April 6th, 2385
“With the Martian colonies burning and the near total destruction of all Martian orbital infrastructure, relief efforts for the Martian population continue around the clock. Surviving vessels meant for the Romulan relief task force are being repurposed for this effort as well as more and more Starfleet vessels arriving in system as we speak. With multiple transport liners and almost every warp-capable starship in the Sol system in Mars orbit currently, conditions are becoming chaotic amongst the rescuers.”
The reporter’s tone was clear, precise, and emotionless. It was as Vulcan as you could get without being a Vulcan. Behind them was an expansive window on some starship in orbit of the red planet, the space between filled with hundreds, possibly thousands of starships. Large Starfleet cruisers tractoring broken pieces of scaffolding or space station to higher orbits, and smaller ships were surrounded by a misting of lights as shuttles flitted in and out of bays conducting rescue operations. And more and more just taking up orbit, acting as dumping grounds for transporters plucking people from wherever and putting them in a ship that is nominally much safer.
“And roughly an hour ago, Captain Caldwell, Starfleet’s media liaison with FNN, confirmed that the entirety of 1st Fleet is being recalled to the Sol system at haste to assist with continuing search and rescue operations.”
“Thank you, Cindy,” a masculine voice cut in before the feed shifted to a news studio that could have been anywhere in the Federation. “We’re going live to Xiao Wei in San Francisco with a breaking development.”
“Thank you, Samuel. Yes, I’m standing outside the Federation Council Chambers where –“
“Computer, off,” came the barking order of Captain Eric Ortega, cutting over the deathly silence of the bar, and bringing the news report to a halt as the sound cut out and the holographic display instantly disappeared. Over fifty faces suddenly turned to face him. Some were shocked, others were ruddy-faced from crying, and others were just blank at the situation.
“We’re two hours behind on the news out here folks unless it’s come across a priority channel,” Ortega stepped in enough that the door started to close behind him. A hand grabbed a chair, pulled it out from under a table, and then stepped up on it to be seen by all. “And I promised all of you that if we heard anything I’d let you all know.”
“But nothing Cobb. I know that at least half of you are supposed to be on duty right now and the other half should be sleeping.” His gaze swept over the masses before him. “Until I hear otherwise we’re going to continue with our assigned duties. And that means in six hours we’re dropping out of warp around Trellor and joining the USS Costa Rica in helping Romulan families pack up and ship out to Navinor. Am I understood?”
There was a murmur of agreement and understanding, but nothing that carried very far or with much enthusiasm. Then a clearing cough near the windows of the bar before a voice barked out for all to hear. “Is he understood?” It was phrased as a question but carried command with it.
“Yes sir!” came more than a few responses immediately, the second prompting getting the response Captain Ortega had sought.
“Right then, dismissed all of you. I don’t want to catch anyone just standing around watching the news again. Those not on duty get some sleep, you’re going to need it.” The captain stepped off the chair as the crew who’d gathered to watch the news together all started filing out of the bar, a few acknowledging the commanding officer as they shuffled out. And then as an Orion junior officer approached, consoling a couple of women about the same age, he held up a hand. “Hold up Sadovu.”
It was only a few more moments, a hug between the three women, one of the humans breaking into a sob before a young Sidda Sadovu passed her on to the other and sent them both on their way. “Yes, Captain?”
“Where did you learn to bark a question like an order?”
“My grandmother. And then my trainers in the Guard.”
“Hmm.” Ortega looked at the now empty bar, which looked fairly clean, everyone having been too focused on the non-stop news reporting instead of eating or drinking or socialising as they would have just over a day ago. “Honestly Lieutenant, I’m surprised you volunteered for this when you did. Cushy roll in a mostly ceremonial planetary force and then you volunteer for Starfleet duty just as we’re ramping up into a multi-year refugee crisis.”
“All part of my plan sir.” She smiled. “This is step three.”
With a flick of his head to a table, he sat himself down with the implicit invitation for her to do the same. “I should have asked this six months ago when you joined us.” He waited for her to sit before continuing. “I keep hearing about this plan of yours. What’s it for?”
“To get into Starfleet without my mother interfering in my career and make a name for myself.” Sidda sat, hands folded on the tabletop, posture perfect. “Captain Tisa Sadovu, USS Atreus.”
“Never heard of her,” he admitted. “But I take it overbearing, hovering parental figure who’d have been a shadow over your studies and career?”
“Yes sir. So I studied hard and convinced my grandmother to let me join the Vondem Republican Guard when I was just sixteen. Trainers there were expecting some dilettante who just wanted to wear a fancy uniform and filt around. Attend balls, official functions, that sort of thing. And with my grandmother’s pull on Vondem, they let me join thinking it would be easy work and would satisfy a well-to-do patron.”
“And weren’t ready for you.” He chuckled. “I’ve seen your training records, your VRG duty records and your testing scores upon your commission transfer to Starfleet. You’d have made an impression at the Academy that’s for sure.”
“The Academy notifies next of kin upon entrance. Especially when that next of kin is a respected officer. But as part of the transfer I was able to negotiate no notification. And I’d have had to wait an extra couple of years as well before I could even join.”
“So, step one is joining the VRG, step two was actually graduating, step three is sidestep into Starfleet. All in all, you’re about a year ahead of everyone else your rank.” He nodded in understanding as she nodded in the affirmative. “Many more steps to your plan of galactic domination Lieutenant?”
“Nothing so dramatic sir. Just want to get out there and help people. The next few steps are just working my way up the ranks until I get my own ship. Centre seat gets to do a lot of good things, sir.”
“Ah, the enthusiasm of youth.”
“It’s… never mind Lieutenant.” Ortega stood, tugging on his uniform tunic as he got to his feet. “This attack on Mars has hit a lot of your crewmates pretty hard. The Friedman’s especially, but you know that already.” He looked at her shoulder where damp spots were still staining the black shoulders of her uniform a slightly darker shade. “No one thought something like this could happen to the Federation.”
“I just feel bad because I don’t feel bad about it directly. Sorry sir but I just don’t have the same emotional connection I guess with Earth and Mars. And now with all those ships destroyed our evacuation efforts with the Romulans are going to be hampered. The Sarubaya is going to be run ragged over the next few years with all the work ahead of us.”
“That she is Lieutenant, that she is.” He chuckled, then stepped towards the door, triggering the sensor and causing it to hiss open. “Plenty of opportunities for you to take those steps on your plan. Captain Sidda Sadovu has a nice ring to it.”
Late April, 2385
“Pardon sir, but this is bull shit.” Commander Brett Gavalore’s outburst had taken a rather dour staff meeting and turned it on its head. And more than a few other officers all nodded along, including a Lieutenant Junior Grade Sidda Sadovu. “We’re to just stop what we’re going and report to Starbase 318 immediately? Piss on that, we’re a day away from getting this convoy underway.”
“And it’s only a six-day escort to get them to Navinor safely too,” Sidda spoke up.
“And then it’s two months helping them unpack, get all the shelters built, make sure all the prefabricated infrastructure is in place.” Ortega raised a hand, cutting off the deluge of complaints his entire senior staff were about to throw at him. “I agree, which is why I spent an hour arguing with Admiral Sh’tuk. But Navinor is inside Romulan space and we’ve been ordered to remove ourselves from Romulan territory immediately.”
“This is rank cowardice on behalf of Command,” Gavalore spat out. “Screw them! We came here to do a job and I say we finish it.”
“A single Parliament-class cruiser, ill-equipped I might add, staying behind isn’t going to make much of a difference,” Doctor Shreln stated, her voice as always lyrical sounding. “And besides, the Federation Council has made its decision and the Romulans are giving us time to leave before they take over.”
“You mean the Star Navy steals whatever it can to help the aristocrats on Romulus retreat while they can once we’re not around to stop them.” Lieutenant Commander Duncan wasn’t the most skilled engineer in Starfleet, but he was committed and always saw a job through to completion. “Captain we should at least see this convoy on its way.”
“We’ve got orders, Frank,” Ortega answered. “Though I hear we’ve had some issues with our engines lately. May be best to run a level one diagnostic on all warp systems before a long haul back to 318 don’t you think?”
“There’s nothing wrong with -“
“Navigational sensors have been spotty too Captain,” Sidda interrupted Duncan, having caught on before the engineer, whose mouth and eyes opened in sudden understanding. “I’m going to need at least twenty hours to get the entire navigational team to finish off a level one diagnostic. Wouldn’t want to go warping off into the depths of the Star Empire on accident.”
“Engines and navigation you say.” Ortega smiled and then turned to face his XO. “Well since we’re stuck here until we can finish making repairs, perhaps you can entertain yourself and the rest of the crew Brett by helping out the good folks of Trellor for a few more hours?”
Early May, 2385
“Sarubaya, this is Costa Rica, please respond.” The voice over the comms was one the bridge crew was getting very familiar with – Captain Brandon Davids.
“How far out are they?” Ortega asked.
“At their current speed about an hour. And they’ve got a warbird riding shotgun with them too.” Gavalore didn’t sound pleased at all as he announced that piece of news to the bridge.
“Guess the jig is up then folks. No more delaying it any longer. Right, answer Brandon’s call before he starts spouting regs again.” That brought a single chuckle from most on the bridge before it passed, and then the viewscreen switched from the green and blue marble of Navinor to the bridge of USS Costa Rica.
“Captain Davids, nice to see you. Was wondering when someone might notice we’re missing. Wondering if you could give us a hand with a spot of engine trouble –“
“Save it Eric,” the other man cut in. “You’re disobeying orders. You all are. I’m here to escort the Surabaya back into Federation space immediately.”
“We’re busy,” Ortega countered.
“Not any more. The IRW Talon Sweep is taking over the Navinor relief work.”
“I’ve got people on the ground Brandon. So should you dammit. So should all of Starfleet. But instead, you’re here – “
“Here to arrest you.” Captain Davids’ interruption killed Ortega’s speech before it started. “I’ve got orders to arrest you and your entire senior staff for violating orders.” There was silence for a moment. “Dammit Eric, I don’t want to do this, but I’ve got orders.”
Both men looked at each other over the open channel for half a minute before Ortega spoke. “We should save face in front of the Romulans.”
“That’s what I was thinking too. Get everyone back aboard. Once we arrive we’ll escort you over the border before I send officers aboard. I can at least let you bring Surabaya home first.”
“Thanks, Eric. Just…tell me this is all bullshit.”
“It is old friend. We’ll be with you in an hour.” And then the channel closed.
“What now?” Gavalore asked.
“We do what we’re told. Costa Rica can force us if need be. Brett, start getting our people back. And beam down everything we can to those refugees. Sadovu, plot a course to the nearest part of the border you can.” The XO merely nodded and then stalked across the bridge to the turbolift, disappearing quickly.
“We did the right thing, Captain,” Sidda said.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions Lieutenant. Remember that.” Ortega stood as well, heading for his ready room. “You have the conn, Lieutenant.”