“Peers and Pressure”
Finally he had found it. Gripping the Romulan disruptor pistol he had stolen from a now dead Romulan soldier, Leon pressed his battered face against the hatch and listened. His own thumping heart seemed to be making enough noise to give away his position to half the ship. Several long moments passed. Cautiously, Leon pressed upon the hatch door which popped loose with a modest click. He slowly peered out of the tiny slit created by the open door seeing nothing but consoles and flooring. Pushing the door open more fully, Leon quickly slid from the Jefferies tube wincing as his battered body protested his every move.
A quick survey of the area indicated he was alone. The flight operations booth which overlooked the flight deck was deserted. Securing the hatch behind him, Leon crawled toward the dark computer consoles in front of him and slowly stood. Peering up over the computers Leon was able to look out over the entirety of the flight deck which was in disarray. Equipment, cables, tools, and machinery lie everywhere. Half of the fighters were in various states of maintenance or repair. Leon’s own fighter was surrounded by other craft and equipment which would make it difficult to approach.
Three Romulans held a small group of deck personnel under guard in a far corner while two others escorted some dozen other enlisted personnel out of the hangar. Leon snarled anxious to find the bay’s door controls and simply expose the bay to the vacuum of space thus ridding the Charon of three more of the parasites that had infested her halls. Dismissing the thought, Leon sank back to the floor and crawled to a nearby wall pulling lose the flight ops emergency kit.
Locating the hypo in the kit’s medical supplies, Leon quickly jacked in a vial of painkillers and pressed home its tip against his neck. Within a few moments the pilot sank against the bulkhead and allowed himself a few quiet moments of peace as his battered body throbbed with slowly subsiding pain. Sitting in silence, Leon reviewed his options. Getting to his fighter would be difficult and even if he could opening the Charon’s hangar bay door would draw too much attention as well as put too many lives at risk.
Escaping Charon in a risky bid to warn Starfleet of the Romulan’s treachery was out of the question. It was a suicide mission first and foremost, but he couldn’t jeopardize lives other than his own with such a zealous and dangerous gamble. That left only one other avenue of action available. There were two shuttles at the far end of the bay isolated and alone. It would likely be far easier to gain access to one of those and attempt to send out both a message to Starfleet as well as a general distress signal. That covered his obligation to the fleet which left only an obligation to his ship and crewmates. For that he had an idea, but first things first.
With the pain of his last Romulan encounter finally subsiding to manageable levels, Leon took one additional peak at the deck before slowly slinking out of the flight operations booth. He needed to reach one of those shuttles.
## Later ##
Leon quietly crept closer the shuttles his Romulan weapon at the ready. Upon reaching the shuttle he wasted no time in entering in his codes which released the door. Entering with his weapon before him, Leon’s eyes locked with a Romulan soldier’s whose weapon was also drawn. Glaring at the Romulan the two stood in a silent standoff both with weapons at the ready.
Neither said a word as they stood frozen their weapons and bodies perfectly still.
“Keirianh its ok”, a voice from the cockpit stated. “I can vouch for him.” The Romulan did not immediately move and only tepidly lowered his weapon after a few moments of careful consideration.
Ambassador Lamont quickly sealed the door to the shuttle. “Lt. Athalla if I remember correctly. You were my pilot several times during the Lyrillian mission.”
Leon shot a look at the Ambassador looking somewhat frazzled than his usual prim and proper self. Slowly the pilot lowered his weapon realizing he was in good company.
“Good to see you again Ambassador Lamont although I wish the circumstances were better.”
“As do I”, Ian responded.
“What’s with the Romulan”, Athalla stated motioning toward the Romulan soldier at the rear of the shuttle.
“Long story. He’s a highly trained mercenary who was incarcerated in the brig. Leon, right? Leon meet Aev Keirianh.”
Keirianh nodded, but said nothing.
“And you trust him”, Leon said with a touch of incredulity.
“Yes. I can assure you he has no love for the Empire. He has been impersonating a soldier to help facilitate our movement around the ship.”
Leon almost stifled a laugh. “You mean you guys just walked down here?”
“Yes. Lt. Remington didn’t fair too well, but I think he will live for now.” Leon leaned forward and noticed a security officer who also appeared to have run into Romulan wrath.
“What brings you to the flight deck Leon”, Lamont asked. “Can you tell us what is going on?”
“You mean you don’t know?”
“Sadly no. We just managed to make it here in an attempt to use the shuttle to gather information. It appears you have seen some action.”
Leon’s lip curled as the indelible image of his dead friends flashed before him. “I have. The Romulans ambushed us in the pilot’s lounge. They killed everyone without cause and without reason. I was in the showers when they arrived and only narrowly escaped. They have to be after the ship! It’s the only explanation!”
Lamont shook his head. “I don’t think so. This action doesn’t feel right. The Romulans would never gamble with the diplomatic repercussions of attacking a Federation science ship on a sanctioned research mission. The risks are just too high in return for the few morsels of intelligence and hardware they might gain from salvaging the Charon and interrogating its crew. We just aren’t that valuable.
However I suspect there is something or perhaps someone aboard that is. They aren’t interested in the Charon so much as they are something aboard her. I have my suspicions as to whom and what they seek however now is not the time for speculation. We need a plan if we are going to survive this situation.”
Leon glanced at the cockpit. “Leaving isn’t an option. Opening the bay doors would not only tip our friends off but would also invite any Romulan ships in the area to target anything that tried to leave. A fighter might have a slim chance of escaping at maximum speed however the odds are still 100 against.”
“You seem to have an alternative option Mr. Athalla despite stating the obvious”, Keirianh stated finally breaking his silence.
“Affirmative. First we use this shuttle’s subspace transmitter to do everything we can to get a message to Starfleet. If we can tap into the other shuttles and fighters we might be able to activate their subspace radios and saturate the entire spectrum. It is a long shot, but without the power of the Charon’s own radios it’s the best we can do. Who knows? Some of the signals just might get through Romulan jamming and get picked up by our listening posts and starbases along the Neutral Zone.”
“That’s it”, Lt. Remmington asked holding a large ice pack against his bloodied and swollen face. “We just sit here and beam messages into space while the Charon is overrun?”
“Got news for you lieutenant”, Athalla quickly answered, “the Charon has already been overrun. I estimate the force aboard likely has effective control of some 60 to 70 percent of the ship including all key areas like the bridge and engineering. If we are going to retake the ship we have to find a way to encourage the Romulans to leave.”
“And we accomplish this how Leon”, Lamont asked still somewhat nervous about activating an entire bay of radios and essentially advertising their positions with neon signs.
Leon smiled briefly before continuing. “First we have to get rid of those guards outside. Once we’ve dealt with them and liberated the deck crew we need to disable the main hangar door and prevent it from being opened. Next, we go about turning this hangar into something from the pages of Dante’s Inferno.”
Leon chuckled. “Not sabotage Ambassador. Wanton destruction. There is enough fuel, weapons, and flammable components in here to start a small war. If we can cause enough chaos the ensuing damage, fires, and explosions will have several effects. One, they will demoralize the troops aboard who are unable to clamp down on rogue crew like us. Two, the Romulans will be forced to divert personnel to fight the blaze if the intend to preserve the ship. If they choose to do nothing their only alternative will be to abandon the Charon for to do nothing will wreck a large portion of the ship and deprive them of a pristine trophy. If they divert forces it will leave other areas vulnerable and open to attack. Three, an uncontrolled fire and ensuing damages will create pressure and stress for the Romulans in charge of this treachery. It will force them to accelerate plans and hopefully cause them to make mistakes. If the scale of the destruction is large enough it may help to convince our green blooded guests to depart.”
Ian shook his head. “And suppose your gamble backfires lieutenant? Suppose they attempt to hold on? Suppose this only strengthens their resolve? Suppose your chaos incites the Romulans to retaliate against the crew? Suppose they decide to abandon the Charon only to disintegrate it upon leaving!”
“Acceptable risks ambassador! It is preferable to sitting here doing nothing while the bastards are free to do what they want. How many of the crew have they killed already? How many more will die? It’s obvious to me that these Romulans are not interested in treaties, accords, or intergalactic peace agreements. If we do not hit back now we will lose the chance to do so! We must strike while we have the chance!”
Ian was unimpressed by Athalla’s speech. Creating havoc to save the ship seemed like insanity. There had to be another way.
Looking about the shuttle Lamont slowly got the sense he was alone in protesting the pilot’s bold plans.
“Let’s do it”, Remington replied with youthful, cavalier zeal.
“If we are going to act Ambassador then that time is now. Every moment we delay only strengthens the enemy’s hand. Decisive action will be required to retake the ship. Mr. Athalla is correct, although he poorly articulated his point. The Romulans involved in this affair have no regard for the rule of law or for the lives they take to achieve their goals. They are operating far outside of both Romulan and Federation norms which makes them only that much more lethal and ruthless. If we can do as the lieutenant suggested and alter their momentum then it may be possible to change the rules of the game and seize the upper hand. The risks are many, but if we do nothing the Romulans will surely take what they desire and dispose of what they do not – living or dead.”
“For the record I do not approve of this course of action, however, I am not an expert in military strategy or tactics. I will defer to more informed opinions where military action is required.”
“Don’t worry Ambassador”, Leon remarked slapping Lamont on the back. “Just think of this is therapy.”
“How is taking life therapeutic lieutenant”, Lamont harshly remarked.
The pilot’s eyes narrowed slightly at the stuffy diplomat, but then returned to their excited state which seemed to veil other emotions far deeper and darker than anyone realized. “Why don’t you just imagine the troops aboard as hundreds of clones of Shiarrael t`Rehu. Surely that should spark a fire in you given your history with the captain”, the pilot quipped before slipping into the cockpit.
Lamont nearly lost his temper at the upstart pilot. How dare he insult a superior officer? Moving to reply a firm hand on his shoulder interrupted any verbal counterattack.
“Ambassador, we have a far more important battle to fight. Save your rhetoric for another time and another place. Actions, not words, must be our weapons in this place and time.”
Ian’s features remained hard, but finally he relented. “Very well. What can I do?”
Keirianh pushed a phaser into Lamont’s hands. “Ready your mind and body. The future will be hard I fear most especially for you.”
The mercenary joined the pilot in the cockpit leaving Lamont alone in the center of the shuttle – and speechless.
[ To Be Continued ]
Lt. Leon Athalla
Ambassador Ian Lamont