“Monarch on the Shore”
Stardate 75205.4; March 17, 2398
Written by Chris Adamek
The Jan’tral Sector
Romulan Neutral Zone
It’s a Yridian transport ship,” said Commander Francisco Perez. He carefully studied the tactical overview displayed on the workstation before him before furthering his analysis of the alien ship. “According to their manifest, they are delivering food and medical supplies to the colony in the Jolan’isar Cluster.”
“On screen.” Seated calmly in the Gemini’s command chair, Captain Allison Duford approached this situation like any other. For all intents and purposes, it was a situation like any other. Even if they were up to no good, one Yridian transport ship posed no threat to the mighty weapons aboard the Gemini. Still, Duford was cautious, for the cargo aboard her ship was far more important that anything the Yridans were carrying…
Moments later, the Yridian vessel flitted onto the viewscreen—and the tension welling in the pit of Duford’s stomach eased. The vessel was perhaps the most dilapidated thing she had ever seen—so decrepit-looking, in fact, that it barely constituted a starship. Its brownish hull was pocked and scorched, and one of its dingy warp nacelles was clearly a cheap replacement for the original, for it wasn’t even of the same design.
“At their current speed, they’ll enter Romulan Space in about an hour,” said Ensign Fritz at the helm.
There was still plenty of time to take action, a fact that kept Duford at ease. “Are there any other starships in the vicinity?” she asked.
“The Archimedes is in range,” Perez gleaned from sensors, “but they’re presently en route to Outpost 23 with a medical emergency of some sort.”
Duford knew she could easily have the Archimedes diverted to the Neutral Zone in response to the Yridian freighter—and she considered it for a moment—but in her opinion, the medical emergency took precedence over the Yridians. The Gemini would have to respond. “Open a channel to the Yridians,” she ordered.
“Yes, ma’am.” Perez quickly complied with the order, and a moment later, the junky freighter flicked away—replaced by the shriveled face of the Yridian Captain.
Duford promptly rose from her chair to greet the little man. “This is Captain Allison Duford of the Federation Starship Gemini.”
The Yridian nodded pleasantly. “Marouk Afeel,” he stated cordially. “Is there something I can do for you, Captain?”
“There is.” With her hands resting upon her hips, Duford took a few steps closer to the helm. “According to the treaty established after the Elorg War, no vessel can enter Romulan territory without first passing through one of the Federation checkpoints along the Neutral Zone.”
If Afeel was concerned about the treaty, he showed no sign of it. “We passed through the checkpoint at Pelios Station three days ago,” he chirped.
“Pelios Station,” Duford skeptically repeated. “That’s more than six light years away from here.”
Afeel flashed a faint smile. “We drove our engines hard,” he explained. “The denizens of the Jolan’isar Cluster are in desperate need of our assistance… so if you don’t mind, we’ll be on our way.”
“Of course,” Duford replied. “As soon as we review the records from Pelios Station and confirm your story, you’ll be free to go.”
Concern suddenly flashed across Afeel’s wrinkled face. “But the denizens of the Jolan’isar Cluster—”
“—can wait,” Duford curtly interjected. “Given your rather surreptitious route, you’ve already made them wait… another hour won’t make much of a difference.”
“We encountered an ion storm,” Afeel quickly replied. “We had to adjust our course, otherwise our ship would have sustained massive damage.”
Duford raised a curious eyebrow. “I’m curious, Captain, what is your definition of massive damage? Given the status of your vessel, it’s already heavily damaged.”
“Then you can understand our desire to avoid the said ion storm.” Afeel tapped a few commands into the computer console beside him. “Now if you’ll excuse us, the Romulans need their medical supplies.”
If the Yridians had been transporting any extralegal cargo, sensors would have detected it by now. Given the ship’s decrepit state, it was unlikely that they had the power to hide anything from the sensors. But Duford wasn’t ready to let the Yridians off the hook that easily. She candidly motioned for Perez to mute the conversation, and then turned to him for his opinion. “Well?”
Perez shook his head. “I’ve checked the records from Pelios Station,” he said, just as the turbolift doors slid apart. “The Yridian ship did dock there three days ago—and their cargo manifest seems to check out.”
“What are they carrying?” asked Duford, making every effort to keep business flowing as usual, despite the newfound presence on the bridge.
“Exactly what they stated,” Perez replied, casually glancing at the list. “They’ve got assorted grains and vegetables, some therazine to help with the recent outbreak of Imolean flu… lectrazine, cordrazine… a few other cortical analeptics… nothing out of the ordinary. Certainly nothing that justifies detaining their vessel.”
And though she found it hard to believe, Duford was left with the conclusion that the Yridians were probably telling the truth. “We’re going to have to check astrometric sensors for this ion storm,” she said, but it was her intent to do so later—after her own precious cargo was safe and sound.
Unfortunately for her, that cargo chose the most inopportune moment to speak his mind. “You said something about therazine?” The voice belonged to Ghodan Makar—and he was the President of the United Federation of Planets, on his way back to Earth after a summit on Risa.
Perez quickly looked back to his data. “Therazine. Yes. The Yridians have large quantities of it to help treat the Imolean flu outbreak in the Jolan’isar Cluster.”
Makar was a Trill in his late forties—perhaps fifty, though one would never guess by looking at him. His dark hair was slicked back over his high forehead—and there was nary a gray hair in sight. He was fit and trim—literally bustling with energy not usually seen by a politician… which was probably why he was such a popular leader. Even Duford found herself fond of the man—though perhaps a bit more when she wasn’t directly responsible for his safety.
Makar crinkled his brow. “I wasn’t aware of a flu outbreak in the Jolan’isar Cluster,” he stated.
And neither was Duford—but she didn’t generally keep abreast of every last illness sweeping across some remote Romulan colony. “It must have cropped up over the last few days,” she said.
“Or not at all,” Makar grimly replied.
The tone did not go unnoticed, and Duford immediately came about to face her supreme leader. “What are you getting at?” she cautiously inquired.
Makar expelled a long, weary sigh. “There is more than one use for therazine,” he explained. “And while it is effective cure to the Imolean flu, it can also help counteract the effects of thalaron radiation…”
It took a long moment for the words to sink into Duford’s mind—and once they did, she sincerely wished they hadn’t. “The only way one can get thalaron radiation is through exposure to a thalaron particle,” she realized. “And if that is the case…”
“…then the Romulans are developing a dangerous weapon,” Makar grimly finished.