Part of USS Shepard: Arsenal of Democracy and Bravo Fleet: Blood Dilithium

Chapter 3

USS Shepard
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Commander’s report, mission day 5. No anomalous readings have been found on the sensors thus far, and all ship systems are running at peak efficiency. The only notable occurrence today was a minor hiccup involving the power consumption of the galley replicators; they were discovered to be draining far more than their allotted power supply, an issue that was easily rectified by the engineering staff. According to Chief Engineer Merin, this was little more than a “teething issue” – a minor and easily correctable problem on board brand-new ships where…

Commander Zelenko leaned forward onto her ready room desk, rubbing her eyes and groaning. Oh, how she hated paperwork. It was such a waste of time for her to go on about this, as she knew Merin already would be making some kind of note about it… but that was the burden of the CO. Allllll the details have to be in one place, at least once they reach a certain level of import. Which, apparently, replicator power drainage did.

She was more than a little relieved when her communicator pinged.

“Commander, your presence is needed on the bridge,” the gruff voice of S’Geras spoke from her monitor. “Our sensors have picked up something you should see.”

Well, at least she wouldn’t have to do paperwork for a bit.

 

 

“Talk to me, Travers,” Zelenko said as she strode onto the bridge, her ready room door swishing shut behind her. “What are we looking at?”

“You’ll want to ask T’Vrin, actually,” the science officer replied, nodding towards the young Vulcan on the other side of the bridge at the communications console. “She’s the one that found it.”

“Then what’d you find, Ensign?”

“Well, Commander,” T’Vrin began, straightening her posture and seemingly doing her best to look professional. “I was testing a slight change to the sensors with the goal of establishing longer-range instantaneous communications. During the test’s passive sweep of the area, I detected an odd burst of energy beyond our normal scanning range.” She looked over to Vic. “I then requested that Lieutenant Travers perform a dedicated directional sensor scan, and he determined that the energy release is in fact plasma exhaust. Further analysis of the signal revealed that it is closing on our position.”

“Which means we may have a cloaked klingon ship on our hands,’ Vic said with a halfhearted smile, as if taking pride in the detection but unhappy about what was uncovered. “Although, what was a bit weird about it is that when we looked closer, we found that it was actually a very brief, weak plasma emission, followed by a more sustained one that is more indicative of exhaust. That might just be engine troubles, though. Not all klingon pirates are good engineers.”

Zelenko furrowed her gaze, then moved to take her seat in the Captain’s Chair. “What’s the bogey’s bearing, Lieutenant?” 

“Bearing 030-mark-335 at 43.7 AU from our current position, so significantly further than we would have found it with normal sensor sweeps. We’re lucky this is a plasma signal instead of a tachyon one, if it was that then we wouldn’t have seen it until it was only a little more than 1 AU away, even while traveling at warp.”

“In that case, excellent job, Ensign,” Zelenko said as she turned to look at T’Vrin. 

“Thank you, Sir,” the communications officer replied, her expression the closest Tallera had ever seen a Vulcan come to a smile.

“All hands to yellow alert. Helm, plot an intercept course to signal,” Zelenko ordered. “Accelerate to warp 8.”

“Aye, Sir,” Mack replied, and the Shepard banked away from the convoy. 

Zelenko hit a button on her armrest, opening a channel to their fellow escorts. “Ushaan, Rapier, this is Shepard. We have detected a plasma emission indicating the presence of a possible hostile, moving to intercept. Rapier, take our place at head of convoy, and all escorts switch sensors to high-power plasma sweeping.”

“Aye, Shepard. Good hunting,” Rapier responded, followed by an acknowledgement from Ushaan before Zelenko shut the comm.

“No change in target trajectory, Travers?” Zelenko inquired.

“Negative, Sir. Still on intercept with the convoy. My best guess puts its speed around warp 6.”

“In that case,  T’Vrin, open a wide-band communications signal on all subspace channels. Tell me when it’s open.”

“Aye, Commander. Open in three… two…” T’Vrin pointed to Zelenko.

“To any ships in the area,” Zelenko stated firmly. “This is the Federation vessel USS Shepard. I am accompanied by two other ships flying under the flag of the Federation Starfleet. We are guarding a convoy of civilian transports on a peaceful humanitarian mission. Any vessels approaching the convoy under cloak or with weapon systems activated will be considered hostile, and will be dealt with accordingly. Shepard out.” She pointed to T’Vrin, who nodded and closed the channel.

“Bogey is still on intercept,” Vic relayed to the commander. “And if their sensors are working at all, they know we’re headed right towards them.”

“Tallera, charge phasers and set to proximity blast. Do not fire until I give the word.”

“Yes Sir,” Tallera replied, her heartbeat growing faster as she steeled her gaze on the console before her. This was what she had spent years of training preparing for. Something was threatening the Romulan Republic and the civilians risking their lives to help it, and it was her job to remove this threat. Her entire being burned to remove this threat. She knew the Federation didn’t like aggressive or ‘warhawk’ behaviors in officers… but it was hard not to get fired up in a position like this.

“Proximity blasts ready, Sir” Tallera barked towards Zelenko. 

Proximity blasts were a rather unconventional use of the Federation’s phaser arrays, although it was one every Romulan commander was wary of. Instead of using the array to fire a pinpoint-accurate phaser beam to slice through enemy hulls and shields, ‘prox blasts’ involved building up a heavy ‘blob’ of phaser energy and launching it towards a target, where it exploded at a certain distance from the ship. Prox blasts were far less destructive than normal beams, but you didn’t need to aim right at the ship you wanted to hit. If you had a general idea of where a vessel was (due to, say, tachyon or plasma emissions), then you could aim in that area and bombard the enemy ship with area-of-effect phaser fire until it either ran away or was destroyed. This strategy was used the very first time the Federation had encountered a cloaked ship, and it remained a tried-and-true hunting method nearly 150 years later.

The downside, however, was that firing in this manner wreaked havoc on the phaser arrays. If you fired too many prox blasts in a short time, an entire strip could be burnt out, and if you’re in battle, you probably won’t have time to fix it.

“Bogey is approaching weapons range,” Vic announced, eyes locked on his console. “And… I’m detecting trace amounts of tachyons alongside the plasma, now. That’s a telltale sign of a cloaked ship.”

“Raise alert level to red,” Zelenko stated calmly yet firmly. “Tactical, Prepare to fire.” Tallera inhaled deeply, her hands hovering over the fire control systems.

“Uh… wait, what?” Vic muttered, narrowing his eyes at his console’s readouts.

“Talk to me, Travers,” Zelenko said with a hint of impatience in her voice.

“Uh, I’m detecting sources of metal around the bogey now, Terminium specifically. That… doesn’t make sense, hull metal should be completely obscured by a cloak.”

“And hulls aren’t made of Terminium,” Tallera spoke up. “Torpedoes are just about the only things that are.”

Zelenko rapped her fingers on her armrests for a moment.

“Helm, reduce speed to warp 5. T’Vrin, put a visual of the bogey onscreen the second we reach visual range.”

“Yes, Sir.”

The next few moments seemed to take an eternity to pass. All members of the bridge crew sat in complete silence, awaiting what they would find with bated breath.

“Bringing bogey visual onscreen now, Commander,” T’Vrin stated, and the viewscreen jumped to the image of a metallic cylinder, cruising through space towards them with a glowing gas emanating from one end.

“What,” Zelenko said flatly.

“That’s a torpedo casing,” Vic stated, confusion apparent in his voice. “Looks like it’s in a residual warp field created by whatever launched it. Sensors say it has no warhead… but it’s emanating a steady stream of superheated plasma from one end, and sending out irregular tachyon pulses from the other. Making it look exactly like a cloaked ship…”

Oh hell, that’s a decoy!” Zelenko said, eyes widening as she leapt from her chair. “T’Vrin, contact the escorts, tell them-”

“I apologize for the interruption, Sir,” T’Vrin cut her off. “But we just received a signal from the convoy. The converted Excelsior-class freighter SS Loran has been destroyed.”

Comments

  • Oh boy, I didn't see that coming! They seriously thought it was a Klingon ship on an intercept course but it turned out to be a torpedo casing. Wow, whoever did this knew what they were doing and hopefully, the Shepard will get answers as to what is going on and why. Now a starship has been destroyed, I can't wait to see what happens next and what the crew of the Shepard find out and catch the culprit.

    November 9, 2022
  • Every chapter, you're fleshing out your main characters more and more. It's so enjoyable to read. I have great respect for Zelenko's hyper-Starfleet approach of stating peaceful intentions to the cloaked mystery but reminding them that they can defend themselves. I also particularly liked the way you wrote about Tallera's years of purpose all burning into a single moment. It's a fascinatingly extreme character observation and it rings so true. Your tech-the-tech was just the right balance of explaining how it all works, while keeping it easy to understand. Oof, too bad they didn't try those proximity blasts closer to the SS Loran!!

    November 11, 2022