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The Little Things You Do Together

With the emergence of the Lost Fleet, the Amundsen is pressed into service before her refit is complete to check on the status of 3 colonies in the Deneb sector.

It All Starts Somewhere

Earth
March, 2401

Friday nights had always been busy at Acquerello’s restaurant but tonight seemed exceptionally busy. The restaurant was a favorite of many Starfleet officers, especially command officers, and Clara always made sure to visit at least once when she was in San Francisco.

She gazed over the menu, which was on paper, something she always found delightfully quaint, while she tried to keep an eye out for her dining companion. In the many months she had been in San Francisco as the Amundsen was undergoing her refit, she had only managed to actually sit down with her old friend a small handful of times. The two had know each other for nearly 35 years after meeting while they both served on the Hickman. Their long career paths had both taken them to the center chair but while Clara had opted to remain there, her friend had moved on to Starfleet Command and the admiralty. The two had an agreement to keep their professional lives quite separate these days; Clara had no desire to keep up on the day to day rumors and scuttlebutt of Starfleet Command anyway, especially these days.

She spotted a mane of blonde hair coming her way out of the corner of her eye. She stood to embrace her companion for the evening. “Elisabeth.” she said warmly.

“Clara” Elisabeth Basmanoff returned the hug before the two sat down at the table. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4 months since we last did this.”

Clara scooted her chair in towards the table. “The Amundsen is at the final stages of it’s refit; things have certainly gotten busy.”

Elisabeth picked up the menu, perusing it as if she hadn’t eaten here dozens of times. “You’ve got what? Another 45 days before launch?”

Clara nodded, picking up her menu as well. “Just enough time to stretch her legs on a quick resupply run to a few colonies near Tholian space and be back at Earth in time for Frontier Day.”

Clara didn’t catch it but Basmanoff stiffened slightly at the mention of Frontier Day. “I take it you got the official orders to take part in the celebration?”

Clara nodded. “Even though we’re officially already assigned to the Forth Fleet the Amundsen will be at the San Francisco Fleet Yard for final outfitting after we do our shakedown. Once we get though the excitement of Frontier Day we’ll make our way to Starbase 72 and be under normal operations.”

The waiter walked up to the table, interrupting the conversations. After their orders had been placed, Elisabeth ordering the veal and rabbit tortellini and Clara the ora king salmon, they turned back to the matter at hand.

“With any luck the Breen incursions won’t delay our launch any. From the sounds of it TG 154 has things under control.” 

Elisabeth maintained a neutral expression. “That is what everyone reports, ins’t it?”

Clara paused as she was unfolding the napkin across her lap. “I have never once asked you to divulge much of anything but that answer gives me pause. Is the Breen incursion getting more serious?”

Elisabeth sighed. “I can’t honestly tell you. The closer and closer we get to Frontier Day the more and more I don’t understand the reasoning behind half the things that come cross my desk. Now we’ve got this Breen issue and something doesn’t add up but I get stonewalled if I ask anything.” She paused to take a sip of water and collect her thoughts. “I don’t know, I may be overthinking things. Tatical decision are so far removed from my official job title it isn’t even funny. I head up a small task force of science vessels, I shouldn’t need to know about the Breen on the other side of the quadrant, but I’ve been around long enough to know when something is going on. Even other Admirals I’ve known for years are acting odd.”

The waiter chose that moment to arrive, placing the plates in front of them. The two women gave him a curt nod.

Clara picked up a fork but paused before she could pierce the salmon on her plate. “I won’t ask further, it’s not my place, but I can’t say I’ve noticed anything different. I’ll keep my guard up though.”

Elisabeth opened her mouth to say something but the chirp of Clara’s commbadge interrupted her, prompting her to tap it. “Myers here.”

“Sorry to bother you ma’am.” The voice on the other end of the line was Chief Petty Officer Alana Westland, her yeoman of 5 years. “You’ve got a priority communication, alpha one, direct from Forth Fleet Command. It came with orders to direct transport you to the ship. Now.”

Myers exchanged a concerned glance with Basmanoff. “Noted Petty Officer. Give me 30 seconds.”

“Aye ma’am.” Came the voice on the other end of the commbadge.

Clara stood. “It seems dinner will have to wait old friend. Rain check?”

A look of deep concern crossed Basnmanoff’s face. “Rain check indeed. And Clara? Be careful.”

Clara opened her mouth to say something but the all too familiar tingle of the transporter came over her as she was whisked away in a curtain of blue.

-USS Amundsen-

The transporter deposited her directly on the bridge the Amundsen. The bridge module was very similar to an Intrepid Class bridge, just scaled down. The blue and grey aesthetic of the era dominated the bridge, far from the sleek, modern, metallic looks of the newer ships. The bridge was mostly dark as it was 20:44 and this far along there was little need to have the yard engineers working around the clock.

The petite form of Chief Petty Officer Alana Westland was there to greet Clara, an apologetic expression on her face. “Sorry ma’am, they insisted it couldn’t wait.” Westland had served as her yeoman for years, easily knowing the in and outs of how Clara liked things done.

“Don’t worry, Petty Officer. When you agree to the forth pip you agree to be on call all day and night.”

“Of course ma’am.” Westland looked rattled and quite frankly Clara didn’t blame her. A priority one while undergoing refit? That was enough to set anyone on edge. “The communication can only be opened from your ready room. I’ll be here if you need anything.”

Clara nodded and walked into her ready room; again it looked shockingly close to the Intrepid Class, just smaller. She sat at her desk, a small transparent screen in front of her. 

“Open priority communication. Authorization Meyer-Zeta-112-Alpha-Whiskey.”

The computer chirped in response and the screen was filled with the large logo of the Fourth Fleet with the words ‘FOR CAPTAIN’S EYES ONLY’ sitting below it. Within moments it switched to the direct orders being dispensed by Fleet Admiral Ramar. With each line she read, a chill ran though her. The Dominion? How in the hell did they manage to get a foot hold. Why was Starfleet so blatantly ignoring the issue? Izar had already fallen. Multiple small colonies overrun. Federation territory occupied by enemy forces. This was a damned incursion, it was all out war. And no one cared. By the time she reached the end of the orders, 5 words from Vice Admiral Beckett appeared on the screen and her blood ran cold. “Trust only the Forth Fleet.”

Clara tapped the comm button on her desk. “Alana, issue emergency recall orders to all staff. They have 2 hours to arrive on the ship.”

“Ma’am? Most of the senior staff and a quarter of the normal staff is still waiting for pick up on SB 72.” Clara could hear the confusion in her voice.

“We depart for Starbase 72 in 3 hours. Whatever staff that is on Earth needs to get here. Now.”

“Understood.” Alana’s tone had shifted from confused to work mode. Clara knew little would stand in her way.

“Computer, what senior staff members are present on the ship?”

“Commander Alexander Conklin is the only senior staff member on the ship.” Came the cool, soft, voice of the computer.

“Myers to Conklin, report to my ready room immediately.” She didn’t get a response but she knew he was on his way. She turned back to her monitor, her gaze fixed on the five words flashing over and over again at the bottom of the screen.

Trust only the Forth Fleet.

Trust only the Forth Fleet.

Trust only the Forth Fleet.

We Ride at Midnight

USS Amundsen
March, 2401

Alex let out a soft sigh as he clasped the top of his teal uniform together. He had retired to his quarters hours ago after he spent most of the day in the astrometric lab trying to get the port sensor pallet calibrated. He’d been attempting to tackle it for last 3 weeks but every day there was new science crisis that needed solving; like when science lab 3 was reporting every DNA specimen as Tribble DNA or when the stellar cartography lab kept insisting that over 3 dozen transwarp conduits were appearing in the Andorian star system.  It would have been helpful if some of the previous science staff had been kept around to help with any quirks that where present before the Amundsen‘s refit but Starfleet quickly sent them all packing.

He glanced at the clock and resisted the urge to roll his eyes when he saw it was nearly 21:00. He had little idea why he was being summoned to the bridge, while in space dock, at this hour. Hell, Myers wasn’t even supposed to be on the ship for another 3 days. Still, he’d served with her for enough years now to know she wasn’t summoning him to her ready room for a bit of tea.

The doors to his quarters opened with a swish as he stepped into the hall. The lights were dimmed this time of evening and he softly padded along the carpeted floor on his way to the turbo lift. The Rhode Island class of starships lacked the metallic, sleeker, edge that the newer ships had but he couldn’t deny that this era of starship design evoked a sense of home and relaxation instead of duty and honor. Neither way of thinking was incorrect but he certainly wasn’t upset when he followed Myers to the Amundsen and found out the refit wasn’t going to alter the physical interior of the ship in any way.

He stepped inside the lift. “Bridge” With a quiet hum the lift took off. The ride would be short, the Amundsen only had 9 decks after all, and his quarters were on deck 3. Moments later he felt the lift slow and stop, the doors opening with a hiss, as he stepped out and into what was a very hectic bridge. He hadn’t spotted a single person in the corridor on his way to the lift; clearly it was because they were all up here.

He spotted the white hair of Clara Myers near the from CONN station. He approached her quickly. “Reporting as ordered ma’am, along with apparently 80 percent of the crew on the ship.” He said as he looked around at the 9 to 10 others on the bridge. “Do you make them get out of bed and get dressed too or are these all eager Ensigns who live to serve and sleep in the uniforms?

Clara resisted the urge to roll her eyes and remind the man that they were both on duty. Alex always did keep his causal attitude on even when dealing with a new crew and ship; it certainly could come off as….off-putting. She made a mental note to remind him of that later as she knew he’d be mortified if he knew anyone around him was uncomfortable with his presence or how he carried himself.

“Of course not, commander,” she put a heavy emphasis on the rank to drive the point home. “I had them hidden behind the wall in the conference room, ready to pop out at a moment’s notice.”

Alex’s face flushed slightly as he brushed a stand of hair off his forehead, a nervous habit he’d had since the day Clara met the man. “Of course ma’am, how could I be so foolish. How can I be of assistance?”

“Lieutenant Onari?”

A tall, rather young, Deltan women turned around. “Yes ma’am?”

“I’ll be on my ready room for a bit, briefing the Commander. Please call me If anything major occurs or any further orders from Fourth Fleet Command arrive.”

The Deltan nodded and turned back to her work.  

“Orders?” Alex said softly. “We’re weeks away from actually launching and months away from any sort of real service.”

He watched as Clara’s face shifted expressions to something darker. “Not anymore. Follow me.”

She walked towards her ready room, Alex right at her heals. As soon as the doors closed she made her away around the desk. “Computer, seal the room.”

He heard the heavy thump of the door lock moving into place.

“Room sealed.” Came the voice of the computer

Alex sat down on the other side of the desk. “Clara, what in the world is going on here?”

She seemed to ponder her words for a moment before giving up. “The Dominion has returned. They’ve invaded the Deneb sector and Fleet Admiral Ramar has ordered the Fourth Fleet to respond, us included. The ship is mostly ready; we’ll make do with what we have. Our mission is to check the status of three colonies in three star systems as they have gone dark. We gather information, help if we can, and move on.”

Alex was frozen in his seat. “The Dominion?” He was only a child when the war broke out and barely 11 when it ended. Both his parents were civilian doctors on Luna; he’d only heard vague stories on the FNN broadcasts. He still remembered the sheer terror he felt when he was rushed into a shelter at school with the Breen had attacked Earth; everyone convinced that the Breen fleet would come after the easy target that was Luna once they had been pushed way from Earth. Despite his lack of first hand experience with the Dominion, Starfleet Academy drilled in the horrors of the war to its cadets. Multiple phaser training simulations had Jem’Hadar firing at cadets. Numerous diplomatic, history, psychology and sociology courses dug deep into the horrors of the war. The only enemy that elicited more fear out of the people was the Borg and, honestly, it had been so long since they’d been last seen more and more people were starting to become rather ambivalent about them.

He turned to look at Clara. “How? Has the Bajor system been overrun? How could that happen without us knowing?”

Clara raised her had to cut him off. “It’s the Lost Fleet. No idea how they popped back up but it wasn’t though the Bajoran wormhole; the came rolling in from outside Federation space and swiftly attacked the Deneb sector with the help of the Breen. The border skirmish everyone keeps reporting on? It’s an invasion. No other word for it.”

Alex rubbed a hand over his face. “Why? Why would anyone in their right mind cover this up?”

Clara didn’t have much to offer as an answer. “That is the central question. Perhaps they are so worried about the optics of the enemy that damn near ended the Federation showing up right before Frontier Day that they think they can handle it quietly and out of the public view. I don’t know. What I do know is the Fourth Fleet is all that stands in their way right now. I saw the horrors of that war first hand. I saw the casualty lists flow in day after day.” Clara paused, trying to maintain her composure. “I watched my Captain get impaled by the blade of a Jem’Hadar six feet away from me; his blood spraying some poor Ensign who probably was discharged from service and still goes to therapy three times a week. Some nights….”

She trailed off before Alex reached out and placed a hand on her arm. “Clara. I understand.”

She continued on almost as if she didn’t hear him. “Some nights, on a really bad day, I wake up from that nightmare and I can still smell the metallic tang of blood. Sometimes it seems like I can almost taste it when I wake up and it’s everything I can do to keep my dinner in my stomach.” She turned to face him, a steely determination in her eyes. “I faced my demons long ago and like so many from the damned war I carry the scars with me every day. I turned that pain to purpose and do what I can to make this universe a better place. I will be damned if I am going to let those…things swoop in again and tear the quadrant apart. I will not have them scar a new generation of Starfleet officers like they scared mine. We will do out part and we will stand against them, no matter what Starfleet Command says.”

Alex gave her a soft smile and a squeeze on the arm. “Then let’s get to work.”

Clara nodded, returning the smile. “Let us.” She reached over to the other side of the desk, picking up a PADD and handing it to Alex. “You are the highest ranking officer on this ship at present time so I am making up Acting Executive Officer until we pick up Commander Demar from Starbase 72. Once he has assumed his role you will serve as Second Officer.”

Alex took the PADD, a questioning look on his face. “I won’t argue with you but I don’t really see how I would be the best choice for second officer.”

Clara opened her mouth then paused to choose her words. “I need someone I can trust. I have indications from Fourth Fleet Command that we can’t trust those outside the Fourth Fleet. I’ve know you for many years Alex and that means you are one of the few I know I can rely on.”

Alex gave her a quick nod, trying to absorb the large amount of information he’d gotten in such a short time. 

“Onari to Myers. Lieutenant Commander Boreheth has arrived on the Bridge and wishes to speak to you.”

“On my way, Myers out.” She stood, walking around the desk, and placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s a lot. I know. I have faith in you Alex. Now, get ready, for we ride at midnight.”

Getting Ready

USS Amundsen - Engineering
March, 2401

Lieutenant (J.G) Anderson glanced over the orders on the PADD for the third time, not quite sure if he was reading them correctly. CPO Westland had delivered them herself stating they were direct orders from the Captain and included a list of systems that were to take priority. He made his way over Lieutenant Commander Broheth, who was currently on the floor with his entire torso under the console that controlled the port warp intermix valve.

“Excuse me Commander but I have direct orders from Captain Myers for you.”

The Bolian man scooted out from under the console. “Orders? How curious, I was unaware she was on the ship.”

Anderson handed the man the PADD. “You’d best read them yourself sir.”

Broheth extended a blue hand and quickly tapped though the contents of the PADD. “Well, this certainly seems odd. We certainly aren’t ready to fly out of space dock quite yet. The new computer core hasn’t been stress tested yet. The phaser arrays haven’t even been powered up in weeks. I haven’t even completed the inventory of engineering supplies. I also don’t know if the warp core is ready for the stress of high warp.” He continued to scroll though, stopping at the very bottom. His eyes narrowed for a moment as he felt a touch of frustration rise in his chest before it subsided.

He looked up at Anderson and gave the man an affable smile, placing his hand on his shoulder. “I’m sure there is a good reason for this so we’ll do what we always do: work our magic and make it seem like we pulled off a miracle to the redshirts.”

He turned to face the officers behind him. “T’Nek, begin warp core ignition procedures. Valstom, prime the deuterium pumps and make sure the tanks are topped off. The fleet yard said they did hat last week but I want eyes on it to sure. Lisert, give the plasma grid one more stress test and make sure the line on EPS junction Baker Nine got repaired. Volemty, transfer the quantum torpedoes from storage to torpedo control.” He turned back to Anderson. “Make sure the antimatter interlocks don’t fluctuate as we power up the core; it’s a new model and the simulations showed they were under stress when the core was between 56 and 77 percent of full power.”

Anderson gave a nod as the other offices replied ‘Aye’ in unison.

“I’ll be back in 20 minutes after I have a chat with the Captain; that should be enough time to get the core primed.” With a final nod in Anderson’s direction he left the engineering bay. 

Despite the late hour the lights in the corridor had been brought to full strength and more and more yellow shirted officers were exiting the lift as recalled officers arrived. He couldn’t fathom why the ship was being prepped for emergency departure but that wasn’t really something he needed to concern himself with. For 7 years he’d been working at the fleet yards retrofitting ships and helping complete final outfitting of new ships. Ever since he was a teenage in technical school on Bolarius he’d been waist deep in some sort of technology, eagerly pulling apart anything he could without getting into trouble. His mother worked on the public relations team of the Federation Colonial Settlement Service and his dad was a magistrate back on Bolarius so he wasn’t exactly sure how he ended up with the engineer gene but here he was. He wasn’t particularly enamored with the Federation or Starfleet, to much drama, to much pomp and to many regulations, but he didn’t exactly dislike them. They gave him an education and let him tinker around with state of the art starships after all; a far better fate then being stuck in some spaceport fixing up old Miranda Class cargo haulers. He always had an agreement with the personnel team at the fleet yards: he’d give them his best work as long as they didn’t stick him on some starship going out on assignment. So far the agreement had worked pretty well: he did his job so well that they never had any reason to move him. He knew that it wasn’t really a true ‘agreement’; he could be moved at any time but once that happened it was pretty well know he’d turn in him commbadge and find private work. 

The lift doors opened with a swish and the Bolian stepped onto the bridge. He was particular proud of how the bridge refit turned out. eyeing the finished product as he exited the lift. They had been able to seamlessly integrate the newest version of LCARS despite the ship having consoles from the 2380’s. Sure they had to add a few clear panels here and there and add a few banks of bio-neural gel packs but it worked and was a thing of beauty; the response time from input to processing had increased by nearly 11 seconds. The Rhode Islands already had pretty hefty computer cores so that made the process that much easier. 

It took only seconds for him to spot CPO Westland as she stood near the command chair, attempting to organize the slight chaos that was the bridge right now.

“No. Captain Meyers was clear, we launch at midnight as ready as we can be. Weapons and engineering supplies take priority. My understanding is we’ll be back at Starbase 72 in a week if all goes well.”

The science officer she was speaking to puffed up her shoulders a bit, a look of agitation on her face. “This vessel is equipped to handle over a dozen separate level II science experiments at one time. Just because the Captain has to race off somewhere in the middle of the night doesn’t mean I can just leave everything behind. It will take 6 hours alone to ready the specimens for transfer from the surface and I will not leave without them.”

Westland gripped the edges of her PADD tighter. Broheth wasn’t sure the casing would hold against that much force for much longer; the new PADDs certainly were not as robust as the 2380’s line. 

“Look here Lieutenant, I am not having this discussion any further. We are preparing for emergency departure and I have dozens of other priorities that rank much higher on the list than you. You will be on this ship as ordered even if your experiments can’t be brought up from the planet in time. If you have a problem with that go wake up some random Admiral and whine about it.” Alana raised her hands, PADD included, and waved them around a bit for emphasis. “Or hell, go wake up Admiral Janeway herself for all I care, just let me do my job.”

The science officer seemed to be preparing a rebuttal but Alana tuned on her heels and walked away. Broheth knew this was not the ideal time but as the petty officer had been making clear, they were in a time crush. “Excuse me, Petty Officer Westland?”

Alana stopped and turned to face the Bolian, a not so sincere but serviceable smile on her face. “What can I do for you Lieutenant Commander?”

“I was wondering if I make speak to the captain for just a moment. I know you are quite busy and I don’t want to take up much time. I know the captain is busy as well so I promise to be quick.” He tried to give her a calm, relaxed, smile.

Alana’s face softened a bit. “Yes, we certainly are trying to handle quite a bit. The captain is speaking with Commander Conklin right now but I’ll see if she can spare a minute.”

He nodded. “Thank you Chief Petty Officer. I do appreciate it.”

She turned away to contact the captain and as she did so he turned to the console next to him, running a blue finger along the edge. He made a mental note that the casing on the console seemed to slope downward just a tad; he’d have to put it in the log so whomever was around when the ship came back would attend to it.

“She’ll be out in just a moment.”

He nodded and turned towards the ready room door. It only took a few moment for the short figure of Clara Myers to emerge, a rather warm smile on her face.

“Good evening Lieutenant Commander. How goes the departure procedures down in engineering?” she said, leaning against a console as CPO Westland walked by, handing her a stack of three PADDs. 

“It goes well, ma’am. Core power up has begun, the deuterium tanks were filled last week so we are good there and the ship will meet the minimums for departure by midnight.”

Clara nodded. “Very good Commander.” She paused, more than a little confused as to why he was on the bridge. “Was there something else?”

“Yes ma’am, the matter of my assignment. Is seems there are orders that I am to assume the Chief Engineer position?” He held his hands behind his back, nervous energy causing them to twitch slightly.

Cara nodded yet again. “Yes, those are the orders. That position was one of the few in the senior staff that had not been filled. You were a natural choice, considering the circumstances.”

“I see. Captain, I haven’t served on a starships since my first cruise as an Ensign. My place is here at the fleet yards.”

Clara paused for a moment, the gears turning in her head. “You oversaw the ships refit so far, have you not?”

Borheth sighed. “Yes ma’am, but…..”

Clara raised her hand, cutting him off. “Then you are a natural fit. I can think of no-one better to handle the issues that may arise from our expedited departure.”

“Ma’am, I’ll be frank. I have no interest in serving on a ship. My interest lies in what I do here. Starfleet and I have always had a relationship of they keep me where I want to be, which is right here, and I opt to serve them. If that relationship no longer exists then I see little reason to serve.”

Concern and a small bit of frustration crossed her face. “I see. I suppose I shall save the ‘you are meant to serve in times of need’ motivational speech I usually break out and instead offer you a deal.”

He arched an eyebrow. “I’m listening.”

“This assignment will be Acting Chief Engineer. We face an emergency situation and I don’t have the time to find someone who can get up to speed before we are underway. Grant me this favor of serving as Chief Engineer for the duration of our mission, which should be short, and I will make sure you are assigned back to the dock yards.”

He considered the offer for a moment. She did have a point that finding someone of his level of experience in a few short hours and then getting them up to speed would be challenge. If she was telling the truth he’d be back here in a few weeks and have something on his record he could point to and say ‘I did my duty, leave me be.’ if Starfleet ever wanted to move him again. He stuck out a blue hand. “You have your self a deal, ma’am.”

A wide grin crossed her face and she shook his hand. “Excellent! Now, head back down to engineering and do what you can to make sure my ships does not fall apart the moment we jump to warp for the first time.”

“Aye aye, ma’am.”

The Gangs All Here (Kind of)

Starbase 72
March 2401

The room was small, stuffy, and outright unpleasant to be in. The token potted plant in the corner was alive by some miracle that Geden had yet to figure out. The desk was cramped and he could barely fit his long legs under it without knocking his knees against the underside. In the 9 days he had been on Starbase 72 he hadn't added anything of note to the desk, not even a family picture. He had considered it but after serving on 3 starships in the last 8 months he didn't bother to decorate or bring anything personal with him; besides he could only be here for another few weeks until the ship arrive to whisk him off somewhere. It had been made abundantly clear that if his next commanding officer submitted another negative formal review he'd be ‘encouraged’ to consider other career options. 

He let out a soft snort as he replayed the conversation in his head. Other career options at this point meant handing in his comm badge and pips and taking some professorship somewhere, most likely on Trill, and teaching the youth the wonders of science. He let out another snort, this time much louder, as he entertained the idea of him teaching young adults about gaseous anomalies and the time-dilation effect of black holes. Considering the numerous mistakes he made in his early 20s (such as sleeping with his direct superior, getting an entire away team except for him killed, declining the use of a psychologist to address his issues, and that one afternoon on Veberd II) he wasn't the best choice to interact with youth.

The desk in front of him chirped. He sat the PADD he was holding down and give the glowing button a tap. “This is Demar.”

“Sir, you have a subspace communication from Captain Clara Myers.”

He stiffened in his seat a bit, tugging at his uniform shirt in a vain attempt to de-wrinkle it. “Thank you, put her through.”

The line went silent as a translucent screen rose from the desk. The Task Force 72 logo flashed for a few moments before being replaced with a smiling Captain Myers. “Good evening Comander. I apologize for the rather sudden interruption. I had hoped our first meeting would have been under different circumstances but time is of the essence right now.”

Geden nodded, shoulders still ramrod stiff. “Of course ma'am. What can I do for you?”

“I'll be brief, the Amundsen is launching in” She paused and looked off-screen “45 minutes. There is an emergency situation in the Deneb sector and we've been ordered to respond.”

Geden arched an eyebrow. He knew the ship refit was mostly complete but there was still a good amount of work to be done. 

Meyers continued “I wish I could go into details but due to the security situation, I don't want to speak over subspace. We'll arrive there in 5 hours; I need you to round up the senior staff personally and give them marching orders to get their department officers ready to roll. There are only 95 of us and 53 are already on the ship so I would like to think that they are capable of doing so.”

“Yes ma'am. I'll get right on it before it gets too late.”

“Thank you. And Commander Demar? When I say personally, I mean it. No comms. Inform them, per my order, they are not to discuss this with anyone outside of our own crew. There are security risks at play.”

Geden inhaled as if he was going to ask questions but he got the feeling this wasn't the time or place to air the, “Of course ma'am. I'll make sure the orders are followed.”

Meyers nodded. “Thank you, Commander, see you in a few hours. Myers out.” The visage of Meyers changed to the Task Force 72 logo before the screen dipped back down into the desk.

The doors to the office swished open and an Ensign walked in. “Sir, the PADDS are for you by order of Captain Myers. She has instructed that each out be given to the senior staff and they are locked to their biosignature.”

If the ensign had any curiosity as to why she had been given such an odd order, she didn't show it. She sat the PADDS down and walked out of the room. 

-Quarters 125-992 Alpha-

“Oh come on Kellen. I know you went home with him that night!”

Kellen Ereith buried his face in his hands and let out a deep sigh. “How many times do I have to tell you, I did not? He had been my freshman alpha quadrant sociology professor. That just would have been weird.”

Indira popped a Hekethme candy in her mouth. “Since when did weird ever stop you.” She said between chews. “Besides he was so your type: ten plus years older than you, tall, and long dark hair. You can't tell me you didn't at least think about it.”

Kellen slumped in his chair, a glow of irritation radiating from him. He wanted to argue with her but, damn it, she was right. He'd always had a type. Older, taller, dark hair, usually long. Still, he was being truthful in that he didn't go home with anyone that night. Yes, he was a little more liberal in that department than some of his friend group but that didn't mean he followed everyone home; it just meant he followed most everyone home. He didn't ever feel ashamed of it, especially considering it was pretty socially acceptable these days, and he never flaunted it. He also had lines he would not cross and it turned out that professors, even former ones, were part of that line.

“I'm done with this conversation.” He walked over to the bed and flopped down. “Don't you have to depart on the Ohio at like 06:00? I feel like you should be sleeping right now.”

The Orion women shrugged. “I'm just a second shift science officer; I can survive being a little tired. Not like I have to fly a giant starship, Mr. Flyboy.”

Kellen rolled his eyes but the beep of the door chime interrupted anything he was going to say. He stood with a grunt and walked over to the door, pressing the button to open it.

The doors swished open to reveal a very tall Trill, PADD in hand, standing in the hallway. Kellen felt a flush cross his cheeks before composing himself. “Can I help you, sir?”

“Ensign Keller Ereth?” The Trill said simply.

Kellen nodded.

Demar stuck out a hand with a PADD. “I'm Commander Geden Demar. Emergency departure orders. Please review them privately 60 minutes before scheduled departure. Please prepare for departure at 05:30.” 

Confused beyond all measure, Kellen reached out and took the PADD. “Aye, sir. I'll be ready.”

Geden nodded and quickly turned around, walking away. As the doors shut Indira let out a low whistle. “That was a gorgeous man. Too bad he seems to have the personality of a toaster. Are you ‘not’ going to follow him home as well?”

Kellen glared at her. “He's my executive officer, you stem bolt. You can add that to the list of people I don't sleep with.”

She shrugged. “Your loss. Maybe. Again, seems like he has the personality of a toaster. Guess that doesn't matter if…”

“Shut. Up.”


-Quarters 223-111-beta-

The ocean waves had finally begun to calm. The meditation had gone on much longer than T'Keu was accustomed to. After the last career disruption on the Xerxes, she had found her mind troubled. Her intended career path was to already be in the position of executive officer on a cruiser. However, she now found herself posted to a small survey vessel that would likely stifle her ability to move up for 3 to 4 years. Despite her disagreement with the citation placed in her record by her previous Commanding Officer, she could not dwell on it; her increased meditation routine had done ample good. She had several more weeks before she would have to report to her posting, allowing her to spend more time calming her mind and completing overdue security training drills.

The chirp of the doorbell broke her concentration. She rose with a sigh that most people would mistake for irritation and walked over to the door. It slid open to reveal a tall Trill. She recognized him instantly as she had memorized most of the senior staff list. “Good evening Commander Demar. How may I assist you?”

Dear paused for a moment, slightly confused by her quick recognition despite the fact they had never met. “Lieutenant Commander T'Keu?"

“Yes Commander, that is I.”

He handed the PADD to the Vulcan. "Emergency departure orders. Please review them privately 60 minutes before scheduled departure. Please prepare for departure at 05:30.” 

T'Keu raised an eyebrow. “Yes, sir. I shall make ready for departure.”

Geden nodded and quickly turned around, walking away. T'Keu paused for a moment and decided that her first interaction with the executive officer had gone well. If he was always this to the point and efficient they would have little issue with one another.


-Quarters 553-2223-Baker-

“DADDY DADDY DADDY DADDY!” The small Betazoid child ran into the view of the home viewer. “I made a new friend in school today and his name is Trex and he let me try his turda toot soup that his mama made and it was so good! I'm going to bring him a sweet cookie tomorrow!” With her statement done the young black-haired girl ran out of view.

Gavarin Brex chuckled softly as his wife came into view. “As you can see, she made a new friend. I talked to the teacher today and she seems to be settling in just fine. I figured she'd adapt pretty well but you can never tell with kids and new schools.”

Gabarin smiled warmly. He'd only been away from home for a few weeks but an ache had already settled deep in his chest; this posting was bound to last quite a while now that he was on the senior staff and it would be months before he was able to wrap his arms around his daughter and wife again. Lilma would turn 6 in a few short weeks and he wouldn't be there to see it. As the years went on it seemed he missed more and more events in the young girl's life and as much as that hurt, he knew he was doing the right thing. He'd come close to a (very) early retirement but then the attack on Mars happened. He'd be serving on one of the orbital platforms when it happened; he'd watched Mars burn as one of the responding starships managed to pluck him off the platform before it'd been destroyed. Starfleet didn't always make the right decision but in this extremely messy galaxy, it seemed like they were all that stood between chaos and what was right. It was a simplistic view, and he knew it, but to him, it gave him the reason for doing this: good people were needed in a galaxy gone upside down.

“I'm not surprised; she was always a little social butterfly.” A puzzled look crossed Gavarin's face. “I thought she hated turda soup? I thought she was going to have a heart attack the first time you have it to her?”

Venra shrugged. “It seems it's declious when someone else makes it but completely awful if your own mother makes it.” She looked over her shoulder to see if her daughter was in ear shot. “I'm just going to replicate the sweet cookie. The last thing I have time for is baking a dozen sweet cookies. Does that make me a bad mom? I feel like it should but I'm not all that concerned about it.”

Gavarin let out a barking laugh. “No, it does not make you a bad mom. It just means you are the wife of a Starfleet officer and a damn good one, if I say so myslef.”

“MOMMY!" Came the loud shreek of the smallest member of the Brex family. “You are late for bath time!”

He watched his wife sigh. “The day that girl decides she's fine with sonic showers is the day we're going to go to the fanciest restaurant we can find and celebrate.”

“I'll be on the first shuttle home when that happens, imzadi. Go take care of our little one and I'll try and call tomorrow while she's at school after my training.”

“I'm gonna hold you to that, imzadi.” The screen turned clear before sliding back into the desk. He leaned back and stretched out. He glanced at the time; it was still early enough to go for a walk in one of the arboretums. He only had a few weeks here so he might as well try and enjoy the starbase life.

As he stood up the door chime rang. He walked over and tapped the panel next to the door; the doors sliding open.

“Lieutenant Brex?” The Trill said simply.

“That would be me, the last I checked anyway.” The nervousness and uncomfortableness that was radiating off the Trill officer struck Gavarin like a brick.

Demar stuck out a hand with a PADD. “I'm Commander Geden Demar. Emergency departure orders. Please review them privately 60 minutes before scheduled departure. Please prepare for departure at 05:30.” 

He took the PADD from the other man. “Aye sir, I'll be ready. May I ask why we're leaving weeks ahead of schedule?”

Geden stood there for a moment. “The PADD will cover all the details.” before turning around and walking away.

“Well, ok then. Guess I'll have something to read on my walk.” He muttered under his breath.


-Quarters 988-2222-Delta-

V'Rel stretched out on the lounge chair, the Catian's tail casually laying at her side. She had managed to get Starfleet to approve several weeks of shore leave ahead of her next posting on the Amundsen. Most of the senior staff had been roped into some sort of training or technical testing while they awaited the ships arrival but she'd made the point that she'd been doing this for 20 some years and damn it, she didn't need training. Besides, she got this posting because she demanded a less crazy assignment. She didn't need some frontier ship that got shot at every damn day; a little scout ship with under 100 people that was supposed to run away when danger presented itself was perfect. 

The door chime interrupted her quiet time. “A couple weeks of quiet is all I asked for.” She muttered as the door opened. “Can I help you?”

The Trill as her door appeared taken back. “Are you Commander V'Rel?”

She looked down, patting her sides for dramatic effect. “Pretty sure I am. If not, I broke into someone quarters and took all their clothes.”

Geden cocked an eyebrow. “Very well.” Demar stuck out a hand with a PADD. “I'm Commander Geden Demar. Emergency departure orders. Please review them privately 60 minutes before scheduled departure. Please prepare for departure at 05:30.” 

V'Rel snatched the PADD out of his hand, looking over the info currently on the screen as Demar turned to walked away. “Hold up there pretty boy. What is this?" She followed him out into the hallway. "Starfleet allowed me weeks of personal time. I'm not getting up at 5:30 for anything.”

Geden paused, turning back around. “Excuse me?”

“Shoreleave.” She said, following him and waving the PADD around. “I've got weeks of it, so find another doctor.”

Geden huffed. “Well then, doctor, I'll be sure to give the Dominion a call and let them know they need to hald their aggressive actions so that we can take the time to locate a less cantankerous doctor.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Oh no, no, no. I asked for a less demanding assignment. I don't do running around treated polaron weapon wounds anymore. If that's what this PADD orders me to do then I'm going to shove it somewhere. I'm a doctor, I know how to do that and not kill you.”

Geden took a few steps forward. “Doctor, if you want to do that, I would appreciate a good steak dinner first. Otherwise, I'll see you tomorrow morning.”

Her eye narrowed further to tiny golden slits. “I like you. I'll be there.” With that, she stalked back into her room.

Geden let out a shaky sigh. Her profile had mention that while she was brilliant medically and was loved by all of her commanding officers, she had been getting a little more cranky as the years wore on. He couldn't blame her; he wasn't the most jolly person most days of the week anymore.

He stepped into the lift, enjoying the quiet hum of the lift. He'd managed to get everyone taken care of in short order. It was nerve wracking, to say the least, but he'd done it. Tomorrow would mark the start of a new challenge, a significantly more challenging one. Time would tell if they all stood ready to meet it.

Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

USS Amundsen
March 2401

-San Francisco Fleet Yards-

The few remaining worker bees gracefully swept themselves away from the bow of the ship and she began to awaken after a very long slumber.  Below the ship’s bow, the deflector dish glowed a soft blue, steadily growing brighter as the warp core sent power flooding through the ship. The Rhode Island class’ nacelles, sitting a dull grey for months now, showed signs of coming to life while her bussard collectors already glowed a fiery red. 

“Warp core at 98% of predicted norms. Pressure in the dilithium chamber is registering normal, warp core reaction chamber is steady at 2,000 kilopascals. Magnetic interlocks are showing normal as well. I’d say we are ready.”

Broheth looked over at Valstrom. “Excellent! Thank you, Ensign.” He turned to Lisert “Alright lieutenant, open up the interlocks and bring the plasma injectors online.”

The Bajoran man nodded and tapped away at the console in front of the warp core. A light click was heard as the interlocks released and the floors hummed as drive plasma began to flow from the core. “All systems normal. Warp coils are coming online, nacelles are showing stable power levels. The ship-wide EPS system also responds normally; we no longer draw power from the space dock.”

Broheth grinned, clapping Lieutenant Anderson on the back. “Excellent work everyone! From my understanding the Captain will take us to high warp almost immediately so until we reach Starbase 72 everyone is on rotating 4 hours duty shifts keeping an eye on every inch of this ship.”


-Bridge-

Clara sat in the captain’s chair, monitoring the steady stream of status reports that were flowing in. CPO Westland had reported moments ago that all the yard personnel had disembarked, which meant the large contingent of officers running around the bridge all belonged to the Amundsen. The last several hours had been a flurry of problems, both with the ship getting ready to depart weeks early, and personnel trying to get back in time. They had the bare minimum amount of staff to run the ship until they arrived and Starbase 72; Clara could only hope they ran into few issues along the way.

“Broheth to Bridge.”

Clara looked up from the PADD in her hand. “This is the bridge. Are my engines warmed up and ready to go?”

“Aye, ma’am. The warp nacelles are online, impulse fusion generators are online, the ship is running on its own power and we’re showing green on critical systems. I would caution that most of these systems haven’t been stress tested yet and while we have most of the supplies needed to carry out emergency repairs, we have our limits. I would avoid a firefight if we can.”

“No worries Commander; I have no intention of taking the ship into a combat situation unless absolutely necessary. All I’ll need is for you to keep those warp engines humming just in case we need to run away from trouble.”

“I’ll work that engineering magic ma’am, don’t you worry about that. Broheth out.”

Clara turned to Conklin, currently at the science station. “How are we doing in the other departments?”

“All supplies, or at least what we could get on in time, are loaded and stored. We could only get a dozen photon torpedoes onboard but security is reporting a fully stocked armory. Sickbay says they have everything they need. Anything else will need to be loaded onto the ship at Starbase 72. All departments are reporting systems are running at full capacity however very few have been tested in any way.”

Clara nodded. “I’ll take it.” She tapped a few buttons on the armrest, the comm alert whistle sounding throughout the ship. “All hands, this is the captain. Prepare for immediate departure.” She turned to the Ensign sitting at the comm station. “Have we received our pre-departure clearance?”

The Trill turned towards Clara. “Aye ma’am, roughly 20 minutes ago.”

“Mr. Tyris, ensure all airlocks are sealed, clear all tractor moorings, and engage all exterior lights.”

Tyris tapped a few commands into his console and was greeted with a soft chirp after a few moments. “Done, ma’am. We’re good to go.”

Carla turned back towards the Ensign as comms. “Signal dock control for departure.”

She nodded and opened a channel to dock control, tapping on the request into her console. A few moments later a confused look crossed her face. “They are denying us permission to depart. They’re stating that our orders to depart are subject to verification.”

A look of confusion crossed Clara’s face. “Verification? Put dock control on screen; I didn’t just get everyone out of bed just to be told no.”

Clara stood, tugging at her uniform top, as a red-shirted Ensign appeared on the screen. “May I help you?” He was curt, almost hostile sounding. 

“This is Captain Myers of the Amundsen and I am being told that my departure clearance is being denied; I would like an explanation.” She would typically take a more amicable tone but he had already started the conversation hot; plus she was hoping to lay on a little of the ‘my 4 pips outweigh your 1 pip, so sit down and listen’ strategy.

The Ensign’s tone did not change. “Your orders are being verified. Starfleet Command has not given you permission to depart; you will not leave until that is done.”

The 4 pip strategy had failed, clearly. “I am not concerned with Starfleet Command’s whims or desires; we have direct orders from Admiral Ramar and I fully intend to follow them. If you disagree then you’re welcome to contact him personally, though I don’t imagine he’d be all too thrilled with the conversation. If he doesn’t answer, you’re welcome to try Fleet Captain Vehl. Hell, you can wake Admiral Janeway up for all I care and complain to her. I don’t care; lives are at risk and we’re leaving.”

An air of tension settled on the Bridge. Expect for Conklin and Westland none of those present on the bridge had ever served with her. It wasn’t every day that you watched your new Captain spar with a junior officer.

The Ensign leaned forward. “Your orders are not verified; Starfleet Command is in the business of making sure its ships are crew aren’t being sent on fools’ errands. You will power your ship down and remain in the dock.” The Ensign jammed a finger on the panel on his desk and the line went dead.

Clara turned towards Conklin. “Tell me I’m not the only one that thought the was bizarre.”

Conklin shrugged. There was little he could offer in the way of an explanation; he was a science officer and anytime he talked with Starfleet Sciences it was always mind-numbingly boring. “He seemed to be acting a little above his station but it wouldn’t be the first time an Ensign went on a power trip. It all strikes me as quite odd.”

The Lieutenant at ops cleared his throat. “Ma’am? Should I reestablish the tractor moorings and tell engineering to shut done the warp core?”

Clara let out a soft sigh. She had her orders, that much was clear, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong and a warning kept running through her head. ‘Trust only the Fourth Fleet’. Never once had she contemplated going against any sort of order she’d been given. It went against everything she had ever been taught, been told. At this exact moment, though, her gut was telling her something else. Decades of experience were telling her something else. It was telling her to run.

She made her choice.

“Negative, Lieutenant.” She turned and sat back down in her chair. “Mr. Lamtree, do we have a clear path through space traffic to reach the minimum distance to safely warp out the system.”

The blonde-haired man at the helm turned to face her, a quizzical look on his face. “Aye, ma’am. This time of night is pretty quiet.”

“What I am about to ask of you is, seemingly, in direct violation of our orders from Starfleet Command. Earlier today Fourth Fleet Command issued emergency orders related to what is going on in the Deneb Sector.” She paused, trying to find a way to break the news in a more calm, less panic-inducing way, but it didn’t come to mind. “The Dominion has invaded the Debeb Sector.”

A low murmur spread through the Bridge; the helmsman speaking first. “How? Deneb is a large distance away from the Bajor system.”

“I don’t have those answers” Clara replied. “I know FNN and Starfleet Command have been insisting that this is nothing more than a minor Breen incursion and we have the situation under control but that is so far from the truth. Multiple colonies, and multiple systems, have fallen to the Dominion and the Breen. As a rapid response vessel, our orders are to investigate three colonies that have gone dark, help if we can, and report the data back to Forth Fleet Command so that can determine what resources to place in the area. These people need our help and Starfleet Command seemingly doesn’t care; I can’t tell you why. I can tell you that as Starfleet officers it is our duty to respond to this incursion and help those people. I will not stand idly by and watch as they are slaughtered by the Jem’Hadar or taken as slaves by the Breen. Whatever reason Starfleet Command has for delaying us is inconsequential to me and I will take full responsibility for ordering our departure but we’re leaving, even if I’m the one flying this ship to SB-72 myself.”

She could see the gears turning in the heads of each one of them. While she didn’t know the details of every single person on the bridge she knew that she was likely the only one who had ever dealt with the Dominion firsthand, seen the atrocities they could commit. She would do whatever was necessary to keep war from arriving on the doorstep of the Alpaha Quadrant again.

The officer at ops spoke first. “We remain unmoored to the station and all systems go for departure, ma’am”

The helm officer turned around, his hands tapping at the console. “Thrusters ready for departure at your command Captain. Impulse and warp speed both show green.”

She felt some of the tension drain from her as the other officers on the bridge quickly resumed their duty. “Excellent. Lieutenant Lamtree, take us out, thrusters ahead full.”

“Aye man, thrusters ahead full.”

The Rhode Island class ship rumbled to life, her rear thrusters firing in the silence of space as she slowly crept forward. To the casual observer, it was nothing out of the ordinary, minus the unusual hour. On the bridge, everything went as normal as Clara watched the screen next to her chair show the ship slowly moving out of the dock with no issues. The silence was interrupted by a shrill chirp from the tactical station.

“Captain, the USS Shenandoah is on an intercept course.”

“Lamtree, can we accelerate to impulse yet?” Carla knew her Rhode Island class vessel could outpace the Shenandoah if they could get to impulse quickly.

“Negative ma’am, we’re barely clear of docking spines, and the Shenandoah will intercept us and block our path before I can get us into position to safely accelerate.”

“Damn it.” She muttered to herself. “All stop and place them on screen” Disobeying an order from dock control was one thing but she wasn’t about to do anything that could harm another ship or her crew.

The blonde man nodded and tapped a few keys. “Answering all stop.” The blank wall that held the holographic viewscreen shimmered before activating and showing the large Excelsior II class ship quickly sliding in front of the Amundsen and blocking her path. 

“Hail them.” It took a few moments before the CO of the Shenandoah appeared on screen. He looked to be mid 40’s and, like everyone else right now, looked rather perturbed to be awake at this time of night. Considering his age, the class of ship he commanded, and the fact the ship was assigned one of the easiest patrol assignments in the fleet, he hadn’t had that fourth pip on his collar long. 

“This is Captain Reston of the USS Shenandoah. You are in violation of your orders from Starfleet Command. Return to dock. Immediately.”

“Please to meet you, Captain Reston. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

The man looked as if he was about to roll her eyes at her. “I don’t think you have much of a choice Captain.”

Clara smiled, standing up. “You are correct Captain Reston, I don’t have much choice. The one with a choice here is you.”

He let out a sigh, his Vulcan XO eyeing Clara with a quizzical look. “Captain, neither one of us has time for this at this godforsaken hour.”

“Captain, I respect the orders you’ve been given but you and I both know that this is highly unusual. My orders are only being questioned because they are coming from Forth Fleet Command and there is some ridiculous turf war going on.” Clara turned and walked over to her command chair, tapping a few commands into the console next to it. “My orders are to assist 3 colonies in the Deneb Sector that have been attacked by the Dominion and Breen. 1,321 lives across those three colonies. 1,321 lives that may be dying or are being enslaved as we speak. We’re both Starfleet officers; you know just as well as I do that sitting here and doing nothing is not an option.”

Renton shifted in his chair, clearly becoming uncomfortable. “You know just as well as I do that the only issue in the Deneb Sector is a small Breen incursion that is well under control. I ask you again, return to the dock. Make this easy Captain, on both of us.”

Clara paused. Renton was plainly uncomfortable, if not a little nervous. She wasn’t sure why though. A cold feeling started to spread in her stomach; what if he was acting that way because he was under orders to stop their departure by force if necessary? Clara chastised herself silently. There was no way that Starfleet would order one ship to fire on another; she couldn’t let any paranoia that crept up get the best of her.

“Captain, a moment ago I transmitted my orders to your ships. Look at them for yourself and tell me I’m wrong. People are suffering. Federation citizens are suffering. I won’t be able to answer all the questions as to why command is ignoring this but you have to recognize things have been odd for months now. Some of the orders I’ve seen don’t make sense. You know, I know, a lot of captains know it. I don’t ask you to do this lightly; Starfleet may have changed these last few years but we hold tight that spark of what it was before. We have a duty.”

Renton rubbed his palm across his forehead. “Stand by.”

The screen changed back to the inky view of space, the port side of the Shenandoah taking up most of the screen. Clara let out a sigh as she planted herself in her command chair, Alex walked over from the Science station and sat next to her in the XO’s chair. “Did you really send over all our orders? Was that wise considering what was in there?”

Clara inhaled sharply. “I didn’t send him everything; just the reader’s digest version. It should be enough to spook him without giving away the whole goat for free.”

Alex eyed her, bemused. “Goat?”

Clara shrugged, a small smile on her face. “It’s an expression Commander. Not the best but it’s after midnight so take what you can get.”

Alex let out a soft snort. “Aye, Aye ma’am.”

Minutes ticked by, seemingly an eternity, as the anxious feeling in Clara’s stomach grew.

“What are we going to do if they won’t relent?” Queried Alex soft enough that nobody else would hear.

“We back ourselves up into the dock and I wake up every Admiral I can find in San Francisco for a group call with Fourth Fleet Command.” She crossed her legs, a nervous habit she’d had for years. “I’m not about to escalate this beyond how far it’s already gone.”

Alex gave a soft hum of approval as he relaxed into the chair. The minutes continued to tick by before the near silence on the bridge was interrupted by a shrill beep. 

“Captain, the Shenandoah is moving.”

Clara looked up to see the Shenandoah slowly accelerate, veering starboard and upward.

Lamtree was the next to speak up. “They are getting out of the way Captain. I’ll have a clear path in 13 seconds if they continue on their present course.”

Clara let out a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding and leaned forward. “Thank you Captain.” she said softly. “Mr Lamtree, the moment the way is clear, punch it.”

He nodded, hands flying across the console. “Aye, ma’am, punching it.”

The Rhode Island Class vessel sprinted forward under the full power of her thrusters. Less than a minute later her impulse engines began to glow a deep red as she accelerated to near full impulse.

Alex leaned over. “Is this the point where I pretend to be a good acting XO and remind you that you are breaking the speed limit around Earth?”

“I’m sure they can add it to the list of infractions I have committed today.”

Alex leaned back towards his chair, a bemused smile on his face. “Good point.”

“We have have reached the edge of the impulse zone Captain, warp drive available on your command.” Reported Lamtree.

“Plot a corse to Starbase 72 and engage at warp 9.”

“Aye, ma’am. Taking up to warp.”

The entire bridge crew was looking forward at this point, ready to be on their way. As Lamtree’s fingers tapped in a quick set of instructions a bright light burst forth on the view screen as the ship slipped into subspace, the black of space replaced by streaks of blue. “We have achieved Warp 9 ma’am. Warp systems appear stable.”

“Excellent, I won’t argue with that.” Clara turned to the ops officer. “Any sign of issues cropping up anywhere?”

The man nodded. “A few here and there but nothing impacting vessel operation in a significant wait. We’ll tackle them before we reach 72.”

Clara nodded. At this point a great deal of the tension that most everyone had felt had finally started to melt away but it didn’t take a Betazoid to realize everyone was still on edge. She wanted to do more, give them some sort of information to reassure them, but right now she couldn’t risk bringing them to much in the loop. There were still a few people on the ship whose final destination was SB 72 and she couldn’t bring herself to trust them, not after what just happened.

“Commander Conklin, you have the Bridge. I’ll be in my Ready Room.”

“Aye ma’am.”

Clara stood, giving her stiff limbs a small stretch and walked towards the Ready Room. She told herself that she should try and get some rest but she knew rest would not come, even if she tried; it was hard to shake the feeling the worst was yet to come.

So It Begins & So It Ends

Starbase 72
March 2401

Most of the senior staff had gathered in a medium-sized private room connected to berth 12; a wide window stretching across one side showed the 50 or so Starfleet officers milling about as they awaited the Amundesn's imminent arrival.  

Commander Geden Demar glanced at the chronometer on the wall above the window: 05:21. It wouldn't be long now before the ship arrived; last he checked she was due to arrive at the docking bay just after 05:30. He could feel the anxiety rise in his torso as the minutes ticked by and from the looks on the faces of the other officers in the room he wasn't the only one feeling that way. By now they had all read the mission briefings given to them late last night and it was weighing on them. It was understandable; you didn't get daily news of a Dominion invasion. He had only been 10 years old when the war started and only really took notice of it after the invasion of Betazed; at that point, his schooling had been canceled and Trill had moved to a more robust defensive posture. He remembered the day when his parents sat him down and walked him through what to do in case the planet was attacked; the stark reality of being told at 11 that if the planet was attacked and evacuation procedures initiated he was to follow them to the letter and if he got separated from them it didn't matter; he was to follow the plan and trust Starfleet. Trust Starfleet. It had echoed in his head, and everyone else's, for years after the war. The insane amount of jingoism that followed the war had, in hindsight, been ridiculous. As the years wore on, it became clear there wasn't much to trust about Starfleet.

“There she is, right on time.”

Geden turned to look at the window. A shorter but well-built man in a yellow uniform stood before it, gazing out. Gavarin Brex, if he remembered correctly. The rest of the senior staff began to make their way towards the window, seemingly eager to catch sight of their new home but Geden opted to keep his distance. The Rhode Island class vessel slowly came into better view under thruster power. Her design linage was clear; the boxy ‘saucer’ section, flatter engineering hull, small but very recognizable nacelles. It was one of his favorite eras of Starfleet design; just out of the oval era that the Galaxy belongs to but not quite at the more militant era that arrived with the Sovereign and it was a far cry from the current, metallic, sleek, and utilitarian design of the Duderstadt and Echelon classes.

The ship slowly came to a stop next to docking berth 12; a long metallic docking tube extending from the Starbase towards the main airlock in the ship's engineering hull. From the orders he had seen the crew would begin immediately transferring both cargo and themselves onto the ship. 

“Well, that tiny thing certainly doesn't look like it's going into a war zone anytime soon. Thank Gods.”

Geden turned to who was speaking, his gaze falling on the new Caitian CMO, Dr. V'Rel. He knew she'd been reassigned from the Sovereign Class USS Providence and considering her age he assumed she had been lured away from retiring by being promised a quieter assignment. 

“I don't know.” The voice of Gavarin Brex floated by as the well-built man moved to stand next to the doctor. “She packs a bigger punch than you think. Fast too.”

Geden swore he heard a low growl emanate from V'Rel's throat but the chime from the comm interrupted whatever she was going to say. 

“Please stand by for site-to-site transport.”

The familiar whine of the transporter filled the air as the blue shimmer of the transporter took precisely 4.2 seconds to deposit Captain Clara Myers at the center of the room along with Commanders Conklin and Beoheth. 

“Hello everyone. I apologize for dropping in like this but time is of the essence.” She motioned to the table in the corner and made a circular motion with her hand. “Have a seat everyone; we've got to get moving in the next hour to two.” 

The staff shuffled over to the table, the early morning damping any enthusiasm they would have had.

“I know all of you have been given briefing packets but even in the short time it took us to reach here we've had a change of orders. Originally we were to check on the status of 3 colonies in the Deneb sector that had gone dark; Starfleet Command had received reports that the Dominion had reached all 3 systems. As of 2 hours ago, Fourth Fleet command decided to assemble a fleet in the Farpoint system as the bulk of the Dominion fleet is on the way there.”

“Are we to join the fleet at Farpoint?” T'Keu spoke up. “Would we arrive in time?”

Clara shook her head. “We are not being sent to Farpoint. The Amundsen does pack more of a punch than most people think but she's still not equipped to handle a sustained firefight. We might take out a Jem'Hadar fighter or two but we are outgunned beyond that.” Clara tapped a control on the table and a holo projection of a star system appeared on the table. A K-type star lay at the center with 3 planets orbiting it; one class M and two Class B planets. “Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Beol system.”

With another few taps on the controls, the image zoomed in on the Class M world. “This is Beol II, home to roughly 750 Federation citizens and the colony of Archi. Within 48 hours of the arrival of the Dominion and Breen forces, all contact was lost with Archi along with multiple other colonies in the area. Passing ships made some quick pitstops in the other two systems that had initially been our assignment and neither had any life signs. It stands to reason that Archi will be the same but we have to investigate.”

Ereth exchanged a look with Brex. “Ma'am, the Dominion just.” Ereth paused, searching for a more subtle word but didn't find one. “Slaughtered two entire colonies? For no reason? And it's happening across an entire sector of space?”

T'Keu folded her hands on the table. “That is what the Dominion does, Ensign. You submit or you are exterminated.”

A look of irritation crossed Kellen's face. “I am aware of that Lieutenant Commander; I took history classes in the Academy. What I mean is, what is the strategic value of this? Why does that not warrant a larger response? Earth and the FNN are remarkably calm about this.”

Clara let out a deep sigh, leaning back in her chair. “I wish I had even a basic answer for you, Mr. Ereth. I agree that it's troubling how nonchalant everyone back at Starfleet Command is about this entire incident. Hell, they did everything short of firing on the ship to keep us in spacedock. I am sure that answers will come in time, but, I don't have an explanation right now. The best we can do is focus on our mission and worry about the clean up later.”

She glanced around the table and it was clear that each one of the officers surrounding her was not thrilled at that answer, or any of this really, except for T'Keu. She maintained the perfect level of Vulcan stoicism. 

“There is another complication.” Clara continued, tapping a few commands into the table keypad, the holo image shifting slightly."

“A complication beyond the damn Domnion invading an entire sector of space while Starfleet sits on its ass humming a jaunty tune about how fine and ok everything is?” Interjected Dr. V'Rel, the Caitian's skin almost rippling with irritation. “What else could you add to that pile of screwed up?”

Clara resisted the urge to let out a chortle. She had been aware that Dr. V'Rel was a brilliant doctor but was also quite colorful at times. “Well, we're going to electrify that giant pile of screwed up.” A few more button presses displayed the clear mark of an ion storm on approach to the planet. “There is a class II ion storm on its way to the system. If the colony hadn't, likely, been torn apart by Domnion forces it would be a pretty minor inconvenience. Batten down the hatches, ride it out, and repair any damage to the colony power grid. It will be a rough time with the damage they have likely sustained. It'll also hamper recovery efforts pretty heavily.”

“How long until it arrives?” quired Brex.

“If we push the ship to its max warp speed we'll arrive about 17 hours before it grazes the planet; plenty of time to evac anyone we can and if there are too many to evac then it should still be enough time to get some sort of temporary shelter set up. Supplied are being loaded up now.”

“Class two is a pretty weak storm, but it can still cause quite a bit of havoc. The Amundsen would hold up pretty well if you don't get caught up in it for too long.” Offered Broheth. “The big issue would be if the Dominion shows up and cause trouble; with tweaked or no shields the ship would have two, three hours max before the discharges from the storm would start to tear up the EPS systems.”

“There is no indication of Dominion forces in the system.” Clara tapped the button on the table, the holo image dissipating. “This should be an in-and-out mission but I need everyone ready for just about anything. If we get into trouble, help will not come quickly. Let's get it done and get back home quick ladies and gentlemen. Dismissed.” 


-7 hours later-

“Captain, we are approaching the Beol system. Dropping to impulse in 33 seconds.” Kellen Erith's hands slid across the control panel gracefully, powering down the warp drive precisely 33 seconds after his statement. 

The trip to the Beol system had gone smoothly with no sight of Dominion activity along the way. With the Fourth Fleet getting ready to meet the bulk of the Dominion fleet in the Farpoint system, she hadn't expected to run into anyone. The ship had performed as expected, though the longer journey at emergency warp speeds caused a few issues with some minor systems.

Clara sat up in her seat, watching as the blue streaks of warp speed gave way to the inky black of normal space. “Scan the system Command T'Keu.”

The Vulcan's eyes darted back and forth and the ship's powerful sensors did a tactical sweep of the system. “No signs of Dominion activity however the ion storm is impacting sensor accuracy.”

“Thank you, Commander. Ensign Erith, take us into the orbit of Beol II.”

“Aye ma'am, standard orbit.”

The ship picked up speed as Beol II came into view; the Class M planet had a sickly-looking blueish-brown color to it, clouds covering much of the planet.

“That's odd,” Geden Demar said to himself. “Commander Conklin, what's going on with the atmosphere?” 

“Good question.” The blonde-haired Commander quickly ran a planetary scan, an eyebrow arching as the results came in. “There is some sort of chemical agent in the air. The atmosphere is breathable, for now anyway, but global temperatures have dropped by 2 degrees overall. I am also reading a 1% drop in plant life compared to the scans on file. No humanoid life signs; though I'm having trouble getting an accurate bio-scan.”

Geden turned to Clara. “Terraforming? That's not exactly the Domnion's MO, or the Breens for that matter.”

Clara shrugged her shoulders. “I agree. I came across numerous Dominion worlds post-war when Hamburg was doing cleanup in the Gamma Quadrant and I don't think we ever came across a world the Dominion terraformed; not like the Founders needed a lot of random planets. I agree the Breen would not terraform one random world so far outside their space; lots of resources for little to no reward. Starfleet would never allow it.”

“We are in orbit on the planet sirs.”

Clara nodded. Thank you ensi-"

The sharp trill from the ops console interrupted Clara.

Brex's brow furrowed, hands moving across his console at a rapid pace. “We've lost the uplink to Starfleet Command. I'm unable to reconnect.”

“Yellow alert.” Geden spoke the command without thinking or waiting, and within seconds a soft but noticeable beeping came across the bridge speakers, the lights around the viewscreen starting to pulse a bright yellow. 

Clara flashed the Trill a look; she didn't need an overreaction to what was likely a small issue on this ship's maiden voyage. “Bridge to engineering, we've lost the computer uplink with Starfleet. Any issues on your end?”

“Stand by ma'am.” It only to Broheth moments to check the system. “None here; this issue is not with the ship.”

Another series of urgent beeps came from Brex's console. “We've lost communications; I can't get a signal out of the system and I'm detecting nothing coming in, not even normal traffic.”

Clara stood and began walking to the science station. “Commander, are you picking up any sort of dampening field?”

Alex shook his head. “Not technically. I'm not picking up much of anything, to be honest.  I'd say it's a pretty good assumption that we're being affected by some of a damping field or block.”

Clara turned to Erith. “Mr. Erith, break orbit and take us to warp as soon as we have reached the system departure point. This screams ambush.” She rounded the corner, heading to her command chair.

“Breaking orbit. We'll be clear to go to warp in a little over two minutes.”

“Captain.” This time it was T'Keu offering bad news. “Three Jem'Hadar fighters have emerged from the back side of the ion storm. Weapons range in 51 seconds.”

“Red Alert.” Clara barked out, the lights on the bridge dimming immediately as the numerous alert lights on the bridge bathed the bridge in a red glow. “Ensign, override safeties, and take up to warp inside the solar system. Now.”

“I can't.” Panic was settling into the young Ensign's voice. “Whatever damping field is affecting us is preventing a stable warp field from forming; we need to get far enough away from it to accelerate to warp.”

“All hands to battle stations. Commander T'Keu you are weapons-free as soon as the Jem'Hadar ships come in range. Ensign Erith, evasive pattern Delta seven." Clara turned to Brex. “Send out a general distress call; someone might hear us even with the dampening field in place.”

A chorus of ‘aye ma’ams' rang out across the bridge. 

Geden could have sworn he saw the blood drain out of Erith's face. He stood up and walked down to the conn console, placing a hand on the Ensign's shoulder. “Their ships are fast and turn quickly but we both know that this ship can outmatch them on maneuverability. Keep the evasive patterns loose and improvise; Jem'Hadar are by the book. If you mix it up a little it'll keep them on their toes. Keep your distance as well; they've been known to ram ships as a last-ditch effort.”

Kellen nodded and swallowed down a ball of tension. “Aye, sir. Thank you.”

Geden offered a smile and a pat on the shoulder before returning to his seat. “You've got this Ensign.” 

Kellen let out a sigh. “If you say so, sir.”

T'Keu glanced down at her tactical display, the three dots rapidly approaching the outer bounds of the starship's weapon range. “The ships are entering weapons range. Quantum torpedoes loaded, phasers charged.” 

The three Jem'Hadar ships approached the Amundsen in their typical, almost spear-like formation. Orange phaser beams lanced through the vacuum of space toward the three enemy vessels. The lead ship's shields lit up a bright purple as the energy from the phaser beam was dissipated across its surface. 

“Direct hit to the lead ship. Their shields are down to 83%.”

Clara felt the ship tilt to the side as the inertial dampeners struggled under the maneuver Erith just imputed into the conn. “Keep it up, Commander. The sooner we take out one of those ships the sooner we have a more even playing field.”

The bridge shook, a small shower of sparks falling across the back of the bridge. “Direct hit from 2 ships.” Brex's eyes scanned over the damage readout streaming in. “Aft shields down to 77%, minor damage to a few subsystems.”

The lead Jem'Hadar ship broke off from its formation, swinging back to the aft of the Amundsen. Multiple phaser beams impacted the shields turning them a bright blue as they strained against the onslaught. Meanwhile, the other two ships continued to take potshots at the starboard shields.

On the bridge the after MSD emitted a bright shower of sparks before going dim. The bridge officers gripped whatever they could as the ship rocked back and forth. 

“Aft shields down to 36%, damage to secondary warp power couplings.” Brex could barely keep up with the long list of subsystems that were showing damage. He didn't envy Broheth's job down in engineering. 

“Damn it,” Clara muttered. “Divert power to aft shields. Ensign, get them off our aft.”

Sweat had begun to drip down Kellen's forehead. He had yet to find himself in a combat situation outside the simulations at the Academy and no matter how ‘by the book’ he flew, the Dominion ships easily kept up. They didn't do that in the holodeck. If he lived through this he'd certainly complain to someone about how piss poor combat-flight training was but right now he had to not die in the vacuum of space. “Doing my best ma'am but nothing is shaking them.”

Geden leaned forward. “They aren't following the typical Jem'Hadar rulebook Ensign, so don't follow the Starfleet rulebook. Get creative!”

The Bridge rocked under another barrage of phaser fire, dropping the aft shields another 8%. 

“Ensign, if you can reorient the ship to face the lead attacking ship I believe I can disable or destroy it with a full spread of quantum torpedoes.”

Kellen sighed. “I'll do my best. Hold on, I'm going to arc up, invert, then arc back down. That should put them in the torpedo launcher's firing arc. It's going to push the limits of the dampers, so hold on.”

With a few quick taps on his console, the young ensign arced the ship up. To the casual observer, it looked like the ship pointed its ‘nose’ up, gaining altitude before inverting and coming back down, the bow of the ship now pointed ‘down’ towards the Jem'Hadar ship. To their credit the Jem'Hadar responded quickly, doing their best to peel away and get outside torpedo range. Sadly it was not quick enough. 5 quantum torpedoes erupted from the forward torpedo launcher, slamming into the lead Jem'Hadar ship; the first three overloading the ship's weakened shields and the other two slamming directly into the ship's hull.  The ship split down the middle, plasma fire rupturing the hull, the warp core going critical in its typical, fiery, fashion. 

On the bridge, the crew gripped their consoles as the ship shook violently from the shockwave of the core breach. 

“I've got damage reports from across the ship but engineering reports that the SIF is holding and there are no hull breaches.” Reported Brex. “Shields are at 33%.”

“One down, two to go.” Mutterered Clara. “Commander T'Keu, I need those ships disabled or destroyed; quickly if you don't mind.”

Three bolts of phaser fire sliced across space, two impacting one of the remaining Jem'Hadar. “This ship is not equipped to handle a sustained firefight of this magnitude but I shall endeavor to at least disable them.”

The two remanding Jem'Hadar ships slid over the Amundsen and unleashed a salvo of torpedoes on the port aft shield; it flickered blue under the heavy load as multiple shield generators failed. The bridge rumbled as multiple consoles experienced EPS surges and blew open, showering almost everyone in sparks.

“Aft shields down!” shouted Brex over the chorus of alarms. “The SIF is down to 77%”

“Divert emergency power to aft shields and the SIF. Ensign Erith, get some distance between us and the Jem'Hadar.” Demar glanced at this console as he gave the order. A litany of red-hued emergency alert items flashed across the screen. If they didn't do something, and quick, the ship would not last much longer.

Kellen accelerated the ship to full impulse, doing his best to keep the port shield pointed toward the enemy ships. “Doing my best sir; they are pretty much matching our speed.”

“Captain, the Jem'Hadar are targeting the port nacelle pylon.” T'Keu eyed the shield distribution levels, quickly concluding that what little power the backup generators had would not hold up. “Our shields have not recovered sufficiently to protect the pylon; they will breach the hull with a direct hit.”

Conklin turned to Clara and Geden. “Why would they go after the pylon? It would cripple us, for sure, but there are faster ways to destroy this ship.”

Clara ran a hand over her face, realization hitting. “They don't want to destroy us, they want to stand us.” She entered a quick command into the console to her right. “Commander Broheth, the Jem'Hadar are going after the port nacelle pylon. Vent plasma from the port nacelle and seal off the plasma conduits that feed into it.”

The Rhode Island Class ship continued to zip across the vacuum of space, awkwardly trying to keep the Jem'Hadar ship near the sections of the ship that still had shielding. Blue plasma suddenly erupted from the port nacelle, the red of the Bussard collector fading. Thanks to the relatively small size of the nacelle it took but a few moments for the plasma to be fully emptied but within mere seconds after that the torpedos from the Jem'Hadar ships slammed into the grey pylon, violently ripping it from the engineering hull of the ship in a shower of sparks and causing the Amundsen to list and slide to starboard like a drunken ice skater trying to keep themselves upright.

The bridge filled with smoke as the back wall of consoles blew out, tossing multiple crewmembers to the floor. The senior staff had been thrown from their seats and were strewn around the floor; most were barely able to stand due to a mix of injuries and the fact that the inertial dampers were barely keeping up with the force of the impact. 

Kellen pulled himself up as best he could, his fingers trying to find the RCS thruster controls to stabilize the ships. The console responded to him with multiple angry buzzes before he finally was able to input the right order and the ship slowly stopped its skating movement. “Helm is barely responding; we're down to thrusters and one-quarter impulse if we're lucky.” He called out to no one in particular, his voice raspy.

Clara pulled herself off the floor with a grunt, her head pounding. She knew she likely had a concussion or a laceration or both. “Status report.” Her voice was strained, the smoke clogging her airways.

T'Keu was the first to respond, having managed to at least not be thrown that far from her station. “Weapons are offline, shields are offline.”

Brex got himself back into his seat, cradling his left arm. The slightest movement caused unimaginable amounts of pain, he knew it was broken somewhere. “Main power is fluctuating but the warp core is still online. Damage reports from across the ship, dozens of systems are down.” He let out a small huff. “We've lost the port nacelle but aside from that there are no other hull breeches. The SIF is down to 14%; the ship will not survive another hit from any weapon.”

Geden wiped away a trickle of blood from his cheek. “Injury reports are coming in from across the ship, several serious, but no fatalities reported so far. Sickbay suffered minor damage but is expecting multiple critical patients.”

Alex grimaced as he stood up; most of his body was screaming but he could tell he was in better shape than most on the bridge. He bent down and grabbed the med pack that was under his station. He didn't have much to report, those ships were still out there and everybody knew that, so he could at least put his (minor) medical training to use. 

Clara looked over the damage reports herself; there was pretty much one option. Abandon the ship and make a run for the planet's surface in escape pods. “Commander Demar, prepare to abandon ship. Ensign Erith, point us towards the planet and move us as close as fast as possible. Status of Dominion vessels?”

Brex glanced down at his scream, his vision wavering as the pain in his arm began to get worse. He felt the cold press of a hypo on his neck, letting out a sigh as pain medication flowed through his blood.

“That's a decent dose of Terakine. Should help with the pain for the next few hours. I'll try and fashion a split until medical can get a bone knitter up here." Alex glanced around, not spotting much of anything that could make a good split. “Give me a few minutes.”

Brex smiled, relief was already evident in his face. “Thank you, Commander. Ma'am, it looks like the Jem'Hadar are just sitting on there. They aren't moving in to destroy the ship.”

Clara exchanged a look with Demar. “Well, I guess that confirms they are trying to disable us. But why?”

Demar let out a heavy sigh. “Perhaps they are waiting for us to abandon ship so they can take it after? The Jem'Hadar aren't ones to shy away from a fight though.”

“I agree. If they wanted this ship they would not wait for us to leave..”

“Sirs, it appears the Dominion vessels are moving away.” T'Keu arched an eyebrow as she watched the sensors. 

Geden and Clara shared a look of confusion. “I don't doubt that you are correct but is there any indication as to why they have left?”

Alex walked up to Geden, dermal regenerator in hand. “Give me just a moment sir, I'll stop that bleeding.”

“I'm fine.” Geden snapped at the other man. “There are more important matters, I can wait for a medical officer.”

Alex resisted the urge to contort his face into an expression that screamed 'I want to hit a superior officer' and then opted to stop resisting the urge. “The blood running down your face disagrees. Just don't talk for 15 seconds and I'll be done.”

Geden's face softened slightly. “Very well. Thank you, Commander.”

Alex hummed a ‘mmhmm’ before using the portable regenerator to seal up the wound on the Trill's cheek. It wasn't his best work but he wasn't all that concerned about it.

“Done.” Alex turned on his heels, moving on to the next officer. 

T'Keu's console trilled, the screen in from of her showing two small purple dots moving away. “Ma'am, the Jem'Hadar ships are going to warp.”

Cara stood, walking around and up to the tactical station. “Not that I'm unhappy about it but I'll admit to being confused.”

T'Keu arched an eyebrow. “Perhaps the main battle at Farpoint is not going well and they were sent to reinforce the Dominion fleet?”

Kellen turned in his chair. “Or perhaps the battle went in our favor and they were ordered to withdraw?”

Conklin closed the emergency med pack, having finally patched up everyone he was capable of helping. “I like the way you think Ensign.”

From the ops station, Brex let out a sigh. “Save that thought, I've got an inbound warp signature on sensors.”

T'Keu initiated a scan of the ship. Not much data came back considering the state of the ship. “I see the ship as well. Sensors are damaged however I can determine that the inbound ship is large and its profile appears to be Breen. It will arrive in 27 minutes.”

Clara ran a hand over her face. “Damn it.” She walked back towards her command chair. This wasn't unfamiliar territory for her; she'd served the entirety of the Dominion War and was very well aware of how often the battlefield could change on a dime.  “We need options and we need them fast. Bridge to Broheth, please report to the bridge.”

It only took a few moments for the Bolian to emerge from the turbo lift. “No offense ma'am, but I've got my hands full in engineering.”

“I understand but we have a small issue.” Clara leaned over to her console. “We have a Breen ship on the way.”

Broheth gripped the railing the ran along the the ridge that separated the command area from the back of the Bridge. This was bad. He ran through dozens of different possibilities over the next few seconds, none of them good enough to have the ship ready to face another battle. “Ma'am, there is no way I can get this ship ready for battle. She will not survive another engagement.”

“I had assumed so. What we need now is options.” Clara tapped in a few commands, glancing through the damage readings. So much of the small MSD on the screen was flashing red, severe damage spread out across the ship.

Kellen turned towards the officers who had assembled behind him. “Can we land the ship? We can't face them up here but at least we could even the playing field a bit if we're on the ground.”

Broheth shook his head. It wasn't the worst idea but the Bolian had little doubt the ship would make it down in one piece. “When we lost the nacelle the SIF was severely compromised. If the ship enters the gravitational field of a planet then there is no chance it stays in one piece. Even if we get down to the surface and land in one piece the ship will never leave the planet unless it's brought up in pieces but more likely it we go down in pieces”

Alex cleared his throat. “Then it seems we have no choice but to abandon the ship and make a stand on the surface if they follow.” He was never inclined to turn tail and run but it was better than certain death, or being captured as slaves.

“What do we do with the ship?” It was Gavarin who spoke up this time. It was a valid point. “Do we really want to let the Breen get their hands on the ship?”

Geden shook his head. “No.” The choice was rather obvious, even if they didn't want to fully admit it. “We self-destruct the ship.”

Clara's brow furrowed. There would be an inquiry, they would be laid up for months in San Francisco or Paris, and it would be a mess. Even damaged, Starfleet needed ships. As if a light bulb went off above her head, she turned to Broheth.  “Can we hide the ship in the ion storm?”

Broheth's mouth opened to immediately object and explain why it would not work but after a few moments of running the idea through his head, he gave a mild shrug. “My first instinct is to say no but it's only a Class II ion storm. The SIF will hold, even in its weakened state, but the ship will still be subjected to electrical discharges from the storm. The shields have come back up to 18% and might hold for 15, maybe 30, minutes in their current state and once those discharges strike the hull we'll have EPS conduits blowing out across the ship. The internal damage would be pretty severe; someone would have to tow us back to Spacedock and the ship would be uninhabitable but she'd still be in one piece. Better than blowing it up, I suppose”

“It should block the ship from the Breen sensors but it would also block any Starfleet vessels from seeing the ship.” Conklin offered. 

Clara glanced over to her first officer. It wasn't ideal but under the current circumstances, it would work. She could only hope that Starfleet would come looking for its missing ship and colony and someone would find them waiting. The Trill gave her a nod. “Alright then, we have a game plan. T'Keu and Brex, reporting to transporter rooms 1 and 2 to oversee beam outs. Commander Demar, report to shuttle bay 1 to oversee shuttle evacs. Mr. Conklin, help Command V'Rel get as many medical and survival supplies transported down to the surface as you can. Mr. Broheth, use the runabout to get as many engineering supplies and heavy-duty equipment down the surface as you can. Ensign Ereth, you'll stay with me on the ship to help pilot the ship into the storm then we'll evac. Our meeting location will be here.” Clara pulled up a map on the main viewscreen, a glowing blue dot over the center of the colony they had been sent to check out. “Security teams beam down first since we still aren't sure of what is down there.”

A chorus of ‘yes ma’am's ran out across the bridge as everyone started to hustle. 

Clara leaned back in her chair, taking a few seconds to close her eyes. “Computer, initiate evacuation sequence alpha-one. Authorization Myers Omega-Seven-Nine-Sierra-Eleven.”

A loud, blaring, klaxon echoed through the ship followed by the monotone voice of the computer. “Evacuate. Evacuate. Evacuate. This is not a drill. All hands proceed to evacuation stations. This is not a drill. Evacuate. Evacuate. Evacuate.” The lights in the halls jumped to maximum illumination, alert lights pulsing in a pattern designed to point people to where they needed to go. For a trained Starfleet crew of under 100 people, it moved fast. 15 minutes after the first klaxon sounded two Type 9 shuttles burst out of the shuttle bay followed by a Danube Class runabout. 5 minutes after that the last of the senior staff beamed off the ship, leaving it occupied by two officers. 

Kellen watched the helm console as it showed the last transport cycle complete. “Everyone is off the ship. We don't have any communication, as expected, but I am picking life sign readings.”

Clara had hoped that once her people were down there they would be able to cut through whatever interference was ongoing but it seemed like that would not be the case. “Very well Ensign, set in a course for the ion storm and engage at one-quarter impulse.”

“That is one order I never thought I would hear." Kellen's hand twisted left as he ramped up the impulse engines, guiding the crippled ship toward the ion storm. The moment they crossed the threshold of the storm the ship began to shudder and shake as discharges struck the shields. “Slowing to a stop.”

Clara stood, bracing herself against the railing as the ship shook again. “Computer, execute lockdown program tango once we are off the ship.” The computer offered its reply, the program ready to go that would lock out the computer core and take power to a bare minimum.

Moments later the Waverider craft, Framheim, undocked from the underside of the saucer section of the ship, gracefully zipping away to the (relative) safety of open space as it slowed to a stop before it would enter the atmosphere.

Kellen turned to his commanding officer, clearly confused. “Ma'am, the Breen will be here in minutes.”

“That they will Ensign.” Clara's hand tapped quickly across the small control panel in front of her. “Just have to send a message to an old friend.”

Kellen cleared his throat softly. “Ma'am, all signals in and out of the system are still blocked.”

Clara chuckled softly. “You are correct. However, it's still worth a try.” The console let out an angry beep as the comm signal ran into interference but she ignored it.

Moments later the Franheim angled itself towards the planet and slipped gracefully below the clouds.