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Part of USS Republic: Guardians at the Gate and USS Atlantis: Journeys

Guardians at the Gate – 2

USS Republic; Thomar Expanse
September 2401
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Mac still didn’t know how Sidda managed to make sitting down in the seat to his right either an exercise in perfect poise and movement, the height of aristocratic endeavour, or a mere flop into the seat, as if a puppet whose strings had been cut. But since she had brought him a cup of coffee from the replicator not five meters away, he was thankful she’d opted for the former and not risk the divine nectar she’d carried.

“They’re still here?” she asked, looking at the hulking monstrosity that was the USS Perseus, sitting before the Underspace aperture like a diver preparing itself for a risky jump and just not quite getting there. “It’s been what, ten hours since Captain Theodoras said she was going through?”

“About that,” Mac answered after a sip of his coffee. The warmth spreading through him was likely in his head for the most part, but it was just what he needed. “Garland wanted a few engineering modifications completed before she risked her ship and Stenz was able to provide some updated readings from the other side of the aperture.”

“Well, if they don’t go through soon, those Breen ships will be here and Perseus can join in the fun.” Sidda set her own cup down on her console, faint wisps of stem drifting upwards and Mac could just make out the scent of roses. “Speaking of though, any idea of how long they’ll be?”

“About ten minutes I’ve been reassured.” Then his eyes narrowed and he looked to his first officer. “Why?”

“Well, every time Sagan throws a probe in, there’s a small tachyon surge from Underspace. A function of the size of the object passing, how long it’s open due to the size of the object etc etc.” No need to cover all of the scientific bases, just enough to get her point across. “The Breen likely haven’t seen anything so far, but there won’t be any disguising Perseus when she leaves.”

“Why would we want to do that?” Now she had his attention.

“We wouldn’t,” Sidda answered. “We want to lean into it. Hard.”

“Just not in the direction that logic would dictate, yes?”

Sidda smiled wickedly. “They can only draw conclusions based on the facts as they understand them. It’s not unreasonable to assume that misleading data would colour their perceptions.”

A quick explanation later and Mac had summoned Matt Lake to the bridge, away from the astrophysics lab where some rather spirited conversations had been taking place over the last day that Republic had sat in the presence of this wound in space-time. Standing before them, having had the idea repeated to him, the scientist was rubbing at his temples with one hand, then down to the bridge of his nose. “I guess it’ll work,” Matt admitted after a moment.

“Guess?” Mac asked.

“Sorry, Captain. Should, could?” Matt removed his hand from his face. “Sorry, just switching mental gears here. Time a large neutrino burst with the tachyon emissions from the aperture when Perseus crosses through, yeah?”

“Yup,” Sidda said, proud as the cat that dragged the bird in. “They’re just under two hours away at warp. All they’ll see is a weird tachyon and neutrino burst and one Galaxy-class starship disappearing from their sensors. May I ask, what conclusion would you draw?”

“That someone is trying to hide something,” he answered.

“Like?” Sidda asked, dragging out the word and hopefully an answer from the man before her and Mac.

“Like some sort of cloaking device?” Matt’s question sparked his own brain, the mental gear finding purchase. “Oh, like a really lousy cloaking device activation.” Then he turned to Mac. “You want to try and bluff a Breen squadron that there’s a cloaked Galaxy-class starship hanging around out here?”

“Better than saying they aren’t here at all. Weakness display and all that.”

“I’ll need about ten minutes.”

Mac shook his head. “You have five.”

“Guess it’s good. I actually only need five then,” Matt responded before heading over to the science station, speaking softly to the young woman there and sitting next to her, the two of them rapidly getting to work.

“We’re going to need more than just an old sensor reading and a decent poker face to pull this off,” Mac said as he turned back to Sidda. “The Witches are still ready to fly, yes?”

“Last I saw them, they were all hanging around in hammocks near their birds. Cat and her people are deep in the hurry up and wait.” Sidda snorted. “Absolutely intolerable part of any operation, really.”

“Better than when it all goes to hell.” Mac shook his head and noted Sidda nodding in understanding with his statement. “Go talk to her, ask her how confident she is of her people flying in two stealth formations.”

“Oh, now I’m interested.” Turnabout, Mac discovered, was fun. It was his turn to be a bit devious.

“From experience, Breen sensors are a bit shit at spotting the latest Valkyries. Their stealth systems are pretty good and they are such small targets. And if Sagan and Republic are both banging away on our sensors, we’ll just be muddying the waters for the Breen.”

“Yes, but why launch them?” Sidda’s question was accompanied by that same smile from earlier. She didn’t know the plan but appeared to be liking it so far.

“They’ll be out there, gently radiating neutrinos when the Breen arrive.” The perfect punctuation to the plan was a sip of his coffee, letting Sidda put the dots together.

“Like a poorly maintained cloaking device. Awfully non-discreet, but enough to hint at a couple of cloaked starships.” Apparently, it wasn’t a difficult bit of deduction. But the smile grew a touch more. “Shame we don’t have Atlantis’ exchange officer around we could parade on the bridge. Could even throw in some sort of deeper alliance with the Republic.”

“Kendris would be a help, yes. But…”

“But what?” Sidda snapped, her tone changing as she sensed the shift in Mac’s voice.

“But we do have our own Romulan.”

“No.”

“Commander – ”

“No.” The firmness of her statement, the absolute iron in her voice told Mac he’d hit a sore spot. He knew Revin was precious to his Orion officer, but this was on another level. She was protecting Revin from something.

It hurt then when he made up his mind and spoke again. “Commander Sadovu, I’m going to ask Crewman Sadovu-th’Ven to participate in a deception against the Breen forces approaching the ship.” He could see the anger building in Sidda’s eyes. “I want you there as my first officer.” He leaned over the arm of his chair, closer to the lioness ready to swipe at a threat to what she kept dear. “And I want you there as her wife to be a support person should she need it.”

He could see the well of emotions playing out in Sidda’s eyes. He was hard-pressed to name them all, a little out of touch with his own emotions to be putting labels on things. But anger was clearly present. He wagered clearly at his intent to push this matter. But perhaps relief, or understanding, that he’d extended the offer for her to be present when he spoke with Revin.

“Aye captain,” she finally said after a few arduously long seconds, managing to just avoid making each word a sentence of its own. “I’ll go get her now.”

“No, you won’t,” he said quickly, catching a withering glare just as she was rising. “Trid, can you please go escort Crewman Sadovu-th’Ven to my ready room?”

“Who? Oh, yeah.” The young Bajoran woman, bored at ops on a ship that hadn’t done anything interesting for nearly a day, had obviously been confused by the name. Everyone just knew her as Revin. Formality had thrown her. “Right away,” Trid continued, taking the opportunity to vacate the bridge with haste once she’d seen Sidda’s face.

“And now we wait,” Mac announced to the bridge, eyes settling on Perseus again. “Just wish they’d hurry up and go.”

Small talk with his executive officer, it would appear, was off the menu for now.

Which left only brooding silence to fill the void.