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“James, get off my foot!”

“Can’t exactly go anywhere, sh’Aleen.”

“Don’t make me turn this shuttle around, children,” Brian called over his shoulder. There were a few chuckles from the other security officers. A loud smack was heard, followed by some more laughing - Mayfield knew the Andorian well enough to know she had gotten Jim off her foot.

He turned to Crusher, who was sitting at his right and piloting. “How is it looking?”

Crusher didn’t turn to answer him. “Still no welcoming party; I’d say we’re either being ignored or everything is closed for business. No issues otherwise.”

Brian smiled a little, and then turned the other way to look over his shoulder. “How are you doing, Carl?”

Carl was slumped over his console, his head buried in his arm. He lifted one arm, giving a weak thumbs-up. Brian winced at his air-sick roommate. With Hadley still on the Horizon getting systems repaired, the small strike force had to take another engineer along. Carl wasn’t Rebecca, which was both a blessing and a curse for Brian. On one hand, he wouldn’t have to deal with his stalker, but he also couldn’t rely on his roommate to have the same aptitude for computers that he knew Hadley had. And on this rescue, the computers were going to be key - they controlled everything in the Orion slave market that the Starfleet strike team was infiltrating. Brian prayed Carl would be feeling better by the time they landed.

“Where should I park her, sir?”

Mayfield turned back to look out the viewport. “If we’re being ignored as normal traffic, then put us down with the other ships. Less distance we have to walk.”

Crusher grinned, nodding. “Understood. I’ll try to not to take a handicapped spot; don’t want any questions from the locals.”

The shuttle touched down with a small rumble. Behind him, Brian heard his team do their final checks on their weapons. To his left, he heard Carl doing the same for his phaser. Brian turned, picking up a backpack and handing it to his roommate. “Don’t forget these; we won’t have the room to bring too many back in the shuttle.”

“Don’t worry; I got it.” Carl slung the pack onto his back, and then charged his phaser. The rest of the security team’s weapons also hummed to life.

Brian drew his own weapon and turned to face the team. “Ok, check your targets; there’s going to be more than just Orions in there. Phasers on stun. Heinkel will work to get the security systems offline; once that happens, locate the Vulcans.” Brian motioned to Carl. “He’ll be carrying the transport enhancers as well. That’s the only way we can get all the hostages back to the Whiston because - as I’m sure you noticed - there isn’t room in here for the twelve of us and twenty-three more. Heinkel, get behind the team. Sh’Aleen, Tomas, take point. Crusher, Trace, guard the ship.”

The team took their positions in the formation. Sh’Aleen and Tomas knelt down at the back door of the shuttle, their rifles leveled. Brian turned to Crusher and nodded.

There was a hiss of air as the shuttle depressurized, and a grind of motors as the large hatch swung down. Tomas and sh’Aleen rolled out onto the ship landing pad, checking around the shuttle. When they were satisfied, sh’Aleen motioned for the rest of the team to exit and follow. The team ran together towards the nearest structure; sh’Aleen and Tomas lead them, turning to check behind and above the team at regular intervals.

There was an open doorway into the structure. Tomas went in first, quickly ducking around the corner and into a shadow behind cargo containers that were marked with Klingon symbols. He tapped twice on the container, softly, letting the rescue team know that it was safe to follow. They ducked into the building, taking cover behind an assortment of stolen alien cargo. Brian took out his tricorder and began scanning. “I’m reading a myriad of people in the next two rooms. Three Orions; probably guards.” He modified his scans, trying to pinpoint the hostages. There was a soft tone, and then a chime. “Found them; their life-signs are a bit jumpy, but stable. I think the next two rooms are the slave-holding areas.” He shut off the scanner and turned to Carl. “Heinkel, can you access that computer terminal on the wall to the right and disable the prisoner security systems?”

Carl peeked above his cover, then nodded. “Yeah, shouldn’t be a problem. Give me ten minutes.”

Brian sighed; was he actually missing Hadley right now? “You have two. After that, we’re going in to start freeing the hostages.” He turned away and nodded at the officer next to him, a dark-skinned man he knew as Gavin. The officer nodded back, and then worked the chronometer that was attached to his uniform at the wrist.

“Well, that wasn’t as hard as I thought.” Carl tapped the console a few more times. The white and green symbols on the screen turned purple, and then the console went dark. He turned from the terminal to Brian. “Security is offline. The holding cells should be unlocked.” He smiled.

Mayfield smiled back. “Good job, Carl. Stick behind us.” He motioned to the rest of his officers to get ready to storm the next room. The rescue team set up next to the doorway, readying their weapons. Brian motioned with his hand for sh’Aleen and Tomas to enter; they ducked around the corner into the room. There was a light tap on the wall from each of them, and the rest of the team followed them in.

Training took over immediately; the security team split off into pairs, going down each aisle to clear the room. They ignored the sleeping prisoners, looking only for their targets - the three Orion guards that were huddled in the back around a computer display, laughing together every now and then. The team surrounded the three massive men. Bits of metal seemed to be bolted to their bare skulls, and muscle seemed ready to explode from their green skin. Still, they hadn’t noticed the security team as it proceeded to trap them against the wall.

Brian cleared his throat. “Excuse me, but I was wondering if you gentlemen could point me to the nearest toilet.”

The three Orions spun around in surprise, and were met with ten phasers pointed at them. They stopped, dumbfounded, unable to process what had suddenly happened.

“You’re holding some prisoners we’d like to take back now. Sorry, but we’re in a bit of a hurry.” Brian fired his phaser, as did Gavin and a third officer. The three massive guards dropped to the floor in a pile, unconscious.

“Mayfield, we’ve got a problem.” Brian turned to see Carl, who had opened one of the holding cells and was examining a Vulcan. He motioned for the rest of the team to start pulling the Vulcans out of their cells as he went to his roommate.

“What is it?” he asked as he approached.

Carl motioned to the Vulcan, who was shaking every now and then and looked visibly unsettled. At the base of the man’s skull, just behind his ear, was a small, copper-colored device with a small, red indicator light. Small wires were buried into his skin, holding the device in place. “Neurolytic restraints.” Carl shook his head. “This complicates matters. We can’t beam the Vulcans away until these restraints are shut off.”

“What’s going on?” sh’Aleen approached from behind Brian and peered over his shoulder at the Vulcan. “What is that?”

“A delay. Why do we need to shut them off?”

“The damn things induce seizures to ensure slaves don’t get out of hand.” Carl pulled out his tricorder, scanning the device. “If the slaves escape and manage to get out of the building, the thing kills them.”

“Can you deactivate them?”

Carl shrugged and nodded. “One by one, sure.” On cue, the device’s light went dark.

The Vulcan stopped shaking, and reached up. With a quick motion, he tore the device off his neck. Blinking, he took in a deep breath. “Thank you.”

Brian helped the man to his feet as he addressed Carl. “Give me a pattern enhancer.”

Carl took off his backpack and opened the compartment. He pulled out a device with an armband, which he handed to the Vulcan.

Brian pulled out his communicator. “Mayfield to Whiston, one hostage is ready to beam up.”
“Understood. Pattern enhancer locked on; energizing now. Don’t move.” There was a sound of chimes, and then a swirling pattern of light enveloped the Vulcan. After a minute, the light was gone, as was the hostage. “Mayfield, we got him here. Standing by for the rest of the hostages.”

“Copy, stand by.” Brian closed his communicator and put it back on his belt. “This is going to take too long, one at a time.”

“I know. Let me access that terminal in the back. I’ll try shutting everything down from -" Carl was interrupted by a loud klaxon, and all the security knelt down or jumped for cover.

Brian shouted above the din. “Carl, do it. We’ll hold them off.”

“Lieutenant! Incoming!”

“Check you fire, team! Don’t hit the hostages!”

The first Orions entered the cramped room, shouting above the noise to one another. Sh’Aleen and Tomas fired first, dropping the lead two in an instant. More phasers fired, and the six Orions were all lying on the ground, motionless.

“We’ve got more coming in, sir.” Gavin held his tricorder, reading off the display. “Both sides now. I think we just stirred a hornet’s nest.”

“Move those cargo crates in front of the doors to slow them down!” Brian went to the back to check on Carl’s progress. He tapped the engineer on the shoulder. “How’s it looking?”

Carl shook his head. “I can’t get a good isolation on the system. Five more minutes.”

“We don’t have five minutes, Heinkel.”

“Well, make five minutes, Mayfield.”

Brian returned to his team, who had managed to move a few of the crates in front of the door. He looked behind him at another entrance, where the other half of his team was doing the same. He turned to Gavin for an update.

“They’ll be here in three minutes.”

“You and Jim start getting the hostages to the back with Heinkel; as soon as those damn devices are turned off, I want them on the ship.”

“Aye.” Gavin tapped James on the shoulder and motioned for him to follow. Brian heard gates opening and hushed voices as his officers helped the Vulcans to the back of the room. He knelt down behind another container next to sh’Aleen, who had her rifle pointed down the corridor.

She glanced at him for a second with a smirk. “Well this is fun.”

“Which part?” Brian nudged her playfully, and then went back to watching down the hall.

“Think we’ll make it?”

“You think we won’t?”

She laughed once, humorlessly. “Not if we have to drag them out of here one-by-one.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe I volunteered for this.”

“Neither could I. I’m glad you did.”

She rolled her eyes. “It wasn’t for them. I was bored.”

Brian nodded. “Sure.”

A green bolt of energy flew over their heads, and the two quickly dropped behind the crate. “Here they come!” sh’Aleen popped back over their cover and fired two quick shots before she huddled back down. Behind them, Brian heard the other squad firing off shots down their hall. He looked at Carl, who was hunched over the computer terminal, working quickly. “He had better get these damn things turned off soon.”

Sh’Aleen fired over the crates again. “I can motivate him.”

“Don’t put more pressure on the poor man.” Brian popped out and fired as well; there was a shout and soft thud as an Orion was hit. More green disruptor bolts flew towards them, hitting their cover and flying overhead to connect with the now empty cages. “How much you want to bet they aren’t firing on stun?”

Sh’Aleen fired again. “I wouldn’t take that bet in a million years.” She took a knee beside him and pulled out the spent energy cartridge from the barrel grip of her rifle and dropped it to the ground. In a quick motion she reached behind her and pulled a fresh cartridge from her belt and slammed it into place on the rifle, then recharged the weapon.

“I got it!” Brian heard Carl shout from the back of the room.

“Good! Get them to the ship! Team, start falling back away from the entrances and take up position to defend the refugees!” Brian tapped sh’Aleen, who left their position to go to the back. Brian popped over and fired a few more shots down the hall, then followed her back.

The rest of the team was setting up new defenses around the crowd of hostages. Many of them were women, and most of them younger. One was very obviously pregnant, and two other women were helping to steady her as they all knelt. The five remaining males had joined the security team behind their cover; one had Carl’s phaser, which the engineer wasn’t using as he passed out pattern enhancers to the Vulcans. The other four had disruptors that the three unconscious guards had been carrying.

“Heinkel to Whiston. First six hostages are ready for transport.”
“Understood. Stand by.”

Brian frowned; six at a time would take longer than he liked. A disruptor bolt flew over his head. “Get down!” He fired around his cover, aiming at the doorway. Next to him, the rest of the squad began laying down suppressing fire. The air was filled with chimes, and the light brightened behind him as six of the Vulcans were transported up.

“All six are here. Ready for the next group.”

“Energize, Whiston!”

“Locked on, energizing.”


Time suddenly seemed to slow down, as Brian heard the shout behind him. He turned around to watch sh’Aleen dive, slamming into the pregnant woman and throwing her out of the way. She fired her rifle, and Brian turned his head to see her target: One of the first Orions they had subdued had grabbed his second weapon and was aiming at the Vulcan. He fired the disruptor.

Sh’Aleen seemed to hang in the air for a moment, and then she dropped to the floor as the green energy struck her.

She didn’t move.

Brian howled in rage. His phaser’s discharge unit flipped as he changed the setting and he fired at the Orion. The green alien’s body dropped back to the ground as the phaser bolt struck him in the head, killing him instantly.

The rest of the squad continued firing. Another six Vulcans were being transported to the ship.

Mayfield wasn’t aware of any of it; he crawled to the Andorian and turned her on her back. “Dammit, sh’Aleen, no!” Her eyes were wide open, unfocused. Her body was limp. Her antennae were curled forward. He checked for a pulse and found none. Tears streamed down his face.

“Lieutenant, we have to go now!”

“Mayfield, let’s go!”

Nothing was registering with him as more weapons fired, more people shouted at him. He clung to his dead lover and wept. His team tried pulling him off; he fought them back, tried to pick her up, he couldn’t leave her there.

There was a sharp pinch at the base of his neck, and then all was dark.

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