“Weapon signatures!”

Saavik straightened from bending over the report. “Begging your pardon, Captain, but we do not know that for certain.”

Harris’ eyes narrowed to ugly slits. “And what exactly, my dear Commander, do you think it could possibly be otherwise?” He snorted in disgust. “Use some of those supposedly high intelligence scores for once.”

She refused to let his insults affect her composure.

Harris tossed the report on his desk. “Tell the bridge to raise shields and run weapons hot. We’re going in.”

She started, head jerking up. “Sir, we cannot enter Neutral space without Command authorization.”

His face darkened. “While you wait for authorization, the Romulans will be long gone – off to kill more of our people.” He leaned forward dangerously. “Or is that the real problem here? Which ‘people’ is yours, Commander?”

Saavik’s back stiffened and her gaze became blackly unreadable. “I am sworn to the Federation and Starfleet, Captain.”

“I’m sure,” Harris said, and his teeth showed as he smiled tightly.

She felt an anger rise that she had not felt in a decade.

“Then follow my orders.”

She stepped closer to him. “Entering neutral space is an act of war. Entering it in full battle mode is--”

Harris climbed to his feet, face dark. “That outpost is a launch point for another attack on our colonies!”

“Sir, we do not have sufficient proof that our scans--”

“I have had enough!” He jabbed a finger at her chest. “How many thousands have to die before you have enough proof?”

Saavik took a long steadying breath. She looked her captain straight in the eye. “And how many innocents may die if we act without enough proof?”

He laughed in her face. “They have no innocents!”

Old memories stirred.

Saavik swallowed hard. But she shook her head. “No, sir.”

Harris snorted. “You are relieved of duty.”

Saavik did not move. “You will provoke war.” She leaned forward earnestly. “In one standard hour, the last probe will return. The final data we need will be in its report.”

He shook his head. “Vulcan should have done a better job of you. Before they inflicted you on us.”

“If you are wrong, Captain, you will kill the ones you claim to protect.”

He smiled. It was ugly. “You are still one of them.”

Saavik’s head snapped back as if she were slapped. Her expression turned into a mask.

Harris walked around his desk. “I’ll have Security escort you to the brig.”

Saavik looked down at her hands. “Sir?”

Harris stopped at her side, his head tilting mockingly. “What? A sudden change of heart, Commander?”

Her eyes glinted almost mournfully in the Ready Room’s light.

Harris’ body hit the deck and lay unmoving.

She felt inexplicably tired. “Some time ago, Captain.”

She stepped carefully over him and went to his desk. She keyed the comm. “Commander Saavik to Bridge.”

Lieutenant Commander Blakely answered. “Yes, ma’am?”

“As soon as the probe’s data returns, forward it to the captain’s Ready Room immediately.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Saavik keyed it off. She did nothing for a moment but sit in Harris’ chair. Then she swivelled slowly in the chair until she could stare out the port view. The stars of the Romulan Neutral Zone seemed unnaturally bright against the darkness.

She closed her eyes.

An old memory of Hellguard’s wind stirred in her mind.

She began to wait.