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Old December 20 2012, 03:14 PM   #85
Rear Admiral
Re: UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

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The Burning Claw

Nadeen indeed was displeased. Ramlo stood against the wall, watching the large woman fuming; anger building inside her like a pressure cooker.

“You killed Gedrik?” Her broad nostrils flared as her eyes took in the man’s corpse, crumpled like discarded trash at her feet. “The only person who could divine the secrets of that infernal device!” She jutted a dagger-like finger at the crystalline regulator.

“We still have the Starfleet scientist,” Mavaar offered, from the other side of the regulator, smartly out of punching range. Nadeen’s smoldering gaze found Ramlo next. The man wanted to both shrink from it, and also put her eyes out.

“Look at him, he’s almost catatonic,” she scoffed. “You’ve screwed us over majorly Mavaar,” Nadeen declared. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to get top dollar for a device we can’t even explain how it functions.”

“Leave that to me,” Mavaar’s voice took on a calculated sultriness. “I’m well versed in speaking a language that any Orion slaver or merchant can understand.” She stroked the device and purred.

Unfazed, Nadeen glared at her again, “You better.” She warned before activating the door panel. Turning around, in the threshold of the door, she pointed at Ramlo, “And do something with that,” she said, “If he is of no use to us, then jettison him like the rest of the trash.” She glanced at Gedrik, shook her head, and spat on the dead man before leaving.
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USS Erickson
Main Bridge

Captain Redfeather forced herself not to sit on the edge of her seat. Her body strained against the comfortable back of her chair, but she forced herself to stay there. She had to look cool, not only to her crew but to whomever mastered the marauder vessel.

“Increase magnification,” she ordered ops again. Lt. Commander Norrbom quickly complied. Wyoma still squinted through the thick haze of gases veiling the cruiser. “So, that’s an Antares-class freighter eh?”

“Yes sir,” Helen replied. The ship’s tan bumpy hull was attached to a singular circular warp nacelle.

“I’m not going to even ask what the standard weapons and shields are for it, because I know that they’ve doubtlessly made changes,” Redfeather surmised.

“An apt decision,” the taciturn Commander Donar said from her side. Wyoma briefly regarded him. She was surprised that the man had spoken at all. His focus seemed completely on the ship before them, his dark eyes gleaming with predatory anticipation. It reminded her of a Le-matya she had once seen in captivity on Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet; a bound animal hungry to break free of its cage and devour. She shivered slightly at the comparison.

The captain couldn’t help but look back at Norrbom. Momentary doubt struck her about the decision to put Helen on the hazard team. She had thought that if anyone besides herself could rein Tai back, if he broke his leash, it would be the operations officer. Now the captain wasn’t so sure. But there was no going back on her decision. She needed to trust both Helen and Tai that they could pull this off.

“Our readings are inconclusive regarding the full complement of weapons aboard that ship,” Helen remarked, “but it is doubtlessly bristling with them.”

“What about our people?” the captain asked, “Are you picking up any Arkenite or Kaylar life signs?”

“There is a faint Arkenite life sign,” Helen replied, “but it is…flickering…diffused by polaric ion energy.”

“So they do possess the regulator,” Tai stated, grinding his teeth.

“It appears so…sir,” Norrbom answered.

“And what about Shash?” Wyoma asked, her heart in her throat.

“Nothing,” Helen said grimly, “I’m not picking up anything.” A pall fell over the bridge as the possibility that they had lost one of their own began to sprout in their minds. The idea that Shashlik was gone tore at the captain’s façade. Though they had never been chummy, she had personally picked Shashlik to be a part of the Erickson crew and had been impressed with how much the woman had grown in her position and as part of the extended family aboard the ship. The woman had saved her life more than once, and many among the crew could claim the same. After all they had been through, the thought that she would meet her end, here, at the hands of grubby criminals, it was nearly impossible to contemplate.

“Isn’t it possible that the readings could be off, that maybe they have Shash somewhere that screw up our sensors?” Lt. French asked hopefully. Thankfully the man’s question broke the dark cloud forming over the bridge. It was a long shot, but plausible enough for the captain to clutch on to.

“It is…possible,” Helen admitted, with obvious doubt.

Sitting up in her seat, she tugged down on her tunic. It had been a habit since she had saw Captain Picard do it at her commencement. She thought emulating great captains sometimes might allow some of that greatness to rub off on her. “We are in communications range,” she replied, more of a statement of confirmation than a query.

“Aye sir,” Helen replied.

“Hail them,” Redfeather said. While Norrbom followed her orders, the captain coughed to clear her throat. She wanted to sound as in command, as in control as possible.

“The ship is not responding to our hails,” Helen remarked seconds later, with obvious annoyance.

“Try again,” the captain commanded, “And Mr. Holcus,” she addressed the Tygarian manning the tactical console, “power our weapons. Be prepared to fire at my mark.” The rangy, leathery reptilian briskly nodded.

“Aye captain,” he rasped.

“Still no response,” Norrbom said, a pinched tone in her voice. She definitely fuming now, Wyoma realized. Tugging her tunic once more, the captain spoke up.

“Unidentified vessel, this is the Starship Erickson, Captain Wyoma Redfeather in command,” she stated with authority, “We know that you have two of our crewmen. Return them and hand over the polaric ion device, or we will be forced to take more aggressive action against you.”

“No response,” Helen said after a few moments. Tension ratcheted up on the bridge.

“Mr. Holcus,” the captain’s voice felt tight, even to her own ears. “Prepare to fire a glancing blow, off of their bow, at my mark.”

“Captain, wait,” Helen interrupted, “They’ve just ejected something. Something very small.”

“On screen,” Redfeather said, “And more power to forward shields.” Once Helen directed the ship’s sensors to pinpoint the object, at maximum magnification, loud gasps filled the bridge, as did Norrbom’s vocal curse. Tai growled deep in his throat. Unbidden, her hand covered Wyoma’s mouth in shock.

Shashlik’s severed head, neatly sliced off at the neck, rolled endlessly through space, toward them.

“Helen,” Redfeather said, finding her voice again after several seconds. The shields opened up just enough for a shaft of light envelop the murdered security officer’s head. Wyoma pledged to recover the rest of her body. Now she was on the edge of her seat, not caring how it looked.

“It appears that the pirates have given us their answer,” she said coldly, now devoid of doubt…or charity, “Mr. Donar, I want you and the hazard team to reply in kind.”
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