SEASON 2: EPISODE 06
A DREADFUL OPERATION: Part One
Listening Post 334 was located close to the Badlands in what was neutral space before the start of the war. It had been built by the Cardassians and run by their secret police, the now defunct Obsidian Order. The post was a covert facility for monitoring space in the area. It came to its height during the war with the Maquis, when close to two hundred Obsidian Order personnel had managed the facility. Now the Obsidian Order was gone and a group of seven Cardassian military personnel ran the facility signifying the decline in standing of the facility with the passage of time. The event that affected the facility the greatest was the alliance with the Dominion. The Jem’Hadar had brutally and efficiently destroyed the Maquis, the main target for the facility. Even the war with the Federation alliance had not fixed things, if anything it made it worse. While close to Federation and Bajoran space the area of space that was the Badlands was too unstable for the enemies of Cardassia to use as an access point to Cardassian territory. No great fleets could hope to traverse the plasma storms to strike at Cardassia or for Cardassian or Dominion fleets to sneak out of. The odd vessel did enter the Badlands though and that was the only reason the listening post was still manned.
The base was built on a lifeless asteroid, so it was unusual to have movement along the surface near the base. Twenty-one grey humanoid shapes that blended well with the surface silently moved towards the base, which was also blended into the surface. The group resembled a gang of malicious robots with their grey suits and their dark faceplates, each one was near identical but for a few distinguishing marks at regular sections of each suit. They carried an assortment of weapons that added to their menace. They made their way to an external airlock and with one of the assortment of devices they possessed they bypassed the base’s security system and opened the airlock. Once inside they stood out against the Cardassian architecture, the neutral grey against the yellowish brown.
With simple hand gestures one of the beings issued commands and the beings split into groups and headed in different directions. One group made their way to the command centre of the facility. They entered to find three Cardassians there. Given the quiet nature of the post none of the Cardassians were in any state of preparedness. The group fired their weapons, neutralising the Cardassians with hardly a whimper from any of them. The group moved the bodies from the console they manned and began to manipulate these consoles.
The being that had issued the orders when the group entered stood in the centre of the room quietly watching the progression of the others. Within the helmet of this being a voice spoke, “We ran into a Cardassian in the hallways, three others were in the crew quarters. All are down. No causalities.”
“Three down in command centre. That makes seven, which is the entire crew stationed here. Continue sweep through the facility,” replied the being.
The being pressed a control on the wrist of the suit and the front of the helmet retracted so to expose the face, exposing from just about the eyebrows down to the chin and then around the side to just before the ears, the rest of the head was still covered. The face belonged to Marine Captain Rachel ‘Nat’ Daley. The Marine captain had striking features that one would not associate with a combat soldier. She had ludicrously smooth looking skin on her oval face and would be considered attractive to many humanoid species. Her brown eyes blinked as her eyes adjusted to the light of the room without the automatic adjustment of light levels that the visor of the helmet provided. Her obviously thin features made her look out of place in the bulky Marine combat armour. She looked somewhat meek and passive but she was trained to be one of the toughest soldiers in the Quadrant, in her brown eyes you could gleam that she was far more then she appeared.
Daley indicated to the Marine manning the communication console. “Signal Benton that we have secured the post.”
Wing Commander Maxine Benton’s main console indicated that her vessel had received the signal she had been waiting for. She opened up a communication channel to the rest of her squadron.
“We’ve received the signal from the Marines, jump to warp on my mark.”
Her fighter was stationary but by no means was it unprepared. Her Peregrine fighter quickly came to life and moved forward as she got ready to jump to warp. The rest of her squadron followed suit and remained in their formation of three groups of four, which was commonly referred to as flights. Overcome squadron was made up of twelve fighters, but could be broken down into smaller groupings. The first was groups of four which was referred to as flights and then into pairs where each fighter flew with a predetermined wingman.
“Jump to warp on my mark. 3…2…1…Mark.”
The squadron made the short journey to Listening Post 334. The squadron of Peregrine fighters took a defensive position over the asteroid. As they arrived they saw the Normandy class dropship that had transported the Marines was making its way towards the facilities small shuttlebay.
Benton opened an audio channel to the base. “Good work Captain Daley. Task Force 59 indicates their strikes are going as planned. Any trouble?”
“No, they were complacent and it was a simple task. We’re going through their databanks now.”
“Good job. I’m coming into land.”
The listening post had a small shuttlebay that could hold a few shuttles and had just enough room for to fit the large Normandy dropship and her Peregrine fighter. Maxine shut down her fighters engines and made her way to the command centre. She entered and looked around the spacious room. For the number of Cardassians currently stationed here it was far too large, signifying that it was meant to be crewed by a larger number of people. She spotted Marine Captain Daley overseeing the work of another Marine.
She approached the Marines and spoke, “Captain Daley, anything to report?”
The Captain turned to face Maxine, unlike the other Marines in the room the captain’s faceplate was open so Maxine could see her face. “Not yet, Wing Commander. We’re just decrypting their database now.”
The two officers made their way to the front of the room which had a large window that looked out into space. Maxine spotted two of her squadron’s fighters silently cruise over the facility.
“This wasn’t too bad,” she commented.
“Indeed. Don’t know why you got stuck with us for this mission,” replied Captain Daley. “Seems like a waste of your time.”
Benton could not help but agree, but she knew why she was here. In her last active mission she had gone against orders and had assisted their new allies, the Romulans, in liberating a Federation planet from Dominion occupation. She had used her need for revenge against the Dominion for their recent conquest of her homeworld Betazed to justify working with a Romulan Tal Shiar agent who presented her the plan. The only problem was that she didn’t inform anyone and had played a heavy roll in giving a Federation world to Romulan forces, while technically allied with the Romulans Starfleet was not happy about this turn of events but didn’t punish her. It would be tough to explain why Starfleet was formally punishing an officer who worked with an established ally to free a conquered Federation world.
Captain Masters on the other hand was less ambiguous about the affair. He had grounded her straight after and made sure she understood how he felt about the events. The captain didn’t appreciate her ignoring orders from her commanding officers and going behind his back, he had taken the entire affair a bit too personally and decided that her actions reflected badly on him. When he had allowed her to return to flight duty he had given her this ‘mission’, to use the word loosely. Her entire squadron was also got this as punishment for following her in the affair with the Romulans. Meanwhile the Swiftfire was in the Badlands on a search for a Maquis base. Most of the fighters were going to be exploring the Badlands dodging plasma funnels and gravitational eddies, which would be a much more exciting mission then escorting a Marine shuttle and a platoon of Marines on a milk run.
“A mission’s a mission,” she responded.
Captain Daley must have heard something in her tone. “The captain’s still pissed at you,” said Daley, more a statement then a question.
Benton could not help but laugh at this blunt response. “He finally has a reason to be angry at me, which is a change of pace.”
“Sorry?” Captain Daley gave her a puzzled look.
Benton turned her back to the window and lent back onto the wall. She folded her arms as she explained, “The captain and I had a relationship before you joined the crew. We were attracted to each other and as time went on I invested more into the relationship, while he didn’t. In the end I realised that he didn’t feel as strongly for me as I did for him, so I ended it.”
Captain Daley was standing facing her now. “I heard as much,” she admitted. “Small ship.”
Benton nodded to submit the point. “At first I was angry at him for letting me continue our relationship but after awhile I realised the truth of why it happened and I moved on. I suspect he still thinks I’m angry at him and that is part of the reason I did what I did at Nthony C. That I let my personal feelings cloud my judgment, which is true I guess…but not in the way he believes it.” She felt a little twinge in her heart as she thought of the reasons she did what she did, the fall of Betazed. She looked up and gave Captain Daley a smirk. “I heard how you met the captain.”
Captain Daley looked surprised and embarrassed at this. “Small ship,” quoted Benton. “I’m not sure how you feel about him, but be careful not to get too far ahead of yourself, the captain is a confusing person.”
Captain Daley didn’t look too comfortable talking to her about this subject, not surprising since Benton was the ex and from what she had heard Captain Daley might be the new woman in Captain Masters’ life.
“I’ll take that under advisement,” Daley responded cautiously.
One of the Marine’s signalled the pair for their attention and the two officers went to the station he was manning. “We have the data. It looks like they did detect the Swiftfire before she entered the Badlands and immediately sent a message to Cardassia. This station’s sensors are better then we thought. They must have had the Dominion upgrade them without Intelligence knowing.”
Benton should have known better then to think it would be this easy, but luckily they had planned for this contingency.
“Send a message to the task force that the Swiftfire’s entrance did not go unnoticed. Then send a false message that we have detected the Swiftfire leaving the Badlands to Cardassia. Hopefully the task force’s main distraction works better then…”
“INCOMING!” called another of the Marines.
Benton swore quietly. “Who is it? The Dominion?”
“We have one contact. It appears to be a Karemma freighter.”
“Tell the fighters to jam its transmissions and to move in to disable the freighter, I’ll be out there in a minute,” ordered Benton, she started to run for the exit.
“It’s hailing us!” said a surprised Marine. “It’s on a Starfleet frequency and they are asking for you, Wing Commander!”
Benton stopped in her tracks and turned to see that all the Marines were looking at her. “They’re asking for me?”
“Yes, sir. What shall I do?”
“Answer it,” ordered Captain Daley before Benton could make a decision.
A familiar face appeared on the main viewscreen. “Greetings, Wing Commander Benton. Long time no see.”
“Colonel Lazenie!” said Benton is shock. “What are you doing here in an enemy freighter?”
The Andorian smiled. “All in good time, I would appreciate it if you called off the fighters before they damage my ship.” Maxine nodded and passed on the command to one of the Marines. “I’ll beam down when we get closer and I’ll explain this whole situation to you.”