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Down Darker Trails

Posted on Aug 12, 2019 @ 4:52am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: Last Days of Empire


(Continued from "More Questions Than Answers")


Captain's log, supplemental - with the away team back aboard, we are ready to follow up on our next lead in the hunt for the Satet. The Phoenix has left the Bazaar and is on course for its next destination - a mysterious sector of space right in between the Klingon Empire and Orion Syndicate...


Location: USS Phoenix, TX-01 system
Stardate: [2.19]0811.1630
Scene: Conference room - deck 1, saucer section

Michael Turlogh Kane took his seat at the head of the conference table and watched as the away team did the same. Jake, Eve, Jasmine, and Hector Solorzano - all of them present, but the Phoenix's new passenger was not among them. Right now, Joanna Masters was being escorted by Byte through the ship to her guest quarters.

A good job, all around. The Bazaar wasn't a place that the Phoenix could have cleaned up single-handedly, nor was it within their remit to do so. It would go on being a freeport for the seedier underbelly of the quadrant, attracting the kind of lawless freebooter that had plagued honest ships since time immemorial.

But the intelligence that had been gathered regarding Robert Book was as much interesting as it was suspicious. Admiral Koniki had indicated that Book and a mysterious companion had visited the Bazaar before departing to parts unknown. Now, thanks to the efforts of the two away teams, the Phoenix had a new lead. They had both the location and the possible identity of the companion.

"Alright," said Kane, bringing the meeting to order. "Let's go over what you found out down there. Commander?"

Jake indicated Jasmine with a nod. "Lieutenant Yu and I were able to make contact with J'hora, a renegade Klingon who has set up her own power base in the Bazaar. Book visited her several weeks ago. She said that Book was interested in trading stolen Starfleet property and wanted information on a specific sector of space."

"That stolen property may or may not be the Satet itself," said Jasmine. "However, we should also keep in mind that Captain Book was playing the part of a privateer, and may well have been pretending to have something for sale. His main interest seems to have been that sector of space."

"I agree," nodded Jake. "Book's an intelligence officer and probably an accomplished bullshit artist. I think he stopped off on the Bazaar to see if either faction - Klingons or Romulans - knew anything about an impending war. That's why he went to J'hora. When he learned all he could, he hit the road."

Kane nodded. "Book was gathering information. That makes sense. But he didn't visit the Orions, did he?"

Eve Dalziel shook her head. Behind her through the viewing port, Kane could see the white streaks of the starfield as the Phoenix powered its way through space at high warp. "Not that we were able to confirm, Captain. However, the local Orion Syndicate representative knew all about the Satet's arrival and departure. She politely suggested that we might want to discontinue our search."

"The Syndicate would love us to go home, so that they could get their hands on an intact Starfleet vessel," said Jasmine. "When they got their hands on the Patriot fourteen years ago, Starfleet had to mothball the entire Nova-class series."

Kane picked up the PADD that lay on the table in front of him and scrolled down through the datastream with his thumb. "Joanna Masters. Is there a link?"

There was silence for a moment, like nobody knew what to say. Joanna Masters matched the physical description of Robert Book's companion when he visited J'hora. That had come out of left field - Kane had assumed that Book's companion was another Starfleet officer, one of the senior staff on the Satet.

Hector Solorzano was staring at the table. Kane could see that he was in some emotional distress, but this was not the time for kid gloves. He looked around the table. "Thoughts?"

"It's a possibility," said Jasmine. "We need to confirm it, but I don't see how we can prove that she made contact with Book prior to our arrival. If she ask her, she could just say 'No' and we'd be none the wiser. There are no security records we can peruse, and there is no way we have enough legal reason to probe her memories."

"Yeah," said Jake. He shot a glance at Heck. "We don't have an alternative except to believe whatever she gives us."

Kane drummed his fingers on the table top. "Mister Solorzano."

Heck looked up. "Yes, Captain?"

"Lieutenant, I understand that seeing Miss Masters again after so long must be something of a shock to you, but I remind you of your Starfleet obligations. Don't lose your focus." Kane gave him a moment to come back to the room, then pressed on. "On the surface, you indicated that Miss Masters was some kind of professional thief."

Heck squirmed in his seat. He looked guiltily around the table. "What last I knew of her, Captain, yes."

Kane eyeballed him. "Can you think of a reason why Captain Book would enlist her aid?"

Heck thought for a second. "Maybe he was taking advantage of her local knowledge? To open doors, meet contacts, that kind of thing."

"Makes sense," nodded Jasmine.

"Then we need to ensure that we get the truth from her," said Kane. "Lieutenant Dalziel, do a complete background check on Miss Masters. Birthday to yesterday. Outstanding warrants, previous convictions, personal life, psych profile, everything. Schedule an interview with her after she gets some sleep - let's say tonight sometime. Find out what she was doing on the Bazaar and what Book wanted with her, but watch out for obfuscation."

"Aye, sir," Eve acknowledged.

Kane looked at Heck. "Lieutenant Solorzano, I want you to stay away from her for the next few hours. The next time Miss Masters sees you, I want it to be across a table with Lieutenant Dalziel. Understood?"

Heck frowned. "Yes, sir."

"Psychology," Jasmine said to him. "You're the good cop."

"Good cop?" Heck's frown deepened. "Is there a bad cop?"

Jasmine glanced at Eve and winked. Eve chuckled and made a note on her PADD.

Kane looked around the table. "We're scheduled to arrive at the co-ordinates J'hora gave us tonight. Take a few hours off, but everyone will need to return to duty by nineteen-hundred."

"What do we know about that sector of space?" asked Jake.

"Empty," said Kane. "It's interstellar space, according to Federation charts. Nearest star system is a light-year away."

"The middle of nowhere," said Jake.

"Right." Kane looked around the table. "If there's nothing else, you're all dismissed."


Scene: Primary sickbay - deck 12, saucer section

After eating a light dinner, Kane left the bridge in Byte's command and headed down to sickbay. It had been on his mind to get a checkup, and there was also that new medical officer to meet. Before the ship arrived at its destination, he thought he'd kill two birds with one stone.

The sickbay doors hissed open and admitted him. In the late afternoon, the place was almost empty. Beta shift was on duty right now, so Kane expected to see Suvek and Glex at their posts. The Vulcan and Denobulan did not disappoint, and looked in askance at him, but Kane motioned them both to remain at their seats, and moved towards Sidney Bartlett's office.

The older man was reading something on his desktop monitor, running a hand through his lank grey hair. He looked up when Kane appeared in the doorway. "Captain!"

"Doctor Bartlett," said Kane. He threw a nod into the main sickbay. "Bit quiet around here right now, isn't it?"

Bartlett got to his feet. "Just the way I like it. Got a few out-patients with minor ailments, but the Phoenix crew is quite healthy right now. Don't need an old man like me around at all." He reached for a medical tricorder. "Something I can do for you?"

"Six-month checkup," said Kane. "Get it out of the way."

"Ah." Bartlett led him out to the main room and indicated a biobed. "Shirt off. Lie down and think of Ireland."

Kane did as he was bid, watching as the biobed lid came down to cover his torso. "No sign of your new assistant around either."

Bartlett's eyes twinkled. "You just gave away your real reason for visiting me, Captain."

Kane shrugged. "I like keeping my distance from the crew, but not so much that they're afraid to talk to me."

"Is that right." Bartlett keyed an instruction into the biobed control, and a calming blue light emanated from the underside of the machine. "She's at the Vulgar Tribble right now. Took off with Major Thytos a while ago."

"Oh well," said Kane. "How's she settling in?"

"Just fine." Bartlett made a note of something on the biobed readout. "Could do with eating a bit more regularly. Likes pathology and virology. Works on those when times are quiet. Captain, your aorta shows a point-six-per-cent increase in plaque buildup since your last examination."

Kane's eyes widened. "Is that bad?"

"Heart attacks and strokes remain the primary killers of Humans, Captain Kane, only these days they are caused by natural old age." Bartlett keyed something else into the biobed - the blue light disappeared and was replaced by a gentle hum. "Hold still while I weave a spell and work my magic."

Kane didn't move, unsure of what was happening.

Bartlett smiled. "Relax, Captain. It's just ultrasound to break up the plaque. Painless and completely effective." He pressed a hypo against Kane's neck and depressed the trigger. "Endolithium regenerator. You'll naturally excrete it over the next few days." He stepped back as the biobed lid raised itself up again. "There, all done."

Kane rubbed his neck where the drug had been applied. He reached for his uniform jacket. "Well, thanks for the checkup."

"I'll tell Allison you stopped by," said Bartlett.


Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section

A little later, Kane made his way back to the bridge. The Phoenix's arrival at J'hora's co-ordinates was imminent, and everyone needed to be back on deck. When the turbolift doors to the bridge hissed open, everyone was waiting for him.

{{Captain on the bridge,}} announced Byte from Ops. {{Arrival at specified co-ordinates in three minutes, seven seconds.}}

"Sensors?" asked Kane as he moved to the centre seat.

The android checked its datastream. {{Long-range sensors detect a disabled space vessel at those co-ordinates, Captain.}}

Kane froze in his tracks. "The Satet?"

Tension spiked on the bridge while Byte checked the data. {{Negative. There is not sufficient mass to be a Luna-class starship.}}

Jake stood up. "Can we identify from this distance?"

{{Affirmative, Commander. The starship is an Orion Wanderer-class blockade runner. Decelerating from warp now.}}

On the main viewer, the starfield lost its white-streak blur and began to solidify down to distinctive pin-pricks of light, speckled brightly against the vast canopy of night. Inter-stellar space - or, to give it its correct name, the interstellar medium - was not, despite the name, a vast expanse of total emptiness. The space between stars was a home for ionised, atomic, or molecular gases, as well as the huge quantities of space dust that reflected stellar light. Solar particles, borne on currents ejected from stars, flowed like rivers through the interstellar medium, and the various radioactive particles and gases occasionally came together to form beautifully-coloured nebulae.

There was nothing like that here. No artist's palette backdrop, just a spatter of distant white points of light. Between the Phoenix and those lights hung a dead Orion starship, open to the vacuum, shattered and broken.

Jasmine and Byte fell to their work as the rest of the bridge crew looked on. "Analysis, Mister Byte," ordered Kane.

{{Starship is confirmed as Orion Wanderer-class,}} said Bye. {{No life-signs. Captain, I am detecting the residue of weapons fire. This starship was crippled in battle.}} The android zoomed the main viewer on the battered blockade runner - one of its nacelles was missing, presumably having been obliterated, and several gaping holes were visible along its superstructure. The dull metallic olive colour of the hull was pitted and scorched into black where it had been hit.

"Could the Satet have done that?" asked Jake.

{{Analysis incomplete,}} said Byte. {{Standby.}}

"What do we know about this class of Orion starship?" asked Kane.

At Tactical, Jasmine called up the ship recognition chart and overlaid them on the main viewer. "The Wanderer-class design is a pretty old one, but they've been popular since they were introduced over a century ago. They're divided into three modules- the head, the hull, and the engines."

Kane ran his eye over the Orion ship. The gaping holes were most visible along the central hull module, but there was significant damage to the engine module too. The head, where the bridge was located, seemed like it had escaped unscathed, but everyone aboard the thing had likely all been killed.

"Usual armament is four OD-4 shipboard disruptors, backed up by another four torpedo bays and a standard Orion deflector shield system," continued Jasmine. "A single Wanderer-class starship presents no strategic threat to the Phoenix."

"Crew complement?" asked Jake.

"Usually around one hundred," said Jasmine. "No life-signs here, though."

{{Analysis of weapon residue completed,}} announced Byte. {{Plasma residue of several Orion torpedoes, and - }} The android cocked its head like a bird and paused.

"And what, Byte?" prompted Jake.

Byte turned in its chair to face them. {{And Klingon disruptors, sir.}}

"Klingons," muttered Jake.

Kane moved forward so he could get a look at Byte's datastream. "We know that the Satet was here some weeks ago. Can we analyse the Orion starship's superstructure damage to pin-point when the battle with the Klingons took place?"

Byte nodded once, a strangely Human habit it had picked up. {{Yes, Captain. I can also cross-reference the decay rate of the disruptor plasma for a more accurate reading. It will take a few hours, sir.}}

Jake moved to Kane's side. "We have no proof that the Satet was here, do we?" he said quietly. "The Orions and Klingons might have had their battle after the Satet had been and gone."

"Agreed, but it's too much of a coincidence," murmured Kane. "Book visits J'hora, asking about this specific location, far from the nearest star system. We arrive here and find a dead Orion starship, attacked by Klingons. What happened here? Did the Klingons interrupt a meeting between the Orions and Book, or did the Orions interrupt a meeting between Book and the Klingons and come off worst?"

Jake folded his arms. "And why didn't the Klingons destroy the Orions completely?"

"Maybe there are answers aboard the Orion starship," said Kane. "Do you think it would be possible to board her and scan her main computer? We might find out what she was doing here."

"It would mean EVA suits," said Jake. "I'll take Lieutenant Yu with me, Ensign Ryan for the engineering work. Doctor Samson too, in case there are corpses aboard. Maybe the Klingons boarded her before the end."

"Lieutenants Dalziel and Solorzano will conduct the interview with Miss Masters while you're gone. I'll have Major Thytos stand in the doorway for a bit of extra presence." Kane looked around. "Once Byte finishes his analysis, we'll have a better picture of what went on here. Be careful, Commander."

"Yes, sir." Jake lifted his head and spoke into the air. "Doctor Samson, Ensign Ryan - report to transporter room one for away team duty." He motioned to Jasmine to accompany him into the turbolift.

Kane moved to the centre seat and finally sat down, waiting to see which way the story developed.


NRPG: So, we are following the Satet's trail of breadcrumbs.

JAKE, JASMINE, ALLISON and Ensign Ryan are going to suit up and beam to the Orion hulk to find out what happened and see if there is any information in its databanks. You can find more information about Wanderer-class starships on Memory Alpha or Beta.

EVE, KASS, and Heck are going to 'interview' Joanna Masters.

Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer

"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117



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