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A Working Vacation

N.B.: This is a six-part series of logs spanning the time that Tandaris has been absent from Excalibur, explaining why he left and what he has been doing since.

  1. "Opportunity"
  2. "Retrieval"
  3. "Discovery"
  4. “Introductions”
  5. “Intelligence"
  6. "Return"


Tandaris Admiran



“Well then,” Swain said. “If you want someone to order my crew down there, you’ll have to find someone else to do it. And I wouldn’t count on finding that someone aboard this ship.”


Abronvonvich didn’t like that answer, but despite himself, he respected it. “Then what do you propose?”


“That if you want to continue investigating this planet and those creatures, which I highly recommend against, that you send a full bio-hazard team with a full complement of marines to do it.”


“That could take months to put together...”


“Well, they’re not going anywhere, now are they?”










The Holy Grail was neither particularly crowded nor particularly full at this time of day. That would change soon, when the current shift came off duty and the regulars filtered in. Tandaris was sitting alone at a table near the back, two empty glasses in front of him and a third—not quite so empty—in his hand. The Excalibur was barely three hours back at Camelot, and he had already found his way here.


His combadge was in his other hand. He stared at it. He had been staring at it for the past two hours, contemplating everything this small, shiny object represented. Once—a long time ago—it had symbolized something great to Tandaris. A freshly joined Trill, he had entered the Academy with a sense of optimism that had been refreshing to Admiran. After five eventful lifetimes, each one full of incredible heights and equally awful nadirs, Starfleet had represented a new beginning, a way to escape everything else that had come before. And it had been that beginning he had needed, for so many years.


Despite all our centuries of coexisting, we have yet to see what effect an insane symbiont would have on a joined Trill . . . nor are we anxious to find out.


Then the Scorpiads came. And one of their ships had muscled its memories into Admiran’s mind, and suddenly Tandaris’ predecessors numbered not five but six. He had tried coping in so many ways: getting counselling, not getting counselling; ignoring it, dealing with it; moving through it, moving on with it. Everything had seemed to work, for a time, but he kept returning to a basic, insurmountable obstacle: he had changed. This transformation was exactly that, and he didn’t like who he had become.


He could feel it now, sitting alone in this bar, the ship’s memories pressing in on his current experiences like old associations triggered by a passing fragrance. Little more than instincts and fragments of moments, more a predatory recollection than any true intelligence, but enough to put an edge to everything Tandaris said or did. Enough that he had been having trouble, for a while now, to empathize. To care. He had been going through the motions, and so far no one had noticed—and that was somehow even worse.


You have to let me do this….


But Swain hadn’t. Couldn’t, really. Tandaris knew that. Recognized how hard that decision had been for his captain. Sometimes leadership meant telling people what they didn’t want to hear and then dealing with the consequences.


Tandaris sighed and replaced the combadge where it belonged on his uniform. Who was he kidding? He couldn’t leave, even if he wanted to. Where else would he go? On the run in the Gamma Quadrant? To the bosom of Vernas’ R&D outfit? There were always options, but none of them seemed quite viable.


Downing his drink, he raised his hand for the waiter to bring him another. He stared down at his empty glass until someone approached and put the replacement on the table next to the two that were already there. “Appreciated,” he muttered.


“You’re running quite a tab,” the waiter said, in a voice that was most un-waiterlike. Tandaris looked up and found himself staring instead at a Vice Admiral.


He blinked, trying to decide between respectful acknowledgement and surly irreverence. As was all too usual these days, he opted for the latter. “I’m just getting started.”


Without asking, the anonymous admiral sat in the chair opposite Tandaris. “You’re Commander Tandaris Admiran, just came back on the Excalibur.”


“This is true.”


“From Domaria V, investigating the disappearance of the Augustine.”


“Also true, if your clearance is high enough, which I suppose it must be.” Tandaris raised the glass to take a sip.


“Where you found deadly creatures of potential Dominion origin, no trace of the Augustine crew, and a Scorpiad suspended in stasis.”


The glass froze at Tandaris’ lip. “You have very high clearance.”


The admiral grinned. It was not a nice, friendly sort of grin. It was the kind of grin that revealed a line of too-white teeth and hinted at a past better left buried. “Let’s just say that certain elements of your mission reports caught the eyes of my deputies, so they landed on my desk.”


“We’ve been back three hours. I doubt half of us have filed mission reports yet.” Tandaris had just filed his before leaving the ship.


“My people are very efficient. Something you will no doubt experience firsthand, should you choose to accept the proposal I have for you.”


Tandaris took a sip from his fresh drink as he considered the admiral’s words. He took his time in constructing a response. “Oh. Really?”


“Allow me to introduce myself.” The admiral leaned in closer. “I’m Vice Admiral Ken Northway. I run what you might call the ‘acquisitions’ department of Starfleet Intelligence. When we get wind of technology or any other items that might be of interest to Starfleet, my people handle the retrieval component.”


Tandaris thought he could see where this was going, but he nodded and went along. “What does this have to do with me?”


“Your Captain Swain denied your request to return to the surface, alone or with a team, and retrieve the Scorpiad stasis capsule. I want to give you that chance.”


Cue the derisive snort. “You can’t be serious. I don’t agree with Swain’s decision, but it’s done. Domaria is under quarantine.”


Northway shrugged. “You and I both know that the quarantine is an ineffective deterrent to anyone determined to get their hands on that technology, like the Klingons. The moment they get a hint there’s something of real strategic value—like a preserved Scorpiad soldier—down there, they will return when they think we aren’t paying attention. We need to get there first. I can send a strike team down there, but their chances of success go up dramatically with you along for the ride. Your first-hand experience of the base, not to mention your knowledge of Scorpiad technology, is essential here.”


Say what you will about Northway’s slippery exterior: he knew how to flatter a Trill. And Tandaris’ heart had started beating faster—though maybe that was the alcohol. “Let’s say I do this. I assume it would mean a leave of absence from Excalibur.”


“For several months. A mission like this will take weeks of planning, time for you to prep and train with your team. And I expect we will need you around for the initial aftermath, assuming we succeed.”


For the few minutes Northway had sat there talking to Tandaris, there had never been any question in either of their minds as to whether Tandaris would say yes. It was a foregone conclusion. Northway was an expert at recruitment and knew how to close a sale. And the moment he had offered Tandaris a way to achieve what Swain had denied him, he had felt that flutter of memory stir again. He wanted—needed—to recover that Scorpiad. It was important.


We cannot stand by and watch Tandaris inflict further damage to the symbiont…. The host has been compromised, far beyond what any symbiont should ever experience.


Tandaris put down his glass, barely consumed. He fixed Northway with his most serious expression, then held out his hand in that gesture of greeting and deal-making that humans had spread pathologically throughout the Federation. “When do I start?”


* Quotations are from the following logs, in the order in which they appear:

Edited by Tachyon

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Tandaris Admiran



“It’s time.”


Tandaris already knew this. He had felt the shift in vibrations as the Audacity had dropped out of warp and settled directly into orbit. The Defiant-class vessel had been refitted for stealth, but its power balance was still way off, and its rides weren’t as smooth as Excalibur’s. Not that he missed his old ship or anything. Well, not much.


Major Abrams’ voice snapped Tandaris out of whatever memories had lately resurfaced, dragging him back to the present. She had come up behind him—his fault for sitting with his back to the door—and, as befit her training, had made hardly a sound. Tandaris placed his PADD on the table, slid his tray of uneaten salad and beans forward for no particular reason, and stood. He opened his mouth to address her before realizing that she was addressing the room entire, and having made her announcement, was already on her way out.


It had been that way since Tandaris had come aboard the Audacity. Now, as he stood on the transporter pad next to Vassir and the rest of Alpha Team, she chose that moment to send him a private comm.


“My orders make it perfectly clear that we are to return with the Scorpiad at all costs. My team understands that and understands the risk. Make no mistake, though: they said nothing about your return being part of the mission. If there’s a choice between you or my team, I won’t hesitate. You won’t be around to contradict the report.”


Tandaris barely had a chance to gulp, let alone reply, before he felt the subaudible whine the preceded transport. A few seconds later, he was standing in the same room where the away team from Excalibur had materialized so many months ago. A few metres away, the lift to access the lower levels awaited them. He heard the familiar whine of a transporter as Beta Team followed on their heels, ready to secure the area and await their return to the surface.


Alpha Team’s tech, Alex Mingram, moved forward to check the lift’s status while his comrades covered him. “Clear,” he said. They crowded into the confined space. Tandaris punched in the floor that was their first destination. The doors closed, and the lift shuddered as it began its descent. Occasional jolts and an unconstant speed reminded everyone aboard that it was on its last legs.


Tandaris felt sweat trickling down the back of his environmental suit. The model was slightly different from the one to which he was accustomed: newer, one QA round short of experimental. The joints had slightly improved flexibility; the HUD was more responsive. He liked it as a piece of technology, but he hated that he was somewhere that required it.


The lift groaned as it stopped at their destination. After their exit, there was a second, more gradual moan as the lift began to slide farther down the shaft. It gradually picked up speed until it became a humming, sparking wreck that culminated in a satisfying, if unfortunate, crash.


“We never planned to come back this way anyway,” said Vassir. To Tandaris, she added, “Lead on, Commander.”


They walked two abreast. The lab that housed the Scorpiad stasis pod was not accessible from the main lift system, which was why it had remained preserved for so long. They would need to take a roundabout route to reach it. Before leaving the Audacity, each team member had memorized the route. Actually walking it, suppressing the atavistic urge to flee the darkness and the staccato sounds of implied but unperceived life, was another matter.


“Sensors don’t show any life yet,” said Corporal Lundrum, who had taken point.


“Those things don’t show up on sensors,” Mingram replied, tightening his grip on his rifle. “Remember? That’s how those engineers discovered them on the—”


Vassir cut them off. “Quiet. No unnecessary chatter.”


With the environmental suits forcing them to use comms rather than speak aloud, there was no danger of idle conversation alerting the creatures to their presence. Vassir knew this as well, so Tandaris shot her a grateful look. Then he stopped in front of a small access hatch.


“Here,” he said. “Through here, three levels down, then over to an auxiliary lift.” He stooped to open the hatch. It resisted, requiring more force than he had wanted to exert. Positioning his foot so he could push off from the wall, he gave the hatch another tug. It pulled away from the wall with a hideous ringing that echoed down the corridor.


The marines, already standing stock straight, stiffened.


“Maybe there aren’t any left in this section,” Mingram began optimistically, until distinctive chittering required him to revise his statement. “Maybe there aren’t many left…”


Alpha Team automatically spread into a semi-circle. Lundrum wriggled through the hatch first, followed by Mingram and Tandaris, with Vassir and the other two going last. They made it to the next lift without incident, only to discover that the lift’s controls were offline and the manual override had fused. With a series of well-chosen expletives shared between them, the engineers set to work while the rest of the marines kept watch.


The lab itself was almost pristine compared to the state of the rest of the base. It was as if this area, unlike the others, had simply observed an orderly shutdown. As with most Dominion facilities, there were no chairs to be toppled. But the consoles and workstations gleamed as if they had just been cleaned; trays of tools and specimen containers sat in the middle of the room, ready for the next time they were needed.


And on one end of the room, tucked in a corner by itself, the Scorpiad pod slumbered. It was large, as it needed to be, and out of place among the sleek Dominion technology. Tandaris felt a twinge in his gut as he recognized its intensely organic contours. He was so close! Without thinking, he rushed ahead and laid his hand against the side of the pod. He ignored a chastising hiss from Vassir as he began consulting the nearby readout screen, muttering to himself all the while.


Vassir quickly handed out assignments. “Lundrum and Hislaaan, cover this exit. Auberk, you and I’ll take that door.” She nodded to the tech, Mingram, to help Tandaris. “Quick as you can, boys.”


Mingram began setting up the transport enhancers that would allow them to beam the entire pod back to Audacity’s sickbay. Tandaris continued to evaluate the pod’s status. It was amazing that, after all these centuries, it still functioned. Its occupant, a middle-aged Scorpiad, was still alive. In all their decades of possessing it, the Dominion researchers here had never tried to open the pod or revive their prisoner.


When an alarm went off and all the displays on the pod’s exterior went black, Tandaris suddenly had an inkling as to why.


“What is that racket?” demanded Lundrum.


Tandaris had already jumped to one of the lab stations and was attempting to activate the remote interface. “It appears that the pod has a built-in security system to prevent tampering.”


“Whatever. Can you turn it off?”


“Um … no. I need an authorization code, or about five more hours to get around it.”


In the cacophony that was the pod alarm, no one heard the chittering sound until it was too late. With no warning, a posse of the carapaced creatures that had so terrorized the Excalibur team descended upon the lab from all directions, attracted to the enticing smell from a brand new, untouched area. With no more time for debate, speculation, or recrimination, Vassir snapped to Tandaris, “Just prep it for transport!” and raised her rifle, squeezing off shot after shot.


Tandaris bent over the pod again, his tricorder scanning for any more booby traps. Behind him, Mingram shouted, “Ready on my end. Admiran?”


“Let’s do it.”


“Mingram to Audacity. Energize.”


The pod didn’t dematerialize. There was no hum, no curtain of energy.


Mingram and Tandaris’ expressions both fell, and they rushed to check their respective charges simultaneously. All the systems checked out—except one.


“It’s the dampening field,” Mingram said. “The enhancers are fine. We just can’t get through to the Audacity.”


“Then we move the pod!” shouted Vassir. “We’ll take the auxiliary lift and rendezvous at the alternative extraction point. Let’s go, people!”


Mingram turned to help Tandaris disconnect the pod from the base’s computer interface. He was deploying a pair of antigrav lifters from his pack when the console next to him exploded. From the sparks and shrapnel, one of the creatures emerged and launched itself at Mingram’s neck. He emitted a gurgle and fell to the floor, rolling madly from side to side while the creature found itself an even more secure grasp.


Tandaris moved to assist but found the way blocked by two more of the creatures. They shouldered at each other, competing to see who would get to tear out his throat first. Tandaris tried to use this momentary distraction to his advantage. As he backed away, he tripped over an exposed panel, falling backwards. The creatures were upon him in a heartbeart.


Claws made quick work of the environmental suit. So much for the armour-plating or the responsive, just-in-time forcefield technology. The creatures ripped through the chestplate. Just as they reached flesh, one of their tails came down hard on his faceplate. Spiderwebs of cracks blossomed across his field of vision, and that was when Tandaris knew he was going to die.


He screamed. It was a raw, primal thing.


It was a Scorpiad scream.


Suddenly, the pain diminished, and the horrific weight was pulled off his chest. Tandaris managed to sit up. The faceplate’s self-repair mechanism began its work, and gradually his vision cleared. He gasped.


Standing in front of him was a Scorpiad, one claw neatly snipping a creature in half while the other crushed a creature’s head. It flung the corpses into two approaching attackers before turning in another direction and letting loose a ferocious sound. It made short work of the other creatures in the area, including the one feasting on Mingram, before it turned its attention back to Tandaris.


“Uh-oh,” Tandaris said. He closed his eyes and braced himself for the worst. So when the Scorpiad squatted--as best as Scorpiads could squat--and squinted--as best as Scorpiads could squint, which wasn’t very well--at him, Tandaris opened one eye. “Uh … hello?”


What he saw made him open the other eye and stare, long and hard, at the being in front of him. This was no ordinary Scorpiad, no run-of-the-mill soldier or labourer. This was an elite Scorpiad, bred to command and rule. And even among all the myriad Scorpiads who could claim such a lineage, this one was special to him in particular.


This one was his captain.

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Cdr. Tandaris Admiran



“So what you’re telling me is this that you’re carrying around the memories of a Scorpiad warship in your symbiont? And this thing was the commander of that ship?” Abrams’ voice fluctuated between disbelief and derision.


“That’s about the size of it,” Tandaris said. The two of them sat alone in the captain’s ready room. Abrams had redecorated it in such a way as to make it feel even more spartan than a Defiant-class starship’s ready room would feel by default. She had missed her calling, going into elite strategic recon and retrieval.


Abrams stared at him in a transparent attempt to unnerve him. Just because he was aware of the tactic didn’t make it any less effective. Tandaris remained unflustered, for two reasons. Firstly, he was tired of superior officers pushing him around. He was past the point of caring, and if Abrams didn’t want to play ball, then tough. Secondly, he had just made the most profound discovery of his life.


He had found someone--maybe the only person--who could make sense of what had happened to him.


It was a vain hope, really. Even if this Scorpiad believed Tandaris’ story, and even if it cared, there was nothing to say that it had any special knowledge that could shed light on Tandaris’ unique condition. But it was all the hope he had these days.


Unable to find any hint of subterfuge, Abrams shrugged. “Right. Well, this is beyond my pay grade. I’m happy enough to let the Admiral call the shots on this one. All I need to know is: is this thing”--she refused to even acknowledge it as anything else--“dangerous?”


“Unquestionably. You are talking about one of the most brutal, aggressive, and intelligent species in the Gamma Quadrant. The Scorpiads were the bogeymen of the Dominion’s nightmares.”


“Then we have to eliminate it, here and now.”


Tandaris leaned forward across the table. “You can’t be serious.”


“Commander, our mission was to retrieve a stasis pod and return with it to starbase. At no time did the Admiral ever mention he wanted us to bring back a live Scorpiad. If it poses a danger to this ship, not to mention the starbase, then I’m eliminating the danger before it becomes a problem.” She did not add, before we lose any more lives, but she might as well have done.


Tandaris shuddered at the memory. Beta Team had eventually fought its way to their position. By the time they made it, the creatures had dispatched everyone except for him and the reanimated Scorpiad, which had continued to study him but refused to talk. Any time Tandaris had so much as twitched, it had snarled and moved in such a menacing manner as to discourage further action. Beta Team had managed to cut through the dampening field and beam them all back to the Audacity. They had erected Level 5 forcefields in the cargo bay and placed the Scorpiad, too big for the brig by far, there, where it currently awaited its fate at Abrams’ hands.


It had spared Tandaris for reasons no one onboard had been aware of until now, excepting him. And Tandaris wasn’t even sure he understood how the Scorpiad had recognized him.


“Major, if you kill it, you are throwing away one of the best research opportunities Starfleet has come across in decades. This is a living Scorpiad. But its information is out of date. It doesn’t know anything about the Federation or the Alpha Quadrant. It is a source of valuable intelligence on Scorpiad habits and technology, if we play our cards right.”


“OK, say I buy that argument,” Abrams said. “What cards should we play?”


Tandaris relaxed visibly. The Major was abrasive, but she understood how the game worked. If he could lay out a convincing case for keeping the Scorpiad around, she would acquiesce. All he had to do was sound sane, something that was increasingly challenging these days.


“Let me talk to it. I’ll try to explain … the situation. I’ll keep it ambiguous though, nothing that hints at previous hostilities with the Federation. If I can calm it down, maybe I can convince it that the best thing to do is play along with us for the time being.”


“What makes you think it will accept that?”


“If it thinks that the best way to escape is to wait, watch, and bide its time, it will do exactly that. I just have to present an ideal scenario for such a course of action.”


Abrams turned to the monitor at her desk. She tapped at it and turned it towards Admiran. It displayed a live feed from the brig: the Scorpiad was currently sitting in the centre of the cell, unresponsive.


“You’re telling me you can make this thing cooperate?”


“I can’t make it do anything. But I can persuade it that cooperation is in its best interests, for now.”


Abrams did the staring thing again. For a moment Tandaris felt a brief, now unfamiliar twinge of empathy. In a way, she was in a position similar to his; she too had superior officers who could and would exact a price for anything they perceived as a mistake on her part.


When her response came, it was with confidence and clarity. “Don’t mess up.” She didn’t have to add that it would be on both their heads if anything went wrong.


So armed with his superior’s assent, Admiran left the ready room and made directly for the brig to see his other superior. They had quite a lot of catching up to do.

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Cdr. Tandaris Admiran



The forcefield hummed at its particular frequency, the invisible barrier the only thing keeping the Scorpiad from lashing out and destroying both Tandaris and the marine posted as a guard. He didn’t argue when Tandaris ordered him out—he’s a good marine, trained to follow orders. Even unwise ones.


The Scorpiad did not move the entire time Tandaris was with the guard, but once alone, it approached the forcefield. It raised a single limb in a way reminiscient of a benediction, but Tandaris recognized it for what it was: a challenge.


Before Tandaris made any overture, he went to the control console. Disabling the security feeds was child’s play. Thus secured against eavesdropping, he turned back to the Scorpiad.


“I know you can understand me, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t speak in scents and whispers,” Tandaris said. “I recognize you. What I want to know is if you recognize me.”


A minute passed before the Scorpiad gave any indication it was going to reply. Finally, it said, “In the battle, your noises reminded me of something I knew once, long ago. But it’s not possible.”


“Oh, it’s possible. More than that … it’s true.” Tandaris stepped closer, the forcefield just in front of his face now. And he added a single word, one difficult for a humanoid mouth to reproduce, but it comes from the effortless recall of memory, of identity.


If it is possible for a Scorpiad to be surprised, then this one shows it. “I don’t believe you.”


“I—it—was damaged. Centuries after you were captured. Another captain, a new crew. They died. It was dying. There are new powers at work in this quadrant. One of them found it, investigated—that’s what they do, they call it exploration but they are just as imperialist as us, as you, just nicer about it. Me, this individual, I was part of that team.” Tandaris pointed to his abdomen. “I have a symbiont, a creature with whom I share my body and my mind. It has memories of all its previous hosts. Somehow, when I began interacting with the ship’s systems, it discovered it could download its memories into my symbiont.


“I remember everything. Meeting you. Feeling your mind through the link only captains have. Learning your habits. The battles. The hunts. The victory at Tervanian Prime.” Tandaris’ voice has taken on a steely edge, and his eyes seemed light-years away now. “You were my first captain.”


“I still don’t understand.”


“Then listen.”


Hours passed as Tandaris began to tell his story. He started from the beginning, compressing decades into minutes as he described the history that he and the Scorpiad shared, establishing his identity beyond any shadow of doubt. Then he continued past their separation, bringing his captain up to speed on Gamma Quadrant history and recent events.


“So I will remain a prisoner, and you are my jailor.”


“In a sense,” Tandaris said. “But view it as an opportunity. At least you are no longer in stasis. In time, the Federation might decide to trade you for something it wants from the empire. Until then, you will be treated—we are soft in that way. They want whatever information you can provide.”


“But if I say nothing, I will not be tortured?”


“No. Although I should warn you, many will argue that you’re a security risk as it is. Already the commander of this vessel wants to terminate you. I am the only thing standing in her way.”


“Ah, so this is the reason you are here. You want to impress upon me my dependence on you.”


Tandaris shrugged. “I’m your ship. But I’m also not. I want—need—to learn from you, to better understand what’s happened to me. Beyond that, I don’t care what happens to you.”


“I see. And what, exactly, will you do for me if I agree to cooperate?”


Tandaris smiled. This was why he had disabled the security feeds. “Why, I will help you escape, of course.”


“You would side with your former captain over your loyalty to these people?”


“These people view me as almost as big a security risk as they view you. This condition, through no fault of my own, has made me unreliable. Suspect. And they have treated me unfairly as a result. I owe you nothing … and I owe them nothing. You have your cage. I have mine.” He pointed at the Starfleet insignia on his chest.


The Scorpiad indicated its understanding by crossing its two uppermost limbs. “Very well. For the times we shared together, I will accept your proposal. But if you cross me, I will cut you down before you have time to second-guess your mistake.”


“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m Admiran. Tandaris Admiran.”


Tandaris knew the Scorpiad’s full name already, of course. The pattern of its owner’s mind was seared on his memory. But for humanoid mouths, the closest transcription was something like G’jj;k. And herein lay Tandaris’ advantage. After years together, Tandaris knew how G’jj;k thought, how it schemed and reasoned and acted. Admiran’s other memories, the blending of hosts, meant that Tandaris would remain largely a cipher to G’jj;k, unpredictable and erratic even though he was in other ways familiar.


“Tell your commander that I will cooperate, provided you are my liaison.”


And just like that, for the first time in a long time, Tandaris did not feel quite so alone.

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Cdr. Tandaris Admiran



“OK, Greg, let me see if I have this right.” Once again, Tandaris read back his notes to the hulking, arachnoid creature in the specially-constructed room on the unlisted starbase that was their prison. G’jj;k bristled--as much as a being with an exoskeletal carapace instead of fur could bristle--whenever Tandaris used the Anglicized moniker, but there was little the captive Scorpiad could do about it.


“That is correct,” G’jj;k gave its assent.


This had been their working relationship for the past six months. The Audacity had delivered its payload to this base, then Tandaris had bid goodbye to Abrams and her team in a not-so-teary farewell. Scientists poked and prodded G’jj;k to the very limits of its tolerance, but then they left it unharassed. Instead, Starfleet Intelligence seemed happy to let Tandaris handle the Scorpiad, in return for a steady stream of information.


It was not easy, even with their little arrangement. G’jj;k was centuries out of date. It had no idea what the current structure of the Scorpiad Empire was like. When Tandaris had recounted the Federation’s contact with the Dominion and the subsequent quadrant-spanning war, it had scoffed at the idea that the Dominion could ever have grown so powerful. “They captured you,” Tandaris pointed out. That, the Scorpiad claimed, had been a tactical error on its part--the last it intended to make.


Tandaris was no fool. He could see the way G’jj;k’s eyes scanned every detail of every bulkhead, looking for a way out. If it could find one, it would take it, regardless of its deal with Tandaris. Honour was a concept that existed for the Scorpiad, but it was a different concept. And memories of a ship or no, Tandaris understood he didn’t rate too highly in G’jj;k’s priorities.


So for months, bit by bit, Tandaris gleaned as much knowledge as he could. He learned more about the Dominion base at where G’jj;k had been imprisoned. Together, they reconstructed basic schematics for some of the more simple Scorpiad ships and handheld weapons--in all these centuries, Scorpiad technology had not changed all that much. G’jj;k must not have thought the Federation such a threat if it was willing to hand this over to them. Its arrogance was astounding, would have been laughable in a being any smaller or any less imposing.


But it was a Monday when G’jj;k dropped the ultimate bombshell. Tandaris could almost feel the bored ensign listening to the monitoring feed sit straight, suddenly alert.


They weren’t even discussing any specific intelligence. Tandaris had, as was his habit, taken a break to ask G’jj;k some questions about their time together as captain and ship. The Scorpiad could fill the gaps in his memory and sharpen recollections that had been dulled by so much time limited to a single body of flesh. And during one of these conversations, G’jj;k casually remarked, “I was there when you were hatched. You were magnificent: the newest, sleekest of your kind.”


“Did you just say you were there when I was hatched?”




“Scorpiad ships are … hatched?”


“How else would you construct an organic ship?” Well, when you put it that way.


For the next hour and a half, G’jj;k described in detail the birthing process. Leptertus technicians harvest the genetic material from up to a dozen parent vessels, tweaking the DNA cocktail until they have arrived at the combination of strength, stealth, intelligence, and all the other factors they desired. The DNA was injected in an egg, which was then incubated on a moon specially designated as a hatchery. Along with hundreds of its siblings, the egg would grow larger and larger, until finally it was ready to be detached from the moon and towed into space. From there, it would naturally hatch over the course of several days, the warp limbs and weapons struts of the new vessel emerging gradually from the shell.


“Greg …” said Tandaris, his voice unusually strained, “I don’t suppose you would happen to know where such a hatchery might be?”


“Of course!”


With those two words, Tandaris knew that somewhere in the depths of Starfleet Intelligence’s arcane bureaucracy, wheels of procedure had begun to spin faster than ever. And he was about to get his chance … his chance to do what, precisely, he still wasn’t sure.

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Cdr. Tandaris Admiran



Tandaris trained the viewer on Camelot Station as soon as it was within range. He noted, with a twinge of regret, that a familiar Akira-class vessel was docked.


Had it really been nearly a year since he had last been in the Gamma Quadrant? But he was back now, the Audacity ferrying him, his new Scorpiad bestie G’jj;k, and Admiral Northway. The two Starfleet officers left the Scorpiad in confinement as they went aboard the station.


Northway and Tandaris had argued for nearly a month over the plan. He claimed he was all for Tandaris and G’jj;k going along, but that “more conservative elements” of the leadership were not keen on the idea. Tandaris recognized this hedging for what it was: neither he nor the Scorpiad were trustworthy enough to be sent. Alas, Starfleet had little choice. G’jj;k would not divulge the location of the hatchery, only lead them to it. And without its knowledge of perimeter defenses, they would not be able to sneak in. Tandaris--well, he wasn’t quite as essential, but G’jj;k refused to go unless Tandaris would accompany it. And his ship memories could perhaps be useful to the mission.


It was crazy, what Tandaris had proposed. Steal a baby Scorpiad ship? Tandaris still had bad dreams about the time he and Marius tr’Lorin had been abducted by a Scorpiad shuttle they had … er … Tandaris had acquired Scorpiad ships had minds of their own--Tandaris of all people knew that now--and would not easily be stolen.


There was a way, though. As a ship captain, G’jj;k had learned certain methods of taming a newborn ship and letting it imprint on new commanders. If they could infiltrate the hatchery, steal an egg about ready to be hatched, and hatch it themselves, then Starfleet would have its very own Scorpiad ship. The people Northway reported to--Tandaris doubted many of them were admirals, or even in Starfleet--were salivating over this prospect.


It surprised Tandaris that G’jj;k was on board with this plan. “You realize,” he asked it one day, the feeds again “malfunctioning” while they conversed in private, “that even if we succeed with our plan and you escape, Starfleet still has a ship? Not a tame ship like they would like, but a ship nonetheless?”


“Irrelevant.” It almost sounded like an insult. “One ship, an infant, is not going to help you bring my empire to its knees.”


It also seemed undaunted by its long absence from the empire. This time, in a session with Northway, Tandaris asked, “You’ve been away for centuries. How do you know this hatchery is still there, or that you can get us past the defenses?”


“Your ponderous questioning grows irksome. Clearly your memories of our time together have taught you little about my people. We do not abandon hatcheries lightly. The conditions required--stellar density, solar wind velocity, ambient temperature--are quite constraining. It will be there. And its defenses will be as they always were. Not even the Dominion managed to penetrate into a hatchery.”


It had taken weeks, but eventually Northway had given the go-ahead. And so now they were back in the Gamma Quadrant, having one last meeting before embarking.


As they walked through the corridors of the station, Northway briefed Tandaris on the political situation for the past year. He mentioned the upheaval among the Vorta upon learning that the Founders weren’t on sabbatical but actually gone. With the Dominion leadership so weakened, some worlds were beginning to chafe beneath the Jem’Hadar-enforced yolk.


“And something,” Northway added, “has the Scorpiads worried.”




“They’ve requested a meeting. Not just them--the Al-Ucard and the Eratians too. Highest level. And they specifically requested that Excalibur conduct the meeting.”


“I see. Well, best of luck to them.”


They stopped outside a meeting room door. “You’ll be joining them.”


Tandaris blinked. “What? But the mission--”


“It’s the perfect cover and the perfect opportunity. The meeting place is just inside Scorpiad space, within light-years of the hatchery if our information is accurate. And you know most of the crew of Excalibur already; you know what they can do. While the ship and some of the crew stay for the talks, you will take a smaller team to infiltrate the hatchery.”


Mixed emotions flooded Tandaris. He had left Excalibur abruptly, hadn’t really even said goodbye to most people. It would be good to go back. Yet at the same time, how could he, knowing he planned to betray them all and help G’jj;k escape, at the cost of lives?


“One more thing,” Northway said as they entered the room. “The Scorpiads didn’t just request Excalibur; they were very particular about who they wanted to conduct the talks.”


The room was not empty. Rather, a familiar figure stood with his back to the entrance, staring out the window at the starfield beyond. His long, white hair cascaded down his shoulders. He wore a Starfleet uniform that was too new, that fit too perfectly, and he wore it with a mixture of confidence and second thoughts. Tandaris recognized that feeling, just as surely as he recognized Ah-Windu Corizon.


Corizon deigned to turn around, his eyes briefly lighting up as he saw Tandaris, a small smirk creeping across his face. "Ah, Mister Admiran. Good to see I'm not the only one whose retirement was cut short."


The End

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