When a Plan Comes Together
Episode 4: Whispers In the Dark
Runabout Georgia had launched from the Nogura with little fanfare as ordered by the master negotiator, Nathan Hunter. As per his orders, the Mustang-class ship was hovering at a distance of twelve thousand kilometers off the port bow of the Nogura, awaiting delivery of a set of co-ordinates from the Consortium agent. Inside, the lone occupant waited.
"Come on, you bastard, I'm right here. Send the damned coordinates..." Tara murmured as her fingers hovered over the console, waiting for the transmission so she could input the heading. Even though she was expecting it, she flinched when the computer chirped to announce the incoming coordinates. She quickly input the coordinates, finding it to be an isolated location on Apizmic III, then promptly set the runabout in motion.
Elsewhere, and not directed by the Consortium agent but actually (or at least hopefully) as a master stroke by the Captain of the Nogura, a second Runabout had slowly made its way into orbit above the planets northern magnetic pole, hiding its presence from all sensors apart from those that knew to look for it. Aboard the craft, two occupants sat waiting for orders.
Andy hated this part of any mission; the waiting was always the worst, but now she was even more on edge because this was her kid involved! And so she sat at her side of the console with her arms crossed as they waited, and waited...
Finally, the Runabout Georgia began to move towards the planet, and Andy scooted forward in her seat with a hint of excitement.
"Let the game begin..." Andy murmured as she monitored the Georgia as it began its descent into the atmosphere.
Soon, an encoded transmission appeared on the terminal between the two officers, beeping away for one of them to decrypt it.
The Captain reached down to the console and input her codes to decrypt the message. It simply read; "Mission Underway."
"Okay Master Chief," the Captain spoke quietly as she relaxed in her chair. "Now we wait..."
From his vantage point on the surface, and using a tricorder to mask his lifesigns, Nathan watched in silence as the Runabout breached the planets upper atmosphere and hurtled towards his designated set of landing co-ordinates on the edge of the forest. Using a second device, the former Starfleet officer and engineer used all of his knowledge to ascertain whether the Captain of the Nogura had followed his instructions. With raised eyebrows and a nod, he noted that his readings were clear; one joined Trill lifesign, no others and no signs of trickery that he could detect. So far, so good.
Satisfied, the Terran set off to put the next phase of his plan into motion. His cohort would be waiting afterall.
The Runabout Georgia set down in the clearing, and after a moment of gathering her nerves, Tara put the shuttle on standby.
"Alright, Nathan, give me a sign, what's your plan?" Tara mused aloud. It was nerve-wracking waiting for the next set of instructions, and Nilani's plan could be horribly undone in so many ways, but hopefully Nathan wouldn't see this coming... Still, Tara couldn't help but work through all the variable in her head as she waited.
She didn't have to wait long. A lone message appeared on the screen of the Runabout - yet another set of coordinates, this time seemingly deep into the forest. There was also a reminder for her to come alone and unarmed - with a side note that any deviation from his instructions would see the boy get harmed.
"'Alone and unarmed'?" Tara read, then sighed with a grin. "And you think I'm the naive one... Alright, let's get this over with," she said, then opened the runabout ramp and headed out with a tricorder in hand to track the coordinates.
As the Trill made her way into the forest, the former Starfleet officer watched her every move with great interest. To him, her old friend and ally, the woman seemed different, no doubt changed by her most recent experiences. She certainly failed to move with the swagger she used to. Such a shame.
Of course she wasn't going to 'swagger', Tara didn't like this route; she was out in the open, exposed, there was far too much high ground where Nathan could get the drop on her... But she dare not deviate and risk JP's life.
"Enough with the games, Nathan, just show yourself," Tara said as she continued down the path.
Suddenly, the sounds of the forest were replaced with an alarm that signaled her proximity to something, something that had not been present before. Within seconds, an energy distortion appeared directly ahead of her until there, in the middle of the forest, a cloaked building appeared. Rather, a building that had been masked by holo-emitters to hide its presence. A single door parted and granted her entrance to the building.
"This is not what I meant, and you know it," Tara said, narrowing her eyes at the open doors; if she went in there, there was a good chance that neither she nor JP were walking out of there alive, because why would he leave witnesses to this place. But she would complete the mission, and so with a cautious glance to her tricorder, she passed through the doors.
As soon as the doors sealed behind the Trill, the familiar shimmering of the energy distortion returned the building to its invisible state. Inside, it was a simple facility, just one room where she was all alone. Within seconds of the doors to the outside world being sealed, the room was filled with a blue light as a shimmering form quickly took shape and there before her, with a phaser pointed directly at her, stood the familiar frame of her former friend.
Tara neither blinked nor balked at the sight of her friend leveling a weapon at her. "Are you quite done?" Tara asked, losing her patience for the theatrics. "I'm here now, alone and defenseless as you asked, so what do you require of me in order to secure the safe release of Chief Carter's son?
"So typical," the former Captain smiled as he waved his phaser in such a way that he signaled for her to take a seat on a nearby chair. "This was never about you, the boy or even the Federation. This... this is about one thing only. Revenge. And I will not stop until I get my revenge," he grinned like a maniac from a twentieth century action film.
Tara rolled her eyes and moved to take a seat. "Go blow it out your ass, Nathan," Tara said, for once thankful for Arjin's contributions to her new behavior. "I know this isn't about me or the boy, this is about you being an ego-centric dick. But right now, my only concern is getting the boy safely home, so if that means taking one for the team and get you off, then so be it. So, what is the end goal of your revenge, and how can I help you achieve it?"
Nathan raised his phaser and pointed it straight in the woman's face as he took a step forward. "I'd speak a little nicer if I were you," he spoke through gritted teeth before lowering his phaser and pointing it directly at the stomach area where the Neprem symbiont resided. "I know how important symbionts are to the Trill so it would be a shame if I killed this one..."
"You don't scare me, Nathan, because I'm not afraid to die," Tara admitted without an ounce of fear in her eyes. It wasn't entirely true, she was afraid but she had resigned herself to the fact that this little stunt might kill her, and so long as JP returned home safe then it was a death she could be proud of, and so she faced that death now without cowardice. "You asked for me to come here, so I'm here; command me, tell me what you need to complete your revenge so that JP can go home."
"I. Want. Mitchell. Hanson." he told bluntly. "If I do not get an audience with the good Admiral in the next thirty minutes, the boy dies."
"That's it?" Tara asked dubiously. "Okay," she then said with a shrug and tapped a few commands into her tricorder. "I'm not transmitting our coordinates to the ship, but I am creating an encrypted uplink with the Nogura; Admiral Hanson has had an open connection to the Midas array so he could receive updates as quickly as possible, so using the Nogura to get him on the line should only take a minute or two."
That wasn't quite what the former fleeter had desired, but it would suffice for now whilst the next stage of his plan was put into effect. "Just so that I can be assured of no funny business..." he tapped the console behind him and in a brief, yellow beam of light, a small boy appeared, gagged and hands tied up, lying on the floor by Hunter's feet.
That got a reaction out of Tara.
"Oh jeez, Nathan, he's just a kid! Does he really need to be tied up like that?" Tara asked. Only what she didn't know was that little JP had his mother's 'spunk' and had kicked Nathan in the groin during his abduction.
Due to some rather nefarious means, Commander T'Prynn aboard the Nogura had been able to covertly monitor the goings on from Tara's location and as soon as she had confirmation that the boy was in Hunter's location, the Vulcan scientist transmitted a message from her location to the second Runabout in orbit. "Commence mission. Commandeer Carpathia."
"Show time," the Captain smiled as she sat forth in her chair, looking over at the Ops Chief. "Ready to get your boy back, Master Chief?"
"Aye aye, Cap'n," Andy said, then fired up the thrusters, taking the shuttle out of the sensor shadow created by the planet's magnetic pole. "Ready on weapons?" she asked her superior officer.
"Weapons standing by. If we can, I want to get you over there without using them. Hunter might have some way of detecting weapons fire," the Till mused from her vantage point, looking out in the direction of the Carpathia. "Do what you can to disrupt any communications or sensor readings from the Carpathia, then we'll disable her engines," the Trill instructed, opting to take over piloting controls so the Master Chief could get to work.
"We taking prisoners, or you okay if I just take 'em out?" Andy said as she worked at her console to figure out a way to bypass the Carpathia's shields; she was in a 'shoot first, ask questions never' sort of mood.
"Disrupt any communications and sensor readings from the Carpathia. IF we shoot, we shoot to disable them only," the Trill Captain reiterated to ensure there was no miscommunication. She wanted the ship and anyone aboard it. Any endangering of life or the ship itself was not acceptable to her and would not be to Command either, regardless of the developing situation. "Once we know they cant detect us, we'll swoop in and board her," the Captain added, holding the Runabout stationary for now.
"The communication jammer is online, and I'll have the sensors so confused they won't be able to detect us once we're in range," Andy said with a scowl of determination as she set up a blanket of signal interference to confuse the Carpathia's sensors. Then she grinned. "Aww, would you look at that, their shields ain't worth shit; we should have no trouble punching through it with the transporter."
Andy paused to check her weapon to make sure the phase was set to stun only, then double checked the transporter coordinates to make sure she would end up in the right place.
"Alright, we're good to go; I'll transport as soon as we're in range," Andy said as she rose from her seat to head back to the transporter. "I'll send you a signal once the Bridge is secure."
Nilani rose from her seat slowly and stood directly in the enlisted woman's path. "Not this time Andrea," the Captain shook her head. "This is going to require objectivity. We don't know what we'll find over there so I'll be going. You will join me when I'm happy the ship is secure," Azulas ordered in a tone that made it clear that her orders were not up for debate. A clear head would be essential, especially if there was even a slim chance they had been deceived in some way.
"Only my mother calls me 'Andrea', and last time I checked, you ain't her," Andy grumbled as she surrendered her phaser to the Trill woman. "You're a pain in the ass, you know that, right?" But she fixed Nilani with a soften gaze, a silent plea for the safety of her son. "Thank you," Andy finally muttered, but the gratitude was genuine for what Nilani was about to do.
"Get a move on," Hunter scolded as he waved his phaser above the prone boy who was whimpering quietly from beneath his gag. "My trigger finger is getting twitchy..." he warned, glaring back at Tara.
Tara shook her head with a sigh, then returned her attention to her tricorder to finish encoding the link so it couldn't be traced back here. "Fine, fine..." she muttered. "Just don't hurt him," she said, working as fast as she could. Then her tricorder chirped in affirmation of its completed task, so Tara set the device on a chair next to her where Nathan could see the UFP logo on the tiny screen indicating that they were connected. "Okay, it's done, he just needs to answer," she said to Nathan, then watched the boy.
The black screen on the console turned to a familiar face for the two adults in the room as a fraught looking Admiral appeared on the viewer. As soon as he realised it was Hunter who was watching, the Admiral's expression changed to one of pure anger. "You! You dirty son of a..."
"Now now Admiral. I'd hate for the first words out of your mouth that your child hears to be ones of anger," Nathan smirked, wagging a finger at the older man. Nathan then turned and bent down over the struggling child, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt and hauling him up to his feet. The former fleet officer kept his phaser trained on Tara and used it to gesture for her to take several steps back and away. "JP, this is your father. I thought you should meet him before I take him away from you like he did my own child," Nathan spoke directly to the boy before looking at the screen.
"Is that what this is all about?" Mitch asked, a look of shock on his face. Revenge for something that happened several years ago. "Nathan, it was for your own good, let alone the good of Zara! We all saw what Emily did to you. She brought out the worst side of you. We were protecting you and the child..."
"NO!" Nathan scolded loudly. "No. You deprived me of the opportunity to be a father and you deprived Zara of the chance to get to know me," the man fumed. "Now I intend to deprive you of the chance to be a father, as you did me," he told coldly, glaring at the Admiral.
"Wait, Nathan..." Hanson pleaded, throwing his hands up, "There has to be something that I can say or do... Forget all the other charges. You don't want to hurt an innocent child..."
While Nathan's focus was on the Admiral, Tara decided to take her chances and she tackled him. The maneuver sent the Trill and the two Terrans tumbling to the deck plating, with Tara over Nathan struggling to get his weapon from him, or at the very least keep him from shooting her.
"You know," Tara grunted as they struggled, "Hanson has a knack... for picking talented Officers to nurture.... but he was really scraping the bottom of the barrel with you," she taunted in a frenzied rush, hoping to make him more emotional to throw him off his game while she stayed calm and cerebral. "His newest protege is so much better than you could ever hope to be!"
That seemed to do just the trick as the stronger male managed to break free his right arm and smashed his elbow deep into the symbiont sack of her stomach in one strong motion and with a ferocious growl. He was not going to be bested by his pathetic former right hand. He'd planned to let her live, but not anymore.
Tara recoiled in pain at the jab, yet instead of buckling completely as she should have from such a lethal assault, she made another grab for the phaser. She managed to wrest the phaser free and turn it on him.
"I told you, Captain Azulas is far better than you," Tara said coldly. "Her idea was brilliant, really; I'm not actually here," she informed Nathan. Although she wasn't completely unharmed, the jab to her gut had caused real pain feedback through the synaptic transceiver she was hooked up to on the Nogura, but she knew she wasn't in any danger of dying from it.
Nathan slowly pulled himself to his feet, using the console to steady himself as he nodded slowly through the grin that appeared on his face. "Do you expect me to believe you'll actually shoot me?" he smirked as he took three steps closer to the apparent 'hologram' before him, the tip of the phaser now buried deep in his chest. He knew, like she would, that if she did shoot him now, he'd be vaporised regardless of setting. There would be no justice for the countless souls he had hurt.
"Why is it that in these kinds of situations, that everyone believes it has to end in a shoot-out?" Tara replied with a frown. "I don't want to shoot you, Nathan, but if I have to then it'll only be because you gave me no other choice. Just surrender, no one has to die."
Nathan smirked and shook his head in defiance. "Surrender? Did I teach you nothing?" He suddenly slapped a device on the sleeve of his right arm and was engulfed in a transporter beam. Within seconds, the traitor was gone.
"That's right, run away, you're going to love my contribution to this plan," Tara said as she disabled the phaser, then knelt down to untie young JP.
"Dad!" JP rasped out once his gag was removed.
"Don't worry, sweetie, we're still connected with your dad, you can talk to him, but I've got to get you out of here," Tara said as she unbound the poor boy. Once he was free and on his feet, Tara grabbed her tricorder then escorted the boy out of the building and back to the runabout.
When Hunter re-materialized, he was not on the Carpathia's transporter pad, but rather the small pad of the Runabout Yorktown, and he would find himself face to face with a very pissed off ginger-haired ex-Borg. Andy grinned, then the gave traitorous Hunter a very satisfying right cross, laying him out on the pad.
"Hey boss, Hunter is secured," Andy said, then retrieved a set of zip-tie cuffs that he couldn't 'hack' his way out of once he regained consciousness.
Nilani looked back at the man who lay unconscious on the transporter pad and let out a satisfied grin. She'd have liked to have done it herself, but the poetic justice of it being the mother of the child he had kidnapped was just as sweet.
"=/\=Runabout Yorktown, this is Nogura," came the ever stoic, monotone voice of the Vulcan scientist who had been part of their endeavour. "Commander Neprem's Runabout has been retrieved and the child is with her in sickbay for a check up. Captain th'Zorati reports that the Thesis intercepted a shuttle headed from the far side of the planets surface with a suspected accomplice aboard. We standby for orders," she concluded.
Nilani glanced over at the Master Chief as she took her seat at the controls again and smiled. "=/\=Yorktown to Nogura. We're ready to come home, plus one Runabout sized craft for evidence purposes. When we're aboard, set a course back to Nerey'n," the Captain ordered before terminating the comm array. "Ready to see JP?" she queried as she looked at the Master Chief again.
"Yeah, more than ready," Andy replied, ginning with relief. Then to be extra cautious, Andy double checked for any additional weapons or tools, and erected a force field around the transporter pad just to be sure he wouldn't be able to reach the controls if he woke in transit. "Let's get the hell outta here."