“Just what the hell are they doing?” Gaeda asked as he sat forward in his seat, an elbow on his knee and chin on his fist.
The Martian Thorn had been following the USS Cavelo for over a day now, following a rather strict regime of emission control while under cloak and with the skill of Trid at the helm, sitting right in the patrol ship’s warp wake to further help the cloaking device along.
Unlike back in the day with the Vondem Thorn, Martian’s cloaking device was several generations newer and in much, much better condition. It wasn’t just capable of letting them skulk about following merchants for the odd jump scare, it was KDF quality meant for jump scaring Starfleet ships.
Maybe not those fancy pancy fleet command ships with the new ship smell and uniform starch dispensers throughout the ship, but certainly good enough for older California-clas starships.
But right now, the Cavelo was proceeding into an empty nondescript red-dwarf system at full impulse, uncaring seemingly for anyone else around them, not that there was. There were a few blasted terrestrial worlds in this system, none of them at first scan containing anything even remotely worthwhile and all of them so close to the central star and its volatility to make any sort of exploitation prohibitively costly.
But for some reason the Starfleet patrol craft was heading for one of the planets like a bat out of hell.
“Wish I knew,” Matt Horne at Tactical said. “But she’s not being shy with active scanners, though only at Delta,” he continued, using the shortened catalogue designation for the not named planet. “We’re getting some return scatter. If anyone was down there, they’d not be having children for how intense they’re scanning that dirt ball.”
“Huh,” Gaeda responded, then sat back. “We’re still an hour out from orbit with Delta?”
“Close enough,” said Trid. “But if we get much closer the solar emissions in system might start fouling up the cloak.”
“Then we’ll wait here. All stop, maintain EmCon. We’ll just have to watch like an idle tourist.”
“And here we have,” Matt started with a put-upon upper-class accent, “the ubiquitous California-class starship in its native environment, being a nosy little git and poking around while being a busybody. This one, with its bland grey plumage…”
Gaeda couldn’t keep the smile off his face as his Tactical officer gave everyone the nature documentary that they all needed. And smiled more when he told Orelia what she missed by being asleep and letting her off sider actually be on the bridge.
“Wasn’t Gaeda supposed to be here already?” Sidda asked as she stepped through the hatch to the bridge, Revin in her wake. The romulan woman had been accompanying her more and onto the bridge, but removed herself to the back to simply watch and listen. And to interject as a soothing balm when she needed to.
Orin looked up and started to sign, his fingers a fast blur in Orion Sign which more and more of the crew were picking up. There are no signs the Martian has been here at all. We’re the first ship to arrive in five days since Starfleet ordered all merchant shipping out of the area.
“All merchant shipping out of the area? That’s a border colony of two million people down there,” Sidda said, looking around her bridge for some sort of response.
Unlike so many other border worlds however, Burque III was self-sufficient for the most part. Sure, if they ever wanted to do major development work, they’d likely need Federation assistance, but for the fundamental day to day operations, they could get along just fine without the rest of the Federation. Power was plentiful for things like replicators, they had plenty of arable land for crops, the environment was rather pleasant where the three major cities were built and numerous little townships that sprung up whenever someone decided to ‘go frontier’.
But Burque III served as a decent little transshipment point because of all that. Orbital traffic here usually had three or four freighters loading or unloading, not enough to warrant a full-time traffic management, but enough to warrant a few buoys, an automated notification about flight paths and repercussions for violators of such rules.
And here, now, there was nothing. The buoys had been set to advise all shipping to progress on a very narrow flight path at maximum warp deeper into the Federation via two checkpoints, as if Starfleet was trying to route shipping around something peculiar.
“Any Starfleet ships on sensors?” she asked as she threw herself into her command chair and was rewarded with Orin bringing up a long-range tactical display on the main screen.
USS Cavelo was just on the edge of the Rose’s sensors, essentially standing still wherever it was and whatever it was doing. Another couple of ships were running here or there at high warp, some looking to be attempting to chase down freighters, others escorting convoys that other freighters looked to be running towards. A few larger ships were scattered around inside the advised Red Zones or Transit Exclusions Zones.
“Goddess, that’s what, fifteen ships just on long range scanners? Is that a Romulan warship?” Sidda asked as she pointed at a blip and Orin readjusted the display to show the point of interest. A single romulan starship, Romulan Star Empire to be precise, was running at full speed towards the border from inside the Federation, two Federation starships in hot pursuit. It was too fast for a cloaking device to be of any use and from the speed of the two pursuers, shields were likely to be far, far more useful in the next few hours.
“Christ,” one of the humans on the bridge spoke up as the tactical display updated, showing that the two pursuing vessels were both top of the line cruisers and both pouring on the speed. The interception point was lightyears inside Federation territory. “Someone’s about to start a war.”
“What the fuck is Starfleet thinking?” another spoke and Sidda had to agree. One didn’t throw an Odyssey-class and a Prometheus-class at chasing down a scout unless you wanted it either very dead, or very captured.
“They’re thinking something is important enough to warrant a war,” Sidda said out loud and looked to Orin, who nodded in agreement with her. Then she looked around the bridge. “We’ll stay here, but cloaked for twelve more hours. I want to give Gaeda a chance to show his ass before we go looking for him to bail him out of whatever trouble he’s gotten himself into.”
“Cavelo stopped scanning Delta like it was trying to count it’s individual atoms,” Matt said. “But I don’t think you’ll like why.”
“They spent an hour irradiating a planet, I don’t think I’m going to like anything they’re doing.”
Matt punched up a sensor read he had on the main screen and then highlighted the odd power signature he was seeing. A massive, truly massive gravimetric signature from inside the Cavelo’s magazines. Between 50 and 100 isotons, the best the sensors could make out from passives and at this range. “They’ve built themselves a warhead big enough to crack that dirt ball in half I wager. Looks loaded to.”
Gaeda blinked at the screen a few times, then put two and two together. The exclusion zones, Starfleet corralling ships in places, now this. Something dangerous was up and they were trying to get all the warp capable ships to safe zones, away from the dangers they weren’t bloody well telling people about.
But they must have a reason.
A damn good reason.
A scary reason.
“Christ. Trid, bring us about for Burque, maximum warp right now,” he ordered and threw himself into his command chair.
“Torpedo is armed as per your specification sir,” the officer at tactical said.
Josiah Hu-Williams was a lucky man right now. His second Omega detection in a few days and no one could take over this time. But luckily his mission was to deal with a single molecule in a remote system with no one around. Order a special torpedo built, find the offending bugger and wipe it from existence.
Nice and easy.
“Contact, bearing one eight five mark zero. Range three light minutes. Looks like a ship under cloak going to high warp.”
He knew those pirates had to be about somewhere, just hadn’t expected them to be following him. How the hell did a K’t’inga-class even follow them at warp and not give away its location? Those things were old, dirty, clumsy and stupid as bricks.
Cavelo wasn’t much better though, being a block 1 California, but dammit, she was his.
But it was a problem for another day.
“Right, soft launch the torpedo please. Helm, set source for waypoint Romeo-Romeo-14, warp six and engage once the torpedo is away.”
“Aye sir,” came a chorus of responses and Cavelo went about her destructive duty, keeping space safe for another day.
“Fucking hell Gaeda, you’re late,” Sidda said to her offsider as his face appeared on the viewscreen.
“Sorry boss, got busy keeping tabs on that patrol ship that chased you for a bit. Think I might know what Starfleet is up to.” There was no grin of ‘I know something you don’t know’, but concern and worry as the screen split to display sensor readings from the Thorn earlier in the day.
Suffice to say the results showed a planet, then an almighty explosion and then parts of planet afterwards.
“They blew up a planet? Are they testing weapons out here?”
“I don’t think that’s it boss,” Gaeda said. “Starfleet doesn’t go in for planet cracking. Besides, they’ve got something better anyway. I’ll tell you about those rumours another day, but yah, cracking planets isn’t Starfleet’s normal parlour trick. Something must have them spooked if they’re cracking out weapons that make tricobolt warheads look like firecrackers.”
Those were weapons that Sidda could compare things to, having seen them in action once before, but in their more conventional use as demolition charges, used for cracking asteroids apart in a hurry, or making navigational hazards go away.
“80 isoton explosions…that must be a lot of scared. They can’t be doing this everywhere though, people would notice, if not just the public, then the KDF, the Romulan fleets, Cardies…this is going to get out of control. It’s going to get out of control and someone is going to start shooting.”
Gaeda looked at Sidda as the sensor feed disappeared from the viewscreen, his whole face dominating it once more. “What are you thinking boss?”
“Trying to figure out how to make money out of this and be enough of a scape goat for Starfleet if they need it to stop a war. We can’t do anything anywhere else, but we might be able to stop something with the Romulans if it comes up.”
“Sounding a bit Fleet-like there boss,” Gaeda teased.
“Fuck you,” she snapped back. “Get your ass to Burque now, we’ll regroup and figure out what to do. I’m going to make some calls in the meantime. Maybe mother will answer, but we know a couple of alright mannequins, maybe we can help them.”
“Maybe get another salvage contract out of it,” Gaeda answered. “We’ll pile on the speed, be there in a couple of hours.”
USS Sunshine Coast
Evacuation Convoy BER-9-A
“Captain Sadovu, we’ve got a hail from an IKS Va’thu, clear across the Federation. They’re using a priority code.”
Tisa Sadovu rolled her eyes and looked to her XO, Gervais, then sighed. “Next round it’s my daughter,” she said.
Gervais looked up from his console and smiled. “Va’thu is a KDF reservist ship. I bet it’s some KDF captain calling to verify something before he drags her to the nearest Federation starbase and dumps her on their door step.”
That drew a snot from Tisa, who then raised a hand and waved it for De Santos to put the hail through. And sure enough, just as she thought, the view screen snapped to showing the bridge of a klingon cruiser, not some mothballed little bird of prey, with a full eclectic crew, and her daughter sitting smack in the middle of them all.
At least the Romulan girl wasn’t draped all over Sidda this time. Though, she had to admit, Revin was good looking, but to young for her, and to Romulan. Shaking her head, she rolled those eyes again and looked to Gervais to see his defeated face.
“What do you want Sidda?” she asked. “I’m kind of busy. All of Starfleet is.”
“I want to know why,” came the response after a delay.
“Classified. And no, I’m not going to discuss it with you. This is serious Sidda, stay out of it.”
She waited, then saw the look on Sidda’s face. The delay was intolerable, but subspace had its limits and Sunshine Coast wasn’t equipped for hyperspace like the newest deep space explorers were.
“I’m serious rebenok, stay out of this,” Tisa tried once more with her daughter. She stood and walked forward. “I’m not joking, I’m not even going to get angry. I’m going to tell you – stay out of this. There are captains out there right now with blank checks to do what needs to be done. Don’t be in their way.”
She waited, saw realisation hit Sidda. Theirs was a tense relationship, usually best summed up with resentment, anger and screaming matches. If only her daughter had just listened and more disciplined and not like her disaster of a father. But it seemed that Tisa’s calm approach was at least sinking in how dangerous this was.
“Fucking Starfleet. This is all going to blow up.”
“Likely has rebenok, but I pray it won’t.”
She saw Sidda reach sideways, grab Revin’s hand and squeeze it. Then she saw the ring on Revin’s finger, her own eyes darting and seeing a ring on Sidda’s matching hand. Her eyes narrowed, then she took a breath and relaxed. So, her daughter had finally settled down.
“Stay safe out there rebenok,” she said.
“This isn’t over pozhilaya dama,” Sidda said, then the channel went dead.
Tisa sighed, purposefully dampening the desire to scream at her daughter who she knew, just knew right now was planning something that would get her shot at by someone. “Get me someone, anyone over that side of the Federation. I need to make some calls and let people know just what ship my daughter is totting around in. Gervais, you have the bridge.”
And with that she stalked to her ready room. There had to be something left in that whiskey bottle she kept in there.
Everyone waited till their Captain had left the bridge, then De Santos was the first to speak once the doors to the ready room had closed. “Has our day gone to shit again?”
“Only if the Cap doesn’t get to speak to someone helpful. Hail Sector Command would you De Santos, lets work our way up the 2nd Fleet chain to someone who will know who to talk to over by the Neutral Zone.” And at that Gervais winced, showing his age at still calling the area the Neutral Zone. “You know what I meant,” he said glaring at De Santos. “And be quick about it or when the Cap comes after me, I’m passing it along.”