Nestled in relative safety on the edges of the Amneth Nebula, an asteroid mining station turned pirate haven floated along in the void as it had for many decades since it was taken over. Its denizens carried out their daily lives, highlighted by the rampant hedonism and violence that were almost stereotypical of such a class of people. Clusters of vessels belonging to one faction or another who made the base their home dotted the space just outside the weak gravity well that belonged to the station. It was about as peaceful as one might expect out of such a place, and no one aboard the ships nor the station itself had any clue that their secret little hideaway was no longer a secret.
The USS Hydra dropped out of warp just outside the station’s sensor range, the crew already prepared for what was about to take place. The USS Argonaut was the next to arrive, taking up a position just in front of the Hydra, making ready to pounce on the unsuspecting outpost. The USS Sizemore dropped out of warp only a few moments behind, taking up a position directly below the Hydra, priming itself for the bombardment that would be it’s primary duty. Lastly, the USS Edinburgh came into the system, the old New-Orleans class vessel pulling up just alongside the Hydra to aid in taking out the larger ships of the pirate fleet. When each vessel had signaled their crews ready for engagement, the coordinated strike began.
With a burst of acceleration, the Argonaut lurched forward, hurtling toward the station at speeds that approached the warp threshold. Her phasers began lancing through the smallest of the ships gathered about the station, triggering wild plumes of exploding debris as the vessel hurtled through the void between pockets of ships. Very few of the smaller craft survived the initial onslaught, and the few that did were easy prey as they scrambled to flee the system.
With the Argonaut doing its level best to keep the small ships on the run, the Edinburgh and the Hydra made their advance on the remaining fleet of ships. Their prey was still in disarray, but most now had their shields up and were tanking phaser blasts from the older frigate for several long minutes before the ship could bring them down. Though not nearly as maneuverable as the Argonaut, the Edinburgh still managed to keep pace with the slightly more agile craft that it was taking on. About every few minutes, another pirate ship would reach the end of its endurance and fly apart under the weight of weapons fire.
The largest of the pirate craft singled out the Hydra as their target of choice, throwing everything they had aboard at the Manticore-class ship. Even as over a dozen vessels pushed their offensive systems to the point of overloading, the Hydra managed to take it all while still dishing out devastating volleys of phaser and torpedo bursts. A great many of the ships were crippled in the first ten or so minutes into the battle, some breaking apart moments after the last salvo hit them, while others drifted lifeless through space as their crews scrambled to keep them from sharing the same fate as their fallen comrades.
The Sizemore hung back through most of the initial fighting, only lashing out at targets of opportunity that came too close. Once the majority of the pirate fleet had been lured away by her sister ships, the Sizemore got to work throwing volley after volley of bombardment fire directly at the asteroid facility. Some of the pirate vessels made attempts at disrupting the bombardment by placing themselves between, only to be pelted into oblivion when the Sizemore lobbed an even more concentrated barrage to clear the way. The bombardment didn’t cease until the entire complex was rendered uninhabitable. Once it was, the Steamrunner turned its sights on the remaining ships that the Hydra had not yet managed to cripple or outright destroy.
The ensuing engagement lasted a little over an hour, and by the end of the space battle, only a dozen of the ships that had been occupying the area remained largely intact. On the bridge of the Hydra, Captain Jonathan Bastin was listening to the after action report from his First Officer, who was occupying the Strategic Operations alcove on the bridge.
“The Argonaut reports that all fighter and shuttle class vessels have been destroyed. Only about a half dozen escape pods were used and they’ve already been apprehended. The Sizemore has already departed the system and is headed back to Starbase 310 to resupply, as they’ve exhausted their entire complement of torpedoes in the battle. We’re working with the Edinburgh to round up the survivors on both the station and the derelict craft in the area before scuttling the vessels,” Commander Rena Yuri reported from her station.
Capt. Bastin nodded as he listened to the report before turning to his Operations Officer, “How did the ship hold up?”
Lieutenant T’Rel took a second to compile the various reports before replying, “One of our backup shield generators overloaded during the engagement, there has been some superficial hull damage in several locations along the ship, and two sensor clusters were destroyed. There were fourteen injuries reported among the maintenance crews, none of which were fatal.”
Again Bastin nodded, “I didn’t expect us to get away unscathed, but that seems awfully light considering how many large craft we butted heads with.”
“This vessel’s tactical prowess is vastly superior to the Argonaut. Thankfully none of the vessels amassed here were of a type or disposition that we were ill-suited to confront,” the Vulcan remarked with what amounted to a look of relief… if Vulcans were actually that expressive.
Bastin chuckled at the statement as he looked over his shoulder at his Security Officer, “As the one doing most of the actual fighting, how did you like the Hydra?”
The Saurian gave the Captain her brightest reptilian smile, “It was a joy. Are we going to keep her?”
Bastin burst into a fit of laughter at her words, never expecting Nieru to be so expressive. It took a minute for him to regain his composure, though others on the bridge were still shaking with silent laughter around him. Even Cmdr. Yuri seemed to have gotten caught up in the moment as she was holding her hand up to her mouth to cover the enormous grin on her face.
“I’m pretty sure the Hydra isn’t going to disappear the minute we get back to Federation space to drop off our prisoners… Speaking of which, how many did we manage to get?” Bastin asked.
“Almost three hundred between the three ships in the area. We’ve had to convert one of our empty cargo bays into a temporary holding facility. What are we going to do with them? Are we taking them back to Federation space?” Nieru cocked her head to the side as she mulled over her own question.
“I need to have a talk with our Cardassian hosts before making the call. They’ve done more damage to them than to our own people, so we have to at least give them the chance to decide what to do with them. If they’re not interested, then we’ll take them to Starbase 310 for processing. I should actually go make the inquiry now that we’re on the subject. Rena, you have the bridge,” Bastin said, pushing himself out of his chair and crossing the distance between himself and his ready room.
Once he was inside the office, Bastin pulled up the communication protocols and sent a communique to Empok Nor. After a few minutes of waiting for the station to route his request through all the people that seemed to want to verify it, the screen finally blinked to reveal Legate Aren.
“How goes the hunt, Captain?” the Cardassian greeted Bastin with a smile that bordered on being a smirk.
“It’s already over, actually,” Bastin replied with a mirthless smile of his own, “That’s the reason I’m contacting you.”
“Is it?” Legate Aren looked genuinely surprised for a brief moment before she seemed to accept the information, “Then what can I do for you?”
“It’s about our prisoners,” Bastin said flatly, “I wanted to know if the Cardassian government wished to detain them for prosecution for their crimes against your people or if you wanted the Federation to take custody of them.”
The Cardassian frowned at the question, though only for a few seconds, “I will have to contact the Council and see if they wish to pursue this. While I have little doubt that they could be made into very convincing examples, I don’t know if there is enough of a benefit to actually take on the logistical burden that would create. After all, this station isn’t one that exists outside of certain circles at the moment.”
“Yes… I can see where that might present some issues if prisoners were to just suddenly appear from parts unknown to the general population,” Bastin nodded to himself.
“I will run this by the Chairman and see what she has to say. Give me an hour and I should have an answer,” the Legate remarked.
“Very well. I’ll stand by in this area until you contact me. Until then, Legate.”