Chapter 4 <cont'd>
With Admiral Jellico’s permission, the rout continued until Europa
had successfully scattered the remaining Voranti ships farther into the heart of the nebula. There the cloud’s increased density would blind their sensors, jam their communications, and leave them confused and isolated long enough for the starships to make their escape.
T’Ser had beaten a hasty retreat to her ready room, leaving Lar’ragos in command as she fought to find her emotional equilibrium. She had half expected the experimental weapon to malfunction, and despite what Starfleet Tactical R&D had boasted of as ‘unprecedented destructive potential’ T’Ser hadn’t been prepared for the almost casual lethality of the device.
Before the vessels were out of range, Lar’ragos toggled the communications relay and broadcast, “This is Europa
to the Voranti. We did not seek this conflict. We tried to explain to you that the Starfleet ship that originally attacked you was a rogue vessel, acting against our codes of conduct. You would not listen. When you attacked, we showed restraint, disabling your ships instead of destroying them. Still you came in overwhelming numbers until you forced our hand. Do not approach us again. We will not pursue your people, but if you come for us seeking conflict again, death is what awaits you.”
Lightner cast a look over his shoulder from the Helm console, his expression a mix of wonder and more than a hint of intimidation. “You’ve got quite the gift with words, Commander.”
Lar’ragos didn’t respond in kind to the mock joviality of Lightner’s observation. “It’s a lesson I dearly hope we won’t have to repeat,” he said with unaccustomed solemnity.
“Sir,” Verrik addressed Lar’ragos. “We’ve lost sensor contact with the last of the Voranti ships.”
“Very well,” Lar’ragos assessed. “I want gravitic mines with photon-yield warheads dropped in our wake. If they try and backtrack in order to attack us again, they’ll be in for a rude surprise.”
“Time delay, sir?” Verrik inquired, concerned with leaving ordinance behind for a prolonged period that might inadvertently hurt someone other than the Voranti.
“Set them to detonate in one-hundred twenty hours if they haven’t gone off by then.” He gestured to Lightner off-handedly. “Brett, take us back to Galaxy
, best speed.”
“Status of Galaxy?
” Ramirez inquired.
“Their shields are hovering near fifty percent, sir,” answered Gavin, one of the few original Starfleet crew from Masada
The Baron’s mental conditioning of these lesser subjects had been much less elaborate than hers, cruder and less delicately performed. Inevitably it resulted in neural degradation, madness, and death after less than a year.
The rest of her bridge crew was comprised of various Delta Quadrant aliens, an assortment of brigands, mercenaries, and otherwise innocent wayfarers who’d fell prey to the compact warship.
Ramirez stood and stretched, no longer clad in her ubiquitous uniform. She wore a long, dark leather duster-like coat over a tight-fitting black top beneath a tactical vest whose pockets were filled with a veritable arsenal of the Baron’s lethal toys. Leather-like form fitting leggings that offered surprising mobility trailed down to tall yet fashionable combat boots. A gun belt adorned her waist, supporting two menacing looking disruptor pistols of questionable provenance.
She gestured to a smaller, bespectacled human dressed in anachronistic 19th century Terran clothes who was seated at an auxiliary console. “Let’s go pay our friends a visit, shall we?”
The man stood, evidencing no enthusiasm. “As you wish.”
She cast a look back at Gavin. “As soon as we’ve decloaked, hit them with the chronometric cannon. We’ll pop over and chat up the good admiral while they’re sorting themselves out.” She chucked the smaller man on the shoulder with a playful fist. “Come on, it’ll be fun!”
Gavin appeared troubled. “Captain, we haven’t tested the weapon sufficiently since we slaved it to the navigational deflector. It may not work as intended.”
“Then we’ll improvise,” she replied confidently, stepping into the ‘lift with her companion and vanishing behind the closing doors.
The smaller man looked to Ramirez, his expression unreadable. “Our master is not aboard Galaxy
. This attack is of no strategic value to us.”
“The value, my too-linear friend, is that to strike dread into the hearts of our enemies, we must keep them off balance. My plan will do that by simultaneously decapitating their command structure and sewing panic and confusion into their rank and file. I used to serve this organization, and I know better than anyone how to disrupt it.”
“And if our master is killed in the meantime?” he pressed.
Ramirez laughed. “He couldn’t be in better hands. Sandhurst will bend over backwards to treat the Baron with care, if only to try and prove he’s the better man.”
He observed, “An unwarranted gamble, and a reckless one.”
The pair stepped out of the lift, walking a short ways to a cramped transporter room filled with large, heavily armed men with foul dispositions and questionable personal hygiene. “The debate is over. We attack.” She turned to address one of the brigands. “Don’t forget the morphic field generator.” Ramirez smiled broadly. “I don’t know how many of you knuckle-draggers paid any attention in school, but we’re going to be having some fun with science!”