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Kelly's Birthday

Posted on 17 Mar 2017 @ 12:48am by Ensign Kelly Khan & Ensign Quinn Mackie

Mission: Endgame
Location: Holosuite 2
Timeline: MD 15 [Backpost]

Quinn was madly in love.

He'd never experienced it before, but the more time he spent with Kelly, the more infatuated he became with her. Now that they were living together, the only time he didn't see her was when they were on duty. Frankly, he could deal with that, especially since it gave him time to work on his super secret project.

The young cadet was no snoop, but it didn't take him long to find out that today, of all days, was Kelly's birthday. With the ship abuzz with activity, and everyone so focused on the impending battle, Quinn found it easy to secure time in one of the holosuites. The holodecks themselves were reserved, but the smaller facilities hadn't been booked, at least not until Quinn realized they were open.

In the time that he spent cleaning off the computer, he'd found an interesting program. He hadn't the chance to tell Kelly about it, but with today being her birthday... well... it was the perfect opportunity to unveil it. He'd left his shift early enough to change and beat her down to the holosuite to set up the program. Quinn now stood outside the closed suite, wearing a hoodie, a pair of jeans, and some heavy-duty boots. He'd messaged Kelly earlier to meet him down here and suggested a dress code: Rugged Adventure

Kelly had gotten off duty and was grateful that it didn't involve blowing up another ship and wondered at the message she had gotten from Quinn to meet her at the holosuite. She changed into a pair of jeans, black hiking boots, a sleeveless black shirt and a leather jacket and fedora. She thought she looked rugged.

Satisfied with how she looked, she headed to the holosuite where she smiled when she saw her handsome man and approached him. "So, what's this rugged adventure you have in mind, love?" she asked him as she got close enough to give him a kiss.

Quinn graciously returned the kiss. "If you had a whip, you could pass for a female Indiana Jones," he quipped with a smile. "Happy Birthday!"

Kelly started to laugh and then blinked. "Birthday?" she asked, looking confused as she mentally translated the stardate to the current Earthdate. "It is...wow! Thank you, Tiger!" she exclaimed. "I wasn't even thinking...you...I should have known you'd know. What's the plan?"

"Simple," Quinn said, stepping back to use the control panel. A second later, the door opened, revealing a dark and musty cave with a small craft bathed in a bright beam of sunlight. Based on the simulation's parameters, the craft was resting in a cavern where it could easy levitate up and out.

"We're Bajoran resistance," he told her, stepping inside the holosuite. "Cardassians are blocking all transmissions, so there's no way to alert an incoming freighter that is supplying the resistance. We've got to not only dodge patrols, but get the shipment and return back. Up for the challenge?"

Kelly looked at the Bajoran Raider and laughed. "A sub-impulse fighter?" she asked as she approached it. As long as we don't go into space, we shouldn't have a problem." She opened the hatch and stepped inside. "I always admired the old pilots who had to do things by the seat of their pants. I bet they got the biggest thrills out of near death experiences. I hope you didn't eat because these things are bumpy rides."

"Bumpy?" Quinn asked, climbing inside behind her. He took note of how cluttered the cockpit was, and the half-assed patch job. He couldn't help but wonder how many emergency repairs he'd have to make in all of this. If only he'd thought to bring more than a spanner... "Even for the best pilot in the galaxy?"

She smiled at his flattery and winked. "I may just do it because you said that," she said teasingly. "Still, this thing is old and nowhere near as smooth as a shuttle or runabout. I've only had holodeck time with any kind of fighters, but I've studied everything that is possible of flight at the Academy." She sat down in the cramped cockpit and began to do a preflight inspection. "What kind of opposition are we looking at?"

"The usual," he remarked, sitting in the rickety chair. "A couple Hideki. Or three or four."

"Oh, that's all?" Kelly asked as she began to power the Raider up and listened intently to a whine before she bashed the side of her hand into the console and the sound stopped. "A beater versus a couple few warp capable fighters. No problem. Get strapped in and find something to bite on."

Bite on? Quinn's mind flashed. All of a sudden, he had an inkling of regret. The holodeck safeties were on, right? Still, he fumbled around with the chair to find the restraints. As there were rarely used on Starfleet ships, he struggled getting himself strapped in. He figured it out soon enough and once the last buckle was clicked, he began to flip switches on the panel in front of him. "Okay, atomic batteries to power... turbines to speed..."

"Roger, ready to move out," Kelly replied as she strapped in and began to raise the Raider off the floor of the cave with a whine of the engines. "I wish it was a bit more quiet, but hey, who needs eardrums. What do we have on sensors, Mister Mackie?" she asked him as she focused on the - to her - old fashioned readouts.

"What?" Quinn called back. He knew she was talking to him, but he couldn't make out a single word. "The engines are too loud! Do you think they can hear us?"

Spotting a helmet with a headset off to the side, she picked it up and put it on, then pointed at once on his side. "Sensors," she said as the whine of the engine faded a bit into the background. "Do we have them?"

Quinn looked at his panel. There was a small screen, but he couldn't read anything in regards to scale. "Looks like clear skies for now," he said, looking at the screen. "Can't see too much behind us though." He did, after that, spot a helmet on the ground. Quinn immediately put it on and he could definitely hear Kelly much clearer now.

"Here goes nothing," she said as she lifted out of the small cavern the Raider had been in and checked the coordinates of the shipment. She could only hope that it was there as she got into the role; her people needed it to continue fighting the Cardassians and she wouldn't fail. Her left ear tingled, whether from a short in the earpiece by it or from the feeling of the earcuff she imagined that she wore, but she didn't pay it any attention.

Once they cleared the cave, she set course for the drop, staying as low to the trees and contour of the planet as she could. "Check the com traffic, please," she said to Quinn. "I don't want to miss out on anything that we might need to know."

"Sensors, comm traffic--" his muttering was interrupted by a spark from the floor. "And a fault in the primary data shunt. Yeah, how did Bajorans do all of this with so little equipment?" He manipulated what little controls he had and managed to find some Cardassian comm traffic. "Sounds like the usual propaganda stuff."

"I hope our intel is still good for the pickup," Kelly said. "If not, it will be some real seat of our pants flying and I hope they don't get full." She jockeyed the small craft around and increased the speed as she headed for the rendezvous. "Keep an eye on sensors."

A yellow light suddenly appeared on the small monitor. "I've got something!" Quinn practically shouted in the headset. "Sensor contact bearing two-zero-one mark one-nine-zero." He slapped the console a bit, trying to coax more information out of it. "There's no data on the contact, but it's approaching fast."

"Bogey," Kelly muttered. "I hate bogeys." With the unidentified contact behind them and on the same level, she could either veer off into the open air or see if how they were at map of the earth flying. She smiled. "Hang onto something, Tiger," she told him as she accelerated the Raider and took it as low as she could while keeping one eye on the terrain approaching her and another on the sensor readings that were flashing red as she got within five meters of the surface of the planet.

Quinn's knuckles turned white and his eyes grew larger than golf balls as the Bajoran craft flew so close to the ground. Unable to stomach the view out the forward window, Quinn forced his eyes downward to the sensor readouts. "The sensor contact is gone," he reported, his voice a bit weak.

"Cardassians," she said with an eye roll before she pulled up and went back on course. "No stomach at all." She glanced over at him when she heard the tone of his voice. "Want me to throttle back on the daredevil moves? I did more dangerous ones when I was in Nova Squad at the Academy."

He vigorously shook his head before replying, "No. No, no. Keep going." After all, how could he face being the one who ruined this spontaneous birthday present. Well, just as long as he could keep the contents of his stomach from spraying throughout the cockpit. He offered a smile, a weak one, as part of his reply and worked to loosen his grip on the chair.

"ETA to target?" Kelly asked as she leveled off the Raider and increased her speed, but despite Quinn's assurances that he was fine, she could see the look on his face and decided to only do stunts like she had done if she had no other choice.

"Four minutes," Quinn said after judging the distance on the various meters displayed on the console. "Or six. My Bajoran is a bit rusty. I think it's four."

"Let's call it five and be glad if we make it on time," Kelly said as she scanned the sky around them. So far, so good, but she knew their luck couldn't last forever. "Anything you want to say before we go in harder and deeper than a proctologist who hates his job?"

"Hi ho silver?" he said, his smile growing stronger. "Seriously though, this isn't that bad. It could be worse, I'm sure." He chuckled, finally able to release the death grip he maintained on his chair. "How are you enjoying it so far?"

"I'm loving it," she exclaimed. "Bring on the Hideki!" She looked over at him. "When they show up, moon them!"

"Do you think we're flying too close to the ground?" Quinn asked. "We might be avoiding the Cardassians, but what if we blaze past a patrol or two?"

"Odds are good at this height that we'd fry them before they could react," Kelly said. "But I'll pull up a bit. I just don't want to give them too much of a profile to target before we have to." Her actions followed her words and the Raider eased up another ten meters, even though she accelerated once more.

"Hang on," Quinn said, seeing something new show up on his scanners. "I'm picking up two signals ahead." He fumbled with the controls a little bit and managed to get a proper readout. "Two raiders. I wonder if those raiders are Resistance or Collaborators."

"Only one way to find out," she said. "Does this beast have an IFF transponder and if it does, can it be modded in under thirty seconds if we need it?" She did some calculations in her head for the time to intercept on their current course and speed.

"Hey now!" Quinn protested playfully, starting to look around anyway. "What was all that talk before about unrealistic expectations on engineers?" He looked around at the various panels to see if there was a transponder. "Looks like we've got one." He ripped open the panel to take a look at it. "What are you thinking?"

"No, I said that engineers sandbag," Kelly said. "Get it right. We're about to do the galaxy's fastest bait and switch. If they're hostiles, switch it to Cardassian IFF. It should be an easy jump if the Resistance has done their job on this old bird."

"Sandbag, unrealistic expectations... tomato tomato." Quinn grinned as he poked around with the transponder. "But that's the thing though. How will we know if they're resistance or collaborators? Is there a secret handshake or something?"

"Good point and if they're Hideki fighters, we'll be tagged as soon as they see us in a Raider," she said. "Time for some fancy maneuvering. I speak Cardassian, but I doubt they'd believe we commandeered this thing without making a report. What kind of terrain do we have coming up? Any caves, canyons, large boulders?"

It took Quinn a few seconds, but he soon figured out how to overlay a map on the sensor readouts. "Looks like we're without caves or caverns. We are, however, coming up on a canyon."

"Oh, this is going to be fun!" Kelly said with a slightly maniacal look in her eyes. "I hope it's wide enough to accommodate this beast and narrow enough to give us some shelter, because we're going in."

"Time to find out," Quinn remarked, taking another look at his sensors. "Our company will intercept us in less than ten seconds."

"Close your eyes and hang on tight, Tiger," Kelly said as she switched from a visual view to watching the readouts. As the canyon approached, she reduced speed in the Raider and reminded herself that it wasn't a Starfleet shuttle or runabout and that she would need a tiny bit more reaction time. Still, the Bajoran craft had it's own flavor and she was about to see how tasty it was.

Right at the moment the canyon appeared, she dropped into it like a stone and began to manipulate the controls, sending the small ship into a series of rapid turns, jinks, rises and drops. The scenery whipped by outside and she kept her eyes firmly on the readouts, watching the distances change rapidly and compensated almost as quickly as her brain translated the data her eyes were sending. In her mind, she reached a state of pilot transcendence and relied on only her trained reflexes while shutting everything else out.

Quinn, instead of gripping his armrests, held onto the console as the small craft maneuvered through the canyon. "They're changing course!" he cried into the microphone as his eyes refocused on the sensors. "Looks like intercept!"

"Of course they are," Kelly muttered as she continued to watch the readouts and keeping the Raider from turning into scrap on a canyon wall as she pushed it almost beyond its limits. "What's the Structural Integrity Field on this bucket of bolts look like?" she asked him as she studied the terrain that was coming up.

"There isn't one," Quinn said, shaking his head. "Just as long as you keep us off the canyon walls, we'll be fine."

"That's a great idea!" She exclaimed as she saw a wall of the canyon approaching with a narrow passage between the two walls. "Thank you!" With that, she accelerated directly towards the wall as if she were going for the entrance. At the last second, she veered off and pulled up hard, the Raider nearly touching the wall as they went from horizontal to vertical mere feet away from the wall. With a bit of luck, the two intercepts would smash into the wall and she could get on with the mission.

One of the lights disappeared from Quinn's display as he caught a bright flash of light from behind them. "One down!" He called out. "The other one is falling back. No doubt they're on their way to tell someone about this."

"How nice," Kelly said as they cleared the edge of the canyon and she leveled off just above the treeline and got back on course. "What's our ETA to target?"

"Five minutes," Quinn said, taking a look at his overlay. "Um..." he said, taking a closer look at the overlay and not liking what he was seeing. "We should turn around. Now."

"Why?" she asked as she looked around through the viewscreen again and saw blue sky.

"In about two minutes, we'll be flying over a Cardassian camp," Quinn said. "They've got plenty of anti-air artillery."

"Then we'll go around it and be just a minute late," Kelly said as she began to plot a course correction. "We can go around, can't we?"

"If we do, it'll have to be longer than a minute," he replied. "It looks like a simple outpost, but it's safe to say they've spotted us, or are about to spot us. They'd be able to call in some support in no time. What if we take out their communications tower?"

"We've only got two phaser emitters on this bucket," she said. "Line it up and call the shots, Tiger. We'll be in and out before they can call or even get a lock on us with any anti-air."

"Adjust course to zero-three-two and drop your elevation to two hundred feet. They'll have a bit of trouble getting us this close to the tree line." Quinn checked his map again. "The communications systems will be on top of the administration building."

"Got it," Kelly said as she made yet another adjustment to the Raider and dropped to just above the tree line. She scanned the area ahead before she realized she didn't know what the administration building looked like, but she had a great idea of what a comm tower would look like. "Range?"

"Three thousand feet and closing," Quinn replied. "I'm picking up Cardassian lifesigns up ahead. Won't be long now."

She kept her eyes on the terrain as it rushed past and her fingers jittered a bit nervously on the controls before she took a deep breath and rested one hand on the fire controls and one on the navigation. "Let me know as soon as we're close enough. I'm going to fire and go evasive."

He looked back to the display and started to verbally announce the distance. "Twenty five hundred. Twenty two hundred. Two thousand. Eighteen... Wait. Detecting energy signatures. Looks like they're spooling up their artillery. We'll be in their firing range in ten seconds."

"How long until they are in my firing range, Quinn?" Kelly asked. "I need to take out that tower and go really fast."

"Six seconds," he told her. Quinn could feel the sweat beading on his forehead. This was going to be close, much closer than any of her maneuvers so far. What the hell kind of difficulty setting was this on anyway?

As the seconds ticked off, she kept her eyes on the display as it counted down to the last second. Acquiring a quick lock that she prayed held, she fired both phasers on the Raider as she raced towards and then past the com tower without bothering to verify. She accelerated to the Resistance craft's top speed and veered off to port before she started to climb in a evasive pattern.

"You got it!" Quinn cheered, nearly jumping out of his chair in the process. He wasn't prepared for, however, the chair to swing as Kelly maneuvered. Quinn quickly found himself facing the rear of the cockpit as several conduits sparked. "Too fast!" he shouted. "This raider can't take moves like that!"

"Hunk of junk!" Kelly yelled as it as she leveled off her erratic flight and slowed the speed once she had put some distance between them and the Cardassian camp. She looked over at Quinn a minute later. "Why are you backwards?"

Quinn was relieved as the craft leveled out so he could return his chair to a correct position. "The port engine's efficiency level is down to sixty percent," he informed her, not answering her question. "We've got buckling on the starboard wing. This girl's not a new ship by any means."

"You mean, it's a piece of outdated machinery," she said as she looked ahead. "Give me two hours alone with her in a shop and I'd make her do twice as much as she can do now."

The engineer chuckled. "Two hours? Come on! You call that sandbagging? It would take me at least four to put this on par with a Valkyrie."

"Never said a Valkyrie," Kelly pointed out. "I said twice as good and if you want to know about sandbagging, I could do it in half an hour. What about you, Tiger?"

"Twenty minutes," he told her. "And that's just with duct tape and blow torch."

"Fifteen minutes with a plasma torch and a tricorder," she countered.

"You know," he said with another chuckled, "if you keep trying to one up me, I might find myself out of a job in the future."

"Nah," Kelly said with a smile before she glanced over at him. "I'll still need you." She blew him a kiss and turned her attention back to the viewscreen. "Come out, come out, wherever you are!" she called in a sing song voice.

"We should be just a couple minutes from the rendezvous," Quinn said, turning back to the controls. "And then we'll have to take the cargo to our destination. I'd say we're just getting started."

"Next time, we need a wingperson," she said. "Do you think that this bucket of bolts can stand a few more high speed maneuvers?"

Quinn purposely removed his helmet to listen to the craft more properly. Its internals were vibrating more than they had when taken off. if he were truly concerned, now was about the proper time to show it. "Only if they're needed," he told her, putting the helmet back on. "I don't know how much this ship can take."

"Of course not," Kelly said. "It's an old Bajoran bucket of bolts with wings taped to it." She turned her attention forward and started counting down the time in her head to intercept.

If the ship had a soul, then she surely made her opinion known when an alarm began to sound on Quinn's console. "We're losing the port stabilizer. I'm trying to hold it together, but we might have to set down for repairs. There's no way we'll make it back without it."

"Set it down? We can't set down yet," she pointed out. "If we do, we'll miss the rendezvous."

Quinn checked the readouts again. "We can make it to the rendezvous. I suggest pulling back on the throttle a bit. It might take off some of the strain."

"Let's just hope that we can make it there on time," Kelly said as she throttled back and eased into a less demanding flight path. "Because it won't do us any good at all if the Cardies spot us."

"As if they don't already know we're here." Quinn sighed and shook his head. "We've already sidestepped a Hideki, two collaborators and took out a Cardie communications tower. The resistance would be proud though."

"No doubt!" she said as she brought the Raider gradually lower to the ground while keeping an eye on the sensors. "This should get us a nice soft spot when we return. Anything will be better than sleeping on the cold floor of a cave again."

"That's interesting," murmured Quinn aloud. He enjoyed roughing it, but he hadn't ever thought of sleeping on a cave floor. "What would the Resistance have for bedding anyway? Just a few scraps of canvas?" He'd have to do some research at some point.

"My guess would be anything that isn't hard and cold," Kelly said. She thought about the history lessons from the Cardassian Occupation and shuddered. "Just be glad that we aren't in the real Resistance."

"We kind of are though. We're refugees in our own space thanks to the Consortium. No way to contact our loved ones. No guarantee we'll see tomorrow or if we'll get to see the end of it all." Quinn smirked. "Hopefully this next battle will actually be the end of it all."

She fought hard to keep the frown off of her face, but the corners of her lips still went downward as reality tried to interfere with fantasy. "Uh, yeah," she said in a quiet voice. "I guess we are."

Before Quinn could add something, there was another alert from his console. "Sensor contact. Dead ahead. Looks like the rendezvous."

"I thought we'd never get here," Kelly said as she lined up the Raider and headed for it. "I'm ready to set this old bird down."

"There's a clearing bearing zero-three-zero," he reported. "And our friends are adjusting for the same clearing. There's plenty of room for the both of us."

Kelly adjusted the flight path of the old Bajoran craft and reminded herself that it probably didn't have a reliable hover mode, even though they had used it to get off the ground initially. She came in low and slow as she lined up, took a breath and looked at Quinn. "Don't bite your lip in case this is a bumpy landing," she said.

Quinn blinked, realizing that she'd caught onto one of his habits. Had it really been that obvious? He didn't want to take any chances, so he intentionally let his jaw hang open as she prepared to land.

She guided the Raider down and engaged the hover mode at the last possible second and was happy when it kicked in and didn't fling them back into the air. She lowered the old craft down with a gentle bump and looked over at Quinn. "We made it! Now to get her fixed up, packed up and back up."

"I'll get to work," he said, opening a hatch and pulling out some tools. At least he'd thought ahead to bring a tricorder. "Take this," he said, handing a Bajoran pistol to Kelly. "Never hurts to have it around these parts." As soon as the cockpit hatched opened, Quinn hopped out, also armed with a Bajoran phaser, to start work on the wing.

Kelly took the Bajoran phaser and headed over to the transport they were supposed to meet. "Khan Kelly for the transfer," she said, switching her names like the Bajorans do.

The cockpit hatch of the other Bajoran fighter opened. The engineer stayed inside while the pilot quickly climbed out. "Right on time, Khan," said the holographic pilot. He carried a small crate, no more than a meter in length and a half meter in height and depth. "Don't get caught with these. The Cardassians will shoot you on sight."

"Like they wouldn't anyway?" Kelly asked as she went to take the crate from him. "We need a bit of time for repairs. We had to dodge a couple on the way in. Have you seen any around here?"

"None from our end," said the Bajoran. "But I know there's a Cardassian encampment a few clicks southwest of here. If you got their attention, you might not have much time."

She laughed. "We took our their communications tower," she said. "They didn't even have time to get a shot on us. I lost a couple unwanted escorts in Kai Canyon."

"Don't get too cocky, kid," the Bajoran said climbing back into his craft. "The Prophets do not shine their favor on those who do." With that, the cockpit closed and the craft began to take off.

"You're welcome for the information!" Kelly called before she turned to carry the package back to the Raider. "It's getting to be harder and harder to figure out who is the Resistance and who the enemy is," she muttered as she placed the package into the small craft.

"What?" Quinn asked, hearing some rumblings as he laid under the wing trying to adjust the stabilizer. "They didn't stay long," he noted, watching the other craft fly away.

She came back to where he was and knelt down. "I just said they didn't seem very grateful for information on taking out the the Cardie encampment communications," she said. "I put the package in the Raider. They said we're good as dead if they catch us with it."

"It's gotta be contraband of some kind then," Quinn remarked, making a few more adjustments. "Did they tell you anything about what's inside of it?"

"No," Kelly replied. "If they had wanted us to know, they would have told us. Do you need a hand, Tiger?"

Quinn nodded. "See that fuel line there?" he gestured to his right. "There looks like some cracking in the tubing. There's a roll of engine tape in the cockpit that we could use to patch it up for now."

"Nothing like a little tape to fix the problem," she said as she went to rummage around in the cockpit until she found it. She looked at it, then around the settling and the small Bajoran craft, then decided that everything seemed okay. Taking the roll of tape, she brought it back to him. "Want me to get that?"

"If you don't mind," Quinn said with a smile. He was holding part of the stabilizer in the air, trying to keep the whole assembly from falling as he adjusted its housing. "It amazes me how well these crafts hold together, even when grime gets into the stabilizers. These Bajorans know how to build their subimpulse crafts."

While he held it, Kelly made short work of getting it taped up before she stepped back. "Fortunately, they came into their own after they joined the Federation and don't have to deal with these things anymore." She got a sly look on her face. "Want to open the package and see what it is?"

"Is it sealed? Are we going to get in trouble?" he wondered aloud, finishing his work. "We should probably scan it first and make sure it's not a trap or a bomb or something."

"I didn't check if it was sealed or not," she admitted as she stepped back once the line was taped. "You're probably right, though. Let's just leave it alone and get back."

Quinn couldn't help but laugh as he closed the hatch and sealed it. "You'll fly crazy maneuvers, jump out of a shuttle with a vectorboard, and even go steady with a nerd like me..." He stood to his feet and faced her. "But you're too afraid to open a box?"

"I fear nothing," Kelly declared as she headed to the hatch of the Raider. "Let's get this thing open. You only live once, right?"

He chuckled again. "Unless you're in the holodeck. Then you get more than enough lives." He followed her towards the hatch. "What could be so important in such a small box?"

"If I knew that, I wouldn't be on my way to open it, now would I?" she asked as she climbed in and looked around for something to open the box with.

Quinn pulled out the tricorder he brought along. Sure it was cheating, but the program didn't say anything about not opening the box. "Looks like a biometric lock," he said, "Tied to a Bajoran DNA code."

"Would it recognize us as Bajorans or is it to a specific Bajoran?" Kelly asked him as she found a metal bar with a tapered end that had been left in the Raider for some reason.

"There's really only one way to find out," he said, watching the tricorder screen as he affixed his thumb to the lock. Quinn immediately yelped in surprise as a bolt of electricity surged through his thumb. "Ow!" he shouted. "I thought I kept the safety protocols on this thing."

She moved over to check his thumb and frowned, the box forgotten. "Doesn't look like anything serious," she said. "Do you want to end the program so we can go get you checked out?"

Quinn shook his hand as he shook his head. "No. The safety protocols are on, just relaxed. Otherwise, you couldn't feel the maneuvers like you should. If this was meant to kill or seriously injure me, the computer wouldn't have allowed it."

Kelly went over to look at the box once she was assured that he was okay other than a mild shock. She looked at the scanner, then at her thumb. "Here goes nothing," she said and pressed her thumb to it.

The box was just as sympathetic to Kelly as it had been to Quinn, delivering a fine electric shock to the phalange.

"Shit!" she exclaimed as she jerked her thumb back. "I'll fix your wagon," she muttered as she reached for the metal bar again and raised it over her head. "You may want to stand back, Tiger."

Were the cabin any bigger, Quinn surely would have scurried backwards. He did, instead, back up and kept his distance, not knowing what would happen once she attacked the box. "Just try not to leave a mark," he said. "Might not look good on us when we get back..."

Kelly looked over at him and then threw the bar towards the back. "You're right," she said. "Buckle in, we're off again." She turned and headed back to the cockpit and began the pre-flight.

Quinn strapped himself into his seat. "Stabilizer looks good," he said. "Main power's stable. Fuel cells look good too."

She lifted the Raider off the ground and spun it into a one hundred and eighty degree turn and took off. For a moment, she was tempted to ask him if the program were done, but she had faith that he had something planned that she wasn't suspecting. "Rock and roll!"

Truth be told, Quinn didn't have any surprises up his sleeve. In fact, he wasn't really sure where the program was going. "So, let's review," he said. "We've managed to ditch Bajoran collaborators, a Cardassian Hideki, and took down a communications tower. I thought this program was supposed to be exciting."

"It's exciting," Kelly assured him. "For a pilot. I'm surprised that you haven't screamed for mercy and ended the program yet." She looked over at him. "Don't get me wrong, Tiger. The simple fact that you are here has made it more than enjoyable and it wouldn't matter if it was set in the Vulcan desert with us doing the Vulcan Kahs-wan. I may not be drunk on something blue and dancing naked to Conga, but I have you."

Quinn wouldn't lie, but if opportunity ever gave him a bottle of Romulan Ale, he'd make sure they both had some leave and privacy to enjoy the bottle. The thought of a desert, however, was certainly unpleasant. "As long as we have a cooling fan for that trip to Vulcan, count me in," he joked. "Happy birthday, Kelly."

"Thank you," she said as she surreptitiously tripped an alarm and gave a sharp downward dip of the Raider. An expression of alarm crossed her features and she gasped. "We're going down!" Kelly cried as she appeared to wrestle with the controls of the old Bajoran craft. "Scan for any suitable areas!"

"What?" Quinn shouted, trying to hold himself steady and manipulate the console at the same time. "Damn starboard stabilizer," he muttered. "There's a field a few kilometers ahead of us. Other than that, it's all trees, but..."

"But what?" Kelly asked as she mock wrestled with the controls and headed towards the field he pointed out. She wondered how far she could go, then decided to stop before he panicked and reached to turn off the alarm and leveled out the flight. "Just kidding, Tiger," she said. "I wanted to check out the parameters."

"You're evil, you know that?" Quinn joked as the craft stabilized. "I was going to say that field was near the Cardassian installation we pissed off. That would have been a fun ride if we had to land there."

"Your definition of a fun ride is skewed, Quinn," she said with a laugh. "Now I'm tempted to do it." While she said that, she kept on course that she had been on while keeping an eye on the sensors.

Quinn chuckled. "What can I say? Whenever I'm around you, I feel like a new man. Not that the old man was that old... or boring..."

"As long as you don't feel like a new woman," Kelly told him. "If you said that, I may have to start worrying. I mean, it's really hard to hide a body on a starship, after all."

"Duly noted," Quinn replied with a smile. "Sex change while dating Kelly Khan is punishable by death."

"I'm kidding," she said. "You still wouldn't escape me. I like women, too."

Before he could respond to that, a legitimate alarm sounded from his station. "We've got company," he told her. "Two sensor contacts. No, three. One is Cardassian."

An eep escaped Kelly and she blushed before she jerked the Raider hard to starboard and dove for the treetops. "Hang on to something! I doubt our tactics will work the same as before," she said. "If they don't, we may end up aging a few years."

Disruptor blasts shot past the nimble Bajoran craft. "Those weren't warning shots!" Quinn shouted. "There's a rare deposit around these parts that causes significant issues with their targeting sensors. Their aim is pretty good though."

"no' Hutlh batlh hamsters!" Kelly called out, the translator interpreting her words as 'Your ancestors were hamsters without honor!' as she rolled the craft on its side to pass between two extremely tall trees. "Where's the deposit and does this thing have any aft weapons?"

"The deposit is fifty clicks to our left," he reported. "And, it looks like we only have forward cannons. Who designed this thing?"

"My guess would be Bajorans," she said drolly. "I'm about to be slightly suicidal, but it's all good." Without waiting for his response, she whipped the Bajoran fighter around in a one hundred and eighty degree turn and fired the forward cannons back in the direction of their pursuers before she veered off to the right and accelerated as stress alarms started to go off.

"What the hell!" Quinn shouted, unprepared for the sudden turn. His chair kept him facing towards their original direction as they turned. "Who the hell designed these chairs!" he gasped, grabbing the console and turning himself back in line with the ship. "They're adjusting to intercept."

"Reference my previous answer," Kelly said as she brought the fighter up sharply and accelerated. "Tell me when they start following, Tiger," she gritted through her teeth.

"The Cardassians are right on our tail!" Quinn said, watching the monitor. He started manipulating the controls. "I'm going to get you a little more power for the engines." He had a strong feeling they were going to need it.

"Deep breath, Tiger," she said before she engaged a aerial brake check while dropping down a hundred feet. Her stomach rose to her throat as she fought against the g-force as her knuckles turned white in their grip on the controls. When she saw the Cardassians bypass the Raider, she opened up with the forward cannons the moment they were in her sights.

"Haha! Direct hit on their port shields!" Quinn shouted, before his face sunk a bit. "Not too much of an impact though." He started to study his readouts again. "Hey, remember that canyon we were flying in earlier? There's a tunnel that could lead us to safety."

"You'd trust me to navigate a tunnel in this bucket of bolts?" Kelly asked as she brought the Raider around and headed in the opposite direction of the enemy shits and towards the canyon.

A shudder and several alarms beat Quinn to the answer. "We took a hit on the starboard wing. It's just a glance, but it could have been much worse. That tunnel, and even that canyon is looking better than target practice."

A curse so vile escaped her lips that even she was shocked, but kept her attention on trying to be as evasive as possible without tearing the Bajoran fighter to pieces. "Come on, you warhorse. Show me why the Bajorans used you at all!" she urged as she pushed it to its limits.

Alarms continued to scream as the craft was forced into evasive maneuvers. More weapons fire shot past them, a different color this time. "Our Bajoran Collaborators are back," Quinn confirmed. "We're not going to last long up here."

"Great, this program is going to kill me on my birthday," Kelly muttered as she disabled the stress alarm and pulled out all the stops the thing had. "Let me know if this thing is in danger of exploding," she said as the old craft rocketed forward and entered the canyon. "Where's the tunnel entrance?"

"We're getting shot at!" Quinn fired back. "Because of that, we're in danger of exploding!" He looked back at his map. "The tunnel is forty clicks dead ahead and down two thousand feet."

She rocketed through the canyon in the ship and wondered if it could even be classified as one as she went around a rocky outcropping close enough to set off a proximity alarm. "I kind of figured that part out," she said. "I'm talking about this beast herself."

"We're starting to lose the port stabilizer again," Quinn announced. "I'll try to keep it together." He wasn't sure how he'd do it as the only way to access it was from outside the craft. Maybe he could see if he could reroute some things to the starboard stabilizer to take care of that load. To do so, he pulled off the covers of wiring panels on either side of him. Wincing at the sight of multiple wires, he began to gently tug to figure out if he had any slack to work with.

Click after click dropped away as Kelly maneuvered the Bajoran Raider through the canyon as fast as she could and attempted to compensate to starboard as much as she could to give relief to the port side. "Entrance coming up in ninety seconds, Tiger," she said as she fought the urge to close her eyes. She locked them on the readouts and made a few adjustments as the fighter continued on its route.

Weapons fire continued to to dance around their ship. The Hideki was too big for the canyon, but it didn't stop them from firing from above. The Bajoran raiders, however, pursued the Resistance fighter through the curves. Quinn gripped his seat as a new alarm sounded. "They're grazing the hull!" he cried out.

A stream of expletives burst from her as she jerked, jinked, juked, and rolled the Raider through the canyon as alarm after alarm went off. "Kill those alarms!" she begged him as she rocketed for the tunnel entrance. She barely reduced her speed in time and switched her focus entirely on the sensors as the narrow walls shot by at speeds most sane people would consider a death wish.

"I'm trying!" Quinn fired back, struggling to maintain his balance as the craft wobbled. There seemed to be some sort of safety in the proximity sensors to keep the sound from coming out. Quinn pulled out his tricorder, and managed to find the source. Reaching under his console, he took hold of a relay and yanked it out of the console. The lights still flashed, but the sounds were gone. "I got it!" Quinn shouted, only to find himself worrying a heartbeat later when he didn't hear his own voice back in the headset.

Kelly looked over when he didn't say anything and saw his lips moving, then cursed under her breath. Now they couldn't hear each other but the alarms were off. She reached up and tapped the sensor panel and gave him a questioning look before she turned and slowed the Raider more.

He pointed ahead of them where the tunnel was rapidly approaching. He made a quick gesture, holding up four fingers, then five, hoping she'd understand that they were forty-five seconds out.

She gave a nod and took a breath. For a holoprogram, she mused. It's certainly full of surprises. As she watched the tunnel entrance coming up, she took a chance and fired the forward weapons at several outcroppings further up and accelerated before they could land on the Raider, but she hoped that the collaborator behind them wouldn't be as quick.

"No! No! Nooooo!" Quinn held onto everything he had as he watched the rocks fall as they disappeared into the tunnel. His eyes darted down to the sensor readouts in front of him just as the collaborators met their doom when the debris fell on both of them. Both crafts exploded, illuminating the tunnel for a brief little window. "We made it!" he cried out, even though she couldn't hear him. "The Hideki is no longer in pursuit."

Kelly heard Hideki and checked the sensors for a brief second as she activated the external lights on the old Raider and saw nothing behind him. "Wooohooo!" she cried out as she navigated the tunnel and hoped it would be big enough all the way through to fit the old Bajoran fighter. She really didn't relish the idea of being trapped underground with a long way back through enemy territory.

Thankfully, the tunnel didn't last long and led them to an exit, depositing them just a few clicks from their starting point. Quinn checked his sensors and smiled. "No enemy contacts!" he cried out, not sure if Kelly could hear him. They were home free.

"YAY!" she shouted as they entered open air again and quickly double checked the sensors. "We made it!" she leveled the Raider off after getting to a decent height and looked over at him with a thumb's up gesture.

Quinn never felt so relieved, but he couldn't quite show it yet. He leaned back under the console and fumbled with the relay he yanked out of the system, only to be met with a rude squeal in his ear. "Check one two," he said, trying to work past the immediate pain.

"Ack!" Kelly squawked at the feedback and yanked the controls of the Raider when her eardrums registered the sound. The old craft screamed in protest and she fought to regain control of it and get it back on course as the alarms started up again. "Sonofapretzel!' she muttered while she tried to orient herself.

"Our landing zone is just a couple clicks away," Quinn called out. "Bearing three three zero."

"Three three zero confirmed," she said as she adjusted the course. "No contacts?" she asked as she looked over at him and gave a smile.

"None," he confirmed. "We're in the clear at last!"

"Born free....as free as the Resistance!" Kelly started to sing as she slowed the Raider down a bit and reached over to take his hand. "I'll never be able to say this birthday was boring. Thank you, Quinn."

He smiled, wishing he could actually kiss her as a thank you. It then occurred to him that all this time they'd been in a holodeck. But, pausing this close to the end would be bad form. He squeezed his hand and smiled back at her. "Happy birthday, my love."

She smiled and returned the squeeze before she turned her attention back to the controls. "Soon, we can celebrate in other ways, too."

Now that was something he could look forward to.

 

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