Remnants of Anchorage, Part V

Posted on Thursday March 2nd, 2017 @ 10:13pm by Major Zeleny Novacek
Edited on on Thursday March 2nd, 2017 @ 10:24pm

Mission: Enemies Closer
Location: Starship Invidious, Orbiting Planet Anchorage
Timeline: MD 4 2100 Hours

After all the surviving Starfleet marines were lifted up to Invidious and sorted out into the ship’s barracks, now full to bursting, Zeleny convened a meeting with his officers, all of them, even the mercenaries.

Zeleny, ever mindful of reinforcing his position of power, stood at the captain’s perch overlooking the bridge. The assorted officers gathered around the map table. Jaxcen stood opposite of Zeleny at the far side of the table. Midori as weapons officer and Shakira as sensor officer stood to either side of him. Shaan was also there representing the interests of the marines. Soldoro the navigator and Duchay the comm officer stood along one side of the table with Sanshir the engineer and Zert the logistics officer opposite.

They all murmured among themselves waiting for Zeleny to begin. He didn’t like assembling all his officers at once like this but the crew needed to figure out it’s next step and Zeleny also needed to address the acquisition of the marines.

“Starting today,” Zeleny began grimly, “Our crew has effectively doubled.” Some of the mercenary officers glanced menacingly towards Shaan. “They will work and they will earn their pay, same as anyone else. They are held to the same expectations I hold for everyone. And to incentivize everyone to get along, Zert will disburse a one time bonus to the crew including the newcomers.”

“A bonus?” Zert whined. “That’s obscene!” This time the mercenaries turned their baleful gazes to the diminutive ferengi. Zert recanted. “Well, of course, the crew deserves some compensation for the imposition, but why also the Starfleeters? They just arrived! This is no imposition to them, they should be grateful just to be here!”

Shaan dropped his hands and balled them into fists as he seethed at the Ferengi. “It won’t take much effort at all to twist your little troll head clean off!”

“Captain!” Zert whined again. “Are you going to let him threaten me like that?”

Zeleny folded his arms. “Why not? You’re the one questioning my orders.” He stared down the Ferengi who withered under the intensity and nearly tried to hide behind the larger engineer beside him. “And as for why? Consider this: these marines have been stranded in arctic conditions for months. Just where do you think they are going to spend that bonus, Zert?”

Zert’s downturned face erupted into a toothy, sinister grin. “Oh, of course, my cantina project. Yes, yesss.” He rubbed his hands greedily and began murmuring something to himself about preparing hot meals as well.

“One more thing, Zert. No overpricing. And no tabs. I don’t want you trying to start a racket and forcing members of the crew into debt. You’re already coming out way ahead here.”

“Oh, of course, of course! I wouldn’t dream it!”

“Good. Now, moving on. We’re still trying to track down those fightercraft disrupting shipping in the region. We tracked them to Anchorage, but there’s no sign of them anymore. What we do know is they are in the possession of a group known as the Vaadwaur.”

The officers glanced furtively from one to another looking for any sign of recognition. From Zeleny’s position, he could read each of their faces. No one save for his senior officers and Shaan had heard the name before. Which meant searching for the Vaadwaur became that much more difficult.

“We need a new lead to track down these fighters,” Zeleny said. “They seem to attack at random, fooling their victims with a false sense of security by posing as a Starfleet escort. They leave no survivors, and disappear afterwards. We have a lot of space search through.”

“It’s not quite so random,” Soldoro offered. “Since we began, I’ve looked over the incident reports of missing shipping that Jaxcen has supplied. Most of the attacks occur in or very near planetary systems.”

Midori looked quizzically at the young navigator. “These fighters aren’t equipped for long-duration sorties - a few days at most. Of course they would need to base themselves from a planetary base and attack within their effective range. We should search the nearest system for any sign of previous activity.”

Soldoro shook his head. “No, I don’t think that will work. If you plot the sequence of attacks, they’ve occurred several lightyears apart with not enough time to move between locations at even high warp speed.” He pulled up a starchart and highlighted locations of known attacks. They dotted the chart in sequence jumping all across this sector and the next.

“That also makes sense,” Shaan interrupted. “We know the Vaadwaur make use of a network of subspace corridors they call the Underspace.” He glanced at the blank expressions from some of the faces at the table. “It works like a wormhole. They can traverse large distances very quickly.”

Soldoro stared at this display. “If that’s true, I don’t think they are using the planets to base from at all. Maybe those tunnels exit very close to planetary systems, or possibly the stars themselves. Like somehow the apertures are gravitationally bound to them. Double check my plots: no attacks occurred in deep space!”

Shakira reviewed the data quickly. “He’s right,” she said. “If this hypothesis holds, the Vaadwaur could be based anywhere and it would be impossible to track down.”

“Any way to access this underspace ourselves? Why hasn’t anyone else found it before?” Sanshir asked.

Shakira shrugged. “Like Borg Transwarp conduits, the aperture is probably triggered somehow, a specific frequency or resonance, maybe tachyons or subspace particles. Without seeing it for ourselves, we could spend lifetimes trying to replicate the procedure.”

Sanshir frowned. “If it burrows through subspace, it should leave some degree of subspace torsion. Our torque sensor for adjusting our warp field could maybe locate the aperture.”

Jaxcen shook his head. “The torque sensor only has so much range because it’s for diagnosing our own warp field. We’d have to be right on top of the aperture to register it, if there’s anything to register at all!”

“Then I don’t know what more you want from me! I’m just here to keep the engines running and prevent the ship from exploding!”

“Sanshir,” Zeleny growled, “you’re dismissed.” The engineer looked up fiercely at Zeleny and in a huff stormed off the bridge. Sanshir always had a short fuse, and reminded Zeleny a lot of another engineer he knew, just not nearly as easy on the eyes, or half as brilliant.

“We can’t follow them through the underspace. We can’t search for them with conventional means. Which means our best option is to lure them out.”

Duchay raised her hand. “They like attacking shipping, right? What if we posed as a cargo ship?”

“That’s not likely to get their attention,” Zert said. “They haven’t been hitting individual ships. They like to go for small to medium sized convoys.” He pointed to data scrolling besides highlights on the starchart. “That one was three ships, this one five. That one over there another three. They only hit convoys small enough to handle with their fighters but big enough to be worth their time.”

“There’s also a lot of convoys that go untouched,” Jaxcen said. “We don’t know what cargos are being carried, which are taken, and that makes finding out why certain convoys get hit and others don’t more difficult. Are the Vaadwaur after specific supplies? Or are these just targets of opportunity?”

Zeleny thoughtfully stroked his beard. “We do know the Vaadwaur have hit our client’s shipping heavily. What does Universal Exports primarily ship?”

Jaxcen shook his head. “Occentel didn’t provide manifests, but his company was one of the few responsible for trade with the Federation, and the Federation doesn’t usually deal in weapons, but energy sources, exotic perishables, and technology would be high on the list.”

Zeleny nodded. “Good. Zert, find me a suitable convoy running through this sector. We’ll link up with it and hope for the best.”

Zert scoffed. “Are you insane? You know we’re considered pirates by a lot of outfits operating in this sector? They aren’t going to just let pirates into their trade lanes!”

“Pirates?” Shaan asked.

“Long story,” Mirdori replied quickly.

“What about bribes?” Zeleny asked.

Zert shook his head. “No good, would you honestly take a bribe from a pirate and then let his heavily armed ship inside your convoy where he could disable you from behind, then take everything you have including the bribe?”

“We are an armed ship, offer them protection. Extort money from them for the service, if you have to. Hell, we’ll intercept a convoy and hold them all at gunpoint! Just find one!”

“Well, now, that’s an idea.” The Ferengi absently stroked his right ear lobe, a gesture of deep thought for Zert.

“Is he serious?” Shaan asked Midori. “About taking a convoy hostage?”

Midori looked cautiously up at Zeleny. “Probably. A handful of marines could seize control of a transport, lock up the crew and keep the ship on course.”

“That’s not what I agreed to.”

Zeleny overheard and spoke up. “No, marine captain Shaan. What you agreed to was hunting down those peregrine fighters and preventing them from preying on anymore innocent life. If I need your marines to seize control of a starship to do that, then you will do it. If not, I can and will let you and your marines off back on the planet below.”

Shaan and Zeleny exchanged solemn gazes, Zeleny had the high ground, and psychologically that gave him an advantage. “I could just as easily seize this ship,” Shaan threatened back. Midori placed a pleading grip on Shaan’s arm, he shrugged her off easily.

“It won’t come to that,” Jaxen said breaking the building tension. He looked towards Shaan. “You can try to take Invidious, but you’ll kill a lot of people in the attempt, and you’ll lose a lot of your own as well. You don’t want that any more than we do.”

“We won’t be party to this,” Shaan countered.

Jaxcen nodded and glanced up at Zeleny, pleadingly. Zeleny could tell the betazoid wanted so much to clue Shaan into what was really going on. Maybe that might make Shaan more cooperative. Or it might make things worse. Regardless, Zeleny had to consider whether the outcome would benefit the mission, or whether the mission was worth jeopardizing to help these neglected marines. Zeleny finally settled on what he felt was most appropriate. Shaan was a marine, and marines saw their duty through to the end.

Zeleny merely nodded towards Jaxcen.

“Midori,” Jaxcen said. “Take him away, we’ll deal with him privately.”

Midori took a firm hold of Shaan, he tried to jerk away again but she deftly countered his movement and wrenched his arm behind his back and up along his spine. He uttered a grunt of discomfort and glared at Zeleny all the while Midori walked him off the bridge.

“Everyone is dismissed, back to your duties.” Zeleny announced, then he and Jaxcen followed Midori and Shaan.