The Saint Paul dropped to impulse at the edge of the Chidori system. On her bridge, McNamara stood and turned to his tactical officer.
The tactical officer looked at his read-out.
“One, a freighter in low orbit.”
“Can they see us?” McNamara asked.
The tactical officer shook his head.
“I don’t think so. I’m not getting any passive or direct sensor pings.”
McNamara nodded and walked over to the operations station.
“Is the probe ready?”
The operations officer checked her display and nodded.
“The ship is going to warp – they have headed away from us,” tactical stated.
McNamara looked at the long-range sensor read out that was on the main viewer.
“Launch the probe.”
Operations hit a couple of keys on her panel and a class two tactical probe is launched from the front of the Saint Paul.
“It will reach its destination in a little over a minute and will begin to feed information back immediately.”
“Good,” McNamara grinned as he walked back to his seat and sat down.
Behind him, the turbolift doors opened and Hanson and Alexander walked onto the bridge. Brett was no longer wearing the suit that he had been dressed in.
He was wearing a black jumpsuit. The same jumpsuit that the rest of the assault was wearing.
McNamara raised an eyebrow.
“Captain,” Hanson stated.
“Councilman Alexander will be accompanying the teams.”
McNamara lowered his eyebrow. He was afraid of this.
“With all due respect sir, is that a good idea? He’s not trained for this.”
“It’s not a request Captain,” Hanson rather bluntly stated. “Inform the assault teams that he will need to be armed.”
The tone of disgust in McNamara’s voice was obvious to everyone on the bridge. No one had ever seen their captain so angry before.
McNamara looked to the tactical station. “Do it.”
Tactical complied with his commanding officer. McNamara sat back down in his chair.
“Good luck, my friend,” Hanson stated.
Brett grabbed the hand of his older friend and shook it.
“I will never forget this.”
Hanson patted Brett on the back as he walked into the turbolift. McNamara listened to the exchange but continued to watch the viewscreen.
‘Even more proof nothing good can come of this.’ He thought to himself.
Hanson walked down the bridge and had a seat next to McNamara.
“You don’t think this is a good idea, do you?” Hanson asked.
The young captain never took his eyes off the viewscreen.
“No offense sir, but that has got to be the biggest understatement I have ever heard you say.”
Hanson eyed McNamara for a moment before operations spoke up.
“The probe is in position.”
The operations officer put the information being relayed back on the main viewer.
“Eight orbital defensive platforms,” tactical stated. “It appears that they have some sort of sensor net extending between each one 360 degrees. The net covers the entire planet.”
“So, outside of that net and we won’t be detected?” Hanson asked.
“That’s correct sir,” tactical replied.
“What about tachyon fields?” McNamara asked.
Operations punched in some commands to the probe. After a few seconds, a display appeared on the viewer.
“None,” she replied.
“Weapons on the platforms?”
“Helm, bring us to 100,000 kilometers of the planet. Operations run a passive scan of the planet. See if you can get any information about the number of guards at the facility, a safe landing area, and whatnot,” McNamara ordered.
Both officers complied.
Hanson’s eyes moved towards McNamara who was slouched in his seat watching the viewscreen. He was becoming concerned. The authoritative tone in McNamara’s voice was gone. He did not seem to be ordering his crew. Just telling them.
Hanson knew that this was NOT a good thing. When a captain no longer becomes an authority figure the crew begins to second guess his orders.
After that, it’s just a matter of time before the whole ship falls apart.
This mission was too sensitive to allow that to happen. Hanson decided that he may need to take command himself.
Not yet though. Most of this crew had been together for four years. They were loyal to McNamara. While there were some new officers, mostly science officers, stripping his command, especially when McNamara had done nothing wrong, could lead to a mutiny.
Hanson decided to just bide his time for now.
“How are you holding up, Ranma?” Larson asked after he and Ranma had gotten into the hallway outside of courtroom six.
Ranma just shook his head as he wiped some sweat from his forehead.
“I can’t do this,” Ranma stammered.
Nothing had ever shaken Ranma up before. Ranma was a rock. He always had been. Apart from cats, nothing got to him.
This had gotten to him, though. His hands were shaking, and he was sweating. He could not finish.
“Ranma,” Larson started.
“Admiral, I want to change my plea,” Ranma stated.
“NO!” Akane yelled as she ran out into the hallway.
“Akane,” Ranma stated. “I screwed up. I screwed up badly.”
Akane grabbed Ranma and pulled herself close to him.
Ranma looked down at his wife. “I am sure if I plead guilty I can get a reduced sentence and-“
“You don’t understand, do you?” Akane sobbed.
Ranma shook his head.
“It’s my fault. If I hadn’t been there, you could have done what needed to be done.”
Akane was barely audible between her sobs and having her face buried in Ranma’s chest.
“You told me that you needed to protect me. That’s why you couldn’t kill them.”
Ranma remembered. Ranma remembered exactly what he said.
*“All because of you.” He stated as a tear came streaming down his face.
“Me?” Akane asked.
“I love you so much, Akane. All that matters to me is that you are safe. That I protect you from anything that might hurt you, physically and emotionally.”*
“I didn’t mean that it was your fault, Akane.”
“I’ve always been in the way, haven’t I?” She whimpered.
“No!” Ranma shot back. “If it wasn’t for you-“
Ranma looked up. He noticed that Larson had drug Genma and any other bystanders away from Ranma and Akane.
“I can’t exist without you, Akane,” Ranma stated softly.
Akane looked up to Ranma.
“Don’t you understand?” Akane cried. “I can’t exist without you either. If you give up... If you let them take you away from me.”
Ranma sighed. “But I am guilty.”
Akane shook her head and pulled away from Ranma.
“How can you say that? You did everything that you thought was right. You followed your heart and made decisions based on what you thought was honorable. How can you consider that negligent?”
“I made the wrong decisions.”
Akane sighed and wiped her face.
“I believe in you, Ranma. Please don’t make that a wrong decision on my part.” Akane stated as she walked back into the courtroom.
Ranma bit his lip and silently cursed to himself.
“Son?” Genma called.
Ranma turned to his father.
“Don’t give up, Ranma,” Genma ordered, placing his hands on his only son’s shoulders. “There are two kinds of people in this world. People who do not make a difference and people who do.
“You’re one of the people who do. And when you do you have to stand up for yourself. Stand up for your principles. Stand up for what you believe in.”
“I killed six innocent people,” Ranma said.
“It was an accident. A terrible, terrible accident, but an accident nonetheless.”
“Ranma,” Larson interjected.
Ranma looked to the Admiral.
“We can’t continue this if you don’t believe you’re innocent.”
Salek and Young walked out into the hallway. They both turned to Ranma.
“Things don’t seem to be going your way, do they, Commander?” Young asked with the grin Ranma had grown to hate across his lips.
“If you go ahead and change your plea to guilty, my people will be willing to forgive you and ask for a lenient sentence,” Salek added.
Ranma looked at both of them. His eyes then drifted to his father and then finally into the courtroom where Akane was sitting.
“Why don’t the two of you go fuck yourselves?” Ranma stated as he walked back into the courtroom. He quickly paused and turned slightly back to Salek.
Ranma continued his walk. Larson grinned as he followed Ranma.
“I guess he’s rejecting your offer, Salek,” Larson chuckled.
The grin disappeared from Young’s face as he watched Genma follow Larson in. Genma was doing his best to keep from laughing.
“Don’t worry about it,” Salek, with a scowl on his face – having just been on the receiving end of the worst thing you can call a Vulcan will but a scowl on ANY Vulcan’s face - stated to Young. “He’s toast.”
Young turned to Salek and raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t think that’s a very Vulcan thing to say.”
Salek continued to scowl as he shrugged and walked back into the courtroom. Gwen began to call the proceedings back to order.
The Saint Paul slowly came to a stop near the external perimeter of the Chidori III defense grid. On the bridge, Sarah stood and turned to the tactical officer.
“Verify that we are not being scanned.”
The tactical officer checked some of his displays. He nodded to Sarah.
Sarah nodded back to tactical and hit her communicator.
“Earl to McNamara. Sensor detection is negative.”
In the main shuttle bay, McNamara was standing next to a view screen with Admiral Hanson and the assault teams. The pilots of the shuttles were doing a final pre-flight inspection of the shuttlecraft. Commander Montasori was giving the final details prior to the raid.
“Acknowledged,” McNamara replied. He turned to Hideki and nodded.
Hideki nodded back and returned to his briefing. “The facility is currently in night. However, sunrise will be in three hours. We can either go now and hope to be out of there by then, or we can wait-“
“We aren’t waiting,” Hanson informed everyone.
“Okay,” Hideki stated. He turned to the operations officer who began to talk about the scans that the probe made.
“Now, this is only a passive scan so it’s not exact, but we estimate about 15 perimeter guards and about 50 people inside of the building. Most of them are probably warehouse employees, production people, et cetera.
“The main entrance is to the east, so we don’t want to go in that way. There is a landing pad and warehouse entrance on the north. That is our best bet. We can land the shuttles in this grassy area about three kilometers northwest,” operations concluded.
“Once inside, the assault team can place the target amplifiers and get out. Once they are clear, we can fire a volley of torpedoes from outside of range and they will still track and land on target.” Hideki finished.
“What about the people inside?” McNamara asked.
“Well, uh…” Hideki stammered. “They will likely be killed in the explosions.”
“That’s not acceptable.”
“Captain-“ Hanson started.
“Sir, my orders are to destroy the facility, not to murder 65 innocent people.”
Hanson sighed. “So, do you have a plan?”
“Once inside, someone on the assault team can access their communications system and leave some sort of message saying they are terrorists and are going to destroy the facility. Giving them a time frame to abandon the building.”
McNamara looked to the view screen and sighed. “At least then the only ones who get killed will be those who chose not to leave.”
“Very well,” Hanson reluctantly agreed.
“Any questions?” Hideki asked.
“No,” Everyone replied.
All eyes turned to the captain.
“Launch the assault,” McNamara dryly stated.
The shuttle bay doors on the Saint Paul opened and three Romulan shuttles flew out.
“We need to cloak ASAP,” Hideki said to the pilot of the first shuttle.
He nodded and the first shuttle cloaked. The other two followed suit.
“It’s going to be a bumpy ride into the atmosphere, sir,” the pilot stated. “We had to draw power from the inertial stabilizers to make sure we’d hold our cloak on entry.”
“Understood,” Hideki turned to the group of security officers in his shuttle. “Everyone, hang on to your asses.”
The group laughed. That was until the ship hit the atmosphere and people were sent in every which way.
“Sorry,” the pilot stated. “It should be a bit smoother now that we’ve entered the upper exosphere.”
The tiny ship bounced around as it dropped closer and closer to the surface of the planet. Hideki stood and walked to the co-pilot’s seat.
“Do you think they detected us?” he asked the co-pilot.
“Yes,” he stated rather matter-of-factly. “However, the cloak held, so they’d have no reason to think it wasn’t three meteorites.”
“Good,” Hideki stated, somewhat unsure of whether to believe that.
After a short flight, the three shuttles set down in an open field. The groups quickly disembarked and assembled.
Hideki hit his communicator. “Anders, be ready to fly as soon as we get back.”
“Aye,” The lead shuttle pilot replied.
Hideki looked to his troops.
“Let’s move. Group one with me, group two with Mason.”
Lt. Commander Casey Mason, the Saint Paul’s assistant chief of security, nodded and took his group into the brush to the southwest while Hideki took his group into the forest area to the southeast.
Hideki’s group walked for about two kilometers before one of the officers halted everyone after his tricorder began to beep at him.
“Two people, 30 meters, four o’clock,” he whispered.
Hideki nodded and got into position. The rest of the group moved slightly and got into ambush positions.
“So, what did you do to him?” one of the people asked as they moved into earshot.
“I kicked his ass!” the other stated, laughing. “You don’t do those kinds of things to another man’s wife!”
The pair laughed until they were standing face to face with four phaser rifles.
“Hands up,” Hideki whispered.
The pair, seeing that they were outnumbered and at the nasty end of several phasers, complied. One of the officers quickly zipped up and restrained their hands. He then disarmed them and removed their radios.
“Who are you?” one of them asked.
“No talking,” Hideki stated as he stunned the pair.
“We have a serious problem, sir,” the officer who disarmed the guards stated.
“They aren’t using phasers. These are projectile weapons.”
The officer held up a gun resembling a 21st century M5. He released the magazine and popped out a couple of bullets.
“Wonderful,” Hideki groaned as he inspected the projectile. “Hypersonic 3mm carbon-deuterium explosive rounds.”
Hideki quickly communicated this newly discovered information to the second team.
“We HAVE to shoot them before they shoot us,” Hideki bluntly ordered.
“HEY RYOUGA!” Gosnell yelled.
Ryouga stopped. He slowly began to turn around. He was praying that it was an ensign or an enlisted person who just called him. He really needed someone to yell at, and with Ranma off the ship, he’d gotten out of practice.
He sighed when he saw it was Gosnell. While it would have been ideal for Gosnell to call him Lieutenant, it was not required since Gosnell wasn’t in Starfleet.
“Yes?” Ryouga grumbled.
Gosnell ran to catch up with Ryouga.
“How’ve ya been, buddy?”
Ryouga pondered this for a moment. He wasn’t quite sure why Gosnell was calling him buddy. They had never chatted nor hung out. In fact, Ryouga usually avoided Gosnell, except to get liquor from him, since he was a friend of Ranma’s.
“Been good, I guess,” Ryouga replied as he resumed his walk towards his quarters.
Gosnell began to walk with Ryouga. “That’s good.”
Ryouga nodded and continued walking. Gosnell walked with him in silence for a few moments. It didn’t take long before Ryouga was lost though.
“Didn’t we just come this way?” Gosnell asked as they passed the turbolift that Ryouga had stepped out of.
“Your quarters are this way,” Gosnell helpfully stated, pointing in the opposite direction of which they were heading.
“Thanks,” Ryouga nodded.
The pair walked a bit longer in silence.
“Why are you following me?” Ryouga asked.
“Oh, I wanted to ask you about something,” Gosnell stated.
“Well, I’ve noticed that you and Minako don’t sit together anymore, and I was just curious if that was something that I could help you with.”
Ryouga grabbed Gosnell and slammed him against the wall.
“How is that any of your business?”
Gosnell grinned even though the heat from Ryouga’s battle aura could melt the bulkhead that he was pinned up against.
“I just want everyone on board to be happy. And to be perfectly blunt, you seemed happy when you were with Minako.”
Ryouga dropped Gosnell and turned around. Gosnell slammed to the deck and looked up at Ryouga.
“I was apparently never with Minako,” Ryouga stated.
Gosnell pulled himself up to his feet.
“She likes you, ya know.”
Ryouga turned around. Gosnell flinched slightly, expecting another pounding. However, Ryouga simply tilted his head slightly in a confused puppy dog way.
“How do you know?”
“Well,” Gosnell replied, ready to dodge any attack. “My wife and Minako are friends. And you know how girls like to gossip.”
Gosnell chuckled nervously.
Ryouga turned back around.
“Can you help me find my quarters?”
“Yeah, sure,” Gosnell replied.
After a short walk, Ryouga and Gosnell reached Ryouga’s deck five quarters. Ryouga deactivated the lock and walked in. He motioned for Gosnell to follow him.
Gosnell complies and looks around.
“Man, they sure make junior officers’ quarters small,” Gosnell noted.
Ryouga nodded as he walked to his replicator. “Two vodkas, with ice.”
The replicator made the drinks. Ryouga picked them up and brought them to a small table. He sat down on one side of the table and motioned for Gosnell to sit down on the other side.
“I got an extra eight square meters when I was promoted,” Ryouga said as he took a drink.
Gosnell nodded and took a drink of his.
“So,” Ryouga began, “if she likes me so much, why didn’t she say she loved me too?”
“That’s one of the hardest things to say,” Gosnell explained. “I think she does, but she’s just afraid to say it.”
Gosnell took another sip and continued.
“You have to look at this from her point of view as well. Her best friend was in love with someone, and he left her. Then her other friend was in love with someone – well, the same person – and she lost him.”
Gosnell sighed. “Maybe she’s just afraid that if she says she loves you and then loses you, it would be too devastating?”
Ryouga sighed as well.
“I never really thought of it like that.”
Gosnell nodded. “I think it would appeal to her if you went a bit slower. Give her time to realize that you aren’t going anywhere.”
Ryouga nodded, but then slammed the rest of his drink.
“I really mucked things up though. How do I get her to go out with me again?”
“Just ask,” Gosnell answered.
“Just ask? It’s really that easy?”
“You want easy, go to the holodeck,” Gosnell scoffed. “But if you don’t ask, nothing will happen. And the longer you take, the farther you will grow apart, making it that much harder to come back together again.”
Ryouga quickly moved to the replicator and ordered two more drinks. Gosnell begins to tell Ryouga that he doesn’t need another one yet, but Ryouga downs both before he can get one word out.
“So, what do I say to her? You know, when she asks about last time?” Ryouga whimpers, somewhat slurred.
“Well,” Gosnell thought. “Just tell her that being with her is important to you and that you’re willing to move at her pace.”
Ryouga grinned and nodded.
“Alright. I’ll do it.”
Gosnell grinned and stood.
“I knew you could.”
Gosnell turned and began to walk to Ryouga’s doors. His forward momentum was stopped though when Ryouga grabbed the back of his shirt.
“Uh…” Gosnell murmured.
“I need your help though,” Ryouga glowed.
Gosnell simply gulped.
Ranma retook his seat at the witness stand as Gwen shot dirty looks to all the spectators who hadn’t taken their seats yet.
Once Gwen has visually stunned all lollygaggers, Larson stood and walked up to the viewscreen.
“Commander, can you please tell the court what this is?”
Larson activated the viewscreen. A long list appears.
Ranma looked at it for a moment. “It appears to be a list of service awards and citations that I have received.”
“Can you please read them?” Larson asked.
Ranma eyed Larson for a moment and then began to read the list.
“Wolf 359 Campaign medal. Borg Sol Invasion Campaign medal. Dominion War Medal of Valor. Dominion War Torros III Campaign medal. Dominion War Battle of Bajor Campaign medal. Dominion War Battle of the Tibor Nebula Campaign medal. Dominion War Battle –“
“Captain,” Orayyo objected. “What are we doing here, reminiscing about the past?”
Larson glared at Orayyo. “If the Commander can bring up past acts to establish a pattern of recklessness, I should be allowed to bring up past acts to establish a pattern of honor and dignity. To bring up a pattern of being an asset to Starfleet and the Federation.”
Gwen sighed. “I get your point, Admiral. You can submit to me the list, but it is unnecessary to have Commander Saotome recite it.”
Larson once again nodded. He was still unsure if the good captain’s rulings were going in his favor or not.
“Okay then, I submit Commander Saotome’s service record as defense exhibit ‘A’.”
Gwen nodded and began to go over the record as Larson continued.
“Commander, are you aware of the Starfleet rules of engagement?”
Ranma nodded. “Of course.”
“Can you explain what is required for the use of lethal force?”
“Yeah,” Ranma stated, leaning forward. “It says that lethal force is to only be used when all non-lethal options are exhausted, or when inaction could lead to the loss of life of civilians and/or Starfleet personal.”
Larson walked over to Ranma.
“Do the rules of engagement state anything about shooting at a ship that is in the atmosphere of a planet?”
Ranma thought about this for a moment.
“Not specifically,” he paused for a moment and thought some more. “But there is what is commonly referred to as the ‘Spock Clause’.”
Larson raised an eyebrow. “Spock, as in Captain Spock, a Vulcan?”
Larson walked over to near Salek and Young.
“What’s the Spock Clause?”
Ranma cleared his throat. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
“So, basically Spock, a Vulcan, said that sometimes to save many, you need to lose a few?”
Ranma shrugged. “Yeah. I mean obviously, it wasn’t the ideal situation, but we felt that if we didn’t stop that ship, millions would die.”
“Millions would have died,” Larson walked back to the viewscreen and pulled up a graphic. “Analysis of the pitch of the ship prior to the explosion shows that it would have impacted in the center of Mol-Kom, a city of eight point three million people.”
Larson sighed and walked back to Ranma. “The entire city would have been leveled. Everyone would have been killed instantly. If the warp core fail-safes would have failed…”
Larson paused for a moment.
“An entire continent could have been taken out.”
Larson looked to Ranma. “It was a tough decision.”
Ranma looked at his hands. “It was a tough situation.”
“You do think that firing in the atmosphere was within the established rules of engagement?”
Ranma nodded. “Yes.”
“Nothing further,” Larson said as he sat down.
Gwen looked to Ranma. “You may return to your seat, Commander.”
Ranma gave her a quick nod and returned to his seat at the defense table. He looked towards his dad and Akane. Genma was grinning. Akane, for what seemed like the first time in days, also had a small, but genuine smile on her face.
Gwen looks towards Orayyo. Orayyo goes over his notes for a moment. He did not show it, but he was angry.
His breaking of Ranma was completely undone by five minutes of reciting service medals and Starfleet protocols.
“Commander?” Gwen asked.
Orayyo did not look up from his notes. “I have no further witnesses.”
Gwen nodded and turned to Larson.
Larson smiled and stood. “I only have one witness.” Larson looked out into the audience.
“I call High Commander Saanik to the stand.”
The Vulcan military official stood and walked towards the witness stand. On the way, he paused and shot Salek a look.
If you didn’t know any better, you would think it was a look of disgust. It was at least the Vulcan, non-emotional equivalent.
Saanik moved on to the stand and sat down. The bailiff walked up to him and swore him in. Once that was completed Larson came up to Saanik and smiled.
“Good morning sir,” Larson grinned. “For the record can you please tell the court who you are.”
“My name is Saanik. I am the High Commander of the Vulcan Defense Forces and Defense Minister.”
“The Vulcan Defense Forces are non-Starfleet personal charged with the defense of Vulcan and the surrounding airspace, are they not?” Larson queried.
“That is correct,” Saanik acknowledged.
“What was the VDF’s role in the events of Stardate 60523?”
“The VDF sent six cruisers and three battleships to assist the sixth fleet in intercepting the terrorist ship.”
Larson raised an eyebrow. “Sent?”
“Yes,” Saanik continued. “Starfleet felt that Earth was the target of the ship, based on a preliminary trajectory. So, the main bulk of our ships were sent towards Sol to assist.”
“Did you have any ships left to defend Vulcan?” Larson asked.
“A squadron of interceptors and a heavy cruiser.”
“And they were unable to intercept the enemy ship?”
Saanik shook his head. “No. The ship dropped out of warp within the planet's gravity well, a good thousand kilometers from the interceptors.
“They had the speed to catch the ship, but not the shielding to follow it into the atmosphere. The heavy cruiser, which did have adequate shielding, couldn’t intercept it in time.”
“What about weapons lock?” Larson asked.
“Like the U.S.S. Sisko, the distortion caused by the atmosphere made a sensor lock impossible.”
“What happened with your ships that were with the sixth fleet?”
“The Sisko informed us that the target of the ship was indeed Vulcan. The sixth fleet and the VDF ships returned to Vulcan but didn’t arrive in time.”
Larson nodded. “Do you have land-based defense systems?”
“Yes,” Saanik nodded. “Many phase cannon batteries.”
“Why didn’t they fire on the ship?”
“It was the same problem with the airborne ships. The cannons could not lock the target ship. We didn’t fire without a lock because there was a risk we could hit the Sisko.”
Saanik looked to Ranma. “We had faith that the Starfleet ship could stop them.”
“When the torpedo was fired, what happened.”
Saanik thought back. “The torpedo was fired and shortly after that, there was an explosion. Our first determination was that the torpedo impacted the ship.
“Six seconds later our sensors detected the torpedo passing through the lower atmosphere. The computers targeted it and fired the phase cannon batteries.”
“Why did they miss? Aren’t they designed to shoot down torpedoes?”
Saanik nodded. “Unfortunately, since the torpedo was fired so close to the surface it was still accelerating when the computer attempted to determine its path.
“The system has two parts. First, there are orbital tracking stations that determine where the torpedo started. Second, there are ground-based tracking systems to track where it is going.
“The cannons have to fire not where the torpedo is, but where it’s going to be. Because the orbital stations could not lock on the target vessel, the computers didn’t accurately calculate the acceleration curve and improperly fired.”
Larson looked to Ranma.
“Do you think Commander Saotome should have initiated a self-destruct protocol on the torpedo?”
“Ideally, yes,” Saanik acknowledged. “However as close as they were to the explosion – I think the most logical course of action would be to concentrate on getting the ship out of harm’s way.”
Larson turned back to Saanik. “That wasn’t selfish?”
Saanik shook his head.
“A warp core detonation in the atmosphere could have been catastrophic for Vulcan. A lot more people could have been killed if the Sisko had been destroyed. And certainly, more than six when you consider the debris field the Sisko would have created.”
“What is the official Vulcan military opinion on the actions of Commander Saotome?”
“The official position is that Commander Saotome did the most logical thing, given the circumstances.”
“Even though it could have been prevented earlier?”
Saanik looked to Ranma again. “We don’t dwell on what led up to the final event, but the final event itself.”
Larson grinned. “Nothing further.”
Gwen turned to Orayyo.
“I have no questions,” Orayyo stated.
Gwen turned back to Saanik. “Thank you, Minister. You are excused.”
Saanik bowed to Gwen and returned to his seat.
“You have no more witnesses?” Gwen asked Larson.
“No ma’am. I’ve proven everything I need to,” Larson replied.
“Very well,” Gwen stated. “Commander, your closing statement?”
Orayyo stood and walked to the defense table.
“I have proved; beyond any shadow of a doubt that Commander Saotome on Stardate 60523 acted recklessly and without any regard for the safety of his crew, his ship, or the people of Vulcan.
“He operated outside of stated Starfleet policy and the requirements of his mission. Everything he did was to fit his own agenda. An agenda that led to the deaths of six Federation citizens.”
Orayyo walked back to his seat.
“If anything, the fact that he knows nothing about the weapons his fires willy-nilly 500 kilometers from the surface of a planet shows that he is unfit to wear that uniform.”
Orayyo sat down and looked at Gwen.
Gwen looked to Larson who appeared to have steam coming off the top of his head.
Larson remained seated.
“Commander Orayyo, despite his badgering of Commander Saotome, proved nothing that we didn’t already determine. He made mistakes. He acted emotionally. Not everything that he did was in the best interests of his ship and crew and because of that, he lost his command.
“But one thing is obvious. He went to extreme measures to try and stop that ship. He acted within protocol and the established rules of engagement. Hell, even the highest-ranking officer of the Vulcan military said he did the right thing.”
Larson looked to Orayyo.
“If anyone has an agenda, it’s not Commander Saotome.”
“We’ll recess while I make my decision.”
She clapped her gavel.
Inside the Chidori III facility, a security officer is sitting at a desk with several computers and television monitors. There is also a radio communications panel next to him.
He has his feet up on the desk and is almost asleep.
<Weird chirping noise>
The noise startled the guard. He tips his chair backward. The guard franticly waved his arms to regain his balance.
Dammit!” he grumbled from the floor.
The guard slowly climbed back to his seat and began to investigate the noise.
“What the hell?” he asked himself after looking at the display. He quickly clicks his radio.
“Control to Echo 6 and Echo 7, come in.”
“Echo 6 and 7, this is control, come in.”
“Control to Echo 1.”
A deep voice on the radio begins to speak.
“Go ahead control.”
“Sarge sensors have detected a phaser discharge in grid 3. I’ve tried to contact the officers on patrol out there but Echo 6 and 7 are not answering their radios.”
“Phasers?” The deep voice pondered with concern. “I’m on my way. Send Echo 3 and 9 as well. Get someone up to the tower to look around.”
“Yes sir,” the guard stated as he began to issue commands into his computer.
“Control, let him know that he is weapons-free.”
The guard paused for a second and then acknowledged the command.
Mason’s group slowly walked up closer to the point where the two groups were meeting.
Mason suddenly stopped his group when he noticed a blip on his tricorder getting closer.
“Two coming this way,” he whispered.
The group all ducked down and aimed their weapons. After a couple of seconds, two more guards came through the brush. They saw the group and drew their weapons.
Just about every officer in the group fired, stunning the two guards.
Up in an observation tower of the facility, a guard stationed there saw the bright red flash in the distance.
He quickly grabbed some night vision binoculars and looked. After a second, he quickly activated his radio.
“CONTROL! INTRUDER ALERT! GRID 6!” He yelled.
“Understood,” the guard in control stated. “You are weapons-free. Repeat, you are weapons-free. Neutralize the threat.”
“Heh,” the guard chuckled as he lifted his sniper rifle to the ledge. He looked through the scope, which was set on night vision mode. In the scope, he could see the green and black of several figures.
“I see ten,” he pulled the trigger. “Make that nine.”
A loud boom is heard. Reddish-grey goo flies from one of the officer’s head. Then a second boom. The officer slumped to the ground.
“WHAT THE HELL?” Mason screamed.
One of the other officers rushed over and looked at the fallen officer.
“He’s got a head wound,” the officer turned to Mason. “He’s dead.”
The man barely finished his sentence before another boom was heard. Like the first officer, blood and brain matter blow from the back of a second officer’s skull prior to him dropping to the ground.
“SHIT! SNIPER!” Mason screamed. “HIT THE DIRT! SPREAD OUT!”
Another shot is heard, followed by a scream.
“MY LEG!” One of the Starfleet officers cried.
Mason hit his communicator. “Hideki! We’re losing men over here! Someone in the tower!”
Hideki and his group were running towards the building. He stops them and turns to his sharpshooter.
“Take out that sniper!”
The sharpshooter sets up and looks through the viewfinder of his rifle. In it, he can see the barely lit figure of a man in the observation tower.
He fires and the ball of charged energy flies up, nailing the sniper.
“MOVE! MOVE!” Hideki yells to his group. “Mason, get your injured back to the shuttles!”
“I’ve got some men moving them, there are four of us left, we’ll come to assist!” Mason replied.
“We’ve got ten heading this way!” one of Hideki’s men with a tricorder reported.
“I’ve got twenty heading my way!” Mason stated over communications.
“Fifteen my ass,” Hideki grumbled.
Three men were carrying the two deceased officers and the injured officer as fast as they could back to the location of the shuttle crafts when an unknown shuttle flew overhead. A large spotlight shined on them.
“THIS IS THE CHIDORI SECURITY SERVICES. HALT AND SURRENDER AND YOU WILL NOT BE HARMED. YOUR INJURED WILL BE ATTENDED TO.” A voice bellowed over the loudspeaker.
The group ignored the shuttle and tried to continue. One of the side doors to the shuttle opened and a man leaned outside. He began to fire on the group with a fully automatic machine gun.
The shots hit one of the officers in the lower back, causing him to fall. Another officer was shot in the legs. He also fell to the ground.
The third officer quickly set down his wounded comrade and raised his arms.
“DON’T SHOOT!” he screamed.
The shuttle quickly landed, and six guards jumped out and took the group into custody.
“You’ll help my friends?” The only uninjured officer asked.
His captor looked at the two deceased officers.
“They’re beyond help.”
“Please, don’t just leave them here to rot.”
Another shuttle quickly lands and sets down next to the first.
The guard sighs. “Never leave a man behind, eh?”
The officer nods.
“Take the dead ones,” he orders the other guards.
“Get in,” he orders as the captured Starfleet officers are shoved into one of the shuttle crafts.
A man dressed in what could be described as a supervisor’s uniform storms into the facilities security control room.
“Uh, Lieutenant!” the guard stammered. “We have six captured, two of which are dead. There are four more in grid six moving to grid one. Then we have an unknown number in grid three also moving towards grid one.”
“Did you call in another squad from the barracks?”
“Yes sir. Actually three.”
“Good. They had to get here somehow. Find their ship.”
“I’ve got three shuttles searching for a possible landing site.”
The lieutenant looked at the computer screen. “Launch the interceptors.”
The guard nodded and entered several commands into his computer.
About thirty kilometers from the facility the ground opened up and eight two-seater fighters flew out from an underground hanger. Their engines powered up to full and they took off towards the night sky.
Hideki’s group attempted to take cover in the tall grasses, but they did little good against the security forces that were attacking them.
While the jumpsuits that the group was wearing were phase resistant, they did nothing to stop the small caliber bullets from diving into the men’s vital organs.
“HIDEKI TO SAINT PAUL!” Hideki yelled as another one of his men is shot and drops to the ground, screaming in pain.
“You’re ordered to maintain radio silence,” Hanson stated.
“WE’RE BEING ATTACKED – PROJECTILE WEAPONS – LOST THREE MEN!”
McNamara stood. He grimaced at the background noise of phaser fire, gunshots, and people screaming.
“GET OUT OF THERE!”
The communication shut off.
“HELM – GET OVER THERE AND BEAM THEM UP!” McNamara ordered.
“Belay that!” Hanson interjected.
“Sir! They’re dying!”
“This ship cannot be implicated.”
McNamara glared at the Admiral for a moment.
“I will no longer be a party to this – this murder of my men,” McNamara grumbled as he ripped off his communicator and pips. He took them and threw them to the admiral’s feet.
Hanson turned to the tactical officer.
“Escort Mr. McNamara to his quarters and secure him there.”
“NOW!” Hanson yelled.
McNamara walked up to the turbolift.
“I’m sorry sir,” tactical stated.
McNamara just shook his head as he and tactical got into the turbolift.
“I’m assuming command of this ship,” Hanson stated.
Hideki knew it was futile to go on anymore. This gunfight was doing nothing but killing his men.
“Cease fire,” he ordered the five that were still able to shoot.
The officers complied.
“WE SURRENDER. HOLD YOUR FIRE!” Hideki yelled.
The guards all stopped firing.
“PUT YOUR HANDS UP!” they yelled.
Hideki nodded to his men, who did as he ordered.
“We have injured,” Hideki stated to the men that were moving in to arrest them.
“They will be taken care of. How many more of you are there?” One of the guards asked.
“I don’t know. Between ten and zero, depending on how many you’ve killed.”
“Where are our missing guards?” He asked.
Hideki motioned with his head back to the direction they came from.
“They’ve been stunned and restrained, but uninjured.”
The guard nodded as a pair of shuttles landed and began to load the injured Starfleet prisoners on board.
Mason groaned as he felt a burning sensation in his arm. He looked to see his sleeve ripped and blood beginning to ooze out of a bullet wound.
“Commander, this isn’t good,” one of the officers stated.
Alexander, who had been quiet up to this point, spoke up.
“We need to continue on.”
“What are you fucking mental?” Mason asked. “There are four of us left and there is-“ He looks to his tricorder. “Seventeen of them.”
Brett clenched his fists. “We need to continue on!”
Brett stood and began to run towards the facility. Mason sighed, drew his phaser, and shot Brett.
Brett stumbled to the ground. He coughed and looked up to see three Chidori guards standing above him with their weapons pointed directly at him.
“SHOOT THEM!” Brett screamed.
Brett looked back to see the three Starfleet officers with their hands in the air. Mason only had one hand in the air since his other arm was injured.
“I’d raise my other arm, but it seems to have part of it missing.” He mused as the guards took the four of them into custody.
The pilots of the shuttles looked around. They had been monitoring communications and were pondering what they should do next. They had not received any instructions from the team leaders yet, but what if they had been injured.
“If we fly over, we might be able to spot them. They shouldn’t be able to see us if we are cloaked.” The first pilot pondered.
“Yeah, except we’d have to use thrusters which would cause a wake they could pick up.” The second pilot stated.
“Does it really matter at this point?” The third asked. “They’ve already been discovered. These aren’t Federation shuttles.”
The first and second nodded in agreement.
“Should one of us stay here in case they are making their way back?” The first asked.
“Yeah, that would probably be a good idea.” The second agreed.
The third pilot was getting ready to say something when he spotted a light in the distance.
“What is that?”
Suddenly an explosion occurred about a kilometer in front of them. The first pilot ran into his ship to check the sensors.
“It’s a ship, firing disruptors at the ground!”
There was another explosion a little bit closer.
“Holy crap, they’re just randomly firing!”
Another explosion happened closer.
“GO! GO!” The third pilot screamed as they all ran for their shuttles, in an attempt to get them started.
The security forces ship continued along his line, firing a disruptor blast every hundred or so meters.
The shuttles began to power up.
The shuttles began to lift off.
The explosion was close enough to cause the cloak on the third shuttle to waver.
It was enough for a lock.
The security ship fired. The disruptor impacted the small shuttlecraft, destroying it.
“FULL IMPULSE!” The first pilot instructed the second.
The two remaining shuttles shot off into the sky as the sun began to crest the mountains off along the eastern horizon.
The Chidori shuttle landed, and troops began to inspect the wreckage burning where the third shuttle once was.
“No warp core.” One man said.
Another hit his radio. “Control, inform the interceptors – there is a bigger ship out there.”