While the arrival of the shuttle Waihou back to the Atlantis was a calm and orderly affair, the figure that stormed out of the shuttle was anything but calm.
“Ma’am,” Chief Andrews, Shuttlebay 1’s deck chief said as he approached, falling into step alongside Adelinde as she marched towards the bay’s main doors. “We’ll have Waihou turned around and back out in ten minutes.”
“She’s not going back out on evac duty Chief. I might need Waihou. Get it ready for launch and clear out the rear compartment for a security team.” Her tone was icy.
“Aye ma’am,” Andrews replied and broke off just before the large doors. “Prep Waihou for a combat drop, on the double!” the man shouted as the doors closed.
The nearest turbolift was her first alone moment since she’d heard the news and an order to the computer brought the carriage to a halt to stretch the moment out, to let her vent then catch her breath and recentre herself. Her arrival on the bridge was only delayed by thirty seconds whereupon she found Ch’tkk’va and Rrr’mmm’bal’rrr both at Mission Ops.
“What are we looking at?” she demanded as she approached.
“Brunswick Police don’t have much at all, to be honest. The manifesto has over five hundred signatures and they’re running through them as fast as they can, but a majority of them are either retirees or deceased. They’re trying to track down the ones they think are viable threats but they seem to have disappeared off the grid.” Rrr looked sympathetic. “I don’t like it either.”
“I’m the chief of security first Lieutenant,” she answered coldly. “We have a job to do and that is to get our people back.”
“Aye ma’am,” he responded. “Ch’tkk’va, bring up the map the locals sent us.”
Complying with the request the Xindi-Insectoid entered a few commands, bringing up a map of hills around Brunswick. “The Brunswick Police believe the Highcroft Liberation Front is based somewhere in these hills and specifically near the magnetite deposits,” they said, the occasional click or chirp getting past the universal translator. “It is an area of approximately 1500 square kilometres.”
“Sizable piece of terrain,” she admitted. “What else have we got?”
“The attackers came in vehicles, so I am assuming that while their hideout is off the trails, it won’t be too far off available paths. There is also the slope of certain hills to contend with, so I am confident we can eliminate these sections from immediate search patterns,” Ch’tkk’va continued, entering another command to shade out nearly a third of the entire area. “This should help us to maximise any ground or low-level search work that needs to be done, though we are limited in that capacity as well.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Lack of available shuttles. All of our shuttles are currently on evacuation duties and Highcroft only retained emergency services craft. Everything else that they have is purely civilian models intended for such duties as public transport or cargo transportation between cities.”
Rrr’mmm’bal’rrr cleared their throat. “We also do need to get Atlantis back on transport duty as soon as possible Lieutenant. We need to get those towers from Stormlea and get them set up as soon as possible or Highcroft will suffer when the storm breaks over the system.”
“There won’t be any more towers going up until we’re certain there isn’t a threat to them,” she replied. “Ch’tkk’va, prep a team and embark on the Waihou. Phaser rifles authorised. I’ll meet you shortly. Rrr, have Shotover and Haast prepared for duty as well. Fighters at least can fly search patterns over the area. Once we’re all on our way make for Stormlea. Grab everything you can and get back here. Liaise with local authorities. There must be a transhipment facility or the such you can dump materials at for now to get the flow of material going again.”
“Aye ma’am,” both of them answered.
Fifteen minutes later the shuttle Waihou was settling down at the primary starport of Brunswick, the majority of the facility occupied by small ships from around the system or those smaller freighters in the system when the news broke. But as it turned out a handful of spots had been cleared for the shuttle and her escorting fighters to set down.
She’d taken the chance during the trip planetside to ditch her normal uniform jacket for the outdoor jackets that Atlantis had aboard ship – a dark grey jacket with a single thin line of pipping around the shoulders and matte finish rank pips to make them harder to see. Her only non-standard piece of kit was the knife she’d collected from her own quarters and strapped to her right leg, a promise to her younger self never to go hunting without it.
Waiting for them as they arrived were four Brunswick police, kitted for rural work, two individuals in uniforms that Adelinde didn’t recognise and the one woman on the entire planet she had wanted to speak to this entire time – Chief Inspector Darcel Dredd. As she stepped out, she waved for the team with her to stay inside, her intent to be airborne once more as soon as formalities where completed.
“Chief Dredd,” she spoke, offering a hand. “I was hoping we could count on local support to recover our people.”
The older woman’s grasp was firm, but not overly so. “I want this sorted as quickly as possible too Lieutenant. This looks bad for me and mine and I want it resolved. I also want those towers put up without any problems before that ion storm hits. This is my home after all.”
“I’m glad to hear we’re on the same page then.”
“That we are,” the older woman replied. “These four officers are yours as I understand a lot of your people are busy evacuating civilians across the system. As for these two,” Dredd indicated to the individuals in the unfamiliar uniforms. “Rangers Rance and Marshall of the Highcroft Forestry Service. They’re your experts on those woods your Lieutenant Chtickva informed me about before Atlantis broke orbit.”
“Ch’tkk’va,” she corrected of the Chief, emphasising the breaks in the name to give it the closest a human mouth could achieve to their real name. “And a pleasure to meet you Rangers. Assuming we have permission, we’ll get all our assets in the air again and begin overflights. See if we can’t refine our efforts before boots hit the ground in earnest.”
“HFS has opened up all air space for Starfleet ma’am,” the older ranger offered to the conversation. A man in his fifties from the look of him, he stepped forward offering his hand. “Ranger Marshall, call me Sam. This is Lou,” he gestured to the woman with him. “Best we do overflights of the roads first. Lou and I can tell if someone’s driven on them lately. But once off the road we’ll likely have to get ground side to see anything worthwhile though.”
“In that case Sam, I’ll sit you next to my pilot. Welcome aboard the Waihou,” Adelinde offered as she gestured to the open hatch.
“I’m beginning to think there’s trouble in paradise,” Maxwell said from his spot by the cell door, ear pressed up against the wall to try and make out what was being shouted on the other side of the barrier.
For her own part, Tikva was lying on the one singular cot they’d been provided, her one good arm behind her head as she stared at the rock ceiling above. Sure enough, the leader of their captors had indeed ordered someone to produce an energy-draining device of some sort, though from the casing colour she suspected Ferengi in origin. Their combadges had been drained, then thrown out a window, though she suspected located pretty quickly thanks to rather unique materials within. Then just as their leader had threatened it had been turned on her.
The look on his face was likely the same look he gave anyone he thought had power over. She could feel the desire from him to see embarrassment from her, to see her made low by losing the function of an arm and a leg. But she just smiled at him and refused to give in. She had already spent six months once before without them even being physically present, losing power to them was just damned annoying.
Then their captor had saddled Maxwell with assisting her in walking in from the vehicles to this cell. Maxwell for his part just rolled with it, her dead arm around his neck, held in place by his own grip, so she could lean against him while walking. That had perhaps been the most embarrassing part of this whole ordeal. If the Fates however had anything to say about it, the worst was yet to come.
“Sorry, you said something Maxwell?” she suddenly snapped back to reality.
“I said there’s trouble in paradise. Sounds like someone else is ripping into the guy who brought us in. I’m hearing the word credibility thrown around a lot.”
“Trouble within the Highcroft Liberation Front eh?”
“Splitters,” Maxwell blurted out and only a moment later did she feel a slight wave of embarrassment from him.
“Gérard, by chance, did you just make a Monty Python reference?” she asked, not looking away from the ceiling, but smiling nonetheless.
“Wait, you know Monty Python ma’am?”
“As only cultured people do.” There was a slight pause. “I need to force Adelinde to sit through a few movies with me. You’ve just moved one to the top of the list.”
“Ma’am, what I know of Lieutenant Gantzmann, I’m not sure if I’m not better off barging out this door and taking on the HLF with my bare hands,” Maxwell answered.
“Least you wouldn’t have to listen to them regurgitate that manifesto again. No no, we’ll sit tight. I can’t run, let alone walk anyway and trust me, Mac will get on top of this and sort it out.”
Waihou had been in the air for nearly three hours, everyone in the back of the shuttle starting to get restless, before Ranger Marshall spotted something, Rance confirming his suspicion. “Get something. Remote track, no one should have gone up it in months, looks recently disturbed.”
“How confident?” Adelinde asked at the door between the front and rear compartments.
“Eighty percent,” Rance offered, her voice surprisingly deep. “I’d put my reputation on it.”
Marshall nodded, then waved to the shuttle pilot that Adelinde had absconded with, having released T’Val for one of the fighters. “Set us down about here son, should find a clearing big enough for this barge.”
“Lieutenant?” the ensign asked.
“He’s the expert in these parts Ensign. Take us in.”