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Old January 24 2013, 05:53 PM   #7
Rear Admiral
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Location: Deep Space 9
Re: Refugee Crisis: Border Cutter Silverfin - "Bright New Day"

Chapter Two

Engineering Deck, Boslic Freighter Zoyrajj
Talarian Border, Alpha Quadrant
Stardate: 54560.2 (July 24th, 2377)

“Gun runners,” Kolanis Daezan grumbled. “Why do we always seem to intercept gun runners?”

Amorin glanced at the Ops Manager, a small smile obscured behind his breather mask, as disruptor beams and plasma bullets blasted holes into the bulkheads he and his team were using for cover. As the advanced boarding team, they would be the ones who would be taking the brunt of the assault, but their mission was also crucial in securing the rest of the ship.

Whilst on standard patrol, the U.S.S. Silverfin had come across an Boslic freighter acting oddly. After hails had been ignored, the cargo ship had made a desperate attempt to flee, but the cutter had pounced, catching them off guard with a rat-trap torpedo that collapsed their warp field and weakened their shields—enough for them to punch a transporter beam through—so Amorin led a team onboard in order to shut the freighter down and begin detaining the crew for questioning.

The lead team was always a tough job, as they would face the fiercest opposition, so the chances of injury were high. Fortunately, his team were experienced and well-trained. Aside from himself and Daezan, there was also Master Chief Syva, Crewmen Johl, Mycroft and Blue. The security detail were tight knit and meticulous in their duties, considered probably the best team onboard—not surprising, seeing that the Syva was their leader.

He looked at the Chief of the Boat. “Options?”

“I recommend that we split up, three two-man teams. One remain here and maintain the illusion that we are still pinned down, the other two should attempt to circumvent this junction and find a way to outflank them,” Syva stated, gesturing down the two perpendicular corridors the team has taken shelter in.

Looking up and down the corridors for a moment, he nodded. “Kolanis, remain here and give us as much cover fire as you can. Master Chief, you take this corridor. I’ll take the other. Keep secure comlink open and check your targets, the last thing we need is a friendly-fire incident.”

“Johl, remain here. Mycroft, you’re with the Commander. Blue, with me,” Syva added immediately. She was splitting her people up to spread out their skill sets, keeping K8 Blue with her as the Nasat was the newest to the team, whilst both he and Daezan had the more experienced enlistees with them—a logical approach.

Gripping his phaser carbine tightly, he flexed his shoulders trying to give his arms as much movement as possible in the body armour—he always hated wearing the stuff, but after it had saved his life on at least four separate occasions over the years he was willing to live with it. He looked at Johl and Mycroft and signalled that they would be cutting across the corridor to the other side, which meant having to cross the barrage of energy beams and pulses; they both nodded and got into position. With Daezan and Syva providing covering fire, Amorin darted across the corridor to cover, managing a quick glance down the passage to where the Boslic had erected their barricade. After a second to get into position, he joined the others providing covering fire, allowing Johl and Mycroft to join him.

As soon as they regrouped, Johl took his place at the edge of the bulkhead and opened fire. He looked over to Daezan and the others, just to see Syva and Blue head off down the corridor.

“Keep them busy,” he said to Johl.

“Aye sir,” the Napean guard replied, firing off another couple of shots before ducking back.

Amorin sprinted down their corridor, faster than many would have thought for someone his size, his natural sonar allowed him to pick up on Mycroft a little over three meters behind him. Having grown up in a place with little light, his species’ natural abilities to detect heat and energy signatures in total darkness often proved useful in his line of work. Which was why he knew the next intersection was clear and kept up his pace, Mycroft keeping up without hesitation.

They were halfway down the corridor when the ship rocked, tipping them into the bulkhead. There was a moment’s pause as they quickly swept the corridor, then looked at one another.

“Is the Silverfin firing on us?” Mycroft asked, dismayed.

“Rat-trap detonation in close proximity—I’d say six hundred meters. Too far away to do any real damage, but enough to keep them off balance until we can shut them down.”

“Then we’d better get moving—before they decide to switch to photons.”

Amorin smirked to himself before carrying on down the hallway. He had to check his combat scanner to get a look at the deck layout. The central corridor, where Daezan was still taking fire, was parallel to him, but there were several meters of ship systems and support equipment or storage rooms between them—none of which gave them access to the barricade. Unfortunately it looked as though the corridor they were in would only lead down to the cargo deck. He could only hope that Syva was having better luck, as the only way they’d be able to get through, was if they made a door—which they wouldn’t be able to do fast enough without alerting the Boslic. As good and effective as the phaser carbines were, they still had limitations.

But it does have a type-k12 sarium krellide power cell, he suddenly remembered. If set to overload, it packed a considerable punch—more than enough to blast a hole through the nillirium allow that the bulkheads were made of. We just need to get close enough to the barricade, to use the concussive force to our advantage, but not so close as to kill any of them, he determined.

Studying the scanner attached to the forearm of his armour, he saw that they would be reaching the barricade in six meters and just three meters past that point there was a storage locker. Running a quick calculation through his head, he determined that it would work. As they neared the hatch, he slowed down. Mycroft did the same, raising his weapon and standing ready for attack.

“Wait here,” Amorin ordered, stepping into the locker and crossing the compact room to the far side. Through the metal he could sense the body heat of the ten Boslic, as well as the energy output of their weapons just a couple meters away. Unstrapping his weapon, he opened up the outer casing and began to adjust the carbines power cell, setting it to overload—a process that would take ten seconds. Once he had the weapon rigged, he lodged it into place against the bulkhead then opened up the secure comlink.

“All teams, I have a plan to cause a big distraction as well as thin out their numbers. Syva, keep your distance. Kolanis, stand ready.”

Both teams acknowledged. Inhaling a deep lungful of the gases the breather mask provided him, he pulled the trigger and darted for the exit, calling into the comlink, “Fire in the hole.”

He leapt back into the outer corridor and took cover on one side of the hatch, Mycroft already doing the same opposite him, and drew his type-II phaser. The countdown from ten seemed to take much longer than he’d expected, but there was no missing the explosion. It was short and sharp, making the deck shake under his feet.

He slapped the access panel and the hatch opened, thick grey smoke poured into the corridor, but he stepped into the blackened room unaffected by the smoke. Opposite the hatch was a small opening into the central corridor, through which he hear lots of panicked shouts and an increased amount of Starfleet phaser fire. He was crouched into a firing position before Mycroft was able to make it into the room, coughing from the smoke. From within what remained of the storage locker, they added their own weapons fire to that of their teammates.

Within fifteen seconds after the explosion, everything went quiet in the corridor. Due to the explosion, he couldn’t rely on his natural abilities, so he had to consult the tactical scanner for a sweep of active life-sign. The scan still showed ten Boslic, but they were all prone and motionless, the readings showing all of them to be unconscious.

“We got them all,” he called into the comlink. “We’re coming out, so hold your fire.”

“Copy that,” Daezan confirmed.

Emerging into the central corridor, he looked down at all the stunned smugglers—most of who would be indentured slaves, forced to do as their owner commanded, though that didn’t mean the Border Service team could show them any leniency when they were being shot at. He looked back down the hallway and saw Daezan and Johl heading towards him, weapons up and making sure to sweep every alcove they came to.

From behind him, Syva called, “Commander, we have clear access to the engine room.”

He turned towards the Vulcan Master Chief as she emerged from another corridor, then led the rest of the team down towards her, her hand phaser held in a tight grip as he readied himself for storming the engineering compartment. From there, they would have total control of the ship and could bring this engagement to a quick end.

Once the team was reassembled, he looked at each of them to ensure they were ready. Confident they were, he nodded to Blue who stood by the door controls. One of her pincers tapped the panel and as the doors swished open, Amorin led his team inside.

* * * * *

Ward Room, U.S.S. Silverfin
En Route to Star Station Freedom, Talarian Border

Though it hadn’t been planned, it looked as though the half of the senior staff had reached the ward room at the same time for dinner. It had been a tough day for several of them, with boarding the freighter not five hours earlier. Fortunately, they’d gotten through the situation with no injuries, which always made Tunde Mbeki breathe easy. Being on the Silverfin for five years, he had healed numerous disruptor burns, broken bones, torn muscles, internal haemorrhages—even delivered two babies who’d been conceived onboard—but he never got used to seeing his friends getting injured. His happiest days were when he saw no one in sickbay but the corpsmen.

That wasn’t to say he hadn’t been busy. After the freighter had been secured and locked in a tractor beam, he’d had the twenty-one crewmembers to check over. All but three of them he had checked over in the brig, ensuring they weren’t carrying anything potentially harmful to the crew, as well as making sure they were healthy. The other three were all under armed guard in sickbay, secured under restraining fields. They had been injured when Amorin had chosen to knock through a wall, but with just a concussion, five broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and two punctured organs between the three of them, they had gotten off pretty lightly.

Amorin was sitting with his back to the viewports, enjoying a sealed mug of something Mbeki couldn’t pronounce. Since the Benzenite couldn’t eat with his breather mask on and couldn’t survive in an M-Class environment without it, he ate his meals in his quarters, where his standard atmosphere could be pumped in, but he could enjoy some liquid foods and drinks from Benez’ahn by way of specially designed straws that he could connect to his mask. Mbeki sat opposite him, finishing off his bowl of plomeek soup with gespar bread (he’d been feeling in the mood for Vulcan all afternoon).

A few seats down, Daezan and Lieutenant Commander Ling-Na were eating and chatting quietly. After they had brought the freighter under tow, heading for Star Station Freedom, the two of them had begun to go through the crates of weapons onboard. It had mostly been small arms and explosives, nothing ship-mounted, so their wears could have been going anywhere. Meanwhile, Syva had been questioning the crew but gotten nowhere—none of them were willing to say a word, not even to confirm their own names. The Master Chief was still at it, using all of her Vulcan mind tricks on them, but their silence was trying even her near-infinite patience.

The only others not accounted for were Captain Leijten, Lieutenants Llewellyn-Smyth and th’Shaan—though knowing each of them as he did, Mbeki guessed they’d be in the ready room, gymnasium and workshop respectively. One thing he’d learned during his years onboard was that many of the crew were creatures of habit, following the same routine each and every day where possible, which he could understand, since a lot of the work they did was spur of the moment (distress calls, emergency alerts, tip offs) most of the time they didn’t know where they would find themselves or what they’d be facing—so some found any kind of routine to be a comfort.

He looked up at the First Officer. “So how long until we get to Freedom?”

“Since we’re restricted to warp four with the freighter in tow, we’ll get back in four days. Why are you so eager to get back?”

Mbeki shrugged. “I was checking the drug store and noticed we’re low on a few things. I was just thinking this might be a good time to resupply.”

Amorin’s brow furled. “I hope we’re not running low on anything serious.”

Mbeki shook his head. “It all the typical things we have to restock every four months, but we’ve been on more calls than usual this month so they’re lower than I’m happy with.”

“Get the list to Chief Tarsev, and I’ll make sure the requisition is approved and waiting for you by the time we arrive.”

“Glad to hear it.”

They returned to their comfortable silence, Amorin returned to his datapad and Mbeki to his soup. He was just mopping up the remains of the soup with a piece of bread as Daezan and Ling-Na left, their conversation about the weapons haul continuing. The whole thing had Mbeki perplexed. True, as ship’s surgeon he wasn’t up on the latest intelligence reports and knew nothing about smuggling, but he had spent years studying how to observe behaviour to understand the psychology of others.

“Why would they do it?” he suddenly asked the now quiet room.

Amorin’s goggled eyes peeked over the top of his PADD. “Who do what?”

“The Boslic. Why would they risk smuggling hand weapons here, so far off the shipping routes that it just screams ‘suspicious activity’?”

The Benzenite set down his PADD and mused on the question. “I’m not sure, Doc. This time last year this region was only lightly patrolled, but following the Incursion five months ago with our reinforcements, no region is being left lightly patrolled anymore. Maybe this is where they’ve had luck smuggling contraband before, but were only caught because of our new routes.

“Or maybe,” he continued, “they were just trying their luck.”

“But why small arms?”

“In the grand scheme of weapons smuggling, a dozen crates of handheld phasers is better than two ship-mounted disruptor cannons. They’ll serve time for violating Federation law, but a lot less with what they were carrying than heavy weapon components.”

It was Mbeki’s turn to do some musing. “Saying it like that, it almost sounds as though they were testing us—seeing where we were still vulnerable.”

“A strong possibility. I’ll let the Captain know about your concerns, Doc. She can then punt it up to Admiral T’Rona for her to focus on. It might put a rush on the new reconnaissance sensor arrays we’ve needed along the border for the last five years.”

Mbeki chuckled. “The Border Service brass loosening the purse strings? I’ll believe that when I see it.”

Amorin let out a throaty laugh of his own. “This job is our calling, Doc; we don’t do it for the money.”

“Sometimes I worry about our sanity, Amorin.”

“No need to worry about mine, it and I parted ways some time ago.”

* * * * *

Bridge, Frigate Deskott
Hedakas System, Talarian Border

Major Tohr Inahk drummed his fingers on the armrest of his chair, glowering at the forward monitors. The three large screens displayed a variety of different information; the portside had a sensor grid on it as the Deskott ran continuous scans of the border, the central had a visual of the star field before them stretching from Republic space into the Federation, and the starboard monitor showed the ship’s current status. Everything was running smoothly, including their sensors, but they had yet to detect anything.

The freighter was now four hours overdue. Inahk knew that meant only one thing, it had been intercepted and either seized or destroyed. That would mean this route was no longer viable as a means of securing weaponry. He could only hope that the Boslic kept their mouths shut, the last thing they needed was for the Starfleet Border Service to become even more focused on their activities.

Only six months ago, he had been a Fleet Colonel. He had been the man behind their attack on the Federation border, having studied it for years, their deployment and strengths, patrols and positioning. The Starfleet forces had grown weaker and weaker, the cutters assigned to monitor the frontier had depleted to a third of their previous number, and after the Dominion War the bulk of the Federation fleet had been assigned to other more important areas. He had supported their rearming campaign, as it would play an important part in his plan, which he’d taken to the Militia Command with the support of as many of his peers as he could gather—all of them eager to claim glory and honour in their new war with the Federation.

It had taken two weeks of hard fighting with the upper echelons of the Militia for them to finally all agree, but once he had their support he had begun to muster his forces. Then he had led the attack. At first everything had gone exactly as he had planned, the Border Service had crumbled under their advance and the Republic had laid claim to more space than he had thought they would in the first days of the invasion. But they had been better organised than he’d ever expected, with Starfleet mustering its forces faster than he’d predicted.

His forces had held out against the ever growing enemy fleet, as they tried to fortify their positions and strengthen their frontlines—which had been his undoing. With their supply lines weakened, Starfleet had attacked their base in the Hedakas System (where his ship now sat), crippling their ability to hold their new boundaries, whilst Starfleet was able to outflank them. Their invasion fleet had crumbled, and they had been forced to withdraw back to the former frontier of their territory. His plan had done nothing but cost the Militia losses in ships and men, tipped off Starfleet to their new armament, and seen him demoted two grades to Major for his failure.

It was the last point that stung the most. He had worked hard to get to Fleet Colonel, which had seen him commanding one of their most advanced warships. But now he was reduced to a frigate and monitoring the border, ready to defend against any Orion attacks, all his power and authority had been stripped from him. He would do anything to regain his former position, but it looked as though the Militia Command were doing everything possible to keep him from that.

The bridge of the frigate was a standard layout, with the monitors at the front of the deck, his command chair at the back, with auxiliary consoles on both sides, whilst the four primary stations were directly ahead of him, arranged two-by-two (weapons and helm before him, then sensors and communications between them and the monitors).

He looked at the sensor operator, Officer Rohan. “Anything?” he demanded.

“Negative Major. All scans are negative for the freighter,” the young man replied instantly.

Inahk thumped his clenched fist on the armrest. “If they’re not here by now, they’re lost. It looks as though the Border Service is being more vigilant than previously,” he said, more to himself than anyone on the deck. “Helmsman, break orbit and return to Outpost 47. Warp factor six. We will have to report the situation to Command and await new instructions.”

“Course plotted.”


* * * * *
Commander Austin Harris, First Officer, Deep Space Nine (by FltCpt. Bossco)
8.01 - Darkest Before Dawn (Chapter 8 added, 12/09/2015)
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