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

Falls the Shadow – 8

Bridge, USS Triumph
March 2401
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‘I don’t know what to say, Captain.’ Lieutenant Quinn gave a hapless shrug at the science console. ‘There’s no sign of the USS Endeavour.’

Lieutenant Arys looked back from Helm. ‘Did we lose them in Ciater? Did Whitaker screw up the navigational protocols?’

Commander Ranicus clasped her hands behind her back as she stood before the XO’s chair and looked at Jericho. ‘Should we bring the squadron to a halt, sir? Send the Independence to do a loop to try to find them?’

But Jericho stared at the flickering navigational sensor feed showing the three ships of his attack squadron, not four, and did not answer for a moment. His jaw clenched like a vice, and when he inhaled, it was a sharp breath through the nostrils; narrow, tense. ‘No,’ he said at last. ‘This wasn’t an accident.’

Arys stared at him. ‘Sir?’

‘We’ll have to deal with that later.’ Jericho shoved himself to his feet. ‘In the meantime, we have to hit these Breen so they don’t garrison at Izar. So we can save the biggest centre of population in the whole damn sector. And we’ll do it without him.’ He gave a curt nod. ‘We press on. Krish, signal the rest of the squadron to resume speed and course.’

Ranicus’s brow furrowed, and she pulled out her PADD to check something. Jericho was sure that whatever it was, she already knew what she’d see, but his XO was nothing if not fastidious. When she spoke, it was in a lowered voice after she’d stepped closer. ‘Sir, with intel’s report on this Breen strike force, I’m confident in our capacity to defeat them with Triumph, Independence, and Nighthawk.’

‘Which is why we’re pressing on,’ Jericho murmured back. ‘But this is also the kind of thinking which weakens our attack. We don’t know what we’ll find.’

‘Sir.’ The furrow of her brow deepened. ‘We should be preparing for the enemy we know is there. Not jumping at the enemy we fear is there.’

‘This data is based on their entry to the Ciater Nebula days ago. We’re looking to intercept them based on a calculation of their current location based on speed and heading. Anyone could have joined up with them there.’ He stepped away, towards his ready room. ‘You have the bridge, Commander. And someone send Hawthorne to see me.’

He didn’t much like the lanky, superior Commander Gabriel Hawthorne, the Staff Judge-Advocate that Command had foisted on him. The man had made a reputation of opposing Starfleet’s defensive policies in the late 80s, championing cases of the downtrodden the organisation couldn’t afford to keep helping any more. Somewhere along the line it looked like he’d grown up and woken up to the realities of the quadrant, but it made Jericho apprehensive.

‘I need to know my options,’ Jericho said roughly, glaring at the swirling nebula gases shooting past the window and not looking at Hawthorne when he finally arrived, ‘in response to this insubordination from Matt Rourke.’

He could almost feel Hawthorne rock back on his feet. ‘I’m sorry; I only just got here, sir…’

‘He’s taken his ship out of the squadron formation.’ Jericho turned sharply, hands on his hips. ‘And is racing to go help the Cardassian bastards on their patrol. Against my express orders.’

Hawthorne gave the office a languid glance. ‘Can I get a coffee first, sir?’

‘Sure. You’re going to ask me how I know,’ Jericho pressed on as Hawthorne headed to the replicator. ‘And you’re right that I can’t prove it. But let’s worry about that part when the squadron links up, and you tell me what I can do about it.’

There was a wait while Hawthorne replicated himself a steaming mug of coffee. It was like he was deliberately dragging this out as he replicated milk and sugar separately and added them with the precision of a chemistry experiment. The faint tinkling of his teaspoon on china still echoed when he said, finally, ‘The nuances on what exactly he did and why he did it aren’t irrelevant if you want my legal advice, sir.’

‘You know what I’m -’

‘Starfleet gives you broad authority as the squadron commander, and broad authority in a crisis,’ Hawthorne confirmed. Then he took a slow sip of his drink. ‘But regulations and the law are not absolute. They’re here to support you in your primary duty upholding the Federation’s highest values. So let me ask you, Captain: even in the worst case scenario, what do you want for the squadron going forward?’

Jericho’s expression pinched, but even though it wasn’t what he wanted to hear, it was a point he couldn’t ignore. He sighed. ‘The squadron has to stay united to get through this mission.’

Hawthorne inclined his head. ‘Good. Because if you need me at a time like this, sir – something’s gone terribly, terribly wrong. Let’s try to not let it get that far.’


Try as Cortez might, she couldn’t avoid the grumbling. Right then her duties kept her helping out Isakov and engineers were some of the less politically-engaged officers, but the moment she ventured anywhere beyond a maintenance hatchway, the mumbles reached her ears. Endeavour were cowards, Endeavour were traitors. Endeavour had abandoned them.

‘Way to give folks the benefit of the doubt,’ Cortez complained at Arys over a coffee one late afternoon in the mess hall.

He fiddled with the second solid pip on his collar before he answered. ‘There’s no good explanation for what Rourke’s done, though.’

She squinted. ‘We don’t know what he’s done or why he’s done it. What if there’s actually been a mechanical failure aboard and we just can’t pick it up because this nebula is infamously a shitshow for sensors?’

‘The captain doesn’t think that’s what’s happened.’

‘The captain’s gut isn’t more solid than a sensor reading.’ She gripped her coffee. ‘God. You’re just as mad as everyone else about this, aren’t you?’

‘Aren’t you?’ Arys quirked an eyebrow. ‘You make it sound like this is the first time Rourke’s decided he knows best and ridden roughshod over everyone and everything else. And he’s left this crew in the lurch – this team.’

Cortez opened her mouth to argue, then thought better of it. Arys had always resented Rourke for the simple fact of not being Captain MacCallister, Endeavour’s original CO and the veteran officer who was meant to mentor the young Andorian. There’d never been that bond with the new captain, and even when Rourke had advanced Arys to Flight Control, he had solidly remained in the category of younger officers with less of an immediate relationship with the captain. She wasn’t sure she’d seen him fully break in with the rest of the senior staff.

Oh, she thought as she sipped her coffee to hide her expression. You came aboard Triumph and you drank the kool-aid, didn’t you.

‘I think,’ she said at last, instead, ‘that folks are jumping to conclusions. We don’t know the whole story and we should be focusing on the job ahead of us.’

‘That,’ Arys said after a moment, ‘I can agree with. We’re going to beat the living hell out of those Breen bastards.’

Cortez, a veteran of these borders from her early service, remained diplomatic for the rest of the sit-down. She did not again bring up Endeavour or Captain Rourke.

Arys headed off to a duty shift first, but before Cortez could settle much into people-watching, a shadow fell over her table. It was Commander Ranicus.

‘Captain Jericho would like you on the bridge when we arrive at our destination.’

Cortez continued sipping her coffee, before looking up with a forced smile. ‘Hello to you, too, Commander. Uh. Why?’

Ranicus raised an eyebrow at the question, as if it should never have been voiced. ‘He wants you scanning enemy ships during the engagement. With the nebula’s disruption, we cannot guarantee the quality of our sensor readings for later analysis. So he wants you to concentrate on gathering as much intelligence as possible.’

‘Sure.’ But still, questions burned. ‘It’s not like we don’t know about Breen ships -’

‘We want to ascertain if there’s been any technology sharing. And we don’t know what else will find.’ Ranicus tilted her head. ‘I wasn’t aware you had a more pressing assignment.’

Cortez’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Just trying to be clear on my task. Don’t worry, Commander.’

It seemed she wouldn’t get a chance to sit and people-watch for very long. She left Ranicus there rather than linger under her judgemental eye, and almost ran into Hale on her way into the lounge. ‘Oh – Sophia.’ Cortez winced. ‘Wherever you’re going, it’s gonna be a tough crowd.’

‘That’s my life on this ship,’ Sophia Hale said with a tight smile, but there was something a little off about her, something detached. ‘I needed to stretch my legs. I can listen to people complain if it means I’m not in my office.’

Cortez frowned at her. ‘You okay?’

‘I’m fine.’ It was a brush-off, but Cortez couldn’t tell if she was being brushed off because they were in public, or because this was how Hale lived. She didn’t have time to dig, either, and headed for the bridge. They had hours until they were expected to make enemy contact, but Cortez wanted to be sure of what she was doing.

To her mild disgust, she found Isakov waiting for her at the engineering console, quiet amid the hustle and bustle of a tense bridge hurtling towards a fight. Still, he grinned when he saw her and she softened, remembering not everyone on this ship was ten flavours of intense. ‘I hear you are being stolen from my engine room.’

‘I’d rather be down there in a pinch too, Dimitri. Captain’s orders.’ She slid behind the console, and still he lingered. ‘I assume you’re here to tell me what scanning enemy ships looks like.’

‘You know your job. I was just in with the captain and wanted to complain at you. You’re going to miss all the fun.’ Isakov clapped his hands together. ‘Don’t you prefer it in engineering, not knowing if we’re about to take a serious hit or if it’s over?’

‘When you put it like that, staring death in the face seems fun.’

He laughed and patted her shoulder. ‘So long as you are fine,’ he said, sobering after a heartbeat. ‘The captain will be expecting detailed scans. We are always scared of Dominion and Breen fusing technology.’

‘That seems highly unlikely, considering how little compatibility there is between their systems and how much they tried during the war,’ Cortez pointed out.

‘But what if the Breen did have some Dominion technology these past twenty-five years and now is the time to unveil it?’

‘What if the Breen learnt how to act in perfect, wordless synchronisation and they try to overwhelm us with the power of interpretive dance?’

‘Then it is just as well,’ rumbled Isakov, ‘that communications in this nebula are for dogshit.’

She smirked up at him. He had been overbearing at first, but soon enough they had fallen into the comfortable relationship of two seasoned engineers. And it didn’t hurt for her to have the captain’s oldest friend in her corner.

It left her a little more comfortable as the senior bridge crew slowly filtered up over the next hours. There ETA was nothing but an estimation, but Jericho had made it clear that when they were in the window, he expected everyone to be on their toes, ready and waiting.

Lieutenant Quinn’s voice shattered a tense silence when she said, not very loudly, ‘I’m picking up movement on medium-range sensors. There’s a disruption in the nebula gas eddies which matches the possible presence of multiple large starships.’

‘Good,’ Jericho breathed, stood at the command chair. ‘Any sign they’ve spotted us?’ At her shake of the head, he glanced at Malhotra. ‘Krish, signal the rest of the squadron. Dispersed formation so we don’t cause a big old ripple in the nebula ourselves they might notice.’ He drew a sharp breath. ‘And take us to red alert.’

Isakov stepped away from the engineering console at that. ‘This is my signal,’ he said quietly, ‘to get to my post.’ Cortez had another clap on the back, but it was at Jericho he stopped for longer, the two men exchanging quiet words and a quick handshake before the chief engineer left.

‘Captain,’ came Lieutenant Sterlah’s gruff report moments later. ‘Spreading out in the nebula is losing us some cohesion. The Independence is out of formation.’

‘Hang on,’ called Cortez, leaning across her console. ‘I’m definitely picking up Breen energy signatures here. This is them.’

Jericho grimaced. ‘Ramius will just have to catch us up. He knows where he’s going.’ He sank onto the command chair and grabbed the armrests tight. ‘Bring us in, Tar’lek. Weapons free, Vigo. Hit them the moment we can.’

As the Triumph surged through the nebula towards their target, minutes felt like heartbeats, the distances between them vast. But the gases still obscured their vision, enough that they were almost on top of the vague, Breen-like blips before they shifted on Cortez’s sensor readings into individual and distinct entities. She stared. ‘Oh.’

Jericho’s head snapped around. ‘What does oh mean, Commander -’ Then the nebula gases obscuring the viewscreen parted, and the shadows of the starships ahead became clear. ‘Oh,’ he echoed at the sight. Then his jaw tightened. ‘Take us in. And fire when ready.’

Comments

  • Oh? Oh? Oh! Come on you can’t leave us on a cliffhanger like that!! Ahh the tension is too much for me!! And what has happened to Arys - that attitude can change straight away, thank you very much! How dare he speak so ill of his former CO. I’m loving how much loyalty is such a big theme in this mission for the Endeavour squadron - those that are changing and those that are forming are intriguing on so many levels. Will Jericho really go for Rourke? I feel he is all mouth l…for now!

    May 15, 2023
  • Two wonderful cliffhangers in there - what was the outcome of Jericho's discussion with Hawthorne and how does this battle go? Wonderfully done leaving the former mystery there for us to see later. I love Cortez's worldview as well. She's working so hard to stay out of the politics that she can see when someone has gotten involved, even if they hadn't meant it. Arys really has drunken the koolaid. Perhaps because in part of a resentment for Rourke, but also because of a similar 'go get 'em' mentality he shares with Jericho?

    May 20, 2023
  • Oh? Oh? Oh! Come on you can’t leave us on a cliffhanger like that!! Ahh the tension is too much for me!! And what has happened to Arys - that attitude can change straight away, thank you very much! How dare he speak so ill of his former CO. I’m loving how much loyalty is such a big theme in this mission for the Endeavour squadron - those that are changing and those that are forming are intriguing on so many levels. Will Jericho really go for Rourke? I feel he is all mouth l…for now!

    May 20, 2023