Part of USS Hathaway: Episode 9: Blood Dilithium Part 1 (The Great Escape) and Bravo Fleet: Blood Dilithium

CH2: One Can Never Be Too Careful…

Various
Stardate 240011.18, 1745 Hours
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A biting wind howled across a desolate landscape, the only sound other than the eerie silence of emptiness. The sound of screams occasionally drifted in on the hallowed breeze, the sound of tortured souls far off in the distance. Scars of an ancient civilization long gone littered the surface of the arid world of Haess IV and whilst the mystery of their disappearance was something the anthropology teams of starships like the Sarek or Sojourner would revel in, the personnel of the behemoth-like Ulysses would never get such answers; for theirs were soon to be the tortured screams that would fill the void of emptiness on this dry, wintry planetoid. Ulysses and her crew had become embroiled in their own far more sinister plot just four days earlier…


“Captain’s log, supplemental.

 

Ulysses is deep within the Akoshan asteroid field, working on intelligence obtained from civilian traders several days ago. We’re in search of the much sought after Blood Dilithium, which has supposedly been identified within the vast asteroid field we now survey. Lieutenant Okan and her science team continue to lead the search, but so far the sensors have confirmed nothing.  Commander Noli and Lieutenant Mitchell are having a hard time navigating the field safely, but are doing a stellar job – their commitment to the task at hand cannot be understated; Henry has not left his seat in over three hours, determined to ensure our safety in such a dangerous location.

 

Meanwhile, Commander Gor continues to brief the crew on the dangers of species located around this area of space, namely the Devore Imperium and Hirogen hunting parties. The Devore, coupled with the possibility of locating blood dilithium, pose a significant threat to our telepathic and empathic crewmates. Data shared by the crew of the USS Voyager almost twenty-five years ago has enabled us to prepare for the eventuality of a Devore inspection team, but given the intelligence shared with us by our civilian contacts (at a heavy price I might add), leads me to believe that such an encounter remains remote in this region. But one can never be too careful…”

Scanning asteroid after asteroid was a relentless task for the science team, especially in a field as large as the one they were slowly traversing. The location of the Akoshan asteroid field had been shared with them, at a cost of ten hours worth of replicator time, by civilian traders some twenty-four light years away. Rumoured to be the location of several rich Blood Dilithium deposits, the field was too good an opportunity to ignore, even if their search had been fruitless so far.

Seven hours into the search, and some were beginning to lose focus and ready to call it quits; others felt they had come this far, they were not going to give up until they had located some trace of the sought after commodity. They had travelled a significant distance, after all… they couldn’t come all this way and give up, right? That was the dilemma that faced Captain sh’Elas now as she watched, and not for the first time, Lieutenant Mitchell shift uncomfortably in his chair at the CONN. Piloting a vessel, any vessel, through an asteroid field would be a challenge for most talented pilots, but to navigate the substantial spaceframe of the Ulysses through the area was more of a kobayashi maru exam than a jaunt around the local space lanes. She’d tried to send him off for a break, and had succeeded about three and a half hours ago, but as they ventured deeper into the field, the young pilot was more resolute in his assurances that he was the person for this job, and that he wouldn’t ask one of his subordinates to take on such a difficult task. Thankfully, the ever reliable Commander Noli was on standby, watching for any considerable threats and prepared to vaporise them with the ship’s phasers. She was also monitoring the shields and ensuring that any little rock that came their way could be easily deflected with the minimal of fuss. But still, at some point she had to call it quits, surely.

“Scan complete,” Akaria moaned from her slouched position at the port science station, “moving our attention to asteroid six thousand, seven hundred and eighty three…” puffing out her cheeks and letting out a deep exhale, the Risian spun in a three-sixty motion several times to, oddly, refocus herself after staring at her display for so long.

Tharia let out a smirk at the scientists outburst, feeling complete sympathy with her exaggerations. Still, on they would go. For now at least.

As the clock ticked around, ever closer to their eighth hour of searching, Vasoch appeared from the aft turbo lift and took his seat to her right side. “Briefings complete, Captain. Time to check in with the fleet?” he asked, but more of a reminder to the Andorian than an actual question.

Nodding to her first officer, the Captain directed her next instruction towards the Bolian at Ops. “Linn,” she called out, “transmit the standard update. No changes, no discoveries. Ask Captain Mek how long he’d like us to continue the search before moving on,” the Andorian requested, her question designed to take the onus off of herself somewhat.

“Aye Captain,” Linn Mora responded swiftly, hands and fingers dancing as he transmitted the standard check-in message, with a few added extras. But the response he received was not expected. The computer blurted out a blown raspberry-like notification of error, causing the Bolian some consternation. “Odd…” he whispered to himself, only to swiftly realise the cause of his frustration. Spinning in his chair, he glared at the command team somewhat ominously. “Communications are being jammed,” he advised.

Without a moment’s hesitation, the command team sprung into action. Tharia inched forward in her chair and grasped both arms tightly, whilst Gor bolted from his command chair in such a spritely manner that it bellied his status as one of the oldest members of the ship’s crew. Within seconds, he was stood beside Noli at the tactical operations station, ready to render assistance. In this area of space, at this particular moment, unsuccessful communications could mean only one thing.

Stretching out a single finger, the Captain pressed a button on her chair, activating the ship’s internal communications grid. An all too familiar boatswains whistle echoed across the ship, accompanied swiftly by the Andorian’s voice. “All hands,” she called out over the comm, “…battlestations.”

Across the ship, the response was immediate. Red alert klaxons rang out in warning to all aboard that the situation had changed somewhat dramatically in the last few moments.

“All stop,” Tharia beckoned forward to Henry. “Akaria, cease your search and divert all power to the tactical grid,” was her next instruction, without exchanging so much as a glance with the Risian.

At tactical, Noli and Gor had quickly changed tack from the task of protecting the ship from asteroids to searching for immediate threats. As soon as the science teams surrendered control of the ship’s sensor suite, alarm bells blurted out across the bridge.

“We’re detecting two… no, three, vessels on an intercept course from various parts of the field,” Noli called out, her nimble hands dancing across the controls as she tried to ascertain the type of vessels on approach. The answer was among the definite worst case scenarios that Gor had briefed the crew on. “They’re Devore warships, ma’am, and closing fast,” the Bajoran bombshell called out.

“The odds are not in our favour, Captain,” Gor advised, leaning over the Arch to address his superior, “I suggest an immediate withdrawal.”

“We’ll never get out of the field in time,” Henry interjected from the CONN. “They’re faster and far more maneuverable than we are. By the time we’ve navigated a way out, they’ll be right on top of us.”

“That’s plan A out of the airlock then,”

“We know what they’ll be looking for,” Noli advised from behind folded arms across her chest. “They’re going to find them, and they’re going to impound the ship,” she concluded, exchanging glances with the XO and the Andorian.

“So, plan B?” Gor asked.

Rising to her feet, the Captain took a deep breath and rounded the Arch, gesturing with a subtle nod of the head for Noli and Gor to join her in the StratOps suite at the back of the bridge, leaving Lieutenant Mora in defacto command momentarily. Standing from his seat, the Bolian wandered over to the science station, and stood with Akaria as they watched the hushed conversation taking place between the three most senior officers on the ship.

“I don’t like the look of this,” he whispered to the science chief, both noting the agitated expressions on the faces of all three of the officers in the back, until the Captain seemed to call time on the conflab, and headed back onto the main bridge platform.

Linn returned to the Ops station just in time for the Captain to address the crew again. “All hands, this is the Captain,” she called out, “three Devore warships are closing in on our location, and given our position in the asteroid field, any attempt to escape is rendered unwise. Wherever you are, prepare for Devore inspection teams. Cooperate fully, and we’ll get through this. sh’Elas out.”

Once the shipwide communique was closed, the XO meandered over to Lieutenant Okan and began yet another hushed conversation. To those watching, the exchange seemed to confuse the Risian at first, but she soon came around to his way of thinking. Rising to her feet, she gave a silent nod to both the Tellarite and the Captain before swiftly leaving the bridge.

“Plan B is in motion, Captain,” Gor confirmed to the Andorian upon returning to her side at the heart of the bridge. Nodding to each other defiantly, they returned to their seats.

“Computer,” Tharia called out, an audible confirmation signalling the control systems readiness, “activate Program sh’Elas One Nine Seven.”

Without any further warnings, an immediate and incredibly shrill alarm klaxon replaced that of the red alert status across the ship. Consoles and controls alike ceased to function, all displays turning black, save for a single message emblazoned in flashing red text; ‘Shipwide Command Lockout Initiated. Standby.’ Those consoles that remained active were specifically chosen to prevent the ship from drifting into a nearby asteroid, or killing its populace by deactivating life support systems, but other than that, very few systems remained functional. Those that tried to access their consoles were bitterly disappointed, and reduced to a sense of idle nervousness as they awaited what was now the inevitable.

Whilst the activation of this ‘Plan B’ was the cause of the somewhat tense exchanges a short while before, the command staff were united in one thing at least – they could not, no they would not, let the ship fall into enemy hands without a fight. But not all fights had to be physical. If the Devore wanted the Ulysses, it was going to require nothing short of a war of attrition for them to claim their valuable prize.

A new, rather shrill sound soon echoed throughout the bridge to signal the start of that very war, almost right on que. Inhaling deeply, gripping the arms of her command chair, the Captain steeled herself for what was to come.

“They’re here…” she whispered, just in time for the first blurry haze of a transporter beam to shimmer into existence just feet from her position. Indeed, the Devore Imperium were here, and in significant force.


Four long days had past since the Devore inspection teams had boarded the Ulysses and took control, locking down the entire crew and putting their own skeleton crew to task on breaking the encryption that the Captain had put in place. Like many Devore inspectors searching gaharey vessels before them, Inspector Kravik and his team had succeeded in achieving their goal – identifying and apprehending telepaths. In the form of Deltan Commander Zinn, Betazoids Vittoria and Matheus and the Aenar helmswoman known as Tempa, the impounding of the Ulysses was worth every minute, with the ship’s only empathic or telepathic crewmembers now in custody. Whilst the majority of the crew found themselves locked away in their private abodes, those accused of being telepaths found themselves in an altogether different type of lockdown.

Barely six feet by four, the the walls of the prison cells were the same thick grey stone as the dwellings of the region long since abandoned. Repurposed ruins had been turned into prisons squalid in nature. Instead of a wide window with a flower box in a picturesque setting, mean-looking bars of thick metal and no glass restricted the Devore ‘guests’ to their imprisonment. In the summer months, the fresher air would no doubt have been a relief, helping to alleviate the stench of festering sewage from those occupied cells, of which there were apparently many. In the cold seasons, however, a wicked draught reduced the temperature in the cell to near freezing. Whilst the many aboard ship would ‘make do’ with their comfortable mattresses and fresh linens, the beds here were a simple slate of granite supported by blocks of stone. No mattresses, no cushioning, only a thin blanket for warmth.

Day and night it was either suffocatingly quiet or the peace was pierced with the screams of tortured inmates they never saw. But, so far, everything was proceeding as the Captain’s ‘plan B’ had laid out.

Standing at the door to the cell, grasping the bars with both hands, Lieutenant Matheus Ren tugged at the metal poles for the hundredth time, hoping that maybe, just maybe, they had become weakened. He was disappointed, as always. Behind him, Vittoria and the Aenar huddled together on Tempa’s bunk, keeping warm together under their blankets, sharing stories of their careers to date. Conversation and company was all they had, much to the chagrin of Doctor Zinn. Never a people person despite his profession, the Deltan found himself in his own very real nightmare – locked up with three relative strangers who insisted on conversing about anything and everything, yet nothing meaningful.

Laid atop his blanket on the slab at the furthest most wall, the Doctor was in his own little trance-like state when the cell door flung open, pushing Matheus to the floor with substantial force. Sitting up and swinging his legs over the edge of the ‘bed’, the Commander was upright just in time for three Devore soldiers muscle their way into the cell, assault weapons draped over their shoulders.

“Time to stretch your legs,” the lead soldier smirked, looking around at all four of the officers from the gaharey vessel before vacating the small room, followed by his counterparts. In doing so, they left the prison cell open for the Ulysses crewmates to make their escape, even if it was only temporary.

But what exactly awaited them beyond the relative safety of their prison cell was anyone’s guess…

Comments

  • I cannot start a comment without saying thank you for the Sojourner plug. I do need to get an anthology lab/team onto the ship at some point soon. This story perfectly follows and expands upon the first and it shows how such a powerful ship could be caught unaware. It really increases my dislike of the Devore as a whole highlighting their mistreatment of the crew and its telepaths. That and then daring to take a Galaxy class ship; feel like the rest of Bravo fleet needs to sweep down and put them in there place. What really got me was how sh’Elas had foreseen this possibility and planned accordingly for it. It really highlights her strengths.

    November 9, 2022
  • Chilling! The opening of this post gave me gothic horror movie vibes. "For theirs were soon to be the tortured screams that would fill the void of emptiness on this dry, wintry planetoid." The twisted inversion on your earlier statement is so damn ominous. That made it all the more jump-cut jarring to cut to a scene of monotonous office work. You captured the exhausting nature of a simple but repetitive task, extended ad nauseam. That had hardly set in by the time everything went pear-shaped. What a compelling premise you've set up for this mission. (And thank you for the little nod to the USS Sarek's area of expertise, bestie.)

    November 10, 2022
  • So much is happening, but it is so written in a smooth wave. The mention of Sarek and Sojourner is always a great addition to interweave the other ships involved in this campaign. The previous post made me wonder, how did a Sovy get captured so easily? But it was well explained in this post, the Captain had no other choice but to accept the fate that a withdrawal was the only logical option. It set the motion quite well of what is happening and it also shows the brutality of the Devore. Great post!

    November 12, 2022
  • This is very nice. I had wondered after the first chapter just how the Ulysses ended up in such a dire situation. This explained it so well and then some! I particularly like the way the calm of the bridge scene was shattered and then it just went from bad to worse from there on in. But, there is a hint of mystery still. If this is all going to plan, just what exactly does sh’Elas have planned?

    November 14, 2022