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Part of USS Thyanis: Acts of Mercy

Rho Omega II: …For Better Or Worse

Rho Omega system
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USS Thyanis

tranporter room  

 

“So, let’s just assume that I am confused.” The dark-haired officer waved a hand in the air with a faux whimsical air. “How do you expect this to go down?” The man glanced around the transporter room. Next, he looked around at each of his fellows in turn, between Etan, the Andorian engineer whose name he had already forgotten, the pair of security officers, and the transporter operator. “I mean, call me a tired cliche, but this feels like a really bad idea.”

The Romulan officer sighed at him. Etan’s eyes narrowed as she motioned at the transporter pad. “If the contagion is infectious, as we have been led to believe, the transporter buffer gives the ship a bit of a safety net. That way, if the virus does something fascinating like reanimating dead tissue, perhaps we wouldn’t lose the whole-” The last word trailed off as Etan caught the glance of unease on science officer Stahoes’ face. “What?”

Stahoes gave an appreciative whistle. “Not that used to hearing that kind of a descriptor from our fine first officer.” Etan felt the muscle in her face tighten, but she managed to suppress a grimace at the backhanded comment.

“I was of course speaking of a worst case scenario.” The Romulan straightened her uniform very deliberately and very slightly. “We have no expectations of animated or necrotic tissue on this mission at this juncture.” Anger flashed in both her face and in her voice.

Stahoes’ tutted. “You don’t hear it do you?” He shook his head as he considered his superior officer. “You are seriously starting to sound a bit more like our oh-so-beloved captain. I guess the two of you must be getting on a bit a better than before, am I right?” He chuckled as he saw the mix of emotions on Etan’s normally stalwart face. “Here I thought that Romulans could be as cool and straight-laced as Vulcans.”

“Not all of us.” Eyes narrowed in irritation. “It is a common misconception.”

“One Romulan in particular, though.” The jovial tone was joined with a wink.

“If I may ask,” the Andorian raised both a hand and an eyebrow, “what is the expected course of events if things do not go awry? I assume you already have mission parameters beyond the argument we are currently conducting beside the transporter pad.” This comment was punctuated with a pointed glare at the mouthy science officer.

Etan steadied herself, both physically and emotionally, taking a breath before she continued.”Our core mission is much the same as it has been. Trade has been rough, so of course we are dropping supplies: farming equipment and tools. Given the frequency of piracy, and a veiled threat already delivered to the USS Thyanis, we need to be on our toes.” The Romulan motioned to the Security officers. “Beyond the supply drop, we have been authorized to assess the sickness, and to synthesize a cure if at all possible.” Etan peered at the red-uniformed security officers. “Though, we are going to resist engaging the inhabitants if at all possible.”

“Those poor locals.” Stahoes clicked his tongue thoughtfully, shaking his head with an exaggerated, disapproving frown plastered on his face. 

Eyes narrowed again. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“I just mean,” the words came out slowly, painfully as the science officer carefully enunciated each syllable, “it has to stink. If you have a romulan beaming down with the team, to help no less, who is willing to turn around the moment that trouble might decide to rear its ugly head. Besides,” the man smirked, “I highly doubt we will get much in the way of warnings before things might go sideways.” 

“Are you absolutely determined to assess this mission in the most grim terms possible?” There was more than a trace of anger in the words. “Or are you specifically doing this to specifically antagonize me?” Etan raised an eyebrow as the human opened his mouth. “I would also be remiss if I didn’t remind you that I do possess the authority to remand you to sickbay. I can take another officer. Take measure before you continue, mister Stahoes.” This caused Bentre to pause, muttering something to himself. To Etan’s relief, he chose not to press the issue, however.

“So, can I ask something before we transport down?” the Andorian engineer broke the silence, waving at the other Starfleet officers encouragingly. “Do we have any more intelligence of note on our transport site?”

“A small village, situated by a lake, inhabited primarily by Romulans. Some are locally based but more than a few are displaced civilians.” There was some pain in the first officer’s words. “Many are civilians. There are also several Orians, but again I ask we kindly not antagonize any people. This is supposed to be a mission of mercy, so stow your phasers. Try to resist any urges to engage in cowboy-esque heroics before we can properly analyze the situation.” She glared at the security officers and the science officer. “If you can help it.” 

“So,” one of the security officers spoke, “to be clear, are you sure you want us to, in your own words, ‘stow’ our phasers when we first beam down? Standing Security orders and procedures call for us to secure the site, first thing. We typically have phasers in hand when we do so. That could be a little more difficult, if you don’t mind my saying so. So I must reiterate, are you sure?”

The first officer mulled over the point. The threat to the away team was well worth consideration. The chance that a punch of pushy pirates would really dare to square up against a Starfleet vessel were statistically rather slim. There was a greater threat, she worried.

Starfleet is not a military. They were not a military unit. Even so, the USS Thyanis was not a border-security vessel. The Raven-class was a small configuration that was quite limited in its capabilities. She did not want to sow distrust from people in need. If relations turned sour, there would be limited recourse for the crew in the case of disaster.

“Mam?” Blue antennae twitched expectantly. Concerned eyes met Etan. The moment brought the romulan out of the depths of her thoughts. The situation returned to focus. “Do you want us to be ready with phasers, just in case?”

“Mister Matthews and Mister Thompson will-” Etan wrestled with her uncertainty, “they will stow their weapons just long enough for us to make initial contact. I don’t want us to spook the citizens.”

“I would advise-” Stahoes started.

“Advisement noted and logged. “Etan looked around the room as she spoke. “I feel certain that we can survive negotiations for five minutes without having to resort to holding innocent persons at gunpoint.” While she still had her doubts, this was her mission. This was her responsibility. This was her time to put her foot down. “We cannot expect everyone to accept that which is offered only under the threat of violence. It does matter if that threat of violence is real or perceived. It doesn’t change our responsibility. We will establish a medical triage tent, we will deliver supplies and if all goes as intended we will be back aboard the ship and drinking together in the mess hall within the hour.”

Stahoes was irritated. Puhr was confused. The security officers kept glancing between each other and the first officer, clearly uneasy. The transporter operator was, by contrast, unphased and waiting expectantly.

“Four to beam down to Bararius Camp, coordinates series designated Oscar Charlie 12132 Etan.”

“Let’s hope I do not regret this.” Stahoes moaned softly to himself as the transporter beam started to deconstruct the officers.


Surface of Rho Omega II  

Bararius Camp outskirts

The sensation of being transported was always a bit annoying. Bentre Stahoes possessed an extensive collection of classical, old earth music back on the ship. It was almost like having one of his ancient vinyl records skip. The vinyl was rarely played, were jealously kept, and meticulously cared for. He tried to keep them as perfect as possible. Scratches could still occur, however.

The skip in reality was similar to the vinyl records. It left him with a feeling of having missed something. As time from the point of the skip in time passed, Stahoes could not brush aside his irritation. The away team had beamed down in a clearing just outside of the settlement, as intended. They were not greeted by the thankful residents they had hoped for, or the wicked Orions that Bentre had feared.  Rather, a number of rough-looking Romulans greeted them. The disruptors held by each of them both dispelled any doubt at to their unkind intentions for the the whole of the team.

Stahoes bit his tongue. He was used to doing that. Normally, he was quite free to speak his mind. He even briefly considered some biting words thrown back at the haughty romulan first officer for such a failure of judgment.

She had been so quick to prove she was in charge, she had made a serious blunder. The words ‘I told you so’ or some variant leapt to mind to drive this point home, in case she had not yet grasped it.

“On your feet, Federations!” The Romulans pointed their weapons in an uneven spread across the away team and the moment seemed to freeze.

In the middle of this camp were a jumbled mess of prefabricated buildings. None of them were close enough to offer any sort of cover. They could not give any chance of escape. Their options were limited. There was no chance of respite. There was little chance their team would escape unscathed.

“Drop the weapons!” One of their captors jerked the barrel of his disruptor up to bear on the older security officer. Stahoes was pretty sure it was Thompson. The older man froze, slowly lowering his hand back to his side, hands well forward of his phaser.

“We don’t need any further trouble, friend.”

“As long as you do what you are told, there won’t be any trouble!” The tallest of the Romulans stepped up. “You have replicators, so it isn’t even as though some extra supplies or materials are that big of a deal to Starfleet. Am I wrong?”

Before she could apologize, before anyone else could talk, the younger security officer broke rank. He stepped backward, and before Etan could react he had his phaser in hand and was yelling something. The call to stand down was barely on the first officer’s lips. In one smooth action, two of the Romulans covering the away team turned in unison and fired.

“Thompson!” There was a terrible sadness in his voice as the older security officer dropped to his knees.

Oh, Bentre realized, so the older man was Matthews. It was odd, he reflected, how the mind tended to compartmentalize in moments of great stress. 

The Romulans returned their sweep of the room more evenly now. There were only four bodies to cover, each had at least one other Romulan at his side as support.

Two to one odds were not good odds.

“We have enough supplies for everyone.” Etan kept her tones even and her hands at her sides, but there was a quaver in her voice. “We can help you to establish seeds and in time even trade can return. You can grow beyond simple subsistence.”

“Why should we not take what we can, Federation?” One of the Romulans spoke this time, but he lacked the edge of the others. “That is what the others do. That is what the criminals do to us. They take what they want. They extort what they have not earned. Why should we struggle to produce while others like the Orians and our fellow romulans alike steal from us? Our own sick people grow sicker as your people stand by twiddling your thumbs. They suffer from neglect, from abuse, from a lack of nutrition while others steal food from our children’s plates.”

Stahoes considered his own phaser, if but for a moment. He considered every angle. He briefly considered leaving the situation in Etan’s hands, but his own curiosity and concern were growing. “Did this start before, or after the theft started to ravage your settlement?”

The Romulan frowned. “Before, it seemed to be but a transitory illness. It was limited in scope, but in time people grew restless. As the illness grew in scope, the people became listless and the production of food reduced to almost half its former yield. Crops were left to rot in the field, as a malaise gripped our families and neighbors. It got worse though, as the pirates came down like parasites. One of your ships had dropped by to check on us, to drop off supplies. Your officers promised succor but inadvertently you delivered only further suffering.”

“Wait,” Puhr tilted her head as she broke her silence, “how many Orion are on this planet? More specifically, how many pirates are accosting you?”

“A dozen or so,” he moaned, “but it doesn’t matter. They have the advantage. They have our children. With that, they have our future. If we resist, they have promised nothing good will come of our kin. They have the advantage.”

“Where?” Etan chopped the air dramatically.

“Several kilometers north, there is a camp.” 

“How does holding us help you? Etan locked eyes. “How do you expect us to fix the situation? Or do you hope to take your own advantage?”

“The Orions are the ones that you should ask if you want to fix things.” His tone was sorrowful. “I just want my kids back. What would you do? If they detect your landing, or if they see your people leaving orbit without challenge, my kids are as good as dead. I want to hold my sons and my daughter again. If your life is the cost asked of me, I am willing.” The Romulan father’s eyes were filled with a mix of fear, of disgust, and even of pity for the Starfleet officers. “I must protect my kids.”

Etan looked back at her fellow romulan with a bit of pity. “We just cannot.” There was a wetness in her eyes she had not felt before. “Even without the Prime Directive being at issue in this situation, we are not encouraged to interfere in local politics. We are not a military. We don’t have a means of rooting out the Orion without risking casualties to one group or many of those involved. We are not a ship of war. Starfleet is not a military.”

Another of the Romulan captors laughed aloud at this. It was a cold, bitter bark of a laugh. “I have heard stories, Federation. I have heard of Wolf 359.” he jabbed a finger in the first officer’s direction. “I have heard of the Dominion War.”

“Those were conflict of,” she paused, “unpleasant necessity.” Etan did not break the intense gaze. “As for our ship? We are a science vessel. We have labs. We can help to cure illness, but we cannot drive away your Orion. We cannot disable them without bigger guns. It isn’t like we can just flash down with the transporter. We do not have coordinates. We do not have-”

“Sir?” Puhr’s antennae were twitching again. “Wait, why can’t we flash them, then?” Andorian eyes flashed. “If we charge our deflector dish with flashes of gamma radiation at a regular rate, we can create a feedback loop that will trace along the hull. If we focus a flash, a burst, from our scanners aimed at the Orion camp, we might be able to cause enough bioneural feedback to create a perception cascade severe enough to render the whole camp of Orion unconscious!”

“Would that work?” Stahoes looked between the engineering and tactical officers. “Would that put the children at risk?”

“I wouldn’t be on board to supervise the operation. We would be giving orders over the commlink, so we don’t raise the suspicions of the camp. There is still a more than zero chance the children could come to harm. They should be able to make a full recovery, I think.”

“There is still a risk.” The Romulan father shook his head.

“No more, I would estimate,” Stahoes leaned forward, “than resetting a computer terminal. The chances of damage are minimal. Once the Orion are disabled, you should be able to rush in, to liberate your offspring and ensure their safety.”

“If,” Etan waved a hand between the human and Romulan glaring at one another. “If it soothes you any more, we will remain on the surface for several days. We will ensure that we are able to give your people the care they need. We will do our best to treat any side effects. We will do our best to minimize casualties.”

“That is still not a real guarantee our kids will be unharmed.”

“Well, the trouble is,” Kika Puhr stared out into the trees, “our commanding officer is not as cool-headed about these kinds of things.” The Andorian motioned at Etan. “She is willing to give you a chance to explain yourself, but our captain can be less discerning. Or he would bring down a less discerning security team to discover what became of us and might liberate us without a chance to explain your plight.” Stahoes saw Puhr grimace. “He is more concerned with solving problems, I fear, than alternative solutions. Children could be caught in the crossfire.”

“Really? You try to sway us with a threat?”

Etan grew so quiet that Stahoes had a problem hearing her. “It is not a threat. He can just be that hard to predict. She is giving you a fair warning. No threat is intended, and no deception is intended. If anything, I think she is trying to force my hand.”


USS Thyanis  

Captain’s Quarters  

Stardate 77731.4839  

“So, what do you expect me to report to Starfleet Command?” The fury in Kurios’ voice was at a fever pitch. “You mobilized the locals, gave them orbital support that could end up blowing up in their face and burnt three days of our schedule seeing through an unauthorized guerilla operation. The cre to their retrovirus only took a few hours to resolve. Not even two hours to research. Another to synthesize. Another two hours to distribute.”“We also provided vitamin shots. These pirates had been weakening the populace through attrition. We could not just stand by once we knew what was happening!”

Kurios laughed mockingly. “You still do not understand, first officer! You don’t stand by. You report to me. You tell us the situation. We coordinate with the brass. We get support from Starfleet if necessary. Or we get told to mind our own business. If we create too much trouble, then the brass will recall us, and your beloved locals don’t get their help. What if the Orion had gotten backup while you were mucking about?”“That was a measured risk, sir.”

“So why didn’t you follow the chain of command?”

“Because. It was the right thing to do. There were civilians at risk. I did what I felt was right. I followed my gut.”

Kurios stared at the PADD in his hands. He fiddled with the device, mulling over the events. He was very quiet for a long time.

“I will see what I can do.” The Trill nodded. “I’ll figure out something to tell Command.” He drew a deep breath. “Some people at the top probably don’t care for me much anyhow. I will just take the heat.”

“Sir?”

“You have a good instinct. You can’t let it be strung up so long by procedure, though. Not when lives are at stake. I know it isn’t by the book but-” Kurios trailed off as he shuffled uncomfortably. Silence passed a few moments as he punched some notes into the PADD in his hands. “For now, you are dismissed. We will discuss how to resolve the lost time in our schedule bright and early at 0530. In the meantime, you are dismissed to go and grab some rest.” He poked at the PADD’s surface as he grimaced. “I remember my first away mission. I didn’t sleep right for a week, and you will be useless on the bridge tomorrow if you don’t take care of yourself.”

D’mhiri Etan looked hard across the desk at her captain. She was surprised. She had expected to be dressed down, told that she was an idiot and subjected to other disgraces. If her captain had felt particularly grumpy, it might have even been conducted on the bridge. At least, that had been her expectation given the irreverent and bombastic way that he conducted himself. She had expected reprimand, but instead had found him being almost charitable.

It felt unreal.

“Hey, hey,” Kurios was waving his hand in the air, “you can go stare out into space on your own time! I have to do some work on the upcoming transfer. Get out of here already! You are relieved, until 0640, remember? Damn it, I will make it an order if I need to.”Etan walked out the captain’s quarters with muttered apologies. She was halfway back to her quarters, still mulling over the events of the day. Something else kept tickling the back of her mind, before it finally resolved. She stared back in the direction of Kurios’ quarters. What did he mean ‘transfer orders’?