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The Returned, Part III

Peter David

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  CAPTAIN MACKENZIE CALHOUN spun around the moment he materialized on the transporter platform, half expecting to see that the Visionary had not beamed up with them. But no, there he was, big as life. He was looking around in what was clearly borderline panic as he saw that he had been beamed onto a Federation starship.

  Kebron was there as well, along with Meyer and Boyajian. “The others! Where are the others?” said Calhoun.

  Halliwell was manipulating the controls. “I have ten people in the buffers, Captain. Step off the platform and I’ll start bringing them up.”

  “Ten? Where—?”

  Kebron turned to Calhoun. “We had several fatalities, Captain.”


  He looked at the Visionary. Then, in a very low voice, he said to Halliwell, “How long can you keep them in the buffers?”

  Halliwell looked somewhat surprised by the question but then said, “Indefinitely, theoretically. But I wouldn’t recommend—”

  That was all Calhoun had to hear.

  He strode over to the Visionary and grabbed him by the front of his clothing. The Visionary tried to push him away and, when that didn’t work, started to say his name.

  He didn’t get a word out because Calhoun hit him in the face so hard that he nearly shattered the Visionary’s jaw. The blue light that suffused the Visionary flared in response to the impact. A thick liquid started to seep from his mouth.

  Calhoun was just getting started.

  He slammed the Visionary in the gut, doubling him over. Then he struck him again, this time in the side of the head. The Visionary would have fallen over, but Calhoun gripped his arm and kept him upright, shoving him against the wall and slugging him repeatedly in the stomach.

  “Captain!” called Kebron, but Calhoun wasn’t listening. He was absolutely blind with rage. He didn’t want to hear anything the Visionary said. He just wanted to beat him and keep on beating him until he could never walk or talk again. He wanted to beat him to death. Calhoun could have simply wiped him out of existence with his phaser, but that would have been much too quick.

  He would have beaten him until his skull was crushed and he had no blood left in his body because it had spilled all over the transporter room deck. It was Kebron who stopped him. The security officer grabbed Calhoun’s fist, which was covered with the bluish ooze that was seeping out of the Visionary. Calhoun tried to pull away, but he couldn’t break Kebron’s grip.

  “Stop now,” Kebron said.

  Calhoun didn’t listen. His mind was thick with so much rage that the rest of the world had ceased to exist. All he could think about was killing the Visionary. Gone was his concern about taking prisoners or bringing anyone to justice for their crimes. All that mattered was crushing the life from the Visionary’s body.

  Calhoun tried to attack Kebron.

  It did not go well.

  Kebron did the only thing he could think of. He grabbed Calhoun, momentarily immobilizing the infuriated captain. Then he shook him violently.

  Under other circumstances, Calhoun might have been able to mount a defense against Kebron. Perhaps in a one-on-one battle, Calhoun might even have found a way to defeat him. But at that moment, Mackenzie Calhoun was not in his right mind. A naked fury was rampaging through him, and so he was unable to think clearly. As a result he could not defend himself as Kebron continued to shake him. His head snapped back and forth and he felt himself starting to get dizzy.

  “All right,” he finally said.

  Kebron didn’t let go of him immediately, although he did stop shaking him. “Are you sure?” he said cautiously.

  “Yes,” Calhoun managed to say.

  The security officer released him. Calhoun didn’t say anything at first. Instead he simply stared at the unmoving Visionary. He was still alive; Calhoun had not succeeded in beating him to death. It wasn’t happenstance; Calhoun could have killed him instantly. He had wanted to prolong the beating for as long as possible. What was the point in simply killing him? The trick was to prolong the suffering.

  The Visionary managed to focus on him long enough to whisper, “Kill me. Please . . . kill me.” Then his consciousness fled him and he slumped to one side.

  “Go to hell,” Calhoun said. He did not, however, continue his attack. Instead he walked over to the Visionary and lifted him off the deck. “Halliwell, bring everyone else up here.”

  “You can’t,” said Meyer. “They’re all unconscious. We managed to break them out of the tubes, but none of them have come around.”

  “Beam them directly to sickbay,” said Calhoun. “Kebron, alert the doctor that she’s about to have a few new patients.”

  “Yes, sir,” said Kebron.

  Calhoun nodded and then headed out of the transporter room toward sickbay.

  Whereupon Kebron turned to Halliwell and said, “You did not see that.”

  “See what?” she asked.


  CALHOUN WALKED INTO sickbay, still carrying the Visionary. Doctor Lochley was, as luck would have it, tending to the D’myurj historian whom they had found earlier on the derelict vessel. Quentis was sitting up and sipping what appeared to be some sort of broth. When he saw the Visionary, his eyes widened in surprise. Calhoun knew immediately that Quentis recognized him. Either that or he was simply astounded at the condition that the Visionary was in. “What happened?” he whispered.

  The question was echoed by Doctor Kathleen Lochley as she quickly came over. “What happened to him?”

  “He was beaten up,” said Calhoun as he laid the Visionary on the nearest bio-bed.

  “By whom?”

  “By me,” said Calhoun. He turned and stared at her. “Do you have a problem with that?”

  Lochley returned his stare, and the captain could see cold fury in her eyes. She pursed her lips for a moment and then called out, “I need some help here.”

  Two nurses immediately came over, bringing a cart of drugs to try to stabilize the Visionary. Lochley was studying the readouts while passing a medical tricorder over him. “Internal bleeding. Four cracked ribs. Dislocated jaw.” She glanced at Calhoun. “Tell me he posed a threat.”

  “No,” said Calhoun. “He was completely helpless. I was ready to beat him to death but Kebron stopped me.”

  “I’m going to have to report this, Captain,” the doctor said, the anger evident in her voice. “This is inexcusable.”

  “He was responsible for wiping out all life on Xenex,” said Calhoun. “Be sure to include that in your report.”

  Lochley paused a moment in her examination. She looked as if she wanted to say something but apparently didn’t have any idea specifically what that would be.

  Quentis’s gaze was fixed upon the unmoving Visionary. Calhoun noticed the intensity with which the D’myurj historian was staring. “You know him.”

  Quentis managed a nod. “That is Sulentus. A very rich and powerful individual. You are correct: he was the one who oversaw the destruction of your world.”

  “How would you feel if I killed him?”

  Quentis blinked, as if uncertain whether Calhoun was serious or not. When he realized that he was, he said, “It is not my place to
feel one way or the other. If you were to kill him, I would understand. By your standards, he is evil.”

  “And by yours?”

  “I’ve never been one to care about good or evil,” Quentis said indifferently. “These are standards that are randomly applied by others who have their own priorities. What you consider evil, others would believe to be acceptable.”

  “I’m reasonably sure that overseeing the destruction of an entire world’s population is evil by anyone’s definition.”

  “Not by the people who committed the deed.”

  Calhoun made a dismissive gesture. “I’m not interested in discussing this with you. Tell me that you feel outrage and, given the opportunity, you’d kill him, then we’ll have something to talk about. Until then, there isn’t anything for us to discuss.”

  “You need to set aside your anger, Captain—”

  Calhoun advanced on him so fast that Quentis automatically reared back in fear. Before he could draw any closer, Lochley was standing between them. “Get out,” she said tightly to Calhoun. “I have enough going on in here. I’ve just had ten unconscious patients beamed into my sickbay, and if there’s one thing I don’t need, it’s to be riding herd on a captain who might, at any point, attempt to beat another one of my patients to death.” When Calhoun didn’t budge, her voice lowered. “Captain, I swear, you may be the commander of this vessel, but this is my sickbay. If you don’t get out in the next five seconds, I will exercise my authority, call security, and have you forcibly escorted out of here. Do I make myself clear?”

  Slowly Calhoun managed to nod. For a moment his hand drifted toward his phaser, still firmly affixed to his hip. Then, without another word, he turned and strode out of sickbay.

  He walked briskly down the corridor, his mind roiling with concerns. As he passed his quarters, something suddenly grabbed him by the back of his uniform shirt. He yanked himself free, grabbing for his phaser, only to see at the last moment that it was Burgoyne.

  “Get in,” Burgoyne said, hir teeth gritted, indicating Calhoun’s quarters.

  “We don’t have time for—”


  Calhoun was so startled by the snarl from Burgoyne that he automatically stepped into his quarters, the door having slid open to receive him. Burgoyne followed him in and, the moment the door closed, shouted, “Are you out of your mind?!”

  Immediately Calhoun understood. “You heard.”

  “Of course I heard! It’s a small ship! Halliwell told me. She said that Kebron told her not to say anything, but she did anyway! Because what you did scared the hell out of her. And frankly it scared the hell out of me as well! Have you forgotten who you are? Have you forgotten how a starship captain is supposed to behave?”

  “He killed my—”

  “I know! That doesn’t give you the right to kill him.”

  “In the society that I grew up in, it does.”

  “You’re not in that society now,” said Burgoyne heatedly. “And I’m not talking about the fact that that society doesn’t exist anymore. I mean that when you were a teenager, you joined Starfleet. That comes with rules and regulations that you’re supposed to follow, and I’m reasonably sure that not beating prisoners to death is on that list! If you are unable to follow those rules anymore, then you need to step down as commander of this vessel!”

  “Putting who in charge? You?”

  “It’s not a position that I want, and you know that. But I’ll do my duty. Your actions have terrorized one of your crew and I’m reasonably sure it’s going to disturb anyone who hears of it. What the hell were you thinking?”

  “That I wanted him dead.”

  “You don’t get to make that decision! You don’t! And if you believe that you do, then trust me, you won’t have to step down, because I will personally have you removed from command! And I’m reasonably sure that Doctor Lochley will give me the medical clearance I need to accomplish that!”

  “You’re probably right about that,” Calhoun had to admit. He considered the situation for a moment and then said, “For someone who previously had problems approaching me about discussing your concerns, you’ve certainly managed to overcome them.”

  “The situation required me to do so.”

  The two of them stared at each other for what seemed a long time, then Calhoun—somewhat to his surprise—lowered his gaze. “I scared Halliwell, huh?”

  “I feel reasonably certain in saying that your actions scared everyone who witnessed them. The question is: Are you going to continue to try and kill our prisoners? Because if so, I will have you kept confined to quarters.”

  “I think you’d have a hard time doing that.”

  “I’m willing to give it a shot.”

  “Yes, I imagine you would,” said Calhoun.

  He had been sitting on the edge of his bed the entire time, but now he flopped back onto the mattress and stared at the overhead. “I still want to kill him,” he said softly.

  “No you don’t. Because if you did, then you would have done it,” said Burgoyne. S/he walked over to a nearby chair and sat down. “We both know you could have. You could have snapped his neck in seconds. You could have phasered him into random atoms. Instead you just pounded on him. And I don’t put that forward as any sort of excuse. But I firmly believe that your inner conscience was preventing you from killing him.”

  “Really? Because I believe that it was my desire to have his death take as long as possible—that’s what prevented me from killing him. So you can attribute it to positive attributes all you want, but I remain convinced that I was just prolonging his death. Another minute or so and he would have been gone.”

  “Instead Kebron stopped you, as you knew that he would.”

  “It’s ridiculous for us to keep discussing this, Burgy. We are clearly not going to agree.”

  “We’d better,” said Burgoyne. “We’d better agree that you’re not going to assault him again.”

  “I brought him to sickbay.”

  “You could change your mind.”

  I could. I could change my mind. I could storm back into sickbay, phaser in hand, and blow him to bits. That would certainly put an end to it.

  Calhoun considered it. He truly did. He knew that such an action would have an irrevocable impact on how his crew perceived him. He would no longer be the reliable commander. He would be the lunatic who took justice into his own hands and assassinated another being simply because . . .

  He destroyed Xenex.

  Was that enough of a reason? Was that sufficient cause to just toss the entirety of his Starfleet oath and career out a photon torpedo tube?

  Part of him wanted to believe that it was.

  The fact of the matter was that Burgoyne was right. Deep down, Calhoun had known that Kebron would step in and stop him from committing a fatal act of battering. It was even possible that Calhoun had counted on it. And Kebron had certainly come through.

  “He needs to be tried,” said Calhoun finally. “We need to bring him back to our universe and try him for genocide.”

  “You realize he won’t be executed,” said Burgoyne. “Can you live with that?”

  “If Starfleet manages to bury him in the worst hole we have for a prison, I suppose that will have to be sufficient.”

  “All right.”

  Calhoun stood, his brow furrowed. “What’s happening with the Dayan? Are they continuing their assault on the homeworld?”

  “They are indeed.”

  “We need to stop them.” He stared at Burgoyne. “You seem surprised that I’d say that.”

  “Honestly? I am. Initially you seemed perfectly sanguine with the idea of the Dayan obliterating the entirety of their world.”

  For a moment Calhoun’s mind raced back to the destruction that he had seen. All equally horrific, but the one that stayed with him was t
he dead mother, clutching the body of her equally dead baby to her in a protective gesture. In that moment, as much as he had wanted to avoid it, the D’myurj became more than the destructive race that had obliterated his people.

  “I’ve had a change of heart,” said Calhoun. “Let’s get up to the bridge. I need to talk them out of destroying the D’myurj. Because if anyone should be trying to avoid an entire race being obliterated, it should be me.”

  Burgoyne smiled at that. “Happy to hear you say that, Captain. I was concerned you’d gone away.”

  “I had, but I’m back.”


  WHEN CALHOUN WALKED onto the bridge, he saw the collective looks of his crew. He knew immediately that Halliwell had been rather loose tongued for someone who had told Kebron that she would keep Calhoun’s behavior between them.

  He could see the uncertainty in their eyes. He wasn’t remotely concerned that he was looking at an insurrection. These were trained Starfleet officers. There was no way that they would actively turn against him. But he could see that his actions had diminished their confidence in him. He wasn’t entirely sure what, if anything, he could do to get it back.

  Be the best commander you can be. Let them know, by your actions, that they can trust you.

  The Dayan ship was visible on the screen, and it was still firing upon the world below them. Part of Calhoun thought that he could see the planet shuddering as the blasts hammered away. He could not even imagine the level of slaughter that the world was enduring.

  And they were responsible. Excalibur had come here and obliterated the world’s defensive capabilities, allowing the Dayan free rein to annihilate every living being on the planet.

  Except the Dayan ship regenerates. They should have been able to endure whatever barrage the D’myurj hurled at them. Why did they need us to destroy the defensive mechanisms? This doesn’t make any sense at all.

  There was no use dwelling on it now. Calhoun had to focus on the situation that was before them. “Get the Dayan. Now,” said Calhoun briskly.

  “Yes, sir,” said Tobias. A moment later: “On-screen, Captain.”