“Who are those people?” the dark ruddy-skinned woman whom Jenu Trid was unlucky enough to share a cell with asked. When the call for all prisoners to return to their cells warbled through the depot, most prisoners simply went to the cells, laid on the bunks and waited for whatever drill or surprise visit to be over. But there was always a handful who practically glued themselves to the transparent doors to watch whatever the guards were doing in the cell block and Trid had found herself cursed by the Prophets and Pah-wraiths together to have been bunked up with Mel’keck Trell.
“Probably just some visiting commissar wanting to make themselves feel more important,” Trid found herself saying lazily, eyes closed and trying in vain to take a nap to wait out the lockdown.
“Never seen a green-skinned Devore though. Do Devore even come in green skin?” Mel’keck’s story, which she’d relayed to Trid in astonishing detail had hinted that her people had never even heard of the Devore Imperium.
The ship Mel’keck had been on nearly a year ago had been a small long-range explorer intent to study a pulsar nearby. Her people were in a reasonably tight mutually beneficial alliance with a handful of other species, like an early Federation, and it had been one of the crew of forty that had caused the Devore to impound their ship and imprison the entire crew. She doubted her nation had even heard from the Devore about their imprisonment, so any follow-up crews would have been just as unwitting as they had been.
Which is to say that Mel’keck’s sum knowledge about the Devore could fit on a single piece of paper, in large font, double-spaced, and still leave room for a drawing of a jackbooted thug stepping on the common folk of the Delta Quadrant.
Trid on the other hand knew a bit more, having read what information she’d been able to get publicly back home before the Martian Thorn had come through to the Delta Quadrant, as well as what SI had been able to provide her in a quick briefing at SB38 when the Thorn had stopped in. And she knew, at least to Starfleet’s limited exposure at the time, that the Devore were fascist, xenophobic and prone to excessive speciesism.
And decidedly not green-skinned.
All pretence of her nap was forgotten as she sat up, briefly sighed when she couldn’t see past Mel’keck, who was doing her best to turn a transparent door into an opaque door, then got to her feet to step up beside her cellmate and look across at the visitors that had inspired the first question. Right on the other side of the cellblock’s atrium, outside the cell she knew that Gaeda and Matt had been bunked together in, were two of the most unexpected and wholly welcome individuals she’d ever laid eyes on.
“That Mel’keck is our ticket out of here,” she found herself saying with a grin as Gaeda waved in her direction, a Klingon disruptor now in hand, his lower face covered in some sort of transparent rebreather mask.
“Oh, friends of yours then, from this United Federation of Planets of yours?”
“More like my boss and loyal minion.”
“Your boss is very big,” Mel’keck said as she looked at Orin.
“He’s the loyal minion. She’s the boss.” She saw Sidda step aside, to let Gaeda and Matt pass, Orin too, to free her and Telin, wherever he was, and only then did she notice that Sidda wasn’t wearing a mask. That triggered the Intel officer in her, that need to know what was the different variables at play. “Did you see them when they came in?”
“Been here the whole time,” Mel’keck replied.
“Was she wearing a mask when she came in?”
“No,” came Mel’keck’s reply. “But she used what looked like a medicinal injector just before I spoke. She looked exhausted but looks much better now.”
“Stimulants?” Trid asked herself out loud, barely a whisper though. Any follow up however was interrupted by Gaeda and Matt arriving just outside, both men smiling like crazy. There was no need to ask to be let out, or any other cliched question, she just waited as they tried a few combos on the cell door’s control panel before the door opened.
Both she and Mel’keck were given a rebreather mask in quick order. “Put these on unless you want either killer headaches or anger management issues,” Gaeda said with a smirk. “And no, I’m not joking.”
The mask was a standard Federation model, widely used in civil and Starfleet uses. Remove the film on the adhesive around the edges, apply it to the face, and massage to ensure the outer edges all make contact with the skin and adhere properly. Only once the mask detected a good seal would the little indicator light change colour for observers, the wearer notified with a happy little cheerful ‘bleep’. No doubt a sound decided upon by a committee after years of sampling, consultation, focus groups and whatnot. But all things Trid was familiar with and did without thought. Mel’keck on the other hand was taking instruction from Gaeda after he had insisted she wear the mask or he would be forced to lock her back in the cell.
“Please tell me we’re not going to have to wear these when we get back to the ship?” she asked Matt once she was happy with the fitment, leaving Gaeda to help Mel’keck with her mask.
“Sidda says the masks are better than us dosing up on oripromazine every ten minutes,” Matt answered with a shrug to cut off the follow-up query. “I know, I know, oripromazine is usually good for a few days at a time. Guess we’ll get the full story when we get to the Rose.”
“If we need masks or oripromazine, Orin too, then that means Sidda isn’t taking pheromone suppressants,” she said, thinking more out loud than anything. Her train of thought however was again derailed with Matt passed her a hand phaser that looked like Dominion War vintage. And knowing the Vondem Rose’s eclectic armoury, likely was as well. But everything worked and worked well thanks to Orin’s insistence on damn good armoury techs.
She didn’t even think about the handful of steps she took when the weapon was put in her hands. Confirm the powerpack was present, check the setting, charge level and quick function test to ensure the frequency hopping function was working. All part of her training, part of Matt’s and Gaeda’s as well, so no one even questioned it.
By now Mel’keck was masked up. There was no need for introductions, months here had eliminated that need. And could be done while walking and talking with Sidda and Orin. Soon enough Orin was with them, Telin looking like his disreputable and ill-tempered shadow. “Right then,” Gaeda spoke up, “shall we go see what mayhem the captain intends for us to commit today?”
“Only if I get to crack some skulls in,” Telin grumbled.
“I hear that,” Gaeda said, offering a nod to Telin, then spun on his prison-issued heel and led them back across the atrium walkway to Sidda.
“Welcome to the Osterman Environmental Control Facility,” Deidrick announced as the rescue party arrived at what had been his objective for the plan. He had been waiting for them to arrive by the door, a solid lower arm grasp for both Gaeda and Matt, a hug for Trid and a momentary standoff with Telin which resolved in both men offering a grin to each other before a handshake that could threaten to break steel. There were others of the Martian Thorn crew to rescue, but Sidda had insisted on Gaeda and the fact the Thorn’s senior staff was in one cellblock was a bonus.
His plan for seizing the environmental control facility had been perhaps more overly complex than it needed to be, but he needed the Devore defenders to not know what he was truly after until he had it in his hands and more importantly before they could lock him out. After all, he had hoped that they wouldn’t consider it a critical defensive position. After all, who really needs environmental controls in a planetside facility when you could just crack a window open for fresh air if you really needed to?
What the Devore however didn’t know could and certainly would hurt them shortly. Well, it would entice them to hurt themselves. Oh, to be a fly on the wall inside the admin building in an hour or so.
There was never a possibility of a direct assault on the compound, not with the Devore having more people on the ground than the Rose had in total. Sure, they could have cracked the admin building open like an egg with the Rose’s weapons, but they could have damaged the prison with unintended consequences. They needed to get inside and disable the transport inhibitors without demolishing the building first.
And that’s where this entire crazy plan had come into play.
“We naming what we take now are we?” Gaeda quipped as he walked into the cramped environmental mechanical room. There was no fancy control set-up, that was elsewhere. What was here was a variety of readouts and control interfaces spread throughout the pieces of gear they matched. This was a proper working space.
“Where?” was the single-word question that Sidda asked of Deidrick as she stepped in, Orin looming behind her. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days and he could see anger in her eyes, but it was muted with exhaustion. So, he pointed her down one of the walkways and watched her leave before turning back to Gaeda.
“Good to see you lot safe and sound. And as for naming things, I figure if I take it, I can name it.” Deidrick started leading the rest down the same way that Sidda and Orin had gone, but at a somewhat more sedate pace. “I had teams running around causing chaos, they probably thought I had stumbled in here by accident, not with a real plan.”
They passed a point where four Devore soldiers were unconscious on the floor, ankles and wrists bound, then secured to piping and for an added insult to injury, all of them were gagged for when they eventually came to. “Heavy stun, they’ll be out of it well after we’ve left,” he reassured the others.
“So, what is the plan exactly?” Trid asked from the middle of the group. “I figure it involves the captain, what with the masks and her looking like she’s been run over by a freighter convoy.”
“Was she bucking for being your XO?” Deidrick asked Gaeda.
“I’m right here,” Matt chimed in. “Loyal officer and all.”
With a slight laugh had by all, the first for some of them in weeks, Deidrick answered the question posed to him. “We found some of this blood dilithium stuff,” the whole group nodding in affirmation that knew about it, “and turns out it has some impact on telepaths. But it also seems to do things to Orions and Romulans as well.”
“What?” Gaeda asked. “Explain.”
They had reached the end of the walkway between large pieces of environmental plant and were now climbing a set of stairs, switching back on itself a few times as it rose to the ceiling of the building and the roof access.
“Apparently it throws Orion biochemistry for a loop, increasing adrenaline production like it’s going out of style. That then ramps up aggression, anxiety and pheromone production. Hits the captain even harder. But it also wears them out. Orin’s wearing a cortical suppressor to stop that part of his brain from sending amped-up signals out since he’s been in close proximity to a huge chunk of blood dilithium since we got here.”
“Do I need to worry?” asked Telin.
“Nah big guy, you’ll be fine. Women more than men by a large margin. Just keep your distance from the captain, you should be fine.” Deidrick held the door to the roof where a number of his team were standing around, keeping an eye mainly on the admin tower and anyone there who might want to take shots at them.
“As for Romulans, well, does all sorts of wonderful things apparently. T’Ael’s become obsessive-compulsive, R’tin tried to cook himself by doing maintenance on a live plasma feed and Revin apparently…well…I heard she took to Orion pheromones quite well.” There was a chuckle from Telin but silenced when Trid gave him a glare that rightly should have vaporised him.
“So, Sidda’s a walking pheromone factory, we’ve got control of the prison’s air conditioning, what’s the plan here?” Gaeda asked.
They turned around past one of the roof units of the building to find a series of fan vents that led down into the complex machinery below. Some were blowing air out, others were sucking it in. Vast grills covered all and on one in particular they could see Sidda now sitting herself down on the grill, working her way to the middle before she laid herself down spread-eagle over as much of it as possible.
“We took filters out down below and now the boss is going to work her magic,” Deidrick answered. “Let them get a mega-dose of Orion pheromones, let their aggression ramp up, tempers flare up a bit, then we just wait for them to start fighting with each other as an indicator they’re cooked and we move to the next step.”
“And the rest of the prison? We don’t need a riot I’m imagining.”
“Don’t worry about that Gaeda, we shut down the aircon to the rest of the depot ten minutes ago. It’s just admin getting nice, cool, refreshing air just like they make it on Vondem.”
“It’s as you thought Commandant, they’re settling in for a siege,” the Major reported as he stepped into the glass-walled office of the depot’s commandant. It was situated on the rear wall of the operations centre, opposite the banks of displays and stepping out allowed one to look down on the various banks of operations stations. The walls offered silence, and a panopticon view to remind everyone here that the Imperium’s representative was always watching.
“Still tracking thirty?”
“Twenty-five now. Four retreated with an armed guard out past the inhibitor field.”
“Very well,” the older man said as he continued reading the report he’d been reading before his executive had interrupted.
“Sir, we can retake the entire depot, right now,” the Major said, with an edge to his voice that drew the Commandant’s attention.
“I’m aware, but I’m also aware that thirty people breached this prison and have managed to capture or kill nearly twice their number already. We can bunker down in this tower and await reinforcements.”
“And when will that be?” the Major demanded.
“When we miss our next scheduled communication, the Imperium will send a ship to investigate why the Buskin failed to respond. At that time either these people will withdraw or be crushed by the weight of the Imperium.”
“Waiting when we could be doing?” the Major asked. “We should strike out.”
There was no outburst from the Commandant. Just a slow, methodical change as his gaze went from his report to the Major, hands rested on the desktop and he rose to his feet, leaning over the desk, weight over his hands. “We will wait,” he said, slowly, carefully and with menace to his tone to ensure the Major understood.
“Yes sir,” the younger man finally said, then turned on his heel and walked out. Without asking to be dismissed.
That would have to be remedied.
“Flash of light in a window,” one of the Rose guards on the roof said.
“Really?” Sidda asked, sounding groggy, downright sleepy even.
“Yes boss. Oh, there it goes again.”
Sidda sighed, exhausted. But before she could ask anything Orin was already offering a stimulant hypo to her. Once more she injected herself and waited for the chemically derived energy to sweep through her. It didn’t feel like a night’s rest, but she went from feeling lethargic to being able to move at least. It would take a bit more for her brain to get the memo though, like a caffeine high, giving her some mental speed, but it wouldn’t be too far behind. A few minutes.
She’d preferred a coffee though. Triple shot espresso, sugar, cream.
But no, apparently that wasn’t going to be enough. Only Doc Ward’s Miracle Stimulant Supplement for the Growing Orion Siren for her today.
Next came the cortical suppressor being offered to her by Orin, giving a look she’d have expected from any mother anywhere in the galaxy. One that said ‘You will never formulate a good enough argument to dissuade me.’ And so she complied and put it behind her ear. It wasn’t turned on, but a mere double tap would do that. It was hidden by her hair and she held a hand out to get helped to her feet and off the aircon unit.
“Guess that’s my queue then,” she said, then gave Orin a quick hug when she was sure none of the crew was watching her. “Anything happens, kick the door in and rescue me all right?”
‘Yes Mistress,’ Orin replied.
“Don’t you fucking dare start with that,” she warned him. Then hugged him once more. “Right, off to go throw myself on the mercy of those I’m about to conquer.”
She made her way off the roof, past her people downstairs, a number of them resting, or trying to at least while they waited for the plan to progress. She passed Gaeda and Deidrick, letting them know the next step of the plan was in the works, then asked for her weapon back, Gaeda having up-armed with a Devore rifle.
That done, feeling at least a bit more dressed, still missing her jacket now that the sun was started to drop in the sky, she walked to the admin building by herself, in plain view of all the cameras, waving at a few of them.
“Knock knock,” she shouted when she reached the bottom of the small, wide flight of stairs that led to the massive double doors that served as the main entrance. “I’m here to discuss surrender.”