Timeline: Before "Surprises" After "No Sleep"
Writer: Vakash Darkbane
In a remote binary star system outside both Confederation and Urthean space the Raptor sat a safe distance away observing the phenomenon. Because soon a Nova would occur for the first time since the confederation had formed and Lt. Commander Harry Martinez jumped at the chance to get the honor to witness it.
Everyone who wasn't on duty was in the Raptor's forward lounge. The hatches were opened and Harry had ordered the hip positioned to have the best view of the phenomenon so that it filled the viewports.
A Confederation science team had been put in their charge to test some experimental equipment to record and examine all the data they could of the phenomenon. It was not a new discovery just a rare chance to put some new technologies to an actual field test.
A small party was being held in the Mess hall to celebrate the launch of the new probe. Harry and his Bridge crew as long as everyone else were attending while they were off duty. It was an informal party, something that didn't happen often on his small ship but a welcome event nonetheless.
He was talking to a rather attractive Cornerian Rabbit named Aspen Cordell. She was the same rank as him and was the team leader of development of the new probe the Raptor had launched earlier. She had a shoulder length Red Hair and her fur was cream colored with a very light grey color in her ears and muzzle. She had the loveliest amber colored eyes he found himself lost in as they spoke quietly under one of the windows out to the stars.
"I have to really thank you for taking my team along on this trip Captain. It's so hard to get any ship of the line off the beaten path to help with something like this."
"It's no problem, I was more than glad to help. We also happened to have a convenient potential nova within a day's travel." Harry replied.
"I'm surprised a ship like this actually had the facilities we needed to do our work." She smiled and scooted close to him. "I can't thank you enough Captain."
Harry smiled and noticed the gesture. "It's my pleasure entirely. I'm joined partly to just see things like this. I used to be an engineer not that long ago."
"Do you like having your own command?"
"Yeah." Harry said. "It can be a bit lonely sometimes. It comes with the job."
"Tell me about it." Aspen said coyly slipping her drink. "I have to babysit a bunch of first year science and engineering techs. I barely get any time to sleep."
"Well maybe you'll get a break from a lot of it when this probe test is over."
"Maybe." Aspen smiled. "But we both know that's a lie. The pursuit of knowledge and progress is never over."
"I wonder what they are talking about." Fara Phoenix mused sipping her synth ale trying to act like she wasn't watching, which she was.
"I don't know could be anything." Terri said. "I didn't know the Commander was such a smooth operator."
Aspen laughed as the two shared a joke and they seemed to stand closer together as they looked out onto the spectacular view.
"Th… the… they certainly got chummy really quickly." Michele O'mara giggled.
"I think that's an understatement." Fara snickered quickly grabbing an appetizer off the food table and wolfing it down. "You don't need a tricorder to pick up those signals she's putting off."
"So what are you three up too over here." said Dr. Okan with Jack Land accompanying him.
Fara motioned with her paw as she grabbed another couple of morsels and quickly devoured them.
Both him and Jack looked and then looked back.
"And why is that so interesting." The fox chuckled.
"Indeed, why shouldn't our C.O. have a good time." Dr. Okan said.
"We've just never seen him in action is all." Terri giggled.
"What Harry?" Land chuckled. "He's always been a bit of the charmer as long as I've known him." Land stopped and paused to think about it. "For crying out loud are you guys Jealous?"
"No!" They all said in a quiet reply seeming a bit embarrassed.
"I think you found the root of the fascination Mr. Land." Okan chuckled.
"Maybe a little." Terri admitted.
Michelle and Fara both gave her a strange look of admonishment.
"What? At least I can admit it." Terri said taking a drink.
"Anyways, this is my first Nova, the science team says it should happen within the next ten hours. I can't speak for the rest of you but I'm pretty excited." Okan said.
"Me too Doctor. I've only ...seen simulations on a holodeck." O'mara added. "It should be quite the sight."
"Aren't we short a crew member?" Jack asked.
"A couple." Fara said. "Jakar and Rivas decided to skip out."
"Why and miss this?" Jack said.
"Maybe they are going to have a scowl of contest and see who is the grumpiest cuss on the bridge." Fara cackled.
"That's not funny." Terri scowled at Fara. "They are just a little stoic is all."
"I think little is an understatement." Fara said. "Seriously Rivas wasn't that bad until our new commander came around now between the two of them they can just suck the life out of a room."
"Don just has a lot of on his mind lately." Terri said. "The Raptor was supposed to be his, but Fleet Command decided otherwise."
"So there are new ships rolling off the line every day he can get over it." Fara shrugged. "He can get any one of those he wants."
"He has been with this project as long as the rest of us have." Terri said patiently. "Excluding you and the Commander." She said pointing at Jack land. "Wouldn't you be a little upset if you were taken off the project."
"The ship wouldn't ever fly again that's for damn sure." Fara muttered darkly wolfing down another morsel.
The Bridge was fairly sparsely crewed, with the swaray underway and being in relatively peaceful space there was not really a need for a full crew at the moment. Jakar sat at Operations while Rivas manned the helm. Over the speakers they had playing an old cornerian opera which. Jakar actually seemed to be relaxed although his eyes were constantly checking his displays as he kept the Raptor's sensors watching everything around them. Rivas couldn't blame him though, with Xox still out there somewhere.
He looked at the bloated star in the distance on the monitor. It loomed on the Raptors screen like a giant orange over ripe fruit with plumes of flame leaping off it. He checked his own instruments and just made sure the warp engines were on standby to get them out of their at a moment's notice. He had never seen a supernova before and was honestly curious, he just didn't want to get caught in one. This one was located in the extreme edge of the galaxy and there were no habitable worlds near it.
"So, Jakar what do you think about all this."
"I think considering we are in unclaimed space, it's a prime place for an ambush while we are distracted."
"True, but not with us on the lookout." Rivas smiled.
Jakar smiled slightly and went back to looking at his board. An alarm sounded on his board.
"What's that?" Rivas asked curiously.
"Subspace disturbance." Jakar said looking at the readout. "Appears to be a vessel, no.. vessels at warp."
Rivas spun around. "What course are they….?"
"LATERAL HARD MARK 270 BEARING 180!" Jakar suddenly spat.
Rivas quickly spun and typed in the sudden maneuver into the con. "HANG ON!" The Raptor suddenly lurched to life as its engines roared as it careened towards its new position in space just as two vessels emerged from warp space.
One was smaller transport ship and it barely had time to avoid the Raptor and one of it's nacelle pylons glanced the Raptor's sending up lots of sparks and jarring the occupants of both vessels sending it careening out of control.
The larger vessel emerged shortly after it was an Urthaen Battlecruiser but the Raptor was clear as it passed over it.
Rivas held on for dear life as the Raptor spun from the impact alarms filled the bridge and he fought against the g forces as he typed in commands into the attitude controls to get the vessel to stop reeling from the impact.
Gradually the ship responded to his commands and the ship gradually came out of its spin. Jakar sounded the red alert and brought the ship's defences online.
"Damage report." Rivas snapped feeling nauseous.
"Damage to the starboard nacelle we are venting drive plasma. Trying to lock it down to has engineering has been informed."
"What the hell hit us?"
"Some smaller vessel that's all I know." Jakar responded noticing the Urthaen vessel starting to turn toward them on the screen. "They are charging their weapons."
"Red Alert all hands to battle stations!" Rivas said hitting the com.
No sooner then he called it Harry Martinez entered the bridge sporting a nasty cut above his right eye. "The next time you take my ship for a spin warn me first!" He snapped at jack holding what looked like a napkin to the wound and sitting in the captain's chair the rest of the bridge crew piled in save for Fara who had bolted for engineering after the collision. "What happened?"
"Near collision with a small vessel that an Urthaen battleship was chasing in warp space that's about all we know so far!" Rivas said quickly pointing the the screen.
"Ms. Lu. Open a Hailing frequency." Martinez said still trying to staunch the bleeding from the cut. "Also I want a report on that ship they were chasing asap.
"Hailing frequencies open." Terri reported. "Working on it sir."
"Urthaen vessel this is Confederation Starship Raptor you are in neutral space stand down or we will defend ourselves."
Jack Land finally arrived much to his relief as squirrely as the Raptor was he didn't want to take it into a firefight and felt more confident in ops where he belonged. He slid out of the con and returned to his station and quickly tried to make sense of all the ships alarms as Jakar returned to tactical.
"Damage report." Harry asked as he climbed into the captains chair he was holding a napkin to his forehead to staunch the bleeding from a cut on his forehead..
"Minimal seems to be mostly on the starboard nacelle." Rivas report. "Injury reports coming from all decks."
The Urthaen ship loomed ever close stopping.
Finally over the speaker a voice rumbled with amusement. "Is that you vermin? Oh what a wonderful day this has turned into yes."
The screen flickered and Xox appeared in the center of it with his eyes glowing and a wicked grin upon his muzzle. "And you are right, this is yet Unclaimed Space by the Urthaen empire but I do have a reason for being here what is yours." He said leaning forward.
"Exploration." Harry realising he didn't look that intimidating with a bloody napkin pressed to his head. "Expanding our understanding of the universe. You should really try it sometime." " Xox's glare narrowed on screen. "What is your reason Commandant." He replied refusing to stoop to Xox's petty name calling.
"I am pursuing a known criminal of the Urthaen Empire and perhaps one of your Confederations." Xox said levelly. "She has evaded us this long she will not today."
"What is the crime?" Harry asked.
"Smuggling of Confederation weapons and supplies into our space."
"Captain." Terri said quietly. "The other vessel his hailing us using Fleet Encryption band seven."
"One moment Commandant, do you have any validation of this?" Harry asked as he spoke he tapped his interface to the left. Terri picked up the signal and transferred the message directly to him.
"Indeed I do. However she is a vermin like yourself and she is charged with multiple offenses of of bringing weapons into our space."
"Captain." Jakar said. "The other vessel is powering back up the Urthaens are locking weapons onto it."
Harry glanced down at the message it simply read.
OPEN YOUR BAY DOOR. GET READY TO RUN. 5542
Harry's eyes widened at the code at the end of the message and with the use of channel seven. Harry quickly keyed in the command to open the bay doors and he made a quick gesture to Rivas to stay quiet. The ship was a bit big, it was going to be a rather tight fit in their shuttle bay. He ordered an evacuation of the shuttle bay.
"I doubt your federation would be interested in prosecuting this smuggler even though they are violating our empires laws."
"That depends on the case, you tend to violate our own on a regular basis commandant." Harry said sending a quick text message to the helm with a course and speed. He heard it beep in front of him and Jack Land look down at it and saw him quickly making the course correction.
He glanced at his system read out the doors were almost open. "While we're at it we could discuss multiple incidents of piracy, destruction of confederation property for start."
Xox glared darkly. "I don't find it this amusing at all Rodent, no."
"I wasn't trying to be funny." Harry said sternly watching the count doors were fully opened.
He quickly typed up a message to the crippled ship.
NOW OR NEVER. 5537
"Fine i'll have to just dispense justice in my own way than." Xox said nodding to someone off screen.
The smaller skiff suddenly powered up it's engines and barrelled towards the Raptor's shuttle bay just as the Urthean's repulsor cannon fired missing it by inches. The small shift slammed sharply into the bay tearing its naccells off and sending a torrent of sparks flying as it skidded across the deck before an emergency net sprung up and caught it.
The Raptor suddenly jumped to maximum warp and blasting past the Urthean ship.
"They've left the system." D'jonn reported.
"For now." Xox growled. "They were here for a reason I'm sure they'll be back and we shall wait here. Scan for anything out of the ordinary, if they were doing exploration they probably just left something very expensive behind."
Harry stepped into the ruin of the shuttle bay.
There were several small fires and repair crews and the ships fire suppression systems were working. The vessel appeared to be a skiff of some sort of skiff a heavily modified version of a long range shuttle craft, or at least what was left of it. Jakar and a security team accompanied him.
"It's definitely one of ours sir." Jakar said. "Although it doesn't have a registration."
"Noted, life signs." Harry said.
They suddenly heard the seal on the door on the side of the skiff pop and it opened.
A figure climbed out and dropped to the tech. It was a female echidna with bright red head fur, beaded spines and black fur. Her hair was a bit unkempt and she had a blaster at her side.
"Thank you all for the lift, you really helped out a girl out back there." She said tossing her hair about to get it out of here eyes. "Name is Sonya Jax, and I take it this serious looking bloke is the one I was texting too?" She said nodding at Harry.
"Yeah it would be."
"You look a little disappointed luv." She said. "Not what you were expecting?"
"No." Harry said. "Until we get this sorted out, I'm going to have to ask you to go with my security chief."
Harry gave her an incredulous look.
She looked behind her and shrugged. "Well if you say so."
She grabbed her blasters flipped them in her hands and handed to Harry grip first. "I hope I can at least et a hot meal and a shower after all the trouble i've been through eh?"
Jakar cracked a rare amused smile. "Come with me Ms. Jax."
Harry however didn't. "Chief just confine her to one of our spare quarters until we can figue out what's going on."
Jakar nodded and led her off.
Harry watched them go and then looked at the damage to his shuttle bay and shook his head just what did he get himself into.
"Aren't you just the picture of tall dark and handsome." Sonya said to Jakar as they walked down the corridor. "Where'd you get that scar."
"I got it a long time ago." Jakar said. "Out on the frontier."
Jakar's stoic facade cracked faintly with a smile as he remembered something and then his face showed a bit of sadness. "It was. That was a lifetime ago than."
"What type of man is your captain?"
"An interesting man." Jakar said. "To say the least."
"OHhh interesting?" Sonya chukled. "Well they say our lot are that's for sure."
"Your lot?" Jakar asked.
"Aye, your Captain and I got something in common." Sonya smirked. "Probably why he helped me like he did."
"Is that so?"
Sonya shrugged. "It's a long story, this ship is pretty small for a capper, I hope these quarters you are confining me to got some decent accommodations."
"They serve their purpose." Jakar replied they stopped outside of some quarters. "Don't give me a reason to come looking for you."
"You'd be welcome to join me in getting cleaned up and having some dinner if you wouldn't mind luv."
Jakar blushed. "I'm on duty." He quickly stammered.
"It's ok I won't hold it against ya, i'll be here waiting for the captain then."
She stepped inside and the doors closed behind her.
"Sir?" Jakar heard the Katarin security officer behind him.
"Stand guard until the captain says otherwise." Jakar said gruffly. "I'll be on the bridge."
Harry arrived back on the bridge. "Did he follow us?"
"No, Sir." Rivas reported. "So mind filling us all in on what exactly that was about earlier."
"I will when I get a moment to catch my breath." Harry said pacing around the bridge. "Ms. Lu can you pull up anything you can on a Sonya Jax for me."
"Yes sir. I'll get right on it." Terri said.
"Engage the cloak and bring us back around, we need to try to make sure the we can save the science teams probe if we can."
He heard the bridge doors open and close. "Well that's a relief to hear that Captain." Aspen smiled as her turned to her. "That's what I was coming to see you about, and to figure out what happened."
"I'm working on it." Harry said. "But I fully intend to make sure your research is protected."
"I appreciate that." Aspen smiled. "So I saw the battle cruiser is everything ok."
"Not exactly that particular Urthean ship likes to harass us on a routine basis." Harry sighed. "It's just rotten luck that our paths have crossed today."
"What's the actual threat to the probe captain." Aspen said.
"Other than the nova not too much." Harry said. "If you remembered we encountered a lot of turbulence to get close enough to that star to deploy. I doubt that an Urthean Battlecruiser can handle that much stress on a ship if they tried to get close enough to tractor it."
"Well it figures something would go wrong, it started off to good to be true." Aspen sighed.
"Doctor, I will do everything within my power to make sure you able to complete your work." Harry said reassuringly.
Aspen smiled and she stepped up to him so she could talk quietly. "Well you were proposing a nightcap before we got interrupted, I'm still interested."
Harry smiled. "The offer is still out there."
"Might want to get that cut taken care of first." She said.
"I'll get to it." Harry smiled dabbing at it with the dinner napkin he had grabbed to staunch the bleeding.
"Commander we have the situation at hand get it taken care of." Rivas insisted. "I can handle things up here."
Fara entered the bridge and activated her console.
"Is that damage we sustained from the shuttle bay going to affect our cloak?" Harry asked her as she took her seat.
"It shouldn't." Fara said. "But if you keep bleeding everywhere that will take longer to get out of your chair then patching the shuttle bay up."
"Ok, ok I got it. I'll go to sickbay." Harry relented getting up out of the command chair. Rivas slid into it his place.
Dr. Cordell smiled and they left the bridge together. "Hey don't grouse at least they care about you."
Harry nodded. "I suppose so. I'm tired of hearing about it." He chuckled dabbing and wincing at the cut.
A bit later
Sonya sat in her quarters.
They were sparse utilitarian.
Not what she expected.
Usually fleet ships were a bit more luxurious, this room gave her a small shower, a bunk, a desk, a terminal and a replicator. It reminded her of maybe an older type ship with an extensive refit. She'd showered, and changed into a loose fitting civilian blouse and slacks and a pair of sandals. She stowed her belongings in the small locker under the bunk and ate a pretty hearty meal.
She was a bit sad she had to trash the Ghost like she did. Maybe they'd be kind enough to get it working for her if they didn't throw her in the pen for destruction of fleet property or some other nonsense. It had been awhile since she'd dealt with the civilized parts of the galaxy lately. Having spent the last decade in the Badlands, you get used to living with your hand on your blaster and your eye always looking for trouble. She'd made a decent living as it was being a smuggler and trader out there. It's just this one time she'd happen to stumble across a Urthean Commandant who actually bothered to do his job and give chase.
Of all the rotten luck.
She'd taken a chance using that code when she transmitted it to the Raptor, she knew she'd have a chance if it had been on of her former teachers students who would at least try to help her. That panned out for her for the most part, at least she'd have some protection, at least she hoped.
She'd tried the door and found it wouldn't opened, so she was being caged for the moment till they figured out what to do with her. At least it wasn't a brig.
"Fair enough treatment ye be givin me i supposed." She said flicking her spined and running her hand through her hair. "If i hadn't wrecked your ship a wee bit i'd probably gotten better."
She turned on the terminal and flipped through the vast database of entertainment programming for something to watch. With the ships amber alert lights flashing she figured it might be some time till they get to her yet so she may as well get settled in.
The door chime went off.
"Come in." She said.
Harry stepped into the quarters and looked her over.
"Ah captain, if i knew you'd be paying me a visit i would have set something out for ya."
Harry waited for the doors to close before he spoke.
"I'll say I took the liberty of looking up what I could about you." Harry said. "Other than several warrants out for your arrest for various acts of smuggling contraband. You haven't exactly been a model citizen."
"So sue me, I never been one for following' the rules much." She shrugged.
Harry raised his recently scarred brow. "You used to, you graduated from the academy for high marks, you had a bright future ahead of you until…"
"Until i spit on ole stoneface ya don't be minding me of that." She scowled. "First time in jail, good times, never slept better." She sneered.
Harry was bemused by this, "stoneface." was the name given by their mutual Teacher at the academy Admiral Kramer. A rather formidable instructor who took on unique individuals whom he thought would serve the Confederation. Harry had been sponsored by him as many others but only 55 of them had made it to graduation under him and were called the "Fab 55." throughout the fleet.
"So… just to be candid with me what possessed you to do that?"
"I be supposed you think it's a great honor to have that little tattoo on your wrist don't it?" Sonya scoffed.
"I do why don't you."
"It's a mark of a torturer you twat." Sonya glared. "What he put us through, the mind games, the manipulation? It's sick. I didna take kindly to it."
Harry processed this. To pass you had to be put through an elaborate simulation that showed you could survive the rigors of command. Even his own test had been an ordeal but he didn't feel that way about it. However he could see her point.
"Fair enough." he managed.
"Look all it it tells me is I can trust you, and you'll 'elp me if i ask." Sonya said. "That's all I can count on it for."
"Of course I'll do what I can but I want to know what you are doing with these." He said tossing her a data padd that landed on her lap." Sonya's cocky smirk faded as she looked it over
"I had my security chief go through your ship and he found a few suspicious items care to explain?"
"Just a few odd and ends folks need on the frontier."
"Phaser rifles are hardly odds and ends." Harry glared. "A whole shipment of Mk 3 rifles boxed and stored carefully."
"Well maybe they like collecting antiques."
Harry slammed his paws down on the desk startling her. "Tell me what you are doing with them or I will put you in the brig and turn you over to Confederation Security without a second thought."
Sonya tried to stare him down but found herself unable too.
"Fine, be that way than." She sighed. "There are a lot of folks livin out on the edge of space in uncharted colonies that the confederation don't give a second thought too because they aren't within their borders. They have to fend for themselves a lot of time with little to know help especially out there in the badlands. You think it's so easy to be a lookin at me violating your laws and judge but i look at you all in your fancy ships and monkey suits and wonder why you let your own government turn a blind eye to their plight." Sonya said. "If ya don't believe me check my flight logs, I don't have anything to hide from ya. Take a look and judge for yourself."
"I will you can count on that." Harry said he started for the door.
"I just got one question for you now skipper." Sonya said as the door parted in front of him. "If the confederation bein so good for you, why you only two bars and a star when you were one of the good ones."
Harry didn't say anything and left the room, that little barb hit deep.
He hit his combadge. "Jakar I want the flight logs off that ship as soon as you can get them."
"Aye sir anything else." Jakar replied.
"No. Not at the moment." Harry said curtly. "Martinez out." He stopped in his tracks realizing he'd been so upset he'd lost track of where he had been heading. He was technically off duty at the moment and so far the situation hadn't gotten out of control, yet. He headed back to Dr. Cordell's quarters. He'd promised he'd swing by after he'd finished this little business with their new passenger. He was there in a matter of moments he hit the door chime.
After a moment the door open and Cordel Aspen stood before him in a revealing negligee. "I hope you don't mind, but i figured I'd speed things along with you being so busy being Captain and all."
Harry's scowl turned into a stupid grin. "No… I don't."
The doe grinned and grabbed his arm and pulled him inside.
The Executor pulled close to the star.
"Anything on scanner sweeps." Xox said pacing around the ridge.
"There is some sort of array located inside the star's corona." D'jonn responded. "It is of confederation origin."
"Would it be even worth our time to retrieve it?"
"Probably not Commandant." D'jonn responded. "If its purpose is to study the star they probably intend for it to be destroyed when the star goes nova."
"Maybe so but they'll want to be close to extract the data at some point." Xox said. "Yes. Well stay close and keep an eye on it then."
"Hoping it'll draw them out in the open?"
"Exactly." Xox said. "We'll keep a synchronous orbit with that device and keep our eyes open for that rodents ship to return. Also try to keep an eye on that star, if it starts to blow I want to be out of this system. Even my little game with that contemptible rat isn't worth being blown up over.'
"Understood Comendant I'll have sciences keep monitor the star's activity."
Xox stood in thought, how could he use this to his advantage, sure he could just destroy the array, but that wasn't satisfying enough.
He could try to for Harry's hand into handing over the fugitive but he honestly didn't care if they kept her or not, there had to be some angle he could work to his advantage.
The next morning.
Harry sat on the bridge staring at the viewer.
He did not like what he saw.
Xox's ship was holding orbit near the star.
"Dr. Cordell how much time do we have till the star Supernovas"
Dr. Cordell sat at the auxiliary station behind him monitoring her equipment. "Roughly another 10 hours tops. We're going to have get close at some point and get the data dump before too long."
"Understood." At least they had some time to work with but knowing Xox, he was going to be obnoxious as possible since they'd already made him look bad once. "I'll figure out something and i've got enough time to do it."
Xox's battle cruiser was still in the area, it was keeping a safe distance orbiting the sun at a safe distance.
Harry knew that if they got too close the cloak would fail due to all the radiation emitted from the star.
"Jakar what's the status of the Urthean ship?"
"There weapons are currently powered down, deflectors are up but not at full defensive power."
Harry drummed his fingers on his chair he had a decision to make, the only certainty he had was that Xox definitely had it in for him and may attack however he approached this situation.
"Drop the cloak, Helm take us in nice and easy." Harry said.
"Sir are you sure that's wise?" Rivas said speaking up.
"We're here to help the science team." Harry said. "I don't want to make a scrap of it, but we can't sit here pondering what may or may not happen. Take is in Jack."
The fox nodded and the Raptor moved slowly forward as it's cloaking device dropped.
"Incoming transmission." Terri reported almost on cue.
"And there it is…" Jakar grunted.
"Put him on." Harry said.
"There you are rodent, I suppose you have come for your little toy?"
"That's partly why we are here yes." Harry said ignoring the insult. "You could stick around if you like, maybe learn something."
"The Urthean Empire existed long before your Confederation was even a dream. This is not the first star we've seen in the last part of its." Xox replied. "If anything we would be helping you if we felt inclined to do so."
At least he's talking instead of shooting.
Harry glanced over to Jakar who shook his head showing no change in Xox's ships status.
"Well." Harry said standing up and walking towards the screen and adjusting his uniform. Xox's brow furrowed as he approached. "This could be an opportunity for the both of us to engage in a joint scientific endeavor that could benefit both our peoples."
"I'm listening rodent." Xox said raising a brow.
"The purpose of the array is to gain a better understanding of their energy output of the star and see how we can possibly take that knowledge and put it towards developing new sources of energy." Harry let that sink in. "Something that both of our peoples need to keep our mutual peoples going. Surely you can appreciate that."
"Indeed." Xox allowed. "I will admit I am intrigued, there is definite value to that if what you are saying is true, yess."
This is going better than I expected, still I can't trust him. Harry thought pushing his gamble. "Dr. Cordell's research is of public record, I assure you we have no other intentions out here."
"I would be interested in seeing this research." Xox said. "If it isn't classified than you can surely share it."
"We can send what she has published so far." Harry offered.
"I'll be waiting." Xox replied coolly. "If it's of value I may consider letting you near your array." The channel cut out.
"Ms. Lu, send the requested material over to his ship."
"Aye sir." Terri said collating the data packet and then sending it for transport.
Xox's ship acknowledged the transmission and accepted it. "It's away."
"Thank you Commander." Dr. Cordell smiled thanking from the back station.
"It's the only thing I could think to do." Harry said. "It's not like him and I are on the best of terms, I'm shocked he even listened."
"Definitely one for this History books." Rivas smirked. "I don't think there's been a lot of times if any a Confederation ship and a Urthean Vessel exchanged words instead of fire. Although I wouldn't advise letting it get our hopes up, Commander."
"Noted. Let's keep our eyes peeled at all times I don't want any surprises." Harry said. "Ms. Lu contact fleet command and let them know our situation out here."
"Aye Sir." Terri nodded.
Harry walked over to Terri's station. "Have our teams been able to extract our passengers ships flight recorder yet?"
"Yeah they have they just got the data dump done this morning." Terri replied. "Do you want to see the info."
"Yes send it to my terminal so I can review it later, one thing at a time." Harry said.
"As you wish sir." Terri said turning to get all her tasks accomplished.
Sonya paced in her quarters, bored and restless.
The doors were sealed and she was sure the ships computer wouldn't let her out unless it deemed her life was in immediate danger staying in the room.
She knew she was screwed one way or the other but at least Confederation prisons were comfortable, maybe she'd take up sewing like her nan wanted her too as a rehab project.
She could probably break out if she wanted but she was still hoping maybe Harry would help her out, but being stuck in the room for the last day was starting to make her very anxious. She checked the wall chronometer it was about 0900 hours she wondered exactly what the hell was going on out there.
Xox sat in his command chair reading the research.
It was intriguing, he had to admit. A lot of this females notes seemed sound she seemed convinced if the conditions of a dying star could replicated and harnessed on a smaller scale it could potentially provide boundless energy years beyond the current technology. The equations seemed sound from what he could understand of them. Xox muttered to himself in thought as he kept reading through the information.
"Commandant?" D'jonn said approaching carefully.
"This woman, she has some valid research here." Xox said thoughtfully. "I'm surprised our own minds haven't thought of this. Is it true this information is readily available on their network?"
"Yes it is, they did not deceive us." D'jonn said. "I had our spy networks check and they confirmed it. "The information was deemed of minor importance."
"It is now, these are all just theories." Xox said his red eyes dimming a little. "In time however, it can be much more."
D'jonn regarded his old friend with a small crack of a smile, at times he could see the fox he wants knew peaking through what he had become.
"So what do you suggest we do?"
Xox pondered for a moment.
"We do what the rodent suggested. I can put our little game aside for now. It would be a waste to let this research be destroyed." Xox than grinned. "Why kill the seed, when we can steal the fruit later? Open a channel to the Raptor."
D'jonn nodded and walked over to a control station and opened the channel.
"Congratulations, Rodent. I have agreed to let you continue your little experiment." Xox said to Harry as his image appeared on the screen. "You may do whatever you need to do, I will maintain my position and insure that you will have no interference from the Urthean Empire. However any findings you do have we would hope that you would share with us in the spirit as you would say as." He nearly choked on the words and tried to force a smile. "Mutual Cooperation, yess."
"Thank you Commandant, your cooperation is appreciated." Harry said. "We would be glad to share the information with you."
Xox merely bowed. "If you require any assistance, please let us know. Executer out."
The screen switched back to star field and they saw the Raptor move towards the star.
"Are you serious about keeping the other ships away?" D'jonn asked.
"Of course I am." Xox said. "Send out the order."
D'jonn nodded and did as instructed. He couldn't tell if Xox was actually being sincere or had something up his sleeve.
The Door chime sounded and Sonya was awoken from her nap. "Come, in." She said.
The tall older handsome echidna from earlier came in with a tray of food.
"The captain thought you might want some lunch, while he's reviewing your situation." Jakar said.
"That's sweet of him luv, put it down on the table." Jakar did. Truth was he was intrigued by Sonya and just wanted to talk to her a bit more. Sort of an informal interrogation if need be.
"So it's been like a day what's taking so long for him to decide what to do with me?" Sonya said getting up going over to the table and checking out the food.
"Your arrival made our situation much more.." Jakar said. "Interesting for sure."
Sonyo started digging into the food and wolfed it down, the replicator had only been programmed to give her basic rations and water or juice, actually getting some food was nice for a change. "Have a seat big guy."
"So you are a smuggler, I used to do that myself when i was younger and dumber." Jakar said as he sat down across from her. "What routes do you run?"
"The most profitable one, the Kalistar run along the badlands, hitting all those little independent worlds." Sonya said.
"I'm familiar with the route." Jakar replied. "I used to run dilithium back in the day."
"Wow big risk taker." Sonya said flirtingly. "That's a lot of money to be had, why'd you put the uniform on?"
"It's a long story, lets just say I had a change of heart." Jakar said. "Why are you running guns?"
"Like I told your captain, colonists need to be able to defend themselves is all, things break and need replaced. Look you know as much as I do you just take the cargo and the pay no questions. Plus they are discontinued surplus, they are legal by Confederation rules."
Jakar nodded. "Yeah but they are supposed to be obtained through proper channels."
"An you know as much as I do luv, that no one is really going to check into it unless someone gets caught." Sonya replied.
"And you claim ignorance as to why your buyer needs so many."
"Look tall dark and ruthless." Sonya teased. "I said I don't ask questions, I don't care who needs them, I just need the money to keep my ship going and put a little towards retirement. Speaking of if he does let me go how much do you think he'll let me keep."
"Probably not enough to recoup your damages." Jakar said flatly.
"Shit." Sonya said. "Look luv, I got no reason to lie to you, I'm telling ya all i know and if you don't want to believe me that's just fine. I'd just like to know if your going to let me go or put me in the clink."
"That's not my call." Jakar grunted. "But I'll do what I can." He said with a rare seen smile.
"I appreciate that." Sonya said. "I think you are kinda taken a shine to me. Is that why you are down here?" She chuckled and wagged her fork at him. "I see how ya look at me big guy, it's pretty obvious.
Jakar flushed. "I find you interesting." He allowed.
"Well that's the most awkward compliment i've ever gotten." Sonya chuckled. "How old are you?" She asked.
"Old enough to know better." Jakar replied.
"Oh good, well I'm not." Sonya smirked.
* * * '
Harry sat in his office reviewing the flight logs and Jakar's notes on them. He himself wasn't' that entirely familiar with this area of space, especially the Badlands or exactly what the situation was with the scattered colony worlds out there. The only one he he knew of was Illaria, and they was because he had been there and one of his friends from the academy was from there. He was aware that a lot of contraband was sent to these worlds due to the independent nature of these planets. They refused citizenship and simply kept violating the laws because that's how things had always been done before. Illaria was at least considered a protectorate but never really had made the effort to become a member. That same planet was also one of Sonya's last stops although it was only for medical equipment and shipment of stembolts.
If anything she did log, what, where, and when and kept accurate records on her manifest, other than the phaser rifles. Just no record of who was paying her but even her stops were along known routes.
He could bust her for the rifles alone, collect the bounty and add it to his ever mounting pile of shore leave credits. Maybe it's what she needed to turn herself around, but then again it didn't work the first time either. He wondered what his mentor Admiral Kramer had seen in her. He called up her personal records and began to read over them when the door to his ready room chimed.
"Enter." He said.
Dr. Cordell entered with a big smile on her face. "We got the data dump in time, you wouldn't believe the things the array is picking up!" She said cheerfully sitting in the chair across for him.
"That's good news." Harry said looking up with a smile and going back to reading Sonya's records.
"It is, the array is performing better than I could have hoped." The doe said happily. "What have you got there that's got you so obsessed." she said getting up walking to his side of the desk and rubbing his shoulders.
"It's our passenger below decks." Harry said relaxing a bit. "I got to figure out what to do with her."
"Well she's a criminal isn't she, put her where she belongs."
"That's the easy answer, it's a bit more complicated than that." Harry replied reading Sonya's record. "Her and I have a lot in common, we both started off trouble makers, got admitted to an advanced placement program in the academy." He sighed. "Except I graduated and made a career for myself and she threw it all away."
"You were a troublemaker when you were younger?" Aspen chuckled running her fingers through his spines.
"You have no idea." Harry said. "I'm not to proud of it, but I used to get in scraps all the time, ran with a hover bike gang for a bit, wrecked my brothers precious art project."
"What was that?"
"An old grav car, I decided to ditch it into a canyon just to piss him off." Harry chuckled. "I don't think he's forgiven me yet."
Aspen chuckled. "I wouldn't have guessed you were the rebellious type."
"We all have our phases we go through." Harry said reading a bit more and enjoying the shoulder rub.
"I suppose I was always a good kid who stuck to her books and grades." Aspen chuckled. "Anyways, when I get done with this analysis you want to come by for dinner, I make a mean diced bee-root salad."
"That sounds good to me." Harry said his door chime sounded again. "Ok i'll be waiting for you at 9." Aspen said smiling.
"I'll be there." Harry said. "Come in."
Jakar was at the door and he stepped back to let Doctor Cordell leave.
"Captain, if I may. I am sorry if I interrupted."
"No chief come on in we were just discussing the survey." Harry said lying. "What did you find out from our guest.?"
"Anything I assumed appears to have been true." Jakar said. "Other than the weapons there's not much else to bust her for."
"I agree, what are your impressions of her?"
"Anyone who can make it as long as she had doing what she does is a very talented and competent individual." Jakar stated. "It's a shame she's not a fleet officer."
"Yeah, it is." Harry said interlacing his fingers and resting his muzzle on them in thought. "The minimum sentence for arms smuggling is 15 years in a penal colony. Did you get anything out of her about her contacts."
"She swears she just drops them off, it's someone different every time and they just pay her take the goods and leave." Jakar said. "No questions asked."
"Would she be willing to assist us in finding out?" Harry asked.
"She said we'd may as well just slap the cuffs on her if she did because her reputation would be ruined."Jakar replied.
"How bad is this activity out here." Harry asked.
"It's always been there, even when I did it." Jakar shrugged. "Most smugglers stick near the badlands because most capital ships can't get too close to it. Most of the time it's not worth the Confederations time to chase them in there due to the damage it does to the vessels." Jakar smiled. "Occasionally you'll get the hot headed do godder hot shot captain who thinks he can put and end to it but it only results in a wrecked ship and a nice blemish on your record."
"Noted." Harry said. "So what do you think we should do with her?"
"Taking her in won't really change anything." Jakar shrugged. "Another smuggler will just take her place, and her customers."
"Jakar I'm surprised at you" Harry said. "Normally you are all for upholding the law."
"I am, but I left the business years ago, and it didn't change anything either." Jakar said firmly. "It's your collar sir, the charges are legitimate. I only ask one thing, I don't think she'll pose a flight risk. She's too smart for that, we have her ship, we have her ships data tracks, she knows if she does run it'll just make things worse for her. If you could at least let her have access to the ships general areas while she's here, while you are making up your mind."
Harry mulled it over. "Fair enough, the computer won't let her go anywhere she's not supposed to. "I want her to at least have an escort, just in case."
"That's reasonable." Jakar nodded.
"It will be at least one less thing to worry about, anything else?"
Jakar shook his head. "No, sir."
Jakar left the ready room and spotted Terri Lu and Jack who were a bit close to be just talking professionally and they stepped up when they spotted him. He was pretty sure he caught them kissing.
"I trust you both are on a break at the moment." He grunted.
"Yeah we're just going to the Mess chief." Terri said acting like nothing was going on although Land was acting a bit more suspicious.
Jakar glanced at the wall chronometer. "Then stop loitering in the corridors you only have 45 minutes before you're back on the bridge.".
"Right, besides all the food might be gone before we get there." Land said nervously as Jakar glared at him.
"Get moving." He said. "And I won't report this to the captain."
They both nodded and hurried off towards the turbolift.
Jakar personally didn't care but the regulations were very clear about fraternizing in public spaces. He was a bit disappointed that Terri of all people was breaking that rule when she knew better.
He was relieved Harry saw things his way, he was hoping maybe he could get Sonya out of this Jam is possible. Although if not, that was just the way it had to be, he felt a little torn about it. He was very attracted to her and they had a lot in common, despite the age difference he felt it was mutual. He liked her honesty, it was quite refreshing and only made her that much more appealing. He headed for a turbo lift and went down to deck three to her quarters. "Crewmen Gaita you are relieved for now. The Captain has given our guest permission to leave her confinement."
"Sure chief, I take it you got it from here?"
Jakar nodded and unlocked the door activating the chime.
"Come in." Sonya said.
She smiled at him as he stepped inside. "You've been granted a brief reprieve." Jakar said. "I don't believe you are a flight risk so you have permission to walk around with an escort."
"Well that's better than being stuck here, luv." Sonya said excitedly. "Are you that escort?"
"For now, I'll show you around."
"I'd like that." She said heading for the door and he placed a arm across it barring her path. "I'm putting my trust in you, and so is the Captain. Please don't ruin that trust."
"I think it's a little bit more than that don't you think?" She said leaning in towards him.
"I just want to make that clear is all." Jakar said.
She smiled up at him and patted him on the cheek. "It's clear, and you got nothing to worry about. I promise."
Jakar hesitated but he nodded, he wanted to believe her. He dropped his arm and let her pass. "Where do you want to go first?"
"Well a good drink would be a nice start, you got a place to get a drink here on this bucket?" She asked.
"Synthale, in the mess."
"Good enough, lead the way."
The rest of the day passed without incident.
Xox appeared to be keeping his word and kept his distance, and as far as they could tell no other Urthean Vessels had entered the system. Starfleet had offered to send back up but Harry decided that as long as Xox was holding up his end of the deal he would as well. They were still sharing the information with the Urtheans who readily accepted it. Doctor Cordell was ecstatic over her findings and the fact that the project was allowed to continue. She was talking about everything she could remember that they'd found in the most recent data dump from the array. Harry was listening with interest from the couch as she's insisted she prepare the meal without any help so he had set out the utensils and dishes instead. She was in one of the larger quarters on deck three set aside for V.I.P individuals which were actually nicer than his own, except being in the middle of the ship they lacked any view ports. However the walls had simulated ones that could show specific views from any angle on the ship. She had it set to keep a view of the star they were studying.
"You know Harry when i found out we'd be getting this ship for this project i very thrilled why starfleet stuck something this important on a little vessel like this." She said brining the salads and set them in front of them on the coffee table. "However this couldn't have worked out better, just happened the Raptor was just right for this. Although you might want to consider upscaling at some point."
Harry chuckled. "You don't get to really pick what ship you want till you are an full captain or admiral. You have to put your dues in first and make the best of what they give you."
"Well I hope they consider giving you something nicer once we complete this."
Harry took a bite, chewed than smile. "Again it doesn't quite work that way, besides the Raptor is ok. I like the smaller size, I know my crew by name for the most part. This is pretty good by the way."
"Thanks." Aspen said. "It's almost a shame we're almost done isn't it." she said quietly with a sigh.
"Yeah." Harry muttered, they both knew that their time together was limited, the burden of having two different career paths that would make it very hard for them to maintain a relationship unless one decided to stay with the other but they both knew neither would budge."Let's cross that bridge when we get there, everything's good now right?"
Aspen smiled and nodded suddenly something shook the ship violently, and then another thing shook again. Silverware and dishes clattered to the floor and the Red Alert sounded.
Harry knew it, the truce was a ruse when he heard Aspen gasp. "Harry look the star!"
On the wall panel the star had shifted to a deeper red and the surface seemed to be fluctuating a bit.
"Come on let's get to the bridge and find out what's going on." Harry said getting up and heading for the door.
They arrived on the bridge and Harry took the command chair as Lt. Commander Rivas went back to his station.
"That wasn't an attack captain, it's a gravimetric waive shift caused by the collapse of the primary star."
Aspen ran over to the science station and looked over O'mara's readings they both conversed and then came to a consensus. "It's started Onari's prime has started the nova process earlier than we suspected."
"Incoming hail from the Executor." Terri reported.
"Ah There you are Rodent." Xox said on the screen. "I take it you are aware of what's transpiring."
"Yes, is your ship undamaged?"
"Nothing a Ship of the Urthean fleet can't handle, our damage is negligible." Xox replied. "What is the next move now?"
"We need to move the array if possible and get one final data dump from it." Harry replied.
"I would advise caution if doing so, your ship could be torn to sunder by the forces at work getting too close to that star." Xox said coldly. "Neither one of us would want that."
Harry got the feeling from that statement it was less out of concern and more out of Xox preferring to be the one doing the sundering. "We may be of assistance, stand by."
The screen went blank for a moment.
"Commander." Aspen said worriedly. "We have a problem."
"What is it."
"The array has been damaged, I can't get it to increase its orbit to the star, also the subspace antenna appears to shot, it's not even accepting commands."
"How vital is it that we get those last reading doctor?"
"Very, I hate to say it captain, this is what we're here for, if we don't collect the information now, who knows when our next chance will be, if it's even in our life times."
Xox popped back up on the screen. "After conversing with my crew we've agreed to let you have something we use for situations like this, yes." Xox said cooley. "We have a technology that allows our Scuttas two deal with high gravity worlds when deploying troops. I don't believe your vessels have need for such modifications but we are willing to share the technology. The Executor is too large to get that close and even your vessel might have problems. What you do with it is up to you, transmitting now.."
"Much obliged Comendant." Harry said.
Xox dipped his head and the channel cut out again.
"What did they send?" Harry asked terri.
"Looks like schematics of some sort for something I'm not sure." Terri said. "I haven't figured out how to read Urtheae yet."
"Get it over to Fara asap have her people take a look at it." Harry said. "Helm move us in let's see if we can retrieve what we can from the Array, or at least get as close as we can."
"Aye skipper taking us in." Land replied.
"Diverting power to the shields as needed." Rivas reported.
As the Raptor moved closer to the star to try to get within range of the array the ships hull groaned as they got closer. A few tense moments passed and then the ship lurched to the side and then lurched again.
"Mr. Land i said nice and easy."
"I'm trying skip but there is some serious mass shifting going on out there and it's just tossing us around." Jack said bracing himself against his console and reversing the engines to keep them plunging deeper into the unstable star's orbit.
The screen was just aglow with a filtered reddish orange color of the star ahead of them.
"Shields at Maximum." Rivas said as the ship lurched again.
"Are we getting anywhere close to transporter range?" Harry asked as the ship lurched again.
"Negative, with all the interference we can't even get a lock without getting closer." Rivas said. The ship shuddered violently and conduits over head sparked and rained down on them. "Shields are down to 72% outer hull plating is starting to cook."
The ships shuddered again more violently.
"52% captain." Rivas said a bit more alarmed.
"Ok, take us out." Harry said. "We're getting tore apart."
"No argument from me." Land said bringing the ship around and taking it away from the star.
"Woo that was excitin' wasn't it?" Sonya said surprised she'd managed to keep her glass from spilling during all of its contents. Jakar wasn't as lucky. "So how come you didn't go running off to the bridge."
"No Red Alert." Jakar shrugged. "So no worries." He said grabbing a napkin and trying to sop up his drink from his uniform. "I would say it's safe to assume they were trying to retrieve the array's data and we had a problem."
"So what are you doing out here anyway."
"Helping a science team study that star's collapse." Jakar said pointing out the the two stars now hovering in the center window of the viewports of the mess hall as the Raptor repositioned itself.
"So what did you do about that Comendant that was chasing me."
"Nothing for now." Jakar said. "His ships still out there, the captain talked them into sticking around for the show and not harassing us somehow So far they've actually been cooperative and have dropped the matter of handing you over all together."
"Well that's a shock." Sonya said cocking her head to the side. "Well good for me than?" She said raising her glass.
"Perhaps, you still broke confederation law." Jakar grunted.
Sonya shrugged. "How many did you break while you were out there."
Jakar merely said nothing and took a drink.
"That silence proves my point." Sonya chuckled.
"Attention: Command Staff meeting in the Observation Lounge in 5 minutes." Terri Lu's voice announced and repeated over the com speakers.
"Sounds like things got interestin'" Sonya said downing her drink. "I probably got to go back to my cage than?"
"Alright it's been fun, thanks for the drinks." She said smiling. "We should be off."
Fara,Dr. Okan, Jakar, Jack Land, Terri-Lu, Rivas all sat around the table in the observation lounge with Harry at the head of the table as Dr. Cordel and Michele O'mara reviewed the situation.
"After reviewing the largest of the Binary's readings it's only a matter of time before it reaches its final stage, if it does before we retrieve the array's data, we'll have incomplete readings for my research."
"How long do you estimate till total collapse?" Harry asked.
"Eighteen hours… t.. t.. Tops." Michelle responded. "Maybe less."
"Any ideas." Harry said.
"Well I looked at the schematics the Urthean's sent us." Fara spoke up. "I can possibly rig something that would work but they only sent us schematics for a small vessel not something as big as the Raptor."
"What exactly did they send and how do we know we can Trust it." Jack spoke up. "I mean these guys are only trying to constantly trying to kill us how can we just assume it will work?"
"Because it's just a slightly different take on an anti grav unit, the technology is the same for the most part." Fara said. "There's only a few tweaks that our own minds haven't came up with to deal with powerful gravity wells, the technology is sound from what I can tell. Besides it's not like they gave us the actual device, just the means to construct one."
"Ok that's great and all, but most federation shuttles aren't really made for that type of wear and tear." Jack said. "At least the ones we have on board aren't."
"Mr. Land does have a point." Harry said. "Not really an issue if we were a larger class of ship."
Fara thought for a second. "Well what about that smuggler ship that's crashed in our bay?"
"If it's even operable." Harry said steepling it's fingers.
"Oh it is, as far as I can tell I even got a spare set of shuttle engines slapped on it."
Harry blinked, paused then glared angrily. "Why?"
Fara realized she just threw herself under the bus. "Well I haven't had anything else to do lately, damage to the Raptor has been pretty minimum and well… I was bored." She said grinning nervously.
"So you misappropriated ships resources without discussing it with me first." Harry said flatly keeping his cool.
Fara chuckled nervously drumming her fingers on the table. "Maybe?" She coughed. "It's a souped up smuggler ship I figured i'd just ask for forgiveness rather than permission if we were just going to impound it."
"What possible use could you have for it?!" Harry asked.
"Hey no one calls you out on your hobbies!" Fara said grasping at nothing at this point.
"Mine don't involve questionable property." Harry spat back.
The room was awkwardly silent for a few moments. No one enjoyed it when these incidents happened between Fara and the Commander and they were very awkward for anyone involved.
Harry rubbed his forehead exasperated and sighed. "Can you make the modification to the ship?"
"Yeah no problem." Fara said avoiding him looking him in the eyes.
"Make it so, then you are confined to quarters until further notice."
"Fair enough." Fara nodded excusing herself and heading for the exit.
"Chief" Harry snapped before she parted from the room. Fara stopped and turned to look back at him. "Don't assume there won't be further repercussions." Harry glared.
"I wouldn't expect anything less out of you." Fara said flatly showing her usual defiance. "Sir." before she exited.
"Captain if I may." Jakar interjected.
"Yes?" Harry said turning his attention back to his chief of security.
"It is Ms. Jax's vessel. If anyone can fly it and we need to have a minimal amount of error possible to retrieve the doctor's research. Then why not ask her to pilot it for us."
"What makes you think she won't just bolt?" Harry said.
"I don't think she will." Jakar said. "I've gotten to know her a bit in this short time. I think she's tired of running."
"That's a lot to assume."
Jakar shrugged. "You wanted solutions I have one. It's your call weather you want to see it through or not."
Harry mulled it over then hit a com button. "Commander Martinez to security, bring Ms. Jax to the observation lounge at once."
Sonya had been brought to the observation lounge and the situation had been explained to her and she listened intently to Dr. Cordell and Commander Martinez. The rest of the staff had been dismissed save for Jakar who stood behind the Captain.
"Well, that's a fine story you be tellin me Harry." Sonya said her elbow resting on the conference table and her head in her palm drumming the side of her face with her fingers. "But like they say out in the badlands, what's in it for me?"
Jakar struggled to stifle a chuckle.
Harry raised a brow. "Leniency, for one." Harry said. "If you help i'd be willing to look the other way on the smuggling charges. You haven't been charged with anything else."
"Yeah but you know i'm finished right?" Sonya said unphased. "Being charged is one thing, being caught is a different matter. I got nothing doin' going forward from this point, you need to make it sweeter than that."
"Very well." Harry said. "What about a second chance?"
"I'm listenin." Sonya said her face a mask.
She could tell he was choosing his words carefully.
"I can offer you a provisional position on my crew, a chance to start over, whatever you want to do." Harry said. "Given time, based on what you do with this privilege and how you perform I might be able to reinstate you. That's the best I can do, it's that or the brig. Mind you I am putting my own career in jeopardy offering this to you. However time is limited and this research is important and I'm willing to risk it.
"That's more like it." Sonya smiled slapping the table. "I'll take that deal."
"Good." Harry said. "I only ask that you take Dr. Cordell with you and Jakar."
"That's not a problem, i'll bring them back in one piece." Sonya said getting up and stretching. "The cockpits a little cramped but I got room in it for both of you. Only thing left is my ship."
"It's repaired and being modified for the trip." Harry said flatly. "Our engineer tends to get a bit overzealous. If you want to check it out it's still down in the shuttle bay."
"Thanks Harry, your fine man, I won't let you down."
Harry merely nodded. "Assist Dr. Cordell in retrieving the data and we'll call the rest even."
"You got it."
"I'll accompany Ms Jax to the shuttle bay." Jakar spoke up and Harry nodded.
"I need to round up my backup retrieval system." Dr. Cordell said. "I'll need it to get the readings. I have no idea whether or not that ship will even have the capability to handle it or not."
"My ship is at your disposal." Harry said. "If you need something we have everything we need to fabricate it on board."
"It's probably going to be a bumpy ride." Aspen smiled. "Wish you could tag along."
"Normally I would but, I'd feel more comfortable on the bridge keeping an eye on our guest out there." Harry sighed. "Worst part is, Now i have to figure out a way to spin this to keep them from firing on the ship when we do this."
"I'm sure you'll figure something out." She said kissing him on the cheek. "you've done great so far."
Harry gave her a reassuring smile, truth was time was running out and he hated having to work in a crunch, but if you didn't want the hassle you didn't take the job in the big chair. "Of course i will."
Sonya was a bit perturbed seeing the modified engines that had been added to her ship but at least it could go for one last ride, she let it slide for now. Sure it was just an old heavily modified Cornerian Interplanetary Skiff from god knows what decade but it had been hers for many years.
It took a lot of effort to bit her tongue listening to what this Vixen, the Raptor's Chief engineer had done to it.
"Ok ok … i don't need all the details." She spat putting her hand up. "Will it fly or not."
"It should." Fara said flatly looking up from the open cowling on of the naceles as she was making the modifications to the ships drive. "Look I really need to get this done of the Captain will have my ass in more than a sling than it already is. I'd suggest you at least make sure the pre flights are done while I try to get this thing ready to get really uncomfortably close to star.."
Fara's combadge beeped and she tapped it. "Knackt I swear if this they can't get that compensator fabricated i'm going to take it out on you."
"Relax toots, everything's going fine we just need you to swing by and do one final look see is all."
"Fine I'll be right over." Fara said setting her tools down. "If you'll excuse me." She said hurriedly rushing to the shuttle bay door.
"She always like that?" Sonya asked as Fara left.
"Only when she's in trouble with the captain." Jakar grunted.
"Well lets see if this old bird will fire up then I suppose." Sonya said walking up the gangway into the interior. It didn't take that long to get to the cockpit and Jakar started going over the ships defensive systems as Sonya did the preflight checks."
"You managed to find a type 10 shield generator." Jakar grunted. "Wish I knew you back in the day."
Sonya chuckled. "Cost me a pretty credit it did but kept the Urther's off me for many a tussle."
"It looks like it's been repaired and Fara's already made the modifications needed to it." Jakar ran a few diagnostics on the simplified console. "Everything looks good so far. We'll probably end up burning it out doing this."
"Well, I suppose that's the price I pay for trying to save my own hide." Sonya said sadly checking the impulse controls and structural integrity field generator. "I suppose when you all impounded everything you took my belongin's too."
"They are safe in storage." Jakar replied. "I'm sure you will get them back."
"Good there's some stuff I'd hate to lose." Sonya said. "Ya know, old pictures, knick naks the junk one carts around for old times sake."
"I'll make sure it's well cared for." Jakar said with a very small smile.
Jakar noded and then dug into his pocket while she turned back to her instruments. He fished out a the three pointed chevron combadge of the fleet and looked at it for a second.
"Sonya." He said.
"Yes luv?" She said as he tossed it to her. She caught it out of the air and looked at the object in her gloved hand. "What's, this for?"
"When you asked why I left the life, I told you I had a change of heart." Jakar said quietly. "Someone, offered me a chance to be part of something greater when I had nothing to live for except what ever credits I could scrounge up from run to run." He paused a faint smirk appearing on his face. "I was much in the same position as you are in now. I know it's a bit frightening, but it's worth it."
Sonya turned the chevron in her fingers, the feel of it bringing back a lot of memories.
"And who was so graceful to do this for you?"
Jakar paused for a moment. "I think you know whom."
Sonya stopped her spinning of the chevron in her fingers.
"And I think, if he was here." Jakar continued carefully. "He'd want you to try again, the fleet, and this ship can always use good people."
Sonya thought back to her time at the academy and how Admiral Kramer had picked her to be sponsored out of the blue, how he'd mentored her, always been supportive of her and pushed her to be the best she could be. He'd been like a father figure to her, more so than her own. Even though that god damn final test of his to pass had caused her to have nightmares for years, it had toughened her up for the life she had lived up to this point. She'd just been so resentful for all these years and never made the connection. When she was younger all she had felt was humiliated and embarrassed and she wanted to get him back for making her feel that way take him down a peg and make him feel the same..
Through the lenses of experience, she looked back through her memories of that day her whole life went sideways because of her own actions. She could see the look he had wasn't arrogance that he'd bestered her but pride that she'd completed her training at the academy. A tear welled up in her eyes and she closed her hand around the badge and felt very ashamed at how she acted. It was always jarring to realize you'd been fooling yourself for so many years after awhile you start believing your own nonsense to be truth. She sobbed a few times and then composed herself.
"Ya know," She chuckled. "I think ye may be right." she smiled.
She took the Lapel and pinned it to her holster above her right breast. "How's it look?"
"Works better with the uniform." Jakar smiled.
"Yeah it does doesn't it." Sonya smirked. "Maybe I'll have to see about gettin' one."
Harry had explained the plan to Xox as best he could hoping it would be convincing enough to keep them from swooping in and destroying the skiff just to claim the bounty on it and that his offered had been enticing enough. Harry had offered to run over the weapons shipment, with each of them rendered inoperable and any other contraband that they were after that way the Urtheans could collect whatever reward they saw fit. All Harry got out of it was extra spending credits or leave time and he had enough as it was
He kept his expression level as he gently drummed his fingers on the arm of the command chair waiting for Xox to respond, hoping it was enough to get him to allow them to do what they needed to do. Xox stared coldly at him through the view screen his cybernetic eyes glowing a dull smokey red with his fingers steepled in front of him.
"The condition of the weapons is not important." He finally allowed. "All we need is everything that matches the falsified manifest." He paused. "The ship is not as important, I doubt even with the refit from what we supplied, I doubt it would be of much use if it even survives the trip." Xox finished cooley. "Either way it will be out of commission. I'll accept your deal, rodent."
"You may bring your ship into range we'll transport it right into your cargo hold." Harry said.
Xox nodded and the screen went off.
"Ugh, I think I like him better when he's trying to kill us." Jack groused from the helm.
"Well i'm still not entirely convinced he won't try." Harry said. "I'm just hoping he wants the reward more than I do."
"You know I would like more time off." Land said. "I was looking for my cut out of that stuff."
"You would have more time off if you'd stop putting in for days off all the time." Harry replied watching Xox's ship draw near. "Just keep your foot near the gas if you catch my meaning."
"Oh no worries about that." Jack replied.
"Martinez to cargo bay 2." Harry said tapping his combadge. "Prepare to beam over the captured cargo over to the Urthean vessel once they are in range."
"Aye sir." Came a response over the speaker.
Harry drew in a breath as the ship drew closer. "Mr. Rivas what's their status?"
"No weapons are charged they seem to be keeping to their word for the moment." Rivas reported.
"Good as long as they play it cool we will."
"Captain they are transmitting coordinates for transport." Terri replied.
"Send them down to the cargo bay have them begin transport at once." Harry said letting out a breath and keeping his eyes on the screen.
Another hour passed before Jakar was satisfied the ship could make the trip. Even with a full engineering crew it still took time go get the shields augmented and get the ship fully operational. Jakar had managed to get them all transporter enhancer arm bands anticipating a way out incase the ship was unable to survive the trip.
Even though they were at a safe distance the gravitational shifts caused by the primary stars continual degradation was still felt even at this distance.
Him and Sonya both were knocked into each other as another such shockwave shook the Raptor and their own ship. "I think things are getting a wee bit exciting out there."
"It's probably the star." Jakar said. "Did you get the engine diagnostics done."
"Yeah." She nodded. "I think we're good to go."
"Doctor are you all set." Jakar asked.
The doe nodded. "Yeah i think so, as long as the ships communications relays don't get fried.
"Jakar, this is Martinez." Harry said patiently. "I hope that ship is ready to fly. We are quickly running out of time."
"I think we're good to launch." Jakar said hopping into the copilot seat. "Jakar to shuttle launch control we're ready to disembark."
"Ok, we'll move in as close as we can before you depart." Harry said. "We'll signal when we're ready."
Sonya hopped into the pilot seat while Dr. Cordell got settled in at at auxiliary station. "I guess this old buckets as ready as she can be." She started to fire up all the primary systems. "This should really be exciting, you better strap in Doctor the dampeners on this thing aren't the best."
"Thanks I will." Dr. Cordells aid pulling the straps over her shoulders and strapping in.
The crafts engines powered up as Sonya finished bringing it online.
"Hey Jakar, I don't like the readings the compensators are giving me." Sonya said.
"Fara assured me they'll hold long enough." Jakar grunted.
"Glad you have some faith in her." Sonya said huffing. "You know last time i did this i was trying to avoid some raiders and my ship wasn't all busted up and slapped back together, I barely pulled it off and that's when she was in top form."
"Ok, Jakar we're in position you may launch, good luck."
"Thank you Captain, we will be getting underway." Jakar respond looking out the viewport and seeing the shuttle bay door raise up filled with the bright yellow of the star.
"We're going to need all the luck we can get." Sonya said activating her ships repulsors and easing them out of the shuttle bay. "Here goes nothing."
As soon as they exited the Raptor another gravimetric shift shook the small vessel strained against it, they plunged rapidly towards the star but Sonya was able to regain some control. "Ok, doctor I hope you know where this to of yours is at because if those are going to get worse I won't be able to keep us flying.
"Yes I have them they should be loaded to your console." Sonya pulled them up and whistled quickly muting the a warning Klaxon about the outside hull rapidly heating up. "Way closer then I care to get. Off we go than."
Sonya's ship dove deeper into the star in a matter of moments they were there but things were getting bad. The shields were holding but the ship was getting uncomfortably hot.
"There's the array!" Dr. Cordell said she went to her station and started to work quickly. "It's as I thought the subspace relay got damaged it only has the short wave transmitter."
"Not interested in the details," Sonya said sweating profusely. "Just get what ya came for!"
"I would suggest haste Doctor." Jakar said who'd already stripped off his tunic and zipped down his undershirt.
"Right right, downloading now."
Another shift shook the vessel badly and something exploded toward the back of the ship.
"Son of a!" Sonya said as the power began to flicker. "Take the control's I'll see what happened."
Jakar nodded and hopped into the pilot seat as Sonya disappeared into the back of the ship.
Sonya reappeared in the cockpit reeking of Ozone and taking her seat back. "One of the shield generators is cooked I hope you got what you came for Doctor." Sonya said.
"I do now, I got the last readings I needed we can go."
Sonya brought the ship around and started to climb away from the star but her ships engines strained and protested. "Come on, Come on." She coaxed seeing all the readouts climb into the red.
"Jakar to Raptor, we might not be able to pull away." Jakar said looking at the readings. "We're down a shield generator and we're losing power quickly."
"Understood, we're on our way." Harry responded.
Back on the Raptor's bridge Harry hopped into the command chair. "Red Alert, all power to the shields."
"Right into the fire it is than, here we go." Land said shaking his head and firing up the Raptor's main impulse reactor. "Skip we'll intercept in a few minutes if they can just hold their position."
"Jakar can you climb out any more."
Back on Sonya's ship.
A equipment trunk shorted out above them and Sonya shouted to Doctor cordell to grab fire extinguisher and put it out.
"We're trying captain but I don't think the ship can handle it, I would suggest haste on your part." Jakar said cooly.
Back on the bridge of the Raptor.
"Captain we got a p. ." Michele O'mara reported.
"What is it lieutenant."
The ship suddenly shuddered violently as the start began it's final collapse. Power dimmed and anyone standing was tossed about.
"The star is beginning the final process to supernova, we need to get out of here." Michelle shouted over the noise.
On screen they all looked in horror as the surface of the star began to change color as it's core began to collapse.
"Mr. Land move this bucket we don't have time for sightseeing." Harry shouted.
He could hear the various warnings and protests of the ships systems as it's shields strained against the stars radiation as they plunged closer to it.
Xox watched from afar as D'jonn reported what their sensors could pick up.
It would be easy to just take the rodent out and be done with it, he thought.
However, than the research would be lost, and if they were willing to just give it to him than he was willing to sit around and wait for it, provided the vermin could be trusted.
"Comendant, the star has begun its final stage of collapse." D'jonn said quietly. "Perhaps we should get underway."
Xox thought about it, that troublesome Commander could be killed if they didn't get away in time. Apparently the plan to retrieve the data had gone astray for the Raptor to move in like it had. What Xox hadn't of told them was His ship could have easily done it, but why should they have to do any of the work?
He hated to admit it but if the Raptor was destroyed in the process of retrieving the data than where would be the fun in that?
"Navigator, move us in to intercept. What is the Raptors status?" He said getting up out of his chair.
D'jonn checked his station. "Power levels are fluctuating, their engines are running in the red, at the rate their going they may not be able to escape. They have almost intercepted the pirate vessel."
"And it's status?"
D'jonn shook his head. "It's core is going to rupture, or it will just fly apart at any second, it's barely maintaining altitude."
The start grew in the forward viewer as they moved in towards the star after the other two vessels.
"Comendant, what is the plan if you don't mind me asking."
"As much as it pains me, i feel we will have to rescue them." Xox spat. "I have a grievance with that vermin and if anything is going to kill him or destroy that ship of his it shall be me and nothing else. .
Sonya cursed as something major blew out in the back of the ship. "That's all she's got, luv." She said saddened. "The core is going to blow any second now."
"Put it in autopilot all we need is a second or too Doctor?!"
Doctor cordell grabbed her device off the console and stood by Jakar. "Ready to go."
"Get in close." Jakar said to Sonya as she locked the controls and he activated the armbands he'd given the three of them. "Jakar to Raptor do you have a lock yet."
In the Raptor's transporter room the middle aged Aven Chief O'bren looked at his readings. "We have a lock sir stand by."
Sonya looked sadly one last time at her ship as it tore itself apart, now there was definitely was no going back. "Energising." She heard the voice say over Jakar's combadge and suddenly the ship disappeared in a blue haze that was replaced with the Raptor's transporter room.
"Transporter room to Bridge, we got them Captain." Chief O'bren reported.
Jakar headed off to the bridge without a word.
The bridge was a hive of activity, they only had a few scant moments to get away as he stepped back onto the bridge.
"Welcome back ." Harry said.
Jakar nodded. "Status report."
The ship shook violently.
"Well we're not doing to much better than you were." Harry shouted over the roar of the engines as they tried to pull away. The Raptor shuddered again violently.
"Three minutes till supernova!" Michelle O'Mara reported from the science station as Fara appeared on the bridge catching her self as the gravitational forces again tossed the ship about. She had been confined to quarters but Harry wanted her at her post during alert situations because no one knew the ship better than her.
"Fara tell me you have some good news." Harry asked.
"Not really commander were pushing the engines to the limit as we are and if you want more power were going to have to get it from somewhere."
The Raptor shuddered again violently and conduits over head rained down sparks. "Re route all available power to the engines!" Harry ordered.
Fara quickly pulled every ounce of juice she could from life support, impulse engines, internal lighting currently in active systems anything she could think of.
The engines whined and screamed against the strain and the Raptor struggled to climb away.
Doctor Cordell enters the bridge and stood by the command chair bracing herself, Sonya. Grabbed the chair at the ancillary station in the back
"Skipper we are pushing warp 8 and we are barely gaining any ground." Land screamed over the sound of the engines.
"Ninety seconds till supernova." Michelle reported.
Harry felt Aspen squeeze his shoulder worriedly.
"Captain" Jakar reported "The Urthean vessel is closing in on us."
"On screen." Harry ordered.
The Doc's ship filled the viewer as it moved in behind them and closed rapidly.
"Vermin we have one shot at this adjust your warp field to match ours and engage maximum space warp on my mark, I don't have time to explain." Doc's voice came over the speaker. "Transmit your exact course and heading"
"Do it." Harry said to Fara and Jack..
Fara quickly made the adjustments despite the protests of the ships systems.
"Forty five seconds!" Michele O'Mara reported.
"It's done!" Fara shouted.
"We're ready Comendant." Harry yelled.
"Twenty five seconds!"
"Get ready to punch it Mr. Land on the Commandant's order!" Harry ordered.
"Mark!" Xox bellowed.
Jack slammed the throttle forward and the ships engines screamed in protest and time seemed to stand still.
The star finished its death throes and expelled its gasses violently outward into the space around unleashing a shockwave of enormous magnitude. The expelled gasses were drawn towards its partners mass to begin the process anew.
Several light years away space began to warp and then it expelled the Raptor and Xox's ship tumbling into real space.
"Oh fuck me," Jack growled crawling back up to his station coughing on the smoke from a fire on the bridge. "Let's not do that again. Anyone else alive?"
"I am and I concur." Rivas groaned fishing out the extinguisher from his station and putting out the fire."
"Where are we Mr. Land?" Harry asked
"Blown if I know navigation fried skip." Jack coughed unable to bring his console up.
"Captain I can't get a fix on our position either." Michelle coughed. "All sensors are out."
"Any good news?" Harry coughed helping Aspen to her feet seeing her unharmed other than a few scratches and bruises.
"Internal communications still function, I'm working on getting the main computer back online." Terri said from the back of the bridge.
"We have backup life support running. Captain I need to get down to engineering and see how bad it is."
"By all means Chief." Harry replied and Fara disappeared through the bridges aft doors. "Well since we are blind and crippled for the moment we can only assume Xox's shipi isn't in much better shape."
"We can only hope." Don Rivas said tossing the extinguisher aside the fire put out.
"I have partial tactile sensors, from what I can tell we are traveling at sublight speeds but i suggest we find a way to get ourselves stopped before we collide with a planet, or anything else." Jakar reported.
The Raptor suddenly made a strange rumbling sound and the power flickered again. A few consoles began to power back on as the ships repair systems activated and did what they were supposed to do.
"Took her long enough." Harry said getting back into his chair and activating his console.
"I've got flight control back." Jack reported. "Bringing us to all stop."
"Where are we?" Harry asked. "Any reading yet."
"Working on it." Jack replied.
The viewer re activated showing the star field directly in front of them.
"Ok skip I got a fix on our location we're about 5 light years into our space." Jack said. "We are clear from being in any danger from the shockwave.
One by one more systems slowly came back online. With the sensors back up they discovered that Xox's ship was drifting serval thousand kilometers away from them. It's lights were still on and it's engines appeared damaged but it didn't appear to be dead.
"Hail them, Ms. Lu." Harry ordered asked if they need assistance.
Terri nodded and did so after a bit she reported. "They are declining our request for help but say they can handle repairs themselves."
"Hmph to proud to ask for our help." Rivas grunted.
"Well at least we offered." Harry said. "Let's get our own ship fully operational and if they want help we'll give it." He turned to Dr Cordell and smiled. "Did you get the readings."
She nodded. "Yes, I haven't had time to read them but I was able to download the last bit of data that I needed. Thank you so much Commander, and you too Ms. Jax." She said. "I'm sorry about your ship."
Sonya smiled in a pained way and nodded. "Don't worry about it, i was due gettin a good deed in for once. Think nothing of it." Sonya walked up to Harry. "So, I held up my end of the deal you going to hold up yours?"
"Of course I will." Harry said. "Crewmen. It's not official yet but I'll make it so. I'll assign you to security for now under Jakar's watch."
He looked over at his tactical officer. "I trust you will see she's properly trained and acclimated."
"Aye." Jakar said with a small grin.
"Fair enough, at least it's a start." Sonya smiled.
"Just keep your nose clean and don't cause me any headaches." Harry added.
"Wouldn't dream of it." Sonya replied. "And thank you."
With repairs complete to both vessels and the mission a success we are preparing to depart for home. Dr. Cordell was able to complete her research and we are currently having a celebration that I reluctantly invited Commandant Xox to attend which he accepted. If it wasn't for his help we would not have succeeded. I'm sure despite his cordiality he probably feels the same due to our prior history. I feel that since for once we resolved the situation diplomatically maybe this could serve as an example for maybe sewing peace with the Urtheans in the future, who knows what ramifications could come from this one act of cooperation.
Harry and Xox stood near the back of the room as the Urthean looked at the results of the research. Jakar stood not to far away as well as did Xox's first officer that Harry had recognised from their encounter back on Nebulous a while back.
There was an air of unease in the room because everyone could sense the underlying tension between the two Captains but everyone was trying to have a good time.
"On behalf of the Urthean Empire I thank you for holding up your end of the deal rodent." Xox said pocketing the data padd in his tunic. "However I feel you will have a much easier time explaining this to your superiors than I will mine. I think with this information, they might show some leniency."
"As I said Commandant, It wasn't anything we were trying to hide." Harry said cooly.
Xox nodded and there was an awkard pause.
"Might I ask something?" Harry asked.
"What is it vermin." Xox grolwed.
"Why did you jump in and help us."
Xox's eyes narrowed and he stepped up closer to Harry but Harry waived Jakar off.
"Let's get one thing clear rodent." Xox said quietly. "You and I are far from done, far from it yess." He took a breath. "I wasn't going to let anything stop our little game from ending prematurely, not if I can help it is that understood."
"Loud and clear." Harry said looking him dead in the eye. "I wouldn't have thought anything else."
Xox grinned wickedly and than stepped back. "Our business is concluded, I shall be off to my ship. We shall meet again."
"Jakar, see the Commandant to the Transporter room he wishes to return to his ship."
Jakar nodded and then motioned for Xox and D'jonn to head for the lounge doors.
Harry walked up the forward view ports in the mess hall to look out at the stars the scowl on his face ensuring the crowd parted for him to let him past.
Dr. Cordell came up to Harry and nudged him. "You look like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.'
Harry took a drink from his glass and watched as the Executer pulled away and blasted off into warp back towards Urthean space. "I guess I had hoped maybe something positive would have come out of working with them, I guess I was wrong."
"I wouldn't worry about it, it's up to them what they do with the research." Cordell replied. "We don't even have a working prototype yet, we just now got the hard data."
"I know you did what you did to help and I appreciate it Harry." Aspen said squeezing his arm. "You are a good man, but I want you to take something to heart my grandmother taught me."
"When you dance with fiends, they don't change, you do." She said with a wane smile and a small kiss on the cheek. "You need to find better dance partners."
Harry looked down and then back up at her. "I'll keep that in mind."
She nodded and headed back into the crowed.
Harry sighed, watched her go then looked out the window deep in thought.