Thread: Fallout
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 1,036
# 63
10-12-2013, 03:05 AM

The morgue turns out to be quite easy to find; we simply aim for the medical facilities, and look for an outbuilding with a very low overall temperature. A couple of Sutton's mercenaries are guarding the doorway, but they flee at the sight of Thirethequ wielding the flamethrower. To be fair, I would, too.

It's easy enough, too, to find the three bodies we're looking for, to cross-check against Shalo's files, and to confirm identification. I look down on one body, the charred corpse of a Ferasan warrior, and I wonder: what role did he play in this? A Starfleet crew would be obliged to refuse an illegal order, but what choice did the KDF lower ranks have? Klur apparently executed two of his officers for speaking out... but the whole crew could have taken him down, mutinies have happened in the KDF before, and even been condoned when the commanding officer's conduct was bad enough. But would the KDF have decided Klur's plan was bad enough?

I look down on the dead Ferasan, and can't help but wonder what choices he had.

"What's our next step, sir?" Anthi asks, recalling me to the here and now.

"Oh," I say. "Right. We'll do a sweep around the perimeter of the port, checking for Nausicaan, Orion or even Klingon lifesigns, and trying to match them against Shalo's biometric data. If we find any of Klur's crew, we go in and pick them up. Otherwise, we circle back to the landing pad and try to link up with Shalo at the dropship. Amiga, see if you can hack me a link-up with the local communications network."

"I'm reading armed units converging on this building," Anthi says. "It must be more of Sutton's group."

"Right." I consult the tactical overlay on my visor. "They're covering the main and the emergency entrances. So, we'll avoid them, go out that way -" I point "- and head for the vehicular thoroughfare about fifty metres south of here. Questions?"

"Your pardon, esteemed commander," says Thirethequ, "but I fear your plan is impracticable, since we have no means of egress in the desired direction." He's right, of course, I'm pointing at a solid wall.

"Oh, yes," I say. "Fix that, will you, Anthi?" Anthi is already aiming the cannon pistol.

We're through the hole in the wall before the dust has started to settle, and heading south, towards that main street. I'm hoping that Sutton's mercenaries won't be free with their fire if there are bystanders about. As for us - Kluthli, Amiga and I have our weapons set to heavy stun. The cannon pistol and the flamethrower, obviously, don't really have stun settings, so Anthi and Thirethequ will be aiming them, as much as possible, at inanimate objects, for the purpose of intimidation.

We may be in a fight, but we're still Starfleet.

Shouts from behind us, and a scattering of disruptor bolts. I turn, and fire a volley back from my autocarbine. Caught in the burst of fire, two of Sutton's men drop; a third, caught by the fringe of one bolt, howls and clutches his leg. Even on stun, the neural shock from the antiproton bolts is... nasty. There are others in that group of thugs, but they turn tail and run, polaron and phased-tet beams whistling after them from Kluthli's and Amiga's pistols.

There is movement from the mouth of another alley, which stops suddenly as Thirethequ unleashes a green-hot cloud of flame. "Venture forth, recreants, and face immolation!" he bellows. I think he's enjoying himself.

"Scanning," Kluthli says. "Nausicaan life signs at bearing one three seven, range about one-fifty."

"Let's take a look," I say.

"I have that comms hookup," says Amiga.

"OK," I say, "put me on public address." And I make my announcement, trying not to sound too out of breath as I run for the next corner. "Attention, please. We are engaged in a legitimate security investigation, and we're being impeded by a group of criminals calling themselves Sutton's Consolidated Unaligned Mercenaries. Non-combatants are advised to stay clear of possible armed conflict zones. Thank you for your attention, and we apologize for the inconvenience."

"Are you planning on saying who 'we' are, sir?" Anthi asks, as we reach the corner and peer down the main street.

"Not really," I say. "I'm not too sure how to explain all this to Admiral Semok anyway."

"I have an Administrator Kendrix calling for you, sir," says Amiga.

"What the hell," I say, "let's talk to them."

"What is going on?" a fussy voice shrills in my ear. "What security investigation? There were explosions! Gunfire! Who's going to pay for the property damage?"

"Take that up with whoever hired a group of criminals to handle your security," I say.

"We hired them!"

"Well, that'll simplify your lines of communication no end, won't it? My advice is, call them off and disarm them. And tell them not to try knocking visitors over the head, in future. Bad for the tourist trade, as well as their health."

There is a cluster of Nausicaan life signs on my tactical display, but they're not close enough for detailed biometric scans. And there is another cluster of icons approaching from the west, showing personal shields and small arms. I cut off the noise of Kendrix sputtering incoherently. "Hostiles inbound, roughly one zero zero. Let's dissuade them, shall we?"

In the wan street lighting and the dim after-sunset glow, Sutton's men are barely visible, just loping shapes in the dusk. One of them fires a phaser, and I hear the beam hiss by me. I return fire, and he falls. Anthi aims the cannon pistol at the packed earth of the roadway, and fires, sending up a shower of dust and dirt. More phasers and disruptors flash; our guns answer them. Thirethequ sends a great spray of burning gases across the roadway, where it ignites the fuel cells of some ground vehicle, parked by the roadside. The resulting explosion sends chunks of hot metal flying in all directions, and several of Sutton's men are knocked down by the concussion. Not fatally injured, I hope. Well, I try to hope.

I spray fire towards the ones who are still upright; one of them falls, the others dive for cover. I turn towards the Nausicaan life signs - they're inside a nearby building. "Scanning," Kluthli says. "None of them's one we want."

"Get me the next nearest," I say, my eyes still on the road where Sutton's troops are moving in the dimness.

"On it," says Kluthli. "Mixed group of life signs... at least one Nausicaan... two-seven-two, about one-fifty metres."

"Let's move," I say, and we move.

"Reading something else," Kluthli calls, as we run. "Weapons and personal shield signatures - could be consistent with the ones we've been fighting."

A phaser beam snaps out of an alleyway towards us; we fire back. Anthi aims deliberately off-target, but the crescent wave from the pistol hits something that explodes in a shower of sparks. The streetlights flicker off, come back after a second at low strength. "Sorry, sir," Anthi says. "Must have hit an EPS substation or something."

"Don't worry about it. Just property damage." We move on.

"I have Commodore Sutton on the comm link," says Amiga.

"Oh, joy. All right, patch him in."

"Listen." Sutton's voice sounds in my ear, high and strained. "Lay off, just lay off, all right?"

"Pull your goons out of here before anyone else gets hurt," I tell him.

"Or what?" He sounds indignant. "You're outnumbered thirty to one!"

"Only thirty? When we're up against the Borg, it's usually hundreds. And the Borg are better equipped than your mercenaries."

"Over there, sir," Kluthli interrupts. She's pointing towards another alleyway. Somebody has made a makeshift barricade across the entrance, out of packing cases, I think - it's hard to tell in the dim light.

"Listen," Sutton says. "I did a deal with the Orion witch, she's on her way to you, now just lay off, will you? Or we'll have to -"

Whatever he says next is lost in the noise as Thirethequ blasts the barricade with the flamethrower. It's blazing merrily when Anthi fires the cannon pistol, breaking it apart and sending burning fragments flying down the alley. I check my scans. A group of Sutton's troops, all right, now retreating slowly in some disorder - and one Nausicaan among them. I run to the mouth of the alley, firing a warning burst over their heads. "Stand still!" I bellow.

In the dim light, I can see them milling around in confusion. One of them raises a gun, thinks better of it, lowers it again.

"- told you, I did a deal! The Orion witch is on her way to you! She'll cut me in half if anything goes wrong!"

"Cut you in half?" I say. "You want to know what I'm going to do to you?"

"Confirmation, sir," says Kluthli. "The Nausicaan - a match for a Warrior Jikkur, in Shalo's files."

I shut Sutton off. "Jikkur!" I shout. My hand is stiff with tension on the stock of my gun. This is our first chance to take one of Klur's crew... one of the people who murdered a world.

Slowly, reluctantly, a tall figure steps out of the shuffling group. The dying flames from some piece of the barricade strike red reflections on Nausicaan bladed armour. He glares at me.

Unexpectedly, a voice comes from behind me. "There you are. I will handle matters from here." Shalo.

She sweeps imperiously past me into the alleyway. "Lieutenant Jikkur," she says. The Nausicaan freezes in his tracks. Shalo turns to me. "Your Federation interrogation techniques will not break a Nausicaan warrior."

"Don't be too sure about that," I say. We've done it before.

"Well, in any case, it is not necessary," says Shalo. "Lieutenant Jikkur! I have purchased your contract from Commodore Sutton." She holds up a datapad. "Inspect this and verify it."

The Nausicaan takes one slow step forward, then another. I glance about. Thirethequ and Amiga are covering the other mercenaries, Anthi is guarding our rear. In any case, there are no other armed groups in the immediate vicinity on my tactical scan. The Nausicaan reaches the mouth of the alley and stands before Shalo, towering over her.

"Verified," he says. "Sir."

"Good," says Shalo. "It cost me fifty-five Lobi crystals, and I see I must confirm your... field promotion. Now, then. Sutton negotiated a full-service contract, which I have purchased. That means any duty of confidentiality you might have had to a former employer has lapsed. Where is Captain Klur?"

Jikkur stiffens. "I did not have navigation functions on the QIb laH'e' or the shuttle," he says.

"A general impression will suffice," says Shalo.

"We took an evasive course through several emission nebulas and other phenomena," says Jikkur. "When we left the carrier, it was waiting under stealth conditions in a gravitational nexus. I believe it is the gravitic anomaly near the star Massidia Alpha."

Shalo nods. "That makes sense," she says. She turns to me. "You see? A Nausicaan mercenary is loyal to his contract - it is a virtue of theirs."

Possibly their only virtue. "What are you going to do with him now?" I ask. "Contract or not, he's a wanted war criminal as far as the Federation is concerned."

"He is, however, a KDF officer under my command," says Shalo. "And a resourceful one - escaping Klur's crew, getting himself a secure position on this world, that was inventive."

Jikkur seems to swell with pride. "Thank you, sir!"

"Getting caught by the Federation, though," Shalo continues, "was less than competent."

Jikkur's eyes flicker, and he goes for his gun, a fraction of a second too late. Shalo draws her bat'leth and strikes with it in one single fluid movement. Black blood geysers up in the dim light, and the Nausicaan's headless body topples to the ground.

"There is only one punishment for incompetence in the KDF," Shalo says calmly.

I find my voice, somehow. "Rather a waste of fifty-five Lobi," I say, shakily.

Shalo shrugs. "Lobi crystals are of no particular worth," she says. "That is why the Crystal Consortium uses them as the base material for its unorthodox currency."

"Wait a minute," I say. "You mean you paid Sutton in ordinary Lobi crystals? Not Consortium ones?"

"Yes." Shalo turns away from Jikkur's corpse. "We should return to the dropship and make our way to Massidia Alpha at the best possible speed. I am anxious to arrive there before Klur can depart... and I should like to leave here before Commodore Sutton runs some basic checks on those crystals."