A trip to the surface
Episode 4: Infiltration
Location: Shuttle Mercury 01
2607 words - 5.2 OF Standard Post Measure
Carter was already sat in the Mercury, she had picked the co-pilots chair and had already summoned her pilot, Maximillian Schott was her chief pilot, but with the Eagle firmly docked and not going anywhere her pilots were currently running taxi duty. She had an appointment with an Illiran official about the Eagle and Max was the next in the rotation.
Max came scooting down to the hangar at the double-step. He'd been called on to shuttle the captain to a meeting of some kind and was afraid he'd leave her waiting too long again. He waved at one of the crewmen attending to the shuttle as he walked into the shuttle and failed to duck lower enough. He noticed the captain had, in fact, beaten him to the shuttle.
"Captain, sorry I'm late," he rubbed the top of his head as he dropped into the pilot's chair. It was in that moment he realized he had not taken off his scarf. He quickly ripped it off his neck, looked around for somewhere to store it, and stuffed it under his leg. He looked at her to see if she'd noticed his frantic behavior.
"Relax Lieutenant, we have the time." She glanced up at from her padd, "Has the flight plan been uploaded?" she asked, the planet was a very tidy mess. They were only a few kilometres from the her meeting point but the building was in the center of a cluster of similar looking buildings.
Max checked in on his displays, and swiped through the path, "Indeed it has," he raised his eyebrows as he continued to find more unusual turns planned in, "I hope you don't mind a lot of comm traffic and a few tight turns. It looks like they've got this airspace very tightly planned. This will not be a leisurely glide through the clouds," he thought about it, "I might actually go full HUD in order to make sure we don't stray into anyone's path."
Max swiveled to the side and checked on the controls for the heads-up display options. He hadn't had time to fiddle around with the Eagle's shuttles, so he was still playing catch-up on what their defaults were. He wondered if he should just throw a little party for the ship's pilots to try and mingle and get to know everyone. Everybody has their own preferences, and it would be good to start learning what they were.
"Not a bad idea" she said "Illiran is well known for their traffic, but they are also famed for the lack of collisions." She glanced back at him and added "So, ya know. Don't make use the first visitor to cause a pile up ah?"
Max laughed. The pilot struck the commands and with a minor jolt they lifted off of the floor of the hangar. Max pushed them out into the Illiran air and brought up the HUD. It highlighted other ships traveling toward them and gave him an illustrated path to follow in order to keep to their flight plan. He paid close attention to it as he made their first turn.
"So, Captain," Max decided to try to chat, thinking it was stranger to sit in silence then try to strike up a conversation, "What do you think is next for the Eagle? Are we doing the standard exchange some crew, get some orders, and then back to the stars?"
She shrugged a little "Your guess is as good as mine Max. I was assigned the Eagle to deal with the pirates. The Saber class is not much of a multi-rolled ship. So we could be assigned another investigation or assigned to a patrol route" she grimaced at that. "I wouldn't mind a deep space posting though. Maybe a with the new sensors an exploration mission?"
"Well, wherever and whatever, I can get you there," he gasped and hit the controls, swinging the tail end of the shuttle around as he nearly missed a turn on their route, "You said without a pile-up?"
Hadir was on his way to meet the Captain when he was informed that she was on her way to a meeting with the Ilirains. The Cardassian thought what better way to make an impression than to get down there first and secure the area. He beamed down and strolled over to the landing bay making sure to get the lay of the land as he went. The technology here was certainly astounding. A floating platform ferried him to the landing bay. As he arrived he was told that the Captain's shuttle would be arriving imminently. Hadir made a quick perimeter sweep to make sure all was safe for the Captain's arrival. Then he adjusted his uniform and awaited the CO's arrival.
As Max brought the shuttle around for landing Ajani noted the the busy shuttle port. It was bigger than she had expected, there were dozens, maybe over a hundred shuttles parked or arriving or departing. The Shuttles HUD highlighted their landing bay with what appeared to be bright red lights around the edges of the square pad. Off around the edges were clusters of ground crew, and a single individual in a fleet uniform. She frowned, there had been nothing in the message about an escort to the meeting.
Hadir watched as the shuttle came down for a landing. He made sure to stay out of the way of the ground crew. However, he also kept a watchful eye on everything that they did. It helped that the Ilirians had little dealings with the Cardassians. They were unaware of the hyper vigilance that Cardassians practiced. As he looked up Hadir squinted at the sunlight as it reflected off the hull of the shuttle. He suddenly became conscious of the scar that ran down his face.
Max brought the shuttle in as carefully as he could. He only barely brushed a couple of flags but managed to dodge anything structural. He put them down gently, and then disengaged the engines, resulting in a small thump as they actually fell the last centimeter. He scrunched up his face and hoped the Captain didn't mention it, "Safe and sound, Captain."
Ajani ducked under the door frame as she exited the shuttle, ducking was a habit coz she wasn't tall enough to have bumped her head on the sill. Regardless she straightened up and tucked her jacket down to remove the wrinkles. Waiting for her outside the landing bays parameter was the starfleet officer, a cardassian. She smiled, she knew who he was. Her newly assigned tactical chief.
"Hadir" Ajani spoke aloud over the din of the shuttle port. "Its good to see you"
A trademark Cardassian smile found itself on Hadir's face. "Captain welcome to Illiria. I have taken the liberty of making sure all was secure for your arrival right after I arrived. My apologies for not checking in aboard the Eagle. I hope that you do not mind." He tried to wrangle in the ingratiating tone that came so naturally to his people. Hadir did not want to sound insincere.
"Not at all Hadir" she said stepping forward "I am glad that you have taken the initiative, and i am glad that you are here. I have been summoned into a meeting with the head of internal security. You will be coming with me." she smiled and turned to look over her shoulder at Max, "You coming Mr Schott?" she had brought him so he would learn a little more about command and what she had to do to maintain her ship and her command.
Max ducked out of the shuttle backwards, making doubly sure to close up and lock the shuttle so nobody would get any ideas. He triple-checked, then turned around, "Yes--" he was looking straight into a broad yellow chest. He craned his neck and looked over a foot up into Hadir's face, "--Cardassian. I mean, scar. I mean, Cardassian. I mean, Lieutenant. I mean, Captain. Yes, Captain," lost for what to do, he defaulted to salute, but he saluted too strongly and whacked himself in the forehead, which he then rubbed.
Hadir cocked and eyebrow. He had gotten used to some people being stunned by his appearance. His hand went to his face as he stoked the scar on it. The Lieutenant's mention of it not only reminded Hadir that it was there, but it reminded him of how he got it. He smiled nonetheless at Max. "No need to stand on ceremony for me Lieutenant."
"Take a breath Max" Ajani said unable to hide her smile. "It is a pleasure to meet your Hadir"
"Thank you, Captain. Nice to meet you, Lieutenant. I swear I'll be as quiet as a Bajoran Monk," Max said, then went wide-eyed as he realized that his usual reference could have unintended implications. He then swung his head side-to-side, trying to look anywhere but at Hadir, looked up into the clouds above them, then at his feet, "I'll be quiet."
"Well if what I have seen is any indication we are in for the meeting of a lifetime. These Illirains have technology that is lightyears ahead of anything anyone has. I believe that we should be ready for anything. On the one hand we may be able to strike up an alliance of sorts and perhaps learn about them and their tech. One the other we do not want to be lulled into a false sense of security where they can use their technology to overwhelm us." Hadir said as he fell into stride with his new Commanding Officer.
"The fleet has enjoyed a friendship with Illiran for the last hundred years" she said correcting him slightly "But yes, a meeting like this doesn't happen often. I may be the skipper of a starship but there are older, more experienced Officers they could have requested." she smiled and shrugged. "Lets not keep them waiting though" she said and strode off towards the door that had been indicated.
Once through that door they found themselves within an antechamber.
"Commander Carter" she turned towards the sound of her name and saw an Illiran Officer, she wasn't about the rank pip but she thought he was a flag officer. "Would you care to join us?" nodding she glaced back and indicated to Max and Hadir they should follow.
Max started to follow and almost walked into an outstretched Illiran hand stopping him. He looked to Carter for direction.
Hadir stopped short of the Illiran officer. "Starfleet general orders no officer of a Captain's rank or higher can be allowed to go into a foreign meeting unescorted." Hadir hoped his explanation would allow he and Max entrance.
"No, I am sorry Commander. Your officers will need to stay here, this is for your eyes only."
Carter considered turning their offer down and returning to the ship, she didn't like being dictated to. "Very well, Max, Hadir please return when I am finished," she turned and followed the Illiran Officer.
Max nodded and looked to Hadir for further direction.
Hadir lodged a silent protest by way of a facial expression to the Captain. "Lieutenant we will remain just outside the room. This way Security can be maintained."
An hour later Carter was sat back in the chair at a loose for words. She had just sat through an hour presentation. "And you are sure about this" she gestured at the collection of padds on the table before her...
\> a few moments later\>
Ajani was still a little shell shocked as she wondered out of the meeting room and into the bright sunlight, she was on autopilot and it was taking her towards the shuttle.
Max was leaning against the wall playing with the scarf he had stashed under his seat before. He saw Carter come out and did a quick look-around for somewhere to stash it, before just holding it behind his back.
"Captain? Care to shed some light on whatever just happened?" Hadir asked he was not going to push the issue too much. However, his job dictated that he learn what happened.
"You look like someone reversed your controls and you backed into the dock," Max paused, "not that I would know what that look looks like."
Hadir sat and kept a keen eye on Carter. He was on the borderline of checking to see if they did anything medically to her. However, he decided that he would wait to see what Carter had to say before deeming the Ilirians foe. Hadir knew that it could simply be his Cardassian paranoia talking.
Ajani stopped walking. "Illiran has a problem." She started "They believe that the Borg have developed a new way to assimilate their targets." She shrugged "When i took command of the Eagle i was given access to data, logs, mission reports... a whole host of information that was eyes only for ship Captains. One of those mission reports was from one of Voyagers encounters with the Borg in which it was mentioned that the Borg attempted to develop a manner of mass assimilation via seeding nanites into a planet atmosphere."
Hadir whistled... "A method of assimilating through the atmosphere. The idea of that makes my blood run cold. And from a Cardassian that is saying something. I thought that the Borg were all but done for thanks to Admiral Janeway."
"This isn't that, but it is along the same lines. The Illirans have found evidence that Borg nanites have found heir way into the medical nanite regulators every Illiran has implanted." she bit her lip and cocked her head "some what ingenious really. The problem, they still don't know how it happened nor when it started or how many are infected."
"Are people starting to show signs of assimilation from this or is it just that it is making them sick? The approach on how to deal with this will differ based on that." The wheels in Hadir's head were already spinning.
"In the last three weeks hundreds have gone missing. More than the 'normal' expected. The strange part, they have mostly all returned, only with no memory of where they had been in the 3 days they were gone. Only a few dozen have not been found. Medical and psychology exams showed nothing strange. Now though, the numbers going missing and not returning have risen drastically. As of last count just under 1'000 are now missing. Three weeks ago today a Borg Sphere was discovered and destroyed at the edge of the system."
Max decided it was time chime in, "I imagine the Illirans were able to deal with that sphere pretty handily, based on what I've seen," Max's eyes widened, "which is exactly why it's so important they're not assimilated!" Max caught up to the gravity of the situation, "This may seem like an obvious question, but do the missing have anything in common?"
"No, not any more. At the start most of the missing were dock crews for the primary orbital dockyard. Crews working on the the Freighter the Potemkin saved from the Borg..." she trailed off, it was a train of thought that she hadn't considered. "We need to get back to the Eagle" With a significant look at Max and Hadir, Carter moved quickly towards the shuttle.
Hadir watched the Captain take off at a trot. He smirked as he jogged to catch up. "This wasn't exactly how I planned to start my new assignment...."
Max was swept up in the wake of the two more senior officers, and gulped as he realized this could mean a seriously nefarious challenge.