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Mission 12: Measure by Measure

The Mackenzie has been waiting for Patra to surface. Now, his influence will appear in the most unusual of places with most unusual faces serving as his front to warn Walton and Crawford that he's coming for them.

MBM 001 – The Opening

Starbase 72
7.15.2401

“Captain Walton.”

Wren looked up from her coffee at the man standing before her, his features familiar.  She searched through her memories until she landed on who he was.  It was not a good memory.  “Commander Gregor.  It's been a few years.”  She didn't stand.  She watched his eyes, staring at her with an escalating fury.

He spat out, “Nine years.  And I'm not in Starfleet anymore.”  She observed his stance.  It reminded her of the ancient military practice of standing at parade rest.  She put that note on her front burner.  Traffic was abundant in the area of the promenade where she sat.

She sipped at her tea, letting the silence drift into a longer pause.  He was here for something.  Nine years ago, she'd had to fight him every step of his improvement plan.  “I'm sorry to hear that, Jack.”  She sat forward, “You didn't just run into me for funsies, and I've got a pretty good memory of our last interaction.  We didn't part on great…or even good terms.  Why are you here?”

His impish smile became a snarl, “I've got a message for you.  From Patra.”  He seemed quite pleased with himself, and it pushed up against Walton in how she was used to getting pushed around by Jack Gregor.  She motioned for him to continue, and he did, “Supreme Commander Patra wants to meet you to discuss the terms of surrender of certain crew.  We have selected a neutral base.”  He slipped out a data chip and slid it across the table, “Location is inside.”

Walton pulled the chip closer to her, “He's aware I'll have to report this to my superiors in Fourth Fleet.”  She leaned back in her chair, “He also can't think I'm going to surrender members of my crew to him.”

Gregor's snarl became menacing, “You will when we start taking what is yours.  The Supreme Commander will have his justice.”  Wren didn't feel threatened by the singular presence of the idiot they'd sent to threaten her.  Given a few seconds, she'd drop him to the ground or signal the security officer down the way to come take out the trash.  The threat concerned her because it came from a Romulan together with a sociopathic woman with nothing to lose and everything to gain.  The alternative Carolyn Crawford's file was unsettling on a good day, never mind Patra's.

She replied, “I don't know what the future holds, Jack.  I'm genuinely concerned about yours, however.  Tractoring yourself to a guy like Patra seems like a terrible career move.”  She took the final sip of her tea and glanced at the security officer who suddenly stood next to Gregor, “You gave me the location, you gave me the message…and I don't think Patra cared anything about what happened after you did your duty.  I wish you had made the better choice.”

Gregor sputtered as the security officer clipped handcuffs over his trembling hands, “The hell?”  He attempted to break loose from the man's grasp but failed.  “This isn't over! I'll get you back for this, Walton!!”

Wren stood and muttered, “Get in line.”  She tapped her badge, “Walton to Fontana…I need to see you.  Priority.”

MBM 002 – Set a Course

Starbase 72 / USS Mackenzie / Station K34104
7.14.2401

“The station is a former Federation station that was transferred to civilian control about fifty years ago.  It’s become a hub for the system and a trade port with connections beyond.”  Thasaz sat at the science station, tracing the history of the station they’d been given as the place Patra had told them to meet him to discuss their surrender conditions.  She noted a few items, “Starfleet Intelligence reports an uptick in Syndicate activity over the last year or so.  Information has been harder to get in the last three or so months.  They’re not saying much, but I think whoever they had as a contact isn’t around anymore.”  She turned to face the bridge.  They had been ordered on an intercept course for the station by Task Force 72’s Command.  Patra and she were acquainted throughout the years.  “There’s enough evidence to suggest it’s a trap…or at the very least an ambush of some kind.”

In the center chair, Captain Wren Walton stewed.  It had been Commander and then Captain Harris who had tangled with Patra and his ilk.  The additional layer of the alternate Carolyn Crawford wasn’t helping the situation.  She had spent plenty of years in the prison she’d broken out of with Patra.  Her file, at least what Wren had access to, was a terrifying read.  Once behind bars, she’d been placed in complete solitary for a year after murdering two inmates who had asked her how her day was going.  She hadn’t done much better when she was back in the unit.  Various violent incidents pushed her to be secluded into a high security unit.  There, she had met Patra when he’d been secured in the prison.  She asked, “We still don’t know where Crawford is in this, do we?”  She listened as Thasaz confirmed it.  Patra had been visible in the last month, and the two Syndicate captains had shown up with him.  Crawford was running cloaked.  Walton hated it.  There wasn’t enough control over this situation.  “Pearce put our Hazard Team on standby.  Ensure our security teams have photos of Patra, Crawford, and the two Syndicate captains.  I want all options available if this situation goes warp core critical.”

 

“She hates me.  I’ve been having nightmares that she’s coming to kill me.”  Ensign Carolyn Crawford sat across from Juliet Woodward in the counseling office.  “It…it’s just strange to know there’s another of me out there trying to kill us all…and for what?”  Crawford wasn’t sure. She wasn’t sure of anything.  Her father had stepped aboard the Mackenzie yesterday, leaving the Olympic at Starbase 72 for repairs and refit.  It also kept that crew out of harm’s way, she knew.  “I can’t imagine what life was like for her growing up and living in the hell she was raised in.  Why did it have to be my double?  I’m not a fighter, Juliet.  I’m not even sure I’m a lover…maybe I’m having an identity crisis.”  She shrugged her shoulders and folded into herself.

Juliet didn’t immediately respond to her friend and fellow officer.  She waited patiently until Crawford physically opened back up before she asked, “Is it because there’s two of you?  You’ve told me several times you can and can’t understand why she is the way she is…is there some worry that she exists somewhere in you?”  She momentarily let her wondering hang in the air and watched as Crawford thought through her words.

It took Crawford a moment to compose her thoughts and even longer to find the words.  Finally, she replied, “My dad always told me I was the best of him and my mother, that I was the light bore of the darkness.  I always knew he was talking about the Dominion War…but my mind’s been wandering over to Evil Carolyn…she’s proof that the darkness exists within me.”  She let out a long sigh, “I worry about her being somewhere inside me.  Maybe I worry about it too much.”  Carolyn leaned back on the couch, “Why did it have to be me?”

 

“Approaching Station K34104.”

Walton stared at the small station on the screen, “Thasaz?”

The Romulan science officer tapped at the console, “Readings are nominal.  There’s a group of transport ships in orbit around the station.  Nothing else in the system.  Fairly standard operating day for a station of this size.”

Wren ruminated, “A perfectly normal day.  Either it’s just a chat he wants, or he’s constructed an intricate trap for us.”  The door to the bridge opened, and Captain Peter Crawford stepped through and took his seat to the left of Walton.  She indicated to the station, “Normal day out there.  I’m open to suggestions.”

He stared at the screen momentarily as if thinking through an entire list of possible actions.  He suggested, “Send someone unconnected to Patra or any of them.  He wants his list.  Given his profile, he’ll take one if we give it to him.”

Park turned in her chair, an idea forming, “Chief Miados.  She’s one of the few who’ve never met or dealt with him.  She’s more than capable.”

Walton glanced at Crawford, who shrugged.  It was her ship, her crew, and her decision.  She tapped her badge, “Captain Walton to Commander Miados…meet me in transporter room one.”

 

This is a bad idea.  Miados spoke urgently in her head as the transporter beam faded away.  Shealynn indicated a wry smile to him and the world outside.  She told him, ‘Sometimes bad ideas are the best we have.’  She stepped down from the pad and handed the clerk her PADD, “Lieutenant Commander Miados here to see Station Administrator Fields.”  

The clerk intensely examined the device, the orders, and then his own console.  “Administrator Fields is currently off-station.  Deputy Administrator Cochran is expecting you.”  He returned the PADD and gave her directions to the office.  This is a really bad idea.  She was starting to agree with her symbiote.  The corridors were filled with some traffic, but the station was quiet, and she could sense something wasn’t quite right.  Miados agreed.  She found her way to the administrator’s office and tapped the button.  A gruff voice responded, and the door slid open.  She stepped in and stopped, “Captain Horat Rigilia.”

The Orion Syndicate Captain grinned widely, “Also known as Deputy Administrator Cochran.”  He tapped the button, and the door slid shut and locked behind her.  “Now, why don’t we talk about how you get out of here alive, Commander Miados.”

MBM 003 – Killing Time

Station K34104
7.15.2401

Miados stood, fuming, “I get out of here alive because you don’t want to invite the weight of an Excelsior II class starship down on you.”  She pointed at Captain Horat Rigilia, “You can’t possibly think to threaten me.”  Her symbiote was working overtime to figure out a way out of the situation.

Horat shrugged, “I don’t traffic in threats, Commander Miados.  I traffic in facts and action.  I’m amused they sent you and not someone we want.  They must think highly of you to send you here alone.”  He sneered the last line out, a dark smile filling his lips.

She returned a smile of her own, “Well, I’m not alone, Captain Rigilia.”  She walked to the door console and quickly tapped out an override code, which beeped affirmatively, and the door slid smoothly open.  “Miados was an engineer for sixty years.”  She walked through the door and down the hallway.

A sputtering Horat walked quickly after her, “Wait…you weren’t…where are you going?”

She shrugged as she rounded a corner into the main promenade, where the crowds were abundant.  She turned to him, “I don’t think Administrator Fields is off planet at all.  I think you’ve managed to trick some good people into thinking you’re someone else.”  She waved behind the Syndicate captain.  Two security officers soon joined her.  “This is Lieutenants Barzo and V’Luth.  They’ve been…how would you put it, Barzo?”

She smiled widely, “Skulking, sir.  We’ve been skulking.”

V’Luth disagreed, “Investigating, Commander.  We’ve been investigating.”

Barzo muttered, “I liked my version better.”

Miados felt a kinship with the Bajoran officer but pressed forward, “What have you found?”

The Vulcan security officer reported, “No one recalls Fields leaving the station in the last week or before.  The computer did not initially register the life sign of the administrator.  His signature had been programmed out three days ago.  The modifications made were crude and identified immediately.”

Barzo relayed the rest.  They had a lock on Fields and had dispatched a security team from the Mackenzie to retrieve him from where he was being held.  He looked past Miados, “And…there they come now.” Administrator Fields was a tall Klingon, broad-shouldered and severe-looking.  He was outpacing the security detail by several steps and barreled directly for Rigilia.

“This honorless Romulan tricked me into a false trade deal meeting.”  He leaned over the considerably shorter Horat, “I would rip you limb from limb…and beat your body into bloody entrails.  However…the cleanup and insurance paperwork would cost far too much.  And your life is not worth half of that.”  He huffed a deep bass growl that pushed everyone a few inches back, “I have entrusted these honorable officers with your fate.  Maybe they can afford to dismember you. Or toss you out of an airlock.”  He slightly bowed to the Starfleet officers and stalked away, shouting for his assistant.

Miados shook her head, “You don’t see that every day.  Barzo, V’luth – take him into custody and secure him in the brig.  Captain Walton will decide what to do with him.”

 

Walton sat on the couch, listening to the final parts of the report from Chief Miados.  It was curious that Patra had sent not one but two after her.  Both were now in custody.  She was left to wonder what the point of it all was.  She asked that question once her newest officer finished speaking.

Park sat just the couch from her, puzzlement on her face.  “Wren…I wonder if the plan was to get both of these guys on our ship and for them to do something.  Every single file I’ve read on Patra suggests he’s not a fool in his planning.  His goals were genocide and destruction on a system-wide scale.  It was too easy with Gregor…and it was far too easy with Riglia.”

Wren could see the argument her executive officer was constructing.  There was relief that Gregor was in Starfleet Security’s custody.  She returned to Miados, “Commander…you think it was too easy?”

The Trill felt her symbiote push.  “I don’t think Riglia knows his part in whatever Patra has planned.  He didn’t expect me to break out, and he didn’t expect our security officers to expose him as quickly as they did.  I think he thought he would get one of the crew he was looking for and that he would just…take them.”  She held a PADD, “We did covert scans on the transport ships orbiting the station.  Six in total. There are some unusual power readings on five of them and some cosmetic work that looks like they’re hiding a few things on the ships.

Park tapped at her PADD, “Riglia’s daughter is still a wild card – they usually work together.”

Walton could only shake her head.  It was a perfect storm of confusion and concern.  They’d have to clear the sector first.  Leaving the station with a possible threat hanging above them wasn’t acceptable to her.  They still needed a lead on Patra.  She stood, and Park did as well.  “Park, put Barzo and V’luth on the station case.  I wonder if more of the Syndicate is hiding in plain sight or just out of sight somewhere.  Chief – work with Thasaz on those ships.  Restrict crew from taking leave on the station…until I know where we stand, I need to keep our people safe.”

MBM 004 – The Spread of the Syndicate

Station K34104
7.15.2401

“Anybody could be Syndicate.”  Barzo stood amid the busy promenade with her Vulcan partner, V’Luth.  “We don’t know how far they’ve dug into the various systems.”  She didn’t feel panic at the thought.  She was determined to find the threat to the station and the Mackenzie.

V’Luth did not share Barzo’s paranoia.  She was Vulcan.  Reason, logic, and rational thinking were the order of every day, including today.  She scanned the crowd, eyes examining details that could indicate a suspect.  There were clues, tells, or patterns that would either include or preclude someone from the collection of suspects.  She replied, “There may be some Syndicate forces here, but it is impossible that the station has been invaded as you suggest.”

The Bajoran disagreed with her partner.  History told her otherwise when it came to invading forces taking over.  The nature of Rigilia’s ease with which he had taken on the role of Deputy Administrator led her to believe there were a few more hands that were Syndicate on the station.  “Let’s get to work.”

 

Captain Wren Walton stood in her ready room, watching the station and ships around them with a wary eye.  The situation was rotten, and she was frustrated with the position they found themselves in.  The Olympic was on the way, but they were still several hours from them.  It left her to wonder.  And she didn’t enjoy wondering what was coming next.  Her door chime sounded, and she was thankful for the break, “Enter.”  She raised her eyebrow at the face that appeared.  “Hasara…you are not who I expected.” He gave an apologetic nod, which sent her klaxons ringing even before he spoke.  She moved to the couch and offered him the other side.

“Thank you, Captain Walton, but no.  I prefer to stand.”  She suddenly noticed how nervous the Cardassian was, and the look in his eyes told her it was good that she had sat down.  She gestured for him to continue.  He spoke carefully, “You are aware that I was exiled from Cardassia in totality after my most…flagrant resignation.”  She gave a nod, a slight smile at the memory.  “Well, some of my former comrades have been…keeping in contact over the last few months.  Sharing small things that they were noticing or hearing.  Most of it would be useless to your Federation.”

She waited and sat forward in his intentional silence.  “Most?  Some of it is useful, then.”

He clasped his hands together behind his back, “Very little.  One thing came across this morning.”  He had been eyeing the couch and sighed, sitting opposite Walton.  “It was evidence that Patra’s division of the Syndicate has tentatively been connected to the True Way.”

Wren’s mouth dropped open.  “You…how reliable?”  Her mind immediately went to the implications.  Patra was known to be a kingdom builder.  She had thought he would focus on his singular revenge tour.  She now had a partial answer about what he was doing while they were stuck here.

He replied, somewhat offended, “I’m not one to trifle with unreliable narrators, Captain.”  He sat back, “What will you do with this information?”

Wren stared at the floor.  Her frustration had moved into the furious.  “I’ll have to report this to Starfleet…and we’ll have to get some bigger guns.  The Olympic is no match in any fight.”  She stood, “I won’t mention where I got this if I can avoid it, Hasara.”

He pushed off the couch, “Do not fret yourself about me, Captain.  Cardassians, especially former Guls, do not fear. They’ve been coming for me since I resigned with all those lovely words.  I look forward to them trying.”

MBM 005 – The Real Threat

USS Makenzie
7.15.2401

Henry Longfellow entered sickbay and headed directly for his office.  Thanks to the expanded medical services of the Mackenzie, he was afforded a larger space to manage his department.  He motioned for Charge Nurse Hiro and Nurse Parker to join him.

He gestured to the two chairs as he activated the holo screen display, “Captain Walton’s just come back from Task Force Command.”  He tapped at the screen.  “I’ve shared the mission briefing with both of you on your PADDs.”  He brought up the main images.  “We’ve got a mad separatist Romulan with a genocidal streak and a sociopathic alternate to our Deputy Chief Engineer.  All wrapped up with The Orion Syndicate.”

Hiro shook her head as she read.  “This is… bad.”

Renee read the information.  She didn’t know the backstory, but she could see that Hiro was right about the situation being bad.

Longfellow noted, “There’s a very good chance we end up against Patra and his Syndicate command group.  The Mack is a heavy hitter, but I’d like to think we’ll avoid direct conflict.”  He gestured to Hiro, “We’ll need to run some drills and get the triage stations and equipment ready.  The threat that was delivered was about taking what is ours.”

“Taking what is ours?” said Renee.  What did that mean?

Hiro wondered the same thing.  “It is vague and yet foreboding.”  She looked out into sickbay from the office, “There’s no real chance they get to Earth…”  She was lost in thought.

Henry tapped at his desk console, “I wonder…computer, analyze the ship’s roster for officers and crew with connections, relatives, and friends outside the Earth system.  Detail specific risk factors per crew member regarding any blackmail using those connections.”  The computer trilled and began to work.  He looked at both of them, “It’ll take the system a few minutes.  Do either of you have people you care about outside of Earth?”

Hiro nodded, her whispered answer saying enough, “Yes.”

Before replying, Renee paused respectfully at Hiro’s subdued response.  “My family are all on Earth.  I was the first to leave and go into space service.  My Academy friends are assigned on posts all over the Federation.”  She stopped to consider for a moment.  “My roommate, the person I care about the most, Ensign Erica Carter, is a nurse on Starbase 93.”  Renee felt a flutter in her stomach, wondering if her friend could be in danger.

Henry watched Hiro carefully as their new nurse spoke.  She met his gaze and gave a slight nod.  She was ok, for now.  He turned to Parker, “I need to take this to the captain…and you need to see the rest of the ship…and probably meet the captain.  Come with me, Ensign.”

They walked out of sickbay and into the corridor, and Longfellow led them towards the turbolift.  He spoke to Parker at his side as they made their way, “When was the last time you talked to your friend?”

“The day I left Earth to come here,” said Renee.

Henry stepped into the lift and called “Bridge” as the doors closed.  “Ensign, once we’re done reporting this, send a message to your friend. Start the clock on her response time.”  The door slid open, and they walked into the bridge.  Park was in the center chair and nodded to the Ready Room.

Captain Wren Walton looked up from her desk as the door chime rang, and she called out, “Enter.”   Her Chief Medical Officer and the new nurse stepped through.  Walton looked at both of them, curious.  “Doc, you usually don’t come all the way for a ‘hello.’  Report.”  He relayed his theory and motioned to her PADD, adding about the still-running report.  He’d added her as a viewer to the ongoing compilation.  She tapped open the PADD and scrolled through the ongoing details.  “His phrasing was…unique.  You think he’s got a plan with his daughter to do the dirty work while we sit here trying to find our way out of a black hole of confusing information?”

Longfellow chuckled dryly, “You’ve been doing some thinking, Captain.”

“I have.  I think Gregor was intentional – Patra didn’t care for him.  Rigila is a mixed bag on what was and wasn’t intentional…but it’s been bothering me…why bring us out here in the first place?  Why give us a mystery that, if unsolved, could endanger the station?  I think Patra wanted this to slow us down and keep us out of whatever he’s doing out there.” Walton raised her eyebrows in curiosity, “You haven’t introduced me, Doc.” 

Longfellow smiled quietly, “This is Ensign Renee Paker, one of our nursing staff. She’s a recent transfer.”

Wren let out a small sigh, “There’s been a lot of that lately.”  She turned her eyes back to Parker, “Welcome aboard the Mackenzie, Ensign Parker.  You’re not wrong to think there’s probably more to this plan of Patra’s.  I’ve asked Captain Crawford to have his ship meet us here to relieve us so we can get back out there.  Longfellow – pull Park in with you on this report.  We’re going to have to test your theory.”

Longfellow stood at attention and led Parker out of the Ready Room and across the bridge into the turbo-lift.  They had work to do.

MBM 006 – The Tangled Weave

USS Makenzie
7.16.2401

“Well, this is terrible.”  Commander Park sat at the briefing room table, PADDs all around her, while Doctor Henry Longfellow worked on the other end, PADDs filling the space before him.  “There’s a lot to run down here, Doc.”

“We’ve been able to cross off many of these with simple communication checks.” He made another note, removing a name from the list, “But there’s enough here that either haven’t responded or can’t be reached that have me worried.”  He highlighted several on the holo screen on the wall, “I’ve sent messages to the Task Groups in the area.  It’s a waiting game.”

The XO highlighted several on her list, “This is interesting.  I asked the computer to isolate contacts that were in the same system or nearby.”  She tapped once more and gasped, “Oh, shit.  Shit….shit.”  The screen highlighted at least five groupings in five separate systems.  Each area contained anywhere from five to ten to fifteen people who shared a connection with the crew of the Mackenzie.  “That’s bad.  That’s real bad.”

Longfellow clicked his tongue as he watched Park’s work be displayed in nightmarish form.  He worked with the data, comparing it with the messages they hadn’t received in return.  His throat went dry as the reality became clearer.  He turned to Park, who was agape.  “I believe your word applies here.”

Park gulped, “Shit.”

 

Walton walked onto the bridge, holding the report from Park and Longfellow.  “Mr. Reede, hail the transport ships, please.”

Reede turned to his station, detecting a tone in his captain’s voice.  He’d begun to interpret her mood or the situation based on how she ordered him to open a channel or something else.  When she used ‘Mr.’ in front of his name, it indicated she was in a crosswind kind of mood and was ready to have a knockdown, drag-out fight with whoever was on the other side of the channel.  He tapped at the console and got someone on the line, “I have the lead ship, the Garrod.”

She spun on her heels in front of her command chair, “Let’s see who we’ve got.”

The impassive face of a human appeared, and he introduced himself, “I am Commodore Vance Galfway of the…”

Wren stopped him, “I know, I know.  The Orion Syndicate.  You’re just here on a layover or something.”

The Commodore’s mouth opened in response and then closed.  “I’m not sure I appreciate your tone, Captain Walton.”  He sat up in his chair, eyes daring to dig through the screen.

“You would appreciate my tone if you knew what I knew, Commodore Galfway.”  She held up the PADD, “You’re not here to cause any trouble.  You’re just here to distract us while all this is happening.”  She tossed the PADD into the XO’s chair, “Your boss Patra tried to distract us with you.  I’ll give you half marks for sorta succeeding.”

The man looked as if Wren had kicked his cat, dog, Yeoman, and girlfriend all at once.  “That’s a serious accusation, Captain.  I will be making…”

Wren turned to Reede, “Cut the channel.”  She moved to the center seat, “Red Alert, shields up.  Full reverse – give us some distance.  Mr. Kondo, lock phasers on each ship’s engines and shield generators.  Lock torpedoes on the lead ship’s bridge.  Hold your fire.”  The klaxon rang as the lights dimmed red, and officers moved into their red stations, some heading off the bridge and others stepping onto it.   She sat, waiting.  It took three minutes.

Oscar nearly jumped at the beeping from his station, “Captain, the Garrod is hailing us.” His eyebrows raised, and his heart rate ran like a bat out of hell.  Walton continued to surprise him.  She motioned for the channel to open.

A sweaty version of Commodore Vance Galfway appeared, his eyes wide with apprehension, “You can’t be serious.  This is…this is…”

Wren spoke, her voice even as her eyes bore holes in the screen, “Absurd?  Offensive?  Disrespectful?  You’re here to stop me from saving friends and family of my crew, Commodore.  I’d say I’m giving you a taste of what Patra’s capable of and how it feels to be under pressure from him.”  She stood and approached the screen, “You’re ordered to leave this sector.”

Galfway looked as if he was going to protest, but he was glancing at his threat screens.  The full weight of the Excelsior II class was overwhelming.  He gave a terse nod, “We take our leave.  I hope never to see you again, Captain Walton.  Good day.”  The channel closed.

Wren turned, relieved, “Feeling’s mutual.  Tell me they are leaving.”

Kondo reported, “All ships are leaving the station orbit and headed to open space.”  He tapped the screen to follow them, and the bridge crew watched until they finished in a flash of warp speed.  “They are clear.  No other contacts in the area.”

Walton picked up the PADD and handed it to the helm officer, “Plot an intercept course, maximum warp.  Stand down from Red Alert.”  She turned to the crew as the lights returned to normal, “We don’t have much time to try and stop Patra from his plan.  Get your teams ready, and let’s see if we can put something in the win column.  Helm – get us on our way.”

MBM 007 – Revelation

USS Mackenzsie / Colony 842534
7.16.2401

“Captain, I’m getting multiple distress calls from Colony 842534…they report they came under attack and multiple settlers were taken.  They’re working to identify injured.”  Oscar Reede’s hand shook as he tapped at the console.  Hearing the voices in his ear was hard.  The sounds of explosions, fire, and shouts of fear and confusion echoed in the background as the beleaguered civilian was reporting what was being shouted at him.  Reede couldn’t imagine.

Wren glanced up from the center chair.  She wondered how much this would be repeated between the three sectors they identified that held larger numbers of connections.  Her anger with Patra and his cronies remained effervescent.  The darkness that resided in his heart knew no bounds – and she would never understand the depths to which he had fallen.  She checked the clock.  They were five minutes out.  “Alert sickbay…Pearce, get a team together.” The security and tactical chief was already headed to the turbolift doors and gave her a wave as she stepped inside.  Walton turned to her XO, “Park – pull engineering in and evaluate what they might need long term.”  The captain turned back to the screen as the clock and the Mackenzie hurtled forward.

 

Doctor Henry Longfellow stood awkwardly on the transporter pad as the security team finished checking their equipment.  No matter the crew, the command, or the officer, there was always a small sense of nervousness he experienced hitting the ground running with a security detail at his back.  He recognized the need for them.  He just hated they were needed in moments like these.

Ensign Hiro stood beside him, quietly working through the triage steps she had practiced repeatedly.  Her professional demeanor was serious and focused, and the nursing staff had started to wonder if something was wrong with her.  She had heard them talking and smiled when Longfellow told them her perfection and focus in sickbay was for a reason and that she took the balance of lives in her hands very seriously.  She had invited them all out to share a table in the medical lounge later that week, and the look on their faces had been priceless.  She glanced up as the security team joined them on the pad.  The transporter officer called out a countdown.

And then the bright light and the harmony of music consumed them, flinging them off the ship and straight down through the atmosphere, and with a gentle fade of bright white, they were whole again.  And in the middle of hell.  A second team of medical officers and crew landed feet from them.  Longfellow tossed his case to one of them, “Start triage!”  He snapped out his tricorder and went quickly to the bodies that were lying on the ground.  A quick scan revealed they were still alive.  He tapped at his PADD and slid it to the ground.

They had worked out a system of triage in this situation.  Each officer had a tricorder and a PADD.  A modified communications badge was attached to the patient. It broadcasted the triaged date to the Triagte lead.  The patient would be evaluated and updated on the severity of the condition on the priority list.  That list was updated in real-time with the Triage Lead, who had each patient mapped and then assigned to the triage runners who would either transport them to the ship or move them to the medical tents that had sprung up at the last minute.  Scenarios like this one moved quickly, and Longfellow was grateful for his team and how they adapted to his training model. 

Hiro was fifteen feet away with a young boy and a broken arm.  She spoke quietly to him as she gently worked to place the unit over his arm so that it could begin working.  He watched her eyes as she carefully tapped at the unit, engaging the healing process. “There.  You will get better.”

The boy remained fixed on her, “You are beautiful.”

She smiled.  He looked to be no more than five or six years old.  She gave him a thankful bow and moved on.   It took two hours to make sense of the madness that had been propagated upon the people of this planet.

 

Commander Park made notes on her PADD as she walked with Chief Miados.  The engineer was working through what help the community would need, “We’re going to need to fabricate a generator that can operate in this environment.  I can get Crawford to work on it.  She loves a good construction project.”

Park asked, “She doing alright?”

Miados sighed.  What was the truth?  “She’s struggling.  I kept her on the ship so she didn’t have to worry about looking over her shoulder down here.  I like her, and she’s competent…she’s got some things to learn before we start talking about her being something other than just ok.”  The thought had crossed her mind that if Crawford’s double hadn’t been a part of this scenario’s equation, she might have been performing better than she was currently.  “We’ll work through it…it ain’t easy, Commander.”

 

“You know why they came for us?”  The colony leader sat in the chair at the head of the table, surrounded on both sides by officials.  

Chief Diplomatic Officer Charlie Hargraves clasped his hands together, “Given the names you submitted as missing, we’re fairly certain we know why.”  He explained Patra, the Syndicate, and the late blooming connection of the True Way.  “We’re going to get your people back, Governor.  They’re our people, too.”

The man stood from his chair, as did the rest of his cabinet.  “You will bring them back.  And when you return, we will discuss our membership with you and your…Federation.”  The sound of their boots clattering echoed as they filed out of the room.  

The silence enveloped the stone building, and Charlie reluctantly stood from his chair.  He turned and groaned at the sight of his captain, Wren Walton, “How long were you standing there?”

She chuckled, “Long enough to see them walk out on you.”  She walked with him as he joined her and headed to the exit, “We’re going to find them.  The trouble is keeping them in our good graces.”

Hargraves pushed through the door and into the cool air, “I’ve got a better arsenal these days now that real people are running Diplomatic Operations.  With engineering’s help, we can get them back on their feet and stable.  The rest will come in a week or two with the next shipment I’ve put in for – the reality of what these folks are facing is starting to register back home…a little.”

They reached the triage area, and Longfellow tapped at his PADD, “They kidnapped five, all of them connected to crew on the Mackenzie.  Science has a track, and tactical’s gamed out a predictive track.”

Walton mused, “That’s good news.  Tell me you have some more of that good news.”

Longfellow smiled, and she frowned.  “The USS Daedalue just arrived in orbit…and Captain Dread has nearly finished her repairs.”

She returned the smile, “Then I suggest we go find us some Syndicate and get our friends.  Leave a medical and security detail behind.  Get everyone else back to Mackenzie.”  She glanced skyward as the transporter beam blinded her.  

They were going hunting.

MBM 008 – Never Say Die

USS Mackenzie
7.16.2401

“She can’t possibly think she can take us on.”  Captain Wren Walton stood in the middle of Mackenzie’s bridge.  The Daedalus had updated them on the state of things.  The implications of how deep Patra’s plans had gone were not a surprise. How they had fallen short of the goal was the curiosity.  

At tactical, Kondo was wondering.  He frowned, “Captain – we haven’t seen or heard from Patra this entire time.  It’s all been done by his surrogates…or at least those who thought they were operating as his surrogates.  He’s been moving pieces on the board without being near the action.”

Thasaz piped up, “I’ve been monitoring the alt Carolyn Crawford’s ship as best as possible.  She’s sending out encrypted communications at a frenetic rate and pace…but nothing’s coming back.”  She shook her head, “We know his capabilities to build a kingdom…I’m wondering if he’s sacrificing them to test our defenses and responses.”

Walton let that thought wander her mind for a minute as the rest of the bridge crew did the same.  The implications were wild and alarming.  If he had the numbers to cast out sacrificial probes as people…that made her nervous.  “If that’s what’s happening here…this gives us a chance to try and turn alt Crawford.”

Park’s eyes went wide, “You’ve read her file, Wren…the woman is a sociopath without anything tying her down.  She’s as feral as they come.”

“A fair point…I wonder if it’s just possible to turn her…around and throw her back at Patra?  Maybe send Rigilia back with her upset enough to light the entire thing on fire and disrupt?”  Walton wasn’t sure about the idea, even as she said it.  The reality of their situation was leading them to less and less practical solutions.

Kondo listened as they debated the merits of what to do with Crawford’s doppelganger.  He reminded them, “We still have to figure out how to rescue Lieutenant Fowler.”  He thought for a moment and turned to Thasaz, “Is there a planet nearby where we could facilitate a…meeting of some kind?”  Kondo was thinking on his feet and explained further, “An independent colony who doesn’t like us or the Syndicate…an impartial place to meet?”

The Romulan science chief went to work, realizing what he was proposing.  A quick search of the charts gave them three options.  She quickly drilled down each and came up with a winner, “Rasputin Colony.  1500 souls.  A mixture of Human, Cardassian, and Romulan.  They’ve adopted the image of the old Russian wizard.”

Walton had returned to her chair as she listened to the proposal. “We sell it as a trade for information.  You think she’ll go for it?”

She had turned to Park, who had been thinking through the ongoing conversations.  The profile of alt Crawford was a terrifying read.  There wasn’t much leverage you could use on her, and the report made it clear your only hope in encountering her was to survive her.  There were several lines in the text about her desire for the bigger things in the world.  She wasn’t satisfied with whatever dirty plot she had on her hands.  She was always looking for the next big score.  Commander Park related to the bridge what she had found in studying the records, “The only chance we might have at getting Fowler back without a fight is to give her reason to unseat Patra.”

Wren remained unsure.  “What if Crawford’s worse than him?  She still wants to kill her pseudo-sister and Captain Crawford.”  She didn’t have much on the alternatives and was preparing to accept the plan.

Quartermaster Henry Wyatt had come to the bridge for a requisition sign-off as the conversation had evolved.  He interjected, “We know she has one goal, at least for now.  It’s limited.  Patra’s goal is the domination of the galaxy and beyond.  Isolating the collateral damage from them isn’t the worst thing…to be fair, it’s not the best either.”

There was a shared agreement on the bridge, and Wren grumbled, “Mr. Reede, send a message to our friend.  Advise her we have significant information and would like to meet to discuss terms of trade with Ms. Fowler.  Get me the colony on a private encrypted line in my ready room.  They may hate us, but they’ll be happy to have someone around who is threatening to kill us.  Seems like the Rasputin thing to do.”  She stood and had another thought, “Mr. Wyatt – join me.  I think you may be our best ambassador for this type of thing.”

The look on Wyatt’s face was surprised, “Not Commander Hargraves?”

She chuckled as they reached the door for the ready room, “I think he’ll be relieved to be standing as your second in this situation.  He’s never been a fan of phaser standoff diplomacy.  You, on the other hand…”

He finished it with a smile, “…have a habit of being a bit of a badass.”

Wren snapped her fingers with a cackle, “There it is.”  They entered the Ready Room and got to work.

MBM 009 – The Burn Notice

Rasputin Colony
7.16.2401

“I got a bad feeling about this.”  Commander Charlie Hargraves walked behind Henry Wyatt as they shifted closer to the agreed-upon rendezvous point.  He was thankful to be second to Wyatt on this harebrained scheme to negotiate the return of their colleague by giving the sector’s resident madwoman the reality of her imagined fantasy.

Wyatt kept walking, “As I said back on Mackenzie, you have a better idea; I’m ready and willing to listen.”  He knew didn’t have another plan to propose – nobody did.  They were dealing with someone who played so far outside any expected rules you couldn’t begin to plan how to second-guess her.  You could only try and fight her with whatever you had in your arsenal.

As they walked into the clearing, Henry stopped.  In the middle of the field stood Sadie Fowler of the Daedalus, her hands bound behind her back.  Her face was a smattering of deep bruises and dried blood.  He stepped forward until she said, “That’s far enough.”  Her eyes were panicked, and Wyatt could see tears at the edges of her eyes.

“What…Sadie…are you ok?”  Hargraves soon stood by him, his medical tricorder scanning from a distance.

“No.  She’s got a collar under the uniform.  If she doesn’t get what she wants or you piss her off…she wants you to know she’ll blow my head off.”  She sniffled and worked to control her spiraling fear, “You know she will.  She’s listening in to a mic here on my arm.  She’s in my ear, telling me what to do.”  her eyes were pleading, hoping for a safe way out of this situation.  Fowler listened to the angry voice in her ear, “She wants to know what you know.”

Wyatt glanced at Hargraves’s screen.  She was pretty beat up.  The injuries would need tending.  He decided the truth was the best avenue.  He told the story of the first person Patra had sent in his place to Walton on the starbase.  He then related the events involving Paglia and the attempted scheme to kidnap one of them that had unraveled quickly.  “We’re pretty sure Patra’s using you all as pieces on the chessboard while he sits in the back, seeing what we will do.  He’s testing our defenses…with you.”

Fowler grimaced in pain as the repeated shock of her injuries faded.  Crawford remained silent.  Sadie wasn’t sure where her captor had hidden herself or if she was even on the planet anymore.  She felt no compassion for the woman and had found her rage building each time she’d been beaten.  It felt out of place in her heart, as if it wasn’t used to filling up with red-hot emotion.  Crawford’s voice was back, and she repeated, “Show me Paglia.  I want to talk to him.”

Henry had thought it was entirely possible.  He tapped his badge, and a few minutes later, the rugged Romulan Syndicate captain came shuffling out into the open.  He looked at Fowler, “Hello, Crawford.”

“Rigilia.”  It was Fowler’s voice, just one of the many incongruities in this situation.  “What do you know about all this?  They’ve told you”?”

He shrugged, his hands behind his back.  “I know my plan did not go according to plan in spectacular fashion.  I know he hasn’t tried to rescue me, find me…or even communicate with me.  I haven’t heard from him since I pulled my act with the station administrator.”  He looked at Fowler, speaking to Crawford, “You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t interested in hearing what they said.  And she wouldn’t be alive if you didn’t believe that there’s something to this story.”  He kicked at the dirt, “I’m a Syndicate, through and through.  Patra’s taken us off the course of success.”

Fowler flinched at the words that were coming fast and furious now.  “I don’t trust these Starfleet idiots.  I also haven’t had a lot of reasons to trust Patra.  I’ve sent him a dozen messages…all ignored.”  Fowler heard no more and looked from Romulan to Federation and back again, wondering what happened next.  She closed her eyes as the minutes ticked past until there was the sound of boots on the ground coming towards her.  Her eyes flew open, and Alt Carolyn Crawford stood inches behind her.

Crawford spoke now, “Fowler for Rigilia.  I’ll take what you’ve told me…and do what I please.”

Wyatt turned away and spoke quietly to Charlie, “I promise you we shoot her; Fowler dies.  She’s not a fool and not standing here without layers of protection.”

His partner agreed, “Let me talk to the captain.”  He stepped further away and opened a channel.

Henry turned to Crawford, waiting for the answer from Hargraves.  She spoke up, “You’re the El-Aurian.”  He nodded.  “You’ve probably seen some shit.  Probably why you’re here facing me.”  Her look was one of amusement.

He stared at her, his eyes telling as much of the story as they could, “I’ve seen and lived through things that might even give you pause.  I’d never wish it upon my worst enemy.”

She picked up on it, “Am I the worst?”  Her smile walked the line of arrogance and hubris as she seemed to want to get a response from him.

Wyatt’s face remained placid as he replied, “No.”  She moved to ask a question, but Hargraves returned.

“Captain’s accepted the request.”  He shifted behind the Romulan, “They’ll meet in the middle and come to each of us.  Take her neck device off.”

Carolyn’s smile had faded in her discussion with Wyatt, and it did not return as she worked roughly on Fowler’s neck, tossing the deactivated unit to the ground,  She shoved the Daedalus science chief forward and motioned to her new partner to move forward.  Both walked hesitantly to the middle, where they met each other’s eyes for half a second before taking off running to their team.  Fowler jumped into Wyatt’s arms in tears while Rigilia shook Crawford’s hand.  She tapped at her arm, and they both vanished in red transporter beams.

Wyatt held Fowler as she thanked him through tears and sobs.  Hargraves tapped his badge for transport.

MBM 010 – The Feelings

USS Mackenzie
7.20.2401

“I don’t usually want to kill someone, Juliet.”  Ensign Carolyn Crawford lay on the couch in Juliet Woodward’s counseling office, staring at the ceiling. “But…I really want to kill her.”

Woodward sat in her chair, making notes on her PADD. They had been meeting every day since the incident that had brought her alternate to the front of their attention. The room was warm, and the lights dimmed as her patient ruminated on the possibility of homicide. “Well, your feelings are valid. She has threatened to kill you and your father several times over. In pretty explicit detail.”

Carolyn continued after a beat, “I’ve read about people who discover what their line is…, that line where murder just seems so out of character for them….to where they would have no compunction about ending the life of someone.”  She sat up, “It’s not a sociopathic thing…it’s the righteous indignation at the wrongs perpetrated…that the offense is so gross and malicious…that the act cries out for justice.” Juliet asked for more.   Crawford went on, “In the academy, one of the cadets told a story about how when he went home for the summer on the colony where his family lived, he found out his brother-in-law was assaulting his wife, the guy’s sister. He tried talking to his sister about it, but she made excuses. One night, it got so bad colony security and medical staff were called to the house.”  She shook her head as the emotions drifted up from her stomach. “He’d hurt her pretty badly. He said when he finally got to see his sister, he felt this…deep fire in his stomach begin to burn…and that it spread throughout his entire body.   He had to walk a few laps around the outside of the hospital to figure out what he was feeling.”

Woodard filled in the blank, “He wanted to kill the brother-in-law.”

Crawford nodded slowly. It had been a few years, but the story was still fresh in her mind as the day it had been told.  It still gave her pause, “He told me he knew if he ever saw him again, he was certain he’d throw down with the guy…and not stop.  All he would be thinking about was the injury and trauma his sister suffered.”  She sipped her lukewarm tea, “Thankfully, they put him away for a long time…and his sister got out off the planet and, last I heard, had found her peace with a fresh start.”

Juliet watched Carolyn as she spoke.  There was still a weight around the young engineer’s shoulders.  “What will killing her solve?”

“It’ll stop her.”  She put up her hands in defense, “I know…I know.  An eye for an eye makes the whole universe blind.”  Crawford shrugged after she stared at the end table for a while, “I hate her for what she did to Sadie.  I hate her for what wants to do to my father.  And I hate her for what she wants to do to me.  I can’t…take that off like a hat or a uniform.  I can’t ignore her or try to forget her.”  She looked up and met Juliet’s eyes, “I don’t know if that makes me a risk to have on active duty or not.”

Woodward thought about her question.  “If you were threatening to murder someone on this ship, or in Starfleet, or the Federation, or someone we considered a friend or an ally, I’d throw you into the brig without even a goodbye kiss.  But this is a bloodthirsty, genocidal madwoman who shoots first, second, and third.”  She tapped at her PADD, “I’ll need to visit with the captain, but provisionally, I’m going to clear you for duty with the caveat being a daily appointment with me.  We need to work through coping with the hate you have for her – hate and anger have a nasty habit of affecting more than just the person you want to phaser into nothingness.  Fair?”

“Fair.”

 

“Girls got a lotta hate for such a little body.”  Wren Walton sat on the couch in her Ready Room, reviewing Juliet’s report, “I agree – she’s not trying to snap anybody’s neck on the ship.”  She signed off on the recommendation, “As for when we eventually face Pandora Crawford…are we going to have to lock her up in the brig to keep her away?”

Juliet wasn’t sure, and a confused shrug was her best answer.  She sat down roughly on the opposite side of the couch.  She tightly grasped her cup of green tea, wondering if she’d ever held homicidal tendencies towards anyone.  She returned her attention to Walton, “I think we’re going to have to be ready for her to lose her mind and take a running start at Pandora.  You read the report on Fowler.  Brutality doesn’t even begin to give proper context to what happened.  The history here is messy.”  She tossed her PADD onto the table, “You talked to Peter lately?”

Walton sighed the long sigh of someone unsure what was happening with her relationship.  “I have. He’s deep into something that he’s not comfortable talking about.  He is on assignment with Fourth Fleet, and he’s been able to get some time to visit the Mackenzie.  He’ll be out next week.”  She grimaced, “We were just getting started in a really good place, Juliet…and then I went and asked for something faster and armed.”

Woodward chuckled, “You can’t always get what you want.”

Wren cast an annoyed look, “Why?”

“You’d need to ask the Rolling Stones.”

“You’re going to make me listen to some old Earth music, aren’t you?”

“According to the magazines of the time, The Rolling Stones were always old.”

Walton sighed, “Fine.  Pull up the song.  Let’s get this over with.”

Juliet hit play. 

“I saw her today at the reception, glass of wine in her hand, I knew she would meet her connection, At her feet was her footloose man

No, you can’t always get what you want, You can’t always get what you want, You can’t always get what you want, But if you try sometime you’ll find, You get what you need…”

MBM 011 – The Impossible Probable

USS Mackenzie - Rasputin Colony
7.21.2401

“You can’t be serious.”  Chief Diplomatic Officer Charlie Hargraves sat in the briefing room.  The morning had started with coffee and an assortment of pastries.  He should have known something was up, but his stomach and late-night report reading had numbed his awareness.  Captain Wren Walton had just finished pitching the idea of opening diplomatic operations in the Rasputin Colony.  “You talk about the impossible…that colony is at the top of the list.”

“That’s the idea.  We need a win with The True Way and the recent Syndicate action.  This would be a big win and something to help others in the systems around them see the light in returning to the Federation.” She sat back and sipped at her coffee, relishing the aromatic notes.

Charlie groaned, “The colony mascot is an old Earth Russian wizard, among other rumored and theorized things.”  He’d done a quick study.  It wasn’t great.

Wren held up a PADD, “I’m aware of the historical connections, Hargraves.  I thought it would fascinate a student of history like yourself?”

He rolled his eyes at her attempt to play at his hobby.  She wasn’t stupid.  He replied, “Give me a historical connection that doesn’t include murder, supernatural musings, or political regicide.”

Walton gave him a long stare, “Have you read Earth’s history, Charlie?”

He sighed and sat back in the chair, “Fine.  You win.”  He still didn’t like it.

Wren smiled wide, “I usually do, Commander.”

 

“It’s impossible!”  Eighteen-year-old Thomas Crane was in his practicum experience for the diplomatic branch.  He had also been assigned to the Mackenzie, hoping his rougher edges could be smoothed.  

Twenty-one-year-old Ensign Alex Piturro sat at the modular circle table in the center of Diplomatic Operations, working on his research, and held up a finger.  “Nothing is impossible if you find the path, Crane. Or paths.  You know the motto – Diplomacy is life.” He returned to the PADD, tapping at the desk console, effecting changes in the holo display in the center of the table, “We could find a way to use this Rasputin thing to our advantage.”

Vanessa Lihi, the oldest in the department at twenty-four, examined the display she was working on on the wall of the room, “Alex might have a point.  There’s plenty of symbolism within the Rasputin legend with what he represented to the people, the Tsar, and his family.”  She adjusted the screen, “What information we have indicates they have a position titled ‘Rasputin.’  It’s passed down from person to person through either death or election…which is another thing.  Alex, you had that one.”

He did.  He moved through his notes, “It’s as much a religious title as a government title – it’s like they put a colony governor and The Pope together in one person with a dash of mysticism.  According to the most up-to-date records, they’ve had three ‘Rasputins’ in the colony’s time, and the previous two lived well past 100 years old.  The current one is 89 years old.”

Hargraves looked up from his place at the table as he pulled data from the ship’s computer, “With 1500 citizens, it’s not the biggest colony out there.”  He read through the laws and processes, “The judicial is pretty intense.  The sentences they’ve been handing down walk a tight line on most of the treaties we have on the rights of criminals.”  He leaned back in his chair, “We’ve got to find something they need that only we can provide that they can’t get from The True Way or the Cardassians.”

Crane had been pacing the room slowly and suddenly snapped his fingers, “Don’t we have a former Gul on board, Commander?  Has…Hasara?”  He looked around the room, “I mean, he’s got to know something about these guys.”

Charlie grimaced.  Hasara was known to still harbor connections back home despite his firebrand resignation.  Captain Harris may have trusted the Cardassian, but Hargraves was still some ways away from that point.  The kid still wasn’t wrong.  You were taught to use every resource – living or dead to move the sensor readings on negotiations.  He gave a slight nod.  “Get Hasara down here…let’s see if he can help us.”