“Would you mind repeating that?” Bacco asked her chief of staff.
The older man inhaled and repeated the report from his PADD.
“A Federation installation in Chicago was bombed about thirty hours ago. There were three people inside, all were killed.”
Bacco turned to her window, overlooking the Paris skyline.
“Do we know who is responsible?” she asked.
The president groaned as her communications terminal chirped.
“Madam President, several officers from Starfleet Intelligence are here to see you. They say it’s important.”
“Send them in,” Bacco replied.
After a moment seven men, wearing the black and gray uniforms of Starfleet Intelligence walked in.
“I’ll leave you alone,” The chief of staff said as he began to walk to the door.
His egress was quickly halted by the very direct point of one of the officers.
“We need you to stay for right now, sir,” the lone admiral replied.
The chief of staff nodded and complied. He knew this could not be good.
“Ma’am,” the admiral began, turning towards the president. “The Federation does not officially have any facilities in Chicago. The buildings that were bombed were used by Section 31 for training, storage, and logistics.
“We have reason to believe that the Vulcans are responsible.”
“What evidence?” the chief of staff asked.
One of the officers turned to the Admiral, who nodded.
“We have security footage,” the officer stated. “We were able to get a match by facial recognition. The man is a member of the Ministry of Intelligence.”
Bacco sighed at the information.
“Madam President, we need to respond,” the admiral stated.
Bacco's chief of staff started to choke on his own disbelief as Bacco simply shook her head.
“We cannot launch a military attack against another Federation planet,” the chief of staff finally blurted out.
“If we don’t, Section 31 will,” the admiral replied. “And they will not do it cleanly. They’ve been punched in the proverbial face, and they *will* take it personally.”
“So, what do you suggest?” Bacco asked.
Another officer stood.
“We can take out the people responsible-”
“Take out?” Bacco interrupted. “You mean kill them?”
“They killed three Federation citizens, three officers of the Federation,” the admiral replied. “Besides, if Section 31 doesn’t think our response is good enough, they will kill more than the people directly responsible.”
Bacco sighed and resumed listening.
The officer continued with his idea. “We take out the M-I agents responsible. We have the confirmed identity of one of them, and we know that three more were on the planet at the time of the attack.
“Quick, quiet, and clean.”
Bacco shook her head again, still unsure.
“Ma’am, we can go to the council for this, but we will have to then make up some elaborate ruse to conceal the existence of Section 31. Plus, then you will have the Vulcans on the council informing the M-I and putting the agents responsible in hiding,” the admiral countered.
Bacco sighed. The middle-aged, dark-haired woman knew that she was being asked to open one of the biggest can of worms she had ever opened in her life.
But the Starfleet people sitting on the edge of their seats awaiting her orders were right. Section 31 would be quick and quiet, but they would not be tidy. They would punish people all the way up the chain of command.
Possibly even Federation officials for allowing such a deed to happen.
“Fine,” Bacco stated softly. “Keep it quiet.”
The Starfleet Intelligence officers nodded and handed Bacco a PADD. The President inhaled deep in compilation and after a short delay, placed her thumbprint on the order.
“You’ve made the right decision, ma’am,” one of the officers stated as he followed his peers out of the room. Once the room had cleared, the chief of staff looked to his president.
“Are you sure about this?” he asked.
Bacco shook her head. “No. In fact, I think it’s a terrible idea. No matter how neat and tidy Starfleet keeps this, I just know somehow this will come around to bite us in the ass.”
The chief looked to his superior with a look of utter confusion on his face.
“Then why did you sign the order?”
Bacco turned from her gaze out the window and took a seat behind her desk.
“Because they were right. I’ve seen some of the reports of activities believed to be done by Section 31. An attack directly on them will incur amazing wrath.”
She sighed and leaned back in her chair. “And we don’t need a group as deadly as them having a vendetta.”
Young browsed over the classified PADD that had been delivered to him moments beforehand. It took him all the strength he could muster to keep from breaking out in stereotypical cartoon super-villain style laughter.
His communications system chirped.
Young grinned and looked down at an exhausted Salek.
“Hey buddy,” Young grinned.
“I don’t care for running, so this better be as urgent as you said it was,” Salek panted.
Young cocked his head. “I think I would enjoy seeing you run.”
Young snickered. “They’re launching a counterattack.”
Both of Salek’s eyebrows shot up. “Already?”
Young nodded. “A precision strike directed at the M-I officers who launched the attack.”
Salek was fighting hard to keep from bursting out in glee himself. He made a quick mental note that he would have to meditate for an extra few hours tonight.
“Excellent,” he finally replied, a partial grin managing to sneak onto his face. “I will have my people set up to make the arrest.”
Young nodded. “What about your boy from Chii?”
Salek shrugged. “He can’t very well give his confession before they find the debris.”
Young nodded in understanding. “I can’t imagine that they held together for too long.”
“According to T’Kuk, the Sisko should have exceeded structural tolerances within seconds of entering trans warp. A couple of hundred light-years is as far as they could have gotten.
“They surely disappeared from DS9’s sensors suddenly when the break-up occurred. As soon a DS9 gets some ships out there to investigate, they will find the wreckage. Then he’ll turn himself in.”
“Well, I look forward to seeing the president’s face when a Vulcan confesses that the High Command authorized a revenge murder,” Young smirked. “You know, I really hate that woman.”
Salek nodded. “Well, I doubt very much that the president in charge when the Federation fell apart will win reelection.”
“Stranger things have happened,” Young replied.
“How far down the succession chain are you?”
Young simply growled.
“I will speak with you later. I have to get things moving,” Salek grinned. He did the usual Vulcan finger greeting to Young and ended the communication.
Young quickly looked around his office.
No one around.
After verifying the door was closed, he took one last look and grinned to himself.
“Oh, what the hell,” he said out loud.
The laughter began slow and quiet, but within a moment he was laughing in a manner that would have made even the best mad scientists green with envy.
* Executive Officer’s Log, Star Date 60922.9.
Today I have a gaggle of unhappy tasks to perform. First, I must assume command of the ship. Something that, surprisingly, I am not looking forward to – and not just because of the circumstances.
Second, I am tasked with contacting the inhabitants of this planet. This will be my first, first contact mission. But what makes it even more sensitive is the fact that all indications are showing that this is a pre-warp civilization.
However, it seems a little late to simply pretend we don’t see them.
Third, we must attempt to contact Starfleet. We still haven’t figured out how exactly to do this, since emergency power is all that we have available to us. *
Ranma sighed as he sat in Karyn’s chair – his chair, in the captain’s ready room.
It disturbed him sitting in there and looking at the empty walls. He had originally thought that everything had just fallen off until he discovered a crate with all of Karyn’s possessions in them.
He had no idea that she was planning on resigning. He, like just about everyone else on the ship, had gotten used to her, and the way she did things. While he did not know if he would consider them ‘friends’, they had quickly developed an excellent captain, first officer rapport.
It pained him to think that she had to spend her last days so unhappy.
“Would you like to continue recording?” the computer asked him.
“No. End log,” Ranma replied. The computer chirped and Ranma stood.
A bit too quickly.
Ranma suddenly felt a dizzy spell overwhelm him. He had to grab the back of his chair to keep from falling to the deck.
While he was almost 100 percent, the remnants of the concussion were messing with his balance.
“Good thing I don’t have to worry about Ryouga rocking the ship!” Ranma joked to himself.
*That wasn’t very funny.* His mind replied.
Ranma nodded. Dark humor wasn’t really his thing. However, sometimes you need to do what you can to keep your mind from breaking down on you.
Ranma was facing the largest number of fatalities that he had ever had while serving in a command position on a ship. So far, forty-one confirmed with three still missing. A couple of dozen officers were still in sick bay with life-threatening injuries.
Ranma would never consider himself religious, but he had been praying. Praying for those who were already gone and praying for those who were still very hurt.
Ranma sighed, pulled himself together, and stepped out onto the bridge.
There was a little more activity. Several of the engineers had returned to the bridge to assist in fixing control panels so that they could get communications, sensors, and various other necessary systems up and running again.
Ranma took note of Minako, half asleep, staring at her panel.
“What’s wrong, Commander?” Ranma asked her.
Minako slowly turned to Ranma.
“So many people...” she mumbled.
Ranma nodded and walked up to her. Minako was surprised when Ranma embraced her, but she did not fight it. She leaned into him and began to cry.
“We’re going to be okay,” Ranma softly said, gently rubbing her back.
Minako continued to cry for a moment before pulling away.
“I – I’m sorry,” she sniffled.
Ranma shook his head. “Don’t be. I may have to ask you to return the favor soon.”
“Is ship-wide up?”
Minako nodded and pressed a couple of buttons. A low whistle came out of the ship’s intercom.
“This is the X-O, can I have everyone’s attention please,” Ranma called out.
Ranma paused a couple of seconds, giving his crew a moment to turn their attention to the speakers hidden within the walls.
“In case anyone is not aware of our situation, we have crashed on the surface of a planet. We have not yet been able to determine our location, nor send a distress call, but that is our first priority.”
Ranma inhaled deeply.
“I regret to inform you that I am assuming command of the ship. The captain-” Ranma trailed off for a moment, the hollowness of his words echoing in his mind.
“...our captain was killed as the result of her injuries sustained during our crash.”
Ranma again paused a moment, his own injuries again causing him to have to steady himself with the back of the captain's chair. After a couple of seconds, Ranma inhaled deeply and continued.
“All department heads, please report to the bridge in two hours for a status meeting, and to determine what resources will need to be spared to bring the ship to levels dictated in Starfleet emergency planetary operations S-O-P.
“That is all,” Ranma stated, ending the communication.
“Computer,” he called out.
The computer chirped at him. “Transfer all command codes to Saotome, Ranma. Commander. Authorization 7-1-2-3-Alpha-Zula-Beta.”
“Reason for transfer?” the computer asked.
“The C-O is deceased.” Ranma quietly replied.
The computer chirped. “Reason verified,” It replied in its uncaring, monotone voice. “Command transferred.”
Ranma turned to Minako.
“Have the ships overhead attempted to contact us?”
Minako nodded. “I have been receiving transmissions on low UHF and VHF frequencies. Also, on a 3 gigahertz digital band.”
“Can we reply?”
Minako nodded. “I can divert some power to the communications system. Short-range, but they’re close enough to receive it.”
“And the universal translator?”
“It’s listened to their request enough to develop a translation matrix,” Minako replied after checking some details out on her terminal.
Ranma nodded, bit his bottom lip, and inhaled deeply. “Open a channel.”
The communication system chirped and Minako nodded.
“This is Commander Ranma Saotome, captain of the United Federation of Planets starship, the U.S.S. Benjamin Sisko to the aircraft hovering overhead. Please respond.”
A moment passed by, and the radio crackled.
“This is Lieutenant Jul Polius of the Western Defense Forces. Please state your intentions.”
“We come in peace,” Ranma replied, amazed at how hokey it sounded. “We – We did not mean to contact you. We had an engine malfunction and crashed here.”
“Commander Saotome is it?” the lieutenant asked.
“On behalf of the Western government, we welcome you to Valari.”
“Thank you. Is there someone with your government that we can speak with?”
“My superiors are informing me that our prime minister would like to meet with you. I will inform them and get back to you on this channel,” the pilot replied.
“Very well,” Ranma answered. “We’ll be right here.”
The lieutenant chuckled and closed the communication.
“Is the air safe?” Ranma asked Minako.
“Yeah,” she replied, “Slightly higher concentration of hydrogen, but otherwise similar to Earth.”
The rear turbolift door opened and Makoto walked onto the bridge, with Rei right behind her.
“Captain,” Makoto called to Ranma.
Ranma almost corrected her, but then remembered the long-standing naval tradition. The captain of a ship is referred to as Captain, regardless of rank.
It would make things less confusing, considering there could be up to seven officers who could be referred to as ‘commander’ on the bridge at one time.
“Yes?” Ranma replied.
“All crew members have been accounted for.”
Ranma lowered his eyes. “The final three?”
Makoto smiled. “Hurt, but alive.”
It was the happiest news he had received all day.
“We’ve made contact with the inhabitants of this planet,” Ranma told them. “We’re working on face-to-face contact now.”
“I would suggest we do it off ship, sir,” Rei offered.
Makoto nodded in agreement.
“If they aren’t warp capable, we don’t want them seeing the inside of the ship or using the transporters.”
Ranma had to agree.
“I guess we could meet them somewhere in front of the ship.”
Rei nodded. “I’ll get a security team set up for you.”
Rei began to turn and walk away.
“Commander, I’d much rather take just a couple of regular security officers. Just trying to impart that whole ‘not hostile’ image on them.”
Rei stopped and nodded. Makoto turned to Ranma.
“Who are you taking?”
“Myself,” Ranma stated. “Obviously. Commander Shampoo if she is able, and Lt. Fuchs. Commander Aino will come if Shampoo is still in sickbay.”
Makoto nodded. “And me.”
Ranma grinned. “And you.”
Makoto returned the grin as the rear turbolift slid open.
Out of the turbolift walked Usagi and J.C., both looked like characters out of ‘Night of the Living Dead.’
“Captain,” J.C. called out.
“What’s the status down there?” Ranma asked.
The two engineers walked up to Ranma as Makoto and Rei went off to resume their duties.
“I think we can get main power restored within a week,” J.C. replied.
“That long?” Ranma asked.
J.C. looked to Usagi.
“Captain, there are several things wrong down there,” Usagi stated.
The look of confusion did not go undetected on Ranma’s face.
“We’ve found several ‘foreign’ devices on various relays, most of which control plasma and anti-matter flow. But there was another on a system that adjusts the coils in the nacelles and generates the warp field,” J.C. explained.
“What do you mean by foreign?” Ranma asked.
“They’re Borg,” Usagi replied bluntly.
“WHAT?” Ranma yelped. “How the hell did they get there?”
J.C.’s eyes narrowed as he remembered the fat Vulcan at the shipyard.
“They were installed back at Chii.”
Ranma shook his head. “Are you sure?”
J.C. shook his head. “No, but I will be.”
Ranma nodded. “Do what you can to get power restored so that we can send out a distress call. That’s our first priority.”
J.C. pondered this. “Why don’t you just send a Runabout up?”
Ranma shook his head. He hadn’t even thought about that. It was a good idea yet at the same time a bad one.
“I don’t want the population seeing them.”
J.C. nodded in understanding. “Well, how about we take the subspace system out of one and put it into Nighthawk?”
Nighthawk, the scout shuttle with a cloaking device installed was still sitting in shuttle bay two. At least Ranma hoped it was.
“Hopefully, it hasn’t been damaged,” Ranma stated.
J.C. shrugged. “It shouldn’t be. The magnetic locks that hold them in place are EXTRAORDINARILY strong. I’ll get to work on that right away.”
“I can handle it, J.C.” Usagi interrupted.
J.C. eyed her. “You sure?”
“Okay,” J.C. replied. “Back to work then.”
“Go take a nap,” Ranma ordered. “You look like hell.”
J.C. grinned and nodded. “Yes sir.”
Usagi groaned as she tripped and fell to the deck.
“You too, Commander,” Ranma ordered her as well.
Usagi only chucked Ranma thumbs up as she stumbled her way into the turbolift.
Minako felt herself starting to dose off when her speakers barked out at her.
“This is Lt. Polius to Commander Saotome aboard the U.S.S. Sisko. Do you read me?”
Minako opened the channel as Ranma scurried to the operations station.
“Sir, the Prime Minister would like to meet with you in twelve hours. There is a river about two kilometers from here to your northwest and a very lovely picnic area. Would that be an acceptable place?”
“Yes. That would be fine,” Ranma replied.
“Excellent. I will tell them.”
“Lieutenant, may I ask, are your ships going to remain overhead?” Ranma asked.
“Yes sir,” the pilot replied. “The government has declared a military restricted no-fly zone around your ship, and we need to enforce it. The government feels it best to conceal your existence from the population for now, and the only way to do that is to make sure no one can get close enough to see you.”
Ranma nodded in understanding. He was partially grateful, part annoyed. While it would help minimize the contamination by keeping the public away, it would make it harder for them to launch Runabouts and repair damage.
“Very well. Twelve hours,” Ranma replied.
“Sir, this is Lt. Commander Minako Aino, Chief of Operations,” Minako called to Polius. “By chance do you have an atomic clock frequency that I may sync our ship's clocks too?”
Ranma raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
“4-9-9 point 1-5-5-5 megahertz,” Polius replied.
“Thank you,” Minako replied, closing the channel. “We don’t want to be late, and their hours and our hours may not be equal.”
Ranma nodded. “Good thinking.” He began to walk to the turbolift but paused. “Is Lt. Kaii okay?”
Minako nodded. “I have him helping engineering.”
“Bring him up here. You need to get some sleep before our meeting.”
Minako slowly nodded. “What about Shampoo?”
Ranma sighed. “I don’t think she’ll be up to it.”
“Deep Space Nine to the U.S.S. Sisko. Please respond,” the exhausted communications officer in Ops called out once again. Once again, she heard nothing but static. Colonel Kira walked out of her office and down the ramp to where the communications officer sat.
“Any luck?” she asked.
“No ma’am,” the federation officer replied. “I’ve tried all channels and nothing.”
Kira sighed. “Has the Defiant reported back yet?”
Right on cue, the communications panel began to chirp.
Kira nodded and turned to the viewer. “On screen.”
“Colonel,” the young man sitting in the Defiant’s captain’s chair nodded.
“What’s the report, Commander?”
“We’ve searched for the past sixteen hours, and we can’t find any sign of them anywhere.” He replied.
“And are you sure that is where they will be?”
The young man nodded. “We followed their warp trail to this area, where it stopped. But it does not make sense because if they had been destroyed there would be debris and remains around here somewhere.
“But we’ve gone over this entire sector with a fine-tooth comb and we can’t even find a paint fragment,” The man explained.
Kira groaned in defeat.
“Very well. Return to the station.”
The man on the Defiant paused for a moment and then nodded.
The communication ended as Kira turned to the communications officer.
“Who’s the Admiral responsible for the Sisko?”
The communications officer looked it up.
“Admiral Scott Larson.”
“Get him on subspace for me and send it to my office.”
The officer nodded as Kira went back into the office on the aft side of Operations.
Genma finished a yawn as he materialized in Admiral Larson’s San Francisco office. He looked to Larson who was reading some text on his computer.
The older man appeared to have a lot on his mind right now. He was so preoccupied with what was on his screen that he hadn’t noticed Genma beaming in yet.
“Ahem,” Genma called out. “You wanted to see me, Admiral?”
“Genma,” Larson noted as he turned away from his computer. Genma’s senior stood and motioned for Genma to have a seat across from him.
Genma nodded in thanks and sat down.
“Genma, I am not one for beating around the bush, so I am going to be quite blunt here,” Larson stated.
Genma grimaced. What did Happosai tell Larson?!?
“The Sisko is missing.”
Genma sighed in relief, till realizing that his son’s ship missing was much worse.
“Wh---- what?” Genma stuttered. “What happened?”
“We don’t know,” Larson replied. “About twenty-eight hours ago the Sisko engaged a Cardassian fleet. The fleet was quickly destroyed. Then, according to sensor logs from Deep Space Nine, the Sisko went into warp. Their heading didn’t correspond with any known locations, so DS9 thought they might have been chasing a ship that didn’t appear on sensors.
“Sensors showed them accelerating to Warp 9.95, and thirteen seconds later they vanished off sensors.”
Genma looked to the floor. “Has their debris been located?”
“No,” Larson replied. “That’s why I am not calling this a recovery operation, but a search and rescue.”
Genma allowed a small smile to creep across his face. He knew that Ranma wouldn’t be taken out that easily.
“What have the Cardassians said about this?” Genma asked.
“They deny any responsibility in the matter. They also emphatically deny having any part in the assaults that drew the Sisko out there.”
“Do you believe them?” Genma asked.
Larson nodded. “Yes, not only because their economy is in tatters right now and starting a war with the Federation would be suicide, but the debris of the ships the Sisko destroyed before she vanished doesn’t match what Cardassian ship debris should be.”
Genma sighed and thought back for a moment. After a lifetime of memories of him and Ranma has drifted through his mind, he sat back up.
“What do we do now?”
“I have two ships with highly refined sensors on board that can do a better job sweeping the area than the Defiant could. All we can do now is wait to see what they find.”
Genma nodded and grumbled. He hated to wait.
“It’s not a bad day for a walk in the forest,” Ranma said, breaking the silence of the hike that he, Minako, Makoto, Jeff, and three security officers were taking.
No, it was not a bad day at all. Like every day on NZ-12G, known only to the crew as Valari, the weather was perfect. A few clouds of water vapor from the jet fighters patrolling overhead was the only obstruction between the ground and the crystal blue sky overhead.
The temperature was a toasty 25 degrees, a little warm for the dress uniforms that everyone, including the security guards, were wearing, but the utter lack of humidity made it very pleasant.
Minako looked around. “This planet is pristine. I’ve never seen such a clear sky.”
Makoto nodded in agreement. “The air even seems cleaner than the ship's air.”
Ranma also nodded in agreement, even though he did not understand how that would be possible. But he could tell a difference.
The crew continued to walk for another fifteen minutes before coming upon a clearing. There waiting for them was Garone and several military officers.
The two sets of people sized themselves up for a moment, before Ranma stepped forward, stretching his arm outwards.
“My name is Commander Ranma Saotome of the United Federation of Planets.”
Garone slowly also stretched out his hand as he stepped forward. Ranma clasped it and shook it in a friendly greeting.
Garone grinned, stepped backward slightly, and bowed deeply. Ranma returned the bow.
“I am General Una Garone, commander of the Western Self Defense Forces,” Garone replied. “Welcome to Valari.”
Ranma smiled a ‘thank you’ as the sounds of helicopters began to echo overhead. Within a couple of moments, a large helicopter, decorated in many colors, including the blue and red flag of the Western people, began to land nearby.
Two attack helicopters shadowed the transport's every move. Once the transport landed, the helicopters began to orbit overhead, their weapons scanning both the sky and the ground.
Out of the transport three army men hopped out. Seeing the aliens, none of them with markings on their skin, two of them ran forward and drew their weapons towards the group of strangers.
The Sisko security officers began to raise their weapons as well.
“STAND DOWN,” Ranma yelled back to them.
The security officers complied and kept their phaser rifles aimed at the ground.
Garone noticed how uneasy the army officer’s weapons were making the alien security detail.
“Corporals, lower your weapons,” He ordered them.
“YES SIR,” they both yelled as they complied, pointing the muzzle of their weapons to the ground.
At the transport, the security detail finally opened the main door and Mao stepped out, wearing a very formal suit. The older man was flanked on both sides by security officers in civilian clothes, as well as the Minister of Defense.
The group walked up to Ranma and his group.
Ranma slowly bowed in respect and greeting to the leader of their temporary home. Minako elbowed Makoto, who in turned silently ordered the rest of the group to do the same.
“Mr. Prime Minister, it is an honor to meet you,” Ranma said, still bowed.
Mao smiled and returned the bow. Everyone raised back up at the same time.
“I am Commander Ranma Saotome, captain of the United Federation of Planets starship, the USS Benjamin Sisko.” Ranma turned to his group. “This is my Chief of Operations, Lt. Commander Minako Aino, my Chief of Security, Commander Makoto Kino,” Ranma paused. “Our Chief Diplomacy Officer, Lt. Jeff Fuchs…”
Jeff raised an eyebrow at the unexpected promotion.
“And Lt. Merrywether, Ensign Vo, and Ensign Lee, members of my ships security detail,” Ranma grinned.
Mao returned the grin. “I am Pho Mao, Prime Minister of the Valari Western Republic. I see you have already met General Garone, and this is our Minister of Defense, Ina Klasn.”
Ranma nodded a greeting to Klasn.
“I apologize for any inconvenience our unexpected arrival has caused your government,” Ranma said. “It is against our policy to make contact with any civilization that has not achieved faster than light travel, but unfortunately it seems like the choice was taken out of our hands.”
“Accidents happen, I suppose,” Mao grinned.
“I can assure you though that my ship and crew will be as little of imposition as possible during our stay here. We generate our own food, water, and power, and as soon as we can get our communications system repaired, we will call for help and get out of your hair,” Ranma explained.
“Well, I don’t want you to feel like you are unwelcome,” Mao replied. “In fact, I would like it very much if you would join me for dinner tonight at my house.”
Ranma nodded. “I would be honored, sir.”
Mao smiled. “Very good then,” he looked to his watch. “Would you like me to have you picked up here, or at your ship?”
Ranma turned to Makoto.
“I am sure we can set up a landing zone in the path we made when we crashed,” Makoto replied, unsure if she really wanted them that close to the ship.
Ranma looked to Mao.
“Very well. I will have someone pick you up in seven hours.”
Ranma nodded and bowed again. “Thank you for your hospitality.”
Mao returned the bow and he and his group returned to the helicopter. Ranma and the others turned around and began their walk back to the ship.
Once he was sure they were out of earshot, Ranma turned to Jeff.
Jeff pondered as he walked.
“He’s hiding something. He’s got some sort of hidden agenda, but I don’t know what.”
“Do you think they may be considering attacking us?” Makoto asked.
Jeff shook his head. “I couldn’t see anything that resembled a suicidal thought in his head.”
Makoto chuckled. Even crippled, it would be suicide for them to attack the ship. Superior training, weapons and technology could equal the fact that they were greatly outnumbered.
“I don’t think it’s an evil agenda,” Jeff continued. “He seemed...” Jeff had to think about it for a little bit. “Scared.”
“Well, it is a little scary to have a massive alien battleship land in your forest,” Minako contemplated.
Jeff shook his head. “Not of us. In fact, I think he was almost ecstatic to see us.”
“I think while we are stuck here, we should attempt to learn as much as possible about these people.” Ranma motioned.
Minako mulled over how she could do that for a moment.
“Well, assuming they are at about twenty-first-century Earth technologically, which is a safe assumption going by the jet aircraft and helicopters we’ve seen, they likely have a decentralized computer network we can access.
“Once communication systems are up again, that is.”
Ranma nodded. “Okay. I’ll see what I can learn tonight, as well.”
“You’re not going alone, are you?” Makoto asked.
“Yes,” Ranma replied. “The less aggressive and paranoid we appear, the more likely they will be to leave us alone.”
“Are you sure you’re not mistaking them for bears?” Makoto mused.
“If he tries to eat you, make yourself look big,” Jeff joined in, causing Ranma and Makoto to laugh.
Minako also giggled a bit, but suddenly felt a wave of nausea overwhelm her.
The blonde quickly turned away from the group and ducked into the bushes where she vomited.
“Commander?” Ranma called out.
“Minako!” Makoto also cried.
“I’m fine,” she called back, wiping her mouth. She ignored the concern she felt from seeing blood in what she just expelled from her stomach.
“MRE’s just don’t agree with me, I guess,” she said as she returned to the trail.
Ranma nodded and the group resumed their walk.
Makoto did not believe her though and eyed her old friend with concern.
15,000 kilometers away, on the Eastern continent, several military men went over the large satellite pictures of the path of destruction leading up to the silver ‘flying saucer’ sitting in the middle of a Western forest.
“Have you been able to determine its origin?” one military officer asked another.
“No, but I can guarantee that THEY did not build it.”
“I guess we have to work under the assumption that it is an alien spacecraft.”
The second officer nodded. “That’s the problem though. With the technology onboard, the Garah will have no problem countering our nuclear weapons, and potentially launching a massive counteroffensive.”
The first sighed as he nodded.
“Then there is only one thing for us to do. We either get the aliens on our side, or we kill them and take their technology.”