U.S.S. Corsair - NX-011979
Nebula II Prototype
“Sic Parvis Magna”
(Greatness From Small Beginnings)
“The Gathering Storm”
Captain Ramius sat at his ready room desk aboard the Corsair joined by Intelligence officer Captain Zane Akina. Both men were diligently sifting through the bits and pieces of data they had obtained on the NeoDyne Corporation hoping to find more clues about the company’s sinister intentions. The crew was on shoreleave aboard the station for a few days of much needed R&R. In addition, Ramius had managed to recruit an elite squadron of fighter pilots whom he had commanded in the last war. Pirates and cutthroats, the men were liabilities in peacetime, but in combat they were the best of the best. Ramius knew few men he trusted more than the pilots with which he had once served.
Ramius pushed a padd across his desk toward Akina along with a blood stained NeoDyne security badge. “Do we have any more info on the Doctor”, Ramius asked.
“Some”, Akina replied picking up the plastic badge and rubbing its surface with his thumb. “I found this security badge in the underground lab on Astate. It was attached to a bloody lab coat. I suppose the doctor met a bad fate like many of the other employees there. From the notes I read, he was the lead scientist at the facility.”
Ramius decided to go over the doctor’s history again. Perhaps something about the man’s past might help in their ongoing investigations.
“Dr. Artimis Ballentine. Graduated at the top of his class on Earth over forty years ago. He obtained a doctorate in genetics and microbiology. Seemed to be fairly successful until the Federation became suspicious of his research activities. An unscheduled search of his labs revealed unethical genetic experiments involving the sick and dying. It says here the doctor was stripped of his medical license, his research was destroyed, and he was forbidden from all medical and scientific work. Looks like he was pretty well ruined. He was on the radar for awhile according to the notes here, but then disappeared. No one has had any contact or seen him since.”
Ramius smiled. “Makes perfect sense. Doctor gets his life’s work destroyed, he a brilliant scientist, and has a score to settle with the Federation if I’m reading between the lines correctly. Sounds like the perfect candidate for someone like NeoDyne who needs skilled people with low moral standards to conduct clandestine medical research. Who better to recruit to head up such an effort?”
Akina tossed the stained ID badge back into the desk. “He was the one responsible for the experiments on Astate. I saw his notes. He was obsessed with trying to stabilize the alien DNA NeoDyne obtained twenty years ago from your brother. He’s the bastard who was using the children there as lab rats!”
Akina curled his hands into fists. “You should have seen them Ramius. They had no idea of the outside world or what they were being used for! I should have been able to save them!”
Ramius paused for a moment. “You did everything you could Zane. If you had gone back for them you would have been caught in the atomic blast yourself.”
“Yes I know”, Akina answered leaning back in his chair. “I’ve seen men die in battle, I’ve killed myself when required, but seeing children murdered – I…I just can’t seem to cope with that. Am I losing my edge Ramius? Have I been doing this job too long? Am I going soft?”
“No Captain”, Ramius said calmly. “You are simply human. I’d say your reactions are quite natural. I’m no counselor, but then again, I’ve had my share of problems that I’ve worked through. I’d actually be somewhat concerned if you showed no emotion at all. Most intelligence officers have tough skins, they have to in order to survive in this line of work, but neither of us has the emotional fortitude of someone like a Vulcan. We can try to bury our feelings, but we still have them. I’ve learned that not expressing them can be far more dangerous than allowing oneself to be vulnerable for a time.”
Akina nodded running a hand through his hair. “You’re right. Its just nothing I’ve ever been through has gotten to me quite like this last mission. There were dozens of dead bodies down there. None of them bothered me, but those children. I..I don’t know why they are any different!“
“You’re upset and angry”, Ramius said standing as he moved toward his window. “You have the right. However, don’t let the anger control you. Harness it. Use it to your advantage. Channel it into your actions.”
Ramius gazed out his ready room window as several workbees drifted by from the station repair facilities.
“Zane, I deal with my anger and my own thirst for revenge every waking day of my life. NeoDyne didn’t just kill some undeserving children, they also killed my mother and father. They burned our home to the ground. The abducted my brother, Aiden, and subjected him to the worst sorts of experimentation before he escaped. They destroyed my family, our friends, and my life. I hate them with every fiber of by being, yet unlike my brother I don’t let my hatred or anger control me. Perhaps it was my Starfleet training, the discipline. I’m not sure, but it’s a struggle I fight every day. However, I’ve learned to take that anger and pain and turn it into an asset in the form of confidence and resolve. I can’t say I always do it well, but without the effort the pain and anger would have destroyed me years ago.”
Akina’s experience didn’t quite compare to Ramius’s entire life of misery and pain, but if Taverain could overcome adversity he would as well. Time healed all wounds or so they saying went.
“Captain”, the communication officer’s voice softly intruded into both men’s thoughts.
“Yes”, Akina and Ramius both said in unison turning to look at one another.
“Sir, I have a message coming in from Starfleet Command. It’s addressed Priority One.”
“From where and from whom”, Ramius asked.
“Earth sir. There’s no additional information encoded.”
“Alright Lieutenant. I’ll take it in here.”
Akina stood to leave. “I’ll leave you to ship’s business Captain.”
“Wait”, Ramius said. “Let’s see who is calling.”
Tapping his computer, the Starfleet logo appeared briefly, as Ramius entered his codes to decrypt the communication channel. The screen cleared revealing a familiar face.
“Admiral Valtren”, Ramius said with a smile. Ramius nodded at Akina to stay and beckoned him over.
“Ramius. Oh, you’re not alone”, the Commodore said somewhat surprised. “Captain Akina. It is good to see you again. I must applaud you for your work on Astate.”
“Likewise Admiral. No thanks are needed sir. I don’t consider the Astate mission a success. NeoDyne destroyed all the evidence, silenced dozens of innocent human children, nearly poisoned a settlement with radioactive dust and contamination, and razed an entire island which won’t be habitable for at least a century.”
“Unfortunate, yes”, the Admiral stated. “However your actions may have set in motion events which may bring us closer to our mutual goal.”
“I’m not sure I understand sir”, Akina replied.
“You never call just to say hi do you Admiral”, Taverain stated. “What have you turned up?”
Valtren had a faint look of cautious optimism about him which Ramius had picked up on. The Admiral was seldom so ‘chipper’.
“I’ve had my staff pouring over the information you transmitted recovered by Captain Akina on Astate. While we haven’t yet been able to crack the high grade encryption on the computer files, we did find this recently taken by a standard security camera at the Astate spaceport in Caenis. I think you’ll find it interesting. It matches the manifest information you forwarded earlier.”
Ramius and Akina downloaded a single image over the link and pulled it up on the screen. “Looks like standard security surveillance footage”, Akina muttered seeing little of value.
“I’ve had my staff and a small army of computers following up on every lead possible on this. Starfleet Intelligence is quite concerned about the blast on Astate. The official story is that an old, forgotten weapons bunker exploded left over from the Romulan/Human war more than a century ago, but most of the brass isn't buying that. They want answers, but they want to obtain them quietly to avoid upsetting the Romulans since the events on Astate have already been somewhat of a diplomatic issue.”
“What does this grainy footage have to do with us”, Ramius asked.
“The computers found something at time index 112. Maginfy and enhance grid 19 section J.”
Ramius nodded and instructed the computer to advance the recording to time index 112 and enhance the image. After a few moments a face emerged out of a crowd of dozens of people. Both Akina and Ramius moved in closer to the computer terminal as the image became sharper and clearer as the computer performed the enhancements. A few moments later it had finished.
“It’s Ballentine”, Akina exclaimed. “What the hell?”
“Computer match”, Ramius asked the Admiral.
“Facial bone structure and head shape conform to Dr. Artimis Ballentine’s physical records. It’s a 92 percent match as there hasn’t been a picture of the good doctor on file in over forty years. The computer happened to stumble across this purely by coincidence. The footage was captured before the island exploded on Astate. We suspect that Captain Akina’s investigation and subsequent find of the NeoDyne facility spooked the doctor into using civilian transportation instead of transportation provided by NeoDyne.”
“Do we know what transport he boarded”, Ramius quickly asked. “Is there any more information on his destination?”
“We contacted the transport captain who remembered Ballentine. The captain took some work by a few of our agents, but we managed to get him to talk with the right motivation and financial incentives.”
“So where in the Nakadia System did he end up”, Akina asked.
“Third planet. Or at least what’s left of it. It’s a shattered half planet now. The planet was ripped in half when the star went nova in that system. The shockwave cut it in half making it an attractive mining target as its purported to have high mineral and resource content.
Akina snapped his fingers. “There’s a Klingon mining operation there – no wait, used to be there. The nearby asteroids were rich with dilithium deposits and other heavy metals. The asteroid belt and the nearby gravity of one of the gas giants makes the entire region difficult and dangerous to navigate. The mining operation was abandoned after several fatal accidents as I recall. There was also some criminal activity reported there back a few years ago. Local pirates were using the abandonded facilities as hideouts, but they had to abandoned them as the entire area is really too dangerous to navigate safely.”
Valtren nodded. “Correct. There was a mining station constructed there about twenty years ago by the Klingons. It’s been abandoned for sometime. Intelligence suspected it was a hideout for local pirates and criminal activities, but I believe there might be more there than any of us suspect.”
Akina and Ramius looked at each other and then back at Commodore Valtren with an almost childlike giddiness. “Admiral, that’s the best news I’ve heard in quite some time”, Akina stated unable to hold back a slight smile.
“The Nakadia System”, Ramius remarked. “That’s a pretty decent jog from here. It will take a few days to reach at high warp.”
“Then I suggest you get going Captain”, Valtren answered. “That information is three days old, we had to confirm it all first before jumping to any conclusions.”
“We’re on our way”, Ramius said with an enthusiastic tone.
“Taverain”, Valtren quickly said his voice suddenly solemn. “Be careful. While the lead looks solid I’m somewhat suspicious. Ballentine has been virtually unseen in forty years and he’s too intelligent to be so easily tracked.”
“What are you saying”, Ramius replied. “Do you suspect a NeoDyne trap?”
“I know from experience that anything is possible. The doctor could have panicked risking being exposed on Astate and ran or he could have other motives. This could be a move to bait either you specifically or to determine just how closely Intelligence is watching NeoDyne activities. I’m just asking you to watch your back. Don’t rush in too quickly. I’d prefer to send another starship as an escort, but I can’t spare one and top brass won’t release another ship based on the current evidence. They want more proof.”
“The appearance of Ballentine should be good enough”, Akina said moving closer to the screen.
“I made my case Captain and was turned down by Fleet Admiralty. Follow up on the lead, just watch yourself Ramius. Things are not as they seem.”
“Hey, It’s me”, Ramius replied to the Admiral.
Valtren sighed. “That’s what scares me. I’m sending you both coded operational orders. You have priority Intelligence authority to go where needed and act as required. Your orders have my office’s seal – should you need to cut any red tape or clear any obstacles. If you do breech the Neutral Zone be warned, Starfleet won’t back you. Ballentine isn’t worth the risk politically to chance a confrontation with the Klingons or Romulans without more evidence so be careful. I can’t help you if things go bad and neither will fleet command. You’re on your own captain. Avoid contact with both the Klingons and Romulans if at all possible.”
Ramius nodded. “I understand sir. I’ll report our findings as soon as we learn more.”
“Good luck Captains and good hunting. Valtren out.”
Ramius turned toward Akina as the two shook hands. “Akina, dig up everything you can about the Nakadia system and that mining outpost. In the mean time I’ll get us out of here and on our way.” Akina nodded and quickly left the ready room.
Tapping his desk, Ramius opened a channel to Engineering. “Ramius to Engineering.”
“Kusinagi here sir.”
“Chief, we’re pulling out in two hours. We just received new orders. Recall your crews and perform any last minutes repairs. I want the engines ready for high warp speeds.”
“The Corsair is ready sir. Just give the word Captain.”
“Very well, make any final preparations and stock up on additional repair items. We could see some combat this mission so I want to be prepared for anything. Ramius out.”
Tapping his desk again, Ramius opened another channel. “Ramius to Commander Everic.”
“This is Everic.”
“Mustang, get your pilots and any remaining parts and supplies, aboard. We’re pulling out. Orders just came through. It looks like we could see some combat so take what you need from the station. Are your fighters aboard?”
“I had the last one flown in last night. It’s a tight fit in your main shuttle bay, but we managed. We have eight Valkyrie fighters and one long range scout. Not quite a squadron, but then again, this ship isn’t exactly a carrier.”
“Understood. Get your pilots aboard and sobered up. Have them run simulations involving, ice fields, gas clouds, strong gravity and asteroid belts.”
“Hmm, a pleasure cruise”, Everic stated. “Not like there’s anything challenging there”, he said sarcastically. “What’s the target?”
“We’re headed for the Nakadia System. Have the computer recreate the area for simulations. I’m going to need some covert recon and the area is a pilot’s nightmare. Moving rocks and ice combined with gas clouds and variable gravity currents make it a hellish place. Get your boys in the simulators on the double. Everyone will need some extra practice.”
“You got it sir. I just have to find them in whatever bar they’re hanging out at and drag them back here. We’ll be ready before you depart. Mustang out.”
Ramius smiled. His new found pilots were going to be a handful, but he knew they would prove to be invaluable assets. With a sudden feeling of hope and determination that things were finally tilting in his favor, Ramius headed out onto the bridge.
“Departure stations”, he bellowed with a commanding voice. “Commander Novada, recall the crew from shore leave on the double we’re leaving dock in two hours.”
Ramius took a seat at the head of the bridge. “Helm, plot a course to the Nakadia System and calculate our arrival time at maximum warp. Also, coordinate with Engineering. We’ll be driving the engines hard so I want full diagnostics run on all navigation and engine systems before we depart.
“Tactical, I want a full weapons check on all tactical systems. We need to be ready for anything. Oh and RedStone. Coordinate with Engineering. I want to test that cloaking device before we arrive. If there’s a problem with it, I want to know about it before we get there.”
“Aye sir”, came the crisp reply.
The bridge suddenly sprang to life as the captain’s orders were quickly carried out. Ramius sat with quiet pride as his ship and crew prepared for a fast departure. The Corsair would soon be on course for an uncertain future, but one that would hopefully bring some light to NeoDyne's sinister activities. With a little luck they could catch Dr. Ballentine in their nets and haul in a prized catch of juicy information on NeoDyne activities. Time would tell.
[ To Be Continued ... ]
Captain Taverain Ramius
Commanding Officer, USS Corsair
Captain Zane Akina
Starfleet Intelligence Operative
Admiral James Valtren
Deputy Division Director