Part of USS Denver: Mission 3: War is War

Bon Voyage

USS Denver: Starbase 75
February 27, 2374 11:00
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Rebecca briskly stepped out of the ready room. She smiled at Cheon as he slid over to the XO’s seat, relinquishing the captain’s chair to her.  “Mister Vorath, bring the engines online if you please.”

The Vulcan navigator didn’t even look away from his console,  “Powering up engines, aye.”

“All departments report readiness status,” Rebecca ordered.

Cheon remained silent as the bridge went about its work. His eyes were ever watchful as the senior staff moved about their various tasks. A gentle chime from the intercom was heard as one of the department heads called in.

“Engineering reports all green across the board. We are ready to go.”, Burkley stated as he looked down at a console on the rail that ringed the humming and pulsating warp core.

Cheon nodded his approval when a sweet, at least to him, sounding voice came over the intercom, “Medical is ship-shape.”

Peter Crawford speaks up from his station for the first time as Operations Chief.  “Operations at station-keeping, Captain.”  The OPS Chief runs his hands over the console, checking one more that the USS Denver and all pieces and parts of her were where they should be – and would stay there.

“Science is ready for departure,” the Science chief reported.

Lieutenant Chapman taps her consoles, checking the status of the weapons systems that had just been repaired and refitted. She ensured the phaser banks were fully charged and that the Denver’s complement of photon and quantum torpedoes was also full. After the weapons check was completed, she looked over the security reports her subordinates had sent to her. It only took her a moment, but as soon as she was satisfied, she looked up just as the Science Chief gave their station’s report. “Weapons online and all systems nominal. All decks report ready for departure, ma’am. All secured sections are locked down for departure. We’re ready, ma’am. ”

“Very good,” Rebecca replied.  “Mr. Cheon, will you do the honors of taking us out?”

Cheon nodded to his Captain and stood up, taking center stage for their departure, “Mister Vorath, one-quarter impulse until we have departed the station if you please,” he ordered their Vulcan chief helms officer.

He then looked over to their Chief of Operations Officer, “Mister Crawford, once we have cleared the station, inform station operations that we will be en route to Forkin and should arrive there within three days.”

“Releasing all moorings and umbilicals.  Station Operations has cleared us for departure.   One-quarter impulse heading 341 mark 83,” The Vulcan replied as his fingers tapped out the commands. The ship peeled away from the station. The first time under its own power, far too long.

Crawford tapped out the message to station operations, ensured it was sent, and waited for confirmation of receipt.  The console beeped, confirming their plans had been transmitted.  “Staton has been appraised of our course and timeline.  They wish us safe travels, sir.”

“Mr. Vorath,  Ms. Chapman has requested we test our weapons.  Please seek the nearest asteroid field,” Rebecca added.

“Understood, Captain,” the Vulcan replied.  After a moment, he announced,  “We have cleared controlled space and are free to navigate.   Adjusting course to the Agamemnon Asteroid Field.”

Cheon nodded to the Captain’s request, “One more thing, Mr. Vorath, as soon as we are near the Agamemnon Asteroid Field, I would like you to find a patch that is composed mostly of small shuttle sized asteroids. I want the weapons calibrated to incorporate that size of a target,” Cheon stated as he turned to look at Rebecca. “Better safe than sorry.”

“Aye, sir; I will begin work on the necessary calibrations.” Elisabeth began tapping on her console with that perfunctory statement, working on the new calibrations and streamlining the tactical panel to her preferences. She wanted to be sure she could quickly choose the pattern, yield, and detonation sequence of all weapons, should the Denver encounter any sort of resistance.

Cheon nodded and then noticed that Elisabeth was rapidly tapping on the tactical console. He silently moved from the center of the bridge to behind her without her notice. He watched as she configured the console to her liking and nodded to the layout. ‘I think I will give her a few suggestions later, should we have the time.’, he thought to himself as he moved silently back to the center of the bridge.

“Forty-five seconds, Tactical,” he stated as the Denver neared its destination.

”Copy that, Commander” Elisabeth responded without looking up. She was almost done with her configurations. Once she was done, she looked up and around the bridge, then looked back down and smiled to herself, satisfied that her console was the way she liked it.

“On screen,” Rebecca ordered sitting back in her chair and crossing her legs. “Status of the power distribution network Mr. Crawford.” The whole power system had been rebuilt and this was its first true test as weapons and defense systems came online.

Crawford had been running diagnostics on the new network and had been adjusting elements from the operations side of things as he went.  The system was holding. He stress-tested one last variable and was satisfied with the green light on the console, “Stable and holding.  Stress tests coming back all green and power balance is within limits.”  He hoped it would stay that way.

“Thank you, Mr. Crawford,” Rebecca replied.   She didn’t think it necessary for her to ask him to continue monitoring it, but she would definitely follow up just in case.

Cheon took his seat next to the Captain as the tests were going on. He brought up the sensor scans of the asteroid field, “Mr. Vorath, I would like to see how the Denver handles herself,” he stated as he sent the next coordinates to the helm console. “Send us there and do your best to avoid the rocks.”

Vorath nodded as he took the coordinates and input them into the navigational portion of the console. His fingers flew over the console as the Denver flew through the field.

While the Denver flew through the asteroid field Cheon was deploying small drones. He looked over at Rebecca and showed her and in a low tone, he made a suggestion. “Battlestations?”

She hadn’t planned on it, but giving Cheon a thoughtful consideration she nodded. “We do have a lot of new crew and old people in new positions.  Make the call.”

Cheon didn’t waste a second as he tapped the intercom icon on the arm console, “Battlestation’s, ” he smoothly stated as he repeated the command to the crew several times; the sound of his voice echoed throughout the departments.

Burkley looked over at McKenzie, with a grin on his lips. “Let’s do this McKenzie,” his voice was full of glee as he turned and looked at the Engineering crew.

Crawford tapped the console key setting the ship to battle stations with a red alert designation.

“Shields up to full, weapons hot, Captain” Elisabeth calls out, following standard bridge protocol.

“Do you have your target selected Miss Chapman?” Rebecca asked as the lights dimmed and general quarters sounded. The red flashing lights and the LCARS screens switching to red illustrated their alert status for those who couldn’t hear.

“Aye, ma’am; targets one, two, and three selected. Phasers and photon torpedoes on your command.” Elisabeth’s hands moved deftly over the controls as she got the targeting scanners locked.

Crawford checked the systems as the battlestations status reached the entire ship. The readings on the power distribution system were still holding steady.  the bridge was now transformed to the seriousness of the call.

“Helm attack pattern Omega-four,” Rebecca ordered.

Omega-four, aye,” Vorath responded as he entered commands into the helm.

As the Denver turned to face the phasers, accelerating to full impulse, Elisabeth called out her firing sequence.“Firing phasers, pattern Ω-four.” She pressed the ‘Fire’ button on her console, and the familiar whoosh of the phaser beams was heard on the bridge as they all saw the beams protruding from the ship to their designated targets, which then exploded spectacularly, raining debris on the Denver’s shields.“Shields holding. Firing torpedoes on targets four, five, six, and seven.”As the ship maneuvers, the photon torpedoes disperse efficiently on the secondary targets, destroying the asteroids and again, raining more debris on the shields. Satisfied with the weapon systems, Elisabeth prepares the third round: using the torpedoes and phasers together.“Firing phasers and torpedoes at targets eight, nine, and ten.” The familiar beams and explosions fill the viewscreen, and debris rains down on the Denver.“Shields once again holding, Captain. Weapons check complete; all systems nominal. Thank you for your indulgence, Captain.”

As the Denver neared the center of the mock battlefield, Cheon, tapped an icon on the arm console. This sent off a command to the silent drones that he had launched prior to the ‘battlestations’ order. Suddenly, on both, the tactical and the helms consoles, red signatures appeared and began to move.

Rebecca raised an eyebrow at Cheon. “Surprise drill?” She asked just loud enough for both to hear.

Cheon looked at her. His face was mostly blank except for a slight raise of his lips. He then leaned over. “Come on Rebecca, you have known me since I was your Chief Tactical and Security Officer. You should remember how I always had surprise drills and how I always held a piece of the drill back until I needed it,” he stated in just the same tone. “Besides the drones won’t damage anything. They’re set for level one combat. However, I have configured the training to simulate everything except for the destruction of the ship.”

“That’s good.  I wouldn’t want to mar our brand new paint job,” Rebecca said with a smirk.

Crawford kept his hands hovering over the console, her eyes scanning the simulated power readings for any kind of disruption or failure at the moment.  Putting a ship back together again was the work of engineers and they were damned good at it – operations were there to make sure all the components worked together for the good of all the departments.  Power, sensors, weapons, environmental – everything connected to everything.  Ship’s operations was a place for an everyman kind of officer, and Crawford relished the role.  A tap or two of the console.  Stability was the name of this game and he had to play it more than just well – he had to excel at it.

Elisabeth did a full sensor sweep, ensuring that there were no surprises. In her haste, she had omitted point-defense practice, or the practice of defending the Denver against small fighters and other small ships. So when the proximity alert system went off, it took about a half-second longer to identify the bogeys as hostile; the words “Hostiles incoming!” had scarcely left her mouth than when the object fired at them.

Vorath took evasive actions and entered in commands as the first drone opened fire with a volley of phasers, which impacted the shields, causing a bright light blue hue to bathe the bridge.

Elisabeth cursed under her breath as she quickly got to work. “Shields holding for now; locking on target.” For one one-thousandth of a second, she had them, but then she lost the targeting lock. The objects were small, fast, agile, and hard to get a lock on. “Target lock lost.” Her voice gave a slight hint of defeat, though she quickly rebounded. “Continuing to track hostile bogeys, Captain.” She continued tapping buttons on her console, then her eyes lit up. The sensors weren’t calibrated correctly for point defense. After making minor adjustments, she could see the targets. “Eureka!” Elisabeth exclaimed in elation. She had them.

Cheon sat there as his eyes looked over the crew, his demeanor was blank, but on the inside, he was overly joyous at the chance to see how the bridge crew would react to a jack-in-the-box attack from an unknown source.

“Chapman?” Rebecca asked, “status?”

“Stand by, Captain.” Elisabeth quickly had the computerized scanners track them while she lined up shots. Point-defense was a bit more challenging to do with phasers, but she believed she could use the phasers efficiently. The phasers responded inefficiently, with the beams missing the targets. Beth cursed under her breath. These controls were sluggish, not primed enough. She continued tapping commands, hoping to fine-tune the phasers.

“Stand by isn’t good enough Lieutenant,” Rebecca said in a stern tone. “The Dominion won’t wait for you to get things right. A second’s delay is the difference between life and death.  Between scoring a hit and eliminating a threat and allowing that threat to continue. Inaction is worse than a poor decision.”

“Yes, ma’am” Elisabeth responded. “Point-defense is a weakness, and will require additional drills to properly narrow down.” Her response is curt as she is tapping commands on her console, hoping to increase the frequency of phaser efficiency. “Shields still holding, no damage reported.” Though the scanners were tracking the drones, getting the phasers to do so was a problem. She think she had it, and tested-fired the phasers. The beam had a direct hit on one of the drones, but didn’t disable it. ‘Dammit!’ Elisabeth thought as she fired again. The beam was too weak to fully destroy the object in full. She fired again, and this time, the drone buzzed with electrical failure. ‘Good enough, at least it’ll be too dead to fire back and be a nuisance.’ She focused her attention on the next target, and fired a burst from the phasers, just as the drones fired back.

Cheon remained silent as he listened to what Rebecca had stated. He knew that she was correct and his fingers continued to issue commands to his drones. More and more bright blue flashes illuminated the viewscreen as he continued the onslaught. In the back of his mind, he knew that they needed this training more than ever.

“Phasers at 75% efficiency, Captain. I apologize for the delay.” Elisabeth was a bit apologetic, but now that the phasers were set, she would just have to set a pattern to make maximum amount of damage to all the targets. The phasers would be firing overtime, and that might cause other problems. “Ensign Crawford, would you keep an eye on the phaser system power readouts? I’m about to overcharge the system, but it shouldn’t be anything outside of the limits. Still, I’m going to need your help.” With that taken care of, Elisabeth started firing. Each time, multiple beams hit the drones, and slowly, the targets began to suffer damage and drop out.

“Compensate  lieutenant.” Rebecca leaned into Cheon, “Remind me to get Mr. Lovecroft to look into that phaser efficiency later.”

“Aye, Captain. Continuing phaser spread.” She didn’t want to use torpedoes, as they wouldn’t be able to track the speed of the drones. Something she learned on the Zion.

Peter tapped at his console, “System holding.”  He continued to run diagnostic status updates she amped up the charges through the phaser system.  The spectrum of danger pushed past the green and into the yellow but held, for the moment.  He kept a careful eye.  Powering a starship was both simple and complicated.

Cheon shook his head ‘no’ as he returned a reply, “No need as Mr. Lovecroft is in on my drill as well,” he stated as he swung the armrest console to show her the message that he sent to the Commander. It also showed the ace that he was holding as well; a single icon was flashing, a drone that wasn’t active, a replicator drone. A grin slipped over his lips as he looked up from the console into her eyes. “I need to know just how well our crew is going to handle a ‘no-win’ situation. Don’t get me wrong we all took the Kubiashi Maru test at the academy but that was simulated, and so is this to a degree. Not to worry any damage that we receive will be minor and easily fixable,” he stated in a reassuring tone.

Rebecca nodded, “I am not sure how valuable the Kubiashi Maru scenario really is, but I am interested in how our young tactical officer responds.  She either bends or breaks.  If she bends we may have a keeper.”

“Indeed,” Cheon replied as he swung the console back to face him.

Beth continued firing, trying to do maximum damage to the maximum number of targets, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to do. There were a lot of kinks that had to be worked out, and the drones just kept on coming.

Cheon was impressed by how Lieutenant Chapman was doing at keeping up with his drones, she had managed to knock out over half of the drones and disable a quarter of those that were still in service. However, it was still not enough to know how she would handle a life or death situation. As Rebecca had stated, ‘would she bend or break’.

As Elisabeth was shooting down drones, she started to notice a pattern of action. These drones were reacting as if they were self-replicating, and though she was confident she could knock them all out, she had to isolate the replication drone. She continued her scans, and then she tapped on the console, displaying a map on an auxiliary display. As she continued firing, she noticed that there was a pattern to the replication, a pattern she could keep track of and maybe discern where the replication was coming from. She continued the point-defense screening fire, though she wondered how long she could keep it up. Then, she noticed that the next wave was forming to do its attack run, and though she was quick on the draw, the ship was once again, out of position. “Captain, permission to move the ship ahead and turn heading 212 mark…” Elisabeth quickly checked the positioning on the tactical map and finished her request. “…mark 24?” She was already anticipating the drones, and if she moved the ship, she could focus torpedoes on the replicating drone, the one that started it all.

“Mr. Vorath, adjust course 212 mark 24, attack pattern theta. Ms. Chapman, please use simulated torpedoes.  They don’t grow on trees you know.”

“Aye, Captain.” The ship moved to optimum position and Elisabeth began programming the torpedoes. She remembered a trick she had been taught by a former shipmate when she had been an Ensign, a way to turn photon or quantum torpedoes into radar-guided missiles. She switched the targeting mode from computer-automated to guided, and programed the deflector dish to shine primitive infrared lasers on the targets. That enabled the torpedoes to be guided to their targets, rather than relying on the really slow (by comparison) targeting scanners to lock on target. “Firing torpedoes now.” Elisabeth had programmed seven photon torpedoes to hit the drones with another six behind those. She was making headway, as she was starting to get the hang of point-defense screening. “A majority of drones are destroyed, damaged, or rendered combat ineffective, Captain. Fortunately, the last two salvos were able to render the replicating drone combat ineffective, which means that now, it’s just a matter of mopping up.” Elisabeth gives a progress report to the Captain as she fires phasers to finish off the drones.

Cheon could only grin. Even with the drone-powered down, Beth had managed to figure out its pattern. Leaning over to Rebecca he stated in a low tone, “Almost had her with that last wave and yet she bent just right.”

“The real test will be actual combat, ” she said to Cheon.  “Very good Ms. Chapman.”

Tapping on the drones icon he had the replicating drone signal for all remaining active drones to return to the ship while salvaging what was left of the destroyed drones. “Well done Ms. Chapman, well done,” he stated to Beth as he sent an “All clear” for the end of the ‘Battlestations’. “Mr. Vorath set course for the rendezvous point with the rest of the fleet, warp 6.”