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

Part VII

Various
Stardate 24013.9, 2130 Hours
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For the first time in days, main engineering was abuzz with activity that wasn’t simple repairs or maintenance, so abuzz that it was easy to forget that security was still on the hunt for a possible changeling infiltrator. Much of the heavy lifting during the early part of their mission had been carried out by those on the bridge, with engineering out of sight and out of mind as always. Until they needed something, anyway. When the rest of the crew needed something doing, it was the miracle workers in the engineering bay that they would seek out. Whether a practical solution or a theoretical proposal, those famed engineers that could turn rocks into replicators were always the ones to save the day. Today, Prida’s team were dancing the fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous with their strategies for problem-solving. Prida, of course, was the mastermind behind the chaos in engineering. It had been her suggestion to go back into the history books to revisit the MARS system that had got Commander Noli salivating, and now her people were having to make it happen. Luckily for the Bajassian, everything was going according to plan…

“And you’re certain you’ve been able to fully automate the transfer between operating modes?” Commander Kauhn asked, doing his level best to understand something far beyond his understanding of rudimentary engineering concepts.

Prida nodded, tapping away at the pool table just feet from the pulsating throng of the warp core that she found so very therapeutic. “Absolutely,” she nodded, drawing his attention to the readout between them. “The main issue that plagued previous attempts at getting the system to work was within the defence grid,” the Bajassian revealed, leaning over the display to point at different weak points in the system aboard both the Temeraire and the Santa Fe. “While we studied the system on the Santa Fe, trying to work out how to get it to tick, Udal ran some correlation algorithms and ascertained the problem,” she gestured to her assistant.

Stepping up to the proverbial plate, the Orion engineer explained his role in greater detail. “We were able to make links between the fluctuations in the multi-adaptive shielding while the rest of the defensive grid was online,” he told, “basically, where the more powerful systems were running, those depending on a significant power draw, specific areas of the ship would become unprotected and exposed. Seconds later, the whole system would go down.”

“Fortunately, the sensor systems on Hathaway have been enhanced by Borg technology which means they are far more efficient and far less likely to fail,” the Bajassian gladly revealed, showing her final diagram on the pool table, “but they are far less power intensive. We’ve managed to get the system working, and I can have shields running at the same time, but that’s it.” Hathaway’s silhouette rotated on the screen, expanding and retracting orbs of colour indicating the activation and deactivation of the systems and their effectiveness.

“Perfect,” the Commander grinned. “And what about the sensor decoys?”

It was at that point that the two engineers looked each other in the eye and then back to the XO with a shrug.


“Let me get this straight…”

Junior Lieutenant Eidan Neix waved towards the Commander at the briefing podium in front of the large display screen in order to get the Andorian’s attention. “We’re to pretend we’re a bunch of civilian ships, flying in close formation in order to give off an adequate enough sensor reading, whilst maintaining position around Hathaway, which will be cloaked?” For a Betazoid who Mae no attempt to hide the fact he could read people’s minds a lot better than the average empath, he sure looked confused.

“Not cloaked,” Orys Ch’tosrik countered, a finger in the air as he spoke. “The new system allows a greater degree of stealth, but the ship won’t be concealed fully.”

“And yeah, you’re expected to do all of that, and do it with a smile on your face, ATOM,” the squadron’s deputy chimed in from beside the CO, and making reference to Neix by his callsign. “The plan is pretty simple. We draw the Breen in, we fool them into thinking we’re a bunch of civilian ships, and when they arrive, we give them a nice little surprise by running a defensive screen around Hathaway.”

With ATOM apparently satisfied, the Andorian continued with his briefing. “Blue flight will form up to Hathaway’s port, with gold will take starboard. Standard vee formation,” he instructed. “You’ll have to be within ten meters of your co-pilot for the decoy to hold steady. XO,” he indicated to the Bajoran standing beside him.

“All right, listen up,” Varru called out, “Blue flight… SMURF will be paired with SPOTS; EMERALD, you’re with ANGEL; BISCUITS will form up with WHISKERS.” There was a murmur of chatter as the pilots of the first flight made their connections. “Gold flight… BALDY, you’re with me. ATOM, you’ve got ELF LORD; BUGSY and POINTY, you’ll make up the rear. Questions?”

When there were no questions forthcoming, the team’s Fighter Maintenance Chief stepped forward. “Your transponders are being adapted as we speak,” Lieutenant Yun told the gathered pilots. “I’ll reiterate what the XO said before. If you drift more than ten meters apart, you’ll blow your cover, and the operation as a whole. Stay tight and keep an eye on your transponder. We’ll be monitoring them from here, and we’ll assist remotely where we can, but you’ll have final control over your systems,” the engineer was clear in her assertions and was sure that no one wanted to be the pilot to blow the whole mission.

“Once we’re out there, we’re going to keep comm chatter to a minimum. We don’t want to risk anything giving the game away,” the Bajoran XO chipped in once again, “When the Breen arrive, all hell will break loose, so we’ll be communicating with Hathaway through STRATOPS. Stay out of their firing solution, and work together. In the event of a retreat, combat landings have already been authorised.” That was the XO done with her part of the briefing.

All that remained were whatever words of encouragement the CO could muster. Stepping out from behind the podium and LCARS controls, the squadron leader tucked his hands in his pockets. “I know we’re asking a lot of you,” he spoke in a hushed, calmer tone, “most of you will have never experienced anything like this. But this is war, and Starfleet needs you. You know what you are doing. You’ve trained for these eventualities. We’re the HELLHOUNDS. Let’s show these bastards that our bite is definitely worse than our bark.”

A spontaneous set of barks and wolf whistles rang out from around the twelve pilots, a new tradition of sorts whenever a new mission was due to commence. Varru hated it, but Ch’tosrik knew its value. It meant togetherness, it meant cohesion and it meant team spirit. And that would be needed in abundance when kick-off came.


Emerging from the port turbo lift with Lieutenant Prida in tow, Commander Kauhn strolled the few steps across the command deck and slipped into his chair on the Captain’s right side. “Engineering reports ready, Captain. Hellhounds are ready to disembark,” he confirmed with a smile and confirmatory nod.

“And we’re sure the Breen won’t pick up their signals too soon?” Nazir asked, glancing across at the Bajassian engineer.

“Not a chance,” Prida shook her head in response. “So long as the fighters hold off activating the transponders until we’re ready, the Breen will never know they are here,” she added, before making her way to the nearby engineering panel to monitor developments.

“What about Noli and her team?” It was Giarvar’s turn to ask the questions now, looking briefly towards the tactical station occupied, again, by the Bajoran’s able deputy.

“They’re assembling at the Runabout pads as we speak,” the Captain revealed, turning her attention back towards the main viewer. “Alright, let’s do this! Bridge to Hangar Deck,” she called into the communications grid, “mission is a go.”

Within seconds, an affirmative response came from the fighter hangar. On the screen at the front of the bridge, the holographic display depicted the Hathaway and several smaller icons appearing from aft and taking up positions around the ship, the plan starting to come together quite nicely.


Several decks down, the Runabout landing pad was bustling with activity as almost a dozen security officers, armed to the teeth and wearing their leather expedition jackets, made their way onto the Arrow-class runabout Kirsen. In the cockpit at the leading edge of the ship, Commander Noli and Ensign Udraa completed their pre-flight checks. Nothing could go wrong if they were to achieve their objective – their secret objective. An objective only Noli fully understood, an objective only she had to understand right now. Divulging their true purpose to the rest of the team would only jeopardise the mission at this point.

“All aboard, Commander…” Ensign Brak Qiraro declared, stepping into the cockpit and taking up position sat directly behind his department head. “Twelve fully armed security officers showing blind loyalty to their commander as they go into the belly of the beast,” the Bolian smirked, drawing a scowl from Noli. “Shutting up, ma’am,” he added swiftly.

“Preparing to seal the hatch,” the helmsman declared, “hang on…” she trailed off, leaning forward to look out of the cockpit window. When she caught a glimpse of what her sensors told her, the young pilot sat back in her chair and looked towards Noli. “Did you know the Captain was coming?” Teanne queried.

“No,” Noli shrugged, “she’s probably just coming to wish us luck.”

“Not that Captain,” Teanne countered, spinning in her chair at the same time as Noli, just in time for the appearance of Captain Gor in the hatchway.

“Mind if I tag along?” the Tellarite inquired, scooting into the final vacant chair behind the helmsman. “I was getting restless, and Nazir needs to focus on the bridge, so I figured I’d join your team.”

Noli and Teanne exchanged confused glances, and then the Commander shrugged one final time. “I guess our odds of success have just increased,” the Bajoran smiled, and then gave the nod to her pilot.

“Sealing hatch. Powering up thrusters,” Udraa indicated, fingers dancing freely over the controls, “taking us out.”

“Noli to bridge,” the Commander spoke into an open communications channel, “Kirsen is away. We’ll maintain radio silence until go time, just as planned. See you on the other side.”


“Acknowledged Kirsen,” the Captain responded from the safety of her chair, “smooth seas. Hathaway out.”

With the final chess piece on the board, the game was afoot at last. The holographic display at the forefront of the command centre showed the runabout moving away from the formation, and jumping to low warp when clear.

“Alright people,” the Trill declared as she sat forward in her chair, hands placed firmly on her knees. “Once we activate blue alert, the ship will go into silent running. Exactly thirty seconds later, the MARS system will activate and we will, to all intents and purposes, disappear from view. We’ll have short-range sensors only, so we’ll have to take our lead from the ‘hounds,” she advised her people, all of whom had turned to look at her spotted face during her address.

“We’ll have shields during all of this,” Lieutenant Prida added, standing a few feet away from the Captain, “but it’ll take at least an additional sixty seconds once we become visible again for the weapons systems to come back online.”

“I’ve got my eyes peeled for any excessive power usage so that I can counteract any issues,” Or’uil said through his synthesiser.

“I’ve got my evasive manoeuvres pre-programmed and ready at the push of a button,” Henry nodded.

“And I’ve got my fingers on the trigger,” the Terran/Klingon hybrid at tactical confirmed with a wink and a cock of the head towards the command team.

“Any questions?” Nazir asked, happy with the responsiveness of her team.

Or’uil took that moment t to raise his hand slightly and draw the Captain’s attention towards Ops. “What happens if the Breen doesn’t take the bait?” he asked.

“He will,” Tuca responded from beside Bellurr at tactical. “We’re hoping that, to the Breen, it will look like we’ve conducted an investigation and left the freighters behind, unarmed and unescorted. He won’t be able to resist the urge to destroy the freighters and rub it in our faces,” he revealed, before adding, “That’s the hope, anyway.”

With no further questions, and Or’uil seemingly satisfied, the Captain pressed a button on the command chair, only to stop mid-action as she caught a glimpse of a figure emerging from the turbo lift and making his way across the bridge towards her.

“Permission to join the party, Captain?”

“Of course,” Nazir smiled to her predecessor, “the more the merrier.”

Nodding in thanks, the Tellarite took a seat in the chair to Nazir’s left, watching. Waiting.

Glancing at her fellow Captain, the Trill pushed the button once more. “All hands, this is the Captain…” she called into the comm, “initiate silent running. We are now at blue alert.” As if the computer had been hanging on her every word, lights across the ship went dark, replaced by flashing blue icons and strobes of the brightest sapphire. For the briefest of moments, an unfamiliar, high-pitched alert klaxon rang out just three times, then silence engulfed the ship. The next time they heard the sound, they’d either be in the middle of a fight for their life, or their plan would have failed. Neither was a particularly desirable outcome.

For Captain Gor, it was a bittersweet moment. For many reasons, but one in particular…

Comments

  • OK, I think I know what just happened and...ohboy.gif! Lots of things are happening, and a great story overall, but...now that we know one of them isn't the real Gor...what happens next? It was so sly, that I almost missed it. I literally stopped reading the bridge stuff in the final section and was like, "Wait...waiiiit....oh no no no no!" Now there's some stakes. The question is which one is the real one? And what does it mean for our heroes! Oh man, looking forward to seeing how this plays out!

    May 22, 2023
  • This is a hell of a bit of plotting you're doing here, weaving together all these many threads. There's plenty of schemes and counter-schemes going on, and I like the way you conveyed it in a way that was concise and digestible. And I'm sure it's only going to get more twisty-and-turny from here as the intrigue intensifies. Not the Captain they were expecting indeed! Probably doubly so, as far as I can tell. But if anyone can handle it, Noli can!

    May 24, 2023
  • Under any other circumstances I'd think more Gor is more better, but not like this! Shoot! Well, calming down a bit, I did very much enjoy the "in praise of engineering" bit at the start, nice to see Prida and her crew get their propers. And you've released the hounds! Sorry Varru, but I personally love the barking. ;)

    June 13, 2023