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[Age of Mouldwarp]    
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Silent Running (Part 3)
Can't Stop the Blues

The U.S.S. Akorem was the first ship in the fleet to be commanded by a Bajoran captain. Bridan Muir approached the brig with a flank of security personnel at his side. He wasn't taking any chances, not with this detainee. He'd read the report given by the swat team; if this guy didn't care about his accomplices, he was a threat to everyone else.

"Derek Parkes? A full prisoner transport has arrived to take you," Captain Bridan stated. "I suspect you won't be working for the Galactic Times for much longer."

The human stirred, but did not reply. The shields to the cell were lowered and Bridan's flank moved toward Parkes, and he offered no resistance. He was soon escorted out of the room, leaving Bridan alone with the two remaining detainees in the adjacent cell, Joel Nelson and Shadrach. He wore a weary expression on his face as he turned to Nelson. Bridan had an idea of what the immediate future held for him, and his sympathy surfaced in the form of parted lips before he abruptly turned away and exited the brig.

Nelson turned to Shadrach, or in his general direction. He wore a heavily weary expression on his face. "You had no idea that this Parkes character was manipulating you," he said incredulously.

"You didn't know I was manipulating you," Shadrach noted. "And that Starfleet detachment didn't know Parkes was hiding in their numbers. It happens."

Nelson's head hung. "Okay," he relented. "It's just incredible, I guess. You think you're out, but they try to pull you back in. It's just...incredible. You don't think it's possible...You don't even think...I don't know."

"Incredible," Shadrach worked around in his mouth. "Yah."

Neither said anything for some minutes after that. What had happened was unexpected. They and Doug Velar had searched the caves from top to bottom, found nothing, headed to the Bar and Grill to regroup, and decided to go back so they could try again, once they'd found that Shadrach's cloak activator was just that, an activator and not a de-activator as well. A yard or three away from the caves and they were ambushed by a Starfleet swat team, and although they offered no resistance, Velar had been knocked out by one of the officers, who had turned out to be Parkes, who in turn tried to stun the other swat members. He failed, but attempted to fight his way out of there, resulting in Nelson and Shadrach trying to assist him. They failed, Parkes went down hard, and the swat team brought them all to the Akorem. In the excitement, Velar was left behind.

"Do you reckon the Stillwater really was there?" Nelson finally said.

"Right now, I don't really care," Shadrach smirked.

"May the Prophets be with you," Bridan said in parting over subspace. The Federation transport that now had Derek Parkes soon sped away, with the freighter Clazio shadowing it so as to assure safe passage. The Akorem was due to report to Epsilon Station so Nelson and Shadrach could formally be charged, or released, depending how events were viewed. Bridan commanded the new Shamus-class starship as if it were a modern tugboat. It might be small, but it made sure its presence was known. Bridan partially resented the assignment he had at the moment, but he saw what it meant in the long run. The Maquis/Gnomon situation had progressing one step at a time for over a decade. Perhaps the pair he now held would represent a breakthrough.

No matter. Starfleet officers did not grumble about their assignments, at least not out loud. He'd work his way up the ladder the legitimate way.

He thought it would be a good idea to start with softening his prisoners up for their upcoming debriefing.

"Bridan to the brig," he said as he tapped his combadge, "prepare our guests for another visit.

"Yes sir," came the reply.

In a matter of minutes, he was back, and he found that Nelson and Shadrach had been placed in separate cells. All the better.

Bridan felt like a real interrogator. "Tell me the name or names of the individuals you were going to rendezvous with," he ordered Nelson.

I am innocent, Nelson's face said.

"Tell me what your plans were for this runabout," he ordered Shadrach.

I am somewhat guilty, Shadrach's face said.

"Where are the leaders of the Maquis hiding?" he ordered Nelson.

I am innocent, Nelson's face said.

"Are there other units assigned to your mission?" he ordered Shadrach.

I am somewhat guilty, Shadrach's face said.

"Names!" he ordered Nelson again.

I am innocent, Nelson's face said.

"Plans!" he ordered Shadrach.

I am somewhat guilty, Shadrach's face said.

It soon became apparent that he was getting nowhere, so Bridan gave up, reluctantly. The vision of his Cardassian tormentor at the internment camp flashed before him, and suddenly he had a sick feeling crawling up his throat. He exited the brig abruptly once more, and he would not go back again.

Douglas Velar fumed. He had just been told the rest of the story. He thought Derek Parkes was a good man. Despite everything he had overlooked before, despite all of the controversy Derek inevitably caused, Velar had never seen him as a bad man. Never, not once. He had revered him, called him friend. What now?

"There has to be something more to the story," Wynton Keynes said, hopefully, from behind Velar. Velar was slumped over a futon in his guest quarters aboard the Clazio, face down. Wynton was not helping.

"What a very nice thought," Velar said staidly. "Perhaps this is one giant misunderstanding."

"This isn't helping," Keynes said. "You need to talk with Derek yourself."

"And say what?" Velar asked. "How about, 'Sorry about your blown mission, old chum'?"

"This is very healthy," Keynes said.

"Neither is being a Torilian weasel," Velar said.

"Work it off on me," Keynes said. "Better to face him with a cool head."

"Awfully presumptuous," Velar said.

"Hopeful," Keynes said. "At any rate, I won't be shadowing them the entire trip. I'm late for Cardassia Prime as it is. You'll have to confront him whether you want to or not."

"Will I?"

"I think you'll find you will."

"Perhaps, and perhaps not."

"That's a start."

"That it is."

"If he really was your friend, you owe him a chance. He won't be receiving many chances from others."

"..."

A technician at Epsilon Station happened to look out the port closest to the panel he was tinkering in at the exact moment the Akorem arrived. The tech would have sworn that he heard a ghostly howl as the ship docked, and it shook him momentarily. He, of course, had no idea of the events that had taken place on Trill. The general population never heard about this sort of thing. The Galactic Times sometimes covered such things, but more often than not they simply slipped away into the files of the bureaucrats.

The tech took one last look at the Akorem and turned back to his work.

Had he been watching, he might have seen the panicked struggling of one Bolian through the glassed corridor of the dock as he found out the fate that awaited him, and the nonchalance of one Starfleet officer next to him, who had to contend with the much more daunting stare of a commanding officer, whose disappointment spoke volumes even though she did not.

No, the tech didn't think or care about any of that, nor of Derek Parkes' fate as he arrived at Deep Space Nine for his extradition hearing (the Trill had petitioned to try him themselves, though he technically lay under Federation jurisdiction). The tech's main concern was finishing up his shift so he could return to his suite for a quiet evening alone with his bride. He was quite content to be left out of all that.

That's strange.  Why is Lt. Fonden at tactical?  This is Keb's shift, and he's never late.  I wonder what's going on?  If it's something serious, remember to pop in his quarters with that book of poetry you borrowed.  It's his favorite.  Can't imagine depriving him of it now.

Deprivation.  If a fish remains out of water just long enough, what happens?  

I don't think I've been getting enough sleep lately.  Not feeling very well right about now.  My stomach's killing me.  Could go for a slice of pecan pie.  Pecan pie.  Pie in the sky.  Lucy in the sky.  

'As silent as a mirror is believed / Realities plunge in silence by...'

That is a fine collection.  I should get myself a copy.  Keb can have his and I can have my own.  That sounds good.  I wonder why he is so fond of human poetry?  Bolian poetry is pretty good.  Ramn's Odes are particularly good.  I had no idea Bolians thought so much about gradients.  Ramn does, anyway.

'Twice and twice / (Again the smoking souvenir, / Bleeding eidolon!) and yet again.'

That poem's sticking there, isn't it?  I wonder if it means anything.

Commander Franzoni is looking particularly restrained today.  He's just staring ahead.  Come to think of it, everyone on the bridge is.  I wonder why.  Are they wondering what happened to Keb as well?

These two security guards waiting next to me aren't so fixed.  They look sort of perturbed.  Another wonder.  God only knows when I'll find out why.  'Let me in, let me drive.'  That's a line from an old song.  Don't you start now.

'As silent as a mirror is believed...'

Nelson was standing outside Captain Matheson's ready room, waiting there with security personnel as Bridan Muir of the Akorem reviewed the events of his ride with Nelson and Shadrach to Epsilon Station.  Shadrach was already in the hands of Starfleet judicial officers, but Nelson had been brought back to the Copernicus as per Matheson's request.  The slight humiliation of standing there, a captured malcontent, on the bridge, for all the bridge to see, was lost on him at that moment.  He was in a daze.  No doubt it was better off that way.

"Starfleet has invested a lot in your career, Lieutenant," Matheson stated.  "No other former Maquis was granted as much lenience aside from the Voyager crewmembers.  I'm sure you're aware of all this."

"Very much, sir," Nelson said.  It was now rushing upon him, and he felt it.  He felt it.

"The Voyager crew," Matheson mused.  "How long have they been back now?  Three years?  I assume it would be an understatement to say that you've been looking forward to reuniting with them."

"Yes sir," Nelson said.  It really was an understatement.

"The probation terms you agreed to were perhaps too harsh in this case, weren't they?"

"Yes sir."

"I know.  I've been fighting this on your behalf for three years.  I've been making significant progress for about a year and a half.  Your promotion to chief helmsman was part of that."

"I suspected so, sir."

"But keeping you from your friends was cruel and unusual punishment.  Leading them to believe you were dead, that was also.  We're going to have explaining to do."

"I...I appreciate whatever you decide to do, sir."

"Stop calling me 'sir'.  That's an order."

"I...I don't know where to begin."

"I do.  You screwed up, but at least you have a good excuse.  And from what I hear, your friend Shadrach is putting in a good word or two on your behalf.  You may not realize it, but you have somewhat of a blessed life, though not seeing that at times like these is more than understandable."

"It is difficult at times."

"Regrettable.  You deserve better."

"Thank you."

"All that considered, your probation period ends in three months, during which you will serve time--"

"Captain!"

"During which you will serve time at a Federation penal colony, in New Zealand.  As a security hand.  With some old friends."

"Let me guess, a tattooed man and a turtlehead.  Whatever are they doing there?"

"Oh, they volunteer there from time to time.  It's the tattooed man's idea, a way to give back.  They have other friends drop by.  The turtlehead's spouse, for instance, who has experience of his own there."

"I sometimes wonder what a Starfleet recruitment poster looks like," Nelson joked.  It felt good to joke.  

"Oh, nothing special, unless you count a Ferengi in a monkey suit, to sway them from the competition," Matheson joked in return.  She felt relieved.

Nelson gave a polite nod before he left an hour or so later.  No one on the bridge stared at him as he crossed through it, and the ride in the turbolift was as uneventful.  He had a few stray looks in the corridor to his room, but he suspected it had more to do with his sullied civilians than anything the eyes thought about him.  He pressed the control panel and the door slid open to his quarters.  He addressed the computer about any messages he might have waiting for him.  He had three.  One from a tattooed man.  One from a turtlehead.  And one from a Trill guardian.  He decided to answer the one from the Trill first.  If he was going to start sorting things out in his life, he might as well start at the top.

But in the morning.  Right now all he wanted was some rest.

"Computer, lights out."

Fin

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