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The Plot Thickens

Posted on Jun 27, 2019 @ 6:37pm by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: Last Days of Empire


(Continued from "Gossip And Intel")


Captain's log, supplemental - after a short journey, we have almost arrived in the TX-01 system, an isolated system in the unclaimed space between the Federation, the Klingon Empire, and Orion space. On a moon orbiting the fifth planet is a freeport that is the last confirmed location of the starship Satet, the missing Starfleet Intelligence vessel. From here, we will hopefully learn the Satet's next destination...


Location: USS Phoenix, en route TX-01 system
Stardate: [2.19]0627.1035
Scene: Captain's ready room - deck 1, saucer section

Michael Turlogh Kane sat down at his ready room desk and activated his computer terminal. He had a few minutes before the scheduled subspace conversation with Admiral Charles Koniki was due to take place, and wanted to use it to check some more details on the USS Satet, the missing starship. The Satet was ostensibly a Luna-class transport ship, but was likely to have undergone several modifications if she was being entrusted with espionage missions. Kane wanted to find out just what the crew of the Phoenix was soon going to be dealing with - that, on top of dealing with a potential war and all the dangers that came along with it.

"Computer, show me the specifications of a Luna-class starship, specifically the USS Satet." Kane waited a moment, but nothing happened. His screen remained blank.

[[Specifications of USS Satet classified,]] intoned the computer's flat female voice. [[Specifications of Luna-class starship available.]]

"I suppose that'll do," said Kane. "Show me."

The screen winked him, showing pictures of a Luna-class starship in profile, from top-down, and a ventral view, accompanied by some specification data along one side of the screen. After running his eye over the specs, Kane didn't find anything earth-shattering. The Luna-class design was around sixty years old, and was originally developed as a mid-to-long range explorator starship. It had the classic 'saucer and two nacelles' design, but the saucer was a little more oblate than that traditional shape, and the nacelles were downward-sweeping and a little shorter than the standard design. The ship was compact in size, a little smaller than the old Nebula-class, but its standard complement was still over three hundred officers and crew.

Kane set his jaw in annoyance. Admiral T'sen's mission details had indicated that the Satet, while engaged on her current mission, had only a crew of fifty, including her CO. Captain Robert Book was, to Kane's surprise, a sixty-nine year old Human, clean-shaven with a craggy face that looked like it had been hewn out of granite, topped with a mop of iron-grey hair. A white South African man, he had been in Starfleet for fifty years, almost all of them in Starfleet Intelligence.

"I was expecting someone much younger," Kane murmured to himself. In his bio, Book did not look like an especially friendly man - his expression was intense, almost angry, and his hazel eyes looked like they were about to burst into flame. Most of his Starfleet record was classified, including previous commands and everything he had done since being assigned to New Alexandria, but Kane had expected that. What he was doing with only fifty people aboard his ship in the middle of a flashpoint between the Klingons and Orions, though, seemed obvious - the Satet's complement had been drastically cut back for her espionage mission.

Jasmine Yu's disembodied voice interrupted his train of thought. {{Bridge to captain. Incoming transmission on a secure channel from Starfleet Intelligence - Admiral Koniki.}}

"Thank you, Lieutenant. Route it to my ready room." Kane watched the screen change again, showing Admiral Charles Koniki seated in his ornate office somewhere in the depths of New Alexandria. Koniki was a tall, strongly-built Pacific Islander who kept his head shaved to the scalp. Although he, too, was in his sixties, Koniki still projected an air of virility and power. "Admiral Koniki, this is Captain Kane aboard the Phoenix. We are a little over two hours out from the Bazaar."

{{Ah, Captain Kane!}} exclaimed Koniki. There was a little fizzing on the transmission, and the audio looked to be about a second out of synch due to the great distance. {{Thank you for promptly responding to your orders. Our missing asset is a great worry here in my command. This message is to import the gravitas of your mission to you. We in SFI think it likely that the Klingons and Orions are, as we speak, about the business of killing each other on a large scale, and we do not want to see the Phoenix added to that list.}}

Kane inclined his head. "Admiral, I have questions."

{{Go ahead, Captain Kane. I will answer what I can.}} Koniki looked off-screen for a moment, glancing at something behind his own desktop terminal. Kane wondered if the man was alone - he could only see the Admiral's face and the wall behind him. Hell, there could be an entire cadre of intelligence officers listening in on them for all he knew.

"Admiral T'sen has informed me that the Satet's last confirmed location was the Bazaar moon," said Kane. "Can you give me any further details?"

Koniki smiled. {{We understand that Captain Book beamed down to the surface with one other companion from his command crew,}} he said, voice crackling with interference. {{We have no details on the companion, nor on where they went or who they spoke to, or if both or only one of them returned to the Satet. We were rather hoping you could find all that out for us.}}

Kane nodded. "They must have had some kind of lead there, something they wanted to follow up on. Something that led them deeper into the conflict zone."

{{No doubt, but I do not know what it was. It could have been anything - an Orion or Klingon lead, or something completely unrelated.}}

"I see. Admiral, I understand that the Satet's mission was to determine the state of affairs between the Klingons and Orions?"

{{Indeed, Captain. Both powers have been on a collision course for the past several years, ever since the Syndicate began annexing former Klingon colony worlds that had been eradicated by the Romulans. If a war has broken out, the Klingons are fighting to restore their old empire, while the Orions are fighting to take their place on the galactic stage. If the Orions win, both the Federation and Romulans gain a powerful new neighbour and the Klingon Empire will probably go the way of the Cardassian Union - reduced to a rump state of no importance.}} Koniki held up both hands like they were weighing scales. {{On the other hand, if the Klingons win, they will regain their old territory and begin to restore their old empire. The Syndicate might collapse as the central government of the Orions. We can't predict the future with one hundred per cent certainty, I'm afraid. When you enter the conflict zone, a secondary objective for you will be to ascertain the status of any military confrontation. Who is winning, is the result a foregone conclusion, that sort of thing.}}

Kane could understand that. If a new power was on the rise in the quadrant, then it was important that Starfleet known about it as soon as possible. Ever since the collapse of the Khitomer Accords, the Klingons had not been friendly towards the Federation, and the Orions had always forged their own path - either way, a new empire was rising, and an old one was watching the sun set on their place in history. "Understood, Admiral. What about the Satet herself? She must have undergone some modifications in order to undertake this mission, correct?"

Koniki narrowed his eyes. {{You're straying into classified information territory, Captain Kane.}}

"With respect, Admiral, I can't effectively search for the Satet if I don't know exactly what I'm looking for." Kane needed Koniki willing to divulge, but if the man clammed up, there would be no information forthcoming and the Phoenix would have to assemble a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the picture was. "If the Klingons or Orions have captured her, then isn't it possible that she's being stripped down for parts right now? I can't protect her technology if I don't know what it is."

Koniki looked unconvinced, but eventually shrugged. {{I see your point, Captain. Very well. You are correct - the Satet was heavily modified in order to undertake this mission. As well as carrying a high-end sensor palette, her phaser weapons array was removed and replaced with simple disruptors to make her appear to be a civilian ship. However, in order to give her a fighting chance in case of attack by an enemy with superior firepower, she was also carrying fifty quantum torpedoes. Her warp engine signature was masked by the plasma emitters of an Antares-class freighter, which we installed to make a scanning enemy think that she was running with a civilian-issue warp drive. Most importantly, the Satet was equipped with a cloaking device - she wasn't equipped for a war.}}

"But her design can only be Starfleet."

{{True enough, but Captain Book had a cover story about having stolen the ship from a private collector one Earth. Ship decommissioned, acquired by bigwig somewhere, stolen by enterprising privateers.}}

Kane nodded. "I see. Very well, Admiral, we'll do our best to locate your missing starship."

{{I know you will, Captain Kane. One more thing.}}

"Yes, sir?"

Koniki's features seemed to harden, and the tone of his voice flatlined. {{Until the conclusion of this mission, do not attempt to make subspace radio contact with any Starfleet Command installation, least of all this one. You will maintain operational silence at all times. We cannot risk the Klingons or the Syndicate intercepting your subspace messages and realising your true purpose in that sector of space. Am I clearly understood?}}

"You're telling us we're on our own, right Admiral?" Kane said bitterly.

Koniki nodded slowly. {{Good luck to you, Phoenix. Koniki out.}} He reached out a hand, and the screen winked to black.

Kane sat back in his seat. This was getting worse by the hour. There wasn't much left to do before arrival at the Bazaar, so he got up and headed for the main bridge. He paused at the door to put on his game face - no problems, all was well. What the crew didn't know couldn't hurt them.


Scene: Main bridge -deck 1, saucer section
Time Index: Two hours later

Kane got up from the centre seat as the Phoenix dropped out of warp. Outside, an enormous milky grey-white gas planet hung in space, its vast bulk easily taking up three-quarters of the viewscreen, reflecting the light of the distant yellow sun. In between the Phoenix and the gas giant hung a small moon, a battered, cragged rock caught in the giant's gravity well. There was a small cloud of space vessels orbiting the moon - shuttles and freighters only, nothing to challenge the dreadnought that had just decelerated from FTL.

"Magnify the moon." Kane moved forward to stand between Sotaar and Byte as Jasmine adjusted the viewscreen to zoom in. The moon itself was coloured a banal slate-grey, and its facade seemed pockmarked with craters and canyons - legacies of old collisions with asteroids or space debris. Just visible on the magnified view, however, were a cluster of buildings on the surface, built close together like they were cold travellers huddled around a campfire. The various orbiting space vessels could be seen much more clearly, too - Kane noticed that the largest was an Antares-class freighter, but the vast majority seemed to be small warpshuttles, merchant craft, and the like.

The Phoenix had come here, to this isolated star system, because it was the last confirmed sighting of the USS Satet, the Federation starship that had gone missing somewhere rimward from here. The Satet, while disguised as a transport freighter, had stopped off at this place for almost twenty-four hours before moving on into the suspected Klingon-Orion war zone, and rather than leaping into that war zone both feet first, it seemed meet to come here to try to narrow down the search for the Satet.

"Mister Byte," said Kane, "a concise briefing on the Bazaar, if you please."

The android indicated the moon with a nod. {{The only moon of the fifth planet of the TX-01 system, known as The Bazaar. That cluster of buildings on the surface of the moon is a gathering place for merchants from all across the quadrant. It lies outside the jurisdiction of all the major powers.}}

"This place was never a part of the Klingon Empire?" asked Kane.

{{Correct, Captain. Although the Klingons surveyed this system in the twenty-second century and considered its potential as a strategic naval base, they eventually abandoned it after laying down some very basic infrastructure. The moon is too small in size to support a large naval installation, and its mineral composition is uninteresting. Furthermore, its unusual orbit around the gas giant creates gravimetric oscillations that make landing larger vessels extremely dangerous, further reducing its usefulness as a refueling or resupply station. The Klingons abandoned their plans, but since then, several merchants moved in, transforming the moon into the place you see today.}}

Jake got to his feet. "I guess you're using the term 'merchant' pretty loosely, Byte."

Byte cocked its head like a bird. {{Indeed, Commander. Although lawless, The Bazaar is not anarchic. A loose affiliation of merchant interests combine their influence to ensure order, but you are correct in implying that much illegal comerce takes place here.}}

Counselor Dalziel, sitting on the jumpseat to the left of the command chair, spoke up. "Strange to think that neither the Syndicate nor Klingons have primary influence here. You have to wonder how long a place like this can survive if there is a winner between the two."

From Tactical, Jasmine looked up from her data screens. "I've run a scan on the orbiting ships. Seven of them are wanted in the Federation on suspicion of smuggling."

"We have no jurisdiction here," said Kane. "Nevertheless, record the sightings of those wanted ships - once we're done with this mission, we'll transmit the details to Starfleet Command."

Jake moved to Kane's shoulder. "And the Satet came here," he said. "What were they looking for?"

Kane looked sidelong at him. "I'm guessing that the Orion Syndicate has some sort of leverage in a place like this. Perhaps the Satet was looking for specific information on a person, place, or thing?" He looked back at the main viewer before coming to a decision. "Assemble an away team, Commander Crichton. Beam down to the Bazaar and find out what Captain Book and his companion were looking for. A good place to start might be with Major Thytos' Klingon woman, J'hora."

"Understood." Jake gestured to Jasmine, and then to Eve. "Lieutenant, Counselor, with me."

Byte turned away from the Ops console and began to get to its feet, but Jake held up a hand. "Not this time, Byte." He spoke into the air. "Lieutenant Solorzano, report to transporter room one for away team duty."

Kane raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Hector Solorzano was an officer with a chequered past, but Jake was clearly trying to do a friend a favour.

[[Understood, Commander.]] Heck's voice, from several decks below, sounded startled.

Kane watched Jake, Jasmine, and Eve get into the turbolift, and turned away as the doors closed. They were far from home and on the edge of a dangerous region of space, but there was a certain amount of anticipation in Kane's heart as he thought about the upcoming hunt for the Satet. The voyage was over, but the mission was just beginning.


NRPG: So who's posting next?


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