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Sector Z-6: Federation/Romulan Neutral Zone Border

Stardate: 54973.5

Quiet Riot's T-Bat screamed along the border at full impulse. The spacecraft's dual engine exhaust glowed brightly against the Neutral Zone's black emptiness. They were almost halfway through a six hour security patrol and besides a few drifting hunks of ice and rock, there was absolutely nothing on long range sensors.

Soon, it would time to turn around and head back to their hanger on Starfleet Asteroid Outpost 5. Despite the austere conditions, they could at least look forward to a hot sonic shower and a few hours of watching SFN in front of the communal holoscreen. That precious device combined with the worn-out naugahyde chairs and the vomit-stained pool table were the only things that made the squadron day room livable. Well, those things and their "Top Gun" trophy proudly displayed in there for everyone to see. As a reward for coming in first in their class, their squadron commander even decreed that Quiet and Riot would have control of the holovision remote for the next year.

Quiet and Riot kept up a lively conversation to help pass the time. Of course, because of their telepathic connection, it was completely inside their heads:

"We should ask Commander Xorax if we can get a dog," Riot thought.

"A dog?" Quiet thought back at her. "Really?"

"Don't you like dogs?" Riot responded.

"I guess so, but of all the things we could ask the Commander for right now: a replicator where the Utaberry jam doesn't taste like sweaty feet, gym equipment that was made in this century. Hell, we could even ask him to have the pool table reupholstered…of all those fun possibilities, you want to push your luck on a dog?"

"Yeah, a dog," Riot shot back at her. "It could be like a squadron mascot. We could name him 'Astro' or 'Lieutenant Barker' or some other cute shit like that. It would be something for the whole squadron to rally around and share."

"First," Quiet thought while silently raising her hand for emphasis, "The squadron could easily rally around and share a new pool table. Well, except for the asshole who puked on the last one, but that was a long time ago. Second, who is gonna take care of this dog? Feed it? Walk it? Pick up after it? No amount of squadron pride in the galaxy is gonna make me put an inside out plastic bag on my hand and pick up a steaming dog turd."

"For the right dog, you'd pick a turd up bare handed. Trust me. You'll love him."

"We are not asking for a dog!"

Suddenly, Riot's sensor console chimed to life.

"Looks like we got a border runner," she thought adjusting her instruments. "Contact 124 Mark 423 Range 1.3 million nautical miles. I can't make it out clearly at this distance, but it looks like a small Romulan ship just decloaked and is about to cross into Fed space."

"They never learn!" Quiet shouted in her skull while rolling her eyes. "Alright, adjusting course to intercept. Bringing the weapons and defensive systems online. Estimate four minutes out."

"It's not all bad," Riot replied trying to look on the bright side. "At least we get to have a little fun. Would be even more fun if we had a dog to come back to afterwards… "

"WE ARE NOT ASKING FOR A DOG!"

****

"There it is," Riot thought looking off the starboard winglet of their T-Bat.

"I see 'em," Quiet replied bring the nose of their fighter around so they could get in firing position. She focused her eyes on the small green speck streaking across the blackness. "Correct me if your sensors say I'm wrong, but that just looks like a long range passenger shuttle."

"Your eyes and my sensors are in total agreement," Riot thought. "I'm not reading any offensive weapon systems. With these engine scans, I doubt that thing can do much better than Warp 3.5. Probably Warp 3 while cloaked."

"That's slower than the speed of smell…" Quiet muttered.

"Four life signs, all Romulan," Riot continued, "Definitely on our side of the border now. They're probably just lost tourists."

"Or spies," Quiet muttered.

"If they're spies trying to sneak across," Riot thought, "they're doing a pretty shitty job of it."

"In any case," Quiet answered, "they ain't supposed to be here and they're our problem now. Time for us to earn our paychecks."

"What paychecks?" Riot laughed inside her head. "You getting paid?"

The T-Bat's engines dramatically outperformed the shuttle. Within a few seconds, Quiet Riot zoomed right behind the Romulan craft's six-o'clock position. The ship didn't even try to run. It made Quiet Riot very nervous.

"Ok…" Quiet thought. "Time to show them we're serious about them going home." She brought her targeting reticle right onto the center of the hull plating and locked it up. A steady warning tone echoed through their helmets.

"You're on international hailing freq," Riot thought. "Time for your fun little spiel."

"Unidentifed Romulan vessel," Quiet said firmly into the subspace radio while reading off the Starfleet JAG reference card taped to her console. She hated having to be so formal. It made her feel like a cop. "Pursuant to Article VII, Section II of the Treaty of Algeron, I am identifying myself as a uniformed border patrol craft with the Starfleet of United Federation of Planets. At Time Index 34572.6, sensors indicated that you crossed the internationally recognized border of the Neutral Zone and entered Federation space. This is a violation of Article II, Section I of the above treaty. Holoimages are now being recorded of your vessel to be forwarded to both the Federation Diplomatic Corps and Romulan Embassy on Earth for possible criminal prosecution and/or civil action.

You will immediately alter your course to 214 Mark 123 and return to Romulan Space. I will escort you to the border. You have thirty seconds to comply or I am authorized to use lethal force."

Despite the lofty threats of interstellar maritime law, no ship ever faced real consequences for violating the Federation border. No matter how many times the Diplomatic Corps complained to the Romulan Foreign ministry, it was unofficial state policy to annoy and probe Starfleet. Every pilot that flew the Neutral Zone knew it. However, none of the violators ever wanted to get into an actual shooting match. Normally, this was the moment that Romulan ships turned tail and ran. This vessel, on the other hand, was still flying straight and level. Quiet Riot exchanged worried thoughts.

"Romulan vessel," Quiet spoke into the radio again. "You now have fifteen seconds to comply or I will use lethal force."

"No change to course or speed," Riot thought.

Quiet took a deep breath. She looked down and saw that her micro-torpedoes were hot in the launch tubes. She had never fired one in anger before but it seemed like that was about to change.

"Is he trying to commit suicide?" Riot thought desperately. "They're not even trying to evade."

"Romulan vessel," Quiet tried one final time. "You now have five seconds to comply…"

"Q!" Riot thought out. "They're hailing us and requesting visual communications."

"What?" Quiet thought back surprised.

"You can see out of my eyes, Brain Buddy," Riot thought. "Look at my screen."

"I see it," Quiet thought. "Ok, put them through."

Quiet and Riot's tactical displays both transformed into tiny viewscreens at the flick of a switch. They gasped when they saw an unshaven Romulan man staring back at them from the shuttle's helm. An exhausted woman was seated next to him. Two frightened Romulan girls were huddled in the aft section.

"Federation spacecraft," the man spoke with a drained voice. "My name is Marsus Trallian. Until three weeks ago, I was a Romulan senator and member of the Continuing Committee of the Star Empire. We are not returning to Romulan space. As you can see, I have innocent women and children aboard. DO NOT FIRE. My family and I request assistance."

"Um…" Quiet stammered furiously flipping through her JAG rules of engagement reference cards looking for a situation even remotely similar to this. "Mr. Trallian, what kind of assistance do you require?"

"I need you to help me contact either General Daniel, Son of Tigranian from the Klingon Defense Force or the Federation starship, USS Pershing. Respond please."

"YOU GOTTA BE SHITTING ME!" Quiet and Riot both thought as one.


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