While Sovereign is en route to the Prelion System, it was starting to get late and Ruby had not seen his best friend Mizu all day. No one in the group has. This concerned Ruby, as it was not normally how Mizu is. So he had been hanging around Mizu and Elidia’s quarters for some time. Quite a few crew have walked by but the one he was looking for had finally appeared from around the bend. Ruby let out a sigh of relief as he went up to his friend. Though he could see that she was tired and unaware that he was there since she was looking down at the deck rather than where she was going.
“Mizu! Where have you been?” Ruby asked.
She looked up at Ruby, startled that he was there. “Jesus. Could you not surprise me?”
Ruby frowned. “I was just concerned. Not like you to put in a double shift.”
Mizu sighed, “Well maybe I have come to enjoy the work.” She told him as she went to her door and entered her code.
“Which is unusual, even for you, Mizu. Normally you and I are the one’s breaking little rules here and there. Having fun. Pulling pranks. Giving our friends a good laugh.” Ruby told her.
The door opened but Mizu did not go in right away. She stood there as if she was processing her thoughts for a reply. She then turned and looked at him dead in the eyes. “Maybe I am just tired of fooling around.”
Ruby frowned even more, “Tired of fooling around? But we’ve always been fooling around.”
Mizu sighed again. “Well maybe it’s time we stopped, okay?”
“Stopped, but why?” Ruby asked.
“Because I don’t want to be an Ensign forever, Ruben!” Mizu told him.
Ruby blinked at her, his frown deepening. “Look. I know we had our moment on the runabout when we first saw the ship but I didn’t think you would take it so seriously, at least…not for a little while longer.”
Mizu folded her arms across her chest. “Well maybe it’s time that we did start taking it seriously.”
Ruby sighed heavily, defeated. “I just didn’t expect it to happen so fast.”
Mizu rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well….” She paused for a moment to look down before looking back dead into his eyes. “Maybe it’s just time for us to grow up!”
Ruby swallowed hard and then nodded his head. “Yeah, I suppose so.”
Mizu sighed once more and let her arms drop to her side. “Look. I put in a lot of work, so I am very tired. I apologize for snapping at you but I just want to go to bed and you surprising me with this, assaulting me with questions…” She drew in a quick breath and huffed. “It was rude, selfish and most inappropriate time right now. So if you do not mind, I like to get some sleep before my next shift.”
Ruby swallowed again before nodding his head once more, licking his dry lips. “Understood, Ensign.”
Mizu shook her head and made a full one-eighty turn before she stepped into her quarters and closed the door behind her, leaving Ruby there in the corridor to his thoughts.
Ruby let out yet another defeated sigh but his frown never left. He quickly made his way out of that section and began to look for K’Roll.
Tagg looked at his displays before he turned around in his seat to look at Vakai. “Captain. We will be dropping out of warp in a few seconds. We will have to pass one of the gas giants before we can reach the asteroid belt in the system.”
Vakai looked up from a report he was reading to give the lieutenant his attention. “Thank you, Tagg. Once we drop out of warp, take us to the station at cruising impulse speed. I do not wish to alarm them.”
“Aye, sir.” Acknowledged Tagg before he turned his seat towards his station. Just as he did so, Sovereign just dropped out of warp. Tagg then brought the impulse engines up to three quarters and charted a course around the gas giant.
Ryker leaned in his seat towards Vakai. “‘Do not wish to alarm them’? In what way would we ‘alarm’ them?”
Vakai smirked at Ryker. “Got to remember. A Sovereign-class appearing in any system in need is quite the significance. But if we approach too quickly, it can also show hostility. This ship is quite armed.”
Ward was the next to lean in her seat towards Vakai. “But Starfleet vessels always signify peace and hospitality.”
Vakai turned his head towards Ward with a slight shrug of one shoulder. “True. But not all races see it that way. And with how things have been going in this sector, I do not want to risk it. Unless of course it turns into an emergency, like life support failure. Then we will indeed rush to their aide. Right now, let’s just show that we’re here and we are coming to assist.”
Just as Sovereign passed the gas giant, a mining vessel slipped out from underneath the upper layer of the gas clouds and headed straight for them. Rapidly too. So rapidly that as it was coming down towards the dorsal view of Sovereign that it was close enough to fire several shots of their plasma beam before it made its pass. The two area’s that got hit the most was the starboard nacelle and the dorsal plating of the engineering section.
The red alert klaxon went off after they received the first shot. The surprise attack had caught everyone off guard but not Gomo, who had raised the shields after the first volley had succeeded. “We’re under attack!” Gomo reported.
“We can see that, Lieutenant.” Ward told him. “It’s the ‘who is attacking’ is the answer we want.” She said as she looked at her own display, where she saw the reports coming in.
“And where the hell did it come from!” Ryker added.
Bazial looked over her shoulder after she read the scan report from the scans the ship had automatically made once the attack began. “It came from the gas giant. Apparently was hiding in the upper atmosphere where our sensors could not detect it until it was right on top of us.”
Gomo added to the report, “It’s a mining vessel. Likely to be assigned to the mining station.”
“Need facts, Lieutenant, not assumptions.” Ward told him before she looked to Vakai. “The dorsal plating of the engineering section is fine but the starboard nacelle took a direct hit. Warp capability has been reduced significantly.”
Ryker also looked to Vakai. “Do we fire back?”
Vakai stood up from his seat and made a couple steps forward. “Negative. If they were hiding in that gas giant, would they have received any communication from the station that we were arriving?” Vakai asked as he looked around, only to stop at Bazial.
The Trill shook her head. “Negative, Captain. Not only would have the upper layer of the gas giant cause interference with communication but they were also on the opposite side of the gas giant, so the entire gas giant would have blocked all incoming transmissions from the station.”
Vakai nodded his head before he looked to Ward. “Then it is safe to assume that the mining vessel is from the mining station, considering they have common roles. It is also safe to assume that they are unaware of our mission. Hail the vessel and tell them we are on a peaceful humanitarian aide to the station.”
The Comms officer turn in their seat to look at Vakai. “No response to our hails, Captain.”
Gomo frowned as he read his display. “Mining vessel has turned around and fired again. Minimal damage to the shields. About one point three percent damage.” Gomo reported.
Vakai sighed, “Hardly a threat. Open all hailing frequencies.” Vakai ordered and waited for the nod from the Comms officer before he faced the view screen. “This is the United Federation Starship Sovereign. We are on a peaceful humanitarian aide to the mining station in this system. We were requested by the provisional government of this sector. I kindly request that you cease fire.” Vakai then looked back at the Comm officer who shook their head, which indicated that they were either not listening or there was no incoming transmission, thus no response.
Gatia was the next to frown at the readings that had appeared on her display. “Captain. The vessel is holding position right above us.”
“Aft-Dorsal section to be precise, Captain.” Gomo added. Suddenly the deck beneath them shook violently.
“The hell was that?” Ward asked as she looked at Gomo and Gatia for answers.
“The mining vessel is firing their mining laser at a sustained, constant beam. I am uncertain as to what the purpose there is behind this attack.” Gomo reported.
“Check your aft-dorsal shields, Gomo! That beam is creating an opening on that side of the shield grid.” Gatia told him.
Gomo ran a quick check before letting out a sigh of frustration for the fact that he did not see it. “The Lieutenant is correct. The sustained, constant fire of the mining laser is creating a hole in our aft-dorsal shield quadrant. It’s completely exposing our engineering section.” The deck beneath them shook again. “They’re firing their plasma beam directly at our hull!”
“Engineering to Bridge! We got a fire going down here. If you don’t stop them from attacking this section, we could end up with a warp core breach!” said Gomez over the intercom.
Vakai cursed under his breath. “Gomo. I want you to disable that ship. Do you have an analysis on their defenses and weapon configuration?”
Gomo nodded his head. “Of course, Captain. Ready to fire at your command.”
Vakai smiled. “Remember. Disable. Nothing more. Reduce phaser power appropriately. Fire when ready.”
Gomo nodded his head again, “Aye, Capain.” He then looked down at his controls and reduced the phaser strength down to sixty percent before firing two shots to take out their facing shield. Then he reduced the phaser strength further to two percent and fired two shots at their plasma beam emitter. The emitter visibly showed damage and was having trouble launching another beam attack to Sovereign‘s hull but one more phaser fire to the emitter took it out completely. Then two phaser beams contacted with the mining laser emitter and took it out as well. Gomo smiled and looked back up at Vakai. “Their weapon and mining laser have been taken out, Captain.”
Vakai smiled back and went to stand just behind Helm and Ops. “Maybe that will get them to talk. Hail them.” But the second he made that order, the view screen which had been changed to show the vessel behind them, began to show everyone of internal explosions erupting throughout the ship before one large explosion tore the mining vessel in half. What was left was now two sections drifting apart from each other. “Report!”
Gatia’s fingers ran over her board to get as many scans as she can on the debris before she turned to look at the Captain. “Sensors reported an overload coming from inside the ship.”
Gomo shook his head. “It could not have been from disabling their weapons. At least…I don’t think so.”
Ward stood up from her seat and went straight over to Gomo’s station to take a look herself. “Step aside, Lieutenant.” She ordered, to which Gomo complied. Ward then began to run a system’s check, her own investigation into the matter.
Bazial turned in her seat to look at the Captain. “Sir, I am picking up organic tissue on sensors. Bodies as well.”
“Stand down red alert.” Vakai ordered, which made the klaxon end and the lights change back to normal. “How many?” Vakai asked.
Ryker had begun to search for the mining ship’s classification in the database before he looked up at Vakai to give him an answer. “Vessel like that can have a compliment of one to fifteen personnel.”
“I have about seven bodies accounted for on sensors. As for the organic matter and residue…I would have to take a closer look with a tricorder.” Bazial reported.
Vakai balled up his hands into fists and clenched tightly but as he did so, he got a look from Sucil. He took in a deep breath and relaxed before he shifted his look to Ward. “Commander?”
Ward looked up from the tactical station to Vakai. “It all checks out. There was no indication of misfire or deliberate attempt to destroy the vessel.”
Gomo huffed. “Of course not! I would never do such a thing! How dare-”
“Lieutenant!” Vakai raised his voice at him to stop him from making a mistake. He then relaxed again. “Commander Ward was doing her job. We know you would never do it on purpose but she is required to investigate into it, whether it was done subconsciously or if the system was tampered with.”
Ward nodded her head to Gomo. “Think of it as solidifying your integrity, Lieutenant. For I will have to make a report about the mining vessel’s destruction. All details must be accounted for.”
Gomo took in a deep breath and then relaxed. “I apologize, Commander.”
Vakai raised his voice again. “We are all deeply troubled by this. I know. For now we have to investigate on whether we murdered these people by mistake or if it was self inflicted. Gatia. Is there any indication that the crew chose to self destruct their own ship?” He asked after he turned to look at her.
Gatia pondered for a moment while she stared at the captain. Then she answered with a solution, “I would have to investigate the vessel’s computer logs, if any are intact.”
Vakai nodded his head. “Fine. Gatia, Bazial. Report to the main shuttle bay and take a runabout. You should have all the equipment you need to conduct your investigation. Take one or two of the ensigns. Preferably a pilot and someone from medical.”
“I will go too, Captain.” Said Ward as she made her way to the turbolift.
“Negative, Commander. I need you here.” Vakai told her, to which she looked at him and nodded before she returned to her seat.
Vakai then looked at Gatia as she made it to the turbolift with Bazial already in it. “I leave you in charge of the investigation, Lieutenant.” He said as he looked directly at her.
Gatia clicked her tongue, whether it was an act that she was nervous or anxious, Vakai could not tell. “Yes, Captain. We won’t let you down.” Then the door to the lift closed.
Vakai turned back towards the Ops and Helm station and looked at Tagg while a replacement took Gatia’s spot. “Reduce impulse speed to one quarter, give the investigation team a chance to depart from the main shuttle bay then return us back to three quarters to the station.”
“Aye, Captain.” Tagg acknowledged as he entered the commands and reduced impulse power down to twenty five percent.
Vakai then returned to his chair and did his best to sigh his frustration quietly.
“Quite a warm welcoming.” Ryker told him as he leaned back in towards Vakai.
“Very.” Vakai answered. “Being worried about what they would think of me when they see me is one thing. Having the deaths of reman and romulan crew from a mining vessel of the provisional government is not something I want to add on top.”
“Should I report this to headquarters?” Ward asked, who also had leaned back in towards Vakai.
Vakai shook his head. “No. We only report once we have the facts. Right now, we have no clue what happened. Whether it was caused by an overload from disabling their weapons or if it was self inflicted. If we report now, we would only end up jeopardizing the Federation’s relations with the provisional government. And that is something that I do not want us to be responsible for. If we can prove that we did not blow up that ship and killed those people, then not only will that give headquarters something to chew on but it would also give us more problems than we need.”
“Like…why would they fire on a Starfleet vessel on a humanitarian mission?” Ryker asked a rhetorical question.
“And why would they blow up their own ship?” Ward asked the same.
“Exactly. There is a lot more going on than what we know now. And I intend to find out.” Said Vakai as he stared at the mining station as it has started to come into view, slowly growing in size as they got closer. Vakai then pushed himself out of his chair again and stood a couple feet in front of him. He clasped his hands together behind his back, took in a deep breath and then pushed his worries aside with his exhale. “Hail the station.”