The Star Eagle Adventures VI: Semper Fidelis

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CeJay, Sep 15, 2014.

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    3


    Michael Owens was not surprised to find Nora Laas waiting for him when he stepped out of the turbolift.

    “Sir, permission to join the away team.”

    He shook his head and walked right passed her. “Not this time.”

    Of course the security chief was not so easily shaken and she quickly fell into step beside him. “Captain, I really think you should reconsider and let me come with you. Besides, I used to be a Marine, I know exactly how they think. I could be very valuable to you.”

    “I think the major has that aspect of the mission covered, Lieutenant.” He shot her a cursory glance but didn’t slow. “He also has a personal relationship with the general, he served directly under him for a few years. In fact Lam is looking forward to reunite with him.”

    She nodded as she had to concede that point. “Alright but you shouldn’t be leaving the ship without a security escort. It’s regulations.”

    Owens stopped in front of the doors leading to the transporter room and then turned to regard the Bajoran. She had to be pretty desperate to quote regulations on him. “Lieutenant, we’re beaming down to a Starfleet Marines command post. We’re bound to be surrounded by dozens of armed troops.” He glanced over at Wasco who had followed him along with Deen and Belore.

    Wasco nodded. “Hundreds.” The Marine regarded the still dissatisfied Bajoran. “You have my word, from one Marine to another, the captain will be perfectly safe. I’ll make sure of it personally.”

    It should have put her mind at ease but it clearly didn’t and Owens knew perfectly well why. She took her job of protecting him extremely seriously and while she must have known, intellectually at least, that he was reasonably safe in the care of the Marines, letting somebody else but her handle his security simply didn’t sit well.

    Then she shot a quick glance at the Cardassian who was to accompany the captain, unable to entirely mask her suspicions.

    Owens noticed. “I’ll be fine, Laas.”

    “I’ll keep a security team on standby in the transporter room just in case it’ll be needed.”

    “It won’t.” Wasco was unable to hide the slightest hint of a smile playing on his lips, clearly somewhat amused by Nora’s insistence.

    “You do that, Lieutenant but I think the major’s right.” Owens left the flustered security chief alone in the corridor while he and the others stepped into the transporter room.

    “What did I tell you about tempting fate like this?” Deen whispered into Owens’ ear as they took their positions on the transporter platform.

    Gul Belore joined the others. “I admire her tenacity. It is almost Cardassian.”

    Deen looked mortified. “Oh dear, don’t ever let her hear you talk like this.”

    Belore offered her a smirk. “I can see in her eyes that she’s a warrior. Trust me I’ve known Bajorans like her and I have no intention of making them my enemy. Not if I have a choice in the matter.”

    Owens looked at the transporter operator. “Chief, are we ready to go?”

    Chow nodded in response. “We’ve received the coordinates and Valeria has temporarily deactivated their transporter scramblers, allowing for a beam-in window. Albeit a very small one. The local forecast is seventeen degrees centigrade with a one hundred percent chance of precipitation.”

    Owens looked at his away team. “We didn’t pack for rain.” He shrugged and looked at Chow. “Oh well, I’m sure we’ll cope. Energize, Chief.”

    The transporter process felt a spell longer than usual, likely a precaution considering the many scramblers on the surface which could interfere with the beam-in. Chow likely wanted to make absolutely sure they would re-materialize on the surface and have the ability to abort and bring them back onto Eagle if anything went wrong.

    As far as Michael could tell nothing did. Instead he and his three companions materialized as expected on the surface of Valeria. However, perhaps not exactly in a location he had expected.

    The first hint was the sensation of rain falling onto his head. They had not been transported into a building but into the middle of a large open area outside. And as Chief Chow had advised, a steady drizzle rained down on them from the gray skies above.

    Looking around Owens couldn’t see anybody at first. Then he spotted a few heavily-armed Marines emerging from behind what looked like fortified barricades. Within moments the away team was surrounded by dark-clad Marines, their rifles held at the ready, they approached the away team from all sides.

    “I guess you wish you’d taken up Nora’s offer now.” Deen spoke quietly at his side as she watched the Marines getting closer.

    But soon enough the lead man lowered his weapon and indicated for the rest of his men to do the same.

    “There is no cause for concern.” Wasco raised his hands carefully, showing the other Marines that he was not armed. “This is standard battlefield procedure when securing a landing zone.”

    Deen shot him a worried glance as she raised her own arms. “We’re on a battlefield?”

    He shook his head. “Doubtful. But better safe than sorry.”

    “We’ve got a Cardie!” One of the Marines shouted and just like that the dozen men around the away team sprung back to high alert, bringing up their rifles but this time aiming them at Gul Belore.

    Owens quickly took a step forward, raising his hands. “It’s alright, he’s with us and posses no danger. None of us are armed.”

    “Show us your hands. Do it now!” The lead Marine was clearly not easily calmed as he kept his sharp gaze on Belore, watching his every move.

    The captain turned to the Cardassians. “I suggest you do as he says.”

    Belore nodded quickly and then raised his hands, making it quite obvious that he was wearing no weapons to speak of.

    It wasn’t quite enough for the overcautious Marines and two of them very slowly and methodically approached Belore. While the others kept their rifles trained on him, the two approaching Marines swung their weapons over their shoulders and pulled out combat tricorders, meticulously scanning the gul from head to toe. And even that wasn’t entirely sufficient as one of them stepped all the way up to him.

    “Do not move.” The female Marine put away her tricorder and then began to roughly pat down Belore, paying particular attention to his large, clamshell like armor which could possibly have hidden weapons or explosives.

    “This really isn’t necessary.” And yet Belore endured the woman’s probing hands.

    “Shut up, spoon-head.”

    Wasco took a step forward. “Check the attitude, Corporal.”

    She looked up at him, quickly recognizing his rank. “Sorry, Major, just doing my job.”

    He nodded. “I understand that but this is a foreign dignitary under Starfleet protection. You will treat him with the respect he deserves.”

    “Yes, sir.” She sounded at least slightly chastised and then rejoined the rest of her team. “He’s clean.”

    “Not quite the friendliest welcome we’ve received.” Deen kept her voice low.

    Owens didn’t disagree but could understand their caution. “These people have been serving on this world for nearly two years, fighting the Dominion and the Cardassians with little interruption. Given the circumstances their disposition shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.”

    She nodded. “Should make them all the more happy to be able to finally come home.”

    The Marines had now lowered their weapons and the highest-ranking NCO, a gruff looking Andorian sergeant, stepped forward. “We’ll escort you to the command post. Please follow me.” He turned and headed off without waiting for a response.

    Owens and Deen exchanged looks but then quickly followed the man along with Wasco and Belore while the rest of the Marines took up positions at their flanks and the rear, keeping the away team securely cocooned within their formation.

    Deen stayed close to the captain. She curiously considered her escort—none of which were making even the briefest eye contact with the away team—before turning to Owens once more. “Why am I getting the feeling we are being marched to our own execution?”


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  2. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    4


    Leva had never given his meal arrangements a great deal of thought on Eagle. Usually he simply ended up eating with Nora Laas or other officers in the Nest. On a few occasions he would even sit with the captain or the first officer.

    He had already learned that Mahoney preferred to eat alone in his quarters and rarely if ever ventured out into the ship’s lounge. When Leva arrived there and after collecting his dinner from the replicator he found a room mostly filled with young enlisted men and a handful of ensigns. And none of them even tried to make eye contact with their first officer. Sure they stole a glance here and there, but this seemed to be mostly out of curiosity. Judging how quickly they turned away again, none of them wanted the half-Romulan sitting at their table.

    Leva wasn’t sure if this was because they had an issue with his heritage, if they were naturally cautious about outsiders or if they were intimidated by having to strike up a conversation with a senior officer.

    In the end he settled on an empty table by the corner to consume his meal. Thankfully he didn’t have to wait too long for some company when he spotted Alendra entering the lounge. After she had fetched her own dinner, Leva indicated for her to join him. She did so with little hesitation.

    “Sir.” She took the chair opposite him.

    “How are you doing, Lieutenant?”

    She seemed somewhat surprised by that question, as if it was not one she was used to answering. “Well, thank you, sir.”

    “We’re off-duty. You can drop the sir.”

    She nodded.

    “What do you have there?” He didn’t recognize the dark brown dish she had placed on the table in front of her.

    “It’s a soufflé which is popular in the city I was born. I guess you’d call it Bolian soufflé.”

    “You are having desert for dinner?”

    She grinned sheepishly. “One of my many vices,” she said. “You want to try it? Trust me it’s really good.”

    “Why not?” He pushed his half empty plate across the table and then watched her drop a couple of spoons of the dish onto it. He pulled the plate back and gingerly tried the soufflé. It was sweeter than he had anticipated and his face showed his surprise.

    She giggled. “I suppose it’s an acquired taste.”

    “It’s not bad.”

    But she seemed to see through his half-truth and the fact that he was obviously not enjoying it as much as she did.

    “Do you mind me asking you a personal question, Marjorie?”

    She smirked “Why does a Bolian have a human first name?”

    He nodded. “I had been wondering.”

    “My parents were scholars of human history and quite fond of it. They named me after a Scottish princess. And a much suffering one at that.”

    “Couldn’t have been an easy childhood for you either.”

    “I guess that was their plan.” She began to eat her soufflé and spoke between gulps. “Toughen me up early on.”

    “Did it work?”

    “Made me want to join Starfleet as soon as I turned seventeen.”

    “May have been their plan all along.”

    She considered her dinner companion closely. “You may be right about that.”

    Leva was glad he had been able to make her come out of her shell a little. Marjorie Alendra had been just as reserved as most of the other crew members he had met on Sacajawea with the exception perhaps of Doctor Newheiser who had such an eerie aura that Leva hadn’t considered him a pleasant conversationalist.

    Oddly enough Leva had never considered himself a very social person and on Eagle he had likely earned himself a reputation of being the most private officer second only to Commander Xylion. But this crew was even putting him to shame.

    “Mind letting me in on what is going on with this crew?”

    She glanced up at him, her eyes guarded now. “What do you mean?”

    “Come on, you know exactly what I mean. Nobody here seems to want to spend more than five minutes with me, not even the captain who prefers hiding himself away in his quarters or the ready room where he consumes copious amounts of scotch whiskey.”

    Alendra glanced around quickly as if to make sure nobody was in earshot before she looked back at the first officer. Then she shrugged. “I’ve only been on this ship for a bit over a year and it was pretty much like this when I came aboard. Maybe it has gotten a little worse since we lost most of our senior officers.” She kept her voice hushed now.

    “You don’t find this concerning?”

    “Why do you think I’m so glad that you are here now?” she said. “I’ll be putting in my transfer request as soon as possible.”

    That was not what he had liked to hear. “That bad?”

    “You tell me,” she said. “I’ve only served on one other ship before Sacajawea. I wasn’t a senior officer there and we were at war even then but it was a far cry from what it is like here. Is this normal for you? Was your last ship anything like this?”

    He glanced around the room. It was very quiet for a crew lounge. On Eagle he would have expected to overhear conversations, people telling jokes and hearing occasional laughter, even during the worst days of the Dominion war the crew lounge was usually the one place people clung to at least a modicum of humor. In comparison this place felt like a cloister. He shook his head. “No, nothing like this.”

    “It’s the captain, I think.” She spoke in an almost conspiratorial sounding voice now, but clearly not entirely comfortable talking about him behind his back. “He pretty much sets the tone on board and it almost feels as if he’s given up. I don’t know if he’s always been like this or if he has somehow lost his drive during the war. And then there is Newheiser.”

    “What about the doctor?”

    Her voice dropped even further. “The man is downright creepy, haven’t you noticed? The rumors onboard range from him being an intelligence plant to a shape-shifting Founder.”

    Leva very much doubted the latter could be true. Of course stranger things had happened and in fact he had once had the misfortune of coming face to face with an ill-tempered changeling who had impersonated various Starfleet officers and who had gotten fairly close to killing him and his comrades. But it seemed unlikely the Dominion would have gone through the trouble of embedding one of their own on a small and seemingly insignificant little frigate like the Sacajawea.

    “What about Hendricks?”

    She shrugged but sounded a lot less ominous when talking about the chief engineer. “Preston is okay. He just keeps his head down and does his job as best as he can. He isn’t one of those genius Starfleet engineers one always hears about and I doubt he’ll ever rise much higher than where he is now but I suppose with some mentoring he’ll make a decent officer someday.”

    Leva smirked at that.

    “What?”

    “You sound just like an XO.”

    She blushed slightly.

    Then he leaned in closer. “Marjorie, do me a favor and give me a few weeks before you make up your mind about that transfer request. So far you’re the only officer on this ship I have any kind of rapport with, not to mention that we are clearly woefully undermanned. Give me a chance to try and turn things around.”

    She nodded firmly. “You have my word, I won’t leave you hanging.” She offered a little smile. “I won’t go until you at least have been able to get a suitable replacement. As for turning things around on this ship, I’m sorry to say I just don’t have much faith. I hope I’m wrong but this place just seems like a lost cause to me.”

    Leva frowned. No doubt most of the crew seemed to feel the same way, including the captain. But Alendra was right about one thing. Even if he wanted to make a real change on Sacajawea, the deck was already stacked against him.


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  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Leva's making inroads where he can, but the cards seem stacked against him. This is one of those posts people can't seem to get away from fast enough, and during wartime nobody up the chain of command really gives a damn about morale on a single frigate. I hope that Leva can turn things around here, but short of staging a mutiny, I'm not sure what he can do...

    Great stuff! :bolian:
     
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    5


    Valeria’s architectural style reminded Owens of ancient Roman designs, employing a great deal of gleaming white marble-like materials, tall columns and high arches. Even the smooth cobblestone roads seemed to mirror that ancient style employed over a hundred of light years away. Too bad the weather was anything but Mediterranean as the rain continued to drizzle down on the away team with no apparent end in sight.

    Other than the building style however, Valeria’s capital was a far cry from Rome, Paris or most other cities Michael Owens had ever stepped foot in. Here, buildings had been constructed much farther apart than he would have expected for a major metropolis. The roads were wide and the landscape, interspersed with wide ranging vegetation, had a much more rural feel, as if they were in a small provincial outpost instead of what he assumed to be the center of Valerian power and culture.

    Deen explained. “Valeria has a very low population density compared to other worlds of similar technological and industrial scale. Valeria has never developed city-like population clusters such as on Earth and many other planets. Therefore its population has never grown beyond a few hundred million.”

    This also meant a bit of walking as Valerians clearly weren’t big believers in cars or skimmers, judging from the predominant foot traffic Owens noticed as they were being escorted across town.

    It was beginning to get dark on this side of the planet and he could see soft, low lights flickering in the windows of the few houses they passed. Most of it seemed to be natural light as if produced by candles or open fires. But this couldn’t be because of a lack of technology. He spotted many signs of advanced machinery, including public comm terminals and streetlights. None of which appeared to be operational.

    “Is there a power problem in the city?” He glanced towards the lead Marine.

    “Energy shortages have led to rationalization, sir.” The Andorian spoke curtly and without slowing his pace or deigning the captain with as much as a look.

    Deen was curious. “What’s the reason for the energy shortages?”

    Her natural charm seemed to manage to coax a little bit more out of him, even if he still refused to make eye contact. “Not for me to say, ma’am. However a new plant is expected to go online later this week. Should solve the problem.”

    “Fighting a ground war consumes a great amount of energy.” Wasco explained.

    Deen looked skeptical. “At the expense of the local population?”

    But the major didn’t have a response. His body language seemed to imply what was on his mind. War required sacrifice.

    After about a ten minute walk Owens could spot their likely destination. The building was larger than most others he had seen so far and stood out like a sore thumb. Sure, its foreign designers had attempted to mimic the local style, but had overdone it a bit with the tall columns and its imposing size. The blue flag flying high above it made it clear that this was the formal Federation presence on Valeria; its embassy and as far as Owens understood, having been repurposed as the Marines HQ.

    A group of a dozen Valerians had assembled close to the outer barricades of the building, at least a hundred yards from the building proper. Beyond those fortified positions heavily armed Marines stood guard along with a whole array of menacing looking automated phaser canons. And differently to most of the technology they had encountered so far, these weapons looked fully powered and ready to unleash deadly blasts of energy at a moment’s notice.

    These locals were clearly not too happy about the Federation presence on their world and were making their complaints known loudly. Two uniformed Valerians were standing nearby, watching the small crowd.

    The Andorian signaled the team to stop well before they reached the demonstrators and then he along with six of his fellow Marines approached the group only to be intercepted by the two local security officers. Owens noticed that the Valerians didn’t appear armed. That didn’t stop the Marines from raising their own rifles.

    “You know the rules,” the sergeant hissed. “One hundred fifty meters from the embassy. You are far too close. Get these people back. Do it now.”

    But the Valerians seemed uncooperative. “By my measure these people are exactly one hundred fifty meters from the grounds.” The purple-haired female officer defiantly crossed her arms in front of her chest and refused to be dominated by the heavily armed Marines.

    “Do your gods-damned jobs or we will,” the Andorian growled.

    “Let me worry about my job and you can go back to doing yours.” The woman had a little smirk on her face but her tone revealed that she wasn’t amused. “I think there are parts of this planet you haven’t blown up yet.”

    “Final warning, Sharval. Get these people out of here now.” He brought up his rifle, the emitter cone nearly touching her chest.

    “Or what? You’re going to shoot me. Right in front of all these people? A few too many witnesses, even for you, don’t you think?”

    The sergeant shoved her so hard with his rifle, it forced her to stumble backwards.

    “Hey!” Her male colleague stepped forward to intervene but before he could get close a second Marine shoved him back even harder, causing him to fall to the ground.

    “Don’t touch him.” The woman pushed the Marine back.

    In response for her trouble, the Andorian sergeant struck out with the butt of his rifle, catching her by the forehead and sending her flying to the ground as well.

    Owens had seen enough. “Stand down!” He easily slipped past his Marine escort which was too slow to hold him back and managed to get to the fallen woman’s side before they could corral him.

    “Sir, please, do not get involved. We have the situation under control.” The Andorian watched the captain help the woman he had just struck with a scolding frown.

    “From where I was standing it looked to me like you had anything but control, Sergeant.” He carefully reached out for the security officer and helped her get onto her back. He couldn’t claim that he had met many Valerians before but he was surprised by what he found. She looked to be in her mid-thirties by human standards. She had fine, long purple hair and striking blue eyes. Differently to most male Valerians her skin was perfectly smooth with a less domineering ridge running up her nose to her forehead and past her v-shaped hairline. Her nostrils which on male Valerians were usually positioned underneath their eye sockets were small and oval shaped openings at the side of her nasal ridge. She had a nasty cut on her brow above her left eye which was oozing maroon-colored blood. “Are you alright?”

    “Sir, with all due respect.” The Marine sounded more insistent this time and took a step closer. “I need you to move away and let us deal with this. We are familiar with this woman. She is a known agitator and trouble maker and needs to be arrested.”

    “She’s a local peace officer.” Owens glared up at the man. “And you will not lay another finger on her. In fact, I need you to step back and lower your weapon right now. That’s an order.”

    The Andorian stopped but didn’t make another move otherwise.

    Not until Major Wasco stepped closer to the man. “Do we have a problem here, Sergeant? Was any part of that order unclear to you?”

    The Marine frowned at Owens and then shot a quick look at Wasco before shaking his head. “No, sir, no problem at all.” His annoyance was not easily missed but ultimately he turned on his heels, indicating for his men to follow him back to rejoin the rest of the escort team.

    With Owens’ help, the woman slowly got back onto her feet.

    “Take it easy, you’ve been injured.”

    She gingerly touched the wound, her fingers coming away with blood. “What, this?” she said. “It’s a scratch. I’ve had worse. You must be new around here.”

    He nodded. “Captain Michael Owens from the starship Eagle. And I’m profoundly sorry you and your colleague were treated in this manner. It was unacceptable and entirely uncalled for.”

    She offered him a guarded smile. “My valiant Sky Knight come to save the poor Land Maiden besieged by the Ancient Enemy. Name’s Sharval. Sub-commissioner Sharval if you insist on being formal.” She stuck out her hand. “I think this is how you humans like to say hello.”

    Owens took her hand and shook it. “I can arrange for you to get medical assistance inside the embassy if you like.”

    Sharval’s smile turned into a glare before she vehemently shook her head. “You’re not getting me in there.” When she appeared to recognize the concern in his eyes she added, “Don’t worry I know a good doctor. It’s not often one of your people cares too much about the well-being of a Valerian.”

    Owens frowned. “I don’t know what you’re used to but this is not how members of Starfleet typically conduct themselves.”

    She gave him another, wide smirk, showing off rows of white teeth, and then brushed the tips of her fingers somewhat playfully across the width of his chest. “Welcome to Valeria. Get ready to have your views of the universe turned upside down.” She allowed her colleague to help her walk away but shot Owens one last grin over her shoulder. “Take care of yourself, Sky Knight. This can be a dangerous place to be.”

    Deen joined Owens at his side, looking after the departing Valerian officer. “Making friends with the locals, I see.”

    But Owens hardly even registered what she had said. Even when they were finally being escorted inside the embassy, he couldn’t stop thinking of Sharval’s last words.


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  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    I realize that Owens and his team are lacking context in this encounter, but it's still damned troubling that the Marines are abusing the locals without (apparent) provocation.

    Things here have obviously got very ugly, and I fear Owens has barely scratched the surface.
     
  6. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    6


    After three days on Sacajawea, Leva had finally decided to exchange his mustard-colored operations and security uniform shirt—a color he had worn for practically his entire career—for a maroon shirt of command. He'd continue serving as the ship’s chief tactical and security officer until he had trained a replacement, but the change in department, he argued, showed his dedication to his new role and ship. Captain Mahoney didn't seem to care either way and in fact the man had spent the majority of his time since Leva had arrived holed up in his ready room, leaving his first officer pretty much in charge of running the ship and overseeing their current mission.

    Leva still didn't agree with this his hands-off approach but on the other hand, he didn't mind the opportunity of running the show, gaining experience both in command and with this ship and crew. It was a chance he hadn't gotten often on Eagle save for the night shift. Leva doubted very much that Mahoney's absence was intended for his benefit.

    "We are now approaching grid C12," said Ensign T'Sara, the very efficient but also incredibly young Vulcan Leva had picked out of the slim pool of qualified officers to be the ship's senior helmsman. Most Vulcans Leva had met didn't join Starfleet until they were well in their thirties or forties which thanks to their longevity still made them appear as young as most other recruits. T'Sara on the other hand was one of those rare exceptions who had joined the Academy shortly after her eighteenth birthday and who had only graduated a few months ago. A fellow Vulcan would have likely considered her a mere child. Her relative inexperience still made her the most qualified person on board to pilot the ship.

    "Excellent, slow to impulse and then get us into position.” He glanced at the Bolian sitting next to T’Sara at the forward facing operations console. "Lieutenant, open the cargo bay doors and stand by to deploy the comm relay."

    "Aye, sir.” She offered an efficient nod. "Opening cargo bay doors."

    Leva swiveled around in the central captain's chair until he faced the engineering station. "Mister Hendricks, is the relay ready to be deployed?"

    The young chief engineer nodded. "Yes, sir. All onboard systems read fully operational."

    "We have achieved deployment position.” The Vulcan didn’t even glance up from her board when she spoke.

    "All stop, Ensign. Lieutenant, go ahead and drop her off."

    The two women acknowledged and moments later Leva could spot the cylindrical device appear on the main view screen. It slowly glided across space until it came to a standstill in its designated position.

    "Fire her up, Mister Hendricks."

    The chief engineer acknowledged and after less than a minute he reported success. "She's transmitting, sir.” A little smile played on his lips.

    Leva spotted a similar expression of accomplishment on Alendra's face and even T'Sara had a hint of pride reflected on her usually carefully schooled features. Sure, dropping off comm relays wasn't anything to write home about but this crew needed every success it could get, even a minor one such as this. Mahoney had been right, it wasn't a glamorous job but Leva thought he understood why Sacajawea had been chosen over a more traditional buoy tender. She was far from the most impressive vessel in the fleet, but she was a fast little ship, able to deploy the relays and reconnecting this sector of space with the rest of the Federation much faster than a slower tender. Mahoney may have been convinced that all this was just another slight against him and his ship in her steady descend into irrelevancy but Leva preferred to think of their mission as carrying out a vital Starfleet objective.

    "Commander, I believe we're picking up a distress signal.”

    Leva turned towards the tactical station.

    There he found Ensign Mirko Nikolić who he had chosen as his understudy. The young man of Serbian ancestry had been on Sacajawea for only a few months and graduated from the Academy a mere couple of weeks before that and yet he had shown some impressive tactical acumen and was perhaps more qualified for that position than anyone else presently on board. He wasn’t comfortable yet to have the ensign hold that post while in combat but after gaining some experience he may very well take over for Leva full time.

    The first officer left his chair and joined him. "Can you determine its source?"

    He worked his console for a moment. "It seems to be originating from a Thulian freighter, point two five light-years from our position."

    "Audio?"

    Nikolić shook his head, "Text only. ‘Ship under attack. Requesting immediate assistance from any vessel in range’.” He turned to look at the first officer standing at his side.

    Leva nodded and faced towards the front of the bridge. “T'Sara, plot a course. Captain, please report to the bridge."

    For the fact that Mahoney's ready room was directly adjacent to the bridge, it took him a surprisingly long time to emerge. When he finally did he had not bothered to put on his jacket and considered Leva mildly annoyed. "What is it, Commander? I thought I had made it clear that I have complete faith in you to oversee our current mission without my input."

    “It’s a distress signal, sir.” Leva relieved Nikolić at the tactical station, now that he was anticipating a potentially hostile situation he preferred handling things himself. However he indicated for the young man to stay close so he could observe. “Ship under attack.”

    Mahoney hesitated and glanced towards the screen as if he could find the source of the distress signal there. “Where?”

    “Quarter of a light-year from our current position,” Leva said. “At high warp we can reach it in less than two hours.”

    The captain nodded but said nothing, his eyes still focused on the view screen which currently showed nothing but the comm relay they had deployed.

    Leva forced himself to suppress a frown brought on by Mahoney’s complete lack of urgency. He could spot Alendra and T’Sara exchanging quick looks while they were awaiting new orders. “Sir?”

    It was apparently only then that Mahoney noticed that most eyes on the bridge where looking in his direction. “We’re not equipped for any kind of rescue mission,” he said. “Forward the message to another ship.”

    Leva stood from his chair. “Sir, we are the closest vessel. We should respond.”

    Mahoney sighed heavily and then waved off his first officer with a hand. “Fine, fine.” He took his seat. “Helm, plot a course.”

    “Course already plotted, sir.”

    “Then what are you waiting for? Go to maximum warp.”

    T’Sara nodded crisply. “Engaging.”

    Seconds later Sacajawea had jumped to warp.

    Mahoney stayed on the bridge for the entire duration it took them to reach the source of the distress signal. But he didn’t ask many questions or request up to date sensor reports as Leva would have expected from Owens when Eagle would head towards a possibly dangerous and hostile situation. Of course this didn’t stop him from preparing the ship for combat on his own initiative. He hadn’t had a chance yet to run any battle drills, something that according to the logs had never been a regular practice on Sacajawea. Fortunately, the ship itself was ready for a fight. All phaser banks were operating within recommended tolerance levels and the ship carried a satisfactory amount of photon and quantum torpedoes. The deflector shields had a few more weaknesses than he would have liked but should hold up fine as long as they didn’t expose their weak ventral side.

    “I have sensor contact.” Alendra was carefully studying her console as they approached the last known coordinates of the ship in distress. “One freighter is being attacked by two small escorts.”

    “On screen.” Leva had to give the order when Mahoney had remained quiet.

    The viewer shifted to reveal the scene they were about to drop in on. The bulky cargo vessel was doing the best it could to evade incoming fire from two smaller ships, both about half the size of Sacajawea. It was a futile effort and their best hope had been to buy themselves some time until somebody would answer their cry for help. The freighter was already venting atmosphere and drive plasma from various hull breaches.

    Mahoney’s featured hardened at seeing the one sided battle. “Commander, hail the attacking vessels and warn them off.”

    Leva sent a strong worded challenge to the two escorts but was rewarded only with silence. However his instruments confirmed that the ships were receiving the signal. They simply chose to disregard it. “No response, Captain. They are ignoring us.”

    “Open a channel.”

    “Go ahead, sir,” he said after he had made sure they would be able to receive whatever Mahoney was going to say next.

    “This is Captain Evan Mahoney from the Starfleet vessel USS Sacajawea,” he said. “You will disengage your attack immediately or we will respond with appropriate force.”

    Leva actually smirked. It had been the first time he had heard Mahoney sound truly authoritative, clearly the man could show some teeth if he wanted to.

    Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to impress the crews of those ships which continued their assault without hesitation.

    The captain swiveled his chair to face his first officer at tactical. “You analysis?”

    He already had a report ready. “The attacking ships are Cardassian Hideki-class escorts.”

    “Cardassians?”

    “Possibly but unlikely. These particular vessel are at least two generations removed from the ships the Cardassian fleet currently employs.”

    “Could be military surplus.”

    Leva nodded. “A number of worlds in this sector are known to use old Cardassian ships. They could also be mercenaries or pirates who have gotten their hands on outdated military vessels. Regardless, they should be no match for Sacajawea.”

    “Good. Tactical suggestion?”

    “Attack pattern kappa-six. We’ll use a lot of initial firepower, just short of disabling their shields but enough to show them we mean business. That should be more than enough to make them think twice about keeping this up.”

    Mahoney smirked. “Shock and awe? I like it. Let’s do it.”

    “Now entering weapon’s range,” T’Sara said.

    “Red alert.” Mahoney gripped his armrests a little tighter. “Drop out of warp and engage kappa-six.”

    T’Sara had the ship pop out of subspace nearly right on top of the two smaller Hideki escorts and Leva wasted no time to unleash all forward phaser banks as well as firing a couple of photon torpedoes, alternatively targeting both vessels. He realized quickly that he had to be careful with how much power he unleashed on their opponents. It had been a long time since he had fought in a battle where their objective had not been the complete destruction of the enemy. During the war, more often than not, it had been a game of us or them and restraint had been a tactic which would have guaranteed defeat. Of course it didn’t help that those outmoded Cardassian ships, shaped very much like some sort of oversized crustaceans with giant pincers at their stern, were still very similar to the kind of vessels they had fought against in the war.

    His calculations turned out to be correct and their shields held. But barely and no doubt the crews of both vessels had been rattled to the bones by those initial hits. As predicted the first ship disengaged and ran. The second ship however had other ideas.

    “They are coming about.” Alendra watched the battle unfold on the view screen where the smaller ship unleashed a few rounds of amber phaser fire which did little damage to Sacajawea’s shields.

    “Bad idea,” said Mahoney. “Mister Leva, kindly show them why.”

    He nodded. “Ensign, turn sharply heading 231 mark 5 and keep our ventral side tucked away.”

    The Vulcan understood and carried out the order.

    On his tactical screens, Leva could see that she had steered the ship exactly how he had wished, dipping their saucer section right into the enemy’s flight path and thereby allowing him to unleash Sacajawea’s most powerful phaser banks at a devastating angle.

    In its already weakened state, the remaining escort had no choice but to break off sharply but not before its shields collapsed and its weapons failed. Leva nodded with satisfaction. “They’re making a run for it.”

    Mahoney leaned forwards in his chair as if he had caught a scent. “They’re not going to get far. Ensign, pursuit course. Match their speed. Commander Leva, prepare torpedoes. Let’s blow her out of the stars.”

    T’Sara did as she was told and within moments they were chasing their fleeing enemy’s tail. But Leva hesitated. “Sir, she will likely not survive a direct torpedo hit.”

    “She had her chance to follow her friend and get out of here. Now she’ll pay the price for thinking she could take us on.”

    A week earlier he wouldn’t have hesitated to fire those weapons but now it seemed like senseless killing to him and there had been more than enough of that during the war. A well-placed phaser burst instead would likely be enough to disable them.

    “Where’s my torpedo?” Mahoney practically barked.

    But before Leva could speak up, Alendra beat him to it. “Captain, the ship is going to warp.”

    Indeed on the view screen the small Cardassian escort disappeared with a bright flash.

    Mahoney grimaced and then turned his chair until he faced his first officer, his eyes accusatory. Leva returned the hard look defiantly.

    The Bolian interrupted yet again. “We’re being hailed by the freighter.”

    Mahoney aborted the impromptu staring contest and faced the viewer again. “Put them on screen, Lieutenant.”

    “It’s audio only, sir”

    “Speakers, then.”

    “This is the Thulian transport Intral to Federation vessel Sacajawea. We wish to express our gratitude for your timely intervention. Without it these pirates would have surely stolen our cargo and destroyed our vessel.” The disembodied voice had a distinct metallic sound to it as if it was being filtered through another computer or apparatus.

    Intral, this is Captain Mahoney from the Sacajawea. No thanks are required. We were happy to help.” He wore a noticeably pleased expression now. “Do you require any assistance?”

    “We should be able to carry out most of our repairs while we get underway. We carry a great amount of relief supplies for Cardassian and Federation colonies and our timely arrival is of great importance.”

    “Understood, Intral.” Mahoney nodded. “We will remain on station until you have departed just in case these pirates decide to take another crack at you.”

    “Once again please accept our thanks for your assistance, Intral out.

    Mahoney stood and tugged on his uniform jacket. “Well done, people. That was a good job all around.” He even glanced at his first officer, his displeasure at his earlier hesitation now seemingly forgotten.

    In fact in the short time Leva had been on board, he had never seen the man so seemingly proud of his ship and crew. Perhaps all it had taken to get him acting like a real Starfleet captain again was the chance of making a tangible difference. He had practically seemed like a different person during their short conflict with those pirates and as far as Leva was concerned that was a good sign.


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  7. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Well, Mahoney finally comes alive with a little prodding from Leva. Here again we see the more lethal mindset many in Starfleet share after the war, with Mahoney’s order to destroy rather than disable the attacking ship. Perhaps things can be turned around on this little ship, with some subtle persuasion by Leva from behind the scenes.
     
  8. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    7


    Owens and his away team were led into a large office which once upon a time had likely served the ambassador to Valeria. A flag carrying the official emblem of the Starfleet Marines had been added next to a Federation flag behind an opulent, dark wood desk and right in front of a row of four tall windows which allowed a terrific view of the small capital city.

    Behind the desk sat General Lam who stood the moment his guests entered the room. Lam defied the stereotype of short and nimble Asian men. Instead he stood just a little taller than Owens and nearly as tall as Wasco. He had similarly broad shoulders and even though his age, which Owens guessed at somewhere around sixty, he was still in splendid physical condition with a muscular physique noticeable even through the combat fatigues he wore.

    “Captain Owens, a pleasure of making your acquaintance.” He stepped around his desk to greet his guests. He offered his hand and Owens didn’t miss the man’s firm grip.

    “General Lam, thank you for inviting us,” he said. “This is Lieutenant Deen, my operations officer and Gul Belore from the Cardassian military. And of course you know Major Wasco.”

    A large smile came over Lam’s features when he spotted the Tenarian woman, a reaction Owens had counted on. Deen had an undeniable effect on people and the captain hadn’t been shy of using her in diplomatic settings or when trying to put others around him at ease. If she had a problem with his tactic of exploiting her people’s unique aura, she had never mentioned it. Instead she gave the general a large smile of her own. “A pleasure, General.”

    “The pleasure is all mine, my dear, trust me.” He shook her hand, his grip a lot less firm this time and kept his eyes on the beautiful woman a little longer before moving on to Belore. “Gul.” He only exchanged a curt nod with him and Owens wasn’t quite sure if this was because he knew that Cardassians were less fond of handshakes or if he had a genuine dislike for the man. Considering what Lam had been doing the last two years, it was hard to fault him for being cautious of Cardassians.

    But his features quickly lightened up again when he turned to the major. “Cesar.” He gripped his hand and clasped the other Marine’s shoulder. “It is damn good to see you again, old friend.”

    “Thank you, sir,” he said. “It’s good to see you as well.”

    Lam’s pleasure of meeting an old comrade in arms was impossible to miss. The man clearly thought as highly of Wasco as the major did of the general. Owens was grateful for this, it would certainly make this mission easier.

    “Can I get you something?” But he didn’t wait for a response. “I’m afraid there isn’t much of a choice at the moment with the energy situation what it is but I can offer you something from my private collection.” He looked towards one of his guards by the door. “Lieutenant, get us a bottle of my huangjiu with five glasses.” The officer quickly departed and Lam considered his guests again. “It’s brewed right in my home town, a real treat, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.”

    “General,” began Owens, “while I appreciate your hospitality, I would much rather discuss how we can implement an immediate cease fire on Valeria in preparation to getting your troops home.”

    Lam took a small step back in order to lean against his desk. “So there really is a peace treaty with the Dominion?”

    “Yes, sir.” Wasco looked straight at his old mentor. “The war is over.”

    Lam nodded slowly but his eyes seemed unfocused. “That’s good. Very good.” He glanced back at Owens. “Our communications have been very spotty since the Cardassians destroyed our comm center along with all our subspace receivers. We haven’t been able to send or receive any messages from Command in over two months.”

    Belore aimed a quick look at Lam. “Gul Metral seems to have much the same problem.”

    “You’ve spoken to Metral?”

    Owens nodded. “Yes. And the good news is he’s willing to agree to a cease fire considering the changed circumstances.”

    But Lam didn’t look optimistic. “I wish I could trust Metral but he’s a shifty character who is not above exploiting such an opportunity for his own benefit.”

    “To what end?” said Deen. “There is no more victory for him to achieve.”

    “I’ve dealt with that man for nearly two years, Lieutenant, I know how he thinks.” Lam shook his head. “No, there is no doubt in my mind that he will try and make a move to claim this world for Cardassia. The situation on Valeria is already complicated enough. We have to tread very carefully now.”

    “What exactly is the situation, General?” Owens tried to keep his features as well as his voice as neutral as possible but after the incident that had taken place outside, he found it difficult to do so. “On our way here we witnessed an altercation between your men and the locals.”

    This seemed to interest Lam a great deal. “What kind of altercation?”

    “There was a protest by Valerians right outside the embassy,” explained Wasco and Lam nodded as if he was fully aware of such occurrences. “The situation got out of control when our men confronted the Valerian security detail.”

    “That’s putting it mildly.” Deen frowned to communicate her displeasure at what she had seen. “Your Marines pretty much attacked without provocation, injuring at least one peace officer.”

    Lam uttered a heavy sigh. “That is very unfortunate and not the kind of behavior I expect from my men.” The general sounded stern but hardly surprised. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure the people responsible are disciplined appropriately. But you must understand that most of these men have been serving on this world for nearly two years without interruption. Sometimes it can become a challenge to keep your temper in check.”

    Owens offered a little nod. “Even more reason to try and end this as soon as possible.”

    Lam’s aide returned with a tablet carrying a tall bottle with noticeable Chinese characters on the label, alongside five glasses. He placed it on the desk and then left. Lam opened the bottle and began pouring the yellowish wine into the glasses.

    “What I don’t understand is why would the Valerians be demonstrating in the first place? It’s not very often that a local population opposes a Federation presence.” Deen aimed a brief glance at her captain and Owens showed his agreement with a nod, before she glanced back at the general.

    “That’s just a small minority.” Lam continued filling the glasses. “Most Valerians are thankful we are here to stand between them and the Cardassians taking over their world. When this first started, the Valerians were very concerned about the Dominion spreading their influence over this planet and Starfleet was and remains their only chance to truly oppose them. It was a task we were happy to take on.”

    Owens nodded. “Because Command was worried that the Dominion might use Valeria as a staging platform against Federation targets.”

    “That is correct. But the situation quickly turned into a stalemate and only got worse when both Starfleet and the Dominion decided to reduce their support for the Valeria campaign. I suppose they figured that because the planet is non-aligned, it didn’t warrant taking up a great amount of resources which could be used elsewhere. I’ve been doing whatever I can to keep the remaining Cardassians at bay since then but it hasn’t been easy without any kind of serious backing from Command. At least we have the Valerian’s support. We signed a promise of cooperation with Supreme Monarch Heral just last year. He is as concerned as I am about a Cardassian presence on Valeria.”

    Owens frowned. He had not read anything in the reports on Valeria about any kind of treaty between this world and the Federation other than a non-aggression pact the Valerians had signed with both the Dominion and the Federation to attempt and stay neutral in the war. Things had clearly not quite worked out like that.

    Lam offered Owens a glass and noticed his concerns. “It’s not truly a formal, political treaty. But as you can imagine operating on a non-Federation world has had its challenges and having the supreme monarch’s blessing as well as the assistance of his security forces to maintain order among the populace has made this a lot less complicated than it has to be.”

    Owens took the glass but didn’t immediately try the wine. “The Valerians did not have a real stake in this war. Neither the Dominion nor the Federation have considered Valeria an important strategic location for over a year.”

    “Perhaps not but as the Cardassian didn’t leave, I did not feel it appropriate for us to abandon the Valerians in their hour of need.” Lam took a sip of his wine, clearly enjoying the beverage. “Clearly the supreme monarch agreed.”

    It took Owens a moment to understand the implications of what the general had said. It seemed to answer the nagging question in the back of his mind of why Lam had continued to lobby the powers that were to remain on Valeria even after the Dominion had lost interest.

    Deen looked equally confused. “If I may ask, General, what does this mean for the people living on this world? How does the local population fit into the war being waged on their own planet?”

    If Lam was offended by Deen’s somewhat critical tone, he didn’t let it show. Deen tended to get away things some other people would not have. “We are still Starfleet officers, Lieutenant and we go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. I wish I could say the same for the Cardassians but unfortunately their tolerances for collateral damage are much higher than ours.” He shot a fleeting glance at Belore who hardly reacted to this not-so-veiled implication.

    Owens suppressed a sigh he felt coming on. This mission was becoming much more complicated by the minute. Instead of rolling into town like a herald of peace and expecting everyone to lay down their weapons, he was instead faced with a military and diplomatic quagmire. But he wasn’t entirely sure if the complications were truly as difficult as Lam seemed to suggest or if he was somehow embellishing the facts. “What would you suggest we do in order to bring peace to Valeria as soon as possible, General?”

    It was almost as if Lam had been waiting for the opportunity to lay out his own plan and he quickly stepped back behind his desk and took a seat. “First and foremost we need to fortify our positions to be prepared for Metral’s next move; one which I guarantee he will make now that he’ll be expecting us to draw down. It’s an opportunity he won’t be willing to miss. Our biggest challenge as you can imagine are shortages of troops and, perhaps even worse, a scarcity of energy. Fighting a war for two years requires a lot of power for ammunition, vehicles, feeding and clothing the troops and so on.”

    Wasco nodded. “We noticed the power outages in town.”

    “An unfortunate side effect. Thankfully we are fairly close to completing a new fusion plant which should give us all the power we’ll need and then some. With the real threat of an imminent attack by Metral, we need to accelerate our efforts. That’s where you come in, Captain.”

    “How?” Owens was already sure he wouldn’t like this at all.

    “A ship like yours carries a great amount of resources which would give us an important tactical advantage over Metral. I need you to beam down your engineers as well as any materiel you can spare such as industrial replicators so that we can complete the power plant ahead of schedule.” He glanced at Wasco next. “Cesar, how many men did you bring with you?”

    “We didn’t bring any additional troops, General. But we do have Echo Company on Eagle. That’s about a hundred forty Marines.”

    Lam nodded. “That’s not much but better than nothing. We can use your company for additional peace keeping duties which will free up—“

    Owens had heard enough. “I’m sorry, General, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this plan. I didn’t come here to put more boots on the ground.” He placed his untouched drink back onto the desk.

    Lam glared at the starship captain and Owens could tell that this was not a man used to have his orders questioned. He had grown accustomed to giving them and for people to follow them with little hesitation. Lam managed to soften his expression before he began to talk again. “I understand that this is not what you expected when you came here, Captain. I wish the situation were different as well but the reality is not what they think it is back in Paris or San Francisco.”

    “My orders are to prepare you to come home, General.”

    “And what I’m proposing is how we make sure that we do it right.”

    The captain shook his head. “There must be another way.”

    “There isn’t and no amount of wishing it were otherwise will make it so. You may not realize this yet, but this is the truth of the situation on the ground and as every wartime commander worth his salt knows, the situation on the ground can change in a heartbeat. Our job is to adapt to these changes as best as we can. We adapt or we die.”

    Deen pointed out the obvious. “The war is over, General.”

    “Not on Valeria it’s not.”

    That left Owens stunned and he wasn’t sure how to respond to that statement. General Lam was at least right about one point. He had not expected this. He had mostly worried about the Cardassians. He had been concerned about Belore being unable to get through to Gul Metral, he had not foreseen that Lam would be the one he had to convince to put down his weapons and pack up his campaign. “With all due respect, General, I simply cannot accept that. The war between the Federation and the Dominion is over. Your campaign on this world is part of that war. Starfleet wants it to end without delay and for you and your people to come home.”

    Lam didn’t immediately respond to this and for a moment the general simply stared back at his guest. At the outsider; the man who had come here, onto his planet, into his very office, to tell him what to do. To say that the tension in the room had suddenly spiked to a level far above what was considered comfortable, would not have done justice to the situation.

    Even Gul Belore had to be feeling the sudden drop in temperature judging by the way his prominent neck ridges were tensing. DeMara Deen, the eternal optimist, looked positively distraught and Wasco seemed torn.

    But Michael Owens was not about to back down and neither it appeared would General Lam.

    Ultimately however the Marine did break eye contact and began to nod very slowly. “I appreciate the difficult position this places you in, Captain. I understand that all this is quite a bit to take in. Why don’t you take some time to think this over? As our guests, please feel free to make yourself at home. Spend the night, get to know this world and the challenges we face here and perhaps you will start to see that what I have proposed is the only way forward.” Lam glanced at his aide again. “Lieutenant, please escort the captain and his team to the guest rooms and see to any needs they may have.”

    Owens fought to keep the frown off his face. He didn’t like the idea of delaying his mission by even as little as a day, after all there was still no cease-fire in effect which meant that Starfleet and Cardassian forces continued to fight each other on Valeria, possibly even at this very moment. But it had also become clear to him that General Lam was convinced that any cease-fire at this time would be a tragic mistake.

    He needed a new strategy to make the general see that it was his only choice. And even though his mission to Valeria was perfectly clear, Lam outranked him and he couldn’t simply order the man to negotiate a cease-fire with the Cardassians. Begrudgingly he decided to take up Lam’s offer to hopefully figure out his next move.


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  9. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Ugh. Yeah. Quagmire. :scream:

    Now Lam’s eyeing Eagle as another resource to help him ‘win’ a war that’s already ended. Not having foreseen this, Starfleet didn’t send an admiral along to remind Lam of his place in the scheme of things. I do not envy Owens the awkward and potentially dangerous power play that may await him…
     
  10. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    8


    Sacajawea had stayed on station even after the Thulian freighter had departed and Leva wasn’t entirely sure about the reasoning for this. All he knew was that they had received another transmission and that Mahoney had taken it in private in his ready room. It wasn’t from Starfleet, of that much he was certain. So far they had only deployed two comm relays and not nearly enough to reestablish reliable communications with Command from their present location.

    To his surprise the captain had called a senior staff meeting and he assumed that the occasion would reveal the nature of the mystery communiqué.

    He didn’t miss that Mahoney strode into the briefing room with his chin held high. Clearly the confidence boost he had experienced from their short altercation with the pirates had not worn off yet. He took his chair and shortly regarded his four officers before he spoke. “I had the pleasure of being contacted by representatives of the Thulian government who wished to express their gratitude to us for coming to their freighter’s assistance. They further explained to me that these pirate attacks have been more frequent over the last two weeks, particularly going after convoys transporting relief supplies for the Federation and Cardassia. The Thulians do not have a significant armed fleet to protect these convoys. After being told of our actions here, they have asked me if we’d be willing to assist them in tracking down these pirates and putting a stop to their efforts.”

    Nobody spoke up straight away as the captain’s words sunk in.

    Leva decided to go first. “We are already on a mission.”

    But Mahoney shook his head. “Deploying a few relays isn’t a mission, it’s a milk run. We have a chance to make a real difference here.”

    Alendra looked slightly skeptical as well. “Shouldn’t we check in with Starfleet first?”

    The first officer nodded. “Yes, but we would have to deploy additional relays before we could open real-time or minimally delayed communications.”

    “We could head back towards Gamma Seven.” Hendricks glanced at the captain. “From there we should be able to make contact.”

    It was clearly not what Mahoney had been thinking. “Going back is going to take days. And so is deploying more of those relays. In the meantime these pirates will have nearly free reign to destroy or plunder thousands of tons of cargo meant for people in need.”

    “Captain, what about possible Prime Directive—“

    But Mahoney cut Leva off. “Does not apply here.”

    Leva shot the man a quizzical look. “You say you’ve been contacted by government representatives. This would make this an internal Thulian matter.”

    “The convoys are being attacked in neutral space and the cargo that is being targeted is meant for us.” Mahoney sounded sharp and even a little impatient as if he hadn’t expected to having to argue this point. “That’s enough for me to justify involvement.”

    Leva glanced at the operations officer. “Lieutenant, what do we know about the Thulians?”

    The Bolian had to refer to a padd and Leva suppressed the urge to smirk. She wasn’t quite Xylion or even Deen who would have had that kind of information already prepeared. “Uh, right, the Thulians. Native to Ultima Thule, a star system roughly half a light-year from our present position. They seem to be mildly xenophobic as we don’t seem to have much information on them other than that they are part of an extensive trading network in this sector which includes the Fahleenians and the Valerians. They’ve routinely traded with both us and the Cardassians. The terma Thulians and Ultima Thule are Federation designations as their true name is not actually known.”

    Leva nodded at her report and then looked back at Mahoney.

    “So they like to keep to themselves. Even more reason to come to their aid now that they seem to have come out of their shell a little bit. We may be able to lay down the groundwork for improved diplomatic relations.”

    “I think it is a splendid idea.”

    All heads turned to look towards Doctor Newheiser.

    “The crew could use a few success stories and ending the scourge of piracy in this sector would certainly count as a big one.” The doctor wore a large smirk which Leva found mostly irritating. It was impossible to tell if the man was being serious or sarcastic half the time.

    Leva was still not entirely comfortable with this idea. “Starfleet is counting on us to deploy the comm relays and reestablishing communications in this sector. For all we know it may be part of a bigger strategy we are not aware of and by not carrying it out we may affect other important objectives.”

    Mahoney waved off his concerns. “Or it may be nothing more than a distraction to keep us busy.” He resolutely shook his head. “And it’s not as if we are abandoning our mission. It’s just going to be delayed slightly. We’ll get back to it as soon as the pirate threat has been dealt with.”

    The first officer regarded the captain with a cautious look. “Have your contacts provided you with any additional information on the identity of the pirates, their strength and numbers or their likely locations?”

    “They don’t know much but they’ve given us a few places where we can start our search. As to their identity, I don’t really care. They are nothing more than opportunists. Scavengers who are profiting from the end of the war and the chaos that has followed it. We’ve seen what they’re up to and their firepower has not been overly impressive. I am utterly confident that this ship and crew is more than up to the task.”

    He was getting through to his officers. Both Alendra and Hendricks seemed to like the idea of finally being able to make a difference after months of being kept on the sidelines while the quadrant burned. And the fact that they didn’t have to go up against the Dominion with its massive resources seemed to make success much more likely.

    To Leva it still didn’t feel quite right. He didn’t like the idea of pirates preying on freighters which transported desperately needed supplies to war-torn worlds either but what bothered him about this more than anything was Mahoney’s incredible transformation from almost utter indifference and resignation to full blown enthusiasm. He wasn't a counselor of course, but having to go into what looked like a very likely combat mission with a commanding officer displaying such significant shifts in mood and behavior seemed dangerous to him. Had he been back on Eagle he may have voiced these concerns to his fellow officers, maybe to the counselor or chief medical officer but here it seemed everybody was already fully on board with the captain’s plan, including the doctor. Sacajawea didn’t have a counselor and he doubted it would have made much of a difference anyway. This new and improved Captain Mahoney seemed like a hit to the crew and he knew he wouldn’t find much support among them.

    “I would still be more comfortable if we could run this by Starfleet first.” Truthfully Leva held out little hope that his concerns would be considered.

    Predictably Mahoney shook his head. “That won’t be possible. I’ve made up my mind about this and we will go after these pirates. I trust I can expect your full support in this matter, Commander.”

    Leva nodded. He wasn’t going to go against his own captain after less than a week in his new position. He wasn’t eager carrying out career suicide just yet. “That goes without saying, sir.”

    “Very good,” he said. “Prepare the ship and crew for action, Mister Leva. We will depart immediately for our first patrol. I have a good feeling about this, people. I think we’re going to make a real different out here.” He offered his officers a rare smile before he stood and then left the room with little further delay.

    Leva and the others followed suit and began to leave.

    He forced himself to see this mission as a good thing. Deploying the relays had marginally improved morale on the ship but he knew that a combat victory and eliminating a threat to the entire sector would likely work wonders on this inexperienced and seemingly dejected crew. If they could pull it off, he may even come to regret his own objections. Leva was big enough of a man not to mind to be proven wrong.

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  11. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Mahoney’s unstable, veering between apathy and hyper-aggression, and poor Leva’s having to walk a very thin line between this mercurial captain and the rest of the crew. One wonders how new Ben Maxwell’s XO was during the fiasco along the Cardassian border… and how hard he/she might have tried to steer that veteran captain away from the edge of the abyss.
     
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    The Ben Maxwell episode is an excellent comparison and not one I believe I was consciously aware of when penning the Mahoney/Leva plot. Funny enough I did always wonder where Maxwell's senior officers were when all this went down.

    One can only imagine that the situation on the Phoenix developed in a similar manner at first. Maxwell's XO was either fully on board with his captain's plan from the beginning or entirely helpless to stop him later on. Leva does not have much command experience and might find himself in as much trouble as the Phoenix's first officer may have been. Then again, things might develop in a much different way here.

    Stay tuned.
     
  13. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    9


    “I do not fully understand the nature of your request, Commander.”

    Tazla Star sighed as she regarded the Vulcan science officer sitting in the chair opposite hers. She had asked him to her office to discuss a rather sensitive subject but one which she was sure he would be able to assist her with. Ability of course was the lesser problem. The real issue was getting Xylion on her side to begin with. After all her request wasn’t exactly a hundred percent aboveboard. She wasn’t sure if it was illegal per se but it was likely not in line with Starfleet regulations.

    “My service record. I need you to restrict access to it for the time being. I trust that’s something you can do?”

    “Yes, I can.” He offered no hesitation. “It is possible to prevent the library computer to refuse access to anyone wishing to read your personnel file. However I am still not certain why you would require this.”

    Star rubbed her temples. She had expected him to ask that question and she really didn’t want to answer it. In fact if she had known how to do it herself, she would never have asked. “Let’s just say that there may be a certain individual on board who may have an interest in me. And I would prefer that he didn’t.”

    “You speak of Mister West.”

    Her eyes grew slightly wider. “Yes, how do you know?”

    “Mister West has approached me for an interview for one of his articles. The subject matter he is interested in is you.”

    “And have you agreed to this interview?”

    He didn’t respond straight away, instead he looked directly into her eyes, and quite possibly able to detect her anxiety there. “No, I have not.”

    That came as a relief. “And may I ask why not?”

    “Of course.” The Vulcan offered a curt nod. “While I approve of freedom of the press as it is guaranteed in the Federation Constitution, I believe that a detailed and publicly available article about a command-level officer on this vessel is not conducive to the continuity of efficient ship operations. And so while I respect Mister West’s right to write and publish such an article, I see no reason to assist him in this endeavor.”

    “Commander, I’m very glad to here you say that.” She was doing her best to mask the relief she felt at Xylion’s decision not to cooperate with the reporter. But she had no way of knowing if the rest of the crew felt the same way. “Now as you can imagine, I too would not be overly thrilled to have people read about my past exploits. That’s why I need you to make it impossible for him to access my file.”

    “That is not feasible, sir.”

    “What? Why not? You just told me you could do it.”

    He offered a minuscule nod. “I am able to restrict access to the library computer while Mister West is on board. However, once he leaves the ship he will be free to access the requested file via any external Federation computer database or an active Memory Alpha uplink.”

    Star sighed. She hadn’t thought of that. Xylion was able to tell Eagle’s computer whom to give access to and whom to deny but he couldn’t very well manipulate the central computer on the Memory Alpha planetoid which housed the collective Federation knowledge, including her personnel file. She nodded. “Fine, so it’s going to be a temporary fix only.”

    “I should point out, Commander, that there are Starfleet regulations pertaining to the altering or deleting of library computer files.”

    “This is different.” She quickly shook her head to dispel any notions that she was issuing him an illegal order. “I’m not looking to alter or deleting anything. Just restricting the file for a short while. To ensure the continuity of efficient ship operations.” She hoped adding that last bit, practically quoting back to him his own words, would help secure his cooperation.

    But Xylion didn’t look swayed.

    “Look, Commander, if there is any comeback from this, you can claim that I ordered you to do this. This will in no way reflect back on you.”

    “That will not be necessary. However I should point out that Mister West’s civilian access level will not be sufficient to review any classified information on your record. He would only be able to gain access to basic information cleared by Starfleet Command.”

    She shook her head. “Atticus West doesn’t strike me as a man who would be thwarted for too long by access rights issues. He’s a veteran reporter used to dig up information on people. I’d rather not take any chances and make the entire file unavailable to him.”

    Xylion stood. “As you wish, Commander. I will carry out the necessary modifications to the computer within the hour. I will further program a randomized sequence that will lock out Mister West of additional computer entries in order to make it appear like a temporary computer malfunction and reduce his suspicions that we have targeted your file specifically.”

    Star allowed herself a small smile. That was a pretty clever idea she hadn’t considered. West would most likely still figure out that she was behind it all eventually but at least this way she could keep a certain level of plausible deniability about the whole thing. “Thank you, Commander, I appreciate this.”

    He offered another minimal nod and then left her office.

    Not a moment after he was gone, the door annunciator sounded again and she begged her new visitor to enter. It turned out to be Doctor Katanga.

    “There you are.” He stepped into her office with determined strides. “You’re supposed to be in your quarters. Don’t tell me you forgot.”

    She leaned back in her chair. “I can’t do it today, Eli. The captain is on an away mission and I’m in command until he comes back. We have to postpone.”

    Katanga nodded as he stepped closer to her desk. “I understand and I figured you’d say something like that.” He sat in the chair Xylion had vacated only a short while earlier. “But that’s not really why I came to see you.”

    “Oh?”

    “What’s going on?”

    She offered him a quizzical glance in response.

    It didn’t take. “Don’t give me that look, Dez. Even if I hadn’t known you for more than half my lifetime I’d be easily able to tell that something has been bothering you a great deal over the last few days. You’ve been practically zoned out for hours. Your body is here but your mind is somewhere else entirely.”

    She frowned. She hadn’t realized that it had been so obvious. “I’ve had a lot to think about lately.”

    “About our intrepid journalist guest and his newly found interest in your life?”

    Star stood suddenly, uttering a heavy sigh. “Gods, has he tried to interview the entire crew?”

    “Relax, will you?” He looked after her as she began to pace in front of the windows. “Nobody’s talking to him. Especially not the senior officers. And without a few witness testimonies he’s got nothing but rumors and speculation. Hardly enough to write a story anybody would take seriously.”

    She stopped and looked at him. “And you’re certain of this?”

    He nodded. “You may have had your troubles with the people on this ship in the past but they’re a loyal bunch. They don’t want to see one of their own get dragged through the mud by a reporter looking for another award.”

    She couldn’t quite manage to keep a smile off her face. She hadn’t expected this. But perhaps it shouldn’t have come as such a big surprise. After all it had been Nora, the very same woman who had been something akin to her nemesis up until some months ago who had first warned her of what West was up to. And even Xylion, a typically pragmatic Vulcan who had gone as far as pointing out West’s constitutional rights had been willing to help her scheme of denying West his story.

    She shook her head, her smile now gone. “It doesn’t matter. West is like a dog with a bone. I had Xylion block my file but that will only work as long as he’s on board. It’s only a question of time until he gets to the ugly truth about me and when he does I’m finished in Starfleet.”

    Katanga sighed. “Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.”

    “Why not?”

    “Because the harder you make it for him the harder he’s going to push. Your making yourself appear guilty by trying to fight him and his story at every opportunity you get.”

    Star let herself fall back in her chair. “So what do you suggest? That I get him back in here and confess to everything? Tell him about all the stupid things I’ve done in my past life? Oh and while I’m at it perhaps I should also let him know that I’m a drug junkie who isn’t really fit to wear the uniform.”

    “No.” He shook his head. “I’m suggesting that you do nothing. Let him dig, let him ask questions and pretend that you don’t care either way. You’re not the first Starfleet officer with a questionable past but you cannot let that dictate the rest of your life.”

    She sighed heavily. She knew he was right. But then again even her old friend didn’t know the full extend of the things she had done before she had come on Eagle. Some of those things she could explain away, some of them she could claim were orders she had to follow but others were simply impossible to rationalize, especially since she had been disavowed by her old bosses. No, it was much worse than that. They were after her. They hadn’t bothered sending somebody to silence her for good; instead they had counted on her to go away on her own. Self-destructing they had called it. With Atticus West’s help she was well on her way to do just that.


    * * *​
     
  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Star's finally won friends among Eagle's senior staff after all this time, people who are willing to watch her back. However, if West gets his way, all of it will have been for nothing.

    These little glimpses of friendship and respect from people like Xylion show how far she's come in a relatively short span of time.
     
  15. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    PART III - THE OLIVE BRANCH​


    1



    It turned out the information provided by the Thulians about possible pirate hiding spots was fairly accurate. It didn’t take them long at all to track down a couple of Hideki escorts which promptly turned and ran when they spotted Sacajawea bearing down on them, aware that they didn’t stand much of a chance against the larger and better armed Starfleet vessel. Mahoney had ordered a pursuit course and Sacajawea was slowly gaining on their prey.

    “Distance to target?” Mahoney sat in his chair, slightly leaning forward, not unlike a predatory animal on the hunt.

    “Four hundred thousand kilometers and closing,” said Alendra from ops. “They cannot outrun us.”

    Mahoney nodded with a satisfied little smirk on his face. “Mister Hendricks, give us more power to the warp engines. I want to finish this quickly.”

    The young engineer turned from his bridge station. “It’s already at maximum. I can’t give you anything more unless we divert power from other systems.”

    “Take it from the shields.”

    “Sir.” Leva glanced at his captain from the tactical board. “I would recommend against that course of action.”

    Mahoney swiveled his chair until he faced his executive and interim tactical officer. “Two outdated Cardassian escorts, Commander. We’ve been here before.” His grin mirrored his confidence. “I know you can take’em. We’ll come in hot and firing just like we did before. They won’t even know what hit them.”

    “I’m concerned about our ventral shields. We still haven’t been able to fully restore that part of the grid.”

    “Noted.” The captain swiveled to face forward again. “T’Sara, whatever you do, keep our belly away from those ships.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    “Happy, Commander?” He didn’t glance back at Leva, the question had been entirely rhetorical and the matter was closed.

    “Yes, sir.” And yet he still wasn’t entirely comfortable with the notion of taking a ship into battle with such an obvious handicap, but he also knew that the pirate vessels they were chasing weren’t all too great of a challenge. Mahoney was right, in their last encounter they had easily trumped their enemy. There was no reason they wouldn’t be successful again.

    “Captain, they are dropping out of warp,” said Alendra.

    “Really? They want to make stand, huh? Follow their lead, T’Sara.”

    Unprompted by Mahoney, Leva sent another challenge to the escorts. They had attempted to hail both vessels at the beginning of the pursuit but he wanted to make doubly sure these pirates could not be convinced to give themselves up before it came to a fight. Not surprisingly the only response was silence. “Still no answer to our hails, sir.”

    “What is that?” Mahoney indicated towards the view screen.

    Leva looked past him and at the viewer to find what had aroused his interest. It appeared the two pirate ships were heading straight towards a planet. Except it wasn’t really a planet anymore. The massive globe had clearly split apart at some point in the past, cracked up along its equator and the two half spheres had slowly began to drift apart. In the process the space in-between as well as surrounding the former planet had been littered with asteroids and debris.

    Leva frowned. “They may attempt to try and lose us in that asteroid field.”

    “Or perhaps it is their base.” Mahoney seemed to like that notion. “Which would mean we could end it all right here and now.”

    Leva hoped he was wrong. If the pirate base was truly hidden somewhere among those asteroids or on what remained of that planetoid, chances were they had more ships lying in wait. “I recommend caution, Captain.”

    Mahoney nodded. “Agreed. Let’s see if we cannot persuade them to change course. I want you to fire a full spread of torpedoes at the outer edges of the asteroid field. And make it big. I’d like them to feel the fireworks.”

    Leva couldn’t help himself but grin, actually quite liking the plan. It took him only a moment to calibrate the launchers to the firing pattern Mahoney had asked for. Once he had a solution he activated the sequence. “Firing torpedoes.”

    On the screen the bridge crew watched as half a dozen crimson red antimatter projectiles were shot into space. All six entirely missed and overshot the two pirate vessels and Leva thought that their crews must have sighed in immense relief at what appeared to have been poor marksmanship. Instead the torpedoes tore into the asteroid belt with a vengeance, slamming into a number of large fragments which immediately erupted in massive explosions, blowing chunks of rock into every direction, including towards the fast approaching escorts seeking its now compromised cover. It was as spectacular sight of firepower and destruction.

    “Nicely done, Commander.”

    And the pirates took notice as well as they promptly changed their heading, not only to avoid the incoming asteroid fragments turned missiles but also understanding that the safety of the split planet was no longer guaranteed.

    “Give them one last chance to surrender.”

    Once again their offer fell onto deaf ears. “No takers, sir.”

    Instead, as Sacajawea drew nearer, the escorts opened fire.

    The bridge shook slightly but Leva noticed that their shields were able to easily withstand the attack, even in their weakened state. T’Sara was doing her job at keeping their weakest area away from enemy weapon’s fire.

    “I believe we gave them every chance, what do you think, Commander?

    Leva nodded, feeling an undeniable urge building deep inside him. “I’d say they deserve whatever they’ve got coming.”

    Mahoney stood and faced his first officer. “Why, Commander, is that your Romulan side asserting itself?”

    He answered with a predatory grin. Mahoney was right, he could feel a desire to mete out some punishment. Perhaps it was his Romulan side, or perhaps he was simply getting back into his element of being a tactical officer.

    “Now that look is making me shudder.” Mahoney’s grin widened. “By all means, take them out.”

    Leva nodded and turned back to his controls. It was time to take off the gloves, he decided. After all he despised pirates who preyed on the weak and defenseless just as much as Mahoney did. He also understood that the sooner they could deal with this threat, the sooner they could go back and return to completing their actual mission which Mahoney had delayed in order to clean up the sector. “Firing phasers.”

    He had often likened being in combat in open space to playing three dimension chess. It was all about putting yourself into the right position to strike and to deal the maximum amount of damage without sacrificing too much of it yourself. The aim was to hurt your enemy more than he could hurt you so that eventually they were forced to give up, run away or in some cases, if they were truly dedicated or perhaps desperate, until they were utterly destroyed.

    Mahoney returned to his chair. “Keep firing at will.”

    As a tactical officer and while engaged in battle, that was probably his favorite order. Most commanding officers liked to take a very active role in the way a battle played out, giving orders in regards to maneuvers, firing positions and ordnance used. And some of them, like Owens for example, had enough of a tactical acumen to make such orders work most of the time.

    But in truth Leva much preferred to be given a free hand instead and bring a ship’s tactical systems to bear as he saw fit. This also meant that he practically took over the helm, by letting the pilot know exactly where he wanted her to steer the ship.

    He had decided on a similar tactic they had employed before. Use plenty of firepower early on to discourage the enemy from putting up much of a fight in the first place. So as the two enemy ships bore down on Sacajawea, he opened up with every phaser array available and at maximum output, alternatively targeting both ships in an obvious attempt to quickly punch through their shields.

    “Multiple direct hits.” Alendra provided the commentary on the battle in progress while Leva focused on the combat itself. “Their shields are weakening.”

    “Excellent. Keep at it, Commander.”

    He had every intention to and fired a single photon torpedo at each target. The trick was not to fire too many at once. Against fast moving ships, it was acceptable to sacrifice a couple in order to achieve a greater objective.

    Predictably the smaller ships saw the two torpedoes being flung their way and quickly altered course to avoid them. But Leva had expected this and the moment he recognized which direction they had chosen to evade the incoming fire, he let go of the next salvo which had already been loaded into the launchers.

    The enemy ships had no chance to avoid the next rounds which had been fired directly into their flight path.

    Mahoney uttered an amused little laugh as he watched the spectacle on the screen. “Well done, Mister Leva.”

    “Their shields are collapsing.”

    Unfortunately Leva didn’t anticipate their next move. Both ships quickly moved within hundreds of meters of Sacajawea, so close in fact, for a moment Leva feared they were on a suicide run. They changed course before it could come to that but they stayed close to the larger vessel, almost like a pair of suckerfish. At this short distance Leva could not use the torpedoes without casing disastrous damage to the Sacajawea and because they had to keep the ship moving, returning fire with phasers offered yet another challenge as the two vessels dropped in and out of their firing arcs.

    Mahoney noticed something was wrong. “What the hell are they doing?”

    “They’re practically hugging our hull,” said Alendra

    He turned to regard his tactical officer. “Commander?”

    Leva shook his head but didn’t look up from his station. “It’s not a very efficient tactic. At this range they cannot coordinate their attack to pose a serious danger to our shields but at the same time we can’t deploy the full power of our own weapons.”

    “What are they up to?”

    He didn’t have an answer for that straight away. Perhaps the pirates would be able to land a lucky hit against their ventral shields eventually but for now the battle was pretty much at an impasse. With neither side having the tactical advantage, this could drag on for hours. Leva suddenly understood and whipped his head towards the captain. “They’re trying to buy time.”

    Mahoney nodded. “For reinforcements to arrive.”

    He nodded.

    “Shake them off now and take them out.”

    “We could overload and expand our shields, causing them to act like a pulse. It should push them far enough away to get a firing solution,” said Leva. “But it would leave our shields severely depleted.”

    “Will you be able to take them out before they can resume their attack?”

    Leva considered that for a moment. It was a big gamble but not impossible. “I can’t offer guarantees.”

    “We’ll take the risk. Do it.”

    He nodded and turned back to his station. “Hendricks, stand by to give me everything you have in auxiliary and engines for the shields.”

    “You got it, Commander.”

    The next move was the tricky part. The plan was to channel as much power as possible to the shield grid and then unleash them not unlike a shockwave which would extend into every direction at once and in theory push any object in Sacajawea’s immediate surroundings away from them. But it had to be done carefully and without blowing out the shield grid which would result in leaving the ship entirely defenseless and severely damaged.

    “Initiating shield pulse.”

    A sudden flash emanating from all around the ship seemed to prove that the gamble had worked. As were the images on the view screen of the two small ships tumbling end over end away from Sacajawea.

    Mahoney smiled. “Target those ships and fire.”

    Leva didn’t waste any time. “Firing torpedoes.”

    The first ship didn’t stand a chance. The sudden impact with Sacajawea’s more powerful shields had caused its own to fail and without any protection the pirate vessel broke up unspectacularly under the barrage.

    “One ship destroyed.” Alendra’s voice was filled with enthusiasm even if quite obviously nobody on that vessel had survived.

    Leva didn’t have time to consider the casualties. Their shields had not entirely blown out but were now far too weak to protect the ship against a renewed attack. He had to act quickly to unload on the second vessel.

    “Sir, I’m detecting new contacts.” The Bolian didn’t sound nearly as excited as she had mere moment ago. “Heading right for our position.”

    Leva could see it too. The pirate reinforcements had arrived. Two more escorts had dropped out of warp nearby and were heading straight for the weakened Sacajawea.

    “Commander, I really need you to pull out one of those ingenious Romulan schemes of yours right about now.”

    He couldn’t say he appreciated that comment but he understood the sentiment. The tables had turned quite dramatically and they had to act fast if they wanted to come out of this in one piece. Leva had to end this before it could go any further.

    “Attack pattern kappa-eight.” Leva activated the necessary panels. It was one of the most aggressive offensive maneuvers in the book, utilizing all available weapons to destroy or disable a target. It was usually employed as a desperate last effort but Leva knew that if those two newly arrived ships joined the fight now, Sacajawea would find itself in exactly that kind of situation.

    He had the ship unleash phasers, photon torpedoes as well as a few of the more powerful quantum torpedoes. The incoming pirates likely hadn’t expected quite that much firepower and desperately scrambled to evade the incoming salvos but unable to avoid them all.

    “More direct hits. Heavy damage detected to enemy vessels ”

    “Keep doing what you’re doing, Commander.”

    His preemptive attack on the newcomers had given the remaining original ship enough time to reestablish itself and Leva saw too late what it was up to.

    The ship shook hard under the incoming fire which smashed right into Sacajawea’s exposed underbelly. The weakened shields protecting that area collapsed within moments and the enemy phaser fire ripped into the hull.

    “We’ve lost ventral shields, hull breach on deck eighteen,” Alendra cried while she had to hang on tightly to her own console.

    Leva ignored the console which exploded next to him and the hot white shower of sparks hitting his face and uniform. Instead he returned fire instantly, managing to disable the ship before it could do any more damage.

    One of the other ships came around in a high arc, unleashing its phasers as it passed the Starfleet ship and then grabbed its fellow vessel in a tractor beam before setting out on a course taking both of them away from Sacajawea. The third vessel joined them moments later. It was clear that they had decided on a tactical retreat.

    “Set a pursuit course.” Mahoney was not willing to give up on this battle now that they had them on the run.

    T’Sara had the ship at full impulse again and hot on the pirates’ heels within seconds.

    Leva was getting a phaser lock. The three ships made for an easy target now. That was until all three went to warp and disappeared from his targeting scanners.

    “Stay with them, Ensign.”

    But instead the lights cut out suddenly and one console after the next turned dark, including the tactical board.

    “What the hell just happened?” The captain barked, sitting in almost complete darkness along with the rest of his bridge crew.

    It took only a moment for emergency systems to kick in, bringing with it some illumination and enough power for essential consoles to light up again.

    Hendricks turned to the captain, shaking his head. “That last hit took out our antimatter generators. The computer initiated an automated shutdown and ejection before it could trigger a cascade failure but it has left us with critically low amounts of antimatter.”

    Mahoney and everyone else on the bridge knew what that meant. Without antimatter or means to generate it, they could not power their warp engines or most other systems for very long.

    Hendricks put a finer point to it. “We’re dead in the water, sir.”

    Mahoney angrily beat the armrest of his chair with a clenched fist. But it was about the only thing he could do. Sacajawea would not be going anywhere soon under her own power.


    * * *​
     
  16. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    It was a helluva fight, but Mahoney bit off more than he could chew, and now Sacajawea is sans warp core in a hostile system. If they survive this jaunt, I hope Mahoney takes a lesson from these events. :vulcan:
     
  17. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Great job of balancing multiple plot threads - Owens and his team facing an obstinate General Lam, Star still dealing with the decidedly stubborn Mr. West and Mr. Leeva dealing with the unpredictable Captain Mahoney. Can anyone say, "mission creep?"

    In some ways, Lam and Mahoney are cut from the same cloth. They operate within the boundaries of their own opinions, fact be damned. The war may be over officially but it seems that Lam and Mahoney have not yet begun to fight.

    Here's hoping that two cases of potentially fatal tunnel vision doesn't take the crews of Eagle and Sacajawea with them.
     
  18. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Thanks for the ongoing reviews guys, much appreciated.

    And you're right TLR, these guys have some interesting similarities, chief among them of course is their tendency of making the life of our heroes a living hell.
     
  19. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    2


    Michael Owens hadn’t slept well.

    He had awoken at least twice in the middle of the night, plagued by images of men and women dying, fighting a war which was already won. Millions had already given their life in the defense of the Alpha Quadrant and the notion that now that the Dominion was finally defeated, another person had to lose his life for essentially no reason at all was simply anathema to him. And his subconscious mind, apparently, was determined to punish him for his failure to bring an end to the battle for Valeria quickly. Owens had no doubt it would continue to do so until the thousands of men and women on this world, both Federation and Cardassians alike, had put down their weapons and were on their way back to their homes.

    He finally gave up on sleep a good few hours before sunrise and for a moment marveled again at the plush room he had slept in. As a commanding officer he had been given what had to be one of the embassy’s largest and most comfortable guest rooms, usually reserved for visiting diplomats or official state guests of the ambassador. It was easily two times the size of his own quarters or comparable VIP accommodations on Eagle and differently to ship-based cabins designed by Starfleet engineers, these rooms had been constructed in a much more noticeable Earth-style. Like most of the embassy, this room seemed to have been based on opulent French Rococo interior design, complete with high ceilings, an elaborate chandelier and matching furniture.

    The irony of it all didn’t escape him. No doubt soldiers all over this planet were cramped together in tight barracks and makeshift accommodations while awaiting their next combat order while he got to stay here, sleeping in an oversized bed, decked out with satin sheets and fit for a king.

    It only served to cement his resolve.

    He quickly found the adjacent washroom, took a sonic shower and put on his uniform. Replicating a new one seemed out of the question since replicator rationing was still in effect even inside the embassy due to energy shortages.

    A few doors down from his room he found an equally beautifully decorated and even more spacious sitting room.

    The centerpiece of the room, hanging on the far wall opposite a row of tall windows was a large painting inside an intricate golden frame which immediately arrested the attention of anyone stepping inside. It was at least two meters wide and three meters high and depicted a group of men armed with muskets and sabers being led by a tall, bare-chested woman holding a flag of blue, white and red high over her head. The dead by their feet seemed to imply that they had been victorious and in the background, a city was emerging from the fog of battle.

    “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.”

    Owens turned and saw Tevor Belore who had apparently already been in the room but whom he had clearly missed when he had first arrived, thanks to the domineering artwork. “I beg your pardon?”

    The gul indicated towards the painting. “I believe that is the spirit which this particular piece of art is meant to invoke.”

    The captain couldn’t quite hide his surprise. “You are familiar with this painting?”

    “Oh yes, I’ve seen it a few times. I was stationed after all at the Cardassian embassy on Earth in Paris. I’ve seen the original on a number of occasions displayed in the Louvre.” He joined Owens in front of the painting. “Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix. One of the quintessential works of art celebrating the French Revolution.”

    “You’re quite the student of Earth history.” Owens continued admiring the painting, Belore joining him by his side. “Or a connoisseur of fine art perhaps?” He briefly glanced at the other man.

    “A little bit of both, I like to think. And the French Revolution has always fascinated me.”

    “Really?”

    Belore smirked. “Is it so difficult to believe that a Cardassian would show interest in human history, Captain?”

    “No, not all. But I suppose I didn’t expect a Cardassian to appreciate the French Revolution and its themes.”

    “You’d be surprised,” he said. “Many of my fellow compatriots in important positions have studied this particular event in human history in close details. I believe they use it as a cautionary tale. On how not to treat the general masses in order to avoid a successful uprising and hold on to power.”

    Owens nodded. “I can see how one could use the lessons form the French Revolution that way. I very much doubt that’s what the painter had in mind when he crafted this.”

    “I’m sure you are right, Captain.”

    Only a short while later they were joined by Major Wasco and then DeMara Deen.

    “I see I’m not the only one who couldn’t get any sleep.” Deen stepped up next to Owens and Belore and in front of the painting. “Any doubts that the ambassador was a Frenchman?”

    The captain shook his head. “Very few.”

    She took a moment to take in the masterful painting herself before she glanced at the captain. “I take it we have more important things to do today than admire fine art?”

    Owens sighed heavily and then turned away. The French Revolution, he knew, had been a justified war. An oppressed people finally turning on their rich and indifferent rulers to escape their unrelenting yoke. It had taken the French a few more efforts before their battle cry of liberté, égalité and fraternité had become a permanent reality. There was nothing justified about the war being waged on Valeria and he’d be damned if it took more than one attempt to bring it to an end. He considering all three members of the away team he had brought with him, never shy to allow others to contribute to finding a solution to the problems at hand. “Alright, where do we stand?”

    Belore spoke up first as he sat down in one of the ornately decorated lounge chairs spread out in the room. “We have a Cardassian commander willing to consider a cease-fire.”

    “And a Starfleet general not prepared to do the same,” added Deen.

    Wasco shook his head. “I don’t believe General Lam is unwilling to consider a cease-fire. He simply doesn’t trust his Cardassian counterpart. It is an understandable reaction during war.”

    But Deen didn’t agree. “If that were the case than no war would ever reach a cease-fire. At some point all parties simply must be willing to show some trust if they are serious about peace or the fighting never ends.” She glanced at Owens. “In my view the rewards outweigh the risks.”

    The captain considered Belore. “How much do you agree with General Lam’s assessment that Gul Metral would exploit any talk of a cease-fire to potentially win Valeria for Cardassia?”

    “I can’t claim to know Metral personally but from all I’ve read, the man is a conventional military man who adheres to established rules of engagement. He does not strike me as the kind of man who uses subterfuge or trickery to achieve an objective.”

    Owens nodded. “I had the same impression.”

    “Sir, with all due respect,” said Wasco. “You have only spoken to Gul Metral for a few short minutes and Gul Belore’s knowledge is based on reports and hearsay. General Lam has fought this man for nearly two years. He is far more familiar with the tactics he would employ than any of us could claim.”

    Deen shot the Marine a look. “Couldn’t it be that his view of Metral is clouded precisely because he has fought him for so long?”

    “I don’t believe that. Not General Lam. I cannot imagine a situation in which he would needlessly delay a possible peace and a chance to send his men home. Sure, the general cares a great deal about achieving his objective but never at the cost of his own men. Not unless there was absolutely no other way.”

    Nobody said anything to that and for a moment the room fell silent.

    Then Owens turned to Wasco. “Major, clearly the general holds you in high esteem. I’d like for you to seek him out again this morning and talk to him. Try to find out what it would take for him to consider a cease-fire with the Cardassians. And in the quickest possible time frame. Our mission is to end the fighting. We’re not here to escalate the conflict.”

    Wasco nodded curtly and then left the room.

    Deen watched the Marine go before she turned to Owens. “Perhaps Lam is not the only man with a clouded perception.”

    “I’ve seen people talk like this before,” said Belore. “In fact his way of thinking is preferred in the Cardassian military. It leads to blind loyalty to one’s superior officer.”

    But Owens shook his head. “The major’s loyalty is not in question here.”

    “Marines are a funny kind of people, Michael, and quite different from you and me,” said Deen. “From what I understand they take loyalty very seriously and if it turns out to be to the wrong kind of person, it could be a very dangerous thing.”

    “I thought you were supposed to be the optimist here.”

    She didn’t respond to that but she didn’t have to. It wasn’t the first time that he had taken note that the war had slowly but surely turned Deen into a realist. He hoped she was wrong on this occasion.

    Any further consideration on that topic were preempted by the sound of an incoming call via the embassy’s internal communications network. “Captain Owens, you have an urgent incoming call from your ship.”

    He looked up towards the ceiling from which the disembodied voice seemed to originate from. “This is Owens. Can you patch it through to my location?”

    “Yes, sir. There is a wall monitor in the room you are currently in. I’m sending the signal there now. Please note that due to interference the channel may be unstable.”

    “Understood, Owens out.”

    He quickly realized that Liberty Leading the People had another function other than to simply adorn the room when the painting began to soundlessly slide aside to reveal a not much smaller wall-mounted screen behind it. The blue and white Federation seal displayed on the monitor disappeared to be replaced by an image of Tazla Star standing on Eagle’s bridge. Just like it had when they had hailed the surface from orbit, the picture was unsteady and interrupted by lines and static.

    “Captain, can you receive me?” Her voice sounded a few light-years away.

    “Just about, Commander.”

    “Any progress, sir?”

    “Things have turned out to be more complicated than I anticipated. It may take a little while longer to convince Lam to agree to a cease-fire. He’s convinced the Cardassians would exploit any draw down on his side.”

    Star nodded and Owens could tell that she wasn’t all that surprised.

    “Anything we can do to assist?”

    He shook his head. “I don’t see how. The general has asked me to transfer troops and materiel from Eagle but I have no intention of allowing that to happen.”

    “Understood. We have received a distress signal a few minutes ago from a nearby Starfleet vessel requiring assistance in a neighboring sector.”

    That took him by surprise. He had not been aware of other ships operating in proximity to Valeria. “Do you know the nature of their distress?”

    The image and sound blinked out for a second or so but then returned. “It seems to involve piracy but other than that we haven’t received much more information.” She hesitated for a moment before going on. “Would you like to return to the ship?”

    Owens thought he knew why she had paused. Even though he had given her more and more free reign over the past few months in carrying out her duties as first officer as she saw fit, he had always been close by. And he had certainly not let her take Eagle into a potentially hostile situation by herself. He realized that eventually he would have to. It might as well be now. “No, Commander, you can handle this. Besides I’m going to be tied down here for a while. I’m not willing to leave until both parties have agreed to a cease-fire.”

    Star didn’t look all too comfortable at this and he wasn’t sure if this was because she was concerned about answering the distress signal or because she’d have to leave him and the away team behind. “Sir, I think you should know that the ship in distress is the Sacajawea.”

    That shouldn’t have changed anything. He knew of course that it was Star’s former ship. The one which she had commanded for a short while before her fall from grace, court martial and demotion. He had a notion what a reunion with her old ship may have meant to her and suddenly understood her reticence. “I have complete faith in your ability to handle whatever situation you are going to encounter, Commander.”

    She nodded, somewhat gratefully at this implicit show of trust. “We’ll try to return as quickly as possible.”

    “No hurry, Commander. In fact Eagle’s departure from this system for a while may actually help with our mission down here. Take your time.”

    “Very well,” she said. “Good luck, sir.”

    “And to you. Owens out.”

    And with that she disappeared from the screen, once again to be replaced by the circular and wreath-adorned seal of the Federation. A moment later the painting slid back into place to hide the monitor altogether.

    Deen looked at her captain. “What do we do now?”

    Owens turned around to face her and Belore. “We give Major Wasco an opportunity to get through to Lam.”

    The Cardassian looked skeptical. “And if that doesn’t work?”

    “We’ll have to find another way to convince the general. A possible cease-fire on Valeria is too important as not to take a few risks in order to achieve it. And now with Eagle and her resources out of the picture, Lam won’t have much of a choice but to take a chance on peace.”


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  20. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Owens' predicament continues to deepen, and now he's faced with the unwelcome prospect of sending Star to face the skeletons of her past without his guidance or oversight.

    Yes, sending Eagle away will reduce tensions with Lam in the short term, but the ship and its capabilities could be a substantial difference maker in any crisis that develops.

    Any situation serious enough to turn DeMara into a pragmatist is one worth weighing very carefully.

    Well, I guess this is why they pay Starfleet captains the big money. :lol: