“They’re not responding sir.” Ensign Larsen said with one finger pressing against his earpiece.
Burton rolled his eyes at the news; he wasn’t expecting the oncoming ships to respond to their hails. He looked to Levesque who also shared the same annoyed expression on her face. “Open a channel.” He ordered after looking back at the relief communications officer.
Larsen nodded to show his acceptance of his orders and tapped at the communications console. A second later he signalled the channel was open.
“Approaching Malurian and Nausicaan ships, this is Capt-” He paused as he quickly corrected himself, “Commodore Lloyd Burton of the Earth starship Challenger in command of this joint Earth-Andorian task force. Your ships have committed acts of aggression against the Andorian Empire and I will not permit your vessels to enter the Docana system. Stand down immediately or face the consequence.”
Several seconds passed and there was no response. They all knew where this was heading. Burton, who was sitting in his chair and appeared extremely composed in such a tense situation, looked over to the armoury station. “Ensign, fire several warning shots off their port bow from our phase cannons.”
“Aye sir.” Cortez replied as she locked on to her targets.
Challenger’s phase cannons all deployed; the forward ventral cannons came to life as four shots were fired and missed the enemy ships by only a few metres. The Malurian ship and Nausicaan raiders continued with their course though.
“They’re locking their weapons on us.” Levesque announced after Cortez had followed her orders.
“Ensign Larsen, open a channel to the fleet.” Burton ordered next. The moment the signal went off proving the channel was open Burton spoke up again. “Burton to the fleet break formation and engage your targets,” He paused before adding: “Good luck!” He gestured for Larsen to close the channel, “Okay everyone let’s show them we mean business. Move us in with our support ships and fire at will until the Malurian ship is disabled.”
Challenger flew straight on against the enemy ships with two Kumari-class Andorian battleships joining them while the other Andorian ships broke formation to engage the Nausicaan raiders. The plan had been to disable the Malurians and Nausicaans and hopefully the message would get back to the others that were in orbit of Docana that the joint task force meant business.
Cortez’s fingers flew across the weapons controls as she locked on to the Malurian ship, their first objective was to take out their energy shields. Her wedding ring sparkled over the keyboard and for a moment she thought of her late wife, Sasha. For a moment she wondered if she would be proud of the work she had accomplished so far. Rachele knew that Sasha was out there looking out for her. She missed her so much. Snapping out of the random thought, she placed her attention back to her firing solution. She fired a number of shots from the forward phase cannons followed by a small barrage of four photonic torpedoes as Challenger flew past them being flanked by their Andorian allies who were also firing. The Malurian ship began to return fire and hit all three ships from its numerous disruptor banks.
“Bring us back around,” Burton commanded Hathaway who was keeping her hands tightly gripped around the helm controls as she piloted the ship in between the fight. “Status of their shields?” He asked Cortez.
Cortez read the sensor readouts before calling out, “They’re at sixty-two percent.”
“Do the same again, Ensign.” Burton told her. “Concentrate a full blast from all the cannons on the same location we hit last time.”
Hathaway moved Challenger around on her belly before setting her back on a similar course as before, the Andorian battleships staying close to her. As they manoeuvred the Malurian ship continued to open fire, scoring a number of hits against the allied vessels.
“Hull plating at seventy-six percent.” Levesque shouted over the commotion as the ship was hit again.
Cortez opened fire once more, this time only using the phase cannons; she wanted to score as many hits as she could. She programmed them all to keep on firing the same part of the ship she had hit on their first pass. Keeping her concentration tight she could feel her fingertips starting to hurt from the constant moving they were doing across her keyboard. She needed to make each hit count. Fortunately for them the Andorians were being a bit heavier handily and pummelled the Malurian ship with a barrage of torpedoes. The multiple bombardments were enough to knock out the Malurian ship’s energy shields and cause hull damage. Quickly Cortez scanned the ship to learn the location of its weapons so she could take them out. However, before she could lock on, the ship rocked hard and she lost her concentration on her work.
“Sir, one of the Nausicaan ships has been destroyed!” Levesque announced.
“What?!” Burton replied in disbelief. He got up from his chair and moved himself to stand behind her to see what she was seeing from the sensors.
“The Andorians had knocked their shields down and destroyed it with a salvo of torpedoes. It didn’t stand a chance.” Levesque reported.
“I told them to shoot to disable it!” Burton said angrily, he knew they were feeling vengeful for what happened in the minefield and the fact the colony had fallen but they didn’t need to do this, especially if they were ever able to find a peaceful solution to resolve this conflict.
Cortez was about to fire the ship’s phase cannons at her target when her sensors registered a similar attack coming from the Andorian ships that had no target now, they were all aiming at her target of the Malurian ship. “Sir we need to move out of the blast radius now, the Andorians ships are now concentrating all of their fire on the Malurian ship!”
Cursing under his breath, Burton moved back to stand in front of his chair as he yelled out his next round of orders. “Miss Hathaway, move us out of range, full impulse! And Mister Larsen, inform the Andorian ships to stand down!”
Hathaway did as she was told and moved Challenger away from the fighting as the last remaining Nausicaan ship shared its sister-ship’s death. Eventually the Malurian ships succumbed to a similar fate. The entire bridge crew observed in silence as the Andorians mopped up the mess of their battle.
“Sir the Andorians are responding to us however it isn’t from their ship. We have an incoming signal from Andoria; Chancellor Margerit wishes to speak with you.” Larsen stated.
Everyone could see how fuming angry their commanding officer was. “Transfer the call to my office.” He replied, “Commander Levesque you’re with me, Ensign Cortez the bridge is yours.” He finished as he made his way to his ready room.
“Madam Chancellor, this is completely outrageous!” Burton almost screamed at his desk monitor. He stood before it with Levesque at his side. “You placed me in command of this task force; I can’t fulfil that responsibility if those I lead do not follow my orders!”
The Andorian leader raised her hand to halt Burton from protesting any more. “I am sorry Commodore but Commander Thyss had informed me of what was happening and gave me a direct live feed. I ordered him to destroy those ships. I will not have any form of mercy handed to those that invade Andorian soil and butcher my people.”
“Chancellor with respect, we share our deepest sympathies with you at the tragedies that have happened at Docana, but you can’t expect us to work together if you undermined our operations in such a manner.” Levesque interjected. She had noticed how furious Burton was getting and took the chance to add in her two cents to the conversation.
“They needed to understand what it was like to lose people.” Margerit replied as she justified her position.
“On my world we have a saying, an eye for an eye, when it comes to revenge and that’s exactly what has happened here.” Burton explained after a second trying to cool off. “Madam Chancellor I echo my First Officer’s words when we say we understand how angry you are at what has happened nevertheless if you want us to command this task force and to help rescue your people then things need to be done our way. We were hoping to capture those ships to gain possible valuable intelligence that will help us in liberating Docana. Now we won’t have that chance. It could also have helped us in finding a peaceful solution to this mess.”
“Unfortunately, you both also need to understand that a clear message needs to be sent to the Malurians and Nausicaans. The Andorian Empire does not roll over when it is attacked. We strike back!” Margerit explained. “That said, I give you my word now that you are in complete command of that task force.”
Burton considered her words for a moment. “Chancellor, if we find anything that changes that position, I promise you that I will order all Starfleet forces in the area to pull out of Andorian territory and I will advise President Littlejohn of your actions. I’m pretty certain she will be joined by the others in the Coalition in condemning them.”
“Do not threaten me Commodore.” Margerit said. “I will apologise to you for my actions. I hope you can understand I feel powerless in my inability to do anything from where I am. As a former general I’m more used to being on the frontlines giving out the orders.”
“Then trust me to get the job done Chancellor.” Burton returned with.
She considered his words for a second. “Very well Commodore.” She then closed the channel and Burton turned to face Levesque. “Get a message to Admiral Gardner telling him what has happened and to Ambassador Agos as well.”
“What happens if the Andorians intercept them?” Levesque countered back with.
“Let them, it shows them we’re not going to be pushed around.” Burton returned as he led them both out of his ready room and back on to the bridge.
He went back to his chair and as he sat down, he looked at his pilot. “Miss Hathaway lay a course back to the rest of the task force, full impulse.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have finally arrived at our destination, thank you for flying with Conrad Airways!” Conrad said in an almost feminine voice after Shuttlepod One had landed on the asteroid that contained the minefield they were going after.
Stanton and Hennessey chuckled at the pilot’s humour while they finished off putting the last of the EVA suits on. T’Plau only raised her eyebrow in response to what Conrad had said as she too continued with putting her EVA suit on.
Conrad at this time had spun around in his chair and placed his helmet on, not wanting to be sucked out into space when they opened the hatched and depressurised the cabin. “How long do you think it will take?”
“That is something we are unable to estimate yet Ensign.” T’Plau said as she locked her helmet in placed and activated the gas tanks on her back so she could breath.
“Don’t worry Jack we’ll call you when we know.” Stanton said as he copied T’Plau’s actions.
After checking each other’s EVA suits the three officers departed from the small craft with Conrad wishing them luck as they left him behind. Slowly they bounced across the large rocky surface towards their target.
“I’m starting to regret agreeing to this.” Stanton remarked.
“Are you not comfortable Commander?” T’Plau asked as she took out her scanner to ensure they were on the right path.
“Let’s say I never enjoyed the training wearing these suits.” He grumbled as they went past several small craters.
“Can’t say it bothered me too much.” Hennessey added. “The only thing that bothered me was doing zero-g training underwater. I was more worried about drowning and suffocating in the void of space.”
“That makes two of us Ned.” Stanton replied with an easy chuckle.
Soon enough they saw their prize. Sat alone with four stabilising legs holding it up was the mine they were going to diffuse and use to take control of the minefield. Slowly they approached it and were all scanning it.
“Hmm.” Hennessey said as he studied the inscription on the side of the mine. “Well that’s very interesting.” He pointed out.
“What have you found Ensign?” T’Plau said as she looked up from what her Vulcan designed scanner was telling her.
“Come take a look at these markings.” He said pointing to them.
T’Plau and Stanton gracefully moved closer to see what he had been scrutinising.
“What’s wrong?” Stanton probed, baffled at trying to work out what the linguist was getting at.
“That’s neither Malurian nor Nausicaan writing.” Hennessey mentioned.
“Well what is it?” Stanton asked.
“Romulan.” T’Plau said.
“Indeed.” Hennessey said in agreement.
All three of them stood up straight and looked at the mine now with dread.
“It makes sense now.” Stanton said. “The reason why we saw the Romulans with the Malurian ship.”
“Your logic is correct Commander.” T’Plau stated. “The evidence to date clearly shows the Romulans are fully involved in this. I had pondered how either the Malurians or Nausicaans could mine the entire system without being detected by the Andorians.”
“The Romulans possess stealth like technology, don’t they?” Stanton asked her.
She nodded. “Indeed, when Captain Archer dealt with them last year and a couple of years ago they showed impressive technology that could hide their vessels as well as an entire minefield.”
“Well then it seems then our mission’s urgency has increased.” Hennessey stated. “If the Romulans succeed in whatever their planning to do with this system then it will only cause more trouble for the Andorians as well as the other worlds in the Coalition.”
“A logical assumption.” T’Plau agreed.
“We’ve got three detonation matrixes to disable before we can access the communication relays.” Stanton said, looking up from his scanner. “Let’s get started.” He said before tapping the button on his chest to open a channel. “Stanton to Shuttlepod One.”
“Go ahead Commander.” Conrad’s voice crackled over their earpieces.
“Jack, we’ve discovered that the mine is Romulan in origin.” He said into the inbuilt microphone in his suit.
“Did you say Romulan sir?” Conrad repeated back.
“Yes, I did,” Stanton paused. “Jack, if we don’t make it back for whatever reason I want you to get off this rock quickly and tell Challenger what we’ve discovered about the Romulans. Do you understand my orders Ensign?”
Conrad didn’t answer at first. “Yes sir.”
“Good, we’ll keep you posted with updates. Stanton out.” And he tapped his chest button again and closed the channel. “Ready Sub Commander?” He asked T’Plau.
“Ready.” She flatly said with her tools in her hand to begin. “Please keep a close eye on the scanners.”
“Will do.” Stanton said. He looked to the communication officer. “Ned, you can pass up the tools.”
“Understood sir.” He replied as he knelt down to the side of T’Plau toolkit, poised ready to hand her up anything she wanted.
Steadily T’Plau approached the explosive device and began to take out the first part.
Secondmoon, Fesoan Lor’veln Year 463
Monday, April 27th, 2155
Mount Jaq, Docana
Thom had never imagined himself climbing what felt like the tallest mountain on the planet. Nevertheless, he eventually reached his destination. Once he got to the top, he took off his backpack and turned a full three-hundred and sixty degrees to take in the impressive view before him. From west he could see the rest of the large woodland areas and the caves where the colonists were hiding in and to the east he could see the burnt out remains of Lor’den. A massive crater sat in the middle of the once proud Andorian settlement. Smoke continued to rise from where the Malurians and Nausicaans had detonated a nuclear warhead. There weren’t many buildings left standing, large chunks had been taken out of all of them and none of them had any of their windows. The thermo-nuclear blast had destroyed the moment it had happened. The sight made Thom feel sick inside, the idea that someone had the nerve to do that to others completely befuddled him. Yes, he was an officer in the Andorian military, but he never joined to aid in the conquest of another race. That was one thing he vowed never to let happen, he would use every ounce and his last breath to ensure that the Andorian people would never become a conquered nation. The Andorian Empire had a lot to offer the galaxy and it was proving that right now by joining the Coalition. That was something that Thom was pleased with. He firmly believed that they needed to ally themselves with others to remain strong and was still proud to have voted for Chancellor Margerit a couple of months ago. She was the woman that was going to lead their people to victory.
Snapping out of his thoughts he bent down to take out what was in his rucksack and to carry out what he was here to do. Pulling out a large computer device he sat on the rock edge and switched the device on. He pressed a few more buttons and it activated and low whirring noise could be heard coming from it. A minute later his antenna twitched. They were reacting to sensing someone or something coming through the bushes from where he had just come from. He looked up and saw the familiar face of Commander Anthi approaching him with two others.
“How’s it going Lieutenant?” She asked, clutching a disruptor rifle to her hip.
“I’ve been able to clear up the EM disruption we were dealing with, I’m attempting to hitch on to the Malurian frequencies, so we’re not detected.” He answered while carrying on with his work.
“Understood, let me know when you’re done.” She responded and turned to the other two Andorian men with her. “You two take up points and keep a watch out for any enemy troops.” They nodded and left her side in opposite directions. It was very unlikely that they would encounter any Malurians or Nausicaans this far up in the mountains. Since their little raid on the remains of their outpost last night they had been able to gather valuable intelligence on the Malurians and Nausicaans. They had discovered that the Malurians were deploying the most troops on the ground compared to the Nausicaans who were rarely seen. They were also fortifying their positions in the locations they had planned to use as mining areas. They weren’t bothered in engaging those that had fled from the settlements, but their security was tight and those that they had taken as prisoners were being forced in to slavery. Commander Anthi knelt down behind a huge rock and checked the power cells of her rifle one more time. She looked over to where Thom sat; fiddling with the communication device they had recovered last night. He too was covering behind some rocks as he worked. The last three days she had come to trust the young man with his suggestions in dealing with their circumstances. If they got out of this mess, she would do whatever it took to ensure he got a promotion and a posting of his choice.
“Got it!” He declared with a smug expression as the machine in his hands beeped a few times.
Anthi crawled over to him and plonked herself next to him to see his achievement. “Well done Lieutenant.” She praised.
“I’ve got a connection with the northern pole’s satellite. It seems to be fully operational and the only one left in the network.” He reported as he brought up the telemetry coming from it.
“Try and see if you can download everything it’s recorded since the attack.” Anthi ordered.
“Already on it.” Thom replied as his hands danced quickly over the data-tablet he had connected to the communication array. He began reading what the satellite had logged. “As we imagined Commander, every settlement was hit with nuclear warheads and they’ve got ships all in orbit of the planet.”
“Okay,” Anthi remarked as she considered the information. “Can you get a scan of the entire star system? See if there are any friendly ships out there?”
Thom did as he was told and waited for the results to come back in. “The Malurians and Nausicaans have taken up an equatorial orbit of the planet, it must be the reason why they haven’t picked off this satellite. I suggest once we’ve got all the information, we need to place it in standby mode to ensure they don’t detect it. We may need it for later use.”
Anthi agreed with his idea. “Definitely. We may need to use it later if the Guard have yet been able to assemble a task force to help retake the planet.” Deep down she was hoping the homeworld had not forgotten them and she knew by looking at Thom he was thinking the same. “We’ll get out of here Thom; I promise you that.”
He smiled to show his courage. “Without a doubt, Commander.” His tablet beeped again at him and he looked back down at the results. “Long range sensors are picking up Andorian and Earth ships sitting on the far edge of the system.”
“That’s good news, but why aren’t they here?” Anthi rhetorically asked, she knew the satellite had its limits and there was no way they could work out why the task force was waiting. “Can we get a signal out to them?”
Thom hit a few buttons, bringing up the communication protocols. “It’s going to be tricky to conceal the signal and I’m not entirely sure it will make it all the way to them.”
“Let’s at least give it a try.” Anthi said.
He nodded again and worked for a little while before speaking up. “Ready, what shall I say?”
“Something along the lines of there are survivors of the attack, requesting assistance in liberating the planet and an ETA on when they can help.” Anthi said she was trying to think of things that would be helpful to the fleet without revealing too much in case the enemy got their hands on their message.
Thom worked on the message; he encrypted it using a Human code he had learnt from Scor. He thought that it was possible the Malurian or Nausicaans had gotten their hands on Andorian encryption procedures so using an Earth one made sense when there were Starfleet ships in the task force. Thinking of Scor he shrank at the loss of his comrade. He had died instantly when the base had been attacked when his station had exploded in front of him. The image of his dead expression was still itched on the inside of Thom’s nightmares. Finally, he completed his work and said, “Done.”
“Now we wait.” Commander Anthi spoke as they both looked out at the landscape before them.
Jack had re-pressurised the cabin of the shuttlepod so he could sit in it without having to wear his helmet. The landing party were still busy working on the Romulan mine. He wasn’t surprised that the mines were of Romulan origin, especially as they had detected the Romulan ship meeting secretly with the Malurians earlier on in the day. He was sitting still in the pilot’s chair; slowly he swung his chair from side to side due to his boredom. He had been sitting waiting for over three hours now. Starting to drum his fingers on the controls before him, Jack gave out a huge sigh in misery. The computer beside him bleeped at him and instantly he turned his attention to the screen. A puzzled expression unfolded on his face as the computer announced that the Shuttlepod’s communication receiver was downloading a message and was in the process of decrypting it. Instantly he tried to work out where it was coming from. There was no way Captain Burton or any of the other Starfleet captains would break radio silence. They knew how critical their mission was in succeeding by remaining quiet. Once the results were in, he was shocked to discover it came from the direction of Docana. Eventually the message appeared, and he read it. Automatically he pressed the button to his side to call Commander Stanton.
“Shuttlepod One to Commander Stanton.” He said.
Stanton’s voice came through the speakers. “Go ahead Jack.”
“Sir, we’ve just picked up an encrypted message from Docana.” He reported.
“What?” Stanton said, sharing in the pilot’s surprise at such a thing happening.
Conrad continued to explain what had happened. “It was secured by using Starfleet encryption protocols sir. I can’t get an exact spot from where it came from, but the message reads that there are survivors from the attack. They want to know when we are going to help them. Shall I respond?”
“Hold on Jack, we need to complete our work here. We’re almost done and once we are close enough, I’ll send Ned back to begin composing a message.” Stanton replied.
“Understood sir.” Conrad said, feeling a bit deflated he had to wait. “How much more do you have to do?”
“We’ve already deactivated the arming triggers; we’re now working on accessing the communications array. Standby.” Stanton said and then he closed the channel.
Jack looked back at the message. “Just hold out a bit longer, we’re coming.” He whispered to the screen, hoping that whoever sent it was able to wait for them.