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Part of USS Triumph (Archive): Falls the Shadow and USS Endeavour: Falls the Shadow

Falls the Shadow – 3

Conference Room, USS Triumph
March 2401
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‘For the moment, the fleet’s primary objective is to secure the border and gather intelligence.’ Commander Harrian paced before the main display in the Triumph’s conference room, filled for once not with the ship’s senior staff but the squadron’s leadership. Behind him shone the strategic map of the Deneb Sector.

It painted a grim picture. Vast stretches of territory that had been Federation blue for centuries were now daubed in purple. Major inhabited worlds like Izar, Nasera, and Sevury hung within that space, known to be under Dominion occupation and under unfathomable conditions. Multiple facilities, from Starfleet stations to major industrial heartlands, had fallen to the enemy. The onslaught of the Breen had advanced the rimward border, cutting a vicious crescent through this once-peaceful frontier.

Commander Kosst tilted her head. ‘At the risk of sounding gung-ho, we’re not going to push back?’

Vornar made a small, dubious sound. ‘We have no idea of the scale or scope of our enemy. Their disposition or what they want. And if everyone believing this is the “lost fleet” is correct, that was a unit thousands of ships in size, more than capable of swatting us aside.’

Thank you, Ramius.’ Jericho frowned as he cut the Independence’s skipper short. ‘We should be careful, but I share your eagerness for us to kick the bastards back, Dani. In good time.’ He looked back at Harrian. ‘Cal, please continue.’

Harrian inclined his head. ‘Fourth Fleet Intelligence is confident that this is not the whole of the Lost Fleet. Considering we have no idea how or why they are here, it’s more than plausible that only a fraction arrived in Deneb in 2401. We are also continuing to study ship movements. The moment we see an opportunity to push back, we’ll act.’

‘And you can expect us to be there,’ said Jericho, looking up and down the table of the assembled ship commanders. ‘That’s not just bluster. We’re one of the heaviest-hitting squadrons of the Fourth Fleet.’

‘Just so.’ Harrian’s expression didn’t shift. ‘In the meantime, our orders are to proceed to the Vamuridian System. They were hit in the Dominion’s initial onslaught before the Lost Fleet withdrew to defensible territory. Their orbital defences held up quite well – we’re deep enough behind the border that they saw the enemy coming. Even a day of Endeavour Squadron repairing their defences and providing disaster relief will have them well-equipped against any possible repeat attack. We should be relieved within 48 hours by a defensive unit from Task Group 514, and likely then head on for the front itself.’

Jericho nodded, eyes raking across the map. ‘Thanks, Cal.’ He glanced back to the table. ‘Ramius, I want the Independence ahead of the squadron and you’ll be focusing on patrol duties once we get to Vamuridian. Make sure nobody’s going to sneak up on us. Endeavour will take point on helping the colony, and Triumph and Nighthawk will support. Ms Hale, you can liaise with the civilian government?’

He hadn’t been thrilled that Sophia Hale had stayed with the squadron as they rushed to Deneb. But she had shown no inclination to remain on the Romulan border, and pointed out that a strong civilian presence could help Starfleet get to the bottom of what was happening on a frontier known for its colonists being occasionally stubbornly self-sufficient.

Hale inclined her head. ‘I’ll be happy to be a point of contact.’

‘Good,’ said Jericho briskly. ‘I’ll deploy the SCE to assist in defence systems repairs, and Triumph will be ready to join Independence and engage if we spot trouble. I’ll also deploy our fighter wing to help the nearby patrol. Dani, I know it’s not glamorous, but…’

‘I know,’ Kosst sighed, but gave a tight smile. ‘If there’s work at Vamuridian to finish off when the squadron moves out, Nighthawk will assist and catch up.’

‘You’ll be helping people who’ve been hit by this invasion,’ Jericho reminded her. She was a good officer and he knew she didn’t resent this work, but it was important, he felt, for her to take pride in even the less glamorous part of duty. ‘We’ll likely just be making ready for a push.’

‘I have the reports from the Vamuridian governor about the situation on the ground,’ Harrian continued. ‘I’ll circulate them to all of you.’

‘Matt.’ Jericho looked down the table at Captain Rourke. The burly commander of Endeavour had been unusually quiet, chin in his hand as he listened. ‘Take point on the humanitarian efforts.’

Rourke straightened slowly. ‘Do I have permission to requisition additional support from Triumph’s staff and smallcraft?’

Jericho shrugged. ‘Like I said. We’ll be on standby if trouble shows up. Otherwise our equipment and personnel to help a humanitarian and engineering operation are yours.’ He looked to Harrian. ‘Is there anything more for us, Cal?’

The Strategic Operations Officer shook his head. ‘I’ll of course monitor information as it comes in.’ He turned to the assembled and straightened. ‘I need you to all understand that there is a lot we don’t know about the enemy. Their numbers, their movements. We know places that have gone dark, we know where there are large clusters of ships. But they’ve been particularly non-communicative. We don’t know why. I do know we will learn more every day, especially with the Fourth Fleet on the front.’

Rourke looked up with a frown. ‘Has there been word from Pathfinder?’

‘Commander Valance reports they’re en route at top speed,’ Harrian replied crisply. ‘With luck, they’ll be with us by the time we depart Vamuridian.’

‘Thanks, Cal.’ Jericho stood. ‘Don’t worry, everyone. We’ll get a chance to hit back. You can hold me to that. Until then, let’s help those people. Thank you, all.’

The senior officers of the squadron departed, Harrian disembarking with Rourke to return to Endeavour. Their ships would return to warp soon enough, set a course for this beleaguered colony and lend assistance. The thought had Jericho staying out of his seat, pacing before the vaulted windows of the conference room.

Triumph had conducted humanitarian missions before. His crew knew the routine. But this work came with challenges beyond the logistical. To see a war-ravaged world was to see what their enemy was capable of. It would make all of this personal, would make all of this real. He wasn’t sure how many officers in the squadron were ready for the Dominion to be real.

‘Captain?’

His head snapped around as the voice at the door jerked him from his reverie, and his shoulders sank at the sight of his operations officer. ‘Krish. Didn’t realise you were waiting there.’

‘Sorry if I intruded. I was hoping to have a word, if you’ve a minute.’

Jericho frowned and gestured to one of the empty chairs. ‘You don’t need to stand on ceremony with me for a chat, Krish.’

‘It’s not so much a chat. I know this isn’t great timing.’ They both took seats, though Malhotra took an extra moment to think before he pressed on. ‘But we never did have a proper conversation about what we discussed at Commander Cortez’s welcome party.’

Jericho winced. ‘Krish, you know I got all the respect in the world for you, but is this the best time to worry about your personal development -’

‘Historical research, Captain. That’s what you’ve got me doing. Digging up old battle records from the Dominion War, while Arys gets to help Ranicus run bridge drills.’ The young officer’s expression creased. ‘I really need to know, are you side-lining me?’

Jericho cocked his head. ‘This is detail-oriented work. You have to go through vast amounts of information, sift out what’s relevant, and adapt and update it for advances in protocol and technology. This makes us ready for the enemy. Are you complaining ‘cos this ain’t glorious enough, son?’

‘I’m not complaining. But I’m nominally second officer. In a combat situation, I should be ready for potential responsibility, which means I should be more hands-on with these drills. The crew has to be ready to listen to me in a crisis.’ Malhotra winced. ‘I worry they see what I see.’

‘What do you see?’

‘That you passed me over for Shep for XO of Endeavour. That you’re making me a researcher now. Sir, I’m ready for more responsibility. I want more responsibility. Shep’s half a decade younger than me and this makes it look like you don’t believe in me.’

Jericho sank back, fingers locking together as he thought and tried to smother the note of irritation. ‘You know I was older than you when I moved into command, right, Krish? Age ain’t got nothing to do with it.’

‘Maybe not, sir, but you were an engineer. I’ve been on the command track for years. I’m not saying I’m better than Shep -’

‘Yeah, you are. You do think you are,’ Jericho butted in. ‘You think you’re steadier than her, you think you’re more thoughtful than her. You might be right about that. You might even be right that this makes you a better leader than her in certain circumstances. But you’re not the guy I wanted to send to Endeavour, a ship full of folks you don’t know, whose trust and respect you’d have to strong-arm over. You’re quieter than that. That were a job for Shep.’ Malhotra looked like he might speak, but Jericho pressed on. ‘You’re gonna keep doing that historical research. You’re gonna help people prep for the drills. And we’re going to talk about your upward mobility when this crisis is over.’

Malhotra deflated, but nodded. ‘Yes, sir.’

He stood and headed for the door, but when he got there, Jericho spoke up. ‘Krish? Be careful what you wish for. In times of war, responsibility tends to find you. And now I know you’re waiting to step up.’

That did make Malhotra straighten and give a brighter, ‘Yes, sir!’ as he stepped out.

Jericho let him leave and took a moment, just sitting in the gloom of his conference room alone, to stew. It was the right thing, he knew, to push the young officers as hard as he did. Even Malhotra, wavering and feeling under-appreciated. It was what made them ready.

War would find them sooner than anyone would like.

Comments

  • War would find them sooner than anyone would like - Words to live by. Stop making Jericho so...so...reasonable? In all seriousness, in this circumstance, he probably is the cast iron bastard that is needed and I'm enjoying the extra layers the crisis is allowing you to explore with him. And his crew as well. Malhotra is the embodiment of everyone on a career path, watching someone else go whizzing past and trying to figure out just what is going on. I feel that pain. Rourke's brooding demonstrated with just a handful of lines as well, was perfect. Masterful economy of words to convey his state.

    May 9, 2023
  • Another incredible chapter from Endeavor squadron, you truly are amazing at crafting interesting dialogues that do not feel forced and feel completely real and, most of all, relatable. There was so much that I loved about the talk between Jericho and Malhotra, most of all because I can 100% relate to the feelings Malhotra is having about being side-lined or passed up on. Jericho, after this conversation, has quickly become one of my favorite characters so far in these stories, looking forward to reading on!

    May 17, 2023