Both security officers stationed in Salek's office worriedly watched their boss, their eyes slowly following him from one side of the room to the other as he paced.
Salek had been pacing from one side to the other for the past fifteen minutes as he waited for Young to respond to his communication. It was not Young's fault, he knew. He had made Young wait much longer for him when he was busy. That, however, did not change the fact that it irritated him to the brink of his emotional repression.
Finally, the audio channel came to life with a crackle. “Salek?” Young asked.
“Yes. I am here,” he answered, running to his desk. “Are you alone?”
“Of course!” Young scoffed. Young knew their conversations were private and was starting to get offended by the fact that Salek asked him that every time they spoke. “Are you?”
“More or less,” Salek responded, referring to the security officers. “I am in a safe place though, so everyone here is handpicked by me and is totally loyal.”
“Mm,” Young mumbled, not sure if he was convinced. “What do you need? The Council was not happy that I left in the middle of a briefing.”
“I need to know why the Federation has cloaked ships flying around.”
There was an uneasy pause on Young's end. “Cloaked ships?”
“There are no cloaked Federation ships, except for the Defiant. And that cloak was removed after the war,” Young explained.
Salek sighed, repressing the frustration he was feeling. “You are lying.”
“I am not!” Young snapped. “Why would I lie to you?”
Salek turned and paced a little more. “Saotome's soldiers beamed down from a cloaked ship to kidnap both Saanik and his lawyer.”
“His lawyer? Why?” Young asked.
“It does not matter why!” Salek snapped. “I want to know where he got a cloaked ship from and how many there are!”
“CLOAKS DON'T WORK WITH FEDERATION SHIPS!!!!” Young screamed.
“What about the Defiant?” Salek retorted.
“It was configured to work with the help of the Romulans.” Young sighed. “Salek, you have to understand! The treaty! It prohibited us from making cloaks to work with our ships!”
“Are you sure all parts of the Federation obeyed that treaty?” Salek asked.
Young sighed. “Every Starfleet ship that is within six months travel of Vulcan is accounted for and is either on route to Wolf 3-5-9 for Operation Reclamation, is staged around Earth for defense, or is otherwise dry-docked. I assure you, there are no cloaked Federation sh-”
“Communication jammed,” the Vulcan computer reported as the facility's alert klaxons began to sound.
“Operations to Minister Salek,” a voice called out over the intercom.
“Yes?” Salek responded, dryly.
“A Federation ship just decloaked and is approaching the outer perimeter.”
Salek rubbed his head and bit his lip, before storming for the door to his office.
“Every Starfleet ship that is within six months travel of Vulcan is accounted for and is either on route to Wolf 3-5-9 for Operation Reclamation, is staged around Earth for defense, or is otherwise dry-docked. I assure you, there are no cloaked Federation ships-”
“The communication link has been severed,” the Starfleet computer explained to Young. The Councilman looked at it oddly for a moment before pressing a couple of buttons, each one buzzed at him in their standard, non-compliant manner.
“Why can't you reestablish a link?” Young asked it.
“The signal is being jammed at the source,” the female voice replied.
Young leaned back. “Oh shit.” He turned and looked out the window.
FIVE MINUTES TO ASSAULT
Minako quickly pushed her way through the group of marines and security officers assembling in the cargo bay of the Salvation. It was times like this that she became more and more annoyed at how much they all looked alike when they were in their combat uniforms.
She had the idea of activating the bay's fire suppression system, as locating a small pig would probably be easier, but that would end up being more trouble than it would be worth.
Luckily, it didn't come to that.
“Lost?” a voice called out as a hand grabbed the back of her uniform.
Minako spun around to Ryouga and smiled. “You're so hard to find without your bandana!”
Ryouga grinned. “I can't be giving the Vulcans something to aim at.”
Minako chuckled. “I can't stay long, but I wanted to wish you good luck.”
Ryouga nodded. “Thanks.”
The pair stood in silence for a moment, before Minako took Ryouga's hand and placed it on her chest. “I'm sorry for being so stupid before.”
Ryouga looked at her and slowly shook his head. “You weren't.” Ryouga brought his other hand up to her face and caressed it slowly. “I am, I guess for lack of a better term, pig-headed.”
“But,” Ryouga chuckled at his own joke, “have faith that you and I came together for a reason, and no number of Vulcans are going to separate us.”
Minako smiled as Ryouga reached into his pocket and pulled out his bandana. He then untied Minako's red ribbon, retying her hair, rather haphazardly with the bandana. Both chuckled at his handiwork.
“Eh, you might need to fix that.”
Minako laughed before the pair shared a kiss. The Salvation's operations officer ran off as Col. Lee stepped up onto the podium to address the marines and security assembled.
“Okay, ladies and gentlemen. You've been given the nuts and bolts, so here's the quick reminder.” Lee said, pointing to a diagram obtained by long-range scans.
“We're going to attack the perimeter security forces and as many interior forces as we can. Take as much heat off the NEO teams who will be inserted in to grab the high-value target.
“Make sure your phasers are set to high stun. The Vulcans, whether they realize it or not, are not our enemy. However, they will not likely be showing us the same courtesy.”
Lee pointed to his vest. “Now, the Vulcan disruptor fries your central nervous system, causing your brain to lose the ability to tell your heart to beat. Your vest will absorb that shot – but if it will lose that ability if it gets hit a couple of times.
“Getting hit in the arm or leg will probably not kill you, but it will cause major damage and probably cause you to lose that limb.” Lee gritted his teeth. “You'll be dead before you hit the ground if you're shot in the face.”
“Okay, get to your assigned transporter rooms. We beam down in five minutes!”
“GO GO GO!” someone yelled as the Starfleet soldiers began to clear out of the cargo bay.
ONE MINUTE TO ASSAULT
On the bridge of the Infinity, the red alert lights slowly pulsed, accentuating the battle-ready mood-lighting of the massive warship. Ukyo sat, legs crossed, eying the viewscreen intently. Waiting, watching for the stars to stop streaking.
With a flash, they did. There she saw it. A small, moon-sized planet off in the distance. Still too far away to see the ships protecting it.
Ukyo stood and walked to the situation console, known to the Infinity crew as SitCon, and looked to Genma. “Admiral?”
“As expected, twenty-five ships and a number of planetary defense turrets. As well as a pretty large tachyon net with mines.”
Ukyo turned to operations. “Is the Salvation with us?”
“Yes ma'am,” operations replied.
Ukyo looked to Genma who simply nodded.
“Helm, take us in. Full impulse.”
“Aye,” the helm officer smiled.
The Infinity roared forward towards the planet, the Salvation however stayed parked behind, waiting for the right moment to push through.
Ukyo watched the tactical display. “Forty-five seconds to range of the ships, thirty-five to the tachyon net,” operations called out.
Ukyo nodded. Genma's eyes ping-ponged from her to the viewscreen then back to the tactical display.
*Maybe she would have been the better wife for Ranma?* He thought.
*Another time!!!!* Another voice yelled.
“Twenty seconds to tachyon net!”
Ukyo raised her hand.
“DECLOAK! TARGET SENTRIES! WEAPONS FREE!” Ukyo yelled.
The Infinity, since the first time leaving spacedock, decloaked. Her enormous size blew through a few asteroids that were in her way. Her phaser banks lit up and began laying waste to the automated sentry guns that had started to take aim on her.
“Jam all communications,” Genma ordered.
“Aye!” someone else responded.
“Launch wave one, clear the minefield,” Ukyo's first officer snapped.
“Launching!” Anton called out over the comm.
Ukyo watched the scene play out on the SitCon as a dozen shuttle-size fighters shot out, two at a time, from the aft of the Infinity.
“The defense ships are turning this way,” tactical called.
“Took them long enough,” Ukyo smirked.
Genma grinned. “Even with the mines down, we still need to take down the net in order to keep the Salvation concealed till they make their deposit.”
“What is generating its power?” The second officer asked.
Ukyo looked at the display. “There,” she pointed at an asteroid near the planet that appeared to be sending power to the grid. “Power generator.”
The first officer hit some buttons as he began to issue more orders. “Anton, I need this power generator gone. Launch wave two.”
“First Vulcan ships are in range!” tactical called out.
The rocking of the Infinity confirmed that she was indeed within weapons range of at least some of the Vulcan cruisers.
“We need to get the rest of the fighters out before we can start maneuvering,” the first officer growled.
“I know,” Ukyo snapped. “Anton, get those fighters out. All of them.”
“We're launching as fast as we can, Captain,” Anton replied.
“Sentries are down,” Tactical reported.
“KILL THOSE SHIPS THEN!” The XO snapped.
“Shields at 88 percent.” The engineering reported.
“Anton?” Ukyo asked.
“Half of wave three is out.”
Ukyo rapped her fingernails on the SitCon impatiently as one of the Vulcan ships was obliterated by a massive burst of Infinity's firepower. However, Infinity was about to be within range of all remaining twenty-four ships within a minute.
“All fighters out!” Anton reported.
“DEFENSIVE PATTERN GAMMA ONE!” the XO screamed.
The Infinity quickly shot downward, dodging several dozen incoming torpedoes. The tactical officer used this to his advantage, firing several of his own, and with the assistance of the fighters, destroyed or disabled two of the Vulcan ships.
Ukyo smiled as more reports came in. “Captain, all mines are clear on Salvation's flight path and the net is down.”
Genma smiled as well as he began to relay the information to his counterpart onboard the Salvation.
Ranma squirmed around in his chair. He did not care for simply sitting there and watching the beating that the Infinity seemed to be taking.
Shampoo eyed him cautiously. She knew exactly what he was thinking for she was thinking it too. Both were torn between 'their job' and helping their vastly outnumbered colleagues.
As each additional Vulcan ship crawled into range, Ranma got squirmier, until he could not take it anymore. He jumped from his seat. “Admiral.”
“Ranma, we cannot allow our insertion to be compromised,” Larson replied. “The Infinity is a big ship, and she is not going to be destroyed before she launches all her fighters and is able to start moving.”
Ranma slowly sat back down and rapped his fingernails on his armrest. Shampoo slowly walked from her station and placed her hand on top of his. She looked down at him.
“Ranma,” she said softly.
Ranma looked at her.
“That very annoying,” she smiled.
Ranma could not help but chuckle. “Sorry.”
“See?” Larson smiled, pointing at the viewer and the wreckage of two Vulcan ships, one derelict, one floating away, and the Infinity pulling away from the group.
“Sorry. Just good friend of mine and all,” Ranma explained.
Larson nodded as he read a message on his terminal. “Road's clear, by the way.”
“Neat,” Ranma smiled. He turned to Shampoo. “Take us in, please.”
Shampoo nodded and quickly bounded to the helm station. “Helm, bring us to transporter range of the planet. Full impulse.”
Ranma hit his communicator. “Saotome to Hino and Lee. Go time, one minute.”
“Aye,” they both replied.
Ranma turned to Larson. “Can we shoot something once they know we're here?”
Larson smiled. “By all means.”
Makoto sighed loudly. “THANK YOU.”
The Salvation barreled ahead at full impulse, somehow managing to blow right through the battle and the swarm of Infinity's fighters without hitting any and into orbit over the planet.
Once there, they establish a position over the facility. Ranma walks up to Larson's station and examines it. “I'm sending this down to both groups,” Ranma explained.
Minako looked to Ranma and Larson. “The security detail has transported.”
Just a few more seconds.
Minako looked to her terminal, then back to Ranma. “The NEO teams have transported.”
Ranma again nodded and turned to Makoto.
“Red alert, decloak, shields up, pick a ship, and kill it. I don't care what order that's in.”
Makoto grinned. “Aye.”
A majority of the then Sisko, now Salvation crew was security or marine officer or enlisted personnel, so the number of forces that appeared outside of the Vulcan facility was quite numerous. Two hundred and eleven to be exact.
The external guards were not ready for them. Logic would dictate that any cloaked ship would be discovered by their tachyon net.
However, the external guards were not the main meat of the facility as the Salvation detachment would soon find out. Once those guards were stunned and detained, the first group met heavy resistance.
It took some time, but eventually, the Salvation group pushed in and forced the remaining Vulcans further into the facility. The marines, trained for ship boarding, felt right at home in this kind of scenario. The security personnel, who were more trained for repelling boarders, felt a little out of place but were confident in their abilities.
However, that did not stop them from letting the marines take point.
“We don't want to push them all up to where the HVT is,” Lee whispered.
“Yes, please don't,” Rei replied from on the top floor where she and the other NEO forces were hunting for Salek.
Ryouga suddenly stopped his group. His excellent hearing caught something, and he motioned towards a doorway. A second group returned to them, and they slowly opened it and tossed in a stun grenade.
The grenade exploded and the marines ran in, shooting anything that moved. Some of it shot back. Ryouga found himself slamming into a wall and sliding to the ground.
Within a few seconds, the shooting stopped. Some security forces rushed in and began to restrain several dozen stunned Vulcans while the marine medics began to look at Ryouga and another marine who had been shot.
“We need to get you back to the ship,” the medic said.
Ryouga looked over as the medic and the second marine who had taken a disruptor blast to the shoulder dematerialized. Ryouga looked to his medic. “Well?”
“How's your head?” he asked.
Ryouga scoffed. “I hit my head harder than that on purpose!”
The medic blinked. “Why would you do that?”
Ryouga sighed. “My head is fine.”
“Oh. Well then, you're fine. The vest absorbed the blast completely.”
Ryouga nodded and stood. “Thanks.”
The medic nodded, looked at Ryouga a little oddly one last time before walking off. Ryouga began to walk out after him but ran into Col. Lee.
“Sir,” Ryouga acknowledged, snapping to attention.
“Captain, those are some mighty fine ears you have there.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Lee nodded. “According to the bio scan we had, that was most of the complex’s security. Seems like the green-blooded bastards were going to try and outflank us.”
Lee looked to some of the still unconscious Vulcans. “Son, you may have saved countless lives here.”
Ryouga grinned. “Just doing my job, sir.”
Lee patted Ryouga on the shoulder. “I used to swear I would rip your head off because I was always drinking coffee when you would knock the ship around.”
Ryouga looked at his boots. “Oh...”
Lee laughed. “Glad I never got the chance!”
“Yeah, me too.”
Lee patted Ryouga on the shoulder again. “Let's go.”
Ryouga nodded and the pair quickly walked to catch up with the rest of the group.
Rei, Shelton, and Parker slowly crept around corridors, checking office after office, not finding a sole. Rei had already concluded that any remaining security on this level had gathered with Salek to defend him, so when they did find him, it would be ugly.
That was, of course, if Salek had not decided that the logical choice would be to kill himself to avoid any information falling into their hands.
Though nothing about this plot seemed logical to Rei, so she had no real fear that he would be the type to off himself.
Parker sighed as the next room turned up empty. “Shit, this sure would be easier if the damned walls didn't block our tricorders.”
Rei nodded. “Chief, are you having any luck?”
“No ma'am,” Kio replied. “We're getting closer to the end of our search though. We'll-”
The sudden end of Kio's sentence worried Rei. “Chief?”
Rei looked to Shelton and Parker. “Kio?”
“AMBUSH!” Kio yelled.
Rei nodded to her two partners and the trio took off running in Bravo Team's direction.
Kio, Anthony, and Mike were growing quite frustrated. They swore they had checked these same rooms before but, at least according to their map, they were in a different part of the building.
Most of the offices seemed rather nonchalant. Kio supposed that is what you would want a secret intelligence facility to look like though. After all, if you made it look like a spying center, it would not be secret.
The group did happen to stumble across one person. Mike stunned her, much to Kio's displeasure. She had hoped they could 'convince' her to tell them where to go. Anthony tried to explain that Kio did not know how to torture anyway, but Kio still was angry.
Then there was Rei. Every five minutes. 'Have you found him yet?' 'Have you found him yet?' Kio was ready to tell her 'yes' just to shut her up, but then, of course, she would have to find him before Rei got there.
“Hey, this looks like an important office,” Mike noted as the group slinked up to a doorway with some rather large Vulcan print on the door.
“It probably says 'mops' on it,” Anthony groaned.
Kio chuckled. “Mike, if we find a janitor in there, let's interrogate him before we shoot him.”
“Aye,” Mike groaned.
“Chief, are you having any luck?” Rei's voice called out. Kio rolled her eyes as Anthony disabled the lock and slid the door open.
“No ma'am,” Kio replied as the group slowly walked in. The room was pitch black, with minimal lighting. Anthony did his best Vulcan impression as Kio continued to talk to Rei.
“Ha'ge!” Anthony called out, activating the lights.
“We're getting closer to the end of our search though. We'll-” Kio was cut off as the lights turned on, revealing about two dozen Vulcan security officers and Salek standing against the back of the office, their weapons pointed at Bravo team.
“Chief?” Rei's voice asked.
“Lower your weapons,” Salek demanded.
“Kio?” Rei's voice once again called.
“Last chance,” Salek again demanded.
The Vulcans began to fire as the trio dove behind some office furniture. Salek quickly went through a door into a second office as his security officers continued to fire on Bravo Team.
“AMBUSH!” Kio screamed.
Mike looked to Kio. “This couch isn't going to last forever.”
“No,” Kio agreed. “No, it isn't.” Kio quickly set down her phaser rifle and pulled out her small projectile handgun from its holster attached to her hip.”
“Chief?” Anthony asked.
“Rules can kiss my ass right now,” Kio stated. She turned to the couch and started firing. The projectile rounds shot right through the couch and through the phase-resistant garments the Vulcan security forces were using for cover.
“I only have fifteen rounds though,” Kio acknowledged.
Mike and Anthony pulled out their projectile guns as well. “Same.” They stated.
“Make them count,” Kio ordered.
The trio continued to fire through their quickly degrading cover. Their tactic was starting to fail however as the Vulcans were beginning to move and find more sturdy protection. Eventually, all three of them ran out of bullets and were forced to go back to their phaser rifles, with still a dozen Vulcan guards remaining.
“Okay, here's the plan-” Kio started to state but is interrupted by a disruptor blast that blows through the couch and passes between her and Anthony.
“Move?” Anthony asked.
“Yes,” Kio replied.
Mike nodded, and stands, firing rapidly at the Vulcans, hitting two of them, and allowing Kio and Anthony to move to a new position behind a knocked-over conference table.
Mike quickly follows. Kio turns towards him as she hears a thud. Time stops for her as she sees her subordinate lying a mere meter away, motionless.
“MIKE!” she screams.
“FUCK!” Anthony yells.
Kio starts to stand, but Anthony grabs the back of her vest and pulls her back down. “Jesus, Kio, don't be stupid.”
Anthony nodded and hit his communicator. “Bravo to Salvation. Medical emergency. Beam Sargent Simpson directly to sickbay.”
“Acknowledged,” a voice on the other end replied. Within a couple of seconds, Mike dematerialized and is transported to the ship. Anthony looked at his friend, who is simply staring at her rifle which is laying on the ground by her knees.
Disruptor fire continued to pass over their heads and hit the table protecting them. Anthony poked his head out to see the Vulcans advancing on them.
“Dammit Kio, snap out of it. It happens. We're all going to much worse off if those guys get a hold of us.”
Kio turned to Anthony and slapped him. Hard. “It happens? You fuck.”
Anthony sighed. “I guess the Commander was right. You're not fit for this job. And what's most annoying about it is both Mike and I end up looking like morons for actually respecting you and looking up to you.”
Anthony popped up and shot a Vulcan before ducking to avoid an onslaught of disruptor fire.
“You guys look up to me?” Kio asked, quietly.
Anthony peaked around the corner, shot another, and quickly ducked back in again as more green blobs of energy came flying at him. “Of course we do, stupid. Do you think we'd put our lives into the hands of someone we didn't respect? Into the hands of someone we didn't think could actually do the job? Into the hands of someone we didn't think knew what the hell they were doing?”
Anthony, once again resembling a jack in the box, popped up and took down another Vulcan before hiding again.
“The only one too stupid on our ship to realize how good you are is you,” Anthony stated rather bluntly.
Kio turned to him. “I'd appreciate it if you'd stop calling me stupid.”
Anthony looked at her sternly. “Once you stop being stupid, gladly.”
Kio leaned in and touched her forehead to Anthony's. “Deal.” The pair popped up in unison and shot a couple more Vulcans. The remaining four or five Vulcans, rather than returning fire, fled into the office where Salek went.
It was about this time that Rei, Parker, and Shelton ran into the room, weapons ready. Kio and Anthony came from their hiding place and started to move to the office doorway.
“Where is Sgt. Simpson?” Rei asked.
“He was injured,” Kio stated dryly. “We sent him back to the ship.”
“Will he be okay?” Parker asked.
“I don't know,” Kio answered as she walked to the door. “We think five of the guards went into here, as well as the HVT.”
Anthony nodded. “No telling how many guards might be hiding in here too.”
“Commander, with the amount of firepower we might be dealing with, perhaps we should get some of the marines to help us,” Kio suggested.
Rei shook her head. “We can't risk the HVT being injured.”
“If he's simply stunned-” Kio started.
“Chief,” Shelton interjected.
“It's okay, Commander,” Rei nodded. She turned to Kio. “Vulcan physiology requires them to be stunned at high setting for stun to actually work. But because of that, if he were to get hit with three or four rifles on stun...”
Kio understood. “It would kill him.”
Rei nodded. “Precision is the key.”
“I have the door lock disabled,” Anthony reported.
Everyone readied their weapons. “Do it,” Rei ordered.
The door slid open and as expected, disruptor charges came flying out the door. However, now the battle was more even. There were no additional security officers inside, simply the five who retreated earlier.
Those five were quickly dispatched and soon the only one with a gun was Salek; a once-powerful man who now found himself crouched behind his desk, desperately trying to send a single, three-word message to his contact on Earth.
'I've been compromised.'
“Minister Salek, surrender and you will not be harmed,” Rei called in.
Salek stood and fired a couple of shots towards the doorway. However, Salek was not a good shot, and most of the charges didn't come anywhere near the group.
Kio, getting frustrated with the standoff, and confident in Salek's terrible marksmanship, walked through the door.
“Chief! Get back here,” Rei ordered.
Kio ignored her and continued to walk towards Salek. Salek stood to take a shot at her, but quickly ducked at Kio fired several shots in his direction, most missing him by mere centimeters.
Kio walked right up to the Vulcan minster, ripped the disruptor from his hand, which in and of itself was no small feat given how much stronger Vulcans are than humans and shoved him into his chair. She smiled as she looked at him.
“So,” she grinned as the NEO group looked on, too shocked to do anything. “You're the one who tried to run my captain up the flagpole? You're the one who marooned us on some God-forsaken planet three months from civilized space in an attempt to kill us. And you're the one who may have seriously injured my friend, eh?”
Salek blinked. “You seem to be emotional about this.”
“Oh, you want to see emotional?” Kio smirked as she pulled out her projectile sidearm and putting the barrel up against Salek's eye.
“KIO!” Rei yelled as the group ran in. Shelton and Parker both pointed their phaser rifles at Kio.
“They need you for information,” Kio continued, ignoring the guns now pointed at her. “Personally, I'd like to see you dead.”
Kio pulled the trigger. The gun clicked, as she had already expended all the ammo. Kio laughed as she noticed Salek's hands gripped the side of his chair tightly.
Rei pulled Kio away as Shelton and Parker moved to restrain Salek. “I thought Vulcans didn't fear death?” Kio taunted.
“Be quiet,” Rei ordered.
Anthony watched in silence as Rei drug Kio out of the room.
Rei slammed Kio against the wall of the hallway. “Just what the hell do you think you are doing?”
Kio looked at her feet. “I didn't hurt him; I got the gun away from him. What's the problem?”
Rei grabbed Kio's chin to force her to look at Rei. Her grip loosened when she saw that Kio had tears coming out of her eyes. “Chief...”
“Commander, if you're going to give me the 'it happens' speech, with all due respect, you can save your breath. I've had it already today,” Kio stated. “I don't know what came over me, I shouldn't have done what I did, and I will deal with the consequences.”
Rei really thought there should be more to this conversation, but she really was not sure what else there was to say right now. “Okay,” she concluded.
“May I return to the ship?”
Kio turned and went for her communicator when she saw Anthony. He walked over to her and took her hand. “Bravo to Salvation. Two for transport.”
The pair quickly dematerialized.
“This is really kind of frustrating,” Makoto sighed.
Ranma patted his chief tactical officer on the back. She was doing a great job, but he agreed, it was indeed a frustrating development.
He knew the Vulcans and the Romulans had a history, but he had no idea that it would be so serious that Vulcan ships would be built specifically to counter Romulan weaponry. While the Infinity had destroyed ten of the Vulcan defense ships, the Salvation so far had only managed to take out three of them.
Fortunately, the Romulans had the same idea and the Salvation seemed to simply shrug off all but the most forceful Vulcan assault.
However, those volleys were few and far between at this point. The Vulcan ships had switched from a 'blob' type offense to more of a skirmish offense, which worked out in the Salvation's favor.
Though it was harder for the larger and less maneuverable Infinity to deal with.
Ranma did not mind though. It allowed him to catch up.
It should bother him that he was considering battle a contest, but he had somewhat of an epiphany; that this group of Vulcans was akin to the Dominion and that their only purpose was the destruction of the Federation, and in turn, the Alpha Quadrant.
As well, Ranma had always been a warrior, fighting for what was right, what was just. This was a just cause, a righteous battle. Even if there were some 'less than righteous' characters helping with the side of good.
Ranma eyed the viewer as he walked back to his seat. “Magnify grid 23 Zulu.”
Minako complied and a Vulcan ship appeared, moving towards the Infinity, here engines bright blue.
“What's that ship's course?” Ranma asked.
Minako checked. “She's bearing down on the Infinity.”
“Collision course,” Shampoo stated.
Ranma agreed as it was obviously moving at full impulse. “Makoto!”
Makoto barked at the helmsman. “Get me in range!”
The Salvation bolted towards it, her phasers shooting at targets of opportunity along the way, but not stopping for anything.
“Why isn't the Infinity taking evasive?” Ranma asked, turning to Larson?
“I told them,” Larson shrugged.
“It's spinning up warp engines!” Shampoo stated, standing.
“She's going to warp into the Infinity?!” Minako asked, shocked.
“Analysis?” Ranma asked.
“Kaboom,” Shampoo replied.
Ranma blinked. He turned to Makoto. “Range?”
“Not good enough. Fire now,” Ranma ordered.
Makoto nodded and fired all the Salvation's forward torpedoes. Much to everyone's joy, none of the torpedoes strayed off their unguided course too much and collided with the Vulcan ship, halting its warp attempt.
“Nice shooting, Tex,” Ranma smiled.
“Tex?” Makoto asked.
Ranma shook his head.
“In range. Killing,” Makoto reported.
The Salvation quickly finished off the ship before turning aft and chasing after a ship that appeared to be trying to get outside of the Infinity's jamming range.
After what probably seemed like forever for the Vulcan ships but didn't seem like that long for the Salvation and the Infinity, nineteen Vulcan defense ships lay destroyed or too heavily damaged to continue to fight. The remaining six warped off.
The Salvation quickly cloaked and once the fighters docked, of the 72 the Infinity launched, 67 survived, the Infinity also cloaked. Survivors from the Vulcan ships were transported to the facility and put into a make-shift detention facility.
Larson began to look at the reports coming in from the planet. Shampoo also began to read reports.
“We have Salek,” Larson smiled.
Ranma happily clapped his hands together once. “Awesome.”
Shampoo turned to Ranma. “Security and marine detachment report only minor casualties, no fatalities.”
“An even better day, made perfect,” Ranma grinned, leaning back.
Shampoo shook her head. “No.”
Ranma turned to her, as did Larson. “No?” Ranma asked.
“Akane say you need to come to sickbay regarding Neo.”
Ranma nodded, stood, and walked to the turbolift. Makoto turned to Shampoo. “Rei?”
Shampoo shook her head. “No. Not Rei.”
Both Makoto and Minako breathed a sigh of relief as they did not lose a friend, yet it still hurt knowing that they lost a crew member.
Kio and Anthony materialized in transporter room three. The pair acknowledged the transporter operator and quickly headed out into the corridor and into the nearest turbolift.
“Sickbay,” Kio ordered.
It was the only word spoken in the ride up to deck three. Neither of them spoke as they quickly walked down the corridor. Kio shoved aside both enlisted and officers who got in her way as she made her way to sickbay.
The pair reached the large set of sliding doors. Kio stopped them just before the entrance. She stared at the large emblem of the Romulan Star Empire on the doors.
Anthony looked at her. Kio closed her eyes and nodded. The pair stepped forward, activating the sensor that opened the doors.
Kio opened her eyes and looked around. She saw a couple of medics attending to a couple of marines. Then she turned to her left and saw a biobed. On the floor was Mike's gear. Next to that, she saw the back of a man standing.
She saw him.
He would not be here if Mike was okay.
He looked at her.
His face told her.
He did not even have to get the first word out.
“Chief,” Ranma said.
She tried to hold it in.
She could not.
Kio dropped to her knees, never letting go of Anthony's hand.
“NO!!!!!!!!!!!!” she screamed, drawing the attention of everyone in sickbay.
Ranma, unsure of what exactly to do, bit his lip. Akane started to move towards Kio, but Anthony shook his head, silently telling them to let Kio vent for a moment.
And vent she did. The small Asian woman continued to yell for a moment before starting to cry. Anthony slowly went to his knees and leaned close to her.
“I did it again!” she cried.
“You didn't do it a first time,” Anthony corrected her. “If you know an ambush is there, you won't go into it. It's not your fault.”
“I led us into it!”
“That's your job!” Anthony argued. “And it was our job to follow you. And we loved it. We love you.”
Kio looked at Anthony.
“Yes. Even Mike,” Anthony smiled. “Mike was thrilled with this assignment. He loved doing it. He knew the risk, and he was willing to take it. And quite frankly if Mike was going to die for anything I can't think of anything he'd be happier dying for than saving the Federation.”
Kio's crying seemed to lighten up a bit. Anthony put his arm around her. “And honestly, if you don't mind me saying so, Chief,” He continued, “he's probably up there,” Anthony pointed upwards, “pretty pissed off to see you so whiny.”
Kio wiped some of the tears on her sleeve and nodded. She and Anthony stood. She finally released Anthony's hand and walked to Ranma, who, along with Akane, had been doing his best to not watch the exchange.
“Captain, I apologize for my outburst,” Kio stated.
“Not at all, Chief,” Ranma nodded, putting a hand on her shoulder. “I'm sorry for your loss. For our loss.”
Kio nodded silently and moved past Ranma and looked at the lifeless body of Sgt. Michael Simpson lying on the biobed. His face still darkened from what was an apparent disruptor shot to the head.
Kio put her hand on his and gripped it.
“I'm sorry, Mike,” she softly said. “Not for what happened to you, but for what happened afterward.”
Kio's hands moved up and she gently removed one of his rank pips from his collar and gripped it tightly in her hand. She then leaned over and placed her lips on his forehead, letting them linger there for a while, before standing upright and walking to Ranma.
She paused and turned to the Captain. Kio gripped Mike's rank pin tightly, drawing a slight amount of blood, before looking up at Ranma.
“Captain, please don't allow his death to be in vain.”
Anthony stood over his now deceased friend for a moment. He quickly wiped away a tear before smiling. “See you later, buddy. Hopefully much later.”
Anthony turned and walked to Kio. He stopped at Ranma. “Captain, permission to speak freely?”
Ranma nodded, albeit confused. “Sure, Sargent.”
“Mike was initially skeptical about this ship, as he heard rumors about, well, you and some of the crew.”
Anthony smiled. “However, he constantly said that he's never served under a commanding officer he's respected more, and even though he was initially LDF, he was grateful for his assignment to the Sisko. He even thought about a transfer to Starfleet Marines so that he would have a chance to continue to serve under you if NEO were ever dissolved.”
Kio blinked and looked at Anthony. Anthony smiled at her. “You're not the only one he loved.”
Kio smiled. Ranma smiled as well. “Thank you for telling me that, Sargent.”
Anthony nodded, took Kio's hand and the pair walked to the doors to sickbay and out into the corridor, where Rei stood.
“Sargent, would you give us a moment?” Rei asked.
“Commander, with all due respect, this probably isn't the best time,” Anthony argued.
“Do I need to rephrase my request as an order?” Rei asked.
“Anthony,” Kio nodded.
Anthony let go of Kio's hand and nodded. “I'll be at the turbolift,” Anthony told Kio before walking off.
Rei started walking. Kio followed closely behind her. “I know you're upset, Chief, but this isn't the job for feelings. We have a job to do, and I need to know whether or not you can do it.”
“I can do it,” Kio replied.
“That doesn't sound very convincing,” Rei replied.
“Well, what do you want me to say?” Kio asked.
“I want you to believe you can do it.”
“I believe I can do it,” Kio stated.
“Now you’re just patronizing me.”
“Yes ma'am, I am.”
Rei stopped and turned to Kio. “Are you trying to piss me off?”
“Does it matter?” Kio asked. “Everything I do pisses you off. You claim your constant screaming at me is to make me a better officer and I bought that for the first seven hundred times, but these last seven hundred times I'm starting to think that maybe you have a chip on your shoulder.”
Rei scoffed. “A chip on my shoulder?”
“Yes,” Kio nodded. “You're afraid that if I fail, you fail. Again.”
“Yeah, Commander. I know your history,” Kio explained. “Couldn't cut it with security because of your anger management issues, then some nit-wit admiral throws you on the Sisko as a councilor?” Kio laughed, causing Rei to turn semi red with anger. “Sounds more like bad comedy fiction than reality to me.”
Kio looked down at her bloodied hand. “Oh, and don't be lecturing me about getting emotional after a traumatic event. I know someone locked themselves in their room and wouldn't come out after their boyfriend died.”
“HOW?” Rei yelled.
“Captain's logs are pretty public if you know where to look,” Kio smirked.
Rei was incensed and she was not about to have one of her subordinates speak to her in such an insolent manner. Rei grabbed Kio by the neck, raised her up, and slammed her against the bulkhead. Kio's feet were about a quarter meter off the ground as Rei had her at eye level.
Kio gasped for air as Rei growled at her. “You listen to me. The only reason I am not having you thrown in the brig right now is that I need you to do your job. If you cannot do it, I expect a letter of resignation on my desk within the hour.”
Anthony, who was wondering what the commotion was, walked around the corner. “Commander!”
Rei looked to him and let Kio go, allowing her to drop to the ground. Rei squatted down to her. “And if you ever speak to me in a way that disrespects my rank again, I WILL have you tossed in the brig, regardless of how much we need you. Is that understood, Chief Warrant Officer?”
Kio looked up at Rei with a grin. “Yes, Commander.”
Rei stood and stormed off past Anthony who ran over to Kio. “Fuck, Kio, what did you say to her?” he asked, as he helped her up.
Kio just laughed.
“Damn, your neck,” Anthony noticed bruises starting to form, showing Rei's impressive grip. “She can't do that; we should tell Captain Sao-”
“Don't worry about it,” Kio interrupted, taking Anthony's hand with her free one. “She was being a bitch; I was being a bitch. Karma.”
Anthony did not say anything as he was drug off by Kio.