by Travis Anderson
Wren rushed up to the door. It was an old-fashioned hinged affair. It looked heavy since it had an outer layer of armor. Halifax drew to the left side and aimed her phaser at the doorway. Wren used her own weapon to shoot the deadbolt lock. Turning the knob, she pushed the door slightly ajar.
She did a five count and then reared back and kicked the door open, right into the face of an Acamarian waiting on the other side. Wren shoved him aside and went for the Klingon that lurked behind him. The Klingon posed a greater threat than the Acamarian, who was still struggling to clear his eyes as they watered from the abuse his nose had just taken.
The Klingon readied himself as Wren approached. He wasn’t wearing House armor. Rather, he was garbed in a utilitarian jumpsuit.
Wren slammed the palm of her hand into his nose. The Klingon staggered back and Wren pressed her momentary advantage. She placed a sidekick into his solar plexus and he convulsively blew out the air in his lungs.
A remote part of Wren’s mind analyzed her foe. He had a moderate amount of skill — enough to have been a conscript with the Klingon Defense Force. But he lacked armor and any sign of Imperial insignia, which made him a dishonored renegade of some kind.
She tried a round kick to his ribs but the Klingon blocked the blow. Wren tried a follow through punch but he blocked that as well. He surprised her by using the same hand to throw a jab into her mouth. Her lip split and dark indigo blood began trickling down her powder blue face. Knowing that she didn’t have a moment to waste, she forewent wiping the blood off.
Instead of continuing her frontal assault, Wren dove into a slide tackle and took the Klingon’s legs out with a scissor kick. The Klingon went down, but he caught himself with his hands. She used her left arm to swipe his hands out from underneath him. As he collided face first with the floor, she continued her motion and brought her left arm up above his head and smashed his face back into the floor just as he lifted his head.
She scrambled to her feet as he got to his hands and knees. Reeling back her leg, she kicked him in the ribs for all she was worth. She repeated the move three more times. She heard bones breaking but she didn’t relent. His head was merely hanging when she focused all of her energy to a shot on his face. His head snapped back and then fell to the ground as his body collapsed in a heap. Wren straddled his chest and began to pound his face.
Riker had been dealing with bruised Acamarian during this time. The Acamarian threw a punch and Riker blocked it. His own punch connected. The Acamarian stumbled back. Riker threw a body blow. The Acamarian dropped his defenses so Riker jabbed his face. The defenses came up, so Riker followed up with another body shot. The defenses came down, but this time, they hung heavily. Riker placed a right cross to maximum effect.
Riker shoved the Acamarian to the floor and zip tied his hands behind his back. A screech outside announced the arrival of a wheeled transport. A Nallorite led a ragtag group of armed gunmen through the gates. They were headed for the front door and Halifax wheeled into motion.
“Riker! You and Vallis will find and decommission any weapons that may be stored here. Wren and I will hold them off for as long as we can,” Halifax ordered.
Riker hesitated and Halifax got in his face. “Go!”
He grabbed Vallis and the hurried down the hallway. Wren took up position behind the armored door.
“Now this should be fun,” she said dryly.
“Do you really think the isolytic weapons are here?” Halifax suddenly asked.
Wren wore a whimsical expression. “If not, then we owe these people a hell of an apology.”
Halifax had just enough time to consider that before the first particle beam sizzled through the air. She ordered Wren to return fire and they held the newcomers at the gate.
Riker flipped his tricorder open and it immediately detected subspace radiation. Vallis looked at the displays. “Found anything?”
“Yes, just further down,” he answered.
They reached a set of double doors and opened them to reveal what would have once been a ballroom. Now it was filled with cargo pods. The Precarious had brought three pods with it, which brought the total present here to twelve.
She gave him a horrified look. “How will we…?”
Riker grinned, “We’ll just have to work that much faster.”
Vallis began to wonder if he’d lost his mind while he spent those eight years all alone.
“I’m glad you opted to see reason, Gul Ocett,” Moneii said as she gazed upon the Cardassian woman’s features captured on her desktop display.
“Thank Central Command,” Ocett replied drolly. “They saw the peace treaty as being more important than my mission.”
Moneii noted that Ocett left out exactly what her mission was. Whether it was the official “survey” mission or the suspected collection of the isolytic weapons, it remained unsaid. Moneii wasn’t about to openly accuse Ocett in the name of the same peace that the Cardassian had just alluded to.
“You will be sending us your course and intended speed?” Moneii was careful to present it as a request rather than a demand.
Ocett wore a thin smile. “My officers have already alerted your bridge crew. After all, we wouldn’t want to lose our minders.”
Moneii offered a grim smile in return. “Just consider us your map in case you get lost again and can’t manage to find the border on your own.”
“And I suppose you’ll be staying on station inside of the Hadon system for a time just to ensure that I don’t return?” Ocett ventured.
“Wouldn’t you?” Moneii replied evenly.
“Of course,” Ocett allowed, “but you can’t stay here indefinitely. What if an emergency occurs elsewhere and demands your attention?”
“Then I would suggest that no traces of such an event lead to you,” Moneii warned.
“Of course,” Ocett said silkily. “I have alerted your crew of our intention to depart in five of your minutes. Perhaps we’ll speak further during our journey?”
“Perhaps,” Moneii allowed. “Until then…”
The Starfleet captain terminated the transmission and headed out of her Ready Room to the bridge. “Mr. Boerhoven, stand by to make way.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said as he vacated the captain’s chair.
“Be ready for an ‘unexpected’ emergency to arise,” Moneii advised.
“You think the Cardassians are going to try and pull us away?” Boerhoven asked.
“They’re certainly going to try,” Moneii chuckled, “but Starfleet Command is putting all border patrol vessels on alert. If the Cardassians so much as sneeze wrong, they’ll have a ring of starships around them.”
Boerhoven chuckled. “It would serve them right.”
Moneii arched an eyebrow. “Do I detect a note of vindictiveness?”
“Did you ever serve on the line during the Border Wars?” Boerhoven inquired.
“No, but I did see action against the Tzenkethi,” she said ruefully.
“There are certain similarities between their brands of xenophobia, but where the Tzenkethi want to establish genetic control and domination of every form of life by turning everything into themselves, the Cardassians want to conquer everyone and place themselves as demigods over every other culture,” Boerhoven related to her.
“I think that’s a gross oversimplification,” Moneii chided him.
“Maybe, but it’s a hard won opinion,” Boerhoven protested.
“I’d keep opinions like that to yourself in your new posting,” Moneii advised. “Ship’s XO’s can’t be seen having such racist views. You’re lucky I think you’ll outgrow this absurd opinion or I’d report you to Captain Remick and you might find yourself XO of a ferry tug instead.”
“Duly noted,” he said defiantly. Opting to change the subject, he asked, “Any word from Megan and her team?”
Moneii gave him a curious look. “I thought you and Commander Halifax were on the outs. I expedited your transfer and promotion because of that fact.”
Boerhoven looked pained. “I don’t have anything against Megan. At least not professionally. There were some personal issues that couldn’t be resolved, but I didn’t allow them to interfere with my duties.”
“That’s what she said about herself too,” Moneii mused. “Regardless of how you two thought you were performing, the truth is that you were both affecting performance of the bridge crew. Even moving you to Beta watch didn’t help. So, I foisted you off onto someone else’s lap.”
Boerhoven hesitated and then plunged ahead. “So you’re saying you don’t think I’m ready to be XO yet?”
Moneii’s eyes bored into his. “Mister, if you think I’d jeopardize another command just to alleviate a minor problem with my own, you have another thing coming.”
“Understood, ma’am,” Boerhoven said briskly. “So I take that to mean that there has been no word.”
Moneii sighed. “No. Not a peep.”
“Hold your fire!” a voice called out from the gate. “I’d like to parlay.”
Wren looked to Halifax, who nodded. “Advance and be recognized. And know this: If you make one misstep, I will blow your damn head off.”
The Nallorite stepped forward and straightened his tie. He was dressed in an Iotian suit, circa 2266. He even had a fedora canted on his brow. The grey pinstripe of his suit made his ebon skin stand out even more. As he approached, his ivory teeth seemed to practically shine in contrast to the obsidian-like face.
He reached the porch and Halifax spoke to him. “That’s close enough.”
“If you’ll give me a moment of your time, perhaps we can make an accommodation,” he said. “Captain Halifax, my name is Mercel. I am the local representative for the concern that has a vested interest in the items stored within this structure.”
“First off, it’s Commander Halifax of Starfleet. Second, are you perchance referring to the isolytic warheads inside the house?” Halifax retorted.
His pearlescent teeth shone again. “It seems you know more about our merchandise than I do.”
“Yeah right,” Halifax snorted. “Do your employers happen to go by the title the ‘Orion Syndicate?’”
He chuckled, “My employers prefer their anonymity.”
“I bet they do,” Halifax quipped. “Are they aware that dealing in weapons of mass destruction can earn them life without parole on a penal colony?”
“Commander, let’s be reasonable,” Mercel pleaded. “I can assure you that these items will never be used against the Federation.”
“How can you promise that?” Halifax wondered.
“It was a condition of the sale,” Mercel revealed. “Now, we have already received an advance up front. I’ve been authorized to release a portion of those funds to you and your crew if you just walk away. Think about it: You get a ship of your own, and not just a scut freighter. Why, there might even be opportunities for a ship’s captain like yourself in our organization if you choose wisely.”
“I’ll pass,” Halifax decided.
“I’d suggest you reconsider,” Mercel suddenly urged. There was a hint of menace in his voice now. “The alternative is to face down my people, and we vastly outnumber you. Even if you survive the first incursion by these hapless fellows, I have more readily available. We won’t take prisoners and we won’t stop until every last one of you is dead or dying.”
“Why don’t you just wander back to your safe place behind your gunmen and go to hell?” Halifax wondered.
Mercel shrugged his shoulders. “Have it your way.”
As the Nallorite trudged back to the gate, Wren turned to Halifax. “Are you sure that was the wisest move?”
Halifax was aghast. “You can’t seriously be tempted by his offer?”
“No, but playing along may have bought us some time and reinforcements,” Wren explained. “My power pack is nearly drained and I can’t imagine yours is any better off.”
Halifax checked her power indicator. “Damn.”
“I’ll back your play, but I need to know what it is,” Wren assured her.
“We hold as long as we can and then we fight hand-to-hand with any of those idiots that make it inside,” Halifax ordered. “We need to give Riker and Vallis time to disarm the isolytics.”
“Aye ma’am,” Wren said with as much enthusiasm as she could muster, which wasn’t a lot. And frankly, Halifax couldn’t blame her.
“I can’t do it!” Vallis declared as she pulled back away from the second isolytic warhead. “We don’t have enough time!”
Riker put his hands on her shoulders as he sat beside her. She turned to face him and he could see the raw panic in her eyes. He had to stabilize the situation, and fast!
“Look, you wanted your individuality, so you left the only home you ever knew and entered a wider galaxy. That galaxy was filled with more diversity that you even could have dreamt of, but you adapted. You entered Starfleet, wanted to graduate the Academy in two years, and you did it,” Riker reassured her. “You just have to want this that badly.”
She stared into his eyes, saw the confidence he had in her, and settled down. She swallowed hard and nodded. “Okay. I can do this.”
“I know you can,” he insisted. “Just pick up your tools and start again.”
“This would go faster if I had some help,” she admitted. “You have a tool pouch as well, right?”
They both wore tool belts with a basic assortment of equipment. He smirked, “You know I do.”
“Then pay attention.” She guided him through a disarmament and the watched as he did one on his own. She smiled. “You’re a quick study. You’ll do fine.”
“How about I race you?” he suggested. “Three are already disarmed. That leaves nine and you’ve disconnected two and I managed one. That leaves six between us. First one done buys the other one a drink at Grimshaws.”
Intrigued, she smiled. “You’re on.”
Filled with newfound determination, they both went to work.
Halifax fired, pressed the actuation stud and nothing happened. She shook her phaser and turned to Wren, “Dammit! I’m out.”
Wren jostled hers as well. “Looks like I am, too.”
“We’d best set up our ambush points. These idiots will be on us in a few minutes,” Halifax suggested.
They retreated down the hallway. Wren tested a door on the right and it opened. It seemed to be a multimedia room of some kind. She left the door wide open and pressed up against the wall on the other side of the doorway.
Halifax went a little further so they’d be staggered and tried a door. It opened into a den with an old-fashioned library filled with aged books. She thought there must have been a fortune in manuscripts in there.
Shouts announced the arrival of the gunmen. Neither Wren nor Halifax had ever gotten a good look at how many they’d stunned. The whole criminal gang could be ambulatory and coming through the front door for all they knew.
Heavy footfalls sounded throughout the hall as the gunmen approached. They heard doors opening and the footfalls seemed to decrease as doors opened. Wren guessed there were three of them as they began to pass by her doorway.
A Talarian entered the room she occupied and called for the lights. Wren launched herself at him as the lights came up. She inverted the wrist of his gun hand and he cried out in pain. A pair of footfalls came back to the doorway.
Wren stayed close to the Talarian as she pulled his disruptor out of his hand. Unfortunately for her, he still had enough presence of mind to knock the pistol from her hands. She was simply aware of the fact the other gunman was missing from the doorway. Ascertaining that he wasn’t in the room with her, she grabbed hold of the Talarians’s arms and swept his legs out from underneath him.
Wren clamped an arm bar on the Talarian and pushed him down face first into the floor. She wrapped her free arm around his throat and choked off his airway. Knowing it took longer for a Talarian to succumb to such a move, she maintained the hold for ninety seconds and he slipped away into unconsciousness. Afterwards, she bound his wrists behind his back with one of her last zip ties. Retrieving the disruptor, she went to check on Halifax.
While Wren engaged the Talarian, Halifax came out of the den at a dead run and shoulder checked the Bajoran who’d been trying to enter. Halifax was almost surprised to discover the Bajoran was female. So far this had been a “men’s only” club of crooks.
Seeing that another Bajoran stood in front of Wren’s hidey hole, she twisted the woman in front of her as the man targeted her. Particle beams struck the Bajoran woman in the back. Halifax was horrified to see the life die out of the Bajoran’s eyes yet she was also grateful that it wasn’t her.
She threw the body at the gunman and dove into the den. The other Bajoran uttered several oaths that Halifax assumed were curses in his native tongue. He ran to the den’s doorway and unleashed dozens of shots into it. The smell of burnt leather and parchment filled the air. Fires started on the bookshelves and the fire retardant system activated.
As a hazy mist filled the space, the Bajoran called for the lights. Halifax chose that moment to make her move. She came into the Bajoran and kneed him in the groin. He went down with a gurgle and she picked up his abandoned disruptor and shot him in each arm and leg. She figured that would keep him busy and out of the way.
Halifax went to the doorway. Leaning against the frame furthest away from the front door, she spotted Wren down the hall. She’d been tucked into a move opposite of Halifax’s, trying to peer into the den. Halifax gave her a thumbs up. Wren flashed the same gesture.
Wren looked at her weapon’s power indicator. It read that it a third of a charge left. Apparently the Talarian was a tad trigger happy. She flashed Halifax three fingers.
Halifax checked her charge. She was only half empty. She returned five fingers to Wren. The Andorian nodded. She jerked her thumb towards the manor’s entrance and then gave Halifax a five count. The commander knew she meant there were five foes that had cleared their rooms and were now approaching them.
Wren help up three fingers and nodded towards her hand. Halifax nodded her agreement. They’d go on her three count. Halifax counted off slowly and then she and Wren opened fire on the gunmen cloistered in the hallway.
Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.