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‘Hook, Line and Sinker'

 

Bridge, USS Kestrel

From the bridge of Orion cargo raider, The Sprite's Spittle, the cool level voice of Lt. Commander T'Vel informed the captain of what she saw relayed via the drones hovering around the now captured bridge. "Kestrel this is Leader One, bridge is secured."

McGregor's wolfish grin was infectious across the bridge. Noah allowed himself a small whoop and then blushed crimson at his display. "Sorry."

"Not at all ensign, but your celebration is a little early. I myself love it when a plan comes together. But," he turned his attention to the viewscreen as he restlessly drummed his fingers on the armrest, "it hasn't come together yet. Status update on Stallion Two?" He turned his attention back to T'Vel on the screen. "Vel be a dear and tell Thaddeus to look forwards to a visit from me. Access their computer memory, I want to know where they have been and where they were going and begin compiling an inventory for us to compare in the inspection."

Arching a disapproving eyebrow at being addressed as Vel, she responded coolly, "Understood Captain, Mr Buchanan is already retrieving the pertinent information. He will transmit it forthwith."

McGregor now focused on the sensor feed focusing on the engineering compartment. Reading his mind, Contessa Ney brought the engineering section they were securing up on the viewscreen as the main window. The resolution of the tactical display was less detailed as likewise were the video feeds from the drones deployed by the Stallion Two team. Two of which now no longer gave any feedback at all. Ney explained the engine core was possibly scrambling sensors. "Some sort of radiation leak. Leader Two has failed to make contact upon entering the engineering compartment."

"Hmmm .... I wonder. It shouldn't be interfering so. Check it out Denora. Cutler, prepare tractor beams to tow the Sprite out of that sandbar. Have the grapplers on standby. Contessa raise Dexter."

The comm. suddenly crackled with the voice of Caleb ‘Tac' Dexter. "This is Leader Two. I have a man down but engineering is secured. Require engineering assistance." Dexter sounded a little breathless and there was an edge to his voice that he was controlling.

"Very good Tac. Help is on the way. The Kestrel is securing the ship and assistance is en route." McGregor turned to Denora. "Any notion about that interference?"

Her shrill voice replied, "Not as yet Captain, however, I do not believe it to be an engineering problem. Their systems read fine and in line with having encountered a subspace barrier."

"Hmm ... that's what I figured." More to himself he mused, "A crude but effective dampening field."

Molly stepped up to McGregor. "Why would Thaddeus employ such a field? He doesn't normally operate at anything so high scale as to try such a dangerous ploy."

McGregor drummed his fingers as he tried to decipher it from looking at the sensor readings on the viewscreen alone. Thaddeus was a petty criminal. A middle man for bigger fish and he was going to be extremely useful to McGregor as a squealer. He wanted Thaddeus for the information he could give him about T'Hos and his network. But the feeling McGregor was getting between his toes was that there was something more going on here. What had Thaddeus gotten himself caught up in? "That I don't know ... yet. T'Vel send a team across to Dexter's position. Investigate that radiation field."

"I shall attend to it personally Captain."

"Good. But bring Rah with you. I don't have a good vibe about it." McGregor got to his feet swiftly and crossed towards the turbolift door asking Denora as he went past, "Does the radiation pose any dangers?"

Denora's earnest eyes sought out McGregor. "After prolonged contact it may do. However, an inoculation from Dr. Monroe may be effective to prevent any damaging effects."

McGregor nodded at Molly. "Get Judy to organise herself and a team to inoculate the Stallion Teams and the inspection parties. Let's haul the Sprite in and take a closer look at her, shall we?"

"Wait!" She stepped up to be in McGregor's confidence. "Are you sure about going aboard? As I've said all along, this could be a trap on T'Hos' part."

"Nah! Not at all." She looked at him part confused part raging he was taking it so blithely. "Thaddeus' ship wasn't part of the planted intel from T'Hos. I got it all from Paul's records. He noted how T'Hos has been putting pressure on those traders who are more legit, trying to get them to do his dirty business, using threats, bribes and a lot else besides to get them to do his bidding."

"What? Paul ..."

McGregor whispered, "Paul allowed himself to be blackmailed and bribed into things the idiot that he is. But his information indicated that T'Hos had paid a visit to one of Thaddeus' dealerships. With a little more probing and sifting through the red herrings T'Hos planted to throw me off course, I figured out that T'Hos had put the screws on Thaddeus. Equally stupid but also equally with a taste for fine illegal liquor like Paul."

Molly slapped him across the arm. "Why didn't you say so all along? I've been pissed with you for going through with this! Had you just said this wasn't reliant on information from T'Hos I'd have been a lot happier going into this."

"Molly slapping a commanding officer is not becoming." Smiling he patted her shoulder. "Anyway, Molly dear, I had to keep it secret where my information came from. I didn't want to tip off T'Hos' inside man or woman or transgendered species."

"But..." she never got to finish as they were interrupted.

From Ops Noah's voice quivered nervously. With the immediate tactical alert at an end, the tractor beam operation now came under his department. "Captain the subspace sandback will make a tractor lock a little more difficult."

"Ah but not so difficult as to be impossible Cutler." He admonished cheerfully. Molly gave a warning look to McGregor. She didn't appreciate anything that would dent the ensign's newfound confidence. "Not to worry Cutler. In fact, we may as well take the opportunity to hone our skills. Let's deploy the grapplers!" He rubbed his hands eagerly and stepped back down into the central pit with an enthusiastic spring to his step.

At Ops, Noah Cutler's face paled and he gulped audibly. Contessa Ney got business like at her station once again. "Selecting target areas." The display on screen lit up a schematic of the Sprite's Spittle's hull profile with a series of red points. These were the targeting points for the old-fashioned grappling lines. Along the saucer section of the Kestrel the grappling hooks began their deployment. Like whaling torpedoes the grapplers swivelled and turned to find their target with a sharp metallic hook at its tip.

Molly stepped back to be alongside Cutler. Quietly she spoke into his ear as he prepared his department, narrating as he went about his steps. She was impressed to see that he had a firm understanding of the protocols involved regardless. "Ok. So when we use the grapplers we don't use the energy of the tractor beams. However, given that there is always the possibility of strong resistance we need to have the SIF prepared, allow for thrusters and impulse engines to be used at a moment's notice and shields too. And whilst we normally use the grapplers in a situation where we can't use the tractor beams have them on standby just in case anything should go awry."

Both Noah and Contessa declared in unison, "Ready Captain."

Swivelling in his chair, McGregor swung round then to the viewscreen. "Good. Let's fish. Fire grapplers!" There was a shunt and the visual on screen showed the hooks streak across and ensnare the Sprite's Spittle. The superstructure of the Kestrel seemed to momentarily strain and groan as the lines went taut with a secure catch.

"Grappling lines secured."

"Oh goody. We caught us a big fish." McGregor hit a triumphant fist into his palm. Then stretching his legs out in front of him and miming holding a fishing rod and reel, he ordered gleefully, "Reel ‘em in."

 

* * *

 

The Sprite's Spittle

The dull heavy ringing thud of the grappling hooks impacting on its hull resounded throughout the ship. Sitting sweating in his chair, the Sprite's captain looked apprehensively at the ceiling of his bridge. It was almost as if he expected McGregor to be pounding his way through the hull after the declared promise that he was coming to see him. T'Vel did not deign to notice the sounds. Instead, she looked at the boarding party and ordered, "Brace yourselves."

Thaddeus leapt on the order to the Starfleet crew as a sign to panic and letting out a high-pitched squeal grabbed the armrests of his chair desperately. Standing at the doorway, T'Vel braced herself in its frame and guarding it, Sebastian Templar unaware of the why did likewise. Then understanding dawned as the slack of the grappling hooks was taken up and went taut. The ship creaked and groaned initially as the strain of the lines pulled the ship to a stationary stop. The personnel onboard felt themselves sway forwards only slightly. Sebastian was about to voice the lack of cause to brace themselves but thereafter there was shuddering shunt as the grappling hooks started to be hauled in.

The ship resisted initially. There was a forceful repulse of the pull and a powerful jolt rocked the ship. Those less prepared than the boarding party spilled onto the deck as the ship lurched backwards and they forwards. The shuddering lessened but was a constant as the Kestrel pulled the ship out of the subspace anomaly and into its talons.

This thought however, gave Thaddeus no cause to be relieved as his reactivated viewscreen showed the Kestrel looming larger and showed that McGregor was ever closer. "You ... you ... have to protect me. I had no choice! You have to make McGregor understand. I had no choice! You have to have mercy."

From the doorway, seemingly unperturbed by the shuddering of the ship, T'Vel intoned imperiously, "That is a matter for Captain McGregor. The matter of mercy is not a decision for me as second officer."

"But McGregor won't understand."

"I am Vulcan. Mercy is an emotional response I do not feel nor do I understand."

"Pleaseee!" He squealed over the groans and shuddering of the vessel as it was reined in.

"Making pleas to a Vulcan? You may as well make pleas to deaf ears." Submino harped across the bridge for the benefit of Thaddeus as T'Vel turned away from looking at him. "Pointed deaf ears."

Slinked casually at the helm station, Mila Chomsky offered a lifeline to Thaddeus. "McGregor is going to make you talk, one way or ..." she paused as the ship rocked considerably heavier for a moment, "another. The best option is to just talk. Tell him what he wants to know and fess about whatever it is you want to declare."

A paling Thaddeus looked from Mila to T'Vel. His look was imploring. "Is that true?"

"I cannot make any guarantees." T'Vel gave Mila what seemed to be a pointed look before she looked upon the frightened shaking Thaddeus. "However, it is logical that should you co-operate, Captain McGregor will have less need to employ ‘strategies' to discern the information he wants."

"Ok! Ok. I will tell you everything."

Borvoo rattled several expletives in his native Xindi reptilian. The harsh clicks were indicative enough of his mood without any translation. Dashiel Cain however just pointed his carbine at the Reptilian and it succeeded in shutting him up.

Reclined across the helm casually despite the shuddering, Mila chorused, "Here comes McGregor." She looked from the viewscreen to smile at Dashiel's tactic and then pointed her carbine at Thaddeus in an ever so casual waving motion. "Everything?"

In the viewscreen the Kestrel now loomed larger and larger alongside the Sprite's Spittle starboard and began manoeuvring itself closer still, starting to extend its umbilical docking port. The Kestrel was docking to the Sprite's Spittle and in a moment, its inspection teams would pour through the docking ring and begin trawling through every inch and crack of the vessel in search of any contraband or anything illegal or suspicious. Thaddeus fervently declared, "Everything!"

T'Vel stood tall, letting go of the doorframe and swung her carbine into its holster. "That." At T'Vel's pronouncement, the shuddering stopped and the vessel came to a rest. Distant sounds were of the umbilical dock making contact and sealing to the exterior of the ship. A slight final rumble accompanied the contact and all went still and quiet. "Is a most logical decision."

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