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Campaign by Travis Anderson

The Spy, The Rebel, The Doppelganger, The Traitor, The Soldier, The Exile, The Tinkerer,
The Mercenary, The Stray, and one ship shared by all. The tale has merely begun...

Chapter One

"You're kidding," Ro Laren blurted in disbelief.

Her Intelligence Chief, Brin Macen, shook his head; "I'm serious, Laren. Legate Relak is coming to Ronara Prime in a week."

Relak was the mastermind behind the Demilitarized Zone. He was in overall command of the Cardassian colonization effort. That same effort sought to supplant the original Federation settlers. His leadership had also redoubled the efforts to strengthen Cardassian colonies near, and in, the DMZ. The Cardassian Death Squads and systematic harassment of Federation colonists stemmed from his office. His elimination would throw all such efforts into disarray.

"I see that look in your eye and I agree," Macen grinned.

Ro scowled, "You think you know me oh so well. Tell me what I was thinking."

"You want to eliminate Relak in order to create maximum confusion amongst the Cardassian ranks. Overall command will fall upon Gul Macet, and quite frankly, he's not up to the task," Macen supplied the answer.

"Damn Listeners," Ro muttered darkly, "Why is Relak coming here?"

"He's kicking off an inspection tour of the entire DMZ. The Cardassian appointed governor of Ronara boasted that he'd pacified the Maquis element on his world so Relak is coming here to see firsthand how it was done," Macen answered.

"The governor said what?" Ro snapped.

"I told you we'd been too inactive lately," Aric Tulley teased.

Ro glared at her lieutenant, "You deal with the logistics nightmare we've been coping with lately and see how many strikes you can mount."

Tulley held up his hands in surrender, "Easy Ro. I'm well aware how our Starfleet support has dried up after Hudson's death."

Ro scowled. Calvin Hudson hadn't exactly become a friend but he had been a mentor while she'd initially wrestled with the weight of command. Hudson's death during a strike against a Cardassian convoy had been one disaster. Starfleet actively hunting down and cashiering Maquis sympathizers was another. They still had broad civilian support, particularly within the Zone, so acquiring funding hadn't proven to be a problem yet.

However, the settlers in the Zone didn't have a lot of wealth to flash around. The Maquis had taken to robbing currency exchanges and using Cardassian money to outfit themselves. Fund raisers in the Federation were increasingly monitored and donors were starting to be prosecuted. The latinum was drying up and the existing stockpiles of munitions were dangerously low. Ro's cell hadn't mounted an offense in weeks due to the shortages.

"How do you know this?" Ro had to ask, "There have been no announcements whatsoever. The Cardies like to brag up when their officials are showing the flag. Yet there hasn't been so much as a whisper about this at all."

"The Governor has been personally notified and only his security staff is aware of the visit. The Constabulary has been advised of a potential terrorist incident and are initiating a crackdown that should've begun a few hours ago," Macen outlined.

Ro looked over to where T'Kir was lounging, "Call Feder and ask him if the Police are going ballistic."

"Gotcha," the Vulcan replied, for once without an argument or comment.

She was engrossed in a conversation that was very sparse and she looked back to Ro, "Yup. The Cops are cracking down on every known Maquis stronghold."

"Contact every safe house and warn them," Ro ordered.

"Yez, Skipper. I live to obey," T'Kir remarked.

"Now!" Ro snapped.

The unstable OPS specialist focused on the task on hand and began making calls. Ro knew that mercy was a bloody miracle. T'Kir served in Macen's Intelligence Unit and not under Ro's direct command. But, Macen's unit served her cell so therefore they were technically still under her command. The problem was T'Kir didn't typically see it that way.

The Vulcan's mental instabilities had caused Ro to foist T'Kir off onto him when he first built the unit. He was the only restraining hand that she would acknowledge so it made sense in an evil kind of way. Surprisingly, Macen didn't mind. He'd taken her under his wing and became her mentor and protector.

Ro turned to Lisea Danan, the third and final member of the unit. The Trill stellar cartographer had joined the Maquis with Macen. Of course, Macen was really a Commander in Starfleet Intelligence and Danan was a Lt. Commander in the Starfleet Sciences Division. Macen had been ordered to infiltrate the Maquis, just as Ro had, and Danan had come along for the ride. The fact that they'd been lovers at the time didn't factor into at all. Really.

In one way, Ro felt guilty about the T'Kir situation. T'Kir had insinuated herself in between Macen and Danan to the point that the couple broke apart. While Ro had initially felt bad about that she later reconciled it within herself by deciding that an insurgency was no place for a romance.

Ro had her very occasional fling and called it good. Of course, it was hard to find an available man in the cell that T'Kir hadn't beaten her to. The Vulcan's appetites were insatiable. T'Kir had been born and raised on Shial, a world on the Cardassian side of the DMZ. It had been settled by dissident Vulcans. They adhered to the tenets of Sybok rather than Surak.

Sybok taught that emotional expression was path to self fulfillment. If that were the case, then T'Kir was well on her way. Romulan defectors had also made up a small percentage of the colony. T'Kir's stepfather had in fact been a Romulan. Macen had explained it to Ro but she still found it to be a dodgy excuse.

"Do you believe this story?" Ro asked Danan.

Danan smiled and her sea green eyes danced, "Yes, but I happen to know the source of the information."

"Why do you know and I don't?" Ro wondered.

Danan's smile turned wicked, "Because there is such a thing as pillow talk."

Ro's eyebrows shot up. Had Macen and Danan gotten back together without her knowing it? She looked to Macen, who was decidedly bemused.

Inwardly, Ro sighed. If it weren't for the fact that Macen was a redhead and wore a mustache and goatee rather than a full beard, he would strongly remind her of Will Riker. Thinking of Riker made her think of Jean-Luc Picard. Her betrayal of her former captain was her only regret regarding her going AWOL from Starfleet.

Picard had backed her when she needed help and then he'd become a mentor to her and nurtured her talents and drive. Everything she was accomplishing in the Maquis she owed to him. But sadly it seemed she was destined to betray those she selected as father figures. Her own father had disappointed her and she turned her back on his memory with revulsion. Macius had died and there'd been nothing she could do to prevent that.

Picard was another matter. She could have chosen to complete the mission and stay in his good graces. However to do so would have violated the trust Macius placed in her as well as that of the Maquis she would eventually lead. She'd sought a family within the bosom of Starfleet. That had led her to the Stockade.

Picard had honored Admiral Kennelly's orders to release her and encouraged her to stay in Starfleet. She did so out of a sense of obligation to him. But Starfleet was never a family or a home. When her obligations to the Maquis began to outweigh her obligations to Starfleet, she wrestled with her decision but she made the fateful choice that the Maquis were well and truly her family now.

"I don't care how you know; I just want to know what you know." Ro countered.

"Sorry, you'll have to ask Brin," Danan smirked.

Ro cast a weary glance Macen's way, "Who's the source?"

Fortunately for the cell leader, Macen felt that she'd been toyed with enough already; "Relak's Chief of Staff."

"You're kidding," Ro didn't believe it.

"Seriously," Macen assured her. Seeing the lingering doubt in her eyes he decided to explain, "Remember when Starfleet summoned Lees and I to Aljerin last year?"

Ro reflected. She knew "Lees" was Lisea's nickname and Aljerin sounded familiar. She knew it wasn't a Zone world but then she thought of the borders. She couldn't remember all of the worlds on Cardassia's side of the border. That was Danan's job. However, she'd helmed the Enterprise during border patrols on the Federation side. And then she had it!

"Aljerin is a Cardassian colony. It ended up on the Federation's side of the border when the DMZ was established and the border was redrawn," Ro felt proud of herself.

"Exactly," Macen rewarded her with a gracious smile, "Legate Relak began a policy of arming the Aljerinian settlers. He even went so far as to begin regular deployments of Cardassian ships around the planet. Of course, Starfleet caught them and Relak was invited to a conference to settle Aljerin's fate for once and for all."

"Aljerin is still on the Federation side of the border," Ro commented.

"That was the Federation's first, and only, demand," Macen informed her, "Relak demanded that Cardassia be allowed to patrol the area in order to ‘secure the welfare of her citizens'."

"There's no way the Federation would go for that," Ro snorted, "Not when they had to sacrifice their own citizens to the tender mercies of the Cardassians."

"Starfleet's negotiator pointed that out," Macen remarked.

"Who was the negotiator?" Ro wondered.

"The newly minted Admiral Edward Jellico," Macen answered.

"Him?" Ro was stunned. Jellico had been a driving force behind the creation of the DMZ. He was loathed and hated across the Zone.

"I'm surprised he didn't give up twenty sectors," Ro muttered darkly.

"I'm not a fan either," Macen shared, "But he was under orders to hold his ground and so he did."

"How'd Relak take that?" Ro wanted to know.

"He fumed that the Maquis enforced Starfleet's will inside the DMZ and beyond in Cardassian space. Lees and I were called in as experts on the Maquis to rebut his accusations," Macen revealed, "We presented hard evidence that the Maquis weren't pursued by Starfleet. It was statistically proven that Starfleet was as great a foe to the Maquis as the Cardassian's forces. The underpinning of the entire argument was that joint effort they launched eighteen months ago. While it didn't net the numbers they'd hoped for it still demolished three cells and hampered a dozen more."

"I remember," Ro said, "That was a few months after you joined the cell. You warned us about it but I couldn't get anyone else to listen. Even Hudson was leery of your Starfleet connections."

"Bit of an irony that," Macen quipped.

Ro knew what he meant. Cal Hudson had been Starfleet's observer in the DMZ. Chakotay had been a Starfleet officer and became one of the Maquis' legends. Tom Riker had abandoned Starfleet and led Kalista and the others on some damned fool idealistic crusade that had ended with the cell being captured by Starfleet and Riker himself was handed over to the Cardassians. No one knew if he was even still alive.

Now, the current Maquis Commander was a Starfleet Security officer that had worked under Sisko's nose for years. Michael Eddington had been one of the Maquis' greatest intelligence assets before Hudson's death. After it, Eddington had abandoned his Starfleet post in a bit of trickery that had paralyzed the Defiant but had abandoned Kassidy Yates to Starfleet custody and a sentence on a penal colony.

The ironies abounded in that case. Yates was a sympathizer but she wasn't an active soldier. She delivered much needed supplies. She was also Captain Benjamin Sisko's girlfriend. Intel stated that Sisko had promised to wait for her once her sentence was up. Sisko had also been Hudson's best friend but had rejected the Maquis even as Hudson symbolically destroyed his uniform.

"So Relak didn't like Jellico's stance," Ro steered the conversation, "How's that relevant to his coming here and you're knowing about it? And where the hell does his Chief of Staff come in?"

"I'm getting to that," Macen knew Ro feigned patience but she was an action oriented person. She wanted to move. When she couldn't, she tended to prowl about.

"Relak's Chief of Staff is named Perit. After the conference had concluded for the day, Lees and I retired to our runabout. Perit approached us. It was risky for him and we recognized that. We held our meeting inside of the runabout," Macen said.

"What did he want to meet about?" Ro asked.

"Perit is a member of the Cardassian Underground. Because of his position he's come to see the Cardassian's ongoing conflict with Maquis as counterproductive. The conflict also continually sours relations between the Cardassian Union and the Federation. In his movement's eye, it all has to stop," Macen explained.

"So he offered to funnel information to you so we could bash Cardassian troops?" Ro couldn't believe it.

"Essentially," Macen confirmed it, "Perit has sent me data on troop movements on three separate occasions. Each time it was vital for our cause to intervene and each time, we've done so successfully."

"I was wondering where some of your little miracles were coming from," Ro smirked.

"Perit's position is precarious," Macen added, "He's totally dependent upon Relak for his post yet he also strives to inform me when things are going to significantly intensify."

"Which means he doesn't call very often," Ro sniped.

"Would you if you were in his position?" Macen threw at her.

Ro subsided, "I suppose not."

"This isn't like getting intel out of Starfleet," Macen warned, "My Starfleet security clearance is rated higher than most starship captains' and there aren't many closed doors."

Ro knew Macen was considered valuable but she'd never quite realized just how great an asset he was. And fortunately he was working for her. His reports to Starfleet Intelligence were sanitized so that only after action reports were made. Names were named and charges were filed in absentia but it was always after the fact so Starfleet couldn't intervene.

Macen answered directly to the newly installed Starfleet Intelligence Director, Admiral Alynna Nechayev. Macen and Nechayev had been colleagues and friends for years. She knew that his fifteen years on the front lines of the Border Wars had deeply affected him. His loyalty to the plucky and determined colonists was absolute.

So why had her first official act been assigning him to infiltrate the Maquis? Macen had made his sympathies for the settlers known and he'd received carte blanche to tell their story. Macen's own personal theory was that Nechayev saw the Maquis as an asset. They disrupted the Cardassians had made any future plans to cross the border untenable.

Nechayev had been an undercover observer of Bajor's fall to the Cardassians and she'd spent a lifetime fighting them. Her own motives regarding the Cardassian Union and its forces should have disqualified her from her current position. Yet Nechayev was quite the spin doctor. The "Ice Queen" of Starfleet didn't quibble and she rarely took prisoners. It was quite probable that she'd intimidated the whole of Starfleet.

"I realize that," Ro admitted, "I just hate the waiting. I want informants who inform, dammit! Give me regular updates."

It was Macen's turn to smirk, "That's not going to happen in my line of work."

"Ease off on Brin," T'Kir warned Ro, "He's doin' the best that he can."

Ro rolled her eyes. It was about time the erratic Vulcan poked her nose into it. Despite her promiscuity, T'Kir had convinced herself that she was madly in love with Macen. She spent most hours of the day trying to seduce him in some way. As far as Ro knew, he'd never succumbed to her wiles but there was heavy speculation amongst the cell's members that he had and that's why he tolerated her. Hell, Ro inwardly snorted, he encourages her.

What no one knew was how Macen felt about it. Well, Danan might know better than anyone. She'd broken off her relationship with Macen for "personal reasons" but everyone knew the most personal reason was T'Kir being in between them.

"Did I ask for your opinion?" Ro asked archly.

"No, but y'needed it," T'Kir shot back.

That locked the two women in a glaring death match. It lingered for a moment and then Macen interrupted their fun, "Excuse me, but I wasn't finished with my brief."

Ro shook off her anger and immediately focused. Macen picked up where he'd left off, "Perit had delivered the time and place of Relak's arrival. The length and stay of his visit, his itinerary, the layout of his guest accommodations, and most importantly, his security arrangements."

Ro's eyes sparkled at the last, "I might have to take it all back."

Macen's grin was telling, "I thought you might."

"What kind of security are we facing?" Ro inquired.

Macen wondered if she even consciously realized she'd just committed them to action, "As per treaty stipulations, he's allowed twelve personal guards. The Governor's security detail is doubling that. They'd commit more but then their principal would be vulnerable and he does authorize their pay vouchers so they can't afford to lose him. The Constabulary will be making random patrols and stops along the Legate's route."

"Where's he staying?" Ro asked.

"The Regency," Macen answered, "And his official meetings are occurring at the Gubernatorial Mansion."

"Why isn't Relak staying with Gravil?" she referred to the Governor by name.

"Apparently the mansion isn't up to the Legate's standards," Macen said wryly.

Ro gave Macen a rueful look, "Then maybe he should just stay off of our little planet."

The Regency was Ronara Prime's last luxury hotel. However, it had taken quite a slide in its standards over the last three years. The Zone natives couldn't afford it and there weren't enough souls willing to brave the DMZ to keep it afloat. The sad part was, it was kept alive by visiting merchants, Cardassian officials, and reporters from both sides of the DMZ's borders that the hotel stayed alive. But it had noticeably deteriorated and there seemed to be no end to the slide in sight.

Ronara Prime had become a choice selection for extreme thrills seeking tourists. Ro's insistence of fighting a guerilla war against legitimate military and police targets eschewed the bombing campaigns so common on other DMZ worlds. Tourists came to see live gun battles in the streets. They were rarely disappointed since there seemed to be an operation underway every week. That's why the past three restive weeks gave rise to Gravil's claim of suppressing the insurgency.

Ro let her barb settle in before asking, "How's he arriving? It's against the treaty to marc a Galor-class cruiser into the Zone."

"He's coming in a private yacht," Macen explained.

"A yacht?" Ro didn't want to believe she'd heard that.

"Rank has its privileges," Macen needled her, "It's unarmed but it's fully appointed so Relak can bask in luxury."

"Must be nice," Ro sniped.

The Ronaran cell's central HQ was currently located in a housing quad located next to the warehouse district. The actual field command was in a warehouse and plugged into every safe house on the planet. It also maintained constant communications links with every ship that was deployed so status reports were readily available. Fortunately, the Cardassians had bolstered the subspace relay chain in the DMZ. It was for their own benefit but thanks to hackers like T'Kir the Maquis were able to use the Cardassians supposedly "secure" relays.

"Let's see what you have," Ro decided at last.

Macen copied the data from a padd to the table's processor. He then manipulated the touch screen controls to open several displays. He began to bring up individual files one at a time, sidelining those that had been opened and explored. Ro carefully studied each item in turn. Her mind worked at warp speed as she absorbed the information.

Tulley, Danan, and T'Kir also gathered around. Between the five of them, they asked and answered dozens of questions. Each brought their own interrogatives and insights into play. When they were done, Ro had a kernel of an idea.

"Lees, I need you to transport back to the Odyssey," Ro ordered.

The Odyssey was the Intelligence unit's ship. She was a decommissioned Starfleet Blackbird-class scoutship. Essentially a diminutive hybrid between the Ambassador- and Excelsior-classes, the scout was optimized for a maximum crew of 22. Macen operated her with a standing crew of 7.

The Odyssey was listed as free trader within Cardassian space. Macen smuggled Federation and Bajoran luxury items to the Cardassian elite and exchange they granted him access to their space. It was the perfect cover for a spy ship.

She could also operate in Federation space where she was registered as a civilian scout who also ferried passengers and cargo across the border. Since her Captain was a Starfleet operative, she'd received clearance to cross any and all borders.

"Any particular reason why?" Danan dryly inquired.

"I want you to monitor all traffic in and out of the system. I don't think the Cardies will send a Legate all the way into the Zone without an armed escort," Ro detailed, "When the yacht does get here, I want you to run scans on it, breaking it down deck by deck, and highlighting its security precautions."

"You intend to board her?" Danan was skeptical.

"If we don't get Relak on the ground, we'll need to grab him on his own ship," Ro shared.

"What will you use as a transporter relay?" Danan wondered.

"We'll put the Indie into orbit and use her as a staging ground," Ro answered.

The aptly named Indomitable was Ro's flagship. A Ju'day-class scout like Chakotay's, Ro's ship had seen plenty of combat and she'd always survived. The Ronaran cell was beginning to think the ship was charmed.

The Odyssey was a more powerful vessel and was nearly twice the size of the smaller Indie but her role was a supporting one. She was more valuable as a non-combatant. If she engaged the Cardassians in a fight, then their databases would be updated to include her as an enemy and then her access to the Cardassian Union's interior would be lost.

"Okay, but who's going to babysit the ship while she's in orbit?" Tulley suddenly spoke up.

Ro confirmed his worst fear, "That would be you."

"Why do I rate?" Tulley balked.

"Because you're my second in command and I need someone who can keep the squirrels from flying off with the ship on some damn joyride," Ro informed him.

He smirked, "They would, wouldn't they?"

"You know it and I know it," Ro grimaced, "Just round up a few key hands. We just need the sensors, the helm, and the transporter manned."

"What about weapons?" Tulley looked aghast.

"I assumed you'd be on the weapons," Ro dryly remarked.

"You bet your ass I will be," Tulley declared, "I'll need Thool. Is that a problem?"

Emjin Thool was Ro's Bolian Chief Engineer. She shook her head, "I would've insisted that you take him."

Tulley rose, "Since I'm getting left out of the fun, I'll go gather up my ‘crew'."

Danan made to follow him, "I need to recall the rest of the Odyssey's crew and break orbit."

"Be careful," Ro cautioned, "Don't do anything overt or do anything to jeopardize the ship's standing with the Cardies."

"We'll behave, mother," Danan grinned and then left.

After Danan and Tulley had exited, Ro turned to Macen; "It looks like it's just you and I scouting out the route."

"Hey!" T'Kir yelped.

"I think you forgot someone," Macen smirked.

"You can't be serious," Ro groaned.

"Hey! I heard that," T'Kir accused.

"We can't do it without her," Macen argued.

"Why?" Ro wanted to know.

"Because she'll just follow us anyway," Macen stated.

"Damn skippy," T'Kir agreed.

Ro glared at T'Kir and the Vulcan smiled, "Don't worry, Skipper. You'll hardly notice I was there."

Ro was commonly referred to as "Skipper" by the Maquis that served aboard the Indie. She was averse to being called "Captain" and they had to call her something. She tolerated "Skipper" because it denoted her rank but was also used affectionately by her crew. By now though, the entire cell was calling her that. Again, it was used as a sign of respect so she tolerated it. However, it had a sardonic quality when coming from T'Kir.

T'Kir just sat there grinning at her and she thought of a particularly nasty epithet to use towards the Vulcan. T'Kir suddenly scowled.

"I heard that too," she accused.

At one time, such a statement would have startled Ro. However, Macen felt a large reason for T'Kir's instabilities was that her telepathic abilities were off the charts and wildly out of control. She seemed to be drowning in other people's thoughts. If that were true then it was no wonder T'Kir's moods were so mercurial. That still didn't mean she had to like it.

Macen used the fact that T'Kir was quite safe and sane around the six other crewmen of the Odyssey. It was when she was around the entire cell, or out on the planet, that she became unpredictable. The situation also seemed to be getting worse over time. When Ro had first recruited T'Kir, the young Vulcan seemed quite normal. Or at least as "normal" as an emotive Vulcan could seem.

Still, T'Kir had been recruited because she was a cyberwitch. She could make computers sit up and dance. They'd need access to the city's traffic control network as well as the security sensors. She'd proven her ability to tap into police chatter and comms before. All of these skills made her valuable to the team, even if Ro hated to admit it.

"Glad y'think so, Skipper, T'Kir's grin was victorious.

Ro groaned, "Just grab your gear."

"Y'got it!" T'Kir enthused and went to work.

Ro shot Macen a glare, "I blame you."

"For what?" an amused Macen asked.

"For this scouting mission getting us all captured or killed," Ro shot back.

"Wait until it actually happens and then cast blame," Macen advised.

Ro wondered why it was that Macen had set himself up as T'Kir's defender. Hell, the whole cell was wondering that. Ro feared for her friend. Yes, she actually thought of him as a friend and she saw T'Kir as a spiraling black hole that would suck Macen and the entire cell in and destroy them.

Ro knew if that began to happen, she'd have no choice but to put T'Kir down. She couldn't just exile her or turn her over to Starfleet. Prophets knew she wouldn't hand her over to the Cardassian's gentle mercies. That left executing her. It wouldn't be a first. She'd killed rogue Maquis in the past and would do so again in the future. It was simply part of her role.

She saw it as her duty because she couldn't ask any of her people to do it. However, Macen might feel the same way. His history on the front was rather murky. He knew far more about combat and combat operations than any analyst deserved to. Point in fact; his expertise was nearly as great as hers.

Her time at Starfleet's Advanced Tactical Training made her one of the Maquis most qualified fighters but Macen's time on the lines gave him an edge in experience. Added to that were her own suspicions, fostered by conversations with colonists that had known him during the Border Wars, that he'd received Covert Ops training. Witnesses placed him as operating with Starfleet Special Operations Command throughout the war.

Whatever the truth may be, Macen was playing his cards close to his vest. Ro often suspected that he'd share more if he wasn't worried that she'd dump the cell in his lap. What she had deduced was he was a gifted tactician but a horrible strategist. He could win battles but the campaign would be lost. Knowing that, she retained command and let Macen pretend he wasn't a soldier.

Besides the fact he was too damned valuable where he was at. His extensive time in the border regions had earned him extensive contacts throughout the DMZ, the Federation border worlds, and even within Cardassian space. Added to that he had seventy years in Starfleet and the ear of at least one admiral.

Macen had risen and he stood studying her. It irritated her, "What?"

"Are you done pondering the imponderable?" he asked, "Because Ronaran City beckons."

"T'Kir?" Ro snapped.

"Yeah?" T'Kir nonchalantly replied.

"Are you done?" Ro inquired.

"Just waitin' on y'r sorry butt," T'Kir quipped.

Ro stood and made for the door, "Let's move."

Macen and T'Kir exchanged a wry glance and then they followed in Ro's wake.

 

Chapter Two

Ro and her Intel duo caught the mag lev train and headed for town. The train went through the heart of the warehouse district in order to accommodate the myriad workers. Another rail line ran parallel to it which serviced the adjacent spaceport.

The warehouses were built alongside the the spaceport in order to accommodate cargo shuttles and small, terrestrial capable freighters. The larger freighters, which couldn't make planet fall, directly beamed their cargoes into the appropriate warehouses. Often times a single cargo runner had multiple delivery points.

The train had two more stops before it entered the city limits. Once inside the city it stopped ever few blocks. Unlike the urban sprawl of a Federation Core World, the colony's capitol was a village in comparison. Ronaran City was the largest of Ronara Prime's cities but one could easily walk from one end to the other in an afternoon.

Relak was slotted to transport down directly to the Regency the evening from a week from that day. The next morning he would convoy to the Governor's Mansion. The Constabulary was providing two Grevit-class troop transports. The transports boasted an anti-personnel disruptor turret mounted on their roof. Each vehicle could accommodate eight officers and a crew of four.

Unlike the typical Cardassian military vehicle, the police transports were anti grav craft. The military wanted heavily armored and simplistic controls so any trooper could operate them. Anti grav craft required some expertise and were lighter in order to provide greater thrust for higher speeds.

Rather than bring along one of the mundane ground transports, Relak was bringing his very own limo. It was an aircar like the police vehicles and was comparatively armored. Four guards would ride along with him and Perit. The rest would be in a military transport. It would be a ground vehicle. The Ronaran Constabulary had several of the half-tracks available to them.

Despite the aircars' capability, the convoy would skirt the ground. The Cardassian Militia troops proving to be the major factor in this. Despite Governor Gravil's claims, the Militia troops were taking precautions in case of a potential Maquis attack. Separating the Legate from his guards had been deemed a bad idea.

The Maquis team began their scouting mission by getting off at the appropriate stop and walking across the city center to the Regency. Macen had provided them all with padds outlining Relak's itinerary and routes. The attendant at the hotel's garage let them wander about.

"Security will set up a checkpoint at the attendant's booth as well as the lobby and the floor Relak will be staying on will be patrolled," Macen reminded Ro.

"We'll be hitting them en route. I just wanted to see where they were starting from," Ro explained her reasoning.

"If we're not gonna do anything here then why are we hangin' out?" T'Kir complained.

Ro rolled her eyes. Macen answered her, "It's always good to get a feel of how complacent the target will be when they set out. The security contingent will be on guard at this stage but later on they'll be fat and happy."

"Okay," T'Kir said in a bubbly voice.

"If that's settled, can we take a walk?" Ro asked in an acerbic manner.

Hours later they'd walked across town to the Governor's Mansion and back to a mid-point in the route. They'd taken holopics along the way and were studying them in the cameras' viewers in a local café.

"I say we move in at Geflin Park," Ro stated.

"That's a really bad idea," Macen countered.

"Why? We can stage people in the park and the surrounding streets," Ro argued.

"If you'd check the security arrangements, Geflin Park is going to be full of constables making sweeps in case of that very plan being enacted. Even if our people managed to avoid the sweeps, which I seriously doubt they could, then the constables would still be in a position to reinforce the Legate's security detail," Macen reasoned with her.

Macen pointed at the map laid out on table's display, "We want to isolate them as much as possible and the best spot is here."

Ro studied the dot on the map and shrugged, "I don't even remember that block."

"That's the beauty of it," Macen grinned, "Hey Snickerdoodle; show Laren your pics of Lauren Street between 15th Avenue and 16th Avenue."

T'Kir began searching her camera's memory. She bit her lower lip and her brow furrowed as she concentrated. Finally she found it and her smile was beatific.

She handed the camera to Ro, "There y'go."

Ro studied the pictures, "I see two cafés. One on either side of the street."

"Places to put our reinforcements while the initial strike occurs," Macen counseled, "We need to check out those rooftops."

Ro nodded, "They're a good place to set up suppressive fire and a sniper."

"What about a photon missile launcher?" Macen asked.

T'Kir wore a dopey grin while Ro balked, "We only have two missiles left. I don't know when we'll get more."

"What's the good of having them if they're never used?" Macen wondered, "This is a high profile target. Our biggest in months. Don't you think you could cut the missiles loose?"

Ro scowled. He had her. He had her on all counts. She hated to be outmaneuvered, even if it was by a friend.

"Okay, I see your point. The missiles can down the limo and take out a Grevit. That still leaves the troop transport and the other Grevit," Ro pointed out.

"What would you do with an armed transport when there's missile fire in the air?" Macen asked.

A knowing smile slowly spread across Ro's face, "Take out the missile platform."

Macen nodded his encouragement and she continued, "Only since it's a portable launcher, our man will already be gone."

"The only trick will be making sure they just don't transport out of there," Macen warned.

"Not a problem," T'Kir boasted. Seeing all eyes on her she adopted a cocky air, "I c'n tap into the police comms and use them as a jamming signal."

"You're sure?" Ro asked.

"Of course I'm sure! I said so didn't I?" T'Kir huffed.

"Just checking. No need to be hostile," Ro tried to assuage her temper.

"You ain't seen hostile," T'Kir warned.

Ro gauged her former OPS Officer. T'Kir may be unpredictable but she was full of fire. Ro could respect that. It would get the Vulcan through this war.

"Okay, let's check out that block and see the rooftops. From there we can determine lines of fire," Ro urged.

"Laren, as much as I'd love to accommodate you, I'm not going anywhere until I finish my pita and my coffee," Macen replied.

"Damn straight," T'Kir threw her weight into it.

Ro knew when she'd been beaten. Besides, she hated to leave behind the rest of her hasperat. It was rather good. She suspected that one of the cooks was Bajoran. After all, Ronara Prime boasted a sizable Bajoran minority.

The Bajorans had fled the Occupation and sought shelter on a Federation colony only to find themselves back in Cardassian hands. Bajoran Resistance cells like the Kohn Ma had thrown their weight in behind the Maquis. Their experience and almost fanatical will to fight made them damned effective.

The Maquis finished their late lunches and traversed the city streets once again. They took more pictures of the neighborhood. They entered the cafes and the local shops and sized up if they could deposit operatives there for any length of time.

Fortunately, the elevated mag lev rail lines were to the north and south of the street. Adjacent streets had stops nearby and the Maquis could slip into the neighborhood with little notice. Their avenue of retreat was a transport back to the Indie and from there a potential ride to the Badlands.

The roofs were easily accessible. Three were high enough to give a tactical advantage to the missileer. He or she would easily be able to fire down onto street level where Relak's convoy would be. They gauged the ease of escape and where each exit emptied out to. Soon Ro had made her choice.

"So we c'n go now?" T'Kir asked as they reached the street.

"We'd better," Ro admitted, "We'll be needing another meal soon and the petty cash is almost spent. We need to save the rest of it for the operation. Unless our people pay their way the local vendors will throw them out."

"Don't forget train fare for a dozen people," Macen quipped.

Ro groaned, "So much for the cashless society of the Federation. This planet's taken to capitalism like a razorcat to prey."

"You're complaining?" Macen quipped, "Bajor's economy is currency based."

"Yes, and I left Bajor," Ro replied drolly.

"Look on the bright side; we're making an impact on Cardassia Prime's economy. If they keep taking losses they'll be forced to abandon the DMZ," Macen pointed out.

"Or they'll throw everything they have at us," Ro retorted.

Macen gave her a wry look as he boarded the train. The two female Maquis followed him. Once they were settled and it was clear no one was listening in, Macen replied; "We're in a war of attrition. The most committed wins. We're flexible and mobile while they present fixed targets and waning public opinion back home. It's a battle for hearts and minds. Once we break theirs, we win."

"I know the doctrine," Ro remarked dryly, "That's the credo we live by. It's just that it would be nice to predict what the enemy is going to do."

"The Cardassians follow specific precepts and rules in warfare. They're rather inflexible. It's a trait that crops up in their entire culture. What you need is a primer on Cardassian military strategies," Macen said.

Ro gave him a sardonic look, "As my Intelligence Chief, shouldn't you have provided one already?"

Macen wore a rueful expression, "I'll see if I'm authorized to share that material."

"Brin, you're probably the one that wrote the reports," Ro said impatiently.

"That doesn't mean I can share the info with you," Macen replied.

Ro rolled her eyes, "Your mixed loyalties are such a pain in my..."

"Hey!" a burly Talaran approached, "I've never seen you on this train before."

"What are you? The traffic cop?" Ro asked.

The Talaran smiled, showing a double row of teeth; "I'm willing to bet you're one of those bunch out at Warehouse 273. You keep to yourselves and herd any visitors away. Why do you need armed guards and where the hell did you get phasers anyway? You know what?"

"No, but I bet you're going to tell me," Ro retorted.

"I think you're all Maquis," the Talaran proudly surmised.

"And if we were?" Ro asked calmly. Macen and T'Kir could tell she was coiling up. The poor Talaran would never know what hit him.

"I'd turn you over to the authorities," the Talaran sneered, "Unless of course, there was something in it for me."

Ro stood and the Talaran took a step back. She held a level gaze with him, "You mean you want extortion money."

"Yeah, whatever. You pay me or I go to the Constabulary," the Talaran threatened.

Ro pulled the coin purse out of her jacket and set it down on the seat she'd vacated, "If you can get past me, it's all yours," she promised.

The Talaran didn't say a word, he just attacked. Ro blocked a clumsy right cross. Stymied, he unleashed a savage jab at her gut. She pushed it aside as she danced to her left. The Talaran became enraged. He was an experienced bar room brawler. He was used to his impressive bulk and savagery to easily overwhelm his opponents. The lithe Bajoran woman was sidestepping every blow. It was as humiliating as it was frustrating.

The next attempt at a punch was aimed straight in at Ro's ridged nose. Ro caught the man's wrist and inverted it. He yelped. Like most humanoids, his species' wrists were vulnerable to such maneuvers.

She turned and drove her right knee into his gut. He exhaled and doubled over. Her right hand formed s fist and it smashed into his eye. That was the most vulnerable spot on a Talaran's face. His cheekbone and jaw ridges protected those areas. His nose, like hers, was ridged at the bridge. That made it vulnerable below but Talaran noses were flat, like a feline's, and hard to hit from an angle.

Ro swept his feet out from underneath him. She'd never released her hold on his arm and it bent backwards at an unnatural angle as he fell face first to the train's floor. She placed a booted foot on his neck and yanked his arm as far back as it would go without dislocating the shoulder. She applied pressure to the wrist lock and he squealed.

"Ready to give up?" she asked.

He tried to lift himself off of the deck with his remaining arm. But if you control the head, you control the body. Ro slammed his head back down to the floor with her foot.

"Ah, ah, you're going to hurt yourself," Ro warned, "Or at least, I'm going to hurt you."

The Talaran slapped the ground three times in the universally recognized sign of surrender in Federation sports. Ro wasn't done yet. She opted to play dumb.

"I didn't quite get that," she taunted, "You have to explain it to the little woman."

"I give," the Talaran snarled.

"Why didn't you just say so?" Ro asked sweetly and released him.

He rose. His eyes were aflame with hate. Ro immediately knew she'd pushed him too far. Even if she got her people out now they'd be lucky to get away before the Constabulary arrived.

"No hard feelings?" Ro futilely asked.

He snarled and stalked off to another car. Ro shook her head as she pulled her communicator out of her pocket. She flipped it open.

"Ro to Merced," she said for the comm network.

Merced answered and Ro relayed the bad news, "Start an immediate evacuation. We've been blown by a dock worker. He tried to extort money out of us in order to stay quiet. I refused to pay. It didn't end well."

"The outlying cell groups have gathered here so we have the manpower and vehicles to be out of here in thirty minutes or less. The question is: where do we go from here?" Merced asked.

"Tell everyone to head for the Denabi Ranger Station," Ro instructed, "My team will be back in ten minutes and then we can help out."

"Aren't all the Ranger stations abandoned?" Merced asked.

"It won't be a problem," Ro promised.

"If you say so, Skipper," Merced sighed, "We'll get to work."

"While you're at it I'll arrange a miracle," Ro assured him.

"Yeah, right," Merced grumped, "Out."

Ro closed down her communicator. Now she had one awkward comm call to make. She'd been offered the use of the Ranger Station network once upon a time. Of course, that had been pillow talk.

Emotional commitment wasn't Ro's strong suit. She was more of a love 'em and leave 'em kinda gal. Of course with her mother being absent and her father tortured to death at a young age, she'd never learned much about commitment or devotion. She'd been passed around from one relative to another until she'd run away at age thirteen.

She'd inadvertently landed into the arms of the Resistance after that. She'd had a mentor but he'd bullied her as much as protected her. After he'd died she was an outcast. Her skills were too valuable to the cell to throw her away but that didn't mean they had to accept her or even be friendly.

She'd been recruited by a nascent cell on Valo II. Keeve Felor downplayed active resistance but a few of the younger refugees advocated violence. The boy, and he truly had been a boy of eighteen, wanted her to blow up Terok Nor. Ro had gone along with it because she wanted to do something important.

She'd also complied because she and the fellow youth had become lovers. Having never had a sexual partner before, she wasn't sure where physical intimacy ended and emotional intimacy began. When the time came, she recognized that hundreds of helpless Bajorans would be killed. They weren't collaborators. They were helpless victims of the Cardassians' greed.

Recognizing her lover's madness for what it was, she took the transport ship and left the Bajor Sector and headed for the Federation. Once there, she took remedial classes and then passed the stricter admission requirements for non-citizens to Starfleet Academy.

Even in the Academy, and later on her first deployment, she'd been intimate with the occasional lover but she'd never allowed them in emotionally. She abruptly cut things off when feelings started to slide into the equation. It was a practice she maintained to this day.

Kevin McConnell had been a Forest Ranger before the Cardassian instated government shut the service down. They weren't interested in conservation, just exploitation. They'd shared drinks and commiserated their mutual loathing of all things Cardassian. They'd ended up in bed...several times. They'd spent a week-end together and they'd had lots of fun but Ro left before things got complicated.

Before leaving she'd earned a promised that her and her mysterious "crewmates" could have access to the Ranger Stations at any time. She'd never thought she'd actually take him up on the offer but the situation was desperate. She flipped open her communicator and accessed the planetary comm network and called him.

He sounded surprised to be getting a call at this time of day, "Yes?"

Despite his inability to see her, she put on a brave face; "Kevin? It's Ro."

 

Chapter Three

The convoy set out forty-five minutes later. They'd used every anti-grav capable vehicle that they had at their disposal. They'd had to, there were no roads leading to the Danabi Station. Danabi was the HQ of the Ranger Service. All of the ancillary stations planted across the world were served out of this hub.

Danabi was still only an hour's drive away from Ronaran City by air. Its remote location, and the fact that it was officially closed, made discovery less likely. Their greatest danger would be from hikers and campers, if there was anybody left who engaged in such pastimes.

"Skipper, we got company," Merced warned as their aircar came into visual range of the Ranger Station.

The station's lights were all on and there were a half dozen cars in front of it. Ro used her macrobinoculars to scan the area.

"What the...?" she blurted, "Those are Range Rovers. They're all marked with the Rangers' seal."

"I thought the Cardies retired all of the Services' equipment," Merced spoke up.

"Retired" was a polite euphemism for "stole". The Cardassian installed government had a nasty tendency to seize any official property and retask it for the current government's uses. That included, but was not limited to, the Constabulary, the Resource Extraction Services, and even the Death Squads that didn't officially exist.

"Someone brought those Rovers here and started up the buildings power," Ro pointed out.

"Yeah, but are they friendly?" Merced asked the obvious question.

"I have no clue," Ro admitted. She pulled out her communicator and paged the others and advised them of the potential predicament.

The Maquis convoy had landed and the guerillas were spreading out. Ro reached the door while being covered by two different fire teams. Each fire team was equipped with a portable phaser cannon and boasted at least one sharpshooter.

Merced held a reserve of twelve Maquis volunteers. They would move in if Ro's penetration team met heavy resistance. Ro only had six Maquis soldiers. Macen and T'Kir were among them. Ro, Macen, and T'Kir stood to one side of the transparent aluminum double doors that served as the public entrance to the station.

Ro suddenly wished Tulley were here. He would willingly lead the other half of the insertion team. As it was, three of his "assault specialists" waited opposite Ro. Once they received the word, they'd move with a precision and a purpose that would be frightening to behold.

Cynthia Harrelson led the trio. Aard Frid and Refren'dar, or "Fren", followed her lead. Harrelson was human but her two companions originated from other corners of the Federation. Frid was a Rigellian amphib and Fren was an Andorian zhen. Tulley had trained them hard and well with oversight from Ro.

Although her cell members weren't trained to Starfleet's Advanced Tactical Training standards, they'd be able to pass Starfleet Security's placement tests. That put them above and beyond the normal cell's capabilities. Eddington had set up a training camp across the Federation side of the border. It was run by three ex-Starfleet Security officers. He was rotating existing cell veterans through it as well as raw recruits.

While Ro appreciated the increased expertise of her fellow comrades-in-arms, she still resented the fact that most of them literally were terrorists. She'd never seen the value of soft target hits. How could you label children as collaborators in order to justify blowing up a bus while a Cardassian official picked up his child?

The Cardassians had mixed the racial profile of the school buses even though the schools themselves were segregated. As long as they provided "equal" facilities then the Federation was satisfied. Ro had been told that the American South had followed such a policy as had South Africa's Apartheid government. Of course, the reality was that the shunned facilities and personnel were as cast off as the children themselves.

All of the Maquis' soft target hits killed innocents. It's was why Ro wouldn't allow the tactic to be used. One small band of dissenters had objected and carried out a bombing on Ronara Prime. Ro had them bound, shackled, and dumped on a Federation world with a day. An anonymous tip to Starfleet had them in custody two days later.

She'd taken a lot of heat from the other Maquis cell commanders for that. As such, her cell was isolated and pretty much operated independently of the other Maquis. Because of it, or despite it, Ro was more determined to go it alone. This attitude extended to Michael Eddington. Eddington had condemned her along with the rest despite his being a former Starfleet officer.

Eddington fancied the Maquis conflict as a grand endeavor on a cosmic scale in the annals of right and wrong. Of course, whatever tactics the Maquis chose to employ were right and the Cardassians were in the wrong even if their Maquis opponents used the same techniques.

The hypocrisy assailed Ro's sensibilities. There were those under her command that thought that a war of attrition could only be won through genocide. Every last Cardassian would have to be killed to ensure a lasting peace. Aric Tulley felt this way. He thought that Ro was blind to his prejudices but he tempered himself while serving under her so she refrained from making a case of it.

"T'Kir, give me a sitrep," Ro ordered in a hushed voice.

T'Kir studied her tricorder's readouts, "There's a dozen life signs. They seem to be bunched together at a checkpoint near the entrance."

Ro vaguely remembered the layout of the pre-closure station. There was a Visitor's Desk in the main foyer. Information kiosks littered the space. There was a single door leading to the interior of the station and it was generally secured. The Rangers had utilized a separate entrance for getting in and out of their HQ.

Ro pointed two fingers at her eyes and then flashed six fingers and motioned towards the interior. Harrelson gave her a thumbs up and passed the info along to her cohorts. Ro turned back to T'Kir.

"All right, time to pick the lock," Ro informed her.

"Don't have to," T'Kir replied, "It's already unlocked."

That puzzled Ro. These Cardassians were making it too easy. They'd announced their presence with the vehicles and the lights. Next, they hadn't blocked sensor scans. Finally, the door was essentially wide open, bidding them to enter.

Ro's professional paranoia went into overdrive, "I'm going to count to three. When I get there, activate the doors."

Ro began counting down. Her free hand also ticked off the count with a raised digit for each number. When she reached three, she and Harrelson swung into action.

The doors slid aside and Ro and Harrelson charged into the foyer with their phasers drawn and ready. Frid, Fren, and Macen followed on their heels. T'Kir stood in the doorway.

"But..." she began to warn them.

Twelve Rangers suddenly raised their hands and froze. However, they impressed Ro with the fact none of them looked overly frightened or even remotely panicked. Kevin McConnell was in the center of the crowd.

"Hold your fire," he urged, "We're on your side."

Ro lowered her weapon and relaxed, "No one said anything about a reception committee, Kevin."

"I know," he confessed, "But once I started thinking about what you'd asked for, it seemed like the right thing to do to call a few friends."

Ro's curiosity was piqued, "And why is that?"

"Because we want to join up," he told her.

"Join up?" she scoffed, "What would you be joining?"

"The Maquis," he confidently replied.

He could see her stiffen and he went into immediate damage control, "Your mysterious alliances weren't that difficult to deduce. I've kept your secret but now I want something in return."

Now this was language Ro could understand, "How much do you want?"

McConnell looked insulted, "This isn't about money, Ro. We want to sign up. Your fight is our fight."

"Look, I don't have time to waste on people that want to play war," Ro warned, "If you do this, you do this for real. Your lives will be in danger every second of every day. Can you live with that?"

The Rangers collectively nodded their heads and McConnell smiled, "We've talked it over and we've all decided. We want in."

Ro holstered her phaser and pulled out her communicator. Paging Merced, she called off the attack. Turning to the assembled Rangers, she addressed them as a group.

"The Ronaran cell isn't your typical Maquis cell. We aren't out to kill every Cardassian. We won't bomb civilians just to get a military target. We're fighting to break the Cardassians' fighting spirit so they'll pack up and leave us alone. Can you fight this way?"

The Rangers nodded and Ro frowned, "I can't hear you."

"Yes!" the Rangers said as one.

"Good. Now the first thing you have to do is show my people where to set up our gear. After that, I'll make arrangements for you to travel off world and get some training," Ro announced.

"We thought your people would handle that," McConnell admitted.

Ro wore a wintry smile, "We have better things to do. Besides, we have experts that handle that sort of thing."

"I was hoping to avoid drawing off of the city's power grid," Ro confided in McConnell.

He grinned, "You are. All of the Ranger stations rely on their own fusion bottles for power. The outlying stations are pretty minuscule in comparison to the Danabi but they serve to power all of our equipment at remote locations," he explained.

"What kind of equipment?" Ro wondered.

"Remote sensors. Lab gear. Transporters," His grin grew.

"Transporters?" she latched onto that word.

"Let me show you," he offered.

She was led deeper into the complex and they came to a two man pad and a standalone control console all secreted in a dedicated room. McConnell led her to the console.

"This has every station in the network locked in and programmed," he explained.

"So it's not a typical transporter," Ro surmised from that comment.

"No, it's site to site but the sites are all fixed. If you built another site, we could incorporate it into the network," he offered.

Ro blessed him with a wry look. He chuckled, "Seriously. You could put it in any building of any urban center. Look, you have safe houses, don't you?"

She merely stared at him. He gave her an exasperated look and she finally nodded, "We have three."

You could built transporter units in them and then network them. They could transport between houses that way," McConnell suggested.

"Let's just see these transporters in action, shall we?" Ro dryly requested.

He tapped in a few commands on the touch screen and then stepped to an awaiting pad, "Coming?"

Ro was startled but she tried to hide it. She stepped onto the pad and McConnell smirked and said, "Energize."

The confinement beam caught her and she was trapped within the radius of the pad. Then her vision blurred as her molecules were transmuted into energy. Then her vision started to return and the unique disorientation of a transport faded as she solidified once again. The confinement beam released her and she stepped off of the pad.

Her eyes hungrily sought out where they were now. It appeared to be a small, two-room structure. The transporter took up one end of the building. It was also in a smaller space whereas the rest of the area was one long lodge style enclosure.

She looked to McConnell, who still wore his insufferable smirk, and he nodded towards the open doorway. This station was built along traditional Bajoran lines. It had old fashioned hinged doors. The door leading to the transporter just happened to be swung open.

She stepped into the main part of the station. It had lab equipment, bio-scanner tables, medical equipment, comp/comms, and a central processor. There were two lockers. She opened one to discover the miniscule fusion bottle powering the station. The other locker held a few Starfleet surplus Type II phasers. They dated back to at least the 2260's. There were a half dozen Type I's as well. They were bulkier than her modern era "Cricket" phaser but they were still highly concealable.

"What do you think?" McConnell asked.

"Are all your sub-stations stocked this way?" Ro inquired.

"Yes," he stated.

"Then I'm in love," Ro jested.

"Wait until you see the view," McConnell assured her.

"The what?" Ro was startled again.

"Follow me," he ordered.

He unbolted the main door and stepped outside. She waited to see what his game was. She could hear a muffled roaring sound outside. She'd been dimly aware of it since arriving. It sounded like millions of liters of rushing water. Shrugging, she stepped outside.

She stepped into a mist laden shore line. Numerous waterfalls cascaded over a "U" shaped rock formation. Some of the rivers and streams feeding it could be seen travelling down the rock faces above and beyond. It was probably one of the most magnificent sights she'd ever taken in on a planet.

McConnell just stood there. Looking content, and insufferably smug, all at the same time. She walked to his side.

"How many of them are there?" Ro wondered, "I keep losing count."

"There's twenty-seven main falls. Forty-eight smaller falls encompass the area. We built the station as close as we could. The biodiversity out here is incredible," he explained, "There are some species of fish that never traverse the falls and spend their entire lives at one end or the other. Then there are the leapers."

"The what?" she asked, momentarily caught up in the majesty of it.

"The leapers," he smiled, "That's what we call the fish that climb the falls during spawning season after travelling down them in their youth."

They stood in silent wonder then Ro shivered. McConnell reached out for her, intending to wrap his arm around her. She recoiled.

"I'd gotten the impression you weren't the cuddly type," McConnell ruefully admitted.

"Look, Kevin. We had a wonderful week-end. I'll always remember it but it should stay in our memories. Don't try to dig something up because of it. There's nothing to find," Ro advised.

"That's clear enough," he said.

"Don't you think we should get back now?" Ro asked archly.

"Not going to risk creating more memories?" he grinned.

"What did I just tell you?" she growled.

He held up his hands, "Don't get testy. It was just an observation."

"Just show me how to access the damn network so I can get back and look after my people," Ro snapped.

McConnell studied her, "You really care for them."

Ro sighed theatrically, "They're like family, okay?"

"I wasn't certain you'd feel that way about anybody. What with the walls you put up," He opined.

"Drop it," Ro commanded.

"You're used to getting your own way, aren't you?" he teasingly asked.

"What about it?" she said defensively.

"It's cute," he held up his hands again as she glared at him, "Don't expect it to carry a lot of weight with my people. We're pretty independent."

"That could be a good thing or a bad thing," she opined.

"How so?" he wondered.

"If it makes you more innovative and faster on your feet then it's a good thing. If it causes you to disobey orders and get yourselves all killed, I'd consider that a bad thing. Wouldn't you?" there was a mocking quality to her tone.

McConnell didn't take issue with her statement. He knew it was true. He and his fellow Rangers were about to engage in insurgent style combat. Urban guerilla warfare wasn't something they'd ever trained for or even considered until recently. But the opportunity had arisen and every single one of them had volunteered for it.

Soon their lives would be on the line and some of them would die. It would be too late to back out then. None of them would survive the Cardassians' treatment of their prisoners. The Federation would be gentler but it would be insanely boring. And besides, a penal colony was still a prison by any other name.

Lastly, there was the credo of the Maquis itself. "Once in, never out" rang absolutely true with these people. They didn't tolerate traitors and their treatment of deserters was legendary across the DMZ. Usually they left the victim alive. Usually. Alive and crippled was their style so there would be a living testament to their "justice".

Of course, the Maquis had also taken it upon themselves to police the criminal elements that the Cardassians tended to foster. Pirates had a hard time making a living in the DMZ and the shipping merchants loved the Maquis. The Cardassians encouraged the pirates to attack the Maquis and they would pay bounties on any souls delivered alive. The weaponry and ships that were captured became the pirates' booty and would bring fair prices abroad, or even as a resale to the Maquis.

Since neither Starfleet nor the Cardassian Militia could deploy ships in the Zone, that left patrolling the space lanes to the Maquis. The rebels had earned many supporters and friends because of this. That was how Kassidy Yates came to be a supplier.

"Look, I'm going back now. I'll figure the damn thing out by myself if I have to!" Ro declared and marched back into the station. McConnell stood still for a moment and then, shaking his head, he followed in her wake. She had the system set and ready to go when he arrived.

 

Chapter Four

The Odyssey detected a suspicious freighter three days later. While the Cardassian freighter, the Orkitz, seemed harmless to a passing eye, detailed sensor sweeps revealed kelbonite hard points on her hull. Such hard points could be retractable covers for weapon emplacements.

Danan ordered the scoutship to return to Ronaran orbit. While there, the Trill scientist turned spy, conducted intensive visual scans and amplified their passive sensor sweeps to their maximum sensitivity. While she was at it, she commed Macen and updated him.

Macen passed along the report to Ro and then he and T'Kir returned to the Odyssey. Darcy handled the transport and then returned to Engineering as the returning CO and OPS officer headed to the bridge. The turbolift opened and they headed for their station.

For Macen that meant the center seat. T'Kir plopped down into the OPS station to the left of the CONN. Ebert grinned as she nodded her greetings. Macen picked up a padd deposited on his seat and he turned back towards the elevated platform that boasted the Weapons station, the Science station, and the Library computer.

Lacey smiled at her passing Captain. Macen came to stand beside Danan's station. Her eyes were averted since she was focused on the sensor hood. Macen cleared his throat.

"Ronara to Lees, come in Lees," He teased.

"Knock it off, smart ass," Danan warned as she focused on her latest scans.

"Somebody needs to get into it with you," Macen remarked, "You look like a wreck. When's the last time that you slept?"

Danan's head snapped up and her eyes flashed fire as she glared at him. However, she held her tongue until she'd had a second to reflect on his question. Finally, she softened.

"That's a helluva question," she commented.

"It's needed asking," he assured her, "Go to bed."

"I will. I just need to..." she began to protest.

"Now," Macen said firmly, "Don't make it an order."

"Like you could enforce it," she quipped.

His eyes were glacial, "Of all people, you should know how capable I am of enforcing that or any other order aboard this ship."

There was an unmistakable air of menace in his tone. She regarded it as a new notch in their deteriorating relationship. He'd never threatened her before, even if the threat was implied rather than overt. She knew the meaning behind his meaning.

"All right," she conceded, "I'll go but you can bet that Q-ship will only be the first."

"We'll head out to Ronara 7 and pretend to do a little prospecting at the adjacent asteroid belt. There was a latinum strike out there a few weeks ago. We'll look like we're just stripping the carcass," Macen offered, "In the interim we can scan the entire system. Anyone comers sniffing and we should be able to warn Ro. Okay?"

"That approach is better," Danan admitted, "Not perfect but better."

"Just lie down before you fall down," he advised.

"Yes, master." She jibed.

He hung his head, "Just go."

Danan smirked as she headed for the turbolift. He seemed to like it when T'Kir gave him a hard time. Maybe it was time she gave him a little sass as well.

The week long wait was over. Relak's yacht was in the system and headed for Ronara Prime. The Odyssey returned to her home port as well. She hung back 50,000 kilometers as she assumed standard orbit. Her sensors recorded as the Cardassians beamed Relak and his party to the surface followed by the limo from the cargo hold.

Ro was alerted to the situation. She was also updated as to the status of the three armed Cardassian freighters in the system. One was in orbit over Ronara Prime. The yacht had "coincidently" put in behind her. One ship was at the system's outer Kyper Belt. The other was hanging out near Ronara 4, just a few light minutes distance from Ronara Prime.

The Indie had slowly approached the Cardassian Q-ship and subsequently ended up being behind the yacht. Tulley had everyone on ready alert. They'd spring into action at a moment's notice. Tulley objected to being ion command at all but what seriously rankled him was that none of the Indomitable's crew was going on the hypothetical boarding action.

Ro and her assault team would board the yacht alone. Tulley was glad to learn that she'd seen sense and the yacht would never leave orbit. If it was necessary to go aboard, and once Relak was dead, they would jury-rig the warp core into losing containment and the yacht would be destroyed, along with all of the evidence of who had committed the strike.

That left the question of what to do about the Orkitz? Would she seek revenge after the death of her master? If so, could the Indomitable vanquish her? And what about the remaining Q-ships?

The one certainty in the plan was that the Odyssey would not lend overt support. They would provide ELINT and passive sensor data. They would unleash ECM and cyber-warfare attacks, but they wouldn't actively engage the enemy. Ro was insistent upon that. Tulley, and his fellow shipmates, balked at the idea and had vocally challenged Ro. Every Maquis ship should be a fighting ship. She in turn threatened to cancel the entire operation and let Legate Relak's uneventful visit lull the Cardies into complacency. They backed down after that.

Ro had sent the Rangers to Ereden IV for their training. The planet offered woods, deserts, and polar regions besides oceans and mountain ranges. A holodeck had been built allowing the former Starfleet instructors to train their charges in urban environs as well as simulated space based combat.

In order to maximize their training, the Rangers' future roles had been mapped out before they left. That way their training could be geared towards their specialties. None of them were being trained for shipboard duty which had disappointed some of them. However, their intended specialty of strategic guerilla commandoes made up for the prior disappointment.

The next morning, before dawn, the Maquis assault team loaded up into aircars and returned to Ronaran City. They left their vehicles at a Park 'n Ride lot and took the train into town. Once they reached their stop, they exited and then it a cross street. Four blocks later they were in their intended neighborhood.

They'd arrived two hours early. At least according to the itinerary. According to Macen's profile on Relak, he was a notorious late riser. And then he had to have his hedonistic morning breakfast. He could very well be delayed by several hours.

The fire team on the roof set up the shoulder fired missile launcher. The heavy weapons gunner strapped on his portable phaser cannon. The loader/spotter went and got refreshments for them all from the cafés below.

The two three man ground attack teams split up, one to each side of the street. They left one member outside and the other two enjoyed the café's ambience. They rotated every twenty minutes. That way the spotter outside was always fresh. It took an hour to set up, now they just had the potentially long wait to endure.

It was Ro's turn to be outside. They'd been waiting for almost four hours. Everyone had rotated through the restrooms. Everyone except the fire team. They were all relieving themselves on the roof. She was glad Macen had talked her into allowing T'Kir to hack into the planet's surveillance satellite system and cause it to overload and fail. It had gone down a day before Relak's arrival and the Cardies still hadn't been able to fix it. As much as Ro hated to admit it, she had T'Kir to thank for the fact that the Constabulary wasn't already on to the fire team.

The lead Grevit floated into sight further down the street. Ro flipped open her communicator and sent a signal pulse to everyone's communicators. As they mobilized, she signaled the Odyssey.

"Ro to T'Kir," she said for the comm network's benefit.

"T'Kir here. What's up, Skipper?" the Vulcan happily inquired.

"I need you to set up your comm jammer," Ro said.

"Well, technically I'm not..." T'Kir replied.

"Just do it!" Ro barked and closed the line.

Aboard the Odyssey, T'Kir huffed; "No need t'get rude."

The motorcade began to pass by and the Maquis assault teams worked their way to available cover. The fire team's spotter noted the motorcade's relative position and patted the missileer on the back to tell her it was time to fire. She released the missile and it streaked down into the limo's hood.

The antimatter warhead reacted with the matter of the limo's armored chassis and energy was released during the matter/antimatter annihilation. The driver and the Militia trooper in the front seat beside him were instantly killed.

The two in the passenger compartment with Relak and Perit were a dalin and a garresh in rank. They were both wounded as the passenger compartment exploded and drove shrapnel through the transparent aluminum separating them from the driver module.

The garresh was the first to recover. He inspected Relak and Perit for injuries. Perit waved him off.

"I can do that. See to Dalin Gerick and get us out of here," Perit ordered.

Knowing that Dal Perit outranked his own superior, the garresh obeyed the orders. The dalin was impaled by shrapnel and the bleeding couldn't be stopped. Relak was injury free but he was in shock and couldn't be budged.

"Sir!" Perit gripped his shoulders and stared him in the eye, "We have to get you out of here. The fuel cell is damaged and will explode!"

Relak numbly nodded and started to shift his weight. Perit stopped him, "Let the garresh and I go first to secure the area."

"Yes, of course," Relak's voice rang with fear. He'd risen through the ranks during the Bajoran Occupation and he was used to foes he could easily bully. When the Resistance had formed, Relak had already returned to Cardassia Prime in an administrative capacity. He was the first among many "paper soldiers" to achieve a posting within the High Command. All of them shared a common trait: they'd never faced actual combat.

"Stay here until I give you a signal. Then come running out and head for the building across the way," Perit directed.

"What about traffic?" Relak asked.

Perit graced him with a baleful glare, "Trust me, there is no traffic."

The two Grevits began laying down suppressive fire on the roof. The loader chambered another missile round and the missileer braved the crossfire. She unleashed her second, and last, round seconds before disruptor fire blew her back. She was dead even before she sprawled out across the roof.

The missile hit the lead Grevit and detonated its warp core. The resultant shock wave blew the fleeing Relak, Perit, and garresh of their feet. The limo erupted into a fireball after that. Perit and the garresh dragged Relak to the closest building front only they found the doors locked. None of the locals would offer aid.

"I'll have them all shot!" Relak declared in a shaky voice.

"That will earn you their loyalty," Perit dryly remarked, "Our Militia unit is under fire and the second Constabulary Grevit is deploying. No one seems to have noticed us. I suggest we just lie low."

"Has anyone called for reinforcements?" Relak began to panic in earnest now.

"I've been trying, sir," the garresh informed him, "But someone is jamming our comms."

"Not just ‘anyone'," Relak snarled, "This is those damned Maquis that Gravil swore he'd pacified."

"If this is passive, I'd hate to see them when they're upset," Perit remarked.

That earned him a scathing glare from Relak. They all studied the scene playing out further down the street. The Militia was trying to deploy but they were caught in a crossfire. There only appeared to be six Maquis on the street, three to either side. There was no telling how many were on the roof.

Relak began doing some math. He'd lost two members of his twelve man Militia detachment. At least two more had died trying to clear out of the rear of the half track. He couldn't account for any losses from the opposite sides of the street. But the glinn guiding the survivors had smartened up and had them rip the canvas shroud off of the rear of the transport. Now they had an armored perch from which to rain fire upon the enemy.

It was so brilliant that Relak was glad that he'd thought of it. He'd take credit for it after these Maquis scum were executed and transfer the glinn to the Outer Marches where he could while away his time doing nothing, especially not contradicting Relak's version of events.

Ro vaguely acknowledged Merced's death. The Cardassians had recuperated much faster than she'd guessed they would. She'd thought they'd be moribund by regulations and traditions and leave the shroud up thereby obscuring their vision and bottlenecking them at rear gate of the half track. Five of their number had been killed there and Ro was looking to increase that number.

Merced had dropped the sawed off, double barrel photon grenade launcher that he'd carried. He hadn't even had a chance to unleash one of the shotgun shell sized rounds. She turned to her remaining partner. Sheila Hewlett looked scared but determined.

"Sheila! Cover me!" Ro shouted.

Hewlett began firing wildly at the Cardassians. Most had to duck behind the armor walls of their transport. Ro scrambled from behind one now wrecked aircar to another. Merced lay on his back, a still smoldering hole in his throat.

She grabbed the pouch that was slung across his body like a bandolier and she started to tug. Suddenly he reached up and grabbed her! Ro started but she didn't recoil. It often took time to die from a disruptor burn. It hadn't hit the vital organs so he was dying of asphyxiation.

Ro pried her arm loose and took hold of his hand. She could see the terror in his eyes but also the realization that he wasn't alone. He just stared at her while his mouth hung open and a gurgling sound issued forth. In another few seconds he was dead.

Ro pulled off the pouch and grabbed the launcher. Opening the breech she saw that two rounds had already been loaded. Clicking the barrel back into place she stood and took aim.

The double barrels were only six inches long and the stock had also been sawed down to a small portion of its former glory. Now it could be comfortably fired single handedly. She depressed the first of the two triggers and a miniature photon torpedo leapt forward. It slammed into the edge of the armor and detonated.

A gaping hole was blown into the armored wall of the transport. By aiming high, she'd also caught three gorrs who were firing on Hewlett. Now they lacked heads so Ro assumed they were down for the count.

Two more gorrs popped their heads up. She let them sit there unmolested long enough for them to begin swinging their weapons up. She squeezed the second trigger and the second grenade detonated right between them. Through the holes she could see the glinn redirecting his troops to the other side of the transport.

Ro looked to Hewlett, wanting the other woman to cover her while she drew in close enough to get a direct bead through the shattered hull. What she saw was that Hewlett was lying on the sidewalk, face down in the ferrocrete. It was obvious she was dead.

Ro had barely gotten to know Hewlett before her death. She'd just recently returned with a four others from training on Ereden. She'd weathered three firefights before this and while she was still slightly skittish, she had the verve and determination to make an excellent guerilla warrior. She'd be missed as would Merced. Hell, every dead Maquis was missed. They just didn't have the manpower to afford losses yet they endured them with nearly every campaign.

She popped the breach open again and slid two grenades into the chamber. That was when she noticed the remaining Grevit had finished unleashing holy hell on the fire team and was returning to ground level. It had floated up to meet the enemy and from the sounds of destruction, it had leveled the sheds and vegetable gardens troughs in its mad pursuit of the fire team. She could only wonder if any of them had made it out alive.

The Police transport would only be scorched and dented by the grenade launcher which is why they'd dedicated a photon missile to its brother. But, its undercarriage was vulnerable. Ro took aim and fired one grenade and then the other.

Explosions rocked the Grevit and then flashes of light began to flash underneath it. It exploded without warning, taking out every tempered glass window in the block. It also unceremoniously knocked Ro and the remaining assault team on their butts.

The glinn led his surviving gorrs in a breakout. Harrelson, Frid, and Fren were in no shape to oppose them. Weathers, the man with the photon cannon, appeared in the street as the Militia unit came to surround Relak.

Weathers opened fire. The Cardassians maneuvered Relak behind a civilian vehicle. His first shot, however, did carry lasting repercussions that he was unaware of. Perit was killed, ironically by the very people he'd helped stage this assault.

Ro got up onto one knee and took a look across the street. Two hyper-vigilant gorrs saw her and began to lay down suppressive fire. The rest of the unit exchanged fire with Weathers, who was killed by the sheer volume of disruptor bursts aimed at him. Harrelson marshaled her team and they picked up where Weathers had left off.

"Got it!" the garresh announced, "The Constables have cleared the channels. We can contact the yacht and get out of here."

"Why are explaining it to me?" the glinn snapped at him, "Just do it already!"

"Yes, sir!" the garresh complied. The transporter effect seemed rather muted after all of the other detonations and energy exchanges of the day.

Ro flipped open her communicator, "Thool, beam up everyone!"

"I'm only detecting four life signs," Thool said regretfully.

"Listen you idiot! Lock onto every Maquis communicator and beam up everyone, alive or otherwise," Ro ordered.

The transporter effect grabbed them and they became aware of being in the Indie's cargo bay. Ro had them clear off all of the bodies. Harrelson shrugged on the phaser cannon and Ro ditched the grenade launcher.

She fixed a steely gaze on the Bolian engineer, "Beam us onto that yacht."

 

Chapter Five

Ro, Harrelson, Frid, and Fren appeared to be in a cargo bay. Ro looked to her right and an empty space with four clamps on the floor was to be found. Ro deduced that this was the storage space for the destroyed limo. Holding up one hand, she waved her troops on behind her.

Ro took the lead. She told herself it was because she wanted to be able to make instant adjustments to the plan but the truth was much more devious and simple. She just hated leading from the rear. If she was going to ask someone to go into danger, not only would she share in it, she would lead from the front.

Starfleet doctrine allowed for such maneuvering, up to a point. Command personnel, particularly someone as highly placed as Ro, let subordinates scout ahead. In the case of starship captains, regulations prohibited them from taking the lead. You had James T. Kirk, Hikaru Sulu, and fellow captains of their ilk to thank for that.

Ro moved stealthily through the corridors. No response to their presence had been made as of yet. A sudden disruptor burst that struck near her head was the first sign the Cardassians knew they were there.

"Initiate Broadsword," Ro ordered.

Her people spread themselves out and availed themselves of as much cover as they could. They huddled in groups of two, one high and one low. They laid down return fire and the sounds of pain and burnt flesh greeted them in return.

They proceeded with their staggered formation. Irritably, Ro realized that Harrelson and Fren had taken the lead. She waited for her chance to leapfrog ahead.

That opportunity arose sooner than expected. In the next junction heavy fire caused them to retreat. Ro and Frid surged forward. To see two Maquis in retreat had elevated the Cardassians' moods after their staggering losses on the planet. However Ro and Frid came at them and a battle cry escaped their lips.

Harrelson and Fren joined in. The Cardassians momentarily froze and lost the initiative. They were now reacting to the Maquis rather than driving them. That mistake cost them dearly.

One survivor lay against a bulkhead gasping for air. His left lung had been destroyed by a particle beam and his other lung was drowning in blood from a throat wound. Ro found it to be fitting justice after what had happened to Merced.

"Where are they holding Relak?" Ro demanded.

The dying gorr just stared at her as though she were addled. Ro frowned as her lips pursed, "You're dying. There's no denying that but I can make it last."

The gorr's eyes widened and Ro smiled. It was a glacial smile, full of menace and the promise of pain, "Where is Relak? I'll put you out of your misery if you tell me."

"Deck 3, in the Master Cabin," bloody spittle escaped his lips as he spoke.

"What deck is this?" Ro asked.

The gorr stared at her. How could she not know? As the pain coursed through his body he chose to speak, "We're on Deck 5."

"Are the stairwells being guarded?" Ro asked.

He didn't answer and she placed the emitter end of her phaser in his wound and twisted it around. He screamed. Her face was a picture of resolve as she spoke.

"I told you I could make it last. I'm familiar with Cardassian methods of torture. Would you like to be?" she asked sweetly.

Panic filled his eyes. A Bajoran very well could be familiar with his people's infamous arts," No. Only the turbolifts are being actively guarded."

"Thank you," Ro said and shot the "spoon" in his forehead.

She turned to her teammates, "Now we find the damn stairs."

"Are you sure this is the way?" Frid dared asked.

Ro stopped abruptly, causing the other Maquis to run into each other. She scowled.

"Why the hell are you grouped up? Do you want the Cardies to kill all of us with a single volley? Spread out. Now!" Ro snapped.

After her troops had complied Ro wheeled on Frid, "I happen to know how to read a little Cardassian. I learned as a child. It seemed to be a useful tool for my Resistance cell."

That revelation captivated her fellows. Ro's past was a rarely discussed topic; at least it wasn't discussed by Ro herself. Speculations were rife. Her official Starfleet records had been obtained but they were rather sterile. Her past on Bajor was a tantalizing mystery. The Maquis had concocted many theories to fill in the gaps.

"How old were you when you joined the Resistance, Skipper?" Frid asked, eager for any information he could gather.

"Oh, shut up, Frid," Ro angrily retorted. She resumed her march. She came to an access hatch. It was sealed, probably by order of whoever was leading the security unit. She holstered her phaser and pulled out a tricorder. After accessing the main computer, she opened the hatch. Frid ooed and awed. Ro rolled her eyes.

She entered the vertical stairwell and began to climb. Frid followed. Fren came next and Harrelson drew rearguard. They climbed until Ro saw the signage that designated the access led to Deck 3. She motioned for Frid to join her where she was.

"Yes, Skipper?" he eagerly asked.

Ro suddenly had an image of the amphib as a puppy. That was when she realized her time on Earth had corrupted her, "I need both hands to operate the tricorder to open the access hatch. That means you have to go first. I can take a reading and see how many guards will be alongside at the turbolift but you'll be on your own. Can you handle that?"

"Let me at them, Skipper!" Frid urged.

She holstered her phaser and pulled out her tricorder, "This'll take a minute."

"Gotcha," he said, brimming with enthusiasm.

Ro manipulated the touch screen controls on her unit, "Should be...now!"

The door opened and Frid leapt off of the stairs and went through the hole. Phaser fire could be heard and then a prolonged silence. Ro drew her phaser and prepared for the worst. Suddenly Frid's voice broke the silence.

"All clear, Skipper," he announced.

Ro stepped over and exited the stairwell. The other two women joined her. Patting Frid on the shoulder she congratulated him. His skin mottled, a sign that he was embarrassed.

Ro studied the ship's design. The guest cabins stretched out in front of them, forming a veritable wall. That left a corridor that stretched to the end of the ship. The Master Cabin was located there.

Macen had shown her the yacht's specs. The Master Cabin dominated the rear of the ship. It had a window that stretched across the entire space. This could prove useful if they had to engage the ship with the Indomitable. However they were now committed to a boarding action and this corridor was a bottleneck that could get them killed.

"I'll check the corridor," Frid offered and he rounded the corner. He was immediately struck by disruptor fire.

"Frid!" Ro shouted. She motioned for Harrelson and Fren to advance. They reached the corner and went high/low again. They pivoted around so they could return fire. Ro scampered out into the corridor and grabbed Frid with her right hand while she laid down a suppressive barrage with left.

She dragged Frid to safety but she could tell it was already too late. He had several chest wounds and his left arm was a total loss. It was only attached by a few burnt tendons.

"Frid, can you hear me?" Ro asked as she knelt over him.

"Aard,' he replied in a ragged voice.

"What?" Ro was utterly confused.

"My name is Aard," he explained. The effort nearly killed him.

Ro smiled, "I'm Laren."

"I know," he tried to smile but it came out as a grimace, "It's a pretty name for a beautiful woman."

Ro wore a rueful expression, "Are you flirting with me, Aard?"

"Yeah, but I think I waited too long," Frid shared.

"How about I kiss it and make it better?" Ro impishly suggested.

"That's a human myth," Frid complained.

"Why not try it and see if it works?" she suggested.

"I'm game," he admitted, "What have I got to lose?"

Ro knelt until their lips met. She drew it out and then she lifted herself, "How was that?"

"What do you know? The humans are right," Frid gasped and then a convulsive shudder took him and his eyes went dead. Ro knew he was gone. She ruminated that at least one of his wishes happened before he died.

"Skipper!" Harrelson yelled back at her, "We need a plan."

"Right," Ro replied. She came up behind her two remaining teammates and flipped open her tricorder. There were two life signs outside of the Master Cabin with two more inside. Relak had finally run out of guards. A sudden vibration rumbled through the yacht.

Fren and Harrelson pulled back and looked to Ro. The Bajoran grimaced, "We've broken orbit."

"So what happens now?" Fren wondered.

"I think I'm going to find out," Ro pulled out her communicator and flipped it open, "Ro to Indomitable."

The yacht broke orbit and the Indie followed her. The Orkitz also boosted out of orbit with impulse engines. She began to set an exit vector. It was a course designed to run parallel with the yacht.

"Well, they're certainly subtle," Tulley muttered, "Mysra, what the status on the Odyssey?"

Mysra Tem was the young Bajoran helmsman who was monitoring the situation with the navigational and OPS sensors, "The Odyssey has left orbit but she's tracking a different course. Her course will take her directly to Ronara 4."

"I knew I didn't like this plan," Tulley said darkly.

"Aric!" Sosa, the communications and weapons officer called out, "Ro's on the horn."

Tulley nodded his thanks, "Got it, Erika. Tell Thool to be ready for an extraction."

"You got it!" she enthused.

Tulley was less than happy when he got Ro's news. Her instructions made him want beat his head against the bulkhead, "Skipper, that thing could get you killed."

"I know but the damage shouldn't be that bad with an interior shot. We just can't risk it in the Master Cabin because of that damn window." she replied.

"Are you sure Thool's still got it?" Tulley asked.

"Have you sent in a team to retrieve the bodies and strip their weapons?" Ro asked.

"Of course not," Tulley confirmed her suspicion.

"Then Thool still has it," Ro declared, "Just send the stupid thing over. That's an order."

"Aye, Skipper," Tulley conceded as Ro cut the line. He tapped a control at his station, "Tulley to Thool."

"Thool here," the engineer replied.

"Are you still in the transporter room?" Tulley asked.

"Of course," the Bolian's reply was full of umbrage.

"Spare me the attitude and listen up. I've got orders from Ro," Tulley announced. Thool was all ears.

The grenade launcher and the pouch with its ammo materialized one meter behind Ro. She'd used Frid's communicator as the target it. The Rigellian didn't need it any more. Fren and Harrelson were laying down fire. Harrelson had warned that the phaser cannon's power cell was nearly depleted. Suddenly she began swearing and pulled back. Fren joined her.

Harrelson sloughed off the cannon, "You sure you aren't going to kill us all, Skipper? The last I heard detonating a photon round inside a ship was bad news. Hulls can get breached that way."

Ro smirked, "Trust me, Cynthia. I have no plans to die on this op."

Harrelson grinned, "I bow to your superior training and experience."

"As well you should," Ro quipped, "Fren, can you keep the Cardies busy for a couple of seconds?"

The Andorian grinned, "Sure thing."

The zhen threw her arm around the corner and began to fire at the Cardassians. She peeked her head around enough to see what she was aiming at. The problem was that the Cardassians ha d erected a barrier between themselves and the Maquis. It was an eloquent solution for a low tech yacht. The barriers could be broken down and taken to any position on the ship and be set up there.

While Fren kept their heads down, Ro stepped out and fired one grenade and then the other. The two Maquis ducked behind the corner as the antimatter annihilated all in its path. Slammed up against the wall that separated the Master Cabin from the rest of the ship, the resultant explosion's backlash killed the two Cardassian soldiers. The better part of the bulkhead wall also disappeared.

Ro and Fren advanced on the cabin while Harrelson covered them from the corner. Ro gingerly vaulted over the barricade. Sections of its surface were still red hot. Fren followed her as she stepped over the Militia troopers' corpses. One bore a glinn's rank insignia. The other was a mere gorr. Unbeknownst to the Maquis the garresh had died leading the attack on Deck 5.

Ro had her weapon poised and ready as she entered the Master Cabin. Fren stopped at the entrance that they'd made and held position. The living quarters were destroyed. A wet bar that had been extensively stocked was smashed as well. That left the master bedroom.

Rather than present herself as a target, Ro stood to the side of the door while she used her tricorder to jimmy the lock. It slid open and disruptor fire issued forth.

Ro shot the door controls so the door remained open. Ro knew she couldn't use the grenade launcher. The entire rear portion of the room was comprised of the massive window. Explosive decompression would definitely kill Relak but as she'd assured Harrelson, she had no wish to die today.

Ro motioned Fren into the space. She whispered her plan into the zhen's ear and she looked at Ro as though she were insane. Ro understood completely. If someone had suggested to her what she'd just asked Fren to do, she'd think they were insane too. That's why it wasn't an order. If Fren didn't agree to do it then she wouldn't have to do it.

Ro stared at her imploringly and finally Fren relented. Ro braced herself up against the door's edge and Fren suddenly ran across the open space into the room. Disruptor bolts followed her and Ro swung around and drew a bead on the shooter.

Ro reflexively fired before she realized that the shooter was a woman. The stun blast knocked the female Cardassian out and she slumped against the bulkhead and collapsed into the bed. Relak stood quavering near the window. He started to move around it but Fren had her weapon drawn and ready now. Relak was trapped.

"Naughty, naughty, Legate," Ro chided him, "I happen to know that's not your wife. And her being caught in her nightie, how would that look back home?"

"Who are you?" Relak blustered, "How dare you attack me?"

"How dare you try and drive us from our homes?" Ro argued back, "The Federation colonists built these worlds up and you're just here to make a quick snatch and grab of their resources and to hell with anyone living on them. It's Bajor all over again and let me tell you, I've got a lifetime of payback coming to you people over Bajor."

Relak began to realize he wasn't escaping from this no matter what but he had to try, "I can negotiate..."

"I don't negotiate," Ro said as she shot him in the face and he dropped like the dead weight that he'd become.

Ro went to the Cardassian woman and began to tie her up with zip ties, "Get Cynthia and go to work on the warp core. I'll be there in a minute."

Fren nodded and left. Ro rifled through the Legate's desk and found several loaded padds. She tucked them away in her jacket's interior pocket, stuffing it until it couldn't hold anymore. Then she went after her fellow Maquis.

"Tulley, the Orkitz is moving to intercept us," Mysra reported.

"Hold relative position. The assault team will be contacting us any minute now," Tulley replied. He caught Mysra's scowl but he let it slide. There was a lot to scowl about. Like, where the hell was the Odyssey going?

The Maquis ended up executing the yacht's engineers. There were only three of them but they'd managed to scrounge up a single disruptor and as one died another would pick it up. It seemed a waste, and it was the single most valiant act that any Cardassian had ever performed in front of them, but it ensured that no one would reverse their actions.

Ro manipulated the engine's intermix regulator, destabilizing it, and then encrypting it so no one could reverse what she'd done. Satisfied, she flipped open her communicator, "Ro to Indomitable, three to beam up."

"About damn time," Tulley growled, "We're about to go into combat."

"Then what are you waiting for? Transport us already!" Ro retorted.

Tulley groaned as he toggled the computer to page Thool.

Ro entered the bridge and relieved Tulley. Tulley assumed control of the weapons allowing Mysra to release control of the targeting sensors and concentrate on flying. Harrelson took over the engineering station and Fren assumed OPS duties.

"The Orkitz just retracted its weapons shrouds, Tulley announced, "Targeting sensors are going active."

"Did they even bother to try hailing us?" Ro asked rhetorically.

"Nope," Sosa answered.

"Erika, patch me into the Odyssey. It's time for Phase II of our plan."

"There's a Phase II?" Tulley asked.

"You were aboard ship so you missed those planning sessions," Ro teased.

Tulley muttered some very vile obscenities as Sosa hailed the Odyssey. Macen's face appeared on Ro's screen.

"All right, Brin. It's time for our resident mischief maker to unleash her wiles," Ro stated.

"You do realize she'll never let it go that she was vital to a plan?" Macen wondered.

"That's why I keep you around. You can deal with it," Ro cut the line; "Raise shields and go weapons hot. We'll be attacking the Orkitz in 30 seconds."

"Skipper, they've got eight disruptor banks and four photon launchers. We've got half that and our magazines are almost dry. We've only got three photons," Tulley advised his captain.

"So make every shot count," Ro suggested playfully.

Tulley thought that his commander had finally lost her mind. That's when his console bleeped a warning at him. Everything about the Orkitz's profile had changed.

"The Cardie Q-ship, something has happened. Their shields are down and their targeting sensors are offline," Tulley reported.

"Their weapons are still active?" Ro asked with disbelief.

"Yeah, but they have to manually aim them," Tulley replied.

"Remind me that T'Kir doesn't get a Christmas bonus," Ro urged, "Now, target that ship's engines and fire. Full phaser spread and a single, repeat single, torpedo."

"You got it!" all of Tulley's enthusiasm had returned. This was going to be like shooting the proverbial fish in a barrel.

"Mysra, bring us in a strafing course over the Cardies and get some distance from the yacht while you're at it," Ro ordered, "Make one forward pass and then swing around and make another."

"But that'll bring us in range of the yacht again," Mysra pointed out.

"We'll be burning at full impulse, making like a bat straight out of the Fire Caves. Meanwhile they'll be lumbering along pulling themselves closer to an imminent warp core breach. Got it?" Ro had to ask.

"I've not only got it, I love it," Mysra grinned.

"Then make it happen," Ro ordered.

The Indomitable strafed the Orkitz, wheeled around, and made another pass. She then boosted out of the immediate area at full impulse. The lightly armored hull of the Q-ship made the damage wreaked by the phasers even greater than would have been endured by a ship of the line. The photon nearly destroyed the engineering compartment but the impulse reactor was spared so she set out in pursuit.

She was only a few thousand kilometers from the yacht when it destructed. The Orkitz was ripped apart by the violence of that detonation. Gutted and ruined, she desperately cried for help as the shock wave hurled her towards Ronara Prime's atmosphere and certain death.

The second Q-ship arrived from Ronara 4. Her ID transponder labeled her the Grunla. The Grunla came in with weapons charged, seeing no need to be coy with her true identity. The Indomitable's shields absorbed several strikes. Inside, Tulley made his report.

"Shields at 73%. We need to get facing them before they bring another bring another volley our way. They're locking torpedoes even as I speak," he announced.

"Mysra, bring us about!" Ro commanded, "All of our primary weapons face forward. Our chase armament will hardly scratch their paint."

"Hold on," Mysra advised, "The inertial damper is going to have fits."

The scoutship pulled into a "Crazy Ivan" and rotated 180 degrees. The momentum almost threw everyone aboard off of their feet. They were now facing the freighter and Tulley unleashed all of their phasers and a photon at them.

Ro could have cheered as the freighter's command pod exploded. However, it kept coming at them. She realized it must have an auxiliary command station, not unlike the Enterprise-D's Battle Bridge. Where the hell was T'Kir's magic when they really needed it?

"Skipper!" Tulley nearly shouted, "Their sensors have all gone down and their shields just collapsed."

"Speak of the Devil and she delivers," Ro commented to no one in particular, "Fire all phasers. I want them crippled."

"Skipper, they got off a distress signal," Sosa reported, "Starfleet Search and Rescue is responding from Starbase 354."

"ETA?" Ro wanted to know.

"An hour," Sosa answered.

"Tulley, finish off the freighter. Mysra, plot us a course out of the system and head for the Badlands," Ro ordered.

"The Odyssey is reporting that the third Q-ship is in-bound and banging away with active sensors," Sosa said.

"They're hunting," Ro grimaced, "Inform the Odyssey to break off. The Cardies are getting on to her and we just launched our last torpedo. Mysra, get us out of here now."

"Yes, ma'am!" Mysra laid in the course and implemented it. As expected, the third Q-ship followed them all the way to the Badlands. It even tried to pursue them into the plasma storms but its lack of maneuverability worked against it and it was destroyed as a plasma funnel enveloped it. The Indomitable sought out a Maquis base and took shelter for a week.

For once, Ro's cell was hailed as heroes by the Maquis Council and the Maquis Commander himself. Ro could have done without the hubbub. She just wanted to check on the remainder of her cell that was left behind.

At the end of the week, she and her crew were back on Ronara Prime. Her cell hadn't been destroyed by a Constabulary crackdown in her absence. The remaining Maquis had taken refuge at Denabi and the police had never come close to them. The Odyssey was deep inside Cardassian space scouting out the situation and getting a bead on what their next target should be.

Being at Denabi reminded Ro of Kevin McConnell. He'd be back in 83 days. Maybe she'd finally celebrate her victory with him when he returned. It would be a night full of fun if nothing else.

 

Cardassian Ranks

Gorr

Gorr is a Cardassian military rank title, one of the lowest named ranks in use in the 24th century by the Cardassian Guard agency of the Cardassian Central Command.

Garresh

Garresh make up the vast bulk of the military. Garresh is a Cardassian enlisted rank title which, in translation to Federation Standard, is approximately equivalent to a non-commissioned officer of Starfleet.

Gil

Gil (sometimes seen as Kel) is a Cardassian officer rank title which, in translation to Federation Standard, is approximately equivalent to an ensign of Starfleet. Gil is either a non-commissioned officer or junior officer rank. Space stations typically carry enough lifeboats only for personnel down to, and including, the rank of Gil.

Glinn

Glinn is a Cardassian officer rank title which, in translation to Federation Standard, is approximately equivalent to a lieutenant of Starfleet. Glinn is a staff officer rank.

Dalin

Dalin is a Cardassian officer rank title which, in translation to Federation Standard, is approximately equivalent to a lieutenant commander of Starfleet. The title of dalin was in use in the 24th century by the Cardassian Guard agency of the Cardassian Central Command.

Dal

Dal is a Cardassian officer rank title which, in translation to Federation Standard, is approximately equivalent to a commander of Starfleet.

Gul

Gul is a Cardassian officer rank title which, in translation to Federation Standard, is approximately equivalent to a ship's captain of Starfleet. Gul is a command officer rank. Guls hold command ranging in size from vessels to Orders (approx. 500,000 personnel).

Jagul

Jagul is a Cardassian flag officer rank title which, in translation to Federation Standard, is approximately equivalent to a commodore or rear admiral of Starfleet.

Legate

Legate is a 24th century Cardassian officer rank title which is approximately equivalent to an admiral of Starfleet. Legate is the highest rank in the Cardassian military, and while it resembles the rank of Admiral in some respects, it is more of a political position than a rank. Since the Cardassian government is a military-controlled stratocracy, Legates serve both military and governmental functions simultaneously.

 

Credits

The Cardassian Table of Ranks employed originated in, and is naturally featured within, the Pocket Books' Star Trek Terok Nor trilogy. I can claim no credit because, quite frankly, I'm not that brilliant.

 

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