What is the Arc Client?
Fanfic: Federation Space
Naw, it's all good - I just wanted to clarify the real history, hopefully before anyone got snarky about it. Lee is a Federation Marshal, a law enforcement officer, not a historian. He's got the gist of the situation, which is that an invention can be used while its underlying principles are incompletely understood (we're
not entirely sure why airplane wings work - turns out the Bernoulli Principle doesn't fully explain the lift - but they do work). And Ben's clear understanding of the principles of Cochrane warp theory can undercut the existing wisdom easily, while not invalidating the plain engineering success of such a drive. (Vulcans are kind of notorious for settling on an explanation and not considering alternatives until their noses are rubbed in it - cf T'Pol's insistence that "the Vulcan Science Academy has concluded that time travel is impossible," even as Daniels was proving otherwise.)
I used something similar in my own stories, in naming the
- Grunt admits he's no expert on Earth classical music, but his first officer Roclak is a fan of it, particularly of the late 20th and early 21st century genre known as "rap". Grunt, meanwhile, is prone to confusing Beethoven and the Beatles; to him, it's all ancient alien music.
"Science teaches us to expect -- demand -- more than just eerie mysteries. What use is a puzzle that can't be solved? Patience is fine, but I'm not going to stop asking the universe to make sense!"
- David Brin,
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The door chime rang again.
"Enter," Lee said.
"Lee, it's..." Sam paused when she saw Mirra. "Oh, I didn't know you were busy, I can come back later."
"We're just talking. Come in; what's on your mind?"
"I just received my assignment. Marshal T'esset has me booked on the day after tomorrow on a freighter to Starbase 157, and from there to Vulcan to Earth."
"Ah," Lee said. "The Chief Marshal's keen on field agents getting experience in the bureaucracy. He seems to think it's necessary for everyone to have a common frame of reference or some such gibberish."
"No, actually." Sam smiled. "It's school. 'Six months of training,' she said, after which I'm to be reassigned. I guess I'll lose my badge."
"Well, that's good news, then. And hang on to your badge, even when they issue you a new one. You'll want it as a keepsake."
"I'm not sure... Lee, I'm thinking about resigning."
"I'd hate to see that happen. You're a damned good deputy, and you're going to make a damned good Marshal one day. I was hoping to get you back once your desk tour was over."
"You knew?" Sam asked.
"I thought you were going to a tour with the bureaucracy for a year, like I just did. I didn't hear anything about training, but I knew you were getting pulled out and I am determined to get you back. I need a good deputy, and you're one of the best. You have skills both Chuss and I lack, and Alyssa's gone and gotten herself promoted so I won't be getting her back. I need you, Sam."
"It's just... these last few months..."
"I'll leave you two to talk this out," Mirra said.
"No, stay," Sam said. "I didn't mean to intrude."
"Neither of you are intruding," Lee said. "I wasn't doing anything but feeling sorry for myself anyway, and I think we've all got a share of that, especially when it comes to the last few weeks. I don't think we're judging ourselves by the proper measure."
"What do you mean?" asked Mirra.
"We are all high achievers. We expect perfection from ourselves. And since we're not deities we fall short of perfection. It's fine to have unachievable goals for which you strive, because that leads to constant improvement, and we all want that. But we see our failure to achieve perfect results as failure. This is the mistake. We should be looking at our successes, and we've had quite a few.
"Number One, you, for example, have Chief Voght as a shining example of your success. Not only Chief, but Space Warfare Qualified. And Sibley too. How many third class petty officers are what, four quals away from Space Warfare? And Crewman Ben. The Pakled Mission thinks you've broken the language barrier. Accomplishments that most Lieutenants would envy.
"And you, Sam. You did a fine job finding that Acmarian girl, and the whole business around it. You unraveled the case, and virtually carried both me and Chuss across the finish line. Then you turn around and do what Doctor Sar is calling, 'good work,' dealing with the burn victims from the Adventure. I was his assistant for two years, and he never gave me such a compliment the whole time.
"And me. I'm beating myself up over the Aguilar case, over the things I could have or should have done, or not done. But the fact is, I'm not responsible for Aguilar. At every turn I've done the best I could, and I wouldn't ask more than that from either of you. Why can't I accept that sometimes even when I do everything right, the bad guy gets away. Marshal Travis told me that more than once, and here I am eight years later still making that same mistake."
"You make us sound like a bunch of whiners," Sam said with a smirk.
"I do see what you're saying, but it's a lot easier to let someone else off the hook than to let myself off," said Mirra.
"Yeah," Sam agreed. "I guess if I were someone else talking to me, I'd tell me I was being too hard on myself. But I don't know how not to be."
"Nobody likes to lose, and we're the kind who don't have a lot of practice at it," saidLee. "Maybe a little humility is good for us."
The door chimed again.
"Enter," Lee said. "This is getting to be a party," he added when Chief Garadda opened the door."
"Why wasn't I invited?" growled the Chief. "Where's the drinks?"
Lee pointed to the replicator. "Help yourself."
"Don't mind if I do." He stepped up to the replicator and said, "Volcanic Spew." A red smoking drink appeared. "Anyone else want something?"
"I'll take a lager," Sam said.
"Black and Tan," said Mirra.
"Magnolia tea," Lee said.
All three turned to look at Lee. "What? It's good for you."
Chief passed the drinks around then sat on the chair facing the couch, and they moved from the foot of the platform to join him.
"I got that idiot to replace the conduit. The Fab Shop made it twenty centimeters too short, and he tried to make up the difference by pulling out the curves."
"Seems like that would work," Lee said. "Lengthen the radius...
"See? That's why you're not an engineer. For one thing the plasma flow is synchronized, and if both conduits aren't the same length, the pulse rate is distorted. For another thing, it makes the bends look dog-legged. For another thing, it's just sloppy work. I didn't go to all the trouble to redesign the plasma system just to let some yardbird jack it up."
"Another high achiever," said Sam, and they laughed, except for the chief.
"What are you on about?"
"We were talking about standards, and how we hold ourselves to a standard of perfection," Mirra said.
"What else would you set a standard for? There's too much 'good enough' going around, I say."
"To good enough!" Lee said, and they toasted.
"Bah!" said Chief.
"Did you hear we're losing Sam?" Lee asked.
"Sorry to hear that: you're not so bad for a kid. Trainable, at least," Chief said. "Where are they sending you?"
"Earth," Sam answered.
"Boring place. Nothing exciting ever happens there, it's crowded, and it smells funny."
"I suppose. But I'll be going to school, so I doubt I'll have time for sightseeing."
"If you get the chance, visit the Nan Lian Garden in Hong Kong," Lee said.
"My father's a safari guide in the velds," said Mirra. "He regularly does the big five tour."
"What's the big five?" Chief asked.
"Lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo," Mirra explained. "Everyone thinks of the leopards and lions as dangerous, but cape buffaloes kill more people than the big cats, and even elephants are dangerous. And every once in a while a rhino will charge a rover just to show who's boss."
"Sounds like fun. You aren't shooting them, are you?" asked Sam.
"Only with holocameras. The Bushveld Conservation Commission regulates hunting as a control on wildlife populations, but we aren't involved in that. The guides carry stunners just in case, but they rarely use them. Most of the animals are accustomed to seeing tour groups and leave them alone."
Their conversation shifted from touring Earth to sights they had seen elsewhere, to other topics, and they lost track of time until Lee began to snore.
"Can't hold his tea," complained the Chief, who was into his third Spew.
Sam grabbed a pillow off his bed and gently lowered him to it as Mirra raised his legs onto the couch.
"Let's go to the Briefing room," Mirra said as she ushered them out.
Aktay was more than a little bit upset.
Men can be such idiots!
But it was just one man who was the cause of her anger. He had left her at the Club 77 bar with his friends, whom she hardly knew, to zero in on a bubble-headed bimbo and spent half the night talking to her. Okay. She didn't own him. She didn't want to own him. They were supposed to be friends. Fine.
But as soon as she left with some stallion with a cleft chin and arms the size of Aktay's legs, he came flying back to her.
"I don't care what you thought," she said in a voice intended to be heard over the music and conversation. "You ignore me all night then come to claim me when your first choice walks out on you? I'm not your silver medal, sweetheart."
"Baby, I'm sorry! I didn't realize how much time was passing; you know how it is when you meet an old friend. We were just catching up..."
"Don't 'baby' me, Thomas Mikhail Travkin. And don't worry, you'll have plenty of time to catch up with your old friends."
"Masha, come on, I'm sorry. Look, I'll make it up to you, I swear."
"Good night, Thomas." She left the club then, proud of herself for maintaining control. Crying in front of Thomas would have ruined everything. And strangely, she didn't feel like crying any more. Somewhere between 1930 and now she had gotten over him.
Maybe I'll give Leon a call tomorrow. Wouldn't that tick Thomas off? His friend Leon Cassel: tall, thin, dark as midnight with eyes so brown they were almost black. Shy, so very shy.
She had flirted with him while Thomas was busy. And discovered he was pretty funny, when he said anything at all.
No, it wouldn't be fair to use Leon for revenge. He has no defenses. If I make a play for him, I'd better mean it. But he's soo cute!
By the time she made it back to the Kestrel she was done being mad at Thomas, but she was alone on an evening she had hoped to be... not alone.
"You're home early," Ladner said when she stepped into the quarterdeck.
"Yeah," she said as she walked up the ramp toward her quarters.
She had time for a long shower, then she slipped into her ratty old flannel nightshirt, tucked her feet into her fuzzy slippers, wrapped herself in her quilted robe, and replicated a cup of tea, very hot, very sweet. As she was taking her first sip her door chimed.
"Great," she said. "Come in!"
"Crewman Aktay," Cadet Friday said, "I do not wish to disturb you, but if you have a moment I would like to ask you some questions."
"The SC240 report will be done by the end of duty shift tomorrow," Aktay said.
"Thank you, but that wasn't my question. May I?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. Please do."
"What is pretty?"
"What is... Lots of things, I suppose. Flowers, butterflies, sometimes a sunset."
"Perhaps I phrased the question improperly," Friday said. "What makes a person pretty?"
"Oh. Hm. Lots of thins. Regular features, good health, toned muscles... What's this about, anyway?"
"I wish to understand what the concept of 'pretty' means to a human."
"That depends on the human. Everyone has their own idea of what it means to be pretty, and in different cultures different things are emphasized. It's not just a template you can apply to see if a particular person has it or not. Why are you asking me, anyway?"
"I have seen you present clothing to Bennie, telling her they are 'pretty' and you've expressed the opinion that you find both Crewman Voght and Lieutenant Mirra 'pretty.' Is the concept only applicable to females?"
"No, but we generally use the word pretty in reference to females and handsome in reference to males, though neither word is gender-biased. I don't know why, we just do."
"I see. The concept appears to be more complex than my initial investigation suggested."
"Humans are born with the ability to detect what's pretty, and it's shaped by our cultural inheritance. You don't have that, and you didn't get a normal childhood to learn how to conform to an accepted standard. Humans spend a lifetime learning what pretty means to them, but we seldom discuss it. Mostly we learn the cultural standard of what's pretty by being told, 'This is pretty,' so many times as a child. Let me ask you, what do you think pretty is?"
"I have no aesthetic preferences. I am currently attempting to develop one."
"I think the best way to go about it is to learn from example, and to take your time. Humans spend a lifetime wrestling with that question, you know. Why not show me some pictures of what you think pretty is, and we can discuss them?"
"Very well. I have some selected holographs tabbed for reference. Would you say this one is pretty?"
Sibley and Brock didn't generally pal around off duty, but they had been the only two interested in the Dia le Muertos festival in Coba, Amaranth's major trading town where the largest starport was located. The day began with parades of groups who had built small floats using flowers. They marched through the city carrying them on litters and dancing around them in matching costumes. The men affected black, tight-fitting clothing with a flat, wide-brimmed hat, usually decorated in silver or white, while the women wore long gowns of many layers and colors, as if attempting to become the flowers with which they decorated their floats.
There was no formal parade route through the city: participants went anywhere and everywhere, singing, dancing, and carrying their flower-floats and skeleton effigies that they called 'saints' which they dressed as the living celebrants dressed. Old people wandered with these bands giving away candy, usually bars of compressed seeds formed in the shape of skulls and flavored with honey or chocolate.
Wandering among the celebrants were the Catrinas, usually taller and thinner folks, who were painted and dressed to look like their saints. By mid-day the celebrants congregated in the plaza in the center of the city and danced, caroused, and tried to frighten the children, who dutifully pretended to be frightened as they gorged on sugar and ran screaming through the crowd.
With the setting sun the celebrants began to file along a single road with left-over food, candy and wine. Many also carried tiny torches made to look like primitive candles.
"Where is everyone going?" Brock asked of his latest dancing partner.
"We go now to the cemetery to celebrate with our departed loved ones, to tell them everything that has happened since we last spoke."
"So the party is moving to the cemetery?" Sibley asked.
"It is a different kind of party. Each family decorates the graves of their loved ones, and speaks to them."
"Sounds weird," Sibley said, with his characteristic tact.
"Sounds beautiful," said Brock. "It also sounds private."
"No one would chase you off, but it is for families," said the Catrina.
"Then we won't intrude," said Brock. "It's been a lot of fun today. Maybe I'll see you again next year?"
"Maybe!" she said, and she danced away to join the folks parading to the cemetery.
"What now?" asked Sibley. "It's still early."
"Let's see what's happening over by the port." Brock said.
As he had guessed, the party was continuing along the strip of bars and clubs which served the starport workers and the crews of the shuttles and grain-ships which operated around the world of Amaranth. After several stops they wound up in a club named Transcendental Curves, where there were Catrinas performing a stomping, clapping dance.
The floor cleared and left four pairs of dancers who performed a very stylized dance which consisted largely of masculine poses with a lot of spinning the feminine dancers who seemed glued to their partners when they weren't being spun.
"That's incredible!" shouted Brock to one of the Catrinas. "What is that dance?"
"The Paso Doble!" he shouted back. "It is difficult to do well, and the dancers must be slim for it to look right."
"Doc!" said Sibley, just above the noise of the dance."See that guy on the dark end of the bar?"
"There are a lot of people at the bar!" Brock shouted back.
"I've seen him before. He's following us!"
"What? What are you talking about?"
"The guy over there," Sibley insisted. "I saw him a few times earlier today, and he was at the last two clubs we went to."
"So?" Brock asked. "He might just be doing what we're doing. You're being paranoid!"
"That's what worries me!" Sibley said. And the next time he looked that way the man was gone.
By the end of the evening Sibley had learned to Flamenco and Tango, (kind of,) and had met several of the local young people who invited him back when he and Brock finally made their way out of the club.
"Which way is the Transport Terminal?" Sibley asked.
"Always remember your directions!" Brock said. "Follow me!"
They went along the street which divided the starport from the town, where clubs, bars, and gambling halls illuminated the streets with their signs, but after a few hundred meters the recreation establishments gave way to warehouses, and the lighting cast long shadows in multiple directions around them.
"I think we went the wrong way," Brock said.
When they turned around the man from the bar was there, on on side of the empty street, almost concealed in the shadow beneath a glowing lamp.
"Stay where you are," the man said, holding a disruptor pistol in the light where it could be seen.
"Look, pal," said Sibley, we don't have any currency. We don't want any trouble, so let us go our way and we'll all forget this..."
"Where is he?" demanded the pistol wielder.
"There's just the two of us, and we're both here," Brock said.
"Don't play stupid! You came here to meet him, didn't you? Answer me or I'll shoot one of you.
Where is he?
"I'd really like to help, but I..."
A shadow reached up from behind and a blue-white light pulsed behind the back of the gunman. He dropped his pistol and fell to the banquette.
"He was looking for me," said the attacker as he stepped from the shadow. He could have been a banker or a baker; his appearance was as ordinary as could be. "Thank you for distracting him. I was going to give you this when you got to the Transporter Terminal." The attacker held out a P.A.D.D. then stepped back. "But I don' think he'll try to take it away from you now."
"Who are you?" Brock asked.
"Be sure that your captain gets that. It's very important."
The man turned and walked into the nearby alley between the warehouses.
"Call the police," Brock said as he rushed to the fallen man.
He kicked the pistol out of reach of the fallen man, then checked for a pulse on the victim's neck. No pulse, no breathing. He tried to turn the victim over to evaluate the extent of the wound and discovered the upper torso moved without pulling the lower torso with it. Rolling the hip and shoulder together showed why: a circular burn had removed a piece of the man' spine, lower ribs, and the organs beneath them. CPR would not endanger the patient, but then it wouldn't help him either. He laid the man back down.
"Don't touch that!" Brock said as Sibley bent down by the P.A.D.D.
"He said to make sure the Skipper got it."
"He also murdered this guy. Whatever that is, it's evidence. Leave it alone." Brock sighed, then asked, "Did you contact the police?"
"Chief Voght is doing that now."
"This is the last thing I expected," Brock said. "I was having a great day up until now."
"Don't worry, it can't get any worse," Sibley said as the first police vehicles arrived. Then more and more came; apparently a murder required a lot of officers. And then things got worse...
looks like Sibley and Brock have stepped in it now!
edited December 2018
Brock was tired, and annoyed. It was one thing to recognize a tactic, and quite another to sit through it when it was being used on him.
"I never said anything like that," he said. "You said that and then tried to get me to agree to it."
"You're all over the table," the policeman shouted. "You've given seven different lies and already and denied them all! I'm about to charge you with obstruction!"
"Please do," Brock said. "At least then I'd have the benefit of counsel during your interrogation."
"Listen to me you smart-mouthed twerp! You give me any more of that and..."
"Pete!" shouted the other policeman. "Go get something to drink."
When the angry officer left the room he sat down across from Brock, saying, "He's a good officer. We don't get many murders, and this has us all a little wound up."
"Am I going to be charged with anything?" Brock asked.
"Look, you're a witness, not a suspect," the officer said, calmly.
"Then I'm going to get up from here and go get my friend, and we're leaving."
"I'm afraid it isn't that simple," the officer said. "Impeding an investigation is a crime and we'd have to charge you."
"Then do so, and I wish to invoke my rights to counsel and to communicate my situation with my colleagues."
"Hey, we haven't charged you with anything yet. All we want is some answers. After that, you're free to go."
"What could I possibly tell you now that I haven't already told you?"
"Let's start with the truth. Where did you get the disruptor?"
"I didn't 'get it' anywhere. The dead guy had it in his hand when I first saw him."
"Come on, now, you said earlier that you took it away from him..."
"No, I didn't."
"We have it recorded," the policeman said.
"Please play that recording so I can hear me say that."
"Look, your best interests lie in helping us to resolve this. If you keep changing the story it makes us suspicious. Know what I mean? I'm trying to help you here."
"No, you're trying to get me to incriminate myself either by telling a lie or by accidentally confessing. I haven't lied, and I have nothing to confess. And if your next question is a repeat of an already answered question, I'm done." Brock smiled, and said, "I'm just trying to help you here."
"We know you and the victim were together at half a dozen clubs before you left the Curves. How long have you and the victim known each other?"
"Repeat. I'm done." Brock stood up and headed toward the door. It opened on two officers, one of whom was the angry one.
"Come sit down," the seated officer said. "You don't want to do this."
"You're right, I don't," Brock said, and he stepped out of the door.
He didn't resist when they took him down and shackled him, hand and foot.
"What do you have to say now, smart guy?" asked Angry Officer.
"You really need combat training," Brock said. "If I had any interest in resisting, you'd be in the hospital tonight."
He got a knee in the ribs.
"I'm sorry you chose to do things this way," said the 'good cop'. "It didn't have to go down like this."
When he caught his breath, Brock said, "It was your plan all along. I invoke my right to counsel and to communicate OOF!"
He felt the short rib pop: whether broken or dislocated he couldn't tell yet.
"Put him on ice," said the 'good cop'.
"Look, we didn't do anything," Sibley said.
"That's not what your buddy Manny said." The officer interrogating him this time was young, and very pretty. She smiled a lot.
"I don't know anybody named Manny," Sibley said.
"You're saying he gave us a false name?"
"I don't... why would he give you a false name?"
"Criminals do that all the time," she said. "They also blame their friends when their plans go wrong. You should hear some of the things he's said about you! He's trying to get us to believe this was all your doing!"
"What? Doing? What are you talking about? We didn't do anything but go the wrong way. We were headed to the Transporter Terminal."
"You were a long way from the Transporter Terminal, honey," the policewoman said.
"I know. We went the wrong way. When we turned around there was the guy with the blaster..."
"Funny," she interrupted. "He said you were the one who brought the gun."
"Me? Why would I bring a gun anywhere?"
"That's what I said. It's clear he's the ringleader. Look, I want to help you, but you have to work with us. Otherwise, he's going to blame the whole thing on you, and, well..." She paused and looked at him. "I really like you. You're a nice guy. I know how it is, you get caught up in a bad situation, and you want to be loyal, but let's face facts here: your loyalty is only going to insure he gets away with it, and you'll go to a penal colony in his place. Now if you start by telling us where he got the gun, we can work something out. Unwilling accomplice rather than Murder One."
"Murder?" Sibley said. "We didn't murder anybody! Some other guy did!"
"Yeah, that's not going to cut it, honey. There were only three people there. One of them's dead, one of them's you, and the other one is saying it was all you. Now, if you don't want us to believe
story, it's time you started telling the truth."
"I've already told you the truth."
"Okay, let's start with the gun. Manny is saying you always carry it around. He said you're always making out like it's a big deal, like you want people to be afraid of you, only you'd never shot anyone. He said you killed that man tonight just to prove you could."
"I didn't! I don't..."
"If you didn't, then Manny must have, right?"
"Who's Manny? The other guy? You caught him?"
"There is no other guy. Manny is your 'friend', the one we brought in with you."
"Oh, Doc. His name is Manny?"
"You don't even know his name? I find that hard to believe. You said you've worked with him for several months."
"We call him Doc, 'cause he's a medic, or Brock. It's like that in Starfleet. Nobody uses first names."
"They don't use first names in Penal Colonies either. Just numbers. Look, I'm doing my best to keep you out of there; our penal colony is under the northern ice cap in a duranium mine. They have to keep temperatures there below freezing to prevent meltwater from filling the mine.
"Now, I suggest you focus on that thought while I lay out a few facts. One: either you or your friend killed the person you were partying with all night. Two: He's saying it was you. Three: You're trying to blame some imaginary guy."
"Brock is saying it was me?" Sibley asked.
"Of course he is. I don't believe him, of course, but a magistrate might. I know you were only along for the ride, so to speak, right?"
"It was just a day at the festival."
"Right, and he had business with this other guy: you didn't have anything to do with that."
"I didn't. I really didn't!"
"Right. Now I know you're a nice guy. I get a feel for people, you know? And you're the kind of guy I might like to go to a festival with. A nice guy, polite, considerate... loyal."
"But you have to come clean now. I can only help you if you tell me the truth. Did he shoot that poor man? Or did he make you do it?"
"But that's not... there was a guy..."
"You can't protect him any longer. It's you or him. Do you want to spend the rest of your life digging rocks in mines as cold as ice?"
"Then tell me the truth! Who pulled the trigger?"
"I didn't do it!"
"Then it was him! Say it!"
"I didn't... He didn't!"
you! You went there swaggering and bragging how good you were with your blaster and he laughed at you, so to prove what a big man you were," scorn was dripping from her voice, and her otherwise pretty face was twisted with an almost feral rage, "You murdered an innocent man, just like Doc said!"
"I never did that!"
"Prove it! Say who did do it, and don't try to blame some imaginary other guy. It was you, or him. One of you is going away for a long time."
"I didn't! I didn't do it!"
"You have to say who did!"
The door opened.
"Lieutenant!" Sibley shouted.
"Get out!" the policewoman shouted.
"I intend to," Lieutenant Mirra said. "Come on, Sibley."
Sibley stood up and started to go around the table.
"Sit down," the policewoman said. "I'm not done with you yet."
"Yes, you are," Mirra said.
"Who do you think you are, barging in here? I was just about to get..."
Mirra was a head shorter than the police woman, but she took a step toward her and suddenly it was the policewoman who seemed to be the smaller of the two.
"You were about to coerce a false confession out of an innocent man? Is that how we do things around here? Badge Number 74507. How many other men have you sweet talked into confessions for crimes they didn't commit? Are you good at it?"
The policewoman said nothing.
"No matter. We'll be reviewing your case history. You may want to stock up on cold weather gear." she turned and said "Come, Sibley," as she walked out of the door.
"Which funeral home should I send the flowers to?" asked Lee.
"What?" asked the police captain.
"Crewman Brock was a combat medic with the MACO 3rd Battalion Orbital Assault Group, better known as the Red Knights. If he resisted arrest, I presume the officer who tried to restrain him is dead?"
"Injured, perhaps? What hospital?"
"It's not... Look, my officers are trained..."
"Mister D'Kavner, let me be very clear: Crewman Brock was on the infiltration team which attacked the Iconian Sphere, where he was awarded the Medal of Commendation for personally defeating an Iconian Herald in hand to hand combat. If he had chosen to resist, your officer would be dead or unconscious. Further, if he is injured it happened after my crewman was restrained. Now, let's stop trying to sell the three-day-fish and release my crewman."
"He's being held for questioning concerning a murder."
"Has he been given the opportunity to obtain legal counsel? Has he been given the opportunity to communicate his situation to his command?"
"He's not charged; he's being held for questioning."
"Get your story straight, Mister DKavner. Either he's been arrested for resisting arrest, or he's a witness. Either way, he has rights."
"That's Captain D'Kavner!"
"You have about thirty seconds to produce my crewman before I take steps to insure you never don a police uniform again."
"Who do you think you are? This is MY precinct..."
Lee opened his ID and showed his silver badge with the big 57 in the center of the shield. "I'm Federation Marshal Lee. If you don't wish to be charged with Unlawful Restraint you will comply with my lawful request to release my crewman."
The captain sat back in his chair, and a worried expression finally broke through his arrogance. "I'll hold you accountable to insure he's here for questioning and trial."
"Your thirty seconds is up," Lee said.
The captain pushed a button and said, "Mere, get the prisoners ready for transport." Then he stood and said, "Come on."
As they went out of the inner office Lee waved for Dr. Sar and Lieutenant Mirra to follow him. They went up two floors to the Detective's Offices, through a door marked Private, and into a hallway lined with holoscreens set beside doors marked only with numbers. Brock was in Room 5, shackled hand and foot to a table while an orderly tried to clean him up. His face looked swollen, a lip was split, and one eye was beginning to puff up.
"Release him," said the Captain.
"And then turn in your badge," Lee said to the officer who was nursing a bleeding knuckle.
"Just undo the manacles and give me five minutes alone with him," Brock said.
Dr. Sar was already scanning the crewman. "A dislocated rib, contusions, orbital blowout fracture of the left eye... Nothing life-threatening."
"Why isn't my man released?" Lee asked.
"He assaulted me!" the officer claimed.
"I want to see the holos. In fact, I'll have a warrant for them in just a few minutes." Lee tapped his com-badge.
"Kestrel here," said Ensign Tanaka's voice.
"Ensign, please contact Judge Webster's office with a request for a subpoena for the holorecords of Amaranth Police Precinct 4247, from six hours ago to present time. Evidence of police brutality upon active duty Starfleet personnel has been discovered, recorded by Specialist Deputy Dr. Sar. Also, warrants for Captain D'Kavner and as yet unidentified officers for Unlawful Restraint, Assault, and Civil Rights violations."
"Aye, sir. Will you wait on this channel or do you want me to contact you when the documents are issued?"
"Aye, sir. Anything else?"
"I'll let you know. Lee out." Lee turned to the policeman who was hiding his bleeding knuckle. "Why is my man still in restraints?"
"RELEASE HIM!" shouted the Captain, and the officer hurried to comply.
"Where's Crewman Sibley?" Lee asked.
"Room Seven," the Captain said.
"Take the Lieutenant there now, and return here."
The captain stepped out of the door and pointed, then stepped back into the room as Brock rubbed his chaffed wrists. The officer with the damaged knuckles backed away, leaving the key on the table for Brock to release his legs.
"I'll need you in Sickbay as early as possible. You'll have a black eye, but with a little osteo-therapy we can mend that eye socket before any further damage occurs.
"What evidence is there that my crewmen were involved in the crime?" Lee asked.
"They were at the scene of the crime, with the weapon used in the crime."
"What kind of weapon?" asked Dr. Sar.
"A Klingon disruptor."
"Crewman Brock certainly hasn't used, or been near anyone who used, a disruptor in the last four to six hours."
"How would you know?" asked the captain.
"Nadions. There would be residual nadions with a half-life of one hour or so which, depending on the intensity of the weapon setting, would remain for up to three days. Any disruptor blast powerful enough to be lethal would leave a residual field on the weapon's user that would require twelve hours to disperse to background levels."
"Meet Doctor Sar. He wrote the book on crime scene forensics." Lee said.
"Four, actually," Dr. Sar said with no pretense at modesty. "I was working on Book Five when you interrupted my academic career with your little field trip."
Lieutenant Mirra and Crewman Sibley entered the interrogation room, and Dr. Sar scanned him. "Uninjured. Also, no nadions. Neither of these two were in proximity of a disruptor blast. May I see the weapon used?"
"We have the weapon and the body."
"I would certainly be interested in seeing the body."
"Croaker, you need to tend to Crewman Brock first."
"Ah, yes. Come you two, let's step over here."
"Holey Cow! What happened to you, Doc?" asked Sibley.
"Enhanced interrogation techniques."
Lee turned to the captain. "Contact your superior. Then I want your confessions and your badges. If your confessions are verified in our investigation of your precinct I will accept your resignations. If you try to blow smoke up my skirt you'll be speaking next to a Federation prosecutor.
The Colonel wasn't a happy man. He scowled at the pair of badges and the pair of datapads, then looked up at Marshal Lee.
"What do you expect me to do with this mess you've created?" he growled.
"It's your precinct," said Marshal Lee, now dressed in his black working uniform. "I expect you to clean it up, Colonel. Police work is more than beating or teasing confessions out of people."
"Where you come from you have professional academies and career officers who come from law enforcement families. Out here we have farmers' kids who, at best, get a two-year community college degree and six months of police academy training. We do our best with what we have, and for the most part we do a damned good job!"
"I don't expect perfection, Colonel. I expect an honest attempt to enforce the law, within the confines established by the law.
"I've discussed the situation with my crewmen," Lee continued, "And neither one wishes to press charges. Further, you have my guarantee that both will be made available to your Prosecutor's Office and police investigation teams for any legal proceeding which requires their presence. Your local Magistrate agrees that under my supervision their recognizance bond is sufficient.
"I've also informed my superiors of the situation and they agree that an open and honest attempt by your department to prevent this sort of thing from re-occurring will suffice. Legal action against your department will be suspended pending demonstrations of your earnest efforts toward re-training and reinforcing proper police procedures. There will, of course, be an investigation by the Sapient Rights Commission. My recommendation is that you take advantage of it as an opportunity to show how you've corrected errant behavior."
The colonel glared at Lee. "And all it costs me is a captain with eighteen years of good service and a sergeant who is admittedly rough around the edges, but very good at keeping the peace among the trader-trash who frequent our portside establishments?"
"Frankly, I don't care what you do with them. I would, however, consider carefully what the commissioners will think when they review your procedures in a few weeks. You have the confessions. They wouldn't stand up in court if your officers were to get good advice of counsel, but you might consider using them for your own education and as a place to start your retraining. As for me, I've done what I set out to do regarding them. Now my interest lies in helping you to catch a murderer."
"I don't need your help. Frankly, I don't like the way you work. You come in here and lord it over us with your Federation badge; you threaten my men, you order my men about, and then when you get what you want you expect us to be happy about it all?"
"I don't expect anything of you except good, honest police work," Lee said. "As a policeman who does his best to demonstrate the qualities of professionalism and integrity, the one thing that really sets me off is sloppy, lazy, and dishonest police officers."
"Thanks to you, for the next six months or so my precinct will be paralyzed. As soon as the criminal class figures that out you can bet they'll take advantage of it. Meanwhile, your interference will force us to worry about spit-and-polish rather than combating crime. So, from me to you: thanks a lot."
"All of this could have been avoided by establishing and demanding adherence to proper police procedures. You're blaming me for finding the rotten apples you left in your shipping container Colonel. Now, I have a lot of things to do, and I'm sure you do as well, so would you like to continue blaming me for your ills or do you wish to move along so I can go about my business and leave you to yours?"
"Oh, mercy," said the Colonel sarcastically. "Please do move along so I can get back to hoeing my row."
Lee looked at the older man with a slight frown, but said nothing for a moment. Then he said, "I want to know why the P.A.D.D. was not documented as evidence, and why it is not currently in your evidence locker?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Have you viewed the witness interviews? Both of my crewmen independently claimed that the murderer left a P.A.D.D. at the scene, with instructions that it be given to me. I won't claim that the murderer's statement justifies my assuming possession of crime scene evidence, but I am more than a little curious about the absence of the P.A.D.D. on your investigation reports."
"I haven't viewed the interviews yet. It wasn't my job to investigate the crime, you know."
"Then I will let you get to work, Colonel. You'll let me know if that P.A.D.D. does turn up, won't you?"
The colonel grunted something which might be generously described as assent, and Lee turned and left the office without another word.
The going away party for Samantha was more subdued than Kestrel's usual victory celebration, though Lieutenant Mirra was trying to liven things up with an assortment of cocktails she was delivering with her usual banter.
Sam was talking to Crewman Sibley, trying to explain what had happened to him. "It's called 'sweating the suspect' and it's intended to confuse and demoralize you into either admitting to something just so they'll leave you alone or into accidentally saying something they want to hear. A good investigator knows that information sweated out of a suspect is unreliable because many times the suspect will become receptive to suggestion and say whatever the interrogator tells him to say."
"To tell the truth, I don't remember half of what I said," Sibley said. "They kept telling me Doc was blaming me, and that I would go to a penal colony if I didn't blame him."
"That's part of the routine: they have a narrative and they keep you from resting, from eating, drinking, using the bathroom. they make you as uncomfortable as they can, then keep repeating their narrative until you say what they want to hear. How many interviewers did you speak to?"
"Three, no four. Wait, there were a couple of times a guy came in and just stared at me while my interviewer went out to talk to someone."
"They probably just went out and watched you on the monitor," Sam said. "The whole idea is to make you uncomfortable, and a mean-looking guy who just stares at you can be really uncomfortable."
"Why didn't they do that to Doc? I mean, they broke his eyebone!"
"They probably tried, but Doc was probably not very intimidated, so they raised the discomfort level."
"At least if it ever happens again, I know what to look for."
Sam shook her head. "It doesn't matter what you know. Even experienced interrogators can be successfully sweated. But good judges know the information in a confession is unreliable, and good advocates always move to strike confessions because of this. No matter what else, there needs to be solid forensic evidence to obtain convictions.
"Enough work-chatter!" growled Chief Garadda. "Friday, turn off that recording and let's see if we can make some real music!"
The background music went off and Chief began tapping out a beat on his ride cymbal. When Dr. Sar joined in on his double-necked guitar Chief shifted to a fast paced rhythm on his full kit. Then Crewman Aktay stepped up and began to sing a Neo-Jazz torch song.
"We had some laughs, that's true. Some good times, just me and you,
But now you're heading off to who knows where?
We had a fight, what's new? Every word, you said was true,
Well, you can blame me but I just don't care!
You want to leave? Then do! Go ahead, who's stopping you?
If you come back for me I won't be there!
Suddenly the slow, smoky rhythm increased to a vibrant, almost manic pace, and Aktay belted out the next lines:
'Cause I'm a girl on the town, I'm not slowin' down, gonna dance every dance around!
I won't be waiting for you, there's too much to do, gonna run till I find that sound!
Do you think I'll be lonely? You're not the only, guy who can sweep me off the ground!
The rhythm of the song changed again to a slow syncopation as Aktay lowered her voice to almost a whisper:
And when he whispers in my ear,
It's not your voice I'm gonna hear,
Don't come back for me my dear.
'Cause if you do I won't be here.
She repeated the final lines, growing quieter as the drum and guitar played slower and then fell silent.
There was a polite applause following the song. They would never headline at La Fleche d'Or, and certainly Aktay sang with more enthusiasm than talent, but it was good enough to debut in Kestrel's Briefing Room.
"A round for the musicians!" said Mirra, passing glasses to the trio. Aktay stepped away from the windows, but Chief and Dr. Sar started on another musical number without their singer.
"I've never heard that before," Chief Voght said. "What was it?"
"Don't Come Back For Me," Aktay said. "We collaborated on it."
"By collaborate she means she dictated it to us and we played it for her," Dr. Sar said, without interrupting his guitar playing.
"I thought you only recorded other folks poems?" asked Ladner.
"I write too, but I'm not very good."
"Better than I can do," Sibley said.
"Ben writes better poetry than you," Chief Voght said.
Ben must have heard his name because he turned from his place at the bar beside his sister.
"I knew it!" Sibley exclaimed. "You're starting to sound like Chief Garadda! You get promoted to Chief and they add something that turns you into a grouch!"
As the party was winding down Lee maneuvered to speak Sam alone.
"You've been a huge help this last month," he told her. "I meant what I said: when you school is up I want you back. I'll understand if better opportunities present themselves for you, but I'll keep a badge with your number on it and you can claim it any time."
"I appreciate that," Sam said, "And I'm going to hold you to it. But you know how the Service is. I'll keep in touch."
"I know how that is," Lee said. "You focus on your school and on your career. If you need me, I'm here."
"Thanks, Lee. For everything."
The next morning Sam sat in the dockside terminal waiting for the freighter that was to take her on her first leg of the trip to Earth. She was playing a game Marshal Jasse had taught her: Who's That Guy? The rules were simple. Look at a passerby and deduce as much as you could about him, or her. Dress style, movement, accessories, everything about a person could be deduced from small clues.
That woman's right middle finger bore a callus where a writing stylus would be held. She was a clerk of some type. To judge by her well-worn boots, muscular physique, and practical haircut, she was a clerk at a farming cooperative.
The man with the bald head was a shop-keeper, but his was too easy: the smell of taffy, and tiny bits of the sticky treat, clung to his clothes. He made candy on the shopping levels of the station.
The man who sat behind her in the row of chairs that sat back to back with hers had approached unseen. Her senses keyed; anyone who would take the trouble, in a crowded public place, to approach her unseen was dangerous. She waited, alert. Chuss had said, "Make no move that might startle the prey."
And he had, of course, done nothing illegal, so far as Sam could prove.
As if speaking to himself, he said in a quiet voice that didn't carry far beyond Sam's ear, "Your pals blew it."
"Blew what?" Sam asked mimicking his quiet tone of voice.
"They were supposed to get the P.A.D.D. to your boss. What kind of idiot sticks around and waits for the cops to come after a murder?" He sighed. "Now the people we didn't want to have it have it. I kept backups of course.
Then he made his mistake. he reached across the double-row of of chair backs with a P.A.D.D. in hand...
In her younger days she had learned stage magic. Part of the magician's art was learning to do two different things simultaneously. Her right hand shot out and grabbed his left wrist while her left snatched the thumb-cuffs from her belt and snapped one end on his thumb. Then with a heave and a twist the man was flipped to her side of the row of chairs, face down on the floor while she got his other hand locked in the cuff.
By this time people were beginning to react, and she shouted as she put her knee in the small of his back and leaned on it, "Call Security now!"
"Mister," she said, "You are wanted for suspicion of involvement in the murder of a John Doe two nights ago. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to competent counsel. You have the right to communicate your situation with colleagues, friends, and family."
Lee sat down in a chair opposite the suspect. They were in Starbase 77's Security Office and the red indicator above the door showed that a holorecording was being made of the conversation.
"I'm sure you've been offered the aid of counsel by now. I suggest you take advantage of the offer, unless you have an advocate on the way, in which case, I'll wait."
"I have the key to something you want," said the prisoner. "You have the key to the door. Let's trade and call it even."
"I'm sorry, but I can't imagine what you want to trade with me that would be worth letting a murderer walk. If that's all you called me for, I'm afraid you've wasted our time. Again, I advise you to get advice of counsel."
Lee got up and headed toward the door.
"Wait!" he said. "Look, you've come all this way. At least listen to what I have to say."
Lee turned and looked at the prisoner. After a long pause he said, "When you were arrested you had on your person what appeared to be a handheld universal translator wand, but which turned out to be a high energy tetryon pulse generator. A similar, if not the same, device was used to commit a murder two nights ago. The description of the murderer, as described by two witnesses on the night of the crime, fits you. There is an audio recording of an anonymous caller reporting the murder as having been committed by two humans wearing Starfleet uniforms that sounds suspiciously like your voice. Now that we have samples of your voice it will be analyzed to determine if, in fact, it is your voice. I'm betting it is. On a personal note: I'm still quite upset that my crewman received a beating because of you.
"So, Mister Anonymous, I highly recommend you get advice of counsel. Because there is no scenario in which you and I walk out of that door and I set you free."
Lee turned to the door again. The man said, "Does the name Savaria ring a bell?"
"I'm listening," Lee said, with one hand on the door's control pad.
"She put out a contract on you."
"Four," Lee said, slowly turning around to face the prisoner.
"Four?" asked the prisoner.
"Four assassins have tried to cash in on various contracts on me so far. Three are now in maximum security prisons. One is dead. Not by my hand, because I like to keep my would-be assassins alive. Even better: I like to take down the person who issued the contract. There are another three of those sitting in max. Maybe one day an assassin will come along who's better than me, more determined, or just lucky. It's the nature of the game we play. But I don't worry too much, and it doesn't cost me a minute of sleep."
"All of you are just plain stupid!" said the prisoner "First those idiots wait for the police to arrive and then your partner pulls her stunt and arrests me! Can't you see I'm tying to help you?"
"No. I can't. What I see is a scumbag who's trying to get me involved in his plots for dominance of a small-time criminal enterprise by taking out his competition. I'm well aware that the various matrons are consolidating their power bases in the vacuum left by the destruction of the Kmt'aa Cartel. It's just not my problem."
"Look, I'm not trying to take out my competition. I'm trying to
"That's the trouble with your line of work, isn't it?" Lee asked. "Good pay and benefits, easy work, set your own hours, but the retirement plan sucks.
"I'm afraid you've wasted my time and yours." Lee said sadly. "There's nothing you can do for me, and nothing I want to do for you."
"The data on the P.A.D.D...."
"Will be forwarded to Starfleet or to whatever local or regional law enforcement body has jurisdiction. It's simply not my concern. The real world, Mister Anonymous, doesn't work on the basis of favors for favors. It works on the basis of law, and the same law applies to everyone."
"You've killed me! You know that, don't you? I'll be dead before the trial! All because you and your knuckleheaded partners are too stupid to realize
I was trying to help you!
"No, Mister Ellison Jethries, aka Don Martin, aka Labby Watts. If you die it will be because you chose to pursue a criminal life and lived like a parasite for many years on the blood of others. Now that it's your blood at risk, you want out. You are a coward, and a scumbag, and I want nothing more to do with you. If you want to preserve that filthy hide of yours you might consider cooperating with the local authorities. And if you had even half a brain you would engage an advocate who can advise you on your
options. If you have anything else to say to me, say it through your advocate. I'm done here."
Lee turned and walked to the door, tapped the pad, and exited without looking back.
"He registered on the names," said a Stafleet Security officer. "There's a high probability he's Labby Watts, who is wanted for a similar murder on Heath."
"At least something good came of that," Lee said. "Maybe he'll start talking now."
"Thanks for coming. Oh, the P.A.D.D.. Our transcript says it's a record of seven ritualized murders, recorded with the apparent intent to distribute the recordings."
"Intimidation." Lee looked disgusted as he said, "They show the murder videos around as an example of what happens to people who defy them. Most of the time the victims are just innocents or people who happened to be at the end of their usefulness to the cartels."
"We'll do our best to identify the victims and the perpetrators."
"Good luck. Let me know if I can help you in any way."
Back on the Kestrel Lee took a moment to relax, but his work still waited. Finally he got up from his couch and moved to his desk chair.
"Mister Friday," he said, "Have the schedules been acknowledged by Starbase Engineering?"
An image resolved in the holopaint behind his desk of a petite young woman dressed in a cheongsam of Cadet Blue with a gold collar and piping along the single-sided round front. It's pankous were Starfleet deltas in gold with a black Operations spiral in the center of each, one at the base of the collar and one above the piping on her right collarbone. The 'long shirt' ended just below the knee, and she wore black slacks and boots.
The woman was young, seventeen perhaps, with her long black hair done up in an elaborate bun with a jade hairclip that matched her earrings. Her face was typical of Southeast Asia, with a small chin and full lips, a small nose, and large, round eyes which were so dark they were almost black.
She spoke in Friday's voice, subtly altered by the affectation of an accent such as would be common in Hong Kong. "Captain Chatterjee responded, sir, with his promise that his crew will be ready to depart the station at 0700 and to begin trials by 0800."
"Good..." Lee paused to look at Friday's image again. "This is new. I've never seen you use an image before."
"I'm only seven months old, sir. There are many things I have not done before."
"Ah, sorry. You are so competent that I sometimes forget just how young you are. Good choice on the age of your image...avatar?"
"I selected an age appropriate to a first year cadet, sir. Do you like it?" she spun in place, and the slit sides of the gown opened up as the lower skirts flared.
"It's fantastic," he said. "I'm really impressed by your attention to detail."
"I had help. I was going to go with an Academy uniform, but then Crewman Aktay suggested we do some modifications, and the holographic model was constructed by Crewman Sibley.
"So it's a full hologram?"
"Yes sir. The next time you wish to challenge me to a game of billiards I won't have to do the 'creepy floating stick' trick, as Crewman Ladner describes it."
"I didn't mind that at all. But not today. There's a mountain of paperwork I have to wade through before we get involved in tomorrow's tests which will generate even more paperwork. And I desperately need your help."
"Then let's begin with the monthly Departmental Maintenance And Readiness Reviews. The problem area is the Medical Department resupply issues..."
Lee sat at a small table in the Wufu Garden eating a bowl of 'authentic' fried rice. The 'garden' was several over-sized planters placed strategically to separate small groups of tables, with suspended baskets of hanging ivy placed to form a green drapery along the outer perimeter of the restaurant, which occupied a central location in Starbase 77's retail shopping mall.
What passed for 'authentic Chinese Food' out among the stars was derived from American versions of Chinese cooking that often bore little resemblance to actual Chinese fare. The 'traditional' fortune cookies, for example, were purely an American invention, but one couldn't find a 'Chinese' restaurant outside of China which didn't serve them.
At the adjacent table was an elderly custodian whose interest in the lo mein appeared absolute.
"I'm not familiar with the names, but I can ask," the old man mumbled around a mouthfull of noodles. To anyone unfamiliar with Cantonese his words would have sounded like the grunts of a gourmand enjoying his meal.
"If you would be so kind, please trace his route to me," Lee said as he held a fork loaded with rice, "It would be most helpful. I would like to find my next assassin before he finds me."
"Always a worthy goal. Time will be a factor. Be careful, we may not find anything useful in time."
"Understood. I have other investigations in play too. My usual thanks for your fine service are tendered."
Lee put down his fork, sighed at the nearly empty plate, and wiped his mouth with his napkin. As he rose the older man turned to him and said, in a normal voice, "My friend, have you tried the lo mein?"
"I had rice today," Lee said.
"Next time you come, try the lo mein!"
"I shall, my friend, I shall!" Lee said and patted the older man's shoulder. With a pickpocket's skill the data-chip he had palmed dropped into the breast pocket of the older man.
As Lee walked away his mind was on his next assignment: a prisoner transport. But his eyes scanned every face, his ears listened to every sound, and his muscles were like coiled springs waiting to be released. Part of being a hard target is to be alert, and Lee intended to be as hard a target as he could be.
My apologies for the last chapter. It's in severe need of a re-write, (which it will probably never get.) In my defense I claim distraction by the grandbabies, (two and three,) who seem to think I am their personal tour guide to funland.
With Christmas soon to be behind us and regular schedules to be resumed, I should be able to get some writing done at times when I'm less than exhausted, and have time to plot out my story before it gets posted. As an example, I had an idea about the killer being spotted stalking the crew of the Kestrel early in the story, and wrote past the point where it went before I realized I had forgotten to put it in. The scene's there in my head, so it was easy for me to overlook that I hadn't written it. (Three year old 'borowed' my notebook in which I do outlines and such because he wanted to color. I found it under the bed last night.)
So, hopefully, Lee and I can get back to a regular routine and I can make a serious dent in closing out Season One.
Merry Christmas to everyone. I'm hoping Santa brings you nice new space ships and lock-box keys.
Season 1, Episode 14
The Engineering Jumper, with its helmet and airpack attached, puffed out and stiffened as Sibley lowered the corridor pressure. When it was down to trace levels he manually opened the hatch to the stateroom. A huge hole where the windows had been showed stars, and the only internal illumination came from a plasma conduit arcing on the deck.
He clicked n his helmet lamp and carried the emergency force-field projector to the raised platform, carefully avoiding the arcing conduit on the way. He set it up by the numbers:
1) Lockdown: to prevent recoil from tossing it across the compartment when it was powered up.
2) Scan: to determine the size and shape of field appropriate to the problem at hand.
3) Project: use the aiming laser to insure the field will cover the intended area. Adjust as necessary.
4) Set Power to Lowest Setting: because turning on a force field projector at high setting can cause loose objects in its field to be hurled in dangerously random directions.
5) Engage: open the locking cover to access the On switch.
6) Inspect the Area of Effect: any shifting debris requires the device to be turned off, the debris moved away, and then go back to Step 4.
7) Slowly scale up the Power to 120 kPa: Observe the area for shifting debris and if any movement occurs, turn off the device and return to Step 4 after the shifting debris is cleared.
8) Turn on Safety Warning Strobe Light: so anyone who doesn't notice a hole in the bulkhead will realize there is an emergency device in operation.
It was operating at 120 kPa, which gave a 20% margin for atmosphere to be restored, but before he could reset the environmental control he had to deal with the conduit which was burning holes in the deck, spraying molten duranium around, and causing gaps in the gravitic plating's power grid.
Unfortunately, the broken end was dancing beneath the bulkhead stuffing tube where its disconnect was located. He carefully picked the conduit's broken end off the deck, pointed the stream of plasma away from anything it might burn, then discovered he was a few centimeters too short to reach the disconnect.
Holding the conduit carefully, he reached out with a foot to hook the desk chair and pull it toward him. He got the chair close, then grabbed it with his other hand to put it beneath the stuffing tube. The conduit flared, and a lightning bolt arced into the bulkhead, passing through Sibley on its way.
The holoprogram shut down, returning Sibley to his stateroom where Ladner slowly clapped his hands.
"So, what went wrong there?" Ladner asked.
"Power spike in the EPS system?"
"Nope. Try again."
"I don't know. Everything was normal, then blam!"
"What happens to spent plasma?"
"We vent it."
Ladner smiled. "We vent it to
Sibley looked at him with a confused expression.
"Once you sealed the breach, you allowed the vented gas coming off that conduit to build up, and it built up enough to allow a static arc-flash.
"Now, normally, this ain't a problem:" Ladner explained, "The EPS is an above-ground system with no reference to the hull, but electricity travels between differential energy levels, just like most other forms of energy. The hull's been battle-damaged by energy weapons which, in this case, created a positive charge on the hull. So long as your conduit was flashing on the deck the energy differential didn't have a chance to build up: you had a grounded system. But then you isolated it in vacuum, allowed the charge of the hull to diverge, and at the same time you filled the compartment with electrically conductive gas."
"Static discharge," Sibley said. "A big one."
"Yeah," Ladner agreed. So, what was your first mistake?"
"I shouldn't have picked up the conduit."
"True enough, but before that."
"I set up the force field which allowed the vented plasma to accumulate?" guessed Sibley.
"Even before that: you didn't go in with a plan. You had to grab a chair because you weren't tall enough to reach the disconnect, but if you had a plan you'd have been ready for that. You had to go around a conduit arcing on the deck, and a sudden shift in gravity or momentum of the ship might have flung that loose end right on you."
"I should have taken care of the broken conduit first," Sibley said.
Ladner smiled. "How?"
"I could have used a thermal blanket to cover it to get to the stuffing tube."
"You could have. I can think of an even better way"
Sibley looked at Ladner again.
"What's on the other end of that bulkhead penetration?"
"Another disconnect!" Sibley realized. "At the power-tap!"
"They do that for a reason," Ladner said. "Now, what's your plan?"
"I open the hatch, see the broken conduit, so I set down the projector, close the hatch, climb into the Power Chase above the passageway, disconnect the plasma conduit, then I go back and do the entry again from the beginning."
"Very good. When you run into something that messes with your plan, don't charge ahead. Rethink your plan. It might take a few more minutes, and captains hate when you take more minutes, but it'll save time in the long run because you can't fix anything when you're dead. The less often that happens to you, the better your chances of completing the damage control objective."
"All right, let's try that one again," Sibley said.
[To steal a page from patricngo, this section is not a part of the story. It emerged as I was deciding where the episode would begin, and I thought some reader might find it interesting.]
The planet of Calibri is a border planet near the Hromi Cluster with the legal status of Protectorate World. Humans, Romulan refugees, and several local species coexist on the world, which is in the painful process of unification of its various governments pending acceptance into the Federation of Planets.
Originally claimed by a consortium of Ferengi investors operating out of Danteri, the world was exploited for its suitability for industrial terraforming. Its lifeless seas were perfect for algaeculture on a truly massive scale, and the high CO2 content of its atmosphere made it possible to create industrial plastics plants. Unfortunately, the consortium never realized a profit on the system, as both of its major exports were in low demand and what demand existed was in distant markets.
Since its abandonment, everyone in the neighborhood has tried to stake a claim to the world, including a minor Klingon house whose two-hundred or so members hire out as police in the cantons of other races. Each race has its own political center, though there are emerging cosmopolitan cantons as well. Most cantons are based on a particular enterprise, such as plastics or algae harvesting as a part of the ongoing terraforming effort, though the products they produce are largely made for domestic consumption.
Local enterprise is a major component of the economy now. Its new products are arable lands made fertile by a growing concern in 'dirt farming' which is the growth of living soil which is then used to seed new farms. Several universities and agricultural combines are major contributors to the research and development portion of this project, with a generous endowment from Memory Alpha funding a local agricultural college.
In 2392, when several former members of the Calibri Consortium tried to reassert their ownership of the world, the Federation 6th Circuit Court ruled that the abandonment of the world and dissolution of the Consortium placed the world in receivership. The abandoned algae and plastics plants were auctioned off to pay the debs of the Consortium, and the world itself was sold on bond to the inhabitants, who were obligated to buy off the bond over twenty-five years at the rate of 2% of the income of each adult of any race.
When the Ferengi bond-holders realized they could increase the value of their annual 2% bond by increasing the overall economy of the planet, banks sprang up overnight offering loans for industrial and consumer goods manufacturies. Calibri became, for a time, the poster child for economic development. Those investors who came in on the ground floor realized huge profits, but as economic growth stabilized and as the twenty-five year deadline approaches, investment has tapered off. This is fine by most citizens of Calibri, whose interests are more properly focused on their farms and manufacturies, and their long term biosphere development program.
Today, less than eighty years from the installation of the first Algae Plant on the shore of the Sea of Profit, atmospheric CO2 is down to 18%, (from 24%,) with slightly lower levels in the oceans, and atmospheric O2 is up to 7%, with just under 1% of the world's alluvial plains being farmed. Plastic farmhouses, tools, equipment and towns are ubiquitous, and vast greenhouses are attached to every farm and city. Indeed, it has been said that the local architecture is epitomized by the greenhouse.
There is a Republican party on the world which advocates uniting with the Romulan Republic rather than the Federation. The 16% of the population which is Romulan is split over the idea, but there are a great many former Federation citizens and their children who express sympathy for the Republican cause. Remans appear to be against this position, but they are such a small minority their numbers are insignificant in the general electorate.
Of late there has been a small, but very vocal, endorsement by a group which calls itself the Alliance Alliance. It advocates for not applying for membership in either the Federation or the Republic. Instead, they advocate joining the Alliance of the Alpha and Beta Quadrant. Their call is for the establishment of an Alliance Capitol on their world. They tout the economic and political benefits of sponsorship by all of the major powers, as opposed to choosing only one.
At present the influence of and support for the Federation clearly shows it to be the front-runner and the majority, even of those who would prefer another government, are taking steps toward preparation for admittance to the UFP. Of course, the Klingons claim the voting is rigged and they are not bound to honor it, but even they have adopted and enforced the Uniform Standard of Social Rights which is a keystone of the Federation Justice System.
Lee entered the bridge and took his seat. Then he looked around again: Sibley was on the Navigation console, Tanaka on Tactical, and Brock on Communication. Lieutenant Mirra was parked at Engineering, but a quick glance showed she was monitoring the three displaced crew members from the Engineering Console.
"I'm glad to see that cross-training is going so well," Lee said.
The Kestrel is ready to depart, sir," Mirra said.
"Has Crewman Sibley generated a suitable flight plan, Mister Chuss?"
"He didn't half-step," growled the Caitian.
"Crewman Sibley, what is the purpose of half-stepping a navigation plot?" Lee asked.
"Sir," Sibley said with a tone of contrition, "It allows you to correct any deviation in your course at the half-way-point, and again at the three-quarters point, and again at the seven-eights point. The earlier you correct any course deviation, the less often you go wide of, overshoot, or undershoot your target."
"You know, yet you failed to calculate the half-steps?"
"I thought I could one-shot it the way Mister Chuss does."
"Mister Chuss doesn't one-shot his navigation plots."
"He never drops out of warp to confirm our course, sir."
"Mister Chuss has sixteen years of experience as a pilot. He is skilled, and has a natural talent for the job. But his navigation plots are always half-stepped and he always checks the course at each half-step to insure Kestrel is where it's supposed to be."
"At warp, sir?"
"I use gravimetric regression to determine our location in relation to the gravity wells of nearby masses."
"You'd have to calculate the relative position of three massive bodies," protested Sibley, "Then calculate the time it took their gravity waves to reach us and calculate where the body was when it emitted the gravity waves..."
"I use a minimum of five. In areas of stellar density I can use as many as nine for precision."
"That's like plotting nine courses!"
"Ten," Chuss said. "There is also the relative motion of the ship."
"Wouldn't it be easier to just drop out of warp so you can use the subspace telescope to determine where the massive body is now?"
"Easier?" Chuss asked. "When it comes to starship navigation, easy is your enemy. The question you should ask is, would it be more accurate? And the answer is, no, it would not."
"All right," Lee said. "I assume there is an accurate plot in the navigation computer now? Properly half-stepped?"
"Aye, sir," Sibley said.
"Very well. Mister Chuss, take us out."
The USS Kestrel eased out of spacedock, and Starbase 77 receded behind her as her speed increased. Amaranth diminished to a green-gold marble in the viewscreen, bracketed by the warp nacelles.
"Starbase 77 just gave the all-clear, sir." Brock said.
"Thank you Crewman," Lee said. "Mister Chuss, Warp 6 at your discretion."
"Aye," Chuss said, and the ship jumped to warp. The main viewer switched to the forward camera as the stars rainbowed.
"Intercom, Crewman Brock," Lee said.
"Aye, sir..." He fumbled at the controls a moment, then said, "Okay, sir, on your panel."
Lee toggled the intercom then said, "All hands, this is the Skipper. We're on our way to Calibri Colony on another prisoner transport assignment. I know we've done a few of them already and this might be getting a bit routine. I want to remind everyone that most prisoner escape attempts occur during transport, and the pair we're going to pick up this time are repeat offenders. That means they've already escaped custody at some point, and will probably try again.
"We've trained for this and we're ready, so long as we stay vigilant. Remember, for us it's routine but for them it's an opportunity. Don't allow complacency to be a factor if they try to escape.
"There will be a Senior Staff Meeting in the Briefing Room at 1400 hours.
"All hands secure from Departure Stations and set the Alpha Watch. That is all."
Lee toggled off his pickup and said, "Secure the intercom, Crewman Brock."
"Skipper," Lieutenant Mirra asked, "Does Senior Staff include Crewman Voght?"
"She's been frocked to Chief, so she's senior staff now," Lee said.
"She doesn't think BuPers is going to approve her promotion."
"As far as her rank on the USS Kestrel is concerned she's a Chief, and I expect her to act the part."
"Aye, sir. I'll pass that on."
Chuss stood up and asked, "Is Sibley going to stay on Nav during your watch, Lieutenant?"
"Unless Chief needs him for something... Chief Garadda."
"Chuss turned to Sibley and said, "Pull up Helm as secondary. There. You should have Sensors, Navigation, and Helm as Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. At warp you're scanning for obstacles, and in battle you'll target for Tactical on Sensors. You need Helm to maintain your position plots, and to serve as backup if the helmsman is disabled. Get used to those three control panels.
"And practice triangulating your position at warp. It's only calculus; you should be able to do it without a problem."
"Don't alter my course. It looks like we're off on your plot, but there's a subspace eddy ahead that should pull us back on course by the time we make our first half-step course correction."
"You can calculate subspatial currents? I thought that was impossible!"
"I don't calculate them, I guess. And now I'm going to my quarters. I'll check your calculations when Beta watch is set."
"All right, Number One," Lee said. "We're on course at Warp 6. All stations green. You have the Conn."
"I have the Conn, sir," she said as she got up and stepped over to the center seat.
Lee turned for the exit and the paperwork Cadet Friday had waiting for him.
Lieutenant Mirra and Chief Voght worked out at midday while the Kestrel was underway due to their watch rotations. Crewman Brock usually joined them, but on this day they were alone in the area of the cargo bay they used as a gym.
"Keep those fists up!" Mirra said. "I could punch through that lazy guard!"
She shoved the bag toward Voght, interrupting the intended series of blows she was setting up, but Voght back-stepped and tagged the bag, right-right, LEFT! Mirra could see her setting up to repeat, so she pulled the bag back. Voght pivoted into a mid-level side kick that left her standing in range to strike her combination in reverse, left-left, RIGHT!
"Well done!" Mirra said, pushing the bag again as Voght bounced back, stinging the bag with fast punches.
With long arm and legs, Voght preferred to fight at a distance. Mirra's small stature forced her to fight in close, and work harder at defense. "I would never leave my chin that open! It's inviting an uppercut!"
Voght responded with a knee to the center of the bag, followed by an elbow strike, and this time she maintained her guard. She was a long way from the schoolyard brawler she had been when they began half a year before, and Mirra reflected on that as she pivoted around the bag to force Voght to constantly shift her position and distance.
Then the timer went off and Voght backed off, maintaining her guard until she was clear. She and Mirra exchanged bows and Voght dropped her guard.
"You're getting the speed back in your left arm. How's it going with Mason?" Mirra asked.
"He's an exasperating TRIBBLE," Voght said.
"I meant the therapy," Mira said.
"In that too."
"It seems to be working. Your left shoulder isn't far from its former power, and I think you've gotten faster."
"He makes me play 'catch the feathers' to work on my speed."
"What?" Mirra asked as she sat on the deck to begin their cool-down stretches.
"He has a handfull of these white feathers and he tosses them in the air. I have to grab as many as I can one at a time before they hit the ground. I still can't believe animals on your world grow them."
"Surely you saw birds when you were on Earth?"
"They were smooth. I never saw one that looked fluffy."
"You never saw a chick," Mirra said with her arms stretched past her toes and her forehead between her knees.
"So, what are you two going to do after this assignment? We have less than six months left."
"I don't know," Voght said. We haven't talked about it. I mean, we've rushed things here. Maybe after, after..."
"You two seem pretty good together," Mirra said as they shifted to leg-stretches. "Of course, it may look different from inside. It's not really my business. But I've been promised a department head position for my next assignment. It'll be tactical or security. Maybe both if it's a small ship. I can probably arrange for both of you to come with me."
"I'm not..." She paused. "I can't always read him, you know? It's like I expect one thing and he does another. He's so... human."
"He's male. They're like that. I don't think the species matters. It's like they took out the part of their brain that actually thinks and put in a 'say something stupid' component."
"I know what you mean. Race can say the stupidest things with perfect timing." Voght sighed.
"Hey, we don't have to talk about this if you don't want to," Mirra said. "I just want you to know the offer's there. There's still plenty of time to sort it out."
"Thanks, I'll think about it." Voght paused, then said, "Thanks for everything. You're the first officer to really give me a chance."
"Maybe I gave you a chance, but you're the one who took it. And look what you made of it, Chief."
"Only until BuPers gets off their can and files my rejection."
Even if they do, you wear a Chief's rocker on your chevrons on the Kestrel. Stick with me and I'll see that you get to wear them on your next assignment too. At least until BuPers wakes up and corrects their mistake by making it permanent."
The USS Kestrel had been in orbit of Calibri for a little over eight hours before they were given clearance to land. When they did it was into a large parking lot on the Ministry of Justice grounds rather than at the spaceport. Kestrel's boarding ramp deployed facing the building. A blue suit of armor and a very tall Caitian wearing a respirator mask stepped off to flank the ramp.
Two groups of five exited the holding facility, four armored and armed guards surrounding a prisoner, each group separated by about ten meters. The prisoners were wearing wrist restraints as well as transport suits which were padded and armored with a blacked out helmet visor.
They were about halfway to the Kestrel when energy weapons opened up from long range. One of the guards went down hard. Two others were hit. They tried to hustle their prisoners back to the holding facility, but stumbled as more sniper fire, somewhat less accurate than the initial volley, hit their armor and the grounds around them.
Then there was a group of eight who beamed in between the guards and the holding facility, and they were armed with assault weapons. As they attacked, a second group beamed in between the Kestrel and the prisoners.
The guards fought back, pushing their prisoners to the ground and firing from a prone position. The attackers were more maneuverable, and they spread out, forcing the defenders to fight in all directions simultaneously. Even with the added firepower of the two members of Kestrel's crew, the attackers made short work of the guards.
As soon as he could an attacker ran to each prisoner and attached a device. The prisoners transported out. There were more guards now pouring out of the holding facility, but the prisoners were gone. Between the very accurate fire of the Kestrel crewmen and the additional guards, more attackers started to drop. A few managed to beam away, but seven of the attackers were left behind as the guards swarmed over the site, rushing their fallen comrades back into the holding facility as they secured the unconscious attackers, disarmed them, then hauled them back into the holding facility as well.
The Caitian and the armored figure boarded the ship and the boarding ramp closed behind them.
The Kestrel's bridge was silent as exterior cameras monitored the area between the ship and the holding facility. The door of th facility opened and guards frog-marched their prisoners through the atmospheric containment force field.
Lieutenant Mirra was on the Science console monitoring the sensors, with Ensign Tanaka on Communications. Crewman Sibley sat at the Navigation console backing Mirra on sensors.
"Snipers!" shouted Sibley as the first shots were fired, and the Kestrel's powerful computer traced the beams back to their place of origin.
"Three sets of coordinates on your console, Ensign," Mirra said in a somewhat calmer tone of voice.
"Aye, sir. Transmitting to Local Police now."
"Transporters," Sibley said. "I have the signal. It looks like a local public use terminal."
"I can't track the source," Mirra said. "All the domes."
"I have the broad area it has to be in," Sibley said.
"Send it Ensign. There can't be too many public transporter terminals in that one area."
"Aye, sir." Then Tanaka said, "Message sent."
"There goes number one..." Sibley said, "And number two."
"Telemetry good, I have their location," Tanaka said.
"Send it," Mirra said.
"Already sent, sir," the Ensign replied.
"Sibley, focus on the snipers' nests."
"Oh man!" he said a second later. "That had to hurt!"
"I don't need a play-by-play, just the overview."
"The first nest is overrun with police. The second one too. And the third guy slid out of the window to get away, but an officer followed him and landed on him when they hit the bottom."
"Keep scanning for more snipers. How's the telemetry, Ensign?"
"Still green on both transponders," he said. "Chief Voght is in Transporter Two on standby."
The door to the bridge opened and Chuss entered. He paused to look over Tanaka's shoulder.
"They're both still green, sir," Tanaka said. I have a lock on them, and so does Chief Voght."
Chuss growled and stepped to the tactical board to look over Mirra's shoulder.
"Use the Command boards," Mirra said. "You're distracting me."
"Sorry," Chuss said and he stepped around to sit at the Conn.
Crewman Mason was used to danger: he was Starfleet Security, after all. He had been in firefights, had been in battle, and had he had even risked life and limb to win the affection of an Andorian Alpha Female. But he had never been a spy before!
When they transported him away from the battlefield he did his best to pretend the suit's blackened faceplate obscured his sight, but he was seeing everything on the HUD. Two men in pressure suits pulled him off the pad and parked him beside the other 'prisoner' who sat in front of the control console.
He moved his head as if trying to see through the blackened faceplate, but he was scanning the room. There were two suited men by the transporter pad, and another standing in front of four frightened civilians and two either dead or unconscious uniformed transporter system techs. He couldn't see behind the console, but presumed there would be two more there.
The other prisoner's foot tapped his and he turned that direction. The gloved hand of the other prisoner made three handsigns: Wait, Your Target, Guard. Mason gave the Acknowledged sign back, and he waited as nine of the attackers beamed onto the pad in small groups.
Then the power went off in the room and an amplified voice said, "This is the police! We have you covered and there is a transport inhibition field on the building. You cannot escape!"
"I can't get power back!" said the console operator from behind Mason.
Mason toggled the switch that controlled his restraints, careful to keep his wrists together to maintain the illusion that he was manacled. He opened the sealed flap on the front of his suit and observed his target as the attackers began to argue.
"Leave your weapons and come out with your hands on your heads, or we will have no choice but to come in and get you!" the amplified voice said.
"We have hostages!" shouted one of the attackers who had gathered by the door.
Mason almost missed the signal, but he drew his phaser from its hidden compartment and fired, dropping the guard of the civilian prisoners. He rolled, remaining prone, to get around the console and saw the other prisoner shoot the man who had shouted at the police.
"Drop your weapons!" Mason shouted, and didn't give the transporter operator time to draw his. By that time the other prisoner had shot another three using a phaser set on wide beam. One of the pair of handlers by the transporter pad tried to sneak behind the prisoner and got a heel in his temple for his trouble, while Mason shot another, and the ones to either side of him, who raised an assault weapon.
Then armored policemen were among the crowd of attackers. Mason dropped his pistol and spread his arms to either side while the other prisoner stood with his hands up. The police, who outnumbered the attackers by four-to-one or more, swarmed into the room.
"Compartment secured," said one of the policemen. "Send medical teams."
Four hours later Mason was on the Starboard Quarterdeck of the Kestrel as the real prisoners were marched into the ship's brig.
"All of your men are okay?" the Skipper was asking the captain of the guard unit as they exited the brig.
"Yes," the captain replied. "Apparently they wanted to avoid murder charges, so they used stun settings. But those phaser rifles would have been lethal at close range."
"They could have been lethal at long range," Lee said. "I can't thank you and your men enough. Let them know I appreciate the risk they took today, and I'm proud to have met and worked with men of such courage."
"You're the one who took the risk, Marshal. We were just doing our regular job."
The prison guards marched through the quarterdeck, each pausing to allow Mason to scan them before exiting the ship. The captain was last, and Lee said, "Hold on a second," after Mason scanned him.
Mason opened a wall locker and pulled out a small case with a very prominent logo of a stylishly out-of-style gentleman dressed in red with gold trim and carrying an ornate spear.
"I understand gin is a favorite on your world, and I'd like to see that your officers get a drink on me. There are a few extra bottles, so everyone who wants it should be able to get a taste of what they drink on Earth."
"We can't accept rewards, Marshal," the captain said.
"It's not a reward, Captain. It's one officer buying a drink for another."
"In that case," and the captain smiled at his pun as he took the carton from Crewman Mason.
"And I owe you a case as well," Lee said to Mason as the captain departed.
Mason retracted the gangway, secured the airlock, and closed the outer hull panel. "Sir, can you get a 20 year old bottle of Andorian Ale?"
"20 years old? Andorian Ale usually isn't aged."
"That's why I'm having trouble finding it, sir. I've been looking. Only the best ales can take aging without settling out, but those that can age... I'm told they get quite smooth."
"I'll look into it. No promises."
"Thank you, sir."
"You did marvelous work out there today," Lee said.
"It was an honor to get the chance to see you in action, sir. I've never seen one guy take on fourteen pirates by himself before."
"Ridiculous. You were there, and so were about fifty police. We were little more than a distraction."
"Still, sir, it was quite a sight!"
Lee smiled, then toggled the com panel. "Bridge," said Ensign Tanaka.
"Intercom, please," Lee said.
"You're on, sir."
"This is the Skipper. All hands to departure stations; report readiness to the bridge." Lee said, then toggled off the com.
Lee stood outside the force field which contained his prisoners, looking in on his charges, who were in separate cells.
"To be honest," Lee lied, "We rather expected your friends would try to rescue you on Calibri. Maybe you're just not as valuable to them as we thought, or maybe someone else has taken over your organization now that you're going to be out of the way for the next twenty or so years."
"My soldiers are loyal!" protested the prisoner. "When they come for me, anyone in the way will be eliminated. That includes the entire crew of this ship, Captain."
"I hardly think your replacement is going to try very hard to rescue you. At best he might send a few of your more loyal minions to get captured to get them out of the way of his consolidation of power. Criminals always want to be the top dog, usually by taking the position from the former top dog."
"Criminals?" The prisoner laughed. "You don't understand, and thus you will always underestimate us. Our Cause is a cause of Justice! We are warriors fighting for freedom from Federation domination and assimilation! We are The Resistance! Clan onResli will never bow to the Federation which floods our worlds with lies, corrupts our youth with vices previously unknown to our society, and subjugates our culture in favor of a washed out, virtueless ideology. We are not criminals, Captain, we are Freedom Fighters."
"Freedom..." Lee paused, and shook his head. "Do you really believe that? Or is that just propaganda to lure the dim-witted of your society into joining your cause? Because the criminal record of your organization shows a clear history of piracy, but for the life of me I can't find where you've 'liberated' a single person. Anywhere.
"Take Kidut, there," Lee said pointing to the adjacent cell. "Not the model of a well-rounded, educated and intellectual person, even by Elasi standards, but at least he was gainfully employed as a colonial farmer before you lured him into a life of crime."
Lee turned to the second prisoner and asked, "What did you spend your share of the stolen torbernite shipment on? That alone should have netted you enough to retire."
"We don't keep any money," the prisoner said.
"Funny. Because when he was arrested, lesMald here was discovered with several accounts on several worlds. Why, just his account on Ferenginar was worth over eighty-five bricks of latinum. Your boss was a very rich freedom fighter. You're saying he didn't give you any of the money?"
"We're soldiers!" the prisoner said. "Right Ves? In a cause?"
"He's just trying to make you doubt The Cause, Kidut. Don't listen to him! You know every last dop was for The Cause!"
"Really?" Lee asked. "Even your estate on Risa?" Lee turned to Kidut and said, "He purchased an estate on a private island on Risa a few years back. How did that serve your cause?"
"That's not true!" lesMald protested.
"We have holos of you in your estate enjoying luxury while your crew was, I believe, roughing it on an abandoned asteroid mine. No, Kidut, you've been played for a chump. lesMald was looking for one more big score before he retired. It almost worked too. If he had quit one scam earlier we might never have caught up with him, but like all criminals, the lure of easy money was too strong for him, and it caused him to make mistakes. Those mistakes added up to you being captured along with your boss."
"Ves?" Kidut asked, somewhat timidly, as if he were afraid to know the answer. It's not true, is it? You don't have an estate on Risa? You were off looking for arms dealers like you said?"
"Don't listen to him, Kidut. He's just taking advantage of you, like everyone but me has always done! I've always played it straight with you..."
"Computer, play Risian Security record of Veska lesMald," Lee said.
On the bulkhead behind Lee, and visible to the occupants of both cells, a holo-projection was played. It was a series of scenes in which lesMald gambled, caroused, and relaxed on a tropical beach.
"These are from eighteen months ago. That's about four months before your failed attempt to hijack the SS Klystren Bopok. Where were you then, Kidut?"
"Ves?" asked Kidut.
"It's all a lie! That was made up by Starfleet experts. They can make a holo of anything."
lesMald turned to Lee, and said in a vicious tone of voice, "When my soldiers come to get me out of here the first thing I'm going to do is kill you!"
"Good luck with that. Computer, exit." Lee stepped to the door and a cylinder of blue light scanned him before the hatch to the Starboard Quarterdeck opened.
"I know all about you, Marshal Lee of the Federation! You can't hide! When I get out of here..."
The hatch closed on his tirade.
"Sounds like it went well," Crewman Mason said sardonically.
"I hope so. I really didn't expect them to answer questions directly, but hopefully I have them agitated enough to talk to each other. I may learn something when I go over the recordings later."
Lee added, "We're done here for now. You can lock down the quarterdeck."
"After-action report on the Calibri incident, sir," Voght said as she handed a P.A.D.D. to Lieutenant Mirra.
Mirra swiveled the chair toward Voght and asked, "So how was the Skipper's suit? I've wanted to try it out, especially that helmet."
"Andorian helmets have accommodations for the antennae. I had to lay them flat and the helmet kind of squished them. It was uncomfortable."
"Yeah, but you were the only one tall enough and thin enough to fit in the suit."
"I know," Voght said, "And I was glad to do my part, but looking through that optical system was weird. Just the tiniest shift of the eye and you're looking behind you. I had to focus on the targeting reticle just to keep my sense of direction straight."
"I imagine it takes getting used to, but my suit has about one-hundred eighty degrees of visibility. The bubble helm has more, if I turn my head. That's why I have two helmets."
"I admit I've never understood the armor fetish," Voght said, "But standing there in the Skipper's armor... I felt invulnerable."
"Dangerous feeling," Chuss said, entering the bridge. "Armor almost never works against an intentional, direct attack. It's more to protect you from near misses and environmental hazards than anything."
"Still, add me to the armor-curious list now," Voght said.
"Time for watch rotation?" Mirra asked.
"As soon as I check on what our navigation officer has done while I was asleep."
"Okay, I have to know," Crewman Sibley said from the Navigation console. "How did you know about the subspace eddy current we passed through that altered our course almost exactly the way you said it would?"
"Sensors," Chuss said. "Another ship went through that region a day before us, and its ion trail was distorted. So I plotted the degree of distortion and used that to correct our computed course."
"Now you're plotting the courses of ion trails?"
"It's just calculus, Sibley," Chuss explained. "Plot the curve through time of each moving object and then at any one time there is only one angle from our own course at which any given object must be. In unknown space you have to plot your reference points sooner to get accurate course data, but here in charted space the relative motion of massive objects is already calculated for you. I never trust previously plotted vectors, but I use them to confirm my calculations when I can."
"You must really love math."
"Mister Sibley, when you set up a holomatrix, you do it from scratch every time?"
"No sir. I use a template... Oh. The formula for motion is the same every time, so if I use a template and plug in the variables..."
"You can easily calculate a dozen plots in moments. You won't be allowed to do that until you're qualified on Navigation because, like any skill, manually plotting a course requires practice. But you should be able to manually calculate navigation plots from a minimal number of massive gravity wells, such as stars or even worlds."
"I need to work on my calculus. It looks like I'll be doing a lot of regressions."
"All right," Chuss said. "We're on course at Warp 6. I relieve you, Mister Sibley."
"I stand relieved, sir." Sibley locked the Navigation console and exited the bridge.
"How about you, Mister Tanaka?" Chief Voght asked. "Tired of standing at Tactical yet?"
"Lieutenant Mirra has been giving me tactical problems, so I've kept busy."
Voght stepped around the console and looked at what he was doing. "What's this?" she asked.
"Computer identifies it as a warp shadow," the Ensign said.
"Odd place for a warp shadow," Voght said. "Lieutenant, request permission to perform a ping on the target."
"That's not a warp shadow," Chuss said from the Helm console. "That's a cloaked ship."
"Active sensors," Mirra said."How long has that warp shadow been with us, Mister Tanaka?"
"Half an hour..."
"It's a cloaked vessel," Voght said. "Computer can't identify ship class."
"Klingon power signature," Chuss said, "And Klingon cloak."
"Yellow Alert," MIrra said. "Computer, address intercraft: Captain to the bridge!"
"Decloaking," said Voght.
"They're altering course... Ramming!" said Tanaka,
"Mister Chuss! Evade..." Mirra said.
The port bridge door opened and Sibley, followed by the Skipper came through as the Kestrel dropped out of warp. The sudden deceleration caused Sibley to crash into his chair at the Engineering Console with the Skipper almost in his lap.
Mirra said, "We've just been forced out of warp by a ship of unknown configuration with Klingon signatures. Mister Chuss is evading.
"Red Alert," Lee said as he disengaged himself from Sibley and moved to Conn.
Mirra took over Tactical and Tanaka moved to Communication while Voght exited the bridge at a run.
Kestrel shook from an impact: the unknown ship had fired its disruptors and pinpointed the port nacelle. A moment later and its second blast hit the Kestrel's shield as the tiny ship rolled away and took off at full impulse. The squat, triangular ship followed.
In the Engineering Control Room Chief Garadda was saying, "Ladner's isolating the port nacelle now. The best I can give you is Warp 2!"
"Do what you can, Chief. For now keep those deflectors up."
"Aye," growled the Tellarite."
On the bridge Lee said, "Any luck with the distress call?"
"They're jamming all subspace frequencies, sir!" the Ensign said.
"Options?" Lee asked.
"Turn and fight!" Chuss said.
"They out-mass us by a factor of five, and those are military grade heavy disruptor cannons on the ventral surface of that ship," Mirra said.
"Sir, it'll take a few hours of EVA work to get the port nacelle operational. If we go to warp they can catch us and destabilize our warp shell again," Sibley said.
"All right, we need to buy a few hours for Mister Sibley. We need a hiding spot. What else is nearby?" Lee asked as he scanned his board.
"Crewman Aktay, boost the aft defensive deflectors with the aft gravitic deflector," Mirra said to her intercom pickup.
"Aye, sir," came the reply.
"Mister Tanaka," Lee said, "Can you jam their comms as well?"
"Aye, sir, but they're already doing a good job of that."
"Jam them louder. Maybe a Starfleet vessel will hear it and come looking for the cause."
"Aye, sir!" Tanaka flipped some switches. "I'd hate to be their Comm Officer right now!"
"Mister Chuss, make your course 277 by 030. That patch of proto-stellar debris."
"I see it," Chuss said, and the course of the Kestrel changed even as the random, sometimes violent alterations in the ship's course caused most of the attacks by the unknown vessel to miss.
"Lieutenant, when we get there I want a Screamer loaded and ready. Program it to look like the aft shields fail and target it to impact one of the more massive objects. We need forty-five seconds and we need it to look like they destroyed us."
"Aye, sir," Mirra said. "Sibley, I need you to program the holoemitter."
"Working on it, sir," he said.
"Chuss, I need you to time it perfectly. when we get an object that's big enough between us and that ship, we launch the Screamer and go to Quiet Ship. Keep the object between us and the hostile until it's past us, then we find a place to hide."
"Marking suitable locations now," Chuss said.
At the age of one hundred eighteen, the USS Sleipnir was a tired old workhorse. Captain Husband knew he was probably the last CO this relic of the Cardassian War would ever have. She had been sent to reserve fleet twice already, once before the Cardasian War and again after, only to be pulled out and refitted for the Dominion War. Odds against the old girl surviving the next Engineering Evaluation were slim. Their scheduled thirteenth refit was unlikely to happen; she was forty years past her designed operational life.
"Two more years, old girl. Who knows, you might be the oldest active duty ship in the fleet by the time you retire," Husband said to the ship. There was, of course, no answer.
His old-fashioned com-panel announced an incoming call with an old-fashioned bosun's call. The computer panel in his stateroom still had push-lock buttons, though most of the ship had been upgraded with holographic touch-screen interfaces. The button gave a satisfying click as he toggled it.
"Husband here, what have you got, XO?"
"Sir, I'm detecting subspace interference sixteen light years from our present location. It began abruptly about a minute ago."
"We get nothing. Sir, it has the signature of... Sir, the amplitude of the signal just spiked. It's a jamming signal!"
"No distress call?" Husband asked.
"No sir, just broad-spectrum signal jamming, at a power level that is incredible."
"Yellow Alert, and get Starfleet Sector HQ. I'm on my way to the bridge. Have Mister Aseh try to cut through the jamming when he gets there."
"Aye, sir," said his Exec.
"Probably just 6th Fleet on unannounced maneuvers," Husband said to himself as he headed toward the bridge.
The USS Kestrel was tucked into a cleft between three chunks of ice and rock which were large enough to gravitationally attract and hold each other, but not big enough to crush under their combined mass into a single object. As soon as they backed into the cleft and powered down, Crewman Sibley was out in one of the worker bees, removing the damaged cowling around the port warp nacelle.
The bridge monitor showed him peel away a piece of cowling, exposing the damaged warp coils underneath. One of the grappling arms gripped a bracket on the frame of the nacelle while the other reached out to each damaged coil. A lightning bolt jumped from the coil to the grappling arm. Six times: once for each damaged coil.
"Six coils," Sibley's voice said over the shielded com-line that attached the worker bee to the ship. "Think you can fix them, Chief?"
"No problem, buddy," Ladner's voice said.
"All right," Garadda's voice said. "Don't damage them more when you take them out. Don't forget to disengage the seating clamps."
"I'm on it, Chief. I can get the nacelle working with three good coils. I could pull them from the aft end of the assembly and stagger the gaps. Might be better for the warp field if the missing coils were there anyway."
"Get those damaged coils in here so we can determine what we need to do," the chief growled. He wasn't arguing, insulting, or calling his junior crewman names. Lee realized he was as nervous as any of them. If they were spotted by the marauder they would have to leave Sibley behind in the Worker Bee to defend the ship.
"Number One," Lee said, "Tactical analysis of that ship."
"Aye, sir." She split the screen, leaving the worker bee on the left half of the screen as a wireframe of the unknown ship appeared on the right.
"Weapons: dorsal disruptor array on the forward pod with a three hundred sixty degree arc, occluded below fifteen degrees from horizontal in the rear sixty degree arc by the main hull. Power class Type II. On the stern below what I presume is a cargo bay door there is another Type II array which never fired. It's arc is limited to minus fifteen degrees from horizontal with a one hundred degree arc to the rear from minus fifteen to the plane of the winglets at minus five degrees, and above that to one hundred twenty degrees vertically and horizontally."
As Lieutenant Mirra spoke, highlights on the wireframe lit the indicated arcs of fire.
"Ventrally there is a chin-mounted torpedo tube which never fired, and close to each nacelle is a wing-mounted disruptor cannon of Type I power rating with a maximum firing arc of 30 degrees directly forward. On the main hull is a ventral turret of two disruptor cannons, Type III, with three hundred sixty degree arc of fire up to the horizontal plane of the ship, except where occluded by the nacelles, and by these three pods, mounted on each side. There is a shadow caused by these obstacles that is ten degrees thick from one hundred to one hundred fifty degrees from forward, at minus fifteen to minus twenty-five degrees from horizontal."
"Lee," Chuss interrupted, "That's a D5 Transport."
"Computer, superimpose D5 Transport schematic over wireframe model." Chuss said. "They eliminated the neck, chopped the wings, and bulked up the cargo bay. They kept three of the four multi-purpose pods on each side. The Klingons used them for drop-pods for planetary assault, or for deuterium storage or hazardous cargo. They must have gotten rid of the first two when they mounted that turret, to increase its arc of fire."
"D5 Transport, surplus obsolete battlecruisers first refitted as cargo and troop carriers, later sold off as scrap," Lee read from his control board. "Why would anyone want to keep a two-hundred year-old warship operational?"
"Maybe they're revolutionaries with a limited budget," suggested Mirra.
"Of course, but there has to be better options out there."
"Do not underestimate the Klingon battlecruiser, Lee," Chuss said. "They were built to last forever. The idea of planned obsolescence is foreign to the Klingon mentality."
"Over-engineered with multiple redundancies, limited centralized control, and excessive compartmentalization," Mirra said. "Its outer hull is fifteen centimeters of crystallized duranium with internal bracing and reinforcement, and it has Class II defensive deflectors
"How do we beat that thing?" Ensign Tanaka asked.
"We run," Lee said.
"I could hug the shadow of the nacelle to keep us out of its firing arcs," Chuss said.
"Work out what it will take to do that," Lee said. "I don't want to fight it, but if we have to I want to survive the fight."
"Aye," Chuss said.
"Number One," Lee continued, "Crystallized duranium has very good resistance to beam weaponry because it disperses the energy over a large area rapidly. But crystal cracks. What will it take to shatter that armor?"
"They've been quiet for about an hour, sir," Mirra said. "As best I can tell on passive sensors only, and through these comets, they're on the far side of the debris field."
The Skipper watched Sibley replace the repaired warp coils on the main viewer. Chief had said, "They might not hold for long," and Lee took him at his word. They had to hold long enough to get them to Warp 6.
"How's Chief Voght coming with the Screamer?" Lee asked.
"She said half an hour sir." Then Mirra added, "I can call her and check."
"No, let her work. I'm just worried. A lot can go wrong here."
Ensign Tanaka said, "Sir, I'm sorry."
"For what?" Lee asked.
"If I had recognized what that sensor reading was, we could have gotten away before they attacked. This is all my fault."
Lee turned in his chair and looked at the Ensign. "Mister Tanaka, that's utter nonsense. The moment the Lieutenant suspected it was something other than a warp shadow she pinged it with active sensors, and it attacked. Why do you think it would have behaved differently earlier? The moment we pinged it it would have attacked, whether then or half an hour before or after. If we never detected it it still would have attacked when we were at the halfway point between known fleet assets. The only people responsible for that ship's attack are on that ship."
"Let me be as clear as I can be: you can do everything right and still end up in a bad situation. Recriminations and self-doubt become your enemy at that point. Like billiards, the trick is to play the cue where it is now rather than wish it were somewhere else. We do after-action reports to learn from them, not to place blame. Now, if you're finished with that, I want you to craft an automatic distress call and embed the tactical file the Lieutenant has on that ship. We're going to put it on the screamer when the Chief is ready."
"VG drive?" Chuss asked.
"As fast as we can get up to speed, and for as long as we can maintain it."
"I'd better talk to Aktay."
"Number One, I'm going to need you to ride the deflectors if we lose that nacelle again. I don't want to drop out of warp and let them catch up to us."
"I'll do my best, sir."
Sibley had two coils left to install. He had advocated for pulling coils off the rear of the nacelle and setting them in the place of the damaged coils. With shunts to bridge the missing coils, he could have staggered the last dozen coils to maintain the field. It would have limited them to a maximum of Warp 5. They knew that ship was capable of catching up to them at Warp 6. Lee counted on Chief's repairs to get them to Warp 6.1, which would allow them to engage the VG drive.
The whole plan revolved around their being able to get to Warp 6.1. And if it failed, the backup plan would leave Starfleet with the data they needed to hunt down that pirate ship.
The worker bee grappled the fifth coil and began to insert it into the nacelle.
"Admiral," Captain Husband said, "We're doing routine Navigation Hazard Detection Patrols. There have been no hazards reported in this region by civilian shipping, and our mission won't suffer from a few hours off our route. On the other hand, someone out there is using a subspace jammer: a very powerful one a that. If it is a pirate it probably used the jammer to attack a civilian ship. At the least, I'd like authorization to go and look."
"I know Nav Buoy Patrol is dull, but it's work that needs doing. As much as I admire your enthusiasm, I can't help but wonder if this is just an excuse to get a little diversion from a dull job."
"Sir, I've sent the recordings."
"And my staff tells me they could be natural phenomenon. I see no reason to divert a ship to go look."
"Nice try, Husband, but you know where your duty lies. McClinta out."
He sat back in his seat. The vinyl of its cushions was cracked and worn, right down to the fabric in places. He drummed his fingertips on the armrest looking at the starfield which had replaced the admiral.
"Exec, how long to reach the point of that signal's origin and get back on our route?"
His navigator and first officer turned to look at him.
"Don't give me that look, Mister Theiron. I know you've already plotted the course."
"Four hours, sir," she said.
"Yes sir. You're really going to disobey the admiral's orders?"
"Of course not. He reminded me that I know where my duty lies. And I do: my job is to protect merchant shipping in the area by mitigating navigation hazards. So let's go look at this hazard and mitigate it."
"Aye, sir, course laid in."
"Why did you make such a fuss if you've already laid in the course?"
"The same reason the admiral did: if this goes wrong, I'm covered!"
"Anyone else want to cover their TRIBBLE before we go?"
For once his Benzite tactical officer had nothing to say.
The ancient starship went to warp.
Sibley had returned from his 'joy ride' as the Chief put it. The worker bee was docked only minutes before Chief Voght reported that the screamer modifications were ready.
"Stay with the Chief," Lee said as they planned their next move. "I can cover the Engineering Console from here, and Chief might need you down there. I need those repairs to hold, no matter what."
"Aye, sir," Sibley said.
"Screamer loaded and ready, sir," Lieutenant Mirra said.
"Okay, sanity check: what am I forgetting?"
"Backup plan?" Mirra said.
"I'm all ears, Lieutenant."
"Sir, they don't want to destroy the ship: they want to rescue the prisoners. That means if we can't run they'll board. They'll drop shields to transport. We can send them some gifts, one from each transporter, to encourage them to raise their shields."
"Why didn't you mention this half an hour ago?"
"Sorry, sir, I just thought of it."
"All right, what kind of gifts?"
"Antimatter in Leyden Jars. We only transport the antimatter."
"Too dangerous to us if a bottle should fall and break open."
"Maybe Mason has some spare grenades."
"If we had spatial charges or some other explosives we could reliably detonate, I'd agree, but we don't have any on hand. I think our standard boarding response is our best bet."
"When we get back to Starbase 77 I'm going to get a pair of spatial charges just in case this ever comes up again," Mirra said.
Lee smiled. "Mister Tanaka, intercom please."
"All hands, we're almost ready to make our run. All stations prepare for boarding attempts; set all controls to key and code mode. I want to offer special thanks to Crewman Sibley and the engineering team for outstanding effort in a time of crisis. I have great confidence in you all; you've proven time and time again that you are the finest crew Starfleet has ever assembled.
"Now let's get this ship home!" Lee toggled off the intercom and said, "Ensign, the moment our impulse engines power up begin the distress call. Try to broadcast over their jamming. Lieutenant, ride those deflectors: I want the VG drive on line as soon as possible. Chuss, it's your show."
The giant Caitian growled, and said, "Now!"
The USS Kestrel, with one broken wing, flew out of the crevice between three interstellar snowballs, her distress call broadcasting at full power on her powerful subspace array. Within seconds the hostile ship was jamming her signal and in pursuit.
"Almost clear of the debris field," Chuss said. "Ten seconds to warp."
"Aye," Lee said. "Screamer away!"
The decoy torpedo fired and curved off to port as Kestrel veered to starboard. It screamed its sensor and communications jamming signals to confuse the attacker, but its hologram showed no damage to the port nacelle. When Kestrel went to warp there was no doubt which was the decoy, and the modified D5 battlecruiser went to warp behind it.
Then the screamer's hologram shut down, along with the jamming signal. Instead, it began to broadcast a distress call on the subspace bands. Ensign Tanaka's voice repeated on an endless loop: "This is the USS Kestrel, we are under attack by an unknown assailant in a modified Klingon D5 battlecruiser. Tactical data follows," followed by the whine of computer pulse tone in sixteen octaves. Then the message repeated, again and again.
"Sir!" Lieutenant M'avl purred, "It's gone now... I had a distress call."
"I'm getting that jamming signal again," Lieutenant Aseh said from the science station.
"Let's hear the distress signal, Mister M'avl."
She pushed and held a button, then released it. "This is the USS Kestrel, we are under attack by an unk... as... od..." After that the squeal of signal disruption followed.
"Patch that through to Admiral McClinta."
"Admiral McClinta is hailing, sir," his Caitian communications officer said.
"Husband, we jut got a distress call, broken off by static. It looks like you were right. You're the closest asset, go find out what's going on out there."
"Aye, sir," Husband said with a straight face, and without further elaboration.
"Sir! I have it again," said M'avl. "Same message, different source. USS Kestrel, under attack, by a modified Klingon D5 battlecruiser. A polyphasic data file follows in open code."
"I have the file," the Deltan science officer said. "The distress call is from a separate source. The source of the jamming is headed in our general direction at Warp 7.
"Patch those through to Admiral McClinta," Husband said. "Admiral?"
"I'll clear your screen. Keep me informed. McClinta out."
"Mister Theiron, make your course to the jamming signal," Husband said. "Mister Aseh, let's see what's in that file. And find out what you can on this Kestrel."
"We won't be able to hold Warp 8 for much longer, Lee!" Chief Garadda said, then he turned to Sibley and shouted, "Get that plasma vent open!"
"I'll have to do it manually, Chief!"
"Bring your helmet, idiot!" Chief shouted as Sibley left the control room.
"Bridge," the Chief continued, "We're going to vent plasma from the port Bussard collector. It should help cool the coils a little. We're only buying time."
"Acknowledged." the Skipper said over the comm unit. "Buy as much as you can. How long can we maintain the VG warp shell on one nacelle?"
"If the Lieutenant gets the transition right, an hour, tops."
"Good work, Sparky. We're doing our best up here too."
Mason slung his assault rifle over his shoulder and clipped two power packs to its sling. Then he took a pair of rifles from the weapons locker and a pair of pistols and went down the ramp, turned forward, and went to the Starboard Weapons Control Room. Ben was at his station, and Bennie sat beside him on the jump-seat that was built into the bulkhead. She was wearing one of his working jumpers, which made the pair look almost identical.
He handed a phaser pistol to Ben and turned to leave, but was stopped in his tracks by Ben's grip on his upper arm. Ben took the second pistol from him and handed it to Bennie. Mason was about to protest when he saw Ben perform a weapon check. Bennie followed his every move, half a second behind him: press the safety, remove and inspect the connections on the power cell, reinstall the power cell, cycle the weapon setting to full and back to stun, doubecheck the safety, and slide the weapon into the leg-pocket of the jumpsuit made to hold the weapon.
Mason nodded, then exited, went across the Skylight Lounge, and into the Port Weapons Control Room.
"It's me," he said as the hatch cycled. "I was going to bring you a pistol, but Ben took it and gave it to Bennie."
"You really think they're going to board us?"
"Skipper does. It's the way to bet, I'd say. Here." He gave her an assault rifle.
"Race, if you get yourself killed, I'll hate you forever," she said.
"I love you too, Thalys. Don't worry, we'll be okay. Remember the Orions? Same thing. No problems, just more prisoners!"
She tossed the rifle onto her chair, grabbed him by his shirt, pushed him against the wall, and kissed him. When they broke he reached up and traced the line of her jaw with his fingertips.
"Don't worry, just lock the hatch and focus on your job. I'll be fine."
"Go do your job," she said.
Mason exited the Weapons Control Room and popped the hatch on the Emergency Escape Tube for Deflector Control and the forward Cargo Bay.
"It's me, Masha!" he said. "Brought you a rifle. You won't need it if you stay locked down, but it might make you feel better."
"How's everybody?" she asked, with her eyes glued to the display on her console.
"Surprisingly calm. I expected some panic."
"I'm too busy to panic." She tapped a deflector control. "Won't be long now. The warp field just shifted."
"I'd best be going on my way then. Is Sensors locked?"
"Key and code," she said.
"Good. Lock this hatch when I go. And the Emergency Escape Tube."
"I know. Go!" she said.
Mason ducked under the plasma conduit that divided the Cargo Bay and tried the hatch to Sensor Control. It was locked. He turned aft and at the hatches to the two quarterdecks he turned to port and checked. The hatch was locked. He reversed himself and went to the Starboard Quarterdeck hatch, used his key, a datarod encoded with his identification, and said, "Mason, forty-two alpha."
The hatch opened and he slid the rod into the control panel on the inside then repeated his code to lock it. He did the same to the hatch to the Transporter Room. He tapped the comm-panel on the transporter control console and said, "Bridge, forward crew stations armed and locked in. I'm on station and ready to repel boarders."
"Confirmed," the Ensign said.
Lieutenant Junior Grade Aseh, the senior science officer of the USS Sleipnir, was doing his best to cut through the interference.
"Sir," he said, "I think it's two ships jamming each other. Both are headed this way fast. We can rendezvous with them in fifteen minutes, but we'd better be ready to go to Warp 8 to keep up or they'll be past us and gone.."
"We couldn't sustain Warp 8 for any length of time," Husband said. "Lieutenant M'avl, have you been able to get a message to cut through that noise?"
"Not that I can tell, Captain," she purred. "I have an open data-feed to Starbase Nine-Four:they're seeing everything we're seeing.
"Can you put me on that feed?"
"You're on audio."
"This is Husband. Admiral, it looks like two ships traveling together at Warp 8. Sleipnir is too old to keep up, and they'll probably pass us by in fifteen minutes. We'll maintain sensor lock on them as long as we can, but it looks like we'll have to pass this one on to someone else."
"Sir, they just dropped to Warp Six," Aseh said.
"Nevermind, Admiral, it seems they've just accommodated us. But some backup in case they go to Warp 8 again would be handy."
"Sir, they've dropped out of warp! Weapons fire!"
"Exec! Get us there now!"
"No sooner than fifteen minutes," she said.
The Deltan science officer pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his hairless head. Then he said, "M'avl, try filtering F and G band frequencies. I'm getting a regular pattern..."
"That's it!" she said, and over the bridge speakers Ensign Tanaka's voice said, "This is the USS Kestrel! We are under attack by an unknown vessel..."
In the rear view Lee watched the port nacelle venting plasma. That was never a good thing at warp, and it was destabilizing the warp shell. Lieutenant Mirra and Crewman Aktay were dong a magnificent job of holding it together, but sooner or later...
It went with a puff: shards of one of the exposed coils shot outward and the ship lurched. Mirra managed to keep the ship at warp, but now the ship that had been chasing them could begin to catch up. And there it came.
Maneuver at warp was difficult, but Chuss was one of the best pilots in the quadrant. Kestrel slid to port and down, and the larger ship veered wide before it could match his change. As soon as it had dedicated to a port roll, Chuss rolled to starboard and the larger ship overshot them before it could get back on course.
Three tries later the warp fields scraped together and both ships dropped out of warp. Chuss shoved the ship into full reverse and its disruptor turret fired ahead of the Kestrel. "Fire!" Lee said, and the torpedo launcher spewed a pair of torpedoes as the dorsal phaser fired, and fired again.
The phaser struck the hull with a satisfying display, but then the shields went up and the torpedoes exploded too far from the hull to damage the ship. It fired its aft disruptor array as it banked to bring more weapons to bear, but Chuss was already maneuvering to get into the blind spot caused by the ship's starboard nacelle. Its disruptor turret swiveled and locked on to Kestrel, and fired.
It was only a Type III weapon, designed for point defense more than for attack, but against a ship the size of the Kestrel it was a formidable weapon. And the beams on the dorsal surface were trying to get a lock on the tiny ship as well. Chuss dove for the nacelle, but the turret tracked them and a blast from the twin disruptors shook the Kestrel.
For five minutes the Kestrel bobbed around as the larger ship tried to maneuver into position to fire upon her. Much of the time her pilot as able to keep her in the shadow of the warp nacelle where the larger ship could not lok onto the tiny vessel, but occasionally a quick maneuver would leave the Kestrel exposed to either the beams or cannons, and the strain on her shields was beginning to become serious, with occasional bleed-through into the ship's systems.
When the Number Three shield emitter failed Chuss tried to roll the Kestrel to the other side of the modified battlecruiser, but it was too late.
Keyo on Rasili was ready on the transporter pad when the signal came. He was beamed into the engine room of the little ship. His job was to secure its drives and cut power to its phasers. He and his squad materialized and he was just able to locate the engineering control room by its massive transparent partition when he found himself beaming out again. This time he materialized outside the tiny ship, with his squad, right between the warp nacelles. He could see the damaged section of the nacelle flip over him and the tiny ship was gone, leaving him and his command floating in space,
He wondered if the Liberator would be back before his twelve hours of oxygen were depleted.
When the boarders beamed into the Bridge the Skipper raised his rifle, but didn't fire it. He had debated wearing his armor, but his ability to control the ship would be limited with gauntlets and the distorted visuals his helm offered. Both he and Mirra had their rifles brought to them. The boarders' mistake was to beam in in front of Chuss, who leapt even before they were materialized, slashing through them with claws on all four feet. Seconds later he was huffing heavily as blood spatter dripped everywhere and one of his victims lay on the floor trying to put his viscera back where it was supposed to be.
Lee was manning the helm from his conn station and trying to keep Kestel in the shadow of the port nacelle when Ensign Tanaka vomited.
"Sean," Mirra said, "Focus on your work."
In the seconds that the D5's shields had been down, Mirra had managed to land a pair of torpedoes on the turret, which was flaring and venting plasma. Now there was a bigger shadow in which the Kestrel could hide.
Private First Class Evode on Resili beamed into a dark, mostly empty room with his squad. Ahead were a pair of doors, each beside a downward facing ramp. Behind were two smaller ones on either side and one really big one in the center of the rear wall with the words Briefing Room over its control plate. Sergent Geff detailed a pair to watch the ramps, and one to each of the three doors to the rear. His was the Briefing Room door. He saw the others struggling with their doors, but his opened easily with a simple touch to the button. To his left were a pair of small tables, each with two chairs, and beyond them was a couch with a pair of facing chairs, each with small tables beside them. To his right there was a bar! Rows of bottles were lined up behind it.
He checked to see if there was anyone hiding behind the bar, then noticed a door beyond it on the right wall. As he was going to the door he noticed something else: there was a table with a flat green surface in a recessed center at the rear of the room under the transparent windows that looked out over a flat deck and the pair of warp nacelles. And he was certain it had not been there when he first looked into the room.
He walked over to the table and looked. The green surface was smooth, but fuzzy, and there were three spheres, a white, yellow, and red one. But there was no one there, so he returned his attention to the door.
"Hey!" said a child's voice behind him.
He turned, his rifle at the ready, but it was only a tiny girl. Human? She was wearing a pale blue dress of an unusual kind and holding a thin, tapered stick that was colored dark on the thick part and light on the thin end.
"You shouldn't be here," the little girl said.
She would be worth quite a bit on the Orion Slave Market! He raised his rifle and fired, and his stun-bolt passed through her. He looked at his rifle, and she swung the stick. It impacted his helmet like a hammer, shattering his faceplate and denting the laminate of the helm's bowl. He dropped like a wet sack.
From the logroom the rest of the squad charged in at a run, firing at Cadet Friday the moment they saw her. The grav-plating went off and they careened onward, most to crash into the aft windows of the Briefing Room. Then the grav-plating came on at full power, which was about twelve gravities. One by one the attackers blacked out as Friday disarmed them and hurled the weapons to the front of the compartment.
When all six squads failed to report back, the commander of the battlecruiser stopped sending more. The little ship's phasers were unable to do more than cosmetic damage to his ship, but those torpedoes were effective. Already his point defense turret was out of commission, along with severe damage to his port warp nacelle He ordered the shields back on.
Crewman Aktay got the broken shield generator back on line almost simultaneously with the hostile ship. Its capacitor had had some time to charge, and she was diverting more energy from the other capacitors to reinforce it. Overheated and weakened by the strain, she informed the bridge.
"Keep number three away from direct fire as much as possible!"
Then Sibley called from Engineering. "Request permission to come to the bridge!"
"Why?" asked Lee.
"The hologenerators! We can use them to distract the bad guys!"
"Are there boarders in Engineering?"
"All hostile parties have been removed from the Kestrel," Cadet Friday said.
"Hurry," Lee said, "And lock up behind you as you come."
"Aye, sir, on my way."
"The Falcon class Scouts were only briefly fielded, but there were design flaws which rendered them unsuitable for service, and they were mothballed." Lieutenant Aseh said. "Apparently, one was reactivated for civilian service, the USS Kestrel, in the early part of this year. It is somewhere between the size of a large runabout and a very small courier vessel with minimal weaponry and defensive capabilities.
"The specifications in the file we received from the earlier distress call would be similar to that of a heavily modified D5 battlecruiser. If that is the case, the Kestrel is badly outmatched, sir."
"Why would a Klingon ship be attacking a large runabout?"
"Sir," Commander Theiron said, "The D5 has been obsolete for a hundred years. If it is an actual D5, it's probably not a Klingon ship any more."
"How much longer till we get there?" the captain asked.
"Mister Monar, are the tubes loaded?"
"Aye, sir," the tactical officer said.
"Lieutenant M'avel will try to communicate with the vessels before we shoot, but we go in with shields up. We don't fire unless fired upon. Phasers only unless I order otherwise."
"Aye, sir," the Benzite said.
"Comm, try that F to G band at full power and transmit the following: To combatant ships in sub-sector grid 85-42-51, this is the Federation Destroyer USS Sleipnir. Cease firing immediately and prepare to be escorted to Starbase Ninety-four. Repeat: to combatant ships in sub-sector grid 85-42-51, this is the Federation Destroyer USS Sleipnir. Cease firing immediately and prepare to be escorted to Starbase Ninety-four. Send."
"Transmission sent," purred the small Caitian communications officer.
"I can make it appear to be dropping out of warp, sir," Sibley said as he powered up the holographic generators on the Kestrel's hull."
"How long until they know what it is?" asked the Skipper.
"Until they shoot it or scan it on the gravitic bands."
"I can give it a subspace signature, sir," Ensign Tanaka said.
"Focus on the shield frequencies of that ship," Lee said as he watched Lieutenant Mirra's latest barrage harmlessly bounce off the ship. Its pilot was learning, and was able to twist randomly enough to allow their weapons crews to shoot Kestrel from time to time, and the drain on Kestrel's shields was again becoming a problem.
"Do it Sibley," Lee said.
A holographic Ajax Class escort dropped out of warp beside the modified Klingon ship and the pirate ship reversed its thrusters, causing the Kestrel to shoot forward. The pirate vessel turned to fire its wing-mounted canons at the newly arrived ship, but it performed a vertical spin and shot off to the port of the pirate ship, which turned with it firing its main weapons. Its wing-cannons missed, but the dorsal disruptor array struck the target, and struck it again, with no effect.
As Chuss was attempting to get back into the shadow in the battlecruiser's arcs of fire the dorsal beam array struck Kestrel, further weakening her shield.
Sibley caused three holographic Kestrels to separate from the real one, which worked for another two cycles of the disruptor array, and then Kestrel was in the shadow again. The larger ship accelerated, jinking and jukeing to try to shake the little Kestrel, but Chuss kept her beneath the belly of the battlecruiser.
"I have the frequency pattern!" Tanaka said with excitement."On your station, Lieutenant!"
Mirra adjusted her firing pattern and suddnly began to hit the hull where before her shots were deflected. Although a momentary morale booster, they were actually doing little damage.
"On the shields!" Chuss said. "On the shields so I can get inside his shields!"
Mirra set the phasers to local and they continued firing whilke she reconfigured the shield settings. "Go!" she said, finally. And Chus went.
The alignment of the shield frequencies wasn't perfect, but it was close enough to allow the Kestrel inside the pirate ship's shield perimeter. The shields clashed and sparks flew, but Kestrel was inside!
"Fire torpedoes," Lee said.
Mirra targeted the subspace array which was mounted on the aft end of the forward pod. A pair of Kestrel's torpedoes slammed into the back of the pod and it immediately reversed its thrust, once again forcing the Kestrel out in front where the pirate-ship's wing cannons could come to bear on the Kestrel.
Chuss realized he was exposed and set the Kestrel in full reverse.
"Jamming's stopped!" Tanaka said.
Sibley created a trio of holographic mirrors of the Kestrel, but this time the enemy was ready and fired its main cannons right into the aft deflectors of the correct Kestrel, and her aft shields were gone.
A ship dropped out of warp and the pirate ignored it, instead attempting to get a tractor lock on the Kestrel.
"Send the shield frequencies to that ship!" Lee said.
"Aft deflector at full power!" MIrra said just before the pirate unloaded its full power on the Kestrel.
The ancient Centaur unleashed its main phaser banks, dorsal and ventral, on the pirate ship. Its impulse engines blew. Then they hit the warp nacelles. The effect was more akin to a surgeon dissecting a sample than combat ships engaged in a duel. With its impulse engine destroyed the pirate ship could no longer maneuver, and its previously damaged nacelle quickly followed.
"This is the Federation Destroyer USS Sleipnir!" said a masculine voice. "You will stand down and prepare to be escorted to Starbase Ninety-four.
Lieutenant Commander Monar stood beside Lieutenant Commander Lee looking through the transparent panels in the aft of the tiny ship's briefing room. A pair of worker bees were dismounting damaged warp coil rings from the nacelle.
"That and some scoring of the outer hull," Lee said. "Our starboard lateral sensor array will need to be replaced: it took a sweep from that ship's disruptor array, but Kestrel can still fly."
"My tactical analysis showed your ship to be at a severe disadvantage. I was quite surprised to discover you had survived at all, and even more surprised to learn the extent of your damages was nowhere as severe as I predicted."
"You can thank them for that. If they had come at us with everything they had we wouldn't have survived the first volley."
"That is rather curious," Monar said. "Why didn't they?"
"There are two prisoners in the brig. We're transporting them to Istvan Itza Penal Colony. That was their escape plan."
"And their rescuers didn't want to kill the prisoners they sought to rescue," Monar said. "You seem to have made the most of that advantage. Your transmission of the frequency pattern for the shields of the pirate ship were quite helpful. I had eight quantum torpedoes loaded and ready, but with the shield frequency we were able to take out its propulsion systems using phasers with little other damage to the vessel. Thanks to your transmission, the Sleipnir will have almost eighty prisoners."
"There's another almost fifty out there." Lee pointed through the window.
"We beamed their boarding parties into space."
"Oh. What an awful way to die."
"They were wearing pressure suits. Of course, some were dead before they were beamed off the ship. And I have no idea how long their suits can sustain them. Your Captain is out there retrieving them now."
Lee glanced toward the bar where a pair of Sleipnir's security officers sat, then turned to the Benzite and said, "I presume your orders are to deliver us to your Starbase?"
"I am to assess what you need to enable you to..." He saw the look in Lee's eyes and changed his tone. "Yes. You must understand; this is an unusual situation."
"We're going to stagger coils and shunt the open slots this time. In about two hours we should be ready to go, but we'll be lucky to make Warp 5. Where are we headed?"
"Starbase Ninety-four. Sleipnir will tow that wreck."
The white-haired admiral was once an imposing physical specimen, but age had withered him. His once blue eyes had gone grey and his broad shoulders sagged. He watched as the crewman was sworn in and seated, then asked, "Crewman Mason, you understand that this is a board of inquiry, and that you are required to answer all of our questions as fully and as honestly as possible?"
"Yes sir," Mason said. He couldn't help examining the Triexian captain to the Admiral's left, and self-consciously forced himself to examine the human captain to the admiral's right. The three members of the board would decide what, if any, charges the captains and crews faced for the battle.
"I want to begin by asking what billet you fill on the USS Kestrel."
"Sir, I'm ship's Master-At-Arms, Chief of Security, and Physical Fitness Instructor."
"You fill three billets?"
"It's a small crew, sir. We all wear multiple hats."
"I see. Now, what were your orders when your ship engaged in the battle?"
"Sir, the security of the ship is my duty. My orders were to repel the boarding attempt the Skipper anticipated."
"How were you instructed to repel the boarders?"
"Through use of the transporter, sir."
"Please describe the actual order under which you performed your duty."
"Sir, it's... Sir," Mason stammered, "It's not like an actual order was given. The Skipper said to prepare to repel boarders. It's something we've drilled for, and we've even had to do it once when we were dealing with an Orion smuggling base. We're a small crew, so we always think in terms of force multipliers. So, we developed a standard procedure, beam any boarders to the transporter and disarm them. Only, this time there were too many. Even if I nulled their weapons in the transport beam, I'd have to stun them once they materialized, move them off the transporter pad, and then beam in the next bunch."
Mason shifted in his chair, then said, "They were beaming in groups of eight. I couldn't handle that many by myself. I decided to just beam them into space."
"Let me be clear, Crewman," the Triexian board member said, "You took it upon yourself to beam living beings into space?"
"Yes sir," Mason said.
"Did you know they were wearing pressure suits?" the orange board member asked.
"No sir." then he blurted, "But they were attacking us. I didn't know if they were going to kill or enslave my fr... crewmates. And I wasn't going to take the chance."
"Would you consider yourself a ruthless, violent man?"
"Sir? I'm not... I don't just hurt people. I'm not... no."
"Yet you callously transported sentient beings into vacuum!"
"Sir! That's not what happened. We were attacked. If I had nothing but my hands to defend my ship and my friends, I'd have done my best to protect them. That would mean a lot of killing, because just knocking a man out isn't a guarantee he won't get back up and kill me or mine! I didn't have time to politely ask them to not hurt my friends! I had to do something, and I had to do it fast.
"But sir, the thing is, every single one of them is responsible for what happened to them, because if they hadn't chosen to attack and board my ship I'd never have had to beam anyone into space."
The Triexian leaned back in his chair and the human captain leaned forward in hers. "Crewman, are you saying you'd do it again?"
"Sir," Mason said, "Each situation is different. I mean, when are we ever going to be boarded by fifty hostiles again? But if you're asking whether I'd kill to defend my ship? Yes sir. I'd do it again."
"... they beamed in, and before I had time to notice more than the sound of their materialization Mister Chuss was... Sir, I've never seen anyone killed before, and he killed them all so fast... And the one guy who wasn't dead yet, trying to... I got sick."
Ensign Tanaka looked like the memory was enough to make him ill again.
"Let's go back to the beginning of the encounter," the human captain said. "You're the communications officer, and yet you made no attempt to communicate with the vessel prior to the commencement of hostilities?"
"Sir, I was at the tactical station. They were cloaked and the computer identified them as a reflection off of our warp shell. A warp shadow. I didn't know better, so I didn't scan them until Chief Voght saw my sensor panel. She recognized it as a cloaked ship, and then so did Mister Chuss. Lieutenant Mirra ordered an active scan of the object, and it decloaked and rammed our warp shell, forcing us both out of warp when the warp fields collapsed."
"Why were you on the Tactical station rather than your communications station?"
"Sir, we all have to cross-train. And the Skipper said he'd put me in for JG when I earned my Space Warfare Qualification, so I have to qualify on every watch station."
Chuss was calm and patient as the questions flew. They wanted to know why.
"Sir, with all due respect to your prestige and your position, I am a Federation Law Enforcement Officer. I acted within the bounds of the law. Use of lethal force is permitted to defend one's ship against pirates."
"That was not the question I asked," said the Triexian.
"But that is the answer to any and all questions about my use of lethal force."
"You are being uncooperative. Admiral, please instruct the witness that he does not have the right to refuse to answer my question."
"Mister Chuss, I realize that the culture of Beta Lyrae is different from the Federation norm, but as a Deputy Marshal you have taken an oath to abide by Federation Law. One of those laws concerns the conduct of boards of inquiry such as this one. You do not have the right to refuse to answer any question put to you, and any and all questions must be answered as completely and as honestly as possible."
"Repeat your question," the admiral said.
"Did you enjoy, derive pleasure or satisfaction, from your act of killing eight Elasi who boarded your ship?"
"I acted within the bounds of the law."
"Marshal Lee, or Commander Lee," the Admiral said, "This situation is difficult for us because you are both a Federation Marshal with extraordinary police powers and authority, and you are a Starfleet captain, subject to the authority and regulations of Starfleet. We have questioned you and your crew, and we have your ship's logs of the event. Before we recess to deliberate, I would like to give you the opportunity to add your final thoughts to the record."
Lee stood and said, "Thank you Admiral McClinta, Captains Aldee and na Indh." He consulted a P.A.D.D. and began to read, "I would like to request the following commendations be awarded to members of my crew for outstanding service in a time of peril:
"Sibley, William, Warp Core Specialist 3rd Class. His performance of emergency repairs while under threat of combat and his innovative use of holographic decoys in battle allowed nothing less than the survival of my ship and crew. I recommend the Cochrane Medal of Excellence.
"Aktay, Masha, Computer Technician 2nd Class. Her dedication to training outside of her field of expertise enabled her to calculate the requirements of the deflector system to maintain our Variable Geometry Warp Shell with a damaged warp nacelle, allowing us to go to warp and evade pursuit for almost an hour until our warp drive failed. In the battle she performed emergency repairs to our deflector system which preserved the lives of our crew and prevented further boarding attempts. I recommend the Starfleet Medal of Distinction.
"Friday, Cadet. She coordinated the defense of the ship while the boarding operations were underway and single-handedly disarmed a squad of boarders. I recommend the Starfleet Medal of Bravery."
"Wait," interrupted the human captain. "Who is this Cadet Friday? Why haven't we interviewed her?"
"Sir, she is an artificial intelligence assigned to the USS Kestrel."
"You want to give a medal to your ship's computer?"
"Sir, she is a legal entity, as defined under Federation Law, and a member of Starfleet holding the rank of Cadet."
The captain sat back in her chair and raised a hand. With a wave she said, "All right, finish your statement. Sorry for the interruption."
"Thank you sir," Lee said. "Mason, Race, Security Crewman 1st Class. His prompt and innovative use of the transporter to eliminate the threat of boarders to our ship not only insured our survival, but prevented the escape of two dangerous convicted criminals. I recommend the Starfleet Medal of Commendation.
"Tanaka, Sean, Ensign. His idea to use our decoy system to get a distress call through the jamming signal resulted in the USS Sleipnir being there in time to prevent our destruction and or capture. Further, his creative use of our equipment to jam the pirate's weapons targeting systems enabled us to evade the majority of their attacks, and it was his efforts which resulted in our cracking their shield's frequency rotation pattern which enabled us to damage their subspace array and get the information to Sleipnir so they could target the pirate's engines and prevent its escape. I recommend the Starfleet Medal of Distinction.
"Thank you, sirs," Lee said as he sat.
The Triexian captain said, "No commendations for yourself? Nor for your deputy? Surely you could invent a good reason to give a medal to everyone on your crew."
"Sir," Lee rose from his chair. "I had considered requesting a Unit Citation because the entire crew of the Kestrel has made me proud to serve with them. However, I realize that there are ships of the line which face greater challenges and more deadly hazards every day, and I would not wish to cheapen any honors they receive by asking for the same. Instead, I focused on specific acts which, in my opinion, deserve recognition.
"As for my deputy, he is not a member of Starfleet, and thus could not be given any awards. They would mean nothing to him anyway: he has already achieved the highest award his people offer: his name is recorded in the Book of Valor on Beta Lyra IV C.
"As for myself, I am responsible for putting my ship and crew at risk. The fact that they got me out of the situation I got them into does not warrant any special recognition for me."
"You admit it?" the Triexian gloated.
"Wait a minute, Commander," the admiral interrupted. "That's a pretty broad statement. Exactly how did you put you ship and crew at risk?"
"Sir, I was aware that my prisoners were a part of a large and well organized criminal gang. Other agents and agencies have been investigating and dismantling their organization, but they retained considerable assets and were highly motivated. I was unaware of their acquisition of a starship, and I should not have been. Looking back I see the signs that they had made two previous attempts to capture a starship, the last one of which resulted in the capture of the two convicted felons currently occupying my brig.
"If I had properly examined the facts I would have realized that there would be a ship, and I could have taken steps, such as requesting an escort vessel, to mitigate the threat."
"Commander, you're saying that with hindsight you should have suspected details you had no way of knowing?"
"Admiral, it is my job to remain a step ahead of the criminal. Usually when a marshal fails to do that it results in his death. In this case, the crew of the USS Kestrel, with help from the USS Sleipnir, prevented my mistake from becoming a fatal one."
The Skipper stood beside Cadet Friday in the rear of the Briefing Room as the ship flew at warp speed toward Starbase 77. The crew was assembled for yet another victory celebration, excepting Chief Voght, Ensign Tanaka, Crewman Ben, and Crewman Sibley, who were on watch.
"I've received word," Lee said, "That the recommendations for commendation of Crewman Sibley and Cadet Friday have been forwarded to Starfleet Command for review and approval. I wish all of the recommendations had gone through. And, I wish I could have recommended you all for a citation. Every one of you performed above and beyond the call. Let me offer my personal commendation, and my personal thanks. You are all heroes, and I am proud to have the privilege of serving with you."
Friday smiled as she imagined a human would do when receiving such honors. In truth, she did experience a quickening of the neural processes, which at first confused her until she recognized it for what it was:emotion. She was
"Three cheers for Sibley and Friday!" Lieutenant Mirra said. "Hip-hip!"
"Hooray!" the crew chorused, and they repeated the celebration twice more.
"How does it feel to be a genuine hero, Mister Friday?" Crewman Ladner asked.
"I'll let you know when I've met one and asked," Friday said. "Until then, would anyone care for a game of billiards?" A cue stick materialized in her hand.
"I'm good!" Ladner said, with his hands up in mock-defense. "I'm good!" The holo of the event had been seen by the entire crew, with some replaying it multiple times.
"Bar's open," the Skipper said. "Name your poison!"
"Please pardon the interruption, Skipper," Ensign Tanaka's voice said over the intercom, "But Admiral Franklin's holding and she wants to know, uh, what the Hell you did to her ship."
"I'll take it in my quarters," Lee said. "Number One, take over for me, will you? I have to take the Admiral's call."
"Tell her hi for me, will you?" Chief Garadda said as Lee exited the Briefing Room.
"They're not coming, are they?" asked Kidut from behind his force field. "les Mald? They're not coming, are they?"
"Shut up," les Mald replied, and he rolled over on his bunk.
Season 1, Episode 15
Masha accepted the platter from Bennie, who had assumed the duties of galley attendant. No one had asked her to do so; she just started doing it. She brought the crew their meals and drinks and performed what cleaning and maintenance the galley required. The Lieutenant had given her an over-sized P.A.D.D. similar to the ones Ben preferred, and when she didn't understand a request she offered the P.A.D.D. It was amazing how quickly she learned, and how seldom she needed the device just six weeks after boarding the ship.
The platter contained spring rolls, which were paper-thin rice wraps filled with vegetables and fried. There were two sauces on the platter, a translucent red one and an opaque yellow. Masha dipped her roll in the yellow and took a bite.
"Waa!" she said as the hot mustard sauce lit her mouth on fire. She quickly drank her iced coffee, but the burn persisted. Then she noticed Bennie held her head back in the posture that showed amusement. And then she noticed how good the roll and the sauce tasted. She tried a much smaller dip for her second bite and savored the spice.
"This is really good, Bennie!" she said. She was about to take another bite when Bennie's blouse moved.
A large round eye was peering from beneath the hem of her shirt. Bennie looked down and then pulled up the shirt. A tiny, flat, black haired head which was not even as big as Masha's fist was just barely poking out of the natal pouch, just enough to show its eyes. It blinked. Masha could see a tiny hand gripping the edge of the natal pouch. A second head struggled through the purse of the pouch. It was facing backwards.
"They are so precious!" Masha gushed, the spring rolls forgotten.
Bennie reached over to the table where she had laid her purse and took out a cloth. Sitting in a chair she laid the cloth on her stomach and reclined. Then she carefully drew the babies out of her pouch one at a time and laid them belly down on the cloth. They each had a long, pale tube of Bennie's skin in its mouth, and neither let go.
Bennie used the bottom corners of the cloth to stroke their short-furred backs, slowly and steadily while the kitten-sized Pakled infants looked around. Their heads were over-sized for their tiny bodies, and their tiny necks could hardly support them, which caused the heads to bobble. Their legs were stubby and appeared to have nubs instead of feet, but their arms, while quite short and thin, were very developed, down to their tiny little fingers.
First one then the other relieved itself, which was captured in the fold of the cloth. Bennie continued to stroke them lightly and they quickly fell asleep. She carefully tucked her twins back into their pouch, pulled her shirt down, and then took the cloth to the recycling bin.
"Oh my gosh!" Masha said, "They are so tiny! Human babies are much bigger! Even newborns! How big were they when they were born?"
Bennie held up her thumb.
"I can't believe how cute they are!" Masha gushed.
The comm annunciator chimed and Lee said, "Yes?"
"Sir," said Crewman Brock, "I have a person here on the quarterdeck with a deputy marshal badge and some luggage."
"I'll be right there," Lee said.
"Mister Friday, this won't take long."
"Understood, sir," the A.I. said. "I'll process the quartermaster's reports and submit the request for new torpedoes."
"Thank you, Mister Friday."
Lee stepped out of his stateroom and down the ramp to the quarterdeck to meet his new deputy. The young human was about as nondescript as a person could be, average height, average build, average brown hair and eyes.
"Marshal," he said too loudly, "Deputy Marshal David Star. People call me Lucky." He showed his Cadet badge and identification.
"I'm Marshal Lee. And this isn't the Presidio, you can bring it down a notch."
"Sorry," he said in a more reasonable tone.
"How long have you been out of the Academy?"
"Three weeks. I had to make four connecting flights to get out here, and I took a week to visit my mother."
"You'll have access to a subspace communicator to keep in touch with your family. So you have no actual field experience?"
"Six weeks of field service in the Aaa... No, Marshal. No field experience."
"You'll get some with me. But don't feel like you're being singled out when I ask you to just observe. It will require another year or two of training before you're ready to begin working independently. How much combat training do you have?"
"Just what they taught us at the Presidio."
"No private tutoring? No martial arts classes when you were younger?"
"You're going to work on that too. What we do is dangerous, and your life may depend on your ability to disable or kill with your hands and feet. You'll also work on phaser proficiency."
Lee turned to Brock and said, "Show the Deputy to his quarters. Deputy Vine's old stateroom. Then introduce him to Doctor Sar for his physical."
"Marshal, I just had my annual physical at the Academy."
"And you'll have another one here," Lee said. "Starfleet policy when embarking new crewmen. Speaking of which, so long as we're on this ship you'll be expected to function as a member of the crew, including taking your turn at the watch rotation. When you're done with your physical I want to see you in my quarters for a full briefing where I will explain what I expect of you."
ah damn, poor kid, "Lucky" Starr. Hope that's not ironic.
ah damn, poor kid, "Lucky" Starr. Hope that's not ironic.
It's an homage to one of my personal heroes: Isaac Asimov. It is also an homage to one of my favorite Trek fanfics: Aurora.
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