“GET DOWN”, Ramius shouted as he grabbed Akina and pulled him rapidly to the floor while at the same time kicking over the table to act as a makeshift shield.
Bottles and glasses slid shattering on the floor as the bar room was transformed into another battlefield on which Ramius had again been forced to fight.
===== “Suspicious Truths - Part III” =====
“Ramius what the hell”, Akina shouted as his face rubbed against the grimy and unpleasant floor of the dingy bar.
“Not now”, Ramius shouted back venturing a quick look around the upturned table. A phaser beam lashed out through the air sending a spray of splintered wood and debris in all directions as the edge of the table where his head had been disintegrated. Akina looked up from the floor at Stark who had stood and now began to run toward the rear of the bar to escape the assailants who were opening fire. Seconds later the unfortunate pilot was gunned down. His body hit the floor of the bar rolling several times before stopping beneath an empty table. The pilot’s body lie still and moved no more.
“Ramius to Corsair, emergency transport now!”
There was no response. “Ramius to Corsair respond!”
Several additional beams cut through the top edge of the thin table which offered little protection. Pulling his own phaser, Ramius pushed it around the edge of the table and squeezed off several shots to keep the men pinned down. He couldn’t let them encircle Akina and himself. Far too much was at stake to allow himself to be taken prisoner.
Akina, no stranger to combat, produced his own weapon and fired off several shots to aid in keeping up a barrage of cover fire. Ducking back behind the table he looked at Ramius with a slightly annoyed expression. “This happen to you often”, he said as several beams tore across the bar overhead.
“You could say that”, Ramius responded turning to fire another salvo.
“Stark bought the farm heading toward the back. It is an even bet they have units watching the exits. We’re going to have to fight our way out of this or die trying.”
Akina rolled his eyes. “I just knew you were going to say that!”
“Then why did you ask”, Ramius quickly responded.
“I just wanted to hear you say it for the record.”
“RAMIUS! You’re surrounded. Drop your weapon and this can end quietly. If you refuse we’ll execute one person a minute until you comply. You have 10 seconds to make a decision.”
“I hate being told what to do”, Ramius muttered checking his phaser.
“So I’ve noticed.”, Akina quipped. “It’s been a pleasure captain. If this doesn’t work out I’d just like you to know I’m grateful for your help back on Astate. Too bad the effort was short lived.”
“We’re not dead yet”, Ramius calmly answered. “Just stay close and be ready to act when I give the word.”
“You have a plan?”
“It’s a work in progress. You can evaluate its effectiveness if we survive. Get ready.”
“Ramius! Ramius, I’m going to splatter this pretty little barmaid’s head all over the floor if you don’t stand up! You’ve got three seconds.”
“You’ll never take us ALIVE you Starfleet scum”, Ramius bellowed from behind the table. “You bastards killed my family. Does your bloodlust know no limits!?”
A widespread grumble ran throughout the bar as Ramius identified the men as Starfleet personnel. The packed bar, full of scoundrels, pirates, and cutthroats of every type suddenly began to galvanize against the men standing at the doorway.
“Get out Starfleet”, someone yelled in the crowd.
“Let the girl go or else you’ll have more on your hands than a defenseless woman to deal with.”
The taunts and jeers grew in fervor and crudity as the bar’s patrons turned against the men holding the bar hostage.
“Shutup! All of you! We’re not with Starfleet. We have a personal matter to settle with that coward over there!”
“More Starfleet lies”, Ramius shouted back. “You’ve tracked me across three sectors for a crime I didn’t commit. My family paid the price according to your incomparable Interstellar Law and even now your lips can utter nothing but accusations and lies. You’ve already sentenced me to a lifetime denied from those that I loved. What more do you want from me? If it is my life you seek then you will have to fight to claim it!”
“ARRRH, perhaps today is a good day to die”, a burly Klingon shouted from the rear of the bar standing knocking his barstool to the floor which clattered loudly in the relative silence. Several other men stood with the stanch Klingon and all were openly brandishing various weaponry.
The tide was slowly turning. Shouts, insults, and threats now filled the air. Ramius had pulled off a small coup and had transformed a bar full of rogues and two-bit criminals into a small, angry army.
“Drinks are on the house”, the aged barkeep suddenly shouted having reappeared from behind his bar grasping a weapon. A green disruptor blast suddenly slammed into one the armed men hitting him square in the chest. The man screamed in agony for a brief moment before his atoms were torn apart in a green electronic cloud.
The bar quickly erupted into chaos as patrons charged the four remaining men at the entrance. With a hatred of Starfleet and the Federation in their hearts and minds weapons of all types erupted into a deadly brawl that spilled out into the dark, misty streets of the colony.
“GO”, Ramius shouted motioning for Akina to follow. The two quickly stood and plunged into the chaotic mob around them. Disruptors, phasers, and all manner of energy weapons filled the street turning the open area into a dangerous shooting gallery of live targets. The armed assailants were now fleeing the bloodthirsty mob bent on their capture as they retreated down a dark street unable to complete their objectives.
Ramius and Akina exited the tavern behind the rabble wasting little time escaping the area. Dashing back to the dark alley from which they had arrived, Ramius again tapped his chest as it heaved with nervous energy. “Ramius to Corsair respond.”
To his relief and Akina’s the calm, melodic voice of his first officer broke through the nearby shouts and screams. “Captain, we lost your signal for a few minutes. Are you alright?”
“Yes. Emergency transport. Get us out of here now!”
== Minutes Later ==
Ramius pulled off his civilian jacket as he entered the bridge of the Corsair.
“Captain”, Commander Novada said as she stood as Ramius moved toward the center of the bridge with Akina in tow. Novada noticed a cut on Ramius’s forehead. It appeared the two men had been involved in a fight.
“Commander, raise the shields, break orbit immediately, and engage at warp four. I want a full tactical scan of the area. Inform me of all nearby contacts and notify me at once if it appears we are being scanned or followed. In thirty minutes, I want you to change course and thirty minutes after that, change course again and then increase speed to warp six.”
Ramius turned and headed toward his ready room.
“What heading shall I set sir? What is our destination?”
“Surprise me Number One”, was Ramius’s unusual reply as the two captains disappeared behind closed doors.
“What was that all about”, tactical officer Lt. Redstone asked leaning over from his post.
“Your guess is as good as mine lieutenant however you heard the orders.” Novada took a seat. “Helm, break orbit and plot a course at your discretion and engage at warp four. Tactical, raise the shields, and perform a full sensor sweep of the area and report all contacts.”
Novada shot an odd look at the ready room doors as the Corsair left the colony and made the jump to warp. The captain was knee deep in something big. She only wished he would let her share in whatever mission or danger he was keeping to himself.
== Meanwhile – Captain’s Ready Room ==
“What sort of strategy was that again”, Akina said as the doors closed. Ramius ignored the captain tossing his jacket on the nearby couch and heading to the corner of his room.
“It worked did it not”, the captain replied opening a cabinet and producing a bottle. “I need a drink.”
“A drink? You need a lobotomy I think.”
“A thank you would work too”, Ramius said producing a glass. “Care for a belt?”
Akina rubbed his temples. “Sure why not”, he relented taking a seat as Ramius sat down at his desk and poured them both a glass of something blue.
“Cheers”, Ramius said raising the glass before swallowing its contents.
Akina followed suit. “That was the most hairbrained idea I’ve ever seen! Starfleet officers! No one would believe this back at fleet hq. I’m still not sure I believe it and I was there!”
“Just making the impossible, possible.”
“I’ll say. But what of Stark? You said you had a bad feeling about the meeting. How did you know?”
Ramius poured himself another glass of the Romulan Ale. On his mind was another casualty claimed by the blood stained hands of NeoDyne and its ceaseless army of operatives, mercenaries, and gunmen-for-hire. Stark didn’t deserve the fate he had met. He was just one of a long list of people who had stood in NeoDyne’s path and paid the ultimate price. How many had died as a result of the wretched company’s greed? How many more would fall victim caught up in its relentless march toward twisted and sinister goals?
Tav looked up at Akina who held him in a questioning stare. “Forgive me”,he answered. “The entire meeting seemed too quick and convenient. I’m sure your source who led us to Stark was not compromised, but NeoDyne was watching the man. They used him as bait to get to us, to get to me.”
“How can you be so sure it was NeoDyne?”
“Who else is hunting us like wild game? Who stands to profit by my capture and your death or silence? Who has been chasing me my entire life and who lurks in every shadow, in every dark alley, and can appear from nowhere and retreat just as easily? Who else has the resources, power, determination, and money to give chase time and time again, year after year, decade after decade?
“But nothing”, Ramius interrupted his tone harsh. “It was NeoDyne. They called me out by name. No one but they could have know we were there. They were waiting for us. Stark was their carrot and like fools we bit.”
“Foolish or not, what do you make of Stark’s story?”
Ramius leaned back in his chair and took another long sip of ale. “You are the ranking intelligence officer. I’m just a simple combat pilot. You tell me.”
“I do not know what to make of what he told us. It appears NeoDyne obtained some powerful technology it will no doubt put to some malevolent purpose.”
“No doubt”, Tav replied. “He’s plotting something and becoming bolder. It isn’t yet clear to me.”
Akina finished his drink setting the glass on Ramius’s desk. “To whom are you referring?”
“Our mutual friend President Alistair Merikai”, Ramius said locking eyes with Akina’s. “He’s been busy. He’s up to something and we must determine his plans before it is too late.” Standing, Ramius slowly moved to his window and gazed out at the stars which streaked across the vast infinity of space. “We need to call in our IOUs. I think it is time we hit back. We need to show Merikai his actions will no longer be tolerated.” Ramius curled his hand into a fist as he stared into the darkness outside the window. “I want to strike at that snake’s black heart! Someone has to cut the puppetmaster’s strings.”
Akina glanced up at Ramius’s reflection in the glass and for a moment he thought he saw the captain’s eyes afire with the same reddish glow he had demonstrated to him not too long ago in his quarters. The image was both unnerving as it was unnatural.
“Attacking NeoDyne is out of the question Ramius. Both of us know that”, Akina said pouring himself another drink.
“Perhaps it is time to change the playbook. Perhaps the time has come to stand up instead of fall back.”
“We are a single ship and one that treads on extremely thin ice as it is. Starfleet would never permit an attack and you know it and your step father the Admiral could never support such actions. An assault on NeoDyne is not an option Taverain. If we are to destroy them we must do so with justice and law as our allies otherwise we are no different from them. Revenge for vengeance’s sake, no matter how appealing, is hardly the means to justify an end.”
Akina’s thoughts reverted to the children NeoDyne had brutally exploited at the destroyed facility on the Astate colony. The loss of those children and the bitter wound it had left on his psyche was still with him. He knew how Ramius felt. How easy it could be to give into temptation. However violence had but only one end and that was ruin. They both realized and understood this fact. Perhaps Ramius understood it that much more.
Ramius turned and took a seat. His eyes held an almost purple hue as he began to speak and Akina was sure they had indeed changed color. Perhaps that was a sign of Ramius’s emotional state?
“Put out the word Akina. Hustle your sources, shakedown your informants, do whatever it takes to wrestle out another lead. I’m going to call in some favors of my own. Perhaps between the two of us we can stumble across something. We have to find out what Merikai is plotting. The fate of the quadrant may very well hang upon what we can or cannot find.”
“I’ll see what I can shake loose from the tree”, Akina replied. “Just don’t expect anything that falls to be fresh. NeoDyne is too smart to hand us ripe fruit.”
“No, I expect that whatever falls will be rotten to the core captain. In fact I am counting on it.”
Akina was not sure how to interpret the captain’s cryptic answer but did not dwell on ascertaining its meaning. Turning he headed for the door, but stopped short.
Tav looked back up with eyes that seemed to be in a different place his gaze distant.
“Merikai and his company will face judgment for their crimes. I promise you that. I’ve done it once. I’m sure it can be done again.”
“How do you kill what is inside all of us”, Ramius muttered. “Man himself is a flawed creation. Each of us can so easily become what we now seek so hard to destroy.”
“Hope springs eternal”, Akina answered.
Tav nodded. “Perhaps it does.”
[ To Be Continued .. ]
Captain Taverain Ramius
CO, USS Corsair
Captain Zane Akina