Phaser blasts scorched the corridor walls. Sparks and molten fragments of metal fell to the floor. Thick smoke filled the narrow walkway. Two figures were barely visible through the acrid fog as they returned short burst of return fire.
“Well, this is great.” Major Kira Nerys grumbled as she ducked back behind the corner she was sheltered behind. Phasers lit up the hallway, filling it with more smoke.
“It could be worse.” Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax yelled at her from across the corridor, “They could have captured us by now.”
Kira wasted a scornful glare that Dax couldn’t see. She watched as Ro stepped out from behind her corner and released a volley of fire at their pursuers. The response was far more vigorous than previous attacks. Their opponents were growing more confident. Ro rattled of a string of particularly nasty curses as she wheeled back around the corner. She brought her hand up to her mouth and tried to moisten a fresh burn.
Kira snapped of a couple of quick shots before retreating. She studied Dax for a moment. Her wound seemed superficial enough. She shook her head while wearing a wry expression.
“What?” Dax mumbled while still sucking on her hand.
“Wouldn’t it be stupid if this is the mission where we get killed?” Kira asked.
Jadzia snickered. She could see the irony behind her question. As a Joined Trill, she possessed not only her memories but also those of the Dax symbiont’s eight previous hosts. She was her own woman and she and Dax formed their own unique gestalt, but more than two sentients would die here today if she were struck down. Then again, Dax had survived Klingon Blood Feuds, warp core breaches and scores of other hair-raising adventures over its centuries of life. This gave Jadzia a wealth of experience to back her own impressive array of skills.
Kira had joined the Resistance as soon as she was old enough to join the local cell. Spending her adolescent and early adult years as a terrorist, she’d undertaken covert missions and participated in battles that Starfleet officers could not truly imagine. After her people had finally been freed initially been given the role as the Executive Officer of Deep Space 9 and the senior Bajoran member of the Starfleet administrated station’s crew.
DS9 not only served to serve Federation interests, it also defended Bajoran interests. That role had brought Kira and Dax here. Not that this particular here held any attraction for either. Frenip VII was a harsh, forbidding world. Oppressive overlords had ruled its citizenry for nearly five centuries now.
A bleak world with no remarkable industries or natural scenery to speak of, the only draw for off-worlders was the mere fact that as long as the native government was given a percentage of the profits, any activity was legal. Various criminal enterprises made Frenip their base of operations. The Federation, and Bajor, wanted these criminals stopped. Since Frenip had no official ties with any of them, there was no legal recourse to turn to.
Starfleet Intelligence had long dallied with the idea of planting agents within the various organisations and having them deliver comprehensive lists of allied holdings. These holdings would then be seized. This would cause the criminals a great deal of grief and hamper their operations while they tried to recoup the losses as well as plug the security leaks. However, the manpower required infiltrating the thousands of enterprises and syndicates would have been staggering.
With the Federation Council screaming for action as a result of a well-publicised and embarrassing theft of a colony supply ship, these plans had been reviewed again. This time, however, Bajoran ambassadors sat in on these discussions. Several Bajoran freighters had been hit along with the recent spree of attacks against Federation shipping. Upon receiving the reports from his ambassadors, 1st Minister Shaakar Edon passed the data on to Sisko and the staff of DS9.
Kira, Dax and the station’s new Strategic Operations Officer, Lt. Commander Worf, reviewed the plans and discovered a way around the manpower requirements. Their analysis was that Starfleet always looked at the various organisations and enterprises as separate entities. They wanted to extract the pertinent data from key syndicates and transmit it to Starfleet HQ. That approach proved unnecessary since the Frenipian government had already compiled the data.
In order to insure that they received an accurate slice of the profits, the Frenipians insisted that the various cartels file complete records of their various holdings, both on and off planet. Kira had been amazed by the notion until she read the attached file regarding an old Earth bureaucracy named the IRS. She shook her head and breathed a prayer of thanks that Bajoran economics, though far from simple, had at least done away with the tax collectors.
Further evidence that we may actually be an enlightened society, she mused to herself. She’d shrugged off the thought and resumed reading. Dax’s contention was that a small team would penetrate the Frenipian’s Tax and Treasury Building to copy the necessary files and then depart. It would have to be a physical extraction since transport inhibitors shielded the entire capital, which formed the basis of Worf’s objections.
The inhibitors originally resulted from a cultural bias against converting flesh to energy and vice versa. It contaminated the lines between flesh and spirit. These seemed to be surprising sentiments from a culture dependent upon forced labour and the taxation of alien criminals. Kira knew better than to judge the planet’s ethics from her own native bias. Her own experience with Starfleet had taught her that the Frenipians had their own reasons behind their beliefs and foreign disapproval generally cemented these positions rather than loosening them.
Worf had originally balked at Dax participating in the raid. He insisted the station’s Chief Science Officer’s skill was wasted on something as benign as hacking a data system. Kira rebutted the argument by presenting Dax’s skill at cybernetic manipulation. She’d prove better at it than Chief O’Brien, the stations Chief of Operations and Worf’s former shipmate aboard the USS Enterprise, and Dax could assume the role of a pirate with far more conviction. The discussion ended when Sisko endorsed Kira and Dax’s plan. Work was unhappy but once the decision was made, he endorsed it.
Kira and her team had come to Frenip on the premise that they were looking to store gold pressed latinum and other booty for the Kierren cartel. The Kierrens turned pirate after the Cardassian invasion of Bajor. They’d departed Bajoran territory and attempted to re-establish their shipping firm along what now comprised the Demilitarised Zone between the Cardassian Union and the Federation. The Federation had denied them a freight license since Cardassia had revoked their permits and licenses. Unwilling to yield to Cardassian demands to return to Bajor, they became smugglers and pirates. Disaffected Bajoran refugees proved reliable recruits for retiring or slain hands.
Kira and Dax’s group had arrived a week ago. The first part of the week had been spent in endless hours of meetings with various government and cartel officials. Kira attended to the meetings. Dax had used that time to access the information she needed for this raid and co-ordinated her plans with Worf’s support unit.
Dax watched Kira as she fired off another salvo at their pursuers. Observing Kira in action illustrated her past. Dax was an excellent marksman owing to her skills being augmented by previous host’s motor skill memories. Kira’s skills had been honed to a razor’s edge during her stint with the Resistance.
“What?” she demanded as she spun back around the corner, noticing her scrutiny.
“You should have expected a secondary alarm.” Kira attacked, defensive over Dax’s observing her.
“How was I supposed to know?” Dax defended.
“You’re the hotshot cyber genius.” Kira retorted, “You’re supposed to expect things like that.”
“The rest of their tech base is a joke.” Dax retorted angrily as she opened fire at their pursuers as well, “I didn’t think they’d have an AI guarding their tax records.”
“Considering how paranoid they are about these records,” Kira said wearily, “I expected stronger security than we’ve hit so far.”
“Then what are you complaining about?” Dax demanded as she angrily snapped off a couple of more shots.
Kira turned around the corner and fired off several bursts. Both she and Dax carried the standard phaser pistol issued by the Bajoran Militia. Although Dax and Kira could have wielded nearly any world’s weapon in their guise as pirates, Kira preferred the ergonomic and rugged design adopted by the Militia. Years as guerrilla fighters had taught Bajor’s weapons designers to utilise the best attributes of a design.
Kira checked the chrono on her wrist. Everything should be set now. The only delay now would be their adversaries’ efforts to detain them. She depressed the release button on the side of his phaser’s grip and the nearly expended powerpack slid out of the butt of the pistol.
Kira slapped a fresh pack in as Dax announced, “More company’s coming.”
Kira knew her information was derived from more than her incredible hearing. Dax had tied the padd clipped to her belt into the building’s computer net. An earpiece discreetly hidden in her ear relayed the traffic on the building communications net. Dax heard the security officers receive their orders at the same time they did.
Kira pulled a cylindrical device out of one of the thigh pockets of her pants. Dax winced, “That’s going to be loud.”
Kira depressed the arming mechanism, “Brace yourself.”
She threw the cylinder down the corridor. It landed with a metal “clank” and rolled down the hallway. Its progress echoed as the guards ceased firing and stared at it in bewilderment. Behind their corners, Kira and Dax crouched as low as they could and plugged their ears.
A blinding flash of light filled the corridor followed swiftly by an energy wave. The noise was tremendous, rattling their teeth. The entire building shook as a subsequent shock wave passed through it. Kira and Dax rose from their crouches as soon as the building stopped vibrating.
“Damn.” Kira muttered, “That was certainly loud enough.”
“It was also very effective.” Dax commented sombrely, surveying the damage wreaked by the bomb. Miles O’Brien continued to amaze Dax with his technical versatility. The plucky Irishman had served in both Cardassian Wars and had learned some creative approaches to weaponry. For the sonic grenade, O’Brien had read a proposal from a Troglyte engineer serving at Spacedock 1.
Hal Dracas had proposed adapting a technique first pioneered by his people while mining on Ardanna IV. The bomb was essentially a sonic emitter with a nuclear battery as a power source. Equipped with a gyroscope, it could direct its output towards any selected direction no matter how thrown or placed. In this case, they’d aimed it downward.
Kira and Dax stepped into the corridor and briefly gazed at the gaping maw carved through the building. A hole had literally been punched through it, descending past ground level. It was a dramatic, one shot weapon that Kira was suddenly relieved no one else had conceived of yet. Dax’s whistle caught her attention.
She had an awe-struck expression in her face, “Wow.”
“Tell me about it.” Kira agreed ruefully, “C’mon, we’d better get going.”
“Hopefully the computer’s still working,” Dax commented, “because I think we just blew all the other exits up.”
Kira covered the corridor with her phaser while Dax pried an access panel out of the T-junction where they’d made their stand. The two dead-end stretches merely led to storage closets. The access panel possessed the controls for a “hidden” rooftop exit. The panel was dented by the blast and Kira just hoped it was still functional.
Dax unclipped her padd and went to work. She stretched a fibre optic cable to a dataport. She began typing furiously. A few scant moments later the door’s lock clicked as it released.
“Piece of cake.” She said smugly.
“Don’t get cocky.” Kira warned, “We never did get solid numbers on how many guards could be stationed on the roof.”
“If they haven’t soiled their undergarments after that explosion, I think the sight of us charging at them with phasers drawn should discourage them from being overly aggressive.” Dax said confidently.
“You’ve already underestimated them once today.” Kira reminded her, “Don’t get shot doing it again.”
She stuck out her tongue at Kira and turned back to the door, “You ready?”
“I’ll be right behind you.” Kira assured her.
Dax gave Kira a wink and pressed the button that opened the door. The door disengaged with a hiss of pneumatic pistons pushing it away from its recessed place in the wall. It swung open on massive hinges. The light outside was bright.
Dax waited a moment while her eyes adjusted. With her eyes prepared for the ambient variance, she stepped through the door with her phaser cradled in a two handed grip. She took several steps out and then spun and fired at the ledge above the door. A Frenipian groaned and fell.
Kira stepped over the still form. Her eyes and readied phaser swept the rooftop. Her comm badge beeped. Kira ignored it. She wouldn’t respond if they had to abort the pick up.
He could see two Federation Type 19 shuttles approaching the rooftop. Both of them had their boarding hatches open. The inability to use transporters had forced them to utilise shuttles for the extraction. The plan was based on the pursuit and required precise synchronisation to work.
The lead shuttle stopped and hovered thirty metres over the rooftop. Ensign Neely stood in the hatchway. A harness kept her tethered to the shuttle. She cradled a compressed phaser rifle in her arms and her features bore a hungry expression.
The second shuttle came in on an approach. Worf began to lower himself from the hatchway using a suspension cable. Unlike Neely, Worf only wore a Type I phaser and it was holstered. He needed both of his arms in order to accomplish his task.
Dax began running for the edge of the rooftop when the first phaser blast whined through the air. A dozen or more guards were emerging from a rooftop hatch. Several had already fanned out and were firing at the exposed privateers. Kira thumbed her phaser to heavy stun and returned fire in pulses.
Neely opened fire from her shuttle. The heavy rifle was also designed to fire in burst patterns. Its greater power gouged swaths into the roof. Debris flew into the air around the guards.
Dax stopped at the edge of the rooftop and waited with her arms outstretched. The shuttle bore down on her. Worf glided mere centimetres above the rooftop straight for her. She went limp just moments before he collided with her, swooping her up in his arms.
The shuttle’s pilot, Sergeant Aren, immediately began to pull up from the building and accelerate the shuttle. The Bajoran worked with precision despite her concern over Kira’s safety. Dr. Bashir activated the motor on Worf’s harness and reeled them back in. The lithe doctor them assistance in getting back into the shuttle, which the burly Klingon refused.
Bashir used a tricorder to inspect Dax for injuries while Worf took the data crystal she'd copied the records to and headed for the shuttle’s co-pilot station. He plopped into it and fed the crystal into the computer. With a grin he announced the data was intact. Aren returned the smile and pushed the shuttle’s impulse engines to maximum velocity.
“Now!” Kira yelled into her comm badge, “Bring the shuttle in now!”
The shuttle lowered itself towards the rooftop. It was level with the roof but several metres distant from it. The pilot was Chief O’Brien. The engineer began his piloting experience by building his own impulse craft as a youth. Kira idly wondered when they’d discover any limits to O’Brien’s uncanny abilities.
Neely ceased fire and stepped out of the way. The guards’ view was still obscured by the debris cloud. Kira ceased fire as well and broke out into a sprint for the shuttle. She leapt off the rooftop ledge, landing safely in the shuttle.
Without waiting for orders, O’Brien powered up the impulse engines and began their ascent. Neely closed the hatch while Kira scrambled for the co-pilot station. The sensors revealed what he’d expected, and dreaded. The Frenipians had scrambled atmospheric impulse craft after them.
“Don’t worry.” O’Brien reminded with a carefree grin, “I flew airtrams like that for years as a kid. I know a few tricks to get away from them.”
Kira nodded already hearing about some of the Chief’s youthful exploits. She could almost hear Neely’s anxious desire to fire upon her pursuers. The Security officer was an ardent supporter of the “offence as defence” strategy. The problem was that neither of the minuscule shuttles had any weaponry. They had basic shielding, but nothing that would withstand a beating.
The hawk-like interceptors were faster and more manoeuvrable in atmospheric conditions. The wedge-like shuttles would be at disadvantage until they cleared the planet’s gravity well and employed their stubby warp nacelles. Even with a maximum speed of only Warp 2, they’d quickly outpace any sub-light craft. They just had to survive that long, or have another plan.
Kira checked the sensors, “Just give us five minutes of breathing room.”
“Would you settle for three?” O’Brien asked wryly.
Kira grinned despite himself. O’Brien began a series of evasive manoeuvres. They weren’t designed to elude the pursuant craft, only prevent a long-range weapon’s lock. A few of the more impatient pilots released a few volleys, but to no avail. With luck, they would pass the barrier before the craft could effectively target the shuttle.
The shuttle lurched as the first phaser blast assaulted its shields. Kira ignored it, remaining focused on the sensors. Another blast followed another. Warning klaxons began to sound. Kira remained absolutely still until the sensors gave her the readings she’d waited for.
Sporting a victorious smile, she slapped his comm badge; “Kira to Defiant, beam up all personnel.”
The shuttle’s passengers disappeared in a shimmering glow as their molecular structures were converted to energy. The shuttles exploded shortly thereafter as the pursuing Frenipians scored lethal hits on the computer operated shuttles. They were informing their superiors of their victory even as their quarry broke orbit.
Kira and her teammates materialised in the starship’s main transporter room where Captain Sisko awaited them with a triumphant grin, “Made it I see.”
“What’d you expect, Benjamin?” Dax joked, “We’re just too damn good for our own benefit.”
Kira noted Grace and Kort’s enthusiastic agreement alongside Worf and Neely’s cooler reaction. O’Brien nodded but his eyes burned with a desire to return to the station and see his wife and daughter. The chirping of Sisko’s comm badge ended Kira’s mental berating of her errors over the course of that mission.
“Sisko here.” Came the Captain’s rolling bass.
“Frenipian Custom cutters have surrounded the runabout you left in orbit.” Chief Constable Odo’s voice reported, “Do you want to employ the fallback contingency?”
Kira smiled alongside Sisko’s widening grin. Odo had been found in orbit around Bajor and the shapeshifter had instinctively assumed a humanoid shape in the presence of his Bajoran “rescuers”. Gul Dukat had been the one to employ Odo as the Chief of Security aboard DS9. Odo had pursued his job with fairness and a driving need to uncover the truth of any investigation. The Bajoran Militia kept him on when they assumed control of the station.
“Yes.” Sisko replied, “Blow the ship.”
A slight pause prefaced Odo’s next comment; “The ship’s destroyed.” Another pause and then, “Two shuttles and a runabout, this is well above your usual damage tally Kira. You must be slipping in your old age.”
Kira grinned, “Must be.”
Odo and Kira had had a solid working relationship for almost a decade. Odo had originally met Kira when she served as a saboteur aboard the station. There’s was a strong friendship, based upon years of repressive bloodshed and a new hope for Bajor. They respected each other’s skill implicitly and they were one another’s confidants aboard the Federation run, Cardassian built Bajoran space station.
“So,” Dax asked with a tinge of impatience, “are we done here or what?”
Kira rolled her eyes as Sisko grinned; “We’re done. After action reports are due, but not until we reach DS9.”
Some under the breath grumbling came in response to that news and Kira retorted, “What? That still gives everyone....”
Sisko looked expectantly at Dax and she quickly offered up, “We won’t reach the station for a minimum of fourteen hours. At proscribed regulated speeds the transit time is increased to twenty-six hours.”
Sisko smiled at Dax’s bright enthusiasm, “See... plenty of time to rest up and get bored enough to write up your reports.”
“And what exactly will you be doing?” Dax asked with an arched eyebrow.
“Manning the bridge and the poor terrified ensigns you’ve all left me with.” He replied simply.
There was general laughter over that and the various officers began to go their separate ways, “Okay.” Dax turned to Neely; “I get the shower first.”
“I don’t think so.” Neely retorted.
“Hey, who did all the physical work here?”
“Not you.” Neely gibed.
Kira grinned at Sisko as the voices descended down the corridor. The rest of the crew could be heard as they moved through the ship. Kira shook her head after a time. Sisko gave Kira a dubious look.
“What’s so funny, Major?” Sisko’s expression grew stern.
Dammit! Kira mentally cursed. Although loath to admit it to the man himself, Kira had no idea how to relate to her superior officer. She could manage to work with him as her CO but her faith accorded him the divine status of the Emissary of the Prophets. Kai Opaka’s pronouncement didn’t change how Sisko acted but it changed how every Bajoran acted.
As hard as the Vedek Council might try to change Sisko’s attitude, he remained adamantly opposed to venerating himself. He accepted the accolades in moderation and strove to help Bajor in its quest to re-establish themselves as an independent world and candidate for Federation membership. This only made the Bajoran people love him even more. It also made Kira’s life a living hell at times.
“Major?” Sisko inquired, “Are you all right? I tried to make a joke and you just froze.”
Kira shook her head, mentally flogging herself for misinterpreting his meaning, “Everything’s fine, sir. I must just be tired.”
“Do you need to visit Sickbay?” Sisko’s concern was worn openly; “I can signal Doctor Bashir to meet us there.”
She held up a hand, “Really, Captain, I’m just tired. I’ll be fine after a few hours sleep.”
“The see that you get some sleep.” Sisko ordered, “I can’t have my 1st Officer walking around in a daze.”
“Not to worry, sir.” Kira replied crisply, “I’m on my way to my quarters.”
“See to it then.” Sisko affirmed and headed for the turbolift. Kira shook her head in amazement. It wasn’t Sisko’s part of the conversation that amazed her, it was her own. Sisko had always been concerned about his people and at one time Kira had always questioned his orders.
Those days had faded to memory but she still didn’t know how to hold a simple conversation with the man. Throughout her life, Kira’s faith in the Prophets had sustained her. Now, for the first time, it was a stumbling block. She wasn’t certain how to respond to that or how to react.
She missed the heady days of absolute conviction and certainty. The only good she seemed to be deriving was the ability to adapt. Her beliefs had modified over her time of knowing the Emissary and the representatives of the Federation. Those modifications were actually granting her a stronger, if not wholly complete, faith.
Kira reached her cabin and saw that Dr. Bashir and Chief O’Brien were huddled outside of Dax’s quarters. She could hear the young Trill’s voice rising and falling as she recounted the details of her mission beside Kira. Kira mused over whether or not to join them but discovered she just didn’t have the strength. She entered her cabin and swiftly plopped down into the lower bunk.
Gazing up at the alcove above her, her mind swam. Thoughts of Bareil and Shaakar floated through her mind. Thoughts of her friends, Jadzia and Odo cheered her. Thoughts of Odo in particular warmed her heart. That surprised her but she simply chalked it up to being acquaintances for even longer.
As always, images from the Occupation drifted through her mind as she fell asleep. She saw her father’s frame frail from hunger; hunched workers processing ore within DS9, called Terok Nor by its Cardassian masters; the purges following a Resistance strike. The death screams of Cardassians also filled her memory. She’d personally killed more Cardassians than she could accurately count
She relived a lifetime of traumas at night and spent her days trying to reconcile those days with the promise of a new golden age for Bajor. More than anything, she’d learned the intensity one could place into driving alien tyrants could also be placed in rebuilding a shattered world. It was the only reason she could get up to face the day.
Today had been quite the step forward towards that brighter tomorrow she dreamt of. The Kierren pirates were discredited with syndicates they dealt with. Their options were limited to facing their enraged associates or accept Shaakar’s amnesty offer. Their crews and ships would then be placed in Bajoran service and utilised to bolster the planet’s blossoming interstellar trade.
Today had also been proof to the Federation that Bajorans could effectively construct and implement a plan worthy of Starfleet. Decades of oppression and rebellion may have taken its toll on the Bajoran psyche, but they were learning other methods of accomplishing a task that did not exclusively require a bomb, phaser, or knife. The Federation Council needed to see that, as did the Bajoran populace. Life could not return to the idyllic pastoral life idolised by certain pundits but they could move towards a new undreamed of tomorrow.
Kira fell asleep secure in the knowledge that she’d made a difference. It was a small one, to be sure, but still an accomplishment nonetheless. She’d visit the Temple aboard the station after they returned home. She’d offer her prayers to the Prophets, content knowing They would explain the truths she needed to know. She just had to quiet her fears and let Them speak and then life would make sense again.
|Last modified: 10.04.12|