A Den of Thieves
Senior Officers' Lounge
As the rest of the senior staff filed out to prepare for the assigned tasks, McGregor held back knowing his XO had something left to say. "You don't look too happy Molly."
Remaining seated at the conference table opposite to McGregor, she said nothing with the two of them staring one another down. "You should know Molly that I'm rather good at staring contests."
Molly eventually responded dully, "No, I'm not particularly thrilled."
"The mission troubles you?"
She rapped the table with her knuckles. "What galls me is just how casual you are about it all. I've not known you to be so flippant when it comes to putting lives on the line."
"It's hardly a major Op Molly. One simple little ship to board, that's all."
"One simple little ship that so far we have no idea as to where it is." She spread her hands as if seeking an answer as to where it might be found.
Dexter's voice came through. "Bridge to McGregor. Sensors have detected a ship on the periphery of our sensor range. Shall we adjust heading?"
McGregor clicked the wall mounted comm. system and called into the speaker. "No. Keep on this heading for the present moment. I'll update shortly."
Molly narrowed her eyes as she shook her head. "You knew that was going to happen. You just set me up to ask right before the sensors would pick it up." He shrugged and grinned. In reference to his know how she asked, "Care to explain?"
Effecting a magnanimous tone McGregor actually came off as boasting. "Oh that, yes I've just discovered the position of Thaddeus' ship. However, I don't want Thaddeus to know. I'm not going to tip my hand just yet. Let's let Thaddeus think he has gotten away."
"Bridge to McGregor, detected ship has changed course and is no longer on our sensors."
"Very good, maintain course."Molly arched her eyebrow by way of questioning McGregor. "I sat up all night doing my math Molly. I read the traffic reports, the constabulary logs, comm. chatter as well as reviewing the navigational buoy logs. All very boring, but a little whisky and a little Yeoman Harris to help me with my calculations, my geometric triangles and tantric positions - oops - I mean triangulations and calculations."
"Ok. However, why then the lack of chasing him down? Why aren't we chasing him down? Why aren't you changing course?"
"I will and I shall." He examines a PADD. "Just not yet. I don't want to spook Thaddeus. I want to keep him on this general heading."McGregor sensed Molly's patience was running thin. "All part of my grand plan."
It did little to mollify her. Getting testy with the lack of answers, Molly retorted, "A grand plan that is vague about certain details."
He scoffed. "Hardly vague."
Molly exclaimed just tempering her anger. "Really! So how are we going to catch and board Thaddeus' ship?"
"It's a simple matter of running up to him and a few rat traps to punch out his lights. And I provided plenty of details on the SARAH itself."
"Those are details are details I don't care much for. Ensign Jex as pilot for one of the Stallions for example is a detail I do not overly care for. You do recall that she is in actuality an engineer." Molly stabbed the table with her forefinger.
"Ah yes, but the slug was a pilot."
Molly rolled her eyes. With McGregor she wondered whether they would ever come down. "The slug - the trill symbiont - may have been a pilot in a previous life but it wasn't the slug that graduated from Starfleet Academy. It was the host, Deodzi who graduated as a pilot, before she was joined."
McGregor pulled an incredulous face. "Of course the slug didn't graduate from the Academy. It would have had no hands to hold the scroll." Bending his elbows, he tucked his arms in towards his body and mocked flailing futilely with his hands miming a short reaching slug.
After long years of working with McGregor, Molly knew to turn his little jokes against him to score a point. "It wouldn't have had hands to pilot a ship either."
Her response made him rub his beard, which was as close as he would come to conceding the point, other than to say, "A good point."
Molly folded her arms smugly as sticking it to her captain. "Another good point is the fact that some of the information you have used here has been kindly provided by T'Hos."
He leaned back in his chair with his hands behind his head. "And corroborated by intelligence reports, comm. and navigation buoy records, and various other sources."
"Still, all this information provided by T'Hos is a little convenient."
"Hardly convenient Molly, I sat up all night doing the math, remember."
"T'Hos is smart enough to leave a golden breadcrumb trail for you to follow and have you work it out enough to make you think that you are outsmarting him. All so that you walk into his trap."
"Indeed it could be a trap - but a good one. One with the right bait to lure me in. And yes it is a golden breadcrumb trail but you know what Molly, when tracking shit you follow the smell. Bridge, adjust heading to ..." McGregor instructed the bridge and awaited confirmation. Looking back up through the large window, he noted the change in warp speed and direction. With a tilt of his head, the captain appeared to sense the change of the Kestrel's course through the feel of the deck plates alone. Turning to Cartwright, he spread his hands as if to say viola. "See, I'm full of details."
"Yes and then putting T'Vel in charge of one of the teams."
"Ah that's your fault! I wanted to go remember. Don't you trust T'Vel?"
"I get the distinct impression that you planned that all along. It also strikes me McGregor, that you are the one with trust issues. You won't tell me what is going on. Starfleet was all too happy to dump me here to act as your watchdog sometimes your guide dog but I'm not a lapdog. If you won't trust me, I'm of no use to you. I give you leeway on lots of things McGregor but only because I can usually trust that you are doing the right thing. And I can recognise the times when I know I can't trust you to reign it in. But if you can't trust me then there's no point my serving as your XO."
"Molly! I wouldn't have any other! You're the only one that ever lasted. Don't worry about T'Vel. Judy says she is fine and dandy; not to mention that Rah is on the team with her. Personally, I would be more worried about Rah. I do fear he might choke on a fur ball. I must speak to Judy actually about getting Rah groomed. I wonder should I get him neutered too when I'm at it."
"Ock Molly, trust me, I do trust you. I'm just choosing to leave your hands clean of this whole affair."
"Pfft! Do you think I'd trust information found from T'Hos that seems to highlight many of his competitors' operations and yet revealing very little of his own? Do you think I'd trust it based on official records and Starfleet Intelligence alone? I made use of the information provided by Paul."
Cartwright looked up shocked at the mention of her ex-husband. "What's Paul got to do with this?"
"Nothing at all, other than providing us with useful corroborating evidence that verified much of what T'Hos gave away. Of course, T'Hos gave the information away freely to his own ends. He wants to send us on a wild goose chase - only it ain't so wild or goosey. Instead, it is an all too tempting target. That takes us away from hunting T'Hos down."
"So Paul's information confirmed what T'Hos had."
"It took a little homework, but yup it substantiated the claims the dossier gathered from T'Hos' illegal operations on Aubrellis."
"Why so secretive?"
"I didn't want to name names. I don't want Starfleet to arrest Paul. Worse still, I don't want T'Hos to learn we know of his operations from Paul. Otherwise, Paul will end up a deader. He may yet Molly."
Molly did not want to acknowledge that reality. "Why?"
McGregor leaned forward and the play of light on his face hooded his eyes in shadow as his tone turned dark. "He's a bastard. A charming good-hearted bastard with a great taste in liquor but whilst still a bastard he is your ex-husband bastard. Are we done? Satisfied?"
She shook her head. "I am far from satisfied."
His tone suddenly lightened as he jested. "Normally, I would make a crude comment about your sex life Molly, but I shan't this time."
"You better not. Or your tantric triangle will be missing a vital side. And I get that you are still keeping something from me."
"Oh I like to keep you on your toes Molly. It would get boring if I didn't spring a few surprises along the way."
"Such as doing this to protect Paul?!"
Wagging a finger, he sternly corrected Molly's misconception. "No Molly. I'm protecting you."
"I thought ..."
He cut her off brusquely. "McGregor to bridge, adjust course to..." Again, he relayed his instructions to the bridge and awaited their confirmation. He turned his attention back to Molly. He became a little more sober as he laid his palms on the table and pushed himself up to standing. "I'm not doing anything to protect Paul only you Molls. You've paid the price with Admiralty before and I'll not let him ruin your career. Nor will I allow him to get away with facilitating T'Hos' entry to Starbase 49. That ended with two of my people dead. Trust me; I ain't flippant about people's lives Molly. You know that. Paul will get his. But I'll be the one to mete out my own brand of justice. No one else."
* * *
The lair of T'Hos Likk
The Nausicaan screwed up his nose and gave the man across from him a disapproving sneer. "T'Hos why have you called us here?"
Leaning back in his expansive chair T'Hos plucked at the luxurious fabrics. He considered the fine setting of his little abode. Some would consider it vulgar and tasteless. However, to him, it suited his station as a king among petty thieves and squabbling pirates. He was a criminal mastermind. The leading figure in a crime syndicate primed to replace the audacious Orion Syndicate. Yes, that was his grand vision. The vision he wanted to create and share with his family. All seemed within his grasp until the fateful day he crossed the path of a certain Starfleet officer. The pit of his dark soul growled and twisted with venom for that accursed man.
Slopping down his mug of wine, T'Hos reached over and with a broken and dirty nail skewered a cockroach scuttling across the table between the lavish gold plated tableware adorned with rich foods. He plucked the squirming cockroach up between index and fore finger bringing it to his eye level and turning his narrowed eyes to consider its plight.
"Well? What's the matter T'Hos? Do even you, find your banquet too rich to stomach? Har!" The Nausicaan scooped up a handful of food and scoffed it heartily. Food and wine dribbled down his chin as open mouthed he laughed gregariously.
T'Hos opted to ignore his manners and insult. Instead, he squeezed the cockroach between his fingers as with a degree of finality and with a mouthful of hate he pronounced, "In one word? McGregor."
He looked up to catch the expressions of those seated on the plush fittings of his ‘throne room' floor. The Bers Brothers were long time business associates and rivals. By dent of their greed, they had come to ally themselves with T'Hos in his vision to create a new criminal power to rival the Orions. Bers W'Asdi was the elder Nausicaan brother but where he had the brawn and might of the family, he did not have the brains or ambition. Instead, he allowed his decisions to be schooled by his younger and more cunning siblings. As such, Bers W'Asdi's immediate reaction was to scoff at T'Hos.
"Pah!" The Nausicaan wiped his gaping mouth and chin with his sleeve. "Your vendetta with the Border Dog is none of our concern." He smiled greedily and to T'Hos' mind, far too dangerously at that. "If he hurts your business, why it is only to our advantage."
However, T'Hos did not focus his attention on W'Asdi. Instead, he focused on gauging the responses of the other brothers here. Bers Deros was the more vocal and seemingly the one who made the decisions. His response was cool too. "I agree with my brother. McGregor is a thorn in our sides but so too is any number of Federation captains. You forget T'Hos we are not a committee or a talking house. We are persons with business interests, sometimes mutual, sometimes..." this new speaker extended a hand and weighed it like a scale of sorts, "not."
Undeterred, T'Hos posited, "And in getting rid of McGregor our interests our mutual." He kept his eyes on the silent Bers Huoth who merely slinked back on the velvets as he watched the proceedings with keen eyes even as he ran a hand along the length of the scantily dressed Orion girl draped over him.
Deros pressed his argument. "You have a personal vendetta against McGregor because he killed your kin. Taking on a starship captain deliberately is not something that interests me. As it is, your attack on the Kestrel at Starbase 49 has only brought greater attention to our operations. The Border Patrol have increased their stop and search operations. If anything you owe us compensation for the losses we have endured."
"Now, now Deros. Let's try to rise above petty concerns. Compensation? ... Imagine if we can rid ourselves of McGregor just how much more profitable business will be."
"We can't deny that." But Deros, looking over at his partner and brother carefully, as he gorged himself on more of the finery laid on for them, was not to be easily convinced. A subtle nod from Huoth made Deros continue in this vein. "However, the same could be said of any Border Patrol captain or ship. Do you suggest we take them all on? Wage a war with the Federation? Huh. We are ‘entrepreneurs' not warlords. We aren't the Klingon Empire or the Cardassian Union. They took on the Federation and yet failed. Yet you ask us to go up against them!"
"I don't ask that. Merely that we tackle a single thorn in all our sides. Since McGregor's lucky escape, he has escalated his operations and singlehandedly bringing our operations down around our ears. My network on Aubrellis has taken me years to build up and he has destroyed it in a day."
"Yes, your operations. And because of you bringing it upon yourself. You won't win our pity or our sympathy because of your recklessness. Nor will you win our vote for a harebrained scheme to take on McGregor."
T'Hos smiled and countered, "And what if I tell you that already McGregor is falling for my bait, has already fallen into my trap?"
Deros leaned in greedily. "How so?"
"At this very moment he thinks he has a great scheme in operation. Little does he realise I have my own operations in play. A little misinformation can go a long way."
"Misinformation? Is that all?"
"It will be enough to distract McGregor until we can ensnare him in our trap and be rid of him once and for all."
Deros snorted. "It hardly sounds fool proof."
"You forget I still have someone working on the inside. And just when McGregor least needs it, they will play their hand and render the dog useless. I will have McGregor on his knees before me, begging to save his crew and his pathetic life. And then, I will take great pleasure in taking both."
* * *