Chapter 14 The Lost City of Paradise

The team had not ventured far from the settlement when they encountered their first enemy. A group of large desert scorpions surrounding a group of Starfleet officers. The team immediately opened fire and took the beasts down. The team medic then examined the group of officers.

"They're heavily dehydrated." He stated "Many have cuts and bruises. They need to be beamed up immediately." He said.

Maxwell crouched next to the senior-most officer in the group. "What happened to you guys?" he asked.

The Lieutenant, a Vulcan, replied "We were taken from our ship during an attack. They beamed us right into holding cells. Thank you for rescuing us."

"Not a problem. We'll beam you to our ship. We're here looking for some thalaron triggers. Did you happen to hear any Orions talking about it?" Maxwell asked.

"No sir. Though I did overhear a conversation regarding the Tal Shiar. It appears they have a base somewhere on the planet." The Vulcan replied

"Thank you. That is a great help." Maxwell said, then he tapped his combadge. "Maxwell to Sentry, we've found a group of Starfleet officers, beam them directly to sickbay."

"Aye, sir." Came the reply.

"Sir, over here." Called one of the assault team members. He had his tricorder out and was scanning something in the desert.

"What is it, ensign?" Maxwell asked.

"My tricorder is showing a metallic signature just below us. There is something buried in the sand here." He replied.

Maxwell moved the sand around with his boot some then it hit something hard. James got down and started to dig around the object. A metallic box, rectangular shaped. He pulled it from the sand and opened it. The ensign gasped. "An assault phaser minigun? I thought those were restricted to formally declared wars and heavy combat zones."

"They are. It's illegal in the Federation for anyone but a MACO to have them and even then, only in heavy combat zones. I wonder how the Orions got a hold of it." Maxwell replied and tapped his combadge again.

"Maxwell to Sentry, we've found an assault phaser minigun buried in the desert. Beam it up and see if you can trace where it disappeared from." He said

"That is a highly illegal piece of ordnance, sir."

"I know. Which is why once you've traced its origin you will put it in the secure cargo under heavy guard."

"Yes sir."

"Once we return to Earth Spacedock, we can turn it over to proper authorities," Maxwell said. Then he to his team he said "Ok, let's keep going."

A quarter of a kilometer later they found another weapons cache, this one Klingon in origin. Disruptor pistols and rifles along with some daggers and a highly illegal photon mortar, which even in the Klingon Empire was restricted to heavy combat zones. They also found another group of survivors. This group was Klingon, however. Maxwell crouched next to the one in charge of the group.

"I'm Lieutenant Commander James Maxwell, Captain of the Federation starship Sentry. We can beam you to our ship and plan for your return to the Empire. You won't be prisoners, but you will be restricted to quarters." He said

"You dare dishonor us?" The warrior said in outrage.

"It's either that or you can die in the desert with absolutely no honor whatsoever."

Another Klingon spoke. "We accept your terms Commander."

"Sir…" started the first Klingon

"No, the Commander is correct. Dying here in the sun with our hands bound is not honorable. But if we return to the Empire, we will have a chance to regain our honor. What about the weapons you found? They are property of the Empire." Said the second.

"Considering the current conflict between our peoples the weapons will stay with us until the conflict is ended," Maxwell replied.

"I suppose that is acceptable considering that we would likely do the same in your position." He replied

"Thank you. We'll beam you to sickbay for treatment, then you will be escorted to guest quarters. My officers will make arrangements to return you to the Empire." Maxwell said then tapped his combadge again. "Maxwell to Sentry, we found a group of Klingons and a cache of Klingon weapons. Beam the Klingons to sickbay, treat their injuries as needed then escort them to quarters and confine them there. Contact the nearest Klingon consulate and inform them of the situation and arrange for them to be repatriated. Keep the weapons in the secure cargo bay under guard."

"Aye, sir." Said T'Vrell, who Maxwell had left in command.

Maxwell motion his team to move forward. They rescued two more groups of Starfleet officers and one group of civilians. They also found three more caches of weapons each more exotic and deadly than the last, but still no triggers. Oddly enough they didn't encounter any Orions in the desert, only the large scorpion-like creatures. Maxwell was ready to head back when one of his officers stopped him and motioned to his tricorder. "Large non-humanoid lifeform headed right this way." The officer reported.

"I don't see anything." Said another officer. Out of nowhere a claw grabbed the officer and snapped him in half.

"Look out!" another cried as a Giant Desert Scorpion tried to grab him.

"Open fire! Maximum setting!" yelled Maxwell who turned and opened fire his bolts seeming to bounce off the creature's outer skin. More phaser blasts impacted the skin but only scorching the outer plates. "Fall back now! GO! GO! GO! Maxwell to Sentry, we're under attack by a Giant Scorpion need immediate assistance. Lock onto our signal and beam us up."

"Understood. Standby."

A few seconds later the team disappeared in blue light as the creature caught them. Maxwell contacted the bridge from the transporter room. "Do you have a lock on that thing?" he asked.

"Yes sir."

"Take it out. Then prepare to beam me and Flores back to Paradise City. That Borg bartender has some explaining to do."

"Yes sir."

A single phaser strike from the Sentry's phaser banks vaporized the scorpion and left broken glass behind in the desert. Maxwell and Flores beamed back to the outskirts of Paradise City then walked into town. Maxwell marched right up to Two of Eight and punched him in the face. The bar came to a screeching halt. Flores walked around "Starfleet business, go back to your drinks."

"That's for leading us into the desert on a wild scorpion chase leading to the the loss of one of my officers. We rescued several Starfleet and Klingon officers, some civilians and confiscated several weapons caches. But no triggers. Where are they?" he asked

Two of Eight calmly wiped his mouth. "I apologize for the deception Commander. But I couldn't be seen to assist you in any way. If the Syndicate learned of it, they would certainly kill me. All I can say is that the triggers are in the possession of the Orion Syndicate. But there is someone in this town who would be willing to assist you. His name is Law. He lives here in Paradise City. He doesn't come out of his home often for…obvious reasons but there is a way to contact him. If he wants to talk. He'll talk." Then handed over a paper map of the city with a house marked in black.

"Alright. I'll speak to him." Maxwell replied

Maxwell and Flores walked out of the bar and headed for Law's house. On the way he saw several civilians being bullied by Nausicaans and Orions. They left as soon as they saw the uniforms but firmly told the people they would be back. Maxwell walked up to the house marked on the map and knocked on the door. Surprisingly, it was a Romulan who answered the door. "I'm Lieutenant Commander James-" The Romulan quickly pulled both officers inside and close the door.

"Let me guess. You're from Starfleet and you're looking for some thalaron triggers. I'll help you but only on the condition that you guarantee my safety." The old Romulan said

"You have my word. I have a ship in orbit I can beam you to." Maxwell replied

"No, I'm not leaving Nimbus 3. If you can stand up to the Orions then the people here will be more willing to assist you." Law replied

"I can bring down some security to chase the Syndicate out of town. Maybe install a replicator in the bar?" Maxwell said

"That would definitely help. The Syndicate is using Nausicaan pirates and Gorn as their thug forces now. They used to meet in the ruins not far from here. They made secret deals, discussed details, and planned how to make our lives miserable. You should be able to find information either in the old consoles or the belly of a sandworm. It's a bit far but I have a shortcut." Said Law.

Law led them near the back of his house and pulled a curtain. Behind the curtain was a small transporter. "This transporter is hardwired for…certain locations I found useful back in my peacekeeper days. This will take you to the ruins."

"Thank you for helping us. Once we return with the data, we'll clean up the town." Maxwell promised. Maxwell and Flores stepped onto the transporter and were whisked away to a similar pad in the ruins.

When they materialized the problem with their mission was instantly apparent. The ruins were just that, ruins. But there were several groups of Sand worms poking out of the desert. Maxwell could see several consoles with the information he needed.

"That's a lot of sand worms." Flores said

"Maxwell to Sentry, T'Vrell what can you tell me about these sand worms on the planet?

"One moment sir. Sand Worms also known as Aehallh, are a type giant worm species. They're natural habitat is desert, but they have been known to inhabit more temperate areas. They are moderately resistant to energy weapon fire and spit blobs of acidic venom at anything they consider a threat." She reported.

"Is there any way to drive them from an area without resorting to force?" Maxwell asked.

"You may be able to use your tricorder to emit an ultrasonic frequency that could drive them away. However, there is an equal chance of provoking an attack. If you are unsuccessful, you will have to resort to force and eliminate them. Should I have an assault team standby sir?" she asked

"Yes, in fact have two seven-man teams ready just in case. There are a lot of worms in this area." Maxwell replied. "We'll let you know if this ultrasonic trick works. Maxwell out."

Flores pulled out her tricorder and began reconfiguring it. "Alright my tricorder is emitting an ultrasonic frequency. Let's see if this works." She said walking toward a group of worms.

The reaction was immediate and violent. The worms writhed about and seemed to recoil at first then began spitting acid at Flores. She managed to avoid most of it and get out of range.

"Sentry, this is Maxwell. We're gonna need those assault teams after all." Maxwell said

"Acknowledged. Assault troops beaming down now." Replied the ship.

Two groups of seven people appeared. Again, mostly Vulcan but with a few humans and Andorians mixed in. Maxwell and Flores each took one team and headed for opposite ends of the ruins. The assault teams drove the worms away while Maxwell and Flores accessed the old consoles. When they converged in the center of the ruins all the worms seemed to be gone. Then one of the Vulcan team members checked his tricorder. "Sir, I am detecting a massive seismic reading. Coming this way." He said

"Into the structure now!" Maxwell ordered. "Flores get on that last console and see what you can find. Then we'll put our information together and see what we- "

He was interrupted as a massive sandworm emerged from the desert floor. Easily the size of a two-story building it's back looked heavily armored. "That must be an Elder worm." Flores said

"Open fire. Concentrate on the soft fleshy side." Maxwell ordered.

Fifteen phaser rifles opened fire at once. The creature seemed to yowl in pain but responded with volleys of toxic spit. Luckily, the team's personal shields were rated against toxic attacks. It took several volleys of phaser fire but eventually, the worm gave a final roar then fell back into the hole it came from. Maxwell met with Flores and combine their information. What they got was encrypted gibberish, they would have to return to the bar to decrypt it.

"Maxwell to Sentry. Beam up the assault teams and then sight-to-sight transport me and Flores back to Paradise City." he said

"Yes sir. Initiating transport." Replied T'Vrell.

Maxwell and Flores returned to Paradise City and walked back into the bar. Maxwell spoke to Two of Eight. "We have the information, but it's encrypted. You wouldn't by chance be able to decrypt it? He asked.

"No problem." The bartender replied. He approached the console and tapped some commands. The data resolved into a single line of text: THE BLIND MAN SEES ALL.

"That's interesting." Two of Eight said

"Who is the blind man?" asked Flores

"I don't know. You may want to talk to Jones he may have more information." The former Borg replied.

"Ok, come on Flores, let's go have a chat with Mr. Jones." Maxwell said

The two officers left the bar and approached Horace Jones, the man who greeted them when they entered the city.

"Hello there. Did you find what you were looking for?" He asked as they walked up.

"Hello Mr. Jones. Yes and no. We recovered an encrypted bit of data but all it said when we decrypted it was 'the blind man sees all.'" Maxwell replied

"Hmmm, the blind man. I may have a line on who that is. In the meantime, if you want people's help, you must make a show of it. Prove to the people that you can protect them from the syndicate." He said

"That shouldn't be too difficult. I have a few ideas that will go a long way." Maxwell said

"Come back later and I'll have your blind man." Jones replied

Maxwell and Flores left Jones and walked into the center of town. Maxwell tapped his combadge. "Maxwell to Sentry. Prepare three security detachments to beam down. They should spread throughout the town and chase off any suspected Orion Syndicate members. I also need an engineering team to install a replicator in the bar. Then beam down a medical team. Anyone who needs medical attention, see that they get it."

"Understood Captain."