The Tales of Alice: Part One

The Tales of Alice
Part One: The Mad Pirate Cometh

Captain M’Zell T’Sriyu sat perched in her captain’s chair in the middle of her bridge with a PADD in one hand and a cup of Coffee in the other. Normally she hated Coffee, but with how busy the last week had been, she needed the Caffeine. The Caitian sighed and had another sip as she read over the information displayed on her PADD, one pointed feline ear flicking from time to time. Her orders had been simple. Find a pirate and stop it, either by lawful arrest and seizing of their ship, or by destruction if they chose to fight. Lately, Starfleet had been too busy with the latest in a long string of wars to spare a ship for anti-piracy actions, but this was a special case. Most pirates were disorganized. They were usually cowardly and only hit small freighters. But lately, they’d begun to organize. Someone was quietly and carefully pulling joint operations with illegal groups. Smugglers, pirates, slavers, drug runners, weapons dealers, the list went on and on. And one name was slowly tying them together. Alice. To say the information packet that Starfleet had sent M’Zell was light would be an understatement. They knew almost nothing about Alice. So far, they knew she was a female. Obviously. And she called herself Alice. Supposedly, as a nod to an ancient Human book. M’Zell had looked it up. The book was quite strange. It was full of drug references and all manner of madness. It had talking doorknobs and dancing invertebrates. Very strange indeed. What added to her mystery is no one seemed to know her species. The guess was Human due to the nature of the name, but in the handful of eyewitness sightings of her, she wore a mask and used various technologies to disguise her identity. Voice modulators, a biometrics scrambler, even a low level jamming field. Whoever she was, it was clear she wanted to remain a mystery.

But as M’Zell sipped her coffee and read over more of the information, a vague pattern started peeking out from between the words. The Captain was very good at her job. And her job, up until the war had started, was anti-piracy operations. Her ship, an Avenger class called the U.S.S. Bermuda Rose, was well known by the darker corners of the Galaxy. But this Alice… She was a different kind of beast. Raiders under her employ were responsible for some fairly significant raids on Allied supply depots as of late. Weapons, hull plating, medicine, even duranium scrap had been stolen. And these raids were surgical, which was unusual for pirates. Normally, they’d just smash and grab. They’d hit hard, grab what they could, and run. But these latest hits… It was new. It led M’Zell to wonder if Alice didn’t have some kind of military training. Maybe she was ex-Starfleet or KDF. No matter. The latest sighting was fairly fresh and it pointed them to a small system near the edge of the Badlands. The Badlands were a common choice for criminals to hide in. The plasma storms made navigation difficult and most long range sensors useless. So it was the perfect hiding spot. And that’s where the Bermuda Rose was headed.

The ship lurched as it dropped out of warp. The rocky surface of a moon took up most of the viewscreen. The captain set down her Coffee and sat up straighter in her chair. “Report.”

Her helmsman, a Benzite man, replied. “We’ve arrived behind the moon. Anyone in the planetary system won’t be able to see us.”

She nodded and stood up. The Caitian’s tail tip started flicking back and forth, as it normally did when she sensed they were about to get into some action. “Good. Engage cloak and bring us around the moon. I want scans of everything. Weapons and shields on standby.”

The bridge crew jumped into action, quickly following orders. The ship lights dimmed as the cloak was brought online, and the view on the screen changed. The moon slid offscreen and a planet came into view. Not much of a planet though. It was small and rocky. There was no water to be seen on the surface. Her science officer, a Vulcan woman, spoke up. “I am detecting several small settlements on the planet’s surface. There are also four ships in system. Three are not broadcasting transponder codes. The fourth is a Civilian Freighter registered as the ‘S.S. Frank’s Folly’. The other three are… A Tuffli class Freighter, a heavily modified Klingon D7 class, and what appears to have once been a Ferengi D’Kora class marauder.”

M’Zell walked over to the Science station and peered over the Vulcan’s shoulder, frowning. “Hmm… It seems the Frank’s Folly is where it’s supposed to be according to their flight plan. The other ships could very well be outlaws, or they could just have their transponders off. Scan them for anything illegal. I want a closer look.”

She looked around the bridge then returned to her Captain’s chair. “Bring us in closer. Begin scans of the planet too. If our target was here, there might be some kind of illegal activity that we can use. Maybe arrest a few people, squeeze them a bit for information. Get me a-“

She was cut off by her Science officer. “Captain, I am reading a transport signal from the planet’s surface to the unidentified freighter. It looks like crates of weapons.”

Captain M’Zell frowned. “And there we go. Okay, bring us in close and drop the cloak. Then raise shields, power weapons, and hail them. I want a show of force.”

The viewscreen showed the planet growing larger as they approached, until a long and chunky freighter filled the screen. The lights on the bridge brightened as they dropped cloak. Her tactical officer, an Andorian man, looked up from his console. “Weapons locked and ready. Tractor beam on standby.”

Their hail was answered by audio only and a gruff sounding voice said, “What you want?”

The Caitian stood up straighter and replied in a crisp authoritative tone. “This is the U.S.S. Bermuda Rose. You’ve been detected running with no transponder and transporting illegal weaponry. Identify yourself, power down, and prepare to be boarded.”

There was a moment of silence on the line, followed by the same gruff voice saying, “…THE Bermuda Rose? Pirate hunter ship? Long way from home. Wait one moment.”

M’Zell couldn’t help but smirk a bit. She took a great deal of pride in the reputation herself and her ship had gained. And it always made her fur fluff up a bit with pride when people recognized it. Her tactical officer spoke up again. “Ma’am, they’ve raised their shields.”

She sighed. Of course they did. Why would they make this easy? Suddenly, a different voice came over comms. This one was far stranger and sounded mechanical. It was clearly someone covering their voice with a voice modulator. And it was clearly female. “You know, if everyone minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.”

The fur on the back of M’Zell’s neck stood up. She recognized that line. It was from the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She’d found Alice. But that was far too easy. She hit a button on the arm of her chair to mute her side of the audio, quickly ordered an area scan and instructed her crew to standby for combat, then resumed the comm and said, “And who might you be?”

The voice replied, “Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

M’Zell frowned. Another damned quote. She tried something else. “I assume I’m speaking to Alice, then? I’ve come here hoping to find you, actually. I’m feeling very lucky having found you so fast. Would you mind speaking for a bit? Peacefully?”

After a moment, the voice make an odd little chuffing sound that she realized was a chuckle heard through the modulator. “Lucky? That’s one interpretation. Speak, Cat. I might just listen if it’s interesting enough.”

The Caitian bristled. She didn’t like being called “Cat”. And she didn’t like the tone this pirate used. It was almost condescending. Like she was a child being scolded. “Very well… As you know, Starfleet is at war. We really don’t have the time to be chasing pirates all over. We’re willing to offer a limited pardon if you cease your activities, turn yourself in, and agree to a fair trial in our courts. If you refuse, you’ll find your options are far less pleasant. Because I’m going to be honest with you, we have bigger problems than you right now.”

Alice was quiet for a long moment. Long enough to make M’Zell wonder if she’d cut the comm call. But then she spoke up. “Starfleet might have bigger problems than me. But right now, you don’t. I’m terribly sorry, Cat. But that wasn’t nearly as interesting as I’d hoped. Ohh! I know! Let’s play a game! How about a little game of cat and mouse, hmm? Where you try and figure out which one YOU are?”

M’Zell had to bite back a snarl as she bared her fangs at the faceless voice. She took a deep breath and calmed herself. “Look, I’m trying to be reasonable. We have you outgunned here. You can’t run and you can’t shoot your way out. Lower your shields or we’ll lower them for you.”

There was a sigh and the voice sounded almost disappointed. “Fine, I’ll lower shields. And as an added bonus, I’ll throw in a little hint about my game.”

The Caitian turned to her Tactical officer. He nodded. “They’ve lowered shields. We- wait a minute… I’m not reading any life signs. There’s no one ON that ship!”

M’Zell blinked then wheeled around. “BACK US AWA-“

But it was too late. The Tuffli detonated violently in a fireball of white and orange. The blast hit the Avenger class and sent it spinning. The bridge crew was thrown about and sparks leapt from the consoles as power conduits overloaded. The ship slowly righted itself and the crew crawled back to their stations, some of them holding their sides or bleeding from head wounds. M’Zell coughed and cradled what felt like a broken wrist. “Report…”

Her Engineering officer dragged himself upright behind his console and wiped some debris from the console. “Shields are down. Weapons are down. Sensors are… limited. Engines are out. We’re dead in the water. Comms is up. We can call for help.”

She nodded. “Send a distress call. And get shields back online. NOW.”

Her Science officer looked up from her console, the Vulcan actually looking scared. That was a rare expression for her. “Ma’am, I am detecting a new contact. It is… quite large and directly on top of us. I am reading massive energy readings, but not much else with the sensors damaged. What do-“

She trailed off as they heard a whirr of transporter energy. Small canisters beamed in across the bridge, each about the size of a hand grenade. With a pop then a hiss, they started dumping out a thick sweet smelling gas. The bridge crew only had enough time to cover their faces and take a few steps before they slumped to the ground one by one. The Captain’s last sight before darkness took her, was of the floor rushing up to meet her.

Slowly, light returned and with it, pain. The first thing Captain M’Zella T’Sriyu noticed was a massive headache. She slowly opened her eyes and sat up. She was still on her bridge. Around her, her bridge crew was also slowly waking up. The canisters that had been used to gas them were gone. And the small fires that had been burning on the bridge were out. She slowly got to her feet and looked around, then stopped and did a double take. Sitting on her captain’s chair was a box. It was about a foot wide and a foot tall and was tied up with pink wrapping paper and a frilly blue bow on top. She took a step back and blinked a few times. “Uh… Report?”

After a bit of tapping at their consoles, they started reporting one by one. The ship hadn’t moved. But the brief sensor contact they’d detected was gone. The gas attack had been everywhere on the ship simultaneously. The entire crew had been knocked out for, according to the ship’s computer, around three hours. During that time, someone had boarded the ship and stolen a good portion of their torpedo stores, surplus supplies, and even dilithium. They had just enough to make it back to the nearest Starbase however. Reports from all over the ship indicate that the intruders had also repaired some of the subsystems and more pressing concerns. It seemed they’d done just enough of a repair job to keep the ship from blowing up in the time they were out. But the last five hours or so had been completely erased from the computer. So any evidence of the intruders, the mystery ship, even the conversation with Alice was gone. The Captain rubbed her face, hearing all this then peered back down at the suspicious box. She retrieved a tricorder then scanned it. The readings were clearly harmless, but… confusing. Over the careful watch of her armed tactical officer, she slowly opened the fancy wrapping paper and slid the top of the box off. Inside was a teapot, two porcelain teacups complete with saucers, and a selection of various teas and sweetners. A folded handwritten note was placed on top of it all. She unfolded it and read the message, written in a curly feminine font in English.

“Dearest M’Zell,
I’m terribly sorry we had to meet like this. And I’m sorry for having to attack you. But you see, you didn’t really leave me much of a choice but to show a bit of force. I hope you learned the answer to my game from this. You’re not a cat chasing a mouse. You’re a cat chasing the tail of something far bigger. I appreciate what you’ve done for me over the years in eliminating my competition. So I’d like to offer you a deal of my own. Don’t follow me down this rabbit hole, and I won’t hurt you. Simple, yes? You said it yourself. You have bigger problems than me. Oh, and you should really switch to tea. It’s so much better for you than Coffee. I hope this present helps convince you. Maybe some day we can have a tea party! Minus the Hatter, of course.
Sincerely, Alice.
~PS: Your fur is really soft. What do you use to get it that soft? It’s really quite delightful.

M’Zell blinked and stared at the note then re-read it. Alice had been on her ship. She’d been HERE on her bridge. She’d… even petted her and done God knows what else. The Caitian’s ears laid flat and she snarled softly. NO one made a fool of her. She’d gotten the warning all right. But she wouldn’t underestimate her quarry again. She’d catch this “Alice” then- wait, why did she feel a breeze? She reached back and gripped her tail, running her hand along it. Someone had shaved her tail. Her angry yowl, if not for the vacuum of space, could be heard clear to Qo’nos.

Meanwhile, some distance away in the swirling plasma storms of the Badlands, Alice sat in her own Captain’s Chair. She was spinning in it slowly as she pulled off the tight cloth wrap and metal mask from her face. She ran her hand through her long hair and sighed, kicking her feet up and smiling. She accepted a cup of tea from an Orion man who nodded respectfully to her then left hurriedly. As she watched the swirling shades of gold dance on her viewscreen and waited for her tea to cool, she softly recited a line to a very old poem. Her voice, now free of the modulator, was soft and almost singsong in quality.

“Imperious Prima flashes forth
Her edict "to begin it"—
In gentler tones Secunda hopes
"There will be nonsense in it!"—
While Tertia interrupts the tale
Not more than once a minute.

Anon, to sudden silence won,
In fancy they pursue
The dream-child moving through a land
Of wonders wild and new,
In friendly chat with bird or beast—
And half believe it true.”