And the Gates Opened …

Characters: Terry Hale, Katia Santiago

Trouble never traveled alone.

Terry Hale had said and heard that more than a few times, and seen the proof of it. And it was why she was pacing the bridge now, waiting to see what company Trouble kept.

One hour from jumping to normal space, Hale dropped herself into her seat and depressed the controls on the chair’s arm. By all approximations that could be made in the flux of hyperspace, they were now within the boundaries of the alien’s solar system.

“This is a Red Alert. Everyone to your stations!” Hale ordered.

The change was automatic on the Bridge. Seats locked in place at Helm, the viewscreen shimmered down into place. All about the room the crystal interfaces sang as adjustments were made, and weapons discreetly powered up. Despite their dead, they couldn’t go into orbit around a settled planet with weapons hot. Wars started that way, but Hale was certain that they’d ride that edge as close as they possibly could. They would be prepared for all possibilities.

She never knew the danger that would trip them would come from within.

Another manipulation narrowed the channel to the security frequency. “All officers, I want each deck secured, and Dr. Trassano’s department assisted in every way possible to see us through this emergency. You know your drills.”

Hale switched the channel again, but before she could speak a word, the intention of her call dashed out of the lift on to the bridge. Chief Engineer Katia Santiago looked like she was running one step ahead of Hell, her calm countenance betrayed by the wild, barely contained look in her eyes. Hale felt the bottom of her stomach drop out with fresh worry and she glanced at Morgan before rising to meet Santiago.

“Captain….” Santiago looked to each side, as if she feared to speak, feared to breathe.

“This way,” Hale cut her off, and waved her to the fore of the Bridge. They passed the viewscreen’s shimmer into the alcove of viewports. Hale didn’t wait for pleasantries. “I’m sure you realize this is the worst time possible, so out with it, quick,” she ordered.

“Captain,” she said as she paused to contain her broiling emotions, knowing she was on the verge of being out of control. “I… I can’t explain all of the why just now, but I know the saboteur intends to act now. He means to kill us all with bombs he’s made, seeding them through the ship…”

“He, who? And why now?” Hale snapped, more sharply than she intended.

“I brushed past him in the Wake. I’m a telepath,” Santiago paused, forcibly controlling her features after the admission, “I saw it all, in his mind. Darquin and Dr. Matsumoto have been working with me to find him–”

Who is he? Do you realize we’re one hour from Jumping out of hyperspace, and I assure you we’re not stopping in for tea!” Hale ran a hand over her hair, the ruddy light of hyperspace turning her hair to flame, and her temper was a fair match. She moderated her voice with difficulty. “I needed to know this hours ago,” she growled.

Katia did her best to keep her own temper in check, finally pulling down her own mask of impassivity, at least looking as if she were in control, “Sir, we don’t know who he is! don’t know. It was just a moment’s brush in the Wake, and he certainly wasn’t thinking his own name to tag his plans for me!”

Hale turned away, pacing the small space to calm herself. She desperately wanted to kick something, most of all herself for pretending the matter could lay quiet until they were clear of the mission. You know better, Terry, her thoughts accused.

Hale exhaled slowly, and turned back to her Chief Engineer. “All right. We don’t know who it is, but we know he’s male… and probably human? Non-human minds feel different, don’t they?”

“Ah… yes. You’re right. We’re trying to narrow it down now. As I said I’ve got Darquin and Dr. Matsumoto working with me, and those they can trust. And I’ve got Kordieh checking about–”

“Kordieh?” Hale repeated, feeling suddenly chill. She had been imagining there, in the Wake. She had to be. “Not Lucius Kordieh?”

Katia looked confused. “No… Dunstan…. What is it Captain?” She didn’t like the things she was sensing, any more than watching, in Hale’s sudden stillness.

“Lucius Kordieh died on the White Star 24. He had a twin, Dunstan,” Hale explained quietly. “I thought it was Lucius I saw in the Wake last night. The look in his eye…” She looked sharply at Katia, the quiet broken.

“No….” Katia denied, pain and a new blooming rage tightening her chest till it felt as if it would burst. Not Kordieh, who she’d trusted. Who she’d first instructed to find a killer, just moments after that shattering mindtouch.

Hale tapped her link. “Darquin.”

“Darquin. Go.” Darquin’s voice came immediately.

“Is this connection secure?”

“Do you want an honest opinion?”

“No,” Hale said succinctly. Her eyes watched Katia as she spoke. “We have the most likely one for your search. Dunstan Kordieh. Look at his history, and you will see why. Get every one of your people you can spare on this. Chief Engineer Santiago will be otherwise occupied with her Engine Rooms. Hale out.”

“Captain!” Katia protested loudly, drawing the glance of Yoshino behind her station at Operations. “Sir, he’s murdered my friend and a fellow ranger to us all. I have to–”

You have to make sure the Phoenix keeps running,” Hale ordered sharply. “We’re about to go into the potential of a battle, and Awenata and Karr need you down there with them. You’re not a security officer, and you are far too close to the problem. I doubt you’ll thank me afterward, but those are my orders.”

Copyright (c) 1998 Tamara Friese and Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.


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