Part of USS Century: 1. Videre Invisibilium

Shuttlecraft Diplomacy

Shuttlecraft Thorne/Planet Surface
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“Control, this is shuttlecraft Thorne requesting clearance to disembark,” Lieutenant Junior Grade Connor said after completing his pre-flight checks. There was a short pause before a voice responded, “Shuttlecraft Thorne, you are clear for departure. Flight path has been transmitted to your station. Good luck.” Zac looked down at the flight plan the Century had sent over, giving special attention to the post atmospheric entry path they had calculated in advance.

“Pretty standard stuff,” the young pilot mused.

“It should be,” Commander Peters said from the seat next to his, “Until something happens and it stops being so standard.”

Connor shrugged as he brought the shuttlecraft off the deck toward the large bay doors that were now wide open, “Being able to adapt is part of the job.”

The XO chuckled at the comment but didn’t actually say anything further, content to let the young Lieutenant handle the trip so long as he didn’t do anything too crazy. Behind them in the main body of the shuttlecraft, Abigail could hear Lieutenant Khar discussing unit tactics with his team. Abby knew enough about the workings of security to know that she had no idea how it worked, which meant she offered no real commentary on the plans the group was putting into place for their sojourn to the surface.

The shuttlecraft glided out of the rear hanger of the Century, dipping sharply and making a somewhat hard right turn a few moments after clearing the hull of its parent craft. The decent toward the surface was rapid, taking the craft only  three brief minutes to cross the threshold between space and planetary atmosphere. From there, the turbulence became increasingly noticeable, often times overwhelming the inertial dampeners to cause the vessel to buckle and jerk one direction or another. Even after the small craft passed below the thousand meter mark in altitude relative to the surface, the winds whipping across the planet were strong enough to jostle the occupants about despite all of the measures the vessel had onboard to stop it.

Five minutes into their journey, the shuttle passed the zero meter altitude point, their speed leveling out to just short of 100 meters per hour. The tenuous nature of the ravine the shuttle had entered forced even further decreases in speed along the way as various outcroppings and loose material began to assert dominance in the airspace. After crossing the thousand meter point below the surface, Lt. JG Connor and Cmdr. Peters had to work in tandem to ensure that the shuttle didn’t run afoul of the various hazardous terrain that the Century’s scans weren’t able to pick up from so far away.

One advantage to the shuttle being so close in proximity to their intended target was that the sensor suite aboard managed to pinpoint which area the metallic signatures they’d detected were located. Along the wall of the ravine sat ancient lava tunnels from the now dormant volcanic subsurface magma chambers that had once helped sculpt the landscape. The vessel was able to glide into a nearby connecting tunnel that still provided a good deal of cover, allowing the away team to land and disembark without alerting their quarry.

“Mister Connor, stay with the shuttle and monitor the situation. Be prepared to beam us out if we get into a situation we can’t handle,” the XO ordered as she pulled a hand phaser out of the shuttle’s small arms locker.

“I’ve already tried locking on to objects in that camp up ahead, and I’m not able to get a solid lock on anything, let alone a person. Best I’ll be able to do is bring the shuttle around to the edge of the cave and have you all jump aboard,” the pilot explained.

Abby frowned at the news. She’d been hoping that once they’d made it to the surface, the transporter interference would have abated. “Very well. However you have to do it, just be ready to ride to the rescue,” the woman said before hurrying off the shuttle.

The Commander approached Lt. Khar, delivering the news about their inability to rely on the transporters for an emergency evacuation should things turn violent. While the Klingon himself didn’t seem too upset by the news, some of the security crewmen began exchanging sour looks but kept whatever thoughts they had about the situation to themselves. Khar motioned for his team to move out, taking the lead while Cmdr. Peters found herself somewhere in the middle of their hodgepodge formation.

The away team slowly and methodically approached the outskirts of the camp that had been set up in the caverns, though by some miracle they didn’t seem concerned with intruders as they hadn’t run into any patrols or encountered any sentries on the lookout. The only real sounds that could be heard was the popping and hissing of a large bonfire that was likely in the center of the encampment the suspected thieves had created. Carefully and quietly, the away team infiltrated the shambolic structures, catching hints of fragmented conversations as they grew nearer to the middle of the camp.

“…sure hope all this work will pay off…” came one disgruntled comment.

“’Course it will, this job should nab us a crate load of latinum at least…” another voice called out a bit closer to the team.

“Quit your yapping and get back to scrappin’!” a third voice demanded.

While the rest of the security officers started to fan out, Lt. Khar and Cmdr. Peters continued their approach together. The pair had spotted what looked to be a large shack put together with a lot more care than some of the others and decided it might be the likely place to find either the leader of the group, or the cargo the thieves had taken off the transports. After having made their way undetected about halfway into the makeshift hideout, the group had been able to confirm that the transports had indeed been brought down to this planet, as all three of them were lined up on a makeshift landing pad adjacent to the camp in a half-cannibalized state.

“At least we know we’re in the right place,” Peters whispered as she and Lt. Khar continued to inch closer to their target from behind cover.

“Now we only need to determine what their purpose for committing the theft was in the first place,” the Klingon frowned in response.

Thanks to the work being carried out to scrap the cargo haulers, the half dozen people around the camp hadn’t picked up on the away team’s presence, allowing the pair arrive at the largest structure in the camp unseen. Khar slowly rose from his crouched position to sneak a look inside the shack, ducking back down and flagging Peters to move toward the rear of the makeshift building. Once there, Peters caught sight of cluster of storage crates softly glowing an off pink and orange. From what she could recall from the briefing about the cargo, she assumed that it was the Chimerium they were looking for. A bit further away, a large man wearing a long leather trench coat was standing over what looked to be archaic communications equipment, a small object held up to his mouth.

“We’ve got the goods off the transports. My boys are pulling them apart right now. Give us another hour and there won’t be anything left of them but hunks of scrap,” the man said into the device.

“Good… be sure… unrecognizable… no loose ends…” a static riddled voice answered back.

“When can we expect pickup?”

“Three hours… make… leave… have cargo ready… will send… detonate…” the signal seemed to be getting worse as less of the conversation could be made out from where the two officers were hiding.

“Got it. See you in three hours,” the man replied before setting down the small device and flipping a switch on the device it was attached to. Peters and Khar ducked down when the man began to turn, looking to avoid his line of sight as he went back into the interior of the shack.

“Looks like these are just hired thugs, not the masterminds…” Peters grumbled in a low tone.

Khar sneered, “If they are expecting someone to pick them up in three hours, we do not have a lot of time to decide what our plan of action is to be. Shall we apprehend them now and try to interrogate them, or wait for potentially far greater numbers and a much harder fight?”

Abby let out a sigh, “When you put it like that, feels like we only have one real option. If we take out that box over there, they probably won’t be able to call for help…” The woman chewed on her lip in thought for a few seconds before making up her mind. She slapped her commbadge and issued the order, “Peters to away team, phasers on stun, let’s take them by surprise.”

Khar grinned viciously and shouldered his phaser rifle, moving away from his patch of cover to approach the entrance to the building. Peters followed closely behind with her hand phaser at the ready, moving slowly toward the communication equipment. Once the two were in place, Abby nodded to the Klingon, who took it as the signal and slapped his own commbadge, muttering the word “Now,” before breaching the room and opening fire on the two occupants inside. The man garbed in the trench coat was struck square in the back, dropping to the ground like a puppet after its strings had been cut. The other occupant, a rather disheveled looking Human in what could only be described as worn out rags leapt to his feet, attempting to draw his weapon to retaliate. Khar proved to be the quicker of the two, unleashing another bolt into the man’s chest, dropping him as swiftly as his first target. 

While the Lieutenant was breaching the building, Cmdr. Peters hurried over to the box that the man had been using and started following the wires that were sticking out of the back of it. This led her to find a small communications antenna that was sticking half out into the ravine. Leveling her phaser at a large cluster of the wires, she let loose a short beam, severing some and fusing most of the others. Confident that she’d disabled the device, Abby hurried back toward the building to find that Lt. Khar had already taken care of the occupants. A half dozen or so phaser bursts rang out across various points in the camp before silence returned to the area. Several minutes later, the security officers came into the building to check on their superiors.

“How many total?” Khar asked the senior most Ensign of the group.

“Seven, minus these two,” came the swift reply.

“Surprisingly few…” the Klingon grumbled contemplatively.

Another of the officers spoke up, “We found an old shuttle further back, the warp core on it must of given out when they entered the atmosphere. The backup generators look to be fried as well.”

“That would explain why they needed a ride off this planet. Only trouble is, we don’t know who’s supposed to come get them or how many they’re planning to send to do it,” Abby remarked.

Khar walked over to the trench coat clad thief and gave his leg a light kick, “I used a lower stun setting on him than the other one. If we grab a med kit from the shuttle, we can have him up and awake in a matter of minutes.”

Peters tapped on her commbadge, “Peters to Connor, bring the shuttle around to the camp, set her down in the makeshift hanger they have. We need to grab a med kit and get this contraband aboard before their reinforcements arrive.”

“On my way,” Zac’s voice called out from the badge.

“Gather up the goons and make sure they’re restrained. It’s gonna be a tight fit in the shuttle once we get everything loaded,” the XO ordered.

The security officers nodded and got to work dragging the unconscious thieves out to the makeshift hanger, making sure to restrain each of them securely before loading them onto the shuttlecraft. Once they were aboard, one of the men brought out a med kit, handing it off to Lt. Khar before hurrying to help his comrades secure the shipment of Chimerium that the thieves were looking to offload.

“Are you sure you want to interrogate him here?” Peters asked after giving the matter a little more thought, “It might be better to do this once we’re back on the ship.”

“If he provides us with any information that can only be made use of while we are still here, we will not get another chance to return. By the time we make it back, get the information we need, and make ready to return, whoever they are waiting for will have already returned and removed all the evidence of them ever being here. You heard that voice tell them to detonate something. That can only mean that this place is rigged with explosives and their intention has always been to abandon this position,” Khar explained as he finished binding the man he intended to pry answers out of.

“Alright then…” Peters relented, “Do what you need to do. I’m going to report back to the Century while you… handle it.”

“It should not take long,” Khar said with a wicked grin.

“Just nothing that won’t hold up in a tribunal later, please…” Abby requested before turning around and making her way through the camp toward the shuttle. By the time she’d reached it, the security officers had just finished loading the last container and had taken up positions around the thugs they had collected. The woman passed by all of them and sank down into the co-pilot chair, bringing up the communications protocols.

“Peters to Century,” the Commander said, waiting for a response.

A few moments later, the voice of the ship’s Captain called out, “Go ahead, Commander.”

“We’ve found the missing transports, they’ve been scuttled. The responsible party has been captured but it appears they are working for someone else. They’ve made contact with whomever it is they stole the cargo for, supposedly they are due to arrive here in about three hours, after which it sounded like their plan was to collapse the tunnel in the hopes of obliterating any trace of them having been here. Lieutenant Khar is attempting to extract more information from who we believe to be the leader of this group to find out more,” Abby relayed to her commander.

“I see…” the Gorn’s voice trailed off for a moment before he continued, “I want your team off that planet in no more than an hour. If the Lieutenant cannot gain any useful intelligence by then, it will not be worth the risk of your team being discovered and attacked.”

“Understood, Captain…” Abby was about to terminate the transmission when she caught sight of the Klingon boarding the transport with a very sour look on his face.

“Standby, Century,” Peters said, suspending the transmission before returning her attention to the Lieutenant, “What’s wrong?”

“It would appear that rather than give up any information, the man ingested some manner of toxin from a device implanted in his mouth. He chose a coward’s death over revealing what he knew,” Khar explained.

Abby turned around and reestablished communication with the ship, “Captain, it looks like their leader had some manner of suicide implant, he used it before we could get anything from him. It’s likely that all of these men have something similar, we’ll need to have Medical check them out prior to waking them up to prevent this from happening again.”

“Understood, return to the ship, Commander,” the Captain ordered.

“On our way.”