|The Spy, the Rebel, the Daredevil, the Fighter, the Lightbulb, the Muscle, the Fixer, the
Rock, the Brain, and one ship shared by all. The tale continues...
Ripoll finally dared to contact Gregor in the afternoon after his shift concluded and he was able to go home. Gregor was intrigued by the Outbound Ventures line of inquiry, "So what did they do after leaving your office?"
"They camped out at Docks Forty-seven and Forty-eight." Ripoll answered.
"Did they learn anything?" Gregor wondered.
"They inspected a few shipping manifests and a couple of bills of lading." Ripoll replied, "All of the paperwork was generated by my office and was procedurally correct. They'd have to intimately know the finer points of Federation and Bolshevik customs regulations to detect any anomalies."
Gregor asked, "And you don't think that they do?"
"Their public records, although undoubtedly sanitised, did not indicate that any of them were familiar with cargo handling operations." Ripoll explained, "Gantz is a bounty hunter. While his knowledge base is undoubtedly esoteric he seemed at a loss when it dealt with my office."
"The other two, Joachim Dracas and Radil Jenrya, they are respectively an engineer and a mercenary. Dracas is from Magna Roma but there is little else to distinguish him." Ripoll continued, "Radil's career seems colourful but the woman herself seems quite lifeless. I don't think we have anything to fear from these three."
"Yes, I've already read their résumés." Gregor chuckled, "But what about their employer?"
"Employer?" Ripoll winced.
"Yes." Gregor spoke as if to a slow student, "Captain Brin Macen is also on the planet with T'Kir and Celeste Rockford. You should read their credentials as well. They are quite enlightening even if they're somewhat abbreviated."
"What do you mean?" Ripoll enquired.
"Macen was a Starfleet officer. If you read between the lines of his file, he went from being a highly decorated officer to being forced out of Starfleet. Given their ambiguity, those citations for valour and commendations hint at covert operations work. This seems to have ended with Macen joining the Maquis." Gregor replied, "T'Kir is an unknown until she appears on Starfleet's wanted list for acts of terrorism as a member of the Maquis. It's rumoured she's a cyberwitch. She has her own subsidiary business writing security software for clandestine agencies."
"Rockford is a highly successful private investigator. She'd earned her own sterling reputation before allying with Outbound Ventures in general and Macen in particular." Gregor went on, "And do you want to know what this trio was investigating today? They were pursuing material losses involving starcraft components and modules."
"Were they hired by the government?" Ripoll asked.
"Initially." Gregor indicated, "Magnum Shipping and others have taken up the banner and decided to pursue the matter after Kirov dropped the inquiry."
"How much do they know?" Ripoll enquired.
"It's undetermined. They spoke with Bernd Schneider." Gregor revealed, "He undoubtedly put the pieces together. What we do know is that Macen hasn't disclosed any of his findings thus far. We may be able to exploit that."
"Exactly what I was contacting you about." Ripoll disclosed, "What if we were to hire Macen to escort our latest shipment?"
There was silence. Finally Gregor spoke, "Intriguing notion. Who would make the initial contact?"
"Gantz already suspects me. I can see it in his eyes." Ripoll replied, "I could start the evaluation process and make the first contact."
"Excellent notion." Gregor said approvingly, "Do you know where they are?"
"Macen's unit is gathered at a dock rat pub called The Company Store." Ripoll divulged.
"Approach them tonight." Gregor instructed, "Have an active comm badge open and the command staff will monitor the situation."
"Understood." Ripoll acknowledged his instructions.
"Good luck," Gregor replied, "and happy hunting. Gregor out."
The comm signal ended and Ripoll returned his badge to the interior of his lapel. Using his comp/comm he summoned the rest of his cell. He told them to slowly filter into the bar and observe Macen's team. Ripoll and a couple of his toughs would be along shortly. Then they would deal with Macen and his cohorts.
Danan was at the bar ordering another synthale. Macen approached her. The group had moved three tables together and had just finished comparing notes. Danan and Grace had beamed down to the surface to participate in the ad hoc conference. Now that they had debriefed one another it was time to unwind and wait for the NKVD to make the first move.
"So what's troubling you?" Macen asked as he sidled up onto a stool beside hers.
"What makes you think anything is wrong?" Danan asked.
Macen gave her a wry response, "Lees, I know you too well. Besides, when you're close enough I can feel your inner turmoil. T'Kir's respecting your mental privacy but as a friend I thought I should find out what's wrong."
Danan smirked, "I bet it's killing her to keep out of my head."
Macen shook his head, "You have no idea."
Danan let loose a frustrated sigh, "All right. I need to talk to somebody."
Macen grinned, "That's the spirit."
"It boils down to this: I've fallen in love with Tom Riker." Danan disclosed.
"And this is a bad thing?" Macen wondered.
"Brin, the last time I felt this way was with you and you fell for another woman. Tom's been quite the ladies' man in his time. How do I know there won't be a repeat of personal history?" Danan shared.
"I think you're confusing Tom Riker with Will Riker." Macen replied, "Tom Riker spent eight years stranded on a remote hell hole dreaming about one woman. In the time that he's been with us he's pursued two women: Jamie Kirk and you. I don't think you have to worry about Tom straying."
"And you know this?" Danan wondered.
"I have my ways of knowing." Macen assured her, "Trust me. The risk will be worth it."
"I take it by the word 'risk' there's still an element of chance to it." Danan dryly remarked.
"I sense probabilities not certainties." Macen quipped, "Let's just say the odds are in your favour."
"I'll keep that in mind." Danan promised, "Now, what about your expected guests?"
"They're already here observing us." Macen cautiously reported, "T'Kir's been keeping tabs on everyone here. Apparently we're waiting for a cell leader to appear."
Three more strangers entered and Danan quipped, "Maybe that's them."
Macen's eyes met T'Kir's from across the room and her nod was almost imperceptible. He turned to Danan, "You must be a precog because that is them."
Danan blinked in surprise. Macen strolled away from the counter and headed for his team's tables. Ripoll and his toughs had just arrived there.
"Hello Ripoll." Gantz drawled, "I wish I could say that this is a surprise."
Ripoll ignored Gantz's jibe, "Where's Macen?"
"Right here." Macen said, "I take it by Gantz's familiarity with you that you're the 1st shift Dock Supervisor."
"You'd be correct." Ripoll said, "Follow me. We need to talk."
"My wife's coming as well." Macen informed him.
"No." Ripoll flatly replied.
"She's telepathic." Macen revealed, "She'll know what you say to me irregardless if she's physically there or not."
Ripoll was dubious but he was still listening. Macen resumed, "You'll still have your two minders and you'll outnumber us. Where's the harm?"
Ripoll wondered what Gregor's instructions would be. T'Kir wore a wicked smile, "Gregor would tell you to take me along."
Ripoll turned white, "Where did you get that name?"
"From your thick skull, you lummox." T'Kir airily replied and then she held up her right hand, "I swear I won't scan you while we're discussing whatever. That slight headache you've been feeling is my telepathic probe. If you hadn't noticed, it's gone now."
Ripoll took a moment to run a mental self-assessment. Finally, he shrugged, "You're right. I suppose you won't co-operate unless we include her?"
Macen nodded. Ripoll wearily shook his head, "All right. You can come but no tricks."
"Of course not." T'Kir was wounded, "What d'ya take me for?"
"Trouble." Ripoll confessed. He motioned towards the door, "If you'd follow me?"
As Macen and T'Kir followed Ripoll and his two minders out of the pub, Gantz turned to Danan, "T'Kir's probes really cause headaches?"
Danan laughed, "Her overt probes cause discomfort. Her subtler probes of reading casual and surface thoughts are painless. You never know it's happening until she zings you with a reply to them."
Gantz smirked, "It'll be interesting to hear what she picks up from these jokers."
Ripoll led them to a nearby café. He ordered coffees for everyone. The establishment was quite busy. Ripoll looked around and smiled.
"Bolshevik at its best. This eatery uses fresh ingredients and no replicated foodstuffs. They serve anyone." He proudly boasted.
"I take it there are other cases." Macen prodded him for answers.
"The Communist elite enjoy exclusive shops, restaurants, travel, housing, and police protection." Ripoll grumbled, "They're corrupt and must be replaced."
"By the NKVD?" Macen asked, "What makes you think you're any better?"
"What's this 'you' business?" Ripoll scoffed, "I'm just a concerned citizen."
"You're NKVD." Macen bluntly replied, "Nearly half of the patrons in that pub were NKVD. I'm betting that that was the bulk of your cell."
Ripoll cast an accusing glance in T'Kir's direction, "She tell you that?"
Macen shook his head, "She didn't have to. Our years with the Maquis told me all I needed to know. She just agreed with me."
Ripoll chuckled, "I'm not confessing to anything but I have to tell you that the Maquis are heroes to other like-minded citizens."
"Is that why you decided to contact me or is my investigation coming too close?" Macen enquired.
Ripoll stared at him shrewdly, "You are too smart for your own good. Let's just say we're in the market for some help."
"No unnecessary killing and no assassinations." Macen insisted, "That's my rule for every prospective client."
"Would you be willing to forgo your current investigation?" Ripoll asked.
Macen met the other man's challenging gaze, "I can report that the thefts were the result of NKVD action and leave it at that. That would satisfy my professional conscience."
Ripoll smiled, "I think that would be satisfactory. We'll be leaving now. Meet us here tomorrow at the same time if your still interested in the work. Call the KGP and we'll know it. Report anything else to Magnum Shipping and we'll know it and the prospective deal's off. Any questions?"
"Nope." Macen blithely replied, "See you tomorrow."
Ripoll and the two toughs disappeared into the night. Macen and T'Kir finished their coffee and then returned to the pub to collect their teammates. With that task completed by returning to the ship, Macen began his summary report for Magnum Shipping. It contained exactly what he'd suggested to Ripoll and nothing else.
Macen and T'Kir motor scootered their way around Arkangel Bay. The large cove boasted several islands and was the largest sea inlet to Kremlin. Cargo ships from around the planet sent raw resources here and in return end products went out. The overland trucking routes were also highly utilised but nothing compared to the shipments arriving by sea.
The pair's morning meeting with Miranda Rostova had not gone well. She readily accepted their report and evidence that the NKVD was responsible for the losses. When she had broached the subject of hiring Macen's group to apprehend the NKVD, Macen balked.
He informed her that he would not interfere in an ongoing investigation conducted by local law enforcement. She pointed in his record that he had before. Macen shook his head and stated that in those cases the locals had welcomed him. That wasn't the situation here. Macen declined the contract and Rostova was upset.
The one prize was that she'd been awarded the retainer agreement. This seemed to be a slim consolation but Rostova accepted what she could get. She transferred the gift credits and latinum into Outbound Ventures' coffers and Macen and T'Kir went their own way.
Danan had reported that the nanobugs T'Kir had sent Ripoll's way and moved across town and onto one of the islands in the bay. Macen and T'Kir were circumnavigating the bay on land and checking out the island chain. They wouldn't be able to see much but it would give them a basic feel for the place.
The rest of the team was split up into pairs and mapping out Kremlin. Gantz and Radil were taking the Northern and Western sections. Dracas and Rockford were handling the Southern and Eastern parts of town.
Macen and T'Kir had almost completed their sweep around the islands. Whenever they reached a new vantage point they stopped and took out their macrobinoculars. They'd surveyed the coastlines and structures of each island while ostensibly posing as tourists. Their binoculars took holopictures of each view for further study.
They were now studying the east end of the largest island. It had a large blockhouse reminiscent of Alcatraz built upon it. The similarities in structure and layout were quite disturbing.
"Notice the sentries appear unarmed but I bet they are." Macen said.
"Yup." T'Kir agreed, "They're standin' post. Whatever is in there is pretty important."
"The map reader lists this as a former Red Army base." Macen reminded her, "These guys could be complete dimwits and hold us off forever."
"What's Lees gotta say 'bout it?" T'Kir wondered.
Macen commed Danan and asked. The news was grim.
"Sorry Brin," Danan replied, "the installation is shielded. Sensors and transporters can't penetrate its surface. All I can tell you is that the sensor logs reported Ripoll entering this facility this morning and he just left it ten minutes ago."
"Damn!" Macen swore, "We've got to go otherwise we'll be late for our meeting."
"Bye." Danan cheerily signed off.
"Let me drive." T'Kir insisted.
"No." Macen firmly insisted, "You always drive. It's my turn."
"Nyuh!" T'Kir stuck out her tongue but she got on the scooter and wrapped her arms around him as he took off.
They managed to reach the café before Ripoll and his stooges arrived. It had taken a ride at breakneck speeds and hairpin turns. T'Kir loved every minute of it and enthusiastically recalled every moment with Macen while they waited.
Ripoll's arrival interrupted their merriment. His two favourite goons were with him again. They were both female and hard-bitten. Neither SID agent doubted that either woman would go down without a tremendous fight.
Ripoll was honestly pleased to see them, "I see you are intrigued by the potential of working with us."
"I'm intrigued by how much latinum I could earn by doing so." Macen informed him, "Clandestine groups frequently traffic in large amounts of liquid assets. Since you can't openly purchase goods and services you have to rely upon a covert means of exchange, ergo: currency."
"And that appeals to you?" Ripoll asked.
"I do a lot of business outside of the Federation." Macen explained, "Negotiable assets are invaluable in my line of work."
"I'd believe it. We find the same to be true." Ripoll said, "Now, follow me."
"I thought we were going to discuss the contract." Macen countered.
"We are." Ripoll assured him, "We're just going to do it at a private venue."
"This venue wouldn't happen to be an island, would it?" Macen asked.
Ripoll smiled, "Our sensors detected the two of you observing the islands. How did you find us?"
"My team was scouting out escape routes and hiding places throughout the city." Macen offered as an explanation, "We chose to look at the islands in the bay. I recognised the blockhouse as a military structure and saw that sentries were posted. Curiosity propelled us to find out more."
Ripoll mulled that over, "Fair enough. Now if you'd accompany me. We have a van waiting to take you to the port where we have a boat waiting."
Macen exchanged a glance with T'Kir. She nodded and Macen returned his attention to Ripoll, "All right. This is your game. We'll play it your way."
The trip to the island headquarters of the NKVD went exactly as laid out by Ripoll. Once inside the blockhouse they were led through the corridors until they reached a command centre. Three people awaited them there. Vasily Gregor, AnnaBeth Korepanova, and Mier Dragul rose as Macen and T'Kir entered the facility.
Gregor smiled, "Captain Macen, your reputation precedes you." He turned to face T'Kir, "It precedes both of you. Your reputation is quite impressive as well, my Dear. You have an impressive track record."
"We just do the job, whatever it may be." Macen replied.
"But you continue to work for Starfleet." Gregor was genuinely baffled, "I find that odd considering that you're a former Maquis and also keeping in mind how they treated you in the past."
"I accept those jobs that fulfil my ideological litmus test." Macen explained, "Like whatever proposal you're going to make. I'm willing to listen because I fought an oppressive government with every means at my disposal. We also policed ourselves and our fellow settlers. I can understand your position even if I don't always agree with your methods."
Gregor laughed, "I like you. You're candid and straight to the point."
Macen shrugged, "I try."
"If you two will join us in our main briefing room we'll get underway."
As the duo followed the NKVD leadership into their briefing room, Macen mentally queries T'Kir; Anything interesting?
Yup. T'Kir thoughtcast in reply, Gregor is really Vasily Gregorivitch Kolchik. He's a Colonel in the Red Army. The Army has quietly endorsed him and his plans. If revolution does break out, the army will follow Gregor's lead.
Anything on what we'll be involved with or their operational plans? Macen wondered.
Nope. They were warned about me. Their disciplinin' their minds to stay on the topic at hand. All I c'n get is we're to guard some kinda cargo run. T'Kir explained.
Then they were being seated so they ceased their communication.
"Anything wrong, Captain?" Gregor asked, "You looked distracted."
"Nothing much." Macen admitted, "I was just trying to guess what this is about."
"You shall soon see." Gregor promised.
Meanwhile, T'Kir painted Gregor with a sensor beam from her watch and released the nanobugs hidden within it. They flew to Gregor and attached themselves to his skin. Even bathing would not dislodge them. They would remain where they were until their batteries died eight days later.
T'Kir had designed the bugs with Danan's help. T'Kir had handled the engineering. Danan supplied the scientific wherewithal to make them stand out in a sensor sweep.
Unaware of any of this, Gregor activated a large viewscreen. It showed a plot from Zetrus VI to Bolshevik. Zetrus VI lay outside of the Federation's boundaries and was infamous for its prolific weapons sales.
"So you want us to escort a weapons shipment." Macen surmised.
"Exactly." Gregor confirmed it, "This weapon will ensure our victory."
"Would it be too presumptuous to ask what kind of weapon it is?" Macen inquired.
"Yes, it would be." Gregor replied, "All I can say is that this will reduce the casualties that an all out revolution would inflict upon our world. This way only a mere handful die instead of masses of innocent civilians."
"Reduced civilian casualties are always a good thing." Macen commented, "All right we're in. We pick up the freighter at Zetrus VI and we escort it here. Sounds simple enough."
Macen surprised Gregor with his next question, "Who is the weapons supplier?"
"Why would you need to know that?" Gregor wondered.
I need to know if there are any extra precautions I need to take. Contacting the supplier is the best way of ascertaining those needs." Macen answered.
Gregor glanced at Korepanova and Dragul. Korepanova shrugged. Dragul slowly, ever so slowly, nodded his head in agreement. Gregor returned his focus to Macen, "The suppliers name is Boromov."
"Pytor Boromov?" Macen asked.
"You know him?" Gregor was surprised.
"Boromov and I go way back." Macen supplied as a reply.
"Good." Gregor was delighted.
"If you don't mind, I'd like to contact Pytor myself. He'll be surprised to hear from me." Macen requested.
"Of course." Gregor agreed.
"If we're all set..." Gregor began.
"Not quite." Macen interrupted, "We still haven't discussed compensation."
"Of course." Gregor said indulgently, "What we were thinking was..."
Rafe Villiers smiled at his visitor, "I hope your stay has been a pleasant one thus far."
Enrick Gaston returned the smile, baring his fangs, "Your staffers have been accommodating enough although my dietary requirements appal them."
Villiers could understand that. The Lantilians were a vampiric race. Their principle diet consisted of fresh blood. Although over the last few centuries they had developed a tolerance for small amounts of raw meat.
Gaston served as Bertram Sindis' chief lieutenant. He'd been sent to Bolshevik to ascertain whether or not Sindis' plans for the planet were proceeding apace. So far every indication was that they were.
"Sindis will be pleased to learn you are near to completing the task of toppling the government." Gaston said, "When that is accomplished and you are elected premier you can secede from the Federation and join our conglomeration."
Villiers toasted him, "That's the plan. More plasma?"
"Not yet." Gaston waved him off, "It goes straight to my head."
Villiers laughed, "So does my wine. That's why I'm nursing it."
"I have to ask: where did you acquire your blood stores?" Gaston wondered, "It is a new, rich flavour for me. I could develop a taste for it."
"I hope not." Villiers chuckled, "It's freshly cloned human blood. I'd hate to see you start feeding off of humans."
Gaston grinned, "Much more of this and I may."
"All right." Villiers relented, "But just don't do it on my planet."
Gaston held up his right hand, "I so swear."
"Good." Villiers smiled, "Now when you make your report be sure to thank Sindis for all of his support. It's been invaluable. The NKVD would have folded a long time ago without his anonymous donations."
"Don't forget Pytor Boromov." Gaston reminded him, "Without his connections within the Federation we would have been discovered long ago."
"Why did someone like Boromov get involved?" Villiers had to ask.
"Boromov is an anarchist and a chaos theoretician." Gaston explained, "He believes that the more random the universe is the more beneficial it will be by creating new and evolving patterns. The current Federation is far too stagnant for his taste."
"Whatever his reasons I'm glad he joined us." Villiers remarked.
"I hate to break up this soirée but one more drink and I must go." Gaston informed his host.
"Yes, you mustn't keep the great man waiting." Villiers smiled and poured the drinks.
Macen and T'Kir were returned to the café. As they retrieved their rented motor scooter an exasperated T'Kir let loose, "How come when we talk to the baddies or whoever, they talk t'you and treat me like a flamin' piece of furniture?"
"Because, as captain, I'm expected to make all of the final and important decisions. Which I do." Macen explained.
"That's another thing." T'Kir grumbled, "I'm your business partner. Why can't I be co-captain or somethin'?"
"That doesn't work." Macen sighed, "I tried that with Tom, remember? It was a disaster."
"Okay, point taken." T'Kir relented.
"I respect and desire your counsel, m'love." Macen held her hands, "But you can't be captain."
"Ooo-kay." T'Kir pouted, "I give up. No mutinies today."
"Thank you." With that said, Macen kissed her. She responded and the kiss went from gentle to fierce. It also lingered for a moment. When it ended Macen smiled, "There'll be time for more after we get back to the ship."
"I'm holdin' you t'that, mister." T'Kir vowed.
"Or we could resume at one of those little coves in the bay." Macen suggested.
T'Kir grew excited, "You're on!"
Macen and T'Kir rematerialised aboard the Obsidian. Telrik noted two things: they lugged a picnic basket and they were drenched from head to toe. Danan was waiting for them as well and she smirked, "And what have you two little scamps been up to?"
"We had a picnic on the beach and then the tide rolled in." T'Kir explained.
"And you couldn't get out of the water?" Danan dryly asked.
"We were busy." T'Kir retorted.
"I bet." Danan said with a knowing smile, "So what else happened besides you two replaying From Here to Eternity?"
"We've got a job." Macen spoke up, "I need to gather up the team and Shannon. We're going into action."
Macen and T'Kir took turns explaining the meeting that they'd had. Macen then addressed Gantz, "The Farruck, Dragul, spoke with me after the primary meeting concluded. He wants to hire you and Celeste to profile and observe several MP's. They're obviously targets but this would give you an opportunity to get into the good graces of the NKVD and get closer to them."
"All right but I'm also taking Joachim and Radil with me." Gantz grinned, "They can be my grunt labourers."
"Sounds good." Macen agreed, "You're to contact Ripoll and get your marching orders tomorrow morning local time. We'll beam you down immediately. Grab whatever accommodations you can."
"I wonder of the local Hilton is booked?" Gantz mused.
"If it isn't get two adjoining suites." Macen instructed.
"All right!" Gantz crowed.
Macen turned to Forger, "Shannon, your job should be relatively easy. Meet up with this freighter at Zetrus VI and escort it here."
"What about the mysterious weapon?" Forger wondered.
"We'll intercept it on the ground if we have to." Macen replied.
"You said 'I'll' be doing it." Forger pointed out, "Where will you be?"
"T'Kir, Hannah, and I will be going to Risa to interrogate Boromov." Macen clarified, "I want to know what that weapon is and what it's intended for."
"And we'll rendezvous back at Bolshevik?" Forger asked.
"That's the plan." Macen confirmed.
Danan groaned, "Ancients preserve us. He's got a plan."
The Obsidian exited the system at impulse. After clearing the outer markers, and the early warning buoys, the Corsair launched. The two craft separated, each heading at warp towards their destinations and their individual missions.
The ground team had indeed secured lodgings in the Kremlin Hilton. Rockford and Radil shared a suite and Dracas and Gantz shared the other. They'd arrived late in the evening and the sun rose quickly.
In the central room of the men's suite Dracas and Radil were seated in the dining area and enjoying breakfast off of the carts room service had brought. Rockford had opened up Gantz's room and shooed away his evening's companion. Next she kicked Gantz's dangling leg.
"Wake up!" Rockford shouted.
Gantz came up in a hurry. His eyes were red, swollen, and still cloudy from the copious amounts of alcohol he'd consumed the night before. His head was in a fog.
"Wha's up?" he slurred.
"What's up?" Rockford archly repeated, "Last night you drank the bar dry, hooked up with a local floozy, and came knocking on our door to see if Jenrya wanted to join the two of you."
Rockford knelt beside the bed and met Gantz at eye level, "I don't care how you spend your nights but if you ever do that to Jenrya again I will break you." Her sweet smile only added venom to her words. With that said, she rose and exited the bedroom.
It took several minutes for Gantz to appear in the dining nook. Although clean and nicely pressed he still looked haggard. His eyes lighted upon the two carts of food and he remarked, "By all that's holy! Where did all this food come from?"
"Room service." Rockford answered with an unspoken "Duh!"
"By why so much?" Gantz wondered.
"Jenrya and I didn't know what you guys would want." Rockford explained, "Besides, how often do we get to indulge ourselves like this?"
Gantz pondered it and a smile began to bloom on his face, "Too right." He sat down at the table, "Please pass me the pancakes and the eggs."
"How many would you like?" Dracas asked.
"All of 'em." Gantz grinned.
Later, a bloated Gantz led the others to Ripoll's office. Ripoll graciously led them to his personal office. He eyed Rockford.
"You must be Celeste Rockford. I have to confess I didn't expect anyone so...compact." Ripoll said.
Rockford smiled, "I think 'petite' is the word you're searching for."
Ripoll grinned, "Exactly." His gaze landed upon Radil and Dracas, "I thought you two would be coming alone."
"We've learned the value of 'fetch and carry' personnel." Gantz explained, "Besides, Radil's skill set lands near ours and Dracas' engineering abilities will prove useful when relating to equipment."
"I see your point." Ripoll relented. He reached into a desk drawer and retrieved a padd. He rose and handed it to Gantz.
"There are your suspects, all six of them." He announced.
"Suspects?" Rockford asked.
"Yes. Suspects, m'dear." Ripoll answered, "We don't know the extent of these individuals' crimes or if they're even guilty of any. You are going to answer those questions."
Gantz slapped his knees and rose, "Have no fears. We're on the case."
Ripoll shook hands with all of them before they exited the building. Although he didn't quite trust the quartet he knew that they would be, at least initially, watched by NKVD volunteers. While these particular Ministers of Parliament had escaped the prying eyes of the NKVD regulars, he knew that there would no escaping these four. He chuckled at that thought and returned to work.
Three days later the Corsair landed on the VIP shuttle lot of the Royale hotel and Casino. The latest brochures revealed that the Casino had been reduced in size and a new nightclub, the Hades, had been built to fill the vacant space. All they knew about it was that advertised having a BDSM flavour. Full regalia was encouraged but not required.
As they exited the runabout they were met by Security and Customs. Once again, Susan Haywright was amongst their numbers. She'd apparently served her time on a penal colony and was back heading up Boromov's security force.
Haywright smirked upon recognising Macen's team, "Let me guess, you won't surrender your weapons?"
"Right." Macen confirmed it.
"And you're here to see Mr. Boromov?" Haywright ticked off.
"Right again." Macen replied.
"And I should dismiss everyone and take you to him straightaway." She concluded.
"You have an amazing grasp of the situation." Macen smiled.
"All I can tell you is that I don't know what he's up to." Haywright confessed, "He's up to something but I'm staying out of it. I don't want to get sent to another terraforming penal colony."
"A truly repentant soul would have contacted the authorities to tell them he was up to something." Macen replied, "But if you take us to him we'll consider that to be your good deed."
"All right." Haywright agreed, "Whatever keeps me square with the law."
Haywright escorted them to the entrance of the Hades. She remained outside as the SID trio entered in. The scene inside seemed to leap out of the pages of Dante's Inferno.
Black leather and chains dominated the composition of the outfits worn by the revellers. T'Kir's head to toe leather garb blended in nicely. Macen's dark green Field duty Uniform sweater and black FDU pants, boots, and mock turtleneck stood out. Grace's khaki and cream desert uniform topped of by a brown flight jacket also contrasted the general motif. There were also a smattering of those who wore their usual garb but most of the Royale's guests embraced the fantasy.
The guests parted like the Red Sea as the SID agents waltzed through them. Their openly displayed weaponry and lack of Starfleet uniform frightened them. The recent quadrant-wide public turmoil still registered in their minds as did the past roving bands of armed humanoids.
Bouncers took note and commed the office. The office was comprised of an overhead, encased booth. From there Boromov could survey the crowds and invite visitors. The club's press releases stated that Boromov did the bulk of his business transactions there.
Macen thoughtcast T'Kir, Anything?
Yah. Some of these people are sick. They're thinkin' of stuff that ain't even legal. T'Kir commented.
Macen was surprised to hear her pass judgement. The Federation did little to regulate sexual activities. Laws were in place to protect children and animals but just about everything else was accepted. T'Kir was a champion of those same mores.
I don't think I want to know. Macen confessed.
The Elements know I surely don't. T'Kir complained.
Hang in there. Macen urged, Remember, we snatch Boromov, get the hell out of here, and hold him in the Corsair's brig.
"Glad t'hear it but c'n we hurry up? There was a plaintive quality to T'Kir's thoughts and Macen promised that the action was about to start.
"Head's up." Grace suddenly said. Macen and T'Kir followed her line of sight and it led to the overhead alcove. There in the window for all to see was Pytor Boromov.
"Here they come." T'Kir nodded in the direction of four bouncers headed their way.
"Behind us too." Macen remarked. Four more were coming up from behind to form a circle around them. The outnumbered Outbound Ventures officers form a triangle. They almost felt sorry for the unsuspecting men and women confronting them. Almost.
The bouncers rushed in as one. T'Kir flattened her first opponent with a blow to his face. Grace levelled one with a punch to the man's throat. As another tried to grab her, she finished off the choker with a knee strike to the head.
T'Kir shoved one back and then finished her off with a backspin kick. The bouncers, assessing her as the greatest threat, concentrated their forces on her. She relished the chance for some action.
Macen had driven a punch from his shoulder into the face of the first bouncer to reach him. He then drove a knee into his gut and completed the task with a savage downward punch across the man's jaw. His next opponent was far more leery. She caught him across the jaw with an expert punch. As he staggered backward, she threw another. He caught her wrist and inverted it. She cried out in pain and then he swept her legs out from underneath her. Then he landed on her with his knees and drove her into unconsciousness from lack of oxygen.
Grace's second foe had her from behind. She stomped on his instep, broke free from his grip and swung her fist down to impact his groin. He started to go down and she unleashed a savage elbow strike to the head. He collapsed in a heap.
As they watched, T'Kir dispatched her last two attackers. With that finished, Grace spotted Boromov down on the main floor, trying to escape. The three of them drew their weapons and cut through the crowd.
Boromov was headed for a fire exit in the rear of the club. Macen stopped, adjusted the power setting of his phaser, adopted a Weaver stance, and fired. The particle beam struck Boromov between the shoulders and he went down.
They caught up with him to find that he was groggy and disoriented. Macen and T'Kir hauled him up onto his feet. They each then wrapped an arm over their shoulders and began to carry Boromov out to the front entrance. He dazedly shuffled along with them.
They went around the strewn bodies and exited the club. As they left, the music began to play and the fetish delights resumed. Haywright was slightly alarmed.
"Is he all right?" she asked.
"I hit him with a low level stun blast." Macen explained, "He'll be fine in twenty minutes or so."
"Well, I had Security drop off a cart." Haywright informed them, "we can use it to transport him wherever."
Macen grinned, "Then let's load him up and head for our ship."
They did so and were off. On their way Haywright's wrist communicator chimed and a red light began flashing, "Someone's tripped the alarm. It must have been one of the bouncers at the club."
"What's their response time?" Macen asked.
"They'll be at the club in five to ten minutes." She explained, "After that they'll head for your ship. I'll try to hold them off for as long as possible."
"You don't have to." Macen advised.
"Yes, I do." Haywright replied with conviction, "I've been meaning to look for a new job anyway."
T'Kir squeezed her shoulder from behind, "If y'ever need a reference, y'c'n count on us."
"Thanks." Haywright said with heartfelt honesty.
Haywright stood guard outside as Boromov, now almost fully recovered, was led into the Corsair's interior and straight to the single occupancy brig contained within. Grace sealed the hatch and began a pre-flight sequence. Macen and T'Kir watched on sensors as Royal Island Security and Starfleet Security arrived. Haywright had little explaining to due as Starfleet assumed jurisdiction, as was common with kidnapping cases.
The Starfleet Lieutenant in charge hailed the Corsair's occupants on a general frequency. Macen answered, "How can I help you, Lieutenant Bellamy?"
"You can begin by releasing your hostage and then surrendering." Bellamy answered.
"Have you run our vessel's registration through the Starfleet database yet?" Macen wondered.
"No." Bellamy's certainty wavered, "Not yet."
"Do that and call me back." Macen instructed.
Outside, Bellamy was flummoxed. He called over a nearby ensign, "Walters, have HQ run down this vessels name and registration. I want to know everything about her."
"Yessir." The ensign crisply responded and hurried off.
"Hannah, keep an eye on things." Macen instructed as he and T'Kir exited the cockpit. They went to the brig and stood outside of the cell. Boromov was alert but miserable.
"Can you please give me something for my headache?" he demanded.
"No." Macen replied, "But we can offer you tea or coffee."
"I'll take a cup of Earl Grey if you please." Boromov grunted. He faced T'Kir, "Well, what are you waiting for psiwitch? Pull my head apart already."
"Sorry, chum. I'll only d'that if y'don't co-operate." T'Kir let him down gently, "And y'might become a vegetable if I do."
"But I can't betray my clients." Boromov whined, "Do you know what they'd do to me if I violate their trust?"
"You might have to go out of the weapons smuggling business?" Macen asked as he showed up with a tray containing two cups of tea for Boromov and mugs of coffee for him and T'Kir.
T'Kir took her mug and dropped the forcefield as Macen delivered the tea. He retrieved his mug and left the tray on the cell's bed as he exited the brig. T'Kir reactivated the field as Boromov miserably weighed his choices.
"I'll add another factor to your decision making process," Macen informed him, "The Federation Council offered you a special, conditional pardon. If I report this infraction you'll spend the rest of your natural life on a penal colony. A very uncomfortable penal colony. Think about it."
Boromov sullenly sat on his cell while Macen and T'Kir returned to the cockpit.
"Lieutenant Bellamy!" Ensign Walters voice cracked, "You aren't going to believe this. Look what HQ uploaded to my padd."
Bellamy accepted the padd and began reading its contents. The runabout was the same one. But there was a Class Nine directive attached to the file. He opened it.
The directive clearly stated that the runabout and its crew were to go unmolested regardless of their activities. In fact, Starfleet personnel were called upon to assist the crew in any way and prevent their detainment. Bellamy couldn't believe it.
"Someone's got to be joking." He exclaimed.
"Look at who issued the directive." Walters advised her superior.
Bellamy double checked the Admiral's sign off. It had been issued by Admiral Alynna Nechayev, the Ice Queen of Starfleet Intelligence herself. Bellamy swallowed hard.
"Round up the detail." Bellamy quickly ordered, "Have them dismiss the local security force and set a cordon around this ship. No one approaches it or harms it at all."
"Yessir!" Walters snapped off a salute.
Bellamy shook his head and wished that she wouldn't do that anymore.
Meanwhile, Boromov buzzed the cockpit, "I've made my choice."
Macen and T'Kir went to one of the runabout's aft modules. There, Boromov looked more miserable than ever, "The NKVD is importing a biogenic weapon. One of the MP's has signed off on the cargo, therefore authorising it."
"What's its range and where do they plan on using it?" Macen inquired.
"It only releases toxins in a one hundred metre radius. However, one of the staffers at the Kremlin's Government House is sabotaging the ventilation system. NKVD agents posing as HVAC technicians will 'repair' the damage and plant the bomb. The plan is set to commence in four days." Boromov revealed, "The Prime Minister will host a luncheon for his Cabinet members while the regular staff is out to lunch."
"Pretty clever." T'Kir commented. Macen looked at her and she grew defensive, "Well, it is."
Macen sighed and deactivated the forcefield, "You're free to go."
Boromov hurried out of the cell and headed for the primary hatch. There, T'Kir opened the hatch and let Boromov outside. Starfleet Security received him and then held the line as curious bystanders pressed forward to see what was going on.
The Corsair's hatch sealed and the boarding ramp retracted. With the pre-flight sequence completed they were airborne within minutes. As they departed Risa they left behind a gaggle of curious Starfleet officers and one man rethinking his future ventures.
En route to Bolshevik, the crew of the Corsair discovered that the subspace relays servicing the planet were down. All of them. The coincidence was far beyond random chance.
"All frequencies are down." Grace sarcastically mimicked, "Service will resume shortly."
"Frinxers ain't subtle, are they?" T'Kir rhetorically asked.
"Bouncing off the relay yesterday before it went down, we ascertained that the Obsidian and her client had already arrived." Macen surmised, "Which means the cargo has already been off-loaded."
"Sure." T'Kir's sarcasm ratcheted way up, "Cheer us up, why don'cha?"
Macen looked from T'Kir to Grace and back again, "What is this? Gang up on your captain day?"
"Sweetie, you'd know if we were really ganging up on you." T'Kir purred and then her mood mercurially shifted, "Y'got somethin' on your mind so spill it!"
"We know where they'll take the bomb." Macen confided, "All we have to do is set a cordon around it."
"Ain't that a large proposition considerin' how few of us there are?" T'Kir asked.
"Not us directly." Macen explained, "The KGP can handle it."
"So, we're breaking cover?" Grace wondered.
"Kirov and the KGP need to be warned." Macen replied, "And we're the only ones in a position to do so." Macen suddenly grinned, "Don't worry. I don't intend for the locals to go without support. We'll be down there as well."
"Yea for us! Bad for the baddies!" T'Kir cheered.
"What's our ETA to Bolshevik?" Macen asked.
"Just over ten hours." Grace replied off the top of her head. Macen knew to not dispute her estimates. She'd be right every time.
"Good." Macen grinned again, "We should be able transmit to Bolshevik with minimum comm lag."
Grace rechecked her distance combined with subspace travel time and whistled, "You did that in your head. I'm impressed, Captain."
"Don't be." Macen replied, "The computer helped."
"Oh." Now Grace was far less than impressed, "Well, at least you tried."
"Thanks, Hannah." Macen deadpanned.
T'Kir swivelled to face Macen again, "I've routed the comm functions yer way."
Macen leaned over and kissed her, "Thanks Honey."
"How come he never does that for me?" Grace wondered.
Macen and T'Kir gave her a couple of blank looks and she laughed, "Just kidding folks. I prefer to get my lovin' from Ian."
"Sister, that's a good thing. Otherwise I'd have t'hurt ya." T'Kir joked.
"I'd like to see you try." Grace replied with more than a hint of challenge in her voice.
T'Kir blinked in surprise and then thoughtcast a question to Macen, Is she serious?
Yup. He replied.
Well, I can't read her mind. C'n you get anything off of her? She asked.
Just that she's supremely confident in her abilities. Even more so than usual. Macen mentally told her. All I can tell you is that this was the way she felt before she was stripped of her Attuner.
Y'don't think...? T'Kir hesitantly wondered.
I'm trying not to. Macen admitted, But I think we need to keep an eye on Hannah from now on.
This sucks. T'Kir declared.
Yup. Macen replied, Now, if you don't mind, I have a message to send.
"Ooo-kay." She said and then began a long range sensor sweep.
Grace wondered where the sudden statement came from and then realised the response stemmed from the couple's telepathic rapport. She knew they'd undoubtedly been discussing her and she found that she didn't care. Her life was almost complete and she was enjoying it to the maximum.
Macen felt the emotional impact of these thoughts. He refocused on the task at hand and transmitted a message to the Obsidian. Once he was received he laid out the details of what was going on to Forger and Danan. They put him in touch with Gantz's team. Needless to say, they were all less than happy.
Macen advised Gantz to make their final reports to Ripoll. They would then observe the NKVD's island. The KGP would relieve them and they would withdraw to a location of Macen's choosing.
With that settled Macen commed Kirov's private channel. Kirov immediately answered and was delighted with the identity of his caller. Macen decided to forgo the formalities.
"Mr. Premier your life is in danger." Macen warned.
"Always." Kirov chuckled.
"Sir," Macen grew angry, "listen to me. The NKVD already has a biogenic weapon on the planet. Tomorrow they plan on inserting the bomb in the building's environmental system and killing you and your Cabinet during your luncheon."
Kirov's face drained of all colour, "My God! What can be done?"
"The NKVD is headquartered in a Red Army base in Arkangel Bay." Macen began to explain.
"Yes, I know the installation." Kirov replied.
"Deploy the KGP and take the island. Even if you miss the bomb you'll still gather invaluable intelligence on the NKVD." Macen suggested.
"But what if we miss the bomb?" Kirov fretted.
"My team has a plan." Macen assured him, "But we need two groundcars left at the Customs office. Convertibles if you can get them."
"The KGP can sacrifice two unmarked cars." Kirov assured him, "They will be there waiting within the hour."
"I'll send you the list of personnel with access to the cars." Macen advised him.
"It would be appreciated Captain." Kirov admitted, "I look forward to the end of this problem."
"We'll discuss endings after I stop the bomb." Macen promised. He then terminated the transmission. It would take over ten hours to arrive. That would place them on Bolshevik on the morning of the fourth day local time. Just enough time for Gantz and the rest to gather the info he needed.
Gantz commed Ripoll. Ripoll was listed in the central directory so he wasn't surprised to find that Gantz had tracked him down. Gantz's offer to provide his team's report a day early was.
"Are you certain you're prepared?" Ripoll asked.
"We finished the last profile this afternoon." Gantz reported.
"Then meet me at The Company Store in twenty minutes." Ripoll ordered.
"Agreed." Gantz turned to the waiting SID members, "Let's pack up and make our rendezvous."
Ripoll met them at the appointed time. His two toughs came as well. Rockford and Radil excused themselves and escorted the women out of the pub. As Ripoll sat down in Rockford's vacated seat, Dracas handed the padd that the NKVD leader had handed Gantz back to Ripoll.
"Rockford's notes are on the padd." Gantz informed him, "As best as I can figure it, you have two targets. No one else is guilty of anything except philandering, which ain't none o' our business."
Ripoll chuckled, "Who said anything about targets?"
Gantz and Dracas gave him looks that made him quake. Dracas spoke, "Do not insult our intelligence, Mr. Ripoll. Your purpose in this endeavour is plain for all to see."
Ripoll began to look hunted but Gantz shook his head, "No worries, mate. We haven't told anybody. In fact, we're liftin' off o' this rock in a coupla hours."
Rockford and Radil returned. Rockford had a gleeful smirk while Radil was rather indifferent. Ripoll was immediately suspicious.
"When your little playmates come to, tell them we send our regards." Rockford patted Ripoll's cheek and then led the SID team out of the pub.
Later, Ripoll contacted Gregor, "Vasily, something's wrong. They were disdainful towards me and they beat my security detail into unconsciousness."
"You were caught in a lie." Gregor laughed, "People like this don't appreciate such things. As far as your female gorillas go, they're thugs. I want to beat them myself. Macen's people did us all a favour."
Ripoll was not mollified but he subsided, "They said they were leaving the planet."
"Good." Gregor replied, "I'd hate for Macen's ideological conscience to suddenly take hold before our plan is put into effect."
Lavelle suddenly spun around, "Vasily! The bay has been surrounded by KGP officers. More to the point, Rafe Villiers has sent word through our contact that the luncheon has been moved to an off site location."
"And that location is...?" Gregor wearily asked.
"The Grand Ballroom of the Kremlin Hilton." Lavelle reported.
"Prepare the submersible." Gregor ordered, "We'll run the blockade at nightfall."
"Do you still think that Macen is innocent?" Ripoll asked.
Gregor merely shrugged.
That night, the sub arrived from underneath the hidden dock inside the base. The weapon was loaded aboard as was Gregor and a few strong hands. The Operations staff stayed behind to distract the KGP and give the Mission teams time to do their work.
The sub surfaced at an inlet near the space docks. Ripoll and the rest of the Mission team were there waiting. They loaded the bomb into a HVAC lorry and provided three groundcars as escort.
Gregor took five automobiles with him and they headed off in another direction. While they thought that they were eluding the KGP they were being monitored, courtesy of the nanobugs, by the Obsidian. What the NKVD was unaware of was that the SID was mobilising to intercept them.
Macen and T'Kir joined the rest of the investigative team on the ground. They picked up their groundcars and departed the Customs House. Radil drove Macen and T'Kir. Dracas helmed the car containing Rockford and Gantz. However their ultimate destination was a mystery.
Macen commed Danan, "Talk to me Lees."
"Ripoll is guiding a lorry towards the downtown district." She replied, "Gregor is leading a larger contingent of cars towards Government house."
"Get on a party circuit with Radil and Dracas and guide them towards the lorry." Macen instructed.
"Are you sure?" Danan enquired, "What about Gregor?"
"Gregor is a feint." Macen informed her, "The bomb is on the truck."
"Right. Let me patch in to them." Danan closed the circuit and opened a new one.
Macen routed a comm address through the ship and reached Kirov, "Your Excellency, where is your luncheon being held?"
"At the Hilton." Kirov answered, "Why?"
"Inform your Special Unit to be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice. Macen out." He instructed.
Kirov rushed to see Colonel Villiers.
"The next right turn should place you behind the NKVD units." Danan instructed.
Radil and Dracas ran the light to arrive on the NKVD's bumpers. Macen instructed Radil to catch up with the lorry's driver side. She punched the throttle and slid past the opposing groundcars and came up on the truck's right side.
Dracas swung his car in front of the responding NKVD units. He constantly blocked their attempts to drive past him. In response, the terrorists drew their weapons and began to fire.
Radil pulled the car up close to the truck and Macen leapt out and took a hold of a handhold and stood on the running boards. He jerked the driver's door open and pulled the man out of the seat and onto the pavement. He then climbed aboard.
The other cab member kicked out at Macen while the SID leader was trying to stabilise the lorry. The passenger threw himself at Macen and the two brawled while the truck madly careened down the road. In response, Radil and T'Kir drove in front off and around the reeling truck. T'Kir repeated Macen's manoeuvre and she boarded the passenger side, nerve pinched Macen's antagonist, and threw him out of the truck.
Macen grinned, "Welcome aboard! Glad you could make it."
T'Kir grinned back, "Wouldn't miss it."
Ripoll watched all of this from the guide car travelling in front of the HVAC lorry. He was dismayed that he had lost control of the situation but he realised it was far worse than anticipated when Macen accelerated and began to chase him. He instructed his driver to make a hairpin turn down an alley. Macen followed, pursued Ripoll out into and across the next street, and quickly smashed the car up against a storefront.
As Macen backed the truck up, straightened out, and got underway again, Radil, Dracas, and the pursuit vehicles came skidding out of the alleyway. The NKVD agents in the lead car were wildly shooting. The two rear passengers were up on the rear deck and the front seat passenger was leaned over the door firing.
Rockford, who seated in the rear of the KGP car shook her head, "These poozers wouldn't know accuracy if it bit them on the arse." She turned to Dracas, "Hit the brakes and let the lead car rear-end us."
"But..." Dracas trailed off.
"Just trust me, Joachim, and do it." Rockford reassured him.
Dracas nodded. Rockford moved out onto the rear deck. She sat in a crouch, poised for what was about to follow.
Dracas began decelerating. The pursuit car rear-ended the KGP cruiser. Rockford flew into action.
She leapt onto the NKVD's bonnet. Jumping off from there she went into a flying kick. The shooter behind the front seat passenger was knocked backward out of the car.
As she sank down into the seat, she delivered a sweeping kick to the head of the other rear-seat shooter and she flew out of the car. Quickly rolling off of her back she grabbed the gun hand of the remaining shooter. Beating it against the doorframe, the gunner lost his grip on the weapon. She then took a grip on both sides of his head and twisted. Hearing the snap of his vertebrae she focused all of her attention on the driver.
Leaping into the front seat, she grabbed the woman's head by the hair and began to pound her forehead against the steering yoke. The driver was rendered insensate within a few moments. Rockford kicked open the door and threw the driver out of the car. She then slid into place behind the yoke.
She struggled to fasten her safety harness while driving. Waiting until the last NKVD car was behind her, she slammed on the brakes. The car propelled itself into hers. The rear passengers flew over their car, her windshield and over her bonnet, driving headfirst into the pavement. The other two occupants had bounced off of their windshield and were now broken lumps of flesh.
Dracas reversed his car and met the site of the crash. Rockford shrugged off her harness. Civilian groundcars on Bolshevik lacked even the most rudimentary safety devices but the police cruisers were equipped with the most modern equipment.
Jumping into the back of the KGP car she smiled and waved Dracas on, "Don't worry. I'm fine."
"You're certain?" Dracas glanced back at her in the mirror.
"My system's been modified to take these things in stride." Rockford assured him, "I'll still want to see Tessa later just to be sure but I'm good to go for now."
All of their comm badges chirped at once. It was revealed to be Macen, "Follow me. We need to get this bomb as far away from people as possible. I'm headed for the old aviation centre. It's largely abandoned and should suit our needs."
"Why not beam it aboard the ship or underwater in the bay?" Rockford asked.
"I can't raise the Obsidian so I have to assume the worst." Macen revealed, "Anyway, just follow me and hopefully we'll be fine."
"That'll be a first." Gantz grumbled.
In orbit, Forger asked Grace, "What's our status, Hannah?"
"We're still in orbit. We've been in orbit and will remain in orbit for the foreseeable future." Grace complained, "But we're ready to rock and ruin at a moment's notice."
Forger was about to make a comment when Jaycee Walker reported from Tactical, "Commander, we've got movement."
Walker had been tasked with monitoring orbital activity. Two orbital drydocks had shown increased activity today versus all their other time there. Forger was intrigued.
"What've you got for me, Jaycee?" she asked.
"Target Drydock One has launched a cutter." Walker reported.
"And?" Forger was waiting to be impressed.
"You're familiar with the general design of cutters, aren't you Ma'am?" Walker asked.
"I am but why don't you lay out your line of reasoning." Forger urged.
"Cutters are high speed in-system impulse driven craft. They're lightly armed but not too lightly as to not be able to disable a stock freighter." Walker began, "This one's got warp drive and is armed as well as us."
Forger began to become concerned, "Where's it headed?"
"Directly towards us." Walker reported.
"Shields up!" Forger snapped, "Arm phasers and photons. Sound red alert! Hannah, max burn on the RCS thrusters, bring us to course bearing 078.5. Once we're there, engage impulse engines."
"What strength?" Grace enquired.
"One hundred percent." Forger answered. With that, the crew got busy.
When the Obsidian was in position, Grace went to maximum impulse. The NKVD cutter had been hesitating due to the surveyor's being forewarned as to their intentions. They had expected fat and happy prey just blithely waiting around to be blown to hell. They had lost the element of surprise and didn't quite know what to do next.
They contacted Gregor and he angrily told them to get on with blowing them straight to hell. The crew complied and the Razor's Edge manoeuvred and took off in pursuit. Fortunately for them, the chase was still at sublight speeds and the cutter was the faster of the two ships.
Under orders, Grace reduced speed and brought the Obsidian back around. Now the Outbound Ventures crew targeted the cutter. Once again, the cutter wasn't certain as how to respond.
Grace and Jaycee strafed the cutter. Grace immediately flipped the Nova-class ship hard over and engaged the target again. Jaycee pummelled the cutter with torpedoes.
Next, Grace engaged in a corkscrew pattern to evade enemy fire. The inexperienced gunners aboard the Razor's Edge couldn't compensate. One last pass and the cutter's shields were down and a final torpedo barrage crippled her. They signalled for terms of surrender but the Obsidian crew didn't have time to celebrate.
"Commander!" Jaycee squawked, "A superliner has left port. An armed superliner! Sensors report twenty-eight phaser mounts and twelve torpedo launchers."
"Well, isn't that just ducky?" Forger sarcastically queried no one in particular.
Danan sat down next her, "If I may, keep up the random, evasive tactics. These people seem way out of their depth."
"Yeah," Tessa quipped from the other side, "what she said."
Forger turned to face the EMH, "Tessa, what the hell are you doing on the bridge?"
"Have no fears, I'm in my Emergency Command Hologram mode." Tessa boasted.
"No, you're not!" Forger snapped, "You don't have any such mode."
"But I could." Tessa said wistfully.
"Tessa, honey, we're in a firefight. You need to be in Sickbay in case there are wounded." Danan glossed things over.
"Oh, okay." Tessa irritably snapped and blinked out of existence.
"Thank you for that." Forger said gratefully, "And for your tactical advice."
"I've been a First Officer." Danan smiled, "It comes with the territory."
"Hannah, make ready to intercept the superliner as soon as it closes into nearspace. I don't want any misses or near misses going into the orbital shipyards. And run as crazy a course as you can."
"Yes, Ma'am." Grace grinned.
As Macen's convoy headed down the road two cars came screeching out of the right intersection and slid in behind Dracas' car. A third and a fourth also appeared and moved in on either side of the lorry. Finally, Gregor's car slid in front of the truck from the intersection in front of the truck.
Macen accelerated and rear-ended Gregor's car. He hit it again and again but the NKVD Commander refused to budge. The car's to either side of the truck pushed up against it and tried to steer it.
Macen called Dracas and Radil off, using them to block the chase cars instead. After several moments of this Macen laughed. T'Kir looked at him as if he were mental.
"What's s'damn funny?" she demanded.
"They're taking us to the airport." He snickered.
"Yer kiddin'." She remarked.
"Check the map reader." He suggested in good humour.
"I'll be..." she trailed off and then pointed out, "I betcha they got a nasty surprise waitin' for us."
"I wouldn't doubt it." Macen agreed.
"Should we warn the others?" she asked.
"Go ahead." Macen allowed, "I'm going to finish caving in Gregor's rear bumper."
Much to Forger's dismay, the crew of the superliner, Juggernaut, knew what they were doing. Their manoeuvrability was still slow given the nature of the beast but their gunners were top notch. The torpedoes were arrayed fore, aft, and in a circle surrounding the tube-like hull. In short, the Obsidian was getting bracketed and pummelled.
The Juggernaut, for all intents and purposes, closely resembled a 20th century Alpha-class submarine just on a massive scale. The "conning" tower contained the bridge and weapons control so that's where Forger concentrated her fire. The NKVD craft's shields were weakening, but then again, so were the Obsidian's.
Grace broke off from the attack and sailed into the orbital shipyards. She dove and wove her way through them until she came to a complete stop at the edge of where the drydocks ended. There she waited for the pursuing Juggernaut to pass.
As the lumbering battleship sailed on by, Grace engaged the impulse engines and dove out at the NKVD liner. Her course was erratic but Jaycee was able to keep up. The NKVD gunners were slow to respond and the SID ship fired an entire volley at the conning tower. Its shields collapse and Jaycee applied the final touches to bring the behemoth under heel.
Macen's party pulled into the airport and came to rest on the concourse. All of Gregor's cars pulled forward and formed a line on front of the SID agents. Macen and the rest exited their vehicles and studied the stand-off.
"Bring us the weapon." Gregor shouted across the gulf dividing the two factions.
All the SID agents moved to the back of the truck. After unloading it, Macen and Dracas worked the controls. Macen took the hoverpallet and "wheeled" the bomb out in front of the truck. Macen held up a small remote control.
"The bomb is armed and the controller is set to my biosignature." Macen announced, "In fifteen minutes it goes off. If I die, it goes off. If I do nothing, it goes off."
"You're insane!" Gregor shouted back.
"No, I'm upwind. You're not." Macen revealed, "Also this is an aerosol agent. We have microfilter masks. Do you?"
"Shoot them!" Gregor commanded. The vigilantes opened fire en masse. Macen ducked behind the truck. Radil took cover behind the door of her car. Dracas did the same while Gantz and Rockford ducked behind the boot.
Macen activated his comm badge, "Macen to team: put on your masks."
The SID team returned fire and the NKVD terrorists sought cover behind the groundcars. It was a stand-off.
"What's this crap do?" T'Kir asked.
"It's a toxin that emulates a hemorrhagic fever." Macen explained, "Think Ebola on a quantum scale. It kills in minutes rather than days."
"Yuck." T'Kir commented.
Macen felt a surge in the Currents and he pulled T'Kir back just as a phaser bursts sliced the air where her head had been mere seconds before. Macen hit his comm badge and spoke with Rockford, "Celeste, we have a sniper on the roof behind us."
"I'm on it." She replied. She glanced around. The only place in the open marketplace suitable for a sniper's post was a three story building directly behind their position.
Turning to Dracas, she spoke, "Joachim, come with me."
They sprinted to the entrance of the mini-tower. Rockford pointed at the ground, "Hold this position no matter what."
"You can count on me." Dracas vowed.
Rockford's smile was hidden behind her mask, "I know. That's why I brought you."
"Strength and Honour." He saluted her and she entered the building.
"These guys are plain stupid." Macen angrily remarked, "They think they can deactivate the bomb with my fingerprint. They don't realise that it's also keyed to my biosignature. I'm dead and it goes off irregardless. If they try to diffuse it, it blows."
"They're desperate. What'ya expect. If they had any brains they'd have bugged out ten minutes ago." T'Kir replied as another phaser blast lanced out and struck right above her head, "Dammit! I'm sick of that."
"Give Celeste time." Macen counselled, "She won't let us down."
Rockford slowly opened the stairwell door. It was located behind the lift and discreetly hidden from view from the sniper's estimated position. Keeping her weapon in a two-handed grip she stealthily moved forward. Ahead of her, a NKVD specialist lay prone with his rifle trained on the SID team.
The fact that he was an amateur was plain for all to see. He concentrated on targets not easily reached. Radil and Gantz were vulnerable but ignored by the gunner. He also rushed his shots and completely missed up until now.
Rockford felt sorry for him as she shot him in the back and killed him. She dragged the body back out of the way. Next, she took his place.
She sighted in the far left flank of the NKVD position and fired. The woman went down as the high powered phaser bolt impacted her face. The man next to her panicked and ducked. Rockford killed the man on the other side of him.
"Gregor!" the survivor yelled into his comm badge, "They've taken Anatoly's position. They've already taken out two of my men."
"Flank them and capture their sniper." Gregor ordered.
Five vigilantes rushed the building. Radil killed one of them. Rockford killed another. Then they reached Dracas.
Dracas picked the leader off with his pistol. Then he holstered the pistol and drew his sword. The two surviving terrorists laughed as Dracas rushed them. Dracas stabbed the first through the heart even as he took aim. Dracas spun, pulling the sword out and inverting it like a knife. The sword buried itself into the last vigilante's chest. He jerked it out and she went down gasping her own blood.
Rockford continued to keep Gregor's remaining forces pinned down. Macen used the lull in activity to call out to Gregor, "Gregor, if you surrender now no one needs to die. I'm detonating the bomb in one minute. If you value your life and the lives of those under you you'll throw down your arms and step out from behind your vehicles."
Gregor addressed the huddled mass of NKVD volunteers, "He's bluffing. No one in their right mind will detonate a biogenic weapon."
"We were going to." A voice countered.
"We're at war with the corruption of the government." Gregor rebutted the argument.
"What if they feel the same way?" another voice asked.
"We pledged ourselves to give our lives for our cause." Gregor reminded them, "Do you want to go back on your oaths now?"
They thought about it and said, "No." one by one.
"How much time do we have?" Gregor wondered.
"Five seconds." Came the answer.
"Whatever happens, I'm proud of you all." Gregor said.
The minute passed and the bomb started outgassing. As Macen had said, the wind was in their favour. The virulent mist passed over the huddling NKVD agents. Within thirty seconds they were up and gagging. They were coughing up blood as the capillaries in their lungs burst. Blood poured out of their eyes and massive bruises appeared across their bodies as veins and arteries haemorrhaged. Within a minute, they all died.
"Remind me to rate that as the most disgusting thing that I've ever seen." T'Kir sombrely commented.
"The weapon the Cardassians used against Severus IV was worse." Macen grimly commented.
"I was hangin' out with Ro on that one." T'Kir reminded him, "You and Lees handled the investigation into what happened."
"Be glad." Macen replied and removed his mask. Everyone else was removing theirs as well. He commed Rockford, "All right Celeste. You can take off your mask and join us at ground level."
"Roger that." Rockford replied.
After the group was gathered together and driving away in the KGP cars, Macen tried comming the Obsidian again. To his delight, he reached Forger, "Shannon, what happened? How are you?"
Forger chuckled, "We're all right but Dracas is going to have some work when he returns."
"You met a particular superliner." Macen surmised.
"That and a new type of cutter." Forger confirmed, "We took a pounding but we gave worse than we got. Gerrit Gren is currently aboard the superliner holding the crew in chains until the KGP can arrive."
"Sounds good." Macen applauded, "If you can patch me in with Kirov, I'll see about relieving you."
"Will do." Forger replied in chipper tones.
Kirov was less than happy, "You may have stopped the KGP but someone has mobilised the Red Army. They're marching on Kremlin."
"Yes, the leader of the NKVD was a Red Army colonel. He had the support of the General Staff." Macen revealed, "They either don't know that the assassination failed or don't care."
"You must help us, Captain." Kirov insisted.
Macen sighed, "I'll do what I can. Macen out." He turned to Radil, "Head for Government House. We're not out of this yet."
"Figures." Radil grumped.
Kirov was holding a conference with the KGP leadership, his Special Unit, and the Red Army liaison. The liaison had passed a computerised, biorhythmic lie detector test with flying colours. His very loyalty to the present government had caused him to be left out of the planning sessions for taking over Kremlin.
Macen was running the meeting. Turning to the KGP Commissioner he asked, "Have you tracked down who authorised that shipment containing the weapon?"
The Commissioner nodded, "My officers found Dustan Ripoll trying to delete the record. We recovered the file and traced the shipment back to Rafe Villiers."
Colonel Villiers stiffened even as Macen asked, "And he would be...?"
"The leader of the strongest opposition party." Kirov answered.
Macen addressed Villiers, "Colonel, you had a strong reaction to the revelation of this other Villiers' identity. Care to explain why?"
"He's my brother." Villiers admitted, "And he may have received some of the information that ended up with the NKVD from me."
The Commissioner turned to Villiers, "Sadly Colonel, you are stripped of your rank, post, and are under arrest." The Commissioner then nodded towards a Special Unit detachment, "Escort Mr. Villiers to a cell."
"Have you apprehended Rafe Villiers?" Macen asked.
The Commissioner scowled, "He left the planet this morning. We had no reason to suspect him so we didn't detain him. His flight plan said he'd return in a week's time."
"In time to assume the premiership." Kirov bitterly muttered.
"My officers can't hold back the army, even if our numbers are equal." The Commissioner bitterly protested.
"You don't want to." Macen replied, "We want them to surround Government House. This is a battle for hearts and minds. It must be fought here or not at all."
"If you think so." Kirov was less than certain.
Macen took him aside, "Let's have a little chat and then you go on with the planetary news services."
Kirov appeared on over two billion viewscreens, "Comrades, it is time for me to step down. While it is true that recent events have propelled me to make this step I must clarify a few points: the NKVD has been crushed. They were attempting to use a biogenic weapon on Government House, thereby killing all of its inhabitants, and were caught by a premature detonation of the weapon. No civilians other than the NKVD were harmed."
Kirov intently stared into the vid pick-up, "The weapon's arrival on our planet was cleared by Rafe Villiers. The MP left Bolshevik early this morning before the plot to assassinate me could get underway. As such, the KGP has issued warrants for his arrest. All of the KGP's evidence in these matters is available on the InfoNet. I suggest you check the facts for yourselves."
Kirov delivered the final hammer blow, "Special elections will be held in three weeks. All Ministers of Parliament and the Duma will participate in these elections. If victorious, they will serve out the rest of their term. If they are ousted by a new Minister-elect, they will step down and the new MP will serve out the rest of the term. The usual elections will transpire in two and four years' time. I will hand over my office to whoever is elected Prime Minister by the Duma. I am endorsing no candidate. I urge you all to weigh your choices carefully and make the best decision that you can. Good day to you all."
The transmission ended and millions raced for their comp/comms to either access the InfoNet or to query their news service of choice.
Unfortunately, none of the Red Army troops saw this announcement. The General Staff did, however, did and had decided to stage a coup irregardless. As the three tanks and a dozen troop carriers rolled into the Red Square, they deployed, all aiming their weapons at Government House.
"Come out!" the General yelled over a master comm.
Kirov appeared on the portico and Macen advanced. He also carried a master comm. It transmitted to every comm badge within range, which thanks to satellites, was considerable.
"Hold your fire and hear me out." Macen urged them, "Kirov has already announced new elections or have you already heard this?"
Macen let this sink in before continuing, "What's the point of erecting a military government unless the military refuses to share power or step down? What's the point of demolishing a building when it's the government itself that you object to and that same government will be replaced in three weeks?"
"You have a choice to make, ladies and gentlemen." Macen concluded, "You can sacrifice everything your ancestors strove to create when they created a democracy or you can revert to a single party rule: the rule of the army. Or you can lay down your arms and trust the system to keep on working. There are no guarantees either way. Choose wisely."
The spread out division looked to one another. Eventually one or two laid down their rifles. The choice was echoed as it swept across the crowd.
The General was apoplectic, "Pick up your rifles, damn you!" He pulled out his phaser and shot those troopers nearest him. A high powered phaser blast sliced though his chest and he slumped over. The troopers gazed up to the roof of Government House. Celeste Rockford waved and then re-entered the house though a dormered window.
As medics rushed to the wounded, Macen handed off the master comm to Kirov, "They need to hear a familiar voice. Tell them what you've already told the planet."
Kirov nodded, "Yes, of course."
Macen went back into Government House where his team was waiting for him in the foyer, "Ready to go?"
"Are they going to be okay?" T'Kir asked.
"I think they'll be better off than they have been for a long time." Macen opined. He commed Telrik, "Telrik, six to transport."
A week later, aboard Serenity Station, Danan and Riker were having a romantic evening in her quarters. Riker had regaled her with tales of his latest mission. She had deferred commenting upon hers. Now they were snuggling on the couch and the moment had come for her to share her recent revelation.
She scooted to the other end of the couch so that she could face him, "Tom, our mission made me realise something. Something important."
Riker smiled, "Are you going to share?"
"I've realised that I'm not only in love with you but I'm deeply in love with you. I've reached a point where I can't imagine my life without you in it." She confessed, "what I'm trying to say is: Tom Riker, will you marry me?"
Riker started to look uncomfortable and Danan pressed on, "C'mon Tom, I'm proposing to you."
"Lees, I'm flattered..." Riker began.
"Flattered?" her voice was flat, "I'm baring my soul and you're merely flattered?"
"Lisea, let me explain, you've drilled it into my head that we should keep things monogamous but loose. I've finally come to terms with that concept. I think it's too soon to rock that boat. I can't wrap my head around this mentality just to throw it away and start again. Paradigm shifts without a clutch aren't my speciality."
Riker took her hands in his own, "A few months ago, maybe even a few weeks ago I would have jumped at the chance but now I'll guess we'll just have to wait."
"I'd like to be alone now." Danan informed him.
"Of course. You need time to digest this." Riker rose and left.
Danan drew her knees into her chest and sobbed all alone.
Radil stepped out and viewed the family shrine. Gerrit Gren joined her, "They've really improved the upkeep ever since the spoonheads left."
"And the remainder of the old cell have taken up farming around here?" Radil asked.
"Yes, and about this time of night they'll be gathered at Reiv's Tavern." Gerrit revealed.
Radil offered Gerrit a ghost of a smile, "Let's go then."
"Are you sure?" Gerrit asked.
She touched his arm, "It'll do me a world of good."
He grinned, "Then let's go."
Dracas and Stan Guthrie walked hand in hand down the beach. They'd gone to Miami and were soaking up the sun. So far it had been the longest uninterrupted vacation they had spent together, and they had three more weeks planned!
Gantz and Tessa were playing springball in the Obsidian's cargo bay. To his surprise, Gantz was winning. After each point, Tessa dug in her heels and came out like a razorcat but in the end, her lack of concentration cost her two matches out of three.
"Not yer day, eh Missy?" Gantz chuckled.
"Where's Galen 3?" she blurted, "He hasn't come to see me."
"He's lurking about the corridors." Gantz smirked, "I told him to get lost until we'd finished our game."
"You...you...you big bully!" Tessa yelled and then disappeared.
Gantz grinned, "Maybe the kid stands a chance after all."
Grace readied herself. This luge course had been ended to be the roughest on the planet Odin. The fifth planet from the system primary, whereas Barrinor was the third, it was a largely artic world. The equatorial range was quite temperate. A co-axial tilt brought all four seasons to the upper and lower hemispheres. It was still a cold, rugged world versus its warmer sibling.
Odin had made a specialty of so-called "winter" sports, which could be enjoyed year round all over the planet. Grace's current devil-may-care adventure was the luge. She'd made two runs a day for three days now. Her first few runs had been amateurish since she was indeed a novice. Her last couple of times had been competitive. She was closing in on the track record and she was determined to get it today.
The buzzer went off and she launched herself into action. Turns, banks, and straights passed by a in a flurry of mere seconds. When she crossed the line and had to brake, she slowed to a crawl and was able to deploy her feet to stop her.
She was mobbed by the waiting crowd. Finally looking up to see the time, she realised she'd missed tying the record by three hundredths of a second. Grace grinned but knew she had another run later today. It would be her final run and then she would try out ski jumping. Thanking her well wishers she promised them all that her afternoon's performance would be the one to watch.
Macen and T'Kir joined Amanda Forger and Edward Noyce for dinner at a specialty Mediterranean restaurant on the Riviera. They had wide enough tables to accommodate Forger's special needs. Both of the admirals appeared highly relaxed and rather celebratory.
"Thank you for a job well done." Noyce summed up.
Macen accepted his toast while T'Kir relished in it. They were still studying the menu with some interest. Noyce decided to put them at ease, "Bob adores this place and so will you."
"Bob" of course was Robert Tavar Johnson. This particular admiral was as equally known for his palate as his diplomatic troubleshooting. He was also a friend of Macen and T'Kir's.
The waiter came and took their orders. Next another waiter came and refilled their drinks. When this was done, Macen decided to get candid.
"I reviewed the material that the KGP harvested out of Rafe Villiers flat. His accomplice within the NKVD was his staffer, Nicole Harrington. They were carrying an after hours liaison and swapping secrets at the same time." Macen began, "More disturbing was the revelation that just days before the biogenic weapon was in play, Endrick Gaston was a guest of Villiers. We have notes compiled by Villiers, possibly as leverage for plea bargaining, that implicate both the Meirkus Conglomeration and the Orion Syndicate in the scheme to overthrow Bolshevik's government."
"Why would the Syndicate wish to overthrow Bolshevik's government?" Noyce wondered.
"The plan was to secede from the Federation once Villiers assumed the mantle of Premier. He would theoretically hold a majority of votes in the Duma and would be able to push his agenda forward." Macen explained, "Afterwards, he'd agreed to join the Meirkus Conglomeration. The pairing of the two industrial entities makes sense but this would have a two-fold effect since it would open up Bolshevik as a distribution centre for the Syndicate."
"But why the top level co-operation?" Noyce was still slightly catching up.
"I don't know what Alynna or Amanda here has told you but the Syndicate and the Conglomeration are headed by the one and same man. Bertram Sindis is that man and he is a threat to the safety and well being of every Federation citizen." Macen revealed, "Sindis has been directly or indirectly involved with my last four cases. He's moved from petty crimes to territorial acquisition. My impression upon meeting him was that he would stop at nothing from carving out an empire beholden only to him."
"No." Noyce said in a steely tone, "I hadn't been informed."
Forger shrugged, "Alynna wanted to keep a lid on it until we had confirmed Sindis' intentions."
"Sounds like your man here has done that." Noyce was not appeased, "I suggest we take this up with the Council of Five tomorrow."
Forger nodded, "I'll inform Alynna. Now, if we could recapture the mood. We're to celebrate the demise of the NKVD and stopping of a revolution."
Noyce was a tad leery but he lifted his glass, "Hear, hear."
Macen and T'Kir returned to the Dorchester. Once in their rooms, they began to unwind.
"I thought ol' Noyce was gonna rip 'Manda a new one." T'Kir giggled.
"So did I." Macen confessed as he checked the messages.
"Anythin' interestin'?" T'Kir enquired.
"Celeste has finished checking out her agency on Shiva. Apparently the acquisition of it by Outbound Ventures has gone smoothly. She's happy and is headed for DS9."
T'Kir grinned, "Lookin' for nookie."
"Undoubtedly." Macen hefted a pillow in his hand, "I wonder?"
"Wonder what?" T'Kir blithely asked.
"If this is good for a pillow fight." Macen said and then backhanded her in the ribs.
"Oooh you!" T'Kir growled, "You're gonna pay for that. She gathered up a selection of pillows and went on the offensive.
After much laughter, and the shredding of a dozen pillows that the staff was quite alarmed to have to replace, they settled down and held each other as they drifted off to sleep. Unlike recent days, their sleep was content and trouble free.
|Last modified: 10.04.12|