OUTPOST DELTA: TALES FROM THE BORDER SERVICE EPISODE ONE: THEY LOST THEIR MARBLES FCS Time Bandit Federation Cargo Authority-Registered Y-class Freighter The Delphic Expanse Star Log: February 7, 2163 Andy Hillstrand cursed the gods from every race he could think of as the Osaarian held a small, scimitar-style blade against his neck. Outside the ship the worst ion storm he’d ever encountered raged on oblivious to the battle going on inside. Hillstrand dared not move since he knew how sharp those bladed weapons were and he was in danger of losing his life if he didn't provide the privateer with an answer he liked. 'What was the question again?' he asked, stalling. The scimitar pressed into his neck and drew a bead of blood. 'Where are the Royal Marbles of Tirex III?' the Osaarian asked, for the third and final time, through a cigar. Hillstrand swallowed. 'Never heard of them.' Just then another Osaarian strode onto the bridge holding a silver case. He opened it and scrunched his face as a deathly scream pierced the air. He held it open for two seconds and then closed it again, glancing at his superior for orders. 'You've never heard of them,' the Osaarian replied. 'Then what did you think you were stealing?' 'Can you move the blade?' he asked and pointed at his neck which was now dripping freely. The Osaarian wiped the blade on Hillstrand's tunic and flipped it in the air. 'Speak.' 'I was asked to steal a case from a diplomat. I had no idea what was in it. What are those things anyway?' The Osaarian holding the case picked Hillstrand up using his free hand and brought him to eye-level. 'The Royal Marbles of Tirex III,' he growled. 'Are you deaf?' 'Put him down, Pojar,' the Osaarian ordered. Hillstrand found himself sitting on his rump as he was dropped and looked up at the aliens on his ship. 'What are you going to do with me now?' The Osaarian glanced his companions and grinned. 'We'll leave you to the mercies of the ion storm.' Hillstrand jumped up in alarm. 'You can't! My ship's no match for this storm. It's a death sentence.' 'Which is exactly what you have on your head. It's safer this way,' the Osaarian patted him on the shoulder and then turned to his companions. 'Let's go.' The three of them, and the case, vanished in pillars of light. Hillstrand sighed as he watched the forward screen, saw the vessel move away, having no trouble maneuvering through the ion storm. He reached the pilot's console even as the first groans of his ship's hull reached him and he reached for the old-style comm system he'd installed before he decided to ply his trade in the former Delphic Expanse. Although the region was so-called because of the spatial anomalies and thermobaric clouds, all of that had been taken care of almost a decade ago, but the name stuck and the largely unexplored region was a prime space for freighters like his. The mike sputtered to life as he called out. 'This is the Time Bandit to anyone who can hear me. I'm trapped in the ion storm and I've just been attacked by Osaarian privateers.' It was a moment before a response reached him, garbled as it was by the storm. 'Time Bandit, this is the Cornelia Marie. What is your position?' Hillstrand breathed a sigh of relief and relayed his position. 'You're a life saver, Phil.' He relaxed and sat in his chair just as the proximity alarmed blared. 'What the hell?' He looked at the instrumentation and his eyes widened in alarm. This time there was nothing that anyone could do to help him. The Osaarian ship fired a photon torpedo that pierced the fog of the ion storm as if it wasn't there and slammed into the aft bulkhead, vaporizing the engines and tearing the ship apart. His last conscious thought was that the privateers would never be held accountable for their actions because this region of space was patrolled by the Starfleet Border Patrol Service, a group of officers who were rumored to be less than stellar in aging ships leftover from the war that ended almost two years ago. USS Vigilant Bonchune-class Border Patrol Service Cutter, NCC-57 Fourth Squadron Operations Area, the Delphic Expanse Star Log: February 9, 2163 ‘We’re approaching the last known coordinates of the Time Bandit, Commander,’ V’Han, the Vulcan helmsman, called out. ‘Activate the viewer and let’s see what we have,’ Commander Chalikoth th'Naars ordered and watched the viewscreen activate, immediately seeing the debris field that represented what was left of the Y-class freighter. ‘Is there any evidence of the ion storm the Cornelia Marie said passed through here?’ ‘Yes and no,’ Lieutenant Ghiroh answered as he peered through the sensor hood at the science station. ‘There are a lot of residual charged particles but it’s hard to tell whether they’re from the alleged ion storm or the destruction of the freighter.’ ‘Who has the technology to manufacture an ion storm?’ Lieutenant T’Rin asked from the tactical station. ‘I don’t think it was manufactured,’ Ghiroh said, looking up and turning to face the others. ‘I think it’s one of those weird phenomenon that ships have logged since the Enterprise dismantled the Delphic Expanse a decade ago.’ ‘Confirm the evidence of the ion storm and transmit it to Outpost Delta,’ Koth said. ‘Coordinate with engineering and bring the wreckage aboard. We’ll drop it off at Outpost Epsilon next week when we go in for resupply.’ ‘Aye sir,’ Ghiroh said and headed for the turbolift, wondering if they’d ever be rid of the Osaarians. ‘V’Han, once we’ve retrieved the wreckage, set a course for Tirex III.’ ‘Would it not be more logical to retrieve the Marbles from the privateers?’ the helmsman asked. ‘We are,’ Koth told him. ‘The Osaarians will try to sell them back to the Tirexa, who’ll pay anything to have their royal treasures back. We will be there to stop them.’ Koth watched the viewscreen as distant shimmers of light heralded the beaming of the wreckage into a cargo bay. He hoped that they would be able to recover the bodies as well, as many as possible anyway, to provide some small measure of closure to their families back home. ‘Commander, Commodore Stevens has acknowledged our report and forwarded it to Admiral Leonard at Border Service Command.’ ‘Where it will conveniently be forgotten, along with all of the others,’ Koth muttered, thinking that the admiral did nothing but find ways to get back to the regular fleet as though the Border Service was something less. It was hard work for sure, but patrolling the fledgling Federation’s borders was absolutely necessary, especially considering the enemies that Starfleet had made during their not-always-successful explorations. Koth had never wanted to be an explorer. He’d always wanted to be on the front lines of a battle, like most Andorians, and the Border Service gave him the opportunity to do just that. Outpost Delta Command Headquarters, Fourth Squadron Operations Area The Delphic Expanse Star Log: February 10, 2163 Outpost Delta’s command center had two levels. The lower level was where all of the operational work took place and the upper level had the commanding officer’s state room, the briefing room and a security communications room. Commodore Elias Stevens climbed the stairs to the second level and gained access by the dual-layer security system consisting of both a retinal scan and biometric scan. He entered the room and strode over to the display screens above a large multi-function terminal manned by a single crewman. The room resembled an astrometrics laboratory and in essence it was exactly that, but the occupants of the room kept tabs on everything that occurred in the Delphic Expanse, including the political situation as it developed with new colonies and the shifting allegiances of the races that the Enterprise discovered. ‘Commodore, what can I do for you?' asked the Starfleet Intelligence operative who ran the tactical array. 'Bring the Tirex Sector up please,' he answered and stared at the logo on the screen. 'What does that mean?' The operative looked up and smiled. 'It is a reference to an intelligence-gathering outfit from the twenty-first century. It stands for Multiple Threat Assessment Command, usually shortened by Starfleet Tactical to MTAC.' 'MTAC,' he echoed as he watched the operative manipulate the controls. The Tirex sector appeared on the screen and showed the locations of the two nearest border cutters, the Diligence and the Vigilant. The Diligence was on a milk run delivering supplies to the three colonies in the area. The Vigilant was still chasing down the Osaarian privateers which had been plaguing the sector for months. 'Zoom in on the coordinates where the ion storm was allegedly located and overlay the map of spatial anomalies that Admiral Archer put together while he was in command of the Enterprise.' The operative entered a series of commands and brought up the relevant area. ‘There doesn’t appear to be anything there.’ 'Have the computer track straight lines in all directions from that area and check to see if there are any unusual phenomenon reported along them. I sincerely hope you find nothing.' 'The computer is tracking now,' the woman said. 'It will take a few minutes.' 'Thank you, Lieutenant...Sorry, what was your name?' 'Sandra Rhodes, sir.' Stevens nodded and looked up as the computer repositioned the view on the screen to a point almost a light year from the ion storm. Rhodes touched a few keys and another point appeared several light years away in another direction. 'There are your spheres, Commodore,' Rhodes stated. 'The ion storm was at the intersection point, just like the anomalies that the Enterprise crew encountered. I'll enter the coordinates for them and encrypt the file. Will you be speaking with Admiral Leonard about this?’ ‘I have no choice,’ Stevens answered and asked, ‘Is this the most secure room on the outpost?’ 'Yes sir, it is.’ ‘Open a real time channel to Earth, Border Service Command. The admiral can no longer ignore this.’ ‘The channel is open, Commodore. I’m awaiting the encryption confirmation from the other end.’ The false starscape on the screen was replaced by the Border Service logo and then the unhappy mustachioed visage of Admiral Daniel Leonard. ‘Is there a problem, Commodore Stevens?’ 'Yes sir, there is. I have preliminary evidence of new spheres forming in the Delphic Expanse. The spatial phenomena that the locals have experienced, as well as those from our own vessels leave no other explanation.’ ‘Do you have visual evidence?’ the admiral asked. ‘Not yet, no, but the computer analysis…’ ‘…Is not enough for me to authorize additional vessels to be assigned to that sector,’ Leonard interrupted. ‘Until you have proof, visual evidence, there’s nothing I can do.’ ‘I need something more than a single Daedalus and a handful of obsolete Sarajevos and Bonchunes to patrol these sectors and keep the communication buoys operational, not to mention clearing asteroids and making milk runs to the colonies.’ Stevens protested. 'What do you mean one Daedalus? You have two,’ Leonard countered. ‘What happened to the other one?’ ‘The Wendigo is on patrol. The Banshee was critically damaged six months ago preventing an asteroid from destroying a pre-warp civilization. It’s sitting in a dry dock at the fifth squadron repair and refit station.’ ‘There’s your answer, Commodore. I authorize you to repair the Banshee. Return it to service and staff it with the personnel available. If you need additional people to replace them, that I’ll provide, otherwise I do not expect to hear from you again unless the Federation is in imminent danger. Leonard out.’ ‘Asshole,’ Stevens muttered and looked at Rhodes. ‘I guess I need to talk to a couple of captains.’ USS Vigilant Bonchune-class BPS Cutter, NCC-57 The Tirex System, the Delphic Expanse Star Log: February 12, 2163 ‘Commander, I’m reading weapons discharges in orbit of the third planet,’ T’Rin stated. ‘The Osaarian privateer is taking heavy fire from the Tirexa Defense Force cruisers.’ ‘Hail the lead cruiser,’ Koth ordered. ‘Channel open.’ ‘Tirexa Defense Force, this is the Starfleet Border Cutter Vigilant. Be advised, the Royal Marbles are likely to be on board the vessel you’re firing on. Cease fire and allow us to investigate.’ ‘This is no concern of yours, Starfleet. This is an internal matter. Stay out of it,’ the bright orange face of the Tirexa captain said, it’s gills and fins undulating fiercely. ‘You requested our assistance in retrieving the Marbles. What changed?’ ‘That was a different government,’ he told them. ‘The Tirexa Theocracy now rules this world. The Royal Marbles are a holdover from an ancient time. They are worthless to us.’ ‘The Royal Marbles contain the souls of the Ancestors,’ T’Rin interjected. ‘Is it logical to condemn your people’s history like this? Would it not be more appropriate to retrieve them and be hailed as saviors?’ ‘Commander, that ship won’t last much longer,’ V’Han said. ‘Their shields are buckling.’ ‘Lies! Those screams are not ancient souls, they are tormented ones. Prisoners from the ancient times kept as a warning to the crooks of today. They are of no consequence, just as the exiled heathens are of no consequence to us,’ he added and cut the channel. ‘Commander, I’m detecting eleven Tirexa in a cargo bay on that ship. Their lifesigns are weakening,’ Ghiroh called out as he peered through the sensor hood. ‘Can we beam them aboard?’ Koth asked. We can seal shuttlebay 1 and beam the water up too, but the transporter will likely burn out being overtaxed like that.’ ‘Do it! We’re heading to the refit and repair station after this anyway, so we can take care of it then,’ Koth ordered. ‘V’Han, move us into position above Osaarian ship and extend these fancy new shields around them.’ ‘Aye sir,’ the helmsman said as Ghiroh ran for the turbolift. The Vigilant moved into position and took the weapons fire meant for the Osaarians. The Tirexa cruisers moved into different vectors to attack the cutter at its weakest points. Less than thirty seconds later, T’Rin reported, ‘Shuttlebay 1 has been sealed and transport has begun. I would question how the Tirexa Defense Force obtained the schematics for this vessel but I believe I know the answer.’ ‘T’Rin, I told you we’d deal with that later,’ Koth countered as the ship shook from the continual weapons fire. ‘Shields are down to eighty percent,’ she reported and Koth growled. He touched an intercom panel on him armrest an asked, ‘Ghiroh, what’s taking so long?’ ‘The transporter was never designed for this kind of use,’ he protested. ‘I have the water beamed aboard and I’m bringing the Tirexa council members in one at a time.’ ‘Seventy percent,’ T’Rin interjected. ‘We will need to leave in five minutes.’ ‘I need more time!’ ‘I’ll do what I can, Koth out,’ the Andorian said and turned to T’Rin. ‘It’s time to fight back. Aim for their weapons only. I just want to disarm them.’ The Vulcan tactical officer nodded and fired the phase cannons at the lead cruiser’s forward weapon ports. Two explosions caused the cruiser to back off momentarily and T’Rin swiveled the cannons to take out the weapons on the second cruiser. The third moved off to cover the retreat of the others. ‘Much better,’ Koth said as the bosun’s whistle sounded. ‘Koth here.’ ‘I have them all,’ Ghiroh answered. ‘The Emperor Regent wishes to speak with you, and just so you know, Commander, the transporter is fried. I have no idea how we’re going to get them off the ship.’ ‘One crisis at a time, Lieutenant. Tell them I’ll be right down. V’Han, set a course for Outpost Epsilon. T’Rin, I want Commodore Stevens on standby when I get back up here.’ A trio of ‘aye sirs’ responded as he stood up and headed for the turbolift. Outpost Epsilon Command Headquarters, Fifth Squadron Operations Area Refit and Repair Station, the Delphic Expanse Star Log: February 18, 2163 Commander Chalikoth th’Naars stared at his ship as the outpost’s engineers swarmed over her. The chief engineer’s list of systems that needed to be repaired was long, and quite a few needed to be replaced. They would be stuck here for several days and he didn’t like that. He could see that the largest dry dock, which held the Banshee, was also a hive of activity, and wondered what was happening to her. ‘I need a first officer,’ a voice said from behind him and he instantly knew who it was. Her bioelectric field was unmistakable. ‘Captain,’ he replied and they hugged briefly. ‘Are they finally repairing her?’ ‘They are. There’s a situation brewing and she’s needed, which is why I need my first officer back.’ His antennae flattened against his scalp and he sighed. ‘I like having my own ship, even if it is a little one.’ It won’t be the same,’ she told him. ‘The quartermaster has orders from Commodore Stevens and because I was there at the time, I asked him if I could tell you.’ ‘Tell me what?’ ‘The Vigilant is being re-purposed as a buoy tender. The weapons are being stripped out. It’s going to be a repair and maintenance ship for the Fourth Squadron.’ ‘So the only way I’m going to see any action is on board the Wendigo or the Banshee?’ ‘I need a first officer,’ Gunderson pressed a little harder. ‘If I’m going back out there in a rebuilt ship, I want my old crew. I’m hoping that if you agree to come back, I can get the others to follow.’ ‘I’ll come back on one condition,’ he told her. ‘Name it.’ ‘I get to lead the occasional landing party. You don’t get to have all the fun anymore.’ She laughed. ‘Deal. Will you help me get the others?’ ‘I’ll do my best. Did you hear about the Tirexa Council?’ ‘I heard you rescued them.’ ‘They told me they had a colony close by and we dropped them off a couple of days ago. They have requested our, the Federation’s, help in getting their homeworld back.’ ‘And?’ ‘I think someone up the chain is sitting on it.’ ‘It’s only been a few days.’ ‘The Commodore told me he pushed it through but Border Service Command isn’t doing their part.’ ‘It’s no secret that the Admiral doesn’t want the job, I just didn’t think he’d not do it, but maybe there’s a way around it.’ ‘How so?’ ‘Leave it to me. I have a few strings I can pull,’ she told him. ‘Now, back to the subject at hand. We have 227 spots to fill, and two weeks to do it in. We need to get started.’ ‘About that, I think I have some ideas about automation to reduce the number of people we need in certain areas.’ ‘Which areas?’ she asked, intrigued. ‘Weapons, ship maintenance, and engineering,’ he answered. ‘How many people can you eliminate the need for?’ ‘I think I can eliminate approximately forty people.’ She thought about it and then said, ‘Once we’ve got the senior staff sorted out, we’ll sit down with them and the quartermaster and see what we can do.’ ‘Let’s get started then.’ TO BE CONTINUED NEXT TIME ON OUTPOST DELTA: TALES OF THE BORDER SERVICE: EPISODE 2: THE GATHERING Captain Gunderson and Commander th'Naars try to pull the old crew back together as tensions mount over an old enemy resurfacing while elsewhere in the Delphic Expanse a secretive group with an even more secretive agenda try to turn the locals against the Border Service and the fledgling Federation.