Book 1

"Family Tradition"

by Edward Webb

LEGAL STUFF: All of the characters and events not specifically copyrighted by Paramount Television is copyright (c) 1997 by Edward Webb.  This is a fan novel written for the pleasure of other fans.  It may be distributed freely as long as no charge is collected in this distribution, and the body of this work and this copyright notice is kept intact.

Chapter 1

U.S.S. Challenger, Alaris Three ion cluster.  Five years later.

                Sara Takashi woke up screaming.  The darkness of the room closed in on her like a vise, stifling her breathing.  She sat up, calmed her breathing and fought the urge to rip the blanket off of her as the inter-ship communicator chirped again.  "Bridge to Commander Takashi.  Is something wrong?"

                She unconsciously pulled her long black hair out of her face and closed her eyes as the soft night lights came on, adding shadows to the room.  "No, Bradley, I'm fine.  Sorry to wake the night shift."

                Lt. Commander Bradley sighed.  "We were already on duty, Commander, but this is the third time this week we've gotten a call from your quarters."

                She silently mouthed the words as Bradley spoke them, wondering whose idea it was to make the Betazoid science officer the night shift commander.  Probably the Counselor's, she thought.  "I'm fine, Bradley.  Really.  I'll try to keep it quiet from now on.  Takashi out."  She sighed, slid out of bed, and padded over to the replicator in her bare feet.  "Ginseng tea, hot."  The replicator whined briefly.  She sat down, sipping from the clear replicator-standard teacup.  "Lights," she called out.  The lights glowed brightly, stabbing at her eyes and making her to blink rapidly.

                She glanced around her quarters, spartan except for some family heirlooms and personal effects.  The daisho swords that had been in her family for almost a thousand years sat over her workstation.  Her father's old Starfleet insignia and her mother's communicator pin sat side by side on a small Buddhist shrine with the Vulcan IDIC symbol hanging between them.  She closed her eyes and prayed briefly, as she always did when her gaze brushed it.  When she opened them, she noticed the holograph in front of the shrine.  It was her father next to Commodore Hikaru Sulu, congratulating him when he gained command of the science vessel U.S.S. Hawking.  She always loved to hear stories about the Commodore and the original Enterprise when she was a child, told by her mother during her tenure as Chief Medical Officer aboard the Hawking.

                She smiled to herself.  Her family were descendants of one of the greatest samurai families in Japan, with a proud military history.  Whether they had been bushi, World War II airplane pilots, UN peacekeeping troops, corporate soldiers or Starfleet officers, the Takashi family had been there.  The family code, Death is but a doorway, has always rung in the minds of the Takashi who served like the sound of clashing swords on the battlefield.

                Her thoughts turned back to her dreams.  If death was a doorway, that door was wide open for the 24th century Takashi.  When she was 15, her father died when the Cardassians attacked the Hawking on an errand of mercy to the Mandorian outpost near the Cardassian DMZ.  She and her mother survived, as well as sixteen others out of a crew of 173.  The actions of Nakita Takashi gave her a promotion to Commander and a position on the U.S.S. Shogun.  The Excelsior-class starship distinguished itself during the Cardassian conflicts.  When Sara returned from the Academy, she signed on as Shogun's Ops, after her mother was promoted to Captain.  During the four-year tour of duty, mother and daughter explored new worlds, sought out new life, and slowly left the grave of Akira Takashi behind.

                Until Wolf 359.

                When the Borg attacked Sector 001, the Shogun was one of the ships assigned to the defending fleet.  Within minutes, the ship was damaged beyond repair and the warp core breached, and Captain Takashi ordered all hands to abandon ship.  Sara tried to stay behind, but her mother forced her into one of the escape pods.  Before her mother could launch the Captain's Yacht, the Shogun exploded, killing her and almost thirty personnel who had pod trouble.

                The sight of the explosion and the sound of her own screams have been haunting her since.  Not the promotion, not the tour with the Marines, nor the assignment as Number One of the U.S.S. Challenger erased that loss.  Captain Hagen, a large jolly Irish man, personally requested her transfer to Challenger, saying he wanted a little of the "Takashi command tradition" on his ship.  She politely accepted, but two years of charting anomalies and transporting Federation VIPs throughout the galaxy only re-enforced the emptiness in her heart.

                The tea was cold in her hand.  She set it down on the table and looked at the chronometer.  Three hours early, she tied her hair back and dressed in her uniform, all the time thinking, Death is but a doorway.

                She looked at her reflection in the mirror, tugging on her tunic and picking at the lavender under tunic.  She rubbed her stomach and felt the weave of the black fabric under her hands.  In the mirror she saw the daisho, and thought how simple life must have been during those times.  Sometimes I wish I could cut my stomach and join my ancestors.  Why did you have to leave me, mother?

*     *     *     *     *

                "Captain on the bridge."

                Takashi got up from the command chair and turned towards Captain Hagen.  His wide muscular body barely fit through the turbolift doors, his crop of short red hair almost brushing the top of the frame.  He looked uncomfortable, as he always did when Ensign Saboc, a Vulcan fresh out of the Academy, insisted on following regulations and announcing his arrival every morning.  He glanced around at Lt. Commander Lorano Bradley at Science, Lt. Albert Schleist at Security and Ensign Angela Lukacz at the Conn, smiling at each one in turn.  He then turned to study the viewscreen, which was currently showing an empty star field.  "Good morning, Number One," he said to her in a thin Irish brogue.  "Up before the crack of dawn as usual, aye?"

                She nodded, a small smile on her lips.  For some reason, no matter how she felt, Captain Hagen forced Irish slang and light flirting made her feel like she was special.  Everyone felt that way about him; he just had a way with people.  He had charisma and personality, but when there was work to be done, he went right down to business.  He smiled again and looked around the bridge.  "Good.  Report."

                She picked up her PADD from the arm of the chair.  "All systems fully functional.  We're finishing up our survey of the Alaris Three ion cluster near the Neutral Zone, which should be done at 1800 hours.  Stellar Cartography is still complaining that we're not close enough for a detailed scan, and I suggested that they ask the Romulans for permission."  She paused as the captain smiled and Bradley snickered from his Science post.  "Ensign Talis is in Sick Bay after some complications with her pregnancy, and one of the replicators on Deck 12 is producing drinks without glasses."  She let a soft sigh out, just loud enough for the captain to hear.  "Another exciting day."

                He laughed.  It originated from deep within his belly, and sounded more like a Klingon's laugh than a Terran's.  "Aye, I know what you mean.  Mr. Bradley, please take the Conn for a while before you go off duty.  I need Mr. Takashi in my Ready Room for a bit."  He strode off, the Ready Room doors closing behind him.

                Takashi glanced at Bradley, a thin reedy man, and handed him her PADD.  "Wonder what he wants?" she muttered.

                Bradley shrugged.  "No idea.  I don't scan people's thoughts without permission, but I suspect it has to do with those nocturnal episodes of yours."

                She frowned at him.  "Great.  A lecture is not what I need today."  She tossed her long ponytail over her shoulder and walked towards the Ready Room.  Bradley shook his head as the doors swished behind her.

                Captain Hagen was seated behind his desk, drinking a glass of fruit juice and staring at his desk terminal.  She stood at attention until he acknowledged her.  "Sit down, Sara."

                She sat down gingerly, still ramrod straight, and waited, folding her hands in her lap.  The captain punched the off control and leaned towards her.  "Dr. Mancuso has told me that you haven't been going to his appointments."

                She looked at her hands in her lap, and shook her head.  "Permission to speak freely?"

                He smiled.  "Do you even have to ask?"


                "We're in private, Commander.  Call me Ryan."

                "As I've mentioned before, sir, it would be inappropriate to address you familiarly as long as you are captain and I am your First Officer, even in private."

                "And as I've said before, lass, you sound like a Vulcan."  He chuckled and sat back.  "This is not ship business, so I'd prefer if you called me Ryan.  Call it an order if you must."

                "Yes si... Ryan.  Speaking freely, I don't feel that Dr. Mancuso can help."

                "What do you mean?  He's the Ship's Counselor, and assistant to the CMO.  His credentials are impeccable."

                "I know.  I've read them.  I helped him get assigned to the Challenger.  But every time I talk to counselors about my... nocturnal episodes, as Lt. Bradley calls them, the concept of temporary re-assignment or time off from Starfleet comes up."

                "Ah, I see.  And no Takashi has ever not been in Starfleet, aye?"

                "That's right, sir.  As far back as the Federation goes, our family has been part of it.  It would be... embarrassing to be..."

                "Sara, Dr. Mancuso's not trying to drum you out of the fleet!  He just wants you to take some time off.  You keep passing up your shore leave, and he feels that you're going to snap."

                "Have I not been fulfilling my duties, sir?"

                Hagen mock-winced.  Takashi wondered, not for the first time, how he managed to survive so long in Starfleet with such an aversion to rank and titles.  Maybe it was an act he used to get people to open up to him.  Regardless, he ignored the 'sir' and replied.  "On the contrary, you're fulfilling every duty and quite a few beyond.  That's the problem, Sara."  He looked at the PADD on his desk.  "You spend no time on recreational pursuits, you constantly volunteer for bonus duties, and you sleep maybe three hours a day."  He let the PADD clatter on the desk.  "You're on the verge of cracking, lass."

                Her eyes met with Captain Hagen's.  For a second, he looked like he was about to say something else, but then he leaned back and scratched the short red bristles on the top of his head.  "Mancuso wants you on mandatory R&R.  If I don't do something, he'll sic the CMO on me and I'll be forced to temporarily relieve you for a week or so."  He sat up and looked at her.  "Honestly, I can't afford that week without you, but if you keep going the way you are, I'll have to make due.  I'd like it if you spent a couple of hours a day in the Rec. Room, the Holodeck, or even in the Galley, and in return I'll try to keep Mancuso happy.  Is that a deal?"

                She nodded her head and smiled.  "I'll try, si..."

                "Red Alert.  Red Alert."  Bradley's voice almost echoed in the small Ready Room.  "Unidentified Romulan vessel entering Federation space.  All hands to battle stations.  Captain Hagen and Commander Takashi to the bridge."  Klaxons sounded as they both rushed out of the Ready Room.

                The viewscreen was filled with the image of a Romulan Bird of Prey, its dark green metal hull shining dully from the rays of the Alaris cluster.  Captain Hagen quickly took his chair, which threatened to break with a creaking noise when he sat in it.  "Damn it, someone needs to fix this chair.  Status?"

                Ensign Saboc's hands danced across the Ops console.  "Their shields are up, and their phasers and photon torpedoes are armed."  His console beeped.  "Captain, they're hailing us."

                He tugged his tunic down.  "Romulans," he snorted.  "On screen."

                The scene changed, and the Romulan commander's face appeared.  His eyebrows were arched high on his face, nearly blending in with his close-cropped hair.  His greenish-silver tunic shined sickeningly in the low lights of his bridge.  A computer rendering of the Romulan logo appeared behind him, obscuring the rest of the enemy bridge.  "I am Commander Tomak of the warship Imperial Might.  We are performing military exercises in this sector.  We advise you to leave immediately."

                Captain Hagen sat relaxed in his chair, one leg sitting atop his knee.  "This is Captain Ryan Hagen of the U.S.S. Challenger.  We are on a survey mission of the Alaris ion cluster, and we have peaceful intentions."  He tensed and leaned forward, both feet on the deck and an accusatory finger towards the screen.  "We are also on the correct side of the Neutral Zone.  You, however, are not.  I could rattle on about what treaties you've violated, but we both know that you're wrong.  So shove off, lad, and we won't tell your bosses in the High Command."

                The Romulan smiled coldly.  "However, Captain, we have claimed the Alaris cluster by right of conquest.  So you are in Romulan space, and in violation of treaty.  You have one minute to leave or surrender your vessel."

                Captain Hagen slapped his palm onto his right chair arm.  Paper.  Saboc's hands flew across the console again.  "Audio off, sir."

                "Observation, Mr. Bradley?"

                "He's lying.  I can't tell about what, but he's lying.  Probably about the conquest bit, since I don't remember that being part of any treaty with the Romulans."

                "Agreed.  Number One?"

                "I concur.  We could ask them which treaty they're referring to, but it would just be more subterfuge.  Personally, I think they're looking for an excuse to fight."

                Captain Hagen sighed.  "Somehow, I guessed that as well.  Mr. Schleist?"

                His thin, custard-shouldered form looked up from the Security console.  "Sir, they probably have reinforcements cloaked.  This smells like a Kobiyashi Maru, and we're only a light cruiser.  We could give one Bird a run for its money, but not two or three."  He touched a console, which beeped.  "However, weapons and shields are at the ready, just in case."

                "Good man.  Target their engines, and wait for the signal.  Saboc, audio on."  A chirp, and the ambient sound of the disguised Romulan bridge returned.  Captain Hagen leaned back.  "We've just done a quick scan of our data banks, and find no reference to a Romulan right of conquest in any of our treaties.  I'm sure you could quote a itty-bitty reference from a little-known amendment, but frankly I don't care.  I'm not a diplomat, and I expect neither are you."  He sat forward again, looking intently at the Romulan.  "So I'll make you a deal, lad.  We both leave, and we both contact our respective governments.  If the High Command really wants this sector of space dust, they're welcome to negotiate for it.  But right now it's Federation space, and it's my job to keep the dog off the lawn."

                Commander Tomak smiled again.  "We have no intentions of leaving this sector, but you may contact your government if you wish.  We shall give you an extra minute, since I am a generous man."

                "You're too kind, sir," the captain muttered.  His fist pounded the arm of his chair again, this time with two fingers pointing outwards.  Scissors.  Lt. Schleist subtly readied the torpedoes and phasers, while the captain spoke to cover him.  "Ensign Saboc, send out a high-priority message to Starfleet Command, advising them of our situation and asking for information about the treaty the Imperial Might is referring to."

                Saboc deftly reconfigured the Ops panel, calling up defensive strategies and shuttling flight plans to the Conn, manned by Lukacz, who had taken over communications and was sending out a request for re-enforcements.  After a few seconds Saboc announced, "I cannot contact Starfleet Command, sir."

                Captain Hagen turned to the screen.  "I apologize, Commander, but it seems the cluster is in our direct line of communications.  This ship can't handle multi-directional subspace relays, so without contradictory orders, I'm afraid my ultimatum stands: we both go, or we both stay."

                The Romulan sighed.  "That, Captain, is not a choice.  We will not leave."

                He looked genuinely sad.  "I'm very sorry to hear that, Commander."  His fist hit the arm chair hard.  Rock.  Schleist fired both phaser banks and a spread of three torpedoes at the Imperial Might's engines, while Lukacz initiated defensive maneuvers.  The screen blinked back to the view of the Romulan ship, which was spinning crazily as one torpedo hit the Romulan's starboard nacelle.  The captain sat back and barked orders.  "Change view to tactical.  Let me know the second any other Romulans uncloak.  Lukacz, as soon as that happens, plot us a course bearing 187 mark 43, maximum warp, evasion pattern Delta Five."

                "Aye, sir."

                "Saboc, any word from Starfleet?"

                "I've just received word from the Iliad and the Excelsior, sir.  They're on their way, but it will be at least fifteen minutes until they arrive."

                "Lukacz, give us that time.  Schleist, fire at will."

                Takashi broke in.  "Captain, I'm reading a warp signature off our port bow.  It's another Romulan vessel."

                "Do it, Lukacz.  Saboc, feed the bearing of our reinforcements to the Conn, and change course as soon as we're out.  We'll meet them halfway.  Schleist, cover our exit with a few spreads."

                "Incoming torpedo, bearing 179 mark 0," Takashi shouted.  "Impact in three seconds."

                "Brace for impact!" the captain screamed as the bridge shook.  Saboc was thrown out of his chair, but quickly regained his station.

                Takashi read the bad news off of her chair monitor.  "Rear shields at 37%.  Light structural damage to decks 7 and 8.  One more good shot and our back will be exposed."

                "Saboc!  What's our ETA?"

                "Six minutes and thirty nine seconds, captain!"

                "We don't have six minutes!  Exceed safety warp limits!"

                Lukacz screamed back, "We already are, sir!"

                The inter-ship communicator chirped.  "Engineering to Bridge, we're putting severe stress on the core's intermix chamber!  We've got about five minutes before we're looking at a warp core breach!"

                "Understood," Takashi snapped.  "Helm, reduce speed to 50% above safe speed, and initiate warp maneuver Gamma Three."

                "Aye, sir."  The tactical display showed that Challenger had slipped out from between the two Romulans, and was now dancing like a kite in a whirlwind.  The representations of two other Federation ships on the tactical view just barely entered on the left side of the screen.

                Takashi had just checked the damage report when her sensor screen flashed.  She touched it, and her heart sank.  "Captain, another warp signature dead ahead!"

                "What?"  He looked down at his own panels, and punched his chair arm.  "Damn!  You were right, Schleist!  They're going to triangulate and run us down.  Lukacz, drop to sublight immediately, change bearing to 94 mark 2, and engage at maximum warp."

                "Bridge to Engineering," Takashi called out, "we need that core to hold together longer than five minutes."

                "We'll try, Commander, but it's already being held together by sheer willpower."

                "Captain," Schleist bellowed.  "Two torpedoes from opposite directions!  We'll be caught in the crossfire!  Impact in..."

                Sparks flew from the back wall of the bridge.  Schleist flew over his console from the blow, and slammed into the back of the captain's chair.  The force of his velocity caused the chair to snap, and it toppled to the ground with Captain Hagen in it.  Takashi slapped her badge and manned the Security console.  "Emergency!  Medical to the bridge!  Two casualties!"  She noticed that the console was on fire, and rerouted all the major controls to the Science station next to it, shoving Bradley out of the way.  "Bradley!  Check on the captain!"

                The intercom chirped again.  "The chamber's flooding Engineering with radiation!  We've got to drop out of warp now!"

                "Ensign Lukacz, drop to full impulse and initiate..."

                The bridge shook again, harder this time, and Saboc flew backwards, his uniform and face horribly burned.  The turbolift doors swished open, and the medical team went to work on him and the captain.

                Takashi wiped sweat and soot from her brow.  Ops was gone, the captain was down, and they had no warp power.  Maybe today is a good day to die, she thought.  "Lukacz, where's our ships?"

                "They've exceeded maximum safe warp, sir!  They'll be here in twenty..."  The front of the bridge exploded as another torpedo burst impacted.  The Conn panel came loose and slammed into Lukacz's chest.  She slumped over.

                "Bradley!  Take over at Ops and initiate maneuver Zed Zed Zed!  We need just a few more seconds!"  She manually targeted the phasers, and fired on the nearest Romulan vessel.  The phasers managed to pierce the shields and do minimal damage to its hull.  "Direct hit!" she called out.

                Through the smoke and noise, the communicator crackled into life.  "Challenger, this is the Excelsior.  We understand your situation and are engaging the Romulan threat.  Pilot your vessel to course 241 mark 78 at best possible speed to rendezvous with the Iliad."

                She wiped her brow again.  "You heard the man, Bradley.  Bridge to Engineering, we need best possible speed."

                "We're limping as it is now, Commander.  I can give you Warp 1 for about three minutes, and then this chamber's going to shut down."

                "Do your best, Engineering.  We need to get as far from the battle as possible."  She put the panel on standby and rushed over to the medical team.  Schleist was covered with a medical blanket over his face, and Saboc was being sent to Sickbay in a stretcher.  Lukacz was coming around, but she was having some trouble breathing.  She kneeled down next to the team by Captain Hagen, but they were starting to cover him up as well.

                Dr. Mancuso looked at her with deep blue eyes.  "I'm sorry, Commander.  His neck snapped in the fall.  He died instantly."  He got up and assisted Lukacz to the turbolift.

                Bradley turned to her.  "Warp engines off-line.  We're in the clear, but we're also dead in the water.  Nothing to do now but wait."

                Takashi slowly sank into her chair, staring at the flickering screen of the ongoing battle, but her thoughts kept wandering back to other times, other places.  Death is but a doorway.