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Posted on Sep 30, 2019 @ 1:42am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: Last Days of Empire


(Continued from "Got To Break Free")


Captain's log, supplemental - with the Phoenix's arrival in the Alcyonus susytem now imminent and our plan of action decided, there is nothing left to do except make final preparations...


Location: USS Phoenix, approaching Alcyonus
Stardate: [2.19]0929.1745
Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section

Michael Turlogh Kane paced the bridge, awaiting the moment that Byte would announce that the Alcyonus system was within sensor range. Given the incredible relative speeds at high warp these days, not much time passed between entering sensor range of a location and then arriving at the location itself. Strategically speaking, this could be dangerous, because the margin of time needed to change course also decreased. If there was an uncloaked Klingon battlefleet lying in wait at their destination, say, then there would only be scant minutes to prepare for it.

He was also conscious of the fact that, as the Phoenix was entering the range where her sensors could detect the goings-on in the Alcyonus system, the flip side was also true. The Phoenix was also entering the sensor range of any goings-on in the Alcyonus system. If there were Klingon starships present, and if they had eyes on the likely approach paths to Alcyonus, then there wasn't much chance of the element of surprise.

If. If. If. Everything was ifs.

The Ops station chirped an alert. Byte immediately inclined its head. {{Now entering sensor range of the Alcyonus system, Captain.}}

Kane moved to the android's shoulder. There was nothing on the main viewer except the blurred streaks of the starfield, as the Phoenix, churning the radiation waves of interstellar space at over two thousand times the speed of light, inexorably closed in on its destination. "Report, Lieutenant."

Byte's pasty-white brow was furrowed like a ploughed field as it interpreted the data stream. {{The Alcyonus system has four planets. The three outer worlds are small gas planets, but the first planet is a class H desert world. There appears to be almost no surface water, but I am detecting vast deserts, sporadically broken by high mountain ranges. Atmosphere is suitable for humanoid respiration, but higher levels of argon in comparison to Earth standard means that long-term exposure will require mild infusions of stimulants, in order to decrease the - }}

"I doubt the away team will be on the surface long enough to qualify," said Kane, seeing that Byte was off on a tangent again. "Life signs?"

{{Not at this range, sir. However, I am detecting several power signatures emanating from a point in the planet's southern hemisphere. The readings match those of known Klingon technology, sir.}}

"That's the location of the prison camp," nodded Kane. "We can assume the place is fairly mishmash - the Klingons have been active in this part of space only for the past few months, so it's unlikely that the camp itself is of a very advanced standard."

{{A likely supposition, Captain. Perhaps hewn from subsurface native stone, and supplemented with industrially-replicated construction materials.}}

"Right," said Kane, giving a frown. "If they constructed this facility as a place to hold captured Orions, they must have assumed that they would be taking prisoners. Which, in turn, suggests that the Klingons were preparing a large-scale fleet action in this sector."

{{Another strong likelihood,}} said Byte. It reached its hand up to its chin and stroked it sagely. {{Hmm.}}

Kane stepped back and stared down at the android. "What are you doing, Byte?"

Byte froze, and took its hand away from its face. {{I was thinking, sir.}}

Kane raised an eyebrow. "Mister Byte, your positronic matrix is capable of one-hundred-and-eighty trillion probability calculations per second. You have no need to 'hmm.'"

Byte cocked its head like a bird. Its features assumed an expression that bizarrely, Kane though, resembled someone being sheepish. {{Apologies, Captain. I was attempting to appear more - }}

"More Human, I know." Kane rubbed his temples with his fingertips. There was no point in rebuking Byte - there was neither the time, nor had he the inclination. He could feel a stress headache coming on. "Will you please scan the system for starships?"

Byte's digits flew over the controls like magic. {{One K'vort-class heavy Brid of Prey, moving to break orbit of the first planet,}} it said.

"Just one?" Kane pressed. Federation sensor technology had almost outstripped Klingon cloaking technology - thanks to their conquest by the Romulans fifty years ago, the Klingons were, technologically-speaking, lagging badly behind the other Alpha Quadrant powers.

Byte nodded once - another strange Human habit the android had picked up. {{It appears so, sir.}}

"Is it the same starship we encountered at the hulk of the Orion blockade runner?" asked Kane.

{{Unable to verify, sir. It is possible.}}

"In any case, one heavy cruiser is no match for the Phoenix," said Kane. "Where is the Klingon fleet?" He shook his head, dismissing the question as rhetorical. He turned to Mackenzie Procter at Tactical. "Open a channel to the Klingon starship, Lieutenant."

Procter moved to her task quickly. "Channel open."

Kane puased for a moment to gather his thoughts and consider his words. "This is Captain Michael Turlogh Kane of the Federation starship Phoenix, to the Klingon starship breaking orbit of Alcyonus One."

Several seconds passed, but that didn't matter. The Klingon commander was probably processing the message and deciding on a response. When he or she had made a decision, then -

"Klingon starship responding visually," announced Procter. "On screen."

The main viewer winked, revealing the bridge of a K'vort-class heavy Bird of Prey. The room was doused in a dim red light, spreading weird shadows along the walls, broken by the orange-and-yellow control panels favoured by the Klingons. There was a spartan severity to Klingon bridges that was probably intended to frighten anyone looking into one - several Klingon men and women were standing at their stations, looking into their own main viewer, gazing back at him. Kane wondered what they thought of the brightly-lit and, by comparison, colourful bridge of the Phoenix.

On the K'vort-class' central dais was a throne, and upon that throne sat a bulky Klingon warrior. His face was angular, with high cheekbones, and his thick black hair had been pulled back into a single braid that was curled about his right shoulder. He was wearing a black tunic, over which was laid a thick matte-metallic vest of armour. The outfit concealed his skin below his throat, which was exposed as the he held his head up proudly. {{I am Grin'Kor, Captain of the Imperial Klingon Ship MoH'Jthor. You are a long way from home, Captain Kane.}}

Kane stood up straight and moved to the fore of the bridge. There was no real rulebook for dealing with Klingons. Some of them were devious, some of them arrogant, and some of them were honourable, but all of them seemed to respect the projection of confidence. He squared his shoulders and kept his head up. "Not so, Captain Grin'Kor. My home is this bridge."

The Klingon inclined his head. {{Well said! However, you are approaching a star system of the Klingon Empire. I must ask why. Will you tell me?}}

Kane became aware of a Klingon woman standing in the shadows of Grin'Kor's throne. Where his hair was pulled back into a single braid, her hair was splayed out like a fan. It was presumably to offset her somewhat light build - Kane couldn't get a good look at her features, but her eyes were dark and quick.

He decided not to press the Klingon captain's claim to the Alcyonus system. This whole sector was disputed, and Grin'Kor was likely bloviating. "We have recently captured a number of local criminals. They are led by a Human female named Joanna Masters. I understand that she is wanted for questioning by Klingon authorities."

Grin'Kor drew a thumb across his throat. On his bridge, the Klingon communications officer muted the transmission. Kane watched as Grin'Kor leaned down from his throne and held a fast conversation with the shadow-shrouded Klingon woman. It seemed clear to Kane that Grin'Kor was looking for information, but he didn't have to consult a computer - instead, this woman was giving him the information that he wanted.

Kane quickly turned to Procter. "You see that Klingon woman that he's talking to? Get an image of her face and find out what we have on her."

Procter nodded.

The comms channel was opened again. Grin'Kor seemed interested, going by the tone of his voice, but he didn't immediately take the bait. {{Why do you not return her to Federation space to face trial for her crimes?}}

Kane thought furiously. This wasn't a random question - Grin'Kor was actively trying to find out why the Phoenix was here in this system, and Kane's answer was going to determine whether Grin'Kor accepted the story or not. If Grin'Kor already knew about the Satet, which seemed likely, then *not* mentioning the Starfleet vessel might make him suspicious.

He had to choose his words carefully. When he spoke, his tone was careful and measured. "The Phoenix is engaged on a search for a missing Starfleet vessel in this sector of space. Word has spread about the existence of the prison facility in this star system. It is our hope that, by turning Joanna Masters and her gang over to Klingon authority, that our search for our missing sister ship will proceed more smoothly."

Grin'Kor seemed satisfied. A wolfish smile played about his mouth. {{It is as I suspected, then. Very well, Captain Kane. I give you permission to establish orbit of the first planet in this system. However, you should know that I intend to contact my commanding General and inform him of your presence in this system.}}

Kane raised an eyebrow. A commanding general meant a larger command authority in this sector than a group of simple starship captains. The communique on the Orion blockade runner had referred to Klingon 'pirates', but this was no buccaneer campaign. Grin'Kor had inadvertently confirmed the presence of a Klingon fleet somewhere in the sector, but there was still no sign of them here and now.

The Klingon woman made a noise that sounded like a short, stuttered hiss. Grin'Kor's eyes widened as he realised what he had just said, what he had just given away.

Kane inclined his head. "That is all understood, Captain Grin'Kor. We will be arriving in-system shortly. Phoenix out."

Taking her cue, Procter cut the connection. The main viewer cut back to the blurred starfield.

Kane looked around the bridge. "Well," he said cheerily, "I think that went well, eh?"


Scene: Transporter Room 2 - deck 2, drive section

Jake Crichton watched as the away team climbed up onto the transporter pad. The device was on and running, but he had dismissed the transporter crewman and was going to do the beam-down himself. Everyone was prepared and ready - at least, they were as far as he could tell. The plan was simple - get beamed down to the prison planet in the guise of Joanna Masters' recently-apprehended smuggling gang, then investigate the distress signal in the prison, and engineer some kind of breakout. When that was done, Kass' team would launch in one of the Runabouts - the Tigris - to bring them back. Right now, Malin-Argo was overseeing modifications to the Tigris - fitting it with a false registry transponder, altering the fuel balances and alignments so that the energy signal didn't scream Starfleet.

All the members of the away team - Masters, Jasmine, Allison, Heck, and Harrad-Tor - were wearing dirty civilian clothes and had done their best to look as unkempt as possible. They would be relying on their own wits to accomplish their mission - no equipment could be secreted on them, so they were going to be entirely at the mercy of the Klingons.

Byte's voice filtered down through the decks. [[Now entering the Alcyonus system. Orbit of Alcyonus One in three minutes.]]

"Acknowledged," said Jake.

Jasmine didn't look nervous, given that she was in command of the away team. She seemed focused, and steadied Allison as the young doctor put a hand against the wall. Jake didn't know the Orion, Harrad-Tor, and he trusted that Jasmine knew her own people, but the Orion seemed quite apprehensive, repeatedly wiping sweat-slicked green hands against his overalls.

Masters herself was standing on the transporter pad, waiting for something to happen. Although Jasmine was in command of the team, Joanna was going to be the public "face" of the group. She was the master criminal, the one that the Klingons really wanted. Everyone else was just a bonus. Masters hadn't been too enamoured of the idea, but the amount of latinum on offer was too big to pass up, even for her.

Heck was the last to get ready. He had smeared down his short hair into an oily and unkempt mess, and had rubbed grease into his stubble to give himself an even dirtier appearance. He was dressed in a dark brown jumpsuit that had been replicated to be threadbare at the elbows and knees, and was just as dirty.

"You look a real sight, Heck," said Jake. He patted his friend on the shoulder. "You'll be fine."

"Yeah?" Heck didn't look convinced. "I was on Starbase for the past few years, Jake. I ain't done an away team since forever. Plus, it's Klingons. I'm a dead man walkin'."

"We got through the Second Dominion War," Jake reminded him. "You can do this."

"Yeah." Heck shot a glance at Joanna. She was ignoring them both, and casually smoothed back her blonde hair.

Jake followed Heck's gaze. There still seemed to be a bit of heat in his eyes. He nudged the Ops officer. "Don't get distracted. Eyes on the mission."

Heck snapped out of it. "Right."

[[Kane to Crichton.]] The Captain's voice sounded as Heck stepped away from Jake and moved up onto the transporter pad.

Jake touched his communicator. "Go ahead, sir."

[[We've established orbit around the prison planet. The Klingon warden, a fellow named Koth, is standing by on the surface. Sending you the co-ordinates now. Transport when ready.]]

"Understood, Captain." Jake cut the connection and moved to the transporter. Sure enough, the bridge had sent down the co-ordinates - a location in the southern hemisphere of the planet, seemingly in the midst of a vast expanse of desert. The immediate hinterland around the facility looked like it was scattered with giant rocks, sand, and loose scree. No roads, no markers on the land, just a compound in the middle of a boundless and bare landscape.

He looked up. "Prepare for transport. You're beaming down into some kind of outdoor courtyard within the prison compound. I'm informed that there is a welcoming committee standing by to meet you. The warden's name is Koth." He paused for a moment. "Good luck, everyone. We'll be watching from up here. Transport in five, four, three, two - "

He cut the final countdown and activated the device. Jasmine, Heck, Masters, Allison, and Harrad-Tor were replaced by five white-blue pillars of light that dematerialised them down into an energy stream. Working quickly, he directed those energy streams to the surface.

A moment later, he got conformation that they had rematerialised at the co-ordinates. "Crichton to bridge," he reported. "Transport complete."


NRPG: I'll leave it there for now. If your character is aboard ship and you want to post, get in touch. I have a Thing you could set up ;)

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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