Stev realized that he had forgotten just how large an Excelsior class starship actually was. After spending ten years hopping around the quadrant in the Ghost Rider, he wasn't used to the miles of corridors he needed to walk through to get from one point of the ship to another. At least I'm still in decent shape he thought to himself.

The lanky Vulcan went to his quarters to drop off Phread and what few belongings he still had. Stev placed Phread on the desk and the tribble wiggled its way over to the computer terminal. Most of the Vulcan's belongings were kept in the well-worn duffel that he had acquired years back and just now tossed onto his bunk. Stev removed one item and placed it carefully on the desk. He thumbed the small activation switch and turned it on. It will be nice to display this again, he thought as a hologram of he and T'Aiya sprang into existence.

He thought back to the day when JT had taken the holo-image, it was the day after he and T'Aiya had returned to the Intrepid from their shore leave to Earth, the day he had proposed to her. Stev looked wistfully at the image; he and T'Aiya had been holding hands behind her back. Maybe someday, he thought wistfully as walked out of his sleeping area.

The shared common room of his quarters was immaculate. Every last piece of furniture was in exactly the prescribed standard location. There was not a trace of decoration to be found. The Vulcan did not believe that he had been assigned to a completely vacant set of rooms. Stev wondered who, if anyone was living in the other bedroom. "I'll look into that later," he thought to himself as he walked back out into the corridor.

Stev had two priorities now; first he needed to go report to Commander Downglade, the Chief of Intelligence; and second he had to go find T'Aiya. He had seen her sitting by his bedside when he had awoken in Sickbay and had been astonished to see her. He hadn't thought he was anywhere near the Thunderchild's patrol area when he was ambushed in the Castis system. "But then a Heavy Cruiser doesn't follow a set patrol area and the Thunderchild and I have come close to meeting each other in the past," He thought to himself with a smile crossing his lips.

T'Aiya had left sickbay so abruptly after he awoke that he hadn't had time to say anything to her beyond calling out his pet name for her, "Aishamano", the Vulcan word for beloved. As Stev took the turbolift to TACTICS he wondered why she had left so suddenly. He had been out of her life for ten years and wasn't sure what was going to happen between them now that he was no longer "dead". He did need to talk with her. He would find her after he had met with Commander Downglade.

His ruminations had taken him most of the trip to the office of the Thunderchild's Chief of Intelligence. Being a Federation intelligence operative, Stev had heard rumors about Downglade but was wondering about the reality he was about to face. "Well, no time like the present to find out," he thought. Stev remembered some of the rumors he'd heard concerning his superior and chuckled to himself at the irony of his thoughts. He sounded the chime.

"Enter," called a voice that did not seemed to be muffled by the door.

Stev walked through the open door. His eyes were drawn immediately to a familiar face. The two men stared at each other for a moment then, simultaneously, each of them said, "You!"

Laughing and motioning Stev to take a seat Commander Downglade took the initiative, "Never let it be said that the gods don't have a sense of humor. Of all the people who might have been assigned to me as an intelligence officer, you are the last one I would ever have thought of," Downglade smiled. "The last time I saw you was on Ergon IV in—what was the name of that bar?"

Stev had no specific orders from Frankenstein regarding a former intelligence contact being his immediate superior, so he was guarded in his response. "The Bald Beatle," he replied flatly. Stev's mind raced, was it a coincidence that he had been rescued by the very ship his ex-wife was now serving on. If so how much more of a coincidence was it that his new department head was a former intelligence contact. Seeing the Chief of Intelligence smile at his response the Vulcan raised an eyebrow. Downglade attempted to raise his own in reply. Encouraged by Downglade's attitude, Stev relaxed in his chair. "Had I known you were Starfleet Intelligence, I wouldn't have let you have those power converters so cheaply."

"Had I known YOU were Starfleet Intelligence I wouldn't have paid as much as I did," Downglade retorted with a smile.

"Actually, sir," the Vulcan replied while stroking his chin, "technically I wasn't with Starfleet Intelligence."

Downglade's grin faded somewhat. "Oh?" The look on his face told Stev to continue.

"Sir, I am only authorized to tell you only that I was with a Federation intelligence service known to me as 'October.' If you want more specifics than that, you'll have to contact Admiral Lenartin at Starbase Earhart, Sir." Stev broke into a broad grin. "Though I do hope you'll tell me where you got the Romulan Ale you paid me for those power converters."

"October, eh?" Downglade answered quietly a quizzical expression crossed his face briefly. In a moment though the intelligence officer was grinning as well, "I see both of us have secrets we want to keep." He paused, "I think I'll keep that one to myself. I might need my source in the future. Who knows when I'll need power converters again?"

Knowing at that precise moment that he was going to enjoy working with this man, Stev steered the conversation back to work, "Speaking of secrets, Sir, I know I wasn't scheduled for duty until after a full debriefing by you and Captain Burnett. However, I was wondering if I could have a preliminary tour of TACTICS."

"Of course," Downglade responded. "I'm always happy to talk about my brain child."

"Your brain child?" Stev asked, puzzled.

Downglade nodded. "At the risk of sounding smug, I designed TACTICS."

Stev looked at Downglade in surprise. "You did?"

Downglade stood up and motioned Stev to follow him. The two stepped out of the office and into the passageway. Downglade turned to the right and took about six steps, stopping in front of a non-descript door with no markings.

Commander Downglade opened the door to TACTICS and introduced Stev to Ensign Der Platts. After watching the young ensign blush brilliantly and try very hard to impress her superior officers, Downglade took Stev on a tour of the Thunderchild's intelligence arm. Stev was very impressed with the holo-table and the sophistication of the technology in place. He was less impressed with the officer's accommodations within TACTICS.

"Is this where the Intel offices live?" Stev asked skeptically. "The quarters that Commander Falcon assigned me are larger," he thought to himself.

"No," Downglade shook his head emphatically understanding Stev's misunderstanding. "These Spartan living quarters are in case we have to lock down TACTICS." He walked to the end of the compartment to show Stev the head and sonic showers. They met Lieutenant Young coming out.

"Young, this is Lieutenant Stev. He's joining us as my second in command. Stev, this is Nick Young."

Young reached out a hand, his face wreathed in a smile. "Welcome aboard, Lieutenant. I'm very glad to see you. It means we can get off 12-hour shifts now. Harvick—Lieutenant Harvick, that is—is going to be just as happy."

"12-hour shifts?" Stev asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Only because we didn't have enough senior officers to work 8-hour shifts. With you here, that changes everything," Young replied with a smile.

Downglade smiled at the delight on Young's face. "Stev will be starting his training on our systems tomorrow. I'm sure it won't take long for him to be ready to take a shift of his own. In the meantime—"

Young groaned. "I know, Commander, back to the grindstone. But keep in mind; I'm going to send you the bill for my nose job."

Downglade pointed over his shoulder with his thumb the amusement twinkling in his eyes, "The grindstone's that way."

Young laughed as well and slipped by them to return to his console. Downglade then explained to Stev exactly what he meant by the term lock down as they continued the tour. Soon they arrived back in TACTICS main room.

"Sir?" Ensign Der Platts asked when Downglade came back in.

Downglade turned. "Yes, Der Platts?"

"I'm not sure what this is, but I'm getting a faint, garbled communication on what appears to be a 50 terahertz harmonic. I've never heard anything like it and the Universal Translator simply ignores it."

"Put it on speaker."

She flipped a switch and noise filled TACTICS. Downglade couldn't make out any words, or anything that sounded like words, but it had the feeling of intelligence behind the sounds. He looked at Stev, who shook his head in reply.

Stev listened as well. There was something familiar about the electronic hiss. He just could not remember where.

"I have heard this frequency before, but I cannot place it," the Vulcan said with a look of concentration on his face. Stev wanted to run the frequency through the Ghost Rider's database. He was certain that he had encountered that frequency before.

"Well, Der Platts, I don't know what it is or where it's coming from, but keep an ear open, would you?"

"Yes, Sir, I will," the young ensign replied.

"Now here," Downglade indicated the consoles which ran around the bulkheads as he focused his attention once again on the Vulcan, "are the various intel stations."

Stev glanced around the circular layout of the room taking note of the details as he did, COMMINT, SIGINT, ELINT, and HUMINT were labled above each station, "Do you assign officers to a single location or rotate them from time to time?"

"No," a disembodied voice answered. "Commander Downglade's officers only pretend to work. They make me do all the hard stuff."

With a quizzical look on his face, Stev turned his head and looked towards the source of the sound, "Who?"

"That's Belle, TACTICS computer," Downglade answered. "She is completely separate from the ship's main computer core and helps us co-ordinate the sheer amount of data that flows into TACTICS."

"Don't you forget, sir," the computer added. "At least a Vulcan will understand just how much I do around here. You humans don't"

Smiling, Downglade shook his head in amusement, "Don't mind her. Actually, if you want to know the truth, there are really only two kinds of officers in a TACTICS I run: an officer on duty and an officer off duty. I don't like for my people to be too compartmentalized. It leads to tunnel vision and a loss of perspective. If you're Intelligence, you're Intelligence. So be prepared to handle anything that comes your way." He paused, "And as my second-in-command, you will be overseeing everything more often than not."

Stev nodded. He looked around the room again to familiarize himself with the layout. His gaze was drawn to the COMMINT panel currently manned by Ensign Der Platts, he was fascinated by her rapid movements. She seemed to be punching every button on her console. Downglade followed his gaze and watched her for a moment.

"Still getting that garble, Der Platts?" Downglade asked.

"Yes, Sir," Der Platts nodded. "It just feels wrong." She ran a hand across the back of her neck. "Makes the hair on my neck stand up." She looked up, shocked that she would address the Chief Intelligence Officer so informally. "Sorry, Sir."

Downglade dismissed her apology with a wave of his hand and watched her closely for another moment.

"Can you make anything of it, Young?"

"If Ears can't figure it out, I sure can't," Young indicated Der Platts with a wave of his hand to clarify the nickname.

Stev commented quietly, "Never ignore a feeling."

Downglade looked at Stev. "So you did learn something in October!"

Deciding to deflect the mention of the organization he worked for, Stev grinned. "And November. And December."

Downglade smiled back. "I think I'm going to like you, Stev," he paused, "And now, Lieutenant tomorrow is soon enough for the rest of the formalities. I understand there's a nifty little addition to our Hangar Bay, called the Ghost Rider? Care to give me a tour?"

"I'd be happy to sir," the Vulcan replied.

The two intelligence officers left TACTICS in the capable hands of Lieutenant Young. Enroute to the shuttlebay, they talked in that innocuous banter common to their chosen profession. The conversation may have seemed frivolous to anyone who overheard, but it spoke volumes to those who knew what to listen for.

The Senior Intelligence Officer and his new assistant left Tactics. The pair walked down the corridors of the Thunderchild talking nonchalantly. As they walked Stev could not help but be aware of all the people on board the ship. He had become so accustomed to operating on his own that he knew it would take some time before he felt comfortable around this many people again. Stev did some mental arithmetic while they walked.

"Is it my imagination, Sir, or is this variant of the Excelsior class larger than the Intrepid?" Stev asked continuing the conversation.

"You served on board the Intrepid?" Downglade asked.

"Yes sir," Stev replied. "Ten years ago before that shuttle accident. This is the first time I've ever been on board an Excelsior variant," he added honestly.

Downglade stroked his beard for a moment, "That would've been back when Admiral Lenartin was commanding her."

Stev nodded his head in affirmation. Downglade continued, "Yes, the Excelsior variant has about ten percent more personnel onboard. Most people never notice."

"I am not most people," Stev added dryly.

They arrived at the shuttlebay and entered. Stev led the Chief of Intelligence past the other shuttles occupying the deck. Downglade let out a low whistle of appreciation when they rounded the Nightingale and he saw the Ghost Rider for the first time.

"That's a shuttle?" he asked.

"Yes sir, it used to be my personal shuttle," Stev paused. "She got shot up pretty bad when leaving Castis IV and Lieutenant Polt has had a team repairing her more obvious systems," the expression on his face stated clearly that there were systems on board that Lieutenant Polt's team would never find.

Downglade gave Stev a knowing glance of understanding.

"She's got some pretty nice enhancements that need my personal attention if you catch my drift," Stev continued. He paused again and looked squarely in Downglade's eye, "Once she's completely repaired Captain Burnett is adding her to the roster and you'll have an intelligence shuttle at your disposal."

"My disposal?"

"Well, I'm hoping that you'll let me borrow her from time to time when the need arises." Stev grinned and continued, "Care to see her? I still have some of what you paid me for those power converters on board."

"I do believe, Lieutenant Stev, that I will take you up on that offer."

Stev inclined his head. Gesturing at what he still considered his ship, he introduced his new superior to her, "The Ghost Rider, FLEMMING class, most databases still list it as a prototype, if it all." He grinned slightly and continued, "October got me one of the first ones out of Utopia Planitia." Stev thought for moment and continued, "I liken it to a one man starship and use it to run about the quadrant," he paused briefly. "She's capable cruising for months at warp 8 and can do warp 9.2 in pinch." Stev ran his hand appreciatively across the shuttle's outer hull, "Starfleet hasn't built that many of them."

Downglade eyed the craft in admiration while the Vulcan continued.

"She's got an adaptive polymer coating, which allows me to mimic the markings of any vessel in its database."

"You mean she packs a cloak?"

Stev showed mock horror. "Oh no, that sir would be a violation of the Treaty of Algernon," he raised his eyebrow. "Surely you hadn't forgotten that sir."

Downglade shook his head in amusement and laughed. "That stuff you have on board, shall we take a look at the interior and see some of those enhancements you mentioned."

"Gladly sir. We'll also take the time to get your handprint programmed into the recognition unit."

Stev palmed a seemingly innocent spot on the bulkhead near the hatch. After comparing his palm print to the database, the onboard computer opened the hatch. Stev walked through the open hatch first.

"De'ornamas chikarsee krup rIimrakah," Stev stated as soon as he walked through.

"Don't step on my blue suede shoes?" Downglade translated questioningly.

"When the shuttle is left completely vacant the defense mode is set when the hatch is shut," Stev offered in explanation. "If I arrive back at the shuttle with other people the defense mode requires a verbal code to disengage; otherwise my palm print is sufficient to disengage the protocol. This particular code tells the computer that I am back and everyone with me can be trusted. You can safely enter."

"And if you hadn't given the confirmation code?" Downglade asked.

"I would've been apologizing to Captain Burnett for the death of her Chief of Intelligence and cleaning up a rather large mess," Stev said with a grin.

Downglade grunted with a grin on his face, "Why that particular sentence, Lieutenant? It doesn't seem to make any sense, or is that the point?"

Stev blushed just a bit, "It's part of my hobby, Commander. I translate 20th century Terran poetry into Vulcan."

"I don't believe I'm familiar with this particular poet," Downglade replied with a look of concentration on his face.

"This particular line was recorded most famously by one of my favorite poets, Elvis Presley."

"You're fan of 20th century Rock and Roll?" the Chief of Intelligence asked.

"It sounds so crude when you put it that way, sir" Stev replied with a grin. "Anyway, you and the rest of the TACTICS team will each need to record a code phrase of their own. The Ghost Rider's computer won't recognize my phrases in your voice patterns as valid," the Vulcan continued.

"What if it's just the intelligence team using the Ghost Rider, will we have to utter code phrases each time we enter?

"No sir, once we've programmed in the intelligence team's bio signatures, the Ghost Rider will recognize all of us as authorized. Code phrases are only necessary when entering the hatch or beaming in with unauthorized personnel after the shuttle has been locked down."

Stev led Downglade up front to the cockpit.

"The cockpit area has seating for a pilot, co-pilot, and two mission specialists," the Vulcan said indicating each seat in turn.

"But you operated on your own for most missions, didn't you?" Downglade asked.

"Yes, but it is nice to have additional seating for when it's needed. Also I can lock out any or all of the other controls," Stev replied.

Heading aft from the cockpit, Stev led Downglade to the main work area of the ship.

"This is the heart of the Ghost Rider's operations area. This is a mission specific module geared strictly for intelligence gathering."

"Mission specific?" Downglade asked.

"Yes, by swapping out this middle section; the FLEMMING class shuttle can be equipped as a medical shuttle, an S.C.E. work tug, or a marine troop ship."

Downglade let out a low whistle.

"The intelligence module comes equipped with computer cores detailed specifically for signal gathering, database hijacking, and a direct subspace tie-in to Memory Alpha. The three computer cores run in parallel mode with the ship's main computer. Each core can run independently and each can be accessed from this innocuous-looking, seemingly-standard, computer interface."

"Four separate computer cores for one shuttle?" the Chief of Intelligence asked.

"Well the shuttle doesn't have anywhere near the computing power of a starship's main core," Stev offered as an explanation, " but I haven't yet come across anything that has overwhelmed the Ghost Rider's computers."

The Vulcan then led Downglade back through the shuttle's tiny engineering compartment.

"Pretty utilitarian," Downglade remarked.

"It sure looks like it doesn't it," Stev grinned back. "This is a ZC Tech SCN14-NX67 warp reactor. It's 99.9% reliable and most of the breakdowns can be fixed by anyone who's taken first year engineering at the academy."

"I've heard of this unit. I knew it was in prototype, but didn't think there were any in production."

Stev arched his eyebrow and mischievous look crossed his face, "I've heard that as well Commander."

The tour ended up in the living quarters in the shuttle's aft section. Stev felt more at ease here than anywhere else, as this had essentially been his home for the past ten years. Stev, indicating one of the chairs, motioned for Downglade to take a seat. After the intelligence chief had sat down Stev opened a concealed hatch in the bulkhead and removed a bottle of blue liquid. He poured two glasses.

"Cheers, sir," the Vulcan said handing him a glass of Romulan Ale.

"Thank you Stev," Downglade replied and tipped the glass into his mouth.

After draining his glass, Stev broke the silence, "Commander, I was thinking that with Ghost Rider's capabilities, it would be very advantageous to direct link her to TACTICS, the same way she's currently linked to Memory Alpha."

Downglade held his glass out for a refill, "Yes, I can see where tying this ship into TACTICS via a direct subspace link would be a huge benefit. We'll have to…"

Whatever Downglade was about to say was interrupted by Captain Burnett's voice echoing through the shuttlebay, "Red Alert! Red Alert! This is not a drill. Red Alert! I repeat, this is not a drill!"

Suddenly, Young's voice came from Downglade's communicator.

"Sir? The Captain has just initiated Grey Lady Down protocol. Communications buoy has been launched and the distress channel activated. As soon as you get here, we'll go into Lock Down. And that noise we couldn't decipher? Seems it was four Breen ships."

"Shards!" Downglade exclaimed. He stood and turned to exit the Ghost, "I've got to get back to TACTICS now." His body language told Stev that he was ready to run the hundreds of meters of corridors to get there.

"Sir," Stev quickly positioned himself between Downglade and the door.

"What Lieutenant? I've got no time for questions."

Motioning forward towards the mission module, Stev calmly continued, "If you can give me the exact coordinates of TACTICS using the shuttlebay as ground zero, the Ghost Rider's transporter can get you there a lot faster."

"Won't work. Can't beam into or out of TACTICS. Stay here. You can't get into TACTICS now and we might need you and your Ghost."

Downglade was gone. Stev could see him tearing across the Hangar Bay toward one of the exits, his arms pumping and his long legs eating up the distance in great strides.

Stev calmly walked up front and sat down in the cockpit. Taking the Rider's computers off standby he turned to the sensor console. "At least he could have let me beam him to the entrance," he thought to himself.

Before Downglade was out of sight, Stev thumbed his communicator, "Stev to TACTICS."

"Young, here."

"Lieutenant, we don't have time to set up a secure link between TACTICS and the Ghost Rider. I believe you can receive digital broadband?"

"Digital?" Young replied in confusion.

"Yes digital, it was the main computer interface mode of the early 21st century. The Breen probably won't think to scan those frequencies," Stev calmly answered back.

Stev heard indistinct chatter in the background. He assumed that Young and Der Platts were verifying what he already knew to be true. Moments later Young's voice came back over the communicator.

"Yes, we can receive on those frequencies," the young ensign replied.

"How long to convert the signal to the holotable format?" the Vulcan asked in a tone of voice indicating it was an order.

"Five minutes," Lieutenant Young said confidently.

"Make it three. I want this hook-up running before Commander Downglade is back in TACTICS."

"Got it," both voices chorused on the other end of the channel.

"I've got a test pattern broadcasting now," Stev said as toggled a few switches. "I need at least three minutes to program a filter for the signal bandwidth from the Ghost Rider's sensors."

Stev began inputting instructions into the computer. "I wish Phread were here. He's better at this than I am," Stev thought to himself as he worked. He finished the filter program and again toggled the communicator, "Stev to TACTICS."

"What the hell is going on Stev," Downglade's voice rumbled out. "I get back to TACTICS and I see Young monkeying with the holotable instead of manning a console."

"Sir, the Ghost Rider's sensors have been upgraded to track the Breen. Their coldsuits do not register on most internal sensors. When Young told us it was the Breen, I knew this info would be needed in TACTICS but we did not have time to get the secure datalink running," Stev answered calmly and quickly. "I had Young configure the holotable to receive a digital broadband signal from the Ghost Rider through the SIGINT console."

Stev could almost see the immediate understanding spread across Intelligence Chief's face.

"Good idea, Lieutenant. It looks like we're ready on this end. There's your test pattern…"

Stev could hear the pause. He suddenly remembered what image he used for test patterns, "The image comes from my historical database of the term 'Ghost Rider'."

Before Stev could begin his explanation of this particular test pattern the artificial female voice of TACTICS computer interrupted, "Lock Down, Lock Down, Lock Down! Executing Lock Down procedures in 5 seconds." Belle's voice was calm and unemotional.

Downglade activated the communications button which connected him with Lieutenant Stev in the Ghost Rider. "Stev, we're going into Lock Down. Stay in the Ghost Rider—we're going to need your help."

Stev activated the shuttle's shields, making the Ghost Rider near impregnable. "Understood, Commander. I'll feed the coordinates of the Breen invaders to you and you can pass them on to the Bridge."

"Make it happen, Stev." Downglade replied with a note of audible relief.

Downglade looked at the schematic being displayed on the holotable. Red dots appeared near Engineering, and moving through the ship towards other essential systems as well. Blue dots began appearing as Stev told the Ghost Rider's to display the security teams as well. Downglade could see five separated security teams converging on the red dots. He made an instant decision.

He toggled his communicator as he spoke, "Listen up people, we've got five security teams. I'm designating them Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. I will direct team Alpha. Harvick you have Beta. Young, Gamma. Der Platts, Delta. Stev you have Epsilon."

"Aye sir," chorused three voices within TACTICS and one voice from his communicator.

"Commander, who is leading team Epsilon?" Stev asked Downglade.

"Lieutenant Chase Monroe," Downglade's voice replied from the communicator.

"Thank you sir," Stev replied as he switched frequencies. "Lieutenant Stev to Lieutenant Monroe."

"Can it wait sir?" a voice with a slight New York accent answered. "My team and I are tracking Breen invaders at the present time."

"No Lieutenant it cannot," Stev replied with an authoritative tone. "I am going to help you and your team track the invaders."

"How sir?" Monroe asked. "You obviously aren't here and I don't have time to wait for you to catch up."

Knowing this was an open frequency, Stev kept his response somewhat vague, "The how is not important." Stev consulted the schematic on the screen in front of him. "I do know that you and your team of four are nearing the subspace transmitter on deck 17."

Lieutenant Monroe surprised at the accuracy of the information, gave silent hand signals to his team to halt. Ensigns Berger, Brookstone, Isley, and Comisaroja; fell into a defensive position as they stopped walking the corridor. Chase toggled his communicator.

"Sir this is an open frequency, you will need to authenticate."

Stev looked at the lower left portion of the monitor, where TACTICS was supplying data back to him.

"Lieutenant, the code you are looking for is CORN FED IOWA BEEF."

Monroe looked back at his team and nodded his head, "Confirmed, sir. What do you need us to do?"

"Do not ask how, but I can tell you that the corridor in front of you is clear. There are three Breen life signs in the subspace transmitter room."

"How can you track the Breen?" Monroe quickly asked.

"I told you not to ask." Stev gently chided the security officer.

"Aye sir," the young lieutenant replied. Quickly recovering his professionalism he asked "You say there are three Breen life signs in the subspace transmitter room?"

"Yes, if the door is opened quickly enough you should be able to fire directly into the room and dispatch at least one of them."


The communicator lapsed into silence. Stev assumed that Lieutenant Monroe was giving hand signals to his team. He could hear the sounds of the door whooshing open, followed by the sounds of multiple phaser blasts. He followed the jumble of blue and red dots on his display. Suddenly the communicator crackled with more than just the sounds of battle.

Chase swore vehemently before he continued, "He's down. Lieutenant," he paused briefly, "Comisaroja is down. The rest of the Breen have activated some sort of personal cloaking field. Can you direct us?"

"Krysl'r," Stev said to himself. He looked closely at his monitor. One blue dot had ceased its movement. One red dot had ceased moving as well. However whatever the Breen were using for visual cloaking it obviously did not block the frequencies the Ghost Rider's sensors were tracking as there were still two red dots on his schematic.

"Monroe, one Breen invader is approximately two meters to the left of your downed man. The other is directly behind the downed Breen just to the left of your team," Stev replied back to the security officer.


The sound of more phaser fire crackled through Stev's communicator. The sound of moving bodies also came through with great clarity. A human voice punctuated the firefight.

"Dammit," the unidentified voice cried out.

"Lieutenant," Monroe's voice stated clearly, "Isley's been hit. I've got one more Breen body on the floor. How are we doing?"

Stev looked at his schematic, one solitary red dot was moving slowly away from the group of blue dots.

"Monroe, it looks like the last Breen has escaped through the Jeffries tubes. I recommend that anyone who can still move proceed to junction 102-563 and head him off."

After a moment of silence, Monroe answered back, "Aye. Berger, Brookstone, and I are heading to the junction. Isley is staying put here watching the open hatch. Let her know if the Breen doubles back."

"Will do, be careful Lieutenant," the Vulcan replied.

Stev watched three of the blue dots race down the corridor's representation on the schematic. He kept tabs on the remaining red dot that represented the last Breen that Monroe's team was after.

"Lieutenant Monroe." Stev opened the channel when the team was in position out side the Jeffries tube hatch.

"Go ahead."

"The last Breen is within four meters of the hatch. He should be coming out, cloaked or not, in approximately 3 seconds. I recommend firing straight down the hatch when it opens."

The next thing Stev heard was phaser blasts. No sooner had the last red dot stopped moving when Lieutenant Commander Downglade's voice emanated from the communicator.

"Stev we've got most of the Breen surrounded with security teams or they're dead. We should have this little problem dealt with fairly soon."

Stev knew Downglade would not risk transmission without a good reason as they had not yet made the connection between the Ghost Rider and TACTICS a secure channel. He waited for Downglade to continue.

"I know you've been concentrating on team epsilon. However, the security teams can only visually account for all but two of those damn invaders. Can you coax anything more out of your sensors?" Downglade asked.

Stev thought about why the Ghost Rider's sensors weren't picking up the remaining Breen. Then he immediately knew why. "Sir, I'm going to cut off the sensors momentarily."


The Vulcan shut down his sensor platform and reconfigured it for close-range scanning. When he turned the system back on his hypothesis was confirmed. The Ghost Rider sacrificed close in scanning for a wider range of hi-resolution scans. The Breen must have already been in place within this blind spot before Stev turned his sensor platform on. There were two readings in the Jeffries tubes behind the shuttlebay bulkheads. He reconnected the two systems.

"Sir, you should be able to see this now," Stev looked over the schematics and grimaced. He was the closest member of the crew to the invaders. He came to a quick decision. "Since none of our security teams are within striking distance and I am the closest person to these invaders, logically I should be the one to deal with them. We don't want to give them the time to finish whatever it is they are doing."

There was a momentary pause. "Be careful, Lieutenant. I have no desire to have my newest Intelligence Officer folded, crumpled or mutilated."

Stev grinned. "That's not on my 'To Do' list for today either, Commander," he said as he deactivated the Ghost Rider's shields. He then stood and darted to the shuttle's hatch, grabbing his phaser but just missing his communicator as he went. Stev was outside the shuttle and running to the Jeffries tube access before Downglade could respond.

"I'll bet their back-up plan was to blow the hell out of the shuttlebay in case their first wave failed. Then they could land as many assault craft as they wanted without our being able to stop them," Stev thought to himself as he opened the access hatch to the Jeffries tube.

Stev crept along the Jeffries tube as quietly as he could. "I should have made sure I grabbed the communicator to call for reinforcements," he thought. He knew that he was going to have to subdue this opponent physically as the Breen had proven to be difficult to take out with a phaser pistol in the past. "Typical," he thought again, "I manage to grab the item that will do me the least amount of good." Seconds later he could see a glow in front of him just inside of the last turn.

"That's where I'd place an explosive to take out the shuttlebay and its forcefields while blowing its doors wide open. If they could get here this quickly without accessing the main computer than their intel is pretty good." Something suddenly stuck him as he thought, "Hmmm, that's twice in as many missions that I've faced a probable leak within the fleet. Maybe Commander Downglade and I can get to the bottom it, though it will have to wait until after we've dealt with the Breen." Stev thought as he snuck up behind the lone helmeted humanoid.

The Vulcan was surprised to see only one of the aliens. Momentarily caught unaware and trying to ascertain where the second Breen was, Stev was just fast enough to grab the wrist attached to the fist that suddenly shot out from the remaining Breen.

"Very good Vulcan," the alien hissed in its scratchy electronic voice as he stopped the punch and instead grabbed hold of Stev's forearm. The Breen quickly reversed the motion of his arm yanking his opponent into the bulkhead.

Stev felt his right shoulder twinge as hit the bulkhead. Not for the first time was he thankful that he had studied the languages of the quadrant the universal translator had trouble with. Through gritted teeth he replied, "Thank you. It isn't easy sneaking up on a Breen." Stev had brought his legs into a crouch as he was sailing past the alien. Now that he was between the bulkhead and the Breen he kicked.

Caught off guard, the Breen let go of the Vulcan and hit the opposite side of the tube with a thud. He tried to counter punch but Stev grabbed the thrown arm with his left hand and broke it in two with his right.

"Where's your friend?" Stev asked as he ducked the Breen's other arm.

"By now he's off the ship," the injured alien hissed in noise that sounded exceedingly like the feedback of a Terran electronic guitar. "My job was to distract you while he escaped. Our superiors need to know that Starfleet has developed the technology to track us."

"Krysl'r!" Stev thought to himself. "If he's not lying, then I've thrown away an advantage in this attack, but what choice did I have; track the Breen or keep the technological advantage and sacrifice the ship?"

Stev was silent as he concentrated on ending the battle with a prisoner instead of a corpse. The Vulcan intelligence officer used every Sus Manah technique he had ever learned in conjunction with the Terran science of Atemi (a component of most eastern martial arts which was the science of striking vital points) that he had mastered, with just a little bit of Klingon Mok'bara thrown in for good measure, in his attempt to physically subdue the Breen invader.

Finally, after a prolonged battle between the two opponents the Breen hit the floor unconscious. Wanting to hit the floor unconscious himself, Stev instead looked over at the explosive device and was relieved to see that it and not yet been armed. Fortunately he had arrived as the Breen was finishing the construction. "That's a coincidence that no novelist would ever attempt," he thought as he ripped out as much fiber optic cable from the device as he could. Wincing in pain with each movement of his shoulder, he hog-tied the Breen with the cables.

Stev was not gentle as he dragged his defeated opponent back through the Jeffries tube. He unceremoniously shoved the unconscious form out of the tube and into the shuttlebay. Stev emerged from the crawlspace to see Commander Downglade and a security team standing there. Stev repositioned himself on the floor so he was sitting with his back to the wall.

"Very good Lieutenant," Downglade said as looked down at the Vulcan. He offered his hand. Stev took it and stood.

"Thank you sir."

"We were just coming in to help, when we heard you dragging your captive down the tube."

Stev held his right shoulder and shook his head. "Sir, the alien," he looked down at his opponent, "indicated that his companion was attempting to escape. The Breen know about our ability to track them."

Downglade shook his head, "Well that explains why that cold-suited bastard was so hot to get out of the open shuttle bay doors." His arm indicated the doors open to space where the emergency force fields were keeping the atmosphere inside.

The Chief of Intelligence stroked his beard in thought, "That means we've lost that technological advantage. The Breen don't usually attack like this. I wonder what they were after."

"Sir, I..," Stev started to speak.

"Lieutenant, if you are about to say that you're sorry for letting the other Breen get away, I'll put you on report. There was nothing you could do to prevent BOTH of them from accomplishing their mission. He was able to escape from us as well."

"I should've waited for back up sir," the Vulcan replied.

"Yes, you should've," Downglade replied with a grin. "However, you've spent the last ten years operating on your own. I expect that you've learned your lesson and it won't happen again."

"No, sir it won't," Stev said with a lop-sided smile.

Downglade looked at the chronometer portion of the nearest computer access terminal. "Take the rest of the day off Lieutenant and get that shoulder looked at. We'll have your debriefing tomorrow. Report to TACTICS at 0800."

"Aye Sir. One thing though, don't you find it suspicious that the Breen knew exactly where to go aboard ship to disable her."

"Lieutenant, now I know I'm going to like you. You have a very suspicious mind. We'll talk about that tomorrow. Now go get that shoulder looked at."



Stev walked through the doors of the sickbay with a purposeful stride. He didn't want to spend anymore time there than necessary. The Breen had interrupted his plans and he wanted to find T'Aiya before she retired for the night. So preoccupied was he with his thoughts about his wife, Stev did not immediately notice that the doctor was a Vulcan, a very attractive Vulcan, but a Vulcan nonetheless. Without thinking Stev dropped his mental shields in place when he registered just what race the doctor was.

"Doctor," he stated flatly.

"What can I do for you Lieutenant," Dr. T'Var replied coldly.

"So it begins again," Stev thought to himself. "I injured my shoulder securing the shuttlebay from the Breen invaders."

Without replying verbally T'Var indicated Stev should sit on one of the diagnostic beds.

Stev complied. He watched her face as she scanned his injured shoulder. The obvious, to a Vulcan at least, distaste for something showed on her face. Stev was sure he knew what it was, but he also knew that by ignoring it he would never solve the problem. Sighing inwardly, he knew it was better to get it out in the open now.

"Is there something wrong doctor?" he asked as calmly as he could.

"No Lieutenant," she replied tonelessly. "Your right shoulder is sprained. It won't take long to repair."

"You had a look of displeasure. Logically, I assumed that it had to do with my injury," Stev stated innocently.

"What do you care for logic?" she asked rhetorically.

Stev continued his adopted air of innocence, "What do you mean doctor?"

"I've read your file, Lieutenant. I know that you follow the teachings of the V'tosh ka'tur. I also know that you are vrekasht," she replied coldly.

There it was. She had stated it and the unspoken problem could no longer be ignored. Stev took the initiative, "Your statement is in error doctor. What I believe is that our people have taken the teachings of Surak too far. He advocated controlling emotions, not suppressing them. I strive to experience emotions but not be controlled by them."

Stev waited for a moment. When no reply was forthcoming he continued. "You are correct that I am vrekasht, though I find it illogical that since we are both Starfleet officers that it should affect any professional relationship."

"It will not affect any professional relationship at all," she replied, her tone indicating that a professional relationship was all she intended to have. "Your shoulder has been repaired. Good day."

With that T'Var left him alone on the diagnostic bed and went back to the medical office. Stev hopped down off the bed. He turned and without saying a word he left sickbay and headed for his quarters.

His shoulder felt much better. Having access to a sickbay was going to be a decided perk to his new posting though having a Vulcan doctor would not, he thought. Stev rolled his right shoulder back and forth testing it for any remains of the injury. For all of her obvious, to another Vulcan at least, distaste of him, T'Var was a very professional and excellent physician.

Stev sighed inwardly as he entered his quarters. He was not going to enjoy breaking in an entirely new set of Vulcans. It had taken him years before his fellow Vulcans onboard the Intrepid had seen beyond the vrekasht and dealt with Stev on his own terms. "Why is it that the supposedly inferior humans accept me more readily than do my own people? Is that what drew T'Aiya and I together? the fact that she saw past the vrekasht so quickly?" he asked himself. Having no answer to his questions, Stev continued through the room.

Stev had just about walked through the common room portion of his quarters when he spied a PADD positioned neatly on the table. He picked it up.

"Hey roomie," the message began. Stev continued reading. "Don't make a mess. I just finished cleaning." It was simply signed 'Gary'.

"So I do have a roommate. I guess I'll meet him later," the Vulcan mused to no one in particular. He left a reply message and placed the PADD back down on the table.

Stev entered his personal living space and noticed that Phread had finished securing the interface between itself and the ship's computer. He petted the ball of fur and asked, "Any messages Phread?"

"Yes," the reply came across as text on the terminal screen. "two messages from Frankenstein and one from the Enchantress."

Phread had been given some unique abilities by October's quartermaster branch. The scientists there had genetically enhanced Phread and had given him the capability of interfacing with nearly any computer system. Because of those enhancements Stev almost exclusively talked to his little buddy instead of to the computer directly. The scientists who modified Phread were surprised to discover that to begin with, unenhanced tribbles were very intelligent. Phread had told Stev on numerous occasions that he enjoyed being able to communicate with his long-time companion via computer screens. Stev enjoyed it as well, but used the computer access if anyone else was around. Phread also knew well enough the hazards of letting just anyone know of his abilities.

"Content of the messages?" the Vulcan asked the tribble.

"Frankenstein confirms new mission status and offers congratulations to us for getting the intel off of Castis IV. Enchantress sends a mission status report: she is still undercover and will contact us when she has the info we need."

Frankenstein was Stev's actual CO. The Enchantress was his protégé, a young woman that Stev had rescued approximately five years ago. He had recruited her for October shortly thereafter and was nominally her CO, though he felt more like her father figure than either of them would admit in public. Stev was her only contact to the organization and that's just the way Frankenstein had wanted it.

"Acknowledgement to Enchantress and send a standard reply to Frankenstein for me Phread," Stev paused a moment. "Now, I need two pieces of info from the Thunderchild's computer. First I need info on our roommate. Second I need the location of Lieutenant T'Aiya."

"May I come and see Neila?" the tribble's reply flashed on the screen.

"No," Stev said with a small sigh, "we need to let T'Aiya and Neila come to terms with our 'resurrection' before we spring a genetically-enhanced, computer-literate tribble on them."

"You're right," the tribble cooed mournfully as the words sprang across the screen. "T'Aiya is in the Thunderhead Lounge and our roommate would one LT Gary DeHart. He is a Closed Systems Recovery Officer on board."

A sanitation engineer? that would explain the cleanliness of the common room. Stev thought to himself. He did not comment on the fact the Phread had given him the info on T'Aiya first. "Thank you, Phread," he said as he turned to walk out of the room. "I'm off to talk to T'Aiya. You may continue getting acquainted with the Thunderchild's computer."

The door slid silently shut as the tribble chirped a farewell and went back to talking to the ship's computer.

Stev was surprised to discover that he was walking down the corridor slowly. Did he really fear that after ten years T'Aiya would rebuff him? Her abrupt departure from sickbay was fueling those doubts. "Yes, that was it," he decided. He was behaving like an adolescent human, unsure of himself and scared to even ask the girl out because he didn't want to be rejected.

There were times when Stev did not enjoy the fact that he did not actively suppress his emotions. Now was of those times. He needed to talk to T'Aiya and let her know that they would be serving together on the Thunderchild. The mutual decision to break their bond ten years ago did not foresee the two of them being in each other's lives again. In fact had it not been for the timely intervention T'Aiya's twin sister on Romulus, Stev would not have survived as long as he had. Stev had been a little surprised that T'Aiya had not taken another mate until he remembered how long it had taken her to accept him as a companion let alone as life-partner. The lump in the pit of his stomach reminded him of how unsure he was of her reaction to the news of his 'resurrection'.

Stev was mildly stunned to discover that he was now standing outside the Thunderhead Lounge and had not yet entered. He hadn't been this uncertain of himself when running that series of missions on Romulus. He hadn't been indecisive when smuggling that defector off of Q'onoS. "Maybe not," he told himself "but this is the woman you shared your life with for many years." He straightened his back and walked in.

The atmosphere of the Thunderchild's lounge was subdued but joyful. The skirmish with the Breen had taken their toll on everyone, but once again the Thunderchild and her crew had survived. Crew members where scattered throughout the room, celebrating the fact that they had lived through another adventure while mourning their comrades who did not survive. Stev spotted the familiar lines of his beloved sitting alone at a table by the observation ports. She had her back to him and was staring out the window at her favorite view, the stars streaking by.

He could no longer feel her. Now that he looked at her his telepathy picked up on her presence but nothing more. They were truly parted, Stev walked directly over to her. He decided that if he was going to be rejected it would be better to do it now rather than later. Besides, she deserved to hear his news from him and not through the ship's grapevine. He stood where she would have seen him if she was actually looking at the stars and not been lost in her own thoughts. He cleared his throat.


An affectionate word in a voice she thought, no, knew she would never hear again. She had heard that word in sickbay and had to leave before her emotions took control. Her eyes focused on a person she had believed for so many years to be dead. She gazed at the form of what used to be her beloved, wondering if the stress of the mission had somehow given her hallucinations.

"Aishamano," the form said again, but this time a reality began to sink in. Neila, who usually rested as a bracelet around T'Aiya's wrist actually took its preferred form, hopped off of T'Aiya's wrist and rested itself on the table. Stev took the compliment knowing that this was something it rarely ever did in public.

"Stev?" she ventured to quietly ask, not wanting to draw attention to herself in case he was a hallucination.

"Aishamano," Stev began. He noticed the subtle change of expression on her face. No one else in the lounge would have noticed, but he knew the woman in front of him or at least he used to.

"T'Aiya," he continued. "You left so unexpectedly from Sickbay that I didn't have time to say anything. Now that the Breen problem has been taken care of we have time to talk."

She listened to him speak, this time she knew he was real. She recognized the symptoms of mild shock on her part. "How is it you have come to be here? Alive?"

Stev sat down at the table and looked her in the eye, "Do you remember ten years ago? How my shuttle blew up after I rescued you, Buffy, JT, and Charles?

The nod of the head was almost imperceptible. Neila came over to Stev and caressed his hand, then walked back over to T'Aiya and settled itself on her arm still in form.

A quiet thought entered Stev's head, {"She does not remember the reality of the situation, and her memories have been altered"}.

Surprised that Neila could still communicate with him telepathically, he looked directly at the little alien, his mind conjured up a response in the way T'Aiya had taught him many years ago. "{Can you help her Neila?}" Stev thought back to his wife's companion.

{"No, that would be unwise. She must remember on her own."}

Stev's gaze slowly moved from the shapeshifter back to his former wife. Had he known that severing their bond would have this affect on her he never would've agreed to become an October agent. Had he known he would survive the mission to see her again he would not have severed the bond. The thoughts and feelings that swirled in his head he could not verbalize instead he said, "Do you remember the mission that I went on before the shuttle accident?"

"No, not really," she replied with a trace of melancholy.

Stev sighed inwardly. When he joined up with October he had never expected to see his wife again, let alone have her relive this painful memory. Better to lay it all out now and deal with the hand fate had dealt.

"My last mission aboard the Intrepid was on behalf of an intelligence arm of the Federation. After I successfully completed this mission, a mission that caused the deaths four other operatives, I was recruited to become one of its operatives. You and I agreed that, logically, I was the best man for the job and to let anyone else do it would be a dereliction of duty." Stev could see the confusion cross her face but he continued, "The shuttle accident was this organization's way of granting me more autonomy in my missions. Being 'dead', I was no longer part of Starfleet and could go to places the Federation could not. For ten years Phread and I have gathered information of vital importance to the Federation."

Stev noticed Neila's ears twitch just a bit at the mention of its former playmate. He ignored the recognition and continued, "My last mission to Castis IV went badly and eventually the Thunderchild rescued us. The organization I worked for is giving me my life back. I am now serving on board as one the ship's intelligence officers," he paused to let her absorb all that he had just said."

A look of realization crossed her face, "In order to protect you and your mission, I must have agreed to have my memories altered to believe you were dead." T'Aiya responded after a few moments, the look deepened, "It would explain why I had such a difficult time accepting your death. Some part of my mind must have retained the truth. I was accepting extremely dangerous, covert missions for many years. If it were not for Neila, I would not still be alive."

Stev was stunned. He had no idea that severing their bond would have affected her so intensely. He had expected her to find another mate and continue on with her life. He was immensely grateful that she had not. He started to reply.

"Stev," T'Aiya interrupted him and looked into his eyes, she could see he still cared for her deeply, "you must understand you have been dead to me for many years now. Our bond, to protect you on your mission and to ensure my survival, has been broken for a very long time. It was not an easy thing for me to accept."

Stev fought to keep the tears from forming. "Damn these emotions," he thought. Only his Kohlinar training allowed him to keep a placid face.

"We are both different people now than we were back then." She paused, thought for a moment and continued. "You may still have feelings for the T'Aiya you remember. I am no longer that woman. You do not even know the T'Aiya of today, just as I do not know the Stev you are now. My Stev died long ago. I have had to learn to accept that."

Stev could now see the sadness in T'Aiya's eyes. He knew at that point that they could not pick up where they left off. They would have to start over as two people meeting for the first time, which truthfully is what they were. The jumble of emotions he wrestled with ten years ago resurfaced. He wondered once again if sacrificing the life he and T'Aiya might have had together was worth the mission he had been on for so long.

"Everything you've said is true, but you must know. You are only one of three people onboard who know the truth," Stev said to her in a choked voice, "Permission to get to know the T'Aiya of today?"

The moment was too much for T'Aiya. Drawing on all the strength and training she had as a Vulcan, she pushed all the emotion her Antosian influence demanded she feel aside. Neila gave Stev a sympathetic gaze, and then wrapped itself around T'Aiya's wrist as a delicate, filigree bracelet. T'Aiya rose from her chair. "Permission granted. Welcome aboard the Thunderchild, Stev. I hope you find your tour satisfactory." she said in perfect Vulcan stance. With that she returned to her quarters.

Stev watched her leave a lump in his throat. He walked over to the food slots, "Computer, one hard lemonade please." Taking his drink Stev walked back over to the table. Sitting at the table he nursed his drink. Tears flowing freely from his eyes he did not watch the stars slide by.


aishamano – Beloved

krysl'r – lit. garbage (Vulcans will use it as a swear word)

V'Tosh ka'tur – Vulcans without logic

(Vulcans that do not believe emotions should be suppressed, Sybok was one)

vrekasht – exile

Historian's Note: for the complete story of the Enchantress' rescue please read "The Stitch".

Author's notes: This story takes place immediately after the events in Found!