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Shipping Lanes Patrol

There have been reports of Pakled clump ships hunting Federation shipping lanes again. The Los Angeles' mission? To protect Federation space lanes from this pack of Pakleds and to uncover how or if it was possible for the Pakleds to overpower a Borg sphere.

A “Proportional” Response, Part 1

Transit Lane Hormuz

Fabien fitfully turned onto his right side, trying to get comfortable enough to actually fall asleep. Sighing, he turned fully over, onto his left side, staying still for a few minutes, then once again breaking the silence in his cabin with an exasperated sigh.
“Computer. Lights, 25% brightness.”
The computer chirped an acknowledgement, and soon his cabin was illuminated, though not brightly so. Taking a deep breath, Fabien laid on his back, then sat up and stood from bed. Try as he might, he couldn’t sleep. Putting on his sandals, Fabien walked out of his bedroom over to the replicator.
“Glass of milk.”
His voice betrayed how tired he was, and yet…sleep did not come. The replicator materialized a glass of milk, which he took gingerly, sipping on it as he walked to the living room area of his quarters.
“Computer, what time is it?”
“The shipboard time is currently Zero-Two-Fifteen hours, Zulu. Local system time is Thirteen-Twenty-Two hours.”
‘Great,’ he thought to himself. ‘Too early to head to the bridge, too late to catch a midnight snack.’ After another sigh, he finished drinking his glass, and stood to return the glass to the replicator to be disposed of. Then a thought hit him.

When he was first officer of the Antietam, he sometimes would have trouble falling asleep, so he developed a habit of going to the holodeck to run on the track of his old hometown high school. Smiling to himself at the memory, he went to his closet and put on his PT uniform: a red t-shirt and black shorts. After putting them on, and putting on his running shoes, he stepped out into the hallway. During the evening, the corridor lights were dimmed a bit, so as to give his crew a simulated 24-hour day. Stretching, he walked towards the turbolift and then to the holodeck.

Arriving at the holodeck’s exterior corridor controls, he tapped some commands.
“Computer, load program Oteng 3 Alpha. Make the setting time zero-six-hundred local time.”
The computer acknowledged. “Program loaded. Enter when ready.”

Fabien entered the holodeck, an exact recreation of Kigali High School’s football stadium. Over by one of the benches on the field was a small table with a headphone set, most similar to the over-ear Bose headphones from the 21st century. Next to the headphones was an exact replica of an iPhone, another 21st century device. Fabien put on the headphones and pressed play on the device, and “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco, began to play. Fabien smiled, and put the device down, then started to slowly jog around the track. As he jogged, his mind began to process the events of the past 48 hours, organizing them in his mind and allowing him to digest all that had happened.

48 Hours Ago…Region near the Triangle

“Fire phasers again, Mr. Spencer.” Captain Oteng’s voice was as cool as a cucumber as the ship shuddered from receiving fire from the ship the Los Angeles was pursuing.
“Aye, Captain.” Tom’s fingers danced over the tactical console, priming the ship’s phasers for another volley. “Firing now.”A beam flew straight at the target, hitting its mark precisely and effectively.
“Direct hit, sir. Their shields are buckling. They are powering down weapons, and hailing, sir.” Siobhan’s voice affirmed what they had all seen through the viewscreen.
“Miss Muthoni, move us into close standard position, thrusters only. Make sure they feel the size difference.”
“Aye, Captain, moving us towards heading 212, mark 0. Thrusters only, complimenting with impulse.”

The ship they were chasing was suspected in a series of raids on Federation and Starfleet Auxiliary vessels, stealing caches of weapons, supplies, and currency before disappearing into the Triangle. On the last engagement, the raiders, (colloquially dubbed the Pirates of the Triangle by Siobhan), attacked two Federation starships, the USS Comfort and USS Mauritania, both Olympic-class hospital ships leaving Starbase 86 for Sector 001, with an intermediate stop at Starbase 23. The two ships were attacked, though both managed to send out distress signals to 86 before losing communications ability. Starbase 86 dispatched the New Orleans-class USS Los Angeles, two Defiant-class starships, the USS Hurricane and USS Mustang, and the Rhode Island class USS George Patton to aid the two ships and render whatever assistance they could. The Hurricane, Mustang, and Patton arrived first, engaging the marauders, which put up a tough fight, even for the three ships. As soon as the Los Angeles showed up, however, the three ships fled, with the Los Angeles and Mustang in hot pursuit. The marauding ships eluded the two ships, and Captain Oteng made the decision to send the Mustang back to escort the Comfort and Mauritania to Starbase 23 while the Los Angeles stayed in the area to track down the marauders, with no success.

When Captain Oteng submitted his report, his superiors had enough of the pirates’ shenanigans, and ordered Captain Oteng to pursue with prejudice; i.e. capture or kill those responsible. It took about 50 hours of searching, chasing, and ferreting out, but at long last, the Los Angeles cornered the ships, destroying one of them, and forcing the other two to surrender.

“Mr. Spencer, onscreen, please. Let’s see if they finally got the message.”“Aye, sir. Onscreen now. Patching them through.”

The views of the screen at the very front of the bridge changed from the view of the damaged ship (an old Maquis raiding ship) to the command area of the ship, showing a bridge that was heavily damaged from the direct hits it had taken. At the center, was the “captain,” if he could even be called that. A young man, no older than 22, sat in the center seat, dejected. Around him, his crew was equally young, the oldest being no more than 24(?). His expression was morose and dejected, angry even, that he had to acknowledge the defeat.

“I’m Captain Fabien Oteng of the Federation Starship Los Angeles. With whom do I have the pleasure?”

The young man’s face maintained its morose, borderline expression as he spoke. “I’m Captain Jack Sparrow, master of the Black Pearl.” Despite his expression, his tone conveyed that of youthful sarcasm and arrogance.

At this, Captain Oteng’s expression soured. He did not like dealing with bratty teenagers, especially ones with attitude.
“No, really?” he retorted, returning the young man’s sarcasm with some of his own. “I guess I’m Captain Jean Luc Picard, of the Enterprise E, then.” His lips curled upward in a hint of a smile, a reflection of his thoughts on how absurd this situation was. But soon, he regained his composure, and the hint disappeared. “Now, son; who are you really?” His tone became more paternal, with authority that the young man clearly recognized.

Backing off of his attitude, the young man spoke again, sitting a bit more upright in his command chair. “I’m Jacob Padilla, and my ship is called the Exeter.”

There it was. Captain Oteng gave himself a self-satisfied smile. “Mr. Padilla, nice to make your acquaintance. I am very glad you decided to wise up and give yourselves up. You were responsible for the attacks on the Comfort and Mauritania, yes?”

The young man’s expression soured even more, if that was even possible. Taking a moment, he responded with an even tone. “Captain, without admitting guilt, my crew and I, and those on the other vessel, would declare ourselves subject to the Federation Uniform Code of Military Justice and under §831.31(1), would like to invoke our right against self-incrimination and request the presence of a Starfleet JAG officer to formally charge and serve us with a notice of charges under §830.30(1), §832.32(2), and §833.33.”

Captain Oteng was taken aback on Padilla’s knowledge of law. Nonetheless, this was not the first person that was well versed on Federation law. And that was why Siobhan was present. This was her bailiwick after all, and it was her responsibility to deal with these sort of things. Which is why he was not surprised that she jumped into action before he could respond.

“Very well, Jacob. I’m Lt. Commander Siobhan Pearse, JAG officer and Chief of Operations of the Los Angeles. Why don’t we beam you aboard with your crew, and then we’ll talk about everything in person, shall we?”

Jacob narrowed his eyes, surprised that this starship just happened to have a JAG officer onboard. And one of such senior rank. “Very well.”

Siobhan then turned to the Captain, just as Captain Oteng was saying “Prepare for transport. Los Angeles, out.” He noticed his Chief of Ops standing up and getting ready to speak.
“Yeah, Pearse. Go, get out of here. Grab a phaser just in case they do something stupid.” Turning to Tom, he smiled before speaking. “Tom, ask a security detail to go meet our ‘guests’ in the transporter room. Make sure they’re armed with phaser rifles and handcuffs.”

“Aye sir, team is on their way. They’re not going to let Pearse enter without them.”

“Very good.” He took a pause, then noticed that there was a blinking message on his captain’s chair. He was confused, and was ready to ask Tom what was going on when he spoke up. “Captain, I’m recieving a message from Starbase 86. It’s marked Code 47.” That got Fabien’s attention quite quickly.  “Well, Brooke, I’m going to hand the ship to you for recovery operations and clean up. I’m going to my ready room to see what’s going on.”

“Aye, sir. I have the bridge.”

As she began giving orders to grab the drifting ships, Captain Oteng retired to his ready room, just off the bridge.
“Computer, seal the doors to this room. No entry without my direct authorization.”
“Doors are sealed.”
“Computer, open Code 47 communique. Oteng, Fabien Isidore. Captain, USS Los Angeles.”
“Identity confirmed. State clearance code.”
The computer chirped, and one of the commodores, a human female named Jillian Dix, appeared on screen.

“Captain Oteng, good afternoon.” Her tone was matter of fact and deadly serious, though she did have a hint of a smile when she saw him.
“Jill,…I mean, Captain Dix, hello! Good afternoon, ma’am…I mean Jill…”
He trailed off, clearly flustered and concerned. Jillian had been a close friend, and always the more gregarious of the two. The fact that she was serious meant that something big was going on. He composed himself.
“What’s going on?”
“Apologies for the abrupt communication, but we needed to contact your ship discretely and directly. As we speak, the USS Golden Hind is en route to your location. It’s going to pick you up, and bring you back to Starbase 86. There’s a classified briefing you will need to attend in person. After the conference is done, the Golden Hind will take you back. Expect to spend about a day and a half away.”
“Captain…Jill…you want me to go back to Starbase 86? Why not just hold the conference via subspace? It must be easier than traveling back and forth…” he trailed off again.
“Trust me Captain, at the end of the briefing, you’ll understand why we prefer to do things this way.”
“I do trust you, Jill. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll see you soon, I suppose.”
“Likewise. When things die down, you owe me dinner. Or maybe I owe you after this one.” Her tone softened and became friendlier. “By the way, did you catch the Pirates of Penzance?” She said this with a smile, referring to the marauders that had attacked the Comfort and Mauritania.
“Yep, Siobhan is processing them now. We got’em!” He says with a bit of a laugh.
“Awesome, well done Captain. I will see you when you arrive. Good luck.”
“Thanks, Jillian. You too. Oteng out.”

Captain Oteng leaned back in his chair. He didn’t have much to go on, but the fact that he was being recalled in such a direct manner meant that something huge was going on. He stood up, stretched, then stepped back out onto the bridge.

“Brooke, can I see you in my ready room, please?”“Aye Captain. Mr. Spencer, you have the bridge.”

“Yes ma’am.” The Andorian stepped from behind the tactical console to the middle of the bridge, in front of the command chairs, then took a seat in the center chair. Meanwhille Brooke followed Captain Oteng into the ready room, confused at their Captain’s behavior.

“Captain, is everything okay?”
“I…I don’t know.” Fabien’s tone was confused but resolute. “I just got off a very interesting communique, which I can’t really talk about per se, but I have to tell you, because it affects you too.”
Brooke stood silently, waiting for him to continue.
“So, I’m being recalled to Starbase 86. They sent a ship to come and fetch me, and they want me there for a classified briefing.” He took a breath, waiting for their reaction.
Brooke’s nodded with understanding, though confusion was visible. “Huh, that’s interesting. What do you suppose is going on?”
“I haven’t the foggiest. But point is, I’m leaving the LA in your capable hands. Choose either Siobhan or Tom as your XO, that way you’re not overwhelmed with your duties and my duties. I should be back in about two days. Or something like that.”
“Copy that. Good luck Captain.”
“Thanks Brooke. I’m gonna need it.”

With that, the two command officers left the ready room, and while Brooke headed towards the center chair on the bridge, Fabien headed straight for the turbolift, heading to his quarters to get ready to head back to Starbase 86.

A “Proportional” Response, Part 2

Transit Lane Hormuz

Continued, from Part 1

Fabien looked at his duffel go-bag, embroidered with the Starfleet Delta and his name, sitting on the bed, sighed,  then looked out the window in his bedroom. Outside, he could see the Echelon-class starship, the Golden Hind, straight abeam of the Los Angeles.

His combadge chirped. “Captain, the Golden Hind has arrived and they’re ready for you. ETA?”
Fabien sighed heavily. “I’m going, I’m going. Tell them about 4 minutes.”
“Copy that, sir. Bridge out.”

A few minutes later, Fabien was standing on the transport pad, waiting to be beamed over. Seconds later, he was standing on a different transport pad, being greeted by a young ensign.

“Captain Oteng, welcome aboard the Hind. I’m Ensign Brendon Salzer. Captain Tolliver asked me to be your ‘Captain’s Assistant’ if you will during your time here on the Hind. I am assigned until you return to your command aboard the LA.”

Fabien smiled. He’d never had a Captain’s Assistant before, and it was an interesting proposition. He stepped off the platform and shook Brendon’s hand.
“A pleasure, Ensign. I won’t take up too much of your time.”

The Ensign nods, and turns around, saying “Follow me to your quarters.”

Fabien followed the Ensign through the corridors until the pair arrive at the temporary quarters. They were spartan, but there was a window, so that helped made up for it. As Fabien walked in, he could see the Los Angeles, lights aglow, before the Golden Hind jumped to warp.

18 Hours Later…

Fabien awoke to the soft light turning on in his quarters. Rubbing his eyes, he sighed and got up. He sat up in bed, and saw that there was a soft beeping from the communications panel. He got up, and as he walked to the panel, turned to look out the window. He noticed the space station in the window, with all its hustle and bustle. He tapped on the communications panel, which connected him to Ensign Salzer.

“Captain, good morning. We’ve arrived at Starbase. You’re welcome to leave your belongings in the stateroom while you are on station. Just let us know when you’re ready to return.”

“Thank you Ensign. I’ll start getting ready.”

“Very good, Captain. You can transport over to Starbase at your convenience. The Hind is going to remain on the periphery, so we don’t take up a docking space. Because we’re a bit far off from the station, Starbase is sending a shuttlecraft to pick you up. It should be here in about an hour.”

“Excellent. Ensign, what time is it currently?”

“It is 0730 Zulu. The system time is currently 1430 hours.”

“Copy that. Thank you Ensign. Oteng out.”

Fabien rubbed his eyes and stepped into the shower. Though he preferred an ordinary water shower, he understood that opportunities for such were limited. After a shower, he put on the Captain’s variant of the standard Starfleet uniform, and headed to the mess hall to grab a meal. Just as he was finishing his meal, his combadge chirped.

“Oteng here.”

“Captain, Starbase shuttle has arrived. They’ve docked in Shuttlebay 2.”

“Copy that. I’m on my way.”

Fabien made it to the shuttlebay, where his shuttle pilot was waiting. A young Bajoran woman in a red command division uniform with the rank of petty officer. She looked to be no older than 20 years old.

“Captain, good morning. I’m Petty Officer Micen Oana, your shuttle pilot for today.”

“Nice to meet you Petty Officer. I’m Capt. Fabien Oteng, of the Los Angeles. Thank you for being so prompt.”

“No worries Captain. We should be at Shuttle Bay West, which is the bay closest to where you are meeting.”

“Perfect, thank you.”

Captain Oteng takes a seat next to the pilot, and is mostly reflective during the ride over. The view of space really didn’t get old for him. He made some small talk with PO Micen, mostly about her posting here at Starbase 86. All too soon, though, the shuttle is docking, and he finds himself making the walk from the massive shuttlebay to the tram. A short tram ride later, and he’s in one of the administrative conference rooms with four other Captains, three of whom he doesn’t recognize. The fourth Captain is Jillian, and her expression surprises him. She gives him a small smile and wink, but for the most part she is dead serious. The atmosphere in the room is tense, but not overwhelmingly so.

Suddenly the doors open and Commodore Tharc walks in, followed by an Andorian man in a Starfleet uniform, Sciences division, with the rank of Lt. Commander, though instead of the usual Starfleet delta, he had  the United Federation of Planets symbol. Everyone stood up, as they had been trained to do from the time they were cadets.

“Keep your seats everyone.”
Everyone sat down, and the Commodore took her place standing at the head of the table.
The Commodore spoke again.
“Computer, secure room and initiate SCIF mode.” The computer beeped, and responded: “SCIF mode enabled. No record will exist of the meeting. All combadges have been deactivated. All communications secured.”

“Good morning all. It’s a busy time, so let me get to the point. There is currently a major awakening by an enemy we long thought dead, and due to the events in Sector 001, Starfleet is paying very close attention. Present with us is the Federation President’s Starfleet Liason, and he will brief you personally on what we know.”

The man stood up as the Commodore took her seat.

“Good morning, I’m Erobin Th’ethyrarh, Senior Advisor to the President. Let me get right to the point. Starfleet has been tracking certain rumors or events that the Borg are awakening. President Chekov has authorized the quiet mobilization of the Fourth Fleet to begin tracking down these rumors.”

At the mention of the Borg, everyone shifted uncomfortably. Fabien remembered receiving the news of Frontier Day. Thankfully, he had been far away from Sector 001, but he had friends that died that day. He listened intently.

“There is another, more pressing problem. During this time, there have been raids conducted on Starfleet Auxiliary ships by the Pakleds. Those crews reported that the clumpships now had pieces of Borg technology stuck to their hull. It goes without saying that if the Pakleds…” he pauses for a moment, shaking his head. “The Pakleds, of all species, have figured out how to use Borg equipment and technology, they pose an urgent threat to the security of the Federation. Their violence is escalating, culminating in the destruction of the SS Monarch, a deuterium tanker that was destroyed. Until we can neutralize these ships, President Chekov has ordered the creation of safe transit lanes that will be heavily patrolled by Starfleet ships. These transit lanes have been code-named with Earth seafaring lanes. Commodore Tharc will give you specific assignments, and she will give you your signed orders. Thank you all.”

He sits down, and Commodore Tharc again stands up.

“Captain Giselle Davies, USS Elizabeth (Inqury-class); you will be assigned the Suez Strait. Captain Fabien Oteng, USS Los Angeles (New Orleans-class); you will be assigned the Hormuz Strait. Captain Dann Arlir, USS Kirov (Gagarin-class); you will take the Panama Strait. Captain Jillian Dix, you will be reassigned temporarily to the USS Serapis (Echelon-class) and you will be assigned to the North Atlantic Strait. And finally, Captain Bras Licad, USS Varyag (Gagarin-class), you will take the Magellan Strait. Each one of these corresponds to a specific region. Starfleet will strive to organize convoys of ships, but it may not be possible to organize for every ship in these lanes. If attacked, don’t be afraid to call for assistance, but understand that reinforcements may not reach you. Be safe out there. Dismissed.”

Everyone stands up, and the Commodore and Erobin exit. Everyone else just pushes their chairs in and quietly exits, except for Jillian and Fabien. The two just look at each other, walking towards the tram to head back to the shuttlebay, when Jillian breaks the silence.

“Fabien, that was some heavy stuff. I knew it was bad, but didn’t think…well, patrol duty for both of us.”

Fabien lets a smile out, then laughs. “Yeah, it’s back on patrol. And you get your own starship for a time. That’ll be fun. Be safe Jill.”

She nods, and puts her hand on his shoulder. “You too, Fabien. It’s a lot to worry about. But come home safe.”

He nods, and boards the tram to head back, his mind distracted by the information he received.

‘The Borg are back. Last time, we barely escaped assimilation. Is this the time we fail?’ That thought weighed heavy on him. He hoped he could shake off how he felt to command, but something told him it was going to be a long, long, long time before he got back to normal. In the meantime, he tried to focus on the mission ahead. ‘The Pakleds and the Borg? Did these two finally marry together in an unholy matrimony of scavenging? Were the Pakleds the Borg’s servants? Was this a prelude to war?’ All these questions weighed on his mind as he traveled back.

The Present Day, 0330 Hours Zulu

Fabien slowed to a walk, sweat pouring down. He’d been running at an even pace for about an hour, and he was beat. He wasn’t as young as he was, but he was still in stellar physical shape. He breathed deeply, almost forgetting the worries of the past two days, and allowing him to clear his mind. His thought process was interrupted by the holodeck doors opening. When Fabien turned around to see who had come in, he was a bit annoyed that it was his Chief Medical Officer, and the expression of light exasperation betrayed him. He didn’t want interruptions, much less someone who was surprisingly well versed on human emotion and emotional distress. That was something that he didn’t understand…how was it that a Vulcan, well half-Vulcan, was so perceptive and in touch with his emotions, to the point that he could serve as the de facto ship’s counselor and be a damn good one at that?

It seemed he would never get an answer to that one.

“Good morning Captain. I was told I’d find you here; am I interrupting?”

Fabien waved. “Good morning Doctor, I was just finishing up an early morning run. What’s up?”

Doctor Rehman waved his arm up to the sky. “The sky, Captain. Why do you ask?”

Fabien looked at him a little funny. As competent a doctor as Dr. Rehman was, and as well grounded as he was, there were still human mannerisms that escaped him. This, apparently was one of them.

“That’s…never mind. I mean, it’s 3:30 in the morning. What are you doing here? Who snitched?” Fabien let out a laugh at the last comment.

A puzzled expression grew on Dr. Rehman’s face. “Snitched, sir? Like…if someone told me that I could find you here?”

Fabien nodded, as he wiped his face with the towel the computer had so thoughtfully replicated at the end of his run. He made a mental note to give some credit to Nancy when he saw her next, for finely tuning the sensors that detected he was at an end of his run.

“Captain, I assure you, no one snitched. Well, that’s not exactly true. Commander Abramov mentioned that you looked extra tired on the bridge yesterday, and suggested that you haven’t been sleeping well. So…I guess if someone snitched, it would have been her.

Fabien nodded. Great. Brooke sold him out. Well, she was right. She was looking out for his welfare, and quite frankly, he was tired of being so tired. The Borg situation was weighing heavily, as well as slight anxiety over their current mission. It had been a day or so since the LA arrived on station. Since then, nothing really had happened, other than the convoy of Olympic-class transports traveling to Sector 001. They had been escorted by three Defiant-class starships: the Tang, Wahoo, and Barb. The tension was palpable, though the crew thought this was another routine patrol.

“I guess, I haven’t been sleeping as peacefully as I should have.”

“I see. Captain, perhaps you should come with me to sickbay. We can see what’s going on. Or do you feel the problem is more psychological, than it is physiological?”

Fabien shrugged. “I have no clue, Doctor. But I need to be at my best, and this isn’t helping.” There was a hint of anxiety in his voice.

“Yes sir. Why don’t we get you scheduled for a counseling session later today? Say at 1500 hours Zulu?”

“I’d like that. Thanks Doctor.”

“You’re welcome sir. I’m glad you’re taking things seriously…” suddenly, the intercom whistle sounded, interrupting Doctor Rehman.

“Attention all hands. Senior staff report to the bridge. Senior staff, report to the bridge.”

Fabien looked at Kadin, his game face back on. “Doctor, I think it’s happening. Back to sickbay.”

Dr. Rehman nodded and headed off.
“Computer, end program.”
The computer acknowledged and he walked briskly into the corridor. He was still in running gear, but to be on the bridge, he needed to change. So he tapped his combadge.
“Oteng to Transporter.”
“Transporter here.”
“Can you beam me straight to quarters?”
“Yes sir. Prepare to energize. Energizing.”

The soft hum of the transporter materialized him in his quarters, the light as he left it.
“Computer, full illumination and prepare a cup of coffee.” The computer acknowledged as he hit the shower. About twenty minutes later, he was walking towards the turbolift, coffee cup in hand.

As soon as he walked onto the bridge, he was all business. “Report.”

Lieutenant Spencer stood up from the center chair.

“Captain, we’re picking up a distress signal about an hour away. Computer identifies it as the SS Partheous. Constellation-class. Requesting urgent assistance.”
“Copy. Helm, set a course, maximum warp.”
“Aye sir.”

“Red Alert, all hands to battle stations. Ready phasers and photon torpedoes. As soon as we’re out of warp, I want us to be firing on all phasers.”

“Aye sir.”

The bridge lights dimmed and the soft alert of the klaxon could be heard as everyone moved to their stations. Tom brought the LA‘s weapons on line.

“Bridge to Sickbay.”

“Sickbay, go.”

“Doctor, prepare for casualties.”

“Copy that.”

Fabien took a seat in the center console, and sipped his coffee. This was it. This was the moment he had trained for. He was ready, his crew was ready, his ship was tested, and yet…he could feel the anxiety welling up inside of him.

‘The Borg are back.’

A Scene of Preparedness

Transit Lane Hormuz

The Los Angeles was almost bristling with energy as it sped towards the last known of the Partheous, contact having been lost about 20 minutes before. On the bridge, everyone was focused on their tasks.

“Siobhan, any updates?” During this period, Fabien had dropped all the normal formalities he normally used. Brooke gave him a raised eyebrow but said nothing about his demeanor.

“No sir. We’re still about 15 minutes away and about 5 minutes from being in sensor range. Last known, Partheous reported that it was fighting two clumpships, both seeming to be modified with Borg technology.”

At this, the tension on the bridge increased. It was possible that they were fighting superships, with advanced Borg weapons and shields.

“Tom, rotating shield harmonics and phaser frequencies. Just in case, heaven forbid.”

“Aye sir. By the way, sir, the Sputnik also received the distress call and is responding, but they’re a few hours out, even at maximum warp. So we’re basically on our own.”

“Understood. Let’s just focus on doing our jobs. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Fabien took another sip of coffee and sighed. It was going to be a long day.

These Aren’t the Borg You’re Looking For

Hormuz Transit Lane

The Los Angeles dropped out of warp, loaded for bear. On the bridge, Captain Oteng, brow furrowed in consternation, took in the scene in front of him as he looked out on the viewscreen. The Constellation-class ship was giving as good as her old self could, but it was very clearly losing the fight. There were three clumpships surrounding the Partheous, each of them firing green-colored disrupters at her. Already, they had damaged two of the nacelles, and the Pakleds were going for nacelle number 3.

“Captain, the Partheous is heavily damaged. I don’t think it’ll survive much longer, especially if they…” Siobhan motioned toward the viewscreen with her head “…keep up this pattern of attacks. They’re already starting to deploy phaser drills.”

Captain Oteng nods, the words spoken by the President’s aide still in his mind. “Helm, attack pattern Omega Two, full impulse on my mark. Mr. Spencer, prepare a full phaser pattern and torpedo spread Epsilon. Prepare a salvo of quantum torpedoes and have them on ready reserve. And start rotating our shield harmonic frequency, just in case.”
“Aye Captain, Omega Two ready on your mark.” Ensign Muthoni called out from her position on the helm.
“Phasers hot, torpedoes in the tubes and ready to go. Shield harmonics set on combat randomization.” Tom called out, as he continued his preparations to unleash hell on the clumpships.

Captain Oteng took a breath, a look of determination on his face. “Ensign,, execute! Mr. Spencer, unleash hell on them!”

The Los Angeles darted forward nimbly, turning toward the three clumpships head on, firing phasers at them. The clumpships turned their attention toward the lone New Orleans-class starship that had dared interrupt their proverbial feast, and began firing with vigor at the ship. The beams that started hitting the ship were green and looked uncannily like Borg weapons. Fabien shifted uncomfortably as another beam hit the shields. It seemed that the prediction was true.
“Captain, direct impact. Shields down 10%. No significant damage.” Siobhan interrupted the Captain’s train of thought, and replaced it with another.
If they were Borg weapons, they should be causing much more damage than just 10% with two or three hits. Something didn’t pass the smell test, and he wouldn’t be comfortable until he had more clarity.

“Miss Pearse, can you track the weapons signature on the weapons that are firing? Can you tell if they’re Borg or something more conventional? Also, run combat scans. I want to know for sure. There’s too much uncertainty.”
Just as Fabien was giving the order, the clumpships stopped firing.
“Captain, we’re being hailed by the lead clumpship.”
Captain Oteng looked incredulous. “We’re being hailed by them. After we’ve exchanged fire. What is going on?” His confusion was clear, but no one had an answer for him, so after a moment of silence, he stood up. “On screen.”

The screen was replaced by a Pakled standing up on the [presumed] bridge.
“You are strong, Enterprise.”
Captain Oteng didn’t respond to this statement for a full minute, then sighed. “We’re not the Enterprise. I’m Captain Fabien Oteng of the Los…”
He was cut off by the Pakled. “We want to be strong. Give us your weapons or be assimilated, Enterprise.”
The hair stood up on the back on Fabien’s neck. All indications pointed towards the unholy matrimony between the Borg and the Pakleds. He silently hoped Siobhan could finish her analysis, because that would give him answers, one way or another.
“We’re not giving you weapons. Out of the question. Get the hell out of the system and leave the Federation alone.” Captain Oteng couldn’t help but retort with sass to the Pakled’s demand.
“We are strong. We will take from you, Enterprise.”
“You’re welcome to try at your convenience. Leave the Constellation-class starship alone, and fight me!”
Most of the officers on the bridge turned to look at him with an amused but puzzled look.
“We are strong. Surrender, Enterprise.”
“Bite me! Los Angeles, out.” Captain Oteng sat down immediately after cutting communications. For reasons unbeknownst to him, the Pakled ships didn’t press the attack. They just…floated there, facing off with the New Orleans-class starship. Almost like they were preparing a second wave of attack. Captain Oteng figured that it was best for him to use this time wisely and stood up again. Walking up to Siobhan’s Ops station, he asked her “Do you have anything?”
Siobhan nodded. “I finished my scans, and there’s something interesting. With the help of Lt. Arataki, we were able to penetrate the shields on the clumpship, and we discovered that the Borg pieces the Partheous reported initially were actually just Romulan ship fragments meant to look like Borg pieces. The weapons signature is Klingon, and we’re pretty sure that they’re just bluffing about assimilation. Long story short, they don’t have Borg anything. They’re bluffing. We can take them easily.”

Fabien nodded and sighed with relief. They were facing Pakleds, not Borgified Pakleds. It was a more than winnable fight. He turned and walked back to his center seat. “Tom, hail the Partheous please.”
“Aye, sir. They have partial communications, so it may be a bit…intermittent.”
“Doesn’t matter.”

The view of the clumpship was replaced by a bridge in chaos, with sparks everywhere and damage control teams running all over, trying to prevent a small fire from spreading. Through it all, the master of the Partheous, Commander Holly D’Angelo sat in the center seat, giving orders to her crew and trying to contain the chaos.
“Captain! Oh thank the Prophets you’re here. We thought we were totally on our own until we saw you warp in.”
“Commander, what’s your situation? Is your command salvageable, or would you prefer evac?”
“Captain, we have many wounded, they could use off the ship. As for the rest of the bucket of bolts, we’re missing two nacelles, the third one is badly damaged, we have hull breaches in almost every deck except the bridge, and we’re about one more salvo away from having a warp core breach. You tell me!” Her tone was that of human exasperation mixed in with anger and a hint of terror, though she held her composure well.
Captain Oteng winced, then turned to Tom. “Mr. Spencer, send message to sickbay, tell them to prepare for a mass casualty event. Then start beaming the wounded straight to sickbay. Keep a lock on the rest of the crew, and prepare to evacuate the Partheous fully.” Turning back to the viewscreen, Captain Oteng addressed Commander D’Angelo.
“Commander, not to worry. We’re moving right now. We’ll try to cover your retreat, if you can, but if not, we can pull you all out. Dr. Rehman is preparing to receive casualties, and we can help you with whatever else you need.”
“Thank you Captain! Hopefully, things can be kept under control. We’ll stay…” the signal suddenly cut out, and the view returned to the clumpship, which by this time had moved closer to the Los Angeles.
“Captain, the Partheous just lost communications, but Dr. Rehman reports that we are receiving the casualties. They’re starting to be treated. He asks for permission to mobilize our reserve medical team and other medical staff.”
“Permission granted. Tell him to get whomever he needs. Engineers, even, if they would be helpful.”
“Aye, sir.”

Siobhan pipes up. “Captain, the Pakleds are charging weapons again…they’re locked on to us.”
“Helm, evasive maneuvers; Tom, remember the Quantum torpedoes I asked for?”
“Yes sir, I have them ready.”
“Shove them down their throat.”
“With pleasure, sir.” Three blue torpedoes leave the Los Angeles and slam directly into the clumpship, causing a fair bit of damage.
“Direct hit, moderate damage captain! We blew straight past their shields. I don’t think they were prepared for our engagement.”
“Excellent. Tom, line up phasers and fire. Cover the Partheous, best you can.”
“Aye, sir. Firing now.”
The phaser array glows and the beam hits square in the center, causing some amount of damage. By this time, one of the clumpships decided that the raid was not worth it, and hightailed it out of there. The other one moved to defend the now damaged clumpship, firing a mix of Cardassian and Romulan disrupters at the Los Angeles and Partheous.

The Los Angeles’ shields absorbed the hit, though it lowered them by 20%. Tom returned the salvo with one of his own, firing phasers and torpedoes at the other clumpship, which responded by firing on both ships again.

“Captain, we’re getting a message from the Partheous. They say that the last salvo was the last straw. Partheous unsalvageable, requesting immediate evacuation. Time to warp core breach, 15 minutes.”
“Tom, start pulling the rest of the crew, use all the transporters available. I hope we have enough time to get everyone.”
“Captain, we’re not going to be able to beam them through when the shields are up. We’re going to have to lower shields, and…I don’t recommend doing that.” Brooke speaks up, warning the Captain that his idea won’t work.
Fabien curses, then snaps his finger. “We have a compliment of shuttles aboard, as well as two runabouts. Can we dispatch them to dock and evacuate?”
Brooke bites their lip as they consider it, thinking quickly. “Yes, we could do that, but we would have to cover them, because they’d be vulnerable.” As he speaks, the ship shudders again from another disrupter hit.
“Alright, let’s do it. Get whomever you need to, and let’s do it. Siobhan, how much time do we have?”
“We have about 13 minutes to total containment failure, sir.”
“Damn. I hope we have enough time. Tom, send the Partheous a message. Tell them to prepare for shuttle evacuation, and if they have shuttles, to use those first. We’re sending our runabouts, so tell them to load the most critical people first. Commander, I want you to go down to the shuttle bay and supervise the effort.”
“Yes, Captain. Do you still want me to pull whomever I need to?”
“Yes, please. Just do what you have to do.”
Tom then responds in acknowledgement to his order, and asks just as Brooke is leaving to the turbolift. “Aye sir. Should I return fire?”
“Yes! Fire everything, and cue up some more quantum torpedoes. Fire at will.”
“Copy that, firing phasers and torpedoes. Sir, Partheous reports acknowledgement and wishes us good luck.”
“Helm, move us closer to the Partheous. Make sure our shuttlebay is protected. Quarter-impulse please.”
“Aye, sir. Moving to heading 244, mark 210.”
“Tom, make sure our weapons mask our motivations.”
“I’m giving her as good as I got, Captain!”
The ship shudders again as a beam of Cardassian disruptor hits.

When Brooke arrives in the shuttle bay, the two runabouts (the Platte and Big Blue) are being hurriedly prepared by the engineering crews with the passenger module (kept onboard in case of evacuation). The process takes a few minutes, though its a few minutes that are precious in this situation. These crews, however, have drilled for this scenario and so are experienced on how to swap out modules. The Platte is ready first, and launches with a pilot and medic only, to maximize space for evacuees. Seconds later, the Big Blue launches, and both Brooke and the engineering crews breathe a sigh of relief. The dormitory modules are taken to the place where the passenger modules were stored.

On the bridge, Captain Oteng is tracking the rescue effort on his command consoles, hoping that the Pakleds don’t notice what they’re trying to do. Fortunately for the runabouts, the Pakleds are more interested in the Los Angeles than in anything else. Unfortunately for the Los Angeles, that meant that the Pakled clumpships were fully dialed in and not doing anything else. Thanks to Tom’s skill as a tactical officer, the LA had gotten in some good hits and was giving as good as she got. Sadly though, the clumpships were taking their toll on the New Orleans-class starship. The last weapons hit caused one of the consoles on the bridge to explode in a shower of sparks, causing the officer at the post to scream and fall, clutching his face.
“Medic!!” the officer next to the injured man yelled out after tapping his combadge. Within a minute, the turbolift doors opened, and a crewman in a blue uniform ran with a medkit, sliding towards the injured man.
“I’ve got you. Don’t worry. You’re going to be just fine!” After a quick scan with the tricorder, the crewman opened his medkit and gave the burn victim a hypospray. Then he tapped his combadge. “Two to transport to sickbay!” The two disappeared in a shimmer, and Captain Oteng cursed under his breath. He hated to see people hurt under his command.
“Captain, shields down to 30%; damage to decks 15, 17, and 10. Damage control crews responding!”
“Keep firing Tom, keep covering! How much time to warp core breach?”
“Eight minutes, sir!”
“What’s the status of the evacuation?”
“Commander Abramov reports that three shuttles have left the Partheous, and Captain D’Angelo is helping load people into the two runabouts. They look like they’ll have enough room for everyone. She has security making sure there’s no one left, then she’s leaving.”
“Good. Tell Commander Abramov to ‘Hurry up,’ not that she needs to hear it. Time is of the essence!”

As he finishes his sentence, another shudder and another sparking explosion; fortunately no one was injured.
“Captain, hull breach, deck 8. Force fields in place. No casualties.”
“I hope we still have a ship present after this…” he gets cut off by Siobhan.
“Sir, we have another ship incoming…its the Sputnik! They made it!” She sounds jubilant as she gives her report.
Fabien bows his head and takes a deep breath. ‘Thank God for that,’ he thinks to himself.

“Sir, we’re being hailed. The Sputnik is engaging…”
On the viewscreen, the Gagarin-class starship swooped in, making a strafing run against the two clumpships.
“On screen.”
The view is replaced by the Sputnik’s bridge, with her Captain smiling as the rest of the officers are busy doing their duty.
“Fabien, old friend! I see you needed some extra help. Sorry for our late arrival.” Captain Andrei Ivankov laughed as he spoke, his Russian roots coming through. He was an Andorian ex-pat that had adopted a totally Russian identity after he had a dispute with his family and moved to Earth, settling down in Sochi. He loved it there, and so he changed his name to fit his adopted homeland. When Fabien had met the Andorian at the academy, he had been taken a little aback at his Russian accent, but had grown used to it over the years.
“Andrei, you certainly took your sweet time! But good to see you. They have you in a Gagarin, do they?”
“Yes they do. And I love it. Named for Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Russian hero!”
“Well поздравления (congratulations) to you, my Дружище (giant friend). Any chance you could help us with the clumpships?”
“Working on it! спутник вышел (Sputnik, out)!”

The Sputnik fires a few more times, and the clumpships suddenly decide that maybe this isn’t worth it anymore. With the damaged clumpship in tow, the two ships retreat, leaving a trail of debris in their wake. The Gagarin-class ship harasses them on their retreat, then returns to the Los Angeles.

Captain Oteng breathes a sigh of relief. “Commander Abramov, what’s the word on the evacuation?”
“Sir, I’m pleased to report that both the Big Blue and the Platte are on their way back with the entire crew compliment. Not a moment to soon, sir. We should put some space between us and the Partheous, it’s about 45 seconds from breach.”
Helm, move us away, maximum impulse. Set course for Starbase 86, and go to warp as soon as we’ve recovered the runabouts. Tom, send a message to the Sputnik, tell them that the Partheous is about to explode and to get clear.”
“Aye, Captain, Moving to heading 177, mark 301, full impulse. Course set, ready on your command.”
“30 seconds to breach!”
“Steady as she goes, Miss Muthoni.”
“Steady, aye.”
“15 seconds!”
“Runabouts docked and secured! We’re ready to warp!”
“Hit it, Miss Muthoni. Warp 5!”
The Los Angeles jumps to warp, just as the Partheous explodes, adding to the considerable debris field already present.

Captain Oteng breathes a sigh of relief, then stands up and taps his combadge. “Bridge to Abramov. Brooke, what’s your status?”
“Captain, we are currently triaging the people we rescued. We could use a lot of assistance, sir.”
“Thanks Commander. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Aye, Captain. Abramov out.”
He then again taps his combadge. “Bridge to Commander Aranda. Report.”
“The Pakleds did a real number on the LA, sir. There’s a lot of bulkhead damage, blown relays all over the ship, and of course the giant hole on deck 8. We got mauled, that’s for sure. Fortunately, the core is intact, power systems are nominal, and sensors are great. So, all in all, just a normal day. But we should put into spacedock for repairs, because efficiency. I’m a miracle worker, but I’m not that much of a miracle worker.”
“Copy that. Just do what you can, and we’ll be at Starbase 86 in a day or two.”
“Aye, sir.” Just before she signs off, she starts yelling at one of her subordinates. “What are you doing, you incompetent…” and the signal cuts off.

Captain Oteng laughs to himself, and then looks around at the bridge, surveying the damage.
“Folks, before I forget, all of you did an exemplary job today. We survived, and though we got mauled, we prevailed. That being said, please don’t forget your after-action reports, turned in to Commander Abramov in the usual time.” This illicits groans from the officers on the bridge.
“Great, more paperwork.” Tom pipes up in a whining voice as he smiles.
“Yay…paperwork…more paperwork…” Siobhan mutters ruefully in response to Captain Oteng.

“People, after you finish your reports, you can take a few days of shore leave. It’s going to take a while to bring the LA back to its former glory. So the sooner you finish them, the sooner you can go enjoy shore leave at Starbase 86.”

The crew laughs, then returns to their duty, all relieved that the battle, though hard fought, was won.

After a while at warp, Captain Oteng leaves Siobhan in charge of the bridge as he goes and begins to write the after-action report to Starfleet Command and the CO of TF86. He reports on the day’s events and the audacity of the Pakleds to feign Borg technology, and urging a more forceful response against the Pakleds because they are getting out of hand. He also requests urgent repair slot at Starbase 86, to repair all the battle damage the Los Angeles suffered with the Pakleds.

A day and a half later, the Los Angeles limps into view of Starbase 86, heavily mauled by combat, battle scars everywhere, and a gaping hole on the side of the saucer section. But she survived, and had made it home.