Ranma stormed into the NSO transporter room, a look of both anger and confusion on his face. He quickly pried Lt. Yuki off Lt. Beckham who was the Delta team officer working the transporter and brought him back to the transporter console.
Shampoo quickly came in behind Ranma. She looked to where Ranma was talking to Lt. Beckham, then towards Kio, who was being physically restrained by the rest of Bravo team. Unsure of where to go, she decided to go speak to Lt. Yuki.
“Lieutenant, calm down,” Shampoo said.
“He lost Alpha Team!” Kio growled.
“I didn't lose them!” Beckham cried.
“What did happen,” Ranma asked.
“I plugged in the coordinates I was given for both groups,” he explained. “I activated the sequence, but as it started the first sequence, Alpha's, alerted me that the targeting sequence was being redirected. I attempted to abort at that point, as I didn't want anyone to end up on the uninhabitable area of the planetoid, which is why Bravo rematerialized here, but Alpha's had already completed.”
Ranma sighed. “Well-”
“Aino to Saotome,” Minako called out.
“Go ahead,” Ranma responded.
“Two things, first they are in the facility. I have found their comm signatures.”
“Can you-” Shampoo started.
“No,” Minako stated, cutting Shampoo off. “They are in some kind of transport inhibited area.”
“How did they get in there?” Ranma asked.
“Well, that's the other thing,” Minako replied. “Pallor wants to speak to you.”
“They did this, didn't they?” Kio snarled.
“Probably,” Ranma replied.
Anthony, fairly sure that Kio wasn't going to start choking Beckham again, let go of Kio. “Good thing you aborted that transport when you did, otherwise we'd be trapped too.”
Kio sighed. “Sorry I overreacted, Lieutenant.”
Beckham nodded. “Girls have attacked me for less.”
Ranma turned to Kio. “Go prep a Runabout. Find Lt. Devall. He's a pretty good pilot.”
“Yes sir,” Kio nodded before she and her group ran off. Ranma turned to Beckham and patted him on the shoulder. “You did good.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Ranma and Shampoo scurried out of the transporter room and back to the bridge.
From the moment Rei materialized she knew things were not right. First off, they were right in the middle of a large room. Secondly, Bravo team did not materialize with them. And thirdly...
“Commander,” Shelton whimpered, “I am reading about twenty Jem'Hadar coming at us quickly.”
“Take cover!” Rei ordered.
“Where?!” Parker asked as the group looked around.
It was a valid question. There was nothing in the room to hide behind. The room was completely open. No furniture, no boxes, only a single doorway that they assumed the Jem'Hadar would be coming through.
“Position along the door!” Rei ordered. “We'll flank them as they come in!”
Rei and her group began to move along the side of the door; however, they didn't realize that they were not alone in the room. The Jem'Hadar had the ability to 'cloak' themselves; hide in plain sight, and that is what they did, as they began to move, several Jem'Hadar soldiers appeared behind them and opened fire.
Rei's group turned around and fired, but as they did that, more came through the door.
Within a few moments, it was over.
Alpha team was down.
“You are not Pallor,” Ranma said looking at the humanoid figure of what he assumed was the Founder that was in Alpha Base.
“Very astute, Captain,” he responded. “I am Sor. I command the Dominion forces based here in this area of the Alpha Quadrant.”
“Ah, so you are the one I need to tell to go home then?” Ranma asked.
Sor smiled. “This is my home now. Granted it doesn't have the same charm as the Great Link does, but even 'gods' can be nostalgic, can we not?”
Ranma simply rolled his eyes.
“Captain, I am willing to make a deal with you,” Sor explained. “I do not want you to think I am unreasonable, and I would hope that it will make your people realize that living underneath Dominion control is not as bad as you all make it out to be.”
Ranma eyed the shapeshifter curiously. “What is it?”
“I will return your captured soldiers to you,” Sor turned and nodded off-screen. A Jem'Hadar walked up, dragging a semi-conscious Rei. He propped her up for Ranma to see. A small amount of blood trickled down her face.
“Unfortunately, they were slightly injured in their apprehension, but have been otherwise treated well within the norms for prisoners of war,” Sor said.
“I can't say the same for our citizens, some of which were children, who you brutally slaughtered from orbit while they ate, slept, and learned.”
Ranma narrowed his gaze at Sor. “You said a deal, so I assume you want something in exchange?”
Sor nodded. “I want both you, to pay for the crimes you have committed against the Dominion, and our stolen dreadnaught back.”
“I am no longer in possession of your dreadnaught,” Ranma said.
“Have you no ability to contact Starfleet?” Sor laughed. “You have an hour before we kill them.”
The communication closed. Kaii looked to Ranma. “Shall I ready a communications probe?”
“No,” Ranma dryly replied. “Even if we were going to consider this, Starfleet would never exchange that ship for five officers.” Ranma walked over to Minako. “Have you been able to find an access point for the rescue team?”
Minako nodded. “There is a docking area, but it's likely guarded.”
“What about a window?” Makoto asked.
“Window?” Ranma queried.
Makoto nodded. “They could probably just latch the Runabout to the side of the building, cut through a window and go in there.”
Minako looked at her scans. “There does appear to be fewer people on the north end of the facility.”
“Pass that along to the group,” Ranma nodded.
“I'm going to let you know right now,” Kio said to JC, “I do get motion sick.”
JC shrugged. “No atmosphere. Should be fine.”
“Though,” Anthony added, “if we have to dodge weapons fire, we'll be all zip, zoom, zag, woosh, weeeee!”
Kio glared at Anthony as Kagurazaka loaded up the last of the equipment on the ship. Ryouga and another Marine also boarded.
“Full house,” JC smiled.
“Someone has to protect you,” Ryouga smiled.
“Saotome to Satii, you are go.”
“Roger,” JC smiled as the doors to the Runabout closed and sealed. The forward shuttle bay on the ship opened and the small craft zipped out and headed down towards the facility.
Kio looked out the window towards it. She stared at it with disdain. She had not seen the image of Rei, blood on her face, but Makoto had told her about it. She had quietly contacted her; a personal request to make sure that Kio brought her friend back safe and sound.
Kio promised that she would. Kio also felt that it was important that she did it for her own personal reasons as well. Not just for the obvious ones, such as that it was her job, and that Rei was a fellow Starfleet officer, but there was something more now.
It made Kio's stomach churn just a little bit, but Kio was beginning to think she was starting to like Rei as a person. She was beginning to see Rei as a somewhat decent human being, and not just as the squawking, nagging crow constantly pecking at her.
Kio's stomach churned again when JC whipped the Runabout around so that the dorsal airlock would line up to the building. He gently placed the small ship up against the side of the building, allowing the magnetic locks to grab hold and an airtight seal to be formed.
Kagurazaka opened the airlock and quickly began cutting the transparent aluminum that the window was made from. Once he was complete, he was pulled away by Kio who kicked the now cut, faux glass out and began to move into the building.
“Uh, Lieutenant-” Anthony called.
Kio moved into the opening, promptly falling once she was no longer under the pull of the Runabout's grav plating.
“Grr...” Kio groaned as she looked to the window where the rest of her team was more carefully crawling out and hopping down to the floor.
Anthony quickly moved to help Kio up as Bravo team checked the area for Jem'Hadar. “You okay?” Anthony asked.
Kio nodded and looked out the window at the Runabout mounted sideways on the side of the building.
“What happens when they pull away?” she asked.
“Explosive decompression,” Xiang said. “Which is why they need to stay there until we find the others and beam them out.”
JC poked his head out. “We're sealing the airlock to make it harder for any Jem'Hadar who do come this way to get on board.”
Kio nodded and motioned for her group to come with her as JC sunk back into the scout craft and sealed it up.
Pallor looked over some of the weapons that the Jem'Hadar had taken from Alpha team. He was not familiar with most of them. He had known that the Federation had experimented with projectile weapons, but normally they were too docile to use equipment that did not at least give the operator the option of not killing their target.
He looked at some of the body armor as well. It was designed to work well against Jem'Hadar polaron weaponry. He smirked a bit. Well, but not perfectly. Of course, it was not necessarily the shooting that had done in the group of interlopers, as a couple of the group had been beaten pretty severely by the Jem'Hadar flanking.
“What are you doing?” Sor asked the Vorta, startling him.
“Founder,” Pallor said, spinning around and bowing. “I was just investigating the equipment that was found on the Starfleet group that assaulted your base.”
“This equipment is not what I would call 'standard Federation issue',” he explained.
Sor nodded. “No.” Sor moved past a quickly back-pedaling Pallor with his two Jem'Hadar guards and picked up Rei's rifle. He examined it for a moment, before turning and firing it, shooting a nearby wall.
“These seem to be...” Sor paused for a moment, “special soldiers with newer equipment. That round moved at extremely high velocity.” He turned to one of his guards. “Bring me the leader.”
The Jem'Hadar nodded and ran off as Sor looked to the rifle some more.
“Are they a threat to the Dominion?” Pallor asked.
Sor glared at him, causing Pallor to cower slightly. “Of course not. If they were a threat, do you think they would be locked in our containment cells?”
“No, Founder,” Pallor whimpered. “Of course not.”
“That ship,” Sor said, “is different as well. An Akira class ship should not have survived as long as it did. As well, I have never seen the other one before.”
“We should capture them,” Pallor suggested.
Sor again glared at Pallor, again causing the Vorta to cower behind one of the Jem'Hadar soldiers. “How exactly do you suggest we do that? While the Federation is no match for the Dominion, they do currently control access from the Gamma Quadrant,” Sor sighed. “Until we can rebuild our forces here, we will have to be content on simply having Saotome.”
“You do believe they will agree to the swap?”
Sor nodded. “The Federation will not allow their people to die to us. And if Saotome is like any other Starfleet captain I have met, he will sacrifice himself to save his crew.”
Sor laughed slightly. “They don't understand the point of a soldier is to be sacrificed for the larger goal.”
“The Founder is wise,” Pallor beamed. Sor simply rolled his eyes as his Jem'Hadar guard returned, dragging Rei behind him. Sor pointed to a chair next to a small table. The guard nodded and tossed Rei into the chair, Rei grunting in pain as she landed in it. The guard quickly tied her arms to a light fixture above her head.
“What is your name?” Sor asked Rei.
Rei ignored him.
“Please, let's not make this dirty,” Sor said, a slight tone of frustration crossing his voice. “To make this clear, for every act of insubordination you give me, I will punish one of your soldiers, not you.”
Rei looked up to Sor, a narrow, defiant gaze on her face.
“Fine,” Sor said, turning to one of the Jem'Hadar. “Go find the lowest ranking of the group and see how they enjoy plasma-shock treatment.”
The Jem'Hadar nodded and began to walk off.
“Wait...” Rei said, softly but angrily.
Sor held up his hand, halting the Jem'Hadar. “Will you talk to me now?”
Rei glared at Sor again. “Commander Rei Hino.”
Sor smiled. “I am glad you have decided to cooperate. Which of those two ships overhead are you assigned to? Or are you part of Starfleet Intelligence?”
“I am assigned to the U.S.S. Benjamin L. Sisko,” Rei stated, in an almost robotic tone.
Sor again nodded. “What were your orders when you attempted to breach our building?”
Sor laughed. The nearby Jem'Hadar and Pallor followed the Founder's lead and laughed as well. Sor gave them all angry glares, which shut the entire group up before holding up Rei's rifle and turning back to her.
“This is not a normal Federation phaser. Where did you get it?”
Rei did not answer.
Sor sighed. “I guess I shouldn't expect you to answer something like that, as it would be giving information to your enemy.” Pallor looked to Sor oddly, finding it strange that he was not infuriated that Rei refused to answer him.
Sor looked over the rifle, flipping some of the switches. “I must say, I find this a remarkable device and look forward to equipping the Jem'Hadar with them. Has both a phaser setting...”
Sor turned, pointed the rifle, and shot Rei in her right leg, the phaser setting placed on high stun. However, since it was not a direct shot, and merely hit her in the leg, it simply burned and caused a great amount of pain, forcing Rei to grit her teeth to not vocalize her discomfort.
Sor smirked a bit. “Despite not having any 'armor' on, you are still protected. The Federation should thank us because if it were not for the war, you would still be wandering around, unprotected and with those tiny little phasers that could barely kill a cat.”
Rei grimaced. “Are you insane?”
Sor shook his head as he made some more adjustments to the rifle. “No, not at all. In fact, throughout history, some of the greatest technological advances in many, many species have been made because of war or for military purposes.”
Sor finished his adjustments and pointed the rifle at Rei's left leg. “Let's see how your suit does against the projectile round.”
Rei screamed as Sor fired, the round ripping through her leg, the muscle, the bone, and out the back.
“Not as well,” Pallor smiled.
Sor smiled as well. “No, not as well indeed.” He handed the rifle to Pallor. “Get these replicated. If they beam in anymore, I don't want them captured, I want them killed by their own weapons.”
“Right away,” Pallor responded, taking the rifle, and scurrying away. Sor moved up to Rei and ran his hand through her hair before wiping away some of the tears off her face.
“Now, now. Don't cry. In just another forty minutes you will either be safe aboard your ship, or you will be dead. Either way, the pain will be gone, and you won't have to worry about things anymore.”
Rei's hate-filled stare was not lost on Sor. He chuckled a bit at it, till Rei spit on him, at which point he simply shook his head. The changeling turned to the Jem'Hadar. “Let's keep her in here but play with her a bit more.” Sor pointed to Rei as he continued to bark orders. “Get that suit off of her.”
The Jem'Hadar complied as they began to untie Rei. Rei struggled, but it was futile as soon she was tied back up and down to the tank top and shorts that she was wearing under her jumpsuit.
“That wound doesn't look so bad,” Sor commented on the small entry wound on Rei's left leg. He looked to the back of her leg and noticed a similar, small exit wound.
“I bet all the damage is on the inside,” Sor commented to himself. “Oh, you clever, clever Starfleet.”
Rei continued to glare at Sor as a Jem'Hadar approached her with what looked to be a large 'cattle-prod' that had a fiery glow on the end of it.
The shot and the scream could be heard from Kio and Bravo's position. The group decided that they would not work under the assumption that it was an execution because if that had been the case, there would be no scream.
You shoot someone in the back of the head when you execute them. There is no scream.
Regardless, despite the urgency there was before, there was now additional urgency surrounding the situation. Their friends were being tortured and the longer it took them to get to where they were, the longer they would suffer.
All five of them knew that moving slowly was no longer an option.
Another scream echoed through the corridors causing the grip Kio had on her rifle to tighten.
Kagurazaka, who had taken the lead quickly held up his hand. He motioned for the group to back into a small doorway. They did and they waited. Two Jem'Hadar came walking around the corner. Kagurazaka leaped and grabbed one, Anthony was about to grab the other, but Kio beat him to it, wrapping her arm around his neck and bringing her knife to bear, running it across his throat.
Jem'Hadar's blood sprayed everywhere as his arteries were cut. Kio felt the blood cover her gloved hands and her arms, but she did not care. To her, right now, it was simply a victory trophy. The more Jem'Hadar blood she could be covered in today, the happier she would be.
Kagurazaka was simply content in jamming his blade into the Jem'Hadar's back and in through his heart that way. He was as dead as Kio's, but far less messy, and far less personal.
Kio motioned for the group to keep moving but Xiang held them back.
“Lieutenant, we might have an issue,” he said.
Kio turned to him and noticed what he was holding up.
“Are those Alpha team's weapons?” Kio asked.
Xiang ran his tricorder over it and shook his head. “It's the same kind of weapon, but it's been replicated.”
“Crap,” Anthony said. “They've armed the Jem'Hadar with our weapons.”
“Then we know what we have to do,” Kio remarked, moving her group again as Xiang picked up the two Jem'Hadar's rifles. “Kill them before they can kill us.”
The group nodded and continued forward. To attract as little attention to themselves as possible, they were doing what they could to avoid confrontation, and when they did come across a roving patrol, they would kill them using stealth, hand to hand tactics, rather than firing their weapons, which might alert the Founder to their presence.
It was a successful tactic. The group made their way through the facility to the area where they thought Rei and the others in Alpha team were being held for the most part unmolested. They only came across a couple of patrols and were able to kill those without any alarms being sounded.
Anthony was becoming a bit worried about Kio. He was concerned that her anger towards the Jem'Hadar and the changeling holding their compatriots was going to end up clouding her judgment. He realized he might have to step up and reel her back in if he thought she was going to put them in a bad position.
He did not want to say anything though. He knew she was an emotional person, but he also knew she had grown and had developed a keen sense of leadership. He didn't expect her to put them in a bad place but feared what might happen if they stumbled upon Commander Hino... dead.
“Lieutenant,” Kagurazaka whispered, “I am reading multiple bio-signs a few meters this way.”
Kio nodded and moved the group slowly towards a door. She began to consider the plan of attack in her head as Kagurazaka ran more scans.
“They appear to be about fifteen meters below us as well,” he reported.
Kio looked up. “Down one deck?”
Kagurazaka nodded. “That appears to be the case, but I am not seeing a floor impeding my scans through this room.”
Kio nodded. “Stay here, I am going to take a look.”
“Kio,” Anthony objected.
“I am just going to peek in,” Kio assured him. Anthony nodded reluctantly and took up a defensive stance to protect her as she opened the door.
Kio cautiously investigated the room. She saw nothing to the left, and nothing to the right. Ahead about ten meters she saw what appeared to be a balcony. She slowly crawled over towards it and looked into the main control room of the facility.
There she saw about thirty Jem'Hadar either guarding entrances, manning stations, or keeping an eye on what Kio assumed were the cells where Alpha team was being held.
Farther in the back, however, Kio saw her. It took her every ounce of effort she had not to gasp audibly. She saw her commanding officer, tied up and stripped down. She looked like she had been kicked around quite a bit, as even at Kio's distance she could plainly see several large bruises and burns on Rei's body.
Kio quickly shuffled back to the door and informed the rest of the team of the situation.
“Make every shot count,” Kio ordered bluntly. “They have Commander Hino in a very vulnerable position, so we need to make sure the guards by her are killed first.”
The group nodded, replied with quite 'yes ma'am's', and followed Kio back into the room. Kio quickly pulled out her binoculars and looked around again, trying to find the Founder. She noticed a man who had been identified to her earlier as Pallor, and then another whom she assumed was the Founder, both were by Rei.
“Don't shoot the changeling unless you have to,” Kio said. “They want it alive.”
The group nodded.
“Three,” Kio began counting down.
Bravo team opened fire from their perched positions. Pallor looked up and saw them before grabbing Sor and pulling him behind some Jem'Hadar to act as shields.
The Jem'Hadar returned fire with the confiscated Starfleet weapons, the shots hitting above and below Bravo team. The team was having to duck and move around to avoid being hit by the super-sonic projectiles but were able to avoid the shots thanks to their better positions and better training.
Jem'Hadar were being dropped left and right. Sor growled at his soldiers being mowed down and smacked Pallor.
“WHY DID THEY GET HERE?”
Pallor cried as he responded. “They must not have beamed in!”
Sor hissed at the sniveling Vorta and barked orders at a Jem'Hadar soldier. “Kill her,” he said, pointing to Rei.
The Jem'Hadar nodded and placed the barrel of the rifle to Rei's forehead. Before he could place his finger over the trigger, however, his head literally exploded as several rounds from Second Lieutenant Kio Yuki's rifle impacted his skull.
Sor shook his head. “Let's go,” he told Pallor.
Pallor nodded and hit some buttons on a terminal. Both he and Sor beamed away, as well as a half dozen Jem'Hadar who were near the pair as guards.
It did not take long for Kio's team to finish off the remaining group of Jem'Hadar. A couple came through the door behind them but ended up walking into a photon mine Xiang had set up, and were stunned.
Kio stood, walked to the two Jem'Hadar who lay stunned on the ground. She kicked them both a couple of times before pointing her rifle at them firing two shots, killing them both.
Anthony's eyes followed Kio as she moved towards the edge of the balcony. Kagurazaka began to pull out a rope and attached it to the edge, however, Kio did not wait. She vaulted over the edge, dropped about ten meters to the top of a terminal, then bounced down the remaining five to the deck below.
“I can't do that,” Anthony said, as he began to rappel down.
Kio ran over to Rei and quickly cut the rope holding her arms up. Rei smiled weakly as she dropped her arms down, allowing them to rest on Kio's shoulders.
“Are you okay, Commander?” Kio asked.
Rei nodded a bit. “Yes,” she quietly lied. Rei was not alright, and it did not take a medical tricorder to see that.
“Good work,” she added.
Kio turned to Anthony and Kagurazaka. “Check on the others.”
The pair nodded and ran to the cells as Yayo began to scan Rei. The young medic grimaced at what she saw.
“She's pretty bad,” Yayo said. “We need to get her to the ship.”
Kio nodded and attached a transport enhancer to Rei. “Yuki to Sisko, one to transport directly to sickbay.”
“Acknowledged,” Minako replied.
Rei allowed her hand to slide down and hold Kio's hand for a moment as she smiled. Kio smiled back before leaning in and kissing an incredibly surprised Rei on the lips.
“Turnabout,” Kio smiled as Rei dematerialized.
Anthony walked back around the corner with Kagurazaka and headed over to Kio. “The other four were a bit shaken up, but for the most part, uninjured,” he explained. “We sent them back to the ship.”
Kio nodded and moved towards the terminal Pallor was working on. Yayo poked Anthony and grinned. Anthony blinked.
“What?” he asked.
“You missed it again,” Yayo smiled.
Yayo grinned even more.
“No way,” Anthony gasped.
“I think Lt. Kio Hino has a nice ring to it, don't you?” Yayo whispered.
Anthony glared at Yayo with a look that very well could have killed a lesser woman. Yayo simply chuckled and walked away. Anthony, feeling a bit dejected, moved over towards Kio.
“So, boss,” he said. “What now?”
“Well, it appears they beamed to that ship in orbit.”
Anthony nodded. “The ship isn't going anywhere.”
“Nope,” Kio agreed.
“Another job well done!” Anthony smiled.
“We're not done,” Kio growled.
Anthony cocked his head a bit. “We're not?”
“Our job was to capture the changeling and that is what we're going to do.”
Anthony shrugged. “Sounds good.”
“What's wrong?” Kio asked, noticing a lack of enthusiasm in Anthony's voice.
“Well, I'm all for not leaving a job incomplete,” he said, “but if you'll pardon me for saying this, I am worried that you might be more out for revenge than for successfully completing the mission.”
Kio sighed. “Can't it be both?” she asked honestly.
Anthony shook his head. “I think you and I both know how you reacted after Mike died. The last thing I need is to see you flip out and get yourself killed trying to avenge what they did to Commander Hino.”
Kio nodded. “I appreciate your concern. I promise I won't flip out for no other reason than you missing me.”
Anthony rolled his eyes. “Just once I would like to be taken seriously.”
Kio smiled slightly. “But then you wouldn't get all huffy.”
Kio nodded as she hit her communicator. “Yuki to Sisko.”