Ensconced safely in the temporal shielding of their ship, the Vorgons shouted angrily at one another.
“I can hardly be blamed!” yelled Caldur. “You made this personal, Boratus. You know better.”
Boratus pointed back behind him, at the ship’s brig. “They made it personal. They killed Ajur! They’re the ones who took this over the edge. We just wanted the Tox Uthat – but Starfleet’s temporal operatives and their ‘friends’ turned it into a vendetta.”
Caldur said, “You had your chance. This cost us too much. Now we’re entwined with the recurring Battle of Procyon V and what do we have to show for it? Nothing! Ajur’s gone, Boratus. Let her go before this costs you anything else. Picard outwitted you. You should’ve learned your lesson the first time. I’m not putting any more of my reputation or my resources on the line for this. We’ll trade these prisoners to the Breen, salvage what we can from this mess, and leave it behind us.” He turned on his heel and headed away from the brig, toward the turbolifts.
Boratus clenched his hands helplessly for a moment, then likewise turned, stepping back into the brig area. He surveyed the small collection of Starfleet officers slumped or huddled in the various cells.
One of the disheveled officers looked up at him from her spot on the floor and said, “You know Starfleet will come for us. You’re just making this situation more difficult for yourself.”
Boratus looked to either side, at the small huddled masses of Starfleet officers who’d been captured during his brief sortie into the Breen invasion of Earth in the 24th century, and said, “Perhaps your standards are different, but this situation isn’t difficult for me at all. You’re the ones languishing in a cell. I’m the one who’s about to broker your captivity over to the Breen in exchange for various considerations. I expect that your accommodations are about to become much colder.”
The Starfleet officer stood and faced him through the security force field. Boratus knew a bit about Starfleet protocol – he’d brushed up before his encounter with Picard at Risa – and recognized her as a young human lieutenant. She said, “Why get in the middle of this at all? Your people aren’t with the Dominion or the Breen. Now you’re just making enemies where you don’t need to. Hand us back over to Starfleet and we can talk this out. You seem to know about us; you must know that the Federation will treat with you diplomatically if you make the offer.”
Boratus mulled this over for a moment. The officer was clearly trying to probe his motivations and find a lever that she could move on his list of personal agendas. Sadly for her, she really had nothing to offer him; handing over these Starfleet prisoners to the Breen of this era would at least secure a few favors. But there was, by the same token, nothing else useful that he could glean from talking to her, so there wasn’t much sense in wasting time…
His eyes narrowed and then after a moment he keyed the control panel on the wall. A light mist flooded the cell, and the various humanoids in there slumped to the ground – all except the Benzite, who had his own atmosphere generator. Sure enough, a combadge tumbled out of the hand of one of the engineers in the cell, its exterior already cracked open and its circuitry exposed.
The officer’s negotiations had been an attempt to distract him, Boratus realized. Fortunately, he was too much on his guard now to allow that sort of nonsense. He pointed at the Benzite and said, “Take a lesson from your sleeping friends. Escape attempts are pointless. Save your efforts for when the Breen arrive.”
Behind Boratus, the door to the brig opened, and three Breen in their signature encounter suits entered.
“Ah. Speaking of the Breen, here they are. I will leave you to determine your future,” said Boratus a trifle smugly. He paused to glance at the Breen, then exited the room.
The three Breen loitered next to the force field, shifting from foot to foot, occasionally communicating in the modulated buzzes and chirps that their encounter suits emitted. After about a minute, one of the Breen tapped the security wall console several times and the sound of cycling air filled the brig for about ten seconds.
The Starfleet officers in the brig slowly blinked to wakefulness, sitting up and re-examining their surroundings. The Breen at the security console nodded, dropped the force field, then pulled off its helmet.
In response, the Benzite said, “I thought the Breen were supposed to be amorphous.”
Daniels cracked a smile. “Come on. I can’t do this jailbreak alone.” He gestured and the other two Breen took up positions – one moved to guard the door, while the other stepped into the cell and started distributing small, thin plastic strips imprinted with microcircuitry. “Attach these to your uniforms,” said Daniels. “We’re getting you back home.”
The officers dutifully accepted the strips. The lieutenant said, “Sir, how’d you ever manage to get aboard this ship in the first place? And how are we going to get off? With the Breen currently attacking Earth, there will be shields and security fields all over the place, and Starfleet certainly won’t allow a transport to the ground from a hostile vessel.”
Daniels dropped the Breen helmet and started to pull off the gloves. “Trust, Lieutenant,” he said. “The Vorgons became involved in this because their greed tangled them up into a personal affair. I’m here because my duty brought me here. And you’re here because the Vorgons think nobody will notice that you’ve gone missing from Earth during the attacks and you’ll be listed as missing, assumed dead.”
“It was, of course, easy to fake a Breen communication and gain access to this ship as a ‘representative’ interested in taking prisoners off the Vorgons’ hands,” Daniels continued. “They were motivated purely by what they could gain, so I told them I’d give them something. Of course, the real reason that I’m here is to save lives. The Vorgons underestimated the lengths to which Starfleet would go to protect its own. Everyone ready?”
The Starfleet officers murmured their assent. Daniels produced another small plastic strip, this one translucent red and likewise circuit-imprinted. He placed the strip against the wall console and said, “Their shields should be going down in about three seconds. Prepare for transport.”
The humming of transporter beams engulfed the officers, and they faded away, whisked to safety.
The young lieutenant who’d spoken to Boratus before remained in the cell. She looked puzzled for a moment, then tapped on the thin plastic patch. “Is mine broken?” she started to ask, a bit of panic setting in.
Daniels sighed and turned to the young lieutenant. “I’m sorry to do this to you like this, but my real reason for being here isn’t just to save lives. It’s to protect the timeline.”
The lieutenant looked startled, then resigned. “So that’s it. I… there’s something I did? Or didn’t do?”
Daniels said as gently as he could, “You died. Or you were supposed to, rather. The polaron bolt that grazed your arm there? It was supposed to hit you in the back. Kill shot, instantaneous. But you were distracted by the Vorgons and you turned at just the right time.”
The lieutenant swallowed hard, then straightened and said, “I’m a Starfleet officer. If I have to die to protect the timeline…”
Daniels shook his head. “No. You’re going to pretend to be dead. But you’re going to be recruited into the Temporal service. We’re not going back to Earth – not right away, anyhow. We’re going to the future. Welcome to Temporal Operations, Lieutenant. As for the Vorgons… they’ve learned that their friends aren’t the kind to come save them when everything falls apart.”
Daniels removed a temporal transponder from the folds of his Breen suit and pressed the trigger. “That’s the important difference. We’re not in it for ourselves. We’re in it for everyone else.” The blue shift of excited chroniton particles flared, and Daniels and his team – plus one – vanished.
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