“Commander, we are exiting warp now. “
A low whistle is let out as Commander Thornton pulls his pipe from his mouth. Well, look at that. That’s what I call an array. I can tell you this is not like the one that the Dragon is setting up. No way. Ensign Skyk, start your scans, and make sure we record everything.”
“Commander, we are picking up transmissions, Seems to be using some sort of code and modulation system. We are only picking up bits and pieces. The computer is trying its best to make heads or tales of it all.”
“All forces…operation …”
“Launch….along D… “
“We have liberated …….”
“Sector … reports heavy ….”
“Starfleet vessels in ……”
“New allies…. Repeat do not cross… in Sector Delta”
“Sectors Delta, …., Hotel and Kilo. under ….control”
Commander Thornton watched the broken messages come across his console. “Something is going on, somewhere. The question is what is this operation? Where are they? And who is allying with the Breen?”
“Sounds like Starfleet is involved, so I’m sure we will be hearing something soon if the Dragon hasn’t already received reports.” the Edosian lieutenant said from the helm console.
“Commander, I’m seeing multiple warp trails. Look to be Breen in origin.”
“How many and a can we tell how often, ensign Nicholson”
The ensign shook her head as she watched the data on her console. “Hard to say for sure commander. Though I can say they come and go in duos. Looking at the degradation of the various trails I would say roughly every 24 hours or so. I’m recording the warp signatures right now and will run them against known Breen ship signatures in the system.”
“Very well Ensign. Can you tell how old the newest trail is? How long till someone pops back in here, that would be nice to know.”
“Pulling up that information right now, commander. I would say 21 to 22 hours ago. So we have roughly two to three hours before we can expect company.”
“Well folks, that should give us plenty of time to do what we came here to do, maybe even a bit extra. I’m starting a two-hour clock now. That’s our time limit folks.” he sat back in the Arrows captain’s chair and put the pipe back in his mouth. “Let’s see what we can find shall we,” he mumbled around the pipe stem.
Lieutenant LauPyju, keep us at long-range scanner distance for now. Ensign Skyk let us know if you find anything of particular interest.”
“Logically speaking it is all of the interest, Commander.”
The commander smiled around his pipe and shook his head “Vulcans”
“Commander, analyzing the first reports from the scans. Going off of what limited information we have on the Breen I believe we are looking at an array housing long and short-range sensor arrays, comms array with a subspace repeater. Interesting, I’m reading a power core twice the normal size.”
Thornton pulled the pipe from his mouth. “Twice?”
“At least, commander.”
Thornton looked around the interior of the Arrow class runabout. “Does that seem odd to anyone else? In my experience, there’s only one reason why you would need a larger power source.”
“Ensign Skyk, are we seeing any weapons platforms on this thing?”
“That data is coming in now, commander. Reading two Breen phaser arrays and two Breen Energy neutralizing weapons.” Ensign Skyk turned to look at Commander Thornton.
“I knew something was off as soon as we arrived, that is not a simple sensor array that is what someone places to keep folks out of one’s backyard. Ensign, do you have everything you need”
“Helm, plot a course back to the Dragon.”
“Sir, we were just scanned by the array, guess they finally took notice of us.”
“Damn it, we spent too much time looking at what the neighbors have.” Thornton gripped his pipe and tapped it on his armrest before placing it back in his mouth. “How long till those ships come back.”
“Roughly an hour, sir” as the opes officer looked at the countdown on his console.
“Probably, sooner now.”
“That would make the most logic, sir”
“Ensign, encrypt the data, and send it to the Dragon. If they got that array up and running they should be able to receive it. Helm, let’s not wait around for them, let’s get out of here before the neighbors come knocking, set a course for the Dragon. Warp eight.”
Just as the Arrow runabout disappeared in a flash of light two other flashes appeared as two Breen interceptors arrived and started to orbit the coordinates that the runabout had just left.
The crew of the Dragon watched as a large Breen cruiser suddenly dropped out of warp several hundred kilometers off of their bow.
“Commander, scans are showing that they do not have their weapons powered up, they do have power to their shields though.”
“Take us to the yellow alert, Skagath.” Klaxons sound as the lights strobe amber then go do a dull amber color throughout the ship signaling to all the heightened alert conditions.” Skagath, Do not power up weapons, let’s not provoke them if we don’t have to. Zolitia, are our scans showing anything else in the area? We know that where you see one you will usually find another or more.”
“Not yet, commander, we are not seeing anything on long or short-range scans.”
Kr’Antren walked onto the bridge from his ready room and looked at the main view screen. “Well that took longer than I expected, have we heard from Commander Thornton? I have the conn, Aryanna.” she passed him the Dragon ring.
“Last we heard they had just arrived at the array,” she pointed at the view screen “This can’t be a coincidence then. Our ship appears outside a supposed array and they show up here.”
“Hmmmm, it does seem like it doesn’t it.” Kr’Antren tapped on his combadge. “Lieutenant Bearsong, report to the bridge as soon as possible. We have visitors.”
“On my way, Captain figured something was up when we went to yellow alert.”
“Captain, they are scanning us.”
“Copy that Skagath, let’s do the same, shall we? Not too invasive but let’s find out who we are dealing with, besides the obvious answer.”
“I’m all ears Aryanna, any ideas?”
“Only one right now. What are they waiting on? No hail’s, non-aggressive stance, only one ship. From what we know of the Confederacy this is a bit out of character. This takes me back to my first question.”
“I would have to agree with you. They seem to be content just sitting there. Comms, anything?”
“No, captain.” the comms officer shook their head.
“Hmmmmm, send a hail. Let’s see if they respond.”
The comms officer nodded as they typed something on their console. “Hail sent, captain. No response but I can confirm that they received the message.”
Kr’Antren looked at Aryanna with a raised eyebrow. “Well, I would say that the ball is in their court. We can’t leave without Commander Thornton and his team.”
Aryanna snapped her fingers, which coming from the gloved hand had a slight metallic ting to the sound. “That’s it, Kr’Antren. They know. I bet they are waiting to see what we do with whatever the information is. They know we sent a team to that array.”
“Hmmmmm, that sounds like as good of a reason as any. But why wait? Why not confront us as is their typical way? What are they waiting for? What did our team find?
“Comms, anything from the commander yet?”
“No sir, nothing yet. But they have only been there for a few minutes. According to their last report.”
“As soon as we hear anything let us know. What are we looking at, Skagath?”
“Well lad, what we got here is a confederacy Chel Grett cruiser. Pretty decently armed, I’m showing at least one, maybe two of those energy-neutralizing weapons of theirs. Pretty typical deflector shields and the warp core is larger than normal for their ships, probably to power them, possibly modified or a newer version, energy neutralizer weapons of theirs. According to the computer, this one has not been logged into Starfleet systems. So I’m working on that, trying to get as much data as possible for them. Warp core signature is already logged into the computer and sent to Task Force Intelligence to be disseminated to the rest of the Task Force.”
Kr’Antren and Aryanna turn as they hear the turbo-lift doors open and shut. “Well Lieutenant, looks like we have some visitors.” he pointed toward the main view screen. “No hostile actions yet, no response to our hails, and nor have they sent any to us.”
Lieutenant Bearsong took a seat in the left-hand chair beside the captain and signed into the console. “That’s out of the norm for the Breen isn’t it?”
“Yes, But for some odd reason, I don’t think Starfleet’s guidelines for dealing with the Breen are the right play here. I think If that is what they wanted us to do I don’t think they would just be sitting here like this. Something else is going on here.”
“They’re waiting for something or someone. Comms, anything?” Aryanna asked from her seat.
“I believe the earth has a saying for this particular scenario, I believe they call it a Mexican standoff. No one is willing to make the first move, everyone just sits and waits for something to happen.”
“Captain, incoming transmissions from Commander Thornton.”
“About time, send it to my console.” he looked over at Aryanna and ran a hand through his beard and then over at Lieutenant Bearsong. “Well, let’s see what is going on.”
The three officers crowded around the captain’s console and dissected the report.
“What the….Now that is not what I was expecting. Scamandrius, I’m sending you the report also. “ Kr’Antren turned and looked back at the breen cruiser. “Aryanna, Lieutenant Bearsong. Thoughts?”
“I would have to agree with Thornton, that is not a simple array. If I would have to make a diplomatic guess they are trying to set a precedence of ownership. We all know that they have claimed that security buffer but with this “she pointed at the console “they are saying this is ours!” Lieutenant Bearsong said as she looked at the main view screen beside the captain. “So what are they doing?”
<<” If it was my guess I would say that they are waiting for us to get that transmission. I would expect them to reach out anytime now. But that’s just my two cents”>>
Aryanna nodded “I would have to agree with Rigras, they are waiting for…”
“Captian, incoming transmission from the Breen ship.”
“Put it on the main view screen.”
They watched as the main view screen filled with an image of a breen officer in the typical helmet and mask.
Kr’Antren stood and stepped forward from the center chair “This is Captain Kr’Antren of the Federation vessel USS Dragon.”
“You have had a chance to look at your transmission, captain.”
Kr’antren looked around the bridge. “Umm, what transmission? And who am I talking to?”
Don’t play games with me Captain, we know about the spy vessel that was at our new border security array. We know that they left rather quickly and we know that their trail started with your ship. We know more than you may think, we have been watching and waiting. I waited till you got that transmission. I wanted you to know the truth.”
Aryanna quickly stepped up beside Kr’Antren “The truth?”
The helmeted figure quickly looked at Aryanna and then back at Kr’Antren. “You have not heard the news, well well well this is most interesting. Has the vaunted federation not informed everyone, I’m sure you have heard or maybe your little bird heard.”
Kr’Antren looked over at his comms officer who shook their head and then back at Scamandrius “Any idea what he is talking about?”
“One, sir. The broken transmissions that Commander Thornton was able to record. What if they are some sort of broadcast to all Breen ships? something that is going on somewhere else.”
The Breen officer sat forward in their chair and let out a breathy chuckle. “That one is smart, that one would make a good slave. So Captain you asked about me. My name is Commander Zeln and this is the ZadkWak. Do not forget either one. “
“So how may we help you, commander?”
“Help us? No, we are here to give you a warning to take back to your so-called Task Force. Tell them that when the confederacy is finished with our current operation we are coming to the Expanse. Tell them that we will enslave many, tell them that their time is limited.”
“You realize commander that what you’re saying is a declaration of war,” Kr’Antren stated.
A loud laugh emanated from the Breen. “ What you do not know, what you do not realize is that it has already started. I’m sure you will be finding out soon enough, captain.”
Kr’Antrem looked at Aryanna and then gave Skagsth a sideways glance as Skagsth shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
“Comms, send a priority message to Task Force Command, let them know what’s going on here, and find out what the hell is going on.”
“Captain Kr’Antren, for now, we will let you wait for your little bird, do not try to go deeper into our territory. We will allow your little array to stay here as we do not see it as a threat. Maybe someday I’ll let my tactical officer use it as target practice but not today. You have forty-eight of your earth hours to depart this area, if you do not then our next meeting will not be as…. Cordial.”
The transmission suddenly ended as the main view screen returned to the Breen cruiser floating in front of them.
A few hours later the cruiser turned and warped off to only appear the next day this time with a partner.
“Well Kr’Antren that confirms that piece of information from Thornton, looks like they are on a roughly 24-hour patrol schedule.”
Kr’Antren took a dip from the mug he was holding. “And they borough a friend, I was wondering where their partner was as we know that confederacy ships always work in duos or small groups. Skagath, make sure we record the data on our new friend.”
“Already scanning, captain.”
“Sir, transmission from Commander Thornton. They should be arriving in the next two hours. Looks like they pushed the arrow as fast as it would go.”
“Good, good…Aryanna, the question now is where do we go from here?”
“My gut and Rigras say to go find some more of these arrays so we can see how big of an area we are dealing with, the logical side of me says wait for Task Force Command to reply to our messages, the other side says we go all in and let the torpedoes fly.” Aryanna shrugged.
“I’m leaning toward the logical side myself. That’s it then we wait.” Kr’Antren looked at the main view screen.
Lieutenant Sustrum turned from his console toward the captain. “Sir, Commander Thornton, and crew are onboard, he sent a message saying he is on his way up to the bridge.”
“Thank you, lieutenant have him come to my ready room. Aryanna, join me. Skagath, you have the conn” he passed the dragon ring to his Tactical officer and made his way to his ready room, followed by Aryanna.
“I wanted to debrief him somewhere other than the bridge, grab yourself a drink and have a seat.”
Aryanna stopped at the replicator and ordered a large glass of iced tea.
Roughly an hour later Commander Thornton entered the ready room and quickly flopped in a chair. “So what’s with our visitors?”
Kr’Antren quickly filled him in on the past 48 hours.
Thornton sat up and pulled the pipe from his mouth. “Damn… They knew we would find that array and waited. Damn, bastards. So as towards what they said, anything further?”
Kr’Antren typed something on his desk console and the room’s view screen went to the recorded FNN reports.
“Oh crap, so are we at war? Give me the world and I’ll launch the Angels and we will send them back to whatever gods they may believe in.”
Kr’Antren held up a hand. “It’s a lie, commander. We just received an encrypted message from Task Force Command directly from Fourth Fleet command.”
“A Lie, but it’s damn FNN and star fleet reporting it. Are you sure?”
Arayanna stood and walked over to the ready rooms viewing panels. “We had the same response, Commander. But it’s worse, much worse.”
Kr’antren sat back in his chair and ran a hand through his beard. “Well the commander is here, let’s bring in the staff and do this once.” Kr’Antren tapped his console “All command staff report to the captain’s ready room.”
Commander Thornton continued to watch the reports on the view screen. The Deneb sector? Really? Why not here in the expanse? If anywhere would have been easy to expand it would have been the expanse. And how did the Breen pull this off, where did they get old Dominion ships from?” He looked between the two officers.
Aryanna turned and leaned against the viewing panel.”Commander, you were in the dominion war, correct? “
“You know damn well I was, you read my file.”
Commander Thornton looked at the two of them and then back at the news reports. “No… no, no, no. We beat them and we got rid of the dominion.” he quickly stood and turned red in anger, yanking his pipe from his mouth. “DO NOT tell me that this” he pointed at the screens “is them.”
At about this time, the command staff began to enter the ready room, seeing the commander and reading the room they knew something was going on and quickly found a place to stand or sit.
Kr’Antren stood and watched the officers enter and find a spot. “Looks like everyone, sorry for the space folks but we have our reasons. Make yourselves comfortable. This may take a bit.”
Aryanna walked over to stand behind the captain’s desk beside Kr’Antren.
“Computer, Seal the room and per my authority, no audio or visual recordings of this meeting enact dead zone procedures for this room. Authority code Kr’Antren-Zulu-Zilu-six-six-five-Delta.”
“Ladies and gents, I’m aware of the rumors flying around the ship and I’m aware of the reporting from both Starfleet and FNN. I’m here to tell you that as confirmed by Bravo Fleet Command it is all lies. For those of you that were on the bridge when we had a conversation with our neighbors out there, you would know that there is more going on. This I can confirm. “ Kr’Antren typed something on his console as he looked around the room.
“This is per Bravo Fleet command.” He played the message that he had received roughly thirty minutes ago. “We are not just dealing with the Breen but with the Dominion as well. Commander Thorton, Do you remember hearing about Operation Return?”
“I do, but none of us believed it. Are you telling us that this is the Lost Fleet?”
Kr’Antren nodded. “From what we are seeing or have seen it looks that way. Here is a report from the Caliburn.”
They watched the briefing and recording from the Caliburn.
“Lieutenant Zoltia, after reviewing and analyzing the data in this recording that I sent to you a few minutes ago, including the quantum data, can we confirm the information?”
“Captain, I can confirm the data as it is given. The Dominion ships shown in that recording are from 2374 and I can further add that there are no signs of newer parts being added nor have they been refurbished by other means.”
Kr’Antren nodded and looked over at Aryanna.” Ladies and gents, the Fourth Fleet command has issued an all-hands message. We will be reporting to DS47 for a quick replenishment of some supplies and I dare say some additions to the Dragon itself. Then we will be on our way to the Deneb sector. We have received our orders and have been told to not open them till our arrival in the Deneb sector.”
Commander Thornton went into a proverbial thousand-yard stare as he watched and rewatched the Caliburn recording. “This can’t be, not again.”
Skagath approached him and placed a hand on his shoulder, as they both stared blankly at the screen, memories of times not so long passed that greatly affected them evident on their faces.
“We need all of you to prepare your departments and personnel for what is in front of us, as some of you are aware it will not be easy. Prepare for the worst as it seems for now that there is no help coming besides the fourth fleet, Starfleet is standing firm in their beliefs that this is just the Breen. The admiral thinks otherwise. Also, Task Group 514 has stated they do not need help and that it is merely small skirmishes.”
Kr’Antren pulled up a map of the Deneb sector. “This is what the sector looked like a couple of weeks ago.” he changed the map to show the latest information. “This is what it looks like today, you will notice that several planets and outposts have already been taken by both the Breen and by this so-called Lost Fleet so much so as you can see the Dominion holds sway over this swath of the sector.”
Kr’Antren looked around the room and then let out a breath. “Now to the next piece of news.” he looked over at Aryanna who nodded. “Computer, release the room. Authorization Kr’Antren-Alpha-one-one-four”
“Authorization recognized and accepted, The room has been released from prior commands”
Kr’Antren tapped on his combadge. “Chief Thorn meet us on the bridge.”
“I received more orders besides the ones dealing with the deployment to the Deneb Sector. I have been tasked to join the Task Force Operations office to prepare for any possible incursions into the Expanse. As of those orders I have been relieved of the Dragons Command. Do not worry, I leave her and you in very capable hands.”
A low murmur went across the room.
Aryanna cleared her throat, “As of thirty minutes ago I was promoted to full commander. And given command of the Dragon. Kr’Antren, shall we?” as she led the way onto the bridge.
Kr’Antren walked up to and stopped in front of the Center chair. “Chief Thorn, the orders.”
“Computer, I relinquish command of the Dragon as of this time and date to Commander Aryanna Rigras Authorization Kr’Antren-delta-delta-golf-five-five-eight.”
He turned to face Aryanna “You know, I believe she was always meant for you.”
Aryanna nodded and took a deep breath, placing her hand on the PADD held by Chief Thorn. “Computer, I acknowledge and receive the orders as Captain of the USS Dragon. Authorization code Rigras-Alpha-Alpha-Juliet-zero-zero-nine.”
“Authorization code acknowledged, command codes have been updated and command recognized. Welcome aboard Captain Rigras.”
A small round of applause is heard around the bridge as several of the officers come to offer congratulations to the new captain.”
Aryanna turned toward the gathered officers. “All orders will stay in effect. Brief your departments and personnel. Dismissed”
“Viameli, plot a course for deep space 47, warp eight. Engage when you are ready.”