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The Carnage At Alcyonus

Posted on Jan 13, 2020 @ 7:56am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: Last Days of Empire


(Continued from "Prison Break")


Captain's log, supplemental - the Phoenix has made a discreet withdrawal from the Alcyonus system while the Orion and Klingon fleets square off against one another. I am most anxious to return in order to evacuate our away team on the surface, but without sufficient distraction to cover a rescue operation, I fear that everyone on the surface will have to wait a bit longer...


Location: USS Phoenix
Stardate: [2.20]0112.2300
Scene: Main bridge - Deck 1, saucer section

Michael Turlogh Kane watched carefully as Sotaar brought the Phoenix to a full stop, a whole half-parsec away from the lights of Alcyonus' twin stars. Here in interstellar space, there was nothing to see on the main viewer - the starfield was a distant shroud, thrown over the radiation of nearby suns, and muffling the long, slow echoes of mysterious radio pulses from the void.

Back in Alcyonus, two fleets were facing each other, guns locked and loaded, ready to defend what they held as their own. The resurgent Klingons, full of crusading zeal to restore their old empire, had been making de facto war upon the Orion Syndicate for the past year, eradicating any Orion presence on worlds that had formerly belonged to their Empire. For their part, the Orions wanted to hold what they had, their own nascent imperial ambitions unwilling to give way to Klingon fury. Leading the Klingon fleet was an old adversary - Is'toQ, a young warlord determined to raise his banner far from Qo'noS, and who had seized last year's quintotriticale harvest from Sherman's Planet to feed his campaign. Lost in the mix was the USS Satet, a Starfleet Intelligence ship that had been watching developments, and was now missing.

Retreating from Alcyonus had, unfortunately, meant abandoning the away team in the Klingon prison facility. Kane was determined that that would be a temporary measure, but a Federation starship in orbit of the prison while the Orions and Klingons snarled at each other would be like throwing a red rag between a pair of bulls. The time was not yet right to make an approach - some kind of leverage was needed.

He stood at Ops, looking over Byte's shoulder, watching the data stream scroll down across the android's station. "I don't see the away team's lifesigns."

{{Sensor data at this distance is spotty,}} answered Byte. {{The away team will not be able to communicate with us from the planet's surface, but I may be able to intercept in-system starship communications.}}

"Keep an ear out," said Kane. "Report anything you think is relevant."

"Our people have already been on the surface for too long," said Jake, getting up from his seat and moving to Kane's shoulder. "We need to do something."

"Even if we return to Alcyonus now, announcing that we are there to evacuate our personnel from the prison facility and aren't looking for trouble, do you think the Klingons would just let us waltz in and out without a challenge?" said Kane. "Our appearance in the middle of this incident could provoke either fleet to open fire, at us or at each other."

"Are you prepared to sacrifice the away team for a peace that hasn't been there for a year?" said Jake.

Kane turned to face his ExO. That had been said a bit too loudly for his liking, and he was conscious of being within earshot of Eve, Byte and Sotaar. "Of course not, Commander Crichton," he said, subtly emphasising Jake's rank. "We are not doing nothing. We are waiting for our moment - understood?"

Jake nodded professionally. "Yes, sir." He returned to his seat.

Kane eyeballed him for a moment, then turned back to keep an eye on Byte's data stream.


Location: Alcyonus I prison facility Gran'kothar
Scene: Storage Room -> Yard

Jasmine Yu counted seventeen Satet crew altogether. Including the away team inside the prison and the two marines by the shuttle, that meant a group of twenty-three people. Of those twenty-three, only two were armed and ready for combat against a prison crawling with angry Klingons and Orions. If this breakout was going to succeed, the group needed to move quickly, and if they were discovered, they needed to hit hard and fast. There was safety in numbers, but a larger group was also a bigger target.

"I'm assuming command," whispered Jasmine. "Alright with everyone?"

There were no dissenters. In the Satet group, there were only a scattered handful of ensigns - almost all of them were enlisted crewmen.

"Lieutenant Solorzano and I will take point," she said as quietly as she could. "I think I can remember how to get back to the main yard, but if I take a wrong turn, feel free to speak up. Once there, we'll improvise a breakout, out into the desert to our shuttle. Stay close to one another, and remember, the Klingons are armed with both blades *and* disruptors. Everyone ready?"

They looked ready. Heck fell into step beside her, and Allison, Harrad-Tor, and Joanna Masters disseminated themselves into the Satet group. One by one, they filed out into the hallway, scurrying along the corridor like hunted game.

Somewhere in the distance, there were the sounds of shouting, the unmistakeable fizzing sounds of disruptors being fired, and alarms blared. Jasmine moved as fast as she dared, peeking around the corners at intersections, making sure all was clear before proceeding. The noise of over twenty people could not be rendered inaudible, though, and her heart leaped every time someone thumped off the wall or stamped their feet too hard while moving. When she thought they were moving closer to the disruptor fire, she moved in the opposite direction, always trying to move onward and upward.

Eventually, there was no more avoiding it. Jasmine and Heck inched close to the foot of a narrow auxiliary tritanium staircase that climbed up two floors to what looked like a landing area. There were windows in that landing area, through which hot, bright sunlight was blazing. Outside the windows, disruptors fired and the gutteral voices of Klingon warriors could be heard shouting at one another.

Jasmine motioned for Heck to swap weapons with her. Hefting the disruptor rifle, she placed the butt against her shoulder, looked down the barrel, curling her finger around the trigger. "I'll take the lead," she told him, advancing up the stairs.

The rest of the group filed into a narrow line, moving one-by-one up the stairs towards the sunlight.


Location: Alcyonus Desert, about a mile away
Scene: Up a sand dune

"Ah goddam hate sand," muttered Kass. "It's coarse an' rough an' it friggin' gits everywhar." She scratched her ass. "Ah think it's all the way up in mah goddam cooter."

Lying beside her on top of the dune, Honda Midori kept scanning the prison with her viewfinder. The Japanese woman didn't seem too perturbed about the sand, however - she had wriggled down into it like an Aridian sandworm. Her three-colour desert ghillie suit made her almost invisible to the casual glance - their suits were miracles of military technology, featuring small solar panels to absorb the sunlight that powered the suit's internal cooling system, and a fiendishly clever camouflage pattern that made them each appear to be an angular outcrop of sandy rock.

Like Kass, Honda's pulse rifle was slung over her shoulder, and between them lay a TR-118 sniper rifle, up on a tripod, looking down on the prison facility. The 118 was a gun fetishist's dream, designed to be a complete support weapon package. It was moron-proof - you looked down the sights, lined the crosshairs up on the thing you wanted to die, and pulled the trigger. An instant later, a chemically-propelled fifty-three millimetre tritanium bullet would blow a hole the size of a dinner plate at whatever you were aiming at - the thing even came equipped with a software package that automatically adjusted for wind and any ambient environmental conditions. Kass loved it.

The prison had a rough-and-ready, basic layout. Paristeel walls had been thrown up in sections, clearly industrially replicated, and haphazardly positioned to create a perimeter wall, with one gate. There was a large yard inside the wall, but it was really a patch of flattened sand, packed down with anti-gravity beams until it was a dense, hard surface. The prison facility itself was mostly underground - something that seemed like it would have taken months to build, but Kass knew that with proper planning it could be done in a week. Shipboard disruptors could carve up a planet's surface like a Sunday roast, and industrial replicators could assemble mid-scale buildings from a distance - say, low orbit. The Klingons hadn't built up an interstellar empire by being idiots - they would have figured it out the design and construction of the complex somehow.

She quit bitching about the sand and lifted up her own viewfinder to look down into the prison again. "Y'all see anythin'?"

The words had scarcely left her mouth when, over the zephyrs of the desert breeze, alarms started blaring inside the prison compound. Kass caught her breath in surprise as she saw a dozen Klingon perimeter guards frantically rush to positions along the wall overlooking the yard. "Fuck's goin' on?"

Nothing happened at first, but through the viewfinder, Kass could see one of the Klingons, presumably an officer, snarling something into the communicator stud on his forearm. The rest of them seemed to be training their disruptor rifles on the doors of the complex. As Kass ran the viewfinder up to the gate, her eyes narrowed when she saw a disruptor minigun mounted on the parapet above. A shaggy-haired, dark-skinned Klingon warrior with sharply-filed teeth had activated the gun - its barrels were slowly spinning – and he was pointing it down on the yard.

"There!" hissed Honda. "North side of the yard! It's a breakout!"

Kass swivelled her view - spilling out from the doors of the complex were dozens of green-skinned Orions, stark against the dull gunmetal grey of the prison. Men and women, some armed, some not - they rushed forward in a wave, sprinting across the yard towards the gate.

"Well, lookee here!" muttered Kass. "Keep yore eyes peeled - if'n there's a breakout or somesuch, we might see sum familiar faces." She shifted position in the sand, expertly sliding into position behind the TR-118. Looking down the sights, she zoomed in on the action just as the Klingons opened up on the escaping Orions - white-hot disruptor flashes erupted around the yard, incinerating several of the escaping prisoners. The minigun on the rampart above the gate opened up, cutting a swathe through them, but it was like floodgates had been opened. Despite the numbers falling wounded or dying, more and more Orions were surging out of the prison complex like a dam had burst. The colours and shapes were distant, but her sensor nets interpreted the rifle sight's info efficiently and clearly - her blindness was no issue.

"There's hundreds of them!" said Honda.

"Ah guess the Klingons had a whole year ta fill that place up," said Kass, looking on grimly as the body count increased. The Orions were swarming up the parapets now, and those who were armed were shooting back at the Klingons, who in turn were fixing their mek'leths to their rifles and jabbing murderously at any Orion who got close enough. A real battle had broken out.

"Captain, I see the away team." Midori's forefinger adjusted the focus on her viewfinder. "It's Lieutenant Yu. You see there, by the doorway closest to this side of the wall?"

Kass looked - sure enough, Jasmine Yu was emerging from a small side doorway, dropping to one knee and scanning forward with what looked like a disruptor rifle at her shoulder. Behind her, a line of men and woman of various races, all in Starfleet uniforms, were shuffling out from the darkness into the light. "Ah see 'em. Looks like we got us sum paydirt."


Location: USS Phoenix, a billion miles away
Scene: Main bridge - saucer section, deck 1

Nothing had changed. From what the Phoenix could see at this distance, the Orion and Klingon fleets had taken up attack formations facing one another. Comms frequencies had been opened, indicating that Is'toQ and his opposite number were in communication, but if Kane was any judge, the conversation was really all bluster and threats in an effort to get the other to back down.

From what he knew of Is'toQ, the Klingons would not back down. These star systems were part of their old empire destroyed by the Romulans fifty years ago. Is'toQ firmly believed in the resurgence of that empire, and that was why he was prepared to gather a private army with promises of glory and booty, steal the quintotriticale harvest on Sherman's Planet to feed it, and then lead it on a punitive expedition into lands now claimed by another rising power. For Is'toQ, it was victory or death. For the Orions, it might not be that, but they were sure to fight - they likely needed to test their own mettle against an outside force, to see if this burgeoning imperial project of theirs could stand up to external pressure. If they were to remove the Klingons as one corner in the Federation-Romulan-Klingon triad, then this was where the battle was going to be fought.

Just when the situation seemed complicated enough, the Phoenix, while following the Satet's trail, had encountered the drifting hulk of an Orion blockade runner. While exploring the silent decks, a message from a Tal'Shiar Commander to the Orion captain had been recovered, a message wherein the Romulans darkly hinted at some kind of military assistance to the Orions. While not unexpected - the Romulans had historically been most willing to engage in proxy warfare against their powerful neighbours - their indirect presence had greatly muddied the waters.

Kane stood by his earlier analysis to Jake. If the Phoenix dropped in-system while the situation between the Orions and Klingons was still on a knife edge, one (or both) side was likely to decry their presence as Federation interference and open fire. The Phoenix was a deadly machine of war, but she was not invincible. On the other hand, the longer this stand-off went on, the less chance the away team had to avoid capture by the Klingons. There had been no chance to warn them that the Phoenix was retreating to warp - as far as Kass and Jasmine knew, their protective mothership was still orbiting above their heads. That, too, could be dangerous, potentially causing them to overplay their hand on the surface in the expectation of help from orbit, help that now was not there.

No. The Phoenix needed to return to Alcyonus, as quickly as possible. The Klingons and Orions needed to be distracted - either withdrawing or shooting at one another. While that was happening, the Phoenix could execute a sudden drop in-system, beam everyone up, destroy the away team's shuttle to protect its technology, then get the hell out of there while the Klingons and Orions wondered what had happened.

Kane leaned down beside Byte. He kept his voice down. "Lieutenant Byte."

Byte cocked its head like a bird. {{Yes, Captain?}}

"Byte, it is my tactical assessment of the Alcyonus situation that bloodshed is inevitable. The political and military goals of the Klingons and Orions are incompatible, and there is nothing that the Phoenix can do to prevent an all-out conflict. Do you concur?"

The android half-turned its head, glancing back at Jake sitting alone in the ExO's seat. Its cornflower blue eyes flickered for an instant. Kane could read its thoughts - why is the Captain not asking the Executive Officer for his assessment? - but if Byte really was thinking that, the android said nothing. Instead, it dropped the tone of its own voxcaster. {{The probability is heavily in favour of war, sir, yes.}}

"If the Orions win, the Federation will have a powerful new neighbour bolstered by Romulan assistance," said Kane. "However, if the Klingons win, they will spend some time consolidating their new empire, correct?"

Byte nodded slowly. {{It will likely take at least several years for them to return to any kind of military equality with both the Federation or the Romulans. These systems must all be recolonised and rebuilt to their former level of development.}} The android paused, and lowered its vox to a whisper. {{Captain, protocol suggests that you should include Commander Crichton in this discussion if you are considering a course of action.}}

Kane glanced at Jake at the other end of the bridge. It might have been bad luck, or it might have been fate, but he and the ExO locked eyes just for a moment, while Eve Dalziel looked on from the counselor's seat. "I will, Byte. Don't worry about it."

{{I do not worry, Captain. I am an android.}}

Kane got up, leaving Byte's confused expression behind, and moved to the centre of the bridge. "Helm, set course for a return to Alcyonus. Standby to engage."

Sotaar acknowledged the order as Jake got up and came to Kane's shoulder. "We're going back, then?" asked the ExO.

Kane nodded without looking at him. "But we need a distraction." He gestured to Mackenzie Procter at Tactical. "Lieutenant, call up the Romulan message to the Orion blockade runner."

"What's the plan?" said Jake.

Kane turned to him. "There is a de facto war underway in this part of the quadrant, has been for the better part of a year. Both the Klingons and Orions were making war on each other long before we got out here. In order to evacuate the away team, we're going to help that process along a little. Ready, Lieutenant?"

"Yes, sir!" nodded Procter.

"You're going to transmit the Romulan message to the Klingons?" frowned Jake. "Is'toQ will go crazy - he'll attack the Orion fleet."

"Not just the Klingons will hear it," said Kane. "Lieutenant Procter, transmit the Romulan message on a wide-band channel. Let both sides receive it - I want them all to know that the Federation knows that the Romulans have been feeding intelligence and military assistance to the Orions."

"Sending now," said Procter.

Kane waited for a moment. You are in control of the situation, he told himself, taking a breath. Jake looked back at Procter in confusion, quickly moving back to his seat and activating his tactical computer. Kane felt a pang of regret at the spat between them, but had no idea where it had come from, and had no time to worry about it now. In a matter of seconds, all-out war, propagated by his actions today, would be exploding in the Alcyonus system.

A series of warning chimes emanated from Procter's console. "Captain, the Klingons have opened fire on the Orions!"

{{Confirmed!}} reported Byte. {{The Orions are responding - a battle is underway!}}

Kane moved to the conn and slapped Sotaar on the shoulder. "Engage, Lieutenant!" As the Phoenix turned on her axis and the starfield veered crazily in the main viewer, he gave the order for action. "Red Alert! All hands to battle stations!"

As the alarms blared, the Phoenix leaped into action.


Location: Alcyonus 1, near the prison stockade
Scene: Kass and Honda on their dune

Blood had been spilled on the sand of Alcyonus One as the prison breakout spilled into the yard. Klingons and Orions were fighting vicious hand-to-hand combats everywhere, and as Kass watched through the crosshairs of her sniper rifle, she could see Jasmine and the Satet personnel anxiously scurrying across the yard, running from cover to cover as they made their way to the gate. So far, the Klingons had not turned their attention towards them, but it was only a matter of time.

"What are our rules of engagement?" asked Honda. "Are we authorised to fire first?"

"Are we ever?" muttered Kass. Her heart jumped into her mouth as she saw Jasmine gun down a Klingon gunner on the wall who had just taken a shot at her. She watched the SecTac gesture her group onward, ducking and weaving through the killing going on around them. Surely the Orions are going to win, she thought - even though the Klingons have the firepower, they were heavily outnumbered.

The dark, shaggy Klingon warrior manning the gate minigun suddenly caught sight of the Starfleet uniforms. Yelling a warning to his comrades, he turned the barrels of his weapon in their direction, spraying sickly green disruptor bolts down into the crowd. Several people were cut to pieces by the shots, and Kass cursed under her breath when she saw a male Caitian Starfleet officer amongst them.

"They'll never make it out that gate," said Honda, watching the carnage unfold.

Kass sighted on the head of the dark shaggy Klingon. He was moving around at his position, dragging the weight of the mingun with him, so she couldn't immediately zero him. "Hold still, dammit," she muttered. "Ah promise ya won't feel a thing."

She inhaled and held her breath, steadying the rifle butt against her right shoulder. One second passed. Two.

Then the Klingon's head strayed right into her crosshairs.


Scene: Prison Yard

Jasmine was hunkered down behind a shattered piece of masonry as Orions and Klingons fought and died all around her. The only good thing about being a small group in this heaving sea of savagery was that, so far, they'd gone relatively unnoticed.

Except by the Klingon on the minigun. From his elevated position, he'd been able to pick them out as soon as they'd started their advance across the yard. The gate was heavily defended - until that gun was put out of action there'd be no moving past it. There was no clear shot on it, either - the gunner was hidden behind a raised energy shield that screened his front - she would have to try to work her way around.

Fal'Kir was dead. The Caitian had been cut down by the gunner as he had tried to rush toward the gate, and his body lay nearby, dead as dreams. Jasmine watched helplessly as the other Satet personnel huddled together behind any piece of cover they could find, the disruptor bolts kicking up dirt around them as the gunner sought to add to his kill count.

She leaned out, squeezing off a shot with her own rifle, but the bolt just impacted against the minigun's energy shield with a splash of colour. She saw the gunner laugh spitefully - catching sight of her, he drew a finger across his throat.

"The hell you will," she muttered. Maybe another rifle shot would breach the shield, or maybe there was some weak spot somewhere that she could find with a lucky shot. An Orion woman dropped dead near her, glazed eyes staring at her from underneath a hole bored right through her forehead. Determined to avoid the same fate, Jasmine aimed right at the Klingon's smiling face and made ready to squeeze the trigger -

- to see his entire head disappear in a pink puff of gore. One moment it was there, the next it was gone, splattering the parapet around him with a welter of pink blood and white bone. Through all the bedlam noise of war, her jaw dropped at the sight of it. Like a puppet with its strings cut, the gunner's body just dropped down vertically, collapsing in a heap.

The effect on the battle was immediate. Without the gunner to mow down anyone near the gate, the dozens of surviving Orions surged like a breaker towards freedom. The remaining Klingons were quickly overwhelmed, fighting viciously to the last, but the gate was breached by the combined fire of several commandeered disruptors, and the prisoners were free.

"Go! Go!" yelled Jasmine to the Satet crew, motioning for them to join the wave. As the crowd of prisoners burst through the portal and into the desert, Jasmine yelled at Heck to start herding their group towards the dunes where Kass and Honda were waiting. In the general hubbub, their group, depleted as it was, moved as one towards their ticket off-world.


Location: USS Phoenix, incoming
Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section

Kane weas determined not to sit down, even as the Phoenix decelerated from warp, the inertial dampers kicking in to prevent him being plastered all over the wall. The starfield soldified, the ship emerging out of a dream of peace into a war. Everywhere on the main viewer, Orion and Klingon starships were shooting at each other in chaos unleashed. Volleys of disruptors crisscrossed the screen, destroying here a Klingon Bird of Prey, there an Orion blockade runner. Kane caught sight of Is'Toq's flagship, the Negh'Var-class Bat'Dev - Leading Sword - in the far distance, surrounded by her Bird of Prey escorts, advancing to support the Klingon fleet's K'vort-class cruisers as they carried the fight into the heart of the Orion fleet.

"Who's winning?" asked Jake.

Procter's brow was furrowed with deep lines as she tried to analyse the data stream on her Tactical console. "Too hard to say, sir. The Orions appear to be under some pressure and are rallying around their flagship - that Wanderer-class cruiser bearing three-five-zero mark zero-four-five."

Kane looked to where she was indicating - about ten o' clock on the main viewer. Her assessment was accurate - the smaller blockade runner ships were moving into a defensive posture, forming a solid ball of starships around the central core of their larger flagship. The Klingons, for their part, seemed to have the initiative - firing first seemed to have allowed them some sort of advantage - but the battle was hardly decided. In any case, the Phoenix couldn't wait.

"Maintain course and speed to planetary orbit," he said, the tension high in his voice. "Mister Byte, divert as much power to dorsal shields as you need to. I don't want to be hit by any stray - "

The world jolted to the right as something impacted on the left side of the ship. Kane reached out to save himself from eating deckplate, and fell onto one knee, grabbing onto Sotaar's seat.

"Orion torpedo has struck us amidships, port side!" called Procter. "No damage! Shields are holding!"

It was to be expected. Amid all these flailing blows, any bystander was going to risk being accidentally punched. Kane picked himself back up.

"It was a stray," said Jake. "They're not targetting us!"

"Steady as she goes," said Kane grimly, as the Phoenix skirted the edge of the battle. "Lieutenant Procter, hail Major Thytos. Advise her to prepare for emergency beam-up."

On the main viewer, an Orion blockade runner detonated in a blazing orange fireball. One of its nacelles spun crazily away from its superstructure, end over end, slamming into the neck of the Klingon Bird of Prey that had destroyed it. In a second explosion, the Klingons joined in death those they had killed moments before.

"Unable to raise away team!" snapped Procter. "The Klingons are jamming in-system communications!"

"Is'toQ must be confident of victory," muttered Jake.

"Or overconfident," said Eve.

"Time to planetary orbit?" asked Kane.

"Under sixty seconds," reported Sotaar in a flat tone.

The Phoenix sailed on, the flames dancing near her.


Location: Alcyonus 1, near the prison
Scene: Kass and Honda on their sand dune

Under the burning suns of Alcyonus, Honda Midori let out a little whoop as the Klingon gunner on the gate went down in a heap. "Great shot, boss!" she grinned. "I can see our people now, heading this way."

"Git yore ass inta tha damn shuttle and git her started up, girl!" said Kass, lifting the heavy sniper rifle to her shoulder and covering the rear of the oncoming group. There were twenty-plus people rushing towards them, the blaze of the suns on the sand causing the shadows to dance like manic children. The rifle's sights cut down on the ambient light, and Kass watched carefully to make sure that no Klingon or Orion was following the group. Behind her, she heard the low-pitched hum of the shuttle's engines engaging.

The first of the Satet's group reached the base of the dune, and she rose up out of the sand like a golem in her ghillie suit, elicing a scream of surprise from the terrified young man who saw her rear up like a monster. "Quit yore bitchin'!" she yelled at him, gesturing in the direction of the cargo shuttle they had dubbed Cheng Shih. "An' alla y'all, git movin'!"

The group hurried towards the shuttle door. Heck, Allison, Masters, and Harrad-Tor passed her by. Bringing up the rear was Jasmine. "Ya did good, Loo'tenant!"

"You too!" exclaimed Jasmine. "Was that your shot that did for the gate gunner?"

"Jus' lendin' a hand," Kass drawled. The two of them moved to the open door of the shuttle, which had filled up quickly. There was hardly any room inside, and both Jasmine and Kass had to push their way through to the cockpit as the doors closed and sealed behind them.

Honda shook her head. "Major, I can't raise the Phoenix but sensors have determined she's in high orbit. There's an almighty battle underway between the Klingons and Orions."

Kass pulled off her ghillie suit's helmet and threw it on the floor. "Punch it, marine!" she yelled.

With a lurch, the shuttle left the ground. Gaining altitude quickly, they got a great view of the carnage at the prison. The Orion prisoners had won their bid for freedom and were swarming out into the desert around the complex, trying to find a way off-world. Other groups were moving back inside, no doubt seeking a means of communication with their fleet.

As the sky turned from bright blue to azure, then darkened to black, the panoply of stars appeared, lit up by the battle blazing in the distance. Between the shuttle and the two warring fleets hung the gunmetal grey hull of the Phoenix, her violet nacelles flaring menacingly as they powered her shield bubble.

The Vulcan So'Mior was standing at the rear of the cockpit, and he watched with interest. "That is your ship?" he asked Kass.

"It ain't mine, but yeah," winked Kass. "Now let's hope they see us comin' or this is here's goin' ta be one short-ass flight."


Location: USS Phoenix, high orbit
Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section

"Captain, I'm tracking the Cheng Shih approaching," reported Procter at Tactical. "Comms are still down."

"Drop the shields," said Kane. "Once the shuttle is aboard, re-engage defensive systems and set a course for Federation space."

{{Sir,}} said Byte, {{sensors are detecting twenty-one lifesigns aboard the shuttle.}}

"Paydirt," said Jake. He moved to Kane's shoulder. "The away team must have located the Satet survivors."

"Not all of them, though," said Kane. "The ship itself isn't here. Perhaps one of her crew will have some information. Commander, go to the cargobay and take charge of their debriefing. If they have any information on the Satet's whereabouts, get it. This whole sector of space is going up in flames."

"Aye, sir." Jake headed for the turbolift.

{{Cheng Shih is aboard,}} reported Byte. {{Cargo bay one sealed. Shields re-established.}}

"Get us out of here," said Kane to Sotaar.

The starfield wheeled drunkenly again as the Phoenix turned on its axis. The battle fell away behind the dreadnought as she positioned herself for a jump to warp.

"Captain, the Klingons have stopped jamming communications," said Procter. "We are being hailed. It's Is'toQ, aboard the Leading Sword."

Kane nodded. "On screen."

The main viewer winked at him, the sight of the starfield being replaced by the intimidating sight of a Negh'Var-class battleship's bridge engaged at war. The bridge lights had been darkened, and the Klingon warriors at their stations lurked in the shadows. Standing to the fore of his bridge was Is'toQ, resplendent in his leather armour and warlord's cloak. He looked the same as he had when he had seized the quintotriticale on Sherman's Planet - tall and proud, with yellow-brown skin and a huge coif of black hair that was splayed out around his shoulders like a fan. His forehead ridges were not very pronounced compared to some Klingons, but they were there. He had a lean and hungry look about him, and when he opened his mouth, his teeth were sharp and his canines slightly elongated.

Kane inclined his head. "I see you, Is'toQ of the House of Martok."

{{And I see you, Captain Kane of the Phoenix,}} said Is'toQ evenly. He ran his eye around the bridge, obviously recognising Eve. {{I see all of you.}} He paused. {{This battle hangs in the balance. Do you not wish to witness my glorious victory over the enemies of my people?}}

"I came to recover the Satet, not to watch a war," said Kane. "I have no doubt of your ability to fight. Remember too that this ship has teeth."

Is'toQ nodded, seemingly respectfully. {{It is so. You may depart in peace for now. You have recovered your people from the prison below?}}

Kane nodded. "We have."

{{You have killed Klingons to do this?}}

Kane shook his head. "We have not."

Is'toQ narrowed his eyes. {{Then I will not seek revenge upon you. Know, however, that your people were not imprisoned by us for any crimes. They were picked up from escape pods that drifted in-system from their mothership - the ship that you are looking for.}}

"Where is the Satet now?" asked Kane.

The screen fizzed for a moment as the Leading Sword took a hit. A Klingon yelled out in the background. Is'toQ nodded quickly to his officer, then turned his attention back to Kane. "Who knows? We did not have time to process your people before the Orion fleet arrived. Perhaps one of them knows.}}

Kane kept his face straight. "Thank you."

Is'toQ scowled. {{Tell the Federation that this sector is once again part of the restored Klingon Empire,}} he snarled, baring his teeth. {{If you return, I will kill to defend it.}}

Kane nodded. "I will tell them. Phoenix out."

The screen winked again, showing the battle still raging in one corner. There was no way to tell who was winning, and who was losing. There was no time to dwell on it, though – ahead lay open space. He nodded to Sotaar, and the Phoenix leaped forward into the stars, warping away from the carnage at Alcyonus.

"Stand down from red alert," he said, and Byte acknowledged him. As he moved back to the centre seat to sit next to Eve, he wondered if this damn search was ever going to end.


NRPG: It's open warfare between Is'toQ's forces and the Orion fleet! Who will win? That's something that YOU have to decide!

ALIX: Kane did not know about Kass's kill-shot when he told Is'toQ that no Klingons had been killed by Federation personnel. Will this come back to bite us in future? What will happen when Kass reports it, if she reports it?

RANJANI: Liriss' ship is stuck in a battle he probably wants out of. His attempt to kill Harrad-Tor might be stymied for now, but Jasmine is already deeply suspicious of Harrad-Tor's background. Is it time to find out what's going on with him?

SHAUNA: If you're still with us, there are twenty people from the Satet who need medical attention and may be wounded from the escape.

SUSAN: Time spent in a Klingon prison is probably psychologically traumatic for a Klingon, never mind Starfleet crew.

JAMIE: If you're still with us, So'Mior is the highest-ranking Satet officer alive now that Fal'Kir is dead. He's going to come in for a lot of scrutiny as the Phoenix officers try to find out how the Satet people ended up in that prison.

SARAH: Not everyone is comfortable opening up to a counselor, and The Vulgar Tribble might be the first stop for the recently emancipated who are hungry for some proper food!

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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