Part of USS Atlantis: Mission 6: Turbulent Waters and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

Fire!

Highcroft
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The door to the cell was opened and in the much brighter light from outside all Tikva could make out were silhouettes of three men. “Take him for a walk,” the middle one said. “And I mean just that. Handcuff him, don’t leave the caves.”

Maxwell for his part was on his feet and backing away from the two men that entered the dimly lit cell, soon enough with his back to the wall. “Ma’am?” he asked.

“Play nice Maxwell. Take the chance to stretch your legs,” she told him as she sat up and swung one leg over the side of the cot, then dragged the other with her good arm. “I’ll be fine.”

“Respectfully ma’am,” he started before she cut him off with a hand wave.

“What choice do we have Lieutenant? Take an easy walk.”

For their part the two men who had approached Maxwell hadn’t forced the issue, just stood there with a pair of handcuffs being offered to the Lieutenant. With a sigh and deep concern, he turned around and let them cuff him before they escorted him out of the cell with a push in one direction before the door was pulled shut by the third man.

Tikva indicated the one seat in the cell, adjacent to the little table they’d been allowed to set food or drink on at least. “Please, have a seat.”

“You’re under the impression I needed your permission,” the man said as he sat down. “This has all been a serious misunderstanding brought on by my second in command. But, with his actions, I’m forced to play to them in some respects.”

“I’ve heard the manifesto. The conspiracy theories that Stormlea is a tyrannical regime that’s been oppressing Highcroft for a generation now. That Governor Makarov is a changeling infiltrator playing an incredibly long game. That the city councils here on Highcroft are complicit in managing a surveillance state to keep everyone in line,” she said, shaking her head at the end. “But I still haven’t heard any demands.”

“Because why waste breath on the woman who won’t be able to comply? You’ll hear them when I inform your executive officer. Though he’s likely now tainted by whatever lies Makarov has spun around him. We’re patriots Captain, men and women who want to live life to the fullest with freedom for all. We’ll violently oppose your panopticon towers and you’ll stay our guest until our demands are met.”

“Panopticon? You mean the umbrella towers? They’re to protect Highcroft from an ion storm that’s due to hit in a couple of days. They’re not some global surveillance system.” She’d laugh if she couldn’t tell it would upset the man even more than her refusal of his worldview already was. “Highcroft needs those towers or that storm will hit this system and bring who knows what level of carnage to this world.”

She could feel the anger and frustration welling up in the man as he spoke, then forcefully got to his feet. His veneer was cracking and he was leaving before it failed him. “You’re too far gone. But you make a powerful bargaining piece Captain. I’ll have someone bring you a crutch so you can go for a walk as well, use the facilities.” With that, he departed, closing and locking the door behind him.

“Well shit,” she said to herself.



“You two stay with the shuttle,” Adelinde said to two of her security personnel as she accepted a phaser rifle from Ch’tkk’va who was handing them out from a crate. “Anyone not in a uniform who gives you grief, stun them.”

She caught in her periphery one of the police officers raising a hand to protest but stopped by one of their compatriots, giving the younger officer the ‘let it be’ look. Others were checking their weapons as well, verbally stating the setting of the weapon as they gave them the once over. It worked to confirm the setting, confirm their fellows had checked and finally to allow everyone to act as a double-check for each other. With everyone’s weapons on heavy stun, including their pilot’s hand phaser, Adelinde indicated for the two rangers to lead the way into the woods.

They had started by mid-morning local time and while the day grew on and a remarkably clear sky contributed to a rising temperature, tree cover and elevation worked to keep it to a nice twenty degrees as they got started.

They’d been fanned out in a line, walking for hours before Sam, Ranger Marshall, summoned everyone to him with a whistle that could have been heard for kilometres around. By the time everyone had gathered, Adelinde in the last stragglers, it was clear the purpose of his summons – lunch.

“Lieutenant, sit, eat. You’re no good to anyone if you’re hungry and miss something,” the man said from where he sat on a fallen tree and on queue someone produced a sandwich for her.

“Five minutes, then we’re back to work,” she conceded.

“Works for me. The last one to break always gets the shortest rest,” Sam said as he lifted a cup to his lips. “Also, found something,” he continued after a few moments. “A trail, but it splits in two. Both look recent. Can’t decide which is which though.”

She mulled it over as she chewed, then started to point and people as she finished. “You lot with Lieutenant Ch’tkk’va and Ranger Rance. Ranger Marshall and I shall take the rest and we’ll split up to check both trails.” She’d split her security people and the police equally between both teams.

“Sounds good,” Ranger Lou Rance said. “You want the high or low path Sam?”

“High of course. Let’s me look down on people,” the old man said with a smirk, then emptied his cup. “Right folks, finish up, use a tree if you need to.”

A few hours later her team pushed out of the tree line onto a hillside covered in long grass and at ground level, it was pretty obvious where a vehicle had driven right through the grass. They’d been following slight ruts in a dirt floor, broken tree branches, other tracking signs that Sam was familiar with, but right in front of them was an obvious trail even a first-year cadet could follow.

“Tell me, Lieutenant, if your communicators are playing up in these hills and we haven’t got a line of sight to your shuttle, just how are we supposed to call for help should we run into this HLF lot?” Same asked as he fell into step beside her as they crossed out into the relative open.

“Flare gun on each of us. Fighters will pick it up on sensors, then they can laser comm the shuttle. The other makes a supersonic pass to let the other team know to fire their flare. The shuttle goes to the second flare first to pick everyone up and then makes its way to the first. In the meantime, we get air support that we can’t talk to.”

“Sounds like my time in the Dominion War all over again,” the man said. “Officers with nice simple plans that always have a flaw.”

“Unless you have some way of communicating past magnetite interference I don’t know about?”

“No no, nothing on me at any rate.” The man went quiet again and the entire team continued along the trail ahead of them.

Another break, then another hour passed. Down into a valley, up a switchback, down into the next and back into woodland finally saw the entire team crouched behind a series of rocks. Only herself and Sam were peering over the top, Sam relying on a monocular, while she used the sight on her rifle to look at what one of the police officers had seen and managed to alert everyone to without giving them away.

“Yeah, that’s big enough for a vehicle. Caves in this area can go pretty deep too. Two guards outside.”

She grunted in acknowledgement to his assessment. Calling them guards wasn’t accurate at all. They weren’t attentive at all, too busy chatting with each other to notice anything. “Movement in the cave mouth,” she said barely above a whisper.

It took half a minute for three figures to emerge from the cave’s darkness and with that, they knew they had the right place. “Eyes on Maxwell,” she said for the benefit of her own people who took that as the call to arms it was. Their readiness inspired the others and she heard a series of checks taking place once more.

“Ten of them hit the tower site,” Sam stated.

“And two on guard here. A minimum of one more cave mouth somewhere makes fourteen. Assume that’s a third of their number,” she thumbed a control on the rifle’s side to zoom in as far as she could. “Maxwell looks fine.”

“Well Lieutenant, this is your game,” Sam said. “Call in reinforcements or go in?”

“Jootu, prep your flare. When I say, let it off. We’re not waiting but they can damn well be on their way.”

“Aye ma’am,” came from behind her.

She waited, checking all four of the presumed HLF members a few hundred meters from her position. The two ‘guards’ were still oblivious to anything. The prison escorts were more focused, but only on Maxwell whom they seemed to be taking for a short jaunt, likely to separate him from the captain she supposed. The one directly in front of Maxwell is where her reticule ultimately settled on. “Sam, one behind our man is yours. Can you get him?”

“Girl, I’m nearly twice your age, of course I can get him,” he replied.

The sounds of phasers meeting rocks around them and confirmation that the other guards had been selected confirmed all four were lined up.

“Jootu, now.”

The flare gun burped as a bright green ball went skyward, its little chute opening at its apex to keep the flare airborne. Attention from everyone on the valley floor went to the flare, then eyes began to swivel to where the flare launched from.

“Fire!” Adelinde shouted as she pulled the trigger on her own rifle.