Part of USS Resolute: Protect Arriana and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

4 – A tale of two halves

Resolute - Main Lounge
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“Right you lot, let’s get this lounge converted and get moving!” Burton ordered as he swept into the ship’s main lounge to find a large work crew assembled. They were a combination of departments, mostly science, medical and operations… the normal mix who would usually be in here once the lounge was converted for ‘special operations’ which could be anything from it becoming an expanded sickbay through to barracks for crew transfers. 

Two lieutenants, one in teal and one in gold, swept into action like drill sergeants, marshaling the rest of the crew in the room. The large, comfortable lounge chairs were moved to the edges of the room and extended out to make eight cots. Since some of them wouldn’t be leaving this room much during the mission, no doubt himself among them, they were going to appreciate that heavy padding. Usually with setups like this, they were forced to deal with the usual emergency cots. Which were about as comfortable as sleeping on a section of of the hull. 

“Smith!” he called out, weaving his way through groups moving the tables and chairs to make big conference tables for the work groups. “Front and center!”

“Yessir!” Norman Smith made it across the lounge, and stopped in front of Burton with a slight snap to his movements. Burton’s eyes narrowed. For a moment there he’d even thought the guy was going to salute. Which, this being Norman, would probably have ended up with him knocking himself out. 

But… he had managed to get across the lounge, through people carrying tables and chairs, without incident. Burton leaned in slightly, and took a breath. 

“Smith? How much have you had to drink?” he asked. He couldn’t blame the guy, they’d all been called to battlestations and the captain had ordered Smith off duty for twenty-four hours after the grenade incident. But he’d insisted on being here anyway. 

“Three double whisk… no, five double whiskeys,” Smith said with a pleased grin. 

Burton blinked, wondering what had happened to number four. Then he looked across the lounge. Go figure, perhaps Smith wasn’t accident prone when he was tipsy. 

“Excellent, you’ll need to link up with one of the medical crew to get yourself sorted as soon as we’re done here,” he ordered, then turned as the work crews had finished putting the room to rights. 

“Okay, gather round and grab a seat if you can find one,” he ordered, perching on the edge of a table. “As most of you will have guessed by now with the activity aboard the ship and the senior staff rushing off to a briefing, that we have a situation.”

There was a murmur through the crew and he arched an eyebrow. An ensign spoke up. 

“Is this something to do with the Breen having old dominion stuff, sir?” he asked. “It’s all over FNN that they’re causing havoc, destroying installations and seizing planets.”

Burton paused for a moment, weighing his words. Trust only the Fourth fleet. Those words from the brief conversation he’d had with the captain after the senior officer’s briefing had stuck with him. There was something else going on, something driving Starfleet Command’s inability to see this situation was a war in all but name… that something else could mean some of their own crew, especially the new contingent that had come aboard at SB86, were compromised. 

“That isn’t quite the case,” he said. “I’m sure that FNN are trying to downplay the situation to avoid panic, but the truth of the matter is that, somehow, the lost Dominion Fleet are back and they’re in league with the Breen. The ships that have been sighted are real dominion ships, not makeshift ones cobbled together by the Breen.”

“I thought those looked too perfect!” Norman announced excitedly. “There wasn’t a hull plate or anything out of place on those FNN pics. I mean, I know they were as fuzzy as fuck but they were all right! You know what I mean?” he asked no one in particular. 

“Yeah…” Burton looked at Smith, trying to hide his blank expression. 

“I’m serious, sir.” Norman nodded so much Burton was surprised his head didn’t drop off. “I’ve got all the Dominion ships in 1/1000 scale and those were like… awesome. I mean, at first I thought deepfake because like… seriously… for the toaster-faces to have gotten everything perfect is… like…impossible.”

“You have models of the Dominion ships?” Burton couldn’t help asking. That was something he hadn’t know about Smith. Then he realised the only thing he really knew about Smith was that he was the cause of most of the near-miss and accident reports on the ship. 

“Yessir! In my quarters sir!” Smith beamed. 

Burton nodded and returned his attention to the assembled crew, some of whom looked extremely confused. The same ensign piped up. “Sir, the FNN wouldn’t… lie to us.”

If there was ever a moment for a facepalm, this was it. Burton took a deep breath before continuing. “I wouldn’t say lie exactly. More… economical with the truth.” Just like he was right now. “To avoid a widespread panic while we get this situation under control.” 

That got a rumble from the crew. The same ensign opened his mouth only for another ensign to speak up. “Oh, just leave it Kell. Commander Burton has explained it. Makes sense. Can we move on?”

“Indeed!” Burton nodded, shooting a small smile at the other ensign. He couldn’t remember her name at the moment… he had no idea how Mason did it… but he’d find out later. 

“Okay, so we’re being mobilized with the rest of Fourth Fleet and the Resolute is headed for Arriana Prime,” he explained. “It’s one of the planets which has been attacked and while the Dominion ships—“

Alleged Dominion ships.”

He ignored the mutter and spoke louder. “While the Dominion ships were driven off by Starfleet forces, they managed to land a sizeable force of Jem’Hadar on the surface. So, we will be running a rescue and evac mission. Commander Mason and his team are running the military side to deal with the Jem’Hadar, clearing the way for us to evac the civilians.” 

He leaned forward slightly, folding his arms over his chest. “Make no mistake, this is not going to be the easy part of the mission. We are going to be dealing with some very scared, displaced people. We are going to be dealing with injuries, with shattered families. People scared for those that they love. People who have lost people that they love. And we’re going to be doing it on the Resolute, which is going to give us some very specific problems.”

There were murmurs through the group as they exchanged sidelong glances. 

“That’s a lot of people sir,” one of them pointed out. “We’re not a big ship, how are we going to get even a… how many people are down there?”

Burton shook his head. “Far more than we can handle, even if we convert all the lower corridors to bunk corridors. So I’m going to need suggestions as well as a workable plan for this.”

“We’re going to need to figure out the logistics of getting them off the planet,” Norman frowned. “Our transporters aren’t going to be able to handle that many people.”

Burton shook his head. “Martial law has been declared so transport inhibitors are in place to keep the Jem’Hadar on the surface. We need other options. Break into teams and start brainstorming. We need something before we reach Arriana Prime. Now go.”

Everyone in the room scattered, assembling themselves into work teams. Burton turned to the bar, which now hosted a legion of coffee mugs. The replicator at the end was churning them out with soft cheeps. He frowned, shaking his head. Bennett really was moving on with updating the replicators. 

Grabbing a mug, he downed half of it in three gulps and hissed as the stuff scalded the back of his throat on the way down. But the caffeine hit was almost instantaneous which was what he needed. Between pirates and defending the bridge, it had been a long day. And it wasn’t over yet. 

Cradling his mug in his hand, he leaned back against the bar, closing his eyes for a moment.  

“The whole of Fourth Fleet is being mobilized?” He heard Kell from the other side of the room. “Isn’t that… odd? Shouldn’t w—“

He was about to head over, and take the ensign aside to ask what his problem was when the other ensign, the one who had shut Kell up in the briefing, looked up from her padd with a look. 

“Kell. Shut the fuck up. The XO gave us our orders, even explained what FNN and the fleet are doing. Now if you’re not going to pitch in and help, commander Burton won’t have to worry about you, I’ll freaking space you. Reading me?”

Burton hid his smile as suddenly Kell decided that discretion was the better part of valor and grabbed a padd to start working. But he made a mental note to keep an eye on the guy anyway. His arguments seemed a little… vehement for the rather quiet officer he usually was. 

“Sir?” He turned to find Norman next to him, holding a padd. The guy’s eyes were a little overbright but he was steady on his feet and he wasn’t slurring his words. “I think… I may have an idea, sir.”

Burton reached out and handed him a mug of coffee. “Okay, let’s hear it.”

Norman murmured his thanks and drained the mug, then showed Burton his padd. 

“What am I looking at, Smith?”

“This is the Morningstar,” he announced. “It’s a cargo transport. A large one. But more importantly from our point of view, it’s only two systems from Arriana Prime.”

Burton blinked, and flicked through the specs. “This is rated for livestock transport.”

Norman nodded. “Yes sir, which means that it should be able to take the lion’s share of the colonists. At least, they’ll be safer on that than they will be on the surface with Jem’Hadar running around.”

Burton nodded. “Make the call. Get it to rendezvous with us at Arriana Prime.” 

 

Comments

  • It is nice to see the tension and friction about what is the truth and what is not, yet staying focus on the mission at hand. I like how Burton stays focus on the mission, thought he gives off that vibe "Are you that naive boy". Looking forward to read the next one!

    May 17, 2023
  • You've done a masterful job of interweaving exposition so deftly with a deeper character study of everyone's new favourite character, Norman. Every detail makes me smile: his aptitude when he's drunk and especially his fanboying out for Dominion ships. Kell's disgruntled interruptions were another highlight and you gave me a good chuckle when Burton put him in his place. And then the reveal of the Morningstar? I'm looking forward to the implications of a livestock transport on a rescue mission!

    May 18, 2023
  • I laughed at the part about Smith being the cause of most of the neae miss reports. We all have that accident prone friend or acquaintance. I have to ask does anyone on This Crew know what Synthol is?

    May 29, 2023