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Slow Burn

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(Author's note: I've actually finished with my 32nd Story. I probably won't start writing story 33 for a while so I can go back and create 3D illustrations for my previous stories)

Starbase 375

JUDGE ADVOCATE?S LOG: Stardate 54325.4: I have finished my review of the incident that led to the loss of the Hainan.

Sara had called a meeting in the conference room to go over the report she had prepared. Ottawa was represented by Jenna and Bernie. Roslyn was in the room as the only surviving member of Hainan?s senior staff. Patrick was there as a friend, and as leader of Ottawa?s squadron. The final member at the table was Admiral Ross, who was ultimately responsible for all Starfleet affairs in Cardassian territory.

Sara began her oral report. ?After a through review of the sensor logs of the starships Ottawaand Hainan, and interviews with the surviving crew, I find no cause for wrongdoing. Hainan was destroyed in an act of terrorism by currently unknown parties. I do not see the need for anyadditional hearings. I do, however, have a few suggestions to prevent future incidents.?

?You suggest that all shipments to Cardassian territory be escorted by a vessel of Defiantclass or comparable,? Admiral Ross said. ?It appears to be a goodidea at first glance, however, at this point, our fleet is stretched thin. It will be several months before any new tactical vessels become available.?

?It sounds like we may have totake what we can get,? Patrick answered. ?Right now, it appears that the areas along the fringe of Cardassian territory are hot spots.?

?Turning to other business,?Jenna continued, ?I?m sure that the Grecon system will be a future area of concern.?

?We are sending Ellsworth to gather more data,? Admiral Ross noted.

?Ellsworth is lightly armed,? Patrick replied, ?and in order to get to Grecon, she?ll have to go through a tough region of space.?

?That?s why we are sending Ottawa to escort her and keep an eye out for trouble,? Admiral Ross stated.

?Understood,? Jenna replied. ?Hopefully, everything will go smoothly.?

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Main Bridge, USS Baldwin

Back aboard the Baldwin, Patrick had returned to the Bridge. His XO, Jaimie Petrelli, was anticipating their next mission when he arrived. ?I understand that Roslyn wants to borrow the Ingrum Compound,? she noted.

?Starfleet suggested that Bernie and Roz take extended leave,? Patrick answered. ?If they want to retreat on Aloran, I?m not going to stop them. Besides, they?re family.?

?And what about our next assignment??

?We will be surveying warp currents in and around the badlands.?

?And, I presume, stand by to render assistance to Jenna or Roslyn if they call??

?It?s a possibility,? Patrick remarked. ?While I?m thinking about it, the warbug Ottawa picked up is still being examined by intel. I may get involved in a conference with 375.?

?In other words, you may be indisposed.?

?Exactly,? Patrick stated as a turbolift arrived on the bridge. Patrick turned as Bernie and Roslyn exited. ?Hey,? Patrick said as he hugged his sister-in-law, ?we were just talking about you. It?s been too long.?

?It?s only been three months,? Roslyn replied.

?It?s still to long for me. Tiana is growing fast.?

?In that case, I?d better go and see her.?

?The little one should be with her mom, in our quarters,? Patrick answered. ?Get down there, and no snogging in the turbolift.?.

?We?ll see what we can do,? Bernie stated to Patrick before turning to Roslyn. ?You know, I don?t think I?ve met your niece.?

As Bernie and Roslyn exited thebridge, Patrick turned to his flight controller. ?I guess you know where we?re going,? he remarked. ?Laura, set course for Aloran IV, warp factor 5.?

?Understood, Aloran IV at warp 5,? Laura confirmed.

?Make it so,? Patrick instructed.

Edited by route56

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Ingrum family quarters,Baldwin

Bridget was not surprised when the doorbell rang. ?Come in, sis,? she stated nonchalantly.

?How did you know it was me?? Roslyn inquired.

?I heard you were aboard,? Bridget inquired. ?I see you brought Commander Tyler with you.?

?Hey, Bridget,? Bernie said. ?It?s been a while since you were our guests aboard Ottawa.?

?Anything new about who was responsible for stealing Abilene??

?Negative,? Bernie answered,?However, scuttlebutt is that Rich is in the know with intel. I?m sure if something new arises, you?d be his first confidant. So, how?s the little one.?

?She?s sleeping right now. She?s growing really fast. Dr. Bratney indicates that she?s a little ahead of the curve as far as development; however, given the circumstances, he?s not surprised.?

?By circumstances,? Bernie inquired, ?I assume you?re talking about her parentage.?

Roslyn reacted to her boyfriend?s inquiry with a quick jab in the shoulder. ?How rude.?

?Take it easy on him, Roz,?Bridget answered. ?Yeah, we were talking about her ?augment blood,? so to speak. Unfortunately, history does not have any records of any augments having children with non-augments.?

?In other words, Tiana is truly a frontier all her own.?

?Exactly,? Bridget answered before making one more comment. ?Oh,by the way, if she really wanted to, she could have shattered your funny bone.?

?I?ll keep that in mind,? Bernie commented.

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Astrometrics Department,Baldwin

It had been a custom for Patrick to regularly visit the astrometrics lab to check in on how the department was doing. It wasn?t that he didn?t trust his astrometrics officer ? on the contrary, he though Sarah Allison was performing admirably running the department. His regular visits to the ?war room,? as he still called it, were merely to look at the mapping equipment first-hand. Patrick always had a bit of an interest in cartography. He liked studying maps for the sake of knowledge.Even as a captain and a father, his ?hobby? has never gone away. ?Good morning, Lieutenant,? Patrick greeted Sarah cheerfully.

?Morning, Captain,? Sarah replied. ?I figured I?d keep an active pass on the local warp currents even as we take that familiar path to Aloran IV. It just so happens I?ve found something.?

?Oh,? Patrick noted. ?please continue.?

?Basically, I?ve noted that the current that we?re riding on has strengthened from 105 rels to 125.?

Patrick quickly figured in his head how much sooner the added push would allow Baldwin to reach her destination. ?In other words, we?ll be at Aloran two hours sooner.?

?Exactly,? Sara replied.

?It seems that the currents have shifted a bit. Keep at it, lieutenant.?

?Aye, sir,? Sarah answered

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Stardate 54326.03

Main Bridge, USS Ottawa

The crew of Ottawa had been waiting for several hours for the arrival of the Ellsworth.The rendezvous had been delayed several times due to reported engine trouble. It?s always hurry up and wait, Jenna noted as another delay was reported to the bridge. During thewait, Jenna turned to her friends on the bridge. ?It?s always something,? Jenna noted, ?I didn?t join Starfleet to become a military person, yet, it seems as though we keep getting into skirmishes.?

?I don?t think anyonerealized the impact that discovering the Bajoran wormhole wouldhave,? Sonya noted. ?Needless to say, the frontier can still be a little wild.?

?Speakingof wild,? Susan stated, ?you wouldn?t believe the noise I heard through the bulkheads in my quarters last night.?

?Lemme guess, from Bernie?s quarters.?

?I thought about ringing the doorbell and let them know I could hear them, but I figured to leave well enough alone.?

From there, the conversation turned to their own relationships. All of them had significant others; however, work had kept them apart. Allthree of them were dating 'civilians.' Susan was seeing a musician in one of the lounges at Starbase 375, she talked about how she met him while she was stationed there, and how the lead up to the war affected business where he worked. He stayed aboard 375 and continued to perform in order to boost morale among the Starfleet crew. Susan mentioned that he thought it important to stand behind his favorite customers when they needed it most.

Jenna had met her boyfriend while stationed aboard the Intrepid. At the time, he was the XO of a civilian freighter. For his service, he was awarded command of a transport. His vessel has been shuttling passengers and cargo between Sector 001 and Starbase 375, where the cargo is trans-loaded into Starfleet vessels and ferried to Cardassia as part post-war rebuilding. On occasion, however, he has the chanceto take diplomats and Federation Council members to Cardassia so that they can view the rebuilding process first-hand. He had acquired areputation that his crew act in a professional matter, especially with guest aboard. His ship had come highly recommended by the VIP guests who had chartered his ship.

Sonya's boyfriend served as an engineer aboard Starbase 42. He performed maintenance on private shuttle craft and small vessels. Sometimes, younger Starfleet enlistees, and occasionally a young junior officer,would ask for his input on problems they see when maintaining the ships and shuttle craft that come through the base.

As they continued chatting about their relationships, a console beep alerted them of a ship nearby. ?Ellsworth is here,? Sonyareported. ?they report green boards all around. They are ready to depart for Grecon when we are.?

?Send a message to Ellsworth acknowledging,? Jenna answered. ?Are we ready to get this show on the road??

?We could chat all day,? Susan stated, ?however, I think the rest of the bridge may be a bit tired of it.?

?In that case, set course for Grecon IV, warp 7.?

?Course laid in,? Susan answered.

?Course and speed relayed to Ellsworth,? Sonya added, ?their board shows green.?

?Engage,? ordered Jenna. On the order, the four warp nacelles of the Ottawa glowed brightly asthe warp drive was initiated. The large ship appeared to stretchrapidly as she began to move into warp, streaking through the sky. The smaller Ellsworth engaged its engines after Ottawa.Side by side, both ships warped off through space until all that could be seen were two bright flashes.

Edited by route56

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(Author's Note:I have considered that it may not be in my best interests, career wise, to have the primary character carry my name. I am working on re-naming him and will bring the next installment when said re-write is completed)

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(Finally, back from the great May 2009 re-write)

Ingrum family quarters, Baldwin

?Hey, there,? Patrick said as he entered his quarters.

?Hi,? Bridget answered as Patrick reached around her shoulders for a hug. ?How?s everything on the bridge??

?It?s all smooth sailing,? Patrick replied. ?We should be at Aloran by morning.? Before Bridget could ask another question, Patrick heard a thud against one of the bulkheads. ?What was that??

?Bernie and Roz are in the adjacent quarters,? Bridget answered. ?I?d guess that they?re making up for lost time.?

?It makes me wonder, did we ever make enough noise to bother our neighbors??

?Well, for starters,? Bridget answered, ?you and I took it slow and easy. It seems to me that Bernie?s got plenty of stamina.?

?How so?? Patrick inquired.

?Roslyn and I are five times stronger than an average human, meaning we would have no trouble wearing you out.? Her statement was no boast, and Patrick knew it ? he knew that Bridget was an augment from the moment they first met. ?He?s a special man, Patrick, and so are you.?

?I know,? Patrick replied as he locked lips with his wife in a long, passionate kiss. In his mind, he was ready to join Bernie and Roslyn and become very intimate with his wife; however, his kiss ended prematurely by the cries of a four-month-old baby girl. Tiana has long since been able to sleep and feed on a schedule conductive to her parents. This time, however, it was clear that it was time for a diaper change.

Patrick entered the baby?s room and lifted her out of her crib. ?One diaper,? he stated to the replicator. Patrick placed his princess on the changing table and subsequently reached over to the replicator terminal and grabbed the clean diaper. ?Yep, it?s definitely time for a change,? he stated as he removed the old diaper. If there?s one person I love more than Bridget, Patrick thought to himself, it is Tiana. As he started to clean his daughter?s bottom, he began to sing: ?You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray.?

After Patrick returned the soiled diaper to the replicator, Bridget made one last comment. ?I also know how much you love your daughter. Someday, we ought to start the ride towards having another one.?

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Stardate 54328.04

Main Bridge, Baldwin

The next morning, Patrick was on the bridge during the normal alpha shift. Baldwin was scheduled to arrive at Aloran within the hour. A report from Laura at the flight controller station confirmed that they were on schedule. ?Captain, we have arrived in the Aloran system,?

?Take us out of warp.?

?Aye, sir.?

Looks like it?s time to call the kids, Patrick thought to himself. ?Captain Ingrum to Commander Tyler and Roslyn: We are at Aloran.?

?Understood,? Bernie answered, ?we?ll meet you in the shuttlebay.?

?Shuttlebay,? Laura commented, ?why would you meet in the shuttlebay??

?Simple,? Patrick answered. ?They?re not beaming down, they?re taking a shuttle. I figured that they might want to have access to a runabout to go cruising around.?

?I see,? Laura replied.

In the shuttlebay, Bernie and Roslyn stood outside the doors of the Marmaton awaiting the arrival of their hosts. Patrick and Bridget promptly entered the room. ?I take it you?re ready to get out of here,? Patrick noted

?Yes, sir,? Bernie and Roslyn replied.

?Do you have everything you need?? Bridget inquired.

?How did that song go,? Roslyn said, ??All you need is Love.??

?Excellent taste,? Patrick commented as he hugged his sister-in-law. ?Take care, you two, and enjoy your time off.?

With those words, Roslyn and Bernie entered the cockpit of the Marmaton as the klaxons sounded to indicate a shuttle departure. ?Baldwin, Marmaton: we?re ready for departure.?

?Marmaton, Baldwin,? Jaimie stated in reply. ?you?re good to go. Have a safe journey.?

?Acknowledged,? Bernie concluded. ?aft thrusters to one quarter.?

As Patrick watched the runabout depart the shuttlebay, his combadge chirped to advise him of an incoming message. ?Bridge to Captain Ingrum: we?re receiving a priority call from Starfleet Intelligence ? code 47.?

?Sounds like they want me in on that conference call. Jaimie, secure the ready room. I?m on my way.? Bridget displayed a pouty face, indicating she was disappointed that he wouldn?t be able to have lunch with her. Patrick gave his wife a quick kiss before dashing out of the shuttlebay.

Captain?s Ready room, Baldwin

Upon entering the ready room, Patrick promptly sat down at his desk and engaged the computer terminal. ?Computer,? he stated to begin voice authentication, ?voice print identification: Ingrum, Patrick, captain, USS Baldwin. Authentication code: Seven-Seven-Tango-Alpha.?

?Identity confirmed,? the computer responded. ?This is an classified communiqu?. It is not to be discussed with fellow officers unless deemed absolutely necessary. There will be no computer record of this transmission.?

?Disclaimer understood,? Patrick answered, ?put it through.?

?Captain,? came the voice of the intelligence officer on Starbase 375, ?It?s good that you had time to join us.?

?Sorry it took me a few minutes. I just sent my sister-in-law off for shore leave.?

The intelligence officer began by briefing Patrick on what he had found. ?We?ve combed through the warbug here at 375. The most notable thing we have found so far is that the control software appears to be a clean-room copy of Federation systems.?

?That?s not news,? Patrick noted. ?I understand that Issac had debriefed intel on his work.?

?We?ve gathered a little more information on the organization that your brother was involved in. It appears to have the name ?Vredo,? however, we know very little about specific members. What we do know is that the group is organized similarly to terrorist cells. The individual contributers do not even know the names of their ?managers.??

?Again, not news,? Patrick answered. ?Is there anything you do have??

?We?ve found their encryption codes and have discovered their flight plans. We?re sending that information to you now.?

Patrick made a quick glance at the flight plans. ?These flight plans appear to criss-cross the badlands. Perhaps we have a smuggling chain. After all, the badlands are usually a place that commercial ships rarely trod. Also, if they determine that information has leaked to us, they?ll be likely to change their strategy.?

?Always a chess game,? the Intelligence officer noted. ?Captain, since you?re the one whose head is on the line out there in the field, do you have any suggestions??

?I?ll run these flight plans through my Astrometrics officer. Maybe we can identify a pattern in all of this. What about potential targets that could be easily reached .?

?They have been notified to keep alert for activity. All ships have Starfleet escort.?

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Aloran IV

Roslyn had always been something of a explorer. That, and escaping what the Cardassians had planned for her, led her into Starfleet. It also meant that she enjoyed exploring the area around the Ingrum compound. Her augment genes, however, made it a bit difficult for her boyfriend to catch up.

?Slow down, Roz,? Bernie stated.

?You know, if I wanted to, I could carry you and still not lose any time,? Roslyn noted.

?You do realize that I had to learn that you were an augment from Admiral Ross.?

?I?d hope to settle down on Baldwin before telling you,? Roslyn answered. ?You know, I never asked you. When you learned that I was one of Dr. Murrow?s ?children,? what was going on inside that head of yours.?

?I remembered that gleam in your eyes when we were together. I told Admiral Ross that you were the most amazing woman I ever met. We?ve went our separate ways and come back together, and I still feel the same.?

While the couple was conversing, Roslyn had stopped at the crest of a hill to allow Bernie to catch up. ?I guess I really did have you at ?hello,?? Roslyn stated.

As Bernie caught up to Roslyn, Roslyn?s eyes widened when she observed something on the other side of the hill. ?What is it?? he asked.

?We?ve got a bogey on the ground,? Roslyn answered, pointing at a wooded area within a small valley. ?You see that grey spot right there,? she noted as she pointed

?Yeah,? Bernie answered. ?That could be a hull of some sort. I?d be careful.?

?From the amount of foiliage around it,? Roslyn noted as she started down, ?it appears to have been there a while.?

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Stardate 54328.42

Astrometrics Lab, Baldwin

Patrick entered the astrometrics lab. He had spent the past three hours in his meeting with Starfleet Intelligence. ?We?ve got some new data from intel. I?ve got a green board to share some of this data in hopes we can find a pattern.?

?What have you got, sir.?

?The Vredo organization has got bandits running roughshod throughout the area,? he said. ?Computer, bring up the flight plan from the Starfleet Intelligence report of Stardate 54328.1. Authorization: Ingrum-Seven-Seven-Tango-Alpha.?

Sarah watched as groups of lines flowed across the main screen in astrometrics. ?This does seem to be a very broad coverage pattern. Computer, overlay warp current data for the section of space seen here.? The display added various shades of blue, along with yellow arrows indicating current direction. ?It appears that this organization has a good set of stller cartographers. These current charts have been compiled from our presence in the area, but they haven?t been published for civilian use.

?They did have a mole in Starfleet,? Patrick noted. ?they could have stolen our star charts.?

?No, these charts are practically unique to us,? Sarah noted. ?And I work with Sara every day to identify possible leaks. They are definitely doing a clean room study in hopes they can control this region of space.?

?In other words, trust but verify.?

?Exactly.?

?Intel identified possible targets for ambush,? Patrick continued, ?any chance you double-check and see if they missed anything. If they?re covering their sixes by charting the currents themselves, we?d had better be ready to cover ours.?

?Aye, sir.?

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Aloran IV

Roslyn had managed find the hull and determined that it was, in fact, a ship. With a little help from Bernie, she removed the brush that had grown around the ship?s hull. She had noticed the red starburst-like emblems drawn on the wings of the craft. It was a fighter that had been used by the Maquis before the Dominion War. ?Looks like she?s definitely flyable,? Roslyn noted.

?There?s apparently quite a lot I have to learn about you,? Bernie stated, ?I didn?t know you were keen with fighter craft.?

?I did quite a bit of cross-training at the academy,? Roslyn answered, ?I just never got the opportunity to fly fighters all that much. I knew a fellow cadet who thought I had a fiery temper. He made a pass at met, but I had turned him down ? it wasn?t anything personal, I just wasn?t ready to date a colleague.? As Roslyn continued the conversation, she continued to inspect the warp coils. ?The coils look okay. I don?t understand why this bird got scuttled. There?s no sign of hull damage either.?

?Nothing wrong on this side, either,? Bernie noted. ?Go on with your story.?

?Between turning him down and cleaning his clock on the flight range, he gave me the nickname ?firecracker,??

?I?d say that?s an apt call sign,? Bernie commented. ?Once you get out of your shell, you are a fiery one. You have also proven to yourself and to others that you are one of Starfleet?s best. I may have found the problem. It looks like the ODN lines over here are sliced.?

?The Maquis cell that flew this bird probably didn?t have a good pilot. The best pilots almost always use the stick. In any case, that?s an easy repair. It does look like they stripped the phaser power cells and the torpedoes ? can?t say that I blame them. So, Mr. Tyler, would you like a ride??

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USS Ottawa, in orbit of Grecon II

CAPTAIN?S LOG, Stardate 54328.7: Ottawa and Ellsworth have arrived at Grecon II without incident. So far,we remain with Ellsworth pending further instructions.

?Ellsworth is basically confirming our preliminary findings,? Sonya noted. Grecon II carries significant mineral veins.

?I have to wonder,? Jenna commented. ?Why did the Cardassians pass over this system??

?Maybe the warp currents between here and Cardassia are biased against travel between the systems,? Susan noted.

?I?m sure that we can help the Cardassians find a safe and reliable path here. Hell, I?d bet that Baldwin is already working on one as we speak.?

Unnamed Federation fighter, Aloran system

Heading through the middle of the asteroid belt in the Aloran system, Roslyn was demonstrating some of her neglected piloting maneuvers. ?I see how you earned the callsign ?firecracker,?? Bernie noted.

Roslyn simpy nodded accordingly as she gave an enthustastic ?yee-haw? as she manueavered the fighter through a turn. Since her academy days, she?s logged more time piloting starships, but she had missed the thrill of the small two-seaters. ?I feel the need,? she said, quoting an old movie line, ?the need for speed.?

Bernie noted a blip on the long range sensors. ?I?m picking up bogeys in the area. Roz, I think we?d better speed our way back to the compound. Like you noted, this fighter was stripped of its guns.?

?You?re right,? Roslyn answered. ?Setting a return course for the compound.?

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Astrometrics Lab, Baldwin

?It looks like Vredo has also run across some additional areas with strong warp currents that, for one reason or another, we have not charted. It looks like they have committed 50, maybe 60 warbugs to the cause.?

?It looks like they?re looking for ways to either run away from us, or to catch us off-guard,? Patrick commented to his science officer. ?Sarah, do you think you can come up with a hub-and-spoke coverage patter over this area, using what we know, and the currents that they appear to be using. There?s simply no way we can commit the number of ships that they have.?

?On it, Captain.?

Patrick looked over the map one more time. I wonder what I could be missing, Patrick thought. Having been part of one of the few families that settled in the Aloran system, and the only one that still claims a presence there, he felt he knew this territory better than anyone. During the war, the Dominion held the area unopposed, but did not contain any resources considered valuable by them. With little population or mineral resources, the Aloran region was never a valuable target. ?Let me know if you find anything.?

?You will definitely be the first to know.?

USS Ottawa

?Captain, came the report from Ottawa?s tactical station, ?Long-range sensors have picked up a bogey?

?How far?? Jenna inquired

?Half a light year. 30 minutes at warp 5,? the tactical officer noted, also noting the average subspace current strength between Ottawa and its target.

?Move to intercept, warp 8. I don?t want to leave Ellsworth out here longer than necessary.?

?Laying in a course, engaging at warp 8.?

During the few minutes Ottawa spent to intercept their target, they attempted to gather as much tactical and strategic data as possible. The ship was positively identified as a ?warbug,? possibly belonging to the Vredo organization. Jenna laid down her intentions. Ottawa was to disable the bug, capture her crew, notify Starfleet Command of the skirmish, and return to Grecon to protect Ellsworth.

Main Bridge, Baldwin

Back on Baldwin, the bridge received notice that Ottawa had found a warbug. Jaimie had alerted Patrick of the news. ?I think we?d better switch places with Ottawa,? Patrick noted. Having criminals near a tempting target, no matter how secure the brig was, did not sit well with Patrick. ?Set Course for Grecon, warp 9.5. Inform Ottawa of our intentions.?

?Understood,? Laura replied.

Before Patrick could give the command to engage, he was interrupted by a call from astrometrics. ?Bridge, this is Lieutenant Allison,?

?Go ahead, Sarah,? Patrick answered.

?Captain, I think you had better come down and see this.?

?This should prove to be interesting. I?m on my way.?

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Ottawa

As Ottawa caught up with the warbug, Jenna began to make her stand. ?Open hailing frequencies.?

?Hailing frequencies open,? Sonya answered.

?Unidentified vessel, this is the USS Ottawa, stand down and prepare to be boarded,? Jenna stated in an effort to allow the warbug to surrender without firing a shot. The warbug?s captain, however, refused to heed her request, and instead fired a poloron beam at Ottawa, striking her shields. ?Looks like they?ve decided to fight,? Jenna noted. ?Target engines and weapons, standard pattern.?

Ottawa scored a multitude of hits on the enemy vessel, cleared the bug, and came around for a second pass. ?Shields at 90 percent,? noted the tactical officer. ?the bandit is attempting to call for reinforcements.?

?Jam their frequencies, and bring us about.? On Ottawa?s third pass, a direct hit was scored on one of the warp nacelles, smashing the warp coils and preventing the warbug from fleeing. On the fourth pass, Ottawa engaged the tractor beam. ?Notify our MACO team that they can beam aboard.?

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Baldwin

?Based on the flight patterns of ?Vredo? warbugs, and what we know about the subspace currents in this region, I have created a hypothetical map of the region,? Sarah began. ?I found that from the DMZ, we can head to most of Federation or Cardassian space within a day. Earth, Vulcan, Betazed ? they are all within 2 days travel at warp 5.?

?Okay,? Patrick noted. ?so the frontier is closer to Civilization than we thought.?

?These currents appear to be laid out in some sort of pattern,? Sarah continued, ?sort of like a system of blood vessels, with arteries spanning out, along with nearby return veins coming back. A trip from Grecon to Cardassia could be cut in half by passing through the currents.?

?Seems pretty straightforward, but if these currents are laid out like you suggest, where?s the heart.?

?You?re gonna love this,? Sarah said as she pressed a button on her console. A three-dimensional model appeared on the screen, showing the charted and potential currents. As the potential currents fell into place, a well-defined center formed within 20 light-years of the badlands, in a system that was all-to-familiar to Baldwin?s crew.

The center of the cluster of subspace currents fell on the Aloran system. A lightly traveled system was the potential crossroads of commerce.

Patrick knew that if Aloran fell into the hands of criminals, Starfleet would lose the upper hand in fighting off these syndicates.

Aloran must be protected, at all costs.

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Stardate 54329.02

Aloran IV

Roslyn was working on installing a new power cell for the fighter?s phasers. Having seen the region as a true frontier, Patrick had strategically placed extra cells on Aloran that could be used for any purpose, and were kept charged by a combination of solar and wind power. Roslyn had also brought along an extra load of torpedoes aboard the runabout, in case of trouble. Meanwhile, Bernie helped by replacing the sliced ODN lines to bring the automated control systems back online. It had taken most of the afternoon to get the ship in order when the a warbling klaxon alerted them of possible trouble.

Bernie went to the main console to answer the proximity alarm and to check out what was going on. ?Looks like we have a ship in the vicinity.?

?Can you identify?? Roslyn asked.

?Negative, no transponder.?

?Let me take a look.? Roslyn pulled up additional sensor data on the ship. In particular, she looked at the warp signature. ?Looks like a possible bug.?

?I take it that you would be interested in checking that out for yourself, wouldn?t you, ?Firecracker,?? Bernie answered, referring to Roslyn by her old call sign for the first time.

?You bet,? Roslyn answered. ?Back me up in the runabout.? Aboard the fighter, Roslyn launched out of the atmosphere of Aloran towards the bogey. Bernie followed in the Marmaton. ?Looks like we?ve definitely got some unwelcome company,? Roslyn commented over the radio.

?Roger that, Firecracker,? Bernie answered. ?Visual identification indicates that it is ?warbug.? Readying weapons. This is Commander Bernard Tyler of Starfleet. Identify yourselves and prepare to be escorted.? The warbug predictably responded by firing a polaron beam at the Marmaton. ?Firecracker, this is Marmaton. Warbug is hostile.?

?Marmaton, Firecracker, engaging target. Lay down some cover fire for me.? Roslyn promptly moved in along the spine of the ship while Bernie took shots with the runabout?s phasers to keep the vessel distracted. Once Roslyn was in point-blank range, she laid down a barrage of phaser and torpedo fire, causing significant damage.

Once Roslyn had completed her first pass, Bernie tried to hail them again. ?Unidentified vessel, this is Commander Tyler, prepare to be esc ? ? Before Bernie could finish his sentence, the warbug exploded. ?Firecracker, Marmaton: I wasn?t aware a fighter could do that.?

?There are some weak points, but I hoping we could take them alive,? Roslyn answered. ?They may have had an auto-destruct to prevent their information from falling int the ?wrong hands.??

?In that case, I?ll credit you with a successful kill,? Bernie answered. ?Let?s get back, draft an after-action report, and maybe have a nice dinner.?

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Stardate 54329.03

Captain?s ready room, Baldwin

?Captain,? stated the voice of the Starbase 375 intelligence officer, with a slight tone of surprise in his voice. ?I take it you have found something??

?We might have something big.? Patrick stated. ?Vredo may have found a way to control a significant region of space. They?re trying to jump ahead of us in charting subspace currents.?

?Our recent war footing has put us behind in cartography efforts outside the war zone,? the intelligence officer noted. ?Even so, I find it difficult that a bunch of petty crooks would be interested in star charting.?

?Having better charts than us puts them at a strategic advantage.?

?Knowing the terrain gives them the upper hand. That I can understand. The question is, can you help us map out the terrain.?

?We?re already compiling possible currents based upon Vredo?s activity. There is a point that I feel may be of significant advantage. The Central focus of these subspace currents falls near the badlands, specifically, the Aloran system.

?Interesting, Captain. If I recall correctly, there is someone in Starfleet that knows that piece of terrain fairly well.?

?Yes, sir,? Patrick answered. The fact that his family had settled on Aloran IV, and that Patrick had kept a presence there after the Dominion War was no secret. Before Patrick could continue with his conversation, a console beeped indicating an incoming text message. ?Speaking of which, I just got a note from Commander Tyler. ?Found old Maquis raider on surface. Got it up and running. Scored kill on warbug. Report forthcoming.??

?It sounds like you?re home turf may quickly become a hotbed, Captain. If I were you, I?d start drafting a plan of action for the Admiralty ASAP.?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stardate 54329.13

Alran IV

Roslyn and Bernie sat over dinner discussing recent event. ?Why in the hell would warbugs be flying through this area.?

?I don?t know,? Bernie replied, ?however, I did get a note from Patrick. Apparently, he thinks that Aloran is a hub of subspace currents.?

?From the middle of nowhere, Aloran is a place to get from somewhere to elsewhere.? Roslyn commented.

?Aloran has advantages. I suspect that the soil around here is very fertile.?

?Who needs to grow food when you have replicators.?

?Replicators are for Starfleet officers. There?s plenty of people out there that prefer the real thing.?

?So, hon, how do we summarize what happened today?? Roslyn inquired as she began massaging Bernie?s shoulders.

?There?s not much to say,? Bernie answered ?We asked for a warbug to identify, it fired, we returned fire. Rather than surrender, they blew themselves up. Roz, you know how to treat a guy right.?

?I know how to do a backrub,? Roslyn answered. ?I?m wondering why we broke up.?

?If you love somebody, let them go.?

?In this case, she came back. I?ll assume that we should include the sensor and radio logs.?

?Affirmative, ?Firecracker.??

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ottawa

Things did not go as planned for Jenna Carson. She had intended to disable the warbug and bring the crew in for questioning. Before she was able to get a MACO team aboard, they had lost the ship. Under the current circumstances, scoring a ?kill? on a warbug would be acceptable; however, there was still an after-action report to file, and having her crew intact could prove to be valuable. In drafting her report, Jenna consulted with her two friends. ?I?m still at a loss,? Jenna started. ?We used just enough force to disable the warbug. How the hell did the ship just blow up on us??

?I suspect,? Susan noted, ?that whoever was in control of that ship did not want it to fall into Starfleet?s hands.?

?I checked the sensor logs,? Sonya added. ?I noticed an explosion consistent with a matter-antimatter reaction occurred near the aft poloron weapon. I think we?ve got a clear case of a self-destruct.?

?I?ll be sure to note that,? Jenna said, having nothing else to add.

?You might want to send Patrick a copy of your report,? Susan suggested. ?I did get a note from Bernie. He ran into the same trouble we did ? he also thinks these incidents may be connected.?

?It certainly wouldn?t hurt,? Jenna noted. He knows how to find the connections between events, she thought to herself, He has the know-how and the warrom.

Edited by route56

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Captain?s dining room/kitchen, Baldwin

CAPTAIN?S LOG, Stardate 54330.7: The after-action reports from Captain Carson and Commander Tyler have been received and acknowledged. A plan of action to prevent future incursions is being devised.

At 0800, Patrick started preparing a batch of waffles using non-replicated goods. By 0900, Sara had entered the kitchen to discuss the recent incidents with the ?warbugs.? ?I see why you asked me to join you down here, rather than your ready room.?

?Indeed,? Patrick answered. ?Our discussions require a bit of planning, and we could both use a good breakfast.? Although the room had been turned from a private dining room to a kitchen, the was still a table and seats which could be used for private dining. In this case, discussing plans with his advisor was a private matter. Sara had a seat at the table while Patrick presented her with a plate of waffles. ?Right now, we know that Vredo has charted this region of subspace and has apparently found additional currents that we had not had the opportunity to chart.

?They?re taking the lay of the land, trying to find not only the fastest path from point ?alpha? to point ?bravo,? but any and all alternate paths.?

?Yep,? Patrick answered. ?What we need to do is to verify these subspace currents for ourselves and be prepared to guard them.?

?As Admiral Ross noted a couple of days ago,? Sara stated, ?we are a bit stretched thin.?

?I know; however, as Roslyn and Bernie demonstrated, a fighter can hold her own against a warbug. I?m thinking we can use fighters to help chart these currents.?

?Sorta of like a hub and spoke pattern.?

?Exactly. In addition to being able to hold their own against warbugs, our fighters have become much easier to build.?

?So, where are we going to stage this little operation?? Sara staged rhetorically. With a clearly defined ?hub? in the Aloran system, Sara knew that a greater presence would be needed in that system. It would also be the perfect place to stage the equipment necessary to deploy a major number of fighters.

?We?ll start by basing our cruisers at Aloran,? Patrick started. ?We?ll have the Nimitz convoy bring us supplies from D.S. Nine.?

?I see you?ve given this some thought,? Sara noted.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Aloran IV

For Bernie and Roslyn, their vacation had been nothing short of exhilarating. After finishing restoration of the fighter, Bernie put Roslyn?s call sign on the sides of the cab, just underneath the windows, along with a star indicating her kill on the bug. The Maquis symbol had been replaced with the yellow Starfleet arrowhead and red stripes. They also continued to go on walks to explore the surface of the planet. They did not find any more fighters, nor did they need to deploy again. For several days, Roslyn and Bernie continued to enjoy each other?s company.

?Hey,? Bernie said as Roslyn wrapped her arms around him in a bear hug.

?Hi,? Roslyn replied. ?Anything good in today?s news.?

?Nope,? Bernie answered as Roslyn sat down. ?No bad news either. What do you want to do today??

?Well, I figured that we should be good stewards of the Ingrum compound, and do a little spring cleaning.?

?Okay,? Bernie responded a little timidly.

?Judging by the tone of your voice,? Roslyn noted, ?you sound a bit uneasy about the idea.?

Bernie knew that sometimes, it is best to go along with a women?s idea. This was one of those cases. ?So, where do you want to start??

?I figured that we could start in the master bedroom,? Roslyn responded with a sly grin. Roslyn and Bernie usually wound up making out in bed every night. Although there wasn?t anyone around to be bothered by the noise, intimacy usually creates a mess. ?Then, we could move out to the living room.?

As Roslyn and Bernie began stripping the sheets off the bed, Roslyn continued her conversation. ?So, where do you think I?ll end up after the end of our vacation.?

?I?m sure you could have your choice of openings within the fleet. Hell, if Ottawa had an opening, I?m sure Jenna would pick you right up.?

?And we?d be little troublemakers all over the ship,? Roslyn answered. ?Although, serving as a couple again would be interesting.?

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Starbase 375

Stardate 54331.15

Special report in regards to the Federation-Cardassian border region

Prepared by CAPT Patrick Ingrum and LT Sara A. Jackson

Stardate 54331.2

Summary of events and Action Plan

Over the past several months, a criminal organization has made inroads in the sectors near the Federation-Cardassian border. They have attempted to hijack Starfleet vessels, having stolen the Nimitz on Stardate 54098, and the Abilene on Stardate 54150. Since then, they have utilized copies of Jem?Hadar attack ships to engage civilian vessels and seize their cargo.

The anticipated flight patterns were gathered by a vessel captured by the USS Ottawa on Stardate 54305. The flight patterns were overlaid onto a subspace current map prepared by Baldwin?s astrometrics lab. When overlaid, the flight patterns included 65 percent of all known subspace currents in the region. In addition, the remain flight patters suggested that they have charted additional currents previously unidentified.

Based on the flight patterns, Baldwin?s astrometics department identified additional possible subspace currents. They appear to tap into major currents in Federation and Cardassian space, allowing travel between major population centers and border region within 48 hours. The subspace currents are centered upon the Aloran system.

Based upon the patterns of the threat forces, It is recommended that the area be vigorously patrolled. Because of the vast area to monitor, CAP missions will need to augment the patrol fleet. Based upon recent evaluations of threat craft, two fighters should be able to handle an encounter with one vessel. Because of the need for fighters, cruisers capable of deploying large numbers of craft, such as the Akira class, are requested

In order to effectively utilize this additional network of subspace currents, the vast majority of vessels will need to travel through the Aloran system. Therefore, the Aloran system will need to be secured. A permanent Starfleet presence in the system is advised. Since it is likely that the threat organization will attempt to take the Aloran system by force, our presence must be backed with sufficient strength to withstand a full-scale assault and/or electronic warfare.

?It seems that you take the threat from Vredo seriously,? Admiral Ross noted as he reviewed the report.

?They have stolen two starships and nearly took a third,? Patrick answered. ?Although they may not have the tactical firepower of the Romulans, they have shown rather unconventional measures to compromise us.?

?It looks like you are trying to utilize ships already under your influence.?

?As Starfleet Intelligence noted, Aloran is my back yard. Suffice it to say , I?m practically the only candidate that knows the lay of the land,?

?I will pass this on to the rest of the Admiralty,? Admrial Ross noted before turning to Sara. ?Lieutenant, could I speak with you privately for a second.?

?Yes, sir,? Sara answered as Patrick noted his dismissal from the room.

?From a personal and professional standpoint, what kind of an effect has Patrick and Bridget?s relationship been on the crew??

?From a legal standpoint, I have not seen anything that would indicate a blatant conflict of interest. Jaimie hasn?t had a need to step in and veto any of the captain?s decisions that involve her. From a personal standpoint, I think that having a child on board has actually helped crew morale. Everyone on the crew has taken a liking to Tiana and have volunteered to watch her while both her parents are on duty. She?s four months old and it?s clear she lives up to her name: She is the princess aboard Baldwin.?

?Any issues with the child??

?The only risk I could think of would apply to any civilians on a Starfleet ship: If Baldwin were to be engaged in battle, it would be difficult to avoid potential civilian casualties.?

?Based on your observations on Baldwin, would you support having Commander Tyler and Roslyn serving together??

?I do not think it would be a problem.?

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