Carolyn was pissed. She’d given as good as she’d got but they’d overwhelmed engineering with an unfair amount of security officers. She’d cleaned two of their clocks before someone thought it wise to take the combat engineer out of the fight. She’d cursed them in every language she knew and a couple she made up as they had bound her and then eventually gagged her mouth. Her father hadn’t had much of a temper, so she figured she got it from her unnamed mother, wherever she was. Now Crawford was under guard with the other crew. She glanced at her CO and watched him carefully. The man was enigmatic, she had to give him that. He also knew his way around anything, which gave her some confidence she’d make it back home without too much scarring.
Ethan looked around the cargo bay. There were two guards holding the crew of the Pike but, they were giving them very little observation. Obviously, they thought Ethan and his crew were adequately detained. Turning his back on the guards he slid the thumb and forefinger of his right hand under the cuff of his left hand. Without any signs of effort, he pulled the metal cuff apart and it fell free. He then stepped on the now dangling and destroyed cuff and pulled it completely off his right hand which tore the skin there exposing the mechanical components within. There was some blood from the damaged dermis, but nothing like what you would expect from a normal limb.
He looked at the other’s shocked expressions. “Lost this arm and both legs during Operation Gatecrasher,” he explained. He worked the fingers and frowned. That little stunt had damaged the limb beyond the superficial damage to the skin. He had pushed the limb beyond its limits, but it could be repaired later.
Crawford gave him a look of mock outrage and whispered, “I just tuned the damn thing up, Ethan. Job security, I guess.” She took a glance at the hand. It wouldn’t take much to fix it up, but they had bigger problems. She nodded to Talon, “What you wanna do? You wanna flapjack them? You wanna short-bus them? You wanna special attention them?”
Carolyn shrugged, “I’m mostly making crap up. Coping mechanism. I’m sarcastic when I’m nervous. And punchy. Like fist punchy.” She smiled quietly, “It works out well for a combat engineer.”
He gave her a smirk and a sidelong glance, before helping the others out of their cuffs. Why they used the old style he had no idea, but it had worked in their favor. Once everyone was free they closed ranks. “The first thing we need to do is take out the guards before they can raise alarm. The Pike is in their main shuttlebay so we make our way there and make our escape. Audren you think you can adjust the cloak to make it harder to detect?”
The Hylon woman nodded, “I’ll see what I can do. I have a few tricks I can use. Especially if we run in reduced power mode.”
Ethan glanced at Carolyn, “That will be your job. I don’t care if we have to fly on impulse for two weeks we have to disappear. We are no match for this ship.”
“You got that right,” came a voice over the intercom. Zyvia looked at the captured crew as she stepped into the brig.
Then the sound of someone clearing their throat was heard and Zyvia looked back to see Debrah with an irritated look on her face and right behind her was her captain; Vausees. Zyvia grinned as she stepped aside. Both Vausees and Debrah walked over to the cell and looked at each one of the members of the Pike.
“Commander Ethan Talon, make yourself known,” Vausees said as she looked at them.
She already knew which one was Ethan but she had read the report from Debrah about the away team’s capture of the Pike, and wanted to see firsthand just how loyal the crew was to each other.
“Listen here, Ethan. You and your crew are only in this position because you failed to listen to a direct order from a superior officer,” she stated as she looked directed at Ethan as she spoke and then gazed over the rest of them. “Now if you want to know the reasoning behind that order do as I have just asked and make yourself known.” Her tone was level and calm as she spoke to them all.
Ethan stepped forward and scowled at Vausees, “I don’t recognize the authority of pirates and cutthroats. Even if you are Starfleet, you aren’t from my Starfleet. In the off-hand chance, you were from our universe; I operate outside of your command structure and under our own authority. Your orders do not apply to us.”
Debrah glared at Ethan and was about to say something when Vausees raised a hand. She knew her fiance’s temper all too well and replied to Ethan’s remark calmly. “I Commander Talon am on a mission from the same Admiral that sent you, even if it was an indirect order. So to say that you are not under Starfleet’s command structure is to say that you are a ‘pirate’ yourself. Or worse a marquis,” she stated as she leaned in closer to him. “I will tell you this much Ethan. If you want to keep your record as perfect as it currently is I would suggest that you and I come to at least an agree to disagree situation. After all, I am not asking you to join my crew. I am asking you to help all of us get back to our own timeline,” she leaned in a little further and in a lowered voice, “Oh, and just so you know I knew who you were before I found you since your stepmother and her old crew are looking for you.”
Ethan watched Vausees walk away with suspicion. He was beginning to think that this was not the same Vausees that he has encountered on earth. But was it possible that the Heracles ended up in the same alternate reality as them? She had said something about the same Admiral that had sent them out.
She then turned and walked away from the cell. Debrah glared at Ethan a moment more before she too turned and walked away. Zyvia, on the other hand, stayed right where she was as she was in charge of making sure that nothing happened to them. She looked at Carolyn, “You know you remind me of someone,” she said as she leaned back in the chair she was in.
Crawford was slowly starting to figure out who was what and how was who as the conversation had gone on between the two. She had winced at the pissing match between Vausees and Talon and did not find the look Zyvia was giving her. For a first mission things had gone terrible, awful, and no good – and probably in that particular order as well. Carolyn stepped forward a little. Captain Vausees had made it clear she knew who each of them was, and that Talon’s stepmother and her old crew were looking for them which meant her father was certainly in the mix. She felt a little courage return to her heart and estimated their chances of living to see another day had climbed dramatically. The crew of the USS Denver was on their case. And if her father’s stories turned out to be even half true, there was a reckoning coming. The combat engineer chief leveled her gaze at Zyvia as she decided to see what the woman’s point was, “I get that sometimes,” she shrugged, “…who do I remind you of? Old friend? Old enemy? Or just old someone?”
Zyvia looked at Carolyn, “Old would be a disgraceful comment, but I could see how you would see your old man as old. To me, he was a great friend.”
Crawford narrowed her eyes at the woman but said nothing. They were playing a verbal game of testing the waters seeing who could nudge the knife closer to skin. She decided to yield for the moment. She was a combat engineer, but she wanted to avoid upsetting the numerous apple carts that filled the room.
Ethan maneuvered next to his sister, “If these people are from our own reality how could we prove it?”
Aimee gave a suspicious look around at their captors, “A quantum scan. Every reality has its own quantum signature right down to the atoms that make up our molecules. It’s a simple scan if I were in sickbay.”
“Can you use a tricorder?”
“Not sensitive enough. It doesn’t have to be sickbay it could be the sensor suite in a bio-lab,” Aimee replied.
“Okay good enough,” Ethan replied. “Thanks.” He turned and approached the Andorian woman with his open palms in what he hoped was an unthreatening manner. “I think we can alleviate all this mistrust. Our doctor says a quantum scan will prove or disprove we are from different universes. If we are the same you let us go, because we are all Starfleet officers and we work together to get out of this hell… If not you keep us jailed, but know we will be planning an escape. Does that sound like a fair deal?”
Zyvia looked at Ethan cautiously as she thought about what he had said. He did make some sense to her as she knew that all officers had their DNA stored in the archives at Starfleet Medical HQ. Reaching up she tapped her ComBadge. “Mister Zazzrac, can I get you to join me in the brig at cell three, and would you be so kind as to bring whatever machine you need to do a quantum scan,” she said
Zazzrac replied that he was on his way and would be there in a moment. Zyvia looked at Ethan, “We shall see if we are one and the same.” She then tapped her ComBadge again, “Captain can you join me in the brig.”
“What’s going on Zyvia?” she asked as she stood next to the CIC table.
“Mister Ethan has informed me of a way to gain some trust back. His exact words were, ‘I think we can alleviate all this mistrust. Our doctor says a quantum scan will prove or disprove we are from different universes. If we are the same you let us go, because we are all Starfleet officers and we work together to get out of this hell… If not you keep us jailed, but know we will be planning an escape. Does that sound like a fair deal?’. Now I have called Commander Zazzrac to bring what equipment he will need to perform this test. I thought it best to inform you and have you here for the test.”
Vausees thought for a moment and the air was silent as Zyvia waited for a reply.
“I am on my way,” Vausees stated as the connection was closed.
Zyvia looked back at Ethan and nodded. “Looks like we’re all going to find out the truth.”
“Sooner the better,” Ethan replied. He crossed his arms thoroughly done with this mission and this universe as a whole.
Zyvia shook her head and waited for both the doc and the captain.
“I am uncertain if portable sensor equipment would be sensitive enough, ” Aimee said to Zyvia. “But, we can try it your way. I want to witness the scan and results.”
“Consider is independent fact-checking,” Ethan added. “If both doctors agree how can I disagree?”
“Easy,” came a gruff voice as Zazzrac stepped into the brig with nothing in his hands. “You can disagree because you’ll not witness the test.”
Zyvia looked at Zazzrac with a confused look on her face.
“I ran into the Captain and First Officer on the way here,” he explained as he looked at Aimee. “You are the doctor yes?”
Aimee raised an eyebrow, “I am. Doctor Zazzrac? You gave that lecture on Casperia Prime a year or so ago.”
“That I did. On the possibilities of duality within a sentient organism,” Zazzrac stated with a nod.
“You will be coming with me and the test will be performed on you,” Zazzrac stated as he looked at Zyvia.
“I don’t think so,” Ethan interjected. “You will test me. Leave her out of this,” he said. Ethan was always protective of his little sister. He also hated it when people called her his “half-sister”. She was his sister that was all there was to it. But, it is more than being family. He was protective of his team… his crew. They were family too. He had balled his hands into fists without even realizing it.
Zazzrac shook his head at the fists that Ethan had balled up. “Is that all you can think of? Bashing your way out of a situation because it doesn’t go your way? I see now why you were passed up for promotion Mister Talon,” he stated in an all to knowing tone of voice, “But alas the choice was not mine. You see Ethan, your sister, was chosen because unlike you, your first officer, and most of your crew, your sister is the least to become violent. Not to mention she is the only scientist on your crew and therefore the only one that might understand the why’s and what’s of the procedure.”
He stared down at his fists and relaxed them flexing his fingers. “I wasn’t going to bash anything.” His voice was calm but he was wound up tighter than a three-dollar watch. He wasn’t much different from a wild animal in a cage he concluded. “You don’t get promoted as a covert operative, and after all these years operating outside of the fleet, I don’t think I go back to the confined nature of the fleet. Rank matters little to me. Always has. Go ahead and smirk, but you know nothing about me or anyone else on this team. I gave my word, and we will all die before breaking our word. You are safe from us. Neither I or anyone else under my command will lay a hand on you or anyone else that’s a part of this ship. That is until it is time for us to escape. With that said, I made a promise to these people. I will sacrifice my life before asking them to sacrifice theirs. Yeah, a scan is no threat to their person, but there’s a threat to their privacy. You will test me, and Aimee will supervise.”
Crawford looked from Talon to Zazzrac, and then to Zyvia, “Where in the hell is the captain?” She looked to Talon and Zyvia, “She said she was on her way. And you…you ran into her in the hallway? Why isn’t she here giving the orders?” She sighed, “This is the dumbest pissing contest I’ve ever witnessed. Look, they taught us to read people, to watch how people stand, and all that other crap to figure out who is who and what is what.” She gestured to Zyvia, “That woman would put every single one of us on the ground before we even tried to get out the door. Never mind the security teams that she trained that are probably just seconds away.” She threw her hands up, “What is so bad about having us witness the test? What are you afraid of?” She sighed with a look of apology to her CO, “I’m just tired of standing here going nowhere.”
A sigh left Zazzrac’s lips, and without taking his eyes off of Ethan, “Captain.”
The door hissed open and Vausees stood there with a small contingency of armed security guards; most of them held pulse phaser rifles. She looked back at Debrah and then entered the brig. As the door closed behind her she stepped over to the cell that housed the Pike crew. “Ethan I am sure that you find all of this a tad bit out of the ordinary, however, when your ship was brought on board and locked down in my hangar the computer red-flagged a log on your ship’s computer. Romulan’s occupying Earth. Now that by itself wouldn’t have caused the red flag. It was the message that a single high-ranked Romulan officer said just before we showed up,” she then paused and retrieved a wrist-sling. “Modified, but nonetheless this device, which was on your first officer, gave the computer all it needed for the red flag.” Vausees placed the device on the desk and looked back at Ethan. “Do you want to know what it was that your first officer detected? Hmm?”
Ethan was just as annoyed as Carolyn, and probably far more agitated. He hated being held in confined spaces, yet here he was. “How should I know? What does this have to do with you either acting like pirates or you treating us like common criminals?”
Jolie looked at the device and then at Crawford, “Isn’t that the device that I had you modify so that it could scan passively while I was trying to rescue Ethan,” she said in a lower voice to Carolyn.
Carolyn gave a nod, mildly annoyed that her creation was in view for all. “It is. Which means they are not as stupid as we think they are.”
“Ethan that sling was modified on my orders, we haven’t had time to check what was scanned. All I do know is that there was one hell of a Battle Group, of hidden Romulans, on Earth and inside of Starfleet HQ,” Jolie stated as she looked at the side of Ethan’s face while she stood there. “I for one am very curious as to what it found while I was on Earth?”
He wasn’t interested in the slightest, “Well, go on Captain Blackbeard. Please dispense with the drama and get to the point.”
“As you wish,” Vausees said as she turned to look at a monitor on the wall, “Computer, display the readings from the Pike scan logs and the wrist-sling scan logs and overlay them. Then display the finds to the monitor in the brig.”
A soft beep sounded and a moment later a woman that looked very much like Vausees appeared on the display. Vausees turned and looked back at Ethan. “Would it surprise you to know that this look-alike is in fact a Romulan agent in disguise?” she stated as she looked back at the image. “Not a bad replica if I say so myself,” she stated. “Computer next image please.”
A soft beep sound and the image changed to that of Jonas. “This one is a Romulan as well.”
Vausees turned back to Ethan. “Almost half of the population on Earth have been replaced by Romulan Agents that look like someone from an important position in this timeline. Oh and not just humans, as I have been informed by my new best friend J’telas. So if you will dispense with the tough guy act and let me do what I need to then we can all get back to figuring out how to get home. That is unless you still want to try and escape. If that is the case then I’ll just place you back in your Raven and send you on your way.” Vausees states as she looks Ethan dead in the eyes, “But before you answer that, I will have you know that your stepmother asked me to keep an eye out for you and since I have found you. It would be a shame to just let you go at it on your own since I did tell her that I would help anyone from our time get home.”
Vausees stood there in silence as she waited for Ethan to make up his mind.
“Look, I don’t give a damn about this reality. I could care less if Romulans are replacing people on that Earth. It’s a nightmare. Maybe it’s a good thing. Put them out of their misery. What do you want from me? I honestly just want to cross back over and live my life again.”
Vausees shook her head, “I am trying to make you understand Commander that if these tests are not performed we all are not going to go anywhere.”
“Then get to it,” Ethan replied. “What’s the hold-up? Waiting on Hell to freeze over?”
Crawford had made the realization when the terrifying fact that the Romulans of this time were replacing humans on Earth. She looked to Vausees, Zazzrac, and then to Zyvia. “Ethan…they’re worried that we’re Romulan replacements. If they were able to replace humans on Earth…who’s to say the Romulans didn’t see us arrive and abduct us…and switch us out. We’d be the perfect people to get onboard the Heracles…and take our mission home to our reality. To continue the mission…”, she stopped and shook her head at the implications, “Given how much of a mess Romulan politics and government have been for years…there would be people who would listen to it…and start putting it into action.” Crawford sighed, “This sucks.”
“All the more reason to get this damned scan over with so we can mover forward,” Ethan replied. “Sitting in this cell isn’t getting us home, nor is it particularly productive.”
“Finally something we can both agree on,” Vausees stated as she looked at the closed door. She then looked back at Ethan. “How about a compromise?” she offered. “You don’t want the test to be performed on your sister and I don’t want to test it on you. How about instead I test it on all of you at one time in sickbay?” she states as she looks into his eyes. “This way we all get what we want.”
He threw his hands up in defeat, “Whatever. Let’s just get this over with.”
Vausees nodded, “Security.”
The door hissed open and Debrah, followed closely by Zyvia, walked in. Worry was on Debrah’s face until she say that her fiance was fine.
“Everything okay, Captain?” Debrah asked.
“We have finally come to a conclusion. Escort the entire crew to sickbay and have Zazzrac perform the test on the entire crew at one time.” Vausees said as she entered the security override code, to their cell.
“After you Commander,” she said as she held out her arm to the door.
Sickbay after the test
Zazzrac looked at the scans on the PADD and held them out to Aimee, “Looks like we’re all the same in this room.”
“I could have told you that, and had your captain acted reasonably mine would have made this a lot easier on all of us.” She was handling the situation much better than the others, but it didn’t mean her mood was any more improved. After all, she had had a phaser held to her head and then summarily tossed into a cell. That’s enough to make even the most amiable person testy.
Zazzrac nodded, “But I do now hope that you do understand why she did what she had to. After all, do you really want a Romulan Agent from this timeline to infiltrate any one of the Romulan factions in our timeline?”
“The goal was fine. It was the execution that needs improvement,” Aimee said flatly. “You have to see this from our point of view the last time we ran into a Vausees she was on Earth helping them there, and her motives were dubious at best. We’re a suspicious lot, to begin with, and here you are acting very suspicious. Whatever happened to not sticking phasers in people’s faces?”
Zyvia shook her head, “I didn’t stick it in your First Officer’s face,” she stated with a slight purr to her voice. Which then turned to a harsh tone, “I stuck it to the back of her head, because she was about to pull a phaser on my Chief of Security and Tactical Officer, not to mention the ship’s Second Officer,” she said as she looked at Aimee, “However,” her tone once more shifted to a calmer one, “I do see where you are coming from. And I do suppose a less tactical and aggressive action could have been used.
Vausees walked into sickbay and looked at Ethan, “I hope you can accept my apologizes,” she stated as she held out a hand, “From one Commanding Officer to another.”
Ethan grunted, and even managed not to scowl. He shook her hand and looked her up and down. “What’s with little Klingon task force you have going on?”
Vausees looked at Ethan, “Long story. However, if and when we get out of this, it will be in the debriefing log. You can read it then. Just be glad that it’s here. Oh and don’t go shooting all half-cocked either, because you are not seeing the big picture and I don’t want you to accidentally destroy something,” she said with an undertone of a hint to her voice. She then turned and made to step away when she stopped, “By the way, Ethan, this ”little” task force isn’t what it seems, and you might be eating your words when you see just how big it really is.”
Ethan turned to his team, “Return to the ship. The captain and I have much to discuss.”