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Part of USS Polaris: Infiltrate and Liberate Nasera (The Lost Fleet – Part 1) and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Ticking Towards Zero

Nasera System
Mission Day 13 - 1700 Hours
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The maintenance tunnels were dusty, dark, and claustrophobic, but after the crucible Ayala Shafir had endured within them, now they felt like home. Chest pressed to the ground and shoulders scraping the walls, the Chief Shafir led Ensign Elyssia Rel and Lieutenant Commander Brock Jordan through the spiderweb of disorderly twists and turns that would deliver them straight into the interior of the planetary defense system’s control center. As was so typical of practically every security force in the galaxy, the Dominion had hardened the outside of the control center with a nearly unbreakable force but left the interior vacant and vulnerable.

High above them on the orbital station that the Dominion had converted into a massive weapons platform, Ryssehl Th’zathol and Crewman Nam Jae-Sun stood over a damaged duranium plate. Nam handled the welding torch, while Ryssehl guided him through the repair. Behind them, a Jem’Hadar soldier supervised. Their guard had no idea of their nefarious purpose, no suspicion of the payload that Ryssehl carried in his bag. As far as he knew, they were just two weary workers dragged from the depths of the maintenance pit, but he maintained his vigilance nonetheless. He took his duty to the Founders seriously.

Back planetside, a small team of operators moved towards the governor’s mansion preparing to capture the Vorta commander that had taken up residence within. Commander Jake Lewis, Lieutenant Kora Tal, Dr. Lisa Hall, and Lieutenant J.G. Jace Morgan had abandoned their begrimed attire in favor of adaptive camo bodysuits, ballistic pads, and Type-III phaser rifles. As they crept through the underbrush east of the mansion, they no longer needed to maintain their charade in the image of the local denizens. They would soon be engaging the Jem’Hadar directly.

“Natives incoming from the west,” reported T’Aer in their earpieces. From her perch high on a hill overlooking the mansion, their coldblooded sniper could see a mob of angry colonists through her scope. They moved quickly towards the front gates, armed with energy lances, blunt objects, and a few phasers. This diversion was engineered by Dr. Hall’s psyop, leveraging their grief to whip them into reckless frenzy. The untrained civilians had no chance of defeating the Jem’Hadar. They would probably all die. But they’d pull the Jem’Hadar away from their posts, giving Commander Lewis and his team the opportunity to breach.

Lieutenant Commander Brock Jordan reported in next: “Tunnel rats ready to make entry.” He, Ayala Shafir and Elyssia Rel had just reached the bulkhead that opened into the network switch room in the basement of the planetary defense system’s control center.

Ryssehl and Nam Jae-Sun heard the callouts over tiny earpieces buried deep in the tympanic cavity of their inner ears, but they couldn’t report their status verbally with their Jem’Hadar supervisor hovering over them. They didn’t have good news though. Their Jem’Hadar hadn’t given them a second alone to plant their explosives.  It didn’t matter though. The battle was about to pop off either way. They were just going to have to improvise. Otherwise, the station they were on would be turned against Nasera City and unleash an orbital bombardment that would wipe it clean from the map, along with the eight million Federation citizens that called it home.

Aboard the SS Lucre, parked in the Nasera Municipal Spaceport, a lone Ferengi sat with his feet up, sipping a smoky Denobulan whisky while flipping a latinum slip between his fingers. Grok listened to the others as they checked in. It was time.

He picked up the mic to his subspace communicator. “Lucre to my friends abroad,” he said gleefully, ready for the party to start. “The dabo table is set, and I look forward to seeing you soon.” With the Polaris and her squadron en route, he couldn’t rely on a point-to-point narrow beam to reach them at a fixed location. Instead, he had to use a more generalized subspace channel, and since there was always a chance it could be intercepted, he kept his words cryptic.

At high warp blazing towards the Nasera System, the bridge of the USS Polaris was ghostly silent. There were no more preparations to be done, no more decisions to be made, and no more crosstalk to be had. All that was left to do was execute.

Suddenly, the voice of a comms officer pierced the silence. “Confirmation from ground element. They are a go in T minus 5 minutes.” The gravity of those words could be felt across the bridge. Everyone knew what they meant. In five minutes, they’d be emerging from warp into the greatest firefight many of them had ever witnessed.

“Gator, distance and speed?” asked Captain Devreux from the center command chair.

“Distance 1114 AU. Speed warp 9.21.”

Standing behind the captain, Fleet Admiral Reyes ran the numbers quickly in her head. They were going to be late. “Signal the squadron. Bring us to warp 9.57 and engage,” she ordered. While the operators on the ground could message them, they couldn’t communicate back without giving up their approach. That meant Grok defined their timetables, and they needed to arrive exactly on time.

“Warp 9.57 confirmed.” 

The USS Polaris and her sister ships accelerated in unison, their new velocity aligned to arrive over Nasera II in 4 minutes and 42 seconds. A display on the side of the main viewer tracked their progress, counting down towards zero.

“Red alert,” ordered Captain Devreux. The room darkened as red hues overtook the typical blue. But other than that, it was almost superfluous as tactical systems had already been engaged and all crew had already deployed to their battlestations. “Final status check, all stations.”

“Power at optimal levels. All non-combat systems in bypass mode.”

“Shields at full. All weapons at ready.”

“All sensors tasked to tactical.”

“Starfighter wing ready for quick launch.”

“All non-combatants sheltering in place.”

“All battlestations standing by.”

Captain Devreux could feel himself choking up a little as the callouts proceeded. The magnitude of what was happening was starting to hit him. They were doing it. They were about to engage the Dominion once again. He looked over at the Admiral, who stood there with a look of pure determination on her face.

When the status check concluded, the Captain rose from the center chair. “It’s all yours, Admiral,” he said with a sense of gravity as he yielded command. The veteran flag officer, shaped through the crucible of wars long past and refined through her decades in service to the Federation, took her seat in the center chair.

“Comms, get me the squadron, all hands.”

The comms officer nodded once the uplink was established across all six vessels barreling towards the Nasera system at high warp.

“This is Fleet Admiral Allison Reyes. In just under three minutes’ time, we will engage the enemy. We know the disposition of their forces, and we know this battle will not be easy. Of all the missions you have served on, this may be the toughest you have ever faced. But you are ready. We are ready. Scientist or soldier, doctor or dockhand, freshly commissioned or grizzled veteran, this is what you have trained for.”

She looked around the bridge, noting a mix of resolve, focus and fear.

“We fight on behalf of the citizens of Nasera, who at this very moment suffer and die under the yoke of the Dominion. But we also fight for more than that. We fight for every free citizen of the Federation. Ignorance and appeasement are not solutions to the Dominion menace. They will not stop with the Deneb sector. They will keep going. Until we stand against them. And so we draw a line in the sand, right here, right now, starting with Nasera.”

There was a look of pure determination on her face, a deep conviction in every word she spoke. She meant them with every ounce of her being. War had come again, and they would do their duty, whatever the outcome.

“Man your battlestations, rise to your duty, trust your shipmates, and do what needs to be done.”

She cut the line and looked forward, watching the counter tick towards zero.

Comments

  • Man, just a strong, powerful movement happening throughout this story. Such effective use and flow of the montages between the different players - the pacing, the description, and how everyone is either counting down, watching the clock, or waiting for the moment to arrive finally - just a fun and detailed read from start to finish. I love the twice use of 'crucible' - it ties the characters' suffering together...and that last line? It's go time! Really loving the story.

    May 22, 2023
  • This chapter was an absolute study in antici....pation. I could practically hear the music swell as you swept from character to character, every one of them stepping up to the precipice and not... quite jumping into the fray just yet. I don't know who I'm the most worried about: Captain Devreux seemed AWFULLY nervous about going into battle, the ominous tunnel awaiting Ayala Shafir, those poor townfolks swinging pitchforks against the Jem'Hadar, or the omnipresent threat of orbital bombardment. Like a phaser platform of Damocles hanging over them all! And then you rounded it all out with the brave words of Reyes; she makes me believe she'll get her people through this!

    May 25, 2023
  • Ahh I love the build up of all the elements falling into place. Mansion team under guidance of Hall (love her work), Orbital ready to give that boom and Tunnel Rats (love the name) ready to make some noise. The Polaris set up to combat is executed to great details, it reminded me in someway to the set up of Battlestar Galactica entering battle. Wonderful job!

    May 28, 2023
  • I enjoyed the buildup of all the elements here in this one chapter from the different points planetside to those on the platforms in space even to Gok on the Lucre. Now we see the Polaris and the rest of the Squadron heading to Nasera. I can feel how Captain Devreux seemed awfully nervous, that this was actually about to happen. That they were about to face an enemy they had faced many years ago to free those people from these monsters. I could tell that he hoped and prayed that they would be successful. At least that is how I read it to be, I also enjoyed the speech that Reyes gave sounding so confident in her words even if she too was feeling the anxiety and tensions that most if not all of the crews might have been feeling. It came across as a powerful message that they would pull through this together, great job!

    May 29, 2023
  • Allison Reyes

    Squadron Commander
    ASTRA Director

  • Gérard Devreux

    Squadron Deputy Commander (Mobile Element)
    USS Polaris Commanding Officer

  • Jake Lewis

    Squadron Intelligence Officer
    USS Serenity Commanding Officer

  • Dorian Vox

    Squadron Strategic Ops Officer
    USS Diligent Commanding Officer

  • Cora Lee

    Squadron Engineering Officer
    USS Ingenuity Commanding Officer

  • Lisa Hall, Ph.D.

    ASTRA Lead, Cultural & Psychological Research
    Chief Counseling Officer

  • Ayala Shafir

    ASTRA Staff Researcher, Computational Systems
    Intelligence Specialist & Hazard Team Operator

  • Elyssia Rel

    Flight Control Officer
    Hazard Team Operator

  • T'Aer

    Private Contractor
    Sebold Logistics

  • Grok

    Private Contractor
    Sebold Logistics

  • Brock Jordan

    Deceased; Formerly
    Assistant Chief Intelligence Officer
    Hazard Team Deputy Lead

  • Jace Morgan

    Deceased; Formerly
    Operations Officer
    Hazard Team Member

  • Ryssehl Th'zathol

    Deceased; Formerly
    Private Contractor & CEO
    Sebold Logistics