Bonds of Affinity

Written by  on May 19, 2003 


It’s a day in the life aboard the Enterprise… while the Wayfarer fights for survival.

Written by Kristian Kanding

Stardate 78634.5
Release 19 May 2003

Captain’s Log, Stardate 78634.5

After a successful survey of Sector Delta 43, Astrometric sensors have spotted an intriguing spatial anomaly in a nearby Mutara-Class nebula. At the request of our Director of Science, I have decided to send the Wayfarer in for a closer look while Enterprise proceeds to make first contact with the Illidarians.

Since there have been no reports of either Kazon or Krowtonan activities in the area, I have decided to assign the command of the Wayfarer to Lt. Wildman. This type of mission will be a perfect chance for a promising Starfleet officer to get command experience….

"Good morning, sweetie. Time to rise and shine." Naomi called out to her daughter as she let the door to Sabrina’s room open.

Sabrina blinked a couple of times and then made a big yawn before sitting up in her bed. "Mom, when are we having our picnic?" she called back as she rubbed the sleep off her eyes.

"It’s on Saturday." Naomi’s lightly amused voice responded, Sabrina had been asking the same question for several days now and her anticipation seemed to grow as the day came closer. The picnic was a small gathering for parents and children that the DeltaCare—the shipboard daycare center—had arranged to let the families with young children get to know each other better.

"Are we gonna have hot dogs?" Sabrina asked as she tumbled out of her room and headed towards the dining table where Naomi had prepared for their breakfast.

Naomi smiled at her daughter and was just about to reply as the computer signaled for an incoming message. She looked up and then returned her gaze to her child and replied with a smile, "Yes, I will bring all your favorites." She then looked back at the work terminal and said, "Computer, play incoming call."

The computer obeyed her command and the image of Captain Harry Kim materialized on the screen.

"Good morning, Lieutenant," he said with a smile before continuing. "I hope I haven’t caught you too early?"

"No, sir," Naomi said as she straightened her uniform. "Sabrina and I were just about to sit down to breakfast. I’ll be there for the briefing right after I drop her off at DeltaCare."

"Belay that," he said amiably. "You won’t be present at the morning briefing. I’ve got something special in mind. Commander Kalan and I have discussed it, and I think that you’re ready to lead an away mission of your own."

"Sir?" Naomi said curiously. "The first contact with Illidaria? But that’s a diplomatic mission. I thought that…"

Harry chuckled at the misunderstanding. "Actually, I was referring to the anomaly you found the other day. Annika and the science team have analyzed the data and they agree that it’s worth a closer look. So, you’re to be assigned command of the Wayfarer and conduct a more detailed survey."

"I…I don’t know what to say, sir," she stammered. "Thank you."

"You’ve earned this shot, Naomi," he said warmly. "Mission details and crew complement are being downloaded to you right now. I’ll expect you to review them and have a preliminary report for me by 1030. Oh, and don’t worry about that picnic you asked time off for. You should be back and have plenty of time to prepare for it after the mission ends. Kim out."

When the screen had blanked out Naomi still looked at it for a moment. She was of course excited, not that she had never commanded missions before, but this time she would be commanding an entire ship, small compared to Enterprise perhaps but still a real warp-capable starship.

Sabrina looked at her mother and saw how the message from the captain had changed the expression on her mother’s face. She continued to look at her mother as she took a bite from her cereal and waited for her to explain what it was about.

"Guess what, sweetie?" Naomi gushed. "Your mommy’s going to be commanding her first starship. Isn’t that exciting?"

"Can I go too?" Sabrina leapt up with excitement. "I wanna see you fly your ship!"

"Sorry, honey. It’s a mission. No kids allowed." Naomi looked down at Sabrina and gave her daughter a smile, "What would you say about staying with the Kims tonight, honey?"

Sabrina looked back and a happy smile spread over her face, "Will Katrina play with me?" she asked with a hopeful grin.

"I’m sure she will." Naomi answered and gave Sabrina a pat on her head. With that she called out to the computer, "Lieutenant Wildman to Dr. Kim."

The computer acknowledged and soon Annika’s voice could be heard from the speakers, "Kim here."

"Good morning, Annika. I’m sure you heard the news. The captain decided to put me in charge of the away mission on the Wayfarer."

"Indeed. Harry informed me of his decision last night. Congratulations are in order. I am certain you will perform with excellence."

"Thank you," said Naomi. "Anyhow, I hate to impose, especially at the last minute. But would it be possible for Katrina to look after Sabrina tonight? I’ll probably be going over the mission objectives with the captain all day in preparation for launch."

"Of course she can," Annika answered with a warm voice. "I will tell Katrina that she will be babysitting tonight." She loved the little girl and she always gave her sentimental memories of when Katrina was her age.

Before Naomi could reply, Sabrina chimed in with a firm, "I’m a big girl! I don’t need a babysitter!"

With a voice filled of mirth Annika replied, "Of course, little one. But I am sure that you and Katrina will have fun together."

Naomi laughed lightly and then said, "Ok, so Katrina will pick her up at DeltaCare then?"

"Yes, I will tell her that."

"That would be wonderful. Thank you."

"There is nothing to thank me for. Kim out," Annika answered before the channel was closed.

Naomi turned her look back at her daughter and saw that she had finished her sandwich. "OK, are you finished with you breakfast?" she asked and got a nod in reply, "Good. Then hurry and get dressed, Mommy has to go and prepare for her briefing with the captain."

Sabrina complied and went off to her room with happy, bouncing steps that caused Naomi to call out to her. "No jumping."

"Hi there, why the ginky look?" Pana inquired as she, Bree and Tiffany, whom of course was talking to Curtis, met Katrina at the entrance to the classroom.

"I have to baby-sit Lieutenant Wildman’s daughter." Katrina replied with a sour look over her lips.

"Oh, so you won’t be able to make it to the jam?" Bree asked the obvious.

"No, maybe later when Sabrina has gone to bed, but I’m not sure. It sounded like Mom meant I’d have to take care of her for the entire night." Katrina replied. She barely managed to not roll her eyes at Bree’s question.

"That docks!" Pana shot in, and made Tiffany and Curtis to turn their attention off of each other and to the others.

"What docks?" Tiffany asked with a confused look.

"Katrina here probably won’t be able to make it tonight." Pana explained as she gave the two a dirty look.

"Aww, that’s not fun at all." Tiffany, said and gave Katrina a look of sympathy. "Are you grounded or something?"

"No, it’s just what my mother likes to call ‘mature responsibility,’ that’s all," Katrina groaned.

"Say," Tiffany leaned in with a wild grin, "have you seen Dr. Saldeed lately?"

"W-what makes you think that I’ve seen her?" Katrina asked nervously, wishing that the subject would change. Her father had made her promise to never speak of the circumstances of Saldeed’s brief confinement to quarters, which meant having to keep secrets from her friends. But she knew that revealing the Romulan doctor’s history with the Tal Shiar would quickly spread throughout the ship if even a few people outside the senior staff were told. Her father was naturally concerned that the Romulan crewmembers might be inclined to engage in vigilante justice were the truth ever to come out. And while Tiffany Limos might have been her friend, Katrina knew what an uncontrollable gossip she was also.

Of course, she had also promised her father that she would never go to Saldeed again, at least not outside the company of a responsible officer, and then only if it were absolutely necessary. She still wasn’t sure how to feel about that. She had been tempted to go and visit her on her own, but she didn’t know what to say.

"Well, you did take language lessons from her, didn’t you?" Bree asked.

"Yeah, my zhavey-ti said she’s been on Gamma shift for the last two weeks," said Pana, referring to her ‘co-mother.’ "Why do you figure she switched like that? I mean, the Chief Medical Officer usually takes Alpha Shift, right?"

"I heard that she’s in trouble back home," said Tiffany with a wide, all-knowing grin.

"What do you mean?" Katrina asked harshly, panic creeping into her voice.

"This guy on Level 15 told Diveca Narash, who told me, that Dr. Saldeed is wanted for murder back home!" Tiffany gushed proudly.

"What?" Katrina stammered, fearing that the truth might be coming out.

"No way!" Bree exclaimed luridly. "What happened?"

"The way I heard it," Tiff continued, "she had a husband back home who she caught cheating with another woman. So she killed them both and chopped them up so they’d never find the bodies."

Katrina snorted in disgust at Tiff’s shameless gossiping, even though she was inwardly relieved that her friend hadn’t even come close to stumbling upon the truth. "Oh, I saw that movie! What else did Diveca tell you? That she secretly smuggled the heads onto the ship and that she keeps them alive in Sickbay so she can perform gruesome medical torture experiments on them? Is that it?"

Tiff looked briefly embarrassed. "I… I’m just…well, that’s just what she told me. I didn’t say I believed it."

"Honestly, Tiff," Pana laughed, "you should know better than to listen to anything Diveca Narash says. She’s two brain cells short of being a Pakled."

Before they could continue, Mr. Nott cleared his throat, indicating that it was way past time for the class to begin.

"Good morning, Yola." Naomi said as she caught up with the Cardassian scientist. She had just completed her pre-launch briefing with the captain and Commander Kalan, and was given a complete run-down of the mission objectives and personnel. She had tried her best not to show her nervousness and project an air of professionalism in front of her commanding officers. They might not have had as much confidence in her had they known how terrified she was inside.

Professor Yola Mahat turned her head sideways to look at her newly arrived company and smiled at Naomi. "Good morning, Lieutenant. I hear that congratulations are in order."

"Please," Naomi laughed. "I thought I told you it was alright to call me Naomi. After all the times you’ve looked after Sabrina, I think we can be on a first name basis."

"Absolutely…Naomi," said Mahat. "Except on the Wayfarer, of course. I wouldn’t want to undermine your new authority in front of the rest of the crew."

"I appreciate that," she laughed. "So, do you have any ideas of what the anomaly could be?" Naomi inquired as they both entered the launch bay.

Yola shook her head negatively, "No, as far we can tell the type of radiation emitted from some source in that nebula should be impossible. It emits an unusual graviton signature, but beyond that, we can’t really tell without having a closer look. It’s really exciting since it might change the general view of Mutara-Class nebulas." Yola replied with an animated voice.

Naomi smiled mildly amused by the look of Yola’s face, she was always amazed by how people changed when they talked about the passion in their life. "Really? I thought your academic focus was on biology and chemistry, rather than cosmology and astrophysics."

 "Oh," Yola made a dismissive gesture with her hands, "well, those may be my academic specialties, but my interests lie along a number of paths. It’s all a part of developing a greater understanding of the universe, after all." She replied as the two of them continued towards the Wayfarer.

Naomi simply nodded since she was not into science that much, at least not more than any operations officer.

They continued along the walkway until they reached the entrance to Hangar Bay One, the largest of hangars aboard Enterprise, which was specifically designed to house the small starship. As they came closer Yola studied the ship with an appreciative look.

"My, I never thought this ship was so large as it is," Mahat commented and nodded at the ship before them. "It’s practically a full scale starship. It’s just starting to hit me what a big deal this is, being given command of a ship like this."

Naomi nodded, "It’s mostly all the sensor equipment that makes it so big, so I think you’ll find it quite cramped inside after a while." At Yola’s skeptical look Naomi added, "Trust me. I did a short stint on the T’Mir on my first deep space assignment. She was one of the prototypes for the Sonar-Classes."

"Really? Sometimes the miniaturization of technology amazes me," Yola replied as they reached the airlock.

Naomi nodded, "Well, not everything is always built to be small. Take Enterprise for example."

When they had finished the close walk they entered through the airlock and Yola looked around, with a surprised look she said, "I thought you said it would be quite cramped in here."

Naomi smiled, "No, I said you will find it quite cramped after a while," she made a gesture. "If you think of the ship as an auxiliary vessel, it seems pretty roomy. It’s only when you’ve been out in the field for a few days that the ship starts to feel small."

 "So you know where my quarters are? I haven’t had time to familiarize with the layout yet." Yola asked as she looked around.

Naomi turned her head and looked at Yola, "Actually, since there’ll be two other scientists and a full crew, there’ll be precious little room for crew quarters. So I’m afraid that you’ll be hot-bunking it tonight with some of your colleagues."

 "I think I’ll manage to survive." Yola replied and gestured for Naomi to show the way.

"Report," Cho Na Ber Tam-Lom ordered his first Keeper with a bored voice as he entered the cozy command suite of his attack cruiser. The Prime was quite uncharismatic for one of his caste, his body lacking the dancer delicate shape that was common among his kind. Instead he was sturdy, almost bordering on husky. Even though his looks did not make a prime any less prominent within the hierarchy of the Krowtonan Guard, his abilities to control his keepers were not in any way hampered. At least a dozen Brutals were seated at their workstations, their attentions focused on their duties to observe the surrounding space and keep the attack cruiser Guardian of Virtue, the flagship of the small science fleet assigned to him. On station, they were not distracted by the presence of their Prime who seated himself in the command chair, readying himself for the report of the latest test runs of the new systems.

"The upper release mechanisms at the energy intake did not work as intended past Level One, my Prime," the Keeper replied with an obedient, almost loving tone.

"Exactly what happened?" Cho Ber asked as he fixed his eyes on the Keeper, Gom Na Doku Tiva-Lom.

"My Prime, the material in the containment bottle did not hold," said Gom Doku.

"Why not? It is the strongest alloy we have."

"We do not know. All our calculations indicate that it should be able to withstand the pressures, my Prime."

Cho Ber looked at Gom Doku with something very close to frustration. A Prime was expected to maintain a harmonious balance within his crew and his personal entourage. Agitation and annoyance were not emotions his caste had the luxury of indulging in. "Another setback!" Cho Ber exclaimed further misbalancing his exuded pheromones.

"My Prime," Gom Doku winced uncomfortably at the stench of his master’s pheromonal foulness. "The weapon has still been proven successful in repeated tests at Level One. That is more than enough to penetrate the shields of the Raiders…"

 "Insufficient!" Cho Ber shouted him down. "We need at least a Level Three power spike to disable the Kazon Predators and their capital ships! Why can’t the idiots back home understand that if we want to even hope to build an isokinetic cannon for ourselves, we simply have to trade with aliens from outside of the Axis for the needed materials!" he paused a moment with a stance of thoughtfulness.

"Indeed, my Prime," Gom Doku answered with a bowed head, not letting his discomfort at the shift of the pheromonal odors that were now wafting though the small command suite. He stood silent at his Prime’s side and waited to be addressed once again.

"Send me Gom Link and Gom Neda, I need them to write up a logistics report precisely where the containment fields are breaking down! What we need are more resources to complete this project! And tell the Master Engineer to begin repairs or replace the damaged and broken parts." said Cho Ber and then ordered before he left the command suite, "Tell them I’ll be in my quarters. Now leave, Gom Doku."

"Yes, my Prime. I’ll hurry!" Gom Duku replied, his voice containing only the slightest of relief.

The sound of his first Keeper made Cho Ber turn around to look at the disappearing form, "Be careful, dear Keeper. Just because I’m unbalanced at the moment because of this idiotic mission, it doesn’t mean I’ll allow you to display any of it!" he thought to himself quietly.

"Launch control has cleared us to depart, ma’am," Chief Petty officer Ompa confirmed after reading a text only message on one of the conn screens.

Naomi looked around the compact bridge. It was quite cramped for a starship, with only the forward conn-seat in front of her where the middle-aged Denobulan was seated. He would be a reassuring presence to the mission she had no doubt. Seated besides him at the helm station was Ensign…Jones, she recalled the name. She seemed so young, thought Naomi, most likely straight out of the Academy. The slim brunette reminded her of herself on her own first deep space mission.

Behind her to the right, the multi task-station had been transformed into tactical, stationed at it were one of the younger security officers, an ensign Thomas. Naomi recalled briefly that he had been cross trained in stellar-cartography which suited this ship well, he would probably become one of the more regular crewmen assigned to Wayfarer. To the opposite of him on the other side of the command chair Yola stood attentively.

When Naomi had finished her quick inspection she nodded towards Ompa who had turned to look at her. "One quarter power to RCS thrusters. Steady for one click, then plot course and engage at warp eight," she ordered with a steady voice, there was no trace of her own excitement, although her eyes could not hide it.

Chief Ompa smiled at her and then nodded, confirming her order. "Aye, ma’am!"

Letting out a small grin Naomi sat back in the chair and watched the main view screen as Wayfarer smoothly left the hangar.

"I won. Ha ha ha!" Sabrina snickered at the boy she’d just handily defeated at Kadis Kot. Freddy Limos might have thought he was so important just because he was better at math than anyone else in Primary Level. But he didn’t know a thing about how to play Kadis Kot.

The boy looked at her with sour lips and then shouted his reply, "You were just lucky!"

Sabrina shot an angry look at the boy and then stood up before she shouted back, "You’re just a big fat sore loser!"




Before Sabrina could continue, the instructor parted them and gave them both stern looks. "Shame on you two," said the spindly, gentle-voiced Vissian. "This is not how you behave!" he exclaimed exasperatedly.

"I think I see a pair of lovebirds," came a snickering comment from behind them.

"No!" the two children screamed in unison, the previous fight instantly forgotten.

Then Sabrina recognized the voice and screamed happily, "Katrina!"

"Hi kid," Katrina replied with a grin, while she winced internally as the high-pitched scream the younger girl made cut through her ears. "Try and be a little nicer to Freddy. I’m best friends with his big sister, you know."

Sabrina jumped out of the grasp of the instructor and threw herself at the young Romulan girl, when she took a step back she looked up at Katrina and asked with as an earnest face she could muster, "Mom promised we could go and eat ice cream at on the Galleria!"

Katrina gave her a suspicious look and then replied, "You almost got me there," and then poked the little girl in the chest.

Sabrina looked a little disappointed, as her little ruse hadn’t worked, which made Katrina feel a little guilty, "But lets tell my Mom that you did trick me."

"Yeah!" Sabrina exclaimed in a scream and started to jump up and down.

Katrina looked up at the teacher and said, "I’ll probably be the one who will leave her here tomorrow. See you then."

"Thanks for picking her up," Mr. Neddo replied and then indicated the two kids, "These two always makes a big mess when they start to fight."

Katrina nodded and then held out her hand for Sabrina, "Come on and let’s pay Uncle Vic a visit."

Sabrina grabbed Katrina’s hand excitedly and as they passed the doorframe she turned around and gave Freddy Limos an ugly face and stuck out her tongue at him.

"How can you eat that much?" Katrina asked as she stared at the mountain of ice cream, melted chocolate, crushed toffee and a fried banana at the top.

Sabrina just grinned at Katrina and then dug in to it, eating with great enthusiasm.

Katrina smiled back and then took a bite from her own much smaller portion of ice cream. It was her favorite sort, soft ice cream with chocolate bits sprinkled over it. Before she could take another bite though, her communicator chirped and she could hear her mother’s voice, "Dr. Kim to Katrina Kim."

Katrina activated the communicator and replied, "Hi, Mom."

"Why aren’t you and Sabrina at our quarters yet?" Annika asked with her usual emotion less voice.

"Naomi promised Sabrina that we could go and eat some ice cream at Vic’s," Katrina replied, causing Sabrina to giggle.

"Why did she not tell me that?" Annika asked with a suspicious tone.

"Err, I don’t know. Maybe she forgot?" Katrina replied, barely able to contain her own giggles.

"Very well. You two are to return as soon as possible. Is that understood?"

"Yes, Mom. We’ll be home soon."

"Good, Kim out."

When the communicators had shut down both girls, young as well as old giggled as they both knew they were naughty. It all stopped though as a voice behind them said, "Hello there, and what’s so funny?"

Katrina turned and saw Jason standing behind them on the walkway. "Err," she stammered blushing profoundly.

Jason gave her a wide smile and then asked, "Can I join?"

"O-of course." Katrina replied and then felt how her skin took an even greener hue as she realized how eager she had sounded.

Jason chuckled and hopped over the balustrade railing, and sat down in an empty chair beside Katrina. He gave Sabrina a smile and then turned his eyes on the ice cream, "Mmmm, that looks nice," he said and looked up at Katrina. "Can I have a bite?"

"Sure," Katrina smiled back and took off a piece of the soft white cream with her spoon. She then held up the flatware in a way so Jason could take it. Instead of taking it he moved his head forward and down so he could take the bite without taking the spoon from Katrina.

By then Katrina had recovered from her earlier embarrassment and frowned at Jason’s actions. "What are you doing?"

Jason turned his eyes back at Katrina, "Err… I… don’t know…." he replied slightly taken back by Katrina’s cool almost chilly voice.

Katrina then burst out laughing, "I’m just pulling your leg," she explained at Jason’s puzzled look.

In the mean time Sabrina had lost her appetite, watching Katrina’s attention go from her to the dumb guy who sat to the right of the older girl.

With a sulky look she jumped off the chair she was sitting in and stomped off in no particular direction, unnoticed by either teenager.

As she pouted while walking down the corridor not looking where she walked she suddenly collided with someone hard and big.

Without looking up she snarled, "Hey! I was walking…" when she didn’t get any response she looked up and into the eyes of one of the most feared warrior races in the galaxy. She had heard stories about these creatures. It was a Jem’Hadar towering over her, his face solid and impassive, looking down at her like she was some odd scientific curiosity.

Jor’Marak turned so his entire body faced the little girl. He was not entirely sure what this little person was. However since she did not wear a uniform, he was relatively certain she was one of the civilians onboard.

"You were the one who walked into me," he answered. "Any injuries you may have sustained were your own fault," he said as he looked down at Sabrina who was still sitting on the floor.

"I…I…." Sabrina shivered before the Jem’Hadar first, but before she could reply, Jor’Marak remembered a human custom of offering help when someone fell. He assumed this was an opportunity to try that particular custom and forwarded his hand towards Sabrina.

The child looked at the offered hand for several seconds and then took a harsh breath as she calmed down. She took the offered hand and Jor’Marak was surprised at how light the little girl was.

As the Jem’Hadar lifted Sabrina, she winced when she tried to lean her support on her right leg, "Ow! That hurts."

Without releasing Sabrina’s hand Jor’Marak asked, "Do you need assistance to Sick Bay?"

Sabrina made a grimace against the pain and replied with a slightly less frightened voice. "Yes…" as she remembered her manners she added the proper word, "… please." For a big scary monster, he was doing his best not to act so very scary.

Jor’Marak looked up to orient himself and then turned cautiously making sure that his companion could keep up the pace. They slowly walked down one corridor that led to the sickbay.

As they walked Sabrina looked up at the fierce looking man beside her and asked, "Are you…really a Jem’Hadar?"

Jor’Marak seemed to ignore the question but then he recognized the question as small talk, something other species apparently did quite often. "Yes. Are you really a child?"

"Of course I am, silly. What did you think I was?"

"I was uncertain," he replied. "I have never seen a child before."

"Oh, now you’re teasing me," she giggled. "How could you never see a kid before? Didn’t you play with any when you were little?"

"The Jem’Hadar do not play," he answered. "And I was never a true child.  I was decanted in a Dominion Jem’Hadar hatchery in the Govar’Ree system."

His reply made Sabrina frown as she tried to place the system the adult had said; finally she shrugged and asked, "Where’s that?"

"It is in the Gamma Quadrant, a long distance from here," Jor’Marak gave a small affirmative nod and then proceeded to look forward.

"You must miss your home a lot," Sabrina said innocently.

Jor’Marak blinked in surprise at the question. The Gamma Quadrant was not his home, any more than the hatchery where he was born and trained. His home was wherever his duties required him to be. Sentiment such as the kind that other races indulged simply weren’t part of the life of a Jem’Hadar.

Sabrina thought more about it and then recognized the word Jem’Hadar and looked up excitedly at her companion. "So you’re a soldier?"

Jor’Marak replied with another short nod.

"That’s so slee’mah!" Sabrina exclaimed with a grin. "I bet you’ve killed lots of people!"

Jor’Marak looked down on the girl and wondered silently if her kind always asked this many questions. "Yes I am a soldier. And no, I have not killed very many people. But I have killed."

"Grandpa said you’re the most feared oppo… opponents on the battlefield!" Sabrina continued excitedly.

Her non-existence of fear puzzled Jor’Marak who was used to only being met with either fear or trepidation since coming aboard this vessel.

As they reached a turbo lift Sabrina looked up at Jor’Marak once again and asked, "So how old are you?"

Jor’Marak made some quick calculations and then replied as the lift doors opened, "I am five federation standard years old."

Sabrina looked at him with surprise almost forgetting to step inside the turbo lift. "You’re still a kid! I’m older than you, but you’re fully grown."

"You have not yet reached your maximum growth potential?" Jor’Marak asked for the first time there was puzzlement in his voice.

Sabrina shook her head, "No, I won’t be grown up until around seventeen or so."

Jor’Marak found it peculiar that this child seemed to regard seventeen years as a mere milestone in her lifetime, whereas such a length of time was equal to the entire average lifespan of a Jem’Hadar. "And in the time from your birth till the day you are considered mature, what is your function?"

"Function?" she said, finding the word funny and unfamiliar.

"Your purpose," Jor’Marak elaborated. "What are your responsibilities aboard the Enterprise?"

"I dunno. I guess going to school would be my function later on, but I’m not supposed to start school for another year. I guess what I mostly do is clean up my room and pick up my toys."

Before Jor’Marak could inquire more about this peculiar behavior of other species, they reached the Sickbay and entered.

Inside they were greeted by Nurse Baker, who looked quite surprised by the sight of the Jem’Hadar First and the little girl beside him. Doctor Saldeed was keeping fewer hours in Sickbay these days, something to do with some trouble that had happened between her and the captain, the exact nature of which was still not being discussed among the crew.

"H-hello, what’s happened here?" Baker asked slightly dumbfounded.

"I ran into him and hurt my knee." Sabrina explained and pointed at her knee and Jor’Marak at the same time.

"Oh, I can take care of that." Baker said with a more confident voice, she pointed at one of the beds and said, "First Jor’Marak, could you please lift her up here?"

The Jem’Hadar made a nod and proceeded to carefully lift up Sabrina and put her on the bio-bed, the Nurse had pointed at.

In the mean time Baker had grabbed a medical tricorder and then returned to the waiting patient.

"Well, lets see what’s wrong," she said with a smile and let the tricorder scan the knee.

"Hmm…just a sprained knee, I can give you a small dose of anesthetic to remove the pain, and if you don’t jump around it should be fine by tomorrow."

"Sabrina, have you finished your ice cream?" Katrina asked and looked over the table to see a plate of melted ice cream but no girl.

Katrina looked around but could not see the little girl and she felt how she started to panic. "Computer, where is Sabrina Wildman?"

The cool computer voice replied, "Sabrina Wildman is currently in the infirmary."

"What?" Katrina exclaimed worriedly and stood up hurriedly, she looked down at Jason and said with a worried voice, "Sorry, have to go," and with that she jumped over the rack and down onto the walkway. When she had stabilized, she all but ran towards Sickbay.

"A child has no function?" Jor’Marak asked as understanding dawned in his mind.

"Of course not! You mean, you really never were a kid?" Sabrina asked. She was still sitting on the bed as the two of them waited for Nurse Baker to return with the anesthetic.

"No," said Jor’Marak. "We mature from small forms, but this period is very brief. Often, Jem’Hadar are not decanted until they have reached full maturity."

"So you never really get to be a kid? That must be sad, not having any time to play or have fun."

"Is that important?"

Sabrina giggled at the soldier’s innocent cluelessness, "Of course it is! I like being a kid and not having to worry about grown up stuff."

As Sabrina was about to speak up again the doors to the Sickbay opened and revealed a Romulan teenager, a fairly worried teenager at that.

Knowing she probably would be punished or at least yelled at, Sabrina tried to smooth her disappearance with a winning smile. "Hi, Katrina!" she exclaimed happily and waved at her friend.

"What happened?" Katrina asked worriedly, although since Sabrina seemed to be quite in working order, Katrina’s anxiety eased.

"Nothing, I didn’t pay attention to where I was walking." Sabrina answered in a smooth voice as if it was nothing to be concerned about at all. "I just sprained my knee."

Katrina sighed and continued on, "You know, we both will be in a lot of trouble when we get home to my place. You know that, don’t you?"

Sabrina looked at Katrina with surprise, "You’re not going to yell at me?"

Katrina smiled at the little girl’s surprise. "I’m not your mom. Besides, this was just as much my fault as yours."

Before they could talk any further Baker returned holding a hypo spray in her hand. "Oh, hello there Katrina," she greeted the newcomer with a smile.

"Hi Nurse Baker." Katrina replied the greeting.

"Are you babysitting Sabrina?" Norma Jean asked and pointed at the little girl on the bio-bed.

"Yes, I try. But she has a tendency to run away whenever she can." Katrina replied with a playful tone.

"I do not!" Sabrina yelled interrupting anything the good nurse was about to say. She glowered at her older friend who simply smiled back.

Nurse Baker chuckled and then applied the hypo spray just above Sabrina’s hurt knee. "There," she said as the substance in the tool was infused into the knee. "That should make it better."

Sabrina moved her leg around and then smiled at Norma, "Yes, it’s much better now. Thanks!" she then hopped off the bed and walked over to Katrina.

She grabbed the older girl’s hand and then asked, "I’m hungry, what’s for dinner?"

Katrina looked down at Sabrina and replied, "I don’t know, but we better hurry home before my Mom calls again."

"Yeah we don’t want to get into any trouble." Sabrina agreed and they both turned towards the exit.

At the door Sabrina turned and looked at Jor’Marak. "I forgot to ask you your name."

"I am Jor’Marak, Jem’Hadar First on this vessel."

"Nice to meet you," she said as she sweetly waved her small hand. "My name’s Sabrina. Bye-bye."

Jor’Marak gave an acknowledging nod and before the doors closed Sabrina waved a ‘good bye’, realizing it was another custom of other species Jor’Marak imitated it.

As the doors had closed Jor’Marak mused about the peculiarities of children, he was interrupted when Nurse Baker cleared her throat.

When she saw that she had his attention she asked, "Is there anything you need in here?"

Jor’Marak shook a ‘no’ with his head and replied, "I will leave now," with that he started for the door and as he remembered what Sabrina had done. He turned back and waved good-bye to the nurse. He left before he could observe the look of shock on her holographic face.

When he walked towards the compound he mused if childhood was something that was beneficial or detrimental.

"I’m really glad we don’t have to ration the replicator use." Naomi sighed as she put a bit of meatloaf in her mouth.

At Yola’s questioning look, Naomi said, "Well, I was just a child back when we were here the first time, but the one thing I remember most was the replicator rations. You should’ve seen my look when we got back home and Mom told me that I could have five complete sets of dresses," she raised her eyebrows and added, "With accessories."

The two women were seated in the ship’s galley, the closest thing aboard Wayfarer to a true mess hall. It contained room for three small tables, each with seats for two, with a small kitchenette and replicator against the back wall. The galley also had a small porthole where the stars could be seen streaking by, while the ship sped along to its destination at Warp 6. Right now, the two were the only ones eating, everyone else either on duty or back in their quarters. There were few places to socialize on a ship of Wayfarer’s size; so most simply didn’t bother outside of work or their cabins.

Yola chuckled, "I can’t imagine that, back at Cardassia the old ones talk about how it was back in horrible times."


"Yes, I understand humans call it back in the ‘good old days?’" Yola asked, Naomi nodded and Yola continued, "You are familiar with our history?" Naomi nodded again, "So you can see how that human saying doesn’t apply to us. Instead, they called it ‘back in the horrible times’, or at least that’s the best translation I can come up with."

Naomi nodded in understanding before she took a sip from her glass of water.

The conversation died as they both concentrated on their respective courses and as they both finished they went to the replicator to order a dessert.

When they had returned to the table Naomi looked at Yola’s plate she pointed at it and asked, "What is that?"

Yola looked down and then smiled as she replied, "It’s a Cardassian sweet. We call it yannassu. My mother used to make wonderful versions of these, never tasting quite the same way twice. I think she had around hundred different variations on the recipe stashed in her top-secret family recipes book."

Naomi nodded in understanding and then Yola asked, "Want to try a bite?"

When Naomi nodded once again, Yola took a spoon full of the ice cream looking dessert and offered the spoon to her dining partner. Naomi tasted the piece and then made a sour face, as the sweet was extremely distasteful.

"Uh, do you happen to like Leola root?" Naomi asked half joking half serious.

Yola looked at her with an innocent look, "Leola root?" she asked curiously.

"Something that is just as," Naomi hesitated and then said almost diplomatically, "… almost as different as that."

Yola took a bite of her own and she closed her eyes as she enjoyed the taste, "This one’s quite good. Not as good as my mother’s, but still very high quality. How can you not like it?" she asked Naomi when she opened her eyes again.

Naomi frowned and then took another bite with her fork. As she tasted the content once again it was still as bitter as the first time. She looked up at Yola and said, "Try some of mine," and with that she took a piece from the blueberry pie she had ordered and offered it to Yola.

Yola mirrored Naomi’s previous action and frowned as the sweet pie hit her taste buds. "Umm, this was quite sweet," she said with the same neutral voice Naomi had used.

Naomi chuckled and replied, "I guess we don’t have the same taste in food."

Yola nodded an agreement and then said, "I forgive you, though."

With a grin Naomi answered, "Thanks."

Once again the conversation quieted down as both enjoyed their mirror like desserts.

When Naomi had finished her slice of pie and pushed the plate away, Yola had still a little left of her dessert.

"Did you have any siblings?" Naomi asked as she changed into a more laid back position on her chair.

Yola nodded as she swallowed the last piece. "Yes, I had two brothers and one sister.


"My older brother and father did not survive…the horrible times," she said, her voice dropping along with her eyes as she spoke. "The bombardment of Cardassia Prime. I was only a little girl when they were lost. We used to live in a nice house before the War. Father served on the municipal planning board of Lakat City and managed to survive the political turmoil of the times, so we lived better than most citizens. Then came the War and the bombardments, and soon all of that was gone. Father and Soleel were dead, and we had no home anymore. We were impoverished overnight and forced to live in refugee camps under the occupational government. So we learned how to get by the best we could."

"I’m so…sorry," said Naomi, the pain of her own mother’s recent passing still stirring with her.

"Thank you, but it was a long time ago, or at least it seems that way now. Things eventually…well, things got better for Cardassia, and we managed to rebuild our lives, gradually. It was difficult, though. I’m just glad I had what family I did. Too many Cardassian children back then just ended up scavenging among the ruins or joining up with gangs."

"Gangs?" said Naomi with alarm. "I’m surprised that you had trouble with gangs on Cardassia. I’d always thought your people were too disciplined for that. Very big on law and order, that sort of thing."

"Not in those days," said Mahat. "After the bombing and the occupation, the cities were in chaos, at least until the Spiritual Revival was in full swing."

After a long uncomfortable silence, Naomi decided to speak up again. "How was that, growing up with siblings? I was an only child myself."

"Fun sometimes, messy some other times, and horrible a lot of times," Yola smiled, "Mostly because I was the youngest," she took a breath and then added, "But it was nice to have older family members that could protect me from street toughs and cadres."

"Oh," Naomi nodded in understanding. "I see. At least things aren’t so harsh for you now."

Yola snorted mildly, "Some things don’t change much as you grow up," she commented almost with a sour voice. She elaborated when she saw how Naomi gave her a confused look, "Most of the non-Cardassian crew is at best frosty towards me and the other Cardassians. There’s still a lot of resentment towards us regarding our role in the Dominion War, even though we ended up taking far more casualties then any of the allied races. In truth, only you and Ensign Paris have been outright friendly towards me since I came aboard."

"I’m sure Annika will change." Naomi replied with a concerned look, she was aware of the less than friendly relationship her lunch partner and her oldest friend had. She also felt it was mostly, actually entirely the fault of Annika. Her best friends irrational reaction to Yola was strange to Naomi, she couldn’t see what could be wrong with the Cardassian that sat in front of her at all. "She doesn’t have any prejudice towards Cardassians, if that’s what you’re thinking."

"I know that," Yola shrugged and sighed audibly, "It’s just that it’s more than a little frustrating. Dr. Kim is an excellent scientist and she’s treated the other Cardassians more warmly than me. We simply have different goals with our science, and different methodologies. But I can’t deny my own faith to satisfy her sense of objectivity. To me, Shaya Hebita’s revealed wisdom is not an impediment to understanding, but an inspiration."

"Shaya Hebita? Is that…your goddess?"

"The Mother of the Universe," Yola corrected proudly. "And she’s really more of a manifestation of all that is natural and harmonious in the cosmos than an actual god who demands worship."

"So you weren’t always…religious?" Naomi asked.

"Goodness, no!" Yola exclaimed with amusement. "Back in the days of the Central Command, Hebitianist thinking would have guaranteed you a visit from the Obsidian Order. They had no use for spirituality back then. The State was supposed to be the god of the Cardassian people."

"So what changed?"

"It was the times. After the war, people had the freedom to rediscover their heritage once again. I was fourteen when I attended my first revival ceremony. We were still under the occupation, and the cities were being rebuilt. There wasn’t much for children to do back then, except get into trouble. A kindly deacon encouraged me to sit in and hear what was being said. It was…well, a revelation for me. I saw my people, my history, in a whole new light. It redefined for me what it meant to be Cardassian and my place in the universe. The next day I went back for my Declaration."

"How did the rest of your family react to that?" Naomi laughed.

"Oh, they were shocked, of course. Eventually, my sister and brother Declared themselves over time. But my mother never did, just like a lot of her generation. My siblings and I…we’re just part of a different mindset, one that she can’t understand."

"I think I can relate to that," said Naomi sourly. "My father…he and I had trouble understanding each other when I was growing up, after we returned home. I mean, I loved him, but…I don’t know. It just wasn’t easy."

"Does Sabrina have that kind of relationship with her father?"

Naomi shot up a glance at Mahat, her posture becoming more defensive. "I beg your pardon?"

"I’m sorry," said the Cardassian woman. "I don’t mean to be nosy. It’s just…you never seem to talk about Sabrina’s father. I know he’s not on the ship. Is he…?"

"Could we please change the subject," Naomi said, perhaps a bit harsher than she had intended. "That’s…not something I feel comfortable talking about."

"I didn’t mean to pry," Mahat asked hesitantly. "May I ask you a personal question? And please feel free to decline to answer if it makes you uncomfortable."

"It’s all right. I didn’t mean to snap at you before. Ask me."

"I…I was curious. What is it that you have faith in?"

Naomi blinked in surprise. In this modern age, in the Federation, that would indeed be considered an odd question to ask someone. "You mean, what are my values, or are you talking about religion in particular?"

"It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is you find yourself motivated by."

"Well," she pondered, "I guess I was raised pretty secular. My father and his family tried to pique my interest in K’tarian spirituality, but I never found myself too drawn into it. K’tarians believe in hundreds of different spirits, some of them offering good or bad luck depending on how talk to them. I personally found it all rather silly, but the K’tarians believe."

"And now?"

"Now," she sighed, "I guess I believe mostly in Starfleet and what it stands for. But that’s not really the same thing, is it?"

"I don’t pass judgment, Naomi," said Yola reassuringly. "Anything that can inspire someone to a higher level of awareness, to bring people together into a greater whole, that’s what matters, be it of divine or mortal inspiration. In my case, it was through Shaya Hebita’s revelations that I learned how truly connected all lives in the universe are. It’s how I discovered science, and what my true calling was to be."

"Interesting," added Naomi. "So you were brought up to see science and religion complementing each other? Among humans, the two have usually been at odds more often than agreement."

"I suppose that would explain some of Dr. Kim’s thinking," she gave Naomi a defeated look and continued, "I actually admire her, especially her analytical abilities."

Naomi nodded, "I admire her too. It’s pretty amazing how she’s managed to build up her life after being a Borg for so long."

Yola smiled and then chuckled as she said, "I realize we changed the subject, why did you ask about my family?"

Naomi looked down on the table and then answered the question, "Well, I’m not sure if it was the best decision to bring Sabrina all the way out here. She’d have a much more normal life with our family back home."

"But she wouldn’t be with her mother." Yola pointed out.

"Would that really matter? Back home it’d be much safer for her."

"We will be here for a very long time, Naomi. She’d be almost grown up before we returned. Do you really want to miss her entire childhood?"

"Of course not," Naomi replied, "But I know how it is to grow up in this part of space, and it’s not a safe place…."

Yola gave the half human, half-K’tarian a reassuring smile, "Your childhood and hers will be quite different. After all, Enterprise is quite larger than Voyager was and there are many more children on Enterprise than there was where you grew up."

When Yola saw that there was still doubt in her friend’s eyes, she took Naomi’s hand and gave it a tiny gentle hug. "And one other thing. She loves you. I can see it every time I see you two together. I don’t think she’d be able to stand being without you for more than a day or two."

Naomi returned the smile but before she could reply, the communicator sounded its alarm.

"Yes, Wildman here," Naomi replied after she’d activated it.

"Ensign Thomas here, Lieutenant. We will arrive at the observation site within minutes."

"We are on our way, Wildman out." Naomi answered and shut off the communicator.

Both women rose and discarded their empty plates in the matter-recycler before they headed for the bridge.

"Excellent! Our follow-up tests have shown remarkable success up to Level Two. If this doesn’t elevate us within the Celestial Dynasty, then nothing will." Cho Ber exclaimed with a pleased voice, his secreted pheromones once again back to a balanced level, even close to an approving level causing the two logistics Keepers in front of him to strengthen their love for their Prime.

"We are pleased to hear that, my Prime," the senior keeper replied as they both bowed in gratitude.

Just as Cho Ber was about to continue his communication unit signaled an incoming message. "Yes?" Cho Ber acknowledged the signal.

"Passive sensors have detected a spaceship approaching, my Prime," the voice of Gom Doku could be heard at the other end of the line.

"What? Is it Kazon?" Cho Ber asked his voice filled with heightened concern, if they had found out about this top-secret mission they would of course do everything in their power to destroy it.

"It does not match any profiles we have in our database, my Prime."

The Prime turned his attention to the main view screen in his quarters and ordered, "Give me an image of the ship in here."

When the image of the ship turned up he could easily spot the markings on the ship. "Has anyone identified those markings?" he asked, although he knew the answer, it would surprise him if any of his keepers would be that initiative.

When no one answered Cho Ber ordered, "Enlarge the markings and identify them!"

The image on the view screen changed and the markings on the ship could easily be read. It said USS WAYFARER, on the first row, below it read NCC-85400.

Cho Ber knew he’d seen the markings before, in some report he’d managed to get his hands on as part of the science department. He forced his mind to remember where he’d read about these and then after some seconds of hard thinking he realized what it was, "It’s those aliens from the other side of the galaxy!" he exclaimed excitedly. "Plans have changed, get over here immediately Gom Doku!" he exclaimed, he turned towards the comm. Unit as he heard the reply from Gom Doku.

"I will hurry, my Prime," was the answer before the unit silenced.

When Gom Doku had disappeared, Cho Ber turned towards the other keeper, Gom Link. "Move all non essential Servers to the shuttle."

With a chuckle filled of delight, Cho Ber rubbed his hands together, "Capturing alien technology from the far side of the galaxy. This will elevate the status of my bloodline for certain. It might even earn me ballots for a seat on the Celestial Throne!"

He then turned activated his comm unit and keyed in a short sequence, when a voice of a senior-level Brutal responded. "How far away are they?" he asked, his voice still eager, almost sounding like a child’s.

The Brutal read the calculations off the screen and then replied, "Almost two sektars, my Prime."

"Good, then we will have time to prepare for their capture!" he then ordered, "Access the databases and retrieve the report about the incident with the…" he hesitated as he tried to remember the name, "… the Enterprise."

Some time later, Cho Ber was visited by two Brutal sergeants, while a squad of boarding soldiers waited outside the door for their leaders returned to brief them on their orders.

"Do you two understand what you are supposed to do?" The two sergeants nodded and then turned and walked towards the docking bay. In addition to the three science ships, the Guardian of Virtue was escorted by two smaller destroyers, assigned to them to assist in guarding the science vessels. Their primary role in battle was close up fighting and reconnaissance. Both had the newest refits which included stealth technology based on secrets stolen from captured Kazon vessels, obviously employing knowledge far more advanced than those crude savages were capable of, Cho Ber thought.

Some moments later Cho Ber could hear the airlock close and he took up the small communicator he’d carried in his belt, "Launch the support liner from our primary shuttle bay and execute the trap immediately," he ordered before he went to sit down in the command couch. "Once they are at the specified coordinates, send out a distress call. We’ll send them a signal they can’t help but answer."

"Ma’am! I’m picking up a damaged ship on the sensors!" Ensign Thomas reported from the tactical station. Naomi sat uneasily in the command seat, looking up at the main view screen, which was filled with the unearthly gaseous beauty of the Mutara-Class nebula, radiating an eerie red and violet glow across space. She was still not quite used to the feel of sitting in the big chair at this point. But if there was something unexpected happening out here, then she knew she had to get used to it and soon.

"What? Is it anyone we know?" Naomi asked as she rose to join the Ensign at his station.

"I’m not sure. It doesn’t match any of the hull configurations for the Illidarians we have on file."

"What does the computer say?" she asked.

"Sensors indicate it’s heavily damaged." Thomas answered.

"Do we recognize what kind of weapon system has caused the damage?" Naomi looked up to see that it was Yola that had asked the question.

Naomi nodded in agreement and looked down at Thomas to hear the answer.

"No, not… wait the computer says it’s Krowtonan weapons fire." Thomas reported, having the attention of the entire bridge.

"Any life signs?" Naomi asked.

Thomas pushed some buttons and then replied, "Thirteen life signs that we can detect. Readings are difficult to distinguish through the plasma discharges this close to the nebula."

Naomi thought fervently, not sure if she should try and rescue the passengers of the small ship in front of them. Finally she asked, "Can you tell what type of species they belong to?"

Thomas nodded in acknowledgement. "They’re…Krowtonans!" he exclaimed after a short time.

Naomi looked up at Yola and asked, "What do you think?"

"Think about what?" Yola replied, almost sure she was thinking of the same as Naomi.

"Do you think it’s a trap or they have issues within their own society?" Naomi clarified.

"Ma’am," Thomas chimed in before Yola could reply, resulting in him getting an aggravated glance from the Cardassian. Since the ensign had his back towards Yola, he didn’t see it. "It could be a trap. They tried to take over Enterprise once with an almost similar approach to this, trick us into letting them board their ship and then their Prime will take us over with his pheromones," he replied.

Naomi gave the ensign a glance filled with disapproval, "Ensign, I was not addressing you."

The ensign looked up at his commanding officer and then realized what he’d done; blushing profusely he turned around looked at Yola and said sincerely, "I apologize, Lieutenant. And to you, Professor."

Yola smiled at him graciously and then replied, "Apology accepted, Ensign."

When the small issue was solved, Naomi asked, "So, what are our options?"

"If I may, ma’am?" Thomas answered her question. Naomi nodded and he continued, "I recommend that we send a message to Enterprise, so that they and the Illidarians might know about the Krowtonan activity here. After we’ve sent the message; make a run for it. We have the cloak available to use and we should be able to disappear completely from their sensors."

Naomi nodded, "Okay," she said and turned towards the helm. "… continue to approach that ship but calculate the fastest course to get us out of the nebula." She then turned to Ensign Jones, who sat patiently by the communications console. "You prepare a message and send it as soon as possible."

Ensigns Jones, Thomas, and Chief Ompa acknowledged their orders and Naomi returned to the command chair.

When she had seated herself there she took a deep audible breath and said, "As soon as we’re clear, plot the new course and engage at maximum speed and initiate cloak."

She was replied with a chorus of "Aye, ma’am."

As they moved closer to the damaged ship Thomas suddenly exclaimed, "Lieutenant, they’re somehow…jamming us!"

Naomi turned her head to look at him and then ordered, "Initiate cloak! Turn the ship and get us out of here now!"

Cho Ber was looking at the small display in front of the pilots seat on the maneuvering board. The sensors he had available were trained on the approaching alien ship when he suddenly saw that they disappeared, just as he’d predicted. He said with a pleased voice, "Fire!"

The two Krowtonan destroyers that had been in stealth mode suddenly fired their weapons in a pattern that was bound to hit everything in the target area that the Wayfarer had occupied. The scout ship took several hits and the cloak cracked as if it had been the shell of an egg.

"Report!" Naomi ordered as hit after hit made it shook.

"The cloak is gone!" Thomas replied.

"Warp engines are offline! We won’t outrun them in open space." Ompa replied.

"Turn the ship and go deeper into the nebula!" Naomi ordered as Wayfarer shook again from another hit. "The plasma storms might throw off their sensors."

Ompa nodded and Wayfarer turned to head into the nebula with the two Krowtonan ships following suit. After several minutes with several severe hits the Krowtonan ships suddenly broke off.

"Where have you two been?" Annika asked as two girls one Romulan one three quarters human one-quarter K’tarian entered the residence of the ship’s captain.

Katrina looked at her mother, then she turned her eyes to meet with the younger girl on her right side, "Um…." she hesitated, "… we went to the Delta Café and had some ice cream," she finally answered as she gave Annika an almost dreadful glance, not able to meet her mother’s overly calm face.

"Why is Sabrina limping on her right leg?" Annika continued to ask with a raised eyebrow. "Explain."

"I kinda lost track of her." Katrina began to explain but was interrupted by Sabrina.

"A dumb guy came and ruined our ice cream eating!" she almost yelled.

"Was it Jason Lowe?" Annika asked with a very thin and disapproving frown on her lips.

Katrina looked down at the floor with her cheeks in a sickly green. Both Annika and Sabrina noticed and the little girl giggled as she started the very old song, "Na-na-na, I saw Katrina and Jason sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…."

Katrina mockingly glared at her young friend, "Hey, we weren’t kissing! I’ll show you!" she called out to Sabrina and started to chase the little girl.

Annika hid a sigh and then yelled out with a sharp voice. "Be silent, both of you." When she had their both attention she continued, "Exactly what happened when Sabrina injured her knee?"

"She ran into Jor’Marak." Katrina replied straightening obviously prepared to take the punishment for not keeping an eye over Sabrina.

"That lizzy is plus!" Sabrina added as she tried to sound as cool as Katrina. She was met with an approving grin from the older girl while Annika gave the girl a slightly disapprovingly glance.

"Did it need medical attention?" Annika asked, she already knew they’d been to the infirmary since she had been called by Nurse Baker who had told her everything.

Katrina nodded and replied earnestly, "Yes, Jor’Marak took her there."

Annika gave her daughter a stern look, "So First Jor’Marak, who does not have any kind of education or true knowledge of children was more responsible than you?"

Katrina sighed ash the sharpness of her mother’s voice obviously showed that the expected diatribe would come in any moment. "Yes, Mom. He was," she agreed with a solemn voice.

Sabrina had heard one of these before and went to the couch in silence knowing that it might take a while before both sides calmed down.

Annika sighed, this time both visibly and audibly. "Since you are honest and obviously is taking full responsibility for this incident, you are grounded one week and are not allowed to attend the party with your friends."

Katrina’s mouth opened to form a big ‘o’, "You’d let me go to the party?" she exclaimed with an unbelieving face.

Annika nodded, "Yes, we had planned to let you attend since Sabrina would obviously have gone to bed by the time it take place."

"Oh, that crawls!" Katrina complained and gave her mother a puppy dog face obviously hoping that she’s give in and let her go anyway.

"It has already been decided, be glad that it was not the four weeks we had originally decided upon," Annika replied her voice had a tone that Katrina knew very well.

Katrina’s shoulders slumped slightly as she knew that her mother or father for that matter wouldn’t change their minds this time. She gave her mother a pouty face and then straightened her face and turned to Sabrina, "So what do you want to do?" she asked the little girl with a cheerful smile.

"I wanna play Kadis Kot!" Sabrina replied enthusiastically and jumped off the couch.

"Hold it." Annika shot in before the two girls could leave for Katrina’s room.

Both girls turned and looked dreadfully at Annika, who gave them both a grave stare before she continued and addressed her self to Katrina, "Don’t you have some homework to do?"

Katrina gave her mother a solemn nod.

Her silent reply made Annika give them both a satisfied smile as she spoke. "Then I will play Kadis Kot with Sabrina while you do your homework."

As Sabrina cheered Katrina grumbled, "Mom, this is so jingo minus!"

Her use of slang made Annika almost cringe visibly, "Katrina, please use normal words, especially in front of Sabrina here."

As Katrina walked into her room to start her homework she replied, "Yes, ma’am!"

Captain’s log supplemental:

The meeting with the officials of Illidarians was uneventful and the following meeting with their officials went quite peacefully, the only incident occurring when Grand Proxy Quag more or less tried to deceive them into a trade agreement that would give him almost a thirty percent profit. I managed to discourage him from trying to further the agreement and I believe the Illidarians will prove a most excellent partner, both in our exploration of this part of the quadrant and in furthering our efforts against the Borg.

Personal supplement:

I can’t wait until dinner. Apparently, the Illidarians have a deep and abiding love for Leola root, which meant it made up much of the main course at today’s luncheon. I hope they won’t find our other courses displeasing at the banquet dinner later tonight after we’ve picked up the Wayfarer.

"Captain," said the image pf the Illidarian Prime Minister, "I do hope you and your crew will enjoy the preparations we’ve made for tonight’s festivities. We’ll be importing quite a few rare delicacies from our outer colonies."

"I’m sure we’ll be delighted by whatever you’ve prepared for us, your Excellency," Harry Kim replied, seated comfortably in his ready room, watching the hologram of the Illidarian leader projected from his desktop. The Illidarians were an amphibious race, their humanoid frames covered with grayish green rubbery skins, heavy-lidded yellow eyes, and two large bulbous throat sacs that throbbed excitedly as they spoke. While modern Illidarian cities were on dry land, they preferred to sleep in water and travel between buildings by way of a network of winding canals. They swam as a part of their daily lives easily as humans went for an afternoon stroll.

"Officials from all across the planet will be in attendance, as well as some of our colonial representatives. I’m sure you can appreciate what a rare honor that must be."

"Rare?" said Harry curiously. "You sound as though your colonial governors don’t make it to your homeworld often."

"Lately, that seems to be the case," said the Prime Minister sadly, his throat sacs pulsing at a slower pace, his voice sounding more raspy as he went on. "This war between the Krowtonans and the Kazon has disrupted traffic all throughout the surrounding sectors. The Kazon will prey upon any non-allied ship they encounter as commerce raiders. And the Krowtonans, they simply shoot anything on sight that isn’t one of their own."

"I think I understand," said Harry sympathetically. "Unfortunately, Illidaria isn’t the only world we’ve been to that have suffered as bystanders in this war."

"It’s more terrible than you can know, Captain Kim," said the Prime Minister. "That’s why your arrival has been so eagerly welcomed. We’ve been completely cut off from many of our trading partners as a result of this. Some of them have been forced to become protectorates of the Kazon Union. We feared such a fate for ourselves, if it weren’t for the Krowtonans."

"I’m afraid I don’t understand, your Excellency."

"The Krowtonans," the minister went on, "have been spotted in a number of star systems near to us. What their intentions are, I couldn’t say. They come and they go as they please. Our intelligence people think they may be doing reconnaissance, but we simply don’t know for certain."

"Have you sent any ships to investigate or confront them?" Harry asked.

"Confront?" the Illidarian snorted through his blowhole, sounding almost like laughter. "Captain, our military forces are quite modest compared to the Krowtonan Guard. The last thing we want to do is create any incidents with the Krowtonans that we couldn’t possibly survive."

"I understand, your Excellency," said Harry. "But you do realize that these incursions could be a prelude to something much worse later on. By passively allowing them to operate within your sphere of influence, you only encourage the Krowtonans to think that Illidaria would be an easy target of opportunity."

"Perhaps," said the prime minister regretfully. "But our options are limited. If we’re to build a stronger military, then we need greater prosperity here at home. We need wealth and new technology, Captain. Something that we’re hoping the presence of your starship and sister ships will help to bring about."

Harry nodded sagely as he listened to the words of the official before him. At first, he had thought the perpetual conflict between the Kazon and the Krowtonans had been beneficial, by forcing two aggressive empires into a resource-draining struggle that would not only deplete their strength, but also focus their attentions elsewhere instead of attacking any of their smaller, weaker neighbors. However, it would seem that no world was entirely immune to the destructive ripples of war, as the Illidarian struggles would seem to indicate.

But then something else occurred to Harry, the prime minister’s mention of Krowtonan visitations to a number of nearby systems. His thoughts went immediately to that of Wayfarer and Lieutenant Wildman. What if there really were hostile ships out there, ones who could be lying in wait to pounce upon an unsuspecting starship with an untested commanding officer. He made a note to himself to check on Wayfarer at the earliest opportunity, hopefully right after this com call.

Naomi looked around and asked, "Why didn’t they follow?" when no one answered from the tactical station she turned her head to see ensign Thomas lying on the floor with a bloody head. She rose and hurried over to check his pulse. When she found out it was still pretty strong she looked at the tactical display to see it was completely blanked out. Unfortunately, Ensign Jones was not doing as well. She still lay unconscious in a pool of her own blood while Mahat and two medics desperately tried to restart her neural functions.

Before she could call on the medics to learn of Jones’ status, Chief Ompa called her attention, "Ma’am, I know why they stopped following us. This region is almost as bad as the Badlands."

"What?" Naomi asked and hurried over to Ompa’s holographic helm controls.

Ompa showed Naomi the sensor readings, albeit they were incomplete since the damage report screen showed that several of the sensors were heavily damaged.

"Damn!" Naomi cursed as she read through them, "Do you think they’ll wait for us to come out?"

Ompa nodded affirmatively, "Yes Ma’am. They’ll probably at least keep an eye out for us to emerge from this place."

"Can we do repairs in here?"

"Yes, Lieutenant. As long as we don’t move to fast, we should be able to do repairs to our systems with out risking the ship in here."

Naomi’s lips were in a determined line before she said, "Then we’ll start with repairs."

"What!" Cho Ber roared into the face of the chief brutal. "You mean they escaped?"

"Yes, my Prime. They entered a region of the nebula that we cannot follow. It would be fruitless, since our sensors are not good enough to penetrate it and the plasma storms would tear our ships apart," the Brutal sergeant replied obediently.

Cho Ber fumed, and the Brutal in front of him bent his head awaiting new orders.

After he blew out a hard plume of air, Cho Ber ordered, "Station enough ships in a perimeter around all safe exit channels about the nebula, so that we can detect it immediately when it leaves." Turning to Gom Doku, he inquired further. "Am I correct in assuming that they will not be able to simply go through it and disappear on the other side?"

"No, my Prime," Gom Doku answered confidently. "The plasma storms throughout the nebula are strong. There are only a few narrow channels they can escape through where the disruption levels would be within the tolerances of their hull, we will have called enough backup by then to deal with them."

Cho Ber sat down at his dinner table, his wound was almost completely healed but he could still feel traces of the pain in his arm. He muttered to himself as he swallowed a piece of his meal, "Those incompetent fools! I almost had them." Of course, he could not confess to himself that the plan hadn’t been very clever to begin with, but it was the best he could come up with on such a short notice.

Suddenly not feeling very hungry he threw away the fork and shouted at his entourage of Servers. "Get rid of this!" he barked, as the Servers scurried over to the table to clean it, while Cho Ber stood up and left with angry steps.

"How are the wounded?" Naomi asked as she tried to repair the second general mission ops station.

"I’ve put one in the stasis chamber and I hope he’ll survive till we get to Enterprise, but the other four are in stable condition," Yola replied with a slightly edged voice.

Naomi looked up at the other woman, "There was nothing you could have done for Ensign Jones. She was dead before you could get to her."

"Don’t you think I know that?" Yola growled back, then her features calmed and she added, "I’m sorry. It’s just that I’ve never lost anyone before I could help them."

Naomi turned back to the console she was working on and replied, "I know what you are feeling. It happened to me once before."

Yola looked at Naomi, "Really? Did you also feel the helplessness?"

"Yes, it’s not something that goes away, I’ve just learned to ignore it while the crisis is at hand and afterwards make sure the families of those who died will know how, where and when."

Yola looked at Naomi with almost admiring eyes, "You are quite an amazing person."

Naomi shook her head, "No, I’m not. I just have more experience in these sort of things than most other people," she said with almost an embarrassed but clearly sad smile.

Yola didn’t want to argue, instead she simply shook her head and then realized why Naomi was so afraid she had made the wrong decision when she had brought Sabrina out here, "This is one of the reasons why you didn’t think it’d be good for Sabrina to be out here?" she asked, her voice having an increased tone of understanding.

Naomi stopped the repairs she was doing and looked at Yola, "Yes. What if I’m on an away mission and I die? It’s a thought that almost paralyzes me with horror."

"But that comes with the job doesn’t it? Whether you’re here or back in the Alpha Quadrant?"

"Yes, but I could’ve accepted a safer assignment, like on a starbase," Naomi replied with an unhappy glance at the tool she was holding.

Yola reached out and took Naomi’s hand, "You know that if you aren’t happy, Sabrina could start blaming herself for that. It’s not uncommon for children to believe their parents’… shall we say…shortcomings…are their fault."

"But I’m not really happy now either, and besides, I should think of Sabrina’s happiness foremost and not be so selfish."

"You’re not happy?" Yola said, giving Naomi a disbelieving look, "I saw you when we entered the ship and you thought this would just be a normal uneventful short term mission. You were happy, unless I mistook it all."

Naomi blushed slightly and then replied, "Yes, but I’m feeling guilty too. I can’t really enjoy it when I know I put my own daughter at risk, all for my ambition." she interrupted herself and let her answer hang in the air.

"Do you think the Captain is selfish by bringing his daughter along?" Yola asked softly.

Naomi looked at Yola and then shrugged, "Not really. I guess he’s entitled to."

"And you aren’t?"

Naomi was quiet as her eyes glanced away, not able to meet Yola’s reasoning.

"Alright, you’re right," she finally agreed returning her attention to the console at hand.

"Glad you could see it my way," Yola smiled back.

"Well since we’ll be late, I hope they won’t act the way Neelix acted towards me back when my mother was trapped on a planet."

"Oh?" Yola made a questioning sound.

"Yeah, Neelix refused to tell me what happened to my mom, but I saw that everyone looked at me with pity. That was horrible; the one I trusted the most after mom lied to me."

"Well Captain Kim and Dr. Annika were there, weren’t they? So they know what you think of the issue?"

"I certainly hope so."

"Will you come to the garden and watch me and mom tomorrow?" Sabrina asked Katrina with a hopeful look in her eyes.

Katrina smiled at her young friend and replied, "Sure, unless my mom won’t allow me to."

"I’ll ask her to let you go!" Sabrina exclaimed happily as the two girls entered DeltaCare.

As soon as they’d entered, Sabrina waved good-bye to Katrina and ran off to play with her friends of same age and Mr. Neddo greeted Katrina.

"Good morning, Ms. Kim. Will you be picking up Sabrina Wildman today also?"

"No, I think her mom will be back in time to pick her up today," Katrina replied before she called out to Sabrina and waved her hand in a good-bye gesture. Sabrina turned around when she heard the young Romulan and returned the wave.

"Well then. Good bye." Mr. Ned said and then hurried away as two children had started to fight at the far side of the playroom.

Katrina replied and then left with an amused smile, she was glad she didn’t have to stand these kids every day.

Captain’s log, Stardate 78634.6

With the first phase of our diplomatic mission completed, we are preparing to break orbit from Illidaria and begin our flight towards the rendezvous point with Wayfarer. I expect no incidents and hope the Wayfarer’s crew found some challenging data for our science department to chew on. Even though the records of Krowtonan patrols throughout this sector have me unnerved me, the Illidarians have assured me that there have been no reports of any more Krowtonan activity than the expected single border patrol ships. Still, I’ll feel better once our people are back and safe.

"Enter," Harry said as he heard the door signal the entrance call.

The door opened and revealed a grimfaced Kalan. "We have a problem, Captain. The Wayfarer is over an hour late for the rendezvous schedule," he said with a disapproving voice.

Harry noted it but ignored it as he put away the cup of Vulcan tea he was drinking. He knew Kalan had wanted a more seasoned commander assigned to the mission, but had ultimately relented to Harry’s wish to give Lieutenant Wildman a shot at more seasoning. "Any messages from them?" he asked instead.

Kalan shook his head, "None. There are no signs of them at all."

Harry sighed. It was a simple mission, nothing should have gone wrong. "Well then, increase scanning range and set a course for the origin of that anomaly they were sent to investigate. Ahead warp 5. We have nothing to hurry to, I’m sure the Illidarians won’t consider it rude if we leave orbit ahead of schedule."

"Aye, Captain." Kalan replied, and left for the bridge. As soon as the first officer had left, Harry contacted his wife.

"Annika, can you pick up Sabrina? It seems that Wayfarer is late," he told his wife.

"Yes, I will pick her up. Do you know the cause of Wayfarer’s delay?" she asked. Harry could almost hear her ask if it was because of Professor Mahat.

"We don’t know. There’s no sign of them at all. We’re going to go over their expected flight path to see if we can find any leads, but I do hope for the best and that they simply needed more scans than expected," Harry replied with an even voice trying to hide the concern.

"I see," Annika replied and then continued after a short silence.

Harry closed the communications channel and looked down at the tea he was holding. He felt his mind being filled with worry and he put the cup away as he’d lost his thirst.

"Lieutenant!" Naomi turned around at the urgent voice of Chief Ompa,

"Yes, Chief?" Naomi replied as she walked over to the conn.

"Sensors are picking up something strange at the epicenter of the storms."

"Our spatial anomaly, if I’m not mistaken," Yola chimed in as she peered at the data streaming across the view screen. "The plasma storms are intersecting with some kind of intense gravitational shear at the center of the nebula, releasing the neutrino emissions and veridium particles that the Astrometric sensors detected."

"Yes, Professor," the chief replied. "If I’m reading the data correctly, it’s some kind of…rift into subspace. I’ve never seen anything like it."

"A rift, you say?" Naomi replied curiously, her mind clearly at work. "What’s the graviton resonance of the spacetime curvature?"

Checking the readings, Ompa looked up to reply. "It’s at twelve point four milicochranes. I don’t understand. That’s far too low for any known wormhole, stable or otherwise."

"That’s because it’s not a wormhole," Naomi answered. "I think I know what it might be. Check your findings against the Voyager logs, Chief."

"Yes, ma’am," said Ompa, as he hunched over the console and cross-referenced the sensor data against the ship’s historical database. "Lieutenant, I think that this anomaly matches with…what were they called…Vaduaar-subspace corridors?"

"I thought so," said Naomi. "Right in the heart of the nebula."

"Do you think that’s what the Krowtonans are here for?" asked Yola. "To study the corridors?"

 "I hope not. That’d be a catastrophe if the Krowtonans were to find it. Are you sure they won’t be able to enter this area?"

"Absolutely positive, ma’am. From what our sensors could gather from their targeting abilities, they would not be able to chase us," Ompa snorted with slight arrogance. "I also doubt their scanners would be able to detect or even enter it."

Naomi gave the seasoned Chief a slightly disapproving glance and then said, "Don’t underestimate them. We took a lot of damage from their weapons," she then turned her head to greet Yola who had come up to stand on Ompa’s other side. "Do you think we could close this rift?"

Yola looked intently at the main screen that displayed the barely visible fluctuation in normal space hinting the existence of it, she then shrugged, "I’m not sure, but from the data we have on these, I’d say it probably would be possible from the inside." Yola gave a Naomi a curious look and then asked, "Why do you want to close it?"

Naomi shrugged, "It’s quite close to Illidarian space, and I don’t think either they or anyone else in the quadrant want the Krowtonans to have such easy access to anything outside their territory."

"You know, they might want it for themselves," Ensign Thomas commented from the tactical station.

Naomi turned around to face the young Ensign, "I’m sure they would, but from the tactical and strategic debriefing Commander Kalan and Lieutenant Krell held, I doubt they would have the capability to guard or even use it. Their shields probably couldn’t even handle the plasma storms around the nebula. That’s probably how this thing avoided being detected until now."

"And if the Krowtonans should find it, ma’am?" Thomas asked inquiringly.

"That depends on where this thing leads," said Naomi. "If it leads anywhere near Talax or our allied worlds, it could mean big trouble. This could be a key asset to helping the Krowtonans win the war, and that’s the last things we want, for either side to have a clear strategic victory over their opponents. Naomi then decided there had been enough chitchat, and stretched sore muscles before continuing, "Well that’s enough. Professor Mahat, will you and the rest of your scientists begin working on a way to at least temporarily close that rift?" Yola nodded in acknowledgement and then Naomi addressed the rest of the crew, "The rest of you, carry on with the repairs."

"Sabrina," Annika called out as she waved at the young girl sitting at a table with holo-paintshops.

Sabrina turned her head around when she heard the voice and waved back, she then jumped up from the chair she was sitting on and bundled over to the blonde woman, "Hi, Aunt Annika. Where’s mom?" she asked giving Annika a greeting hug. "She told me she would be back here by now."

"She is running a somewhat late, so she asked me to pick you up for tonight." Annika answered, no trace of worry in her voice.

Sabrina regarded the woman in front of her for a short second, "Okay," she then said with a happy grin. "Will Katrina be able to play Kadis Kot with me later?"

"Of course. She is grounded after all." Annika replied with a smile.

"Let’s go then!" Sabrina exclaimed animatedly as she grabbed Annika’s hand and began to drag the adult towards the exit. "Bye all!" she yelled to the other kids still waiting for their parent’s to come and pick them up.

Commanding officer’s log Stardate: 78634.61

Repairs are continuing to work well and it seems that Professor Mahat and her team has devised a way to close the rift from the inside. Once inside we should be able to escape via the subspace corridor from our Krowtonan hunters. It’s a desperate gambit we’re playing at, but fate has placed us here where we’re needed to prevent a serious strategic upset in the war between the Krowtonans and the Kazon. Neither side can be allowed to find this tunnel.

"Are we ready to enter the corridor?" Naomi asked from the command char, she much preferred to be at the Ops control, but there was Yola who would be coordinating the sealing of the rift once they had entered through it.

"Aye Ma’am," Thomas replied from the tactical station.

"Then, proceed, Chief." Naomi ordered from her seat.

The Chief complied and Wayfarer started to move slowly towards the rift.

As they entered the space around them changed, from the violet and crimson of the Mutara-Class nebula to the yellow-range haze of the subspace corridor. As soon as the ship came into contact with the corridor it began to shake and one could literally hear the rumble through the hull.

When they’d entered roughly a hundred meters into the corridor Yola determined they were far enough away from the rift and she turned her eyes towards Thomas and gave him a short nod.

Thomas acknowledged it and hit the fire button. A modified quantum torpedo left the aft launcher and on the main view screen followed it as it rapidly approached the gate between real space and subspace. When it was just in between the two it detonated cause a small shockwave that quickly expanded and hit Wayfarer’s shields. Ordinary deflectors were insufficient against such a blast, necessitating the use of the ship’s generated ablative armor shields.

Wayfarer managed to withstand the wave and it soon passed the small ship behind them the rift was seen no more.

Naomi released the breath she’d held while the entire moment passed, "Okay, Chief. One quarter impulse," she ordered. "Ensign Thomas, prepare the ship to leave the corridor in fifteen minutes."

Both men acknowledged her orders and she relaxed slightly in her chair. A moment later she felt a hand on her shoulder and when she looked up she was met by Yola’s reassuring smile.

"Anything?" Cho Ber asked his first keeper, as he sat down in his command couch.

"No, my Prime. Sixteen other patrol ships have arrived and are positioned at the only points where the alien ship can leave as you ordered."

"Good. Have the mines been placed?" Cho Ber asked with a lazy yawn.

"Yes, my Prime, exactly as ordered." Gom Duku replied obediently.

"One can’t hardly be displeased with their obedience," Cho Ber thought as he waved the keeper off to his other duties.

"My Prime!" one of the Brutals suddenly spoke up. "The storms are dissipating!"

The words made Cho Ber sit up straight and look at the brutal that had spoken. "What? How is that possible?" he asked.

"We do not know, my Prime," the brutal answered slightly anxious, worried that he had failed his prime. "There seems to be some kind of intense explosion within the nebula itself."

Moments later every single storm had dissipated, clearing the way for their sensors to sweep the surrounding region, but there was no trace of the Wayfarer.

"Where are they?" Cho Ber all but snarled out, his anger overwhelming him, causing acute pain in his subordinates.

"Nothing shows up on our sensors, my Prime," Gom Duku replied with a painful voice.

"Send all ships for a closer look!" Cho Ber ordered with a snarl.

The first keeper obeyed and keyed the order to the other Krowtonan ships.

Five minutes later as every ship had begun their scans of the area, the storms returned. In less than thirty seconds every Krowtonan ship were lost with all hands.

Cho Ber could simply stare at the main view screen, his stunned expression expressed itself in the pheromones he exuded and caused the entire command suite crew to become confused and undetermined.

"W-what happened?" Naomi asked with an unsteady voice as she reseated herself on the command chair.

"Something must’ve gone wrong when we closed the rift," Yola answered, her voice just as shaky as Naomi’s.

"Damage report!" Naomi managed to bark off with a steadier voice and Ensign Thomas replied.

"Heavy damage to our weapons array, minor damage to communications. We have no long-range transmission abilities, transporter off line, warp systems off line, life support minimal but still running."

"Current position?"

"About one light-year away from the original sighting’s coordinates."

"Can we send off a subspace message?"

"Yes, Ma’am. But we only have a range of a few parsecs."

"That’ll be enough. Then do it."

"Is mommy coming back soon?" Sabrina asked as Annika put the little girl to bed in the residence guest room.

"Yes. They had to stay a little longer than expected," Annika answered her experience from her early time on Voyager helping her to hide her emotions.

"Did she send me any message?" Sabrina added with a yawn, her voice very tired.

"I am afraid there was no time for that. The nebula is interfering with the communications arrays." Annika answered and managed to clear her face from showing that she was lying.

"OK. Good night then," Sabrina yawed once again and shut her eyes.

Annika gave the girl a quick hug and then left the room ordering the lights down to a mere fifteen percent illumination.

When Annika entered the living room Harry looked up and asked, "What did you tell her?"

Annika’s gaze shifted away from her husband’s look and then she replied, "I lied."

"You know how Naomi felt when Neelix lied to her." Harry commented. He did not want to argue on the side he was, but felt that one of them at least had to consider Naomi’s wishes in the matter.

"I know," Annika said, "but this is not the same situation. At the time, Naomi was much more mature than Sabrina is. I do not think she would be able to understand."

"Sometimes children understand more than we give them credit for."

Annika gave Harry an unhappy glance and then sat down beside him, leaning on his shoulder and made a weary sigh.

The whole display made Harry chuckle mirthlessly as he remembered how Annika, then Seven of Nine, had once been and how human she had become.

"I wonder sometime what would happen to Katrina if this ever happened to us?" said Harry.

"It has actually has happened already," Annika said her head still resting on Harry’s shoulder.

"I know, when you were taken prisoner on Sarpedon, I didn’t hesitate one moment to tell Katrina, even though I tried to encourage her that everything would turn out fine. Would you do the same if the situation were reversed?"

"Of course not, but she is fourteen, almost fifteen. She would be able to handle the news better than a six year old girl would."

Harry sighed, slightly surprised at Annika’s resistance to tell Sabrina that they didn’t know where her mother was at the moment. Scans had come up with nothing and they were now about one day away from the nebula that Wayfarer had set course towards. "She’s discussed this with us on several occasions and you know what she wants and we’ve promised to do it for her. Do you really want to break that promise?" Harry asked looking gravely at his wife.

Annika looked at him for several seconds and then let her eyes glance away from his; she seemed to shake herself and then answered. "I simply do not feel comfortable telling a six year old girl her mother is missing. At least, not until we have genuine cause for concern."

At her words Harry reached out and gripped her hand, "I know. Hell, I’ve had to write many condolence letters in my day and I’ve hated every single one of them."

Annika dried a small tear from her cheek and then snuggled closer to Harry taking comfort in her husband’s strong features.

Unbeknownst to the pair sitting in the couch a door slid shut silently and a small six-year-old girl returned to a cold bed crying.

"FIND THEM!" Cho Ber screamed at his entourage of Brutals and keepers, present in the command suit.

With panicked looks in their faces they complied frenetically and suddenly Gom Duku spoke up with a triumphant voice, "We’ve found them, my Prime!"

"Good!" Cho Ber replied and then turned his head towards the Brutal at the helm. "Set a course to pursue them immediately!" the Brutal complied efficiently as the pheromone levels began to return back to the important balance it needed to be in.

Cho Ber returned to his command seat and looked at the main view screen that displayed the contours of Wayfarer limping on barely one half impulse away from the nebula. When he was comfortably seated he waved at Gom Duku to come to his side and the first keeper complied obediently. "Are the repairs on the isokinetic cannon finished?"

Gom Duku nodded almost vigorously and replied, "Yes, my Prime. It is ready for a new test run."

With almost a feral smile, Cho Ber looked over at the Brutal at the tactical station. "When we are in range, target and fire the cannon at Level Two," he ordered and the Brutal nodded even though he could not understand why they would not use conventional weapons.

"M-my Prime?" Gom Duku asked cautiously, since the last time they had tried the cannon at such a power level it had more or less failed to contain the massive energies of the subspace projectile in more than fifty percent of the tests.

With a dismissive gesture Cho Ber said coldly, "I looked over the specs and it worked fine until we began increasing the power yields closer to Level Three."

"Even so, my Prime," the Keeper protested, "the success rates for our tests past Level One have been uneven. Perhaps if we tried a lower level…"

"No," Cho Ber replied coldly. "Even at one-tenth power, it is twice as strong as anything else we have. You have your orders, Keeper. I really want to blow that thing out of my sky."

"What was that?" Naomi yelled with irritation, as she once again had to reseat herself after something had hit the ship hard.

"They used a weak form of some kind of subspace projectile weapon," Mahat answered from her sensor station.

"It’s an isokinetic cannon!" Thomas replied struggling to keep himself on foot. "Shields down to eighty percent. We won’t be able to take many more hits!"

Naomi grimaced and ordered through gritted teeth, "Evasive maneuvers!"

Chief Ompa complied as well as he could but the ship was hit once again, this time everyone was prepared and none lost balance.

"Shields down to fifty percent! They’re buckling!"

"There must be something we can do! I need options!" Naomi exclaimed with an irritated voice, she stared at the view screen and then suddenly asked, "An isokinetic cannon has several plasma projectors right?"

"Yes Ma’am," Thomas replied not following his commanding officers trail of thought.

"Do we have any warp plasma left in our nacelles?" Naomi asked ignoring the questioning sound in her tactical officer’s voice.

"Yes we have," Chief Ompa replied, as he understood what Naomi was thinking.

Naomi grinned at her helmsman’s reply, "Can you fly the ship so that it can be released right into their teeth?" she asked, her voice containing a fiendish edge.

"Yes, ma’am!" Ompa replied with the same tone as he gave the view screen an evil grin.

"Do it!" Naomi ordered and then added, "Tactical, be prepared to vent the nacelles at my command!"

"Aye, ma’am!" Thomas confirmed the order.

Ompa steered Wayfarer in a half loop and as the Krowtonan attack cruiser came up from behind to fire once again Naomi yelled, "Vent them now!"

As the bright blue warp plasma left the nacelles it hit the other ship squarely at the bow clogging the cannon’s projectors a millisecond before it fired. First nothing happened and then the bow lit up in a bright red flash and the Krowtonan ship staggered off course with several bright blue discharges flying all over its hull, letting Wayfarer increase the distance between them.

"Yes!" Thomas exclaimed as the bridge crew of Wayfarer could see the damage done.

"Mom, is it ok if I go with Sabrina today?" Katrina asked with a solemn voice, before breakfast Annika had talked quietly to her daughter about Wayfarer and with her Naomi, missing the rendezvous.

Annika looked at her daughter from the other side of the dining table where she was setting it. "Yes, you can," she nodded towards the sink and added, "That basket has all the supplies for the picnic. Enjoy."

Katrina nodded and sat down at her place to begin her breakfast.

Harry entered the bridge and looked at Kalan who had risen from the command chair to greet him. "Anything new?" he asked worriedly.

Kalan simply growled a frustrated, "Nothing."

Harry sighed disappointedly although he knew they’d com. him immediately if they had found anything. "I’ll be in my ready room if anyone needs me. Number one, you have the bridge."

Kalan gave a short clipped nod in reply and returned to the command chair.

A hybrid human and a Romulan entered the Hydroponics garden where the DeltaCare picnic would take place.

"You’ve got everything?" Sabrina asked Katrina with an anxious look, she really wanted in her own opinion, superior tastes in food to the other children.

Katrina nodded and answered, "Mom put everything as far as I know in the basket."

As they both walked towards the designated place for the event, Katrina gave Sabrina a smile and then said, "Why don’t you go and play with the other kids while I set up the food?"

Sabrina replied with an excited grin, "Okay, " there was o trace of her missing her mother, and then she released Katrina’s hand and rushed towards the children playing at the thin beach.

Katrina choose a nice place under a cedar tree, there she put down the basket, picked up a blanket and spread it out beneath the tree in the shadow. Once the blanket was smoothed out she began to put the different courses on it along with plates and other flatware. Among the food were hot dogs, Sabrina’s absolute favorite.

Katrina looked down at the pleasantly scene she had made and then was interrupted in her thoughts by someone clearing his throat behind her.

When she looked up, her eyes met the blue eyes belonging to a certain human teenager, "Hi there," he said with a hesitant smile. "Are you mad at me?"

Katrina gave him a shy smile, "No, I’m just not allowed to use the comm. more than necessary," she explained.

"Ah," Jason nodded in understanding, he was quite familiar with that particular punishment.

"Sorry for abandoning you like that the other day, I was just so worried about Sabrina."

"No need to apologize, it was my fault kind of." Jason replied with a sheepish smile.

"That I agree with." Katrina grinned back at him, "care to join me here?"

"Sure, my family is here since my kid brother is about Sabrina’s age," Jason answered and sat down beside Katrina.

After he had sat down they both became silent, neither looking at the other simply enjoying the company.

Some time later the DeltaCare nurses began to gather parents and children and Sabrina came running towards them with animated jumps.

"They’re having the triple-leg run now! You have to do it with me!" Sabrina yelled eagerly.

Katrina laughed at Sabrina’s animated look and nodded an ‘okay’ towards the young girl before standing up.

Before she walked away after Sabrina she looked back at Jason and asked, "Come along and watch?"

Jason gave her an amused smile and nodded, "Why not?"

Have we lost them?" Naomi asked with a breathless voice.

Ompa looked through his sensor data and then replied, "I think so, Lieutenant. They aren’t following us, at least."

Naomi breathed out heavily and then said, "Plot a course towards the rendezvous point, maximum speed."

"Aye, ma’am!" the Chief confirmed.

After the Denobulan had confirmed her order she rose from the command chair and looked at Thomas. "Ensign Thomas, you have the bridge. I’ll be in my quarters. There are some letters for people back home I need to compose."

Thomas nodded at her and then turned back towards his station.

"We won!" Sabrina yelled, gleefully holding the small trophy they had gotten as a prize.

Katrina smiled at the girl and nodded, "Indeed it seems we did," she agreed. "Are you hungry now?" she then asked.

Sabrina nodded vigorously, "Yeah! I want hot dogs!"

"Then lets have some." Katrina said and they both started towards their camp.

When they reached the blanket with their food, Katrina began to serve and almost missed the long longing look Sabrina gave the space seen through the large window at the end of the garden.

"Captain, we’ve found them!" Lieutenant Krell exclaimed with a slightly louder voice than normal. They’d been searching for the small ship for almost two days now, they were only a dozen light-years from the nebula Wayfarer had been sent to investigate.

Harry looked up and relief could be seen quickly passing his face. "Open a channel."

Krell obeyed and also keyed a command to show the vessel on the main screen, as the channel was opened the display showed a heavily damaged ship with scorch-marks everywhere.

"Channel opened." Krell confirmed and then the entire bridge crew waited in silence.

When there was no response Harry asked, "Anything?"

"No reply at all, sir."

"Life signs?" Kalan asked with a harsh voice it barely contained the fury he felt for anyone even daring to hurt one of his crewmen.

Krell keyed in some other commands and then reported as the ship’s sensors and computer replied with an analysis, "Nineteen. Two seem to be in stasis."

"There were originally twenty-one aboard," Harry said through gritted teeth. "How far away are they?"

"Approximately two and a half light-years, Sir."

"Helm, set course and engage warp twelve immediately."

"Aye, sir!" Miral replied with a grin.

"Warp signature at bearing 1 mark 46," Ompa reported and then continued as his sensors could tell him more, "It’s Enterprise. She’s seen us and is coming in!"

Naomi gave the Denobulan a thankful glance and then sat back in her command chair, relieved that she would see her daughter once again.

"Can we send them a message?"

"Negative, our long-range subspace radio is still offline."

"Then I guess all we can do is wait. Turn the ship to a matching course, let them at least know we’ve seen them too."

Ompa acknowledged her order and fifteen minutes later the giant starship named Enterprise dropped out of warp and the two ships stopped a couple of kilometers away from each other.

"Do we have any short-range communications?" Naomi asked, when Ompa replied affirmatively she ordered, "Open a channel."

"Channel open, ma’am."

"Enterprise, this is Wayfarer reporting in. Sorry we are late," Naomi said with a smile. "We ran into some unexpected obstacles along the way."

A short moment later they could all hear the Captain’s voice over the speakers. "Hello there, Wayfarer. It’s good to have you back. May I ask what took you so long?" his voice was slightly on edge, obviously he had found out about the two crewmen that did not make it back.

"We met some Krowtonans on our way to the phenomena, but we managed to shake free of them."

"I’ll expect a full report by seven hundred hours tomorrow. Dock your ship, so you can be with your daughter. I believe you have some quality time to catch up with?" Harry’s voice had become more concerned as Naomi had explained their delay.

"I will sir, and yes I have!" Naomi replied and then motioned to cut the channel.

"Mr. Neddo, I’m here to pick up Sabrina so she can meet with her mother at the hangar bay one." Katrina said as she reached the Vissian who was standing in a corner watching the children playing.

Mr. Neddo nodded and said, "It’s a relief that most of them are okay."

Katrina nodded in agreement and then she called out to Sabrina, "Come along kid. We’re gonna go meet your mommy."

At her words Sabrina’s head shot up and looked at the young Romulan girl with a huge grin on her face, her mother was finally home!

"YEAH!" she shouted and started to run towards the DeltaCare exit.

"Hold it, no running!" Katrina shouted after the little girl and run after her only stopping to wave good-bye to the Children’s nurse. "We have to be responsible, don’t we?"

Naomi was talking quietly with Yola as the airlock opened and revealed an impatient little girl on the other side.

When Sabrina saw her mother, she rushed to close the distance between them. When she was just a couple of feet away, she jumped and almost decked her mother while giving her a bear hug.

"Ouf!" Naomi moaned as she grabbed her daughter and hugged her tightly, glad she was with her again.

"I’ve missed you!" Sabrina declared with a tearful voice, muffled by her mother’s uniform.

"I’ve missed you too, baby," Naomi replied with a soothing voice.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 78634.7:

With the Wayfarer’s safe return, we are now proceeding on to our next scheduled destination. Our contact with the Illidarians has been an outstanding success, and, in light of Lieutenant Wildman’s discoveries, a vital necessity. What had started out as a simple scientific mission has turned out to be a valuable gathering of intelligence on Krowtonan operations in this sector, even if it did come at the cost of two of our people.

On a personal note, I can see that this mission has been an even more important training ground for Lieutenant Wildman. Based on the debriefings of her fellow shipmates, she has handled herself superbly under the most difficult of circumstances. I’m sure that we can expect great things from her in the future.

"The analysis of the sensor logs confirmed what Wayfarer’s sensors observed five days ago," Cyrus Krell reported. "While the device is clearly not perfected yet, it’s clear that the Krowtonans already have a prototype for an isokinetic weapon system. It indicates that they have a higher base technology level than the Kazons. In my opinion, it will mean that they are going to eventually win the war, unless the Kazon manage to find another source to purchase hardware upgrades from." The security officer finalized his presentation as he stood before the rest of the senior staff. He and Naomi had—after some initial time off—gone through the data Wayfarer’s sensors managed to record during the course of their unexpected reconnaissance mission.

Harry nodded to Krell and then turned to the rest of his command staff. "Thoughts?"

"Lieutenant Krell and Lieutenant Wildman’s report seem to cover everything." Kalan commented as he gave Naomi an appreciative look. Despite his initial misgivings, he had been impressed by how the young lieutenant had managed to escape the much heavier armed Krowtonan ship.

"What about the rift into the subspace corridor? Will the Krowtonans be able to detect it?" Saldeed asked, all eyes in the room turning to her. The rest of the staff, with the exception of Commander Vorik, had been surprised to see the doctor at the briefing at all. The Captain had been more or less shutting the doctor out from staff meetings these days, and Saldeed herself was making herself more unavailable lately.

"We made further scans of the area," Naomi replied, trying to conceal her discomfort at the Romulan doctor’s presence, "and we have determined that Wayfarer’s efforts to close the corridor were only temporary. The modified torpedo we launched seemed not to have been able to seal it completely."

"Also," Krell added, "we believe that the rift, together with the nebula, causes the plasma storms in that region of it, which will help conceal the corridor as it has in the past. From what we know of Krowtonan technology, it suggests that they neither have good enough sensors to detect the rift or good enough ships to even enter the area and get a better look."

Saldeed nodded in understanding and Harry gave the others one more glance.

Kalan looked thoughtful and then said, "Do you think we should reveal the rift to the Illidarians?"

Harry shrugged and then replied, "It might prove useful. They don’t have the capability to actively exploit the corridor just yet, but it will offer them a possible solution to how to keep in contact with outside trading partners if things don’t shape up with the war situation anytime soon. We will, of course, tell them that we have detected Krowtonan activities in the area, which should give them even more cause to sign a treaty with us."

Quag gave Naomi a speculative glance and then asked, "How dangerous are those storms?"

Naomi looked back and wondered silently why the Ferengi wanted to know that. "They are not so dangerous as long as the ship has adequate shielding and Astrometric sensors to navigate the region. Enterprise, for an example, would be able to brave the storms with ease, although maneuvering might be difficult for a ship its size. A ship the size of Wayfarer, on the other hand, would have no problem, or at least, not as much of one."

"Why so curious about that, Mr. Quag?" Harry asked suspiciously.

Before Quag could reply Saldeed interjected, "He wants to use the rift as a trade lane between Illidaria and Talax," her comment made Harry turn his eyes sharply at her the mistrust clearly evident in his eyes. Saldeed could not miss it even if she had been blind and she all but groaned and added sarcastically, "It’s obvious. You don’t need to be a telepath to know how a Ferengi thinks."

Realizing she was right, Harry turned his eyes at Quag and said with a stern voice, "Mr. Quag, I think that using the corridor for long distance travel at this point is premature and potentially dangerous. The last thing we want to do is pique Krowtonan interest in the region.  Do I make myself clear?"

Quag could not miss the tone of Harry’s voice and nodded glumly giving the human a grumpy glare. After Quag’s question no one seemed to have anything further to add and with that Harry ended the briefing.

As they began to file out Harry called out to Naomi to stay behind.

When everyone else had left Harry smiled at the old friend and said, "I’d like to congratulate for the successful return from your mission."

Naomi returned the smile and replied, "Thank you, sir. It was a close call on several occasions."

"Yes, it was," Harry agreed. "I’d like to apologize for not telling Sabrina." He then added with a sad look.

Naomi made a shooing gesture and then said with a warm voice, "It’s okay. I think I can agree with Annika this time. She’s still a little young to fully grasp these kind of events."

"I think she somehow found out though. She was much calmer yesterday than she usually is."

Naomi nodded, "She was very clingy last night, wanted to sleep in the same bed with me. She hasn’t needed that in almost half a year now."

"I hope everything is OK with her though," Harry said with a concerned voice.

"It’s a lot to get used to, us being out here, sir," Naomi said with a smile, remembering what Yola had said to her in the galley on Wayfarer. "But we’ve got each other. And that’s all we need.  I think we’re going to be all right."


—And the Adventure Continues…

Category : Delta Fleet


One Response

  1. Administrator says:

    Khylaren (21 May 2003)

    Very enjoyable episode. I particularly liked the interaction between Jor’Morak and Sabrina. It was also nice to see Katrina and Jason interact some more.

    I like the problems that have cropped up for us now, the Krowts obviously are working at becoming a force to be reckoned with, and while they may be a ways behind being a problem for Enterprise, they have enough power and technology to cause grief for unsuspecting planets in the sector. How this will play in with the Federation’s presence in the Delta Quadrant? Only future episodes will tell 😉 .

    It was nice to see a Naomi/Sabrina ep as well, and I liked the comparison with what happened to Naomi’s mom on Voyager to what happend with Sabrina.

    This was a fun episode, and a good spot for it right after the much darker previous episode. The small bit of Saldeed thrown in shows us that obviously things haven’t just “gone back to normal” for her – which is a nice bit of continuity. I suspect if this had been the TV series, a huge reset button would have been hit sooner or later. If and how Saldeed will earn Harry’s trust back remains to be seen.

    My compliments to the Author. Well done. 🙂

    FuFuKat (25 May 2003)
    KapK and everyone else as well,

    Good ep! Loved the carry over of the kid interactions and the sweet way that Katrina and her lil boyfriend, Jason interacted. I love the way that Jor’Morak has been coming along as a wicked kewl (wicked in the kewl slang sense not as in evil) character. Keep up the good work. Much love to all of the great authors! You all rock!!!


    Khylaren (30 May 2003)

    I just felt I had to put my two cents worth in here today as I noticed there wasn’t any more feedback to the latest episode posted.

    As a writer, I can only say that feedback is a wonderful thing – not just as a “Hey I did a great job, look at what they said” kind of thing, although that helps keep the writer happy 😉 , but more as a “Did I do a good job, what are the readers thinking about this, was it even interesting?” kind of thing.

    I find positive and constructive feedback helps me to correct mistakes and improve my writing. It also lets me know that what I wrote was of interest. Its just a little thing, I suppose, and its not the only reason why we write, but its certainly an important aspect of the personal satisfaction and pleasure one gets out of writing.

    As a reader, I find feedback helps point me towards stories I would like to read, as well as steer me away from literary disasters (although we’ll find none of the latter here!). Feedback paints a picture of the story in several levels – letting the reader know if the plot was good, the writing itself was of quality, and so on.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I’m hoping more people will take a minute to let Kristian know what a good job he did on the last episode. I’ll be quiet now 😉

    FatMat (14 Jun 2003)
    Hey everybody!

    It looks like there hasn’t been a lot of feedback generated for DF#9, Bonds of Affinity, but I’d still like to add my own words about this EP here on the Forum.


    The interraction between Sabrina & Jor’Marak was definitely one of the highlights of this story. It was awesome to read how they bumped into each other (just like Jason and Katrina when they were on the holodeck in DF#7) but the conversation that these two characters shared was also a very memorable part of the story.


    The Krowtonans seem like they’re going to pop up a few more times as we read more DF stories. I’m sure the Kazon & the Vidiians will also be mentioned, but it’s much more interesting to read about an alien race that we’re not too familiar with. There was a fan-fic series based in the adventures of Rudy Ransom and his crew on board the USS Equinox & they encountered the Krows quite a few times (and Rudy talks about them very briefly during the EP of Voyager that he was in) but here in the Delta Fleet stories we get to see these aliens a whole lot more. The Krowtonans have been depicted by several different authors and they’re just getting more & more weird each time I read them.


    My favorite parts in DF#9 involves Naomi when she was in charge of the Wayfarer. I thought it was really cool to see Yola Mahat on board that ship w.her & the conversations btwn. those two characters was very well written. The story never slowed down too much and I liked the way it kept jumping from one ship to another.


    I’m the type of person who loves weird aliens, esp. if they’re a member of the crew on board a Federation ship, so it was really great to see a Denobulan on the Bridge of the Wayfarer. I hope we see more unique characters like that in the future stories, maybe a Tellarite or perhaps a rare alien like a Gorn may appear… who knows?


    The last thing I want to comment on is the space battle that went on btwn. Naomi’s ship and the Krowtonans. This could’ve been one of those giant fights w.lots of ZAPS! & explosions going on, but it was very short and didn’t last too long since they found a place to hide inside of the nebula. And then Lt. Wildman discovered a Vaduuar corridor which totally changed the direction of the story into something more about sacrifice and preventing the enemy from gaining the upper-hand.


    The scene in the Briefing Room at the end was magnificent! I love the fact that Dr. Saldeed was there and everyone kept on staring at her suspiciously. Her comment about the Ferengi wanting to use the corridor to create a profitable path btwn. the Illidarians and Delta One near Talax had me laughing a lot. It’s wonderful to read about everyone’s reactions and the way they try to settle in once a meeting is called… but you still have to keep your eye on a few ppl, especailly the ones who have funny looking ears!


    Great Job & I cant wait for the next story!

    Matt (18 Jun 2003)
    Would have commented earlier, but I wasn’t even expecting a new episode so quickly following the previous one, so didn’t read Bonds until recently.

    I don’t know how much was by design vs. coincidence, but I thought this was a great follow-up episode to Inquisitor. Inquisitor was so intense and lacking in humor (by design, this is not a criticism), while this Bonds had its light moments, but was also serious enough at times — and overall — to flow well with its predecessor.

    I love (though it drives me crazy) what you all are doing with the identity of Sabrina’s father!

    Favorite parts of the episode: the interactions between Sabrina and Jor’Marak (of course) and the conversations between Naomi and Yola before and following the attack. In fact, the story really shone in all the moments of interpersonal interaction, both the light conversations and the difficult discussions. Again, more moral questions for Harry; here, what to tell Sabrina.

    Negatives/constructive criticism? I would have liked to know the “behind the scenes” of why Saldeed was invited to the meeting at the end (not just making reference to the previous episode, but integrating with it). The Sabrina/Jor’Marak interaction seemed a little underutilized. And the existence of the corridor made the end a bit of a deus ex machina, although this is certainly not unusual for a Star Trek story.

    But overall an excellent episode — it contained a little of everything, which combined into a great whole.

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