Kirk took the lead. He was cautious as the doors swished open and checked quickly to see if they were going to be ambuscaded. So far, so good. The hallway ahead was empty and endless. He looked back at Ali and Riley. They checked their other options and didn't find much instead some closets and a possible path back to the source of the radiation. This most likely was their only way out.

He stepped out gingerly and waved the other two out. The trio studied their surroundings. He found it strange (and lucky for them) that the floor had labeled everything in Thyrian and Standard. When he read each one, he understood that this was not the deck he was looking for. This one consisted of offices, areas of study and several recreation rooms. He inches further down the hallway and noted a turbolift. He turned to Ali, to see if she had any information concerning their whereabouts.

Ali had been checking her computer as they walked. "The signal is weak here," she admitted. "It's running slow. It hasn't caught up on our position. Do you want to wait?"

"Not particularly," Kirk replied. "I think we can make do on our own. We will improvise as we go along."

"Without knowing what is ahead of us will bring us a disadvantage," Riley pointed out.

Ali stopped Kirk and took him to the side. "Do we have to keep him?" she whispered in his ear. "Can we drop him off somewhere else?"

"Why? Are you jealous of Commander Riley?" Kirk was amused.

"No. I think he is too negative. Can't he go somewhere else? Away from us?"

"I need him to cover us from behind. He's also my aide. Can you deal with that?"

Ai wrinkled her facial features. "Do I have to?"

Kirk wanted nothing more than to shake her. He resisted the urge and sighed. He will deal with Ali later, if he could think up a proper punishment. On the other hand, he might not need to. Hacking into the Federation Headquarters main computer, stealing a communicator and conducting unauthorized travel between ships (and to what is now considered an enemy vessel) appeared to be what Ali is going to face. He knew that, as her guardian, he'd have to face the consequences too. The Federation was not lenient towards children and their parents, not even if the juvenile was misguided.

"Just find me Ghanstan's quarters," he said through clenched teeth.

"Sir, we still don't know if the self-destruct will be there," Riley protested from the side.

Kirk brought Ali back to Riley. "But it makes sense. Who else but the commander shall go down with the ship?"

Riley did not argue. He saw the stubborn look on Kirk's face. He shrugged his shoulders and looked at the pest for the direction they needed to head in. When Ali grew excited, Riley knew that the computer's signal had been fixed. She moved the screen with her finger and began typing rapidly on the keypad. When it beeped, she grinned.

"I've gained access into their main computer frame," she announced proudly. "We can control the whole ship from here."

"You didn't! How did you do that?" Riley peered over her shoulder, amazed. "You did! Do the Thyrians know you've gained access?"

"No," Ali reassured him. "I'm a ghost on their main frame. Now, I can control them and they won't know where it came from."

"All ships have video and audio recordings," Riley warned.

"Not if I made us invisible too. I can manipulate the recordings."

"Does it mean that we can enter from anywhere without being seen?"

"Unless someone physically sees us, we're all set."

Kirk was oddly proud of his beaming daughter. "Ok. No, to Ghanstan's quarters. Can you confirm that we have a self-destruct option there? If not, where is it?"

"I can, Admiral," Ali told him. "I will also know the code in another minute. Right now, I am putting out a communication that you are still with your guards. I am garbling any communication that says otherwise, but it might not last. We have to hurry.

"I don't think I want you as an enemy," Kirk confessed with a chuckle.

Ali eyed him strangely. "Mom said the same thing."

That hurt Kirk more than he'd ever admit. His features changed severely and grew serious. He motioned for Ali to lead them onto the next deck. They took the lift and rode up to the next floor. Upon arrival, they immediately ducked into the neighboring corridor. Several guards were spotted nearby and were searching every nook and cranny within their jurisdiction.

Ali tapped her computer a few times and logged into another program. Above their heads, a voice in Thyrian told their opponents something. Kirk did not care what it was. The guards had left and the area was cleared.

"You need to teach me that," Riley said to her.

Kirk rolled his eyes. This was no time for small talk. He pushed the pair onward. Ali took the lead and soon got them to Ghanstan's quarters. Ali unlocked it without issue and they entered together. Riley stayed at the door while Ali and Kirk approached their goal. Ali led Kirk to a corner and presented him with the keypad. He looked at his daughter for the code, but found her agitated again.

"It's difficult to say," he began when his wordless inquiry bothered her. "It's not an issue to program the language and translate it. I even have the code ready. The problem is that this guy set it up so that only his finger could start the sequence. I am trying to bypass it now."

"How much longer do you have until you manage it?" Kirk hissed.

"I hope three minutes," Ali replied quietly.

"I think we need it quicker than three minutes," Riley mentioned. When a red light over their heads flashed, he added, "That's our signal."

"We don't know if that's a red alert for battle or not," Kirk argued.

He and Riley debated about their predicament. Ali concentrated on the task. She thought it was too easy hacking into the Thyrians' computers. This was different. She had to think quickly before they find out the red light meant capture. This was also a volatile device that Ghanstan created. If she made the wrong move, they will be goners.

"Got it," she interjected once everything was set and the next ship was found. "How long, Admiral?"

"How far away are we from a shuttle bay?" he volleyed.

Ali played with her computer for a minute before answering. "Maybe five minutes, if we hurry. I can hold off anyone overriding my work for another ten minutes. But I did find what ship is holding the cure. The Thyrians call her Lady. She is second to last in their line of ships. She is pretty far from this one, like almost out of our galaxy far away."

"A shuttle cannot get that far," Riley pointed out.

"So, we'll have to beam aboard," Kirk said. He looked at Ali. "Can you do that?"

"I can manipulate the system and get coordinates," she replied. "We might be on another part of the ship. Will that work?"

"Anything to get us off," Riley clarified.

Taking a deep breath, Ali worked on the assignment. When the ship suddenly went into warp drive, she was startled. She checked her device and saw that somebody had managed to undo some of her work. They knew there was an intruder in their systems and worked out of the galaxy into the next. It was enough to make her nervous.

She fought back for control. She thought about conveying this to the officers, but dismissed it. They should be able to transport off of the ship, no problem. Ali felt confident.

"Everything all right?" Riley noted her frustration.

"Peachy," Ali responded. "I think someone's on our tail, though. Five minutes ok?"

"Go," Kirk ordered.

Ali did not need to be told twice. Immediately, she set the clock for self-destruct and they left quickly. Ali led the two through a shortcut to the transporter room. Already, the lift they took was full of Thyrian crewmembers and they already saw them. Their façade had been found out.

It didn't take long to escape them. They found a transporter. Ali keyed in the coordinates to the Lady and they stepped on the pad. She was about to join Kirk and Riley when a form materialized behind her and grabbed her. She screamed for help.

It was Ghanstan. "I guess you cannot guard your treasures, Admiral," he said. He disappeared with Ali.

"No! Ali!" Kirk yelled. He was too late, though. He was transported to the next ship.

~00~

The orders came through from Nogura the very next day, just after dawn. Kirk was elated when he read through the transmission and printed out the document from his bedroom computer. Alyssa was going to be stationed on Kepler III for the next year. She, Ryder, Magda and the new baby will be safe.

Kirk decided that it was appropriate he present the orders to Amelia Synprilox. He had to meet her anyway, to go over some reports. He did not look forward to it. He understood how difficult it will be for the chancellor. She depended on Alyssa heavily. Not to mention, Kirk knew of the scorned lover's feelings. He did not think the graciousness will extend to him.

When the appointed hour arrived, Kirk walked down with his guards flanking him. He waited patiently outside until he was addressed. Taking a deep breath, he went inside alone. An assistant offered him a chair and he sat for a few minutes, waiting for the busy chancellor to talk. He thought about clearing his throat for attention and declined. Amelia finished her paperwork and eyed at him to begin.

"Commander Elma has been placed on medical leave," Kirk announced. He handed her the paperwork.

She hardly skimmed through it and only placed it to one side. "She has been on medical leave, Admiral. What if the difference?"

"It has now been ordered and not requested," Kirk clarified stiffly. He disliked the flippant attitude. "She cannot continue to function as a Starfleet officer if she does not rest. Commander Elma is scheduled to leave within the day."

"What?" The chancellor was incredulous. "What did you say?"

"Commander Elma –" Kirk began again.

"No, no, I heard that." Amelia stood up. "You are taking her away from Synprilox?"

"Commander Elma will not be here for a year," Kirk reassured her. "It's for her safety."

"And are you going with her? Are you going to pretend to play house with her?"

"Chancellor, I do not grasp your meaning. I apologize if this offends you in any way. Starfleet has strict policies regarding the health of our personnel. Commander Elma has been pushed beyond her limits. I do not know why. It does not seem to be of her own volition fully."

"She knows her duties," Amelia said coldly. "She cannot leave at a time like this, not when so much is at stake."

Kirk was surprised by these answers and tried taking another route. "Chancellor, you cannot counter Starfleet orders. If something of this high of an importance needs addressing, I will have her second-in-commander look anything over with you. I am sure the lieutenant will be more than happy to help you."

At this point, the chancellor was finished speaking with him. Kirk considered the meeting done anyway, unfinished business or not. He nodded his farewell to her and left. All the while, he noted how much Amelia Synprilox adored Alyssa. There was no doubt about it. If Lori had plans to keep Alyssa on Synprilox, then she found a willing participant in the scheme.

He resolved to deal with it later. He had to find Alyssa. He did not actively seek her out and casually walked around the palace in his usual fashion. He greeted everyone he met and went through his day with petitions, requests and questions. By the time he reached his personal quarters, where Ryder usually held his classes, he ran into Magda.

Kirk had not seen her since the night at the cemetery. It was unusual that he had not seen her and was no longer a part of his day. Now, he was not so sure of the assessment and probably should have stayed clear. The nursemaid was not pleased to see him at all. She crossed her arms and refused to budge. When Kirk's tagalongs tried pushing her aside, the admiral stopped them. There was something wrong.

"I have heard you are coming with us to Kepler III," Magda said.

Kirk was surprised that Magda knew so much in so little time. He pretended to be in the know and smiled. "I have been ordered to observe more of the environment by Admiral Nogura in the last weeks I am here," he lied smoothly. "Since Commander Elma needs medical attention, it has been decided that she will remain there for the year."

"If she needs any medical attention, it is because of you," Magda accused.

Now, Kirk was panicking. At that moment, he knew that Magda was aware of the baby. The statement can be confused for something else, though.

He also thought that the accusation was undeserving. It was not his fault about Alyssa. They both have a mutual love of each other. Magda seemed to believe that this was not for their benefit.

He changed the topic. "The radiation alone is a medical concern," he argued. "Commander Elma was ill with it long before my arrival."

Magda curtseyed petulantly. "I apologize, Admiral. I do believe that Starfleet has doe her no favors."

"Regardless, the ship will be here tomorrow," Kirk continued sternly. "I will tell the commander myself."

He walked away. Kirk was relieved. Talking with Magda was always tough, but he realized that she was right in the end. Everyone has secrets and it ate away at people. Synprilox had the most and it was slowly killing them.

Without seeing Alyssa in sight, Kirk returned to his quarters. There, he saw her. She was already scanning his rooms and checking for any dangers. He waited until she was finished before he dismissed his puppies. Once they took their posts outside the entranceway, Kirk locked them out and studied Alyssa. She continued her tasks, avoiding him. She was afraid to speak to him.

He touched her shoulder from behind. "What is it?"

"I was called to the chancellor's office a few minutes ago," she replied shakily. She did not face him. "She threw my new orders in my face. She told me that she did not want me back on Synprilox. My home here will be destroyed and the Starfleet officers will be banished. She will severe ties with the Federation."

"She is angry," Kirk reassured her. "She will calm down."

Alyssa turned around and hugged him tightly. "Thank you, Jim. Thank you. You did not need to do this for us."

He held her for a few minutes. He treasured the moment. Less than three weeks and he won't be seeing her daily anymore. The pain of the revelation was almost unbearable, he found. Even if the attempted last departure gave them a second chance to be together, the next will not be any easier.

"When do I leave?" she asked him. Her voice was muffled, with her mouth against his shirt.

"I met Magda a while ago," Kirk said. "I told her to prepare to leave tomorrow. She and Ryder will obviously come with you." He cleared his throat. "So am I."

Alyssa parted from him and brightened up almost immediately. "That soon? And you're coming too, Jim? There's so much to do and so little time."

She began talking all at once. Kirk could not keep up with the nonsense and laughed at her childishness. When it turned to anxiety, He had to sit her down on the bed and make her breath. He held her until she calmed down. When she did, he was still concerned. This should not have upset her.

Maybe tomorrow is too soon?

"I can talk with your lieutenant," Kirk offered. "I am sure he is now aware he is in charge. It will be easy to pack up."

Alyssa nodded. "Of course. I'm sorry, Jim. Why don't I leave and get everything in order?"

Kirk did not want Alyssa to leave him yet, believing that some time spent sitting will do her some good. He managed to keep her stationary to talk and make plans before releasing her. Alyssa promised to meet back outside his door as usual later that night to finalize their Synprilox business. They did not think it prudent to remain together all night. In the morning, they will be alone and together.

For the remainder of the day, Kirk tolerated the presence of other security officers eying him as he typed out his reports. When the appointed time arrived, there was no sign of Alyssa. Dinner was called and she did not show. When the late hours approached, Kirk still found that Alyssa was missing. His inquiries did not place her in the palace or her home.

Eventually, he asked her second-in-command, Lieutenant Gomez, where Alyssa was. He didn't have an immediate answer and begged leave to find out. Kirk granted it and was surprised to find that Gomez back quickly. The lieutenant was worried.

"Admiral, Commander Elma is on a search," he said breathlessly.

"What do you mean?" Kirk was alarmed.

"Sir, Ghanstan has escaped," the security officer explained. "She's on the hunt to bring him back."