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©02 The Media Desk and the USS RAVEN (IFT) crew

Inside Job

       Lukas looked around at the rest of the RAVEN crew in the auditorium as they waited for the one of the highest-ranking officer in Star Fleet, Admiral Rickett of Star Fleet Internal Security.
       They were all there, even the two new 'recruits'. Former pirates now sworn to the service of the RAVEN for sanctuary from outstanding charges which most likely would result in capital punishment on any of a handful of worlds from here to the Cardassian border. Lukas shook his head. They were exactly what his ship needed... another set of sisters.

       "Do I have to go to the meeting to take part in the mission?" Mr. Kada had asked voicing the unspoken opinion of most of the officers.
       The Captain nodded. "If you don't go, you, well, don't go."
       Lieutenant Dickerson sighed, "Any idea what it's about? The meeting I mean."
       The captain didn't answer.
       "Probably another debriefing about Fortoon. Or the pirates... Or the Borg... Or maybe everything." Lt. Ellingsworth muttered.
       "If it is it is." The Executive Officer said. "When Captain?" Ryan seemed excited about the prospect.
       Lukas glanced at the chronometer on the nearby console. "About five minutes."
       There was a period of extended talking and confusion. Then they settled down. Chief Engineer Barnhart found himself being stared at by almost everybody. He shifted uncomfortably. "We're all in."
       The captain nodded. "Let's go."

       "This will be a live fire exercise which may result in your being fired upon by Star Fleet or allied vessels. If any of you want to leave, leave now. If you try to withdraw from the exercise after this briefing you will be held in solitary confinement in my flagship's brig until it is over..." Admiral Rickett said as the briefing opened.
       Nobody moved or spoke.
       "OK, good." He took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "From this moment forward you will not have any communication with anybody at Star Fleet. If you are hailed or otherwise called I will provide you with a standard taped reply that identifies your ship and other information without revealing your mission."
       He went on for some time. Then, "Questions?"
       "How are we supposed to get from here to there?" One of them asked.
       "Let me know what you need. I can pull some strings and get you almost anything from a STEAMRUNNER class ship down."
       "But aren't all incoming ships scanned and hailed as a matter of routine?" Another said hesitantly.
       "Yes. But I don't expect Borg or Borg operatives to announce themselves as such when they approach a station. We've had incidents where Borg Operatives have stolen personnel from Star Fleet Science and spirited them away without anybody being the wiser until they were long gone." He nodded. "It happened. And we've found eavesdropping devices in otherwise secure locations that appear to be of Borg construction. How they got there is a mystery. You are going to help us solve that mystery."
       "Why us?" One of the new 'sister acts' asked.
       "I thought that was fairly obvious..." He paused. But they were all listening intently. He shrugged and said it. "There is no other ship, no other crew, nobody else in the Federation that has such extensive experience, and if I may say it, as extensive of an unconventional history with, the Borg as the RAVEN."
       "There's other ships and crews out there that have been fighting the Borg. Some of them with equal success." Somebody from about three rows back said.
       "Yes. But. I've reviewed all aspects of the available ships and crews. The RAVEN is the best candidate to not only carry out this mission, but to succeed."
       "But if we succeed, that means that Star Fleet fail."
       "Exactly. And personally. I want you to succeed. Which is why there will be no warning to the bases I have outlined as your targets. They will be operating on SOP's. Not even aware there is a war game or whatever you wish to call this in progress. Whether you decide to hit one of them or all of them or any combination thereof, is up to you. Even I won't know your targets until it's done. Either way."
       Silence reigned in the room for a minute.
       The RAVEN's communication chief broke it. "So you want us, either as a single unit or in smaller parties of our choice, and on vessels of our own choosing, to think and act as the Borg... or Borg operatives... then to infiltrate any one of half a dozen of the largest and most secure Star Fleet bases and stations, plant actual physical evidence of our having made it inside, then to approach the base commander with your data pad and blow the whistle on ourselves and be arrested until they contact you?"
       Admiral Rickett pursed his lips and nodded gravely. "Essentially. Yes."
       Silence reigned in the room for a minute.
       Somebody broke it.

       The RAVEN herself wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Lukas wasn't real happy about leaving it in space dock as engineers and mechanics cut away whole sections of His Ship for replacement and refitting. But... it had to be done.
       "So who's going how? And which target?" He asked as the crew assembled, maybe for the last time, in the RAVEN's Nest.
       "I've got my transport already arranged." Mr. Kada said. "I just need a couple of volunteers to pull it off."
       "Which base you going after?"
       "Haven't decided that yet." Ryan asked him.
       Lukas had been thinking about that. "I think a coordinated effort against two or three targets will be the best. Simultaneous moves, with a diversion or two."
       "Which targets do you think we should go after?" Hackett asked looking at the maps and pictures of the nominated facilities.
       "Utopia Planitia. Somebody should do it." Ensign Price said with an odd tone to his voice.
       Lukas nodded. "I agree." He touched his control pad and the image of the target lit up. "I'll lead that team. And I think I've got an idea for it."
       "Starbase Seven needs taught a lesson too." Ziggy grinned.
       Lukas made a face like he didn't agree.
       "Yeah. That's an idea. I'd like to go on that one." Counselor Rowell said.
       "OK. It's in. One more." He said as it lit up.
       "Something that's not on the list." Mr. Kada said.
       "I'm not sure..." Lukas said.
       "HQ... 'Frisco."
       The Captain looked at the bearded man then at the list. "I wonder why he didn't put that on here?"
       "Doesn't matter. If I were Borg and wanted to cause as much disruption as possible, I'd hit it. Hard. From deep inside."
       "That'd be first on my list." Ryan found himself agreeing with Kada.
       "Maybe he didn't want to embarrass them." Rowell said.
       "Maybe they need to be embarrassed. If Kada's doing that one, I want to go with him." Mr. Dubin said. "You do have a plan right?" He looked at the tall ugly man.
       "Well. Yeah. Sorta."
       "That's three. Now, who's leading the run on Seven?"
       "She is." Ziggy pointed at the Counselor.
       "It was your idea."
       "I'll let you two work it out." He tapped the pad. "Now. I want a couple of diversions at other targets. High profile. Lots of noise."
       Mel made a bunch of high profile noise. Lukas looked at him. "I've been chewing on something like that to use against the Borg. So, why not use it on ourselves, I mean, them."
       "Draw up a plan and bring it to me later." He looked around. "Anything else? OK. Now. The teams. Anybody not on a strike team... you'll be working with Mel on the diversions."
       "I don't need a team. Mr. Dubin, maybe one other person. This is going to a surgical strike." Kada said. "In and... hopefully... Out."
       "OK. Good. Who's going with you guys?" He turned to Ziggy and Gale.
       "I was thinking of a multi-pronged approach. From several angles at once." Ziggy answered.
       "With difference objectives." The Counselor added.
       "OK. Get your teams together." He looked out at the people. "I want You." He pointed at Ryan. "And ... where's Mike. OK. You. And Mr. Price, since it was your idea. I think that's it... Oh. Yeah. And Alice."
       The Chief of Operations grinned.
       "I... ahhh... I got an idea for a diverson... But I'll need a hand to put it together." One of the Williams's said.
       "We can help." One of the other sisters said.
       Ensign Kokoszka asked if she could help.
       "I'm going to have a diversion team meeting after lunch. We'll go through them and see who can do what." Mel said.
       "Sure. I'll have a sketch ready then."
       "OK People. Everybody's got their assignments. Let's get to it. I want my strike team with their thinking caps on in my ready room in one hour." He looked over at Ziggy and Rowell.
       "Ahh... Yeah. We'll... we'll meet... ahhh." Gale looked at Ziggy.
       "The Nest is mine. As soon as you all get out of our way." Kada injected.
       "Well. We'll announce where we're meeting ahhh... after lunch." The Commander said after looking around for options.
       "Very good. Team leaders, that includes the diversions. We'll meet to compare notes... Say, eighteen hundred." He took a breath and looked at Kada. "Here."
       "Dinner and drinks. Why Captain. I never thought." He started with a straight face but didn't finish it.

       "The Ziggy-Rowell team will meet in thirty minutes in holodeck two." Ellingsworth waited a beat before he repeated it. "Thank you."
       "Thanks John." The Counselor said.
       "No problem."
       "Sure you don't want to come to the party?"
       The tall man leaned back in his chair. "No. I was going to maintain communications between all the groups on our secure channel and make sure nobody is listening in. Let everybody know when to jump off. That kind of thing."
       She nodded at him. "Stay out of the line of fire."
       "That too."

       "So how we going to get in?" Mr. Dubin looked at a small rather dark hologram of Star Fleet Headquarters.
       "I was planning on walking right in the front door." Kada grinned.
       "And doing what?" Jon looked up.
       "Going to the bathroom." He grinned. "And turning some friends loose." He put a small box on the counter.
       The engineer looked at the box with suspicion. "Are they assimilation nanobots?"
       Kada shook his head. "No. They're sanitation bots that have had a slight adjustment made to their programming. All they'll do is clog every toilet in the building because they'll see them as wasting water." He put a different colored box on the counter. "These will think it's too warm in the building and adjust the heat, to Antarctic levels."
       Jon picked it up. "Where do I drop them off?"

       "OK. How do we get in?" Mike asked.
       "That's really going to be the tricky part isn't it? It's a secure base. We just can't walk up and knock." Lukas looked at the picture of the ship design and production facility. "... or can we?"
       "He's got that evil glint in his eye." Rhoades said.
       "I think I'm sorry I asked."
       Lukas ignored both of them and keyed the com on his desk. "This is Captain Lukas, I need to speak to Admiral Rickett."

       "Hold it down!" Ziggy said as everybody was talking at once. "Dwight, you had a question."
       "Yeah. How do we get in?"
       "I was coming to that." He smiled. "I have a plan."

       "But the ship is in no way repaired enough for a mission sir." The base's engineering chief told Captain Lukas.
       "Doesn't matter. We've got to go." Lukas looked around. "It's confidential."
       "Secret mission?"
       "Yeah. I wasn't even supposed to tell you that. We'll be back as soon as we can."
       The chief nodded. "Yes sir. Just remember, your impulse is out all together and your warp field will fall apart above warp three and you don't have any lateral phasers at all."
       "As long as the transporters work. It's kind of a rescue mission."
       The chief looked at his console. "Ahhh.... Two, four. And emergency only on one. You've got two functioning transporters, and room one in a pinch."
       "That's enough. How about communications."
       "Most of it is working."
       "OK. It'll do." Lukas actually grinned. The ship looked the part.
       "Must be an awfully important secret mission." The chief looked up.
       "You wouldn't believe how important."

       "You're doing what?" Ryan looked at Kada and Mr. Dubin as the walked toward the boarding ramp to leave the ship. Both were in civilian clothes and carrying travel bags.
       "Approved by Admiral Rickett himself." Lukas said shaking his head.
       "Yes sir. I told you. It's the best way to do it. You'd rather I took a patrol of armored levidroids and went in shooting?"
       "Path of least resistance." Mr. Dubin said.
       "OK. Enjoy the trip." Ryan said with about half a smirk.
       Kada snorted at him. "You've never ridden on a Ruttman Shuttle have you?"
       "Yeah. I have."
       "Get in place and stand by for the signal."
       "We get a ten minute head start right?"
       "Yes sir."
       Kada stuck out his hand. Lukas grabbed it and they stood there looking at each other.
       "Good luck."
       "You too."

       "Three fighters, two shuttles and an escape pod?" Lukas looked at the list.
       Ziggy nodded then paused. "I thought it was two escape pods."
       The counselor checked her list. "It was. Sorry."
       "We've got to make it look good."
       "You're going to make it look like a circus." The captain sighed.
       "That's the idea." Ziggy said.
       "And we need those Borg weapons too." Hackett added.
       "I was coming to those."

       "Why Memory Alpha Two?" Lukas looked at one of the diversion plans.
       "It's on the list." Barnhardt said.
       "And it's the furthest out of any of them."
       "That it is." The captain nodded.
       "And we think it is the least likely to be an actual Borg target." Dickerson added.
       "If I were the Borg, I wouldn't put it real high on my list."
       "So do we get the shuttle?" Simon asked.
       The captain looked at his list of available shuttles and equipment. "I'll see if we can get another one from Rickett before we leave. If I can, you've got it." He tapped the pad. "What's next?"

       The RAVEN limped out of the dock on thrusters behind a tug. Once clear, it maneuvered a little, then fought its way to warp.
       "OK, that's more like it." Dickerson said from the helm.
       "I never realized how much I appreciated impulse." Lukas turned to Ryan. "How long until we let off the Lunatic Team." He grinned at the name he had heard the Ziggy and Rowell team called on several occassions.
       "Six hours. Then another four hours and we turn Diversion One and Two loose."
       Lukas nodded. "Good. OK." He got up. "I'm going down and see what the Four Sisters have managed to put together in the Nest."

       The first thing he smelled when the door to the Nest opened was fire extinguisher chemical.
       He stopped walking and looked around. He saw one of the twins from sickbay standing behind Grunt the robot on the far side of the room. She appeared to be hiding.
       "Everything OK?" Lukas asked her.
       "Yes sir." The other twin answered from the far end of the bar.
       Lukas was going to say something but then the other twin spoke. "There was just a small problem with the stove."
       "Oh." He went to the serving end of the bar and looked into the galley. The two ex-pirate sisters were busy cooking away.
       "Hello Captain. It's almost ready." One of them said.
       "You didn't have any trouble with it did you?"
       They looked from one to the other. "Well. It does use unusual heat settings."
       "We'll help fix the ceiling."
       "There was no permanent damage. And the cookware can be replaced."
       He nodded slowly.
       "Have you ever seen a four kilo tarroul roast disintegrate?"
       "Pan and all."
       Lukas shook his head. "And please. Don't demonstrate it for me either."
       "Coffee captain?" The sister behind the bar asked him.
       "Please." He smiled. "And no disintegrated coffee cups if you can help it."
       "Did you know Grunt is quite the fire control officer?" The other one said.
       "No, but I'm not surprised. He hangs out with Mr. Kada while he's cooking." He looked at the awkward looking robot and chuckled. "It probably learned it out of self preservation."
       Grunt grunted.

       "If you get in a bad way, don't hesitate to abort the mission." Lukas told Counselor Rowell and the others. "Rickett said this was a live fire exercise, but I don't want anybody getting into a shootout with Star Fleet people. It ain't worth it."
       "Did you tell Dr. Leftover and Jon not to kill anybody?"
       Lukas looked at Commander Rhoades. "I didn't think I had to." His eyes got wide. "They wouldn't start a war with Fleet Headquarters... would they?"
       She just looked at him.
       "John. Send a message to the good doctor and Mr. Dubin. Secure frequency. Wish them well, let them know the second group left on time, then remind them 'no guns, no knives, no killings'."
       "Yes sir. Should I sign it Wyatt Earp?"
       "Not a bad idea."

       In a couple more hours the ship slowed to a crawl again and the two diversions set off. One long range shuttle with some of the 'Diverters' on board, the other was a specially designed deep space probe with all sorts of modifications and enhancements.
       "The shuttle just went to warp." Ryan said.
       "OK. Get us moving again. How close to on time are we?" Lukas said.
       "Not bad." Ellingsworth said. "If nothing else happens, we should be able to launch the next diversion right on schedule."
       "Keep me advised." He touched his com. "My team to holodeck one for the last rehearsal." He stood up. "John, you have the bridge."

       "Sir." A lieutenant at the communications on Starbase Seven said to the Command Officer. "Sir. Multiple hails. There's a shuttle towing in an escape pod. They're from the RAVEN. They've been attacked by a Borg scout. Requesting assistance."
       The OD went to the console and listened to the message. Then another message came in.
       "Dispatch the rescue units. Bring them in. Station to yellow alert. Warn all ships of Borg activity in the area. Ops to Admiral Vorhees."
       No sooner than she had begun informing the admiral about what was going on than a fighter from the RAVEN hailed the station requesting an emergency landing. It had been in the fight and was low on fuel and life support. Then another shuttle entered the system.
       "Sir. We're having trouble scanning them sir, residual energy from the Borg weapons." A crewman from another station reported.
       "That's odd."
       "Life support on the second shuttle is critical."
       "How many people are on the ships?"
       "Hard to say due to the interference. At least a dozen but probably more."
       "Sir, another fighter is hailing one of our patrols. It was towing another escape pod and ran out of fuel, both are adrift."
       "Dispatch the patrol to tow them both in. See if we can get a transporter lock on the people and beam them directly to the clinic. Tow in the ships."
       The crew worked for a minute. "Unable to get a positive transporter lock."
       "Tractor beams on all ships, pull them into the landing bays. Medical teams to the shuttle bays. Clear the fighter for landing in the hanger."

       Commander Ziggy smiled broadly as the tractor beam from the station picked up his shuttle. "We're going in." He said into the comm.

       Captain Lukas nodded a the message. "Helm, Maximum warp right up to the defensive perimeter of Utopia Planitia. Cold shut down and dropout. Red Alert, weapons live, full shields. Engineering. Ready plasma venting and radiation release."
       Several of the crew said 'aye sir.'
       The Captain looked at the communications officer. "Give the HQ team and diversion one the high sign."

       "That's it." Mr. Dubin said.
       Kada took a deep breath and nodded. They walked toward the huge command building with direction and purpose.

       Simon nodded to his copilot and they hailed Memory Alpha Two.
       "Please guys. One at a time, and, in your normal speaking voice." The communications officer on the outpost said.
       Simon grinned broadly and began talking rapidly and about several different things. His copilot waited a minute then began talking about how this was Simon's normal way of speaking.

       "I think they're drunk." The communications officer said to his superior.
       "That'd be my guess. What do they want?"
       "Directions to Riza."
       The officer laughed. "Boy are they lost." He chuckled at the image of the two crewmen on the shuttle jabbering and shouting about shore leave. "Maybe they should have waited until they got there to start their recreation. I don't trust them to pilot it in. When they're in range, transport them into the reception area then bring the shuttle in on automatic."
       "Yes sir."
       "Just hang on. We'll bring you aboard and help you out." The com officer said to the singers.
       "OK, sure that'd be great." Simon smiled. The viewscreen went dark. "OK, into costume."

       Admiral Rickett sat in his office as calls began to come in. Memory Alpha Two's Liaison Officer demanded everything from an official apology from him to a firing squad for the two officers that beamed onto the station in Borg Costumes holding a big sign that said 'if we were Real Drones, you would be assimilated now.' And a model of the original manned lunar lander, the LEM.
       The admiral chuckled inside, but kept a straight face while he admitted it was a test of their defenses.
       Within a few minutes he got a call from Starbase Seven.
       "They said you could sort this out." The base commander said.
       "What are the charges?" Rickett asked curiously.
       "Sending a false distress code. Violating a secure perimeter. Endangering fleet personnel. Transporting unauthorized weapons with..."
       "That's enough. How far did they get?"
       The face in the viewer turned to stone. "Two of them made it into central control before we caught them. They said this belongs to you." He held up a small model of an ancient Earth orbiting space station, SKYLAB.
       "That it does. And they were on a mission from this office. Release them."
       And hour later another call came in.
       "We even dispatched interceptors." The commanding officer of Utopia Planita said. "I called for backup and had to explain the false alarm to two battleships and the USS FREEDOM. Admiral Foster said you owe her a lunch for the wild goose chase."
       Rickett nodded. "I'll sooth Trish's feathers for you. It's good for those SOVEREIGN Class ships to have a drill once in awhile. So, how did Lukas convince you to let the RAVEN into the base?"
       "He said the Borg were right on his tail and the RAVEN's weapons and shields were exhausted. Listen Bud..." Ricket's ears perked up at the use of the familiar. "If that had been a real Borg infiltration attempt, we'd ... well, we'd have been in a world of trouble. I don't think we could have stopped them."
       Rickett nodded. "That was the point of the exercise."
       "OK. You've got my attention. Now. What do we do about it?"
       Later there was one more call.
       "Do you know these men sir?" The security officer said.
       "Yes. Where did you find them?"
       "On their way up to your office, sir."
       Rickett paused. "Bring them up." He sat at his desk and read part of the daily briefing so he would look busy. Across the top of the page was a flash from maintenance that the toilets in the complex were out of order in some sections, and the cooling equipment in the Academy Offices wouldn't shut off. The time on the message was just about the same time as... "I'd bet on it." He said to the screen.

       The auditorium was considerably more crowded now than it had been a few weeks ago.
       Admiral Rickett sat off to one side and took turns glowering and smiling. Captain Lukas sat next to him at attention. The rest of the RAVEN crew were scattered around the first two rows
       A flag officer stood at the lectern and talked about how complacency and overconfidence were the real enemies of the Federation and how there were lessons to be learned from even this unfortunate and unofficial demonstration of gaps in their security procedures.
       Rickett nodded as the officer took questions and offered pat answers.
       "Thank you, and good day." The officer finally said.

       "So that's it?" Lukas said to Rickett as the crew gathered around them.
       "They're not going to do anything. The only mission of ours that failed was the probe that tried to get into the Huekisht Shipyards. And they're not going to change a thing." Mike said a couple of times.
       Rickett shook his head. "They've already made changes."
       Lukas nodded. "A lot of changes. But we're not going to go broadcasting them to the Twelve worlds."
       Ryan agreed. "You never know who might be listening."
       "So who's buying? I've seen enough Star Fleet Security to last me a couple of lifetimes." Mr. Kada said grinning at the Admiral.
       "Hint taken. O club, my treat." He nodded. "And thank you all. For all of it."

- - - - - - - -

       Outpost Six, Sector 1482, Observer Five To Unamatrix One... Federation Star Fleet Security Measures Changed. Further Infiltration Impossible At This Time. Study Required. Request Direction.

- - - - - - - -

The Crusade Continues


[This story carries the copyright of The Media Desk, 2002, and the USS RAVEN (IFT). Author retains all rights, including the right of approval for publication. STAR TREK, and all images and situations affiliated with STAR TREK are owned and copyrighted by PARAMOUNT STUDIOS. They are used in this story without intent to harm or otherwise defame PARAMOUNT or the estate of Gene Roddenberry. The Media Desk is not in any way affiliated with PARAMOUNT. For information contact the Desk. Email- , or surface mail to: The Media Desk, PO Box 1276, Dover, DE 19903]

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