EPISODE 5.44 - “Nothing Else Matters”

story by Matt Sidley and Travis Cannon

written by Travis Cannon

The cell was dark, and Captain Benjamin Kelsoe could barely see. Suddenly there came a bright burst of light from the door as it opened. He could hear the footsteps of the guard walking in and the scrap of the metal tray as he put the food down on the floor. The so'jan hissed something in his native tongue and the cell's lights illuminated to a soft glow, just enough for Kelsoe to see the food tray. He looked up at the so'jan, who just merely glared down at him.

“Eat!” he growled. “Mr. Calok wants you to be strong for today's work.” He then laughed and left the room, the door closing behind him with a buzzing hum.

Kelsoe looked down at the food tray and was shocked to see what appeared to be roasted chicken. He looked around the room before diving into his meal.

Some distance away the image of Captain Kelsoe devouring his meal was being shown on a view screen in a secret room. Tyson Calok stood before the large view screen and chuckled as he watched the image. From the shadows behind him, the tall white four-legged Xojo Manjala emerged.

A smile seemed to spread across his lipless face.

“How curious,” he muttered.

Tyson Calok looked over his shoulder and grinned.

“And what is that, Xojo?”

“How you view Captain Kelsoe through a view screen far away from where he is,” Xojo explained. “Rather than looking through a force field into his cage as I would have on Tealu.”

“Your xenobiological research is much intriguing, Xojo,” Calok said, turning around and looking into dark black pearls that were Xojo's eyes, with his own malicious red ones.

Xojo blinked.

“Are my eyes so unsettling?”

“No, of course not,” Xojo bluffed. “I have seen many species and aliens... the fact your eyes are red is nothing new to me.”

“Ah, but in my species, it is,” Calok said, stepping forward.

Xojo began to back away slowly.

“It is most unusual, yes,” Xojo responded. “For a human to have eyes such as yours, it can not be done.”

“Ah, but I have red eyes,” Calok said, smirking. “There is no denying that.”

“Yes,” Xojo nodded, his long neck arching down.

Calok stopped in the middle the act of stepping forward.

“You're studying me.”

“No, of course not,” Xojo protested. “I would never presume to think that I could study a specimen like you and live to tell the tale.”

Calok chuckle.

“You presume correctly,” Calok said. He placed a hand on his chin. “Well maybe you are not studying me, but you are observing me... making mental notations.”

Xojo inclined his head. “As you are with me, no doubt.”

“I observe everything,” Calok answered. He stepped back and returned to the view screen. “You know,” he said over his shoulder. “I was not always like this. Before I went to train with the Joc-Duloc monks, I was different. I was like him.” Calok pointed towards the image of Captain Kelsoe on the view screen.

“Joc-Duloc is a myth...  a legend,” Xojo said.

Calok turned around. “Is it?!” His eyes glowed bright red.

The room began to shake. Xojo backed away and raised his hands.

“Perhaps I am mistaken,” Xojo said.

The glow of Calok's eyes seemed to fade. “Only I know what power can be obtained through the Joc-Duloc.”

“Yes,” Xojo responded, blinking. “Your mind is indeed powerful. More powerful than any other mind I have come into contact with.”

Yes it is!

Xojo jumped.

“You've spoken to me in your mind,” Xojo said.

“I thought you wanted to touch minds?” Calok questioned with a wicked smile on his face.

Xojo back away. “Yes, you are powerful. But can you control that power?”

“It has taken me this far,” Calok said. “I have nothing left but power. My family was betrayed by the Federation and killed by the Cardassians. Everyone I loved is gone. All I have his my power and anger.”

“And that is way you've allied yourself with the So'jan?” Xojo inquired.

Us, you mean, Xojo, Calok spoke in Xojo's mind.

Of course, Xojo responded telepathically. I meant us. I have linked my fate with yours... and I hope it was a wise decision.

“Just wait..,” Calok said, returning his attention to the view screen, “and find out.”

“We've received news from our allies that Captain Benjamin Kelsoe is being held on a secure space station somewhere in the vicinity of the Venka Nebula,” Admiral Kawamura said, sitting behind his desk and pressing a command button on a PADD. The view screen, which took up much of the wall to his left shifted and showed a map of the Oralian Sector. “We believe that station is located here.” The image blinked and zoomed in to an area just outside the Venka Nebula. “Our sources assure us that the Captain is building held in a facility at these coordinates.”

“If you can believe these sources,” Burt butted in.

Kawamura eyed Commander Burt thoughtfully. Most of the senior staff of the Pioneer was in the room, minus Norman Craig, Tracy Carson, Joanna Withrome, and Eric Zimmer.

“Admiral Ru'mal has given us these coordinates,” Kawamura said. “I believe you have a past working relationship with the man, and according to your reports he can be trusted.”

“He is also the leader of the So'ja Resistance,” Tuff added. “We've known so since stardate 58428.42, when we met with his representative on the Alkanden Outpost.”

“Yes, yes,” Burt said, waving his hand. “I remember.”

“Continue, sir,” Franco said, sitting straight in his chair.

Kawamura nodded. “Thank you, Captain.” He adjusted himself so he could face the view screen. He punched a button on the PADD. The image on the view screen shifted and showed a So'jan.

Tuff blinked. “He looks familiar.”

“He should,” Kawamura said. “He's the representative we spoke of. This is Handi - the equivalent of a Colonel - Ru'fur.”

Tuff nodded. “I remember him now, sir.” He paused for a beat. “Very bright, and very passionate about his beliefs.”

“Yes, he is,” Kawamura said inclining his head. “Dr. Lucus Kesar has had many positive things to say about the Colonel.”

“I would think so, sir,” Tuff said stepping closer to examine the image. “He seems to have aged though.”

“As do we,” Franco said. “But he looks more tired to me.” He inclined his head to Dr. Braga. “Stress perhaps.”

“More than likely, yes,” Braga said. “Working with the Resistance no doubt.”

“Indeed, such a task would be stressful to one with emotions,” Braxis said, inclining his head slightly.

“Our Vulcan friend is correct,” Kawamura said. “According to Kesar, Ru'fur has been working very hard in maneuvering himself into a position to help us with the rescue of Captain Kelsoe.” He turned off the view screen and stood up. “The plan is that the Pioneer will rendezvous with Ru'fur at the moon outpost of Cap'gu'ajak. Once there you will work with Ru'fur to...”

“Excuse me!” Burt interjected. “Are you saying that we'll be working with a Colonel in the So'ja Coalition.”

“No,” Kawamura said flatly. “You're working with a member of the So'ja Resistance in the rescue of your captain.”

Franco glance over and Burt. Burt shrugged.

“Can we really trust the leather skins?” Burt questioned.

“According to many reports by you and Dr. Lucus Kesar,” Kawamura responded. “Ru'mal and Ru'fur are trustworthy. I don't even need your reports. Dr. Kesar's are more reliable and more credible.”

“Excuse me....!”

“Commander!” Franco raised his voice. “Control yourself or I'll be forced to ask Commander Tuff to remove you from this meeting.”

Burt nodded. “Yes, sir!” he replied tersely.

“Please, continue,” Franco addressed Admiral Kawamura.

“Thank you, Captain,” Kawamura said, glancing over at Commander Burt. “A small security force, mostly likely you, Commander Tuff, as well as a small group of the M.A.C.O.s hand picked by Captain Franco and Major Morgan, will accompany Colonel Ru'fur in a So'jan cargo ship to the Venka Station where you will then rescue Captain Kelsoe.”

“Sounds risky,” Braga said.

“It could be,” Kawamura agreed. “But after much deliberation amongst the Command Staff of Starfleet Command, as well as talks with the President, it has been agreed that we cannot allow Captain Kelsoe to remain in the hands of the So'jan, especially when they are being helped by the wanted criminal Tyson Calok and the Romulan traitor L'mar.”

“It was Commander L'mar who undoubtedly cloned your predecessor Admiral Dutton,” Braxis said.

Braga nodded. “I should examine my records on Ben then.”

“Ben?” Kawamura inquired.

“A hybrid clone that L'mar made of Captain Kelsoe,” Braga explained. “He was an early experiment L'mar used to perfect his clones. He had already clone Captain Jean-Luc Picard. It was the child that warned us of Shinzon.”

“I see,” Kawamura said. “So you are hoping that you can find something in the DNA that can be a kind of clone-detector?”

“In a manner of speaking, sir, yes,” Braga said. “Now with Ben, Commander L'mar was attempting to make a human clone using a Romulan female...”

“How so?”

“I believe he had a Romulan woman carry the child in her womb and give birth to it,” Braga said. “Humans haven't tried cloning ever since the Eugenics Wars. Test tube, or lab clones - in the case of Romulan technology, as I understand it, cause some flaws in the clone, as evidence with what happened to Shinzon. I believe that L'mar theorized that the clone needed to grow naturally inside a normal womb. So the fetus was placed in the surrogate mother until it matured and was birthed. Then L'mar could simply apply his rapid growth serum to cause the now living clone to mature to the desired age. Ben was an experiment, one which L'mar obviously perfected when he cloned Admiral Dutton. So the one piece of evidence we have to prove someone is a clone is that they'd most likely have some foreign DNA intermingled with their own. So the best way to detect a clone would be to take a blood sample and run it against blood samples taken prior to the subject's possible abduction.”

Kawamura nodded. “I like it. I'll inform Starfleet Command.” He paused for a beat. “Brilliant idea, Dr. Braga.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“So we rendezvous with Colonel Ru'fur, rescue the Captain, and then do a blood test on him to make sure he is who we think he is, is that it, sir?” Franco inquired.

Karamura thought for a while. “Yes, I believe it is.” He sat back down. “You have two hours to prepare and then you have a go. Dismiss.”

The room was large, with a colonnade on each side. In the niches were busts of all the famous kings of the So'jan dating back to the So'ja uprising against the Oppressors. At the end of the room, on a large dais, was a large stone throne with a pointy back that resembled the seven-pointed star that was the symbol of the so'jan people. It was an ancient throne; like the room and busts, dated back to the ancient So'jan times of kings. This room had been abandoned as a place of power when the So'jan had made contact with the Federation and the puppet democracy was set up.

Now, however, the room was now being used as a meeting place, but was kept ready for the day it would be used to house the king's court; when that time finally came again. A large dark orange carpet ran down the middle of the room, from the tarnished bronze doors to the ruling dais.

Senator Ru'kon of the So'jan Senate was pacing the colonnade, viewing the busts of the kings of old. He wore a long crimson robe that resembled that of the old regime. As he moved from one bust to the next the large bronze doors creaked open and Admiral Da'note with a group of attachés entered the hall. Ru'kon glanced over towards the dais, where his own retinue was and signaled for them to come over. Soon the two groups met at the busts of one of the so'jan kings.

“Looking to the past, Senator?” Da'note spoke in so'jan.

“Always,” Ru'kon responded. He paused and looked deeply at the bust in front of him. “As you know, I am descended from the oldest of the family that once ruled as kings over the So'jan Kingdom.”

“Back in the days of glory, when we had spread off the chains of the Oppressors,” Da'note continued the story. “Yes, yes, I know the story well. And you have no need to remind me that you are descended from royalty, Senator.”

“Ar'kon is the last remaining relative of our last king,” Ru'kon said. “That is why he is the Chancellor.”

Da'note nodded. “Yes.”

“We should not be a military dictatorship,” Ru'kon said. “No offense to the military, but we should have a king.”

“Once the war with the Federation is over,” Da'note said. “We shall have a king. Chancellor Ar'kon will take is place at the throne and we shall have a kingdom once again.”

“I wish it was that simple, Admiral,” Ru'kon said, glancing back at the bust of a former king. “But I am not the only living descendant of a former ruling family.” He paused for a beat. “Their will be others who will claim the throne, others with more claim to it that our beloved Chancellor. After all, Ar'kon is only related to our former king, may Ba'gee protect his soul, by marriage.”

“Princess Sr'gi,” Da'note nodded. “Daughter of King So'mal. He was a great man, and a great ruler.”

Ru'kon inclined his head. “It was because of the Federation's interference that Ba'l lead an uprising to create a democracy - an uprising which resulted in the death of our beloved king.”

“So'mal is missed, Senator,” Da'note said, looking at the bust for the first time and realizing that it was that of the king which they spoke. “But he is long dead, and we have matters to discuss.”

“Of course,” Ru'kon said stepping away from the bust of King So'mal and gradually into the center of the hall. “We use this room for meetings and such, but not for its true purpose.”

“It will soon, Senator,” Da'note hissed. “I promise you that!”

Ru'kon nodded and with a wave of his hand, instructed Da'note to give his report. Da'note inclined his head.

“Tulop has fallen, and we are setting up a provisional government that will pass such decrees stating that we were invited to Tulop to restore order and that Tulop, itself, will become a protectorate of the greater So'ja Empire,” Da'note reported.

“What of the fleet massing near Rigus?” Ru'kon inquired.


“Do not assume that I do not have the resources to see what the military is doing,” Ru'kon said tersely. “Explain the position of the fleet massing near Rigus.”

“By order of Chancellor Ar'kon, Senator,” Da'note said. “We are preparing for an advance into Bartho space.”

“With the ultimate goal of invading Bartho, no doubt.”

“Of course, Senator.”

Ru'kon stopped.

“Can we expect the Federation to interfere once again?” Ru'kon asked.

“I believe that is highly likely, sir,” Da'note said. “The Federation will no doubt be watching the border of So'jan space, watching for our next advance.”

“Will our secret weapon work?” Ru'kon inquired.

“As it has in the pass with our first advancement, yes,” Da'note said.

“All thanks to a human and other aliens,” Ru'kon said with disgust. “Can will really trust this Tyson Calok?”

“You have met the man,” Da'note replied. “He is unlike other humans. He is filled with anger and hate, not to mention the fact that he is a wanted criminal amongst those of the Federation.”

Ru'kon sneered.

“I do not like this,” he said. “Trusting our successes to a foreign dur'jak. He may have is own agenda, which does not correspond to our needs and wants.”

“Oh he does, sir,” Da'note said. “Believe me. He is not helping us merely on a whim. He has his own agenda, and as of right now, we play into it.”

Ru'kon narrowed his eyes.

“Then let us hope that we are apart of his plans as long as we are fighting these human scum,” Ru'kon said, waving his hand, signaling that he was finished with this meeting. He left, with his entire retinue following behind him.

Da'note watched him leave, and then turned to his attachés. “Prepare may ship... I need to go to the Venka Outpost.”

The Excelsior class U.S.S. Athena hovered in space, but she was not alone. On either side of her was the Galaxy class U.S.S. Wellington and the Excelsior class U.S.S. Charleston. The Athena's Vulcan captain, Survok, sat patiently in the command chair. His first officer, a human named Adam Teral stood behind him holding a data pad.

“Report, Commander,” Survok said staring straight ahead at the view screen.

“According to Starfleet's sources within the So'ja Resistance, Tulop has completely fallen to the Coalition,” Teral said. “The military has set up a puppet provisional government that will declare themselves a protectorate of the So'jan Empire. And we have received reports of a So'jan fleet massing near Rigus.”

“It would appear that the So'jan have more than one fleet of hybrid ships,” Survok said.

“Yes, sir,” Teral said. “Admiral Truman has relayed a message saying that his orders stand. If we encounter any enemy ships...”

“His orders are understood, Commander,” Survok said, almost sounding annoyed. “When the time comes, we will be ready.”

The Pioneer sailed calmly through sub-space. From the view screen the stars seemed to be streaking by. Captain Timothy Franco sat in the command chair, with Commander Connor Burt in the second's chair. Burt leaned forward and sighed. Franco noticed, and inclined his head slightly.

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

“I don't understand the mission!” hissed Burt. “Meet someone... somewhere! Where!?”

“A moon,” Franco said, calmly. “We are going to meet with a member of the So'ja Resistance on a moon base near the Venka Nebula. You were there with me when Admiral Kawamura gave us the information.”

“Yeah,” Burt acknowledged. “But half the stuff didn't make any sense to me.” He paused. “How can we trust any so'ja, especially now?”

Franco took a deep breath.

“Was it a mistake to allow you to come, Commander?”

Burt looked up with wide eyes.

“No... No sir,” Burt said as calmly as possible.

“If we are ever to rescue Captain Kelsoe we are going to need help from the inside,” Franco explained. “Plus, if I am not mistaken, you've met our contact before.”

“Have I?”

“Yes,” Franco said. “His name's Ru'fur.”

“Ru'fur?” Burt questioned. “All their names sound the same!”

“Commander!” Franco said forcefully. “If you do not show more restraint, I will be forced to insist you stay in your quarters for the remainder of the mission.”

Burt slumped back in his chair. “Aye sir.” There was a small gap of silence, until Burt muttered. “Fudge off.”

Franco turned his head sharply.

“What was that!” he said aloud.

Burt looked up realizing that everyone was staring at him. Franco gripped the arms of the chair and stood.

“That's it, Commander!” he said in a calm and yet forceful voice. “I have had enough of your behavior. As of this moment, you are releaved of command.”

“But what about the rescue mission!” Burt stammered as he stood in defiance.

“We can do it without you!” Franco said.

Burt glared at Franco.

“I should have mutiny liked I planned,” he said through clenched teeth.

“That does it!” Franco shouted. “Mr. Tuff, have Commander Burt escorted to the brig for insubordination!”

Tuff tapped a command on his control console and within seconds two security personnel appeared through the turbo-lift. Burt turned on his heals and glared at Tuff.

“You've betrayed me!” he spun around the entire bridge. “You all have!”

“Mr. Tuff!” commanded Franco.

Tuff nodded and signaled to his men. They stepped over to Burt and grabbed his arms. Burt struggled. Tuff furrowed his brow.

“Don't do this, Connor,” Tuff pleaded. “Show some dignity for God's sake.”

“I'm the only sane one here!” Burt exclaimed. “You can't trust the So'ja... none of them! Can't you see that?!”

“Mr. Tuff, now!” Franco commanded.

“Yes, sir.”

Tuff grabbed Burt by the shoulder and personally escorted him to the turbo-lift. The two security personnel followed, with their hands on the handles of their phasers.

Kelsoe opened his eyes with a shock. He frantically looked around; the room was dark and damp. He sighed. He was back in the cell. Suddenly from out of the shadows came an ominous voice.

“How does it feel to be in hell, Captain?”

“Who's that?” cried out Kelsoe.

“It makes no difference!” insisted the voice. “Just answer the question.”

“Though it may seem like it, I am not in hell,” Kelsoe answered.

“Big words, for a small creature,” the voice said.

Kelsoe paused and squinted into the darkness. “Show yourself.”

Out from the shadows appeared the pale white skin of Xojo Manjala. “You're race is so intriguing,” he said. “It is sad that your government was not willing to give us some specimens.”

“For a zoo!” Kelsoe replied. “We would never allow anyone to be subjected to such treatment.”

Xojo arched his head down to Kelsoe's level.

“That's assuming that you are on the same level as the Tealuians,” Xojo replied.


“The Tealuians are far superior to humans!” Xojo stated.

“Is that so?” rang a deep and frightening force from the shadows.

Xojo stood silent, cocking his head slightly as the clicking of footsteps grew closer. Within moments Tyson Calok emerged from the darkness with a wicked smirk on his face. He glared at Xojo with his red eyes.

“I did not mean you, of course, Tyson,” Xojo said. “You are superior even to me.”

Calok inclined his head. “True.”

Kelsoe looked back and forth between the two, both he despised, but one more than the other. Calok cocked his head towards Kelsoe.

“Is something that matter, Benjamin?”

Their eyes met. Suddenly Kelsoe felt a sheering pain in his temples. He reached up and wrapped his head in his hands. He could not hold himself back and let out a scream.

“Ahhhh!” he cried. “What are you doing to me!”

Calok just laughed. Kelsoe cried out some more as the pain increased with each second. And then suddenly, as soon as it had started, the pain was gone. Kelsoe lay limp on the floor, clutching his forehead, and gasping for air.

“What was that?” Kelsoe demanded.

“Pain!” Calok said with a joy in his voice. “Pure, unadulterated pain!”

Calok laughed maniacally, and then grinned maliciously. He turned to leave.

“Come Xojo.”

Xojo bowed his head and followed Calok like a submissive servant, leaving Kelsoe alone on the floor, clutching his head and breathing hard.

Commander Connor Burt lay flat on his back on one of the padded benches in the brig. Ensign Rick Soto stood at the brig command station trying hard not to stare at Burt. The doors opened and Soto looked up at Command Robert Tuff. Tuff nodded slightly. Soto nodded and left immediately. Tuff turned on his heels to face Burt.

Burt glanced up and grinned.

“Commander Tuff,” Burt said, sardonically. “What a surprise.” He paused. “What are you doing here... traitor.”

Traitor?” Tuff questioned, shaking his head. “What's going on with you, Connor?”

“Nothing,” Burt said, leaning his head back down against the padding. “I'm the only sane one on this ship.”


“Yes,” Burt said. “I'm the only one who understands that you can't trust the So'ja, any of them!”

Tuff just merely shook his head.

“You've changed, Connor.”

“Have I?” Burt inquired. “Then perhaps it is for the best!”

Tuff shrugged. “Captain Kelsoe would not have approved of your behavior towards Franco, and what makes this even worse, is that you know that.”

Burt suddenly jumped up and glared through the force field at Tuff.

“I don't need anyone to tell me how my best friend would feel, Commander!” Burt growled. “Right now he is in some silly ridden So'jan cell, probably close to death, and we're talking about appropriate behavior towards his replacement! Nothing else matters, except for Kelsoe's rescue. God! What's the matter with you, Tuff? What!?”

“Then you're lost,” Tuff responded.

“Yeah, I... I guess I am,” replied Burt sardonically. “Lost! Ha!”

Tuff shook his head in dismay. “I'm sorry I wasn't more vigilant. I should have stopped you earlier. Good bye, sir.”

And with that Tuff gave a slight nod and then left the room. The hissing of the doors closing gave proof to his withdrawal from the room. Meanwhile Commander Connor Burt stood stiff in his cell, eyes wild with angry and hatred.

Somewhere far away red eyes opened with a glimmer of joy.

Tyson Calok looked over across the darkened room at the slouching figure of Captain Benjamin Kelsoe. He grinned. “Everything is going as planned, Captain. Soon your mighty Federation will fall before us!”

“Sir, we are approaching the moon outpost Cap'gu'ajak,” Zimmer called from the CONN.

Behind him, Captain Timothy Franco stood up. “Any signs that we've been detected?”

“Negative, sir,” came Craig's voice from the Operations Stations.

“Ensign Carson,” Franco said, arching his back to look over at Tracy. “Send the encoded message.”

“Aye, sir,” Tracy said, focusing on her console. “Sending encoded message. If he's here, he'll hear it, sir.”

“Good,” Franco said, nodding.

“Captain,” Braxis turned around from his station. “Sensors are having trouble reading the dark side of the moon.”

“That would be a good place to hide a ship,” Tuff said.

Franco looked up at Tuff and smiled. “My thoughts exactly, Commander.” Franco turned back to the view screen and looked at the station obriting the moon. He stepped down to the helm. “Mr. Zimmer, bring us up around the moon, but keep us out of sight of the station.”

“Captain, am I correct in assuming that you are planning to use the moon's unusual magnetic properties to hide us from the So'ja sensor scans?” Braxis asked.

“Right on the money, Commander Braxis,” Franco said. “Our communication systems shouldn't be affected. The encoded beckon which Dr. Kesar told us about is strong enough to receive signals, and as far as I know the magnetic properties of the moon shouldn't effect them.”

“You logical is sound, Captain,” Braxis said. “According to the computer communications are unaffected by our proximity to the moon, yet the sensors are.”

“What about targeting sensors?” Tuff inquired.

“They appeared to be unaffected, but I will watch them, Commander,” Braxis responded.

“Can't be too careful, sir,” Tuff said to Franco when he noticed the captain's expression.

“Right you are, Commander,” Franco said. “I'll be in my ready room, let me know the moment that we get a response from our message.” He stepped towards the ready room. “You have the CONN, Commander Tuff.”

“Are you done yet?” snarled Da'note as he looked down at the pathetic figure lying motionless on the operating table.

Calok's red eyes glared up at the so'jan admiral, who immediately stepped back, the fear almost showing in his eyes. Calok grinned.

“What are doing, anyway?” Da'note questioned, examining the tools on the nearby surgical station.

Commander L'mar eased Admiral Da'note away from the station. “It is none of you concern, Admiral. We have everything well in hand.” He paused and looked across the room at his colleague. “Don't we, Tyson.”

“Yes,” came a dark voice from Calok's lips. “Everything is going as planned, you...,” he indicated Da'note, “should be pleased. Everything you have dreamed for is coming to pass, and it is all thanks to our help.”

Da'note nodded submissively, as a warrior he did not like this, but he was smart enough to know when he was among people with a higher intelligence than himself. Calok's intelligence was extraordinary. He was unlike any human Da'note have ever encountered. The Romulan seemed to be basking in the dark demonic glow that emitted from Calok. L'mar had entered the group as an equal, but it was now clear that he was merely another servant of Tyson Calok. And as long as their interests were the same, the So'jan would have their victory.

The figure on the operating table suddenly groaned.

“He's coming out of it,” whispered the soft voice of the Tealuian Xojo.

Da'note curled his lip and frowned. He did not like having this freak aboard. They say that Tealuians are telepathic, Da'note thought. If that were true then this four-legged freak would know how much contempt Da'note held towards him. He despised the Tealuians. They had never done anything for the Oralian sector except to be a menace.

Presently, Tyson Calok's attention was focused on the figure laying on the table. The table was perfectly sound, especially being of so'jan design. Da'note remember being operated on after his first battle as a young man. It was against one of the smaller noble Houses that had mistakenly tried to overthrow the last King. If only they had waited to make their move until the Federation came, preaching their Federation values and Federation laws. Da'note curled his lip as he thought of the day the so-called democracy was declared and the puppet Ba'l was declared President.

“Watch it!” L'mar's voice brought Da'note out of his reprieve.

“Had me the Neural Suppressant!” barked Calok. “He's resisting more that I anticipated.”

“Perhaps he is stronger than you thought?” Xojo suggested as L'mar handed the device to Calok.

Calok took the Suppressant and ran the device over Kelsoe's forehead. Kelsoe moaned in pain. Calok gritted his teeth.

“It's not working!” L'mar exclaimed.

“Hold you tongue, Romulan dog!” Calok ragged. “The supressor is working.” He handed it back. “Xojo, tell me his cortical read outs.”

“Five over six,” Xojo said, arching his neck down to view the console screen. “Eight pie two... I'm not sure I understand this.”

“All you have to do is read it out!” Calok bemoaned. “You don't have to understand it. As the Borg say, understanding is irrelevant!”

Xojo nodded and continued to read the cortical readouts. Calok nodded after each sentence. He appeared to be pleased.

“Well?” Da'note ventured.

Calok glared over at his reptilian friend. “Fine, just find. The Suppressant is working.” Calok looked up at L'mar. “Well I guess the Orions aren't as stupid as we thought.”

L'mar nodded. “It would appear their medical technology is far better than any of us could of believed.”

“The Orion Syndicate!?” Da'note interjected. “You've been making contact with them!? Why?”

“Wait, fool,” Calok said. “I require all my attention.” He paused and took a deep breath. “Continue Xojo.”

Xojo continued reading the cortical reports. Calok glared down at the face of the withered Captain Kelsoe, and for a moment smiled. Then suddenly his eyes opened wide.

“What!?” L'mar inquired. “What did you see?”

“A so'jan guard... someone our friend knows... and trusts.”

“Who!?” Da'note demanded.

“That is not important,” Calok grinned. “His plans fulfill our purpose anyway.”

“I demand you tell me the name of this guard!”

“Quiet, you damn scaly or I'll have you escorted out of my lab!” Calok growled.

For a moment Da'note was going to point out that this station was a So'ja station and that the guards would undoubtedly follow his orders and not those of a human skin bag when he glimpsed the red eyes again. Joc-Duloc, Da'note thought, the mythical planet where the inhabitants were said to have extraordinary mental abilities. Calok's red eyes, unlike those of any of his own kind, were proof of the planet's existence and the legends that surrounded it.

“There,” Calok said, stepped back and nodding to L'mar. “Done.”

L'mar grinned and Da'note did not like that grin. Calok returned it. Da'note suddenly felt uneasy, and he began to doubt this strange alliance he found himself in. Was it wise to trust a man who only truly cared for his own plans? Da'note banished such thoughts from his mind that moment he had decided to alley his House with Chancellor Ar'kon. His fate was no longer in his own hands. It was rather split, as it were, between the hands of Ar'kon and those of Tyson Calok. Da'note prayed to Ba'gee that he had made the right decision.

Calok turned to Da'note. “Have one of your pitiful guard take Kelsoe back to his cell. Our work here is done, my friend. In the morrow we shall finally leave this cramped rusty husk of station you have here.”

Da'note seemed confused.

“We no longer require this station, Admiral,” Calok said. “I suggest you arrange quarters for us on Ka'al, we'll be stating at the Imperial Palace.”

“I beg you pardon?”

Calok glared deeply into Da'note eyes with his own red ones. “Do you have a problem with that, Admiral?”

“No, of course not,” Da'note caved in. “And what shall be done with the station.”

“Have it destroyed of course!” L'mar said from behind the Admiral.

“What!? Why?” Da'note protested. “It has been one of the oldest stations of the greater So'ja people.”

“Precisely,” Calok leaned forward. “It's old and out of date. Anyway, with any luck you'll be able to build a new one, a better one. One the incorporates Oppressor technology.”

Da'note gulped.

“The Mass Drivers have been helping, I assume?” Calok asked.

Da'note nodded.

“Don't think for one second that I don't expected to be paid in return for my services to you So'jan Empire,” sneered Calok. “I've already exceeded our original agreement of procuring the Oppressor weapons for you. I can get more, anyway. But what about the invaluable information we extracted from our dear friend, Captain Benjamin Kelsoe and that pathetic Starfleet Admiral, what was his name?”

“Dutton,” L'mar informed.

“Yes, Admiral Dutton,” Calok continued. “If it wasn't for our timely help in creating a clone of that ignorant fool you would never have been able to find out all that delicious information about your enemies, both the Federation and the other cowards who have joined them. Remember the Oralian Peace Conference? I did that for you. You owe us everything, and we owe you nothing. Understood? And in this instance understanding is relevant.”

“I understand,” croaked Da'note.

“Good,” Calok said. “Now once we've deposed of our patient, in a most excellent fashion, then our job here is done.”

Da'note looked confused.

“Huh?” Calok inquired.

“How are we to deal with... with him?” Da'note gestured over to the unconscious Kelsoe.

“Simple,” Calok said, grinning to himself at the brilliance of his plan. “We are going to leave him in his cell when we evacuate the station and allow him to be rescued.”

“Rescued? How come?” Da'note protested. “Surely he is more useful to us as a prisoner?”

“Don't question me, Da'note,” Calok said. “As I said, I owe you nothing. You need me more than I need you! You told me that you understood. We'll do you? Or we're you lying?”

“I... I understand,” Da'note said, squinting. “I understand precisely.”

“Good!” beamed Calok in a malevolent sort of way. “Then let us go out and be merry!”

Calok and his colleague left the room leaving Da'note along with the unconscious body of Captain Benjamin Kelsoe. He stepped over to the operating table and looked down into the human's fleshy face.

“I should kill you now, Captain Kelsoe,” hissed the Admiral. “If only to hinder whatever Tyson Calok is skimming. However he is right in his assertion that we need him more than he needs us.”

With that spoken out loud Da'note felt a little better. He took a deep breath to prepare himself for giving the order he had been commanded to give... commanded by a human, how revolting!

The U.S.S. Charleston hovered closely to the Athena; both ships were scanning the So'jan-Federation border awaiting any advancing So'jan ships. The Galaxy-Class U.S.S. Wellington was currently patrolling the border further away.

Aboard the Charleston, Captain Robert Ramsey stood in the center of the bridge with his first officer, Commander Bruce Urbane by his side. Urbane was looking down at the helmsmen's console. He looked back up quizzically.


Ramsey let out a mournful sigh. “Just thinking of my brother, Bruce.” He paused. “That just had to go after his ship...”

“I understand, sir,” Urbane said. “My brother died during the Dominion War.”

Ramsey nodded. “War is only good for those who profit from it.”

“I.E. the Ferengi,” Urbane chuckled.

Ramsey cracked a smile. “They have something like that in their Rules of Acquisition, don't they?”

“Yes, sir,” Urbane said smiling. “They most certainly do. Rule 34: War is good for business.”

“Been studying the Rules of Acquisition, have you?” Ramsey questioned.

“My first assignment was on a ship patrolling the borders of Ferengi space,” Urbane said. “I found it was wise to know their rules when ever dealing with them.”

“A wise precaution to be sure,” was Ramsey's response.

A beeping floated across the bridge interrupted their conversation.

“Sir,” came the operations officer's voice.

“Yes Miss Ohlala?” Ramsey said, cocking his head around.

“We're receiving a message from DS-5,” Ohlala said. “It's being sent to the Athena and the Wellington as well.

“On screen.”

The screen blinked and showed Admiral Truman.

“Captains,” Truman said in his gravelly voice. “We've received some disturbing reports from our sources within so'jan space. It appears that the Coalition is amassing a fleet for an all out invasion of Bartho system. Judging from our previous encounters with the new hybrid ships, it does not look good. There is hardly any chance that you'll survive. So, that is why we are asking for one ship to volunteer and make a stand to give the other ships time to evacuate Bartho.”

The view screen flicked and Captain Survok of the Athena appeared.

“Admiral Truman,” the Vulcan captain said in a flat unemotional voice. “The Athena volunteers for the assignment.”

“You understand what we are asking?” Truman inquired.

“Affirmative,” Survok said. “However, I believe we can make a reasonable stand with only the senior officers present. I respectfully request that the rest of the crew be allowed to assist the Charleston and the Wellington in the evacuation of Bartho.”

Truman looked down slightly, evidence of tears appeared in his eyes.

“Very noble of you, Survok,” he said, his voice choking a bit. “Permission granted.” He paused for a moment, but then Survok spoke.

“You will relay my best wishes to my family,” Survok said, in an uncharacteristic Vulcan manner. And then added, “And those of my senior officers.”

“Of course,” Truman said nodding, his eyebrows lowering. “Good-bye old friend. Truman out.”

Truman disappeared. Captain Ramsey looked up at the view screen at his counterpart aboard the Athena.

“I hope you know what you are doing, Survok,” Ramsey said.

“I do, Captain Ramsey,” Survok said with a curt nod.

“We'll prepare for the transportation of your crew,” Ramsey said, signaling to Urbane to make it so. “We'll see that they get home safely.”

“My thanks,” nodded Survok. “Athena out.”

The view screen blinked back to stars. Ramsey took a deep breath, and looked over at Urbane, who was already consulting with their security officer. He turned around, stepped back to the command chair, and sat down.

“War,” he muttered to himself. “It's a dirty business.”

“Sir!” Tracy said, sounding excited.

Tuff stood and looked over with an expectant expression.


“I've got them!” Tracy exclaimed. “It's Dr. Kesar, he's says they're beaming over.”

Tuff nodded. “Notify security and have the Captain meet me in transporter room one.”

The U.S.S. Athena stood before hundreds of So'jan ships coming forward across the border on impulse.

“Commander Teral,” Captain Survok said standing up. “Ready the torpedoes.”

“Yes, sir,” Teral said. “And, sir... we're all with you!”

Captain Timothy Franco stood in the transporter room awaiting the arrival of Dr. Lucus Kesar and their so'jan contact, Ru'fur. Commander Tuff stood behind the transporter control console with Ensign Broussard. Two security guards stood off to the side, just in case. Franco looked up at Tuff.


“Just minute, sir,” Tuff said, glancing over at Broussard and then back at the transporter console. “Sir?”

“Commander?” Franco placed his hands on his hips.

“I'm readying a slow but steady increased in particle admission from what can only be the main reactor of the station,” Tuff informed Franco.

“Are you picking up our people?” Franco inquired.

“Picking up three signals, Captain,” Transporter Chief Broussard said.


“Yes, sir,” Broussard stated. “Three.”

Franco narrowed his eyes and nodded to the two security guards, who withdrew their phasers to the ready position.

“Can you beam them out, Ensign?” Franco asked.

Broussard stared hard at his control console. “The leaking particles from the reactor are making it hard to lock on to their signals.”

The console suddenly beeped. Tuff looked down.

“I'm readying a energy increase in the reactor core!” Tuff reported. “It would appear to be heading towards detonation.”

“Beam them out now, Mr. Broussard!” Franco commanded, staring ahead at the transporter pad.


Ensign Nicholas Broussard worked the console and soon the bluish energy pattern of three humanoids appeared on the transporter pad. For a moment they flickered and then disappeared Franco spun around.


“Station reactor reaching critical mass!” Tuff informed.

“Adjusting for molecular change,” Broussard informed as he worked swiftly at the station.

“Reestablishing lock. Energizing.”

“Reactor core's going critical!” Tuff shouted.

“Particle density too higher for reintegration, transferring signals to the buffer,” Broussard spoke aloud as he worked. “Loss lock. Reestablishing.”

“Core implosion, in five....,” Tuff began the count down.

Franco turned and glared at the transporter pad, wishing for the signal to emerge.

“Lock reestablished.”




“Particles disrupting transporter beam.”




The ship shook a second later, causing the ship to automatically initiate red alert. Franco spun on his heels.

“Broussard!” he said, frantically. “Tell me you got them.”

Ensign Broussard took a deep breath an exhaled.

“I got them, sir,” Broussard said. “Just in the nick of time. The particle density is still two high, so I had to keep them in the buffer to purge the unwanted particles. Commencing reintegration.”

Tuff stepped down from the control console and joined Franco before the transporter pad. They watched at the transporter pattern materialized in the familiar pale blue light and sighed with relief to see Dr. Lucus Kesar and Ru'fur.

“Commander Tuff!” grinned Dr. Kesar in his annoyingly high voice. “So good to see you again.”

“Doctor,” Tuff said inclining his head.

Franco smiled. “We almost lost you there for a moment,” he then caught sight of the third figure. “And who have you got there?”

He glared at the hooded hunched figure. A stench seemed to come from his very skin. Tuff shifted as he saw the disheveled man.

“Your missing captain,” Ru'fur informed, helping the man next to him down off the transporter pad.

“Captain?” Tuff said, stepping forward and assisting.

Kesar stepped off the transporter pad, and slowly pulled back the hood. The bald, badly beaten, yet very much alive face of Captain Benjamin Kelsoe emerged blinking in the strong light.

“Captain?!” The anger and hurt off seeing his captain like this was clear in Tuff's voice.

“Rob...,” a coarse voice issued from between Kelsoe's lips. He then collapsed, unconscious.

Franco remained calmed and tapped his commbadge. “Franco to sickbay, medical emergency in transporter room one.” He then turned to Ru'fur. “Explain.”

“Just after we received you signal, we found out that the Coalition was going to abandon Cap'gu'ajak...”

“I thought they were holding him at the Venka Station?” Franco inquired.

“Yes,” Ru'fur said. “That is what Cap'gu'ajak is.” He paused. “Once I learned that the station was going to be evacuated and then put on self-destruct I immediately volunteered to be among the last remaining evacuees to stay and ensure station destruction... a great honor, so there will be no suspicion of my initiative. After the reactor core had been set on a build up I ordered the remaining personnel to abandon the station; I was to remain behind to ensure final destruction, evacuation at the very last possible moment. Again, a great honor, no suspicion will come my way for such actions. I then extracted Dr. Kesar from his cell and with his help retrieved Captain Kelsoe.”

There was a uncomfortable silence until Tuff finally broke it.

“You were in a cell, Doctor?” he inquired.

“It was part of the plan!” beamed Kesar. “I infiltrated the enemy!”

Tuff returned the smile of the grinning Wismaga.

The door opened with a hiss and Dr. Braga came running in with a medical crew. They took charge of Captain Kelsoe and the others stepped aside.

“Why was he left on the station?” Franco asked Ru'fur.

“According to Admiral Da'note,” Ru'fur said, the strangeness in his voice about the ease of their escape showing. “The Coalition no longer needed the services of Captain Kelsoe.”

Franco's brow furrowed in a puzzled look.

“I know,” Ru'fur said with a shrug. “I don't understand it, either.”

“Well the good news is that Kelsoe is back, safe and sound,” Franco said. “Dr. Braga, inform me of his progress. Commander, if you'll escort our guests to some quarters, I'll be on the bridge.”

The U.S.S. Charleston and the U.S.S. Wellington hovered next to each other around orbit of grayish green planet of Bartho. Captain Robert Ramsey stared at the planet through the view screen. A large fierce storm raged in the northern hemisphere. Commander Bruce Urbane came up along side his captain, holding a data pad.

“We've evacuated all the Barthoyites who wanted to leave the planet,” Urbane reported. “Six eighths of the population have opted to stay and fight.” He paused, unsure to ask his question.

“Yes, Commander?”

“Sir,” Urbane spoke quietly. “We can't just abandon them.”

“If they want to stay and fight, that's their choice, Commander,” Ramsey said in a cold voice. “We have our orders. We are to fall back to DS-5.”

“But sir!” Urbane hissed in protest.

“We follow our orders, Bruce,” Ramsey said glancing sternly, yet fatherly, over at his first officer.

Urbane gave up and lowered his head. Ramsey turned and looked back at the image of Bartho on the view screen.

“Any news on the Athena?”

Urbane shook his head.

“That bad?”

“Scans seem to indicate that the Athena flew herself deep into the enemy ranks and then self-destructed,” Urbane said, the pain in his voice clear. “They took one sixth of the fleet with them though.”

“An honorable depth,” Ramsey said. “As the Klingon's would say.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Anything else?” Ramsey said noticing the look on Urbane's face.

“It's about the so'jan fleet, sir,” Urbane said, handing the PADD to Ramsey.

Captain Ramsey took it and looked down. His eyes widen.


“Well, sir,” Urbane said, as Ramsey examined the read outs more closely. “According to our sensor scans and those relayed to us by the Athena before she self-destructed, the fleet heading her is not a hybrid fleet.”

Ramsey looked up.

“Then they might only have on of those accursed fleets,” he asserted.

“It's possible, sir,” Urbane said.

A beeping from the tactical station behind them drew their attention.

“Report!” Ramsey questioned.

“Picking up so'jan signals approaching from sub-space,” the tactical officer reported.

“Ensign,” Ramsey said, turning towards the vulcan CONN officer. “How long until the fleet arrives?”

“According to sensors in approximately twenty minutes, sir,” responded the vulcan.

Ramsey inclined his head and stepped back to his command chair.

“Contact the Wellington,” Ramsey ordered. “We're leaving now.”

The nasty crude shapes of a so'jan fleet appeared in the skies above the Bartho capital. The gray skinned Barthoyites sounded the alarm and their soldiers rushed to the defenses.

“Stand your ground,” came a voice from the public address system. “Hold at all cost. Make them pay for every centimeter! Nothing else matters!”

One soldier looked up in time to see a ball of blue hazy energy come down from the sky. It came at great speed, straight towards him, landing right in front of him. And then there was blackness.