The bridge crew had been the first secured by the Orions down in the cargo bay, placed under direct guard. From there crew had been dragged in smaller packs as the Orions cleared decks, sections, rooms, and found the crew of the Endeavour wherever they had hidden or held out. It had been all Leonov could do to keep a tally without betraying to the Orions those who were slipping through the cracks, the notable faces who had not been found.
But the state of the captain, dragged in only to be whisked away almost at once to sickbay, had made it more than plain this was no time for patience. Time was even less on their side than they had calculated. And still they were in a cargo bay with a pair of armed Orions by the door to keep watch on them at gunpoint.
She turned back to one of the junior officers. “Talk among yourselves,” she murmured. “Don’t cause a disruption, but give me some cover to speak with the senior staff. By all means, show some distress.” The guards were more likely to pay attention to some distraught captives than those being quiet.
From there, Leonov slipped back through the small crowd with an urgent, summoning glance to Mitchell, Ricci, and Randall, the net of senior staff huddling up with junior officers as a smokescreen for a quiet consultation.
“I had estimated we had some days before the Orions brought us to wherever they’ll doubtless try to sell us. But they seem more reckless with their cargo than I anticipated. We will have to be ready to move before crewmembers begin to die, by their negligence or malice,” she said in a low, level voice, as if giving a report on nothing more interesting than a nebula detected on long-range sensors. “What’s your condition?” she asked of them all, gaze sweeping across the three officers.
“A few bruises, but I’m okay.” replied Randall.
Mitchell, who had been nursing his shoulder due to a taking a disrupter blast when the Orion boarding parties started sweeping the ship, looked at his comrades with a wince of discomfort wishing he had something for the pain, “I’ll be fine, but the Doc is gonna have one more patient added to his list when this is all over.”
A little cut on the arm, but nothing I can’t handle.” Ricci replied in his normal tone.
The Orions had caught them off guard and in the process, Antione had managed to cut his arm on an Orion blade when he was fighting the Orion trying to take him out of his station.
“Very well. We’ll have to make do.” Leonov cast a cautious look back at the guards at the door. “They don’t seem interested in splitting staff up, so I’m curious where some of our people are. I expect that if they were dead, we’d have been shown or told to intimidate us. Wherever Commander Meihui and the MACOs are, let us assume they are doing everything possible to restore control of the ship, but let us not assume they can rescue us. We’ll not get out of here by brute force, but distraction. If a distraction isn’t forthcoming, we’ll have to make one. Thoughts?”
Randall looked at Lenov. “We need to obtain weapons, and find a way to send out a distress call to the Federation.”
“A shame the Major was a little gung-ho to inventory the MACO equipment. We could have had an ample supply right at our fingertips. I reckon feigning an illness is not likely going to allow anyone to get out of here and brought to sickbay. Any chance of getting to a service crawlway?” Mitchell replied.
Antione thought and looked around the room “The Orions aren’t particularly worried about us talking to each other, but what if we would start a fight that they would have to break up. This would give someone the chance to either slip away or we could learn the response patterns of the guards.” Antione felt helpless without his earpiece, but he had to make a suggestion.
“Weapons will be important,” Leonov agreed, “but first we have to get out of here, quite. I think illness is likely out of the question with them already taking the captain to Sickbay. Starting trouble could bring serious ramifications; I’m not letting anyone risk their life so we can maybe learn more about their patterns. Slipping away is an option.”
She looked back at the pair at the doors. “They don’t know much about us, our physiology, our culture,” she mused. “I wonder if we can use that to our advantage.” Her eyes fell on Antione. “Lieutenant, I want you to open a discourse with the guards. Act like you want to cooperate, like you think working with them to keep the crew alive is better than resisting. Present yourself as a go-between and paint me as intransigent if you need. Do what you have to do so that when you start lying to them, they still believe you.” Leonov made it sound like this was part one of a solid plan. In truth, she had only hazy at-best concepts of how to progress from there.
Antione took a deep breath and nodded it wasn’t his first choice, but it would be useful to have a translator to try this idea. He looked at Leonov “I will try my best Commander. I am not so sure how they will respond from the bits of conversation I heard they seem pretty adamant on their plans, but what those plans are I have no idea.” He concluded waiting for the cue to go talk to the Orions.
Leonov then turned to Mitchell and Randall. “Gentlemen, can either of you act worth a damn?”
“I did some acting in Academy plays, commander.” Randall quickly replied. “There should be an access panel in this room, commander, if I can find it, I could crawl out and drop down into a corridor.”
With a slight uneasiness Mitchell added, “I’ve never been one for the performing arts Commander, but I’m sure I can play along. What did you have in mind?”
“I’m still considering our options,” Leonov admitted. “We look for opportunities to exploit a distraction, or if necessary, we make one – fake that fight or fake that illness or any of the old tricks. If Ricci can get close to the guards, make them think he’ll help them keep us in order to keep us safe, that opens up even more options. Maybe we do create a diversion and send Randall down an access panel. But I need to be crystal clear on something.” She stopped and straightened, commanding the attention of each of them with her iron gaze. “If we rush this and get it wrong, I’d expect retribution to bring us back in line. You might all be willing to risk your own necks. But slavers will use our bonds against us. Expect consequences for anything you do to fall on someone else, and act accordingly. Understood?”
Randall and Mitchell both nodded. “Understood.” said Randall.
She nodded briskly. “For now we watch, and Ricci makes himself indispensable to learn what he can. We observe the guards, their patterns and movements, and figure out our best move. There’s no gain to overpowering these two if there are six with rifles right around the corner. But if we -”
The doors slid open, the two Orion guards straightening with, if not military discipline, a wary sort of respect at the next arrival. Leonov had anticipated a return of the hulking brute who had dragged the captain in after his tender ministrations, but this Orion male was small for one of his people. Still tall and powerfully built by human standards, he moved more like he was powered by a coiled spring than brutish strength. Beyond him, at least another two guards on the far side of the door could be seen, and Leonov’s heart sank at the prospect they were on permanent station, not merely escorting the newest arrival.
But then he spoke, and all eyes fell on him. “Newest acquisitions. My name is Nytehr. All you need to call me is ‘sir.’ Who you think you are, what you think your names are, what you think your status or ranks are, are irrelevant as of this moment. You are now the property of the Orion Syndicate, and the only things that matter to me are your obedience and your worth. That is what I am here to ascertain.”
Against her better judgement, Leonov found herself shouldering through the crowd towards the front, mindful of the captain’s condition, mindful of his absence, and painfully aware that it was, at that moment, her responsibility to make herself a target. “You have us contained,” she said in a low, careful voice. “Under gunpoint, after you’ve shown what you can do to our captain. There’s no need to ascertain -”
Nytehr only needed to take one step forward for the rifles to be raised an inch and for Leonov to shut up, jaw tight, heart thudding in her chest. The Orion tilted his chin up as he surveyed her for a moment – then he looked past her as if she were nothing. “Some of you may have useful skills to serve our clients. Some of you will be useful for nothing more than comfort or labour. If you choose to disguise your worth, expect two outcomes: to be unsuccessful and to be disciplined accordingly, or to be successful, and to be categorised as fodder for the targ pens. Defiance brings pain, not freedom. Cooperation brings value and comfort.”
It was inevitable to Mitchell that the crew were about to be put through a series of ‘interrogations’ looking to break each and everyone of them. He was not about to let that happen. Mitchell, Scott. Commander. Service number Sierra-Mike-Seven-Zero-One-Six-Eight-Three-Six-Bravo-Sierra. he kept repeating to himself as he attempted to psych himself up for whatever was to unfold.
Randall looked at the smaller Orion. Yes, he had a solid build. The two larger guards behind him, they were taller. The smaller one…maybe he could be somehow disabled…trip him…grab something large…and bash his head. The odds say that probably some of us in this room might die…
But as Nytehr’s gaze swept across the confined Starfleet officers, visibly contemplating with whom he would begin his assessments, Commander Leonov realised the mission priority for those captured had changed abruptly. They could watch, they could prepare to seize an opportunity, they could even dream of creating one and then making their move. But more pressing than that, more essential if they were ever to get out, Nytehr had made their primary objective while in Orion hands plain: