by Travis Anderson
A few routine months went by before the Maquis saw action. Increasingly boring patrols were finally punctuated with a little excitement. It seemed that the drop off in piracy was a temporary measure owing in large part to the pirates’ general lack of resolve in facing an armed opponent. But with the inclusion of the Breen into Dominion’s camp, patrols around Free Haven, the Bajoran colony closest to the Breen Confederacy’s borders, were stepped up.
The day’s patrol began simply enough. Sito and Riker manned the refitted Peregrine-class courier Razorcatand were running scans of Free Haven’s near-space as they approached the colony world itself. Riker manned ops because his specialty ran in that direction and Sito was an inspired pilot. She’d finally told him about being a part of the elite Nova squad during her days in the Academy. She also told the torrid story of how she’d been disqualified from the team and had her flight status revoked.
Running a few light years behind the fighter craft was Ro’s “flagship,” the Maquis raider registered as theIndomitable. While the raider was more heavily armed, the courier had better sensors, so the Razorcat had pushed out ahead to scout around and warn the larger Indie of trouble.
Orions, Acamarians, and Cardassians had started harassing local shipping. Riker jovially referred to them as “freebooters.” Sito just drolly asked him one question.
“Why do people on your planet romanticize pirates?” she wondered.
“The spirit of freedom. No one telling you how to live — just setting sail and tacking into the wind in search of plunder,” Riker waxed poetic.
“They’re rapists, murderers, and thieves,” Sito said with a hint of danger. “Do you really want to go there with me?”
Riker fell silent and finally Sito sighed, “I can see now why you were drawn to the Maquis. You’re a romantic. A romantic idiot but a romantic nonetheless.”
Sito paused before asking, “Your twin is very rule oriented. What happened to you?”
“I spent eight years alone on Nervalla IV. I depended on me, myself, and I alone for survival,” Riker reminded her.
“You were all alone?” Sito smirked.
“For eight years,” Riker stressed.
“Then you must have become your own best friend.” Sito was having a hard time keeping a straight face.
Riker wondered where she was leading with that and said as much. Sito used the jerking motion eponymous with male masturbation and Riker scowled. “Very funny.”
“Oh come on, Tom,” Sito laughed. “We were in prison for two years together and you never once mentioned a woman to go back to. Was there anyone or do you prefer men?”
“I prefer women,” Riker grated, “but there haven’t been anything but fly by night encounters since I left Nervalla.”
Riker waited and then thrust the question back in her face. “What about you?”
“What about me?” Sito asked innocently.
“Any lovers in the Academy or aboard the Enterprise?” Riker posed the inquiry, “What about at Letau?”
“Tom, every member of the guard contingent was my so-called lover at one point or another, usually while being held down by two or three others waiting their turn,” Sito said angrily.
“I don’t know what to say,” Riker admitted.
“Neither do I,” Sito confessed, “but I’m coming to grips with it.”
Riker could tell by every cue she radiated and displayed that she was far, far and away from coming to grips with it. “Is that why you didn’t go back to Starfleet? They put in the Cardassian’s reach again while you were in harm’s way?”
“Mostly,” Sito shared. “That and I couldn’t watch your back if I’m aboard a starship or starbase.”
Riker was stunned. “I never wanted you to derail your career for me.”
“I haven’t,” Sito divulged. “I’ve just altered my career vector.”
“Jaxa, you’re not in love with me, are you?” Riker suddenly blurted.
It was the wrong question. Sito was instantly insulted. While Riker was glad to discover her feelings were strictly platonic, he was also a little let down.
“You spent eight years on Nervalla. I grew up on Valo II during the Occupation. In the Valo system, the three colonies leaned on each other for support just to survive. We grew up relying on the person next to us in a way that transcended love, duty, or honor. We trusted those around us with our very lives. Starfleet tries to teach that, but practical experience does the job better,” Sito said archly. “That’s what I thought we shared.”
“We do,” Riker desperately assured her. “Consider the matter dropped.”
“Good,” Sito huffed.
Alarms sounded in the cockpit and Riker locked his board down. He began scrolling over the communication burst that had come in. “It’s an SOS.”
“From whom?” Sito was suddenly all business.
“A freighter scheduled to be departing Free Haven.” Riker perused the flight plan logs. “It’s a convoy of six ships.”
“Did they send an ID on the attackers?” Sito was already boosting their warp factor.
“A Breen freighter that’s armed to the teeth,” Riker winced.
“A Q-ship,” Sito grimaced.
Q-ships were civilian vessels boasting military-grade armaments. This was frequently done illegally by civilians for defense or by government forces for covert actions. Others were equipped for blatantly illegal acts. The Breen in question qualified under the latter.
The Breen often times captured ships and took the crew and passengers as slaves for mining operations and other hazardous duties. The captured cargos were just a bonus along the way. Free Haven had been threatened by the Breen before, so the act wasn’t unexpected.
“Call it in,” Sito advised Riker.
Riker conferred with Ro. The Indomitable was already travelling at its max speed of warp five. She ordered the Razorcat to push ahead, so Sito pushed the small craft to its maximum emergency speed of warp eight.
The Razorcat dropped out of warp at the edge of the Free Haven system and then proceeded on at maximum impulse. Riker reported that the Bajoran freighters were crippled but they were still generating enough electrostatic shielding to prevent transporters from penetrating the ships, so the Breen hadn’t boarded the civilian vessels yet. And now the brunt of the Breen’s sensors were aimed at the oncoming Federation courier.
“The Breen ships’ shields just went up,” Riker read off his sensor display. “I’ve released weapons to your control.”
“Weapons, aye,” Sito replied matter-of-factly.
The targeting grid overlapped her navigational sensor display and the cockpit before her projected a smart display mirroring her displays. The armed courier possessed two pulse phaser emitters and six photon microtorpedoes.
While the Maquis had retrofitted the Peregrine-class couriers in their inventory during their struggle with the Cardassians, they’d never been able to field any as well stocked as they could now. The Bajoran Militia’s funding insured that the torpedo magazines were fully stocked and the phaser banks had been updated to the latest technology available to the Bajorans.
“Phasers locked,” Sito announced. “Sing out if they get hostile.”
Alarms sounded from the ops panel and Riker wore a rueful grin. “That count?”
“Q-ships can be tricky,” Sito recalled. “They rarely use standardized armaments.”
“Now they’ve locked a primary weapon emitter onto us and its charging and it…” Riker frowned. “What the hell?”
Sito paired the readout to the center console between pilot and operations officer. “Oh hell.”
“What?” Riker was suddenly worried. Sito rarely sounded this worried.
“They just armed an isokinetic cannon,” Sito revealed. “It’ll finish charging in ten seconds.”
“A what?” Riker was oblivious to that tech.
“Hold on,” Sito grimaced as she slowed so she could engage in a strafing run along the Breen’s dorsal plane. The Razorcat flew past the Q-ship’s aft quarter.
“Okay, we have a chance to talk while they try to realign the cannon,” Sito breathed.
Riker recognized that Sito was setting up an approach to attack the armed freighter’s starboard side. “What is an isokinetic cannon and why are you worried about it?”
“Worried may be an overstatement,” Sito protested.
“Jaxa, I’ve seen you face down Nausicaans armed with shivs barehanded and you didn’t break half the sweat you’re building right now,” Riker argued.
Sito scowled as she began a second strafing run on the Breen ship. “Damn it. We’re barely touching them.”
“Let me prep a tachyon burst to force their shields to remodulate.” Riker began punching commands into his console. “Meanwhile, talk.”
“Some Beta Quadrant merchants travelled to the Alpha Quadrant with weapons tech they claimed derived from the Delta Quadrant,” Sito spoke as she looped the courier around for another pass. “They gathered a consortium of major powers and some minor players when they gave a demonstration. A single discharge can effectively cut a Galaxy-class starship in half.”
“Ouch,” Riker winced.
“The Breen won the bidding and received the weapon and all its technical specifications. In order to insure they had a monopoly, the Breen killed the merchants. Good for the Breen, but bad for the merchants,” Sito said indifferently, “but the Breen never overcame the cannon’s primary limitation.”
“Which is?” Riker asked then changed the topic. “I’m firing the tachyon burst in five…four…three…two…one!”
This time the Razorcat’s pulse phasers tore at the Q-ship’s hull. Sito smiled as she resumed her tale. “The isokinetic cannon is a black hole power-wise. It may not be for whoever built it, but here it’s a one-shot weapon while you wait for your systems to restore power to your ship.”
“How do you know all of this?” Riker wondered.
“Lt. Worf was very thorough in his briefings.” Sito’s smile widened. “He also shared Starfleet Intelligence reports indicating the Breen had lost several ships while trying to adapt the technology to their vessels. Supposedly the Breen military gave up on it.”
“Are you sure this really is an isokinetic cannon?” Riker had to ask.
“They have a unique power signature. You’re not likely to forget something that pronounced.” Sito attacked the freighter again and nimbly danced away.
Riker had to admit it was like watching a supernova build within the ship they were attacking. Suddenly, the Breen ship rolled and fired her thrusters so her forward cannon could engage the Razorcat. And it did.
“Lieutenant, long range sensors are detecting weapons fire and an energy burst like nothing I’ve seen before,” Tulley reported.
Ro snorted. “Stop using my rank, Aric. You never have before.”
“Yeah, but back then you were a Starfleet lieutenant, not a Bajoran Militia officer,” Tulley remarked, “and you seriously have to check out these readings.”
“Patch it into my aux display,” Ro ordered. Seeing the energy wave form she frowned. “I’ve never seen anything like this. Has anyone else?”
Thool replied that he hadn’t from the engineering console. Alea fell silent and Tulley dryly remarked he obviously hadn’t seen the pattern before. Ro clutched at Alea’s silence.
“Alea, what aren’t you telling me?” Ro wanted to know.
There were a lot of things Alea hadn’t told Ro. Things like where she came from. She largely looked like a Bajoran, but her violet hair was more akin to a Boslic. Also, it was plain to everyone that Alea was a trained intelligence officer and investigator. But no one knew who had trained her or why she’d chosen to aid the Maquis.
“It’s an isokinetic cannon pulse,” Alea said slowly. “It’s weapons tech from the Delta Quadrant brought here through the Beta Quadrant. My people were interested in it at one time.”
“That’s a lot of quadrants,” Thool opined.
“Thool, get down to engineering and do something to bolster the shields,” Ro instructed the Bolian.
“How? Prepay the power bill?” Thool quipped.
“Just go,” Ro sighed.
Thool grumbled as he made his way towards the rear of the ship. Ro cast a glance over her shoulder. “Talk to me, Alea. And make it quick. We reach the Free Haven’s system’s outer boundary in two minutes and then we proceed on impulse into the system itself.”
Alea obviously struggled with what to say. “Let me start by assuring you my people are friends to Bajor and enemies of the Cardassians.”
Tulley asked, “Why? No one has ever seen anyone like you. We’ve all lost someone to the Cardies. Why would you be their enemy?”
“Because we’ve been at war with the Cardassians almost as long as they occupied Bajor,” Alea shared. “They found our world and colonies almost at the same time they discovered Bajor. Fortunately for us, we were a lot less peaceful and much better prepared so we weren’t occupied ourselves. Then between the violence of the Resistance and the border wars with the Federation, we were never attacked in strength, so we were able to hold our own until the Cardassians just felt it wasn’t worth it anymore. They didn’t know we were at the breaking point by then and would’ve collapsed had they invaded one last time.”
“But when my people arrived in the Alpha Quadrant, we arrived in the Bajoran system,” Alea stated. “That was over two centuries ago as the Federation reckons them.”
“You’re from the Gamma Quadrant?” Ro could hardly believe it.
“Yes, but our investigations on Bajor revealed we shared a common ancestor with your people, Lt. Ro,” Alea revealed. “Our bloodlines may have gotten muddied with Gamma Quadrant locals, but we originally came out of Bajor.”
“Ain’t that a helluva thing,” Tulle mused.
“Our histories showed that we were colonists in the Gamma Quadrant, but no one could account for where we came from besides an astrogation marker,” Alea recited from memory. “When we were later pushed out of our colony in the Gamma Quadrant, we tried to return to our mythical home. We ended up at Bajor.”
“I’ll be damned,” Tulley commented again.
“One more word out of you and you will be,” Ro warned. “So why didn’t you settle on Bajor?”
“Because our presence was disruptive, so we went looking for a world we could call our own,” Alea divulged. “We plunged deeper into what you consider unexplored Alpha Quadrant space and made a home for ourselves, but we never forgot our cousins on Bajor.”
“So what do you call yourselves?” Ro wanted to know.
“We’re called the Mishrya,” Alea shared.
“That’s a Bajoran word!” Ro yelped. “It means ‘sojourner.’”
“It does in our tongue as well,” Alea acknowledged.
“So why haven’t your people contacted us?” Ro grated. “Particularly during the Occupation.”
“My people absorbed losses against the Cardassians we couldn’t afford,” Alea deemed fit to share. “Our population stands poised to plunge over the tipping point into eventual extinction. But even with that, volunteers went out to help other worlds against the Cardassians. In my case, I chose the Maquis and the Ronaran cell in particular.”
“But if your people are well-armed, why didn’t you equip our cell with a fleet?” Ro demanded to know.
“We don’t have a fleet!” Alea snapped. “We never did. We had patrol and survey ships that could defend themselves. At the end we barely had any of those left. We were down to armed couriers and runabouts.”
“Sounds like the Maquis to me,” Tulley quipped.
“I don’t buy it,” Ro decided.
“I knew I shouldn’t have told you,” Alea complained.
“Then why did you?” Ro sharply inquired.
“Because I’m tired of lying to you,” Alea confessed, “and because I trust you all. I wanted you to trust me as much.”
Ro’s nav sensors chimed and Tulley straightened up and reported, “We’re coming into weapons range.”
“Ours or theirs?” Ro asked.
“Both,” Alea answered for Tulley.
“Dammit! The Breen are already targeting us,” Tulley alerted Ro.
Ro threw the Indomitable into a series of evasive maneuvers to avoid the isokinetic cannon’s wrath. “I hope Thool bolstered those shields.”
“It won’t do any good,” Alea direly predicted.
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