“Would you calm down please!” Ranma pleaded.
“I just cannot believe you'd put your own wife on hold!” Akane retorted.
Ranma sighed. “I told you, it was Starfleet!” Ranma rubbed his eyes before continuing. “Besides, I knew that if I dealt with them first, I could take as much time as I needed talking with you.”
Akane blinked. “Oh, that's so sweet.”
'Holy shit, that worked,' Ranma's brain gasped. “So, how'd it go?”
Akane looked at her hands for a few seconds before shrugging slightly. “It went okay, I think. We managed to not overwhelm any one ship's sickbay.”
She looked to a different monitor then back to Ranma. “The Ames lost power to her sickbay and Doctor T'Lase said it was nice knowing where he could send patients.”
Ranma smiled. “Though,” Akane continued, “it was kind of boring, not actually being able to help anyone. Just basically being a logistics manager.”
Ranma lost his smile.
“So,” he asked, “you wouldn't want to do this full time? Managing a hospital station?”
Akane blinked. “I- I don't know.”
Ranma shook his head. “Well, anyway, is everyone being nice to you over there?”
Akane looked at Ranma a bit confused for a moment more before letting his previous comments go. “The Infinity's medical staff has been a charm to work with. They're nice and their CMO, 'Doc', said he's glad he didn't have to deal with this.”
Akane shook her head. “Haven't seen her.”
“Well, like Shampoo, she'll get used to the way things are,” Ranma smiled.
Akane nodded. “I'll be beaming back soon.”
Ranma bit his lip. “Why don't you stay there for the time being?”
Akane blinked. “You-”
“It's dangerous in there,” Ranma explained, his head subconsciously gesturing towards the window, “and I don't know what we're going to come across,” Ranma argued. He lowered his head slightly and spoke softer to Akane. “I don't want you hurt.”
Akane nodded and smiled. “You always have tried to look out for me, and protect me, Ranma. Even before we were married.” The dark-haired woman paused for a couple of seconds as she thought back. “Even when we fought.” Akane chuckled a bit, then inhaled deeply. “But God damn it, Ranma Saotome you are one selfish son-of-a-bitch.”
To say Ranma was a bit shocked by Akane's harsh words would be an amazing understatement. “Excuse me?” He asked.
“You can't stand the thought of not having me but give no concern to me living in a world without you,” Akane growled. “Do you have ANY idea what that would be like?”
Ranma stared silently at Akane, unable to assemble a retort.
“No,” she answered for him. “I am Akane Saotome, and my place is at your side. So, you can stop the attempts to keep me from harm because where you go, I go.”
Ranma sat there for a minute, staring intently at Akane before simply responding, “Yes, Commander.”
Akane grinned in her victory.
“We'll be departing in eighteen hours,” he continued. “If you're late, I hope the Infinity will loan you an EVA suit.”
Akane smirked. “Now you're just being a wise-ass.”
Ranma nodded. “Aye.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
The communication ended and Ranma leaned back, slightly concerned with the idea of his wife coming with them on such a dangerous mission, yet at the same time pleased to know that she exhibited such loyalty to him.
He could understand it. He would not allow her to go into a dangerous place like the Jem'Hadar infested Badlands without him, but then again it was HIS job to protect her, not vice versa.
He accepted her reasoning though. He knew exactly how heartbroken he would be if he were to lose her. Akane's assessment of Ranma's thinking was accurate insofar as he had not given much thought as to how his death would affect her. Of course, Ranma did not have any intention of dying, but if it happened, he had to acknowledge that she would likely be as hurt as he would be.
<Nifty Star Trek Doorbell Sound>
Ranma looked up from the desk that sat against the wall of his quarters towards his door. He grabbed his jacket and began to put it on as he stood and walked towards the doorway.
The doors slid open, and Ukyo stepped in, wearing civilian clothes, a half-grin on her face.
“Ukyo,” Ranma tried to ask, but more stated, as he stopped mid zip of his jacket. Ukyo nodded a couple of times and moved in a bit more, allowing the doors to Ranma's quarters to close behind her.
“Do you have a minute?” she asked. Ranma nodded and motioned for the couch that sat next to the large, forward-looking observation windows. The pair walked over to them and sat down, Ranma making sure to seat himself out of any kind of hidden spatula range.
“I kind of wanted to apologize for the way I acted yesterday,” Ukyo said, her eyes moving between Ranma and the orange gas cloud out the windows. “I guess I was being kind of a jackass.”
Ranma paused for a second then shrugged slightly. “I'm not really the one you need to apologize to.”
Ukyo bit on her lower lip. “I will speak to her when I return.”
Ranma smiled. “Thank you,” he said. “She's had nothing but wonderful things to say about your staff, which is really a testament to your hard work.”
Ukyo blushed slightly and turned away as she replied. “Well, she's only been my ship for about a year, so I can't take full credit.”
Ranma nodded in understanding. “Do you want something to drink?” he asked, starting to stand. Ukyo reached over and grabbed his arm, stopping Ranma from standing. He looked down at her as moisture began to form in her eyes. “What's wrong?” he asked.
“I just don't understand,” she softly replied as Ranma sat back down. “Why her?”
Ranma sighed. He did not want to have this conversation. Not now and certainly not with her.
“I love her,” he answered.
“I love you,” Ukyo countered.
Ranma gritted his teeth. Despite the initial lies, Shampoo was seemingly able to take a blunt 'truth torpedo'. Ukyo on the other hand would likely not handle that as well and would likely need to be dealt with more delicately.
“Ukyo-” Ranma corrected himself, “Ucchan, you have been my friend for many, many years and I do love you.” Ranma inhaled deeply before continuing. “Just not like I love Akane.”
Ukyo's hand slid down Ranma's sleeve as he continued.
“I love you like my friend, like my sister. Akane is my wife, my-” Ranma allowed a small smile to slide across his face as he finished, “soul mate.”
Ukyo's hand slid all the way off Ranma and onto his couch cushion. She looked at it for a moment before looking up at him. “I guess I'm just supposed to like that?”
Ranma shook his head. “No,” he answered, “but you have to accept it.”
Ukyo simply sat in silence.
“I am still your friend,” Ranma offered.
“I don't see how that is possible,” Ukyo countered.
“Shampoo and I are very good friends and work very well together,” Ranma explained.
Ukyo looked to Ranma and shrugged. “I want to be your friend, Ranma-” she paused, looked at him intently, then continued, “Ranchan, but it will take me some time.”
“Why now?” Ranma asked. “You didn't seem this upset when you first found out.”
Ukyo shrugged, turning to look out the window. “I guess it was the whole nepotism thing that really made me realize that you and she were serious.”
“Nepotism?” Ranma asked.
Ukyo nodded. “Sending Akane over to manage triage when there were likely plenty of other officers more qualified.”
“Your CMO was needed-”
“Not just from my ship,” Ukyo interrupted. “There's like thirty ships out there that someone could have come from.”
Ranma was beginning to get slightly angry but managed to keep it in check as he continued to argue. “She's plenty qualified. You don't know what this crew has done, what it's gone through over the past three years. So don't you dare judge me, them or my decisions until you've done what we have.”
While his tone did not express the anger, his words did. Ukyo looked back to Ranma and nodded. “Sorry,” she replied, albeit somewhat half-heartedly.
Before Ranma could speak anymore his communicator began to chirp. “Colonel Lee to Captain Saotome.”
“Go,” Ranma replied, hitting his comm badge.
“We're meeting for the Marine briefing in five minutes in Conference Room Six, sir.”
“Thank you,” Ranma said. “I'll be on my way.” The captain stood, hit his comm badge, and turned to Ukyo. “I have a briefing to attend.”
Ukyo stood and nodded. She followed Ranma to the door, where again, she grabbed his sleeve to stop him. He turned to see her moving towards him, her lips pursed. Ranma gently put his arm on Ukyo's shoulder and pushed her backward slightly.
“I'm not sure if you realize it or not, Ucchan,” Ranma said, shaking his head, “but what you said hurt. Friends don't hurt friends.” Ranma pulled away from a now-shocked Ukyo and moved to open the door. Ukyo slowly followed him out, the doors almost slamming shut behind her. As Ranma began to walk away, he called back, “Don't forget to see Akane before she comes back.”
Ukyo watched Ranma walk down the corridor till he rounded the corner. Ukyo then sighed, turned the opposite direction, and headed towards the turbolift that would take her back to the transporter room.
Ranma plopped into his seat on the bridge. He quickly checked the terminal to his right and confirmed that Akane was back on board. He was hoping she would have returned last night, but she indicated that she wanted to finish up dealing with causality counts and getting the healed back to their proper ships.
He was also pleasantly surprised when she informed him that the Infinity had 'found' spare quarters for her.
Anyway, there would be time to question her about her time over there later. Right now, they had a mission to do.
“Commander Kino,” Ranma called, looking up at the viewer. Makoto looked up from her terminal.
“Have you applied those targeting sensor calibrations I sent you?”
“Yes sir,” Makoto replied.
Ranma nodded. “Good. I've been here before. Chasing Maquis. I'm somewhat familiar with The Badlands and hopefully that will help us if we need to actually shoot anything.”
“Certainly, couldn't hurt,” Makoto chuckled.
Ranma nodded and turned to Shampoo. “Ready?” he asked.
Shampoo shook her head. “No.”
Ranma smiled. “Me either.”
Shampoo inhaled deeply before standing and walking up to the helm. “Ensign,” she softly said to Ikuhara, “ahead one-quarter impulse.”
The Sisko, already still at red alert, began to move forward towards the edge of The Badlands. Ranma gripped his arm rests as the main viewer began to flicker.
“Once we're all the way in sensors will compensate,” Minako said. “They won't be super effective, and we can't see out, but...” she trailed off as the Sisko breached the outer perimeter of the gas clouds.
“If there is anything,” Ranma said, “it's likely to be at one of the small planetoids.”
Shampoo nodded and instructed Ikuhara to set a course for the closest one. The Badlands were thoroughly mapped, so despite the lackluster scanner resolution, the ship knew exactly which way to go.
“I have a contact,” Jansen called out.
“Confirmed,” Minako echoed.
“On screen,” both Ranma and Shampoo ordered. On the main viewscreen, a pair of Jem'Hadar fighters appeared to be patrolling. Ranma stood and turned to Jansen and Makoto's terminal.
“Can they see us?”
“They haven't turned this way,” Makoto replied.
Shampoo looked to Ranma. Ranma thought about the situation for a moment before sitting back down. “Hold your course.” He turned as much as he could towards the tactical station behind him. “Watch them.”
“Aye,” all relevant parties replied.
After about thirty minutes of traveling, the Sisko arrived at her first destination. Ranma stood and quickly moved over to Minako's station to watch her begin scanning the planet.
“Well,” she said, “there's nothing there now.”
“Now?” Ranma asked.
Minako nodded. “There has defiantly been activity, most likely mining.”
“What composition?” Shampoo asked.
“A lot of stuff,” Minako replied. “But most noteworthy is dutranium.”
“Torpedoes,” Makoto said.
Ranma sighed. “Okay. Next destination.”
The Sisko began to move out of orbit. It did not get far before an alarm went off.
“What is-” Ranma did not get a chance to finish before an enormous explosion rocked the ship.
“STATUS!” Shampoo yelled.
“We hit a mine,” Makoto reported.
“ALL STOP!” Ranma ordered.
Ikuhara brought the ship to a stop but not before another alarm went off, followed by another explosion, knocking the crew to the deck.
“Shields holding,” Jansen reported.
“Cripes,” Ranma groused, standing and walking too tactical. “We're stuck in a minefield now.”
“We can probably detonate any others in our path with the phaser array,” Jansen suggested. “Just sweep it in front of us.”
Ranma turned to Makoto and Kaii. “What's the likelihood of it detonating any of those gas clouds?”
The pair looked to their terminals and conferenced for a moment before Minako turned to the Captain. “We're not seeing any 'highly' volatile clouds nearby. If we use lower power than normal, we should be fine.”
“Should,” Shampoo smirked.
Ranma nodded. “Do it.”
Jansen made the adjustments to her terminal then fired the forward ventral and dorsal arrays, sweeping them across open space. Multiple explosions lit up the viewscreen in front of the Sisko as mine after mine was detonated.
After Jansen was all but certain she had gotten all of them, she deactivated the phasers and smiled. “Path clear!”
“Good work,” Ranma grinned. He turned to Shampoo and Ikuhara. “Resume course. Let's try not to orbit so close as to maybe avoid any more minefields.”
“Aye sir,” Ikuhara replied.
“Sir,” Makoto called out. “I think we may have attracted some attention. At least eight fighters are inbound to our location.”
Ranma nodded and took his seat. “When they are in range, you're weapons-free.”
Makoto liked the sound of that. “Yes sir.”
The eight Jem'Hadar fighters were obliterated by the Sisko shortly after their arrival. That is not to say that the Sisko didn't get smacked around a bit, but this is the Sisko we're talking about here.
“Shields at 92 percent,” Usagi reported from the engineering station.
Ranma nodded, more interested in the next planet. He could already tell that this one was going to be more than just an abandoned mining site. Despite being several thousand kilometers away, a facility was visible on the surface.
“Sir, this planet has defensive turrets,” Makoto reported.
Shampoo turned to Ranma. “That big facility.”
Ranma nodded. “We need to scan it.” He quickly turned to Makoto. “Take out their defenses.”
The Sisko was rocked hard as it moved in to destroy the turrets. They seemed to pack a far greater punch than the fighters did. Despite their best efforts though, the Sisko managed to destroy all three of them while only taking minor damage.
“Shields at 78 percent,” Usagi reported.
“Commander?” Ranma asked, looking towards Minako.
“The building is pretty heavily shielded,” she complained. “Not by shields, but just by environmental crap. It's taking me a minute to compensate.”
Ranma nodded and watched the viewer.
“There appears to be another facility in orbit on the other side of the planet as well,” Kaii added.
Shampoo walked back to her seat and sat down. She leaned into Ranma. “Facility look familiar,” she whispered.
Ranma nodded. “Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.”
“Oh my God,” Minako gasped.
“What?” everyone asked.
“Scanning about 800,000 bio signs in that facility. Presumably Jem'Hadar.”
“You were right, Captain,” Makoto smirked. “It is a Jem'Hadar daycare.”
Ranma did not laugh. He looked to Shampoo who had the same solemn expression on her face. He quickly turned to Kaii. “Can we contact Starfleet?”
“No,” Kaii answered.
“Set a course for the perimeter of The Badlands then,” Ranma ordered.
“Ranma,” Shampoo interrupted. “If Jem'Hadar come by and see defenses gone, they will fortify this facility.”
Makoto and Jansen nodded in agreement. “Sir, they told us to take out targets of opportunity,” Makoto said.
Ranma sighed. “I am not sure if I am comfortable killing 800,000 people.”
“They not breeding them in secret with huge defense force to work as Dabo girls,” Shampoo said. “They threat.”
Ranma bit his lip as the entire bridge crew waited for his order.
“You're right,” Ranma acknowledged. “Still though, I can't do it.” He turned to Kaii. “Send Lt. Devall out in Nighthawk to request instructions from Starfleet and tell him to make it snappy.”
“Yes sir,” Kaii replied.
Ranma turned to Shampoo. “Take us to the orbital facility.”
Shampoo nodded and moved towards the helm. Ranma slumped down in his chair, fully aware that the entire bridge crew now believed he just made the biggest mistake of his career.
The Sisko moved around the planet quickly as Nighthawk undocked and attempted to cloak. The cloak was semi-effective, phasing the ship in and out, keeping JC partially obscured, but also causing a wake in the gases as he headed full speed towards the perimeter of the cloud.
The orbital facility was also defended by defense turrets; however, these were not as strong and were not as damaging to the Sisko as the others. Once they were destroyed, Minako began her scans.
“Shampoo know what this facility is,” Shampoo stated.
Ranma nodded, also knowing before Minako even reported it.
Ranma turned to Makoto and nodded. Shampoo leaned into Ranma again. “Now you just kill them slowly.”
Ranma turned to Shampoo but said nothing as Makoto unleashed a fury of torpedoes and phasers on the station. It lasted two volleys before exploding. The explosion was brilliant and bright, however, the Sisko crew did not think to check for gas clouds before attacking.
The explosion set off a small chain reaction which ended up detonating a gas cloud near the Sisko, sending it spinning. The inertial dampeners kicked in, but not enough to keep the bridge crew from going flying.
Ikuhara managed to climb back into his seat and regain control of the ship. Ranma ran to help Shampoo up as Kaii checked on Minako who had went flipping over the operations console.
“DAMAGE REPORT!” Ranma yelled as he helped Shampoo to her feet.
Usagi slowly crawled to her seat and began to push some buttons. “Wow, that messed us up pretty bad, Captain.”
“How bad?” Ranma asked.
“Warp drive fail-safes kicked in, so warp is offline. Impulse got knocked offline. Weapons and shields are offline. Communications are offline.”
“Multiple casualty reports,” Minako reported. “Doesn't appear to be any fatalities.”
Ranma grumbled. “We need shields and weapons and impulse back online as soon as possible.”
“Aye,” Usagi replied.
Ranma scowled. “I hate The Badlands.”
Ranma eyed the clock above the main viewscreen. Nearly twenty minutes had passed with nary a word spoken on the bridge. He did not care for the silence coming from the engineering station, but that was countered with the pleasure he felt from the silence coming from tactical as that meant they had not yet been discovered.
“Status?” he asked Usagi.
Usagi turned around a mildly positive look on her face. “Well, the regenerative shielding is going to take some time to get back online, but we have standard shielding back to 38 percent.”
Ranma sighed. “Well, that's better than nothing.”
Usagi nodded. “The engines were just fail-safed, so they are restarting and will be up shortly. Weapons should be back online shortly as well.”
“Good work,” Ranma acknowledged.
Usagi smiled and turned back to her station. Kaii called out to Ranma from his station. “Captain, Lt. Devall is hailing us, requesting permission to dock.”
“By all means,” Ranma nodded. “Get him up here as soon as he in on board.”
“Aye,” Kaii replied.
Shampoo turned to Ranma and smiled. “I know what he going to say.”
Ranma turned to Shampoo and gave her a rather frustrated look. “I do too,” he admitted. “I just needed it to not be my order.”
Shampoo's smile faded a bit as she looked to Ranma somewhat softly. “Ranma okay?”
Ranma shrugged. “I know they are our enemy. Just killing so many of them, at once, from orbit...” He paused, unsure himself of why he had any hesitation. “It just doesn't seem 'right'.”
Shampoo continued to look at Ranma for a moment before taking his hand. “Shampoo can issue order.”
Ranma turned to her. “No,” he said quietly. “It's my job and my duty to protect the Federation.” He patted the top of her hand as the rear turbolift opened and JC came walking out, panting. Ranma stood, still looking towards Shampoo. “Maybe I am just overthinking things and taking the idea of a Jem'Hadar daycare too literally.”
Shampoo chuckled as JC sped walked down to Ranma. “Captain,” he gasped.
“Lieutenant,” Ranma smiled. “I'm sorry if my instructions implied that you needed to run.”
JC turned to Kaii and growled. “He said you said to run as fast as I could!”
Kaii turned to hide his laughter. Ranma chuckled to himself as JC turned back to Ranma. “No matter,” JC said, his breath coming back to him. “I contacted Admiral Saotome and he said...” JC paused for a moment. “He said you were to destroy the facility and any other breeding facilities you were to come across.”
“Why the pause?” Ranma asked.
“Well,” JC turned away slightly, “he worded it differently.”
Ranma grumbled. “What were his exact words?”
JC stayed silent.
“Promise you will acknowledge I am only the messenger?”
“Quote, 'tell that idiot of course he's to destroy any breeding facilities’, unquote.”
Ranma narrowed his gaze as Shampoo turned away from the pair to hide her laughter. JC, afraid the Captain was about to hit him looked towards the turbolift. “Sir, I should get to engineering.”
JC scurried off. Ranma turned to Shampoo. “Quiet you,” he ordered. Shampoo nodded and quickly moved over to the helm station. “How are weapons?” Ranma asked.
“Operational,” Makoto replied.
“Take us to the facility then,” Ranma ordered.
“Sir, there are two Jem'Hadar warships on scan,” Makoto reported.
Minako concurred. “They don't appear to see us and look to be headed towards the fourth planet.”
Ranma nodded as the ship moved back towards the other side of the planet.
“Reviewing logs,” Minako continued, “it appears that is the direction that the previous group of fighters came from as well.”
“You think there might be something near the fourth planet?” Ranma asked.
“Potentially,” Minako replied. “Still too much interference to tell from here though.”
“We in position,” Shampoo reported.
Ranma looked at the facility on the screen. It was amazing, his hesitation. Several years ago, he would have relished this kind of opportunity. To kill nearly a million Jem'Hadar soldiers in a single assault would have struck a massive blow to the Dominion.
For some reason now though it almost felt like he was abetting genocide. However, he knew what those Jem'Hadar were being bred for, and if he didn't do this potentially millions of Federation citizens would die.
“Target the facility and fire,” Ranma ordered. “Don't stop until there is nothing left.”
“Aye,” Jansen replied locking the Sisko's weapons then unleashing volley after volley of torpedoes. It took about five full volleys for Jansen to be satisfied. She looked over to Minako.
“Hard to tell,” Minako reported, “but scanning maybe 10-15 thousand bio signs now. Pretty weak, likely buried under the rubble.”
Ranma looked at the smoldering remains of the facility. 'It's a cold universe,' he thought to himself. “Set a course to the third planet,” he ordered.
Shampoo nodded and had Ikuhara pull the ship out of its high orbit and move it in the direction of the third planetoid sitting the orange and yellow plasma clouds of The Badlands.
With planet three being uneventful, the Sisko began its trip towards planet four. Her shields were still far lower than Ranma would have liked, only having now been repaired to 60 percent, but better than they were. As well, the ship was stuck at a maximum speed of one-half impulse, meaning it would take them at least thirty minutes to get to the rest of the fleet if things went bad.
Nonetheless, Ranma and the rest of the senior staff decided that they needed to continue deeper as they understood there would not be a massive breeding facility if there were not other, bigger facilities further in.
“There are multiple contacts ahead,” Minako reported.
Makoto looked to her terminal which began to chirp at her. “Confirm, and we have been spotted by at least two of them.”
Ranma nodded. He watched the viewscreen as two Jem'Hadar warships turned and moved to intercept the Sisko.
“Defensive pattern gamma,” Shampoo ordered as Ranma turned to Minako.
“How many contacts?”
“Hard to tell for certain,” she replied. “I think I am seeing about thirty ships, but not all of them have power signatures.”
The Sisko shook as the warships engaged the Sisko. Jansen and Makoto began doing their thing, returning fire on the Jem'Hadar ships.
“Divert power from warp drive to the shields,” Ranma instructed Usagi.
“Aye,” she replied as the ship shook again.
“At least eight more ships inbound,” Minako reported as one of the warships exploded.
“Shields at 62 percent and holding,” Makoto said.
The Sisko ducked and weaved as she fought off the onslaught from the remaining warships. One by one, each of them exploded but not before taking down a bit more of the Sisko's shielding.
“Shields at ten percent!” Usagi called out.
Ranma looked to the last Jem'Hadar warship as a quantum torpedo ripped through its hull, causing it to split in half before exploding, lightly rocking the Sisko. He turned to Minako. “Any more?”
“I still have what I think are a couple of dozen ships on scan,” she answered. “But as I said before, they don't appear to have any power signature.”
“We can't do that again with shield this low,” Shampoo said to Ranma.
Ranma nodded and turned to Usagi. “How long before you can get our shields back up to at least 50 percent?”
Usagi blinked. “Not sure. We're working on diverting relays and restoring the regenerative-”
“Don't worry about the regenerative shielding,” Ranma ordered. “Just get our standard shielding up as soon as possible.” Usagi nodded as Ranma turned to Shampoo. “We should probably move away from this debris in case someone stumbles by.”
Shampoo nodded and moved towards the helm.
“Captain,” Minako called, “there is a spot about sixty-million kilometers from here which is pretty gassy and hidden, but where I think I might be able to get a better scan on where those ships are.”
Ranma looked to the helm station. “Then that is where we shall go.”
Shampoo had Ikuhara sail the mighty ship into the swirling gas cloud and bring it to a stop. Ranma eyed the gas suspiciously while Makoto began to chuckle.
“Nice hiding spot,” she grinned to her friend. “A minor static discharge is going to blow us right out of The Badlands.”
“Most of us,” Jansen murmured.
Minako just rolled her eyes. “It's not *that* volatile.”
Shampoo looked worriedly at the screen, as did Ikuhara. Ranma turned to Minako, deciding to trust her theory on the non-blowing-up-ness of the cloud as he was more interested in the potential location of any Jem'Hadar ships.
“Any ships on scan?”
Minako nodded. “Yes sir, several. I am getting a better scan and they appear to be either offline or derelict as they are not powered.”
Ranma thought about this for a moment. “Is there any sign of any defenses around them?”
Minako began to run some more scans, as did Makoto. Both officers sighed as they saw their displays.
“Yes,” Minako reported. “Seeing several turrets.”
“I'm also seeing what looks to potentially be a massive reactor core of some type.”
Shampoo looked up to Ranma who was storming back to his seat. “Shipyard?” she asked.
Ranma nodded. “I can't think of anything else it could be.” Without turning around, Ranma began to address Kaii. “Lt. Kaii, please prepare a communications probe. We're going to send it out of The Badlands to inform Starfleet of the situation.”
“Aye,” he replied.
“We should move out of the cloud before launching it,” Minako cautioned.
“You said it wasn't volatile,” Makoto smirked.
“I said it wasn't THAT volatile,” Minako clarified.
Ranma chuckled at the thought of surviving a massive Jem'Hadar onslaught only to be killed because of the propulsion system of an otherwise harmless probe. One that he launched no less.
“Probe ready,” Kaii reported as the Sisko drifted out of the cloud.
“Send them our current status and advise them we're going in for closer scans and will eliminate the target if possible,” Ranma said.
“Aye,” Kaii answered, typing up a message. Ranma turned to the helm station after looking at the small planet on the viewer for a few seconds.
“Take us over there,” he ordered.
Ikuhara nodded and began to pilot the ship towards what was believed to be a Jem'Hadar shipyard as Kaii fired off the probe out of the rear torpedo launcher, towards the edge of The Badlands.
Ranma watched the planet start to fill up most of the view screen. He did not adjust his gaze as Usagi called out to him.
“Sir, we have shields back to 65 percent. Best we can do till we get some of the damaged generators fixed.”
Ranma nodded. “Good work, Commander.”
Shampoo looked to Ranma who was standing behind her. “65 percent enough?”
Ranma shrugged. “If it's the best we have, it's the best we have.”
Shampoo eyed Ranma intently for a few seconds. There was certainly something different about his demeanor. Something that seemed to have changed over the past few hours, but she was not sure what or why, nor whether it was good or bad. She did know, however, that Ranma was different.
Ranma did not notice her stare. His tunnel vision had him fixated on the view screen. Slowly the planet began to pass underneath them and the Sisko crew got their first glimpse of the shipyard facility.
None of them liked what they saw.
It was a massive ship-making factory, complete with a dry dock that seemed even bigger than the largest facility orbiting Earth. Surrounding it were several small disruptor batteries, but that is not what bothered the bridge crew the most.
In the center-most dock was a nearly complete sister to Blackout.
“The batteries are targeting us,” Makoto reported.
“Make them go away,” Ranma replied, turning to Minako. “How well can you scan that facility?”
Minako, doing her best to ignore the shaking of the ship, began to run a few computations. “I can get a pretty thorough scan, but it seems that the facility is armored so penetrating too deep is difficult.”
An alarm began to sound after a rather nasty impact. Ranma spun around, in the process noticing that the port nacelle on the master situation display was blinking red.
“Report!” he ordered.
“Port nacelle seems to be venting plasma!” Usagi whimpered.
“Are shields down?” Ranma asked.
“No,” Makoto replied, “but one of those fucking disruptor cannons ignited some of that goddamned gas.”
Ranma scowled. “How serious is this?”
Usagi quickly read over the report she was getting. “They've managed to contain the leak, but JC thinks we may need to go outside to repair it.” Usagi sighed. “Regardless, that nacelle is useless right now.”
Ranma sighed. “Which means no warp at all.”
“All shipyard defenses are down,” Makoto reported.
“Reinforcement?” Shampoo asked.
Both Minako and Makoto shook their heads. “Doesn't look like it,” Minako replied.
Ranma looked to the giant facility on the main viewer before turning to Makoto, then Minako. “What kind of damage do you think we'd take if we fired a few volleys at that thing?”
Minako looked to Makoto before answering. “Quite honestly sir, none. Mainly because our weapons would bounce right off it.”
Ranma frowned at his operations officer as she continued. “The armoring seems to be made of a bi-hydron titanium poly-alloy that based on these readings was created just for the Federation.”
“The Infinity?” Ranma asked.
Makoto shook her head. “Maybe enough 'broadsides' from her would blow off part of the station.” She paused for a second before continuing. “If we are going to destroy it, we need to do it from inside.”
Ranma looked to Makoto for further explanation.
“Cause a feedback in the reactor core. Essentially activate the station's self-destruct without giving them away to deactivate it. As well, all those ships are likely getting power from the station, since they are generating none, so they will all be destroyed as well.”
“Can we beam through the armor?” Ranma asked.
Minako shook her head.
“But the station isn't shielded,” Jansen piped up. “Also, the ships aren't armored, only the station is.”
Ranma turned and looked to the station. His eyes moved up and down the giant purple reactor core that sat in the middle of the station. They then moved to the second 'Blackout' before moving back to Makoto. He nodded and motioned for her to follow him.
“Shampoo, you have the bridge.” Ranma and Makoto stepped into the turbolift as Shampoo acknowledged Ranma's instruction. “NSO Operations – Deck A,” Ranma instructed the lift.