USS Arcturus – First Officer’s Office
Captain Rakan smoothed down a crease in her trousers in performative boredom as Commander Walker gave an impassioned plea for Seth Galbraith, the ship’s social sciences officer, to be released from the brig. A spotless record had been ruined, when Captain Lancaster had tossed him there pending a court-martial for a litany of serious charges after being caught sabotaging the ship’s main phasers. Whatever your feelings about the nature of their mission and the captain’s inability to disclose the full details, that level of resistance was clearly mutiny, and Rakan would have done the same thing in the captain’s position.
“You’re not even listening, are you?” Walker accused, the young human’s forehead creasing as he pointed at her.
“You caught me,” Rakan replied, rolling her eyes. She’d never seen Walker so close to apoplexy, which was somewhat amusing; as an exologist he should have known better than to display such naked emotion to a Cardassian. “What do you want me to say? Galbraith’s ideology is admirable, but that doesn’t excuse what is unequivocally an act of mutiny. Just be thankful we’re not on a Cardassian ship.”
“Surely the extenuating circumstances we find ourselves in are grounds for some grace?” Walker replied. “In the brig, he is a wasted resource while his department sifts through all of the data the captain has been so insistent on us deciphering.”
“You’re right. He’s a wasted resource, and the only person we have to blame for that is Seth Galbraith. Admiral Hayden is aware of the situation and has taken no action, ergo, the captain’s decision has been upheld,” Rakan replied, waving her hand. “If you’re going to resign in protest, please dispense with all of this foreplay and get it over with. I have a ship to run.”
Walker blushed. “No, that’s not my intent,” he replied.
“Good. I will also refrain from mentioning to the captain that you came to me with this while he was off of the ship,” the Cardassian replied, with a thin smile, which made Walker’s eyes get wider for a split second. “I don’t like being left in the dark, either, but neither of us are new to this game: Starfleet classifies things this heavily so rarely that it has to be something extremely threatening to warrant it.”
The science officer nodded. “Evidently,” he replied, putting his hands behind his back.
“Have your people on the surface given any indication of how much longer this will take?” Rakan asked.
“They have so far been unable to give an estimate, given that we’re not entirely sure what ‘success’ looks like in this situation. Tkon technology is, for want of a better word, enigmatic,” Walker replied, clasping his hands behind his back.
“Yes, that we will only ‘know it when we see it’ is not particularly comforting when it comes to technology from a race rumored to have had the capability to move stars,” Rakan said, looking the Human up and down for a moment. To stick the knife in a little bit, she was about to ask why the commander thought Captain Lancaster had taken along a mere ensign as his scientific advisor for the away mission and how that made Commander Walker feel when the red alert klaxon sounded.
“Kazon vessels have entered the system. Captain Rakan to the bridge,” came the voice of Commander Alesser.
“Saved by the klaxon, Commander,” Rakan quipped before the two of them scrambled to the bridge.
USS Hokule’a – Lieutenant JG Arturo Hidalgo’s Cabin
Intended for short duration missions of up to a month, the Hokule’a had several large bunkrooms for crewmen, but there were a handful of cabins for senior officers. Lieutenant Hidalgo had never before been considered a senior anything, but he’d been given the run of the small ship’s engine room with the majority of the Arcturus’ engineering staff either working on the surface, preparing for possible combat on the ship itself, or pressed into command of one of the runabouts. The thrill of being in charge had mostly morphed into fear of screwing something up, but getting his cabin ready for a makeshift date with Lieutenant Windsor had been a fine distraction from all of that.
As always, Windsor was exactly on time, looking handsome in perfect regulation fashion, like he’d been poured into his uniform. Hidalgo pulled him by the hand into the cabin, about equally split between wanting him not to be seen in the corridor and wanting to show off his handiwork.
“What’s all this?” Windsor asked, looking specifically at the white sheet that had been stretched taught over the bulkhead opposite the door.
“Did you forget I said that I had a surprise for you?” Hidalgo asked, crossing his arms.
“No, but I thought that just meant I was going to get lucky,” Windsor said with a chuckle.
“That wouldn’t be much of a surprise, would it?”
Hidalgo pulled him over to the small desk next to the bunk, which had a small equipment case. He’d been working on a secret project for Windsor over the past several weeks, ever since they’d agreed that they were, in fact, dating. It was a convenient way of focusing his wandering mind to task that would keep him too occupied to daydream, but now that he was done he was anxious for Windsor to like it.
“Well, I saw the movie posters you have in your quarters, and you’ve talked about old Hollywood a few times, so I thought… Well, maybe you’d like your very own projector,” Hidalgo explained, unclipping the latches that held the cover on and then pulling it off to reveal a functional film projector. “I made it myself.”
Windsor beamed, not being one to easily conceal his emotions.
“Wow, Arturo? You really made this? That’s incredible. I love it,” Windsor replied, pulling him in for a hug.
“Yeah, it’s machined, not replicated. Well, a few things came from the ship’s stores, but the case and the mechanics didn’t. The light source is a holodiode, so it can also play a film or things directly from the library computer,” he explained, grinning ear to ear that the present was being well-received.
“What’s the occasion?”
“No occasion. Just… you plan all of our dates, and I wanted to show you that I appreciated it,” Hidalgo replied, feeling himself blushing. “Can we stop talking now and try it out?” he suggested, having absorbed just enough praise to want to move on to the part of the evening where he could not have to talk about his feelings anymore.
Hidalgo had built the reel-to-reel projector with an integrated tripod. So, once they had it set up next to the door, they managed to find a semi-comfortable position on the too-small bunk to sit together with a bowl of popcorn to watch the 1953 version of War of the Worlds.
“So, is being first officer everything you ever hoped for?” Hidalgo asked.
“A little stressful. Lieutenant Commander Selon—“the captain”—is pretty demanding, even for a Vulcan,” Windsor replied. “But… honestly? It’s awesome. I’ve sat in the chair so many times today.”
“You’re in command of the Arcturus so often, Nate. Isn’t this a step down,” Hidalgo reminded him.
“I have the bridge pretty often, but that’s not ‘being in command,’” Windsor corrected. “I’m not really in command here either. But it still just feels different. How’s being Chief Engineering Officer?”
Hidalgo chuckled. “Pretty awesome. A little stressful,” he repeated. “I’ll be happy to be back on the ship, though. The real one.”
“You and me both. I fit into the bed, there,” the taller man replied. “Not that I mind the tight quarters at this particular moment.”
“Red Alert. All hands to battle stations,” came the alert over the comm just before they could kiss.
Diplomatic Launch Da Jiao, Plaza of the Ancients, Eta Torrensis IV
The shield dome flashed with light every few seconds when the snow had first started, but after a few hours it had been completely covered, blotting out the daylight and starting to harden into a solid surface. It was such an unusual phenomenon that Lieutenant Commander Van Dorland hadn’t thought to install much in the way of surface lighting on their initial explorations of the surface, so he’d had to fabricate a number of illumination systems to maintain operational security.
Knowing that they’d be trapped on the surface for the foreseeable future, Van Dorland had followed Lancaster’s orders and sent the majority of the engineers from his team back to the ship. It was eerily quiet, with the shield and the snow blocking the wind. Even from inside the Da Jiao, there had been the subtle vibrations of the planet’s atmosphere curling around the saucer-shaped craft, and its absence was making his skin crawl.
“Lancaster to Van Dorland,” the engineer’s badge relayed with a chirp.
“Go ahead, sir.”
“What’s the status of our defenses?”
“Things are holding just fine. I’ve run a few simulations to see what the result of a few more days worth of snow would do, and there’s no risk to the shield. The computer predicts that it will be packed down into an ice dome within a few hours.”
“Very well. I assume you’ve come up with a solution to get us back out, as well?”
Van Dorland chuckled. “That was the first simulation. I believe that if we deactivate the shield, the dome will be able to maintain structural integrity for quite a while, unless its subjected to external forces. I’ve also developed a program that should be able to use the shield emitters to melt the dome within a few hours,” he replied.
“Figure out what it would take to extricate the Da Jiao at short notice, should we need it. I have no idea what will happen when we complete our mission,” Lancaster ordered.
“Under—,” Van Dorland started, before the red alert klaxon sounded.
Sensor data from the Arcturus began pouring in. Kazon ships had entered the system.
“Sir, we’ve just received word that enemy ships are on approach.”
Lancaster cursed on the other end. “Let’s hope this team works better under pressure, then.”
USS Arcturus, Combat Information Center
Buried deep within the saucer section, the Combat Information Center had hardlink connections to both of the ship’s main computer cores and the sophisticated long-range communications array that was a signature feature of Odyssey-class starships. Moments after red alert was declared, Admiral Hayden walked aft through the secure corridor that connected her office suite on the leading edge of the saucer to the heart of her staff’s operations. Lieutenant Robinson was following close at her heels, his responsibility for her personal safety manifesting in overbearing anxiety.
“Clarity is secure in the CIC,” Robinson reported over the comm, as he gestured to the quartet of armed security officers who served as the last line of defense inside the suite itself.
“I must be the most secure woman in the galaxy who’s not actually incarcerated,” the Admiral quipped.
“Can’t take any chances, ma’am,” the tall lieutenant reminded her, his blue eyes scanning the circular room as if a Kazon agent were about to jump out from among the dozen or so intelligence analysts that staffed the sensor and communications stations there.
“Out of curiosity, what is your codename?” the admiral asked, as they moved towards the focal point of the room, a large tabletop display showcasing a two-dimensional map of the surrounding sector on its surface and projecting a real-time holographic display of the local conditions above it.
“Goldenrod,” Robinson admitted.
That scanned, Hayden thought, glancing at the young man’s wavy blond hair which had been tamed into a perfect, physics-defying coiff. Seeming to sense the rather obvious connection himself, Robinson reached up to unnecessarily straighten his already-perfect hair.
“What about his?” she asked, as Lieutenant Commander Voral, her Chief Strategic Operations Officer.
“Logic, of course,” the lieutenant reported, smirking.
“How apposite, for both of you,” Hayden said. “Tactical analysis, Mr. Voral?” she asked the Vulcan.
“Based on reports our other assets, this is the entirety of the remaining Kazon-Reloramar vessels that Captain Lancaster has not yet destroyed,” Voral replied, with an arched eyebrow. “Three carriers, eleven raiders, and twenty-three fighters are on a direct intercept course. The number of fighters is likely to increase when the carriers reach strike range. Given the secrecy of our true mission, the Kazon’s motivations likely remain the same as before: to destroy us and seize our technology.”
Hayden nodded. “I see no reason to disagree with that assessment, Commander. And the balance of forces?”
“With the Arcturus, our support vessel, twelve Type-11 shuttles, two Orion-class scouts, and nine runabouts, our forces are evenly matched for the time being,” Voral noted, glancing at Robinson, whom he obviously blamed for putting the tenth runabout out of commission. “It will be difficult to both keep the ship between the planet and the carriers and to avoid their forward firing arcs, however.”
“We will need to contain them and bog them down in knife-fight combat to make maximum use of our reinforcements. There’s no room here for a stand-off or a draw,” Hayden replied.
Despite their technological superiority, the blue dots on the map above the table were certainly outnumbered by the red ones; there was no telling what tactics the Kazon might use, as inflamed as they were from their earlier interactions with the Arcturus. If there was any way that she could avoid this fight, Hayden would take it.
“Open a general hail,” the admiral ordered.
“Attention Kazon vessels. This is Admiral Elizabeth Hayden of the United Federation of Planets. I implore you to turn back now, before more blood is shed in this pointless conflict. We have proven time and again that we are more than capable of defending ourselves, and we will do so again if pressed. I am willing to provide water purification technology that would increase your strategic position significantly, if your maje is willing to withdraw permanently from this system.”
“The lead ship is responding, Admiral.”
Hayden nodded, and a screen was projected in place of the local map, showing the smoky interior of a Kazon bridge with the face of an obviously angry Maje Terridan. Given how covetous of Federation technology the Kazon were, the admiral hoped that dangling some relatively simple and benign equipment in his face would be enough to convince him to leave.
“How very generous, Admiral. You have destroyed my ships and killed my people, but you think this paltry offering will be enough to stop me from destroying you in return? The arrogance!”
“My people have a saying, Maje, that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing more than once and expecting different results. You cannot best us, and I cannot let you have this system, so it’s in your best interests to leave even without this inducement,” Hayden replied.
“I will take your ships and your crew. You will not survive this day,” the Maje replied, before cutting the channel.
“A valiant effort,” Voral replied, putting his hands behind his back. “Though the Kazon have now increased speed. 45 seconds to weapons range”
“I’ve made him angry. Good. Put me through to our ships.”
“Attention all vessels. This is Admiral Hayden speaking. The Kazon are not going to make this easy, but we are holding this planet at all costs. We are not soldiers, but we are Starfleet: we will hold the line here, and keep those ships from getting to the surface. Fourth Fleet, all forward! Small craft, execute attack pattern Double Alpha and keep those fighters off of the Arcturus,” Hayden ordered.
USS Hokule’a – Main Bridge
“Make your heading zero-one-five mark zero-three-zero, full impulse,” Lieutenant Commander Selon ordered from the center seat of the Hokule’a. “Execute.”
One of the Arcturus’s officers of the watch, he had the duty of commanding the ship’s support vessel when it was deployed for duties like this. Ensign Knox-Stanton hadn’t met him before, but he’d been quickly educated on how little leeway the Vulcan was willing to give on anything.
“Aye, Captain,” Knox-Stanton replied, tapping commands into the helm that brought the ship’s engines online and took them rocketing away from the planet towards the Kazon vessels.
At that speed, they were within weapons range in seconds, and the Kazon attempted to lock onto them with their blue-white energy weapons, missing them thanks to the speed and small size of the Hokule’a. Knox-Stanton engaged in manual defensive countermeasures, rolling the ship to avoid further targeting while maintaining the ship’s general heading.
“Target the carrier to starboard and fire pulse phaser cannons,” Selon ordered to Lieutenant Windsor at the tactical station.
Knox-Stanton saw the brilliant gold bursts on the view screen as they lashed out at the much larger ships. The runabouts and shuttles were in dogfights with the smaller Kazon ships already, but only the Hokule’a and Arcturus would be able to stand a real chance against their three carriers. He had only been in one real battle before—pitting the runabout Ausable off against a Kazon raider—and fear crept through him even as he tried to stay focused.
“We are being targeted, sir,” Windsor reported.
“By which ship?”
“All three carriers,” Windsor replied, prompting Knox-Stanton to look back in disbelief.
“Evasive maneuvers. Get us close enough to avoid their targeting systems, Ensign,” Selon ordered.
Knox-Stanton did his best, using the ship’s powerful thrusters to send it through erratic movements as they got closer. Their own weapons continued to pepper the surface of the Kazon vessel, but with the attention of all three carriers on them, they were trapped in a crossfire. The ship rocked, taking blasts from multiple sides. The shield grid began to fluctuate. He saw the incoming torpedo and attempted to alter course, but it was too late. There was a tremendous explosion, and then nothing.
Eta Torrensis IV, Museum of the Ancients
Thankfully, if Captain Lancaster was getting updates about the battle raging on in orbit, he wasn’t relaying them to his team. The last thing Belvedere needed as he worked feverishly to try to interface between Lieutenant Galan’s translations, Commander Sunvair’s calculations, and the captain’s technical machinations was to think about his friends up above. They had delved deeply into the code of the artifact, and were essentially having to perform a manual software update on a computer that was many thousands of years old, and it felt like they were making progress, but it was hard to be sure.In any other circumstance, it would be exciting—getting to get down in the trenches with the senior officers to solve a science mystery—but Belvedere was past excited all the way to terrified.
“The subspace matrix is now calibrated correctly, as far as my instruments can detect,” Commander Sunvair announced, as she circled the white pillar with her tricorder open.
“The system should now automatically connect with the rest of the network,” Galan said, looking up from his PADD with a frown. “I see no other indication that additional steps are required.”
“Perhaps the trigger is physical?” Belvedere suggested.
They’d taken a few panels off of the side of the machine with great difficulty to get to the complex crystalline circuitry within, but nothing looked immediately like a ‘reset’ switch. The Tkon were so evolved that they didn’t need big red buttons, apparently.
“We could try cycling the power,” Sunvair suggested.
“That may override the changes we’ve been making,” Galan remind him.
While the Vulcan and Romulus were discussing options, the captain let out a noise of slight frustration and kicked the base of the pillar, a section that they had identified as being purely structural and likely part of the mounting that the builders of the museum had made not the Tkon themselves. There was a strange whirring noise and then the displays on the pillar shifted from white to green, making all of their tricorders beep excitedly as it reconnected to the rest of the network.
“Percussive maintenance,” Lancaster muttered, much to the surprise of the team. “Lancaster to Hayden. We’ve finished our mission, as far as I can tell.”
“Understood. We will extract you as soon as we can. The Kazon aren’t taking kindly to our presence here.”
USS Arcturus – Combat Information Center
Lieutenant Robinson saw on the display as the indicator representing a Kazon torpedo intersected with the indicator representing the Hokule’a. The computer initially began providing real-time feedback on the small ship’s hull status and shields, but that data feed cut a second later.
“The Hokule’a has taken a direct hit near their bridge… Communications have been severed,” Robinson reported, heart racing as he thought about the people aboard that ship. He tapped a few controls to focus one of the sensor arrays on them. “Looks like their shields are back up, but there are… at least five fewer life signs than there should be.”
“Understood. Give them what covering support we can, Mr. Voral,” Admiral Hayden replied, looking concerned but projecting the same aura of calm as she always did.
The Hokule’a was angling away from the battle, firing phasers at a pursuing raider until the raider was picked off by a pair of runabouts. For the moment, it looked intact, but anything could change in a battle like the one they were in. The carrier they were targeting had been weakened enough to allow the Arcturus to cripple it with a torpedo salvo, but the other two were still coming in hot.
Robinson didn’t have much of a real role when it came to monitoring the data feeds like the analysts around him did, so he stayed focused on the readings from their support ship. He knew Cody Knox-Stanton was supposed to be at the helm, and they’d become close on their away mission; it was silly to fixate on facts he couldn’t establish for certain, but he couldn’t pull himself away from the information. Then he saw it.
“Ma’am, the Hokule’a has a warp core breach in progress. They’ve got maybe three minutes,” Robinson reported. “Their shields are still engaged, and I can’t raise them.”
“The Hokule’a has altered course. They are headed towards the remaining Kazon carriers,” Voral reported, looking up from the table at the admiral. “Either they are unaware of their engine troubles or they are intending to purposefully denotate their warp core.”
“Pull our ships away from the carriers, and keep trying to raise them. Monitor for escape pods.”
USS Hokule’a – Deck 01
Lieutenant Windor’s head was still ringing as he pulled Lieutenant Commander Selon out of smoking remains of the bridge into the corridor. When he got him into the light, though, his suspicions were confirmed: the Vulcan was dead, covered in his own green blood from an EPS conduit rupture. The direct hit they’d taken had landed in the exact perfect place to cause a power surge and destroy their primary communications array. Lieutenant MacRory had managed to get out on his own, but he was dazed.
“Warning, bridge life support failure in thirty seconds,” the computer chided.
Shielding his face with his arm, Windsor ran back into the bridge, to grab Ensign Knox-Stanton, who was slumped over the helm. The younger man stirred slightly when Windsor put his arm around him, but he was clearly concussed and had burns on his face.
“Computer, seal the bridge and transfer command to engineering, authorization Windsor Alpha-One-Tango-Zero!” Windsor ordered, when he’d dragged the other man out.
“Acknowledged,” the computer replied, the door locking behind him with a clunk.
Once they were in the corridor, Knox-Stanton tried weakly to stand but was clearly too out of it to be much help. MacRory made it to his feet and helped Windsor hold the other man up, as they headed down the hall towards the stairs, which took them down one deck to sickbay, where Dr. Lorona and the EMH were working with several patients already.
“Do what you can to help here. I need to get to engineering,” Windsor said, leaving the security officer with their helmsman and the doctor before sprinting down one more level to engineering.
Klaxons were sounding in a number of different pitches and frequencies as Windsor stepped inside engineering, but he was grateful to see no plasma fires—almost as grateful as he was to see Lieutenant Hidalgo looking relatively intact as he scrambled around the room.
“Report!” Windsor shouted over the din.
“We’re in pieces down here. We’ve got to eject the warp core,” Hidalgo reported. “Where’s the captain?”
“Dead,” Windsor confirmed, going over to the master status display. “How much time do we have? Without the core, we’ll lose shields and be a sitting duck.”
“Well, with the core, we’ll explode,” Hidalgo countered. “I can slow it down by venting drive plasma to reduce pressure on the containment vessel, but that will only buy us a few minutes.”
“Computer, begin evacuation protocols,” Windsor ordered, prompting the klaxons to change to the evacuation alarm. “I need to get the ship here before we detonate the core,” he said, pointing to a place on the map between the two carriers. “Otherwise, we’re going to bomb our own ships.”
“I mean, I definitely would prefer to do some damage to the Kazon in return, but… if they hit us before we dump this thing, we’re going down with it,” Hidalgo warned. “And before you lecture me, I am the only one who can keep the core stable long enough for you to play hero, so don’t even start,” he added, before turning back to the warp core itself.
A forcefield shimmered into existence around the clearly-damaged warp core, as Windsor used the clumsy control interface on the pool table to put the ship through a series of acrobatics made to look semi-random, now that the Kazon were focusing their attention elsewhere. Drive plasma streamed out of the nacelles through the emergency flush ports. The status display showed the escape pods successfully leaving the ship, so at least the rest of the crew would make it even if they failed, but failure was definitely not part of Windsor’s plan.
“If you plan on surviving this, we’ve got to eject now,” Hidalgo complained.
“Just a little further.”
The ship was nearing just the right place, as Windsor saw the rest of the Starfleet vessels pulling back; evidently their plan was evident enough, so he hoped the Kazon were too dumb to notice what was about to happen.
“Eject the core!”
A few seconds later, the warp core was propelled downward, as Windsor pulled the nose of the ship up hard and pumped the remaining emergency power into the impulse engines to take them as quickly as they could away from the impending detonation. The warp core’s containment lasted only a few more seconds before exploding, sending a shockwave through space that severely depleted the Kazon’s shields and rocked the Hokule’a. They’d made a dent, but the Kazon were still firing.
“Proximity alert,” the computer reported, crisply, as four more warp signatures appeared.
Eta Torrensis IV, Surface
With Lieutenant Bowens at the helm and the Da Jiao stuffed with the whole remaining surface team, the saucer-shaped craft picked up off to the ancient plaza to face an aperture just wide enough for their exit on the shields, applying one final blast of reckless phaser fire to cut a hole in the dome of ice beyond to burst through and head back into orbit. Captain Lancaster was not willing to wait for the situation to calm down; he’d finished his task on the surface, and his place was on the bridge of his ship.
As the Da Jiao cleared the atmosphere, the signs of the battle were clear: Kazon and Starfleet ships were both burning, but the damage was much more severe on the Kazon side, other than the limping, listing Hokule’a which was just at the edge of Lancaster’s vision. He saw the brilliant flash of a warp core breach as they vectored towards the docking port on the Arcturus.
“The Hokule’a has ejected its warp core. Detecting escape pods and the ship itself is intact,” van Dorland reported from one of the side stations. “But I’m getting more warp signatures, Captain.”
Moments later, there were four bursts of light at the edge of the battle, and then the gold energy beams of Starfleet phasers lancing out from the periphery. After waiting in the system’s Oort Cloud, the other four ships accompanying the Arcturus out on this final frontier had been called in to mop up.
“The Kazon have been routed,” Bowens noted from the helm.
“Good. Get us to the ship,” Lancaster said, going over to the tactical station to watch for himself as the chaos created by the warp core breach was exploited to perfection by Admiral Hayden’s maneuvering.
By the time the diplomatic launch was docked and Lancaster made it back to bridge, the last Kazon intact ship had withdrawn, as the two carriers burned in space. The more heavily damaged one began to drift, and before its partner could get out of the way the two ships collided with an explosion that destroyed them both in a brilliant flash.
Lancaster sunk into his chair, suddenly feeling the weight of his exhaustion. “Good job,” he offered, looking over at an equally weary Captain Rakan.
Captain’s Log, Supplemental and Encrypted.
We have confirmed with Starfleet Command that the Tkon beacon network has been repaired, thanks to efforts across the galaxy by other elements of the Fourth Fleet. Our own losses in the battle over Eta Torrensis IV were not insubstantial, as thirteen of my crew have died, two runabouts were destroyed, and the Hokule’a has been crippled, but we’ve survived. The galactic crisis has been averted, and we can now turn to rebuilding.
I am pleased to say that this will be my final encrypted log under the Omega Directive.