The Rebel, The Doppelganger, The Traitor, The Soldier, The Exile, The
The Mercenary, The Stray, and one ship shared by all. The tale has merely begun...
"I’ve heard a lot about the
Maquis. One of my instructors at Tactical Training, a Lt. Commander in
"Well now, if it isn’t the great man himself." Ro Laren hooted as she approached, "Nice change of clothes, and the tattoo is the perfect touch."
The target of Ro’s verbal teasing was the man named Chakotay. Not long ago they had both been Starfleet officers. Ro even studied under him at Starfleet’s Advanced Tactical Training. Chakotay had departed his post after receiving the news of the massacre of his home colony of Dorvan V at the hands of the Cardassians.
The turnover of the colony into Cardassian hands was a direct result of the treaty that ended the 2nd Cardassian War and established a new Demilitarised Zone across the sector. No military units were allowed in the Zone without an accompanying escort. The newly established border boundaries placed dozens of Federation colonies under Cardassian control. The affected settlers were given a choice: relocate or fend for yourselves with the Cardassians.
It soon became apparent that those stubborn souls that clung to their homes would find no rest under Cardassian auspices. Cardassian settlers and Civil Militia began a concentrated program of harassment and illegal arrests. Medical services too were denied. Grumbling became dissent and dissent led to revolution and the Maquis were born. Named after the famed French Resistance of Earth, these settlers sought the return of their basic freedoms and the right to call their worlds their own again.
The Federation Council, and therefore Starfleet Command, declared the Maquis to be terrorists and their actions illegal. Many Starfleet officers resigned or abandoned their posts to enlist in the Maquis’ ranks. Many of them had joined Starfleet during the 1st Cardassian War or had been born in the area now within the DMZ. Chakotay fit in both those categories. Ashamed of his people’s traditional ways, he’d left Dorvan V only to find himself the colony’s only known survivor.
An old friend from the Academy, Sveta Korepanova, contacted Chakotay and asked if he wished to join the Maquis. Chakotay accepted her offer and resigned his commission immediately. Travelling to the DMZ, he stopped at Deep Space 9 to rendezvous with Sveta. From there they travelled to the Maquis Brigade Commander’s headquarters on Riva VI. Chakotay was impressed with Calvin Hudson, as Hudson was with Chakotay. Chakotay’s record and former rank of Lt. Commander persuaded Hudson to bequeath command of the Ju’day-class scout, SS Zola, to him.
Chakotay’s crew grew steadily as his skills at piloting the raptor-like craft increased. Tales of his daring quickly spread across the Zone, as did volunteers offering to fill any void. His command staff, however, had remained steadfast if somewhat underfilled. The Bajoran woman Seska was his 1st officer and occasional lover. His Chief Engineer was a fiery tempered half-human/Klingon woman named B’Elanna Torres. The latest recruit was a rather flippant man named Tom Paris.
Ro too, had earned her own command. Sent by Starfleet to the stockade on Jaros II, she was released by Admiral Kennally in order to guarantee that the Cardassians would capture the Bajoran guerrilla fighter Oorta. Ro confided in her acting CO, Jean-Luc Picard and the plot between Kennally and the Cardassian High Command was revealed. Impressed by Ro’s performance and her potential, Picard offered her the post of Flight Control Officer aboard the USS Enterprise. Two years later, Starfleet assigned her the task of infiltrating the Ronaran Maquis cell. Ro switched allegiances and received brigade command out of respect for the cell’s founder, Macius, wishes after his death. Her command staff was just as varied as Chakotay’s. Her 1st Officer was a former farmer named Aric Tulley. Her Ops officer was an emotionally and mentally disturbed Vulcan called T’Kir. A Trill named Lisea Danan serving as the Sciences/Sensor Specialist also ranked as Ro’s confidant.
Ro had brought her Ju’day-class raider, the Indomitable, to Dozaria in the plasma storm filled Badlands, to rendezvous with Chakotay and his cell. Such meetings were rare within the Maquis since the most potent weapon the guerrillas possessed was secrecy. Ro had mulled over this decision for hours before contacting Chakotay. He was the one man besides Cal Hudson she trusted with the information she was about to share and it desperately needed to be shared.
"So, can I ask what this is about?" Chakotay asked good-naturedly, "No Brigade Commander but Cal Hudson as ever called on me to arrange a face to face meeting."
"You can ask," Ro’s tone was suddenly laced with distaste, "but you won’t like the answer. My cell’s Intelligence Officer has unearthed evidence of two major threats to Maquis camps and operatives. The first is the existence of a training camp the Cardassian High Command utilises to train their Militia and civilian forces in paramilitary tactics."
"And the second threat?" Chakotay asked, his voice involuntarily lowering to match Ro’s hushed tones.
"Here’s the worst part." Ro’s eyes dared Chakotay to challenge her warning, "There’s an infiltrator within the Maquis Brigade Council."
Being a member, alongside Ro, of said Council, Chakotay found this news difficult to believe, "What makes you believe any of this?"
"I trust my Intelligence Officer with my life." Ro responded firmly, "I think you will too once you meet him."
"All right." Chakotay conceded, "Can I at least know his name?"
"His name is Brin Macen." Ro answered, "I suppose you’ve heard of him?"
"Yes, I have." Chakotay admitted while still reeling, "And you’re right, I’m willing to put my trust in him.
Brin Macen was an El-Aurian, the only El-Aurian, to join Starfleet. Trained as a social scientist and historian, Starfleet Intelligence immediately tapped him for cultural studies and analysis. As the 1st Cardassian War broke out, Macen travelled to the front and studied Cardassian and Federation tactics in action. He soon became one of Starfleet’s in-house experts on Cardassia and a reliable field agent. Shortly after the signing of the DMZ Accords, Macen slipped into the DMZ under Starfleet orders to "observe the displaced colonists". He did far more than that and threw in with the revolting settlers.
Macen sat alongside Chakotay, Ro, Torres, Tulley and Danan. Although Tulley and Danan had previously been exposed to the material Macen would be briefing everyone on, they’d never been told the true magnitude of the problem. When Chakotay had been advised to bring an officer or two he had unshakeable trust in, only B’Elanna had come to mind. This surprised and disturbed him. He and Seska had been drifting apart for some time now and Paris, although a damned fine pilot, was still too erratic to be relied upon.
"So why are we here?" B’Elanna asked snappishly, "We could have met aboard the Liberty."
Chakotay had been forced to alter his ship’s registry after a run in with a Galor-class cruiser that almost left the venerable ship in pieces and transmitted the name Zola across the Cardassian Union. Sensing his feisty engineer’s temper rising, he quietly placed a restraining hand on her forearm, just subtly enough to almost go unnoticed. Torres shrank back down into her seat and glared harshly at anyone willing to meet her gaze. Seeing that everyone was settled in, Macen began his briefing.
"We’re all here because of two discoveries that I, and several other nameless Maquis agents, have made. The first is a verification of a long held belief: the Cardassians are operating a training facility just outside their side of the Zone."
Danan and Tulley had been forewarned but Torres’ reaction was wholly unguarded, "Those lying p’toks! They’ll pay. We have to destroy this place and blow them straight to hell."
"Easy B’Elanna. We’ll get to that." Chakotay spoke softly, grounding her, "The second piece of news is even worse so be prepared."
Torres shot her commander a wounded look as Macen announced, "We’ve discovered at least one cell has been infiltrated at Brigade Command level, if not more."
"And you suspect us?" Torres’ angry tone promised injury in kind for insult.
"I suspect every brigade cell." Macen calmly informed her, "Including our own. I’ve discussed counter-measures with my various counterparts. Your cell is unique in that it doesn’t have a dedicated intelligence officer. Also, your group lacks a specific staging ground, making you highly mobile with little support personnel embedded within the local populace."
"And the final factor was that I trust you." Ro informed Chakotay.
"I appreciate that." Chakotay admitted, "Especially considering how hard it is for you to rely on others."
"Tell me about it." Tulley muttered.
Ro gave her lieutenant an affronted glare. Tulley took it, as he took everything, with stride. The stocky, greying human’s decades as a farmer had taught him patience and resiliency. His craggy features usually did not betray his emotions but his concern for Ro was the singular exception that defied the rule.
"Aric has a point." Macen concurred, "Your overall reluctance to trust other Brigade commanders hasn’t won you many allies in the Council."
Ro studied Macen from across the table. Sitting next to Tulley made for a great comparison contrast. Tulley’s clean-shaven craggy features defied Macen’s goatee bearing round face. Tulley’s dull grey hair fared poorly against Macen’s strawberry-blond. Macen’s blue-green eyes seemed electric compared to Tulley’s near obsidian ones. Despite the war and the deprivations, Macen still seemed alive next to Tulley’s stolid demeanour.
Although, Ro had to admit, that seems to describe every El-Aurian I know, all two of them. Unlike Guinan, however, Macen was prone to mood swings ranging from fatalism to untameable enthusiasm. Discreetly contacting Guinan, Ro learned that such behaviour was the norm for El-Aurians exposed to something called the Nexus. Still, he’s the best damned intelligence officer I’ve ever met so what the hell?
"I don’t need a lot of allies." Ro replied, "I just need good ones."
"Well you have one here." Chakotay assured her, "So now we have to decide what to do next. We need two intertwining gambits here."
"What do you mean?" Tulley asked.
"The strike on the training camp is fairly straightforward unless some leaks the information." Chakotay explained, "Now I suggest we plan the assault and we inform the Council of our plans."
"But the Council’s compromised." Ro reminded him.
"And we’ll use that to our advantage." Chakotay promised her, "We’ll contact each Brigade commanders and let them know what we’re doing. What they won’t know is that we’ll be giving each and every one of them a false attack plan."
"We lie to them?" Torres asked.
"We decoy them." Macen corrected, "We disseminate false trails to different cells, assigning specific data to each target and track which ones produce results."
Ro gazed at Chakotay with admiration; "I’m impressed."
"Don’t be." Chakotay warned, "Now we have to impose a communications silence from now until we leave and we have to plan dozens of attacks that will never happen as well as a real one."
He gave everyone a wry smile; "We’re in for a long night."
Glinn Marak fidgeted as Gul Evek’s shuttle landed. The Central Command had appointed Evek as the Cardassian Liaison to the Cardassian Colonists in the DMZ. Despite euphemistically phrased titles, this made Evek the Cardassian Prefect for the Zone. An associate, if not a friend, of Gul Dukat’s; Evek employed many of the same measures Dukat had regarding Bajor. Dukat had faced the Bajoran Resistance; Evek now faced the Maquis. Evek swore that unlike Dukat, he would ultimately prove victorious.
Marak oversaw one of Evek’s initiatives that had been meeting with great success.
Falag III did not officially have any settlements upon it outside of the spartan agricultural colonies that littered its damp surface. The Evek II Training Facility did not officially exist, even within the files of the Central Command. It remained a "black" operation, the kind favoured by the accursed Obsidian Order, with no data trail to lead opponents to its gates. Or so Evek believed as his shuttle settled down on the duranium-laced permacrete landing pad.
Marak, however, knew the truth. Various freighters and suppliers had seen the base. The official lie that it was a Law Enforcement Militia Academy wouldn’t hold a litre of canar when tested by the most rudimentary of sensors. Various Central Command outposts and inspectors were supposed to vet the crews and cargoes of ships sent here but Cardassian inspectors, like their Klingon counterparts, were notoriously easy to bribe. The inspectors couldn’t be told of the base’s existence so there was no way of condemning a Glinn there or a Sergeant there that strolled away a few strips of latinum happier. The only trick was convincing Evek of this.
As the shuttle’s hatch descended to the ground and Evek swaggered down the gangplank, Marak’s heart sank. Amongst a race of pompous, blustering and sauntering military leaders, Evek outswaggered all but the Central Command’s elite. Even the Federation recognised Evek’s particular brand of bravado. Marak, however, would never be ranked among the "known" quantities of the Central Command.
Ten years ago, during the final death throes of the Bajoran Occupation and the 1st Encroachment War with the Federation, Marak advocated bypassing the Obsidian Order in order to directly procure intelligence on both parties. His outspoken critiques of the Central Command’s blindness regarding the foes they faced froze his career in place. His opinion that the Obsidian Order had outlived his usefulness made a life outside the military an open invitation for a prearranged trial at the hands of Ministry of Justice. Only his expertise on Bajoran and Federation affairs kept him from the backwater colonies and outposts of the Cardassian Union.
"Ah, Marak, how are things going?" Evek asked jovially enough.
Knowing he’d been selected to instruct his recruits on the Federation mindset, he opted to answer in that arena first, "The latest trainees have enthusiastically responded to the training program. They’ve become much more motivated since the Maquis have begun retaliating after attacks on Federation worlds."
Evek clucked at Marak, "Retaliated? I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘provoked’. They relentlessly attack our citizens and now they are defending themselves. The colonists merely want justice."
"Then why did the Maquis organise only after the first graduates of this program tested their skills?" Marak asked.
Evek’s eyes went cold, "Are you questioning the right of the Cardassian colonists to defend themselves?"
"Defend yes." Marak answered, "Pre-emptively strike, no."
"Exactly what are you implying here?" Evek hissed, "Those worlds are now ours. We have the right to determine who can live upon them. Those Federation colonists are unwanted and require…‘persuading’. Do you have a problem with this?"
"No." Marak emphatically replied, "I have no issues with striking colonies on our side of the Zone. Strikes on the Federation side are another matter altogether. Even Starfleet won’t sit be complacently forever as their citizens get harassed and killed. And on top of everything else you have the Maquis."
"Starfleet varen in lembya’s garb." Evek cursed.
"Funny you saying that." Marak observed dryly, "The humans have a nearly identical anecdotal expression."
"You’ve been trying my patience since I landed." Evek snarled, "Do you have anything productive to report?"
Marak nodded, suddenly sombre; "All the trainees will be graduating ahead of schedule in eight days time."
"Ahead, eh?" Evek grunted, "And what about their quality?"
"They’re the match for any soldier in the Cardassian Military." Marak answered with utter confidence.
"You’d better hope they are." Evek warned him, "If they prove otherwise, I’ll drum you out of the service and let the Obsidian Order have their way with you."
Marak swallowed his fear at that thought and dismissed himself after presenting an aide to lead the Gul on a tour. Once ensconced in his office, Marak pulled out a half full bottle of canar. As he poured a glass, he was grateful his estranged wide had been so kind to send him the bottle. He thought he’d have need of it over the next few days.
Both Maquis cells, the Ronaran and Dorvan Brigades, were hard at work prepping for the upcoming attack. Without the total element of surprise, no raid of this scale would’ve stood any hope of success. Not only were the Brigade Commanders utilising their flagships, each cell was contributing support craft as well. All said, eight craft were going into battle. This operation now classified as the single largest campaign in Maquis history.
Chakotay’s cell brought a Bajoran raider, retrofitted to handle a warp drive, into the fray as well as an illegally armed civilian Type 5 shuttle. Tom Paris would fly the shuttle while Chakotay helmed the Liberty himself. The raider was under Seska’s command with Torres co-piloting. Only Chakotay and Torres knew their ultimate destination and purpose, the rest would learn upon arrival.
Besides the Indomitable, Ro’s brigade would also contribute two of the smaller Ju’day courier types she’d flown while infiltrating, and ultimately enlisting with, the cell she now led. The other craft included a modified Peregrine-class courier/fighter and a Blackbird-class scout. The latter were harder to acquire since they were still in Federation and Starfleet service. Tulley would pilot one courier while Kalita, the brigade’s Special Operations Officer, would take the other courier ship christened the Wanderer. Emjim Thool, normally the Indie’s chief engineer, would command a small team aboard the Peregrine. Macen, Danan and T’Kir commanded the scoutship, registered under the name Odyssey.
After all the vessels lifted from Dozaria, Chakotay signalled the ersatz "fleet", "This is Corsair One to all elements." Chakotay had wryly accepted the title of Fleet Commander before setting out, "Set course 167 mark 8 and adjust Z minus 54 degrees. Lay in course at warp 5 and engage on my mark. Three…Two…One…Mark!"
With that, eight ships slipped into subspace and hurtled directly towards Falag III. Chakotay was bothered by the fact that their trap had failed to produce results thus far. They’d delayed launching the offensive for two days but still nothing had come back to them. They’d been forced to go ahead without narrowing down which cell was hosting the highly placed Cardassian vole. At this point, even the Ronaran and Dorvan cells were under scrutiny.
Chakotay hated the concept of doubting any of his people so he signalled Ro on a secure, specially encrypted channel; "Any updates?"
Ro shook her head bleakly. Like Chakotay, she was manning the helm of the Indomitable and could talk more freely, "Not a damned nibble on any of our rabbit trails. Various cells have mobilised but the Cardies are staying put."
"Have you checked with Macen recently?" Chakotay pressed.
"No." Ro replied firmly, "And I’m not going to. I seem to recall one of Tactical instructors drilling the necessity of letting troops do their jobs without harassment from superiors."
"I really said that?" Chakotay wore a chagrined smile.
"Repeatedly." Ro replied with a chuckle.
"Well, at least I can still make the ladies’ smile." Chakotay unleashed all his charm.
"You shouldn’t waste all that on me." Ro warned even as she laughed in delight, "Don’t you already have an admirer?"
"Seska?" He asked, then shook his head in a pensive manner; "We briefly experimented with a relationship. Things are a lot looser now. We comfort each other when our needs coincide."
"I thought fraternisation between officers and subordinates was frowned upon." Ro hinted.
"You’re still thinking like a Starfleet officer, Ro." Chakotay pointed out, "Why aren’t we wearing uniforms or rank insignia? Because we’re guerrilla fighters fighting for freedom on our own doorstep, that’s why. Look at your own brigade, aren’t Macen and Danan lovers?"
Ro pondered that. The El-Aurian and Trill were lovers. A few of the other brigade’s soldiers had families and loved ones on, or near, Ronara. The vast majority, though, were like Tulley, Thool, and herself, with no loved ones or surviving family thanks to the Cardassians. It was difficult to consider intimacy when you faced your own demise every day.
A few of them had sexual encounters between themselves and others. These weren’t romantic liaisons nor were they intended to be. Ro understood the sexual desire and tensions created by living under stress and living in constant peril. She herself had recently accepted a solicitation from another Maquis Brigade commander.
The trick to such encounters was making certain both parties knew what they were getting into. The morning after, Ro dressed and made her ship, the Wanderer. Her companion for the evening had thought otherwise and tried to prevent her for leaving. This mistake earned him two black eyes, a split lip, three missing teeth, a dislocated shoulder, four broken ribs, a dislocated kneecap and a bruised and swollen groin.
"Yes, they are." Ro conceded. "But that’s not the same as me having sex with someone under my command. That’s one part of Starfleet doctrine I can agree with."
"Starfleet doctrine is well and fine for Starfleet officers." Chakotay replied, "But most of our ranks are filled with farmers and labourers. Some cells even have families within them."
"That’s a policy I had problems with even in Starfleet." Ro confessed, "There’s no room on a starship for children."
"There’s no children in our ships either." Chakotay reminded her, "But this is a topic for another time. We’ve enough to do without getting distracted. You’ll update me the moment Macen and his crew get a nibble?"
"Of course." Ro assured him, "I’ll patch the comm feed directly to you so we can share the bad news."
Chakotay deactivated his comm with a bleak smile. Ro, like he himself, didn’t expect their bait and switch to work. Somehow the damned Cardies had outmanoeuvred them again. Something or someone failed to tip the High Command off. All the other cells had received false information stirring enough to provoke an inquiry of official and unofficial sources. Cardassian patrols should have been re-routed to deal with dozens of shadowy threats. Seeing as how that hadn’t happened, he had to start looking at the only two cells left out of the disinformation loop. This included Ro’s cell as well as his own.
Aboard the Odyssey, Macen scrolled through the incoming data displayed before him. Loosing a long sigh he looked up to see how his bridge crew was handling the stress of the mission. A Blackbird-class ship didn’t have much room on the bridge, or anywhere else for that matter. Built to hold a maximum of twenty-two crewmen, the Blackbird-class had reached its zenith during the Cardassian border wars of the 2350’s. . Designed for Starfleet and civilian classifications, the durable scout saw its sales plummet when Starfleet rejected the contractor’s replacement model. The modularly designed Raven-class soon became more popular than the dated Blackbird.
Most Blackbird-class scouts now in service were operated under the auspices of Federation colonial governments. A rare few were owned by private, and sometimes, secretive groups. Macen had acquired the Odyssey from one such group. Equipped for speed and surveillance, the Odyssey’s primary role was to act as a command and control platform by which the cell’s strike force units received ongoing reports of enemy movement and action.
Macen rose from his station, moved to the Science/Communications station and leaned down to Lisea Danan’s ear; "Anything?"
She shook her head ruefully, "Not a nibble.
"Damn." Macen swore under his breath.
"I bet it's Seska." T’Kir piped up from the Helm/Ops station.
"Oh, really?" Macen asked dryly, "And why is that?"
"She acts funny." Came T’Kir’s simple reply.
This coming from an emotional Vulcan who’s half-deranged, Macen thought to himself.
"Hey!" she protested, "I heard that. Think nice, thank you very much"
When it isn’t her ears, it’s her damned telepathy, Macen mentally cursed.
A squad of Cardassian Militia approached the Administrative Centre in the middle of the city. The city had been abandoned after the original colonists had died of an unknown plague. Once the High Command determined that the mysterious virus did not effect Cardassians or humanoids from across the Quadrant, they left mystery of the colonists’ identity to rot with the decaying rubble of their abandoned townships and cities.
Marak, although curious as what historical and archaeological treasures were to be found, utilised a nearby abandoned township as a training ground. Political prisoners and captured Maquis were brought here, handed weapons and food replicators and told they could live here in exile rather than on a labour colony. What they weren’t told is that the Cardassian paramilitary training base was situated 20 kilometres to the west and the trainees would use the city as an interactive live-fire firing range. Tonight’s graduation exercises would consist of a midnight raid on the prisoners’ village.
"We’re here." Chakotay announced to the Liberty’s crew as they entered the Falag system.
"We have an incoming transmission from the Odyssey." Chell reported from Tactical.
Chakotay nodded back at the Bolian, who transferred the audio only channel to the ship’s speakers; "This is Jolly Roger to Corsair Group. Be advised, we have detected an ageing warp field signature, Galor-class. She set course out of the system between 12-24 hours ago. We’re assuming our station and will keep you posted of further developments."
"This is Corsair One to Jolly Roger," Chakotay replied, transmitting no visual image, "Thank you and stay safe."
Evek had stood before the paramilitary volunteers and the airship transports that would land them nearby their intended target. Evek’s tech had assembled the four troop transports being used in the exercise. Except for the pilots aboard the transports, and Marak and himself, all of his military personnel had departed with his ship for a replenishment stop at Ephrul II. His troops desperately needed the forty-eight hours of shore leave Monitoring Station 47 could provide. Afterwards, the ship would return to pick Evek and the graduated paramilitaries for their return to the DMZ colonies.
Before setting out, the paramilitaries had assembled to hear Evek speak, "As you know I’m Gul Evek and I am also the High Command’s liaison to the Federation’s portion of the DMZ and Commander of the 9th Order. That's me, but what about you? You are the brave faces that will make a larger, safer Cardassia. You are the men and women who have volunteered to drive the invaders out of our land. Land given to us by the Federation itself. Now the citizens must be driven out. The High Command cannot assist nor intervene but we are with you in spirit. I’ve heard high praise about you from Glinn Marak. Go now and prove his reliability."
The paramilitaries turned and silently piled into the awaiting transports. As they lifted and departed, Evek levelled his gaze at Marak, "If they fail, or any part of this evening goes awry, "I’ll cut you loose and feed your carcass to the voles."
Marak stymied the reflexive swallow that tightened his throat; "They won’t fail."
"You’d better hope so."
"Jolly Roger to Corsair One." Chakotay heard over the Starfleet surplus earpiece receptor he wore.
"Go ahead." Chakotay urged.
"Be advised, four troop transports have lifted from you target and are headed east by magnetic true." Macen reported.
"It looks like a training exercise." Macen surmised, "You can get the transports on your way to target Alpha-One.."
"I concur." Chakotay was already inputting a modified Order of Battle and then transmitted it, "I’ve just up-linked the revised battle plan to the rest of Corsair Group and
am proceeding accordingly.
"Roger that and the reception of the battle plan." Macen signed off.
Chakotay smiled. Nearly all the personnel in command positions for this raid had former Starfleet training experience. Ro, Macen, and Danan were all former Starfleet officers. Tom Paris was an officer drummed out for falsifying documents. Torres had been a Starfleet Academy cadet who dropped after second year. Although Chakotay’s nonchalant style occasionally ran contrary to Starfleet’s Standard Operating procedures, he had to admit they knew how to plan a covert strike.
Corsair One to Corsair group." Chakotay signalled, "Commence Operation Privateer."
The seven ships comprising Corsair Group descended into the atmosphere of Falag. The heat and friction made their shields glow because of the sharp diving approach. The iridescent glow made them visible to the village prisoners. It also distracted a Cardassian militiaman who rested up against a pile of stones, alerting the Bajorans and Maquis. As the firefight began, the troop transports lifted.
"Corsair four, follow me in." Chakotay ordered Ro.
"I’m with you." Ro blandly replied.
Chakotay knew Ro could make a starship stand on end if she wanted, "Here we go, phasers only."
Both the Indomitable and the Liberty dove at the unsuspecting transports at a 45°angle. At the very end, the targeted pilots desperately began making evasive manoeuvres but to no end. The phasers of the two ships ripped the four transports apart. The Liberty and the Indie joined the rest of their party and headed for the paramilitary training camp.
The prisoners opened fire at the Cardassians as they scrambled for cover. They couldn’t see the doomed transports lift off, but they saw the glowing trail of superheated air headed for the airships. The airships’ explosive deaths lit up the dawning sky. When four other ships passed by overhead, the prisoners rallied and counter-attacked their hunters.
Although they possessed numerical superiority alongside unprecedented civilian training, the paramilitaries soon themselves routed and fleeing back towards the training facility. Emboldened, the prisoners gave chase. One woman, a Maquis from New Muscovy, had the presence of mind to grab a communicator from a Cardassian corpse. Disrupter fire flashed lanced through the thick forest bordering the ancient village.
Glinn Buljic stared at the Galor-class’ main viewer. His leave, like everyone else aboard, had been cancelled. The Repair Tech 3rd Grade was now hung by his wrists in Engineering. After a few days of pain, revilement and beatings, he would be cut loose and the treatment would renew itself. The crew, after all, needed to see justice in action. They also needed entertainment. Hopefully Gul Evek wouldn’t mind their early return. If he did, they might be looking for a new repair tech.
"Corsair One to Jolly Roger, any action up there?" came Chakotay’s voice
"Negative Corsair One." Macen assured him, "This solar system is asleep."
"Corsair One to Corsair Group. Commence attack." Chakotay ordered. The six ships divided into three two-man units with one ship tasked with combat air patrol. Paris’ shuttle and Seska’s raider formed one wing-wingman division. Chakotay paired with the Peregrine under Thool’s command. Ro flew CAP while Kalita and Tulley’s couriers comprised the last strike element.
"Corsair Group, tally ho!" Chakotay ordered, evoking an old Terran battle cry.
Even as Seska aligned her ship slightly port and leeward of Paris’ shuttle, she wondered what this was really all about. The fact that they were raiding some High Command facility was plainly obvious. What wasn’t plainly obvious was that Chakotay had gone to great lengths to keep her out of the loop on the planning stages. Specifically, he’d kept her out of the loop.
Gul Evek had personally assigned Seska to Chakotay in order to monitor what an ex-Advanced Tactical Training Instructor could do. Evek refused to believe what even his top field agent repetitively told him: Starfleet refused to overtly or covertly assist the Maquis. Seska couldn’t return home until she discovered the missing link between the Maquis and Starfleet. In the interim, she amused herself by taking Chakotay into her bed.
He proved a passionate fighter but naïve in the affairs of the heart. Despite her cultural nuances and prejudices, Seska actually fell for Chakotay. This came at the same time Chakotay began to distance himself and the half-Klingon woman enlisted. Although Chakotay was oblivious, the Torres woman constantly gave him her distorted
version of a lovesick look. Seska, however, was all too aware and began a quiet territorial duel with Torres. All this drove a wedge between Seska relationship with Chakotay and widened the door for his growing friendship with B’Elanna. This earned Torres Seska’s undying hatred.
Although left out of the planning stages of this attack, it was obvious they were engaging a facility of some kind. Probably some damned covert base or something, Seska fumed, It’s just Evek’s style. With Torres sitting next to her, there was no way for Seska to warn the facility’s occupants. The best she could do was miss as much as was plausibly acceptable.
"Corsairs Three and Four, commence your run." Chakotay’s voice, firm and confidant, came across the comm channel
Paris took the Type into a sharp dive. B’Elanna easily matched him with a tight grin, "Let’s see what you have flyboy."
Paris opened fire on several of the modular dormitories as he passed overhead. Seska did likewise as Torres followed Tom’s wake. The central box-like building was a classic example of Cardassian building objectives: short, square and ugly. It possessed a low-level shield but it proved adequate against the initial strike. Both the Liberty and the Peregrine followed smartly on the first flight’s heels and bombarded the Command Centre’s shields until they collapsed. Kalita and Tulley rocked the building with their barrage before swinging around for another pass.
The paramilitary trainees were in a full rout, blindly crashing through the forest towards their camp. Mind numbing terror nearly overwhelmed them as they heard the echoes of phaser fire and detonations coming from their last refuge. How could this happen? They were Cardassians, not witless humans or spineless Bajorans. They were strong and powerful. They were…
The Maquis woman activated her communicator, "To whomever is out there, my name is Sveta Ivanova. I’m a colonist from New Muscovy. There are several dozen political prisoners that were brought here. Can you assist us? We are no friends of the Cardassians. I repeat, can you assist us?"
"What the hell?" Ro muttered as her comm came to life with Ivanova’s plea, "Corsair One, are you receiving this?"
"We are, Corsair Four." Chakotay affirmed, "I’m relaying rendezvous co-ordinates to our mystery woman. I’m sending Corsair Three to relieve you and you can take part in getting those people out of here."
"Roger that." Ro confirmed, "I’ll remain on station until relieved."
"Jolly Roger to all units." Macen’s voice broke in; "The target is now transmitting a Priority Legate Alert. Gul Evek himself is on the horn and screaming almost as loudly as the automated system."
Chakotay turned to Chell, "Take the helm."
The Bolian sputtered in surprise, "What?"
"Take the helm. I’m going to the surface." Chakotay informed him, "Take us past the command bunker and I’ll transport inside and apprehend Evek."
"Just do it!" With that, Chakotay left the bridge.
"Well, isn’t that a fine how do you do?" Chell grumbled as he activated the comm screen.
"Corsair One to Corsair Four, do you copy?" Chell’s voice sounded from Ro’s comm panel.
What the hell? Ro thought as she replied, "I copy, where is Corsair Leader?"
"He transported to the surface." Chell glumly informed her.
"Damn it all." Ro hissed between clenched teeth, "Corsair One, relieve me at my station. I’ll see to this personally."
"Acknowledged Corsair Four." Chell’s reply held both pity and relief in it.
As she swung the Indie away from her landing site, the comm panel chirped again, "Prophets! Who wants what now?"
"Jolly Roger to Corsair Group." Macen’s calm tones drifted towards her; "Long range sensors have detected a Galor-class cruiser inbound, headed directly our way. ETA in one hour, if they don’t alter course or speed."
"Corsair Four to Jolly Roger, have the Cardassians detected us or the distress beacon yet?" Ro asked apprehensively.
"We’ve been jamming the distress call but the cruiser should have us on sensors. Someone aboard that ship must be asleep at their post." Macen surmised.
"Let’s hope they stay that way." Ro prayed aloud while wondering if the aliens residing within the Bajoran wormhole really were the ancient gods of her people.
"Damned machine!" Evek snarled, "Why isn’t it working?"
"We had no budget for maintenance." Marak informed him, "All our purchases came from the Ferengi, Yridians, Llirrians, or the Bajorans."
"You…purchased…equipment…from …Bajorans?" Evek found himself in an apoplectic state, beyond reason. Back-handing Marak, Evek drew his phaser and aimed it at his sprawled subordinate, "You imbecile! Those purchases will eventually cost Cardassian lives. Do you think we’ll simply leave either Bajor or that precious wormhole alone?"
Marak pushed himself away from Evek’ sneering visage, "Why go back? We can’t siphon any more resources from Bajor, the planet would be left lifeless." Seeing Evek’s leer, Marak knew that would be one of the goals of a second Cardassian Occupation, "You’re a madman. You’d kill billions for a few more metric tonnes of ore and control of a wormhole?"
"Not just a wormhole, it’s the wormhole." Evek cackled.
"Sorry to interrupt, but it isn’t anyone’s wormhole." Chakotay said, emerging from the shadows behind Evek.
"Wonderful." Evek groused as he raised his hands, phaser displayed; "Let me guess, a meddling human? Can’t your species be content tending to your own solar system?"
"Funny, I was about to ask you the same thing." Chakotay chuckled dryly, "Now drop the phaser and kick it toward me."
Wisely, Evek did as instructed. Directing the pair with phaser, Chakotay herded them away from the communications equipment. Inspecting the displays, he shrugged and placed the powerpack from the captured Cardassian phaser at the station’s base. While adjusting his phaser’s setting he called out a warning.
"You fellas might want to take cover."
Evek and Marak dove for the floor as Chakotay shot the powerpack. The resultant explosion destroyed the communications board as well as the accompanying security controls. Picking himself up from the floor, Chakotay dusted himself off. Evek rose unsteadily while Marak still struggled to refocus on what had just transpired.
"You Maquis fool!" Evek scoffed, "Do you have any idea of what you’ve just done? My ship is due to return any time now. You and your pathetic rabble won’t stand a chance against proper Cardassian soldiers."
"I’ve stood against all kinds of Cardassians and in the end they always do whatever it takes to save their own neckbones." Chakotay replied with firm conviction, "The question now is what is the High Command’s liaison to the DMZ willing to do to buy his freedom?"
"Extortion?" Evek laughed disdainfully, "You’re not even a terrorist, you’re just a common kidnapper."
Chakotay’s eyes hardened and his jaw set as he aimed his phaser directly at Evek, "Care to make a wager?"
"Oh hell!" Danan yelped, "That cruiser just painted us with its sensors."
Macen swivelled his chair to face her station, "Was it a dedicated scan or a routine sweep?"
"Routine for now… wait a sec… dedicated search." Danan spit, "They’re hitting us with everything they have."
"Raise shields and go to Red Alert." Macen turned towards his viewer, "Better let the others know about the happy news."
Aboard the Cardassian cruiser Laskal, 1st Sensor Specialist Derin had fallen asleep at his post. Routine navigational and long-range sensor data ran through the automatic filters without any further classifications or deletions. Derin awoke to Glinn Buljic hitting him upside the head. Derin fell to the deck-plating but was suddenly aware of an ominous alarm sounding from his station.
"What is that alarm about?" Buljic demanded.
"There is a spacecraft orbiting near Falag III." Derin reported, instantly awake; "It appears to be a Federation built craft."
"Starfleet?" Buljic asked in anticipation.
Derin shook his head, "Too old and too small for a starship. I’d guess it’s a support ship modified by raiders or Maquis as a strike craft."
Buljic’s predatory smile consumed his features, "So they want to play soldier. Let’s show them how it’s done."
Sveta sat down in the co-pilot’s chair next to Kalita and upon seeing everyone that could fit aboard was aboard, nodded to the young Vulcan, "This is it. We can take off now but before we do, may I just take a moment to tell you how grateful we all are?"
Kalita merely shrugged, "I already know but you can tell me anyway."
Sveta was startled by Kalita’s response but chose to ignore it, "Just so long as we land somewhere where I can book passage back home."
"Family?" Kalita asked as though she interrogating the freed prisoner.
"No." Sveta replied, martially her own anger to fuel her resolve; "I just want to get back before the Cardies contaminate everything so badly that I won’t be able to remove their stench from my plantation."
Kalita nodded in approval then bequeathed Sveta with one her rare smiles, "I think I can guarantee you’ll get home in time."
Sveta smiled at that. Her grandparents had settled New Muscovy and she wasn’t about to leave it now. The colony had tripled in size and crop yield since its founding, thus making it a highly prized acquisition to the Cardassians. The Cardies craved the yield without any desire for the farmers. Sveta and the bulk of her Maquis cell had been captured while setting fire to the harvest.
"Thank you." Sveta repeated, "We all still have unfinished work back home."
Kalita’s smile turned rueful "Don’t we all?"
Ro materialised near Chakotay’s position but outside the room he and his prisoners now occupied. After informing her of the Laskal’s jump to high warp, she’d ordered the Odyssey closer to Falag III so that the ship could monitor the cruiser now barrelling towards them as well as take on freed captives. T’Kir operated the transporters through her Ops controls on the bridge. Danan monitored the Laskal’s progress while Macen directed the rescue operation.
Ro took in a sharp breath as she heard Chakotay’s threat. Between his training and his guilt over the losses at Dorvan V, he was more than capable of killing Evek where he stood. Until this moment, she’d never thought him actually capable of living with it. Now the timbre of his voice made her doubt her previous assessments.
She quietly crept into the room. Chakotay was to her right, phaser drawn and aimed at Evek’s blocky form. Evek and his unidentified subordinate stood to her left. Only the subordinate registered her presence and he appeared loath to acknowledge it.
"Chakotay," Ro spoke softly, "put your phaser down."
Chakotay spun in her direction. Evek lunged for the wall behind him, hitting an innocuous wall panel. Chakotay and Ro both took aim at Evek while Marak launched into action, blocking both their fields of fire. Evek slipped away into a secret passageway as Ro and Chakotay fired. Marak fell backwards as two particle beams struck him.
"Hurry!" Chakotay urged.
"We don’t have time." Ro refuted, "There’s a Galor-class cruiser coming right at us. While we’d normally be in great shape to fight it, we just took on over one hundred captives used as live fire targets. We need to go now, before that ship takes up position and begins raining fire on top of us."
Chakotay hesitated for a second, then nodded as he tapped the surplus Deltan comm badge he wore, "Corsair Leader to Corsair One, what’s your status?"
"We should be done boarding the prisoners in about ten minutes." Chell reported.
"Good. When you’re done come back around and… wait, Corsair Four Lead is trying to tell me something."
"The Indie should be done taking on passengers." Ro advised, "She could run on back here and bring us aboard. From there you could transport back to your own command."
Chakotay nodded approvingly, "I’m glad to see you were paying attention during all those stuffy lectures I gave."
"Somehow I knew they’d save my life one day when faced with impossible odds." Ro grinned.
"Corsair Leader to Corsair Four," Chakotay tapped his badge back to life, "What’s your status?"
"We’re lifting off as we speak." Thool reported.
"Good, head directly for my present location and extract Corsair Four Lead, myself and one prisoner."
"As good as done." Thool signed off.
"Ah, the Bolian Brothers," Chakotay mused whimsically, "Where would we be without them?
"Jolly Roger to Corsair Group." Macen’s voice sounded in the cramped cockpit Seska shared with Torres; "The enemy cruiser’s ETA is now twenty minutes. As far as we can determine, the only taskforce unit detected so far is ourselves. We’ll keep apprised of any changes."
"Damn it!" Torres snarled through clenched teeth, "This could ruin everything."
I can only hope, Seska thought to herself. She seized upon B’Elanna’s distraction to "accidentally" fire a phaser bolt upwards, towards the stratosphere.
Now if the cruiser paying enough attention, they may detect it. Now it was time to face Torres’ wrath.
"What the hell was that about?" B’Elanna demanded.
"I thought I saw a message drone. It must have been a bird." Seska explained with such false conviction she could have been voted Kai.
"Well, don’t do it again." Torres snapped, "That could give our position away."
That’s the point you simpleton, Seska mentally chastised’
"We’ve detected atmospheric particle weapons fire hear the training camp." Derin reported to Buljic.
"Helmsman, increase speed by one-quarter." The Glinn responded coldly.
"Jolly Roger to Corsairs" Macen’s voice was taut, "The cruiser has increased their warp speed by one-quarter. They’ll arrive in fifteen minutes and they’re coming in hot."
Chakotay glanced towards Ro upon hearing that news, "I have an idea on how to get out of here but it’ll be risky."
"Potentially dead is always better than certainly dead." Ro retorted.
"I’ll beam back to my ship and transmit the plan to everyone."
"Then why are you standing here?" she half-teased, "Go already."
"Here’s the basic plan," Chakotay’s voice resounded in every ship comprising the Corsair Group, "Cardassian sensors are less accurate than ours under high warp conditions. The fact they’re coming at full warp means they’ll drop to impulse with seconds to spare frame colliding with the planet. This means they’ll go from near-sighted to blindingly awake in for a few seconds. According to Jolly Roger, that should be anywhere from ten to twenty seconds. We’ll make our run then. Hopefully we’ll be out of the system before they know what’s occurred."
"That’s wishing for a lot." Tom Paris voiced, "They might just capture us all."
"Death by phaser array is better than a Cardassian court." Ro rebutted.
"Everyone, calm down.." Chakotay ordered, "Jolly Roger is deploying some surprises that’ll give us an edge even as we speak."
"What kind of edge?" Paris asked before Ro could speak.
"Photon mines." Chakotay replied, "We picked them up from some Ardannian separatists."
Ro knew none of that was true. Her cell had purchased the mines from Acamarian Gatherers. The only ship equipped to handle the mines was Macen’s Odyssey. Ro could understand Chakotay’s utilisation of the scoutship as the decoy. It was the fastest in their makeshift flotilla.
"Still, the timing will be dicey at best." Chakotay conceded, "That’s why Corsairs Two, Three, Five, Six and Seven will proceed ahead of Corsairs One and Four. If the Cardassians see anyone, it’ll be us."
With that settled, everyone set course and made for their rendezvous point back in the DMZ.
The Laskal emerged from subspace and thundered into the Falag system with her engines fully lit. Bleeding all the kinetic energy and velocity created a time-dilation effect around the ship which blinded all their sensors. Fortunately, this design flaw was a secret even within the Cardassian Union. None of the rabble he would face here today could possibly know of the risks Buljic was taking.
"Okay Corsair Group, get going." Chakotay urged the ships emerging from Falag III’s atmosphere, "Go to warp and don’t look back."
"Mines are deployed." T’Kir reported, "And, as ordered, our navigation array is projecting a sensor echo of us."
"Even if they figure out which of us is the decoy, we’ll be set to escape as the mines detonate." Macen assured the bridge crew.
"Sir, several ships went to warp speed off our port bow."
"How many and what kind?" Buljic demanded from Derin.
"Six, maybe eight." The Tech reported, "Two ships, however, remain in the system."
"Type and course?"
"Two Blackbird-class scouts, 120 decakats off our starboard. They are at full impulse and headed outbound from the system, presumably to join its comrades.
Visions of the Border Wars against the Federation, and of his brother’s death from a duel with a Starfleet Blackbird, clouded Buljic’s judgement, "Bring us about. I want those ships. Capture one but destroy the other."
"They took the bait!" T’Kir yelped.
"Distance from mines?" Macen inquired.
"5000 kilometres." Danan announced.
"I’m arming the mines." Macen said mainly to himself as he punched in the activation codes.
The activated mines proximity sensors now sought out their target with passive sensors, guided by their quarries’ own navigational and tactical sensors. Thrusters and magnetic field emitters would draw the mines in and once they were within 1 kilometre of their target, they would detonate. The explosion would release a yield ten times that of a Mark VI photon torpedo. If the cruiser survived, there was a good chance she’d be unsalvagebale.
"Sir!" fear laced Derin’s cry, "Something just moved towards us!"
Buljic never got to reply as explosions began rocking the soon to be gutted battle cruiser. Ahead of them, the crew of the Odyssey cheered
"That’s it folks." Macen declared, "T’Kir plot a course for home and engage at Warp 7."
Chakotay sighed. Although the mission had worked almost flawlessly, they still hadn’t caught the spy. He hated to suspect any of his personnel but if he had to, his first choice was Tom Paris. Even though Paris had been a wastrel eking out a minor existence running freight to and fro along Earth’s many spaceports and docks, his only motivation for the Maquis cause was the money Chakotay paid him. There was also the ongoing friction between Paris and Torres that disturbed him.
Chakotay took another pull from his draft of beer as Ro took a seat across from him, "What are you having?"
Ro made a face, "Why? That stuff’s revolting."
"I’m honouring the memory of my enemy and his family." Chakotay explained.
"I heard about Marak." Ro nodded, "He left behind a confession regarding the training camps, then hanged himself."
Chakotay nodded once, then took another pull; "What you missed is that was a moderate. He wanted both sides to meet in an open forum to resolve things peacefully."
"I bet that made him popular with the High Command." Ro began to see the picture, "In fact, I’m willing to bet that’s why Marak was on that planet to begin with. They wanted him dead but couldn’t find an excuse to kill him."
"They didn’t need to." Chakotay finished for her, "We did it for them."
"If it hadn’t been us, then something else would have pushed him over the edge." Ro said consolingly.
"But does there have to be an edge at all?" Chakotay asked.
Silence descended over the table and grew as the two patrons each got lost in their own thoughts and recollections. But hope remained and therefore they would once again sally forth to pick up the banner. It just wouldn’t be today. Today was a day for fellowship and healing.
|Last modified: 10.04.12|