“So, what have we got?”
“Well boss,” T’Ael said as she activated a holoprojector on the middle of the messhall table, specially brought in for just this occasion, “we’re looking at an older block 4 Vor’cha class cruiser. At least that’s what the Feddies sensors hint at. Could be a block 5 if they’ve truly fucked things up, but I’m willing to bet my brother’s life on it being a poorly maintained block 4.”
“Hey!” R’tin exclaimed, punching his sister in the arm.
“Oi you two,” Gaeda said quietly, bringing the sibling rivalry to a quick halt. “Continue, would you?”
“Right, sorry XO. So, as I was saying, block 4, poorly maintained. She’s got a weird flutter in her warp signature that’s making it pretty easy to follow her once we know what we’re looking for and give it to those Feddies, they spotted it. They’ve given us the scent alright.”
“Hard to say what they’ll have made good, but Endeavour fucked them up good and they did a number on themselves really.”
“T’s barely scratching the surface ma’am,” R’tin spoke up. “Best guess is if they want to be unseen, they’ll be limping at warp three, maybe up to warp six, but nothing higher. They’ve got massive hull breaches that’ll be playing with their cloak and warp fields. Endeavour’s last good sensor read showed their entire port side weapons array was simply gone. Hell, they got an accurate scan of the inside of her torpedo magazine.”
“Wait, their magazines are open to space?” Trid asked from her seat, leaning forward to look down the table at R’tin.
The romulan answered by pulling up a visual scan of the Kut’lach before she disappeared under cloak, the hull breached and racks of torpedoes exposed to the vacuum of space, a stroke of luck being all that saved an active warship from going up in a calamitous explosion.
“Prophets…” Trid whispered in disbelief as she sat back.
“It looks like she’s also missing her primary shield array and the entire starboard emitter bank for the secondaries as well. About the only thing I’d call good about her is the spaceframe. Give the klingons their due, they make solid ships that’ll take a beating and keep on going.”
“It’s,” Kevak said from the kitchen, “so that glorious warriors can make it home and sing their stories of glory and triumph.” He threw something on to a grill, the meat sizzling slightly as he seared it while seasoning the exposed side. “To preserve hard won skill and talent. Not that I’d expect a romulan to understand that,” he said as he looked straight at R’tin with a toothy grin before flipping over the large piece of meat. “But I’ll teach you one day.”
Sidda nodded as she listened to T’Ael and R’tin’s damage assessments from what the Endeavour had been able to provide. The detail certainly hinted at how much more advanced Starfleet sensors were compared to those on her ageing little bird of prey. We’ll just have to get you some new eyes Thorn, she thought to herself. Something this decade at least.
“Do we have any idea of where they’re going?” she asked, looking to Gaeda and Telin while ignoring Kevak’s goading of one of her engineers. They were seated next to each other opposite her two engineers. She herself was at the head of the table and one helmsman was seated on either side of the table down the far end. Absent were any of the other toughs she had onboard. Somewhere in another life they might have made respectable security personnel, but not here and now.
“We’ve plotted their course and it looks like they’re heading back across the border into the Empire. Probably under the right impression that Starfleet won’t chase them at the moment. Violating imperial borders without permission would not be a good idea. They’re unlikely to get a welcome anywhere with a decent fleet presence, which takes those off the list. I’ve got a handful of systems they could be running towards; most don’t even have names. Of them boss, I’m willing to put money on three of them.”
Gaeda jabbed away at a command on the padd in front of him and the holoprojector changed from the rotating damage diagram of the Kut’lach to a star map of a region of space just inside the Klingon Empire. Three bright red jewels hung in the air, with a green line projected from a point to each. A single purple dot was shown in a location just behind the origin of those green lines. The prey and it’s pursuers.
“I don’t like this one,” Telin said, jabbing a finger in the air at one of the red jewels. “Nothing of consequence, not even a decent asteroid belt to hide in. Just a couple of hot gas giants with big magnetic fields they could hide in.”
“Well, that’d doesn’t seem pleasant,” R’tin opined. “Unless the other two have worse features, I’d bet this is the worse choice for them. They need somewhere with some sort of support structure and ideally one that isn’t fighting the elements at the same time.”
“These two,” Telin pointed at the other dots, “offer some supply points. Former Syndicate base here and a former Duras depot in the other system. Both had basic docking facilities. Both systems have some exploitable resources, but nothing to brag about. We’re likely just looking at a depot, maybe a dock to make good repairs while hiding in a dead system.”
“Haven’t we hit this system before?” Lewis asked as he stood and pointed at the first dot that Telin has pointed out. “That Syndicate base we picked up the transporter spares?”
Sidda nodded in the negative. “Different system. You’re thinking of the one bit further down the border towards Organia. Will be the same design though. Same layout, same weaknesses.” She rubbed at her chin for a moment. “Tell me more about the Duras depot.”
“Nothing much to say,” Gaeda said looking at his PADD. “It was identified as one during the cleanup after the Klingon Civil War in the 2360s. That’s all we know.”
“Thoughts?” Sidda asked.
“They’ll be at the Duras base. Honourless dogs call out to honourless dogs,” Telin answered. “That and someone probably raided that old Syndicate base decades ago and took everything not nailed down.”
“Hate to say it, but Telin’s got a point,” R’tin chimed in. “Sorry mate, you’re just usually wrong.”
Telin turned his attention to the romulan, but was halted from saying anything by a glare from Sidda. He maintained his glare a moment longer then settled back down.
“All the boys have a point boss,” Trid said after having exchanged an unspoken conversation with Lewis. “Duras base is mostly likely. Mainly if just because the course from here to there avoids all klingon merchant lanes where a house ship could be patrolling.”
“Right. Set course to that system and take us the maximum warp to catch up with the Kut’lach, then drop us down to their speed. We’ll follow them right in. Telin, Gaeda, would you stay please? I want to discuss what we’re going to do with these bastards.”
“Warp five point one and there she is,” Trid said as she made an adjustment to the Thorn’s speed, dropping right in behind the anomaly that Gaeda insisted was the Kut’lach. Neither ship could directly detect each other, but one of them was a broken, battered and beaten cruiser while the other was simply an old lady with a new dress. Or so R’tin had insisted on referring to the new cloaking device as.
“These idiots. If they’d just slow down I wouldn’t be able to see them at all,” Gaeda said to the near empty bridge. It was just him, Trid and Orelia, who was standing watch on weapons just in case. “They must have a reason for running so fast though.”
“Life support issue? Medical emergency?” Orelia asked as she spun the chair at the engineering console around with her hand while pacing on her side of the bridge.
“Not likely medical. Klingon medicine isn’t as barbaric as people think,” Gaeda replied, “but in the military it is.”
“What about this?” Trid asked as she threw up a tactical display on the main viewscreen of the local area around the Thorn. It showed the Empire’s border as red/blue line, with them and the Kut’lach currently on the blue side. Two patrols ships were on the far side, moving along at warp seven, but they’d be long gone before they crossed the border. What was the problem was a single blue dot on this side of the border heading their way. At warp five the quick simulation showed the Kut’lach and the blue dot, identified as the customs patrol boat USS Periwinkle intercepting each other. At her current speed they’d be over the border before the Periwinkle cross their path.
“How long have they been on sensors?”
“About a minute. Kut’lach can’t even see them I’d bet. They must have known though,” Trid answered.
“Damn these bastards thought this through. Wonder how long they’ve been watching Feddie patrols before kicking all this off,” Orelia responded. “Kinda impressed really. What we do for a one-off job they’ve done for a fleet action.”
“Trid, keep an eye on Periwinkle there will you. Want to know what class she is once you can. We’re still twelve hours till the border and another two days away from where we think Kut’lach is heading. Let’s not get caught by some nosy Starfleet officer who can’t leave well enough alone.”
***Periwinkle, confirm SI ID Tamarillio, confirm with Endeavour Actual & Kyban Rookery
***Advise: SI Operation taking place in your path. Maintain course and speed.
***Make no deviations for ten hours unless specifically requested to
***DO NOT REPLY
“Ladies and gentleman,” Lewis Chin said with a bombastic presenter’s impression, “I would like to welcome you to the Klingon Empire. Home to an uncounted number of sapients, a truly impressive military industrial complex, some rather excitable folks with a variety of stabbing implements and for a short period only, back by popular demand, the one and only Vondem Thorn!”
He even added quiet cheers and a whoops of imaginary audience members by himself to sell the bit, earning him a smile from a few bridge members, including his captain as she prowled around the bridge.
This was the boring part of interstellar travel, the monotony of being stuck aboard a ship as it simply hurtled across the stars. Made worse though if you thought about it by the cramp nature and size of the Vondem Thorn.
“You know Captain,” he continued as she walked past his station, “I was thinking, all this travel wouldn’t be so boring if we had a bigger ship. One where we could put a gym, or a garden, or even a holodeck.”
“Join Starfleet,” she answered quickly.
“Why don’t we get Starfleet to join us? We swing by some old boneyard of theirs after all this is over and steal off with something. Something big and grand even. Something like a Galaxy or Sovereign they’ve put in reserve for a bit.”
“And who would command the Thorn then?” she asked with a smile growing on her face.
“Under Commodore Sidda, Pirate Queen of the Border Regions, it would be Captain Ruiz and First Mate Chin of course,” he answered with a smirk. “I’ll even buy you a hat, install your picture in the mess hall and force all the newbies to pay it respect each meal.”
“Lewis,” Sidda said, putting a hand on his shoulder, “we’ll spend a month in Banksy City when this is all over, I promise.”
“I’m going to need to get paid first.”
“You and me both Lewis. We’ll make Starfleet pay for this. But first we make the D’Ghor pay.”
“So,” the voice asked Trid in the dark of the access crawlway, “did you think I wouldn’t notice someone playing with the comms array?”
Trid turned, as best she could to look towards the access hatch she’d drawled in through to find R’tin there, clearly crouching and looking her way. Both of his hands were gripping the top of the portal, supporting him as he looked into the darkened space and the access panel that Trid had opened and was working on.
“Why don’t you crawl out of there Trid,” he said before standing straight up and stepping aside for her.
It took a minute for her to crawl out and get face to face with the romulan. She’d never really been this close to him and had to admit, he was a rather good-looking specimen of the romulan species. Not terribly bulky, but the vulcanoid physique didn’t really need it for a respectable amount of strength. But his eyes hinted at his true danger – intelligence.
“So, who you working for?” he asked rather bluntly. This put Trid on edge as interrogations were done in a position of strength over another, not standing within striking distance with your hands in your pockets. She wasn’t prepared for a boldface accusation like that and didn’t have a response ready straight away.
Then the idea came to mind. Some of the truth, mostly a lie. “Captain’s mother, a Starfleet captain. She hired me to keep an eye on her daughter, keep her safe.”
“Huh,” R’tin said. “Well, Tal’Shiar wouldn’t have such a bad lie. So, not them, so don’t care. Do me a favour will you and fix your mess. You’ve left the upper bands a mess and I can’t get good reception for my shows.”
“Yah. Serials from back home. They only get out this far on the upper bands and you’ve wrecked the reception. So fix it. When you do come see me. Oh, and uh…loose the overalls when you do.” With that he walked off with a cocky and confident swagger in his step, whistling a tune within two steps.
Loose the overalls? Prick.
What neither R’tin or Trid had seen, or heard frankly, was the soft bare feet of Riven as she had stopped, overheard their exchange, then left with new secrets.