Part of USS Constellation: Nothing Comes From Being Right and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Nothing Comes – 5

USS Constellation, Observation Lounge
March 2401
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Gathered together around the conference table, like a hearth, the senior staff kept watch over the holographic projection.  The teal glow from the representation of the Deneb Sector flickered across their faces as a crackling flame might do.  With the lights down low in the observation lounge, competing sources of light took dominance from moment to passing moment.

A purple glow, from the Constellation’s passage through the Ciater Nebula, bled in through the tall observation viewports.  When it shone across Taes’ bald pate, it gave her eyebrows more severe an arch and it obscured the light behind Kellin’s expressive eyes.  The view of the nebula shifted when the ship adjusted course, causing the viewports to favour a patch of amber light from the nebula.  Under that warm glow, the truly alien visage of Doctor Nelli’s vegetal features were highlighted, as was the seemingly mathematical pattern to Chief Engineer Pagaloa’s blinking.  Flavia was haloed by a yellow alert panel slowly flashing behind her head.  And it didn’t escape notice that Flavia had invited no Starfleet science officers to assist in her segment of the briefing.  Romulan Free State scientists Navok and Laken flanked her, where they were seated at one end of the table.

Standing from her chair, Lieutenant Commander Tynleigh Ache extended a hand into the holographic star chart, initiating the holographic USS Constellation to fly out of the Ciater Nebula on an aesthetically erratic course towards the Federation’s trailing coreward border with the great unknown.

“Leveraging the latest reports of Dominion engagements across the Deneb Sector,” Ache reported, “I plotted this course from the nebula to the Kholara Observatory.  With seventy-eight percent probability, we can avoid any Dominion contacts or patrol lines.”

Captain Taes narrowed her eyes on the flight path and she nodded at it twice.  Her jaw looked strained, like she was holding back a stricken expression.  Then her gaze fell on Ache.

“You’ll need to re-calculate the course,” Taes said.  It wasn’t a question.  It was a matter of fact.

Being challenged like that, Ache couldn’t help herself.  She puffed her chest out to make herself physically larger, to take up more space in the room.  Despite her instinctive reaction, Ache chose to sound deferential in her reply.

“Is there an error I missed, captain?” she asked.  Ache flared her hands out in a particular gesture that brought all of Ache’s homework to the surface.  Holographic report after holographic report began to scroll out of the surface of the table, swirling around the star chart like a hurricane rolling in.

“That, uh, that won’t be necessary, commander,” Taes said.

Shaking her head at Ache, Taes cleared her throat and she leaned back into her chair.  She took the opposite approach, closing in on herself.  With a snap, Ache winked out reports, leaving only the original star chair floating above the table.

Firmly, Taes said, “What I tell you all now, I tell you in confidence.  If any of you repeat this in a log or to a loved one, I will swear under oath that you’re a liar.  In the briefing I received from the director of the Fourth’s Fleet intelligence, he said, ‘Trust only the Fourth Fleet’.”  –Taes nodded at the Constellation’s flight path– “Commander, I want you to remove any fleet movement data collected by Task Group 514 from your analysis.”

“Aye, captain,” Ache said softly and she returned to her chair.

“Your Fourth Fleet,” Flavia interjected, “has provided us with a quantum-level analysis of the Jem’Hadar battleships that attacked USS Caliburn and USS Hathaway.”  –She frowned an impressed frown–  “We’ve only begun parsing the data for ourselves, but quantum dating corroborates the pestilent rumour that the Dominion starships have come here from the year 2374.  Somehow, only days have passed for them, rather than decades.  They’re time-travellers, essentially.  Judging by the markings on their vessels –and comparing them against Starfleet’s historical records from the USS Defiant — our invading Dominion starships would appear to be the same mythical lost fleet that vanished from the Bajoran wormhole in 2374.”

Excitedly, Laken added, “According to the Defiant’s sensor logs, the lost fleet was comprised of thousands of battleships crossing the wormhole to invade the Alpha Quadrant.  Based on Ache’s analysis of the Starfleet’s engagements thus far, the Dominion forces across the Deneb sector are extensive, but they’re bolstered by the Breen.  If this is the lost fleet, this isn’t the whole of the lost fleet.”

Taes inclined her chin and she breathed in through her nose.

“Then there’s still more out there, somewhere,” Taes said.

Thousands more,” Laken enthused.

“Will the Dominion bring them upon us too?” Taes asked.  The way she looked to each of the senior staff in turn, the question was plainly rhetorical.  “In Deneb or somewhere else?”

Rhetorical or not, Ache affirmed, “They will if we don’t stop them.”

“Please continue, commander,” Taes said.

The perspective on the holographic projection over the table shifted, zooming in on the hard angles and majestic silhouette of Constellation.  Coming into view at the same time was the Kholara Observatory.  It was a squat box of a space station with a massive sensor dish affixed to the relative top of it and two subspace antenna masts protruding from opposite sides like wings.  Those masts extended three times the length of the small space station itself.

Ache looked down at her PADD momentarily to confirm a figure.  She activated a soft metronome to give her a rhythmic pulse around which she could pace her presentation.

Constellation comes in cold,” Ache declared.  Due to her Osnullus biology, her voice resonated through her nostrils and her finger-mouths.  “As soon as we drop out of warp, we shut down all non-essential systems.  Those Jem’Hadar battleships from the 70s only have a sensor range of less than 1.32 light years.  We acknowledge there’s a chance the Kholara system may be occupied by the Dominion or it may be visited by patrols.  Alternatively, if we’re very lucky, they may not take notice of us initially.”

“If the observatory hasn’t already been destroyed,” Kellin murmured glumly.  He crossed his arms over his chest.

Not even trying to hide her irritation at the pessimism, Ache said, “Yes, commander, if it’s been destroyed, we jump back to warp.  However.  If it hasn’t been destroyed, we launch the away team in an Orion-class runabout.  It’s the fastest, most heavily-armoured auxiliary craft we have aboard.  The runabout can fend for itself to the observatory while Constellation takes to the other end of the system.  At the first whisper of a Jem’Hadar battleship on long-range sensors, we light up the Constellation to make her the target, doing whatever it takes to make the Dominion forget the observatory ever existed.”

“I don’t like it,” Taes said awfully quickly.  “The runabout adds an extra layer of complexity.  Away team from shuttlebay to runabout, from runabout to observatory.  Beaming them directly from our transporter room leaves us less margin for error, no?”

Ache took a breath.  “You are correct, captain.  More things could go wrong.”

The first time Ache met Taes, over a year ago, she tried to arrest the first-time commanding officer at phaser point.  It always fell to Ache to protect Taes from herself.  Now, serving as Taes’ chief security officer for the first time, it was more true than ever.

“And,” Ache said, “we have more time for extra steps at the start of the away mission.  Before a Jem’Hadar patrol arrives.  A runabout also means an escape route.  If the system is flooded with more than a couple of battleships, Constellation can’t beam the away team back through shields.  If she were to even make it back to the observatory in time.  We’ll be alone in Dominion-occupied territory without Starfleet support.  You taught me, Taes: we always plot an escape route.”

Nodding slowly this time, Taes remarked, “I take your point. Wise as always.  Who’s on the away team?”

Kellin answered, “I’ll be leading the away team with Flavia and Commander Ache.”

“No,” Taes said with certainty.  “I need my chief of security at tactical, protecting this crew.  The away team is a science mission, identifying and retrieving sensor records.”  –Taes nodded at Flavia– “By chance, might any of your civilian scientists also happen to be trained in marksmanship?”

Flavia tilted her head to the left.  “Navok, here, is a sensor expert and he has been known to haunt a disruptor range.  As a hobby.  From time to time.  I would trust him with my life, let alone Kellin’s.”

Kellin nodded at first and then he squinted at Flavia, looking like he caught a whiff of something unpleasant.

“I’ll need a Starfleet science officer too,” Flavia went on, “skilled with at least an A-7 computer classification.  They’ll need to be fluent in LCARS code, equipped with security overrides, and they need to be fast.  None of your pretentious explorers who crave a conference in the middle of an evacuation.  When I say fast–“

Raising a palm in surrender or placation, Taes said, “My science officers are your science officers, Flavia.  You know that.  It’s why we’re all sitting around this table together.”

“It is why, isn’t it?” Flavia replied.

After taking a deep breath, Taes said, “We need another perspective.  You’ve all been too deep in the weeds on this plan for days.”  –She looked to Nelli and Pagaloa– “Doctor, Lieutenant?  What else haven’t we considered?”

Nelli raised two of their mid-section vines above the height of the tabletop and waggled them as they replied.

“On Phylos, there are those who defend themselves from attack by releasing a… scent that attracts the natural enemies of their attackers,” Nelli said through their monotone vocoder.  “How might we make the Dominion themselves vulnerable to their natural predators?”

“They don’t fear much,” Flavia retorted and she sneered.  “Religious zealots, the lot of them.  The Vorta and the Jem’Hadar follow the word of their Founders, the shape-shifting Changelings, without question.  Even when those orders are illogical or self-destructive, the Jem’Hadar maintain their faith, relentlessly.”

“Ah, that’s easy,” Laken interjected.  “Isolytic burst.  A subspace tear is the natural enemy of all life.”

Taes smiled at Laken gently.

“I like your energy,” Taes said, “but those are illegal.”

Without showing signs of slowing down, Laken offered, “Could we engender distrust between the Dominion and the Breen?”

We could,” Flavia said in conditional agreement.  She waved her hand to indicate her Romulan peers as a separate group from their Starfleet companions.  “But it would take time and resources embedded among their armies.”

“Fire?” Pagaloa proposed.  Considering what was in his personnel file, that suggestion was based on personal experience.  “Living things naturally fear fire.”

Laken scoffed.  “Romulans don’t.”

Taes leaned forward again, locking eyes with Flavia directly, and she smirked.

“We prepared the solar ejection gambit before,” Taes said.  “We never tested it against the Pakleds, but Constellation possesses far more reinforced metaphasic shields than the USS Sarek ever did.”

“That… could work?” Flavia remarked.  “We can summon the might of Gal’Gathong against the Dominion and their hordes!”

Comments

  • Normally a long briefing post can be somewhat boring, but this was engaging the whole way. I'm really digging the interpersonal relationships and how some seem good and some seem really, really strained right now. The back and forth, the planning and adjusting, all felt really solid. And the plan for dealing with the Dominion is to go make friends with a star and then piss it off? I love it...just...be careful where you aim that solar flare. Sure, the observatory is small and far from the star, but a CME would still disrupt sensors for awhile. I can't wait to see the fallout of this plan!

    May 20, 2023
  • Well, that was a hell of a briefing. Things clearly aren't normal right now, and I feel a lot of that revolves around the good Captain herself. Taes has seemed 'off' for several posts now, but thankfully Ache is there to keep her grounded. I find it highly interesting (and deeply concerning) that the Captain's strongest relationship right now might well be with her Romulan contingent. How will this play out, I wonder? It was a great way to strategise for the upcoming mission, and I appreciated the detailed description of the observation lounge under the lights of the nebula. I'm not sure I like where this mission is going, aggravating a star NEVER ends well (ask the Monac Shipyards. Oh, wait...). But if anyone can make it happen, Taes can. If this even IS Taes. Something still isn't sitting right for me...

    May 20, 2023
  • The star of this briefing is Taes - or rather, your characterisation of her. She is so down to the core a SCIENTIST, and that shines through in everything here. Most importantly, in how you're prepared to depict her being wrong. She's not a grand tactician, she needs Ache to explain why you add the moving part of a runabout - but because she's a scientist, she listens, understands, and accepts the new information without ego. Her bringing in alternative opinions of the non-security characters is another great example, as is being able to turn Pagaloa's not-very-helpful comment into what might turn out to be a hell of a plan. She has her blind spots and her weaknesses, but generally accepts new information and rolls with it. When so many of our captains are superheroes of some form or another, I *really* like Taes needing correcting on something that isn't just "Oh, I don't know everything about particle physics" but is the bread and butter of a mission. Great stuff - plus, I'm really looking forward to seeing this potential action sequence. Good stuff!

    May 20, 2023