Starbase23 v2.0 - Larry Stovall's Stories

Bates 02: Necessary Force

By Larry Stovall


Just a stray idea I had one night, involving Leo Bates, the Federation's near-pascifism, and Cage-era uniforms and equipment.

Chapter One

The campsite was a mess. Recreational paraphernalia was littered around in a chaotic fashion. The sole tent had been ripped open and the supports abused in such a way that the whole thing had collapsed into a brightly colored heap.

Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Leo Bates noted the details. He also noted what he didn’t see.

“Where’s the food?”

The Chief Petty Officer standing next to him was a grey-haired Starfleet veteran wearing a field jacket over his red tunic. The older man’s eyes narrowed.

“Gone.” The security man said. “Guess that confirms it.”

Bates looked around. There was no evidence of intruding animals. No evidence that the campers had just up and left of their own volition. He was willing to bet that if he looked harder, other bits and pieces of equipment had been taken. There was enough here to outfit three people for an enjoyable hike. There’d have been plenty to spare.

“It was him.”

“Yes, sir.” The Chief responded. “Orders?”

The Lieutenant stayed quiet for a moment. He wasn’t truly qualified for a manhunt in the wilderness. His uniform tunic was the slate blue of the science division and the phaser on his hip was an uncomfortable weight. He wondered why the Captain had assigned him to one of the search details.

“Survey the immediate vicinity.” He ordered, trying to view the situation as if it were a math problem. “Try to find out which direction he went, and if he took these people with him.”

“Aye, sir.” The Chief – his name was Hauser – broke away from Bates, began directing the posse of Tellarites around them. There were few police on Makin VI, and the Krassin had only so much crew to go around. Hence, Starfleet officers were leading civilian search teams, trying to maximize effectiveness.

Bates watched the Tellarites fan out into the woods, and realized he had something he should be doing as well. He pulled out his communicator, flipped it open.

“Bates to Krassin.”

“Krassin here.” The comm officer’s voice crackled out from the communicator. She was coordinating search efforts from orbit. “Report.”

“We’ve found evidence that leads us to believe the fugitive is in our area. There’s a campsite here, looks like it’s been looted and there’s no sign of the inhabitants.” He hesitated a moment. He had a hunch. Hunches were not rational, and he tried to ignore them, but something was keeping him from doing that in this case. “Be advised that subject may have hostages.”

“Acknowledged, Lieutenant. Are you aware your search zone is in a wildlife seclusion?”

“Affirmative.” Makin IV had large tracts of undeveloped land. The colonial government was quite choosy about who it let explore the wild. “Request information on any civilians known to be in this area.”

There was a long pause.

“Three university students from offworld were granted permission to conduct research in your area, Lieutenant.” She listed the names. “Continue search operations at your discretion. Krassin, out.”

He shut down the communicator, put it back on his belt. The comm officer would be relaying his hunch to the Captain. If the Krassin’s CO believed the report, Bates would likely be relieved in a matter of moments.

Moments passed, and his communicator didn’t make a sound. Tellarites were filtering back into the camp area. Hauser was talking to them. After a few moments, the Chief came over.

“Looks like whoever was here headed northeast. Gets hillier up that way, be a good place to hole up for awhile.” The security officer had a light Missouri accent. “There’s four of them, probably two women and two males. Three of them were wearing hiking boots, the other one wasn’t.”

Bates nodded. He glanced at the Tellarites. One was an off-duty constable, another a retired marine, at least according to what they’d told him. The rest were lifetime civilians, except for one forest ranger who Bates had decided to keep close.

“You two.” He indicated the two more martial Tellarites. “Stay here, it’s possible he’ll double back or come back from more supplies. He may have hostages, securing them is the priority.”

The two snouted aliens gave assent. Bates looked to the rest of his party.

“Let’s go.”

The search party formed up and moved off into the woods. Hauser was giving Bates an approving glance, but the young Lieutenant did not notice.

Chapter Two

The forest thinned after a while, the trees becoming shorter and farther from each other. The ground had transformed into an uphill grade, and there were more rocks. Bates studied the changes with some actual interest; he was a geologist, and he could easily analyze what such changes meant.

He also noted that the sun was going down. The sky had assumed a dramatic orange hue that was quite striking, but signaled the onset of night and a much lower chance of finding their quarry. He checked his tricorder again. There were no unusual readings and no sign of the fugitive.

The Krassin had yet to contact him again. He wondered if his report had even been noted. Perhaps another team had found a better trail, clearer evidence of the Menalvagorian’s presence.

Somehow Bates didn’t think so.

“Tellarites don’t seem like they’ll give up any time soon, sir.” Hauser noted, quietly. The Chief was staying close to his officer.

Bates nodded to him. He’d been wondering about their allies' willingness to press on after sunset. He didn’t know how Hauser knew that, but Chief Petty Officers had their ways.

“Need to find him soon, Chief.” Bates whispered.

“Yes, sir.” Hauser’s eyes didn’t stop scanning their surroundings, even when he spoke. “I reckon the hostages will be fine for now, Lieutenant. He wouldn’t have taken ‘em with him if he hadn’t wanted some leverage.”

“Probably right, Chief.” Bates said. He didn’t know if he truly agreed. The man they were chasing had already killed several people… some of them his own compatriots. They walked on. The trees became even thinner. Ahead the terrain rose, transitioning into a sharp, rocky incline.

Hauser stopped suddenly. Bates followed suit, and he regarded the security man. The Chief’s eyes were locked on the expanse of rock they’d been heading toward. Bates looked up there himself and saw nothing, though he noticed that objects that distant were a bit out of focus. The doctor was probably right about his eyes.

“Thought I saw something move up there, sir.” Hauser reported, quietly.

“How sure are you?”

There were wheel’s moving behind the Chief’s eyes.

“I’m sure. ‘Bout halfway up or so.”

Bates looked around. The Tellarites, spread out as they were, had stopped still and were glancing towards him. He moved down into a crouch, and his search team followed suit. Beside him, Hauser had his phaser out. The Lieutenant took a tentative step.

The group crept forward, making little noise. Bates’ eyes were fixed on the hill, though with the increasing gloom he wondered if he could see anything that was up there.

He blinked suddenly, and didn’t immediately realize why. A streak of red lingered in his vision even with his eyes closed. He understood what had happened just as the sound of the weapon discharge reached him.

“Get down!” He yelled, and half-leapt, half-fell toward the nearest cover. Somewhere in the back of his mind he identified the type of tree he was hunkering behind, but he discarded the incidental knowledge as weapons fire lit up the forest. Quick pulses flew up the hill as the Tellarites opened up, more crimson beams flashing down from the rocks to answer them. His phaser was in his hand, though he couldn’t remember drawing it.

“Cease fire!” He yelled at the top of his voice but only the nearest team members obeyed. He yelled three more times before the Tellarites’ guns fell silent. A few more desultory shots flew down from the hill, then their attacker's weapon fell silent as well. “Report injuries!”

He glanced around, taking mental inventory of his team. No one he could see betrayed wounds. All were behind trees, rocks, or similar cover. The Tellarites were yelling among themselves.

“We’re fine, Starfleet!” The forest ranger exclaimed. She was the nearest to Bates, protected by something quite like a red oak. “We’re fine.”

The Lieutenant nodded to her and looked for his security man. Hauser had set up behind a substantial chunk of stone, and was keeping his phaser trained on the hillside.

“Chief?” He asked.

“Can’t see him now, sir. Think he’s under cover.”

Bates nodded. He pawed at his tricorder, trying to get the thing open while keeping a grip on his phaser. He realized his folly after a moment, and holstered his weapon. The tricorder sang it’s familiar song. There were life signs up that hill, of indeterminate type and location, but more than would be produced by a single person. The Lieutenant frowned. He had not wanted his hunch to be correct.

He shut off the tricorder, plucked his communicator off his belt.

“Bates to Krassin…”

“How ya’ doin’ down there Starfleet?” A voice echoed from up the hill. Bates peeked from behind his tree, but could not see who was speaking. His communicator came alive.

“Krassin here. Report, Lieutenant.” The commo officer sounded slightly bored. Bates barely noticed.

“My team has taken fire, no injuries sustained.” He informed. “Fugitive is in a defensible location bearing zero zero six from my position.”

“Affirmative!” The commo officer didn’t sound bored now. “Maintain position. Will inform the Captain and dispatch re—”

“You better answer me Starfleet!” The voice from the hill demanded. “These kids with me would probably like it!”

Bates froze for a single moment. He made his decision.

“Stand by, Krassin.” He glanced up the hill. “I’m answering! What do you want?”

“Well that’s the question of the day, ain’t it Starfleet!” The fugitive replied. Off to Bates right, Hauser was eyeing the rocky hillside, trying to find a target. “I think I want off this mudball with a decent head start. Can you fix that?”

Somehow, Bates didn’t think his Captain would honor any concessions made by a geologist. His negotiation platform was poor.

“You’ll have to let me talk to my ship!” He yelled.

“You do that, Starfleet! Might wanna tell them that if I hear a transporter, I feel a beam lock on me, they lose their kids! It don’t take anything to pull a trigger!”

“I hear you!” Bates gnashed his teeth. He wasn’t the type to growl, or snarl, but had he been, this would’ve been the ideal moment. He turned his attention back to the communicator.

“Bates to Krassin. Subject has made verbal contact, claims he will kill his hostages if reinforcements are beamed in, or if you attempt to transport him away.” He didn’t realize how breathless he sounded. “He’s trying to negotiate with me.”

“Lieutenant, this is Commander Sambrano.” Bates let out a breath at the sound of his Captain’s voice. “How likely is he to carry out his threat?”

The Lieutenant’s eyes widened in confusion. How was he supposed to know that? He glanced up the hill. His instincts were whispering to them again; he didn’t have time to feel uncomfortable about it.

“I believe him, sir. I think he’ll do it.”

Chapter Three

Bates walked forward, his hands up. The hill wasn’t really high, but his perceptions made each step stretch in length. He knew, logically, that perceptions were affected by emotions, but he’d never spent much time thinking about it. He’d have to discuss the phenomenon with the ship’s doctor.

The ground grew steeper, turning slowly from grass to bare dirt and rock. The hill wasn’t really a hill, Bates realized; probably what was left of an exposed batholith that’d been eroded over the centuries. About halfway up the giant block of granite was the criminal and his hostages. Bates was frightened of the man, though to his surprise he was more worried for the captives. Captain Sambrano had made the search team leaders watch the tape of the attempted hijacking. The three Menalvagorians had been fast, efficient, and brutal. A young clerk had sounded the alarm. The act had led to her unpleasant death. It had also led to the chase, the death of three Makin IV militiamen and the wounding of two of the three hijackers. When the wounded suggested surrender, the third man, the healthy man, had executed them.

Bates doubted a creature like that would have any mercy toward his captives, and he wondered why he was willingly walking up a hill to meet the fellow.

The ground was becoming quite treacherous. The Lieutenant abandoned his efforts to keep his hands up and pulled himself over the rough spots. The sun had almost set, and he had trouble picking out the best places to climb. He managed not to stumble.

Halfway up the hill he found a wide ledge. It ran diagonally up the face of the hill. He was near where the weapon’s fire had come from, he realized. He began walking up the ledge.

He caught a hint of motion ahead. He stopped.

“I’m here.” He said.

“Keep on coming, Starfleet.” A voice answered. Bates eyes looked for its source; he found the man, or rather his head and one shoulder. The fugitive was mostly concealed behind a small outcropping. His weapon was aimed at Bates.

The Lieutenant nodded and stepped forward. He’d raised his hands again.

The Menalvagorian edged away from the rock face, careful not to stray too far out on the ledge. He stepped backwards, his pulser carefully aimed. Bates followed. Just up the ledge, there was a vertical depression in the cliff face. The fugitive stepped toward it.

Bates stopped walking. The Menalvagorian, physically identical to a human, sneered. Behind him, at the rear of the cave, were the hostages. They were quite still.

"All right." The fugitive growled. He wasn't a particularly big man, but his eyes were cold. He still wore his body armor, which was scuffed up and as abused as the man wearing it. "You wanted to see 'em, you've seen 'em. Take out that communicator and tell your Captain."

The Lieutenant glanced at the prisoners.

"Put a light on them. Want to see that they're okay."

"Oh fuck you, Starfleet." The criminal snarled.

Bates shrugged. He kept his hands up and his communicator stayed on his belt.

The Menalvagorian chuckled.

"All right. Guess that's fair enough." He plucked a flashlight off his belt, directed it towards the hostages. Two women, one man. One of the females was an Andorian. All three were bruised and abraded, their clothes askew. They squinted under the flashlight's scrutiny, but there was still fear in their eyes. "Satisfied."

The Lieutenant nodded.

"I'm reaching for my comm." He said, slowly lowering one hand to his belt. The fugitive had kept his pulser on Bates while illuminating his captives; he certainly didn't divert his aim now. Bates found the device, flipped it open.

"Bates to Krassin." He spoke into it.

"Krassin here." The voice was Sambrano's. "Status of the hostages?"

"Alive." Bates responded.

"I want a warpshuttle." The fugitive demanded. "And twenty-four hours."

"He wants a warpshuttle and a day’s head-start, sir." Bates relayed.

"Inform him that it'll take time to…" The Captain began.

"Uh-uh! None of that bullshit." The criminal muttered. "He gives me what I want now."

The Menalvagorian swung his weapon toward a hostage. The human girl's eyes went wide as she stared down the barrel; the fugitive kept his eyes on Bates.

"Now." The killer emphasized.

"His weapon is trained on one of the hostages, Commander." Bates reported. "I believe he'll shoot."

"Damn right I'll shoot." The man growled.

"All right, Lieutenant. He gets what he wants. Tell him that."

Bates nodded. "He says you have your shuttlecraft."

The gunman sneered. "Thought he might. There's a nice flat spot farther up the rise. It can land there. I'm taking all of you up there with me."

Bates relayed the message. His mouth had gone dry. He knew Sambrano was not going to give the Menalvagorian his head start. If the shuttle came down, it'd conceal a ruse of some kind. He kept his eyes glued to the gunman. The fugitive knew his situation was hopeless as well as Bates did. Why was he playing along?

A cold tingle passed down the Lieutenant's spine. The gunman was gambling, he realized. Sambrano would try something, but could the Commander or the men he sent stomach the death of a hostage? The man would shoot; Bates knew that instinctively. He'd shoot the human girl first. She was the smallest, the least threatening. Starfleet officers often had great resolve, but could young Security men stomach the girl's death? Bates knew he wouldn't be able to. Her death would cow him into submission. The Menalvagorian would take his remaining hostages and load them into the shuttle. It wouldn't be fully fueled, of course; Sambrano would have safeguards in place. They'd probably catch him minutes after lift-off. He'd have plenty of time to kill the other hostages. He'd gain a small, spiteful victory.

The fugitive hadn't reasoned all that out, the Lieutenant decided. He was betting that Sambrano would take no risks with the hostage’s lives. He didn't know the Commander. Bates did.

"I understand." He said to the gunman, who chuckled. The fugitive took a step back, crouched down to take the male hostage by the arm. The boy tried to twist away, but the Menalvagorian growled, sunk his fingers into his captive's arm and pulled him to his feet. For a half-second the gunman's weapon was not on Bates or one of his hostages, and his attention was fully on the boy.

Bates dropped his communicator, reached behind his back, and awkwardly drew his phaser. The gunman noticed, tried to bring his weapon around. Bates weapon was trained on him already. The gunman froze.

The two men stared at each other. To Bates it felt like a very long time.

There was a hint of motion. Bates pulled the trigger.

The azure flash lit up the cave. Bates heard a scream—the human girl, he thought—and blinked rapidly. The weapon discharge had blinded him. It took a moment for his eyes to readjust. There was no one standing in the cave. The human girl was yelling and twisting as her fellow captives implored her to calm down. The Menalvagorian lay next to his prisoners with an ugly hole burned into his abdomen. He did not move.

Carefully, Bates moved toward him. The gunman's eyes were glassy and stared unflinchingly at the roof of the cave. The Lieutenant checked for a pulse, or breath. There was none.

He took the fugitive's weapons, then turned to the hostages. The human girl was hysterical, and threw her arms around him the second she was untied. It took the better part of a minute to free himself, after which the girl crept into the corner of the cave and sat down sobbing. The man was jittery, but when released he merely walked to his crying friend and attempted to comfort her. The Andorian did the same, but not before a thankful nod to Bates.

His communicator was chirping wildly, and had been for a while. He hadn't really noticed.

"Bates here." He spoke into the device. His voice was raw, but he didn't realize it. "Hostages are secure."

"Acknowledged, Lieutenant. Report status of fugitive."

"He's dead, sir."

The communicator was silent for a moment.

"Understood." came the response. "Hauser and a medical team are en route."

Bates put the communicator away. He realized he still held his weapon. He holstered it. It wasn't long till he heard footsteps; Hauser and three blue-shirted medics trotted into the cave. He gave his report automatically. As the medics tended the hostages, Bates drifted out of the cave.

The Lieutenant stood quietly. Hauser walked up next to him.

"You all right, Lieutenant?"

Bates considered.

"I don't know." He responded. He glanced back into the cave. The medics had already covered his victim's corpse. He tried to dredge up a violent emotion; rage, despair, or regret would've worked equally well. He found nothing, and that made his insides freeze.

"Like this for everyone, Chief?" He asked.

Hauser shrugged. "Different for different people, I'd guess."

"Chief…" The Lieutenant spoke quietly. "…not sure he was trying to shoot."

"Did what you thought was best, Lieutenant." Said Hauser. "Those kids are alive."

Bates could hear the Andorian girl comforting her friends. The man was softly and repeatedly saying he wanted to go home.

"They are." He agreed, softly.

The End