Mission Day 94
“Okay, so, first contact situation with a clearly militarised space force of some description,” Tikva started as she walked around her desk to her seat, indicating the seats for everyone else. There was a slight numerical discrepancy however with only two seats and three officers, settled when Adelinde offered one of the seats to Gabrielle, opting to remain standing, hands clasped behind her back.
“No argument there,” Mac said, as he looked at Gabrielle. “What’s the chance that these people are the ones responsible for the nuclear winter on Beta?”
“I’d really, really doubt it Sir,” the young lieutenant answered. “That planet’s at least ten thousand years dead, if not more. Whoever did that should, would be I’d think, more advanced, if just not from having ten thousand years of history trawling around in space.”
“I’d have to agree with the Lieutenant’s assessment,” Adelinde contributed. “They lack shields of any kind, their weapons are…primitive, impressive mind you, and there was that comment the translator produced as stella incognito. Unknown star I believe would be a decent enough Standard translation.”
“Back to the first contact situation then,” Tikva punctuated with a wave of her hand. “I’m keen to open a dialogue with these people but we are in the middle of a dangerous star system. Wish I knew what parts of the defence system were still active or not, but it seems it’s given up on trying to kill us at least.”
“I suspect our presence as well is what is keeping the Talaru safe from being fired upon. They’ve intentionally taken their warp drive offline. If one of those warp missiles was fired on them right now, they’d be unable to escape it, or any follow up shots.” Adelinde’s assessment was agreed upon with a few head nods around the room.
“Yah, I was thinking that too. How many of those things are left in this system anyway?” the captain asked, looking to both her science and tactical officers.
“Two missiles remain in the active platform we’ve already scanned, though ten more missiles have been detected in disabled platforms,” Adelinde responded.
“Though my scans show antimatter containment on those missiles is likely to fail within the decade. Looks like the platform they’re on only failed a few years ago. These folks built some rather large battery banks to keep things safe for as long as possible.”
Tikva nodded with Gabrielle’s input and looked to Mac, shrugging her shoulders. “Knock out all the missile launchers? At least make this system safe? These newcomers seem more than capable of dealing with the energy platforms.”
“Sound enough call Cap,” he responded. “Could send out a couple of shuttles to bomb the launchers while we go and say hi.”
“Ooh, like that idea. Send two shuttles each, just in case there are more energy platforms. If T’Val wants to lead either flight let her, we can make do here I think.”
“Right you are,” he responded. “In the meantime, should I alert Chef we’re going to have visitors?”
“Oh go on,” Tikva added. “Best be prepared if they want to come visit. Otherwise, we’ll just have a spread for the crew, right? Right, be about it people.”
Shuttle Bay 1
“Gentleman,” Lieutenant T’Val spoke up as she entered into the flight briefing room adjacent to shuttle bay 1, addressing the seven gathered men in the room, enough including herself for two personnel per shuttle about to undertake operations. “Please be seated. This briefing won’t take long and we will be getting underway within twenty minutes.”
Waiting for everyone to take a seat, she brought up a system map on the main screen, highlighting two targets in red, Atlantis in green and the alien vessel in purple for now. “Commander MacIntyre has tasked us with eliminating the last remaining functional warp missile launcher in system,” one of the icons blinking in acknowledgement of its existence, “and the last repository of functional missiles in a non-functional platform,” the other icon now blinking instead. “Two shuttles have been designated for each launcher in case of functional point defence systems. Waimakariri and Acheron will play the ‘wild weasel’ function, while Buller and Shin will deliver torpedoes on target. Should initial passes fail, both flights will have enough torpedoes for a second pass before returning to Atlantis.”
“Assignments ma’am?” one of the voices asked.
“Shven and Robinson aboard Waimakariri, accompanied by Brown and O’Leary in Buller. Corbin and Daniels aboard Shin while Carmichael and myself will fly Acheron,” she replied in quick order.
“Uh, ma’am, who’s flying Atlantis while we’re away?” another voice asked.
“Ensign Petrov is more than capable Ensign Carmichael, your skill as a shuttle pilot is more important for this mission. Failing that, the ship’s most capable and certified flight officer is still aboard ship.”
“Yah, Carmichael, Cap’s still going to be here. Ain’t no one going to best her,” one of the others piped up. They’d all become experts in the legend of their commanding officer, with the scant knowledge they had the pure conjecture they’d had been forced to fill out the details with.
T’Val’s sigh at hearing a contraction was audible enough for the entire room. The main screen went out and lights came back up to full intensity. “You have ten minutes before departure. Dismissed.”
“We’ve had a response from the Talaru ma’am,” Ensign Taru spoke up from Ops, a young Tellarite woman whom Tikva found pleasant enough. Not nearly as argumentative as others of her race she’d met, or even had aboard ship. “They’ve acknowledged our probe as unarmed at this time but advised us to maintain a distance of…around seven hundred thousand kilometers.”
“Two light seconds, fair enough for now. Petrov, think you can find us a parking spot?”
“Don’t know ma’am, very busy star system. I’ll see what I can do,” the young man said with mirth in his voice at the clearly easy task. Talaru was hanging in open space, far from any of the gas giants, so finding a spot nearby wasn’t going to be a difficult task. His most difficult task was really going to be making sure he didn’t get too close.
“Brakes are the button that says go faster, right?” asked Mac as he looked up from a padd this CO.
“Sounds right,” Tikva nodded in affirmation. She was much, much relieved for the far more relaxed officer that Mac was versus how he was when she first came aboard.
Nothing much more occupied the time or attention of the bridge crew as they went about either executing their tasks, or in the case of Tikva and Mac, reading some reports and generally just being available for their staff. All the monotony was interrupted by a few chirps from Operations and Tactical at the same time. “Antimatter explosion detected at Bogey 17,” Lieutenant Ch’tkk’va added, having come on duty not long ago. “Shin and Acheron have signalled confirmation of target destruction and are returning to the ship.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant, advise me when…” Tikva’s followup died in her throat when a series of alerts started sounding across the bridge of her ship. None of them serious or aggressive alarms, but insistent, before they all went silent at once, every unused or non-critical display all flashing away and being replaced by a Greek letter she recognised, but couldn’t place the context of.
“Omega?” she asked out loud, looking at Mac, then around at her senior staff, confused herself as to what was going on.
“Helm is answering all stop,” Petrov said, confusion in his own voice. “I didn’t input any commands.”
“I’ve just lost long range sensors,” came a voice from Science, an officer that Gabrielle thought to send up for some bridge time.
“Tactical is…limited,” she heard from behind her, Ch’tikk’va’s manipulators clicking across the controls.
“Computer, release all systems,” Tikva ordered of the ship, a beep of denial following shortly.
“Command lockout has been initiated.”
“Command override, Tikva Epsilon-Theta-Seven-Rho-Peekaboo.”
“Insufficient command access codes.”
Tikva’s rightful concern at the situation was mirrored on her XO’s face when she turned to him. “Did I just lose command of my ship?”
She had to give Mac his credit as he nodded to her, then stood up. “I’ll get down to Engineering and grab Velan. We’ll head straight for the computer core and make sure no one is doing anything. Ch’tkk’va, can you get me a few Security personnel there right now?”
“Yes Commander,” the Xindi-insectoid responded.
Watching Mac leave, Tikva stood and tugged on her uniform briefly. “Ch’tkk’va, you’ve got the Conn. I’m going to go see if I can’t call someone with higher clout than me, assuming comms are working,” she said, passing Ops, getting an affirmative nod from the officer present.
It had taken a bit of work to get a subspace link to establish, but Tikva had sorted something out. Something they’d have to consider going forward no matter what may come. Apparently one of the relays they’d been deploying on their way out here had developed a fault and while DQ-A-6 was capable of relaying information to them, it was no longer capable of relaying information back.
New commands had been issued to Relay DQ-A-7 and it was now running its own transmitter at a higher power to communicate with DQ-A-5, but the signal test results hadn’t been what she’d considered spectacular.
“Okay, let’s try this again. Computer, open a command priority channel to USS Discovery for Commodore Marshall-Bennett. Authorisation Epsilon-Theta-Seven-Rho-Peekaboo.”
The wait she had from giving her command codes for such a request and the affirmative was interminable. Eventually her terminal screen however flashed up with ‘Connecting…’ on it, the dots blinking as they waited for a response from another starship around two months at high warp away.
Commodore Bennet’s face then appeared and his usual warm, friendly demeanour was not present. “Commander Theodoras, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Well Commodore, I was hoping you’d be able to help with a small IT issue we’re having here aboard the Atlantis in the middle of a first contact.” Tikva turned the monitor slightly to show another screen in her ready room that was happily displaying the letter omega and otherwise being generally useless. “Apparently there’s been a command level lockout of all ship systems and my access codes aren’t sufficient.
Sighing heavily, Bennet gazed downwards before looking back up at the young commander. “Commander Theodoras, I hereby promote you to the field commission of Captain.” Tapping something at his end, the orders quickly appeared on Theodoras’ screen along with her heightened clearance to level ten. “Congratulations. I wish the circumstances were different but I don’t have time to waste with all the pomp and pageantry that normally goes with a promotion.”
She started on the mental math of her age and today’s date, trying to figure out where in history she landed for promotion to Captain, but gave up in quick order. “I’m grateful Commodore, but field promotions are for dire circumstances. Surely this is…” Stopping mid-sentence, she looked up from the screen, not at anything in particular, just away while she thought for a moment. “Sir, why do I need a field promotion for this problem?”
“Unfortunately, you need the rank and clearance with what I’m about to share with you.” Bennet explained further as he tapped another button at his end and a secured datastream was sent over to the Atlantis. “Can you secure your ready room and ensure no-one enters?”
“It’s that sort of situation?” she asked before shaking her head and complying with what was asked of her, giving orders to Atlantis’ computers now that she could, as well as another order to clear the errant symbol from her ship’s controls and give her crew back some control of their own ship.
Once she had given him the all clear, Bennet spoke up as the datastream was decrypted, again from his end. “Captain, this is one of the biggest secrets that the Federation has and this directive which I’m about to inform you about supersedes every other one, including the Prime Directive.”
Supersedes the Prime Directive? What can do that?
No, seriously, this is bullshit and you know it Tikva. It’s General Order 1 we’re talking about, nothing is before it.
She gulped, sat up a bit straighter and then finally spoke, quietly and with purpose. “I understand Sir. I’m not comfortable with the idea of overriding the Prime Directive, but I understand the implication of the priority of this situation.”
A large blue symbol appeared next to the commodore’s face and floated there. The greek symbol of Omega. “So you’ve already seen this today, this is Omega. The last letter in the greek alphabet and with it comes some old Earth religious connotation that it could also mean the end, the last. Well what I’m about to tell you is literally that.” Bennet went on to brief her on everything she needed to know about the Omega molecule, the history of it and the directive. “Normally, if we were back in the Alpha Quadrant then a specialist team would be taking over and you wouldn’t have been promoted so quickly. Also if we had time, then you would have been properly trained to deal with this by yourself. But we don’t have that luxury right now. Almost every ship in the fleet has detected omega and we are now having to respond in a way not seen since the attack on Mars or the mass evacuation of Romulus. So instead, I’m preparing to send you a holographic datastream. In it is an Emergency Command Hologram, outfitted with all knowledge of the Omega Directive and they can brief you further on what is needed. Any questions?”
“Plenty Sir, but I assume this ECH you’re sending me will have answers for most of them. I’m assuming, after that piece about not informing my crew, that the ECH is also programmed for self destruction, or at least will purge the Directive information from its memory banks?”
Nodding, Bennet answered back. “It will and you’ll need to ensure no-one else on your crew interacts with it. Consider it your very own chaperone.”
“Very well Sir, I shall await this ECH and debrief it immediately. I’ll make preparations to abandon our first contact mission once we’ve identified the source of Omega that tripped our sensors.” She paused momentarily, then stared straight at the Commodore. “Sir, we’re the closest Federation ship to Borg territory. What are my rules of engagement should the worst come to bear?”
“Do whatever it takes to destroy Omega, whatever the cost.” Bennet ordered. “Good luck Captain Theodoras and once this is all over, I’ll make the promotion official with the biggest party since Voyager returned home. Godspeed, Bennet out.”
Tikva waited for the channel to close, for her own terminal to confirm that the channel was properly closed a second time, communication records were encrypted and secured and then, only then did she allow herself a very rare display of anger as she swept a hand across her own desk, flinging a couple of padds across her office to fall where they may.
Bullshit! Secret orders! Fear of the unknown!
The Commodore did show what happened at Lantaru.
Fear is driving this thinking.
Legitimate fear. Sure, an awesome resource, but what if someone weaponised this stuff. Boom! No more warp drive.
She slumped down in her chair and brooded for a few minutes, waiting for a receipt of this ECH she was being sent. Then the complex process of call and response no less than three times to confirm her identity before the datastream would decrypt, locked to her access codes.
“Computer, restrict all access to the ECH to only my command codes, only allow activation within my ready room and only if no one else is present.”
“Confirmed,” the computer responded.
“And create a protocol to deactivate the ECH immediately if the call button on the door is activated,” she added at the end, having a thought about that.
Sighing, she stood, taking a moment to collect herself, to correct her uniform, even grab a sip of water before heading for the door, kicking a padd back towards her desk that had come to rest by the door to the bridge.
“Computer, unlock ready room door, authorisation Tikva Epsilon-Theta-Seven-Rho-Peekaboo.” The computer took a moment, chirped in confirmation and then finally the door swished open. Tikva stepped out and looked around the bridge, catching the attention of Ch’tkk’va. “Lieutenant, status of the missile platforms?” she asked as she walked around the bridge to approach Tactical.
“Lieutenant T’Val has reported success and is returning presently. Flight 2 is on final approach; Flight 1 will be back by 1815 hours.”
“Very good Lieutenant. Inform me when all shuttles are secured. Ensign Taru, can you please compose a message to the Talaru apologising to them, but we have other priorities we must attend to. We regret this missed opportunity but have rendered the system safe for them and wish them safe travels. Send the message to me for approval before sending.”
Numerous faces on the bridge were now looking to their commanding officer at this, most having looked forward to a chance at a first contact situation. Taru’s quizzical look was punctuated with a polite “Ma’am?”
“I know Ensign, I was looking forward to a formal dinner, exchange of pleasantries and all the pageantry, but I’ve got orders. Please compose the message.” She could feel the confusion coming off the crew, some at the sudden change in priorities, others at the lack of clarity from their captain.
“Aye ma’am, it’ll be with you presently.”
“Thank you, Ensign. Lieutenant Ch’tkk’va, once all shuttles are aboard, I’ll have some coordinates available for the helm. I want them executed immediately. Until then I’ll be in astrometrics.”
While the others were confused, or worried, Ch’tkk’va was unreadable, a byproduct of his Xindi-Insectoid heritage. But she knew there was a biological heritage there as well of accepting orders and simply undertaking them, information was shared when or if it was required. They nodded their head in understanding before voicing such understanding for the bridge crew to hear. She suspected over the next wee while she’d lean on their ability to accept orders without too many questions.
“Terribly sorry folks, but I need the lab to myself,” Tikva said as she stepped into Astrometrics, earning a quick look from the two cartographers, then another look when they processed what she had said but hadn’t given them any further context.
“Now please,” she continued before both staffers saved their work and logged out of their consoles and departed the space in quick order.
“Computer, lock the door,” she ordered before approaching one of the primary consoles and accessing the ship’s long range sensor archives, bringing up the records about the Omega anomaly detection that had triggered the Directive she’d gotten her first initial briefing on and still had more to learn from a teaching tool she had yet to activate.
There it was, an omega molecule detection at just under 25 light years away in a binary star system. An orange supergiant and a white dwarf which catalogues indicated had erupted in a novae on at least two occasions in the records she had aboard ship. And in her worst fears directly in the direction of the Borg Collective.
Oh you better believe they’ve seen it too.
Which means the Borg are coming.
Which means we’re in trouble.
Are we both in agreement that Real-Tikva is in trouble?
Sighing, Tikva checked for a nearby star system that would suit for directing Atlantis to. Somewhere for the crew to go and be safe, or, well, safe enough. Coordinates found, she forwarded them to Lieutenant Ch’tkk’va, encrypted the sensor logs, cleared her work history and logged off the computers before departing.
Royal Navy Starcruiser Talaru
“Well,” Commander Chru started as he walked into the wardroom, the last of the command staff to arrive, “I’ve got the latest from CIC. You’re not believe these numbers.” He took his seat in quick order, slotted in a datacard he’d been given and brought up the data on the ward room’s main screen in quick order.
“Their attack craft accelerated from essentially a full stop to full impulse in a matter of seconds. All sensor data we have on them is even in real time, confirmed with light speed sensors when they finally caught up, which means each of those little ships has their own hetch drive, though they never used them, so no performance curves on them.”
The others present all nodded along as they turned to face the viewscreen and take note of CIC’s findings on these United Federation of Planets people and their technology, which they seemingly took no effort to disguise its performance in front of one of the Royal Navy’s most sophisticated warships.
“And we still have no idea on how they’re communicating with their comm bouy?” Captain Gareli Nularu asked of her officers, each of them in turn slowly turning to face Lieutenant Commander Gareen, the Signals officer for the Talaru.
“No ma’am. We’ve not detected any hetch drive fluctuations in the Atlantis’ signature,” he responded, using the alien ship’s name now that they had it and even pronounced it fairly well. “Or from the bouy itself either, which must have some sort of FTL capability for how quickly they’re responding to us. Our last message was confirmed and receipted before the light speed signal should have got to them.”
“Keep on it Mr Gareen. We’re expecting lightspeed reports on where those attack craft went soon enough, yes?” Gareli asked of her XO, who nodded in the affirmative. “I’m interested to know what they were doing, especially since they have started their return already.”
“One flight even..”
“CIC to wardroom. Aspect change on Atlantis ma’am,” came a call over the ship’s PA, specifically to the wardroom as the Lieutenant Dorlim knew where her Captain was at this time. “She’s turning away from us.”
Without a word Chru brought up a feed from CIC on the main viewscreen, showing the data they had, powered by both the hetch sensors and only slightly delayed lightspeed sensors now, which showed the grey-white vessel turning away, presenting it’s aft aspect and those incredibly fragile looking hetch nacelles begging to be shot off in a fight.
“Any communications from them?”
“Negative ma’am,” came Dorlim’s response. “Correction, we’re receiving communication from them now.”
Just as Dorlim finished speaking the sensors showed Atlantis’ sudden disappearance, jumping to hetch speeds that drew gasps from most in the ward room. The light speed sensors registered the ramping up in the blue glow from those nacelles, then the vessel disappearing into superluminal speeds.
“That can’t be right…that’s over hetch 12.”
“They’re still on hetch sensors, it’s confirmed.”
“Maker, that’s…14 times faster then us on a good day.”
“Wait, look at that acceleration curve. They got up to that speed in…”
“And their attack craft had hetch drives too…”
“They’re still maintaining that speed too. Can they do that normally?”
Gareli wrapped a closed fist on the wardroom table and everyone stopped speculating instantly, looking back to their captain. “Lieutenant Dorlim, what does their message say?”
“Message reads: Captain Nularu, I regret that our first meeting must be cut short, but a pressing emergency has come up that we must attend to with utmost haste. We have eliminated all superluminal launchers within this system for you and believe your vessel is more then capable of dealing with any remaining particle beam emplacements you may find. Regretfully we do not have time for a proper exchange of gifts, so please except our communications buoy as recompense for our hasty departure. We wish you safe travels and hope your return home is uneventful. Yours, Captain Tikva Theodoras, USS Atlantis.”
“Huh…” Gareli responded. “Thank you, CIC, Wardroom out.” She waited for the comm channel to close and then looked to her XO. “Launch a boat and go check out the buoy. Mr Faramah, I’d like a course plotted to the closest asteroid they visited before they departed. I want departmental status reports within the hour as well. Mr Jaruti, work with CIC and track Atlantis for as long as possible please. I want to give the Planners back home something to think about.”
“Mac, I honestly know barely much more then you do. And what I do know I’m not allowed to tell you. Gods if I could I’d bring you up to speed, but I’m under orders here. So please, for the next few days, I need you to trust me, okay?”
She could feel the concern and worry coming off of her XO as he processed that, but his face told a different story. Determination to get an answer, to get something out of Tikva so he could be a good first officer. His concern was about not getting anything, being in the dark and not being able to support his captain.
“Okay Cap, I’ll trust you, but I want you to promise me if anything changes, you bring me up to speed before anyone else.”
“Literally have orders saying I can’t do that. Also have orders saying I can’t show you those orders, because they contain things I can’t let you see.” She was feeling the frustration of juggling all of this and it was evident in her voice and her gesticulations.
“Alright, what do you need me to do then right now?”
“We’re heading for a star system five days at current speed. I want you to make sure Engineering has everything they need to maintain speed. I’ll also be sending you some orders for technical modifications, when I know what they are, that will need to be implemented immediately and quickly.”
“And all without telling the crew why?” he followed up.
“You got it,” she responded, shrugged her shoulders and looked at him apologetically. “Sorry Mac, but situations like this is what great XOs are for.”
“I’ll want that in writing,” he said, finding the small moment of levity in all of this, the smile coming naturally to his face as he stood. “I’ll get right on sorting a few things out. Guess you’ve got some homework? Do you want me to get chef to bring you something up from all the hard work she’s done?”
“Oh, go on,” she responded and then waited for him to exit her office. A moment, then another, then she finally let out a breath and entered in a key combination to lock her door, tired of voicing her command codes.
A single padd caught her attention, peaking out from under the couch. Momentarily it was in hand, its contents reviewed and then tossed to land gently on her desk, all signs of her earlier contained tantrum eliminated. Unconsciously she tugged on her tunic, making herself presentable before uttering the phrase that would ruin the rest of her evening.
“Computer, active Emergency Command Hologram.”