by Travis Anderson
The Artemis made her approach. Riley noted the presence of a Blackbird-class scoutship. He informed Aellai that the ship’s ID transponder pinged it as the Odyssey.
“I wonder what Macen is doing here?” Aellai pondered aloud. She knew Macen by reputation alone. She also knew he’d worked closely with Hudson and Chakotay before their passing and still worked hand in hand with Ro and Korepanova. It seemed Eddington would be getting rid of yet another potential thorn in the side.
“Eddington’s report just arrived,” Riley advised Aellai. “There are two starships assigned to this patrol region. The first is a Springfield-class ship called the Courageous and the other is a Cheyenne-class named the Navajo. But they both seem to be out of the vicinity right now.”
“Scan the Odyssey,” Aellai ordered. “I want to know what she’s capable of.”
“Ye Gods,” Riley breathed, “she’s intact.”
“Of course she’s intact,” Aellai grated. “She’s right in front of us.”
“No, I mean she’s listed as being decommissioned but she’s in service trim. Starfleet didn’t remove a blessed thing when they handed her over to Macen,” Riley described.
“Who is he?” Aellai mused.
“A freelance investigator, or so he claims,” Riley recalled. “No one seems to know much about him except Ro and Korepanova.”
“What’s a ‘freelance investigator?’” Aellai wondered.
“That’s commercial talk for ‘spy for hire,’” Riley retorted.
“Isn’t he a former Starfleet officer?” Aellai seemed to recall.
“That’s what put him in the club with everyone he worked with,” Riley informed her. “They’re all ex-Starfleet.”
“What’s Eddington have to say about it?” Aellai wanted to know.
Riley scrolled through the report. “He says Macen isn’t an active member of the Maquis, but he is a vital support asset.”
“Too bad he’s about to become a dead one,” Aellai snorted.
“Eddington may not approve of killing him,” Riley warned.
“Eddington can kiss my gorgeous butt,” Aellai quipped. “We’re doing this for him.”
“You know, Ro could be a problem.” Riley delved further into the file. “Eddington believes that Ro will go to great lengths to stop the deployment of biogenic weapons.”
“So she’s a traitor to the cause,” Aellai mused. “She’ll just have to be one of our first targets when we get back.”
“It says Ro completed Starfleet’s Advanced Tactical Training course, a feat Eddington couldn’t pull off.” Riley thought it over. “It means she’ll be very dangerous in a fight.”
“She hasn’t met me yet,” Aellai mused. “I’ll show her the meaning of the word ‘dangerous.’”
“But Ro may have hired Macen to spy on us,” Riley considered, “and if so, Ro could be here as well.”
“How would they know we were coming here?” Aellai breezily dismissed the notion.
“I don’t know. We didn’t share this plan with anyone, but Eddington seems to be a bit of an ego maniac. He may have bragged it up to some loose lips,” Riley countered.
“Okay, I grant you the fact that the plan to make and use biogenic weapons may have leaked,” Aellai conceded, “but how would they know to come here?”
“It may be coincidence that Macen’s here and that he’s friends with Ro, but I also don’t believe in coincidence,” Riley stated.
“You might have a point,” Aellai granted him. “Have Don offload the weapon and then he’ll stay aboard to guard the ship while Siobhan, you, and I deliver it, arm it, and get the hell away from here.”
“Does Siobhan think she can penetrate Life Support?” Riley wondered. “It is a secure area.”
“Siobhan has a former lover that gave her the standard access codes for these types of things,” Aellai explained.
“Remind me to thank him someday,” Riley requested.
Aellai smirked. “Actually, it’s a her.”
“She’s never said a word,” Riley admitted.
“Siobhan is quite cosmopolitan. She’s attracted to both sexes,” Aellai shared.
“Just so long as Starfleet Security doesn’t come crawling up our ass,” Riley opined.
“Agreed,” Aellai said heartily.
Macen’s predictions came true as the Maquis stepped off of the transporter pad. Security hurriedly confiscated all of the visible phasers. But as expected, they were so consumed by the larger Bajoran models, they confused their readings and didn’t find the compact Type I’s.
Ro traveled under a falsified ID that T’Kir had whipped up. It wouldn’t withstand a retina scan activated probe, but it was enough to initially get her past security. It seemed to Ro that there was no end to T’Kir’s illicit activities.
The Maquis spread across the station. The docking ring was divided into four quads. Lee and Vorhoven took up position in Quad One to observe the comings and goings there. To allay suspicions, they struck up conversations with various dock hands and freighter crews.
Tebler and Mayweather watched Quad Three. They chose to mingle with unemployed day laborers looking to load and offload cargo. Gutierrez and D’ofo took up their vigil in Quad Four.
Ro watched over Quad Two, which sat next to the station’s main commercial transporter. Macen was designated to join her when he was done haranguing the station CO. All of the Maquis had been given restraints and comm badges along with their weapons.
The silver comm badges were identical to the gold comm badges worn by Federation law enforcement agents. It turned out that silver badges were issued to quasi-legal enforcement authorities such as privateers, private investigators, security specialists, and bounty hunters. T’Kir had linked the badges to the station’s central comm network. They’d reach anywhere inside the starbase as well as utilize the comm array to reach the Odyssey. As an added bonus, T’Kir had set up a private channel but Starfleet’s internal channel could be accessed with a phrase uttered before speaking the intended message.
Macen joined Ro fifteen minutes later. He wore a rueful grin. “Well, that went as well as expected.”
“M’rarr is still being a pigheaded jackass?” Ro wondered.
“That’s probably an even greater mixed metaphor with a Caitian than the usual,” Macen mused. “His Chief of Security seemed interested though.”
“Is he or she going to do anything?” Ro tersely inquired.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Macen shrugged.
“Great,” Ro groused.
“Something else bothering you?” Macen wondered.
“These stupid badges make my people stand out,” Ro complained.
“You should wear them on your belt like I do,” Macen repeated his earlier suggestion, “but they grant you an air of legitimacy that you’d otherwise lack. Standing around waiting for people to arrive would be suspicious behavior, but with our comm badges, your group appears to have legitimate business doing so.”
Ro removed the badge and reaffixed it to her belt. “Happy?”
“Thrilled,” Macen deadpanned.
“Good,” Ro asserted, “because I’m not… they’re here.”
“Where?” Macen asked.
Granger exited Docking Port 8, in Quad Two. He sat down a large duffel bag, gave some final instructions to Hennessy and then reentered the ship. Riley hefted the bag and then he left the quad with Aellai and Hennessy at his side.
“Get going,” Macen urged Ro.
“Are you going to be okay?” Ro asked.
“I’m having Lees, Christine, and Tom beam over to the station so we can access the Artemis. They only left one person aboard, so we’ll be fine,” Macen assured her. “Now scoot!”
Ro immediately departed. As she dropped back and followed the Artemis crew from a discreet distance, she signaled the other Maquis and had them converge on the station’s Life Support plant. They all arrived in time to find the two Starfleet Security officers assigned to protect the oxygen, heating, and cooling providers already stunned.
“Aellai, don’t do this,” Ro called out to the other leader. “Once you do, there’s no going back.”
“Siobhan, go faster!” Aellai demanded.
Ro stepped around the pressure seal and fired. She missed Aellai and Hennessy but she struck Riley. He crumpled to the deck as Aellai returned fire. Tebler and Gutierrez joined Ro and added their weight to the phaser barrage. Aellai slapped the door controls and the hatch sealed.
“We’re trapped,” Hennessy complained. “We’ll be stuck here until this thing goes off. I’ve already started the ignition process, and in two hours, this thing goes off and I can’t find a way to stop it.”
“We’ll die for the cause,” Aellai declared with a manic edge to her voice. “Don will deliver the weapons and we’ll still have our revenge.”
“I’m not dying for your revenge,” Hennessy snarled as she stood up from the ventilation shaft she’d been working on.
Aellai stunned her own crewman and went to work sliding the biogenic weapon into the shaft.
“What’s going on here?” Lt. Commander Aerick of Starfleet Security demanded to know as he and a handful of Security officers descended upon Life Support.
Ro pointed to her badge. “We’re trying to apprehend Maquis terrorists who are attempting to plant a biogenic weapon in your ventilation shafts.”
Aerick eyed Ro. “You must be with Captain Macen.”
“You’re smart,” Ro said acerbically.
“Macen captured the other Maquis crewman and my men have seized their transports, as well as the eleven biogenic devices in their hold,” Aerick informed her. “The Navajo has been recalled to transport the prisoners to Izar where they can stand trial.”
“You can’t do that here?” Ro was surprised.
“We only have one JAG officer aboard the station, so we don’t have enough legal representation to conduct a trial ourselves,” Aerick explained. “Now, I’d recommend you return to your ship.”
“I want to see this through,” Ro insisted.
“Can we step out into the corridor?” Aerick requested.
Ro nodded her acquiescence and they left the area. Aerick gave Ro a pained look. “Lt. Ro, I strongly urge you to take your Maquis and get aboard the Odyssey.”
Ro studied him. “How long have you known?”
“I served aboard the Wellington when you did,” Aerick revealed. “I thought you got a raw deal then and I think so now.”
Ro continued to weigh the Rigellian’s words as he continued. “I’ll give you a twenty minute escape window. Afterwards, the Navajo will be here. Her XO is Shannon Farley and her Chief of Security is Onyx Drell. I don’t suppose you recall them?”
“I do and I see your point,” Ro consented after hearing the names of the prosecution’s chief witnesses against her at her court martial.
She gathered her people and as they withdrew, Aerick called out after them, “You’re welcome.”
The Odyssey headed away from Starbase 621 and back towards Ronara Prime at warp 6. Ro joined Macen on the bridge, despite her obvious exhaustion from being up for over thirty-six hours straight. She asked for a private conference with Macen.
Danan rolled her eyes at his imploring look. “Look, either make her the ‘other’ woman or put her on staff.”
Ro cast a quizzical glance Macen’s way. Danan laughed. “Go, get off my bridge.”
Ro followed Macen into the briefing room, casting a beleaguered look Danan’s way as the Trill past her by while heading for the center seat. As the door closed behind her, Ro asked, “Is there something you should tell me about you and Lisea?”
“Is there?” Macen asked merrily.
“I feel like I’ve stepped into a mine field here,” Ro confessed.
“Don’t worry about it. She’s just playing with you,” Macen assured. “Now, what’s on your mind?”
“I take it everyone aboard Starbase 621 didn’t die a horrible, agonizing death,” she surmised.
“No,” Macen smiled. “The crisis has been averted thanks to brilliant deduction work by Starfleet Security. The weapon was beamed into space. And the Maquis are being properly vilified yet again.”
“Of course,” Ro said ruefully. “It figures.”
“Commander Aerick isn’t an active Maquis, nor is he a collaborator, but he is a sympathizer,” Macen analyzed the Rigellian’s behavior. “Which is valuable information.”
“He pretty much told me the same thing,” Ro shared, “but I don’t know if he sympathizes with the Maquis cause or me.”
“Maybe it’s both,” Macen suggested, “or it’s even that he sympathizes with the cause because of your involvement.”
“What are you suggesting?” Ro was instantly defensive.
“I don’t know if I am suggesting anything,” Macen admitted. “Take my statement for what you will.”
“At least we got away and the biogenic devices aren’t in Eddington’s hands.” Ro tried to put a positive spin on the mission.
“So it counts as a ‘win?’” Macen wondered.
“Not really,” Ro grumped. “I really wanted to confront Eddington with his handiwork.”
“Too dangerous,” Macen warned. “The rest of his followers, and that’s practically every Maquis, would have taken the weapons and used them anyway. You and Sveta would have only ostracized yourself further. And Eddington would have known you were personally involved. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.”
“Brin, we’re traveling in a vacuum right now,” Ro retorted.
“But we’re moving. We have motion, a life sustaining construct around us and life forms from several different worlds inside of it,” Macen lectured her. “That alone should tell you nothing is stagnant in this universe. All life interacts and intrinsically affects other life, even if it’s only on a microscopic level.”
Ro derisively snorted. “That’s what the vedeks taught us as children.”
“There’s wisdom to be found in those teachings,” Macen opined.
“I didn’t believe it then and I won’t believe in superstition now,” Ro asserted.
“Truth can be extracted from superstition,” Macen countered, “but my real question is ‘what next?’”
“We go back to business as usual,” Ro shrugged. “We still have a war to win.”
“And if Eddington completely cuts you off from the rest of the Maquis?” Macen had to ask.
“Then we scale back the magnitude of our operations but we keep fighting,” Ro decided.
“I’ll feed you what intelligence that I can,” Macen assured Ro. “Tell Sveta that she’s in the pipeline as well. Eddington and his supporters won’t be.”
“What? Why?” Ro was astounded.
“I can’t support Eddington’s new direction for the Maquis,” Macen stated. “Genocide is not the way to win and Eddington and his loyal little minions need to learn that.”
Ro suddenly felt like kissing him despite however Danan would feel about it, and told him so. Macen looked uncomfortable. “Let’s not get drastic.”
Ro reunited with Tulley at their base on Ronara Prime. Every Maquis that had been aboard theIndomitable was trading war stories with those that had been aboard the Odyssey. Ro had already quite a few exaggerations from the latter group to make their trip sound more exciting.
“I hear you were successful,” Ro congratulated Tulley. “You even escaped from three Starfleet ships and two Cardassian cruisers.”
“Never leave me behind again,” Tulley begged. “I almost had a nervous breakdown.”
“Poor baby. I’ll try not to,” Ro consoled him. “I got back to find a message from Eddington on my comp/comm.”
“What did he have to say?” Tulley sneered the word ‘he.’
“That we’re too independent and we should have cleared the Orion strike through him. Apparently he’s upset that the freighters were intercepted and destroyed,” Ro informed him, “so now we’re truly independent operators that are Maquis in name only. All the other cells have been warned to avoid us and not to cooperate with us our support any of our operations in any way.”
“So he tossed us out on our ear,” Tulley said bitterly.
“Not really,” Ro mused. “It seems our little group is too successful to simply throw away, so we’re now viewed as a splinter faction whose logistics are completely up to us.”
“What about the Architect?” Tulley wondered.
“Sveta has received the same message and she already left a separate message to insure me we have her full support,” Ro told him.
“So they’re not going to let her plan group missions anymore?” Tulley was incredulous.
“Nope,” Ro shook her head. “They have one of Starfleet’s finest strategists at their disposal and they cast her aside simply because she wouldn’t bow before the new king.”
“Still, with you and the Architect on our side, we should be able to kick some royal ass,” Tulley enthused.
Ro smiled. “I’m glad you think so, because a major part of making that work will be a result of your work.”
Tulley groaned and Ro chided him. “It’s part of being my deputy. You want to step down? That’s fine. I’ll ask Sam to take the job.”
The thought of Richards leapfrogging him in the cell’s seniority rankled Tulley. Although, he knew Richards was a former law enforcement officer, whereas Tulley was just an inspired amateur. But he was especially motivated.
“I’m fine with the way things stand,” Tulley promised Ro.
“I understand you paid Athos IV a visit while I was away,” Ro recalled. “How did you explain my not making an appearance?”
“Shanra just told everyone you were down with Rigellian fever and were being quarantined in what passes as a med bay aboard the Indie,” Tulley explained.
“Bajorans can’t get Rigellian fever,” Ro said to much chuckling from Tulley.
“Ro, the Architect has requested that you contact her. She says you two need to start planning a new offensive,” Alea informed Ro as she approached.
“Yes, we do,” Ro said with some satisfaction. “You two stand by. I’ll need to consult with the pair of you in a few minutes.”
“We’ll be waiting,” Alea promised.
Ro suddenly felt more confident about her cause and her cell then she had since she first joined it. She also felt as bold and forceful has she had under Hudson’s wing. She was still committed enough to win the lousy struggle the Maquis faced as a daily reality. And in this game, the most committed one won.
And with any luck Eddington will get killed or captured before that victory is achieved and he can set himself up as a demigod over a Maquis Confederacy, Ro thought to herself.
U.S.S. Andor and U.S.S. Blackbird designed by Bernrd Schneider.
Please send feedback and other correspondence regarding this story to Brin_Macen at yahoo dot com.