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[2007: MAR-APR] Surviving the Trap

Robert Falcon

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‘Well,’ James thought, ‘that went well.’

He sat on the bridge of his modified Raven class ship, the Nova, his legs propped up on the darkened helm station. This had to be a first, finding himself drifting along without power. He knew he wouldn’t be out there forever; folks knew where he was and they’d be back soon enough.

Even if she’d gotten a bit pummeled, James had to admit his tough little freighter had done a fine job. The fact that he was still intact was proof. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder where he had screwed up… What had he missed?

There were advantages to being an android; one of the Falcon clan. To remember what happened, all he had to do was rewind…

((Deep Space 3; Promar Sector; Two Days Before))

James took another sip of his scotch, scanning down the PADD. There were a number of cargos to be hauled this way and that, but few of them were in directions he really wanted to go. He started another run through of the list. There were a couple with promise he’d noted before, but he always waited ‘till the second, or even third, run through before selection.

He was interrupted by the sound of a glass landing on the table. He looked up, spotting a glass of scotch of similar size as his own. James continued turning upward, soon seeing the kindly looking face of an older human gentleman. “Mr. James, I presume.” His voice had an Earth British accent.

“You’re right,” James replied. Not wanting to have connections made with his father, James had chosen not to reveal his real last name. He’d proven reliable and hard working, so no one had asked any questions. “Have a seat, Mr…” He trailed off, leaving the question open.

“Dover.” The man sat, giving the glass of scotch a slight nudge toward James. James knew the custom; a potential client learned what drink their prospective pilot was enjoying, then brought another with them when they came to sell their deal.

James downed the rest of his original glass, then accepted the new on with a slight bow of his head. “What can I do for you today, Mr. Dover?”

“I have a shipment I need delivered to the fourth planet of the Markanix system.”

He was pretty direct… Not quite a flag.

‘Flags’ were what James called suspicious activity. They came in different sizes and colors and played a major part in his decision on whether or not to take a job. “No questions asked?”

“Oh, not at all. Ask away, Mr. James.”

“What’s being hauled?”

“Computer cores. Six of them. Type 61-D, model 117-J. One of the local school districts made a purchase not too long ago, looking to upgrade.” As Dover spoke, James made a quick connection with the base’s computer and checked the man’s story. It checked out.

James seemed to consider for a moment. “Well, that much should fit into my ship.” He gave a nod, taking a sip of the scotch. “All right, I’ll do it. How’s 4000 credits sound?”

“That sounds marvelous,” Dover replied. “The computer cores are currently being stored in cargo bay 11.”

“Should I beam them to my ship, or hand load them?”

“I would prefer hand loading.” He gave a small shrug. “Seems these cores are a might finicky. It’s hard to tell what could damage them.”

James nodded. “All right. I’ll move my ship to the closest loading dock. Half an hour?”

“Half an hour. It’s a pleasure to be doing business with you, Mr. James.” Dover extended a hand.

James took it and shook. “Likewise, Mr. Dover.”

((Bridge; Freighter Nova))

Dover hadn’t haggled. James had noted that as a flag, but it hadn’t been enough to turn down the job. 4000 credits was a standard rate, but you almost never got that. But then again, the fact that he hadn’t haggled could’ve simply meant he needed the cargo moved out as soon as possible. But that would’ve lead to more questions.

‘And in hindsight, that’s probably the last thing he would’ve wanted,’ James thought.

He’d moved the Nova over as planned, and was met by Dover and a few other humans. They’d hauled the cores over to his ship, finding room with the few other things he was hauling until he found a good price for. Dover had left him with a final request…

((Upper Cargo Bay; Freighter Nova; Two Days Before))

“One final request,” Dover said as his people cleared out. “I would ask that you not scan these computer cores. As I mentioned before, they are easily damaged.”

“Understood,” James replied. “I should arrive there in five days, six tops. Just replaced a few coils in my starboard nacelle, and I want to give them a chance to settle in before I push them too hard.”

“That will be fine, Mr. James. A pleasant voyage to you.” Dover gave a half bow, turned and left.

James watched him go, hitting the controls to close up the cargo bay. He’d done a bit more research over the last half-hour, and came to the conclusion that what Dover had told him was bogus. The computer cores he was hauling were of an obscure model, certainly. Few knew much about them, so it would be relatively easy to make up whatever you wanted to. They had no problems with being beamed around or scanned.

Dover had just raised a pretty big red flag.

But there had been nothing James could do about it at that moment. He needed to get away from the base first.

((Bridge; Freighter Nova))

He had run through a quick checklist, got permission to depart, and had gotten Nova moving away at warp 1 to give him plenty of time to work. He’d even primed his tactical systems, just in case. But no amount of preparing could’ve let him guess what he was about to find…

((Upper Cargo Bay; Freighter Nova; Two Days Before))

James walked a couple circles around one of the computer cores. It was a double core, with two smaller cores connected together to increase their power. The design normal; Danube-class Runabouts used a smaller version. At glance, the cores looked about as they should. About five feet in height, with each core about four feet in diameter and separated by some blinking computer equipment.

But James was guessing there was something beneath this core’s skin, and he was going to find out.

He started with an old tricorder set up for detecting explosives. It found none. Another general purpose one found something strange. It seemed there was a layer of high energy right at the surface of the core. ‘Holographic overlay, maybe?’ Rudimentary stealthing, but combined with the no scan policy it might’ve worked. He went to the core’s status monitor, and quickly found that the computer was encrypted. Luckily, his sister had a knack for breaking encryptions, and she’d taught him some of her methods.

It took a few minutes, but he sliced his way into the computer’s systems. He was right. It was projecting a holo-image. He deactivated it.

The central section remained the same, but the twin cores faded. They were tanks of similar size. One held a stack of gold-pressed latinum bars.

The other held a person. A Bolian, male, in stasis. And from the look on his face, none-too-happy about being there. He repeated the process on each of the cores. Some had higher levels of security, and a couple had dampening fields to block scans. All told, he discovered seven beings in stasis, one of them an obvious Starfleet officer, several stacks of gold-pressed latinum bars, various gemstone piles, weapons, and some equipment he could not identify.

‘Somebody lied here.’

There was little he could do about the tanks. He couldn’t risk bringing anyone out of stasis until he knew more. At that point, what he needed most was backup. James started for the bridge. He knew who best to contact; Robert Falcon, his father.

((Bridge; Freighter Nova))

James shifted his feet, making sure they weren’t hitting any controls. Though deactivated, he didn’t want to damage them. He’d gotten through to his father after a couple tries. Seemed he was out and about in his shuttle doing R&D work at Starbase 118. He wasn’t too far out, actually. And it appeared Starfleet had already been kinda curious about what was going on in James’s part of space. Robert called in the calvary, and started for James’s position himself.

Would’ve been nice it he could’ve made it there a tad sooner.

((18 Hours Before))

James didn’t like this, the hiding. On Robert’s recommendation, James had steered for a nearby nebula that would hopefully mask him until help arrived. Seems there had been more information about his route that hadn’t gotten logged into any database he could access. Freighters that worked with this ‘Dover’ guy seemed to vanish a bit more frequently then usual. The Rogue was a fast shuttle, so Robert would be able to back him up quickly. But he’d been sitting there for more then a day. He kinda wanted this to be over with.

Suddenly, there was a blip on the sensors. James leaned over to look. Three ships were entering the system. They were small, and moving quickly into the local space. James wasn’t sure, but something told him this was a bad sign.

There was a crackle from the comm. “We know you’re here, James. Come out of hiding, give us the cargo, and we’ll let you live.” It was a male voice, and sounded roughly Orion.

James had set up something of a comm network in nearby space; a few jerry-rigged probes spread around the nebula. He opened a channel, knowing the signal would jump around randomly in its apparent starting location. “Never really knew the Syndicate to honor that particular promise, so it’s tough for me to believe you.” He started moving power around the ship. Nova could hold warp six for a while, but he’d always wanted to see how well she would do at seven.

There was a chuckle from the comm line. “You can’t warp out of there. You’ll have to come back into open space. We’re content to wait.” Suddenly, his ship gave a shudder. “But then again, shooting practice sounds just as good.”

That settled it. By random chance they would eventually hit him, and in the nebula he couldn’t raise his shields. Time to go. He set course to the far side of the nebula and charged up his warp nacelles. Nova broke through the barrier into open space. She rocked hard to starboard as the Orion’s weapons struck, then leapt to warp speed. She was sprinting with all she had at warp seven.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Before too long, Nova dropped back to impulse with a very hard shudder. The new coils in the starboard nacelle had blown. Running was no longer an option. Time for plan ‘B’. He charged his weapons.

Deception was one of Nova’s main defenses. She was faster and better defended then she appeared. Around her hull were five weapons. At first glance, they appeared to be outdated phase cannons. But under their skin, they were packed with enough firepower to match a type 6 phaser. With more work, they would gain even more punch.

And it was time for their biggest test. Behind him, all three Orion raiders dropped from warp. He brought Nova about, charging weapons. Without hesitation, he opened fire.

((Bridge; Freighter Nova))

He’d managed to take one of the Orions out pretty quickly, then keep the other two busy until help arrived. First, his father had appeared with his shuttle. It was something akin to a heavy fighter, so it quickly turned the tide. He’d jetted off after the remaining Orion, with a starship following soon after. Unfortunately, that last Orion had scored a lucky hit, knocking out most all of Nova’s power. James could’ve fixed it if he’d had to, but Robert had promised a tow back to Deep Space 3.

Robert had already contacted him, and was on the way back with the starship, the U.S.S. Thunderchild. They’d managed to capture the Orions, and dug out what was really going on. Everything Nova was carrying was meant for them, but the Orion Syndicate didn’t want anything leading to them. So, they’d pick some real event, disguise their cargo as needed, then attack the freighter hauling the goods. After relieving the pilot of his load, they would destroy the freighter. James had gotten lucky. He’d managed to get through their greedy lies.

Next time, he wouldn’t fall into the trap.

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