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

Part IV

Various
Stardate 24013.9, 1800 Hours
0 likes 474 views

Assuming command of a seasoned crew from another commanding officer was never easy, and Keziah had anticipated such when she boarded Hathaway, but she could never have foreseen the challenges she would be faced with so early into command. Dominion she could handle; Breen she could handle; but officers attacking one another, seemingly for no apparent reason? That was not something she had anticipated. Throw in the fact that it was an officer she had served with, however briefly, and that complicated matters further. She now faced the prospect of going into their mission without both her tactical chief and her top flyboy. She’d spent the last hour or so contemplating if she had made the right choice to relieve Noli of her responsibilities, but the truth was, she needed to speak to someone. Not just anyone, someone in particular.

Once the doors ahead of her parted, she was greeted with her first sighting of the spartan, yet surprisingly adequate quarters aboard Hathaway.

“Wasn’t expecting to see you so soon,” Vasoch grunted as he greeted the woman at the door. Noting the expression on his visitors face, the diminutive creature stepped aside and welcomed her to his abode. “Drink?” he asked, stepping towards the replicator.

“Iced water,” Keziah nodded in thanks. “Nice place you got here,” she smiled, looking around the joint and paying particular attention to some of the unique artefacts on display.

“You’ve already took my ship and crew,” Vasoch shot across the room, “now you want my quarters too?” he scoffed, turning to deliver the beverage to the Captain.

“Not quite,” the Trill countered with a sarcastic scowl, taking the water as offered. “A situation has arisen, and I need to know I’ve done the right thing for this crew,” she explained to her predecessor.

Her words caught the combative Gor by surprise, even causing him to feel slightly sorry for his jibe. With raised eyebrows, he offered a seat across the coffee table from him before lowering his frame into the comfortable sofa. “I’m all ears,” he nodded.

Taking a sip of her water, the Captain took the proffered seat and began to explain all that had transpired since she had taken over, including the nature of her mission. From the need to swiftly locate the Breen commander, to the attack on Henry and the evidence pointing to the security chief, she told him everything. Vasoch was clearly taking it all in, listening intently and nodding where appropriate (between sips of his own beverage of course). He could, for now at least, appreciate why Starfleet had tasked her with her mission, and why it made sense for it to be her, instead of him. But the situation with Noli was something that caught him completely off guard.

“And she’s confined to quarters you say?” He asked, returning his cup to the coffee table.

Keziah nodded, subconsciously mimicking his action with her water bottle. “I felt like I had no choice, given the situation. I can’t afford to have anyone on the staff who could be a liability,” she frowned, even though, deep down, she hated the fact she had to question the tactician’s actions and motives.

“Noli is many things, but she is no liability…” Vasoch shook his head, using his hands to propel himself to his feet. He began to pace freely around the room. “Even on her off days, Noli is nothing short of a fantastic asset to have at your disposal. I’ve known her for a while now, and I have never had any reason to distrust her.” He spoke as if he was working through an idea in his mind. “Is she capable of such a thing? Yes. She could pull the legs off an Orion if she needed to,” he smirked, “but she’d also know how to hide it. She’s got a degree in forensic investigations, so if she was guilty, I’d expect no one to ever know about it,” he stopped behind the sofa he had been sat in and put his hands on his hips, staring at the Trill.

“So do I go with the evidence, or my gut?” Keziah asked, as if a student to a mentor. He knew these people far better than she, it was only logical she should seek out his advice.

“Let’s go…” he took long, purposeful strides to the door; well, as long as his little legs would allow him.

“Where are we going?” she asked, confused as she rose to her feet and chased after the surprisingly nimble Tellarite.

“We’re going to pay a visit to the blonde bombshell herself,” Vasoch smirked, leading the March down deck two and towards the senior staff quarters in the other section.


Once they rounded the final corner, both came to an immediate standstill, glancing at each other before sprinting towards the Bajoran’s quarters.

Two officers tasked with guarding the tactical chief’s quarters lay prone, face down and sprawled on the deck. No sign of injury, or weapons fire.

Crouching beside the figures, Nazir was relieved to find them alive, but much in the same state as it had been reported that Henry had been found.

When she looked up again, she noted the door to Noli’s quarters was slightly ajar, and Vasoch was trying in vain to prise them apart. Clambering back to her feet, she took the left, and the Tellarite took the right. Together, they pulled them apart far enough that both could enter the darkened room. A quick search of the room found Noli draped over the sink in her bathroom, as unresponsive as those supposedly guarding her.

Staring at one another, the two Captain’s looked more than a little worried at what had transpired.


“Approaching the rendezvous point Commander…”

Stirred from the contemplative state he had spent the last twenty minutes in, the First Officer looked up and nodded to the relief flight operations officer standing in for his indisposed colleague. And friend. “Thank you Ensign,” he smiled, “take us out of warp. Or’uil,” he called out whilst rising to his feet, “open a channel to the lead transport ship. Let them know we’d like to talk with them about the attack,” he instructed.

A short while later, the face of an older Terran appeared on the screen, looking a little dishevelled, but relatively relaxed. “Hathaway, I am Captain Tobias Larkin,” the bearded man croaked, “I’m not sure what else we can tell you that isn’t in the official sensor logs, but we can try?” He smiled.

“That would be most helpful, Captain…” Giarvar nodded in thanks, but then noticed the Captain(s) emerging from the starboard turbo lift. “This is Lieutenant Tuca,” the Trill smiled, waving the Alzek over, “he’s our strategic operations officer. Whatever you can tell him might be able to inform our next move,” he respectfully took his leave and let the conversation continue between the strategist and their contact.

Crossing to the back of the bridge, he followed the Captains into the observation lounge. He did not like the expression on either of their faces. “What’s wrong?”

Nazir shared a glance with Vasoch, he wilfully stepped aside and let her do her thing. “We found Noli and her two security guards unconscious in the same way as you found Henry,” she told. “They’ve been taken to sickbay and they’re stable, but the Doctor can’t wake them,” she pulled out the chair and took a seat, the two gentlemen joining her quickly.

“Well that’s not what I expected you to say,” Giarvar sighed as he took his seat. “I guess that means we can rule her out as a suspect,” he suggested.

“But if she wasn’t there, who was? And how did that DNA get there? It’s almost as if there were tw…” Keziah and Vasoch caught each other’s eyes, the blood draining from each of their faces as a startling truth dawned on the pair of them. Something they never thought they would ever have to think about again, but something they were now both thinking in unison.

“You pair look like you’ve just seen ghosts…” the XO trailed off, a growing sense of confusion and anxiousness filling him.

Rising to his feet, the Tellarite swiftly moved the wall display and began tapping away furiously. When he stepped away, there was a wall of text which he remained transfixed upon.

Spinning in her chair at the end of the table, the Trill Captain set her gaze upon his find. “The briefing from Vice Admiral Beckett?” she inquired, rising to her feet, followed by the ever-confused XO.

“Look at the last line,” Vasoch pointed, “I’ve not seen a phrase like that in a briefing for about a quarter of a century.”

Together, Captain and XO alike leant forward and read the message, then looked at each other, and finally back to the Tellarite.

Trust only the Fourth Fleet.

To Giarvar, it was but a simple instruction from the fleet’s Director of Intelligence. To the others, it was something different. Something far deadlier and far more terrifying than anything they had seen so far.

Once Keziah and her predecessor had explained their past experience to the younger Trill, and how things had been during the Dominion War, the haze lifted and things started to become clearer.

“I’ve seen a message like that only once before,” Keziah agreed, nodding slowly, “at the height of the infiltration crisis of the early 70’s.”

“You don’t honestly think…?”

“What?” Vasoch asked of his former subordinate, “That Changelings could be aboard this ship? I absolutely do. Think about it,” the Tellarite started to pace nervously. “We’ve been undergoing attacks for days. They’ve shown in the past they can get through Starfleet shields, so it’s highly possible they could have beamed one aboard.”

Now the fog of war had lifted completely, with all three under no illusions as to the nature of the threat they now faced.

“We continue with our mission,” Nazir declared, “we must not let this deter us. Number One, issue standing orders that no member of the crew is to travel the ship alone. Restrict non-essential personnel to quarters and have armed security teams patrolling corridors and outside key locations,” she instructed, looking to Vasoch for some form of confirmation that he supported her plan.

“We need to keep this under wraps for as long as possible,” the Tellarite advised, “but I’ll keep digging, and see what I can find.”

In the midst of their discussion, Lieutenant Tuca appeared from the passage to the bridge. “Captain,” he smiled to Vasoch, before delivering his findings. “According to the data we have obtained from the survivors of Sevury, the initial attack was quite disorganised, and the local defence forces were able to repel it quite easily,” the Alzek revealed, pulling up a sensor recording of the battle.

“That changed when Rodyn appeared,” Nazir remarked as the holographic battle unfolded.

“That’s right,” Tuca nodded, “according to long-range sensors, Rodyn’s five-ship battle group appeared from the Ciatar nebula at high warp while the defence forces were distracted. They smashed the Starfleet defences with speed and incredible accuracy, then left without a word once their work was done.”

“Um… any trace of where they went next?” Giarvar asked, still distracted by their previous conversation.

“They were last seen headed for the Messif Supply Depot two days ago,” Tuca stood upright, hands clasped behind his back, “there’s been nothing since.”

“So, I suppose we need to ask ourselves where he is likely to go next,” Nazir queried, looking at the map of the Deneb sector which was now permanently displayed in the lounge.

“I’ll run some tactical simulations,” Tuca suggested, “but if I was him, it would be Kanaan, or somewhere close by. He won’t want to go further afield as it risks exposure, and from what we can tell, he strikes and then disappears until it is too late for the next target.”

“What if he continued even further south?” Giarvar mused, pointing to the map, “the Vadlox nebula would be a good staging ground for attacks into at least three key systems.”

“It would,” Tuca confirmed, “but the only discernible pattern I’ve been able to make out is that he seems to be systematically working down the western edge of the sector,” his grey tendril-like fingers traced a pattern down the display.

Folding her arms across her chest, the Captain puffed out her chest and shook her head slowly. “Number One,” Nazir spoke quietly, a choice of words noted by the Tellarite, “set a course for the Kanaan system, but let’s have Akaria monitor the nebula for any trace. We’ll cover all our bases,” she instructed, drawing a nod from the XO, who departed the observation lounge in hushed conversation with the grey-skinned Alzek male.

Alone once again, the two Captains came together in front of the map. “You deal with our intruder, and I’ll make sure we’re still alive to deal with the aftermath,” Nazir glared down at her counterpart.

Turning away from the map, the Tellarite shuffled from foot to foot, tucking his hands into the pockets of his pants. “Let’s hope we’re all who we say we are, otherwise there is every chance we could have just alerted the Changeling to our plans.”

It was a horrible thought to have, but given the experience both officers had accrued during the original Dominion conflict, no one could possibly blame them for the caution they were displaying. Changelings had once infiltrated Starfleet to great effect, resulting in a culture of distrust and an overabundance of caution on the part of some. Phaser sweeps, blood screenings, specialist adjustments to deflectors. All had been employed as tactics to weed out these gelatinous intruders, whether on base or ship, but only a morphogenic virus synthetically created managed to bring the ‘Founders’ into the open, and ultimately led to the defeat of the Dominion.

There would be no virus to help Starfleet this time.

Comments

  • What an incredible chapter! I really like Nazir, she was big enough to go to the captain she just relieved and ask for his opinion, not many would do that in her place. I could literally feel the two captain’s anxiety as they realized they were dealing with a changeling infiltrator! I love that the story is evolving with two captains with different missions all aboard the same ship. So looking forward to the next chapter!

    May 15, 2023
  • I'm loving that dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach from this war on two fronts. They keep chasing after ghosts. One step, two steps behind. I'm counting on Tuca to suss out where to find Rodyn; the Deneb Sector is such a large space. I'm relieved to see the return of Gor. Nazir going to him for advice, truly as a special advisor, was a nice bit of vulnerability. I expect it's going to take all of their combined experience to combat the Changeling threat among them!!!

    May 17, 2023
  • When I first read this I thought WAIT, GOR IS STILL ON BOARD? because for some reason I thought he had transferred ships while Nazir is in command, and then I was insulted on his behalf that he had to hang out on his ship and not do any captaining, and THEN I was delighted that she was coming to him for advice about the crew. I do like their rapport, as two more experienced Starfleet officers who know what's what, and who were there for the Dominion's first throw-down. And I love that Gor isn't afraid to say right out "well hopefully no one in this room is a Changeling!" because oh my god Gor you can't just say that (but he did and I love him for it).

    May 30, 2023