by Travis Anderson
Macen transported down to Ronara Prime with Riker and Wren. They rematerialized in the spaceport customs office. They then travelled on foot through Dayton City to a public house named the Old Biddy. Macen escorted them in.
Once inside, he directed them to a table in the rear seating four people. “There’s my client. Have fun.”
He excused himself and left the pub at that time. Riker and Wren moved through the space. Hard gazes followed them. The freighter crews and local riffraff that frequented this establishment were certainly camouflage for groups like the Maquis. Judging by some of the presumably criminal classes represented as well, the Maquis were hardly the only illegal group present.
Riker studied those at the wraparound booth he and Wren were proceeding towards. The male human, who must be the mysterious Chakotay, was obviously of Native American extraction. He also had a facial tattoo on the left side of his face.
Chakotay had a visible sense of serenity that belied his rumored actions — that was, until one beheld his eyes and the anger that burned within them. He was a Starfleet-trained killer and was now set loose with no restraints.
Beside Chakotay sat a rather severe looking Bajoran woman. Riker didn’t know why, but she appeared to look threatened. And it seemed her response to threats was hostility. A perfect rationale for a Maquis.
Beside the Bajoran sat a seeming Bajoran with violet hair. Upon closer scrutiny, it was revealed her nasal ridges were much more pronounced and extended into her brow. Beside this stranger, Kalita relaxed with a saucy grin.
“Tom, glad you could make it.” Kalita offered, “Take a seat.”
Six men then jumped Wren and pulled a hood over her head. She disabled two of them while she struggled. They finally got a hypospray to her wrist and moments after it hissed, Wren went slack and collapsed into the waiting arms of her attackers.
As they carried the Andorian away, Riker gave Chakotay a sour look. “Was that really necessary?”
“You made it necessary by bringing her here,” the Bajoran accused.
“Seska, we need to move on,” Chakotay gently chided her. She subsided but cast one last loathing look Riker’s way.
Riker sat down and addressed the near-Bajoran. “Excuse me, but are you Bajoran?”
“No,” she said blithely.
Seeing he wasn’t getting anywhere yet, he tried again. “May I ask where you’re from?”
“You can ask,” she replied merrily.
“Can I at least have your name?” Riker was getting frustrated.
“Alea,” she said mirthfully, “but don’t tell anyone.”
“Alea is our cell’s intelligence officer,” Kalita boasted.
“There’s seems to be a plethora of them today,” Riker remarked. And then he asked, “Aren’t you all in the same group?”
“No,” Chakotay answered. “Kalita and Alea represent our partners in the Ronaran cell. My crew is a mobile unit operating out of my ship, the Val Jean, rather than a geographic location.”
Riker had to ask, “Aren’t you telling me a lot I shouldn’t know?”
Chakotay wore a ready smile. “Kalita says I can trust you.”
“What does she know?” Seska suddenly blurted, “She only met him that one time on a scrub planet.”
Chakotay took this in stride. “You know Kalita is an excellent judge of character.”
Chakotay also knew Seska resented Kalita because the human had reservations about the Bajoran, which no one realized yet that she was a genetically disguised Cardassian agent directly responsible to Gul Evek. Evek felt Seska was in a pivotal position because Chakotay was one of the most accomplished Maquis commanders.
Chakotay mercifully got straight to business. “Tom, you’re here because we need a witness.”
“Then why choose me?” Riker asked.
“Because, like Chakotay said, I trust you,” Kalita informed him. “And since Chakotay trusts my judgment, that decided who amongst Starfleet we would choose.”
Riker decided to pin Chakotay down. “Why do you need a witness?”
“We’ve found a hidden military target within the DMZ,” Chakotay said succinctly.
“So why not inform Starfleet directly?” Riker wanted to know.
“Because diplomatic channels require time,” Chakotay replied, “and that’s one thing we don’t have a lot of.”
“So you intend to strike out at this target,” Riker surmised.
“Exactly.” Chakotay was pleased Riker was on the same page.
“Look, I’m sorry, I honestly empathize with your cause but I can’t condone your methodology,” Riker admitted.
“I told you,” Seska huffed.
“Just hear us out and then decide,” Chakotay requested. He turned to Alea. “It’s your show now.”
“All right, Tom. I came across an Obsidian Order facility inside the DMZ,” Alea reported. Seeing she had Riker’s complete attention, she moved forward. “The observation base is in the Valo system. The Valo star system was claimed by Bajor before and during the Occupation era. The first three planets in the Valo system have Bajoran settlers. The colonies swelled with refugees escaping Bajor, but most opted to stay on their planet of choice when Bajor was liberated.”
“The point of all this is that Valo VI hosts a Cardassian observation base. It did so throughout the Occupation and up until now,” Alea described. “From Valo VI, the Obsidian Order can not only oversee the Valo system but they can also spy on the entire Bajoran sector as well as the entirety of the DMZ, coupled with their observation bases near the Argus Array and Starbases 129, 211, and 310. And of course, this doesn’t include mirroring the Starfleet Intelligence Outposts 47 and 61.”
“The base on Valo VI represents a clear and present danger not only to the colonists within the DMZ but also to Bajor and the Federation border,” Alea finished.
Riker was impressed. He had more than a sneaking suspicion that Alea actually was a career intelligence officer. But for whom? And why support the Maquis?
“Have you corroborated this intelligence?” Riker pointedly asked.
“I used my contacts in the Valo system to confirm it,” Seska asserted acerbically. “They all know about the base.”
“Yet they never told anyone about it until now,” Riker’s rejoinder almost slapped Seska’s face.
“If Seska says it’s true then it is,” Chakotay firmly stated.
Seska glared at Riker while Chakotay pondered her sources of information. Seska frequently brought previously unknown intel to the fore. He never asked about her sources because she had assured him they were confidential and lives were on the line. Chakotay could readily accept that concept.
What no one among Chakotay’s crew had realized was that Seska’s source of information was Cardassian Military Intelligence funneled to her through Gul Evek. Evek had cleared this assault on the Obsidian Order. It was a means to eliminate potential rivals for political control over the Cardassian interests within the DMZ. The Maquis would absorb the risks and potential casualties while Evek reaped the benefits.
Chakotay presented the pistol question. “So Tom, are you willing to come along and verify the nature of this base and report any data we may recover?”
“I am,” Riker instantly decided, “but Wren is the one you really want. She’s the tactical expert.”
Chakotay glanced at Kalita. Her nod was almost imperceptible. Chakotay made his decision.
“Very well, your friend will be brought aboard the Val Jean prior to liftoff,” Chakotay assured Riker. “Anything else?”
“Is your ship in orbit?” Riker was curious.
Chakotay grinned, “It’s in the city’s shuttleport. She’s a bit big for her berth but most of the freighters that land are twice her size.”
“And this is where we say goodbye.” Kalita and Alea rose and strolled away.
“They’re not coming?” Riker was confused.
“They’re local assets,” Chakotay explained. “Their job was to persuade you. They accomplished that.”
Chakotay stepped outside to discreetly use his communicator. Seska snorted derisively, “Kalita thinks highly of you despite the fact you’re a failed science experiment.”
Riker took in Seska’s measure. She had access to Starfleet personnel jackets, which made her far more than the guttersnipe she appeared to be.
“Do you always warm up to people so charmingly?” Riker retorted.
“Don’t even think about betraying us to Starfleet,” Seska warned. “I’m making it my mission to watch you.”
“Have fun,” Riker quipped. “But who will be watching you?”
He could tell that struck a sensitive nerve.
Chakotay returned to find Seska giving Riker a sullen stare. Chakotay found it mildly frustrating, but it was also part of who Seska was. He was fond of her because she cared for him in her own way.
“Our rides will be here in a moment so we’d best wait outside,” Chakotay announced.
Riker found that to be a relief until he actually went outside. The threatening clouds were done with posturing and a torrential downpour was covering the land. The wait for the ground transport was a lot longer than Riker cared for.
Once aboard the Val Jean, Chakotay brought Riker to the Maquis raider’s cockpit. There, the bridge crew was already assembled. Chakotay made cursory introductions.
He presented a taciturn man seated at the navigation console. “This is Ayala, my second in command.”
Chakotay explained that he himself was the pilot before he introduced a dark-skinned Vulcan named Tuvok. Tuvok studied him in a disconcerting manner. Even Seska’s scrutiny paled in comparison. It turned out Tuvok was the weapons officer.
The ship’s chief engineer turned out to be a moody half-human, half-Klingon woman named B’Elanna Torres. She angrily pointed out that there was no room for passengers since the cockpit was cramped enough already. Chakotay took this in stride as well.
“Don’t worry, B’Elanna. Seska is loitering at the hatch to take Lt. Riker back to a storage locker. He’ll be safe enough in her care,” Chakotay reassured her.
Riker wasn’t as sure about that last bit as Seska marched him off into the bowels of the ship. Seska practically shoved him into the locker. It turned out it had two crash seats in it, so it was obvious the Maquis had stowed passengers in here before.
Seska sat across from him fingering a Klingon disruptor in her lap. Riker couldn’t resist baiting her. “You seem awfully fond of that thing.”
Seska regarded him coolly. “I actually favor Cardassian disruptors. Bajor had plenty of them to go around.”
“But what if I try to take that from you?” Riker joked.
Seska moved almost faster than Riker could track. The disruptor was now aimed at his face and she wore a smile that dared him to try and snatch it. She tipped the disruptor back slightly and grew even more pleased with herself.
“Zap. You’re dead,” Seska taunted him.
Riker could tell she’d do it in a heartbeat. She stared at him like he was a bug she wished to squash, so evidently his life meant very little to her. She’d kill him and justify it with a concocted story about needing to defend herself. Frankly, Riker was wondering why she hadn’t done so already.
“When do I get to see Wren?” Riker finally inquired after the lights stopped flickering.
“Soon enough.” Seska was ostensibly watching the lighting panels. Riker knew well enough her entire focus was on him. “This ship is over seventy years old. Gravity wells tend to wreak havoc on its inertial damper. So when Chakotay calls the ‘all clear,’ we’ll visit your blue-skinned girlfriend.”
As if on cue, Chakotay’s voice reverberated throughout the ship. “All hands, stand down. We’ve cleared Ronara’s gravity and are en route to the Valo system.”
Seska rose. “Come on, lover boy. Your fair maiden awaits.”
She took him to a larger room with bunk stacked three high. It was a crew’s barracks. Wren lay motionless on a cot guarded by two Maquis.
“I thought you said your sedative is harmless.” Riker was instantly angry.
“You’d best keep a civil tongue, human,” Seska warned icily. “Meet Chell and Mariah Henley. They’ve been caring for your little friend. They’ll rouse her.”
Chell had to be the Bolian male, Riker assumed. That made the woman with the exorbitantly festive head scarf Mariah Henley. Riker calmed himself.
“Can you wake her?” Riker kindly asked.
Chell moved for the med kit but Henley snatched it from him. “Chell, you remember what happened last time.”
Chell’s cheeks flushed an even deeper shade of blue as he subsided. Riker knelt beside Wren as Henley leaned in. She cast an amused look his way.
“She’ll come out of this in a hurry,” Henley warned, “so you might have to duck.”
There was a snap hiss of the hypo and Henley quickly retreated. Wren’s eyes snapped open and Riker could see the fury in them. He barely got to his feet in time to avoid her punch. Seska nearly choked on her laughter.
“I give already,” Riker said as he held his hands up.
Wren put her feet on the deck but didn’t get up. Instead, she took a look around at her surroundings and who was in them. Finally, she grimaced.
“What the frinx have you gotten us into, Riker?” Wren asked wearily.
Riker sat down on the bunk opposite of hers. “Do you really want to know?”
Wren cast him an angry glare so Riker plunged ahead with everything that had happened while she’d been out. When he finished, Wren groaned, “I give up. Put me back to sleep.”
Seska hurriedly motioned for Henley to dose Wren again. Riker stopped Henley. “Why?”
“Get Commander Chakotay down here,” Wren instructed Seska, “and I’ll explain why this is a fool’s errand.”
“Don’t order me about, Starfleet,” Seska growled, “and that’s Captain Chakotay to you.”
“Sure. Just get Chakotay here,” Wren shrugged. She didn’t have time for pissing contests.
Seska stepped out of the room to use the intraship intercom. Wren looked at Henley and Chell. “Is she always like this?”
Chell and Henley just grinned. Chell conspiratorially explained, “Seska has been a little protective of Chakotay since she started bedding him.”
“It’s pretty casual,” Henley piped in. “At least for him.”
Wren looked at Riker and rolled her eyes. “Wonderful.”
Chakotay made an appearance. Riker could tell from the Maquis commander’s expression that Seska had warned him of potential trouble. Still, he was cordial. “You wanted to see me, Lieutenant?”
“You’re after an Obsidian Order facility, right?” Wren asked without preamble.
Chakotay wondered exactly who the leak was. “Riker told you?”
“No,” Wren said dryly. “A hummingbird transported aboard and spilled your secrets.”
Riker watched the flash of anger in Chakotay’s eyes. When he spoke, it was with a stern measure of control. “You have something to add to our mission planning?”
“The Obsidian Order is technically a civilian entity,” Wren pointed out. “The DMZ forbids either side from posting a military presence inside the zone. Starfleet has no jurisdiction or recourse to expunging the presence of an Obsidian Order station. They can hand a complaint over to the diplomats and then they can work their magic.”
Chakotay appreciated Wren’s sardonic tone. “If you haven’t noticed, we’re not Starfleet.”
“You’re still not getting it.” Wren tried a different approach. “The Order isn’t the Central Command. An attack upon them will merely feed into the Cardassians’ rhetoric regarding your cause.”
“We know that,” Chakotay assured her.
Wren and Riker both wondered if Chakotay was just colossally stupid. Chakotay could see that in their expressions, so he decided to address that concern. “The Obsidian Order listening post on Valo VI is tied into their network. If we get in without alerting them, we can gain access to their computers and find out where every Order base and agent within distance of the DMZ is located. This data will be shared with Starfleet. Maybe it’ll buy us some goodwill.”
“How generous of you,” Wren snidely remarked, “especially since you’ll need Tom to access the Cardassians’ computers. Or do you have a qualified ops officer aboard?”
Chakotay didn’t know about Seska’s hidden skill set, so he replied in the negative. “So yes, I’m asking Tom to contribute to a mission that will serve Maquis interests while it serves Starfleet’s security concerns as well.”
“You want me to aid and abet a terrorist strike?” Riker asked.
Chakotay smiled. “Essentially.”
Riker thought it over. “I’m in.”
Wren thought about bouncing her head off the bulkhead a few times. Then she reconsidered. She’d rather bounce Riker’s instead.
“Does Starfleet know about this base on Valo VI?” Wren asked.
“You should know better than I do,” Chakotay countered, “and if Starfleet knows, why haven’t they done anything about it?”
“If they do, diplomatic channels take time,” Riker finally voiced a little reason.
“We’re hoping to accelerate the timetable a bit.” Chakotay grinned. “We’re just going to skip diplomacy this time and let Starfleet, the Obsidian Order, and the Central Command all catch up. With any luck, the Bajoran Militia will take a stance as well. This base directly threatens Prophet’s Landing, so they’ll have a vested interest.”
“There’s no talking you out of this, is there?” Wren asked.
“No.” Chakotay exited on that note.
Seska stepped out as well and then returned a moment later. “You two will remain here until we land on Valo VI.”
“I suppose your charming self will be here as well,” Riker ventured.
Seska smiled like a caged Bajoran razorcat. “Of course. Ready to try me yet?”
Chell and Henley settled into unoccupied bunks and watched as the Starfleet officers verbally fenced with Seska.
Many thanks to Bernd Schneider of Ex-Astris-Scientia.org for designing the Blackbird-class scout vessel mentioned in this story.
Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.