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...
Ro Laren sat alone at her table. She was leaned up against the wall with her long legs stretched out across the bench she was seated upon. She had one leg bent, with her elbow propped against her knee. She used that hand to hold a padd that she was reading.
Her eyes were narrowed in concentration. Her black, shoulder length hair hung loosely, falling down around her face. She sighed in frustration as she tucked the loose strands back behind her ear. She suddenly remembered why she’d always worn it either short or affixed in place.
"Skipper, we got company comin’." Ro’s first officer informed her.
She jerked in her seat. She’d never heard him coming. She hated it when he pulled that off. He stood over her, smirking.
"Tulley," Ro groaned in exasperation, "would it be too much to ask for you to give me some warning?"
"Got to keep you on your toes, Skipper." He replied laconically. The older man was a source of bedrock confidence for Ro. His years as a farmer served him admirably by making him much more accepting. Tulley had raised a family in the Demilitarised Zone before the Cardassians butchered them. After that, he’d left his farm and joined the Maquis.
He’d proven himself invaluable to Ro as her lieutenant. The band of outlaw resistance fighters rarely drew the cream of the crop. It was ironic that the Maquis and Starfleet maintained an antagonistic relationship when most of them were former Federation colonists. Even more ironic was the fact that recruits with Starfleet experience invariably became leaders in the rebel organisation.
His craggy features were as bedrock as his unflappable character. His square jaw and broad shoulders made him resemble an ancient Grecian myth. His short, grey hair was combed away from his forehead. His dark eyes were lively with good humour.
"No one even knows we’re on Havelock." Ro protested.
"Someone figured it out." He replied wryly.
"Where are they?" she asked wearily.
"Outside." He answered with an understanding chuckle, "But I don’t think it’ll be as bad as you think.
"Better not be." She muttered darkly as he strode away.
Havelock "enjoyed" a stranger position in the DMZ than most planets. The treaty boundary cut right next to the planet’s system. Although the Cardassian Union nominally controlled it, its proximity to the ever-watchful Federation granted it a fair degree of reprieve form the usual Cardassian oppression.
Havelock was a known entry point for Maquis soldiers and sympathisers running between borders. Neither side was willing to station ships there, but they were more than willing to leave observation posts within scanning distance of the entire sector. Ships departing from Havelock were routinely stopped regardless of which side they left from. Evading patrols had become part of the attraction of the place to some.
Another attraction was the availability of goods from the Federation. Throughout the rest of the DMZ, the Cardassians generally stole such goods. They were plentiful on Havelock since the Cardassians knew Starfleet was monitoring transmissions arising form the planet and would respond upon hearing of such thefts. The Maquis had garnered quite a bit of support by smuggling commodities across the border to desperate colonists.
The two figures that followed Tulley into the pub were familiar to Ro, and an appreciated sight. Brin Macen and Lisea Danan were fellow Maquis that had served alongside Ro for months. Like herself, both were former Starfleet officers that had left the service in order to join the outlaw band fighting for the freedom of the colonies within the DMZ. Macen was an El-Aurian over four hundred years old and looked like he was in his late twenties or early thirties. Lisea was a Trill and the seventh host of the Danan symbiot.
Ro almost didn’t recognise Lisea at first. Danan’s hair was much shorter than the last time Ro had seen her. She had a full, thick head of hair that had reached her shoulders. It now ended just below her jawline. Her hair was also suddenly blonde instead of its usual chestnut brown. She kept her bangs swept away from her face, her pale locks contrasting sharply with her dark brows and roots as well as the dark spots framing her face and descending down her neck and entire body. The spots were characteristic of her race.
Her brown eyes were as lively as ever. Her high cheekbones and full lips made her as lovely as ever, in an understated fashion. Her skin was as fair as ever, but her right cheek bore a jagged scar where a piece of shrapnel had lodged itself between her mouth and her cheekbone. It was the only mar on a face that was virtually flawless. She carried it with quiet dignity and it seemed to fade into obscurity.
Macen appeared as he always had. His red-gold hair was short and combed liked Tulley’s. His red goatee was well groomed and trimmed. His blue-green eyes twinkling with a lively wit and intelligence.
They both wore olive fatigues with black trim. In addition, they wore black boots and utility belts. Ro knew that they carried tricorders, communicators, and weapons in the pouches of those belts. She’d see the diminutive pistols they carried in action. They were based on older Type II phasers, but much more powerful.
As they sat across from her, she noticed the new pink scars on Macen’s hands. They, like Lisea’s more visible wound, had been incurred when Macen’s Rogue Venture had been lost in action against a Cardassian cruiser. The Rigellian frigate had been among the most powerful in the rag-tag Maquis fleet. Its loss was as severe a blow to the movement as to Macen himself.
"I’m glad to see the both of you doing so well." Ro said warmly.
"Thanks." Macen replied with a wry grin. Lisea’s smile returned the warmth. He had always been the more vocal of the two, and the more irreverent. Lisea was the more social of the two, but also far more restrained.
Ro gave Lisea another once over, "Why the change?"
Lisea’s smile was slightly abashed, "We lost the Venture returning from a supply run on Tarradeck III." Her pale cheeks coloured slightly, "A local Starfleet Security officer recognised me."
"That’s why we were looking behind us more than in front of us." Macen added ruefully.
"And we ran right into that Cardassian cruiser." Lisea said with a resigned sigh.
"At least you’re still alive." Tulley reminded them.
Macen grinned, "There is that."
Ro broke into a rueful grin, "I know I’m going to regret this, but why are you here?"
Macen maintained his sardonic smile as he pulled a padd out of one of his belt pouches. He handed it to Ro. She accepted it wit a resigned shrug. She activated its display and began scrolling through the contents. Her reservation quickly disappeared as she absorbed the data.
She looked up, gaping, "Where the hell did you find this information?"
"Trade secrets." Macen smiled enigmatically.
Damn! Ro wanted to shout at the top of her lungs. She knew that Macen had served in Starfleet Intelligence, but this kind of find was priceless. He’d been a social scientist with El-Auria’s Expeditionary Forces before the Borg came to his homeworld. The man had a gift for research. Imagine what kind of arcane secrets he could delve up if he wasn’t fighting a war, she mused.
"How did you learn of this?" she said hoarsely, her throat constricted with anxious excitement.
"Through a man named Sloane." Macen answered nonchalantly, "He belongs to an organisation known only as Section 31."
Ro shook her head in confusion, "I’ve never heard of it." She glanced towards Tulley, "You?" He held up his hand and pushed himself further into his seat.
"They’re a branch of Starfleet Intelligence." He explained, "They investigate, determine, and neutralise threats to the Federation."
"A secret police?" Ro asked incredulously.
"When were they founded? I’ve never heard of them!"
"They were established by Section 31 of the original Starfleet Charter." Macen replied dryly.
"For over two hundred years?" Ro exclaimed.
Macen’s grin was triumphant, "You’ve got it."
"And this Section 31 has one of this?" she asked setting the padd down. Displayed upon it were the co-ordinates of a secluded sector. A secluded sector full of freighters, runabouts, scoutships, and even starships.
"Yes, again." Macen replied with his lop-sided smirk, "It seems that the ship is part of Section 31’s retired ‘fleet’. Since most of the vessels never officially belonged to Starfleet, they had to establish their own ‘mothball’ area."
"How tight is security?"
Macen shrugged, "It varies. Some of the vessels are still used occasionally. Others are there for temporary storage before being sold."
His smile was ironic, "Private transactions that further good will."
"Of course." She snorted derisively. She frowned, "Seriously, can it be done?"
His smile was confident now, Laren, I guarantee it."
Ro broke into a beatific smile, "Then let’s do it!"
"You’re really going to do it, aren’t you?" Lisea asked, hands on her hips. She was standing in the middle of the lodgings they had rented for the evening. The following morning, the team would set out for the "boneyard". For now, Macen was busy verifying course plots.
"This would be a lot easier if you were double checking the course." He grumbled, "You’re the astronavigator."
"And stellar cartographer." She corrected him, then more sternly, "Don’t change the subject."
Macen sighed. While she stood, he was sitting at a desk. He propped his head up on his the palm of his hand. He wore a rueful expression.
"You knew this was coming." He told her.
Her smile was narrow, "I had my suspicions. How do you think Admiral Nechayev will respond?"
He shrugged, "In the usual way, declare us traitors…issue warrants…wanted posters, y’know, procedure." He sounded bored.
"Are you certain you want to do this?" she asked quietly.
He nodded firmly, "Yes. You’d expressed similar desires before we lost the Venture."
Her eyes softened and her arms fell to her sides, "Yes, I did."
Macen understood her reluctance. Macen had accepted an assignment to infiltrate the Maquis. He’d left his command, a Nova-class survey ship, and promptly travelled to DS9 to be "recruited" into the rebel group.
Danan had been serving as his Chief of Astrometrics when he’d accepted the mission. She and Macen had a longstanding relationship. A previous host had enlisted into Starfleet around the same time Macen had enlisted. They had met then and maintained contact. Brin and Lisea had met by accident when they were both assigned to a survey ship exploring previously uncharted sectors in the Beta Quadrant. It was a joke amongst the Admiralty that where one went, the other would soon turn up.
She threw her hands up into the air with an air of resignation, "All right! I’m in. Give me the padd so I can chart our course."
Macen rose from the table and handed her the padd, kissing her on the cheek, "I knew you’d agree."
As he walked away to another project, she smiled victoriously. No, I knew you’d agree.
Ro reached into her jacket and pulled out her communicator. It was an old Starfleet surplus. Old? It’s practically ancient, Ro mentally amended. It was a compact, box-like instrument that flipped open in order to be activated.
"Ro to Wanderer." She said.
"Wanderer here." T’Kir replied. The Vulcan served as Ro’s Ops specialist. She was highly competent, and highly erratic. She’d been raised on T’Pau, a colony in the heart if the DMZ. Her training in Vulcan logic had suffered greatly from interruptions derived from the Cardassian conflicts.
"The ship is fine." T’Kir replied.
Ro had never known a Vulcan who described anything as fine until she’d met T’Kir, "What about the crew?"
"Accounted for." Came the bored reply, "They could all be recalled in a moment’s notice."
"Good." Ro said with satisfaction, "Inform everyone we’ll be setting out tomorrow on a new mission."
"Very well." T’Kir responded with a tone that said It’s about time, "Estimated departure?"
"I’ll make the calls. Out"
Ro shook her head as she snapped her communicator shut. She never quite knew what to make of her Ops officer.
The plan was simple, in a complex way. Macen and Danan would travel to DS9 on a freighter owned by a sympathetic merchant. Ro and the Wanderer would travel to a Maquis command centre and spread the word of their mission. Those selected to pilot the "acquired" ships would rendezvous with Macen and Danan at DS9. From there, they would travel to the boneyard in whatever transportation the two Maquis could arrange.
Macen and Danan would transmit a coded transmission after they were underway and the Wanderer would join them, hopefully with another Maquis vessel. The two ships would provide an escort for the transport ship. The escorts would deal with any unexpected resistance at the boneyard. Such resistance should be minimal, since the vessels there were never listed in Starfleet’s registry rolls.
The trickiest part of the plan lay in its initial phases. The Wanderer had to evade detection while leaving Havelock. Macen and Danan had to avoid arrest while at DS9. However, the other Maquis had no way of knowing that neither Macen nor Danan were currently sought by Federation authorities.
Ro and her crew had departed an hour earlier. Macen and Danan walked down to the dockyards with their travel kits slung over their shoulders. Years as refugees had taught them the art of travelling lightly. It was serving them well as outlaws.
They stepped into the large warehouse district that served as the central hub of the city. Clarabelle was the planetary capitol. That was the primary reason behind the supposed Cardassian "Customs Inspectors" that roamed the port grounds. Macen and Danan effectively ignored the few Cardassians they saw.
Their destination was a small storage facility at the far side of the sprawling complex. That’s where they were to meet Captain Kar Jaxo. Kar was a Bajoran merchant with customers across the DMZ. He was also a former Resistance member that had never been identified by the Cardassians.
Kar had thrown in his support for the Maquis upon their foundation. He obtained weapons, food, and medicinals as often as he could. He also frequently provided transportation for Maquis missions such as this. It wasn’t his first, nor would it be his last.
Kar recognised the two as they entered the section he was arranging to receive cargo from. He was negotiating with a Bolian. A Cardassian Inspector also stood in attendance.
Kar smiled as they approached, "Macen, Danan, over here."
They waved in return and walked forward. The Bolian ignored them as he checked a manifest. The Cardassian gave them a leery glance.
"New crewmen?" he asked Kar.
"Yes." Kar answered jovially, "Now that I have a Starhauler-class freighter, I need two more crewmen. May I introduce you?"
"Of course." The Cardassian practically oozed.
"Inspector Torrig, may introduce you to my new navigator, Lisea Danan, and my new cargo master, Brin Macen."
"A pleasure to make your acquaintance." Torrig told them. He didn’t even bother to disguise the insincerity in his voice.
Lisea stifled a grimace as she extended her hand, "The pleasure’s all mine."
Torrig smiled appreciatively. Pathetic, Lisea thought, Typical Cardassian male. Show him a smile and feign interest, and he’s all over you.
Macen extended his hand. Torrig ignored it as he refused to release Lisea’s. Macen cleared his throat loudly. Torrig stayed focused upon Lisea.
"Perhaps the Inspector would like to keep the hand as a souvenir?" Macen asked.
Torrig blinked in shock and reflexively released her hand, "What?"
"You seem to be captivated by the lady’s hand." Macen said with a trace of menace in his voice, "I was wondering if you were considering keeping it as a souvenir?"
Torrig stared at him in complete bafflement, then a knowing smile crossed his face, "Ah, she is your female. My apologies."
Macen nodded, "No harm, Inspector. Mistakes happen."
"Yes, they do." Torrig replied, his smarmy confidence rebuilding itself, "So nice to see an understanding soul."
Macen gave him a forced smile then turned to Kar, "Permission to go aboard?"
Kar smiled. His eyes twinkled with covert applause over Macen’s victory. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out two small circular comm badges. He handed one to Macen and one to Danan.
"These are set to the ship’s channels." Kar explained, "Just call up and they’ll beam you right up."
Macen looked slightly embarrassed, "Captain, in all the rush to sign contracts…well, the vessel’s name was never brought up."
Kar smiled understandingly, "Her name’s The Prophets’ Song."
"Aye, sir." Macen replied respectfully.
Macen and Danan stepped off to the side. A moment later, they disappeared in a crimson fire. Commercial vessels generally lagged behind military vessels technically. None of the systems aboard would compare to the latest Starfleet systems.
They reappeared on a small platform that could handle four people. A dour looking Benzite stood at the transporter controls. The controls were located on the freighter’s bridge, as was the transporter. Older freighters generally relied more upon tractor technology than transporters. The Prophets’ Song was modern enough to utilise updated transporters. The equipment aboard could have come from a starship.
And probably did, Macen reminded himself. Kar’s trade was such that most of his gains were achieved through semi-legitimate means. And that was a conservatively kind estimation. Macen had few illusions has to how Kar operated his business, and fewer qualms. He’d dealt with worse on behalf of Starfleet.
The Benzite was the actual Cargo Master. They soon learned his name was Sul Jilreth. The ship’s Pilot was a Trill. Tarne Asper happily explained that he was unjoined and had accepted his position aboard for a chance to move beyond the status of second class citizen he was relegated to on his homeworld. The final member of the crew was an Orion female. Valdris served as the Chief Engineer, and nothing else. She’d escaped slavery in the Confederacy and made her way to the Federation.
Every member of the crew, with the possible exception of Jilreth, had experienced oppression or persecution. Their sympathy for the Maquis cause was natural. Macen knew that sharp divisions of opinion had formed across the Federation regarding their cause. Supporters rallied behind accolades of the "freedom fighters". Detractors gathered together to decry the "terrorists".
The most divided institution was Starfleet. Nearly half the fleet had participated in the undeclared Cardassian border wars of the last decade. Many still harboured negative feelings towards the Cardassians. Even more found the abandonment of Federation citizens and colonies to the Cardassians deplorable.
There was no right or wrong answer. The Federation Council had acted to avoid the causalities a war would spawn. Starfleet, the protector and enforcer of Federation policies, had no choice but to comply with the terms of the treaty. That left independent action as the only recourse.
Due to the Federation’s treaty with the Union, Starfleet had to officially denounce the Maquis as terrorists. The widespread support, and official concern over it, for the organisation was so prevalent that many officers had been called before their superiors after making remarks that appeared sympathetic towards the Resistance movement. Instances of officers standing before boards of inquiry had also spread. Such tales only fanned the flames of support throughout Starfleet.
The Federation’s efforts to halt the flow of material and ideological support were becoming perceived as an infringement upon freedom of speech. Relatives of colonists in the DMZ were routinely questioned as to whether or not they knew the location of their kinsmen. A police state mentality had begun in the Federation, and few appeared safe from the witch-hunt.
Macen felt that schism in a deeply personal way. Coming from a planet that respected rule of law with a reverence made them supporters of a strong government. The ideals of the Federation closely mirrored those of the El-Aurian Commonwealth. Macen had pledged their support and allegiance to Starfleet in hopes of furthering those ideals.
His people’s experience with the Borg had also left them with a resounding empathy to those attacked and oppressed by outside forces. Most El-Aurians had abstained from joining Starfleet because of the Prime Directive and its prohibitions from interfering in the affairs of others. They chose to find they own path and assist others as they saw fit. They usually did so in quiet ways. Macen knew that many El-Aurians were involved in humanitarian efforts to provide clothes, medicine, and educational materials for the inhabitants of the DMZ.
Danan’s native culture also contributed deeply to her sympathies. An unjoined Trill on her homeworld was essentially a second-class citizen and deprived of certain rights as well as virtually any sense of true respect. Lisea had writhed under those cultural prejudices for years before being recalled from her assignment to accept a symbiot. The Danan symbiot had rather unusual host requirements, and Lisea fit the profile best.
Macen, having already joined Starfleet, could not accept a passive role. Macen had laboured long and hard to convince Nechayev to launch an intelligence insertion into the Maquis. She’d chosen him as the likeliest candidate to succeed without co-opting. His spotless record for the last seventy years, as well as Danan’s, had convinced her that neither officer would "defect". Once they saw the Maquis in action, they could no sooner walk away than they could wish for the Borg to assimilate the rest of their scattered people.
Officers like Ben Sisko rejected the Maquis for their mentality of the ends justifying the means. They abhorred the wanton destruction that some Maquis wreaked. Macen could understand their feelings. He despised the bombing campaigns that rogue cells had adopted earlier. He had participated in a movement wide hunt of those responsible and had sat in on their trial.
It was extremely difficult to conduct an interstellar guerrilla war, but that’s what they were attempting. Individual captains and crews still largely decided upon targets of opportunity, and the method of dealing with them. The central Maquis command structure was still quite fluid, but was stabilising as the war progressed. Several leaders had abandoned the field in order to provide a stable leadership. It was another irony that the Maquis was assembling its own Admiralty.
Asper showed them to their cabin. It was tidy affair. It had a bunk bed along the bulkhead. It also contained a single desk with a computer display. It was more than adequate for their trip.
Kar’s voice resounded through the ship. The Bajoran had beamed aboard and was giving instructions to Jilreth and Valdris regarding the cargo they were taking on. Asper hurried back to the cockpit in order to see how he could assist. Macen sent an inquiry in how he and Danan could prove useful. The Captain’s terse reply was by staying in their cabin and planning how to remove the Cardassians from this area of space.
The Wanderer slipped into orbit over Athos IV. It had become something of a bitter joke that the Maquis HQ was located on a world so desolate that the neither the Cardassians nor the Federation would settle it. It contained heavy metals that poisoned the soil and air. Terraforming was possible, but at prohibitive cost.
The salvation of the Maquis had come when a Vulcan member had discovered how to convert the heaviest isotopes into replicator fuel. Once they built habitation domes, they could feed and clothe themselves by drawing on a virtually inexhaustible supply of energy. The drawback was that no one could walk outside the domes without an environmental suit.
Ro felt fortunate that her abilities were rarely needed at Drallas. She was a field leader, trained as a special operations specialist. She’d been on her first field assignment in that role when she’d defected to the Maquis. She’d never forget the look on Picard’s face when she told him of her decision. Jean-Luc had gambled on her, and he’d lost.
Those that stayed were the Maquis’ few strategists, doctors, and weapons scientists stayed. The strategists here were those that were unable to go to space. Various infirmities prevented them from participating in the field. Medical professionals were a rarity among the Maquis, so it made a perverse sense to collect what Doctors they had and attempt to build a passable facility were they could practice their trade. The weapon’s engineers were here for far more destructive purposes.
Ro’s modified Bajoran raider was a marvel of integrated modifications. The impulse craft had been given a warp drive. She couldn’t travel over warp six, but that was a vast improvement over sub-light only. The modifications to the shielding and weapons were a marvel of equal magnitude.
The cost to the Wanderer’s capabilities lay in her crew capacity. She had the same carrying capacity as a Starfleet runabout. The difference was that she was twice the size of the Starfleet craft, and carried twice the armament, including photon torpedoes. Since the ship could only carry six people and everyone served a vital function aboard.
Ro was both commander and pilot. Tulley was the weapons officer. T’Kir operated sensors and operations. Jareb Thool was now the chief engineer, after the death of the previous chief. The remaining crew, MacGuyvers and Drek, assisted in engineering and served as relief. The crew was typically Maquis in that it was comprised of various species.
Ro was Bajoran. Tulley and MacGuyver were both Humans. T’Kir was Vulcan. Thool hailed from Bolia. Drek was an Angosian. Their ancestors hailed from across the Alpha Quadrant, but they were untied in a common cause. It was a microcosm of the Federation itself, which made that government’s condemnation of them all the more hypocritical.
Ro and Tulley were beaming down to the main complex of the enclosed community. The central dome served as the closest thing to a Command HQ as the Maquis had. It was the central communication hub. The Maquis relied upon blind couriers and a multiple cell structure but all organised movements required that information funnel to a central location.
Most cell leaders had virtual autonomy. Many preferred keeping it that way. Intelligence data was spread amongst the greater whole, but operational plans rarely were. Only on rare occasions would a Maquis commander inform others of their intended plans.
Those occasions included an opportunity such as this. The thought of starships for the taking was too precious, and too illusory, to keep to a single unit. This required a unified effort and the mobilisation of as many Maquis as could be freed up from other duties. There would be no shortage of volunteers for a mission like this, so the selections would have to be made carefully.
Ro and Tulley materialised in a large hall. To either side were various personnel manning various comm consoles and sensor boards, none of them took notice of the two newcomers to their midst. Ro could see why these people had been chosen for their fields, they were obsessive to a fault. Her lips twisted up into a disdainful pucker.
"Go easy on ‘em, Skipper." Tulley whispered.
She glanced towards her first officer and nearly broke out into a laugh. Trust her stoic comrade to not be irritated by an overabundance of order. Her lifetime of struggle and rebellion worked against her in places like this. It made her wonder how’d she’d ever survived Starfleet?
She suppressed a sigh at that thought. As much as she’d found the overabundance of regulations and protocols annoying, she also missed the stability of Starfleet. Her fellow Maquis were not always the most loyal of comrades. She sometimes wondered if any of them would stand for her if she ever faced trial before the Committee.
She shook that thought off. She was five minutes away from addressing the Committee. Now was not the time for morbid speculation. Still, the cynical side of her nature insisted, now might be a good time to get some practice in.
The Committee was comprised of seven of the original founders of the Maquis movement. Two other members had been granted membership after being disabled in actions that had also made them legends across the DMZ, as well as Cardassia Prime. These were the nine most respected Maquis alive. Five of the nine were former Starfleet captains. Three were former Bajoran Resistance leaders. The last was the scientist that had developed the heavy metal conversion technique.
"Welcome, Captain Ro." Greg Davis said as they entered, "And to you as well, Mr. Tulley."
Davis was the current chairman of the Committee. He was also a former commander of an Ambassador-class starship. He’d abandoned his command, but not before stealing two runabouts, seven like-minded officers and crates of small arms and supplies. He was still on the Federation’s top ten wanted list.
The Committee sat in a semicircle around a horseshoe shaped table. Display consoles were integrated into the table before every member’s seat. Guests could sit at the open ends of the table or stand in the open section. Ro chose the latter. Her boldness captured their attention immediately.
"We do not often see you on Athos." Trevik, the Vulcan scientist spoke, "The information you carry must be grave indeed if you refused to entrust it to our standard communications networks."
She smiled wryly, "Very perceptive of you, Member Trevik."
"Perception is not required." Trevik replied dryly, "Only logic. Your history of avoiding this assembly is an established a precedent. Your infrequent appearances have always been portends of dire events."
Ro coloured slightly at that. She barely stopped herself from bristling. She could not, however, prevent herself from shooting a questioning glare at the dusky Vulcan. Her apprehension lightened when laughter passed form one Committee member to another.
"No need to worry, Captain." Amanda Dunne assured her, "We are all aware of your invaluable service to the cause."
Ro smiled appreciatively to the older woman. Dunne had also been a starship captain. Her command had been slightly less flamboyant then Davis’. Her ship had been an Oberth-class science vessel. Dunne and virtually her entire crew had defected. The vessel had proven invaluable at the onset of the Maquis’ war with the Cardassians as an intelligence gatherer. It’s loss, and that of most of the crew, was still felt.
Dunne only had a decade or so on Ro in years, but she appeared to be the younger of the two. Ro envied the other woman her flawless skin and youthful zeal. She wondered how the former Lt. Commander managed to remain so optimistic and energetic. It was as though enthusiasm alone held back the years.
"I’m sure Captain Ro has travelled here for greater reason than to listen to us." Davis suggested, "Perhaps we should let her speak?" Light chuckles followed that.
Ro nodded towards Tulley. He inserted a data wafer into the computer. The data within transmitted itself to the Committee’s displays. He gave Ro a thumb’s up.
She shook her head. She’d never know where he acquired that custom. She turned back towards the Committee and squared her shoulders. Here we go, she thought grimly.
"Vital information has come to light." she said, her voice steady and strong (At least I sound that way), "We have the opportunity to solve one of our oldest problems."
"Which one?" Hass Bruj asked mirthfully, "We have so many it’s hard to decide which one to solve first."
Ro gave him a understanding, rueful smile, "That’s true. But this solution is fairly obvious. Please take a look at the data available to you on your displays."
Nine heads bent in unison. They each scrolled through the data at varying speeds, but the general reaction was the same. Across the table, mouths hung open in utter astonishment. Even Trevik looked shaken.
"How...how reliable is this information?" Davis choked.
"The report was delivered to me by Captain Brin Macen." Ro announced.
A collective stir travelled across the table. Until Macen and Danan’s rather turbulent recruitment into the Maquis, she’d never heard of either of them. She’d been amazed to learn that Macen was something of a legend in Starfleet Intelligence. Macen had served in every conflict the Federation had faced for the last seventy years, including the Cardassian border wars.
"Good source." Fromar Keel muttered rare words of praise from the Andorian.
"I thought so." Ro commented dryly. Various members grinned in appreciation of her sarcasm. "This could end our ongoing problem of acquiring hulls. This could in fact give us enough tonnage to mount a true strike against a major military target."
"Let us not jump to precipitous conclusions." Trevik warned.
"I agree." Ro conceded with a nod of her head, "All we know for certain is that this Section 31 has established a boneyard for decommissioned vessels. We do not know what vessels are currently there, or how many." she squared her shoulders and swept the room with her eyes, lingering briefly on every Committee member in the room, "It is in short, a gamble. It is also something we can’t afford to ignore."
Silence descended over the assembly. All twelve wore grim expressions that floated between shock and disbelief. Ro prayed to the Prophets that the Committee wouldn’t sacrifice the opportunity before them. Ro was already committed. She would proceed with Macen and Danan as best as she could.
Her concern was unwarranted. Davis spoke everyone’s mind when he announced, "We’ll do it. We’ll contact as many ships and cell leaders as we can. We have the outline of the plan you and Macen devised. It doesn’t give us much time, but we’ll have to make do with what we can pull together." He chuckled with dark humour, "We’re used to that after all. Why break with tradition?"
Ro flushed with victory, "Thank you. This is an opportunity we’ve been waiting for. I’ll do anything I can to help."
"Glad you feel that way, Captain." Davis said with a devilish twinkle in his eyes, "You’ll be co-ordinating the all-call to everyone."
Ro’s smile promptly vanished.
T’Kir materialised in the comm centre. She glanced around at the layout of the facility and rose her eyebrow disdainfully. Leaned against a computer console, Ro shook her head in wonderment. She’d never encountered a being as scornful as T’Kir.
The young Vulcan walked directly to Ro. She wore her hair extremely short. It was an unruly mop atop her head, but ended abruptly at the nape of her neck. Ro had seen pictures of Pavel Checkov during her stint at the Academy and had always wondered if her Ops specialist had taken fashion tips from the famous Russian.
T’Kir cocked an eyebrow and glanced in Ro’s direction. It was as though she’d heard Ro’s thoughts. She suppressed a shudder at that. The last person she needed in her head was T’Kir.
"What d’you want?" T’Kir asked almost petulantly.
"I need you to assist in contacting several Maquis ships." Ro answered.
"How many?" T’Kir asked suspiciously.
"All of them."
T’Kir’s expression was one of utter contempt, "You’re joking?"
Ro smiled thinly, "’Fraid not."
"No." T’Kir said in a flat tone.
"No." T’Kir repeated more adamantly.
"How would you like a little visit to Dr. Knassa?"
T’Kir blanched. Knassa was the one psychiatrist the Maquis had. She spent little time counselling others and focused instead on advising the Committee on how to expand the psychological impact of the war. Ro had her qualms regarding Knassa. Knassa had advised the Committee to expand operation to include acts intentionally designed to induce terror. Ro wondered if that recommendation was based derived from actual analysis, or from a personal desire for revenge.
Knassa also had the authority to imprison Maquis that had become mentally "unstable". What exactly constituted instability in a campaign like the Maquis’ was anyone’s guess. What mattered was that once someone was sent to Knassa, on their Captain or cell leader’s orders, she had overriding authority over them. Her recommendations could ostensibly overrule the Committee itself.
Ro also knew that Knassa’s authority derived from the Maquis’ willingness to follow her advice. Ro possessed no such compunction. Her threat was a hollow one, but she dared not admit that, even to herself. There was no sense in ruling out the chance that T’Kir could read the minds of those around her.
"Very well," T’Kir said grudgingly, "I’ll do it."
It took two frantic days. That was all the time they had in order to comply with the time schedule allocated in the plan. Three other Maquis ships could join in. A group of recent recruits would meet Macen and Danan at DS9. For many, it would be their first operational exercise.
Ro, Tulley, and T’Kir beamed back to the Wanderer. Thool and MacGuyvers had been keeping the ship prepped. The other three members of the crew had rotated in shifts to Athos in order to enjoy the few recreational facilities there. Mostly, it was an opportunity to communicate with rarely seen comrades.
Now the ship and crew were underway. They would meet the other three Maquis ships at the sector designated as the rendezvous point with Macen’s team. They wouldn’t reach the rendezvous point for another day and a half. It would be another four days before they reached the boneyard.
"Cardassian cruiser approaching." Asper reported calmly.
"How long until intercept?" Kar asked, sounding bored.
"They’ll overtake us in fifteen minutes." came the report.
Standing in the rear of the cramped bridge, Macen watched the interplay with some amusement. The crew aplomb was credit to them. It was also an indication of how often such intercepts and boardings occurred in Union space. Such procedures bred greater support for the Maquis among the independent traders.
"Dana may want to get to the bridge." Kar turned his chair to face Macen, "And you and Jilreth may want to inspect the holds. Torrig undoubtedly submitted a report on this ship and that Gul will have it on hand when he sends his lizards aboard."
Macen hear the distaste in the Bajoran’s voice as he slighted the Cardassians. Many Bajorans had not forgiven the Cardassians for their occupation and exploitation of Bajor. Kar took it further than the average by maintaining actively hostile action. He viewed his efforts on behalf of the Maquis as blows against the Cardassians.
Macen turned and went down the corridor to the crew cabins. The ship only had three decks. The first contained the bridge and crew’s quarters. The second held engineering. The third was twice as large as the other two combined, it was the cargo deck.
He knocked on the door of the cabin he shared with Danan, "Heads up. You’re on in the bridge in ten minutes."
The door slid opened and Danan appeared. She was bleary eyed and dressed only in a tank top and shorts. She’d insisted upon pulling up as much data on the system containing Section 31’s mothball fleet as was available in the Federation database. It had kept her busy for the last two watches.
"What?" she asked impatiently.
"We’re about to be boarded by Cardassians." Macen explained, smirking at her misery, "Kar thinks it would be best of you were on the bridge when they board."
"He would." she muttered bitterly. She gave him a sour look, "You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?"
"Would help if I said I wasn’t?" Macen asked, trying not to burst into a fit of laughter.
"Sadist." she growled, "I’ll get you for this. Just wait."
"Promises, promises." he called as he walked away down the corridor.
"You’ll think promises." she mumbled under breath as she shut the door and went to the closet to retrieve her green jumpsuit.
The Cardassians arrived in twelve minutes, not fifteen. Danan had already made it to the bridge and was seated at the Ops board. Asper manned the helm. Kar sat in his command chair. Valdris stayed in Engineering. Macen and Jilreth waited in the cargo bay.
"The Cardassians are hailing." Danan announced.
"Put it on audio." Kar sighed.
"Attention Bajoran freighter Prophet’s Song, this is Gul Treggal of the Cardassian Forces. Drop to impulse and prepare to be boarded by two of my officers."
Kar visibly bristled, but managed to keep it out of us voice, "This is Captain Kar Jaxo, may I inquire as to the purpose of your boarding? I have a schedule to keep."
Treggal’s laugh was weary, "It’s merely routine. You should be on your way in short order."
"Very well." Kar conceded, "We’ll heave to and await the arrival of your officers."
The two officers made the most cursory of inspections. They knew as well as the merchant crew that the sole purpose of stopping the freighter was to remind everyone who "controlled" this space. Macen found it a disappointing display. His race had always felt little regard for the pointless political boundary divisions. How could one divide the void of space?
The Cardassians departed ten minutes after their arrival. Their appearance was the entirety of the excitement for the remainder of the trip. Macen and Danan spent most of the time planning the next phase of the operation. That translated into one simple statement: they argued for the rest of the trip.
The Prophet’s Song docked on an outer pylon at DS9. The crew disembarked, checking in with the stations Constabulary. Macen and Danan disembarked wearing their Starfleet jumpsuits. They both wore the blue Sciences departmental colours. The Constables exchanged surprised glances but when Macen and Danan’s credentials cleared, so did they.
They went to one of the vendors licensed to offer accommodations and rented a room for three days. That was all the time they had under the plan. They would actually depart on the third day, but the rental record would slow Security down if they began a record’s search. The transport would be hired without employing the Federation’s convoluted credit system. A cashless society actually operated under a more complicated economic basis then a bartering one.
Personally, Macen wondered how long the Federation would be able to maintain its current system. His people had implemented their own socialised economy, but they had retained subtle differentials in living standards. That had been necessary to recruit individuals for the least popular careers, as well as the most stressful. Macen’s position as an interplanetary scout was considered more rigorous than many due to the years spent away from home. It was ironic that most of the El-Aurian survivors were former members of the Expeditionary Forces.
Danan had faced similar challenges. A Trill was free to do as they pleased, until they joined with a symbiot, then their life belonged to the Symbiosis Commission, subject to the approval of the Commissioners. Unjoineds also received a lower standard of living as well as being excluded from certain jobs and societal strata levels. Being a member of Starfleet, and therefore in danger of greater harm to the symbiot, Lisea was under greater scrutiny than the average host was.
"Something I can help you with, Constable?" Ben Sisko asked the pseudo-man standing before his desk. Odo was a Changeling. He could assume human form, but had never quite mastered the art of faces. As a result, his facial construction in his usual form was rather unformed, more of a collection of intersecting planes. Odo was also the Chief Constable for the Bajoran Militia stationed aboard DS9, he position he excelled at, and took deathly serious.
"We may have a problem, Commander." Odo informed Sisko in his usual irritated tone.
"Really?" Sisko responded with a blend of professional respect and amusement at Odo’s typically blunt mannerisms.
"Yes." Odo answered, seemingly unaware of the lilting edge to Sisko’s inquiry, "Two Starfleet officers came aboard yesterday."
"That’s hardly news, Constable." Sisko replied dryly, "This is a Starfleet installation."
Odo took a deep breath, a sign of his mounting frustration with Sisko’s nonchalance, "These two Starfleet officers arrived aboard a Bajoran freighter with suspected Maquis ties."
Sisko leaned forward, his hands clasped together, "I’m listening."
"We ran their ID through the system upon disembarking the ship." Odo explained, "They both cleared."
"But with all of the concern over the Maquis in this area, you decided to investigate further." It was a statement, not a question.
"Yes." Odo admitted, "The two officers in question are Commander Brin Macen and Lt. Commander Lisea Danan. Up until a year and a half ago, they served aboard the U.S.S. Njord. Their respective assignments were as the commanding officer and the Chief of Astrometrics."
"The captain?" Sisko asked, "Where’s his ship?"
"The Njord is currently charting sections of the Gamma Quadrant. Neither Macen nor Danan served aboard her for a full year. They were assigned to her when she was commissioned at the cessation of hostilities with the Cardassians. They received reassignment shortly thereafter."
"What is their current assignment?"
"It’s classified." Odo replied angrily, "I need a Level 4 clearance. The one Starfleet won’t grant me."
Sisko sighed. This was old ground. Odo felt he needed greater access to Starfleet’s records in order to do his job correctly. Starfleet refused to do so until Odo began following Starfleet protocols and procedures, something he flatly refused to do. He was convinced his methods were vastly superior and time efficient. His record of success made Sisko side with him.
"You’re assuming they were recruited to infiltrate the Maquis?"
"Yes." Odo growled.
"And now they’re here." Sisko continued, "Most likely to submit a report while pursuing some task given them by the Committee."
"So where is the problem?" Sisko asked with an impatient edge.
"If they are undercover," Odo replied, "why travel in uniform on a Maquis sympathisers ship?"
Sisko paused, then shook his head, "That’s a good question, Constable. I think we might want to find out."
Macen and Danan had unpacked one of their three duffels. This one was full of items to be left behind. Everything was designed to produce a false trail of evidence. Macen was familiar with Odo’s reputation and knew it wouldn’t take the Constable long to start an investigation.
The door chime sounded. Brin checked a chrono. That was fast. He glanced towards Lisea. She shrugged and went to the door. It slid open to reveal Commander Sisko.
"Good afternoon." Sisko said politely, "May I have a word with you?" His smile was genuine. His eyes neutral, but with a hint of something dangerous. Danan knew instantly that this was a man destined for great things.
"Certainly, please come in, Commander." She motioned towards the room’s interior.
Sisko took a look around the room, "These accommodations have improved since Starfleet took over the station. When I first arrived, half of them didn’t even have life-support."
Macen chuckled, "I guess the Cardassians left in a hurry."
Sisko allowed himself a smile, "I guess they did at that." His expression turned serious, "I don’t think we’ve ever been introduced. I’m..."
"Ben Sisko." Macen finished for him, "And we’re Brin Macen and Lisea Danan, as I’m sure you already know."
Sisko’s smile became one of grudging respect, "I see you anticipated my arrival."
Macen shrugged, "It wasn’t hard to predict. You are the commander of a high profile station located in a sensitive area. You have two Starfleet officers arriving by dubious means with ‘mysterious’ orders from Intelligence. It’s only natural for you to want to find out if those orders pose a threat to your command."
"No." Macen answered sincerely. The conviction in his voice convinced Sisko of the truth of that statement.
Sisko studied the pair for a moment. He knew they had to be up to something, but they displayed no guilt or uneasiness. It was more than possible that their business was legitimate despite Odo’s suspicions. He just had to probe a little further to satisfy his own curiosity if nothing else.
"I see you wear the uniform of the Sciences division." Sisko commented, "I thought you’d commanded your own starship before your current assignment, why aren’t you wearing the Command division uniform?"
Macen grinned, "Commander, I’m an Analytical specialist. My areas of expertise include social, political, and military organisations. When I was given command of the Njord, I retained my appointment in Intelligence." Macen’s grin turned wry, "So, what kind of missions do you believe my ship and I were assigned to?"
Sisko’s expression was one of chagrin, "I see your point."
Danan laughed. It was the first time she’d spoken. Sisko found her contralto voice soothing somehow. She placed a hand on Macen’s shoulder.
"Don’t let him get to you, Commander." she told him with a brilliant smile, "He loves to get under people’s skin."
Sisko chuckled, "Don’t worry. I have to put up with both Starfleet Command and the Provisional Government of Bajor. I don’t think anyone could disturb me as much they manage to." he paused and then amended, "Although Quark may come close."
"The Ferengi bartender?" Macen asked.
"You’ve met him?"
"Heard of him. His reputation has spread far and wide." Macen said with an amused grin, "I can’t say I envy you having him on the station."
"Neither do I." Sisko admitted ruefully, "And the worst part is that the only reason he stayed is because I forced him too."
"You know what they say about regrets..." Danan sympathised.
"Yes, I know." Sisko sighed, then looked gave her an odd look, "It’s a shame about that scar on your cheek."
Lisea blushed, reaching up to cover it, "I forget that it’s there."
"You must have been away form adequate medical facilities for some time. You really should allow Dr. Bashir to look at that while you’re here."
She nodded and gave him a polite smile, "Thank you, I’ll see if I can make time."
"And you must find time to speak with Lt. Dax." Sisko added, "She is my Science Officer aboard, as well as a fellow Trill. I’m sure she would love a chance to talk to someone form her home planet."
Lisea gave him a sigh, "I’m afraid my answer is the same. You know how busy one can get when faced with too many assignments."
"I certainly do." Sisko agreed ruefully, "Speaking of which, I must be going. It has been a pleasure to meet you both. Enjoy your stay."
After he left, Danan turned to Macen, "Do you think he suspects something?"
"Of course he does." Macen replied lightly, "But we also wanted him to suspect something."
"I just hope he suspects what we want him to." Danan replied uneasily, "He’s a sharp one. He’s not here by accident."
. "I suppose that’s why he’s the Emissary for the Prophets." He said.
"I suppose." she mumbled.
"So?" Odo asked without preamble.
"On the surface, everything checks out." Sisko answered, "But I still get the feeling something else is going on."
"So they acted suspicious?"
"Quite the contrary." Sisko admitted, "They gave me absolutely nothing to be suspicious of."
"Which makes you suspicious."
Sisko gave him a wry smile, "All I have is a hunch."
"That’s all it takes sometimes Commander."
Sisko nodded, "Agreed. Keep a discreet eye on them, but do nothing without my orders."
Macen and Danan took their two actual pieces of luggage and caught the next shuttle to Bajor’s surface. Their ostensible purpose was to visit the ruins of B’Hala. Given Macen’s degrees in History and Archaeology and Danan’s interest in the cartographical implications of the runes there, it was a plausible reason to visit. Odo, of course, didn’t believe it when he saw the itinerary they’d submitted with the Bajoran Ministry of Cultural Exchange.
They’d temporarily outmanoeuvred him. Their itineraries had been completed prior to their arrival on DS9. Although they were out of his sight, and technically out of his jurisdiction, there were those he could call to carry on the tail. It also gave him his first concrete lead. Macen and Danan had planned their "holiday" well in advance. He could start tracking down where they’d made their arrangements.
He activated his comm board. It took several minutes, but a face soon appeared. It was the grizzled face of a Bajoran man. The face had been lean once, but now had an abundant reserve underneath it.
"Odo," the man said dryly, "why am I not surprised?"
"Perhaps because you know I only employ the best." Odo replied in an equally dry tone.
The man’s face broke into a wry smile, "C’mon Odo, flattery isn’t your strong point."
"Too true." Odo admitted, "I need someone on Bajor watched."
"I take it that you’re on quasi-legal grounds here." The man replied, "Otherwise you wouldn’t be calling me."
"I don’t need you." Odo replied gruffly, "You just have the expertise for the job."
The man laughed, "Is it that kind of job?"
Odo’s face may have remained the same, but his embarrassment shone in his voice, "Of course not. They need only be observed. I want a record of their activities while they’re on the planet."
"They’re on the shuttle to Riga now,"
"Bloody Prophets, man!" he roared, "Why didn’t you call me sooner?"
"I take it you’ll accept the job?"
"Of course I’ll take it." the man snapped irritably, "There aren’t as many calls for my skills since the Cardassians left."
Macen and Danan stepped out of the shuttleport and stood on the corner. They had changed into the two piece variant of the utility uniform. They each wore a small pistol in the small of their backs. It was mounted in a horizontal holster.
A hovercar pulled up in front of them. The window nearest them slid down.
"You Macen and Danan?" a woman’s voice asked tersely.
"If we were," Macen replied evenly, "we’d want to know who’s asking."
"Stiff-assed former Starfleets." the woman spat like a curse, "I don’t have time for such nonsense."
Macen leaned into the open window and aimed his pistol at her. She’d never seen him pull it out, "Maybe you have time now?"
She sighed and rolled her eyes, "The rains never come to Cardassia Prime..."
"But the corpses keep piling up." Macen finished. He wondered who’d come up with that particular sign/counter-sign. He wasn’t sure he ever wanted to meet them.
He got into the back while Dana hopped into the front with the driver, "Don’t trust me, eh?"
"You, or the man across the street watching." Macen answered.
"What man?" she hissed.
"Portly fellow, directly off my left shoulder."
Her eyes flicked that way without turning her head, "Lix Throm, what’s he doing here?"
"Whatever Master Odo paid him to do." Macen replied mirthfully.
"Not for long." the woman replied and gunned the repulsorlifts to life.
Lix Throm shook his head as the car sped off and it began to rain. His life had been so much easier during the Occupation. Then, he’d found plenty of work as an assassin. Now the life of a "security consultant" didn’t pay nearly as well, or as often. His one break was that he’d recognised the woman driving the car: Hilla Jaxa.
After departing from Riga, they’d found time for introductions. She’d insisted they use her personal name, indicating how much she respected them from reputation alone. Jaxa didn’t outwardly appear much older than Lisea, but such things were often illusory.
Jaxa had joined the Resistance shortly before her seventeenth birthday. She’d remained active until the Cardassian withdrawal. Her cell had been one of the first to throw in with the Maquis. They saw the DMZ colonists’ struggle as a continuation of their own.
They were speeding passed villages and farms en route to the Saki village. It was across the valley from the Paqu village governed by Varis Sul. Whereas the Paqu were invested farmers trying to reclaim the soil, the Saki were revolutionaries looking for a new conflict. The village and several like it had become a recruiting ground for Maquis.
The car slid quietly into the village. The sun had set two hours before and the village was visible only by the porch lights and the light that spilled through closed shutters. Jaxa deactivated the repulsors and the car lowered itself to the ground next to a rather large building. Jaxa explained that the house belonged to the village Tetrarch and doubled as the village hall. The car belonged to the village as a whole.
She led Macen and Danan into the hall. An assembly was gathered there. It was a diverse collection of Resistance veterans and young recruits. Macen and Danan studied them carefully as they entered the room. The younger recruits would be the backbone of the force sent after the mothballed ships.
The Resistance veterans were too well known to the Bajoran government to disappear. They also served too vital a role as instructors for the newer recruits. The recruits were a diverse lot drawn from across the Federation and other non-aligned worlds. The Maquis had provided Saki village with simulators. This village was one of the few places recruits could receive training in starship operation before being sent directly into the field.
"Here they are." the village Tetrarch announced as they walked in, "Captain Macen and Commander Danan will be leading you into your first real fight. Listen to them as they tell you what your missions about. Pay careful attention, focus on the details could save your life later on."
With that, the Tetrarch left the room, leaving Macen and Danan at the mercies of the eager recruits clustering around them. Macen could imagine the Tetrarch in his private quarters in the rear of the building laughing. Macen knew that this village provided an invaluable service to the Maquis cause, but still...he wondered how badly the mutual relationship between the village and the cause would be damaged if he retaliated? As the clamour of voices rose, Macen decided he didn’t care, whatever price was paid later on would be worth the satisfaction now.
The last two days had been brutal. Macen and Danan had pushed the recruits through simulation after simulation. They designed their own scenarios that made the Kobyashi Maru look like a picnic. It was designed to batter and bruise them in preparation of the harsher realities they would face.
They had just finished the last run. They gathered in the village’s common communal kitchen. Most of the villagers had already eaten. The other recruits were in the local hills practising guerrilla tactics.
The haggard group sat at one table. Macen and Danan had finished their appraisal of the group’s performance. Now was the opportunity for getting to know one another. It had become a tradition over the last couple of days.
One of them, a Bajoran male named Desrin Basx, started a pointed conversation with Danan, "I hate to say this, but you look like someone I know."
She rose a sceptical eyebrow, "Oh, really?"
He held up his hands, "I know it’s the oldest line in the book, but seriously you do look like her. You could be her twin, or at least a slightly older sister." He paused then added, "Without the spots, of course."
Danan nearly spit out her food. She convinced herself to give him a reassuring smile. A Bajoran wouldn’t be used to being exposed to many other species, "What’s your friend’s name?"
"Ladris Leenea." he answered, relieved she wasn’t angry, "I haven’t seen her in a few years. She’s finishing her trade apprenticeship. She wasn’t very happy with it the last time I spoke to her, and she was thinking of leaving the guild."
"You miss her." Danan said.
He nodded sheepishly. He appeared a few years older than she did. It made him look boyish. She wondered how he’d react if he learned of her symbiont. She was essentially two sentient beings in one package.
Maybe more, if you count all the previous hosts’ memories I have to deal with, she mused. The memories and emotions the symbiot stored were the hardest part of sharing her consciousness with another being. She’d never realised how intelligent the symbiots truly were until she’d joined with one. They not only had minds, they also possessed emotions and desires.
The symbiont influenced her in subtle ways. It wasn’t as though it was screaming at her at the top of its mental lungs, it was more like a gentle whisper. Though, it was as a result of that whisper that she’d become Danan’s host. She’d been the only female host applicant that fit Danan’s psychological requirements.
Danan had been implanted in three female hosts before receiving its first male. The symbiot had decided that it preferred females. Such decisions were rare among the symbiot community, but were not unknown. Although Lisea had withdrawn from the host program, her profile remained on file. She had been the only female that fit the tissue profiles that would accommodate Danan, so she’d become the seventh host.
"Is she the reason you’ve joined the Maquis?" Danan asked, refocusing on Desrin’s conversation.
He nodded fiercely, "Yes. We grew up in the last years of the Occupation." his face grew solemn, "I want to make sure that she, as well as other Bajorans, never have to face that kind of oppression again."
"You must care for her very much." Danan commented, sipping at her coffee.
He gave another sheepish grin, "Yeah, I guess I do."
She gave him a bright smile, "Cheer up, maybe you’ll get to see her soon."
He gave a despondent shrug, "I haven’t seen her in three years. I don’t know if she still remembers me."
"She’ll remember you." Danan assured him. Inwardly she added, Whether or not she’s romanticised your relationship like you have is another matter altogether.
As they retired to the domicile that served as their temporary quarters, Lisea studied Brin’s focused review of their "trainee’s" performances. He looked utterly miserable as reviewed simulation after simulation. He was so caught up in his work, he never heard her creep up behind him.
She draped her arms around his shoulders and began watching the data flashing across the portable terminal on the desk. Brin never wavered, his attention caught by the work he was doing. The only movements he made were with his eyes and his right hand as he stroked his goatee. She chuckled as she shook him.
She knew that he’d been ignoring her on purpose. It was a game of theirs that had begun when they’d first served together on a survey of the Beta Quadrant. They’d been two withdrawn specialists serving aboard a crew of forty others. By a series of coincidence, they’d met and begun their professional and personal collaboration.
Macen had wandered into the ship’s cartography lab seeking a place to enjoy some private reading. Danan had taken over that section as her personal sanctuary. They swiftly overcame their mutual irritation when they discovered the similarity of their motives. Since then, they had formed a formidable partnership.
It had been a matter of speculation among their friends as to when that partnership would blossom into romance as well. It had taken longer than their comrades had hoped, but it had happened. It was a frequently tumultuous pairing. They were both intelligent and driven individuals, the demands of their individual specialities often forming the hub of their primary considerations.
Alynna Nechayev had often commented on their eclectic dynamism. Macen was not an operative that could be shoved into an office in Starfleet Command and be expected to produce. He needed to travel in the field and gain a first hand perspective. Nechayev had bent numerous regulations and over-ruled countless security concerns to accommodate that particular quirk.
Danan was equally brilliant, and much more stable. She was much more socialised than Macen and functioned well with others, if quietly. When she vocalised an opinion or theory, it carried extra weight. The only limits to her career opportunities were those she placed upon herself in order to be closer to Macen.
Nechayev’s allowances made life easier for both of them. Both produced invaluable results in disparate fields. It had taken quite a bit of finagling to arrange the transfer of the two to the Njord. It had been a reward and a sign of how deeply the former social misfits were appreciated by Command.
Lisea smiled as she tried engaging Brin in a wrestling match. He hadn’t visibly aged much for centuries, but the signs were beginning to show. His hair was thinning at the crown in his head. It was typical for El-Aurian men. She remembered how Macen’s distant cousin, Tolian Soran looked the last time she’d seen him.
Brin had also began to develop the infamous "Starfleet spread". It was a running joke among officers that the higher the rank, or the more years in service, the wider their uniforms had become. Brin looked good, but to be honest, had started to gain more weight. He had often been compared to Will Riker. She could see the faint resemblance more easily now.
Macen’s speciality required hours upon hours of deskwork. His time in the Maquis had been the first actual field assignment he’d ever served. She’d been surprised at how quickly he adapted to the task. He was much stronger than he appeared.
Danan, however, was blessed with a genetic predisposition towards maintaining a trimmer figure. Years before, she had been gangly. She’d filled out since then and looked much far more attractive. She knew that men found her appealing, and also knew that she did nothing to attract the attention.
"Are you ready to quit yet?" she asked as she poked Brin in the ribs. She knew he hated that.
"Death first." he replied through gritted teeth.
"Your wish is my command." she announced mirthfully. She redoubled her efforts. Brin managed to twist out of the chair and face her square on. His face was serious, but his eyes twinkled.
"Try that again." he dared, motioning her forward.
Her eyes narrowed as she set her jaw. She couldn’t suppress her smile, revealing her dimples. Her recent scar now bisected the dimple on the right. She hurled herself at Brin.
He had been expecting the move and took her weight and shifted it over his hip. He controlled her descent and lowered her gently to the floor. Not giving her respite, he rolled her into her back. He quickly moved atop her, restraining both arms, and setting so as to pin her legs down.
"You were saying?" he asked smartly.
"That you’ll be sleeping alone tonight." she threatened.
He shook his head, "You’ll have to do better than that. I sleep better alone."
She crinkled her nose in irritation, "You do not!"
He shrugged, "Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. The point is that your threat is ineffectual."
She resumed struggling for a few more seconds before surrendering, "All right. You have me. What now?"
Brin ignored the resigned tone she’d tried to project, "I think I’ll have my way with you."
She gave him a coy smile, "That’s the best plan you’ve come up with in weeks."
The next morning over breakfast, Danan whispered to Macen, "What about our transport?"
He gave her a puzzled look, "What?"
"We’re supposed to arrange for a transport to get all of these wonderful volunteers to the boneyard, remember?" her voice carried more than a hint of sarcasm.
He gave her a lazy smile, "Already taken care of."
"What?" she asked, her voice dropping a couple of octaves.
"Everything was arranged before we left Havelock." he gloated, "A merchant captain named Kasidy Yates has arranged for another freighter to take us."
"Who’s this Kasidy Yates?" she hissed.
"A sympathiser." Macen replied, "She has discreetly carried cargoes for us in the past. When I contacted her, she was more than happy to assist."
She gave him a menacing glare, "You could have informed me of this."
"And miss the opportunity of surprising you?" he replied teasingly, "I have to find ways of reminding you of how good I really am."
"Is that what last night was about?" she asked, eyebrow arched.
"No." he replied in surprise.
"Good." she replied with a wicked smile, "Because you failed to do so."
"Yes." she answered, affecting a bored manner, "I am starting to have my doubts as to your abilities."
"Perhaps you’ll grant me a second chance?"
She gave him a look of mock disdain, "Perhaps."
He chuckled softly, "Good, but it’ll have to wait. We’re supposed to be at the transport site in an hour."
"Damn." she muttered.
"Is spring in the air or something?" he asked.
"No." she replied with a wry smile, "Just reminding myself I’m off the wounded list and still alive."
His face was sombre as he nodded his understanding. They ‘d both nearly been killed when the Rogue Venture had been destroyed. Due to only having an emergency med kit available, they both wore visible scars because of that incident. That didn’t begin to account for the unseen ones.
"If it’s any comfort," he said with teasing grin, "you’ve certainly convinced me of your health."
She hit him in the arm, "You can be scoundrel when you want to be."
"He smiled broadly, "That’s the idea. Let’s gather the children."
The Wanderer dropped out of warpspace with a gentle shudder. It was so sibilant as to a sigh escaping from the ship herself as she was reigned back into "real" space. Ro had often wondered if her ship craved the release and freedom of warp as badly as she did. In warp, the Wanderer rarely had to fight for her life, an increasingly rare situation.
Alongside the Wanderer, three other Maquis ships dropped out of warp. They were the Gunslinger, the Freedom Fighter, and the Liberty. The latter two ships were former Starfleet scoutships. They had been retired two decades ago and sold into private service. It hadn’t taken much work to re-install her torpedo launchers and augment her shields and phasers to their original capabilities.
The ships were roughly half the size of an Oberth-class vessel. They had been built around the same time the venerable science vessels had been commissioned. A modern Danube-class runabout had nearly two-thirds of the power and sensor ability at about a third of the size. The scouts did boast photon torpedoes, something a runabout could not say.
The third ship, the Gunslinger, was a hybrid of several ships melded together. Her base frame had started out as being a freighter of Andorian origin. As with most Andorian craft, the freighter had discreetly hidden far more firepower than was legally allowed on civilian craft within Federation borders. Those augmented abilities had been further expanded by the addition of Klingon disrupters and an Orion warp drive. It was easily the most powerful of the four ships, as was befitting a former mercenary ship.
Oglar Trist, the captain of the Gunslinger, had been determined to prove himself to the warrior caste of his race. He had abandoned the merchant trade his birth relegated him to and began a career as a soldier for hire on the frontier. As his the years advanced and his wealth grew, Trist discovered the ire his people held for him. His success jeopardised millennia of Orthodox belief.
The military and ruling castes forbade his return, but offered him a settlement. An Andorian colony near the Cardassian border needed a seasoned soldier. The colony had been established in defiance of the ruling caste’s wishes and the military caste would not assist them in their defence of their homes. Trist was offered a contract and placed on the Official Dole in exchange for his silence. As long as he lived, he would now receive a gratuity from the military caste. That concession was enough Trist.
The Cardassian wars and the ensuing DMZ had prodded the veteran soldier into action again. After the death of his children, Trist had become a man possessed. He had led some of the most daring attacks against Cardassian outposts. He was also a rabble-rouser who continually pressed the Committee and field commanders to utilise any and all means to destroy the Cardassians. Trist had never taken a prisoner or left a survivor. His only grace was that he had never attacked a civilian settlement... yet.
Captain Helena Astraea of the Freedom Fighter was another case altogether. Astraea had lived her entire life on the Federation’s frontier. Astraea’s last name literally meant "justice", and upon meeting her, it was easy to believe. Astraea was an anarchist, but she had a strict code of honour. Her ship was run as a "co-operative", anyone that violated their agreed upon rules was eligible for execution. It was one of the most disciplined ships in the rag-tag "fleet".
A former Starfleet officer like Ro commanded the Liberty. Chakotay had been a lieutenant commander aboard the Gettysburg. He was also a native of Trebus, a planet in the DMZ colonised by Native Americans from Earth that had abandoned modern technology in favour of ancient customs. He was a recent addition to the ranks of the Maquis, but every tale told of him bespoke of his dedication and tactical ability. It was said he was a man of honour and fairness, despite his home village being razed to the ground and the death of every relative and childhood acquaintance.
Of them, Ro trusted the relatively unknown Chakotay the most. Astraea’s zealous devotion to her anarchist beliefs made her inherently unstable, particularly when dealing with other Maquis commanders. Trist, unlike Chakotay, had become consumed by the deaths of his loved one’s. Every moment of his life was now devoted strictly to revenge. It was a typically Andorian trait, but carried to a fault.
Macen and Danan were known quantities, but carried their own baggage. Danan was the practical one of the two. Macen was the dreamer and the ideologue, which made him the more dangerous of the pair. A debater by nature, Macen had the ability to sway others towards his cause. He also possessed the ability to justify whatever means had been employed.
For a former Intelligence officer, Macen was surprisingly moralistic. His idealism and personal code of ethics prevented him from employing the more terror driven methods preferred by some of their companions. Ro also realised that Macen was fully capable of extreme violence if he felt it was necessary. She didn’t want to be around when he decided that it was justified.
Less than ten light minutes ahead of her four ship squadron lay the freighter Midas. The freighter had beamed Macen and his recruits aboard at Bajor. It had then proceeded to these co-ordinates to await the rendezvous with Ro’s group. All five ships would now get underway and go the boneyard at best possible speed.
Which is still going to be damn slow, Ro mentally groused. The freighter was built for durability and capacity not speed. Her top speed was warp 6. Her best sustainable speed was warp 4.
She decided it was time to talk to the freighter’s captain and her erstwhile co-leader on this mission. She paused long enough to organise the escort positions. The Liberty would take point, staying ten light minutes ahead. The Wanderer, the Freedom Fighter, and the Gunslinger would form a staggered escort around the nearly defenceless Midas.
"This is Captain Ro Laren of the Wanderer to the commander of the Midas, please respond."
It took a moment, then a husky female voice replied, "This is Captain Karin Hayes. You must be our escort. Nice to meet you, Captain."
Ro smiled despite herself. This freighter jock was taking the situation calmly enough. Most merchants finding themselves by armed ships crewed by "dangerous terrorists" would be nervous despite any assurances they’d received. Hayes sounded cool, collected, and utterly at peace with circumstances.
"May I please speak with Captain Macen?" Ro inquired.
"Captain is it?" Hayes scoffed, "Where’s his ship?"
Ro smirked. She could hear Tulley chuckling from behind her, "Captain Macen is... between ships at the moment."
"Meaning his last vessel got blown up." Hayes replied dryly, "You might want to reconsider giving him another. Captains that lose their ships get troublesome after awhile."
"I’m sure Captain Macen is more than capable of handling any ship he receives." Ro assured her.
"All right, I’ll have him brought up."
Macen heard his name over the intercom. That combined with the ship’s departure form warp meant that someone, probably Ro, wanted to talk with him. He and Danan had just finished giving out crew assignments to their recruits. Macen had selected the ones he liked the best for his own crew. It was only fair after all.
Macen gave Danan a sidelong glance. She bobbed her head towards the accessway. With a resigned sigh, Macen pushed himself off the bulkhead he was leaning against and made his way out. On his way up he wondered what this encounter with Captain Hayes would be like.
He didn’t dislike Hayes, and he was certainly impressed with her skills, but she had definitely surprised him. The Midas’ crew complement, all twelve members, were entirely human. That was a rarity in the Federation now days. It had been more common when Macen had arrived in the Alpha Quadrant. Seventy years ago, humans and Vulcans comprised the backbone of Starfleet and most of the organs of the Federation.
Disgruntlement over the perceived injustices had motivated many of the isolationist cultures to begin more a more participatory approach. Even if they didn’t see fit to send recruits to Starfleet or the various scientific and diplomatic bodies, all members had to at least send a delegation to the Council. That particular reform had been instituted primarily due to the Hardiyn. Times also changed when many cultures realised that the apparent dominance stemmed from the aggressive colonial policies. Humans and Vulcans seemed to outnumber other species simply because they did.
The resulting push towards greater participation and joint colonial efforts help stabilise many of the turbulent disagreements brewing within the Federation. Although the ever-increasing alien presence was officially and theoretically embraced, there were always those that resisted change, even changes begun seventy years before.
After they were transported aboard, Hayes had quietly warned Macen to watch the other passengers. Over half of their recruits weren’t of human origin, and that apparently made them less reliable in Hayes’ opinion. Her sympathy for the Maquis lay on the fact that humans and aliens "smart enough to ally with Earth" were the hapless victims of an even greater non-human menace: the Cardassians.
"You can’t always trust them alien buggers." Hayes had warned them, "They think differently than we do."
Macen had raised a single eyebrow and informed her dryly, "Humans think far differently than my race."
She’d blinked in surprise, "You aren’t human?"
"No." he answered firmly, "I wasn’t even born in this quadrant of the galaxy."
"You weren’t?" she asked, eyes bulging.
"Born and bred in the Delta Quadrant." he informed her solemnly.
"How’d you get here?"
"Visited in the latter half of your twenty-first century." he told her, "When the Borg devastated our world, I convinced my fellow refugees to head here."
"Borg, huh?" she asked sourly, "Well, I guess you’re allowed." she peered at him again, "Couldn’t tell you apart form a human though."
"Maybe there’s hope for you yet." Macen retorted.
"Or your kind’s just sneakier than the rest." she accused, then returned to the bridge.
They had engaged in a policy of mutual avoidance ever since. Macen stepped onto the bridge to find her sitting at the comm console. She turned and met his gaze levelly. There was no antagonism in her eyes, just inculturated distrust.
She appeared about fifteen years older than Macen, and in good shape. She wore her sandy hair very short, almost boyish. Her grey eyes were alert and constantly monitored all about her. Her clothes were a utilitarian brown jumpsuit.
"You’ve got a call." she informed him simply.
"Thanks." he said politely then stepped towards the console and switched the receiver on, "Macen here. Go ahead."
"Macen, this is Ro." he could hear mild tension on her voice. Glancing at the nearby Helm and Ops displays, he could see that she had brought three other Maquis ships with her. That couldn’t have been easy with the time constraints she’d had to endure. Little wonder she sounded worn and edgy.
"I need you communicator frequency."
"Acknowledged, stand by." he said crisply. He reached into his utility belt and pulled out his communicator and flipped it open. He saw where it was set and read the frequency off. He snapped it shut and placed it back in its pouch. Hayes stared at it with open astonishment.
"We’re be going to warp in one minute." Ro announced, "Are there any problems I should be aware of."
Macen glanced towards Hayes, then answered, "None that I’m aware of."
"Good." Ro said with obvious relief, "It’ll be good to have a quiet trip. Switch me over to the helmsman."
Macen transferred her over to the helmsman’s private earpiece and then turned towards Hayes, "Thank you, Captain."
She nodded, then her eyes narrowed, "You never told me you were a captain yourself."
His expression turned wry, "You never asked."
She rested her head on the her hand, the elbow propped up by the armrest of her chair, "I suppose I didn’t after all." She glanced out towards the viewer, "They all aliens too?"
"Captain Ro is. Her XO’s human." Macen replied evenly, "I can’t tell you about the rest because I don’t know which ships they are. Does it really matter?"
She surprised him by laughing, "No, it doesn’t, Captain Macen. You should be happy to know that you’ve passed the Hayes Test."
"Really?" he asked in puzzlement.
"You know how to control your temper." she replied happily, "That ability will help keep you alive more than just about any other."
He grinned wryly, "I’m glad you approve."
"Go on back, Captain." Hayes said with a smirk, "We’ll get you to your destination smoothly."
"Glad to hear it." Macen replied, relaxing at last.
"You know that communicator if yours is nearly an antique?"
Macen gave her a wry grin, "You make do with what you can get."
She shook her head, "My grandfather carried one of those when he was in Starfleet."
"Some of us still do." He said dryly and left the bridge.
Except for some grumbling from Astraea, Trist, and T’Kir along the lines of "are we there yet?", the trip went smoothly. They were within five light years of the designated sector when the convoy dropped out of warp. Ro had been concerned about leaving warp so close to the system without actually entering it. Macen had persuaded her that they would appear far less suspicious skirting the system’s periphery for a day or so before plunging in.
Macen’s plan relied on the fact that Section 31 undoubtedly had sensors posted for dozens of light years in every direction. They couldn’t hope to avoid or fool all the sensors, so they had to trick the operatives manning the sensors’ displays. This was officially an uncharted section of Federation space. Prospectors and colonial scouts wee common in such areas.
With their squadron of scoutships and a single transport, they fit the profile of freelance operators hired to scout mining potential and establish a claim stake if something of value was discovered. The composition of the Maquis forces had been based upon those considerations, and whatever assets were available. Although a few "salvaged" runabouts had been available, it’d been decided that anything resembling a Starfleet vessel would arouse too many suspicions.
The entire plan, however, was predicated on the assumption that Section 31 wouldn’t simply dispatch a fleet of ships to simply destroy them upon their first being detected. Macen knew they were more than capable of performing acts that other Starfleet organs would find reprehensible. In many ways, the Maquis and Section 31 employed similar methods. Section 31’s "donation" of a half a dozen or so ships would just be an extension of that irony.
Macen delighted in the fact that the average Starfleet officer or Federation citizen couldn’t accomplish their goal. As outlaws, the Maquis stood a chance. Within the Federation, Section 31 would eventually ferret out those responsible and arrange their "disappearance." Living in a tightly comprised, necessarily paranoid society like the Maquis, the mission members retained much higher odds of survival.
Ro, Chakotay, Trist, and Astraea had beamed aboard the Midas for a strategy conference. They couldn’t trust subspace communications. There was no telling what kind of surveillance equipment was located out here. No transmission, regardless of encryption and verbal coding, would be immune form detection, deciphering and analysis.
The only transmissions allowed were routine traffic and survey reports. They’d been fortunate to have a geologist under Chakotay’s command. He spearheaded the disinformation campaign on that front. Danan was handling the astrometric front. It was routine for expeditions like this to relegate most survey duties to the specialists, so there was little fear that having the bulk of the data handled by the same two individuals would be suspicious. Danan and the geologist, Burin, also brought genuine interest and enthusiasm to the facade. Macen suspected they’d forgotten it was a facade.
The six Captains gathered in the Midas’ tiny mess. They sat three at a bench across the table from each other. Macen wondered if it accidental that the three humans sat together or it was planned. Hayes’ comments had raised doubts Macen was never previously aware of having.
It was the first time the five Maquis commanders had ever met together. Chakotay was too new to be well known. Astraea favoured working with her own select group of ideologues. Trist also favoured solo operations, but he was motivated by the desire to avoid dissent over his methods.
Neither Ro nor Macen had ever worked with them before. They had collaborated closely over the last several months, so they trusted each other implicitly. Macen often felt the greatest liability of the Maquis was the inability to completely trust those outside your intimate circle. It made sense, with both Starfleet and the Cardassians constantly trying to infiltrate the organisation, but was still sad.
"So, what’s next?" Chakotay spoke first. He had a surprisingly mellow tone. His wide jaw and ruggedly handsome features made one expect a much deeper voice. The stylistic tattoo over his left eye contradicted his mannerisms, and complemented them as well in some illusory way.
"And who makes the decision?" Astraea asked. Ro forced herself not to grimace in distaste. The portly woman had badgered Ro for the last three days while en route regarding the same issue. Despite her promises to the Committee, Astraea was determined not to abide by a formal command structure. Generally, the Maquis were a fairly loose knit group. It was different when the stakes were this high and four out of the five commanders had professional military experience.
Ro didn’t dampen the intensity of her glare as she answered the question, "As I’ve said before, I have tactical command of this mission. Captain Macen retains strategic command."
"What the living hell does that mean?" Astraea demanded stridently.
Ro barely suppressed a feral snarl in reply. Chakotay chuckled. Trist gave her a disdainful snort. Macen’s expression was one of pain. Hayes remained utterly impassive.
"That means that I retain overall command of the squadron and any subsequent additions." Ro’s voice sounded stilted and brittle, "Macen is in charge of the acquisition and insertion phase. He has determined the crews and will select the ships to be ‘re-possessed’."
"What if my crew is unhappy with your orders or command?"
"Then I suggest they leave now." Ro warned in a dangerous tone.
Astraea grumbled but said nothing further. Trist asked the next question, "Who will appoint the commanding officers of these new ships?"
The corners of Ro’s eyes and mouth relaxed a little, "That’s already been taken care of. The Committee selected four candidates. Three are on board the Wanderer. One is aboard this ship."
"And if we take more than five ships?" Trist asked, acknowledging that Macen would be selecting a ship.
"Then we man them as best as we can." Ro answered slowly, "Our other options are to abandon them or to destroy them."
Trist recoiled at that suggestion, "We can’t do that!" He sputtered, "We need those ships."
"And where are we going to get the personnel to crew them?" Macen asked sharply, speaking for the first time during the course of the meeting, "That doesn’t mention photon torpedoes or dilithium."
Trist’s eyes filled with malice as he glared at the El-Aurian, "We need these weapons. With them we will have the beginnings of a real fleet, and we can strike the hammer blow that will crush our enemies."
Macen’s expression was one of pained tolerance, "The goal of the Maquis is simply to liberate the Federation colonies from Cardassian control." His voice grew tempered, "I am unaware of any creed calling for the annihilation of the Cardassians."
Macen leaned back and asked dryly, "Or does it end there?"
Trist was clenching both his fists. He was almost trembling with rage. He was sitting next to Macen and it was obvious he was pondering killing the El-Aurian with the knife that hung at his belt. Astraea’s vocal intervention distracted everyone from the debate.
"What about these candidates? Why did the Committee pick them?"
Ro fielded this one as Macen pointedly ignored the malicious looks Trist sent his way, "We had some recent recruits with limited starship experience."
"Ex-Starfleet, you mean?" Astraea asked distastefully. To her political philosophy, Starfleet represented what she fought against as much as the Cardassians did.
"Some." Ro admitted, "But most are merchants."
"Why them?" Chakotay seconded, "Maquis captains are normally selected by the crew of the ship they’ll be commanding."
"Traditionally." Ro conceded, "The other biggest factor is if a person brings us a ship, they’re almost always its commander as well."
There were chuckles from all save Trist regarding this truism, "We are actually at a point where we had more qualified leaders than ships. The Committee made the decision because there weren’t any crew to select who would be captain."
"I understand the reasoning." Chakotay replied, "I was just curious as to whether or not this was an attempt by the Committee to establish a formal command structure."
Astraea snorted, "It better not be. The Committee is just supposed to co-ordinate operations, not run them."
Ro gave her a thin smile, "The entire movement is about personal freedom, but a centralised command structure makes sense. It keep sour efforts unified."
"You’d think that." Astraea scoffed, "You’re Picard’s little puppet. We form a central command and the next thing y’know, they’re forming some damn government."
Ro and Astraea’s eyes locked. They were never going to agree on this, and both were too stubborn to back away. Ro understood Astraea’s basic discomfort with authority. Ro felt the same way. She had also learned to see the other side of the equation after assuming command of her own ship and crew.
If Riker could only see me now, she thought wryly.
A fist slamming down on the table startled them all. All eyes turned to Macen. His eyes burned with an inner fire. His face was hard and set.
"This is getting us nowhere." His voice was as sharp as a dagger, "We’re here for a mission. Let’s focus on that. We can debate political views later."
Everyone, except Trist, looked contrite. They remained silent as Macen took over the briefing. The only interruptions were topical questions that were discussed with a new sense of professionalism. The changes in attitude, as well as Astraea and Trist’s persistent sullen demeanours, were revealing. The Maquis were transforming into a true military force, just as it was developing its own brand of dissenters.
Macen and Danan accompanied Ro and Chakotay to the transporter. Macen would accompany Chakotay to his ship, while Danan beamed to the Wanderer. In thirty minutes, the squadron would proceed into the system housing the mothball fleet. Chakotay’s Liberty and crew would support any landings that had to be made hence Macen’s involvement. Chakotay had laughingly informed Ro he was getting used to being point for the entire squadron.
Danan would assist T’Kir in networking the Squadron’s sensors. Although the Wanderer possessed the poorest sensor array of the Maquis ships, she had the best computer processor. Kosk, the brilliant Dervin engineer that had converted her impulse system patrol craft into a warp capable vessel had also augmented the computers. The ship now had four times the processing capability the ship’s normal operations required.
Macen and Danan had discovered Section 31’s sensor network and the subspace frequencies they transmitted upon. Tapping into those transmissions, they were able to extend their sensor range for eighty light years beyond their normal capacity. Modulating their shields to a matching frequency as the active sensor transmissions, they effectively shielded themselves from detection. They couldn’t eliminate their impulse signatures and warp fields to eliminate detection from passive arrays, but they could alter them so as to appear to be different ships.
Ro and Danan would beam out first. Macen took one long last look at her. The colorant she’d used to alter her hair was fading at the roots. Macen was surprised to find he preferred it. The contrast between the new and old seemed metaphorical.
She gave him a hopeful smile, "Be careful."
His grin was mischievous, "You know better than that."
She sighed, "Just don’t get killed."
"Never." He said cockily.
She shook her head in mock frustration, "You’ll be the death of me yet."
"I doubt it." He replied flippantly, then kissed her. She joined Ro on the platform and disappeared as the transporter dematerialised her. Macen turned to Chakotay to find the other man smiling at him.
"Special lady." He commented.
"She certainly is." Macen agreed heartily.
"We’ll get you back together safely."
"Never doubted it."
The Liberty was a scout built in the latter half of the 23rd century and the beginning of the 24th. Many similar ships had been built during this period. The newly crafted treaty with the Klingons, new expansions further into the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, and a greater influx of non-human participation in Federation affairs bred a vibrant spirit of exploration and colonial adventure.
Many private companies and ventures were launched to cater to this expansionist sentiment. Vessels were rapidly developed and built to equip the expeditions. These craft were heavily armed for their size and exceptionally durable. They possessed minimal staffing, averaging crews of 20-25, and were easily modified.
Starfleet never purchased any of these craft preferring to develop their own instead. Changing design philosophies and greater reliance upon larger hulls reduced the number of scout vessels Starfleet invested in. Their vessels were more powerful than their civilian counter-parts and bore an unmistakable resemblance to their larger siblings. Although exceptionally capable and durable, most were decommissioned and sold into private ownership.
The Maquis had acquired nearly two dozen of the civilian scouts. Various pirate cabals had converted most into commercial raiders. They also inherited many Bajoran impulse raiders and fighters left over from the Occupation. The former Starfleet proved singularly elusive and they had acquired only one thus far.
The Liberty bore a striking resemblance to the space fighters used by Earth in the war against the Romulans. An arrowhead shaped cockpit was mounted on a pyramidal fuselage. Short wings extended from the body. These wings granted the scout increased manoeuvrability in atmospheric operations as well as sporting a disrupter cannon on the end. The warp nacelles were built into the outer edges of the hull canopied by the wings and heavy armour. The impulse engines protruded from between the nacelles in a triangular shape, almost as feathers at the end of the arrow the cockpit/head was mounted upon. The shape gave the scouts a predatory look. The added photon torpedo launchers only added to that fierce impression.
One of the major differences between the scout and a fighter was its size. The scout came in at 98 metres in length; 60 metres at the body, 108 metres wingtip to wingtip, and 20 metres in height. It was slightly smaller than a Klingon Bird of Prey, which was the closest to it in design and capability. The average fighter was roughly a third of that size.
The bridge was a study in pure functionality. All station pointed forward towards the viewport. Unlike most scoutships of Starfleet and Klingon origin, the ship employed force-field reinforced transparent aluminium "windows" rather than viewer technology. It had been measure to reduce costs but it had the unexpected effect of making one think they were riding in a much smaller craft, such as a shuttle.
The control consoles were arranged in a double tier. The first tier was comprised of the three stations closest to the viewport. The centre seat was the pilot’s. To his/her left was the Weapons console. To the pilot’s right were the Engineering controls.
The second tier was set behind, and slightly above, the first. It was comprised of four stations. These comprised, from left to right, of Science, Master Systems (Ops), Communications, and Navigation. Master Systems and could be configured as a replacement to any other console if the primary was damaged or inoperable. Such precautions were standard aboard this class.
Macen was granted a seat at the Science station. Chakotay manned Flight Control himself. His first officer, a Bajoran woman named Seska, manned Ops. A human named Yuri Terikof sat at Navigation. A Bolian and two other humans manned the remaining stations. None of them had offered their names to Macen. He knew Chakotay had another seventeen members of his crew in Engineering and various parts of the ship.
Terikof was more than happy to talk with Macen. He’d been a colonist on Riva. That colony had been founded by a Russian co-operative. It had also endured some of the greatest atrocities of the undeclared border war. Nearly two-thirds of the colonists had been slain. It was rarity for a survivor of the Rivan holocaust not to be involved in the Maquis.
As they entered the system, even the ebullient Terikof fell silent. As they passed the first orbital boundary of the planet furthest from the system’s primary, they received their first accurate look at the contents of the system. Their sensors had shown only Class D and Class L planets before penetrating the outer boundary. Having entered the system, they could now see a Class M.
The Class M was the fourth of the system’s eighteen planets. Between that planet and the fifth, a mass of ships now appeared before them. There were not one or two ships, but dozens, more than they’d ever expected. They ranged from scoutships to starships.
"Why couldn’t we detect this before?" Terikof asked quietly.
"They were using the same sensor trick we are, but on a larger scale." Macen answered with admiration in his voice, "They have a network of satellites that absorb long range scans and project out the readings they want the ships to receive."
He began running precise scans of the ships. There were five other scout/raisers identical to the Liberty. There were two Oberth-class ships and several older science vessels. Most of the vessels were freighters, yachts, or sundry vessels that would remain almost unseen in most systems. There were exceptions like the Constitution-class starship hovering amongst the rest like a great white giant.
Macen was amazed by the finds when he detected an active scan beam "painting" the ship, "We’re being scanned!"
"Raise shields." Chakotay ordered calmly.
The human named Tyler activated the ship’s shields as Macen tracked the scan beam to its origination point. "It’s coming from an installation on the fourth planet in the system."
"Have they tried hailing us?"
Yerol, the Bolian at communications shook her head, "No, but they are transmitting a subspace signal."
"That’ll be a distress call." Macen commented, "Ro’s group should be able to garble it enough prevent identification."
"Understood." Chakotay said, sounding half distracted, "Seska, can you patch into the computers of any of these ships?"
She frowned as she studied her board, "No. Their command code shut-outs have been activated."
"That mean whoever is down on that planet probably has the codes." Chakotay observed dryly. He turned to Macen with a with a wry smile, "Any suggestions?"
"Just that we contact the rest of the squadron." Macen replied, matching Chakotay’s dry tone.
Chakotay chuckled grimly and nodded to Yerol. Yerol transmitted a tight beam subspace burst at precise co-ordinates outside the system. The message contained no words or encryptions. It was a simple mathematical equation.
Within minutes the other ships burst into the system at full warp. The Wanderer and the Freedom Fighter stayed with the Midas and set course for the inactive "fleet".
The Gunslinger joined the Liberty and made for an orbital approach over Section 31’s base on the planet. They orbited "nose down", with their primary weapons arrays pointed down towards the surface. The implications were quite clear.
"How big is that base?" Chakotay asked.
"About the same size as this ship." Macen replied with a trace of amusement, "It appears to be mostly automated."
"Six." Macen answered.
"Try sending..." Chakotay began but never finished as a red streak blurred by and dove into the atmosphere.
"Photon torpedo!" Tyler announced.
"Who launched it?" Chakotay demanded angrily.
"The Gunslinger." She answered bitterly, then more excitedly, "She’s firing again!"
"Hail them." Macen snarled. Yerol glanced towards Chakotay. Macen had ordered a verbal communications blackout for the duration of the mission. Chakotay shrugged in ambivalence. Who was he to object if the mission commander overrode his own orders?
"Trist, this is Macen. Cease fire immediately." Macen spoke into the comm.
"What are you doing?" Trist hissed, "You’re supposed to be maintaining silence."
"If you hadn’t disobeyed orders by firing on the surface, we wouldn’t be having this conversation." Macen snarled, "Hold your fire."
"Aye, sir." Trist replied, defiance ringing in his voice.
Macen turned his attention to the sensors. They revealed that one torpedo had struck the base. Five life signs remained, and were moving. A network of transport inhibitors was in place.
Where are they headed? he wondered. The mothball fleet was too far out of range for transporters on the surface. The only way they could reach them is with a shuttle, or a runabout. He checked the readings again.
"They’re trying to launch a shuttle or a runabout." Macen informed Chakotay.
"Can you plot an intercept? Chakotay asked.
"Yes." Macen said, "I’m feeding it to flight control now."
Chakotay read the display, "We can match this easily."
"That’s not the problem." Macen said distractedly, "They undoubtedly have the command codes for the mothballed ships aboard. We need those codes."
"What do you suggest?"
Macen’s grin was devious, "How good are you at atmospheric manoeuvring?"
"Sir, the Liberty is descending into the atmosphere." The Gunslinger’s Tactical Officer reported, "We have also detected a shuttle launch from the planetside base."
"Pahh!" Trist spat, "That fool Macen should have let me level them." He turned to his XO, "Take a shuttle and follow Chakotay."
The Andorian clicked his heels together, "As you command."
Unlike Chakotay’s scoutship, the Gunslinger was incapable of atmospheric manoeuvring. She was built solely for the expanses of space and warpspace. The ungainly hybrid did have two Type 8 shuttles aboard, stolen form an Orion that in turn had stolen them from Starbase 978. They were extremely small, only 8 metres long, but were warp-capable and had phasers.
"I have them." Seska announced. She had taken over the Science station. Macen had gone down to the transporter room. He monitored the bridge traffic over the ship’s comm.
"They’re in a Danube-class Runabout." She reported, "They’re following the terrain and headed for a mountain range at heading 175.9."
"Roger that." Chakotay acknowledged and banked the ship in a descending arc that would intercept the fleeing craft.
The Liberty’s shape gave her greater manoeuvrability than the runabout in atmosphere. Her larger impulse engines also gave her greater speed. Gravity was increasing the speed potential of the scout as well. Their approach was designed to keep the sun behind them, occluding them from sensors.
"I also read a Type 8 shuttle descending form orbit." Seska added, "It’s coming in a shallower trajectory."
"Can the runabout see them?"
"I’d say that’s an affirmative." Seska replied dryly, "The runabout just increased speed and is now running an evasive pattern."
"Damn." Macen heard Chakotay mutter softly, "I’m adjusting our approach. Give me a continuos sensor feed on their position."
"Do you want active sensors?" she asked. While the Liberty employed only passive sensors, she was that much harder to detect, especially against the backdrop of solar radiation. Going sensor "blind" also limited her abilities to track the runabout’s movements. Activating her active sensor array would grant the Liberty a complete picture of events, but it would also broadcast her position and movements.
"No." Chakotay answered, "Stay with passives." Then he spoke to Tyler, "Get ready to lock phasers."
The shuttle was gaining on the runabout due largely to entry vector. She opened fire and began to pepper the runabout’s shields with phaser bursts. Incandescent halos appeared around the runabout as it shrugged off the energy blasts. The shields were reduced somewhat, but were still firm.
"Lock phasers and fire." Chakotay ordered, "Activate full sensor sweeps."
One moment, the crew of the runabout had only the shuttle to deal with. Now they had a scoutship diving out of the sun firing far stronger phaser blasts at them. The runabout shuddered as her shields began to buckle before being reinforced. They set a new course following a river valley flanked by steep cliffs. The manoeuvre was designed to hamper the scoutship’s agility.
Seska swore as she read her sensor displays, "They’ve reinforced their shields by re-routing power directly form the warp drive."
"Well, now we know they will have to make a break for one of the larger vessels." Chakotay mused.
"Their vector’s wrong for an escape attempt." Seska commented.
"You’re right." Chakotay realised. His eyes glanced over his navigational sensors. The runabout was climbing slightly, but not in any attempt to leave orbit. He tried to fathom what they were doing when the sensors revealed an abrupt drop looming ahead where the river fell down a massive waterfall.
"Their warp containment field is destabilising." Seska reported.
"They’re going to try and blow the ship up by building a core overload and plowing the ship into the ground."
"They’re easier ways." Terikof commented.
"Yes, there are." Chakotay replied, "But this way they can maintain shields and assure their destruction without interference from us."
"Captain Chakotay," Macen’s voice came over the comm, "can you fire a tachyon burst at the runabout?"
"Yes, I think so." Chakotay answered with obvious confusion, "The question is why?"
"It will make their shields re-modulate." Macen explained, "Its a classified weakness of Starfleet designs. While their shields are down, I can beam over and secure the shuttle."
"Alone?" Chakotay asked.
"My plan, my risk." Macen replied evenly.
"How long do you need to prepare?"
"I’m told three minutes."
"You have them." There was a pause, "And good luck."
Harley, Chakotay’s transporter chief, counted down with the bridge. Macen steeled his nerves. He had his Type II phaser ready. Like his communicator, it was considered a near relic. The design dated from the latter decade of the 23rd century. He had two additional power cells for it, although he didn’t think he’d have the need to use them.
Macen’s teeth clenched slightly as he heard Harley say, "Now!" into the comm and activate the transporter sequence. Even the effect of the most modern of transporters was unsettling. This one dated back to Macen’s arrival in the Alpha Quadrant. He felt vaguely nauseated as he felt his component atoms being converted into energy, and even more so when he felt them reassembling.
The world coalesced into a recognisable pattern in time for the runabout to lurch from a phaser blast, sending him flying into the bulkhead. He’d been beamed into the back, so no one had noticed him yet. That changed as he bounced of the wall. The Section 31 man closest to him turned.
Macen fired his phaser. It was set high enough to kill. He didn’t have the resources to deal with prisoners, and couldn’t afford witnesses. The man slumped.
Another hurled himself at Macen. He caught Brin in the mid-section with his shoulder and drove him backward towards the transporter alcove at the rear of the runabout. Macen braced himself for the impact and accepted it. He fired his phaser into the man’s back before his assailant could press his attack further.
A third assailant, this one a woman, came at him. He cut her down before she was halfway to him. The pilot pitched the craft into a steep dive. Macen lost his footing and sailed towards the forward cockpit.
He lost the phaser as he collided with the pilot’s seat. The co-pilot pushed out of his chair at him. Macen deflected the fist blow, angling the block to allow him a clear punch. His blow caught the other man in the ear.
Temporarily stunned by the sudden pain, he ceased his attack. Macen reached over the seat and took the pilot by the collar and pulled her out of the chair. She fell in between the two command chairs. Macen plopped into the chair and tried to level the runabout out.
He trimmed the dive off only to find himself under attach again. The male Section 31 agent had recovered and was trying to get behind Macen. Brin swivelled his chair to face the other man and rose to parry the man’s incoming blows.
Macen ducked under the man’s swing, delivering a punch to the gut. He pivoted behind his opponent and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck with his right hand. He thrust his right leg in front of the other man’s. Twisting at the same time her pushed his opponent forward, Macen was able to throw the man off his feet and face first into the science console. The display interface shattered under the man’s weight and momentum.
Macen was thrown off his feet again as the runabout resumed its dive. The pilot had reached the controls and pitched the ship downward again. She took Macen’s phaser and fired at the controls, locking the ship in its current trajectory. Being only a few thousand metres off the ground, there was no time to think, only react. The Liberty couldn’t lock onto the runabout as long as it shields remained up, so they became the first priority.
Second, actually. Macen amended as the pilot twisted in order to try and aim the phaser at him. He let gravity propel him towards her. He slammed into the back of the seat she was pulling herself upright with. He punched her in the face.
The blow unbalanced her and she dropped the phaser. Macen reached out for her. She tried to roll along the console and allude his grasp. He grabbed the back of her neck and pinned her. He slid off the seat he was pressed against and placed his knee in her back. He had her head between his hands. He shifted his right under her jaw, taking it by the left side. He twisted sharply, hearing the crack of her spinal column breaking.
Still leaning against her body, he reached for the shield controls deactivating them. Next, he reached for the warp drive controls and initiated an emergency shutdown. He re-routed all deflector power into the containment field. He lurching sensation informed him that the Liberty had managed to secure the runabout with a tractor beam.
The tractor had grabbed the rear of the runabout. It was still nose down. Macen climbed up towards the "rear" hatch. The bodies and smells littering the cabin were blatant reminders of what had just occurred and he wanted out if the runabout. Macen had killed in close quarters combat before, but never those that had once worn the same uniform he had.
He wanted out of the runabout and wanted time to consider what he’d done. His decision to throw in completely with the Maquis was now irrevocable. What he’d done would be considered murder by Federation standards, and particularly by Section 31. If they had as much influence as they appeared to control, his life would be forfeit if he returned to Starfleet.
Proceed to Part II of III
|Last modified: 02 Jan 2014