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The Slow March

"War is much too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military"
   Georges Clemenceau (1841 - 1929)

<Starfleet Intelligence Sector Headquarters, M'Nkala City, Andor, Present Day>

Sutek of Vulcan sat quietly in a darkened control hub. Monitors, set in the small, circular workstation cast varying shades of blue, green, and yellow into the center of the cramped space, giving the faces looking at those readouts a decidedly unnatural appearance.

This was the nerve-center of Starfleet's covert data gathering operation for nearly half the galaxy. Across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, various assets, human, automated, or some combination of the two, monitored communication traffic, kept tabs on `persons of interest', collected and collated teraquads of data pulses in search of…something.

At the moment, the oddly organic feel of a decidedly artificial construct struck Sobek more than he thought it might. By centuries of training and tradition, Vulcans were not given to flights of fantasy or romanticism. Such things were a waste of time and resources. However, even knowing how ILLOGICAL it was, Sobek felt like a very satisfied spider at the center of a very large web.

“Show me the Breen Sector.” Sutek ordered softly.

In a moment, the screen nearest him took on the image of the green-grey world of Dozaria. Lavender clouds drifted through a the pale green sky, and the scene shifted again as the reconnaissance platform (which was actually sectors away) continued to gather data and resolve it in graphic form, on Sutek's readout. “This is happening now?” He asked the sensor tech, who was the only other being in the room at the moment.

After a moment, the tech nodded. “Confirmed, Sir. The Omen Array is close enough to have real-time resolution.”

“Excellent.” Sutek nodded. “And the target?”

Again, the tech nodded. “Life signs all in the green and stable. Though, heart rate and respiration are elevated.”

“Very well.” Sutek commented. “Now we see how things unfold.”

<Dozaria, Breen Confederacy. Alpha Quadrant>

By their nature, the Breen are reclusive, and distrustful of alien species. This cultural hegemony has manifested itself in a number of interesting ways, not the least of which is the brutal, if efficient attendance to any perceived threat to Confederate Security. While the Breen maintain diplomatic relations with most space faring races, they are also often seen by non-Breen as capricious and opportunistic. It has been theorized by some Xeno-Sociologists that this is simply because the Breen do not see any reason to extend `sentient rights' to non-Breen. This is a position not unlike the one held by the Klingon Empire, before the treaty of unification. Quite simply, Breen believe that they have more rights, and more of a right to exist than do non-Breen. To that end, anything that threatens the safety and stability of Breen society, particularly internally, is seen as critical, and is dealt with unmercifully. Today, Dozaria was enduring one such action.

The life of an independent trader is often thought to be one of opportunity, adventure, and above all freedom. Indeed, it was the promise of that freedom which brought Alton Kendrick to the fringe world in the first place. He'd heard the warnings of course, all traders in this part of space had, he just never thought he'd be in the middle of an interstellar incident. All because of a simple misunderstood banking transaction.

Preshk, the small settlement where Kendrick now found himself, was one of the oldest trading posts on the planet. In fact, more than one of his fellow traders, and the few Breen who would talk with him, had told Alton that there had always been a settlement where Preshk was now. All in all, the trip had been everything he'd expected, and Dozaria had been all together pleasant. Or at least as pleasant as a Breen world could be for someone who wasn't of the Confederacy. That all changed when Alton wanted to get a look at the ruins in the low, rolling hills just outside the settlement.

He'd contacted a Ferengi merchant named Olgo, who had, as promised, been the soul of discretion. The two had made the short trek to the ruins and seen what Alton took to be a fat lot of nothing. The only thing of note in the area pocked with abandoned dig sites and crumbled buildings, was a stone archway. The arch looked to Alton to be the last vestige of a storehouse or low fortification of some kind. The stones themselves were rough hewn, but weathered from age; any sign of a door or hinges had long since been lost to time.

And that was it. All that work, and not a little bit of latinum, for a crumbling stone arch.

Story of Alton's life really.

He'd grumbled all the way home, all the while swearing that he could HEAR Olgo rubbing his greedy little hands together with glee. He hadn't wanted to, but he did pay the Ferengi what they'd agreed. Alton's Rule of Survival #2: `Never owe a Ferengi anything. EVER!'

He'd only been back in his small rented cube for a quarter of an hour when he heard commotion outside his door. Raised voices muttered something in the electronically accented voice of a Breen encoder. Alton didn't have any idea what was being said, but he knew it wasn't good.

“Right then.” Kendrick said to himself. “Time to skedaddle I guess.” He quickly got up from the small couch he'd been lounging on and reached for his backpack and trusty leather jacket. Alton always kept the bag near him for two reasons. One, he never knew when something interesting might have to make it's way home to him, and two, he never knew when he might have to make a speedy exit. Kendrick was about to key the door when the entry chime sang out.

“Alton Kendrick.” The translated voice called. “You are wanted for questioning. You will submit to scan.”

Kendrick stopped short of the door. “Um…right.” he called out. “Just, uh, gimme a sec OK? Just gotta freshen up a little.” As he finished the statement, he moved quickly back toward the refresher unit.

“Unacceptable, Terran.” The Breen Constable called back. He began keying the sequence to override the door's security code.

As Kendrick dashed into the refresher, he smiled. The small window about two-thirds of the way up the wall was unsecured, and looked just large enough for him to fit through. 'Later, suckers'. Kendrick thought to himself as he balanced on top of the refresher unit and threw the window open.

The Breen investigator dashed through as soon as the door was opened, to find nothing but an empty room. “No sign of the Terran thief.” He told his superiors over his comm unit. “Begin local sensor sweeps.”

Lots of aliens like to think they 'know how the Ferengi think'. It's likely that comes from the well-known Rules of Acquisition. However, far from being simple, inviolate precepts, the Rules are actually quite Byzantine; always open to interpretation and new layers of complexity. So it was with Olgo. On the surface, he wasn't worth a second thought. And that's just how he liked it. 'Nothing to see here. Move along'. He'd often mutter to himself.

Truth be told, that was the story of Olgo's life. Always off to the side, never making too much noise. He knew the rules just as well as any Ferengi. He just chose to interpret more passively. So, six months ago, when he was approached by a stranger in his favorite saloon, just off the spaceport on Antares IV… well, Olgo knew a good deal when he heard one.

The deal was simple enough: Make contact with a certain Federation national. When he does, trade for something. (The actual what was immaterial) Provide that national's access codes to this third party, and a king's ransom in latinum is your reward.

Olgo didn't think twice. Identity theft was the second most common crime in the universe, if one could even call it that. As far as Olgo was concerned, any victim of a crime so easily preventable, deserved what he got. 'The universe is like that', Olgo would often tell his friends. So, it was with great surprise that, three days after supplying said codes (once the sole property of Alton Kendrick) to his mysterious benefactor, Olgo reacted with shock and not a little surprise when that self same sentient would return; pressing latinum into Olgo's palm and simultaneously sliding a razor sharp blade into his belly. Rule of Acquisition.

As the blood and breath left Olgo's body, he swore he could here his assassin whisper something. “Rule of acquisition 48.” The customer cum assassin said. “The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife, and you've made us very happy.”

Olgo's last thought was wondering just how much he didn't know about what he'd been killed for.

What Olgo had no way of knowing was that his generous silent partner was in truth an agent of the Federation Diplomatic Office. He'd contracted the Ferengi to acquire the financial bonefides of a less-than-trustworthy Federation citizen. Once the codes were obtained, they would be used to wreak havoc on Breen financial markets. Essentially, it would look like a very aggressive, very poorly hidden hack. A bungled attempt to steal a fortune in credits from the Breen treasury, and given the culture's xeno-phobia, well, the response would be…earth-shattering.

So, Olgo was dead, and somewhere on Dozaria, a very confused patsy was, Great Bird willing, panicking.

Alton Kendrick was running out of options. For the better part of an hour he run, ducked, and hidden everywhere he could think of to elude the Breen pursuing him, but it wasn't working. He ducked around the corner of a small shop on the eastern end of the Preshk Merchant Quarter to catch his breath. As he bent over, hands on his knees, sucking in air until his lungs felt as though they would burst, a blast of excited plasma smashed into the shop's wall just above where he was catching his breath. Had he been standing up…

“Sprock me!” Alton cursed. “Whatever I did, I'm sorry!”

The squad of Breen soldiers readying for another shot had no interest in his apology.

Kendrick took off at a sprint again, and again, first one, then another ball of green plasma shot by his head. “All right! Fine! You talked me into it!” He yelled back. More for his benefit then theirs. He weaved through the merchant district's narrow, winding streets, desperately trying to keep anything solid between him and his attackers as he fumbled for the small object that rested in the breast pocket of his jacket. An object he swore he'd never use.

Seconds later, he had the emergency communicator in his hand. Just as he'd been taught, he slammed his hand against the large, red, activation stud. After a few seconds, and two more near misses by the pursuing Breen, the communicator buzzed to life.

“Federation Diplomatic Service. This is Specialist Crown. How may I assist you?”

Kendrick scowled for a moment as he questioned the woman's matter of fact tone. It took him a moment to process that SHE wasn't upset because she wasn't being shot at.

Another plasma shot rocketed by Kendrick's head.

“I'm sorry?” Crown's voice said. “I didn't catch that.”

“Hey!” Kendrick screamed. “Hey, Listen! My name is Alton Kendrick. I'm a Federation citizen on Dozaria, and my life is in imminent danger! You've got to help me.”

There was a short pause. “Are you anywhere near the Federation Consulate?”

“Sprock if I know, lady!”

“…I'll…take that as a no.” Crown commented. “And you feel you're in immediate danger?”

“Imminent, immediate, impending…call it whatever the hell you want! Someone's trying to kill me. Aren't you supposed to…I don't know…do something?”

“In extreme cases, yes Sir.” She confirmed. “I can offer you one or two options. Assuming you are invoking Code: Perfect?”

“Sure, Sure! Yes! Anything! Just hurry, grozit!”

<Federation Council Press Room. 16 hours later>

Malia of Delta IV was positively bathing in the light and attention of the moment. Dressed in a modestly cut blue suit, with a jacket that had just enough of a military edge to lend extra authority, she looked straight into the tri-vid recorder and continued the official statement from the Office of the President. “It was therefore under Section 31 of the Federation Charter that President Kostya, acting within his authority as Commander in Chief of all Starfleet forces, ordered the intervention of the USS Bremerton and her battle group, to assist in the recovery of a Federation citizen who believed himself to be in deadly peril.”

Malia lowered her head, waited two beats, and continued. “While we certainly appreciate the position of the Breen government regarding the unfortunate incidents on Dozaria. The President wants it clearly understood that the Federation charter itself declares that an attack on any member world is an attack on all. Further, it is the official position of the President's Solicitor General that such an attack need not be directed on a member world, as such, but rather it's citizenry. No matter where those citizens happen to be at the moment.”

“Now,” she looked over the gallery. “Are there any questions?”

<Office of the President of the United Federation of Planets. Geneva, Sol III>

“A faulty recon drone?” Kostya asked Oliver Rymer. “Was that the BEST she could come up with?” Vladimir Christopher Kostya leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms defiantly.

Across from him, standing near the oaken sideboard that served as the Presidential liquor cabinet, Rymer finished pouring his bourbon. “I thought it was perfect.” He countered as he placed the stopper back on an elegant crystal decanter. “You sure you don't want any? It's ACTUALLY from Kentucky.”

“Yes.” Kostya said sarcastically. “That's what makes it bourbon.”

“Anyway, Chris,” Rymer said as he turned. “I don't know what you're worried about. Using three starships to come after one…grave-robber might have been a bit…excessive…”

“You think?!” Kostya shot back incredulously.

Rymer sipped his drink. “But it did send a clear message. All over the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, every other planetary power will think twice before messing with a Federation national. After all…” He took another sip. “Who's to say another Starfleet Task Force won't show up at the blink of an eye?”

“We've got the…gentleman in custody?”

“Cooling his heels on board Bremerton as we speak.”

“And the actual objective?”

“Bremerton's Political Officer confirms that the Iconian Gateway was destroyed by Marine Recon Unit a few minutes after the 'Official' away team got hold of our endangered citizen. There's no danger of any unauthorized personnel using that technology. We control all the active gateways now. ” He finished.

“Don't worry. Malia can sell the recon drone story. That's what we PAY her for. Trust me Chris, this was a much better way to go. Minimal presence, all objective's secure, and we managed to make the Breen look like armatures. All in all, a pretty good day.”

“Just make sure there aren't any loose ends.” Kostya chided. “We played this pretty fast and loose.”

“It beats going to war before we're ready, Mr. President.” Rymer commented.

“True enough.” The President agreed.

<USS Bremerton, NCC-65782, En Route from Breen space>

At any given time, a million things might go wrong on a starship. There might be an unexpected power fluctuation that causes the ship to drop from warp. During the time that it would take to get the problem diagnosed and repaired, a civilian guest on said starship might decide to take a stroll through the corridors to see what the fuss is about, and at a particularly unfortunate moment, said civilian might be too near a bulkhead when another unexpected power surge caused the emergency explosive bolts for that section to blow…unfortunately sending said civilian into space, a split second before the emergency force-fields could contain the breech.

All of those things MIGHT happen. However, with the systems and procedures in place on board a Starfleet vessel, the odds of all those events happening by sheer chance is all but impossible.

On the other hand, with just a bit of purposeful action, the odds of all those things happening; resulting in the unfortunate demise of Alton Kendrick, go up astronomically.

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current_story/the_slow_march.txt · Last modified: 2020/09/27 18:45 by site_admin