|The tales from the Maquis|
It was the latter part of the Earth year, 2370. Earlier that year the Maquis had formed and revealed their existence in several fiery expenditures of thermalytic explosives. Then they had taken up arms and attacked Cardassian military posts as well as the civilian traffic that supplied them.
Starfleet had sent several infiltrators into the Maquis ranks. The first of those, Lt. Ro Laren, had decided to actually throw in with the Maquis and even rose to become a cell leader. Another, Lt. Tuvok, had successfully integrated himself into the ranks of a Maquis mobile cell. So far he'd remained undetected.
Commander Brin Macen of Starfleet Intelligence had approached Ro and flatly admitted that he'd been sent to capture her. He and his partner, Lt. Commander Lisea Danan, joined with Ro. But they were playing a deeper game than any Maquis brigade commander suspected. They were under several layers of cover.
Macen and Danan ultimately believed in the Maquis cause. They were also loyal to Starfleet and saw the Maquis as a natural ally to combat the Cardassians' ingrained aggressive tendencies. In other words, the Maquis could carry out missions that Starfleet couldn't even dream of attempting.
But in order to be effective, Macen needed access to Cardassian space. So he became a smuggler. Delivering technology and banned luxury goods, Macen made inroads with the Cardassians. And so he'd arrived at Trelka V.
Trelka V was a Class-L world bordering on being a Class-H desert planet. But it could still marginally support humanoid life so the classification held. It was officially uninhabited. But the crew of the SS Odyssey learned that was a lie.
The Odyssey was a decommissioned Starfleet Blackbird-class scout. The Central Command had initially been leery of allowing a Blackbird-class starship into their borders after how effectively the ship class had undermined Cardassian operations and harried Cardassian Militia assets during the Border Wars. Many, Gul Dukat included, felt it was like releasing a Bajoran razorcat on a nest of voles. The cat would ultimately be killed but there would only be one or two voles left alive.
The ship had been designed for an optimal crew of twenty-two personnel. The Odyssey had seven crewmen aboard. That made the Cardassian security officials feel better.
The ship was delivering three industrial replicators complete with Federation component patterns imbedded in its memory. Typically, Federation industrial replicators were sent to nonaligned or hostile powers with their memories wiped. They would then be fed Cardassian patterns and replicate Cardassian technology.
But with replicators feeding the orbital construction efforts the dock yards would be completed in half the time and be twice as efficient. Admiral Alynna Nechayev, Macen's immediate superior, had a hard time selling this plan to The-Powers-That-Be inside of Starfleet Command but she'd had her way and the plan was operational.
Macen's crew were all loyal Maquis. They were all unsettled by this effort. After reviewing their sensor readouts, they were incensed. There were life forms on the planet's surface. Over one hundred thousand of them. All Federation citizens deported from colony worlds ceded over to the Cardassian Union. They'd once been proud settlers and now they were reduced to being slaves in labor camps.
Cardassian labor camps were notorious. Only the Klingon's Rura Penthe had a harsher reputation. So the thought of leaving these hundred thousand behind appalled them.
"I can take out the orbital construction with two well placed photons," Christine Lacey informed Macen from the Tactical station.
"Not yet, Chris;" Macen replied.
"Then when?" Lacey grated.
"You knew when you came aboard this wasn't a combat unit," Macen reminded her; "We watch and observe. Then we report to Ro and help her plan a strike but we don't participate in any of them."
"Why not?" Lacey fumed, "We have more firepower in this one ship than half the Maquis forces combined."
"Starfleet sent me into the DMZ to subtly push the Maquis towards certain courses of action," Macen reminded her, "They don't know I've revealed my mission to Ro and that Ro shared it with Cal Hudson and Sveta Korepanova. The Maquis think I'm ex-Starfleet and Starfleet thinks I'm completely sold out to their plans. The truth lies in the middle. But none of that will matter if we attack this construction site and openly reveal we're with the Maquis, then everything we and the Maquis Council have worked for will be blown. Would you care to explain that to them after the fact?"
"No," Lacey huffed, "But we have to do something."
"We will," Macen promised, "We'll report who is on this planet and take careful note of the regular patrols in this area and what units comprise them."
"Captain?" Tracy Ebert said unsteadily from the CONN, "Why did they only bring a hundred thousand colonists? Shouldn't there be over a million?"
Macen hated to blow Ebert's hope that lay behind the question. She was a teenager on the cusp of adulthood and she'd already endured some of the hardest lessons life could impart, "Those are the survivors, Tracy. I'm guessing everyone else is dead."
Macen could tell by the stiffening of her shoulders that t was good Lacey had control of the weapons and not Ebert. T'Kir chimed in, "There probably won't be any survivors at all inside a month."
Macen knew the young Vulcan was biased. Her entire colony had been wiped out in a genocidal campaign. Only T'Kir and a few other off world students had survived the massacres. Otherwise, her parents might have been on Trelka V's surface.
"Brin," Lisea Danan spoke from the Sciences station, "We should get moving."
Danan's Starfleet specialty was as a stellar cartographer and astrophysicist but she was also rated as a bridge officer and general science officer. Macen had sought her out because one of Danan's previous hosts had been one of Macen's former partners in Starfleet Intelligence. The Trill prohibition from engaging with former contacts of a symbiot host didn't apply because they'd never been romantically involved. That waited until Lisea was the host.
Macen was an El-Aurian so he'd outlive dozens of Danan's hosts. Macen had been 2nd Officer aboard the Lakul when it arrived in the Alpha Quadrant. But Macen had been there before as a member of El-Auria's Survey Corps. Guinan had convinced him to explore Earth so he'd done so two centuries after she had. He'd witnessed Earth's first venture into deep space with the launch of the Warp 5 capable NX-01 USS Enterprise. He'd expected great things from humanity and the United Federation of Planets had not disappointed.
El-Aurians had always tended to be pacifists. It took the assimilation of their race by the Borg to teach the scattered survivors that there were some things worth fighting for. Macen had segued from being an Archeology and Anthropology Officer aboard a survey ship to being an officer aboard a freighter It was aboard that ship with its load of refugees that Macen decided he would fight back against those that threatened his life and the lives of those he cared for from that point forward.
So he'd spent ten years acclimating to the Federation and then joined Starfleet. He'd quickly been transferred from being a junior A&A Officer aboard a starship to an analyst's desk in Starfleet Intelligence. And he'd quickly risen to being the lead analyst regarding the Cardassians.
Sent out into the field to gather more data concerning the Federation's newest foe, Macen learned warfare because of the Cardassian atrocities. And he'd never looked back.
"Tracy, break orbit and plot a course for Ronara Prime;" Macen ordered as he retook the center seat.
"Won't they be tracking us?" Ebert asked dubiously.
"That's the beauty of it," Macen mused, "They'll be expecting it."
En route, Macen summoned Tom Eckles and his Engineer's Mate, Heidi Darcy, from the engine room. They all gathered around the bridge while Ebert also monitored the navigation sensors. Macen broke down what was happening for Eckles and Darcy. They'd known some of it thanks to T'Kir feeding them information from OPS.
Macen watched the barely composed Vulcan and knew she was suffering another of her mental breakdowns. T'Kir's colony had hosted Romulan defectors and integrated them into their society. It had been easy for these Vulcans to do so because they held to the tenets of a man named Sybok.
Sybok had been more than Ambassador Spock's half-brother. He was also the most persuasive and outgoing advocate of Vulcan emotionalism. Sybok felt the ultimate fulfillment in a Vulcan's life was emotional expression. As the crew of the Odyssey had learned firsthand, T'Kir was very fulfilled.
"This situation is going to test the Maquis and force us into some desperate actions," Macen informed his crew, "Because we simply don't have the lift capacity to bring all of those captives aboard our limited inventory of ships."
"So what do we do?" Lacey was apprehensive, "Give up?"
Macen looked up at the raised dais that the Tactical and Science stations sat at the rear of the bridge compartment, "Lees?"
Danan shared his smile, "It's simple. We change the conditions of the test."
Ro heard Macen's report when he and Danan presented their findings. She scowled, "Captain Rionoj said that Dorvan V had been emptied to make way for mining operations. She had said other colonies looked emptied as well across the Cardassian occupied Maquis worlds. But no one suspected that the Cardassians would go so this."
"They have and we have to respond," Macen insisted.
"How? You said it yourself, we simply don't have the passenger capacity to evacuate Trelka V;" Ro used Macen's words against him.
"There's a simple solution, Laren;" Danan replied, "But it carries risks."
"And simply being a Maquis doesn't?" Ro snorted, "We're fighting for our lives here."
"Just so you know," Danan replied. She explained the plan.
Ro looked a little stunned for a second, "And how do we slip by the Cardassian patrols?"
"We'd need a distraction," Macen stated, "A very large one."
"What kind of 'distraction'?" Ro was wary now.
"I think we should discuss that with Cal and Sveta," Macen said.
Ro found it amusing hat he referred to the Maquis Commander and the Architect casually by their first names. Hudson had founded the Maquis and Korepanova was the movement's chief strategist hence her code-name. But then again, Macen was on a first name basis with Admiral Nechayev. If he could crack the Ice Queen's veneer he probably felt entitled to address people as he saw fit. Guinan certainly had.
"All right, I'll contact Hudson and arrange a meeting;" Ro conceded, "Ask Kalita to gather the brigade command staff."
Macen and Danan stepped out to give Ro some privacy. The Maquis Commander commanded the Maquis Council. In turn the Maquis Council was composed of Brigade Commanders. Each Brigade Commander was a cell leader. And each cell possessed its own command staff to support the cell's Brigade Commander in their fight against the enemy.
Kalita, Aric Tulley, and Emjin Thool reported to Ro's quarters after she'd finished speaking with Hudson, "Aric and Thool, pack your bags for a quick trip to Volon III. Kalita, you're in charge here until we get back."
"What's going on?" Kalita wondered.
Ro explained the situation to them. They were all agitated by the news as Ro felt, "Macen will give us a ride to Volon III. Cal Hudson is on Valo II right now but he'll be returning within a day."
"What's he doing on Valo II?" Thool wondered.
The Valo system contained three Bajoran colonies that had remained independent during Cardassia's occupation of Bajor. But although the Valo system was in nonaligned space, the Federation and the Cardassian Union had included it in the Demilitarized Zone. But many of the Bajoran Resistance fighters that had refused to lay down arms when the Cardassians withdrew from Bajor called the system home. And the Bajoran Militia had a black bag operation supporting the Resistance fighters. Hudson was there to negotiate for the Maquis so that they'd receive a piece of the action.
It wasn't a secret that large segments of the Bajoran populace regarded ex-Resistance fighters and the Maquis as vital to Bajor's defense. They kept the Cardassians off balance and out of the Bajor Sector. In order to avoid tensions with the Federation, the Provisional Government derided and condemned any active support of the Maquis yet the military secretly provided assistance.
"Kalita, I want to you to prepare everyone for traveling while we're gone;" Ro requested.
"Traveling where?" Kalita wondered.
"That's why I'm heading off to Volon III," Ro confessed, "To find out."
Hudson's lieutenant, Amaros, and a Volon III administrator named Kobb greeted Ro's party. Amaros was all business, "Cal will be back in four hours. In the meantime, Kobb and the colonial administration are dealing with Gul Evek again."
"When aren't we?" Kobb grimaced.
"Are there any Bajorans in your administration?" Macen asked.
"A few," Kobb shared, "Why?"
"Evek won't negotiate with Bajorans," he revealed, "He won't even have a discussion with a Bajoran."
Kobb wore a naughty smirk, "I think we're about to find a new chief negotiator."
"That won't work on Commander Hennessy," Amaros warned Kobb, "Starfleet will still want its report on Maquis activity in the DMZ."
Kobb shrugged, "I'll tell Carla what I always tell her, the colonial governments aren't equipped to oversee Maquis activity. She should speak with Gul Evek because the planetary constabularies are now administered by the Cardassians and answer to him. It's why there are so many unsolved murders of Federation colonists."
Ro was suddenly very glad Kobb was on her side, "Has the Architect arrived yet?"
Amaros and Kobb were among a handful of Maquis leaders that knew Svetlana Korepanova was the infamous Architect. They were among an even smaller number that knew Korepanova was stationed on Deep Space Nine. Officially, Korepanova worked as a consultant for the Bajoran Militia. As one of the rising stars of Starfleet Command, the former Starfleet Lt. Commander Korepanova certainly was qualified for her ostensible post.
And Korepanova did do some advising regarding the Militia's readiness and strategic planning as well as contingency plans. But in reality, Korepanova used her home office in her quarters to coordinate the efforts of the Bajoran Militia, the various Bajoran Resistance remnants, and the Maquis. Besides getting her living stipend, quarters, and equipment provided for her Korepanova also got a funds allocation for the Maquis back home.
"The Architect left Deep Space Nine when she got your message;" Amaros assured Ro, "She'll be here in five hours. That will give our other guests time to arrive as well."
"Other guests?" Ro had to ask.
"Cal thought it necessary to bring in some of our more...reclusive brigade commanders since you informed him that we would need to coordinate a large strike against the Cardassians inside of their territory," Kobb explained, "If we can get these commanders to endorse your proposal everyone else will be an easy sell."
"And of course, the Architect brought Chakotay in as well," Amaros said to Ro's delight.
Chakotay had been a Lt. Commander in Starfleet before resigning to join the Maquis. Specifically he'd been one of her instructors at the Starfleet Advanced Tactical Training Center when she'd been a student there. His departure had been her first dawning awareness of the Maquis and it had sparked the kindle of desire that later caused her to go AWOL and join the Maquis herself.
Chakotay currently commanded a mobile cell aboard a Ju'day-class raider named Val Jean. Mobile cells existed within the confines of their ships and weren't tied to specific planetary locations. Rather they received support and shelter from any Maquis base able to provide it. There weren't many mobile cells. Currently there were three but Chakotay's was not only the most successful of the lot it was also one of the most successful Maquis cells of all. Only Hudson's Volon III cell and Ro's Ronaran cell rivaled his.
Collaborators and sympathizers littered the Alpha Quadrant and support was being mustered in the Beta Quadrant as well. Starfleet was desperately trying to purge its ranks of Maquis sympathizers but all that did is drive them into the arms of the Maquis. It seemed counterproductive to push someone into enlisting in a cause you were trying to hinder.
Kalita had recently recruited a disaffected Starfleet officer to the Ronaran cell. Lt. Thomas Riker was Commander Will Riker's transporter created doppelganger. But Tom Riker had been abandoned to a post on Nervala IV for eight years while William Riker continued his career. Tom Riker's life had been undistinguishable from Will Riker's before the events on Nervala IV. But after the split between them created by the ionized atmosphere, the transporter gain, and the fact that a Will Riker materialized aboard the USS Potemkin and at Starfleet's observation post on the planet's surface imbued them both with drastically differentiated circumstances, lives, and memories afterwards. Tom Riker had been rescued by an Away Team from the USS Enterprise led by his "twin brother".
Tom Riker had transferred to the USS Gandhi and began utilizing his middle name as his proper name. But Riker found himself an anomaly aboard the Gandhi. His origins alone separated him from his fellow officers. Knowing that he could have achieved the rank of Commander or even his own command after eight years rather than being isolated during that time also weighed on his mind. And then, the isolation itself had lent itself into driving Riker into relying solely upon himself rather than upon fellow crewmen. It was a trait that the starship's captain had often reprimanded Riker over.
Finally, fed by news reports coming from the DMZ and the tales of colonists who felt abandoned by the Federation and Starfleet by the ceding of their colonies to the Cardassians or their inclusion in the Demilitarized Zone, Riker left Starfleet and sought out the Maquis. Kalita had been tipped off regarding Riker's wanderings and she intercepted him. Ro had been strangely distant towards him but she approved his inclusion in the cell.
For her part, Ro hadn't quite known how to react to a Will Riker, calling himself "Tom" or not, since the episode revolving around the crew's memory loss and she'd gone to bed with him. Given their natural antagonism towards one another it had seemed an inexplicable happenstance. But the worst part was that after her memories were restored, she retained that one, and it was a memory she highly treasured. She hadn't had much experience with men, particularly any men as sexually skilled as Will Riker.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard had seemed oblivious to this when he assigned Riker as her chaperone during her final mission against the Maquis. Leading them towards a trap, Ro turned her phaser on Riker and warned the Maquis of Starfleet's location and intent. Then she had said farewell to Riker and transported away.
The look of betrayal on Riker's face haunted Ro as did her imagining Picard's reaction. Picard had seen promise in her and pushed her to excel in Starfleet. He'd become a father figure to replace her own distorted view of her own father. And then Macius had supplanted Picard only to be killed by the Cardassians as her own father had.
She'd been too young to avenge her own father despite later joining the Bajoran Resistance at age fourteen. But she could very well avenge Macius. Her goal was to kill Cardassians until they just stopped coming.
So she kept Riker at a distance despite knowing his history and the fact he didn't share her memories of being with his "brother". It was still too raw a wound to poke around in. But she'd given Riker and Kalita her full support as they undertook an investigation into some information Macen had brought to light and traders like Rionoj had expanded upon. She knew they were scaling up for an operation and she knew she would approve it when they presented their proposal to her.
Amaros took Ro and her lieutenants to an inn loyal to Maquis interests. Macen signaled the Odyssey and approved shore leave for four of the five crewmen aboard. It came as no surprise that Eckles volunteered to stay aboard. The ship's Chief Engineer was notoriously reticent about being around crowds when he could be tinkering with ship components. T'Kir, Ebert, Lacey, and Darcy all practically did an orbital skydive to reach the ground.
One thing about Macen's cover as a smuggler, it brought in a hefty income. Besides the money he gave to Ro, he also paid his crew handsomely and with Starfleet secretly supplying munitions and parts for the Odyssey he was able to keep her trim. Danan realized Macen wanted to speak with Ro privately so she slipped out and joined the other women from the scoutship and went shopping.
Macen slipped Ro a coin purse and nodded over to where Tulley and Thool were miserably studying the menu. She plopped the purse down in front of them, "Have fun, boys."
"Ro, we can't;" Tulley argued as he always would.
"Shut up and say 'thank you'," Thool insisted as he plucked the purse off of the table, "Seeing as how I control the purse strings, I'll even take you out for lunch."
Ro thought Thool was a wise one to figure out that Ro was buying privacy so quickly. Macen had rented a room and they went back into the inn to find it. Macen also had lunch delivered before they began speaking.
"Won't Lisea be jealous of you being in a hotel room alone with me?" Ro wondered.
"Lees knows you're a friend, Laren. She trusts us to behave," Macen shared.
"So what's on your mind?" Ro asked as she cut into her steak.
So Macen told her.
The meeting Hudson had called convened near local midnight. Macen began with a brief summary of his findings and added a situation report of additional developments along similar lines, "Trelka V is only a symptom of a larger disease within the Cardassian psyche. The Son'a have created a colony on Devos II tailored to providing laborers from captives taken in the nomadic conquests. The slaves are shipped from the Son'a Solidarity's territory into the Cardassian Union through a regularly trafficked and patrolled trade route."
"Starfleet knows that slaves are being shipped through their territory but the Federation Council prefers censuring the Son'a to confronting them because the Son'a regularly deploy isolytic weapons despite them being banned by most major powers," Macen reported, "But the Son'a are a side issue. What is at issue is the one hundred thousand Federation captives enslaved as forced laborers. Given this is less than half of the original deported populations we need to act because Starfleet will not even broach this issue while they are hampered while the peace treaty between the Federation and the Cardassian Union exists."
"And then we come to Dorvan V," Macen watched as Chakotay fidgeted as frustration overwhelmed him, "Dorvan V has been selected as a mining colony owing to its high content of uridium ore in its geological strata. The Cardassians moved the population in order to bring in slaves from the Devos II colony. These slaves will strip mine the planet in the same manner Bajor was mined. And like Bajor, a Nor-class processing station will be built in orbit. This one is being designated Ampok Nor."
A brigade commander named Trox spoke first. He was one of the "hard sells" Hudson had invited, "I see where this is going. You want us to liberate all of these forced laborers from their camps. How are supposed to do this and in the case of the Son'a victims, why should we even try?"
"That is a question on everyone's mind," Hudson admitted.
"Here's another question," a compatriot of Trox's named El Tiano said, "What would we do with the population influx if we could even liberate the colonists?"
"We couldn't," Ro said bluntly, "We'd have to deposit them on a Bajoran world for evacuation into Federation space. Hopefully some would feel grateful enough to filter back into the DMZ in order to join our cause."
"But there's no guarantee any would," Trox retorted, "And that was an awfully pat answer. I suppose you think you have this all planned out and we're all supposed to jump through your hoops. I remember you setting us all up, Ro Laren. I won't let you do that again."
"I was a member of the Bajoran Resistance before I joined Starfleet," Ro reminded everyone, "Our greatest recruitments came from liberating labor camps. And as far as laying traps, why would I betray everyone to the Cardassians?"
"Because the Cardies are paying for slaves and it's one helluva labor camp," Tiano argued.
"No one is saying differently," Ro countered, "But by getting everyone out, we could have a payout that could be a game changer for the Maquis."
"So you say," Trox sneered.
"I say it too," Chakotay suddenly voiced, "If there's any way of freeing those people we owe to them to do so. Because they'd do it for us."
"I think we're all agreed it's a good idea," Hudson put out there, "But the logistics are a nightmare."
"Maybe not," Korepanova spoke up. Macen and Ro had briefed Korepanova earlier on their idea. It was agreed by all it would sound better coming from her, "There is a way but it will be dangerous for all involved."
"Risk is our business," a friendlier brigade commander named Ellis Washburn interjected.
Ro could tell from Danan's wry expression and Macen's amusement that the quote must have been generated by none other than James T. Kirk. Macen's particular brand of idol worship was well known to his friends.
"Surplus Depot Z15 has decommissioned and damaged ships from across the Federation. These include civilian platforms as well as mothballed Starfleet vessels. Most of the wrecks from Wolf 359 were towed there," Korepanova began to explain.
"What good does a collection of gutted wreckage do us?" Trox bitterly inquired.
"If you'd allow me to finish I'd explain that the civilian hulls include freighters and cruise liners," Korepanova interjected.
"Cruise liners?" Hudson's eyes sparked with interest.
"My chief engineer apprenticed on a cruise line before switching to a freight company," Macen revealed, "He said most cruise ships are retired because newer ships are available with more luxurious appointments and more advanced amenities.
"What kind of crew would be needed to get those ships across the quadrant and to Trelka V?" Hudson asked.
"Let me ask Tom," Macen excused himself.
"Not to be a killjoy but how are we going to sneak a cruise liner into Cardassian space?" Trox demanded to know.
"Actually we'd need a minimum of five," Korepanova calculated.
"Are you insane?" Trox sputtered.
"This is why a diversionary action is needed," Korepanova sloughed off the remark, "And Chakotay has volunteered to lead it."
"But you'd need every cell's participation to pull it off," Tiano realized.
"Precisely," Korepanova confirmed their fears, "Which is why a mission commander with Chakotay's experience and strengths is required for the proposed action."
"I won't do it," Trox thundered, "I won't send my people out on an obvious suicide mission."
"I agree," Tiano put in.
"Remember, the Maquis are more than an army. They're a community," Hudson voiced, "Refuse to assist today and someday it may come around to bite you in the backside."
"I'll take my chances," Trox spat as he rose to leave, "My cell is self sufficient. We don't need the rest of you."
He stormed out at that point. El Tiano hesitated but he dutifully followed Trox. Macen reentered the room looking a little worse for the wear.
"Someone needs to tell them to watch where they're going." He opined.
"I'd say the blood on your knuckles is pretty indicative of the fact you already tried," Chakotay mused.
"How many crewmen are needed for each cruise ship?" Hudson returned to the main point.
"You'd need eight people," Macen informed the group, "That's assuming two engineers, two helmsmen, two operations officers, and two command officers for each liner working twelve hour shifts."
"Sveta, Chakotay, spread the word. We need as many volunteers as we can get. Trox and Tiano will sway quite a few so we need a counterargument prepared," Hudson instructed.
"Always a pleasure working with an old friend," Korepanova winked at Chakotay.
"Ro, your cell just volunteered to be the crew for these cruise ships," Hudson told her.
"Got it," she said succinctly.
"Macen, your chief engineer just volunteered to teach Ro's engineers how to run a passenger ship," Hudson ordered, "And as soon as you've delivered the Ronara cell to their vessels of choice, I want the Odyssey removed from this situation. Do what you do best but nowhere near any other Maquis. Understood?"
"We may face a mutiny over that order," Danan replied.
"Frankly I don't care. Your ship and crew are strategic assets. I'm not risking them unnecessarily," Hudson retorted.
"We'll let them down easy," Macen assured the Maquis Commander.
"Let's get busy, people;" Hudson turned to Amaros and they left the room together. Chakotay and Korepanova ducked out deep in conversation. Macen gave Ro a wry smirk.
"Ready to back to Ronara Prime so you can play the mother hen gathering all of her chicks?"
"I wouldn't ever let Aric know you referred to him as a baby chick," Ro warned Macen.
Tulley had been a hard working farmer until the Cardassians decided to claim his land. They "persuaded" him to leave after they executed his wife and children in front of him. Half dead from the beating they gave him, he managed to procure a ride off of his colony and enter the DMZ where he eventually drifted to Ronara Prime and was handily recruited by the Maquis cell there.
The same steadfast surety that had made Tulley a successful farmer also made him an indefatigable security chief for the Ronaran cell. And an implacable foe of all Cardassians.
"Let's find everyone so we can set course for Sector 213," Danan suggested.
"You know the Surplus Depot's location by memory?" Ro was surprised.
"Doesn't everyone?" Danan's eyes twinkled merrily.
Hudson met with Ellis Washburn first. Washburn was another influential brigade commander. Hudson's policy now was divide and conquer. He needed allies to persuade as many as would come to adopt Korepanova's plan under Chakotay's command. Chakotay was still unknown to some Maquis brigade commanders but the fact that Hudson was willing to second himself under Chakotay's command would speak volumes to those who would be willing to listen.
Washburn listened to Hudson's pitch and then stated the only information that would be on everyone's mind, "Dorvan V was ceded to the Cardassians. It's inside their territory so if we strike, we'll be completely at their mercy. Starfleet won't intervene."
"Starfleet doesn't need to," Hudson stated, "The mobile cells have been striking inside of Cardassian territory for almost a year now. The Architect has planned most of those missions. We'll wait until we have confirmation that the cruise ships are entering Cardassian space. Then those Maquis willing to fight will deploy in three successive waves. I'll command the first wave. You'll command the second, and Chakotay has the hardest job with the third wave. He buys us time to retreat back into the DMZ and the Badlands."
"Normally I'd feel fine with a retreat planned to our bases within the Badlands but the approach is across nonaligned space in the Bajoran Sector. Starfleet will also pursue us," Washburn pointed out.
"Starfleet will do so at the Cardassian Militia's behest. But their operational methodologies on how to deal with us differ so greatly it'll be a miracle of the Cardies and Starfleet don't ignite a brand new shooting war," Hudson chuckled.
"It's just crazy enough to work," Washburn realized.
"The Architect will be glad you approve," Hudson mused.
Ro gathered her cell and they all transported aboard the Odyssey with few exceptions. A few logistics staffers stayed behind to receive arms shipments and other supplies from contracted smugglers. Meanwhile, five support craft lifted off of Ronara Prime's surface to join the Odyssey on its voyage to Surplus Depot Z15.
Ro flew the Peregrine-class Snapshot with a co-pilot. Kalita manned the same Ju'day-class courier variant that she and Ro had flown to steal medical supplies from the Enterprise. Tom Riker flew a Sparrow-class courier whose design predated the more modern Peregrines. The rest of the flight crews operated warp capable shuttles that had been modified to boast high yield phasers.
The various co-pilots only had rudimentary skills and usually served as weapons officers aboard the collected raiders. But Eckles had assured Ro that the cruise liners were largely automated so her people should have little trouble adapting. Ro just insisted upon bringing the support craft in case the unthinkable should happen and the rescue teams should find Trelka V defended.
The SS Odyssey only had two main cargo holds, both located in the forward section of the saucer. As per usual design specs, the engine room was located in the underslung secondary hull. Those with an appreciation for starship design usually noted how the Blackbird-class scouts resembled a hybrid of the Excelsior-classes it had followed and the Ambassador-class ships it had preceded. The ship had been built post 2318. Many of the cruise ships that they'd be encountering were built in the same gear and utilized similar technologies.
So Eckles began by giving his students a breakdown on the Odyssey's drives and first generation isolinear components. While Eckles ran the appointed "chief engineers' through their paces, Darcy ran their assistants through an exercise all her own. Darcy had used the Large Component Replicator to produce the individual components of an identical device. She then had her group assemble another replicator in the limited free space of the holds.
The holds were filled with deuterium and antideuterium pods to fuel the long abandoned ships. Reactor fuel for the impulse systems was at a minimum so the pilots of the various cruise ships would be forced to do as little sublight travel as possible.
This was the glaring weakness in the plan. If extensive sublight maneuvers were required then the ships would deplete their reserves in a matter of minutes and be dead in the water. The plan called for the rest of the Maquis to draw off Cardassian patrols but the Cardassians were just paranoid enough to leave elements behind.
During the Odyssey's three day transit to Sector 213, Korepanova and Chakotay concluded their strategizing. Everything from this point on would be reliant upon Chakotay's judgment as a field commander. So she returned to Deep Space Nine and resumed her usual activities. Starfleet may have considered her beyond reproach but the station's Security Chief didn't. Odo was particularly interested in the fact that Korepanova had entered and exited the DMZ as Captain Rionoj's passenger. Odo had a great many misgivings about the Boslic freighter captain, the least of which was her easy familiarity with Quark.
Rionoj had business in the Gamma Quadrant after depleting her supply of native wares with Cardassian buyers. She dropped Korepanova off as she transited the Bajoran system. Korepanova made it just in time to hop a ride with Kasidy Yates' Xhosa.
Yates had dropped off humanitarian supplies for the Maquis before and it looked to be becoming a regular habit. Korepanova was utilizing Yates' ship to catch a ride to Dreon VII. The Maquis had a base nearby in the Badlands and Korepanova was using her Militia contacts to establish an escape route to Dreon VII for medical emergency cases.
The facilities on Dreon VII were rudimentary but they were still lights years ahead of the medical equipment and staffing in the Badlands. Bajor had largely restricted Starfleet's access to its colonies, preferring to keep them an internal matter. The Federation Council downplayed the apparent mistrust the Bajoran had placed on Starfleet and instead ordered that the colonies be left to their own devices unless the Provisional Government specifically asked Starfleet to intervene.
Hudson and Amaros called upon every Maquis brigade commander. Chakotay and Washburn leveraged what influence they had and in the end, only two-thirds of the individual cells committed to the attack. Fears still ran high after the movement's near collapse that would have occurred had Ro gone through with Starfleet's plan. So a third of the Maquis decided to simply sit this one out.
Hudson didn't rail or threaten but he vowed to remember who had committed and who had opted out. For each cell would someday have need of their brothers and sisters. And as Hudson had warned those that did would also be done unto.
In the three days that Hudson and his allies cajoled their fellow resistance fighters, the Odyssey had arrived in Sector 213. More specifically, it was now on the outer boundary of Surplus Depot Z15. Macen had updated Ro as to the local situation and politics. A Zakdorn concern administered the depot and it was run by a Klim Dokachin.
Dokachin was known for being officious even for a Zakdorn and also highly prone to "misplacing" starships. He'd been systematically robbed blind by the Romulans at one point. He'd tightened the reins on Starfleet vessels and newer decommissioned craft but the rest of the depot was largely unsupervised.
So Ro led Riker's Patrick Henry and Kalita's Mailbox into the depot and they divided up amongst its staggered rows. The Odyssey stood by to alert the Maquis of impending detection or capture. It was during this period that Danan detected activity within the surplus depot.
"Ro, stay sharp. There's activity near your position," Danan advised her.
"Copy that," Ro sounded amused, "I have eyes on the thieves. It seems they're graduating up to something a little more aggressive."
Macen watched as the NCC-1710 USS Kongo emerged from the depot escorted by a small freighter, "A pre-refit Constitution-class starship. They're either ambitious or completely out of their minds."
"Actually it makes a lot of sense," Lacey ventured.
"Why?" Ebert didn't get it.
"Those ships are based upon duotronic components and technology. A lot of isolinear tech is still restricted. But duotronic components are so retrograde we let kids play with them. They'll never have to worry about their parts supply being banned," Lacey explained.
"So install a replicator and fuel the engines and voilą you have a starship," Ebert was impressed.
"Which is how the Iotians built their entire Starfleet," Macen reminded them, "They used a captured communicator to build a comm system capable of surfing the Federation's databases and looked up starship designs while they reverse engineered the technology to build them."
"Hell ya!" T'Kir decided.
Macen decided sparing her the lecture that the Iotians weren't an underdog you wanted to root for, "Where are they headed for?"
"They're making a bee line that could lead them straight to Sector 221-G," Danan reported, "So it appears our scavengers are going to become a Thallonian problem."
Macen grew pensive. The Thallonians were violent autocrats. And Mackenzie Calhoun had come from Xenex inside of Sector 221-G. Calhoun and Macen had been rivals for some time now. A fact that Nechayev loved to utilize to play them off of each other. Their competition had yielded staggering results in the past.
Riker was the first to tag a find. He moved on about the same time Kalita did the same. Ro mirrored their efforts and they stopped when they'd selected eight potential acquisitions. The Odyssey moved into the depot and Eckles took extensive scans of each ship before finally approving of the five they would use.
Supplies and an engineering crew were beamed aboard each ship. A day rolled by and finally the ships were all powered up. Ro and her fellow support pilots docked in the cruise liners' docking bays.
Ro ended up commanding the RSS Titanic. She felt the name was in poor taste. Kalita took over the RSS Princess. Riker took command of the Solar Breeze. The shuttle pilots took over the Tachyon and the Flare respectively. All the ships finally set forth and followed the Odyssey out of the surplus depot.
The Odyssey diverted towards the Kalandra Sector while Ro's improvised fleet headed back towards the Bajoran Sector and their date with Trelka V.
Three more days later, Ro transmitted the "commit" signal to Chakotay. The cruise ships were nearing the Cardassian border and would be crossing within a few hours. Within an hour of Ro's signal being received, the first Maquis wave deployed into Cardassian space and headed for the Dorvan Sector and Dorvan V.
After the first two successive waves had struck at Dorvan V, the Val Jean arrived in command of the third wave. Chakotay had monitored the battle thus far and had advised the on-scene commanders regarding their strategy and tactics. Now as Chakotay's ship flew in, the fighting had intensified as Galor-class cruisers poured in from all sides.
B'Elanna Torres scowled from Chakotay's right side. His Chief Engineer had been left in the dark as to where they'd been headed as had all the crew save Chakotay's lieutenant, Ayala, and his weapons officer, Tuvok.
"Bastards are destroying my home world," Chakotay snarled.
"Take it easy," Ayala advised him.
"Indeed, this would be a foolish time to seek revenge;" Tuvok spoke from Chakotay's side.
Chakotay knew the Vulcan meant well but he really didn't want to hear it right now. He heard Seska gasp from the rear of the bridge module. Ampok Nor was in flames before it had ever been completed. A Cardassian cruiser had been gutted and several more were crippled. Chakotay wanted to buy whatever crews had managed that drinks. Sadly, four gutted ruins of Maquis raiders also littered the area. Dispersed wreckage indicated another than had been destroyed and there were residual traces of a ship that had burned up in Dorvan V's atmosphere.
Chakotay began issuing orders and the incoming Maquis formed up on him and strafed the Cardassian ships with phasers and photon torpedoes. They focused their firepower on already damaged ships and then they exited the system and made for the Badlands.
The cruise ships put into orbit over Trelka V. The engineers diverted to the transporter rooms. Ro, Kalita, and Riker took out their support craft without additional personnel. They descended into the atmosphere, reached the surface, and strafed the Cardassian emplacements. Transport inhibitors were knocked off line and the cruise ships began transporting prisoners from the surface.
Ro and Kalita climbed into orbit while Riker harried the Cardassian ground units. The Tachyon signaled Ro, "The ground base got a distress call off. Three Cardassian ships have signaled their intent to respond."
""Of course they have," Ro said sourly, "Kalita?"
"Here," she replied.
"Help Riker deter the guards," Ro instructed, "And then get back here as fast as possible to give me a hand against whatever the Spoonheads are throwing at us."
Ro had Tulley beamed aboard her ship. Riker took on Tamal as he reached Ro's position. Kalita was joined by a recent recruit named Arwen Voss.
When Riker and Kalita rejoined Ro, she signaled them, "Kalita, follow Riker's lead. If he's anything like his twin he'll be a skilled tactician."
At that point the three raiders set forth to the outer system to engage the three Lakat-class light cruisers that were pushing into the system. Ro knew from Starfleet briefings the Lakat employed reversed engineered Starfleet technology to give it an integrated fire control. Phasers and photon torpedoes could be targeted independently or together. With a maximum of five targets to choose from.
Gul Evek pursued Chakotay's force. He signaled ahead and demanded that Starfleet allow him to enter the DMZ and arrest those that had preceded this band of Maquis. Starfleet flatly denied their acquiescence. Evek then insisted that Starfleet break from the DMZ checkpoints on their side of the border and delay the Maquis long enough for Evek's force to destroy them all.
Starfleet flatly replied that if they intervened it would be to arrest the entire force and have them tried in Federation courts of law. Evek almost burst a blood vessel. He changed his tone and declared that if a single Federation starship approached the Maquis with the intent of sparing them from Cardassian wrath they would be promptly fired upon, treaty or no treaty.
The Cardassians passed into Bajoran space and Starfleet signaled for them to stand down and return to their own borders. Evek replied that the Bajorans technically should still be Cardassian subjects so he wasn't turning around.
Starfleet fired off a warning that Bajoran space was a Federation protectorate and they would defend it as though it were their own territory. It wasn't until three Starfleet Border Patrol ships formed a skirmish line to intercept the Cardassians tat Evek blinked.
"This is an outrage!" Evek shouted into the comm pickup.
Captain Tanya Harris stared him down, "You are way out of your territorial boundaries, Gul Evek. I suggest you return to your own borders before we have an incident."
"You have enabled terrorists to escape Cardassian justice," Evek blustered on.
"It seems Cardassia justice is what provoked them into being terrorists in the first place," Harris grated.
"Tell me, Captain, does Starfleet Command know you're a Maquis sympathizer?" Evek taunted, "Because they will now."
"Starfleet is well aware of my loyalties," Harris retorted, "Throw your dirt, it won't stick."
"We'll see," Evek said gleefully, "Won't we?"
Evek's force returned across the Cardassian border. Harris put out a bulletin for all Starfleet vessels to be on the lookout for Maquis raiders. But she knew it was for no good.
What no one had yet deduced was that the Val Jean had not been among the ships to enter the Badlands.
Two of the cruise liners had departed escorted by the shuttles. Two more were preparing to break orbit. One Lakat-class cruiser had been crippled under the combined weight of the fire from Riker and Kalita. Incidental incoming fire from another light cruiser had aided the Maquis effort.
As the second set of cruise ships signaled their departure, Ro ordered Riker and Kalita to escort them out of the system. Ro crippled the second Lakat as her companions broke away but the third was bearing down on her.
The Lakat's drive section suddenly exploded and the Val Jean streaked past. Chakotay signaled Ro, "Time to go."
The cruise ships crossed the Bajoran border with Cardassia and settled into orbit over Prophet's Landing. Ro's Maquis would pretend to just be more refugees when the Federation moved everyone. They'd make their way back to Ronara Prime over the ensuing weeks.
The support craft accompanied by the Val Jean entered the Badlands and slowly reintegrated themselves into the DMZ. Although the Cardassians had suffered a great material loss, they were liberated from dozens of cells attacking them over the duration.
Bajoran flight crews moved the cruise ships out of the Bajoran Sector and into the neighboring Kalandra Sector. Federation prize crews took hold of them afterwards and took them to Kolmaki, a colony world deemed the repatriation point for the displaced colonist. The Federation had never been called upon to suddenly integrate one hundred thousand refugees into its societies. It was easy for the Maquis to slip by and return to Ronara Prime.
Yet the Federation only hardened the attitudes of the settlers, who were already angry over the ceding of their worlds to the Cardassians, when the planets within the DMZ were declared off limits to the refugees. It was felt that they would be too sympathetic to the Maquis cause.
This obstruction only solidified those sympathies. Most of the settlers though, were relocated to Federation colonies outside the Federation. Barrinor, Odin, and Valeria absorbed three-quarters of the total number.
Elim Garak approached Nechayev as she sat at the replimat, "May I have a seat?"
"You've never taken notice of me before, Mr. Garak;" Korepanova demurred.
"Oh, but I have;" Garak assured her as he sat down opposite of her, "The Bajoran Militia is not inclined to listen to anyone much less a foreign 'consultant'. That makes you something of a rarity in this sector much less this station."
"What are you trying to learn from me, Mr. Garak?" Korepanova asked with an edge to her voice.
"Nothing," Garak assured her, "It is I who wishes to impart some knowledge."
This amused Korepanova, "Go on."
"The recent rescue of forced laborers from the planet of Trelka V has left both the Federation and the Cardassian Union in something of a quandary. They both fear an influx of recruitment amongst the Maquis. Now since the Federation has been losing track of where some of those refugees' whereabouts are, efforts are being redoubled to determine whether or not they have gone places off the conventional grid. Like the Demilitarized Zone," Garak shared.
"Interesting dilemma," Korepanova agreed, "But why bring it to my attention."
"Because the officer in charge of investigating the whereabouts of all liberated colonist is one Commander Troyaz Defilbius. It is also his purview to keep any and all potential recruits from entering the DMZ."
"Again, why bring it to my attention?" Korepanova repeated.
"You're from a DMZ world. That fact led you to resign from Starfleet. Surely you have friends you have friends who have friends that would appreciate such information?" Garak posed.
"And what's the price for this knowledge?" Korepanova asked.
"Simply a request that the Maquis be a little more...circumspect in their target selection in the future. I'd hate to become a victim of a misguided notion that I have any official influence," Garak stated.
"We'll see," Korepanova allowed.
"I think we shall," Garak rose, "Until another day."
As Garak departed, Korepanova wondered what kind of relationship had just been established here.
|Last modified: 12 Dec 2014