<Luna Class Starship, USS Republic. Gamma Eridani. Present Day>
“Sensors confirm a direct hit, Ma'am.” The affirmation came from Attos Ragnar, Republic's Chief Tactical Officer. He gritted his teeth and glanced again at his repeater screen. “Their weapons and targeting are out, maneuvering… severely limited.”
“Excellent, Tac.” Kim Roth noted with an icy steel edge in her voice. “Mister Hawk,” She asked as she looked to her left, to the First Officer position. “Are the tractor beams holding this time? I don't want this fish slipping us again.”
Hawk shook his head. The stress indicators on his display were high, but all in the upper range of the tractor-pressor system tolerances. “They're holdin' Captain.” Hawk answered. “Looks like Aylaya's mods did the trick.”
“This time…” The sardonic reply came from Chase Meridian, Republic's Diplomatic Officer, and resident skeptic. In all fairness, the sour attitude was fully justified. Between the discovery of the near-derelict USS Fearless, and this moment, nearly six months had gone by, during which time a particularly twisted game of cat and mouse had ensued between Republic, determined to find out what had caused the murder of an entire starship's crew (with one notable exception), the a pack of rogue Hirogen murderers who'd essentially embarked on a revenge killing.
By Meridian's count, the Hirogen had slipped Republic's grasp four times; each diversion or escape more cunning and desperate than the last. It was because of this protracted chase, which had ranged from the Neutral Zone to the Bajoran sector, and nearly every parsec in between, that Meridian felt justified in recommending, and obtaining sanction for, Republic's current course of action, which in some quarters could be considered… distasteful. To Meridian though, it was just an efficient means to an end. 'Extreme?' she thought to herself, 'not as much as it could be. Though Cromwell's going to be insufferable.'
No sooner had the the thought whispered into existence in Meridian's head then Leon Cromwell spoke up from where he'd been observing near the turbolift access to the bridge. “Captain…” Cromwell's tone was low, but firm, and if Roth was ice cold, then Leon was the polar opposite. His voice shook slightly with barely contained fury.
“We've been over this Doctor.” Kim Roth-Dorian answered without taking her eyes of the main viewer. “I have the full backing of Starfleet CnC, and I'm not letting these murderers escape me again.”
“Kim…” Leon hissed softly.
“Enough Doctor.” She shot back angrily. “The matter is closed.” There was a moment of tense silence before Roth spoke again. “Don't you have a patient to look after?”
There was a chirp from the Tactical console. Then Ragnar spoke up. “I have confirmed target lock on all four escape pods, Captain.” He said with detached precision. “They're not going anywhere this time.”
“Damned right they're not.” The Captain said. “End this… Now.”
A split second later, mega-joules of energy shot from Republic's main phaser array, and under Ragnar's expert direction, vaporized the four escape pods which hung motionless in space, thanks to Republic's tractor-beam.
Four small reddish flares winked in and then out of existence as the phaser fire flash-fried the pods and their occupants, leaving barely enough time for the atmosphere in the pods to ignite before disappearing. Moments later, four Mk-IX photon torpedoes, specifically chosen for their older guidance systems which had proven harder for the Hirogen to shake, slammed into the small, immobilized vessel held in Republic's electromagnetic grip. After the commensurate detonation of anti-matter, there was no trace of the criminals who had slaughtered the crew of the Fearless, and Republic's long chase was finally over.
For her part, Kim Roth-Dorian did not celebrate, though she did feel a measure of satisfaction. She lifted her head slightly, straightened her posture, and called out to the bridge crew. “Watch Commanders, have your reports ready for transmission to OPSCOMM by 1600 tomorrow, please.”
Behind the CO, Leon Cromwell stepped toward the turbolift, barely pausing as the doors parted. “I think I'm going to be sick.” He commented, though, if anyone heard him, they didn't seem to care.
<Official Report Excerpt, USS Fearless Investigation; Attos Ragnar, Chief Tactical Officer, USS Republic>
… thorough examination of Fearless' sensor logs as well as physical examination of the wreckage confirm that a party of six Hirogen Hunters used small one-man breaching pods to penetrate the ship’s secondary hull. Apparently, their stealth systems were good enough to elude Fearless' sensors. Either that, or the Excelsior class has one or more blind-spots which had gone undetected until now.
<Official Report Excerpt, USS Fearless Investigation; Cail Jarrin, Chief Operations Officer, USS Republic>
…The trader on Tangerine VII gave us access to some diplomatic dispatches that originated from the Dominion, but came to us through the Bajoran wormhole. Captain Kira Norris assures us that they are genuine. According to said dispatches, we're looking for a pack of four Hirogen hunters. They're zealots. Strict traditionalists who are looking for worthy prey, and unlike others of their culture, aren't content with hunting down holograms. They regard “Iden's Rebellion” (See logs: USS Voyager, Stardate: 8/2543.6) as a “cultural assault” and decided to strike out at the nearest Federation target they could find, which happened to be Fearless.
<Official Report Excerpt, USS Fearless Investigation; Leon Cromwell, Chief Medical Officer, USS Republic>
… The lone survivor of the Fearless attack is 2nd Engineer's Mate 1st Class Selook of Vulcan. According to the patient, he was ordered to engineering to facilitate a manual warp core overload so that any sensitive data in the ship's computer core would not fall into the wrong hands. It is my considered medical opinion that Selook passed out from shock and blood loss before he could carry out his orders. The patient is suffering from acute PTSD with cycles of rage and depression. Return to active duty is questionable.
<Official Report Excerpt, USS Fearless Investigation; Chase Meridian, Diplomatic Officer, USS Republic CONTENTS CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET>
… Once again the Badlands have lived up to their name. I give full marks to Captain Roth-Dorian and the other officers, but her patience have to be wearing thin. Past experience with Kim proves that she isn't above breaking a rule or two, when the time comes, and she certainly understands the concept of acceptable losses, but she's close to taking the next step with these hunters. It shouldn't take much to convince her that capture is not the most desirable option where our targets are concerned, assuming that we can pick up the trail again.
<Official Report Excerpt, USS Fearless Investigation; Nathan Hawk, First Officer, USS Republic>
… We didn't detect the data breech until it was too late. Command codes failed to engage, and weapons lock was rendered useless. I conferred with Lieutenant Narundi from Tactical. He confirms that the Hirogen Beta made his way on board and voluntarily stepped into the plasma stream inside the port nacelle. The intruder was instantly vaporized, but the resulting power spike and fluctuation in the warp field forced us to drop to impulse, and we were unable to pursue. I've authorized Major Kinsey and his Marines to engage the enemy on sight.
<Official Report Excerpt, USS Fearless Investigation; Kimberly Roth-Dorian, Commanding Officer, USS Republic>
… A few years ago, I'd have said that I regret not being able to take any of the Hirogen hunters alive, but that's not true anymore. They murdered Starfleet personnel, endangered civilians and commercial space traffic, and proved themselves to be nothing less than the worst kind of alien fanatics that we were told to expect. After conferring with the Diplomatic Officer, I've received executive authorization to pursue the Hirogen using any and all means to terminate them as enemies of the state. I am confident that they were precisely that, and got nothing less than they deserved. Doctor Cromwell has advised that he will be lodging a formal protest regarding my decision to hold and destroy the enemy escape pods as as an 'illegal act'. I have been assured by my superiors that this report will be given 'all due consideration'.