"Captain Sulu, were being hailed."
Hikaru Sulu sat up in his center seat. "By whom?"
"Starfleet courier approaching, sir, at high warp from the general direction of Starbase 211."
"On screen, Mister Grexi."
The Edoans three tri-fingered claws danced across the communications board. "Sir, theyre declining visual communication. The sender says, Tell Sulu its Riley, and Ive come to talk to him."
Riley? Kevin Riley? Here? Sulu pondered the implications of one of the highest ranking Starfleet Intelligence officers coming aboard his starship. Are we about to receive a secret mission? A covert operation?
"Mister Floyd, Ill be in Transporter Room Two. You have the conn."
As Riley materialized, Sulu noticed his grizzled salt and pepper beard and black tunic. "Welcome aboard, old friend," the captain extended his hand.
The intelligence officer was taken aback. "Not the sort of welcome I usually receive these days." He took Sulus proffered hand and shook it warmly. "Of course, these days, were both pariahs."
Sulu chuckled softly at Rileys attempt at humor, then cut himself off. "Sorry about that, Kevin. Its not a laughing matter for either of us."
"No, its not. But right now Im trying to make amends for twenty years worth of disservice to Starfleet and the Federation." Riley grinned goofily. "Ive got quite a head start on you, Hikaru."
The captain of the Excelsior looked down. "Kevin"
"Sorry, pal, but thats the simple truth. No need to feel bad for me." He glanced around. They were alone in the transporter room; Sulu himself had apparently beamed him aboard. "Listen, Captain, what do you know about your girlfriend?"
"Ariel? This is about Ariel?"
"Actually, this is about several things. We might as well start with her first. Wheres she at right now?"
Riley and Sulu entered Sickbay. Doctor Ariel Cord was standing next to a science tech who was reclined on a biobed, examining the results of her scan. "Crewman, next time your back itches, please come see me for an analgesic steroid cream instead of using a broken glass rod to scratch it."
"I didnt know it was broken, Doc," the technician replied as she slathered dermaplast on his back.
"Well thats got you taken care of. Now get back to work. Mister Tork tells me that he wants the analysis of that substance immediately."
After the doors closed behind the departing crewman, Cord turned her attention to the two men before her. "Good morning, Captain. Whos your friend, and what can I do for either of you?"
"This is Captain Kevin Riley, Starfleet Intelligence. And Im not sure what hes here for."
"Im here for you, Doctor Cord," Riley began.
Sulu turned with a start to face his old friend who was apparently unaware that he had evoked an old memory. He quickly suppressed his surprise. "Can you be a bit more specific, Kevin?"
"Hikaru, I dont know if you realize it or not, but your girlfriend here is practically immortal."
No one said anything, and Riley smiled. "The lack of a response indicates youre both well aware of this." He favored her with an appraising look. "Aside from the fact that you look remarkably young for a woman your age, Id bet youre practically invincible."
"What gave me away?"
"It came to Intelligences attention when you survived the exposure to the plasma plague on Korvat back in April. A little research showed you survived a fire and explosion aboard the Cooper in 2290 that should have killed you as well. Other incidents came to our attention as well, including your surviving the explosion which resulted in your mothers assassination."
She stared at him, then blew a bubble of gum and popped it petulantly. "So my gigs up. What are you going to do? Take me back and dissect me?"
"Believe it or not, Doctor, thats exactly what Admiral Gervais was planning. Fortunately for you, he was not immune to that particular strain as you well know since, ironically, you conducted his autopsy."
Cord slid next to Sulu, slipping her hand into his. "Karu, you cant let him"
"Dont worry, Ariel, I wont let him"
Riley held up his hand in an attempt to placate the two Excelsior officers. "Whoa, slow down there, guys. The problem is moot. Im here to tell you, Doctor Cord, that you need no longer worry. The only personnel still aware of your abilities have been bought and paid off, and if your condition is ever mentioned, there will be...penalties."
"Bought and paid off? By whom? Daddy?"
Riley shook his head. "By Starfleet Intelligence under direct order from Commander-Starfleet Lystra Davis herself."
"Really?" Sulu was impressed. "But why? She cant stand me!"
"Captain, I regret to inform you that the universe doesnt revolve around you," Riley said sarcastically. "Doctor Cords performance on Korvat saved Ambassador Sareks life, a fact that has not escaped Admiral Davis notice, but more than that, the admiral does not intend to set aside the rights of any sentient being for the sake of Federation security."
"So why come here and tell us all this? You neednt have bothered. If Starfleet is planning on leaving me alone, then whats the point?"
"Because, dear woman, that information may be in the hands of others, including the Klingons, the Romulans, the Orions... As you know, their agents can be most tenacious. We thought it best if you have fair warning. Hopefully, the matter wont arise."
Sulu walked to the biobed, and hopped up on it. "Sorry, I just need to sit down. Kevin, this is all remarkable."
Riley shrugged. "Perhaps, but I told you my visit was about several things. Ive accomplished my first two goals: Doctor Cord has been made aware of her situation and has received Starfleets assurance that were the least of her worries."
Sulu frowned. "And the rest of your goals?"
"Just a few simple things that will wait until Gamma shift. Now, hows about dinner with an old friend?" Riley reached into his duty jacket and brought forth a bottle of saki.
"Who are we to refuse to offer our hospitality to an old friend?"
And within a few minutes, the three sat around a table in Sulus quarters enjoying sushi, sashimi, sake and a celebration of their friendship.
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