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Old February 23 2010, 06:32 PM   #43
Gibraltar
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Embers of the Fire - Chapter 12

Chapter 12 <con'td>


A stiff breeze blustered across the plains of Ensid, sending additional ripples through the already undulating fields of uebwi grass that seemed to stretch for endless kilometers in all directions. The sun crested the distant mountain range to bathe the scenery in the surreal golden glow of a new day. The village of Kendarsi appeared placid, if not entirely deserted. It was for perhaps that reason that Kendarsi had gone untouched during the Breen orbital bombardment of larger population centers.

The township was unremarkable in most respects, and consisted of a collection of off-white or gray structures ranging from one to three stories in height. The community’s only recent notoriety had come as the result of being selected by the Federation relief teams as an excellent location for a food and medical distribution center. Those plans had been delayed indefinitely when the relief operations were rolled up and evacuated by Starfleet following the attacks on the orbiting starships.

Covert surveillance sensors left behind by Phoenix’s withdrawing security personnel had registered several instances of anomalous activity. Upon further scrutiny, this activity seemed to be consistent with the movement of resources and personnel in support of insurgent operations.

QaS DevwI’ M’Sharv was the equivalent of the Klingon ground force’s Sergeant Major. He was clad in traditional Klingon battle armor whose tones had been muted to more reliably approximate the color of the ubiquitous uebwi grass. The bulky optical scanner clutched in his gloved hands was a source of constant irritation for him because it stubbornly refused to reveal anything not already known about the village and its occupants. Even at five hundred meters, the device should have been able to tell him something about what they were facing. As he turned to look askance at Lieutenant Lar’ragos, the old warrior grumbled, “Nothing. Passive scans indicate the village is deserted, and yet we’ve seen movement among the buildings.”

Dressed in a covering of mimetic holomesh over a suit of Starfleet Class-4 combat armor, Lar'ragos’ furrowed brow was clearly visible through the raised faceplate of his helmet. “The people we’ve seen scurrying between buildings could be holograms, trying to draw us into an ambush. Or they could be employing that sensor dampening field again.” He glanced at M’Sharv, smirking as the impatient Klingon struggled with the resolution on the field glasses. “Only one way to be sure.”

M'Sharv sputtered with barely contained frustration, and tossed the binoculars over his shoulder as he turned to inspect his troops. Fifty of Kang’s finest warriors knelt among the grass, their disruptors and bladed weapons held at the ready. Accompanying them was a small detachment of security personnel from Gibraltar, led by Lar’ragos and Master Chief Tark. Everyone, Klingon and Starfleet alike, carried backup projectile sidearm and edged weapons, ever mindful of the potential for the enemy to employ their power nullifying field.

The QaS DevwI’ bared his teeth at Lar’ragos, sneering. “What? More probes? Perhaps you’d like to sneak up and poke the nearest building with a stick?”

Lar’ragos returned his stare impassively, ignoring the quiet snorts and guffaws of those Klingons within earshot. “I was actually going to suggest that we attack. Whatever awaits us in that village, sitting here any longer won’t help us figure out what it is.” He flipped the faceplate of his combat helmet down and his voice took on a distant, digitized quality. “But, if you feel an assault on the target is too bold a plan, I’m familiar with any number of Romulan youth brigade camping songs. We can join hands and sing to the Praetor’s health.”

“Bah!” M’Sharv’s eyes bulged as he forced himself to refrain from rushing the El Aurian. The shoulders of several nearby warriors shook with silent laughter. “When this is over, little man, I think you and I will come to an understanding. If you are fortunate, it will not involve my feasting on your heart.”

Lar’ragos turned away from the burly Klingon to communicate his intentions to his security team with a flurry of quick hand gestures. “Hate to disappoint you, QaS DevwI’, but ask any of my subordinates; a heart is something I’m lacking.” The security team, still crouched low, moved to climb aboard five two-seat combat SWIFTs.

The Special Warfare Interceptor/Fast Transport was a large, shielded hover cycle that had been fielded near the end of the Dominion War. Fast, quiet, durable and well armed, the transports had found favor among Starfleet’s Special Forces community. Just prior to their mission to Lakesh, Pava had managed to appropriate five SWIFTs in the eventuality that the mission required a quick response platform for surface patrols. Each unit boasted two forward facing phaser emitters, controlled by the pilot. The cycles then supported either an under slung gatling-style pulse phaser cannon, or an automatic photon grenade launcher operated by the passenger in the rear seat.

Lar’ragos turned back to M’Sharv as his armored personnel quickly carried out pre-mission checks on the cycles. “If you’ve no objections, we’ll flank the village from the east. I’m correct in thinking you’re going to use a two-prong frontal assault with a diversionary feint to the west?”

The QaS DevwI’ growled, his mustache and beard flecked with spittle. “Yes, damn you! Go, before I forget who my allies are supposed to be!”

He offered M’Sharv a jaunty salute, then moved to his SWIFT at a low crouch, sliding up and onto the pilot’s seat. Lar'ragos initialized his helmet’s communications and engaged the short range, heavily encrypted transmitter that allowed him to speak to his team covertly. “Strike Group Alpha, saddle up. Vector approach to the target, formation Theta. I want to hit them just as they’re getting their first glimpse of the Klingons.”

As he throttled up, he kept the SWIFT no more than a meter off the ground as he led the other four craft plunging through the sea of grass towards the enemy.

*****

Glinn Trevar was sweaty, dirty, and exhausted. He and his thirty-seven man contingent had just completed moving nearly two tons of weapons and supplies into the rural Kendarsi village. The powered sleds that had carried the men and cargo through more than two-hundred kilometers of underground tunnels from the insurgency’s primary base had offered little in the way of creature comforts.

Trevar’s advance party had set up one of the portable sensor inhibitors which created a disruption field that extended out for five kilometers from the village. Within that area scanning devices would not function beyond a few meters. The glinn had requested to bring one of the insurgency’s invaluable area-effect energy siphons, but his superiors had denied him. Thus, if attacked, he would have to weather the full force of his enemy’s ranged weaponry.

He hoped that the sensor inhibitor would be enough. With the Klingons now in orbit, the possibility of an engagement with the fearsome warriors was a distinct possibility. In Trevar’s view, fighting Starfleet was bad enough, but the Klingons were another matter. Federation forces could at the very least be counted on to show a modicum of civility to their prisoners. In Klingon hands, at best he might suffer a quick end fighting the brutes for sport or training purposes. At worst he would be slowly tortured to death for information.

Now he sat atop a crate of photon mortar tubes on the ground floor of some displaced family’s home, sipping water and taking his first real break of the morning.

Sed Grinnt ducked through the low doorway of the structure behind him, and called out in a subdued voice. “Glinn, we’ve spotted movement outside.”

Trevar took a long draught from his canteen and inquired, “Where and how many?”

Grinnt stooped to pick up another energy cell for his rifle from an open crate. “Not certain, sir. The sentries on the western wall reported what looks to be organized movement among the grass. Too ordered to be a herd of animals.”

Klingons… and so soon. Trevar toggled his wrist communicator. “Zandol, close and secure the entrance to the tunnel, make sure the holoemitter camouflage is functioning. If we’re overrun, detonate the charges and collapse this end of the tunnel.” As he received an affirmative from his second-in-command, Trevar quickly scooped up his phaser rifle, flipped off the safety catch and checked the charge. He followed Grinnt back outside, shielding his eyes against the glare of the rising sun. The glinn sensed movement around him an instant before he perceived his own soldiers, crouched low and moving for cover, filtering silently into this quadrant of the settlement.

As Trevar moved to a firing position behind a low mud brick wall, he caught a glimpse of motion from within the sea of grass. Then a series of greenish flashes danced among the swaying blades. Disruptor bolts whipped past him, ripping into stone, wood, and flesh. Those of Trevar’s men left untouched by the Klingons’ opening volley returned fire, their bright yellow beams reaching out towards the enemy. Klingons fell from the ranks of the charging warriors, some pin-wheeling backwards as others vanished entirely as their bodies were consumed by swirling eddies of molecular entropy.

Trevar took aim at one of the advancing Klingons, his sights set on the soldier’s armored breastplate. Without warning, the earth around him and the wall he sheltered behind seemed to explode with cacophonous sound and blinding light. The glinn was thrown into the air, then landed with a bone-jarring thud that drove the air from his lungs. He coughed spasmodically, momentarily unable to catch his breath as the cloud of dust around him began to settle. Something roared past him through the veil of drifting soil, and Trevar registered a glimpse of some kind of cycle-like conveyance, two bodies crouched low atop its back.

Starfleet. They had been flanked by Starfleet. He reached for the comms transmitter on his wrist, wheezing into it ineffectually as he tried to order his men to fall back and regroup. He mustered what strength he could and rose shakily, croaking orders into the communicator as his breath returned to him.

Petty Officer Dunleavy, seated behind Lieutenant Lar’ragos on the team leader’s SWIFT, pressed down on the firing stud as she locked her firing solution in her helmet’s heads-up display. She sent a stream of pulse phaser blasts screaming into the midst of a group of Cardassian soldiers whose attention was centered squarely on the approaching Klingons.

The walls, buildings and trees they were using for cover exploded in a wave of withering shrapnel. Lar’ragos increased the SWIFT’s forward shields, and plunged ahead through the swirling cloud of dust and debris while firing phasers to clear his path. As the SWIFT shot through the haze, he caught a fleeting image of an insurgent lurching unsteadily to his feet, screaming into a comlink affixed to his gauntlet. The rear stabilizer fin from Pava’s cycle sliced cleanly through the man, who fell backwards before parting ways with the other half of his body.

Master Chief Tark, seated on the back of Ensign Diamato’s SWIFT, peppered the southeastern quadrant of the village with a flurry of photon grenades set for airburst stun detonation. A rippling wave of concussive blasts rocked the target area, sending insurgents reeling. Those not rendered immediately unconscious were so disoriented that when they were finally able to function, they found themselves staring down the barrels of Klingon disruptors.

The Klingon warriors, heedless of their reputations as dull-witted thugs, searched the structures of the village with a quickness and precision that left even the highly trained Starfleet security detachment impressed. Rapidly frisking any civilians for weapons, they left them bound but otherwise unharmed. Within a matter of minutes the village had been swept and cleared. Those remaining insurgents who chose to resist were dispatched with relish by the Klingons, who favored bladed weapons for the Cardassians’ last, desperate engagements.

*****
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