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

Part VIII

Various
Stardate 24013.9, 2210 Hours
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There is a kind of waiting that feels like gentle, onshore breezes kissing salty stones. It isn’t warm but there is a sense of calm, of nature, of things expected. Then there is the kind that feels like a blast of phased energy to the gut, or a starship blowing up around you.

The words of a sage, old family friend rang true on this particular occasion, and somehow it always seemed to be the latter that rang true for Lieutenant Commander Orys Ch’tosrik. Never more so than in the eighty minutes he (and his pilots) had been confined to the cockpit of his Valkyrie-class starfighter. As he waited to see if the Breen would take the bait, and if their mission would be a success, it was definitely the latter he felt. There hadn’t been so much as a glimpse of their target on the sensors, and he’d been monitoring that display closer than he had monitored anything in his life. Another ten minutes and they’d be at their pre-arranged cut-off; the time when the Captain had authorised radio silence to be broken and the mission to be scrubbed. If that happened, the mission would be a failure. It seemed odd to think of not getting involved in a fight for survival as a failure, but in this case, it most definitely was.

Glancing out of his cockpit, he searched, again, for visual confirmation that his squadron deputy, and the rest of GOLD flight for that matter, were still in position. The Runabout Kirsen was long gone, disappearing from the short-range sensors almost thirty minutes ago. Exactly as planned, too. At least that part of the mission was going well. So, too was the part where Hathaway remained invisible to all but the naked eye. Although he could see the mighty Sagan off his starboard bow, his sensors registered nothing, not so much as a speck of space matter in the wrong place. It was as if the ship never existed. That, too, was all part of the plan. Or it had been, anyway. Now it looked like they were going to have to call it qui…

…wait. A glitch on his control panel drew his focus back to the display for a nanosecond, before disappearing. It was on the periphery of his long-range sensors for a moment, and then it vanished, only to reappear seconds later, with an additional glitch on either side. Sitting up in his seat, the Andorian composed himself.

Showtime,’ he thought, strapping himself in for the ride that was to come. Leaning to the edge of his cockpit window, he made a number of hand gestures in the direction of those pilots that could see him from their formation, confirming that everyone else in BLUE flight had spotted the glitches just as he had.

The Breen had apparently taken the bait, and they were taking it in a hurry, too, as sensors showed them to be closing in at high warp.

To say he was on tenterhooks for the next ten minutes was probably an understatement. His head constantly twisted between window and display, looking out for the exact minute the Breen ships would drop from warp right on top of them. He couldn’t issue his orders to break formation until the time was right, lest he give the game away, so there was just a little more waiting to be had. For him at least.

Hathaway, however, was a different ball game completely. Remaining under silent running, the MARS system apparently working like a dream, the ship gradually began to turn in the direction of the Breen vessels. He could see it, even if his sensors couldn’t. In doing so, they ensured that the ship’s most powerful weapons arc would be brought to bear as soon as the weapons systems went back online. It had been a ballsy move; he’d known very little about this stealth technology having never been aboard previous vessels to try and employ it, but Prida had pulled it off, thanks to a few Borg-inspired sensor modifications along the way.

The next few minutes of waiting time were the hardest of all, but when the bright flashes of light came and the Breen vessels emerged from their warp slipstreams, the Andorian sprung into action. Slamming his hand into the controls, he terminated radio silence and opened a channel to his pilots. “Hounds; SMURF. Go time,” he declared over the comm. The response was silent, but almost deadly. In a wave of perfectly choreographed manoeuvres, the twelve fighters of his squadron synchronously broke formation and gunned for their targets. They could do nothing about the much larger Chel Boalg warship, but they could do their best with the Chel Grett cruisers that flanked the flagship.


The calm of open space was shattered as weapons fire erupted from all angles and threatened to rip a hole in the very fabric of the heavens themselves. It was a sight to behold for all on the bridge of the Hathaway, perfectly positioned at the heart of the Federation strike team. Their plan had worked so well that it took almost two minutes before the Breen realised the starship was even sitting there, but once they had, a hail of disrupter fire lit up the forward shield bubble like the fireworks display for the upcoming Frontier Day celebrations.

Rocking under the impacts, the blue alert system automatically reactivated, setting a chain of events in motion that ended minutes later with the apparent re-emergence of the Sagan-class starship onto the galactic stage.

“Evasive manoeuvres,” Henry called out from the conn, “pattern delta five.”

“Squadron reporting they’re encountering heavy resistance,” Tuca shouted from his monitoring station.

“Thirty seconds until weapons are online,” Prida informed from the engineering station behind the Captain.

Everything was proceeding exactly as the Captain(s) had hoped, even as the ship rocked violently beneath them. All they could do was cling on for dear life, watch the ensuing battle on the viewer, and wait for their turn. The starfighters of Hellhound squadron ducked and weaved expertly, operating in formations of two, targeting the far more nimble Chel Great cruisers. Their less powerful weapons, however, were not having much of an impact against the more powerful Breen shields until they coordinated their bombing runs on weakened areas of shielding beneath the main engines.

For a while, the Trill Captain was so mesmerised by the view she was watching that she almost missed the call from Lieutenant Bellurr that weapons were back online. She didn’t need to give the order for the ship to go on the offensive, Bellurr was already on it the second she had control returned to her fingers. Once the Hathaway’s forward firing arc burst to life with beams of orange-phased energy and torpedoes hurled at their targets, the starfighters scattered to stay out of her firing solution. Hathaway and her squadron were outnumbered, of course, but that was all part of the plan.


For during the chaos of the latest space battle, the Runabout Kirsen had made her triumphant return. With their ruse having succeeded, Ashrin had modified the sensor decoy device to hide their location, which allowed them to glide into battle and give chase behind the much larger Chel Boalg. Only when they were in position did Noli give the go-ahead to proceed with the next phase of their mission. She slapped her pilot on the shoulder in thanks and made her way to the aft compartment with Captain Gor in tow. Joining her security teams, the Bajoran gave them a supportive grin.

“The site-to-site transporter bands will get us through the Breen shields. Once we’re there, we’ll proceed as planned. The objective is simple; capture the command crew alive if possible. Dead…” she pulled her own transporter band over her left sleeve and into position, “…just as good.”

“We’re going to beam in one deck down. We’ll fight our way to the command centre and take it by force,” Brak Qiraro reminded them, “Bravo will beam in first and secure the area; Alpha will join straight after. Let’s go,” the Bolian instructed, pointing to his team and drawing his phaser.

“In position,” Teanne Udraa called from the cockpit.

“Begin transport,” Noli instructed her people, a final nod to Brak.

Within seconds, Brak and the rest of Bravo team had their molecules scattered and reassembled across the distance between the two ships. Noli and her team prepared for transport, with the Bajoran focusing her attention on Captain Gor. “Are you sure about this, Captain? I’d much rather you stay here and go back with Teanne,” the security chief told her Captain, drawing a glare from the Tellarite. “Okay, fine. But you stick close to me and do as I say,” the Bajoran instructed, returning the glare with much gusto.

“As you wish, Commander…” Gor nodded slowly, sliding his own transporter band over his upper bicep on the right arm, and then drew his phaser from the holster on his hip.

Bravo to Alpha. Area secure,” the comm chipped to life, and gave the team on the Runabout the impetus to stand ready. Within a matter of seconds, the seven figures began to dematerialise, unsure as to what they would find on the other side.


Transport is complete. Returning to the ship…

Standing on the flight deck and looking at the scene evolving in front of them, Keziah had to hold onto the headrest of Or’uil’s chair to stop herself from collapsing under the weight of another torpedo barrage from the Chel Boalg warship in front of them. With the away team aboard the warship, it was time to change target. “Tuca; have all fighters concentrate on target alpha. Henry, Mayr; attack pattern alpha three, focus on bravo,” the Trill instructed, returning to the safety of her seat and practically bounding up the steps to do so, but just as she reached the top, a gelatinous tendril reached out and swiped her out of the air and sent the woman crashing to the deck plating below.

The bridge was in stunned silence as the shocking realisation hit the crew. Standing in front of the Captain’s chair, Vasoch looked and sounded normal, apart from the bizarre tendrils waving at his side. Within a matter of seconds, Giarvar launched himself out of his command chair to take cover behind the rail nearby. Tapping his commbadge, he initiated a ship-wide alert – the Changeling had been found, and was now terrorising the bridge. Deck one was on lockdown.

Drawing her phaser from tactical, Mayr took cover and began to unleash a quick burst of phaser fire in the Founders’ direction. The phaser bolts hit the being in the chest but just seemed to enrage it further. The shape of Gor dissolved and was replaced by a massive, jelly-like being furiously swiping at anything, and anyone. With its left tendril, he destroyed the freestanding console Prida had been stood at, the subsequent explosion sending the Bajassian flying into the aft bulkhead. With its right, the being reached out and plucked Henry from the CONN, holding the flailing flyboy around the neck until additional phaser bolts hit from multiple directions, the being dropped the flyboy and reduced itself to a moving puddle of goo. Before it could escape, however, forcefields surrounded the bridge module and prevented it from leaving the bridge. In its confused state, the being allowed the Starfleet crew to grab the upper hand; Mayr, Tuca, Kauhn and Akaria set their phasers to maximum and unleashed multiple bolts of phased energy. A scream of pain echoed around the bridge until the being disintegrated into a steaming pile of ash.

Standing from behind his cover, the XO smoothed out his uniform jacket and tapped his commabdge, instructing security from across the ship to locate and ascertain the condition of Captain Gor. All the while, the Breen continued to target the Hathaway, the ship rocking under disruptor fire. The staff took stock of their situation and quickly returned to their stations, apart from Giarvar who checked on the Captain. At the back of the bridge, Akaria helped Prida to her feet and began tending to her with a medkit from beneath the science station.

“Captain… are you ok?” Kauhn asked, helping to sit the prone captain up as she stirred back to consciousness.

Reaching for her head, the captain felt more than a little worse for wear, but it wasn’t her head that the pain was coming from. She was injured in a place that only another Trill could truly appreciate the danger of. She tried her best to speak, to force the words out of her mouth, but she couldn’t. instead, her hands clasped her stomach where traces of blood were now seeping through her uniform.

Slapping the commbadge on his chest, the XO shouted for an emergency transport to sickbay. Any delay could have been tragic for the symbiont… or its host.


Sickbay was a mess, with medical and security officers all over the place trying to not only prepare for the impending arrival of the Captain, but also securing the facility from any other intruders that might have been lurking around the ship. At the foot of the main biobed, the ship’s acting Chief Medical Officer was tapping away furiously on a data PADD, trying to familiarise herself with Trill physiology as quickly as she could while the emergency triage team got Nazir stable enough for transport. Of all the cases she had studied over the years, she was embarrassed at her lack of understanding when it came to information about Trill physiology.

Thankfully, as per the notes on her data PADD, there was someone, or something, on the team that could help her. All she had to do was get it online.

“Computer,” she spoke as the ship rumbled beneath her feet, “activate Emergency Medical Hologram,” she ordered.

Standing back from the bed, a figure shimmered into existence, standing nearly a whole foot taller than her, with a bald head that the light from the medical bay bounced off of with ease. The figure’s face was chiselled, and smooth. His expression, his eyes, even his nose were all familiar to the young Cardassian.

“I should have guessed…” she smirked, shaking her head as the being announced its arrival.

“State the nature of the medical emergency,” the bald officer declared, turning to look at the bio bed, and then the medical practitioner before him.

“Doctor Zinn,” Keshah smiled, “didn’t think I’d see you again so soon.”

“The physical appearance attributed to my program may represent that of Lieutenant Commander Zinn,” the EMH told, almost chastising the young woman, “but that is where the similarities end. Now, there doesn’t seem to be an emergency here,” the hologram remarked, only for a transporter beam to engulf the main biobed and deposit the near lifeless body of the Captain upon it.

“Ah,” EMH Zinn nodded, moving over to the bed and using the built-in instruments to analyse the woman’s condition. When he looked up, his expression was grave. “Inform whoever is in command that we must make for the nearest medical facility or this woman, and her symbiont, could die…”


Across the distance between the two implacable enemies, the armed forces of the Hathaway infiltration team crept along the dimly lit corridors in search of their target. So far, they had encountered little resistance, which was surprising given the roaring alarm that blared overhead and no doubt signalled their arrival on the ship. At the heart of the search team, Noli and Vasoch were engrossed in a hushed conversation when suddenly, green bolts of disrupter fire were hurled in their direction from Breen soldiers emerging from round a corner.

Taking as much cover as possible, the Commander’s lead scouts began to return fire. Above the sound of the weapons exchange, the familiar sound of robotic conversation could be heard, with the Commander able to pinpoint at least four different ‘voices’ in the mix. Ashrin Th’killen tried his best to use his tricorder to translate what they had to say, but the device was not playing nice on this particular occasion.

“Brak,” Noli called to one of her assistants, “you push on with Bravo. Alpha, with me,” she ordered, a wave of her hand indicating that the team should split off and head in an alternative direction. It seemed to work at first, with Alpha managing to forge a path further down the corridor and past several Breen who were headed in the direction of Bravo team, only to be taken out from behind by the excellence of the Starfleet sharpshooters. What they hadn’t banked on, however, was that their only access to the command centre from this location appeared to be a single ladder. To go up one at a time was a risk, but it was one she had to take.

She prompted her team to be ready using silent hand signals, with instructions for the Captain to be right behind her. The Commander was halfway up the ladder when her commbadge chirped. She stopped, clinging on with one hand while answering the hail with the other. “Noli here,” she whispered, “go ahead.”

Noli, it’s Kauhn,” the voice of the XO spoke, seemingly a little shaken. “Tell me you have good news?” He asked her.

“We’ve located the command centre, but our team has been split up. I’m literally halfway up a ladder as we speak,” the Bajoran advised him.

Whatever you are going to do, do it quickly.” The XO’s words were enough to make the Commander look down at the security team below with concern. “We’ve killed the Changeling, posing as Captain Gor. Nazir is hurt pretty bad, though, so I’ve assumed command. If you can’t get to Rodyn and capture him in the next ten minutes, I’m calling this off,” the Trill was pretty stern in tone this time, letting the tactical officer know who was calling the shots for now.

“Call off your search,” the Bajoran smiled, “I’ve got the Captain over here with me. He said he was pretty bor…”

…what do you mean you’ve got him?!

By that point, it was too late. Orange tendrils dragged the Bajoran from the ladder and threw her to the deck plating below. As the security team scattered and tried to make sense of what they had heard and seen, they had no choice but to try and open fire on the creature. At first, it resisted, screaming at the team as it swiped away before disappearing through a ventilation shaft.

Noli? Noli!” The voice of the XO echoed over the comm until the Bajoran stirred and was helped to her feet.

“I’m here,” she winced through the pain, “but it would seem the Gor I’ve got wasn’t real either. I should have known something was up when he volunteered to come on the away mission…” she moaned, rubbing at her sides to try and ease the pain, and embarrassment, of being ambushed.

Get Rodyn and get back here. We need to get Nazir to a medical facility,” the XO instructed before the comm went dead.

Taking a moment to regroup with her team, the Bajoran was about to ascend the ladder for a second time, but the hesitation let the communications grid give her at least a bit of hope.

Brak to Noli,” the voice of her assistant called. “We’ve reached the command centre. You better get up here…

Comments

  • Ok, look. I know I said I needed cardio in my life, but I didn't mean to put me through a workout reading again! :) That was an intense rollicking run again! I thought we were safe when we got the first changeling kicked, but then I didn't even think about the second one being a changeling. That'll teach me! I like how this one escapes and gives us hope for revenge later on. That last line has me guessing. What did we find? What does it mean? And how are we going to save the captain her and her symbiont? So much to look forward to!

    May 22, 2023
  • I enjoyed the lyrical quality to your storytelling in this chapter, interweaving thematic character musings throughout. And then it's always compelling to start a scene just as the plan is all about to go terribly wrong. Adds such useful urgency to all the matters. There's something poetic about Nazir taking a mortal(?) wound in this grand effort to take Rodyn; a life for a life; a leader for a leader. I don't know enough about math to explain where the multiple Gors(!!!!) fit into all of this!

    May 28, 2023
  • A DOUBLE BLUFF, YOU SLY DOG. I loved Noli’s line about why she should’ve suspected he was a changeling. I appreciate you lulling us into a sense of calm with the nice character background on Ch’tosrik and the anticipation of the waiting Hounds. I’m also amused that you’re so eager to get Zinn back into action that you brought him back early as a hologram. :D

    June 17, 2023