Bridget and Mara were standing in the shuttle bay as the runabout Neosho landed in front of them. “Hey,” noted Patrick as he gave Bridget an intimate embrace and a quick romantic kiss.
“Hey yourself, Stranger,” Bridget quipped. “What brings you back to Baldwin. I was under the impression that you believed Sara could handle things herself here.”
“I do, but the destruction of Athena One brought on a complexity that I had not anticipated. Admiral Ross wanted me back on active duty in case we ran into more unforeseen issues.”
“In any case,” Bridget continued, “allow me to officially introduce you to Mara.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t bite,” the Orion trader quipped.
“From what I’ve heard,” Patrick stated, “you and Bridget have a lot in common. Captain Patrick Ingrum, USS Baldwin. I heard that someone tried to kill you and your crew.”
“Your team has been very diligent in the investigation of the recent attacks.”
“I’d expect nothing less from my crew.”
“I’ve also heard you’re also a family man.”
“Indeed, he is,” came a voice from inside the runabout’s cockpit. “Hi,” came the voice as she emerged carrying a 20-month-old toddler, “I’m Michelle. Bridget is my baby sister. This kiddo is my niece, Tiana.”
“What brings you here?” Bridget inquired of her sister.
“All of us back on Aloran, Jaimie included, agreed that it was best if Patrick does not return to Baldwin alone. I volunteered because Tiana seemed to favor me.”
“Tiana has,” Patrick explained to Mara, “responded well to the work of the Beatles, and it just so happens that Michelle was named from a Beatles song.”
“I take it music means quite a bit to you,” the green-skinned guest commented.
“Definitely,” Bridget answered. “We have quite a few members of the Baldwin crew with an interest in music and/or dance.”
“I would be more than happy to share my favorite songs,” Patrick added. “For now, let’s hightail. it to the conference room, so I’m up to date on our investigations.”
Patrick entered the conference room with Bridget and Mara in tow. Sara Jackson, the acting XO and head of the investigation team; Donna Belding, the security chief; Erica Thomas, the Starfleet intelligence liaison, and Sarah Allison, the lead Science Officer, were already in the room. “It’s good to have you back, Captain,” Sara noted. “I just wish it wasn’t under these circumstances.”
“I’ll get straight to the point. What do we know?” Patrick asked.
“Unfortunately,” Sara opened, “we don’t have any additional physical evidence. I’ve requested interviews with Mara’s competition, so far they have declined my requests, and I don’t have enough to compel them to talk via a warrant or subpoena.”
“Starfleet Intelligence reports that Orion Syndicate interest in New Cardiff has, ironically, gone up since the election.”
“That would be fuel for the fire of the Quellen supporters,” Patrick noted. “However, I doubt that the shift in political winds is connected to the sudden interest by the Syndicate.”
“It might be tied to me,” Mara noted. “I’ve wanted to open trade with the Federation, and after your housecleaning, I figured that New Cardiff would be an excellent opportunity. I’ve carefully vetted my crew, but other traders only do a cursory background check, so the Syndicate could have crossed paths socializing with my crew.”
“Traffic through the system has been normal,” Sarah reported. “Seeing as how he initiated this investigation; Governor Whitburn has sent us their logs of ship arrivals and departures.”
“Have we been able to recover anything from the wreckage of Athena One?”
“We’ve managed to recover the main computer core and 40 bricks of latinum. Some of it was still encased in the gold bars, some of it was in globs floating around in space,” replied Bridget.
“Bridget, Mara: I want to know Athena One’s movements over the past four months,” Patrick ordered. “I don’t expect your memory to be infallible, Mara, so I need your logs. I’ve taught Bridget everything I know about data recovery. Once we have that information, I want to cross-check it against the traders that have called upon New Cardiff in the same period. Erica, you’ll consult with your sources regarding trading teams that have traded with New Cardiff and have previously crossed paths with Athena One and her crew. Sara, while we don’t have enough for a court order, if the other traders refuse to cooperate, ask Jacob to put pressure on them to do so. Miss Allison, make sure that you are receiving reports on activity near the red zone and for warbug sightings. Let’s do it.”
Michelle was sitting at a mess hall table when a green-eyed, green-skinned woman joined her. “Hello,” Michelle said. “I take it you’re from the Orion trade delegation. I’m Michelle Rose, and this little lady is my niece, Tiana.”
“Hi, I’m Nava,” the Orion replied. “I take it you volunteered to babysit young Miss Ingrum while her mom and dad find out who blew up our ship?”
“Pretty much,” Michelle answered. “The main reason I’m here is that everyone in the family felt Patrick shouldn’t return to the Baldwin by himself or with just Tiana.”
“I sometimes feel the same way about Mara,” Nava noted. “I was worried when I heard she had been poisoned.”
“If it had been you that was poisoned, do you think Mara would be worried about you?”
“I have no doubt in my mind that she would,” Nava noted. “The Athena One crew has been together for over a decade. Mara and I go back even further.”
Patrick was in the Ready Room reviewing his notes regarding the investigation when the doorbell to his ready room chimed. “Come,” he stated. Erica promptly entered. “Please tell me you have some good news,” Patrick noted.
“Bridget hasn’t finished the data recovery, but from what Mara was able to
remember, I found one group that has crossed paths with Athena One.
The Nottingham Bella has had been at the same port of call as Athena
One on 24 occasions within the last 6 months. Although the vessel’s
captain has resisted our request to cooperate in this investigation, I was able to contact someone at Nottingham Interstellar that was a bit more helpful. The Bella has had significant internal turnover lately.”
“How much turnover?”
“The number of the crew has fluctuated based on the needs of the individual runs. The only constant members of the crew are her Captain and XO.”
“In other words, nearly everyone on that ship is a transient contractor,”
“Unfortunately,” Erica answered, “Nottingham does not have up-to-date
information on Bella‘s contractors. We will still need to get that information from the Captain.”
“Will they help us put pressure on the Captain to cooperate?”
“As long as the assignments get done, they tend not to ask too many
questions. They will do their best to ensure that we receive their cooperation.”
“Keep the pressure up,” Patrick instructed. “It sounds like a good lead.”
Bridget and Mara were in an engineering lab continuing to work on recovering the data from the Athena One’s computer core. “Thank goodness for small favors. Data recovery should be completed within the hour.”
“I didn’t go cheap on the computer core,” Mara noted. “We don’t have off-site backups, so all our logs and records are on this core. I made sure it had plenty of redundancy and physical protection.”
“I’m sure Patrick can help you obtain an off-site data center,” Bridget commented. “Had the ship been blown up by a quantum torpedo instead of a warp core breach, there likely wouldn’t have been a computer core to salvage.”
“Let’s just say that I did not anticipate being attacked. Now that I know someone is out to get me, I will have to reconsider that.”
While the two women were conversing, Bridget looked over the recovered data. “So far,” Bridget noted, “your logs corroborate with what you remembered. Wait a second, that’s an interesting nugget.”
“What is it?” Mara inquired.
“According to Nava’s personal log, she mentions that a crewmember from the Nottingham Bella mentioned the Aloran sector.”
“I heard about that from Nava as well. We found that odd since that sector became a ghost town when the Dominion War broke out. Obviously, we did learn that your family resides in that system.”
“We’ve had our share of ne’er-do-wells that want to plant their flag in the Aloran system. However, that system runs deep in Patrick’s bloodline, he won’t let it go so easily.”
“I know that the system has great sentimental value to Captain Ingrum, but as far as the commercial traffic lanes go, it’s off the beaten path.”
“We found that the criminal enterprises had been researching warp currents in the Alornan sector,” Patrick began. Bridget had convinced him to debrief Mara and Nava on their exploits around his home, which he did in the Astrometrics room. “From what we found, Aloran sits at the crossroads of several significant warp currents. If properly developed, this system could turn into a hotbed of commercial activity.”
“Meanwhile, in its current undeveloped state,” Mara noted, “it could be a haven for unsavory characters making shortcuts in their smuggling runs.”
Before Patrick could reply, he noticed an unusual movement on the sensor display. The Nottingham Bella, the ship of interest in the investigation, was moving out of the system. “Ingrum to Thomas: Erica, didn’t you say that Nottingham ordered the Bella to remain at New Cardiff.”
“The Bella was pulled from its next run and was asked to cooperate with us,” Erica answered. “However, even before that, there was the possibility of an unsanctioned cargo run.”
“I guess we’ll have to see what they’re up to. Ingrum to Bridge: Prepare to cloak and match Bella’s course and speed.”
“Aye, Captain,” came the reply from Sara on the bridge.
“Now, if someone on the Bella is aware of the potential value of the Aloran system, I have to suspect that they have an underworld connection.”
“Because the Aloran system isn’t developed,” Mara noted, “you have kept the knowledge of the Aloran hub confidential, even though you know that the syndicate was already aware of it. I don’t know if it is a genius move or a reckless one.”
“As you noted, Aloran is undeveloped. Until the Federation is willing to properly develop the system, I don’t want to encourage its use as a commercial corridor.”
Sara and Patrick began a brief meeting in the Baldwin’s ready room to discuss the lack of activity regarding their stakeout. “Do you think it’s possible that the Bella’s captain knows we are tailing them?”
“It’s not impossible,” Patrick noted, “but it would be unlikely, and would definitely require outside help. The Bella can barely hold on to Warp 6. I suspect that the rendezvous point is at least another eight hours out.”
“One thing that surprises me,” Sara continued, “is the fact that you disclosed what we know about Aloran to Mara. I figured you would want to keep that close to your vest.”
“To be honest, the Federation is not in a position where it is looking to develop new worlds. We’re lucky we have the resources and the latitude Starfleet has given us to explore the region and protect it from the underside of society. To develop it, we’re going to need some outside help.”
Before Sara could comment, the Ready Room shuttered. “Was that a subspace current?” Sara asked.
“It’s possible,” Parick began. Before he could finish, the Ready Room shuttered more violently. “However, that’s not consistent with a shift in subspace current.” Patrick made a beeline toward the door to the Bridge, with Sara right behind. “Report.”
“The cloak has malfunctioned,” Laura stated. “The engine room is fouled up. I’ve had to reduce speed to Warp 3.”
“Sara, you have the bridge.” Patrick promptly bolted for the turbolift.
The damage to the engine room left a cloud of smoke in the engine room that required several hours to clear. A preliminary investigation found no indication of sabotage. The damage hampered, but did not stop, the tail of the Nottingham Bella.
The Bella dropped out of warp in an uninhabited system. A second ship was not detected, but Baldwin stayed out of Bella’s sensor range. Patrick was on the bridge when sensors picked up something unexpected. “We have a bogey, but it’s not heading for the Bella,” Donna stated. “It’s heading for us!”
“Yellow alert!” Patrick ordered. The alert automatically charged the shields and placed the weapons on standby. “I need an ID on our bogey.”
“Working on it,” Donna answered. “The ship is unregistered. We’ll have to wait for a visual.”
“Engineering, where are we at on power?” Patrick inquired over the intercom. Even after the electrical fire had cleared, the main power conduit had to be taken offline to replace the cabling. “We may have to go weapons hot.”
“We’ve just begun to dig into the main power conduits,” Bridget answered. “I can give you sixty percent of full power, but that may not last long if we take a hit.”
“Do we have any other ships nearby?”
“Marion is 20 minutes out, Effingham is 40 minutes,” Donna answered.
“Send a message informing them of our situation and let them know we’re going to need backup.”
“On it. We have a visual on the approaching ship.”
“Let’s see it.” The viewscreen displayed a small craft of Orion design. “Well, it’s not a warbug, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t friendly. Open a channel.”
“This is Captain Patrick Ingrum of the U.S.S. Baldwin, please identify yourself.”
“They’re going weapons hot!”
“Move us up to Red Alert.” The alert claxon began sounding as the alert light started to flash. “Concentrate power on the main phaser cannons. If they so much as lay a scratch on our hull, feel free to answer in kind.”
“Aye, sir,” Donna answered. “Main phaser cannons are at 90% power. Photon and quantum torpedoes are loaded.”
“Open a channel one more time,” Patrick instructed. “Orion vessel, this is U.S.S. Baldwin, please acknowledge.”
The Orion ship acknowledged by firing its main weapons on Baldwin. Per Patrick’s previous order, the starship’s main guns and torpedo bays targeted the Orion ship; however, the Orions were able to dodge the incoming fire and batter Baldwin’s already crippled shields. “The Orion Ship has finally decided to respond to our hails,” Donna noted. “Our shields are now down.”
“Put the Orion Captain up,” Patrick ordered. The image brought up on the main viewer was one of a woman that Captain Ingrum wished he could forget. “Malina, I figured you would be the one stirring things up. Do you really hate your cousin so bad that you tried to kill her and destroy her ship?”
“Right now, you’re in no position to ramble about the supposed error of my ways. You seem to have suffered from an electrical issue that has affected your shields and weapons. The Bella is my ship now, her captain is on my payroll. Since you’re crippled, I will just take a couple of worthless thorns in my side, knowing all you can do is just sit there and watch. Ciao!”
“Captain, I’m detecting an energy ready consistent with an Orion transporter.”
“Computer,” Patrick initiated a voice instruction to Baldwin’s main computer, “located Bridget Ingrum and Mara.”
“Neither person is aboard,” came the response from the computer.
“Donna, what’s Malina’s ship doing now?”
“She’s moving out on a rendevous course with the Nottingham Bella.”
“We’ve got no choice but to do the same. Laura, lay in a course to rendevous with Winchester, warp 5. Donna, advise them of our current status.”
After being beamed off without advanced warning, Bridget and Mara were briefly disoriented but were quick to surmise what had happened. Neither were surprised when their captor entered the makeshift prison. “I should have expected something like this from you,” Bridget spat at Malina. “Did you manage to sabotage my engine room?”
“I know about Baldwin’s cloaking device and expected your husband to take a stealthy approach in following the Bella,” Malina retorted. “Its malfunction was just a happy coincidence for me, and an opportunity to get a little revenge for embarrassing me.”
“And what about Mara?”
“Mara is a traitor to the family. The Federation is a direct threat to my goals, and she decides to establish open trade with a Federation world. I loved how the former governor sought to keep a hold onto power, by the way. Removing her is one more reason to kill Patrick Ingrum quickly when I get a chance.”
“If you want a piece of my husband, you’ll have to go through me first,” Bridget retorted.
“Right now, if he wants to rescue you, and it’s a safe bet that he does, he’ll have to go through me, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. I’m more than a match for you when it comes to physical strength. I’ve also equipped this ship with telekinetic inhibitors, so you can’t pull any surprises on me.”
Captain’s Log, Supplemental: We have met up with Winchester and are now en route to Starbase 375 for emergency repairs.
Patrick’s mood was that of tranquil fury. Inside he was livid that Malina would kidnap a member of his crew – especially his wife – along with a guest on his ship. However, as a Starfleet captain, he knew he needed to have a level head and come up with a plan. He met privately with Sara and Nava in his ready room. “The biggest issue I’ve got right now is the repairs Baldwin will need. Long story short, it will take days, if not weeks, for Baldwin to be ready to mount a rescue. By the time Baldwin is ready for action, Malina will be long gone.”
“Surely, you have other options,” Nava noted.
“You’re not the only one upset about Bridget’s kidnapping,” Sara noted. “Winchester is in better shape than we are, and there’s no doubt that her crew will have your back.”
“Still, given the action I’ve dealt with, sending one ship along may not be a good idea.”
“Send the Marion as well,” Sara noted. “It would be a good field test of her defensive capabilities.”
Before Patrick could comment on his acting XO’s suggestions, the doorbell to the conference lounge chimed. “Come,” Patrick responded. Entering the room was a determined sister-in-law. “Is there something I can help you with?”
“I know I’m not Starfleet,” Michelle noted, “nor do I want to be, but if you’re planning on rescuing Bridget, I would like to be involved.”
“Considering who we’re up against,” Sara stated, “it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Bridget can go toe-to-toe with Malina, but having a sister or two by her side would stack the odds in her favor.”
“I have to favor your assessment,” Patrick replied, “in regards to both sending Winchester and Marion and adding Michelle to the party. Call Bernie and let him know our game plan.”
“If you don’t mind,” Nava interrupted, “I’d like to go with your time on the Winchester. Mara would appreciate a friendly face if and when she gets rescued.”
“If you’re going to volunteer for this mission, I’ll see that you are in. Let Bernie know that we’re sending two guests his way.”
It didn’t take long for Marion and Winchester to readily accept the mission to rescue Bridget and Mara. To save time, the capital ships were dispatched to the Nottingham Bella‘s last known position while Michelle and Nava transferred to the Winchester with the runabout Ninnescah.
Roslyn and Valerie were on hand when the Ninnescah pulled into Winchester‘s hangar. The two younger sisters promptly gave their older sibling a bear hug. After freeing herself of her sisters’ embrace, Michelle introduced her guests. “Nava, these are my sisters, Valarie Bucyrus and Roslyn Tyler. Val, Roz, this is Nava Tendi, first officer of the Athena One.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Roslyn stated.
“Likewise,” Nava answered. “Do you think we have a shot of finding Mara alive?”
“There are too many unanswered questions when it comes to someone like Malina,” Roslyn noted, “but we won’t give up until we find Mara and Bridged, and we will assume they are alive until we verify they are not by seeing their dead bodies before us.”
Bridget was thrown back into the makeshift prison cell with numerous untreated cuts and bruises to her face. “Looks like you went ten rounds in a steel cage,” Mara noted. Their captors were not so cruel as to deny Bridget access to a first-aid kit, which Mara used to treat Bridget’s wounds.
“Malina used me as a punching bag,” Bridget commented. “She made sure I was weighted down just enough for me to barely defend myself. I don’t know if she drugged me or there’s some kind of suppression field, but my head is spinning and I’m barely able to think straight.”
“It makes sense that she wants to break you mentally and physically before she kills us,” Mara responded. “Even before I studied psychology, I could tell that she was a manipulative narcissist. Her DNA manipulation treatment didn’t help in that regard. I’d bet on the suppression field; I haven’t felt out of the ordinary, and we’ve been sharing the same supply of food and water.”
“In other words, Malina’s going to make certain I’m not in a fair fight. Any chance we can even the odds?”
“I’d say we need more numbers on our side.”
“I know Roz would have my back, and any of my other sisters would join her. What if they’re telekinetic like me, wouldn’t the suppression field hurt them just as badly?”
“First off, considering that you said what if they’re telekinetic indicates that it is possible that you were the only one that is telekinetic. Even if your sisters share your gifts, you will still have that numbers advantage.”
A patrol party of four fighters was grouped together in search of the Orion vessel or the cargo ship. The owners of the Nottingham Bella had terminated the contract with her captain for his black-market dealings and had authorized Starfleet to repossess the vessel.
The leader of the group picked up an unknown reading on the sensors. “Winchester, Razor. We got a bogey bearing 258 mark 20 about 20,000 klicks from our position.”
“Understood, Razor,” answered Sonya from the bridge of Winchester. “The package is standing by in case you find the service target.” The ‘package’ was a rescue team with three of Bridget’s sisters along with Mara’s XO. Joining them was Johnathan to pilot the runabout Ninnescah. “Bulldog, Moondance: if this is the ship we’re looking for, standby for launch. Try not to scratch the Ninnescah, I know how Captain Ingrum takes pride in his runabouts.
“I have precious cargo aboard,” Johnathan retorted. “It’s a hell of a lot easier to replace ships than family.”
“Winchester, Razor: I have made visual contact and can confirm it’s the Bella. Opening a channel now. Nottingham Bella, this is Lieutenant Corey Rogers on behalf of Starfleet. Nottingham Interstellar has authorized me to inform you that your employment with Nottingham is terminated and to repossess your vessel. You are instructed to surrender and prepare to be boarded.”
“Razor, Bulldog: any sign of our bandit?”
“Negative,” Corey stated.
“I would expect them to protect their prize. Winchester, Bulldog: I’m ready for launch. All active fighters: Converge on Razor’s position, best possible speed.”
“My lady,” the tactical officer called to Malina, “The Bella is reporting that Starfleet is attempting to seize them.”
Malina was in her ship’s brig about to start a new fight with Bridget. “Helm, move to intercept, best possible speed. Give no quarter to the Starfleet vessel.”
“Yes, my lady,” the helmsman answered.
“Do you really think you can go toe to toe with anything that Starfleet gives you?” Bridget retorted.
“This ship will make quick work on your fighters before whatever starship they came from can react. I’ve also stocked up on Quantum Torpedoes. I will find their weakness and I will crush them hard.”
“You know,” Mara noted, “you can be a really arrogant and overconfident bitch.”
“Maybe, but I can sure as hell back it up.”
“You were lucky when Baldwin’s cloak gave out. I seriously doubt that lightning will strike twice.”
“That pile of junk was bound to fail on you at an inopportune time.”
“You’re forgetting something very important. Neither Starfleet nor Patrick’s influence consists of just one ship.”
Lieutenant Corey ‘Razor’ Rodgers was prepared for a possible hostile engagement and was not surprised when his sensors indicated another vessel coming in. “Bulldog, Razor. I have incoming.”
“Roger, Razor,” Johnathan answered. “I’m 90 seconds out. Winchester is two minutes behind me.”
“I’ve got about a minute before the incoming vessel arrives,” Corey noted. “I’m expecting them to come in weapons hot. We’ll do the same.”
“Target shields, engines, and weapons,” Johnathan added. “We want that ship disabled, not destroyed.”
The fighters that had already intercepted the Nottingham Bella assumed a defensive posture. The incoming vessel dropped out of warp and immediately began laying down a barrage of disrupter fire. “Disabling this ship’s gonna be easier said than done,” Corey commented.
“Hang tight,” Johnathan said, “we’re on our way.”
“Shields are holding at 80 percent,” noted the Orion ship’s tactical officer.
“Have we managed to take down any fighters?” Malinda responded.
“The Federation fighters are more maneuverable than I realized. I got a few hits in, but their shields are holding. I also have a second wave of fighters along with their base ship coming in.”
“Give no quarter to the Federation. Place disrupters at maximum power.”
As soon as the Winchester dropped out of warp, Bernie sat ready to engage the Orion’s vessel. The ship was already at Red Alert. “Status?”
As soon as the Winchester dropped out of warp, Bernie sat ready to engage the Orion’s vessel. The ship was already at Red Alert. “Status?”
“Razor and his team are averaging about 60 percent on shields,” the tactical officer noted. “The Orion ship is at 79 percent. Based on their disrupter pattern, they are shooting to kill.”
“They may be set to kill, but we stay set to ‘stun.’ Target the Orion’s engines and shields.
While the Orion ship focused its attention on the fighters, Winchester turned its phasers on the Orion’s shield generator. Meanwhile, Johnathan had parked the runabout Ninnescah a safe distance away from the fighting, ready to beam his wife, sisters-in-law, and their Orion guest as an away team onto the hostile ship. “Although it’s a different class of ship than the Athena One,” Nava noted, “the shield generators aren’t that much different. There’s a window of opportunity coming up as the shield system attempts to adapt to the Winchester’s phaser fire.”
“How much time do we have?”
“I’d say we have about 90 seconds, then you’ll have a half-second window to get us in.”
“That’s threading a tight needle,” Johnathan noted. “Get on the transporter pad while I scan for Bridget.” It took a good chunk of time he had to complete the scan and find a suitable beam-in location. “Got a lock, here we go,” Jonathan noted as he initiated the transporter.
Johnathan was able to take advantage of the transport window Nava revealed to beam the away team into a hallway outside the Orion vessel’s brig. They were greeted by a pair of guards. Roslyn and Valerie charged after them while Nava and Michelle provided cover fire. Reacting to the weapons’ fire, the guards were completely blindsided by the full force of the sisters’ strength. With the guards dispensed, the away team entered the brig. “I was expecting your loving husband to try to stage a rescue and take a beating like a man.”
“Captain Ingrum is indisposed right now, but he sends his regards,” Roslyn answered. “He also sends a sister that can deliver a beating just fine.”
“Engineering,” Malina called, “increase power to the neural inhibitor.” Upon implementation of the order, Bridget began to wither in pain.
Neither Roslyn, Valerie, nor Michelle seemed fazed by the tormentor’s actions, only aggravated at seeing their baby sister suffer. “Nava, Michelle, go down to engineering and turn off this bitch’s goddamn torture device.”
“On it,” Michelle answered.
As Nava attempted to turn toward engineering, Malina charged at her fellow Orion with her full strength. Seeing this attempt, Roslyn moved to block her path, causing the emerald-skinned vixen to fall backward on her butt. “Sorry, you’re dealing with me.”
“Feisty, aren’t we?” Malina quipped as she got back on her feet.
“Hate to break it to you,” Valerie chimed in, “but this time, you’re outnumbered.”
“If I recall, our baby sister gave you a run for your money last time. We may not have Bridget’s gift of telekinesis, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take you down.”
The fight was on as Roslyn and Valerie landed simultaneous kicks at Malina. Malina tapped on her combadge to contact her XO on the ship’s bridge. “Do we have reinforcements on the way?”
“Yes, my lady, additional fighters are en route.”
“Send additional security teams to Engineering and my location.”
As Valerie took a turn fighting Malina, Roslyn initiated a call to give a status update to Johnathan. “Bulldog, Firecracker, we have a violation of Regulation 46-A.”
Johnathan understood the message to mean ‘Malina leaked information in front of us.’ He presumed that she called for reinforcements. “Winchester, Bulldog, prepare for a little more action.”
While Roslyn and Valerie were taking on Malina in hand-to-hand combat, Michelle and Nava were working toward engineering. Although she was not as experienced in fighting as her younger sisters, Michelle was able to spot and pick off multiple any of them could get a shot off. Once the pair made it to engineering, Mara made a beeline for the main console. “The systems on this ship are like the Athena One’s. I can lock out the bridge and turn off anything I don’t recognize. Malina didn’t anticipate a boarding action.”
“Do it,” Michelle answered as additional security guards entered the engine room, only to be phasered.
Up in the holding cell, Mara noticed that Bridget was starting to feel better. “I think they got the inhibitor turned off,” Bridget noted, “but until now, I didn’t realize how much of a toll it took on me.”
“You take it easy,” Roslyn answered, “we got this.”
While Roslyn and Valerie continued to fight Malina, the Winchester, and the associated fighters continued to pound on the Orion ship. The fighters made strafing runs on the Orion weapons while the big ship targeted the shields and weapons. The tactical officer updated Bernie on the battle status. “Shields on the enemy vessel and the Nottingham Bella have been disabled.”
“Prepare away teams to take control of the Bella and assist Roslyn,” Bernie instructed. “Any sign of additional contacts.”
“Marion has made contact with and has engaged them, though at least one of them has broken away.”
“Once the away teams are away, move Winchester to intercept the fighter.”
It didn’t take long for an away team to approach the brig to back up Roslyn and Valerie. “In my line of business, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan,” Malina noted as she pulled a cylindrical device out and pressed a button, triggering a transport.
“Tyler to Winchester,” Roslyn called, “Malina just beamed off. Can you trace her transporter signal?”
“Working on it,” answered the operations officer.
“Away team Alpha to Winchester, Nottingham Bella is secured.”
“Well, that’s at least a small victory,” Valerie quipped.
“I wasn’t able to get a trace on Malina’s transporter signal,” the operations officer broke back in. “However, our bogey changed course after the transport.”
“I think it’s fair to say that Malina has run off to fight another day,” Bernie added. “Come on home.”
The Winchester‘s medical staff looked over Bridget and Mara and gave them both a clean bill of health, though they advised Bridget to take it easy. The friends met up with Roslyn and Nava in the mess hall. “I have good news: According to Sara, Starfleet is willing to award you our captured Orion vessel as remuneration for the loss of the Athena One. Patrick also chimed in about our current state of affairs; with it being better known that the Aloran system is a warp current hub, developing a Federation presence has moved up the priority chain. They feel that a civilian outpost, rather than a full-on Starbase, is more appropriate.”
“Sounds like Captain Ingrum has a good head on his shoulders,” Mara noted as Michelle entered the Mess Hall. “So, how do you feel about developing the Aloran system?”
“Honestly, as long as there’s a welcoming place for us, I will support whatever happens.”
“Well, I will help any way I can. I will certainly drop by from time to time, and will say hi when I do.”
“Have you decided on the new name of your new ship?”
“No question,” Mara stated, “she will be named after her predecessor.”
“It will probably take some time to get the Athena Two fitted the way we would like,” Nava added, “but we will get there.”
As Bridget continued to socialize with her family and friends, she reflected on the events of the past few days. She had seen the best, and the worst, out of the Orions. Her new Orion friends were on board in helping protect their home from the Orions the ones who wish to claim it for themselves. Eventually, with everyone’s support, their home would become a place for people to gather in peace.
There is a long road ahead, and she knew she had the right people to join this journey.