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Emergency Detour

Posted on Tue May 10th, 2022 @ 1:52am by Lieutenant T'Ango & Gunnar Arnason
Edited on on Tue May 10th, 2022 @ 1:54am

Mission: Chapter V: The Calm Before The Storm
Location: SS Cat Dancing II

Gunnar returned to the cockpit and blew out a breath as he dropped into the co-pilot seat. "The cargo is secured. Again."

"Twelve children to three adults - and Tal and Ali worried that they were outnumbered." T'Ango shook her head with a small chuckle. But at least there was someone here with experience baby-sitting little Romulans - and with the cosmetic changes to slip in and out of the town, right now he even (mostly) looked qualified. "We're still a few hours from the border if you want to go back to playing 'force multiplier'."

He paused in removing the contacts that turned his naturally blue eyes hazel to give her a pained look.

"A little much even for you?" T'Ango flashed a grin at her t'mewt. He adored children, and he was really good with them, no matter the species, but a dozen Romulan pre-schoolers would try anyone. "I don't know what possessed them to have so many kits, so closely spaced. I just hope the neighbors are more grateful than suspicious when that house is quiet for a change."

"It won't be an issue."

An ear flipped toward him, keying on something in in the way he'd said that. "What haven't you been telling me?" she asked, praying it wasn't that the neighbors had been eliminated to prevent any such an occurrence.

Gunnar sighed. He never lied to her, but there were times when avoiding a delay, or worse, an argument with a determined felinoid prone to heroism, meant it was better to withhold the truth. For a time anyway. "Only nine of the kids are theirs. The rest are the neighbors' children, or at least the ones too young to be missed at school."

T'Ango's ears shot straight up. "Did they think we wouldn't take them?" Gods knew there were smugglers who wouldn't, or who would demand some exorbitant bribe for extra passengers, but...

"That's not why," he said, placing a hand on her arm, stopping the hand already reaching to set a course back. "I told them we had room."

Looking over into his eyes she knew he'd offered - how could she not? - he would never leave anyone behind if he could help it. That's when the significance of the age group hit her. Her ears fell. "They stayed behind to avoid suspicion, to give their little ones the best chance to escape."

"Yes." Gunnar nodded sadly. "Mari only came because she was nursing and still on maternity leave, so no one will think anything of her not being at the refinery tomorrow. Khiy and Isha's family were the ones on Kaiae's list, but the whole neighborhood is related - either cousins, or married in," he continued by way of explaining why sharing such a dangerous secret had been risked so widely. Even with hours to process it, it still hit him in the gut - so similar to the area where he'd grown up where most of the farms within a day's walk belonged to relatives in some degree. "They have a plan to get out though: cargo ships leave from the refinery every few weeks and there are other family members crewing some of them. Sneaking on will be easier without a passle of little ones, and they know the deadline now, so they know when they have to act."

T'Ango closed her eyes a moment, then nodded. In a way she was surprised this was the first they'd encountered this. Perhaps the reluctance to trust children to others had prevented it until now, or perhaps there simply hadn't been a family group closely knit enough to make such a pact among themselves. And it was a risk - the Tal'Shiar took little notice of children before a certain age, but when it was clear that a family was missing and not simply holed up because of illness, they might start to look more closely. She hoped the rest could act before then, but no matter what they would know at least some of their family would survive. "We will get their kits to safety," she said firmly.

"Yes," Gunnar agreed solemnly. Then sighed at the sound of high-pitched shrieks coming from behind the cockpit door, and pushed himself out of the chair. "Of course, whether I or other adults make it with our sanity intact is an open question..."




"Only another hour to the border," T'Ango said encouragingly, casting a grin at her somewhat frazzled partner. "Once the Tarik picks us up on the other side, there'll be big kittehs to distract the Romulan kits."

"Provided everyone doesn't freak out about 'big kittehs'," he replied, wiping a hand over his face. Kids were resilient, but they didn't always take change well and these kids had never seen non-Romulans before. "Bad enough I forgot the contacts and had to explain I was in disguise." He chuckled ruefully. "Hard to believe kids that young are already so aware of the Tal'Shiar that their immediate assumption was that I turned my eyes blue to fool them."

"Aware you'd want to fool them, but not old enough to understand it's not that easy," T'Ango remarked with an amused grin, thinking of how little kits always imagined no one would notice them stalking. "At least the adults understood and took it well."

"Eh, I suspect they suspected. My Romulan is good, my accent..." he waggled a hand, "...not so much. But even if they'd assumed I was from some backwater colony, they knew we were taking them outside the Empire. Hopefully, realizing I'm human helps relieve some of the worries there."

"Some?" she snorted a laugh. "I'll be surprised if they don't apply for asylum on earth thinking all humans are big softies who'll rush over whenever they need help with children!"

Gunnar laughed, imagining dropping them with his parents - that ought to buy at least a temporary reprieve on hints about grandchildren...

However, laughter was cut short by a flashing light on his screen. "We have a tail."

"I have a tail," she replied, swishing hers. "You ...not so much."

It was an old joke between them - if a joke could become old in just the couple years they'd been doing this - and Gunnar rolled his eyes, but gave the expected response: "Maybe mine's cloaked - like the ship that's following us."

T'Ango smiled. He'd come a long way from the alarm she'd heard the first time he'd replied like that; a reminder of how many times they'd evaded or out run a cloaked stalker. Still, they both knew this was serious, especially as more rescue activity had resulted in stepped up surveillance. "Check the border ahead."

"Already on it." Gunnar brought up the long range sensor image. "One visible warbird, but it's practically swimming in a cloud of tachyons."

"T'chak!" T'Ango swore - with just one she might approach seemingly ready to comply with an inspection and then flip on the cloak and go high speed evasive into home territory. Heck, with just one they might even risk an inspection. They'd hidden passengers well enough to pass before, though it would mean sedating all those kits (of course the real danger there might be a parent smacking Gunnar for not offering the option sooner). However, a warbird with bunch of cloaked back-up meant business and trying to blow past that kind of area covering fire was a risk she was loathe to take, especially with those kits lives in her hands.

She studied the options. "I'm going to veer a little from flight path to gage reaction, but if it's what I expect our guests may get to try for earth asylum after all."

"Neutral zone," Gunnar said, acknowledging her decision. "Let me get them strapped in."

T'Ango prepped the cloak as he stepped back out to handle 'securing the cargo'. Mila's good. I just hope she's better than whoever is running sensors and countermeasures on those warbirds...

Once he returned, T'Ango slowly adjusted course heading toward a trajectory that would take them toward Klingon space. The reaction was almost instantaneous - a disruptor shot across the bow, followed by a hail.

"What to try talking?" Gunnar asked, finger hovering over the comm.

"Nope."

T'Ango flipped on the cloak and drove the ship into an angled dive. Disruptors immediately lanced through the spot they just occupied, and then a point along the path they'd been following. Leaving out, she adjusted course back toward the Neutral Zone, but before she could engage warp, the warbird fired a wide area disrupter sweep, lighting up everything ahead of it - including them. The shields easily deflected the dispersed disruptor, but damage hadn't been the point.

Banking hard, T'Ango brought the nose around, presenting a minimal profile while protectiing the people in the back, even as Gunnar adjusted power to forward shields. It almost worked - three volley of torpedos launched the moment they'd been detected shot by them, but the last hit, rocking the ship hard!

The nav panel exploded - throwing Gunnar into the counsel. He sucked air through his teeth at the pain that shot through his hip, but waved off T'Ango's look of concern. It wasn't life threatening and that put it way down the priority list right now. "Adaptive cloaking engaged - remodulating in 6 seconds."

With a nod, she threw them into a 3D serpentine evasive as Gunnar counted down. Narrow misses blasted by, buffeting the ship. The warbird had clearly identified their cloak signature, so there was nothing they could do until it changed over. T'Ango thanked the gods it would change, but while six seconds sounded fast, in battle it could be a long time.

"...2 ...1!"

As soon as the cloak modeulated, T'Ango threw them into a hard upward spiral angling up and over top of the warbird, which continued firing on the area of their last position. She could hear the distinctive sound of the wide dispersion disruptor used agian, but this time there were well out of the field. Though not out of danger. Cutting the engines, she ramped every signal down to bare minimum and let the ship glide. Dosadi Raiders didn't have cloaking tech, but they had learned 'running silent' to avoid detection long before it was developed and she wasn't going to give that warbird so much as subspace ripple to reacquire their location.

"Three warbirds inbound," Gunnar whispered. "ETA 2 minutes."

T'Chak. With 4 they could start a grid search. One eye on proximity and one on the clock, T'Ango forced herself to a felinoid's focused calm, like a cat watching prey ready to pounce. At ETA 30 seconds, they were just far enough aft of the warbird and she kicked on thrusters, adjusting course for the Neutral Zone and then jumped to warp.




=/\= USS Vigilant =/\=

"Sir, tachyon detectors are picking something up 20 klicks from the border."

Captain Solvik turned in his chair. "Resolve the data, Mr. Faro."

"Yes, sir." After a few moments of working sensor refinements a rough out line appeared. "Looks Orion... smuggler probably, given - WHOA! It just disappeared."

An eyebrow lifted. "That is unlikely. Logically, they must have altered their cloak signature." He leaned forward, studying the display on the screen. "An unusually advanced capability for smugglers, even Orions. Bring us to 115-mark-007. Based on last known trajectory I calculate an 87.3915% chance that they will emerge there."

The Vulcan waited as the ship moved into position. "Open hailing frequencies, all channels." At a nod from his comms officer, he spoke clearly and levelly. "Unknown vessel, you have been detected in a restricted region of space. Drop your cloak and prepare to be boarded."




=/\= SS Cat Dancing II =/\=

"The Vigilant. The gods hate me," T'Ango moaned. Solvik was 1000% by the book and was probably still annoyed about the joke her Raider team had played on him during war games years ago. "Do you think he might be bluffing? Maybe we could slip by?"

"He's Vulcan. Bluffing isn't completely off the table, but Starfleet has some very sophisticated tech for detecting cloaks here," Gunnar replied, leaning back gingerly as the crossed into Federation space. "They must have gotten at least a ping, and though I'd say probably more since they're waiting right in front of us."

"Right." She sighed. He needed medical care and their nav computer needed repairs, and the kits in the cargo hold were probably ready to explode from being strapped in so long. "You want to take this?"

With a nod he lowered the cloak and tapped the comm. "Vigilant, this is the Cat Dancing II. We are carrying refugees and are in need of assistance."




=/\= USS Vigilant =/\=

T'Ango's tail swished slowly as she eyed the small room. Dosadi did not care for confinement, particularly alone, but she knew she wouldn't be here for long. The whole 'let them cool their heels' ploy would be laughable if it weren't so irritating.

When the door finally opened, a security officer entered and primly activated a PaDD as she took a seat opposite. "I'm Ensign Adun. I understand you're T'Ango, the master of the Cat Dancing II."

"You understand correctly."

She gave a short nod, marking something on the PaDD before continuing. "Very well then. We have questions regarding your activities. I suggest you answer honestly and fully. Your partner is holding nothing back," she added with a smirk.

T'Ango's fur had ruffled briefly at the suggestion she might lie, but at the follow-on 'warning', she burst out laughing.

Adun scowled. "I don't think you understand the seriousness of the charges."

"And I think you've watched too many bad police dramas," T'Ango chuckled, and leaned forward. "First, I'm sure my partner is answering questions honestly. He's the most honorable human I've ever met - which is more than I think I can say for you after trying that 'yer partner is singing like a birdie, sweetheart'," she imitated an old style Chicago accent. Then changing attitude completely, she sat up primly and gave the ensign a direct felinoid stare. "I am also honorable and would have answered questions fully and honesty if simply asked. However since you say the charges are quite serious, I invoke my right to legal representation and further invoke my right to contact my embassy for assistance."

Somewhere in a adjacent office, the JAG observing the interview facepalmed. "Get her out of there. Adun can comm the Dosadi - she deserves it after being that ham-handed."

-- Interview Room 2 --

Gunnar leaned back in his chair, looking at the ceiling and assuring himself that neither it nor the walls were closing in. He'd been stuck in interviews rooms more than few times and wasn't especially worried about the outcome here. He'd gotten walk, or more accurately, limp, the Romulans to medbay and given how some of the nurses were cooing over the littlest ones, if anyone suggested sending them back, there might be a mutiny. However, he'd never gotten entirely past a prison-born claustrophobia and dealing with it was never pleasant.

Finally, the door opened and security officer stomped into the room and tossed a PaDD down on the table. "What do think you're doing?"

Lifting his head, Gunnar regarded the man calmly. "Waiting to be released."

"You think this is funny?" Lt. Sims scowled at the prisoner, but mindful of the Dosadi's reaction decided against the 'these charges are serious' approach. "You were in the Neutral Zone! And not for the first time - do you want to start a war?”

“With whom?" Gunnar asked reasonably. "This ship is flagged on Dosad.”

Sims glared at him. "You aren't Dosadi, Lieutenant Arnason."

"It's Mr. Arnason," Gunnar corrected politely, albeit in a manner that more than one person on the other side of such a table had come to describe as 'infuriatingly polite'. "I resigned from Starfleet in '85. And you're mistaken - I may not belong to the species, but I was granted Dosadi citizenship."

"But you're still a Federation citizen too, and you were in Starfleet." The officer narrowed his eyes. "Don't think we can't recall you to service to answer charges."

Gunnar sat back and lifted his brows. "What law, specifically, am I accused of breaking?"

“How about trafficking in sentient beings? None of the Romulans on your ship have proper papers to enter Federation space.”

“People fleeing for their lives seldom have time to get their paperwork in order,” Gunnar remarked, and pursed his lips, glancing upward again as though reading something from his own memory. "Section 22.7.10a of Federation code, if I recall correctly, deals with processes to take in refugees, particularly the rights of those seeking asylum."

Sims' eye twitched. He could almost feel the JAG glaring at him through the surveillance camera.

"So can I go now?" Gunnar asked, putting on his best polite smile. "There are several tired hungry children among the refugees and the adults still have asylum applications to fill out. I think a familiar face would help, but if your crew could also lend a hand with the kids, I'm sure that would be much appreciated."




"Hopeless," the JAG sighed, sending a short message to Sims' PaDD.

The XO frowned. "You're cutting them loose?"

"Do you want to try this case?" she challenged. "Half the 'fleet would be on his side, and you know it. Worse, he knows his rights, there's an allied government involved - whose diplomatic representative hissed at Adun over holding the other one in a brig - and he was carrying a dozen cards from civilian lawyers, including that showboating Denny Crane!" She threw a hand up in frustration.

"That bad?"

"Worse. Even if we close it to press, Crane would be waving images of little Romulans 'heroically saved from firey destruction' around every news outlet. That and his image." She jabbed a finger at the monitor. "Look at him. He's telegenic - tall, fit, blue eyes, earnest smile - if he hadn't resigned, he'd practically be a recruiting poster. He's more likely to get a holovid deal for his story than get convicted, and I think we'd really prefer not to encourage imitators."

"Right." The XO sighed. "Captain won't like it, but I guess best we can do is deport them to Dosad ...where it sounds like their punishment might be getting a ballad written in their honor."




=/\= SS Cat Dancing II, a day later =/\=

"A ballad?" Gunnar pinched the bridge of his nose. It was part of her culture, but Dosadi ballads tended to be so over the top it was embarrassing. "You deserve it for sure, but me..."

"Full of honor and valor," T'Ango enthused, then dropped her tail over his arm and grinned, "and the heroic self-sacrifice of helping with a dozen little kits!"

He puffed a laugh. "Okay, maybe that part..."

 

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