Exodus in the Fall of Azed

OOC This story is backdated to the events of the Terran incursion.

chapter 1

The streets were abuzz with nervous energy, as Citali citizens hurried to and from their various destinations. The Andorian paid them no mind, striding quietly towards her place of work, her hands in the pockets of her pale blue lab coat. The news that Citali’s orbital defense fleet, small as it was, had been defeated by an onslaught of unknown invaders had sent many of the individuals in an understandable panic; but the lack of demands made thus far made it unclear exactly how much they should worry or what sort of emergency preparations would be necessary to survive what was to come.

So despite the likelihood that no one would be expected to report into work today, Justine resolved to make her way to the lab facilities regardless. Not only did she have no other friends or family to find or defend, the lab would be the most suitable location for making any potential stand, given the supplies and various technological assets there. Besides, her work colleagues were the closest thing she had to friends, if you put aside the parts about not knowing her real name or where she came from, anyway.

Her pace slowed down a little as she passed by, as she did every day on this journey, a humble little shop with a wide window and like clockwork, she was greeted by an obliviously cheerful quadrupedal creature with a furry body, vaguely triangular head and wagging tail. The Citali referred to them as ‘chiroi’, a domesticated species often kept as pets. If Justine had been required to describe them to a human or other common Federation alien, she’d say they were roughly like oversized sugar gliders with the personality of Earth-native dogs: an overall devastating combination for one who lived a solitary life.

This particular chiroi, with her big blue irises and soft lavender-hued fur, had been available for purchase for over a month, and Justine’s resolve to not pick up a new companion had wavered more than once. But to adopt a pet in her… circumstances would be irresponsible, at best. So she settled for gently tapping on the glass as she passed by each day and hoped each time would be the last, that someone would purchase the poor creature and put her out of reach for good.

As the chiroi licked the glass at the point where her hand rested, Justine sadly realized that this might be the last day they saw each other after all, if not for the reasons the Andorian would have hoped for the animal.

“Goodbye, little friend,” she muttered to the glass as she steeled her resolve and walked away.


chapter 2

She was just under a block away from the lab facility’s campus when she realized something was off. Small clumps of citizens had started to form on the fringes, a few of them were dressed in coats similar to her own, but most others were just from neighboring businesses or passersby. Their tall heads were all turned towards the lab campus with thinly disguised agitation and they murmured quietly to each other with their observations and speculation.

Justine caught snatches of various’ Citali’s discussions: “intruder alarm”, “strange uniforms”, and worst of all, “laser fire”. Whatever was going to happen, then, had already happened, she realized, as her gaze narrowed on the seemingly silent lab building. She could turn around and walk away now, try to make some other arrangements for an escape. She owed these people nothing, after all, and even if these individuals here were innocent of any wrongdoing, their fellow countrymen had inflicted significant suffering on Federation citizens that had been just as innocent and just as undeserving.

Still, something kept her from turning back. Perhaps it was the utter lack of knowledge and understanding of what was happening, making the need to know who was invading and what they wanted completely irresistible. Perhaps it was the grudging acknowledgement that refusing assistance to those who have wronged you could only serve to perpetuate the cycle of violence and seal your own fate should the tables ever be turned. Or perhaps it was simply the boredom and the monotony of this undercover life finally taking its toll, making anything different – even charging headlong into a potential hot engagement – sound appealing.

Whatever it was, Justine decidedly steeled herself for whatever surprises were to come. She’d rather go in with a plan, but without more information on what she was up against –

“Ay, Justine!”

The Andorian’s head swiveled towards the yell and her attention landed on the caller: a Citali civilian male, standing at his traveling food cart and waving for her. For the lack of anything better to do, she mosied over.

“Dauid,” she greeted him. “Any idea what’s going on?”

“It don’t sound good, Miss,” he sorrowfully reported. “They say the big intruder alarms went off just twenty minutes, maybe half an hour ago. Some of the scientists ran out here, like, but a lot of others are still inside. Then the alarms got turned off, but no one’s come out to say it’s safe to go in, so everyone’s just watching. You want a krattid?”

Justine almost rolled her eyes at Dauid’s opportunism. But the savory snacks did smell pretty good and it seemed unlikely that she’d have the opportunity for a proper lunch. “Sure. Did anyone see what the intruders look like? What they were wearing?”

Dauid enthusiastically scooped the krattid filling – a mishmash of meat, cheese, eggs, and assorted chopped vegetables – onto a large, thin crepe, which he then rolled into a multilayered wrap. “Somma the scientists say they were wearing all dark, with just the one color stripe like this,” and he struck a finger across his chest, just below his shoulders. Justine’s nerves went cold. A Starfleet uniform? It couldn’t be. She was so paralyzed by the thought that she could barely accept her food order as Dauid offered it to her, the bottom half wrapped in protective paper.

It absolutely couldn’t be, Justine repeated to herself. Certainly there had been some questionable decisions made by some commanders somewhen, especially when it came to the Azedi, but an occupation? Now it was more critical than ever that she see the situation for herself. She made herself reach into her pocket, pulling out a few chits of currency and set them in Dauid’s palm. “Thanks,” she said automatically and, not wanting the man to catch onto her rattled state, she immediately took a large bite, not caring that the food was nearly too hot to chew and swallow.

Her gaze veered towards the lab building as she stood there, methodically chewing through her meal. One thing seemed sure now: going as herself without at least an attempt of a disguise was a recipe for disaster. She already stood out quite a bit from the rest of the Citali citizens and if Starfleet really were present… well, she wasn’t sure she was ready to be recognized by them, either.

“You gonna go home, Miss Justine?” Dauid asked, conversationally. “I’mma probably do, soon. No one buying with all this noise going on,” he said, shaking his head. “Your’s my only sale. Big waste today.”

Justine turned her glance back onto Dauid and his little food cart, a staple and favorite of many a science lab employee. Then her gaze turned more speculative as she eyed his clean, but drab, outer coat and his hat. The last item honestly just looked a little ridiculous on the merchant, what with the Citali’s typical high head, but he seemed to love them, in all shapes and colors; she’d never seen him work a day without one.

“Hey, Dauid,” she said slowly. “How much if I want to buy your whole cart? And your coat and hat, too?”


chapter 3

This is undignified, Min, the Andorian griped to herself, as she hunched over the handlebars of the tall food cart and pushed it along. It was a lot heavier than she had assumed it would be at first, given Dauid’s build, but in retrospect, she supposed he would have had many years to get used to its weight and thus make its transport look fairly easy.

She’d traded her lab coat for Dauid’s, which fit reasonably well. But her antennae, cramped under a beret-style hat, were starting to itch. Altogether, while no native would mistake her for another Citali, at least she didn’t stand out so much. If she had to, it’d certainly make escaping into a crowd a bit easier.

Not that there were any of those here, she noted, as she slowly rolled the food cart towards her intended destination. The lab campus had one gatehouse that all personnel had to pass through in order to gain access to the interior buildings, one of which was where she worked. Normally it was manned by several watch officers at all times, all of whom would check IDs of personnel streaming through and only admit those who were authorized through the wide open gate. Today, though, there were no streams of scientists, and only one lone figure sat within the gatehouse compartment.

Even from this distance, Justine could feel the guard’s eyes on her as she made her way, though with him (or her) ensconced in the gatehouse’s interior shadows, she wasn’t able to make out as many details about them as they surely could for her. The long range of visibility was part of the reason she had chosen to disguise herself for the approach; it was difficult, if not impossible, to sneak up to the campus entrance otherwise. If only she could reach the gate and get just inside, stealth would be much easier to achieve then.

At least, depending on how heavily the complex was guarded. Justine put that thought away for now: one bridge at a time.

Finally she was close enough to start to make out details of the guard seated in the gatehouse, an intimidating assault rifle hugged to his chest. Definitely human, not Citali, Justine observed with momentary dismay that it could actually be Starfleet after all. But she was committed now, so she steeled herself and kept the cart rolling. It wasn’t until she had arrived within speaking range of the gatehouse that she noticed the officer was wearing a unique combadge: a small Earth-like globe with a broadsword stabbing through.

Not Starfleet after all, but Terran Empire. Justine carefully brought the cart to a halt, squarely in front of the gatehouse’s window. There were still a lot of puzzle pieces missing, but they were starting to click into place.

“Hallo,” Justine blurted out the greeting, determined to continue her ruse. “You ain’t the usual fellow.”

The Terran guard’s expression twisted with a brief grimace which, if one read between the lines, clearly asked: ‘are you stupid?’ Instead, he said aloud: “That’s correct, citizen. I’m not. State your business.” Although even as he said it, his eyes flicked to the cart that she had laboriously brought all this way.

“Yes, I come here all the time, with my cart, like.” She gestured to the cart. “Easy moneys, yes? Always a lotta hungry scientists and engineers and such.”

“We’re not taking anyone who isn’t science or engineering,” the officer replied shortly. “So go away and don’t come back.”

Unusual phrasing that, Justine mulled over the response, even as she put up a protest. “Mister, I gotta sell my product, like. They always let me in. This place alone is like half my business, you get?”

“Not my problem, xeno,” the Terran officer grumped in response. Yet Justine could see how his gaze moved sideways towards the cart again and, if that weren’t enough of a sign of interest, a sudden stomach gurgle filled the silence. And it definitely hadn’t been hers.

“Say,” Justine’s expression lit up as she decided on another tack. “You hungry? Maybe you buy? I gotta sell, I won’t care if to you or the regular scientists or new guards, yeah?”

Try as he might to maintain his disdainful expression, the Terran’s stomach had already given him away. “What is it?” he asked dubiously.

“krattid wraps!” Justine infused friendly pride in her tone, even though she had nothing to do with the food’s creation. “Delicious marinated meat, cheese and scrambled egg, perfect breakfast or lunch treat!” Smells pretty good for xeno food, huh?

She didn’t wait for the man to show more interest, instead jumping immediately to assembling a wrap. She’d seen Dauid do it enough times to manage the task on her own and though the Terran eyed the completed wrap with mild suspicion, he nevertheless accepted it and took a small bite. And then another, and another.

“Yeah good, right?” Justine beamed at the officer. “You buy? All your friends buy?”

Had Justine genuinely been a Citali citizen trying to sell her wares, she might have been surprised by the way things turned next. As it was, though, she just did her best to look so, when the Terran officer turned his rifle on her as best he could, with one hand.

“I’m not buying anything,” he sneered, though the mean effect lessened dramatically by his furious chewing. “Thanks for the meal. Now get out of here and leave the cart.”

Justine had lifted her arms up in surrender, perfunctory words of protest tumbling out. “But I --”

“Don’t test me, xeno! Your payment is me letting you live.”

The Andorian scowled, but obediently backed away from the window and out of the officer’s line of sight.

And then, with the food cart’s position calculated just so to block the officer’s view of the entire front gate, Justine slipped right through and promptly used her laboratory badge to gain access to the nearest facility entrance.


chapter 4

Justine’s progression through the silent and sterile corridors of the lab facility was not going as quick as she would like, but her lack of weapons and intel made her overly cautious. She peeked around corners, she listened at doors, she looked for signs of what could have happened or anyone she could help. But it wasn’t until she neared the more sensitive areas of the inner facility that she saw anything off for the first time.

Or, rather, heard. Zzzzzzrrrrrrrpp! The sound of a long zipper being closed.

Justine inched up to the hallway corner and, keeping low to the ground, she dared a careful look. This floor of the next corridor was decorated with two unconscious – or more likely dead – Citali scientists. A Terran-uniformed officer stood at the far end, her back to Justine’s direction, as she bent over a third body, already encased in a long, dark-colored bag that she was in the process of sealing shut. The officer appeared to attach a rectangular card, of a size similar to Justine’s own facility ID, to the exterior of the body bag, as well as an additional blinking transporter tag. Then as the Terran officer stood straight, she tapped a button on her PADD device and the body bag was unceremoniously beamed away.

Justine jerked her head back as the Terran turned in her direction, in order to approach the next body. The Andorian sat on the floor, with her back against the wall, mulling over what she had seen. ‘Taking’ the scientists, the gatehouse guard had said, and it seemed to not matter much whether they were alive or dead. But for what purpose?

“-- requesting reinforcement, Lieutenant Pelk.”

The order was faint to her ears, but the dead silence of everything around them made the words still possible to make out. Justine resisted the impulse to look, but she could imagine said Terran Lieutenant Pelk hopping to action, to obey whoever was on the other end of the combadge’s command. “Affirmative,” she heard the other woman say.

It was only after Justine was sure that the footstep sounds were receding rather than getting louder that she dared to look again. A request for reinforcements, of course, meant possible resistance, so that was where Justine wanted to be. The Andorian tailed the Terran at a healthy distance, perhaps borderline too far, but just as Justine considered speeding it up, Pelk selected a door and charged into the lab room, Terran phaser partially drawn.

Justine itched to charge in right after, but she forced herself to stillness, hunched over around the corner, trying vainly to make out the voices or other sounds inside. She waited in strained tension as her gaze darted about to take stock of this potential improvised battleground: a couple other prone and unmoving scientist bodies, which lab doors were open and which had keypads, trying to connect room numbers with her institutional recollection of what should be inside.

A short eternity later, the Andorian heard the target lab room door re-open and she ventured a surreptitious look. Two figures stepped out, but this time, one was an evident prisoner of the reinforcing Pelk. The Terran held her phaser squarely focused on the Citali researcher’s back, not quite touching it, as they exited the room and started a steady march down the corridor. Justine wasn’t sure who might be left in the room, nor where these two were headed, but her nerves were screaming now now now now now now –

She inhaled a slow breath as she stood up straight, then exhaled. And then she sprang.

Darting out from around the corner, she sprinted forward, keeping her stride short and controlled so as to make minimal noise. But with the short distance between her and her destination, the precaution was almost unnecessary, as Justine closed in fast on her target. Pelk was just starting to turn her head when Justine slammed her left boot against the back of the Terran’s right knee, forcing the officer to bend and drop, as well as unintentionally shoving her prisoner forward. In the same motion, Justine’s arm shot out towards the firearm, her hand clamping around Pelk’s and jerking it inward to point the phaser at Pelk’s own body.

The Andorian couldn’t be sure who it was, exactly, that successfully made the phaser go off at that point: Pelk herself, out of desperate reactionary panic, or Justine’s own fingers trying to crush Pelk’s to the trigger. The familiar energy sizzle sound that followed was swallowed up by Pelk’s gurgling cry of agony. Justine swore under her breath as she wrested the phaser free from Pelk’s now very loose grip. Furiously she drove the power setting up a few degrees short of max and promptly discharged it again into Pelk’s back. The Terran slumped forward, quietly face planting into the floor.

The scientist had just barely recovered his footing and he turned to gawk at Justine, who was more focused on the far door of the lab they had previously exited. She hauled him forward and pressed the both of them flat against the original lab door’s wall, in case someone came out to check on the noise. He squeaked at the rough treatment, but the brief pause in action gave both of them a moment to assess things.

“Justine!” the Citali identified her with an incredulous whisper.

“Lebo,” she muttered in return. “Sorry I’m late.”

“On today, of all d–” Lebo interrupted himself, straightening. “Marette, she’s in the lab,” he remembered aloud, eyes growing wide and plaintive as he stared at her. This was what Justine was here for anyway, so she didn’t really need further prompting.

“How many hostiles in there?”

“Just the one. He found us hiding and called for backup, though,” Lebo looked back towards the Terran’s prone body, a grimace on his face.

Luck was really on her side today, she thought as she adjusted her phaser’s setting downward some. She darted forward for the lab door, Lebo awkwardly stumbling to follow. The Andorian burst in, her gaze honing in directly on the Terran-uniformed officer looming over a seated prisoner. He didn’t even get to turn fully before Justine fired two quick shots in succession, aiming for his center mass.

They landed cleanly and the Terran crumpled into a heap. Marette, tied to the chair just in front of him, immediately started kicking his body out of pure vindication.

“I don’t think he can’t feel that,” Justine deadpanned as she briefly scanned the rest of the lab, but seeing as Lebo had been correct about the number of enemies, she relaxed a little as she stepped towards the back of Marette’s chair to untie her.

“Don’t fucking care, makes me feel better,” she spat angrily. “First security incident in over a year and I did NOTHING.”

“There were too many,” Lebo protested as he stood staring dumbly at the prone officer on the floor. “What could you have even done?”

“Well, we got a lot left to go, anyway,” Justine observed. “You’re the only two I’ve seen so far. Alive, anyway.”

That sobered her. Justine threw the remaining ropes away to one side and Marette sprung to her feet. “Who are they? What do they want?”

The Andorian shook her head as she stood. “I don’t know much more than you,” she lied easily. Which was true… enough. Though she knew they were Terran Empire and the Azedi might not, she didn’t feel like going into it right this second.

“But first thing’s first,” she took up an authoritative tone. “Are you unhurt? There’s another one out in the hall. Go drag her in here and make sure you get her PADD.”

“Her what?” Marette asked, perplexed. Her head turned towards Lebo, who only shook his head with similar confusion. In the normal power ranking structure, Lebo served as the head scientist in this section block, and thus he would ordinarily call the shots. But circumstances being what they were, Lebo was clearly out of his depth.

“PADD,” Justine repeated. “Little rectangular device with a screen on it. Go.” Her tone brooked no argument. Still, Marette looked once more towards Lebo, but he only nodded his helpless agreement, so the security officer grumpily stalked outside to retrieve the body.

In the meantime, Justine searched the other Terran’s body for objects of interest. She unhesitatingly relieved him of his belt holster and put it firmly on herself. Then she located a PADD in an inside jacket pocket. Finally, she sighed mentally as she powered it on and started tapping around. Maybe we can get some answers.


chapter 5

The PADD yielded more answers than Justine had expected. A mission brief for a (very uninspiredly titled) Project ‘Eradicate All Wormholes’ outlined the Terrans’ desire to severely handicap, if not outright decimate, the Azedi’s ability to utilize wormhole travel technology. Their multi-phase plan not only indicated their intention to target existing starship production lines, they also planned to systematically eliminate science and engineering specialists who would be critical to the rebuilding effort. Then for good measure, another mission dedicated to corrupting the Azedi’s master databank of wormhole coordinates, effectively crippling their ability to travel anywhere faster than light.

That last discovery made Justine’s eyebrows pull down into a displeased scowl. That was my idea, you thieving bastards. She kept the nonsensical reaction to herself.

“So that’s why they’re here,” Lebo remarked on the findings, his expression grim. “I’m as good as dead. Justine, too. But they might spare Marette, she couldn’t put a sandwich together, let alone a verteron generator.”

Marette snarled at the insult, but she didn’t deny it. “You’re lucky I’d rather do my job than beat you senseless. What can we do?”

Justine flicked through files on the PADD, doing her best to get the overall picture of the situation. “They have a lot of assets in orbit and overall. Any open resistance would be crushed fairly quick.”

“But we can’t just sit here and do nothing,” the security officer refused to accept the seeming futility of the situation. “This facility has nearly two hundred personnel alone.”

“We won’t do nothing,” Justine assured her. “But whatever we do, it can’t be discovered. We need to quietly smuggle away as many as possible and hide until…” her voice trailed off a little. Until what, exactly? Under normal circumstances, an incursion of this magnitude would certainly attract Starfleet’s attention and interference. But would they come to the rescue of one of their most hostile neighbors?

Justine cleared her throat a little as she caught the other two eyeing her suspiciously for her extended pause. “Until reinforcements arrive,” was all she said.

“How is anyone not going to notice us ‘quietly smuggling’ a bunch of scientists away?” Lebo demanded. “You’re asking the impossible!”

“Maybe not,” Marette said slowly. “When they were holding me here, they said they would let me go if I snitched on who the research supervisors were. I don’t know if they were telling the truth, but it doesn’t seem like they know for sure how to identify who they want, so they’re trying to get facility staff to cooperate.”

Justine straightened up as she discovered an additional tidbit on the PADD files. “They’re also trying to hack into the administrative computer to access the facility roster. If they get to that, they’ll have all the names and pictures and ranks that they need.”

“That would be game over,” Lebo fretted.

“Unless we get to the roster first,” Marette interjected. “We could delete the roster. Or change all the names and pictures around, confuse them.”

“We’re all wearing ID badges,” Justine reminded her slowly. “They’d conflict with any changes like that. But… we could change everyone’s job title. And the reporting structure. That might… be enough.”

For the first time, the two Azedi exchanged cautiously hopeful glances. “But we still have to get everyone out, right?” Marette asked. “If they have too many officers, they’ll just block the entrance and prevent our escape. There’s only one way in or out.”

Justine smiled grimly with realization. “Actually…”


chapter 6

It was inevitable that the two Azedi would wonder, and ask, about how Justine had come up with her plan and why she seemed to know so much more about their enemies than they did. For a few moments, Justine was genuinely concerned they would be too suspicious to go along with things. But the trust she had built over months of being undercover won out and they conceded that there was no better alternative. As usual, desperation and necessity was the mother of invention.

So it was that Justine came to be donned in one of the downed Terran officers’ uniforms, escorting Marette at phaser point down the corridor and towards the makeshift holding area that the Terrans had set up to intern their prisoners. As they walked, the Andorian pressed a little closer to Marette’s back than was strictly necessary; they had done their best to hide a thin bulk of a package underneath Marette’s jacket, the contents of which would need to be distributed out to each prisoner. Any searches would hopefully be forestalled by the excuse that Justine had prepared in her pocket.

They had left Lebo in a hopefully secure location, with access to a supervisor console. While they went to get the prisoners, the ranking researcher would use his credentials to access the roster and authorize a subprogram to sabotage as much of it as they could, without drawing additional suspicion.

At first, the Andorian thought their ruse might have been overkill. Without knowing how many Terrans were guarding or patrolling the passageways near the hostages, it had been a toss-up on whether stealth was necessary, or if an outright assault would be better. But soon they had encountered multiple successive patrols, all of which helpfully pointed out the right direction for the holding area and otherwise paid them no mind.

It was working, for now.

Finally they reached the holding facility and the guards posted outside waved Justine and her prisoner through the double doors, into the round auditorium space. Typically this larger room was where the all-hands meetings and ceremonies were held, but rather than sitting in the tiered seats for the audience, the Azedi prisoners were uncomfortably packed together on the central stage area. A large cylindrical forcefield kept them penned in, while posted all around the perimeter of the room were pairs of Terran officers with intimidating assault rifles.

Exceptionally alert to anyone else’s suspicious gazes, Justine caught the curt gesture of a pair of officers standing near a console towards the stage, signaling her to come forward with her prisoner. She took a small breath and nudged Marette that way.

“Found her hiding in one of the engineering lab closets,” Justine announced as they approached. “When we searched her, she had this.” Keeping her phaser leveled at Marette’s back for the show, she extracted the Citali data chip from her pocket.

“What is on it?” the officer in charge, a Vulcan with Commander rank pips, asked with little genuine interest.

“No clue, didn’t try to plug it in yet,” Justine replied.

“Hey xeno,” the other officer waved his phaser at Marette directly. Justine thought it rather uncouth for him to use the word in front of his non-human commanding officer. “What’s on the chip?”

“My baby pictures,” Marette spat helpfully.

The unlikely answer only piqued the commanding officer’s interest. “Get her in with the rest and we will investigate the chip.” He raised his voice to be heard by the room. “Lowering prisoner shield!”

In unison, the perimeter forces raised their rifles, keeping them leveled towards the center mass of prisoners, quelling any thoughts of making a break for it. Justine watched impassively as the containment field dissipated, then shoved Marette into the waiting Azedi throng. They caught her forward momentum and she had only a moment to turn and glare back at Justine before the shield came up again.

But Justine didn’t see the glare, since her focus was on the Commander as he retracted his hand from the console panel. Shield controls: check. By the time she did look towards the prisoners to check on Marette, the Azedi officer had melted into the crowd. It would be easier for her to distribute her goods from the center, away from the guards’ watchful gazes, Justine silently approved as she turned her focus back to the Vulcan. He held his hand out to her for the chip, which she passed over without hesitation.

The Andorian waited until the Vulcan had plugged in the chip and called up the files and schematics on it before opening her mouth. “Should I go back to patrol or do you still need me here?” Justine asked, nonchalantly. She didn’t give the others any time to answer, immediately blurting out as she feigned interest in the console screen: “Hey, I saw something like that in the primary engineering lab. That diagram there.”

The Vulcan paused, turning a look over the screen, and then Justine. “Are you aware of what it is?”

“No?” Justine did her best to look both curious and stupid. “Am I supposed to?”

This was a partial lie, of course. The three of them had done their best to stuff as many partial technology manuals and blueprint files onto the chip as they could manage. With the understanding that the Terrans were hunting for these in particular, they hoped Justine could improvise a reason to stick around near the shield controls until the prisoners were ready.

“No,” the Vulcan commander responded in a clipped tone. But he brought up his PADD, where a downloaded map of the facility lay open. “Show me where you saw this. We will go through these others and you will tell me if anything else looks familiar.”

Phew. “Yes, sir.”


chapter 7

Justine had (shall we say) a significant amount of experience with being undercover at this point. But it didn’t stop her from being a little on edge, with so many other lives directly on the line, not to mention a valued ally. She forced herself to generally keep her eyes on the console screen as “her” Terran commander scanned through files, periodically confirming and providing a location to where she had supposedly seen something, while shaking her head at ones she was pretending not to recognize.

In most cases, the commander merely noted her answer down. But there were two or three where the Vulcan had immediately sent a pair of patrollers to the location to recon, making Justine understandably nervous. After the first pair was sent, she realized she would need to be generally truthful about what might be located where, else the commander could potentially get angry about being misled. She also started adding a little uncertainty in responses – I think I saw this here? – to give herself some wiggle room if she turned out to be wrong. She never claimed to have an eidetic memory, after all.

Her gaze did flicker to the central column of prisoners more than once, wishing she had a sense of Marette’s progress. The prisoners themselves seem to give no sign of acquiring any new assets, which was technically a good thing. If Justine couldn’t tell anything was different and she even knew what to look for, then the jail keepers would also be less likely to.

The Andorian was starting to fret about how many files were left to go through when, in her periphery, she saw Marette squeeze herself back out of the crowd to the forcefield’s edge. The woman met Justine’s eyes and gave a tiny nod.

Oh, stupid. We’re ready, and I wasn’t even thinking about my approach for the controls, Justine chided herself, as her glance reflexively tilted that way. The distraction did not go unnoticed.

“Is something amiss, Lieutenant?” he inquired sharply. No one had called her a Lieutenant in a long time, but of course those were the only available rank pips she could salvage for her equally borrowed uniform.

“No, sir, just … really wracking my brain on where I saw that formula,” Justine hedged.

The commander appeared to think. “What would be the probability that the prisoner you brought in might be more familiar with the contents of the datachip? Perhaps we should extract her and require her to answer.”

No, was Justine’s immediate internal response. A planned shield drop would mean the perimeter guards would have their rifles raised and ready. A surprise shield drop wouldn’t buy them that much extra time, but it might still make a difference.

Justine would need to be proactive, then. She made herself grimace for the commander’s benefit and dropped her arms to her sides in preparation. “She was being pretty mouthy when I was walking her in. I don’t think she’d tell us much, even if she’s being persuaded.”

The Vulcan frowned with dissatisfaction. He turned his gaze towards the prisoners, as if he wanted to locate Marette in the crowd anyway. In his distraction, Justine tapped the Terran combadge on her chest with one hand and drew her phaser with the other. “Lebo, get ready,” she ordered, none too quietly.

The commander had started to turn back, puzzled at Justine’s nonsequitur, but he had barely started to get the question out before Justine shot him twice at near point blank range. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as the commander’s body vaporized entirely, triggering surprised reactions from the Terrans all around.

Justine lunged for the shield controls and disabled the force field surrounding the prisoners. “Shield is down, Lebo, go!” Justine shouted confirmation over the comm’s open line, as the great barrier flickered and left the prisoners exposed. The nearest Terran officer (Mr. hey-xeno-what’s-on-the-chip) had started to draw his own weapon, so Justine reacted in kind, turning to face her phaser at him.

She was never sure if her shots landed, as she and the entire huddle of prisoners were suddenly dissolving in the transporter shimmer of pale-colored light.


chapter 8

When they materialized in an unknown space, Justine swung her phaser around wildly, trying to take in their surroundings and assess if they were in danger. But though the other prisoners emitted hushed sounds in both excitement and fear of the unknown, Justine was elated to discover that her hunch had been correct.

They had been able to determine that the transporter subroutine on the late Lieutenant Pelk’s PADD had coordinates for a Terran ship in orbit. Justine had then made some educated guesses that the tagged body bags were being automatically delivered to a nondescript vessel cargo bay, which is where the fugitives now found themselves, relatively hale and whole.

Of course, they were also surrounded by dozens upon dozens of their own Azedi comrades’ body bags, the unfortunate reality of which was dawning on some of the other prisoners. Justine didn’t have time to try to calm them, as she ripped the combadge off her chest, then tossed it into some random corner as she sprinted to commandeer the cargo bay’s console.

While the Andorian worked to access the controls, she passed her phaser to Marette, who then climbed aboard a tall cargo box to gain height and yelled for the other prisoners’ attention.


Marette paused to look around and make sure the crowd’s eyes were on her.


Justine had gotten into the transporter controls and rapidly began to set up a subroutine that would reverse all the most recent transports through the system, with new pseudo-randomized coordinates on the planet. Then after all the transports were completed, the subroutine would continue on to erase all the logs of transporter activity, hopefully leaving the Terrans helpless to undo the damage and ideally just completely confused about what had even happened. Despite the time pressure, Justine couldn’t resist a grim smile over the whole hilariously familiar operation.

She had only a few lines of code left when the doors to the cargo bay slid open and a Terran security squad stormed through the opening, firing wildly as they came. The prisoners’ reacted, many with fear, but several brave souls chose to throw themselves at the oncoming Terrans in the mad hope of preventing them from gaining access. Justine swore as she redirected her attention to the door controls – stupid, you should have done that first! – and hit the lock out function, but not before the officers vaporized several Azedi in their push.

The door itself immediately sealed shut, cutting the group off from reinforcements, but that left a quad of Terrans with their assault rifles set to maximum and no fear of firing at will.

There was nothing else she could do, so Justine’s frenzied fingers took to the console again and she did her best to ignore the growing carnage. Every second the subroutine was delayed was another life lost. She forced herself to not pay attention, even as a larger group of prisoners became motivated to surge and swarm, to overwhelm the Terrans. She pretended not to hear the phaser bolts as their sizzles of energy grew closer and closer to her own position. She gritted her teeth as the Terrans noticed her at the console and though they couldn’t possibly guess what exactly she was doing, they nonetheless shouted orders to take Justine out.

“DOWN!” The shout was accompanied by a tackling action and a painful burn flashing across her shoulder. Marette had lunged to force Justine down to the floor and, in doing so, Justine only suffered the lethal bolt’s grazing her skin, rather than a full out vaporization. Even while prone, the Azedi security officer managed to bring her phaser to bear on the oncoming Terran and fired her own, very clean elimination shot. Justine watched as the Terran’s facial features twisted in pain before dissolving into ash.

Marette pushed Justine to her feet and the Andorian hunched heavily over the console, blinking through tears of pain to tap in the last of the subroutine’s commands.



Most esteemed and benevolent Admiral Neema Perim,

As per your request upon the reception of my report regarding the total conquest of Citali Prime, this addendum shall detail with greater extraneity the events that took place at a surface-based science laboratory complex in grid N47-E88, whereupon a brief lapse in Terran asset competence resulted in the escape of several subjugated aliens.

Initial breaching teams were faced with minimal impediment in their securing of the facility, and secondary teams had shortly thereafter detained all surviving personnel. After establishing local Terran order, efforts were then directed to discerning the existence, purpose, and relevance of the complex’s equipment and stored information. The facility’s severity as per our mission profile has since been categorized as Level Two, Moderate with trace involvement in wormhole technology, and therefore only a portion of its contents scheduled for selective annihilation from the multiverse.

The escape incident was instigated in one of the designated holding areas containing subjugated occupants of the facility. Several eye-witness reports corroborate that an Andorian female dressed in an officer’s uniform, Lieutenant-rank, fired upon the area supervising officer. Simultaneously, the force field restraining the subjugated aliens disabled, and they were subsequently transported from the facility via Terran transporter equipment. As the body of the Andorian lieutenant was not identified in the aftermath nor was she apprehended by the surviving eye-witnesses, it is presumed she departed with the escapees.

Approximately three minutes later, the I.S.S. Filoni in low orbit sustained an intruder alert in their auxiliary cargo bay. Strike teams were sealed off by cargo doors after observing a group of unknown aliens that presumably transported aboard. This group is presumed to be the escapees from the surface complex, given their means of arrival and timing. Terran forces were not able to prevent the aliens from transporting again, though several of their number were eliminated by phaser fire. The escapees utilized the cargo transporter and, based on technical investigation, are presumed to have engaged a scatter transport back to various positions on the planet’s surface, though exact coordinates were impossible to ascertain.

Any event such as this is naturally concerning, but further investigations have discerned that there is minimal risk involved with these survivors. By process of elimination, several likely identities amongst the staff records of the facility have been established and disseminated to local Terran security assets, none of which pose a severity rating greater than Level One, Low. Positive identification of the Andorian lieutenant has been so far unsuccessful, but given her apparent understanding of Terran transporter systems, a lone defector is the probable explanation. Following debrief, the remaining team initially responsible for the escape were executed for incompetence.

Lady Lauren Varley,
Duchess of Montreal,
Captain of the I.S.S. Saratoga

OOC Epilogue was written entirely by @Lauren, for which I am incredibly grateful.

Thanks for reading!