.”

“Did you feel pressured to become a doctor?” Sawyer asked.

“Yes,” Braga nodded. “When I was growing up... my mother... my father... everyone seemed to be pressuring me to become a doctor. My sister, Martha, and brother Tom... they too felt the pressure.”

“Did they become doctors?”

“Yes,” Braga said, nodding. “We all became doctors.”

“And how do you feel about that, Chase?” Sawyer asked calmly.

“I don’t know,” Braga said, shrugging. “I like being doctor. I like helping. I can’t envision myself doing anything else. I mean... he just... he just had die, didn’t he? He just had die at that very moment.”

“And what moment was that?”

“The moment that I became a CMO on a starship!” Braga said, frustrated.

“And this makes you anger?”

“Damn right it does!” Braga said. “What right did he have to think he could stop the So’ja! Huh? He knew very well that he couldn’t do that. He just had to die, didn’t he! He just had to do it!”

“Chase,” Sawyer said, placing her data pad down. “You know very well that your father did not choice to die. What he did was heroic and brave.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Braga said nodding. “I know. He sacrificed himself to save the Federation. He became a hero of the Federation. How selfish of him!”

“Chase, I’ll ask again,” Sawyer said. “How was your relationship with your father?”

Braga sat there and stared at her in utter silence. His eyes moved about as he thought. Sawyer wanted something from him that he did not understand, yet somehow he understood the meaning of her words. She was right. Something in his relationship with his father was troubling to him, and she knew that. Braga nodded as he thought and looked at her.

“I...,” Braga started. “I... I... I don’t know how to answer that question.”

“We’ll call it a day, Chase,” she said smiling. “We’ll pick this up again, tomorrow.”

“Report, Lieutenant,” Kelsoe said as he sat down in his chair.

The entire senior staff was in the conference room, each siting in a chair.

“The shuttle had no problems in the nebula, sir,” Craig said. “I followed Commander Braxis’ instructions and proceeded to the center of the nebula, where I began an internal sensor sweep.”

Kelsoe learned forward. “Find anything interesting?”

Braxis raised an eyebrow and nodded.

“Interesting, Captain? Yes,” Braxis said in a emotionless voice. “The minerals contained within the Trajan Nebula are clearly capable of being manipulated into a completely new source of energy.”

“And the Velos never even thought of that?” Kelsoe asked.

“Precisely, Captain,” Braxis said with a nod.

“Boy! What you think about that?” Burt said, jabbing an elbow into Braxis. “Pretty strange, eh, Brax.”

Braxis glared, if you can call it that with a Vulcan, at Commander Burt, but ignored him.

Kelsoe smiled. “Yes, strange.”

“Pardon, sir,” Craig said. “But that is not what Commander Braxis and I think is strange.”

“Oh? Explain.”

“Well, while I was taking the sensor readings of the nebula,” Craig said. “I picked up an unknown signal.”

“Has it been run through the computer?” Kelsoe asked.

“Yes, sir,” Tracy said. “As soon as Norman got back, he had me run it through the communication system.”


“It is definitely a communication signal of some kind,” Tracy said.

“Is it So’ja?” Tuff asked, always the first to think of the enemy.

“No,” Tracy said.

“Tealuian?” Burt asked.

“No, thank God,” Tracy said. “According to the computer, whatever that signal was, it is not from the Oralian Sector, or at least used by any species that we know of in this sector.”

“Could it be the Velos?” Kelsoe inquired.

“No,” Tracy said. “We’ve been around Velos long enough so that I’d recognize any of their frequencies.”

Kelsoe leaned back and shook his head. “What do we know for sure?”

Craig sighed.

“For sure, Captain? I don’t know what we know,” Craig said.

“Captain,” Braxis said, drawing Kelsoe’s attention. “All that we can be sure of is that the Trajan Nebula is a large used source of energy. The mineral in it are valuable. And after examining that data I believe that once harvested from the nebula, the minerals would then regenerate.”

“Wait?” Joanna said, suddenly interested in the conversation. “Are you saying that that nebula is an neverending supply of energy?”

Braxis turned to face Joanna. He nodded.

“Precisely, Lt. Commander,” Braxis said. “Neverending. Yes. That would describe it.”

“But what about the other readings you guys were talking about?” Joanna said. “Have you been able to discern whether they are natural or not.”

“Natural or not?” Kelsoe said staring down the conference table at Joanna. “Joanna, haven’t you been listening?”

“Well, no, not exactly,” Joanna said, trying to smile as if it were funny. “But what I can tell you, from my engineering prospective, is that no known communication frequency can penetrate the density of that nebula.”

“Tracy?” Kelsoe inquired.

Tracy nodded. “She’s right, sir.”

“Then we have definitely got some strange readings,” Kelsoe said nodding his head, as he thought. After five second he looked up at his senior staff. “I want to find out what those signal are, and if so, where are they coming from. We need to know. As Braxis said, these minerals are valuable. And I believe that this nebula can make some people’s lives better across the Federation. Let’s get to it.”

Dr. Chase Braga walked through the sickbay door rubbing his neck. He had sat through the senior staff meeting in silence, and quickly learned that nothing required his opinion. So he remained silent hoping that no one would ask him a question. He was glade when it was over and he had made his way, as quickly as possible, to the sickbay.

Upon entering his domain, Braga went right over to a medical terminal and began going through some reports he needed to go through. Dr. Rhell was working at another terminal, over near one of the bio-beds and need not seem to notice that Braga was back from the meeting. Braga preferred to allow Rhell to remain focus on whatever he was doing. So he made no attempt to draw that attention away from the console.

However that did not stop Rhell from looking up and seeing that Braga had returned. Rhell did exactly what Braga had hoped he would not, which was dropping what he was doing and coming over.

“Sir?” Rhell asked, standing perfectly still behind Braga.

Braga did not want to talk, but he did turn around and acknowledged Rhell’s presence.

“How are you doing, sir?” Rhell inquired, but no response came from Braga.  Rhell shifted and spoke again, this time asking something different. “How did the senior staff meeting go?”

Braga stopped and turned around. He looked up at Rhell.

“Honestly,” Braga said. “I really don’t remember that much about it. I’ve been distracted for the last couple of days.”

“I know,” Rhell said. “As the Deputy Chief Medical Officer I make sure that I am aware of the health of every crewmember aboard this ship.”

“That’s good, Rhell,” Braga said, nodding. “Really it is. But why must you tell me how to treat myself.”

“May I remind you, sir,” Rhell said. “That at the Medical Academy they taught us that doctors made the worse patients.”

“I know, Rhell, I know,” Braga said, nodding. He placed his hands on his forehead. “It’s just that the last couple of days have been rather stressful.”

“You’ll be pleased to learn that Ensign Soto’s leg has fully healed,” Rhell said.

Braga smiled. “Good, we have to remind him to be more careful when he exercises.”

Rhell smiled. “I have already taken the liberty of telling him.”

“Thanks, Rhell,” Braga said. “You know, I don’t know what I’d do with out you.”

“Sir!” Ensign Eric Zimmer said from the helm. “I’m picking up strange readings from the nebula.”

Kelsoe stood up.

“Any idea what it might be?”

“Negative, sir,” Zimmer said.

Kelsoe walked down to the helm station and stood beside Zimmer. He looked down at the console. He punched a few buttons.

“I see it,” he said.

“Sir,” Tuff said from his security station.

Kelsoe looked over his shoulder at Tuff.

“I am picking up what appears to be movement,” Tuff reported.

“Craig!” Kelsoe said stepping back up to the center of the bridge.

“Affirmative, Captain!” Craig said, working at his station. “Massive distortions in the shape of the nebula.”

“Sir!” Tuff said looking up at the view screen. “A Romulan Warbird’s decloaking!”

“Red alert!” Burt said as he stood up from his chair.

The lights dimmed and red lights began to flash.

“Bring us about,” Kelsoe said, standing firmly in the center of the bridge.

“Raising shields - prepare phasers!” Burt added.

Kelsoe watched as the Romulan Warbird came out of the nebula and stopped. The green warship seemed to almost want to blend in with the blue and pink in the nebula. It looked odd, but that was not the only thing in Kelsoe’s mind.

“They’ve not attack,” Burt said from behind Kelsoe. “Why?”

Silence. Then a beep came from the communication station. Kelsoe moved his head and looked over at Tracy.

“We’re being hailed, Captain,” she said.

“On screen!”

The screen flashed to the bridge of the Romulan Warbird, though nothing much could be seen of the bridge, except for the commander sitting in his chair. This Romulan looked young and determined.

“I am Commander Maiek Takaram of the Romulan Star Empire,” the commander said.

“I am Captain Benjamin Kelsoe of the Federation starship Pioneer,” Kelsoe said. “May I ask you what are you doing so far from Romulan space.”

“Yes, Captain Kelsoe,” Takaram said nodding. “That is a question you may ask. We expected such a question.”

“Well?” Kelsoe said. “Answer it then.”

“Ha,” Takaram laughed. “Captain, you fool yourself. Your ship is no match for a Romulan D’Deridex Class Warbird. The Thrai is one of the most advance Warbird in the Imperial Fleet. But,” Takaram raised a hand with his index finger pointed up, “I will answer your question, despite the fact that I could destroy your ship with a single command.” He paused for a beat. “My government has dispatched me to monitor the Oralian Sector for any disturbing behavior. I have to say, I have seen a lot of things here that disturbs me, Captain. For one, the Federation has not yet dealt with the serious threat that the So’ja Coalition obversely poses towards this sector.”

“And why would the Romulan government care about this sector?” Kelsoe inquired.

“The Romulans want what you want, Captain,” Takaram said. “They want the destruction of the So’ja Coalition. If the Coalition shall fall the rights to the Venka Nebula will open. In a way, Captain, we are on the same side.”

“Far be it from me to question the Romulan Star Empire,” Kelsoe said. “But  what makes you think that I want to see the destruction of the So’ja Coalition.”

“Ah, come on, Captain,” Takaram said, almost chuckling. “You Federation really think that the Romulan Star Empire is that stupid. We have seen the deployment of this sector’s fleet. As we speak the Independence is on its way to Velos to pick up the Velosian Ambassador. We know all about the conference that is going to occur on your Deep Space Five. Romulan Intelligence has been monitoring the transmissions from the Deep Space Five and we now what the Federation has in mind for this sector. However that is not why I’m here, is it. I am here to speak with you, Captain Kelsoe.”

“Me?” Kelsoe said.

“Yes,” Takaram nodded. “You will lower your shields.” A pause. “Or I shall destroy your ship.”

“Why would I lower my shields with a Romulan Warbird so close?” Kelsoe said.

“Because of what Commander L’mar did to you, Captain,” Takaram said. “Because you will be seeing a lot more of me. We need to get acquainted.”

“So you want to talk, is that it?” Kelsoe said.

“In a manner of saying, yes,” Takaram said smiling. But his smile faded quickly. “You have ten minutes to lower you shields, or I will open fire on your ship. Takaram out.”

The view screen reverted back to the image of the Thrai hovering in front of the Trajan Nebula. Kelsoe turned around and looked at Burt. Burt shrugged.

“I don’t know, Captain,” Burt said. “You know the expression, beware Romulans bearing gifts.”

“Rob?” Kelsoe said. “I’d appreciate your thoughts.”

Tuff also shrugged. “I don’t like it, sir. No matter what we’d be vulnerable to attack.”

“I know,” Kelsoe said. “I don’t like this either, but I appears we have no choice. We must assume that Commander Takaram has good intentions. After all he did contact us instead of attacking when the Warbird decloaked.”

“Captain,” Braxis said, from his station. “May I make an observation?”

“As always, Commander,” Kelsoe said, turning towards Braxis.”

“Commander Takaram appears to be young, yet determined,” Braxis said. “I believe that he would not have given us such information as he did unless directed by his government. He would, of course, want to impress his superiors.”

“A Federation ship would do that, Commander Braxis,” Tuff said from his station. “Sir! I must protest to this.”

“Noted,” Kelsoe said with a nod. “But I’m afraid I agree with Mr. Braxis.” Kelsoe paused for a beat and then turned to Craig.

“Lieutenant, lower the shields,” Kelsoe said.

“Aye, sir,” Craig said with reluctance. He typed in the appropriate commands and looked up. “Shields lowered.”

Before anyone could say anything a green particles of a transporter appeared around Kelsoe and with in seconds he had dematerialized. Burt turned franticly towards Craig.

“Track his signature! Get him back!” Burt commanded.

Craig worked quickly at his console.

“No sure, sir,” Craig said. “The Romulans have raised their shields. I can’t get a lock on the Captain.”

Tuff banged his fist against his console.

“It was a trap!”

“Commander...!” Craig’s voice suddenly goes into a slur and he falls over.

Tuff and Burt rush over to him. Tuff holds Craig up.

“Sir, he feels warm,” Tuff said.

Burt taps his commbadge.

“Bridge to transporters,” Burt said. “Transport Lieutenant Craig sickbay.”

“Aye, sir.”

Burt and Tuff watch as Craig dematerializes. Burt looks up at Tuff.

“This isn’t a good day,” he said.

Tuff can only nod in reply.

“Report!” Braga said as he rushed out from his office to the surgical area. Lieutenant Norman Craig had materialized on the bio-bed. Dr. Rhell had wasted no time in preparing the equipment. And had already down a primary scan with the medical tricorder.

“His temperature has risen and is approaching unsafe levels,” Rhell said.

Braga moved quickly over to the bio-bed.

“Help... help...,” Craig was wheezing.

“Nurse Gennaro, a hypospray,” Braga said holding out his hand.

Gennaro handed him a hypospray from the medical tray that she had just wheeled over. Braga took the hypospray and programed it as quickly as possible. He then extended his hand and placed the head of the hypospray against Craig’s neck. He pushed the button a he heard a soft hiss. Braga withdrew the hypospray and handed it back to Gennaro. Craig became unconscious.

“Alright, he’s unconscious,” Craig said. “Rhell I need a Cerebral cortical scan.”

Rhell nodded and took the hand held scanner from the medical tray. He held the device over Craig’s head and began scanning. Braga watched the readout on the monitor of the medical station.

“Nothing appears to be wrong,” Braga said. He stopped and thought. “Run a bio-scan, quickly.”

Rhell took a medical tricorder from Gennaro and ran the device up and down Craig’s body.

“I can explain what his going on,” Rhell said. “Whatever it is... his vitals are dropping!”

“That’s it!” Braga said, frustrated and at a loss for words. “Bring us the Stasis unit.”

Rhell nodded. He handed the medical tricorder back to Gennaro and shifted his attention to the console at the base of the bed. He typed in the command and the Stasis unit came out from underneath the bio-bed and covered Craig’s body like a tube cut in half. The two sides met at the top to form the tube like shape around the top of the bio-bed.

Braga stepped forward and looked down at the console that had appeared on the Stasis unit. He pushed the touch screen and began the stasis.

“Alright,” Braga said. “I’m putting him into suspended animation.”

Braga stepped away.


The computer chirped in response.

“Keep a constant scan on Lieutenant Craig’s vitals,” he said. “If they shift radical in anyway, I want to be notified immediately.”


Braga looked down at Craig’s face. Dr. Rhell was standing on the other side of the bed and Braga slowly looked up at him.

“Sir?” Rhell inquired.

“Whatever is causing this, Rhell,” Braga said. “It’s not known to the Federation.”

“Perhaps it is something in the nebula,” Rhell said.

“But the bio-filters should have detected it,” Braga said.

“Then perhaps it is something new,” Rhell said. “Something unexpected and unknown.”

“Yes,” Braga said, nodding. “And we’ve got to find out what it is and how to stop it.”

Braga reached down and placed his hand on Craig’s shoulder.

“Hang on, Norm,” Braga said softly.

Captain Benjamin Kelsoe stood on the bridge of the Romulan Warbird Thrai. Commander Takaram sat in his chair, with his back to Kelsoe. Kelsoe had been brought up from the transporter room and had entered the bridge from the back. He could see the view screen over the back of Takaram’s chair. The Pioneer was there. Kelsoe wondered what his crew was doing. Takaram handed a data pad to on of his subordinates and turned around in his chair.

“Captain,” he said smiling. “Welcome aboard.”

“Why have you abducted me?” Kelsoe demanded. The two Romulan security guards held in arms firmly.

Commander Takaram stood up.

“You have not be abducted, Captain,” Takaram said stepping up to Kelsoe. He nodded to the Romulan guards, who released Kelsoe.

A female Romulan stepped up from behind Takaram. Takaram nodded towards her.

“This is my first officer, Sub-commander Rhiana,” Takaram said. “She does not hold the Federation in much esteem, but she does admit that war is costly.”

“What is this about?” Kelsoe demanded.

“Do you remember Commander L’mar?” Takaram inquired.

“Yes,” Kelsoe said, nodding. “How could I forget that.”

Takaram shrugged. “You humans sometimes block out certain things that are... er... disturbing to your mind. Did I say that right?”

“Close enough,” Kelsoe said. “Yes we block traumatic events.”

“Ah, traumatic, yes,” Takaram said. He stepped back and began pacing. “What Commander L’mar did was a violation of Romulan law. We have outlawed such programs, though for a time the Senate did have such a program, it too was shut down. And L’mar despised them for that. I understand that the clone died.”

Kelsoe nodded. “The genetic growth rate was proceeding too fast for him to take it.”

“Pity,” Takaram said. “The Romulan Senate had hoped it would still be alive. We had hoped that with your advance medical technology that he would still be alive.”

“Why?” Kelsoe asked. “Why would the Romulan Senate care about my clone?”

“We would have liked him to testify against Commander L’mar,” Takaram said.

“If my memory services me right,” Kelsoe said. “He’s with the So’ja.”

“Yes,” Takaram said. “He was, but according to our informants within the So’ja Coalition, L’mar is still with them. He is a rogue, Captain. And I believe he has retrieved his equipment and is now working for the So’ja Coalition. Doing what, we do not know, but whatever it is it is a clear security threat to this sector and to the Romulan Star Empire.”

“That’s why you’re here then, because of him,” Kelsoe said. “Because of L’mar.”

“Precisely,” Takaram said with a nod.

“You’re trying to clear up your mistakes, is that it,” Kelsoe said.

“I would like to remind you that L’mar is a rogue,” Takaram said, his tone become angry. “The Romulan government does not condone his actions. He simply want to bring him back to Romulus to stand trail for his violations of the law.”

“He didn’t just violate Romulan law, Commander,” Kelsoe said. “He violated natural law.”

Takaram sighed.

“Yes, that is true,” Takaram said. “I take no pleasure in admitting that he was, mind you I said was, part of my government, and that my government permitted such unnatural experiments. But we have admitted our mistakes, Captain. And at least we are willing to clean them up.”

Kelsoe nodded.

“Alright,” Kelsoe said. “So, I suppose I am going to see a lot of you then.”

“Of course, Captain,” Takaram said smiling. “Think of me as a friend.”

“Now,” Kelsoe said. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to contact my ship and tell them that I am okay.”

“My pleasure, Captain,” Takaram said, and nodded to Sub-commander Rhiana.

“Communications opened, Commander,” she said.

“Takaram to Federation vessel,” Takaram said. “Your Captain wishes to speak.”

The view screen changed and Kelsoe saw a relieved Commander Burt.

“Good to see you, Captain,” Burt said. “Is everything alright?”

“Fine,” Kelsoe said. “Let’s just say I think we have a new friend.”

Kelsoe looked at Takaram. Takaram nodded to Commander Burt.

“Any news over there, Commander?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Got some bad news, sir,” Burt said. “It’s about Lieutenant Craig, sir. He suddenly fainted and Dr. Braga does not know what is the matter. Our medical team believes that it has something to do with the nebu...”

“Pardon the interruption, Commander,” Takaram said. “But I believe that we can take care of that.”

Kelsoe turned to Takaram.

“How so?”

“We have experienced this problem before,” Takaram said. “It has something to do with the high concentration of certain materials in the nebula that admit radiation. Our shields have been able to protect us. We did as you did, Captain. We sent a shuttle inside the nebula and our pilot came back with the same condition as your Lieutenant Craig. I’d be happy to have our ship doctor transport over to your vessel to assist. He has created a cure for the problem.”

“That would be great,” Kelsoe said.

“I’d like to come along as well, Captain,” Takaram said.

“Very well, but I will have security teams posted,” Kelsoe said.

“Understandable,” Takaram said. “Now, if you’d follow me, we will go to the transporter room.”

Kelsoe took a step forward and Takaram turned back Rhiana.

“Have Dr. Jomar meet us in the transporter room, Sub-commander,” Takaram said.

“Yes, sir.”

Dr. S’Tceavra Jomar stepped back from the surgical bay and returned to the medical tray. He placed his equipment back in its case.

“He shall be fine,” Jomar said.

“What exactly was the problem?” Braga inquired.

“The radiation forces a unnatural heating process in the patient’s blood,” Jomar said. “Your crewman is lucky. He will have no side affects.”

“And what of your pilot?” Braga inquired. “Did he survive.”

“Yes,” Jomar said. “But I’m afraid that I was unable to stop it in time. He is forever paralyzed for the rest of his life.”

“Thank you, Dr. Jomar,” Braga said, extending his hand.

Jomar stood there, confused, and then shook Braga’s hand.

“This is the first time that I have ever shaken hands with a human,” Jomar said.

“And this is the first time that I have shaken hands with a Romulan,” Braga said. “But not the first time that I have with a doctor.”

Jomar smiled.

“I only seek to help those who are in pain,” Jomar said. “As all doctors do.”

“Yes, of course,” Braga said.

“Doctor?” Commander Takaram said standing next to Kelsoe at the doors to sickbay. “It is time for us to go back to our ship.” Takaram turned to Kelsoe. “We will leave now. But this will not be our last encounter, Captain.”

“I look forward to our next meeting, Commander Takaram,” Kelsoe said.

“As do I, Captain,” Takaram said. “As do I.”

Takaram and Dr. Jomar then left, escorted by security. Kelsoe nodded to Braga and then left. Braga turned around and walked back over to Craig. Dr. Rhell was running some scans. Braga glanced down at Craig.

“How is he?” he asked.

“Dr. Jomar is a brilliant surgeon,” Rhell said. “Lieutenant Craig’s vitals have never been better.” Rhell looked up. “But how are you, sir?”

Braga looked up.

“What do you mean?” he inquired.

“I’ve spoken with Counselor Sawyer,” Rhell said. “She would not tell me what is the matter, but I believe I know.”

“You do?” Braga said, trying to smile.

“You are having a hard time accepting your father’s death,” Rhell said. “I’ve seen it before. When I was a doctor back on Bolarus IX a young man lost his father is a fire, and he too had trouble but he eventually was able to get over it.”

“How was he able to do that?” Braga said, now fully admitting his problem to Rhell.

“For you, I would recommend different treatment,” Rhell said.

“And what might that be?” Braga inquired.

“I would suggest you take some time off, a week perhaps,” Rhell said. “Relax, rest, and mourn your father in your own way.” Rhell stepped around the bed and placed a hand on Braga’s shoulder. “It is difficult to loss a parent, especially when one feels like that we pressured to become something. I know you had no choice in become a doctor, but in the end your father was right, wasn’t he?”

Braga nodded.

“You’re right, Rhell,” Braga said. “I felt pressured to become a doctor from my father, but I have to admit... that now I cannot see myself as anything else.”

“You should get some rest now, sir,” Rhell said, smiling. “I’ll stay here and take care of Mr. Craig.”

Braga nodded.

“Thank you, Rhell,” Braga said, trying to smile. “You’re a good friend.”