by Travis Anderson
Kira and Nerrit were nearly to the penal camp when explosions began to rip through the complex. It had just become visible to the naked eye when the first detonation occurred. Rather than decelerating, Nerrit gunned the engine.
“What are you doing?” Kira demanded to know.
“Do you want the prisoners to escape?” Nerrit shouted back over the road noise and the whining of the straining engine.
“No, but they’re not going anywhere while all hell is breaking loose,” Kira yelled back, “and we need to figure out what’s going on.”
“How difficult is it to figure out?” Nerrit was incredulous. “It’s a jailbreak.”
“But who is breaking prisoners out and how much support do they have?” Kira asked. “Do they have the capability to…?”
Kira suddenly lapsed and turned her head skyward. Nerrit grew impatient. “The capability to do what?”
“Do you hear that?” Kira suddenly interjected.
“Hear what?” Nerrit impatiently inquired as a crackling noise descended upon them.
An explosion ripped the ground beside the scout car apart. Nerrit wildly veered off. Kira took it with grim aplomb.
“The capability to do that,” she said with a sense of fatalism.
Nerrit course corrected and began to go forward again. Kira reached over and jerked the wheel hard over. As the scout turned, an explosion tore at the ground before the scout, exactly where it would have been if it hadn’t altered course.
“What did Starfleet teach you anyway?” Kira was angry. “Drive an evasive pattern or we’re both dead.”
“Starfleet doesn’t use ground based photon launchers anymore. They found them to be environmentally harmful,” Nerrit grated as she started wildly turning to and fro. Explosions bracketed the car.
“Well, the Cardassians weren’t so prissy,” Kira snorted. “They dropped these bastards on us every chance they got.”
“Lucky you,” Nerrit grimaced as another explosion almost flipped the scout car over. “You’re just making me more glad that I missed the…ahhh!”
The next munitions strike did indeed flip the car over. Kira braced herself and was prepared as the roll bar skidded across the rough terrain between her and the rocky soil. Unclasping her seat belt harness she ingloriously fell to the ground.
Kira knew it just a matter of seconds before the photon launcher would be realigned. Unfortunately, Nerrit seemed dazed. Kira swore as she unclasped Nerrit’s harness and began to drag the younger woman away from the car.
Hearing the distinctive sizzle of the photon mortar, she sheltered Nerrit with her body as the scout was destroyed. Kira suddenly heard coughing from underneath her. “I know we’ve just met and all, but don’t you think it’s a little early in our relationship to try bedding me?”
Kira raised up and backhanded Nerrit’s shoulder. “What the kost? You can joke at a time like this?”
“Never a better one,” Nerrit opined. She sat up as Kira leaned back on her haunches. “Bloody hell. I don’t think we’ll be making a difference in the prison break.”
“Didn’t Starfleet teach you how to march?” Kira asked derisively.
Nerrit groaned, “Yes, they did.”
“Then get on your feet!” Kira ordered, “and while we’re running, call in air support.”
Nerrit winced as she stood but she gamely followed the Major as Kira began a paced run towards the penal camp. Despite their irregular route, they’d actually closed most of the distance. They were close enough to witness a scout car, identical to their destroyed one, pull up at the camp’s gates.
Two figures emerged from the camp while one of the two aboard the scout laid down suppressive fire. Kira recognized the man coming out as Tahna Los. The raven haired female that everyone seemed to defer to was unknown to her. The scout car was driven by a woman, little more than a girl, with violet hair. She wheeled the scout around and went back into the foothills from which the mortar fire had erupted.
When Kira and Nerrit reached the gates to the Belava labor camp, they found them shattered by a photon discharge. Pockets of burning debris littered the courtyard. There were also still two ground cars still intact. Phaser fire could be heard resounding throughout the compound. A rather disheveled corporal approached Kira and Nerrit.
“State your purpose here!” he challenged.
“To catch your escapees,” Kira snapped. “Do those ground cars require pass keys?”
“Er…no,” the corporal managed to say.
“This time, I drive,” Kira declared to Nerrit.
“Feel free,” Nerrit flippantly replied.
As Kira made way to the foothills, Militia interceptors flew by overhead. Kira tapped her comm badge. “Flight Lead, this is Major Kira Nerys. I am in pursuit of the fugitives. Do you have eyes on them?”
“We have eyes on a vehicle, Major,” Flight Lead responded. “There also seems to be abandoned weapon mounts for photon launchers. No bodies or life signs are present.”
“Can you give me their coordinates, Lead?” Kira requested.
“Affirmative,” Lead recited the geographic coordinates and then spoke again. “Flight Two and I will stay on station in case it’s ambush.”
“Thanks, Lead,” Kira acknowledged.
She drove on, utilizing the planetary satellite system the Cardassians had deployed overhead to track the movements of the Bajoran people. Movements outside of regulated zones had attracted a military response. It had nearly crippled the Resistance. Bur Kira herself had been part of the solution that had deactivated the system before the withdrawal. Since the Cardassians left, the Bajorans had reactivated portions of the worldwide net, primarily using it as a global positioning network.
Following the path laid out by the satellite monitors, Kira honed in on her quarry. She signaled the flight leader again. “Lead, can you and Two give me a situation report on the perimeter?”
“Affirmative, Major,” Lead replied. “There is no movement and no life signs beyond your own. You should come upon the vehicle and the weapons emplacement inside of five minutes.”
“Roger that, Lead, they’re in sight,” Kira confirmed. “Please stay on station while we investigate the scene.”
“Copy, Major,” Lead replied. “Be advised, Special Forces units are en route to your position. A Constable Odo requests you secure the scene, but await him and a Constabulary forensics team to conduct the investigation.”
Kira smiled. “Inform Constable Odo I would be delighted to.”
“Major,” Odo acknowledged his reunion with Kira in his usual gruff way.
But Kira wasn’t fooled. Now that Odo had an active crime scene, he wasn’t as reserved with her. In fact, things were normalizing.
“Good to see you, Odo,” Kira said warmly. To give Odo credit, he didn’t wince or even respond to her statement outwardly. But she thought she saw a glimmer of pain in his eyes that wasn’t there before his meeting with the Founder. She wanted to comfort him somehow but he spoke before she could.
“Special Forces has locked down the penal camp,” Odo said briskly. “Perhaps you and Lt. Nerrit could take charge of discovering who broke Tahna Los out.”
“You knew?” Kira wasn’t surprised.
“The camp is run by the Constabulary. They are very good to talking to one of their own,” Odo revealed. “They’re expecting you.”
“Okay, we’ll get out of your way,” Kira remarked.
“That would be appreciated,” Odo admitted.
Nerrit was a bit ruffled, but she saw Kira’s smile and wrote it off. The ride back to the camp was a silent one. Kira saw a cordon around the prison composed of bodies in gray uniforms.
“I hadn’t realized there were so many Special Forces officers,” Kira admitted.
“There are more all the time,” Nerrit confessed.
“What exactly do you all do?” Kira wondered.
Nerrit smirked, “Now that would be telling.”
The warden brought Kira and Nerrit into a surveillance room. Several stations were occupied by techs frantically trying to get the system back up. The warden gave Kira and Nerrit a pained look.
“The last photon round detonated near our computer core. The core is a salvaged Cardassian model stripped from a labor camp,” he explained.
“At east it won’t forget anything,” Kira remarked. “Federation models can be overwritten by power surges.”
Suddenly the stations came to life. The warden brought them to a young Constabulary tech. “This is Tech Sergeant Tan. He’ll help you retrieve the data you require.”
The warden bustled off to further his crisis management efforts. Kira looked at Tan. “Aren’t you a little young to be doing this?”
“Weren’t you a little young to join the Resistance?” Tan fired back.
“Point taken,” Kira relented. “Show us who broke Tahna Los out.”
And the visual recorders began their playback.
Odo arrived at the penal camp to find Nerrit in the front office waiting for him. He studied her as he asked, “Why aren’t you with Major Kira?”
“I sort of refused to give the Major the details of the deal between the Militia and Tahna Los,” Nerrit confessed. “At that point, the Major threatened to ‘blow my head off’ if I didn’t wait for you to arrive.”
“Heh,” Odo was definitely amused. “That sounds like Kira.”
He paused and then queried Nerrit as to why she didn’t specify that the deal with Tahna Los was strictly Special Forces’ purview. She shrugged. “Does it make a real difference?”
“It might,” Odo warned her. “Now take me to Kira.”
The assorted techs were doing busy work as they monitored the Special Forces’ efforts to assist the site’s Constabulary members as they restored order. The military’s intervention had saved the camp from being overrun by the prisoners — a fact that the Constabulary wouldn’t forget even if the Special Forces leadership would allow it.
Nerrit brought Odo to Kira. He noted that she was displeased. Kira spotted Odo and tried to smile. It seemed more like a rictus to Odo.
“Major, I came when I could,” Odo assured her.
“I’m just glad you were able to come at all, Odo,” Kira confessed. “Sgt. Tan has spliced together the footage across the camp of the mastermind of this little escapade. I was hoping you could identify her.”
“I’ll certainly try,” Odo promised.
“Run the footage, Sergeant,” Kira instructed.
Tan tapped a control and the mysterious Bajoran woman’s arrival at the front gates was displayed. Odo grunted. “Ro Laren.”
“You’re certain?” Kira wondered. She’d heard the name from Chief O’Brien and Commander Sisko, but she’d never had a face to put to it.
“Excuse me, but who is ‘Ro Laren’?” Nerrit asked.
“You probably know a helluva lot more about her than I do,” Kira told Odo.
Odo related the facts. “Lt. Ro Laren is an AWOL member of Starfleet. Before leaving the Bajor Sector, Ro joined the Resistance at age eleven, which was practically unheard of, even amongst the various cells.Ensign Ro was convicted in the unintentional deaths of fellow officer due to her culpability from disobeying direct orders. She was later released and posted aboard the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.”
Nerrit was surprised and it showed. “But why would she be here, breaking Tahna out?”
“Because after completing Starfleet’s advanced tactical training, then-Lt. Ro abandoned Starfleet and joined the Maquis. It is rumored she is the cell leader on Ronara Prime,” Odo shared.
“And Tahna is a member of the Kohn Ma, which are in turn affiliated with the Maquis,” Kira reminded Nerrit.
“So we need to return to Ashalla,” Nerrit voiced. “We can direct the Constabulary’s planetwide manhunt from there.”
“Oh, we’re going to Ashalla,” Kira assured Nerrit, “but then Odo and I are returning to Deep Space Nine.”
“But Colonel Hassup ordered you to debrief Tahna,” Nerrit protested.
“And I will,” Kira promised her.
Nerrit seemed confused so Kira refrained from rolling her eyes as she explained, “Do you really think someone as clever and resourceful as Ro is going to stay on Bajor if she has a way out of the star system? The Kohn Ma are supposedly based on Valo II. Valo II was ceded into the Federation’s Demilitarized Zone with Cardassia. Do I have to go on, or can you start putting the pieces together for yourself?”
“Very well, but I’m coming with you,” Nerrit insisted.
“Suit yourself,” Kira sighed. “Just stay out of the way.
The Orinoco docked at DS9 and Eddington met the trio at the landing bay. “Colonel Hassup has been calling for you, Major. He sounds quite put out.”
“He’ll be more put out after I talk to him,” Kira predicted.
She took the message in the security office while Nerrit stood by and Odo conferred with Eddington and his own ranking deputy, Sgt Bit Henna. As Kira had said, Hassup was more aggravated after she’d briefed him as to her progress. But Hassup still stubbornly clung to one complaint after everything had been said.
“Why did you leave Bajor, Major?” Hassup demanded to know.
“As I explained to Lt. Nerrit,” Kira grated, “Ro and Tahna won’t be on Bajor. They’ll be headed for the DMZ.”
“Then why the hell are you currently on Deep Space Nine?” Hassup growled.
“Because I haven’t been fully briefed. Have I, Colonel?” Kira said at long last.
Hassup suddenly looked as though he’d licked a sour jumja stick. “No, you haven’t.”
“Would you like to come clean, Colonel?” Kira pointedly inquired.
“Lt. Nerrit will dole out the facts as you need them, Major. Just find Tahna.” Hassup’s image disappeared.
“Well?” Kira asked Nerrit.
“You don’t need any information yet,” Nerrit declared.
Kira debated on popping Nerrit one just for good measure. She turned to Odo and Eddington as they approached. “Anything?”
“As I was telling Odo, I ran a list of the ships that departed from Bajor and logged in a course to the DMZ,” Eddington stated. “I also pulled up Ro Laren’s service jacket.”
He handed a PADD to Kira and one to Odo. He shrugged at Nerrit. “I wasn’t told you’d be involved, Lieutenant.”
“I’ll just peer over Major Kira’s shoulder,” Nerrit predicted. Kira glared at her and she backed off. Odo did the same and she sighed, “Or maybe not.”
“This Ro Laren seems like an insubordinate, headstrong, risk taker,” Kira finally commented after digesting the personnel file.
“You should appreciate her then,” Odo commented.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kira asked a little too sharply.
“I think he’s trying to say it takes one to know one,” Eddington offered. Kira shot him a glare that silenced him.
“Was that your opinion as well, Constable?” Kira wanted to know.
“To a degree,” Odo admitted. As Kira huffed, Odo explained his reasoning. “You have to admit, this Ro does emulate you in many ways. You have similar histories; you both have an affinity for independent action, and you both seem to have a disregard for authority. That implies that you should have an insight into Lt. Ro’s mentality.”
Kira was pacified but it was Nerrit that spoke next. “All I know is I wouldn’t want to meet Ro in a dark alley.”
“What do you mean?” Eddington inquired.
“Check this out, Commander.” Kira called up the Militia file containing Ro’s entrance into the prison compound.
Ro sedately passed the gates and accessed the cell blocks. She was brought into a solitary room with a table placed in the center of it. Two chairs were placed at the table to either side. They faced either entrance. One entrance was for visitors and the other for prisoners.
The prisoner door opened and Tahna was roughly herded inside. He sized up Ro and sat down. However, Ro remained standing. As the two guards escorting Tahna took their places at the back wall, the pair of guards with Ro did the same.
Ro gave Tahna a nod and he fell from his chair onto the floor. She swung a chair off of the floor and hurled it at a guard. A guard behind Ro came at her. A high mule kick landed in the guard’s chest and she went flying backwards.
The other guard near Tahna had his phaser drawn and aimed at his prisoner. The fourth guard dove at Ro. She slipped out of his grasp and helped redirect his momentum so that he went into the table. The table slid forward and smacked into Tahna’s guard.
That guard found himself thrown off his feet. Tahna had hold of his phaser and stunned the other guard, who shucked off the chair and then Tahna fired at the disarmed guard. Meanwhile, Ro slammed the sprawled guard’s head off the table and then wheeled on the woman rushing her.
Ro used the heel of her hand to smash the woman’s nose. Even with the vestigial bones protecting her upper nasal passages, the woman still teared up as the softer portion of her nose was smashed. Blood flowed and she staggered back.
But there was no respite to be found there. Ro’s round kick drove into the woman’s ribs and a violent chop to the back of the guard’s neck put her down for good. Ro pulled that guard’s phaser free from her holster and fired a phaser burst into the guard extracting himself from the table.
Ro disabled Tahna’s cuffs and then collected three of the Militia issued phasers. She tucked one into her waistband and held the other two. Tahna protested but Ro cut him off with a lashing motion of her hand. Tahna then went to the visitor’s door. Ro moved to it as well but shot the locking mechanism. She then moved Tahna back to the door he’d entered from and they slipped out into the prison facility.
The scenes that followed were of pure chaos and carnage. Ro was very careful not to kill anyone, but crippling strikes were not beneath her. She used an overloaded phaser to breach the outer wall while Tahna liberated his fellow prisoners.
Ro fought her way outside while Tahna trailed her. They’d made it to the courtyard when the photon munitions began raining down. It was obvious from the timing that a spotter had seen them and authorized the weapons fire. By the time the pair made it to the gate, the Cardassian scout car driven by Ro’s rescuers. One was now revealed as a human while the other was roughly human in appearance, save that she had violet hair, which could prove an affectation, but she also had bone ridge over her nose that descended slightly down its length. It was vaguely Bajoran in appearance in all the disturbing ways.
As Ro’s party disappeared, Eddington said, “That was…very impressive.”
“Very,” Kira said dryly. “Would Starfleet happen to know anything about the human that played vehicle gunner and the whatever the hell she is that was driving?”
Eddington mulled it over. To some it would have seemed he was searching his memory. Odo knew differently.
“Commander Eddington, I can access the criminal action reports and find their identities easily enough,” Odo reminded him. “You’d simply save me time and aggravation.”
“The human’s name is Aric Tulley,” Eddington relented. “He’s originally from Haldos II, which is now in the DMZ. Before he left Haldos in a forced relocation, the Cardassian Guard executed his wife and children to ‘persuade’ him to go. He, in turn, sought out the Maquis on Ronara Prime. He now acts as Ro’s security chief.”
“And the woman?” Kira inquired.
Eddington shrugged. “There’s not much to say.”
“There has to be something,” Kira grated.
“Rumors only,” Eddington clarified. “Some claim her name is ‘Alea.’ Others call her something else. The only consistency is the violet hair.”
“Is she a Boslic or something else?” Kira wanted to know.
“Oh, she’s something else entirely,” Eddington stated.
“Could you tell us where she’s from then?” Kira was losing patience with the Starfleet officer.
“We don’t know.” Eddington saw Kira’s annoyed glare and he held up his hands. “Major, Bajor is on the very edge of explored space. Most of the Alpha Quadrant is uncharted. If it weren’t for the wormhole, we’d be concentrating on venturing out from Bajor out into local unexplored space.”
“This ‘Alea’ may come from those regions. All we know is that she suddenly appeared in the DMZ and she seems to serve as Ro’s intelligence officer. But even that is speculation,” Eddington revealed. “Where Alea came from is a mystery. What she’s doing in local space, particularly the DMZ, is unknown. Frankly, she’s a thorn in our side on many levels.”
“So with Ro and her cohorts involved, the question becomes: Why is Tahna Los valuable to the Maquis?” Odo interjected.
Everyone followed his gaze as it fell on Nerrit. She gulped.
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