The Solaris Chronicles: “More Ways to Skin a Cat, Part I”
Written by Swordtail
Published July 31, 2007
“Captain’s Log, stardate 59653.4. Captain Righteous Lee is alive, apparently. Sucks to be the Celestial.”
Captain Ketrell Valen walked down the corridor, talking seemingly to himself as no-name dime a dozen crewmembers gave him odd looks as he passed.
“Fleet Admiral Spot has ordered Admiral Nelix to order us to go after the Orion Syndicate before they try something stupid. In case you didn’t hear, the Federation, Klingons, Romulans, and Cardassians just nearly got their butts kicked by a rogue faction of the Dominion.”
Ketrell walked out of a turbolift onto the bridge of the USS Solaris. His senior staff looked up, then went back to work, oblivious to his rambling Captain’s Log.
“Almost a third of the Federation fleet was destroyed. If I was a deranged cat with galactic domination on the mind, this would be the perfect time to strike... despite having lost most of my fleet as well.”
Command Nezna Ren, Ketrell’s Trill first officer, suddenly perked up.
“Oh wait, don’t tell me, we’ve been ordered to go after Chester because we’re pretty much the only ship still working,” she said with a hint of annoyance.
“I sent you all a memo, didn’t you read your email this morning?” Ketrell asked the bridge staff. Everyone gave him blank stares.
“Okay, we’ll do this the old fashioned way,” the captain said with a roll of his eyes, “Briefing in an hour. Don’t be late.”
Ketrell turned to walk out of the room when he suddenly realized that he hadn’t told the computer to stop recording his log, so it had picked up the entire conversation.
“Prophets damn it, now I’ll have to do it all over again!”
Sure enough, an hour later, Captain Ketrell was the only one present in Solaris’ briefing room, drumming his fingers against the wooden table.
“Computer, what time is it?” he asked.
“They’re fifteen minutes late,” came the synthesized reply. Practically on cue, the doors opened and the entire senior staff filed in, trying to hide grins.
“You guys just like pissing me off, don’t you?” Ketrell asked them.
“Yep,” came the quick reply from Lieutenant Tevarin, the Tiburonian Operations officer.
“A little humour never killed anyone,” Doctor Chris Samson said. The senior staff took their seats.
“First, how are the repairs coming?” Ketrell asked no one in particular.
“Weapons would be online already,” Lieutenant-Commander Richard Adair started, “if our absent minded chief engineer here hadn’t totally forgotten we need them.”
Lieutenant-Command Dalarsh stopped staring out the window and snapped back to reality.
“What? Oh!” she said, “Warp drive is coming along nicely, but weapons are another story. We grazed one of those chroniton beams. The radiation fried the torpedo guidance systems on all of our torpedoes and the phaser emitters are mostly ka-put.”
“I said I was sorry,” Lieutenant Frell muttered as she looked down at the table.
Ketrell picked up a PADD and made some notes on it, then passed it to his Andorian engineer. She looked at it and saw the words “Fix the damn weapons!” written in big bold letters.
“Alright! I’ll fix the stupid weapons! But why do we need them so badly?”
“Which brings us to our main order of business,” Ketrell said, “You all know that the Orion Syndicate, led by Chester, helped us during the battle. Well, Chester managed to get away.”
“Barely,” Adair commented, “Most of his Gorn and Breen allies were vapourized by the wormhole.”
“Well he poses a huge threat to the Federation at this point,” Ketrell continued, “Starfleet is in shambles and can’t devote the resources necessary to defend the Gorn and Breen borders.”
“If Chester were to launch a full scale attack now,” Tevarin noted, “we could be looking at another occupation in less than a week.”
“So how do we fit into this?” Ren asked.
“We’re going to take down Chester.” Ketrell replied.
“The Celestial tried to do that a year ago, and if I recall, it didn’t work out that well,” Adair said.
“The USS Celestial is full of morons,” Ketrell countered, “Besides, they simply locked Chester up in a maximum security prison. This time we’re going to put him in cryogenic stasis and lock him up in the Bank of Bolias, the most secure institution in the Federation.”
“Um, as I recall, that bank was robbed three times this week alone,” Frell pointed out.
“This is true,” Ketrell said, “but I don’t feel like arguing with Admiral Spot. I always lose.”
“How does Starfleet Command intend for us to infiltrate the Syndicate?” Samson asked.
Ketrell sort of scratched his head.
“They left that up to us, sort of,” he said, “I’ll let you know once I finish making up my plan. Dismissed.”
“You want me to do what?” Sa’lol asked, wide eyed at what her captain had just told her.
“It’s not that complicated,” Ketrell told her, “All you have to do is pretend to be a Romulan scientist who wants to see the end of the Federation. Chester will love you from the start!”
“I don’t even like cats!” the Vulcan argued, “Or Romulans! And in case you didn’t know, I’m not a Romulan!”
“Vulcans and Romulans are pretty much the same species,” Ketrell explained to her, “And you’re the only Vulcan on the ship that doesn’t suppress his or her emotions to the point of being a terrible actor.”
Sa’lol stared pacing around the room and muttering to herself.
“Mother always told me I should try harder to control my emotions, but did I listen to her? No! I didn’t!” Ketrell simply ignored her.
“You’re the best person for the job,” he said, “Commander Ren and I just spent the last three hours going over the plan. All you have to do is follow it and play along. You just basically have to get near Chester and then let us do the rest.”
“I can’t believe this!” Sa’lol said, exasperated, “Do you know what the Orion Syndicate does to traitors?”
“Nope,” Ketrell said, now reading a report on his computer.
“Well... they.... do... things.”
“Go to sickbay, the doctor is expecting you.”
“I don’t even want to know why,” Sa’lol muttered as she stormed out of the room.
“We’ve reached the Farius system, sir,” Frell said, hitting some buttons and taking Solaris out of warp before someone gave her the blatantly obvious order.
“Did you put us in that comet cluster yet?” Commander Ren asked her.
“Yes ma’am,” the Bolian replied.
Ketrell entered from the turbolift.
“We’ve reached the Farius system, captain,” Ren told him.
“Frell, did you hide us behind that comet cluster?” Ketrell asked his helmswoman. Frell simply shook her head and turned back to the helm, but Ren saw it necessary to inject a snarky remark.
“No captain, she parked us over Farius Prime and began broadcasting our entire plan to the Orion Syndicate!”
Sa’lol walked onto the bridge, looking quite annoyed.
“Ah, Lieutenant,” Ren greeted her, “Are you ready to go?”
“I’ve got a subdermal transponder implanted in the back of my neck,” Sa’lol complained, “It itches like crazy.”
“Sir,” Tevarin said, “The Tellarite freighter is within range... I think. Lots of sensor interference.”
“Wait,” Adair said, thinking, “If we’re hidden in this comet cluster, will that freighter be able to see where we parked?”
No sooner had the words left his mouth, the bridge shook from the impact of the Tellarite freighter hitting Solaris. Ketrell let out a sigh of disgust and shook his head.
“Damage report,” he said.
“Minor damage to our shields,” Tevarin replied, “but the freighter has suffered a hull breach and some damage to their engines.”
“Wow, that Tellarite has no luck with Starfleet ships,” Frell commented.
“Lieutenant, report to transporter room one,” Ketrell ordered his reluctant science officer.
“Alright, I’m going! You guys owe me, big time!”
Meanwhile, while the crew of Solaris were putting their well-thought-out plan into motion, Chester, the head of the Orion Syndicate, was down on Farius Prime, locked away in a back room somewhere, sniffing some catnip.
“Damn this is the good stuff,” he said in a purring tone of voice, “Start selling this on the black market right away! This is gonna make us rich...er!”
The two henchmen in the room bowed to him and left. Elsewhere, Sa’lol, dressed in civilian clothes, was standing outside a large building, looking back and forth between a PADD she was holding and the sign above the building’s door.
“‘Orion Vacuums Syndicated’?” she asked the universe, “This could be easier than I thought.”
She tossed the PADD into some nearby bushes and walked inside. At the reception desk, a secretary greeted her.
“Welcome to Orion Vacuums Syndicated: We really suck! How can I help you?”
“I’m here to apply for the job opening I saw in the paper,” Sa’lol replied. The secretary’s face lit up and she got out of her chair.
“Right this way,” she motioned with her hands for Sa’lol to follow her down the hallway. “We were hoping someone like you would apply!”
The Vulcan followed the overly eager Farian into a conference room and motioned for her to sit in one of the chairs. The secretary sat in the opposite chair and pulled out a notebook.
“First, what’s your name?” the secretary turned interviewer asked.
“Sa’lol,” the lieutenant blurted out without thinking. She grimaced as soon as she said it, but the other woman didn’t seem to notice. The rest of the interview went fairly well, resulting in Sa’lol being offered a job working in the Research and Development department of the company. After she left the office building, wearing a fake grin and clinging to a PADD-like thing, she continuously hit her forehead with her free hand.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid! Who gives their real name?!”
“Sa’lol?” Chester was reading the report his secretary had compiled on the Vulcan.
“Yeah, and I can’t really tell if she’s a Vulcan or a Romulan,” the secretary told the furry cat.
“Did you check our stolen Starfleet records?”
“Yes,” the secretary replied, “I found two Vulcans named ‘Sa’lol’ in the Ninth Fleet alone. It seems to be a very common name... or whatever.”
“Well no one would be stupid enough to use their real name when going undercover,” Chester stated, “Besides, her scientific expertise would be invaluable to us. Let’s just give her the benefit of the doubt for now. Did you use the standard personality probe questions?”
“She isn’t exactly fond of the Federation, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
“Excellent,” Chester purred, “See how she does in R&D for vacuum cleaners. If she’s as good as her résumé shows, we’ll move her up into the main organization.”
A nameless henchman burst in, waving his hands frantically.
“Boss!” he yelled, “We’ve got a problem!”
In Solaris’ messhall, Commander Ren walked up to the wet bar and ordered some drinks.
“Barkeep!” she yelled at the ensign running the bar at the time, “Two beers and a Saurian brandy!”
The ensign, who looked like she had been out of the academy for a grand total of five minutes, fumbled with the replicator for the two beers. Then, after handing them to her commander, she reached under the counter and pulled out a bottle of brandy and a glass. As she started to put ice in the glass, Ren rolled her eyes and grabbed the whole bottle from her. She took the three beverages over to a table where Lieutenant-Commander Adair and Doctor Samson were already sitting.
“Isn’t it a little too early to be drinking straight from the bottle?” Adair asked her, cautiously.
“It’s synthahol, it’s never too early,” Ren replied.
Out the window, comet fragments could be seen bouncing against the ship’s shields. Samson was the first to ask the question that had been nagging both him and Adair for hours.
“Any word from Sa’lol?”
“Nothing,” Ren told them, “but we could simply be keeping radio silence.”
“Are you command guys going to tell us the rest of this plan?” Adair asked.
“Not right now,” Ren replied, and then added, “To be honest we’re kind of making it up as we go along.”
Samson and Adair looked slightly stunned.
“Does Sa’lol know this?” Samson asked.
“I sure hope not,” Ren muttered to herself as she downed the last of the Saurian brandy. Suddenly, the red alert klaxons went off.”
“All hands to battlestations,” Lieutenant Tevarin’s voice said over the comm system. The three officers raced out the door with the rest of the crew, all except for the green ensign tending bar.
“Uh... where do I go?” she asked the emptying room. No one answered her. She sat down and poured herself a drink.
“I guess I just stay here... heh heh heh...”
On the bridge, Ketrell, Frell, Tevarin, and several crewmembers were already present when Ren and Adair walked out of the turbolift.
“What’s going on?” Ren asked as she and Adair took their seats.
“A Breen warship is entering the comet cluster,” Kertrell told her, “They will be within weapons range in less than a minute.”
“How did they find us?” Adair asked. Ketrell simply shrugged and shook his head.
“Don’t know. Maybe they haven’t. It could be a routine patrol.”
“Well I hope you’re right,” Adair said back to him and to the entire bridge, “because our weapons are still offline and that thing could level an entire planet if it wanted to.
Everyone looked at the odd-shaped ship approaching on the viewscreen, concerned looks crossing their faces.
“Well,” Ren started, “That plan went down the toilet pretty quick.”
To Be Continued...