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Star Trek: New Frontier - 017 - Treason

Peter David





  Based upon


  created by Gene Roddenberry


  New York London Toronto Sydney

  The blackness beckons to hir. It is cold and inviting, and s/he is greatly tempted to lay down hir burden, as hir local religious leader used to say. Yet s/he is reluctant to do so, because s/he cannot shake the belief that there is something else for hir to do. S/he just cannot seem to remember what it was, or is.

  S/he tries to haul hirself over to the ship’s control console, but hir body refuses to acknowledge hir brain’s commands. This is not a development s/he readily accepts, and s/he continues to shout, and then to scream, within hir own head for hir pain-wracked body to do something useful rather than just lie there. Hir body ignores hir.

  S/he would not have thought it possible that every cell could hurt, but that appears to be the case. S/he tries to think of it as a cleansing pain, one that will strip hir of all worldly sins, of which there are quite a few—and prepare hir for the next plane of existence.

  And still s/he refuses to acknowledge that it may be time to cross over. “Too much to do,” s/he says, and is surprised by how strangled hir voice sounds.

  S/he looks up at the screen just in time to see something massive appear on it. S/he thinks it may be a ship, and s/he finds the timing most remarkable. S/he cannot wait to comment upon the timing to whoever is aboard it, and then the blackness that will not be denied seizes hir. “Not fair!” s/he cries out within hir mind. “I was thinking about something else,” but the blackness ignores the protest and drags hir down and away.

  Starship Excalibur


  “Burgoyne propositioned me.”

  The announcement took Mackenzie Calhoun, captain of the Starship Excalibur, by surprise. Seated in his ready room, he put aside the ancient Xenexian battle axe that he had recently acquired and looked up with a quizzical expression at Tania Tobias. The conn officer was standing just inside the door, shifting uncomfortably, fiddling with the trailing ends of her hair.

  “S/he did?”

  Tobias nodded.

  “I apologize,” he said, “if hir doing so made you feel uncomfortable, Lieutenant, and I assure you that—”

  “I wasn’t offended, Captain.”

  “Oh.” Calhoun took pride in his ability to react quickly and authoritatively to any situation. It was that resourcefulness that had enabled him and his crew to survive many hazardous situations. Yet he occasionally found himself disoriented when talking with his eclectic crew members, and this was one of those occasions. “So this is not something I should be concerned about?”

  “I think you should be, yes.”

  He leaned back in his chair, resisting the temptation to throw his hands up in surrender.

  His bewilderment must have been evident to Tobias, because she said apologetically, “I’m sorry if I lost you, Captain.”

  “I wouldn’t say you’ve lost me, Lieutenant,” he said, without adding aloud, I was never following you to begin with. “I am a bit unclear on what the precise nature of your complaint is. Do you see this as a disciplinary matter?”

  “I see it as cause for concern.”

  “Why? Burgy has always been rather licentious by nature. Granted, s/he curtailed that when s/he became involved with Doctor Selar, but they never actually married and the relationship seems to have gone by the wayside. So I don’t see that there are any moral issues in the mix.”

  “It’s nothing like that, Captain. I’m sorry, I haven’t been making myself clear.”

  No kidding. He forced a smile, which caused the edges of his mouth to hurt from the unaccustomed muscle strain. “Well, then, perhaps clarification might be in order at some point within our lifetimes.”

  She gave no indication that she noticed the gentle dig. “The problem is,” she said, “that when s/he propositioned me, hir heart wasn’t in it.”

  “I don’t understan—” But then his voice trailed off as he comprehended her meaning.

  Tobias, still in that gentle obliviousness that was her foremost characteristic, didn’t realize that further explanation was unnecessary. “When Burgoyne makes hir interest known to people, s/he’s very enthused. S/he…” Tobias paused, trying to determine the best way to put it. “When hir attention is on you in that way, s/he makes you feel as if you’re the only person in the entire galaxy. That there’s nothing else s/he would rather be doing than gazing into your eyes.” Her voice was soft and languorous, and she was looking dreamily off to the side as if she had mentally departed the ready room several minutes earlier. “That’s how s/he does it. S/he just makes you come alive. Appeals to sensuous aspects of your personality that you hadn’t dreamed could possibly—”

  Calhoun cleared his throat loudly, and the interruption snapped Tobias from her reverie. She looked momentarily confused, as if she had forgotten where she was. Quickly composing herself, she said, “At least that’s what I’ve heard.”

  “Obviously heard and thought about a good deal.”

  “The point is, s/he wasn’t that way with me. S/he just seemed to be—”

  “Going through the motions?”

  “Yes!” she said excitedly as if Calhoun had just produced three doves from his sleeve. “Yes, that’s exactly it. Going through the motions. S/he was doing it because s/he thought it was expected of hir, or maybe because s/he felt maybe s/he could make hirself feel a certain way.”

  “And your concern is that if s/he’s off hir game in this manner, it could negatively affect the way s/he carries out hir duties as first officer?”

  “I hadn’t even thought about that, to be honest. My concern was that a friend was in trouble.” She tilted her head and looked at him with open curiosity. “That wasn’t your concern, Captain?”

  “Of course it was,” said Calhoun, who was a bit disturbed that it had not, in fact, occurred to him. “I just…I hadn’t noticed anything that ‘off’ about Burgy. Then again, since Burgoyne has never propositioned me, that could be why it slipped past.”

  “Well then,” she said briskly, “I’ve done what I needed to do. I’m sure you can handle it from here, Captain.”

  “I appreciate the vote of confidence, Lieutenant.”

  Tobias walked out of the ready room. Calhoun watched her go, and wondered what the best way was to proceed on the matter. Mackenzie Calhoun, one of the foremost strategists in all of Starfleet, couldn’t conceive of how to handle it. What was he supposed to say? He could have found a means of addressing it if he had noticed some sort of deterioration in Burgy’s performance of hir duties, but that had not been the case. Calhoun had been caught off guard by Tobias’s concerns specifically because he had not, in fact, noticed anything wrong with the way Burgoyne 172 was conducting hirself. “How am I supposed to approach hir on this?”

  “Have you considered doing so as a friend?”

  Calhoun was startled, which was not something that happened often. When it did occur, though, Morgan Primus was more often than not involved somehow. This time was no exception, although one would not have known at first glance that it was, in fact, Morgan, because she had assumed the exact likeness of Mackenzie Calhoun. His clone might as well have walked into the room.

  “Ask how things are going in a general way,” the duplicate Calhoun said, “and see if s/he presents an opening. Doesn’t that seem practical?”

  “Change back to yourself, Morgan.” He did nothing to keep the irritation from his voice.

  “It’s just that you are the only person you eve
r feel comfortable consulting. Except, of course—” and abruptly Elizabeth Shelby, Calhoun’s wife, was in front of him.


  To Calhoun’s surprise, “Elizabeth” sauntered toward him. Every movement, every aspect of her appearance was indistinguishable from the original. She even had Elizabeth’s smile down. Calhoun was standing behind his desk, and the image of his wife came around the desk and cradled his chin in her hand. “Morgan…”

  “I can be her, if you wish,” said the mouth of Elizabeth Shelby. “It would benefit you tremendously.”

  “Would it?”

  “You’re becoming isolated and increasingly frustrated, Mac, because you’re here and your wife is off commanding Bravo station. It’s not fair to either of you, but it’s particularly unfair to you. You could use the diversion. Release all manner of endorphins. Put you back on your game.”

  “I was unaware I was off it. You need to step back, Morgan.”

  She rested a hand on his chest. “I am simply trying to—”

  Calhoun grabbed her wrist and, gripping it firmly, said, “Step. Back.”

  Morgan did so, pulling her hand free. Her appearance rippled and the holographic form of Morgan Primus changed back into her normal image. “Burgoyne isn’t the only one who could use a little intimate time, is all that I’m saying.”

  “I know what you’re saying. Now listen to what I’m saying: I’m going to order Tobias and Xy to run a complete diagnostic of your operating systems.”

  Morgan smiled. “I don’t see that that’s necessary, Captain.”

  “I say that it is. And since I’m the captain, I have to think that my feelings on the matter take precedence over yours. Are you disputing that, Morgan?”

  “No, but—”

  “There’s no ‘but’ involved in this, Morgan. Obviously you don’t realize it, but you haven’t been yourself since you rebooted.”

  “And here I thought you were happy to see me return from the dead.”

  “I was. We all were. Even though I’m not entirely certain that what happened to you counts as ‘dead.’ But your behavior has become increasingly erratic in recent months.”

  She drew herself up, fixing him with a stern glance. “Have I been less than diligent in fulfilling my duties as ops officer? To say nothing of being the heart of this ship’s operating systems.”

  “No, you have not.”

  “Then I do not understand the reasoning behind a full diagnostic. It is an intrusive procedure and the prospect makes me uncomfortable.”

  “You’re a computer entity, Morgan, whatever else you may have been in your previous life. The fact that you would find it uncomfortable alone should tell you something, shouldn’t it?”

  She paused, not having an immediate response, and then shrugged as if the matter were simply not worth pursuing. “As you say, you’re the captain.”

  “Thank you for that acknowledgment,” he said, trying not to sound sarcastic and only partly succeeding.

  “By the way, you’ll probably want to get out onto the bridge. Something new is about to start.”

  “Something new? What are you—?”

  His comm badge beeped at him. He tapped it, never taking his eyes from Morgan. “Calhoun, go.”

  The voice of Zak Kebron, security chief, came back to him. “Long-range scanners are picking up something, Captain. A ship floating.”

  “Derelict? Or survivors?”

  “Impossible to determine from this distance, sir.”

  “Then let’s cut that distance down, Mr. Kebron. On my way.”

  Calhoun strode toward the door as Morgan stepped aside. “Captain,” she said.

  He turned toward her and froze.

  She had reassumed the image of Elizabeth Shelby, and she was stark naked. She was also smiling in a come-hither manner. “In case you change your mind, just call my name. Or hers. Never underestimate the power of a good endorphin rush.” Morgan vanished before he could say anything further.

  “Grozit,” he murmured.


  Commander Burgoyne arched an eyebrow upon seeing Calhoun emerge from the ready room. “Captain, are you all right?”

  “I’m fine, Burgy.”

  “Because you’re walking rather oddly—”

  “I said I’m fine,” Calhoun said impatiently. Moving quickly, he sat in his command chair and crossed his legs. Burgoyne considered this a bit odd, since Calhoun tended to stand or move about the bridge like a caged cat. “What have we got?”

  “Single-pilot vessel drifting at 325 mark 4. Looks to be,” and s/he studied the readouts from the sensors, “a reconfigured freighter of some sort.”


  “Or an explorer. Such reconfigured ships are popular among those who fancy themselves wandering adventurers who might stumble upon valuables and want to have a convenient means of hauling them.”

  Calhoun glanced toward Kebron. “Any life readings?”

  “One. Sensors indicate…” The massive Brikar stopped. If he had an eyebrow to raise, he would clearly have done so.

  “Indicate what?”

  Kebron addressed Calhoun, but was looking at Burgoyne as he said, “The pilot appears to be…a Hermat.”

  “What?!” Burgoyne could scarcely believe what s/he was hearing. S/he moved toward the science station. “Xy, double-check those readings.”

  “A less confident officer,” Kebron said with just the slightest hint of annoyance, “might take offense at your lack of trust. But I do not. I understand your reluctance to—”

  “Later, Kebron,” said Calhoun.

  Not for the first time, Burgoyne found hirself nostalgic for the days when Zak Kebron was a detached, foreboding individual who rarely strung more than three words together at a time.

  S/he stepped in next to hir son, Xy, who was studying the sensor information that Kebron was feeding through to him. Slowly he nodded. “Definitely Hermat. Kebron is right.” Kebron did not offer much beyond a smug “Hmmf” in acknowledgment of Xy’s announcement. “You don’t see many Hermats out this far.”

  “You don’t see any,” said Burgoyne. “Trust me, I know my people. One of the reasons I was such an aberration was my desire to explore the galaxy. That mind-set was considered…” S/he paused and then, for want of a better term, said, “…rude. I was practically an outcast even before I chose to exile myself—”

  “As fascinating as this litany of Hermat social mores is,” Calhoun said, “might we focus instead on the derelict that is in possible need of our help?”

  “Sorry, Captain,” said Burgoyne, abashed.

  “Condition of the pilot?”

  “Life signs are low, even marginal, but steady,” said Xy.

  “Have hir beamed directly into sickbay,” said Calhoun, rising from his chair. “Inform Doctor Selar she’s about to have a new patient.”

  Inwardly, Burgoyne flinched. Speaking to Selar was not a task that Burgoyne welcomed these days. It was actually painful to hear her voice, detached and emotionless beyond even what was typical for a Vulcan. For an instant s/he considered ordering Xy or Tobias to do it, but then s/he rallied. S/he was, after all, the first officer of the Excalibur. S/he shouldn’t fob off an order from the captain merely because carrying it out was going to make hir uncomfortable.

  Burgoyne tapped hir comm badge. “Bridge to sickbay.”

  “Sickbay, Selar here.”

  “We’ve found an injured Hermat in a derelict. The captain wants hir beamed directly into sickbay.”

  “That is against procedure,” her voice came back. “S/he should be sent to the transporter room to undergo triage while hir transport signature can be studied in the buffer and properly screened for any harmful bacteria or germs.”

  “Those are the captain’s orders.”

  “One would have thought that, as chief medical officer, my desire to see regulations followed would have been accorded some consideration.” Her tone was flat and even, as if she were speaking
about the feelings of someone else entirely. “Do as you see fit. But have hir beamed into the sickbay quarantine area rather than into the main section. That way, if s/he has some sort of infectious disease, only the immediate personnel in quarantine will lose their lives because of the captain’s orders. If you require further interaction with me, I will be in quarantine. Selar out.”

  Burgoyne could sense the captain’s gaze upon hir and could not bring hirself to meet it. Instead s/he said, “The CMO is prepping sickbay for the new patient.”

  “Good,” was all Calhoun said in reply.

  Xy exchanged a sympathetic look with his father. Burgoyne smiled wanly. Over the past months, they had both been trying to deal as best they could with Selar’s smoldering rage and frustration hidden behind an impenetrable wall of stoicism. If she had been something other than a Vulcan, it would have been much easier to cope. But she was what she was, and they were simply going to have to live with it and pray that eventually things would improve.

  Unfortunately, Burgoyne had very little hope of that.


  What do I do with my anger…?

  The odd question crossed Doctor Selar’s mind, and she was astounded by it. However, being what she was, and who she was, she did not permit either the fury she was feeling nor her surprise at feeling it show upon her face. Instead she busied herself with the task of preparing for her new patient.

  She entered the quarantine area and, in total defiance of proper protocol, wore absolutely no protective gear. This had drawn confused comments from several of her medical technicians. Selar had told them curtly that her Vulcan physiology would permit her to withstand just about anything that an incoming patient—even an infectious one—might have to throw at her. The truth was that she simply didn’t give a damn if something happened to her. Should that occur, and should she die, then the positive aspect was that she would no longer have to deal with such inconveniences as inner turmoil.