Check out our latest Fleet Action!

 

Archanis Campaign - Vondem Thorn

When pirates go to war…

Salvage Operations

Vondem Thorn, Archanis Sector
2399

Vondem Thorn

Archanis Sector

“Well?”

“Well what?”

Sidda turned to face her nominal executive officer in the gloom of the bridge and glared heavily at the man. She would have said something more but instead of being treated to him giving her some disrespectful look, he was actually doing his job and studying his displays.

“Well, what am I looking at?” she said slowly, refining her initial inquiry to try and coax more information out of the human, Gaeda. He was average height for a human on slightly on the dark tone, though in the gloom it was hard to place exactly, especially with his fast cast in red from his console.

“The blasted remains of the SS Penzance. No survivors on sensors. Poor bastards never even got a distress call off.” With that Gaeda tapped on his console and pointed to the main view screen for Sidda to look at.

Before she could even turn her head, she heard the whistle of her helmswoman. She fully echoed the woman’s sentiment when she saw the damage for herself. The ship’s comm array had been blown clear to pieces. They hadn’t heard a message, neither likely had Starfleet with damage like that. Theirs was a happenstance discover.

“Likely crew?”

“Twenty at most. Penzance was a Merrick Shipbuilding T-20 class long range freighter. Built in the Sol system.”

Sidda shifted slightly in her chair as she considered her course of action here. She had a multitude of decisions before her, a few of them simply right out for how morally bankrupt they were, even to her. Her contemplation however was broken when a gentle touch of fingers on her bare left shoulder stole her attention. She could count each finger as it lighted upon her shoulder.

Revin, her Romulan lover stood, eyes fixated on the viewscreen. “Sidda love, wouldn’t you like to at least be found?” Revin asked, her voice lyrical and utterly entrapping, at least to Sidda’s ear. The woman could read her a menu at one of the damnable Ferengi chain bars that kept popping up and she’d listen with baited breath. Her touch, could steal her attention. And those eyes…

It didn’t do for a ship’s captain to be distracted.

Shaking her head, she brushed Revin’s hand from her shoulder rather harshly and collected her thoughts again.

“Orin, take two others and go over there. If you find any bodies, leave tags on them so Starfleet can find them easily when they show up. Search the ship stem to stern and see if anything valuable was left behind, doubly so for anything we might be able to use on the Thorn.”

The large Orion male at the tactical console nodded his head in one single swift action, spun on his heel and marched out of the bridge.

“Trid, I want you alert you hear me?” she then turned on the Bajoran woman at the helm. “We’re close to the Klingon border after all, could be a cloaked ship hanging around. We’ll need fancy flying until we can get Orin and his crew back aboard.”

“Aye ma’am,” Trid responded in a precise way that Sidda knew, just knew, meant that Trid had been through Starfleet Academy.

She had never asked the Bajoran her background, but over six months had heard enough to know she’d left the Fleet due to some disagreement somewhere along the lines. But she’d never directly asked if she’d been Starfleet. Just assumed. A loyalty test perhaps in the coming weeks would be in order.

“Gaeda, decloak the ship when Orin is ready to beam over. You have the bridge. I’ll be in my quarters.” Standing, Sidda stretched slightly, reaching for the low ceiling and then quickly took Revin’s hand in her own and dragged the woman off the bridge.

Someone needed to be reminded of the rule about their presence on her bridge.


A few moments later the space around the broken form of the SS Penzance waved as the Vondem Thorn decloaked. The older Klingon B’Rel class bird of prey no longer sported her KDF green paint job, but was now painted a shade that Sidda had been reassured was called Paisley Purple.

She hung in the inky blackness was three figures materialised in the bridge of the Penzance, able to see their mothership through the hole blasted through the hull of the freighter, leaving not but ruin in its wake.

All in all, the suited figures would spend nearly three hours recovering what they could and on their own initiative, moving the bodies they did find to a common location on the ship, tagging each one for recovery.

The final act before they departed was to place a subspace beacon, programmed to broadcast on Starfleet channels, to alert Starfleet of the fate of the Penzance and to hopefully guide the seventeen lost souls aboard her home.

There would also be no missing the symbol of House D’Ghor on the Penzance’s bridge, but that was a problem for another day.

Something’s up

Ayer’s Rock
2399

Ayer’s Rock

Archanis Sector

The township of Landing was like many other little towns, or even cities and metroplexes across known space, in that it was the unimaginatively named first settlement upon a colonised world. Landing however wasn’t some prosperous colony town, or thriving metroplex. If it was surviving and self-sufficient it was considered a success here for this hard scrabble community.

The world of Ayer’s Rock was barely habitable and likely would have been settled in some concerted effort decades, maybe even centuries ago, if it wasn’t for its proximity to the Klingon border. But the last few decades of nominal peace had endeared this tough little dirtball to some human settlers who had been looking for a challenge.

They had a general disregard for modern technologies, outside of those that kept them alive. No energy weapons, no hover cars, or shuttles outside of the red and white, and well maintained, one that was parked next to the only hospital on the planet. The one and only subspace transmitter on the planet was prominent with its antenna sticking out of the top of the town hall.

“Quaint,” said Trid said as she stepped up beside Sidda, barely coming up to the Orion’s shoulder. “Mother tells stories of growing up in places like this.”

“These people want to be like this,” Sidda said as she finally took the step off the ramp and on to the hard packed dirt that the Vondem Thorn had set down on a couple of kilometers outside of town. “Maybe a few hundred thousand across the entire planet, few thousand of them here in Landing. Many of them think this collection of shacks is too crowded.”

Another set of footfalls came down the ramp as Orin approached, Orion disruptor on a sling over his shoulder, handing a Klingon disruptor to Sidda and a rather worn and beaten looking Federation phaser off to Trid who inspected it, checked all it’s features and then stashed it in her belt with practised ease.

Definitely Starfleet.

With all three of them armed, Sidda turned to look at the crewmembers at the top of the ramp, weapons in hand as they guarded the entrance to her ship. She nodded, received a nod in response and then started to walk towards town with her companions for this excursion.


“Sidda,” the older gentleman on horse back said, approaching from the township. He was one of the oldest humans she had ever seen, outside of some image of Starfleet admiral or human politician. Definitely the oldest she’d seen in person. He had in his possession an actual honest to goodness firearm, a replica mind you, but still deadly, and it was sitting across his lap as it had the last two times she’d visited.

“Sheriff Jacobs,” she replied with a smile, stepping forward with both hands visible and empty. “As always, we promise no trouble. Just looking to ask Pete a couple of questions, do a bit of trading and then be on our way.”

“Uh huh,” Jacobs said. “Which one is he?” he asked with a slow raising of a hand to indicate Orin.

“This is Orin, Sheriff. I stand by my word, Telin won’t be coming back into town.”

“Uh huh,” Jacobs said once more, not exactly believing what he was hearing. “I hear any word of you or yours causing troubles, I’ll arrest yah, understand?”

“As always Sheriff Jacobs, your word is understood.”

“Uh huh,” the man said as he turned his horse around and trotted back into town.

“Friendly chap,” Trid said. “It’s like some sad human Western story isn’t it?”

“Western?” Sidda asked.

“Later. Let’s just do what we need to do and get out of here.”

Orin didn’t say a word, just nodded with such vigor, once, that it could be heard and then started marching forth like a man on a mission, which technically he was.


“I…I never took Orin for…”

“The gentle sort?” Sidda asked while finishing off Trid’s question as the two women continued walking towards the town hall in the middle of Landing. She was smiling, loving seeing the confusion on Trid’s face as well having seen Orin off to see his lady love for at least a few hours.

“Yah. I mean…he just seemed so natural. Wait…we haven’t been here since I signed up. You been keeping them apart for six months?”

“Not by choice. I’ve offered to swing by and drop Orin off for a few days or a week, but Orin is Orin.”

“He doesn’t speak much though.”

“Doesn’t speak at all, unless you count sign. Klingon cut out his tongue when he was young. He could afford a fix, just doesn’t want to. People pay attention to the silent ones.”

Trid nodded in understanding, the switched back to the previous element of the conversation after a beat. “She was so tiny!”

“I know right!” Sidda exclaimed, finally having someone who got it.


“Oh no! No no no!” The door slammed shut in their face after briefly opening, the sound of something being knocked over from inside the building attached to the back of the town hall and what sounded like scampering feet of someone trying to get away.

“This normal?” Trid asked.

“Painfully so.”

Trying the door and unable to move it, Sidda enlisted the help of Trid and they were able to move the door just enough to slide in past the debris that Pete had knocked over in a vain attempt to bar the door. “Pete!” she shouted into the dark. “I just want to ask some questions. Clearing your debt sort of questions.”

“Can’t afford those!” came a shouted response from somewhere in the mess that was nominally Ayer’s Rock’s archives. “Your questions always have costs Sidda! Go away!”

“Can’t do that Pete! Need some answers and I know you’re listening to subspace traffic across the sector.”

“No I’m not!” the shouted voice responded from somewhere else in the room.

“Damn he’s fast,” Trid whispered before she started working her way around the room, opening distance between her and Sidda.

“I sold you the gear you wanted Pete. Don’t you think I know what I was selling?” She herself was moving, away from Trid to draw Pete’s attention and hope that her companion would find the troublesome little man.

“What do you want?” he asked. Had he moved?

“D’Ghor raiders attacked a Federation merchantman last week. I want to know what you’ve heard.”

“Nothing! I swear I’ve…ACK! Hey, let go!”

“Got ‘im boss!” Trid announced as she dragged Pete out from under a desk by his shirt collar.


“See,” Pete said, showing the traffic his array had picked up. “Nothing unusual.”

The handful of large-scale consoles in the back of the archives represented the single greatest collection of modern technology on Ayer’s Rock and what Sidda had to think would form the start of a decent communications intercept post.

Nevermind if it had been assembled by a hick on a back water.

Who had been supplied by Sidda in order to build up this resource for just this situation.

Pete’s passive listening array was spread in parts across a couple thousand square kilometers, listening to whatever was being said in the Archanis sector. Oh, he couldn’t decrypt anything, but just knowing people were talking was sometimes more then enough to go on.

She still didn’t know what Pete did with any of the transmissions, but she humoured him for it had helped her from time to time in spotting new shipping routes, or identifying changes in patrols routes.

Or avoiding her mother, the Witch. Scourge of the Kolendrin Drift, Victor of Parsis III and decorated Starfleet Captain.

“Huh.” Sidda stepped back from leaning over Pete’s shoulder and pondered the data she’d been shown. No new increases in subspace activity, that wasn’t on Starfleet channels at any rate. Slightly higher traffic on merchant channels, but then again that sort of thing was likely ship captain’s forming convoys for protection. If Starfleet was in the area in numbers, they all knew something must be up.

And it had to be.

“Right, Pete, keep listening. I’ll be back. Consider your debt cleared, anything further is me going into debt with you.”

“Wait..you in debt to me?” the man asked as he swivelled his wooden chair towards her. “You’re serious?”

“So serious Pete that I’m willing to leave a subspace emergency beacon with you. Something happens here I want you to activate it.”

His nervous disposition instantly melted away and a serious individual was left in it’s wake. “Sidda, what’s going on?”

“I don’t know just yet, but we’re likely to start hearing about a few more Klingon raids in days to come Pete.”

“Ayer’s Rock is undefended.”

“You’ve also got nothing worth stealing. Longer the Vondem is here though, the longer Ayer’s has something that is worth taking. Trid, let’s go. Pete, we’ll have the beacon with you in an hour. Clear a space for us to beam it in will you.”


“You sure it wise to leave Orin behind like that?”

“First time he’s ever asked to be left behind. Besides, once I explained things, he was pretty insistent. He’s got his rifle and folks around here do respect him. His brother not so much.”

“You’re the boss, boss.”

“Damn straight. Let’s get back to the ship. I want of this rock. We’ll head for Kyban. That’s a moderately busy Federation world. See what the local news there is saying.”

“And please, please can we restock the kitchen?”

“And restock the kitchen.”

“You are distracted love…”

Vondem Thorn, Archanis Sector
2399

Vondem Thorn

Archanis Sector

“Okay, so,” Trid started as she set her plate down on the mess table and sat herself down, “I’m confused. Just who the fuck is Revin?”

The three other individuals at the table all looked up at Trid and to the outside observer, independent of the fact this conversation to be was taking place on an old Klingon B’Rel, could be confused for thinking it was a great powers meeting. An orion, a romulan and human were all seated and if you threw in the klingon in the attached galley, you could be excused for that line of thought.

It was the orion who spoke first. For the rest of the crew, Orin was a mountain of muscle, but this individual was bigger still. He cracked a smile, looked down the table at Trid and then spoke with a deep guttural tone you expected from the overly large bully he actually was. “Captain’s plaything innit she,” he said, punctuated he was finished with a large bite of the animal leg he had in his giant paw of a hand.

“As always Telin, your miss the true subtlety of the matter,” R’tin said, setting his fork down and then looking up from his plate at the bajoran woman who had sat down opposite him. “Revin is Sidda’s current companion. Though, I must admit, I believe the longest yet,” he looked in Kevak’s direction, receiving a single nod in the affirmative from the older klingon cook.

“So, captain’s woman then?” Trid asked.

“If you must put it so crudely,” R’tin answered. “But my sister and I tend to think there is something more there. Revin tends to keep to herself and Sidda is…protective.”

“Huh huh huh,” Telin grunted from his isolated spot down the table. “One way to put it yah git. Fucking kill-happy is what yah mean. Look at Revin wrong and you’ll have a knife to yah neck.”

“That’s just you Telin,” the older human woman at the table said. Her blonde hair was going grey, but didn’t look old enough for the advanced state of silver. Maybe in her late forties, if Trid’s guess was right. “Now if you can’t say anything nice, keep your mouth shut,” the woman whom Trid only knew as Bones said, holding her rather sharp steak knife up, pointing at the colossal orion. “Or I’ll do worse then Sidda did to you.”

The whole room, save for Kevak in the galley, attained that stressed silence as a threat had been made, something the walls of this room just seemed primed to echo and enhance, like the ritual of a fight had taken place many a time here. But something just wasn’t quiet right with the orion as he stared the woman down, then caved slightly. He loaded both hands with the animal legs on his plate then stood and took three large steps for the door, his departure breaking that tension.

“Okay…” Trid said, then looked to R’tin again. “So, I get everyone on this ship but for the orions. Sidda’s a fucking mystery, and the twins are just…polar opposites?”

“What Telin has in muscles, Orin has a sophistication. And there isn’t much to get really. Orin and Telin both owe Sidda debts for different reasons. As for our illustrious captain…she’s the daughter of an orion merchant prince. Only child, spoilt rotten with a ship her father procured. Lucky for us she pays well and is actually good at her job. Certainly better then any navy captain I ever served with.”

“This true?” Trid asked in Kevak’s way, getting a grunt and a nod from the man as he finished chopping up some orange root vegetable and slid the contents of the cutting board straight into the vast pot.

“True enough,” he said. “Though her father didn’t buy the ship. She hired me because I actually served on this ship,” he actually spoke, shaking a few different spice containers over the pot, thinking clearly about each added. “This very ship that I helped steal from a KDF depot.”

“Okay, hold up, I need to hear this saga,” Trid said, having chosen that last work on purpose.

Some magic that word contained seemed to get Kevak’s attention as he looked up at the young bajoran woman. His left eye was partially closed from a scar, but the burning soul behind both eyes grew as his grin showed teeth. Then he reached into a cupboard, pulled out an unlabelled bottle and poured a good swing into the pot before walking around with it and sitting at the head of the table, Trid on his left, R’tin on his right. “This wee man has heard this story,” he started.

“And happy to hear it again bard,” R’tin interrupted, rolling his eyes with genuine mirth.

“Good! It’s a story of daring and long odds, of two warriors fighting side by side and stealing a ship steeped in history and glory to give her a true warriors end one day, not left to rust in a depot, forgotten by all.”


“Telin tried to speak to me again this morning,” Revin said, as she lay on the bed beneath the black satin sheets with Sidda, gentle tracing a single finger in a complex pattern on Sidda’s exposed right arm.

“I’ll geld him later,” Sidda said, simply staring at the ceiling of her quarters. Charitably called the captain’s quarters, they were marginally larger then all the others on the ship. Perhaps more so since she had ripped out the vague hint of a desk and work station that had been placed by the KDF some refit during the ship’s career.

Her quarters now couldn’t be mistaken for a klingon captain’s quarters. The slab they would have been called a bed had been replaced with something much softer and comfortable that dominated what space there was. Bolts of coloured cloth had been used to hide the walls, to give the same feeling as parts of her father’s estate, with a cozy but not oppressive feel. Soft lights illuminated the room when needed, but otherwise only a single pale red light would do the job, her one concession to the klingon designers.

It didn’t prevent her sleeping and it meant if something went wrong; the light of her room would match the corridor to the bridge at least. It would also mean she could find a top in a hurry. There did not need to be a repeat of the Topless Battle of Torvin.

“That will not be needed love.”

“Okay, I won’t geld him.”

There was silence for another few minutes, Revin’s finger drawing moving up to Sidda’s bare shoulder, then along her collar bone. “You are distracted love.”

Sidda turned to face the woman at her side, a gentle smile forming on her face as she saw those eyes looking at her. Revin’s eyes could steal her soul and she’d be happy with it. That beautiful green sea, the thousand-yard stare as she just looked right past Sidda. Normally that look wouldn’t do it for Sidda, but something about Revin just took her breath away.

“What gave you that impression?”

“I only ever get to your shoulder when you are distracted.”

“Everything we’ve heard the last few days has got me thinking. Klingon raiders, Starfleet suddenly showing up and merchants forming ad hoc convoys. This isn’t limited to our part of the sector. And the raiders are House D’Ghor. Nihilistic death cultists who fight like they have no honour.”

“So the stories go,” Revin said, her finger stopping and then drawing down Sidda’s chest, hooking the bedsheet providing the barest hint of modesty in the dim light.

Sidda’s left hand caught Revin’s, stopping her from baring her and she looked back to the bulkhead above her. “Starfleet’s going to be caught behind it’s blasted rules. The Klingons aren’t really going to want to get involved. Where’s the honour in fighting the self-damned who are attacking the Federation?”

“They will temper the Federation, make them stronger.”

“Some great lord is probably saying those exact words to justify their inaction,” Sidda said, the smirk on her face not a happy one.

“You intend to do something about this? To be some folk hero?”

“Can’t be a pirate queen if there’s nothing left to pirate.”

“Where do you plan to start then?” Revin asked while trying to move her hand once more, making a little bit of progress before being stopped by Sidda.

“Kyban. Once there I’ll call papa, see if he knows anything. Failing that I’ll see if the Witch will answer. But in the meantime…” Sidda didn’t let go of Revin’s hand, but guided it down letting the sheet be pulled off of her as she then pulled Revin close once more.


“Gaeda, you wanna here this,” Lewis Chin said from the helm station.

The Vondem Thorn didn’t really need terribly many people on the bridge when she was underway and so it came to the only two human males on board at this odd hour. Just a way the complex rotations schedule had worked out.

“Okay,” Gaeda said, not even looking up from his padd.

“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is the SS Avalon Prince! We are under attack by a klingon bird of prey! We need immediate assistance!”

Gaeda had stowed the padd upon the first Mayday and by the third was at Lewis’ console, looking at the sensor feed. The Avalon Prince was less then five minutes away at current speed, less if they pushed it.

“Change course Lewis, maximum speed. Don’t care if they can see us cloaked,” he ordered, then stepped back to the command chair, jabbing one of the actual physical buttons present, not some touch screen like he’d grown up on. Something cathartic in a dire situation about a physical button.

“Battlestations! Battlestations! Captain to the bridge!” he shouted, his voice filling every compartment on the Vondem Thorn as her ancient klingon battle klaxon started firing off.

A pirating we shall go

Vondem Thorn, Archanis Sector
2399

Vondem Thorn
Archanis Sector

“Time?” Gaeda asked as the bridge hatch opened and the lithe form of the ship T’Ael, the ship’s chief engineer if such a think existed, entered the bridge. She looked to Gaeda, gave him a nod and manned the engineering console in quick order, her look enough to tell him that Engineering was handled.

“Thirty seconds to weapons range,” Lewis answered back from his console just off to the left of the main viewscreen, it’s contents the star streak of warp travel. “

Gaeda had abandoned his Ops console for Tactical, bringing the ship’s unique blend of weapons online and getting them ready for battle. The starboard wing disruptor had given out long ago and a salvaged phaser emitter from some ancient Starfleet ship had been reworked enough to fill the spot, giving the Thorn a truly unique blend of disruptor and phaser fire, just as much a signature as her purple paint scheme.

Jesus, we’re down to five torpedoes.

“Weapons ready, standby to decloak,” he got out as again the hatch opened, this time Telin stepping through and pushing Gaeda aside without much fanfare as he assumed the post his brother would normally have manned.

While Gaeda was firmly in the camp as most of the crew that Telin was a barely controlled brute, he did respect his ability to fight, be it up close and personal, or as a marksman with ships weapons.

Course, where’s Orin when we really need him? Getting freaky…lucky bastard.

“Your excused,” Gaeda snapped at the Orion monstrosity before returning to his own battlestation, bring the console fully to life and sitting himself down.

Ten seconds out and the hatch opened once more and in flowed his captain, wearing but a silk dressing gown she was still busy tying the sash on. Behind her, with footfalls likely unnoticed in the din of klaxons was Revin, who hung back just enough that it was difficult to tell, but looked to have cloaked herself in a bedsheet similar in colour and texture to Sidda’s gown.

Oh dear, someone isn’t going to be happy.

“Report!” she demanded as she sat down and turned the chair to face Gaeda.

“Federation merchant under attack by klingon raiders. We’re the closest ship. Feds are ten minutes out,” he responded without looking away from his console where he was busy making the final system adjustments for battle. The ship’s wings were lowering, the cloak was being primed for deactivation and a rapid cycle to bring it back up if called on.

“Impulse in three…two…one…”

The ship lurched ever so slightly as they came out of warp and the hulking frame of the SS Avalon Princefilled their view screen, a single klingon bird of prey, B’Rel class like the Thorn was harassing the ship, having clearly collapsed it’s civilian grade shields already and busy using the ship for what amounted as target practise.

It didn’t move like it had even noticed the Thorn on sensors as they had made their mad dash in under cloak.

“Lewis, attack vectors. Telin, all weapons. Drop cloak and fire…now!”

The sequence of events was flawless and trained. Executed with experience, though this time against a capable enemy and not some hapless freighter they were firing on to frighten and get to surrender before they did any real damage. But an unsuspecting warship was just as hapless as an unsuspecting freighter.

The starboard phaser emitter lashed out with it’s orange beam while the port disruptor spat forth green death at the klingon ship, impacting hull and not shields. There was a moment where Gaeda could see confusion on Sidda’s face and then her glance over her shoulder in an unspoken command to Telin and a single torpedo was launched as they swooped past their prey.

Gaeda turned back and jabbed a button on his console without being asked and the Thorn disappeared back under her cloak. Then he was straight to the sensors, scanning the other vessel.

“Direct hit. Looks like their starboard weapons are out. Warp drive and cloak too. They’re bringing shields up. I’ve also got klingon life signs on the merchant.” That, he thought to himself, didn’t bode well for the merchants.

“Shields up! Bring us back around Lewis.”

As the Thorn decloaked she too took a hit, though instead of a directed it, it was a random spray of disruptors as the enemy ship swooped through a turn. Visually Gaeda could see now why the enemy’s starboard weapons looked offline – Telin’s torpedo strike had sheared the wing right off at the midpoint, the vessel trailing plasma and atmosphere from its wounds, including those on the main hull for their directed weapons attacks.

“We’re okay,” shouted T’Ael from her own console, busy coaxing the klingon computers to do her bidding.

As Lewis swing the Thorn around, he dived the ship under the Avalon Prince and back over, searching for his prey and bringing them into view just long enough for Telin to light up their shields with the phaser. The faint green bubble of the ship’s shields flared up and then collapsed just as the beam fell off its target as their own helmsman was now engaged in his own daring do.

Both ships started to dance in the inky depths, sometimes further from the Avalon Prince, other times closer as they sought firing angles on each other. The Thorn rocked a few more times as disruptors found their mark, collapsing a portion of the ship’s shields and showering him in sparks as the upper Ops station gave up on life.

A glance around and he could see a gas venting from aconduit in the ceiling and the rarely used Science station had died in a shower of sparks too. Telin was patting down a portion of his top where the sparks had clearly landed on him and he could make out behind him the form of Revin, still wrapping in the bedsheet and as calm as a statue in the madness going on.

Something is not right with her, he thought to himself, shook his head and returned to his duty.

“Telin! Now!”

Lewis had managed to bring the Thorn in right behind the klingon ship, a perfect shot from the aft and the orion didn’t fail to delivery, bring all weapons to heavy rapid fire and proceeding to chew through the ship’s engines, it’s hull and into something vital as she detonated in an antimatter explosion, far to close for comfort as Lewis’ slammed the ship right into the shockwave and through the debris.

More klaxons sounded and the Engineering console in front of T’Ael looked like a Christmas tree, but she was busy handling it and no doubt elsewhere on the ship her engineering mates were as well. Soon enough they’d all be on damage control duty though.

“Get me the merchant,” Sidda demanded.

Gaeda didn’t need to be told twice as he punched in commands, hit the execute button and then stood to approach Sidda’s chair and stand behind her for the pickup. He’d done this plenty of times before. To give a sense of strength, that this woman actually commanded the ship and he’d be ready to answer a command, to let the receiver know she meant business.

It was after all part of the play, wasn’t it?

“I’m sending over some crew to help with the klingons,” and with that Telin turned and left the bridge, taking care to walk around Revin at her spot by the hatch. “I’ll also be sending a list of demands over as well. Make good the cargo I request or we’ll finish what they intended to do and take everything.”

The human man that came up on screen looked relieved, then aghast at what he heard. “Who the hell are you to make demands of me?”

“The woman who just saved your life. You’ll find my demands entirely reasonable Captain.”

“Fucking pirates,” he responded and cut comms.

“Gaeda, scan them, then send a list over of things we need. Nothing that will cripple them though. And be quick about it. Starfleet is likely already on its way. Once Telin clears out the raiders and we have our loot I want us back under cloak and back on our way to Kyban.”

“Aye ma’am.”

****

“The bitch wants what?”

“Two kilos of dilithium, two of the atmospheric reprocessors we’re carrying, three crates of the wine we’re carrying and two RX-19 power relays. None of it’s critical, or dangerous even.”

“It’s the fucking principal of it!”

“Captain, she did just save us and her men did beam aboard, helped kill the raiders and then beamed back over to their own ship. If it wasn’t for them it wouldn’t just be Jenkins and Hargraves dead, it’d be the lot of us.”

“Fuck! Fine! Give them what they want, then head for the Starfleet ship’s that coming here. We’ll give them everything we can, they can go pirate hunting.”

****

Gaeda was on the bridge once again with just Lewis, the rest of the crew having left to attend to damage control, or to go act as Bones’ nurse when the boarding party had returned, not without incident it would seem.

“Right Lewis,” he said following the confirmation of supplied beamed aboard ship, “get us back underway.”

He transmitted a thank you message to the Avalon Prince and then activated the ship’s cloak as they jumped back to warp, heading for the populated colony world of Kyban.

“Right, give me a hand will you, we need to make some changes to the drive signatures. Can’t be to obvious when we get to Kyban.”

Our little Federation spy

Banksy City, Keban, Archanis Sector
2399

Banksy City
Kyban
Archanis Sector

The night club that T’Ael had selected for those partaking in shore leave was not the most respectable location within the city. It was also a considerable distance above the worst such location in the city. Banksy City had a rather thriving population of three million individuals, so finding a good night club wasn’t difficult – it was the getting in that was.

She’d been the one to lead the charge in finding a place for the majority of the crew to relax. She’d managed to drag her brother along, most of the engineers, both helms people, and a majority of the ship’s muscle along. Of the ship’s crew she had over half of them with her.

“I said!” Trid shouted in her ear over the music, both women on the dance floor, “Look at him!”

Not only had she heard that, but so had Orelia, the single orion female on the security teams and the third of their trio on the floor. All three were soon enough looking at the specimen of humanity that Trid had spotted. A tall man with obviously tanned skin, even in the rapidly changing light of the club, his muscle tone couldn’t be denied through the rather tight shirt he had somehow squeezed himself into. An argument, T’Ael thought to herself, could be made for having it beamed onto him.

“Girl,” Orelia laughed, “you got taste. Shame he’s got a boyfriend,” she said pointing to an equally handsome, if not gorgeous young man who approached and wrapped his arms around the first’s neck, drawing him in close as they joined in on the dancing.

“Fuck that,” T’Ael said as she pushed Orelia and Trid apart so she could walk through, turning to look at them with a smirk. “Gonna go see if they want some company. Failing that, plenty of other gorgeous men about. Don’t wait up!” And with that she disappeared into the crowd, looking for the two gorgeous boys she had shown by Trid.

****

It was a few hours after T’Ael’s disappearance, though frankly Trid wasn’t entirely sure with who, or how many really. She parted ways with Orelia when the orion had found herself a gaggle of interested individuals that reminded her more of how Freshmen all clamoured around the few orions in her first year at the Academy, all smelling of desperation and hoping that stereotypes rung true.

All the men that had come with them planetside had obviously found distractions of one form or another and so she had finally given everyone the slip. She was alone and unaccompanied and that was when she had made her way, circuitously mind you, to the local planetside Starfleet office.

That shining office block that served as an interaction point between the common populace of the Federation and its preeminent uniformed service. She wasn’t exactly aware of what went on inside the facility, but such offices existed on most worlds with decent populations. Information collection, liaison offices for merchants, recruiting centres, educational outreach, interactions with planetary defence forces – all of that and likely more.

Striding in the door at 0127 local time, she was greeted with the smiling, welcoming face only a well-rewarded recruiting officer could pull off. Someone willing to take down details of the half drunk to call when more sober and give them the good speech, or to listen to those with questions at odd hours in the hope of convincing them the Fleet was in their future.

“Good morning ma’am,” the man said as he stood from behind what likely served as a reception checkin desk during normal hours of operation, “how can I help you?”

“Lieutenant Jenu Trid, Starfleet Operations, I need to speak with your section head immediately.”

“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to forgive me, I need to verify…” he started, an eyebrow rising in incredulity at Trid’s statement.

She had come prepared for this however and set the commbadge she’d been hiding on the counter. She’d hid it in her personal belongings for six months now, only recently reassembled to give off any signal. She waited for the man to see it, recognise it for what it was, a Starfleet commbadge and then check the screen that was just out of sight for Trid. His expression changed as he took it in.

“Uh…certainly Lieutenant. Please, take a seat, someone will be with you shortly.”

****

“Not often Lieutenant that I get called in after Interval,” Commander Jacob Ragnarson said, sitting himself down in the interview room opposite Trid, a cup of something warm and earthy in front of him. “Sorry, the name for the odd hour between 2559 and 0000.”

“I get the name sir,” she said, having sipped at the bottled water she’d been given when shown to this room to wait for Commander Ragnarson to arrive. “Just this was the only time I could find to get away and get here.”

“It’s appreciated. So, what have you got for me about the Vondem Thorn and her crew of pirates? Enough I presume to put them away for good?”

“Unfortunately, no sir. A few months, perhaps a couple of years at most. In the last six months they’ve committed one singular act of…extortion. The Avalon Prince I assume has filed a report with Starfleet.”

“That they have. They’ve already been compensated by their insurers.”

“Everything else they’ve done of questionable morality and legality they’ve done just outside of Federation borders sir. Technically the laws we can prosecute don’t apply.”

“Semantics,” Ragnarson said, waving the point away with his hand.

“Legal technicalities that exist and I assure you sir, Captain Sidda will hang her defence on.”

Ragnarson stared at Tida for a good long while, lifted his coffee and sipped it thoughtfully, staring at her. For her own part she returned it, equally as stoic, head tilted just slightly to the left in consideration of the man.

He was easily in his forties, maybe even fifties and only a Commander. In Command red, though that could be and has been used as a cover so many times, simply for the air of authority it granted. No, this man wasn’t a Commander, he had just introduced himself as one, wore the rank pips of one. He was something else, that much she was sure.

“They fought a D’Ghor ship, this you know, but they also have at their disposal their own communications array for tracking ship movements,” she finally said, breaking the silence.

“Where?”

“Can’t say,” she lied. Telling this man would mean someone going to investigate. Ayer’s Rock was just too small a pond for strangers and Pete would likely scream about it. Then Sidda would know and her mission would go to pot.

“Don’t lie to me Lieutenant,” Ragnarson said quietly as he set his coffee down. He pointedly didn’t ask again and she wasn’t going to answer unless asked.

The silence carried for a full minute before he was the one to break it. “Fine. Keep your details. Stick with the Vondem and report in when you can. You know your orders.” He went to stand but stopped when Trid rose her hand enough to get his attention.

“There is one more thing. A crew member aboard ship that wasn’t on my original dossier. Though, crewmember is likely incorrect. A romulan woman, about the same age as Sidda I’m assuming, name of Riven.”

Ragnarson settled back down and then tapped on the table, a holographic interface coming up and he tapped in a series of commands into the keyboard, bringing up security footage of the transporter hub the crew had all beamed down to. He focused on Sidda and the woman beside her, both dressed to impress and nodded his head as if to ask ‘this her?’

“That’s her.”

“What’s she do aboard ship?”

“Captain’s woman as far as I can tell.”

Ragnarson gave a short huff at that. “What of her?”

“I haven’t been able to get much details out of anyone on who Riven really is. I was hoping that Operations could ask around and do some digging, perhaps identify her and get back to me, just so I know who I am really dealing with?”

“Oh, we’ll investigate, no worries their Lieutenant,” he said, not confirming she’d be kept in the loop. And likely wouldn’t be either, as a not-so-subtle response to her refusing to disclose where the Vondem Thornhad been.

****

She stood against the railing of the balcony, facing into the wind as she just listened to the city around her. The wind blowing at this altitude, the sound of ground and hover vehicles, party goers at an open-air park far below. It was a life all its own and she was standing near enough to the centre of it, just enjoying it.

When hands found her waist and she felt her love press against her from behind, she just tilted her head to the right to expose her neck, to let the gentle brush of lips against skin be just another experience to add to the all she was absorbing.

A whisper soft kiss, then other, then a light nipping of the bottom of her ear started a series of kisses to the tip of her ear before a soft whisper broke the silence. “Am I distracting you?” Sidda asked as her arms wrapped around her waist and held them both together tightly.

“Hmm…only from the sounds of a city,” she responded, rolling her head back to rest on Sidda’s shoulder. “Though my love you are just a perpetual distraction.”

There was a gentle murmur of agreement as Sidda just held her tight. Her own hands let go of the railing and reach back to take in a handful of Sidda’s dress each, fingers running the texture of the dress between them. She enjoyed this dress on Riven, the variety of textures and feel in the material where the joins had been carefully hidden from sight, but not from touch.

She just stood there, enjoying the embrace, the sounds below, the club behind them, the sounds of Sidda’s heart, her breathing. But alas all peaceful eternities must end though as she let go, pried Sidda’s arms open just enough to her turn around to face her orion lover and then reached up carefully to cup Sidda’s face. Fingers quietly explored her face before she stopped, just cupping Sidda’s face in her hands.

“You’re worried about something. I can feel it here,” she said, adding emphasis by running a running along the bridge of Sidda’s nose.

“No…just thinking about something.”

“House D’Ghor?” she asked, her pronunciation a practised perfection of someone who spoke Klingonese with skill. To better know your enemy my dear, she could hear her father say.

“A little bit. Got a bit of news about some of the merchant activity, even a copy of an advisory notice to shipping in the sector. Planetary defence is being a bit cagey, but a friend of a friend has said they’ve been advised to be on guard. Reports are starting to filter down about attacks on colonies and shipping across the border. Avalon Prince likely owes more than our protection fee from the sounds of it. Talmiru was hit pretty hard according to what I just heard.”

“And the rest?”

“Trid.”

“Ah,” she said, smiling. “Our little Federation spy. You know, we could just leave her behind.”

“Yah, we could,” Sidda said as she examined Riven’s face for the millionth time, looking for some sign that Riven’s gaze was actually on her, not past her, but also just absorbing the beauty that she was. “But then we lose a potential resource and they’d know that we know.”

“Ah…a game…to drag your mother along with?”

“Or which ever uniform mannequin has decided we need squishing this week. Maybe a way to work as well with the uniforms if things get real bad.”

Nothing was said, nothing needed to be said as the two women just simply enjoyed holding onto each other on that balcony for what was an eternity. Or five minutes, which ever comes first. Truthfully Riven didn’t care, for she could feel the love, the strength of character radiating off of Sidda that had attracted her in the first place.

“You know,” Sidda said, ruining the silence and drawing a defeated little whimper from her, “if we got your eyes sorted love, I’d let you on the bridge.”

She smiled, then just nuzzled against Sidda’s neck. “I can see clearly enough love.”

“Kyban has one of the best doctors in the sector,” Sidda continued.

She sighed, then kissed Sidda’s neck. “I’ll think about it. But only if you think about something for me.”

“What would that be love?”

She didn’t answer, just smiled before she gave Sidda a not so gentle kiss on the neck, enough to leave a mark in the morning, if not in a few minutes. The sudden squeeze of her person by her love told her that thinking was likely not going to be happening.

“Time stamp?”

Archanis Sector
2399

Ardot’s Café
Banksy City
Kyban

“No no no, you’re not listening to me Sidda, you don’t want to go anywhere near Zev’li’duun right now. To many ‘visiting’ Romulan ships there. Someone will spot her in five minutes.”

Ardot Kresh was, for a bolian, distinctly overweight. He was overweight for the vast majority of sentients in the known galaxy, exceptions granted for silicon-based lifeforms and those that had evolved in high gravity environments. That weight came from his distinct love of food in all it’s varieties and his not so inconsiderable gifts at meal preparation.

Skills that nearly rivalled his ability to help those with questionable cargo find those with questionable needs and to make both parties content, if not happy with the deals he managed, minus his share of course. His share which he invested into his own dreams – the aforementioned cooking.

Sidda, Revin and Ardot were all sat around a single table just off the middle of his restaurant in the middle of day. The place was moderately busy but as always, when the man himself came out to talk business, the neighbouring tables were always left empty. This despite that all tables came with privacy scramblers, to ensure each dinner party could have conversations without casual overhearing. They weren’t meant to stop serious attempts, but those would hopefully be obvious enough that other precautions could then be undertaken.

“My father is still looking for me?” Revin asked, her voice a barely audible purr over the steaming cup that Ardot had brought out just for her and to which she had been nursing since it’s arrival. Sidda could see her lover’s fascination with the smell and the way she gently sipped, savouring the taste and likely texture of the thick, dark brown drink. Likely something akin to humanity’s disgusting coffee of the klingon’s barely better raktijino.

“Your father, the dear Senator who by the way threatened dear old me, is insisting rather loudly you’ve been kidnapped. I wouldn’t be surprised if soon enough some sort of galactic kidnap notice doesn’t go out for you.” Ardot took a moment to catch his breath and smiled, reaching out after a moment to gently touch Revin’s arm. “Your mother asked me to pass on her love when next I could by the way. Lovely woman, truly lovely. Only tried to poison me once you know.”

Sidda sighed, then wrapped her knuckles on the table to refocus the seemingly cosmopolitan and well connected bolian in front of her. “Ardot…”

“Just, trust me, Zev’li’duun is out of the question. Now, I’ve got some buyers on Kemron IV who could do with some atmospheric reprocessors. Wildcat mining colony back in the day trying to turn legitimate colony, but the atmosphere on Kemron isn’t exactly M class if you get my drift. Since they weren’t colonised under proper charter from the Federation Council, they’re not technically a Federation colony, but they are inside Federation space and they aren’t getting any Council support either.”

“Sounds like our kind of people.” Finally getting somewhere, specifically a name a place to go to sell the reprocessors they had collected, Sidda felt she could relax a little now. Payday wasn’t that far around the corner. “I’ll send you a crate of wine we procured as payment.”

“You’ll send me a crate and single bottle.”

“One crate,” Sidda reiterated to the man, stating her position.

“Oh, you can’t blame me for trying. Besides, lunch with Revin is worth a bottle of wine. I trust you’ve never had this dish. It’s a combination of human, vulcan and risian cuisine. Trust me, it’s divine and apparently even healthy,” Ardot said with mirth has he patted his own belly. “I’ve lost weight since I started eating it!”

****

Vondem Thorn
Bridge

“Kemron IV? Rather close to the Klingon border for my liking Captain,” Gaeda said as he looked over Trid’s shoulder at the starchart she’d brought up.

It was late afternoon in Banksy City and the crew had started to return to ship. Gaeda, when he’d heard from his boss had been the first of the ‘senior’ crew to return to ship, followed by Trid who looked like she’d either had a rather rough night, or a rather enjoyable night, take your pick and particular kinks.

“On screen,” Sidda said as she sat, no, lounged herself into the command chair, looking like she did when she wanted to play the part of orion pirate queen, coming naturally to that role.

It was, Gaeda also noted, one of the few times she let Revin onto the bridge, though she kept the other woman within easy reach at all times and as she sat, pulled Revin with a very slight unexpected squeal to sit on her lap then draped an arm around Revin’s waist to keep her from escaping easily.

Shaking his head free of never-to-be dreams, he nodded to Trid who punched commands into the klingon computers and produced the star charts in question, showing the location of the Federation/Empire border and were the Kemron system was. It was in fact a star system that was used as a reference point for the border, technically falling just inside Federation space.

“Small time operation, hard scrabble, could do with what we’re selling. They also mine kemocite and polyferranide so we should be able to happily trade with them, get what we want and get out of there.”

Gaeda turned to look at Sidda with shocked look on his face. “Sorry, did you say polyferranide?”

“Ardot says they found a vein three months ago. He and that bastard Jorvak are the only ones to know about it so far. Now we do as well. We get enough to reseal the warp coils, then we all figure out how we want to handle Jorvak.”

“Blow him out of the sky and drag his escape pod over the border and let the KDF sort him out. After his last stunt, prison detail is too good for him.”

“Sorry, did I miss something?” Trid spoke up, likely pulling Sidda and Gaeda out of a spiral of more and more elaborate punishments for the local concentration of utter bastard in sentient form.

“I,” Revin spoke before anyone else could, “may very well tell you later dear, suffice to say Captain Jorvak and these two,” she said indicating Sidda and Gaeda with a graceful and relaxed wave of her hand, “have a rich and complicated history.”

“Uh, okay then.”

Silence reigned supreme as Sidda glared at the viewscreen, considering things further. “Right, recall the crew, tell them they have three hours before we depart. We’ll head for Kemron IV and get rid of those reprocessors.”

****

Vondem Thorn
Bridge
Three days later

“Distress signal coming from the surface Cap, it’s feint but it’s there.”

“On screen,” Sidda said with icy dripping off her words.

The Thorn had dropped out of warp barely fifteen minutes ago and had been making their way in system mostly under cloak. No challenge or response to their hails when they first arrived had set Sidda off. Something wasn’t right at all.

“…immediate assistance! Starfleet! Orions! Anyone! We need…” The burly man shouting into the camera feed was stopped midsentence by the mekleth that swung on out of the pickup and took the man down with a shower of blood. Then the message started from the beginning all over again. “Mayday mayday mayday! This is Kemron colony to any and all ships that can hear us! We’re under attack by Klingon raiders! We need…”

“Stop!” Sidda shouted and Gaeda killed the replay on the viewscreen, returning to the image of the planet and the stars beyond. “Time stamp?” she finally asked after five very long seconds.

“Looks like…two days ago.”

There was utter silence before Trid broke it. “Prophets…” She only voiced, in her own way, what everyone else was thinking.

“Telin,” Sidda finally said, turning the command chair to face her most troublesome crewmember. “Get down there and find out what happened. I want to know why we didn’t pick that message up until we were in orbit. I want to find any and all survivors. I want you tell me who did this.”

The focus, the anger, the icy in her voice clearly rung true with Telin as he actually snapped to something akin to a parade stance. “I’ll need engineers.”

“Take T’Ael. If she’s hurt though, I’m taking it out on you. Keep her safe like you would me.”

“Yes mistress,” he responded and then marched off the bridge.

“I’m going with him,” Gaeda said. He didn’t move though, waiting for acceptance or denial of his statement.

“Go, and remind him, no pillaging until I say so.”

Gaeda nodded and then he took left the bridge.

Now there was just Sidda, Trid and R’tin, the third Romulan of this crew, who was manning the Engineering console.

“Trid,” Sidda turned to her bajoran helmswoman. “Broadcast a message towards the nearest Federation starship. Tell them we found a ransacked colony, likely hit by House D’Ghor. Tell them…tell them…it’s too late, but they might want to come and bury their dead.”

“We need info, we’re going to get it.”

Archanis Sector
2399

Vondem Thorn
Mess Hall

There was an air of general silence hanging over the people that surrounded the table. A heavy, thick silence that even the continued operations of Kevak in the galley didn’t seem to penetrate.

Deidrick, Orelia, Telin, Gaeda and Bones were all sat at the table, a collection of shot glasses before them and an uncorked bottle of some dark amber spirit, the bottle lacking any label to identify it. No one was looking at each other, no one was really looking at anything.

“I…” Telin broke the silence and the others either turned to look at him, or at least angle their ears to hear him better, for the large orion man spoke with an oft used quiet. “I’ve killed men with my bare hands even. Cause I was paid to, cause I wanted to, cause they fucked with my family…but that…”

“Was a massacre,” Bones said as she lifted the bottle up and poured herself another shot, then one for Telin as well, using the bottle to push his glass closer to him to motivate him. “Doctor’s orders, drink.” The other glasses were repoured in short order. “Fucking barbarians.”

“They weren’t barbarians,” Orelia whispered. “They fucking slaughtered women and children. Is there a word for what they did?” She, perhaps more then the others, wasn’t handling what they’d seen very well.

They were planetside for only fifteen minutes, enough time to check for any potential survivors, to safely shutdown any equipment that posed a threat and then leave. There was no burial detail, no tagging or collecting the dead into one place. There was simply to many for them to deal with. Get any living out, of which there was none, and then make the place safe for however the Federation sent out there to investigate.

Sonic devices had been beamed shortly after their return to dissuade any native scavengers. No one questioned Sidda’s order about that. It just felt…right. Respectful. Leave the dead until someone could come and deal with them, but leave them unmauled, unmutilated by the wilds that would creep in quickly.

When they had returned Gaeda had led them straight here for what he called a debrief. It had started with him uncorking the bottle and hadn’t gotten much further than that. It didn’t need to. Seeing such a sight on a screen was one thing, seeing it personally, smelling such a scene, a living witness to the tragedy – there were little words to adequately describe it, but these five people would forever share that experience with no need for words.

“Terrorisim,” Bones said, her eyes focusing on the middle distance. “They strike like that knowing someone will see it, striking terror in them. Then they talk about it, they share that terror and it spreads like a disease. It festers in…”

Bone’s rapidly growing morbid rant was halted by a crash of a large pot set down on the table by Kevak, the ladle handle present for all to see safely hooked on the pot’s rim. “Temric stew,” he pronounced, turned and grabbed enough bowls for everyone and sat them on the table with a crash as well. Then both fists crashed down as he leaned forward to bring himself to eye level with everyone present.

“Drink, eat, sing songs of the honourable dead, for those people faced the void and if Sto’vo’kor won’t take them in for that alone, then I will lead the charge to force open the gates and escort them in myself.” A meaty paw then swiped up the bottle, took a swing, one gulp, then another and then, satisfied, Kevak proceeded to pour what was left into the stew pot.

“I will get you a warriors drink,” he pronounced and walked away back to his galley.

“That fucker just pour the liquor into his stew?” Bones asked, incredulity breaking the solemnity of the moment, though it seemed to be on the edge, threatening to return. No one answered her as they contemplated the last shots still before them, save for Telin who didn’t need to be told twice to drink.

Another crash, then a second as two bottles were set down. A bottle of bloodwine, bearing a house seal of the Empire that few outside of connoisseurs would know, the other a bottle with a similar dark amber to the label less bottle, it’s label proudly pronouncing it a product of Scotland. “Drink, eat, sing. The honourable deed the people of Kemron did was to fight a fight they couldn’t, wouldn’t win. I will hear no dishonour.” The klingon’s tone of voice hid a barely contained anger, as if something about this situation was riling him up. His last command given he then left the mess hall to those who needed the space to process what they had seen.

****

T’Ael and her brother both looked over the contents of the ship’s limited cargo hold, dominated by ill gotten gains they had plundered from Kemron. Intellectually she could understand the Captain’s insistence on collecting what they could carry and more, for the hallways of the ship had become an obstacle course. But emotionally it just felt wrong to use scanners and transporters to pick over the belongings of a dead colony.

“There’s enough polyferranide to redo the warp coils,” R’tin said quietly.

“Yes.”

“We’d have to take it offline for a few days though.”

“Yes.”

“You,” R’tin said as he nudged his siter with his shoulder, “okay there sis?”

“I…I looked over some of the visual scans of the colony. Mama always said klingons were a primitive, barbaric race, but what I saw…it was worse than any of the propaganda videos as a kid.”

“Should I watch the footage?”

“Only if you don’t want to sleep again,” she answered. “I’m…I’m going to catalogue all this.”

He didn’t need to answer, just joined in with his sister. She’d talk when she was ready and he wanted to be there for her when she did.

****

Four hours.

They’d been in orbit of Kemron IV for four hours now. She could hear the singing and shouting from the mess hall, even through the bulkheads. Her crew were unwinding. This was good. They needed to after uncovering the tragedy that had been waiting for them. First it had been the ground crew, then the engineering duo, then her helmsman had joined in. She couldn’t hear Kevak’s singing, so obviously not him.

Sidda turned to face the only other person on the bridge, her questionable helmswoman Jenu Trid. The very likely Federation spy who had supervised the transporting of materials from the colony aboard ship – whatever polyferranide that hadn’t been raided, some water reclamators, a couple of industrial replicators, mining equipment, survey gear and whatever else that wasn’t nailed down and would fit aboard ship.

But during that time Sidda had beamed herself planetside to take a look at the true horror the D’Ghor could, would and now had inflicted on the galaxy. Broken forms littered the streets of the colony. Signs of barricades set up to try and defend families, the inevitable charnel house inside when the barricades had failed. Evidence of people cut down running away, others who had thrown themselves at the obviously more skilled attackers wielding whatever weapons they could.

“Trid, hit up the local subspace relay station. I want to talk to the USS Sunshine Coast. Should be operating in and around the Starbase 514, near Berengaria.”

The bajoran’s nose wrinkled even more then their physiological nose ridges gave them naturally as she started to raise a question, then stopped, turning to do as she was ordered to do.

“Revin dear,” Sidda said after pressing a singular button on her chair’s comm panel, “could you come up to the bridge. I’m going to need your skills.”

****

USS Sunshine Coast
Berengaria Sector

“Would you repeat that please for me Mr De Santos?”

“We’re being hailed ma’am from a ship in the Archanis sector. An independent merchant ship hailing us, identifying themselves as the Profit’s Prophet.”

Captain Tisa Sadovu turned to look her Operations officer over, as if the man had suddenly sprouted a third arm from his forehead. “Archanis? That’s on the other side of the Federation. What’s the comm delay on this hail?”

“Bordering on five seconds one way ma’am.”

“Well, put them on screen De Santos, let’s not keep them waiting.”

The viewscreen on the bridge of the Parliament class cruiser switched from the streak of stars at warp to a dark klingon bridge with only two people in shot. Both were seated, though one was in the lap of the other.

“Doesn’t look much like a merchant ship to me,” her XO, Commander Charles Gervais, said as he looked at the two women on screen before the bridge crew.

Tisa was on her feet in quick order and marching towards her ready room. “De Santos, transfer this,” she threw a hand out to indicate the viewscreen, “through to my ready room right now. XO, you have the bridge.”

The orion woman and her romulan or vulcan companion disappeared from the viewscreen as Captain Sadovu disappeared into her office, leaving the bridge in silence before the most junior officer present spoke up. “Uh…just me, or did that woman look a bit like the Captain?”

“Oh…oh shit,” Gervais muttered to himself and then stood. “Well…today’s just gone to shit.”

****

Vondem Thorn
Archanis Sector
Mess Hall

Bones, as the crew called her on her insistence, found herself sitting on the floor, back to a bulkhead, next to Telin. The big orion lad was, for the first time in her recollection, driven to near speechlessness by what he’d seen. He didn’t go into detail, but she didn’t need him to.

She’d served, done her time. Even fought too. The Dominion War had been her generations crucible and she’d been some wide-eyed youth back in those days. But that was 25 years ago now. She’d barely lasted another five in uniform, then gone frontier doctor, bounced a bit from ship to ship and finally for the last few years been the travelling doctor on this ship of…misfits? She was also the most skilled doctor on no less then ten different worlds whenever they pulled in.

“I…gods doc…I…” Telin had basically repeated those words, or others to those effect, for the better part of a few hours now. She’d plied him with alcohol, hoping to dislodge a feeling or too and get a response, but he’d swung in the other direction. So now she was having to talk instead of listen.

“Saw some shit, I get yah kid. Least the Jem’hadar had the decency to fight for something.”

“I…could be like those things…” Telin said. He hadn’t said the word klingon since beaming back from the colony, his brain likely pulling tricks and trying to disassociate the two.

“Nah.”

Telin turned to look at her. “You’re always yelling at me for shit I say, or shit I do.”

“Which is why you won’t end up like those D’Ghor bastards. People might not like you, but they care enough to beat you back on the right enough path. Besides, you go full psycho like those bastards, I’ll put you down myself.”

He mulled that over and she swear she could hear the cogs in his brain grinding against the rust. Rust that needed lubrication from the mug of ale he started to chug. When had the keg been tapped?

“Promise?”

“I mean, I’ll likely have to fight your brother and cousin first, but I’ll do it if I have to.”

“Sidda’s a bitch, but if someone will do something for her, she’ll let them.”

“So, just your brother then. But yes, promise. Just…do me a favour. Be less of an ass.”

“I…maybe…” he trailed off. “I need another drink.” He moved to stand before he stopped, but she reached out a hand and pulled him back down, then offered a hipflask with her other that she pulled out of a labcoat pocket. “Bajoran brandy,” she offered by way of explanation and he needed no further encouragement to sit back down.

****

Bridge

“Utter fucking, principled, self-righteous bitch!” Sidda shouted as she paced across the front of the bridge in the space between her chair and the viewscreen. She went from the helm to the engineering station and back again, back and forth, adding to the deckplate wear that multiple klingon captains had set before she had claimed the IKS Choq’st’tu as her own.

Ten minutes of hell she’d spent talking to her mother, to listening to the speeches and suffering the interminable ten second round trip communications lag. The pleasantries had disappeared quickly enough when she demanded to know who Revin was.

A response that such matters wasn’t up for discussion and she called asking for a favour had turned into other questions, a speech about how she’d already have the information she wanted if she had just joined Starfleet like her mother wanted her to do, instead of galivanting around the galaxy pretending to be a pirate.

Tisu had blamed Sidda’s father, the one parent who actually cared about her as a person, not a reflection on her career and status, for indulging Sidda’s playful thinking.

“You could be in the fleet Sidda, making a real difference!” That part had been shouted in anger.

The call degenerated into a shouting match at that point. The request for all of Starfleet’s intelligence on the D’Ghor, on their movements, personnel and locations had been shouted.

Counters that she’d never send her daughter into a warzone had issued from Tisu, that if Sidda really cared for Revin she’d get the Thorn out of the area immediately.

“Just send me the fucking data you bitch, or get me someone who can!”

“You want to die playing fucking pirate, fine! Maybe then you’ll learn something about responsibility!”

The last words from an angry mother who had killed he line, leaving Sidda to stew and fester in her anger as she paced. Riven had simply taken to lounging in the command chair, waiting for moods to change before she struck to truly change things.

It took nearly as long as the call itself had before Revin stood and approached, interrupting the pacing by grabbing Sidda’s hand as she passed and tugged lightly. “Love.”

The touch, the pull, the one word all worked to break Sidda out of her cycle and she looked Revin over, then pulled her close and buried her face in Revin’s neck. “I hate that bitch.”

“Then why did you call her?”

“There are monsters in this world love and I want to kill them. I need information.”

Revin simply held her and she was thankful for that simple enough action, that reassuring aura coming from the romulan woman. “You need a crew love.”

“You’re right,” Sidda said, then straightened herself up. “I need a crew.”

****

Mess hall

The chatting, the singing, the consoling of others all ended when Sidda paced in, Revin drifting in behind her like the shadow most had come to expect her to be. Their captain walked to where her seat was at the head of the table and pushed her chair aside to stand there instead.

“I intend to hunt down whoever we can of House D’Ghor and to kill as many of them as we can. They’re animals to be put down.”

Everyone was silent and looking at her. So she pulled her knife out of it’s scabbard, looked the blade over and then stabbed it into the table top. “Rabid animals are meant to be put down, this time with prejudice. We need information to fight these bastards though. Trid,” she said, looking towards the Bajoran woman who had only recently arrived here and started drinking, “find me the nearest Federation starship and set course, maximum warp. We need info, we’re going to go get it.”

“You want to steal a cloaking device from a ship trying to shoot at us?”

Vondem Thorn, Archanis Sector
2399

Vondem Thorn
Engineering

“So how bad is it?” R’tin asked his sister as he came over on her request. The Engineering space aboard the Vondem Thorn wasn’t very spacious, or comfortable, or suitable for much work to be done honestly. But it was ‘functional’ in the brutalist fashion of the ship’s original builders.

“Secondary emitters are showing wear. We’ve got a discrepancy in the refresh rate now, within the limits mind you, but if it grows the cloak’s useless.” T’Ael was busy looking over the specifications for the ship’s cloaking device, which was kept in a room adjacent to main engineering, in order to protect it, but also any engineers when the device was running.

She bemoaned that fact, but understood it. Klingon cloaking technology wasn’t as sophisticated or refined as that used by romulans. Or shielded even. When active, the device spat out enough radiation in the room it was in to be a true hazard. It was alas a product of it’s time and she’d been reassured that newer klingon cloaks didn’t try to cook the crew around them, but that was a statement best verified and not simply trusted.

“So, we’re going to need some parts to fix it. Talk to the Captain and we’ll go get them. Probably knows some klingon scrap merchant that can help us out.” R’tin was satisfied with his quick solution to the problem, but he could see his sister wasn’t.

“Not going to work. The parts are NUSPI.”

“NUSPI?” he asked her, not recognising the acronym at all.

“Yah, something Gaeda mentioned to me the other day. No User Serviceable Parts Inside. A machine that’s not meant for servicing once sealed up. In this case, it’s because of material used in sealing the device up. We don’t have parts and the klingons keep them rather tightly controlled. It’s how they regulate their cloaking technology, as much as they do. They’ll sell you one, but you can’t fix it, so when it breaks you have to go buy another one.”

“Ah…NUSPI. You know, kinda like that. Fits a singularity drive pretty well I think as well. So,” he said as he turned to face his sister and not her rather dire diagnostic screens, “what are you planning then?”

“Well…we’re hunting these D’Ghor animals right? And they have cloaking devices…why don’t we just take one from them?”

****

“Wait wait wait,” Gaeda said as he sat opposite the romulan siblings in the mess hall. “I think my UT is broken,” he said, pulling the pin off his jacket collar and slapping it down on the table rather hard to pop the back panel off.

“Its…not…broken.” T’Ael said in rather broken Federation Standard. “Steal a cloak.”

“Your Standard is worse then my Romulan,” Gaeda responded. He struggled with popping the panel back on, gave up and slid it over to R’tin who deftly fitted it all back together in a few seconds and handed it back. “You want to steal a cloaking device from a ship trying to shoot at us?”

“Who else is going to be so nice as to bring us a cloaking device?” R’tin answered, smiling like the devil’s own advocate. “They’ve got to drop their shields to cloak right? So, we nab it just then with the transporter. Chance of damage to the device is minimal, they won’t be able to cloak and we can slink away while they have to run like crazy for friendly space before some Feddie shows up to ruin their day.”

“Anyone ever told you two that you’re insane?” Gaeda asked, answered with knowing nods in the affirmative from both of them. “Christ…”

“We’re also thinking…” R’tin started, but his sister waved him off so she could speak.

“We’re also certain,” her opening more confident, “we’re likely to find a bird of prey or such probably near a Federation starship. So, if we shadow one for a while, we might get what we’re looking for.”

Gaeda shook his head in disbelief before telling the twin’s he’d take their idea to the Captain. Personally, he’d give his opinion against such a foolhardy move, but an hour later he popped his head into Engineering and in passable romulan said, “The line between cunning and foolish is getting caught. Let’s not get caught.”

Then he found his way to the bridge and sat himself down in the command chair, turning it to look towards the helm and Trid who was there, guiding the Thorn along in her lazy, medium warp prowl along a moderately busy shipping lane where the Thorn had taken up a position shadowing a convoy of six freighters being escorted by a single Federation patrol vessel. Enough fire power to convince the Thorn or ships of her size to stay away, but bigger hunters wouldn’t be stopped.

It was a token effort, but at least the Federation was trying, and where they were right now was safe enough anyway, just far enough outside the latest hunting grounds of the D’Ghor.

“Trid, what Federation cruisers are out here closer to the Klingon border? Something juicy to shadow that’ll likely attract some attention.”

“Got an old Ambassador class heading at warp six for Tippane, a Minotaur that looks like it stopped recently, about a day away if we push it, but the cloak will leak if we get to close to anyone. Everything else is further away than those two ships.”

“A Minotaur just sitting around? Those things tend to be zipping around like dogs chasing rabbits. If one is sitting still, must be something interesting. Change course for an intercept and bring us to the maximum warp. Let’s go be nosy.”

“You got it boss,” Trid said as she turn back to her console and entered in commands to turn the mass of the ship around and increased it’s warp factor, leaving convoy A-025A in their wake.

****

Sidda was the one propped up on her elbow on her side this time, twirling a finger around in circles on the bare skin of the woman laying on her back beside her. She herself had only just crawled into bed after dealing with some communications, a few bits of paperwork and finances and receiving what was the closest thing she’d get to a counselling session on this ship from her cook.

It had been brutal, honest and quick. But it did come with a hearty soup that was the only thing she was allowed to eat at the hour she went looking for food. “You want proper food, you eat with everyone else,” Kevak had told her. “Otherwise soup and bread.”

The counselling had been good advice she’d needed to hear from someone other than herself really. Glory and honourable deaths were only awarded to those worthy of them. D’Ghor butchers didn’t deserve any chances and it was an act of killing like putting down particular fearsome vole as far as Kevak was concerned. He told her that she shouldn’t concern herself with any guilt for dispatching any D’Ghor fighter.

“Hmm,” came a murmur from Revin, who stirred just enough to roll away from Sidda to stop whatever had been irritating her in her sleep.

Goddesses and gods she’s beautiful. And dangerous as sin to have aboard.

Taking the opportunity, she shucked off her jacket, then boots and pants before laying back down and curling up behind Revin, draping an arm over her possessively as she did so. “Sleep well my galan stelri, for things are going to get a lot more interesting.”

“As long as you stay safe hathos, I will,” Revin said sleepily, clearly not properly asleep. She then wrapped her own arm around Sidda’s and pulled slightly on it, keeping Sidda close and tight to her as she drifted back to sleep with her orion protector.

“Torpedoes can be luxurious”

Archanis Sector
2399

Vondem Thorn
Main Bridge

“Looks to me like they’re having a fair bit of fun without us Cap,” Gaeda said as he looked over his console. “Modern B’Rel versus a wounded Manticore. IFF lists her as the Endeavour.”

“Trid, slow us down, let’s let the asses swing around our side for us. Telin, ready to drop cloak and start firing,” Sidda said as she watched the viewscreen before her, currently set to a tactical view versus any sensor recreated visual.

The purple painted hull of the Vondem Thorn stood out in a stark contrast to her original paint scheme and that which the D’Ghor bird of prey sported. As the ship’s outline shifted back into detectable wavelengths, she slid directly into a pursuit of the D’Ghor ship, accelerating from what had been a reduced speed.

The ambush wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough as the green bolts of the starboard disruptor lashed out at the D’Ghor ship’s shields, following by the harsh yellow-orange beam of the port phaser finally smashing through the shields, just in time for the ship to swerve off of it’s attack run on the Endeavour and more importantly to avoid any further damage.

Unfortunately the beam carried past where the D’Ghor had been and slammed against the shields of the Endeavour in a glancing hit before ceasing. It clearly wasn’t the sophisticated tracking beam setups of a modern Federation starship, but a mostly fixed direction beam system with a clearly limited range of motion in the emitter head.

“Trid, keep on them,” Sidda said as she gripped the arms of her command chair as the Vondem Thorn swerved into the chase, weapons giving a few more barks of fire at the fleeing ship before it slipped under its own cloak.

“They haven’t jumped to warp just yet,” Gaeda said from his station, monitoring the ship’s sensors for the very faint signature of a cloaked ship disappearing into warp. One couldn’t tell the direction or speed, just that it had happened in the momentary flicker of warp and cloak fields interacting.

“Cloak the ship. Trid, reduce speed and line us up for a second ambush. Let’s see if these people are idiots.”

“Aye ma’am,” the bajoran helmswoman said as she took the ship away from the Endeavour in a lazy circle back, reducing the ship’s speed back down and lining up on the stricken Federation vessel.

“Contact!” Gaeda shouted as he flicked what he had to both the helm and tactical. It wasn’t a confirmed sighting but an energy signature he could track. Clearly something wasn’t right on the D’Ghor ship.

No orders were given as Trid spun the ship around and Telin decloaked the ship before unleashing a volley of fire on the co-ordinates. Bolts of disruptor fire disappeared into space, dissipating in the distance, before a few connected solidly with something, the explosion of something under a cloak and unshielded evident for all to see. More fire rained in that location before shots started to miss once more.

“I’ve got an atmosphere trail on sensors,” Gaeda said. “327 mark 18, moving around a bit.”

****

‘They’re winged,’ Kharth reported, voice taut.

‘D’Ghor ship is leaking plasma,’ Veldman volunteered from Science. ‘The KDF ship hit them hard; trying to track the D’Ghor through cloak but it’s… imperfect.’

Rourke scoffed, him and Valance saying, ‘That’s not a KDF ship,’ at almost the exact same time. He shook his head. ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Helm, let’s keep some distance so our new arrivals have space to fly. Science, give your best location extrapolations to Tactical.’

‘There’s no way I can hit them in cloak without a lot of luck,’ Kharth warned.

‘I don’t expect you to.’ He hammered quickly on the control panel beside his command chair. ‘Sending you a firing pattern now; let’s make the most of our more flexible targeting and try to keep them boxed in. Hopefully serving them on a platter for our friends when they decloak.’

The deck surged as Endeavour drew away from where there’d been the rolling dogfight between two Birds-of-Prey only seconds before. With time less of a factor, they were at their strongest forcing the D’Ghor to come to them, able to use their sophisticated targeting computers to pop at them the moment they decloaked, rather than keeping the up-close slugging match.

Valance leaned towards Rourke. ‘Our friends?’ she echoed quietly.

‘Today I’ll take, “the enemy of our enemy” without judgement,’ he said with a shrug. ‘Besides, you never know. Maybe a border House has decided on a new paint-job.’ She rolled her eyes at the suggestion neither of them believed, but didn’t press the point.

‘D’Ghor ship decloaking,’ Veldman reported.

‘Keep pinning them,’ Rourke called. ‘And let’s finish this.’

****

“Santa Maria!” Gaeda cursed from the combined operations and science console of the Vondem. Though science would be a stretch. Klingons did science, just not on their warships and especially not on their obsolete, out of date and retired scout ships. Though Vondem Thorn was not any of those things anymore.

His curse had been because of the cavalcade of phaser fire emitting from the Endeavour as she lit up a volume of space that Trid had been about to throw the ship into in pursuit of their prey. His faith in testing the bajoran woman before suggesting her to Sidda was reaffirmed as she rolled and dived the ship out of harm’s way before finding a way to bring the ship’s nose back on track.

“They’re decloaking,” he announced as his sensors picked up the tell tale signs mere moments before it become painfully obvious for all. “They’ve got shields back up.” That clearly indicated why they were decloaking. Some shields against random fire were better than no shields, especially when it was clear they were fleeing.

He went to work then immediately on the secondary objective of this fight, scanning the newer ship in detail, devoting the sensors to the task and nearly blinding the ship to anything not super-obvious as he searched them for his prey. It only took a few seconds as he knew where he was looking. “Transporter lock!”

“Fire!” Sidda ordered and Telin let rip once more on the fleeing vessel, collapsing it’s shields with the devastating fire of the Endeavour helping as they forced the ship into one of the Federation vessels phaser beams.

His fingers sent the order to the Vondem’s transporter and watched as the system cycled, confirming they’d captured their prize for this fight. “Got it!”

“Torpedo!” Sidda demanded, raising a hand, then dropping it. “Fire!”

The helmsman of the D’Ghor ship had to have been some sort of demon with the way they moved their ship, or dangerously careless and uncaring about inertial compensator delays. A few disruptor bolts, another graze from Vondem’s phaser across the hull, but she was keeping the ship safe until a truly massive orange-yellow beam from the Endeavour’s more modern beam arrays slammed into the ship, blowing out a truly horrendous section of the engineering space.

The ship suffered for it, slowing, spinning, clearly difficult to control. As the pilot brought the ship under control and on a bearing to jump to warp and flee, the torpedo from the Vondem which had been tracking them found it’s target. Matter and anti-matter were unleashed. There was only a vanishingly small amount of antimatter aboard the torpedo, around 10 grams for the ones the Vondem kept aboard ship, but it was equivalent to nearly 429 kilotons of explosive force that detonated inside the D’Ghor ship, ripping the hull apart in atomic fury.

“Stand down battlestations,” Sidda ordered. With just those words and a button push from Telin at tactical, the lighting of the bridge shifted from the dark red to a slightly lighter red. And just on queue the door at the rear of the bridge swooshed open. Gaeda watched as Revin waltzed in, hands carefully reaching out for familiar points as she made her way to Sidda’s side, in defiance of the orion’s order to stay off the bridge.

“Hail the Feds,” Sidda ordered as she reached out without looking to pull Revin close, forcing her to perch on the left arm of the command chair.

“Aye ma’am,” Gaeda said as he punched in the commands as well as sending a message to engineering that T’Ael’s prize would be waiting for her on the transporter pad.

****

‘Sir, I’m detecting a power surge from the other Bird-of-Prey… I think they might have beamed something on board?’ said Veldman. ‘Maybe a survivor?’

‘You believe that if it gives you comfort, Lieutenant,’ said Rourke, eyebrow raised. ‘Don’t stand down Red Alert; Tactical, keep a targeting profile of our new friends, but don’t lock anything on yet. Let’s not cause any offence.’

Bekk turned at Comms. ‘They’re hailing us, Captain.’

‘Lieutenant Veldman, scan the wreckage and see if there’s a hope in hell of salvaging anything from the computer core,’ said Rourke, before leaning back on the command chair and turning to the viewscreen. ‘Put them through, Petty Officer Bekk.’

His expression was neutral for half a heartbeat. Then he saw the sight of the Bird-of-Prey’s bridge and he hopped to his feet, hands open, expression affable. ‘I’m Matt Rourke, Captain of Endeavour. You have excellent timing.’

“And you have a hole in your ship Captain,” Sidda said, her tone as neutral as possible. “Captain Sidda Sadovu of the Vondem Thorn.” The woman to her side turned her head away from the screen, the better to listen to the conversation.

‘We’ve weathered worse,’ Rourke said amiably. ‘But thank you for your help. That would have taken longer, the way they were dancing around. To what do I owe the good luck of this encounter?’

It was interesting, he reflected. After all these months he’d finally started to learn how to read Valance’s utterly blank expressions. Because he could tell from just a quick glance that despite her face giving nothing away, she wanted to scream, ‘Why are you being chatty to the pirates?’

“You have information that could prove useful to me, I have information that could prove useful to you. House D’Ghor is bad for business all around. Perhaps we could come to some sort of agreement.” The woman at Sidda’s side turned to whisper in her ear briefly and then Sidda spoke again. “At a minimum, we’ll also offer our protection while you make good your damage. No point in letting D’Ghor raiders get a victory.”

The woman once more turned to listen to the conversation rather than look at anyone speaking, brushing hair back behind her pointed ear, further revealing the rather eclectic collection of rogues on the Vondem’s bridge. “We’ll also,” the romulan woman said, “need a replicator,” her voice musical and soft. There were a few accompanying nods from crew members and a very slight squeeze around her waist from Sidda.

‘Generous,’ Rourke mused. ‘Hold on a moment, Captain. Let me take this discussion to my ready room.’ He lifted a hand to Bekk, and the viewscreen changed for the Starfleet seal. ‘Patch it through, Mister Bekk. Commander Valance, the bridge is yours. Don’t lose the Kut’luch’s trail, and get our systems fighting fit.’

Valance stepped in before he could leave, voice dropping. ‘You’re not negotiating with these pirates, sir?’

‘What, good citizens who saw someone in need and decided to help? And just happen to be sitting on a highly-personalised pile of guns?’ Rourke gave a wry, lopsided smile. ‘Welcome to the Borderlands, Commander.’

She didn’t stop him, but he did jab a finger at Kharth as he left. ‘Make sure you’re ready to blow them to hell if they so much as twitch, Lieutenant.’

‘With pleasure,’ said Kharth in a sing-song voice, and he left the bridge behind for his ready room.

****

“We’re not being specifically targeted, but they do certainly have an awful lot of sensors looking in our direction,” Gaeda said from his station as the blue casting from the viewscreen and the Starfleet seal upon it lit the bridge. “I’d say they’ve likely got a generalised targeting solution, but nothing specific.”

“Shields or not they’d make quick work of us,” Trid said, turning away from her station. “No point in antagonising them.”

Sidda nodded in agreement with both of her crewmembers statements. “Stand down all weapons Telin. But keep your finger on the cloak. And Trid, be ready to jump to warp. Feds aren’t likely to shoot without reason, so we’ll not give them one.”

“Huh…I’ve picked up a warp tail, faint and fading,” Gaeda said. “Guess they were hunting someone when our friends showed up.”

“Evidence D’Ghor aren’t just raiding but planning some sort of fleet action perhaps? They’ve got escorts for fleeing vessels and likely cloaked screening elements around as well.”

“Likely ma’am.”

Sidda sat quietly for a moment, thinking before she pulled Revin off the arm and into her lap proper. “What did I say about you being on the bridge during combat?” she whispered in the woman’s ear, finding a leg to pinch through well worn pants she was wearing.

“I waited,” Revin responded as she draped herself over Sidda, uncaring for the display everyone on the bridge could see. She then moved slightly so she was at least sitting upright properly, just as the viewscreen snapped back.

There was no Starfleet bridge this time, just the more closely cropped face of a human male and a change of decor to what was clearly an office.

“You aren’t thinking of chasing someone in your state are you?” Sidda asked before Rourke could get a word in.

Rourke’s craggy face creased into a smirk. ‘What’s the saying? You should see the other guy. And the other guy needs killing before he goes to ground.’ His head tilted. ‘You’ve figured it’s worth fighting the D’Ghor directly. You’ve seen what they can do if they’re allowed to go free?’

“I do,” Sidda said, squeezing Riven as memories came back to her. “But killing yourself to kill the other guy is pointless. Yes, you got him, but you’re not around to protect what’s yours from the next guy.” She sighed briefly. “That and don’t you have the men and women under your command to consider as well? I’m sure they agree in putting these D’Ghor murderers down, but dying chasing down a ship that’s going to need repairs of its own is another matter.”

‘I’ve no intention of drawing this out,’ said Rourke. ‘Hunt down this Vor’cha within a few hours. Finish it. Get home. It’s not a great plan, but it’s the plan I have with the options I have. Had.’ He leaned back, and the smirk faded. ‘But they’re slipping away, and here you are. So, why has the bad business of the D’Ghor brought you to this point, Captain? Why have they left you with questions?’

“Kemron IV. Started off as a wildcat mining operation, not an official colony. Been having problems even getting recognised. Well, you can inform your Bureau of Colonisation they don’t need to bother anymore since D’Ghor bastards have wiped the entire colony out. Just under two thousand people living their lives. I want whatever intelligence Starfleet has on these bastards so I can pick and choose my targets. I’m planning on sticking a knife in their side and twisting it at every chance I can get and one other uniform mannequin in your fleet has turned me down. I plan on being such a colossal pain in the ass they have to pull back and start guarding their rear lines. I’ll strike where I feel like, take what I want and if you can tell me where best to hit them.” Sidda’s voice had taken a hard edge as she spoke.

There was also a data packet sent as she spoke, detailing their findings at Kemron IV as well as itemising what they had left behind, but not what they’d taken. As well as a warning about a few bobbytraps they’d left behind, should D’Ghor pillagers stop by to pick up some loot.

Rourke’s gaze flickered, obviously scraping across the data as it appeared on a section of his screen. His eyes were harder when they returned to the bridge of the Vondem. ‘I’m not giving you all intelligence that Starfleet has on the D’Ghor,’ he said levelly. ‘My arse would be in court-martial quicker than you could spit. But.’ He leaned forwards. ‘Narrow it down for me. Pick a region near the border. One you know well.’

“The Archanis sector,” Sidda responded dryly. “I don’t galavant around the galaxy captain, so my crew and I are very familiar with the region.” With a wave of her hand, some more information was sent across to the Endeavour, this time but a sample of what she had at her disposal. “I can naturally trade your intelligence for mine.” It was a sample of the information she had received from Ayer’s Rock, a burst of a few days worth of snooping, sent in such a manner to hide the transmitter as best as possible. “Surely an equitable trade can be achieved and I’m sure your own commanders would appreciate another source of intelligence.”

‘All of Starfleet’s knowledge on the D’Ghor spanning the entire sector, for even the most robust breakdown of what you’ve picked up over the last few weeks, isn’t equitable.’ He clasped his hands together. ‘In practical terms, there’s something you specifically want from me, something that seems personal to you: information to hurt the D’Ghor. So for me to give you all of that, what I want specifically isn’t just one more ship out there fighting them.’ He shrugged. ‘You knew I was chasing someone; you’ve picked up my quarry’s trail.’

“You speak like my mother, always wanting to entice me into revealing things she knows good and well are true. I have enough romulans aboard my ship to obfuscate a simple conversation, so perhaps we can speak a bit more clearly?” She was rewarded with a smile from Revin for her comment and a whisper in her ear again.

Technically Rourke smirked again, but it was not the same smile. This curl of the lip, sincere enough to her, held a whole new edge to the affable front of earlier. ‘The Kut’luch is a Vor’cha-class that raided the Talmiru system days ago, and attempted to raid the Elgatis Refinery only yesterday. We stopped them, but they got away. They took a serious hammering in fight, which is why we’ve tried to run them down despite our damage. The Kut’luch is considered one of the most dangerous D’Ghor ships in the sector, and while I have no doubt I could find them again once Endeavour is repaired, I wouldn’t pay the price for that. Whoever they murder between now and then would.

‘So.’ He leaned forward. ‘You’ve picked up their trail. Follow it, and send me word. They’ll need to put in somewhere for repairs, even if it’s a bolt-hole for their own engineers to get to work. Find where they go to ground. I estimate Endeavour needs seven days, at best, if we’re going to slink to a dry-dock and get fighting fit. I don’t need you to watch them the whole time, but I want to set off with your best assessment of where they are and what condition they’re in. Agree to that, Captain, and I’ll even take a leap of faith and give you a briefing packet on Archanis Sector D’Ghor operations here and now.’ His gaze remained level, cold but intent.

“How dead do you want these bastards?” Sidda asked, then looked over her shoulder to the station to her right. Telin looked down at his console then held up a hand with three raised fingers. She waited a moment for him to nod his head in confirmation of his own estimate. “Because we could of course kill them for you. We’ll either need to replace three photon torpedoes, or some of those fancy quantum torpedoes you uniform stuffers have lying around. That or give me a single replicator, medical grade of course.”

She pointedly didn’t tell him why she wanted a replicator, but the uses were varied. The trouble one could get up to with a medical grade replicator, versus the ubiquitous commercial replicators present throughout the Federation were varied.

For a heartbeat, Rourke faltered. It plainly would have been so easy to say yes, a cloud crossing his face. When he straightened, it was as if a great weight had fallen across his shoulders, and at last, his expression that had gone from affable to cold finally reached tired. He shook his head. ‘I can’t equip you with Starfleet weaponry, or a medical grade replicator. But a good try, Captain.’

He lifted a hand to scrub his face. ‘We need to finish the Kut’luch ourselves. So, just the information. And I can see what I can do about other supplies. Some parts for your ship, maybe. Or some minor luxuries.’

“Torpedoes can be luxurious,” spoke Telin from the back of the Vondem’s bridge, earning him a withering glare from Gaeda that he just didn’t see. It did bring a smirk to Sidda’s face though, one the brutish man wouldn’t be able to see. She’d admonish him for speaking up later, but in a gentle way for once. It was truly a beautifully timed interruption.

“One standard replicator, the kind in your quarters. Three tons of replicator mass and I’m sure you can free up an emitter head for a mark eight phaser. Ours is getting a little worn out, what with saving merchants and Federation cruisers.” Revin whispered in Sidda’s ear and she listened before speaking. “And I would like a complete list of all interstellar missing persons reports issued recently by the Romulan Republic. I know the Federation cooperates with them on this front.”

‘As well as all of our information on local D’Ghor operations, delivered up front?’ Rourke gave a soft snort, and shook his head. ‘One replicator. An emitter head. Two tonnes of mass. Delivered only when you get me actionable intelligence on the Kut’luch’s next move. Or you’re flying away from this meeting with an awful lot, and I’m flying away with nothing but faith.’ He shrugged. ‘And I’m not doing a blanket trade of the secrets of our friends. But with more specific information, I can use the time for more specific enquiries about what the Romulan Republic knows, or how desperate they are, for any particular persons of interest.’

“I’m not asking for secrets, I’m asking for the latest public postings. We didn’t have time to update our lists last we visited a Federation world.” She mulled the rest of Rourke’s proposition, then looked over to Gaeda and the man shrugged.

“We could do with the emitter head now. And some parts for the pintle mount it’s on,” the man said. “But it should last another twenty or thirty hours of use.” Which in terms of a weapons life, could be months, or longer, when not in a war. But in a war? A few months max before burn out.

“We’ll expect restock of any expended munitions while getting your ‘actionable intelligence’,” Sidda said as she looked back to the viewscreen. “After all, if we catch this Kut’lach in a dock with her shields down, you wouldn’t begrudge me gifting a few photon torpedoes to the D’Ghor now would you? Or any other ships of theirs?”

‘I can send you the public posting. But no goods until I have a demonstration you’ll make good on this agreement. Until then, the information – which is significant – will be recompense for your work today.’ Rourke tapped his chin with a finger. ‘I’ll arrange what I deem a fair restock of expended munitions on this operation. Which means you don’t get to write a blank check with whatever tale you tell, but I’ve no intention of leaving you out of pocket for this service.’

“Captain, I’m an honest merchant. If I say we used five photon torpedoes, we used five photon torpedoes.” There was a brief chuckle from a few of her own bridge members at that, even a smirk from Revin. “We’ll await your information and then be underway. Make sure you have all you promised ready for me when we return. And we will return.” That last sentence was said with cold, hard determinism. As if by saying it in such a manner, it would be so.

‘I’ll include comms details. Tell me when you have news, and we’ll arrange a meeting for us to deliver your pay.’ Rourke nodded. ‘I’ll put your information together and send it over. Good hunting, Captain.’

“This isn’t hunting Captain, this is extermination work,” Sidda said and with a wave of her hand the signal but, briefly flashing up a symbol on his screen – a purple background with a black ring and stylised thorn inside the ring. The Vondem Thorn would hang around just long enough to receive the information packet promised before she’d slip back under cloak and disappear along the fading warp trail in pursuit of her wounded prey.

“Back by popular demand!”

Archanis Sector
2399

Vondem Thorn
Mess hall

“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.”

“Damage?”

“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.”

“Yes ma’am.”

****

“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.

Well shit.

“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.

Dammit!

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.”

“Wait…your 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.

“Geez Telin, I think you can stop firing”

Vondem Thorn
2399

Vondem Thorn
Bridge

“What am I looking at?” Sidda said as she stood up from her chair and stepped closer to the main viewscreen.

“Universe gone mad,” Lewis said from his seat. “I mean, Telin got it right.”

“Not now Lewis.”

“Roger that ma’am, shutting up.”

Sidda turned around and looked at Telin and Gaeda at their stations at the back of the bridge. “Well?”

“One old Duras outpost as expected. Telin’s reasoning was on the dot,” Gaeda said, giving an approving look and nod to the orion brute. Maybe positive reinforcement would work to change his attitude, though it had seemed every since Orin left the ship that he’d mellowed out.

“One kellicam along the major axis, 400 cams roughly on both other axis. A facility built into the rock, no way to know how deep with passive sensors. Two slips for repair work it looks like,” Telin said as the Thorn slinked around the base purely on thrusters. As they moved, the Kut’lach neared the one empty slip and was tractored in, a series of umbilicals starting the process of latching onto the broken ship’s form and extending much needed support to it.

“Defences?”

“No shield emitters, no surface mounted weapons. I guess base defence was supposed to be outsourced or it relied on not being seen. Heck, this star system is a dead end, nothing of interest here. It’s a bolthole,” Gaeda said looking over his console. “You have to bring in everything, so strategically its stupid. Which makes it strategically brilliant – no one would ever look here because then they’d have to check every single red dwarf system in the galaxy for you.”

“And what’s that?” Sidda said as the second slip came into view and wasn’t as empty as one might expect. A K’t’inga class warship was sitting there with only a few visible lights on it’s hull blinking in the dark and a few slip lights even illuminating it in the shadow of the asteroid.

K’t’inga class starship. Must be completely powered down as I’m not getting energy readings I’d expect from an active warp core. Her transponder is down too, but then again the Kut’lach isn’t running with one either. Her nacelles are cold too.”

Sidda stopped and looked the at the image before her for half a minute. “I don’t like this. Not one bit.”

“It’s nothing,” Telin announced. “A dead ship in soon to be a dead slip.”

Sidda’s eyes flicked to Telin and she glared at him, but instead of his usual backing down, he held firm. Confidence in his statement showing through. “Get me a firing solution on the Kut’lach’s torpedoes and anything else on that base that looks vulnerable Telin. Lewis, get us into whatever position Telin gives you. You have thirty minutes.”

With that she stalked out of the bridge, indicating for her XO to follow her as she departed.

****

The hallway just outside the bridge was as good as any other part of the ship to talk once the doors closed. “There wasn’t supposed to be another fucking ship here Gaeda,” Sidda said, her voice above a whisper.

“No, but neither were we supposed to blow this place apart. Your deal with the Feddies was to find it, note it on a map and tell them where it was. That’s always an option you know.”

She turned on him and stared straight at him, having to look slightly upwards due to his height. “Fuck that. I’m not letting them claim to have done something they should have fucking been preemptive over.”

“They were supposed to strike at the D’Ghor first?”

“No!” she snarled. “They were supposed to fucking protect those that can’t do it for themselves! They were supposed to be watching their people, not toiling around in shiny ships that seem to get bigger and bigger, less and less numerous.”

He chuckled, which earned him a withering glare. “Not the enemy Sid, not the enemy. Just…you know what you remind me of?”

“What?”

“Maquis commanders. Seriously, dig up the historical data, read the interviews with them from when they got captured or after the Dominion War. Men and women of principle who couldn’t stand that Starfleet and the Federation wasn’t doing enough, or felt had betrayed them.”

“Fuck you.”

“Sid,” he said, grabbing her by the shoulders in a rare move, the two having a respect of each other’s personal space. “I know you. You’re not in Starfleet like your mother because of instead of asking to do the right thing, you just do it. You’re no pirate queen. You’re a Robin Hood.”

“What?” she asked, confused but still pissed off.

“A figure,” a third voice spoke, rounding the corner lazily, “from Earth’s mythology,” Revin said with a smirk. “Stole from the rich, gave to the poor. Led a rebellion to overthrow an unjust princeling. Romulans have a figure like that too. Stabbed in the back by her confidant who founded a great kingdom. I prefer the Earth version. It’s more…hopeful.”

The whole hallway went silent for a moment as Sidda stared at Revin before looking back to Gaeda and shrugging his hands off. “We’re still hitting this base. We’ll deal with that other ship too.”

“Sounds good boss. I’ll get Orelia and the others ready for boarding after the initial torpedoes. We’ll want to see if we can’t steal any computer data before anyone shows up right? Something to get the Feddies?”

“Yah, yah.” Sidda reached out and found Revin’s hand without looking. Then pulled the woman a step closer. “Then check on Telin. I’m going to get something to eat before we decloak.” She turned away and walked off down the corridor with Revin in tow, leaving Gaeda to think a moment before he followed down the corridor to handle his own work.

****

“Eat,” Kevak said, dropping a bowl of some sort of stew in front of Sidda, then a carefully prepared plate in front of Revin.

While one was a bowl of what Kevak described as Torbef stew, which was down right delicious, it wasn’t the most appealing visually. The plate however was a visual art piece, slices of a roast meat, something that looked like a cheese of some description, a variety of carefully prepared vegetables, all prepared with a focus and dedication that the torbef stew wasn’t.

“Excuse me?” Sidda asked, eyebrow raising at the mismatch and then back to Kevak. “Why am I getting stew and Revin is getting a fucking platter?”

“Because Revin is a princess and you’re a captain going into battle. Eat.”

“Now hold the fuck on, I command…” Sidda started, pushing her chair back to get to her feet. She wasn’t planning on having a true fight with Kevak, just push until she got something more than just stew out of her cook.

But her words died in her throat as the large klingon spun around from his journey back to the galley, a paring knife in hand. “Eat.” A single word, no force behind it, just a word. “Roast meat is for victors. Win, kill some honourless pigs, then you can have meat.”

Before she could get a response in, Revin tugged on her sleeve and forced her to sit back down. “It’s textures,” Revin said after Sidda sat down, picking at the pieces on her plate carefully, daintily even, before fetching a piece of meat and offering it to Revin. “And I’ll give you a better deal than Kevak.”

Chewing on the piece of proffered meat for a moment, enjoying the perfection it was, having been done by an expert chef, Sidda finally picked up her spoon and dipped it into the stew. “And what,” she scooped some out and decided perhaps looking at it wasn’t the right idea, though it did smell amazing, “would that be?”

“Win and I’ll give you two secrets. One on this ship, one about me.”

****

Barely ten kilometres above the surface of the asteroid, 5 kellicams by the sensors that were about to observe all goings on, space was empty. There was nothing there, save for hydrogen and dust blowing away on the stellar wind produced by the angry red dwarf at the heart of this system.

That however wasn’t the truth. Lurking behind a cloaking screen hung the predatory shape of the Vondem Thorn. She had lined herself up perfectly for a killing blow that would give no one on that base time to respond. No time to fight. No time to take lives in response for the loss of their own. No honour or glorious death fighting. And for this to be a success and not place the Thorn in danger, it had to be quick deaths as well, which was more than they deserved.

The purple silhouette of the ship rippled back into observation before the front of the ship was washed out in a bright red light as the first torpedo fired. Then a second and finally a third as the rapid-fire launcher fired it’s torpedoes, mechanisms working to restock the launcher from the magazines.

The first crossed the distance in no time, slamming into the part of the depot base visible from space, blowing a massive hole in the facility for the second torpedo to bury itself into, detonating with a multi-kiloton explosion inside.

Torpedo three was the true killer however, aimed to slip through the pylons of the dock and straight into the exposed magazines of the Kut’lach. A forcefield flickered barely perceptibly in the face of such a violent kinetic strike of a torpedo at full speed but failed, barely halting the explosive before it let go inside the stricken battlecruiser’s hull. One explosion turned into a calamitous conflagration as it induced the other warheads to detonate, critically wounding the ship. A second later reality finally registered what was happening as the Kut’lach died in a ball of plasma as her drive systems finally failed from the fury of internal explosions.

Matter and anti-matter combined in ruinous rage and the ship, as well as a decent chunk of the asteroid, were simply vaporised, the explosion washing over the Vondem Thorn’s shields as she sat there, another volley of torpedoes launching into the base.

****

The bridge was quiet as the sixth torpedo launched.

“Geez Telin, I think you can stop firing,” Lewis finally said. “I think you got ‘em.”

The big orion grinned as he stood at his console, enjoying the explosions taking place deep inside the asteroid base, the out pouring of burning atmosphere, plasma expanding and cooling. It a was a scene of brutally efficient carnage. “Torpedoes can be luxurious,” the said. “And I recorded each shot, so Starfleet can damn well repay us.”

“That they…” Sidda started but stopped as a siren started blaring.

A harsh klingon voice came over the ship’s internal speakers, its voice clearly computerised. “Boarders detected! Boarders detected!”

“The fuck?” Sidda finished as she got to her feet, disruptor out of its holster and in her hand as she spun to face the only door to the bridge.

“Six klingons just beamed into the mess hall. Don’t ask how,” Gaeda reported looking over his console. “I’m cycling the shields now.”

“Revin…” Sidda whispered before she threw herself around her own command chair, breaking for the door with no thought to ordering anyone to either come with her or stay behind.

“We’re going to run like we stole something.”

Vondem Thorn, IKS Va’thu, Archanis Sector
2399

Vondem Thorn
Mess Hall

Only three of the intruders remained in the mess hall, the oldest and largest of the six having ordered his three more capable warband members to seize the engine space of this vessel. Kor’loth had remained here with two of his most trusted warriors to repel whatever weak attempt at a counter this motley crew could throw at him.

He and his men and women had no honour left to them, only a burning desire to make sure their entry to Gre’thor was sung about, feared and known that when they arrived, they’d continue carving a path of suffering until they got the respect due them.

They’d been aboard the Va’thu, prepping the ship for its inclusion in Gaveq’s little fleet after having procured it when these cowardly attackers had struck the depot. They hadn’t even issued a challenge, or a warning. No taunts, no accusations, no appeals to honour. Just three torpedoes that had killed everyone in the depot, then three more to make sure.

He had respect for the efficiency, their sheer and utter brutality and putting down a crippled starship, of killing a commander who couldn’t even kill a weak Federation starship, or die trying to rid the House of D’Ghor of weakness and stupidity.

The romulan woman whose neck was held firm in his hands barely struggled. She gripped his arm to support herself, but made no pleas or bargains. No fire or light in her eyes though, which confused him.

The chef though, that man had been what he expected – a warrior. He’d launched himself from the galley, a pan wielded like a sword in one hand, a cleaver in another. They hadn’t been weapons of desperation from the way he fought, but weapons he had trained with. Dor would carry the shame of being knocked out by a frying pan for the rest of his days, especially as Keth would remind him she’d had to gut the chef herself.

“A romulan woman and a klingon chef,” Kor’loth said, stepping over Kevak’s form and into a rapidly growing pool of blood, lifting the woman up in the with some effort. It wouldn’t be much longer before one of his own decided to save him the disgrace of growing old. “Where is your leader little one?”

For her worth, the romulan didn’t say a thing, just fought to bring breath. A couple of kicks to his armour had dissuaded her from fighting when he hadn’t even so much as grunted.

“Footsteps!” Dor cried out from the starboard door, back pressed to the wall and mek’leth in hand, ready to strike at the first foe to walk in the door.

Kor’loth gave the romulan’s throat a tight, firm squeeze then cast her aside, hearing her slam into the table and roll off to the floor. She wasn’t a threat; she was a weak romulan woman. But whoever was coming, now they could be a fight!

Keth took a spot next to Kor’leth’s flank with a disrupter in hand, he himself armed with his bat’leth, ready to spill more blood on the floor. His attention momentarily went to the port side door as he heard the sounds of disrupters, then a high-pitched whine. He’d heard that noise in his youth, when he still wore the uniform of the KDF with pride. Romulan disruptors.

So, the crew were romulans with a klingon chef? It didn’t matter. Soon they’d all be dead and he’d have a new ship. Gaveq could have the Va’thu, he’d have this ship as soon as his mean took engineering.

Just as he turned back to where the crew of this ship were coming from, the first one stepped in. A true brute of an orion, taller than he himself was, which was an achievement. His family must produce magnificent warriors! Dor’s mek’leth came down and bit into the man’s shoulder deeply, dark blood spilling from the wound. The orion bellowed in pain but seized Dor’s wrist with his good hand as he drove into the room, preventing Dor from removing the weapon. Then an orion woman stepped in. What was he facing here?

This new woman raised her weapon in a single fluid action and squeeze the firing stud on the older klingon disruptor. A single green bolt slammed in to Keth, screaming as it crossed the distance and collected her in the chest, its rampant energies ripping her apart, screaming as she was reduced to dust.

Efficient.

But the disruptor was useless, if he knew his weapons well. A single shot like that would have drained it. The male orion and Dor were struggling to the side and nothing stood between him and this woman. Bat’leth rose, he stalked forward, then a weight jumped on his back. A cold sharp pain stung at his neck, then again and again. He felt the warmth of his own blood seeping into his clothing as he toppled forward, trying to swing at the woman before him, collecting her shoulder and arm as he fell to the floor.

Then that cold sharp sting struck him twice more in the back of his neck and he lost all feeling. He could only look to his left, watching his blood spill across the deck, unable to even draw breath.

“Never,” a voice whispered in his ear as he saw the orion woman collapse to the floor, holding a hand tight over her wound, “will you hurt my hathos again.”

So, this is how Kor’loth, warrior of House D’Ghor ended? Not in glorious battle, but ambushed from behind by some romulan welp he had literally thrown aside?

How dishonourable…how fitting…

****

Engineering

“T’Ael! T’Ael!” R’tin shouted into engineering, trying to find his sister. Orelia and Diedrick had been nearby when the Klingons had barged into Engineering and answered the whine of his own disruptor pretty quickly. But he hadn’t seen his sister. Fear was starting to get him as he desperately sought her out in a room that was starting to fill with smoke, curtesy of the missed shots of the attackers.

“Found her!” Diedrick shouted out, his deep voice carrying across Engineering with ease. “Alive but hurt.”

That was when the klaxon decided to fire off. It was louder, more raucous than the battlestations alarm. It was meant to grab your attention, even in a dire situation, in order to inform you that your bad day had decided to get worse.

“Containment failure in progress,” the male computer voice announced with no emotion. “Warp core failure eminent. Containment failure in progress. Warp core failure eminent.”

“Fuck! FUCK!” R’tin shouted as he made for the door, a dark shape in the smoke heading towards another that was waving its arm. Hopefully Diedrick carrying his sister towards Orelia? A hope born out as he emerged into the corridor.

“What do we do?” Orelia asked of R’tin. “You’re the engineer.”

“I need T’Ael’s help! We’ve been keeping this ship together, but it’s a two-man op. We’re fucked! Fucked!” he shouted again.

“R’tin! T’Ael! Anyone alive down there?” a voice that sounded like Trid’s came down the corridor, over the din of the klaxon and the voice announcing their impending doom.

“Yah! But not for long!”

“Captain’s evacuating the ship! Transporter if you don’t want to get left behind!”

****

IKS Va’thu
Infirmary

What she wouldn’t do for a Federation hospital right about now? Or even a Starfleet sickbay? These thoughts went through the mind of one Melissa Ward, better known to the galaxy at large as Bones. But then again so many practical doctors on the frontier tended to be known as Bones, right?

But when it came to emergency surgery, she’d rather the barbaric state of klingon military medicine then just the contents of her medical bag, which as she understood was now an expanding cloud of plasma.

“You’ll live,” she announced to Sidda, who was sitting on a biobed, still holding bandages to the deep gash she’d received during the fighting aboard ship. “And can wait too, but no leaving my sickbay.” She turned to Revin, a constant shadow in times like this. “Tie her down if you have too. Doctor’s orders.”

She could have done without the wicked grin that followed, but understood young love was…excitable.

“What about everyone else?” Sidda asked, her colour off and therefore not even fighting with her. Where was the fun in ordering a superior officer around who didn’t fight with you?

“T’Ael’s head injury is bad. I’ve induced a coma for now, but we’ll want to get to a decent hospital soon. Telin’s right arm is useless. Nerve damage from the scans. I can make good the damage, given a couple of days of work. Again, let’s find that hospital.”

“Kevak?”

“You’re klingon chef will live another day,” Bones replied, with a faint smile. “Klingons take a bit more to kill then that. He’s not cooking for a couple of weeks if I have my say of things. I’m keeping him sedated for a day or two to let some healing happen before he starts moving.”

“So, we’re all accounted for?”

“Yes Captain, we’re all here. Now, let me go check on T’Ael again, have some words with Telin and then I’ll be back.”

****

Engineering

“Injectors?” R’tin asked out loud while looking over his own console, monitoring readouts before him.

“Primed and ready,” responded Orelia who he’d conscripted along with Diedrick and Trid as his makeshift engineering crew.

They had a monumental task before them, trying to restart the warp core of the Va’thu with only the ship’s limited power supplies. From what he could tell the ship had been brought here and stored, awaiting a crew of D’Ghor followers to come here and crew it. But that would have been a full crew, with engineers aplenty, or certainly more then one engineer, two security guards and a helmswoman who was giving him the side eyes after his pretty bad and in hindsight stupid attempt at flirting the other day.

“Right…Trid, bring the containment fields online. Good…Diedrick, open the injector values to five percent.”

There was a slow hum, then a thrum, another thrum, more of them now. The pulsing of the core was quiet but steady. Nuclear scale explosions were taking place in the heart of the ship’s engine as matter and antimatter collided, annihilating each other and releasing all the pent-up energy of creation. “Right, keep opening the values, nice and slow to ten percent and hold it steady.”

The door to Engineering opened and footfalls came from the door to his position in quick succession. “Power?” Gaeda asked of him.

“Give me an hour and you’ll have drive plasma for warp drive. Give me two hours and I’ll give you warp eight point five.”

“Eight five? Thought these old ships weren’t that fast.”

“Turns out Va’thu here isn’t that old. She…what is the phrase humans use…fell of the back of a transporter? She’s less than ten years old, but she’s not quiet KDF quality. House militia perhaps?”

“So, either pinched from a house who can put new ships into storage instead of working them, or D’Ghor have some sympathisers?” Gaeda asked, looking around the engine room that Klingons preferred to call the Engine Pit.

R’tin just shrugged. He wasn’t in the mood to speculate, just live, get this ship moving and get T’Ael the aid that Bones said she needed. He’d push this ship as fast as he could if he had to. Get out and push even.

“Right, keep me appraised R’tin. As soon as we can move, we’ll get underway. I want cloak, but we’re not going to be slow buddy. We’re going to run like we stole something and get your sister to a proper hospital.”

“First Feddies we see XO. They’re suckers for a sob story. And we have stolen something.”

“I’ll try and not take that personally R’tin. Get us moving and we’ll see who we get to first.”

No lumbar support.

IKS Va'thu, Vondem Rose, Haydorien system, Archanis sector
2399

IKS Va’thu
Main Bridge

“I don’t get it…this ship should be in the regular military of the Empire, out oppressing some subject species, invading some pre-warp civilization, that sort of thing,” Lewis said from the helm station.

The bridge of the ship Va’thu was roomier than the Thorn’s had been, laid out a bit differently as well. Instead of Helm and Operations being at the front but either side of the viewscreen, they sat between the command chair and the viewscreen, but separated enough to allow whoever sat there to close to the screen in quick order to center themselves in any conversations.

Gaeda was himself sitting in that aforementioned command chair, a klingon equivalent to a padd in hand. “You’re right. The battlelog is empty too. Built, declared in excess and shipped off to a storage yard. I think she was built just to keep a shipyard in business. Klingons probably have heaps of ships like this, just waiting for when they conscript warriors for war. Spread your officers thin, fill in the ranks with fresh meat and sail off to die in glorious combat.”

“Christ that’s grim,” Lewis responded. “Industrialisation of slaughter.”

“We can’t talk Lewis. Our ancestors marched themselves into three world wars before the Vulcans came along.”

“Yah, but we…I dunno…grew up as a species? Hell, humans founded the Federation.”

Gaeda smirked and looked up the helmsman. The viewscreen behind Lewis showed not stars, just a local sector map with the Va’thu in the middle and a red and blue line descending from the top. Statistics on a variety of factors where on the right of the screen, but he wasn’t interested. It showed the general progress of their trip and most importantly the nearing Federation border.

“Then what does that make us Gaeda? You and I both aren’t exactly model Federation members.”

“Hey, humanity evolved but monkeys still exist.”

“I…uh…did you just call me a monkey?”

“No Gaeda, I called you an unevolved human. Like me.”

Gaeda just stared at the younger man for a moment before he looked back down at the padd. “Fuck you and fly the ship,” he said, trying to stifle the slight laughter in his voice.

“Dinner first,” Lewis quipped as he returned to his duties. “Twelve hours till the border. No one in range on this side of the border for an intercept.”

****

Engineering

“How is he handling things?”

Orelia spun around to face the voice that had just spoken, bringing a weapon to bare. This was too big, klingons were crafty folk when they wanted to be. Attackers could pounce at a moment. But instead, she was faced with the captain’s woman, Revin, standing not but a few meters from her, eyes just…looking into the distance. She didn’t get it, truly didn’t get Revin’s blindness. She relaxed as her brain questioned it once more, the not getting one of the many medical solutions on the market. Then the question asked registered and she answered as she turned back to watch her self-appointed ward R’tin.

“He’s exhausted. I was given a crash course on what he’s managed to put together in case something happens, but he threw up a hammock and crashed about an hour ago. I’ve got an intermittent power fault in the starboard number three disruptor that I cancel whenever the self-test sequence fires up so he can keep sleeping.”

“I meant in regards to his sister,” Riven stated.

“He worked until he couldn’t sleep, so you tell me.”

It was a solid minute before Revin spoke again, having taken a step closer just before she spoke. “I…need to warn you of something. Something I can’t trust to Telin.”

“Why not?” she asked, not turning away from R’tin.

“Because he is too hot headed and prone to rash actions. You on the other hand Orelia are far more…thoughtful in your actions.”

“Sweet words and compliments won’t do it for me Revin, save them for the Captain. What is it?”

“We have a Federation spy aboard ship.” Revin paused and that got Orelia’s attention as she turned to face the blind woman who was looking in the rough direction of R’tin. “Don’t know who her masters truly are, but it will be someone who answers to the Federation. Possibly Starfleet.”

“Her? So…Bones or Trid.” Orelia nodded to herself as she deduced that, her statement earning a smirk from Revin. “Bones hasn’t been in Starfleet for two decades, Trid is young and hot headed. So…monies on Trid. Bones has grievances, Trid has a story about flunking out of the Academy.”

“I see Sidda’s decision to hire you for your intellect was well founded. We need to watch our little spy, I think. Don’t act, but watch her, figure out her purpose and who she truly works for if we want to make the most of this.”

“What are you getting out of this Revin?”

“Continued freedom and a chance to embarrass the Federation. Sidda’s continued love and devotion as well.”

“Huh…awfully transactional of you.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to understand our arrangements. They are…unique. As all loves should be.” Revin took a step backwards, partially turning as she did so. “Keep an eye on R’tin, sweet Orelia, for we need him to get home. I’ll send Diedrick down shortly so you can get some sleep too.”

“Appreciate that,” she said to the retreating romulan.

****

Main Bridge

Stepping through the doors onto the bridge, Sidda was looking a little worse for wear. Her arm was worse than Bones’ initial assessment, a cut nerve preventing her from using it fully for now, so she’d resorted to a sling for her left arm and decided to opt out of wearing her jacket.

They all had boarded this ship with just the clothing they wore and weapons in their hands, but thankfully the ship actually contained replicators. Not as varied in their selections, but replacement clothing was available. And at least the ship’s sonic showers worked, even if they left your ears ringing slightly afterwards.

Note to self, replace all the sonic showers with better ones.

“Moring Cap,” Trid said from next to the helm where Lewis was giving the bajoran some sort of lesson before she took over and he hit the rack.

“Morning Trid. Status?”

“Crossed the Federation border twenty minutes ago. We’re maintaining warp eight for now and heading for the rendezvous coordinates we have with Endeavour. We just finished checking our baffles for signs of a cloaked ship, but looks like we might have gotten away clean.”

Sidda nodded as she stepped towards the empty command chair and looked at it. It looked so, so uncomfortable. She missed her old chair, all broken in and comfortable, beaten into shape by years or decades of klingon commanders before she’d possessed the ship. This chair just looked…new.

Fresh.

Untamed.

No lumbar support.

Over her left arm she had a folded-up piece of purple cloth and with her right pulled it away and started the process of draping it over the back of the chair while Trid and Lewis finished up. It took her a few minutes with only one hand, but the piece of fabric was now draped over the chair, adding a splash of her favourite colour to the brown, grey and red décor of a klingon bridge. It was weighted in the corners to help prevent it from moving easily as people sat in the chair.

Not her favourite colour precisely, but again, the replicator was limited and this was the best she could make it do with short notice.

“Oh, Lewis, before you leave, how’s the transponder looking?” she asked of her helmsman just as he stood to leave.

“Oh, the XO finished hacking into it best he could. Ready to be reprogrammed at your leisure.”

“Best he could?” she asked as she sat herself down in the chair, immediately hating the height, the cushion stuffing, the feel of the targ leather on the arms, the brutality of the chair. She hated the chair.

“Well, it should broadcast whatever you want it too, but we might still be shouting Va’thu as well. Guess we’ll find out when we can ask someone.”

“Thank you, Lewis, I’ll look over my options and set something up shortly. Oh, and Gaeda’s on kitchen duty, so best get in there before he burns your dinner.”

“Will do skip.” With that the human male left, leaving the bridge to Sidda and Trid, the later settling into the helm station and studying it, the former sitting herself down and staring at Trid for a solid minute.

Finally brooding became unhelpful and Sidda spoke out loud. “Computer?” she asked, responded to by a harsh tone and male voice.

“Online.”

“Change ship’s transponder to read Vondem Rose.”

“Complying,” it responded to the order.

“Do you have other voice options computer?”

“Negative,” it announced loudly in its monotone way of talking.

“We’ll have to fix that. Least the Thorn had a nicer voice.”

“Restate inquiry,” the computer responded.

“That’s going to get old fast,” Trid said from the helm.

“Yup,” Sidda responded after waiting just long enough for the computer to give a chirp that it was no longer listening. “New voice and as stupid as sin. We’re definitely going to have to fix that. Feel like raiding a Feddie ship just for their computer voice software?”

“We could just ask the Endeavour when we get to them you know.”

“Ugh, boring. But…we’re in no fit state to fight now.”

****

Infirmary

“The Princess brings me dinner?” Kevak asked, adjusting the bed with a push of a button to bring himself up to a more sitting position. In his youth he would have like so many warriors escaped the infirmary as soon as he could, but now he was willing to comply with the warrior-doctor that was Bones.

“I am no Princess,” Revin said as she set the tray of food down on a trolley and wheeled it over to within reach of Kevak. He still had to reach out and bring it a bit closer, but she had brought it close enough. “I am a Senator’s daughter.”

“Close enough Princess,” he replied. “Bringing me food, I’m assuming unpoisoned, means you want something little princess.” He took a hold of the leg of meat on the platter and bit into it. There was some humming and haaing as the chef chewed, weighing the skills of which barbarian was in his kitchen.

“We have a spy onboard the ship.”

“Of course we do,” he bit some more meat off, talking around and it getting Revin to turn away, as if not to look at him while he eat so rudely. “But when are you going to tell Sidda why you’re here.”

That caused Revin to turn back on him, her cheeks flushing green. “I am not the spy!” she hissed. “She rescued me!”

He took a moment, processed the actual anger in Revin’s voice and then started laughing, truly laughing before stopping with a grunt of pain. Deep breaths to get over the sharp stabs of pain he had brought upon himself and then thoughtfully put the drumstick down.

“So, who is it? Orelia or Trid?”

“Trid. Wait, Orelia?”

“I think she’s working for Sidda’s father as well. Just…keeping eyes on his only daughter.”

“How…thoughtful of him,” she responded, genuinely interested in such a display of affection, if it was true. Spying on one’s offspring just to keep them safe. If her father had done that, she’d never have been kidnapped and then needing rescue.

“So, Trid…Federation likely. Starfleet probably, though their civilian spy agencies are almost as devious as you romulans. So Princess, what’s the plan?”

“I…just want to watch her for now. Learn what we can before I tell Sidda.”

“Can do. But only for a small price,” Kevak demanded politely.

“What might that be?”

“Sing while I eat please.”

“For you, old warrior, I shall acquiesce.”

****

D’Ghor Depot #5
D’Ghor ship Tukmeth

“What am I looking at?” Ju’leth asked as she rose from the command chair of the Tukmeth and strode the few steps closer to the viewscreen. There, upon the exploded remains of one of their repair yards and depots, years of quiet and careful build up, was a black circle the size of a starship with some sort of stylised triangle or dagger in the middle of it.

There was also some sort of script blasted into the remains of the asteroid but she didn’t understand it. That was what one of the other honourless dogs upon her ship was for.

“I’m detecting fragments consisting of the Kut’lach in the debris field, no survivors anywhere. The Va’thu is missing, no debris matching it anywhere.”

“I wasn’t asking about that you idiot! I was asking about that!” Ju’leth pointed at the viewscreen as she turned to her operations officer, a hand dropping down to her dagger, ready to pull it and throw if the damned idiot couldn’t do his job.

“It’s an emblem mistress. The script blasted next to it reads ‘The Vondem Thorn is now a Rose. What was yours is now mine.’ It’s in Orion ma’am.”

“Who the fuck is the Vondem Thorn?”

“Uh…I’ve heard of them,” her tactical officer spoke up. “Orion pirates. Well, some humans and even a couple of romulans I think.”

“A ship of fucking cowards destroyed the Kut’lach? They’ve done us a favour then! Send a message back to Kuskir, inform him the Kut’lach was destroyed and the Va’thu stolen. Tell him who’s claiming it and that we’re going pirate hunting.”

****

Vondem Rose
Haydorien system

“Dropping out of warp now ma’am,” Trid announced as the streaks of stars gave way to a single pinpoint of light in the distance being slightly brighter than the others. A few other notable spots of light indicated the two gas giants over this side of the system at this time of the century as they spun around in the years long march dictated by gravity.

“Excellent, take us in full impulse. Gaeda, if you’d be so kind as to uncloak the ship, let’s not give all of these fine upstanding uniform stuffers palpitations and let them have a few hours of watching us toddle on in.”

“That really wise Sidda?” he asked.

“Better then decloaking once we’re in orbit.”

“Can’t argue with that. Decloaking now.”

With that the Vondem Rose, formerly the IKS Va’thu, decloaked on the edge of the Haydorien system as she accelerated up to full impulse and started her journey in system.

Islay single malt Scotch whisky

Vondem Rose, Haydorien system, Archanis Sector
2399

Vondem Rose
Main Bridge

“Well, we seem to have got their attention,” Gaeda said from Ops, with what Sidda labelled as mirth in his voice. “We got four different sets of active sensors on us and our transponder has been interrogated…fifteen times now.”

“Any automated traffic vectors yet?” Sidda asked as she turned the chair to face the Ops station. She’d found the one single useful feature of the chair – a working swivel mount. Motorised even. Still didn’t like the rest of it.

“No, but I suspect it’s been turned off, what with the gaggle of broken Fleet ships in system.” He brought up a tactical overlay of the system on the main viewscreen and highlighted all the ships in the system, specifically the two that the Rose’s sensors could tell were pretty badly damaged from this distance.

“Return the favour, but just once. I want to confirm who is here. Oh, and scan them as well. What’s good for the gander, is good for the goose.”

Lewis groaned from the helm at her unintentional mangling of a human idiom.

The tactical display on screen soon updated as each ship was identified and labelled as such by the Rose’s computers. Specifications that Sidda didn’t have before came up on screen beside each ship. Clearly the KDF had kept the Va’thu’s computers up to date while she sat in dock. This…this could be handy. And potentially profitable to non-state actors.

Endeavour is here in system ma’am.”

“Excellent,” she said, turning back to the viewscreen. “Open a channel to them, in the clear. I don’t care if the other ships hear us.” A moment later, Gaeda confirmed the open channel.

“This is Captain Sidda Sadovu of the Vondem Rose. We’re in need of medical and minor technical assistance.” She highlighted her point by drawing notice to the sling on her left arm. “And payment for services rendered.”

“Christ, you’re enjoying this aren’t you?” Gaeda said as the message was sent, waiting for a reply.

“Damn straight I am!”

The face to greet them from Endeavour’s bridge was not Rourke, but the most lantern-jawed, clean-cut officer imaginable. It was as if he’d fallen out of a recruitment poster or was, quite possibly, some sort of holographic greeting programme designed by a dozen committees to envision the most perfect, idealised image of a Starfleet officer.

His polite smile in greeting was all bright courtesy and caring, Betazoid-black eyes. “This is Lieutenant Rhade, USS Endeavour. I’m notifying Captain Rourke of your arrival and I’ll patch you through to him as soon as possible. Are your medical needs emergencies? I can have a team beamed to your ship momentarily.”

“I have one comatose crewmember and multiple injuries aboard ship that onboard supplies are woefully inadequate for. I’ll have my doctor forward a list of requirements you can have ready when we come in range. Some field surgery will require something a bit more than a klingon infirmary can provide to properly fix.” She knew that Bones had been working on a wishlist of supplies she’d want to stock the ship with and now was as good a chance as any to get some of those supplies. “We also need a couple of engineers. We had to make this ship ready with only a handful of people and could do with some help polishing off those endeavours for continued operation.”

“Unless your technical difficulties are causing a threat to life situation, it’ll have to be Captain Rourke who clears sending an engineering party over. If your medical needs are this severe, Captain Sadovu, I’d encourage you to let us beam your injured crewmembers to our sickbay.” Lieutenant Rhade’s smile grew tense, but sincere. “I understand you may be reticent, but that will provide the best and swiftest medical care we can give.”

“We’ll beam over our critical crew shortly. If you’re offering, I’d like everyone to pass through your sickbay at some point Lieutenant and make good our ills, if just to take the pressure off my doctor.” Sidda noted the few nods of approval she could see in her peripheral vision at that. There was no insult to Bones, but more the situation that Bones found herself in with a stripped bare klingon infirmary.

“I’m sure that can be arranged. I’ll inform our Chief Medical Officer and she’ll contact you for an overview of numbers and injuries to arrange treatment.” Rhade had a PADD in hand, quickly tapping up notes. “I’m arranging you a traffic vector to the drydock’s visiting airspace; you’ll be flagged as a civilian vessel receiving Starfleet aid. Comply with the traffic instructions and the Haydorian authorities have no grounds to move you along until your business with Endeavour is concluded. If that’s all for your ship’s immediate needs, Captain Sadovu, I’ll patch you through to Captain Rourke?”

“That will be acceptable Lieutenant,” she said as stepped back to her command chair and sat down on the leading edge, placing her one good hand on the arm. While she waited a hand gently settled on her right shoulder, the chair twisting slightly as someone sat on the chair arm.

“Must I go over?” Revin asked as she used her other hand to brush some of Sidda’s hair back behind her ear.

“I’d like you to love, but I’ll escort you. I’m not letting anyone take you.”

With a smile Revin leaned in and kissed Sidda lightly on the cheek just as the viewscreen switched from a standby image to Captain Rourke.

The captain’s gaze was implacable as it appeared, though it was impossible to disguise the exhaustion in his eyes. “I’m getting the impression everything went really well, really badly, or both,” he rumbled. “How’s your crew, Captain? Lieutenant Rhade assured me your medical needs are being seen to.”

“We’re well enough all things considered. I’ve got two serious but stable crewmembers. Bones put one of my engineers in a coma for her own good and my chef could do with some followup surgery. After that it’s nerve damage and reconstruction work for the rest of us.” This was emphasised by Revin’s hand running along the back of Sidda’s left shoulder and her sling encased arm.

“But yes, things went well enough and poorly enough. We had a perfect opportunity to rid the galaxy from what we think was around a thousand D’Ghor, but a handful of survivors had the perfect opportunity to beam aboard.” There was a predatory grin on Sidda’s face.

“You ran into more than the Kut’luch if you had time to pick up a new ride.” Rourke’s voice was flat. “What did you find?”

“An old Duras depot we knew about that the D’Ghor were using. Wasn’t as abandoned as we thought. I’m guessing resupply and rally point. They were making ready a ship they’d recently procured, lifted straight from an excess yard. Once the Kut’lach arrived we waited a bit for them to start repair work before we robbed them of their ship, their base and their trained maintenance techs.” Such a polite way to say killed them all with nary a thought but the desire to hurt them.

He nodded, jaw rather tense. “So I understand the whole situation, Captain. Why did you launch an assault instead of report back with their location?”

“I wasn’t going to let a trained, experienced pack of murderers transfer to a new ship and sail forth once more. I had the perfect chance to eliminate a threat to the sector so I took it. I did what was needed.”

“That is to say,” Revin spoke up from her spot right next to Sidda, “we are not hindered by your fleet’s need to sign off on every action.” She didn’t even wince when Sidda clearly gripped her leg tightly, just rested her free hand on Sidda’s in acknowledgement.

“I don’t care about the protocol of it. I’m asking about the gamble when you stuck your neck out, lost a ship, and came back with a new one.” But Rourke shrugged, gaze flickering to something else on his display screen. “I assume you had only a limited chance to sweep the area for survivors? Don’t get me wrong, Captain, the Kut’luch and a depot being gone is more than enough. But there are D’Ghor leaders I won’t scratch off the list without confirmation.”

“Our second volley of torpedoes and the Kut’lach’s own magazines detonating, moments before her warp core detonated while inside the depot’s primary docking slip, ensured there were no survivors,” Sidda said, relaxing backwards in her chair and into Riven as well. “We did however check while we were making our new ship ready to sail and suffice to say, found no survivors. Either vaporised or irradiated beyond even klingon tolerances.”

Rourke sat back with a low huff, eyes fixing on a distant point, brow furrowing. At length he nodded, though despite the news, despite the confirmation, his frown didn’t fade. “Alright, Captain. That’s good work, and good intel on the sorts of facilities they’re using. What’s your bill?”

“I still want an update on any publicly announced missing persons notices from the Romulan Republic, as well as any of the sensitive ones issued for missing senatorial family members. Would still like a Federation replicator, or now simply your databases and components to make klingon ones a touch more…refined? And I would like any computer voice packages you can spare. The klingon ones are rather brusque. A list of medical supplies should have arrived by now with my crew members who should have beamed over by now. Wouldn’t mind that being filled out too.” Then Sidda smiled and relaxed. “And one photon torpedo, expended when defending the Endeavour the first time.”

Rourke’s snort sounded begrudgingly amused rather than dismissive. “I’m sure my tactical officer can reassess what munitions we expended in all the chaos of Elgatis. Voice package is fine. Your medical needs and supplies will be fulfilled at the discretion of my Chief Medical Officer, but I’ll make it clear she can be generous. I’ve got the public missing persons notices; Senatorial will take… a little more time. But not more than you’ve got here, I wager.” He scratched his beard. “The replicator. What’re your more ‘refined’ needs?”

“I wouldn’t mind being able to replicate a decent meal, or certainly one better than the basic nutritional ration packs klingons keep on file. Clothing and furnishings. Engineering spare parts, the occasional weapon components. Nothing truly dangerous I assure you Captain.”

“I see you also requested one of my engineering teams, help smooth the rough edges on your ship.” He sighed. “I’ll forward that to my Chief Engineer. See who she can spare and what she can recommend. I know it’s best if improvements can be done directly to your replication systems rather than installing Federation hardware into Klingon power and computer systems. That’s it for your equipment needs?”

“A new wardrobe for my entire crew, tailored of course. A couple of nights rest and relaxation. But I think that should just about do us Captain. Oh…and any holoprojectors you can spare. We’d like to convert a spare cargo bay into a holodeck and we’d like a running start on that project. Unsurprisingly klingons don’t keep holodecks on their warships, outside of a firing range.” Sidda smiled, it spreading up to her eyes. “And perhaps Captain, when my chef is feeling better, your presence for dinner some time, though I suspect that’ll have to wait for now.”

His shoulders relaxed an iota, the frown turning to something more rueful. “Motivation for Doctor Sadek to see to your chef. I can’t promise a quick turnaround on the engineering work; as you can imagine, my crew has a warship to get ready, and I’ve no intention of letting the civilian workers of Haydorien’s drydock poke their noses onto your Rose. I’ll make a request of one of the leisure spots on the surface, swing you as civilian contractors in need of a couple nights’ R&R. I’ll try to include a stop at a tailor’s,” he added wryly. Then the wry expression turned to an amused smirk. “I can also make no promises on the equipment. But I’ll do you one better.”

He hit a command on his side, transmitting over a file. Simple but extensive documentation, its purpose was nevertheless plain from the heading: AUTHORISATION: PRIORITY SALVAGE RIGHTS, SECURED D’GHOR CONTACT SITES, ARCHANIS SECTOR.

“Now that Captain Rourke, certainly seems promising. I do hope I’ll be contacted by someone in Starfleet when such sites are…discovered? To best clean them up and prevent illicit cargoes getting into civilian hands. Wouldn’t want teenagers in their parents runabouts coming across torpedoes after all.” She chuckled slightly at the absurd imagery she’d suggested, it drawing the same from a few of her crew on the bridge. “Oh, and while your engineers are over here, I have no problems with them taking a copy of the ship’s databanks. I’m sure you’ll turn up something in there.”

“Once Starfleet’s confirmed there’s no more danger at any battle-sites, first pickings are yours. Plenty of responsible officers will make sure operations like yours are notified to ensure secure disposal of munitions, equipment, so forth. It’s the least we can do for a privateering operation.” Rourke gave an exaggerated shrug. “I’ll make sure my engineers take those copies. No telling what that’ll show up for my strategic analysts.”

“Oh, and if you ever come across any D’Ghor intelligence of them coming after me, I’d appreciate a heads up. Seems only fair, yes Captain?” Sidda asked.

“Only fair indeed.” Rourke sat up. “My Chief Medical Officer should be contacting you shortly, and I’ll speak with my Chief Engineer about who she can spare.” He hesitated, then his expression went sombre. “My engineers have been performing miracles non-stop for the last week on little to no sleep, lost four of their own, and the end isn’t in sight for them. I expect them to be given every courtesy as they make time to help you.” He sounded cautious rather than accusing, but the tension in his eyes was clear enough.

“I, Captain, have a deep respect for those who keep my ship working. I shall treat them as if they were my own. When they are done, I’m assuming I can have any gifts I wish to send them forward to your ship’s quartermaster for distribution?”

“Petty Officer Bekk will be, I’m sure, delighted at such a responsibility,” said Rourke, disguising any opinion he might have of his quartermaster. “If that’s all for now, I’ll let Doctor Sadek get to work and talk to Commander Cortez about a repair team.” He hesitated, before his eyes met hers, and drew a deep breath. “Good work, Captain.”

“Just make sure my mother hears about this,” Sidda said as she tapped the arm of her command chair. “Starfleet contractor! What next, you people going to start handing out commissions?”

“Sounds like the sort of thing that’s delightfully above my grade,” Rourke rumbled. “I’m sending over some immediate supplies right away, but expect more as my officers make their assessments. We’ll speak soon. Endeavour out.”

There were certainly to be more essential supplies shipped over – medical equipment, engineers and their gear, everything to put the ship and crew alike back on their feet. But Rourke was right, as one crate was transported to the Vondem Rose immediately after their meeting. It was fairly small, fairly unassuming.

Nestled at the top was a PADD listing as much information a Starfleet captain could gather on missing Romulan Republic citizens, including the senatorial family, and with added information on any who remotely matched the profile of the young Romulan woman Rourke had so often seen draped over Sidda.

And beneath it, the rest of the crate was filled with bottles of Islay single malt Scotch whisky.

“A space western? Space cowboys?”

Haydorian, Archanis Sector
2399

Bloomfield General Hospital
Ward 9, room 14

Stirring gently, T’Ael felt like shit. Thinking was hard, her thoughts coming slowly as she tried to figure out where she was and what had happened. Everything felt heavy, a chore to just move her head, or open her eyes. This wasn’t sickbay, was it? No…a hospital perhaps? She spotted two people she knew, both sitting in what looked like comfy chairs, dead to the world and her awakening.

One was her brother? He looked familiar enough. Yes, R’tin, her brother. Her younger brother. Her dependable, loyal, younger brother. The other was…green. She knew green people. Two of them. Both of them were pretty though, but which one was this? She tried to think about it but she just couldn’t make the connections.

“Ah, our wayward soul stirs,” came a soft voice from the end of the bed. “Shh…you’ll wake our sleepers.”

How had she missed someone perched on the end of the bed? It was all she could do to move her head, roll it really, to see this figure. Short cut brunette hair and a dark red lipstick. Stylish clothing to match. She knew this person too, but thoughts were slow.

“I know you,” she stated to the figure, who turned to look at her. Actually look at her. Something deep inside said that that wasn’t possible. This person never looked at people, but here she was making eye contact with her. “You’re…you’re the princess.”

The other woman smiled, a hand coming to rest on T’Ael’s lower leg, patting at the blankets there briefly before settling. “Oh my dear, they warned us you’d be a bit slow waking up.” The other woman slipped off the bed and onto her feet, taking the few steps to move down to her end of the bed and check a display above her head.

The Princess can’t see though, she thought to herself.

“Your blind,” T’Ael stated once more.

“Was,” was all the reply she got. “But don’t tell Sidda just yet, yes?”

“The Captain?”

“Yes dear,” the Princess said, “the Captain. Oh, I do hope this is a result of the drugs and nothing more.” The other woman leaned down and kissed her lightly on the forehead. “Rest T’Ael, we’ll still be here when you’re ready.”

The invitation to rest, to perhaps go back to sleep, was powerful and so inviting. Just the little bit she had done had tired her out, mentally and physically. Perhaps just a few minutes to regain her strength.

****

When she awoke the Princess and the green woman where gone. Her brother had moved however, now with his arms folded on the bed, his head laying across them facing her as he slept. She blinked a few times, then a few more as her eyes finally registered that it was sunlight streaming through a window into her face.

She didn’t feel so dim-witted this time. Thoughts were slow to come to her but they came at least. She moved her head side to side, forward and backward slowly to get a feel for her range of motion. Stiffness came to her, but no pain, no nausea. Just stiffness.

Then her brain registered it. The Princess and the green woman – Revin and the Captain.

Okay, that took longer than it should have, she thought to herself, a hand coming up to rub at her forehead gently, as it to try and help her brain process faster. What happened?

Jostling her left leg she was able to rouse her brother, who was never a morning person and took his sweet time registering that she was awake and trying to get his attention. “Oi,” she said quietly, finding her throat dry and sore.

“Hey sleepy head,” R’tin responded as he rubbed sleep out of one eye as he sat up in the chair he’d dragged over. “Docs said you’d wake up soon.”

“What happened?” she asked, actually unsure of anything past her last breakfast. Or was it dinner?

“We got boarded by some diehards after torping their base. They made a run for Engineering and you got caught in some crossfire. Pretty bad head wound so Bones induced a coma till we could get you to a hospital. Docs fixed you up good but said Bones’ klingon drugs would keep you a bit loopy for a while, even after a detox.”

“Oh, so nothing major then,” she joked, forcing a smile, which oddly enough hurt. A shot of pain across her forehead which she rubbed at.

“Oh, yah, nothing major. Just…well…we lost the Thorn.”

“What? But how’d we get here then? Where is here?”

R’tin smiled, perking up and seemingly fully awake now. “Haydorian. Some hospital in their biggest city. As for how we got here, well, I’m not going to say, I’m going to show you when you’re discharged. We’ll take a shuttle. Trust me, you’re going to love it.”

****

Sargento Ski Lodge

“So she’s being discharged now R’tin?” Sidda asked of the empty room as she stood facing huge floor to ceiling glass window overlooking the expanse of snow and mountain peaks before her.

“Yah Cap,” R’tin’s voice came back to her over the room’s in built audio systems. “We’ll be heading for the starport where I’ll rent a shuttle and take her up to the Rose. Want me to record her expression?”

“Why not,” she said, smiling to herself. “And by the way, thanks for kicking me out of the hospital once she woke up.”

“Hey Cap, you need a break as much as the rest of us. T’Ael and I will get a holiday after all this craziness is over.”

“I’ll see to it R’tin. Now, get going, Sidda out.” She heard the familiar click of the comm channel closing on her voice command and sighed. It was a mix of relief and tiredness. She’d spent three days in that hospital with R’tin waiting for T’Ael to wake up.

Three days of not quiet sleeping properly, not really taking care of herself and worrying about one of her crew members. She pointedly didn’t worry about Kevak as the old man had firmly told her not to, especially after checking himself out of the hospital after a single day there, claiming that Bones’ tender mercies had been enough.

But now here she was, locked away in this chalet with Revin located in a ski resort only accessible by air or transporter. All of the chalets were turned such that none could see the others from their primary windows or decks, giving the impression of lonely wilderness unless one went looking for the others present.

It also afforded freedoms of decorum that she typically didn’t get elsewhere on most Federation worlds as she stood there with only a blanket wrapped around her being, held closed by a single hand, the other curled around a warm cup of cocoa. Somewhere in this expansive building, coming from someone who had for a few years now lived solely out of the cramped quarters of a bird of prey, Revin was about, probably more dressed than she was. But right now the world was her, this warm blanket, a cup of sweet cocoa and an expanse of white ruined only by what looked like an approaching snow storm.

Oh dear, how she’d regret being stuck here with just Riven for company for another day or two. Woe was her life and struggles.

She smiled, sipped at the cocoa and then turned to go hunt her lover.

****

Vondem Rose
Main Bridge

“Jesus, look at them all running around,” Diedrick said as watched the tactical overlay he’d thrown up on the main view screen. They’d not been able to do much about the klingon operating system aboard the Rose, but they’d been able to at least change the display languages so he could read the screen without relying on his admittedly bad klingonese.

“Bunch of rats scurrying around,” Orelia said as she offered Diedrick the bowl of popcorn she had brought to the bridge.

They were the only two crewmembers aboard ship, the other souls running around being Starfleet engineers from the Endeavour, as promised, to help bring the ship up to fighting fit versus their rather haphazardly ‘run away!’ standard. So far they’d only been pestered a few times, or had to call Gaeda for command codes.

Today however was movie day using the best screen in the house. But of course while Orelia had gone to fetch much needed supplies between movies, Diedrick had decided to watch the sensor feed and see what was going on all around the system. Five minutes she’d been away and he was on his feet in front of the viewscreen reading the tags on blips.

“Shuttles, runabouts, a couple of small craft. More ships on long range sensors coming in at warp. It’s like a Starfleet get together and all the children are running around cleaning house before the family arrive…”

“Must be a fleet action,” Orelia said as she took the bowl back after he had taken a handful of the stuff. She had to admit, humans did seem to have a decent variety of ‘movie snacks’ and offered thanks to which ever primitive human had decided to pop corn. “By the way, who is this Jesus woman you keep mentioning?”

“What? No,” Diedrick said, looking confused. “Jesus was a man, or wasn’t maybe? A religious figure in the past. His name kinda just entered into the popular lexicon as an exclamation at some point.”

“Language is weird,” Orelia said as she turned back and stalked over to the command chair, plopping herself down in it and thereby forcing Diedrick to accept the other chair they’d brought to the bridge for the movies. After all they had to be close enough to each other to share snacks. “So, what’s next?”

“Oh, classic movie time, trust me, you’ll love this. It’s old Earth science fiction about a rag tag crew on a spaceship, but also a Western at the same time,” he said, taking the only seat and the padd from the arm of the command chair to bring up the movie catalogue.

“A space western? Space cowboys?” Orelia asked, actually interested, excitement in her voice. “Love me some cowboys. Why don’t humans dress like that more often? Some of those men on Ayer’s Rock…” She trailed off as the movie started and the bridge lights dimmed.

“Earth that was…” the movie started to silence, save for the rustling of snacks.

****

“Seriously Hank, we’re the ones doing all the work on this klingon barge and the actual owners are all either planetside or sitting on the bridge watching fucking movies,” Ensign Charlotte Taversham complained while running another diagnostic on the ship’s life support systems, if you could call them that. There was only a single backup system, not the triple redundancies of a fleet ship. There was only half as many isolators and shut off valves as she was expecting as well.

“Hey, they did the Captain a solid, he promised we’d help. Besides, this ship is hardly a barge. She’s pretty new actually and in great shape,” Hank Shin, another Ensign from the Endeavour replied as he finished his work and closed up a nearby access panel. “We’ve been getting pretty good technical scans the whole time. This ship is a bit of a goldmine if you will on current KDF designs.”

“It’s a barge. It carries guns and crazy half-tamed pirates. They’ll be begging for more repair work within a month.”

“Wow…you’ve got a pretty low opinion of these folks don’t you Charlie?” Hank asked as he went about packing up his toolkit and closing it up. “Maybe you should do some research on these folks when you can. Sure, pirate probably isn’t inaccurate, but they bailed our asses out, then cleaned up for us. Plus they’ve been in this area way longer then we have, they know the locals and are, from what I can tell, tolerated at worst, liked at best.”

“Still pirates. Should arrest the lot of them and seize the ship until this whole thing is sorted. Then surrender it to the KDF afterwards.”

“Christ Charlie, you need to cool your jets.” He stood and collected his tool kit. “And besides, technically they’re now licensed salvage operators. Best way to deal with pirates is to give them something legitimate to do instead. Captain’s probably solving half a dozen problems across the sector by having us get this ship up and running.”

****

Sargento Ski Lodge

Having a visitor up for the day had meant dressing, at least enough to entertain, which Sidda was beginning to regret. Not so much the having the dress mind, but having a visitor. But some things needed to be done and today, her second to last day before returning to her ship, was the best day to it.

And by having visitors here meant she didn’t have to go elsewhere. So here she was, seated on one of the couches in the lounge, opposite a bolian woman of advanced years on the other couch. She wore an exquisitely tailored suit, for whom Sidda had already asked for the name of the tailor for later, that worked well with her skin tone. She was also one of the best lawyers on the planet for the task she had in mind, according to multiple reviews she’d read before calling.

“So, you’re wishing to register a company within the Federation in order to conduct business? May I ask what sort of field of work?” the woman, Frenlia Gormel, asked as she activated her padd and brought up a couple of forms to take details.

“Salvage and restoration,” Sidda said softly with a smile forming on her lips. “I’ve already received an operating license from Starfleet for salvaging conflict zones, but would like to set up a company to help handle assets, hire additional staff and use to purchase equipment as needed.”

“Requisition equipment if possible, you mean. This is the Federation after all.”

“Yes, of course,” Sidda responded. She had gotten so used to working with those outside the Federation’s borders that thinking in the post-scarcity way of the Federation had slipped from her.

“Very well Ms Sadovu, we can certainly help in this regard. We’ll need you to answer some initial questions, provide that license of course and I’ll get one of my staff to draw up the initial documentation.”

“That sounds acceptable.”

“Good,” Frenlia said. “Let’s start with the questions and then I can be on my way. First off, what are you wishing to name your company.”

She smiled, then laughed once, drawing a raised eyebrow from Frenlia. “Oh…yes…this will make some people cringe. Totally Legitimate Salvage Operations,” she said, that wicked smile forming on her face once more.

“As you wish,” the bolian woman said after giving Sidda a moment to change her mind. “Now, company type…”

****

“That was tiresome,” Revin said as she laid her head down in Sidda’s lap only a few minutes after the lawyer had left. “Two hours she spoke on about this or that.”

“That’s the Federation for you love. Rules and regulations and forms for days. It’s why I like the border worlds.” Sidda found her fingers playing in Revin’s hair in quick order, gently stroking through the short locks of hair, fingers occasionally brushing over Revi’s ear tips. “What changed your mind? About your eyes that is.”

She’d figured out Revin’s little secret before they’d even left the hospital, but hadn’t asked about why until now. She’d been suggesting such surgery for over a year now and Revin had denied her at each opportunity. ‘I’ll think about,’ she’d say. But then while she and R’tin had been worrying over T’Ael, she’d used the time to get her eyes done, having disappeared for a few days in the middle of things.

“I…I wanted to see your face,” Revin replied as she reached up and ran her fingers gently over Sidda’s face, closing her eyes as she did so. “It’s as beautiful to the eyes as it is to the touch.”

Sidda caught Revin’s wrist in her grip and held the hand there, Revin cupping her face in response as Sidda pushed into those fingers slightly, her own eyes closing before she let go. Revin’s hand stayed there, just holding Sidda’s face.

“You are at once the best and worst thing to happen to me,” Sidda finally said, her voice barely a whisper.

“Oh?”

“You make me a better person, but you’re so distracting. It’s why I banned you from the bridge during battlestations.”

“Distracting?” Revin asked, having played this game before. But now she could see that look on Sidda’s face when higher thought left her but as putty to Revin. She loved this woman, this rescuer of her’s and vowed to herself, and to Sidda though never spoken to her, to never abuse such power. Unless of course it resulted in pleasure for the both of them.

And so she moved to sit up, then moved herself around on the couch to straddle Sidda’s lap before cupping the woman’s face in both hands and kissing her deeply, fully. When she finally broke for a breath, Sidda’s hands had wormed their way under her shirt, wrapping around her body.

“Let me show you distracting,” Revin stated and kissed Sidda once again.

****

Vondem Rose
Main Bridge

“…and there was only so much purple paint Captain,” T’Ael was saying as she walked onto the bridge with Sidda. “As well as only so much of me really. So we haven’t been able to paint the hull purple, but R’tin and I did paint over the KDF symbols. Ever threw down a logo of my own design.”

To that the eager engineer, now back to her former self, much to the relief of the entire crew, indicated the main viewscreen. There was no windowed view to the outside world, or system tactical display, just a field of purple with a black silhouetted rose within a similarly black circle. On the stem was a single thorn, done in the same style as the old Vondem Thorn’s logo.

Sidda nodded in approval and turned to the romulan engineer. “Love it T’Ael. You’ve done good work.”

“Eh, was mostly the fleeters that did all the work. R’tin and I are going to have to train more folk, even you Captain, on engineering processes until we can hire some more folks.”

“Sounds fair. Work with Gaeda on who and what and I’ll submit to your tutelage oh sage and wise engineer,” she mocked a bow to other woman.

T’Ael for her part just returned the bow with a smile and then turned to depart, having done what she wanted in briefing her captain on the way from the transporter to the bridge by way of her quarters. Lucky she had been there as well with the number of bags of new belongings that Sidda and Revin had brought aboard.

“So Gaeda, how’s my ship?” Sidda asked as she continued for her chair. The bridge was only populated by Gaeda, Trid and Orelia at the moment, all of them running checks on various systems, checking for any bobby traps the Fleeters might have left for them.

“Seemingly in good order. No sabotage, no obvious bugs or tracking devices. R’tin says it does look like someone took the entire cloaking device apart and put it back together again but his diagnostics show that if anything it’s working better than before.”

“Huh…Starfleet Engineers. Can’t help but make improvements. Right,” she said as she settled down in the command chair. “Let’s see what the Rose can do. Contact system control and lets go for a jaunt amongst all those shuttles running around out there. We’ll engage the cloak once we’re out past the second moon. They know we’re here, so will be good practise for them to try and keep tabs on us. We’ll mull around for a few days, get the feel of the Rose and see where we go from there.”

“Shall we go see if my dear father is pleased with my engagement?”

Archanis Sector
2399

Vondem Rose
Main Bridge

“Santa Maria,” Gaeda muttered to himself as he stood with the collected crew of the Vondem Rose on the bridge, the viewscreen being used to show the results of the Battle of Haydorian. Losses on both sides of the fight populated the screen on either side, with the center having been given to a system map, pinpricks of light smattered around it highlighting debris fields and more importantly potentially valuable salvage.

Sidda looked to her executive officer and smiled. His sentiment echoed her own. This was an absolute mess. One that the Rose hadn’t walked away from unscathed. They’d come to the rescue of the Federation minelayer, only to then lure two ships into said minefield. That ship’s captain, a Lieutenant whose name escaped her, had called to thank her personally.

They’d then responded to a distress call from one of the outlying outposts in the system and Sidda wished she’d been able to see the look on the raider captain’s face when a ship four times his size decloaked right behind him and just started firing until his pathetic little ship had evaporated.

But the Rose had suffered some minor damages in the fight.

Damages which were beyond the ability of a crew so small as this to repair, but not beyond abilities enhanced with a handful of Starfleet and Andorian engineers when they had arrived. The dark silver-grey hull panels of a Klingon K’t’inga were now marred with much whiter-grey panels you’d find on a Federation starship, but Sidda had plans to fix that, as soon as they could afford some yard time somewhere and enough paint to render the ship in proper colours.

“There is way, way too much here for all of us to salvage Boss,” Trid said as she surveyed the totals. Her own heart was saddened by the Starfleet losses, but the numbers were far better then she’d imagined. A lot she had to admit came from some clever plans, devious tactics and in the case of one Starfleet collier, unexpected cloaked battleships lying around.

“Not wrong there Trid. I think we’ve got all the salvage we can really handle for now,” T’Ael said. “We’ve got enough parts from wrecked ships boss that I think we can make that bird of prey those Fleeters left for us operational. Heck, there’s enough near modern salvage in our holds we can probably bring it up to modern specs. But I’m going to need some more hands and more time to do that.”

“Safe and out of the way, but not to far we can’t do some recruiting,” Sidda said, thinking out loud.

“Love,” Revin said as she slid up alongside Sidda, wrapping an arm around Sidda’s left arm. “We also have the intelligence that Starfleet captain granted us that we could pursue.”

There was a single bark of laughter from the rear of the bridge and all eyes turned to Kevak. The large klingon man, wearing fresh, unstained clothes, laughed again. “The burdens of command. Everyone wants to do something, but not enough time or people in the universe.”

“Speak up old man,” Sidda said, absently patting Revin’s hand as it settled in the crook of her elbow.

“You need more people. You need people who can repair an old klingon warbird. You can either deal with the Syndicate, or deal with the Empire.”

The indrawn breaths would have been inaudible if not for the near totality of the crew doing the same gesture at the same time. A few glances were cast around, people trying to judge each other in light of such a proposition.

“I think I’ll go with neither. Lewis and Trid, plot a course for Kyban. It’s not far, we’ll toe the Hornet and we’ll get the civilian yard there on it. R’tin and T’Ael, make her ready for towing. We’ll all pitch in to do repairs in flight, but let’s leave the heavy lifting to the yardies.” Sidda waited as those four all gave nods. It was going to be a combined effort between them to get the Hornet and Vondem Rose to cooperate for a towing all the way to Kyban.

It wasn’t far, but far enough to take a couple of weeks since they’d be dragging a broken ship behind them. Time enough for some repairs, or breaking down what was in the holds to try and get a working cloaking device for their second ship.

“Gaeda, you and Orelia I want taking one of the shuttles to Ayer’s Rock. Go pick up Orin and tell him he’s going to be needed. If he wants to bring along his girlfriend, he’s welcome to, now that we’ve got enough space for him and her.” That got a few chuckles from the crew. “And if any of the locals want to joy our merry crew, they’re welcome to.”

“Diedrick and Telin, I want a full inventory of all our weapons we’ve recovered and I want them working as well. Sidearms and bat’leths make good easily sellable salvage. Enough collectors on Kyban as well we can sell them individually and make some nice scratch. Once we hit Kyban we’ll all start looking around and recruiting as well. The Rose is going to need a bigger crew, trained engineers just to start with and the Thorn II will need some as well, don’t you think Captain Ruiz?”

Gaeda stopped and just stared at his commander for a moment, processing the honorific before a smile took over his face. “Certainly will!” he said with mirth on his lips.

****

Ardot’s Café
Banksy City
Kyban

“Well if it isn’t my favourite people in the universe!” Ardot exclaimed as, weeks after departing the Haydorian system, Sidda Sadovu and her companion Revin walked into his café in the middle of a warm summer’s day. The sun was shining, a gentle warm northly wind was blowing down from the not to distant equator and the entire city was alive, including all of its cafés, each taking advantage of the weather.

“Gin darling, find a table for the lovely couple will you!” Ardot demanded of one of his staff as he ducked into the kitchen of his café for whatever reason.

“I didn’t realise he was so big,” Revin said as she leaned close to Sidda, whispering in the taller woman’s ear. She closed her eyes though and seemingly relaxed, ‘seeing’ the world as she had grown up knowing it. “Better. Smells like Ardot’s now.”

The young Andorian woman working the counter of the café found a table for Sidda and Revin, took their orders and let them be, delivering drinks and food well in advance of Ardot himself finally breaking away to come and visit. The portly bolian sat himself down with a smile on his face, a combination of happiness and relief to be off his feet for a bit.

“CEO of your own company now I hear,” Ardot started in after a short exchange of pleasantries. “And with a bigger and better ship. Such hard work those big ships though you know, especially for such small crews.”

Sidda rolled her eyes and leaned in. “What’s the job opportunity Ardot?”

“Oh, no job, not yet anyway. More of a…financial opportunity. I have some equity outside of the Federation I would like to invest in your little operation. Gives you liquidity to hire, make repairs to your other ship, paint the Rose the right colour. I’ll line up some jobs and present them to you soon.”

“We’ll consider your offer,” Revin said as she placed a hand on Sidda’s shoulder, just the touch calming the orion woman visibly. “But we’re looking at making an expedition into Romulan territory as soon as we can. A family reunion.” She smiled at that and made sure to look into the middle distance beside Ardot so she could see his expression without letting him know she could actually see.

“Family reunion you say?” the man asked, stroking his chin in thought. “You’re going to get spotted almost straight away.”

“Counting on it. Starfleet gave us some good intel on who’s been putting out the missing persons reports. It’s not Revin’s family, but a client family. Keep the senatorial reputations clean and all that,” Sidda replied.

“Well, if you’re going to be crossing the border, I’ve got some stuff I’d love to go over, and someone for you to bring back. We’ll call my financial investment even when you get back.”

Sidda stared at the bolian, eyes squinting just slightly. “That’s awfully generous.” She raised a hand to stifle his response. “No, I’m not going to ask for more information than we need Ardot. We’ll get it done.”

“Good!” he said with a clap. “I’ll get the information and credits to you later today; in the mean time I have a café to run!”

****

Vondem Rose
Main Bridge

Walking onto the bridge of the former KDF warship, now legally declared ‘armed merchant cruiser’, Revin swept past a couple of the new faces that had come to populate the ship. So many new faces, new scents in the air, new sounds to catalogue. She still wondered the ship from time to time with her eyes closed, navigating through it has she had her life for so many, many years.

A few sets of eyes followed her as she walked around the bridge and its stations, observing the people there as they observed her in her passing. Ardot had delivered, the crew had recruited and now both ships had crews aplenty. They’d hired disaffected humans, bored with frontier utopia, or seeking the thrill of ‘pirate’ life. They recruited romulans seeking something, anything to do. A couple of klingons who voiced their discontent with the warrior ethos of the empire, but still wanted to seek glory and honour in other venues – and to which Kevak had informed them a well-cooked meal was a battle all its own.

She’d heard the war songs from the galley, the threats to declare war on misbehaving cooking implements and songs of triumph from the cooks and crew with each meal the last few days. Meal time was certainly becoming a team-building exercise aboard the Rose.

Their crew as diverse and multiracial, perhaps more so than the Federation starships her farther had always warned her about in her youth. Or any that she had encountered since running away.

She walked past Na’roq, a Ferengi that Sidda had hired specifically to serve as ship’s quartermaster. She says she has the lobes for business and her portfolio backs it up. Ferengi women are scary when they do business, Sidda had said in response to Revin’s questioning the move. The Ferengi gave a small nod as Revin went past, having worked out Revin could see by virtue of her excellent hearing.

She passed tactical and the recently returned Orin. She lingered a moment and gently popped up on her toes to plant a chaste little kiss on his cheek, happy to see the large orion back with their crew. He’d brought along his fiancé who turned out was a decent medic and serving as a nurse under Bones.

Orin signed to Revin a simple thanks before he went back his duties, a grin on his face.

Finally, she made her way over to the Captain’s chair and the ensconced Captain Sidda Sadovu. She’d rather firmly rejected her old crew’s attempt to promote her to Commodore in light of having two ships, but a rather large hat was mounted on the corner of the command chair, a gift from now Captain Gaeda Ruiz who had bought himself a much smaller version of the same hat.

Humans.

As Sidda reached out for her, Revin let herself be taken and dragged onto Sidda’s lap, smiling as she wrapped an arm around Sidda’s shoulders, bringing her other hand up to exam the ring she now wore on her left hand. She marvelled at the simple band of platinum and sapphire, then turned to Sidda and gave her a gentle kiss.

“Shall we go see if my dear father is pleased with my engagement?” Revin asked as she rested her forehead on Sidda’s.