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Official Lore Office post from Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Out of the Clear Blue Sky

Izar System, Deneb Sector
2401
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The siren call of the sweet scent of coffee summoned her from the bedroom. ‘Fresh?’ Gabrielle Nwadike grunted, still buttoning up her shirt.

Her husband Ibrahim grinned his ice-white smile. Where she had staggered from bed to bathroom, showered in a zombie-like stupor, he was like he always was: bouncing to action, dressed and clean and sharp in the morning sun streaming through their apartment’s tall windows. Beyond, the shining towers of New Seattle were stirring to life, a bright morning greeted warmly on the Federation’s boldest frontier.

‘I wouldn’t dare give you anything less,’ Ibrahim rumbled, hefting the stainless steel coffee pot and pouring the steaming black ichor of life into the insulated mug. ‘And I assume you don’t have time for breakfast with us.’

‘I’m sorry.’ Now she could smell coffee, hold the steaming cup in her hands, her neurons were firing up, rendering her capable of thought – capable of stringing multiple words together. ‘You’re in the studio today?’

‘After the school run.’ Ibrahim’s gaze turned chiding. ‘Try to get something healthy to eat on your way in.’

Gabrielle knew there was a breakfast burrito from the greasy replimat by the orbital lift in her future. But she smiled her lying smile at her husband, kissed him on the cheek, and headed out, clutching her travel mug like the Holy Grail. She could compromise on breakfast. She would not compromise on caffeine, the beans shipped in to their favourite deli only last week from the farmlands on Arriana Prime.

New Seattle’s public transit system meant she could hop on a monorail after walking only a block from her apartment building. Upwards soared the carriage, lifting her and the other bleary-eyed commuters above the hustle and bustle of street-bound pedestrians and the buzzing of personal vehicles, hurrying in and between buildings like worker bees in a hive. The capital of Izar didn’t sleep, but it certainly had a shift pattern.

The orbital lift jutted out of the skyline like someone had driven a knife through the city’s heart and caught everything in its wake, buildings knotting around it as if they were tree roots making an intrusion part of the forest. Half the monorail passengers alighted with her, and Gabrielle joined the crowds shuffling to the pavements to begin their day.

On the corner, a street vendor she didn’t recognise under a brightly-patterned canopy of red and gold tried to hawk food, luring in the commuter on-the-go. They were small, simple fares, and she pondered a pot of yoghurts and berries, thinking of Ibrahim. She had promised she’d try something a little healthier.

‘One of those days, huh?’ her colleague Stroven chuckled when she eventually joined him at the queue for the orbital lift.

Gabrielle had to swallow a mouthful of breakfast burrito with extra cheese before she could answer. ‘If we’ve got to find that patrol boat, I’m gonna need good food.’

‘That’s not good food,’ the Tellarite insisted as they shuffled along with the crowd. ‘That’s short-term satisfaction.’

‘Then if we have to fight the survey team for processing time with the long-range telescope, I’m gonna need short-term satisfaction.’

Stroven grunted at that. ‘The patrol boat’s just had engine trouble or something.’

‘Maybe. But it’s another bright day at the Deneb Sector Border Monitoring Service. We’re here to keep the skies clear!’ Gabrielle had to shift her grip on burrito and coffee mug to give twin thumbs-up, her expression and voice both twisted into a chirpy mockery of their last professional standards training video.

She took the lift every day, and still made sure she got a window. If the view from the monorail of New Seattle was impressive, the sight from the orbital lift, rising higher and higher, was humbling. The city grew smaller beneath her, shrunk to a child’s model, and with a pang of guilt she remembered her daughter’s science experiment that Ibrahim was going to have to help with. But then they were higher, higher, and the city became nothing compared to the vast mountains and sprawling forests of the surface of Izar.

Then they entered ever-dimming, ever-fading clouds. Izar fell from sight, and her gaze landed on the stars.

As perhaps the largest Federation colony in the Deneb Sector and certainly the largest, Izar was more than one planet’s worth of infrastructure. People had started on the surface only to scramble outward, just like on Earth, chewing up the system with resort moons and gas mining facilities and asteroid flight centres. And there, amid the tight network of orbital platforms and stations hovering over Izar III itself, usually just called ‘Izar’, was the lone platform that was her destination.

The Border Monitoring Service sat at the heart of a network of whatever sensor arrays they could connect to or sensor reports official flights handed over and civilian vessels volunteered. Patrol boats and the main deep space array were their best eyes and ears, which was why their first job that morning was to try to hail Patrol 47-3-B, due to report in 24 hours ago and gone dark.

Gabrielle had settled into her station at the heart of the control hub for no more than an hour before the comms officer finally pushed away from his post and pulled off his headset with irritation. ‘Nothing, Boss. No response from them, nothing in any comms records I can find of anyone who’s gone anywhere near them.’

She cast a look at Stroven. ‘Engine trouble, huh?’

He grimaced and shrugged. ‘Could be power trouble too.’

‘Then even if it’s just an accident, that’s a patrol boat drifting in space. Is there anything on sensors?’

‘Secondary array is still pointed towards the Ciater Nebula on the recent Science Institute study,’ Stroven grumbled. ‘Main array is coreward-focused.’

‘So much for border monitoring,’ she sighed, rubbing her eyes. ‘Coreward focus is after the Kzinti trouble at Kanaan. We don’t have the security clearance to redirect that. Put in a request for the Science Institute to let us borrow the secondary array for this – use my priority code, someone’s in trouble.’ She looked to comms. ‘And ask TG514 if they’ll send someone to 47-3-B’s last known?’

‘Science Institute are likely to be an hour to get back, even if they say yes,’ pointed out Stroven.

‘Then we better ask soon.’

Long before the SI got back to them, TG514 made it clear their ships would have to go far out of their way on this errand of mercy.

‘So much for Starfleet help,’ Stroven complained.

‘They’re usually a bit more willing to lift a finger in their hectic schedule of nothing happening out here. Kzinti got them rattled?’ Gabrielle wondered.

‘Boss?’ She didn’t know Comms very well. They were a young graduate who clearly wanted to join Starfleet Auxiliary but, she suspected, his parents didn’t approve of him leaving Izar any time soon. This was his compromise, and while it made him eager, it also made him a little annoyingly officious. ‘I’m picking up something weird on communication channels.’

She gave him a flat look. ‘Weird? Tell people to be more precise.’

‘Not in messages to us. It’s…’ He gestured vaguely. ‘A whole load of communication links going dark. Real sudden.’

‘Where?’

‘That’s the thing. Rimward.’ Comms shifted his weight. ‘Same way as 47-3-B.’

‘There’s a lot of rim out there before we jump to conclusions,’ Stroven chastised. ‘If something’s out there…’

‘…and nobody’s in a position to report it in, and the main array’s focused elsewhere…’ Gabrielle got to her feet. ‘Put me on to Izar 1. Get me to someone with some authority.’

That took another ten minutes before the border monitoring’s main viewscreen popped to life with the ops centre on the small, Vision-class station that provided Starfleet’s meagre presence at Izar. A young Bolian in a lieutenant’s pips and gold uniform peered back at her. ‘Monitoring Station 12.

‘This is Gabrielle Nwadike, Senior Manager. I know you’re as beholden as we are to everyone else’s hijacking of the main sensor array, but you have better small eyes than us.’ She explained her comms officer’s findings. ‘Put our minds at ease and do a quick scan on your tertiary array? Before I cause a stir over nothing.’

The lieutenant looked dubious, but nodded. ‘We’ll run a scan.’

Gabrielle knew she was being fobbed off so she went away, but it gave her what she wanted. ‘Much obliged, Izar 1.’

We’ll send you the findings. Izar 1 out.

Gabrielle sank onto her chair with a sigh. ‘Isn’t it great,’ she began, ‘that we have civilian bodies for this, Starfleet bodies for this, science bodies for this, and nobody wants to share toys?’

‘You could have joined Starfleet and made a difference, though,’ Stroven said with a mischievous look in his eye.

‘No thanks, I work for a living.’ She jabbed a finger at him. ‘And for that, it’s your coffee run. I was good this morning, I want cream and -’

‘That greasy burrito is not “being good” -’

‘I meant with the coffee -’

Boss!’ Comms – Heiliger, his name was Heiliger – sounded panicked. ‘Boss, you better see this – Izar 1’s got back to us – they’ve gone to red alert, boss -’

Had it not been for Izar 1’s status, she would have been telling the young man to calm down, use his words, and been prepared for him to be jumping at shadows. This had her flying to his side, hand on the back of the chair, eyes locked on the screen with the sensor feed from the station. ‘What the -’

‘That’s a dozen warships,’ Heiliger babbled. ‘Not Starfleet, not Breen, not Kzinti -’

Dominion. What the hell?’

‘Minutes out, Boss.’ There was another bleep on the comms display, and Heiliger made a small, panicked sound. ‘They’ve hailed the station. Asking for an immediate surrender.’

Stroven had gone very still the moment Heiliger’s report had started. Now he said, in a strangled voice, ‘There are hundreds of millions of people in this system. They have to surrender.’

‘Why are the Dominion asking us to surrender at all?’ Heiliger nearly squealed. ‘Why are they out here? What’s going on?’

Their little platform was, of course, reliant on the system’s main and secondary sensor arrays for them to gather data on border movements for analysis. But it did have its own short-range sensors. They didn’t give them much beyond the Izar system itself, but that was sufficient to see the blips – one, four, ten, twelve – suddenly appearing just outside the star’s gravitational pull.

Gabrielle did not have much patience for the people in her line of work who thought themselves stalwart guardians on a dangerous frontier and played at being military. But she was sufficiently well-educated on the defences of Izar – of the Deneb Sector – to know what trouble looked like.

This was off the charts.

‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ she said in a low voice as the bottom of her stomach dropped out. ‘But I know there’s no way a dozen – or more, there could be more – warships of this size sneak up on us if everyone’s doing their job. Even with all the vying for control of the arrays.’

Stroven looked at her, startled. ‘You think someone was asleep at the controls?’

‘I don’t know. But I know that we have to surrender if they tell us to. All of us.’

It was something of a lie. Surrender was certainly the thing to do, with TG514 nowhere near and a force of this magnitude on top of them. But she did know more than that, not just suspected it – knew, after all her years doing this job, knowing how the detection systems of Izar worked, how the detection systems of the Deneb Sector worked.

Someone had let this happen.

Comments

  • Unknown Author

    Thank you for writing your story. You painted a very good picture of what New Seattle looks like, the advancement and how a growing frontier location is growing. Everyone needs to contact everyone; things are just setting up or still being work out. The unexpected appearance of the Jem 'Hadar and how they lack the support to fight such a force. I find New Seattle as a perfect location to send the USS Thermodon to investigate.

    May 9, 2023