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Part of USS Altai (Archive): M3: The Edge of Yesterday

No time like the present

Altai's Briefing Room
January 2401
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Captain Jacob Hayes stood before the viewport as he stared into space where the rocks float. Asteroids in an asteroid field, where the listening post that the ship was assigned to happened to be in one of those asteroids. Thanks to a former Chief Engineer, any exterior structure of the listening post that would usually be visible has been covered in a blanket of camouflage. Holoemitters, as it were. The only thing that would give it away, is if you were staring right at the rock and witnessed a shuttle exiting the holo imagery and another going through it as it approached the station.

While Hayes continued to stare out into space, his ears listened for the hiss of the door. Each hiss was of the door opening or closing; as he counted each hiss, he knew when it opened and closed. The next one he heard was of someone entering the briefing room, and the following hiss was of the door closing behind them.

Astrid looked at her chronometer ‘Shit I am late.’ She thought as she sprung up for her position on the bridge. She had been on night bridge watch and had got caught up in some sensor readings. She made her way quickly to the briefing room straightening her uniform before arriving.

Hayes smiled lightly. “Thank you, Commander.” He patiently waited, which gave everyone plenty of time to get to their seats. Hayes would turn as he went for his chair to see just that. “I know many of you have questions, and I will do my best to answer them all in the new few minutes.” He said as he sat down in his seat and rested his hands together on the table.

“I am Captain Jacob Hayes, and this fine young lady here is Commander Astrid Fleming.” He gestured to Fleming with his open palm before placing his hand back on top of the other. “Unfortunately, Commander Streth has been reassigned for several reasons. The main being that he had something very personal come up from home. The other is because Starfleet Command has analyzed the mechanoid spider from your first mission here, the one that boarded the ship; as well as analyzed the data that your former Chief Engineer collected from said mechanoid spider. That led Starfleet to believe that there is much more going on out there than just the Breen.”

Hayes’s hand moved to hover over one of the table’s command panels and pressed a button to bring up a holographic display of the Breen Dreadnought. “That’s not what I wanted.” He smirked. “But it does bring up another point. When Starfleet received the reports about the mechanoid spiders being on board this vessel that you all dealt with last mission, it raised even more questions at command.” Hayes then pressed another button, and the holographic image of the Breen Dreadnought was replaced with an Excelsior-Class vessel. “There we go. This is the USS Romero. She was reported missing during the Dominion War and has not been found since. Until very recently. You see, that data that your former Chief Engineer extracted had the location of this ship. When the specialists dug deeper, they discovered these mechanoid spiders originated from that ship.”

Benjamin Jones frowned heavily. “Excuse me, Captain. When I was at Starfleet Intelligence, I saw nothing in the records of a ship going missing during the time of the Dominion War. At least, not the Romero.”

Hayes looked at Jones. “Not everything gets reported, Commander. And even if it had been, you were likely not high enough in rank to know about it.”

This bothered Jones, but he did not question it further.

Hayes then looked at everyone. “Does anyone have questions for Commander Fleming or for me?”

Looking a bit nervous seeing her previous experience with these spiders was not the greatest, Katsu sighed to herself “Were there any scientific anomalies to consider with the ship’s disappearance? Or is that classified sir?”

Hayes looked at Katsu. “None and no, Lieutenant.”

“If I were to speculate the crew of the Romero created these nasty little buggers,” Dr. Randall observed.  “Was there any indication of a Federation power source or technology in them?”

Joran looked around the briefing room at the senior officers he had slowly been getting to know since his rather dramatic appearance on the ship. The memory of the spiders sent a shiver down his spine and the thought of them possibly being created by star fleet officers didn’t sit right with him. Leaning forward he looked at the new captain and XO, “Sir, it seems strange to think that the crew would have created them even out of desperation at the height of the war. Though would that not be a secondary issue? They are a threat and need to be contained and eliminated given what we know of them.”

Lt. Vogler frowned not liking the implications, “That means it’s the expected origin point.  We should just blow it up from a distance and don’t go anywhere near the Romero.”

Hayes raised his hands to quiet everyone down. “I know it is easy to misunderstand when I say that the data indicated the origin of the mechanoid spiders came from the Romero. But no respectable crew of Starfleet would go as far as to create these things.” Hayes said as he looked at the Doctor, then at Joran. “They are indeed a threat; per indications of recent events that you all had experienced, they’ve already left the Romero. We do not know how many or where they’ve all gone, but it’s pretty clear that some Breen vessels have been infiltrated by these things.”

Hayes then looked at Vogler. “That would be the most logical and strategically sound plan except for a few things. One, we need to find out what happened to Romero during the war. Why did she disappear? Where exactly did these mechanoid spiders come from? And if the crew of the Romero created them, then in the ship’s logs would be a kill switch to all mechanoid spiders, including those we have not yet encountered.” Hayes then pressed a button for the holo display of the Excelsior-Class to disappear. “Starfleet specialists have also been studying the alloy that these mechanoids are made of. And to answer your other question, Doctor. No. Not a single Federation technology was located. But we have the schematics to upgrade our current phaser pistols and rifles so that they have a setting that will punch a hole through these spiders. Like in training, aim for center mass; that is where their core systems are located. Take it out, and the entire body ceases to function.

Astrid shook her head “We need to remember they’re innocent until proven guilty. Remember they’re Starfleet and we need to make sure we do this the right way. Don’t jump to conclusions before we know the truth.”

Hayes smiled. “Exactly right, Commander. As Fleming said, these are our people. We must investigate the Romero and find out what happened.”

Jackson sat quietly at the back of the room, listening to all the details of this mission. ‘Locating and investigating a starship that was, until now, missing. Interesting’ he thought.

“I am not liking where this is going,” Vogler responded. “If we go over there I want overwhelming force which means coordinating with the security department.   Last encounter was far too close for comfort.”

Joran shuddered as he suppressed a flash of memories of the spiders jumping towards them as they fought them off before jumping into space as the Breen vessel detonated behind them. He glanced at Volger and nodded in agreement, “You could say that again.” He turned to look at the new CO, “Will the Altai be accompanied by any other ships, we know the Breen are in the area and hostile, not to mention these spiders. Will one ship be sufficient?”

Hayes nodded his head. “All good questions.” He looked at Vogler again. “I have the utmost respect for the Hazard division. It usually is not an active one, but in cases like this, out here, it can be a difficult job.” He looked at Joran and everyone else. “We will be going alone, no escorts. The Romero was located on our side of Federation space. Now I know Breen have a tendency to violate our borders, but we do have eyes in the area, and so far, not a single Breen activity. They may be busy dealing with these spiders on their own.”

Hayes cleared his throat. He needed a drink as he licked his lips. “The Romero has remained in its current location for over a week since her return to Federation space. All long-range sensors at our borders did not detect her arrival until she was just magically there. Sitting still at her location for over a week leaves Starfleet to believe something is wrong. We may have to accept that the crew might not even be alive. And from the history of these mechanoid spiders, they should have taken control of the ship long before now. Something mysterious is going on; we are the closest ship out here by the border with the Breen, and you all have dealt with these spiders. We are the perfect ones for the job.”

Hayes looked at Vogler once again. “Once we arrive, we will conduct a full sensor sweep of the ship. We have also modified our sensors to detect the specific alloy that these spiders are made of. We have a tactical advantage. We will know where they are and how many there are, and our weapons will be modified to handle them much more significantly. In this case, Lieutenant, it will be like shooting fish in a barrel.”

“So, does that sound better to everyone?” Hayes asked.

“Sir, it doesn’t matter how it sounds. I will follow your orders.  You have my concerns and objections.  Now, it’s my turn to simply ask; when and how high shall I jump,” Vogler replied. 

Hayes looked at Vogler. “Actually, Lieutenant, it does matter.” He then looked at everyone. “Everything said here matters. To be perfectly clear. I will not jeopardize the entire security force of this ship. As I stated previously, we have the means to detect these spiders, where they are located, and how many. So once we are close enough to the Romero, we will run a full sensor sweep and determine our course of action.” He paused to let it sink before he continued. “If the numbers are overwhelming, we will destroy the ship.” He looked back at Vogler. “Lest not forget that I, too, am under orders.”

Hayes leaned back into his seat. “Get to your posts and prepare the ship for departure. Commander Fleming, have helm set course for the Romero at warp six. Then accompany Lieutenant Vogler in assisting her team and the rest of security in modifying our armaments with the new upgrade to deal with these mechanoids. If there are no other questions, you’re all dismissed.”

Hayes then snapped his fingers. “I almost forgot.” He looked at Jones. “I’m afraid we will not need you on this journey, Commander.”

Jones frowned. “Any reason why, sir?”

Hayes smirked. “Well, we need a commanding officer to remain on the listening outpost. Both Fleming and I won’t be staying behind. So I am keeping you on board with the command staff as my Second Officer. With that said, I need you to remain on the listening outpost and take over the conn until we return.”

“Sir, with all due respect, you’ll need all the sharpshooters you have.” Said Jones.

Hayes shook his head. “I have full faith in the Hazard Team and Security on board this ship, Mr. Jones. You should too.” Hayes then rose from his seat. “You have your orders, Commander. You best depart before we leave the system.”

As much as Jones wished to object even more, he refrained. “Understood, sir.” And with that, he left the briefing room and headed straight for the transporter room.