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Cloak and Shield

Posted on Wed Oct 21st, 2015 @ 7:54am by Lieutenant Commander Vanora Stele

Mission: Heart of Stele
Location: Beta Base, Moon of Troyius
Timeline: After "Beta Base"

It had taken Vanora almost another week to get down to the base. She had not wasted her trip across the Alpha Quadrant; only two days in, after the shock wore off, she had figured out how exactly Kanoa had snuck onto the Gladiator. It was actually pretty ingenious. By linking the sensors directly to the fighter's cloak and to the transporter, and then entering the pattern buffer prior to the expected lowering of shields, the bounty hunter had been able to beam aboard the ship in a mere fraction of a second.

But even though Vanora knew how to get down, she needed to get a sense of the frequency that the hidden Beta Base revealed itself. It turned out that the secret prison operated both its cloaking device and shields with even tighter security than the Gladiator, which cost Vanora about five hours of optimizing the scanners to anticipate the actual dropping of shields. The next pair of related problems were the Base's cloak and the schedule of the prison transports. The latter problem was easy: it seemed that new prison guards arrived to relieve the current ones every other day. They were not, however, efficient in their change over, which meant that Vanora would only be able to use the transport's arrival to take advantage of the lifting of the Base's cloak and shield.

The other problem, beaming down when Vanora couldn't predict where it was safe to materialize, required four observations before the scanners were able to sufficiently map the compound. The scans were so brief that the data was incomplete, but it was enough that she wouldn't beam down and materialize inside a bulkhead, or in the middle of the guards' break room.

The data had, however, been complete enough to give Vanora another heart-stopping piece of information: there were five human prisoners being held in the compound. That was five chances that Tang was still alive.

That was all she had needed. When the next Timariot transport approached the moon, Vanora was ready. She'd long ago changed out of her uniform and into typical Elasian clothing including, of course, her knife belt. She picked up her leather shoulder bag that was sitting ready next to the small transporter pad, and initiated the "break-in" program, dematerializing into the pattern buffer. When she materialized, it was underground, deep within the Troyian moon. Inside Beta Base.

From the rough map she'd pieced together, Vanora had guessed the room she'd be beaming into was the armory. She mentally patted herself on the back, smiling as she looked around and saw racks of Federation-made phasers as well as Elasian-made steel arms, crossbows, and other archaic weapons. After checking the door, Vanora pulled a small round chip out of her sleeve, methodically attaching it to, and then removing it from, each of the fifty phasers in the armory. An almost undetectable hum emanated from each weapon now.

Her exit strategy partially implemented, she moved to the door and listened for any traffic on the other side. There were some footsteps that came closer, and then closer. Vanora scanned the room and scampered behind the best cover, a double-rack of halberds, just as the door opened and a pair of prison guards came in. One was a Timariot knight; the other appeared to be Troyian. The knight was blustering loudly as the door opened. "... and so I told him, 'General, the proof is literally in the pudding... that you're eating right now!" Although the Troyian smiled politely, he didn't really laugh at all. The knight, on the other hand, laughed so hard at his own joke that Vanora thought he might tip over. She recognized the knight's voice from the transport-to-Beta Base communications.

Sir Ammon, Knight of Baetulo, did not look like what one imagined when they thought of the Timariot. Sure, he had the shiny armor, the helmet, even the red cape, but that was it. Inside the armor, helmet, and behind the red cape was a large, fat, bulbous man. A gluttenous man, certainly not the muscled warriors that were held up on pedestals, the right arm of the Elasian people, the great shield of the Dohlman. His skin was as greasy as his hair, breaking out in acne due to poor hygiene, and a certain odor seemed to follow him like a religious censor bearer. In short, he was not an attractive man.

This was the truth, which so many Elasians denied to themselves: many of the Timariot, especially those from noble families or the households of tribal chiefs, were not the best that Elas had to offer. Far from it, many of them were the worst. They were the cast-offs, the younger daughters denied their mother's hereditary titles, the sons with excess testosterone and not enough wrestling matches, duels, or jousts to spend it on. They were the unwanted children of Elas, those who were envious and narcissistic enough to demand recognition, but who lacked the intelligence, physical prowess, or emotional stability necessary to be accepted by Starfleet.

Children, of course, did not know this, and it was as a child that Vanora had learned about the Timariot, watching them parade through her mother's chiefdom. Children such as Vanora did not see the hours of preparation it took for the Timariot to get presentable for their march, the make-up, the replication of new clothes and armor, and furious polishing of weapons and family heirlooms, the bottles of perfume and cologne, the grooming and trimming. But that was exactly what it took to make extraneous pieces look essential.

It was thus a shock to Vanora as she finally laid her now-adult eyes (and adult nose) on the leader of this prisoner transport team, Sir Ammon. From this distance, she could see the severity of the sloth of the Elasian man. It was a realization that shocked her. Even though she'd heard the stories told about the Timariot by boomers, once she'd left Elas at the age of 16, the stories of their cruelty and excessive use of force in dealing with the "protectorate" of the Molai people, Vanora still had held up the image of her childhood, and believed at least that the knights were professionals and chivalrous. It was of course possible that this prison guard was an exception, but it was an exception Vanora would previously have thought impossible.

She shook off her feeling of betrayal and refocused on her next step. The guards had left the door wide open behind them and moved lazily through the rows of weapons. The Troyian held a PADD and seemed to be pretending to do inventory, though neither of them inspected or touched a single weapon. As Vanora quickly moved toward the door, silently, she hoped this meant they would also miss the slight buzzing of the phasers.

Out the door and clear of the pair, she pulled her own PADD out of her satchel and checked the map again, before moving rapidly down the hallway, toward the cells and her first detected Human lifesign.


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