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Part of USS Mackenzie: Mission 6 – Uneasy Alliance and USS Mackenzie: The Mackenzie Squadron – The Uneasy Alliance

15 – Uneasy Progress

Janoor III / USS Mackenzie
3.15.2401
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Okada lay on the rough grass, the sun slowly arcing towards the late afternoon.  They’d been working tirelessly for a week with twenty-four-hour shifts.  The engineering and operations teams were nearing a breaking point.  The work had its reward – in seven days, they’d repaired, reworked, and remodeled all ten planetary phaser banks.  The tactical sensors had been replaced and reoriented.  The testing was underway as she rested her worn and torn body as she heard the successive and successful tests one after the other. The thrumming and concussive blasts held an unusual rhythm that had her imagining a symphony of weapons fire.

The torpedo launchers had been a larger struggle.  They had been harder to repair and adapt to 2401 standards.  They’d had to harken back to the days of manufacturing parts on ship and planetside.  The Janoor III industrial complex had hesitated initially to assist the war effort. It changed its tune when the long-term benefits of shifting production to more defensive tools and systems were revealed.  They’d fully refurbished and replenished all five of them.  Her badge chirped, and she lazily tapped it.

“Kondo to Chief – we’re starting to install the new hybrid launchers.”

She sighed under her breath.  The Cardassians had been increasingly helpful, and the Janoor III colonists had been slowly accepting their presence.  A week ago, when the first attack wave had come, the Galor cruisers’ defense had been one thing.  The other had been Gul Hasara’s role in quelling a daring rescue of the former Cardassian Supreme Commander who had held Janoor III in a brutal and bloodsoaked grip during the occupation.  It hadn’t meant everyone felt completely safe and at home.  Captain Walton continued the order to protect each team with a security escort.  Justice for Janoor may have melted back into the general population, but they were still out there, somewhere.  She sat up slowly, “I’m on my way.”

 

The early mornings were Charlie’s favorite part of the day.  He’d designed the duty roster so his five officers and crewmen support staff came in an hour later than he did.  It gave him time to think in an empty office and walk around pondering over a steaming cup of coffee.  It had been just under a week since he’d been put on the mission to find Changelings in the ranks on the Oly and the Mack.  So far…nothing.  The monthly check-ups were proceeding slowly but surely with no flagged results.  Woodward had shifted over to the Mack, with her staff coordinating with Chief Counselor Mo Guowei.  The interviews and observational work had returned nothing of interest.

“Goddamn Dominion.”  It had become a frequently muttered phrase among the Oly and Mack crew as the long days and nights had plagued them with threats, worries, and discoveries.  He rubbed his face in frustration.  The Thomas Jefferson had departed on orders from their task group a few days ago.  He’d read the report on the discovery of the Changeling and the ensuing shipwide search and eventual destruction of the creature.  He pulled out his PADD and returned to how the Chief Engineer had stumbled onto the interloper.  “Was supposed to be off shift, but felt like checking on the latest repairs.  Didn’t usually do that…hmm.”  He tapped at the PADD more and continued to read, “Found the act in progress and was able to prevent further damage and call out to the bridge before he was killed.  A security officer heard shouting and pulled a fellow officer to investigate.  The hunt was one.”  He looped back to his office, where he sat working through his theory while he stared at the ceiling.  Suddenly he realized, “It wasn’t sabotage…they were going to destroy the Thomas Jefferson.”  He shifted to his console and began a search for ships in Task Group 514 and recent reports.  Two other older ships had been reported missing after a few days of no communication.  He tapped his badge, “Commander Hargraves to Captain Walton….”

 

Wren nearly threw the PADD with his report on the floor but chose to toss it onto the desk of her ready room with a groan as she redlined the sarcasm sensors, “This is the best news of the day, Charlie.”  She sank back in her chair, “We lost contact with Basta this morning.  He was updating us regularly…and then nothing.  It’s been three hours.”

The Diplomatic Officer reasoned, “Maybe his task group ordered him to go silent?”  It was a weak argument, he knew.  He had hoped against hope that he was wrong.  He grumbled, “Not that my anxiety needed any help this morning, but what about the Oly and us?”

Walton bit her bottom lip.  He wasn’t wrong in his worries, “It’s not lost on me what this means for the rest of us.  I’ve ordered Okada to run every level of diagnostic on a rotating clock.  She will also do a head-to-toe visual inspection of engineering with the help of Lieutenant Vol.  Goddamn Dominion.”

Charlie leaned forward, “I’ve got multiple theories about why we haven’t been hit.  One, we don’t have one.  Two…they’re waiting for the right moment for it.”  He didn’t like the idea he was going to suggest, and Wren did it for him.

“Shit.  When the second attack wave comes.”  A deep breath, “That puts the delayed second wave into perspective…are they waiting on our alleged Changeling passengers to signal?”  She pulled forward and leaned on her desk, “Or is it just luck that the Dominion forces are taking their sweet damn time…which they are not known for…add that weirdness to the pile of confusion.”  Her mind spun at the pieces of the puzzle she’d been juggling.  What was the truth in all this?

Hargraves groused, “I’m starting to wish the Prophets had taken them apart piece by piece instead of…doing whatever they did.  We still don’t know how they got here in the first place…and is there more coming?  What’s to keep the Gamma Quadrant family from dusting off their ‘Victory is Life’ motto and stomping around like mad drug-addicted toddlers.”  He threw his hands up in surrender, “Goddamn…everything.”

Wren stared at him, amused.  She couldn’t blame him.  This old yet new threat was a harsh reminder of the state of the universe.  Despite the idealism of the Federation and others, there seemed to be the requisite darkness creeping and sometimes running out of the darkest corners.  Was it to balance out the goodness offered by the ideals of the Federation and the safety of Starfleet?  She’d studied her share of history. From the early infancy of the rag-tag group of believers in the future to the sprawling organization of planets, colonies, and starships – there was a fair, and at times, an unfair share of blood spilled and lives lost.  She asked him quietly, nearly a whisper, “Do you still believe?”  He gave her a curious look, and she replied, “The Federation, Starfleet…this whole…thing.” She gestured to the ready room and the ship around them.

He thought about the question.  He’d had his share of questioning over the years.  “I’ve wondered if it was all worth it a few times in my career…but every time I start to question or wonder…something shows me why we do what we do…and why the Federation matters.”  He sat up, “As tough as this has been…as hard as it has hit…this is the why, Wren.  Our ‘better angels’ and all that.”  He stood, feeling his courage slowly returning, “Besides…what kind of Diplo officer would I be if I gave up on hope?”

She stood in turn and gave him a nod, “A good one…because you always seem to find it, Charlie.”  She watched him leave and sat as the door closed.  She was thankful for him, despite his aggravating nature.

Comments

  • I'm really getting into the story! And had already latched into Basta, only to have him disappear! I hope the Jefferson is okay. [stomping around like mad drug-addicted toddlers.] This made me spit my tea 😆 Some odd sentence structuring in this chapter. Not a lot but a few were hard to parse, such as /The testing was underway as she rested her worn and torn body as she heard the successive and successful tests one after the other./

    June 3, 2023