Interlude: Flashback Four
Stardate 52437(Earth year 2375): Federation-Romulan Neutral Zone
The starships Damocles
came to nose to nose with three Jem’Hadar fighters. The two Akira
-class ships fired swarms of quantum torpedoes at the two flanking fighters as they were about to break formation. The center fighter sped up and fired its disruptors, just grazing the two Starfleet warships, to which those responded with phaser fire. The three enemy fighters then swept past a larger battleship, and then swung around into a formation alongside the battleship.
The bridge of the Damocles
rocked hard as it took a volley of plasma torpedoes. Captain Ramiro Sanchez grabbed the arms of his chair to keep from sliding to the floor. “Evasive pattern epsilon,” he called to the helmsman. To the tactical officer stationed on his right, he added, “Mister McGarrett, return fire with a full spread of torpedoes and divert shield power to the forward dorsal.”
Luther Sloan was serving aboard the Damocles
as executive and tactical officer under the alias Jack McGarrett in order to gather intelligence on ship movements within the Neutral Zone. He quickly carried out the captain’s orders by entering the proper commands. “Shield strength is now at seventy-one percent,” he reported. “Minimal damage on the battleship’s port fore-quarter.”
“Call in fighter squads three, six, and twelve to back us up,” Sanchez ordered the Deltan female communications officer. “Helm, maneuver us towards one of the sensory blind spots. Tell the Apollo
to do the same. McGarrett, keep laying down phaser fire.”
The two Akiras
arched downward dodging torpedoes from the battleship and disruptor fire from the fighters as phaser beams grazed the hulls of each of the ships. Three Miranda
-class cruisers swooped in on the aft of the battleship firing swarms of phaser and quantum torpedoes. In the midst of that, three Klingon Birds-of-Prey
uncloaked. The fighter on the battleship’s aft took out the opposing Jem’Hadar fighter with disruptor fire, while the Birds
to port and starboard fired at the Jem’Hadar fighters. The battleship responded with torpedoes that destroyed the Klingon ship to stern and two of the Mirandas
, while the fighters inflicted damage on the two remaining Birds
. Meanwhile, the two Akiras
fired their phasers and quantum torpedoes at the battleship’s ventral while maneuvering through its blind spots.
Two more squads of Federation and Klingon ships arrived from both forward and aft of the Dominion battleship, firing unending swarms of phasers and quantum torpedoes at the enemy ships. The fighters went down relatively quickly, while the battleship managed to survive the onslaught. Its plasma torpedoes managed to destroy four more of the ships bearing down on the large battleship, including the Apollo
, while heavily damaging five other ships. The ships left standing moved off, and then swerved back sending swarms of phaser and torpedo fire. Without the maneuverability of the smaller opposing fighters, the battleship erupted in a huge fireball.
Cheers erupted among the younger officers on the bridge of the Damocles
at the sight of the exploding ship. Sloan, however, remained blank faced, as he was watched sensor readouts from the corner of one eye. “We’re not quite out the woods yet,” he informed his subordinates.
“What have you got, Commander?” Sanchez asked, ascending from his chair.
“At least five more squadrons of Jem’Hadar ships along the outer reaches of the system,” “Lieutenant Commander McGarrett” replied. “Each of them led by one of those bad-ass battleships. They’ll be in firing range in ten minutes.”
“Move us into standard orbit of the fourth planet,” Sanchez ordered his helmsman. “We’ll do what we can dress our wounds.” Looking over to the communications officer, he added, “Call in the rest wings we have in this sector.”
During the lull in combat, Ensign Paulsen sat at one of the aft auxiliary stations reviewing the sensor logs gathered from active and passive scans from the last twenty-four hours. Under Captain Sanchez’s orders, science officers and sensor analysts were charged with relaying sensor data gathered on planets in the Neutral Zone to the first officer. As far as the crew was concerned, “Jack McGarrett” was a legitimate member of Starfleet Intelligence taking advantage of an opportunity to gather data on the border between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire.
Sloan sauntered over to Paulsen’s console while the youthful red-haired human male was sifting through endless sets of raw data and graphic representations. A sudden sensor spike represented by a jumbling of a normally straight green line similar to readouts on a heart monitor caught Sloan’s attention. “Wait, go back,” he instructed.
Paulsen reversed the readout presentation on the monitor and paused it when Sloan instructed. “A spike in the tertiary EM band,” the young man observed aloud.
“Route this data to the computer terminal in my quarters, please,” Sloan replied, keeping his eyes glued on the screen’s readout. “You know the drill. There’s to be no official record of this discovery, Ensign.”
“Understood, sir,” Paulsen answered with a curious stare at Sloan. He had heard of an extremely lethal form of electromagnetic radiation that could cause instant cellular necrosis. As far as he knew from his theoretical physics classes at the Academy, this radiation was only theoretical.
General Valnor of the Tal Shiar stood in a dark underground tunnel awaiting the arrival of an operative from Starfleet Intelligence. Although the clandestine message did not specify as to nature of this requested meeting, Valnor was quite certain it would be about the thalaron radiation generator on the Goloroth base. With Starfleet and Klingon forces on the verge of breaking the Dominion’s hold on the system, their allies would soon discover the illegal technology. For all of the Tal Shiar’s suspicion of the Federation and its opposition to an alliance with the Federation, its leadership knew of the importance of that alliance against the Dominion. The Federation’s discovery of thalaron radiation would be as disastrous as the Dominion getting its hands on a thalaron generator.
Out into a strongly lit area of the tunnel stepped a blond-haired human male of early middle age. Sloan had changed out of his Starfleet uniform, and he was now dressed in the black leather jumpsuit of Section 31. “Hello, General,” he said plainly. “Glad you could make it here on such notice. I’ll come right to point. I know all about the thalaron generator.”
With an almost Vulcan-like calmness, Valnor’s right eyebrow twitched upwards, curious as to how Starfleet Intelligence would respond to this violation of interstellar agreement.
“We keep quiet about the thalaron generator on Goloroth,” Sloan continued. “And you assist us in our own thalaron research.”
“I don’t follow,” Valnor skeptically answered. “In return for not reporting a violation of the Treaty of Algeron to your superiors, you would ask us to assist Starfleet Intelligence in further violations of the treaty?”
“Those are my exact terms. As our ships and troops push deeper into Dominion territory, the enemy will become increasingly determined to fend off attacks. Thalaron weapons may become a useful asset. And I am not speaking on behalf of Starfleet Intelligence. I am part of a more autonomous covert operations group. One that is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect the Federation by any means necessary.”
Valnor shot Sloan a sly grin, wondering what other kinds of damning secrets the Federation had, secrets that would validate the belief of more extremist elements within the Senate and the military that the Federation was a genuine threat to the survival of the Romulan Star Empire. That the Federation continued to expand its borders almost indefinitely in the name of exploration was enough cause for concern. But the idea of a black ops organization sanctioned by the Federation still seemed absurd. “Many in the Tal Shiar felt the ‘accidental’ death of Senator Vreenak came at a rather convenient for your people,” he recalled of the late chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “His political opponents dismissed the notion of such an organization as unfounded paranoia. Despite your Federation’s misguided idealism, I know your people don’t resort to clandestine political assassinations.”
“Let’s just say, General,” Sloan answered with a smirk, “I and others in my little group allow us our ‘misguided idealism’. Of course, should you or Chairman Koval decide to reveal the details of our conversation to the Senate and military leaders as a means of diplomatic blackmail after the war is over, I shall report my findings here to the Starfleet Joint Chiefs, as well as Koval’s role in the death of Vice-Admiral Fujisaki.”
“The deputy chief of Starfleet Intelligence,” Valnor replied, almost gloating. “I heard he died of food poisoning last year. How unfortunate.” Though it was one of the Tal Shiar’s proudest moments, Valnor was well aware of the negative consequences of such a revelation. The sudden death of Fujisaki took place when the Romulan Empire had a non-aggression treaty in place with the Dominion. Because the Empire was neutral, news that they were deliberately trying to undermine the Federation’s ability to win the war would negatively impact diplomatic relations down the road.
On the other hand, Sloan had no solid proof that the Tal Shiar was behind the food poisoning death of Fujisaki He knew, though, just the threat of exposing such a secret would sway the Tal Shiar. “Do we have a deal, General?” he asked, his face showing no signs that he was bluffing.
“I will make the proper arrangements,” Valnor affirmed. “I will contact you again within the next twelve hours.”