trekwriter151: by <lj user="cedarrapidsgirl>" (malcolm hoshi)
[personal profile] trekwriter151
Five

"Whaddaya mean they've disappeared?"

Commander Trip Tucker leaned heavily against a massive ore sorter in Mine Shaft Number Seven. His left hand unconsciously brushed the keracite dust from the front of his protective suit. Despite all of his precautions, the dust made him cough slightly and feel itchy as hell. He'd already had to send both Rostov and Kelly back to the ship to go through decon. Trip seriously considered doing the same in the wake of T'Pol's report.

"They were beamed out from the Council Chambers to an unknown location," T'Pol repeated calmly. "The Council reports several casualties, including Marshall Subronn."

"Damn it, I knew going over there was a bad idea."

"I wholeheartedly concur. In the wake of the Away Team's disappearance, all Starfleet personnel are recalled back to the ship, including all engineering and medical teams."

"Phlox is gonna hate that," Trip muttered, "but I can understand why. Let me gather up my people here and we should be back in about four or five minutes."

"That will be acceptable, Commander. Enterprise, out."

Trip flipped his communicator shut and tucked it back into a pocket. Then he squeezed his eyes shut and mentally said several bad words he'd learned from Hoshi a while ago. When he opened his eyes, he yelled, "Campbell!"

"Here, sir." Crewman Neal Campbell scrambled up from where he conversed with one of the miners. Hoshi's third-in-command of the Comm department reminded Trip of Hoshi during her first year on Enterprise: idealistic and scared to death. Campbell's linguistics skills, though not at Hoshi's level, were decent, and he'd managed to learn enough of the mining caste's dialect to be Trip's translator.

"Find Master Ven and tell him I need to see him. Then round up engineering teams two and three...we're being recalled to the ship."

"Aye, sir." Campbell took off running as Trip knelt and scooped up his tools. Trianarian mining technology was at least fifty years behind Earth's; the inefficient machines made Ven's work not only dangerous, but life-threatening as well. It all reminded Trip of the coal mines of nineteenth and twentieth century Earth and their effects on the miners.

Ven said something about the "coughing death". If that doesn't describe their version of "black lung", I don't know what does. Trip shook his head and got back to his feet just as Master Ven appeared around the bend of the tunnel, with Campbell close behind.

"Your young man told me you're returning to your ship. What has happened?" Ven asked.

Trip explained the situation, with Campbell translating for him. When he had finished, Ven let out several Trianarian epithets that made Campbell blush. "I knew that the Prefect would renege on his agreement of protection. He has kidnapped them and will hold them hostage until your Starfleet agrees to his terms."

"What terms? All he's done is made a lot of people pretty angry."

"Trade agreements on the keracite, as well as technological and medical advances. He knows about how you've been helping us on that end. He has spies everywhere."

"He should know that Starfleet doesn't negotiate with terrorists." Trip felt a painful pang at the memory of Terra Prime and their members. "He's gonna hang himself if he's not careful."

Ven nodded. "Indeed. It pains me that we should cut our visitation short, but I would prefer you return safely to your ship as soon as possible."

"Yeah. Don't worry, Ven. We'll be back to help your people." He clapped the Trianarian on shoulder, then glanced up at Campbell. "C'mon, Crewman."

"Yes, sir."

When the engineering teams beamed back to Enterprise, Trip immediately ordered his people into decon. Since Phlox was still on-planet, Lieutenant Elizabeth Cutler was in charge of their care. He wasn't surprised to see T'Pol at the decon chamber window. T'Pol's expression was neutral, but he could feel her disquiet and anger.

"Shielded frequency, Commander," she said, as she placed an earpiece into the Decon chamber's slot. Trip accepted it and placed it into his ear as he activated the channel. "What the hell's going on, T'Pol?"

"Captain Archer, Lieutenant Reed and Ensign Sato were beamed to an unknown location. Their biosigns are hidden from our sensors, but we are recalibrating them to match known Trianarian specifications. They were taken just before they were beamed back to Enterprise, after their meeting with the Trianarian Council."

"What did the Council have to say about this?"

"Prefect Gavva has called them into a closed emergency session and has ignored all hails. His actions are within his rights as the head of his government, but it sheds some suspicion on his motivations."

Trip snorted. "Yeah. That way he doesn't have to talk with us."

"Indeed. There were casualties among the Council, most of them belonging to the more moderate faction of the government. Unfortunately, that included the Head of Security, Marshall Subronn and the remaining Minister of Mining Operations."

"Great. So the only ones who could tell anyone what really happened at the mines are the workers, and no one's gonna listen to them." Trip closed his eyes in frustration. "Gavva's got this all planned."

T'Pol inclined her head. "Yes, though he has 'covered his tracks' quite effectively." Trip heard the quotes and couldn't help but smile a little. "There is one positive development in this situation. We have traced the keracite readings from the attack."

"You did?" He straightened up from where he leaned against the wall.

"Yes. The keracite was taken toward a string of mining refineries in the Kelowna Sector."

"Kelowna Sector. That's Orion territory."

"The Kelowna Sector also shares one common border with the Klingon Empire. It is a valid assumption that whoever has stolen the keracite plans to sell it to the Orion Syndicate, the Klingons, or both."

Trip whistled as he thought about the ramifications. "That would tip the trade markets in their favor and give 'em better ships, better planetary defenses..."

"...as well as medical and pharmaceutical advantages. Doctor Phlox has told me of information missing from the Trianarian database, as well as from the Kikuro Rescue Group. This incident of information espionage has expanded to cover other sectors besides engineering and tactics."

He sighed in frustration. "All right, what's the plan? We know that the Prefect won't hear us out, and we can't just leave the Cap'n and the others down there."

She nodded, her amber-brown eyes hard. "No, we will not leave them. As soon as you are released from Decon, we will discuss the situation with Admiral Gardner, then we will consult with Ensign Mueller and the Armory team to plan a rescue."

Her calm words both surprised and delighted him. "I suppose being around us has helped you consider other 'logical' options?"

Although she didn't smile, her voice betrayed her humor. "Logic dictates that when all avenues of diplomacy has failed, other avenues must be contemplated. I am merely following what is logical."

*****

Phlox normally didn't lose his temper, but he was almost willing to make an exception in this case. Doctor Rydnar Oberu of the KRG vented the anger that Phlox felt by engaging in a spirited argument with the Minister of Medical Services. Despite Oberu's eloquent plea, Phlox could tell the Council refused to rescind their order.

"Shekkah!" Oberu cursed as he slammed his hand on the comm button. "If we leave now, then hundreds, perhaps thousands of patients will not get the help they require. Our agreement with the Council guarantees free medical care for them, but that is valid as long as we stay here."

Phlox nodded. Both Oberu and Ensign Sato had told him about the deal the KRG had hashed out with the Trianarian government. Phlox found it just appalling how the Ministry of Medical Services wanted heavy payment for medical aid that should have been without cost. It went against everything he had learned as a physician. Oberu lived by an oath similar to the Terran Hippocratic, which dictated the obligations and duties of a medical practictioner.

"We have been recalled back to Enterprise as well," Phlox said grimly. "Captain Archer, Lieutenant Reed and Ensign Sato have been taken hostage."

"The Prefect has taken an interest in your young translator. I noticed how he looked at her the last he contacted here. My colleagues admire her for her bravery and her steadfastness...they are traits that we look for in the KRG. If she were a Healer, I would seriously consider her a promising candidate."

Phlox chuckled and shook his head. "It appears that Ensign Sato has that kind of effect on people. It is her job and her nature to reach out to others."

Oberu glanced around and motioned Phlox closer. He lowered his tone as he added, "Doctor Nsisla has taken some of the worst cases and spirited them away to what the Trianarians call 'safe havens'. It's not common knowledge, but some members of the medical caste have been hiding medical supplies and equipment for years."

"That is dangerous. What if they are discovered?"

"Nsisla says she and the others are willing to take the risk. Doctor Abraham Ben-Zarion will coordinate the evacuation of most of our people back to the medical frigates and transports in orbit, but they will remain in Trianarian space. We will not abandon those in need."

Phlox raised his eyebrows; Oberu implied he would be going into hiding as well. Ben-Zarion was a skilled officer with the KRG, but hardly the savvy politician that Oberu was. "What if the Prefect orders Ben-Zarion to leave? You will be stranded here."

"Abraham Ben-Zarion understands that his duty is to protect our people, first and foremost. He will not risk a conflict." Oberu chuckled and shook his head. "You should join us, Phlox. We need someone with your expertise and skills."

It was a tempting offer, but Phlox reluctantly shook his head. "I have an obligation to my ship and crew, Rydnar. They also need a physician."

"You are civilian; you are not subject to Earth's orders."

"No, I am not, but this goes beyond any order that Captain Archer---or anyone else---could give me." He smiled gently. "I wish I could assist you, my friend, and if circumstances were different, I might, but you must understand the position I am in."

Oberu nodded and returned the smile. "I do understand, but I had to try. Please, take care of yourself and your crew, Phlox. May the Gods grant that we meet again."

"Good luck, Rydnar." Phlox shook his hand, then watched as he walked away among his med teams. If circumstances were different, the answer might have been different. Phlox understood the obligations a physician had to his patients, and he thought of the risks Oberu was taking with a heavy heart.

"Enterprise to Phlox."

He flipped open his communicator. "Phlox here."

"Doctor, are your medical personnel prepared to be beamed aboard?" asked Commander T'Pol.

"Yes, we are, Commander."

"Stand by for transport."

Phlox looked around the medical tent one last time before it vanished from sight.

*****

Most people tended to underestimate Travis Mayweather. The ensign's easygoing, friendly attitude appealed to others and he found it easy to engage them in conversation. This skill had helped him during his days on the Horizon; there were days his father had preferred to take him, instead of Paul, along on trade negotiations with vendors on Draylax, Alpha Centauri or Vega. Travis found out all sorts of information that way, helpful or not.

He and Ensign Philippe Trieste ferried supplies and patients to and from Trianara Three and in the process, got to know the members of the Transportation caste, fairly well. The pilots reminded Travis of the squadrons during the World Wars, a close-knit group who looked out for each other in the skies. Their dialect was rather complicated, but one of Hoshi's comm people managed to help him get his words across.

"My frilkar used to take me between Trianara and Jekor's Star," said Nowir Thandoo. The transport pilot's tone was wistful as he swept his hand to and fro. "We'd find all sorts of rare items for sale all over the sector. It was a free life, a good one."

Travis nodded and glanced askance at Ensign Daniel Hertzog. "Frilkar?"

"I believe that's the rough Trianarian equivalent of grandfather, sir," Hertzog said. He asked Nowir something in the dialect, and the pilot nodded in agreement.

"My family did something similar. Yes, it was a good life."

Nowir sighed and shook his head. "Then came the black days. The transports came under the ownership of the higher castes and we had to carry what they dictated, at the prices they set. Frilkar refused to give up his independence, and so he was forced out. I was taken at an early age and trained on these--" He fondly patted the transport's control panel, "--of which I now fly."

Travis and Ensign Hertzog exchanged glances. Dan was also a Boomer by birth and knew the kind of lifestyle. "You seem to enjoy flying these sturdy little craft," Travis said.

"Ya'aa. They are many uirrra old, but they are safe and reliable. Large enough to carry what needs to be carried. I have no complaints. This one used to go between Luiva and Tatraji every tiitri day without fail," Nowir sighed in contentment. "If this one can talk, imagine the stories she can tell!"

Travis chuckled and gave Dan a look of amusement. "Yeah, I'm sure she'd tell all sorts of tales, Nowir."

Dan shook his head. "Luiva? Tatraji? Are those the Trianarian names for the systems? I'm not familiar with them."

Nowir blinked, then gave them a look of understanding. "Ah, I see. Our starcharts and measurements are different from yours. Here, let me show you." He effortlessly brought up a chart on a secondary screen in front of Travis. "There, that star? That is Luiva. Tatraji is the system about five laajii away. Do they look familiar to you now?"

Travis nodded and touched the screen. "This is what we call the Kelowna Sector. That star is known to us as Suvara and the system is Patreus. The farthest edge of it is the border between the territory of the Orions and the Klingons."

"Orions? The race with the ugly males and the beautiful females skilled in the ways of pepar'ra?" Nowir asked with a sly expression.

Dan coughed and turned crimson, while Travis raised his eyebrows in a conspiratorial attitude. "Yeah, those are them. You guys are familiar with their trade practices."

"Oh, sha! They bargain and deal for all things, especially for the ones they lack. Trianara has been a good supplier of those items. Unfortunately, I do not fly those routes, but I know of friends who do so. How I envy them!"

Travis grinned and gave a dramatic sigh. "I can see why. Think of all the stories they can tell."

"We should have a Gathering and exchange stories, Ve'Char Mayweather. I'm sure the ones in my Clan would want to listen to your words about your adventures in the Black Sky."

Travis smiled over at Dan and said, "Sounds good. I'd love to meet your Clan."

He, Dan and Nowir made several more runs to and from the planet, and Nowir introduced them to the members of his Clan. They only had a few hours to swap those stories before the recall order came from Enterprise, but those few hours were enough to provide Travis with vital clues to the Trianara trade routes to the Kelowna Sector and the Patreus system. When he volunteered his information to Commanders Tucker and T'Pol, as well as Ensign Bernhard Mueller and Doctor Phlox, he knew they were closer to understanding this conspiracy.

"Ensign Mayweather, are you familiar with any Boomer freighters that do business in that area?" Commander T'Pol asked.

He nodded. "Yes, ma'am."

"Can you find out information about them?"

"That shouldn't be a problem, ma'am, if I have Ensign Hertzog's help."

T'Pol glanced at Trip and they both nodded. "Do it," Trip said. "In the meantime, we've got a rescue to plan."

Ensign Bernhard Mueller nodded and muttered, "Also, so geht's."

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

You find out why Gavva's taken Hoshi...and the rescue team needs disguises...

Master Chief Antoine Desgauld is Enterprise's quartermaster. He was introduced in my story "Five Words no Engineer Wants to Hear."

Language translation (German, from Bernhard Mueller): "Ach, um Gottes Willen! Hast du 'ne Meise?!" Oh, for God's sake! Are you !!! nuts?" Poor Bernhard. :-)

Rating: T

R/S and TnT

Six


Hoshi heard the gentle rush of water and the soft strains of flute music. Warm sunlight bathed her face and made it difficult to open her eyes. She simply laid there and savored that warmth for a few more minutes until her brain became more awake.

Water? Flute music? She opened her eyes to a ceiling made of blue opaque glass that resembled a perfect summer sky. The wall to her right was made up of huge windows that overlooked a spectacular mountain view. A pair of double-doors led out to a balcony and she could clearly hear running water outside. She managed to lever herself to a sitting position; every muscle and joint in her body ached fiercely.

Instead of her formal Starfleet uniform, she wore a traditional reddish-brown, short sleeved Trianarian tunic and sandals. Hoshi noticed something around her left bicep, a sparkling turquoise and silver armband. She gave it an experimental tug, but it was snug around her arm.

Tracking device, she thought. Gavva wants to make sure I don't escape. She sighed as a brisk wind chilled her skin. First, she needed to find Captain Archer and Malcolm, then they needed to get away from Gavva and contact Enterprise. Why had the Prefect kidnapped the three of them? He had to know that holding them hostage was not a smart idea. Trip and T'Pol were probably planning a rescue mission at this very moment.

Her sharp hearing picked up the murmur of voices just outside her door. Before she could react, it slid open sideways and a green-skinned, black-haired woman peeked into the room. The Orion's eyes widened as she saw Hoshi, then her face split in an impossibly wide grin. Hoshi just stared at her dumbly...what was an Orion doing here on Trianara?

"May I come in? You must have just awakened from your nap. I'm Sorcha; you must be Hoshi." Sorcha stepped into the room without invitation and quickly slid the door closed behind her. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be a bother, but we were starting to get worried. The meeting's going to begin soon, and Lady Nhori needs her translator. It's an important day; don't you remember?"

Hoshi blinked in confusion; the sudden headache that pounded in her temples wasn't helping. "What? I'm sorry, I have no idea what you're talking about."

Sorcha crossed over to the closet and threw open the door to reveal a row of silk gowns hanging neatly from a rack. She selected one, turned to Hoshi and compared the color to Hoshi with a critical eye, shook her head, and replaced the gown, only to pull out another one. The light sparkled on the ruby armband on Sorcha's right bicep and complimented the scarlet dress she wore.

She clucked her tongue and shook her head at another fashion selection. "The trade talks? We're going to finalize the details between Trianara and the Orion Syndicate. We're in desperate need of medical supplies and building materials. Your Earth Starfleet sent you here to help with communication between the different species."

"I don't remember..." Hoshi shook her head, willing the headache to go away. A random memory surfaced, of the three Orion sisters aboard her ship, and a similar feeling of lethargy. What was happening to her? This wasn't right...she knew it wasn't right.

Sorcha frowned, her hands on a stunning orange silk. "Are you all right? Shall I call the doctor? Has something happened to you? I know that the Trianarians have made sure that the delegates are safe, but there are so many people who don't wish to see this happen, like the Klingons. Wait, you sit down and I'll help you. Will you let me help?"

Hoshi shook her head again; the Orion's chatter was starting to drive her crazy. Sorcha took advantage of her indecision and gently steered her onto the futon on the floor. Then she crossed over to the terminal and tapped a comm relay. "My Lady? I'm with Hoshi. Something's happened to her; I think someone's tried to alter her memory. We need help."

There was a murmur of confirmation over the line, then Sorcha closed the channel. She glanced at Hoshi with a worried expression. "Lady Nhori is coming, Hoshi. She'll help you. In the meantime, let's make you a little bit presentable, all right?"

She only nodded back; her head hurt too much to think. Sorcha helped her out of the Trianarian tunic and into the orange silk gown. It clung to her body like a second skin and laced delicately up the back. Sorcha's nimble fingers tied the laces and straps with practiced ease. She went to the cosmetics bureau and selected face paint and lip gloss to complement Hoshi's skin and hair.

"Stay still," Sorcha commanded as Hoshi began to protest. "It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to do this...to make someone beautiful for the one she loves. I need to make sure my skills don't fall into disuse."

"But--" Hoshi closed her eyes as Sorcha began to run a brush gently through her long dark hair. A childhood memory rose up, unbidden, of her grandmother fixing her hair for the Girls' Day celebration, Hinamatsuri, and dressing her up in her very first grown-up kimono. The memory sent a warm feeling through her limbs, the feeling of being loved and cared for.

The door slid open and an elderly Trianaran woman stood there, her aqua eyes wide with curiosity and concern. Silver-gray strands fell straight down her back in an icy waterfall and blended with the robe she wore. The fine weave of the fabric and the intricate decorations told Hoshi this woman was highly ranked.

"Katta nhirsa 'e?" Hoshi asked. "Where am I?"

The woman's eyes widened in surprise and her brow wrinkled in worry. She crossed the room in a few steps as she pulled a medical scanner out of a pouch around her waist. "Katta gurri de'res'tan." You are a guest in my house.

Hoshi managed a smile, for the rules of hospitality were sacred. No one was going to harm her here. "De'nahsti. Te 'e Hoshi." Thank you. I'm Hoshi.

The woman smiled. "Bahn'e. Yun'res'gho tan la'rui se." I know. My son has told me about you.

She blinked, blinked again, and took a closer look. The woman's face was unlined with age, and the smile was softer, more genuine, but very familiar. Hoshi realized who she must be. "Se'res'gho katta G'havva?" Prefect Gavva is your son?

"Te 'e Nhori. Katta res'gho G'havva." I am Nhori. Gavva is my son. She switched dialects and went on, "Can you understand me if I speak this?"

"Yes, I can." Hoshi inclined her head at the completely different cadence of words. "You're a medic."

"I was born within the medical caste, yes. My firstname was Doctor Shen Nhori, before I caught the eye of Minister Dhin Gavva. That was a long time ago." A shadow went over Nhori's face, but then it was gone before Hoshi could be sure. She read the results on her scanner, then frowned. "Sorcha, will you please run and fetch me a tri-oxygen supplement? I warned the others this would happen if we decided to hold the talks here. The thinner air is beginning to affect the delegates."

Sorcha bobbed her head in agreement. "At once, My Lady. Shall I also check the others to make sure they aren't affected by the altitude as well?"

Nhori thought for a moment, then nodded. "We can't have people becoming sick on this day, of all days. Thank you, my dear. Once we take care of Hoshi, you may distribute other supplements as needed."

"Of course, My Lady." Sorcha smiled at Hoshi and added, "I'll be right back." She stepped out into the hall and disappeared.

Nhori smiled and put a hand on her arm as she anticipated Hoshi's next question. "Your companions are well. They are also my guests and as long as they are here, they will not be harmed. Jonathan, as he insisted I call him, is conversing with Gavva. Your Kv'ohraiy is also there, keeping him safe. I will take you there as soon as we make sure you are well."

Hoshi let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. She remembered them now and how she had been concerned for their safety. Just hearing the words reassured her. "Thank you."

"The dark-haired man, Malcolm, how long has he been your Kv'ohraiy?" Nhori's face was guileless, but Hoshi detected an odd note in her tone. Just what had Gavva told his own mother? She decided to err on the side of caution.

"A while."

"I thought as such. He seems quite devoted to you. It must be reassuring, to have a loyal protector such as he."

"Yes, it is. He takes his job seriously, Ni'Chara, for he protects all of us, including the captain."

"Does that bother you? The possibility that he may be injured or killed doing his duty?"

Hoshi glanced at her. It was a question she had debated within herself for a long time, a very long time, since that long-ago mission to Terra Nova. Malcolm had been injured and taken prisoner, and she'd worried for his safety like everyone else. It was only later she'd realized that it hadn't been like everyone else.

Why is she asking me this? Nhori still waited for an answer, so she replied, "Sometimes it does, but I wouldn't ask him to shirk his duty, Ni'Chara."

Nhori didn't smile, though her eyes held understanding. "You are a strong woman, Ni'Chara. Stronger than I ever could be." She smoothly changed the subject, like a politician's wife. "It looks like Sorcha began to do your hair. Let me decorate it as befits a Kv'ohraiya. When we are finished, I'll refresh your memory of the aim of today's talks."

Hoshi nodded eagerly. Nhori twisted her hair and secured it with smooth silver ties, then attached charms of ruby teardrops and flowers. She regarded her at arm's length, then nodded in approval. "There, even your Kv'ohraiy will find you stunning. Come, let me show you..."

Nhori accessed the computer terminal. Her screen split into four columns with different sets of characters in each column. Four different languages: Trianarian government dialect, Orion, Risan, and Klingon. Again, the translations were off from each other; a wrong word here, an awkward construction there. Hoshi automatically noted where there could be the potential for misunderstanding. Economic agreements, government proclamations, bureaucratic legalese...Hoshi grew more concerned as she reached the end of the files. The chance for an interstellar incident due to a single wrong word was very high. She couldn't allow that.

Gavva knew what she was trained for, so that was what he had set up for her. Hoshi understood that now and she felt a thrill of pleasure at the honor given to her. This was why she had chosen a life among the stars, so she could help different races understand each other and work towards a common good.

"Can you make corrections so we can give a revised agenda to all the delegates?" Nhori asked her. "It would make the talks go much smoother."

"Of course. I'll get started on it right away."

Soon she was engrossed in her work, so engrossed that she didn't notice Sorcha's return, or the hiss of the hypospray that Nhori placed upon her neck. She didn't see the gleam of triumph in Nhori's eyes or the answering sparkle in Sorcha's. All that mattered was the words on the screen and the intricate puzzles she needed to solve before they became problems.

*****

"Ach, um Gottes Willen! Hast du 'ne Meise?!" Bernhard Mueller eyed the array of costumes that the quartermaster presented the members of the rescue party. Master Chief Antoine Desgauld rolled his eyes in exasperation, then looked over at Trip Tucker with a pleading expression.

"Sorry, Bernhard, but this is the best way to get the team down there without being detected." Trip tried not to laugh at the Bavarian's look of complete dismay. "The Saurians have agreed to allow you to act as security for their negotiating party, so you gotta dress the part."

Mueller muttered more choice German expletives under his breath, but he chose the least obnoxious of the costumes...which unfortunately, wasn't saying much. Bright salmon and periwinkle weren't his colors, especially with the modified phase rifle encrusted with rubies, emeralds, sapphires and God knew what else. Maybe it was the wide golden collar, the matching ringlet for his brow, and the thin rush sandals.

Or the pinky and toe rings? Trip stifled his laughter, for his disguise wasn't much better. The electric blue cloak, tunic and leggings wouldn't have been too awful, if someone hadn't splattered the fabric randomly with sparkling pink paint. A thin, green scarf covered his mouth and combined with the hood of the cloak, gave Trip an aura of "Don't mess with me...I'm a fashion disaster."

"At least T'Pol doesn't look too bad," Trip said with a shrug. "She gets to look like a diva."

Bernhard gave him a look of disbelief. "Vulcan women do not act like divas."

"No, but then again, no one would suspect her as bein' a Vulcan, as long as she keeps her hood up over her ears." Trip sighed and regarded his costume. "All right, meet in the Shuttle Bay in twenty minutes, Bernhard. Let's get the Captain, the Lieutenant and Hoshi back."

"Jawohl," Bernhard said, with a touch of resignation as he left the Armory. Trip watched him go with a bemused shake of his head. He tried to stay optimistic, but a dark mood threatened to creep back upon him. Admiral Gardner had endorsed their plan to rescue the Captain and the others from Prefect Gavva, when Trip had explained the situation.

*****

"Half of the known species in the sector want a cut of the keracite profits, Commander. Gavva's been setting this up and playing them against each other for decades. Starfleet Intelligence thinks that could tip the balance of power in Trianara's favor rather quickly."

Trip shook his head in frustration. "And why would he stage an attack on his own people?"

"To gather sympathy, to show how generous and kind he is, and to eliminate the moderate faction in his government, as well as to pull Starfleet and the Kikuron Rescue Group into the conflict. These secret trade talks are supposed to seal the deal between Trianara, the Orion Syndicate, and other ambitious groups. If they're successful, it would force Earth to negotiate on their terms, to keep them from becoming too powerful."

Trip sighed and shook his head. "Ingenious plan."

"As I said, in the works for decades, coming into fruition right under Intelligence's nose. We were only tipped off by independent sources fairly recently, which was why I talked with Jon Archer about the possibility of an agreement with the Trianarians. He wasn't too happy with it, but...it was the best of many poor options, Commander." Gardner sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Get our people back, Commander, and expose Gavva for the creep he is. Starfleet Command, out."

*****

As Trip dressed in the tunic and cloak, he shook his own head. Expose Gavva for the creep he is. Easier said than done. And independent sources...I wonder what kind of sources he's talkin' about?

His intercom went off. "This is your five minute ticker, Commander," came Travis Mayweather's voice.

He nodded and replied, "Thanks, Travis. Meet you in the shuttle bay."

"Aye, sir."

Trip wondered briefly what kind of get-up they'd stuck Travis in, then chuckled to himself. He'd find out soon enough about Travis's and T'Pol's...and hoped he could keep a straight face.

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May 2012

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