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Part of USS Liris: To The West

Westwards

Setlik Sector
2401
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The Liris shot through space, three Hideki-class Cardassian scouts following. From the lead ship, a volley of torpedoes shot out, striking the Liris’ aft shields, bringing them down. The pursuit had been going on for 2 days, and, during this time, there had been 14 attacks on the small Aerie-class ship, only a couple times bigger than a Danube-class runabout.

On the Bridge, Captain Sh’ill considered his options. Sending out a distress call would alert the Cardassian government to the fact that they were there, in a most certainly illegal way. Fighting back was impossible, their already minimal weapons array had been knocked out by the 3d attack and had been offline ever since.

They had been running, running for a day and a half. The corvette’s shields were down, warp was impossible, impulse was holding on by a thread. However, there was a light, a small lit match at the end of a parsec-long tunnel. The Federation border was just past the Setlik system’s Oort cloud, if they could just limp there without being destroyed, they would be safe.

Sh’ill gave the command. “Reroute power from non-essential systems into the engines, and all auxiliary power into the aft shields! Take life support offline, too, everywhere except on the Bridge and in Engineering.” He was picking at straws here, but it was the best he could do.

Can’t let Bok freeze to death, or asphyxiate, for that matter. He was reminded of his Chief Engineer, Bok Xasin, as he grimly considered his further battle plans.

Out in the darkness of space, the Liris accelerated a little, speeding towards the border. Another volley shot out from the Cardassians. Most of it missed the Liris, by some divine providence, but a phaser shot did hit the shields.

3 AUs to the border, and the Cardassians displayed no sign of planning to turn around. They were determined, they knew that what was aboard couldn’t be allowed to reach Starfleet.

First and foremost, 20 teraquads of images, scans and information about one of the True Way’s biggest bases, the one on Marva IV, actually not orbit of it, but on the planet, contradicting 5 years of Starfleet Intelligence reports about it.

Number two was in the brig: Gul Krivek Trissek, a notoriously brutal person, even for a Cardassian, wanted by the Federation for more than 25 counts of crimes against the galaxy. Previously, he had slipped through the fingers of several states, but now he was sitting in the brig of a corvette with a crew of four.

2 AUs to the border. The Cardassians were intensifying their fire, much to the dismay of the Chief Engineer (colloquially known as the CE or CEO on Starfleet ships), Ensign Bok Xasin. For an Ensign still only a few years clear of the Academy, he was a brilliant engineer. However, that wasn’t helping much right now, seeing as his beloved ship, the Little Hornet (as he and Sh’ill called it), was being torn apart.

However, he had an ace forming up his sleeve. To his knowledge, venting the reactive gases of a ship onto an opponent and then igniting them had never been done before. Doing that with metreon gas was known as the Riker Manoeuvre, but this was to be done with oxygen and hydrogen. This plan was, technically speaking, sound: there were oxygen reserves onboard, so they wouldn’t be at risk of suffocating, and no one was in most of the ship, in all its vast hallways and rooms.

“This is Ensign Xasin to the Bridge. If we filtered out all the oxygen in our hallways and empty rooms, we could vent it onto the True Way ships. I’d do this with warp plasma, but we’re a bit too damaged for that. Once it’s out, ignite it, boom.” He suggested cautiously, not wanting to suggest bad plans at a time of crisis. Xasin knew that his idea was far-fetched, even for a Starfleet engineer’s idea, but it certainly should give the Cardassians a nice surprise.

“Ensign, I’ll take anything at this point. Do it, quickly, and ignite it when it’s all over them.” The Commander replied, rather grimly, while staring into the void of space as he gave the order.

“On it.” The Ensign basically flew across Engineering, from his seat at the warp core, straight to the environmental controls. Time was of the essence. A lucky shot could take out their thin shields and hit a vital system.

The air was filtered. Oxygen, hydrogen, all mixed into an almost pure soup devoid of other, more inert, gases. The mixture poured into the rear airlock and Jefferies tubes (all the ones that had a hatch going out into space in the rear). The hatches opened. A pure, slightly white cloud flowed out of them and onto the pursuing ships. A circuit, set to overload, went up and exploded, sending a few sparks out.

Out in the vastness of space, once cannot hear anything - sound, after all, must travel on something and there’s nothing out there. However, in that cloud, you could hear the boom perfectly. Sure, on a galactic scale, this was nothing more than the pop of a soda can.

Nonetheless, it was enough. The mixture had had time to get into the manifolds and Bussard collectors of the Cardassians. While it definitely wasn’t enough to destroy or disable them, it was enough to knock out their impulse for just a few minutes.

The Liris, on its last legs, flew across the border, now safe. Anyone not authorised goes across - Starfleet is alerted and a ship is dispatched. Same thing happens if you try to fire across.

Captain Sh’ill slowly rose from his seat and weakly smiled, not enough to be visible to others, but definitely enough to be noticeable to him. The Cardassians sat behind the border, just waiting for any opportunity to fire, but eventually turned back.

Lieutenant Junior Grade Delvok seemed as unphased as ever at his seat at the helm, but, in the depths of his mind, behind the walls of Kolinahr rituals, meditation and Vulcan emotional control, his emotions and mind were throwing a party to celebrate this escape.

Commander Sh’ill turned towards his second-in-command, Lieutenant Erti Jatia, and took a few steps towards her station. “Lieutenant, send a message to the USS Yucatan, they should be expecting one. Tell them that we’ve returned from our mission and that we have someone that they might like to talk to. Attach a 5 second recording from inside the brig, when he was still awake.” Little bit of showing off never hurt anyone. He thought, giving the order, with just a slightly noticeable hint of happiness in his voice.

“As for you, Delvok, get down to the brig, check if he’s not breaking out and get him some… leola root stew, that seems appropriate. Tell him what he’s accused of and inform him of his rights, too, but no unnecessary conversation.” He gave a more unemotional order this time, adapting to Delvok’s vulcanness.

“Understood, sir.” The young Vulcan quickly logged off from his station at the helm and did his measured Vulcan walk off the Bridge and into the turbolift.

As the turbolift shuttled down two decks, Delvok considered where the nearest replicator was. There wasn’t one in the brig, for obvious reasons, so the nearest one was… oh dear, in Engineering. If I can replicate the stew sufficiently quickly, I may be able to avoid conversing with the Ensign.

The door in front of Delvok slowly stopped pulsing and slid open, revealing a seemingly empty Engineering. The Lieutenant stepped out and Bok Xasin stepped out of the shadows of a crate of self-sealing stem bolts.

“Hey, Delvok, whatcha up to? Need any help with anything?” The Ensign offered for conversational starters, but Delvok was ready to send the starters back to the kitchen.

“Thank you, Ensign, but I do not require your assistance at this time.”

Xasin was smarter than he looked and was ready for this course of the conversation. “Well, I have some spare time in a few hours, I was wondering if you, yes, you, Delvok, might like to visit the holodeck with me?”

Delvok quickly shot back in the most “go-away-I-don’t-want-to-talk-to-you” voice you could force out of his Vulcan mouth. “And what would we do on the holodeck that might be of any interest or value to me?”

Bok Xasin had certainly done his homework with this one. “See, I received a holographic baseball match recording just before we left for our mission, it’s the recent game between the Bolias Bankers and the Shi Kahr Logicians. Might that entice you?”

The Vulcan had to, against his best wishes, admit that he was intrigued. During his time at the Academy, he had joined the baseball team and, ever since then, he had been following the sport, especially the Shi Kahr Logicians, his home-town team. “Your offer is… interesting. I will inform you of my decision later.”

Before Bok had had a chance to respond, Delvok had quickly replicated the stew, mentally hurrying the cold, unfeeling device along, and was out the door, heading towards the brig.

Back on Deck One, Commander Sh’ill’s commanded helm gave out a warning beep, pointing out the rapidly approaching USS Yucatan, a cutting-edge Sagan-class vessel, one of the main ships of Starfleet Intelligence, and, if you believe in Starfleet rumours, supposedly also one of the ships from which Section 31 operates.

The gleaming vessel dropped out of warp just beside the Liris, massively overshadowing it. A hail came in from it, and Sh’ill accepted it, standing up as he did.

On the viewscreen appeared Commodore Uzoma Ekwueme, standing alongside a rather gruff-looking Rigelian, someone that Sh’ill recognised from his mission briefings. Ekwueme, however, the Caitian hadn’t expected. Huh, he usually doesn’t mingle much with SI, Sh’ill thought to himself, but now he’s standing on one of their Bridges.

“Good day, sirs. If you could send some repair teams down, we would greatly appreciate it. The True Way is a formidable opponent.” Sh’ill spoke in his regular, measured tone that he almost always used for anything Starfleet related.

“Of course, Captain. Is that really Gul Krivek or is our computer having difficulties with discerning faces?” Uzoma quipped with a touch of sarcasm – after all, this wouldn’t be a Sagan if its computers couldn’t match a high-resolution video to the face of a known war criminal.

“Indeed it is. The conditions of his capture were less than dignified, at least for him. He is currently eating, but you, of course including the Captain of the Yucatan, may come aboard for a small briefing about him and then some light conversation with the Gul, if you so wish.” The Captain offered, knowing that, even if it is a war criminal, interrogating someone while they are eating would be just plain disrespectful.

“Agreed, Captain. I’d like to see our new friend in person, too, ask him some questions.” Ekwueme said as a smile appeared on his face.

“I think that I might join in too, at least for the meeting with the Gul. I’ll leave the fraternisation to you.” Added the Rigelian, as he moved back to his Captain’s chair and tapped in some commands on the armrest console.

“Understood, sirs. Prepare for the transport, Commodore, I’ll do the honours myself.” Sh’ill now gave a true smile, a rarity from the usually quite reserved Caitian, just as he closed the channel and departed for the transporter room.

Back down two decks, Lieutenant Junior Grade Delvok entered into the brig (it was actually more of a closet with forcefield emitters hastily strapped to the walls - the Liris was way too small to have dedicated brig facilities) and looked down at the sleeping Gul Krivek. He had been less than excited about being captured, and so Sh’ill had picked out the most potent sedative on hand and given him a dose that was guaranteed to keep Krivek down for 3 days. Now, that deadline was fast approaching.

Delvok, holding a PADD with the “brig” controls in one hand and the stew in the other, quickly opened the forcefield, put the food down and closed it back up again.

Giving Krevik Trissek a moment to try to wake up by himself, the Vulcan’s mind was busy contemplating the situation. It was hard to believe that here, lying on a replicated mattress and pillow, in what was basically a glorified broom closet, was one of the 24th and 25th century’s most wanted Cardassian criminals. How we imagine our heroes to be bigger-than-life and our enemies to be even bigger. What some people wouldn’t do to get a good swing at this man.

But, time flies, and our pale friend has not yet awoken. “Gul Krivek,” exclaimed the Lieutenant, with his voice considerably raised, “please wake up.”

And indeed he did. Quite groggy he was, and who’s to say from what – being captured or being out for 2 and a half days? “Come to give me my last meal before you shoot me, have you?” The Cardassian yelled, with immense anger, distrust and a hint of xenophobia in his voice.

“On the contrary. Seeing as you have been unconscious for three days, our Captain asked that I bring you some sustenance, inform you of your rights and what will be happening to you. I would suggest that you begin eating now, because you won’t be remaining on this ship for long.” Delvok nodded towards the stew, which had an aluminium fork haphazardly stuck into it.

Krivek gruffly sighed and picked up the plate, smelling it at a distance and groaning as he began to eat it.

“You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a lawyer, which you may choose yourself. Any information that you divulge can and may be used against you in court. You have the right to only answer questions through your lawyer. The most severe punishment used by the United Federation of Planets is life imprisonment in a maximum-security prison. Is this understood?” The Lieutenant mechanically regurgitated his law professor’s words, which he had memorised and used ever since.

A silent nod and the glumping of the stew was the answer that Delvok got, and he was more than satisfied with that.

“In a few minutes, you will be transferred to another vessel, which will take you to a temporary holding facility, where you will await trial. Is this understood?” Delvok continued reciting, looking straight at the wall in front of him and not at Krivek.

Another silent nod, followed by the war criminal talking with his mouth full. “What am I being accused of by you idiots?”

Delvok looked down at his PADD and read out the long list. “Gul Krivek Trissek is wanted by the United Federation of Planets for: 4 counts of attacking surrendered vessels and/or units, 7 counts of gross mistreatment of POWs, 15 counts of torture and inhumane treatment of civilians and/or POWs, 3 counts of extensive destruction and 1 count of resisting arrest.”

“Hah! That’s all? All of you Starfleet types can’t even comprehend that what I did was necessary, it was necessary for the Cardassian state to exist. I had to preserve the Union, because you destroyed it. You, who purport to be masters and kings of morality, well, I’ll tell you what, you…” Let’s allow our two friends to fraternise for a moment and return for a bit to…

… Indeed, it is Deck 1. Sh’ill carefully slid the transporter controls up and materialised Commodore Uzoma Ekwueme on the small pad, stepping towards him just as the transport finished.

“Commander, it’s a pleasure to see that you and your ship are both still in one piece. The True Way gave you a real beating, huh?” Uzoma smiled and tapped Sh’ill on the shoulder as he stepped off the pad and walked to the door, taking in the sights of the Liris.

“Yes, they did. Our ship held together, just as she always does. However, it was well worth it. I trust that you’ve had a look at our findings?” Sh’ill followed along, intending to stop off at the Bridge before they headed down to the brig.

“I have, indeed, and you seem to have had one hell of an adventure. SI had always assumed that the Marva IV base was, most likely, a base named after someone called Marva, built by the True Way, but it turned out to be a planet. You sure you don’t want to join up with them, help them write find out something correct once in a while?” Ekwueme joked (Starfleet Intelligence, for all that they did, still had a reputation for not being correct that often), just as they stepped onto the Bridge and Sh’ill lead him to the bigger of the two science stations, which was currently manned by Lieutenant Erti Jatia.

“Lieutenant, pull up our updated file on Gul Krivek, along with his old and new photos.” The Captain gave a quick nod to Jatia, just as the file appeared on the screen.

Indeed, lots of new information. Captured by Starfleet on stardate this and that, currently in Starfleet custody and awaiting trial for a long list of crimes. The photo update also looked sorely needed – the old picture was a grainy one, probably taken from far away, judging by the time index 5 years ago. There was also a medical report, compiled by Captain Sh’ill just a few hours prior, which stated that Krivek was mentally unstable, probably suffering from some form of psychosis, which results in him being quite unstable and prone to outbursts.

“Currently, my CSTO is informing Krivek of what the charges against him are and what’s going to happen to him. The Gul is also probably still eating, so that’s why I’d like to give them some more time.” Sh’ill explained, still looking at the file, same as Ekwueme.

“Ah, well, excellent. We’ll give them a few more minutes. As a matter of fact, there’s something that I’d like to discuss with you. Let’s just…” Uzoma moved to the other side of the Bridge, Sh’ill followed along.

“It’s no secret that you’re an accomplished officer. You handled the blood dilithium crisis incredibly well, you’ve done this now. You’ve been on this ship for, what, 3 or 4 years? If you feel up to it, once we’re back in the core worlds, I could get you something bigger, a bigger crew, more space for your medical science…” The Commodore whispered, not wanting to spill the news to any prying ears.

“I’ll… consider your offer. For now, however, I remain faithful to my little hornet.” Sh’ill replied hushedly, a little surprised at the offer, but still maintaining his cool. He tapped the bulkhead of the Bridge with his hand a few times as he moved into the turbolift.

“Of course. Now seems like a good time for Captain Wreaxtac to join us. He’s quite impatient, you know.” Only when Ekwueme mentioned him did Sh’ill recall that that was, in fact, the Rigelian’s name.

“Understood. Sh’ill to Jatia, beam the Captain of the Yucatan to the turbolift exit on Deck 3.” Sh’ill quickly gave the orders, just as the doors opened and the Captain began materialising.

“Good evening once again. I assume that we are ready to talk with Gul Krivek? If so, I would prefer to take the lead, as this is still technically a Starfleet Intelligence operation.” He began talking as soon as he materialised. Indeed, he was arrogant, like most of his species in Starfleet, but he had reason to be – he had been with SI for most of his career and had the reputation of an excellent interrogator.

“Agreed. Based on what Captain Sh’ill showed me, I don’t think that there’s much that we’ll be able to get out of him now, but it’s at least worth a try. Just don’t overdo it.” Uzoma quickly explained, as the three of them entered the hallway leading to the “brig”. Already, rather colourful words from what sounded like the Cardassian could be heard.

Commander Sh’ill opened the door into the (former) maintenance closet #7 and stepped inside, his body dominating over the rather-aged-but-still-springy Cardassian.

“Sirs, I introduce you to Gul Krivek. As we could hear, my diagnosis would appear to have been correct. He should be fine to talk, at least for a little while. Delvok, I assume that you’ve explained to him all his rights and the charges?” Sh’ill casually mentioned, intentionally referring to Krivek in the 3d person.

“Indeed I have. However, he did start rather violently… ranting after I concluded the list of charges. Captain, I do not believe he is fully sane.” The Lieutenant surmised, he could’ve said quite a bit more, but remained frank.

“I OBJECT! How dare you call me insane! I am Gul Krivek, my mind is sound and agile, and, no doubt, a fleet of True Way ships are coming after you right this moment!” Krivek looked about ready to punch through the forcefield and land his fist onto the Vulcan’s face.

“Please, let me. Gul Krivek, you are under arrest. You will get a fair trial, you’ll be taken care of, I would encourage you not to bring more charges onto yourself. Do you understand?” The Commodore explained with incredible patience, at least externally, but he was not in the mood to take any more insults or let any of these officers take any more insults.

“Hah! How fair will it be? It’s all you Starfleet voles, you might as well shoot me now, so you don’t have to bother with the airlock!”

“Okay, I’m done. This is Captain Wreaxtac to the Yucatan. Send over a security team and prepare our brig for the prisoner. Maximum security, I’m not taking any chances.” The Rigelian was also completely done, it didn’t look like he could be getting anything out of him, so might as well cut it off here. A confirmation was given, and he closed the channel.

“Yes, that’ll be the best course of action. Sh’ill, I’ve ordered the repair crews to dock your ship to the Yucatan so we can transfer power more easily and bring aboard supplies. I’d like you to come aboard, I’d like to get a debriefing out of you and a written report afterwards.” Uzoma shot through the whole thing – not having to get debriefed every time he returned from a mission was one of the benefits of being a flag rank officer that he enjoyed the most.

“Understood. Perhaps you can help me sort out my thoughts about all of this, I’m still not completely sure myself what the hell happened.” The Caitian gave one of his rare laughs, though this one had notes of stress and exhaustion in it, just as they were leaving the makeshift prison.

“Sure, sure, Captain. We can have a drink and talk through it.” The Commodore smiled, leading Sh’ill through the hallways and corridors of the ship, out to the airlock, spotting some of the repair crews on the way.

Sh’ill, of course, had to stop off at all of them and warn every single one not to touch his Sickbay, lest they invoke his wrath.

Ekwueme, by all of the means available to him, tried to offset his paranoia, but the Sickbay was the one thing that Sh’ill never budged about, under any circumstances. If he’s this protective of his crewmembers, the Commodore thought, he’ll make an excellent Captain of a larger ship.

Eventually, they did make it to the Yucatan.

It was different, to be sure, to the point where it didn’t feel like a Starfleet ship, at least to Sh’ill. Starfleet ships had had carpets for a century and a half now, so why the shift to plain metal? Supposedly, for efficiency purposes.

And they do first contacts like this… no carpet, plain bulkheads, hopefully they still left it in the Mess Hall.

Ekwueme lead Sh’ill straight to his ready room, somehow bypassing the Bridge entirely. As soon as they entered and sat down, the Commodore pulled out two large cups of a smoking, yellowish liquid out of the replicator and sat one of the cups down in front of the Caitian, the other went in front of himself.

Sh’ill looked at the cup and gave the liquid a whiff. Smelled nice. “What is this liquid? Has the aroma of a tea.” The Captain inquired, perhaps it was an Earth delicacy that he hadn’t tried.

“Peppermint tea, strong peppermint tea. Helps the mind relax, it’s been used on Earth for millennia. Janeway has her coffee, I have this.” He slowly took a sip, leaning back in his chair as he did.

“Alright, Commander, let’s start in the beginning, what occurred after you left Starbase 72?” He pulled out a PADD and set it record the conversation, to be added to Sh’ill’s written report.

“Well…”