by Travis Anderson
Ro rose from the desk and approached Macen. He simply sat there, studying her. Finally she smiled.
“Oh, get up so I can say hello to you properly,” she insisted.
Macen stood. He knew that Ro’s height had a tendency to intimidate most men. Many of the women she’d served with had been bothered it by it as well. The first man who didn’t seem bothered was Picard. It didn’t bother some people just because they were taller than her. Will Riker and Worf fell under this category. Macen knew he also belonged to this group. He’d wondered, while she loomed over him, how he’d react if he knew she was actually taller than him.
He shrugged the thought aside. It was a moot point anyway, but it was a factor that could affect him with someone else, so it was important to keep in mind. He held out his hand for her grasp it after he’d stood and she smirked.
“Am I allowed to hug you now that we’re both out of uniform and you don’t outrank me anymore?” she asked.
Macen smiled. “Sure.”
Ro warmly embraced him and then stepped back, but she gripped his shoulder. “Prophets, it’s good to see you again.”
This amused Macen since they’d only met once before. He’d been the mission specialist on a mission she’d led. It had been her first command experience and she’d outperformed herself. Afterwards, Macen had suggested to Picard that she attend Advanced Tactical Training. This surprised Picard. The captain had already considered her, but he also had a few other candidates in mind. When Riker endorsed her as well following the mission, Ro turned into the candidate of choice.
“We only worked together once, Laren,” Macen downplayed her happiness.
“But we kept in touch until I went AWOL,” Ro countered. “And your constant advice to follow my conscience is why I abandoned Starfleet.
Macen grinned ruefully. “I wouldn’t advertise that fact.”
Ro nodded her understanding. She eagerly posed the question on her mind. “So what are you doing in my neighborhood? Did you come to sign up?”
“I came to help,” Macen admitted.
“Why do I get the feeling that’s not an answer?” Ro asked warily.
“I can help, just on your terms,” Macen informed her.
“What does that mean?” There was an edge to her voice now.
“Nechayev recruited me to recruit you,” Macen revealed. “A fact you are not supposed to know.”
“I bet,” Ro snorted.
“Look, the arrangement is fairly simple. You wouldn’t report to Starfleet. You wouldn’t report to Alynna. You’d be free to do as you wish,” Macen assured her.
“I have that now. Why do I need Nechayev crawling up my backside?” Ro was bitter.
“She’s only the source. I’m the pipeline,” Macen stated.
“The pipeline for what?” Ro suspected a trap.
“I can provide intelligence from Starfleet. That kind of data can expand your operations. I can give you enemy troop movements, ship deployments, and the location of Cardassian paramilitaries,” Macen disclosed. “And I can provide details of when Starfleet is closing in on your operations. All you have to do is accept my offer and act upon the intelligence I provide.”
“What makes you think you can get all of that information on a consistent basis if I accept?” Ro narrowed the question down.
“Because I’m licensed to operate within Cardassian space.” Macen dropped that bombshell as though it were nothing. Ro was understandably stunned.
“How did you manage that?” Ro asked. “The Cardies are paranoid bastards. Why would they let a so-called ‘information broker’ into their territory? Civilian or not?”
“Because they see me as primarily being a purveyor of luxury items from locations they no longer have access to,” Macen grinned.
“You’re a smuggler?” Ro couldn’t believe it.
“Look, a few baubles here or there won’t tilt the economies of either side, and if it grants me the access that I need…” He let the thought hang. “I’d say that’s worth it.”
“Okay, say I’m taking this seriously, which I’m not yet. What do you have to offer?” she inquired.
“Give me an hour and I’ll have your answer,” Macen assured her.
“An hour?” Ro was skeptical.
“It took twenty minutes to get here,” Macen replied. “It’ll take twenty minutes to get back. Figure five to ten to get somebody from the Odyssey to beam us up. I will require the release of my first officer. Twenty minutes to load the data onto a PADD and five to ten to return to the surface. Then I can meet with your goon squad again.”
“Okay, but I haven’t told you what information I’m looking for,” Ro reminded him.
He smiled. “You want what everybody wants: the location of Cal Hudson.”
Ro tried not to visibly react. “And you can get that?”
“I already knew where they took him after the kidnappers left Umoth. I just don’t know if they’re still there,” he shared.
“Starfleet knows where he is?” Ro snapped. “Then why the hell is Sisko running around asking about it?”
“Starfleet knows. They’ve always known. They’re just not telling Sisko,” Macen revealed.
“But why?” Ro was flabbergasted.
“Because someone cut a backdoor deal with the Cardassians to eliminate the ‘Maquis problem,’” Macen divulged.
“Why the hell isn’t Nechayev going along with this?” Ro wondered. “It seems to be her style.”
“Alynna didn’t broker the deal. If she had, she’d be more than happy to let Hudson hang,” Macen admitted.
“Lovely,” Ro sardonically quipped. “All right,” she sighed. “If you know the problem you also know we have to move fast.”
“Faster than you think,” Macen warned. “Evek will be in position to launch a long-range shuttle in twenty hours.”
“Why the hell is he waiting for twenty hours?” Ro cried out in exasperation.
“Evek purposefully took the patrol route furthest from Solosos,” Macen grinned. “That’s where Hudsonwas taken, by the way. Anyway, it offered him plausible deniability when Sisko started trying to track Hudson down.”
“All of this cloak and dagger idiocy is giving me a headache,” Ro complained.
“Never fear, all will be well,” Macen replied jauntily. “Summon your minions have me dropped off in Enara again.”
“You’d better not screw with me,” Ro warned.
Macen looked hurt. “Believe me, Laren. We’re actually on the same side. I share the goals of the Maquis. I can just do more damage to the Cardassians on the periphery of the fight than in the middle of it.”
“That remains to be seen,” Ro said skeptically. She pressed a button on her desk and Tulley and his partner in crime entered in. The other Maquis put the hood over Macen’s head and shoved him out of the office space.
Ro motioned for Tulley to step closer. “Take Alea with you.”
“Why?” Tulley sounded dubious.
“I need her to read over the information Macen is going to give us before you return to base,” Ro said snippily.
“Problems?” Tulley asked.
“The Cardies are moving a hell of a lot faster than we’d hoped for. We have to be ready to move as soon as possible,” Ro explained.
“I’ll send Kalinda your way,” Tulley informed her.
Ro patted him on the arm. “Thanks Aric. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Tulley exited the space wearing a genuinely happy smile.
Sisko sat in the Rio Grande’s cockpit while the others sat in the rear crew compartment. They’d enjoyed a meal and now O’Brien and Bashir were playing a game of darts. They’d brought a spare board and darts that they’d squirreled away in case the one at Quark’s was taken down. Dax downloaded some material into a PADD and returned to the cockpit. She sat at the conn reading while Sisko navigated Starfleet Command’s hierarchy from ops.
Dax smiled to herself as he navigated the depths of Starfleet Security’s command structure. She had to give him credit when he arrived at the Director of Starfleet Security’s desk twenty minutes later. Admiral Furrst gazed back at Sisko with some irritation.
“Well, Commander, you’ve thoroughly disrupted my staff to the point they foisted you off on me. What can I possibly do for you?” Furrst asked with some irritation.
Sisko came straight to the point. “I need the whereabouts of Calvin Hudson and the identities of his captors.”
Furrst smiled. As a Caitian, that revealed a healthy set of fangs. “I see. And who will you contact when I tell you to go to hell?”
“Excuse me?” Sisko couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing.
“Hudson is dead or will soon be wishing he was,” Furrst replied. “Measures have already been taken since Hudson’s defection to the Maquis, so his loss will be negligible.”
“Admiral, I was ordered to capture Hudson, not to hand him over to the Cardassians,” Sisko pointed out.
“So?” Furrst wondered. “The end result is the same.”
“Not for Hudson,” Sisko grated. “Surrendering him is tantamount to a death sentence even if the Cardassians sentence him to a labor camp.
“Calvin Hudson knew the risks he was taking when he resigned his commission. Frankly, I don’t believe Starfleet owes him anything,” Furrst shared. He studied Sisko. “You’re bound and determined to go over my head, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Admiral,” Sisko confirmed. “I’d like to speak with Admiral Marne.”
Furrst smiled again. “Marne recently stepped down. He was replaced by the newly-promoted Fleet Admiral Nechayev. Good luck swaying her.”
The screen shifted to a Starfleet Command symbol. Within minutes an ensign answered. She looked distinctly harried, but she promised that Nechayev would get back to him as soon as possible. Sisko settled in to wait.
While he waited, he recalled what he knew of Alynna Nechayev. She had risen through the ranks in Starfleet Intelligence Operations. SI Operations frequently worked alongside Special Operations Command. They were the “dirty tricks” department of Starfleet.
Nechayev rose quickly while developing a reputation for getting the job done. She also developed a reputation as the “Ice Queen” of Starfleet Command upon achieving flag rank. She and Edward Jellico had been friends for years. It galled Jellico that she had risen to Starfleet Command before him, but also had risen to Vice Admiral and now Fleet Admiral while he had just made flag rank himself rather recently.
Jellico put the delay in his promotion to Nechayev’s supposed interference. Now Jellico was Chief of Operations and it seemed Nechayev had assumed Marne’s old role as the overseer of both Starfleet Intelligence and Starfleet Security. She effectively wielded the twin swords that protected interior and exterior security.
The screen shifted and Sisko refocused. A woman with Slavic features, pale blonde hair, and cool eyes hardened with resolve. It was Nechayev.
“Commander,” she said in a neutral tone.
“Admiral, I need to discuss an important matter with you,” Sisko began without preamble.
“Yes, Admiral Furrst has been discussing the very same matter,” Nechayev remarked snarkily.
“Then you know what I want?” Sisko asked.
“Yes, you want Calvin Hudson’s whereabouts,” Nechayev supplied. “I can tell you that your request is denied. But you rather expected that didn’t you? So who will you appeal to now? The C-in-C herself?”
“Admiral, I received my orders from Admiral Bill Ross of Starbase 375,” Sisko pointed out.
“And may I remind you that I outrank Admiral Ross?” Nechayev scoffed. “You have to give me a reason to approve this request. A well-rationalized argument, not an appeal simply because he is your friend.”
“If I can bring Hudson in, I guarantee that we can get him to give up the Maquis’ secrets,” Sisko promised.
“But the Maquis operate on a cell by cell basis,” Nechayev retorted. “Surely Major Kira has explained the concept to you.”
“She has. But unlike the Bajoran Resistance, the Maquis do have central command figures privy to all of their secrets,” Sisko reminded the admiral. “Hudson is one of the people just as Svetlana Koraponova is another.”
“Are you also offering to bring in Koraponova?” Nechayev asked.
Sisko shook his head. “No. She’s undoubtedly gone to ground by now.”
“And how would you convince Hudson to betray his comrades?” Nechayev wondered.
“Simple. We offer him a choice between us or the Cardassians,” Sisko explained.
Nechayev studied him. “And if he chooses the Cardassians over us?”
“I’ve already made that choice. I offered him a chance to rejoin Starfleet or to choose the Maquis. I let him ruin his life that day. I would do the same again. Make no mistake, Admiral, I’m offering him a choice between life in the stockade or being handed over to Cardassian torturers. I think that any rational man would choose prison,” Sisko said sadly.
“Ah, but you’re assuming he’s still rational,” Nechayev commented. She pondered Sisko’s offer. Weighing her options, she began, “I can tell you Commander, that Starfleet arranged for the capture of Calvin Hudson by Cardassian forces.”
Sisko was visibly shaken as she continued. “I haven’t run down who is responsible, but I believe that any person deserves a better fate than what Hudson will receive at the hands of the Cardassians. I can also tell you he’s on Solosos. I’ll send you what I have and you can decide on whether or not you will proceed.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” Sisko said gratefully.
A thin smile blossomed on her features. “Success makes the greatest of thanks, Commander.”
Sisko noted that she hadn’t cut the transmission as she normally would have and asked, “Yes?”
“I do have a contingency plan,” Nechayev informed him. “Even if you choose not to go, it will be in play. Do you understand?”
“Understood,” Sisko confirmed.
“Good, because Hudson will be brought in or silenced one way or the other,” Nechayev warned him.
The transmission was cut at that point, leaving Sisko pondering the implications of that last statement. Sisko looked to Dax as he loaded the navigation data into her board. She lifted the runabout off of Ronara Prime and heads for Solosos, announcing that they would arrive in a few hours.
Macen and Danan met Tulley and Alea at the Old Biddy. They sat at the same table where the information gatherers had met Sisko and Dax. The three other Maquis sat at the adjacent table just as O’Brien and Bashir had done.
Upon introduction, Macen took Alea’s hand and lightly kissed it. Alea blushed and turned to Danan, “Does he always do that?”
“Only with me,” Danan wryly admitted.
“I’m sorry, but your reputation precedes you,” Macen gushed.
Alea suddenly looked very uncomfortable. Macen gave her an almost imperceptible nod and she relaxed a little bit. Macen would keep the young Idanian’s secret but it came at a price. She had to sell his data to Ro.
He’d contacted her after he’d left Starfleet and was gathering his crew. Alea was part of the Maquis as an undercover military advisor and intelligence asset. She’d never intended to be thrust into the limelight. Macen’s offer of assisting Ro made Alea’s cover more plausible.
Alea reviewed Starfleet’s records, the very same records Sisko was perusing while on his way to Solosos. Alea gave Tulley an approving nod. “The information is solid.”
“However, there’s a new wrinkle,” Macen suddenly brought up the potential bad news. “Commander Sisko has also been given this data. Odds are he’ll make a play too.”
Tulley scowled, “We could do a lot with a ship like yours. Why aren’t you picking up a phaser and helping out?”
Macen looked bemused. “First off, the Odyssey is very distinctive. Every Cardassian outpost and sweeper is watching her at every moment. Second, I haven’t been invited yet.”
“I’ll pass that along,” Tulley said menacingly.
“You do that,” Macen nonchalantly replied.
Back at the Maquis compound, Alea made her report and Ro began devising a plan. Pretty soon, she had a rough sketch but she needed hard intel from a former resident. Kalinda pointed out that Thool was originally from Solosos.
The Bolian engineer reported in. Ro began asking questions about the target area. Thool asked for the map and filled in the blanks. The target was a farm with a house and a bunkhouse for the hands. It turned out Thool started his working life as a mechanic on a similar farm.
“The farmhouse will likely be occupied by the new occupants who have taken over the farm. The bunkhouse would be ideal to hold prisoners in. It was meant to house sixty people in a communal living space. It would also have restrooms and a kitchen,” Thool explained.
Ro studied the orbital view. “Well, this particular bunkhouse is vulnerable to an approach from the west. There’s a grove of trees that grow right up to the structure.”
“I also have the names of a few contacts,” Thool promised. “We’ll be able to get ground transports and we’ll need them. This farm is sixty kilometers from the closest town.”
“Why would we need to go to ground when we can simply beam down?” Ro wondered.
Thool looked a little embarrassed. “The Indomitable is a fine ship, but she needs quite a few hands just to keep her in orbit, much less in flight. You’re going to need those hands for the fighting. That means you’ll have to land the Indie.”
“The Indie, huh?” Ro grinned. She couldn’t think of a better nickname for her brand new command. TheIndomitable was a Ju’day-class scout, one of a few that had entered Maquis service. Chakotay had received the first. Several more were in the pipeline for other cells.
Chakotay’s Zola had been the first ship that Eric McMasters had refitted for the Maquis. McMasters’ next project had been the Indomitable. Ro hadn’t given the ship a good field test yet and wondered if now would be that time.
Ro also had to inwardly grin at referring to the Indie as a “new” ship. Her hull was fifty years old and the engine components for the class were no longer manufactured, so McMasters had to rebuild the engine and call it good. The Zola had proven herself in combat a few times now. Hopefully Ro could coax the same kind of performance out of her ship.
“Point taken,” Ro conceded. She revised her ops plan and presented it to Kalinda and Tulley. They both approved, so she gathered her potential crew and laid it out for them. They all understood the basics and bought into the plan. For one brief moment, Ro missed Starfleet. The simple “yes, ma’am” that was a way of daily life in Starfleet would make prosecuting a war that much easier.
She sighed. I knew what I was getting into when I defected. Or at least I thought I did.
Many thanks to Bernd Schneider of Ex-Astris-Scientia.org for designing the Blackbird-class scout vessel mentioned in this story.
Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.