The Last Days of the USS Starlight Pony (Chap 10)
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Previously... Chapter 9:
As the other officers were escorted off the bridge, Fludicus moved towards his captive, “Identify yourself.”

The Cardassian hesitated, but when Fludicus gestured with his pistol he meant business, the Cardassian finally spoke, “Gul Evek, formerly of the Fourth Order.”

“Gul Evek...” Fludicus’ eyes opened with surprise, “you are quite a familiar name...”

“On what authority you have to arrest me?”

“I am under orders from Starfleet Intelligence to deal with the likes of you,” Fludicus replied, “You would be interested to know that one particular individual may have interest in your... detention.”

Evek’s eyes opened with surprise when Fludicus replied it was Admiral Chakotay.



And Now...

The Last Days of the USS Starlight Pony (Chap 10)

The Caitian escort CDS M’Gruran cruised through subspace as its captain, the Caitian Neytiri came onto the bridge.

“Status report,” Neytiri called out as she strode to the middle of the bridge, where the captain’s chair was.

“Status quo Captain,”  replied Commander Dirsyirse reported. The android First Officer continued in a very flat tone, “We should arrive at Cait within three hours and sixteen minutes.”

“Good,” Neytiri replied, “Carry on Commander.”

“Captain,” Commander Diryirse continued, “There was a Caitian communique meant for you. I have a reply channel ready at your disposal.”

“Thank you Commander,” Neytiri replied, “I will be in my ready room.”

Neytiri then left the bridge for her ready room, and casually took her place at the captain’s desk. She then selected the reply channel her First officer mentioned. The screen came out of the desk and displayed an elder Caitian, with a gold and silver mane resembling those of Earth’s lions from documentary films.

Neytiri put her paw on her chest and lowered her head in deference, “Elder Hehos. I was informed of your request for my assistance.”

“The elder Caitian nodded, “I am relieved to know that you have expressed your willingness to intervene in this delicate issue.”

“I take it that the situation has deteriorated.”

The elder Caitian nodded, “As you know, our pride has maintained a trade agreement with the Ferengi for close to a century. Unfortunately, there are those outside our pride who believe that the arrangement should be - more inclusive.”

“”I believe that does not bode well for the pride,” Neytiri deducted.

“The Ferengi are taking advantage of the development and have began to offer their services to the lowest bidder,” Elder Hehos said, “Rival prides have begun to put forward offers, and the Ferengi have opened discussions. Our pride still has an edge but the consequences are already being felt...”
.
“That’s not good...” Neytiri remarked.

“Day-to-day trading with the Ferengi has been suspended,” Elder Hehos explained, “Luxury supplies the Ferengi supplied are now being sold at premiums. The Ferengi are going to stick to their arrangement to the letter and plan to end the deal the minute it ends.”

“We cannot afford that,” Neytiri said, “ With the conflict against the Klingons, the last thing we need is for the Ferengi to shift their trading relations to someone hostile to the Federation.”

“I see that you understand our situation,” Elder Hehos agreed, “I look forward to your arrival on Cait.”

“Consider it done,” Neytiri replied, “My ship and crew will be arriving at Cait within a few hours.”

“Glad to hear that. See you then. Hehos out.”


Neytiri looked on sitting as the screen turned off and crawled back into the table’s interior. After taking a moment, Neytiri opened a comlink to her crew on the bridge.

“Number One. Maximum warp to Cait.”

“Acknowledged Captain,” the android first officer replied, “helm will make the appropriate adjustments as ordered.”

***********************************************************************************

“So we have put Gul Evek on ice,” First Officer Mirra said, “Have we made any progress questioning him?”

“He’s very resistant - and reluctant,” Fludicus replied, “He simply repeats the that he’s serving the true and rightful heads of the Cardassian Union.”

“True and rightful heads!” Mirra seemed to be laughing out, “More like usurper-wannabes. All they would to is undo all the hard work and peace we have attained over the last thirty years.”

“By the looks of it peace to the True Way is a failure,” Fludicus remarked, “they measure it by rampant militant prowess.”

“Somebody else did beat them to that, “ Mirra simply joined her commander in shaking their heads before going on to the next topic, “Commander, questioning the other Cardassian crew members have managed to yield some interesting results.”

“So I have heard,” Fludicus replied, “What have you gathered?”

“It seems they have no real intelligence concerning the True Way or the leadership itself,” Mirra began, “However, from what they told us, many of the crew claim that they had recently joined the True Way.”

“How recent?”

“Over the past six months.”

“Six months...” Fludicus seemed not surprised, “That could explain the relative ease of storming the Hideki vessel, and perhaps the subspace mines throughout the passageways of the ship.”

“Surely the crew was not prepared to repel any boarding parties that came onto their ship,” Mirra noted.

“It could be more than that. Much like the old Cardassian Union, the True Way maintains order and discipline through intimidation and cohesion. Those subspace mines could be a deterrent against them deserting the ship as much for those invading.”

“Come to think of it,” Mirra remarked, “There could be some basis on that: some of the crew said they were impressed into the crew, even at gunpoint.”

“Impressment,” Fludicus had known and read of forceful recruitment of soldiers and sailors across cultures and eras from his reading in the Academy, but outside the Klingon Empire there has not been other spacefaring civilisations have continued the practice, “For the True Way to take up such a practice could mean...”

The communication network beeped, “Commander, you got to come over and take a look at this,” A female Tellarite voice said.

“On my way,” Fludicus replied. Mirra and Fludicus promptly left the ready room.

Ensign Gepba, sitting on the captain's chair, got up as soon as Fludicus approached her, “We picked up some readings that are similar with Hideki-class vessels.”

“How many or there?” asked Fludicus.

“Two. Just outside the Badlands.”

Fludicus seemed surprised. Normally sensors could not penetrate through the Badlands much less read what was inside accurately. Specialist Sirol was quick to explain.

“Commander, I was modifying the sensors to see if I could get and extended range within the Badlands. Somehow, by some luck, I picked up these contacts.”

“Acknowledged,”  Fludicus replied, “I am more interested if the contacts are hostile.”

“We have been tracking them since we picked them up,” Gepba replied as she resumed her post at the helm, “They are on a course tangent to ours.”

“Keep tracking them,” Fludicus ordered. He took his seat and then asked Sirol, “When will we clear the Badlands?”

“Within three minutes,” Gepba replied, “By then though we would have missed the interception.”

“Compensate to intercept,” Fludicus ordered, “Mirra, get me Thron.”

“Channel’s open,” Mirra replied.

“Fludiocus to Thron,” Fludicus called out, “Report.”

“Our little prize would hold together for now,” reported Thron, “All systems are green and normal - by Cardassian standards though. We could use more crews to clear the Houdinis though.”

“I am afraid I cannot spare you the crew right now,” Fludicus said, “ We just found some ships that could be hostile. I want you to resume course out of the Badlands while we proceed to intercept our contacts.”

“Copy that sir.”

With the comlink closed, Fludicus turned to Mirra, “Status on targets?”

“Still on course,” Mirra replied, “Looks like they would not be able to see us - at least not yet.”

“Continue our intercept,” Fludicus ordered, “Helm, get us closer. Let’s get ready everyone. I don’t want any surprises.”

Specialist Sirol soon had something to report, “I got additional readings on our contacts... I am confident that they are Cardassian, Hideki-class.”

“Time to intercept?” Fludicus asked.

“Thirty seconds to clear the Badlands,” Gepba replied.

“We would be in range by then,” Mirra reported, “No time to give us - or them - to decide.”

“Let’s get the jump on them,” Fludicus decided, “Maintain speed and heading.”

“Weapons and shields are up,” Mirra continued, “We can engage on your orders.”

“Clearing the Badlands,” Gepba reported.

“We have visual,” Sirol reported.

“Oncreen,” Fludicus’ command was followed by the bridge viewscreen showing two ships in space. Other than their dark grey paint jobs, they (apparently) had all the markings of Hideki-class vessels.

“Let’s get this on. Battlestations,” Fludicus cried.

The Red Alert klaxon began to ring throughout the ship.

*Author's Note: A textbook ambush.... but would you notice something wrong with the picture? Stay tuned to find out on Chapter 11*











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