Part of USS Arcturus: Return to Farpoint and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

4. Encounter from Farpoint

USS Arcturus
Stardate 2401.3
0 likes 506 views

Captain’s Log, Supplemental. 

After a review of the logs recovered from the Promise of Profit, it is clear that DaiMon Mahret sent a false distress call to lure in the USS Banting for an ambush. We have also learned that the Banting was boarded before it was destroyed. While the Ferengi Commerce Authority key code was enough to restore most of the logs deleted by DaiMon Mahret aboard the Promise of Profit, there are still significant gaps in our understanding about what exactly Mahret stood to gain by doing this. Our primary goal is to recover his thought makers without them falling into enemy hands, but I fear that there is another shoe that has yet to drop here.


Arcturus had been racing along for nearly three hours at maximum warp while Captains Alesser and Vane worked feverishly to put together the pieces of the Banting’s log buoy. The Starfleet Bureau of Astrozoology had yet to respond to their request for information on the specific mission assigned to the ill-fated science vessel, so Captain Lancaster had spent the entirety of their journey reviewing all astrozoan sightings in the Deneb Sector going back six months. The most obvious conclusion to him was that the Ferengi had sacrificed their own ship to pursue a poaching objective in the chaos of the Dominion incursion. How the thought makers fit into the equation was substantially less clear to him.

Given that they were at least another hour away from intercepting Mahret’s shuttle, Lancaster had spread out his research on the dining table in the quarters he shared with Sheppard. Despite or perhaps because of the oddness of the day so far, Sheppard had decided to proceed with his plan to cook something (mostly) from scratch in their small kitchen. As the aroma of a mushroom risotto began to waft across the suite, Lancaster realized that he’d probably gone at least twelve hours since the piece of toast Sheppard had pushed into his hands on his way out of the door that morning.

Lancaster was reading a report about gelki sightings when he heard the doors to their quarters open. He glanced up to see Alesser enter with a bright smile on his face—hopefully, that meant good news about the recorder buoy. Before relaying any information, though, Alesser took a detour into the kitchen and pecked Sheppard on the cheek; the twenty or so centimeters separating their height meant that Alesser was practically on his tiptoes to reach. 

“This all looks great, Luca. I’m starving,” Alesser said with his usual flair for the dramatic.

“The proof will be in the tasting,” Sheppard said, chuckling as he kissed Alesser back and then began to transfer their dinner from a sauté pan to a serving dish; he always insisted on the details being right. “Michael said he really put you to work today.”

Seeing his husband and his boyfriend together had taken some getting used to, but Lancaster liked the way their version of domesticity was shaping up together as a triad. Still, Alesser had his stomach in knots as he thought about how closely he and the other members of the away team had been to death aboard the Promise of Profit. He hadn’t yet shared that particular detail with Sheppard. The captain abandoned his PADDs and walked over to where the two men were standing, leaning back against the kitchen island with his arms crossed. 

“He did keep me pretty busy, but where would we be without him to boss us around?” Alesser agreed. He pushed his way into Lancaster’s arms, his face buried in the skin of the taller man’s neck. “He’s not smothering me, so how much did you tell him?”

Throwing them both a frown, Sheppard put their meal down on the island before facing them both with a stern look and crossed arms. 

“I may not have mentioned that Ari’s team was aboard the Ferengi marauder a few minutes before we remotely triggered a booby trap,” Lancaster admitted. He cleared his throat. “And then it exploded.”

Alesser tried to laugh it off. “It was really no big deal—we followed protocol, and no one got hurt. Sheppard clearly wasn’t buying it because he immediately dove in to pull them both into a tight hug. Lancaster knew that his husband hated always being the last to know anything on the ship among the three of them, given that they were the two most senior officers on the ship while he was a medical officer. “Thanks, big guy.”

“It’s especially good we kept our dinner date, then,” Sheppard noted, sighing as he released the other two men. “I don’t like it when you keep things from me,” he said, looking directly at Lancaster. “But if I knew the details of all of your away missions, I’d probably never let either of you leave the ship,” he added with a smile.

“Probably not,” Alesser agreed, chuckling. “Can we eat now?”

With plates of freshly-made risotto in front of them, the trio settled in at the dining room table once Lancaster’s PADDs had been moved out of the way. Lancaster sat at the head of the table flanked by the two men he cared so much about, and for a moment, it was easy to forget that they were still in a high-speed pursuit of interstellar felons. That moment didn’t last long, though, when Lancaster thought back to the task Alesser had been working about.

“The recorder buoy?” he asked.

“We were able to recover enough of its memory core to allow the computer to begin assembling the data through fractal reassembly. It’ll be at least twelve hours before we’ll have anything legible,” Alesser explained. 

“Good work,” Lancaster noted, though they wouldn’t have the records that would shed light on the situation until long after they would intercept the Ferengi. Sheppard eyed him. “No work talk at the table,” he said sheepishly.

The three of them ate together quietly, though Lancaster kept glancing over at the stack of PADDs at the end of the table. He was desperate to understand what was driving these Ferengi to act so recklessly, and it brought them no tactical advantage to figure out their motivations after intercepting them. 

“How was your day, Luca?” Alesser asked.

“Less exciting than either of yours,” Sheppard replied. “But Austin and Matthew caught me up on some of the gossip at the gym,” he said, referring to counselor Austin Carver and communications officer Matthew Belvedere.

“Is everyone still sleeping with everyone else?” Lancaster quipped.

Their two friends had a very loose relationship with the truth when it came to gossip. In their eyes, anyone they observed even looking at someone else was clearly sleeping with them. It was mostly amusing, but Lancaster did find the relentless conspiracy theory to get a little dull sometimes.

“Pretty much,” Sheppard said. “But Commander Bowens and my newly-promoted charge nurse Gardner were working out together. I didn’t really think anything of it, but Matthew said Gardner was practically sitting in Bowens’s lap last night at the Plowman’s Tap.”

“Scandalous. I love it,” Alesser enthused. “Good for Gardner—he’s definitely in the top 30, but Bowens is easily the fifth most attractive man on the ship,” he said as matter-of-factly as if he were reading off of a tricorder.

Lancaster rolled his eyes. “How can you say that so… absolutely?”

“You don’t have a ranking?” Alesser asked, making a face as if Lancaster had just admitted to being a Horta. He waved his hand dismissively. “Obviously, I’m number one, then you two are tied for second, then it’s Carver in fourth, and Bowens in a strong fifth place. Have you seen the traps on that man?” he said, snapping his jaws for emphasis at the end of his litany.

Sheppard laughed. “Well, no one can say you don’t have taste—or a type,” he said.

The captain himself could not disagree with his first officer’s rankings, though he was tempted to press him on where exactly he would rank his two partners. Before he could ask him about that or demand the rest of his list (which he was sure was inclusive all the way down the 2,500 crew members aboard Arcturus), Lancaster’s commbadge chirped.

“Marshall to Lancaster,” came the helmsman’s voice through his badge.

“Go ahead,” Lancaster replied, glaring when Alesser theatrically licked his lips and mouthed the name ‘Marshall’ as if he needed to reconsider his rankings.

“The Ferengi vessel has dropped out of warp. Our new intercept time is three minutes,” the lieutenant commander reported. 

“Very well, Mr. Marshall. Take the ship to yellow alert. I’ll be there shortly,” Lancaster said before tapping his badge to end the call. He stood up even though he had a half-full plate of dinner left. He leaned over to kiss Sheppard on the top of his head.  The yellow alert klaxon sounded, and the lighting dimmed. “This was amazing, but—”

“Duty calls, I know. Maybe tell me how it goes this time?” Sheppard replied, looking at Alesser and Lancaster both pointedly. 

“Oh, you’re coming with us,” Lancaster replied. “Captain’s orders. No moping about not being in the loop this time.”

“I don’t mope,” Sheppard demurred, though he seemed pleased to leave their quarters toward the bridge with them. 

As they walked towards the turbolift, Lancaster began to grow more and more irritated that they had not yet uncovered the reason for their pursuit. There would not be a hint at all about the motivations of the Ferengi without understanding why they would attack a Federation science vessel.

“I wish we knew more. I didn’t find anything notable in spacefaring creature sightings in this sector.”

Sheppard chuckled, making the other two raise their eyebrows.

“What’s the joke?” Alesser asked as they entered the turbolift.

Sheppard looked between them with a look of utter confusion. “You just said that there was nothing not able in terms of spacefaring creatures in this sector. The Deneb sector,” he said, earning blank looks. “Home to Farpoint Station?”

Lancaster opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. Now that was an angle he hadn’t thought of.

“Computer, have there been any sightings of Farpoint Cnidarians anywhere in Federation space in the last six months?” he asked.

Affirmative,” the computer replied.

“Where?”

“Access to positional information on Class-1 Protected Species is restricted.” 

“Why didn’t you say that earlier, Luca?” Lancaster asked, incredulous that the answer to what the Banting and now the Ferengi were after was so obvious.

“You didn’t ask,” Sheppard replied with a small smirk. 

“God, he’s so hot,” Alesser muttered, making Sheppard roll his eyes slightly.

“He really is,” Lancaster agreed. “This explains why Starfleet Science has been dragging their heels on sending me the mission orders for the Banting. These beings can make pretty much anything out of energy and transform themselves into massive warships.”

“Want to bet they can even replicate latinum?” Alesser suggested.

Moments later, the doors to the bridge opened, and the three men stepped onto the deck. Lancaster made a beeline for his seat, which Lieutenant Commander Marshall eagerly vacated. The captain’s finger hovered over the red alert control for a moment, but he hesitated. He didn’t want to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, after all. 

“Armstrong, scan for Farpoint Cnidarians,” Lancaster said, turning towards his science officer.

“I… Why, sir?” Armstrong asked.

“Never ask me that question, commander,” the captain snapped.

Armstrong cleared his throat. “Right. Well, I am picking up a massive energy surge dead ahead. It could be created by a creature of that size,” the science officer replied. 

“Dropping out of warp in 30 seconds, sir,” Marshall reminded the captain.

Lancaster pressed the red alert control, and the lighting shifted immediately. They were either flying into a trap or catching the Ferengi in the act of poaching a dangerous, ancient, and powerful species. The captain took a deep breath.

“The best working theory we have is that the Ferengi are attempting to poach Farpoint Cnidarians, which are extremely powerful beings,” Lancaster said to the bridge crew.

About ten seconds later, Arcturus dropped out of warp. The viewscreen was filled by what looked like a shimmering pink flying saucer, which resolved into an imposing silver vessel after a few moments of observation. It looked exactly like the original Farpoint Cnidarian encountered by the Enterprise-D in the 2360s—other than the coloration of its apparent engines and weapons, which were blood red. 

“Analysis,” Lancaster ordered.

“It’s definitely a cnidarian,” Armstrong replied. “But I am detecting metallic signatures on its hull. And energy frequencies that match the thought makers,” he said, switching the viewer to show what looked to be piercings embedded in the hull of the vessel with clusters of thought makers shoved directly into the creature’s anatomy.

“The Ferengi shuttle is broadcasting an incredible amount of data towards the entity,” Alesser offered.

Lancaster swallowed. “That’s what their plan was—the thought makers weren’t to brainwash a Federation colony, they were to take control of one of these creatures,” he said, the revelation hitting him suddenly. 

The view on the screen switched to show the Ferengi vessel, an odd, winged craft with typical Ferengi hull coloration. The front of the vessel was pulsing red, clearly in time with the pulsing of the devices on the surface of the Cnidarian. 

“Hail them.”

“Channel open,” Lieutenant Commander Rivera replied.

“This is Captain Michael Lancaster of the Federation starship Arcturus. Ferengi vessel, Stand to and prepare to be boarded,” he ordered.

The reply from the Ferengi came in the form of an energy blast from the Cnidarian creature, which caused Arcturus’s shields to spark and the ship to rumble beneath the crew’s feet. Looming eight times the volume of even a heavy explorer like Arcturus, Lancaster knew that he, his partners, his crew, and his ship were in the most danger they had ever been in.

Comments

  • Ha! I'm an idiot, you told me all about the Cnidarians as the plot and I outright forgot. I feel much better that hyper-smart Lancaster and Alesser forgot, too. But it's a great gambit for the Ferengi to undertake during the Lost Fleet incursion, the thought-makers are a really good conceit that distracts the reader (and characters) before looping back to make sense, and now the idea of a mind-controlled Cnidarian is finally presenting Arcturus with a worthy adversary (I'm looking at you, Kazon). But really, the star of the show of this mission is the personal relationships and dynamics. I think this might be your smoothest writing yet in balancing plot with characterisation. You're rightfully not shy in centering the character relationships and dynamics, as they're entrenched in and driven by the plot. I think this is, stylistically, your slickest work yet so far. Good stuff!

    May 20, 2023