“There is an intrepid class Federation starship closing in on us.” The security officer of the Ek’Skil relayed to Vor’Gal.
“Can they see us?” Vor’Gal asked.
“No.” The security officer scoffed. “They are just blindly following our plasma trail.”
Vor’Gal scoffed as well.
“Just like those stupid humans to go flying off without any plan.”
Vor’Gal stands and walks over to the security station to look at the readout.
The U.S.S. Spock was about thirty light-years behind them traveling at warp nine.
The Ek’Skil, trying to arrive at their destination at the same time as the hijacked Nerima was traveling at Warp five.
At that rate, the U.S.S. Spock would overtake them in just a couple of minutes.
The Ek’Skil’s communication system chirps. Vor’Gal looks to his communication officer.
“It’s T’Sol,” the officer states.
“Put him up.”
The channel opened and T’Sol beings to speak.
“Vor’Gal, we have a Federation ship tailing us. They are a few light-years away though.”
Vor’Gal nods, despite T’Sol’s inability to see him.
“Do you think they will engage you?”
“I don’t know. It would be unwise if they did though. It’s just an intrepid class and probably would be seriously damaged, if not destroyed, by the hydroxide sulfate explosion.”
“Right. See any other ships around?”
“There’s a Defiant-class ship on long-range, ahead of us,” T’Sol replies. “I think they are expecting us to head to Earth. But they are ahead of our turn.”
Vor’Gal nods again. Neither the Defiant nor Intrepid-class ships would survive the explosion of the Nerima. Vor’Gal knew the Federation was not stupid. It would not risk two ships and two civilians before determining their intent.
At least he hoped that was the case.
“Continue on. If they begin to engage you let me know. We’ll head that way to assist.”
“Okay. T’Sol out.”
The channel closed and Vor’Gal went back to the security station. The Spock was almost right on top of them. They would pass, but then realize the warp trail was behind them. It would not take too long to figure out where they were.
“Drop out of warp. Disengage cloak.” Vor’Gal ordered.
The Spock was at full battle readiness. Her bridge was dark with only blue and red lights overhead. Her Captain sat on the edge of his seat while her ops officer carefully read the display.
The tactical officer also watched his displays carefully, waiting for something he could lock on to.
A sensor blip, a fluctuation, anything.
In old naval combat, it was not that hard to find a target that you could not see. You could just listen. Listen for the rudder squeaking or the propeller spinning. If you had good equipment, you could even listen for someone sneezing or a pen clanking to the deck.
That did not work in space though. Hiding was a lot easier now. Everything was about sensor readouts. If you could mask yourself from them, you could pretty much hide in plain sight.
And that is exactly what the Ek’Skil was doing right now. The Spock was able to follow her, but not much else.
They had just recently learned that it was the cloaked ship they were following. The Jacksonville had informed them that they had an eye on the hijacked vessel.
What worried the Captain of the Spock though was that they may end up passing the cloaked vessel and then lose her trail.
That almost happened.
“Captain,” the operations officer said.
The Captain looked to him.
“We’ve lost the trail. I think we’ve passed them.”
“All stop. Set up a tachyon field.”
The operations officer began to comply, but the field would not be necessary.
“They’re decloaking!” The security officer states.
“Behind us, seven hundred and eight AU.”
“Go,” the captain ordered the helmsman.
She complied and the Spock quickly warped on top of the Ek’Skil.
The entire crew could only gasp. The Ek’Skil was at least fifty times bigger than they were. It almost seemed that they could fit into her cargo bay.
“Hail them,” the captain orders.
The operations man complied but shook his head.
“Open a channel then.”
The captain stood.
“This is Captain Alexander Yeltsin of the Federation starship the U.S.S. Spock. You are wanted for violating A-O-A regulations and for assault on Federation vessels. Stand down and prepare to be boarded.”
“He’s got balls,” one of the crewmen on the Ek’Skil joked.
Vor’Gal chuckled. “The U.S.S. Spock, eh? This could almost be ironic.”
Vor’Gal turned to his weapons officer.
The weapons man nodded and began.
The Ek’Skil’s phaser cannons powered up and began to pound on the shields of the Spock.
“SHIELDS HOLDING AT 80%!” Ops screamed.
Yeltsin nodded. “Defensive pattern Omega Three,” he instructed the helmsman. “Return fire,” he ordered the tactical officer.
Both officers complied and the Spock shot off, maneuvering around the Ek’Skil in hopes of staying out of the line of sight of the phase cannons.
Her phasers began to burn against the Ek’Skils shields.
“Shields holding,” the Vulcan weapons officer informed Vor’Gal. “Their shields are down to 60%.”
Vor’Gal just nodded and watched the smaller ship get rocked.
Captain Yeltsin fell from his seat as the Spock was rattled by blasts from the larger ship’s cannons.
“SHIELDS AT 30%!” Ops screamed.
“DEFENSIVE PATTERN GAMMA SIX!” Yeltsin ordered.
The helmsman complied.
It would not be much help.
Within seconds the blue glow surrounding the Spock was gone. The phase cannons began to burn holes into the hull of the Spock.
“SHIELDS DOWN!” Ops yelled as a panel near him exploded.
The lights on the bridge fluttered out and were replaced by dim emergency lighting. The helm control went dead.
“HULL BREACHES!” Ops screamed.
There was nothing else to say. There was nothing else that could be done. There was no more time. All Yeltsin could do was simply look at the screen and say a quick prayer as several torpedoes barreled towards them.
The torpedoes impacted the Spock in different places, but all at the same time.
Vor’Gal leaned back in his chair and grinned as the once sleek, gray ship instantly became a blinding ball of light, soon to be replaced by open space and some, but not much, debris.
“Re-engage the cloak and resume course.” Vor’Gal dryly ordered.
The U.S.S. Jacksonville slowed to warp five as it came to within a half-light year of the Nerima. On her bridge her Captain, Douglas Park eyed the viewscreen; attempting to size up his target.
“Weapons?” Park asked.
“Minimal defensive weapons.” The tactical officer replied. “But that’s not what we should be worried about.” he continued. “The explosives on that ship would rip us to shreds, even at this distance.”
Park nodded. “That’s why we are just to follow them and keep an eye on where they go.”
Park stood and walked up to the operations station.
“Contact Starfleet. Set up a link and feed them our telemetry,” Park ordered.
The operations officer complied and began to send the vital information to Starfleet.
Ranma took his first step onto the bridge for the first time in over two days. He deeply inhaled the recycled air and took in the smell of the purifier that was not really noticed elsewhere on the ship.
The turbolift doors closed behind him. The on-duty bridge crew all turned to him, awaiting their orders.
Operations was the first place Ranma turned to.
“How long until we can undock?”
The man standing in the operations enclave responded. “Well, we could undock now. But unfortunately, we won’t be ready for flight for another twenty minutes.”
Ranma turned to the engineering station as the engineer on duty there began to speak.
“The engines are performing an emergency cold start which will bypass most of the normal cold start procedures, but it still takes about thirty minutes to get us flight ready.”
Ranma nodded to the engineer and turned back to operations as his terminal began to chirp madly.
“Admiral Larson on subspace,” Ops stated.
“In my ready room please,” Ranma stated as we walked towards his office. Just prior to going through the doorway he paused and turned to the tactical officer.
“Lieutenant, get the weapons ready and set us to battle stations as soon as we undock.”
“Aye,” the lieutenant acknowledged as he began to get the torpedo bays warmed up and the phaser banks charged.
Ranma stepped into his office and had a seat behind his desk. He hit a button on his terminal and the face of Admiral Scott Larson appeared in front of him. Admiral Larson was an older man with a grey beard and grey hair. He wore wire-rimmed glasses that sat on the tip of his nose.
Overshadowing the Admiral's features though was the look on his face. It was a look that bobbled somewhere between fright and concern.
“Good morning, Admiral,” Ranma greeted him.
Larson returned the greeting. “Good morning, Captain. How soon can you be underway?”
“Thirty minutes, sir.”
“Good. Once you have undocked, hail the U.S.S. Jacksonville. They are following and will be able to relay to you telemetry so that you can zero in on the target's current position.”
Ranma grimaced. He did not care to think of Nabiki and Kasumi as a target. But this was a military ship and that was, cold or not, a military term.
“Pops told me about a cloaked ship. Do you have any information on that?” Ranma asked.
“A little,” the Admiral sighed. “The U.S.S. Spock caught up with it and engaged it.” Larson paused for a moment before continuing. “They were destroyed in the conflict. The Spock did manage to get some scans beforehand though. The ship design is not one we have seen before, but the composition identified it as Romulan. However, there were mostly Vulcan bio-signs on board.”
A look of frustration came across the older man’s face. “Of course, the Romulans deny any knowledge of this ship or its purpose, but because of the fact they have a cloaking device, we know there is some involvement.
“The ship is exceptionally large as well. Based on scans it’s almost as big as a Romulan Warbird.” Larson shook his head and the look of concern reappeared on his face. “Ranma, it almost pushed right through the Sovereign-class Columbia like it was tin foil. Her damage is so severe that she’s going to have to limp back to DS9 and be repaired there.
“According to retrieved sensor data, the Spock was destroyed within minutes of engaging them. It’s – it’s a ship whose damage inflicting capabilities rival the Borg.”
Ranma nodded. “Do you want us to engage this ship?”
Larson inhaled deeply. “No. But you may have to. We can only assume that they are en route to intercept the Nerima.
“Ranma, I know this is going to be tough for you. I know who is on that ship. But here is what needs to happen.”
Ranma sits up and nods.
“First, you need to stop the Nerima. Then you are authorized to dispatch your NSO teams to attempt to regain control of the ship and rescue the hostages. You will then be required to secure the ship until armed transports and escort ships arrive and take possession of the explosives.”
Ranma acknowledges this. “Aye.”
“There is more. As we both know things rarely go as they are supposed to. As your father told you, stopping that ship from reaching its target is your number one priority. I want very much for you to be able to save your sisters-in-law, but if necessary, I am ordering you to destroy that ship, explosives, hostage-takers, and hostages in all.”
Ranma softly nodded. He had no intention of letting Nabiki and Kasumi die today. Especially by his hand.
“If you encounter the second vessel, you are weapons-free and authorized to engage it, but I would recommend waiting for assistance if possible. The sixth fleet is heading back to Sol to set up a perimeter. They will be able to assist.” Larson finished.
“I’ll get back to you later when I get some more details,” Larson stated. “Larson out.”
The screen went black and the UFP logo appeared. Ranma continued to stare at it for a moment. Not only did he have to stop this ship without destroying it, but he would also have to stop it before it reached Sol. The sixth fleet would not attempt a rescue before destroying the Nerima.
Ranma sighed and stood. He began to walk to his door to inform his crew of what was happening.
On the bridge of the Sisko, Rei was the first of the awoken to arrive, she looked to the security station.
“What’s up?” she asked.
The security officer looked at her and simply shrugged.
Rei was about to scream bloody murder when Ranma walked out onto the bridge.
“Commander,” he called to her.
Rei turned to him. “Yes sir?”
“Please join me in the conference room,” he instructed as he walked towards the room. He called back to the security officer as he walked.
“Please send the others there when they arrive.”
Ranma paused before entering. “Also – If Akane comes up here, don’t allow her in.” Ranma walked into the room without waiting for an acknowledgment.
The security officer had a look of confusion on his face but acknowledged the order anyway.
Ranma motioned for Rei to have a seat at the gigantic grey table. Rei complied and looked up at her commanding officer.
“Is your team ready?” Ranma asked her rather bluntly.
Rei paused for a moment. “Yes.”
Ranma raised an eyebrow. “Why the hesitation?”
Rei sighed. “The leader of Bravo team still needs some…” she thought back to what Shelton had told her. “Leadership training.”
Ranma walked over to the window and looked out at the hideous brown monstrosity gripping onto the front of his ship.
“Well, you have about five hours to teach her.”
Ryouga and Minako were the next two to walk onto the bridge. Ryouga looked around and noticed the changes. Things he had not seen over the last couple of days.
First off, his helm terminal was turned on. There was still no one sitting there but the flat touch screens that made up his console were lit up. Some buttons and lights were blinking gently.
Minako also made note of the changes and turned to the operations officer.
“Commander.” He acknowledges. “The Captain is waiting for you two in the conference room.”
Minako and Ryouga both nodded and began to walk to the room. The security officer, who had woken Minako from her slumber, made kissy noises as the pair walked by. Ryouga, being as dense as a box of rocks, did not notice but Minako did and burned a dark sneer into the man’s eyes.
“Sorry Commander,” he giggled as she and her lover walked into the conference room.
Ranma nodded to all of them and motioned for them to have a seat. Ranma had already begun to fill Rei in on the specifics of the recovery operation that they were going to attempt.
The specifics that he was not going to tell anyone else.
“We’ll finish after the meeting, Commander,” Ranma informed Rei. She nodded as Ranma turned to Ryouga and Minako.
“As soon as the others get here, we’ll start.”
Shampoo, Makoto, and Usagi somehow managed to all be on the same turbolift as it took them to the bridge. They were all quiet on the ride up. Shampoo and Usagi were quiet because they were both still half asleep. Makoto was quiet because she really was not any good at elevator conversation.
Once the lift arrived on the bridge the trio filed out. They all took a moment to look around at the activity. The operations officer then cleared his throat and the three girls turned to him.
“Good Morning, Commanders,” he greeted. “The Captain is waiting for you in the conference room.”
They all nodded and silently wandered into the meeting.
Ranma nodded to them as they came in and motioned for them to have a seat. Ranma looked as he was about to start, but Ryouga thought someone was missing.
“Ranma, where’s Akane?”
Ranma, not sure whether he was more annoyed by Ryouga’s lack of respect for his rank or his nosiness, glowered.
“She won’t be joining us for this meeting. Medical will have no activity in this mission.”
Rei eyed her Captain softly. He had told her, and she knew that he was lying. But she said nothing and turned to shoot a look at Ryouga. But someone had beat her to it.
Minako was burning a hole into the back of Ryouga’s head with the glare she was giving him. Ryouga did not notice or didn’t acknowledge it and simply began to listen to Ranma, accepting his explanation for Akane’s absence.
“As you may have guessed, we are departing earlier than normal.” They all realized this and acknowledged it with a nod.
“A cargo ship containing several thousand metric tons of weapons-grade explosives has been hijacked by possible terrorists looking to attack Earth.”
The group murmured in disbelief. Ranma went on to explain about the blockade run. He explained about the cloaked ship and the destruction of the U.S.S. Spock. He explained to his senior staff what the plan was and what they were going to need to do.
He gave them every single detail except one. He did not tell them who the ship belonged to and who was on board that ship. He would not risk Akane finding out that her sisters were in such danger.
Fifteen minutes later he completed his briefing and asked; “Any questions?”
No one raised their hands.
“Dismissed,” Ranma stated. The group, Rei excluded, stood, and walked out of the room to take their positions on the bridge. They had a lot of work to do, and the ship would be flight-ready within ten minutes.
Once the doors closed behind everyone, Ranma stood. He turned to Rei and frowned. “Rei. This will be the first mission for your team, and it very well could be the most important.”
Ranma walked over to the window and looked out again. Rei stood and walked over next to him.
“I give you my word,” Rei said, without looking to Ranma. “I will bring your sister-in-laws back alive and kicking.”
Ranma turned to Rei and gave her a weak smile.
“I know you will. Hopefully, we should be able to catch up with them in five hours. You will need to be ready to depart by 10:30.”
Rei nodded. “Yes sir.”
Ranma turned back to the window. “Dismissed.”
Rei ran off, hitting her communicator. “Hino to Shelton. Get everyone to the NSO briefing room immediately.”
“Yes Commander,” a sleepy Shelton replied.
Usagi looked to her display screen. All the little indicators on it were lit a nice healthy green. No red, no yellow; not even the mysterious aqua. All green. She smiled and turned to the Captain’s chair.
“We’re ready,” she states.
Ranma nods and turns to Shampoo.
Shampoo nods and stands. She walks up to right behind Ryouga, as she always does when they need to dock, undock, or just maneuver through tight spaces.
“Request docking clearance,” she called over her shoulder to Minako.
Minako sent the message to DS9 operations. They quickly replied.
Shampoo turned her attention to Ryouga as Ranma began to speak to Minako.
“Have you gotten telemetry from the Jacksonville yet?” Ranma asked her.
Minako nodded in acknowledgment. Ranma turned back to watch Shampoo and Ryouga.
“Release docking latches,” Shampoo ordered.
Ryouga hit some buttons and a shudder went through the ship as the metal claws that kept the Sisko attached to the station disengaged and retracted into the ship.
“Back us off, 250 K-P-H, thrusters only,” Shampoo ordered.
Ryouga slid down his panel a foot or so and fired up the thrusters. The ship then began to slowly back away from the station.
“Good,” Shampoo stated as she watched the display on Ryouga’s terminal. Rather quickly it showed that they were backed off 10 kilometers. Far outside even Ryouga’s margin of error.
“Okay, port thrusters.”
Ryouga complied and hit the corresponding navigational controls. The thrusters on the port side of the ship fired, causing the ship to turn to the right. Once the ship was facing away from the station Shampoo smiled and gave Ryouga a pat on the shoulder.
Ryouga resisted the urge to jump into the air with a loud ‘Woo hoo!’. He quietly waited for the course to be ordered.
Shampoo turned to Minako.
Minako studied the telemetry for a moment.
“3-2-9 mark 3-4 should put us on them in five hours, six minutes.”
Shampoo turned to Ryouga. Ryouga was one step ahead of her and had the course plugged in.
“Maximum speed,” Ranma order from his seat.
“Aye,” Ryouga responded. He entered the speed into his computer.
“Engage,” Shampoo ordered.
Ryouga reached down and hit the largest of the button on his terminal.
Outside the ship made some minor adjustments to its alignment. The warp engines glowed a bright blue for just a moment. Then with a flash, it was gone.
Akane yawned as she slowly sat up in bed. She took a quick look at the clock.
She grumbled. It was still early. She was not planning on going into sickbay until 09:00. She could snooze for another half hour.
She laid back down and pulled the comforter over her body. She rolled over and snuggled up against a pillow next to the wall. She grinned as she started to dose off, watching the stars zip by in the window.
“Wait a minute,” she said to the empty room.
Akane sat back up and rubbed her eyes to make sure she was seeing things right. There was no Bajor out the window. There was no hideous brown station there. There were stars.
They were at warp.
Akane sat up and got out of bed. She looked around a bit but couldn’t seem to find her communicator.
She grumbled and walked to the closest. She grabbed a robe and walked out into their living room and over to the communications panel next to the door.
“Saotome to bridge,” she said while hitting the intercom button.
“Yes, Commander?” Minako replied on the other end.
“Why are we at warp?”
“We were needed for an emergency mission. Do you want to talk to the Captain?”
“No, I’ll come to see him in a while.”
“Okay. Anything else I can do for you?” Minako asked.
“No, thanks,” Akane sighed as she ended the communication.
She was bummed. Akane had not seen her sisters in years and was looking very forward to seeing them.
‘I’ll just contact them a little later. See if we can work something else out.’ She thought to herself and she went back into the bedroom to begin grooming herself for work.
“Now that I have explained the background of this mission, are there any questions?” Rei asked the room.
No one raised their hands.
Rei nodded in approval.
“Okay. Now for the nuts and bolts,” she said as she turned towards a blueprint of the Nerima.
“These schematics of the ship have been loaded into the holodeck,” Rei explained. “We’ll have a couple of hours to run some simulations to try out different plans of attack. We need to remember the two main objectives of this mission. First and foremost, we must disable the ship. This will be Alpha team’s objective. Bravo team, your primary objective will be to rescue the hostages.
“We don’t know where on the ship they are being held. We do know that there are two hostages and six hostiles. There are also a lot of weapons-grade explosives on that ship. It might be rigged to take everything out as a last chance suicide mission.
“Then of course there are the unknowns. Like where the cloaked ship went. As far as we know it could be flying right on top of them right now. So, we should expect to have to engage more hostiles.”
Rei sighed and turned to the group.
“This will be our first mission. Not only do the lives of the hostages depend on us, but the lives of those at the terrorists target as well. And right now, it appears their target is Earth.”
Rei sat down and Commander Shelton and Lieutenant Dowis stood. Shelton was the first to speak.
“Once we secure the ship the Sisko will transport over security personnel to take over control of the explosives. We will need to make sure any booby traps are taken care of as well. One member of Charlie team will be put with both Alpha and Bravo teams. One member of Delta team will also be placed with Alpha and Bravo teams to deal with injuries and the like.”
Lieutenant Dowis began to speak.
“These are larger groups than I know you are used to dealing with, but I know everyone here can handle it. You are the best of the best.”
Everyone in the room nodded in humble self-glory. Rei stood back up.
“Alright, everyone suit up and be in the holodeck in five minutes.”
The room all stood and started to move to the exit.
“Chief Yuki,” Rei called.
Both Kio and Shelton turned around. Rei looked to Shelton and gave him a look. Shelton grudgingly accepted the look and walked out with the others. Rei motioned for Kio to sit back down.
She did and Rei sat in front of her.
“Chief, I’m sorry I raised my voice with you yesterday,” Rei apologized.
“With all due respect, Commander,” Kio said. “It’s not your place to apologize. I messed up, I got what was coming to me.”
Kio looked away for a moment.
“I did some thinking last night.”
Rei cocked her head slightly as Kio continued.
“I think you should put one of the officers in charge of Bravo team. Or maybe promote Sergeant Simpson…” Kio trailed off as she noticed Rei was shaking her head in disgust.
“What happened to you, Chief?” Rei asked.
Kio was taken aback by this question.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
Rei stood and walked to her desk. She grabbed a PADD and returned to where Kio remained seated.
“Platoon leader, 142nd Airborne; Starfleet Land Defense Corps. You have theater medals for being in the Ticonderoga offensive. The DC-41F offensive. Three peacekeeping operations. You led the retaking of the Federation Embassy on Telsa Two from the Maquis. You were promoted three ranks in six months!”
Rei looked to Kio.
“Why don’t you think you can do this? This is nothing compared to what you’ve done.”
“That was different,” Kio dryly stated. “Leading people into a preplanned operation with very few variables is a lot easier than this.”
Kio looked away again. “Besides, I don’t know if I can go through getting someone killed again.”
The look on Rei’s face softened a bit.
“I was married,” Kio continued. “He was a Warrant Officer, different platoon though. We had quite the insurgency on DC-41F. His platoon’s leader had been killed so our CO had us merged. We were clearing a Ketracel White factory. I ordered him and a few of his men to go one way, and we went the other.”
Kio began to tear up. “I sent them right into an ambush. They were all shot dead.”
Kio wipes her face and looks at Rei.
“That’s why I requested the Sisko. So I wouldn’t have to order anyone else to their death. I would just follow orders and shoot whoever I’m told to.”
Kio sighed. Rei looked at her for a moment.
“Chief – Kio. This –“ she held up the PADD. “You’re leadership – something you’ve been cited for numerous times cannot just be turned off. And I don’t believe for a minute you’d be content just shooting people. You knew you’d be a team leader when you accepted this position.”
“I thought I could do it,” Kio meekly replied.
“Why don’t you think that now?”
“It took us twelve fucking hours to run that simulation,” Kio growled. She then looked to Rei. “I’m sorry, Commander.”
Rei shook her head, not really concerned about Kio’s profanity.
“So? Do you know how many times I took and failed the test for my promotion to Commander? Six.”
“It’s not the same.”
“Sure it is. I learned something new every time I took that test, and I assumed you learned something new every time you ran the simulation.”
“The only thing you couldn’t learn,” Rei smiled. “You already know.”
Kio simply nodded again.
“I can’t replace you right now anyway. Your team knows you. They have been trained to follow you and to work with you. If I were to pull you now, right before a mission, it could do a lot more harm than good.
“You say you don’t want to send them to their deaths, then don’t. Go over there with them. Lead them, and then bring them, and the hostages back.”
Rei stood and motioned for Kio to stand as well. She did.
“I know you can do it. You just need to know that.”
Kio still wasn’t sure, but she did know that she wasn’t going to allow her team to get killed. If she was going to have to go over there, she was going to do it right and bring them all back.
“After we’re done, if you still want to talk about leaving Neo, we’ll talk then.”
Kio nodded once more and headed out the door. Rei looked to the ground.
“I know you’re over there.”
Shelton popped out from his hiding place.
“I was looking for my contact.”
Rei rolled her eyes.
Ranma stood next to Makoto at her terminal, watching her run a quick simulation.
“Now, as I have never dealt with EMP torpedoes before, I can only assume that this simulation is accurate,” she explained to Ranma.
“So, their shields should be down for about how long?”
Makoto looked to her boss and shrugged.
“Long enough for transport?” Ranma asked.
Again, Makoto simply shrugged.
“They shouldn’t be able to recover too quickly as that would seem to make the point of EMP torpedoes pointless,” Makoto looked up to Ryouga.
“But then there is the other danger.”
Ranma nodded. “Run it again and see if it can give you some sort of average on how long the shields will be down.”
“Aye,” Makoto replied as Ranma walked down to Ryouga.
“Hey buddy,” he said to Ryouga.
Ryouga turned his chair around to face his nemesis.
“Ryouga, you’re looking good today.”
Ryouga raised an eyebrow.
“Look, it’s especially important that you match the speed of that ship perfectly. I really don’t want to beam our rescue teams into open space.”
“I’m not incompetent.”
“I know, I know. I am just making sure everyone is on the same page.”
“All things will be taken care of,” Ryouga stated, and he returned his attention to his station.
Ranma sighed and looked back to Shampoo. She was fidgeting.
“Are you okay?” Ranma asked her.
Shampoo nodded. “Just ancy.”
The doors to the turbolift hissed open and Akane walked onto the bridge.
“Ranma, do you mind if I use your office?” Akane asked.
“Not at all,” Ranma smiled as he returned to his seat.
“Thanks. My office doesn’t have subspace access.”
“Who ya calling?” Ranma asked as Akane walked towards his ready room.
“My sisters. Just want to see if they can wait for us to get back to DS9.”
Ranma nodded. “Okay.”
‘Her sisters?’ His brain asked.
“SHIT!” Ranma yelled as his ready room door closed.
Ranma leaped from his seat and bolted across the bridge. He quickly opened the doors and found Akane sitting at his desk.
Akane looked up. “What?”
Ranma sighed. He knew he would not be able to keep this from her for long. His whole life revolved around not causing her any pain, but now he would be forced to.
“Come here please,” Ranma sat on his couch and patted the cushion next to him.
Akane was a bit confused, but she complied. Once she was seated next to Ranma, he inhaled deeply.
Ranma took both of Akane’s hands and held them tightly.
“Akane,” This was hard. Even harder than when Ranma asked her to marry him. This was the hardest thing that Ranma was going to have to do.
“Akane, the ship we are chasing down belongs to Nabiki’s company.”
Akane’s expression sobered slightly. She was afraid that she knew exactly where this conversation is going.
“Both Nabiki and Kasumi are on board and have been taken hostage.”
Ranma felt Akane grip his hands tightly. He saw tears begin to form in her eyes. Ranma felt tears begin to welt in his eyes as well.
“Are- are- they okay?” Akane stuttered.
“I don’t know,” Ranma softly replied.
Tears began to stream down Akane’s face. Ranma pulled her close to him and held her tightly as she cried on his shoulder.
It seemed like an eternity as Ranma held Akane and watched her sob. The pain that Akane was in ripped through his heart. The longer Akane sobbed the more the pain changed to anger. Anger at whoever did this to her.
“What are you going to do.”
Ranma looked into Akane’s deep brown eyes. The whites of her eyes were red from crying. The tears still streaming down her face.
“I’m going to get them back and then I am going to kill the people who did this,” Ranma said, quietly but the anger was obvious in his voice and his words.
“I want to go,” Akane said.
Ranma shook his head.
“No, the Neo team will bring them back. You will be needed here to take care of them when they get back.”
Ranma leaned back and pulled Akane close to him. He kissed her forehead as she continued to weep on his chest.
So many emotions flowed through Ranma as he held Akane for the next hour. Anger and hate for the people who were responsible for this. Love for his wife. Pity for the position she had been placed in.
Ranma would not let this go unpunished.
Ranma looked to Akane who had stopped crying but continued to allow herself to be held by Ranma. She adjusted slightly so that he could reach his communicator.
“Yes?” He asked.
“Captain,” Minako’s voice stated. “We’re thirty minutes out and we have the transport ship and the Jacksonville on long range.”
“Very good. I’ll be there in a moment.”
Ranma ended the communication and looked to Akane. She understood and sat up.
Ranma held her hand for a bit longer though.
“You can stay up here if you’d like.”
Akane nodded. “I’d like that.”
Ranma stood. Akane remained seated though.
“I’m going to stay in here for a while.”
Ranma nodded and proceeded to the door. Just before it opens, he turned back to Akane.
“I promise that I will get them back here.”
Akane smiled as Ranma proceeded onto the bridge.
She knew he would. Ranma does not break promises.
Ranma walked out onto the bridge. He looked at the viewscreen but the starfield was the only thing on there.
“Not in visual yet?” Ranma asked.
“No sir,” Makoto replied.
Ranma acknowledged this and walked to his chair. He looked next to him to converse with Shampoo, but she was not there.
“Where’s Commander Shampoo?” Ranma asked.
Minako looked up from her terminal.
“She said she needed to go to the restroom, but that was twenty minutes ago.”
Ranma pondered this for a moment.
“Captain,” A female called from the security station. Ranma turned and saw Lieutenant Jansen standing there, working with Makoto.
“May I speak with you privately?” She asked.
Ranma nodded and motioned for the conference room.
<insert nifty Star Trek doorbell sound here>
“Who is it?” Shampoo called out.
Shampoo scrambled to get rid of the empty glasses littering her living room table.
“One moment!” She called out as she tried to give herself the appearance that she had just gotten out of the bathroom.
Once she felt that she was ready she walked to the door. Standing there was Ranma and Lieutenant Fuchs. Ranma looked over Shampoo’s shoulder and then to Shampoo.
“May we come in?” Ranma asked.
Shampoo uncomfortably nodded and escorted the two men in. Jeff started to look around the room, sizing up the challenge he was up against. The place was not a mess, but it was not neat.
He looked at Shampoo as she sat down in a chair as Ranma sat down on the couch. Jeff investigated Shampoo’s mind.
What he saw concerned him. He saw pain. Lots and lots of pain. He saw angst and contempt. He saw far too many negative emotions. The worst thing he saw though was the artificial wall Shampoo had tried to build to hold those emotions back.
A wall struggling to stand.
“Shampoo, is everything okay?” Ranma asked as Jeff sat down next to him.
“Yes. Shampoo fine,” she lied.
“I was just concerned. They told me you went to use the restroom over forty minutes ago.”
Shampoo stammered for a moment.
“I think Shampoo have flu,” she lied again.
Jeff watched with concern as Ranma leaned forward.
“Why do you think you can lie to me?”
Shampoo stammered again. She had no idea that she was that transparent.
“I’m sorry I didn’t see it before,” Ranma leaned back again. “I’ve talked to some people and putting it together with my own personal observations, I think you have an alcohol addiction.”
Shampoo scoffed. “Don’t be absurd.”
Ranma reached his arm behind the cushion he was leaning against and pulled out a bottle. The bottle was labeled “Titan Vodka Corporation” and with magic marker “Gosnell’s stash! Don’t steal!”
“So? Shampoo like to drink. Big deal.”
“It is a big deal. Not just because it is obviously affecting your job, but because it’s hurting you and the people who care about you.”
“No one care about Shampoo.”
Ranma sat back up.
“A lot of people care about you, Shampoo. Your co-workers care for you. Your family cares for you. I care for you.”
Shampoo chuckled cynically. “Ranma no love Shampoo.”
“Just because he isn’t in love with you doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you, Commander.” Jeff piped up. “He very well could have sent security down to escort you to my office. But instead, he is taking time out from one of the most important missions in his life to try and help you.”
Shampoo lowered her head.
“Shampoo,” Ranma said as he went over to her chair and kneeled in front of her. He took her hand. “I know how tough things have been for you. I know how much Moose meant to you. I know how much I hurt you by marrying Akane and lying to you about it, and I know what you went through during your abduction.
“I also know that this isn’t the way to deal with things. I know you can’t do it alone. Lieutenant Fuchs is going to help you through this from a professional standpoint.”
Ranma squeezed Shampoo’s hand.
“And I am going to help you from a personal standpoint.”
Shampoo looked up at Ranma. The look in his eyes was genuine. He truly did care for Shampoo and she could see it.
“I can’t stop,” Shampoo whispered, tears beginning to form in her eyes.
“That’s nuts, Shampoo,” Ranma softly stated. “You can do whatever you want. You are one of the strongest people I have ever met. It pains me to see you like this.”
Shampoo was sobbing now.
“Weak,” she cried.
Ranma hated to cut this short but they would soon be approaching the Nerima.
“Shampoo, you’re off duty until you can get this resolved.” Shampoo looked up to him to protest.
“You need time. Time to clear your head.”
“I have to go now, but as soon as we get this done with, I’ll come back and we’ll talk, okay?”
Ranma stood up. Shampoo stood as well to walk him out. She was surprised though when Ranma grabbed her and hugged her. She returned the hug as more tears began to form.
“Ranma.” She sniffled.
“You can do it, Shampoo. I have faith in you.”
Shampoo let go of Ranma and he walked off and out of the room. Shampoo turns to the other man.
Jeff laughs. “I guess I am.”
“So, what do we do?”
Jeff smiled. “We can talk. I can help you better if I know what’s going on up there.” Jeff points to his head.
Shampoo grimaced. This was going to take a while.
“You mind if Shampoo changes first?”
Jeff shook his head as Shampoo walked into her bedroom to change into civilian clothing.
Ranma returned to the bridge and looked around. Minako was standing at operations with another ops officer.
Minako looked up. “Sir?”
“I need you to assume the Executive Officer position till further notice.”
Ryouga raised an eyebrow. ‘What happened to Shampoo?’
Makoto also pondered this and turned to Lieutenant Jansen.
‘I’ll explain later’ She mouthed to Makoto.
Minako nodded. “Aye.” She turned to her assistant. “You’re in charge over here then. You may want to get Beckley up here.”
Her assistant nodded as Minako walked out of her cubby hole and sat down in the XO’s seat.
“Comfy,” she noted.
Ranma noticed the puzzled looks of the bridge crew.
“Commander Shampoo has been relieved of duty to deal with an illness. She will be fine. There is to be no speculation or gossip about this. Those of you who are friends with her can discuss it with her after we’re done.”
The entire bridge crew replied “Aye.”
The Bajoran operations officer, Lieutenant Kaii, spoke up.
“Five minutes to intercept; in visual range.”
Ranma nodded. “On screen.”
Instantly, the large tanker-shaped ship, the TCIC Nerima appeared on the viewer. Also, in the viewer was the U.S.S. Jacksonville – about 1/20th the size of the transport ship.
Ranma was awestruck. ‘If that thing is full of explosives, how can anything survive?’
Ranma did not plan on testing the Sisko’s hull against the explosive nature of that ship. If all else fails, they would just fire at it and flee. Seems like the best chance of survival.
But that was the worst case. He did not want to have to think about that too much. First things first.
He hit his communicator.
“Saotome to Hino.”
“Yes sir,” Rei’s voice replied.
“Are you ready?”
“Yes, Captain,” she replied.
“Okay. We’re two from intercept. Your team needs to be on the pads because we don’t know how long we’ll have their shields down.”
“Aye,” Rei responded.
Ranma ended the communication as Akane walked out of Ranma’s ready room. Ranma looked up at her.
She smiled at him and walked down to where he was. Ranma hit a button on his terminal and a retractable bench came out to his left. Akane sat down there and watched the viewscreen.
“Thirty seconds,” Kaii reported.
Ranma smiled at her and stood.
“Ryouga, match speed,” Ranma lost his smile.
“Red alert. Prepare to assault.”