Tarnh cursed as the interior lights went out and the door before him failed to open, causing him to collide with it in the dark. “Every time,” he thought bitterly as he waited for the lights to come back on. “Every damned time. Na’kuhl engineers can build a temporal drive that can’t be detected by our enemies. Why can’t they make it stop draining power from the lights, doors, toilets, and every other ‘non-critical system’ when the ship makes a jump?”
As the ship entered a temporal vortex and began to streak through time, the lights flickered back on and the door sensors kicked in. Dutifully, the door before him slid quickly to the open position. Tarnh stepped into the turbolift and muttered “Tactical Deck” while quietly cursing the ship’s engineering group.
The door opened once more, and Tarnh made his way down a hall to the meeting chamber, returning the salutes of junior officers as he walked. He walked into the chamber to find Operative Krog standing before the room’s sole viewport, hands clasped behind her back, quietly contemplating the vortex as it streaked by the Daemosh-class destroyer they stood in.
“Field Operative Tarnh reporting as ordered.”
“You are acknowledged, Tarnh,” Krog said, looking over her shoulder as she spoke. “Be seated, there’s much to discuss.”
Tarnh nodded, pressing a node on his personal datalink. A chair replicated in place before Krog’s workstation; shortly thereafter, another appeared on the opposite side for her use. Deferring to her rank, Tarnh sat first and waited for the briefing to begin in silence.
“Your assignment will take place in the early 25th century, Tarnh. I trust this will not be a problem for you?”
“No, Operative,” Tarnh replied calmly. “While it is a most troubling time for our people, it won’t prevent me from performing my duty.”
Krog gave him the slightest wisp of a smile in response. “Good,” she said. “Because if you are successful, you may well deliver the Na’kuhl from the terror of the Tox Uthat forever.”
Unable to hide a look of surprise, Tarnh sat up in his chair at his superior’s words. “You present me with a singular opportunity, Operative,” he said. “Tell me more.”
Krog’s fingers nimbly flowed over the workstation’s console, summoning holographic images in the space between them. Sector maps of the Alpha and Beta quadrants, navigation routes, schematics of Alliance starships… and the hated visage of one Kal Dano. Tarnh felt his teeth grind at the sight of the inventor, the man who created the weapon that killed the Na’kuhl star.
“You will take command of the frigate group Ka’vassi and begin a tactical sweep along these navigation routes,” Krog said, all business. “They are used primarily by merchant vessels of this period. The military presence is minimal.”
Tarnh studied the star-charts for a moment, making mental notes of the vessels and travel times listed.
“Is this a resource raid operation, Operative?” he asked, slightly puzzled. “Why does Covert Branch care about cargo cruisers operating out of Ferenginar?”
“The vessels themselves are of little significance,” Krog replied. “They are flotsam, save for the very important person traveling upon one of them.”
“And that person is?”
“The illustrious ancestor of one Kal Dano.”
“Who is this vermin,” Tarnh snarled. “And when can I end him?”
“Patience,” smiled Krog. “It shall not be as simple as that. For one thing, we do not know if you hunt a male or a female. We don’t know which of these scows the wretch travels upon.”
“I see,” said Tarnh, composing himself. “What, then, do we know about the target?”
Krog brought up several more images; the planet Lukari, several pink-skinned smiling faces, medical readouts, a Ferengi merchant marine vessel. “We know that the target is Lukari, an expatriate who left their backwater planet with a band of Ferengi… merchants.”
“Pirates,” growled Tarnh. “Criminal vermin.”
“Yes,” Krog replied. “Since that time, the target has ceased operations with the Ferengi and moved on. Our records are incomplete – we know the target is a merchant mariner in this area, but that’s all. It’s up to you to find the target and bring an end to its misbegotten existence.”
“I’m assuming we’ll scan for genetics,” Tarnh said as he studied the medical readouts. “Lifesigns that match the Dano pedigree.”
“Indeed. We’ll support your operation, of course,” said Krog. “Our agents are searching for more details on the target. Any pertinent data found will be transmitted to you in the field.”
“How much time do we have?”
“Not as much as we’d like. The other side is always watching. Once they start to notice temporal discrepancies, they’ll send their lackeys to dispatch us. Fortunately,” Krog smiled, showing her needle-like teeth. “they don’t consider merchants a high priority when it comes to monitoring the timestream. “
“Meaning you can dispatch a few of them as you go before it comes to their attention. I’d prefer keeping each engagement brief; we have a lot of space and a lot of ships to scan. But it wouldn’t hurt to disrupt their shipping lanes… and strike a little terror into their hearts.”
Tarnh frowned, taking a moment to compose his response. The thought of killing unarmed merchants for trivial reasons didn’t sit well with him, but letting her know that was dangerous.
“Due respect,” he said slowly. “What if we are identified? Our people are already considered criminals and terrorists by many in this time… wouldn’t this activity serve to make the matter worse for them… for us?”
“Oh, come now, Tarnh,” Krog sneered. “Few in this era know what our ships look like. We possess superior cloaking technology. If you’re seen at all, chances are the pathetic mongrels of this period will think you’re a Klingon, or a Romulan…”
“Or a Reman,” muttered Tarnh. “I honestly don’t see the resemblance, but –“
“Tarnh,” she said impatiently. “My point is that you stand little chance of being identified as Na’kuhl. Do your job well, and this entire discussion will be moot. Dano will never be born, and our people will never face the devastation he unleashed. Am I understood?”
“You are, Operative,” replied Tarnh. “It will be done.”
“Then I wish you success,” Krog said calmly. “We’re done here.”
“Glory to the Na’kuhl!” Tarnh replied as he stood and saluted.
“Glory eternal,” she replied dismissively, returning her attention to the images before her.
Tarnh left the meeting chamber, the frown deepening on his face.
“Glory,” he thought grimly. “There’s little glory to be found in the slaughter of innocents, even if it saves millions more.”
The lights went out again.
Tarnh stood in the darkness and waited for one fateful journey to end and another to begin.
Star Trek Online