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[Age of Mouldwarp]
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Cool Heads (Part 4)
Own the Day
Just outside of Transporter Room 2, Senator Tavol stood locked in place, as if his feet had been nailed to the deck. The doors to the room were likewise locked in place, open, with Captain Matheson and Praetor Neerok standing just inside and out, respectively, looks of sheer terror on their faces. And Korath stood flanked between two security guards, one a Tellarite and the other a Klingon crewman, Gird. In the corridor...

In the corridor lay the form of Keb, his blue Bolian head stained red from where he'd struck it upon collapsing. It was funny, the blue and the red intertwined, almost in a kind of harmony, each complimenting the other. Lovely to see you, the blue said. It's a pleasure to be here, thank you, replied the red. The yellow of his uniform collar and black and gray of his uniform looked oddly out of place. We want no part of this, they seemed to be saying. But Keb himself wasn't saying anything. He wasn't breathing, either.

"Get a medic!" Matheson pleaded, and the Tellarite tapped his combadge, and a voice responded to the request made, and silence resumed. A hum broke that silence soon enough. It wasn't from Keb, who was beyond any help Doctor Sokor could provide. It was from Gird, who steadily increased his humming until it increased in decibels of such intensity that even Korath looked to want to cover his ears.

Gird let out a cry above their heads so loud that several decks above heard it, despite the soundproofing that was standard on every Starfleet vessel. It was loud, and it seemed to utter a cry of its own. It pierced at the very heart of the Copernicus, so that chief engineer Zimmer later told stories of hearing a ghostly chiming that made the warp core skip a beat. A beat. After that outcry, Transporter Room 2 and its immediate surroundings became a comparative maniacal flurry of activity.

"Korath you fool!" Tavol snarled. "I should have known better than to employ your services."

Neerok was incredulous. "What are you talking-- I should have known. Never trust a Klingon, especially one who is so willing to cooperate."

Korath, still being restrained by Gird and the Tellarite, spat at Neerok. "I'll say this about Remans: they at least know how to take duplicity."

Captain Matheson wasn't pleased with this response, but she was busy hovering over Doctor Sokor's shoulder, whose efforts at reviving Keb were failing, as both knew they would. The captain had the look of someone who was trying to put one face on despite the fact that the other was evident no matter how diligent the effort. She could hardly keep from throwing both Korath and Tavol into the brig that instant. "This," she began, "will not sabotage our efforts. I hope you realize how miserably you've failed, and that it eats at you, since you'll be accompanying us to Tro'Paq. You'll answer for this treachery, and...continue being the agents of your own plan's unraveling."

"Smile," she added emphatically, tauntingly.

"Where do you find this arrogance?" Tavol scoffed. "No matter. You're too late. Sela already has her fleet assembled. One way or another, this day will end in our favor."

"Get them out of my sight," Matheson ordered. It wasn't arrogance fueling her, but fear, fear that Tavol and Korath and Sela indeed held the reigns of power. Fear had motivated her for four years, fear that she would blunder again, fear that this time, the Federation would lose more than just a potential member. Fear that her actions would do what the Dominion had failed to do, bring chaos to the Alpha Quadrant. But was any of this her fault? No, she kept telling herself. But then she thought of the first casualty of this conflict. Halley Minor had started off with one casualty, one diplomat, murdered on his way back from a conference onboard the Copernicus, where she had insisted that everything was under control. One death. One lie to herself. One blunder after another. The pressure had been on then as well.

"Matheson to Franzoni," she said, tapping her combadge. "Get me Admiral Logan in my ready room."

"Robin Matheson only calls when she is feeling particularly concerned, or when she's looking for something else to be concerned about. Which will it be this time, or has she developed a new strategy for rattling my bones?"

"Admiral," she responded, "I appreciate your attempt to brighten my mood, but now's not the time."

"'Now' is always the time," Logan stated, "but I understand your sentiment. I have two ships in the area, the Madison and the Salient, but I assume they won't be enough?"

"At this point, both are unnecessary," Matheson corrected. "What I need is support of a different kind. Gerald, I'm afraid I'm going to fail you."

"Nonsense," Logan dismissed, before his face on Matheson's viewscreen flickered in thought. "Please don't tell me it's Halley Minor that's bugging you. I wouldn't have you out there if there were the slightest doubt in my mind that you weren't as good an officer now as you were before then. In fact, you may very well be better."

"I appreciate your vote of confidence, but I need something more than to have you placate my ego right now."

"And that would be?" Logan wondered aloud.

"All of the files on this Sela," Matheson revealed. "Including the classified ones. Iím talking everything Picard knows level. Senator Tavol is a petty egotist. He's a pawn and he doesn't see it. Korath is an opportunist, the only dreg Sela could find among Martok's new regime to go along with her schemes."

"It's your opinion, then, that she doesn't have any real support?" the admiral questioned.

"I don't know," the captain confessed. "I don't know what she's capable of, not the depth of it. She's been pulling strings as far as I can tell, but what strings and how...That's what I'm hoping you can help me with."

"I'll do the best I can. You know, it's still early in the game," Logan cajoled. "From what I understand, Tavol is under the impression that there's already a fleet assembled, but we haven't been able to detect so much as a parsec of unexplainable activity on the Romulan side of the Neutral Zone. The war did wonders for our understanding of their cloaking technology, and I very much doubt that Sela would possess the most advanced warships available."

"All of which means..." Matheson began. "All of which is to say, expect the unexpected."

"Unfortunately, yes."

Fonden was in shock. Mere hours ago she was a cog in the wheel, just another officer serving aboard the Copernicus, with responsibilities, yes, but authority? No, not in the slightest. But second in line to the title of security chief was huge, a huge step she'd only just cleared in her head. When the call had come over the com system establishing who had been the victim at Transporter Room 2, the Benzite had reeled. Commander Franzoni had remained stolid in front of her, in front of the entire bridge crew, but she, she had nearly crumbled then and there. But she was a Starfleet officer. Death was part of the job, especially in her line of work, and she had experienced plenty of it during the war. She'd hoped to have escaped it here on the Copernicus. No such luck.

"Status on the Sora," she heard Franzoni ask Hounsou. Of course, instinctively, she'd checked her own panel. Of course there was noth--

"Commander, I'm reading a power-up in the warbird's targeting array," she stammered.

"Disable them, then," Franzoni replied calmly.

"Before, sir?" Fonden balked.

"That sounds good to me," the commander responded.

"Aye sir."

"Belay that order," Captain Matheson said as she walked onto the bridge. "That's exactly what they want. For us to start this thing for them. I want shields."

"Shields it is, then," Franzoni acknowledged. Moments later the ship was rocked once more by the Sora. "How did you know?"

"Romulan tactics are easy to anticipate," Matheson said, "once you have an inkling to their method. Sela's been pulling the strings alright. I doubt Praetor Neerok even knew he was being manipulated. Hail them."

"I think I'm confused," Franzoni admitted.

"The Sora is answering," Hounsou stated from Ops. "Putting them onscreen."

"How long did you wait to execute Neerok?" Matheson said in greeting.

"Oh, at least a few minutes," Sela replied on the viewer. "You needn't bother with Tavol and Korath. By now they've taken care of themselves."

"The bodies just keep piling up," Matheson stated. "I suppose I'm next?"

"Please, Captain. You give yourself too much credit."

"Do I? Or is it the other way around?"

"What are you talking about?" Sela questioned, leaning forward in her seat on the Sora's bridge. "At any rate, it doesn't matter. Judging by the fact that we're still alone here and I haven't detected any incoming visitors, I would advise you to stand down. I'll spare you and your crew. You've been most helpful. My sincere gratitude."

"I wouldn't get comfortable if I were you," Matheson advised.

"Are you threatening me?"

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Matheson said. Tapping her combadge, she then added, "Kobyashi Maru."

Neither Sela nor the others on the Sora's bridge knew what hit them. Crewman Gird and about a dozen other security personnel from the Copernicus materialized, surrounding the now predominantly Romulan officers, who were immediately subdued. Sela was incensed. And just then Neerok strode out from among the Starfleet party.

"I thought I--" Sela began.

On the viewer Matheson smirked. "You've killed a hologram, Sela, an intricately designed, fully program. I'd say that is quite an accomplishment."

"But you were working for me!" Sela blurted out to Neerok.

"Considering what it 'got' me, I'm glad that it wasn't quite like that," Neerok said coolly. "You might also be disappointed to learn that Korath and Tavol both still breathe, and they've agreed to testify against you."

Sela couldn't speak. She burrowed twin beams of hatred into the Reman praetor's skull, but she could not speak. Behind her, Gird was a little more collected. If Keb hadn't already, he'd just won entrance into Sto-Vo-Kor. Yes, Gird was quite cool indeed. He then did something Klingons rarely do in the heat of confrontation, and what he did even more rarely. He smiled.

Fonden had dreaded this duty above all others. The Benzite lieutenant had held the title of security chief for less than a day, and hadn't yet any direct contact to the participants of the crisis that had now passed. Praetor Neerok had departed with the Sora to Romulus, leaving the three chief conspirators, Sela, Korath, and Senator Tavol, to Captain Matheson, who would bring them to Epsilon Station for a Federation hearing. They had been confined to the brig by the Captain herself, with Fonden scheduled to make but a short visit in order to formally charge them.

Tavol, however, had different plans. When Fonden arrived, he was waiting, and with a request for a private audience. That's when he revealed his willingness to testify against both Sela and Korath, and divulge the whole design, with the one hinge being he wanted to meet with Captain Matheson herself to work out the details. So the force field was lowered, the Senator (one assumed he wouldn't be one for long) stepped out, and Fonden placed a restraining lock on his ankle. They exited the brig together, Tavol as prisoner and escort. A glorified escort. Being promoted to security chief should remove her from such duties. It was a waste of her talents. She didn't enjoy it in the least.

She made a mental note to change policy.


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continue on to "Silent Running"

characters and story © copyright Sean "Waterloo" McKenna 2001-2003; Star Trek copyright Paramount