Authors: Jeri Taylor
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Science Fiction
his hand as the toxic fluid began eating into it.
Trakis caught one glimpse of Nimmet's fevered eyes, which
fastened on his in a mixture of pain and rage, and then the
entire room began shimmering before his eyes. He blacked
out momentarily and then, miraculously, he was standing on
a small stage in a room he had never seen before, staring
at a uniformed Federation. His head swam dizzyingly as the
man approached him, took his arm, and said, "The captain
wants to see you on the bridge." They swept out of the
room, entered a conveyer of some kind, and minutes later
Trakis stumbled onto a bridge that appeared to be in chaos.
A malodorous coolant gas was venting from a conduit; an
alarm was sounding continuously, and in one corner a
wounded crewman was being tended to. The ship continued to
reverberate as it was pounded by Kazon weapons, and Trakis
wondered briefly if he would be any better off on this ship
than he had with the Kazon. His mouth was dry and his legs
trembling, but he didn't know if that was a result of the
strange, disembodied journey he'd made from the Kazon ship
to this one, his near-death at the hands of Nimmet, or of
his quite natural reluctance to die on an alien ship
surrounded by strangers.
A small, trim woman approached him, and he realized this
must be the fabled captain of the Federation ship.
"It's not as bad as it looks," she reassured him. "Our
shields are holding."
He circled immediately to her, his mission clear.
He had to convince her to depart immediately. "There's no
need for you to endure this, Captain. If you leave this
area of space, the Kazon won't pursue you."
"I can't leave. I have crew who are trapped on the
"The Kazon will never let you get near the surface. They
think you want the Tokath, and they'll keep you away at all
"The Tokath?" Janeway began, but then the ship took a
comterrific jolt and everyone, including Trakis, went
tumbling. Trakis cracked his elbow painfully on a nearby
console, and he yelped, rubbing it to reduce the lancing
pain that now consumed his arm.
"I can explain everything-but it would be easier if we
were in circumstances where we could remain upright.
Please-all you have to do is leave, and we'll all be safe."
Suddenly, to Trakis' amazement, the woman captain grabbed
his jacket and steered him firmly into one of two chairs at
the center of the bridge. She leaned in close to him; her
eyes were a penetrating blue-gray, and her voice had a
timbre that resonated like a cymbal. "I told you I'm not
leaving my crew. Now you tell me what you know about all
this, so I can figure out what to do."
She turned to the others. "Mr. Paris, continue evasive
maneuvers. Rollins, fire at your discretion." Then she
turned back to Trakis, who was frankly more unnerved by her
than by the Kazon attack. "Most people thought it was
apocryphal," he began urgently, for he believed that the
faster he could tell his story, the faster they could get
away from this ominous planet and the pounding of the
Kazon. "But it's true-the Tokath are real. I've examined
one myself, and it's everything the myth suggests."
Another hit rattled them and Trakis looked around in some
desperation; the bridge was venting more coolant gas 271
and several consoles had exploded. He turned back to the
captain, whose eyes had never left him, and the tempo of
his recitative increased. "The Tokath are what we call a
parasectoid species, hard-shelled creatures lacking
intelligence-but which are vicious and deadly.
They'd adapted to survive in almost any habitat-air, water,
even space. They were an almost ideal defense force, and
they kept this planet safe from all invaders for
centuries." A series of hits knocked them about again and
the captain glanced over at one of her crew. "Shields at
eightyseven percent, Captain, and holding. I'm betting
they'll get tired of this before we do," he said, and
Trakis marveled at his buoyant confidence. He realized that
the attitude on this combat bridge was different from any
he'd ever witnessed. The Kazon were veritable wild men when
in combat, shouting loudly in what Trakis felt was an
effort to shore up their courage; the Trabe were usually
nervously desperate, the result of years of running from
the Kazon. Never had he seen behavior in battle that was so
composed, so professional. The woman turned back to him,
and there was no doubt he was to continue, and quickly.
"The planet was also inhabited by a humanoid species, the
Krett, who possessed the power of flight-a wise, gentle
people who communicated telepathically, and who had a
genuine affection for their unusual protectors. That's why
they went to such extraordinary lengths to save them."
She looked at him questioningly.
"A massive plasma eruption burst from the star's
equatorial zone thousands of years ago. It created an
electrical disturbance in the planet's atmosphere which
would eventually kill almost every living thing on the
planet-which is the only one in the system that supports
life. The Krett were technologically advanced, and had
spaceships. They could evacuate, but there was no way to
take millions of 272
the Tokath with them. So they transformed the Tokath
habitat into hibernation chambers, put them into stasis,
and departed-hoping one day to return to their world." He
shook his head sadly. "But they learned what a hostile part
of space they occupied. Without the protection of the
Tokath, they were set upon at every turn. Like us, they
were decimated." The woman looked at him intently. "What
does all this have to do with us? Why are the Kazon
"They're fixated with the idea of finding the Tokath and
resuscitating them, turning them into a personal fighting
force, and thereby dominating the sector. They believe you
have the same thing in mind, and they're determined to stop
"How did the Kazon learn all this? How did they know where
to look for these creatures?"
"The Kazon-Vistik stumbled on the truth during one of
their nasty little raids on unprotected outposts. They
discovered a small Krett colonv which had endured over the
centuries-with a few of the Tokath, which they had taken
with them, still extant. The Krett, hoping to gain sympathy
and be spared, told them the tale of their ancient
diaspora, and of their belief that the Tokath might still
live. In return, the Kazon slaughtered them all and took
the remaining Tokath with them for examination. And managed
to kill all of them but one."
Trakis paused with genuine sorrow. He still regretted his
actions on the Kazon ship, and the fact that he, a
physician, had caused the creature's death. And all for
nothing, all to feed the Kazon obsession. He had to
convince this icy captain that the only recourse they had,
the only way to prevent more killing, was to retreat. He
clutched the arm of the chair as a series of muffled
explosions thudded in the distance, and beseeched her once
more. "I can lead you to 273
a Trabe planet. You'll be welcome there, to repair your
ship and take on stores.
Leave the Kazon to their wild dreams; my experience has
been that they're so inept they'll never succeed."
"If the Maje would only answer my hails, I could explain
to him that we have no interest in the Tokath. All I want
is to get my crew back." Trakis stifled a rise of
irritation; this woman showed little understanding of the
Kazon. As though Maje Dut would listen reasonably to her
statement, accept it at face value, pause in his assault
long enough for her to retrieve her crew, and then send
them on their way with a wave and a smile. This obstinate
insistence on saving part of her crew-perhaps at the
expense of all the others, and the ship as well-was
evidence of weakness. In some things, the Trabe and the
Kazon agreed: women simply weren't suited for positions of
leadership. They were too idealistic, too sentimental, too
He sighed and began to think of another means of helping
her see the error of her ways when two of the crew spoke at
once-the pilot and the man standing behind her right side.
"Captain, I'm reading something-was "We've got activity
from the planet's surface-was The captain moved immediately
to the pilot's console. "What is it, Mr. Paris?" she asked
crisply. The blond young man was working his controls
rapidly. "Something rising from the planeta convoy of
ships . . . no . . ." He looked up at her, puzzled, and
Trakis took the opportunity to move closer to them.
The man from the rear station called out now.
"Captain, I have organic readings. There's a mass of life
signsmillions of them-ascending through the ionosphere."
"On screen," said the captain, and Trakis looked up at
what was revealed there. At the same time, he realized that
they were no longer taking hits from weapons; apparently
the Kazon were as curious about what was happening as the
crew of this ship. And when the screen before them revealed
a view of the planet below, he understood fully. What he
saw there made his legs suddenly lose stability and his
A brown miasma, vast and inexorable, was rising into space
from the surface of the planet. Trakis rubbed a damp palm
on his pants and turned to the captain, who was staring in
puzzlement at the screen.
"Captain," he said, trying to keep his voice from
quavering, "those are the Tokath."
"A REVIEW BOARD IS STANDARD
PROCEDURE, KATHRYN. ALL captains go through the process
after their first mission, and frequently after that. Don't
worry about it." Admiral Paris'
blue-gray eyes crinkled as he smiled at her.
Kathryn sat opposite him in his office-the very office
she'd waited in when she first met him over ten years ago.
Now, she'd just returned from a six-month mission into the
Beta Quadrant; she'd collected some valuable scientific
data on microsecond pulsars, and she was annoyed that her
trip home-where Mark was waiting-was being delayed for a
routine and, in her mind, wholly unnecessary procedure.
"I'm not worried about it-that's the point. There's
nothing to worry about; the mission was a complete success,
nothing was amiss, and I don't see why everyone's time has
to be wasted with this superfluous review." "You're proving
to be an excellent captain. I'm more proud of you than I
can say. But you may need to pay some attention to one of
the finer details of command: an abiding patience for
Starfleet rules and regulations. You'll have to set the
standard on your ships, Kathryn. It won't do to have a
captain who plays fast and loose with the rules."
She drew a deep breath. He was right, of course. She was
just so eager to see Mark, and Phoebe, and her mother. But
two days more wasn't the end of the world, and she'd have a
full month to spend with them before catching another
assignment. "You're right, sir. Thanks for the reminder."
He started to reply but suddenly the door to his office
opened and his aide, the dignified Mrs. Klenman, now a full
captain, walked in, her face reflecting alarm. "Excuse me,
Admiral," she said quickly, "but I think you should get
over to the Academy right away."
Kathryn saw Admiral Paris's face go ashen. His son Tom was
now a senior at the Academy. "What is it? Is something
"There's been an accident. Commander Lewis wouldn't give me
any details-but I know he was concerned."
Kathryn saw the naked fear that only a parent can know
take its hold on Admiral Paris. He glanced at his console,
considering sending a transmission to the Academy, but then
shook that off, preferring to go in person. "Let the
commander know I'm on my way."
"Sir, do you want me to come with you?" Kathryn felt she
should at least offer support.
"No. Thank you. I'll see you at the review board
tomorrow." And he was gone, fear propelling him.
Kathryn had the sudden insight that she was glad she had no
children, and wasn't hostage to the powerful concerns of
parenthood; it was more vulnerability than she felt she
could tolerate. She turned to Commander Klenman.
"Will you let me know what's happened? I'll be at the
Officers' Quarters tonight."
"Of course, Captain." Klenman was clearly worried, too.
She'd spent more than ten years with Admiral Paris, and was
devoted to him and his family. Kathryn left the office with
a heavy heart.
The news that evening was tragic, but it was to spare the
Paris family for now. Tom had been leading a fighter
squadron in maneuvers; one of the cadets had made a
miscalculation, which led to an error, which led to an