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Part of USS Hathaway: Episode 15: Dark Voids of Ichor (The Lost Fleet) and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Night of Nights

Various
Stardate 24013.2, 0245 Hours
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Departing a world as friendly as Aquorat was never easy for the crew of an explorer such as Hathaway, but this was proving more difficult than ever thanks to the relationships forged and the work they had been undertaking in the weeks since their arrival in orbit. Whether it was answering the first distress call of a new species, helping to rescue their abducted comrades, joining them in an archaeological excavation or meeting in person for the first time, the whole experience had been thoroughly rewarding for the crew. Most of all, their Captain. His first few months at the helm since his abrupt promotion had been eventful, to say the least, but with his first official ‘First Contact’ under his proverbial belt, a happy science team with an opportunity to study a new world, and a bunch of pilots that had dazzled the natives with some impromptu flying lessons, all was looking good.

So good in fact, that he’d slept better than he had in the weeks prior to their arrival at the world on the outskirts of the Typhon Expanse. Even now, as the ship said its goodbye and departed for its home port of Deep Space Seventeen, a low rumble reverberated through the Captain’s quarters. Sound asleep, resting peacefully, hoping never to be disturbed from his slumber.

A shrill alarm emitting from his personal computer console, repeated every few seconds until he deactivated it, brought him crashing to reality. Growling, he sat up in his bed and spun his short legs off the side, planting his feet into two incredibly comfortable fluffy slippers replicated for him by Flyboy (and supposedly representing a very fluffy creature from a Terran sci-fi fantasy epic with laser swords, set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away). Wrapping his dressing gown around his bulbous waist, the Tellarite ran his left hand through his bedraggled hair and plunged into the seat in front of his computer terminal.

Priority One Transmission Incoming,’ he echoed the words on the screen in his head, causing a slight tilt as he wondered what could possibly be going on that required his attention at such an ungodly hour. Especially since it had apparently bypassed the bridge entirely and made its way straight to his desk.

“Computer,” he croaked, reaching for a sip of water, “begin transmission. Authorisation Gor-Alpha-Six-Three.

Once the text on the screen began to cycle through, the Captain’s eyes widened, and all sense of tiredness dissipated. When he was done, he collapsed back into his chair and pulled his hands to his face. How could this be happening again?!

Then, pulling on every ounce of instinct he had, every memory of a bygone time, he pushed himself from the chair and headed for his bedroom again.

“Computer,” he beckoned, “wake the senior staff. Briefing in thirty minutes.”

Almost thirty minutes later, the observation lounge at the back of the bridge was quiet, despite the presence of almost the entire senior staff. Rumours were already swirling across the ship, some hearing tales that had put the frighteners on even the most hardened of officers. If the rumours were proven true, then everyone would have cause to be worried. Akaria, Prida and Flyboy were deep in conversation about what they had heard; Noli and Tuca were moaning to the XO that nothing had come their way yet; Vittoria could sense a shift in the mood among the entire crew, and it made her uneasy. It was a feeling she hadn’t felt since the Delta Quadrant. Hell, the presence of the Andorian squadron leader at the briefing was reason enough for everyone to suspect something was going on.

Emerging from the port door and bypassing the bridge entirely, Vasoch marched along the aft bulkhead, passing behind several of his team until he stood behind his customary chair at the head of the table.

“Computer,” he called out, “seal the room. Ensure no audio or visual records of this meeting are kept on record. Security clearance, Gor-three-one-two-alpha.”

Such a move caused a stir among the assembled crew, the tension level rising as they sat forward and prepared for what they were about to hear. Once the confirmation from the computer was received, the Captain took his seat and clasped his hands together on the surface between them all.

“I’m aware that the rumour mill is working overdrive,” he began, “but let me assure you; whatever you think you know, or what you think you have heard, is wrong.” Blunt, to the point. True to Vasoch’s form book. “Several hours ago, Starfleet Command signalled a Breen incursion of the Deneb Sector. Official data we have obtained indicates the Breen have crossed the border, attacked worlds and are causing utter chaos,” he revealed to the team, most of them unloved, having heard all manner of rumours. “This is what Starfleet Command has reported, and what the Federation News Network has disseminated across the Federation. It is also a lie,” he countered, drawing a confused look from most around the table.

Unclasping his hands, he pressed a button on the table and brought up a holographic, sector-wide display of Federation worlds, assets and masses of red dots. “According to actual data obtained from assets in the Deneb sector, Fourth Fleet Command is reporting a massive strike by enemy forces in several key locations. Colonies on Izar and Sevury have already fallen to enemy forces, while attack wings have taken out several starships from Task Group Five-One-Four and threaten to overrun the entire sector within days,” the Tellarite concluded his briefing, sitting back in his chair and allowing his people to digest the reports.

Once they had, a barrage of questions and comments flew around the room. What had happened to those on Sevury? Where was the rest of Task Group 514? What reason do we have to doubt the reports of Starfleet Command?

“Do we know what starships we’ve lost?” the expected response of Doctor Torres chimed in first.

“I find it hard to believe the Breen are even remotely capable of such an attack,” the Andorian squadron leader scoffed, shaking his head.

“Even when they stirred up trouble in ninety-nine it was nothing remotely like this,” Giarvar continued the train of thought, “perhaps the intelligence we received is wrong?”

“Captain,” the strategist to his left was first to chime in, “I’ve been doing this job a long time now, and I have never seen any reports of the Breen being able to pull off such an endeavour.”

“It wasn’t the Breen,” Vasoch blurted out, finally answering someone and silencing the crowd. “Computer. Play visual records obtained from the starship Caliburn.

On the holographic display in front of the officers, a sensor image of a nebula was soon displayed for all to see, a timestamp in the corner indicating the recent date and time of the recording. Suddenly, the visual began to move until the recording brought up three metallic signatures closing in on Hathaway’s sister ship. “Amplify the upper right quadrant,” the Captain ordered. As it did so, the screen focused on the three objects, revealing the unmistakable scarab beetle-like vessels. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Dominion.”

Gasps and murmurs from around the table conveyed the shock of all. “Before you ask,” the Captain threw his hands up to prevent any questions, “the recordings and data obtained have been verified by multiple Fourth Fleet departments. Caliburn engaged the Dominion in the Ciater Nebula and sustained significant damage before retreating to Farpoint. It would appear, according to our initial reports, that the Dominion and the Breen have once again formed an alliance.”

“But why?!” Vittoria pleaded as she sat forward, “There has been peace for decades!”

“And how the hell did they get through the wormhole and into the Deneb sector undetected?” Noli interjected next until she saw Akaria inching forward to look at the display, an almost trance-like state on the Risian’s face. “What are you doing?”

“The data…” the half-bald Risian trailed off, reaching out with a flick of her hand and enlarging one of Caliburn’s sensor records, “Look, this is a quantum scan of the vessels Caliburn engaged. They’re… a quarter of a century old…”

“Nonsense,” Henry scoffed, shaking his head, “I may not have been around then, but I’ve done my reading. Even I know there is no way that a fleet of Dominion ships hangs around the area for twenty-five years, just chilling in the arse end of beyond, waiting until some Vorta gets bored and decides to break the peace…”

Akaria gave Flyboy a playful clip around the ear and drew his attention back to the data. “Nothing here suggests they did. Now, unless anyone here is an expert in quantum mechanics…” She looked around the room, and when no one volunteered she continued her analysis,  “But according to these scans, these vessels haven’t aged a day in twenty-five years. It’s like they’ve just been… lost and suddenly found, in exactly the same state they were last seen?”

“Those of you who were around during the time of the War may recall rumours of Captain Sisko and the Defiant crew entering the wormhole during Operation Return,” the Captain slowly turned his attention to Noli and Prida, who shared the same pained expression. Noli took the lead.

“According to logs from the Emissary,” she began, “Defiant confronted a fleet of Dominion warships inside the wormhole. We’re talking well over a thousand ships. Anyway, according to those on the ship at the time, the Emissary supposedly had an encounter with the Prophets. When it was over, the fleet just… vanished.”

“Hang on a minute…” Giarvar threw his hands up now, lurching forward in his chair, “please tell me we’re not really suggesting this fleet is a bunch of ships supposedly magicked away by wormhole aliens… sorry, the Prophets… which have just appeared twenty-five years later in the middle of nowhere.” His look of derision was one that would usually have been attributed to the Captain, rather than the more mild-mannered XO, but even he was struggling to believe what was being represented here.

“All the evidence seems to point in that direction,” Vasoch nodded.

“Nothing I can see in the data suggests otherwise,” Akaria confirmed, agreeing with the Captain.

“Then why are we hearing no chatter on this?” Tuca stepped forward this time. “As Strategic Operations officer, it is my duty to know this information, but I assure you, there has been nothing…”

“No one is suggesting you have dropped the ball here, Tuca. Don’t worry,” the Head of the Table smiled reassuringly, “Starfleet seems to be almost scared of the truth, even to the point of declaring no additional resources will be sent to aid Task Group Five-One-Four.”

“But I know Commanders in Five-One-Four,” Tuca added, “and I can categorically state that there is no way it has enough assets to defend Deneb,” the Alzek frowned.

“Luckily for them, Fleet Admiral Ramar is our commanding officer and we answer to him,” Vasoch grinned, baring his teeth, “The Admiral has used our galaxy-wide mandate to order the Fourth to be mobilised and to make straight for the Deneb sector. We are to reinforce retreating forces, liberate conquered worlds, defend the sector and prevent supply lines from forming.” He rose to his feet slowly, but surely. “Make no bones about this people…”

“…we are officially on a war footing.”


Entering her quarters a short while later, Akaria stood inside the doorway and waited for the door to close behind her before lifting her head, apparently staring through the bulkheads and into the heavens beyond. Fighting back the waterworks, she lowered her head, surprised to see Matheus stood just a few feet away, watching.

In silence, they moved closer and embraced; a long, silent embrace. Nothing needed to be said at that moment. They had the privilege to have their family there, together, in this time of great uncertainty, and they would be each other’s support network. Finally relenting, the more the tears that swelled the young Risian’s eyes trickled down her cheeks, the harder her estranged husband held her. No matter what they had gone through as a couple, they would be forever bonded, and it hurt him to see her so pained.

They truly were the lucky ones, just as the Captain had said. For many across the ship, that family unit was severely lacking. For all his bluff and bluster, Flyboy was just a young lad at heart, and he didn’t need to be a Betazoid to sense the pain of those around him. On the face of things, he looked a little more settled than some of his colleagues had, but that was just the bravado, the show that he regularly put on for his audience. In the privacy of his quarters, that bravado evaporated.

Wiping his eyes as he slumped into the chair opposite his computer, the young flight controller slapped his hand onto the controls and waited for the face to appear.

Henry!” his mother smiled gleefully at seeing the face of her baby boy. Her reaction soon soured when she noticed the distress her son was trying to hide. “What is it, honey? Is the Captain giving you a hard time again?

“Nah, mom. The Captain’s mellowing,” he shook his head slowly, debating how to tell her his news, but she had always taught him to be truthful, no matter the cost. He had to tell her, he’d never forgive himself if something happened and he hadn’t kept her informed.

“Mom…” he whispered, “we’re going to Deneb…”


“So it’s done then?” slouching on the sofa in one of the Starlight Lounge’s most secluded areas, Noli sipped on a warm beverage, looking up at the XO who joined her, and her fellow Bajoran colleague.

Slipping onto the sofa next to Prida, Giarvar let out a sigh alongside his nod of confirmation. “All departments are fully up to speed, and we’re hurtling through space like Flyboy chasing a date,” he smirked, signalling the waiter for a drink.

“I still can’t believe it…” Prida shook her head, “After everything this quadrant went through, after all the damage, and the death, we’re going through it again.”

“I was only five,” Noli smiled sheepishly, “I heard the stories of course, and tried my best to learn from my parents, but I never thought I’d ever have to live through that again. You’d have thought such a defining conflict would have made people see sense… to not repeat the mistakes of the past, ya’ know?” she lifted her cup and downed the remains of her warm beverage. 

“Imagine how Or’uil feels,” Giarvar reminded them both, looking across the lounge at the brown-skinned critter with green, bulbous eyes who cut a lonely figure on one of the lower tables. “His homeworld is in the Deneb sector,” the XO’s shoulders dipped at the thought of his own world being in the path of such destruction many moons ago, and how he’d hate for Trill to be anywhere near the fighting now.

“Has he been able to reach anyone?” Noli asked, glancing over her shoulder at the Ops Chief, the newest member of their senior staff cabal, and a loner at that.

The XO simply shook his head and took ownership of the beverage brought his way.

Narrowing her eyes, the tactical chief regarded the Ungeat with curiosity for a few moments before abruptly rising from her seat and storming off, leaving the XO and engineering chief to watch her, confused. They watched the Ungeat lookup as the Commander approached his table, and a conversation took place that neither could make out until the Commander pulled out a seat next to her fellow yellow-clad colleague.

Leaning towards the man, they could make out the blonde placing a reassuring arm on the man’s arm before they both rose and headed back in their direction.

Turning the corner from the ramp to their platform, Noli returned to her previous seat and tapped the space next to her, smiling at the Ops officer.

“Commander Noli has invited me to join you,” Or’uil blinked down at the two on the opposite bench, “if that is acceptable?” His voice, cleared up by the synthesiser he wore on his chest, was a little quieter and more reserved than usual.

“Of course it’s acceptable, Or’uil. You never need an invitation,” Prida smiled, gesturing to the seat across the table.

Nodding in thanks, the Ungeat slipped into the vacant space. “I am aware that you know about my difficulties with contacting my home world,” he bobbed his head from side to side as he spoke, as he often did, “but the Commander has reminded me that I need not suffer alone, for we are all family here.”

Like an icepick to the sternum, melted by the warm, beating heart, listening to their usually cold, standoffish colleague refer to them as family softened the three gathered there with him in that moment.

“To family,” Giarvar grinned, lifting his beverage in a toast to their friend.

“To the best family we could ever rely on,” Prida added, clinking her glass against the others.

“And to the newest member of that family,” Noli concluded, placing a warm hand on Or’uil’s shoulder.

For a second, the Ungeat adolescent’s green eyes glistened, as if they were watering, but only for a second before he, too, toasted the group.

“To family.”

Comments

  • For where we're all headed with a fleet action like The Lost Fleet, I enjoy the choice to start it all with the pain of nostalgia. It's that classic TNG conundrum of the senior staff bonding with a world that's gone through such a SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCE and yet we're living in the constraints of episodic television. It's time to move on and try to forget those happy bonds with the last planet of the week. Of course, it's easy to forget. I appreciate the visceral reactions to the return of the Dominion; you portray them as practically as scary as horror movie monsters to the crew, and rightly so. Akaria's silent moment of catharsis was particularly strong!

    May 5, 2023
  • I love this post. It started with such a great briefing, quick with good beats and solid reactions, and then lead so smoothly into the sweet, tender moments where the crew showed their more vulnerable sides. That ending was pure Star Trek. Great entry to your FA plot!

    May 5, 2023
  • The introduction is splendid, you nailed it at giving that feeling "I need to read on" perfectly. It is a very strong start for the Hathaway, the bulk of mixed emotions are all over the place and honestly with the given situation very agreeable feelings. Everyone preparing to go in war just hits that snare that a reader like myself is looking for, you did great! Looking forward to Hathaway mission :D

    May 5, 2023
  • Echoing what Brendan said, starting off with the crew sad to leave their most recent assignment behind is a great idea because they’re warping away from what Starfleet does best, which is mildly distressing, and then *boom*, things get worse! Tuca’s insistence that he hadn’t heard anything and Gor’s reassurance that he wasn’t being blamed was a small but oh-so-relatable moment. Seeing Henry’s moment of vulnerability back in his quarters when he called his mom was very sweet and very telling of how young he is. And I loved that Noli was not content to let Or’uil drink alone.

    May 6, 2023
  • A very moving start to your mission. You could really feel the sense of urgency during the staff briefing. Gor's not mincing of words illustrating that contrary to what the data showed, they didn't have all of the requisite information to come to any conclusions. They would need to find answers and they would need to find them fast or people were going to die. Also, the pain Akaria was feeling upon entering her quarters, really made me want to reach out and hug her to help put her at ease. I'm looking forward to reading more

    May 6, 2023
  • I really liked this introduction, you do an amazing job of capturing the feelings of the crew being confronted with this enemy once again. I loved the dialogue, how some of them felt immediately defensive and others felt sad and scared. I think probably my favorite bit of the entire story was Henry calling his mom, that was touching! Very well done, looking forward to reading the rest in the series!

    May 8, 2023
  • A good emotional start to the fleet action this is. It brings back the horrors of war, lets the experiences of those who went through it fill the conference room and then we get the view of those who merely lives in the shadow of the Dominion War. And we get that lovely slice of life of someone calling home, going to war and letting their folks know where they were headed. Really sets the tone for things to come.

    May 9, 2023