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back to The Patrol Part 7
"I NOT BABYSITTER. I'M PILOT!"
"And a danged good pilot you are too." The Colonel said to Wan.
"They're kidding." Aashth said a little more reserved but with no less sarcasm.
"No they're not." The Colonel replied quietly.
"Who are they expecting to make the hit?" Kavel asked.
"Barrett." The Colonel said carefully.
"They don't think so Kavel."
"I shot him. He's dead." Aasth repeated.
"Their official view is that we spent three days blowing up a clone." Marot said with a smile.
"That was no clone. That was Barrett."
"Whatever. We've been assigned to protect the Supreme Justice until the Carvas ruling comes out and..."
"We're going to protect the Supreme Justice." Kavel moaned.
"Who in Human's Hell is the Supreme Justice?" Wan asked in a complete sentence.
"Ms. Farwanger Toll." Rontel contributed. "She's one-third human, two-thirds other races, one hundred and two years old, and very persnickety."
"Per-what?" Kavel asked not believing his ears as the black ship's holo-deck produced an image of the lady.
"It's in her official dossier. She's Per-snick-et-y."
"Star Fleet, gone to Hell." Wan said his second complete sentence for that briefing.
"From her record, it's an accurate statement. Her lodging requirements specify the exact temperature of her tea and how thick her pillow should be." Rontel said with a grin.
Kavel shook his head. "Maybe we should let Barrett do the Federation a favor."
The Colonel ignored him. "If Barrett has been hired to do the job that's enough reason for us to stop him."
"If it is Barrett. I want another crack at him." Aashth gritted his teeth.
The Colonel nodded. "We've got some stuff on him, who's hired him, what he's got. Who he's got."
"He's got a who?" Aashth perked up his ears. "He always worked alone before."
"That's why I'm not sure it's the same one. Or if it is, he was hurt, just not as dead as we thought he was."
"He demolecularized. How dead can you get?"
"He got better." The Colonel tapped the pad. "This is Par. Half Vulcan or Romulin, half God-only-knows-what. He was seen on Dave's World in a bar with a known contact for Barrett. Then he vanished. He's an expert in cloaking technology, force fields, remotely operated armed robots. Basically anything forbidden by any number of Federation treaties. He works for the highest bidder, and isn't picky about the source of his pay."
"Lovely individual. We should have him over for dinner sometime." Marot said.
The image looked as swarthy and intimidating as it was possible for a humanoid to look.
"This is his other known contact." The image of Par vanished to be replaced by an individual in Star Fleet uniform. Then the uniform changed into a Marquis outfit. Then it changed again into more a traditional underworld jumble of clothes and gear. "Fletcher Barnes. As you saw, he was a Star Fleet Lieutenant. Weapons specialist. Went Marquis. Missed being captured by this much several times. He went underground for a couple of years, then turned up on Thorin Three, Barrett had made a pick up of some hardware. Fletcher went with the hardware."
"So he works for the equipment?" Kavel asked.
"He works for the equipment. And this time, the equipment is something I'd like to get my hands on." The Colonel tapped his pad, the holograms rearranged themselves into a forest scene. "This little number was discovered several years ago. But, Star Fleet's illustrious Captain Picard reported the system disabled and the equipment dismantled. The system said they were the arsenal of freedom or some such thing. From their encounter, it may be the perfect weapon."
A device was hovering above them. They saw three individuals in Star Fleet uniforms hunkered down behind rocks firing at the thing. It dodged and bobbed and finally all three of them managed to destroy it. Aashth nodded at their tactics.
Then the scene changed. A Galaxy Class Starship was engaged in battle with a slightly larger version of the thing that had attacked the ground crew. Kavel grinned as it pummeled the ship's shields. Finally only a risky trick worked to destroy the machine.
"Evidently, the technology was salvageable and re-programmable." The Colonel said.
The hologram changed to a desert with several abandoned buildings in the background. "This is Traca II. This tape is from an automatic recorder that was on this landing pad, two months ago." He gestured to where they were standing. "Watch."
Barnes walked into their view wearing a rather bulky device on a harness. Several others followed him out, one of them was Barrett.
"Brot quent." One of them said. Barnes didn't respond, but instead worked the controls on the device.
A small free floating mechanism that looked remarkably like the device they had just seen in the other holograms materialized off to one side and lifted into the air. Barnes didn't look at it, instead, watching his controls carefully.
Somewhere in the buildings laser fire erupted aiming for the device. It was hit a couple of times, got its bearings, and attacked. Two of the buildings erupted in massive explosions. Then two small fighters of an older Marquis design flew their way from behind the third building. The fighters fired at the device, which dove toward the ground to evade the attack. The thing swung around and fired a devastating attack at the fighters. The first ship burst into flames. Then the remaining fighter flew an evasive course and returned to fire at the device, they exchanged fire, and the fighter lost. The small device was damaged, but still operating.
"Wuav peizt martog hut." One of the group said to Barnes. He nodded and the device flew their way to come to rest between them.
The Colonel paused the recording. "Remove humanoid projections. Compare the device between the Enterprise recording to present."
The two implements of destruction sat side by side.
"It is believed Barnes, or somebody, was able to bring up the information and reactivate an older model of what attacked the ENTERPRISE-D. It may not be as powerful, but as you saw, it is still more than I want to deal with."
"They are going to use this to kill one old woman?" Aashth said examining the things.
"It'd be effective, but a bit extreme."
In a few minutes the Colonel turned off the holograms and they walked through the ship to his office.
"Do we know where Barrett is going to try the hit?"
"Not really. Madam is scheduled to leave Starbase 119 the day after tomorrow. We don't know if he is going to try to hit the ship in route to Bornoss, or when she's on the planet there, or anything else. All we know is that several of the shadier sides of the Carvas Alliance want to prevent her from issuing her ruling in their case. Unless she actually reads the ruling in the Temple of Law, the case will have to be retried, which will take years."
Marot smiled, "They think they're going to loose it?"
"They've already lost it. It's just a matter of how bad."
"And you have a plan."
The Colonel nodded and smiled. "And I have a plan."
"There has already been one attempt on the ships. But Her Honor is safe."
"You are not scheduled to be here until next week." The functionary said to the forceful leader of the escort ship.
"Irrelevant. My duty is to make sure the Supreme Justice arrives and delivers her ruling. And I am going to do just that. Now clear the landing pad!"
"She was supposed to be on a Sovereign Starship, not on battleship." A new voice from the planet said.
"Like I said. We had some problems."
"You cannot beam the Justice down?"
"Her condition is very delicate." The escort leader said, then his voice became a whisper, "She is very old."
The voices from Bornoss were silent for a minute. "Very well. We are clearing pad 18 West."
"Eighteen West. Thank you. Have additional escort standing by."
Outside the landing port a sizeable crowd was gathering to see an Intrepid class ship with full battle outfitting landing at their port.
The ship touched down gently.
The first thing that happened was that what appeared to be an entire battalion of Marines materialized on, around, and under the ship, in full armor holding heavy weapons. Then the boarding ramp descended. One lone officer walked down the ramp in a dress uniform. He was carrying a heavy disrupter. He walked to the bottom of the ramp and stood there.
He looked around slowly, then walked back up the ramp.
In the spaceport control room the two officers looked at each other.
"Should we send over the escort?"
"They seem to have plenty of them." The senior officer replied looking at the troops standing around the ship.
In a minute three heavy vehicles materialized at the bottom of the ramp.
"Terrain Master urban support vehicles. Nice hardware." The senior officer said.
The three vehicles sat rumbling with power as the uniformed officer descended the ramp with a group of troops surrounding one small figure draped in a heavy cloak. As the figure walked a personal force field flickered and sparked.
"That's really her." The senior port officer said. "I am impressed."
"How can you tell?" The other one asked him.
"Who else would it be? All the troops and stuff. Star Fleet is too frugal to put on that kind of show for just anybody. Look, they're launching a fighter escort too. It's her."
Several small one man fighters lifted from the hanger deck of the ship and assumed formation over the trio of land vehicles. Then the troops dematerialized and in a moment, the battleship itself lifted into the air and hovered over the port, ready to lend heavy firepower if needed.
"Escort to control. We are ready to go."
On the bridge of the black ship the Colonel looked at his people.
"We've only got one shot at this. We've got to sell it." He said pulling on his black gloves.
"No problem." Aashth said.
Kavel smiled and nodded.
Wan grumbled about the remote vehicles being slow to respond.
"Let's do it." Marot smiled.
Rontel agreed and patted her console.
The Colonel pushed some buttons on the control panel he was operating. The lead heavy vehicle turned slowly and began its procession out of the base.
Wan brought the fighters in over it and made some moves to avoid flying into a building.
The battleship moved a little higher in the atmosphere.
"OK. Five kilometers to go." The Colonel said. "Is anything moving?"
"Nothing but the usual civilian traffic." Aashth said.
"Normal energy signatures for a hundred clicks in every direction." Kavel added. "And I'm not reading Barrett anywhere."
"It's got to happen now. If I was Barrett, I'd do it right in the middle of town, to limit our response." The Colonel seemed nervous.
"Because Star Fleet doesn't like to cause collateral damage." Aashth said.
"Of course. We're the good guys." Kavel muttered.
"Of course." The Colonel echoed.
The Convoy moved deeper into the heart of town.
"I've got a new energy reading, multiple targets." Kavel said. "Localizing source and control."
"Movement." Aashth said, "They're coming in. Two high, one low. And fast. They're already there and firing."
Everybody started talking and doing things at once.
"Vehicle shields being projected, generating return fire. The target is shielded and evading." The Colonel said.
"Support ships engaging airborne targets." Wan said. "One target hit, no damage. Firing again. Target destroyed."
Kavel shouted over everything, "That did it, I've got a lock. GO!"
Aashth snapped on a belt heavy with equipment and grinned.
Rontel nodded. The Colonel hit a couple of buttons. Aashth and Rontel dematerialized in a flash of gray energy.
"First Land Master showing damage, its stopped." The Colonel said. "Let's make it look good."
Wan frowned. "One fighter going down. Backup ship moving in, second target engaging."
Kavel shook his head, "Two more coming in. Firing."
On the surface Rontel scanned the area with an odd looking device. She nodded toward the corner of a building.
Aashth raised a huge weapon and aimed at the area. He fired.
A screaming mass of unleashed plasma energy exploded from the muzzle of the weapon. It ripped through the air and detonated against the side of the structure.
Then the corner of the building wasn't there any more.
Barnes had been in there. Now only pieces of him were. The control unit was in smoking ruin amongst the instant mess the building had become.
"Got him, did the things stop?" Rontel asked her communicator.
The confusion of voices from the other end answered her question.
In a minute Kavel came on. "I'm showing Barrett. Relaying coordinates."
"Moving to intercept." Wan said.
"Put us over there." Aashth said keying his weapon to a more powerful setting.
Rontel drew her weapon just as the haze of gray energy enveloped them.
The next thing she saw was countryside. She looked at her scanner. "This way." She turned toward the readings.
Aashth had his gun aimed at everything at once. But nothing looked like Barrett.
"There's a ship down there. High speed transport under a cloak. He's got a scattering field on it, I can't give you an exact location." Kavel said from the communicator.
Aashth looked at Rontel's scanner. "Over there." He said. She nodded. He fired.
The area lit up like its own battlefield. Barrett's shields and scattering field absorbed and dispersed the fantastic assault. Then something else fired at the area.
The black ship was coming in high overhead. Firing from the other direction.
Aashth fired again. Then the unseen target fired its own weapons at the black ship. Aashth let go one more blast of his own and called for emergency beam out.
"I'm getting engines coming on line, he's going to make a break for it." Kavel said.
"No he's not." The Colonel said. "Keep that ship down there."
"Firing phasers." Aashth said taking over his console. "Bringing up directed particle stream, full effect. Engaging."
A new beam of energy leaped from the black ship toward the ground. The shields shimmered and sparked, then collapsed.
There was a ship under the cloak. Now it was a burning hulk. What once had been a sleek high speed transport was now a twisted wreck.
"One life sign on board. It seems to be Barrett." Kavel said.
"Beam him out of there. To the holding cell."
"No go, I can't get a lock, he's reading like he's out of phase or something."
The Colonel picked up a large heavy belt like Aashth was wearing. "Energize."
They materialized inside a heavily damaged area of the ship.
Heavy smoke greeted them. The Colonel coughed twice then brought his filtration system on line. Aashth was already moving along the blasted corridor, taking a step, checking everything, taking another step.
"Baron?" A voice called out to them. Then a hologram appeared, Barrett.
"Yes Joepi." The Colonel answered, he scanned the area, then pointed further up the corridor past the image.
"Well, at least it's you."
"You going to come with us?"
"No sir, my self-destruct is activated." It paused, "Who's with you? Is that Aashth?"
Ashth didn't answer, slipping another couple of meters forward.
"Yeah. He wants to know why you ain't dead."
"I am. At least most of me was. I had a rematerialization buffer built into my ship's transporter. After your good Leftenant blasted me it scanned my residual energy and put me back together."
"That technology is notoriously unreliable." Aashth said.
"So I found out. See, there's not a lot left of what was me. I make your Andorian look like a beauty queen."
The Colonel and Aashth were at the narrow control room door, it was hanging partway open. Inside sparks and small fires lit the room in an eerie glow. The Colonel scanned it.
"What happened to Fletcher?" The Colonel asked.
"He didn't work out. We broke up our collaboration."
"Is he dead or alive?"
The hologram shrugged.
"I'm still waiting to finish what I started." Aashth said.
"No need. My last assignment is finished. At least I believe it is."
"The Justice is safe." The Colonel said.
"I destroyed her ships in transit. This little show was simply for your amusement." Barrett said. "I was supposed to be long gone, but, I don't get around as quickly as I used to."
"Madam Toll has been here for three days. We beamed her into secure quarters in the Ministry before you engaged her transports."
The control room door collapsed. Some 'thing' sat there. In a minute they recognized some humanoid features on it. Part of an arm moved. "No!" It said in Barrett's voice. The hologram vanished. "I could not have failed!"
"You did." Aashth said aiming his weapon.
"Barrett." The Colonel said.
"Baron Romack. Or are you using another title this week?"
"I guess you are going to stick around and join my last act then."
"Nope. We're locked in for emergency beam out."
What was left of Barrett's face became a mask of hatred. Its hand flinched and powerful red beams of light erupted from the machine part of him.
The shielding devices the Colonel and Aashth were wearing paid for themselves yet again. Aashth returned fire. The blast against Barrett's shields smashed him back into the control room. More flame and smoke erupted from the room.
"He's not dead." The Colonel said looking at his readout.
"We know why we couldn't get a lock on him now."
"Yeah." The Colonel peeked into the control room. Then he dove back against the wall. Two red streaks shot out of the room passing through the wall next to him.
"Mine." Aashth said charging the door firing.
The next two seconds were an eternity of angry energy and metal screaming as it shredded. Then it was dead quiet.
"I can't stop the self-destruct." Aashth said as the Colonel walked in. "Probably hard wired into him." He nodded toward the remains of Barrett lying in a heap.
"He'll stay dead this time. His synapses have already degraded. Nothing left." The Colonel scanned the mess, then he put the instrument on a command console and pushed a few buttons.
"Getting anything?" Aashth said. He looked back down the hallway nervously, "This thing can go any second."
"Relax. I've got his records from the last couple of months. I want to find out where he left Fletcher."
The ship shuddered under them. Kavel's voice came on their communicators. "Energy build up in the central core, I can't stop it from here. She's gonna go. I can't get a lock on you in the control room, you have to get clear of the scattering field."
"Everybody is in such a hurry." The Colonel said making an adjustment to his device.
"Local authorities on their way." Rontel said.
"We're cloaked." Wan said in his gruff voice.
There was a high pitched whine through the ship. "OK. I've got enough. Let's go."
The back of the ship erupted in yellow and orange. The entire ship bucked into the air, the ball of destruction spread their way uncomfortably fast.
"I knew it." Aashth said aiming at the bulkhead over them and fired several bursts into it. The metal gave way and daylight streamed in. "Bea..." He started to say as they were enveloped by the gray energy.
The screen showed the transport being swallowed by the explosion from its own engines.
"You like cutting things a little too close." Aashth looked at the Colonel frowning.
"Nah, it worked. I got him." He said smiling.
"Got who?" Kavel said.
The Colonel held up his scanner.
"You downloaded the hologram." Aashth put it together. "But how much of him was it?"
"Probably quite a bit, he used it on Traca to sell his plan with the remotes. I bet it was on Dave's World. He was pretty much trapped in his ship." He took off his belt and walked out with the device.
The others looked at each other.
"I fly. You go."
On a lower level the Colonel worked for a minute on the control console in a small room. Then he told the computer to access and run the holographic program it found there.
In a minute Barrett's image appeared.
"Where am I? Baron. What did you do to me?"
"Put you where you belonged years ago." He said picking up the scanner and shutting off the console.
"What?" The hologram looked behind the Colonel. "What are you guys looking at?"
The Colonel walked out and activated a force field. "Welcome to prison." He said looking back at the hologram.
"No wait. You can't do that to me. I know from the database that Barrett is dead and his ship self-destructed. There is no point to keeping this program running."
The Colonel nodded, he nodded to the others to go back the way they came.
"Baron Romack. Baron! You can't do this!" The Hologram advanced on the field. It flashed out of existence for a second then reappeared back in the middle of the room. "BARON!" It screamed.
They were gone.
On the planet, a very old woman was addressing a packed room in a soft voice.
"The defendants all stand guilty before this court and will bear the punishment of the People for their actions." She looked up and her clear deep eyes stared directly at one of the defendants. "And a few of you will additionally pay for an attempt on the life of this Justice."
Continued in: The Patrol Part 9
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