One is a starship captain; the other a notorious pirate. Can their love survive when duty and emotion take separate paths? ***Contains some spoilers for 'Star Trek: Nemesis'.***
Pirates of the Alpha Quadrant:
A Pirate's Life For Me
This is my attempt at a Kim Possible///Star Trek fusion, and I hope you like it. If this goes over well, I think I might have one or two more adventures in mind for this universe. I own no characters appearing in Star Trek or Kim Possible/, though any original characters are mine (although some are heavily influenced by classical literature; see if you can guess which ones). Also, some cameos are made by a handful of characters from a New Zealand television show called /The Tribe/; I obviously don't own those, either. As if the title wasn't enough of a hint, this fic was inspired by the /Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, though I'll try to keep the similarities to a minimum. Finally, I'd like to thank DigiRanma and Classic Cowboy for their continued help and support with my stories, Skeeve for being kind enough to beta-read this, and Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki, for providing me with a fountain of information.
Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 56873.2. This will be my first log entry under my new rank. The effects of the attack by Shinzon and his Reman rebels are still being felt. It has taken Starfleet weeks to get everything sorted out, and /Enterprise /is still undergoing repairs. Captain Picard seems to have a penchant for getting his ships trashed. My promotion came as something of a surprise, but someone apparently thought I deserved it for /some /reason. I am to report to Admiral Janeway tomorrow morning to officially receive my rank and my first assignment. I'll probably just be relegated to an old /Excelsior/- or /Oberth/-class ship and told to study some nebula or something, but I don't care. I'm finally getting to command my own ship. I just wish.....I just wish /she /could be here with me.
Ron Stoppable shut down his log and lay back on the bed in the quarters he'd been assigned while at Starfleet Command. Earlier that week, he had been recalled from duty as First Officer on the U.S.S. Hermes and informed that he had been promoted to Captain, his dream since he was a child. And at only twenty-eight, too. All these wars and conflicts we've been having have killed the older officers, I guess, he thought idly.
He reached over and picked up a padd he'd looked over a dozen times in the last few hours alone - his choices for his crew. 'Captain's Prerogative' allowed him to pick and choose who he wanted to serve under him, and he made full use of that power. He didn't even know what class of ship he'd be getting yet, but he knew who he wanted to crew it. Most of them he knew from the Academy; old classmates who'd not managed to make a name for themselves, but whose capabilities were quite well-known to the young captain. He ran over the list, though he'd long since committed it to memory, and another part of his brain idly wondered what was becoming of the most important person in his life.
Kim Possible sat in her command chair aboard the Klingon Vor'cha/-class cruiser /Chimaera/, staring out at the tumultuous area of space known as the Briar Patch. Her small-yet-powerful pirate fleet had been taking refuge in the Patch for nearly a month. S/tealing from the Klingon Empire doesn't exactly make you the most loved person in the galaxy, she thought, but I'd say it was worth it.
Thanks to certain contacts and information she had recently acquired, she was able to infiltrate Klingon repair yards orbiting three separate worlds and 'acquire' the vessels she needed. After those blasted Ferengi impounded my ship, I was in sore need of firepower. But this....this is more than I could have ever hoped for. She tapped a command into the arm of her chair and brought up a status display for the other ships she now commanded; two K'Vort/-class Birds-of-Prey, named the /Gorgon and Hydra/, and a pair of reconditioned /K't'inga/-class battle cruisers, /Basilisk and Manticore/. /With this arsenal, virtually any treasure in the galaxy is within my reach. And those few that aren't....well, I guess that'll be time to prove that I /can /do anything. She frowned inwardly. Well, except pass the courses at the Academy.....
Kim was broken out of her reverie by a harsh, yet feminine voice. It was her first mate, Sheila Goh. The green-skinned, raven-haired woman was human, but her parents had tampered with her genetic code to try and produce a 'perfect being' despite the Federation's laws against such things. When their work had been discovered, mostly due to Sheila's odd skin pigmentation, they had fled Federation space and taken up residence on Qo'noS while Sheila was still an infant.
Growing up on the Klingon homeworld had a profound effect on her; she developed a muscular build and forceful personality, and had impressed the Klingons in her neighborhood to the extent that one of those neighbors, Byrkal, adopted her into his House upon the death of her parents. Having no children of his own, Sheila, by now having adopted the moniker 'Shego' as it sounded a little more intimidating, was well-loved by her new father, and as such was given his armor, bat'leth/, and /D'k tagh upon his death, and she was never to be found parted from these items. Even as she stood at the console before her, the triple-bladed knife was in a sheath on her thigh and the massive crescent-shaped sword was strapped to her armor. She tapped in a few commands on the board before turning to face her commanding officer.
"Captain, we're receiving a transmission from Manticore/." That was the ship farthest out in the fleet, close enough to the edge of the Briar Patch to pick up transmissions from outside but far enough in to remain undetected. "They say that the Klingon ships are starting to leave the area. Either they aren't crazy enough to follow us in here, or they don't think /we were crazy enough to come in here in the first place."
Kim grinned. "This is the break we've been looking for; send a reply to Fei Wu and tell him to keep Manticore where it is until every last ship, Klingon or otherwise, in the area has left. Tell all ships to go to Condition Yellow and prepare for departure. I want engines, shields, weapons, and cloaking devices all on standby in case we're dealing with Klingons that are more devious than usual."
"Aye, Captain." The olive-hued woman busily punched more commands into the console. "With all due respect, Captain, you might want to look into hiring more crew members. Two on the bridge and a dozen scattered over the rest of the ship does not make us a force to be reckoned with."
"First of all, Shego, I keep telling you to drop the 'Captain' bit. Call me Kim. Second, we can't exactly put out ads for recruitment into a pirate crew. We've done pretty well just to gather up these mercenaries and ex-Maquis. I'll try to do something about the crew situation, but until then we'll just have to run the ships as we are."
Shego sighed. "Very well, Cap...../Kim/. But I did warn you about slaving so many systems together in these control interfaces. The Klingons have much to be admired for, but engineering prowess isn't one of them."
Kim stood up, straightened the black coverall she wore, and strode over to the helm station, where she began entering the commands to set their course out of the Briar Patch so they could leave as soon as the path was clear. "Noted and logged as usual, Shego. When you're done there, get to weapons control. If this is a feint, we may have to shoot our way out."
Shego smiled. That devil-may-care attitude will get you in trouble one day, Pumpkin, but I'll /always /be there to get you out. She silently cursed the man who had captured the fiery redhead's heart. That Starfleet /petaQ /is going to hurt her. I can feel it. I just hope she can realize it before it's too late.
Kim and Shego had first met on Qo'noS. Kim had just gotten into small-time smuggling in addition to legit cargo runs and was enjoying a few drinks in a tavern before heading out to pick up her next delivery. Shego was also present that evening, and several inebriated male Klingons were attempting to proposition her with varying sums of money. The green-skinned warrior took exception to being treated like a common prostitute and decided to fight back. As skilled as she was, though, the odds were eight to one and the Klingons started to overwhelm her after a few minutes.
Until a black-garbed tornado of red-haired fury interjected itself into the fight. Neither woman said a word to each other until four of their adversaries were unconscious and the others decided that it would be best to leave with their skulls intact. The females sat back down at the bar and shared some drinks, and Shego was instantly taken with the freighter pilot. When Kim asked if she'd like to sign on and be her crew, the older woman found it impossible to refuse her.
Her strength continues to surprise me, Shego thought as she powered up the Chimaera/'s defensive systems. /She is the perfect mate, for certain, but there is more to it than that. It pains me that I can't be with her as long as she's infatuated with that boy. I'll let her have him if that's what makes her happy for the time being, but he is /going /to let her fall one day, and when he does, /I'll /be there to catch her.
Ron stared bleakly across the desk at Admiral Kathryn Janeway, unable to believe what she'd just told him. "Captain Stoppable, are you alright?"
"Uh, yes sir..er, ma'am. I'm fine," he lied. "It's just....I mean, this is my first assignment and..." It was as good a cover as any, he supposed. /Better that she /doesn't /know the truth/.
Janeway smirked. "I understand. Going after the one they call the 'Pirate Queen' isn't a job I would relish either, but Kim Possible has to be brought in. She's been raiding colonies on the Cardassian border for years now, as well as hijacking cargo from Ferengi and Orion ships."
"Forgive me, Admiral, but why should Starfleet get involved when it's mostly the Cardassians she's stealing from?" Maybe I can /talk /my way out of this. I do /not /want to go after Kim. I'm not sure I /could /go after Kim.
Janeway stood up and turned her back to Ron, staring out the large window behind her chair. "Normally, we wouldn't get involved. In fact, and what I'm telling you is not to leave this room, we had been turning a blind eye to her actions because they were keeping the Cardassians busy, and everything that kept them from massing their firepower into another strong military was something we saw as a good thing. But her latest move has forced us to actively step in."
I've got a /bad /feeling about this. "What move?"
Janeway handed him a padd. "We're still not sure how, but she stole five battleships from Klingon shipyards near the border about a month ago. The Klingons have given up looking for her, but her tactics in her raids on the Cardassians and the Orions have been quite brutal, and we cannot ignore the threat she could pose with that kind of arsenal at her disposal."
"But surely you have more experienced people to track her. I mean, what about Captain Riker on the Titan/? And didn't Starfleet grant Commander Chakotay a pardon /and command of /Voyager/?"
"They're both fine officers, but you have something they don't."
"What's that?" Oh, please, don't let her know about me and Kim.....
The admiral sat back down. "I've read your file. You and Possible grew up together, went to school together and even attended the Academy together until she flunked out of her classes. I believe that if anyone could know how she thinks and where she might go, it would be you."
Lady, you don't know just /how /right you are. "But, what if she doesn't trust me?"
"That's a risk we'll have to take. I'd rather bring her and her crew in alive and get those ships back to the Klingons intact, so use those diplomacy skills you got such high marks for to their fullest. You're scheduled to disembark in three days. I've taken the liberty of making reccomendations for your crew." She started to slide another padd towards him, but he stopped her.
"As soon as I heard about the promotion, Admiral, I knew who I wanted as my crew." He handed her his own padd.
"These are some..../unusual/ choices, Mr. Stoppable," she said, reading over the list of names. "Half of them barely graduated the Academy, and they all have marks on their records for disciplinary actions leveled against them."
"That may be, Admiral, but I know these people. We were at the Academy together through thick and thin. I know what they're capable of, and their records will probably also show commendations by their superiors for ingenuity. They're geniuses, every single one of them. Just because they don't behave like some people think they should doesn't make them bad officers. You didn't have a crew much different than this in the Delta Quadrant, and almost every single one of them ended up with Starfleet commissions and have been fine officers ever since. Give me a chance with these people, and I'll show you what they're capable of." He then realized how terse he was getting and softened his tone, blushing slightly. "Um, that is, if you think it's wise, Admiral."
The older woman smiled. "You're the captain; you can have pretty much whoever you want on your crew. And you're right; most would have said that the Maquis I integrated into Voyager/'s crew wouldn't have lasted, but those that survived the trip home ended up as better people than anyone thought they could have. Okay; you've got your crew. But I /would like you to take one officer from my list along with you."
"One of my crewmembers from /Voyager/. She just got her commission from Starfleet a couple of months ago and I've been looking for an assignment to give her. She'll be along as an observer and tactical advisor. I think you'll find her very...../efficient/."
Kim sat at the helm, staring out of the /Chimaera/'s main viewscreen at the elongated lines that would normally be pinpoints of light were they not travelling at Warp 7. As soon as they had left the Briar Patch, Kim had ordered all ships to set course for the Delta Aeridon system, outside territory claimed by any of the powers of the Alpha Quadrant in what people referred to as 'Wild Space' when they were being kind and 'No Man's Land' when they weren't. The fifth planet, officially listed as Delta Aeridon 5 but called 'Liberty' by the residents and those that chose to visit, was a dry, desert world, but the only one in the system remotely capable of supporting life.
"Delta Aeridon," Shego said, breaking the awkward silence that had settled over the bridge since leaving Federation space behind. "You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."
Kim smiled. "Give the place some credit, Shego. We've got a lot of friends there and they can help us hide indefinitely if we have to, but I don't think we'll have to. Not if this contact is right, anyway."
"Yeah; a hidden cache of latinum in the Neutral Zone, supposedly unknown to all but a few, just waiting to be had. Sounds real reliable to me." The green-skinned woman rolled her eyes; Kim couldn't see it, but she knew it had happened.
"I set this up through Quark, and after last time, he knows better than to cross me."
"I suppose that's true enough. You did give him quite the beating after he caused you to lose the Impossible Dream to the Ferengi Commerce Authority. Though why you were so attached to that ship I'll never know."
Kim scowled. "It may have been a beat-up, rusty old Bolian freighter, but it was my beat-up, rusty old Bolian freighter. I started saving for that ship when I was /ten/, and when I left the Academy, it was pretty much the only home I had left. You know what it's like to lose your parents, Shego; after Mom and Dad died, that ship and Ron were pretty much all I had left." She sighed. "I wonder what he's doing now....."
At that moment, a display appeared on Shego's console. "Incoming transmission; encrypted for your access code."
"Transfer it to my console." When the encrypted message appeared on her display, she punched in her access code and watched as a new image filled the viewscreen. "Wade! Haven't heard from you in a while! Still working for that Bajoran shipping company?"
"No," her old friend said, "I've gone freelance. I used some of our old contacts to help me get set up as an information broker. That's how I found out...." He took a deep breath. "Kim, taking those ships from the Klingons was a mistake. Starfleet has sent someone after you."
"We've outrun the fastest ships in the galaxy and outmaneuvered the brightest captains. I'm not worried."
"You should be. Kim....they're sending Ron after you."
Kim's heart sank. "R-Ron? But...no, that's not true! He wouldn't accept that assignment!"
"He would if he didn't want anyone to find out how close you two really are. Look, I don't know what's going on here, but he won't be able to just say he couldn't find you, or that you got away. His crew would know better and would tell Starfleet as much. If he has accepted this....he's going to find you, and he's going to bring you in."
Kim could barely hold back her tears. "Th-thanks for telling me, Wade. I'll...I'll be in touch." She cut the transmission off and stood up from the console. "Shego....you have the bridge." Without another word, she crossed the room and stepped into the turbolift.
Ron sat in the right-hand seat of the shuttlecraft that was assigned to ferry him to his ship. They could have just used the transporters, but it was a tradition dating back to seafaring days before transporters when the captain, by necessity, had to physically step from the dock onto his vessel. It was one of the few rituals that starship captains didn't mind undergoing.
"So," the shuttle pilot said, "have you seen the ship yet?"
Ron shook his head. "I kept meaning to, but I had some...people I needed to get ahold of."
"Did you get to talk to them?"
"No. She..I mean, they didn't receive my messages."
"I'm sure you can speak to her.../them/ when you get back," the pilot said with a wry grin.
Doubt it, Ron thought, but replied with a simple "Maybe."
There was silence for a moment, then they cleared the planet's atmosphere and Ron saw the hulking form of Starbase One in front of them. As they approached the massive doors, Ron saw that they were already open and the shimmering blue containment field was in place. The shuttle pilot keyed his comm system.
"Command Station, this is shuttlecraft El Dorado. Code Clearance Blue. We're starting our approach; request deactivation of the security shield."
The controller's voice came over the speaker. "El Dorado, deactivation of the shield will commence when we have confirmation of your code transmission. Stand by/." A few more moments went by, and the voice come on again. "El Dorado, /you are cleared to deliver /Captain Stoppable to/ U.S.S. Reliant, /NCC-1864-Alpha/."
"Thank you, Command." He shut off the comm. "I was up here yesterday to deliver some new crewmembers to the Agamemnon and got a look at your ship. She's a real beauty."
Not as beautiful as who she's to be hunting, I'd bet, he thought, instantly regretting it. They passed through the gap left by the energy field, which crackled back to life behind them. They passed by several ships in the docking facility, some Ron recognized - like Voyager - and some he didn't. As they cleared the form of the /Sovereign/-class starship /U.S.S. Archangel, /Ron's eyes went wide.
"I told you she was a beauty," the pilot said, smirking.
Before Ron's eyes was a brand-new Prometheus/-class starship. He read the name and registry number over and over again, comparing them to the data on his padd. But there was no denying it; this was /his ship. "I've never seen one up close......"
"Few people have. Starfleet only has three in service right now; the prototype, /Corsair/, and /Reliant/. There are others planned, but they haven't started construction yet. The admiralty must think highly of you to give you one of these for your first command."
"Yeah; I guess." Ron replied. They're giving me this much firepower because they know Kim /won't /allow herself to be taken alive, but they don't /care/. All they want is to stay on good terms with the Klingons. Am /I /the only one in the fleet with a heart anymore?
Before Ron knew it, they were approaching /Reliant/'s shuttle bay. Through the front viewer, he saw the doors open, another shimmering blue force field beyond it. The pilot tapped a command into his console, and the shields of both shuttle and landing bay aligned perfectly to allow one to pass through the other. The smaller craft settled down inside the starship and powered down her systems.
In the launch control room at the far end of the shuttle bay, the ensign on duty touched a button on his comm panel. "Inform the commander that Captain Stoppable's shuttle has arrived."
When he stepped out of the shuttle, Ron found his pale-skinned Vulcan chief of security, Lieutenant Commander Sovak, waiting for him. Sovak was a rarity among Vulcans, as he completely rejected the teachings of Surak. It more or less guaranteed that he could never return to Vulcan, but he found that, in all honesty, he did not care and found Starfleet a much more fulfilling pursuit than the /Kohlinar/. As usual, Sovak wore his jet-black hair down to his shoulders, tied into a loose ponytail by two elastic bands. Were it not for his ears and facial features, his mannerisms would have one believe it was human. "Welcome aboard, Captain."
"Sovak," Ron said, "we've known each other since Freshman year. You can call me Ron."
"Whatever you say, sir. May I show you to the bridge?"
Ron smiled weakly. "Might as well. I'm not familiar with this class of ship."
"Few are," Sovak replied as they stepped out into the corridor. "Even I have to be impressed by what they've managed to pack into a ship this size."
Ron concentrated on small talk so that he wouldn't have to think about Kim any more than necessary until he absolutely had to. "I haven't looked over the specs yet. What armament does she carry?"
"/Reliant/ has been modified for our mission and carries more firepower than a normal /Prometheus/-class ship would. She's got fourteen standard phaser banks, two pulse phaser cannons, a pair of Romulan disruptor cannons that were, as they put it, 'salvaged' from a wrecked warbird during the Dominion War, six torpedo launchers, full complements of photon and quantum torpedoes, several layers of ablative armor plating over the entire hull, and adaptive shielding enhanced with Borg technology. In addition, our combat effectiveness can be tripled by the use of multi-vector assault mode."
"That's a lot of weaponry for one ship."
"We're going up against a lot of weaponry. Even the old /K't'inga/-class cruisers have been updated with newer weapons and shields; it was a necessity during the Dominion War. Cheaper and quicker than building new ships, anyway."
"What about our engines?" They stepped into a turbolift. "Bridge."
"The impulse drive has been modified to give us an overall fuel efficiency rating of ninety-eight-point-four-one-five percent, and the warp core has been outfitted with new equipment derived from Delta Quadrant technology brought back by Voyager to give Reliant a maximum speed of Warp Nine-point-nine-nine-three, with a sustainable speed of Warp Nine-point-nine-five-five"
Ron whistled. "Impressive."
"Mr. Flint has already said that he can probably increase those numbers by several decimals."
"Sounds like Sam to me. Why did they name her /Reliant/? Isn't it kind of late for that sort of thing?"
"The history buffs at Command probably thought it was time to have some sort of memorial to the lives of the original /Reliant/'s crew. At least we didn't get stuck with a name like /Mona Lisa./" The turbolift stopped, and opened onto the ship's rather spacious-looking bridge.
A scrawny-looking blond-haired man stood up from the center seat and snapped to attention, his hands behind his back. "Captain on the bridge!"
Ron shook his head. "Josh, at ease." When his old friend had relaxed, he said, "Even as a Commander, you're still the same old Mankey." His tone turned grave. "I suppose you know what our mission is?"
Josh nodded. "I don't like it any more than you probably do. More than anyone else does. I mean...damnit, Ron, we were all friends at the Academy. Kim was like a sister to us. And she hasn't committed any crimes against the Federation. This doesn't make /sense!/"
"It does if the Federation cares about keeping good relations with the Klingons. I don't want them as enemies either, but there has to be another way than turning in my....my best friend."
The taller man out a hand on Ron's shoulder. "Ron, you don't have to hide it. Everyone on board who knew us at the Academy knows how you two were."
"No hard feelings? I mean, I know you had your eye on her."
"At first there were, but I got over it. Realized you two were made for each other." He checked the chronometer on one of the aft displays. "We're due to depart in two hours; would you like to rest in your ready room until then?"
"No; no, I've got something I need to do before we leave spacedock." He sat down in the command chair and looked up at his Operations officer, the dark-haired Lieutenant Junior Grade Carmen Dyr, and Helmsman and Second Officer, Lieutenant Felix Renton. "How're those legs working out, Felix?"
"Just fine, Captain. The new micro-circuits they developed make them just as responsive as they used to be."
Ron smiled. When they were children, Felix was in a hovercraft accident that had rendered his legs useless and he was bound to a hoverchair for years. He joined Starfleet's Diplomatic Corp, but when they saw his aptitude for piloting in the simulators during his downtime periods, they offered to switch him over to Command, and the motivator implants and relay circuits to essentially reconstruct his legs were part of the package. "Glad to hear it, man. Just wish it hadn't taken so long."
"It was more pride on my part than anything else. Wanted to prove that I could be useful even if I couldn't walk. But when they said I could easily make Captain if I transferred..."
"No need to explain further. This chair does have a lot of appeal." He looked over at Josh, now sitting in the chair to the right of his own. "Is the rest of the crew on board?" His First Officer nodded. "Good." Ron punched a button on his chair arm. "All hands, this is the Captain. In less than two hours, we will be leaving Spacedock. You have until then to get your affairs settled." He was going to end it there, then thought better of it. "All senior staff, report to the briefing room."
A few minutes later, Ron was looking at his entire command crew. Josh, Sovak, Felix, and Carmen were there, along with Commander Samuel Flint, his British Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Commander Marcus Nemo, Chief Medical Officer, the Galley Officer, Ensign Auric Silver, and, sitting at the far end of the table, Ensign Annika Hansen, formerly called Seven of Nine, the 'observer and advisor' that Janeway 'requested' he bring along with him. He knew she was no longer part of the Borg Collective, but her few remaining external implants still gave him a slight chill despite her yellow-trimmed uniform.
"You've already been briefed on our mission," Ron said, his elbows on the table and his hands clasped together, "so I won't bother repeating it. But almost all of us went through the Academy together. Some of us go back even farther than that. Either way, you know who it is we're after, and you know why. When I initially selected you for this crew, I had no idea what we were supposed to do. And after I was told our mission....I knew I couldn't have asked for a better one to come with me. I know that none of you are any more willing to kill her than I am. As long as we have to do this, and I hope I speak for all of us when I say I wish we didn't, bringing Kim in alive is our goal; nothing else is acceptable. If anyone wants to back out, speak up."
There was silence. "Dismissed."
Two days later, Kim was leaning over the bar at Ruby's Saloon, which was more or less the only real business in Liberty, the only town on the desert world and which shared its name with the planet. She stared at the mug of hot raktajino that had been poured for her more than an hour earlier when she first arrived with her new fleet. Normally, she would have downed two or three drinks by this point, especially after taking a haul like the Klingon ships, but on this particular day, she didn't feel much like celebrating.
"Hey; what's wrong, Kimmie?" The owner/operator of the saloon, Ruby, had sat down on the stool next to her. The blond Australian girl's soft features belied the firebrand Kim knew lurked just beneath the surface. "I haven't seen you this upset since those Orions accused you of stealing Shego."
"Lucky for you I've got plenty of time, then." She listened as Kim filled her in on what Wade had told her. "And you're not sure if Ronnie still cares for you; am I right?"
Kim slammed her fist on the counter. "That's just it; I don't know. I mean, I know he's got his career to think of, and if he refused the assignment he could kiss his commission goodbye. But still..."
"All I can tell you is to follow your heart, Kimmie. We're all friends here in Liberty, and we've got your back. No matter what."
The redhead clasped her friend's hand. "Thanks, Ruby. That means a lot to me right now."
Ron was at a loss for what to do. He'd spent an entire week searching the area around and in the Briar Patch, Kim's last suspected location, to no avail. Even /Reliant/'s enhanced sensor packages were unable to find as much as a single energy particle to mark her passing. Several times, in the privacy of his own quarters, he had tried to reach her on their private comm frequency, but there was no answer.
And I can't really blame her, he thought. She /has /to know that they sent me to look for her by now. She might just be playing it safe until she knows what I'm going to do.....but I know better than to think that way. I don't like to admit it, but the next time I see Kim, if I ever do again, we'll most likely be enemies. He worriedly drummed the nails of his right hand on the arm of his chair, staring out at the image of the Briar Patch and the space surrounding it. A long, awkward silence settled over the bridge.
A silence broken by Annika Hansen from her seat at the aft Science station. "Captain, I do not believe that any further searches of the area will yield any results."
"I know that as well as you do, Ensign, but this is the only lead we've got."
"Perhaps not," Sovak said from Tactical. When Ron turned in his chair to face the Vulcan, he continued. "Most of the crew is aware that you have contacts that Starfleet does not. It may not be strictly by-the-book, but in a case such as this....." he trailed off.
He looked around at his bridge crew. All of them save for Commander Mankey had carefully averted their eyes, and Josh had a small grin on his face. "And the guy does owe you a favor for getting him out of that mess with the Andorians."
Ron sighed and stood up. "I was hoping I wouldn't have to do this. You have the bridge, Number One." With that, he strode into the turbolift.
Josh moved to the middle of the bridge, not taking the center seat as one might expect. He looked back at Sovak. "Commander, did that pesky glitch cause us to lose the last few minutes of our bridge operations recordings again?"
Sovak grinned slightly and punched a few commands into his console. "As a matter of fact, sir, yes. Everything said and done in the last ten minutes has been deleted from our computer."
"We're going to have to have them fix that when we get back to Earth. Who knows what other important data might be lost because of things like that?"
Hansen turned her back to the rest of the bridge officers to hide the small smile that was creeping onto her face.
In his quarters, Ron activated his computer terminal. As the United Federation of Planets insignia appeared on the screen, he punched in several access codes and gave two vocal passwords that would bypass the normal communications system security protocols, thus leaving no trace of his transmission anywhere in the ship's computer. He had done this many times before throughout his Starfleet career to set up secret meetings with his beloved after she became a known smuggler and pirate, but each time filled him with dread and fear that he would be caught. He keyed in a comm frequency and coordinates, ignoring the computer's statement that there was nothing at said coordinates to contact, and waited.
A moment later, the face of Wade Load appeared on his monitor. The young computer genius scowled when he saw the blond officer. "You've got a lot of nerve calling me, Stoppable, after what you did to Kim."
"Why should I? You've basically betrayed her and the rest of us to Starfleet by accepting this mission! There are a lot of people I've dealt with over the years that I figured I couldn't trust, but you weren't one of them. Until /now/, anyway."
"Wade, will you shut up and listen to me?" Ron was growing impatient. "I don't like this situation any more than you do! I am not going to bring Kim in! I'm not sure how I'm going to do it, but I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that she doesn't rot in some prison for the rest of her life. But before I can do that, I need to talk to her to clear the air about a lot of things, and I can't do that unless I find her."
Wade was silent for a long time, then his features softened a little. "/That/ sounds more like the Ron that I know." There was a pause. "Alright; I'll tell you where she is. But you have to promise not to let your crew know too much."
"Wade, my 'crew' is Josh, Felix, and our old friends from the Academy. They're not willing to bring Kim in, either."
Wade raised an eyebrow. "Oh? And I suppose that this 'Starfleet observer and tactical advisor' that Janeway sent along with you is another 'old friend'?"
"No, but she might be a new one. I can't explain it, really, but she was part of Janeway's crew on Voyager and I think I can trust her." His expression changed slightly. "And I don't think I want to know how you know about her."
Another silence, followed by a long, loud sigh. "Alright; she's in the Delta Aeridon system."
"Delta Aeridon? That's out towards the Galactic Rim. What's she doing out there?"
"It's not controlled by any law, government, or military. She's there to meet a contact she set up through one of our contacts on /Deep Space 9/, but she didn't give me all the details. But she goes there fairly often when the heat's on, and she's probably got her ships hiding in a nebula two sectors over. You should be able to get in without trouble. There's only one town on the planet; you can't miss it. Look for her at Ruby's; that's where she spends most of her time."
"Thanks." He then added, "Wade, do you remember that old song Kim and I used to sing? The one that got us the award in the talent show three years running?"
"You mean that one about pirates bragging about their misdeeds and encouraging one another to drink?"
"That's the one."
"Yeah, but why'd you bring that up?"
"I just got to thinking how much fun we had with that.....and that maybe I'm not the one who made the wrong choice. I'll talk to you later, Wade." The image on the screen winked out, and Ron leaned back in his chair. It was going to be a long day.
Shego strode up to the second floor of Ruby's Saloon that served as a hotel and entered the room she and Kim had been allowed use of during their stay. "Well, I got it," she said, holding up a datacard triumphantly. "The idiot was two days late because the customs guys almost saw through his forged documents, but he got here. He had the gall to try and charge us more than we'd agreed on, but I 'persuaded' him to stick to the original deal." Then she noticed that Kim was laying face-down on the bed. Exactly as she had been for the last week.
She sighed and sat down on the bed next to her captain and friend. "Kimmie, you can't do this to yourself. I tried to tell you that staying involved with him was a bad idea. Those Starfleeters are all alike; no spines, no brains, and no honor. They blindly follow their orders no matter what they think is right or wrong. But I...." she cupped the redhead's chin in her hand and lefted her face up to look her in the eye, ".....will always be here for you." The look in her eyes left no doubt as to what she meant.
"Shego....are you saying.....? I mean..."
The green-hued women cut her off. "I didn't say anything before because I knew he was important to you, and I just wanted to see you happy while it lasted. But I can't sit back and watch you destroy yourself over someone who obviously doesn't care for you. I love you, Kimberly Anne Possible, and will do anything in my power to make you happy again."
Kim blinked several times. "Shego...." It was all she could manage to say.
"Don't say anything." She planted a gentle kiss on her captain's lips. "Allow me to show you the depth of my love." She kissed Kim again, more forcefully this time, as she started to undo the zipper on the front of her captain's coverall.
Reliant settled into orbit over the fifth planet in the binary Delta Aeridon star system. It had taken less than a day to get there from the Briar Patch at maximum warp. As soon as the orbit was stable, Ron turned the bridge over to Josh and headed for the turbolift. Everyone on the bridge knew or at least suspected what he had in mind, but no-one said anything.
In his quarters, Ron discarded his uniform and donned a simple pair of boots, tan-colored pants, and a long-sleeved mauve shirt. He tucked his commbadge into his left boot as a precaution, but his rank insignia on the table. He then placed an order with the replicator, picked up a third item he'd prepared earlier from the table and, his packages in hand, headed towards the transporter room.
Felix met him there, eying the items Ron was carrying. "You sure about this, man? They'll probably recognize you down there. Especially with what amounts to a Federation battleship in orbit."
"Got no choice, Felix. This is something I have to take care of myself and do it my way."
"You're the boss; nothing I can do to stop you. Just be careful, alright?"
"Always try to be, Felix. You know what to do if I signal the ship but dont say anything, right?" Felix nodded, and Ron spoke to the transporter operator. "Energize." The swirling blue particles of the annular confinement beam surrounded him, the transporter room and his two crewmen vanished, and he found himself about fifty yards away from the planet's only settlement.
It looked like something out of one of the old Western towns you would see replicated in holo-novels or adventure programs. All of the buildings were made from local hardwoods, all signs, including the large one proclaiming the town's name, were crudely carved from wood with paintjobs that had long since seen better days, and the 'street' was nothing more than the sand that covered the rest of the area. There were a few people milling about in the street or sitting on porches in front of the buildings, and part of him expected to see holsters with antique projectile weapons in them at their sides. Another part wished he'd brought a phaser.
As he walked down the street, he could feel the eyes on him. Obviously, strangers were not welcome here, and he assumed that they knew or at least suspected that he was Starfleet. Or, at the very least, not an outlaw. Some of them had their hands resting on bulges concealed by jackets or loose shirts, and it didn't take much imagination to know what made those bulges or what their owners were thinking. Okay....maybe this /wasn't /such a good idea. But it's too late to turn back now.
Halfway through the town, he spotted a large building twice as tall and four times as broad and deep as any of the others. Its sign, a tad less worn than most, simply said, 'Ruby's Saloon'. Okay; this is where Wade said she'd be. Looks like there's a lot of people in there. If I'm caught, there could be trouble. /He stole a glance around him. /But at least they won't have as clear a shot as the ones out here would. Steeling himself, he pushed open the swinging double-doors and entered.
The room was dimly lit; there were several windows to let sunlight in, but they were covered in dust from outside and grit and grim from inside. The three hanging lights were each hastily-rigged from a single half-sized glow panel most likely salvaged from an old freighter and provided little illumination. In one corner, someone was attempting to play an old piano, but the tune was rendered unrecognizable; either the player was horrible, the instrument out of tune, or, most likely, both.
Nervously, with virtually every eye in the establishment on him, Ron made his way to the bar where a young blond girl was cleaning a stack of glasses. He leaned over the wooden counter and whispered, "I'm looking for Kim Possible. I come by way of Wade."
The girl scowled. "Shego said you might come around, /Captain/. Slade. Ram." As she said this, a tall dark-haired man in a white jacket and blue pants and a smaller man dressed in a form-fitting black vinyl jumpsuit moved from unseen positions to her left and right to stand next to her.
The tall one spoke. "Apparently, you don't know the rules here, mister."
The girl spoke again. "No Starfleet, no Starfleet, and absolutely no Starfleet."
"Um, that's technically only one rule..." Ron said sheepishly.
The shorter man replied, "Ruby likes to make sure her point gets across."
"Now," the tall one said again, "are you going to leave peacefully, or do Ram and I get to earn our pay?"
"Look, I'm not here for a fight."
The one who was obviously Slade cracked his knuckles. "Then you came to the wrong place, mate."
"I just want to see Kim. I'm not here in an official capacity. Okay, I guess maybe I technically am, but I'm not obeying my orders. Kim's my....my friend, and I'd never turn her in. Starfleet can hang me from a gallows or send me EVA without a vac suit if they want, but nothing would make me betray her. We've been together since we were kids, and I want to tell her I've finally made a decision. No more ranks and commissions, no more secret meetings while I'm on leave....I'm going to give it all up if she'll just talk to me." There was a determined fire in his eyes, the nervousness seeming to have taken a back seat to his objective for the time being.
"Then why," Ram asked, "did you bring a Federation starship to this world?"
"That's the ship I'll not be in command of for much longer. All I have to do is send one short signal, and the helmsman will take the ship away, leaving me here for good. I'm unarmed, there's nobody coming to back me up.....I'm just here to talk to Kim."
Ruby stared at him for a long time. It was possible that he was lying in order to carry out his mission, but she'd heard Kim speak volumes about his honesty and integrity over the years. She made her choice and hoped she wouldn't regret it. With a wave of her hand, Slade and Ram disappeared back into the shadows. "Alright; I'll let you see her. But if there's any trouble, people around here shoot first and don't even bother asking questions." Ron nodded once. "She's upstairs; room eight."
Ron went around the bar and started up the stairs when Ruby spoke to him again. He turned his head to see her half-smiling and winking at him. "Good luck."
He climbed the stairs and walked down the hall until he reached a wooden door with a hand-stenciled number eight done in black paint. Gulping, he turned the rounded knob, pushed the door open.....
....and promptly dropped his packages on the floor. Laying in the room's only bed was Kim. Her nude body was half-covered by a thin blanket, and cuddling up to her back was Shego, the woman who served as her first mate. There was no doubt in his mind as to what they had been up to, and he felt as though his heart were being torn from his chest by an angry Nausicaan. He turned and ran from the room, bolted down the hall and stairs, through the saloon, out into the street, out of the town, and just kept going.
He lost track of how long he'd been running, but finally his legs just gave way beneath him and his lungs burned with a need for oxygen. His vision blurry and senses dulled from fatigue, he lay there on the sand for several minutes under the intense glare of the system's twin suns before reaching down into his boot, pulling out his commbadge, and tapping the activation circuit. "Stoppable to..../Reliant,/" he said breathlessly, "one to...beam up." The blue swirl of the transporter engulfed him again, he materialized on the cool metal pad, and promptly passed out.
The noise of rapid, heavy footfalls heading away from her room startled Kim awake. When she saw the open door, her first instinct was to look for an attacker in the room itself, but then she saw the discarded items on the floor. Wrapping the blanket around her bare body, she crossed the room and knelt down to inspect them.
Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open when she saw a dozen long-stemmed roses neatly wrapped in white tissue paper and tied with green ribbon, a heart-shaped box of cream-filled chocolate candies, and an old-style greeting card with a starscape background, a heart-shaped sun in the the middle, and two planets, extremely close to one another, orbiting that sun. Opening the card with shaky hands, she read the hand-written words that took up the entire inner portion.
Kim, I hope we can put all this behind us. I never had any intention of betraying you; honest. But if Wade was angry enough that he would have shot me had we been face-to-face, I can only imagine how /you /feel. I had no idea they were going to send me after you until it was too late. I was confused and had no idea what to do. If I let you go, even if my crew /didn't /mutiny, my career would pretty much be over. But if I brought you in and saved my career, my life wouldn't have been worth living at that point. It took me a while to reach this decision, KP, and I'm going to resign my Starfleet commission. Josh will take over my ship and get her and her crew back to Earth, and you and I can be together like we always wanted. I don't care if I become the most wanted man in the galaxy; as long as I'm with you, nothing else will matter. I love you, Kimberly Anne Possible, in more ways than mere words can say, and my life is incomplete every second you're not in it.
Kim broke down and started to cry. Shego, having been awakened by Kim's sudden departure from the bed, knelt beside her captain. "What's wrong, Princess?"
The redhead shakily held up the card. "R-Ron. He was here. He....he wasn't going to turn me in. He was going to give up his career. I was so hung up on thinking he'd betrayed me that I betrayed /him/. Oh, Shego; what have I done?"
The green-skinned woman sighed. I guess it wasn't meant to be between us. Well, that one night was more than I had any right to expect. "Kimmie, if he's the one you want in your life, go get him. I can't stop you. You have to follow your heart. I love you and nothing will change that; but if I force you to stay with me to satisfy my own passions while denying you yours, I would be doing both of us a disservice." She turned the redhead to face her. "Go to him. Show him the same fiery passion I showed you. Take him; make him yours, now and forever. But," she grinned widely, "you've got a fleet waiting on your orders. Don't forget about us." She kissed her beloved's soft, welcoming lips for what would be the final time and crawled back onto the bed.
Kim sat next to her and began pulling her jumpsuit and boots back on. "Shego......thanks. For everything." She gave her a small kiss on the forehead and left the room, scooping up Ron's gifts along the way.
"Go get 'im, Tiger," Shego said softly when Kim had left. Slowly, she gathered up her armor and weapons and began to dress.
Ron awoke in his quarters. He wasn't sure how he'd gotten there at first, but when he saw Annika Hansen standing over him, the answer was fairly obvious.
"Captain, I feel that it is my duty to inform you that you have been unconscious for twenty-two-point-eight minutes, and that Doctor Nemo is complaining that you are here and not in sickbay."
Ron sat up groggily. "Did you bring me here?"
"No. Lieutenant Renton was still in the transporter room when you returned to the ship. After determining that you had no injuries, he brought you here and asked me to monitor you while he returned to his station on the bridge."
The blond-haired captain swung his legs over the side of the bed. "I don't think I can stand right now. Open up the storage locker and get me the clear bottle with the amber liquid in it."
The tall woman did as ordered, but felt compelled to protest when she saw the lable. "Captain, the consumption of alcoholic beverages by Starfleet personnel aboard a Federation vessel is a violation of Regulation..."
"Don't quote me regulations, Ensign. They've caused me more pain then you can ever know. Now give me the damned bottle." Reluctantly, Annika handed the nearly-full container over. Ron pulled the cork out and downed a large swallow, wincing a little as it burned his throat and stomach. "Scotch. Hundred-proof. Vintage 2350. Want any?" He held the bottle out to her.
"I do not wish to become intoxicated at this time."
"Suit yourself. But I need this." He swallowed more of the fiery liquid, and though his apparent condition seemed to worsen as he drank, his overall demeanor improved slightly.
"Captain, may I inquire what happened on the planet? You appeared injured, yet there was nothing physically wrong with you." She watched as he tossed back another large gulp. "Until a few moments ago, that is."
"You may ask, but I may not tell."
"I believe it is in your best interest if we open a dialogue on the subject before you open a hole in your liver," she said dryly.
Ron took several swallows of the liquid, which now did not quite fill half of the bottle. "My liver and I are none of your business."
"You are the captain of this vessel. That makes it the business of everyone who serves under you." Frustrated, she reached out and took the whiskey away from him. "If you continue drinking like that, you will most likely perish."
"You are acting quite immature. Far more so than your Starfleet service record would indicate. You have performed flawlessly on many occasions and have earned more commendations than most officers of comparable age. It is more than an idle curiosity which prompts me in this instance, but I feel that I am justified in asking why you seem so intent on destroying yourself."
Ron reached for the bottle, but Annika pulled it away. The alcohol was already having an effect on his balance and he toppled over onto his side. "I don't remember seeing you listed as the ship's counselor."
"No; I am here as an observer and advisor. And if you want my honest opinion..."
"...I believe you to be in need of advice."
Ron sat up and stared her in the eye. "And what'll you do if I don't listen? Assimilate me? Force me to comply with your directives?" he snapped. The words stung Annika more than she would have ever admitted, and the young captain could see the pained expression on her face that she was trying so very hard to conceal. He turned away from her and lowered his gaze to the floor. "Ensign.....I'm sorry. That was uncalled for."
"Indeed it was. But nothing can be done about it now. I know that I am not trained as a counselor, but what I know of human emotional states would indicate that you are in need of...I believe the term is a 'friendly ear'."
"Do you really want to know?"
"I cannot be of any asistance to you if I do not."
Ron sighed. "Might as well tell you. Hell, the rest of the ship's probably figured it out by now anyway." He told her of the long-standing relationship between himself and Kim; their childhood, teenage years, becoming lovers, graduation, attending the Academy, the clandestine meetings after she became a wanted smuggler and pirate, everything. Then, after a long pause, he related what had happened on the planet.
"I see," Annika said when he was done. "Because you saw her in the aftermath of an obvious copulation with her first mate, you automatically assumed that she no longer cared for you. Did it occur to you that you may have been in error?"
Ron blinked. "Wha...?"
"From what you have told me, her behavior is not indicative of one who would arbitrarily end your relationship without informing you. She may have been intoxicated, as you are well on your way to becoming, or perhaps seduced in some way. But you do not possess all available information; it could be that it is their practice to sleep nude in the same bed, but no more than that. You made a rash, emotionally-fueled judgment. That was your first mistake."
"What was the second?"
The ex-Borg's voice softened. "Not giving her a chance to explain. I may have been part of the Collective for most of my life, but I am still female and can predict with a ninety-seven-point-two-five percent accuracy margin that if you had only spoken with her as you originally intended, this situation could have been avoided."
Ron was quiet for a long moment. Finally, he smiled slightly and said, "Janeway was right about you."
"In what way?"
"She said that I would find you very 'efficient'. And she was right. Thanks, Ensign."
"My friends call me Seven."
"Is that what I am now?"
"I believe you could be. You remind me in many ways of Tom Paris."
"You are rash and emotional, as your recent actions have proven, but you also have a loyalty to your friends and your beliefs that I had come to believe few outside the Voyager crew possessed. It is that loyalty that has earned you my respect despite the short time we have served together, and that respect means that I will follow your orders despite what Starfleet regulations say. And I believe that the rest of the crew is with me."
Ron stood up. He was a little shaky, partially due to the alcohol and partially due to nervousness, but he managed to stay upright. "Ens....Seven," he said, "I'm going planetside. I should be back in less than an hour."
"And if you are not?"
"Felix knows what to do." Ron left the room, the door hissing shut behind him, and Seven was fairly sure that, by the end of the day, the command structure on Reliant would be quite different.
Kim once again sat at the bar in Ruby's Saloon. She grabbed the bottle of Andorian ale and poured another glass; her twelfth, by Ruby's count, and clearly not her last if the young pirate had her way. Next to her on the polished wooden surface were the gifsts Ron had brought for her earlier.
Slade tapped Ruby on the shoulder. "You don't see her drink like this unless she's celebrating, and I hardly think she's in a good mood. Why does she keep mumbling, 'I've lost him'?"
The blond girl whispered her reply so that the other nearby patrons would not overhear. "When I sent Ron upstairs, he found Kim and Shego nestled together like two kangaroos in their momma's pouch. He ran out of here faster than I've seen anyone move that didn't have an angry Klingon behind them, and Kim went after him a minute later.
"When she came back, she had that blank stare on her face, ordered the ale, then told me to leave the bottle. I had Ram follow their trail, and both sets of tracks ended about half a mile outside town with only one coming back. He must have went back to his ship."
Slade let out a low whistle. "Those two must really love each other. He's risking prison just by talking to her, and she's lost that spark that makes her the best pirate this galaxy's ever seen now that she thinks he's gone forever."
"Without one, the other is incomplete. It's romantic, when you think about it."
"But we can't leave them like this."
"Slade, that would be meddling."
"And if we don't do something/, those two will have lost something more valuable than /any treasure in the galaxy."
"Why, Slade; if I didn't know better, I'd almost say you cared about someone other than yourself."
He grinned wryly at her. "Who says I don't?"
"Slade," Ruby looked away from him, "we've been over this. We're too close as it is. If things went bad, we wouldn't even be able to work together. Maybe someday we can work it out, but that day isn't today."
"I've learned better than to argue with you, but you know I'll never leave you alone. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a captain to find."
Seated in Ron's ready room, Josh stared slack-jawed as Seven delivered her report. "He did /what?/"
"Captain Stoppable has returned to the planet and referred to instructions that he had given to Lieutenant Renton. I believe his intention is to resign his commission and remain with Possible."
/ Reliant/'s first officer slammed his hand down on the desk. "Damn it! I should have known he'd pull a stunt like this! You're dismissed, Ensign." Seven nodded and left the room. Josh pressed a button on the desk. "Security detail to transporter room one." He reached into a locker built into the wall and pulled out a hand phaser. "Ron was too close to this from the beginning. I was willing to let Kim escape because she was my friend, but I can't have her turning Starfleet's best officers into pirates."
Ron rematerialized on the planet just outside the town and retraced his path to Ruby's. Halfway there, he ran into the one called Slade.
"Looks like you saved me a trip," the dark-haired youth said.
"Excuse me?" Ron asked.
Slade grinned. "There's a certain redhead drinking herself silly because she thinks she's lost you. I was going to drag you back here, but it seems like you're not ready to let her go."
"You mean...she still cares?"
"Probably more then even she knew, mate. Come on."
Slade led the young Captain into the saloon, where the first sight to greet his eyes once he adjusted to the dim light was a familiar redheaded figure at the bar.
"Kim?" he asked, walking up behind her and putting a hand on her shoulder.
The pirate whirled around on the stool, nearly losing her balance. "R-Ron??? You...you came back?"
"I almost didn't. I....I thought you'd left me, KP." Tears had begun to form in his eyes. "I saw you with Shego and...."
"That was a mistake, Ron. A big one. After Wade told me that Starfleet sent you after me, I thought....I thought...." Kim was crying freely at this point.
"That I'd betrayed you?" Kim nodded. "I would never do that. I've spent the past week wondering how I could stay loyal to both you and Starfleet. And....I realized I can't."
"Let me finish. Felix is on board the ship they sent me in. Before I left to come look for you the first time, I gave Felix orders to take the ship back to Earth without me if I gave the right kind of signal." He removed the commbadge from his boot, fingering the shiny surface without activating the circuit. "I'm prepared to send that sugnal any time. I'll stay with you no matter where you go or what happens. I love you, Kim, and no career, commission, or starship assignment is going to change that."
Kim couldn't believe her ears. "But you worked so hard to get where you are. At the Academy, studying was your /life/. You wanted to make the highest marks so you would be at the top of the list for duty assignments. You even managed to graduate second in your class. Why would you throw that all away?"
"Well, first of all, technically I was third in my class as far as academics go. The only reason I graduated third was because Josh fell asleep halfway through his final exam and it took his GPA down a few notches. Second...../no/ career or starship is worth losing you over."
"So......you'd be willing to join up with the galaxy's most wanted pirate just because you've got a thing for her?"
"More than a 'thing', KP. I can't live without you."
Kim threw her arms around her lover. "Can't live without you either, hon."
Ron smiled. "I'll signal Felix and..." He was stopped by a black-gloved hand grabbing his wrist. "Sh-shego?"
"Can't let you do that, Stoppable," the green-skinned woman said.
Kim glared at her first mate. "Have you lsot it, Shego? He's not going to turn us in."
"I'm over that, Princess. The fact that he came back for you leaves no doubt that his heart is honorable and true. Unlike mine." She sighed. "I took advantage of you at a vulnerable moment. I dishonored myself and you, Kim, and am not worthy to serve with you or be your friend, although I hope I am still allowed to do so. But I can make up for what I did in a small way by telling you not to send that signal, Stoppable. I just talked with Wade, and he told me who's on your crew."
"What does that have to do with anything?" Kim asked.
"It's made up of the people you grew up and went to the Academy with, and they don't want you arrested, either."
Ron was curious now. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying," Shego replied, "that there might be an option you hadn't considered." Ron and Kim listened as the armored warrior explained her plan.
"You know, that's just crazy enough to work." Ron said.
"Can you seriously believe the crew would go along with that? They're as dedicated to their careers as you are." Kim added.
"No; they're as dedicated to space as much as I am. I picked them because of that and because I knew I could trust them. But I have to admit, I didn't think of /this/." He tapped the commbadge. "Stoppable to /Reliant/. Three to beam up."
"/Three?/" Kim and Shego said together.
"Hey; this is your idea, Shego. You might as well be there to see it in action. And....I'm not leaving you again, Kim." The redhead nodded and scooped up the flowers, candy, and card before the shimmering transporter beam enveloped them.
When they materialized on the pad, Ron was shocked to see Felix, Sovak, Carmen, Seven, and the rest of his command crew minus Josh a few steps away facing in his direction. "Welcome back, Captain," Felix said.
"Felix....what's this about?" Ron asked.
"I told everyone what you were planning, and we came to a decision. We said we'd follow you to Hell and back, sir." The brown-haired man reached up and plucked his commbadge off of his uniform tunic, dropping it to the floor. The rest of the group, including the ensign operating the transporter controls, did likewise. "The rest of the ship is with us, sir. Where you go, we go."
Ron smirked a little. "You realize that there is no turning back now, right? If you decide you want to go back to Earth, you'd be arrested the second you entered the system. This life isn't an easy one, and will most likely end up with us all dying young."
The group was silent until Seven spoke up. "The crew is awaiting your orders, Captain."
Kim smiled and put her arm around Ron. "Looks like the voice of reason doesn't apply to this band of rogues you picked as a crew, Ron."
"You're a fine one to talk, Kim. Alright; everyone back to the bridge. We're going to..."
At that moment, Josh and two security officers entered the room armed with hand phasers. "Ron Stoppable, I'm placing you under arrest." He looked to Kim and Shego. "And you two, as well."
Felix turned and glared at the taller boy. "You're going to have to take all of us, Josh, and you don't have the manpower for that." That was when Josh noticed that none of the small group was wearing a commbadge.
"If that's the way you want to play it, Renton, then fine." He spoke to the security officers, motioning with his phaser. "Arrest them all. Put them in the brig until we reach Earth."
The officers didn't move a muscle.
"Did you hear me? I said arrest them!" The only reply was the sound of two commbadges hitting the metal floor. Mankey whirled around to see that the two men had their phasers aimed at him. "What are you /doing?/"
"Placing you under arrest, Commander," one of them said flatly.
"This is mutiny! I could have you both court-martialled for this!"
The other guard answerd him. "No, sir. Mutiny would be if we turned against the Captain. He's standing on that transporter pad, and you were the one aiming a weapon at /him/." He reached up and took Josh's phaser away while he partner removed the commander's commbadge.
"What shall we do with him, Captain?" the first guard asked.
Ron thought it over for a moment. "I'm not sure. We obviously can't let him run loose, but we can't keep him in the brig, either." He sat down on the edge of the pad and rubbed his chin. After several long moments, he snapped his fingers. "Put him in an escape pod. Set it on a course for Earth and lock the helm so that he can't change it, give him enough ration bars to last him the trip, and disable long-range communications. By the time he talks to anyone, we'll be long gone."
"Aye, sir." The security men dragged Josh away, him cursing and screaming the entire time.
"Didn't expect that kind of move from you, Ron," Kim said.
Ron stood up. "Maybe your way of thinking is already rubbing off on me."
"Not quite. I'd have just dumped him out an airlock."
"Don't like to kill, KP."
"I know, but he would have killed you if he thought he had to, and then I'd have had to kill /him/. Nobody hurts my man. /Nobody./"
The young captain smiled. "Glad to know I've got such a dedicated woman. Okay, everyone, let's get to the bridge."
A short while later, Ron sat in Reliant/'s center chair again. To his right sat Kim, seemingly at home in the first officer's chair, and Shego stood next to her, as if guarding the redhead. /Now /that's /loyalty/, Ron thought. /This is a course of action that could get us all killed, and yet Shego continues to stay by her. Of course, /my /crew isn't much different.
"Captain," Sovak, now dressed in gray slacks and a matching short-sleeved shirt, reported from Tactical, "Commander Mankey's escape pod has cleared its docking port and engaged engines."
"Thanks, Sovak. Felix, set a course for the Terkona Nebula, full impulse."
"Aye, sir." The stars on the viewscreen began to move as the ship accelerated. In less than an hour, they were at the edge of the blue-black nebula.
Kim tapped a few commands into the panel on the arm of her chair, and the five Klingon vessels emerged in a pefect 'V' formation, pointed directly at /Reliant/.
Shego produced a commlink from her belt pouch and spoke into it in Klingon too fast for Ron to catch. A minute later, Sovak reported that the shields and weapons of all five had been powered down.
Kim stood up. "I'd better go. I'll call you once I'm on /Chimaera/'s bridge."
Ron took ahold of her wrist and stopped her. "I've got a better idea, KP." He turned his gaze forward. "Felix, you and Carmen go over to Chimaera and take command." The two got up from their stations and left the bridge.
Shego's eyes went wide. "What are you...?"
"What does it look like I'm doing? Kim's now my first officer, and you're second after her."
"Why are you doing this, Ron?" his redheaded lover asked.
Ron smiled. "Because it's the best move, KP. If you're on another ship, I'd always worry about you. I'd be calling you every five minutes just to make sure you were okay This way, we can always be together. No matter what."
"I-I'm not sure what the fleet is going to think of this."
"Once you tell them what's happened, I'm sure they'll understand." As if on cue, Shego passed her commlink to Kim.
The young pirate smirked a little. "I should have known there'd be a twist to this." She thumbed the activator switch and spoke. "Attention all ships; this is your former captain speaking. The fleet is now under the command of Ron Stoppable, and Reliant is our new flagship. There are two officers boarding Chimaera to take control, and I expect their orders and Ron's to be followed as though they were mine. I know what a lot of you are probably thinking, and this isn't a surrender to Starfleet or some kind of trick to get you to lower your guard. The situation is...../complicated/ to say the least, but our goals have in no way changed. We're still going for the galaxy's greatest trasures; we've just got a lot more muscle to do it with." She clicked off the commlink and waited.
A moment later, the image of a dark-haired bearded man appeared on the viewer. "Captain, with all due respect, are you sure that this is what you want?"
"What do you mean, Tom?" Kim asked, rising to her feet with Ron joining her a moment later. "Or are you still insisting that I call you 'Mr. Riker?"
"I just want to know if you're sure about this. I mean, he is Starfleet."
"No," the redhead replied, "he's a /pirate/." She then pulled him into a deep, passionate kiss. The face on the screen relaxed a little, then the image winked out.
Ron broke the kiss when Sovak spoke. "Felix and Carmen report that they are on /Chimaera/'s bridge and are ready to depart on your orders."
Kim grinned. "Up for a little treasure hunt, /Captain/?"
"What sort of treasure?" She told him about the latinum in the Neutral Zone. "You mean you want to take these ships and their skeleton crews near Romulan space to try and nab something that you're not even one hundred percent sure is there?" Kim nodded. "Sounds like fun. But I'll need a new helmsman for the time being."
"Problem solved," Kim said as she sat down at Felix's console. "I can fly anything with a warp core."
"Alright. Shego, would you mind taking over Ops?"
"Not at all, sir." The armored woman had to remove the bat'leth from her back to sit in the chair, and Ron had to smile a little when he saw her loop the massive weapon's strap over the backrest before sitting.
"Alright, Kim; you've got the coordinates. Feed them to the other ships, then tell all vessels to set course and prepare for Warp 8." Kim tapped her console a few times, then reported the readiness of the fleet - /Ron/'s fleet - to depart. "Engage." He allowed himself a broad smile. "/We're devils and black sheep and really bad eggs....D//rink up, me 'earties, yo ho./"
Several days later, Josh Mankey stood in Admiral Janeway's office, giving his report on the situation. "And that's exactly what happened."
"Captain Stoppable essentially stole Reliant and has now joined the same pirates he was sent to hunt?"
"Yes ma'am. The entire crew was with him; I was the only one trying to obey my orders. Even the woman you sent along was more than willing to go along with it. With your permission, I'd like to take a few ships and..."
"That will be enough, Commander. You're dismissed."
"But, Admiral, we might still be able to..."
"I said 'dismissed', Commander."
Josh set his jaw, the offered a brisk salute, turned on his heel, and stormed out of the office.
A moment later, a side door opened and two individuals walked in. Janeway smiled. "All is going according to plan, gentlemen."
James Tiberius Kirk mimicked the smile. "I told you it would work, Chancellor."
Martok's facial expression did not change. "/So far/, it has worked. But I have not had an easy time explaining to the Council why I ordered the task force to stop pursuing Possible. Many of them are screaming for her blood, and the rest are not being as kind. I wish I could tell them that I allowed her to have the ships, but it could be more dangerous if they know than if they don't."
"They'll get over it," Kirk replied. "How's Starfleet going to take this, Admiral?"
Janeway handed him a mug of coffee. "Well, the loss of a Prometheus/-class starship is nothing to sneeze at. I had to pull a lot of strings just to get him assigned to /Reliant in the first place, but I knew they would need that firepower. There are a lot of threats, new and old, starting to emerge from the chaos of the last few years. The Breen have started rattling sabers again, there are reports of Tholian attacks on colonies along their border, the Cardassians are far too quiet for anyone's liking, and who knows what the Romulans will try to cook up now that there's a power vacuum in their Empire."
"Starfleet can't officially do anything about this," Kirk added, sipping from the mug, "but another group with no ties to the Federation is perfect for the task. Never mind that Starfleet and the Klingon Defense Force have armed them, even if they didn't know they were doing it."
"I am forced to agree," Martok added. "Again. But no matter how many times I think this through, I still come to the conclusion that if anyone ever figures out what we have done, all three of us would be imprisoned or worse."
"I assure you," Janeway said, "that is not going to happen. When I assigned her to Reliant/, I gave Seven of Nine a special comm frequency. If Starfleet starts to send anyone else after our little group, I can alert her and she'll be able to keep the fleet safe. And if the Klingons do the same, Chancellor, you can tell me so I can pass along the message. We need Stoppable and his new friends to handle the things we can't touch, and I won't let /anything jeopardize this endeavor."
Captain's Log, Stardate 56884.9. My crew and I have turned our backs on Starfleet to become a band of swashbucklers and vagabonds, out for nothing more than treasure and adventure. On the surface, it doesn't seem to bad, but we took one of their best new ships in the process. I feel bad about leaving Josh to fend for himself for so long, but I didn't have any other choice. At least by now he's back on Earth, which is better than staying in the brig or being left on some planet.
According to our latest projections, at this speed it will take us approximately four days to reach the Romulan Neutral Zone, and another day's travel to reach the site that Kim's contact specified. If he was right, there should be enough latinum there to keep the entire fleet supplied for years as well as hiring on more crewmembers. Despite how illegal this all is, morally and ethically it feels /right/. I'm with Kim again, and there isn't a force in this galaxy, natural or supernatural, that can ever split us up again.
Ron ended his log entry when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around to see Kim dressed only in a loosely-tied red robe. Her hair was still damp and she smelled of soap and shampoo. "Nice shower they gave you."
"One of the perks of being a Captain; we don't have to restrict ourselves to sonic showers."
"So," she asked, draping her arms around his neck, "no regrets?"
"No regrets," he replied, pulling her over to the bed. They collapsed onto the mattress, their lips locked together as though it had been an eternity since they kissed. Kim undid the belt of her robe and Ron divested himself of his shirt and slacks.
Outside, Shego leaned against the wall next to the door, smiling at the unmistakable sounds she heard emanating from Ron's quarters. Well, Pumpkin, you got what you wanted. You and I were never meant to be, but as long as you're happy, I'm happy. She moved from her position and headed down the corridor. I wonder what kind of training programs those holodecks have?
And there you have it; it took me a lot longer than I initially planned to get this one out, but there were several rough spots I had to smooth out before I could be satisfied with what I had written and move on. (I'll tell you right now, calculating Stardates can be a real pain in the keester, but I'm a stickler for accuracy, so I put up with it.) I hope you have enjoyed this, and remember, reviews are always appreciated.