March 2008

Star Fleet Fiction Continued


"You have always got an angle. That is what this whole mission is about."

Santana raised an eyebrow and smiled.

"Communications, get ready to hail the Klingons."

"Aye sir."

Bridge of the IKV Renegade

"They are changing course, Captain," said Korgan. "They are coming to heading 113 and increasing speed to warp 2.3."

Captain Kivv furrowed his brow. "Heading toward Lyran space? From here? Why didn't he exit the belt on the Lyran side if he was going to the Lyrans?"

"That's easy," the Navigator said. "Exiting on the Lyran side of the cluster takes them into the Predator County, and they'd have to pay the transit tax that county imposes. Now that we've pushed the Kzintis away from the cluster on this side, the Orions often exit here and head for Golden Fang County."

He thought for a moment and turned to look at Korgan observing the action quietly from the back of the bridge. "Korgan, come here."

Korgan immediately moved to the center of the bridge and came to a stop next to the Captain's chair, hands clasped behind him standing at ease.

"What do you think they are up to?" ask Kivv.

"Up to?" replied Korgan. "They're running. The ship is a pirate, either smuggling something to our enemies or intending to raid our shipping. Neither can be allowed, of course. He cannot outfight us anyway, and with radiation belt damage, he's a prize if we catch him. They don't want us poking through their cargo. Why don't you hail them and demand that they heave to and surrender?"

"Hail them?" Kivv was irritated at the idea. "You want me to ask them to surrender?"

"It's worth a try," Korgan said, "and costs us nothing."

Just then, Lieutenant Kerdres interrupted. "Captain, the raider is hailing us."

Korgan and Kivv looked at each other, each as surprised as the other. Captain Kivv leaned forward in his chair and motioned to Kerdres. "All right, put them on Lieutenant."

The main viewer switched from dozens of streaks of light to a static-ridden view of a square-jawed, brown-haired, human. He tilted his head and squinted as if trying to peer into the Klingon bridge. "Hello. I'm sorry but we just came out of the radiation zone and took an awful beating in there. Our communications system is all messed up. Can you hear me? Am I even transmitting?"

Once again the two officers looked at each other. Then Kivv spoke. "This is Captain Kivv of the Imperial Klingon Vessel Renegade. I order you to stop and drop your shields. Prepare to surrender your ship!"

Santana drew back a bit. "Captain please, please, let's not be hasty here. I am on a legitimate mission delivering vital supplies to our respected Lyran allies. They have important dealings with certain people in the cluster, some of them Klingons as you know. The Lyrans are counting on me getting my job done. Surely you do not want interfere in Lyran business, do you?"

"Who are you? What's your ship's registry?" Kivv demanded.

"Me? Oh, I'm sorry. How rude of me. I am Captain Dan Fielding of the cargo runner Free Enterprise. We are transporting rare minerals from inside the WYN Cluster bound for Lyran space," Santana drew a broad grin, trying to appear friendly.

Lieutenant Kripner turned from the helm and spoke quietly to the Captain. "We've arrived at minimum tactical range, sir, and he's still at Warp 2.4. Slowing us to warp 3.2."

Captain Kivv nodded, then spoke to the man on the screen. "If you stop now, I will not fire upon your ship. But you must lower your shields, and prepare to be boarded!"

"Please, Captain, I'm on a very tight schedule here, and I've already been delayed a great deal by the beating we took in the zone. The Lyrans will be waiting and I don't want to upset them. In my own defense, I'll have to tell them you stopped my ship, and that's what made me so late and ..."

"Master Fielding, I am not a fool. This is clearly a subterfuge designed to buy time. Time's up! Shut down your engines now or be destroyed!" Kivv slammed his fist on the arm of his chair.

"Captain..." Santana pleaded.

"Weapons officer. Lock disruptors on target and prepare to fire!"

Santana let out a sigh. "Very well. Helm, heave to. Engineer, drop shields. Communications, send the Klingons the Lyran contract numbers and pass codes."

Kreeg began to report the actions of the target. "Raider is slowing and coming to a halt. He is lowering his shields and deactivating his fire control. It looks like he's going to surrender after all."

Kivv shut down audio transmissions. "Helm, bring us to transporter range, but keep us out of self-destruct blast range, and keep us out of his forward weapons arc. Come to a stop, keeping them lined up directly in front of us. Weapons officer, maintain target lock, and slap a tractor beam on that ship."

Lieutenant Kerdres reported. "His Lyran pass codes check and his contract number is valid for a shipment of rhodinium ingots and dilithium crystals to Golden Fang County. His documentation seems to be in order."

"He is not to be trusted," K'Lar interupted. "The WYNs and their pet Orions do a lot of business with the Lyrans. It is entirely possible for the Cluster Orions to get a legitimate Lyran contract number."

"I am not a policeman," Kivv snarled. "How to proceed?"

"Escort him to Lyran space," Kreeg suggested.

"That would take too long," Kivv scoffed.

"Hold him here and send for the nearest Lyran," K'Lar suggested.

"We are not the servants of the Lyrans," Kivv said. "They have their own patrol schedules and would leave us stuck here until it was convenient. Besides, we're vulnerable while stopped and I'm not waiting that long."

"Take a team over, check their computers and their cargo holds, and verify their story," Korgan suggested.

"Even if the cargo is rhodinium," K'Lar warned, "they could still be going to the Kzintis."

"Not likely," the Science Officer said. "The Kzintis have plenty of rhodinium. They buy tri-platinum and fissionables from the WYNs, not rhodinium. If the hold is full of rhodinium, the contract is probably legitimate."

Kivv looked up at Korgan and said "Well, Korgan, you wanted to try everything. Take a team, board that ship, and take over command until you can figure out what is really going on here."

Korgan was taken by surprise by this order, but it was nothing he couldn't handle, even if it was a job for a junior lieutenant. "Sir? At once! I will take five khads of Marines and an engineering team, two lifts for the transporters."

"No, Korgan. I can't spare that many Marines. I need them guarding the non-redundant systems. Once we drop shields, we could be boarded by the pirates. For all we know, they have more troops on board than we do. You can have two squads, plus an ensign and some off-duty engineers to seize their engine room."

"It is enough," Korgan responded. "The task is done."

"Go then. I'll have the Marines and engineers meet you in transporter room two." Kivv waived his hand in dismissal and Korgan quickly headed for the turbolift.

Transporter Room Two, IKV Renegade

When Korgan entered the transporter room, there was a Zoolie waiting with an armored combat vest and a disruptor carbine for him. Korgan quickly slipped on the vest and took the carbine while stepping up to the transporter pad. He looked around at the Marine khad going with him to the bridge; the Zoolie corporal, three Klingons, and a Slirdarian. A Slirdarian ... good, Korgan thought. A second look showed that one of the Klingons was an ESS technician, and Korgan realized that the man was there to read the Orion's computer files and verify the contract.

Ensign Takinlk, a Vudar engineer to take over their engine room, was ready in Transporter Room One with three technicians and an ESS sergeant. Korgan knew Takinlk, who would have been a senior lieutenant if he had been a Klingon, and was confident he could do the job. Along with Takinlk was Marine khad under a Slirdarian sergeant. A moment later, all three teams disappeared in dancing flickers of light.

Main Hallway to Bridge, Orion CR+ Return Fire

Korgan and his team materialized on the Orion ship and immediately took up combat positions, but there was no one present. The entire hall was empty as Korgan reported in over an open channel. The team began to move toward the bridge when the door opened and the man who was apparently Master of this ship stepped though with his hands raised; every gun on the team was trained on him. Korgan's scanner found no weapons on him.

"Gentlemen, please, there's no need for that. We're all friends here. Remember, I work for the Lyrans ... your allies."

Korgan walked up to Santana. "I am Commander Korgan of the Renegade. You are under arrest. We will take your bridge; if you resist you will die."

"By all means, come in, but please, can we make this quick? I really do have a schedule to keep and the Lyrans get really 'bitey' when they're annoyed, if you know what I mean, Sir," said Santana. The team moved into the compartment, gathered up all the personnel, and moved them into the center of the bridge, and then stood guard over them. Korgan and the ESS man both scanned the personnel and compartment for weapons.

Korgan keyed his communicator and spoke into it. "Team two, status."

"We have taken control over engineering, Sir. They gave up without a fight," Ensign Takinlk said. "I have their engines locked down. This ship is going nowhere."

Santana put a hand on Korgan's shoulder. "You see, it's like I told you. We're all friends here."

Korgan brushed the hand away and backed off.

"Show this man your ship's log, cargo manifest, and navigational charts," he said, pointing to the ESS technician. A few tense moments later, the ESS man reported. "The computer records appear to be in order, but this Orion, like all of them, maintains records to a deplorably incomplete standard. I have found nothing to enforce an arrest, but cannot verify his story. The cargo manifest does list rhodinium and dilithium. I will need a sample crystal and an ingot for analysis to confirm their grade."

Santana winced at that. Each crystal was worth a year's salary for a naval lieutenant, and each ingot was worth a month's pay for a sergeant, and the Klingons routinely found an excuse to take samples for testing. Santana had dealt with the ESS and ISF before and it plainly showed.

"Very well," Korgan said. "I will now inspect your cargo. Korgan to Renegade; send over the inspection team."

"Hey, why not?" Santana said. "I will personally escort you there. You'll see that everything is totally legit. Really, come on." Santana held out a hand gesturing down the hall the opposite way. In a flash of light, three Dunkar naval technicians materialized in the corridor.

Korgan took a look around "Corporal, secure the bridge. Technician, do you want to go to the hold or check the computer further?" The ESS man motioned toward the computer terminal with his hand, then turned his back on Korgan and went back to work. Korgan pointed to the Slirdarian and said, "You, come with me."

Santana smiled and sighed. "OK, if it makes you feel better, right this way."

They walked down the passageway with the main bridge door closing behind them. Santana was in the lead, following by the three Dunkars. Two Orions had joined the group, following behind the Dunkars. Korgan and the Slirdarian brought up the rear. Korgan kept his gun ready the entire way, while the Slirdarian watched the flanks and rear.

"Commander," came the voice of the ESS technician on the bridge. "The records show something suspicious in a secondary cargo hold on the port side. The weight and size of the container are not consistent with the load classification. Either someone is lying about the weight, or it is a vastly expensive item, and the value listed is nominal. The manifest lists it as agricultural implements, which makes no sense."

"Very well," Korgan replied. "You," he said, pointing his weapon at one of the Orion crewmen, "will guide us to the secondary cargo hold on the port side of the ship. The inspection team will proceed with your Master."

Santana was instantly close to panic, but it never flashed upon his face. "Very well," he said evenly, then steadfastly moved on to the main cargo hold. He was confident that the crewman guide could handle Korgan and his pet monkey. The guide was, after all, a Lyran.

The Dunkars followed Santana to the main cargo hold, and were in turn followed by the other crewman, who was an Orion. Santana smiled at that, as the Dunkar sailors were not bright enough to avoid leaving a suspect crewman behind them. They reached the cargo hold, and Santana opened the hatch, bowing to gesture them through. The Dunkars balked, and Santana said "very well" and entered before them. The Dunkars followed and began scanning the first row of crates and containers, talking continuously to the supply officer on the Renegade in their open-channel communicators.

Santana waited for the "beep" in the communicator implanted into his mastoid bone, then gave a hand signal. Two crewmen who had been hiding fired phasers at the Dunkars, while the Orion crewman who had followed them from the bridge grabbed the third in a choke hold.