For Vulcans and Romulans the hands are used to show intimacy. Maybe they’re even an erogenous zone? he asked himself. He was a bit alarmed when he realized he actually liked Velal’s touches, even though they probably did not have the same meaning for him as they did for her. He found them quite soothing, actually. They stood there for a while, silent. The air was becoming dense.
Were they running out of oxygen already?
“He’ll try to destroy the Enterprise?” McCoy asked, shaking his head, trying to clear his thoughts. These touches were mesmerizing! He tried to concentrate on something else, anything, but the touch of her fingers on his. “He’s on his own. Surely, he can’t take on a whole starship, can he?”
She laughed quietly, deep in her throat. “He’s a Tal Shiar agent.”
“Oh, come on!” he snorted, thinking about unrealistic and exaggerated stories about secret agents and spies. Jocelyn had loved them, and he’d been forced to watch quite a few of those silly 007 movies. He drifted off into his past for what felt like the thousandth time today. His ex wife had been fascinated by James Bond, that rediculously smarmy Brit, always acting in the name of Her Majesty, the Queen of England. That strong, cultivated, permanently well-dressed, and sexually irrisitible walking stereotype was as similar to himself, as Spock was to Moneypenny. No wonder their marriage had ended in a catastrophy. He should have seen it coming. Jocelyn had wanted a man at her side that her friends envied her for, a status symbol, not a real person.
Velal tenderly bit his earlobe. Now, that didn’t seem like Romulan / Vulcan foreplay. It was what a human would do. She is trying a new strategy, he observed. He waited for a few breaths, undecided about how to react.
With a loud hiss, the ventilation system came to life again, McCoy drew in a relieved breath, then he withrew from her, grasping her shoulders, pushing her away. “We should try to get out of here, then. If what you say is true, Tamulok probably is after you.”
“Yes,” she said simply. Again, there was a moment of silence before her hands reclaimed his hands that still rested on her shoulders.
He sighed, silently counting to ten, as her fingers resumed their mesmerizing touches. “You’re a Tal Shiar agent, as well, Velal,” he whispered gently.
“Yes,” she repeated, stroking both his index fingers. McCoy began to ask himself what the equivalent to this gesture was in human interaction between a man and a woman. As he pictured the answer, it suddenly didn’t feel so soothing anymore.
“Well, then, it should be easy to get us out of here!” he said a little louder than necessary.
“I don’t want to get out of here,” she purred. Two of her fingers touched his temple, and for a second he felt panic threaten to consume him. She wouldn’t try a meld, would she?
She didn’t. It was just a touch, interested, caressing, even loving as it traced down the side of his face, touched his lip, tracing the curve under his nose.
“Oh, cut the crap!” he grumbled, and batted the tantalizing fingers away.
She withdrew with a low growl, and for a moment he admired his own boldness or stupidity. He was sure she could break his neck with just two of her fingers.
“I like you. You are so real,” she said possessively, through clenched teeth. Her hands now closed around his wrists pulling him towards herself by his forearms. “I’m fed up with lies, intrigues, disguises, and false identities. You are what you are, nothing more and nothing less,” she declared.
It flattered him, for some reason, and he felt annoyed with himself as he realized it. “I’m human,” he said, and meant it as an explanation for her, as well as for himself, maybe even an excuse for what was about to follow. He’d been with people who were less interesting, less attractive, even less considerate than this Romulan. He wasn’t particularly proud of those experiences, but they’d been only human.
“That’s what makes you so irrisitible,” she said, and he could hear in her voice, that she was smiling, even though one of her hands was now creeping up his arm, shoulder and neck, until her fingers were clawing into his hair.
Nonetheless, she’d calmed considerably, compared to the state she’d been in when he’d first arrived in the brig, he noticed. How far into that mating ritual were they actually?
A noise was coming from the doors, rattling, rapping. Someone was trying to get them open. A good sign? Were they being rescued? Or was Tamulok on the other side of the door?
He grabbed blindly at the air in front of him, finding Velal, pulling her protectively to himself, and then dragging her to the wall to which they flattened themselves against. There was a weak sheen of light coming from the direction of the noise, as the door was pried open.
“Doctor McCoy?” Osborne shouted, out of breath. He was worried. When the lights and everything else had gone out, all he could think of had been that rabid Romulan escaping her cell. McCoy had been unarmed. He’d probably had a hypo with a strong sedative somewhere, and the doctor was famous for using his hypos with a healthy amount of pragmatism, but being totally blind, wouldn’t have helped him. He’d called for Collins and O’Shea and they’d worked on prying the doors open, immediately. Now, that they’d succeeded, he used the light of a PADD to search for McCoy, or the Romulan. Behind him, his two colleagues waited, with drawn phasers.
“Yes, yes, yes,” McCoy found himself trying to soothe the security officer once again. He held his hands in front of him as he walked away from the wall towards the now open door, as if Osborne had reason to feel threatened by him. He kept Velal close behind him, shielding her from the redshirts.
“Are, you … uh,” Osborne was clearly confused by the CMO’s behaviour, “Are you okay?”
He backed away, as McCoy and Velal approached them.
“We’re … fine,” he said and felt Velal suddenly press down very hard on his hand.
“Tamulok, he’s close!” she said quietly, but loud enough, for Osborne to hear it too.
“Where?” the lieutenant asked, alarmed. If anyone wanted to enter the Enterprise, a total power failure was of course an ideal situation to do that.
Velal pointed towards her right, and Collins and O’Shea immediately turned into that direction. Osborne gave the doctor a quick once over. He seemed alright, and intend on protecting Velal. Maybe he’d been wrong about her. She certainly did not seem to be threatening now. What had McCoy done?
A noise came from the direction of where Velal had pointed, O’Shea shouted, then a phaser was fired and Osborne pressed himself to the wall of the corridor, setting his own phaser.
“Go!” he hissed, meaning McCoy and Velal. But when he turned again, he saw the doctor and his companion weren’t there anymore. Good, he thought, now I can concentrate on the intruders.
He heard the hiss of the disruptor before he felt the agonizing pain.
“Spock to Captain Kirk.” His first officer’s voice suddenly came over the intercom, as Kirk guided Crewmen Langerman to sickbay’s entrance with his flashlight. They’d found only a few people in the corridor, who then started a sort of search and rescue party, helping to open the doors to the various rooms and a few mildly injured people had been brought in, to who Chapel and Taylor were tending to at the moment.
Kirk hadn’t given up the plan to reach the bridge over Jeffries tube 21C, and had ventured a bit towards its hatch, trying to determine what (or who) to take with him. Chapel had a point though, Kirk knew it, he could feel it, the headache that had formed, in the past 15 minutes or so, was getting worse, dulling his usually strong determination.
However, when the Vulcan’s voice sounded over the intercom, the dark cloud of pain was suddenly lifted from him. First of all it meant that the bridge was still relatively intact, and at least Spock, if not all of the bridge crew, were alive and well.
Second it meant, that the intercom was working again, and although he’d told Scotty to work on repairing other systems first, he knew the ship’s communications system was vital in a crisis like this. During the last five years Kirk had built up a reputation as Starfleet’s, boldest, smartest and most cunning captain, but Kirk had always known that a captain was dependent on his crew, their loyalty, their courage and their skills, to execute his orders. So, without being able to communicate with his crew, Kirk was nothing more than a man with a strong will, but no arms or hands.
Finally, Kirk felt a relief in him that had nothing to do with the ships’s status or his worry for the lives of his crew. Even as he reached for the comm button to answer Spock’s call, he identified the feeling and immediately stacked it away, as he realized what it was. He had felt jealous of Spock because he was in command of his ship. Spock had ordered a change in course and speed, without finding it necessary to even notify him about that. And rightfully so, for he was on sickleave, had been in a coma only a day ago, but still, instead of feeling thankful to Spock for taking care of business, he’d felt jealous and left out. So when Spock addressed him first after repairing the intercom, he felt included in the game again. He knew for a fact that Spock did not strive towards his command, respected him as captain and commanding officer always, and without question, but Kirk’s own possessiveness towards the command chair sometimes made him forget that. He wondered if Spock had sensed it, or why would he have sought the captain first who was being examined in sickbay when the power went out, and not someone else, who was on duty and of more use to get the ship back under control right now?
“Spock! What’s going on up there?” he asked him, already completely focussing on the task.
“The bridge is undamaged, except that all systems have gone offline. Currently we have no knowledge about what caused the power failure, Lieutenant Uhura and I were able to activate the intercom with the help of a phaser’s energy cell.”
“Scotty is trying to get the scanners, shields and impulse drive online again. Spock, why did we change course?”
“We were attempting to reach a small unknown vessel sending out an automated distress signal.”
Kirk pressed his lips together. It was a trap! Of course, it could also be, that whatever had brought that small ship into distress, was also causing the Enterprise’s problems right now. Then he dismissed the thought for a moment, we’ll find out sooner or later.
“Lieutenant Uhura, put me through shipwide,” he said, knowing she could hear him. He needed to act and bring some control and order back on his ship. Reassure his crew.
“Aye sir, you may talk now,” Uhura said, and Kirk could hear the signal from the speakers in the walls that preceded a shipwide announcement.
“To all hands, this is Captain Kirk. We are experiencing a partial power failure. Stay at your posts and remain calm. The problem will be cleared in a few minutes. Armed security teams are patrolling. I repeat: We are experiencing a momentary partial power failure. Stay where you are, and remain calm. Kirk out.”
Another signal indicated the shipwide communication had been cut.
“Captain, you think we have intruders on board?” Spock’s voice asked calmly.
Kirk smiled. Spock, of course would not only have immediately noticed Kirk’s stretchings of the truth, the power failure was far more than partial or momentary, and there were no armed security teams patrolling anywhere, but he would have also deduced why Kirk chose to use them.
“I hope I’m wrong,” he said. “We need internal scanners, and contact security!”
“I’ve tried, captain,” Uhura chimed in again, she was probably talking and listening to dozens of people at the same time right now, Kirk imagined, “no one answers on deck 8.”
“Security and - the brig,” Kirk thought aloud. If they had intruders on board, deck 8 should be the safest place on the ship. At least almost everyone there was armed. But right now they were also probably blind, … . An uneasy feeling spread in his stomach. McCoy had been called to the brig, and was probably there too, right now.
“Captain, I believe we should consider the possibility that Commander Tamulok might be behind all this.”
Tamulok? Hadn’t he excaped to Romulan Territory? “What evidence do you have for that?” Kirk demanded, becoming even more uneasy, but also furious at that Romulan’s audacity.
“None, Captain. However, this morning Tamulok’s ship was found in Federation territory, it caused great damage to the Columbia, which called many Federation starships to come to her aid. Tamulok was not found. We do not know where he is at the moment. However, if he decided to free Velal, now would be an ideal moment.”
Free Velal? Kirk thought. The last time he’d seen the Romulan Commander, he’d threatened to kill his Romulan friend. Tamulok knew Velal had betrayed him, but of course that didn’t mean he wouldn’t want to free her, if only to make a point, to take revenge on her. That man was truely mad.
“Captain, security officer O’Shea for you,” Uhura announced.
“Kirk here,” he pictured the sturdy redhead that was one of his security officers before him. A walking brick wall, he was.
“Sir, I’m … deck eight, Intruders … Romulan ... disruptor.”
Kirk could hear he was in great pain, gasping, bearly able to get out the words. His heartbeat quickened, so there were Romulans on board!
“O’Shea, listen to me. How many of them are there and where are they headed?”
“They … came out of … the dark. Couldn’t see. Killed, … Osborne and Collins, I c-couldn’t ...”
Kirk punched the wall in frustration. O’Shea was badly injured, suffering from a disruptor wound, which were always agonizing. He needed medical help, and soon, still, Kirk needed to know …
“Ensign O’Shea!” he bellowed, “Listen to me! Where are they now?”
“I don’t … they … went after the … doctor.” he whispered in between harsh breaths.
“And that’s where?” Kirk pressed, so McCoy had been there, but where was he now?
A hollow thud ended the report, O’Shea had probably dropped to the ground. Kirk couldn’t raise him again.
“Captain, if one wants to escape intruders on deck 8 during a power failure, the logical route to take is through Jeffries tube 8,” Spock provided from over the intercom.
“The logical route, Spock?” Kirk echoed, trying to get the Vulcan to find the snag in his assumption. McCoy wasn’t always the most logical guy, as Spock was usually so fond of pointing out.
“I should rephrase that, Captain,” Spock acknowledged, “it is the only possible route. Nonethelss, it also opens the possibility to trap the Romulan intruders, that is – if one is aware of the layout of Jeffries tube 8!”
Kirk nodded. Jeffries tube 8 was epecially long and unsually winded. Eventually it lead up to cargobay 1 on deck 7, but it also connected to cargobay 2 which was on deck 9. It was possible to transfer goods from one cargobay to the other via the last part of the Jeffries tube which was steeply sloped at its end. At the foot of the slope there was an opening. A rather sudden opening if you didn’t expect it and if you fell through, you’d fall several meters. It could make an ideal trap for Bones’ pursuers, however, Kirk wasn’t sure if Bones knew anything about it.
“Captain, our internal sensors are online again,” Spock’s voice interrupted his train of thoughts, “it appears Doctor McCoy and Velal are about 28 meters ahead of the 3 intruders, who are heavily armed.”
Kirk bit the inside of his lip, “Do you suppose Bones knows about the opening in the ground ahead of him?”
“He’s 15.3 meters away, Captain. Considering the pace at which he and Velal are currently going, I don’t believe they are aware of the chute.”
Kirk closed his eyes. “We’ve gotta warn him then.”
“Captain, any warning we could give Dr McCoy would also warn Commander Tamulok.”
Kirk nodded, but said: “Maybe not. We’ve gotta phrase it so that only Bones understands.”
McCoy had been crawling on his hands and knees for only a few minutes now, but he hurt all over already. However, the prospect of being hit by a disruptor promised even more pain, much more actually, so he just kept on going as fast as he could. When he’d heard the sounds of the phasers and disruptors, as well as the agonized moans coming from at least two of the security officers in the corridor, his first instinct had been to turn around.
Disruptor wounds were nasty, if they didn’t kill you right away, they caused enormous pain, and McCoy believed they’d been even designed for that purpose. He shuddered. Romulan (and Klingon) mentality in that way was so far from what was considered to be human. “Are human phasers not designed to kill, doctor?” Spock had once asked him, to remind him that every weapon, no matter who the designer was, ultimately had only one prupose, still, to be killed by a disruptor, was a hell of a way to die.
Velal had dragged him away from the hatch and into the Jeffries tube. “We must flee!” she’d whispered in his ear, and of course she was right. He didn’t know how many Romulans were out there, but even if there was only Tamulok, which he doubted, then it was Tamulok with a disruptor, and they were completely unarmed. So they needed to flee. A few minutes later, they heard the hatch being opened again and people crawling inside.
Velal who was close in front of him, and was becoming more agitated again, with each passing second, had confirmed McCoy’s worries: “Tamulok, he’s following us.”
McCoy cursed himself for not having studied Enterprise’s Jeffries tube system more elaborately. If Jim were in his place, he’d not only know where he was going, but also how to set up a trap for that Romulan that was following them.
Suddenly, he heard Jim’s voice over the intercom, making a shipwide announcement.
“... Stay where you are, and remain calm. Kirk out."
Funny, Jim, he thought sarcastically, feeling Velal’s gastrocnemius muscle under his hand tremble uncontrollably. Her pants were soaked with sweat. He was certainly not calm and relaxed himself, but the state Velal was in was ridiculous. Also, he could hear the grunts and panting of the Romulans following them from behind.
Tamulok hollered after them, something in Romulan, which made Velal scream and kick behind her, almost hitting McCoy in the face.
“Hey!” he hissed at her and pushed her further into the tube, “use your energy to move a little faster, instead of trying to knock me out!”
She muttered something back that McCoy couldn’t understand, and although it didn’t exactly sound like an apology, she concentrated on quickening her pace, for which McCoy was grateful. They’d been crawling straight ahead for some time now, and he just hoped, Tamulok would not round the corner about now and shoot his disruptor down the tunnel.
McCoy considered briefly stopping at the intercom to contact Jim, but the prospect of being hit by same disruptor let him move on.
It seemed though, he didn’t need to stop to communicate with Jim, for suddenly the captain’s voice came over the speakers again, in another shipwide announcement:
“To all hands in the Pyris Seven section: access deck 9 through the Jeffries tubes! The dust and cobwebs make it right!”
McCoy blinked, what was that supposed to mean?
Pyris Seven was the name of a planet they’d visited about 3 years ago. Spock, Kirk, and he had encountered three witches warning them to turn around and leave. Spock had commented on their bad poetry, and they’d all been quite puzzled about the earth manifestations of Halloween decoration, complete with a black cat and an old castle. As they’d proceded along the hall of the castle, McCoy had also commented on the dust and cobwebs, before they’d all …
“Stop!” he hissed at Velal, grabbing hold of her calf fast.
“What?” she ground out.
“There’s a hole somewhere ahead of us!”
Spock kept one eye on the internal scanners that showed the progress of Doctor McCoy, Velal and the three intruders within Jeffries tube 8. One of the intruders was most likely a Romulan, the other two were probably of a different species. McCoy and Velal had picked up their pace, and now quickly approached the abyss.
As he heard the captain’s shipwide announcement, he immediately understood the underlying warning, 2 point 7 years ago, McCoy, Kirk and he himself had fallen through a hole in the ground in that castle on Pyris Seven, just after McCoy had commented: Dust, cobwebs, Halloween is right. The question was: Would the doctor also make the connection in time?
“They’ve stopped,” Chekov, also reading the internal scanners from his post, commented.
Spock nodded, observing the internal scanners out of the corner of his eyes now, while he roamed over the readings of the external sensor readings. He informed the captain: “McCoy and Velal have stopped moving abruptly, Captain. I believe he understood. Now., they’re very slowly approaching the chute,” even as he drew conclusions about the cause of their power failure.
“Good! Spock, the scanners, what do they show of the outside? Where are we?” Kirk was multitasking. He couldn’t help Bones any more from here, but there were other things that needed his attention.
“It seems we’ve grazed a quantum filament, Captain, a rare and extremely hard to detect, but natural astrophysical phenomenon. It has very likely caused our power failure.”
“You believe it was an accident?” Kirk asked incredulously.
“Not necessarily, sir. We also …,” he stopped, briefly averting his attention to the internal sensor readings again, “Captain, Dr. McCoy and Velal have overcome the hole in the ground. They are now moving up the slope to cargobay 1.”
Kirk breathed a sigh of relief. “You also …?” he prompted.
“... detect the scout ship that sent the distress call we were attempting to answer in our immediate vicinity. They may have brought us here on purpose.”
“Tamulok’s ship?” Kirk asked.
“It’s hull shows traces of trititanium.”
“Orions!” Kirk concluded. They’d encountered a small Orion scout made of trititanium during the Babel mission.
“It would seem so, Captain,” Spock nodded, “they’re apparently still allied with Commander Tamulok.”
“Where’s he, now?” Kirk asked Spock, trying to imagine what it meant for the Federation, if Tamulok had really found allies within the Orion Syndicate, and was in possession of a biological weapon that could help control thousands of Romulans – and Vulcans. The scenarios he came up with were abhorrent.
“Aproaching the chute at a constant velocity,” Spock said, his attention once more focussed on the readings.
Kirk tensed, then remembered something and shouted into his communicator for Scotty: “Scotty, the shields, do we have them?”
“Just a minute, captain,” Scotty sounded far away.
“Spock, prepare to get the shields up, as soon as they’re available. We don’t want Tamulok to be beamed away this time.”
“Yes, Captain,” Spock said, already watching over Sulu’s shoulder, who had a finger on the shield controls.
“Mr. Spock!” Chekov sounded excited, pointing at the readings, “the intruders have fallen through the chute into cargobay 2!”
“Lifesigns?” Kirk asked.
“Yes, Captain. They appear to be …,” Spock halted uncharacteristically, never a good sign, and Kirk suddenly knew what it meant.
Without waiting for Spock to finish his sentence, he shouted at Scott again: “Scotty! Tractor beam, phasers, engines we need them now!” He knew how he sounded. Almost all of the ship’s systems were dead, and he demanded the Enterprise to be ready to detain, destroy and pursue an Orion scoutship all at once. Tamulok just couldn’t escape once again!
He heard a low, familiar thrum, that told him the ship’s shields had gone up, probably only a few seconds too late, and even before Spock announced to him that the three intruders had been transported away, he knew they’d lost the Romulan again.
“The Orion ship has gone to warp, Captain,” Spock reported after another slight pause. That was it, they’d lost him, probably for good now.
He hit the wall once again, as he saw Chapel approaching him in the dim light of his flashlight.
“Captain? I’m glad to see, you didn’t attempt climbing up that Jeffries tube,” she said, smiling slightly.
He nodded, at her, absently. Well, even if he’d done that, it probably wouldn’t have changed anything.
“Captain? Dr. McCoy for you,” Uhura barely had time to warn him before he heard Bones’ angry voice hollering:
“Jim, when are you thinking about setting up a decent search and rescue service? People may be hurt. We’re stuck in cargobay 1, which is completely empty and, ...”
“BONES!” Kirk shouted to get in a word. He was relieved that Bones was still alive and well, but also didn’t have the energy at the moment to deal with his enraged CMO. That he was bitching like that only showed him, that he really was okay. So there were other, more important things, he needed to do at the moment, to take a painkiller for that headache, for example.
“Bones, we’re doing all we can. We’ll get you out in no time, I swear, just … try to get comfortable,” he said, rubbing his forehead tiredly.
"Comfortable?" Bones sounded … panicked? Kirk felt some worry forming inside him, what was wrong?
“Bones, you’re okay?” he asked.
There was the sound of commotion, as if clothes were being ripped apart. Was he bleeding? Or Velal? Was he trying to make a bandage?
"Okay?” McCoy sounded exasperated, then suddenly, he sobered. “We’re okay, Jim. Just, before your rescue party comes to pry open the doors, give us a warning, would you?”
Kirk frowned. “Why?”
“Just do. McCoy out.”
He looked at Chapel, who was standing in front of him, a frown on her face that mirrored his own. She shrugged it away and raised her hand to reveal a hypo. “Here captain, it should ease your headache!” she explained.
Kirk nodded in acceptance. Christine had been right, it was a good thing, he hadn’t attempted to reach the bridge through the Jeffries tubes. Even from the intercom in the corridor in front of sickbay, he had been at least able to find out what was wrong with his ship. They’d also gotten rid of Tamulok. He scratched his head that was beginning to clear from the pain again.
What had he wanted? He asked himself. Was it all about taking revenge on Velal? His mind wandered back to the beginning of this cirsis. Bones had been called to the brig, because of her, hadn’t he? He still didn’t know the reason for that.
Kirk sat at the conference table, watching his officers silently while Scotty informed them of the ship’s status. They’d all seen better days. Since the worst of the crisis was over now, and the adrenalin had worn off, the stress of the last hours, and maybe even of the last days and weeks, started to show. They were all slightly slumped in their seats. Sulu was stifling a yawn, Chekov absently rubbed his eye, and Uhura had removed her earrings. Still, they were in great shape compared to Scotty. The engineer was sweating, his uniform, as well as the side of his face showed dark stains, maybe oil, or some other grease. He’d been working at warp speed ever since the power had gone, and although he’d done a great job, he knew Scotty felt like he’d failed. And Kirk suspected he wasn’t completely innocent in the matter. They hadn’t been able to prevent Tamulok from escaping again, it had annoyed him tremendously, and he had taken some of it out on Scotty. Gotta make it up to him, maybe with some Saurian brandy?
Spock was sitting hunched over in his chair in a way that made his uniform form creases. It was a sure sign that his first officer was utterly exhausted, cold and tired. Kirk knew he himself must look like the walking dead, his head was still bandaged, but he could feel the bandage had losened, it felt dirty and it itched. His hands had trembled just before he’d called the conference, but he’d gotten them under control again. He needed sleep.
Only McCoy was an exception to the sorry assembly of Starfleet’s finest. He’d changed into a fresh uniform exchanging it for the surgical scrubs he’d worn ever since yesterday. He looked rested and content, something that Kirk found odd, and that ironically made him worry about his CMO nonetheless.
The seventh member at their conference table also looked as if she’d just run a marathon, she was slightly sweating and pale, but her eyes were alert and watched Scotty with interest. Kirk suddenly regretted having invited her. He needed to hear what she had to say about Tamulok, but he hated letting her hear confidential information about the Enterprise’s current status. She’s a Romulan, an enemy.
It would take another 3 hours to be able to go on warp again, but the shields and phasers were online, as well as the tractor beam and the transporters. The torpedoes would be ready within the hour, at least they weren’t helpless anymore.
“What did Tamulok want?” Kirk directly addressed Velal, when Scotty had finished.
“He wanted me, Captain,” the Romulan said, looking at him with such an open and honest expression, that Kirk grew suspicious.
“You? Why? The last time we saw him, he used you as a living shield to flee from that moon we were stranded on. He left you behind without second thought.”
“That is correct. However, he is a man of great passions. That makes him not always act logically. I’ve betrayed him, it angers him. I’ve hurt his pride and he wants to take revenge on me. I don’t expect Vulcans to understand that sort of thinking, but it isn’t totally alien to humans, or is it, Captain?” Velal arrogantly raised an eyebrow at Kirk, smiling.
It angered him, he didn’t need this right now. The frown he knew had been planted on his face, ever since his head had started itching like this, grew darker and his mouth curved in a smile that was everything else, but friendly. Romulans, male or female, were just arrogant bastards.
McCoy also let out an annoyed sigh, at which Velal turned her head slightly. They exchanged a look, that Kirk found unsettling. What’s going on? He took a breath to comment, when Velal continued:
“Captain, as I’ve said before, Tamulok is very dangerous. He’s now losing control and spiralling more and more into madness. He is furious not only at me, but also at you, Captain, and especially your Doctor McCoy. It’s consuming him, he’ll never forget. A Romulan with such great wrath is always dangerous, but a Romulan who also has great power, and the Meriahni virus will give him greater power than any Romulan ever had, can destroy worlds. First, he’ll concentrate on gaining control over the Tal Shiar and the Senate which will be easy, since he has got friends in both organisations. Then he’ll take over the whole Romulan Empire. He may have had other ideas for his reign as Romulan Emperor, but now, there’s only his wrath at me and you. He’ll spend all his energy on one goal. To find revenge. He’ll destroy your ship, kill everyone on Earth, enslave all Vulcans, and let you live to see it.”
She said it in a quiet, but intense way that made Uhura stop breathing for a second. She was bluffing, wasn’t she? What could one man alone do? One man against many worlds? Her eyes sought her captain and she relaxed as she saw him smiling, an amused look on his face.
“Your fantasies are quite entertaining, Velal,” Kirk said, chuckling slightly, “which Merihani virus do you mean?”
He had paid attention. Velal had been in the brig for the last seven days. She knew the Enterprise had gone back to Meriah Five, but she couldn’t have known about what had happened there, what he and McCoy had found out in the Prolia prison complex, namely that the virus that had befallen Tamulok’s Romulan crew had been used by the Meriahni society as a means of controlling its people for centuries, that Meriah was in fact, Vor-Ka-Ri, the Romulans’ first colony, and not that planet in the neutral zone.
Velal wasn’t fazed by Kirk’s act, she looked him straight into the eyes as she said: “Captain, do you think we would have stayed in orbit of a neutral planet that far away from our territory for five long years, if we hadn’t suspected anything valuable there? Meriah is Vor-Ka-Ri, our lost colony. We’ve known that, long before you even contacted the Meriahni government.”
McCoy turned towards her, his eyebrows raised in amusement: “And you let us believe that that deserted planet in the neutral zone was it? Imagine, Spock, the embarassment for the Vulcan Science Academy! They were ready to declare they’d found their legendary Atlantis, and would have sent a legion of archeologists, historians, diplomats, and specialists of ancient Vulcan mythology to dig in a great pile of plain old dirt! It would have taken years before they’d given up. And behind the scenes, the Romulans would have secretly laughed their ears off!”
“If the Romulan Senate knows about the virus, why don’t they react?” Spock asked, ignoring McCoy’s comment.
“Because they don’t know about the virus,” Velal corrected him, “The Meriahni government protects its secret fiercely, and when Tamulok found out about it, he did not even think about telling either the Tal Shiar, or the Senate. To keep them unsuspicious he fed them with other information, though. Meriah is a kind of utopia, considering their level of technology. The Romulan Empire has profited from it greatly. For example, I believe you have witnessed what their shield technology is capable of.”
Kirk remembered the five Romulan warbids under the command of the Romulan rebel Valdran and Tamulok’s ship that had all been destroyed at Tamulok’s order when their shields had ignited in a green light and had easily destroyed the six ships. It was possible that Tamulok had acquired this technology on Meriah, after all, what he’d heard from Spock, the Meriahni prison complex had been destroyed in a similar way.
"Valdran didn’t know,” he said, challenging Velal.
“Valdran, Captain, was an enemy of the Romulan government. She didn’t have any access to top secret information like that. However, you can be assured, that all Romulan vessels have been equipped with those new Meriahni technologies, which greatly improve our tactical efficiency.”
Kirk smirked. Even though Velal was trying to win his confidence, she couldn’t stop boasting about the Romulan fleet’s power. Kirk suspected, however, she was greatly exaggerating. The Romulans had been awfully quiet in the last months, there were rumours about a rebellion, even a civil war that was weakening the empire. “Of course. How did you come to know about the virus then?”
“I’m a Tal Shiar agent, Captain. I know how to obtain information like that, and Tamulok trusted me,” she said with a self-conscious smile that caught Kirk’s attention.
“Why?” he prodded.
McCoy cleared his throat, looking at his hands. He knows more than I do, Kirk concluded, but did not avert his eyes from Velal’s face.
“I was his wife, Captain,” she said, holding his gaze.
"Was?” McCoy echoed, a bit too loud to mirror Kirk’s surprise at the revelation.
Velal had once told him that she valued loyalty, when he’d asked her why she hadn’t killed Tamulok herself when she’d had the opportunity. Why count on the Federation to kill him? Maybe it had something to do with the bond Romulans and Vulcans allegedly assummed when they got married?
“Yes, Doctor. The bond between him and me has recently been severed.”
“Wh … What? I mean, how? I mean, … you were married?” McCoy was clearly shocked for a moment, but got himself under control only a second later. It was enough to make Spock raise an inquisitve eyebrow at the doctor and enough for Kirk to make up his mind to interview McCoy thoroughly about his time when he’d been alone with Velal, but that could wait.
“So you were married,” Kirk continued, thinking aloud, “I think you once said he wanted to make you empress of the Romulan Empire. But you betrayed him, and obviously want to stop him.”
She nodded, and Kirk continued: “Well, ... we’re listening.”
“Good. But, … first I’m interested in what you intend to do with me after I’ve helped you to capture him.”
Kirk briefly considered lying to her, but decided against it: “We have the order to deliver you over to Starfleet Intelligence. Once they have you, they’ll never let you go.”
He looked at her, trying to read her face which looked back blankly. Beside her, Bones wasn’t happy. Kirk knew the look. It was the protective, warning glare Bones used whenever Kirk questioned an injured man in sickbay a bit too intensely, or when he reprimanded a young crewman too roughly, or, even worse, unjustifiedly, or when Kirk would blame himself for some mission gone wrong. It was that look that Kirk loved Bones for, though he had to admit, it was damned uncomfortable to hold it, so he averted his eyes. Heaven only knew what Starfleet Intelligence would do to Velal, once they had her. He doubted it was pretty, but he also knew that the Tal Shiar had probably worse methods. When Velal had joined the organisation, she must have known about the dangers, and although she claimed to want to help them, she wasn’t innocent.
“I see. It seems, we are not so different from each other, then,” Velal whispered, then continued in a steady voice: “Tamulok’s accomplices are Orions. The Tal Shiar and the Orion Syndicate loosely cooperate when they believe it is to both their benefits. We usually pay the Orions with latinum, something that Tamulok didn’t have with him when he fled. He’s had many dealings with the Orions in the past, and he’s got connections to some Orion operatives, but he still would have to give them something as payment for their services.”
“He had the Trill ship,” Sulu reminded her.
“Hardly enough pay to get the Orions to lure Starfleet’s flagship into a trap and risk an open war with the Federation. At least not, if they didn’t intend to capture her. But I believe they didn’t think they were enough people to do that, and Tamulok would have wanted to let as few people as possible into his plans.”
Kirk bit the inside of his lip. It had also crossed his mind. Why hadn’t they tried to capture and seize the Enterprise completely? He thought with unease that it would have been possible during the power failure.
“He has a secret hideaway on a planet in sector Z6, where he not only stores latinum, weapons and other supplies, but where he also has a wife and a child.”
"Another wife?” Uhura started, finding all of this quite unbelievable.
“Yes. A Terran woman he was acquainted with before we got married. He’s lived with her for some years, picked up quite some Terran colloquialisms and Earth mythology from her. Their child, a son, is about fifteen, I believe.”
“And he’s told you about them?” Uhura continued asking.
“Of course. They were part of his cover. Believe me, it is not uncommon for Tal Shiar agents to have whole families on several worlds.”
“It isn’t? And, do you have several husbands and kids on other planets, too?” McCoy asked her.
“Possibly,” she turned around to look at him with an ironic smile on her lips.
“So, even if that is his secret retreat, he still would need to go to Meriah for the virus, wouldn’t he?” Scotty asked, looking at Velal in confusion.
“I’m not sure. You shouldn’t underestimate his ability to plan foresightedly. He wouldn’t have had only one plan without, as you would call it, a plan B or a plan C. When we escaped Starbase Three the plan was to return to Meriah, but he probably would have abandoned that plan after he found out I betrayed him.”
Kirk nodded, thinking. “Which system, which planet?” he demanded finally.
“The third planet of the Fvillhail system.”
“I’ve been there once,” Sulu piped up, “It’s a struggling agricultural earth colony with only about 25,000 colonists, if I recall correctly. It was one of the first planets I visited after my graduation at the Academy. We were on a geological survey mission, found some very rare minerals in the equatorial regions, but nothing of importance to the Federation.”
“I’ve located the Trill ship somewhere in sector Z6 two days ago,” Uhura reminded them.
“So he was there. But, he wouldn’t go there again now, would he?” Chekov asked.
“He still has to pay the Orions,” Velal said, “they never get everything in advance. He probably still owes them at least half their salaries.”
Kirk nodded, barely resisting to scratch his head. Should he risk trusting Velal, a Romulan secret agent who wanted them to chase another Romulan, instead of following an order to turn her over to Intelligence?
“Captain,” Velal’s voice was subdued, “I am aware that I’m your prisoner, your enemy. And you have no reason to trust me. If roles were reversed, and you had been a captive on a Romulan vessel, you would have been tortured and questioned. No one would believe what you said voluntarily. Very likely, they would have killed you, believing you were either insane or sent to deceive them.”
She paused, wetting her lips. “But you are human. You are more flexible in your thinking and capable of putting your prejudices behind you, that’s what I’ve learnt from you, and you have my admiration for that.” She glanced at McCoy before she continued: “I could be sentenced to death by the High Court of Romulus for giving away all the information about Tamulok, the Tal Shiar and the discovery of Vor-Ka-Ri that I’ve just given you. Part of me resents myself for betraying my people, but I’m convinced that collaborating with you, is the only way to avert suffering of both our people.”
She had finished, and Kirk waited for a few seconds, before he pressed the comm button to call in the security guards that had been waiting outside and ordered them to get Velal back to the brig. He needed to think, so after a few words to his officers he dismissed them.
Bones and Spock were the last to leave the room, but as Kirk held McCoy back, Spock stayed as well.
“You trust her, Bones.” It wasn’t a question. Kirk had seen the looks his friend had given the Romulan.
“I … do,” McCoy said haltingly, “but I wouldn’t trust my judgement much on that, Jim.”
“Now, that’s a riddle,” Kirk said, frowning, “What did Velal want from you, when she called you, before the power went out?”
“She wasn’t feeling well,” McCoy said, and for a moment it seemed as if that was all he was going to say about it, but then he continued: “She hadn’t eaten in days, could not control her slightest emotions. Her temperature, pulse, her whole body chemistry was way off, and Osborne told me, she had thrown a bowl of plomeek soup at the wall this morning.”
Spock’s eyebrows disappeared into his hairline, and McCoy could swear he saw a slight blush on his face, but maybe it was just imagination. He knew, though, that he himself was blushing. No doubt, the Vulcan had already deduced what had happened in cargo bay 1. Only Jim was a bit slow, or maybe he was just being mean.
“Pon Farr?” he asked innocently.
“Well, Romulans have another name for it, but … yes.”
“Oh. ... And …,” Kirk scrutinized his CMO from head to toe and then back up again. He was okay, looked … rested, and slightly flushed with embarassement.
“Jim, stop it, I’m alright, Velal’s alright, and that’s all I’m ever going to tell you about that.”
From beside Jim, Spock nodded, and, not quite meeting the doctor’s eyes, said: “I believe that explains why Velal said Tamulok was furious at Dr McCoy. The bond between him and Velal was severed when ...”
“Wait a minute!” McCoy cut in quickly, before Spock was able to finish his sentence.
“Bones!” Kirk met his friend’s eyes amusedly. “You old philanderer! I say you ...”
“Stop it! And you should really not be talking like that Captain Don Juan Kirk. And Spock, I did what was logical. Now you of all people should understand that. And as I said, it’s really none of your business. So shut up about it. And leave me alone.”
“I do understand, doctor,” blessedly Spock had understood the warning, and acquiesced.
“Well, Bones, I say you should have a little more respect for your captain. I’ll be quiet for now. But, what I’d really like to know is ...”
“Should you trust her,” McCoy finished quickly, fearing his captain would ask him some indecent question about Romulan anatomy.
Kirk repressed a smile, “Yes.”
“As I said, I’d say yes. But you may want to obtain a second opinion.”
“Captain, Velal is loyal to the Romulan Star Empire. As such, she cannot be trusted by us, who are their enemy. However, I also believe Velal is interested in capturing Commander Tamulok, for she is convinced he is a danger to the Empire. As long as our goals are the same as hers, I believe, she will not betray us. Moreover, if we want Tamulok ourselves, we almost have no other choice than to trust her.”
Kirk had sobered, nodding absently. “Spock, I think you’re right. We must trust our Tal Shiar agent. However, I intend to be very careful.”