~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
The shipwrights who designed the police cutter included some features that rarely if ever were utilized once the ship was placed into active service. One such feature was a ‘dumb waiter’ leading from the astrophysics laboratory down to the probe launcher. The intent was that scientists could customize a sensor package and send it down to be installed in a probe. Of course, newer programmable probes were developed and made this dumb waiter pretty much useless.
Useless except when one is a Marine sergeant on an escape and evade mission. McKendrey entered the small chamber, closed and locked the door, and began climbing down the shaft. He didn’t want to risk being heard, so he didn’t try to use the power lift. Two rungs down, his pants leg caught on a bolt; shacking his foot free resulting in undoing the blousing strap and letting the pants leg fall freely to cover his boot top. How annoying, it bugged him to have one pants leg secured around the top of one boot and the other dangling free. He put out of his mind as he stepped off into the probe launcher bay.
He pulled out the ‘borrowed’ PADD and checked the relay. No luck. The bad guys might not have a sensor tech, but it appeared they had a comm tech, for they had shut off all intra-ship communication relays. McKendrey knew he couldn’t stay here for long. If someone figured out he was in here, all they would have to do is open the drop-hatch and out he would go. Even Marines needed air.
Quickly, he exited the launch bay. The next compartment forward housed the photon torpedo tube, which would do him no good, and ditto for the sub-space radio room nearby. He was only a Marine and therefore lacked the training that Star Fleet personnel received. Still, he was a combat Marine who had spent a lot of time thinking about how to defend a ship, and part of that process was to think of ways the enemy might try to capture the ship. It scared him how many different ideas came to mind.
The first thought was to get down into the navigation deflector pylon and disable the system. He knew that a starship needed the deflector to ward off micro-meteors that could slice the ship end-to-end like a vibro-knife through butter. He had no idea what would happen if he shut the deflector off, so his next option was to go to Auxiliary Control and see if he could take command away from the bridge. He opened the blast door and moved aft into the main corridor. Two steps in, on his left, was the forward stairwell. And someone with a Type-II phaser pointing right at his head.
“That’s far enough, Sergeant.” McKendrey noted the man’s rank insignia, Master-at-Arms First Class. Great. This guy wasn’t just any cop; he was a cop’s cop, the one who trained the rest of the crew in police procedures, including hand-to-hand combat. McKendrey’s team had sparred with the Master-at-Arms on the Magnum
. These guys were good. Real good. “Cover me,” the man said, and a female petty officer slipped around him off the stairs. The Marine recognized her as the one he shot on the Emergency Bridge.
The cop relieved McKendrey of the phaser in his hand, and the second one in his pocket, and then put him on his knees with his hands on his head. After a quick pat-down, he took the stolen PADD and handed it back to its owner. He then put a handcuff on the Marine’s wrist and twisted his arm down to his lower back. The overhead lighting began to flicker. McKendrey smiled inwardly; at least that part of his plan was working. Before the man could bring the other arm down and cuff it, McKendrey slid his hand under the tail of his shirt. His fingers wrapped around the familiar object attached to his belt. There was the whining noise, and the Master-at-Arms slumped to the floor. Before the female petty officer could blink, McKendrey rolled and fired again. For the second time within half an hour, she fell victim to a phaser set to stun. The Marine almost felt sorry for her. Almost.
McKendrey replaced his personal-issue Type-I phaser in its holster on the back of his belt, recovered a Type-II phaser, and the keys to unlock the handcuff. After a moment’s thought, he handcuffed the two sleeping petty officers together on a rather compromising position. Later, he would come to regret that little indulgence and the precious time he wasted doing it. He took about five steps towards his goal, the Auxiliary Control center, when the door to the forward battery room opened.
The Marine saw two things before he could react. The first was a grin full of broken teeth, and the second was the fist the size of a ham-hock slamming into his jaw. The blow staggered him, causing him to drop his weapon. “Remember me?” the Orion asked menacingly. Sergeant McKendrey watched the other fist inbound, and all he could do, the last thing he did, was think, ‘This is going to hurt’.
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
Lieutenant Dupree was trying, and failing, to maintain a lock on the Gendarme
’s warp trail. They were only an hour ahead of the Magnum
, but at this speed that meant there were over twenty parsecs between the two ships. Currently there were five stellar systems interfering with the sensor’s ability to track the Gendarme
’s signature. Senior Chief Guzman made up some time by plotting a slalom course right through the heart of one such system, coming dangerously close to a gas giant. Ensign Daniel Littleton sat at his side and watched in total amazement; he wouldn’t try some of these maneuvers with a race shuttle. Guzman ordered the young officer to keep the navigation plot current. Too bad Tillman wasn’t here, the older man thought, because she would love this.
“Damn,” Dupree muttered. “Lost them. I think they jinked when they passed the binary star system back there.” He started to replay the sensor log to figure out which way they turned, when suddenly good fortune smiled on the Magnum
’s crew. “They just went active. I don’t know why, but they just fired up active sensors. We got them now. Chief, a bit more to starboard.”
Memories and lessons from long ago popped into Guzman’s mind. “Are you sure it’s them, sir? Maybe they dropped a probe out on a lateral course.” Just the same, he altered course slightly. The next system was a little too soupy, so he didn’t try to cut through it.
“Valid point, Chief, but even if it’s a probe, they have to be over that in direction,” the science officer explained. “That’s strange.”
“What’s strange, Ben?” Isenberg asked. He immediately chastised himself for falling back into old, bad habits.
“It’s ‘Frank’, sir. I go by Frank,” Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Dupree corrected his superior officer. “What’s strange is the amount of power they’re sending to the sensors. They keep this up, and they’ll burn out the grid. Take a look.” He put the signal up on the tactical screen, with sound.
Ping Ping Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping Ping Ping! Pause. Ping Ping Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping Ping Ping!
“It’s an S.O.S!” Guzman, Littleton, and Isenberg all exclaimed at the same time.
The ship’s captain looked over at the Marine platoon leader. “Your sergeant’s handiwork, I presume.” Zychowski nodded with a smug look on his face. “So, now we know where the Gendarme
is. The next problem is: how do we stop them?”
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
Commander Yvonne Christensen glared at her second-in-command. “If it’s any consolation, Ma’am, you weren’t supposed to be here,” Pierre Faucheux informed her. “That honor was intended for Thomas Isenberg; the plan was for you to get the Magnum
back. Now, if you would be so kind, please hand over your command key. I believe you carry it in the left pocket of your pants. Stand up slowly, please,” he ordered.
She stood and removed the key, placing it on the desk. “Why Isenberg? I didn’t think he was a part of this.”
Lieutenant Faucheux picked up the key. “Oh, he isn’t. But he made some enemies, powerful enemies, who would like nothing more than to see him sit in jail for the rest of his life. They wanted him framed, to take the fall as the ring-leader. And if he should resist,” he shrugged; the meaning was clear. “Now, you, my dear, have also made enemies. I think some of them are all too happy for your situation. I, however, am not one of them. I had no desire to see you in the middle of all this.”
“No?” she asked, doubtfully.
“No. And that is the truth, not that I expect you to believe me.” He removed his own command key from the chain around his neck. “In fact, I wanted Chief O’Hara off this ship, too. I couldn’t just order her out, so I did everything I could to make her ask for a transfer. And it was working, until you came along and gave her the resolve she needed. You two are too much alike. I expected you to throw a wrench into the mess. As it is, I believe you cause the entire time-table to be moved up. We weren’t ready yet.”
“So glad I could help,” she replied sarcastically.
“Don’t be too proud of yourself,” he countered. He broke eye-contact with her for a moment. The second time he did, she followed he gaze to her desk top, when she noticed a small yellow light illuminated next to the intercom.
She hid her surprise by slamming her fists down. “You just couldn’t wait, could you? Was it worth it, throwing your career away? Well, the ship is yours, ‘Captain’, just as you wanted.”
Faucheux shook his head with a sad little smile. “Oh, but it’s not.” He handed the pair of command keys to Jacob Flynn. “I presume Captain Baku will want these. Please pass my complements along. Tell him, ‘Well played, sir.’ I didn’t expect him to make his move until after we left the border station.”
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~
The door to Sick Bay opened. “Oh, good, I’m glad you’re back, Doctor.” Ensign Janet Ferrari called out. “I wanted to ....” It wasn’t Doctor Nikolaidis, but rather Ensign Welck, the assistant science officer. The Rigellian’s nose looked broken. “Here, sit down. Let me take a look at that.”
“Just give me something for the pain,” she demanded, “I have something important to do.”
“No. I need to make sure the bone isn’t broken, too, that it’s only the cartilage. Otherwise, a sneeze could drive the shard into your brain. Do you want to give yourself a frontal lobotomy?” Ferrari used her best Doctor Nikolaidis impression. Janet was a first-year resident, having just graduated medical school. Technically, she could call herself ‘doctor’ but for now used the title of physician’s assistant. There were nurses, and enlisted corpsmen, who knew more about medicine than she did.
As she began scanning the woman’s face, four more people entered sick bay. To be precise, two men walked in, each carrying an unconscious person. One of the men, an ethnic Orion, looked like he had just gone three rounds in the boxing ring. The Marine he was carrying looked worse. The Petty Officer First Class looked a bit woozy, and the woman he carried was out cold. The new doctor rang a hand-scanner quickly over all four of them. The woman had signs of phaser burns, not once but twice. The two men also had signs of recently recovered from a phaser’s stun setting. What the *bleep* happened?
Ferrari went to the nearest intercom and pressed the button. “Doctor Nikolaidis, please report to Sick Bay.” She noticed a little yellow light by the speaker, and her blood ran cold. “Doctor Nikolaidis, report to Sick Bay. All corpsmen, please report to Sick bay.” She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. She had no idea what was going on, but it could not be good. She turned to face her patients. “Okay, put them over there,” she indicated to the row of diagnostics beds. “I’ll get to them in a minute. Ensign Welck, sit back down.”
As she examined the Rigellian, and yes the bone was cracked but not broken off, Ferrari couldn’t help but replay the conversation she had just three days ago. When she and Doctor Nikolaidis transferred to the police cutter, she was taken aside and given a classified briefing. Normally, they told her, the Chief Medical Officer would receive this information, but as he was a civilian, the duty fell to the highest-ranking military person on the medical staff. In this case, Ensign Janet Ferrari. Ergo, she knew exactly what that little yellow light meant, and what was expect of her.
~~~ ~~~~ ~~~