Special thanks to winks7985 for the beta-reading!
Between Coincidence and Destinyv
…As of now, occupied part of the Galaxy is divided between the Five States, each containing dozens of star systems, and independent Caribbean System. The Five States (Logrian Empire, Parsian Empire, Swetsian States, Jorian Republic, Triad Union) surround the Caribbean System as petals in a flower. The Caribbean System consists of planet Sherel (headquarters of Caribbean Starfleet, a.k.a the Starfleet), planet Ferzan (trade/financial/informational capital of the System and Galaxy in general), a number of smaller planets and larger asteroids (agrarian/industrial/mining) and a ring of man-made fortresses (frontier posts of the Starfleet). The Caribbean System is independent, neutral, and officially off limits in Galactic political games. Unofficially…
Planet Sherel, Caribbean System
"I'm telling you, guys, history is made in taverns like this! Treaties are concluded, conspiracies are plotted, adventures started, all in god-forsaken taverns like here! I'm right, dude, ain't I?" The local drunk, met with an icy glare, deflated immediately and, mumbling something, led his companions, equally not sober, elsewhere. Chris Larabee, Starfleet Captain (though he didn't wear the uniform and his stripes were hardly distinguishable), grinned darkly and filled his glass anew. Stories never began in taverns like 'Bloody Bill's'; they ended here. Here, where heroes who should have died in flames but survived by some mistake, came to drown their sorrows.
What he didn't know was that his own destiny and adventure had just entered the tavern – in the form of a tall blonde woman and a man with dark skin and the red circle of Sherel Medical Corps on his sleeve.
Mary Travis, the chief editor of 'The Clarion' – the most influential newspaper on Sherel – grimly surveyed the inside of 'Bloody Bill's'. A port tavern as it was, frequented by dockworkers and ships' crew, traders, free agents, Starfleet drop outs or losers who didn't make it into the Academy… She hadn't been in a place like this since she was a criminal reporter, and it certainly wasn't a place to seek help in such a mission shaping up to look like saving the world, but she was desperate.
"There he is," her companion pointed with his eyes to a tall figure in black, occupying a table on the upper gallery. "Let's go." She nodded and followed him, recollecting everything she had learned about that man in black - Christopher Larabee.
'Larabee' actually wasn't his born name - he entered the Academy as a Christopher Arboly, an offspring of some noble and rich family of the Parsian Empire. There was nothing unusual in that – lots of younger sons and bastards from powerful families all over the Galaxy came here. Of course, each one of five Galactic States had its own military Academies and Universities, but Sherel's was undoubtedly the best. Some of the graduates came home, where a diploma from the Academy provided them a good career start, and some stayed and entered the Starfleet, which maintained the law and order in the Caribbean System and guarded its borders, independence and neutrality. For the Caribbean System was literally in the centre of the Galaxy, and each one of the Five States wanted a piece of it. So far, none were successful in acquiring that piece.
Christopher was one of those graduates who stayed; his career in the Fleet had been jump-started after a skirmish with local pirates – an old and somewhat eccentric admiral Michael Larabee had been so impressed with the young ensign, that he'd adopted him right on the spot. The young man had happily left his Parsian name behind. A couple of years later he had become the Commander of Izerlohn station – one of the man-made fortresses, which guarded the Caribbean borders. He was the youngest station commander in all history of the stations, but he'd been a good one, respected and liked by both his men and civilian staff of the station. He had married one of the local girls, had a son… and then one day tragedy had struck. While Larabee and most of the station fleet had been away on patrol, an accident had happened on one of the reactors, followed by explosions and fires. Of course, the ships had come back as soon as they could, and managed to evacuate about a half of the population before the whole station had been destroyed, but Larabee's wife and son had been among the casualties.
That had been three years ago; after the catastrophe Larabee had disappeared for several months, then resurfaced as a free agent, captain-for-hire, sometimes walking very thin line, but still this side of the law. And this man, whose table they'd just reached, was Mary's last hope.
Chris heard footsteps approaching and raised his head. A couple stood near his table – a black man, a medic apparently, and a pretty blonde woman. Chris definitely knew the man from somewhere, though couldn't place him at the moment. The woman looked somewhat familiar as well.
"Captain Larabee?" the man asked.
Clearly he already knew the answer, but Chris answered anyway: "Yeah."
"I'm not sure if you remember me, Captain, I'm Nathan Jackson, we met…"
"On Purgatorio two months ago," Chris continued for him. "Yes, Dr. Jackson, I remember you. Have a seat," he included the woman in the invitation with a gesture.
Purgatorio was one of the 'mine planets', numerous in the System; all of them had mines where people extracted what was there to extract (fuel, metals or minerals), bandit hideouts, shops where you could buy everything from hand blaster to small ship - no questions asked - and saloons where you could get cheap rotgut and even cheaper whores. Purgatorio, though, was large enough to also have a humanitarian mission. Chris had been delivering some supplies to them, and his liquid lunch in one of those saloons got interrupted by an attempt of lynching – some miners or bandits weren't happy with a mission doctor who hadn't saved their boss. Nobody around seemed to care, save for Chris himself and a bounty hunter from Ferzan, who'd happened to be nearby. Together they had stopped the circus, and then the two of them and Dr. Jackson spent the evening in that saloon. The next day, the doctor had returned to his patients, Tanner, the bounty hunter, had gone to look for his bounty in depths of Purgatorio, and Chris had left the planet. If Dr. Jackson had sought him out here and now, it hardly was for a social visit.
"So, Doctor, Ma'am, what can I do for you?"
"My name is Mary Travis," the woman said. "And I need your help."
"Travis? As in Orrin Travis, Governor of Ferzan?"
"Yes, Orrin is my father-in-law. There are people out there who plan his assassination, and I want you to stop it."
Chris gave a whistle. "You don't beat around the bush, lady. Why me?"
"Because I know you aren't on the payroll of Stuart James or Triad Union. I can't be sure about anyone else."
Now that was bad. Of course Chris hadn't followed the politics recently, but he understood what Mary implied, and he didn't like it one bit. Along with Sherel, Ferzan was the capital of the Caribbeans, the trade center of the Galaxy, a place where all the flows of goods, technology and information met. Of course each one of the Five States had official representatives there, and unofficially tried to control it. It wasn't easy, since Starfleet guarded planets near space, and Orrin Travis was a man hard to fool and impossible to buy. But if he was killed, than the main power would go to Stuart James, the head of the Ferzan Council, and if he was working for Triad Union, or any other State for that matter…
"If you're sure James is planning an assassination, why don't you just tell the Governor that?"
She smiled grimly "He might not believe it and he certainly won't act without evidence. And I'm certain his inter-planet calls are monitored."
Chris nodded, understanding what that meant. "Do you have that evidence?"
"Yes. Iron-clad evidence of James's dealings with the Union and their plans. But a friend who tried to deliver it on Ferzan disappeared without a trace."
"Not good. And why don't you go to Starfleet command, if it's that serious? They'll listen to you." Now he remembered who Mary Travis was - she was one of those pain-in-the-ass journalists, the type that authorities just couldn't ignore.
"And what will they do? James is the citizen of Ferzan. And I'm afraid we don't have much time."
"You have a point," Chris lighted his cheroot. "So you chose me."
Mary shrugged. "Nathan recommended you, and I've run out of other people I trust. I don't know how long a hand James has."
"So you want me to deliver this iron clad proof," he said sarcastically, "to Governor Travis, help him deal with James and keep him alive in the process."
"Yes, Captain Larabee. Will you do this? Money is no object."
"Money is no issue, lady. Though we'll definitely need it to have enough equipment for that little excursion. And some men."
"If you're doing it, Captain, I'll go with you," Jackson stated.
"Good, but not enough." Chris took a comm out of his breast pocket and pinched a number he hadn't used for a long time. Couple of rings later he heard a familiar voice.
"What do you want?" the person on the other end answered snippily.
Judging by the sounds on the background, Chris interrupted something interesting; nothing new here, then.
"Pass my apologies to the lady, Buck, and bring you ass to Eastern dock in an hour. We have a job to do."
"Son of a bitch!" Buck Wilmington, former Starfleet officer, threw the comm into the corner where in landed with a 'thump' (good thing it was in a protective holder). "Not a word in three years, and now he has guts to call me as if we're partners!"
"Buck, darling, what happened?" Lisa asked, sitting up. Buck looked at her, and was sorely tempted to just forget about the call and come back to what they were doing. But… Chris did call him as if they were partners. Chris. Called. Him. And he sounded suspiciously like the old Chris. And what kind of trouble he managed to find this time?
"Sorry, babe. Have to run."