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Ground Zero

Posted on Sat Aug 28th, 2021 @ 7:27pm by Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant JG Ryland Dedeker & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Lieutenant Commander Finley Chu & Lieutenant Sophie Xiong & Ferrofax & Lieutenant Commander Leonora Wolf MD & Chief Petty Officer Reggie Hawthorn
Edited on on Fri Sep 3rd, 2021 @ 7:31pm

Mission: S1E5: Symphony of Horror
Location: Alucard | primary moon of Corvus Prime
Timeline: MD 2

Mrazak stormed onto the bridge of the Phantom with an angry finger flying.

"I want that belligerent, disgraceful excuse for a sentient lifeform Director Ingram put up on report with Starfleet Security!" Spittle flew from the man's lips. "I want our credentials sent to the general officer in charge of the Starfleet relief efforts with official notice that Corvus Prime is to be placed under a strict lockdown -- full Security measures, full quarantine for invasive contagions. Nobody comes or goes without the most thorough of medical and security screenings! Do I make myself clear?!"

"Aye, sir, very clear," Ryland said promptly, though his tone suggested he'd only been half listening. "So I take it things went south down below?"

The question did not strike Mrazak well. "Just get me my lockdown!" he bellowed.

After so many missions with Mrazak, there was a little hot-key that Ryland kept bound to the response touchscreen near the helm. It was a preloaded data packet with the usual hamfisting that the Vulcan Without Logic seemed fated to resort to at some point. "Package is away," Ryland reported. "I'll let you know as soon as it's received."

Leonora, who had followed a few steps back, stopped short as the tirade escalated once they entered the Bridge. Compared to Mrazak, Karna seemed a walk in the park to deal with. Which in itself was a very ironic thought.

Leah stepped over to one of the side consoles, entering her intelligence credentials to initialize access queries to be able to use the Phantom's systems.

On her PADD, Fin took some notes. She was compiling something of a personal report on how Mrazak behaved, his eccentricities, and his personality. She wasn't entirely sure as to why just yet. But better to have it and not need it, and all that.

For once, Sophie agreed with Mrazak. She didn't like this Ingram at all. Granted, she didn't really like anybody, but Ingram was especially horrid. She took her seat at the engineering console silently, though; there was no point in saying anything.

After just a moment, the communications network lit up with beeping.

"Well, that was quick," Ryland said. "We're being hailed from Belmont Station."

Mrazak grinned with wicked satisfaction. "Put it on screen."

"Top o' the mornin' to ye," A thickly accented voice filtered through, followed by an older human male's visage. Salt and pepper hair with blue yes and an amused smile. "Cap'n Donal Mulryan, how can I be of assistance t' the Starfleet Corp's O' Engineers."

"Greetings, Captain," Mrazak said. "By now you should be made aware that we used the CoE as cover for a classified investigation. Our credentials were sent to you in an encrypted packet just now. As the sector commander for this system and its surrounding vicinities, I must insist that you lock down all traffic to and from the system, as well as Corvus Prime itself, pending my personal rescindment of the emergency status. Do I make myself clear, or do we require Admiralty intervention?"

"Now Cap'n, we start'd off so well there..." Mulryan said with a sigh as he tapped on a few controls off screen. "I'm issuin' a traffic 'alt on the basis o' potential dangers t' ve'icles as a result o' the 'splosion. Tha' bein' said, there is no need fer threat'nin' be'avior. We're all Starfleet 'ere."

"So long as we understand one another," Mrazak said. "Any vessel that attempts to break the quarantine is to be detained, with force if necessary." Leaning forward for emphasis, Mrazak intoned, "If not, then I will have your combadge, Fleet Captain Mulryan."

Mulryan visibly rolled her eyes at the hostile Vulcan and closed the channel.

With that little adventure drawn to a close, Mrazak turned his attention to Ryland. "Helm, take us in orbit of Alucard. I want active sensor scans of the entire body."

"Yes, sir."

The Phantom broke its orbit from Corvus Prime and circled the planet until it came to the distant moon of Alucard. As an elliptically orbiting satellite, Alucard's perihelion had it significantly farther away from Corvus Prime. Far enough that the Phantom set off a proximity alert.

"Captain, looks like we're getting hailed by that civie ship from earlier," Ryland reported. "The INS Demeter."

Mrazak smirked at the news. "Disregard the hail. Stay on course."

After blocking the hail, the Demeter converged on the Phantom's position. With no response from the Phantom, a photon torpedo streaked across the modified Defiant's port bow.

"DID THEY JUST FIRE ON US?!" Mrazak bellowed, eyes bulging.

"Aye, sir," Ryland quipped in disbelief.

"Raise shields!" Mrazak ordered. "Bring primary weapons online! And open a channel!"

"Aye, sir," Ryland said, his tone primed for combat.

The main viewer opened to reveal the special quaestor from before. His pale face and black features stared down Mrazak with none of the mirth from their first encounter. "USS Neville, you are hereby ordered to stand down and return to Belmont Station."

"I'll stop you from there, Blackwood." The look on Mrazak's face was even more smug than usual. "The credentials you were given before have been updated. You may speak to Fleet Captain Mulryan at Belmont Station for details, but be advised that we have full jurisdiction to go when and where we please--and that as of a few moments ago, you do not." Mrazak's smirk cut a dark shine on the Vulcan's face. "Full quarantine, maximum clearance. Unless you have an admiral in your pocket, then be further advised that another warning shot will result in the ship you're aboard being atomized."

Looking around the bridge, Ryland shot the others a look that silently asked, 'Is this what happened down on the planet?'

"You are outnumbered if not outgunned, Captain," said Blackwood, "but rather than put our martial capacities to the test, might I propose a compromise?"

"No negotiations," Mrazak said. "We don't work with civilians."

Blackwood gave a dark chuckle at that. "Might I remind you that as Special Quaestor to the Conclave, I am an agent of the Corvan government. I am no more a civilian than you are. Therefore, to avoid unpleasantries, I suggest the following: whatever you intend to do on Alucard will be done with a Corvan escort."

Although he was tempted with to refuse yet again, Mrazak's better judgment weighed on him. "Hold channel."

Ryland complied. A chime from the conn indicated the channel was placed on hold.

Turning about, Mrazak did something which may have shocked everyone. He asked their opinion.

"Should we take the man's offer?" For the first time, a vein of uncertainty shown as a crack in Mrazak's armor.

Sophie gave a single shrug of one shoulder. “Can’t hurt,” she replied. “At the very least, we’ll have a local witness to back us up if they try to make unfounded accusations.”

"Starfleet, as an extension of the Federation Government can and should overrules local authorities when it deems it appropriate. Local defence and law enforcement is subordinate to Starfleet." Fin replied, feeling disdain for the arrogant Corvan. Then she let out a sigh, "However, local knowledge would probably be helpful."

Leah turned from her console, looking over at Mrazak and company, "he needs us. Someone with that firepower doesn't just stand down and offer a compromise in lieu of, 'I want one of my people there'. They run the show and we observe. I think he's posturing...but not quite sure of his motive yet. I do agree that we need to accept his 'offer.' We'll get further that way than with antagonism."

"Very well..." Mrazak nodded for the communication to be restored. "Quaestor Blackwood, I accept the terms of your proposal. You may have a vessel of your choice maintain course alongside us while we scan the detonation site."

The Corvan agent smiled with pleasure, though the bottomless pits that he had for eyes made the expression a horrific one. "Splendid. I also request that we keep open comms so as to foster a stronger spirit of cooperation."

"Very well," Mrazak said once again, though he drew his finger across his neck to signal cutting audio. "Although an open comm need not be an unmuted one." Looking to Ryland, he said, "Helm, take is in. I don't want us to miss a thing. And somebody run a full spectral analysis of the moon. I shouldn't have to do everything."

"On it," Leah said as she turned back to her console, now with access, her fingers danced across the console. "Hmm...." blonde brow furrowed as she continued to input commands into the console. "Uh..." she looked around, locating Sophie, "Ms...Xiong was it? I understand you're the Engineering Specialist, right? The readings are coming through garbled, I'm assuming due to the residual radiation...could you help me clear it up?"

"Thalaron radiation dissipates rather immediately," Mrazak reminded her. "Identify the nature of the radiation and we can locate its source. Then we'll know where to begin our closer inspection."

“It’s definitely not thalaron,” muttered Sophie with a few taps of her screen. It took her a few moments to adjust the computer to compensate, but she managed it quite easily. “Try that,” she said to Leah.

Leah nodded, "thanks," as she initiated another scan. "Okay, there is a potential source here..." Wolf brought up the readings on viewer. It appeared to be a crater that seemed to have been created from the inside out, rather than one stemming from something impacting the moon surface. "Definitely artificial in nature. Trying to locate an origin point. Had to have been made or planted there..."

Letting out a sigh, Mrazak went to the sensor suite. "I suppose this is what I get for leaving all the science officers down on the planet..." After a quick scan, he had compiled his results. "It appears that the orbit of the moon is in flux due to gravitational oscillation. Interference is stemming from the stabilization efforts to prevent the moon from breaking apart or even crashing into the planet." It was a necessary action on part of the Corps of Engineers, but it was still damaging to the sensors. Mrazak's brow ticked up in frustration. "That, however, does not account for the gravitonic concentration that trails away from the detonation site." A wicked grin spread across his face.

"Ferrofax," he said to the ceiling where he invariably seemed to believe Ferrofax resided, "please initiate a neutrino imaging scan in all search grids leading away from Alucard."

"Yes because going through a single menu screen and typing in a vector for the scan would have taken mere moments whereas speaking my name and allowing me to ponder a response took the same amount of time," Ferrofax muttered darkly.

"While we are conducting the imaging scan of local space, I want feet on the ground," Mrazak said. "Chu, Cassandra, Xiong, Hawthorn, get suited up and get down to the blast site. See if anything is there that shouldn't be, or isn't there and should be."

Leah nodded, looking over at Sophie, "mind showing me the way?"

“Sure,” said Sophie rather abruptly as she signed out of her console. “Follow me,” she added, heading towards the door that lead off the bridge.

"I haven't done a spacewalk since I became an officer." Finley commented as she joined the group off the bridge.

“Lucky,” replied Sophie. “I think I’ve done at least one a month.” It was an exaggeration, but not by a lot. She had, in fact, probably done two or three every year since graduation. She didn’t mind them, though, and tended to volunteer for them when they came up.

"I gone done plenty of space walks. First-year out of the Academy I was bucking ice at Saturn Station. 12 hour days in an EVA suit getting the ring back to where it was before the great Helium 3 Rush of 2110," Reggie said happily. "It's like falling off a bike in zero gee."

When the team materialized on the lunar surface, the Phantom was barely visible from two klicks away against the backlight of Corvus Prime. System traffic had come to a halt, as well, leaving most of the vessels adrift amongst the starfield. Dust particles were afloat, lending an eerie air to an otherwise lifeless rock.

"Phantom sensor readouts are being uploaded to your HUDs," Mrazak said through the comm channel. "Proceed to the marker with caution and keep alert for anything the sensors have missed."

“Which could be a lot,” muttered Sophie, using her tricorder to scan for the marker. “This way,” she added, nodding to her left.

Leah followed, in step with Finley. "At least this time there are no sea creatures waiting to jump out at us. Probably other dritt that's going to be the end of us here. A fanged one, I suspect." She said to her former and current colleague. "I think NOS4-A-2 is failing. Teejay and I did a forensic autopsy just before the blast..."

"That sea monster was pretty though." Fin chuckled as she glanced at her own tricorder. "You're not implying that someone had set up a Thalaron Radiation device on the off chance someone discovered that the sanity-giving drug is failing?"

Leah shrugged, glancing down at her own tricorder as they followed Sophie. "I don't know. It could be that, or it could be unconnected. Not enough evidence either way. It was damn convenient though..."

Three beams of energy materialized beside them, eventually forming three individuals in EV suits with INS logos on them.

"Hello, there," said the honeyed voice of Quaestor Blackwood through the open comm channel. "Let us proceed."

Sophie rolled her eyes, but managed to not give voice to the snarky comment that had popped into her head. "It's this way," she said in a tone that clearly said how annoying she found them already.

Making sure their conversation was secured and encrypted still, Fin replied to Leah. "I can hardly imagine a Federation corp, even one as shady as INS would deploy a Thalaron device against civilians. That could topple that company in one fell swoop of Federation bureaucracy..."

"Our recovery specialists have already scoured the surface of Alucard," Blackwood said through the open comm. "Work-bees from your own Corps of Engineers have been sifting debris for days. There is unlikely to be anything left of note."

Keying over to the public channel Fin responded, "Then there shouldn't be anything interesting for us to find. So we might as well waste our time here instead of on the ship."

Leah shook her head, "hold on. Two hundred meters ahead," she said looking at her readouts. "Some sort of debris."

As they moved forward, letting their lamplights illuminate the terrain that their tricorders were scanning at the molecular level, they came upon a pile of debris at the furthest edge of the blast zone. Poking out from amongst the rubble was a bent metallic object with a large red arrowhead component on its topside. The object seemed innocuous enough to the casual observer, but a trained eye would know it on sight.

Although Sophie had only seen one once and that in a textbook, she knew what it was. “What is that?” she snapped. “Wait, wrong question. What is that doing here?”

"Oh god..." Fin said quietly, studying the object next to Sophie. "So, uh, did anybody see Alice, or the Mad Hatter?"

"Well that answers part of our riddle." Leah sighed, looking down at the object. Then she switched to their private channel, "which also means Blackwood doesn't know what it is. If they have been sifting through the did they miss this? We need to bag it and analyze it to determine origin."

Both version of the origin of the device were concerning. Was there a rift somewhere in the vicinity? Or were they having incursions across the border?

Blackwood's two attendants moved into flanking positions while he moved toward the debris pile. "What is this? Perhaps a proprietary piece of Ingram Nanoscale technology. I had better confiscate it pending a patent review."

"That's not going to happen, Quaestor. We'll keep it in the safe embrace of Starfleet, as will anything and everything we find on our little expedition." Fin's faceplate was clear, and a happy smile was on her lips while her eyes radiated a duranium will. "If anything is found to be Ingram tech it'll be released to your people when we've determined it is not relevant to our investigations. This is all part of Starfleet's mandate to provide security to all citizens, and investigate laps in that security."

Neither of the attendants made any sudden moves, but their postures stiffened visibly even through their EVO suits which were far more hardened than those worn by the Phantom's crew. Armored, nearly. Blackwood raised a hand. "I must advise you that such action is in violation of at least three resolutions between the Federation Justice Department and Starfleet Medical who has jurisdiction over this sector, and therefore such action may be resisted by force."

The comm squawked on a general channel. "This is Captain Mrazak and you may assume I have been listening the entire time. I must advise you, Quaestor, that my vessel has your life-sign on target lock and that any use of force upon my team of specialists will be responded in kind."

A tense few seconds threatened to stretch into a minute as Blackwood assessed his options. "I see," he said with his honey-soft timbre. "In that event, I hope your legal representation is as formidable as your weaponry because should this end in blood then they will be the only ones to avenge you." He tapped his communicator. "Blackwood to Demeter. Take us up."

Almost instantly, likely due to a transporter lock that had been in place the entire time, the three escorts dematerialized. Suddenly, Fin, Leah, Sophie, and Reggie were left alone.

"Thank Fusion they finally left," Mrazak said through the comm channel. "Keep searching for anything else. I've got some bureaucratic shouting to do."

"Thanks, Captain." Leah said, "I'd also suggest performing a scan for interphasic rifts nearby. Just to be on the safe side and minimize our options."

Whatever Mrazak said in reply was garbled in a burst of static.

Leah sighed, "alright. You guys scan for anything and everything Klingon," she said. "Fin and I will scan for interphasic rifts."

There were a few more bursts of static, but this time words got through the interference. "... jamming... lock... multiple... cover..."

A lancing disruptor bolt grazed the side of Reggie's helmet, knocking him down. Just a couple centimeters over would've been a direct hit.

"Get to cover!" Leah yelled as she found her own. "Reggie, are you okay?"

Reggie's faceplate had polarised black from the near hit, and was only just beginning to lighten as Reggie scooted into cover.

"Now I know how an instant heat meal pack feels like," he groused. The air inside his suit had heated, and the little fans at the neck joint were doing a brisk trade in soothing the air back down to near comfortable. "I thought Klingon's were big on honour and what not, sneak thief attack hardly seems sporting of'em."

The air rippled with personal cloaking devices as more disruptor bolts rained down upon their position. From the midst of them, a wide blur which eclipsed the view of Corvus Prime above rippled into a flying armored fighter with a bat'leth held overhead and poised for a power strike upon landing.

"Everyone has their own spooks," Leah added in an off hand comment. "Now's the time for miracle gadgetry and cover fire. Ideas anyone?" She said as she folded herself awkwardly to keep her cover but take a scan of the craft above them.

Fin's phaser was in hand before she even realised she had drawn it. The power setting dialed up to maximum, the pulse of energy tore through their attacker. The kinetic punch of it pushing the Klingon away from them and away from the little gravity the moon had.

"What the blazes is going on down there?!" Mrazak shouted at anyone who would listen. "Why is our team being fired on and why can't we target the ones doing it?!"

Having switched from helm to tactical, Ryland was just as frustrated. "Can't get a target lock, boss. These bastards are cloaked!"

Mrazak's angry expression went to smoldering and reluctant admiration. "Personal cloaks that defy our sensors? Impressive."

"Yeah, we should be more worried about the transporter jammer," Ryland said. "Even if I got a lock, I couldn't fire until our people are up and out."

At first, it seemed Mrazak made to weigh his options, but he quickly nodded. "Oh, true, true. What if we... I don't know... moved around or something?"

Turning his head to look at Mrazak as if he were a true idiot, Ryland furrowed his brow. "That's not how air superiority works. We'll be over them the entire time. We gotta hit the jammer... wherever it is."

"Of course we need to destroy the jammer," Mrazak said. "But we can't do that without knowing where it is. Should I let Ferrofax off his chain again?" Before anyone could respond, the sensor scan finally rendered its imaging. "Oh, how fortuitous! Let's see what it found..." Mrazak swiped the console and sent the readings onto the main viewer.

What everybody saw was the silhouette of a cloaked vessel sitting at right angle starboard to their position.

"What is that?!" Mrazak shouted. "Never mind! Fire at will!"

"With pleasure," Ryland said through gritted teeth.

Cloaked Vessel

L’rgath stood in front of the floor-to-ceiling viewport of the PUJ Qu'Hegh, the moon engulfing nearly the entire horizon with only a sliver of black curling towards the top, pinpricks of twinkling white contrasting against the dull red hue of the room’s lights. The beautiful sight was not for him, however, as he stood with eyes closed, head bowed, and hands clasped behind his back in prayerful reverie. It was not to be for long. A door opening and forceful cough brought the Klingon’s head up and eyes open, his meditation cut entirely too short.

“Yes, ghobe'?” he asked, looking in the window’s reflection to see the young Klingon with only a single white star on his sleeve.

Yu'pIn, the Qagachare are ready to strike at your command.”

“Very well. May they go with Kahless.” the Inquisitor said with a nod, long black hair draping his shoulders while his ponytail bobbed behind him, the end not making an appearance above the black robe’s hooded neckline. The novice bowed deeply and retreated from the room, not turning away from the L'rgath until the door closed. The Inquisitor appreciated the respect of youth but it was time for maturity to take the field; turning, he pressed the appropriate commands to superimpose the ten bodycams of the first and second Hov just now decloaking in their attack on the hapless Starfleet away team on the moon below. It would be a quick battle with J'ethohk at the lead. Just as the attack began, however, the comm channel from the bridge opened.

"Un'phen, I'm not sure how but the Starfleet vessel, it..." the words were cut as the ship shook under multiple blasts, causing the Klingon to drop to one knee and brace himself against a railing to prevent completely crashing to the floor. Growling as he stood, he glared at the Defiant-class vessel. "Return fire, full spread, and recloak and maneuver to..." he said as he quickly scanned the systems overview of his and the opposing ship. "...just under their port side." While the Pegh’obe usually had the element of surprise, L'rgath wasn't about to let the P'Tok humans usurp it for long. Besides, he thought with a smirk, fingers dancing over the control panel before leaving for the bridge, he had more than just a cloak up his sleeve.

"Unknown vessel has decloaked and is engaging weapons," Ryland reported.

"Raise shields!" Mrazak shouted.

"Still raised," Ryland reported. "Remember?"

Mrazak scowled. "Yes, yes! I meant to order evasive maneuvers!"

"Already doing them," Ryland quipped, then sarcastically asked, "Anything else?"


On the lunar surface of Alucard, an unexpected dogfight erupted overhead as the Phantom went to battle against a ship that had appeared from the void. At least now everyone knew who was jamming communications and transporters. But with the exposure, the armored Klingon attackers became enraged, abandoning all caution for their well-being. The remaining attackers advanced all at once in a final rush that put it all on the line.

J'ethohk and Klorkarrd, the two Krawgark leading their respective Hov's, looked at each other as the message went out over their comms that somehow the Qu'Hegh had been found out. While the battle had just been joined, the impetus had just taken on a new meaning. With quick nods, the two turned and raced at 45-degrees to each other in an effort to flank the away team, their corresponding Hov following in an echelon-style formation, meeting at the middle. The 10 of them would smash these Starfleet interlopers in short order.

"These guys are definitely not Klingon Intel," Leah muttered as she fired off a few shots and took cover again, "they are useless. These guys are not. These guys are on par with you guys, which means we're fucked if we don't think of something!"

"Keep'em from closing!" Reggie grunted as he snapped around d his cover, firing a trio of shots in rapid succession before pulling back. "I never once met a Klingon who didn't have a blade or collection thereof to show off to folk up close. And we don't have the redundant organs to survive vacuum if they tear our suits."

Leah fired off a few shots, successfully downing one attacker and managing to mangle another, but only slowing their approach as Klingons were known for their durability, so a mangled foot was only a slow, rather than a fall.

Rather than shoot at the actual attackers, Sophie opted to shoot at the ground right in front of them. This threw moon dust into their face plates. It made it harder for her comrades to see them, but it would almost certainly be impossible for the Klingons to see. "I'm not a great shot, so I sure hope that helps," she told the others.

"It's better'an spittin'," Reggie grunted as the rock he was crouched behind was spattered with return fire. Molten rock lazily spun away from the impact sites, some of it falling on his suit. The material blacked slightly before with a sudden out rushing of gas the EVA suit breached. Bubbling sealant foam rushed out of the hole, gumming it up but the momentary pressure dropped caused his suit's visor to fog up with condensation.

Klingon Vessel

Inquisitor L’rgath sat on the bridge, the crew recovering from several blows from the Phantom as their cloak re-engaged. Damage reports followed; nothing critical but also more than he would have liked. No follow-on shots came from the Starfleet vessel, however; it seemed that his intuition was correct in that their location had been ascertained not by the Defiant's primary sensor but something that had taken time or external effort. As the ship maneuvered silently and unmolested under his current prey, he looked down at the tactical screen showing the ground assault force and nodded silently to himself. They were moving for the kill though three of the QelwI' were down and it was a fracas indeed. They needed...something. Combat support? No, he was still jamming comms and transporters and the two teams were too intermingled for an orbital bombardment no matter how precise. Motivation? Yes, he thought with a smile...that, he could give.

"QelwI' Tsarak, tap the jamming stream, open a general frequency broad-spectrum hail, engage microphones on all decks and interface with the Hov tactical net and loudspeakers."

The Klingon at the comm/science station half-turned to raise a brow but met his Inquisitor's intense yet confident stare and turned back with a louder-than necessary "Yes, Un'phen!"

Banging on the side of his command chair in rhythm, his smile was cold but infectious as the bridge crew gazed at him and quickly recognized their leader's intent. Several others joined the beaten rhythm as voices in the bridge and throughout the ship began to sing.

Qoy qeylIs puqloD
Qoy puqbe'pu'
yoHbogh malthbogh je' SuvwI'
Sey'moHchu' may' 'Iw
maSuv manong 'ej maHoHchu'
nI'be'yInmaj 'ach wovqu'!
batlh maH ghbej'jyoqIjDaq
vavpu'ma' DImuvpa'reH maSuvtaH
Qu' DamevQo' maSuvtaH, ma'ov

Klingon voices raised in the ancient Hear! Sons of Khaless, Hear! blared over every commbadge, network, speaker, and earpiece for 100 kilometers. The Hov even had specially mounted speakers on their helmets that blared so that even in space, one might not hear you scream but you could still hear the war cries of the greatest warriors the galaxy had ever known.

Whilst yes, it was inspirational and K'Shura's heart sang along with the nearly deafening song and intensity such as one only a Klingon warrior would possess, there was still the matter of the other ship. Starfleet, especially ones in the field same as the crew of the Qu'Hegh, were crafty folk, weak as they were. Advantage could only be maintained with focus. So, she kept hers and kept a close eye on sensors.

Back on the Phantom, Mrazak balked at the odious overtures coming over the comm channels. "Is... is that Klingon? Why isn't the universal translator rendering properly? Ferrofax, please translate!" Shaking his head, Mrazak said, "On second thought, just summarize. What are they saying?"

"You really do not want me to do that. Not only does it throw out the harmony, but you lose so much in the translation. Klingon is a very nuanced language, regardless of its brute force approach to syntax," Ferrofax commented. "Sufficed to say the music isn't what I'm listening to. I've used similar tactics to hide data traffic and obscure sensors, so pardon me whilst I keep an eye on our friend to make sure weaponized malware isn't embedded in the audio."

Mrazak cackled at that. "Klingons? Hacking a Federation starship? Don't be ridiculous, Ferrofax." The Vulcan Without Logic narrowed his eyes at the viewscreen. "These are scavengers, not innovators. I want them neutralized immediately."

"Sir, these are no ordinary Klingons," a Lieutenant JG from Engineering station sounded off. "However, we're better. Why don't we try a backtrace of this infernal noise and see if it'll lead us to something definite we can hit so we can get the team off the ground?"

"Yes," Mrazak said. "I will deconstruct the communications protocol and look for generative authentication bypasses or any other cryptographic algorithms." Sparing a look at the engineer, Mrazak sneered with pride. "I know my way around a comms station," he boasted.

Rolling up his sleeves, Mrazak went to work. "If I repurpose the auxiliary chipset to split the broadcast into a feedback loop, then I can--" He stopped to let out an uncharacteristic cheer of success. "YES! I've exposed the source code of their malware." Mrazak pointed at the junior LT from the Engineering station. "You, Ferrofax, somebody! Leverage that against the Klingon firewall immediately and do something vengeful to their vessel!"

The young Engineer called Jeff nodded, "yes, sir!" He returned his attention to his station, attempting ECCM against the Klingon vessel.

Through the loud pulses of exchanged phaser blasts over the lunar landscape, the combadges of Finely, Reggie, Sophie, and Leah all chirped at once.

"We're busy!" Reggie said into his combadge. "Unless this is some orbital fire support in which case WHAT KEPT YOU!?!"

"We're comin' around for another pass to get a transporter lock," said Ryland's voice. "We punched through the interference but not enough for a solid lock at this distance, so calm your titties until we can get closer."

"Speed is advisable, Phantom." Leah grunted as she fired off more shots. Then to Fin, she said, "we need to grab that item with us. We need proof."

"That's about a fifty meter dash." Fin noted between shots as she peeked over their cover. "I can grab it, if you can keep those Klingons from turning me into moondust?"

Leah nodded, "I've got you. Reggie, Sophie, I'm going to be covering Fin, we'll need distraction fire." Then she looked back at Fin. "Ready when you are."

"If I die here, tell my parents I died valiantly saving everybody from an imminent warp core breach." She flashed Leah a wide grin, "It sounds better than 'she ran into enemy fire like an idiot' ".

"Fuck that," Reggie reached around to his equipment pouch and pulled out what looked like modeling clay with isolinear rods jammed into them. "This here is a mixture of trinium oxide and freely associated boron. With just a dash of sulfur fluoride because if you're gonna make explosions they need to have something special to'em."

The isolinear rods began to blink on and off.

"Got my covering fire right here."

"What the hell is- no, you know what? I don't even care!" said Sophie, suspiciously eyeing whatever it was Reggie held. "Just do whatever you're going to do with it. As long as it won't get us killed."

"Fin, go!" Leah urged, firing the first shot.

The two Krawgark threw their heads back with a roar as the song pulsed through their comm net and over the EVA suit loudspeakers. Their blood ran hot with the ancient words and the Klingon ground party leaders smiled as their respective Hov's completed the flanking maneuver. Whatever it was these Federation were trying to cover, it wouldn't be long before it belonged to the Inquisition.

While Fin made her move, the Klingon offensive was thrown back by the detonation of Reggie's glowing Improvised Explosive Device. Environmental hazard alarms were going off within the the internal Heads Up Displays inside the EV suits of Fin and the others. Another symbol appeared within the HUDS, though, denoting a beneficial quality. A transporter lock. Try as they might, the distant Klingon attackers couldn't make their shots land, and they were too distant to close the gap to strike with their bat'leths. The transporter energies surrounded the team and swept them up and away from the kill zone.

A puff of moon dust rose up from where the Klingon artifact had been.

"Away team is confirmed aboard," Ryland reported from the helm.

A savage satisfaction fell over Mrazak's face. "And their attackers?"

"Beaming back to the unknown vessel," Ryland said. "Dammit. I was hopin' for some fish in a barrel now that our people are clear."

Mrazak ignored whatever that was supposed to mean. Half of what his flippant helmsman had to say was twaddle anyway. "In that case, fire all weapons at the ship."

"Are...are you sure?" Ryland asked. It seemed like overkill even to him.

"I am sure," Mrazak said. "I don't want them getting away. Their computer core will survive the destruction of their vessel, they dared fire on us, and if Ferrofax is correct, then they may have tried and succeeded at embedding some sort of malicious code into our system with their gods-awful concerto. No, I won't give them a chance to get away or get the upper hand." His voice dropped to a fervid baritone. "Send them to Fusion."

Well, they weren't disabled, so it wasn't necessarily an ethical thing for Ryland who had once commanded a starfighter wing. He was the pilot's equivalent to a sniper. A starfighter had to look directly at their target and watch it explode with all hands. But if Mrazak wanted to destroy whatever evidence he was seeking out of paranoia, then it was no skin off Ryland's nose. He was just a flight-rated gunner at heart.

"Aye, sir." Ryland initiated dual access for both helm and tactical systems that let him align the Phantom's evasive maneuvers with firing solutions. Compared to his old starfighter, the Phantom had a fat ass, yet its handling and impulse engines were balanced such that it could overwhelm the inertial dampeners and sheer itself in half at peak performance. "Bombs away."

In space, the Klingon vessel found itself caught in the midst of a shotgun blast of torpedoes that was unavoidable. Two out of three struck the starboard flank. Lancing phasers from the Phantom pounded against the shields which deflected the energies around the stealth ship. Another volley impacted the enemy ship, but this time there was nothing to deflect the destructive ordnance. A white burst of nuclear fire enveloped the ship and left naught but debris in its wake.

"Target destroyed," Ryland reported. "And I do mean dee-stroyed."

"Resplendent." Mrazak couldn't help but fiddle his fingers. "Now, scan the debris field for the black box and beam it to the Deck 4 Vault."

"Sensors are picking up residual transporter signatures," said Ryland. "Shit. I wonder if the Demeter nabbed the black box!" The computer warbled at Ryland's station. "Ah, nope. There it is. Beaming it to the Vault. I wonder what the transporter was?"

Mrazak's grin turned dour once more. "Survivors. Target the Demeter's engines. I want that ship adrift immediately."

"Are you sure?" Ryland asked.

"Do it."

In for a penny, in for a pound. Ryland did as instructed.

Targeted fire punched a hole through the INS vessel's hull and vented plasma near the primary engines before emergency protocols shunted the leak with forcefields.

"Engines are disabled," Ryland reported. "Primary systems remain intact."

"Excellent. I will inform the sector command that the Demeter needs to be impounded pending collusion with a foreign military power, and afterward I want the away team to join me in the Strategic Operations Conference Room." Mrazak was on his way to Strat Ops.

"The Demeter is hailing us," Ryland said. "What do I tell them?"

"Nothing," Mrazak replied without turning around or breaking stride. "They know what they did. Let them stew in it."


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