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Die a Hero...

Threats of an older era rise up, bringing old and new problems to the Thomar Expanse and catching Republic in the mix.

Die a Hero… – 1

Thomar Expanse
August 2401

“Got eyes on them,” Crash said over the squad’s open channel, her voice professionally calm. “Looks like a…cripes…”

“Speak to me Crash,” Cat said over the channel at the pause.

All of the Night Witches were out in force, sweeping along a trojan asteroid field in search of elusive prey. Republic’s dash back to DS47 after receiving Atlantis’ distress call had been interrupted by a more urgent call – a nearby freighter reporting they were under pirate attack. While too late to stop the pirates, they’d been quick enough to make sure the freighter crew was in one piece, lend some spare parts and still catch the trail of the pirates in question.

Which lead the Republic here to this no-name star system and specifically this scrabble of rocks trailing the largest gas giant in the system. There was absolutely nothing of any value in this system, as confirmed by surveys going back years from both Starfleet and the Cardassian Union. Which made it perfect to hide in for a while since there was no one around to see folks coming and going.

“I’m looking at relics Cat. Looks like two Ju’Day-type couriers and a couple of Perrys I think but their engine signature is all over the show.”

“Come again Crash,” Knives asked, his deep voice resonating over the comms. “Peregrines and  Ju’Days?”

“Yeah, confirmed, Perrys. And yes, I know what I’m talking about here,” Crash shot back, her tone growing a touch annoyed.

Cat nodded; a pointless gesture with no one else around. She knew Crash’s background, how her symbiont’s previous host had served in the Dominion War and managed to walk away from flying those old deathtraps. “Course and speed?”

“Skulking along the belt at about a quarter impulse. One did pick up some speed when I spotted them but rejoined soon after. They know I’m here, but they aren’t running just yet.” Crash’s assessment was a little concerning. Pirates who weren’t afraid tended to be smarter and smarter meant they likely knew how to fight if they had to.

“Flop, Blunt, join up with Crash and help her guide our new friends along. Red, Knives, keep on your courses and be ready for them to try and break. And keep your EW suites on full.” She’d assigned those two the A/R models in a recent reassignment and so far they’d both proven themselves to be absolutely suited to the stealthier craft.

A series of ‘aye ma’am’ followed as they fell into pursuit, Red and Knives on the flank, the other three swirling around behind their prey, letting themselves be seen while she was hanging back just that bit further, hopefully, shielded from their sensors as she slinked from one rock to another, keeping her people in sight and relying on their shared sensors to keep an eye on them.

It took a moment for her fighter’s onboard computer to compare the engine signatures with what the freighter Blue Rascal had been able to pass along to them. It wasn’t confirmed, but an eighty per cent probability match was good enough for her. One of the fighters escorting the Ju’Days was even still broadcasting an IFF close enough for her computers to flag it as ‘possible friendly’ from time to time. A quick manual update then sent to the other fighters, resolved that particular problem.

“Righto folks, it’s looking like these folks are our pirates. Standard rules of engagement.” Cat tapped at her controls with practised ease, bringing targeting sensors online, clearing the safeties on her phasers and checking her torpedoes were still locked down. “Priority is disabling those fighters and corralling the couriers along to let Reppie deal with them.”

She heard the acknowledgements but didn’t really register them as she drove her fighter forward, bringing the engines to full life as she cleared the asteroid she was hiding behind, buzzing past her lead elements and diving on the trailing fighter with such rapidity that they had barely started to react to the appearance of a fourth fighter moving to attack. Her phasers lashed out, licking at shields in a series of staccato pulses before she whizzed right through the formation of ships. A barrel roll for show and she was pulling around an asteroid as returning fire came her way, but she had done what she had wanted to do – gain their attention.

This meant when Flop, Blunt and Crash came in on her heels the pirates were distracted. They had gone from looking around to focusing on the first threat, ignoring the ones that had been tailing them. Soon enough the fighter she hadn’t fired on was outnumbered as three modern fighters descended on it while Cat’s prey had tried to follow her.

The two couriers had opted for the better part of valour, their engines going to full impulse as they sped off, leaving their escorts to cover their retreat. Or as what was going to happen – valiantly sacrifice themselves to let the couriers flee.

“This guy is slippery,” Flop said with some strain over comms. “Blunt, open the range and swing back in. Crash, give me some room.”

“Roger,” came both Blunt and Crash. No ego, no glory hounds amongst the Witches. Cat had made that clear when she had been allowed to put the squadron together.

The hypocrisy of charging in and engaging an enemy force by herself wasn’t missed though. She’d bear the ribbing from her fellows later. Right now though she was flying like her life depended on it as the older Peregrine fighter fell in behind her, its own weapons fire splashing on asteroids or going wide as it chased after her.

She cut close enough to an asteroid that if she had opened her canopy she could have reached up and touched it, proximity sensors screaming at her as she bent her fighter’s superior agility to its maximum. But instead of cutting in a straight line shortly after she kept the turn going, pulling up from her perspective, tighter and tighter to the point the dampners started blaring warnings to her as well.

But the manoeuvre ultimately played off as she eventually came around behind the fighter that had been chasing her. They’d figured something was up and opted not to chase but to break for open space, to flee from her Valkyrie and break for a chance to go to warp. She fell in, engines at full as she leapt to the chase.

And then swerved on instinct as a series of phaser flashes lit up the rear of the fighter, smashing through its shields and obliterating one of its warp nacelles and an impulse engine with ease.

“I got this one,” Red said over comms as the Andorian dropped on the Peregrine, grabbing it with a tractor beam and pulling it away from an asteroid as lights flickered and died on the stricken fighter.

“Thanks, Red,” Cat said, turning to head back and rejoin the furball behind her.

A flash of light within the asteroid fields however demanded her attention. “Torps!” Blunt shouted over comms. They’d been interested in capturing pirates, not killing them, but if one was willing to fire what could only be deadly weapons, then they would have no choice.

“Weapons free,” she said as she kept hurtling through the field back to her people. They now had her permission to, and she’d wear it if she had to, take that fighter out by any means necessary.

She saw through a gap between two large rocks the Peregrine go hurtling past, flashes of phaser fire chasing after it and then the flickering speedy ball of orange light fired by one of her people. She was shielded from the almighty flash that followed as the torpedo eviscerated the piratical fighter, clearing it from her skies for good.

“Nice shot Crash,” Flop said.

“Yeah, thanks,” Crash answered, actually sounding down as she accepted the compliment. They were Starfleet officers, they took prisoners when they could.

“Eyes on those couriers?” Cat asked as she joined her people.

Knives cut in, calm as can be, having stayed out of the fighting, obviously still watching. “Sending coordinates now folks. They’re just about free of the asteroid field but I’m catching scatter from scans of asteroids they’re making as they go.”

“Looking for somewhere to hide,” Blunt concluded in typical Vulcan fashion.

There was no further chatter as the free elements of the Night Witches fell into formation with each other, speeding along the asteroid field with no intention of stealth. There was just the need to catch up with their prey, to force them to stop looking for a place to hide and keep running. Running right where they wanted them to.

It took barely a couple of minutes to catch up, for the Ju’Days to spot them and surge forward once more, making a break for open space. One of them fired back at the Witches, an errant beam that was either very poorly aimed or meant to scare them off instead. But the Witches continued unfazed.

And then lumbering from behind one of the largest asteroids in the field right at the end of the trojan belt came the magnificent lines and curves of the USS Republic, her running lights fully lit and setting her apart from anything else within lightyears. She moved slowly but gracefully as she slid out from cover, blocking the immediate way forward for the two couriers.

“Unknown ships this is the Federation Starship Republic. You are ordered to heave to and prepare to be boarded on suspicion of piracy. Acknowledge.” The voice coming across the comms wasn’t the captain’s, or even the XO’s, but Jenu Trid, their operations officer. Cat smiled as Trid’s tone sounded strong and confident – the little voice of Republic. The friendly voice compared to if it had been the captain or XO making the demand.

“Negative Starfleet, you have no authority here,” came a response from one of the couriers. “Now fuck off.”

“Repeat, heave to and prepare to be boarded,” Trid said after a moment. Just long enough for someone on Republic to decide to give these idiots a second chance.

There was no response from the pirates as they leapt to full impulse, charging directly towards Republic. They closed, both sides waiting, before the two courier ships started firing on the larger ship. Republic’s shields weathered the volley of phaser fire, flaring in blue-green arcs as orange beams slammed into them. The first attack run done, one of the couriers sped away while the other arced back.

“All craft, stand clear,” Trid’s voice commanded over comms. The Witches didn’t need to be told twice as Republic started to turn towards the courier that was buying time for the other to retreat.

As the Ju’Day-type courier poured more fire into Republic’s shields, the near-new Constitution III-class ship barked in anger exactly once. A single lance of phaser fire arced out from one of the dorsal arrays and sliced through the attacking ship’s shields with ease, carving through a warp nacelle and slicing an entire wing off in a manner that to Cat came off as contemptuous ease.

Lieutenant Selu Levne was just showing off with that display.

A flash of blue in the distance signalled the departure of the other courier, jumping to warp speed and fleeing the scene. The now stuck-here courier, still able to move and fight, came to a halt with plasma streaming from its crippled engine. “Alright Starfleet,” the pilot of that ship finally said over the open comms, “you win. We’re shutting her down.”

A click over comms, an indicator that someone had joined their channel, then came the captain’s voice as clear as crystal. “Nice work Witches. Shuttle bay 1 is open and awaiting your triumphant return.”

Die a Hero… – 2

Thomar Expanse
August 2401

As the doors to Transporter Room 2 swished open, Commander Sidda Sadovu and Lieutenant Commander Selu Levne both flowed in, followed by two of Selu’s handpicked security officers. For their part Chief Kruck, a Tellarite even their own species considered grumpy, merely looked up, raised an eyebrow, grunted once and then looked back down at his console.

The security officers both unholstered their phasers, checked them, and then nodded to Selu, who in turn nodded once to Sidda. The rituals complete, stances and places assumed by the more serious members of the crew, Sidda leaned against the transporter chief’s console, propping herself with an elbow, then offered Kruck as charming a smile as she could. “Ready when you are Chief.”

Kruck grunted once more, tapped at commands and then initiated the transporter. As they did so a faint flicker went up around the pad itself as a security force field snapped into place and the transport cycle suspended itself. “Weapons detected,” Kruck grumbled. Another series of keystrokes and the cycle completed as three humans appeared on the pad.

All of them had adopted the disaffected space rogue clothing style popular in any media source for centuries across the warp-capable galaxy. Dark or earthy tones, hardwearing fabrics mixed with leather, boots equally adept at walking city streets and mountain trails. The visual cues of ‘I’m not to be messed with’ that so many people thought looked tough. It was however all ruined when all three went to draw their weapons only to find their holsters empty. Confusion immediately set in as they all dropped their gaze to confirm what their empty hands had told them.

“Lady and gentlemen, welcome aboard the USS Republic,” Sidda said as she purposefully found something under a fingernail to inspect while she spoke. They wanted to play pirate, she was going to play the disinterested Starfleet officer. “I apologise if I’ve misgendered anyone. I’ll be your involuntary cruiser director, Commander Sidda Sadovu. Captain MacIntyre is currently busy but will make time eventually to speak with all of you.”

One of the pirates launched himself forward, smashing hard against the forcefield and bouncing back to land on his backside as both of his compatriots opted to get out of the way instead of catching the large man.

“You have already experienced the finest in Starfleet security protocols, starting with Transporter Protocol Five. And our security forcefields, which I assure you, are set high enough to piss off a Changeling these days, so I wouldn’t suggest testing them a second time.” She pushed off the transporter console, stepping towards the pad and taking in the three fugitives before her. “And surrendering, only to immediately draw weapons when we beam you aboard from your incredibly broken starship isn’t going to look good for you. If you’re going to surrender, you stay surrendered folks. Honestly, who taught you to be pirates?”

The smaller male, though still a large figure, stepped forward and sized Sidda up as the woman in the group helped the larger man back to his feet. He looked at her, studied her, then shoved his hands into his jacket pockets. His stepping forward and the movement of his arms had the effect of finally revealing the red three-pointed flower emblem on his arm.

The Maquis.

“My my my, how the mighty have fallen.” The man’s accent hinted at well-educated origins, or it was the effect he wanted to give. His posture was confident and relaxed despite his current situation. “The pirate king is dead, long live the queen. Only she’s sold out and become another uniform-stuffing puppet.”

“Do I know you?” Sidda asked as she too took the man in, a lot quicker than he did of her, before she shrugged. “Actually, no, don’t care.” She turned to Selu. “Take them to the brig. And if they give you trouble, stun ‘em, then drag them to the brig.”

“On what made-up charge?” the man asked. “You can’t hold us without formal charges.”

Sidda spun fast, the fun and carefree Sidda gone, replaced by the angry Sidda. “Piracy, attempted murder and firing on a Starfleet vessel to start with.” She stepped closer, right up to the forcefield. “There were women and children on the Blue Rascal and you left them drifting. If you think you know me, you want to try and appeal to something you know, then you should know I have a code. So maybe, just maybe, shut the hell up before you make it worse for yourself.”

Silence hung for a few seconds before the man finally snorted, then stepped back from the forcefield and shrugged. “As per Federation law and the Guarantees I would like to speak to my lawyer.”

Before Sidda could say anything, Selu took a single step forward to draw the attention of the pirates, Maquis, or whatever they wanted to call themselves, to her. “That will be arranged at our earliest opportunity.” Selu’s tone, unlike Sidda’s, was calm, level and stoic. Hallmarks of the Vulcan side of her heritage and her father’s cultural inculcation. “Commander Sadovu, I can take things from here if you wish.”

Sidda turned back to Selu, calming herself and painting a smile on her face as she did so. “Thank you, Commander. Again, any issues, stun them and just drag them by their ankles through the ship to the brig. Or the airlock, ” While Selu didn’t react to that, the two guards behind her fought various forms of smiles briefly before putting them down and remembering their job was to be imposing. She offered to two guards a wink, seen only by them, as she flowed past everyone towards the door, stopping her escape from the situation just long enough to turn and look at the three pirates. “Enjoy your stay people.” And with that, she was gone.

Selu waited a few seconds before she spoke again, staring at the man who by bearing was the leader of the group in front of her. “Please don’t make this difficult.”

To which neither he nor his compatriots protested as they were marched the short distance from the transporter room to the brig, secured in individual cells. Only as the forcefield snapped up behind him did he turn around, facing Republic’s chief of security, head cocked to one side. “Your uh, Commander Sadovu was it?” he asked. “You know she’s a pirate, right? The Bitch of Archanis? Kingslayer?”

“Do you have any other colourful epitaphs you’d like to use?” Selu countered.

“A dirty cheat at cards too,” the man said after a moment and tried a smile, which bounced off of Selu ineffectually. “Look, you’ve got two problems in front of you right now. You’ve got me and my people and you’ve clearly got some other problem in Starfleet if a pirate is masquerading as an officer.”

Selu just stared at the man, waiting.

“Geez. Fine, let me make it real simple for you. Me, I’m just a smuggler. Maquis, good for business, but dying for the cause, or getting locked up for the rest of my life, is a little beyond what I’m willing to commit to. You put in a good word for me and my crew, help us get lighter, cushier sentences, and I’ll spill the beans on your Commander.”

Everything was silent, between the other two Maquis members in their cells watching, the two guards and the on-duty warden, all waiting for an answer.

“I want details on what the Maquis are doing in the Thomar Expanse as well,” Selu said after nearly half a minute of just staring at the man.

“Works for me, since it’ll be too late to do anything about it by now.”

Selu merely hmmm’d at that, looked to the other two prisoners to gauge their expressions, and then back to the man before her. “Start with your name.”

Die a Hero… – 3

Maquis starship Madeleine
August 2401

The command deck of disabled Ju’Day-type raider, formerly civilian courier, wasn’t in the best of states anymore. It likely hadn’t been in the greatest of states a mere few hours ago, but the gentle attentions that had been rendered upon it by the starship Republic, hanging in space above the ship like a cat watching a mouse, certainly had made things worse.

Almost every single computer screen present was lit up red and blinking one series of error codes or status alerts. A few were just inky black voids, with nothing to report. Which left just one that was busy blurting and bleeping in protest every few seconds as one Lieutenant Commander Matt Lake was attempting an interrogation or another of the ship’s computer.

He was alone for a while until the hatch hissed open, admitting Republic’s chief engineer, Evan Malcolm, similar in rank and almost the exact opposite in complexion and disposition. Evan’s scowl looked worse than normal as he stalked over to a seat near Matt and sat himself down. “What the hell did they call this rust bucket again?” he asked, deflating slightly into the comfort of the seat.

Madeleine,” Matt answered. “Under the command of Captain Jack Mackenzie.” While Evan had been assessing the ship’s engineering systems for possible salvage and his team doing a thorough inspection for contraband in any smuggling compartments, Matt had come over to interrogate the computers. “Oh, managed to get the bridge replicator working again,” he said with a smile to his colleague.

“What? Why?” Evan asked as he glanced at the wall-mounted unit. It, the door controls and the life support station were the only ones aboard the Madeleine that weren’t announcing imminent doom.

“Because I wanted a coffee and I wasn’t going to pester someone aboard ship to beam me one over.” Then he shrugged. “Though maybe I should have. I heard Revin was trying muffins again.”

The mention of the Romulan woman drew a brief grumble from Evan almost immediately. It wasn’t, Matt had learned, that Evan disliked her. Or Romulans. He disliked their executive officer and unfortunately bringing up Revin was too close a subject to Commander Sadovu not to irritate Evan. It had all been dragged out of Evan a few weeks back when others had caught him actually commenting the young woman on her baking.

“Is it at least good coffee?” Evan asked before making an effort to force himself out of the seat and back to his feet. “And by good, I mean is it not dirt in water?”

“For a rag-tag group of pirates, scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells, the crew of the Madeleine have some pretty impressive replicator patterns.” Matt turned back to the console he was working at and the work he had been deep into. “It’s no Beans’d It back on DS47, or even our replicators, but it’s pretty good.”

The sigh of relief that soon followed signalled that Evan’s requirement of ‘not dirt in water’ had been met. His return to the seat next to Matt was heralded by a second cup set down next to Matt on the console. “Black, two sugars, yes?” Evan asked as he once more sunk into the seat, verging somewhere between a tired Starfleet officer and a liquid holding a vaguely human shape.

“Spot on.” Matt’s attention didn’t shift from the screen as he read along, then reread a section, before finally rereading it while running his finger along underneath a particular piece of text. “Looks like Selu was right, these folks are Maquis reenactors.”

“New Maquis,” Evan said around the lip of his cup. “Found some…literature. Syiar found a padd with it while we were searching deck three and started reading it aloud. Bunch of tripe if you ask me.”

“New Maquis? I wasn’t aware the Union was terrorising Federation citizens in the non-existent DMZ. It’s all Federation territory these days.” Matt continued reading the output on his screen, then stopped again before slumping back. “Damn, these guys are good. They wiped their entire communications history, sensor logs and navigational database before we beamed them off. I’ve run every rebuild protocol we’ve got and all I was able to turn up was the names of the three we have in the brig.”

Evan squinted, then found the energy to sit up, and even slid forward on his seat to look at Matt’s display and read the report himself. “Did you try running the rebuild on the comm buffer itself?”

“No, because the buffer is just that – a buffer. It gets overwritten regularly.”

“It gets overwritten when communications are initiated,” Evan corrected. “And Republic only called them once. We might be able to reconstruct the last,” Evan looked to the ceiling, clearly running numbers and odds in his head, “three or four communiques.”

After only a moment’s more consideration, Matt’s fingers flew across the controls, ordering first a shutdown of Madeleine’s communications system to prevent any incoming calls, then kicking off the data recovery process he’d been running across the computers before sitting back. “And now we wait.”

The order of the day was then small talk and coffee, the time slipping past as a progress bar slowly ticked along. It was nearly half a cup of coffee before Madeleine’s computers chirped in the positive, a small handful of files recovered to various degrees and written to a partition to prevent their loss. “I have to ask, where did a yard engineer learn a trick like this?” Matt asked as he brought up the first record, confirming it was the brief conversation between the Madeleine’s captain and Trid as she delivered the captain’s order to surrender.

“Learn a trick or two talking to fleeters,” Evan answered, referring to the engineers of the active fleet, which he was now part of. “And I’ve done my fair share of diagnostic and repair work as well. New comm systems not working, or battle-damaged ships dragged in that we need to fully understand what went wrong.” His own eyes had been glancing at the file details as well and he pointed at one. “This one.”

As the comm record in question was brought up, the image was a little blurry, choppy in some places too. But the audio was perfectly clear. “You sure about this?” the woman on the screen asked. She was an older Bajoran woman, dressed just like those in the brig right now – holonovel freedom fighter. “We can both outrun that Starfleet junker.”

Eponine can, but the Maddy can’t,” came an unseen voice – Jack Mackenzie, the captain of the Madeleine and currently safely squirrelled away in Republic’s brig. “We’ve still got that plasma distribution issue and you’ve got the real prize aboard anyway. We’ll cover you and buy you time. Just do whatever you can to wash out your warp trail. Never seen a ship like that, don’t know what they’ve got.”

The woman on screen nodded her head once solemnly. “We’ll keep the lights on for when you get out.” And then the playback stopped.

Matt looked to Evan, whose face was scrunched up somewhat before he spoke up. “Well, I couldn’t confirm if there was or wasn’t any distribution issue. The plasma network is a mess on this boat now. Heck, we’ve only got lights and life support thanks to beamed power.”

“Didn’t seem like some sort of practised lie either though,” Matt added. “Sounded genuine enough to me.”

“Yeah. Wait a second.” Evan scooted forward again on his chair, balanced right on the edge. “Bring up the last few seconds of the recording would you.”

As the recording was brought back up and paused right before it finished, Evan stood, pushing into Evan’s personal space as he closed with the screen to check something, grumbling about small screens and old ships. The screen was filled once more with the older Bajoran woman’s face. There were wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, and traces of grey at her temples that were close to matching her grey eyes. The image was clear enough to make out her earring, which could certainly help any authorities who might run across the woman in future.

But besides her, there were a handful of others in the background. Eponine was better staffed than Madeleine was just from the bridge crew alone. It seemed like every station on the cramped bridge was staffed, with another two standing around as reserves just in case. But there were two other figures in the background of the bridge.

“Those two,” Evan said as he pointed at the screen.

Matt needed no further impetus as he zoomed the display on them. An older Andorian woman whose face was familiar to the senior officers of the Republic and a human male standing beside her. The Andorian woman was dressed much like one might expect any researcher to be dressed with smart lines to her clothing and a labcoat over the top, the man beside her was even more over the top than the Maquis were with his black everything, from his leather boots to the duster and stetson hat he worse.

“Well that’s not good,” Matt spoke up as he enhanced the image as best as Madeleine’s computers could do, bringing the face of Doctor T’Halla Shreln into a near-focus. “Not sure I like the idea of this so-called New Maquis having a mass-murdering bioweapons expert on their side.”

Evan stood up straight, stepping back from Matt and the console. His features were even more disgruntled than normal as he looked at his fellow officer. “We have to tell the captain.”

“And Starfleet. And the Cardassian Union,” Matt said as he transferred the files to an isolinear chip before standing up himself.

“Yeah, sure,” Evan answered after a moment’s hesitation. “Guess we have to.”

Die a Hero… – 4

USS Republic
August 2401

As Mac finished reading the padd in hand, he could feel the scowl on his face deepening as he looked up at the two officers who had brought it to him. Lieutenant Commanders Lake and Malcolm, done with their examination of the Madeleine had brought their findings directly and expediently to his desk. Evan Malcolm had insisted on it being a matter he needed to see first. Of grave importance, he had said before returning from the pirate vessel.

As he rubbed at his forehead for a moment, setting the padd down, he looked up at the two men. “You’re right, this is important information.” He saw Malcolm’s face flicker, satisfaction in getting information to the right person. “But why might I ask did you insist I had to see this first? Commander Sadovu would have been the logical first stop, yes gentlemen?”

“Well sir,” Matt Lake started but stopped as soon as Mac’s glare settled on him.

Somewhere along the line, not entirely sure where he’d learned it, Mac had developed that skill he’d seen captains deploy of telling someone to be quiet with just a look. He’d only ever seen his last captain, Tikva Theodoras, use it once and considered it both one of the scariest and funniest things in his life. To his credit, he’d saved the laughter until the three ensigns had left her ready room but had been in awe of how she’d been able to cut excuses off with just a glance.

Lake appropriately stymied in his efforts to explain the situation, he turned to Malcolm, tilting his head slightly to silently say ‘Well?’.

“We thought to save time by reporting such an important finding directly to you sir,” Malcolm said after a brief pause, either phrasing the response before saying it or letting himself say the career-limiting responses to himself before answering.

“You were making an end-run around Commander Sadovu,” Mac said in response. “Your dislike for the Commander is well known Lieutenant Commander Malcolm.” The full use of the man’s rank seemed to get Malcolm’s attention, emphasising the exact nature of the chain of command. “And being formerly with Starfleet Intelligence, don’t you think she might be best placed to action this finding? To ensure it gets into the right hands in a timely manner?”

“Sir, can we really – “

“Yes or no, Malcolm,” Mac interrupted to the man’s excuse.

It took Malcolm a good five seconds of staring at Mac, grinding his teeth before he finally uttered, “Yes.”

“Good. In future, bring such findings to her first. Am I understood?”

“Yes sir,” both Malcolm and Lake answered in unison.

“Dismissed.”

Both men rose from their seats, turned and sheepishly made for the door, stopping as it hissed open and they came face to face with Commander Sadovu, standing there with a grin on her face. Mac wished he could have seen their faces. It would have been worth almost any price as he saw them quickly slide aside and away like a pair of junior officers afraid they were about to be stepped on.

“Let me guess,” Sidda started as she slinked in and dropped herself, without invitation, into one of the recently unoccupied seats. By means of an apology she had brought with her a small plate she set down, uncovered and removed one of the two breakfast croissants upon it, then pushed the plate towards him with the other. “Malcolm still stirring up shit about me? Can’t trust Intelligence? I’m some sort of double-agent spy pirate? I’m likely to go rogue and join up with this New Maquis thing at a moment’s notice?”

“Who said anything about a New Maquis?” Mac asked as he examined the croissant before giving in to the temptation if offered.

“Levne did,” she answered. “Apparently of our prisoners, one of them was willing to trade what he thought he knew about me from another life and some limited information about his associates in exchange for…preferential judicial treatment, I think was the term used?” Sidda shook her head and smiled. “But hey, we got him on interstellar piracy and life endangerment, so minimum sentencing for that alone should keep him locked away for a few decades, right?”

“Hmm,” Mac answered around the croissant, savouring the blend of flavours he was being presented with. “Did she,” he stopped, interrupting his own question to look at the croissant once again, then back to Sidda, “Where the hell did Revin learn to cook by the way?”

“From a Klingon chef, formerly a general in the KDF, then from a cookbook given to her by Ardot Kresh, Kyban’s foremost information broker.”

“Well again, compliments to the chef.” He had been cautious, concerned even about having Sidda on his crew once he’d read her file, doubly so for finding out that Revin’s assignment was all part of a deal Sidda had made with the Powers That Be well above his place on the totem pole. But the young Romulan woman was intent on bringing everyone under her sway by means of their stomachs and he knew he wasn’t immune to her culinary charms. “But back to the matter at hand, did Selu learn anything of import?”

“Not really. Jack Mackenzie is the owner-operator of the Madeleine, formerly a registered courier vessel. Alex Stone is the hired muscle and Harriot Marrison, who prefers Harry, is…was the engineer aboard. The surviving fighter pilot is Patrick Wake. Jack claims he’s not truly with the New Maquis, just working for them for the money. Was just hired to move some cargo as a one-off deal for the New Maquis and decided to hit that freighter as an opportunity prize.” Sidda shrugged slightly. “Mackenzie claims he and I ran into each other out in the Archanis Sector, but honestly I don’t recall. Must have been some two-bit smuggler not worth remembering.”

“So he’s a liar as well then,” Mac said, pushing the padd with the findings from Madeleine’s communication system across his desk. “You aren’t going to like that by the way.”

Sidda’s normally chipper expression gave way to a furrowed brow of concern before she set her croissant down, picked up the padd and looked at it for exactly two seconds before tossing it back on his desk. “Fuck me.”

“Shreln is with the New Maquis,” Mac said, giving voice to the unwelcome reality.

“And so is Manfred,” Sidda added, before taking a rather aggressive bite out of her breakfast and chewing on it. Something he found he preferred to her swearing.

“You said you killed him, but that’s the second piece of video evidence of him still being alive.” He couldn’t help but smile when Sidda glared at him, her chewing coming to a halt. “Maybe next time, try and capture him so you can learn what he is?”

“I’ll consider it,” she answered.

“You’ll do it,” he said. “No killing without a good reason on my boat, understood Commander?”

“Aye cap,” Sidda answered immediately, with no hesitation or staring contest like he’d had with Malcolm. She did reach forward to collect the padd again before rising to her feet. “I should relay this to Commodore Sudari-Kravchik and let her disseminate it to the fleet. New Maquis possibly working in the Thomar Expanse and a known bioterrorist working with them too now. This is going to be…entertaining.”

“Better you than me,” he replied. “Could you try calling her first before just sending a report along? I want an update on what’s going on with Atlantis if we can get it.”

“And it’s harder to ignore the question in a call than with messages back and forth.” Sidda nodded in the affirmative with his request. “Will do boss.”

“One last thing before you go Sidda. Dinner in the Pnyx tonight, bring the ladies?”

“Blake putting you up to this?” Sidda counter-asked.

“Heavily hinted at,” he replied.

“Sure thing. Nineteen hundred?”

With a nod of his head, he agreed. “Sounds good. Go talk with the Commodore, I’ll handle the Madeleine and get us underway again. Trid thinks she might have a bead on their friends and I want to get on their trail right away.”

“Oooh, record the scuttling would you please? Want to show it to our would-be pirates when I get a chance.” She grabbed up the plate she’d brought the food on with her, glanced at the padd once more before tucking it under an arm and then started for the door. “Nineteen hundred, looking forward to it.”

Die a Hero… – 5

USS Republic
August 2401

“I don’t believe you.” Cat Saez, Republic’s fighter squadron leader, had made her way to the bridge to check on a few mundane details and most importantly stick her beak into the affairs of the bridge officers. She hadn’t expected to stumble into a conversation between a collection of junior officers about weird knacks they all had. Someone had started it as an open-to-the-floor icebreaker and she’d walked in just as the ship’s helmswoman, Willow Beckman, had declared ‘I can guess within a few degrees whenever the ship changes course’.

Her rebuttal clearly wasn’t helping her in what seemed a pointless endeavour to if not make friends with Beckman, to at least be able to work amicably with her. Willow’s eyes settled on her, narrowing as joviality fled to be replaced with coldness and seething that Cat seemed to inspire just by being in the same room.

Sometimes the bus drivers and the fighter jocks just never got along. But not if she could help it.

“Try me then,” Willow said, defiance edging her words and reinforcing the squint in her eyes.

“Oh, can we please?” asked Jenu Trid from her place at Operations on the starboard side of the bridge. “Wait…I’m the watch officer.” She spun her chair around to face the bridge, looked between Cat and Willow, then smiled mischievously. “Right, Willow, stand in front of the viewscreen facing us.”

“Uh, why?” the young woman asked.

“To eliminate anything that might give changes away,” Trid answered. She then pointed straight at Cat. “Go on, test her,” she commanded as she then pointed to Willow’s now vacant station.

Cat found herself smiling, shook her head and shrugged as she descended the steps down from the back of the bridge to the fore, walking over to the helm station. She could feel Willow’s eyes on her, daring her to make a mistake, sound some sort of alarm – anything so that Willow could step in and prove herself.

She didn’t sit herself down, just looked at the helm controls to orientate herself with Willow’s preferred layout, looked up to make sure Willow was where Trid had told her to stand, and then entered a series of commands to the ship’s systems. RCS thrusters fired to gently nudge Republic around on her three axes of rotation where she sat hanging in space, still guarding the wreck of the Madeleine.

And with a chirp from the console, the manoeuvre was complete and all present eyes turned to Willow. She was standing very still, eyes closed, as if meditating. It only took a second for her to answer. “You changed our heading to zero-nine-seven mark four-six and then rolled the ship fifteen degrees to starboard.”

“Huh,” Cat said, then entered another series of commands to the ship, again spinning Republic on the spot.

And again Willow answered quickly after the ship stopped moving. And twice more this routine played out.

“Well?” asked Trid. “How far off was she?”

“Within one degree every time,” Cat conceded. “Okay, I’m impressed. What’s the trick?”

Willow actually smiled at that. A smile that said ‘I can do something you can’t’. “No trick,” she answered. “Just always been able to do it.”

“Inside an inertial compensator field, with artificial gravity, and barely moving the ship.” Cat whistled, nodding her head in respect. “It’s a neat talent you got there Lieutenant. I think I know who I want on my team next time we have to do orienteering exercises.”

“If we’re all done spinning my ship around like a top,” Captain MacIntyre spoke up, having slipped onto the bridge while everyone was distracted, “how’s your attempt to track down the Eponine, Lieutenant Jenu?”

“Still refining the details sir,” the Bajoran woman answered. “But I can tell you they did head initially in the direction of the Badlands after slinging around this system’s largest gas giant to try and hide their warp trail.”

“New Maquis, same old hiding places.” The captain stepped up to his seat, but just stood behind it, hands settling on the headrest. “Ensign Jacobs,” he said to the junior tactical officer on duty this watch, “target the Madeleine please and prepare a photon torpedo. Trid, bring it up on screen please.”

The crippled ship soon occupied the viewscreen, the visual from one of the many cameras dotted around the ship’s hull. The damage that Selu had done to it with a single phaser blast was evident and indicative of the ship’s forthcoming fate. An entire wing had been cut off with surgical precision, the warp nacelle on that side sliced open such that it would have to be rebuilt to ever even be considered for travel.

And with an order to target and prepare a torpedo, the captain had made up his mind on any attempt at salvaging the ship, or just leaving it here for someone else.

“Uh sir, could I make a suggestion?” Cat asked as she stepped away from the helm, Willow returning to her station now that things were happening on the bridge once more. She ascended the steps to be on the same level as Captain MacIntyre. “Instead of torpedoing the Madeleine, could we use it to give the Night Witches a live fire target for some torpedo runs?”

“Not a bad idea, but we need to be getting back on Eponine’s trail.” His smile was apologetic. “Mr Jacobs, fire when ready please.”

“Aye sir,” came the young man’s bland response as he went through the rote actions of selecting and confirming his target, checking his selection one more time, then idly tapping a button labelled ‘Fire’ that caused Republic to spit forth a torpedo.

It found its home deep inside the unshielded and armour-rent hull and unleashed pure energetic fury as matter and antimatter quickly annihilated each other in the torpedo, then imparted all of that energy to the Madeleine’s interior. The flash of light was countered by the viewscreen and the Republic barely bucked as the shockwave lapped at the ship. Most likely wouldn’t have noticed a thing.

“Right then,” MacIntyre announced. “That done, let’s get the show moving again. Beckman, plot a course for the Badlands, maximum warp. Jenu, keep refining the plot and feed it to Beckman. Lieutenant Saez, what are you up to at the moment?”

“Nothing much to be honest sir. Came up to the bridge to check in on the current situation before getting on with some paperwork I need to catch up on.” Cat figured honesty was the best policy with Captain MacIntyre. It had played out well so far.

“Excellent. You have the conn.” And he was off, making for the turbolift off the bridge with haste.

“Sir?” Cat asked quickly, catching him just as the doors to the lift opened.

“I’d prefer if Trid was able to just focus on refining the track and you’re here and bridge qualified, yes?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Excellent, good luck then.”

“Oh thank the Prophets,” Trid declared as she turned back to her station. “Not that I don’t mind babysitting the bridge, but these New Maquis folks know what they’re doing.”

As Republic jumped to warp, a comfortable silence settled over the bridge, giving Cat plenty of time to contemplate the centre seat before eventually sitting herself down in it. Holodeck training sessions and simulators just didn’t carry the same gravitas as the real thing. But eventually, she settled into it, which summoned a glance and accompanying glare from Willow before she sunk herself into the duty of watching the ship’s course.

“They never quite prepare you for how twirly the chair is,” Cat said after a few moments more than a few experimental turns in the chair.

“Or that if you do a full rotation it squeaks,” Trid said over her shoulder. “But hey, maybe we don’t tell the captain about that just yet, yeah?”

Die a Hero… – 6

USS Republic, Pynx officer's lounge
August 2401

Dinner was long gone at this stage and dessert was rapidly becoming a memory as well, empty plates set across the table telling of a meal well had. But conversation and good drinks had replaced such mundane sustenance for the pair of couples nestled into the booth at the far end of the Pynx from the main door. While on one side Mac and Blake sat next to each other shoulder to shoulder, the other looked a lot more relaxed and comfortable.

Sidda had turned her back to the back wall and Revin had half-collapsed against her, pulling both of the larger woman’s arms around her and then pinned against herself with one of her own, her free hand wrapped around a gently steaming mug sitting on the table. Who was holding who in place might have been a question raised by the casual observer, but not for anyone who had known the two for any period of time.

“A shuttlecraft losing antimatter containment?” Mac asked. “Don’t believe it.”

“Ask Trid, she’ll confirm it. Wonderfully little despotic Romulan hellhole called Ta’shen. Someone decided to blow up the spaceport as the signal rocket for starting a slave revolt, bring down the old guard and install something, anything different.” Sidda shrugged as best she could. “And that was just the start of the day.”

“You don’t do boring well, do you?” Blake teased. “I mean geez, I bet your holidays involve sword fights, rope swings, pirate ships and overthrowing some sort of dictator.”

“How did you know about how Sidda got my wedding ring?” Revin asked.

“Okay, what?” Blake stammered.

“Heard of The Last Pirate King?” Revin continued.

“T’Rev of P’Jem yeah? Was in the news. Starfleet Security finally caught up with him, died in prison not too long ago.” Mac’s recollection of the media portrayal was succinct. “No. No, I don’t…dammit.”

“Don’t what?” Blake asked.

“Starfleet Security didn’t track him down,” Mac said as he turned to Blake. “He was handed over to them. By someone at this table.” His face contorted in incredulity.

“Revin!” Blake announced, eyes wide, smiling as she decided to pick the obviously wrong answer. “Nicely done!”

“It was a team effort,” Revin answered, putting on airs of superiority. “I let my minions, especially this one,” she indicated Sidda with a backwards motion of her head, “do a majority of the work though. They needed the limelight. And between you and me, Sidda gets cranky if she’s not overthrowing static power structures.”

“Excuse me?” came the response.

“Love you dear,” Revin answered.

“You’re lucky you’re gorgeous,” Sidda grumbled before planting a kiss on Revin’s cheek, then whispered something that caused the Romulan woman’s cheeks to flush green.

“You know, I really shouldn’t be surprised,” Mac said after a moment and another sip of his after-dessert coffee. “First I get assigned a captain whose career was leaps and bounds ahead of my own. Then I finally get my own ship and get an XO whose exploits are half-classified and the other half sound like an adventure story I’d find half the crew playing through on the holodeck.”

“Oh shit, that would be a good idea!” Sidda said with a grin. “Remind me to talk to Na’roq about holonovel rights,” she said to Revin.

“I did that before we left Kyban,” Revin answered. “We’ll save them for retirement, yes?”

“Aww, come on,” Blake half-whined. “Give the people what they want.” When Sidda shook her head, she continued. “Okay, fine, Chuck sweetie, your turn. What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done?”

“Get stuck in a time-loop for a month and the quickest way to get everyone to trust the few who knew it was a loop was to give them a code phrase I came up with for such a situation.” Mac shrugged as Revin and Sidda both looked at him. The former in surprise, the latter in disbelief.

“You came up with code phrases for a time-loop? What, so someone could use them to gain your trust immediately?” Sidda asked. “I mean damn, how bored did you have to be to do that? But also, having read so many reports about time-loops, how is that not standard practice by now? Oh goddesses, I’m going to need some now aren’t I?”

“Yeah,” Mac drawled. “Would have come in real handy last week with that time loop we got stuck in.” The deadpan delivery was spot on as everyone stared at him, brows furrowing for a moment.

It was Revin who called him out first. “I like him,” she said upwards to Sidda.

Banter and asking questions from Blake continued for a while before some sort of unseen communication took place between Mac and Blake, the latter making an excuse in short order to drag Revin away from the table for a moment. Hunting for macaroons was the settled upon course of action, leaving just Sidda and Mac in the booth.

“She’s smitten with you, isn’t she?” Mac asked of Sidda after their other halves had gotten out of earshot.

“I’d hope so. She married me after all.” Sidda took a moment to reorientate herself and leaned forward, bringing the air of conspiracy to the table. “And what of you and Ms Pisani, hmm?”

“It’s a not-a-thing thing,” he answered. “And besides the point. This New Maquis development and Shreln has got me worried. And her threat against one of my crew isn’t helping.” His gaze went towards the bar where Blake had sat Revin on a stool and taken Revin’s usual place behind the counter, busy engaging in the time-honoured alchemy of far too many frontier doctors – cocktails.

Sidda went to say something, anything, stopped, glanced at Revin, and tried again.

Nothing came out.

Then a breath in before she tried a third time.

“I get it,” Mac cut her off. “You want to say something like ‘it’s one person versus the fate of potentially millions’ but it’s not for you.” He leaned forward to match Sidda’s posture. “And everything I’ve read about you and you’ve told me, you’d go harrowing off at warp speed, damn the torpedoes and set fire to the whole DMZ to put this one matter to rest if you could.”

“Causing a whole mess of problems in my wake,” Sidda confessed.

“And if everything I’ve been briefed on about this Manfred,” he stopped when Sidda looked up at him, one eyebrow raised. “Oh yes, I speak to the Commodore myself sometimes too. Or, more, spoken too.” She chuckled at that. “Manfred is a legitimate threat. Shreln’s threat we have to take as legitimate.”

“They’ll be expecting Starfleet playbooks. And my breed of…”

“Unorthodoxy?” Mac ventured.

“Yeah.”

“So tell me, what would your normal response be?” he asked.

“Give chase, run them down, vaporise Manfred after stealing his hat again.” She waved off his unspoken question. “Basically I’d be right on their heels and not stopping.”

“And Starfleet’s approach would be caution and reason. Investigate, follow leads, be a nuisance to all in the neighbourhood until we find what we’re looking for.” He smiled at her nod. He’d only chosen to explain a detailed and thorough investigation as such because he was talking to Sidda. “So let’s change it right up.”

“How?”

“We follow into the Badlands, we do our best to take down the Eponine and when the trail inevitably runs cold, we back off. Let them think they’ve gotten away with it.”

Sidda didn’t like that idea, the dislike evident instantly on her face.

“I’m not saying we give up Commander. I’m saying we let them wonder just what we’re doing. They’ll either get cautious, thinking we’re doing something super sneaky, or they’ll get comfortable.”

“They hide and worry, or they get cocky and mess up.” She smirked now. “Psychological warfare.”

“And if it buys us a few weeks, we can really toss a cat amongst the pigeons.”

“Why would you throw a cat amongst the pigeons?” Sidda asked, the idiom running into a Human/Orion cultural conflict.

“Let me rephrase. We throw an Atlantis amongst the Badlands.”

Atlantis? Wouldn’t that run into the whole standard playbook problem that Manfred and Shreln, as you pointed out, would be expecting?” she countered.

“Oh, sure. Tikva, Captain Theodoras, lives by the regs. But uh, she too has a flair for the dramatic that I think would make her rather apt for helping us flush out Dr Shreln. After all, she put on a whole song and dance at Deneb while we rode in system instead of just getting stuck into the Dominion’s backside.” It was his turn to shrug while he sat back against the booth’s seat. “Though honestly, totally worth it. Historical docos are going to have a field day with it.”

Sidda nodded, processing what Mac had said. “I don’t like it, but I hate it less than the other options present.”

“And you know what the best part is about getting command of my own ship?” he asked,

“You can, when you want, tell your XO ‘wasn’t really asking, we’re doing my plan anyway’?” She laughed at her own answer, which started Mac’s own.

And back over at the bar, Revin and Blake looked over to the laughing pair. “Fucking finally,” Blake exclaimed. “It’s not a real ship until the CO and XO are laughing with each other.”

“Or their partners are conspiring together?” Revin asked.

“Oh sweetie, who do you think really runs this ship?” Blake answered as she tapped her cocktail glass against Revin’s own.

Die a Hero… – 7

USS Republic
August 2401

The flaw with the automatic alerts aboard Republic was there was no automated announcement for ‘Escaped prisoners’. More precisely, there was no unique notification for such an event. And so at 0300hr ship time, the alert that went out was instead a much more automatic response inducing ‘Intruder alert’ blared out across the entirety of Republic’s spaces.

“Under your socks,” Revin said quietly into the dark space of the bedroom as Sidda fumbled in the dark for discarded clothing. “Computer, lights,” she then commanded, electing to make herself immune to the sudden illumination by pulling the duvet over her head.

Sidda’s response was a barely muttered collection of syllables vaguely along the lines of ‘thank you’ as she pulled a dark grey tank top over her head while making for the closet. The sock drawer pulled out, contents unceremoniously discarded on the floor and she found what Revin had directed her to – her trusty and very un-Starfleet Klingon disruptor.

Her very trusty, very dangerous disruptor with its modified extra setting she herself had christened as ‘Solve all immediate problems.’

The very same setting that used to drain the power cell in a single shot, now up to a glorious and frightening two shots with a newer power cell. Or that which required the weapon to undergo very regular maintenance because of how ruinous it was on the emitter head to fire a shot that powerful.

It took the vaporise setting of the disruptor and pondered the question ‘But what if more?’ and applied it in a manner that every Klingon that Sidda had demonstrated it to had been aghast, then curious about. At least those on friendly terms with Sidda. Those not-so-friendly hadn’t been so curious about it afterwards due to a lack of…cohesion.

“Sidda to Levne,” she barked once out of her quarters, having opted to skip her tunic, footwear and uniform trousers, electing that tanktop and underwear was modesty enough. “What’s happening?”

“Mr Mackenzie and associates have managed to escape the brig and appear to be heading for the main shuttlebay.” The response came with the certainty of someone who was watching the escapee’s movements throughout the ship. “Teams are in position already to apprehend, Commander. There is no need for your presence.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Sidda grumbled after the channel closed and barely before shouting, “Make a hole!” at two lieutenants just going about their business as she raced for the nearest turbolift.

Hours of study prior to even arriving on Republic, and hours more afterwards had prepared her for choosing exactly where to go on the ship. The time between the alarm going on, the average speed of a person crawling through Jefferies tubes and running through corridors to avoid using turbolifts, a particular destination in mind after they consulted a map briefly, a few more stops to check again – all of it led to Sidda standing on one particular intersection some fifteen meters away from the doors to the shuttlebay.

Doors, which she discovered reassuringly, were suitably closed. And if Levne’s statement was correct, those doors concealed a full security team, likely behind cargo containers as cover, ready to force a surrender. Either with softly spoken words, or a cavalcade of phaser fire to really drive the point home.

She nodded her head in satisfaction a few times, then turned to face the direction she was expecting the New Maquis, or just New Maquis-aligned smugglers, to be coming from. After her brief little outburst when they had been brought aboard, she wanted this moment. To really rub it in that they were done for.

She couldn’t explain it. Likely would frustrate the ship’s counsellor when she finally got around to availing herself of their services. The best she had was her code. These idiots had violated her code. The rules she had operated under, that she’d made plain and clear to the ne’er-do-wells of the Archanis border regions that she wouldn’t let anyone violate.

And those that did either moved of their own accord out of her way, or typically came afoul of either her, or Starfleet.

And now she was Starfleet.

If they had crippled just a normal freighter, it would have been business. Unsavoury for sure, but business. But the Blue Rascal had children onboard.

Families.

She wasn’t just enforcing her code, but finally actually enforcing the law too.

The smile was…mixed – satisfaction, predatory, nostalgic – all of these things.

She missed just running around the Archanis Sector, helping where she could, or felt like. Punching faces that needed punching. A little bit of wealth redistribution from time to time.

But now she could do much, much more.

Just had to prove herself first.

And get her own ship.

All things that would come with time.

“This way,” came the muffled voice of someone down a corridor and around a corner or two. Footfalls accompanied the words as three people were running.

So, their companion from the fighter was still in sickbay. Or left in the brig perhaps. Jack Mackenzie looking out only for his crew, not the greater New Maquis?

“That’s far enough,” Sidda shouted as the escapees rounded the last corner, the shuttlebay within sight. “How’s about we be good little boys and girls and go back to the brig before things get ugly?”

She wasn’t entirely sure what exactly caused them to stop in their tracks. Running into someone so close to their goal? Running into just one person? The ship’s executive officer by herself? Or that Sidda was standing there in bland grey underclothes with a Klingon disruptor in the middle of the hallway?

She wagered for Harriot Morrison and Alex Stone it was one of the first few, but with how Jack’s gaze was lingering on her, the latter for him. It was enough to draw an eye roll from her by autonomic response, followed by her slowly raising that disruptor and assuming and near-duellist stance.

“I’m not going to ask twice,” she said.

“A disruptor?” Jack challenged. “It’s got no stun setting, oh Pirate Queen.” He scoffed at her.  “You sold out to Starfleet and expect me to think you’re going to shoot me with a disruptor? Give me a break.” His tone was mocking and disrespectful. The tone of a man who had decided in the last day and a bit in the brig that she wasn’t worth even considered a threat.

That she was toothless.

So she shot him in the foot.

The security alarm announcing weapon’s fire, triggered by a non-registered weapon going off, was drowned out by a high-pitched squeal of pain as Jack Mackenzie went crumpling to the floor. Shock, disbelief and pain fuelled a scream that would have made a Ferengi during a stock-market crash proud.

“You fucking bitch!” Jack squeaked out while clutching at his foot. “Get her!” he screamed at his companions.

The large one, Alex, went to launch himself forward but stopped when the woman, Harriot, stuck an arm out to block him and shook her head. “No way,” Harriot said. “Nuh-uh.”

“Fucking kill her!” Jack screamed once more, the hiss of the shuttlebay doors opening barely noticeable over the cry.

“’Solve all immediate problems,’ right?” asked Harriot as she looked at Sidda. The smile on Sidda’s face was all the answer she needed. “Nah Jack, you ain’t worth dying for. ‘Sides…we done.”

More booted footfalls echoed, pouring out of the shuttlebay and down converging corridors. There was a quickness to them, but not running perse. With haste was a good way to put it as security officers appeared from multiple directions, some with hand phasers, others with rifles. And at the head of the formation coming up from behind the escapees was Lieutenant Commander Selu Levne, whose weapon was still holstered.

Alex and Harriot both made efforts of peaceful surrender, complying with officers who restrained them and started to escort them back to the brig. A security officer with a medkit appeared near Jack but was struggling to deal with the man as he writhed in pain.

“Fucking bitch!” Jack screamed once more. “She could have killed me! Fucking arrest her too!”

“The commander could have, yes,” Levne said cooly to Jack. “But she didn’t. You could have also avoided all of this by not staging an escape attempt.” The lack of emotion on Levne’s face was so very Vulcan as to bring a smirk to Sidda’s face. So matter of fact, so statement of the obvious.

“Oooh, add that to the charge list,” Sidda quipped.

“Including assaulting a Starfleet officer,” Levne said. “Ensign Martine suffered a broken nose and fractured cheekbone.”

Jack was hoisted to his feet by two officers who had disarmed themselves, working on the instance of the medic who had declared ‘Well if you won’t stop fidgeting…’ before giving up on trying to examine the disruptor wound. He glared at Sidda, hatred replacing dismissal towards her, then snarled. “Guess it’s true what they say. Die a hero, or live long enough to be the villain. Fucking Starfleet!”

As he was dragged away, the swarm of Security officers evaporating as quickly as it had condensed, Levne stepped up to Sidda, eyes on the disruptor at first, then Sidda’s state of dress, before matching her eyes. “I had the situation under control.”

Sidda stared at the other Orion for a moment, then sighed. “You allowed them to escape.”

“I allowed for such a circumstance to arise in order to see what they would do.” Levne turned to look at the back of Jack Mackenzie as he was disappeared around a corner, heading for a lift and likely sickbay first. “I did not allow for a…proactive executive officer. Should I be doing so in future?”

“No,” Sidda admitted. “Just…that guy irks me.”

“His statement at the end there sounded very… curse-like.” Levne looked back at Sidda, with that Vulcanesqe raised eyebrow. “Not a human phrase I’m aware of, unfortunately.”

“Eh, human idioms. Just means I need to do something heroic in my life or go about becoming the terror of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.” Sidda shrugged. “But that all sounds like an after-breakfast thing to me.”

By the time she dragged herself back into bed, cocooned in the warmth of the duvet and Revin beside her, it had only been twenty minutes. Adrenaline was rapidly losing its edge, more so now that Revin had stretched an arm lazily over her.

“Did you stop the bad guys?” Revin asked sleepily.

“Shot one in the foot,” she admitted, noting the edge of exhaustion to her own words.

“Feel better for it?”

“Little bit.” She squeezed Revin gently to her as the other woman drifted back to sleep. “Little bit.”