Silence had long engulfed the Ulysses command center as those present went about their business, the ship’s executive officer quite content with the silent approach to work which he had craved for many a year under the command of Captain Ruas. Something akin to an old headmaster, Vasoch hated excessive noise and joviality in the workplace, much preferring a quiet focus and steely determination to succeed. Bringing together the crews from Santa Fe and Temeraire aboard Ulysses had allowed a merging of minds, turning a competent crew in to one that excelled in a wide variety of situations, but it also brought chatterboxes and morbid curiosity to the forefront. No one day was ever the same, with get-to-know-you type conversations often filling the gaps between orders. He didn’t care for it, but Tharia did. She would even partake in the conversation from time to time, engaging with her crew far more than any of his previous commanding officer’s did. She was younger, though, and of a different generation.
Watching Henry Mitchell look across from the CONN and engage his Bolian counterpart at Ops in another mindless conversation, something suddenly dawned on the Tellarite. Was he the problem? Was he the one that should lower expectations and, gods forbid, change? Hell, was he… old? Scoffing audibly alongside a shake of the head, the Tellarite quickly consigned that thought to the back of his mind. Luckily, he didn’t need to dwell on it for very long as, moments later, the attention of all was drawn to the science station on the port bulkhead.
“Eureka!” the skin-headed Risian clasped her hands together and spun in her chair, her smile brightening the bridge for all around. “Sensors have identified a mixture of tritanium and duranium alloys matching the description of the fugitive’s vessel. They appear to be hiding within a crater…” she smiled, turning back to her console, “sending coordinates to the helm.”
“Henry…” sh’Elas called out, not needing to finish her sentence before the flyboy put his fingers to work, having them dance across his console as he moved the hulking starship into position.
“Entering high orbit above the coordinates,” the Lieutenant at the CONN confirmed upon removing his digits from the screen before him.
Tharia used the arms of her chair to propel herself to her feet, eyes glued to the holographic viewscreen ahead of them. “Put the crater on screen,” she instructed, “maximum magnification.”
A sight akin to some of the most famous hotspots on her icy homeworld appeared on the viewscreen, with the Captain probably forgiven for confusing the two worlds in her thoughts. She folded her arms across her chest as her eyes tracked across the moving screen until it settled upon a large hole in the icy crust of the planet. Gradually, the crater’s innards came in to view and metallic elements became clearer and clearer until…
“Debris…” Vasoch called out in shock, pushing himself quickly to his feet and standing beside the Andorian as she dropped her arms to her side.
His tone drew the eyes of all there present to the viewer, apart from Commander Noli, who remained studiously focused on her console. “I’m detecting no trace of a weapons signature,” the Bajoran revealed whilst tapping on her controls, “but judging by the spread of the debris I would presume the vessel impacted the surface at a significant velocity,” she concluded, finally looking up at the focus of her colleagues.
“Life signs?” the Captain queried, her pupils dilating the harder she glared at the viewer.
After seconds of beeping, Akaria responded from the science terminal. “No life signs. I’m not detecting biomatter of any kind,” a raised eyebrow almost touched her hairline. “They’re not here,” she added to the confusion.
“Beam all of the debris you can to shuttlebay one,” the Captain instructed, turning on her heels and heading for her ready room. “Have a salvage team go through the wreckage. I want every iota of information they can gather,” she declared before finally yelling, “…and keep Prida out of there!”
Vasoch let out a grunt once the door to the ready room closed, his head dropping at the thought of conversations to come. When he eventually looked up, he scowled at Lieutenant Mora. “Go on then, get a salvage team together,” he instructed sternly, the Bolian scurrying off, all hunched and tense.
“I can’t be the only one to see the ENORMOUS elephant in the corner of the room,” Lieutenant Okan called from the sciences, exasperated as she lurched forward and looked between Commander Noli, the Tellarite first officer and the flyboy. “Why all the secrecy around Prida?!” she finally asked.
Spinning on his heels, Vasoch slowly took the few steps to the command chairs, and lowered himself into the center seat.
“The fugitive we’re looking for is Prida’s brother…” he uttered the words quietly, and then the bridge returned to the silence he approved so highly of.
At the science station, Akaria exchanged looks with her counterpart from Tactical, a look of ‘What? How was I supposed to know?’ in response to the Bajoran’s look of utter frustration.
Transparency. That was what this crew was built on, and it didn’t sit well with ‘Little Miss Facts Are Friends’ that secrets were being kept. Secrets that could have explained everything so much easier, and explained the importance of their task.
After all, the first duty of all Starfleet officers was to the truth. Everyone knew that.
At the heart of deck 4, shuttlebay one was one of the largest facilities on the ship, save for maybe main engineering, or The Acropolis even, and whilst it was usually deserted, it was now an incredible hive of activity. Gone were the shuttles that it usually housed, located now in storage, and in their place was what could only be called ‘a mess’.
Thousands of tonnes of debris had been beamed to the shuttlebay from the crater on the surface of Kabrel III, with more coming in every few minutes. Lieutenant Mora was in his element down here, running the team and searching through the wreckage. It wasn’t that he was morbid or anything, but he was away from the XO and his foul mood. That was where he needed to be right now.
His gaggle of engineers had been supplemented by a team from Akaria’s science department, all working together in search of any clue that could give them a lead on what had happened to the ship, and maybe even its crew. Linn had been joined by Lieutenant Okan herself, looking to atone for her earlier outburst on the bridge. On face value, neither Bolian nor Risan could identify what exactly they were looking at, and both were thankful for their tricorders as they searched the debris.
As another transporter beam engulfed a corner of the shuttlebay, the two officers moved away from the metallic mass they had been scanning and made for the new piece.
“According to the composition of the alloys determined by the tricorder, and the structural reports of the craft,” Akaria looked up from the tricorder and closed the device with a click, “we’re looking at the port side door.”
“Ooo… exciting!” the blue-skinned Bolian smirked, waving in a jazz hands motion as they moved closer. Upon visual inspection, they could see nothing that they hadn’t seen on any of the other pieces of debris. Nothing but…
Simultaneously, two sets of eyes widened and the officer’s pulled out their scanning devices to get a better read of what they thought they had seen. If it was confirmed, they’d have a lead for the Captain. And for Prida.
As their scans completed, Bolian and Risan alike gulped, then looked at each other. “We should call Noli…” Akaria told, sliding the tricorder into the pouch on her belt. Nodding, Linn lifted his hand and tapped the comm badge upon his breast.
A number of minutes later, the massive bay doors of the shuttlebay parted and the Bajoran Lieutenant Commander in charge of tactical operations on the Ulysses entered to the chaos of debris and people. Craning her neck to locate either of her colleagues from ops or science, she spotted them among a small crowd huddled around a hefty piece of metal near the shuttlebay forcefield.
Excusing herself and apologising as she made her way through the crowd, the Blonde Bombshell and ship’s second officer finally reached her friends. With a huff, she tugged on the bottom of her gold jacket. “Hey,” she introduced herself somewhat casually in her usual jovial tone. The response she got from her colleagues made the tone and mood swiftly evaporate.
“It’s definitely a weapons signature,” the Bajoran nodded, taking ownership of Akaria’s scientific tricorder and running her own scans of a particular area of the debris. She’d been called to corroborate their belief, but also to provide the expertise they needed to answer the burning question on everyone’s lips – who had apparently attacked the craft?
Closing the tricorder down, she passed it back to Akaria. “Linn; you stay here and carry on your salvage operation. When you’re done, get this lot into storage. Akaria and I are going to see the Captain…”
Slapping the controls of the terminal built into her ready room desk caused the screen to retract into the work surface and the safety of its hideaway beneath the surface just in time for the door chime to ring out from across the room.
“What?!” she exclaimed, hands on her hips and looking as flushed as her blue skin allowed. For the officers entering the room, the sight of the Captain’s antennae drooping so close to her forehead was a definite sign of trouble.
“Sorry to bother you, Captain…” Commander Noli stepped up, shielding her colleague from any wrath that might come their way, “but we might have a lead,” she revealed.
Dropping her hands beside her, the Captain turned her body towards the pair. “Go on,” she invited them.
At this point, Akaria presented the tricorder they had both used to their commander. “At first, Linn and I weren’t having much joy. Most of the debris wasn’t anything special, nothing to write home about, but then we found this,” the Risian drew the Captain’s attention to a particular reading. “It’s a part of the port bulkhead.”
“It’s a door…” Tharia raised an eyebrow, looking between the two officers, “…please tell me you have more than a door, or I’ll be kicking you out of this door,” the Captain scolded, gesturing to the ready room door with a tilt of her head.
“We do,” Akaria gulped and nodded quickly, “we found a residue among the scarring on the edge of the door and determined it to be from a weapon.”
“To cut a long story short,” the Bajoran tactician interjected, “we’ve managed to confirm the ship was attacked and was likely forced to crash land on the surface.”
Tharia slumped into the chair behind her desk with a sigh. “Of course they were… And do we have any idea who the attackers were?” she enquired, swinging back and forth in her chair in anticipation of their response.
Noli folded her arms across her chest and allowed her athletic frame to tilt ever so slightly to one side. “It was a Miradorn raider, Captain.”
“Miradorn?!” whilst many would have had the hairs on the back of their necks stand on end at a time like this, the Captain’s surprise was given away by the sudden erection of her antennae. Miradorn. That was a name she would never have guessed in a thousand years, and the mere mention of them more than piqued her curiosity, causing her to sit forward in her chair.
“We can start scanning for Miridorn ships ma’am,” Akaria chimed in quickly, “such a ship wouldn’t go unnoticed all the way out here. We’re thousands of lightyears from Miradorn itself.”
There was that frustration again, the antennae dipping once more. “You and Linn pass on all of your findings to Noli, then she’ll send it all on to Starfleet. I’ve been given very clear orders to take us to Starbase 565. We are prohibited from investigating any further and I have been suitably chastised by Commodore Ekwueme,” she revealed to her subordinates. “We’ll leave when the last of the debris is recovered. Akaria, I’d like your team to continue the analysis of the debris until it’s all catalogued. We’ll then store it in one of the unused cargo bays until it can be handed over to authorities at Starbase 565. That’s all.”
Watching as the two officers respectfully bid farewell, the Captain waited until the coast was clear before she slumped forward, her head banging on the surface in front of her at the realisation that she would now have to have a very uncomfortable conversation with her Chief Engineer. If the young woman wasn’t at breaking point yet, she would be when she found out that Starfleet were not going to let them continue their investigation.
Several hours had passed since Ulysses had departed the Kabrel system, and in the darkness of the Acropolis, Prida nursed an ice cold, luminescent blue beverage. Crouched over the bar, she took a sip of the drink and grimaced. She’d never developed a taste for the hardcore Romulan stuff, which was wise considering it was still technically illegal in the Federation, but tonight warranted something a little… stronger.
She was so busy drowning her proverbial sorrows that she neglected to notice the figure approaching to her left through the doorway that was so lit it almost resembled what could only be described as the pearly gates of the celestial temple itself.
“There you are,” the voice called out, “I’ve been looking for you. The computer couldn’t locate you.”
“I didn’t want to be found,” Prida muttered under her breath, but upon noticing that she’d practically offended her friend she reached out, took her by the arm and pulled her onto the stool beside her. “Sorry. It’s been a long day.”
“An apology? From Prida Rala?” the woman let out a wolf-whistle of sorts and shook her head, reaching across the bar for a second glass and pouring herself an ale. “Now I know something must be wrong. Spill,” she said between sips and grimaces.
Prida lifted the glass in her hand and downed the remainder of the beverage in one. “Starfleet have called off the search. We’ve been reassigned,” she told, reaching out for the half-empty bottle of Romulan Ale.
Lieutenant Commander Noli scratched her head and turned her body to face her forlorn friend. “Yeah. I heard,” the Bajoran nodded slowly. “But just because we’re being recalled doesn’t mean the search stops. The Captain has gone straight to Commodore Ekwueme and petitioned for the search to continue. She’s gone to bat for you because she knows how much this means to you,” the Blonde Bombshell’s tone was a little sterner than she perhaps meant, but at least she was getting the message across to her friend.
“Do you ever miss home?” the Bajassian asked between two more bitter sips of beverage. The look on the blonde’s face showed how random she felt the question was.
“Sometimes,” Noli shrugged, “but Bajor and I have a bittersweet relationship. I experienced a lot of hurt there.” The irony on what she was saying wasn’t lost on her, mind, given the fact that she was talking to a woman who was half Bajoran and half Cardassian, who had grown up as a war orphan and experienced her own share of pain. But that didn’t invalidate her opinion.
“I miss home,” Prida sighed wistfully, swirling the blue beverage in its glass. “We should have been celebrating the gratitude festival yesterday.”
Noli looked up at the ceiling as she did the maths in her head, then slowly nodded. “So we should have. I guess since we’re the only Bajorans here, it’s less of a thing,” she shrugged as another sip of her drink slid down her throat.
Prida thrust out an arm and grabbed the Bajoran tightly, causing Noli to glare at her. “Oh, no! That’s not right! We need to do something. We should go to old Duroc and get it entered into the ship’s record as ship’s law that we always celebrate!”
At the mention of Commander Gor as a duroc, Noli spit her drink all over the bar and burst into laughter. Whilst she was nowhere near as drunk as her engineering counterpart, the effects of the Romulan Ale were freely working their way through her body at impulse speed.
“Oh…” she laughed, shaking her head, “ohhhh no… it’s GOT to be your bedtime…” the Blonde Bombshell tottered off of her stool and helped her friend do the same. Arms around each other for support, they stumbled out of the Acropolis and into the corridor, chuckling away in each other’s company. For that brief moment, all their concerns were forgotten; not a care in the world remained.
There would be time enough tomorrow for those cares to resurface.