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

Sale Price: Nevermore

       The crew had been so tired of each other, the spaceport, and even the ship that various ones got permission from Captain Lukas to join various expeditions and trading runs on all sorts of ships and shuttles, some which didn't appear to be spaceworthy. The crew worked themselves into exhaustion, then took a break, and got on each other's nerves. Then they'd go back to work... and do it all over again.
       Mr. Kada had said that the Fortoon outpost was serviceable, if small and out of date. He hadn't exaggerated. It was small, the RAVEN barely fit into the dock, but it did and that was enough. The parts and supplies were more than outdated, some were antiques and the RAVEN's engineers and crew had to fabricate a lot of what they needed. And the facilities for recreation and diversion simply didn't exist past the most basic needs. But, when you have every Borg Drone in the Galaxy looking for you and your ship is falling apart around you, it doesn't pay to be real choosy.
       Days lapsed into weeks.
       Weeks turned into a month.
       Then two.

       "Sir, we can probably get underway at at least warp two in a couple more days." The XO said as Captain Lukas came out of the lift. "Three, four at the most."
       "Have they pressure tested the conduits again?"
       Ryan didn't respond immediately.
       "I see. I want both conduits to pass before we even try to take it out."
       "Aye sir. I'll go light a fire under them myself."
       "You do that." He watched Ryan walk to the turbolift. As the doors shut behind him Lukas turned to Ensign Kokoszka filling in at the communications station. "He's right though, we need to get out of here. Who's still away from the station?"
       It took her a minute to pull up the list. "Rob Price and Lieutenant Simon are still out on on the shuttle CHALLENGER with one of the station's trade officers. Lieutenant Dickerson is planetside with Commander Ellingsworth. Commander Rhoades is on her way back in on the Trutschin trader WALDF... WALDPHE... I'm sorry, I can't pronounce it, but it will be docking within the hour. And Dr. Leftover is not on board, but I don't know where he went this time." She looked over the list. "The sisters just came back aboard. That's it for right now."
       He nodded. "OK. Double check, make sure we know where everybody is, including the good Doctor."
       "Yes sir."

       The space cruiser was beyond old. Battered and patched. Technology and weapons bought and stolen from half a dozen different races scattered across a good swipe of the quadrant. It leaked radiation and waste as it traveled, rolling slightly as it went due to failing stabilizers and uneven thrust.
       In what passed for the bridge the ship's commander sat brooding over a half working data pad. It was a tall order, and the customer hadn't been known to be overly reliable as far as payment went. But there were others that Would pay, and pay well, just to have an edge for bargaining with the final customer.
       The Commander looked over at his oldest and most trusted aid and spoke slowly.
       The language they used would confound even the best universal translator, but it came out roughly like this: "Take Rav'n and hold. They pay."
       The aid squinted his good eye at his master. "It be a Fed'ration Starsh'p no'atter wot else it is."
       "And it'a has been hit but goodways. I say we takeit. F'rengi would pay, Dom'm'n would pay. I hades even the curs'd Fed'ration might'd pay for it'em."
       The aid relaxed his squint but didn't answer this time.
       "We be already awanted and goody too. That T'ut'shin said they thar. I say we chance it and score't good."
       "You Shipmaster. You Say. We go." The aid squinted again.
       "I say." The commander stood up and stomped his foot on the deck causing a slight cloud of dust and debris to drift across the floor. "Make go. Fort'n."
       The being at the large obsolete pilot's consol grunted several times, then it glanced over its 'shoulder' at the commander and muttered something.
       "Eight'n cycles. Long way." He bit his lower lip. "Make go." Then he turned to his aid. "Charge arms, man't assault, no ship fight. We take'd ship. All crew go." He stood tall and patted his own state of the art sidearm, a Romulin disruptor. "I go fight."

       The pressure test of the plasma conduits to the warp engines were nerve wracking.
       One of them had been completely shattered during their most recent argument with the Borg, the other had been stressed beyond its limit by the sudden drop to normal space when they fell out of the transwarp conduit. They had done the best they could under the circumstances, but would it be enough.
       "It's not holding." Chief Engineer Barnhart said.
       "I can see that, Mel." Mr. Dubin answered adjusting his tricorder for yet another reading. "But can we make it do any better?"
       Mel looked at the worst of the conduits in the monitor. He could actually see escaping plasma interacting with the force field in the tube. "I dunno."
       "The Captain isn't going to want to hear that."

       Later in the briefing room they went through everything.
       "We could hold warp one and change without any trouble. Maybe sneak it up to warp two if the field holds." The Engineer said. "And besides, we just don't have enough dilithium for more, and well, not enough antimatter generation capacity for more even if we did. So..."
       Captain Lukas sat back in his chair and looked at his Chief of Operations. "What's the risk?"
       Commander Rhoades almost laughed. "We blow up the ship."
       "That's a bad thing." Ryan whispered.
       "Other than that." Rhoades continued ignoring him. "Radiation, some danger of base pair damage from theta rays and what not."
       "We'll shield the rest of the ship and we'll wear haz-suits when on duty." Mr. Dubin said sourly. "It's either that or we walk back to Federation Space."
       "Now let's keep it civil Jon." The Counselor said gently.
       "Yes Ma'am." He didn't look at Lieutenant Rowell when he answered her.
       "What about the rest of the systems. At least at warp one we will get to Federation Space sometime this year, that's good enough." Lukas moved on nodding to Lieutenant Allen.
       "Communications. Spotty. Iffy. Sometimes it just won't work. The subspace antenna just hasn't been patchable."
       "What about the backup?" Hackett asked him.
       "That IS the backup."
       "We'll use the onboard system in one of the shuttles when we get close enough to raise Star Fleet on it." Lukas said. "Life Systems."
       Rhoades nodded. "Good news or bad news?"
       "Bad news."
       "We have three sections that are uninhabitable. Transporters are still unreliable. No replicators below deck six, above that, they're down to fifty percent, and that's all we can do with the power we got. We're still loosing air and can't find the leaks from the port side of the saucer where it hit that Borg conduit relay, Mel says the metal has been crystallized and they can't do anything about it here." She sighed. "That's enough."
       "Good news."
       "None of it will keep us from getting home. We can hold the leaks with force fields as long as the power holds out, and the lower decks, we'll just live without them until then."
       Lukas nodded. He looked at the sisters next.
       "Sickbay works." One of them said.
       "And that's it." The other one added.
       "That'll be enough." He said to them. "Helm?"
       Dickerson shook his head. "Without subspace, navigation is going to be crippled. But we'll get there."
       Ziggi was last. "As for weapons." He shook his head. "Not enough for anything serious."
       Lukas nodded. "I wasn't planning on getting into any shootouts. I just want to get back to friendly space." He looked at Ryan. "So, the only question is when?"
       "Two days." Ryan said. "We can have everything else that needs done finished in two days."
       Lukas nodded. "Recall all personnel. I want to be out of here in no more than forty eight hours."
       "Aye sir." Most of the officers responded.

       "Ensign Price and Lieutenant Simon are on their way sir. They're increasing speed but are still more than a day out." The communications officer reported.
       Lukas sighed. "OK, tell them to turn it up and get here as soon as they can or we'll leave without them."
       "Yes sir."
       Ryan walked out of the lift shaking his head.
       "Yeah, you're not going to believe this one." The XO said.
       "Try me."
       "He's found a Tholian plasma stabilizer."
       Lukas had to think about that one. "Can it be used to stop leaks in warp pod conduits?"
       "Mel said 'maybe' but that was it."
       "Maybe is better than no." Lukas laughed quietly to himself. "I don't even want to know how he came across it."
       Ryan did laugh. "He said while the rest of us have been goofing off he raided a graveyard of ships." He laughed again. "Came back with a whole pile of stuff. Most of it junk."
       "If the stabilizer works I don't care what else he brought back." Lukas stepped to the command chair and called engineering. "How's the stabilizer look?" He asked when Mr. Dubin answered.
       "Well. It seems to be slowing the bleeding down, but it hasn't stopped it. If it keeps working and stays like it is now we should be able to hold warp two, maybe two five."
       "That's better. Make sure it works. Lukas out."

       The being at the pilot's consol grunted several times and muttered something.
       "Slowabo't tut." The commander ordered. He stomped his foot. "No see us."
       The aid was wearing a mismatched set of combat armor and personal shielding. "All arms. Fight'eady." He grimaced. "Much kill'eady."
       The aged ship turned slowly and weaved its way through a small cloud of asteroids and dust, taking a circuitous course to the outpost. Several other ships in the area saw it, but didn't say anything to anybody. Out here, unless they were gunning for you, you didn't care.
       "Ready all fight." The commander fastened on his favorite piece of armor, an ancient Klingon breastplate he had gotten the hard way, in a hand to hand fight with its former owner.
       The being at the controls muttered again.
       "Tell all. One cycle n'half. We board stat'on, we fight." He said to his aid.

       The RAVEN was starting to sound like a starship again. The internal systems had been powered back up. Life support was running again, even the lighting was returning to normal.
       "That's more like it." Lukas said as the various stations that had been powered down on the bridge were brought back to life. "OK. I'm going back over to the station for dinner. I think we'll be eating Mr. Kada's food long enough with the replicators on half power."
       "Aye sir."
       He took the lift down to the docking arm and ran into Ellingsworth on his way across with his arms full of odds and ends. "What's up John?"
       "Just making one last run sir. Then I was going to stop at Trader Motch's."
       "That's where I'm going too. I'll see you there."
       "Yes sir." The tall officer grinned.

       There were several of his crew scattered around the small shopping and dining area of the station. While the ship had been there the locals had grown to not only not openly distrust the crew, they had come to actually be friendly with most of them. Several traders called to Lukas by his name or rank and greeted him like an old friend.
       Trader Motch's was one of the three establishments that served food and drink on the station. It was also the largest and least ratty of the three. And even then to call the place seedy would be a compliment. But the food was good, and the prices fair. And out here, that was something.

       Some say that to make Captain in Star Fleet you had to have a sixth, and maybe even a seventh, sense to know what something was wrong.
       Lukas was eating his meal of an unidentifiable meat with some very tart vegetables and half listening to Ellingsworth talking about some map or other he had picked up at a shop across the passage when something caught his eye outside.
       It wasn't that they were a different species. There were beings from places Lukas hadn't even heard rumors of that came and went in this place without bothering him, so he didn't bother them. To this tiny outpost, a ship full of Star Fleet types was just another spice in the stew. But the group that Lukas saw walk through struck him as odd. And he couldn't put his finger on it.
       And That got his attention.
       "Hold on John. Have you seen them before?" Lukas nodded to the side window.
       The cartographer glanced that way. "No sir. Odd looking aren't they."
       "Yeah." Lukas touched his com badge. "Lukas to RAVEN."
       "RAVEN, Vega here."
       "Anything unusual going on Chuck?"
       "No sir. Not that we've seen anyway."
       "All right. I'll be back over in a few. I want to see the port master."
       "Yes sir."
       That seventh, and maybe eighth sense kicked in. Lukas looked around. "Where'd they go?"
       John looked around. "There's one."
       "DOWN!" Lukas shouted and dove under the table.
       The armored being fired a heavy disruptor in their general direction.
       "I thought weapons were banned on the station." Ellingsworth said trying to make himself smaller.
       "You tell him." Lukas hit his communicator. "RAVEN COME IN!"
       He heard the claxon from the device. "We're under attack sir. Somebody is trying to forcibly board the ship. Security is on it. But they've got site to site transporters. Our shields won't work in the dock."
       "On my way."
       The being fired again.

       "No good." Ryan said to the two crewmen behind him. "Try going through section six, see if you can activate it there."
       "Yessir." They said.
       Ryan hit his communicator. "There's three of them on deck four. We've got them pinned down in corridor six, section five. But the internal force fields aren't working."
       Mel and Jon wanted to help, they really did, but they were exchanging wild shots with two 'guests' of their own in the main engineering area.
       The two that had materialized on the bridge had been gunned down almost immediately, but then Ziggy had trouble dispatching his resources to counter the multiple boarding parties.

       On the station Lukas and Ellingsworth had picked their way closer to the boarding gangway and met a handful of their shipmates, but there a firefight between several RAVEN crewmen and a small band of the pirates was going strong. The enemy had personal shields and armor that was holding up well to the security team's fire.
       "We're right outside. Can you at least get us some weapons?" Lukas said to Ziggy on board.
       "I'll see what I can do."
       "Who's your friends?"
       Lukas looked behind him. Kada was crouching next to him along the wall. "I was hoping you could tell me."
       The bearded man shook his head. "No idea. You said you need some weapons?" The captain nodded. "Give me a minute." He took out a small odd looking communicator and talked into it. "On their way."
       In a minute Grunt, the ugly, boxy, ungainly robot rolled down the gangway under fire towing what appeared to be a metal locker box. The pirates divided their fire between the machine and the security guards but it made it past them without any visible damage.
       "What'cha got?" Hackett said as Kada opened the box.
       "All sorts of goodies." He closed the box and looked at the captain. "Ahh, sir, some of these aren't exactly approved Star Fleet issue items."
       "Give me something that will shoot." Lukas said without humor.
       Kada looked into the box and handed the captain a small weapon that even looked lethal. "Push that in, activated. Thumb trigger, aim along the top. And hang on."
       Lukas aimed it at the nearest of the pirates and pushed the trigger in with his thumb. A small ball of bright orange energy shot from the hollow barrel. It impacted against the target's shielding and exploded violently. But the enemy went down and scrambled for cover, his shields gone.
       Hackett and Lukas took up opposing positions and laid heavy fire into the enemy party. With backup secured the RAVEN security guards made progress pushing them away from the boarding ramp. In another minute the group from the station were fighting a rearguard action up the ramp to the ship to secure it against the intruders.
       "What is this thing?" Price asked Kada.
       "A burn rifle." The ensign didn't know what that was either. "It fires an active stream of anti-protons. It's nasty."
       "So I saw. Can I keep it?"
       "No." Lukas said for him. "When this is over, secure this stuff. Until we need it again." He looked at his own weapon. "I wonder what the Borg would think of some of them in a ship sized model?"
       "That was the idea." Kada said.
       "Let's split up. There's some in engineering, and some trying to take the bridge." Lukas said. "Ryan. What's your position?"
       Ryan fired around the corner again. This time the return disruptor fire was delayed a second or two. "Deck three. They were trying to get up jefferies tube nineteen to cut off the bridge."
       "I'll meet you there." Lukas said from the com badge.
       "OK. We've got re-enforcements coming. Let's hold them." Ryan said to the crewman on the other side of the passage.
       They were outnumbered by the hijackers, but the force field in this location did work, once in awhile. Just enough to keep the bad guys down the hall a few meters.
       But every time it activated it was less stable and didn't last as long. It was only a matter of time.

       Lieutenant Barnhart squeezed through the shield door just as it shut. "That ought to give them something to think about."
       "What?" Simon asked him guarding their back.
       Mr. Dubin grinned. "We activated the warp core. Without the stablizer."
       "In about two minutes the entire section is going to be full of low level drive plasma."
       Simon's eyes got wide.
       "It won't hurt the equipment... if we don't leave it in there too long."
       There was some more shooting from down the passage and around the corner. Suddenly several of the pirates stormed around the corner and ran right into the engineering crew. It wasn't much of a fight. One of the pirates had been vaporized by phaser fire. The other two had dropped their weapons and put their hands up.
       Just as suddenly the RAVEN crewmen that had been chasing them, led by Hackett and Allen carrying some of the unorthodox weaponry rounded the corner.
       "Let's see what we've got in there now." Mel said. He turned on the small viewer on the communications panel near the door. The three pirates were nowhere to be seen. "Bridge, over ride the startup sequence and shut it down. Then vent the section." He said into the panel.
       "You got it."

       "I take'd you't Ship." The universal translator said roughly through Lukas's com.
       "I don't think so." He peeked around the corner, then he fired a bolt toward the hulking figure of the pirate commander.
       "Ryan to Lukas." His communicator said.
       "Yeah." Lukas answered as another disruptor blast made hash of the wall just down from his position, he counted to two and returned fire.
       "Mel's taken back engineering. They've got prisoners. Most of the internal force fields are back up, I've got my friends contained." The XO sounded rather pleased with himself. "Do you need backup?"
       Lukas looked over at Kada. The Ship's Historian shook his head and brought up a huge bulbous weapon that was actually illegal to own. In Federation Space anyway. "No. I think we can handle it." The captain said.
       Kada stood at the ready and shouted down the passage. "Vartrotcha Relig-religtrot."
       There was silence for a second. Then Lukas's com spoke in the rough voice again. "You Fed'r'tion. No Re'g-re'g'ot."
       The ugly man stuck the barrel of the massive weapon around the corner and fired once. A dozen lightening bolts of screaming energy did terrible things to the walls for several meters down the hall and at least one of the pirates ceased to exist.
       "Fed'ration." Lukas's com said. "We make't go."
       They heard the hum of the alien short range transporter.
       Lukas hit his com badge. "Did they all leave?"
       "No sir." Ryan said. "Mine are still here."
       Then Mel spoke up. "I've still got three prisoners here too."
       "Round them up. Bridge, scan for that energy signature."
       Dickerson answered. "I'm trying, but our sensors are still only partially working."
       "Do what you can. I'm on my way."
       Kada was standing over what was left of one of the pirates. "I'll escort our friends to the brig."
       "You do that." Lukas shook his head at the man's choice of weapons. "I don't want to know."

       "We've got the ship on sensors sir."
       "Take us out. Do we have a tractor beam that works?"
       The docking latches retracted and the exterior force field dropped, the RAVEN slipped into space running on thusters.
       "That?" Lukas said as the ship came into view, it was just backing away from a docking arm at the other end of the station.
       "Yes sir." Dickerson said.
       "OK. I give up. What is it?"
       Chuck Vega looked up from his station. "A piece of junk?"
       Lukas nodded. "OK get us close and lock onto it with the tractor beam."
       "The station is firing at it!" Mike said.
       They all turned toward the viewscreen as Lukas started to answer "Tell them to...."
       Then it was too late. The pirate ship was coming apart and burning in space. Even the fire escaping from its damaged hull was ugly.
       "OK. Well. Nevermind."
       In another second the damaged ship exploded.
       "Nevermore." The captain said softly.

       Seven sullen faces stared at Lukas from behind the security fields in the RAVEN's small brig.
       "You not hold'n us." One of them with half his face covered with a metallic patch said roughly through the translator.
       "Yes I am." Lukas. "And my records say that at least four of you are wanted on multiple charges from the Federation, Regula, even by the Ferringi Trade Ministry. Besides an act of piracy against this vessel. And two murder charges for the deaths of two of my crew." He glared at them. "So. Yes I am holding you."
       The one with the patch scrunched up his face, "F'r'ingi want deat' to't us."
       "Then you'll need a good lawyer." Ryan said with a grin.
       "Law'r need'd deat' too."
       Lukas nodded. "I won't argue with that."

       On the bridge they ran the RAVEN through a preflight test.
       "It's going to be a long ride." Mike Allen said from the communications console.
       "But we'll get there." Lukas said settling into the captain's chair. "We owe it to our guests to get there as soon as possible too."
       Chief Engineer Barnhart was at his bridge station. "As far as we can tell warp two point six is the best we're going to be able to do."
       Lukas looked at the XO. They nodded to each other. Then the captain passed the nod on to the helmsman. "You heard the man. Set course for the nearest starbase. Warp two point six."
       "Closest starbase is One Nineteen in the Sharnara System." He paused. "At two point six.... Eight days... and five months."
       Lukas sagged a bit in his chair.
       Ryan voiced his and Ziggy's common concern. "We're going to hold, and feed, that bunch for five months?"
       Lukas thought about it. "Why not? But instead of wasting energy on force fields have engineering weld together some actual prison bars and install them." He said to Mel.
       "Yes sir." Ziggy smiled. "I like that."

       The RAVEN, formerly so swift and maneuverable now limped rather slowly out of the system and towards home.

       But they were heading home.

The Crusade Continues


the RAVEN Index Page
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