Rebecca knocked on the door of Claude's apartment. "Hello, anybody home. It's Rebecca Davies. I talked to you last week." No sign of him, she thought. She took a deep breath to absorb the scents permeating the room. There was no indication of decaying flesh or, for that matter, anything that suggested someone was actively living here. She did notice a sweet smell, much like perfume. As she concentrated on that scent, she started to feel her blood vessels push alongside her temples.
Rebecca was too late.
"Sir," the Jem'Hadar first announced. "We have detected a ship de-cloak in our orbit. They wish to speak to you."
"Have you identified the ship's passengers?" Khan asked.
"Yes, sir, there is one human male and one Orion female aboard."
"Hmm," Khan noted before deciding on a course of action. "Allow them to land and prepare to receive them."
The incoming shuttlecraft was given instructions on where to land. Khan was at the landing site flanked by two of his Jem'Hadar. "So," Malina stated as she exited her shuttlecraft, "you are the great Khan Noonien Singh, epic warrior and strategist. You've managed to grow your own crop of Jem'Hadar soldiers, ready to take on the universe. It seems to me that you're having a little trouble taking your expansion plans to the rest of the Alpha Quadrant."
"And why," Khan replied, "should I listen to you?"
"Because," she whispered, "if my charming personality doesn't work, I could literally smash your brain with my bare hand."
"You are very bold," Khan noted, "but can you back up your claims. Defend yourself."
Patrick sat down at his terminal to begin his conversation. "Admiral," he stated. "I'm sorry I'm running behind, however, I just received some information. It appears that Malina has already gotten to Dr. Eccelston. Baldwin is proceeding to help search his quarters for any clues."
"In other words," Admiral Donaldson quipped, "you want to keep your hands firmly in this. The Romulans found their shuttlecraft crashed near the neutral zone. Needless to say, they did not find the craft's cloak."
"I will have the 10th Squadron keep on the lookout for cloaked bogies. We are the best at finding cloaked ships."
Patrick entered the war room at his normal time. "The investigative team is in place and is combing Dr. Eccleston's apartment. Have you found anything on our end?"
"I have scanned our entire orbit," Sarah stated. "However, there has been a lot of traffic and not all of it the kind that registers its movements with the proper authorities. It's a bowl of spaghetti out there."
"Are there any signs of tachyon emissions?"
"I've found a few spots, but the web is still difficult to tangle. It's going to take a while to narrow the possible number of warp trails. There is one trail that might pique your interest."
Richie watched as Sarah overlaid a warp trail over a warp current chart. "Based on the warp currents for this sector, the most logical destination for this particular trail is."
"The 'Red Zone,'" Patrick finished. "I also presume that it crosses all of the areas that you found evidence of tachyons."
"Indeed," Sarah said as she reached for a datapad. I've already got a preliminary report drafted for you."
"Keep me posted," Patrick replied.
Malina and Khan continued to engage in hand to hand combat for several hours. Neither opponent appeared to have the upper hand over the other. "It appears," Khan noted, "that you are indeed a worthy opponent."\
"Oh, I am so much more than that," Malina replied. She swiftly performed a roundhouse kick, tossing Khan several feet towards the side of a building. Before Khan could react, Malina burst toward him, pinning his arms against the wall with her hands. "I win. Are you ready to talk now?"
"It appears that it would be in my best interest to listen to what you have to say."
"Very wise decision," Malina replied. "It's my understanding that you've had more than a few run-ins with one Starfleet officer in particular. I haven't had the fortune to meet this Captain Ingrum in person; however, he's been a bit of a thorn in my side as well."
"You propose an alliance?" Khan inquired. "What do you have to offer that would be of interest to me?"
"I am well-connected. I have contacts in areas where Starfleet rarely treads. One word from me, and they can be yours."
"How do you know these contacts of yours wouldn't turn on you, especially if something brings Starfleet in?"
"That's what I'm looking for from you. You have enough firepower here to more than handle the entire 5th fleet. If you want to make a name for yourself in the Alpha Quadrant, you've got to be ready to make a move on the Federation."
"Starfleet still has considerably more resources than we do, and no matter what I do, Captain Ingrum always has an answer," Khan stated.
"Captain Ingrum knows the local turf very well," Malina noted. "I, on the other hand, have a bit of a broader perspective. From here, or anywhere, I can get a message out to subordinates spread across Federation space. I even have some small colonies in my hip pocket. However, I could start out with a little personal revenge."
"Very intriguing," Khan replied. "What do you propose?"
"What have you found," Patrick inquired as he entered the war room.
"The investigators took an air sample from Dr. Eccelston's apartment. They confirmed that there was a significant concentration of Orion pheromones, in addition to alcohol and mold."
"That verifies our initial hypothesis that Dr. Eccelston was abducted by Malina. Is there anything else?"
"There wasn't very much trace evidence; however, we were able to find some hair samples. I ran it through the DNA database, no hit. I can confirm that it is Orion."
"I was under the impression," Patrick noted, "that we don't have Malina's DNA profile. However, we do know that she's an augment, and that Dr. Murrow performed the procedure. If you're producing something by hand, you will undoubtedly leave a sort of thumbprint on your work."
"So, you think that if we compare this DNA sample against Bridget and Roslyn, we will find similarities to indicate that manipulation by Dr. Murrow. I'll go ahead and run a DNA comparison with Bridget – looks like we have similarities on a few key sequences. Now for Roslyn – we got a match on the same key sequences. I'll run this against the rest of the 'wild roses,' however, I think you're right, captain."
"Good. I want this DNA sample put in the database and red-flagged. Intel needs to know, should someone find matching DNA sample, where and when the trace was found, and who collected it."
"I'm on it."
Joshua sat on Bridget's lap as Bridget read a nursery rhyme off of a datapad as the doorbell to the Ingrums' quarters rang. "Come on in, Jaimie."
"Hey," Jaimie stated as she entered, "how's Joshua been?"
"Very well behaved," Bridget commented. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm doing all right. Between getting the hang of being a mother and being the first officer, it's been a balancing act."
"I'm well aware of that," Bridget replied. "You're doing just fine."
"What concerns me right now," Jaimie continued, "Is the fact that we may be put in a battle footing again."
"As Patrick routinely reminds me, we have to play the cards that we are dealt. If that means that we have to fight again, that's what we've got to do. I do think we could use a civilian, maybe even one of my sisters, who can help watch the children. In the meantime, Stephanie and Sara have become my best friends as far as helping keep an eye on the kids."
"Bridge to Commander Petrelli," Donna interrupted over the intercom, "I hate to bother you, but long range sensors are detecting multiple ships approaching. You may want to double back to the bridge."
"Sounds like trouble," Bridget commented, "I'll get Sara to look after the kids."
"On my way," Jaimie replied.
Jaimie arrived on the bridge to find Patrick ready for her. "What have we got?" she inquired as she took her seat in the First officer's chair.
"It's confirmed," Donna stated, "we have incoming. Twenty warbugs and they are in attack formation!"
"Is there any chance we can cloak and get out of here before they're in weapons range?" Jaimie asked.
"It would take too long to fire up the cloak."
"Just my luck," Patrick replied. "Red alert, all hands to battle stations."
"Weapons are ready," Donna said. "The lead warbug is hailing us."
"Put it through," Patrick noted.
"Federation starship, this is First Ma'shar. You will stand down and surrender your captain."
As the Jem'Hadar first delivered his message, Patrick sent a text message to the tactical console. "Fire at will," the message stated.
Baldwin fired every phaser bank at the oncoming ships. Although outnumbered, the flying skills of her main pilot assured that the enemy fire was of minimal effect. "You know, they'll probably try to close us in," Laura commented.
"I understand," Patrick noted. "Do what you can to get us clear of the warbugs and on course to rendezvous with some backup."
"Understood," Laura answered.
The Starfleet ship started to rock under continuous enemy fire. "Our shields are down to 67 percent."
"Make it clear we're not giving up. Make every shot count."
"Understood," Donna replied.
Unfortunately, the warbugs had begun to concentrate their fire on Baldwin's torpedo pod. The enemy ships also fired on the torpedoes launched by the Starfleet ship, escalating the damage. Within minutes, Baldwin was boxed in by the oncoming swarm. Donna attempted to inflict damage to the enemy ships, but there were too many. The other Jem'Hadar ships surrounded Baldwin and continued to hammer upon her weapons in order to force Patrick to surrender. "We've lost weapons. Shields are down to 10 percent. What's the game plan now, captain?"
"For once, there's not a damn thing we can do to escape," Patrick stated with a tinge of frustration. "Stand down what little weapons we have left. Open a channel."
"Jem'Hadar ship, this is Captain Patrick Ingrum. We surrender unconditionally. Repeating, we surrender unconditionally."
A Jem'Hadar transport beam signaled the enemy's intent as Patrick was beamed off of his ship. The Baldwin's bridge crew watched as the warbugs warped away toward the 'Red Zone.' "Engineering, this is the bridge. How soon can we get shields and weapons back online."
"Those warbugs dealt us a major blow," Bridget said. "It's going to be several hours before I can get the weapons fixed. More than likely, it's going to take a shift and a half."
"Have Sonara lead the repair efforts. I need to speak with you personally."
Patrick woke up to find himself in a holding cell. He was surprised to see who had come to greet him. "Well, well," Malina stated. "I finally get to meet the great Patrick Ingrum, captain of the USS Baldwin. Somehow, I'd thought you'd be taller."
"I'm just one man," Patrick responded. "I'm not larger than life."
"Still," the Orion puppeteer commented. "I'd hate to lay waste to such a legend. That won't stop me from sending your family a message." With her comment, Patrick gulped as Malina lowered the holding cell's force field.
It would be the last thing Patrick would see before being knocked out.
An agitated Bridget rushed quickly to the shuttlebay. Jamie walked along side, trying to knock some sense into her. "I know you're pissed, and you have every right to be, but have you given your plan any thought. I'm sure Malina will have an entire regiment standing between you and her."
"Jamie, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that is going to stand in my way between me and that green-skinned bitch."
"If you're that insistent on going after Patrick, I'm not letting you go alone. Petrelli to Lieutenant Jackson, please report to Shuttlebay One."
"I'm way ahead of you," Sara replied. "I had Ensign Collins make sure the cloak was operational. The sooner we get out of here, the better."
"How did you know," Bridget stated as she entered Neosho's cockpit, "I would want to go after Patrick."
"I may be a lawyer," Sara noted, "but I remember the loyalty and personal determination you have shown toward the Captain. I believe that I once commented that 'Hell hath no fury like an Augment scorned.' Besides, Malina has shown the willingness to become a cold-blooded killer to accomplish her goals."
"And the best person to stand up to an Augment is another Augment."
"Exactly. Miss Collins, are we ready to roll?"
"Phaser banks at full capacity. We're fully stocked with quantum torpedoes. Shields are fully charged. The cloak is on line and ready."
"Thank you, Dorian," Bridget replied. "Begin the launch sequence."
"Baldwin, Neosho," Sara stated, "we're ready for launch."
"Understood," Donna replied. "Good luck, and god speed, Commander."
"Thanks, Donna," Bridget answered, "Neosho out."
"My Lady," First Ma'shar stated, we're detecting an anomaly entering our system.
"It looks like I have some more Starfleet officers to play with," Malina said. "Disable their cloak and lock onto them with a tractor beam."
"Yes, ma'am," Ma'shar answered.
"Commander," Dorian noted as the lights in the runabout dimmed intermittently, "We're taking fire from a Jem'Hadar vessel." The next hit generated sparks in the cockpit. "They just took out the cloak. They're locking a tractor beam onto us."
"Can we break free?" Bridget asked.
"I think Malina just threw down the Gauntlet for you," Sara noted. "Let's follow where they're taking us."
"So much for the stealth approach," Bridget commented, "Dropping out of warp. It gets you every time. You can cloak a ship, but cloaking a warp field is a different matter altogether."
Malina and Khan were flanked by a legion of Jem'Hadar as the Neosho was guided onto its landing spot. "You must be Bridget Ingrum," Malina commented. "You are indeed as attractive as your Starfleet picture shows."
"Flattery will get you nowhere," Bridget answered. "Where is Patrick?"
"He's alive, but just barely. You see, I have a reputation of getting what I want. Those that get in the way will be dealt with."
"You mean by killing them?"
"Sometimes, killing my enemies is effective; however, in your husband's case, I feel that he's more valuable being left holding on to life by a thread." Before Bridget could respond, Malina followed up her verbal torment with a gut-check kick to Bridget's abdomen.
Having been stung, Bridget quickly got back up. Malina charged again; however, Bridget was ready the second time, blocking the second and third kicks, as well as a punch to the face. "Didn't your friend Khan over there tell you about me? I'm at least as strong as you." Bridget connected with a blow to the sternum, sending the Orion flying along the length of the runabout.
"Most impressive," Malina commented. "I once sent a man flying fifteen meters. Unfortunately, he broke just about every bone in his body. He didn't make it."
While Bridget and Malina continued to fight, Sara and Dorian were able to sneak into the prison area. Dr. Eccelston and Dr. Murrow were tending to Patrick in a holding cell. "Dr. Murrow, I presume that your status in the hierarchy has gone down considerably."
"Unfortunately, that is an understatement." Right now, we're tasked with keeping Patrick within an inch of his life. He's got severe bruising, as well as several broken ribs. We've stabilized him and managed his internal bleeding, but we can't properly treat his injuries.
"In other words, we need to get you out of here."
"Easier said than done," Claude noted. "Malina intends on fighting Bridget until she's able to kill her. After that, you two would be a piece of cake."
"If I were to bet on the outcome of the fight, I wouldn't count Bridget out just yet," Sara commented.
The fight continued around the landing pad, with both combatants making impressive swift kicks and punches. Bridget retreated by making a leap onto the top of Neosho. Malina was able follow her prey atop the runabout, taking the offensive with multiple punches and kicks. Bridget demonstrated her athleticism as she dodged her opponent's offense. "I think you've underestimated me," Bridget quipped.
"I know exactly who I'm dealing with, little girl. I was a major player in the syndicate while you were still in diapers. I can tell you that I'm even stronger now." Bridget begun to take the offensive, somersaulting over the Orion and scoring a hit from behind, causing Malina to fall off the roof of the runabout. Despite a fall that would severely injure most humanoids, Malina stood up; physically and mentally ready to continue fighting. Bridget leaped from the roof of the Neosho, scoring another hit on the augmented Orion. The fighters picked up the pace with their kicks, punches, and aerobatics. "Still, you're a very determined woman. It's too bad we will never see eye to eye," Malina noted. She subsequently picked up a medium size rock and fired it at her opponent.
Bridget kept sight of the rock as it hurled toward her. As she focused on the stone, she noticed that it had slowed to a stop right in front of her. "I've seen this before," Bridget noted, "and I think I know how it works." She mentally pushed the projectile back toward her opponent, punching a 3 centimeter hole in a nearby tree.
"I'm not impressed with your telekinesis," Malina taunted. "You missed."
"Who said I was aiming the rock toward you," Bridget retorted as she turned her focus back to Malina. With a second telekinetic push, she shoved the Orion toward the tree, with her head striking the trunk just below her first mark. "Sweet dreams," she said as she leaped back toward Neosho. Once inside the runabout, she was able to fire the ship's phasers to take out the tractor beam and the Jem'Hadar legion.
Upon noting that the Jem'Hadar were knocked out, Sara bolted toward the Nesoho. "We need to get Patrick to a starbase ASAP. Malina messed him up real bad. Looks like you had quite the fight."
"Trust me, the adrenaline is still flowing," Bridget responded as she moved to the transport controls. "I am beaming the rest of our passengers aboard." As the transport completed, Bridget finally saw just how much of a beating Patrick took from Malina. "Oh, my god!"
"He's still alive, but unconscious," Dr. Murrow noted. "Needless to say, he needs more medical attention that we can provide right away."
"Sara, set course for Starbase 375 – I'm going to stay with Patrick."
As the Neosho proceeded on its course, Dorian spoke with Sara. "Ma'am, we may have a problem."
"What is it, Ensign?"
"I was checking our systems, and I found that the cloak is gone."
"Gone, as in removed?"
"The Jem'Hadar may have been able to board the ship and remove the cloak while Bridget and Malina were fighting," Dorian noted.
"Is there anything else?" Sara inquired
"It appears that someone tapped into the computer banks and got a hold of some of the images from Tiana's birthday party."
"Looks like a major update to the situation report will be forthcoming. Malina was probably salivating over getting her hands on the cloak. Let me know if you find anything else compromised."
"From what I can tell," Dr. Murrow noted as he scanned his daughter. "There's been no physical change in your neural patters. Your adrenaline levels are still high, however."
"Why are you concerned about me? I'm fine; it's Patrick that we need to be worried about."
"We've done all we can for him right now," Dr. Murrow replied. "We're going to keep him stabilized until we make it to the starbase. Right now, I've got plenty of time to give you some attention."
"You're the one that made me who I am, in a manner of speaking," Bridget retorted. "Didn't you put telekinesis into my genetic profile?"
"If I did, I assure you, it wasn't intentional."
Bridget closed her eyes and collected her thoughts. She focused her attention on Sara. Bridget felt that her friend was worried, and quickly discovered why. It seems that Malina had a Plan 'B', Bridget noted.
"Did Dorian tell you about the cloak?" Sara inquired as she entered the aft section.
"No," Bridget answered.
"Then how did you know that Malina had –" Before Sara finished her sentence, she realized the answer to her own question. "Oh my god, you literally read my mind!"
"It appears I'm a telepath," Bridget said. "Father, if you want to know what I'm capable of, you had better watch me now."
"I'm not sure I'm going to like this," Sara replied, "but I don't think anyone can stop you. What are you thinking, and please tell us verbally."
"A while back, Patrick was experimenting with a neural link using Borg technology. He used it to help a critically injured comrade while awaiting help. I think I can do the same for him telepathically."
"It sounds risky; however, trying to talk you out of it sounds like an exercise in futility. Doctor, keep an eye on her."
Once everyone understood what Bridget was planning, she turned toward her husband and placed a hand on his forehead. Closing her eyes, she focused her concentration on Patrick.
Patrick felt confused when he saw an image of his wife bathed in a bright white glow before him. "Bridget, what are you doing here?"
"I'm here to help you," Bridget stated. "Malina gave you and me both quite a pounding."
"Help me? How are you here to help me?"
"The sight of seeing you battered caused my telepathic ability to manifest," Bridget commented. "I'm returning the favor that you gave to Stephanie. Dr. Murrow is with me, keeping an eye on us." As she spoke, her hands began to emit the same brilliant white glow. "I'm getting ready to complete the neural link. Just relax and don't think of anything but me." With that, she raised her hands and directed her neural energy toward Patrick.
The light faded to reveal scenes from their combined past. The first scene they saw the day when Bridget personally took a phaser hit for Patrick. From there, the couple reviewed their relationship as it quickly blossomed, turning, in succession, to the day Bridget found out she was pregnant, their wedding, and finally the birth of their daughter.
After this sequence, the flashback changed to their first meeting, when Bridget helped Patrick rescue her sister from the Dominion. Am I getting things wrong, Bridget directed her thoughts toward her husband, or where you turned on when I clocked that Jem'Hadar soldier? Bridget quickly picked up Patrick's reaction. I can tell you're a little embarrassed by that.
I'm sorry, Patrick replied, it's just that, when I was growing up, I was a fan of holocomics featuring strong heroines.
I bet those heroines were wearing skimpy outfits.
I wasn't expecting a fantasy heroine to swoop me off my feet, Patrick noted, but you came pretty damn close.
Don't be embarrassed, Bridget answered. I fell in love with you because you accepted me for who I am. Now, you need to sit tight and rest – and feel free to dream of me. There is one other thing: Patrick, do you know what day it is?
I could never forget, Patrick stated, today's your birthday. Please forgive me if I forgot to give you a present.
I understand, Bridget commented, and I still love you. After making her thoughts clear to her husband, Bridget punctuated her affection toward Patrick with a kiss.
Acting Captain's Log, Stardate 55076.8: Captain Ingrum is being released from his extended stay at Starbase 375 today. Bridget has stood by him during his entire stay, while the Baldwin family took care of the children.
"Good morning, sweetheart." Bridget said to her husband.
"Morning," Patrick commented, still slightly woozy from the pain medication that had been administered to him over the past week. "How are the kids doing?"
"They're fine," Bridget answered. "However, today's your special day. Happy birthday, Patrick, do you notice anything different about me?"
Patrick sat up at took a look at his wife. She was wearing a white form-fitting top with a matching pleated skirt. Embossed on her top was a rose bush with seven red blossoms. "I see you used a little imagination of your own. It looks sexy, but not too provocative," he commented.
As Patrick stepped out of his bed, he began to feel light headed and began to lose his balance. Bridget quickly reacted. "Let me help," she said as she kept her husband on his feet.
"Thanks, for everything," Patrick replied as Bridget grabbed a cane that had been set aside for him.
"Malina has us in a bind," Bridget noted. "She stole Neosho's cloak and distributed pictures of my sisters to her team."
"Still, despite the setbacks," Patrick noted, "we still have each other. We will recover, eventually. We just need to stick together. A wise man once said 'All you need is love.'"
"John Lennon, 1967. That's one of Tiana's favorite songs." Bridget grabbed her husband's hand and walked with him out of the hospital room. No matter what, she stated telepathically to Patrick, we're in this together.