May 2008

Star Fleet Fiction Continued

The Threads of War, by Loren Knight, Part 6 of 6

"Yes, yes. You are right, Arloh. I don't know what I was thinking," said Arareem as he prepared for just that sort of battle.

"Transporter activity," the security officer announced. "We may have been boarded, but I cannot be sure. Many of the security cameras are off line."

"Send a security squad to check," Santana ordered. "A Lyran frigate couldn't have put more than a handful of troops on us before we broke away."

"Indeed," Arareem said, slapping his own head, "and warn them to be alert for the Klingon officer in the cargo area."

"What!" Santana roared. "I thought you told me all of those Klingons were in the brig?"

"There was some confusion in that," Arareem admitted. "Security reported finding casualties in Cargo Bay #4, and I assumed that this was the Klingons. I did not know until a moment ago, when security had a count of the prisoners in the brig, that the Klingon officer was not among them."

"Just great," Santana said. "Just great. I'm surrounded by enemies and nobody noticed one of them is loose inside my ship!"

"Perhaps more than one," Arareem reminded Santana. "There may be Lyran boarders as well." Santana could only sigh.

Santana attempted to maneuver around the spiteful Lyran but there was just no getting around him without a fight. The raider fired phasers and disruptors and launched drones. The Lyran shot down his drones and fired back at his ship. Each suffered shield damage, and twice Santana had to order the warp engines run to 200% power. Unable to work around the destroyer's left side, Santana doubled back across the Lyran's bow and dove to the right. It began to look like he could break free.

But time was being wasted. The Klingons were coming and this was already Santana's second battle in a ship designed to fight one battle per day, not per hour. His ship was showing signs of wear, his engines were degraded, and there was no way he could fight and survive against the Klingons too. That was just too far to reach for a miracle, and he had already used all his miracles for the day.

Just as he managed to make a close battle pass on the Lyran destroyer, he got the surprise of his life. He swung in, prepared to take the Lyran's ESG on his number two shield, but the ESG stayed down. He fired but the Lyran did not. His raider then turned away and sped past the Lyran.

Then the Lyran threw a high energy turn to face the Return Fire's rear shield. At the same time, the ESG began to glow. Santana quickly ordered reserve warp power to increase speed, the batteries did not respond. At 30,000 kilometers, the ESG barely had time to materialize when it poured all of its energy into the raider's rear shield. Then came the disruptors, then the phasers, then the Lyrans.

Starboard companionway, Orion CR+ Return Fire

Korgan and the Lyran sergeant grinned at each other as they moved down the companionway. The Lyran marine squad had forced open the door to the cargo compartment, and Korgan led them to the battery compartment he had found earlier. It was short work to disable them with some of the Slirdarian's explosives. Korgan had planned to lead his Lyran allies to the transporter room, but his scanner reported that armed Orions were there.

"Let us attack them," the Lyran sergeant said.

"No," Korgan said, "we would use up our force in such a battle. There are more important targets for us to attack." Korgan pointed aft and said "engine room." The Lyran sergeant smiled and motioned his men to follow him.

Korgan checked his scanner for the map he had drawn during his wanderings and headed for another location.

Bridge of the Orion CR+ Return Fire

"We are being boarded, Captain!" announced the Security Officer. "Definitely tracking Lyran marines amidships on the port side.

They're cutting into the cable duct to the port wing!"

Santana snapped back, "Dammit! Well, get the troops after them and start handing out phasers to the crew!

"Engineering, give me everything. Double everything!

"Helm, time for a snap turn, 180 degrees.

"Weapons, load up and fire as soon as we come about." Now Santana was worried. Because this mission was so secret, he was operating with a reduced crew and a minimal security contingent. He never expected to be boarded, or to have a Klingon officer ransacking his battery compartment.

"Captain, this is our second snap turn today and we haven't had time to reset the gyros and repair the strained bulkheads. This could fail, sir," said the helmsman.

"She'll hold! Do it!" snapped Santana.

The hull creaked and groaned and the ship spun about and faced the Lyran destroyer. Both ships fired again. This time the destroyer took the biggest hit, but the Return Fire took a powerful blow as well and lost its forward shield.

The Klingon D5s continued to close on the battle scene.

Arareem was at the security station, monitoring the battle onboard the ship, while the Security Officer was handing out phasers to the bridge crew.

"Again with the boarding, Arloh! They keep coming and our boys are losing. Arloh, this is not good!"

"Engine room reports they are under attack by Lyrans!" reported the security officer.

"No response from the weapon mounts in the port wing. They show no damage, but just won't respond."

Santana hit the arm of his command chair and made an important and secret decision. "Time to go, Arareem ... and uh ... lead the defense. Johmen, you have the con. Keep pounding that damned Lyran!"

"Aye, sir," said the green-skinned Orion helmsman, proud to be in command. He had no clue what was to happen next.

Santana grabbed Arareem by his shirt cuff and pulled him into the turbo lift. The doors shut and it began to move. He then quickly took a small cylinder from his pocket and placed it on the back wall, then twisted it. After a moment the lift came to a halt but the doors did not open. Instead there was a click and Santana kicked open a small hidden hatch on the lower wall at the back of the lift. He then went through the hatch and Arareem followed.

Orion CR+ Return Fire

They were in a long narrow duct, and they both began to crawl as fast as they could. After what seemed like an hour, the two pirates climbed through an open vent into the storage compartment intended for the spare shuttle. It was, as both knew, stacked instead with tri-platinum ingots for a little extra profit once they reached Kzinti lines.

Before they could reach the hatch to the main shuttle bay, Korgan stepped into view through the hatch.

"Do you have permission to leave the ship?" Korgan said with a sneer. Santana, who had been partially hidden behind Arareem, fired his phaser. The stun blast caught Korgan's hand, causing him to drop the phaser he carried. Korgan reached for the slung disruptor carbine, but Arareem smashed it from his hand before he could bring it to bear. A kick from Korgan sent Arareem's weapon flying. Korgan closed in, having no fear of unarmed combat with the pirate. In the struggle, neither had noticed Santana dive through the hatch.

Shuttle Bay Orion CR+ Return Fire

Santana hit the deck of the shuttle bay with a roll and scrambled to his feet. He looked around and saw that the bay was, at the moment, empty except for his personal shuttle and a Lyran one. Several dead or stunned crewmen were around the compartment, and Santana had to fire a snapshot at the Lyran shuttle pilot and was lucky to hit him without actually aiming.

"Computer, emergency protocol lock-down delta, command code: Jamie's on fire." And with that, all access to the bay slammed shut and locked down. He then ran to his shuttle, the only one remaining in the bay. He stopped in the shuttle hatch and looked up and around for just a second and spoke aloud: "Computer set auto destruct for thirty seconds on my command code: Santana Zeta 1-1-0-0-9 mark!"

"Unable to comply with destruct order Santana Zeta 1-1-0-0-9. System has been disabled," replied the computer voice. Santana sighed. I should have bought that cloaking device when I had the chance, he thought.
Santana considered his choices. His ship was going to be captured or destroyed, and his mission would fail. He was not going to be rich. But he did not have to end up in a Klingon prison or a Lyran slave pen. He had options. I could take the shuttle, blow its engines, and hope nobody sees me, he thought. Or I could take one of the escape pods. They're pretty hard to spot. Or I could take the Lyran shuttle and report a malfunction and head for a planet to land. Or I could just hide out and see what develops. Making his decision, Santana moved to implement his best chance of escape.

Bridge, IKV Renegade

"Lots of debris," Kreem reported. "Two shuttles launching, one seems to have blown up and disappeared from scanners. The other one is a Lyran that is obviously out of control from battle damage. Lots of trash and ship parts, possibly some escape pods, maybe a mine or two."

"When we get there," Kivv ordered, "stay clear of the debris field. Get us to transporter range. This battle is over but we will claim our share of the prize."

Brig, Orion CR+ Return Fire

Korgan deactivated the force field, releasing his trapped marines and the Dunkar technicians.

"Glad to see you, Sir," the Marine Corporal said. "I wasn't looking forward to being sold to the Kzintis as fresh livestock."

"The battle is over," Korgan said, "but not our mission." He passed out the few weapons he had picked up along the way. He had been trying to reach the brig when he heard Santana and Arareem trying to escape. After that brief delay, he had found the brig about the time that the Orion helmsman had been told his engine room was under the control of the Lyran Marine Corps. Korgan briefed the corporal and one of the Dunkars about his plan.

Marching down the companionway, the Klingons turned the corner and came upon two Lyran soldiers guarding the door.

"Halt!" yelled one of them.

Korgan stopped and raised his hands. "Don't fire! I am Commander Korgan Marset of the IKV Renegade. We boarded this ship before the first battle. I previously spoke with your captain, and the captain of the Slammer. Contact the Renegade to verify our identities."

The Lyran guard spoke into his communicator, then back to Korgan. "I was told you would be on board," the Lyran said. "You are to go to the ship's ward room and wait for Renegade to reach transporter range. Wait here until a guide arrives to escort you."
"Not necessary," Korgan said, showing the Lyran the screen of his scanner. "I have been on this ship for hours and know my way around. You do not need to take a man from his duties. It was an honor to fight alongside our allies once again, and I will be sending a commendation for one of your sergeants from the Slammer. We have won a great victory today, and will share in the spoils so rightly won." With that, Korgan pushed his way past the Lyran and led his men down the companion way.

Once out of sight, Korgan ducked down a staircase, using his scanner to watch out for Lyran guards or any Orions still on the loose. They quickly reached Cargo Bay #4. Korgan hustled his men inside and ordered them to push the hatch shut. The Marines stood guard while the Dunkars did a quick check of the remaining cargo. Korgan and his men pulled the cartons from inside the crate and hastily shoveled as much of the polymag back into it as they could. Before they were finished, the Renegade called to say it was within transporter range.

Bridge of the IKV Renegade

"Commander, you have too many lives for one man!" said Captain Kivv.

"I was fortunate," Korgan said, "that this ship was short-handed on its crew. But there is an urgent matter. I need to transport some of this cargo directly to Renegade, and at once."

"Commander, I have spoken with the Lyran commanders. We have agreed to jointly inventory the ship and share in its cargo. We will take the prisoners for trial, while the Lyrans will take the ship itself. It is a bad bargain, but the only one to be made. Your special cargo will have to wait for the joint inspection before it can be moved."

"Trust my words," Korgan said, "this cargo must be moved now. The Lyrans are expecting you to evacuate my boarding party, and won't notice if we take some cargo along, and if they do, we'll tell them it was a shipment of blood wine and goratch fruit. I have activated a beacon and transmitted data about the cargo mass and bulk. Do this, Captain, and I will explain later."
"Be advised," Kivv said, "that the ESS is monitoring this conversation and will not tolerate you collecting personal loot. Your cargo can wait, I am sure."

"I have two ESS men with me," Korgan said, "and both of them will confirm the importance of moving this cargo now."
"Very well," Kivv said after a minute's pause, "the ESS tells me that the cargo must be moved, regardless of the risk. You will explain this to me on your arrival, Korgan, and I am not in a state of mind to give you any charity. Kivv out."
Captain Kivv just shook his head in disbelief. He was surprised by the way he had come to view this son of a marine. He raked his sharp nails through his goatee thinking, watching, and waiting. Captain Kivv didn't normally care to wait, but for now he would be patient and see what Korgan was doing. The ESS would handle the matter if Korgan was beyond regulations.

Officers Common Room, IKV Renegade

Korgan marched into the room and saluted, making a formal report. Kivv, weapons officer K'Lar, and the senior ESS officer were present. Kivv did not want the ESS man in his personal office or quarters and set the meeting for this compartment.
"Explain yourself," Kivv ordered. His eyes added and this explanation had better be impressive.

"I have no desire to disobey your order, sir," Korgan stated, "but I must have permission from the ESS officer before I can comply."

Kivv's eyebrows went up. Never a patient man, this response pushed him to the edge of rage. "You were told, Korgan, to report and explain yourself. I will have no more delays! What is this all about?"

Korgan stood mute, his eyes locked on the bulkhead wall over Kivv's head.

"A moment, Captain," said the ESS officer, listening to the communicator held to his ear. "Very well. Korgan, you may answer your captain's question, but before you do so, know this. You will no doubt ask me to confirm your suspicions about the cargo. I cannot confirm or deny what you think you know, but I will not contradict your account, not now, and not later."

Kivv looked at the ESS officer with his eyebrows raised. This is most unusual, he thought to himself. Why doesn't the ESS just execute all of us if this secret is that big?

"Sir, my apologies for the manner in which this was handled, but the need will become clear. When I examined the crate indicated by the ESS inspector to be unusual, I found it to be packed with polymag crystals around several smaller cartons. The polymag was, obviously, to block scans of the crate.

"The cartons inside had Klingon lettering and security seals. Obviously, this was stolen Klingon property."

"And would have been returned by the Lyrans as such," Kivv sighed. "What is so important about this?"

"The labels on the crates described the contents as elements of a stasis field generator," Korgan said. "I have never seen one, or even the plans for one, but my scanner described unusual electronic components, and I could not identify them as anything else. I assume it to have been what the labels said it was, but of course, it could have been any number of secret technologies."

Before Kivv could answer, the ESS officer coughed and reached out his hand. Korgan handed over his scanner without a word.

"As you know," Korgan said, "that is one device we can't let fall into the wrong hands. Not our Lyran allies and certainly not the Kzintis."

"The Orions have had these elements for some time," Kivv wondered. "Did they try to copy it?"

"Not to confirm what it was," the ESS officer said, "but without the equipment itself to dismantle, there is little chance they could successfully build their own from scanner records."

Kivv wondered about that, trying hard not to look at Korgan's scanner which the ESS man had confiscated. "Will you be giving Korgan a medal for recovering the ... equipment?" Kivv asked.

"What equipment?" the ESS man asked. "Of course not, although I have no doubt that his exploits on the Orion ship deserve another warrior's star, perhaps a Marine star for the second time. His father would like that. So would Korath."

"Korgan Marset," Kivv said, "you are a B'eelatour in Fuggra's skin and a source of great irritation to me! I have never heard such a story in my entire life. Come, let's see if your story improves after some strong Korellian blood wine!"

The WYN Radiation Zone hung as an unending backdrop of color behind the D5 squadron led by the IKV Renegade. Barreling through the reaches of space at high warp speeds the three ships were heading for base and missions unknown. A disaster had been averted by coincidence and tenacity of the Klingon spirit; though all in all it was just another thread in the Tapestry of War.