“Phase one,” LaForge explained of the mission, “will involve the
Lambda Paz entering a close orbit of Minos and beginning massive sensor sweeps for any central computer system and surrounding cloaking fields. With most automatic defense systems, active scans may trigger this one faster than the
Enterprise was able to.”
“Approaching Minos, Captain,” Sara Carson reported from the helm.
Limis sat in the command chair, quietly tapping both arms with her fingers while staring pensively at Kozar to her left. “Put us in close geostationary orbit, Lieutenant,” she commanded.
“Now the waiting begins,” Limis remarked to an equally pensive Kozar.
“We’re being hailed from the surface,” Morrison reported when his communications board chimed.
“Ignore it,” Limis barked, already familiar with the hail the Enterprise
had received upon entering orbit of Minos. “He’s just your usual pitchman trying to sell us crap we don’t need.” But of course, something they needed was on the planet. The automated recording that hailed the Enterprise
, what was once known on Earth as an infomercial, was just another of a universal phenomenon in most humanoid societies. The Ferengi, these days, were adept at selling merchandise whether prospective buyers needed it or not.
“Or in this case, doesn’t exist anymore,” Kozar jokingly added.
“Once the automatic defense system is triggered,” Logan added during the mission briefing, “we’ll focus our scans on any automated transmissions and surface based computer generators.”
“Perimeter alert,” said Morrison. “Shields just came on.”
“Beginning scans,” Ops officer Lieutenant Willis Huckaby added.
“Object is firing,” Morrison snapped.
A green laser bolt hit the port saucer section of the Lambda Paz
, as well as the dorsal sensor pod. The bridge rocked back and forth, but not hard enough for any personnel to be thrown to the floor.
Limis tightly gripped the arms of her chair. She called up a tactical display of the attack on the control panel to her right. “Take evasive action, helm,” she ordered.
“Pattern alpha-seven-six initiated,” Carson replied.
“Forward shields at ninety percent,” Morrison added, “aft shields stable.”
“Hard to port,” Limis responded as the bridge continued to rock back and forth, “fire all phasers.”
The ship arched to port and fired both the forward dorsal and ventral phasers from the saucer section. Phaser bursts also erupted from strips on both sides of the upper sensor pod and from both nacelle pylons. One of those phaser bursts was able to clip the attacking drone, illuminating the otherwise invisible weapon. As far as anyone on the bridge could tell though, no damage was done.
“Anything yet?” Limis asked of Logan and LaForge.
Logan was lending Huckaby a hand at ops while LaForge was at the port mission ops station. “Nothing yet,” Logan responded. To LaForge, he added, “Increase resolution on pallet F-nineteen-gamma.”
“In the meantime, Mister Huckaby,” Kozar chimed in, looking up from his tactical display, “divert as much emergency power to forward shields.”
“Done,” Huckaby said after keying a set of power transfer sequence. “Forward back up to eighty-four percent.”
Limis kept her focus on her own tactical display, trying to triangulate the position of the drone based on the firing pattern. “Prepare another spread of phasers and lock quantum torpedoes,” she said with a glance at Morrison, “dispersal pattern sierra.”
Phasers and quantum torpedoes erupted from all weapon emitters. The phasers from every emitter were in concentrated bursts, while the torpedoes spread in various locations and they still missed the target.
"We may have something, Captain,” LaForge reported, “at forty-point-six-five degrees south latitude by twenty-six point four five degrees west longitude.”
“Helm,” Limis ordered, keying the coordinates into her control panel, “set a course for those coordinates and put us in standard orbit.”
The ship arched downward and to port towards the specified coordinates, able to dodge the laser bolts from the orbital defense system. It descended further south while maintaining the same orbital plane, and then holding position very close to the southern polar region.
“Anything new, gentlemen?” Limis asked while pacing towards the port mission ops station.
“We’re working on it,” Logan flatly assured her, keeping his gaze on his console.
“We just need to recalibrate the forward ventral sensors,” La Forge added, just before the missions ops console chirped. “We’re picking up high concentrations of tachyons and anti-protons. This could be our generator.”
“We’ll need to conduct more detailed scans in order to…” Logan started to say when the bridge rocked, and this time hard enough for a few officers to be knocked off their feet.
“They’re coming in harder now,” Morrison called out as if that wasn’t already obvious by now. “Number two shield at half power. Number four shield nearing failure.”
“Keep firing,” Kozar suggested. “Maybe eventually we’ll hit something
“Two port ventral auxiliary circuits are fried,” said Huckaby as the ship continued taking a beating. “Attempting to compensate.”
Sparks erupted from the floor and ceiling. Auxiliary consoles on both the port and starboard sides of the bridge, sending two officers to the deck.
Carson had to grip her console tightly to prevent herself from hitting her head on it when the bridge rocked once more. “Orbital thrusters one and two are failing,” she shouted over all the commotion.
“Helm, back us off,” Limis replied as she seated herself back in the command chair.
“I’ll try,” Carson replied, not sure she could carry out the order, “ but…”
“Try harder then,” Limis insisted. “And set a course of the system; speed: warp two.”
The Lambda Paz
moved backwards away from the planet in a zigzagging motion to dodge the drone’s weapons fire. Once safely away from the pattern of fire, it swung around to face away from the planet and streaked into warp.
Kozar rose from his chair and headed for the tactical station once the ship was at warp. “Any signs of pursuit?” he inquired.
“No, sir,” Morrison assuredly replied.
“Of course not,” Kozar sarcastically scoffed. “But we can never be too careful. Captain, a word in private?”
“Carson, set a course seven-six mark one-nine-eight,” Limis commanded, while rising from the command chair. “Then hold position a hundred thousand kilometers from the system’s Oort cloud.”
“Aye, sir,” Carson replied.
Limis then turned her gaze at Kozar and paced towards the ready room.
The captain and first officer entered the ready room. Kozar took a quick glance at the door to make sure they had closed all the way before saying his piece. “Captain, forgive my candor,” he said plainly, “but what the hell is Starfleet thinking sending us on this fool’s errand?”
Limis rolled her eyes. For a protocol stickler, Kozar had forgotten to request permission before taking on such a confrontational stance. Or perhaps this was one of those times where asking forgiveness was easier than asking permission. “Permission to speak candidly granted, Number One,” she retorted. She circled around the desk and began gathering up some padds, adding, “And when you put it that way, are sending expeditions deep into enemy territory to take out ketracel-white plants and breeding facilities fool’s errands? Was smuggling myself aboard Sentok Nor a fool’s errand? I was faced with even slimmer odds in the Maquis. You were in the Federation-Cardassian war, so you should know when to take big risks like this one with the understanding any
action is better than none at all.”
Kozar took a few paces closer to the desk. “In this case, though,” he persisted, “we’re talking about getting our hands on a weapon system that even the flagship of the Federation couldn’t shoot back at and that we weren’t able to shoot back at just now.”
“And that is why being able to use one of the most adaptive automated weapon systems in the quadrant against the Breen would give us a huge advantage. And fortunately, someone in my position doesn’t have to worry about the long-term ramifications.”
“Of course,” Kozar relented. “We’ll leave the rest for the politicians and the diplomats to sort out.”
Limis smirked, pleased at how quickly Kozar was swayed by her argument. On many previous occasions, Kozar would force the issue and Limis would have to unceremoniously dismiss him from her office. “For now,” she agreed with a nod. “In the more immediate future, I, Mister Logan, and Lieutenant Commander LaForge will be taking the captain’s yacht back to Minos. You’re to hold position here until one of us sends out a coded signal. I’ll also be taking a team of Marines along, as well as Ensign Sullivan to pilot the vessel.”
“With respect, Captain,” Kozar replied, having noted Limis’s preferences for her friend Rebecca to accompany these kinds of missions, “Mister Tarlazzi could use her expertise in dilithium recrystallization if he’s to carry out your assignment for him.”
“Then assign another available on-duty shuttle pilot,” Limis offered while concentrating on stowing away a stack of padds in a small Starfleet issue briefcase.
“Sir, I shouldn’t have to remind you that Sullivan is not the only decent pilot,” Kozar added. But then he froze when he saw a look of confusion on the captain’s face. “Sorry, I didn’t expect you to surrender that quickly.”
Limis closed the briefcase and latched it. “As captain, I need to practice what I preach once in a while. I shouldn’t be letting personal relationships cloud my good judgment. And that’s something I need you to handle while I’m gone. We’ve had a few officers getting too caught up in one-night stands. Straighten it out. And make it even more clear to all department heads that if they and their crews cannot report to work on time
, the captain and first officer will find officers who can
Limis made a quick beeline for the ready room’s side door with the briefcase in tow. “Good,” she said with blank nod in Kozar’s direction. “And I trust you’ll all have plenty to do while I’m gone.”
In the ship’s main armory, Morrison was delegating the distribution of phaser rifles and other arms to the team of Marines accompanying the captain’s mission. He and Neeley both went out of their way to avoid making eye contact with each other while they gathered up stun grenades and placed them in equipment belts.
Occasionally, Morrison would shoot a few teasing grins in her direction as a reminder that they still had to work together. In response, Lisa would smirk and snort derisively. They had made a point to keep their non-romantic partnership sexual liaisons a secret, but anyone else in the room could tell they had a bad breakup. Lisa sensed that Mandel wanted a romantic partnership, making her rethink their arrangement. She more or less made herself clear when Mandel walked in on her while she was a lurid embrace with her second-in-command, Sam Bowers.
“Sure you guys don’t want me on this little adventure?” Morrison teased as he handed a human male soldier an equipment belt.
Neeley was in the process of helping a Caitian female secure her belt. She marched over to a rack that housed neural truncheons without even looking in Morrison’s direction. “This ship needs its chief of security to oversee battle drills and make sure all armaments are up to snuff,” she replied without looking at him.
? That’s a little impersonal,” he quipped. “Don’t you mean ‘her’
chief of security?”
Neeley shook her head while letting a closed-lipped growl, in no way amused by his pretext for employing a double entendre. “Don’t be a shithead, Morrison. I’m not in the mood,” she snarled. “You know very well I can handle myself and my troops. Meanwhile, I need you and Bowers to oversee the drills.”
me?” Morrison teased. “As well as your new boyfriend?”
Neeley handed off truncheons to two soldiers, resisting the urge to use a third truncheon on Morrison. She grabbed him by the wrist, resisting multiple urges to deck him, and coaxed him behind a stack of cargo containers tall enough to conceal both of them.
“You could not function within the established parameters of our partnership,” she said with a hissing whisper. “He can. Now, for the love of whatever creator you may or may not worship, act like this ship’s chief tactical and security officer and not some horny adolescent.”
“You’re presuming to order me around?”
“I’m about to commit a more serious breach of regs. And I don’t want to have to damage that pretty face of yours.
Morrison grinned devilishly while raising his hands in surrender. “Understood,” he relented, backing off from her.
“Captain’s yacht is ready for departure,”
said male voice on comm with the bridge.
Kozar replied. “Clear all moorings, Mister Huckaby.”
“All moorings cleared,”
said the pilot.
The yacht detached itself from the ventral of the primary hull and descended straight down. The two nacelles’ pylons arched downwards and jutted further outward from the vessel. Once both warp nacelles lit up, the yacht sped away at full impulse.