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Part of USS Hathaway: Episode 9: Blood Dilithium Part 1 (The Great Escape) and Bravo Fleet: Blood Dilithium

CH6: The Game’s Afoot

Various
Stardate 240011.20, 1733 Hours
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The passing of time was a phenomenon even the best and brightest struggled to understand. Measured in standard units, time is supposed to pass equally and without question, but every now and then, it feels like time passes far quicker, or indeed far slower than it should. In the past few days, time had passed inexplicably slowly and ridiculously quickly in equal measure for the ship’s engineer. When locked down like the rest of her compatriots, time passed by slower than a Solarian slug in a race with its shelled Earth comrade. But in the hour she was afforded out of her quarters every day, time passed quicker than the total eradication of a star during the collapse of a supernova. But at least she was allowed out to play for an hour every day. She’d seen no one from her department, from her division, or from anywhere across the ship since the first lockdown. The only company she’d had had been the Devore guards who escorted the Bajassian from her quarters to engineering and back again at sixteen-hundred every day, without fail.

For that hour, Lieutenant Prida Rala allowed herself to forget all that had transpired aboard ship and focused on her work. Whilst the rest of the ship remained under the self-imposed command lockout, engineering had been somewhat spared in order to allow the engineer to conduct routine maintenance and ensure the ship remained functional for her prisoners; it was her job to make sure they still had a ship to emerge to once the lockdown was over.

Standing over the pool table in the centre of engineering’s maintenance bay, the dark-haired, grey-skinned woman let out a huff of frustration. There was literally nothing for her to do; their well-oiled ships systems were functioning within normal parameters. That meant her time out from exile would be brought to a premature end unless…

What was this? A small blinking light in the corner of her display indicated an issue that needed exploring. Dancing her fingers across the display, a quick glance to ensure her guards were as inept as usual and not monitoring her movements, the Lieutenant pulled up a new screen.

‘A message?’ She said inwardly, leaning a little closer as she opened the wall of text. To her surprise, it looked to be from the XO. A brief smile singled her thanks that at least someone was still alive and kicking out there. She read on.

‘Prida…’ the message began, ‘No time for pleasantries. We know you are maintaining ship’s systems. Your Captain and I are asking you to put your life at risk for the safety of this crew, and we know you will not hesitate. Embedded in this message are a set of orders for yourself, and Lieutenant Mora. You must devise a way to get him to you in engineering and show him this message. Help us, Prida. You’re our only hope…’

She didn’t need any more convincing; when one’s Captain and her executive officer came calling, one listened. Tapping at her display, the quick thinking Bajassian set her own plan in motion. A series of audible alerts began to ring out, drawing the concern of the Devore guards.

“We’ve got a problem with the warp intermix chamber,” she warned them, “and I need help to stabilise it. I need my assistant, Lieutenant Mora.”

At first, the guards looked at her sceptically, until her angry face suggested she was far from joking. “Get me Lieutenant Mora or you, me and this entire ship will explode in less than ten minutes!”

Looking at each other, the two guards argued for a second before one begrudgingly sloped off in search of Lieutenant Mora.

When he returned, dragging a reluctant, dishevelled looking Bolian behind him, Prida began an award-winning acting routine. “Oh, Lieutenant! Thank the gods you are here! If you don’t help me, the core is going to breach in just over five minutes!”

Okay, perhaps it wouldn’t win any major acting awards at any major recognition ceremony, but it was enough to get the Bolian’s attention.

“What the hell happened?!” Moving quickly over to the display opposite his counterpart, the Bolian began tapping away. Soon enough, he was reading over the very message that had been transmitted to Prida by the ship’s Tellarite XO, and the pair were working in tandem to make a mockery of their Devore captors.

The plan was pretty simple. Prida would simulate a core breach, causing panic among the Devore. During the ruse, Linn would gain access to the environmental systems and pre-load a program to release a modified form of anesthizine gas across the ship. It would render the Devore unconscious and would allow them to release the crew and retake the ship. If it worked. But they were short on time if they were going to implement the plan before the ship ‘exploded’.

“Attempting to balance the ratios…” he declared loudly, to give the appearance he was still working on the core, when in actuality, he was accessing the environmental systems as planned.

“It’s not working… it’s not working!” Prida exclaimed, tapping furiously at her console, making the situation look far worse with the production of some well-placed steam ‘explosions’ from around the core area.

“Wait… wait…” the Bolian declared as he worked, pulling out his tricorder and scanning the core. Or, that’s how it looked anyway. In reality, he was scanning the nearby Devore soldier and ascertaining parts of his genome that would allow the engineer to modify the anesthizine and target it specifically at the Devore aboard the ship. “I think I might have an idea…”

Returning to the pool table, Linn placed the open tricorder on the console and downloaded his scan data so he could make the necessary adjustments, all the while working with Prida on her ruse. This. This right here was what would earn them their acting nod. “Accessing intermix lockout… rebalancing quantum ratios…”

Quantum ratios? Intermix lockout? ‘What a crock of…’ Prida’s thoughts trailed off as she reminded herself to play along with his utter nonsense. “It’s working!” She exclaimed, clapping her hands and jumping up and down with glee. “The core is stabilising!”

And with a final flourish of hand movements on the display before them, the plan was in motion. Anesthizine gas had been successfully modified to target the Devore personnel on the ship, and Prida had sent a short acknowledgement to Commander Gor.

’Vaakh khuuz!’

Their plan would be put in motion less than two hours from now, providing their ruse was successful and no one rumbled anything they had done.

Prida walked around the display and stood beside her Bolian counterpart, giving him a slap on the back in acknowledgement of his efforts. “Thank you so much for your help, Lieutenant,” she smiled, then turned towards the guards. “You can take my assistant back to his quarters now,” she informed them.

‘Assistant?!’ Linn’s expression threatened to give them away for a second, but his words rectified the situation. “Thank you for your support, my gracious leader,” he spoke mockingly, bowing to the Bajassian and throwing her a mock salute.

With a little over twenty minutes remaining on her time in engineering, the youngster spent her time ensuring that every trace of their plan had been covered up. No one could find so much as a hint of their operation or everything, everyone would be put in jeopardy. A silent, hidden countdown was put in place, with nineteen hundred being the big kick off. All she needed now was to be ready.


To say that Inspector Kravik was angry was the understatement of a lifetime. Considering it had been days since the Ulysses had arrived in orbit of Haess IV under his command, his engineering teams had gotten nowhere with cracking the codes required to get access to the ship’s systems. Even in the days since his first conversation with the Captain, they’d gotten nowhere. Even the good faith gesture of allowing her engineers to maintain the key systems from engineering had failed to get him any closer to his goal. It was now time to play dirty.

Standing at the heart of the bridge, Kravik silently contemplated what was to come. There were but two options for the Captain and her crew, and he’d lay them out as clear as possible for her. In truth, he respected the Andorian’s refusal to give in, to negotiate. But he’d see how well her resolve would withstand the news of the torture of one of her subordinates.

When the doors to the starboard turbolift opened, light flooded the dimly lit command center until the occupants vacated and allowed the lift to seal itself behind them. Accompanied by two guards, the Andorian was dressed far more formally than before. In her complete uniform, she looked every inch the commanding officer, and didn’t resemble a prisoner in any way. If she was going to go down, as she suspected she might, then she would go down as a proud Starfleet officer.

She wasn’t given much time to think, however, as a rifle butt to the small of her back caused her to jerk in pain and stumble down the ramp towards her command chair, where Kravik was waiting.

“No longer content with mocking me in my ready room, you have to bring me to the bridge?” she scolded the man as she straightened up and stood before him, tired and frustrated.

“I’m not interested in mocking you, Captain,” the Inspector turned his head to face his Andorian nemesis, “instead, I want to share some knowledge with you. Please,” he then stood aside and gestured to the command chair.

Tharia regarded him closely, wondering what he could possibly gain by allowing her to sit in her own chair once again. Was it a power play? Was he relenting and about to return command to her? She would find out, and from the safety of her seat once again.

Once she lowered herself onto the comfortable fabric, the Andorian let out a smile. “Awww, you kept it warm just like I asked,” she smirked, a reference to their earlier conversation.

“Quite,” the Inspector remarked sharply, before turning his body fully to face her. “I won’t, what’s the Earth saying? ‘Beat around the bush?’ Captain. We have four of your officers being held prisoner on the surface. Three are alive and well,” he trailed off for a second, a shrug of his shoulders showing the indifference he felt, “the fourth is far from well.”

Inside, the Captain was flooded with emotion. Was what he said true? Had one of her away team come to harm on a mission she had planned and implemented, against the better judgement of her senior most officers? On the surface though, she remained stoic and calm; she could not give the game away.

“My officers know that risk is a part of life in Starfleet. They are prepared to give their lives in the pursuit of our peaceful ideals,” she warned him as honestly as she could.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, Captain!” the man pleaded, his gestures more erratic, his voice an octave or two higher. “No one else has to get hurt! All you have to do is unlock your ship’s controls, and you and your crew will be returned to the Markonian Outpost,” he reminded her, again in reference to the offer she had been presented with two days prior.

“Yes,” the Andorian nodded, “but not those four innocent officers on the surface of the planet. Officers whose only crime is being slaves to their biology,” she sat forward, a little more animated in her speech herself now. “Can you honestly tell me you would sacrifice four of your crew in such a deal?”

“If it meant saving the lives of nearly two thousand people, yes!” Kravik nodded, perhaps a bit too quickly to be convincing.

“The needs of the many…” Tharia whispered.

“Sorry?”

Tharia rubbed her temples a little before surreptitiously glancing up at the chronometer above the viewscreen. Eighteen fifty-five. She had time to elaborate. “Where I come from, a telepathic species known as Vulcan’s have a saying; the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. In their eyes, I would be considered illogical to put my crew at risk for the sake of four officers,” she told him, quite truthfully of course. But her next words caught him off guard somewhat. “Perhaps they are right,” she smiled, using the arms of her chair to push herself back to her feet.

With a sigh, she nodded. “Alright Kravik. We’ll try it your way,” she smiled, her hands clasped together behind her back as she looked at the man beside her. “I’ll release the lockout, and you’ll transfer my crew and I back to the Markonian Outpost,” she spoke again, for confirmation from the man, and in order to kill time. Four minutes.

“I’m gratified you have seen sense, Captain,” Kravik smiled sickeningly at the woman, “but there’s one more thing I want to show you before you do this,” and with that, the Inspector stood aside and nodded to one of the guards on the aft wall.

Confused, the Captain looked around to see an armed guard emerging from the port turbolift, but he was not alone. Dragged along behind him, Tharia was furious to see a battered and bruised Prida. Bleeding profusely from a wound above her left eye, the Bajassian looked terrible. Inside, Tharia was seething, but on the surface she had to remain calm, for the sake of their plan.

“Did you really think we wouldn’t find out about your plan?” the Inspector tutted loudly as he shook his head in disapproval. “Simulating a warp core breach so that we’d what? Surrender the ship? Flee and leave you to regain control?” he shook his head again. “Give us some credit, Captain. We’re not as stupid as you think,” the Inspector frowned, waving for the guard to bring the youngster closer.

Dragging the near lifeless black-haired woman down the ramp, the guard silently dumped Prida at the feet of her Captain.

“Now, I’ve been patient, Captain, but my patience has limits,” Kravik sighed, pulling a phase pistol from his belt. “Unlock the ship, or I’ll kill your engineer,” pointing the weapon at the back of the engineers head, the Inspector glared at the Andorian.

Tharia looked down at the prone engineer, her friend, and felt sorry for her pain, all because of a plan she had requested of her, but it seemed at least that the man didn’t know as much as he thought he did. “Alright, I’ll do it,” she agreed, stepping over to the ops station at the front of the bridge. A glance at the chronometer revealed there was less than a minute remaining.

Before she reached ops, the Andorian stopped and looked back at Kravik. “Before I do this, there is something I think you should know, Inspector,” she smiled, drawing the mans ire.

“What is that exactly?!” the Inspector queried, frustrated at the woman’s stalling tactics. But as he looked at her, he could suddenly feel a tightness in his chest. Around him, his guards began coughing and spluttering, clutching their chests just as he did. Then he saw it. From a vent high up on the bulkhead, a barely visible gaseous substance was flooding the bridge.

Trying to aim the pistol in the direction of the Andorian, Kravik was taken by surprise when Prida suddenly rose to her feet and grabbed his arm, snapping it down over her shoulder, causing him to drop the weapon, and drop to the floor with a thud, struggling to breathe.

Watching as the balding man faded into unconsciousness, Tharia took a step closer and towered over him. Looking down at him, her hands on her hips, she shook her head in mock disbelief. “I always get what I want,” she reminded him, even though he was now, quite clearly, unconscious.

She then looked at her struggling colleague and reached out to help the bruised engineer to her feet. “Are you okay Lieutenant?” she asked of Prida.

“Never better Captain,” Prida lied, wincing through the pain barrier. “I’m glad the plan worked,” the grey-skinned, ridge-nosed woman grinned, looking around at the collapsed Devore soldiers all around the bridge.

“Well, the first part has,” the Captain grinned, “but how about we retake the rest of the ship?”

Across the mighty Ulysses, deck by deck, confinement fields began to lower and weary looking officers emerged from their quarters, anxiously looking around for signs of their captors. Depending on location, some saw absolutely nothing, which made them more nervous, but others saw a sight that made them smile; Devore soldiers slumped to the floor and unconscious.

Consoles, computer screens, data PADDs, even chronometers changed their displays to show the updated status of the ship, that the command lockout had been lifted at last, which could mean only one thing – the bridge was again under Starfleet control.

Within minutes, the turbo lifts to the bridge opened, spewing a seemingly never ending stream of officers into the command center, led by a surprisingly chirpy looking Tellarite. Pleasantries were exchanged for a few moments after days of not seeing each other, with many checking on the welfare of their Chief Engineer after the beating she had taken at the hands of their captors.

“Prisoners,” Tharia corrected the crew. “The Devore are now our prisoners. Commander Noli, have your teams scour the ship and confine any Devore soldiers to the brig,” the Andorian instructed, a nod from the Bajoran at tactical confirmation of orders clearly received.

Several of the security team that had accompanied the senior staff to the bridge began rounding up the unconscious Devore warriors and tagging them for transport to the brig.

“We need to keep up the illusion for now,” Gor reminded the rest of the team on the bridge, “so lighting to a minimum, no sudden ship movements or system activations until we know we are ready to proceed on the planet,” he told in his usual gruff tone.

“Linn, make sure your transporter teams are standing by for mass evacuations. I want every single captive off that planet as quickly as possible,” the Captain instructed, still standing behind the ops station. “We’ll house our guests in the guest and VIP quarters, with overspill into the cargo and shuttle bays – Akaria, get together any spare personnel and civilians you can round up and see to it,” Tharia was on a roll now, slipping back into command with ease after several days away from her role as mistress of the ship.

“On it Captain,” Akaria nodded swiftly, before vacating the bridge.

“Henry…”

Before the Captain could give her orders to the Flyboy, he had already anticipated them. “Already on it, Captain. I’m calculating the quickest route back to the Outpost using the LCARS database. As soon as we activate sensors, I’ll begin searching for the nearest Starfleet support,” the young Terran smiled upon receiving a nod of acknowledgement from the Andorian.

Her crew knew what they were doing. It was her turn to trust them to get it done now. Returning to the safety of her chair, with her XO beside her for the first time in days, the Andorian finally felt a great sense of relief.

Plan B was underway from their perspective, but it was time to help the Away Team with their task down on the planet.

Comments

  • Interrupted monologues are best monologues, especially from badguys. No one has time for that nonsense. I was wondering when the repurposing of the life-support system would come into play and here it is! Love the engineers using complete and utter nonsense to confuse the Devore. After all, what would soldiers know? What would a Devore engineer know for that matter? It's not like it's their ship. Now the prison break starts and I'm interested to see how it plays out in light of my own story. No doubt an interesting read coming up and looking forward to it.

    November 13, 2022
  • Ah damn it, the ship didn't go boom! haha! I enjoyed how the crew deceived the Devore in thinking they tried to blow up the warp core while also setting up a Plan B (is that what Plan B is?) in motion. Tharia reminding her captor that she always gets back what she owns was a lovely nod to the previous remark she shared. She's certainly someone who gets what she wants and knows how to play it hard with her enemies. The retaking of the Ulysses reminds me of that TNG episode where Picard, Ro, Guinan and Keiko become kids and come up with a great plan to retake back the Enterprise-D from the Ferengi. Now on to the prison break, I presume?

    November 13, 2022
  • A wildcard of a deception, I love it! To use the deception of the warpcore breach to get to the main commander to take him out is a well thought out Plan B. The Devore never saw it coming and at the same time, how long will they stay safe in this given situation? Tharia keeps calm, even thought her crew was getting used as punch bags, a seasons Captain is seen in this post! Great read!

    November 14, 2022
  • Victory is life! Tharia and crew have rightfully taken back the Ulysses for themselves and it's oh so satisfying to read the Devore getting what's coming to them. There's even a CHIRPY Tellarite -- I never thought I'd see the day. Of course, they still have a much larger obstacle to overcome with an entire prison break to pull off. I was particularly drawn to your line about how Tharia's plan was against the better judgment of most of her senior officers. How might they look at her differently after this mission?

    November 17, 2022
  • Very happy I’m now up to speed with the Ulysses goings on, and what a ride it’s been so far! Love that the ship is safely back in the right hands, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion rescuing those still held captive on the planet is not going to go as smoothly. Some wonderfully cathartic moments there as ‘Plan B’ sprung into action. I particularly enjoyed Mora and Prida’s warp core pantomime; something that gave a great big wink to the reader while simultaneously being very ‘Starfleet’. Seeing the Ulysses crew run rings around the oaf-like Devore made for a very satisfying read.

    November 20, 2022