From the Ashes
In high orbit around a reddish class K planet Starbase 56 was still engaged in combat with a swarm of Patronage vessels, firing with its phaser banks from the large central habitat sphere until the attackers suddenly turned away and quickly retreated from the station. On one of the three saucer-shaped docking sections which protruded on spokes from the equator of the habitat sphere the smouldering bridge module of the Klingon cruiser destroyed during the attack was still stuck between the docking clamps.
In the Main Operations center of the station the duty officers were working feverishly at their posts. Armed security officers were setting up barricades next to all access ports. Alarm klaxons were blaring. The Chief of Security checked the readings on his console before he looked up and reported to the station commander, Rear Admiral Gryz, a seasoned Tellarite of short but stout stature sporting a magnificent beard, standing like a rock in between all the chaos:
“Hostile vessels are retreating, Admiral!”, the Chief of Security, Lieutenant Commander Ferguson said.
“What is the status of the intruders?”, Admiral Gryz asked.
“Intruders reported on Decks 4, 15, 26 and on Docking bay C, sensors indicate heavy weapons fire in those areas, Sir.”
“Set up Containment protocol Alpha-9. Evacuate all non-essential personnel to designated shelters, clear adjacent corridors and shut down all turbolifts connecting to those decks. I want security force fields and emergency bulkheads in place on all intersections!”, Admiral Gryz ordered.
“Already on it, Sir”, the officer replied.
In one of the corridors a member of the hostile boarding party, a thin and geeky, green-skinned Orion male opened a wall panel and began hooking up a portable console to the station’s ODN network. A Nausicaan man was assisting him. In the background more terrorists were moving heavy crates on anti-grav units.
In the station’s Main Operation center their work set off an alarm.
“Admiral, unidentified access detected, they are trying to get into computer control!”, the Chief Engineer Commander van Schuyler reported.
“Shut them out. Reroute all access functions from those areas”, the Admiral ordered.
The prompt response from the Starfleet personnel did not faze the intruder’s actions.
“They are trying to block our access. The panel over there, quickly”, the Orion technician said and indicated the opposite wall.
His assistant jumped up and smashed the glass panel with the butt of his rifle, exposing the ODN relays beneath it. He pulled out a small hand-held laser cutting tool and bisected the relay, shortening it out with sparks flying.
“Report?”, Admiral Gryz demanded.
“I can’t compensate, Sir. They must have cut the redundant wiring”, van Schuyler responded.
The Admiral pressed a button on a console next to him.
“Security team to Deck 15, section J25.”
“Done. Let’s go”, the Orion technician announced to his assistant and both swiftly grabbed their equipment and ran back to the next intersection when a four-man Starfleet security team rounded the corner on the other end and began firing their phaser rifles. The two intruders escaped unharmed, but the Starfleet officers gave chase when a huge Nausicaan soldier along with a fellow Gorn attacker opened up on them from cover behind the corner. The two Starfleet officers in front fell dead from the salvo. The other two tried to take cover but were completely exposed in the featureless corridor and had to retreat. The Nausicaan defiantly followed them, firing his rifle repeatedly at the men, gunning down a third officer. The last remaining security officer dropped his weapon and dragged his wounded comrade to safety. The Nausicaan calmly gazed after them, then he typed a combination on a nearby console which made a massive bulkhead descent at the end of the corridor where the routed security detail had just disappeared, sealing off this section from the rest of the starbase.
“The security team has come under heavy fire. Sir, the intruders seem to have set up a remote security lockout. I can’t compensate”, the engineering officer told Admiral Gryz.
“Damn, how do they know so much about our systems?”, the Admiral cursed in anger.
“Sir, it looks like they are establishing a stronghold. Internal sensors are still showing several dozen crew members in those areas. This could turn into a bloodbath”, the Security Chief worriedly stated.
“Can we use the transporters to get the intruders out?”, Gryz suggested.
“I’ll give it a try.”
The officer tapped his console but then grimaced and reported:
“They must have disguised their life signs somehow. I am unable to get a clear lock.”
“Then at least transport our people out of there!”
He tapped the console again, but it only gave off a rejecting tone. The duty officer checked the display on his work station, frowning with disbelief.
“I don’t believe this. They put the entire transporter array into diagnostic mode, the cycle will take hours to complete!”
Admiral Gryz angrily walked a few steps before he asked:
“Can we flood the compartments with anesthetic gas?”
The Chief of Security typed some combinations on his console and read the information being displayed.
“Yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it, Sir. We have several compounds available which qualify for distribution in a gaseous form: anesthizine, neurozine, axonol. Neurozine is the most effective, however even at one hundred parts per million, it would take up to three seconds to incapacitate a large humanoid, but according to the reports there were Gorn and Nausicaans among the attackers, they are extremely resilient. They might be able to set off explosives or shoot innocents before it affects them. And any higher dosage could lead to permanent synaptic damages among other humanoids. It is too much of a risk, Sir.”
Admiral Gryz reluctantly nodded in agreement.
Gracie Jones woke up with intense pain. The laceration on her temple was dripping blood. A huge Gorn, draped with combat gear, was dragging her by one foot over the floor and dropped her in a corner where a group of other Starfleet officers, around twenty in total, had been gathered by the captors. More or less everyone of them was slightly wounded or bruised. One young male officer crawled to her and tended her head wound while Jones looked around. She recognized the layout of the room as that of Ops-15, one of several operation centers spread all over the starbase to act as a redundant command post.
“You’re the station chief from Intel, aren’t you?”, the young officer whispered to her. She nodded.
“Maybe you shouldn’t tell these guys what you do exactly. I’m Ensign Hona, by the way.”
One of the attackers snapped his head in their direction. He pulled a disruptor pistol out of his holster and fired over their heads, the particle beam impacted a bulkhead, spraying sparks.
“Hey, be quiet, if any of you talks again, I’ll shoot you!”, he yelled.
Jones and the Ensign Hona obeyed and started to observe their captors’ actions.
There were twelve attackers in total: four Gorn, two more slender who were standing guard next to the hostages in the corner and holding their short-barreled rifles in front of their chests, the other two were larger and kept bringing in additional starbase personnel who had been taken captive. Two muscular Orion men were setting up technical equipment around the entire room, a third smaller Orion, the one who previously had been with his assistant in the corridor, was working on one of the consoles, hacking into the station’s system. The remaining attackers were Nausicaans, huge men of well over two meters in height, their long dark hair crudely plaited, the tusked faces covered in war-paint. All attackers were carrying disruptor weapons of different kinds, as well as grenades on bandoliers and smaller sidearms strapped to their belts, some also had daggers or similar bladed weapons on them. Jones noticed the two largest of the Nausicaans, one apparently was the attackers’ leader, the other his second-in-command, everyone else reported to them.
“What’s the status, Shahq?”, the leader calmly asked the Orion technician.
“One moment”, Shahq replied, his answer accompanied by a corresponding hand gesture while not taking his eyes off the console screen.
“Are you done over there?”, Shahq shouted over to his Nausicaan assistant working on a set of circuit breakers in an opened panel across the room.
“The devices are in place”, the man answered.
Shahq typed a few more combinations on the console before a multiple tiered menu appeared on the screen, to which he smiled contentedly.
He turned to the leading Nausicaan and explained:
“Alright, as of now, I have complete control over all the decks we occupied, internal sensors and tactical features some distance beyond that, but I can’t promise it will stay like this. All the other equipment is up and running, so no one gets in or out, unless we say so. I tried getting into the station’s external defense systems, but they shut me out, I’m going to keep trying on that. I have maneuvering thrusters though.”
The leading Nausicaan nodded and turned to his right hand man.
“Report from the other teams, Deimos?”
“Two and Four took their objectives, they are holding about one hundred people between them”, the second-in-command replied.
“What about Team Three?”, the leader asked.
“They ran into heavy fire from a MACO platoon on the shuttle deck and had to retreat.”
“Very well, we’ll make do with what we have. Open a channel to both Starfleet Command and this entire station”, the large Nausicaan instructed.
Meanwhile one of the Gorn attackers finished collecting the combadges of all the hostages in a small metal crate. He poured them out on a nearby table, took a scanning device from his pocket and ran it over the spread out communicators. On a signal from his scanner the man picked up one of the combadges and threw it to the terrorist leader who effortlessly caught it with his hand. He took a quick look at the device before he
turned around and marched towards the group of Starfleet prisoners gathered in the corner. He let his eyes wander about each and every one of them before he began his address in a soothing and sophisticated voice, totally contrary to everyone’s expectation when looking at his martial appearance:
“The United Federation of Planets has left a legacy of disarray all over the galaxy, whenever it chose to abstain from intervening in the matters of other powers. Like the forced alliance between the peoples of me and my men and the Klingon Empire for example. The Federation was indeed not shy of critique. But ultimately it abandoned its chastisement when there was a need to align oneself with a mighty galactic power once more. Well, the Federation is about to be taught a lesson in the real use of power. You will be witnesses. If certain people choose to defy us however, I fear all of you might become participants instead.
Now, where is Commander Gracie Jones?”
A startled Ensign Hona who was still by Jones’ side covertly grabbed her arm as if to say ‘Stay down’. The giant Nausicaan began to walk among the hostages, menacingly petting his rifle while he continued addressing them:
“Grace LeVaughn Jones?
Born stardate 52469 on the Federation colony of Minos Korva, joined Starfleet at age 19, attended Starfleet Technical Services Academy on Mars, commissioned as enlisted crewman on USS Bellerophon, stardate 73112, admitted as scholarship student to Starfleet Academy the following year, majored in engineering and xenolinguistics, distinguished member of Falcon Squadron, captain of the academy’s decathlon team, entered Starfleet Intelligence upon graduation, several postings throughout the Federation, earning her the Star Cross and the Starfleet Medal of Commendation, station chief of Starbase 56 for eleven months…”
He arrived directly in front of Jones, now looking down on her knowingly. Jones got on her feet and faced him.
“...and mother of a daughter”, he finished.
“Alright, enough. It’s me”, Gracie Jones exclaimed.
The Nausicaan smiled, the physiology of his face making it more of a snarl than a smile.
“How do you do? My name is Phobos, these are my men”, he politely introduced himself with a grand gesture while awkwardly shaking Jones’ hand at the same time.
Jones was slightly unsettled by his charming demeanor.
“Commander Jones, regretfully, for the time of our stay onboard this station I must relieve you of your previous duties. I have a new assignment for you though: all these people are my prisoners now. Nobody makes a sound or a move and you won’t be hurt. You take care of that, Ms Jones”, he pulled out a blade from his belt and set the tip on Jones’ neck,
“Or you die first!”
Jones reluctantly nodded in compliance.
“We are ready, brother!”, Deimos, the second-in-command yelled from the other end of the room.
Phobos walked back and gave a hand signal to open the channel. On the large screen in front of him a small board of Starfleet admirals appeared, headed by Fleet Admiral Quinn, as well as Rear Admiral Gryz, the commander of Starbase 56 with several of his officers.
“Greetings, gentlemen. I am Phobos, I pledge allegiance to Gumo and the Patronage. Me and my men have occupied key positions on this station and we are holding more than one hundred of your people as prisoners. We demand the release of all our brothers in arms from your prison facilities and those of the Klingons as well as the withdrawal of all Klingon forces from occupied space around our homeworlds. Do not bother with any attempt of direct action against us, we are well armed and prepared to deal with any possible moves from your side. Your ships are to stay out of transporter range. If you attempt to evacuate anyone or assault our strongholds, we will kill the prisoners and detonate the station. You have seven days to comply with our demands. There will be no more negotiations. Phobos out.”
“Commander?”, Ensign Hona whispered. Gracie Jones did not react.
“Jones?”, the young man whispered again.
“What?”, she answered in a low voice.
“What’s going to happen?”
“Be quiet, or do you want them to shoot us?”, another officer urged him.
“Come on, we have got to do something”, he countered while looking around for support. Jones was trying to ignore him.
“Commander, haven’t you received some special training for these kinds of scenarios?”, he continued.
“Ensign, the right time for action is when there is a window of opportunity. Right now there is nothing we can do and I have the responsibility as the ranking officer to get all of us out alive, so be quiet!”, Jones shushed him.
In the Starfleet Headquarters Situation Room that had only several days ago held the meeting in response to the Khefka IV Attack, members of the Federation’s security council once again met to deal with the latest crisis. It was an ad hoc gathering with most of the civilian members being absent. Apart from President Okeg and his aides there was Fleet Admiral Quinn, Starfleet Intelligence Director William Jefferson, Head of Starfleet Security General H’Roren as well as a few other flag officers. Starbase 56 commander Rear Admiral Gryz along with his staff was connected via subspace communication, appearing on the large viewscreen of the Situation Room.
“What is your status, Gryz?”, Admiral Quinn wanted to know.
“Not looking good. They beamed aboard and quickly overran several areas of strategic importance. Their forces have partially occupied three decks of the station. They seized a mess hall on Deck 4, which is where they probably hold most of the hostages. Furthermore one of the main computer cores on Deck 26 and one of the engineering bays on Deck 15 along with an operations center is under their control. One of their attacks was directed against a shuttle bay, but was repulsed. Elsewhere our attempts to contain them weren’t that successful, many of my people were shot. We estimate their numbers at about thirty, all are heavily armed, well trained and slick”, Gryz explained.
“He said he will destroy the station, if we do not comply with his demands, can they do that or is he bluffing?”, President Okeg asked.
“Yes, Sir. I believe we should take this threat very seriously. The sections on Deck 15 which they occupied contain a part of the station’s power supply, a set of Type-IV fusion reactors. If the terrorists manage to overload even one of them, the explosion would be able to pulverize the entire starbase.”
“How many fusion reactors are there?”, Okeg asked.
“My God!”, the President sighed in despair.
“And that is not all. We also lost control over several important computer functions. One of them is thruster control. They could steer the station into the atmosphere of the planet we are orbiting”, Admiral Gryz added.
“Is there any way of regaining control from them?”, Admiral Quinn now inquired.
“Not at the moment. They set up encryption codes and rerouted all redundant connections. It could take us weeks to find a way around it, even without them holding the station hostage.”
“Do you have the means to wrestle control from them by force, Admiral?”, General H’Roren wanted to know.
“We have roughly one hundred security officers and MACOs surrounding the occupied areas. We could go in, but it would likely result in enormous loss of life on all sides. From what we have seen so far, these guys are very professional and probably would not have left anything to chance”, Gryz finished.
“You are right. We can’t risk it at the moment. I think we should try to negotiate and see if we can resolve the situation peacefully”, President Okeg stated.
“Excuse me, Sir, but their leader just said there won’t be any negotiation”, another Starfleet officer reminded the President.
“Then at least we’ll talk to the Klingons, see if they can be moved to release his people.”
Everyone at the table nodded reluctantly, knowing the latter would be close to impossible.
“In the meantime, Sir, I recommend we deploy Starfleet vessels near all the member worlds as well as our installations in case of more attacks”, Admiral Quinn suggested.
The President nodded.
“Sir, I would like to move a task force in the vicinity of Starbase 56”, General H´Roren requested.
“What about OMEGA SQUADRON?”, Director Jefferson, who had been silent so far, intervened.
“Are you suggesting we should exercise a military option, Jefferson? You heard the President, for now we negotiate”, Quinn told him.
“Respectfully, Sir. But these people made it clear they won’t negotiate. I pulled the intel on them. Their leader, Phobos, is a notorious pirate, responsible for countless raids and ambushes in the past decades. He and his brother are known for their aggression and well-planned actions. The situation seems calm for now, but that can change in an instant. We have to be ready to implement all possible alternatives at a moment’s notice. If we have to go in, OMEGA SQUADRON is the best unit for the job, they have means that exceed the capabilities of regular security personnel, we created them for situations like this, that’s what they have been trained for”, Jefferson explained.
“He may be right, gentlemen”, the President relented.
“General, you can lead your task force, upon your arrival you will be in charge of the situation on site, have OMEGA SQUADRON prepare for an assault. Just in case things go south. Let us hope it doesn’t have to come to that. That will be all for now. Thank you.”
President Okeg dismissed everyone and headed for the exit with his staffers.
Admiral Quinn got up from his seat and walked over to Director Jefferson.
“Make sure to give the General every possible snippet of information on these people, Jefferson.”