Subject: SB EPSILON: Court now in session

SD 80730


        Houston sat on the bunk in the holding cell, arms folded, head
bowed.  Her expression was indicative of the bitterness she was feeling,
but there was pain etched in the lines of her face as well.  Clearly the
separation from Kief Sampter was biting at her.

        The next shift of security arrived in the Brig, there were brief
murmered discussions before the fresh guards attended their posts.  Houston
didn't bother to look up, her thoughts concerned more with when she might
be getting out than with who was up for the next security shift.

        "Joanna?" a voice beyond the field said, disbelief carrying across
clearly.  One of the guards, an ensign, had approached her cell and was
giving her a curious look.

        She knew that accent, and as she looked up Joanna recognised the
face.  Yet it took a while for her to clear her head and reply in an
equally surprised tone, "Tasha?"  She brushed away a lock of hair that had
been dangling over her eye.

        "Vhat are you doing here?" asked Tasha Pulynn.  Her Russian accent
had always intrigued Joanna, in fact once she'd mimicked it.  But that had
been a few years ago.

        "I could ask you the same," replied Joanna.  Then, after a moment's
thought, she added, "Well, I guess I got a little carried away, next thing
I know the whole of StarFleet comes crashing down on me.  Real neat."

        Tasha took a few moments to adjust to the change in her friend's
mannerisms.  "Vell, I see you've changed some."  With a smile, she asked,
"Vhat did you do to your hair?"

        Joanna smiled back, which seemed to unnerve Tasha slightly, and
replied, "Oh, I had a fortunate encounter with a holographic hairdresser."
She took in the changes in Tasha; maybe another stone or so in weight; her
blonde hair was a little thicker, the same length, tied into a ponytail.
"You have not changed much," she noted.

        "You'd be surprised," said Tasha heartily.  Out of the corner of
her eye she noticed the other security guards looking at her curiously.
She explained, "She was my room-mate at the Academy."  They nodded in
understanding, but still looked a little wary.

Conference Room 1

        "This court-martial is hereby convened," stated Vice-Admiral
Menzies as Ramsay entered with Caroline.  Will gave her a peck on the cheek
before showing her to a seat.  He straightened up, walked to his position
opposite the Admiral.

        Just as he came to a stop, he had a *feeling*.  Will glanced
around, for some reason picking out a man in the crowd.  Dressed in command
red, looking exceptionally nervous.  Without thinking about what he was
doing, Ramsay brushed the other man's mind, and then again, deeper.  For a
second Will was confused, the image jumbled in his head, then he saw the
phaser rise... and fire.  But... it hadn't happened yet.  The man was still
fidgeting, apparently ignoring Ramsay.

        "Lieutenant?" called a voice behind him.

        He had a choice; he could go with this *feeling*, and if he was
wrong he'd make a laughing stock out of himself and seriously damage his
career; or he could stand here and watch the phaser beam strike its
intended target.  When he began running, Will had already eliminated the
second option.  The man turned, surprised, but not in time to counter
Ramsay's flying lunge.

        "Order!  I will have order in this courtroom!" yelled the Admiral
as he squinted to see what in blazes was going on.  Ramsay, dazed by the
impact, stood over the man.  The phaser had clattered to the floor, with a
glance Will was horrified to see it was set on maximum.  He was caught
off-balance by his observation as the angry would-be-assassin struck out
with his foot.  Ramsay swayed but managed to stay upright, but the man in
red got the next blow.

        It struck Ramsay squarely on the jaw, and he wondered what the hell
the guy's fist was made out of.  In one swift movement, Will slipped
underneath him, between his legs, catching them with his hands.  That
toppled him again, and there was a loud thud as the assassin hit the
ground.  When Will Turned around, he could see that this was no ordinary
person.  The face and body contorted in an impossible fashion, and suddenly
Will was looking at a much larger beastie.  He did what he could, dived for
the phaser before a giant fist came down on his previous position, had a
millisecond to tweak the power down, and fired up at the creature/assassin.

        For a dreadful moment, Will thought it had taken the blast and
would again try to crush him underfoot.  But it sank to the ground in a
heap, apparently still conscious.  Several officers dashed for cover as it
came down, but it was shrinking back into a man-sized body.

        Will handed the phaser to an amazed security guard, adding, "All in
a days work."

Thirty minutes later

        Admiral Menzies was still busily conferring with several other
high-ranking officers.  They were gesturing at Ramsay, but speaking in
hushed tones.  He was still nursing his jaw, it hurt like hell.

        The conference ended, the officers took their seats.  Admiral
Menzies announced, "We've been able to determine that the offender is a
shape-changer... who's now being guarded heavily in Sickbay.  Intelligence
indicates that the assassin was hired by the Kzinti to kill all of the
high-ranking officials at this court-martial."  He paused for effect. 
"Although this is highly irregular, the board has dismissed the charge
against Lt(jg). William Ramsay in light of both his very recent conduct,
and his exemplary record.  The defendant is free to go," he said, "*After*
he answers one question for us.  The rest, dismissed."

        Ramsay waited for the officers to file out of the conference room.
Still standing opposite the board of officers, he said, "Sir?"

        "Lieutenant Ramsay, how do you account for your being able to spot
an intruder in a thick crowd, and realise his intentions... when the
Level-One Security couldn't?"

        Ramsay had to think about that one.  "Admiral, I'm not entirely
sure how either, *but* I think it may have something to do with a recent
increase in my psionic abilities.  My ex-CMO may be able to tell you more.
Suffice to say, I *felt* that there was an assassin, and that he was about
to make his move.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  Admiral."

        Menzies conferred with some of the more knowledgable board members.
After a minute or so, he replied, "We accept your explanation, Lieutenant.
But if you'll pardon my saying, StarFleet is going to be rather interested
in someone with your... talent."


        Menzies referred that one to another board member.  "I'm Commander
Louise Sheridan, with the Psi-Training Office.  On your next assignment,
Lieutenant, you'll be assigned a psionic development tutor.  I don't know
if you'd already requested one, but I'm going to make detailed enquiries to
find the best-suited.  Any questions?" asked the seemingly rather young
Commander, with ash-blonde hair.  He wasn't sure if she was smiling because
of what he'd just thought.

        "No, sir."

        "Very well then, Lieutenant Ramsay.  By the way, we also got word
today about how the Frontier was lost.  We would have acquitted you anyway,
under those circumstances, but at least now you gave us a reason that isn't
top-secret," grinned Menzies.  "Dismissed," finished Vice-Admiral Menzies.


        Caroline caught Will's arm as he walked out, "Well?"

        "I get lumped with some psychobabble on my next post.  Terrific,"
said Ramsay *enthusiastically*.

        "It could be worse," she said.


        "They might split us up again."

        Will laughed.  "You're right, that would be a tragedy."


        "What's your assessment of him, Commander?" asked Menzies.

        "He's got a lot of psionic potential, Admiral.  If I had so much as
half of what he has, I'd be pleased."

        "Hmm.  Could this pose any problems?"

        "As long as he receives approved guidance and training... there
should be no problems-"

        "I see," said Menzies before realising she was about to say more.

        "-however, he's still at a rather... impulsive stage.  The way he
looked at me, I could swear he'd forgotten about his wife outside.  But
perhaps that's just typical of his character."

        "What are you trying to say, Commander?"

        She blushed a little.  "Well... whoever is going to be training him
is going to be in close contact with him.  Likely as not every day.  The
last person you want is..."

        "A woman?" echoed half the board incredulously.  Louise was now
scarlet with embarrassment.  "Commander, I appreciate what you're getting
at, but as far as StarFleet is concerned, Mr. Ramsay's personal life is not
the issue here.  Whether this psi-tutor does cause the collapse of his
marriage... is really none of our concern.  What is the issue... is
ensuring that he receives the best-suited tutor, no matter who they are."

        "As you wish, Admiral."  Louise would tonight log an off-the-record
complaint about the stance StarFleet was taking on this matter.

        "Now, I believe we have a disciplinary hearing later this
afternoon.  Everyone make sure you're here *before* 1700 hours," said
Menzies.  After a second glance, he added, "Just out of interest, the
defendant is Lieutenant Junior Grade Joanna Houston.  Her ex-CO, who made
the report, is none other than our friend Mr. Ramsay."  He sighed
irritably.  "Louise, would you run after him and apologise for not
reminding him he's due in as a witness?"

        "Aye sir."

        "Captain Samusenko, we'll need someone in from Houston's original
design team.  Shame old Maddox passed away, he'd have been able to do a lot
more in the way of argument.  You recall the sentience ruling for the
Soongh-type android... Data, it was.  Although Maddox didn't get his way, I
keep thinking that if it hadn't been Riker fighting his corner, you never
know," added Menzies in a torrential rush of words.

        "Very good, Admiral," replied Samusenko, leaving his chair without
a moment's hesitation.


        Houston looked up as a prisoner was escorted in, apparently putting
up a great deal of resistance.  Unexpectedly, it broke free from the
security, grasping a phaser from one of them.  Joanna saw Tasha behind the
creature, nervously pointing a phaser at it.  She looked across the room at
Joanna, then back at the creature, whose shape was already beginning to
change into something larger.

        "Tasha!  Release the field!" urged Joanna, not knowing quite what
she was saying.

	"No!" shouted one of the other security guards, but he was too
late to affect Tasha's snap judgement.  She nearly dove across to the field
control, having just enough time to deactivate the field before the
creature grew a tentacle, and smashed it against the side of the cell where
she was only moments before.

        Joanna gingerly stepped out of the cell, sizing up the monstrous
figure before her.  Then she walked up to it, quite calmly, and pushed it
back, hard.  If it had been man-sized it would have sailed across the brig
and probably straight into the open holding cell.  Unfortunately being
ever-so-slightly larger, it did not.  It merely toppled.

        It shook it's head, shrunk a little, and stood up again to face its
assailant.  Joanna took three running steps and belted it this time.  It
staggered back uncontrollably, arms flailing for balance that did not come.
It impacted the bunk in the empty holding cell, and sunk back.

        Seconds later, Patrick Simony burst into the brig, lungs heaving
with exertion over the immense distance he'd run.  "Some trouble?" he
managed after a few more seconds.  He caught sight of Joanna, raised a hand
in brief greeting.

        "Nothing we could not handle," replied Joanna with another
unnerving smile.

        "That's as may be, Joanna, but you still have to sit in that cell
until your disciplinary hearing," interrupted Tasha.

        "I still have not had a visitor," complained Joanna as she stepped
back into the cell.

        "You mean that Betazoid you were travelling with?" asked Patrick, a
grin springing to his face already.

        "Yes, as a matter of fact," replied Joanna, somewhat haughtily.
Then she looked up at him and asked, "Where is he?"

        "Oh, he sealed up the door to his shuttle and launched before
anyone could question him.  I could go into how after a few thousand
kilometres his warp drive started producing unusual readings, and then his
shuttle *disappreared* while the Ops officer looked on.  Didn't look like a
cloaking device, either, so I heard.  But then you probably didn't want to
know that."  He stopped, looking closely at Joanna, who looked as if she
was going to burst into tears.

        Joanna controlled the urge to break down in front of the security
officers, but still looked decidedly under the weather.  "Thank-you,
Patrick," she said.

        Tasha had a whispered conversation with Patrick - of course, if
Joanna had wished to listen in she could have done, but she was hardly
interested now.  Patrick did a couple of times state that he couldn't say
much about the classified mission, fairly loudly.  He seemed to want to
forget it entirely.

Conference Room 1

        Joanna had time to tidy up her appearance and dress for the
occasion before entering the hearing.  There was silence all round, a few
people glanced in her direction then nervously looked away as she made her
to the place where Will Ramsay had stood that morning.  He was seated at
the front of the audience, ready to be called to testify.  He looked at her
just once, and his expression was one of grim determination.

        She faltered in her stride just then, continuing after a brief

        "This hearing is hereby convened," said Menzies, glancing at
Houston.  "Lieutenant Junior Grade Houston, on the charges of disorderly
conduct and of failure to obey a direct order, how do you plead?"

        Ramsay was looking at her now, she could feel his gaze biting into
her.  She knew what she was going to say, and yet some part of her fought
against her judgement.  Her internal struggle was not immediately evident,
but she failed to answer straightaway.

        "Lieutenant?  We're waiting."

        She focussed ahead, and replied, "I plead guilty as charged,
Admiral."  She still couldn't see Ramsay's expression, but she expected he
would at least be ruffled by the fact that he wouldn't have to testify.

        The board conferred.  After a few minutes deliberation, Menzies
said, "Given that this is a first offence, we recommend you be released."
Before she could turn and look at anyone else, the admiral added in a
louder tone to overcome the sudden whispering, "With a one-month suspended
penal sentence.  Next time we may not be so lenient.  Make sure there is
not a next time, Lieutenant."

        "Yes sir," she replied flatly.

        "Defendant is dismissed."

        Houston looked briefly at Ramsay as she left.  His expression was
one not of satisfaction, but of black thunder.

Ramsays' temporary quarters

        "I still can't believe they let her off with a handie-slap,"
commented Will as he and Caroline packed to go to Starbase Alpha.

        "Will," said Caroline sternly, "you can't hope to think that you
were going to personally take her down, put her name in the mud.  Nobody
deserves that."

        He sighed.  "I guess you're right."


        He frowned, then he smiled, "Oh yes, I forgot, you're *always*

        "Got it in one."

                           Respectfully submitted
                               Sam M. Edwards

        S        Lt(jg) William Ramsay                             E
        S        Lt(jg) Caroline McMirren Ramsay                   E
        S        Lt(jg) Joanna Houston                             E
        S                                                          E
        S   "Good riddance!  You're going to regret sacking me!"   E
        S                       Alf O'Brien                        E

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