Star Trek: Guardian - 1.1 - All Alone In The Night

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Bry_Sinclair, Nov 18, 2018.

  1. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    This has been a long hard year, with work being ridiculously crazy stressful to the point of exhaustion, robbing me of all desire to do anything creative or enjoyable. But now the hair loss, weight gain (wish it was the other way round) and tears are over, I find myself wanting to return to telling good little stories in the Trekverse (the proper Trekverse that is, none of the STD bollocks--who would've thought something would make me reconsider NuTrek as not being the bottom of the barrel, but I digress).

    Wanting to take my newfound inner peace, I have opted for a whole new project to focus on (previously titled "Sentinel") and have thoughts on how to make it into another mini-mini series, this time on a mini-starship with some hopefully-not-so-mini characters. So without further ado, I give you...

    STAR TREK: GUARDIAN
     
    Gibraltar and DarKush like this.
  2. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    Standing at the viewport, looking beyond his reflection to the stars streaking past, Thelek allowed himself a rare smile. In seventy-two hours, the U.S.S. Guardian would reach Outpost Sierra-3, signifying the end of his first tour commanding the patrol boat—seventeen days spent watching out for hazards, illegal activity, ships in distress or unusual activity along the Kzinti border. Other that one safety inspection of a freighter, the patrol had been quiet, though that had allowed him to establish a routine and get to know his crew. Everything had gone smoothly, which was a relief. When he’d first come on board, the ship had lost almost two-thirds of her crew to reassignments or retirement, so he was faced with an untried crew, who were also having to get used to a new CO. It was a difficult task on bigger ships, but with just twenty-one aboard then it was even harder.

    The Guardian was his first patrol boat, though he knew about them by reputation, but it was quickly evident that the crew who’d remained with the ship were tight-knit. He could only hope that the new crew would bond just as easily, it would help the ship operate more smoothly, though maybe not as relaxed as some of the crew were—he’d need to speak with James and Linae about reinforcing discipline.

    The intercom whistled. “Bridge to Thelek,” Linae’s husky voice filled his cabin.

    He tapped the panel beside his bed. “Go ahead, Lieutenant.”

    “Sir, you have a priority transmission from Sierra-Three.”

    He frowned, picking up the uniform tunic he’d neatly laid out on his bed. Any sort of priority signal was to be taken seriously, as that was what they typically dealt with. “Patch it to my office.”

    Pulling on his duty shirt, he stepped from his quarters into the adjacent office. Being the CO afforded him a room that he wouldn’t need to share, a private head and connected to a separate workspace, all a few meters from the bridge. Sitting at the desk, he activated his terminal and waited for the Starfleet emblem to disappear, replaced with the heavily lined face of Captain Ezekiel Hannigan.

    “Lieutenant Commander, nine days ago the freighter Star Runner left the Jattus four colony heading back here. They should’ve arrived two days ago, but there’s been no sign of them and aren’t responding to hails.”

    Thelek’s scowl deepened. “No emergency transmissions?”

    “The last communication from them was a routine check-in fifty hours ago.”

    “What were they carrying?”

    “Nothing, other than shipboard supplies. She had just delivered a routine load of foodstuffs, medicines, building materials, personal correspondence and a new communications relay satellite for the colony.”

    Pirates or raiders typically targeted ships laden with cargo, to sell it through the black market. Attacking an empty ship made no sense, unless the crew had caused problems in an open port. “Are the crew known as troublemakers?”

    “They’ve been working the region for the last eighteen months and we’ve had no negative reports.” Hannigan looked at his computer and hit a few keys. “I’m sending through their last known heading, as well as what files we have on the ship and crew. You are to divert and investigate, report back to me as soon as you find anything.”

    His panel chirped with the receipt of the data. “Understood. Guardian out.”

    With a few quick taps, he saved the information to the central database and transferred the co-ordinates to navigation. As soon as he was done, Thelek was out of his office and heading for the bridge. It took him only seconds to reach the double doors, which parted and permitted him entry. Like the rest of the ship, the command centre of the Guardian was small and well formed, his chair in the centre, the flight control consoles a step down between him and the viewscreen, whilst four consoles filled the outer bulkheads (sensors and engineering on port, communications and tactical to starboard).

    Lieutenant Linae, his second officer, sat at communications, Petty Officer Second Class Sakara manned her customary place at the helm, whilst Able Crewman Zei Yenob was on bridge rotation at navigation, all three of them had served on board for longer than Thelek.

    Linae looked up at him as he entered a look of concern on her stunning face—though all the Deltans he’d met were very attractive, she stood out among them. He focused on the flight control team for the moment; they needed to get underway before he could brief anyone.

    “Mr Yenob, I’ve added new co-ordinates to the navicomp. Alter our heading to match. Sakara, increase to warp factor seven.”

    “Aye sir,” they replied in unison and set to their new duties.

    He turned to his second officer. “We’ve got a missing freighter out there, empty cargo holds and a crew that don’t seem to have made a nuisance of themselves. I want you to dig through the information we got from Sierra-Three, see what you can find out about the Star Runner.”

    She nodded. “You got it, Skipper.”

    The muscles in his jaw flexed. When he’d first come on board the Guardian some of the crew had followed the human tradition (that had wormed its way into Starfleet parlance) of referring to him as ‘Captain’, something he had squashed—he wasn’t there yet. Since then some of the longer-serving members of the crew had taken to using ‘Skipper’, apparently a holdover from his predecessor, Commander Burnstein. Though he wasn’t overly fond of any sort of nickname, he’d held his tongue hoping it wouldn’t catch on. He’d been mistaken.

    “Crewman, what’s our ETA at their last reported position?”

    The Saurian deckhand cocked his head as he looked at the display. “At present speed, four-point-eight hours.”

    “Lieutenant, organise a staff briefing for oh-nine-hundred.”

    “I’ll have a full report ready by then.”

    Thelek nodded, turned on his heel and out the bridge. He’d yet to have breakfast, so he opted to head below as there may not be much opportunity to eat, he would also likely catch some of the other senior staff and could fill them in on the details. Bypassing the forward turbolift he took the spiral stairs, heading down two decks to where the mess hall was located.

    The Guardian was a compact ship, with narrow corridors, small quarters (designed to be shared when the ship was fully staffed), and still needing to have all the systems and technologies necessary to fulfil her designed function. He found himself amazed at just what had been crammed into the ship, though the lack of space did limit just how long she could operate, but even in a short tour, they could be called upon to deal with multiple dangerous assignments—which the crew accepted without question, so the reports he’d read stated.

    Heading to the starboard side of E Deck, the smell of the freshly cooked breakfast was easy to detect. He entered the small mess hall to a low level of chatter and laughter, the crew present at ease. Thelek approached the serving hatch, where the cooked breakfast options were under the heating element, his mouth already salivating at the impressive spread that was always on offer. He filled his plate, choosing high protein items that would keep him going for longer.

    “Morning sir,” chirped Able Crewman Taax as he brought a pot of freshly brewed coffee to the hatch.

    “Good morning.”

    “Shall I pour you a mug? It’s Rigellian blend,” the Tiburonian asked with grin. Thelek wasn’t sure exactly how the ship’s chef had discovered his favourite type of coffee, though he was grateful for it.

    “Please.”

    The crewman poured a full mug and handed it over, before leaving the pot for others to help themselves and heading back to prep for the next meal. When he’d first come aboard, Thelek had to admit he was surprised at just how good Taax was—having suspected that anyone of his calibre would’ve been snapped up by larger ships.

    Tray in hand, he went through to the tables and found five of the crew seated across two of the three tables. With space restrictions there was nowhere for a private dining room for himself or the other officers, as such all the crew ate in the same space, which he suspected added to the camaraderie. Senior Chief Petty Officer Wendy Zhao noticed him first and gave him a warm, motherly smile.

    “Morning Skipper, care to join us?” she asked, gesturing at the empty chair beside her.

    The others in the room, who hadn’t seen him enter, quickly scrambled to get to their feet. “At ease,” he told them as he joined Zhao and Petty Officer Ryl Senad, both engineers in red coveralls, whilst the other table sat crewmen Kelle Ama, Janine Powell and Ciari Rahl.

    “Something going on out there?” the senior non-com asked as he started eating.

    He raised a quizzical eyebrow as he cast her a glance. “I felt the increase in speed through the deck plates, and you’re having a hearty breakfast which means you might not have much chance for anything later.”

    “There’s an empty freighter that’s running a couple of days late for a scheduled stop off.”

    “Empty?” Zhao pondered.

    “Who’d attack an empty freighter?” Senad thought aloud.

    “It’s doubtful,” he admitted. “Hopefully, it’s just technical difficulties that we can help them out with and then be on our way again.”

    He looked back the chief engineer and saw her frown deepen. She had served on the Guardian longer than anyone else (this year marked her tenth aboard), so had gone through more than any of the officers and crew, so had a better sense of what things were like on the outer fringes of Federation space. Her brow smoothened out once more, her look of concern fleeting but enough for Thelek to rethink his approach to their situation.

    She gave him another smile, though this one didn’t quite reach her eyes. “I’ll have a repair team standing ready.”

    “I’ve arranged for a briefing in an hour, so you’ll be filled in on the full details.”

    “Very good, sir.” She glanced at the chronometer. “Come on, Ryl, we can fit in a level three diagnostic of auxiliary systems before then.”

    “Aye Chief.”

    Thelek watched the engineers as they left the mess hall, fairly certain that what seemed to be a routine search and assist assignment was going to be anything but.

    * * * * *

    The page about the staff meeting had come through just as Danika James had been getting ready for bed. As the XO, she supervised beta shift, but as the boarding officer she also led the ships visit, board, search and seizure team, as such this could end up being a very long day for her—depending on what they were facing. However, when she’d signed onto the Guardian she did so knowing what would be expected of her, which was why she’d gone after the post. Patrol boats weren’t on many officers’ radar, but the research she’d done had shown that those that did serve onboard gained more experience in a shorter space of time, which qualified them for promotion faster than average, which was exactly what she wanted. So if there were days when she had only a few catnaps to briefly recharge her batteries, she’d take it in order to lead landing parties and be second-in-command of a ship at just twenty-seven.

    She had a quick sonic shower and change of uniform, to freshen herself up, before topping herself up with half a pot of coffee in the mess hall, then heading to the briefing room on C Deck. When she entered, Lieutenant Commander Thelek was already at the head of the table, reading over a tablet and having a quiet discussion with Lieutenant Linae, who was perched on the edge. Ensign Xam Ra-Vharii, their recently graduated navigator, was admiring the curves of the Deltan officer whilst failing to make it look like he wasn’t—she’d need to have a discussion with the ensign, remind him of his xenosociology classes at the Academy, and the fact that all Deltans who left their homeworld to work among other (“sexually immature”) species took an oath of celibacy. The last person in the room was Chief Petty Officer Logan Kincaid, the lead boatswain, master-at-arms and jack-of-all-trades, who was her deputy when it came to the boarding teams, unfortunately they’d only carried out one routine safety inspection so had yet to see him in action, but after reading his service jacket she knew that he would have all of their backs.

    Taking her seat on Thelek’s right, she gave him a nod, which he returned, then turned to Ra-Vharii. “Ensign,” she said, snapping his attention away from the second officer. “I hope you’ve sorted out that misalignment in the navigational array.”

    The younger officer frowned slightly. “Sir?”

    “There was a point-zero-five discrepancy noted during my shift last night.”

    “That’s well within the accepted margin of error, sir.”

    “Maybe according to the regs, but not in my book. I want it at no more than point-zero-two before we reach Sierra-Three.”

    She hid a smile when she saw the rookie wince, knowing just what he’d have to go through to accomplish such a task—having been given the same job when she was a junior officer.

    “Yes sir,” he replied dutifully, his shoulders slumping. He’d stopped ogling the lieutenant at least.

    The doors opened and the last two attendees entered. Senior Chief Zhao (who was proudly known as “Mama Bear” among some of the longer serving members of the crew), in her customary red coveralls and smudge of grease on her cheek, led the way with Corpsman Reyne coming in behind her. The Petty Officer First Class was hard to get a read on, being that she was rarely seen, even when on duty which, on a ship the size of the Guardian, was an impressive feat. James had been quick to read up on the Boslic’s file, but even that wasn’t hugely detailed, and the few times she’d had any interaction with the non-com had been brief and to the point. Someone she would definitely need to keep an eye on.

    Linae slipped effortlessly into her seat as the last two crewmembers entered and Thelek began the meeting. “Nine days ago, the freighter Star Runner began the seven day journey from Jattus four to Station Sierra-Three. The last contact the outpost had with them was a little over fifty-one hours ago, since then there has been no sign of them and no emergency broadcasts.”

    James noted the look of concern from around the table following the Commander’s succinct introduction—if there was one thing she had come to know about the man, he cut to the chase. “The Jattus colony is still fairly new, so they won’t be exporting anything yet,” she commented.

    Thelek nodded at her. “That’s correct. The Star Runner had just completed a routine cargo drop for the colony and was empty on her return trip.”

    “This region has been pretty quiet for the last couple of years, since the colony was established and patrols were increased,” stated Kincaid, his deep voice with soft tone in contrast to his powerful build. “The last ship seized was a Nausicaan raider eighteen months ago, and she picked a fight with the Sentry.”

    “Are we sure the crew didn’t go AWOL?” enquired Reyne, who was seated on the opposite side of the table next to Kincaid.

    The CO looked at Linae. “Lieutenant?”

    “The nine-man crew of the Star Runner are a mix of boomers, freighter jockeys and retired Starfleet, who were thoroughly vetted when they bid for the supply contracts with several of the colonies along the border. Since they won them, they’ve had glowing reports from every planet and station they visit. They’re always ahead of schedule and have had no breakages or spoiled cargo. In short, they’re the sort of crew that wouldn’t give anyone cause for concern.”

    “Except whoever they beat out for the contracts,” James interjected.

    All eyes turned to her. Being a boomer herself, James knew all about the life the crew of the Star Runner had chosen, one she had turned her back on to join Starfleet.

    “Contract bidding is pretty cutthroat at times, especially lucrative work like this. There are some freighter captains out there that will do whatever they can to get work, and if they feel they’ve been cheated or underbid by a competitor then things can get dicey.”

    “Noted,” said Thelek then looked at Linae. “Look into who else was bidding for the work, so we can eliminate a disgruntled rival.”

    “Aye Skipper.”

    James noticed the slight twitch of Thelek’s jaw muscle before his face smoothened once more. “This may just be technical difficulties, the crew may be pushing their ship a little too hard for too long and be in need of repairs.”

    “What class of ship are we dealing with?” Zhao asked.

    Thelek glanced at his datapad. “She’s a Monarch-Class freighter.”

    “Hmm,” the chief engineer mused. “Those ugly byzaks are renowned for their reliability; she’d have to be in a pretty sorry state to have failures in both her engines and communications.”

    “Let’s just hope that’s all this is,” stated the Commander, “but we’re not going to take any chances. We’ll approach at yellow alert, full active scans. XO, have your team prepped and ready.”

    “Aye sir.”

    “We’ll reach the freighter’s last known position in three-point-five hours. I want systems checked and the crew ready. Any questions?” The assembled officers and senior non-coms remained quiet. “Lieutenant James, please remain, the rest of you are dismissed.”

    She remained seated, facing the Andorian as the others rose and quickly left the small briefing room. In less than a minute they were on their own, with only the hum of the warp drive. She’d only met Thelek twenty-two days earlier, when she’d gone in for the interview for her current position, well aware that she was the youngest and most inexperienced candidate he’d have to choose from, but since that first meeting she’d taking a liking to the man. He spoke plainly and honestly, though he was somewhat closed off he wasn’t brusque.

    He leant forward, hands clasped on the table top. “Are you going to be alright, Lieutenant? You’ll have not had much rest since your shift ended.”

    “I’ll be fine, sir, it’s not my first double shift. After I brief my team, run through our boarding protocols and check the equipment, if I feel I need it I can catch a couple of hours kip before we even get close.”

    “Very well, I just wanted to make sure—this is our first real operation on this tour.”

    “The milk run is well and truly over, sir.”

    “Then we better get to it.”

    * * * * *
     
  3. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    I like it. It’s TOS and I like TOS. I like the integrated crew of Humans and aliens. Thelek seems like a good Captain and he knows his business.

    More, please?
     
  4. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2013
    Location:
    USA
  5. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    “Approaching co-ordinates,” Ra-Vharii announced.

    “Scans show no signs of any ships,” stated Linae from the sensor station.

    Thelek looked from her to the twin flight control console. “Drop us out of warp.”

    “Aye sir,” Sakara replied as she entered the command that brought the Guardian to sublight speed at the last known position of the Star Runner.

    “Begin sweeps for debris, engine wakes, weapon particles.”

    “Initiating scans.”

    Thelek kept himself poised on the edge of his seat without trying to appear too edgy or eager. He needed to give his crew time to do their jobs, to run scans and analyses. From the corner of his eye he saw James, who was seated at the engineering station, likewise trying to maintain her composure. Given that over two days had passed since the ship was in the area, the chances of them finding any sort of indication of what might’ve happened to them were slight, but this wasn’t a well-travelled spacelane so there was always a chance.

    An indicator at navigation chirped. He gripped his armrests and braced himself as the young Efrosian looked at what his sensors were showing him. After an agonising few moments, the navigator moved to look over his shoulder.

    “Sir,” he began, by the end of the simple word Thelek was on his feet and stepping down to look at what he’d found. “I have a very faint ion trail.”

    “Can you extrapolate a course?”

    “I think so, however, it may not be the Star Runner, sir.”

    Thelek laid a hand on his shoulder. “It’s a lead, Ensign, we’ll follow up on it see if it’s them. Begin plotting the most likely course.”

    “Aye sir.”

    Giving the rookie officer one last encouraging look, he glanced up at sensors. “Linae?”

    “Other than Xam’s ion trail, I’m not getting any other sign of them or indication of what might’ve happened out here.”

    “I’d approximate their course to be two-two-zero-mark-zero-zero-five.”

    “What’s on that heading?”

    “Nothing sir. No star systems, stations, nebulae.”

    “If they continue on that course, in four light-years they leave Federation space,” Sakara said, having patrolled this section of the border for three years she knew it like the back of her hand.

    His antennae curled in surprise, an unconscious trait that made him a poor poker player. There was no reason for a contracted freighter to head outside of Federation space, not without informing their next port of call as to why (standing orders of all ships employed by the Federation, one which an experienced crew like the Star Runner’s would know).

    “Mr Rios, inform Sierra-Three of what we’ve found. We are altering course to pursue.”

    “Aye sir,” the communications operator replied in what was his customary monotone.

    Thelek stepped over to James, who had the specifications of a typical Monarch-Class freighter on one of her screens. He was pleased to see that she was already ahead of him.

    “What’s their top speed?”

    “Empty, she can reach warp factor six though wouldn’t be able to maintain that indefinitely. Her maximum cruise unloaded in warp five. With a fifty-five hour head start she could be almost a light-year away.”

    “At our maximum it could take us thirteen hours to intercept.”

    “Assuming they maintained their course and speed.”

    He nodded. “Until we have any evidence to say otherwise, we have to work under assumptions and conjecture.” He turned back to Ra-Vharii and Sakara. “Lock us on that course, maximum warp.”

    “Course set.”

    “Engines ready.”

    “Engage.”

    * * * * *

    Given that they may not reach the Star Runner until well through beta shift, the Commander had stood all hands down from their stations, to give the other crew chance to rest up before they would be called into action. Though their first tour together hadn’t had any incidents to respond to, the routine readiness drills had shown that they could be ready in minutes. As the youngest officer onboard everything was new to Xam Ra-Vharii. Whilst the likes of Commander Thelek, Lieutenant James and Linae seemed to take everything in their stride, he was still trying to find his feet—but that was part of the reason he’d wanted to serve on the Guardian. Barely four weeks ago, he had graduated with distinction at the top of his class and had the choice of any ship in the fleet, from heavy cruisers like the Enterprise to deep space surveyors like the T’Plana-Hath, but he had passed them all over in order to be where he now was. This was proper ‘seat of the pants’ navigating, as his roommate had called it, here he would need to make quick decisions and put his skills to the test and for him, that was what he wanted from life.

    Of course, being the fourth ranking member of the crew also put him in a good place to gain some much needed experience. With a CO like Thelek, he had a feeling that he would get plenty of opportunity.

    When the rest of the crew had been stood down, he remained at his post as he was on duty during alpha shift, under the Commander’s watchful eye. Since Sakara had gone down below, Lead Crewman Ama had taken her place at the helm, so he’d asked her to keep an eye on their flight controls whilst he focused on sensors. One of the first things Thelek had told him, was to not throw his weight around, though he was an officer, which gave him seniority over the non-commissioned and enlisted personnel, he was coming aboard with no experience—something the crew had in spades. As a former NCO, Thelek undoubtedly knew a thing or two about officers with a false sense of entitlement, so Ra-Vharii had made sure to listen to those that knew better than himself.

    The pair were alone on the bridge, the Commander was down in the engine room speaking with Senior Chief Zhao (who had stayed at her post). The chirps of the computer, nearly inaudible hiss of the environmental processors and thrum of the warp drive were all that could be heard as they both focused on their duties. After being fully staffed only a few short hours ago, the normal emptiness of the bridge felt odd—something he suspected he’d never have faced on a bigger ship (assuming he’d even get any bridge time there).

    Ama suddenly jerked her shoulders, as though feeling a chill. He glanced at the Kamoran and saw her blush.

    “Sorry Ensign.”

    “Everything alright?”

    “I find situations like this a little disconcerting. What would make a freighter with an upstanding crew suddenly go rogue? Why head for unclaimed space?” she shook her head, the focused her large dark eyes on him. “There are just too many questions and no immediate answers.”

    “Well—” he began, before the sensor readout called out for attention.

    He silenced the alert and brought up the new display. “Whoa!” he exclaimed as he saw what was ahead of them, before hitting the intercom. “Commander Thelek to the bridge.”

    “What is it?” Ama enquired.

    He cast her a determined look. “Hopefully a few answers.”

    Barely seconds after being paged, Commander Thelek entered the bridge. “Report.”

    “I’m getting a debris field ahead of us, sir.”

    “The Star Runner?” asked Thelek stopping beside navigation.

    “Negative, there’s not enough of it, plus the ion trail looks to veer off its current heading. It looks like they’re now on two-three-five-mark-zero-two-five, which puts them on course for a small star system. It’s named on the chart as D-107/A.”

    “How long until we reach the debris?”

    “At present speed we’ll be in range in eighteen minutes.”

    “Drop us out of warp before we get into transporter range,” he instructed the flight control team, then tapped the companel. “Thelek to Zhao.”

    “Go ahead.”

    “Chief, we have a debris field ahead of us. I want to beam it aboard for analysis, see if it comes from the Star Runner and, if it is, if it can give us any clues as to what happened aboard.”

    “I’ll get Chandra to cargo transporter one and prep the workshop.”

    “Thanks Chief. Thelek out.” He looked back at Ra-Vharii. “Ensign, see what information we have on that system, see if this might be a deliberate course change or something else.”

    “Aye sir.”

    * * * * *

    As the chucks of twisted struts and scorched panels had appeared on the transporter pad, Zhao had felt her stomach sink. Whatever it has once been was hard to determine, so she hadn’t held out much hope of discovering just what it was they’d found. She and Chandra had gone through the debris with tricorders, to see if they could identify anything that might give them a clue about what was now littered across the deck of the starboard side cargo hold and just where it had come from.

    She’d been able to determine that it was duranium, refined to Federation standard, so that didn’t discount it as coming from the wayward freighter—though it could’ve easily be blown off another ship that travelled through the region weeks or months ago.

    “I’m not getting a thing from this pile of dren!”

    Zhao cast a wary look at the able crewman. He was among the new arrivals to the Guardian and it had quickly become apparent why he’d been dropped in her lap. Though a capable engineer (definitely one of the best electrical techs she’d seen), he was grating, often speaking first and never thinking about what he said. Definitely not the sort of engineer she’d have chosen for her crew, though he was with them for now and she had to try and whip him into some sort of shape.

    “Really? Nothing at all?”

    “Duranium hull plates, what more is there to say?”

    “So you didn’t see that the scorch patterns are on the internal panels, or that the blast edges show that whatever blew this ‘dren’ into space originated from inside a ship.”

    “What? How did you—” he began before his voice trailed off as he looked around at the debris once more.

    “I looked,” she said simply.

    She crouched down next to one of the internal sheets and Chandra came in for a closer look. As the young man scowled, she ran her scanner over it, confirming what she already knew. Whichever ship the wreckage had come from would have a sizable hole in its side, at least four meters high by six meters wide, punching through the internal and external hulls, as well as all the usual pipes, circuitry and conduits.

    The tricorder chirped as its sensors swept the panel. She studied the display and frowned, then double checked the results. “I was a sample of this taken to the workshop for further analysis.”

    “What is it?”

    “A room just down the corridor from engineering, about twelve meters that way,” she said pointing behind her as she continued to study the sensor display.

    Chandra huffed loudly, before he picked up a laser cutter and set about removing a smaller section for testing. As he did so, she picked out a few other smaller pieces she’d need to confirm her working theory, handing them all to the crewman to take to the workshop. He left, muttering to himself.

    When the doors closed behind him she let out a sigh. “That kid is hard work,” she muttered to herself as she finished up her scans.

    Satisfied she had what she needed, she closed her tricorder and followed Chandra. Patrol boats were designed to do just that, as such space wasn’t allocated to research facilities or a science lab, which meant any analysis work they needed to do was crude and on the fly. Luckily, after having spent a decade onboard she’d managed to kit out the workshop with a few useful pieces of (second or third hand) equipment to help out in that regard.

    She entered to find Chandra loitering with intent, obviously curious as to what she’d found. “Thank you, Chandra. You better get back to the engine room and help Mr Senad with that diagnostic of the EPS grid.”

    He opened his mouth but she shut him up with a look, one she typically only used with her daughter, Camille, when she was teetering on the edge of deep trouble. Luckily it worked on Chandra as well as it did on her offspring. He closed his mouth and left her in peace without uttering a single heavy breath.

    Already with a good idea about what they’d found and what had caused the damage, she needed to be certain. It was very much a case of more haste, less speed. Taking time to gather evidence now would allow them to make informed decisions later. As she set the samples into the analyser, she knew there was no way to determine with complete certainty that the debris in cargo bay came from the Star Runner, just that it would be consistent with the Federation freighter.

    As the equipment ran its scans the results were displayed on the screen. She carefully read over the findings, picking apart the metallurgical composition and analysis of the scorching. All she read confirmed her suspicions, which made her smile. She had never met the crew of the Star Runner but she admired them for their sheer gall.

    “Zhao to Thelek,” she said into the companel, not taking her eyes from the display.

    “Thelek here.”

    “Skipper, you may want to see what I’ve found in the workshop.”

    “Understood.”

    The channel abruptly closed and she knew that he would be with her in under two minutes—the new CO was nothing if not prompt.

    Ninety-six seconds later, the doors opened and the towering Andorian entered.

    “What have you found, Chief?”

    “The debris is from the housing of a Federation navigational array and was deliberately blown off from the ship, using a very simplistic bomb.”

    He frowned as he looked at the pieces of metal on the workbench, then back at her. “You’re sure?”

    “The trace of antiprotons in the metal is unmistakable, it’s almost saturated with them, which only happens to the housing around a deflector array or dish. The explosive looks like it was made from a sarium power cell, not very advanced but it’ll go boom.”

    “Couldn’t an explosive that close to a source of antiprotons destroy the ship?”

    Zhao nodded. “There’s a high probability, though it would leave more debris than this. I suspect that whoever set it managed to shape the charge to cause more structural damage.”

    “Why?”

    She looked from the display to the lieutenant commander. “They’ve altered course haven’t they.”

    “How did you know that?”

    She picked up a melted piece, about the size of her fist, and handed it to him. “That is their primary astrogation sensor. The explosive was set to damage the hull, but it took out their main means of navigation. Those two factors combined means they won’t be able to go above warp three, at least not safely, so they’ll need to stop somewhere and make repairs—most likely somewhere private.

    “If this is the Star Runner, whatever happened to them the crew aren’t going down without a fight.”

    “Let’s just hope their resistance doesn’t get them all killed,” he thought aloud. “No way to tell if it is from the Star Runner?”

    Shaking her head, Zhao took the part back from Thelek. “This is a commonly available part, used on at least a dozen different classes of civilian ship. It’s too badly damaged to get a serial number off of, and all I can tell from the hull panels is that they were made in the last ten years—again, they’re readily available to any ship needing patched up from here to Nimbus.”

    “Even if it’s not them, whoever was desperate enough to blow a hole in their ship is in need of our help.”

    “That they are, Skipper.”

    “Anything else to add?”

    She glanced at the screen one last time, which showed the full analysis, and saw nothing else of relevance. “Nothing that can shed any more light.”

    He gave her a nod and reached for the companel. “Thelek to bridge.”

    “Bridge, Ra-Vharii here, sir.”

    “Ensign, set the new course. Maximum warp.”

    “Aye sir.”

    Thelek looked back at her. Zhao held his steely grey eyes and gave him a warm smile. She could see the internal turbulence, this was his first real test on his very first command; excitement, trepidation, unease, eagerness, all wrestling behind the calm demeanour he was presenting (better than most other young officers she’d known).

    “Thank you, Chief.”

    He turned and headed for the door.

    “I’m always here for you, Skipper.”

    He paused in the open doorway and glanced back at her, before giving her a slight nod with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. He carried on into the corridor and let the door panel close behind him.

    * * * * *
     
    Count Zero, Sgt_G and mthompson1701 like this.
  6. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    Ship’s log, stardate: 2832.5.

    The Guardian has altered course to match what we believe is the heading of the Star Runner. At present speed, our ETA is in one-point-six hours.

    Senior Chief Zhao’s analysis has shown that the ship has been damaged by someone onboard, which is why they have changed heading as they will need to make repairs. Ensign Ra-Vharii has looked into the only survey of D-107/A we have on file. Our records show that the system is in a formative stage, with no planets but a large number of asteroids, dust particles, gravity wells and radiation surges, all of which will make navigational hazardous, as well as affect communications and sensors. Transporters will also be rendered ineffective; as such a shuttle is being prepped for the VBSS team.

    * * * * *

    Chief Logan Kincaid sat at the pilot’s controls as he ran through the standard pre-flight checks. Given all that the patrol boat had to deal with on a standard deployment, there were a number of times when transporters couldn’t be used, so in these instances they would often need to use one (or both) of their shuttles. The auxiliary craft were smaller than the more common Class-F shuttles used by most other Starfleet ships or bases and were restricted to impulse, but with reinforced hulls and a phaser emitter as standard they better suited their needs.

    Whenever the shuttles were to be used, Kincaid made sure he was the one that carried out the systems checks, given that he would always be on the team that was being deployed. Though he made sure that all the mates and deckhands under him were just as thorough as he was, it had become something of a habit for him—one no one could dissuade him from.

    As he ran diagnostics on everything from the power plant to the manual overrides, the newest member of the crew (in every sense), Apprentice Hunter Munro, was checking and loading up equipment they could well need. Munro was fresh from Basic Training, barely turned eighteen, he made Ra-Vharii look like an old spacer. Despite his inexperience, he was a workhorse and very eager to muck in wherever he could which, on a patrol boat, was a very good mind-set to have. Kincaid had made sure to put the rookie through his paces, trying to get him up to speed as quickly as possible—which was why he’d included Munro’s name on the boarding team roster.

    He had just finished up checking the guidance and flight control systems when he heard Munro stomp up the entry ramp. Glancing back he saw the younger man carrying a full case of body armour, which was standard for VBSS operations. Kincaid knew from personal experience just how cumbersome that would be, so was impressed to see the crewman apprentice handle it with apparent ease—though as someone who had captained both his high school wrestling and rugby teams, it was unsurprising that the kid had both strength and stamina. In a lot of ways, Kincaid saw himself in the younger man, which was probably why he wanted to make sure he excelled—just as his first boatswain had done for him.

    “Got everything?” he asked, smiling to himself.

    Munro set the crate down so he could fill the lockers near the rear of the shuttle. “Six sets of body armour, helmets and wrist scanners—were we needing more than that, Chief?”

    Kincaid chuckled softly. “That should do it, but you should take it a little easier otherwise you’ll sprain something and be no use to anyone.”

    “Got it, Chief.”

    “How’re we looking, Chief?” came the voice of Lieutenant James, who had managed to enter the hangar and approach the entry hatch without him noticing. Immediately, Munro stood at attention not moving a muscle.

    James stepped into the shuttle and cast an amused sideward glance at him, before focusing on Kincaid.

    “Everything looks good on this end, Lieutenant. I just need to log the checklist and secure the controls, then we’ll be good to go.”

    She nodded. “Carbines loaded?”

    “Yes ma’am,” snapped Munro.

    The XO turned to give the rookie her full attention. “All checked and cleaned?”

    “Yes ma’am.”

    “Additional power cells loaded?”

    “Yes ma’am.”

    “Is that comfortable?” she gestured to his stiff stance.

    “Ma’am?” Munro asked, a look of concern on his young face.

    “Crewman Apprentice, I’m all for showing respect to superiors, but you don’t have to tense up so much around officers. We put our pants on one leg at a time.”

    “Um, yes ma’am.”

    “Sir.”

    “I’m sorry, ma’am?”

    “Starfleet protocol is to address ones superiors as ‘sir’, regardless of sex.”

    Munro visibly winced. “Yes sir, sorry sir.”

    “Much better.” She looked from Munro to Kincaid and back again. “Carry on then, gentlemen.”

    “You got it, Lieutenant,” Kincaid replied for the both of them.

    As soon as James left the shuttle, Munro almost completely deflated. Kincaid fought the urge to laugh. The new XO was by no means an imposing woman, being just under the average height for a human woman and of a lithe build she was dwarfed by the crewman apprentice.

    “How could I have messed that up? It’s pretty much lesson one in Starfleet protocol and procedures!”

    “Hunter, don’t worry about it. You slipped up, she corrected you, now you won’t forget. Coaching and mentoring is something a good first officer is meant to do.”

    Blushing sheepishly Munro looked up at him. “Thanks Chief.”

    Kincaid got out of his seat and headed for the ramp. “Unless of course she was hiding her anger and is now off to write you up for the breech in decorum.”

    “What?”

    He couldn’t keep the ruse going, hearing the panic in the younger man’s voice. Laughing he shook his head. “Hunter, you’ve never played poker have you?”

    “I haven’t.”

    “A word of advice: don’t.”

    * * * * *

    The Guardian had dropped out of warp as they approached the system and moved to the outer edges at impulse. Although Thelek knew what they would be facing when they arrived, thanks to the survey reports, reading about it and seeing it were two different things. The young star was surrounded by dust, chips and hunks of rock, some the size of a Constitution-Class ship, crashing into one another and flying off in all directions. There was no pattern to the chaos ahead of them, though the scans they had run showed that some of the bigger pieces nearer the outskirts were slower moving, and more than large enough to hide the missing freighter. Given that her main navigational array was damaged, he doubted that they would risk going much farther inside. This would be where the Guardian came into her own, her small profile, high-grade deflector screens, sturdy hull, and powerful impulse engines meant that she was designed to go into hazardous regions.

    “Any sign of them?”

    “Negative Skipper,” Linae stated from sensors, not looking up from the hooded viewer.

    “What about the ion trail?”

    Ra-Vharii shook her head; a rogue lock of blond hair escaped the bun at the back of his head. “I’ve lost it with all the interference in the system, sir.”

    Well, this is going to get very interesting very quickly, Thelek mused to himself.

    Turning to communications he addressed Crewman Rios. “Launch a relay, set it to passive scans and tie it into our system. We can use it to alert us if the ship eludes us and tries to make a break for it.”

    “Aye Commander,” the comm specialist replied and set to work.

    Thelek looked at tactical, manned by Petty Officer Second Class Dragha, since Chief Kincaid was down in the shuttle, ready to depart. “Weapon status?”

    “Shields at maximum and phasers charged. Our targeting sensors will be as scrambled as the rest and all the junk in the system will mean out torpedoes won’t be of much use,” the behemoth Rigellian-Derva informed him, his bright blue eyes standing out against his thick grey fur.

    “You may have to shoot more rocks than anything else if we’re to get through in one piece.”

    “Don’t worry, sir, I’ve got my trigger finger warmed up and ready.”

    “Fire control at your discretion, Mr Dragha.”

    “Aye sir.”

    He turned to the opposite side of the bridge, where James once again covered the engineering station. “Your team ready, Lieutenant?”

    “Assembled in the shuttlebay, ready to deploy as soon as I get down there, sir.”

    “No unnecessary risks, secure the ship as quickly as you can and get her out of the system. We can figure out what happened onboard once she’s in open space.”

    “Understood, sir.”

    They held each other’s gaze for a moment longer. Part of him wished he was leading the team, but he had to keep focused on the bigger picture and on keeping the patrol boat safe, whilst James lead the boarding party. It would be an element of being the Commanding Officer he’d have the most trouble adjusting too, unless of course he became one of those CO’s that never let it go—though that would hinder James’ development. He gave her a nod and directed his focus on the viewscreen once more.

    “Is the search pattern set?”

    “I have the nav-points locked into the computer, sir.”

    “Very well. Ms Sakara, take us in, one-third impulse.”

    “One third impulse, aye.”

    The sublight engines hummed as the Vulcan helmswoman brought them to life, deftly manoeuvring the ship into D-107/A. Almost immediately, there was a slight tremor in the deck plates, though it eased after a few seconds. Thelek sat back in his chair and gripped the armrests.

    “Sensor range is dropping rapidly and what we do have is of poor resolution.”

    “I’d prefer clarity over range, Lieutenant,” he instructed Linae.

    “I’m working on it, Skipper.”

    All he could do was wait. The crew may not have had much time together, may have been untested up until now, but he knew he had good men and women aboard, all of whom would give him all they had. He just needed to make sure he did the same, so he couldn’t hover over their shoulders or ask for status updates every few minutes, he had to show his faith and trust in them, so they would do the same to him. It was a lesson he’d been taught by his first CO when he made Lieutenant, after completing the Officer Training Programme. To get the most out of those under your command, you had to give each and every one of them just as much.

    Around him the hull groaned as Sakara executed a tight turn to port, avoiding a jagged crystalline formation.

    “I don’t think the survey team probed deep enough,” Linae commented. “That was a chunk of uridium.”

    “When we get out of here, we can inform Starfleet Science of their oversight,” remarked James.

    “Asteroid to starboard, closing fast!” Ra-Vharii called out.

    Immediately, Thelek saw Dragha hit the fire key. Twin cobalt beams lanced out from their starboard banks, hitting the incoming target and reducing it to dust and shards, which pattered against the shields.

    “Nice shooting,” Thelek told him.

    They progressed further into the system, Sakara altering their speed and dodging the pieces that she could, Dragha taking out those that she couldn’t. All the while, Ra-Vharii kept on top of their search grid and Linae kept her eyes peeled for any signs of the freighter (or whoever’s trail they had followed). It was slow going, but given the conditions that couldn’t be helped, though they faced many dangerous regions many of which wouldn’t see them return, patrol boat crews did all they could to ensure that day never came.

    They had been searching for almost three-quarters of an hour, the bridge uneasily quiet, when Linae looked up from the hood.

    “I’ve got some more debris.”

    “Definitely not from the asteroids?”

    “Refined duranium, it looks like it was sheared off—they mustn’t have as good a helmsman as we do.”

    “Can you predict their heading?” he asked Ra-Vharii.

    “Negative, sir, with—”

    The navigator was cut off when the ship suddenly slammed to port, forcing everyone to grip onto their console and ride out the heavy turbulence. Sakara tapped in a quick command which saw the shacking ease off.

    “We were hit by a gravitational eddy; I’m increasing power to the stabilisers to compensate.”

    “Commander, currents that strong will have affected the Star Runner as well,” Ra-Vharii pointed out. “Our search pattern didn’t include anything like that.”

    Before he had even finished, there was a rapid chirp from sensors. “It looks like they were. I’m picking up a faint plasma trail, similar to a ship increasing impulse power.”

    “Can to track them?”

    “I can get an approximate vector, but it’s degrading rapidly.”

    “Patch the heading to navigation. Helm, best speed.”

    As the Guardian plunged back into the eddy, following in the wake of the other ship, the vibration of the deck grew steadily worse, infrequently jolting hard as the patrol boat pushed through. Thelek’s knuckles were almost white as he gripped onto his chair, pressing himself as far back as he could. The hull groaned as Sakara piloted them out of the current and away from the intense gravity field. Almost immediately the ship quietened down again and continued on her course, ducking around a skyscraper sized hunk of rock.

    “Damn, I lost it,” Linae hissed.

    He glanced back at her. “You got us going in the right direction, Lieutenant.” She flashed him a quick smile then refocused her attention back on the scans.

    All was quiet on the bridge, even the vibrations had eased off. Thelek kept his ears open for any sound that might indicate some development, his antennae twitched impatiently. He managed to suppress his desire to pace, knowing that would put everyone on edge. He needed to be patient.

    After only five minutes, Ra-Vharii broke the silence. “Sir, we’ve got four large, stable asteroids ahead of us, all capable of hiding a freighter the size of the Star Runner.”

    He sat forward. “Any indication of which one it might be?”

    The navigator shook his head. He glanced back at Linae, whose slumped shoulders told him all he needed to know. They would have to do this the hard one, check each one for the freighter.

    “Helm, take us in towards the first asteroid. Lieutenant, run every available scan you can.”

    The region of the system they’d entered was calm compared to what they’d already endure, they didn’t need to dodge any fast moving objects or take out hull-rupturing chunks of rock, so their progress was steady. Sakara brought them right around the asteroid as Linae scanned, but there was no sign of any ship. With one discounted they moved onto the next.

    Before they’d traversed even half the distance, Linae hissed, “Gotcha!” He looked back as she raised her bald her from the scanner hood. “I’ve got a radiation signature what matches a damaged impulse reactor—it looks like that damage they took in here caused them more problems.”

    “Any indication they’ve spotted us?”

    “Negative. Under present conditions they wouldn’t see us until we rounded the asteroid.”

    “And there’s no guarantee they’ll stand down as soon as we show ourselves,” stated James.

    Thelek looked from his second to first officer. James was right; they needed to make sure that they were ready to act in an instant. “Linae, how sure are you that we’ve found them.”

    “If I’m wrong then I will forgo all liberty for the next six months.”

    “XO, launch and get into position to board as soon as we announce ourselves.”

    “Aye sir,” she confirmed, her tone determined. She tapped the companel. “Hangar deck, prepare for launch.”

    With that, she vaulted from her chair and darted off the bridge. Thelek watched her go then turned back to the viewscreen. All their waiting was about to be over.

    * * * * *

    With the Guardian being under sixty meters, it never took long to get around the ship. James’ dash from the bridge to the aft turbolift and transit to G deck took only a couple of minutes. She entered the hangar bay and headed for the Giles, which was waiting for her. As soon as she was inside the hatch closed and Crewman Munro was waiting with her body armour. Chief Kincaid and Crewman Ama readied the shuttle for departure, clearing it with the control room on the deck above.

    As James secured the armour, the bay was depressurised. By the time she was holstering her phaser, the space doors were open and the shuttles’ thrusters lifted them off the deck and out into asteroid filled system. She secured the tactical scanner to her left forearm as she stepped up between the pilot and co-pilot.

    “Approach from the portside, we’ll aim for the aft dorsal airlock,” she instructed.

    “Aye sir,” Kincaid replied simply, his attention focused on the controls.

    “Lieutenant, we could shut down our transponder,” suggested Ama. “That way, they may not notice our approach and when we clamp onto the hull they may think it’s just debris.”

    James nodded, liking the deckhands’ ingenuity. “Good idea, do it.”

    Taking her seat just behind Kincaid, she watched for a moment as the shuttle swept around the Guardian in a wide arc heading for the Star Runner, as the patrol boat hung back until they were in position. She took a steadying breath, then looked around the other members of her team: Petty Officer Reyne, Crewmen Warren Holloway and Munro. It was a diverse mix of skills and experience, one that had yet to be put to the test.

    “Alright, once we breach, we will secure the immediate area then break into three teams. Ama, you’re with me. We’ll head for the bridge. Reyne and Holloway, you’ll secure the engine room. Chief, you and Munro will check the other compartments and cargo bays.

    “We still don’t know exactly what is going on aboard,” she continued, “there could well be a legitimate reason for their actions. If not however, you are only to fire if fired upon first. The crew may have been taken hostage, so weapons on stun and watch your targets. Questions?” No one spoke up. “Let’s get it done.”

    The shuttle crossed the distance between the two ships in minutes, the dust and rocks they dodged masking their approach. The freighter made no move to suggest they’d spotted either Starfleet craft. Under the Chief’s expert hand, the shuttle came around the asteroid and brought the cargo ship into full view. He cut the thrusters and used their inertia to carry them in closer, coming to a stop mere meters from the pot marked, muddy brown hull. Before they could board any ship, they had to give them the opportunity to stand down before taking any necessary action.

    “Send the signal.”

    The pre-determined sign that they were ready would be buried in a low communications band, so only a ship listening specifically for it would hear. On their sensor display she watched as the Guardian moved to starboard, coming into view of the freighter and letting them know they’d been discovered.

    “Picking up a broadband transmission,” stated Ama.

    Star Runner, this is the Border Service patrol boat Guardian. You are ordered to stand down and prepare to be boarded. If you fail to comply, we will take action,” the Commander’s voice boomed.

    “They’re powering engines.”

    “Now, Chief!”

    Immediately, he hit the controls. A split-second burst of their thrusters brought the shuttle alongside the freighter. Magnetic clamps held them firmly in place, as their ventral docking ring extended and connected with the airlock. The team sprang into action, readying their phaser carbines and securing helmets.

    “We have a hard seal,” said Ama, who remained at the controls as Kincaid mustered with the team.

    James crouched beside the hatch in the deck. “Force the airlock.”

    They waited a moment before Ama informed them, “Airlock open.”

    She nodded at Munro, who tapped the control panel and opened the hatch. Carbine on her back, she slipped into the opening and her boot made contact with the ladder, and swiftly climbed down. Pausing as soon as she was able to sweep the immediate area with her phaser, but saw nothing. She reached the deck, holstered her sidearm and raised the rifle in one practiced motion. Standing her ground, keeping her attention focused on the long dimly lit corridor that led to the front of the ship. Behind her, she heard Kincaid slide down the ladder and hit the deck, before joining her covering the others with his weapon raised.

    Steadily the others joined them, with Ama being the last one to set foot on the freighter. On both sides was a door, Holloway and Reyne quickly checked and reported them clear. Without words, James led her team forward, sticking to the sides of the cramped corridor, which made the narrow passages on the Guardian seem spacious by comparison. Every doorway they passed, a member of the team entered, swept for signs of life, before they carried on—just as had been drilled into them over the last three weeks on the patrol boat.

    As they made their way down forward, she could feel the ship moving as it tried to evade the Guardian, never knowing that they’d already been infiltrated.

    It didn’t take them long to reach the stairwell. They paused, long enough for her to issue the other two teams hand signals to proceed and watch as the quartet headed below. When she and Ama were alone, she nodded at the Kamoran and pressed forward once again. This time, one of them checked a room as the other stayed in the corridor. All the crew and passenger cabins were empty, as was the mess hall, which had clear signs of a struggle, but she noted no blood or phaser burns.

    She had just emerged from the common area when the bridge hatch opened. The doorway was filled by a tall, stocky human-looking man, who spotted them instantly.

    “Starfleet Border Service, you are ordered to stand down immediately!” she yelled.

    In the blink of an eye, he was in motion, slapping the panel next to the access hatch, sealing the bridge, as he ducked behind the first available alcove, pulling a weapon from the small of his back and opening fire. She and Ama ducked for cover as the weapons hail of energy pulses punched into the bulkheads, deck plating and ceiling. Whoever he was, he was shooting to kill.

    * * * * *
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2018
    Sgt_G likes this.
  7. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    I hope it’s not pirates! Or smugglers.
     
  8. Sgt_G

    Sgt_G Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2013
    Location:
    USA
    Well, at least they're human, or humanoid, and not Kzinti.
     
  9. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    From above, weapons fire echoed through the eerily quiet freighter. The rest of the boarding team paused, looking back up the stairwell.

    “Kincaid to James,” he said tapping the communicator in his helmet. “Do you need support?”

    “Negative. Continue with your objectives, be advised, hostiles weapons are set to kill.”

    “Understood,” he replied and closed the channel, then looked at the others. “You heard the Lieutenant.”

    Reyne pressed forward, Holloway hesitated a moment before going after her. The Boslic was a mystery to him, she was tight-lipped and more stoic than Sakara, nothing seemed to phase her—a valuable trait to have when on boarding missions, as they never knew what they’d face so a degree of detachment was necessary.

    He looked to his teammate, the crewman apprentice was visibly shaken. “Munro, you need to stay focused. If they needed backup, James would’ve asked for it. We need to press on and keep our guard up. Ok?”

    Munro took a deep breath, his youthful face pale. He steadied himself and nodded. “Yes Chief.”

    “Good man. Stay behind me,” he instructed as he moved towards the next hatch.

    Munro stepped to the side and, with a gesture, hit the control panel. The door whispered open and Kincaid stepped in, quickly covering every corner of the empty transporter room. He stepped back into the corridor and led them forward, towards the upper cargo deck. They would have to check the port and starboard holds, separated by the central bay which spanned the three lower decks. It was rare to know what ship they could find themselves boarding, so Kincaid always made sure to familiarise himself with layouts and deck plans when he had the opportunity—of course that didn’t cover modifications made over time.

    The corridor branched off into a T-junction, with their two options leading to the separate holds. As he looked between the two doors, he once again noted no sign of any attack. Whoever it was that had taken the ship had done so quickly, catching the experienced freighter crew by surprise. The facts told him one very important thing: this wasn’t their first time. They were too organised, too proficient in how they took the ship.

    He opted for the port side first. Once again, he stood ready, carbine raised, finger poised above the trigger, whilst Munro moved to the control panel. He nodded again and was in motion the moment the door groaned open. As soon as he stepped inside, his eyes darted around, taking in his surroundings as quickly as possible, hunting out shadows or nooks where someone could be lying in wait. Mere seconds after he entered, Munro followed suit, rifle raised and doing exactly as Kincaid had taught him.

    The space was vast, almost the size of both cargo bays on the Guardian combined, though with only a few containers and crates inside—standard supplies the crew would need. With no cover to speak of, it didn’t take them long to clear the bay. Once they did, he heard the rookie let out a pent up breath and saw his shoulders relax a little. Though Munro had proficiency in using the weapon, with a decent accuracy score for someone just out of high school, he would’ve only used it during training drills, never having needed to use it in a real combat situation. It was a tough hurdle for everyone in Starfleet to get over, even knowing that it was set to stun, but it was one that they each needed to conquer in order to do their duty.

    “Stay frosty, Munro, we only relax when we’re back on the Guardian.”

    The crewman gripped his rifle tighter, his posture tensing again. “Got it.”

    Back into the corridor, they headed for the bay on the opposite side of the deck. They had just reached it and assumed the position when his tactical scanner vibrated. He held up his hand, signalling Munro to standby as he looked at the small display. It showed twelve life signs, eight in a tight group with the remaining four standing around them, as though keeping guard.

    He tapped his helmet-comm. “This is Kincaid, it looks like we’ve got eight members of the crew being held hostage in the starboard hold on B Deck.”

    “Understood,” replied James. “Any sign of the ninth crewmember?”

    “I only have eight active life signs.”

    “The engine room only had two individuals, both hostile. Both incapacitated,” stated Reyne. “The rest of the engineering section is secure. I can head up to support you, Chief.”

    “Petty Officer, support the Chief. We’re about to breach the bridge,” the Lieutenant ordered.

    “Acknowledged. On my way.”

    “Good luck, Lieutenant.”

    “You too, Chief.”

    The channel went silent again as they waited on the Boslic corpsman to arrive. All around them, the ship groaned and banged as whoever was at the helm tried to evade the patrol boat on their tail, adding to the unsettling feel of the freighter. He had hoped they wouldn’t have to face a hostage crisis, but it was always an eventuality.

    A glance at his teammate showed just how nervous he was. He could try to offer more words of support or encouragement, but there came a point when is sounded as though he would be pandering the rookie. He’d overseen his share of untested apprentices, so knew that there came a point that he had to let them come to him. If Munro needed something more to help him through, he should be able to ask for that assistance.

    Reyne slinked around the corner, somehow managing to climb the stairs and approach without making a sound. He added stealth to her list of attributes. As with all new teammates, he’d made sure to read up on the ship’s new resident medic and was amazed to see that her marksmanship rating was higher than his own, not to mention her extensive proficiency with all types of phasers and expert rankings in at least three different forms of melee combat. He couldn’t help but wonder if her medical skills were even half as good as her tactical ones.

    He quickly filled her in on the situation. “PO, you and I will breach. I’ll cover port, you take starboard. Munro, hang back and enter after us. The crew haven’t moved so they’re either sitting or stunned, either way, aim high. Once the four hostiles are down, Munro and I will check the perimeter of the bay, make sure there are no surprises whilst you check on the hostages. Clear?”

    They both quickly nodded. Kincaid assumed his position, Reyne stepping in beside him as Munro stood by the control panel. He let out a slow breath then gave the nod.

    In one tap the door panel grinded open and he pressed through, carbine raised, feeling more than hearing Reyne right behind him. In mere seconds, he took in that the crew were in fact sitting on the deck, a few of them looking the worse for wear, whilst their four captors fidgeted. One female and three males, though in the dim lights of the hold he couldn’t tell much more. He locked the nearest one in his sights.

    “Border Service,” he boomed, his voice filling the bay, “stand down!”

    The man he had his phaser trained on, raised his weapon. Kincaid squeezed the trigger and brought him down. He heard the shot from Reyne’s rifle taking out another. With one down, he swung his weapon to target the next, the only woman in the group. But she was faster than her compatriot, pointing a disruptor at him and firing off a shot that barely missed him—he could feel the heat of the pulse as it flew past him and into the bulkhead beside the entrance.

    He fired off a quick succession of three shots, as he moved towards the cover of a container. The first struck her in the shoulder, the second in the chest, with the third missing her as she fell to the deck. As soon as he reached what little cover he had, he scanned his weapon for the other hostile but saw no one else standing, Reyne having dealt with the fourth member.

    It was all over by the time Munro entered, his own weapon raised. Kincaid quickly looked around, checking every dark place that could hide another bandit or any traps they might’ve set. As he and the rookie secured the bay, the corpsman stalked towards the hostages, all of whom remained on the deck, looking a little dazed at what had just happened.

    “Clear,” he stated.

    “Clear,” Munro called a moment later, having checked his half of the bay.

    “You’re safe,” Reyne told the crewmembers. “We’re from the patrol boat Guardian, we’re here to help. Is anyone injured?”

    Kincaid trained his rifle on the stunned hostiles as he circled in towards the group, Munro mirroring his movement. Securing their weapons and cuffing them.

    “Hodges is the worst, he took a bad hit to the shoulder,” one of the crew said, a handsome human in his mid-30s who had a bloody lip and bruising to his face.

    Reyne secured her rifle on her back, took out her medkit and crouched down beside a heavyset man in his fifties who was cradling his left arm, a vicious scorch mark on his shoulder.

    “Our records show nine crew, who’s missing?”

    The man who answered Reyne looked up at him. “Delloq, my navigator. He…he’s dead.”

    “What happened?”

    The man slowly stood to face him, a little unsteady on his feet. “He was the one who damaged the navigational array and forced them into this system. When they caught him, they executed him.”

    “I’m sorry to hear that, Captain?”

    The man, still haunted by what he’d said, shook his head. “Sorry. Beckett, Victor Beckett.”

    “Chief Kincaid,” he introduced himself, then tapped the communicator again. “Lieutenant, we have the crew accounted for. One killed by hostiles before we arrived.”

    “Understood.”

    * * * * *

    “Petty Officer, support the Chief. We’re about to breach the bridge,” James ordered, standing over the unconscious man who attacked them as Crewman Ama disarmed and restrained him.

    “Acknowledged. On my way,” Reyne replied immediately.

    “Good luck, Lieutenant.”

    “You too, Chief.” She looked at her teammate, whose large eyes were fixed on her. “We could have a hostage in there, so check your targets.”

    “Aye sir.”

    As soon as Ama had taken the shot that ended their standoff, James has scanned ahead of them. The tactical scanners on their forearms were useful devices, though by no means as complex as a tricorder. They could easily provide the position and number of hostiles they might face, as well as warn of explosives or other such hazards, but didn’t go in for much more detail. However, they were tried and tested in battlefield conditions by Starfleet Marines, so while they may not be very sensitive they could be dragged through the mud and still work—which was what they needed more.

    With the one in the corridor now dealt with, that left three on the bridge. She suspected they would’ve gone for cover as soon as the shooting started, though at least one of them would need to stay at the helm to get them away from the Guardian and out of the system in one piece. Though she couldn’t risk making assumptions with no proof, it was likely that if they did have a hostage on the bridge it would be the helmsman—pirates wouldn’t know just what the ship could do, so would need someone more experienced with the ship to fly it.

    They took up position on either side of the hatch, giving themselves as much cover as possible whilst also trying to get as good a line of sight on the others on the bridge. She checked with Ama, who was as ready as she could be, then took a breath and tapped the door controls. The double panels whished open and they were met with silence.

    “By order of the Border Service, you will surrender any weapons and power down the engines,” she instructed. Starfleet regulations stipulated that they had to identify themselves and give hostiles the chance of yielding otherwise, if they just boarded a ship and started firing, they’d be little more than the pirates and thugs they typically faced.

    From inside there was no response, no talking of any sort, only the chirps and beeps of the computers.

    She glanced down at their unconscious compatriot on the deck beside her. “We have your colleague here, stunned but otherwise unharmed. Stand down and come peacefully or we will use force.”

    Again there was no response, so James glanced around the doorframe. As soon as she did there was the screech of disruptors, pinning her back behind her cover. Opposite her, Ama crouched down and aimed. She took one shot and James heard a muffled grunt, followed by a heavy body hitting the metal deck. The weapons fire paused.

    James looked around again, rifle aimed at where the other shooter was hiding. She waited. This was not the time to let the adrenaline rush cloud her judgement, she needed to be patient. Breathing slowly, she kept her eyes locked and finger poised. Likewise, Ama held her position. She could push into the room to get a better angle, but that would open her up to the helmsman, who could be one of them and not a member of the crew. If they were the former, they would likely be open fire on a kill setting like the others.

    Barely thirty seconds passed, before the hostile, a Red Orion man, looked out. She fired, hitting him in the centre of the chest, stunning him instantly, and training her weapon on the pilot. The alien, who had a series of horizontal ridges across his face and head, from the back of which hung a tail-like appendage, looked at the Orion and then back at her. He lurched forward. Before his fingers could wrap around the handle of his phaser, she shot him in the back. The alien slumped against the control panel.

    “Clear,” she called and moved in, Ama behind her.

    She cuffed the alien at the helm and lowered him to the deck, before slipping into the vacant chair. As she assessed the configuration, Ama secured the other two. James tapped the impulse power controls and reduced their speed, but a quick look at the navigation board told her that they’d made little headway with repairs.

    Her earpiece buzzed. “Lieutenant, we have the crew accounted for. One killed by hostiles before we arrived.”

    “Understood,” she replied, letting out a relieved breath. Though everything in Kincaid’s record showed him to be an exemplary non-com, who was more than capable of handling whatever had been waiting for them in the hold, this was her team and their first tactical boarding so she was understandably on edge.

    With the team in one piece, the crew accounted for and no further sign of hostiles, she opened up the comlink back to the patrol boat. “Guardian, this is Lieutenant James. We have secured the ship and I am at the controls.”

    “Glad to hear it, Lieutenant. What’s your status?” asked Commander Thelek.

    “We’re subdued the threat. Unfortunately, the freighters crew suffered a fatality. The survivors are being checked over by Reyne.”

    “How about the ship?”

    “We have no navigation system to speak of, so I could use a little guidance to get out of the system.”

    “We’ll establish a data link and tie the Star Runner into our navicomp. Once we’re clear of the system, we can patch up the damage and escort them back to Sierra-Three.”

    “Understood. And thank you, Commander. James out.”

    * * * * *
     
    mthompson1701 and admiralelm11 like this.