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 stared down the man sitting across the table from her. At least, she assumed it was male. She really couldn’t tell, and the little alien wasn’t helping her at all in figuring it out. She was giving him her best “withering” glare. Unfortunately, it just didn’t seem to phase the half metre tall alien.
“So tell me again,” she said icily, “why did you want to meet with me?”
The alien’s oval green head tilted to one side. His thin slash of a mouth moved slowly as he tried to form his words in Basic, “Kosk want hurt Cardassians.”
Ro snorted, “That’s a pretty popular sentiment. What makes you think I can help with that?”
“You Maquis.” The alien stated. It wasn’t a question, just a declaration. Damn, she thought to herself. We’re getting sloppy about security again. She glanced about the pub they were seated in.
She shook her head and gave him a bemused smile, “First off, You don’t have to keep trying to speak Basic. I have a universal translator. Second, I’m not a Maquis. I can’t help you but I wish you luck.” She stood and started to walk away.
The alien named Kosk grabbed her wrist. His grip was unbelievably strong; “You stay. You talk to Kosk..”
Ro sat down, “I’ll talk if you release my wrist. You’re hurting me.”
Kosk released her. Her wrist bore red marks where his reed thin fingers had held her. Her expression grew fierce as she rubbed her injured member. Kosk’s dark almond shaped eyes seemed to soften.
“Kosk sorry.” He said miserably.
“You damn well better be.” Ro reprimanded, “Do you expect people to trust you after you force them to listen to you?” She watched his shoulders sag. Inwardly cursing herself, she sighed, “All right. What’s your story?”
“Kosk is Dervin. Dervin come to Cetaphon to build new home. Cardassians come, kill many Dervin. Kill Kosk family. Kosk want revenge.” The diminutive figure told her.
Ro’s eyes narrowed, “A few more questions. First, why did you assume I was Maquis? Second, why the hell don’t you just speak naturally and let the translator do its job? It’d be easier to follow.”
Kosk straightened up a bit, “Kosk pick up loose talk. You are Maquis. You hurt Cardassians.” Ro blanched at learning that the Dervin had stumbled onto her affiliations so easily, “Kosk does not use translator because…” his speech turned into a series of yowls and screeches.
Ro covered her ear with one and hand and motioned for him to stop with the other, “All right! I get your point.” She shook her head, “So what do you do?”
Kosk’s lips curved into an approximation of a smile, “Kosk engineer.”
Ro smiled back at him, “Really?”
Explosions echoed throughout the compound. The whining sound of particle weapons filled the air. The occasional scream or cry of pain leapt above the cacophony of noise. A shuttle tried to lift off only to find itself the target of a photon grenade launcher.
Four Cardassians staggered out of the crashed shuttle. Ro led a three-man squad to collect them for possible interrogation later. They meekly surrendered and were marched off by two of the Maquis commandos. Ro’s communicator chirped.
She flipped open the surplus Starfleet relic, “Ro here.”
“You have trouble coming your way, Laren.” Ro’s intelligence officer, Brin Macen, was reporting from his orbital position.
“What is it?” Ro asked sourly.
“A troop transport.” Macen replied, “The garrison on the southern continent hit the transport inhibitors and have decided on the direct approach.”
“You have about ten minutes.” Macen answered calmly; “They’ve also sent a sub-space distress call. Three cruisers have replied and are en route.”
Damn! “How soon will they get here?” she asked grimly.
“They were patrolling a nearby sector.” Macen replied with bitter irony, “They will be in system in fifteen minutes.”
“Then its time to pull out.” Ro hated to the term “retreat”.
“You’d better inform ‘Captain’ Rand as well.” Macen informed her. She could hear wry amusement in his voice, “He seems to have misplaced his communicator.”
Ro rubbed the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes. Rand was an unstable zealot. Ro had originally wanted another Maquis captain named Chakotay along for this raid on the armoury on Vetara’s northern continent. He had a reputation for a certain degree of professionalism and his crew was one of the most successful in the pitiful “fleet” the Maquis had cobbled together. Sadly, Chakotay had been unavailable, so another cell leader had foisted off Rand on her.
“Acknowledged. I’ll deal with him. Ro out.” She snapped her communicator shut with a sense of finality. Rand had a tendency to balk at tactical withdrawal. Hell, she mused, he balks at everything. Anything that doesn’t involve killing or some other form of self-gratification, she corrected herself.
She turned to the Maquis commando beside her, “You heard the man, Tulley. We’re pulling out of here. Send out a detail to collect the transport inhibitors and get everything transported back to the ships.”
“You got it, Skipper.” Tulley replied. Ro’s lips twisted into a wry smile at his casual term of respect. Her cell had noticed her discomfort with titles of rank and had found a way to accommodate her. Try as she might to forget she still pangs of guilt over the betrayal she had dealt Picard and couldn’t think of herself as a leader. It was a moment that would haunt her until her death.
Which might be rapidly approaching, she thought wryly. She quickened her pace. Rand and his crew had been assigned the camp’s barracks. She could still hear occasional phaser fire from that direction.
Her long, lanky form gave her a fast stride. Coupled with the special tactical training Starfleet provided her with, she could make good time over virtually any terrain. She saw Rand’s pickets ahead of her and slowed. They challenged her, backing down after she delivered the proper counter-sign.
She walked into a scene straight out of a vedik’s vision of the Fire Caves. A burning pyre had been built out of slain Cardassian. Rand and several of his “commandos” stood around two survivors. One male and one female Cardassian were tied together, their sex unimportant to their captors. Only their suffering mattered.
Rand stood leaning against the barracks wall. He was laughing at the proud resistance with which the Cardassians were meeting their doom. He had his arm around his lieutenant’s shoulders, an Andorian woman named Talor Jesp. Ro shuddered in the memory of some of brutal assaults Rand and Jesp had co-ordinated.
Rand saw Ro’s approach and straightened up. “Checking up on me, eh?” he asked sarcastically, “As you can see, we’ve taken care of our part of the mission without any special training.” Bitterness and acidic hatred laced his every word.
“I’m here to tell you that we’re pulling out.” Ro replied evenly, struggling to control the mounting rage she felt.
“Pull out?” he sneered, “Why? We’ve tamed these lizards.”
“Macen reports that a troop transport is in-bound for our location.” Ro forced herself to ignore his goading tone, “He also reports that three Cardassian cruisers are en route. They’ll be here in ten minutes which is five minutes after the transports touch down.”
“Good!” he shouted, “More lizards to kill. Boots for everyone.”
Ro stared at him in mute rage, then she couldn’t control herself any more. She strode up to him and struck him across the face. Rand bounced off the barracks wall. Jesp snarled a curse and pointed her phaser at Ro.
Ro met her eyes levelly. “Try it.” she said in a steely voice, “Let’s see what you have.” Jesp hesitated. Ro stepped forward and slapped the phaser from her hand.
“You’re pathetic.” She spat. Jesp shrank away. Ro turned her attention to Rand’s sprawled form, “You forget that I’m in overall command of this operation. I say when we’re leaving and that moment is now!.”
“And if I refuse?” Rand asked cockily.
Ro snorted, “Then you die alone.” She turned and stalked off. As she left, Rand’s laughter followed her. Dying at the hands of the Cardassians is to good for him, she cursed mentally.
Tulley glanced towards Ro as she approached, “Problems?” he asked, noting the dark scowl on her face.
“Have you started sending anything aboard the Skydancer?” she inquired irritably. Tulley smiled. That was Rand’s ship.
“Good.” She snorted when he shook his head in the negative, “That stupid bastard wants to stay and die, let him. We don’t need sadists like him and his crew.”
“Torturing Cardassians again?” Tulley asked disdainfully.
She nodded, “That, and he wants to stay and take on the troops on the transport.”
“For what its worth,” Tulley spoke softly, “it would be better to leave them.”
She glared at him. She knew he was trying to help. If only her damnable sense of loyalty would stop plaguing her. Rand was scum, but he was Maquis scum.
“You’ll regret it, Skipper.” Tulley told her, reading her expression.
“I know, but I have to try.” She admitted.
“I think you may be insane.” Macen commented dryly.
Ro shook her head, then realised that was a useless gesture when speaking via communicator, “The Indomitable is the most heavily armed ship we have. She still has mines aboard.”
“Only a few.” Macen informed her, then slowly added, “we haven’t used them before because they’re quantum weapons.”
Ro shuddered. Quantum weapons were illegal under the terms of the Third Khitomer Accords. Then again, the Maquis movement was illegal as well. What did it matter in the end?
“Deploy them.” Ro ordered grimly.
Macen hesitated. He’d been a Starfleet officer longer than Ro had been alive. Although she was one of the few to know it, the El-Aurian had a similar story to hers. Starfleet Intelligence had sent him to the DMZ to spy and report on the Maquis and he’d thrown in with them instead. She heard his heavy sigh over her communicator and knew exactly how he felt.
“Very well.” He acknowledged reluctantly, “Indomitable out.”
Ro stared at the rest of her crew as they laboured. Her decision weighed heavily upon her. Quantum weapons were unpredictable and “dirty”. There was no telling the amount of havoc she was about to wreak in the local subspace environment and how much radiation would bombard this world. Hopefully some of the native life would survive.
She shook off despondency and reactivated her communicator, “Ro to Wanderer.”
“T’Kir here, Captain.” Her ops specialist reported.
Ro’s lips twisted into a sardonic smile. Only T’Kir ever referred to her as ‘Captain’. “How’s the loading going?” she asked.
“Efficiently.” The Vulcan replied.
As much as Ro appreciated T’Kir’s efficiency, right now she could twist the other woman’s pointed ears off, “How much longer will it take?”
“Two more transports. I estimate two minutes.” T’Kir answered unperturbed by Ro’s irritation.
“Which leaves us two more minutes to get every one out.” Ro commented, “Good work. Ro out.” She heard a the crunch of gravel under a boot and turned to find Tulley approaching her
“We’ve got all the inhibitors.” He reported, “They’re going up with our people.”
“Good.” Ro replied with an approving nod, “Now I just need to convince the crew of the Skydancer to beam their captain aboard.”
“Good luck.” Tulley murmured to himself, “If I were them, I wouldn’t.”
The Indomitable finished her orbit of Vetara’s moon. The quantum mines enjoyed a swift elliptical orbit. They could be activated by remote and targeted like torpedoes. Utilising their own proximity detectors, the mines would detach themselves from their boosters and continue on a ballistic flight until they detonated near their target.
Macen’s partner, Lisea Danan, shook her head, “You’ve really gone too far this time.” The humour in her voice belied the chiding nature of her words.
Macen shrugged. He knew that the three ships only had roughly eleven photon torpedoes between them. Half of those were on this ship alone. The Indie was an old Ju’day-class scout dating back to the turn of the century. Chakotay commanded the only other one of her class in Maquis hands. She was more powerful then either of her siblings in orbit above Vetara, but dreadfully overmatched against a single Cardassian cruiser, much less three.
“At the very least, it’ll buy us some time.” He commented.
“And at the worst?” she asked.
“The sub-space tears will make this area un-navigable for quite some time. It might even destroy us in the process.” His reply was low and fatalistic.
She left her Ops station, stepped behind him, and squeezed his shoulder. “You’ll get us out of here. You always do.”
Macen wished that he had her faith in his abilities.
Ro stepped off the transport platform and rushed off for the bridge of the Wanderer. The ship was a Bajoran raider refitted with a warp drive stripped off a runabout. The hybrid was the result of Kosk’s genius. It was a little temperamental at times but it was a vast improvement over being restricted to just sublight impulse engines.
“Raise the Skydancer.” Ro ordered as she slipped into the seat at the helm.
T’Kir manned Ops, she hailed their sister ship. “Skydancer is receiving” she reported.
“This is Captain Ro. I am ordering you to establish a transporter lock on your captain and crewmates and beam them back to your ship. My ship will transport those you cannot.”
“Captain Rand has said nothing about this.” A defiant voice spoke back.
“Captain Rand is not here.” Ro snarled, “He is down on the planet, one minute away from being killed. I am the mission commander. You will obey my order, or I will be forced to fire on you.”
Ro could feel Tulley’s eyes on the back of her head from the Weapons station. She was dead serious. She’d rather burn them down as traitors than give the Cardassians the thrill of victory. She waited as the other man paused, debating his options.
“All right. We’re commencing transport,” the voice replied sullenly.
“About time.” Ro muttered darkly, “T’Kir, lock on to whoever is left and beam them to the Skydancer’s cargo bay.”
“Acknowledged.” The Vulcan said crisply as she manipulated her controls, “Transport complete.”
T’Kir’s left eyebrow rose, “Skydancer is hailing us.” She announced dryly.
“Probably to complain about us rescuing them.” Ro groused, “Tell them our comm system’s failed. They’ll believe that.”
“Transmission from Indomitable.” T’Kir informed Ro, “The Cardassians have entered the system and are approaching at warp six. ETA in four minutes.”
“Shields up.” Ro replied reflexively, “Arm phasers. How many torps do we have?”
“Three.” Tulley announced sourly.
“Who wants to live forever anyway?” Ro asked with gallows humour.
“I’m not going to knock it until I’ve tried it at least once.” Tulley quipped.
“You may have to wait until tomorrow to try it.” Ro retorted, “I’m taking us out of orbit.”
Gul Leggar sat on the bridge of the Obsidian Fire. His ship led the the cruiser squadron approaching Vetara. His smile was cold and deadly as his officers reported the two Maquis ships breaking orbit from Vetara. He could taste death and it was exceedingly sweet.
“Ready?” Macen asked.
“Anytime.” Danan replied.
“Helm, bring us out.” Macen ordered, “Fire phasers and engage warp drive.”
The Indomitable moved out from behind Vetara’s moon. She caught the Obsidian Fire in the flank with a phaser blast. The Indie’s phasers were far too weak to penetrate the Cardassian shields, but it did guarantee that Macen now held their full attention. The Indie proceeded out of the system at warp six with two of the Cardassian ships in pursuit.
“Commence transmission to Ro’s ships.” Macen ordered, “Then activate mines.”
Danan activated the comm, which sent two pre-programmed messages. She nodded to Macen. He returned his attention to the tactical display on the viewer.
“Now we just have to get out of here alive.”
“Message from the Indomitable.” T’Kir informed Ro, “They are transmitting navigational co-ordinates with a suggestion that we implement them post haste.”
Ro almost smiled. That certainly sounded like Macen. She’d wondered where he’d lain the quantum mines. She supposed she was about to find out.
“Inform Skydancer of the plan, and jump to warp six.” Ro ordered.
Macen was relieved to see the other two Maquis vessels implementing the course he’d suggested. The two Cardassians tracking him were closing fast. They hadn’t seen the mines following them yet. Even if they did in the next few seconds, it was too late now.
“We have a Cardassian cruiser in pursuit.” Tulley reported.
Ro bit back a curse, “How long until they overtake us?”
“In about two minutes.” He reported flatly.
The three mines detonated simultaneously. A tear in reality formed behind the Cardassian ships. It widened as the leading edge of the tear reached out for the fleeing ships. Interdimensional turbulence and radiation swept over the Galor-class cruisers.
Gul Leggar’s face blanched as he received the report of the quantum detonation. What kind of animals would use that kind of weapon? He ordered his ships to increase speed, but the energies overtook his ships in seconds. He could still taste death, only it had taken on a bitter flavour.
“Two Cardassian ships have been destroyed.” Lisea reported happily, “The subspace turbulence has abated.”
Macen sighed in relief. He didn’t have to worry about pursuit any longer. He checked his displays. Ro and Rand were still fleeing from the remaining Cardassian. Macen ground his teeth in frustration knowing that he could not reach them in time to assist.
“Arm torpedoes.” Ro ordered. Tulley started to protest, then shrugged and armed them as ordered.
“T’Kir, throw all available power into the structural integrity field.” Ro continued issuing commands, “Tulley, program the torpedoes to fire in four seconds from my mark.”
“What good will that do?” he asked sullenly.
“It’ll be one second after I’ve flipped the ship over.” Ro replied.
Tulley’s eyes widened, and then he got to work fastening his crash harness.
“Sound general quarters.” Ro commanded, “Prepare for my mark. Ready… mark!”
The ship executed an agonising forward roll as the warp field distorted. The bulkheads screamed in agony as they endured stresses the old ship was never designed to withstand. Ro was convinced she was never designed to withstand it either. She felt like her innards were being ripped out.
The ship completed its roll and found itself facing the other direction. The computers fired off three photon torpedoes nearly point blank into the forward section of the Cardassian ship. Its shield wavered. Ro found enough presence of mind to order phasers to be fired. Beams of concentrated energy lashed out from her ship to strike the “pursuer”.
Skydancer had recognised what was occurring and come about to add her firepower into the mix. The combined might of the two vessels proved too much for the Cardassian’s shields. The damage inflicted by the Maquis convinced her captain to withdraw. The ship turned and accelerated out of the system.
Ro decided she loved Kosk as she patted her console. The little Dervin’s work had saved their lives. T’Kir’s damage assessments indicated that no vital systems were down. Most of the other systems could be repaired as they travelled to a safe-house world.
Safe-house five was located on a world known as Greyfalk. There were many stories surrounding the origin of the name. Some said that it was named after the original colony’s founder. Most just assumed it was derived form the predominant colour of the planet.
Everything on Greyfalk seemed grey. The sky was grey. The rocks and dirt were greyish. The water was grey. Even the abundant forests were varied hues of grey.
As Ro sat next to a fire, she could understand why the colonists had abandoned this settlement. It was depressing. She took a pull of the bottle of ale she was nursing. Most of the Maquis were in the mood to celebrate. She was not among them.
What she had seen during the raid bothered her. Rand’s behaviour appalled her and raised ethical questions that a guerrilla fighter didn’t want to face. She knew that the Maquis were horribly out-numbered and out-gunned. They utilised desperate and unorthodox tactics as a general rule of thumb.
Did they give them the right to be sadists as well? That question nagged at her conscience and ate at her soul as she sat by as the others partied. Her own decision to employ the quantum mines haunted her. There was no way of telling what the long-term effects to that area of space would be. Whatever they were, the responsibility rested squarely on her shoulders.
Three figures approached her position. Her first impulse was to yell at them and drive them away. She stopped herself as she realised who the trio comprised of. Arich Tulley, Brin Macen, and Lisea Danan were among the few people she was in the mood to see.
She found them to a microcosmic study of the Maquis as a whole. They didn’t look the type to be desperate freedom fighters. They looked like average people that had lived decent lives. They didn’t even look like they would normally be associated with a so-called terrorist group .
Tulley was a human settler from Argos III. The Cardassians there had adopted the unofficial policy of discrimination against humans. It had increased as tensions were rising with the Federation again. Ro knew that the death of several of Tulley’s family had driven him to the arms of the Maquis.
Ro liked the craggy faced older human. He wore his stoic maturity like a cloak. As a farmer, Tulley had learned to accept the misfortunes of fate. As a soldier, he’d proven an invaluable companion and confidant.
Macen and Danan were another story. Their involvement was a paradox that remained to be solved. Macen was an El-Aurian that had survived the assimilation of his world by the Borg, only to throw himself into another similar struggle. It bespoke of a passion against injustice, or a self-destructive impulse.
Danan was a Trill. The only one to have joined the Maquis. Even rarer was the fact that she was a joined Trill. Unjoined Trills were second-class citizens in their society whereas a Joined had every advantage. It took a great deal of courage for a joined Trill to risk execution by symbiont extraction at the hands of the Symbiosis Commission if she were caught.
Even out of Starfleet, the two looked like officers. They wore matching navy-blue flight suits with black undershirts that seemed vaguely familiar. Ro had inquired as to their origin once. In reply, she had merely received Macen’s infamous smirk and an elusive “trade secrets” remark.
They themselves were a study in contrasts. Macen was tall, wore his red-gold hair short enough to please any Starfleet captain, and maintained a neatly trimmed goatee. Danan was of average height and wore her blonde hair in a flipped out fashion that would have irked any Starfleet instructor beyond the ability to reason. His eyes were blue green, hers were a sea green.
The only parallel to be seen between them was their fair skin, although Danan’s was covered with the brown spots inherent of her species. In space or on the ground, though, they were practically inseparable. There was a silent communication between them. Ro had seen it work across space once when Macen was dirtside and Danan was in the ship and vice-versa.
Ro wondered how she fit into it all. Her motive had been her sense of injustice over the Federation’s abandonment of the colonies for political expediency. She often wondered late at night of there had been other motives as well. As a Bajoran, she had more reason than most to hate Cardassians. She sometimes wondered if her joining the Maquis had been a surrender to that loathing. As always, she decided that now wasn’t the time for asking such questions.
She was about to ask her comrades why they were wasting time with her rather than enjoying the festivities. A sudden crashing sound stopped her. The whine of a phaser discharging brought her to her feet. She started to move for where the noise had emitted form when Tulley stopped her by taking hold of her arm.
“Something’s up, Skipper.” He warned, “Don’t run off and try something foolish.”
Ro stared at him in puzzlement. She glanced about the compound and realised what he was saying. All of the Maquis in the base were part of her cell. None of Rand’s people were in evidence.
Ro felt a sick knot forming in her stomach. She was about to ask Tulley about the missing people when several of Rand’s people entered the square. A phaser blast streaked into the air from behind them. The main crowd parted and Rand strode forward with his crew in tow.
Ro felt cold as she realised that most of his people were armed. Armed with the very phasers they had stolen earlier that day. She knew with sick certainty that the first phaser blast she’d heard had been the killing of the guards watching over the armoury. The Prophets alone knew what Rand was thinking now.
Rand began laughing. He gazed over the assembled Maquis. He swept his phaser past them. He stopped his swing and kept it pointed at Ro.
He marched up to her. Jesp followed a short distance behind, training a phaser rifle at Tulley, Macen, and Danan. He stopped when his face was inches from Ro’s. His eyes were hard and dangerous.
“I believe we have something to settle between us.” He said softly.
“It was already settled.” Ro quipped, “You lost, remember?”
His fist smashed into her nose. She fell backwards, landing on her arse. Only the vestigial bone ridges inherent to her race had saved her from breakage. As it was, she blinked to clear her vision as she reached up to wipe the blood gushing from her assaulted sinuses.
“Feel like a man now?” she asked scornfully.
Rand’s face went white with rage. He reached down and grabbed the lapels of her jacket and pulled her up from the ground. As she came up, her knee rose as well, catching him squarely in the groin. He fell with a hissing groan.
Jesp screamed in fury as she pivoted to shoot Ro. “You Bajoran bi…” she never finished her sentence as Tulley’s fist slammed into her jaw. Jesp dropped her rifle and staggered backwards, but she retained her feet. Her smile became feral as she began to circle Tulley. She charged into him, hands and feet flying.
Ro made for Jesp’s rifle. A near miss from a particle beam reminded her of Rand’s men. She dove for the ground. She grabbed the rifle and tried to bring it to a firing position.
She was surprised when another phaser blast flew over her head. The surprise wasn’t from the blast itself. The surprise was in the direction it had come from. It came from behind her.
She turned her head to look over her shoulder. Macen and Danan were firing Type I “cricket” phasers. They were under cover for now, but the couldn’t hope to hold out against Rand’s entire crew. Ro joined them in firing at the renegades.
Although Rand’s men were largely in the open, they had a distinct advantage in that they could fire at will without risking injury to their comrades. The bulk of Ro’s cell lay pinned down in the midst of the firefight. Most had dropped to the ground willingly. Some, she saw, had not and would never move again.
Rand’s men were starting to rally. Ro knew that she and the others could never withstand a co-ordinated assault. Their only hope was to take as many of them out as they could before they died themselves. Ro’s estimation of their chances for survival changed when she heard a strange yowling shriek.
Kosk stood from where he taken cover. The little engineer ran to the nearest table and lifted it over his head. He threw the metal rectangle at a group of Rand’s men. It struck with bone shattering force.
Rand’s other men hesitated. Many of them switched targets and began firing at Kosk. The Dervin had thrown his only protection away. Several blasts struck him and he went down.
Ro fired several blasts at the balcony from where Rand’s men controlled the high ground. Macen and Danan concentrated their fire in the wall behind another grouping, detonating sections of the wall and flinging shrapnel at their opponents. The remainder of Rand’s men were a few isolated riflemen near the main entrance to the compound who broke and ran out of the compound.
Ro lifted herself off the ground. She heard a savage scream behind her. Jesp’s Andorian strength and endurance had proven too much for Tulley. He went down as she delivered a viscous blow to the side of his head. Jesp dove for Rand and tapped her comm badge. Both of them disappeared in the glimmer of a transporter beam.
Macen and Danan stepped out from behind their firing positions. Macen jerked his thumb towards the sky, “Go. He’ll be after the ships next. We’ll take care of things here.”
Ro nodded grimly. She flipped open her communicator and told T’Kir to beam her aboard. She’d no sooner materialised and ordered the shields raised when the craft shook from a phaser blast. Rand still had photon torpedoes, she had none. This would be a battle decided by who had the best tactics.
Ro dropped into the Helm and pushed her ship into full impulse. Only T’Kir and the Bolian engineer, Thool, were aboard with her. Thool took Tulley’s place at Weapons. Ro forced herself to wonder how extensive Tulley and Kosk’s injuries were.
“Inform the Indomitable to raise her shields.” Ro barked.
“They have already done so on their own initiative.” T’Kir reported dryly.
Ro promised herself she’d have to have a word with T’Kir regarding her sarcasm. For an unemotional Vulcan, T’Kir seemed very disdainful of virtually everyone. Perhaps that’s why she joined the Maquis. Mental illness was rare among Vulcans, but not unheard of. It had always surprised Ro that more of them weren’t nuts.
“Can they assist?” she asked.
“No.” T’Kir replied with a hint of disgust, “There is only one crewman aboard.”
“Figures.” Ro muttered darkly.
She forced all other thoughts aside. Her ship rocked as the shields deflected another phaser blast. They wouldn’t do so much longer. It was time to focus on the fight.
Ro reached out with her senses. She became one with the ship. She could feel the throb of the impulse engines in her bones. The sensors were her eyes, the comm her ears.
Ro had grown up fighting. Her entire life was a battle. It was part of who she was. During battle, the universe made sense.
The Skydancer was a converted freighter. She carried a heavy phaser array. Heavier than the phasers on her own ship. But there was a price for her bulk, she was sadly lacking in manoeuvrability.
“Torpedo!” Thool announced a little too loudly. The Bolian was a little out of his element here. That was why Ro had transferred the phaser controls to her board. Thool was a steady engineer but an excitable gunner.
Ro gave a smile, tight smile. Rand had launched the first of his photon torpedoes. She knew he only had three. All she had to do was make sure this one had been wasted, then deal with the others. Simple really, she tried to lie to herself.
The Wanderer rolled to her left. Completing the roll, Ro threw the ship into a sharp “climb”. The inertial compensator whined as the g’s piled up. Space may remove weight, but not mass and momentum.
The torpedo streaked by. Her desperate manoeuvre had put the ship out of range of the torp’s proximity fuse. She stifled a sigh of relief and checked her readings. Damn! She thought bitterly, He’s fired everything at me!
Two torpedoes and a phaser blast were headed straight for the Wanderer. She couldn’t break to the left or right without exposing herself to another torpedo or a phaser blast. Space, however, is also a three-dimensional environment. Ro fired all her thrusters at once and tried to slip below the path of the incoming torpedoes.
She’d angled the manoeuvre away from the second torpedo. She dodged it and the phaser blast. The remaining torpedo did not strike the ship directly, but detonated close enough to pummel the ship. The shields buckled and then firmed.
Ro lay slumped over her board. She pushed herself upright. The cabin was filled with thick, acrid smoke. They were still alive, that had to mean something.
“Status?” she croaked.
“Main power is off-line and we are on auxillary.” T’Kir managed to report between coughs, “Structural integrity has held. Warp drive is off-line.”
“Shields at forty percent.” Thool added, “I’ll head to engineering and work on getting everything restored.”
“Hurry.” Ro commented.
Thool left his seat and headed aft. Ro checked her instruments. Her eyes searched her display for the Skydancer’s location. She found it as another phaser blast struck their shields.
More sparks flew around the cabin from system overloads as Ro pitched the ship forward. She banked left, then right. She pitched the Wanderer vertical from the Skydancer. She then cut thrust, turned her around, and reapplied thrust.
Ro now had the bridge of the Skydancer in her sights. She depressed the firing button on her board. Her ship spat arrows of pure energy at the other vessel. Irridescent energy crackled around Rand’s ship as her shields tried to deflect the hammering they were receiving. Ro jerked the ship right and veered away from the heavier vessel.
“T’Kir,” Ro spoke, “can you reconfigure the shield array to deliver a tachyon pulse?”
For the first time in Ro’s memory, T’Kir seemed frazzled, “I don’t know. I suppose I could, but…”
“T’Kir!” Ro roared, “I need you focused dammit! Can you reconfigure the array, yes or no?”
T’Kir regained her normally cool demeanour, “I certainly can.”
“Good.” Ro replied, “Then do it.” She flipped on the intercom to Engineering, “Thool, when am I going to have main power back?”
“Give me two minutes.” Thool replied in exasperation.
“You have one.” Ro snapped, “We’ll be dead in two.”
She threw the Wanderer into another series of spiralling evasions. She didn’t envy the gunner aboard the Skydancer trying to target her. She was having a hard enough time flying these stupid patterns. She didn’t want to imagine trying to predict them enough to shoot at them.
A phaser blast sailed past, illuminating the cockpit. She went into a more frenzied set of jukes. She didn’t feel so bad for the gunner anymore. Whoever it was had started getting too close again.
“Where’s my power?” she growled into the intercom.
“Five seconds.” Thool growled back.
“Three.” She retorted irritably.
“Shut up and let me work.” Thool yelled, “There!”
Ro was momentarily startled. She’d never seen Thool angry before. Between that and T'Kir's earlier loss of composure, her faith in the universe was being restored. She hated perfect people.
She turned the Wanderer around and headed straight for Skydancer. It was a head-to-head approach. The first to veer off would present the other a tempting target. It was a test of skills and wills.
“Ah,” T’Kir spoke up, “the famous game from Earth.”
“What?” Ro muttered distractedly.
“Chicken.” T’Kir answered smugly.
The two ships stayed on course, headed straight for each other. They were seconds apart when Ro fired her tachyon burst. The Skydancer’s shields shone brightly for another second, then winked out. The Skydancer began to veer away.
Ro fired phasers. She kept firing them. She strafed the entire length of the ship. The unprotected hull was cut open as though by a knife.
She brought the Wanderer around and headed back towards the Skydancer. She fired two more phaser bursts at her. The remaining hulk of the vessel was streaming air. She was being drawn into Greyfalk’s gravity well. If she didn’t try to stabilise her orbit in the next few minutes, she’d begin her plummet into the atmosphere. She’d burn up long before she ever reached the ground.
“T’Kir, are there any power signs from Skydancer?” Ro asked.
“Negative.” T’Kir answered, “There are, however, two life signs. One human and one Andorian.”
“Are there?” Ro asked coldly, “You must be mistaken.”
T’Kir’s eyebrow arched upwards, “Yes, I see that you are correct. My error is noted.”
Ro’s lips twisted into a feral smile as the hull of the Skydancer began to glow red.
Back on the ground, Ro headed for the house set up as the Hospital. She marched in and found Danan sitting by Tulley. Ro anxiously frowned, relaxing only when Lisea gave her a reassuring smile and nod. Ro turned and looked into Tulley’s face.
He was awake. He recognised her and smiled, “Hi, Skipper. Glad you made it.”
“It would have been easier if you’d been there.” She scolded.
“I’ll be there for the next one.” Tulley’s face turned serious, “Did you get him?”
Ro gave him a wan smile, “He won’t be betraying anyone ever again.”
Tulley closed his eyes, and looked satisfied, “Good. Can’t have that kind of behaviour. S’bad fer disci…” Tulley’s head slumped over and his face went slack.
Ro turned to Danan, “What’s wrong with him? Why are you just standing there? Do something!”
Danan laughed, “It’s the medication. He needs rest.” She reached out and took Ro’s shoulder, “So do you, Laren. Nothing will happen to him. Go! Sleep.”
Ro nodded mutely and turned to walk away. Her eyes swept over the wounded lying on beds across the room. She didn’t see Kosk. She stopped and turned at the door.
“Lea,” she asked, her voice cracking from fatigue and emotion, “what about Kosk?”
Lisea shook her head, “There was nothing anyone could do.”
Ro nodded, her eyes seeing things far away. She walked out of the Hospital and headed out into the compound. As she walked towards one of the houses designated as a hostel, she saw Macen and several Maquis returning from the forest. She stopped and waited as Macen approached her.
“You’ve heard?” he asked.
“Yes.” She said remotely.
“I’m sorry.” He informed her.
“What good is that to him now?” she asked flippantly.
“I’m not sorry for him.” Macen corrected her, “I’m sorry for you.”
She blinked in surprise, “For me? Why?”
“Its always harder on the living.” Macen explained, “You’ll always wonder if there wasn’t something more you could have done. There wasn’t, but that won’t stop you from asking yourself that late at night.”
Her eyes narrowed, “What makes you such an expert?”
“Trying to live with the living death of almost my entire race.” Macen replied with a shrug, “Be glad you come form such a short lived species. I can expect to live with it for another three to four hundred years.”
Ro’s mouth opened then shut. “I’m sorry. I had no idea.” she murmured.
“Good.” He replied with a grin, “That means that I haven’t let it beat me. Don’t let it beat you.”
He turned to walk away, “How do I beat it?” she called out.
He glanced back. There was a melancholy air to his smile as he called back, “If I ever figure it out, I’ll let you know.”
Ro turned and headed back towards the hostel. She shook her head ruefully. Everything she’d heard about El-Aurians being great counsellors was a load of crap. She smiled, her faith in the universe being restored even more.
Macen sat alone in his cabin aboard the Indomitable. He had just finished typing the last of his report to Admiral Nechayev. He smiled at the irony that he and Lisea had been chosen by Starfleet Intelligence for this particular assignment. It wasn’t common practice to have sympathisers assigned to observe the very cause they feel drawn towards.
Nechayev had overlooked that and assigned them anyway. Their role was to help guide and curb Maquis activity. If they couldn’t be stopped, re-direction was almost as good. Nechayev had also taken a special interest in Ro Laren, as well as several other former Starfleet officers.
The last two days had disturbed Macen greatly. Rand had always been a psychopath. His excesses were of no surprise to anyone. Ro’s decision to let him die had taken him by surprise.
She did not know that he knew of her action through inaction. He wasn’t sure how she’d react if she did. He didn’t want to tell her for fear of driving her into a defensive posture. She had been struggling with the weight of many of her decisions lately. He wanted to see where her doubts led to on their own.
Ro watched the sun rise. Even the sun is grey, she thought sourly. She closed her eyes and felt its warmth upon her face. Maybe life isn’t so bad.
She’d wrestled with many questions throughout the night. Many of the questions didn’t have answers yet. She knew that would change over time. She wondered what the answers would be.
I wonder if I’ll be alive when they are answered? Ro had never made up her mind as to how she felt about her native faith. She supposed that was one the questions that would remain to be answered. All she knew for certain is that it was a new day.
A new day to see how Tulley was doing. A new day to fight the Cardassians. A new day was simply another day in this endless war.
|Last modified: 02 Jan 2014