<Office of the President of the United Federation of Planets: Geneva Switzerland, Sol III. Present Day>
Malia of Delta IV looked the reporter in the eye and tilted her head to the left. “With respect, Mr. Cassian, that’s neither what was said, nor what President Kostya meant.”
Diego Cassian, freelance reporter for the newly formed Interstellar News Service continued to tap notes into his PADD before he pounced on the break in conversation. “Well, that’s what it looks like. Surely you can see the implications here?”
“What I see is another reporter on what seems like an endless series of ‘fishing expeditions’ to catch President Kostya and any number of his associates, all duly elected and appointed I might add, in some sort of nefarious scheme to weaken the Federation and Starfleet, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.”
“Then how do you explain the President’s comments concerning the restructuring of Starfleet?” He asked the Press Secretary. “Did he, or did he not essentially call for the break-up of Starfleet as we know it?”
“Restructuring and re-deployment of forces is the prevue of the Starfleet CnC, and is of primary interest to the President, who is… as you well know a former Admiral himself.
“He told the chief of the Tellarite delegation to ‘Tend his own yard’, and then Task Force 04, which has been on station in the Telar home system for CENTURIES, gets pulled out?”
Malia barely concealed a huff of frustration, and re-grouped after a split second. “The shifting of forces is always a dynamic thing, and in keeping with President Kostya’s Executive Order 372, individual member worlds have the right, and many have expressed a PREFERENCE, to use their own local forces for protection and the regulation of commerce. The Andorians and Vulcans have done this for years.”
“Through Starfleet.” Cassian shot back. “How is this not leaving a Federation founder to fend for themselves, because the Tellarites as a delegation have opposed most of, if not all of the President’s policies?”
“Not everything is political Diego.” Malia lied. Particularly in the Kostya administration, she knew that political loyalty was literally a life and death matter. “That’s all the time we have for today, Ladies and Gentlemen.” Malia smiled as she turned to exit the room. “See you all tomorrow.”
<U.S.S. Titan, surveying the Smaller Magellenic Cloud>
“This is a joke right?” Will Riker asked to no one in particular, though the assembled command crew of the U.S.S. Titan all turned their heads at the question. “This has to be a joke.”
Commander Christine Vale looked at her Captain with a small shake of her head. “Afraid not, Captain.” She commented grimly. “And before you ask, yes; I confirmed this with OPS COMM already.”
Will Riker’s mouth twisted in a disapproving scowl. “This order is RIDICULOUS.” Riker commented. A reassuring touch on his knee from his wife, who was sitting on his left, served as a reminder for Will to control his temper. Deana Troi took a moment to look at both her husband and Commander Vale. “It is a lawful order.” Troi agreed, but perhaps some… clarification from Starfleet is needed?”
Riker gave Deana the briefest of nods. With that, Christine Vale turned to Aili Lavena, Titan’s Pacifican Conn Officer. “Aili, set course for Jeridan Minor. Warp 4.”
“Warp…” The amphibian officer tilted her head and her bluish-green head crest flopped to one side. Then a white nictating membrane slid over her large, black, lidless eyes in the nearest approximation of a blink. “Aye, Commander. Warp Four.” She nodded.
There were a few nervous beats in the room before Vale spoke up again. “That’s it people.” She said to the room. “Don’t forget to remind Gamma shift that quarterly evals start next week.” There was a low buzz in the conference room as Titan’s senior staff left. Christine Vale stayed for a moment, waiting for the addendum from her captain that she knew would come.
Will Riker was pre-occupied as he stood up and moved toward the door. His normally confident stride seemed small and timid. Deana Troi reached the door first and looked that the other two officers. Finally, Vale broke the silence. “What do we do Captain?” She asked bluntly.
“We’re Starfleet.” Riker replied. “We follow orders until we find a reason not to.”
Vale nodded. “Aye, Sir.” She said simply.
Riker and Troi moved together through the conference room’s now open door. For a moment, Riker paused and looked back at his Executive Officer. “Vale?” He said firmly. “If you could find me a reason sooner rather than later, I’d appreciate it.”
<Deep Space Nine, Bajor Wormhole. Present Day.>
“What do you mean, ‘you’re not coming’?” Kira Nerys asked in disbelief. “The Honshu and Longstreet have already left. Who’s going to take over system patrol if it’s not you?”
On the other end of the view screen, Hiruma Monteo gave a wry smile. “New orders from CnC, Captain.” He explained. “We’ve been re-deployed to deal with ‘regional concerns’. Since Alpha Centauri is our home port, that’s where we’re going. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Fleet Command.”
Nerys straightened her arms to loom over the communications pick-up, effectively making her fill the screen. “That’s all well and good, Commander.” She added for emphasis. “But I have merchant ships that followed protocol in requesting back-up through contested territory. These are FEDERATION CITIZENS. You’re STARFLEET. Isn’t it your job to watch their back? ‘Regulating Commerce’ is in the Federation charter!”
Monteo clenched his teeth grimly. “I appreciate your position, Captain.” He admitted. “And I DO sympathize, but my Captain has given me a lawful order, and I’m going to follow it.” He paused for a moment and then added; “Is there anyone else you can call? Someone who owes you a favor maybe?”
Kira’s temper flared as she yelled back at the screen. “We won the damned Dominion War!” She railed. “YOU ALL OWE US!”
Monteo tensed up slightly. “My apologies, Captain.” He offered. “May the Prophets…”
“Don’t EVEN!” She shot back. Then she closed the channel. It took a few minutes for her temper to cool as her mind raced through options. A nervous silence hung in the air of DS9’s nerve center as moments ticked by. Finally, after what seemed like too long, Kira looked to her own Ops Officer. “Drayis?” She asked the young Bajoran ensign. “Do we still have Proconsul Neral’s subspace codes on file?”
Drayis was dumbstruck. “You mean the Praetor?” He confirmed.
“Former Praetor.” Kira corrected. “I take that as a yes?”
“Good.” Nerys said. “Place a call please. Let me know when… or if, we get a reply.”
Drayis nodded and placed the call. Then Kira got up from her station and headed toward the Commander’s Office which she still thought of as Ben Sisko’s, despite the fact that he’d been gone for nearly 10 years now. “You want to know who our friends are?” Kira asked no one in particular. “We’re about to find out.”
<U.S.S. Republic; Gamma Eridani. Present Day>
Nat Hawk tapped his foot nervously as he waited for the ersatz crewman “Cronus” to return from wherever it was he’d been for the better part of Beta Shift. Hawk nodded and waved nervously to the number of crewmen and junior officers who acknowledged his presence. Nat had timed his arrival ahead of the change-over from Beta to Gamma shift. He was also banking on what he knew about ‘Cronus’.
In reality, ‘Cronus’ was Lieutenant Commander Victor Virtus. According to PERS COMM, Vic was on detached duty to the Special Projects Unit of the engineering division. Nat wasn’t sure if that was actually true or not, but that’s what the orders said.
With Republic heading further into Federation space, Hawk knew he was on borrowed time. At this moment, Chase Meridian and Kim Roth were in the Captain’s ready room, reviewing new deployment orders from the CnC. The likely outcome of this would be a check in at Deep Space Four, crew rotation, and a mandated check-in/check-out of all personnel on board. By Nat’s estimation, he had days, or maybe hours before someone other than himself would notice who “Cronus” actually was, and then there would be hell to pay.
Cronus ne Virtus was tall, even for a Malthusian and he could easily see over the heads of most of his fellow crew mates. Even in a crowded corridor. So he could see Hawk waiting at the entrance to his billet. Of course, that meant that Nat Hawk could see him too.
As he normally did, 'Cronus' was running variables in his head. He quickly deduced the probability that Hawk was here to arrest him: Low. Hawk himself disliked authority, despite being Republic's First Officer. Additionally, Hawk was in the corridor, alone. No additional security or other senior staff. This made the odds better than average, bordering on certainty that Hawk was engaging in the time-honored Starfleet tradition of keeping things 'between friends'.
A few long strides later, Hawk and Cronus were face to face. “Commander Hawk.” The tall man in science blue said. “Is there something I can do for you?”
“Could be.” Hawk confirmed with a nod. “I got a couple'a questions for ya.” He explained with his trademark South Carolina drawl. “Is'ere somewhere close we can have a word in private?” Hawk asked with a telling tilt of the head.
“Secondary astrometrics isn't far.” Cronus said. “It's usually quiet for Gamma Shift, Commander. Will that do?”
“Peachy.” Hawk nodded as he looked down the corridor past the taller officer.
“Well then, I'll meet you there in a few…”
“Oh no.” Hawk said as he raised an accusing finger for emphasis. “I'm not lettin' you outta ma sight. We'll go now.” Hawk said firmly. “Lead the way, Mister Cronus”
<USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E, near Tonkia IV. On the border of Ktarian space>
Sitting alone, in the far corner of Ten Forward that most of the crew referred to as “The Neutral Zone”, Jean Luc Picard was lost in thought as his mind turned over all the implications of what he was seeing unfold. From behind the bar, the El-Aurian known as Guinan shook her head wistfully. She'd known Enterprise's captain for a long time, and while she would never doubt his strength or resolve, she could also tell when a person was in pain, whether they were a Starfleet captain or not.
With the slow, deliberate patience of a master professional, Guinan poured an iridescent green liquid into one glass, and then another. Then she slipped from behind the bar, and with one glass in each hand, glided across the floor, weaving smoothly, but deliberately through the other traffic about the room. After a few moments, she stood in front of Picard, who still seemed not to notice her. She set one glass down in front of her friend, and then sat in the empty seat across from him. A long moment followed, wherein she sipped her drink, and waited.
Long moments ticked by before Picard finally noticed the drink. Even more passed before he noticed the person who brought it. He looked up and gave a disappointed scowl. The disappointment was of course, in Picard himself. “Just how long have you been waiting?” He finally asked.
“Long enough.” She said with a nod as she sipped at her drink. “Unless you want the complicated answer?”
Picard waved his hand. “I rather think the universe is complicated enough just now, don't you?” He asked. Then, he looked down at the green whiskey in the glass in front of him. “Is that MY Aldebaran whiskey?” He said. He already knew the answer. No other beverage in the galaxy was THAT shade of green.
“No.” Guinan said with a smirk. “It's MY Aldebaran whiskey.” She corrected. “You did give it to me, but it looks like you could use it, and I'm happy to share.” She took another long sip. “When are you going to tell them?” She asked out loud.
“I don't know precisely what's coming.” Guinan said. “It doesn't feel like war, though it's close… but I DO know you well enough to know when YOU have made a decision. So… when are you going to tell them? Geordi, and Will, and Beverly. They'll be looking to you, and you owe them the truth.”
“What I owe them is… more than I'm ready to give.” Picard picked up his glass and finally took a long swig. “You know I think this has gotten better with age?”
“Most things do.” Guinan agreed. “And don't change the subject. You need to tell them.”
“What?” Picard shot back. “That I'm tired? That I don't want to do it again?” He said. “I thought that after the Baku we'd turned some sort of page, and I was happy to have made that stand.”
“But not now.” Guinan said. “Not for what's next.”
Picard shook his head. “It's too big. To have even let things come to this, it's like a beast that we unleashed, and now we're shocked that it won't go quietly into its cage again.”
“Hate is like that.” The El-Aurian said. “So's fear. It's a living thing with a mind all its own. Again she paused, studying Picard carefully before she spoke. He was at the edge of something, and she wondered if he'd take the leap she was hoping for. “But that's not all… is it?”
Picard shook his head. “This feels so… wrong. On a…primal level. All I can say is that this is NOT the way the Federation is supposed to feel… supposed to be. This isn't who we are, and I CAN'T be the only one who knows it.”
Guinan sat back and hid the barest hint of a smile. “You're not. And you're right to be worried… because if you sent out the call, you know that nothing short of the heat-death of the universe would keep Worf, or Riker, or Geordi from rallying back to you. But you don't have to charge into every battle. It's ok if someone else leads this one. No matter who it is, they'll need you. They'll need someone to remind them WHY this fight, and why now.” She said. “There is no other being in the universe that I would trust to make the right decision, the decent, moral decision when the flags go up. But that's not what you're scared of.”
“Who said I was scared?”
“You did.” Guinan said firmly. “You drink alone when you're worried or scared of what you have to do, but you're so used to showing the universe that armor of yours, you assume no one else can see it. Jean-Luc…” she said softly. “They'll understand. They know who you are.”
“And so do you…old friend.” He smiled. “It's harder than I thought.” He added. “To go from warrior to sage.” He took a long sip.
“It suits you.” Guinan agreed. “And it's about damn time.”
<Secondary Astrometrics Lab USS Republic>
“What do you mean, nothing?” Nat Hawk asked. His tone wasn't so much angry as confused. “I go to the trouble of giving you a heads-up about Roth and Meridian coming hard on your heels, and you're not going to DO anything?”
“Respectfully, Nat… And I do mean that sincerely.” Virtus explained. “That's not what you asked, and that's not what I said.”
“Well, yeah but…”
“You asked what are WE going to do about it. And WE aren't going to do anything.” Virtus waited a moment to see if Hawk's expression would change.
It did not.
The Malthusian Engineer stroked his non-existent mustache. “Nat would it make you feel better if I ASKED you to help me?”
Hawk tilted his head. “No.” He finally answered, “But it doesn't take a genius to know you and the Doc will be pulling something. After all, you have…about eight hours until we check in at Deep Space 4…”
“Seven hours, 49 minutes, 27 seconds…mark.”
Hawk looked at the deck and chuckled. “Wow do I hate when you do that.”
“So did John.” Virtus remarked. “At first. But he got used to it.”
“Great.” Hawk said with a roll of his eyes. “I'll add that to the list…”
“Time is, as always, of the essence, Nathaniel.” Virtus said earnestly.
“Look, either tell me what it is, or tell me to get the hell out of the way… but you gotta gimme somethin'.”
Victor nodded slightly. “Of course Mr. Hawk.” He said. “I will manage my own departure from the ship, and I assure you that the personnel computers will record 'Crewman Cronus' as just another anomaly. Call it a prank, or a screw-up, or whatever you want, but if you really want to help, then give me your word that you will personally make sure that when Republic checks into the starbase you will follow every single regulation and procedure to the letter.”
“Every. Single. One, Nat. I mean it.”
“Fine, ok. You got it.”
<Katheryn Janeway's personal residence. San Francisco, California, Sol III 0200 HRS Local Time>
“…no I will NOT calm down, Pam!” Janeway said to the face on the other end of the subspace relay. “He's tearing Starfleet apart, and, he's doing it LEGALY. And what's WORSE, a third of the fleet seems happy to let him!”
“It's closer to 40 percent.” Pam Crockover corrected the younger Admiral.
Janeway leaned forward, careful to keep the cinch on her dark sleeping robe tight. She gave her old friend a version of the look that would have made a Kreltan Dreadnaught captain's blood run cold. “Well, for God's sake, let's get the numbers right while Rome burns.”
Pam Crockover couldn't hide a smile at her friend's sardonic comment. “Katheryn, believe me, I KNOW how you feel. Owen Paris and the rest of us 'Doves' have been playing chess with Chris Kostya for years. I know it looks bad, but his long game is terrible. When the time comes, we're going to need you, and every favor you can pull in.”
“That's what I mean Pam.” Janeway added. “I don't think I have as many friends as I thought; and if this comes to a shooting war, my God… what then?”
“Then we'll lose.” She said flatly. “Which is why we need time to let things play out. Kostya's a bad winner, and sooner or later, he'll get in his own way because he thinks now one will stop him. That's when we move.”
For the first time in what felt like months, Katheryn Janeway let a small smile cross her lips. “Then there IS a plan.”
“There is.” Krockover confirmed with a nod.
<USS Republic. Auxiliary Control station 2. Deck 14> In one of the darker corners of one of the lower decks of the ship, Victor Virtus was hard at work, entering a last bit of code into the ship's back-up command buffer. As he typed, a few angry sounding alarms blurted from the console to remind him that the replicators, transporters, navigational deflectors, auxiliary craft control, and lateral sensor arrays were separate systems for a reason, and that writing a command sub-routine to make these systems work in concert, to say nothing of the terribly dangerous scheme Victor Virtus had in mind, was, to say the least, ill-advised. Victor tapped the command key to silence the alarm and spoke to the computer.
“Computer. Time to Alpha shift change-over?”
“Primary Duty Shift begins in 27 minutes.”
“Location of Chief Engineer Vance Devloch?”
Lieutenant Commander Devloch is in the Officer's Mess.
“Location of Assistant Chief Engineer Pikita?”
“Lieutenant Pikita is in her quarters.
“Prepare message “Peekaboo” for Lieutenant Pikita. Delay delivery until 0845 Hours.”
The computer beeped in the affirmative.
Virtus keyed in the last line of his suicidal code and gave the command to execute the program.
Command Authorization Required.
Virtus pulled a tricorder from his workman's belt and flipped it open with a flick of his wrist. Then he tapped a single key. Kim Roth's smooth alto issued from the device.
“Roth-Dorian, Kimberly. Command Authorization Alpha-two-two-nine. Password: Stinker.”
“Command Code Recognized. Operation: Bootstrap will execute in 25 minutes.
<USS Republic, Officer's Mess. 0840 HRS.>
Nat Hawk looked again at his PADD containing the list of departing and arriving personnel. The list had been more or less the same for weeks, but there were always last-minute changes. Someone delayed departure, or elected to stay on until another port, or PERSCOMM decided that someone absolutely, positively had to be at a new post a week before they left the last one. There were always headaches. But as many of those headaches as Hawk was prepared for, the last name he'd expected to see at the bottom of his list of civilian VIPs made his pulse race, and he couldn't decide if that was a good thing or not.
He finished the last of his eggs, slipped the tray into the recycler and tapped his comm badge. “Hawk to Captain Roth.”
“Good Morning XO. Something I can do for you?”
“Yes, Captain. It's about one of the civies we got comin' on board. There might be a problem. If we could discuss it?”
“In my ready room, Mr. Hawk. 9:30 please.
“Very good, Captain.”
Luna Class Starships were much smaller than their Galaxy Class cousins, but what they lacked in space, they made up for in ingenuity. The Luna class boasted some of the most forward-thinking and inclusive design elements in Starfleet. In addition to the 'aqua-tubes' that ran throughout the ship to accommodate any semi-amphibious species, Republic was also equipped to enjoy the services of a Medusan navigator; a species renowned for their intelligence and prodigious mathematical ability. Unfortunately, to most sentient species, Medusans were also hideously ugly. So much so that the sight of them without special precautions had been known to drive men mad.
Nonetheless, by the 24th century, it was decided to allow them to serve in Starfleet, and as such, a special access-way existed within most modern Starfleet ships to allow the Medusan to travel from a special crèche within the superstructure of the bridge to the navigational sensor array. On Luna class vessels, this crawl-way ran down the ventral line of the saucer section, and since there was no Medusan currently serving on Republic, Victor Virtus knew that this was not only the fastest way to get where he needed to be, he also knew it was the last place anyone would look for 'Cronus'.
Victor crawled a few more feet, and then keyed and pulled on the manual crew access for the Captain's yacht, which was nestled just behind Republic's planetary dome sensor array on the underside of her saucer. Virtus looked down into the dimly lit passage and took a deep breath. “Oh how I do hate the waiting.” her cursed to the darkness.
At precisely 0845, Maria Giselle Pikita was fastening her duty jacket and double-checking her hair in the mirror of her small refresher unit. On the counter next to her, was a PADD. She was reviewing her to do list when the computer chimed to life.
“Incoming message from Victor Xavier Virtus.”
“The Chief?” She called back out of habit. “That's either really good, or really bad. Wonder which?”
Pikita chuckled and rolled her eyes. “Play message.”
“Incoming message is text only.”
“Route to this device and display.” She confirmed.
The computer beeped in response, and then, on Pikita's PADD, a two word message was displayed and then repeated again and again, so that no other functions on the device were permitted. Pikita blinked and looked at the PADD as it displayed: “HOLA COMPRADES”; repeated ad infinitum.
<USS Republic, Main Bridge. 0858 HRS>
Cail Jarrin double-checked his display board. Despite how often it happened, bringing something as big as a starship into port was never a routine exercise. Everyone knew their jobs, and thanks to rigorous practice, the occasional assist from the ship's computer, and Starfleet's finest predilection for being the 'best-of-the-best', accidents in port were exceedingly rare. Nonetheless, everyone on the ship and on Deep Space 4 was aware that something COULD go wrong. “Roger that, DS4 Control.” Jarrin said. “Proceeding to birth 5 and awaiting transfer to station power and operations.”
“Confirmed, Republic.” The female voice on the other end of the comm said. “DS4 welcomes you. Enjoy the ride.”
Sitting next to Kim Roth, Nat Hawk shifted his weight uneasily. On the captain's shoulder, the small rodent knows as Smoke blinked his glowing pink eyes and let out a curious 'bleek'. “I'm with you, Stinker.” She commented, giving Smoke a small scratch under his chin. “What's on your mind XO?”
“Point of Privilege, Cap'n.” Hawk said. “I'd like to slide in to the berth aft first. It'll give station crews easier access to the main plasma and deuterium lines, plus, when we have to pull out, we'll be facing the right way.”
For a brief moment, Roth tilted her head in surprise. What Hawk was asking for was within the regs. In fact, strictly speaking, it was recommended, but no one did it. “Feeling all right Hawk?” She asked. “It's not like you quote chapter and verse.”
“Trying to branch out, Cap'n'” He said.
Roth nodded. “Fair enough.” Roth agreed. “Helm. Come about one-hundred-eighty degrees. Thrusters one-quarter aft. Nice and easy.”
The young Bolian ensign at the Conn complied and Republic swung gracefully to port, describing a smooth arc as her facing changed so that her bow was pointed out of the dry dock frame she was bound for.
A few beads of sweat rolled off of Victor Virtus' prodigious eyebrows as he felt Republic heave, and begin her required heading change. For a moment Virtus tenses and then leaped down the access-way toward the hull of the captain's yacht. His feet landed with a thud against the bare hull and he quickly scanned for and found the manual access panel for the small craft.
Over the years, Victor Virtus' absolute and unerring sense of time had proved both a hindrance and a blessing. At this moment, he was grateful for his near flawless memory as well. While familiarizing himself with designs of the current ships of the line, including; but not limited to the Sovereign, Steamrunner, Akira, and Luna classes, he happened to pick up a few facts that seemed to bury themselves into his brain. Some of these facts included the birthday of the chief isoliear contractor of the Sol IV shipyards (March 7, 2377), as well as the factory-reset code for the Gull-class personal detachment craft, commonly known as 'the Captain's Yacht'. Now, as he pulled the cover off of and saw the manual controls, he input the code and suppressed a small chuckle as the ventral access-way to the yacht yawned open and he dropped inside.
At that precise moment, Republic slid into her assigned dry dock berth and automated systems from Deep Space 4 did their job. Electromagnetic moorings engaged, holding the Luna Class ship in place. Servos from the docking frame extended umbilicals from the station to the ship's external EPS and plasma conduits, and the command went out to transfer control of USS Republic to the station's on board computers.
To the casual observer, this process was instantaneous, but that wasn't quite true. There was, in fact, a .00075 second window when Republic would be tied to the station's power, but still under her own computer's control. However, in preparation for the operational hand-off, all command displays went dark and were disengaged. Theoretically, in that precise instant, if the ship's computer were to engage a process or command, there would be nothing that anyone could do about it. Assuming one knew the exact time.
It was also in that precise moment that all hell broke loose.
Victor Virtus had barely strapped in and begun a rapid pre-flight sequence when Republic's main cargo transporter locked onto the yacht. Once dissolved into a collection of charged particles, the computer ordered the protons, neutrons, quarks and electrons that were Victor, and his yacht, routed through the ship's robust navigational deflector array.
At the same time, the ship's industrial replicators, especially designed for terraforming missions flared to life. In concert with the ship's 6 crew transporters, the re-sequenced matter…marshmallow fluff #2… A particular favorite of one specialist Rick Leonetti filled the void that was normally filled by the captain's yacht. The replacement was ALMOST instantaneous.
A split second later, on Republic's bridge, all her systems flickered out. Power died, everything went dark. “What the hell?” Kim Roth shouted.
“System check! NOW!” Nat Hawk ordered.
“Is that because of us, or them?” Chase Meridian wondered aloud.
In the dry dock area, observers would have seen a concentrated tachyon-assisted transporter burst, lashing out from Republic's main deflector array, through the aperture of the still-open bulkhead doors of DS4, into the black void of space.
.00075 seconds later, Victor Virtus, and his yacht materialized on the dark side of the only moon of Gamma Eridani IV. The nearest neighbor to Deep Space 4. Obscured by the moon, Virtus…and his yacht… were undetectable. “Computer, set course for Deep Space Nine. Emergency Warp!”
The flare of a warp signature followed. But no one saw it.
<USS Republic. Docked at Deep Space Four. Approximately 1030>
Everything SEEMED fine, but Ensign Scuttlebutt said otherwise. All systems were normal, all controls and computers responded as designed, and all personnel were accounted for. Some said it was a glitch. Some said it was Q, some said it didn't happen at all, because the ship's computer hadn't registered a thing and none of the back-ups had been online at the time. Whatever happened that morning simply hadn’t, at least not according to the computers or sensors.
There was no data, and even witnesses on the starbase couldn't explain what they saw.
Whispers and gossip notwithstanding, life was slowly getting back to normal on Republic. In his quarters, Leon Cromwell was taking advantage of a rare day off, TRYING to read The Great Gatsby for the 47th time, when his door chimed to life. “Go away!” The curmudgeon yelled.
The door chimed again.
“It's my day OFF!” He bellowed.
The external comm chirped. “Doctor Cromwell, its Pikita.”
Leon huffed in exasperation. He set down his book and muttered. “Make that 48 times.” as he stepped to the door's controls.
“Maria, whatever it is, Dr. Abernathy is on call. He can handle it.”
“Doctor, please. I need to know something.”
“Later!” Leon argued with the door.
“Just tell me. What does 'Hola Comprades' mean?”
In the corridor, Maria Pikita jumped, letting out a small shriek as Cromwell's door slid open and Republic's CMO looked at her, wide-eyed.
“What did you just say?!?”
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