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Justice, Part Two

Posted on Sep 04, 2017 @ 6:16pm by Raxl Dreyton
Edited on on Sep 04, 2017 @ 6:16pm

Mission: Blue Planet

= Justice, Part Two =

(Continued from Justice, Part One)


Location: Elandipole
Scene: Beach

As Rax walked up the beach, he could make out the silhouette of the BAD WOLF against the setting sun, still parked where he’d left it. And sure enough, Cindy Rochemonte’s shuttlecraft was also still there. When Rax saw it, he cursed under his breath; there could have been a security team on its way to arrest her right now, and yet here she was, dilly-dallying more or less at the scene of the crime. If she was determined to throw her life away chasing down Neo-Essentialist fugitives, she could at least be a little smarter about it, and Rax resolved to give her a piece of his mind.

When he reached her ship, he banged angrily on the door hatch.

“Dammit, Rochemonte! What the hell are you still doing here?”

There came no answer from inside. Rax tried the door hatch, and was surprised to find it unlocked. He opened the door, but didn’t quite dare to step inside, mirroring the way Rochemonte herself had approached him the day before. There lights were low inside, and he could hear quiet crying from somewhere in the cockpit.


“Go away,” Cindy Rochemonte said, her voice shaking.

“Cindy? Are you okay?”

She didn’t answer. Rax stepped into the shuttle and moved towards the cockpit. He found Cindy sitting in the pilot’s chair, her eyes red with tears. She didn’t look up at him as he entered and settled himself in the co-pilot’s seat beside her. Finally, Cindy wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand and frowned at him.

“I said go away.”

“I said it first,” said Raxl, trying on a grin. Cindy didn’t react. “Seriously, you shouldn’t still be here. The authorities are going to be looking for you.”

Cindy looked like she was working hard to keep her expression composed, hard-edged like it had been in the Neo-Essentialist’s house earlier that day. But as Rax watched, her bottom lip began to tremble, and finally she broke out in another sob.

“I’m not sorry I did it,” she said. “But… I thought… I thought…”

“You thought you wouldn’t hurt so much afterwards,” Rax said quietly. “I know what you mean.”

“You don’t,” she said. “No one knows what it’s like. They took away *everything*, my family, Starfleet, my entire life.”

“And you want to pay them back.” Rax leaned back in the co-pilot’s chair and folded his hands on his lap. “I get it, kid, I do. No offense, but it’s not an original story. But you go out, you square up with every son of a bitch on your list… you don’t get back what they took at the end of all this.”

“I know that,” said Cindy. “It’s not about getting my life back. It’s about justice.”

“It’s about pain,” said Raxl. This made Cindy look up at him. “Anger burns so hot, it lets you forget about that pain for awhile, so you stoke that anger, let it build up inside you until you let it all out over some asshole you think has it coming… and then you find out, the pain wasn’t ever really gone. And now it’s all you’re left with.”

Cindy sniffed. “So what should I do?”

“Hell, kid,” Rax muttered. “I look like I got my life figured out? I’ve spent most of the past week too drunk to remember any of it. I can’t tell you what should do, but what you *shouldn’t* do is mistake revenge for grieving. I don’t care what happens to the Neo-Essentialists out there - they die bad, I’m not losing sleep over it. It’s not about what they deserve, it’s about what you’re capable of, what it will turn you into, and if you can live with yourself afterwards. But none of it’s gonna help with the pain.”

“Okay,” Cindy said quietly. “I’ll think about it.”

“Think hard,” Raxl said. He stood up. “I’m getting off this rock, Cindy. If you do want some advice, I recommend you do the same, tonight, before people start to miss your friend back there.”

“I will,” said Cindy. She wiped at her eyes again, and stood up to see Raxl out. “Under the circumstances, I don’t know if it’s appropriate for me to thank you, Mr. Dreyton.”

“Guess not,” Rax shrugged. “And I guess we probably won’t be seeing each other again.”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Well,” Rax said, stopping at the door hatch and extending his hand. “It’s been a strange couple of days, Cindy Rochemonte. Take care of yourself.”

Cindy hesitated, then accepted his hand and shook it. “You too.”

Rax stepped out of the shuttle. He was making his way up the beach towards his own ship when he heard the faint sound of an engine somewhere in the distance. He turned; Cindy’s shuttle had not started its takeoff sequence, and its nacelles were still powered down, so the sound had to be from something else. Whatever it was, it was getting louder, approaching fast from the direction of the colony. Rax turned to look for what it was. Night was creeping in fast, and Rax had to squint against the darkness, but he picked out a fast moving shape high in the sky above them.

“...the hell?” he mumbled.

Suddenly, bright flashes of green lit up the sky like fireworks. Rax stared stupidly upward before his mind suddenly made the connection. He hurled himself down, covering his head and tucking his knees up to protect his body as the disruptor blasts thundered down on the beach a few hundred feet away, spraying sand and shells, and leaving craters lined with white hot glass. Above him, the descending object - a fighter, Rax realized now, or maybe some kind of attack drone - began to pull out of its descent, leveling off to strafe across the beach, spraying more green fire as it came. Rax dimly realized he wasn’t the target - none of the shots were landing close enough for that - and he turned to look for what the attacker was shooting at.

With a start, he realized it was targeting Rochemonte’s shuttle.

“Cindy!” Rax shouted, but it was useless over the roar of the fighter’s engines and the explosions smashing along the beach. Rax risked getting to his feet, torn between rushing towards Cindy’s shuttle - and almost certain death - or dashing towards the BAD WOLF and trying to take off before their attacker noticed him. As he grappled with this decision, the attacker’s fire found its mark; the disruptor blasts slammed into the side of the shuttlecraft, ripping through it like paper. The shuttle burst apart, flaring up with an orange explosion that knocked Raxl onto his back in the surf. Flaming bits of debris rained down around him as he sat up, his head ringing from the force of the blast. Above him, the fighter began to pull up, apparently satisfied with a job well done.

Rax looked at the flaming wreckage of Cindy’s shuttle. There was no way she had survived, and whoever it was that had killed her was making their escape. Rax put away the stab of grief in his chest for later; right now, he had anger to stoke. He rose, managed a few stumbling steps towards the BAD WOLF, but his balance was still off from the blast, and he lost his footing and fell down again. He crawled a few feet, then managed to find his footing again, making his way towards the BAD WOLF as fast as he dared. He managed to stumble up the ramp, and was making his way towards the cockpit when Cindy Rochemonte suddenly stepped out of it.

“Aaaagh!!!” Rax shouted, coming to such a sudden stop that he nearly lost his balance again.

“There you are!” Cindy said. She seized him by the arm and pulled him into the cockpit, depositing him in the pilot’s chair. She lowered herself into the co-pilot’s seat next to him and extended her hand out over the controls. “I was trying to initialize the start-up sequence, but you’ve got some kind of lock on the controls.”

“But you-” Rax said, pointing out the window in the direction of the wreckage of Rochemonte’s shuttle.

“My shuttle’s sensors saw him coming,” Cindy said impatiently. “I knew I wouldn’t have time to run, so I initiated a site-to-site transport and beamed myself aboard.”

“How the hell did you-”

“You showed me your ship’s technical manuals,” Cindy said, sounding positively exasperated now. “You think I can’t find a way around your security? Now shut up and get your ship started, that asshole is getting away!”

Rax pointed a finger at her. “This conversation isn’t over.”

Then he turned to his console, and the activated the ship’s power supply. He skipped the pre-flight checks and powered up the engines, and a second later the BAD WOLF was away, gaining altitude fast as it soared off in the direction their attacker fled.

“I’ve got a lock on him,” Cindy said. “He’s gaining altitude, trying to break orbit.”

“You know who he is?”

“He’s a Neo-Essentialist operative,” Cindy said, glancing back him. “He tried to kill me back on Earth, but I managed to get away. That’s when I decided I was done running from them, that I was going to track them down instead.”

“What’s he after you for? Some kind of revenge for Edgerton?”

“He didn’t say, now shut up and catch up to him.”

Rax throttled up on the engine, bringing the other ship within the range of the BAD WOLF’s weapons. He locked on and opened fire; twin orange lances slammed into the other ship’s shields. Rax fired again, but the enemy ship had begun evasive maneuvers, gracefully looping up and away from the second volley from the BAD WOLF’s phasers.

“He’s hailing us,” Cindy said. “I’m patching him through.”

The comm screen on the cockpit dashboard winked to life. Rax saw a bald man of Asian descent, a patch of salt-and-pepper beard growing on his chin. He was seated in a cockpit of his own, wearing what looked like a flight suit. His expression was one of quiet amusement.

Rax recognized him immediately.

{{I’m not sure who you are,}} Sheng Zhu said, {{but you are going to die for that.}}

“You missed again, asshole,” Cindy Rochemonte said, turning to stare daggers into the comm screen. Sheng’s eyes flicked to her, and his small smile broadened a little.

{{Miss Rochemonte,}} he said. {{You continue to impress me.}}

“And next I’m gonna kill you.”

“Excuse me,” Rax said, twisting the BAD WOLF in a sudden, steep spiral to stay on the tail of Sheng’s fighter. “Don’t you think this is the kind of conversation we should have in person?”

{{I’m afraid not,}} Sheng said. {{It’s more convenient for me to simply shoot you down.}}

A second later, Sheng’s ship pulled up sharply, at an angle that the BAD WOLF couldn’t match. Rax cursed and tried to match the maneuver, but Sheng had already completed his loop, so that now his ship was behind them. Sheng fired, and the BAD WOLF rocked violently as twin disruptor blasts slammed hard into its rear shielding.

“We’re not going to stand up to those for long,” Cindy said. “You have to do something!”

“Working on it!” Rax growled through gritted teeth. Behind them, Sheng fired again, and the BAD WOLF rocked even more than before. Blinking warning lights twinkled all along the cockpit dashboard, and Rax could feel the BAD WOLF’s engines give a menacing rumble.

{{I’d really thought I got you that time, Miss Rochemonte,}} Sheng said, sounding casual. {{You could have simply kept your head down and I’d have been on my way.}}

Sheng fired again, and Rax lost control of the BAD WOLF. It started spinning in the air, despite Rax’s struggles with the controls. An alarm klaxon began sounding, filling the cockpit with noise.

“Aft shields have failed!” Cindy shouted over the alarm.

“We’re going down!” Rax shouted, trying his best to pull the BAD WOLF out of its fatal spin.

{{But what do they say?}} Sheng asked. {{Third time’s the charm? Goodbye, Miss Rochemonte.}}

The Elandipole colony stretched out below them. Rax knew if the BAD WOLF went down in the colony proper, hundreds of people would be hurt or killed. He pushed the failing engines as hard as he could, trying to maintain enough lift to carry the ship past the colony, out over the ocean. He managed it, but only just; the BAD WOLF skimmed over the top of the highest buildings in the Elandipole colony, knocking over a few transmission antennae as it went. Finally, it passed over the colony, over the beach, and out over the water.

“Hang on!” Rax shouted, as the BAD WOLF slammed into the ocean and then everything went black.


Someone was yelling his name. Rax didn’t want to open his eyes; his head hurt, like a hangover, and hangovers always got worse when you opened your eyes.

“Not now Rosie,” he mumbled.

“Wake up!” someone shrieked. Behind the shouting, he thought he heard the steady drone of an alarm klaxon. Rax opened his eyes, just a crack.

The cockpit was lit with red emergency lighting. Outside the cockpit window was total darkness. Beside him, Cindy Rochemonte was still strapped in the pilot’s seat, shaking Rax’s arm vigorously. Rax noticed she was bleeding from a gash forehead. He felt something sticky on his face too, so he reached up. His hands came away bloody- his nose, he realized, was broken.

“Where are we?” Rax said,the words coming out slowly, deliberately. It was hard for him to think.

“We hit the water!” Cindy said. “We’re sinking! We need to get out!”

She was right, Rax realized. He brought his hands down to the straps of his pilot’s chair, but he couldn’t quite get his fingers to cooperate. As he was fumbling with the buckles, the world seemed to grey out, and a moment later Rax realized he’d lost consciousness for a moment. That wasn’t a good sign.

Beside him, Cindy finally got her chair straps unbuckled. She immediately set to work on Rax’s, and an instant later she was pulling him to his feet. Rax let himself be towed along, barely noticing the sorry state of the BAD WOLF’s living area as Cindy dragged him towards the exit hatch at the rear of the ship. She let Rax support himself against a bulkhead as she struggled uselessly with the door controls.

“Fils de salope!” she exclaimed, smashing her hand against the control. “It’s not responding!”

“Water pressure,” Rax managed. “Door… can’t open.”

Cindy cursed again and looked around, as if searching for some alternate way to get off the ship. The structure of the BAD WOLF gave a menacing groan, prompting Cindy in motion again. She headed back for the cockpit, plopped down in the pilot’s seat, and activated the console.

“Hey,” Rax said, the word feeling syrupy in his mouth. He followed her back towards the cockpit, though he had to stop and steady himself against the wall more than once. “What are you doing?”

“We’re not dying in here,” Cindy said, without looking up from the console. Her hands flew across the controls, faster than Raxl could keep track of, and then she gave a small cry of triumph.

“What is it?”

“I just hope I set the coordinates properly, or we could be in for a very long swim,” Cindy said. “Energizing!”

Rax was about to reply, when suddenly the world around him seemed to dissolve in a shimmering haze of blue light. The next thing he knew, he was underwater, in darkness, and without a lungful of air to support himself. Rax panicked, limbs thrashing as he tried to orient himself, tried to find the surface, when he felt slender fingers wrap around his own. He let himself be pulled, and his head broke the surface.He sucked in a lungful of air, then began to cough and sputter. He forced his legs to kick beneath him, treading water as he let his vision clear.

Cindy Rochemont bobbed in the water beside him, her eyes blazing. Without releasing her grip on Rax, she immediately began to paddle through the water, towards the shoreline. They were closer than Rax would have thought, but he knew he’d never have the strength to make that swim if Cindy hadn’t been there to keep him from sinking below the surface again. Minutes later, their limbs burning with exertion, Rax and Cindy pulled themselves out of the surf and onto the sand, where they both immediately collapsed.

The cold ocean water was enough to keep Rax from slipping back into unconsciousness, and after several minutes had passed and the burning in his lungs had begun to recede, he forced himself into a sitting position. They were on the other side of the colony from where they’d parked their shuttles, on a stretch of beach that was more populated than theirs had been. There were a few tents - temporary living quarters until construction on the new section of the colony was completed - and a few people were standing nearby, watching the two of them with confusion.

“We can’t stay here,” Rax said, looking down at Cindy. “Sheng might still be looking for us.”

“We can’t leave,” Cindy said, looking at him without bothering to sit up. “He destroyed our ships.”

Rax realized with a start that she was right. That was the BAD WOLF they’d just left to be swallowed up by the waves; his pride and joy, the one stable element of his extremely unstable life. And now it was gone. The loss hit all at once, and he allowed himself to sink back onto the sand.

“Son of a bitch,” he said quietly.

“You there!” a voice called. Rax and Cindy both looked over to see a man in a security uniformed heading in their direction, with a team of similarly-dressed followers close at his heels. They came to a halt a few feet away from Cindy and Rax, and the lead security officer glared down at them.

“I suppose that was your ship that very nearly destroyed a whole section of the colony?”

“Hey pal,” Rax said, frowning up at him. “I just *saved* that section of the colony. Why aren’t you out chasing the guy who shot us down?”

“You’ll have the opportunity to make a statement,” the security officer said. “We’ll make sure your injuries are treated, and then you’ll be taken to the security hub for processing.”

“We can’t let them arrest us,” Cindy said, looking at Rax. “If Sheng is monitoring the colony’s network, he’ll know we survived the crash.”

“It’s not up to you,” the security officer said. He pulled out a phaser and trained it on Cindy. “Can you stand?”

Cindy scowled at him, but she managed to make it to her feet. Rax stood beside her, hands raised. Two of the security officer’s deputies stepped forward, took Rax and Cindy gingerly by the arm, and guided them up the beach, back in the direction of the colony.


They were taken first to a small medical station, in the original section of the colony. Their injuries weren’t so bad, all things considered; Rax had a broken nose and a moderate concussion, and Cindy had only suffered a cuts and bruises, as well as the larger cut on her forehead. These wounds were quickly seen to, though the medics advised Rax to take it easy for at least a week to avoid any lingering complications from the concussion. It was advice Rax was more than willing to take, had the security officers not barged right in as soon as the medics were done.

Next they were taken to a security hub. Security on Elandipole was still fairly lax, especially given the rate it was growing. A small garrison of Starfleet security officers had been assigned as peacekeepers, but their main job was the training and equipping of a local constabulary, with the hope that the citizens of Elandipole would soon be able to manage their own colony security. It had been a group of local constables who had brought Rax and Cindy in, but when they arrived at the security hub, it was uniformed Starfleet security waiting for them.

They were put in wrist-binders, and then were led to a small room featuring only a table and a few chairs. Rax had seen the inside of enough interrogation rooms to recognize one when he saw it, despite the friendly smile on the face of the Lieutenant Commander that was waiting for them.

“Please have a seat,” said Officer Friendly.

“Are we under arrest?” Rax asked.

“Not at this time,” Officer Friendly said. He gestured once more towards the empty seats at the other end of the small table. “Sit, please.”

Rax didn’t budge. “Why aren’t we under arrest?”

“We don’t usually arrest people for shuttle accidents.”

“It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that, as soon as you arrest us, you have to provide us with advocates if we ask for them?”

Officer Friendly’s expression wavered just a little. “Let’s say you’re being detained, pending the results of this conversation.”

Rax and Cindy exchanged a wary glance, then they each slowly settled into one of the chairs provided for them. This seemed to restore Officer Friendly’s good humor; his smile returned, bigger than ever.

“Can I just say how pleased I am that you’re both relatively unhurt?” he started. “That could have been a very nasty crash, for a lot of people. All thing’s considered-”

“Cut the shit,” Cindy Rochemonte said. Rax tried not to beam with pride.

Officer Friendly sighed. Then, he slid a PADD from his side of the table over to theirs. Rax and Cindy looked at it; it showed what appeared to be the flaming wreckage of Cindy’s shuttlecraft.

“We discovered this about an hour ago. According to traffic control reports, the ship you were flying had been parked next to this one for the past few days.”

“That’s right,” Rax said.

“And it’s a coincidence that this ship should be destroyed the same night that you crash yours into the ocean?”

“I really couldn’t say,” Rax shrugged.

Officer Friendly folded his hands on the table and fixed his gaze on Raxl. “We’ve had reports coming in about some kind of dogfight in the sky above the colony. We’ve already analyzed the atmosphere; we’ve detected phased nadion particles, as well as energy traces from what looks like a disruptor weapon. Do you have anything you might want to tell me?”

Rax and Cindy exchanged another glance. Then they looked back at Officer Friendly.

“No,” they said, in unison.

“I have a feeling that when we pull your ship out of the water, we’re going to find damage matching the energy traces from that disruptor weapon,” Officer Friendly said. “And I think if we take a look at your ship’s computer, we’ll find proof your weapons systems were engaged in the moments leading up to the crash. We could save a lot of time if you just come clean with me right now.”

“So if I confess, you’re going to leave my ship under water?” Rax asked. “Not much incentive.”

That was when Officer Friendly decided to change tactics. “I know you’re mixed up in this. I think what happened is that someone in another ship tried to murder you both tonight, and I think you know something about who and why. Now we can’t protect you if you don’t give us anything to go on.”

“We’ll take our chances,” said Cindy.

“That’s a mistake,” Officer Friendly said. “We’re a small garrison here, but we’re still Starfleet.”

“Starfleet’s failed before,” said Cindy, her eyes going distant.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means we don’t have anything left to say to you,” Rax said. “I guess maybe you better go rustle up those advocates.”

Officer Friendly shook his head. “I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that. But so be it. You’re both officially under arrest on suspicion of arson, illegal weapons discharge in a colony zone, and obstruction of justice.”

“My record is seventeen charges all at once,” Rax grinned.

“We’re a little out of the way here,” Officer Friendly said, glaring back at Rax. “It might take a few days for those advocates to get here. In the meantime you’ll have to remain in the brig.”

This was enough to take the grin off Raxl’s face. Officer Friendly looked satisfied. He gave a final glance at Cindy, who sulked in the chair beside Raxl, then turned on his heel and headed for the door.

“Someone will be along to process you shortly,” he said, without looking back.

Once Officer Friendly was gone, Cindy turned to Rax.

“We can’t stay here.”

“I know that,” Rax said. He looked down at the binders on his wrists, twisting them this way and that, seeing if he could find any weakness. He could not; Starfleet did not skimp on the essentials.

“That operative is going to find us again,” Cindy continued. “And even if he doesn’t, they’re going to find that man that I-”

“Stop talking, Rax interrupted. “Just because that officer isn’t in the room doesn’t mean he isn’t listening in.”

“What are we going to do?”

“I’m working on it,” Rax said, though in truth he had no idea what his next move would be. This was a relatively small-time security operation, but Starfleet officers were no fools. Even if Rax could figure out a way to slip out of their custody, his only reliable way off the planet was currently turning into a coral reef. Much as he didn’t want to admit it, Rax had a feeling they’d pushed their luck too far.

Then the door to the interrogation room opened. Rax and Cindy looked up, and their eyes widened in shock. Sheng Zhu stood in the door, smiling down at them, his expression one of perfect calm. He’d ditched his flight suit for that of a Starfleet security officer, his rank pips identifying him as lieutenant, junior grade. Sheng Zhu seemed to glide silently into the room, even Rax rose from his chair and started to bellow for help.

“He’s gonna kill us!” Rax shouted. “He’s got a gun, he’s gonna-”

Sheng’s hand flashed out, striking Raxl deftly in the nose, producing a fresh spray of blood down the front of Raxl’s shirt while also knocking him backwards into his chair. Rax was too dazed to keep up the shouting, and as he shook his head in a futile attempt to clear the cobwebs, Sheng settled gently into the chair across the table from them.

“Now now,” he said. “There’s no need for that. If I wanted to kill you here I would have shot you from the door.”

Rax was still too discombobulated to speak, so Cindy sat forward, settling an icy glare on Sheng. “So why didn’t you?”

“Please don’t mistake me, Miss Rochemonte,” Sheng smiled. “I fully intend to kill you. But the situation has changed. The direct involvement of Starfleet security is problematic… for both of us, I think. For one, murdering two suspects in the heart of a security hub and then fighting my way out past all those trained Starfleet officers would tax even my abilities. By the same token, you don’t want to wind up locked in a brig, somewhere I can always find you.”

“What use is that if you can’t get to me?”

“Not directly, maybe,” Sheng shrugged. “To be honest, it would be more convenient for me to just vaporize this building from orbit.”

Cindy’s eyes widened. “You wouldn’t.”

“Actually, I’m not sure even I could manage so precise a strike,” Sheng said, his smile widening. “To be certain I’d done the job, I’d have to take out this entire colony block.”

The room had finally stopped spinning, and Rax was able to sit forward. He glared at Sheng, and spat a mouthful of blood onto the table between them.

“So it sounds like you’ve got us, then,” he said. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m glad to see you’re still with us, Mr. Dreyton,” Sheng said, smiling now at Rax. “I looked you up after our little adventure in the sky earlier. I have to admit, I hadn’t realized my identity had been compromised. Selyara Chen must be a very effective director of Section 31. And your Ferengi, Brak… he’s quite well connected to have predicted my movements. I’ll have two stops to make after I deal with you, it seems.”

“Selyara would take you apart before you knew what was happening,” Rax said, giving Sheng a bloody grin. “You can go ahead and kill Brak, though.”

Sheng chuckled. “No honor among thieves. Well, I’m afraid I’m not the payday you were hoping for, Mr. Dreyton.”

“This the part where you tell me if I walk away you’ll let me live?”

Sheng looked surprised. “Oh, no. No, of course not, you’re a part of this now, I would never dream of depriving you of the experience of seeing it through. But I’m afraid that means you’ll die along with Miss Rochemonte.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Rax said. ‘What are you doing here?”

Sheng looked around. “While I could very easily destroy you from orbit, that’s not my first choice. Such destruction would mean a Starfleet investigation, which would make my life difficult. Therefore, it is in my best interests that you get out here… and in this, I think, our interests are temporarily aligned.”

“You want to help us escape?” Cindy asked.

“Yes,” Sheng smiled.

“Why should we trust you?”

“Only because you know I could have killed you already, if I wanted to,” Sheng shrugged. “Look, I admit this isn’t the most conventional situation, and in truth I’m actually embarrassed to have to come to you like this. But I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I think this benefits us both.”

“How do you figure?” Rax asked.

“I get my chance to kill you without alerting the whole of Starfleet that a Neo-Essentialist operative was active on Elandipole,” Sheng said, ticking off the benefits on his fingers. “You get your chance to collect the bounty on my head, or at least to kill me and end my pursuit of you. And as a bonus, I don’t have to kill hundreds of innocent people just to get to you. I’d say it’s win-win.”

“Go to hell,” Rax said.

“Raxl,” Cindy said softly. Rax turned to her, surprised. “It’s the best offer we’re going to get.”

“We can’t trust him,” Rax said. “He’ll kill us the second he gets a chance.”

“I know,” Cindy said. She looked away from Rax and stared at Sheng. “I don’t want any more innocent people to get hurt. If he wants me, he can have me.”

Sheng smiled. “That’s a commendable attitude, Miss Rochemonte. Very inspiring.”

“Shut up,” Rax said, glaring at Sheng. Then he looked back to Cindy. “You don’t have to do this. We can figure something else out.”

“You can’t,” Sheng cut in.

Cindy ignored him. “I’ve tried running, and I’ve tried fighting back. None of it helps. It’s better this way.”

“What about justice?” Rax said. “About all those assholes you said you wanted to track down?”

“We’d never get out here anyway,” Cindy said, her eyes tearing up now. “And if I died knowing I hadn’t done everything I could to stop another Neo-Essentialist atrocity… No, I won’t have that on my conscience too.”

As the tears started to spill down Cindy’s cheeks, Rax realized she was right. Sheng Zhu would absolutely destroy this section of colony from orbit if he had to, and Rax didn’t see any way to keep that from happening. If this was going to be the end, Rax at least would feel better knowing he hadn’t forced a few hundred strangers to go along with him. He sat back in his chair and gave a slow, defeated sigh.

“So,” Sheng said, looking between them both. “Are we decided?”

“We’ll do it,” Cindy said bitterly.

“Go team!” Sheng said, his expression brightening. “So, first things first. Let’s get those binders off.”

He leaned across the table, undoing first Cindy’s wrist binders, and then Rax’s. No sooner had Raxl’s binders fallen to the floor, than had Rax leapt to his feet, seized Sheng Zhu by the throat, and slammed him down against the table.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t just kill you right now,” Rax growled.

“Very good!” Sheng said, his voice a little strained. “You could kill me, I’m sure! But then who would be there to deactivate the automated firing sequence I triggered before coming to visit you?”

Rax hesitated. “Bullshit. You’re bluffing.”

“You know, I’ve always been very good at keeping time in my head,” Sheng continued. “But our conversation has been so stimulating, I admit I lost track of the count. I’m really not sure if we have three minutes left, or only two.”

“Raxl,” Cindy said, stepping up Rax’s side. “You can’t.”

“Shit,” Rax said, but he released the pressure, allowing Sheng Zhu to resume his feet. Sheng straightened his collar then looked at them both.

“Now then,” Sheng said, as he produced a small device from his belt. “I’m going to leave the room. Wait 30 seconds, and then follow, heading for the turbolift at the end of the hall. The lift will be waiting for you, take it. I’ll advise you from there.”

“Wait a minute,” Rax said. “How the hell do you have all this figured out?”

“I’m very good at my job, Mr. Dreyton,” Sheng smiled. “Talk soon.”

With that, the Neo-Essentialist operative slipped out of the room, as silently as a shadow.

Thirty seconds later, so did they.


The were two security guards posted just outside the interrogation room door. As soon as Cindy and Rax emerged, they cried an alarm and reached for their phasers.

“Hold it!”

“Stop right there!”

“Hang on, fellas,” Rax said, holding up his hands. “I think there’s been a mista-”

Suddenly, force fields flashed into life on either side of Rax and Cindy, just where the two guards were standing. The sudden wall of force smacked them each off their feet, sending their phasers clattering off down their respective sides of the corridor. Rax and Cindy exchanged a confused look, then started forward, in the direction of the turbolift. The force fields on either side of them flashed off, but a new pair flashed to life again, repositioning the field so that Rax and Cindy remained perfectly in the center of it. And so it went as they proceeded down the corridor, force fields flashing on and off while the helpless security teams could do nothing back lose ground to it.

Finally, they reached the end of the corridor. As Sheng had promised, the turbolift stood waiting for them. They stepped inside, and no sooner had they crossed the threshold than had a new force field snapped to life across the turbolift’s doorway, barring anyone from following.

Sheng’s voice came from the turbolift’s control console. {{Please proceed one deck down. There is a transporter room approximately 50 feet from the turbolift.}}

Rax ordered the turbolift down one deck, and a moment later he and Cindy stepped out. More security had gathered, and Rax noticed yellow alert lights flashing high up along the walls. But the force fields were there again, keeping any security officers from getting too close. The fields ushered Rax and Cindy a little way up the corridor, into a transporter room. Once more, a force field appeared to bar the door as soon as they entered.

Near the transporter controls, Rax saw a body lying on the floor. Cindy rushed to the body, checking for a pulse, then looked up at Rax.

“Just unconscious,” she said.

{{Of course,}} Sheng’s voice came again, this time from the transporter console. {{I’m not a monster, Miss Rochemonte, unless I am required to be.}}

“So what now?” Rax asked. “It’s not going to take them long to cut the power to force fields on this deck.”

{{Step on the transporter pads, please,}} Sheng said. {{I will remotely initiate transport.}}

“You think we’re idiots?” Rax asked. “You could just beam us into the ocean, or into space, or some damn thing!”

{{The thought crossed my mind,}} Sheng said. {{But if you’ll inspect the controls, you’ll see I’m transporting you to a small island, approximately 15 miles off the coast of the colony proper. No one will disturb there.}}

“They’ll check the transport records,” Cindy said. “They’ll have security on us in minutes.”

{{I’m not actually an idiot either,}} Sheng said, sounding somewhat exasperated. {{I’m going to fry the console after you beam over, that will buy us a day at least. Now if you please, I really did go to a lot of trouble for this.}}

“We’ll be there,” Cindy said icily. Rax glanced at her, and noticed that she’d removed the comm-badge from the front of the unconscious officer’s uniform. As he watched, Cindy slipped the badge into her pocket, then looked up at Rax and winked. Rax smiled back, and the two of them approached the transporter pad.

{{Now just relax,}} Sheng’s voice buzzed menacingly from the console. {{This won’t hurt a bit.}}

The world dissolved.


They rematerialized on a small patch of sand and grass. Rax looked around; the island wasn’t very big, but it supported a few clusters of trees and a few small rocky outcroppings. At one end of the island, Rax could see what looked like the silhouette of a parked fighter; he recognized the design as the one Sheng had used to attack them with a few hours before.

Sheng Zhu was leaning against the fighter, his arms folded across his chest, watching as they approached. He gave them an almost casual nod as Rax stepped forward.

“Okay,” Rax said. “So we’re here.”

“Nice place, isn’t it?” Sheng said, looking around. “Not large enough for a colony block, but maybe a house or two. Might settle down here myself, eventually. I always did like my privacy.”

“Are you going to kill us or not?”

Sheng sighed. “Fine, we’ll skip the foreplay.”

Before Rax could react, Sheng Zhu had pulled a phaser, drawn a bead on Rochemonte, and fired. The orange lance struck her in the stomach, spinning her to the ground. She cried out in shock and pain, but she was still moving as she hit the sand. Rax started towards her, but Sheng had swung the phaser to him now.

“Ah ah ah!” Sheng said quickly. “Stay right there, Mr. Dreyton.”

“You son of a bitch!” Rax shouted.

“I get that you’re angry, but for the record my mother was a saint,” Sheng said, keeping the phaser locked on Rax.

“You promised us you’d give us a chance!”

“I promised you a shot at my bounty!” Sheng shouted. “I promised her nothing except that I’d kill her. Once she’s dead, you and I can settle things on more even footing… I’m actually looking to it, to be honest. So far, I’m a man of my word!”

Cindy writhed in the sand a few yards away, groaning in pain as she clutched at the wound in her stomach. Rax wanted to go to her, but Sheng’s eyes were wild now, with a sadistic gleam in them in that Rax did not want to test.

“At least make it quick!” Rax shouted, not able to bear the sound of Cindy’s cries anymore. “She’s in pain!”

“Good!” Sheng said. “She killed our leader, the greatest man I’ve ever met! We could have revived him, even after what Selyara did to him. No prison would have been safe from us, there’s nowhere they could have taken him we couldn’t follow! But *she* took that away! She murdered Richard Edgerton and now she’s going to pay for it!”

“Rax,” Cindy groaned.

“Does it hurt?” Sheng asked, turning his attention to Cindy now. “Good! You’ve earned every bit of that pain for all the trouble you’ve caused! It wasn’t enough that you murder the Admiral, was it? No, you thought you’d hunt the rest of us down, didn’t you? Well, your little crusade ends here… and it was all for nothing. The Neo-Essentialists endure!”

“Rax,” Cindy repeated. Rax looked at her, saw that she was staring directly at him. Her face had gone ghostly pale, but despite the pain, she was smiling.

And then Rax saw what she was holding in her hands. The comm-badge. She’d activated it.

Sheng hadn’t noticed the badge, he was too busy gloating.

“You like to hear yourself talk,” Rax said. Sheng looked at him.

“I have such a pretty voice.”

“It’s going to get you into trouble one day,” Rax said. “Like, for instance, you might commit attempted murder and then confess to being a Neo-Essentialist assassin, all on an open Starfleet comm’s channel.”

The smile on Sheng’s face faltered a little. “What are you talking about?”

“You were in such a hurry to show off,” Rax said. He lowered his hands, and Sheng didn’t react. “That trick with the force fields, the remote transport, the threats, the jokes… trouble is, sometimes people get so wrapped up in what they’re doing, they start to miss the little things.”

“What?” Sheng asked. “What did I miss?”

“Comm badge,” Rax said.

That was all it took. Sheng’s eyes went wide as the color drained from his face. He swung the phaser towards Cindy, determined to finish her off (for all the good it would do him), but sparkling columns of blue light had already started to appear all around them, the telltale indicators of incoming transport. Before Sheng could fire, a Starfleet security officer had materialized behind him, phaser already drawn. The orange stun beam struck Sheng in the back, sending him sprawling face first onto the sand. In an instant, he was surrounded.

Rax ran immediately for Cindy. She was in the fetal position, doubled over herself, but she still clutched the comm badge tightly in one hand. Rax brushed some sand off her face as he cradled her head.

“Cindy! Stay with me, girl! Medic!”

“Did… we… get him?” Cindy asked weakly.

“You did,” Rax said. “You got him, Rochemonte, now just hang on. Medic! We need a medic over here!”

“He’ll… go to prison,” Cindy said. “I guess that will… have to do.”

“They’ll get him talking,” Rax said. “He’ll expose their organization, all the parts of it that went underground after Edgerton.”

“All… those… assholes,” Cindy said, smiling weakly.

“That’s right,” Rax said, holding her tight. “Now just hang on!”

“Thanks…” Cindy said. “For… helping. You’re… a good man.”

“Don’t, Cindy,” he said. “Save your strength.”

By now the security officers had reached them. When they saw Cindy’s condition, one of them stepped immediately forward with a medical tricorder, and Rax was ushered away from her. He was held at phaserpoint while the field medic tended to Cindy as best he could, before ordering the rest of the security officers back. The medic and Cindy disappeared in a blossom of blue light, leaving Rax alone on the beach with Starfleet security.

A familiar face stepped forward: Officer Friendly.

“Still have nothing you want to talk about?” the lieutenant commander asked.

“Check that bastard’s ship,” Rax said, nodding in the direction of the parked fighter. “That’s where the disruptor fire over the colony came from. I think you’ll also find a programmed targeting sequence that would have obliterated half of Elandipole if he’d executed it.”

“We’ll give it a thorough check,” Officer Friendly nodded. “Based on the transmission we received, your friend will be our guest for a long time.”

“What about Cindy?” Rax asked.

“I’m… sorry about her,” Officer Friendly said. “You seemed close.”

“Will she be alright?”

“We’ll do everything we can,” Officer Friendly said. “We’ll be taking you back to the security hub until this is all sorted out.”

Rax let them lead him away.


In the days that followed, there were a lot of questions.

Rax was able to explain his involvement in the affair more or less clearly; Sheng Zhu had tried to murder Cindy Rochemonte, Rax had let her escape his ship, and they were subsequently shot down. The Starfleet security officers were even sympathetic to the idea that Rax and Cindy had to stage a prison break as part of protecting the colony from a Neo-Essentialist plot. It all came down to Rax being small potatoes; these security officers had bagged themselves a full-fledged Neo-Essentialist operative, and that was far more important to them than an over-the-hill bounty hunter.

Then things got complicated, when the body of the man Cindy Rochemonte had murdered was discovered where they’d left it.

This had opened up a new round of questions, about the real reasons Raxl Dreyton and Cindy Rochemonte had come to Elandipole. Rax had denied everything, hoping that wherever Cindy was (assuming she was still alive), she would be smart enough to do the same. When the data files revealing the murdered man’s connection to Richard Edgerton had been discovered in his small apartment, some of the heat was taken off Rax. It seemed Officer Friendly and his boys were more than happy to add this body to Sheng Zhu’s tab, and wherever they’d taken Sheng Zhu, it didn’t seem like he was contradicting that version of events.

So, after a full week in Starfleet custody, Raxl Dreyton was finally released, cleared of any wrongdoing, but with some very firm reprimands added to his official record. As he stepped out of the security office, he was surprised to find Brak waiting for him on the street outside.

“You technically only get the bounty if *you* catch him,” Brak said.

“You could argue I did,” Rax said.

Brak glanced at him, giving him a sly grin. “Then you’re lucky I did. I couldn’t swing the whole bounty, but they’re giving you half. It’s a start, at least.”

“Thanks, Brak,” Rax said, surprised. “I didn’t think you’d go to bat for me.”

“I only collect my fee if you get yours,” Brak said. “And given the trouble I went to, I think it’s only fair that my cut remains at its original amount.”

“Now you’re pushing it.”

Brak sighed. “Fine, but you owe me.”

They walked through the streets of Elandipole, bustling with activity, none the wiser of how close they had all come to obliteration at the hands of the Neo-Essentialists. Life continued on this blue planet as it had for the past year, and as it seemed it would for years to come.

“What about the girl?” Rax asked, looking at Brak.

“Rochemonte?” Brak asked. Then his eyes dropped, and he slowly shook his head.

“You’re sure?” Rax asked.

“I saw the death certificate,” Brak sighed. “They did what they could, but it was too late when they got her to the medical center.”

“Goddamn it,” Rax said. He suddenly needed a drink, more badly than he had at any point in the last ten days.

“I’m sorry, Dreyton,” Brak said. “I’m sure she was nice.”

Rax followed Brak to the transport center, where he had booked the two of them passage to Brak’s small space station inside Ferengi territory. Brak had offered to give Rax a place to stay (“for a nominal fee,” Brak had assured him), and would even let him use some of Brak’s personal fleet of shuttlecraft for completion of bounties, all until Rax had built up enough of a bankroll to strike out on his own again. Rax wasn’t looking forward to being Brak’s employee, but since the BAD WOLF was destroyed and he was effectively broke, it was the best of his available options. All things considered, Brak wasn’t the worst boss in the world… and at least it might keep him off of Riss’s radar for awhile longer.

They boarded the transport. Rax sat at the window, staring down at the colony. He would miss Elandipole, miss the long afternoons he’d wasted in Rosie’s Cantina, miss the smell of the salt air and the cries of brightwings over the dull push and pull of the ocean’s waves. He would miss his ship, the BAD WOLF, that had been his home for more than ten years and seem him through situations both good and bad. Most of all, he would miss Cindy Rochemonte, whom he had only known for a few days, but who had managed to impress him with her strength in the end.

The transport broke orbit, accelerated to warp. Raxl Dreyton left Elandipole - and all that had happened there - behind him.


A Federation Roleplaying Game Novella written by...

Shawn Putnam
Raxl Dreyton
Functioning Alcoholic


Cindy Rochemonte
Fallen Comrade


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