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Part of USS Daedalus: Mission 1 – Measure by Measure and USS Mackenzie: Mission 12: Measure by Measure

DMBM 016 – Into the Dark

USS Daedalus
7.20.2401
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The deep blue lights cast an uneasy glow across the bridge.  Several days had passed since Daedalus was assigned to find out what they could about Caroline Crawford’s movements.  The first discovery had been her new name.  Pandora.  It had been the subject of conversation across the small ship as the intrigue of her choice equal parts fascinated and worried the crew.  Captain Dread had ordered the engineering and operations teams to find ways to make the Rhode Island class able to run under the auspices of ‘silent running.’  They had come as close as they could. Prentice was back at the helm station after Doctor Ford had cleared him.  Fowler remained in sickbay, with medical and psychological care being an important part of the process.

Helena stood in front of the center chair, watching the screen as they searched for Orion Syndicate signals.  The connection with The True Way remained murky.  She’d read the reports from Hasara on Mackenzie. They were believable, but the real question was whether they were credible.  Any cooperation between The True Way and The Orion Syndicate would be an escalation.

Atega at communications turned in her chair, “Captain, I’m picking up a signal a few sectors over.  It’s weak, but it’s coming from what we think is one of Patra’s Syndicate commanders.”  She tapped at the console, “ I can refine and boost the signal.”

Dread was curious, “Let’s hear it, lieutenant.”  The speakers crackled to life, and slowly, the signal clarified.

How long do I have?” 

“Not much time.  She’s making one-time offers…and not given much time for that choice.  I heard she blew Kurzona apart when he asked about conditions.  Didn’t even hesitate.”

“Shit.  I knew she was intense…but this is insane.  We can’t try and crawl back anybody else.  Patra was the only one willing to take me.”  There was a pause in the channel, and Dread glanced at Prelsey.  The communications chief shrugged.  The channel was still open.  There was a burst of static, then, “Well, that’s the choice.  Die by her hand…or join up hoping she doesn’t kill you for pissing her off.”  

I know which choice I’d make.  Better alive and scrabbling than whatever darkness waits for me on the other end of this ride.”

There was a chuckle, and then, “You getting philosophical on me, Darren?”

A sigh on the other end, “No, just a simple want to keep on livin’.  Hey, I’ve got a contact on sensors…looks like her greeting party is headed my way.  I’m taking the deal.  You better get your dossier cobbled together to impress her.  She’s not like the others.”  The channel cut at last.

Tir spoke up from Operations, his face in his usual frown of concern, “We knew Patra had pulled together some pretty rotten apples, but if the larger Syndicate isn’t willing to take them on…Pandora’s going to be looking for the most desperate out there.  You don’t take over the Supreme Commander’s chair and start blasting without intending to pull more in.”

Catari shuddered at the thought, “You’re talking recruitment.” Tir nodded.  She turned to the bridge from her station, “She’s not finished with us or Mackenzie.  My read on her is she’s willing to look at the long-range map.  She sat in that prison for a long time…and she’s just jumped up and ripped the arm off that held the brass ring.”  She felt the realization creep into her understanding, her heart sinking, “We’ve given the biggest monster in the land the keys to the dungeon.”

Helena Dread acknowledged the truth in their words.  This fight wasn’t over.  It was going to get worse.  The chances of it getting better, she imagined, would be on a sliding scale and uneven spectrum for a long time.  She remained standing.  They were a good crew, cobbled together as they were.  It impressed and humbled her their insights – they were not an island of misfit toys who had been tossed to the Olympic after the loss of their captain.  They were capable and knowledgeable, and she was lucky to have them.  

She addressed the bridge crew, “It’s not the most ideal scenario.  I accept that.  But it is the scenario we must face and find a way to break.  We need to get more information on what she’s up to.  If we can find one former partner of Patra’s who’s willing to talk to us…that might make some difference.  Let’s keep moving and listening.  We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.  Prentice, let’s keep moving.”

The Daedalus slowly changed course and slid through space, silently observing the world around her.