by Travis Anderson
Chakotay brought the Val Jean in on an oblique course towards Valo VI. The protocol held that precise turns and banks had to be made at designated times. Chakotay related it to ancient submariners running precisely charted undersea canyons based upon turning at times intervals.
Alea had obtained the chart and the navigation chart for remaining within Valo VI’s dedicated sensor blind. The course kept one out of sight of Valo 1-III as well as that of Valo VI as well. Chakotay wondered again how Alea had obtained her data. Her methods were as mysterious as her origins, but Ro Laren trusted her so Chakotay felt forced to as well.
Besides, Seska had confirmed the data through independent sources. She always distracted him in tantalizing ways whenever he pressed her on how she obtained her intelligence, but she always came through in a clutch. Still, for some strange reason he’d curtailed the crew’s missions into Cardassian space for a while now.
Gul Evek had been a little too close for comfort when they last approached Dorvan V. Chakotay’s home planet was occupied by Cardassians and Evek had “just” happened to be tucked behind a moon in the solar system when the Val Jean appeared. He suspected there might be a leak amongst the Maquis cell commanders, but he trusted his crew implicitly.
Chakotay refocused on what he was doing as he almost blew a turn. Ayala turned to him. “Problems?”
“No,” Chakotay asserted. Starfleet had drilled into him the necessity of a commander appearing infallible. He didn’t quite buy into it. “Just distracted for a second.”
“A second is all it’ll take to alert them,” Ayala cajoled.
Chakotay wore a sheepish smile. “Duly noted.”
They cleared the sensors and landed on the backside of the planet. The base was on the side facing the Valo star. Valo VI was a class P glaciated world. It was warmer than Pluto but colder than Mars. The Maquis had stocked up on polar survival gear and breath masks. Valo VI had an atmosphere, but it needed to be filtered.
Torres and Tuvok were leading Yosa and Lon Suder in a trek halfway across the globe to erect a transport relay. The components had cost the Maquis plenty, but they were military-grade. The Maquis had been specifically warned against asking which military.
It took two long hours, but Torres finally signaled Chakotay that they were ready to tap into the Cardassian transporter array. Chakotay didn’t envy those that he’d dispatched on this little chore. Torres and Tuvok’s ancestry were evolved for high-temperature worlds. They had to be utterly despising the cold — and their commander — right now.
“Ready?” Chakotay asked Ayala.
“How hard is it to hold down the fort in case a hasty retreat or if extra firepower is needed?” Ayala asked ruefully.
“I need someone dependable to stay behind,” Chakotay counseled his deputy.
“Sure, sure. That’s the kiss of death, you know,” Ayala mock protested.
“Keep tabs on B’Elanna and Tuvok. I’m worried about how they’re tolerating the cold,” Chakotay requested.
“That’s why Yosa and Suder are driving the skimobiles,” Ayala reminded him, “but I know you’ll fret anyway.”
Chakotay thought of the group remaining behind to fly the Val Jean, should the worst happen. Doyle, Hogan, Jackson, and Jarvin were manning the ship’s various vital posts. Kenneth Dalby and Gerron were minding Wren. Dalby was watching over Gerron as much as he was watching out for the Andorian Starfleet officer.
A long line had formed towards the ship’s cargo transporter. It also served as the main transporter since the “official” personnel transporter only had two pads. Chakotay was leading the first foray into the Cardassian base. With luck, the Cardassians wouldn’t post a watch officer on the transporters. If they did, this effort would die while still being born.
Chakotay gathered his selected group. Riker stood beside him. Chell, O’Donnell, and Henley also stepped onto the transporter grid. Jarvin did the honors and locked the transporter onto the Cardassian transporter room through Torres’ relay.
The team materialized in an abandoned transporter room. Riker immediately fired up the unit, solidified the lock and added the security of a second buffer to the transporters. He, above all others, knew the advantages of having a second buffer in play.
Seska’s group came next. Michael Jonas and Jor were included. Seska saw Riker at the transporter controls and snorted. Seska didn’t let the inevitable acidic barb loose. Instead, she and her unit went out to the corridor. O’Donnell, Chell and Henley followed them.
While Seska’s group secured one end of the corridor and O’Donnell, Chell, and Henley defended the other approach, Riker brought the next team across the distance from the Val Jean. Ann Smithers led this group. Tabor and Carlson were assigned to her. Riker noted that they all seemed to enjoy a light repartee.
Out in the corridor, Seska navigated a hall monitor’s display. Getting a layout of the base, she transferred the schematics to the team leaders’ PADDs. They were of Bajoran issue. Programmed to interpret Bajoran data encryption as well as Cardassian and Starfleet digital languages, Bajoran PADDs were ideally suited to the Maquis.
Chakotay led his team to the operations center. Seska’s group proceeded to the power plant. Meanwhile, Smithers and her unit proceeded to the crews’ barracks.
Seska quickly accessed the base security network and bypassed the lockout guarding the reactor core. Jonas and Jor laid down suppressive fire as Seska made her way through the engineering space.
As she crept through the room, she shot the unarmed engineers. One engineer managed to sound the alarm before he died. It wasn’t the first time Seska had killed fellow Cardassians in the line of duty. They certainly wouldn’t hold back because they’d think she was a damn Bajoran terrorist. Her people had already had a bellyful of Bajoran extremists.
The room was pacified in seconds. The engineering staff was decimated. Seska took the control of the fusion reactor and pushed it to one hundred and fifty percent capacity. Then she blew out the controls. In twenty to thirty minutes, the reactor would erupt in an orgasmic display of destructive power. The entire base would be taken out by it.
Seska then led Jonas and Jor to the operations center but the security force was finally responding to the reactor alert. The Maquis opened fire and then retreated into the bowels of the base. This would alleviate Chakotay’s team because Seska’s group would draw them off.
Chakotay’s team stormed the operations center in similar fashion. Cardassian guards had been posted in the ops center — four, to be precise. Three were now dead, but the analysts themselves had taken up arms. There were six of those. The only good part was that they had been driven from their stations before they could react.
Henley joined Chakotay in laying down cover fire while Chell and O’Donnell crossed over to the other side of the room. Sporadic bursts of particle beam fire illustrated the point that both sides were still alive, although Henley and O’Donnell had each scored hits on members of the opposition.
Kneeling beside Chakotay, Riker suddenly interjected. “Give me a phaser.”
Henley cast a questioning eye Chakotay’s way. He solemnly nodded. She pulled a spare Son’a built phaser out of her waistband. Riker studied the model before he began tearing it apart.
Once he had it field stripped, he reversed the polarity of the phase emitter. Reassembling it, he pulled the trigger and it slowly whined. He leaned toward Chakotay again.
“Have everyone cover me,” Riker insisted.
Seeing that Riker had overloaded the phaser, Chakotay yelled instructions across to Chell and O’Donnell. Then he and Henley began barraging the Cardassians. Chell and O’Donnell lent the weight of their firepower into it and Riker stepped out unmolested.
Tossing the phaser down the length of the room, he stepped back as Cardassians started surging forward to disarm the phaser. The Maquis dutifully shot them as they tried.
When the phaser detonated, only two Cardassians remained alive by Chakotay’s count. The Maquis all rose with their weapons ready. Not seeing any movement through the smoke, Chakotay faced Riker.
“Good thinking, Tom,” Chakotay said encouragingly. “That’s the type of thinking that the Maquis need.”
“That’s good, because I just effectively threw my Starfleet career away,” Riker ruefully realized.
“And blew up a perfectly working phaser,” Henley grumped.
“Set it aside, Mariah,” Chakotay chuckled. “Tom will buy you a new one.”
Henley looked at Riker with an expectant gaze. Riker looked caught in the crosshairs. “Sure. Pick a model.”
“Anything as long as it’s not Ferengi crap,” Henley stated.
“Tom, if you don’t mind my saying, it didn’t look like you had much of a career anyway,” Chakotay observed. “I saw the way your Andorian babysitter was looking at you. She doesn’t trust you to make the wisest decision.”
“After this, do you blame her?” Riker wondered.
“There’s a wide world outside of Starfleet. Trust me, I know,” Chakotay assured him, “but I didn’t used to think so. So I can understand where you’re coming from.”
“Maybe, but how do you sleep at night?” Riker wondered.
“Guilt-free,” Chakotay grinned. “Now come with me. You need to grab the data as fast as you can.”
Riker gave him a quizzical look so Chakotay explained, “Seska rigged the reactor to explode. By my count, we have less than ten minutes left before this base goes up in a nuclear firestorm.”
“Sure. No pressure,” Riker chuckled. Sitting down at a station, he found that the agent assigned to it hadn’t logged out. Pulling a Cardassian isolinear rod out and inserting it into the data receptacle, he recorded the bulk of the database. He repeated this process and then stood up.
“Let’s go,” Riker urged.
Chakotay didn’t hesitate. He knew Cardassian equipment was designed to reject Federation isolinear rods, but Federation computers could be adapted to accept Cardassian rods. They had prepared for this eventuality.
The Maquis exited the operations center and proceeded towards the transporter room. Along the way, they encountered Smithers’ group. Chakotay wanted an update. “Any problems, Ann?”
“No, we caught them napping. Literally,” Smithers reported.
“Where are Carlson and Tabor?” Chakotay wondered.
“They helped Seska establish a crossfire and eliminate the guards. She’s beaming people back to the Val Jean right now,” Smithers explained.
Chakotay relieved Seska and beamed her back with a group of four Maquis. Riker was joined by Henley and Chell. Henley was being a tad protective of Riker now. She had a phaser on the line, and maybe more considering the look in her eye.
Chakotay beamed out last. He did so with three minutes to spare. The reactor overloaded and destroyed the base in a burst resembling a solar flare.
Chakotay returned to the Val Jean to find that Torres’ team had safely returned while his crew was away. Chakotay pulled up Riker, who was being closely watched by Seska again, and instructed him to wait with Wren while they flew to Valo I.
“Why Valo I?” Riker wondered. “Do the colonists support the Maquis?”
“Some do,” Chakotay shared, “but we’re really going to its moon. A Bajoran Resistance fighter named Orta used its caverns and caves for a base. We stockpiled the necessary equipment to translate the data you’re carrying there.”
“Besides, you need to settle down your friend’s ruffled feathers,” Chakotay urged.
Wren wasn’t so much angry as she was severely disappointed. “You know I’m going to have to report this.”
“I know,” Riker replied simply.
“Look, I don’t actually know what you did on this little raid, but these Maquis now trust you.” Wren looked toward Seska. “Certain Bajorans notwithstanding.”
Riker watched her eyes and the turmoil within them. “That kind of trust is earned and it speaks volumes.”
“The data will be worth it,” Riker promised her.
“I hope so,” Wren said wryly. “For your sake.”
Inside Valo I’s moon, the caves and caverns underneath the surface were oxygenated by atmosphere processors even older than the Val Jean. Wren honestly wondered when they’d give out and they’d all asphyxiate.
She’d come up in the world. Gerron and Dalby were once again joined by Chell and Henley. And she noticed that Henley was watching Riker more than Wren herself. That irked Wren to no end.
Torres adapted the fitting to the Federation-built portable computer. It was at least two generations out of date, but the Maquis were used to working with what they had. Riker spent the next few hours unpacking the files. When he was done, he helped Chakotay, Tuvok, and Seska go over the data by copying it to their PADDs and running through it himself.
Riker almost groaned when Seska sat beside him. She shot him a scathing glare before picking up her PADD and perusing its contents. The others silently plowed into the information.
What they found in the end was that the identities and locations of the deep cover operatives were sealed away in an encryption that the portable computer couldn’t fathom, much less break. But various sites were revealed all throughout the DMZ.
Most baffling were two items that hinted at a much greater story behind them. One was that the Obsidian Order was tracking Central Command’s deep cover operatives in the Maquis. Seska barely held it together for that, but she played it cool and found comfort in the fact that no names or location were given. She was surprised to discover that Evek had doubled down and sent more undercover agents to infiltrate the Maquis than just herself. She understood the reasoning why and she was insulted by it.
The second were personnel and material transfers to the Orias system. Seska picked up on that. “You read it wrong, Riker. The Orias system is uninhabited. There nothing there but a few class D planetoids, three asteroid belts, and a number of gas giants.”
“Look at the section yourself.” Riker fought to keep the anger out of his voice.
Seska read the summaries and then shook her head. “It has to be a mistake.”
“Seska, you know as well as I do that the Order rarely makes mistakes,” Chakotay cautioned her.
Seska lasered another look Riker’s way. “Who are you going to trust? Starfleet or me?”
“I’m afraid I have to go with Tom on this one,” Chakotay admitted.
Seska stared at Riker and her eyes announced that she had just declared war. Riker was getting rather tired of it. “Look, I’ll be out of your way soon enough. Give someone else the death stare after I’m gone.” He turned back to Chakotay. “But why are they transferring all of these resources into a nowhere system?” Riker asked.
“We may never know,” Tuvok warned him. “It is logical to assume we will never gain access to a system that deep inside Cardassian space.”
“I don’t buy that,” Riker asserted. “The right people with the right ship could get there.”
“There may be a way,” Chakotay mused, “but it would take just the right commander. Maybe we’ll discuss it later.”
Riker found himself looking forward to that talk.
The Val Jean returned to Ronara Prime and the Odyssey was in orbit over the planet, waiting to transfer the Maquis’ Starfleet guests back to the Gandhi. Chakotay and Seska escorted Riker and Wren to the transporter. Seska manned the equipment and gave the pair a surly look.
“Well? Aren’t you leaving?” she demanded to know.
Riker looked at Wren and she was crestfallen. “You’re staying, aren’t you?”
“I have to,” Riker declared. “I need answers and only the Maquis can provide them.”
Wren pulled him in and fiercely kissed him. “Take care, Tom Riker. Stay lucky and don’t do anything more idiotic than this in the future.”
“I’m afraid I’ll just have to take my chances,” Riker replied.
Seska gloated over the hurt look in Wren’s eyes. It served the little Andorian strumpet right. She gleefully engaged the transporter and sent Wren back to the Odyssey.
Aboard the scoutship, Macen awaited her along with Tom Eckles, who operated the transporter. Macen looked puzzled. “Weren’t there two of you at the beginning?”
“Tom defected to the Maquis,” Wren said woefully.
“Good for him,” Eckles blurted.
Wren shot him an angry glare. Mellowing, she turned to Macen. “You’ve worked for the Maquis?”
“Is this on the record?” Macen asked, “because if it is, I’ve worked with suspected Maquis.”
“This is completely off the record,” Wren sighed.
“Then yes, I’ve worked for them at times,” Macen admitted.
“What about Chakotay?” Wren asked. “What type of person is he?”
“Meaning you want to know if Chakotay will throw Riker to the Cardassian wolves,” Macen surmised.
“Kind of,” Wren confessed.
“Chakotay is one of the movement’s best and brightest,” Macen assured her. “He’ll only send people into a situation if he thinks there’s a reasonable chance of survival.”
“That’s good,” Wren brightened.
“Be warned though,” Macen cautioned her. “reasonable is a relative term.”
Chakotay and Riker beamed back to the surface of Ronara Prime. As they exited the customs house, Kalita welcomed them. “Hello, Tom. I see you made the right choice.”
“Chakotay said you had a way of getting to the Orias system,” Riker stated.
“We have contingency plans regarding the perfect vessel for an incursion into Cardassian space,” Kalita informed him. “We could go to Orias if you want.”
“Our cell commander, Ro Laren, has a scheme of how to capture the Defiant at Deep Space Nine. Learning of your joining us, she found the perfect way of accessing the ship and stealing it.”
“How is that?” Riker wondered.
“We send you aboard,” Kalita smirked.
“That plan is dead in the water as soon as Wren gets back to the Gandhi and Halifax reports me as AWOL and with the Maquis,” Riker countered.
“Megan Halifax will stall the report for as long as humanly possible,” Chakotay promised.
“You don’t know Halifax then,” Riker opined.
“I know her very well,” Chakotay chuckled. “We went to the Academy together.”
Riker gaped so Chakotay decided to spare him the endless hours of wondering. “The Central Command has its undercover agents and we have ours. Megan’s been quietly pushing you towards joining us for months now.”
“‘Push’ isn’t the word,” Riker griped.
“Well, she had to be persuasive,” Chakotay grinned.
“She was,” Riker admitted. “Believe me, she was.”
Captain Moneii nearly hit the ceiling when she learned of Riker’s defection. She basically wanted him clapped in irons and crucified. She immediately ordered Halifax to report his status to Starfleet Command. Halifax kowtowed and went away happy.
Vallis stopped Wren as the Andorian was on her way to drown her sorrows in the crew’s lounge. Vallis was fretting. “Is it true?”
Wren sadly nodded. “Yes. Tom joined the Maquis.”
Vallis cast her a sympathetic look. “Did you ever tell him how you felt about him?”
“I gave him a major clue at the end, but he still went traipsing off to certain doom,” Wren sighed.
“I’m so sorry,” Vallis expressed.
“I’m due on Andoria in a few months anyway. My bond group wants to have a second baby. Me, I’m not so thrilled with the idea,” Wren admitted. “Why I had to be born into a four sex species is beyond me. Balancing two people’s lives together is hard enough. But four? You might as well put a phaser to your head.”
Vallis was horrified. “Don’t say that. Look, I say we eat decadent food and drink a few glasses of synthehol.”
Wren caved. “Any port in a storm.”
“That’s almost the spirit,” Vallis smiled.
As promised, Halifax camped on the report outlining Riker’s new affiliation. It wasn’t until she received an innocuous message regarding the weather on Ronara Prime that Halifax mentally decoded the underlying verbal text. Tom Riker was going to impersonate Will Riker and steal the Defiant. Kalita was backing his play so there would be two senior Maquis aboard for the mission.
Now that Halifax knew the plan was already in motion, she transmitted the report. Now no one could accuse her of not doing her duty.
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.