From the Ashes
Underneath Starbase 56 a large Type-11 shuttlecraft was slowly approaching the station, cautiously maneuvering only with its thrusters, practically drifting towards one of the docking bays.
“Shuttlecraft Scobee, this is Main Ops, adjust your heading to 021-Mark-068”, Chief Engineer van Schuyler radioed.
“Scobee here, understood. We are on final approach”, the pilot responded.
He gave a final push with the thrusters and the craft gracefully glided through the open doors of the shuttlebay before it sat down on one of the landing pads. The shuttlebay was busy with crewmen preparing other shuttlecraft for launch. Several hundred people were waiting in line for boarding. The shuttle’s hatch opened and General H’Roren emerged, accompanied by his personal security guard as well as several more hulky men in unmarked uniforms who were carrying heavy duffel bags.
The group walked out of the shuttlebay into the adjacent corridor where they were greeted by station commander Admiral Gryz and some of his staffers.
“Gryz, you look old!”, the General remarked with a dismissive smirk.
“And you could use a haircut!”, the Admiral answered nastily. Both men grinned and hugged quickly.
“General, welcome to Starbase 56”, Gryz said.
“Thank you. It looks like your trick with that sensor window is working.”
“Yes, we are in the middle of evacuation, as you can see, however it is a slow process, one shuttle at the time. I believe you know my Chief of Security, Mr Ferguson?”
“Indeed, good to see you again”, H’Roren replied while shaking Ferguson’s hand briefly.
“Sir”, the latter answered respectfully.
“Admiral, I believe Starfleet Command informed you that I was put in charge of the situation here”, the General asked.
“Yes, we got the word. My crew is at your disposal.”
“I appreciate it. And by the way, this is Commander Pierce, he is in charge of OMEGA SQUADRON”, H’Roren explained and indicated the imposing bald man next to him.
In the station’s conference room Admiral Gryz along with his senior officers had come together with General H’Roren, OMEGA SQUADRON leader Commander Pierce and several of his operators. All attendants were gathered around the large viewscreen at the wall where a three-dimensional blueprint model of the occupied part of the station was being displayed. Chief Engineer Commander van Schuyler was holding the briefing. The OMEGA members listened intently.
“So this corridor here is the regular way to get to Ops-15. There are junctions on both ends. They sealed off our side with an emergency bulkhead. That is 45 centimeters of reinforced duranium to cut through. In total there are three doors you have to get through. All of them are also magnetically sealed, the power has to be cut first in order to open them manually. On the main access route alone there are ten intersections that contain force field emitters which could be used as additional barriers, notwithstanding mobile devices that they could have brought with them.
Ops-15 itself has a roughly circular layout. There is another opening on this side which leads down to the engineering bay. Twelve fusion reactors are installed there, weapons fire and explosions in the vicinity of these generators could be catastrophic.
The opposite side of Ops-15 gives access to a small office. It has portholes which grant a view of the space outside. And our crewmembers are being held in this corner, likely secured by another force field.”
“Internal sensors for those areas are offline, I presume?”, the OMEGA leader Commander Pierce asked.
“Yes, we are not getting any response to command input, which suggests they were physically disabled”, van Schuyler said.
“What about the maintenance tunnels? I also need to see the positions of vents and ducts for the environmental system, plasma conduits, ODN network and everything else where a man can crawl through or which gives access besides the corridor”, Pierce inquired.
Van Schuyler pushed a few buttons and another schematic appeared on the screen with colored lines representing the different networks.
“There is one Jefferies tube extending from a nearby junction, it traverses the room’s ceiling in a quadrangular pattern. There is also an access hatch. Everything else is too small for anyone to get inside.”
The OMEGA leader stared at the display for a few seconds, thinking, before he turned to his deputy, Lieutenant Koos, and asked:
“Lieutenant, what do you think?”
“Standard issue could be deployed in the ventilation ducts, Sir”, the officer stated coolly.
“Very well. Commander van Schuyler, I would like you to assist my right-hand man Lieutenant Koos. He is going to need your expertise and help from your engineers”, Commander Pierce requested.
The female Chief Engineer nodded.
“Of course, follow me, Lieutenant.”
“What exactly is it that you are doing now, if I may ask?”, Admiral Gryz wanted to know.
Pierce looked at him and began to explain:
“We are making preparations for what we call a ‘deliberate action plan’. If the situation becomes critical or if hostages are in immediate danger, we put this plan into action. It increases the chances of survival for everyone involved dramatically, but it takes some time, that is why we have to study the layout of the enemy stronghold, find weaknesses, exploit the things that the terrorists overlooked and come up with the best strategy to defeat them. When the plan is finished we also have to rehearse it several times.”
“How long will that take?”, General H’Roren asked.
“A few hours at least, the more time we have, the better for us”, Pierce stated.
“And what happens if there is a situation happening before your team is finished?”, Security Chief Ferguson queried.
“Then we have the ‘immediate action plan’. It is more simple and improvised, based on preliminary information. It is messy, people will die presumably. It is only a last resort for the time being”, the OMEGA leader said matter-of-factly.
“And how long will it take you to prepare the latter?”
“We already have, on our way here. We can execute it at a moment’s notice and have a team on a thirty-second-alert”, Pierce replied.
The USS Rabin was barrelling towards Earth at maximum warp.
“Sir, we are receiving a priority message from Starfleet”, the female lieutenant who was acting as communications officer announced.
“We are being advised that approximately two dozen enemy vessels are on an intercept course. Probably Gumo’s Patronage forces. Estimated time to intercept: two hours”, she remarked.
“Very well. Send out an emergency hail to any friendly vessel in the sector. We are requesting assistance against hostile vessels”, Commodore Shelk instructed.
The comm officer complied and began compiling the message.
“Helm, alter course, new heading 158-Mark-006.”
“Aye, Sir”, the man at the helm console affirmed while entering the new heading.
The Commodore got up from his chair and paced around the bridge while looking at his young subordinates who were watching him expectantly.
With a content paternal smile he addressed them:
“I hope you are all ready for this. Or does any want to get out? We can still make a run for it.”
The room kept silent. Shelk walked around to the helm officer and put his hand on the man’s shoulder. The ensign smiled at him confidently and spoke:
“Let’s do this, Sir!”
The rest of the bridge crew nodded. Shelk walked back and sat down again, he pressed a button on the command interface of his captain’s chair and opened a shipwide call.
“All hands. Battlestations.”
All over she ship, her crew was preparing for battle:
personnel was hurrying through the corridors, many still donning their uniforms, mess halls and crew lounges were being evacuated, emergency stations were being manned, security officers opened weapons lockers and were handing out rifles and sidearms, damage control teams assembled with portable repair gear, massive emergency bulkheads were being closed, protective force fields were being set up, medical staff worked to prepare the ship’s sickbay for a potential mass casualty event, anti-grav gurneys were positioned and medical supplies readied.
On the flight deck, personnel began preparing the ship’s complement of attack fighters. Dollies full of ordnance appeared from armored magazines, crewmen pushed them to the individual fighters, installing tube-launched photon torpedoes under wing pylons, other fighters ascended from lower deck hangars, ammunition tightly packed around them, pilots were conducting preflight checks before they entered their cockpits, handling officers were regulating traffic with hand signals, directing the taxiing vessels into parking positions behind the launch area.
The preparations were grim. This was not a day of exploring strange new worlds, or seeking out new life and civilizations, the USS Rabin was boldly going to war.
“Commodore, I am picking up intermittent signals from multiple contacts, possibly cloaked, bearing 015-Mark-342, distance 0.05 lightyears”, the ship’s tactical officer reported.
“We shouldn’t be able to pick them up, if cloaked”, the engineering officer wondered.
“Sensors indicate there is a Class-2 nebula nearby, it could compromise their cloak and make them detectable”, the officer at the operations station mentioned.
Shelk got up from his chair and said:
“Let’s worry about that later. Bridge to Flight Deck, you are clear for launch. Get the show on the road!”
“Flight Deck, aye”, came the reply over the intercom.
In the large tower which overlooked the entire flight deck and housed the flight operations center, the senior officer passed on the order to launch.
The first four fighters slowly hovered from their parking positions onto the launch pads, behind them the flight deck was now tightly packed, two dozen more vessels were waiting in line, engines whirling. The massive sectional flight deck door opened and a vertical force field sprang in place behind the launch pads, protecting the fighters in the rear from the engine blasts of the vessels which were about to launch.
The pilots made final checks on their instruments, green lights flashing, full throttle and their engines began spitting glimmering crimson exhaust, the two outer fighters catapulted forward, shot out of the flight deck and peeled away from the ship, closely followed by the inner pair less than a second later.
The next quartet of attack craft quickly scrambled on their launch positions and exited the USS Rabin shortly after, then another flight and another.
In the small office next to Ops-15 Gracie Jones once again found herself in conversation with the terrorist leader Phobos. Both were sitting on opposite sides of the office desk.
“It is much you are asking for”, Gracie Jones said to him.
“You think so? Is it too much to ask for our freedom?”, Phobos countered.
“Just look at the situation. The Federation and the Klingons have been allies for decades now, interrupted by a few unfortunate periods. Your quarrel is largely with the Empire. Yet you are holding a Starfleet installation hostage. What leverage is this going to give you against the Klingons? My government will certainly try to influence them in your favor in order to save lives, but do you really believe they can succeed? In the end the Empire will turn them and you down flat. And the only thing left for you is to carry out your threat and blow us all up. This is not going to accomplish anything in your struggle”, Jones explained.
“Have you ever been in a Klingon prison Ms Jones?”
“Apparently you haven’t done your homework as well as you thought? If you had, you wouldn’t ask. I spent four months in one during the last war, I was lucky they did not execute me, although I was caught spying on them”, Gracie Jones replied.
“Then you are aware of the conditions there. You know how they treat foreign prisoners they consider to be their enemies”, Phobos answered.
“I admit it was not a pleasant experience”, Jones disclosed.
“As it was for me and my brother, when it was our turn. We have had the questionable fortune of painstik treatment on a daily basis. We returned the favor when we slaughtered our warden during the escape. But many of my species are being held to this day, as are many Gorn and Orions. Every one of my men has friends or relatives in Klingon jails. They are being treated like rabid dogs”, the Nausicaan told her.
“Still you are not achieving anything with this action. You are only creating more violence, breeding hatred. A self-sustaining circle of death and misery for everyone involved. When is it supposed to end? You may have struck a blow to us by seizing parts of this station in a daring raid. But both the Federation and the Klingon Empire have withstood far greater enemies in the past and with much greater bloodshed. If you go through with your threat they will only resolve to hunt down the Patronage to the last man. And don’t expect my people to be sitting down without trying to get us out of here. It is still not too late for you. You could abandon this place and leave, go away and be a pirate again. Compared to terrorism, piracy seems much more noble indeed. If you stay, you will leave this place only for a jail or a morgue”, Gracie Jones tried to reason.
Phobos politely got up and offered his hand to her.
“I commend you on your negotiation efforts. I would do the same, if the situation was reversed. As always it is a pleasure to confer with you. But now I suggest you rejoin your fellow officers outside.”
Jones nodded and began to walk away. On her way out she turned around and said:
“You still haven’t told me why you were so eager to capture me of all people, why you took the time to study my career. My duties here never really involved keeping an eye on pirate activities. And there would have been other people on this station who would be far better ‘priced hostages’. I wonder what you want with me?”, Jones commented and left.
Deimos, the second-in-command, passed her, giving Jones an irritated and angry look. He entered the office and faced his older brother.
“You are spending way too much time with this woman, brother. Gumo wants us to eliminate her, not convert her to our cause”, he whispered.
“I am aware of the orders he gave us. The reason I haven’t carried them out yet is because I want to understand why she is supposed to be killed”, Phobos calmly announced.
“He told us. She led an intel task force which was responsible for the capture of many of our brothers. So we make an example of her”, Deimos responded.
“In all those years at my side you have never learned to conduct proper reconnaissance, little brother. You can not rely on the information others give you. The Patron did not give us correct information on her. I did my reconnaissance, so I know that she is telling the truth. Her duties do not involve piracy. That is why I won’t kill her. For now.”
“You are too generous. The men are irritated. We have not come here to talk and negotiate, but to liberate our brothers and write ourselves in the history books, their blood will be our ink.”
Phobos grabbed his brother by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes.
“I understand your frustration. Have I lost your confidence?”, Phobos wanted to know.
“No, of course not”, Deimos answered, slightly daunted.
“Then I ask you to trust me and have patience. We will prevail”, Phobos implored him.
Meanwhile inside a dimly lit Jefferies tube, OMEGA member Lieutenant Koos and a young crewman from Starbase 56’s engineering team were slowly crawling forward, both dragging tool boxes behind them. Lieutenant Koos repeatedly consulted his tricorder while also checking with the station's Main Ops via an open comm line.
“Move forward another six to eight meters”, Chief Engineer van Schuyler instructed them over comm.
“Roger that”, the Lieutenant replied.
“Ok, I think that’s it. Start working on those relays”, he instructed his companion.
The young engineer squeezed through behind him and opened a hatch to the next section of the maintenance tunnel before he moved inside another four meters. He pried open a panel and soon after began to cut through several ODN relays with a tool.
In the meantime Lieutenant Koos was carefully setting up the equipment from his case, which contained several transmitter devices, one of which he attached to the tunnel’s ceiling. The case also held a video monitor and a small control panel. Finally he unwrapped a tiny metallic gadget, not even the size of a thumb. He pressed a button and the thing extended a set of mechanical legs and four little wings and took to the air.
“What is that?”, the young engineer wondered when the mechanical insect flapped past him in the tunnel.
“It’s the proverbial bug, one of our surveillance tools. We equipped it with a small holographic emitter, so it can take the appearance of a real insect, it’s got multispectral sensors and if I can get it near enough, it will tell us what’s going on inside the room where the hostages are being held”, the Lieutenant remarked.
He steered the device with his control panels around the corner into the next junction. The bug continued on its way and disappeared in the dark tunnel.
On the main console in Ops-15, the terrorist’s technician, Shahq, spotted an alarm signal on his display.
“We’ve got company!”, he yelled to his superiors.
Phobos and his brother Deimos hastily joined him at the workstation. In the corner the hostages noticed the locomotion.
“Hey, what’s going on?”, Gracie Jones inquired, but got no reply.
“The proximity sensors in junction sixty-four went off, there are two biosigns in the adjacent tunnel”, Shahq reported.
“A scouting party?”, Deimos wondered while looking at his brother. Phobos was unfazed.
“Yes, as expected. Alright, we don’t want them to get too close. Deploy the countermeasure”, he instructed Shahq.
The technician pulled out a handheld remote control and pressed a button, then another.
In the Jefferies tube, hidden in the corner of a bulkhead a different device now suddenly activated. The engineer who was still working only one meter away discovered it and froze at an instant. With a shaky voice he whispered:
“Argh, Sir, there is something in here.”
Lieutenant Koos grabbed his tricorder and checked the readings.
“Looks like a booby trap. Listen to me very carefully, drop your tools and crawl back to me, but very slowly”, he said, alert, but confident.
The young man nodded and did what he was told. Just when he was about to reach the next junction where the Lieutenant was sitting, the hatch between them closed shut.
“Shit, Main Ops, your man needs an emergency beam out, now!”, Lieutenant Koos barfed into his combadge, while frantically pulling at the hatch’s handle.
In the station’s Main Operations center Commander van Schuyler was working her console.
“We are having trouble getting a lock, you are too close to their scramblers”, the Chief Engineer replied over comms.
Lieutenant Koos unholstered his phaser pistol and tried to cut open the hatch with the weapon’s beam. The engineer on the other side was freaking out and banged at the hatch with his fists.
His struggle could be heard very clearly by the occupants of nearby Ops-15.
“Whatever you are doing, stop it, please!”, Jones, now on her feet and very agitated, demanded.
“I warned them not to come too close. A pity, they would not listen”, Phobos nonchalantly stated before his face darkened and he ordered:
Shahq pressed another button on his remote and the booby trap went off with a loud bang. The trapped engineer’s screams fell silent. Inside Ops-15 a cloud of grey smoke rose from the opening in the air duct.
On Phobos’ signal a comm line was opened to the station commander.
“What was that? What have you done?”, Admiral Gryz demanded to know.
“Two of your people were snooping around where they shouldn’t have, Admiral. I warned you not to try any foolish action. One of your men is dead, I suggest you evacuate the other one and file this incident under ‘lessons learned’, Phobos out.”