Check out our latest Fleet Action!

 

Part of USS Endeavour: Falls the Shadow and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Falls the Shadow – 1

Old Romulan Neutral Zone
March 2401
0 likes 564 views

‘We thank you, Commander Kojan, and your whole crew. Please pass our gratitude to Fleet Captain Jericho and Secretary Hale.’

Dani Kosst’s smile was fixed as she gave the Romulans a deep nod. They had been through a lot, the refugee world beleaguered by a crop blight endangering their capacity to feed themselves. Sophia Hale had deftly negotiated trade agreements with nearby systems to bring in fresh supplies, while the Triumph and their science officer, Lieutenant Quinn, had studied the fungal infection to develop a cure. Day saved, the Triumph rushed off to the next challenge.

Leaving Kosst and the Nighthawk to perform the inauspicious task of upgrading and rigging the planet’s crop dusting equipment to distribute the cure. And for the planetary leader to get her name wrong.

‘We’re just glad we could be of assistance, Governor. You know Starfleet is on-hand whenever you need help.’ She and Lieutenant Tyrell Rhade stepped into the town square before the gathered, grateful locals, and she tapped her combadge. ‘Kosst to Nighthawk. Two to beam up.’

Ty Rhade did her the decency of waiting until they materialised on the small transporter pad before he laughed. ‘Mission accomplished, Commander Kojan.’

‘Oh, shut up,’ she sighed, descending the pad.

‘I particularly like you not correcting them but saying your name right before you left. That’s a great passive-aggressive touch.’

She gave her Chief Engineer a good-natured glare. ‘Don’t you have a report to write up about your scintillating work modifying century-old crop dusters?’

‘Somewhere, there’s an agricultural technologies historian who’s going to be very grateful,’ Rhade said with a wink as they parted ways.

The bridge was a little more disciplined. Small as befit the ship itself, there was little space for chit-chat that wouldn’t be overheard by everyone on duty, so it gave the bridge either an air of conviviality or deep intensity. Conversation stopped as the turbolift doors slid open to admit her, and she could hear the echo of Ensign Fox’s laugh dying.

Kosst drew a quick, apprehensive breath before she stepped out. ‘Report.’

Commander Brennos stood from the command chair. ‘All equipment and engineering teams are back aboard. We’re ready to get underway at a moment’s notice, Captain.’

There was still the hint of a giggle about Ensign Fox. Kosst tried to ignore her, not because she found it unprofessional, but she could tell the young officer didn’t want to laugh in front of her commanding officer. Even if she’d been laughing in front of the stoic Brennos.

‘Very good.’ Kosst sank onto the central chair. ‘Take us out of orbit, Ensign Fox, and set a course to rejoin the squadron at Avrondail 5.’

‘Aye, Captain.’ Fox’s voice was crisper as her hands moved on the controls. ‘Taking us out.’

‘The comms buoy is operational,’ reported Ensign Percian from Science. ‘If they need anything, if the crops look to fail again, they have long-range communications options to bring us back.’

‘Or whoever answers,’ Kosst breathed. ‘Let’s make sure -’

‘Captain.’ Brennos never interrupted her. But there had been an urgent chirrup from his console, and her XO looked up from the Tactical station with a stern look. ‘We have a priority one communication incoming.’

She twisted in her chair. ‘Captain Jericho?’

He shook his head. ‘Fourth Fleet Command.’


In times of crisis, it was Lionel Jericho’s habit to breakfast with his senior staff. This was not as collegial as it sounded, but meant he could begin staff briefings painfully early, dragging everyone up to the conference room to fill their bellies and their minds simultaneously. His yeoman, Ensign Gagneux, made sure a buffet was set up by the window with enough platters of hot and cold food for everyone to settle in, and it let them soak up and consider problems instead of Jericho just barking instructions and making them scatter like a dropped packet of candies.

He had loaded his plate up with eggs and bacon and gestured to Gagneux to refill his mug of coffee from the steaming vat on the side. ‘Vigo, I want you running basic combat drills for the moment. Make sure everyone’s sharp, and if they’re not, get your team leaders to run personal practice to fill in the gaps.’

Vigo Sterlah nodded, but frowned. ‘Our drills prepare for enemies such as Klingon and Romulan renegades, or pirates. We have some to make ready for Breen raiders. Nothing of this magnitude.’

‘Which is why Krish is gonna be helping you out there.’ Jericho stabbed a forkful of bacon in the direction of his Ops officer. ‘Krish, I want you going through historical records. Dig up any battle reports or combat training from the Dominion War, adapt it for modern systems and protocols, and work with Vigo to make sure it suits our security needs.’

‘I’ll also,’ said Commander Ranicus, looking between Jericho and Krish Malhotra, ‘consult on integrating these findings with our ship combat drills. Which I assume you want me running.’

Jericho smothered a smirk as he nodded at her. ‘Good. Yeah, get right on that. Tar’lek, give Commander Ranicus as much assistance as you can on that one as well; if she has other duties, you’ll take on running the bridge drills.’ He looked towards the buffet. ‘O.’

Olivia Quinn, Science Officer, turned to him with a slightly startled look, interrupted partway through her process of assembling a bowl of yoghurt and fruit. ‘Yes, sir -’

He raised a hand as she went to scurry back to her seat. ‘This doesn’t need writing down. I need you to become an expert in all astrometrics data in the Deneb Sector overnight. If we’re going to be operating out there, I want to know the lay of the land. I want to know how we use this against these sons of bitches who’ve never been this far into our space before.’

‘I…’ Quinn swallowed and nodded. ‘Yes, Captain. Astrometrics genius incoming.’

‘Good.’ Jericho had a swig of coffee to wash the bacon down. ‘Vash, Dimitri?’ He looked at his Chief Medical Officer and Chief Engineer. ‘You know what to do.’

The two veterans, the officers he’d worked with longest, exchanged wry looks. ‘Try to stop us from blowing up and dying,’ drawled Doctor Vash Namiya. ‘I can help with one of those.’

‘I,’ said Dimitri Isakov, ‘will help with both. But not in Sickbay. Nobody needs my welding equipment down there.’

Jericho gave a wry smirk, but it sobered as he regarded his crew. ‘Make no mistake. This is bigger than anything we’ve faced. Most of you are too damn young to remember the Dominion, and I won’t lie to you, I fought them from an engine room, not on a bridge. I don’t know how they’re here. I don’t know why they haven’t woken up and gone, “Oh damn, this war ended a quarter century ago.” I know the Breen are a vicious bunch of bastards and will likely have turned this so-called lost fleet against us. So it seems we’re gonna have to punch them in the face hard enough that they wake up to the twenty-fifth century.’

His eyes swept up and down the table, everyone stopping what they were doing to watch him. From the grizzled veterans like his old friend Isakov to the stern stalwarts like Ranicus and Sterlah to the anxious eagerness of the greener officers like Quinn and Arys, they sat in silence and hung onto his every word.

Jericho knew the responsibility that entailed. ‘It’s time to step up, folks. They think they’re the big bad that crawled out from the shadows and has come for us? They got no idea who they’ve come for. Not just the Federation. Not just Starfleet. Us. The meanest and toughest crew out there. If you ain’t sure, look around you and get sure, ‘cos everyone’s counting on you. Be heroes in the face of the monsters. And if you can’t do that…’

‘Be the bigger monster,’ Isakov finished with a toothy grin.

‘That’s who we are, folks. Heroes and monsters, all rolled into one.’

The echoing hum of heroes and monsters followed the senior staff out as they left, and Jericho sat, hoping his expression did not belie his fear that they were about to face much, much bigger monsters.


‘Fourth Fleet Command are jumping at shadows,’ grumbled Commander Ramius Vornar as he stalked the corridor, his chief of security his shadow a half-step behind him. ‘This is nothing more than the Breen scooping up some old Dominion tech from the war and starting trouble.’

‘As you say, sir,’ came Lieutenant Livia Hadrian’s crisp reply. ‘But our orders remain to join the squadron in the Deneb Sector and make ready to engage.’

The confined spaces of the USS Independence did not make for much comfort or breathing room. They lived almost on top of each other, the crew of this Defiant-class, the most likely to stay close to the squadron flagships for resupply or R&R, but when they were in the field, it was just them. Hadrian had served on Independence for as long as Commander Vornar, which meant she knew his tics, his tendencies, and his dislikes as well as anyone, being close to him day in, day out.

She did not believe that meant she knew him. He had a mask of stoicism greater even than hers.

‘I know our orders,’ Vornar said, giving her a sharp look. ‘And they’re from Captain Jericho as much as from Fourth Fleet Command. But I will not have this ship making ready to fight ghosts. All of Starfleet disagrees with Admiral Ramar. The damned press disagree with Admiral Ramar, and you know they’d smell a rat if one were there. We make ready to fight Breen. Got it, Lieutenant?’

‘Loud and clear, sir.’ Whatever she believed was irrelevant. These were her orders.

She felt Independence go to warp not long after, the deck humming underneath as they began their sprint across the galaxy, from Romulan space to Deneb. Their orders directed them to make a brief stop-off at Starbase 38 for final resupply, then they were into the black. Whatever was out there would show itself.

Vornar was not wrong. FNN had reported nothing more than Breen raids. Evidently, something was amiss on the frontier, but contacts and colleagues she had in the local defence force, Task Group 514, insisted that they could repel the Breen themselves. Amidst Starfleet making ready for the pomp and circumstance of Frontier Day, was an old fossil like Ramar, left out in the cold, just trying to prove himself important?

She and Commander Ra-Talorei, Chief Science Officer, later met with Commander Rosewood in the XO’s quarters that doubled as his office. John Rosewood, with his bright smile and easy manner, had dispensed with the rough and readiness of the rest of the ship. Art hung on the walls, and behind his desk was a string of holographic projections, tiny snapshots of his life – past assignments, the Academy, gatherings of old friends. It was like stepping from the harsh front line of Independence’s normal life and back into a softer, gentler Starfleet. But Hadrian had discerned over the past months that there was more to this man than smiles and fluff.

‘We want to be ready for anything,’ he said with a thoughtful nod once Hadrian relayed the captain’s sentiments about the Breen. ‘How would you make us combat-ready, Lieutenant?’

‘Drills,’ she said simply, quickly, ‘based on recent encounters with the Breen. Simulations of the Battle of Starbase 38 may help us prepare for deployment alongside other ships.’

‘As soon as I know anything,’ jumped in Ra-Talorei, ‘I’ll begin analysis of the Breen’s movements, actions. See if we can discern which faction is taking the forefront. Ascertain their practices and threat levels.’ He was always more of a political and strategic analyst than a classic Starfleet scientist, adept at turning his bright mind to outsmarting enemies rather than boldly going.

Rosewood nodded and looked back at Hadrian. ‘You said you’ve got contacts in 514?’

‘Old Academy friends, sir.’

‘Captain Vornar is right,’ Rosewood said with a simple smile. ‘We shouldn’t be jumping at shadows. That’s why I want you two shining a light on them, okay? We’ve got to make sure the captain is as well-informed as possible, that this ship is as well-informed as possible. Let’s not put uncertainties on his desk; let’s let him make the best choices with the best information. We can worry about the grey so he doesn’t have to.’

Hadrian’s brow furrowed. ‘You want me to look into the reports these are actually Dominion?’

‘I want you to keep asking your friends in the 514.’ Rosewood looked at Ra-Talorei. ‘I want you to keep poring over every inch of combat reports we get of Breen movements. That’s not jumping at shadows. That’s pressing. That’s questioning. We gotta keep questioning. What do your instincts tell you?’

Hadrian and Ra-Talorei exchanged glances. At length, Hadrian said, ‘That we don’t have the full picture.’

‘This is bold even for the Breen,’ Ra-Talorei said. ‘Perhaps there’s a new Thot on the ascent.’

‘Exactly. The captain doesn’t want rumour, fear, or supposition, and neither do I. You’re the two best minds aboard for this. Get it done.’ The two headed out, but Rosewood sat up a half-inch. ‘Liv?’

She gave Ra-Talorei a nod for him to leave without her and turned back. ‘Sir?’

‘You can bring the hare-brained and the half-baked to me any time you want,’ Rosewood said firmly. ‘And we can sift together through what the captain needs and what he doesn’t. Let him focus on the big picture. I trust your instincts.’

John Rosewood was charm and smiles, Hadrian thought, but he knew people, and as a leader that meant he knew how to use them at their best. Vornar’s distrust of their situation had made her screw up a little inside, doubt her own eyes and ears, but Rosewood could cut through that. He was right – it was her job to get the captain what he needed and keep the shadows off his desk.

Though Livia Hadrian did not doubt that where they were headed, shadows ruled.


Commander Valance stood from her command chair, PADD in hand bearing the orders transmitted just this morning. The expressions of her bridge crew had been grim as she’d explained the reports from Deneb, even the jocular Hal Riggs, dragged up from Engineering just to hear this, looking sombre. ‘Fleet Captain Jericho has requested my assessment of Pathfinder’s present state.’

Nate Beckett’s nose wrinkled. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘He wants to know,’ Harkon said, ‘if we can even get there in time.’

‘We’re a science ship,’ said Kally in a low voice. ‘What do we do against the Dominion?’

Gov’taj straightened. ‘We have teeth. In the hands of myself, Lieutenant Harkon, and the captain, we know how to perform any hit-and-run strike necessary. We have eyes. In the hands of our science officers, we can pierce the shroud of any of the Dominion’s secrets, scout and report back.’

‘All of that is irrelevant,’ said Thawn, ‘if we can’t get there in time to make a difference.’

Dashell winced. ‘We’ve been out in former RSE territory for almost a month and have already made massive increases in Starfleet’s knowledge of the region. This morning we detected a binary pulsar system on long-range sensors that hasn’t appeared on any Romulan maps we’ve received. Every discovery we make here is a new step for Starfleet and enhances understanding of this difficult border. Nobody here should imagine we’re not making a difference staying.’

‘Which is what Captain Jericho wants me to determine,’ said Valance, frowning at the PADD. ‘If we’re more use staying put, or arriving at Deneb late.’

Harkon sighed. ‘There’s always somewhere else in the galaxy we could be,’ she pointed out, but didn’t sound happy.

Thawn shifted her weight. ‘The rest of the squadron is going to Deneb?’

Valance met her gaze for half a heartbeat. ‘Yes.’

Dashell glanced between them. ‘This is your call, Captain. We keep pressing on into the unknown, or we turn back.’

I’m aware, she wanted to snap. She’d told the crew because transparency was fair, as much as she wanted to hear their opinions. But she’d also hoped one of them would say something to make this decision easy. No, that wasn’t true. She already knew exactly what decision she wanted to make. She’d hoped one of them would say something to justify it better. Without that, it was just her and her instincts.

She turned to Commander Riggs. ‘How fast can we get to Deneb?’


They’d raced across the stars, pelted the length of the Federation with more urgency than ever before, and every night he’d dreamed the dreams a quarter century old. Dreams of darkened corridors and grey-skinned faces, of shimmering air and the pulse of their weapons, of blood and war. Of the Dominion.

Endeavour had stopped at Starbase 38 for only a few hours. Here they would resupply, not just in normal materiel but in torpedoes, weapons, security officers, before they pressed on to the front at Deneb. Rourke had been ready to oversee this, make sure his ship and his crew had every single piece of equipment they needed before facing this old, hated foe.

Only to receive an encrypted message sent directly to his ready room console, summoning him to a maintenance corridor on Starbase 38’s Indigo Section, and signed only Trident. To anyone else, it was absolutely baffling. To Rourke, it was clear he had to hand the resupply management over to his senior staff and come aboard, out of uniform and inconspicuous.

The maintenance corridor was dim and narrow, far from the prying eyes of the public or even engineers responsible for kilometres of station interior. But the moment Rourke closed the hatch behind him, he saw a shadow move down the walkway. Against his better judgement, his hand curled into a fist and he wished he’d brought a weapon.

‘I’m here,’ he called gruffly. ‘What’s this about, Alex?’

The distant shadow shifted for him to see a silhouette, and though he could only see half a shape, he knew he was right about who had summoned him. That didn’t make any of this make any more sense.

‘Why did you come here?’ Admiral Alexander Beckett’s voice echoed down the corridor. Equipment hissed around them to almost mask his words. ‘And how did you know this was me?’

Rourke squinted. ‘Only you’d do cloak and dagger shit like this. Only you’d mention the first operation the Hood was sent on in the war.’

‘It’s where we met. I led that boarding party onto the Jem’Hadar ship. Who else was with us on the security team?’

‘What the hell is going on, Alex?’

Answer me.’

Rourke swallowed. ‘Chief Tyrid led it. Rest of the team was me, Fellows, Parien, Johnson, and Leffly.’

‘It wasn’t Leffly,’ came the voice of Admiral Beckett. ‘Leffly didn’t come aboard until after Chin’toka.’

‘You’re thinking of Leofen. Leffly bought it at DS9.’ Rourke hesitated. ‘It’s also not when we met. You did a security inspection two weeks earlier. You pulled me up on the crease in my trousers.’

At last, there was a low chuckle. ‘That’s right.’ Now the shadow moved, and Admiral Beckett emerged into the narrow walkway of the shrouded, noisy maintenance corridor. ‘I had to be sure, Matt.’

Rourke swallowed. ‘I’ve been on the other side of the galaxy for months, Alex. If the Lost Fleet brought any Changelings, there’s no way they could get anywhere near me.’

‘That’s true,’ said Beckett, shouldering his way through the narrow walkway to approach. ‘Which why your analysis is only half-wrong. You’re going into the heart of darkness, Matt, with you and the rest of the squadron. I’ve tried to give what warnings I can, but you’re one of the only people I can trust, one of the only people I know who has the knowledge and the instincts to get to the bottom of this.’

‘The bottom of what?’

Alexander Beckett drew a sharp breath and met his gaze. ‘Starfleet is compromised. And this goes far, far deeper than just the Lost Fleet.’

Comments

  • What a perfect example to all of us squadron aficionados about how to use them and use them well. In one story, there are many different takes on preparing for the event, and you demonstrate the difference between the ships/crews in your squadron perfectly. I loved the scene with Jericho and his bunch eating breakfast. That was something I'd imagine Pike doing, and everyone loves Pike. Then you have the Captain on Independence doubting everything, as I imagine a lot of people would be. And to round it all off, you've got the perfect ending with the conspiracy that is gripping the fleet. An excellent piece of FA writing, setting the standard for all that is to come.

    May 5, 2023
  • I can always count on your writing to find these small irrelevant moments of interpersonal interaction that are deeply relatable (and actually secretly shape us as people)! The planetary leader getting Kosst's name wrong and Kosst not correcting them hit me like a punch to the gut, which is such an over-reaction I'll admit, but so funny too. Jericho's motivation for breakfast meetings is hilarious too; sounds like a wicked HR strategy to me. Also, I will never recover from you writing lines like, "So it seems we’re gonna have to punch them in the face hard enough that they wake up to the twenty-fifth century." Pitch perfect. No notes. With all the cloak and dagger between Rourke and Beckett, I just know Endeavour Squadron is going to face something proper villainous.

    May 5, 2023
  • I enjoyed how this all came together, the views between each one of your ships and crew. From the Captain of the Independence agreeing with Starfleet Command makes one wonder if he's compromised. Who knows, I agree with Kohl that I liked the part about what Jericho said about punching them back to the twenty-fifth century, that gave me a bit of a chuckle. Though I find it a bit strange how Beckett met with Rourke all cloak and dagger-like. I can't wait to see what happens next with the Endeavour Squadron!

    May 6, 2023
  • Wow. This is Good Writing, and what defines it most as Good Writing for me is the fact that you were able to lead me across *five* ships that are new to me without losing me as a reader. And each ship brings up such an interesting problem. I hadn’t considered the issue of outdated battle tactics until Jericho brought it up. The atmosphere of doubt on the Independence is a great driver for the possible explanations that crop up, and sure, why *couldn’t* this be a new Thot on the ascent or the actions of a desperate Fleet Admiral? I also want to zero in on Rosewood and the great characterization via the decor of his quarters and the diplomatic tone of his dialogue and just say I find him especially intriguing and he might be a favorite going forward.

    May 6, 2023
  • Alexander Beckett has been watching the X Files lately hasn't he? With his meeting in dark maintenance corridors and backlighting, his ominous questions from the dark before stepping forward enough to be seen. He was just missing the cigarette to be the Smoking Man. Then again, it is such a cloak-and-dagger trope that type of meeting and dang did you land it! I loved the different perspectives, and the different interpretations of the data in the hands of the different crews across the squadron. It's what you'd expect in a group of people - different thoughts and ideas. This is a fantastic opening and I'm hooked that's for sure!

    May 8, 2023
  • What a start to The Lost Fleet! I came here after being highly recommended to read up on what Endeavor squad has been up to, and to their credit I'm glad I did because this story did not disappoint! It is amazing how well you weaved in so many different ships within a single post and kept everything so coherent and didn't lose your reader as we progressed through the story, great job! I also really loved the tension at the end with Alex and Matt as Alex pressed him to verify his identity. That cliffhanger was fantastic, can't wait to read on!

    May 17, 2023