Sunday, May 23, 2382...
The flash faded. Her eyes ached as if she had just viewed a supernova over and over again. That moment, frozen in eternity, made her feel as if it had filled her with a small spark from the fires of creation.
“Damn... that hurt,” she said, trying to clear her head. “You didn't say it would be painful.”
April Esperanza took a cautious step off the scanning platform, her balance shot to hell.
“Some of the other scans were mildly uncomfortable, but not like this. What was that?”
In front of her, she saw a tall blob of whiteness move forward.
“It does often have that effect,” the blob's male voice said, it sought a tone of friendly reassurance but as far as April was concerned, the voice failed to achieve its goal.
“You could have told me.”
“Just take it easy. Your balance should return in thirty seconds. Your eyesight will take another minute or so.”
“Can I put my clothes back on yet?” she asked, still not happy she'd had to strip for this particular scan.
“Not unless you want me to put them on for you.”
April disliked the familiarity she detected in his voice. Or maybe the headache was mangling her senses. The room smelled different than it had before the scan had begun too, something close to burnt cinnamon.
My senses are scrambled worse than the last time I got drunk out of my mind. I hate this!
“No thanks,” she said, finding her eyes focusing properly again. “What kind of scan was that, Doctor?”
He pointed a tricorder at her, adjusting its controls. “A deep genetic scan. We need it so we can verify your identity when returning from a mission.”
“But you've got my DNA on file,” April said, suspicious as always of the medical personnel here. They had a habit of looking at her like kids did when playing I've got a secret. The smug superiority etched onto their faces drove April mad sometimes.
“Considering the types of missions you're likely to go on, it was decided a complete scan of the code throughout your body was best in cases of death or questions of identity.” He lowered the tricorder. “You see, replication errors are introduced into your DNA as you age and the cells divide. We can track that and know not only if it is you, but exactly how long you've been away. So if someone tries to use a sample of your DNA to get past security and it's too old, we'll know to check them further.”
Smug, know it all, son of a bitch.
“Great,” April moaned as she took a tentative step toward the edge of the platform. She really didn't give a damn why they did the scan. “Can I go?”
“If you're able,” he said, folding his arms across his chest. “I suggest you return to your quarters and rest for a couple of hours. I'll come by to check on you in three.”
“That's really not necessary, Doctor von Hohenheim.” She had no interest in spending another moment around this man.
“It's an order.”
She found her clothes and put them on quickly before exiting the exam room.
April placed her head on the pillow, feeling much saner now that she was still, and away from von Hohenheim.
When she found the chance, she intended to file a complaint about him. But after a moment, she realized it probably wouldn't do her career any good. She'd worked too hard to get here and she wasn't going to let anything screw it up.
This day hadn't turned out at all like she'd imagined.
April suspected that was the new norm for her life from this point forward.
Three hours later...
Water from the shower pounded the back of her head, massaging the ever-present tension from her mind. It trickled down her neck, between her breasts, past her abdomen onto her thighs, cruising down her shins and flowing off her feet into the stall.
April Esperanza loved the feel of it, loved watching the individual eddies of water combine, separate, combine again in seemingly random patterns. “Seemingly” because she was quite aware of the math involved, and had been since age eleven. But she had learned some moments are to be experienced, not analyzed.
She held her breath as two such eddies combined and traveled down her torso, wondering...
The large stream of water splattered into nothingness as it hit her thigh.
“That's life,” she whispered to herself.
April marched down the plain steel corridor connecting the housing section of the base to the training center, the brief moment of tension relief fading like an infatuation with someone whose name she'd forgotten.
She checked a wall chronometer. Four minutes, plenty of time.
April worried about this hastily called meeting. A half hour ago she thought she had the day to relax. Training was supposed to be over.
Probably some psych eval. Nothing important, she tried to reassure herself.
“Damn it... if it's another scan,” April mumbled to herself.
She turned a corner, found the door to Room 101 and entered.
Five of her fellow trainees were already there, milling about, whispering to one another. April approached Dell Navara. They seemed to get along well, and they'd had sex a couple of times, something encouraged by The Program.
“What's up?” she asked.
Navara reigned in his blossoming smile as quickly as he could. “No idea. But since there are six of us, I suspect we're here to be sent home.”
“Washed out?” April asked, doing her best not to fall into a pit of disappointment.
“What else could it be? They told us yesterday we were finished with training. All that's left is to separate the sheep and the goats.”
The other four trainees, Belzal Quislan, Tari Knox, Xar Chan, and Vilisen Gaw wore similar long faces.
“Only a few make The Program,” Belzal said, his husky voice resonating in his large Buudarian chest. “Our chances were never high.”
April closed her eyes. No, it can't end like this. I've put too much into it.
But before she could counter Dell's pessimism, the door opened. All the trainees snapped to attention on instinct.
“Form up,” growled the new arrival as he went to the head of the room.
Major Darnell stood with his characteristic stiffness, the gray hair of his extreme crew cut standing at attention as always. Only a slight twitch in his right cheek betrayed the sense this fifty year old human was made of ancient stone.
“The Special Access Program was instituted as a means for the President to have an unacknowledged response option known only to himself, the Secretary of Starfleet, and a few others for the purpose of apprehending or sanctioning high value operatives whom the President deems are pursuing interests in opposition to the United Federation of Planets and its allies. In cases where necessary, certain diplomatic niceties would be set aside to accomplish these missions.”
April felt like screaming. They were being cut from the program. She expected he'd remind them of their oath of silence in a moment.
Darnell continued, “In light of that, we don't have high profile ceremonies. No parades, no pomp and circumstance. As you might have guessed by now, graduation here isn't the strutting affair it is at the Academy. We're all business... deadly business.”
“Now don't go getting all giddy just yet. Your training is finished, but the final exam in The Program is unique to Starfleet.” Darnell let that sink in a moment. “You will receive your mission briefing six hours from now. And don't bother asking, because I don't know what it is.” He strutted up to Dell. “Mr. Navara, you are hereby promoted to the rank of Captain and you will command this team. The rest of you have been assigned the rank of Second Lieutenant. Whatever rank you previously held in Starfleet is rescinded. You belong to The Program now.”
Navara took the opportunity to ask a question. “Major, if I may...”
“How do we know if we pass the exam?”
Darnell smiled wide. “There are only two grades: passing and dead.”
April could feel her heart racing.
Darnell continued. “You come back alive and you stay in The Program. But for you Captain, if any of your team dies, you're out.” He leaned to Navara. “Having second thoughts about being in command?”
“Good. I put too much work into you six to hear otherwise.” His features softened. “You remember your training, keep your heads screwed on right, and I have no doubt you'll succeed.”
He turned to leave. “Oh, and since you won't ever hear it from this moment forward...” Darnell turned to face them again. “The Federation thanks you for your service.”
With that he was gone.
Navara turned to April. “Let's go.”
He pulled April's shirt up over her shoulders, forcing their lips to part momentarily.
“You want to have sex... now?!”
“May not get another chance for a while,” Dell said. “You object?”
“No,” she murmured, pressing her lips against his again as she slipped his shirt off.
April looked at his perfectly toned body, thinking how she'd never noticed how beautiful he was.
I need to pay more attention, she thought as he removed her pants.
Dell's powerful hands cupped her buttocks, lifting her onto the bed in his quarters.
April worked at unfastening his pants, struggling to get the first clasp opened.
Dell used his hands to caress the stubble on her head.
God, how I love that, she thought as the pants came loose.
April had never considered herself attractive, and after being required to shave their heads upon entering The Program, she lost the one thing going for her, the dark, shoulder length hair she'd inherited from her mother's side of the family.
But Dell had a way of touching her head that turned her on almost as much as the act of sex itself.
He straddled her, their bare bodies just inches from consummation.
“My god...” he said with a smile. “Two perfect physical specimens, IQ's of 160... imagine what children we'd have.”
She laughed, but then got serious with a thought. “How the hell do you know my IQ?”
Dell grinned. “I checked your file after our first time.”
“And how did you accomplish that?”
“Why do you think I got command of the team?”
April pulled him to her. “Command this.”
Two hours later...
“All I've ever wanted was to know my place in the universe, and from there make a difference.”
He grinned. “I'll settle for making admiral by forty.”
April laughed. She'd heard this before. “Only six people have ever done that.”
“Then I'll be number seven.”
“And making a difference?”
“Much easier as an admiral,” he said. “Besides, by that time I figure an office in San Francisco would make a nice reward for all we're doing, and will be doing over the next few years.”
“I take the rewards each day affords me.”
He rolled over to face her. “Nice office, a nice apartment... you... me... a couple of kids.”
She smiled. “Getting a bit ahead of yourself, aren't you?”
“Always got to plan for the future.”
April sat in Doctor William Haber's office. He was the staff psychologist for The Program.
“You are in a high stress environment, doing a high stress job. It's not unusual for the brain to find an outlet for that stress in the form of troubling dreams, even violent ones,” Haber droned on.
“How should I interpret this dream?”
He smiled. “Very loosely. It has more to do with the general stress you're experiencing, rather than anything specific. However, if you have more of them, please be sure to let me know. It is after all possible it's related to some chemical imbalance in your body we've yet to detect, but likely something which we can correct rather easily.”
“Should I get examined for that?”
“Yes, that I won't be up to our mission.”
He nodded. “I'm certifying you as fully fit for duty.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
An hour later, April sat in a small metal room with the rest of her teammates, down deep in the facility.
Colonel Martin, a tall, hard bodied man in his late forties, stood at the front of the room.
“You have been designated Team Seven. From now on this team is your family. You will live together and fight together. The one thing you are not allowed to do is die together.”
April shot a glance at Dell and saw him grin.
“Your mission is to acquire a target named Jafar Lang.” A picture of a human male with dark hair appeared on the screen behind Martin. “Born on Mars, Arcadia Planitia, 2348. Graduated from Utopia Planitia University with a BS in Physics, a masters in astrophysics, and a PhD in astrophysics.”
“What information do you want from him?” Dell asked.
“Information?” the colonel asked.
“Yes,” Dell swallowed. “I assumed...”
Colonel Martin smiled. “Rule one, never assume what your orders are.”
“Then what are our orders?” April asked half reading through the PADD with Lang's bio.
“You are to pursue the target in such a way as he knows you are pursuing him.”
The members of Team Seven all looked at each other.
Martin paused only a moment. “That is until he signals his contact on Earth.”
“And then?” Xar Chan, an Efrosian female asked.
Dell took a long breath.
“I know how that might not sit well given your Starfleet background,” Martin said. He read from the PADD in his hand. “As of this date and time, you are hereby required to never speak of the following information to anyone. And if you discover any of your other team members have or are going to discuss it with anyone outside this room, you are ordered to terminate them. Is this understood?”
“Yes, sir,” they all answered after several seconds of hesitation.
“This target is involved in a subversive group which has been leaking classified Starfleet material. They have recently acquired data which comes under Ultra Classification. This material concerns temporal incursions into what we view as our reality.”
“Time travel?” Belzal asked with a chuckle.
April looked at Dell. Neither were laughing.
“Lang and his cohorts are about to release information about a temporal incursion which occurred a little over a year ago. Such information is classified by the Presidential Order Concerning Temporal Incursions. That order authorizes any and all means to keep such information from being released. As Doctor Lang is part of a conspiracy to release that information, his termination is hereby ordered.”
“But what about using him to get information on his associates?” Dell asked.
“We know the names of some of the others in his organization,” Martin said. “We expect when you corner him, he will send a signal to his contact on Earth. That is the person we want. Your orders specify you are to use any and all means to get that name. And I do mean... any and all.”
“And the rest of the group?” April asked.
“It is spread out across several worlds in an attempt to protect them. But that is their weakness. Once we capture the leader on Earth, we'll have all the names. Other teams will acquire the targets simultaneously.”
The members of Team Seven looked at each other. April didn't like this.
“Sir,” she asked as she read through the information on Lang. “Why would someone who wrote their doctoral dissertation on subspace manifolds and the Casimir Effect's results on subspace communications be involved in something like this?”
“People are insane,” Martin said with a grunt. “If you try to figure out why they do the bullshit they get involved with it'll drive you nuts too.”
“Is all of this legal?” April asked.
“The order comes from the 301 Committee which acts under the authority of the Federation President. He has made it legal.” Martin hesitated a moment. “Understand, we live in perilous times. Our enemies work outside normal channels. And temporal incursions are one of the most dangerous threats we face.”
“But they're sharing classified information. Isn't that a legal question?”
“Some of the information they have been sharing comes from Starfleet Intelligence. And some comes from Temporal Investigations. Imagine someone locating a time travel device and changing history. You can't charge someone like that with a crime after the fact. It's too late at that point. They have to be stopped before they act.”
“Yes, sir,” Dell answered. “We will get him, sir.”
April sat on the transport, watching the reactions of the other members of Team Seven. None of them had said much since their mission briefing. They'd been all business, preparing for what was ahead.
She didn't understand the certainty which beamed from Dell's eyes.
This was what we signed up for when we joined The Program, she told herself again and again. They'd all been told how this might entail going outside the usual Starfleet regulations.
April couldn't shake how this felt like an assassination, instead of taking out a dangerous target.
Dell sat next to her, reviewing something on a PADD.
“What's up?” she asked, hoping he was reading a book, or something else far removed from their mission.
“Well, we won't have to necessarily terminate this guy.”
“I think I've got a way around it given exactly how our orders are worded.”
April leaned back, relieved. Dell had figured something out. He hadn't gone full monster on her after all.
He turned to her with a grin. “I know,” he said.
April put her hand on Dell's shoulder. “I'm beginning to like you, you know?”
“Beginning?” he asked with a snort.
Upon reaching the surface, April was struck by how beautiful Icor IX was. The trees seemed like a land bound rainbow, glistening in the mid-afternoon light of the system's star. Home to an Astrophysics Center renown throughout the Federation, Team Seven's cover was they were a group of undergrad physics students coming to attend a symposium on warp field dynamics.
Once they disembarked, she found it easy to slip into their cover story. She and Dell got a room together while Belzal Quislan paired up with Vilisen Gaw, an Aquan. The other two women on the team, Tari Knox and Xar Chan, took another room a floor down from the others.
One thing April was very glad for was they got to wear civilian clothes on this mission. She had begun to really hate the two piece, so tight fitting you could barely breathe standard uniform for The Program.
“De-polarize,” April commanded the window in her and Dell's hotel room. She smiled.
“Nice view,” Dell said, pulling her back toward him.
“How much time do we have here?” she asked, settling into his embrace.
“Tonight, we're supposed to locate the target,” Dell said. “We have intel on his usual haunts. Then tomorrow, we begin the chase.”
“And then?” she turned her head to face him, looking for that hopeful sign she'd seen in the transport.
Dell smiled. “A surprise.”
“Am I going to like this surprise?”
“It's far better than the alternative.”
They'd all spent the night going over planets full of data about Jafar Lang, attempting to find any patterns in his daily and weekly routines. They'd met at one a.m. to go over what they'd found which wasn't much. For a highly organized mind, Lang didn't exhibit the usual behavioral patterns. He didn't keep a set schedule at all. Even items like eating and work didn't stay on a routine. They were about to give up when something crept upon on April's mind like an animal crawling out of the shadows.
“There is a pattern,” she said.
Tari Knox shook her head. “No. I think he's intentionally randomizing his schedule.
“It just seems that way,” April replied, pointing at a series of documents on the table they sat at. “But there is a pattern.”
“Where?” Quislan asked.
“Look at his meals,” April said, sliding her PADD into the middle of the table so the others could see. “He eats one day at noon. Then the next at three, then at one, then at four.”
“It jumps all around.”
“Three, one, four, one, five, nine, two...”
“Holy shit!” Dell blurted out.
“And his work... two, seven, one, eight, two, eight...”
“Natural log constant... 'e',”
“Yes,” April said. “He chooses some number, and uses the digits as how he organizes his day.”
“But why?” Dell asked.
“He could just be strange,” Tari said.
“Or he's intentionally keeping his schedule appearing random for a purpose.”
“When will he eat tomorrow?” Dell asked.
“Five,” April said.
At five the next afternoon, the six members of Team Seven sat in a small Andorian eatery on the opposite side of town from their hotel. Lanul served only basic Andorian dishes, but they were authentic.
April took a bite of something purple off her plate. “This is lovely,” she said with a frown.
“I didn't choose the place,” Dell said with a grin.
April was about to retort when she caught a glance from Xar Chan. Without turning toward the front door, she looked up at Dell. “He's here,” she muttered.
Dell nodded, keeping his eyes on April.
“He's likely to make us rather quickly,” April said. “Six individuals, all with shaved heads, and from different species all in one place at the same time, are going to make him suspicious.”
“That's the idea,” Dell said.
“I don't like it,” she said. “Why not just stand up and drop our pants?”
Dell grinned. “Turn around and stare at him.”
April rolled her eyes. But she did as ordered.
Lang was a tall, thin man, mid-thirties, and nervous. He constantly tapped the side of his right leg in a strange rhythm as he talked to the Andorian behind the counter. It took two full minutes before Lang turned to April, their eyes meeting instantly.
The tapping on his leg sped up.
Lang stepped back from the counter, then raced out the door.
“He's made us.”
“Good,” Dell said. “Now we give him enough lead time to signal his Earth contact, and then we grab him.”
“How will we know?” April asked as they got up from their table.
Dell held up a small device. “I'll pick up his signal with this.”
The six of them left Lanul.
Two hours later, they each stood at a corner of the apartment building where Lang resided. Dell and Chan were each at one of the two entrances of the building.
April tapped the comm in her ear. “Anything?”
“Still no signal,” Dell's voice responded.
“He knows we followed him here,” she said.
“Pretty obvious since he ran the last block,” Chan said.
“What now, sir?” Knox asked Dell.
“Until he sends that signal, we can't do anything.”
“Any explosives or weapons on scans?” April asked.
“Nothing,” Gaw replied. “The building is clean.”
“Then how about I go up and tell him he's wanted for questioning about Federation secrets, he'll refuse, citing his rights as a Federation citizen, and then I leave.”
“What will that accomplish?” Knox asked.
“He'll know we want to ask him questions about classified information,” she said. “That will give him something to tell his contact.”
The line was silent for several seconds, then Dell said, “Okay. Go.”
April did a scan on her tricorder to make sure no one else in the building might be a problem. But they were all doing standard living things.
She made her way into the building, and then to the main elevator.
Six floors up, April walked to room 628, and pressed the doorbell.
Her earpiece howled at her, “We've got movement!” Knox nearly yelled.
“Where?” April whispered, not wanting to give her presence away to Lang on the other side of the door.
“It's Lang,” Dell said. “He's on the floor below you, and moving down.
“Damn it,” April said, backing away from the door. “Directly down from his apartment?”
“The other corner of the building,” Dell said through her earpiece. “The signature in his apartment is still there, but different.”
“A bio-emulator,” April said, now running down the hallway. “Check for others. We don't want to waste our time chasing something attached to a balloon.”
“It's him this time,” Knox replied. “Now down two floors. No, wait...”
April stopped, knowing there was no point in moving unless they had the actual target. “Come on, Tari,” she murmured.
“He's two streets South,” Knox finally said.
“Someone get a visual on the target,” Dell called out.
April hurried out of the building. As she rounded the Southeast corner, she saw the other members of Team Seven speeding past.
“Visual,” Quislan reported.
“Form up on Quislan,” Dell ordered.
Thirty seconds later, they were in formation some fifty feet behind Lang.
“This could be a trap,” April said.
“No other life signs ahead,” Knox said.
They stopped at the corner of a small building. Each of them surveyed the area.
“Anything?” Dell asked.
“Nothing,” Knox said.
“Location of target?”
“He's slowed after entering a warehouse.”
“Probably has something stowed in there in case he was ever pursued,” Quislan said.
“Very likely,” Dell said, turning to April. “We'll surround the building, check out the environment, then go in.”
Each of the others nodded, and moved out.
Ten minutes, later, each of them were stationed outside the building.
“This seems familiar,” Quislan snorted.
“Report on target's location?” Dell asked.
April frowned. “Three locations.”
“He's consistent,” Knox said.
“We're not going to play this game again,” Dell said.
“What are we going to do?” Quislan asked.
“For what?” April asked.
“We've got him,” Dell said. “The next time he moves, we'll grab him.”
“And if he's got a store of food and water in there?”
Six hours later, darkness had invaded the streets around the building. Two hours earlier, Dell had ordered all the street lights taken out.
“Anything?” he whispered over their comms.
“Same as thirty minutes ago,” Knox said. “No movement on any of the three locations.”
April stirred. Something wasn't right. “No movement at all?”
“Well...” Knox trailed off for a moment. “Two of the locations have zero movement. One shifts back and forth periodically.”
“And where is that one?” Dell asked.
“Bottom floor. Near the door on the East side.”
“That's him,” Dell said.
“Nice to know, but are we going in?”
“Yes,” Dell said. “We'll go two by two. Quislan, you and Knox go first, but don't move in on him. Go beyond him to cut off his escape route. Esperanza and I will go in next to take him. Chan and Gaw, you secure the door.” He let the plan settle into their minds a moment. “Move silent. No chatter.”
Two minutes later, April and Dell stood over a sleeping Lang. Dell pulled out a set of cuffs and pointed to April to cover him.
Dell moved like lightning, twisting Lang onto his stomach, securing his hands in a second and a half.
“Let me go!” Lang screamed.
Dell smiled at the writhing man.
“We've got him,” April reported into her comm.
Dell yanked Lang to his feet. The gaunt man's eyes were wide.
“Who the hell are you people?!” Lang demanded.
“Judgment,” Dell said as the others congregated around their prisoner.
They took Lang back to the storage facility they'd set up as their base of operations near the space port. Next door was a landing bay they could use for a fast evac off world if necessary.
Lang was strapped to a chair in the middle of the mostly empty room.
“Who is your contact on Earth?” Dell demanded in an ultra calm voice.
Lang smiled. “As a Federation citizen I demand to know the charges against me, or insist you release me.”
Dell shook his head. “Sorry.”
“I have rights.”
April did her best not to squirm at that, reminding herself of the idea of someone changing time.
“Under Federation law, if you aren't going to charge me, you have no choice but to release me,” Lang said.
Dell stepped back. “Okay. We'll release you.”
April and the other four members of Team Seven stepped up to Dell.
“We can't...” Quislan started before Dell cut him off.
Dell pulled out a subspace comm unit. “This is Team Seven. You can land.” Dell turned to April. “Cut him loose from the chair, but keep the cuffs on him.”
They walked Lang into the landing bay next to their storage facility. A rushing wind blew through the bay, nearly knocking them all down, but it quickly subsided. A minute later, a Klingon Bird of Prey faded into view.
It's landing ramp opened, and three husky Klingons marched down the ramp.
“Commander Bolnak!” Dell called out as he approached the Klingons.
“Captain Navara,” the lead Klingon, several inches taller than the others, said as he smiled wide. “You have something for me?”
April stayed close to Lang as Dell conversed with the Klingon commander.
“I know who and what you are,” Lang murmured so only April could hear.
“I seriously doubt that,” April replied.
“Your are the truth.”
“The truth?” she laughed.
“The truth about the Federation,” he said. “It is designed to keep us docile, to make us color within the lines, to stay in our place, and not to ask too many questions about this society we find ourselves in.” He turned to her. “But the price, that's what no one talks about.”
“Really?! You speak of freedom to a man in handcuffs?!”
April looked down. “You are a danger.”
“Yes... I am. A danger to the status quo, to the rules, to the cage we are in.” He leaned toward her, his eyes wide and wild. “Have you ever asked yourself why there's no real music written today? Why the obsession with music and literature of past centuries? The addiction to the holo-suite? We're domesticated now. The fire which burned in us, creating all that great art has nearly gone out. But there's a purpose to it. It's all to keep us happy in our cage, to keep us from reconciling the killer within with the insightful primate. Even the Vulcans put themselves in a cage called logic. Those who refuse to cage themselves, the Cardassians, the Romulans, we go to war against them.” He snorted. “And you... the truth. You show the Federation's ideals to be a lie. Your existence and what you have done to me is proof of that.”
“This is an extreme circumstance,” April murmured.
“You don't believe that. And even if it were, isn't that the time your ideals should shine all the brighter?” He stared at her. “No. You are the extreme. You, like Section 31, are the last line of defense for the Federation's lies, you are the gatekeeper of the cage.” He leaned back and closed his eyes. “That's why I know what I'm doing is right. Monsters like you have to be stopped.”
“Says every extremist in history,” April retorted, her certainly having returned some.
“You mean like the extremist slavery abolitionists of the nineteenth century?” He looked at her. “I'm not the one imprisoning trillions in a cage they cannot see. I'm not the one violating the code I took an oath to defend.”
Before April could respond, Dell turned to her. “Bring him over here.”
April walked Lang up to Dell who smiled.
“Per the Federation legal code, we are releasing you... into the custody of the Klingon Empire.”
“What?!” Lang shouted.
“They have interests in your activities as well.” Dell leaned toward him. “Of course, if you give me the name of your contact on Earth, I'll take you into custody and have you charged as you requested.”
“You follow the letter of the law to defeat the spirit of the law,” Lang spat at him.
Dell turned to Bolnak. “You may take him, Commander.”
Bolnak gave a nod to the other Klingons and they took Lang.
“You can't let them do this! I am a Federation citizen!” Lang shouted as they took him up the ramp. “I have a right against self incrimination and I now invoke that right. As members of Starfleet, you are required to protect that right.”
The Klingon snorted. “But you aren't on a Federation ship.”
“That doesn't matter. My rights are unalienable and are not dependent upon location.”
April turned to Dell. “He's right, we can't allow this to happen.”
“Our orders from the Federation President say otherwise.”
“Then the President is wrong.”
“Those are our orders... Lieutenant.”
“Pulling rank? On me?” April asked.
“This is how things are,” Dell said. “This man is trading Starfleet secrets. The very existence of the Federation, of the Galaxy, might depend on us finding out who he's sold them to.”
“But this isn't the way to discover that.”
“It's the way we've been ordered to,” Dell said. He turned to the Klingon Commander. “Proceed.”
“Wait!” April called out. She turned to Dell and lowered her voice. “Aren't you worried we're going to be left to take the fall for this if it gets out?”
She shook her head.
“You can't let this happen!”
“Remove his clothing!” the Commander barked.
One of the other Klingons approached Lang and rent his clothing off his body.
“No!” Lang cried. “This can't be happening! I'm doing this for the good of the Federation!”
“Strap him to the ramp,” Bolnak said. He turned back to Dell. “If this insults your sensibilities, I suggest you leave. He is now on a Klingon ship and Klingon law applies.”
Dell turned to April.
“Let's move out,” Dell ordered.
“You're all monsters!” Lang shouted.
Inside their storage facility base of operations, none of them spoke, but instead busied themselves with the task of packing up.
April refused to even look at Dell. Everything they had done seemed so wrong to her. She expected they might bend the rules sometimes in The Program, but this went beyond that.
Dell walked up to her. “Still mad at me?”
She spun about to face him. “This isn't a joke.”
“No, it isn't. This is the most serious thing we've ever done.”
“It's better than the alternative,” Dell said.
“What?” she asked.
“Our orders were clear,” Dell said. “We were to get the information from him, and then terminate.”
“But you told me...”
“However, if we were not able to get the name of his contact, we were required to use any and all means to get that information out of him.”
“But handing him over to the Klingons to torture isn't any better!”
“It's better than us doing it! And that's the only option we would have been left with,” Dell said. “Any and all means was the opening I needed to try something that kept our hands clean.”
April now understood. But she still didn't approve. “I'm glad you were creative enough to keep us from doing something we wouldn't, couldn't have done. But what matters is what's happening to that man right now.”
Dell looked down for a moment, then back at her. “I wish I could be as good as you want me to be.”
“I just want you to be as good as I know you are,” she said, using all her strength not to show him the pain she felt.
Before he could respond, the door opened.
Commander Bolnak entered and handed Dell a PADD.
“I believe this is what the Federation wanted.”
Dell took the PADD and read it. “Yes.”
“The Klingon Empire has harsh penalties for temporal crimes,” Bolnak said. “But he will be given a fair trial.”
“How can a trial be fair when the evidence has been gained from torture?” April asked.
“None of what we gained from him here will be used against him,” Bolnak said. “Who his Earth contact is matters not to us. The evidence your captain provided is enough for a conviction.”
“Thank you, Commander,” Dell said.
“Captain.” And with that, Bolnak left them.
The other members of Team Seven crowded around Dell and April.
Gaw pointed to the PADD. “So, who is his Earth connection?”
Dell looked at the device's display again. “Someone who works at Starfleet Command named...”
Dell's eyes narrowed.
“... Matt Wright.”
* * *
Dark Horizon Story and Characters Copyright ©2019 Michael Gray
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