“Light and Shadow” is the only episode in the history of The Final Frontier to be radically altered after being posted to the Internet. Apparently, I was the only person that liked the original ending—the ending that featured Christopher winning the tactical simulation. And so, I appeased TFF’s many readers, and made Harrison win. And while that was the most notable change to the episode, it wasn’t the most radical. Before I posted the episode to the Internet, I changed the entire plot. “Light and Shadow” was originally an episode about Alan and Angela… but it was a little bit too cute for its own good.
Here it is, the original ending to “Light and Shadow.” I still don’t see what was wrong with it! J
“The sensor pod has been destroyed,” said Turathan Karalis as he sifted through the myriad status reports crawling across his workstation. But that was only the start of the good news. As he watched the Starlight’s damage reports pour in, the Andorian was almost optimistic about their chances for success. “They have sustained numerous hull breaches along their starboard catamaran, as well as their starboard warp nacelle.”
Glittering blue plasma still oozed from the warp nacelle; retreat was certainly a viable option for the Starlight. Assuming it could leave the nebula.
However, Matthew Harrison didn’t want to find out. The Columbia at long last had the upper hand, and as long as it was advantageous to attack the Starlight, he would do just that. “Continue firing,” ordered Harrison.
Another string of transphasic torpedoes hurtled across the viewscreen, this time striking the Starlight’s port warp nacelle. They definitely weren’t going anywhere now…
“The ego has been wounded,” mused Robinson as she watched the wispy blue flames erupt from the newly damaged nacelle.
Unfortunately, that was not a good thing. “As long as Captain Christopher’s ego was intact, he thought himself invulnerable. But now that the Starlight has sustained heavy damage, he will take a different approach to this battle…”
“How can he?” asked Robinson. “His ship is barely functional…”
Harrison knew better. “Captain Christopher is very resourceful when he needs to be… he will find a way to turn the situation back into his favor.”
“If he were in his right mind, he would surrender!”
Harrison only shook his head. “Finish them.”
As he paced before the command chair, Alan Christopher had to wonder, just what advantages did the Starlight have left? Admittedly, there very few—and as another torpedo crashed into the hull, he could feel those few meager advantages slipping away.
“We could ram them,” suggested Tompkins.
Christopher nodded. “If this was a real battle, and the Starlight was really in dire condition, ramming them would certainly be an option… We wouldn’t have much to lose… but unfortunately, there’s no way for us to simulate a ramming. Unless we hail the Columbia and tell them to pretend like we’re ramming them. I’m sure that will go over well.”
Christopher’s pacing was briefly interrupted, but he recovered his balance quickly enough to prevent a fall. “That’s starting to get a little annoying…”
“So why don’t we end this?” asked Keller. There was the faintest glint of a smile upon her face, which indicated to Christopher that she had a plan.
“Do tell, Erin…”
“At the moment, Matthew’s biggest advantage is the nebula,” she said. Her fingers danced over the control interface, apparently making preparations to put her plan into action. “We’re just going to have to get rid of the nebula.
Christopher was starting to warm to the plan. “Go on…”
Had this been an actual battle, Harrison suspected the Starlight would have already been destroyed. The engineers at Starfleet were apparently being quite lenient—which was odd, since the Columbia always seemed to fall with ease. Even so, the constant torpedo bombardment was having the desired effects. The Starlight would soon fall.
“One more hit should finish them,” Karalis announced after a few moments of relative silence.
Harrison was about to give the order to open fire, but the words died in his throat. For reasons unbeknownst to Harrison, the Starlight was slowly starting to come about. If they intended to escape, it was certain they wouldn’t get very far on thrusters alone. “Their warp nacelles are still damaged, correct?”
Reinbold checked her data. “Both of them are still heavily damaged,” she confirmed.
“Then what are they doing?”
A flash of white light suddenly filled the viewscreen—and when it finally faded a few seconds later, there was a large beam of ragged blue energy streaking from the Starlight’s deflector dish…
“They’re firing a tetryon beam into the nebula,” said Reinbold after a few seconds of study. “It’s—”
Harrison could already feel the deck plates starting to rumble. The lights flickered, and after a moment, he could see the nebula starting to boil on the viewscreen. In the distance, a particularly agitated bubble of greenish-blue gas exploded, sending out a giant shockwave that rippled across the murky nebula…
Harrison grabbed hold of the command chair. “Commander Meade,” he called, “get us out of here!”
The Columbia swiftly came about as the giant wall of roiling green gas rushed through the nebula… but as the Explorer-class starship made its illustrious escape, it suddenly found itself under attack, for the Starlight—and all of its shuttlecraft—was following close behind, weapons ablaze.
Ian Meade’s fingers pounded on the Columbia’s helm. Not only did he have to evade the oncoming wall of nebula, there were about a dozen tiny shuttles pounding into the Columbia’s shielding. Thus far he had managed to evade their puny attacks fairly well—but it didn’t take very much for things to go downhill.
“Shields are down to eight percent,” shouted Karalis over the roaring attack.
“And our aft torpedo launchers just went offline,” added Commander Robinson.
Harrison shook his head as his every last tactical advantage went out the window. “Drat…”
And then came the shockwave that put the final nail in the Columbia’s coffin…
Working so very hard to evade the plethora of perils conspiring to destroy the Columbia from behind, Ian Meade didn’t quite see the gravimetric distortions in front of the ship until it was too late. It was a small little bugger, but it was more than enough to stop the ship dead in its tracks…
“They’re caught in the gravimetric distortions around the planet,” said Neelar Drayge, intently watching the Columbia flail about on the viewscreen. It almost looked like a fish out of water.
A highly vulnerable fish.
Captain Christopher didn’t waste any time with pleasantries. He simply smiled, and gave the fateful order that would bring this conflict to its end: “Fire!”
Flanked by its shuttlecraft, the Starlight approached the helpless Columbia and fired with whatever nominal phaser power it had left. Combined with the power from the shuttles, it was enough to do the trick—and the Columbia thusly exploded in a massive blast of glittering orange light.
But there was no debris in the explosion’s wake—only the Columbia. Nearby, the battle damage that scarred the Starlight’s catamaran and warp nacelles began to vanish, and within a few moments, both starships were returned to their former, pristine states…
The battle was over.
The Starlight prevailed…
• • •
CAPTAIN’S LOG, STARDATE 76401.5: The tactical simulations in the Risidian Cluster have at long last reached an end. Conditions on the battlefield were brutal at times, and at times things looked bleak, but I am pleased to report that the Starlight was ultimately able to defeat its nemesis.
“So, did you learn anything?”
Seated across from Alan Christopher in the Starlight’s mess hall, Matthew Harrison considered the question for a long moment. “The simulations were most informative,” he finally decided. “Though your tactics were a bit predictable…”
Christopher’s eyes went wide. He didn’t think his actions were that predictable, especially that bit with the nebula in the end. But then again, Christopher wasn’t on the receiving end of those brilliant tactics. “They worked, didn’t they?”
“To an extent,” Harrison replied after taking a sip of his tea. “Had you not thrown the nebula at us in the final moments of the battle, I believe the Columbia would have prevailed.”
That much was true. “Your Vulcan friends had us fooled,” admitted Christopher. “Of course, since you attacked them several times, they’re probably not your friends anymore.”
Harrison arched his brow. “At least I didn’t use the defenseless science ship as a personal shield!” he said with a chuckle.
But Christopher was more than ready to defend his actions. “I wouldn’t have done that in a real battle… in fact, the science ship probably would have retreated at the first sign of trouble…”
“And had it been a warship?” prompted Harrison.
This time, Christopher wasn’t so sure of himself. Since they were in a nebula, shield functions were extremely limited. If the Starlight had ducked behind a warship for cover, it was certain the vessel would take damage… “If it meant saving the Starlight from destruction, I could see that happening…”
Harrison nodded his approval. “Fair enough.” He set aside his tea and slowly started to pick at his meal… a vile-looking concoction called sushi. “So did you learn anything?”
“Oh yes,” said Christopher. “You, Matthew, are far more devious than you appear! Selecting the Rasidian Cluster for that battle was an act of pure evil on your part… and all of those little sensor ghosts…”
“It was all part of a carefully plotted scheme to bring about your downfall,” Harrison replied, clearly pleased with the few small victories he managed during the engagement. “We had a plan for almost every situation…”
Christopher couldn’t even begin to fathom how much time it might take to plan for every possible situation—nor did he care to find out, because obviously, the tactic failed. “Despite your best efforts, you couldn’t predict my unpredictability…”
“Once we destroyed your ego, we were a far more formidable foe,” conceded Harrison. “There was no way to predict your actions.”
“And that’s why I just go with the flow,” Christopher happily replied. “I had a good idea of what I was going to do, but… I basically dealt each new situation as it happened. A drill you’re undoubtedly familiar with—though had I known you enjoyed plotting your little schemes so much, I would have given you more opportunities to do so.”
Harrison shrugged off the missed opportunities. “What is past, is past,” he mused, carefully cutting in half one of his little sushi rolls.
Christopher cringed. “That looks wretched.”
Harrison shook his head. “It is actually quite decent. You should try it.”
“Your loss.” Harrison took a moment to imbibe his meal, and after washing it down with a sip of tea, the conversation continued. “I brought the holodeck program…”
Christopher immediately knew which program Harrison spoke of—and his heart fluttered with excitement. Gone was the rivalry between them, and the friendship that was born all those years ago returned in full force. “I believe we were approaching Death Mountain during our last journey.”
“Indeed,” said Harrison, his voice already filled with excitement. “And I am told Gleeok the Necromancer has summoned his finest army to meet us in the summit… Reaching Hera’s Tower shall not be an easy task—but with you at mine side, anything is possible…”
Alan Christopher liked facing Harrison in battle. He learned quite a lot about his friend. He enjoyed the rivalry. But he had to admit… he liked fight alongside Matthew a whole lot more. “Tell me the Wizzrobes of Doom aren’t a part of this army…”
“Oh, there are legions of them,” said Harrison, extending his arms in a grandiose fashion for added emphasis. “And we canst not forget the vile ball-and-chain troopers… yes, they are there as well—along with the Death Knights from the Fortress Auchinduin and the…”
“Alan and Angela”
The original “Light and Shadow” was a far cry from the tactical simulations in the final version of the episode—however, you can see when the gears in my mind started leaning in that direction, because when we first visit the Columbia in this episode, they had just prevailed over the Endeavor in a series of tactical simulations. The original story for “Light and Shadow” dealt more with Alan, Erin, and Angela than anything else; there was going to be some sort of missing prisoner sub-plot brewing on the Romulan front—something that would force Christopher to consider the offer (for a promotion) that Admiral Janeway gave him in “Lost Worlds.” But as was the case in many Season Five episodes, I decided that I wanted to save the prisoner plot for the Final Chapter… And that while the Angela sub-plot was likable, it was perhaps a little bit too cute for its own good. Thus, I scrapped the episode in favor of the tactical simulations… and while not quite as captivating as Angela’s bathroom door crisis, I think the decision to make the change was wise. Besides, the prisoners, the promotion, and Angela will all play a considerable role in TFF’s Final Chapter… so it’s not like it was a total loss! (And you’ll duly note that Harrison won the tactical simulations in this version of the episode).
There were mornings when Alan Christopher didn’t want to get out of bed. Wrapped in the warm, silky sheets, his body seemed to exist in a state of complete and total relaxation and his mind was blissfully unaware of the many conflicts that seemed to plague the eternally troubled Alpha Quadrant.
All of it just seemed so far, far away. Too far away, in fact, to have anything to do with Alan Christopher. Off in his little dreamland, that constant struggle between good and evil could be waged without need for his divine intervention—and of course, the good guys always prevailed.
Alan was subsequently free to retire to some warm, tropical paradise and live out the remainder of his days basking in the golden sunlight… On occasion, he might embark upon some grandiose adventure to seek the origins of the mysterious Chodak (or some other ancient civilization)—but no matter his situation, peaceful days would prevail.
And then, of course, came the all-too-familiar computer bleeps bringing news of an incoming transmission.
Alan pretended not to hear the computer’s chirpy little call—and since he was still half-asleep, it didn’t take much for the noise to be completely erased from his mind. In just a few short seconds, he was back on the beach, completely unaware of the incoming transmission.
Until the computer bleeped again.
By now, a little holographic viewscreen had ascended from the claustrophobic little desk in the corner of his little bedroom. Even with his eyes half opened, he could see the Federation’s pleasantly familiar logo emblazoned on the viewscreen, and the words AUTHORIZATION REQUIRED blinking across the bottom.
It was in that moment Alan realized it was an Admiral or some other high-ranking official calling him out of bed. Evidently, this was a matter of some consequence—but not nearly important enough to simply contact the bridge. As such, his curiosity was modestly piqued…
But before he could even think about tossing aside the covers, the bedroom doors slid apart. Two tiny feet quickly treaded the soft carpet, and just a few seconds later, Angela Christopher stood at his side of the bed.
“Daddy!” she loudly exclaimed, frantically hopping up-and-down like some sort of manic jumping bean, “I hafta go to the bathroom!”
Alan immediately rolled over to confer with Erin—only to find her side of the bed was already empty. It took just a few moments for him to realize that Erin was working the early shift today; she had left for breakfast with Neelar and Bator more than two hours ago. So now Alan had to prioritize… Admiral or Angela?
The choice was easy.
Since he didn’t want pee (or anything else) on the carpet, Alan immediately scooped the little girl into his arms and headed for the bathroom. “You’re a big girl now, Angela… you don’t need me to take to you to waste extraction!”
But she shook her head of messy blonde hair to the contrary. “The door won’t open, Daddy!”
As they reached the bathroom, Angela quickly scrambled out of Alan’s arms and started hopping around in front of the doors—and sure enough, they didn’t move so much as a nanometer. Alan wearily waved his hand in front of the sensor above the door… but to no avail.
Alan immediately started for the little control panel beside to door to engage the manual override—but he suddenly heard his communicator chirping back in the bedroom. “Keller to Christopher!”
Angela heard it, too. Her bright blue eyes widened with excitement, and she quickly raced back into the bedroom to find the communicator. When she returned a scant moment later, Angela was already in the midst of a conversation.
“Daddy is in the bathroom!” Angela happily exclaimed, no doubt to the delight of the entire bridge crew.
“Is he?” asked Erin, clearly amused by the sentiment.
“He’s fixing it for me!” Angela explained. “I was gonna go potty, but the door wouldn’t open!”
Having heard more than enough of the conversation, Alan knelt down beside his daughter and gently pulled the communicator from her little hands. “Everything is under control down here,” he said. “As far as I can tell, the sensor on the door is broken. Someone from engineering will have to fix it later on today.”
Erin was still giggling. “I’ll let them know.”
Not wanting to dwell upon that particular bit of humor (admittedly, it wasn’t that funny), Alan swiftly moved along the conversation. “I assume this isn’t a social call?”
“You assume right. Admiral Janeway is wondering if you’re ever going to talk to her…”
“Ahh, yes… the Admiral.” Amidst the bathroom door fiasco, Alan had nearly forgotten. Thankfully, Janeway was a very patient woman. She would understand the delay. “Tell her I’ll be right there…”
“Will do. Keller out.”
The communicator chirped to signal the end of the conversation, and Alan summarily returned to his feet—but he didn’t move more than a few centimeters before his attention turned back to Angela. “Can you hold your pee for a few minutes?”
Angela’s bright blue eyes fell upon the closed bathroom doors, as if willing them to open. When nothing happened, she stopped to consider the state of her bladder, and then nodded dutifully her head. “I can wait three minutes!”
“Good.” Given the little dance Angela was performing in front of the doors, Alan doubted her ability to hold her pee for three minutes. But the Admiral was waiting, so he had no choice but to take the little girl for her word. “We’ll go to my ready room as soon as I’m done with the Admiral.”
Angela promptly nodded her agreement—and in an effort to speed things along, she immediately began to push Alan back into the bedroom. “Tell her you can’t talk long, Daddy!”
“I’ll do that,” he mused, just as the doors slid shut behind him.
A few seconds later, Alan seated himself at the small desk near the bed. Even before he provided the computer with his authorization codes, he had a fairly good idea where this conversation would lead. Janeway had offered him a promotion a few weeks ago, and… she was still waiting for an answer. Unfortunately, Alan hadn’t quite reached that answer.
The promotion wasn’t anything too illustrious. Alan would still be a Captain, and he would still command the Starlight most of the time—but since it was quite obvious that the Elorg were up to no good, Janeway wanted someone competent to develop the Federation’s tactics. It was a role Alan Christopher had shared with Captain Jeremy Talbot in the early days of the first conflict with the Elorg… one that he had been more than happy to leave behind once the war ended.
He hated the constant status reports. He hated all of the political maneuvering. And he hated the frequent meetings with Admirals—like O’Connor—who didn’t quite understand the status reports and political maneuvering needed to win the war. Janeway was undoubtedly a different sort of Admiral… but that didn’t mean the other two aspects of the job were any more enjoyable.
Thus, Alan could not deny the dread he was feeling as he delved into the conversation. “Computer,” he stated, “accept message, authorization Christopher-7-8-lambda.”
The computer bleeped once it accepted the code, and Federation emblem flitted away. Admiral Janeway appeared just moments later… looking more than a little surprised.
And it was then that Alan realized he just got out of bed five minutes ago. Thankfully, his hair was short enough that it didn’t require much in the way of styling… but unfortunately he hadn’t shaved, there were probably little crumblies stuck to his eyelashes, and to top it all off… he wasn’t wearing a shirt. “You… caught me at a bad time, Admiral.”
Janeway nodded, only mildly bemused by Alan’s situation. “I can see that.”
“Daddy!” Angela started pounding on the door. “Has it been three minutes yet? I have to go!”
…There were indeed mornings when Alan Christopher didn’t want to get out of bed. And this was one definitely of them…
Just like he promised, Alan Christopher kept his conversation with Admiral Janeway brief. He politely apologized for the delay (and his lack of clothing), explained the unfortunate situation with Angela and the bathroom doors, and then suggested they reconvene in a couple of hours to talk about the promotion.
And thankfully, Admiral Janeway was every bit as understanding as Alan had hoped. After hearing everything Alan had to say for himself, Janeway simply flashed a candid smile, and agreed that their conversation could wait a few more hours.
Once the Admiral signed off, Alan pushed himself away from the desk and poked his head back into the living room. Angela was still standing at the door, frantically jumping around like a fish out of water.
“Daddy! Has it been three minutes yet?”
By Alan’s estimate, only a single minute had passed—though somehow, he doubted Angela really cared. In her mind, three minutes was still an eternity… Waiting the entire duration of that three minutes would undoubtedly seem like torture to the little girl. And so for Angela’s sake, Alan revised his previous estimate: “It’s been two minutes and forty-seven seconds.”
Relief immediately washed over Angela’s face, and she very quickly started for the exit. “Daddy! Are you coming?”
Alan shook his head. “Give me a few seconds to put some clothes on!”
Her forward motion came to a dead stop. “Why?”
As much as Alan wanted to stroll onto the bridge in nothing more than his shorts, he knew that some level of dignity had to be maintained in the command facility. And clothes were certainly a requirement. “Grown-ups can’t wear their pajamas to the bridge,” he stated.
“Because it’s an important place.”
Angela briefly glanced down at her own attire. She was barefoot, and wearing a pair of bright purple pajamas that were just a little bit too big. And she was immediately concerned. “Can I wear my blue dress, Daddy?”
Alan shook his head. “You don’t need to change your clothes!”
“But I’m a big girl!” she immediately proclaimed.
“Yes,” said Alan, not about to argue with the sentiment, “but it will take a few minutes to change… And you do have to go to the bathroom, right?”
“Then give me a few seconds to change, and then we’ll head to the bridge.”
Once Angela sanctioned the plan, Alan quickly ducked back into the bedroom in search of clothes. He briefly considered slipping into one of the many Starfleet uniforms in his dresser, but since his shift didn’t start for a few more hours, Alan instead chose to delay the inevitable. He quickly slipped into a pale gray tee shirt and pair of athletic pants—darker blue with a white stripe running down either side—and then headed for the bridge with Angela.
The turbolift ride was blissfully uneventful, and the pair emerged on the bridge just a few minutes later. And Angela didn’t waste any time getting down to business; she quickly made her way across the command center and barged into the ready room like she owned the place. Confident the little girl could handle herself in the bathroom, Alan didn’t follow.
Instead, he strolled over to the tactical station, where Bator, Erin, and Lucas stood in apparent awe of the data flitting across the display. “Anything exciting?”
Lucas immediately glanced up from the data. “Not really,” he said. “Erin has been tracking a rogue comet for the past hour.”
“NGC-377504-B,” added Bator. “Otherwise known as the Ceta-Goron Comet.”
Alan wasn’t familiar with the entity, and since it didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary, he didn’t expect to become overly familiar with the object anytime soon. “Keep an eye on it,” he suggested, just in case he was wrong.
Erin nodded her approval. “Will do.” She tapped a brief sequence of commands into the tactical console before leaving the workstation in Bator’s capable hands. “I assume you were unable to fix the bathroom…”
“The motion sensors are offline.” That was more of a guess than an actual diagnosis… but Alan preferred to sound intelligent, even when he had no idea what he was talking about. “It would be great if an engineering team could fix the problem in a timely manner. I don’t want to come running to the bridge every time Angela has to go to the bathroom.”
“There are five hundred and twenty-four bathrooms aboard the Starlight,” Bator matter-of-factly stated, “and according to the schematics, the nearest one is located in the unoccupied guest quarters directly adjacent to your own.”
“Thank you for that incredible piece of trivia, Mister Bator. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind…” It was one of those rare instances when Alan was at a loss for words. But instead of racking his brain for some sort of witty retort, Alan decided this was probably one conversation that could fall by the wayside without being missed. “Just make sure that engineering team has the problem taken care of by tonight…”
“Of course.” Bator nodded his acknowledgement, and hastily punched the request into the computer.
Alan thusly took a few steps away from the tactical workstation—and Erin followed, gently wrapping her arms around his waste. She smiled and said, “I kind of like seeing you up here when you’re not on duty.”
“Don’t get used to it.” Typically, Alan avoided the bridge like the plague during his down time—because when he wasn’t on duty, the bridge was the furthest thing from his mind.
Just then, the ready room doors parted with a hiss. Angela happily ran through the open doorway and zoomed over to Erin’s side. “Mommy!”
Erin’s interest in Alan faded as her attention turned to Angela. A wide smile fell upon her face, and she quickly knelt down beside the little girl. “Hey, Angela! What’s going on?”
“I’m gonna be Captain now, Mommy! I got to go in the ready room all by myself!”
“Wow! That’s pretty cool!” Erin gently pulled the communicator from her uniform and showed it to Angela. “Every Captain needs to have a communicator so she can talk to the crew.”
Angela’s bright blue eyes were wide with excitement as Erin handed over the communicator. She eagerly accepted the Starfleet insignia and placed it on her shirt. “I’m the Captain?”
“For now,” said Erin, smiling.
“Can we go to the zoo?”
But before anyone had a chance to reply, the computer chimed. “We are being hailed,” said Bator a scant moment later. “It is Praetor Tomalak.”
Since he was technically in command, Lucas came about to face the tactical station. “What does he want?”
“To speak with the Captain.”
And somehow, Alan highly doubted that the Starlight’s newly christened Captain would suffice. “Is it urgent?”
“No.” Bator shook his head. “It does not appear to be urgent…”
For a moment, Alan was tempted to put the conversation on hold… but he had already indicated to Admiral Janeway that he would contact her later, and if he did the same with Tomalak, Alan could very quickly see his entire afternoon filled with meetings. Not wanting that, he decided to hear the Praetor out.
But since he wasn’t Captain…
Alan quickly scooped Angela from the ground and carried her over to the big chair in the center of the bridge. “We’re being hailed,” he told Angela as she climbed into the seat. “You have to tell Mister Bator to put the transmission on screen.”
Since she was unable to see the Phobian sitting down, Angela stood up in the chair and, on her tiptoes, glanced over to Bator. “On screen!”
He nodded. “Aye, Captain.”
Angela was obviously pleased with her newfound authority—but since her position was merely honorary, Alan decided it would be best if he spoke with Tomalak. “I’ll take care of the rest,” he said to the girl, just as the Romulan flitted onto the viewscreen.
“Captain Christopher,” he greeted, voice cordial, “I hope I’m not disturbing you…”
Tugging at his tee shirt, Alan politely shook his head. “You just caught me at a bad time,” he explained. “We’ve been having some technical difficulties with some of the ship systems.”
“I see,” said Tomalak, only marginally interested. In fact, his gaze never lingered on the Captain for more than a few seconds… “I trust these difficulties will not affect your ability to further study the Iconian station?”
“Our science labs are still running at peak efficiency,” Alan crisply replied. Of course, since the Iconian station wasn’t providing much in the way of data, the science labs probably didn’t matter too much. Alan suspected it was only a matter of time before the Starlight was given a new assignment.
Tomalak started to speak, but again, his attention was diverted elsewhere. He seemed to pause for a thoughtful moment, and then a faint smile crept across his face. “Is that your daughter, Captain?”
Alan glanced back at Angela. She was busy tapping at the myriad controls on the workstation beside the command chair, completely unaware of her surroundings. “That’s Angela,” he proudly confirmed. “We were taking a… tour of the ship when you called.”
“I have always said that children make it impossible to regret the past—they are its finest fruits.” Tomalak’s smile widened. “You have a very lovely daughter, Captain. I am certain she will grow into an exemplary young woman.”
Alan could feel the stupid grin crossing his face—but before he could even utter his thanks to Tomalak, the Romulan’s focus was back on track.
“I will keep this as brief as possible, Captain. I realize you must be eager to return to your tour of the ship… but there is a matter that I wish to discuss with you.” He cleared his throat. “Privately.”
“I had originally intended to invite you aboard the Shakuras, but since you are not prepared for such a journey, I suppose we could meet aboard the Starlight.” The Romulan shrugged a bit. “Your ready room will suffice.”
Alan couldn’t even begin to imagine what surprises Tomalak had in store… but he was certainly eager to find out. “I’ll meet you there.”
After leaving Angela and Lucas in joint-command of the bridge, Alan Christopher strode into his ready room just in time to see a shimmering green transporter beam deposit Tomalak in front of the sofa. This being his first visit to the Starlight, Tomalak took a moment to observe his surroundings.
Admittedly, the ready room wasn’t much to look at. Alan kept most of his personal effects at home in his quarters—so aside from the few generic starship paintings on the walls and a half-dead plant by the door… there wasn’t much to look at. Thankfully, Tomalak didn’t seem to mind—though the browning plant did not go unnoticed. “The next time you visit my home, I would be more than happy to provide some gardening tips…”
“I don’t do much gardening.”
“A shame.” Tomalak indolently started to inspect the plant’s broad leaves. “Gardening can be a very rewarding hobby, Captain. In the span of a few short months, one can watch a nondescript little seedling grow into an exquisite bloom. It is truly extraordinary, if you stop to think about it.”
Plants were amazing; Christopher did not doubt that. But he very rarely stopped to think about them, as was clearly evidenced by the sickly specimen now under Tomalak’s watchful eye.
“Several months ago, I believe you and I planted a seed, Captain.”
This was news to Christopher. “Did we?”
“Not in a literal sense,” said Tomalak, apparently sensing Christopher’s confusion. “I was merely insinuating that we have established a good working relationship—one that can be traced back to our first encounter last year.”
“Ahh…” It was at that moment Christopher decided he was taking the rest of the day off. He knew that he definitely needed to catch a few more hours of sleep if he couldn’t grasp the most simple of metaphors. “We have worked well together in recent months…”
The Romulan nodded as he carefully pinched a few yellowing leaves from the plant. “Removing dead foliage will encourage the plant to grow. I would also recommend watering on occasion… Even the smallest amount will do wonders.”
“Duly noted,” said Christopher… though in all reality, he was already considering a replacement plant—an artificial one that didn’t require any maintenance.
Tomalak continued to prune the sickly plant for what seemed like an eternity. Christopher highly doubted the leader of the Romulan Empire had ventured all this way to prune a plant; in fact, he suspected, a man of Tomalak’s stature might have something more important to do. Still it seemed to Christopher that the Praetor was content to simply garden. Evidently he had forgotten his promise to keep the conversation brief…
Thus, Christopher decided to take matters into his own hands. He cleared his throat to get the Romulan’s attention, and once Tomalak glanced away from his pruning, Christopher moved in for the strike. Unfortunately, the moment his lips parted to continue the conversation, Christopher realized he didn’t quite know what to say. He didn’t want to sound impatient or impolite; he just wanted to continue the conversation…
And suddenly, Tomalak did just that. “Much as I previously stated, I believe you and I have an amicable relationship—and that is why I wanted to discuss this matter with you before taking it to the Federation Council.”
Christopher still didn’t know where the conversation was headed—but his every last instinct told him that he wasn’t going to like it. “I can’t exactly speak for the Federation Council…”
Tomalak dismissed the sentiment with a faint chuckle. “The Federation Council declared war on the Romulan Empire last year,” he candidly reminded. “And to be honest with you, Captain, considering the circumstances of that war, I don’t exactly trust the Federation Council.”
“But you trust me?” asked Christopher.
The Praetor nodded. “You defied the Federation, and helped bring about an end to the war. The Federation Council, on the other hand…” He allowed his words to trail off before saying something he might regret. “Suffice it to say, I place a bit more faith in your opinions, Captain.”
A smile immediately fell upon Christopher’s lips—but the warning in his heart kept his ego in check. “Thanks,” he said.
“Don’t thank me just yet,” Tomalak replied, much to Christopher’s chagrin. “During the war last year, the Federation task force managed to destroy several Romulan warbirds. Most of the time, another warbird was able to safely collect the escape pods—but the Federation was able to take several dozen prisoners of war…”
“As I recall, they were returned to your people shortly after the war ended.”
“And most of them were,” Tomalak quietly continued. “But it has recently come to my attention that a small number of prisoners are still being detained.”
Shaking his head, Christopher wearily pinched the bridge of his nose. This was undoubtedly the part that Christopher was not going to like. So much for that day off… “Do you have any evidence? As far as I know, all of the prisoners were returned.”
Tomalak quickly reached into his pocket and withdrew a black and gray padd, its display lined with rows of incomprehensible Romulan text. With a few simple keystrokes, Tomalak translated the text into Federation Standard, and handed it to Christopher.
He took the proffered padd, and started to pour over its contents, but Tomalak was more than willing to outline the entire treatise. “According to my source, the Federation is still holding four of my people on a planet called Aesedori V.”
“Aesedori V?” Christopher shrugged. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“It is a small colony near the Talarian border,” Tomalak explained. “Prior to last week, I wasn’t aware of it myself—but it does exist.”
Christopher did not doubt the validity of Tomalak’s claim. However, he was a little curious about something else. “How did you get this information?”
Tomalak’s only response was a faint smile.
And Christopher thusly dropped the subject. As far as he was concerned, he already had enough to worry about; he didn’t need to add the Tal Shiar (if the agency still existed) to the list. “I will make a few discreet inquiries about this information,” said Christopher, “and get back to you as soon as possible…”
Captain Matthew Harrison was pleased. For the past two days, the Columbia had been engaged in a series of tactical simulations with the Endeavor. It was not uncommon for Starfleet to conduct such training operations, and with another conflict with the Elorg looming on the horizon, Harrison expected these simulations would become commonplace. He also expected the end result to become an equally familiar situation aboard the Columbia…
Defeating the Endeavor in battle was no small feat. With the new Enterprise still several months from completion, the Endeavor was considered the Federation flagship—and as one might imagine, the vessel was armed accordingly. It had a vast quantity of transphasic torpedoes, ablative hull armor, and adaptive, regenerative shielding—and compared to the Columbia, it was an impregnable fortress.
Thus, Harrison went into the simulation knowing that his vessel could never outgun the Endeavor. His only chance for victory was to outthink his adversary… And thankfully, the Columbia’s crew was more than a match for the Federation flagship.