Episode 88

Star Trek: Phoenix-X
The Nemesis Factor

The Prometheus-class starship Phoenix-X treks through space at tolerable speeds when it suddenly receives a long-range communication. Captain Cell steps out of his Ready Room.

Cell: "Ignore that. It's just Lamat'Ukan again, asking me to stop being so Changeling-y."
Armond: "Sir, we are sending him a cease and desist order at this very second."
Kayl, walking by: "Except the button you're pressing is the gift basket order."
Armond, looks at the panel: "Dammit! This is the last time I play Dominion strategy games over subspace with the Jack-pack all night. The worst part is, the War is finished. Why can't we get over it??"
Seifer: "Because it was just so well done. --Best. War. Ever."
Just then, a nearby control panel beeps.
Red: "Captain! I'm reading a battle about half a parsec away!"
Armond: "Hey now, those sensors are my responsibility."
Red: "If you must know, I monitor for battles all the time. It is Klingon-OCD, so I would not expect you to understand."
Armond: "I do need to be more open-minded."

The ship drops warp and approaches as the badly damaged Romulan T'Varo-class warbird Kano speeds around firing disrupter beams into the Kestrel-class runabout Canti.

Klent: "You think you and your tiny vessel are so sneaky for disabling half our weapons systems, don't you? Well, you're not! Ha!"
Ponz: "Sir, that is not a legitimate comeback."
Klent, turns: "Be quiet! My feelings are hurt. Don't make me feed you to the mollusks."

The Canti swoops in and slams two plasma torpedoes into the Kano, but the close-range resulting explosion knocks the Canti's shields offline.

Klent: "Oh! That's perfect! Let's take advantage of their un-shielded state!"
Ponz: "Uh, but there is the situation of our own ship's systems failing. If we act in exactly 47 seconds, we should be able to save us from destruction."
Klent: "You know about the feelings, Ponz. I told you about them."
Ponz, sighs: "Yes, sir."

He taps the controls and the Kano beams the occupants of the Canti out into cold space. Unfortunately, the Kano's systems overload and the Kano is crushed into its own singularity reactor.

Seifer: "Uh, should we have done something about that?"
Cell: "They had it under control."
Red: "It's strange, but I get you-know-what-ly excited in the presence of death."
Cell: "Ugggh, Red, no. You're confined to quarters for the rest of the day. We talked about your culturally inherent patterns of thinking."
Seifer: "Armond, beam those floating bodies into Sickbay and tell Doctor Lox not to experiment on them. The last thing we need are Romulans with Vulcan personalities-- I just can't see that as a visual."
Armond: "The occupants were sucked into the singularity with the T'Varo-class warbird. All that's left out there is that Kestral-class runabout."
Cell: "Tractor-beam it into the Phoenix-X. Maybe we can find out who it belongs to and return it to its owners. It's the least we could do since their world was destroyed by the Hobus supernova."
Armond: "Captain, you wanted me to remind you when you were engaging in expospeak again?"
Cell: "Belay that. How else are we going to explain things? Narrative? I'll stick to the dialogue; thanks."

Later, Seifer enters the Conference room to pick up a three-dimensional chessboard.

Seifer: "Ah, yes, the only way we get through our staff meetings now. Unfortunately, the solution makes them tens times longer."
>Nelkast: "Then you'll revel at your next mission!"
He jumps back, finding Elena and Nelkast suddenly on the main viewer.
Seifer: "Ah! You know, you guys need to stop listening in before you blink on screen. It's just weird."
>Elena: "We refuse to give up our savvy entrances. Now, this mission is for you, Seifer-- or a subordinate should you feel you are too incompetent to take this on."
Seifer: "Well, I was going to clean out my sonic shower. The dirt has to vibrate off to somewhere and it turns out it's all over the place."
>Nelkast: "That is disgusting. Anyway, we require you to commandeer a cargo/passenger freighter in the Kandari sector. An Orion is heading to the Celes system to sell us a Fantome spy and we want you to confirm the situation."
Seifer: "Whoa! Weren't those quirky little mud creatures specific to the Void in the Delta Quadrant?"
>Elena: "Yes, well, apparently this is a variation of that experience."
Seifer: "Is this whole thing an elaborate form of malevolence against me???"
The Section 31 agents just look at him, confused.
Seifer: "It's just that I interpret new things as personal offenses now."

Down in the shuttlebay, Starfleet Engineering crews swarm the Canti, trying to figure out whatever they can. Cell enters and is approached by Kugo.

Kugo: "Well, it seems the databanks were wiped before its mission, so we don't know anything about this vessel, except for a padd I found on the floor."
Cell: "Throw it out. We have no tolerance for littering on this ship, even if it is a ship inside another ship."
Kugo: "But sir, I did in fact read through the padd and was able to find out what was going on. You see, these Romulans were crossing off a kill-list of a small group of assassins."
Cell: "Talk about forced-irony!"
Kugo: "The target was my former group, of whom employed me as an assassin when I was living my life in service to Romulus."
Cell: "Whoa, whoa, wait. So you're saying this whole 'episode'-- if you will-- is going to be about you, the Vulcan Chief Engineer with emotion?"
Kugo: "Precisely."
Cell: "Ugh. Fine. But I thought you pre-pre-killed everyone from your past unnamed organization, in self-defense, when they, led by a Romulan named Tey, attempted to pre-kill you?"
Kugo: "Almost everyone. There was one person whom did not part-take in that attempt on my life, and I assumed it was because she left--- her name is Lasha; she was my 'sister' growing up on Romulus under my so-called parents."
Cell: "By the rip-torn-shirts-of-Kirk!"
Kugo: "That's not all. She's next on this list, and knowing any good, organized, murderous grouping of individuals, there are backup people to finish the job."
Cell: "We will start an investigation, but I refuse to allow you to cross the line like last time, as you did by murdering Tey without my permission."
Kugo: "But he was shooting me."
Cell: "Commander, you know how I like to be there for the murders."

Later, the Chaffee type shuttlepod Edward drops warp in the Kandari sector and boards the Tuffli-class freighter Tetsu. Commander Seifer and Ensign Dan enter the Bridge out of uniform to meet its departing operator.

Murando: "0930 and you were to arrive 0900. My Risa transport rendezvous' 1000 and I require 30 minutes of preparation. I leave you to command in the immediacy due to the resulting time constraints."
Seifer: "Don't you want to talk and stuff?"
Murando: "Now it's down to 29 minutes! How do I reconcile!?? Ahhh!!!"
He grabs his head and runs out the back door.
Seifer: "Those transport guys sure are crazy."
Ensign Dan: "Seems more of a detailed oriented disposition, actually. Quite beneficial, I imagine."
Seifer: "You're relieved!"
Grumbling, Ensign Dan leaves the Bridge too.
Seifer: "Dammit. I needed him."

On the Bridge of the Phoenix-X, Kugo contacts any Romulan warbird in range. The D'deridex-class Haakona responds.

>Taris: "You're the one sending messages to Romulan ships all over our side of the Neurtral Zone, aren't you?"
Kugo: "Finally, a response! You see, I'm looking for my sister, and I need someone authorized to search civilian databases."
>Taris: "Why should I help you? We're the ones who need help. Our planet is gone and we have a huge Klingon problem."
Kugo: "The Federation is assisting you in border conflicts with the Klingons. We're doing all that we can by opening fire on those ridged-foreheaded meat-brains."
Red, enters: "Wait. The Federation is doing what?"
Kugo: "Not now, Red. --Pfft. Klingons. Am I right?"
>Taris: "Tell me about it. But unfortunately I still do not have any inclination to assist you."
Kugo: "I know I am Vulcan, but I grew up on Romulus. Lasha was my sister, and it's taken me a long time to get over our sibling rivalry to finally do what I should have done a long time ago."
>Taris: "Ugh! You didn't have to get personal like that. Fine. I will send you colony rosters, but keep in mind only civilians are listed on them. It's not very Romulan for us to be so open, but I need the Federation's continued help against this Klingon-garbage."
Red: "What?"

The screen clicks off and Kugo goes to the back of the Bridge to scan the rosters.

Kugo: "Look at this! Lasha's name appears in a civilian list on Nequencia!"
Red: "Is this like an Uhura thing where she doesn't get a last name until decades later?"
Kugo: "Never mind that. We have to change course and go after her."
Suddenly, a nearby chair shape-shifts back into Captain Cell.
Cell: "Sorry, but this is where our investigation ends. Nequencia was taken over by the Klingon Empire two years ago. Due to rising tensions between us and the Klingons, we can't risk going anywhere near those live-crop-eating teeth holders."
Red: "You know, I'm standing right here."

Down in the Messhall, a group of Klingons share a drink over the recent issues as of late.

Kortos: "What is the problem with the Federation? We Klingons can do whatever we want! I say we revolt, Klingon-style!"
Targon: "You say that every day and we never do it. Let's just face the fact that we would be instantly killed by our Changeling of a Captain."
Amos: "Not to mention that it is our duty to improve relations, in the way one may attempt to water a Klingon fireblossom-- which would actually kill it, by the Klingon-by."
Grath: "Has anyone tried the gagh on this ship? It tastes like giant tube grubs."

Suddenly, the entire table shape-shifts into Captain Cell.

Cell: "Has anyone seen Kugo? She's not in Engineering."
Kortos: "Captain?? You.... you heard everything we said?"
Cell: "Yes, and I'm disappointed in you lot for not attempting a mutiny. I taught you to be tougher than that!"
Amos: "If I may suggest, perhaps the computer can confirm her location?"
Cell: "Hm. To ask the computer for the whereabouts of an individual officer seems kind of 'out-there'. But what the heck, let's try it. --Computer! Locate Lieutenant Commander Kugo?"
#Computer: "Lieutenant Commander Kugo is not aboard the Phoenix-X."
Targon: "It probably would have been a quicker communication if you and the computer didn't involve rank titles."
Cell: "--Quiet you! I expect a mutiny attempt this week, or you'll all be scrubbing plasma conduits for a month!"
Grath: "It's the year 2391 and we still haven't found an automated way to do that."

Out in the vastness of deep space, the Romulan Mogai-class warbird Ketaryn treks slowly in a forwardly direction.

Tressa: "Do you think our ship's giant wings make us pretentious? I mean, it's an excessive span, isn't it?"
Heif: "I believe it strikes fear into our enemies, Commander. Even if that fear is of us bringing up our lost home world in a conversational manner, thus creating an awkward social situation our enemies may not want to be in."
Meu: "It's like being the downer at a party."
Tressa: "Romulans do not have 'parties'. Also, we are literally out of Romulan Ale, which we just call Ale."
Detrel: "--Commander, the scan results are in! There is a residual trace of an ion trail matching that of the Remen's ship."
Tressa: "Finally, those Remen fools are going to pay for their crimes of trying to be normal, contributing members of society, and---"

Suddenly, a console beeps and the Phoenix-X drops warp before them. Meu patches in a communication to the main view-screen.

>Cell: "Tressa. It's me, that one guy that does things and such."
Tressa: "Well, well, Captain. So you've finally decided to show your rearrangable face to us after what you did to our last vessel."
>Cell: "Wait. What? We saved you from the 47-virus that plagued both our ships and labeling technologies."
Tressa: "Perhaps what you didn't know was that a generational copy of it remained dormant on our D'deridex-class starship and crippled our engines exactly in the area of and when the Hobus star went supernova. We had to be rescued by a passing Pakled starship, and our vessel was self-crushed to oblivion!"
>Cell: "They're always just 'passing by'. What are they planning? Oh, and why didn't you say anything about the ship mash? I would've offered our apologies and sympathy and all that jazz. Instead, I assumed you were dead."
Tressa: "I thought we were trying to maintain an adversarial relationship; I was trying to keep the status quo."
>Cell: "You did the right thing. Well, I'm checking in with you now because my Chief Engineer is missing, on an unauthorized mission to hunt down her long lost step sister, whom is on another Romulan's kill-list. There were space battles and everything."
Tressa: "That annoying Vulcan of which I passionately hate?? How stereotypically competitive she is to me for some reason! Well, it seems we are, in fact, on the same investigation as I believe a group of Remens are responsible for a slew of similar space-battle murders of late."
>Cell: "Perfect! We should work together in the way soft-enemies do from time to time."
Tressa: "Just, no initiating conversations that reveal social-commenting differences between the two of us. Those are incessantly annoying."
>Cell: "Fine. But I get to keep the untrusting stare-downs."

Meanwhile, the Type-11 shuttlecraft Haruko drops warp in the Nequencia binary star system. Red gets up and joins Kugo at the helm.

Kugo: "Red, you did not have to go with me on this mission. Your career as a record-spotless Klingon Defense Force Exchange officer is not worth trifling with."
Red: "It is odd you would wait the entire trip before saying that. Never-the-less, I must remind you that I am a Klingon, and for some reason, you, a Vulcan, are the most rebellious of our crew."
Kugo: "You do realize you are reducing yourself to specist tones and ignorant perspectives?"
Red: "People don't take me seriously when I speak intelligently. I find I must lower myself to even make a connection anymore."
The console suddenly beeps.
Kugo: "That is our proximity alert. The Klingon ships in this system have not detected our warp signature due to my remodulation of the plasma injectors."
Red: "You Engineers and your crazy made up technobabble."
Kugo: "No, that's actually a thing."
Red: "Sure, some maaaaagical fix-a-ma-jigger."
Kugo: "It really is. I'm tired of people not believing what Starfleet officers can do. From now on, I'm shooting anyone who even shows a hint of doubt."
Red: "Anyway, what is the point in all this? Your step-sister pushed you into a life you never wanted, to serve her own needs."
Kugo: "Work was always the excuse not to be sisters. But now we don't work together, so that logic has been repaired."
Red, takes out a padd: "I'm going to have to teach you about vengeance one day. Let's schedule in June 16th?"

Out in the Kandari sector, the Tetsu makes a stop at Rigel III, picking up a load of passengers. As the freighter jumps to warp, Seifer sneaks a peek at the seating section where everyone, including the Orion target and his Fantome companion, are getting settled in.

Rogg, points: "Hey, wait a minute! Aren't you Seifer?"
Seifer: "I'm sorry, sir, but I do not have a name. I was never able to afford one being that I grew up on the mean streets of Farius Prime. My only mother was a faulty Klingon disrupter. I'll never forget the warmth of her fading power cells."
Rogg: "You sell ample supplies of discount quadrotriticale and powdered newt on the black market! I know this because you were running low when I was in need of a shipment, forcing me to go to some Ferengi named Quark. What an odd name. Honestly, who names their child that?"
Seifer: "Oh, the grain stuff. Yeah, I mostly get third-party Gentonians to do all the work for me. I set that rare, non-taxed, unregulated operation up to cheat people out of their money-- it's sort of a pastime."
Rogg: "I've heard that you have specialized contracts for people that cross you. Oh, you are good. But I do require a new shipment."
Seifer: "Honestly, I've been thinking about command a lot lately and have been having second thoughts about running an illegal gambling ring."
Rogg: "It's trade actually--- wait? You're Symmie the Seif?? You run the underground Tongo tables on Galador II???"
Seifer: "Dammit! Curse my dyslexic nature on suppressed memory. All my criminal activities just seems to jumble together. This interview is over!"

He leaves. Meanwhile, the Ketaryn drops warp outside the Nequencia system and cloaks with Captain Cell and a few of his security officers onboard.

Tressa: "You may be guests aboard my ship, but do not touch anything. We are obsessed with germs. It's not necessarily a Romulan thing; I just had a traumatic childhood."
Cell: "Oh, tell me about it. I have this one Ensign who I forbid to come into any kind of physical contact with surfaces of any kind on my ship, or, irrationally, outside my ship. Also, why do you have replicators everywhere specifically for Romulan soup?"
Tressa: "There are so many recipes for it that a single replicator can barely contain their immense variety."
Cell: "Makes sense."
Heif: "--Commander! I'm reading a Dhelan-class warbird, 100 million kilometers."
Tressa: "Just as I thought. It's the Molaram. If your crew members found their target, they have likely been captured and are now on this vessel."
Cell: "But murdering and such?"
Tressa: "Despite that being the Reman method, this specific grouping knows good hostages when they see them. --Meu, drop cloak, alter course and hail the offending vessel."
Meu: "Um, obviously. Thanks for insulting my intelligence."
The screen clicks on.
>Zahkti: "Commander Tressa, we just got finished escaping you. Are you aware how psychologically damaging repetition can be?"
Tressa: "Hand over the crew members from the Phoenix-X and you won't be harmed."
>Zahkti: "Remans don't take orders from Romulans."
Tressa: "Actually, that has been the basis of our culture for at least two centuries."
>Zahkti: "You're such a meanie. We have our own planet now-- a planet that you Romulans tried to live on but couldn't. The harsh environment is like candy to us. Dust and rocks and dry air; we can't get enough!"
Tressa: "What? We like those cough-hack environments too. Tell them, Detrel."
Detrel: "Uhhhh, yeah, yeah. We're into that. I eat rocks for breakfast."

Meanwhile, the Haruko enters the atmosphere of the planet Nequencia and parks behind some giant rocks near a small colonial town attached to a Klingon Defense Force base. The two occupants exit, make their way down to the base, and sneak their away into it.

Red: "This is ridiculous. These are my people. Why don't I go speak to them? I recognize that one guard. We went to the Klingon Academy together! He was weird though-- always putting his hand on the small of my back."
Kugo: "We have to keep a low profile. An occupying force is never understanding of a situation outside their militaristic objectives."
Red: "Well, how can they if you never give them the chance?"
Nogoth: "--Spies!"
They turn to find a slew of Klingon guards aiming disrupter rifles at them.
Kugo: "Dammit. I forgot to mask my scent, didn't I?"
Nogoth: "Your smell is that of roses and daisies. As a rule, it is completely offensive to Klingons of all varieties."
Red: "So, ultimately, we brought ourselves to our own demise? That is worse than a giant black blob consuming someone who would, in some alternate universe and time, later regret arrogantly leaving a television series in its first season."
Nogoth: "Wait; are you a Klingon Defense Force officer? Oh, you're not under our arrest. You're one of us."
Red: "Really? This is great!"
Kugo: "Red!"
Red: "Ah, right; the loyalty thing. Are we sure that is the same as being honourable? Are we sure?"
Suddenly, a large explosion occurs between the grouping of guards, knocking everyone off their feet in a fit of chaos. A quick and sharp Romulan jumps through the smoke and helps Kugo and Red to their feet.
Lasha: "We don't have much time to lose. I have a cloaked shuttle inside the colony, but I've never been able to repair its engines."
Kugo: "Lasha! I'm in shock so anything you say right now is most likely going over my head."
Lasha: "Dammit. That means repeating myself later."

She leads them into a nearby air-vent to escape. Just outside the binary star system, the Ketaryn locks a tractor beam onto the smaller Dhelan-class warbird Molaram.

Tressa: "Surrender your vessel to the might of the Romulan Star Empire."
>Zahkti: "The way you phrase that is just...... It's kind of weird. Also, we don't have anyone's crewmembers. We'll allow an escorted search, but we will not surrender."
Cell: "Commander, you are being very discriminatory toward these people. They're nothing like what you've described. In fact, they seem delightful and fun, like a joyful romp for the whole family."
>Zahkti: "Has none of our bitterness been apparent at all?"
Tressa: "These 'friends' have been hiding one important thing from us-- You see, they have been gathering parts for a weapon of mass destruction. We have been tracking their purchases of Thalaron triggers!"
Cell: "What?? I find that hard believe with these little angels."
>Zahkti: "Exactly! She's lying to you. She just has a hatred for Remens, furthered by her sociopathic words of saying your crewmembers are on our ship. Do we look like the types to kidnap, nay, kill? I mean, seriously, look at our faces."

The Remen crew just stare out, adorably.

Cell: "Awww. All I want to do is pinch your cheeks. --I hate to say it, but this is seemingly all of your own device, Tressa. Often it is Romulans who do not trust others, so I will take that as a projection of your true nature."
Tressa: "How dare you, Captain! I'm truthful and a pleasure to be around! Just ask any of the surviving Romulan warbirds who have had contact with me."
Cell: "Really? Like who?"
Tressa: "Well, there's...... the Belak, the scout ship Pi, the Narada---"
>Zahkti: "All of which are destroyed, I might add."
Tressa: "I've had enough of this! Surrender yourself immediately, or suffer the consequences of actions ordered by me!"
Cell: "I'm afraid I must enact cessation, Commander. You could call it insurrection, but I wouldn't; too gimmicky."

He takes out an emergency transponder and activates it. Moments later, the Phoenix-X drops out of warp and approaches the Ketaryn.

Tressa: "You had one of those devices Riker used during his Officer exchange program aboard the IKS Pagh in 2365??"
Cell: "I see ol' Beardo's early exploits have finally made it to Romulus. You guys are way behind is what I'm trying to say."

Captain Cell and his security team are beamed back to the Phoenix-X. Meanwhile, back on Nequencia, Kugo is brought into a giant empty backyard in the Romulan suburbs.

Roko: "Is it safe to have these people here, Lasha?"
Lasha: "Again with the paranoia, Roko? Ever since you tried the gagh here, you've been increasingly insolent toward me."
Roko: "Did you know there are underground gagh race tournaments on this planet? You eat the losers."
They flick a switch and a Romulan Tiercel-class shuttle uncloaks. On the side is an open panel, showing exposed parts.
Kugo: "Ah, I see what the problem is here. Your nullifier core circuits have been crossed with your hyperpower circuits. It just takes a little soldering, that's all."

As she and Red get to work, Roko pulls Lasha aside.

Roko: "My earlier sentiments, only, now, reiterated."
Lasha: "I agree with your concern. From my years of intel on my Vulcan step sister, I've come to know it's been speculated these people have done missions for Section 31."
Roko: "What are you, Tal Shiar?"
Lasha: "An agent once gave me the nod of approval for my civilian secret assassination team, but that was it. Intelligence gathering is just a by-product of planned murdering."
Roko: "Ugh. They didn't approve my application either. Joining them is tougher than shooting bullets at a Soong-type android."
Lasha: "I'm not sure if that's ever been tried before, but you're right. All I can do is keep murdering people on contract and hope for the best."
Roko: "You and me both! Let's step up the killing, am I right? Anyway, I've acquired the access codes for Taris' active Romulan fleet movements. As soon as we're away from the scattering field, we'll connect to the nearby relay station and track our target."
Lasha: "So? Are you saying I don't know who our target is? I know who's been trying to kill us."
Roko: "Who?"
Lasha: "Probably this guy I went to high school with. Marketh, I think his name was. Had noooooo sense of personal space, or a sense of where to keep his eyes."

They glance over as Kugo and Red approach them.

Kugo: "Engine is repaired."
Lasha: "Perfect! Let's get out of here before more of those beast-mode beard-obsessors trot around like their targs own the place."
Red: "What is up with the Klingon hate lately? Is it me?"
Kugo: "Anyway, in terms of your killer, I believe I can assist in that area. Using your computers, I was able to decrypt an internal ship marker embedded in a padd I acquired from a Kestrel-class runabout earlier. The runabout was engaged in murder-affairs and such."
Lasha: "Well, you're turning out to be more of a help than I imagined. By comparison to your contributions, I'm a sniveling Hanonian land eel from the Delta Quadrant."
Red: "Ah, self-deprecation-- always cutting the middle-man out."
Kugo: "Lasha, of course I am to help you. We are sisters."
Lasha: "What are you talking abou---? Ohh, yeah; the whole growing up together arrangement. Yes, I suppose that conclusion can be strung together somehow."

Over on the outskirts of the Celes sector, the Tetsu continues on its course. Seifer enteres the cargo hold to check the situation, but he is suddenly confronted with the Fantome creature.

Seifer: "Ah! Don't kill me. I'm just a poor rich boy with a lot of money and pre-established privilege--"
The creature holds up a padd and taps at it. The device converts its musical input into a voice.
Fanta's padd: "You---are--not--who--you--say--you--are--"
Seifer: "Uh, before we get into that. Can you please tell me how you got to this Quadrant?"
Fanta's padd: "I--escaped--the--Void---and--lived--on--Voyager--until--its--return--home. --Learning--about--that--preposterous--crew--in----secret, I --came--to---never--want--off--a--ship--more--than--that--ship----my--entire--hidden--life."
Seifer: "Ha! That situation is incredibly plausible. And, back to your previous comment-- People don't need to be honest in this universe. Now, the mirror universe; that's one I'd like to visit some time-- for completely unrelated reasons."
Fanta's padd: "You--are--from--Starfleet---"
Seifer: "Whoa there! Was it when I started recalibrating everything? Was it my attempt to eat replicator rations over replicated food? Was it my innate fear of Talaxians?"
Fanta's padd: "--It--was--obvious----by--your--advanced--organization--practices--and---ship--upkeep."
Seifer: "I was just trying to do a good job here. You see, I'm trying to prove I can run a good vessel."
Fanta's padd: "Running--illegal--activities--is----counter--to--said--goals, ---especially--for--a--Starfleet--officer."
Seifer: "It's like you're in my brain! Further to my motivations, you see, I'm a Trill, and my Symbiont's last life was that of a life of crime. I've only ever been complying with my natural tendencies. But perhaps you are right. Perhaps it's time for a change."
Fanta's padd: "Give--me--all--your--illegal--assets----so--I--will--run--them--"
Seifer: "Technically, I should be shutting those down and handing myself in, since I'm in a supposed position of authority and quote-unquote role model. But, in truth, your idea is an easier transition for me-- We are, after-all, fragile creatures of routine."
Fanta's padd: "There---is--only--one--catch. ---You--must--not--hand--me--over--to--the--Section--31----I--must--get--away--from--the--Orion."
Seifer: "Uh, we never agreed that I would have to work. That's not my style for not-ship things."
Fanta's padd: "Your--problem--is--your--conflict--ing---life---, --while--freedom--is--my--right."
Seifer: "Ohhh, it's one of those things. Well, I guess. Not sure when slavery became a bad thing, but I suppose I should change with the times."

Leaving the atmosphere of Nequencia, the cloaked Tiercel-class shuttle Akemi flew out into the binary star system towards its edges.

Kugo: "Sync up with the nearest Romulan relay station."
Lasha: "Who dares give me orders---??? Oh, right. You. You know, this is very strange."
She taps at the controls.
Lasha: "There's a lag in the relay response. Ever since our people have become nomadic, in a sense, repairs on our deep space systems have been lacked--- Talk about shirking responsibilities, am I right?"
Kugo: "Wait. Wasn't the home world destroyed?"
Lasha: "Supposedly. You'd be surprised at what the Tal Shiar can hide."

She gets up and goes into the other section to speak with Roko.

Red: "Kugo, I do not trust her, and it's not just because Klingons are built to despise Romulans."
Kugo: "Although, that is a convenient trapping."
Red: "Lasha is constantly toiling away secret conversations with her partner, and she is continually shifting her eyes left and right."
Kugo: "That's crazy, Red! Her secretive nature is just a by-product of her desire at joining the Tal Shiar. You ever see an un-sneaky agent? They're always dead within the first five minutes of service."
Red: "Just because you do not like the idea, does not mean it isn't true. You are engaged in biased logic."
Kugo: "Pfft. All logic is biased logic. --All conversation is contrived. --Everything is nothing.... Well, great; now I'm in an existential feed back."

Suddenly, the console beeps and the computer syncs up with the nearby relay station. Not too far away, the Phoenix-X faces off with the Ketaryn, siding with the Molaram.

Cell: "Is it just me, or have we been sitting here in stalemate for a really long time?"
>Tressa: "You may find this surprising, but it is traditional Romulan tactic to wait out the opponent for as long as possible."
> Zahkti: "Yeah, I'm going to have to agree with her on that one. I suggest researching the logs of Captain James T. Kirk and his encounters with the T'liss-class warbird Gal Gath'thong. It's fascinating reading. The vernacular he uses is so old and he constantly objectifies women."
Cell: "Listen to me, Tressa. You've been treating the Reman's unfairly and I'm here to interfere with your culture and tell you what to do and what not to do!"
>Tressa: "I really thought you had directives against that sort of thing? Never mind. Maybe it was a dream I had. Anyway, you won't stop me from my things and that! Also, the greater good as I see it! Attacking!"

The screen clicks off and the Mogai-class Ketaryn fires a plasma beam at the Phoenix-X and then another at the Molaram. The Prometheus-class Phoenix-X returns fire with phasers and a photon torpedo; likewise, the Dhelan-class Molaram launches a plasma torpedo at Tressa's ship.

Unnoticeably, the cloaked Tiercel-class shuttle Akemi drops warp near the battle and fathoms the situation at hand.

Roko: "Well, this is awkward! I feel like we just walked in on an elderly couple doing 'the deed'. Ugh. Horrible imagery-- that's what I'm trying to say here."
Lasha: "This is perfect. Our killers will either be destroyed, or will emerge triumphantly with severe ship damage-- Damage that will ensure a strike from our quarters is more substantial."
Red: "You fools! That Federation vessel is my ship!"
Lasha: "But....... you're Klingon....... and...... What?"
Roko: "According to secret Romulan database thingies, which I can't produce at the moment-- don't ask--- not because I'm building on something Lasha told me earlier, or because the conclusion is really convenient--- the Phoenix-X has been suspected of working with a secret Federation organization called Section 47!"
Kugo: "It's 31, genius."
Lasha, takes out a disrupter: "Well, well. Look who's working for the enemy."
Kugo: "What? No I'm not! We came to save your life! The one I had no idea existed or had no inclination of how it was lived after we parted ways!"
Red: "Indeed. The Section 31 connection is unrelated to this unsanctioned mission. Even though that is their style. I'm not helping, am I?"

Suddenly, a stray phaser beam hits the preoccupied Akemi and knocks the cloak offline. Red takes out an emergency transponder and activates it. With the Phoenix-X and the Ketaryn having the Molaram locked in converging tractor beams, Cell momentarily halts his attacks and hails the shuttle.

Lasha: "Damn that ol' Beardo Riker!!"
>Cell: "Oh, him, yeah we know about him. Also, Kugo and Red-- I knew you weren’t being taken hostage by those horribly ugly, but innocent, Remans??"
Red: "It would appear the situation is just that, but with a different species-- Romulans, probably."
Kugo, working: "The padd we found on the Canti sync's up with the Ketaryn and according to Taris' records from the relay station, the Ketaryn is commanded by Commander Tressa!"
>Cell: "Thanks for last week's news, Kugo."
Lasha: "You fool-- it's Tressa who has been trying to unjustifiably kill me and my group of murderers!"
>Tressa, blinks on: "Okay, I've ceased fire because I've been monitoring communications and I don't like how you guys are talking about me behind my back."
>Cell: "What the hell, Tressa. You've been the murderer all along?? That is the opposite of helpful for us, considering its led to the hostage-taking of two of my crew members. They're not Human, but Starfleet rules say they still matter."
>Tressa: "Are you seriously blaming me for a chain-reaction event that has no actual connection to me what-so-ever, other than I happen to be the source-cause? That's just rude."
Lasha: "Here's the deal, Captain. You continue destroying that Romulan-veruul, and I'll release your precious Engineer and confused-Klingon-who-thinks-he's-in-Starfleet to you, unharmed, and, pray, with a better understanding of Romulan soups-culture."
Kugo: "Or what? You'll kill me? Just like you killed Ensign Lynch?"
Lasha: "That was a different thing. Anyway; so what's it going to be, Phoenix-X? And hurry it up. I have a to-be-alive appointment after this."

Meanwhile, the Tuffli-class freighter Tetsu approaches Starbase 114 in the Celes system.

Zelle: "Greetings, lowly transport vessel of which I cannot be bothered to read the name of, you have been cleared to dock."
Seifer: "Thank you, Commander?"

The freighter docks and both airlocks connect and open. Preoccupied in thought, Seifer exits the cockpit area, enters the passenger seating area, which is being cleared out, and does not notice as his undercover subordinate walks straight for him.

Ensign Dan: "Sir, I've collected all our weapons and I brought extras because we were out of power cells from using them all in those palm beacons during our annual ship-wide midnight targ hunt and--- ugh!"

Seifer bumps into Ensign Dan who is holding a carry bag, and accidentally knocks it to the floor. All the phasers litter out into the aisle, where a getting-ready-to-leave Rogg, Fanta, and a just-entering Murando notice them.

In a moments hesitation, all five remaining people quickly grab a phaser for each hand and aim it to the nearest man; the result, everyone in a circle, in a Mexican stand-off.

Murando, aiming: "1800 hours off vacation schedule. 2100 hour scheduled meet up with Tetsu. 30 hour delay to retrieve forgotten swimsuit."
Seifer, aiming: "I probably shouldn't have stopped off at that ice cream world. Anyway, how do these stand-offs work?"
Rogg, aiming: "Usually, whoever shoots first is the primary occupied individual which results in them being the first to be vulnerable by said occupied focus. Whoever shoots the first shooter is then the second occupied individual, becoming open as well-- The process goes until the final man, the fifth one, the one who chose to shoot last, is standing and wins."
Fanta's padd: "--What--if----second-shooter---is--shot--twice---each---by---shooter--three--and---four--?"
Rogg: "Then the final shooter, the fifth one, becomes vulnerable to the either shooter number three or four, which ever one he didn't shoot at opportunity. Three or four then wins."
Seifer: "Wait. Why don't I just use my thumb to set my phaser to the wide-field setting, effectively knocking everyone out as Sisko should have done during the Siege of AR-558?"
Ensign Dan, aiming: "Because the power cells in our phasers are drained from the pre-mentioned targ hunts. It was, honestly, the longest targ hunt we ever had on the Phoenix-X; likely to appease the Klingons on the exchange program after all the trouble Starfleet has been into with their people."
Fanta's padd: "--Exchange--program---with--enemy----makes---no--sense--"
Seifer: "What? How dare you criticize judgment calls by Starfleet, home of ex-Admiral Leyton???"

Commander Seifer shoots and knocks out the most obvious target first, Ensign Dan. Rogg and Murando both shoot Seifer, leaving Fanta free to shoot Rogg. Murando shoots Fanta and steps over everyone to find his swimsuit in the back room.

Back outside the Celes system, the Galor-class Cardassian ship Serket drops warp and approaches the situation with the Phoenix-X, Ketaryn, Molaram and Akemi. It opens communication.

Meloneus: "Well, hello there, group! I bet you're wondering what a Cardassian has to do with all of this. I know I'm excited about the prospects!"
>Lasha: "Just to add to your knowledge, we're knee-deep into our issues right now and we've begun discussing feelings and motivations--- real layered allocution, so things could get socially awkward for you."
>Cell: "What the hell?? Meloneus??? You abandoned the Cardassian government years ago and disappeared after you angered a bunch of space pirates??"
Meloneus: "Yeah, I wasn't a people person back then. The space wretches destroyed my other ship in the Vlugta asteroid field, but I was able to make it out in an escape pod. A passing Pakled starship found me and saved me from certain doom."
>Cell: "Again with those slacked-jawed recluses??"
Meloneus: "I soon ascertained that an obsession I had for the Founders was actually a stepping stone to understanding their real function. You see, through their collaboration with my people, they enabled a stronger, more powerful regime."
>Cell: "Welcome to two decades ago."
Meloneus: "Now I represent that part of Cardassia who wants that kind of aggression back! I present to you, The True Way!"
>Tressa: "That's great shock-value and all, but how does this apply to the situation at hand?"
Meloneus: "Because, my dear; who do you think gave you your orders to track down your own people and kill them? The Tal Shiar??"
>Tressa: "Uh, yeah, I'm the Tal Shiar, thanks."
>Zahkti: "That's not true! She only does missions for them. Tressa has never actually been Tal Shiar, although that has never stopped her from selling herself that way."
>Tressa: "Shut up, Zahkti! You always ruin things, like mining on Remus. What happened to that?"
>Zahkti: "The Hobus star exploded and destroyed my planet?"
Meloneus: "Atrophy or not, your Reman 'friend' is right; otherwise you would've seen straight through my fabrications. I faked those orders using your own relay stations so I could have you amass thalaron technology from Lasha's people!"
>Tressa: "You used me??? And after I branched out to other sources in favour of you-- the you that I thought was the Tal Shiar."
Meloneus: "Yes, but you were taking too long. The truth is, I am an impatient man, which is characteristic of bad guys, so I'm sure you're not surprised."
>Lasha: "So you were using Tressa to get to my people, while we were acquiring thalaron technology from the Remans?"
>Zahkti: "Hi, the Remans here. Don't we get a say in things?"
Meloneus: "No!! For the reality is, I have all the thalaron parts I need. Your ship, the Molaram, just had the labeling technology in its cargo. But I don't need to know what these buttons are. My impatience precludes that. So, in light of a lack of necessity, I will now prepare for pressing things!!"

The screen cuts out and the Serket ejects a giant thalaron barrel which begins to power up. Captain Cell hails Zahkti.

>Cell: "You guys get out of here while we put a stop to this, Federation-style."
Zahkti: "Relax. It'll take him seven minutes to fire that thing. We have tons of time."
>Cell: "I really think this is something we should do immediately?"
Zahkti: "Didn't you hear me? Seven minutes. That's, like, an eternity; more than enough time to grab a coffee, or, if you prefer, a raktajino. --Besides, you have done much by standing up for us. We'd like to thank you. We owe you that."
>Cell: "Oh?"
Zahkti: "Meloneus' Galor-class vessel is in beta-testing mode with the thalaron weapon. Since us Remans helped develop thalaron technology, we have the access codes to get into his weapon and disable it remotely."
>Cell: "Well, thanks. Perhaps I will take this time to catch up on the book Mody Dick. Something tells me I need to be quoting it more."
Zahkti: "Sure, yes, but I was expecting something less involving, since we'll also need you to take out the Serket's shields. With the shields up, we can't get a signal through."
>Cell: "Hm. Maybe, then, I'll just run a Level 2 diagnostic; it's automated, so less work on my end. Great. This has been an acceptable compromise. Let's 'make it so'. I'm thinking of claiming that as my catch-phrase since Picard's retired now."

The Phoenix-X speeds around and fires phasers into the Serket, which replies in-kind with photon torpedoes. Another few more hits and the Serekt loses starboard shields, just long enough for the command to be sent out to the weapon; that command being: Sleep.

Tellus: "They have stopped our weapon before we could fire it!!"
Meloneus: "What the hell? Why are the Remans being so mean? Anyway, let us enlist the help of the Ketaryn and destroy these repellant fools."
Tellus: "Sir, the Ketaryn has begun firing plasma beams into our thalaron barrel! It's like they're switching sides like our Cardassian counterparts did during the Dominion War!"
Meloneus: "I told you never to mention that! You know how TV-grade cheesy the whole affair was when the Dominion ships turned around and retreated. Suuuuch a trope. Also, it took us weeks to assemble that weapon in space. I even put on a Cardassian environmental suit to help the crews out myself! What of the hard work? What of it? That's the real question here."

The Ketaryn blows the thalaron barrel to pieces, prompting the Serket to turn in space and jump to warp. The Phoenix-X and the Molaram power down while the shuttle Akemi goes on stand-by.

Not long after, the Chaffee type shuttlepod Edward drops warp and takes home in the Phoenix-X's shuttle bay. Cell beams over to the Ketaryn to speak with Tressa.

Cell: "So, are you guys going to be alright? Do you need any more colony worlds or anything? I know this great place in the Hromi Cluster."
Tressa: "That area is wrought with boredom! But, thank you. I owe you an apology for the way I have been behaving."
Cell: "Save it. I was breaking the Prime Directive anyway, albeit fun as that is. Not to mention, I understand the pressure you are under as someone with no home. I'm barred from ever going back to mine. Not that I want to. Heh, heh... What were talking about again?"

Suddenly, another Romulan steps halfway out of the shadows.

Vika: "An unfortunate circumstance, Captain. One we will update our file of you on."
Cell: "What the hell? So a guy can't be honest about himself on a Romulan ship? That is so annoying."
Tressa: "Vika? I thought I received my orders from Meloneus, thus proving myself the worst Tal Shiar apprentice ever?"
Vika: "Indeed, you did receive your orders from him. But this folly isn't enough to stack against your true self; your impeccable quick-to-act nature coupled with stoic vigor and intelligence."
Cell: "Well that's nice of you to say."
Vika: "Yes and when I tell my superiors about you, Tressa, we will finally have you as a member. Join me now and leave this ship with me."
Tressa: "Whoa! You've been giving me orders for years and your bosses aren't even aware of me??"
Vika: "One's track record is presented only upon interest. Secrecy and limited-intel is how we work, Tressa. You know this."
Tressa: "You're right. I also know there is something about me you didn't mention that I discovered today-- and that is the horrible person I have become, of which led me to impeccable ruin. I'm sorry, but I will not go with you."
Vika: "Very well. I had feared as much, and as the preparer I am, I am fine with that. You haven't been the only one on my list, after all."

She taps a padd and is transported away.

Cell: "That was intense. I literally was just about to lose my shape from all the strain. In fact, I may have sprung a leak and you should call your ship janitor."
Suddenly a nearby control panel beeps and Tressa checks it.
Tressa: "It's a message from Admiral Taris. Apparently, Starfleet has pulled back from assisting us at the Klingon-Romulan border to instead protect poorly run Federation freighter ships. She wants all available Romulan ships to report to her in the Zeta Pictoris system."
Cell: "Didn't she die and get replaced by Toreth? Hm... No, I suppose we never actually saw that."
Tressa: "Perhaps this is where we depart, Captain. Who knows, this may force us to establish a new home world sooner than we thought. --If you'll transport my shuttle, the Canti, that Kestrel-class runabout from the beginning, back over to my ship, we'll be on our way."
Cell: "That was yours??? Sorry about your men. They were beamed out into space and then sucked into a singularity. Worst way to go in my opinion."

Over on the Phoenix-X, Commander Seifer meets Armond in the Conference room, back in Starfleet uniform. The screen clicks on.

Seifer: "Ugh. I have such a hangover. Why is that the result of phasers and not drinking in this pseudo-future?"
>Nelkast: "You! We did not receive the Fantome creature, nor did any of your cargo get delivered to any of its destinations!"
Seifer: "First of all, slavery? Also, while we were unconscious, Commander Zelle automated the Tetsu back onto its regular course and our ship got raided by Nausicaans. They even stole the padd with my logs."
>Elena: "Undercover operatives are not to be taking logs! Section 31 out!"
The screen clicks off.
Seifer: "Well, great. I failed as a ship's commanding officer-- the thing I was trying not to do."
Armond: "Sir, that was hardly an adequate test, since the command structure was wiped after you relieved Ensign Dan-- an obligatory measure, of course. But according to the Tetsu's logs, systems were running smoother than ever before, and the passenger feedback was all positive."
Seifer: "I did give that one person a free massage. Why am I always drawing conclusions before checking ship reports? Ugh. Anyway, thanks. You can have that fifteen minute break after all."
Armond: "Sir, I keep telling you that is a standard agenda for Starfleet officers."
Seifer: "I decide what is regulation! Break revoked!"

Down in Engineering, Kugo has returned to duty, ensuring the engines are back in order.

Gewdeque: "Ma'am, we may have diluted our deuterium with Romulan ale. But I will not confirm nor deny this."
Kugo: "It is fine, Ensign. The dilithium seems to be reacting even better with it. Let's make this new procedure."
Gewdeque: "What?"

She goes to work anyway, when Lasha suddenly enters the room with Red as an escort.

Lasha: "I've come to say my goodbyes. Thank you for assisting me."
Kugo: "Had I known you were collecting thalaron technology, I would have phasered myself before leaving the ship."
Lasha: "Seems like an odd thing to do, when you could just choose not to leave your vessel. Anyway, the truth is, you are more Romulan than I expected for a Vulcan."
Kugo: "Stay on board the Phoenix-X for a while. I've been reprimanded for my actions, but I won't let let that prevent us from reconnecting. I will show you the way of no emotion. If it's the X you're confused about, we won it in a Ferengi auction?"
Lasha: "Your suggestion is the opposite of Romulan! What did I just finish telling you? Besides, all my hard work has finally paid off. I was just visited by a Tal Shiar member, by the name of Vika. She wants me to join and leave with her immediately."
Kugo: "What about Roko?"
Lasha: "He's going on stand-by while I put in a good word for him. It's not the perfect way to treat people, but it's a way."
Kugo: "Lasha, the Tal Shiar are a horrible, oppressive organization with no regard for the lives of Romulans. They're raiding a Romulan flotilla outside this system as we speak!"
Lasha: "I know. They're perfect! Well, I have to get going. Orientation consists of brutally stealing a Romulan citizen's life and then taunting him with it over subspace messages. See-ya!"
She leaves.
Red: "She was not very honourable. Please accept my apologies for such a dishonourable sister."
Kugo: "I don't know that I do have a sister, Red; but, thanks to you, I do have a brother."