Part of USS Mackenzie: Mission 2: Wayward Sons and Bravo Fleet: Blood Dilithium

22 – Hunting

USS Mackenzie / Markonian Outpost
11.3.2400 @ 0700
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“Materials aren’t going to be hard to find; it’s getting them that’s going to be the challenge.”  Okada stood at the docking bay of the Mackenzie, her captain standing beside her as the port interlocked.  Cardamon stood behind them, his eyes quiet and his hands at his sides.  He wondered how these Federations managed to keep going with the loss and violence that seemed to surround them.

He shook his worries loose for the moment, “I may be able to assist in this.”  They turned to him as the dock locked in place, and the door groaned open, creaking as it went.  “I have some supplies in my shop.  I can also work to…what is your word…mediate with suppliers to get what you need.”

Ambrose regarded the Voth, “You sure?  When we left, you didn’t seem like you wanted to come back to work here.”

Cardamon looked at each of them as he spoke, “You are correct, Captain.  This is a place I don’t wish to return to – it is an empty shell of a home.  A wasteland.”  He let out a small sigh which sounded more like a hiss, “But you have proven your friendship to me in these last few days.  You must prove your worth to be considered a friend…or even family among the Voth.  It is a process.  Outsiders are rarely welcome or accepted.”  He gestured to the two of them, “You’ve shown me a different way since I came aboard.  It is a custom to repay. Consider my efforts a repayment.”

Okada deferred to the CO, and Harris gave him a bow, “Thank you, Cardamon.”  The Voth returned the bow and shuffled off onto the outpost.  To his XO, he shrugged, “We’ve still got some work to do.  I’ll make my report to the command team here.  See what you can find to help us.”  She nodded and was off.

Ambrose gripped the PADD as he made his way to the new Starfleet Operational office on the outpost.  It was still under construction but was looking better than it had when they’d been here two days ago.  He asked around and was directed to the command office.  He tapped the door chime and stood back, waiting for an answer.

The holo display cast a pale blue haze, accentuating the deep furrows in Mek’s brow. All Starfleet assets in the Delta Quadrant dotted the mesh of sectors, each represented by a shining arrowhead. Mek’s focus narrowed on one, “Still no word from the Ulysses…” he grumbled to himself. 

The door chime shook him from these thoughts, “Were we expecting anyone?” he turned to Kohl, who had been equally engrossed in operational developments. 

Andreus Kohl had his chin to his chest, scrolling quickly through a report on his PADD.  Kohl shook his head and he had to frown at the idea of a surprise visitor; such things were never welcome in the Delta Quadrant.  He swiped up the report one more time until he got to the sign off.

Without looking up from his PADD, Kohl said, “Honestly, I’m waiting for a certain lieutenant to scream at me that we haven’t secured enough blood dilithium for her to study.”  Then Kohl looked up at blinked at the holographic map.  “The USS Mackenzie is freshly docked, though.  Safe bet.”

“That Arcadian Lieutenant from the Sarek? She does seem quite abrasive. Promising research, though,” Mek had been extremely interested in the ship’s research on potential communication with the Blood Dilithium.  

Harris stepped into the office and found himself staring at two captains.  One was Erill’Yun Mek, and the other was Andreus Kohl.  The former was the commanding officer of Task Force 17, and the latter was the executive officer of the said task force.  He attempted to control his nerves.  “Captains, I have the latest from the Mackenzie.”  He stepped forward and set the PADD on the desk, unsure of who to hand it to first.

“Captain Harris,” Mek approached with hand extended, “Quite the journey you’ve been on. The intel you’ve given us on Devore movements has been invaluable. I trust the damage to the Mackenzie is nothing the Outpost can’t fix?”

Ambrose met the captain’s hand in a firm handshake, “I don’t think they’re going to let the Mackenzie back into Devore space anytime soon, sir.  As for our damage, my chief engineer is working on that angle at the moment.  We’ve got some help in that department.  He was a storekeeper on this station for quite some time until he volunteered to help guide us when we arrived.  A Voth named Cardamon.”

Kohl offered Ambrose a nod and his gaze drifted into the middle distance.  “You’ll benefit from any local knowledge Cardamon has to offer,” Kohl said.  “Just be sure to share the wealth, captain.”

“Yes,” Mek’s eyes wrinkled at the corners, “Rare to find someone so forthcoming in this neck of the woods. Although of all the places in the Delta Quadrant one could go looking, this Outpost is certainly not the worst.”

Harris nodded, “We got lucky, sirs.”  He paused and thought about how best to ask his question.  He decided straightforward was the order of the day.  “I…need…some advice.”  He went on to briefly detail what the Devore had done with the Harris Transport telepaths and the older of the Harris cousins – selling them to the Hirogen as hunting targets.  “Given our reception from the Devore…I expect the Hirogen will be far less accommodating in every way possible.”  He looked to both of them, “Do we attempt diplomacy, or do we go straight to blunt force trauma?”

As Harris proposed his options, Kohl visibly winced at the first option and winced harder at the second.  He looked to Mek deferentially.  “I never quite made it to the Delta Quadrant before this mission,” Kohl remarked, “but I don’t believe the Hirogen have a word for diplomacy.”

“The Hirogen have always been… Problematic,” Mek frowned, “Like so many things here, it’s best to stay out of their way. Unfortunately, it seems, Captain Harris, that your paths must cross. All I can say is make sure you’ve got something good to offer them,” he thought about expanding on this; of detailing the Hirogen’s relentless pursuit of Voyager and their eventual alliance against the Borg, but of that he was sure Harris was already aware. 

Ambrose contemplated Captain Mek’s answer.  “I’ll see what we can find to offer them.  Diplomacy out here, like everything else, means an unorthodox approach.”  He gave each man a nod, “We’ll get to work.”

Kohl inclined his head to the left.  “The Hirogen never sympathize with their prey.  It may not be diplomacy so much as corralling them in the path of larger prey.  …Maybe the Borg or a subspace rift that growls.”

“Could never accuse them of not being ready for a challenge,” Mek mused, “Whatever your path, Captain Harris, good luck to you and the crew of the Mackenzie.” 

Harris walked out the door, his mind spinning in every direction.  They needed to offer the Hirogen something.

“That ship’s probably done more Delta Quadrant lightyears by now than half the fleet combined,” Mek muttered to Kohl, “What a chase.”