Planet Ferzan, Caribbean System

Governor Travis stood in his office near the window and watched the life on streets of Ferzan City below. It looked like it was back to normal, though an odd vehicle with Starfleet insignia still flashed every now and then. Those seven mavericks had done the impossible.

They needed to buy as much time as they could, so they let James start the meeting of the Council, and were quietly disposing of the guards within the Assembly House while the man talked in circles, oblivious. After a while, as Travis had supposed, the arguments started, and then JD's program finally did his job and overcame Royal's blocks – a video with Travis's appeal simultaneously appeared on every street screen, half of planet-wide channels and couple of independent video hosting places. Travis had hoped that, with everything in the open like that, James, his hired guns and his backers would forget about their conspiracy plans and focus on saving their own skin, but alas – for some reason they thought they could still win, and a real battle erupted. The Seven had to protect the House and the Council, and they lasted long enough for their various local allies to appear (and some of those inspired by the video joined the melee as well). The idea to create a panic among the enemy with Starfleet symbols also worked, and soon the roles were reversed, and it was the Seven and their small brigade chasing the bad guys. In the end, James, Royal and their remaining men were blocked in several different places of Ferzan City. Some poor souls actually tried to leave the planet on a small trade ship, but they had made the mistake of choosing the cargo port for that – in the passenger one they might have had a chance, but in the Runners territory? No way. They didn't try to actually storm the hideouts – there wasn't any point in risking more lives, so they just simply waited for Scarborough fleet to arrive as scheduled, and take care of the rest of the clean up. The fleet did, and the order was more or less restored. Surprisingly, the number of losses among those who mattered was minimal; and though three of the Seven were injured – Sanchez, Wilmington and Standish – it wasn't serious. They were lucky.

Travis looked from the window to his desk, where a thin folder lay with preliminary results of the investigation he had started. James, Royal and their lackeys, who were captured during the mess, sat in jail awaiting trials; there wouldn't be any problems with evidence. The official representatives of the Triad Union had, of course, denied any involvement, stating any James's contacts were rouges on their own without any directions or supporting from the government. In fact, they had even thanked the Caribbean System for 'helping in discovering some dangerous plotters'. Bastards. But Travis and Scarborough had pretended they bought it, and diplomatically the issue was settled. There wasn't any point in starting an official scandal anyway. But the conspiracy itself had been big, and a lot of people on Ferzan had been involved. Some had been willing, like Royal, some had been used without their knowledge and some had been pressured into helping. It would take a lot of time to sort it all out, and as result power balances in most of the Guilds would shift. Was already shifting in some, but that wasn't the Governor's main worry.

The thing that had been bothering him ever since he'd opened that reader on the board of 'Freedom', was the fact that he hadn't known about the conspiracy earlier, hadn't even suspected it. Yes, it had been a big conspiracy, yes, it had involved some of his personal staff, but it hadn't been that big! Mary had stumbled upon the initial facts by accident, but then it hadn't taken her much time and effort to find lots of information, hell, even evidence. Young Mr. Dunne, once he knew what to look for, had needed less than a day to find enough suspicious coincidences and discrepancies to warrant a full-scale investigation. And that proved the following: proper agencies hadn't had a clue about what was going on not because the conspiracy had been perfect (it clearly hadn't been), but because those agencies had failed. And that was a very bad sign.

Some of Travis's advisors optimistically assumed that the Five States would see the failed conspiracy as a lesson not to mess with Ferzan. Yeah, right. The Union might lay low for a while, but the other four? They wouldn't focus on the fact that the conspiracy had failed, but on the fact that it might have succeed. It would have succeeded if not for seven men without a lick of common sense between them. Of course, the names and details were hidden from the press and public, but anyone smart enough would see – the Governor and Ferzan had been saved by a miracle. And therefore, a more thorough plan and better executors might lead to success. Travis could bet his favorite pipe that special services of both Empires were already going through possibilities, and Swetsians and Jorians wouldn't be far behind. And it seemed Ferzan wasn't ready for this.

Starfleet intended to increase its presence on Ferzan, both on the planet itself and its near space, but it was only a part of the solution. What Travis actually wanted was to create a new Agency, the whole purpose of which would be discovering those little and not so little plots of the States, and disrupting them. An Agency, capable of doing this work well without turning it into paranoid witch-hunt. And Travis knew seven men he wanted to be the core of that Agency. The same seven men who would arrive any minute for an unofficial thank-you dinner.

All official rewards had been already presented, and the list sure kept the secretaries curious. Besides usual medals and money it held promotions, tax benefits, job and career opportunities and even several pardons – for some of Nail's people. Nail himself, as Tanner and Standish had predicted, had refused. And while Travis was indeed grateful, the main goal of today's dinner would be recruiting, since he felt speaking with all of them at once would be more effective than trying to persuade each one of them separately.

The situation wasn't hopeless. JD already worked for him – the kid currently kept all Royal's equipment going, until the government decided what to do with the company. Sanchez was going to rebuild that old temple in cargo port he'd once run, and was renewing his ties with Ferzan priest community – and that was a good position for what Travis had in mind, assuming the Preacher agreed to join. Jackson… Travis had seen the man in action in his true calling during that mess, and it seemed a shame to distract him from medicine, but a team was a team. Still, Ferzan Healer's Guild always welcomed with opened arms anyone from Sherel Medical Corps, and one of senior Guildsmen, who worked with Jackson on the injured, had already made the offer. Maybe Travis would manage to make that offer more attractive. But first of all he needed Larabee. Starfleet had offered the man a promotion, but he had refused, preferring to stay 'captain-for-hire' rather then come back to lead a space squadron or a station fleet. What Travis wanted from him was different, but he'd had to be very careful about the terms. Wilmington would most likely follow Larabee, and that just left Tanner and Standish. Of course, with JD already working for him, he could count on occasional help from them, and maybe even from other former Runners, but he'd prefer something more solid. It's not like he expected them to abandon their current occupation – after all, gambler and bounty hunter were perfect covers for government agents. Now, if he only could persuade them…

"Your Excellency," his butler said from the door. "The guests have arrived."

"So, gentlemen, what do you think?" the Governor asked once he'd described what kind of Agency he wanted Chris and the others to run. They had already finished the dinner and were now sitting in a small drawing room drinking coffee. Chris took a swallow of his, generously laced with brandy, and watched reactions of his men (he hadn't stopped thinking about them as such after the fight was over, and that was a sign itself).

JD was bouncing with enthusiasm; Sanchez muttered something along the lines that saving souls would keep a man busy, but some souls needed to be shown the errors of their ways first. So he was interested.

"I know how 'peaceful' your saving of souls can get, Josiah," laughed Jackson. "And the rest of you are even worse. I'd better stick around to patch you up."

Wilmington, as usual at times like this, made some crack about women, but Chris knew Buck would follow his choice; he met Tanner's eyes and a tiny smile was Vin's answer. Standish expression didn't change once Chris looked at him, but he silently patted one of his breast pockets – the one he kept that toy in. Well…

Chris put his mug on a small table near the chair he was sitting in and took one of the cigars lying there.

"I have a feeling I'm going to regret this."

The End.


A couple of words on where the inspiration came from:). The initial idea that jump-started the story (the Arboly plot line) came from another one of my never-written-down teenage originals. The space setting is a result of me watching 'Legend of Galactic Heroes' anime during the sign-ups (that, and the fact that it's much easier to write a believable spaceship than a sailing one). Nail, the Rathouse and the Runners in general are stolen from, errr, inspired by 'Handle of the Sword' ('Rukoyat' Mecha') – a wonderful fantasy novel by Eleonora Ratkevich (if you read in Russian, I recommend it greatly).

Thank you all for your attention and reviews, and I apologize to those who wanted more action – I know I tend to leave in behind the scenes a lot, but I firmly believe in not writing something I don't know how to:).

Last but not the least, thanks to Mag7BigBang mods, and to Delphi, who created a great fanmix for my story. You can find it here - http :/ /www. mediafire. com/?wy61zn8o6w8pxew, just remove extra spaces.