EPISODE 5.43 - “Question of Loyalty”

story by Travis Cannon and Matt Sidley

written by Travis Cannon and Ben Thomas

“Where the hell did they come from?” cried Captain Russ Pravelt aboard the U.S.S. Saladin.

“Don't know, sir,” said the Saladin's tactical officer.

“It appears that they are bombarding the planet,” the operations officer said.

“Picking up Tulop refugee ships attempting to flee the planet, sir!” the communications officer called from his station.

“Confirmed,” the tactical officer reported. “Picking up refugee ships.” She paused, checking the read out on her console. “Two enemy ships have broken off from the main fleet to pursue.”

“Raise shields, and bring us in-between the So'jan warships and the refugee ships!” Pravelt commanded.

“Aye, sir.”

“Enric,” Pravelt called over to his communications officer. “Send all our data to DS-5. Tell them that Tulop as fallen to the enemy.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Pravelt leaned forward. “All right, let's shows these scaly bastards what we're made of. Fire!”

The Saladin let loose with an array of phaser fire, striking the lead So'jan warship. The ship's deflector shields appeared to hold off any damage to the ship. Aboard the Saladin, Captain Pravelt wavered slightly on whether or not he had made the correct decision.

Stick with it, he told himself.

The So'jan warships turned away from the refugee ships and directed a volley of pulse rays at the Saladin.

“Return fire!” growled Pravelt, gripping the arms of his command chair. “We must give the refugees time to escape.”

“Returning fire,” relayed the tactical officer.

The Saladin swung around for another pass and launched several photon torpedoes. The volley struck the lead warship, and appeared to have no effect.


“No effect, sir!” the tactical officer reported.

“Refugee ships are going to warp,” chimed in the operations officer.

Pravelt nodded. Hopefully the Ambassador was aboard one of those ships.

“They've gotten away!” Commander Jak'dal of the So'ja Coalition Warship Jak'gi reported.

Admiral Da'note spun around in his command chair. The bridge of a So'jan warship is dark and red. Da'note's orange uniform looked as if it was covered in blood. He leaned forward.

Duja-fu!” cried Da'note, hitting the arm of his chair.

He jumped out of his command chair and pointed at the view screen, which currently showed the U.S.S. Saladin passing before them.

“Prepare the pulse cannon!” Da'note hissed through his leathery lips. “And destroy that Federation vessel!”

The Saladin was alone, and it would get no reinforcements. Captain Pravelt knew this and he now knew that this would be his last hour. And he would make it such an hour.

“Sir!” cried the operations officer. “They've stopped. Something's happening!”

A green light appeared at the tips of the two side wings and the large fin on the top of the warship. The three lights then turned into beams that linked up at the center point of the main ship and fired out a beam of green light.

Pravelt gripped the arms of his chair and pulled himself to his feet.

“My God!” He exclaimed. “Shields! Shields!”

The beam struck the Saladin with such force that the ship shook like Hell was rising. There was a terrible screaming noise and then the ship seemed to implode with a devastating shudder and a massive amount of explosive power.

Back aboard the Jak'gi, Admiral Da'note smiled.

“That was weird,” Tuff said, feeling his chest.

“Checking to see if you're still in one piece, Commander?” Dr. Braga asked, as he moved his medical tricorder over the Commander.

“That Pyrois fellow just waved his hand and poff, we're back in the transporter room,” Tuff explained.

“Well maybe it's like what Captain Franco said,” Braga replied. “It's just beyond our understanding.”

Tuff shrugged. “This Pyrois fellow, he was a strange one, doctor,” Tuff explained. “He had this glow about him, not metaphorically - as we'd say if you were in love, but literally. He glowed what I would call a pale blue... more white that blue.”

“Could you make out a face?” Braga inquired, running a medical device over Tuff's cranium.

“There was a time when the glow dim a little,” Tuff answered. “Yes! I did see something. It look human, and then again, not quite human. It was something completely alien.”

“You can say that about some of the members of this crew,” Braga said jokingly.

“Aye, you can,” Tuff acknowledged. “But I meant alien from anything else we've encountered.” He paused in thought. “Plus according to Ensign Carson, Pyrois is the name of some ancient Greek myth, one of four horses that pulled the chariot of this Helios fellow.”

“Helios?” Braga questioned. “Wasn't that the name of the 'god' the Or'pec worshiped?”

“Yes,” Tuff nodded. “Yes it was.”

Braga's brow furrowed. “This is very strange.”

“You're telling me!?” Tuff chuckled. He paused. “Could it be that the gods of the ancient peoples of Earth were really aliens with superior technology that looked like magic to our ancestors?”

“As Braxis would say, that is very logic,” Braga said, smirking.

Tuff nodded. “Are you done?”

“I think so,” Braga said. “Everything checks out. Nothing's wrong.”

Tuff jumped off the bio-bed. “Then I can return on duty.”


Admiral Christopher Truman sat quietly on the light crimson couch in Admiral Toshio Kawamura's office aboard DS-5. Truman was reading through a recent report from ships on patrol along the So'ja-Federation Neutral Zone, as well along the Romulan-Federation Neutral Zone.

The door hissed opened and Admiral Kawamura came striding in with his Vulcan aide, Qupec, behind him. Truman looked up from his PADD.

“Toshio?” he question. “Where have you been?”

“Speaking with Captain Kelsoe's parents,” Kawamura said, easing himself down behind his desk.

“Parent?” Truman looked confused as he stood up. “I though Kelsoe was an orphan.”

“He was, until he was six years old,” Kawamura explained. “Maxwell Brooke and his wife, Julienne adopted Kelsoe.”

“Oh, I see,” Truman said, nodding. “How are then handling this?”

“Not well,” Kawamura said. “Kelsoe is their only child.”

Truman nodded. Kawamura glanced down at the PADD in Truman's hands as Qupec handed some other PADDs to him and left.

“What's that?” Kawamura asked.

“Nothing,” Truman said nonchalantly. “Just some status reports from both Neutral Zones.”

“We have patrols on the Romulan Neutral Zone?” Kawamura inquired.

“Yes,” Truman said, taking a sit in one of the plush crimson chairs in front of Kawamura's desk. “Just in case the Romulans try and take advantage of this conflict.”

“They never have in the past,” Kawamura said. “Why now?”

“The Venka Nebula is highly valuable, and not just to the Federation,” Truman said. “The minerals and substance found in its gaseous vapors can be used by any race. The Romulans would love to get their hands on it.”

“I thought they were in trade arrangements with the So'ja Coaliton,” Kawamura said.

“They were, until sometime last year,” Truman explained. “They had a falling through, we don't know exactly why, but the important thing is that the Coalition cut the Romulans off from the Venka Nebula.”

“So the Romulans might use this conflict to conquer some more territory and acquire the Venka Nebula, is that it?” Kawamura questioned.

“Precisely what SI was thinking,” Truman said.

The door chimed. Kawamura looked up.


The door hissed and Lieutenant Albert Buerk walked in.

“Sirs,” he said, the tension in his voice was unmistakable.

“Lieutenant?” Kawamura questioned.

“The Tulop envoy ships have arrived,” Buerk said. “Grace Mul La wishes to speak with you immediately... something terrible has happened.”

Commander Connor Burt was lying on the couch, but was not comfortable.

“Look, I ain't at all comfortable,” he complained.

“Then you can sit up, if you wish,” came a soothing female voice.

Burt sighed and swung his legs over the edge of the couch, as he sat up. He looked across from him at Counselor Jacqueline Sawyer. She sat cross-legged in a dark blow cushioned chair. Burt glanced down at the couch (of the same color), and sighed again.

“What's the matter, Commander?” Sawyer inquired.

“Isn't that what you're supposed to tell me!?”

Sawyer inclined her head.

“I listen to what you have to say, and then - if need be, I'd give you advice on what to do,” Sawyer answered.

Burt nodded. “Yeah, yeah.”

“Why are you here?” Sawyer asked.

Burt raised an eyebrow and shrugged. “Because Dr. Braga ordered me here.”

“Yes, that's why you have come, but why are you here?”

Burt shifted. “The Doc ordered me, Counselor.”

“Why are you here?”

“The captain, okay!” Burt shouted. “I let him get captured and now we aren't doing anything. We have to save him.”

Sawyer remained quiet, and waited for Burt to continue.

“We let it happen,” Burt mumbled. “We let him get captured.”

Sawyer raised an eyebrow.

“That's not what you said earlier,” she said.


“You said, 'I let him get captured,'” Sawyer explained. She paused. “Do you blame yourself for Captain Kelsoe being captured by the So'ja?”

“What?” Burt said defensively. “Me, no. I don't blame myself.”

Sawyer inclined her head. “I think you do, Commander.”


“And I think your friends are worried about you, and that's why they've asked you to come and see me,” Sawyer explained. “Dr. Braga is not forcing you to come here. You came of your own free will, which means that deep down you want to be here.”

“Ridiculous,” huffed Burt.

“Is it?”

Burt hesitated before answering. “I don't know... maybe. I don't know.”

“Commander,” Sawyer continued, shifting her legs and re-crossing them. “Something is bothering you, and I'd bet that it has to do with the Captain's abduction and replacement.” She paused before continuing. “What do you think of Captain Franco?”

“I thought he'd be a hard ass,” Burt admitted. “But he doesn't seem that bad, I mean, Tuff and Braxis seem to like him.”

“What about the rest of the crew?” Sawyer asked.

“I don't know,” Burt sighed. “He seems like a pretty likable guy, but that does not excuse the fact that Starfleet is doing nothing about Captain Kelsoe.”

“We are at war,” Sawyer interjected.

“True,” Burt said, pausing for a beat. “But when was it said that we'd leave a man behind? We never leave a man behind... never!”

Sawyer nodded. And made some notes on her data pad.

“I think that's all for today,” she said. “I suggest rest and relaxation. Spend some time with your friends and try to find that 'likable' part of Captain Franco. You need to work with him, if you are to find a way to get what you want, Commander.”

“Perhaps your right.”

Burt narrowed his eyes a bit. If I can find a way to remove him from command and I can save the Captain.

Admiral Toshio Kawamura and Admiral Christopher Truman entered the dimly lit room. They stood there confused and blinking as the door hissed shut behind them. Suddenly a pair of glowing white eyes emerged from the shadows, followed by a deep booming voice.

“Welcome,” it said. “I must compliment your station personnel for doing a fine job in replicating the Tulop environment. These quarters suite me very much.”

“Thank you, Grace Mul La,” Toshio Kawamura said, bowing. “I shall pass on your compliments.” He paused and starred deeply into the white eyes ahead of him. “It is an honor to have you aboard Deep Space Five.”

“The honor is mine,” Mul La said. “I just wish it was under different circumstances. I would have preferred to have come here during the Oralian Sector Peace Conference, but I was unable.”

“My Lieutenant tells me that you bring dire news,” Kawamura said.

“Yes,” Mul La said, stepping slightly out of the shadows. For the first time Kawamura and Truman got a glimpse of the amazing bat-like wings of a Tulop and the awesome size of the species. “The So'jan Fleet,” Mul La continued. “Enter Tulop space after they destroyed the U.S.S. Apollo, a tragedy that my people mourn, and within days it had reached homeworld. For the first time in centuries, our fleet was defeated by that of the So'ja.” He paused. “It is that new hybrid ship of theirs, very unusual design.” Another paused as he continued his story. “With our fleet defeated, I immediately ordered the evacuation of Tulop. Our first wave refugee ships were just leaving the planet's atmosphere when the So'jan Fleet arrived and began a planetary bombardment with particle cannons. That is when the U.S.S. Saladin arrived. She arrived at precisely the right time. Our ships were being fired upon, and I must admitted that I would not be here to give you this news if the Saladin had not come to our rescue. The Saladin placed herself in-between the refugee ships and the So'jan fleet. We managed to escape, but our ship sensors picked up a massive explosion that could only have been the Saladin. My people grateful for what the Saladin did to save us, and we will never forget. For if they had not arrived when they had and did what they did, the Tulop government and one-fifth of the population would be under the oppression of the So'jan invasion force.”

“Tulop has been invaded, then?” Truman questioned.

“There is little doubt that it has,” Mul La said. “If not for resources or military advantage, for pure spite for our constant defeating of their force while we were strong.” He paused, and they heard a great shudder come from the power beast. “My people are strong, but they could not have held out from a planetary bombardment, especially with the fleet defeated.”

“What has become of your fleet?” Kawamura inquired.

“The remainder of it has gone into hiding,” Mul La said. “The ones that we could spare we attached to the refugee convoy for protection.” Kawamura and Truman say the great beast smile, his pearly white razor sharp teeth visible. “We are only happy that we had become apart of the Federation before we had grown weaker than the So'jan.”

“The So'ja are the ones who are weak,” Kawamura said. “They are attacking a civilians and have used alien technology to better their own ships. You people were not defeated by So'ja ingenuity, but rather by cowards who stole technology and integrated into their own to created weapons of mass destruction.”

“Do you know anything about this weapon used for the planetary bombardment?” Truman inquired.

“Not much,” Mul La admitted. “My military advisors tell me it is called a particle cannon and works in a similar way to a nuclear explosion. Many cities were destroyed before our first wave of ships had left the planet's surface. The weapon itself is similar to a weapon once used by the ancient peoples of the Oralian sector. We call them the Oppressors, for not much is truly known about their kind. But what we do now is that a long, long time ago they had conquered almost the entire Oralian Sector with the exception of the Taygenian Cooperative.”

“Taygenian Cooperative?”

“Yes,” Mul La explained. “A league of planets consisting of Turcia, Paos, Delos, Za'da Gol, Andres Rae, and of course, it's namesake, Taygenia. They had fought against the Oppressors to retain their independent freedom. The weapon they used to conquer planets was called a Mass Driver.”

“And I take it that is what it appears that the So'ja are using?” Truman asked.

“What our military historians have gathered, yes,” Mul La said. “The So'ja must have been doing their own reach into the history of the Oppressors.”

“What else do your historians now about the Oppressors?” Kawamura asked.

“Not much, beside the fact they had once ruled over the Oralian Sector,” Mul La said. “It has always been a mystery from where they came from. Many expeditions have searched for the Oppressor's homeworld with little success. However, according to our ancient records, the Oppressors emerged into power after a far greater foe had been driven out and back beyond the Great Rift Barrier from whence they came.”

“So the Oppressors merely took over after another race left the Oralian Sector?” Kawamura inquired.

“That is what our historians believe,” Mul La informed them. “The So'ja were one of the first to rebel against the Oppressors, so it is understandable that they might know more about them. They must have kept some of the Oppressors' equipment and documents around as war trophies. That is why the So'ja were the most powerful out of all the subjects of the Oppressors and why their territory is so expansive compared with the other peoples in the region.”

“Why were the So'ja the first to rebel?” Kawamura asked.

“The Oppressors have been performing genetic experiments on them,” Mul La said surprised. “Surely you must have wondered how the Rigusians came to be similar to the So'ja externally, but different internally.”

Kawamura and Truman looked at each other.

“We thought it was because of an evolutionary change and separate branches of the species,” Truman admitted. “We were wondering our certain cultural aspects of the two species were exactly the same, as well as the appearance.”

“The Oppressors were trying to breed the violent nature out of the So'ja,” Mul La explained. “They knew that the So'ja would be the first to rebel and were attempting a preemptive strike, so to speak.”

Kawamura and Truman nodded.

“All this history is quite fascinating,” Truman said in his gravely voice. “But the news of Tulop's fall and the destruction of the Saladin are my prime concern right now, as well as these Mass Drivers.”

“I can have my people send you all the information we have on the weapon, if you like,” Mul La offered.

“Yes, thank you,” Truman said. “That would be much appreciated.”

The great leader of the Tulop people inclined his head.

“We must work together so that one day we may free my world from the oppression of a new enslaver,” Mul La said. “Good day, Admirals. May the war effort progress towards our ends.”

The dark steel door opened with a low hum. The interior of the room, in which the doors led, was not pretty. It was a rather small square shapped room, with what appeared to be rusty walls. There were no visible light source, but when the man who had entered the room gave a command in an alien tongue, the room became engulfed in a low red tinted light. The man stepped deeper into the room, and became rearranging all the furniture, which was little to begin with. Soon the room was arranged in such a way that could just pass off as a conference room.

Prinat erinic'n aulon,” hissed the alien in his native tongue.

A standard white light appeared in the center of the ceiling, lighting up the conference table. The alien reached inside his pocket and pulled out a gray communications device. He held the device up to his leathery lips.

Ule'k not'chee,” he hissed.

Immediately after he spoke the room seemed to come to life. More lights appeared and on the back wall, opposite the door, a wall light lit up illuminating the seven point star emblem of the so'jan people.

The so'jan who had been assigned to prepare the room smiled, baring his yellow razor teeth. He went over to a wall panel and typed in some instructions. There was a hum and then a buzz. A clicking noise alerted to him that what he had ordered to be down was completed. He pressed a green button on the wall and a small square shaped panel opened up to rival a pitcher of a so'jan beverage. The so'jan picked it up and placed it on the center of the table. He then went back to the device, which could only be the so'ja version of a replicator, and ordered several glasses. He then placed them around the pitcher, which was in the center of the table, and stood back near the door to await the attendees of this meeting.

The door hissed opened with a creak and Tyson Calok, along with Commander L'mar, stepped into the room, and already were engaged in conversation. Behind them came Admiral Da'note, plus Senator Ru'kon and his staff of attachés. The entire group walked around the table and took their sits.

Senator Ru'kon's attachés took up the responsibility of pouring the drinks and handing them around.

“What is this, anyway?” L'mar said, looking down at the yellowish-orange liquid in his glass.

“It's Ia'duno'kalo,” Da'note responded. “It is kind of like a brandy with a citrus twist. I must warn you, some say that its taste is sour.”

“It is very popular the rich,” Ru'kon explained. “We have always made it, and it has become the drink of the elites when we banished the Oppressors from our land.”

L'mar inclined his head, and took a sip, after which he held up the drink and looked at it.

“Interesting,” L'mar said, “though I still think Romulan Ale is superior.”

“Whatever,” hissed Calok, who had not yet touched his drink.

“Please, Mr. Calok,” Ru'kon said. “Try some of the brandy.”

“I have no need to try it,” was Calok's response. “Let us get the meeting underway.”

“All right,” Ru'kon said, after sipping some of his brandy. He placed his glass down and looked around the table. “Then it is with honor that I, Senator Ru'kon welcome you to the re-opening of the Venka Station.”

“Good,” Calok said nodding. He finally took a sip of the brandy. “Nasty stuff. Well, now that we have that out of the way, let us talk of other things.”

“Such as?” Ru'kon inquired.

Calok turned and glance over at L'mar. The two of them smiled.

“What is this meeting about?” Ru'kon inquired. “You are the one who arranged it, are you not, Mr. Calok?”

“Yes,” Calok said, grinning mischievously. “The Mass Drivers we supplied seem to be working well with the invasion of Tulop.”

“Yes, as one would expect with such weapons,” Da'note said. “I am still amazed that we did not have any left over from our past occupation by the Oppressors.”

“That was us!” L'mar said, raising his hand. “The Romulan Star Empire had been secretly collecting Mass Drivers ever since the rebellion that caused the Oppressor Empire to collapse. It is through my contacts on Romulus that Mr. Calok and I were able to smuggle them here.”

“We had help though,” Calok said smiling.

“Help?” Ru'kon hissed through his leathery lips.

“That's right scaly! Help!”

Ru'kon sat back, aghast.

“How dare you call me that filthy name!” he ragged.

“Shut up!” Calok said, half standing.

The Senator did as he was told.

“We have Captain Kelsoe in holding and we have extracting valuable information from his mind,” Calok said, inclining his head towards his comrade, Commander L'mar. “My associate here knew of the technique from his previous employment with the Tal Shiar back on Romulus. However, we needed another contact to smuggle the weapons across Federation space. And for that we used someone whom I'd like you all to met now.” Calok stood. “You may come in.”

The door hissed opened and a tall pale skin creature with a long neck and four legs stepped into the room and bowed its head.

“May I introduced Xojo Manjala, previously of the Tealuian Xenobiological Authority,” Calok said, shaking hands with his comrade. “Xojo has graciously agreed to help us out in our endeavor against the Federation.”

“Oh, and what of Captain Kelsoe?” Ru'kon inquired.

“Oh, we have plans for Kelsoe... big plans!” Calok said, smiling wickedly.

After the meeting, Calok, L'mar, and Xojo Manjala had all left, leaving the So'jan delegation still there, continuing the conversation in their native tongue.

Senator Ru'kon sipped his Ia'duno'kalo brandy.

“Admiral Da'note,” he hissed.

“Senator?” Admiral Da'note bowed his head.

“Can we trust them?” asked Ru'kon. “For Ba'gee's shake, they are aliens!”

“It has nothing to do with trust, Senator,” Da'note said. “It has everything to do with need. We need them, and we cannot afford to let them go.”

“All right,” hissed the Senator, taking one final sip of his Ia'duno'kalo bandy. “I'll trust you judgment... for now.” Senator Ru'kon stood, ready tot leave. He paused at the door and turned around. “Chancellor Ar'kon will expect a full briefing on the Tulop invasion as soon as possible.”

“Of course.”

Commander Connor Burt entered the mess hall looking around. He spotted who he was looking for and stepped right over to their table.

“May I have a seat?” Burt inquired.

“Sure, sir,” Dr. Braga said, looking over at Lieutenant Craig.

Burt pulled out the chair and sat down.

“So,” Burt said, leaning forward. “What do you guys think of the captain?”

“I don't know,” Craig said, shrugging. “He's nothing like Captain Kelsoe.”

Burt nodded. “Damn right.”

Braga cocked his head to one side.

“Commander, is it just me or are you more talkative about Franco?” Braga questioned.

“My visit with Counselor Sawyer gave ma some ideas,” Burt said, leaning closer and lowering his voice.

“Why don't I like where this is going?” Braga asked.

“Shut-up and listen!” hissed Burt through clenched teeth. “Franco doesn't give a damn about Captain Kelsoe. In fact, he's probably glad Kelsoe was abducted.”

“How so?”

“He's a captain now, ain't he?” Burt said. “He's got his promotion.”

“So?” Craig inquired.

“Captain Kelsoe is the captain of the Pioneer, not Franco,” Burt said. “He need to do something about that.”

“What exactly are you implying, Commander?” Braga asked.

“We need to find a way to remove Franco from command,” Burt said.

“And how exactly where you planning to do that?”

“You can remove him from command, can't you?” Burt asked. “You can!”

“Only for medical reasons,” Braga said. “The rules are very clear on the matter.”

“To hell with the rules, damn it!” Burt ragged. “Captain Kelsoe's out there somewhere! And he needs our help!”

Soon the entire mess seemed to be listening to the conversation, for the room had grown quiet. Burt paused and looked around. He stood.

“Well!?” he shouted. “Anyone here as a problem with that?”

No one responded.

“The Captain needs us and Starfleet's not willing to lift a finger!” Burt continued, beginning to walk around the mess. “Are we going to sit around and let them do that to our captain!? Well are we?” He paused. “How about you, Ensign Willis?”

Ensign Willis, a half-Betazoid security officer, looked up.


“Are you with me? Are we going to save the Captain or not?”

Willis looked around at his compatriots and then back at Commander Burt.

“I'm all for saving the captain, sir,” Willis said. “But surely we can find a better way of doing it than... than...”

“Than what? Mutiny?” Burt inquired.


“Who the hell cares!?” Burt ragged.

Willis grabbed his forehead. Braga stood up.

“Commander, calm down! Can't you see your upsetting him. He's a betazoid, sir. He's picking up you negative emotions.”

Burt looked down and placed a hand on Willis' shoulder.

“Sorry, son,” he said, calmly. “I just believe strongly in my convictions.”

Willis continued to rub his forehead.

“It's all right, sir, I understand how feel,” he said.

A crewman sitting next to him nodded. “We all do, sir.”


“Yes, sir.”

A general consensus seemed to emulate throughout the mess hall. Burt looked back at Braga and Craig.

“Well, what do you say?” he demanded. “My point seems to be shared by most of the crew.”

“It is, sir,” Craig said.

“We only wish that there was another way, beside mutiny,” Braga explained.

“And what if there isn't?” Burt asked.

“We have to ask Braxis and Commander Tuff about this,” Craig suggested.

“No!” Burt said. “None of this is to leave this room.” He spun around the room, looking at all the crewmembers. “Do you all understand this? We must keep this a secret if we are ever able to free the captain. We must stay together, united.”

“But sir!” Braga said.

“Quiet!” Burt yelled. “We are going to free the captain from his imprisonment!” He paused for a beat. “Unlike Starfleet, we are not going to forget about him.” He spun around the room again. “All you all with me?”

Agreement spread across the room, until Burt reached Braga and Craig.

“How about you two?”

“I still don't know,” Braga said. “But as long as we don't break any regulations... I'm in.”

“And you?” Burt adjusted his attention to Craig.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.” Burt walked up and placed his hands on their shoulders. “We're in this together.” He turned to Craig. “Look, Norman, not a word to Tracy, okay?”


Kelsoe let out a scream.

“Ha!” chuckled L'mar. “This Klingon Pain sticks really work.”

“What... what do you want?” Kelsoe pushed out.

Tyson Calok paced around the interrogation table that had been propped up to be perpendicular with the floor. He laughed.

“Nothing,” Calok chuckled. “Nothing at all.”

“We just like seeing you in pain,” L'mar said. “That's it.”

Calok stopped. “Again.”

L'mar lowered the pain stick and turned it on. Kelsoe let out a long scream that accompanied the electronic buzz of the pain stick. L'mar pulled it away after twenty seconds.

“Yes, impressive,” L'mar said, looking at the pain stick in his hand. “The Tal Shiar should have developed something like this.” He turned to Calok. “Where'd you pick this up?”

“Among my many travels,” Calok said as if to a passing fancy. “My need for it had outgrown its uses, until now.”

“It is, indeed, an impressive device,” mutter Xojo, who was standing in the shadows.

Calok cocked his head up and stared at his new comrade.

“Yes,” Calok said softly. “Yes it is. It has its uses.” He paused and looked back at Kelsoe, who was still trying to recover. “The Klingons seem to excell in developing weapons of pain. Such a barbaric people, if you ask me.”

“But with impressive technology,” Xojo interjected.

“Not that much,” Calok said. “Compared with Joc-Duloc Masters that of Klingons, Federation, So'ja, even the Romulans, are infantile.”

“I can live with that,” L'mar said.

“As can I,” added Xojo. “As long as we can use this knowledge to advance our own plans.”

Calok raised and hand and waggled a finger in Xojo direction.

“My feelings exactly,” Calok said. “Anyway, we can put that technology to better use that those who created it.”

“He's coming to,” alterted L'mar.

Kelsoe raised his head.

“Calok...,” he muttered. “What do you accomplice by torturing me?”

Calok nodded to L'mar, who then stuck Kelsoe with the pain stick. Kelsoe let out a cry.

“I've been in your mind, Captain,” Calok said. “You remember that, don't you. I know it was a while ago, but I was in it. I possessed your body.” He paused and gave the order to L'mar. Kelsoe let out a cry as he was stuck with the pain stick again. “You mind has hence become resistant to my techniques.” Calok walked up to the table and pressed a button. A series of gears began to move, lowering the table to its standard table like appearance. He moved his hand over Kelsoe shaved head. “Your mind is fighting me, but I can weaken you defenses such enough that I can implant a single thought deep within your mind that you have no control over. I can tell you to do whatever I want, whenever I want, and you will be powerless to stop me.” He paused and looked into Kelsoe's eyes with his red eyes. “For all intensive purposes, my dear Captain Kelsoe, you are mine!” Calok laughed and stepped back. “Again!”

L'mar lowered the pain stick and Kelsoe screamed as Calok drifted back into the shadows, a smile slowly growing across his face.

The door chimed sounded. President Korvin Mot of the United Federation of Planets looked up.

“Come in,” he rose behind his desk.

The door hissed opened and Admiral Harold Anton, along with Rodney Brickenhouser, Mot's chief political advisor, entered, followed by numerous military and government officials.

“Please, gentlemen, have a seat,” Mot gestured towards the available seats in front of his desk.

Anton nodded. “Much obliged, sir.”

Anton and his military attachés sat down on one side of the room, as the civilian official sat on the other side of the room with Mr. Brickenhouser. Mot walked around his desk and eased himself against its front.

“So what do we have?” he inquired.

“The Saladin has indeed be destroyed,” Anton stated bluntly.

“How do we know this?” Mot inquired.

“We have confirmed the Tulop Grace's story, Mr. President,” Lieutenant Peter Bradford, who was part of Admiral Anton's group, spoke up. “Starfleet Intelligence intercepted a transmission between the So'ja Fleet and the So'ja homeworld.”

“Starfleet aside,” Brickenhouser spoke up. “We learned about the Saladin's sacrifice through the Tulop, who, themselves, have lost their planet and territory to the So'jan advance.” Brickenhouser paused. “Mr. President, the So'jan have invaded Federation space and were not able to repel them.”

“Federation space?” Bradford objected. “I'd hardly call one small region part of Federation space.”

“With all due respects to Starfleet, and especially you, Mr. Bradford,” Brickenhouser interjected. “The people of Tulop have been members of the Federation for almost four years now. I don't think we should concern ourselves with the length of there inclusion.”

Mot nodded. “Mr. Brickenhouser is right,” he said. “The people Tulop people are Federation citizens, and I expect them to be treated as such.”

“Of course,” Anton said. “Admiral Kawamura is taking care of them at Deep Space Five.”


“For our response, Mr. President,” Brickenhouser leaned forward. “I was thinking we should send the fleet in to retake Tulop.”

All of Starfleet seemed to turn and look directly at Brickenhouser.

“All you kidding me?” Anton inquired.

“Sir?” Brickenhouser ignored Anton. “Mr. President?”

Korvin Mot stood there, leaning against his desk, in silence. He pushed off and walked around his desk and look out of the window, which showed downtown Paris and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Brickenhouser stood up. “Mr. President, we must show the So'jan that we are going to stand up for ourselves. We must show them that they will have to pay for every bit of space they take.”

Anton stood.

“How dare you!” Anton growled. “You will not be aboard the ships that we send to the frontlines, which will likely be destroyed before we fully understand how it is that the So'ja are able to move so quickly.”

“Then we'd be wasting our time, Admiral,” Brickenhouser retorted. He turned back to the President. “Mr. President, you need to make a decision.”

Korvin Mot slowly turned around.

“Then I must concede with Admiral Anton's opinion on the matter, Mr. Brickenhouser,” Mot said. “I know, Rodney, it's not what you wanted to here, but I am not a man of military thought. I must yield to those with superior knowledge on the subject. For now, we will relay on Admiral Anton's knowledge.”

Anton inclined his head.

“I understand, sir,” Brickenhouser said, glaring across the room at Anton.

“Very well,” Mot said. “What is it you suggest, Admiral?”

“The So'jan forces seem to be having trouble with their land assault,” he explained. “Once they stopped their planetary bombardment the invasion's speed significantly slowed.”

Mot nodded. “So it is their planetary bombardment that is the key to their speed, not their ground forces.”

“I believe so, sir, yes,” Anton said. “We have sources within the Rigusian government.”

“Scalys!” Brickenhouser exclaimed. “We can trust them! They won't turn their back on their own kind.”

“The Rigusians do not see the So'jan as their kind,” Anton explained. “In fact, we have a Federation representative among the Rigusians as we speak.”

“Dr. Lucus Kesar, right?” Mot inquired.

Anton nodded. “Correct, Mr. President.”

“A babbling fool,” interjected Brickenhouser.

Anton shot Brickenhouser a look that made him close his mouth before he said another word.

“Dr. Kesar has been talks with the So'ja Resistance,” Anton continued. “A faction among the So'ja who wish to go back to the democratic system which the Federation helped set up back when we first came into contact with them.”

“Do you have any idea who make up the So'ja Resistance?” Mot asked.


“Yes, sir,” Bradford said, taking out a PADD. He skimmed through it. “Yes, their a many So'ja, and Rigusians alike.” He paused. “According to Dr. Kesar, their leader is Ru'mal, former First Admiral under President Ba'l's administration.”

“Now he's the leader of the Resistance?” Brickenhouser questioned. “Can we trust him?”

“He's done nothing to warrant our distrust,” Bradford said.

“He's a scaly!” Brickenhouser said. “What else more do we need?”

Mot sighed.

“We are getting nowhere,” he said. “And I'm afraid I must agree with Mr. Brickenhouser. We need more that Dr. Kesar's word to trust Ru'mal. For a man who once part of the So'ja military, it would be hard to trust him now.”

Anton shrugged. “His daughter is here on Earth. I honestly don't know what else he can do.”

“His daughter's here, on Earth?” Brickenhouser inquired.

“Yes,” Anton nodded.

“Why was I not notified?”

Bradford shrugged. “You didn't have the clearance at the time.”

“I when I did, why didn't you tell me?” Brickenhouser asked.

“Frankly,” Anton stepped in. “I don't like your attitude. The girl not the enemy, she is the daughter of a man who can greatly help us in our war with the So'ja. A man who wants to restore his people into a peaceful and friendly relationship with the Federation.”

“But he's a damn leather skin!” Brickenhouser cried. “They can't be trusted.”

“You've been spending to much time with Admiral McCloud,” Anton said.

“Gentlemen, please,” President Mot said, raising his hands. “Let us try to remember who the enemy is. It is the So'ja Coalition and its leadership and military, not its people.” He paused for a beat. “But I still must agree with Mr. Brickenhouser. I need more than you word that Ru'mal is on our side.”

Anton sighed. “Understood, Mr. President.”

Kelsoe sat alone in the darkness of his cell. The door hissed opened and light spread across the floor. He heard the footsteps of a guard walk in. He looked up and saw a So'jan carrying a tray of food.

“Please,” Kelsoe mumbled. “I can't stand anymore gruel.”

“It's all right, Captain Kelsoe,” hissed a calm and friendly voice from the So'jan. “This is human food. I've taken the liberty of replicating something called spaghetti with tomato sauce.”

The So'jan placed the tray down beside Kelsoe. Kelsoe looked down at the bowl. It was indeed filled with spaghetti, and next to the bowl was a glass of root beer and some toast.

“If I remember correctly,” said the So'jan. “This is your favorite meal.”

Kelsoe nodded. “How do you know?”

The So'jan knelt done.

“I am Ru'fur,” he said softly. “We have a mutual friend, Dr. Lucus Kesar.”

“Ru'fur?” he mumbled. “Then... then you part of the Resistance.” He glanced around nervously. “You must go. Leave me here. This place is not safe for you.”

Shhh,” Ru'fur said. “Calm yourself. I am fine. I am a Handi.”

Kelsoe's face remained blank. Ru'fur smiled.

“Roughly translated, it means Trusted of the People. The military will never suspect me,” Ru'fur said. “I am I member of the House of Ru, and am distantly related to Ru'mal. The distant relationship is what has earned me this rank. I have used it thus to retrieve information for the Resistance.” He paused. “It took us sometime to locate you. However, I must inform you that we cannot extract you ourselves, it would reveal our presence amongst the So'ja Coalition.”

“Then what will you do?” Kelsoe inquired.

“I am going to speak with Ru'mal,” Ru'fur said. “And he will contact the Federation... through our mutual friend, Dr. Kesar!” 

Admiral Anton had just arrived back in his office when his com-channel beeped. He stepped up to the view screen on the wall.

“Open,” he commanded.

“Receiving priority one clearance channel,” the computer said. “Please state you authorization code for clearance.”

“Anton Beta Four authorization code Anton 61812,” Anton said.

“Identity confirmed, please stand by.”

The image soon blinked to the interior of a dimly lit room.

“Ah, Admiral Anton, finally!” squeaked an annoying voice. “I've been trying for hours to get this signal to work.”

Anton squinted and examined the image more closely.

“Dr. Kesar is that you?”

“Yes, Admiral, yes!” the high-pitched voice of Dr. Lucus Kesar was irrefutable.

Anton smiled. “What is it I can do for you, Dr. Kesar?”

“I have someone here who wishes to speak with you and the President,” Kesar said, his ape-like face contorting in a way that Anton figured that he was smiling.

Kesar stepped to the side and the image expanded to include him and another. Anton narrowed his eyes.

“Who is that?”

“It is I, old friend,” said a commanding voice. “Admiral Ru'mal, head of the So'ja Resistance, and friend of the Federation.”

Captain Timothy Franco sat on the command chair aboard the bridge of the U.S.S. Pioneer, he looked out the view screen at the planet of Paos, of which they were currently still in orbit.

“Any indications that the Paosians know about our little trip into the Or'pec region?” he asked.

“None, sir,” Tuff said from his station.

“Do you want me to contact the Directory?” Tracy asked from Communications.

“No, that'll be fine,” Franco said, inclining his head slightly. “I think we'll leave before we overdo our welcome.”

“I'm with you on that, sir,” Tuff said, stepping out from behind his station. “Besides I believe Admiral Kawamura would like to hear about our recent encounter with Pyrois.”

“Agreed,” Franco said, tucking down his uniform. “Ensign Zimmer, set a course for DS-5, best possible speed.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Delay that order!” came Burt's voice.

The Commander had just emerged from the turbo-lift with several crewmen behind him, all carrying phasers. Franco stood up and looked around as the crewmen, among them were Braga and Craig, fanned out on the bridge.

“What's the meaning of this, Commander Burt?” Franco demanded standing up.

Commander Tuff was grabbed by two of his own security personnel.

“What are you doing?” Tuff ragged. “Have you gone mad!?”

“No not mad!” Burt said, turning to Tuff, and ignoring Franco. “We've all come to our senses that we need not follow this fool around anymore. Starfleet Command has abandoned Captain Kelsoe and we're going to change that.”

“That's not entirely true, Commander!” Franco said, who had been placed under guard.

“And how's that?” Burt demanded, turning on his heels.

“Just moments before you began this farce,” Franco explained. “I received direct orders from Admiral Anton. Apparently someone from within the So'ja Resistance has located Captain Kelsoe and relayed his position to Starfleet Command.”

Burt stood back aghast. Braga stepped forward.

“Release them, crewmen,” Braga said. “Commander Burt has overstepped his bounds.”

“It's all right, doctor,” Franco said. “I understand. I would have done the same thing for Captain Jay Preston.”

“You're XO on the Milano during the Dominion War,” Braga said.

Franco nodded. “When Captain Preston was killed I was outraged. It was my angered that helped me defeat the Jem'Hadar scum who attacked us.” He paused. “The point is, I would probably have done the same thing in your place, Commander. However, I was never in that place. Look, I can sympathize with your situation, but your choice of actions is regrettable.”

“I assume all responsibility,” Burt said. “It was all my idea. Do not blame the others.”

“I'll take that under consideration, Commander,” Franco said. “As for now, we need to head for DS-5, where we will pick up our MACOs and prepare for the rescue.” He paused. “Do you have any objections, Commander.”

“None, sir,” Burt said, still shocked. Why hasn't he placed me under arrest?

“Very well,” Franco said. “Ensign Zimmer, continue with my previous instructions. Best possible speed.”

“Aye, sir,” Zimmer said, spinning around in his chair to face the helm controls. “Plotting a course for DS-5, warp nine.”