Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses
"Opportunities multiply as they are seized. " – Sun Tzu
" … Prepare to receive instructions," Hoshi Sato said. She cut the communications link herself. "They'll never know what hit 'em."
"'Course not," Travis Mayweather said, "Our ship is amazing."
"My ship," she corrected him, "is pretty damn slick. Warp Seven routinely! How high you think you can crank the Defiant up to?"
"The controls say Warp Nine."
"Excellent," she smiled and then lowered her sloe eyes, "Let's let 'em wait for a while, and stew in their own juices."
"You don't want to act immediately?" he asked.
"I would if I had the element of surprise. But that's all right. I want them to squirm. And in the meantime," she said, "I gotta take out the trash. Somebody relieve Mayweather at the helm."
A slight woman came over. "I'll do it."
"Right, Pike," Hoshi said, "you know I keep you around because you're competent. I suggest you stay that way. C'mon, Travis." They entered the Captain's Ready Room and shut the door. He immediately began nuzzling her neck. "Not now!" she snapped. "We gotta deal with those conspirators."
"Oh, uh, sorry. It's that you're just so hot."
"Well, yeah," she agreed, "but this can't wait. Is there anyone you can trust in the MACOs, Security or Tactical?"
"Hayes," Travis said almost immediately, "maybe also Masterson and MacKenzie."
"Right. Reed is out of the question. Phlox said he's got a fifty-fifty chance of surviving that Gorn attack."
"But Phlox is in custody," Travis pointed out.
"Yep. A traitor, along with that bitch T'Pol. Who do we have in Science or Medical?"
"Just Cutler. A lot of 'em didn't make it over in the escape pods from the Enterprise."
"Okay," Hoshi sighed, "I guess we'll hang onto her for another day. Navigation is loyal, though, right?"
"Far as I know."
"Far as you know? You gotta know for sure, Travis! Do better next time."
"Got it. When are we gonna, you know?"
"This room's uncomfortable. It needs a bed or a couch or a cot in it, or something. What about Engineering?"
"There's no good place to do it."
"I don't mean that. I mean, can we trust anyone in Engineering?"
"Huh. Tucker's sick but he's loyal. His department is, uh, I'll check. I dunno about Crossman."
"Very good," she said, "You check everyone now, ya hear? Who's guarding those two alien traitors in the Brig?"
"Curtis and Hodgkins. Hayes gets MacKenzie and Masterson in to relieve them for the night shift."
"Okay, good. What about that torture chamber Reed was working on when he got mauled? What was that called again?"
"The Agony Booth."
"Perfect," she purred. "Let's go take a walk."
They left the Ready Room and returned to the Bridge. "We're out for a while. Uh, Hamboyan, hold command 'til I get back."
She approached the young MACO Private. "Never call me ma'am again."
"Uh, sorry, um, Captain?" he asked, hoping that was the right answer.
"That'll do for now. C'mon, Travis."
"No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution." – Niccolo Machiavelli
Their first stop was Major Reed's new quarters. When they had taken over the ship, everyone had just grabbed while the getting was good. His quarters were pretty big. "It's locked," Travis said, after trying the door.
"Hit it with one of those new phasers."
"Right." He pulled the weapon and fired, thereby melting away half of the door.
"A little overzealous, are we?" she asked, malevolent smile playing around her lips. "Save that for tonight." She sauntered in and he followed.
The room was big enough for two twin beds. They had been shoved together – an act of wishful thinking on Reed's part. She found Reed's PADD and a real old-fashioned book he'd been reading. She grabbed it and the only other book in the room. "All set. Let the MACOs take anything they want outta here. Get Engineering to fix the door, too."
"What about Reed?"
"He won't be needing it."
"The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself." – Sun Tzu
While in the turbolift, she paused to check Reed's PADD. "Dammit, I'll have to decrypt this," she whined, "Change of plans. Let's pay a visit to Sick Bay."
"Yeah. Maybe he'll give up the password with the right, er, persuasion."
"Oh." Travis hit a control and stopped the turbolift. "Let's take a break." He began to fondle the outside of her two-piece uni.
She smacked his hand away. "We don't do it until and unless I say we do."
"Listen to me," she glared at him, "You're only here because of me. You were just a Sergeant in the MACOs. I coulda picked Azar or Forbes or Brown. MacKenzie woulda been better-looking and Masterson woulda been smarter. Old Man Hayes woulda been less demanding in bed I bet. But I chose you. Ya wanna know why?"
"I picked you because you stay in line, and you don't have any real ambitions. I know you'll get my back. Even though you keep a new-style phaser in your holster, I know you won't use it on me, 'cause then they'd all be gunning for you. See, for everyone who is out for me, I guarantee you, Travis, there are at least ten out for you. Some of them because they want me in the sack. Others because they want power. And still others because they just wanna see what they can get away with. So I chose you because you're a fine human shield for me. They know that if I buy the farm, they get you. And I'm a dandy human shield for you, 'cause I'm keeping you going and my status gives you protection. I chose you, but I can just as easily un-choose you. Get it?"
"Um, yeah." He swallowed and hit the controls to get the turbolift moving again.
"Politics have no relation to morals." – Niccolo Machiavelli
Sick Bay had a loud, smelly menagerie. A bat squawked loudly in a corner cage as Crewman Beth Cutler did her best to keep their feeding schedules straight.
The injured Major Malcolm Reed lay on a biobed, still wearing an old-style uniform with two rank clips at the collar. "Pain," he croaked out.
She came over and said, "I'm not sure what most of this stuff is," she said, looking around the dispensary. "It isn't Phlox's stuff, for the most part, and a lot of it's not labeled. If I give you the wrong thing, it might do what Slar failed to do, and kill you."
"So, so painful."
She got a tumbler and filled it at the sink. Sitting him up, she gave him a drink. He nodded at her. "Right," she said, "it's a sign of weakness to thank someone who's below you. Still, the fact that you're now missing an eye might make you below even me these days."
"Th-thank you." He drank some more.
She smiled a little at him. "I don't know how to fix you. I'm sorry. And I don't think they'll be letting Phlox out of the Brig any time soon."
"It's, it's all right," he breathed, "Crewman?"
"If I, if I live, I want to change my life."
"I think it'll change no matter what," Beth said.
"Probably. But we are close to Terra right now, yes?"
"Perhaps they could drop me there. I could live out the remainder of my days, change my name and be someone else."
"Change your name?" she asked as she tossed a tribble to a snake.
"Yes. I, Malcolm Reed, am a monster. Ian Reed – I think he will be a better man. I think he can be."
"Ian? Where's that coming from?"
"I, I just like it. Crewman, do you think I shall live long enough to, to become Ian Reed, the better man?"
She didn't get a chance to answer him. The doors swished open. "Ah, Ensign – I mean, Captain Sato!" Cutler said, plastering on a fake smile as Hoshi scowled.
"And Commander Mayweather, too," Travis said, bristling a little at his exclusion.
"Yes, yes, of course," said Beth, "what can I do for you?"
"You can take a hike," Hoshi snarled.
"I'm not supposed to leave Sick Bay," Cutler pointed out, "I'm the closest thing you have to a doctor with Phlox in the Brig."
"Huh. Well, let's see about that." Hoshi clicked open her communicator. "Hamboyan? Get me, uh, just a sec." She shepherded Travis to a corner. "I need a replacement doctor."
"Maybe someone'll volunteer."
"Actually, that's not a bad idea." She spoke into her communicator, "Get me a list of all doctors who've been disciplined by the Emperor."
"What?" asked Hamboyan.
"You heard me."
"Uh, yes, ma–, er, Captain." There was the sound of him clicking around on the screen at the Communications station until he'd found what he wanted. "Got it. There are six doctors on it who are still alive."
"Who's the most recent addition to the list?"
"A guy named Cyril Morgan. He was, uh, the Emperor demoted him when he told the Emperor to diet and exercise," Hamboyan said, reading and laughing.
"Ha! So he tells the Emperor to take care of himself and gets fired for that?" Hoshi asked.
"Right. It says here he was banished to the Charon Medical Center for his insolence."
"What's the guy's name again?" she asked.
"Huh. Sato out. We'll, uh, we'll be back. C'mon, Travis."
"Where are we going now?" he asked as they departed.
"To the transporter room." She flipped open her communicator again. "Sato to Tucker."
"Meet me at the transporter room. Can you work the controls and bring someone over from Charon?"
"Sure, lemme bring Porter along. She's been studying that thing."
"Five minutes. Sato out."
"All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved." – Sun Tzu
They got to the transporter room quickly. "Okay," Hoshi said to a communicator screen in the room, "get me a visual communication with the Charon Medical Center. I wanna talk to a Doctor Cyril Morgan."
"Speaking." Doctor Morgan looked up from what he had been doing, which was lancing a boil. He was an elderly man with a British accent, an underfed fellow with a face that was mostly nose.
"Wanna leave Charon?" Hoshi asked.
"You got a transporter pad?"
"I think the Med Center does."
"Get there," Hoshi commanded, "and we'll beam you here in five minutes."
"May I ask whatever for?" Morgan inquired. He glared at his patient. "Pull your pants up and leave."
"You used to work for Phillip the Fourth, right?" she asked, referring to the Emperor.
"I did," he replied cautiously.
"I have a new assignment for you. I think you'll find it more interesting than what you were just doing."
"You'll be the CMO on a starship. Follow my orders and you'll do fine."
"I see. And, uh, what is the name of this starship, Miss, uh?"
"Hoshi Sato. This is the Defiant."
"There was a brief news story this morning," said Doctor Morgan, "They said that ship was advanced."
"They were right for once," she replied, "It's gotta be better than where you are now. Get to that transporter pad. The clock is ticking. Sato out." She cut the connection and turned to the others. "I think he'll work out just fine."
Meredith Porter worked the controls and Cyril Morgan was beamed aboard. "Am I correct in assuming," he asked, "that you are the captain of this vessel?"
"And more," Hoshi said, "You've got an assignment in Sick Bay. Follow me."
"I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it." – Niccolo Machiavelli
Reed and Cutler were as they had left them. Morgan looked at Cutler. "Are you a nurse?"
"I'm a science technician," she replied, "All of the animals have been fed."
"Very well," replied Morgan. He took a look at Reed. "There's an infection setting in."
"Can you get him to talk?" asked Hoshi.
"What do you need to know?" inquired the new doctor.
"The password to get into his PADD, for starters. And anything about that Agony Booth he was building back on the Enterprise," Hoshi replied.
"Well?" Morgan asked Reed.
"Pain," was all the injured man would say.
"Malcolm," Hoshi said, smiling and pretending to be flirty, "tell me what I wanna know, and you can get certain … privileges."
He stared at her with his one remaining eye. "I'm not Malcolm Reed."
"What are you talking about? He must be delusional," she complained.
"I need a change," said Reed, "I want to be called Ian Reed for the remainder of my days."
"Ian?" asked Travis.
"I want the rest of my life to be different," Reed said, "I'm tired of this. We're near Terra, right? Cutler said so."
"We're orbiting Terra right now," Travis confirmed.
"Then set me down there. Let me on that soil – to die, if I must. And I shall shed my skin like, like one of the doctor's snakes. I have stared death in the face, and from now on, I want to be different," he gasped.
"You shouldn't talk so much," Cutler cautioned, "Save your strength. Doctor, can you help him at all?"
Morgan turned to Hoshi. "It's your call."
"I'll put it to you this way," Hoshi said, "I need the information on the Booth and the password into Reed's PADD. I can get both, but it's work. If you can get those things for me, it'll cement our partnership."
"I see." Morgan rummaged around the unlabeled containers. He took out one and then another, and sniffed the contents of the second one. "Ah, I do believe that's what I want." He placed a drop of it onto a slide and ran it through a centrifuge, one of the few pieces of equipment he could recognize. He nodded as he read the results. "Cutler, make me a label for this container."
"What should it say?"
"Tricoulamine." He then drew some up and into a syringe. "Now, Major Reed," he said, "I have here a dose of a fatal nerve toxin. There's enough in this particular syringe to choke a horse. Or I could give you a painkiller and treat that nasty infection you're suffering from. Which one shall it be? Do take your time, old chap."
"Malc – Ian," Cutler said, "It really is tricoulamine. And it really is deadly."
A watery blue-green eye looked from one face to another. "Water," Reed croaked out.
"Oh, no," Hoshi said, "Not until you talk."
"He's got dry mouth," Cutler said, going to the sink to refill the tumbler.
Travis grabbed her arm roughly. "I wouldn't be so eager to help if I knew what was good for me."
"Get her outta here. Actually," Hoshi said, "Let's do this instead." She opened her communicator. "Hodgkins? Bring Phlox to Sick Bay, under guard. Now." She shut the communicator. "We can kill," she grinned, "two birds this way. Get to a replicator and get me some orange juice," she commanded Cutler.
"I shouldn't leave."
"Don't make me ask twice," Hoshi said, peeved.
Cutler got out as quickly as possible.
"For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." – Sun Tzu
Cutler almost ran into Gary Hodgkins as he brought Phlox over. "What's the meaning of this? Am I going back on duty?" asked Phlox. Cutler just shook her head.
They entered Sick Bay together. "Bring him over here," Hoshi said. She looked the Denobulan doctor up and down. "Are you gonna cooperate?"
"See, I need some information from Major Reed here. And while my new doctor is more than willing to help me out, I am kinda curious as to whether you'd do the same."
"What's in it for me?"
"Find out," she said cryptically.
Phlox took one look at the syringe. "That's far more of a dose than would be necessary. It's rather wasteful, don't you think?"
"It makes for a better presentation," Morgan said, "After all; we've got a purpose here, beyond its use."
Reed coughed. "Ensign Sato," he said, "and I call you Ensign despite what you call yourself, you're lazy."
"'Scuse me?" she cocked a hand on her hip and glared at him.
"You are," he said, and it was a supreme effort of will for him to keep talking, "You're the best cryptographer I know. There's no need to do this. I'm sure you can get into my PADD in no time."
"True," she said, "but this is way more fun. I get to watch you squirm."
"You're going to kill me anyway," Reed opined, "Going to the surface of Terra was a pipe dream. You want me gone either way."
"I do," she said, "and I found it curious that you had two books in your quarters. You keep The Art of War by Sun Tzu and The Prince by Machiavelli. So you've got plans. Or at least you did. You're dangerous to keep around, whatever you're calling yourself. And don't think for a moment that somehow turning your life around is ever going to happen. That's the biggest sign of weakness there is, and it's a waste of what you are. But it doesn't matter. You wanted to be called Ian for the rest of your life? Well, it won't be for that long, Ian." She said his new name with menace.
"Why am I here?" asked Phlox.
"You're next," Hoshi said, "unless you can come up with a reasonable design for an Agony Booth. You are the co-inventor, right?"
The Denobulan stood there. "I just helped out with the idea about conducting a synaptic scan so as to stimulate a subject's pain center. Reed did most of the work. I'm a doctor, not an engineer."
"Bring me a syringe, Cutler!" Hoshi snapped.
Cutler did as she was told. She glanced at Reed, who looked back up at her. A barely imperceptible nod passed between them. "Here," she said to Hoshi.
"Fill it with this," Hoshi said, giving Cutler the half-drunk tumbler of orange juice.
"I wanna see what happens. It's an experiment. See, I can do Science, too. We're gonna shoot Phlox with one, and Reed with the other. And we'll see who dies first, and more horribly. It'll be fun."
"Tricoulamine is very fast-acting," Cutler said nervously, "and there's more than enough in the one syringe. There's, uh, there's no need for you to, to sacrifice your drink."
"That's very sweet of you to be concerned, but you can always replicate me more. Now strap that alien to a bed!"
Travis and Gary forced Phlox onto a bed and tied him down. Cutler swallowed hard, looking at both him and Reed. Reed was on her right and Phlox on her left. "Here," Morgan handed her the second syringe. "Pick whichever one you want. I can afford to be generous with choice."
It was the syringe with the orange juice in it. "I, uh, can I trade syringes with you, Doctor?"
"By all means," Morgan smiled an oily smile. He traded with her. "And now?"
Three eyes anxiously looked at her from two biobeds. Her hands were trembling and she was panting a bit in fear. "If you don't do it in five minutes, you'll be next, Cutler," said Hoshi menacingly.
"Uh, uh, yes," Beth said, "I'm sorry, Doctor," she whispered as she plunged the needle into Reed's arm. Death came swiftly.
"It is all right, Cutler," said the Denobulan as Morgan injected him. The orange juice made the alien convulse and foam at the mouth as he screamed, and then he stopped moving altogether.
Morgan checked vital signs on both men. "Death was at approximately fourteen hundred twenty hours on January the eighteenth, 2155. I'll prepare the certificates. There were trying to escape, right?"
Hoshi nodded and grabbed the two rank clips off Reed's old uniform and attached them to her own. "There. I just need one more rank clip." There was a communications chime. "I'm on my way," Hoshi said, "C'mon, Travis, we're going to the Bridge. And you," she said to Cutler, "get these bodies out of here."
"Y-yes, Captain Sato."
"If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared." – Niccolo Machiavelli
Hoshi and Travis got to the Bridge. There was a familiar face on the screen – the face they had seen on their viewers for years. "Phillip the Fourth!" she enthused, "I do hope you're calling to congratulate me."
"I am," said the Emperor, "It's quite a sweet ship you've got there. Now, turn it over to my representatives, and we'll study it."
"I don't think so," she said, "tell you what, you come here and I'll be happy to give you a tour and a demonstration of its firepower."
She leaned forward, pressing her cleavage together. "I can really make it worth your while."
"I'm sure you can," he said, "my entourage and I will be there in ten minutes. Green out."
Hoshi turned to Travis. "Now the real fun begins. Get Hayes lined up with Masterson and MacKenzie."
"What about guys like Hodgkins and Curtis?" asked Travis.
"Only if we need them. We still have T'Pol in the Brig, remember? We'll deal with her some time afterwards. But this first."
He followed her to the Observation Lounge, where the meeting with the Emperor Phillip the Fourth was scheduled to take place.
"Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate." – Sun Tzu
The MACO Major and two Tactical Ensigns were waiting when they got there. "I've got an opening at Tactical," Hoshi said by way of greeting. "Do well today and I'll consider you for that position. You get an A ration card and Reed's old quarters."
"What happened to Reed?" asked MacKenzie, a tall, good-looking young man who didn't always know when to keep his mouth shut.
"Medical malpractice," Hoshi yawned, "Caused by Phlox. And then Phlox bought the farm, too! Really, it's been a capital day for death. And it's only gonna get better." She grinned and came over to Hayes. "Major?"
"I'm gonna have a new title soon. You've killed before. Wanna do it again?"
"I wouldn't dream of taking that privilege from you or, or," he cringed when he said this part, "First Officer Mayweather. The three of us are here to stand guard or assist, nothing more. The glory belongs to you alone."
"See, now, Mac? The old man could teach you a thing or two about respect," she said. They all turned when the door opened.
The Emperor entered with three guards of his own. One was super-tall, almost two meters in height, and was losing his hair prematurely. Another seemed underage, an overeager kid with a far too large phase rifle in his hot little hands. The third was good-looking and slender. Hoshi gave him the eye immediately as Travis looked on, a tad jealous. "Emperor Phillip the Fourth!" Hoshi enthused.
"Ensign Hoshi Sato," he replied, bored.
"Captain," she corrected him.
"I see," he replied. "What happened to Forrest and Archer?"
"Forrest bought it when we moved here from the Enterprise. And Archer had an unfortunate tricoulamine accident early this morning."
"T'Pol and Tucker were next in line," the Emperor stated after the good-looking guard had consulted a PADD and showed him the results.
"T'Pol's a traitor. She's in the Brig, awaiting execution. Tucker is probably in Engineering somewhere, getting his ass fried by delta radiation some more," Hoshi replied.
"And Reed and Phlox? They were next in line."
"Unfortunate medical accidents just now. Really, this ship was just an accident waiting to happen with them! But I've got a new doctor – a name you might recognize."
"Really? Do tell, Ensign."
"Captain," she was getting more peeved, "it's Cyril Morgan."
"That quack? Heh, you can have him," the Emperor stated, "CO of the MACOs would be next in line. Check, Miller."
The good-looking fellow – Miller – checked again, "It says here it was supposed to be Major Geming Sulu but he was knifed by a Major Douglas J. Hayes." Miller looked at the patch on Hayes's uniform. "That's you, Soldier."
"Why aren't you or Tucker in charge?" asked the Emperor.
Doug glanced around the room. "I have no such ambitions, sir."
Hoshi smiled at him. "He's a good, loyal soldier. Aren't ya, Old Man?" She turned to the Emperor. "Now, I'd like to show you something. Travis? Let's give a little demo." He took out his new-style phaser. Miller and the Emperor's two other bodyguards also drew their weapons. Hayes, MacKenzie and Masterson kept their hands on the hilts of their own phasers. "It's just a demo. Travis, see that plant in the corner? I've never liked it." He fired at the plant, and it vanished. All that remained was a slight smell of burned vegetables. "They've all got them. You can either surrender now or later. Your choice, Phil."
The Emperor stared at her. "My men can have you and yours dead in a few seconds. What makes you think we won't just try to take you out right now?"
"Hear that?" she asked his guards, "Lemme tell ya something," she came over to the really tall guy first. "I have the fastest and most powerful ship in this sector – possibly in the galaxy. We took out three out of four ships that were attacking us, and we only left the fourth so that someone could go home and tell you all about it. We took out a Vulcan ship, is that impressive enough for you?"
The guard stood impassively. "Oh, is there something else you like? You've seen our hand weapons, and you've heard about our ship's speed and main weaponry. But there's more. Rations are good here. We can replicate meat any day of the week. You don't have to go out hunting for it unless you want to. What's your name, Soldier?"
"And," she got closer, "we got women here. 'Course you'd have to start out with someone like Porter or Pike, but maybe you could work your way … up." She glanced at the patch on his uni. "José Torres, eh? Gatão." She paused. "For those of you who don't know, that was a compliment in Portuguese. Now you, Miller, is it?"
"What do you like?" she asked.
"He's not for you to talk to," complained the Emperor.
"I'm the one with the big … ship," Hoshi said, "So, Miller, what's your pleasure? I've got some … openings if you don't like being a guard all your life. I get the feeling you're too smart to just stand around holding a phase rifle."
"Well, I, uh –"
"You strike me as a capable fellow."
"He is loyal to me, Ensign," snapped the Emperor.
"I'm sure Mister Miller knows his own mind. So tell me. What do you like to do?" She came closer.
"I, uh, I have a Science background, actually."
"Ah, well. I just so happen to need Science people. See, I'm going to do a little trading. I'll dump the dead weight and take on new people." She looked him up and down. "This is a very exciting ship to be on. It could be a very exciting time in your life, Miller," Hoshi purred. Miller blinked a few times, trying to figure out what to do. "And you!" Hoshi exclaimed, addressing the last of the three guards, "You ever been away from home before, Soldier?"
"For, uh, for school, ma'am."
She stood with her hands on her hips. "Now, do I look like a ma'am to you?"
"No, uh, no, ma–, uh, Captain."
"What's your name?"
"I guess you don't speak French."
"Uh, no, sorry," Delacroix said nervously.
"Do you think I'm pretty?" He just stood there, slack-jawed. "I'll take that as a yes. See now, Phil," she addressed the Emperor directly again, "I've got lots and lots to offer. What have you got?"
"You forget that I still have the Empire."
"Travis, can I borrow that a sec?" Travis gave her his new-style phaser.
"You haven't got any of these, Phil," she said, "and you haven't got a ship like mine. I can blow," she paused for a second, "any of your ships out of the sky. Just like that," she snapped her fingers.
"What is it you want, Ensign?" asked the Emperor.
"For starters, I am no Ensign, not anymore." She frowned. "Second, you don't seem to understand the position you're in. I mean, honestly, Phil! I'd've thought you'd be a lot smarter than this. Back in the day, your great-grandfather, Colonel Phillip Green? Now that was a visionary! 'Overwhelm and devastate!' So simple! I should have thought of that. But really, it's like a copy of a copy of a copy when it comes to you. You've got no drive, no intelligence and no sense of place. You came here with only three guards! If I were you, I'd've come here with an army! But no! Instead, you underestimated me. And that was your last mistake."
"If you shoot that, they'll be on you. My death will lead to yours, Ensign."
"I told you I'm not an Ensign anymore!" Angrily, she shot him point-blank, and he was vaporized on the spot. She turned to his guards and trained the new-style phaser on them. "Torres, Miller, Delacroix, any of you wanna be next?"
"No," Miller said, speaking for all three of them, "we'll do what you ask." He shifted his phase rifle to his left hand and made a fist with his right. Crooking his right arm at the elbow, he brought it to his heart and then spread the fingers out like a shark fin as he brought the arm to a forty-five degree angle. "All hail Empress Hoshi the First!"
"All hail!" Delacroix and Torres repeated together as they copied his gesture, with Hayes, Masterson and MacKenzie remaining silent but also emulating the gesture.
"It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both." – Niccolo Machiavelli
The next week was chaotic as the word of the Emperor's death at the hands of the young upstart spread across the Terran Empire. The crew of the Defiant stepped into line, almost completely without a hitch, and a landing party led by Tristan Curtis went to Terra to quickly dispatch any members of Emperor Phillip Green the Fourth's immediate family, even his infant daughter, Anastasia.
Hoshi found herself making all sorts of decisions, many of which were less than interesting. "And yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I need Science people but, really? Do I really need them? Science is so dull," she complained to Miller.
"This was originally an exploration vessel," he reminded her, "and while I find exploration kinda boring myself, at the very least we need to take some readings and whatnot. Get data, process it, and use it if we need to. We know there are hostile species out there and worlds to conquer. It would be better if we had good records."
"Who do you have in mind to bring on?"
"There's a scientist I know; I went to school with her – Lucy Stone."
"A woman?" asked Hoshi, "You know I am dumping them off the ship for the most part."
"I understand," he said, "but she is very good. She was at the top of our class." He didn't mention that she was a woman he had been pursuing.
Hoshi got up out of the captain's chair and approached the Science station. "She better not be anyone who interests you. 'Cause then I'd have to drop her off on a rock somewhere, even if she was … on top."
"Uh, yes, sorry, Captain. I wouldn't dream of it."
"That's better. And get used to calling me Empress. It may not be official yet, but you know it will be. Now, Travis!" she bellowed, even though he was nearby, piloting.
"Get in the Ready Room."
"Yes!" He called in Shelby Pike to relieve him before double-timing it to the Ready Room.
Once inside, he grinned broadly. "Well?"
"I see they got that cot in here. The Quartermaster took care of that. I also talked to him about getting those newer uniforms recut."
"I like you in red but I think gold would be better. Gold for command and piloting, red for Security and Tactical, and Communications of course – I look amazing in red."
"You do," he confirmed, "Or gold. Or any color, really."
She smiled. "Blue for those Medical and Science geeks. Miller would look good in blue, don't you think?"
"You better not be doing anything with him," Travis cautioned.
"Oh, and what'll you do about it? Travis, remember our pact? I protect you. And in return, I am over you. And that means in every single way imaginable. I get to do whatever – and whoever – I like." There was a communications chime. "Now what?" she bristled angrily and then answered it. "Empress Hoshi Sato speaking – oh, I do so love the sound of that!"
"Khan here," it was the Quartermaster.
"I was thinking," he said as he held a length of red fabric in his hands, "the women's uniforms should be two-piece, like you said. But there is no good way to hold up the skirt unless I add elastic."
"No elastic. I hate that stuff; it's only good for middle-aged cows."
"Right," said Sekar, "so how about belt loops instead?"
"A belt?" she was skeptical.
"A sash, perhaps. I could add something colorful. Gold trim on the uni and a gold sash, maybe a gold sash for all of the women – what do you think?" He forwarded her a picture of his design.
"I love it," Hoshi gushed, "but make the best one for me."
"By all means. Any other instructions?"
"Yes. Sleeveless uni tops for the men on the Bridge. I wanna see Travis's muscles all the time."
"Got it. Khan out."
"Now that I'm Empress, I'm thinking you should be officially called First Officer, don't you think?" she asked.
"I like the sound of that. But Tucker and Hayes and the others – I don't know that they respect me enough."
"They will if they know what's good for them. Tucker's dying of radiation poisoning anyway. I wouldn't worry about him too much if I were you. And Hayes is an old man. He'll be dead soon, too, I bet. He's already outlived a bunch of others and is way past his prime. I've put him and Masterson and MacKenzie in line for the Tactical job. That oughta keep them all busy. What else?"
"What are you gonna do with T'Pol?" Travis asked.
"She's still in the Brig," he reminded her.
"Ah, well, then we'll take a little trip."
As they were heading back onto the Bridge, Miller was saying into a communicator, "I can get you on the ship, Lucy. But things'll have to be different."
"You're darn right they will be," Hoshi said, "now cut that transmission and take command. Travis and I have a little something to do."
"Right," Andy Miller said, "Miller out."
Hoshi ran the Communications station herself. "Torres! Delacroix! Meet us at the Brig."
"Do you have orders, Empress?" asked Miller.
"Yeah," she said, "find me someone to start deleting counterpart information out of the Defiant's old database. I hate how my counterpart's life turned out. Get them to erase that, and everybody else's counterpart's history."
"All war is deception." – Sun Tzu
The Brig was being guarded by MACO Privates Gary Hodgkins and Tristan Curtis. They stepped aside and saluted the Empress just as Miller had several days previously. "Good!" she enthused, "I'm glad to see that salute is making the rounds. How's the prisoner?"
"See for yourself," Curtis said. He stepped aside to show her. The force field was intact and glowing and it was easy to see inside the Defiant's brig. The prisoner was pale, seated.
"What have you got to say for yourself, traitor?" Hoshi asked.
"I have nothing to say to you. I want to talk to Fleet Admiral Gardner," replied the Vulcan.
"I'm on top of him," Hoshi said.
"You've been on top of lots of men," T'Pol said, "but that doesn't mean you outranked any of them."
"How dare you insult the Empress!" yelled Torres.
"Empress now?" The Vulcan eyebrow was raised.
"Yeah," Hoshi said, "and you will show the proper respect."
"An empire obtained through deceptive means is illogical."
"I don't recall asking for your opinion," Hoshi sneered.
"A fact is not an opinion," T'Pol stated.
"I hate Vulcans," Delacroix said, "Empress, will you let me do her before I off her?"
"Intriguing," said Hoshi, "but I don't want you to have too much fun without me. Tell you what, Del," she chucked him under the chin, "you watch me off her, and then I'll do you."
Travis's jaw dropped. "Wha –?"
"Here," Del gave Hoshi his phase rifle but she waved it aside.
"Watch and learn," she said. "Curtis, what's the prisoner's condition?"
"The replicator's been on the fritz," he replied, "so we haven't been getting anything vegan. She turns up her nose at anything that even looks like meat. I mean, guys with D ration cards would be dying for what she was getting, and she would just throw it across the room. I don't think she's eaten in three or four days." He pointed out where there was old food stuck to the walls of the Brig.
"Good!" Hoshi chirped. "Stand aside and open the door."
Hodgkins worked the controls and the force field was shut off. Hoshi sauntered in. "I got news for you," she said, "You better be praying to your Surak or whatever it is you pointy-eared bastards believe in. 'Cause you're not long for this world."
"I surmised as much. Petty tyrants are predictable. True leaders are the only ones of interest. If you had remembered Captain Forrest or Soval as well as you seem to remember how to manipulate the weak-minded, I'd say you'd have a chance at a truly great rule. But as it is, you'll only be remembered as a tin pot dictator," was the crisp Vulcan reply.
"This is boring." Hoshi pulled her dagger and stabbed, hard. Her bare midriff and hands were almost immediately doused in green Vulcanian blood.
"This … is … not … the last … of Vulcan." T'Pol fell over, dead.
"Sic semper tyrannis," Hoshi replied. "I bet you really wanted to say that, but you were too stupid to. Dumb, dull Vulcan bitch to the end, eh? Torres, you and Curtis and Hodgkins need to clean up in here. Do a good job and I'll let you go hunting on Ceres before we leave the Terran System. Travis, let's break in that cot in the Ready Room. Then it's Del's turn. Then I've gotta get moving. I'm sick of Terra. Let's go out and conquer something. I need to be surrendered to."
They walked down the halls as crewmen saluted them, fists to the heart, then fingers like a shark fin, over and over again. Sometimes, the Empress saluted back. Sometimes, she just smiled at her loyal subjects – mostly male – or gave them the eye. A messenger ran over, Emily Andreiou from Engineering. "Empress!" she yelled after saluting.
"There have been mistakes in the deletion coding! The, the database – too much of it's been deleted. It's, it's like Swiss cheese."
"Like what?" demanded Hoshi.
"Most of the targeting computer coding and maintenance information have been wiped, and it looks like we can't fix the replicators, either. All of the sensor schematics are gone as well."
"Kate Shelton and Mara Brodsky in Engineering. Colin Myles, too."
Hayes was standing nearby. "Find them and bring them to me," commanded the Empress to him. He saluted and left. She turned to Emily. "This was good information. Your new job will be to build me an Agony Booth with Commander Tucker. I've got Reed's schematics decrypted. Get it ready for Shelton, Myles and Brodsky and you'll get a, er, what level ration card have you got currently?"
"Then you'll get a B ration card if you finish in time for me to use it on them."
"I'll get started right away." Emily saluted again and ran off to get to Engineering.
Hoshi, Travis and Brian got into the turbolift together. Hoshi turned and smiled at both of them. "Yanno," she hit the control to stop the lift, "power is such a turn-on. I don't wanna wait 'til we get to the Ready Room." Delacroix just stared in disbelief, realizing he was about to lose his virginity to the Empress. "Do a good job and you'll get a B ration card, too, Del. As for you, Travis, you already know what I like." As the two men began to nip at her neck and pull away her uniform, the brand-new Empress Hoshi the First sighed and said, "It's good to be the Empress."
"The wise man does at once what the fool does finally." – Niccolo Machiavelli