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Old March 30 2012, 07:27 PM   #1
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Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Raising the Stakes"

Earth is attacked. The Breen Confederacy, now in collusion with the Dominion, have a powerful weapon that could turn the war back in the Dominion's favor. The USS Lambda Paz is dispatched to Minos to harness a powerful weapon left behind by a long-dead civilization. But other forces seek to use this ancient weapon to advance their own goals.

Historian’s note: The main events of this story take place six weeks after “Foul Play” and concurrently with the DS9 episode “The Changing Face of Evil” between the Breen attack on Earth and the Second Battle of Chin’toka.


Prologue

“Jupiter Outpost 92. This is Starbase One transmitting on emergency frequency one-alpha red. Do you read?”

“Roger, Starbase One. What is your emergency?”

“We’re detecting several blips in close proximity to Pluto. Can you verify?”

“Stand by, Starbase One…”

“Affirmative. Four ships of an unknown configuration. They are not responding to initial hails. Possibly hostile. They’re on a vector that will reach fairly close to Io in approximately ten minutes.”

“Keep this channel open, JO-92. We’re dispatching the Palaiologos and six other Third Fleet vessels. They should be arrive at Jupiter in time to intercept.”

“Copy that SB-1. Will continue to monitor and advise.”

***

As predicted, four large vessels that dwarfed the Galaxy-class USS Palaiologos closed in on Jupiter from the far side of Io. They were the Breen Confederacy’s new heavy cruisers. The distinguishing characteristic was the mandible-like struts at the front of each ship, which became clearly visible once they were in visual range of the Starfleet ships.

The Palaiologos was flanked by two Nebula-class starships at port and starboard and four Akira-class ships on both ends of the formation. The four Breen cruisers swooped in fast over Io’s northern polar region and spread out to meet all seven of the Starfleet ships. Plasma torpedoes tore through the hulls of four of the seven ships. The Palaiologos was able to dodge a few of the blasts, but lost its starboard nacelle. Flurries of torpedo fire inflicted heavy damage to the forward hulls of the two Nebulas while the Akiras were able glide away from the enemy’s weapons.

The four Akiras continued moving in on the heavy cruisers, firing both phasers and torpedoes. From the heavy scarring inflicted all across their hulls, they were just as vulnerable to enemy weapon fire as the Starfleet ships were to the Breen weapons. The heavy cruisers virtually ignored the four Akiras while continuing to fire at the other three ships until they were destroyed. But in the process, the Palaiologos was able to destroy one Breen vessel with phaser and torpedo fire while heavily damaging a second.

The surviving ships on both sides swerved out of the way of the blinding fireball. They continued exchanging fire while two medium-sized spherical objects that were jettisoned from the exploding heavy cruisers moved further from the battle. As the two spheres moved further away from Jupiter, they each broke up into a dozen small fighters like a swarm of hornets from the nests. These smaller fighters had partially organic hulls, hence allowing them to merge and separate so easily.

As the battle continued near Jupiter, the surviving Breen heavy cruisers jettisoned similar organic spheres. They both separated into a dozen small fighters, distancing themselves from the destruction of their mother ships and the four remaining Starfleet ships.

###

Other squadrons of Breen heavy cruisers that had survived battle with the outer defense perimeters at Saturn and Neptune converged at Mars, along with the swarms of fighters that escaped the battle at Jupiter. As the ships raced past Phobos and closer to Mars, they were confronted by missiles fired automatically by the Mars Defense Perimeter. The heavy cruisers fired plasma torpedoes that either destroyed or disabled the guidance systems of the missiles they hit. The disabled missiles spun about aimlessly, some of which plowed into Breen heavy cruisers and fighters along the outer formation. As those cruisers were tearing apart, organic spheres were launched from the ventral hulls that broke up into smaller fighters.

Swarms of missiles continued moving in on the attacking Breen armada, effortlessly destroying Breen heavy cruisers and fighters alike. Those ships that were able to dodge the missiles were just as effortless in taking out approaching missiles and continuing undeterred towards Earth. By the time the attacking fleet had reached Earth, only six heavy cruisers had survived battle with various perimeter defense ships dispersed throughout the Sol system. That was offset by the large number of smaller fighters that had escaped their mother ships.

Hundreds of these smaller fighters descended upon Earth like bees. They fired plasma charges at the surface while dodging missiles from the ground based defense systems. They were relentless in hitting major cities all over the planet—San Francisco, Paris, New York, London, Moscow, Beijing, and Tokyo. Many of the ships continued dodging the ground-based missiles, while others almost let themselves be destroyed by oncoming missiles already having inflicted heavy damage to the planet’s surface. Those ships that survived descended in a free-fall, causing far more damage plowing into the surface than the plasma charges had.

***

Up in orbit, the heavy cruisers continued firing plasma torpedoes at the surface, virtually oblivious to the surface-based and orbital missiles coming at them and destroying their ships. Only two of the heavy cruisers were fully intact while the other four were suffering severe structural damage when a wing of three Sovereign-class Federation ships swooped in from the far side of the Moon firing swarms of phasers and quantum torpedoes, destroying all six of the capital vessels.

Smaller Starfleet ships of various classes approached Earth from four different angles, targeting fighters still closing in on the planet’s atmosphere and those firing at the surface at close range. The combined efforts of reinforcements from the First Fleet and the planetary systems were able to destroy a large majority of the attacking fighters and those still descending on the planet. And with only two-dozen fighters left over, the Breen forces swiftly retreated.

But they wrought heavy destruction on Earth never before seen since the last of three World Wars.
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Old March 30 2012, 07:36 PM   #2
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Raising the Stakes"

Chapter One

“A cane?”

The Emergency Medical Hologram Mark III was rather nonplussed while he held a metal cane with a circular rubber tip with rectangular plastic handle. He continued inspecting the cane from top to bottom and left to right, both showing interest in its mundane features and feigning excitement at received such a strange gift from Aurellan Markalis.

“I found it in the replicator database,” she explained with a nervous smile, hoping to fill an awkward silence. She looked up the holographic representation of a human male, who stood at a little less than a foot taller than her, and saw that his enthusiasm did not seem very genuine. “I thought this one best suited you.”

“I know how resourceful Starfleet-issue pattern replication devices are,” the hologram retorted. He walked from the entryway from Aurellan’s office to the sickbay’s to primary monitoring console. He tested out the cane as he walked, holding it with his right hand even though the limp was in his left leg. “But why would you think I needed a cane?” he asked, heading back to the office doorway. “My limp is the result of an optronic error the ship’s engineers can’t be bothered to fix, not any deficits in mobility.”

“That aside, a cane adds an air of… distinction,” Aurellan flatly attempted. “I’ve been helping you fit in better with the crew, and this is one more way I wanted to do that… And you need to hold it with your left hand to take pressure off the left leg.”

“That’s good to know,” the EMH replied, strutting towards the secondary biobeds with the cane in his left hand this time, “even though you still proceed from a false assumption that it’s needed to improve my mobility. But I accept your gift in the spirit in which it was given.”

“Doctor Markalis,” Ronnie Kozar called over the comm-system, “report to the observation lounge. Staff briefing.”

“On my way, sir,” Markalis said with a tap of her combadge. Then to the EMH, she rhetorically asked, “You’ll hold down the fort?”

“You needn’t ask since I always do,” the EMH answered, seeing Aurellan off with an antiquated military salute.

###

Shinar sh'Aqba fell back hard on the floor of the living area of her quarters, naked and breathing heavily. She felt itches across her body, resulting from the fabric of the carpet rubbing against bare skin. Erhlich Tarlazzi rolled over, lying on his back next to her. He smiled deviously. Sh'Aqba, however, stared at the door. They were behind a coffee table, though that did not alleviate the anxiety of knowing that someone could walk in on them at any moment. The door was locked, but any security or medical officer could override the lock with the proper authorization.

"Well, I'm on duty," sh'Aqba announced, quickly standing up to gather up the clothes she had shed a few minutes earlier.

Tarlazzi sat up slowly. As he was gathering his clothing, he took several quick glimpses at the Andorian woman's fully nude body. It was a sight both fascinating and disturbing at the same time. While sh'Aqba had most of the physical characteristics of a humanoid woman, she was not entirely female in the anatomical sense. He always knew that the Andorian species had four sexes, but never understood what that meant until now.

Sh'Aqba had slipped on a black undergarment that went down to her upper abdomen when she heard the door chime. She ignored it and continued gathering up her uniform, and the doorbell chimed a second time. “Do not unlock that door yet,” she snapped, wagging her right forefinger at the entrance and fumbling her trousers around with the other hand.

Upon fastening her trousers, she coaxed a still shirtless Tarlazzi into the bedroom. He flailed the two articles of clothing, a light gray tank top in one hand and a gold uniform tunic in the other, in expression of confusion of where Shinar was escorting him.

“Just stay in the closet while I get rid of them,” she told him, tapping the door panel to the right of the closet door. The doors parted and Shinar firmly nudged Ehrlich into the closet. He remained tongue-tied while obliging with her request.

On her way back to the living area, Shinar hurriedly slid her arms into the sleeves of her gold tunic, zipped it halfway up, and threw on her black and gray jacket. “Come in,” she called as she made a few adjustments to her hair. But then she realized the door was still locked, and entered the lock code on a panel next to the door.

Ronnie Kozar stepped through the door with a look of confusion on his face at how disheveled Shinar still appeared. “I’m sorry,” she stuttered nervously as she adjusted the cuffs on her uniform. “I overslept a bit and I have quite a hectic day today.”

“You’ve been doing that a lot lately,” Kozar replied skeptically. “You didn’t answer my page, and the captain called a meeting of the senior staff.”

“Well, like I said,” sh’Aqba reiterated, hoping that Kozar would leave, so that she would be able sneak her visitor out of her cabin. “a hectic day ahead of me.”

“Well, I’ll let you fix yourself up a little more,” Kozar replied, as if he knew something else was going on. “But hurry it up, since the meeting starts in five minutes.”

He was about to leave when he heard a crash inside Shinar’s quarters. Ronnie poked his head inside, while Shinar just tried act as if she didn’t hear it. “Is someone else in there with you?” he asked.

Before Shinar could answer, Erhlich burst out of the closet with his uniform jacket halfway on and his gold tunic zipped just below the collar. “Pardon me, sir,” he said with an embarrassed nod in Kozar’s direction. Then to Shinar while indicating nothing in particular inside the closet, he said, “I’ll just pick that stuff up later.”

“I didn’t see anything,” Kozar assured sh’Aqba. Remembering having to referee a dispute between her and Tarlazzi a year earlier, he joked, "At least you’re accepting Tarlazzi as one of the crew. I’ll see you both in the briefing lounge."

Sh’Aqba was not amused. She sighed derisively, as she nudged Tarlazzi out of her cabin. “You go on ahead of me,” she whispered. “I’ll catch up.” She shooed both men away and quickly closed the door, relieved that the situation did not become any more embarrassing. It was bad enough that she had forsaken her marital vows to her three bondmates by having a frivolous sexual liaison with a Klingon officer. When she declared she had no intention of marrying him either, she was declared an undesirable in the Klingon Empire. Figuring then that she had nothing more to lose, she gave in to her feelings for Tarlazzi. But that was a relationship she wanted to keep secret from the rest of the crew since not everyone would feel a romance with her immediate subordinate was appropriate.

###

Kozar entered the briefing lounge from the bridge, shaking his head in annoyance that both sh’Aqba and Tarlazzi were still conspicuously absent. But his derisive expression quickly became an approving nod when he saw Markalis step in through the side door and on time as usual. She took a seat at the end of the side of the table opposite the bridge entrance without making eye contact with any of the other officers in the room.

Mandel Morrison was already seated on that side of the table, suspiciously eyeing Sara Carson and Lisa Neeley, who were seated next to each other on the opposite side, certain that his most recent ex-girlfriends had exchanged disparaging secrets about him. Rarely were those two ever at staff briefings to date, but to Kozar’s surprise, Commander Chaz Logan was seated across from Morrison. As chief engineer of the entire Seventh Fleet, Logan was on a different ship each week, rather than just on the Lambda Paz where he was formerly the chief engineer. It just so happened that Logan on the Lambda Paz when Captain Limis Vircona called this meeting.

Just as Kozar took a seat at the head of the table facing the forward the viewport, Limis stepped into the briefing room from the bridge. She was working a padd when she noticed sh’Aqba enter from the side entrance.

“Nice of you to join us, Lieutenant,” Limis half-sarcastically remarked to express her displeasure with the engineer’s tardiness. As captain, though, Limis was entitled, especially after coming out of a prolonged communiqué with Starfleet Command.

A few seconds later, Tarlazzi stepped into briefing room from the side entrance. “Same to you, Tarlazzi,” Limis said with a stern stare at both him and sh’Aqba, indicating to them that she was not at all fooled by their arrivals through different doors. She slowly sauntered over to the head of the table closest to the viewport and gently set down the padd. Everyone else in the briefing could sense at that moment that the captain had some very disturbing news.

Limis stared silently at each of the officers present. And with each passing second, Kozar got the sense that she wanted to put off delivering that disturbing news as long as possible. “There’s been an attack on Earth,” she somberly announced to the group.

With a sudden slip, Kozar's arms dislodged from the table. His mind went numb as he jumped to the worst conclusions, indeed it seemed the worst had happened. He was not the only one looking stunned, many of his fellow officers showed similar expressions, uncertain how to process this information.

“The Breen razed several major cities,” Limis continued through the morbid silence that filled the room, “including San Francisco. The First and Third Fleets were able to destroy almost all of the attacking ships only after major damage had been done. What’s left of Headquarters reports at least two million dead.”

“Are they in league with the Dominion now?” Kozar wondered, dreading the answer to that question.

“Intelligence has documented instances of the Dominion commissioning the Breen for various hit and run attacks,” Limis clarified. “The attack on the Free Haven colony on Stardate 49903, for example. But an attack of this scope is the first indication of a formal alliance.

“As a result of this attack, a large number of ships from the Seventh, Tenth, and Twelfth Fleets are being redeployed to defend core systems. We need to be prepared for our new assignment, wherever it is. Mister Morrison, I want full diagnostics on all weapons and defensive systems. Lieutenant Neeley, coordinate with Morrison conducting a complete inventory of all weapons. How many battle drills are currently scheduled?”

Neeley diverted her reluctant gaze away from Morrison, who was resisting the urge to flash a teasing grin in her direction as a reminder that they still had to work closely together during such a somber moment. “We currently run two every other day,” she said while quietly gritting her teeth in Morrison’s direction.

“As of now, those drills are now three times every day,” Limis firmly replied. She remained calm and collected while terrified that the Breen could just as easily target Bajor after she promised her son he would be safe there. “Lieutenant sh’Aqba, see that warp and impulse engines are operating at peak efficiency. Tarlazzi, do a complete recrystallization of all dilithium reserves along with diagnostics on all matter-antimatter regulators. Carson, pull all the personnel you can spare to work out the problems with the gyros stabilizers and inertial compensators. Doctor Markalis, make sure all medical stores are at full capacity.”

Each officer quietly nodded upon receiving his or her orders, still not sure of the long-term consequences of this latest development in the war. Kozar kept his head up to maintain a sense of assuredness around his subordinate officers. As he took quick glances at each of them, he considered how the attack on Earth affected each of them personally, even the non-human officers.

Sh’Aqba had an expression of dread on her face, wondering whether this attack on Earth was only the first of future attacks on that planet and other core worlds such as Andor.

Tarlazzi was just as concerned his home planet Rigel Seven was similarly vulnerable.

Morrison had attended Starfleet Academy on Earth, and while having grown up on Setlik Three, he certainly had friends residing or serving on Earth.

Carson and Neeley both had immediate family on Earth, and they exchanged worried looks regarding the welfare and safety of their relatives.

In addition to family, Logan had a number of long-time colleagues at Utopia Planitia who might have been casualties of the attack.

Markalis’s demeanor appeared as calm and fearless as it almost always did, even though the welfare of her relatives most certainly came to mind.

“And, Mister Logan,” Limis concluded with a hesitant sigh. “You’re the expert on Luna-class starships. I specifically asked for you in this meeting to tell you to make sure every system is in working order. I do not want any surprises on the field of battle…”

A comm chime then sounded, interrupting Limis. “Bridge to the captain,” said a male voice. “Another urgent message from Starfleet Command on a secure channel.”

“I’ll take it in the ready room,” Limis replied with an annoyed scoff. Without dismissing the other officers, she strutted out of the briefing room, leaving them to silently consider their tasks ahead.

###
Yelgrun entered the private chamber of Thot Jroln while still fidgeting with his breathing apparatus. In all of his previous negotiations, or rather those of his preceding three clones, the Breen representatives were the ones who dressed to accommodate themselves in alien atmospheres. This would probably be the first time one of the Vorta, or any representative of the Dominion, would see what a Breen looked like without its refrigeration suit.

Various gases billowed throughout the chamber. While deadly to almost any humanoid race, they were vital to a Breen’s survival. Yelgrun had heard conflicting second and third hand reports that the Breen Confederacy was comprised of multiple sentient species of varying biological and physiological makeups. He thought their stubborn refusal to reveal themselves was annoying. But now, he was forced to put on a breathing apparatus and a thermal jacket, both of which felt very tight fitting.

“You summoned me, Thot Jroln,” the Vorta said, trying to maintain his diplomatic calmness while beginning to wonder if anyone else was even in the room. “Wherever you are,” he muttered half-sarcastically.

A humanoid-sized insectoid figure emerged from the billowing gases. Like most insects originating from Class-M worlds, it had bulging eyes and a long mandible jutting from its mouth. It had the intimidating face of a mantis and the compound eyes of a fly. Its mandible was curved like a beetle and sharp on the inner portions like a bull ant. Its arms resembled lobster appendages, but with the flexibility of a lifeform with no skeletal structure. In addition to breathing, the chemical composition of the gases served the purpose of allowing this species of Breen to stand upright without the refrigeration suits. Other than the refrigeration suits, the Breen, or this species of Breen, did not see much practical benefit in wearing exterior drapings.

“Much apologies, Yel-Gron,” Jroln said through a translator that could not fully keep up with its hisses and clicks. It was a disconcerting sensation for Yelgrun, but he tolerated it since it was the best means communication at the moment. “Outsiders, we regularly do not reveal ourselves. But your Do-minni-un, great promises for us and all species of Breen. Attack on hoo-mun planet, successful. Most of our ships lost, many great soldiers dead. But much damage done. Fear of more attacks on their planet great.”

“Very good,” Yelgrun replied to nod. “The Founder will be pleased to hear it. We could use some good news the way the war has been going lately. How long before the rest of your ships reach this sector?”

“Fresh ships, arrive here in ten of your hours,” Jroln responded. “Enemy attacks in Betreka Nebula and Briar Patch repelled soon.”

“Keep me posted until those ships arrive.” Yelgrun nodded and slowly headed back towards the main entrance, hoping to remove the mask from his face before it completely cut off circulation to his brain.

“One more request,” Jroln hissed, eliciting an impatient sigh from the Vorta. “My appearance, you will not reveal to Car-dassi-yons, Sindareen, or Son’ah.”

“Of course not,” Yelgrun huffed, wondering what exactly they were hiding. “They have no need to know as long your people get the job done.”

“Assurances, you have, Yel-Gron. Go now.”

“Thank you,” Yelgrun calmly said, as he reminded himself on the way out that the Thot’s rudeness was not intentional, but simply the result of a radically different language structure.
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Old March 30 2012, 07:40 PM   #3
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Raising the Stakes"

Chapter Two

Limis was in contact with Admiral Arthur Bellamy on Starbase 19. While she had crossed paths with him before when she had accidentally slipped into an alternate universe, this communiqué marked the first time she had come face-to-face with the Bellamy of this universe. He was a human male of between sixty and seventy Earth years. The skin on his cheeks and around his lips were slightly parched as an indication of advanced age, but his hair remained a solid dark blond with graying follicles around his temples.

“Based on forensic investigation of our destroyed ships and what we were able to retrieve from salvaged flight recorders,” the admiral explained, “we can hypothesize that the Breen used some kind of energy dissipaters. That explains how they were able to take out and destroy our most advanced ships so quickly. Their new heavy cruisers, on the other hand, appear just as vulnerable to our weapons.”

“Not that it does a lot of good if they can still take our ships out in one or two shots,” Limis retorted while taking a few sips of iced raktajino.

“That’s why we’re transmitting shield nutation specifications employed in recent confrontations with the Borg,” Bellamy continued. He tapped various buttons on the keypad on his desk to encode and transmit various sets of delicate files. “I’m transmitting the access codes on that data. Make sure your system keeps up as I’m re-encoding the frequency every five seconds.”

“Right,” Limis replied, entering various communications algorithms on her desk monitor.

“It’s far from a quick fix, Captain, but it’s all we have for now. The files I’m transmitting also contain new mission orders.”

Limis’s eyebrows perked when she one particular set of information appeared on a readout in the bottom right corner of the screen. “Minos,” she said. “That planet has been under quarantine for eleven years. No one but Federation archeological teams go there. And the Lorenze Cluster is on the other side of the sector.”

“You are correct,” Bellamy affirmed. “But that planet contains leftover weapons systems that destroyed one Federation vessel and nearly destroyed a second. That is why Commander Logan was assigned to your ship at the very last minute. He was aboard the Enterprise-D when it was sent to investigate the disappearance of the USS Drake on Stardate 41798.”

“So I am to take the Lambda Paz and try to master these leftover defense systems?” Limis asked in order to make sure she understood the orders precisely, and to hide her own reservations about this mission that seemed to have little chance of success if she understood the details of Starfleet’s last visit to Minos.

“Exactly. But before you do, you are to set a course for a set of coordinates to take aboard a mission specialist. I can say no more on this channel. The full details are in the briefing packet. Starfleet out.”

The image of the admiral was then quickly replaced by the United Federation of Planets seal. Limis leaned back in her chair sighed while taking a big gulp from her coffee mug. She stared blankly at her desk monitor hoping for a few silent moments before carrying out Starfleet’s latest mission.

###

Captain’s log, Stardate 52827.9: According to Starfleet’s latest casualty reports, nine million are reported dead as a result of the Breen attack on Earth. In the meantime, the Lambda Paz has made a rendezvous with Starship Zhukov to take aboard a mission specialist—a former colleague of Commander Logan’s.

Geordi LaForge, chief engineer of the Enterprise-E and her immediate predecessor materialized on a transporter pad. Logan was in the transporter room awaiting his arrival. They weren’t exactly the best of friends when they served on the Enterprise-D when Logan was the chief engineer and LaForge was the senior flight controller. In fact, they had butted heads during that ship’s mission to Minos where LaForge was thrust into command. Logan had objected to that arrangement, citing his greater rank. After the crisis was resolved when LaForge pulled off a daring plan to destroy an orbital weapon threatening the ship, Logan had a newfound respect for him.

“Commander Logan,” LaForge said while maintaining a professional demeanor. “Good to see you again.”

“Welcome aboard, Mister LaForge,” Logan replied with a similar expression. He put out his hand, and Geordi obligingly shook it. “The captain’s in the briefing room,” he added, indicating the transporter room’s main entrance with his left hand.

“I never thought I’d be headed back to Minos under these circumstances,” LaForge remarked while walking out into the corridor ahead of Logan.

“Neither did I,” Logan replied, sauntering out behind LaForge. “I underestimated you during that mission. You made the hard choices I wouldn’t have been able to make. Abandoning your colleagues on a dangerous planet to safeguard the lives of the rest of your shipmates may sometimes be the best choice in theory. But not everyone can bring themselves to do that when the time comes to make that decision. That’s when I realized I was better suited serving on starship construction crews. Looks like recommending you for the chief engineer position was the right move.” With a grin, Logan indicated the pips on LaForge’s collar that were those of a lieutenant commander compared to a lieutenant junior grade eleven years earlier.

“Thank you, sir,” Geordi answered with a wider grin. “And you’ve built here what Commander Riker would call a ‘tough little ship’.”

“To call this ship tough wouldn’t do her justice,” said Logan while he noticed the turbolift doors ahead opening.

“How long would she last in battle with the Son’a in the Briar Patch?” LaForge wondered, recalling a confrontation on the Enterprise-E earlier the year.

“We took on the Jem’Hadar in the Briar Patch,” Logan retorted, following his former colleague into the lift.

***

“And Worf is still serving on Deep Space Nine,” Geordi was saying as he stepped off the turbolift and sauntered down the corridor towards the briefing room. “We, that is the Enterprise, were in the neighborhood when he was with the Manzar relief mission. He’s his usual jovial self.”

Logan was the first to step into the briefing room, seeing Limis sitting at the head of the table nearest the viewports. “Captain Limis Vircona,” he said. “Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge of the Starship Enterprise.”

Limis stood up and circled around the table. LaForge met her halfway and shook her hand. “1701-D and E, ma’am,” he added. “A pleasure to meet you, Captain.”

“Likewise,” said Limis. “It’s always an honor to be in the presence of one of Starfleet’s finest.” She pulled up two chairs along the left side of the table, inviting the two men to sit. LaForge took a seat immediately to the captain’s left, while Logan sat in the chair behind. Limis returned to her seat and picked up a padd she had been studying prior to their arrival.

“I reviewed the reports from your 2364 trip to Minos,” she continued, glancing off the padd. “One thing I don’t understand is how the weapon in orbit was still threatening the ship after Captain Picard had convinced the holographic salesman to end the ‘demonstration’.”

“Experts all over the Federation have analyzed the sensor telemetry exhaustively,” Geordi explained. “And it wasn’t much with mostly passive scans. As near as we can figure, it was an automatic defense system left behind after the Erselrope Wars that operated independently of the demo drones threatening our people planet-side.”

“And based on the fact that civilian ships haven’t run into the same orbital defense system,” Logan added, “the working hypothesis is that something on the surface or in orbit scans any ships that get within, say ten thousand kilometers of the surface. And then it calibrates the defense system to that ship’s armaments and defenses.”

“That’s one reason the image of Captain Paul Rice wanted to know to about the Enterprise’s arsenal,” Geordi offered, recalling his own experiences during that mission. “What we’re hoping to do is to trigger whatever makes this thing tick and try and track it back to its source.”

Limis smirked while considering the stakes of this upcoming mission and chances of success. “Another possible suicide mission with little or no chance of success,” she remarked, “but worth the effort considering we’re now up against the Breen. I’m definitely in. It’s quite a chore when the flagship of the Federation couldn’t find the source of the planet’s orbital defenses.”

“That’s because our top priority then was to learn the fate of the Drake and locate any survivors,” Logan replied. “This time, we’ll probably have a better idea of what to look for.”

“And I’ll be there to think us out of a no-win scenario, should we run into one,” Limis quipped. “Looking forward to it.”
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Old March 30 2012, 07:51 PM   #4
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Raising the Stakes"

Chapter Two (continued)

Phase one,” LaForge explained of the mission, “will involve the Lambda Paz entering a close orbit of Minos and beginning massive sensor sweeps for any central computer system and surrounding cloaking fields. With most automatic defense systems, active scans may trigger this one faster than the Enterprise was able to.”

“Approaching Minos, Captain,” Sara Carson reported from the helm.

Limis sat in the command chair, quietly tapping both arms with her fingers while staring pensively at Kozar to her left. “Put us in close geostationary orbit, Lieutenant,” she commanded.

“Aye, sir.”

“Now the waiting begins,” Limis remarked to an equally pensive Kozar.

“We’re being hailed from the surface,” Morrison reported when his communications board chimed.

“Ignore it,” Limis barked, already familiar with the hail the Enterprise had received upon entering orbit of Minos. “He’s just your usual pitchman trying to sell us crap we don’t need.” But of course, something they needed was on the planet. The automated recording that hailed the Enterprise, what was once known on Earth as an infomercial, was just another of a universal phenomenon in most humanoid societies. The Ferengi, these days, were adept at selling merchandise whether prospective buyers needed it or not.

“Or in this case, doesn’t exist anymore,” Kozar jokingly added.

***

Once the automatic defense system is triggered,” Logan added during the mission briefing, “we’ll focus our scans on any automated transmissions and surface based computer generators.”

“Perimeter alert,” said Morrison. “Shields just came on.”

“Beginning scans,” Ops officer Lieutenant Willis Huckaby added.

“Object is firing,” Morrison snapped.

A green laser bolt hit the port saucer section of the Lambda Paz, as well as the dorsal sensor pod. The bridge rocked back and forth, but not hard enough for any personnel to be thrown to the floor.

Limis tightly gripped the arms of her chair. She called up a tactical display of the attack on the control panel to her right. “Take evasive action, helm,” she ordered.

“Pattern alpha-seven-six initiated,” Carson replied.

“Forward shields at ninety percent,” Morrison added, “aft shields stable.”

“Hard to port,” Limis responded as the bridge continued to rock back and forth, “fire all phasers.”

The ship arched to port and fired both the forward dorsal and ventral phasers from the saucer section. Phaser bursts also erupted from strips on both sides of the upper sensor pod and from both nacelle pylons. One of those phaser bursts was able to clip the attacking drone, illuminating the otherwise invisible weapon. As far as anyone on the bridge could tell though, no damage was done.

“Anything yet?” Limis asked of Logan and LaForge.

Logan was lending Huckaby a hand at ops while LaForge was at the port mission ops station. “Nothing yet,” Logan responded. To LaForge, he added, “Increase resolution on pallet F-nineteen-gamma.”

“In the meantime, Mister Huckaby,” Kozar chimed in, looking up from his tactical display, “divert as much emergency power to forward shields.”

“Done,” Huckaby said after keying a set of power transfer sequence. “Forward back up to eighty-four percent.”

Limis kept her focus on her own tactical display, trying to triangulate the position of the drone based on the firing pattern. “Prepare another spread of phasers and lock quantum torpedoes,” she said with a glance at Morrison, “dispersal pattern sierra.”

Phasers and quantum torpedoes erupted from all weapon emitters. The phasers from every emitter were in concentrated bursts, while the torpedoes spread in various locations and they still missed the target.

"We may have something, Captain,” LaForge reported, “at forty-point-six-five degrees south latitude by twenty-six point four five degrees west longitude.”

“Helm,” Limis ordered, keying the coordinates into her control panel, “set a course for those coordinates and put us in standard orbit.”

The ship arched downward and to port towards the specified coordinates, able to dodge the laser bolts from the orbital defense system. It descended further south while maintaining the same orbital plane, and then holding position very close to the southern polar region.

“Anything new, gentlemen?” Limis asked while pacing towards the port mission ops station.

“We’re working on it,” Logan flatly assured her, keeping his gaze on his console.

“We just need to recalibrate the forward ventral sensors,” La Forge added, just before the missions ops console chirped. “We’re picking up high concentrations of tachyons and anti-protons. This could be our generator.”

“We’ll need to conduct more detailed scans in order to…” Logan started to say when the bridge rocked, and this time hard enough for a few officers to be knocked off their feet.

“They’re coming in harder now,” Morrison called out as if that wasn’t already obvious by now. “Number two shield at half power. Number four shield nearing failure.”

“Keep firing,” Kozar suggested. “Maybe eventually we’ll hit something.”

“Two port ventral auxiliary circuits are fried,” said Huckaby as the ship continued taking a beating. “Attempting to compensate.”

Sparks erupted from the floor and ceiling. Auxiliary consoles on both the port and starboard sides of the bridge, sending two officers to the deck.

Carson had to grip her console tightly to prevent herself from hitting her head on it when the bridge rocked once more. “Orbital thrusters one and two are failing,” she shouted over all the commotion.

“Helm, back us off,” Limis replied as she seated herself back in the command chair.

“I’ll try,” Carson replied, not sure she could carry out the order, “ but…”

“Try harder then,” Limis insisted. “And set a course of the system; speed: warp two.”

The Lambda Paz moved backwards away from the planet in a zigzagging motion to dodge the drone’s weapons fire. Once safely away from the pattern of fire, it swung around to face away from the planet and streaked into warp.

Kozar rose from his chair and headed for the tactical station once the ship was at warp. “Any signs of pursuit?” he inquired.

“No, sir,” Morrison assuredly replied.

“Of course not,” Kozar sarcastically scoffed. “But we can never be too careful. Captain, a word in private?”

“Carson, set a course seven-six mark one-nine-eight,” Limis commanded, while rising from the command chair. “Then hold position a hundred thousand kilometers from the system’s Oort cloud.”

“Aye, sir,” Carson replied.

Limis then turned her gaze at Kozar and paced towards the ready room.

***

The captain and first officer entered the ready room. Kozar took a quick glance at the door to make sure they had closed all the way before saying his piece. “Captain, forgive my candor,” he said plainly, “but what the hell is Starfleet thinking sending us on this fool’s errand?”

Limis rolled her eyes. For a protocol stickler, Kozar had forgotten to request permission before taking on such a confrontational stance. Or perhaps this was one of those times where asking forgiveness was easier than asking permission. “Permission to speak candidly granted, Number One,” she retorted. She circled around the desk and began gathering up some padds, adding, “And when you put it that way, are sending expeditions deep into enemy territory to take out ketracel-white plants and breeding facilities fool’s errands? Was smuggling myself aboard Sentok Nor a fool’s errand? I was faced with even slimmer odds in the Maquis. You were in the Federation-Cardassian war, so you should know when to take big risks like this one with the understanding any action is better than none at all.”

Kozar took a few paces closer to the desk. “In this case, though,” he persisted, “we’re talking about getting our hands on a weapon system that even the flagship of the Federation couldn’t shoot back at and that we weren’t able to shoot back at just now.”

“And that is why being able to use one of the most adaptive automated weapon systems in the quadrant against the Breen would give us a huge advantage. And fortunately, someone in my position doesn’t have to worry about the long-term ramifications.”

“Of course,” Kozar relented. “We’ll leave the rest for the politicians and the diplomats to sort out.”

Limis smirked, pleased at how quickly Kozar was swayed by her argument. On many previous occasions, Kozar would force the issue and Limis would have to unceremoniously dismiss him from her office. “For now,” she agreed with a nod. “In the more immediate future, I, Mister Logan, and Lieutenant Commander LaForge will be taking the captain’s yacht back to Minos. You’re to hold position here until one of us sends out a coded signal. I’ll also be taking a team of Marines along, as well as Ensign Sullivan to pilot the vessel.”

“With respect, Captain,” Kozar replied, having noted Limis’s preferences for her friend Rebecca to accompany these kinds of missions, “Mister Tarlazzi could use her expertise in dilithium recrystallization if he’s to carry out your assignment for him.”

“Then assign another available on-duty shuttle pilot,” Limis offered while concentrating on stowing away a stack of padds in a small Starfleet issue briefcase.

“Sir, I shouldn’t have to remind you that Sullivan is not the only decent pilot,” Kozar added. But then he froze when he saw a look of confusion on the captain’s face. “Sorry, I didn’t expect you to surrender that quickly.”

Limis closed the briefcase and latched it. “As captain, I need to practice what I preach once in a while. I shouldn’t be letting personal relationships cloud my good judgment. And that’s something I need you to handle while I’m gone. We’ve had a few officers getting too caught up in one-night stands. Straighten it out. And make it even more clear to all department heads that if they and their crews cannot report to work on time, the captain and first officer will find officers who can.”

“Aye, sir.”

Limis made a quick beeline for the ready room’s side door with the briefcase in tow. “Good,” she said with blank nod in Kozar’s direction. “And I trust you’ll all have plenty to do while I’m gone.”

###

In the ship’s main armory, Morrison was delegating the distribution of phaser rifles and other arms to the team of Marines accompanying the captain’s mission. He and Neeley both went out of their way to avoid making eye contact with each other while they gathered up stun grenades and placed them in equipment belts.

Occasionally, Morrison would shoot a few teasing grins in her direction as a reminder that they still had to work together. In response, Lisa would smirk and snort derisively. They had made a point to keep their non-romantic partnership sexual liaisons a secret, but anyone else in the room could tell they had a bad breakup. Lisa sensed that Mandel wanted a romantic partnership, making her rethink their arrangement. She more or less made herself clear when Mandel walked in on her while she was a lurid embrace with her second-in-command, Sam Bowers.

“Sure you guys don’t want me on this little adventure?” Morrison teased as he handed a human male soldier an equipment belt.

Neeley was in the process of helping a Caitian female secure her belt. She marched over to a rack that housed neural truncheons without even looking in Morrison’s direction. “This ship needs its chief of security to oversee battle drills and make sure all armaments are up to snuff,” she replied without looking at him.

‘It’? That’s a little impersonal,” he quipped. “Don’t you mean ‘her’ chief of security?”

Neeley shook her head while letting a closed-lipped growl, in no way amused by his pretext for employing a double entendre. “Don’t be a shithead, Morrison. I’m not in the mood,” she snarled. “You know very well I can handle myself and my troops. Meanwhile, I need you and Bowers to oversee the drills.”

“You ‘need’ me?” Morrison teased. “As well as your new boyfriend?”

Neeley handed off truncheons to two soldiers, resisting the urge to use a third truncheon on Morrison. She grabbed him by the wrist, resisting multiple urges to deck him, and coaxed him behind a stack of cargo containers tall enough to conceal both of them.

“You could not function within the established parameters of our partnership,” she said with a hissing whisper. “He can. Now, for the love of whatever creator you may or may not worship, act like this ship’s chief tactical and security officer and not some horny adolescent.”

“You’re presuming to order me around?”

“I’m about to commit a more serious breach of regs. And I don’t want to have to damage that pretty face of yours.

Morrison grinned devilishly while raising his hands in surrender. “Understood,” he relented, backing off from her.

###

“Captain’s yacht is ready for departure,” said male voice on comm with the bridge.

“Acknowledged,” Kozar replied. “Clear all moorings, Mister Huckaby.”

“All moorings cleared,” said the pilot.

The yacht detached itself from the ventral of the primary hull and descended straight down. The two nacelles’ pylons arched downwards and jutted further outward from the vessel. Once both warp nacelles lit up, the yacht sped away at full impulse.
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Old April 2 2012, 09:10 PM   #5
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Raising the Stakes"

Chapter Three

Rebecca Sullivan stood at a console, overseeing the progress of all the reserve theta-matrix compositors. Those devices were the sophisticated means of recrystallizing dilithium to date. While the technology to recrystallize dilithium still contained within the articulation framework had been greatly perfected, protocols called for a full supply of reserve dilithium with separate theta matrix compositors.

Tarlazzi was standing right behind her while reviewing a padd that a Ktarian female petty officer had handed him. He had remained calm and professional right up until sh’Aqba had entered the room. His cheeks flushed and his attention wavered as he watched the Andorian woman taking quick glances at officers and crewpersons working consoles that controlled the recrystallization apparatuses.

“Sir?” the dark-haired Ktarian woman asked Tarlazzi.

Tarlazzi returned his attention to the padd and cleared his throat. “Looks like these phase matrices are in working order, Crewman,” he said with partially forced inflection. “Continue with the regular maintenance.”

“Crewman?” the Ktarian repeated, pointing to the rank insignia on her collar. “I’m petty officer Stollerramn.”

“Sorry, Miss Stollerramn,” Tarlazzi stuttered. “Everything is on schedule. Keep it up.”

Rebecca held in a giggle while still consulting the readings on her console. She snuck a glance at Stollerramn trying her hardest to hold in her annoyance at Tarlazzi’s pre-rehearsed responses until she had left the room. Tarlazzi was about to consult Rebecca when sh’Aqba nervously approached him. Rebecca kept her focus on her work, while appearing actively interested in the pending awkwardness between the two lieutenants.

“How are those diagnostics on the matter-antimatter regulators coming?” Shinar asked, struggling to maintain a professional tone.

“So far, so good,” Erhlich replied just as flatly. “We’ll be moving on to regulators twelve-J and thirteen-J. Barring any unexpected complications, everything should be finished by gamma shift.”

“Good,” Shinar hurriedly replied. Raising her voice to address the rest of the crew working there, she added, “Carry on, everyone.”

Rebecca shook her head in amusement while looking at her console. Once Shinar had left the room, Rebecca looked Erhlich straight in the face. “No need for the usual courtesy responses, Tarlazzi,” she teased. “It’s obvious you’re sleeping with her.”

Tarlazzi looked around making sure no one else heard that. “Keep your voice down,” he quietly hissed.

“I heard you guys were both late to the morning staff meeting and the captain wasn’t at all fooled by the come in through different doors trick,” Rebecca calmly assured him. She quickly silenced herself when an officer passed and waited until he was no longer in close earshot. “True, the regs don’t prohibit a second-in-command from being involved with his or her CO. It’s just not a good idea. But isn’t she married or engaged to someone, or three someones, on Andor?”

“She said she didn’t want to go through with the bonding,” Tarlazzi explained, while still feeling a pang of guilt in his mind.

“I still shudder to think what would happen if you ran into one of the husbands,” Rebecca quipped. Then with an acerbic grin, making sure no one else in the immediate vicinity was actively overhearing, she added, “And I hear shens have both male and female sex organs.”

Tarlazzi sighed and shook his head, not amused by how that particular subject was broached. “I knew that going in,” he insisted. “Sort of.” Seeing that Rebecca still had a teasing grin on her face, he added, “It’s not the same thing as finding out a woman I slept with is really a man after the fact.”

“Whatever you say,” Rebecca shot back, acting unconvinced.

Not wanting to dignify that last jab with a response, he just looked away from her. “So any friends or relatives living on Earth?” he asked with gaze still diverted.

Where did that come from? Rebecca asked herself. But knowing of her friend’s desperation to change the subject, she chose to ignore the inappropriate context of that question. And since he knew her recent family history, she was not at all offended by the query.

“A few second and third cousins,” she said, almost indifferently. “But they don’t live in any of the places the Breen attacked.”

Tarlazzi was still very apologetic of having brought up such a sensitive subject, while also l relieved that it didn’t touch any nerves with anyone else in the room. Rebecca gave him a reassuring smile as he walked away to let her continue her work.

###

Aurellan Markalis sat at her desk, becoming increasingly bored as she stared at a medical journal that appeared on the monitor. She took a sip of warm tea while using the keypad to scroll down the screen display.

The monitor suddenly chirped, catching her attention. The word urgent was flashing in red letters. The moment of truth had arrived, and Aurellan would very shortly learn the fate of her mother and half-sister following the attack on Earth. She quickly and nervously opened up the message. To her immediate relief, neither Lorena nor Imogen Markalis were even on the planet at the time of the attack. She leaned back in her chair trying to curb the flood of mixed emotions.

She was completely oblivious to the approach of the EMH, even as he was setting a padd down on the edge of the desk. “Ma’am,” he timidly blurted. “You wanted to have a look Crewman Kelly’s test results.”

Aurellan jerked her head upward and leaned towards the desk as if startled. “Right, right,” she said, feeling slightly embarrassed. “I’ll look this over.” An awkward silence then followed. “Anything else?” she wondered.

“You seem distressed,” the EMH pointed out. “I’d offer you a hot beverage, but I see you already have one.”

Aurellan momentarily giggled and held her hand to her mouth. Rarely had anyone made her laugh, but an Emergency Medical Hologram, of all people, seemed like one of the few exceptions. Like the previous two versions, this one could often be snide, sarcastic, rude, and condescending. Working alongside the Mark III in the last seven months, Aurellan saw that he had a softer side. Perhaps the designers had mastered programming bedside manner into them. Social etiquette was still not one of his strong suits, but he had a knack for reading facial expressions and other non-verbal social cues. Perhaps that was why Aurellan thought of him as a “him” rather than as an “it”.

“More like relieved,” Aurellan replied. “My mum and sis weren’t even on Earth when the Breen attacked.”

“I see,” the EMH said with a nod. “Obviously, not everyone is so lucky.”

“True. It’s especially hard for me since I haven’t always gotten along with them.”

“So why would you be so concerned for them?”

Aurellan was utterly taken aback that even an EMH would ask such a crass question. She leaned forward, resting her hands and forearms on the desk. “I didn’t mean to imply that I would be indifferent about their welfare. They’re still my family. If one or both of them died, there would always be this regret that I didn’t try to bury the hatchet sooner.”

The holographic doctor squinted in confusion. “What hatchet?” he wondered.

“A colloquialism,” Aurellan explained with a grin. “It means putting aside the petty conflicts that drive people apart.”

“That’s one of the complex social interactions I haven’t quite mastered,” the EMH remarked, appearing a little embarrassed. “Probably because I technically don’t have a family.”

“You’re forgiven,” Aurellan retorted. She grinned, but the EMH’s expression remained blank. The right side of his lips did twitch, but his half-grin still looked more forced than Aurellan’s.

The discussion reached its natural conclusion, so the hologram walked into the primary ICU with a mostly rigid posture other than the limp. Aurellan noticed he still hadn’t yet mastered use of the cane. She never realized how abnormal her rigid posture was until she saw it from someone else. Her cheeks blushed as she turned back to reading the medical journal on her monitor.

She felt a measure of satisfaction of knowing someone who saw the universe through the eyes of an outside observer as much as she did. Or was it something more than satisfaction?
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Old April 2 2012, 09:19 PM   #6
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Raising the Stakes"

Chapter Three (continued)

“Approaching Minos.”

Ensign Dexter “Dex” Hall sat at the primary piloting station. He was a tall and youthful looking man with dark chestnut hair. His fare-skinned face was largely clean-shaven other than a pencil-thin goatee around his lips.

Limis sat at a secondary piloting station on Dex’s left, closely monitoring the vessel’s course and various sensor readings. “Project a parabolic course towards the coordinates where we found the generator while slowly moving us into a lower orbit than before,” she instructed. “I don’t want to get the drone’s attention too quickly.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Neeley, I want to know the instant that drone is in position to fire,” Limis added.

“Beginning scans of the surface,” Logan said from the operations station on the port side of the cockpit.

LaForge made some adjustments at the starboard tactical station and quickly paced over to operations, monitoring readings on a screen to Logan’s right. “Same readings as before,” he reported. “At a closer range, hopefully, we can get something more concrete.”

A painfully long silence filled the cockpit afterwards. Limis became more and more apprehensive with each passing minute at having to hear just intermittent beeps and chirps from the consoles. “Talk to me,” she demanded while staring at the stars. “Anything yet?

“Nothing indicating any kind of communications antennae or a fusion core from a stationary base at those coordinates,” Logan flatly replied. “No residual evidence subspace emissions or energy reactors. Just scattered concentrations of tachyons and anti-protons.”

LaForge paced back and forth from the ops console gathering his thoughts. He snapped his fingers when he had an idea. “We might be going about this the wrong way,” he suggested, sauntering back to the console. “Perhaps we can’t find what we’re looking for not because of a cloaking device, but something less sophisticated.

“Like a scattering field?” Logan asked.

“Yeah,” Geordi affirmed. “When concealing large structures as opposed to people, the generator can put out a lot of power. We’ll need to recalibrate the wave-guides.”

“Better make it quick,” Neeley chimed in. “Our weapon drone is closing in on us.”

“Put the shields up, standby all weapons,” Limis replied. She turned her attention back to her station, adding, “How long will those adjustments take, LaForge?”

“Just one more adjustment,” Geordi grudgingly promised. He walked over to tactical and keyed a command sequence.

A sensor readout quickly materialized on a screen Logan was observing. “There it is,” he said. “Possibly some kind of automated computer system. The power needed to keep it running for the last three hundred years must be massive.”

“Object is firing,” Neeley warned.

A laser bolt fired at the yacht from several different angles. The cockpit rocked hard, sending most of the occupants out of their seats. Dex and Limis grasped their consoles allowing them to stay in their seats. Limis arced her head back, checking on the welfare of the other three officers.

“Return fire,” the captain barked, once Neeley got back to her seat. “We know we can’t damage it, but we can at least divert its attention.”

The yacht fired phasers and more antiquated photon torpedoes. The result was the same. The weapons were not able to hit anything. But the weapons fire did allow the yacht to move closer to the atmosphere.

Neeley shook her head in disbelief, but then took another look at the tactical display to confirm what she had just seen. “I’m picking up a second projectile.”

“What?!” Limis exclaimed. “Did you encounter multiple weapon drones eleven years ago?” she rhetorically asked LaForge and Logan.

“No, it was just one,” Geordi confirmed.

“Port nacelle is hit,” Neeley grimly reported, “ditto for two of our impulse thrusters.”

“At the risk of stating the obvious,” Logan remarked, “this one brought a friend.”

“Make that two friends,” Neeley corrected. “…no three. All of them are coming at us from different vectors.”

Green lasers fired from both the port and starboard bows. Two fired from below, bow and stern, and inflicted major damage to both nacelles. Explosions and sparks flew all over the cockpit. A fire broke out on a rear display screen. Logan raced out of his seat and grabbed a fire extinguisher, applying it to the blaze.

“Keep moving us into a lower orbit, Mister Hall,” Limis commanded, ducking her head out of the way of falling shrapnel.

“I’ll do what I can with the circuits that haven’t yet been fried,” Dex responded, not certain he could stop the ship from burning up in the atmosphere. “We just lost another orbital thruster,” he added after another hit.

“Do whatever you can keep from going into a free-fall,” Limis insisted. “Logan, route whatever power you can to the lateral thrusters to keep our descent steady.”

The ship took a few more hits while Logan was feverishly working his console. “It’s no use,” he grunted, smacking one of the panels. “Hull temperature at two thousand degrees and increasing.”

Limis started to think the captain’s yachts attached to the Lambda Paz was cursed. The last one she took out was destroyed during a confrontation with the Dominion. Now this yacht was doomed. “Are transporters still functioning?” she inquired.

“Barely,” LaForge said with a slight hesitation. “I…”

“I’ll take it,” Limis interrupted. “At least we’ll be alive somewhere on the planet. Set it for emergency protocol six. Neeley, jettison the distress beacon.”

“I’ll try,” Neeley deadpanned, certain the beacon couldn’t be launched.

“That’s all I ask.”

“Ready for transport!” LaForge shouted over the explosions.

“Been here, done this before,” Neeley muttered.

“Energize!” the captain instructed.

LaForge dove over to the ops console and slammed his right forefinger on a button to activate the transporter. Immediately, the occupants of the cockpit, along with the rest of the yacht’s crew and emergency provisions beamed away.

***

Along an outcropping of lush foliage, Limis woke up sprawled on her back and feeling pain in her forehead, her neck and her legs. She struggled to arch herself up into a sitting position and looked around to see if any of her colleagues were around. The first person she saw was Logan lying face down. She slowly coaxed herself into a standing position, still feeling sharp pains up and down her body, but then scampered towards him.

Logan propped himself upward with Limis crouching over him. “I’m okay,” he insisted. He dusted off his uniform from the shoulders to the cuffs of his sleeves. Once standing upright, he saw a figure wearing a Starfleet uniform in the distance. “Geordi!” he called, running towards him.

LaForge was rolling in the muck trying to catch his bearings. He struggled slightly to lift himself upright with his hands while feeling waves of dizziness. “My ocular implants are causing havoc on my inner ears,” he groaned. “It’ll take a minute to get back my equilibrium. But I’m okay otherwise. What happened?”

“Looks like our sensor scrambler also scatters the transporters,” Logan surmised.

Limis tapped her combadge a few times, but only got whining static. “Limis to Lieutenant Neeley. Ensign Hall.” She continued futilely tapping her combadge, as did Logan and LaForge, but no response came from the communications devices.

“Something’s jamming them,” Logan grumbled. He removed the badge from his chest and fiddled with the internal circuitry.

The mechanical irises in LaForge’s eyes rotated slightly when they picked up some strange readings. “I’m seeing some strange EM activity,” he said. “Up ahead.”

A sleek metallic aerial weapon drone identical to ones the away teams from the Enterprise-D encountered appeared. It fired lethal bursts at the trio, sending them scrambling. Limis swiftly dove behind some weeds and poked her head back out to fire her phaser at the drone. The drone quickly formed a forcefield around itself, deflecting the phaser fire.

Logan and LaForge popped out from behind their hiding places and fired their phasers at the drone. It quickly evaded the phaser fire and moved in closer to the Starfleet team. Two more drones suddenly materialized from the left and right, firing lethal bursts. Each officer picked a target and fired. But the phasers were unable to penetrate the drones’ shields.

“That’s enough,” a distant voice called. The drones quickly moved in for the kill, and then suddenly stopped. Two Sindareen appeared from behind the foliage. They were largely humanoid in appearance with amphibian skin and cobra-like necks that inflated and deflated as they breathed. One was pointing a rifle from the Starfleet’s team’s right, while the other was holding a pistol and an uplink device. He pushed a button on the remote control device, making the drones disappear.

Three more Sindareen slowly emerged from behind the trees. Upon seeing that the Starfleet officers were surrounded, they quickly scampered towards them and took their phasers and combadges.

“Let’s go,” the lead Sindareen instructed, indicating a direction with his rifle.

***

The captured Starfleet officers were standing single file as they were led into a cave. Drops of water leaked in from what was left of a long dried up river. Living and dead weeds hung from the ceiling. In the center of the spacious cave was a large mechanical generator. Electrical energy pulsated down the large metallic device. A rectangular screen was at the eye level of everyone in the room, which contained a graphic representation of the planet.

“Mister LaForge,” Logan whispered, gritting his teeth.

“Yes, Commander,” LaForge quietly answered.

“Exactly why would we want to transport to the central generator when it was perfectly clear that someone got there before we did?”

“Those coordinates were already programmed into a lot of our scanners.”

“But wouldn’t you have thought of a safer place to land?” Limis suggested.

“You’re right, I goofed,” LaForge relented. “If it makes you feel better, though, no place on this planet is entirely safe from those weapons.”

One of the Sindareen guards sidled up to the trio, having just heard some of the conversation, and knocked LaForge off his feet. “No talking!” the intimidating alien sneered.

“Hey, hey,” LaForge gasped, helping himself back up. “Easy there, big fella.”

“Of course, if the Sindareen got here first,” Logan reminded his colleagues, “then odds are the Dominion is trying to get its hands on the merchandise.”

Limis rolled her eyes, not interested in that reminder at the moment. “You just had to find a cloud in the silver lining,” she huffed.

“Down on your knees, prisoners,” the lead guard instructed, indicating the ground with his rifle.

“Love to help out,” Logan retorted, “but I’ve got kind of this ACL thing…”

“On your knees!” one of the secondary guards repeated. He clasped both of Logan’s shoulders and forced him to the ground.

“Ow!” Logan yelped, which caught the attention three more guards. They each raised their rifles certain that expression of pain was a trick to try to escape. The second guard raised his hand, and the other three stood down.

Yet another Sindareen entered the room. This was one whom Limis immediately recognized. Her eyebrows twitched at the sight of Tor Vot, who had taken her captive almost a year earlier.

“Hello, Captain,” he said with a smug grin. “You didn’t think you’d see me again, did you?”

“I hadn’t given it much thought,” Limis quipped.

“You know this gentleman?” Logan rhetorically asked.

“Last time you and I crossed paths,” Limis continued, “you had the audacity to take on the Dominion. And that was after Gul Hadar fired you when you botched his plans to use my son to exact vengeance on me.”

“I didn’t ‘botch’ anything. You escaped somehow, probably using the same trick you used to beam onto my ship.”

He walked closer to Limis and squeezed her cheeks with his right hand. “I was promised riches that would have raised my people back up from ruin,” he snarled vengefully. “And the bounty on you was part of that deal. I only let you go so the Dominion would go after you instead of me. It had worked out for both us after I had realized the Dominion doesn’t care about helping us.”

“And your benefactor from the future does?” Limis sarcastically asked after he let go of her cheeks.

Tor Vot gave a sigh of regret as he continued recalling his last encounter with Limis. “It’s unfortunate you survived that confrontation,” he scoffed.

“Right now, the feeling’s mutual,” Limis shot back.

“And now you appear to have the same ideas that I do.”

Limis smiled with feigned amusement. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she confidently lied.

Tor Vot snickered at a prisoner’s usual attempt at subterfuge. “I doubt you and your entourage are here for… archeological research,” he said with a smirk. “You should know that scientists are always pawns of the military. It starts out as scientific study in the name of making the lives of a great many people easier. But then enter Starfleet, and an instrument for improving the species becomes a weapon of war. The Baku incident was just the most recent example of that.”

That last remark caught LaForge’s attention. He and his Enterprise-E crewmates had exposed a Starfleet conspiracy to forcibly relocate the inhabitants of a planet in the Briar Patch, which had been dubbed a fountain of youth.

“How very true,” Limis said despite not knowing what Tor Vot referring to. “But I was sent here to follow my superior’s instructions. I do not know the finer details of what they plan to do once my mission is complete.”

Tor Vot gestured to the two guards who were keeping an eye on Logan and LaForge. “Take them below,” he ordered them. Then to Limis, he said, “Seeing as you won’t be swayed by standard interrogation methods, Captain, maybe seeing your colleagues suffer should persuade you to tell me why you are here.”

The two men were led away and down a set carved stairs. Tor Vot then gestured for the three guards around Limis to move away, so that he could escort her to what she could only imagine would be a makeshift interrogation room. She could only comply with her captors’ instructions with all kinds of thoughts racing through her mind about what type of suffering the Sindareen would inflict on the other members of this failed mission.
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Old April 2 2012, 09:26 PM   #7
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Raising the Stakes"

Chapter Four

Yelgrun sat at a drab metallic table sorting through half a dozen different padds. Each of them contained reports from fleet commanders on the front lines, as well as new requests from Dominion-allied representatives—Cardassian, Breen, Son’a, Sindareen, and even a memo from the Orion Syndicate. He was organizing them in order he wanted to read them in when the desk monitor chirped.

“Incoming message on coded frequency one-one-six-two-eight infrared,” said a robotic-sounding masculine voice. “Do you wish to receive?”

“Yes,” Yelgrun deadpanned as he entered the proper authorization sequence on a keypad.

A Sindareen captain appeared on the screen. Yelgrun almost mistook him for a Son’a, who had similar scaly looking skin. The distinguishing feature, however, was the cobra-like neck and a forehead that widened the further up the cranium. “This is Meezun reporting in from star system L9-637,” he said. “Do you receive?”

“This is Yelgrun. What do you have to report, Captain Meezun?”

“Routine patrols from the system’s asteroid belt revealed a Starfleet vessel entered orbit of the fourth planet approximately thirteen hours ago.” He entered a sequence on his keypad, which allowed a graphic with a Starfleet delta and graphic representations of planets and other celestial bodies of varying sizes and shapes to appear on Yelgrun’s screen. “It confronted the automatic defense system guarding the planet and left. Five hours after that, a smaller support vessel returned to the fourth planet and was promptly shot down.” A smaller Starfleet delta then appeared on the graphic, indicating the support vessel’s return to that planet.

Yelgrun looked away from the screen and quietly considered the implications. Ever since two Federation starships had visited that world eleven years earlier, Starfleet had placed it under heavy quarantine to assure that no other ships were lost there and to prevent pirates from passing one of the most adaptive automated weapons systems to an enemy. The Dominion had learned the history of this world during a foray in the Lorenze Cluster last year and how the automated defense system guarding the planet was still capable of destroying intruding ships three centuries after similar ground-based weapons wiped out all of the planet’s sentient inhabitants.

“Interesting,” he muttered to himself. As long as the Dominion and its allies were holding up well, even as hostilities had descended into a war of attrition, the Founders had little interest in such a weapon system that could just as easily have wiped them out as easily as it could wipe out the enemy. But with the Breen entering the war, perhaps this was the Federation Alliance’s counter-punch.

“If you wish, I can order the destruction of the Starfleet vessel, assuming it is still in the system awaiting the smaller vessel’s return,” Meezun offered. “I will certainly require Jem’Hadar and Breen reinforcements to…”

“No,” Yelgrun hurriedly shot back, sensing the Sindareen captain’s enthusiastic initiative. “Locate the mother ship and use whatever diplomatic gamesmanship you deem necessary to learn exactly how Starfleet plans to harness this weapons system.”

“Understood,” Meezun replied with a devilish smile.

Once the screen went blank, Yelgrun was reminded of a human expression he vaguely remembered hearing. It was something like, “You can’t put the sorcerer back in the box” or something to that effect. That expression certainly applied here now that both sides in the war had made very desperate gambles in recent weeks.

###

Ronnie Kozar sat behind the desk in the ready room writing up his weekly report. On the top of the screen on the padd was a reference to placing Lieutenants sh’Aqba and Tarlazzi on more supervised duty, at least until the war was over, to assure that they both reported for duty on time. It was not something he really wanted to do. He and Shinar had been friends for nearly fifteen years. But keeping his officers focused on their work was one of his most important duties as first officer.

He had hit a wall in his writing, and was hoping for any kind of interruption. He sighed in frustration when the doorbell chimed. “Come in,” he said eagerly.

Morrison entered with a look of dread on his face, as if he was about to be dressed down. “You wanted to see me, sir?” he asked with half a smile.

Kozar set the padd down and stood up to look straight at Morrison. He circled around the desk trying to shake the reluctance to level with another of his friends. “The captain asked me to conduct a full review of ship’s protocol,” he eventually said once he was eye to eye with Morrison. “Or lack thereof.”

“And what do you want me to do about it?” Morrison innocently asked.

“Well, for one, your recent personal relationship with Lieutenant Neeley has undermined your working relationship,” Kozar explained.

Morrison’s eyes winced with a look of feigned ignorance, which Kozar saw right through.

“It doesn’t take a medical expert to know how high hormone levels shoot up when the two of you are on the same deck,” he added. “And you are the security chief. Thirteen department heads report to you. Straighten them out. And as for you and Neeley, I would suggest for now that your personal feelings for each other aside. Otherwise, I will have to reassign one or both of you to posts that don’t get within even a parsec of each other. Understood?"

“Yes, sir,” Morrison plainly stated. Afterwards, he turned around and headed for the bridge entrance mumbling, “Seems like someone needs to get some.”

“Excuse me?” Kozar asked. He slammed the padd he was working back on the desk and paced over to Morrison. “You’re out of line, Mister,” he barked.

“Oh, am I?” Morrison hissed.

Kozar got in his face momentarily, but then backed off. He looked away from his friend to calm himself down. He walked over to the replicator to order a glass of tonic water and seated himself on the sofa. “There’s no need to for us come to blows,” he said after the first sip.

“Tensions on this ship have been rather high lately,” Morrison remarked. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
“As long as we don’t end up bashing skulls. Even during the border wars, we weren’t at each other’s throats. I heard about Marcos, our classmate at the Academy.”

Morrison lowered his head when he heard the name of one of those killed in the Breen attack.

“Flynn, Brunal, T’Rana, Eisensen,” Kozar added, recalling the names on the most recent casualty list he had read. “A lot of good people died. And after Earth become an almost impenetrable fortress.”

Both friends shared a long moment of silence in honor of their friends who were stationed at Starfleet Headquarters and other posts on Earth, whose deaths felt like a punch in the stomach to both of them. The somber moment was interrupted by a comm chime.

Commander Kozar, you’re needed on the bridge,”Carson called. “Sindareen raiding fleet closing fast.

The two men exchanged befuddled stares. “Now there’s a name we haven’t heard in a while,” Morrison remarked.
“We’re on our way,” Kozar said with a tap of his combadge.

###

Sara Carson sat in the command chair, staring at the viewscreen as if hoping it would tell her what the Sindareen’s intentions were. She dutifully rose from the chair once she saw Morrison and Kozar emerge from the ready room. She gave Morrison a quick nod as he took back the tactical station and tiptoed over to Kozar with a status report.
“Six Sindareen raiders are on attack course, sir,” she told the commander. “They’ve powered their weapons and should have us in range in less than a minute.”

“Red alert,” Kozar called out, which sent the active bridge crew scrambling to various auxiliary stations. Carson returned to her station, ready to make course changes at a moment’s notice.

“All power to weapons and shields,” Kozar added as the klaxons sounded. He stood in anxious silence waiting to see what the hostiles would do next and who would blink first.

The communications board at the tactical station chirped, catching Morrison’s attention. “They’re hailing us,” he reported with a look of pleasant surprise on his face.
“The poker game begins. Put it up.”

A single Sindareen appeared on the viewscreen with a smile that was both pleasant and devious, sitting in what appeared to be a one-pilot cockpit. “I am Third Prime Meezun of the Sindareen Freehold. What is your business here?”

“Commander Ronnie Kozar of the Federation starship Lambda Paz,” Kozar replied plainly. He anticipated that these Sindareen had been watching them for a considerable length of time before revealing themselves. “That’s not really your concern, as this is Federation space. But if you must know, we are conducting research on the gaseous properties of this system’s Oort cloud.”

“Curious,” Meezun said with a skeptical grin. “Our sensor probes indicate that your vessel had entered orbit of the system’s fourth planet approximately thirteen hours ago. And after a brief confrontation with the automatic defense system, you left orbit and sent a support vessel back to the planet. And since then, your capital vessel has held position here. Could you be waiting to extract a team of intelligence operatives?”

“Now that is a classified matter,” Kozar retorted. “As for why we have been here as long as we have, our studies of the cloud are taking longer than we had anticipated.”
“Perhaps we could lend a hand.”

Kozar exchanged a skeptical glance with Morrison, as if not sure what to make of the Sindareen captain’s offer. “I see,” Kozar said blankly. “The Sindareen have never shown this kind of interest in astronomical research before. And most Sindareen we’ve encountered in the last year have served the Dominion.”

“For the right commission, of course,” Meezun quipped. “My loyalties are my own. And I have my reasons. Perhaps, a joint research project as a show of our good will.”
I’ll have to consult with my superiors.”

“Take your time. Meanwhile, I will wait here for your response.”

The image of Meezun on the viewscreen blinked out, and in its place was the six raiders spread in a triangular formation similar to a bird spreading its wings. The two raiders on both ends of the formation moved off in opposite directions, then two more after that. Of the two ships that were still nose-to-nose with the Lambda Paz, only the starboard vessel moved away.

“They’re spreading further apart, sir,” Carson reported, “and just hanging on the edge of their short range sensor radius.”

“Morrison,” Kozar said, pacing closer to the tactical station, “what’s their arsenal?”

“Two type-four disruptor banks,” Morrison replied. He continued pressing buttons on his station and was surprised by the additional data that was coming in. “And merculite rockets.”

“Not enough to hurt us even with the six of them together,” Kozar curiously mused. “Our last encounter with them, they sent two battle cruisers that packed quite a punch.” After a moment of contemplation as he considered Sindareen battle strategy, he looked straight back at Morrison. “Keep an eye out to see if Meezun or his friends make any threatening moves. And try to monitor their comm-channels. See if they bring in reinforcements while keeping in touch with Starfleet to see if they can spare some of their own.”

“Aye, sir,” Morrison obligingly stated. “If you don’t mind my asking, sir, why did you say anything at all about what we were up to?”

“Sindareen battle strategy is to lay low to gauge what they’re up against,” Kozar explained. “I wanted to see how much he knew about our activities here.” He then stared at the viewscreen, specifically at the one raiding ship, as if that would give him a sharper glimpse into his enemy’s mind.

###

Lieutenants Sh’Aqba, Carson, and Huckaby stood at the port mission ops station conferring on the progress of monitoring Sindareen communications channels. So far, they were having very little success in eavesdropping on anything other than the routine comm-chatter amongst the six ships. With sh’Aqba’s repeated requests to keep trying to decipher long-range communication frequencies, Carson was increasingly convinced that it was a lost cause.

“It’s very slow-going,” Sara reiterated to the others. “Routine communications we can hack with no problem. We could listen in on them ordering pizza if we wanted. And at the risk of repeating myself, we’re looking at any number of possible subspace frequencies with possibly infinite combinations. And even then, we’d probably just get a binary message.”

“Well, keep it up,” sh’Aqba insisted. “Even the simplest sentence might be a clue.”

Sara rolled her eyes, but before she could speak, Huckaby’s console chirped. He paced back to ops and relieved the fairer-skinned human male officer there. “Sir,” he called to Morrison, seated in the command chair, “I’m picking up a signal from a Starfleet distress beacon.”

Morrison stood up, looking in Huckaby’s direction. Carson quickly re-assumed the conn while sh’Aqba headed for the port forward engineering station. “Captain to the bridge,” Morrison called through the comm-system and looked back at Huckaby. “Can you locate it, Lieutenant?”

Huckaby shook his head, unsure if he could locate the source of the signal. “It’s very faint,” he said. “Almost as if the beacon got out a signal right before the primary subspace antenna shorted out.”

“Can you get a fix on anything at all?” Morrison demanded as he saw Kozar exit the ready room from the corner of one eye.

“It’s a very large area,” Huckaby reluctantly replied. “Subspace spikes at two-three-one mark eight-three.”

“Set a course, helm,” Morrison instructed Carson. “But plot your course along system’s Oort cloud until we’re out of their sensor range. We don’t get our Sindareen ‘friends’’ attention too quickly.”

“Report,” Kozar said once he standing immediately to Morrison’s right.

“We intercepted a signal from a Starfleet distress beacon,” Morrison explained. “It could be from our people. We’re trying to maintain our subterfuge, but I would imagine the Sindareen found the same thing we did.”

“It’s a start,” Kozar replied. “Be ready to raise shields at moment’s notice.”

“Aye, sir,” Morrison answered before sauntering back to his station.

***

Kozar sat in the command chair, monitoring a tactical display. So far, the Sindareen had made no threatening moves.If only raiding vessels would stay put, though. Once the blips faded from the display, that was Kozar’s cue to order a course change. “Lay in a course that follows the direction of the signal,” he ordered as he quickly jumped out of the chair. “Maximum impulse.”

While the Lambda Paz moved deeper into the system, Kozar paced back and forth in front of ops waiting for Huckaby to report something. The operations officer kept a firm gaze on his console waiting for any new information regarding the signal source.

“This is where the trail ends, sir,” Huckaby blurted when he heard steady chirping noise on his readout. “That, we can say for sure. It could have from any direction.”

Kozar took a few small steps closer to the engineering station, where sh’Aqba was manning the main console. “Lieutenant sh’Aqba,” he said, “can we saturate the area with warp emissions to give us a better idea of where the signal was coming from.”

“It’s possible,” sh’Aqba responded with less than complete assurances.

“Do it,” Kozar instructed.

Sh’Aqba keyed a set of instructions into the main console. She then lent a hand to the two engineering officers at the consoles behind her. Returning to her console, she entered one more programming sequence. “I may have something,” she reported to Kozar. “Our source is somewhere within a five-hundred thousand kilometer radius of Minos.”

“Most likely our people,” Kozar said with a minor hint of a celebratory tone. “Good work. Carson, set a course for Minos.”

“We have a problem, sir,” Huckaby apprehensively called out. “Long range sensors detect two of the Sindareen raiders on an intercept course. And that’s not at all.”

Kozar stood in fearful silence wanting to say to the young officer, Just spit it out already.

“They sent out a signal for reinforcements.”

Kozar sighed in frustration, not sure what to do next. The reinforcements could have been Jem’Hadar, Cardassian, Breen, or all of the above. And when those ships would intercept, no one could say. “Any word from Starfleet on our reinforcements?” he asked Morrison.

“The closest ships are three hours away,” Morrison grimly replied.

And we may not have three hours, Kozar silently mused. “Our best hope is to locate and retrieve our people before the enemy reinforcements arrive,” he announced to the crew. He seated himself back in the command chair and gave one additional command.

“Battle stations!”
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Old April 5 2012, 11:40 PM   #8
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Raising the Stakes"

Chapter Five

Lisa Neeley was sprawled face down on the ground when she felt a hand on her shoulder shaking her awake.

“Lieutenant,” she heard a masculine voice say while she was stirring. “Lieutenant Neeley?”

“Just a second,” she groaned, propping herself up with her arms. Her vision remained blurry as she blinked continuously. She felt her forehead and temples, nursing a massive headache, when her vision cleared and she saw Dexter Hall looking into her eyes.

“You okay?” he asked. “You look like you took a hard fall.”

“The rest of me is fine,” she replied. On the tip of her fingers, she felt drops of blood on her forehead. “I just have one hell of a headache. If you can find an analgesic in either of my sleeve pockets…”

While fumbling through a first aid kit to find a dermal regenerator, Dex unzipped the right sleeve pocket of Neeley’s uniform to find a small hypospray and three vials of painkillers. He loaded one of the vials into the hypo and injected the medicine into her carotid artery.

Neeley felt the throbbing pain in her head subside, and she began to lift herself into a standing position. As he was helping her up, Dex grabbed the first aid kit next to him. Once both his hands were free, he opened the case and took out a medical tricorder and dermal regenerator.

“Put that thing away,” she snapped, nudging the tricorder away and yanking the dermal regenerator out of his other hand. “I told you, I’m fine.”

Neeley applied the laser device to the cut on her forehead when she saw Sergeant Thompson, armed with a phaser rifle, approaching her. “Lieutenant, Ensign,” he said flatly while keeping his focus around the general vicinity. “Glad to see you two all right.”

“Did you find anyone else?” Neeley asked while stowing the dermal regenerator in her open sleeve pocket.

“Just the other two Marines,” Thompson replied, still trying to catch his breath. “Corporals M’Zak and ch’Ronchin are scouting an outcropping of foliage a hundred meters from here. No sign of the captain or anyone else.”

“Bring them back here, and gather up any other emergency provisions,” she instructed the portly human sergeant and the young ensign. “Walk, don’t run. I don’t want to get the attention of any leftover weapon systems.”

“Aye, sir,” both Thompson and Hall responded.

Once they both headed off, Neeley removed a tricorder from her holster and began pushing buttons, hoping to extend the scanner’s range in order to locate the rest of the wayward team. She also tapped her combadge hoping to raise them that way. “Neeley to Captain Limis. Commander Logan? LaForge? Anyone?”

“No sign of them, huh?” Dex rhetorically inquired as he returned with two knapsacks, a first aid kit, and three phaser rifles in his arms.

“Of course not,” Neeley blithely answered, looking up from her tricorder. “And we don’t even have a comm unit, so…” Her tricorder beeped, catching her attention. She took a quick look at it and pressed a few buttons to confirm what the device had revealed. “I don’t believe it,” she gasped.
Dex’s eyebrows perked up, sensing pleasant surprise in Neeley’s voice.

“I scanned for the yacht’s locational transponder figuring it was a long shot,” she explained. “But it might still be intact ten point six eight three kilometers from here. Assuming we have enough water packs and field rations, we’ll be heading there.”

“On foot?” Dex protested, brushing sweat from his brow. “Seriously?”

“It’s a big a planet, Dex,” Neeley shot back. “We can’t locate the rest of our team with tricorders. We have no way of knowing if our distress beacon actually worked. And with no emergency comm-unit, we are on our own. So you’re stop your whining. As the captain once reminded me, Starfleet officers are not always afforded the luxury of staying in their comfort zones.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Dex stuttered, “uh, sir.”

About fifty meters away, Neeley saw Thompson trudging through the moist trees and muddy ground, flanked by a Caitian female and an Andorian male, all armed with phaser rifles and emergency packs fastened on their backs. “What do you say, Thompson?” she called to him. “Is there enough food and water for the five of us to make a ten kilometer trek through the jungle?”

“I’d say so,” Thompson confidently replied with no protest.
“Then let’s go.”

The three other Marine soldiers deferently followed the lieutenant. Dex was still straggling behind all four of them. He kneeled down to remove a water pack from his knapsack and gulped down half of it before jogging after the others.

###

A fist slammed into Chaz Logan’s face. A Sindareen guard then shoved him to the ground and kicked his ribs and stomach in succession.

A second Sindareen guard threw down LaForge to the deck. He landed hard on his back, but the guard kept going. He stomped the boot on his right foot onto the Geordi’s abdomen and kicked him in the head with his left foot.

Limis had tried several times to look away while she was shackled to a chair. The guard on her right clasped her forehead and slammed her head against the back of the chair while the guard on her left forced her eyes open with the both hands. Tor Vot leaned in front of her and injected her with truth serum. Afterwards, he stepped aside to allow her to see her colleagues being beaten.

“Again,” Tor Vot snarled while fiddling with the hypospray to increase the dosage. “What are you doing here on Minos?”

“I told you,” Limis spat in his direction. “Simple scientific research.”

Tor Vot nodded at the two guards who pummeling Logan and LaForge. Logan’s guards punched him in the right cheek while LaForge’s grabbed him by the collar and slammed the back of his head to the deck. Using a device attached to his wrist, the Sindareen guard shined a bright light in Geordi’s eyes. He let out a piercing scream that elicited Limis to jerk her head away in spite of the hands holding her down.

“You expect me to believe three high-ranking Starfleet officers from a ship shot down by the planet’s automatic defenses are conducting ‘scientific research’?” Tor Vot sarcastically replied. He administered another dose of truth serum and gestured the two guards holding Limis down to move aside.

“As a Starfleet captain and undercover agent, you are trained to resist even this truth serum,” Tor Vot added while he watched the two guards exit and promptly return with a third guard to bring a chair into the room. “You can endure almost any level of pain. But can you stand to watch your own subordinates suffer indefinitely?”

Two of the guards, including the one who had beaten LaForge several times coaxed Geordi up and onto the chair. The guard who helped bring in the chair was now standing to his right. The Sindareen injected two nanoscopic probing devices into both his temples, which caused him searing pain.

“His ocular implants are sensitive to certain EM waves,” Tor Vot explained. “But that’s the least of what we can do. Using sub-dermal probes, we can make him see any traumatic imagery we choose.”

Limis tried futilely to loosen the shackles on her wrists and ankles. Tor Vot grinned fiendishly, knowing that she could not escape. All Limis could do was helplessly watch as LaForge was subjected to graphic imagery only he could see.

###

Neeley and her team arrived at the crashed yacht after a three-hour hike to find the craft largely intact. They immediately found their way into the cockpit through the port egress. Thompson, M’Zak and ch’Ronchin conducted a more thorough search of the cockpit while Neeley and Dex conducted an assessment from the piloting stations. Most of the consoles were either blinking on and off or offline entirely. Fallen girders and shrapnel filled cockpit, which the rest of the Marines had to duck around to secure the compartment from any intruders.

“Forward compartment is secure, Lieutenant” Thompson reported.

“Check the rest of the craft,” Neeley instructed, while keeping an eye on Dex. “What about your engineering credentials, Thompson?”

“I was an engineering petty officer on the Nautilus before transferring to the Marines,” Thompson replied. “Ch’Ronchin and M’Zak have a basic understanding of defensive systems.”

“Then as soon as you’ve secured the rest of the yacht,” Neeley added, “get to work on repairs. Make weapons, engines, and transporters a priority.”

Thompson then headed for the aft compartments, leaving Neeley and Hall to a more general assessment of the damages. “What about you, Dex?” Neeley asked the young ensign. “As a pilot, you surely have some basic understanding of the related technical specifications.”

“Yes, sir,” Dex answered. “I have engineering certification in thruster control, impulse engine maintenance…”

“Then get to it,” Neeley snapped with a tap on his shoulder. “And I’ll lend a hand where I can.”

“Of course, sir,” Dex stuttered. He saw Neeley head for the aft compartments and then crouched underneath the console to begin a full damage assessment.
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Old April 5 2012, 11:45 PM   #9
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Raising the Stakes"

Chapter Five (continued)

Limis could only watch helplessly as LaForge was continuously subjected to various forms of violent imagery. She kept reminding herself that revealing the details of the mission would compromise Federation security. On the other hand, she and Logan were forced to watch as their Starfleet colleague twitched and convulsed as if he was suffering a series of disturbing nightmares.

Limis remained defiant even as two of the guards pressed her head against the back of the chair. “You can stop this any time, Captain,” Tor Vot reminded her with his lips close to her ear.

“Go to hell,” Limis hissed. Bits of saliva escaped her mouth like pellets, some of them landing on his face.

Tor Vot slowly sauntered over to Logan, seated on the captain’s right with shackles also bounding his wrists and ankles to the chair. “What about you, Commander?” he asked. “Are you willing to let your colleague suffer?”

“Commander Charles H. Logan,” the commander deadpanned. “Serial number…”

“Guess so,” Tor Vot quipped. He nodded to the guard overseeing the torture of LaForge.

The guard entered a command on a padd to increase the intensity. What Geordi was now seeing caused him to let out a scream that could echo across the planet. “It’s in your hands,” Tor Vot taunted.

The guard turned up the intensity even higher, causing LaForge to throb back and forth in his chair. “Stop it, stop it!” he cried out as he was subjected to more endless images of blood and gore.

It reminded Limis more and more of instances where the Cardassians subjected her fellow Bajorans to merciless levels of agony as a means of coercion, of the cities that were bombed in order to force the Underground’s surrender. Her strength of will was commendable, considering that caving to her interrogator’s demands would compromise everything. But when being faced with individual suffering, not to mention populations being bombed out of existence, it was more than enough for anyone to endure in one lifetime. Even worse, LaForge was someone only temporarily assigned to her. Not that Limis would accept this kind of torture inflicted on a permanent member of her crew, but this situation seemed like more incentive to capitulate.

“You want to know the truth?” Limis snarled.

Tor Vot’s eyes widened in curiosity while he smiled deviously.

“Captain, what are you doing?” Logan asked with a look of shock and horror on his face.

“I know what I’m doing,” she whispered to Logan. She was almost tempted to say nothing more to Tor Vot, thinking that would wipe the smug smile off her captor’s face. “We are here to try to harness this planet’s automated defense systems, as you are,” she calmly explained. “You guys have a head start, but you’re probably not that close to integrating the computer components into your ships. Starfleet boasts some of the most creative engineers in the quadrant. You let us help, and you can have a cut of the loot.”

Tor Vot craned his neck to one side to consider Limis’s offer, but then brought his facial expression back to one of smugness. “You’re in no position to make that kind of demand.”

“Maybe not,” Limis conceded. “As much as you abhor the notion of accepting charity from the Federation and as much as I abhor the idea of offering it to you, you have to admit we have a common enemy. The Dominion hasn’t yet decided to punish your entire race for your treachery. But how long can you guarantee it’ll stay that way?”

“You make a convincing argument,” Tor Vot acknowledged. He took a few moments to consider the captain’s proposal, pacing back and forth across the room. Upon returning to the chairs occupied by Limis and Logan, he removed their shackles, much to his second’s shock.

“How do we know she wasn’t telling us what we wanted to hear?” the second demanded.

“It’s more believable than any of her other stories,” Tor Vot explained. “And someone in her position would not have given in so easily.” He turned his gaze back at Limis to ask one more question. “But why did you let your crewman suffer before making this proposition?”

“Would you have believed me if I suggested so soon?”
“Most likely not.”

“You’re smarter than I gave you credit for.” She eyed Logan suspiciously, as their captors took care not to injure him as badly. And he was just now someone Tor Vot had tried to break rather than using Logan as a punching bag.

“Do not push your luck, Bajoran,” Tor Vot retorted. He snapped his fingers and pointed to two of the five guards, and then at LaForge’s chair to instruct those guards to keep an eye on him. “If you pull anything out of your Starfleet-issue bag of tricks,” he warned Limis, “he dies.”
“I don’t doubt it.”

“Move,” the lead guard snarled.

And the rest of the guards led Limis and Logan out of the room to one of the computer cores.

For now, the lives of two of her officers were saved. The problem now was how to pull off a double-cross against her captors with them watching her every move.

###

Dex sat at the primary piloting station trying feed extra power to the console and was having very little success lighting up the various keypads. He smacked the edge of the console in frustration, and the keypad on the front edge suddenly lit up. After waiting a few seconds to make sure the result of hitting the console was not a momentary fluke, he fiddled with the newly accessible controls in order to assess the functionality of the basic helm controls.

“I have helm control,” he triumphantly proclaimed with a tap of his combadge. “What about engines?”

“Just a few more circuits to rewire,” Thompson answered in a tone that suggested to Dex that he contain his enthusiasm.

Thompson was lying on right side leaning over a circuit housing trying to patch together severed wires, hoping to get the desired power flow. “ODN recoupler,” he requested of Neeley, who was standing a few steps behind him. She handed him the requested device, which he used to fuse the wires back together. “That should do it,” Thompson said with slight hesitation, “I hope.”

“You hope?” Neeley repeated with an annoyed scoff.

“It’s the best we can do without designated engineering personnel,” Thompson insisted as he propped himself upright. “All we can hope for is that everything holds together long enough for us to rescue our people and get off this planet.”

“If that’s a promise you can’t keep,” Neeley retorted, “I’ll have your head. I’ll check on the progress of our weapons.” She headed down to the lower deck through a hatch in the floor, leaving Thompson by himself to run a few more final checkups.

***

About a half hour later, all of the Marines convened in the cockpit. Thompson and ch’Ronchin were both at the primary tactical station while M’Zak was at operations. Neeley sat at the secondary piloting station, running a few quick status checks. “All right, let’s get this thing off the ground and find our people,” she declared.

The engines hummed to life, and the yacht slowly rose off the surface, creating a force so strong that a few surrounding trees were knocked over. The vessel rose high above the trees before moving forward.

“Get a fix on the control center,” Neeley commanded M’Zak. “See if you locate our people without attracting the attention of whoever is already down there. “Let’s hope those sensor modifications are still intact.”

“I’ve located their biosigns,” the Caitian soldier immediately reported, her words accompanied by the sound of a feline’s purring.

That caught Neeley’s surprise. “Already?” she gasped. “That seems rather fast, but we’ll take it. Find us an inconspicuous spot to beam down, Thompson.”

“Done,” Thompson replied. “Dex, weapons and transporters are routed to your console.”

“No problem,” Dex confidently answered. But almost immediately, he felt a pang of doubt. “Which one is weapons?”

Thompson sighed impatiently and took a few quick steps over to the piloting console. “That one,” he said, indicating a circular arrangement of panels on the younger man’s right. “Don’t let us down, kid.”

“I’ll try,” Dex muttered, turning his attention back to his console.

###

LaForge was still hunched over in his chair, drifting in and out of consciousness, while two Sindareen guards stood watch in front of him.

Corporals ch’Ronchin and M’Zak peered into the room through an open doorway, which immediately caught the attention of the guards. The guard on their left started shooting at them while the man on the right pointed his rifle at LaForge. After having ducked out of the way, the two Marines fired back, quickly dispatching the guards.

M’Zak stood watch at the doorway while ch’Ronchin tiptoed up to Geordi and loosened his shackles. “Sir,” he said, patting the commander’s cheeks with his palms to coax him awake. “Are you all right? Are you well enough to travel?”

“I think so,” Geordi groaned. “Got a massive headache from whatever it was they did to me.”

Ch’Ronnick injected a sub-dermal transport enhancer into LaForge’s neck and tapped his combadge to signal yacht. “Ensign Hall, lock on to Commander LaForge and transport him to the infirmary.”

“Yes, sir,” Dex replied. “Standing by.”

A few seconds later, LaForge was beamed to safety. Ch’Ronnick then jogged towards the doorway, pointing to it with his forefinger to inform M’Zak to accompany him. The Andorian and Caitian troops tiptoed quietly down a corridor on their way to rejoining Neeley and Thompson. A Sindareen guard peered out from an adjoining corridor behind them and fired.

A lethal charge struck M’Zak, and she fell to the deck. Ch’Ronnick looked down at his fallen colleague, but forced back himself into concentrating on the Sindareen shooting at him. They exchanged blinding weapons fire back and forth. The Sindareen ran across the corridor while continuing to lay down cover fire. Ch’Ronnick was able to get a clear shot at that moment and quickly dropped him with a single burst from his phaser rifle. Seeing no further resistance, he had time to check on M’Zak. He touched her neck with two fingers to check for a pulse, but felt nothing.

***

Neeley and Thompson peered through the holes in an iron wall that surrounded the central computer core. Thompson was surprised to see that Limis and Logan were helping the Sindareen remove various components. Of course, he knew to save the speculation for later and work out a strategy for taking out the eight guards.

“We’ll need to even the odds a bit,” Neeley mused. She tapped her combadge to hail the yacht. “Dex, lock onto my coordinates and open fire.”

“On your coordinates, sir?” Dex repeated with confusion.
“Yes, do it,” Neeley replied with a hissing whisper.

The room suddenly shook hard, having all the room’s occupants stumbling to keep their balances. Sparks erupted from the ceiling, sending two Sindareen to the deck. Logan used the moment of confusion to knock one of his guards with a right hook that caused sharp and throbbing pains in his hand, and he quickly found himself in a scuffle with his other guard.

Tor Vot grabbed Limis by her uniform collar and slammed her to the floor. “You bitch!” he sneered. “You had this planned all along.”

“Guess you’re not that smart after all,” Limis quipped.

He drew his pistol, ready to kill her in a fit of rage. He was slowed down when a blast from Neeley’s rifle clipped him in the shoulder. Limis used that reprieve to grab one of the unconscious guard’s pistol. And with one motion, she aimed it at Tor Vot and shot him dead. While she was far from out of danger, killing a man who had been a thorn in her side on two recent occasions felt extremely satisfying.

Neeley and Thompson entered through room through an open doorway, shooting at the other four Sindareen still standing, while ch’Ronnick was shooting from behind as he came in from an open doorway on the opposite side. He managed to dispatch the guard who was scuffling with Logan, leaving only three enemy soldiers.

The rest of the Starfleet team easily overpowered the rest of them with phaser fire. But as one of them collapsed to the deck, he managed to fire his pistol and kill Thompson.
Neeley kneeled over Thompson’s lifeless body and felt for a pulse. She looked at Limis and dejectedly shook her head. “Where’s M’Zak?” she asked ch’Ronnick through an eerie quiet in the room.

“Dead,” the Andorian somberly replied.

Neeley dropped her head down, as did the other three in the room, in a moment of silence to honor her two dead soldiers. Afterwards, she removed a cloth carrying case housing three transport enhancer rods. She handed two of them to Limis and ch’Ronnick, who placed the rods near the two doorways. Neeley placed the third rod against a wall, setting all three of the rods in a triangular arrangement.

“This is Neeley,” she said with a tap of her combadge. “Lock onto all persons and equipment in this room and energize.”

“Stand by,” Dex replied.

And within another few seconds, all the people in the room, including the dead bodies, and the dislodged computer components dematerialized.
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Old April 10 2012, 08:19 PM   #10
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Raising the Stakes"

Chapter Six

Yelgrun sat in front of a desk monitor on comm with Meezun. This was the third transmission in the last fifteen minutes he had received from the Sindareen captain, and each of them were to inquire about the arrival of Dominion reinforcements in the Minos system.

Out of all the Dominion’s Alpha Quadrant allies, Yelgrun felt the Sindareen were the most insufferable. Of course, he found the Breen to be highly unreasonable at times during his negotiations with them. The Son’a often demanded more than what the Founders were willing to pay. The Sindareen, on the other hand, often came off as bumbling and unreliable, a weakness offset only by a determination to accomplish goals set before them.

“I told you before,” he snapped, trying his hardest to keep his calm, “the Jem’Hadar will arrive as soon as they can. In the meantime, do what you can to slow them down. Don’t contact me again until after the Starfleet vessel is destroyed.”

Yelgrun cut the transmission before Meezun could respond, and tried to remind himself that this Sindareen was less likely to betray him than Tor Vot was. He had barely enough time to compose himself when his comm-panel chirped again. He was about to reject the message. But with his finger on that particular button, he saw the transmission was from Thot Jroln.

“Finally,” he groaned as he pushed a button to activate the viewscreen. The Breen general was dressed in standard Breen military armor, with the exception of the helmet. “How long before you can spare any ships to dispatch to the Minos system?” he inquired.

“Only one ship available. Starfleet ship destroyed, we still promise. But benefits us, how?”

“The automated weapons systems guarding Minos are yours to do with as you please,” Yelgrun responded with his best poker face, “provided you don’t use them against us.”

“Deal, you have, we honor.”

The screen quickly went blank, leaving Yelgrun to consider how to renege on that deal should Jroln’s mission succeed.

###

The ship was at a silent red alert, with the klaxons flashing.

Sh’Aqba was pacing throughout engineering overseeing various repair and maintenance jobs. She was headed to one of the situation consoles in front of the warp core when Stollerramn handed her a padd. Sh’Aqba quickly skimmed through the maintenance request on the padd. It was the usual mundane paperwork that came with being a department head. The repetitive nature of it too often got boring, but was a necessary evil to assure the efficient operation of a starship.

She signed off on the report and handed the padd back to the Ktarian petty officer, and then headed to the nearby situation consoles to run final check-ups on warp engine command processors. Tarlazzi slowly approached her and leaned on the front of the console. One of the moments sh’Aqba had dreaded since being issued a very serious warning about her recent dereliction of duty. On the other hand, she was fully aware of the consequences of a romantic affiliation with a subordinate that could not be avoided, especially now.

“Seems we’ve both been warned to dial things down,” Tarlazzi said with a hint of joviality in his voice.

“Not exactly in those terms,” sh’Aqba replied, keeping her eyes on the console, “but we’re being more closely observed to make sure that whatever the nature of our relationship, it does not interfere with our duties.”

“The usual Starfleet jargon that almost sounds like our every move will be monitored from now on.”

Shinar sighed, but still wouldn’t look Erhlich in the eye. “Not our every move,” she corrected, “just when we’re on duty.”

“But the chief engineer is always on duty.”

Shinar flashed a smile of feigned surrender. At that moment, she decided to look him in the eye. “Neither of our quarters is being bugged,” she teased, “if that’s what you’re worried about, Mister Tarlazzi.”

“So I’m ‘Mister Tarlazzi’ again?” Erhlich retorted. He circled around the console, and then clasped one of her hands. “People are talking. They know what’s going on between us. No need to be all professional with me.”

Shinar pulled her hand away and narrowed her eyelids as a silent reminder of how people were aware of their relationship. “On duty,” she explained, “we’re still expected to address each other by rank and-or surname. And for at least the next few weeks, ‘dialing it down’ is still a good idea.”

Tarlazzi took a quick look around to make sure no one in the immediate vicinity was actively listening to them. “How about no morning quickies, no matter how tempted either of us is?” he suggested in a very hushed tone.

“It’s a deal,” sh’Aqba whispered with a conspiratorial smile.

Before the discussion of how else to “dial down” their relationship could continue, the room rocked back and forth. Sh’Aqba turned her attention back to her console, while Tarlazzi and other engineers to scrambled to other stations in the compartment.

***

A Sindareen raider fired lasers and merculite rockets at the Lambda Paz-- first at the both warp nacelles, then at the aft phaser and torpedo emitters-- attempting to slow the ship down. The shields absorbed the weapon blasts, and the ship continued on its course without much deviation.

Sara Carson was still at conn even after the start of the gamma shift, as were much of the senior bridge officers. She dodged a few sparks erupting from the station as the bridge continued rocking in both directions. “Minor damage to both nacelles,” she reported, gripping the console with both hands.
“Shields are holding,” Morrison added.

“Return fire,” Kozar ordered. “Try to disable their engines and weapon emitters.”

The Sindareen raider veered above and ahead of the Lambda Paz, which fired phasers from the primary dorsal array and the upper sensor pod. The other five raiders that confronted the Starfleet ship just outside the Minos system moved in closer from stern, firing low energy phasers and merculite rockets at the nacelles, the sensor pod and weapons array. Shields were able to deflect most of the weapons, but the smaller ships kept coming.

“More glob flies,” Morrison remarked of the rest of the raiders. “Meezun’s five friends are firing at us from the port stern.”

“Just keep swatting them,” Kozar replied. “Helm, keep us on our course and speed. Don’t slow down unless enemy fire forces us to.”

“That may happen sooner than you think,” Morrison warned in response to a chirp from his console. “Two Jem’Hadar fighters approaching at three-two-seven mark one-eight-five. And a Breen heavy cruiser at two-six-eight mark three.”

“Evasive pattern delta, Lieutenant,” Kozar barked while keeping one eye on his tactical display. “Increase our speed to stay a few steps ahead of the Breen.”

The bridge rocked even harder with sparks and shrapnel gushing from the ceiling. The Jem’Hadar fired in a single file formation, while the Lambda Paz’s phasers clipped the ventral of both ships. Undeterred, the two Jem’Hadar fighters swung back around from the starboard side.

“They’re swinging back around, coming in for another pass,” Morrison called out while tightly gripping the tactical console with both hands to stay on his feet.

“Take us within ten thousand, Miss Carson,” Kozar ordered. “Morrison, target quantum torpedoes on both ships.”

“Fifteen thousand kilometers,” Sara said with a firm hand on her console, “twelve-point-five thousand, ten thousand kilometers.”

“Fire!”

Quantum torpedoes erupted from both the ventral launcher and the upper sensor pod and plowed into both fighters, destroying them.

“Bring us around and target the Breen cruiser,” Kozar added, upon seeing that the two blips representing the two Jem’Hadar ships disappeared from his tactical display screen.

“They’re already locking weapons on us,” Morrison hurriedly responded.

“Recalibrate shield nutations,” Kozar instructed. “Now is as good a time as any to see how our shields can withstand their weapons.”

The Breen heavy cruiser, now on the Lambda Paz’s starboard side, fired two plasma torpedoes that clipped the outer perimeter of her shields. Even as the ship tried to move out of the line of additional fire, a third torpedo struck the shields point blank. The hit caused a rippling effect across the ship until the shields dissolved entirely.

“Shields are gone,” Morrison calmly reported.

It was nothing but a grim reminder of the ship’s impending doom. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as the entire bridge fell into an eerie silence. While he kept a cool head throughout the entire confrontation, the sound of voice still had an air of doom and gloom, as if one more torpedo would destroy the Lambda Paz.

“They’re locking onto us again,” Morrison added with a sense that his entire life flashing in his mind at warp speed. Through the silence, his console made a piercing chirp that echoed across the bridge. “Wait a minute,” he said, careful not to get anyone’s hopes up. “Several objects on approach.”

Come on, Kozar wanted to say,this one can take us out by itself.

“One of them is the captain’s yacht,” Morrison reassured the commander.

The yacht swiftly closed in on the Breen heavy cruiser, firing phasers and torpedoes. Ordinarily, the Breen could have taken the yacht out just as easily, but six green laser bolts were firing at the heavy cruiser, as well. The shields absorbed some of the hits, but were not strong enough to withstand all of them. Breen plasma torpedoes were able to clip the shields of the yacht, but missed the drones entirely.

With a new sense of determination, Kozar quickly rose from the command chair and paced towards the helm. “Bring us around, helm,” he snapped. “Target quantum torpedoes!”

Torpedoes from both the ventral launchers and dorsal sensor pod quickly plowed into the already heavily damaged Breen heavy cruiser, blowing it to bits.

A sense of triumph filled the bridge, but the two most senior officers maintained a quiet and stoic demeanor. The lower ranked officers and crewpersons, however, stared at the viewscreen with triumphant grins.

“The captain’s hailing us, sir,” Morrison gleefully reported, looking up from a chime on his communications boards.

“Put it up,” Kozar replied. At that very moment, he also decided to flash a wide smile triumph simply to reassure his crew. “Thanks for bailing us out just in the nick of time, Captain.”

Limis’s voice piped through the bridge speakers. All in day’s work, Kozar,” she said with restrained enthusiasm. “We have casualties. Have sickbay ready to receive them.”

“No problem, sir.”

The channel closed, and Kozar, Morrison, and Carson shared a few celebratory smiles. Now, they all thought, if only this new weapon system could be replicated and integrated into other ships before the Breen launched any other major offensives.
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Old April 12 2012, 07:04 PM   #11
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "Raising the Stakes"

Epilogue

Aurellan Markalis tended Geordi LaForge’s injuries in the sickbay’s surgical bay. First, she applied a laser device to both his temples in order to remove the micro-implants the Sindareen had placed there. She then ran a quick tricorder scan, placing the hand sensor near both his temples to make sure the devices had been removed. Afterwards, she applied an ocular diagnostic scanner in front of his eyes in to make additional checks to the cybernetic implants that allowed him to see.

Doctor and patient had not spoken at all during these medical procedures, something LaForge was not used to from Beverly Crusher on the Enterprise. This younger doctor just went about treating him without saying a single word. He had heard that this ship’s medical officer tended to be aloof and distant, but Geordi didn’t put much stock in those rumors because of his own exceptionality.

“You wore a VISOR before you got these implants,” Aurellan remarked, in reference to the prosthetic device Geordi had worn over his eyes for much of his life until recently, as he had sat up to leave.

“Yeah,” LaForge answered with a friendly smile. “It was the most feasible at the time I got the first one when I was about five years old. Why do you ask?”

“In my experience as a trauma surgeon,” Aurellan meekly replied while she was adding notes on a padd, “I’ve gotten used to replacing all kinds of damaged organs with cybernetic implants. Some of them are like having the real thing, but others have very noticeable differences.”

“Being born blind, I never really got to experience the difference between having normal vision and how I see the world around me.”

“Lucky you,” Aurellan quipped with a sheepish grin. “What made you decide to switch?”

“Well, for one,” Geordi said with a candid nod, “the VISOR was a pain to wear. None of the alternatives really stood out until these implants were perfected. And Starfleet considered the VISOR a security risk after some rebel Klingons used it to gather information on the previous Enterprise’s defenses. I can still see the entire electromagnetic spectrum, but visual stimuli looks a lot more, should I say, real.”

“Fascinating,” Aurellan said, at a loss for any other words on the subject. She looked down at the padd during an awkward silence, and then looked back at her patient. “Well, you’re free to go, Commander,” she deadpanned.

“Thanks, Doc,” LaForge replied with a smile.

He headed for the main entrance when he saw Logan step into the ICU from the corridor. LaForge nodded and put his hand out directing Logan back into the corridor. “The doctor just gave me a clean bill of health,” he said as they both sauntered out of the sickbay and into the corridor.

“I’m… relieved,” Logan said with some hesitation, which made LaForge somewhat uneasy.

“I’d expect Data to say something like that,” Geordi retorted. “I understand it was necessary to go through what I did, considering all the tough breaks I’ve gotten over the years. I still wish it didn’t have to be that way after Captain Picard’s ordeal with the Cardassians and mine with the Romulans.”

The two of them stopped at an intersecting corridor. Logan took both ways down the corridor and the intersecting one while clearing his throat, not sure how to word what he was about to say. “You and I haven’t exactly been friends when we served together,” he plainly stated, “but you have my sympathies, especially after the Romulans employed similar tactics in brainwashing you.”

“At least you didn’t have to witness that,” Geordi offered. “That you and Captain Limis held out as long as you did is just as commendable.”

“Thank you.” Logan then put out his right hand.

LaForge grabbed it firmly and they quickly shook hands. “Until next time, sir.”

“Same here.”

***

Markalis sat at her desk, staring at her medical reports on the monitor regarding those injured and killed during the battle and on the mission to Minos. She was stuck on one sentence she didn’t like the wording of, but was not sure how to improve it. Maybe it was one of her obsessive-compulsive tendencies, or maybe it was the mixed emotions of having to prepare statements on deceased crewmates. Reminding herself that it was part of her job was not too hard. Neither was carrying out that part of the job with diligence. While others often saw her as emotionally distant, noting the deaths of five of her crewmates in her log, even with those she had never interacted closely, was still emotionally draining.

She used the keypad to rewrite the sentence that had gotten her stuck for the last couple minutes when the EMH walked into the office from the sickbay’s primary intensive care unit. Aurellan waved him in with her left forefinger while keeping her eyes on the screen, hoping to get the edit done while the changes were still fresh in her mind. The holographic doctor set the padd in his hand down on the desk to Aurellan’s left. “The full post-mortem reports on Sergeant Thompson and Corporal M’Zak,” he said.

“Sure, thanks,” she muttered, keeping her eyes on the screen. She quickly perused the full text of the post-mortem report she was filing before selecting “submit” on the monitor. Aurellan leaned back in her chair and watched the EMH as he paced out of the office. “It never gets any easier, does it?” she rhetorically asked.

The hologram turned around and took slow steps back into the office. “Judging from the tone of your voice,” he responded, “I would guess that’s a rhetorical question, correct?”

“Of course, it is,” Aurellan confirmed with a grudging smile, finding she could easily identify with not always being able to recognize sarcasm and rhetorical questioning. “Each of these post-mortems I write up makes me worry that I’m one step closer to becoming completely indifferent. Then I think of how each of those people is someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife… after having been worried sick about my own family.”

“You should be commended for having such empathy for your patients,” the EMH remarked flatly.

“If only,” Aurellan muttered with a light nod.

“If only what?”

Aurellan shook her head in embarrassment. “Never mind.” She stood up and circled around the left side of her desk, looking into the holographic doctor’s eyes. “But you get that, don’t you?”

The hologram shook his head, not sure what she was asking.

“People often think of me as emotionally distant,” she explained. “It’s considered a virtue in my field… our field. I still feel for my patients and their families. I just don’t always express it in ways that humanoids usually do.”

“Yes, people on the autism spectrum often do appear to lack any capacity for empathy,” the EMH said with a professional demeanor.

“Of course,” Aurellan nervously replied. “My point is, though, I first thought you were just like the previous two EMH’s. But you understand me better than anyone else. And that’s helped me think of you as a person rather than a computer program and to appreciate the better parts of myself.”

“I’m not sure what to say,” the hologram said with a look of confusion.

“Say you’re flattered.”

“Okay, I’m flattered.”

Aurellan snickered. She took a quick look through window looking out at the ICU and was satisfied that no one was looking in the direction of the office. She leaned closer to the EMH, standing on the tips of her toes and planted a kiss on his lips.

His eyes widened in shock, not sure what to make of this. “Fascinating,” he said, unsure of how to respond to that sudden gesture of affection.

Aurellan shrugged in surprise. “Really? That’s all you have to say?”

“My programmers did make a point to make me more sociable than the earlier models,” the EMH reminded her, “but I wasn’t exactly programmed to respond to… that.”

“You mean kissing?”

“Yes, kissing. I didn’t exactly expect that. But thank you.”

“You’re welcome?” Aurellan replied with a look of both amusement and embarrassment. A long and awkward silence followed before the holographic doctor walked out of the office. Aurellan still felt a sense of triumph, having displayed a more concrete gesture of appreciation and affection, not to mention having done something spontaneous.

***

Chaz Logan was not sure why the captain had summoned him to the ready room. Limis had already told him that he was being recommended for a commendation for his quick thinking during their escape from the Sindareen on Minos. And the ship didn’t have any major mechanical problems that Lieutenant sh’Aqba couldn’t handle. So the reason for this summons was very much unexpected.

He stood at the bridge’s entrance to the ready room holding his forefinger over the door chime panel, uncertain as to whether he wanted to face Limis. Knowing, however, that being here was not entirely his choice, he let his finger glide towards the panel and tap the button.

“Come,” said a familiar voice on the other side of the door.

Limis turned off her desk monitor, where a text communiqué from Starfleet Command was on the screen. She took a sip of raktajino while she saw Logan step into the office. “Come in, Commander,” she said pleasantly. She extended her hand indicating the guest chairs on the other side of the desk.

Logan quickly obliged, sitting in the chair on his left. Despite her friendly tone and demeanor, he was certain what was to come would hardly be indicative of a social visit.

“Our escape seemed a little too easy, don’t you think?” Limis bluntly stated.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Logan replied with confusion and uncertainty.

“For one, we met heavy resistance upon arrival at Minos,” Limis said with a neutral expression on her face. “We were shot down by the orbital defenses. Our transporter beam got scrambled. You, LaForge, and me were ambushed by a couple of the demo drones. The yacht should have been smashed beyond repair. Yet Neeley and her Marines were easily able to repair the vessel, free us, and get off the planet while meeting no resistance what… so… ever.”

“A lucky break, I guess,” Logan coyly offered.

“I don’t believe in lucky breaks,” Limis retorted. “I’ve learned to be suspicious of unexpected easy victories. I asked sh’Aqba to run a systems check on the yacht. There was no evidence that the transporter array, the orbital thrusters, or auxiliary power transfer circuits were damaged by weapons fire. Only someone with her engineering experience could notice that. So what damaged them? Some kind of cascade virus?”

Logan stared straight at Limis, keeping on his best poker face. “There’d be no evidence of a cascade virus after it did its job,” he attempted. “You wouldn’t be able to find any type of residual evidence of such a virus having been planted in the computer system.”

“Add to that,” Limis persisted, “Starfleet has been able to keep pirates away from Minos for eleven years, but the Sindareen got there with no obstacles.

“I got a message from one of my former Intelligence colleagues regarding a secret organization called the Excavation, devoted to reverse engineering advanced technology left behind by long dead civilizations. Intelligence can’t definitively prove such an organization exists within Starfleet, but it has kept a close eye on a number of shipyard supervisors at Utopia Planitia, including people you still keep in touch with. I think Tor Vot wanted us to escape, as long as he got a cut of the loot.”

“An interesting theory, Captain,” Logan said stoically. “Except, there’s one hole that’s a big one. Tor Vot and all his henchmen were killed during our jailbreak.”

“Maybe so,” Limis replied with a stern glare. “But those other factors are too coincidental to be attributed to a ‘lucky break’. I may not be able to prove the existence of a secret branch of Starfleet that raids dead planets, much less your membership in it, Mister Logan. But if something like this happens again, I won’t hesitate to turn you in to the highest authorities. Am I absolutely, crystal clear, Commander?”

Logan slowly rose from his chair and stood at attention. Limis arched her head upward so they were still looking eye to eye at each other. “Yes, sir,” he answered.

“Dismissed.”

Logan nodded in acknowledgment and quickly paced out of the room. After the doors opened and closed, Limis took a sip of her coffee. It had already gone cold. She was about to go to the replicator to order a fresh warm mug when the comm chimed.

“Captain, we’re receiving a News Service bulletin,” Kozar said with strong apprehension. “The Breen have pulled off a successful counteroffensive in the Chin’toka system.”

“Pipe it through on my monitor,” Limis replied. She tapped a control on her desk monitor to receive the transmission.

###

“Following the arrival of escape pods at Deep Space Nine and other outposts along the border of Dominion-held, the News Service can now confirm that the Breen Confederacy has forced the Federation Alliance from Chin’toka and three adjacent star systems.

“Survivors of the battle bring back grim reports of how the Breen managed to achieve total victory. Using plasma torpedoes containing high-yield energy dissipaters, Breen heavy cruisers annihilated a total of three hundred eleven Federation, Klingon, and Romulan warships.

“While a five second long recharge cycle in the Breen torpedo launchers provided the First and Third Fleets a slight advantage during the attack on Earth, ship captains returning from Chin’toka have indicated the Breen have overcome that deficiency.

“So far, no countermeasures for the energy dampening weapons have been devised…”

The saga continues in
“That’s Our Q”
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