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Cassie Granger

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About Cassie Granger

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    Living on the edge

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  1. Conyer Training Base April 1, 2281 0230 hours Spring came late on the Alaveris Plateau, the fickle change of seasons bringing severe unpredictable storms off Kane Mountain. Born on the polar ice caps, they swept across the promontory’s massive glacier, then barrelled down its slopes to slam across the savanna, digging its fingers into the powdery topsoil, uprooting dead shrubs, and swirling into towering dust devils that mounted a full-on assault against the invaders. Soon sleet and freezing rain joined the fray as the invading team crept cautiously toward a limestone overhang some distance away. Rising barely two meters above the rocky ground, clumps of grass, dirt, and shrubs had been packed into the sole windbreak by a merciless wind, but Kilo team hoped it would give enough shelter to plan their next move. "Red just took Bravo," said a female voice over the com as the group pressed against the leeward side, slipping into position to cover their perimeter. The speaker, a tall blonde stretched long and unimpressive in the flattened scrub, pulled up her night-vision Leupold to scour the area. “O’Neill, get me a take on Blue nearby,” she said, lowering the scope to pull the area grid up on her slate. "Red's Charlie post is ten clicks due north,” she mused, scanning the slate for possible objectives, “ too far, well defended, and not enough time. Blue Sierra’s compromised. The only Blue left is Lima. Okay, ladies,” she looked up, “we have five hours left. I need a decision. Moa?" To the untrained eye, the massive bulk of a Maori warrior pressed in on right flank was another mogul in the landscape. His voice on the com was deep and deceptively calm and smooth. "Sierra can't hold out much longer,” he replied pensively. “Delta's already Red. We only have one left and the condition it’s in, one team’s not going to make much difference." A snort cut into the conversation. "Spit it out before it rots your guts, Danny," the leader sighed as she rolled to a hunch and shifted slate schematics to look at it from another angle. "Yeah we got one left,” said the kid, “and they got a few more. But….” The pause had cautionary overtones. “But what?” she pressed. “The snake. It's damn close... and way too juicy to ignore. I say we cut off the head and hang it out to dry. Poor bastards won't expect it, and they won't know what hit 'em.” The team leader paused to give the lance corporal a good, long look. "You wanna take out Cobra." Not a question, it was laced with unbelief. "Well, Gunnery Sergeant, it's either use it or lose it. I got a couple hundred rounds left, and that ain’t much. Rats are short. Time’s running out.” An agitated breath blew into the com. GySgt Granger sighed skeptically into hers. "Right. Anyone else want to chance a career cluster frag by takin’ out Big Mac?" "Kid's got a point," drawled O’Neill, firmly entrenched on left flank, the crunch of an energy bar punctuating his comment. “Hell, my career's about over anyway, and it’s about time someone took Mac down a notch." "And a kick in the ass from a Marine team would take him down more than a notch, Jack,” she snapped. “He could - and probably will - hang us all out to dry, then thumb his nose at the admiral, and then the admiral gets a piece of us.” Granger flipped up her visor and drew her keffiyeh tight against the swirling sleet and dust, her lungs straining for one breath of unrecycled air. A few forced inhales and she pinched the bridge of her nose to stem a growing headache from hunger and fatigue. “Hector? Tasha?" she polled the two remaining team members. "With you," came from both. Taking out the opposition’s command base of operations was considered taboo, though no one ever figured out why. It didn’t go against the established rules of engagement, it was just taboo, like a gentleman’s agreement. But there had to be a first time, and it was their best option. After another look at the area grid, Granger secured her slate, tucked in the scarf, and flipped down her visor to engage the night-vision for one more complete scan. "A'ight," she sighed. “O’Neill, check in with Hammer Base. Give our present position, but damn, Jack… do not tell ‘em where we’re goin.” By this time her breath had formed ice around her helmet vent, a sign of plummeting temperatures that signaled an approaching dawn. “Danny, get us a clear shot. We have…” she tapped her helmet to check the time, “...2 hours 17 minutes before first light. Let's get out of this fish bowl and show 'em what we're made of." Three hours later, a half-frozen, mud-encrusted scruffy team of Marines, bodies reeking from over a week of war games, picked their way through Red Team’s Cobra Base, ignoring derogatory looks and comments from personnel marked killed and wounded, while their breakfast froze in the early morning chill. After a thorough sweep, the base commander capitulated and GySgt Cassidy Granger, flanked by LCpl Danny Souter and GySgt Gleason Momoa, strode into Red Team’s Command and Control Center. General MacIntyre, Federation Army and Joint Special Operations Command Division commander, met them just inside the command shelter. Arms crossed, standing proud, his toned six foot five inch frame was more imposing than usual in his well-worn Combat Utility Uniform. Beside him, Colonel Sanderson mirrored the general's stoic but piercing expression. Observers and a security detail stood ready but kept their distance. MacIntyre was a universal legend. One of the most respected senior officers in the Federation Armed Forces, he was a true leader who stood behind his troops one hundred percent. He was Army Proud, but able to work with anyone in any branch. He got to know his troops personally, always stayed on the field with them, and had often gone outside the wire himself to rescue a downed soldier. There wasn’t a man or woman who wouldn’t take a hit for him. He was a master tactician, and by all rights the Marine team should not have been able to outmaneuver him. Putting the legend aside, Cass removed her helmet and tucked it firmly beneath her left arm, came to attention, snapped a salute, then spoke with crisp authority. “General MacIntyre, sir! In the name of Blue Team, and by the rules of Operation Ready Man, I declare you and your forces prisoners of war and require your capitulation, sir!” After a long pause, the general stepped into her personal space, towering over her. "Gutsy move, Gunnery Sergeant, attacking Red’s base of operations," he commented dryly, his chin jutting out in judgment as his eyes raked her up and down. "Gutsy opposition, Sir,” she replied, standing her ground. “No other choice." The General regarded the three for a long moment, lips pursed, but his expression slowly softened as he chewed on his thoughts before responding. "Red Force capitulates to Blue Force, Gunnery Sergeant,” he stated flatly. “Transport’s standing by. Get aboard, get your sorry asses outta here, and for god’s sake, take a shower." Boon Medical Center Starbase 179 July 18, 2297 24 hours post docking Staring at the ceiling just didn’t cut it. Every ceiling in every sick bay, med bay, hospital, you name it, looked the same no matter where you were. They needed some swirls or designs or pictures up there. Yeah, pictures. Ship-to-ship combat, atmo dog-fights, teams in training, tactical equipment…. Granger was going stir-crazy. Having a lot of time to think, she had begun to remember past operations, especially Operation Ready Man, the annual Army-Navy maneuvers on Conyer, when she was in the field with a team. Putting a Marine anywhere but in the fight was like chaining a Malinois and giving it the take-down command. She was straining at the bit, pulling at the chain…. Revere!* First class non-lethal force on point.... “Hey, Marine.” The last voice she expected to hear jerked her out of her thoughts. “Major Ishiiu!” She sat up as best she could. Surprise was an understatement; Ishiiu was assigned to battalion, not anywhere close to Starbase 179. She wanted to ask what he was doing there or if there was something she should know about, but at this point she was just glad to see him. “Striker.” He pulled up a chair. “I was passing by and heard you had a disagreement with a chair, so I brought you the latest Leatherneck to keep you busy.” Leatherneck was the premiere magazine of the Marine Corps, and this edition had a glossy cover illustration highlighting the latest combat gear for ship-to-ship incursions, and the main article explored close quarters tactics with civilians in the line of fire. Granger’s eyes lit up. “So you were just passing by,” she said a little skeptically. “Well, in a manner of speaking. I would have passed by if I kept going.” “Right,” she replied, grinning. “And the chair was a lose-lose situation. I took it out; it took my ribs out and messed up my insides. You come to bail me outta here, sir?” “Me against medical?” He scoffed. “Talk about a lose-lose situation. But my guess? A couple days and they’ll kick you out the door just to get rid of your sorry ass." His signature grin lit up his face, triggering one from her as she held up the Leatherneck. “Thanks for the magazine, Major. Appreciate it.” She put it aside and gave him a skeptical look. “So, 179 is pretty far from battalion, it’s not on the way to anywhere important, and you seem to have come here to see me. Something coming down the Intel wire that can’t come over the line?” “Colonel Branson thought I needed a trip,” he replied casually, pausing like there was more coming, so she waited. “He’s putting together a SOG* for JSOC* and wants you aboard.” After a minute she said, “Analyst?” “FORECON.” She smiled. “Revere?” “You got it.” The smile broadened. “What’s the mission?” “Well, we’re going to climb aboard this thing, go there, get this thing, take it there, come back.” She dropped her gaze to think, then ticked her head to look at him. “I get a choice?” He nodded. “A request, not an order. If you’re in, your fully vested; if you’re not in, that’s it.” “How long do I get to decide?” “Well, assuming you said yes, we were due at Division today. Your disagreement with that chair in Flight OPS put that back a bit, but General Mac says to take your time.” She blinked. “General MacIntyre... wants me?” “Hell, Cass. Where do you think I got that hard copy of Leatherneck? They’re pretty hard to come by and he wanted to get your attention.” Her eyes dropped to the magazine in her lap, then she gave a teasing grin, “And here I thought you brought it out of the kindness of your heart.” “Well, I would have,” he said, feigning embarrassment, “but command has a monopoly on those; you know that. Does it count if it was my idea?” “Only if you didn’t read it on the way out.” “Well… I couldn’t just let it sit there all on its own, unattended, now could I?” Enjoying every minute of this, Granger flipped through the pages. “So… let me see. Desk or field… desk or field. Hard choice, Sir.” She shook her head, milking it, then replied, “I’m in.” “Okay. The official orders will say you’re transferred back to battalion. Heal up. I’ll be waiting.” Ishiiu stood to leave, then turned to point at her lap. “And guard that magazine with your life. I have not read it yet.” _______________ * The “pursue and detain” command for a Military Working Dog (MWD), usually a Belgian Malinois. * SOG - Special Operations Group * JSOC - Joint Special Operations Command, with personnel from all branches of the service
  2. U.S.S. Challenger NCC-2457 2287.07.17 Tyrellian System None of it made sense. Who would bother to attack a remote, mostly useless outpost manned by Starfleet castoffs and located on the moon of an unimportant planet on the edge of Federation space? And why? Tyrellia: as backwater and useless as you can get without being a rogue asteroid racing aimlessly through the galaxy. With no atmosphere, no magnetic pole, and a passive, nondescript population, it had nothing going for it except its position as a semi-aligned Federation planet located fairly close to the intersection of Federation, Romulan, and Klingon territory. The outpost: a cluster of Federation surplus prefabs located on a small, uninhabited moon a few light years from Tyrellia, and manned by a dozen Federation officers who ticked off their COs enough to get a posting far, far away. Like Roman soldiers who were sent to guard the frontier, or Soviet troops sent to watch over Siberia, it was a definite career ender, ranking just a tad below execution, but lingering and painful. Like Tyrellia, the moon had no atmosphere, so the poor schmucks lived under a dome that had basic life support systems. It was enough to keep ‘em alive, but not much more, with living conditions that rivaled conditions in the sandbox during the War on Terror: sheet metal covered hooches protected by Hesco barriers plastered against a remote, desolate mountainside so far from civilization that they often forgot there was a civilization. The upside to the Federation outpost was running water and real latrines, something the sandbox didn’t have. Granger pulled her slate to check for preliminary reports. Nervous? Not really. It was a gut-reaction concern she had every time the pieces didn’t fit, and so far they didn’t even have all the pieces. Someone or something had killed the Federation officers who manned a small-time listening station. What little evidence they left smacked of disinformation. Still, recognizing disinformation could lead in the direction of the truth. But, as all analysts know, no one ever knows the truth. Not even the perpetrator.
  3. Operation Metal Jacket SFMC Force Recon Headquarters Camp Pendleton, California, Earth Granger’s stylus tapped a rhythm in the air, then shifted to flip smoothly between her fingers, one to the other, as her hand hovered over the slate in her lap. It was an old habit from Academy days that helped her think. And when the chair rocked to the same rhythm, it was even better. Too bad this one didn’t. Barracks at Pendleton had basic furniture, but it was better than most and nothing to complain about. Besides, she could be out on the backass end of nowhere, hunting targets, dodging rattlers, and preparing for quals* that would be up in the next few months. Cass had been designing and reworking schematics for a project ever since their last trip to earth, and now it was crunch time. Morrison was secure on base, AAR* had been filed, requisitions had been approved, SOCOM* had given her the go-ahead, and equipment was on the move. Now all she needed was…. “Busy?” Cass looked up to Moa’s lean bulk that completely filled the doorway. She often wondered how a man his size could be so swift, agile, and so downright sneaky. He held one of the best recon records in the Corps; Cass figured it must have something to do with genetics. And there he stood, forearm leaning against the doorframe as he flashed that little boy lost look, obviously bored. Her grin was automatic. “Come on in. Have a seat.” The stylus stilled enough to point to an easy chair and the refrigeration unit behind her. “Grab a cold one. What’s on your mind, Gunny?” He shrugged, grabbing a long-neck. “Not much. Trying to figure out what I do from here.” “Go home, visit the fam, check out the available females maybe?” She said, still paging through the slate, shifting this here and that there. “Nah,” he replied, testing the brew before dropping easily into the chair. “Last time I went home, my mother paraded an endless line of clueless ‘availables’ in front of me, waiting for me to choose,” he sighed. “I’m thinking more along the lines of doing something to remind my body that there’s life beyond artificial gravity, ship’s mess, and recycled air. Like a...” he took a long, suggestive look in the direction of her slate, “wilderness trek, maybe. Any idea where I might go?” The stylus stopped. Cass lowered the slate to meet his gaze. “You particular about which wilderness, Gunny? Mind the cold?” She knew he didn't. He gave a snort, then pointed the neck of the bottle at the slate. “Is it dangerous enough?” “Could be.” Pushing back into the armchair, he sipped a while, pretending to consider. “What’d you have in mind, Cap?” Cass uncrossed her legs and tapped the slate to bring the team lounge wall-mounted display to life. It displayed the schematics for what looked like a SOG* base. Coordinates for its location ran across the bottom of the screen. “Yep, that’s cold,” he said, reaching into the R-unit for another Schöfferhofer. “What’s the deal?” “Personal protection high-level security for a blue* HVT* and replacement for personal property destroyed during rescue. Design is pretty much set; construction to begin asap. Interested?” “Absolutely,” he replied, dangling the bottle by the neck. “Do I know the HVT?” “No.” “Will I?” “No.” “Fair enough.” He grinned as he made a two-pointer into the recycler with the empty bottle. “Know anyone else who might be interested?” The Maori warrior thought a moment, then jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "Got a whole team of Retreads* driving me insane about getting some action. Unless something happens soon they’ll be dead, because if they don’t kill each other, I'll kill 'em." "So... they're not going home either?" “Something about,” he air-quoted, “people not understanding ‘em when they don't want to talk shop." "And it has nothing _at_all_ to do with Deep Six," she said skeptically. Deep Six was the team’s favorite onshore dive, buried in the back streets of San Diego. "Been there; done that, Cap. Bars and babes don't fill the void, specially for Tanya. Some jerks just don't know when to quit. One almost bought it last night." “A'ight," she sighed. "Bring ‘em in." Ten minutes later, Tanya, Gonzales, Daniels, Souter, O’Neill, and Moa had settled in. Cass hitched a hip on the table next to the monitor, reviewed what she had already told Moa and began filling in the blanks. “So we’re talking SOG Base OPS, Captain?” said Moa, pointing a finger at various areas. “Main building, outbuildings, rustic exterior, high-tech interior. That about it?” “Specs will be to SOG Tier One* standards, Gunny. The basic design of the main house is not modifiable except for hidden defenses and security. The main house is replacement for destroyed personal property during a mission, as per Starfleet regs. The original structure was occupied by several generations. It has to be as authentic as possible with basic defenses concealed. Beyond basic security is the job of the outbuildings. And when it’s finished,” she tapped the membrane, “it’ll look like this.” “Ordinary cabin in the woods.” “Exactly.” “Projected timeline?” “Yesterday.” “Materials?” “Exterior is local wood for all structures. Lumber for the main house will be local cut, mostly taken from the wood lot on the property and quickfire dried. It’ll have to be hand-hewn for authenticity and aged so it looks like it’s been there a long time. Tech is SOCOM issue.” “And our mission in this?” “Two teams on overwatch, the rest assisting in tech setup or whatever the construction engineer wants you to do, standard rotations.” Moa nodded, then surveyed the group for questions. There weren't any. Yeah, they were that eager to get outta Pendleton. “Then Operation Metal Jacket is a go. We will be On Mission at 0500. Before that you are free to decline, beyond that you’re committed. Gear up heavy battle rattle. Expect hostiles, including large, hungry wildlife. Be ready for freeze and sneeze; weather’s fickle in the Canadian Rockies this time of year.” ____________________ *quals: re-certification of skills *AAR: After Action Report *SOCOM: Special Operations Command *SOG: pronounced "sog" as in "soggy" - a Special Operations Group *blue: friendly *HVT: High Value Target *Retread: slang for Recon (Reconnaissance) *Tier One: highest
  4. The only one that looks like it would maneuver well in space and in atmosphere is A, with E in second place? C is engine heavy. Not sure about the others.
  5. Extraction [see end of document for milspeak translations.] “Have a seat. Listen up.” As Major Ishiiu, commanding officer of Challenger’s Marine detachment, strode to the front of the briefing room, the main viewscreen came alive with aerial views of Bimaal, Amaal, and the armies lined up along the Bimaal-Amaal border. The team’s focus was relaxed, but intense. “Our mission is to extract Federation Ambassador Arleth and his security detail, currently believed to be held by the Bimaal,” Ishiiu began, pointing to the ambassador’s image in one corner of the screen. Engaging his laser pointer, he zoomed in the ground images and circled a thickly-settled area of Bimaal’s main city. “The ambassador’s last known location was here. His status is unknown, so be prepared to carry him out. These buildings,” his pointer flicked across them, “mask a labyrinth of tunnels. Their purpose, nature, and extent are unknown. They could be constructed, ground rock, packed dirt... or they could be drainage, so carry rebreathers for you and your extraction packages. “The latest scans, transponder frequencies, and biomarkers for the ambassador and his security detail have been uploaded to your personal data-padds. Load it into your helmet visor scanners.” More images appeared next to the ambassador’s. “His security detail,” he pointed, “Army First Lieutenant James Spechter, Delta Force, and Diplomatic Service Officer Stanley Kovaczek, both presumed to be with the ambassador but they may not be. Again, their status is unknown. “The primary objective for this mission is the location and extraction of Ambassador Arleth. If Spechter and Kovaczek are not with him, get the ambassador and leave; we’ll deal with the other two later. Challenger Actual, Captain Ja’Lale, has had audio contact with this man,” more images appeared, “Ambassador Neonew of Bimaal, and this man, President Verdugo of Amaal. “Questions so far?” After a collective “no sir", the major continued. “Okay. Communications signals and scanners are not stable. Engineering deployed top rate probes and they are working, but we will not trust a transport beam. Your Multi Use Landing Element will be a shuttle. To keep technology contamination to a minimum, the shuttle will not land. You will fast-rope to the surface, the shuttle will ascend to a safe altitude and will remain airborne over your location to give you eyes in the sky. “This Op is Prime Directive sensitive. You will use projectile weapons only. Anything that you have that is pre-2075 and appropriate for CQB* can be used, so dig into your toy chest. If you don’t have a personal favorite, the armory has CD M25s, Browning semi P40s, CD M18 PDFs six by thirty, M68A5s, and flash-bangs in stock*. Of course, projectile weapons mean full ballistic body armor, so load it up. Beyond that, leave it behind. Sterilize your kit. Remove anything that smacks of Fed tech, and that includes video games," Ishiiu eyed the team’s youngest member, "got it?" "Yes, Major.” Danny Souter muttered a good-natured “damn” and took a shoulder-punch from O’Neill. “Good. The Air Support Officer has been Captain Granger in Flight Ops. That designation will shift to First Lieutenant Rogers on the extraction shuttle, who will call Shadow 1 for close air support if needed. “Set your comm channels to voice activation. Channel one is team secure frequency, channel two is ASO Rogers, channel three is Granger, and channel four is Challenger Actual for extreme emergency.” "Hector, you're on com. Report every thirty. Miss two windows and ASO will alert the QRF that will be in a shuttle, low orbit. Miss three windows and QRF will be on the ground. You are Eagle one, ASO is Eagle two, Granger is Eagle Base." Gonzales nodded. “Okay. Moa. You, Tanya, and O’Neill will locate and extract the ambassador and his detail. Tanya, load up your medical kit.” She nodded. “Souter, you are designated shooter. Daniels you are secondary; cover their six. Questions?” “Rules of engagement, Major?” Team leader Gunnery Sergeant Gleason “Moa” Momoa’s deep voice flowed smoothly through the room. “Defense only. Fire if fired upon or if there is evidence of clear and present danger: weapons, grenades, bombs, you know the drill. Anything else?" A scan of the team came up negative. “Very well, kit up. We're on mission in ten. Flight Ops will point you in the right direction. Good hunting." A chorus of "Oorah'" and they were out the door. Forty-five minutes later they were on descent to the ambassador’s location, approaching their boots-down point. [TBC in sim] ------------------------------ 》ASO - Air Support Officer 》CQB - Close Quarters Battle 》CD - Colt Defense 》CD M18 PDW chambered with 6 by 30 - Colt Defense M18 Personal Defense Weapon with 5.56 caliber, 30mm chambered rounds. 》Browning semi P40 - Browning semi-automatic P40, a .40 caliber magazine fed semi-automatic pistol. 》M68A5 - an antipersonnel grenade. 》flash-bang - an M15 concussion grenade, used to distract the enemy.
  6. All Quiet Kal and Cass Traffic on the command channel had dropped, CMTAC had a handle on the rest, the AT was locked on, Kal wasn’t dodging debris anymore, and Cass finally had a chance to relax. In her early days she would have been shifting uneasily, constantly checking data, asking for sitreps every five minutes - meaning she would've driven the bridge crew insane. Experience gave her a sixth sense about the crew, the ship, the data stream…. “So you gonna answer that question, Cap?” “Which one, Gunny? Quadrant’s full of questions,” Cass snorted. “You know,” he said like she should remember. Must have been a doozy of a question. “why FORECON and counterterrorism… why not just stick to FORECON, forget the mind games?” Half turning toward him, her eyes darted around the bridge as she spoke lowly, “Not the place, Kal.” Kal mimicked her action and turned back to his console, but it got her thinking. To the ordinary citizen, marine scout sniper and counterterrorism agent didn't mesh - action vs. mind games? Why merge the two? The answer? Out of necessity. In the first decades of the counterterrorism agency there was a solid line between agents and security details. In high-threat areas, specialized security details were loosely called “shooters.” They were tactical professionals, highly-trained marksmen, elite warriors skilled in high-threat action, combat casualty care, and a list of other specialized skills. On the other hand, most agents were analysts, interpreters, case agents, and case supervisors. Agents had no combat experience. They were trained on city streets in law enforcement jobs or in college. They wore suits and worked from behind a desk, occasionally meeting with an informant at a ritzy hotel (the usual) or a sleazy dive (avoided unless absolutely necessary). Drop boxes were exactly that - a mailbox, trash bin, or similar where the informant or agent literally dropped written information for the other to pick up. As technology progressed, physical drop boxes morphed into unsent draft emails, but that’s another story…. Don’t misunderstand. Agents were sharp covert personnel trained in high-level defensive maneuvers, high-speed evasive techniques, close quarters tactical skills and everything else that would defend themselves and their charges if necessary, but for the most part they were armed suits keeping a close watch on diplomats and high-level-targets. When they got into a real bind, their security detail took care of it, and if not, they brought them back in a body bag, along with whoever they were protecting. All that changed with earth’s global war on terror. Enemy tactics changed, forcing agent tactics to change. Terrorists used elite military tactics to target high and mid-level assets (especially diplomats); agent training changed to reflect that. Security details upgraded to elite high-level SPECOPS personnel with impeccable backgrounds and decades of experience. Agents modified their suits to include tactical armor and customized personal weapons. They continued close quarters protection of their assets, but they were more highly trained and closely coordinated with their military security details. Every angle, every entry and exit strategy, every possible scenario in their area of responsibility was rehearsed until it felt like they were born there. They learned the language, the culture, and especially the chief local players - good and bad - so they could achieve their objective: bringing the asset back alive. But they still had a problem. Someone in power finally realized that something had to be done with the increasingly blurry lines between agents and security details. For an agent to do the job and survive, they had to be more than a smart suit with a gun. They had to be combat trained and combat experienced, which is why Cass was 1/1 FORECON first, counterterrorism agent second…. “Got tone, Cap,” said Kal, leaning forward to change orbital altitude. “Someone else doesn’t like dodging Praxis.” “I’m on it. Sky’s getting crowded, looks like a tactical force?” She glanced at the tactical officer to her right. “Routine Klingon patrol returning, Captain Granger. They’re just passing through.”
  7. “Deep 36” Starbase 36 wasn't exactly the best place to recuperate. It was big and it was busy, with almost too much to do, but at least it was a break. So after assigning herself two days' rest Cass ventured out. Avoiding the places that attracted brass, she wandered toward Squid Alley where she was pretty sure she'd find the teams. Hopefully they'd still be above ground and not too far under the table. Bars, bistros, cheap dives, and a few places Cass knew to be pleasure traps lined the thoroughfare, but at one end, far enough away from the lesser establishments, sat Wahlburgers, "a shining light in the firmament of hamburger heaven" her mom had said when that family opened one on Bertaria. Cass knew that, no matter where she was, she could count on Wahlburgers to make the grade. A shout of, "Cass!" greeted her while the door was only half open. Within seconds a pair of massive tattooed arms had her in a bear hug and pulled her through, then released her just as fast. "It's been how long?" "Hey, Matt," she grinned after catching her breath. "Only a few months by my clock." "Too long then," he insisted, leading her to a table. "The usual?" She nodded. "Forget the foam. I'm on the wagon." Feigning disappoint, Matt frowned, but passed her order on anyway. In keeping with a long line of Wahlburgs, Matt had inherited the family business. By the early 23rd century they had a few restaurants off - planet. By the time Challenger docked at SB 36 Matt and Co had one at most major ports of call and raked in profits, most of them from Starfleet on liberty. They'd succeeded in maintaining their quality, thanks to Matt who'd proven he could pop up at any time, anywhere. And he was one of the best agents Cass had come across. "So last time I saw you was… Bertaria, right?" he said, slipping in next to her. “Right. With my mom, soon as it opened.” A good-natured accusatory finger pointed in his direction. “And no guff about ‘on the house’ this time, okay?” Hands up, he grinned. “Yer killin’ me, Cass, but... you got it.” He paused as the wait staff slipped Cass her BBQ bacon Wahl, extra fries, extra crispy onion strings. Sharing the fries was a a Matt - Cass tradition; she swiveled her plate toward him. “Delta made quite a mark last night,” he said, the pilfered fries disappearing one by one. “Or was it early this morning?” “So I heard.” She flicked a smile. “A little welcome for the new El Tee, Sylvanis.” “A tad more than a little welcome, Cass. Hope she’s still alive. You got a good pilot there. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to her.” “Same here,” Cass nodded between bites. “She’s one of the Fleet’s best, and don’t worry - she can handle herself, not just in the bird. And she’s not ‘mine.’ Squad Leader for Shadow.” Another pause for the waiter to refill her glass and fries. Matt ordered his own. Several stories later, Cass pushed the plate to the side and relaxed with the satisfied look Matt always waited for. By then most of the tables had emptied, and when only a few stragglers were left, their conversation took a more serious turn. “What you got?” Cass began, speaking of Coridan. “It’s peaceful.” Matt’s clasped hands spread casually. “We have eyes on. No one’s following. Looks good from our perspective.” “Principal player?” “War Lord called Obsiah. Not sure of the exact meaning or where he came from, but he’s pretty badass. Probably why it’s so quiet at the moment.” She nodded. “Teams?” Matt’s tilted head and apologetic sigh said it all. “Right. No problem. So long as you have ‘em down there and he’s tracked.” “He’s… not exactly hard to follow, Cass. It’s got me worried. Sticks out like a sore thumb.” “Bad enough to look like a tourist?” He sucked in a breath to think, then relaxed. “Yeah. Could be. Except there aren’t many tourists that go there.” “But there are some, right?” “Ummm… a few.” He looked skeptical. “Lot of ruins. Some interesting artifacts to be had, but nothing valuable. Maybe…” his hand waggled… “a good resort or two. That’s it.” Cass checked the chrono, then placed her napkin and credit slip on the table. “Sorry I don’t have more.” “Enough for my purposes, Matt. Just do me a favor and keep eyes on?” “You got it.”
  8. <<Jumped the gun. This log takes place after the game on the 19th.>> “Bite Me” He was big. He was bad. And he was a monkey. Kind of. Now, it’s generally accepted that monkeys have tails and apes don’t, and that’s true - for the most part. But judging from the characteristics on this guy, he could have been a little bit of both. Both monkeys and apes are primates, both are mammals, and both are found in jungle areas (other places as well, but this recon was in a jungle). But apes are omnivores while monkeys are mostly veggie-vores (herbivores to you picky scientists). Apes’ arms are longer than their legs and they walk upright; monkeys are the same length or shorter and they walk on all fours. One lives longer than the other, but that’s not exactly something you take into account when you’re in the line of fire and trying to ID the thing that’s coming at you. Apes are more active on the ground; monkeys are more active in whatever passes for trees on your planet. Apes make tools; monkeys don’t. This guy? His arms were about the same length of a human’s. It was just as agile in the trees as on the ground, and he seemed to be more interested in the weapons than the Marines. Cass ran the stats through what was left of her brain (after anesthesia, antibiotics, antivirals, steroids, and whatever else medical decided to slip into her body) to prep for her debrief that would happen in… oh… she figured about 30. Baboon. That’s what he reminded her of. Except for the short arms and the nub of a tail and the lack of a prominent red rump. He was big as a baboon and twice as nasty, with long, sharp incisors. Cass figured the one that vampired her neck weighed in at around 35 kilo, bare minimum. Rutting male, overpowering stench, almost like it was part of his defense. Or part of his attraction? Long exhale, mental shudder. Anyway, if the blood loss hadn’t knocked her out, the smell damn sure would’ve. Like the cesspools on Lescaria IV, but stronger and more musty. Yeah, she’d been there, and she’d been in ‘em, but definitely not on purpose. Gave the team a good laugh when she lost her footing, but then they had to live with her and the stench for the next week. Payback, ooorah! But back to the monkey. It was tall, strong, fast, and agile, swung down from the tree and was on her in seconds. No time to prepare and no way to defend. So why didn’t he finish the job? She chewed on that for a while. Initial recommendation for this planet RE colonization: post a warning beacon and forget colonization until further investigation can establish a safe zone and figure out if these guys are sentient. “Hey. Montana.” Cassie’s raw bark toward Delta’s PFC Danny Souter sounded more like a croak. “You had overwatch at my 3. Have any warning?” “Few seconds, Cap,” he replied as he ripped off the only piece of sleeve the critter left behind in prep for a broad-spectrum antibiotic hypo, “that’s it. Came up on us like…” he snapped his fingers and made a whooshing sound, then shook his head. “Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. Didn’t even show on the tracker.” “Right. Anything important for the initial report?” “No, ma’am. How you doin’ anyway?” The wadded remnant clanked a three-pointer in the recycler. “I’ll live, so don’t plan on getting out of anything just because Lt. Sylvanis has the platoon, ‘cause after she’s finished kickin’ your azz, I’ll have a go. Get it?” “Got it,” he smirked with a two-fingered salute. "Where's Gravy?" "Here, Cap." Kal's face came into view. Cass moved her head a bit too far and cringed. "Where'd they get you, Gunny?" "Didn't." "He's too sour," Souter quipped, ducking to avoid Kal's good natured swat. “Why you figure that?” “What, Cap? That I’m too sour or…” his smirk disappeared at her look, “...right. No idea. It was almost like it singled me out, but it gave me the once-over, poked my rifle, and moved on. Damnedest thing.” Cass eyed him a moment. “Male or female?” “Couldn’t tell.” Cass nodded, finished up her notes and shipped ‘em off to Captain Ja’Lale. Only then did she recline the biobed and let the anesthetic kick in with one nagging question in mind: Why didn’t he finish the job?
  9. Say what? A mission seldom goes as planned; that’s a given. No matter how well trained you are, no matter how good the team, shizzle happens - some your fault, some not. You can lose your way (often known as stupidity), you can lose your focus (known as mission creep), or you can lose your commander (known as… well, let's not go there). This mission was all of the above and more. The mission creep was more of an about-face since it’d completely changed from recon to S&R, and the loss of the commander definitely rated those words that aren't for polite company. The shuttle seat got more and more uncomfortable as MCpt Cassie Granger’s head cleared and the realization of what had just happened sank in. Visions of her AAR (After Action Report) flicked through what brain she had left, and what little bit of brain she could reason with had a monster in it that was trying to beat its way through her skull. But a little attention from Dr. Hanson and her head began to clear… putting a new spin on things. “That was a dust bowl," she repeated - just to be sure she heard what she thought she heard, "and it took the commander.” “Yes, ma’am,” said Kal, clearly in the same questioning mode. “And the shuttle’s disabled.” “Yes, ma’am.” "Damn, that’s not going to look good on the resume," Cass muttered as her sarcasm sprung a leak. "Ma'am?" “Nothing, Gunny. Take point on the perimeter. I want Lt. Sylvanis here to take a good look at these birds. Put Souter, Hect, and Daniels on three-point overwatch until we get things sorted out. Send Moa over.” As Kal moved off, Cass turned toward the remaining group. She, Lt Randall, Ens Sabin, Lt Sylvanis, and Dr. Hanson could be stranded here, so they needed to assess and plan. And they needed to do it fast. If they weren't stranded, they needed to get away before anyone else disappeared. If they were stranded, they would serve as Challenger’s boots on the ground to find out who, how, and why someone or something took Cdr Rinax. And they needed to make plans for survival. <<TBC in sim>>
  10. Situation Normal - AFU As soon as they got the word the dynamics in CMTAC* shifted from global to mission specific. A bank of monitoring personnel lined one wall under the main monitors, each tapping into several feeds, all pertaining to travel to and from one foreboding system on the edge of the Romulan Neutral Zone and the investigation of one Class M planet nestled precariously among eight gas giants and a nondescript chunk of rock. In general, the RNZ wasn't such a bad place. On the list of "most dangerous assignments" it was close to the bottom because agents In Zone (sometimes called IZzies) usually did little more than watch and listen. The listening was, frankly, boring, and the Romulans knew they were listening, so they played along and threw out as many juicy tidbits as they could. Some of the more creative agents would throw out a few of their own, and the game was on. Whoever said the Romulans didn’t have a sense of humor was way off base. But the posturing? That could get real interesting, especially when the opposition got bored and decided to play Romulan Roulette along the lines of, "let's see how close we can get to the Feddies before they freak" or "let's cloak the bird up to the line then decloak to see what they do." Yeah, that was always good for a laugh. But this trip was different. This trip wouldn’t be just anywhere IZ . Along the RNZ there were sharp lines, fuzzy lines, and downright blurry lines, and Challenger was deploying as deep into blurry category as you could get with both the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire seriously claiming the area for its rich mineral deposits. To Cass, it smacked of having a colony far enough outside the wire to be called a Forward Operating Base, or FOB. There’d be no joking there. Backpedaling a bit, the term “outside the wire” was used long ago when combatants used barbed wire to separate the good guys (us) from the bad guys (them). By the 23rd century the term was still in use, but very loosely. Outside the wire was where Challenger would be. Inside the wire was where command would be directing the operation, making decisions from data they gathered and information they’d get back from whoever was outside the wire - meaning Challenger and whoever had the guts (or misfortune) to get their boots on the ground. Challenger’s mission - and therefore the mission of the future colonists, and the mission of the future agents and their protection detail - was in a hotly contested area of space. The blurred border had already caused several skirmishes. To top it all off, the Federation didn’t seem to care about the Romulan claim. They thumbed their noses at the Romulans and wanted to plant a colony smack dab on the one Class M hunk of rock in the system that really mattered. Now, depending on who was calling the shots, Challenger’s mission could go smoothly or it could get dicey. There were good mission commanders and there were bad mission commanders. The good ones, even though they were safely away from the action, had experience outside the wire, knew and respected their subordinates’ capabilities, stayed with the program, focused on the mission, and generally kept in mind that whoever was outside the wire put their lives on the line. The bad ones… well, let’s just say they could be a problem. All too often somewhere in a head shed far, far away, a group of scrambled egg-heads* could lose sight of the real situation as they made decisions from their cushy leather chairs behind their shiny mahogany desks completely removed from the cluster frags the boots on the ground would have to deal with and possibly die in. They’d watch their nice shiny new monitors, smoke their cigars, drink their coffee with a shot of cognac and order Châteaubriand while they gave the order to go in and “get ‘er done,” all the while ignoring the fact that the boots were probably undermanned, outgunned, and short on equipment in one of the hottest areas in the sector. Yeah, Cass had seen egg-heads a few times, and unfortunately one of them was Marine Sector Commandant Jeorsey at Starbase 184. Thank the universe for Admiral Hawley, Jeorsey’s counterbalance. But despite what went on at command, the “boots” - in this case the agents who would be deployed to that future colony along with their protection detail - were very well trained. They knew that what the situation looked like from the outside and what they would actually find were probably two totally different things. They knew they were in for a ride, and they knew better than anyone what was at stake. For whatever reason, they’d signed on the mission and were determined to see it through. They improvised, pulled together what meager resources they had and they went in, all the while knowing that who lived and died would depend on training, teamwork, and fate, and most of the time they’d be on their own. Sometimes they survived, sometimes they didn’t. The good thing was that the colony wasn’t established yet. The bad thing was that Challenger was being sent in to see if the Romulans were interested in the planet’s large caches of precious minerals, ores and metals (as if they wouldn’t be). The assumption was that there would be a colony - if the Romulans didn’t seem to mind - but that assumption didn’t take into account that the Romulans might be temporarily distracted. They might not notice the colony being established, and when they did notice a colony growing up around their resources inside their territory, they would probably attack and obliterate the whole damn thing. Hell, most anyone would. But Challenger was going to go in and poke around the planet to see what might happen. Test the waters. It had all the markings of a classic SNAFU that could, unless handled delicately, draw the Federation and the RSE into all-out war. Or maybe just get us all killed - take your pick. That’s why Counterintelligence agent (CA) MCpt Cassidy Granger had formally voiced her concern during the command briefing. No, she wasn’t an alarmist, just a realist and a practical thinker. Plus, she had made a solemn promise to bring everyone home. Alive. “What’s on the line, Jackson?” Cass strode into the monitor room after a secure conference with Admiral Hawley, Director of Counterintel for Sector 8. Jackson kept his trademark elbow-leaning hunched-over position and jerked one earbud out. “Nothing. Lliu. Not in standard, not in vernacular, not in High Romulan, not even on the street in slang. And not a word on the normal official channels. Command chatter is ordinary - go here, do that, forget this.” He looked up. “They don’t seem to be interested in our presence at all.” Cass nodded. “Setkewich?” Gen was worn, but she had that classic adrenaline rush that came with being on mission. Her eyes expertly scanned several small monitors while she simultaneously listened to news feeds with the occasional commentary thrown in. She shook her head without missing a beat. “Nothing, ma’am. Their news channels are crammed with some babe shacking up with a high government official and their failed attempt to cover it up. In other words, it’s a slow news day.” “What babe?” Cass leaned a hand on the back of the lieutenant’s chair. An expert skim through the data found, “Anarhai t’Sahe.” “And the official?” “Councilman tr’Rhai’hlan.” Tr’Rhai’hlan was known for his radical views, but he wasn’t exactly known for womanizing. And Anarhai t’Sahe, literally “Dawn Emotion,” sure sounded like a cheap call girl or a code name. Cass was betting on the code name knowing the councilman never did anything cheap. He was a spender, not a miser, and he always flew first class. “Send it to the main board,” said Cass with a pat on Gen’s shoulder, “and anything else you get on their affair, especially anything about tr’Rhia’hlan. Meetings. Meeting places. Accusations and who’s trying to take him down. Anything.” At Gen’s clipped acknowledgement, Cass moved on down the line, occasionally glancing up at the main board as its configuration constantly changed while it analyzed the data stream. One name kept popping up, prominent in the center. One incident took precedence. Why? And did it mean anything or was it just flack? Unfortunately they still didn’t have any reliable ears on the street in Romulan territory, so they had to rely on pretty much anything that leaked across the border, and they could never be sure of the source, whether it had any truth, or if it was flat-out disinformation and they were playing their games. But it was all they had to go on. _____________ *CMTAC - Counterintelligence Multiple Threat Alert Center *scrambled egg-heads - a not so nice term for brass whose cover (head gear) insignia resemble scrambled eggs.
  11. Morrison -> You are giving me that look. Granger -> For good reason, Hal. Morrison -> It's dangerous as all getout. Granger -> Putting it mildly. What's your plan? Or do you have one? Morrison > Size up what I'm dealing with first. This was my father's mission. not mine. Granger -> And your father was a trained operative on a mission you know nothing about. One thing I noticed is that you and he look a lot alike. It's very possible that whoever he had a problem with will recognize you. Morrison > :: startled :: I did not think of that.. :: stirs his drink :::Puts up his hands :: Would not hurt to ask a few questions, dig discreetly :: Granger -> I don't suppose there's anything I can say that will stop you from going, is there. Morrison > No, I'll go there regardless. -Challenger Chat Log Coridan. It wasn’t exactly a place you’d take the family for an outing. In fact, it wasn’t a place you’d wish on your worst enemy. Unless you wanted to kick ‘em out of the galaxy. Cass’s last visit to Coridan had put her skills to the test. As a last minute replacement for a counterintelligence agent, she climbed a steep learning curve. Even several days’ travel to familiarize herself with the various factions and chief operators - which part of the planet belonged to whom, who could be trusted (most of the time), how to grease whose pockets to get things done, how to work the rumor mill, and all the other intricacies needed to survive in a cutthroat environment - didn’t prepare her for reality. Instability was the name of the game, and she had no idea…. And Morrison was going in blind. Cass blew out a breath as she monitored the final adjustments to the new Counterintelligence Multiple Threat Alert Center (CMTAC) on Challenger. A large table-like structure, the hub of the Altair Generation 8000 Integrated System (Altair Gen8000 IS), dominated the center of the newly constructed secure area adjacent to her office. Measuring 2.5 by 1.5 meters, the rectangular manipulative screen enabled the analyst to gather information from a vast bank of wall monitors, each one feeding from a different agency, media source, military unit, informant, or friendly resistance - all with simple hand motions. Depending on relevance Cass could sort the information, pick out the probable, the possible, and the downright BS, then send it to the main Altair brain for final analysis. It was a totally integrated system, capable of detecting a threat even before the perpetrators had finalized their plans. And Morrison was walking into a gauntlet called Coridan. One of the biggest problems on Coridan was that the only thing obviously wrong was a chasm between the haves and the have-nots. Shantytowns filled with menial laborers dominated the countryside surrounding palatial cities that were overcrowded beyond belief, fueled by the boom and bust cycle of its rich dilithium mining operation. Strict laws made sure the poor didn't interfere with the lives of those who didn't care. Otherwise, to the untrained observer one might be on earth or any other civilized planet, giving the visitor or short-time resident a false sense of security. So it wasn't the obvious, it was the undercurrent that the agency watched, the dynamic among the players who controlled those cycles, who controlled the economy, and therefore controlled the government. In the earlier days of the Federation Coridan won fame for its dilithium deposits, its shipyards and its production of high-warp vessels. Trade between Coridan and nearby Orion flourished for centuries and should have insured a rich, lucrative, stable civilization. Instead it opened the door to internal graft and external forces using any means possible to control the planet’s resources. Status and money-hungry chancellors pitted their Orion allies against their Vulcan neighbors - the Orions wanting to take over the government and the Vulcans wanting to stabilize it. By the time 2297 rolled around, they’d been through the Dominion War and had emerged… pretty much as they were before: a civilization in need of repair. More recently, Coridan’s infighting had subsided - a sign that one faction had squelched all opposition and had taken complete control. At this point it didn't matter which had control; the area had stabilized for the moment. So what had Morrison’s father been doing there? Or had he even been there at all? “She’s ready, Captain. Get ‘er up and running?” Mark Garrison, Starbase 184’s imported Altair specialist rubbed his hands together. His eyes gleamed in anticipation. Cass smiled. “Go.” The screens engaged. Cass entered the security protocols and they were live. “Got a target, Captain Granger?” “Coridan.”
  12. Constant Variables by Hok and Granger Spread it on the card table. That’s what they did in the old days, the days of the Diplomatic Security Service and a select group of three who hunkered down in the bowels of Washington D.C. surrounded by stacks of hardcopy files that had been resurrected for their sole enjoyment. Few agents had seen those files and because those few couldn’t make heads or tails of ‘em, they chose three emerging DSS agents who showed potential for analytics and formed the first counterterrorism unit. Buried in a bunker several floors below ground, they worked tirelessly for years until they got a real office, and then a staff (of sorts), and because the first three actually knew what they were doing and someone in the then-U.S. government realized what they were doing really mattered, their ranks swelled to form one of the most elite counterterrorism groups of their time. Two centuries later Cass was one with those days in the bunker - minus the choking fog of cigarette smoke and the dank, bone-chilling cold of bare concrete that earned their little slice of DSS the nickname meat locker. As she spread PADDs, papers, maps, diagrams, ship specifications, hostile movements and everything else she’d gathered on the USS Copernicus, the nebula, and the present state of Federation-Klingon relations on the conference table in the MARDET CO’s office, the table’s constricting character was eating her lunch, and thoughts of a brand spanking new Altair Generation 8000 Integrated System were hard to put aside. Unfortunately, she knew all too well how a requisition for that would go over at HQ. “You want what? For one little ship on the edge of nowhere? Get outta here!” Well, Challenger wasn’t exactly little, but she was one ship, and given the current budget cuts and the political explosion that giving a non-ship of the line that kind of high priced item wasn’t anything anyone would want to get into…. Her mind had wandered. When she came back to reality she realized she’d been staring at the wall for, oh, five minutes or so. Fresh coffee and she was back on task. Even with all those piles she didn’t have much more data than when they started. Copernicus was still lost, probably with all hands. Challenger’s sortie had found Nebula CN-423 more deadly than anyone previously realized, so… yeah, Copernicus’ crew was most likely gone. If they’d suffered anything at all like the crew of Challenger did during their stay…. Cass sighed, putting it out of her mind. They’d found pieces of a fairly new Klingon BoP probe, confirming hostile presence in the nebula, and they’d found pockets of nearly radiation-free space, or at least low enough radiation levels for humanoids to survive. They knew Copernicus’s last location and several projected courses, given their entry vector. Some pointed directly to…. “Damn,” she muttered, her head spinning as she stared at the PADD. Why didn’t she notice that before? Straightening up, she glanced at the chrono - one hour to docking at Starbase 184. But they still needed more information and she damn sure needed a better workspace. Requisition… requisition… PADDs, diagrams, and scrawled notes skittered across the table as she plowed through them looking… Chime. A PADD bounced into the air and clattered on the deck as the chime jerked her attention to the door. “Come,” she said, ducking behind the table to corral the escapee. The trimmed faced Tellarite nodded as he entered the room. “Oh, I believed no one was here Captain.” He stopped and looked at the materials strewn over the room. “Are things alright here?” Cassie’s head popped up. A puff of air blew her bangs away from her eyes as she leaned on the table, frustrated. “Looking for a requisition. Any idea where I might find one?” “In all of this,” Ensign Hok asked while spreading his arms wide. “Was it filled out or are you looking for a raw form?” “Raw,” she growled, not so much at him as at the mess. “Well, what media is it on?” He picked up some paper, not seeing it used for a while now. “Media. Right. Good question.” Cass straightened up and ran her hands through her hair, not making one bit of difference in its appearance. “Actually, I’m not sure. What media are they usually on for this ship?” “It’s a form you pull from the main computer core. If it was on paper, you’d have to transcribe it anyway.” Ensign Hok seemed a bit disturbed by the lack of organization. “Let me look.” He began to shuffle through the documents. “I could fix this mess, but I can imagine I don’t have the clearance for these documents, bridge officer or not.” Despite security he took a seat and picked up a PADD. His comment shifted her thought pattern to what she really needed: help. Her frustration began to fade. “Not much clearance needed, Ensign. There’s nothing there you don’t already know. What I do need is a pair of hands, couple extra eyes, and a brain that will help me wrap around this mess, sort it, and see if anything meshes. When we get to 184 I’ll hunt up some brass to get a new Altair Gen 8000-IS installed complete with wall monitors so we can sort it more efficiently. Think you can help ‘til then?” “Mmm,” the Tellarite motioned to Granger. He now picked up a second PADD and was looking through both at the same time. The files on both screens few by at a brisk pace. Just like listening to different signals in each ear, he could, to a limited degree, do the same with screens. After a moment he stopped looking at one PADD and handed it to her. “This?” “Good start,” she said, leaving out the how did you do that part, but her expression probably gave it away anyway. “Now we need to take what you’ve done and see if we can piece together what may have happened to Copernicus… starting with…” Cass pointed to the PADD she’d been working before. Several colored lines snaked from Copernicus’s last known location. The computer had taken into account ion storms, eddies, interference and other variables and plotted possible paths through the nebula toward a possible end point, “... this area right here.” One finger pinned the area where most projections ended. “It’s a pocket of radiation low enough to allow humanoids to survive and…” she pulled up another PADD, “.. in the middle of this one is a planetoid that shows signs of interstellar traffic.” “We need to construct a timeline, starting from when everything was normal. Maybe even further back. Communications, navigation logs, personal and Captain’s logs. You are right though, at some point we have to check the probabilities. What do we know of the Captain’s past actions? How did he react to any similar incident in his career?” He did not take his eyes off of his PADD, instead slowing down to read a particular passage. “Oh, the interstellar traffic.” Hok looked at her PADD. “Are those decaying warp signatures?” “I’d say they could be. Given the interference in that area it could be a false reading, but it’s something to keep in mind. But let’s go back to your first idea.” She looked up. “At what point would you consider everything was normal?” He blinked. “When they left starbase 184. All known communications indicated a typical departure. Orders were to explore, nothing out of the ordinary.” “And their last transmission showed nothing out of the ordinary either,” added Cass. “Routine position report - that’s it. Not much to go on.” “You will have that. I’m compiling your documents into one large one. Not sorted yet.” He smiled. “The computer can sort things better than I, or I should say faster.” “What I’m thinking. Altair Gen8000 6’ monitor table sorts, merges, analyzes - hell, I’d cook dinner if you let it. Few monitors on the wall,” she gestured with a hand, “lets command take a look, manipulate, ask questions, and make a decision.” She paused; an impish grin skewed her face. “I turn on the charm and we can get a 3D holoprojector added to the package.” A quick wink and she was back on task. “It should allow you to perform tasks without tasking the main computer core when you need. The Academy had a similar setup in one of their many rooms. Believe it or not presentation is a large part of it. Do you require configuration help? Though everyone on Challenger thinks I’m an engineer, I can do a limited amount of setup.” He liked busy work nearly as much as the constant chatter of subspace communications. “Ensign,” Cass straightened up, arms folded across her chest, head cocked, “I don’t care what you’re supposed to be. Your MOS gets you through the door, gets you a position somewhere. Far as SOP goes, they put you where they need a warm body - no disrespect to command intended here, just the way it is these days when recruiting’s down. All I care about is if you can do the job... and as far as I can see, you can. Think you’re up to it?” “Yeah, I can get it going for you. I can be a bit picky though...” He let that linger. A bit was being generous. He wagered he lost a potential friend or two to his obsession. “Not having many friends onboard gives me more free time.” Cass gave a snort. “Sometimes it’s better to not have that many friends. Frees up time for things that really matter and narrows down the possibilities when it comes to leaking information. You got free time, come on down here. I’ll get the necessary clearance and we’ll work this thing out.” “Sounds good. Speaking of friends. Have you spoken to Morrison?” The question brought her up short for a second. “Not since 184. Why do you ask?” “I was curious. A few cues. mostly from him. I think it was more than a professional cue, if I may say so. He seemed like a decent human. Not much for an argument though.” Hok continued to compile Granger’s data. Cass shrugged as she began to work beside him. “He knows his stuff. Good man.” “You should look him up when we get there. I don’t believe he left as far as I can tell.” Hok moved onto digitizing the paper notes. “You are right about friends. A few close ones are better.”
  13. The Road Less Traveled Counterterrorism is a world of gray. As soon as you open the door, as soon as you step over that threshold, there’s no turning back. Your innocence is gone and what you thought would be an interesting, exciting career becomes an inescapable lifestyle. Hyper-vigilance becomes natural, sometimes all-consuming. Your friends and family call you paranoid, obsessive compulsive, insane, hyperactive, or any number of misnomers. What’s normal to you is abnormal to them. If you’ve been there, no one has to explain. If you’ve not been there, no words can describe it. But it’s your life. You enter a city and you automatically sense and steer away from potentially dangerous areas. You look at a building and automatically plan how to take it out. Within seconds you’ve analyzed its strengths and weaknesses: security, penetrable windows, insecure or vulnerable entrances and exits, infil and exfil points. You’ve calculated the nearest escape route, the best place to mount or hold up during an attack, what weapon would be best to use and how long you’d hold out until backup - if it ever comes. Most of all you learn to blend in, to be nondescript. You read body language, pick up clues from people passing you on the street. Your eyes key in on reflective surfaces: eyeglasses, windows, marble walls and countertops, mirrors, shiny doors - anything to increase your range of vision without having to glance around, and especially without acting like a spook. It’s not only what you’ve learned from experience. It’s who you are. Bearing the name that had roots in Marine infancy, Cassidy Ross Granger had chosen counterterrorism for reasons even she didn’t understand and questioned more than once. The thrill of the hunt? Probably. The intrigue, the puzzle? That, too. But mostly it was the satisfaction of thwarting the efforts of terrorists, small time to big time, keeping them from accomplishing their tasks in the name of creed or greed. It was the satisfaction she found in keeping the generally ignorant populace safe from things that threatened them every moment of every day. So moving from helm to commanding officer of Challenger’s Marine detachment was no surprise. Captain Ja’Lale had known her capabilities well before she came aboard. She worked for a while coordinating teams, then she took helm. Was it a test? Did he want to get to know her better, observe her skill level, or was she just needed there? It really didn’t matter. What did matter was that she was now in her element, able to gather, sift, sort, arrange and decipher information, plan a strategy, and assist the commanding officers of Challenger in their decisions, all the while cautioning them that whatever decision they made could just as easily be wrong. Because the truth of counterterrorism is that no one ever knows the truth. Not even the perpetrators.
  14. Wide Scatter ______________________ In the world of counterintelligence, more often than not there are too many variables, too many angles, and always too many players with either too much or too little information. The more you work in that world you realize that no matter who you are, where you look, or how much evidence you gather, no one ever knows the complete truth. With that in mind, Cass pulled up the master screen in strategic operations and began to sort out as much as she could. To anything but the trained eye, the master screen that doubled as a table in the strategic operations room was a mass of confusion. Littered with maps, bulleted lists, databases buried beneath names of high ranking officials of the Klingon Empire (Klingon High Value Targets, aka HVTs), and scrawled notes from various agents in a number of agencies - Starfleet and civilian - it was Cassie’s normal workspace, the tool of a counterintelligence expert. Starbase 184 sat on the edge of Klingon space, only twenty minutes at minimum warp from nebula CN-423 and barely thirty-eight minutes at minimum warp from Klingon space. Admiral Portman’s presence screamed its importance, and Cptn Granger hoped to hell that the Klingons didn’t know of the admiral’s presence. Talk about a High Value Target. Cass flicked information on the starbase to the back burner. Whether the starbase was a Command and Control center, a Command Outpost, or a Forward Operating Base didn’t really matter. What mattered was the admiral’s presence and her involvement, and that ratcheted up the importance of the mission into a whole different category, from find them to way more than Search and Rescue. USS Copernicus was next to catch her eye: an Oberth class scout ship with a Vulcan CO who, according to Maj Johnson, was “by the book,” and Cass had no reason to doubt that, especially coming from the major. Few Vulcans weren’t “by the book,” so if Captain Sivok wasn’t, he was the exception, not the rule. His background was next to be put aside. For now. She would still have to dig into his connections, but for now it was just mind clutter. The ship itself was a different matter. The scout-science vessel made sense, but as close as the station was to the nebula, the “newly-discovered nebula” part didn’t. There was definitely something Admiral Portman wasn't telling them. Maybe the nature of the nebula made it hard to detect, even at its close proximity? She’d have to check with science on that one. “ Now, we don't have evidence of Klingon activity in the area during the time of Copernicus' disappearance and indeed the area hasn't been traveled in for the several months we have been scanning the area.” Cass ran a weary hand around the back of her neck, then shrugged her shoulders, giving her back a crack. She’d inherited the Granger focus, no-nonsense mission approach, and attention to detail, and a lot of things didn’t set right about the admiral’s statement. The presence of large quantities of dilithium and the absence of Klingons - or any kind of travel through the area - didn't make a lick of sense. Blowing out a breath, she crossed her arms to study the opposite wall for a few minutes. A previously-undiscovered class M planet was inside the nebula and had three orbiting satellites. The presence of a class M planet meant it could not be an emission nebula; it had to be a reflection nebula, most likely filled with ionized hydrogen, which could easily be deuterium. Deuterium was gathered in Bussard collectors and used by every Starfleet vessel in fuel replenishment. Oh, yeah, her head was spinning now. She’d have to check with science, but if they verified that information she’d have to pull on her hip-boots whenever the admiral opened her mouth again. “It is quite important we find the Copernicus. The planet in the nebula was listed as undiscovered. They were sent in to investigate the planet as well and report back results from their scans. Also, I doubt it would be good for Federation-Klingon relations if the Copernicus has strayed into Klingon space.” Why was Copernicus sent to investigate the planet? What was so important about one undiscovered class M planet when the universe was littered with them? Why would Copernicus “stray into Klingon space” if Captain Sivok was as by-the-book and capable as his storied record would have us believe? A glance at the chrono showed it was crunch time. She slipped her notes onto a padd, gathered her things, and headed to the room where she would confer with Ensign Dvokr chim and Lieutenant Reed and hopefully put something together for command.
  15. “Bad Day at the Office” Morrison & Granger Cass rolled off Challenger’s transporter platform, CUUs* frozen stiff, kit almost welded to them, her legs and arms numb, hair and face crusted in ice, and head throbbing. “You two look like you had a fun leave. Do I need to call the medics?” TR chief’s comment - and his grin - were not appreciated. “Yeah, that’d be a good idea,” she said, speech slurred and teeth chattering uncontrollably. “You okay,” she asked Morrison. “W..what? I think so. I need to warm up.” He shivered like he had never before. Even his trip a few years ago to the moon homeworld of Andor did not approach this temperature. “I may have some cuts and bruises.” He placed his hand on her shoulder. “You?” “I’m good.” Her teeth continued to chatter, “Or maybe not. Thanks,” she said, pulling the transporter chief’s offered thermal emergency blanket tight around her shoulders as she rocked to get the circulation back in her extremities. “I hope to hell the contents of that box are worth all this.” Surrounded by a nasty nest of hostiles, their only chance of escape was a jump into the mountain stream that thundered under the head in Morrison’s family cabin. But everything comes with a trade-off, and this trade-off just might be a euphoric trip into hypothermia. Pure water on earth freezes, or solidifies, at 0°C (32° F). Add a few impurities and you have a lower freezing temperature. Take that impure water with the lower freezing point and force it into a culvert rushing downhill and the freezing point is even lower... say -2°C (28°F) give or take. In simple terms,you take pure water, you add something to it, and what you’re looking at isn’t frozen but it may as well be because it’s a hell of a lot colder than 0°. Arctic waters on earth averaged about 2°C (meaning it’s probably a lot colder than that). Take a dunk in full survival gear you might survive 30 minutes. If you’re lucky. Slip into that same water with basic CUUs or recon utilities and you’re as good as flash-frozen fish food in five... ten max. Hey, it could have been worse. They could be on Delta Vega or Rura Penthe. But they weren’t, they were on earth in the Canadian Rockies in July, which should have been relatively warm - relative for the Canadian Rockies, that is. The stream they were about to jump into - the one they decided was their best hope of escaping the heavily-armed hostiles that surrounded the cabin - just might have been heated by the sun-warmed boulders? Or underground hot springs? Just... maybe? If so, the water might be relatively warm? And they just might survive long enough to get to safety? Maybe they should have taken a temperature reading? Yeah, a temperature reading would have been a good idea. The stream was underground, not exposed to surface-heated rocks, and hot springs were not exactly common in this particular area, so, yeah, it could be one hellaciously cold stream, at best a few degrees above freezing, but most likely a few degrees below. Then there was that raging freak blizzard they’d face when and if they managed to pull themselves out. It sure was beginning to look like a quick trip into hypothermia, but hesitation didn’t work in a life and death situation, and this was definitely a life and death situation, so they jumped. Fresh uniforms and a few cups of coffee later Cass and Hal sat in the crew lounge, trying to piece together what exactly had happened, what the implications were, and what, if any, the implications were for Challenger. [TBC in game.] ==================== *CUU - Combat Utility Uniform