July 2007

Star Fleet Fiction Continued

Rescue On Roon

"The Orions aren't going to like this kidnapping business," Annitha said. "Draws attention. Why do you think they didn't try to stop the Federation from giving Roon a trade deal? They can smuggle in more stuff if legal products are arriving as well. The only one who profits from blocking the trade deal is our father, who wants to keep the off-world trade illegal, and under his exclusive control. Once the Orions figure out what he did, he's going to lose his franchise, if not a lot more."

"The Orions won't care one way or the other," a male voice interrupted. Their brother, Michalik, had walked into the underground office as his sisters argued. "Sure, with open trade they can smuggle in more, but they won't make as much profit on each shipment. Same coin, either way."

"How are the negotiations going?" Melika asked him.

"Very well. Father is working through a series of intermediaries, but the Federation representative is being very agreeable. Seems he didn't really want a trade deal anyway; it was just a Federation ploy to get more concessions out of our enlightened government over a period of years. He's going to give the President a laundry list of conditions for any trade deal, everything from changing the minimum wage to restricting the age of workers. The idea seems to be some kind of 'level playing field' that the Feds want to establish so that prices will be fair. Our government is concerned about high tech imports making entire business sectors obsolete, while the Federation trade rep seems terrified of the idea that we might charge two centos less a ton for grain than some other planet is charging."

"Sounds promising," Melika said. "Maybe we didn't have to kidnap the brat after all."

"Maybe not," Michalik admitted. "The trade rep has asked for another day, but Father is sticking to his deadline of noon tomorrow. He wants the Federation Rep to make impossible demands of the government and then withdraw for consultations and go back to wherever he came from."

"He'll do it," Melika said. "The brat is the kind of kid who got everything he ever wanted, which means that his daddy is going to be very willing to do anything to get him back. Obviously a very closely knit family."

"Speaking of family," Michalik changed the subject, "where is Kaelyn?"

"Down the hall having a party," Besslith replied.

"She's not with the prisoner, is she?" Michalik asked. "It was all just an act?"

"Hell no," Annitha sneered, "she brought Dahler down here to keep her company."

"To keep you company, too, Annitha," Besslith teased. "Want to explain where you were an hour ago?"

"WHAT?" Michalik roared, "you brought that dim-witted stable boy down here? Can't you girls keep focus for one single night? We need to be alert. I left Chucst guarding the gate upstairs, but we can't rely on him alone. One of you needs to get a pistol and a radio and get back to the elevator and stand guard."

"Why?" Annitha asked. "The police are hardly going to send in their hostage unit when nobody has told them there is a hostage to rescue. And the trade rep is hardly going to risk his precious boy, or the trade deal he doesn't want, by sending Federation troops in here. The door is locked, the brat is tied up, there's bouza in the cooler, and all we have to do is wait for father to call. Then we throw the brat in the groundcar and leave him tied to a tree somewhere."

"Cool your drives, brother," Besslith advised. "We just have to wait a few more hours. But I'll go play guard if it pleases you."

2300 hrs, Cargo Bay #3, Light Cruiser
USS Tasmania, in orbit above Roon

"Excuse me, Commander," First Sergeant Bourne said, "allow me to adjust this strap for you. It will ride much easier this way."

"Thank you, top," Grissom replied. While First Sergeant Bourne was not going on the mission, he was the senior Marine sergeant on board, and he insisted on inspecting everyone's gear to make sure it was properly fastened and riding securely . . . and silently . . . on their back, shoulders, and waist. Grissom hadn't had a sergeant fussing over his gear since survival school a decade before, and found himself alternately annoyed and grateful at being shown that he had worn the gear wrong the last few times he had gone on a tactical landing (and had put it back wrong after Bourne had corrected it earlier). Bourne moved on, repeating his apology to Dellik that she was not being issued a phaser.

The rehearsals had started off poorly, a real comedy of errors, as everybody did everything wrong, got into each other's way, dropped equipment without realizing it, or took up a position facing the wrong way. First Sergeant Bourne, without being told to, had rounded up a few Marines to stand in as security guards and a puffy-faced ensign to pretend to be the hostage.

Once they had the hang of the equipment and the mission, the Marines began throwing curve balls. The hostage wasn't here. The hostage was already dead. The hostage was unconscious. There were two hostages. The guards were alert. The guards were asleep. Once a maintenance technician wandered into the exercise without anyone knowing it, and Grissom was proud that his team had stunned the man and bundled him out to the evacuation point without missing a beat. They weren't a real hostage rescue team, but they were a lot better than they had been a few hours ago.

"Grissom, are you ready?" the Captain asked as he walked into the compartment.

"Yes, sir," Grissom replied.

"Good." The Captain motioned for the team to break ranks and gather around. "We're in a parking orbit over the facility, and I've got the sensor crew scanning it. No reaction, no alarms. They report that almost no one is there. It's hard to get readings against the trithallium background, but they can only find a few guards on the gates and in two of the buildings, plus what looks like a night cleaning crew in the offices."

"I'll want to review the scans myself," Lieutenant Yahnke interjected. "Is our planned beamdown point clear?"

"Nothing there that we can see," the Captain replied. "We've scanned every spectrum we can think of, but there could be physical alarms, motion detectors, heat sensors, and the like."

"Not likely in that area," Dellik said. "They'll have the outer walls wired, and the area around the elevator, but you can't afford to put sensors in every room of a warehouse complex that big. If the burglars get past the outer walls and rooms and into the interior, it's too late to catch them. That's why I picked that room to land in."

"I don't know," Grissom said, rubbing his neck, "if the Orions are involved in this, they know what we can do and they'll have alarms on every square meter of the whole building."

"If they do, we abort," the Captain said. "We won't accomplish anything by getting caught, or by getting a bunch of people killed. We'll send down a sensor probe first to see if it triggers a reaction."

"Mind if I look at the scans, Captain?" Dellik asked. "I might see something."

"I have set up Auxiliary Control for your use," the Captain advised. "You can access and control the ship's sensors from there."

"Fine. Dellik, come with me," Grissom said. "The rest of you stand by in Transporter Room Two."

"Begging your pardon, Commander," Lieutenant Yahnke said, "but we all need to go to Aux Con. Everybody needs to know the lay of the land, and anybody might see a solution to a problem."

2310 hrs, Auxiliary Control, Light Cruiser USS Tasmania, in orbit above Roon

"I suspected that much," Dellik said, peering into the sensor scope at dancing lines of electromagnetic energy. "They're using a Brinks-Braxton 435. That's a fairly common alarm system, commercial grade, sold all over the Federation. But when we install one, we use substrate chips and crystal transdiodes; the Orions downgraded this one to use the local technology, basically transconductors and fiber optics and other stuff. Must not have wanted to give them higher tech."

"I don't even want to ask how you know that," the Captain muttered.

"Study, study, study," Dellik grinned.

"All of which means. . .?" Commander Grissom asked.

"That we can use a tachyon burst to fuse this control node here," Dellik explained, "and the whole system 'fails negative' and won't report anything it detects."

"Fails negative?" Yahnke asked.

"It fails and they don't know it failed," Grissom explained. "The system will report that everything is working if they run a diagnostic."

"Won't work," the sensor technician said. "The bypass loop will detect the short."

"They didn't install one," Dellik said. The sensor technician gave her a surprised look. "Check the scan. See? There's where it should be, and it's not there."

"Lowest bidder," the technician smiled, shaking his head. "There is a lowest bidder on every planet."

"That's not your problem," Dellik said, pointing out something else. "They have old fashioned cameras watching the front of the elevator, the inside of the elevator, the inside of the maintenance shaft, and, I can't tell but I'll bet, watching the door of the lower elevator lobby. Presuming someone is watching the security monitors, they'll see us as we move in."

"Solution?" Grissom asked.

"I've detected their signal relays and have already started copying the transmissions from the cameras. Give me fifteen minutes and we'll have enough of their signal that I can broadcast a recorded picture back into their system, and they'll never know."

"Won't they recognize it's a loop?" Grissom asked. "I mean, an empty room is one thing, but this camera is showing the guard pacing back and forth in the upper elevator lobby. They'll figure out they're watching a loop."

"Only if we're amateurs," the sensor technician chuckled, winking at Dellik. "We'll just run the data stream we record through the computer and have it generate minor variations in a random pattern. He'll stop here, then there, turn around and go back, and so forth. Should fool them for half an hour, maybe more."

"What if they call him for something?"

"That's a chance we will have to take."

"I can't tap into the monitors in the lower level," the sensor technician said.

"We'll use a tricorder to blank them," Grissom said, "and we'll just have to move fast."

"These guards concern me," Corporal Kilrathie said. "If they get wind of us, they can bring two dozen armed men on top of us in a minute."

"Just have the Captain stun them with the ship's phasers," Dellik shrugged. "What's the problem?"

"You watch too much trivideo," Grissom laughed. "Ship phasers cannot be used to stun humanoids at 200 kilometers. The power settings don't go that low, and a beam that weak couldn't punch through the atmosphere anyway."

"Tractor beam?" Dellik tried again.

"Controls are not that accurate," Grissom noted. "We can use tractor fields in the ship's crawl spaces because the distance is short and you do not need much power. But from orbit, we would uproot entire buildings. And we don't want to kill a lot of people if we don't have to."

"So, what's the plan?"

"We could just lock onto the guards and transport them a few miles away," Daneric-Tren suggested.

"We don't want to do that if they haven't noticed us," Yahnke warned, "and once they do notice, it would be difficult. Locking onto a running man isn't that easy. But we might keep that idea on standby for any of them reacting slowly enough or staying at their posts."

"Transporter spoilers?" Kilrathie asked. Star Fleet personnel carried small scramblers that made it hard, but not impossible, for an enemy to transport them. This worked better inside a Federation ship where the scramblers were tied to the ship's integrity field.

"None in evidence," the sensor technician replied.

"Can we trip an alarm on purpose?" Daneric asked. "In one of the other buildings, to get half of them running to the wrong threat?" The sensor technician nodded and began picking sensors to set off with Dellik.

"Here's a thought," Grissom said. "We can pick up a cubic meter of water from some lake with a transporter and drop it on them...transport it a few meters over their heads, spread out over a three meter square. Should knock a man down, maybe out, without hurting him too much, and water doesn't leave a Federation signature."

"I'll have that set up," the Captain said. "We'll even filter the fish out of the water. By the time you've walked down to Transporter Room Two, we'll have the node fused and the video channels spoofed. Good luck, all of you."