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Three Months Later

Velos VII: Romulan Zone of Occupation, Cardassian Space

Stardate: 53301.2

A Cardassian led two cowering women through the ruins of the old internment camp. Since the end of the war, it had been turned into a bustling slave market. Once again, the Romulan authorities had turned a blind eye.

The women were dressed in tattered rags that matched their unseemly surroundings. Open air pens contained over two dozen souls condemned to a hellish life of servitude and degredation. One stopped in her tracks when she made eye contact with a terrified K’Tarian girl behind the bars of a cage. The young woman was about to extend the child a gentle, supportive hand when her Cardassian handler shoved her in the back. He motioned for her to keep moving towards the center of the compound.

About twenty buyers from twenty different species milled around a flat stone stage that served as a makeshift auction block. Another Cardassian man, the main broker of the camp, stood with his reptilian Gorn bodyguard and spoke with several of the potential customers. The sight of the two women being led towards him caught his attention. He motioned for the young Cardassian to bring them forward for his examination.

The younger Cardassian dragged the women forward and then forced them to their knees.

“What do we have here?” the broker said with an interested leer.

“Merchandise I wish to sell,” the young Cardassian replied.

“I can see that,” the broker said looking towards him. “Tell me, who are you and what makes you think you are welcome to come here unannounced?”

“Who I am is no consequence,” the young Cardassian replied curtly, “and I came here because I hear you only sell the best. These two are certainly the best.”

“I will be the judge of that,” the broker said grabbing the first women by the chin and looking her in the eyes. “Human…quite valuable. The Federation does a good job of keeping these gems off the market. However, that means she just fetches a higher price.”

Then, he turned his attention to the second woman. “…and a Bajoran…oh yes, very nice.” He grabbed her face and examined the large welt sealing her left eye shut. “However, I don’t know many men who would be willing to pay top latinum for damaged goods.”

“She proved a little more difficult to subdue than the other one, but it will heal.”

With the broker’s attention focused on Laria, Katie scanned the crowd of buyers. A man in a dark, brown cloak caught her eye. He looked out from underneath his large hood and nodded. Katie reached over and squeezed Laria’s hand supportively.

The broker flashed Laria a lascivious grin.

“Oh yes, it’s been a while since I’ve seen such a fine specimen of Bajoran womanhood. During her convalescence, I may have to break one of my cardinal rules…”

“And that is?” the young Cardassian asked.

“Sampling the merchandise.”

“As long as you pay me first, you can do whatever you wish,” the younger Cardassian said shifting his weight from one foot to another. Suddenly, the broker became nervous. Something about this wasn’t right.

Suddenly, a huge grin crossed Laria’s face. The broker stared back at her with angry confusion.

“And what exactly do you find some amusing, slave?” he growled at her.

“That you have no idea what’s about to happen…” she replied.

In a flash, Laria reached behind her back and pulled a concealed dk’tahg. She violently slashed upward into the broker’s face, sending chunks of his cheek, nose, and left eye flying across the compound. He collapsed to the ground shrieking in pain and clutching the mangled remains of his visage in his hands. His Gorn bodyguard pulled out a disruptor pistol, but before he could take aim at Laria, Katie produced a small phaser from her boot. She aimed, fired, and turned the lizard’s atoms into a cloud of ionized vapor.

Tigranian threw off his cloak pulled a Klingon disruptor from his belt. He dispatched two more guards moving towards Katie and Laria. He ran over and took a position covering them. Laria pulled two larger hand phasers from the back of the captain’s belt. She tossed one to Katie, and kept one for herself.

“Are you sure you can shoot straight with that eye?” Tigranian said over his shoulder.

“Alex did a pretty damn good job painting this thing on,” Laria replied with a grin. “But I can still handle myself.”

The young Cardassian was now lying flat on the ground at Katie’s feet with his hands over his head.

“You did great Deranin,” Katie said not taking her eyes off the panicking crowd around them. She spotted a Nausicaan pulling out a plasma rifle. She took aim and fired, sending him to the ground in a smoking heap. “Now, just stay down!” She looked over to Tigranian. “Alright, Sir, L and I got in and found him, now you have to get us out alive before we really become slaves.”

Tigranian pulled out a Klingon communicator and shouted into it.

“En’chA!”

In orbit of the planet, two ships decloaked. A Klingon bird of prey immediately streaked into the atmosphere while the Pershing launched a dropship from its shuttlebay. The two vessels soon punched through the clouds over the camp. The bird of prey maintained a protective hover a few hundred meters above while the dropship touched down a stone’s throw from Tigranian and the others.

A few of the buyers and assorted alien low-lives still hanging around the slave market attempted to board their ships in a vain attempt to reach orbit. However, any vessel that left the ground soon fell victim to the Bird of Prey’s waiting disruptor canons. The sight of the fearsome warship hanging overhead soon caused the remainder of the broker’s men to throw down their weapons and raise their hands in surrender.

The ramp of the dropship came down with an angry thud. The Pershing’s entire marine detachment led by Lieutenant Hawkins came streaming out with phaser rifles at the ready. Behind them, Alex led a team of medics towards Tigranian, Laria, and Katie.

“Fan out!” Hawkins said pointing towards the slave pens. “I want security on the high ground in one mike. Sweep the compound and then begin recovery of the personnel.”

“No one gets to the drop ship before they get checked out by my team!” Alex shouted in response to Hawkins.

“Yes Ma’am!” he replied before heading off with a fire team of marines.

“Are you alright?” Alex said running up to Laria and Katie and pulling out a tricorder.

“We’re fine,” Katie replied as Laria nodded in agreement. “Help them,” she continued pointing toward the slaves.

“What about him?” Alex said pointing toward the broker on the ground still writhing in pain.

“We’ll take care of him,” Tigranian said staring down at the Cardassian. Alex nodded in understanding before heading over to Deranin. She gently lifted him off the ground.

“Alex,” he said with a smile as he saw her.

“Thank you so much, Deranin,” she said throwing her arms around him. “Doctor Quezza would have been so proud of you.”

“I did it to honor her memory,” the young Cardassian said resolutely. “For the new Cardassia to live in peace, Cardassians must do what they know is right.”

Alex nodded before heading toward the rest of her team.

“Marine!” Tigranian shouted to a nearby dismount.

“Yes Sir!”

“Escort Mr. Deranin to the dropship. Make sure he’s well taken care of.”

“Aye, Sir!” the marine replied as he gently took Deranin’s arm.

Throughout the compound, the marines were breaking open the pens and leading the captives out into the compound. Immediately, Alex and her medics began checking their vital signs and escorted them to the safety of the dropship. Tigranian then turned his attention back to the broker.

The captain knelt down next to him, placed his knee into his chest, and pressed the muzzle of this disruptor pistol in the Cardassian’s temple.

“Where’s Devek?” Tigranian spat at him through gritted teeth. “I know you run this shit-hole for him.”

The broker grinned when he saw Katie and Laria standing behind Tigranian.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to take your females back to my tent, Human. I would have taken good care of them…”

Tigranian struck him across the face with the butt of his disruptor. Tigranian felt his nasal bone shatter under the blow as the Cardassian shuddered with pain. The captain then pointed the muzzle back to the broker’s head.

“Keep talking like that and I’ll blow your brains all over this gravel, you piece of slime. I said ‘where’s Devek?”

“He’ll kill me if I tell you!” the broker replied angrily.

“What makes you think I won’t?” Tigranian said with a grin.

“I know you won’t kill me! You’re Starfleet. Your kind doesn’t have the stomach for it.”

Tigranian looked over to see two marines approaching carrying a large silver box between them. They dropped it right next to the broker’s head.

“You know, you’re right,” Tigranian said with a sarcastic sigh. “I won’t kill you…but this might,” he said glancing over to the box. The marines opened an access panel on the side and pressed several buttons. A computer screen came to life and began counting down. “Fifty kiloton yield: blast radius of six kilometers. Everything from here to that ridgeline will be instantly heated to the surface of a star when this puppy cooks off.” The Cardassian suddenly got a nervous look on his face. “How fast can you run right now?”

“I told you!” the broker said desperately. “He’ll kill me if I tell you anything!”

“Promise to cooperate, and I’ll let you tag along with us. You’ll spend the rest of your miserable life in a nice, comfy Starfleet detention center. Otherwise, I’ll leave you test your luck with the bomb.”

“But the Federation doesn’t act like this!”

Tigranian leaned in close to the broker’s bloody face.

“Do I look like the typical Federation officer to you?”

Lieutenant Hawkins approached.

“Sir, liberated prisoners have been loaded on the dropship. We’ve collected all the intel we can and are prepared to hand it over to G2.”

“Very good, Lieutenant,” Tigranian said slowly climbing to his feet. “STARFLEET!” Tigranian shouted across the compound. “WE ARE LEAVING!”

“You heard the C.O.!” Hawkins shouted to his marines. “Get your asses back on the boat!”

“Good luck,” Tigranian said to the broker and turned to leave with Katie and Laria.

“Wait!” the Cardassian shouted climbing to his feet. “I’ll cooperate, I’ll cooperate!”

“I thought you might come around,” Tigranian said with a smile. “Lieutenant Hawkins, please escort our new guest to the ship.”

“With pleasure, Sir,” Lieutenant Hawkins said before suddenly throwing the broker back to the ground. He placed a black bag over the Cardassian’s head and fastened his wrists behind his back with a pair of plastic ties. Two more marines ran over and carried the broker towards the dropship’s ramp.

Tigranian took a final look around the empty compound before he turned to Laria and Katie.

“Outstanding work, Ladies,” he putting his disruptor back into its holster. “We couldn’t have gotten in without you.”

“KATIE!” a voice screamed towards them. The three of them looked over to see Phil running towards them in a flight suit. “Are you alright?”

“Dammit, Phil,” she said with a smile, “Who is behind the stick of the ship?”

“Don’t worry, I left it under Ensign Toth’s reliable charge,” he said as he threw his arms around her. They kissed. Tigranian pulled Laria close to him as well.

“You are incredible,” he said as he placed a peck on her forehead.

“And don’t you forget it,” she replied with a grin.

“Excuse me, everybody,” Alex said running over from the dropship’s ramp. “I’m sorry to break-up this tender moment, but I’ve got 26 people who need to get back to sickbay immediately and I’d prefer to get out of here before this entire area becomes a cloud of radioactive vapor.”

“Agreed,” Tigranian said motioning them towards the ramp.

Soon they were streaking towards orbit under escort of the Bird of Prey. Tigranian, Katie, and Laria stared out the back of the dropship’s open ramp behind the safety of a forcefield.

“Do you think the bomb was really necessary, Sir?” Katie asked. “I mean, it was a nice touch, but it could be perceived as overkill by our pointy-eared friends on Romulus.”

“That place was the sight of a lot of terrible things when it was a Cardassian internment camp. Then slavers took it over and did even more terrible things. I want to send a message that those days are over.”

“Ten seconds!” Lieutenant Hawkins shouted to the entire crew compartment. “Don’t look at the blast!”

“Go ahead and raise the ramp,” Tigranian said as he calmly pulled out a pair of dark protective glasses from his pocket and put them over his face.

As the metal ramp slowly returned to the closed position, the rest of the cabin looked down at the deck and placed an arm over their face. However, the captain kept looking out. Suddenly, the sky light up in a brilliant flash of white. A smile crossed his face as the image of a mushroom cloud reflected in the lenses of his glasses.

As soon as the dropship returned to the safety of the Pershing, the Federation starship and her Klingon companion both engaged their cloaking devices and warped back towards friendly space.


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