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Part of USS Atlantis: What Price for Peace and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

What Price for Peace – 11

USS Atlantis
March 2401
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“Morning,” Mac said as he stepped into Atlantis’ Combat Information Centre. Normally the space was filled with a bevy of specialists from Operations and Gantzmann’s limited Tactical division, filtering data that poured in before presenting it via the ship’s systems to the bridge. During times like these, parked in the relative safety of a ‘safe harbour’ it wasn’t uncommon to see the space with only a few people around, but not just two.

And two senior staff members as well.

“Morning Commander,” Rrr said with a granite-like smile. “I assume the captain has brought you up to speed with her plan?”

Rrr and Camargo were both on the far side of the CIC, looking at him across the two-metre-wide holotank, which was thankfully not showing the local shipping conditions. The first rank of consoles circled the tank just far enough back for someone to walk between the console and the holotank’s railings. The second rank of consoles was interspersed with two plotting tables at Mac’s 3 and 9 o’clock. And while normally the room might have been kept in a state of gloom, right now someone had turned the lights right up.

“That she did,” he said, then held up his hands, a coffee for himself and Camargo as an offering as he walked around the holotank to where the two had set themselves up. “Would have brought you something Rrr but I understand you had something to drink last week.”

“Quiet alright Commander,” the Gaen said, holding up a hand. “You mammals and your constant need for fluids.”

“Never mind the fluid, it’s the caffeine I want,” Camargo said with a smile as she accepted the offered tall cup. “We’ve picked a half dozen interesting dance venues already but we don’t have a recommendation for you just yet because we can’t agree.” That said, she finally indulged herself upon the gently steaming mug, a sigh of relief after a first sip. “Stirling told you, did he?” she asked, raising the cup to indicate the subject of her inquiry.

“Actually I got your coffee preference from this one,” Mac said as he indicated Rrr with his own cup. “Trying to earn brownie points with the entire senior staff by making sure we all know our coffee preferences.”

“Senior staff,” Camargo echoed. “I mean, I know I was, but now…” she trailed off, reaching for her collar to tug at it, as if it had suddenly grown tight.

“That hollow pip weighs a lot,” Rrr said softly. “But it does look natural.”

“Anyway,” Mac said, trying to get the conversation back to business. “Six targets?”

“May we present to you the Deneb Dance Circuit,” Camargo said with a flourish before tapping a single button on the console before her. Lights dimmed slightly and the holotank snapped to life, showing a full three-dimensional representation of the Deneb region and adjacent interstellar states. “First up, the Grafton Ballroom…”


“Gérard, borrow you for a minute?”

“Certainly.” What Gérard Maxwell hadn’t expected to see when he made his way into his superior’s office was the ship’s chief medical officer. Or for both men to be looking as pensive as they were. “Something I can help with?” he asked.

“Just a moment,” Velan answered, tapping commands into his computer and locking the door to the office, then the windows out frosted over to afford the room some privacy. “Doctor, if you would?”

“Again?” Gérard asked, saw Terax’s nod then offered his arm for the blood draw. The crew had already undergone one round of blood tests, and anyone that left the ship was submitted to them as soon as they came back aboard. But asking for one from someone who cleared earlier and hadn’t left was another layer to the story.

Taking his time, Terax examined the vial of blood, scanned it twice, and then subjected it to what could only be described as destructive testing, before a final scan. “He’s human.”

“I’m French,” Gérard corrected.

“Can’t be,” Terax snapped back. “That was a vial of blood, not wine.”

From behind the desk, Velan chuckled. “And that confirms the doctor is who he says he is.”

“Works for me,” Gérard said, then sat when he was waved into the seat by Velan, Terax opting to prop himself up against the frosted window, crossing his outer arms and resting his middle hand on his left shoulder. “How can I help?”

“I need you to lead a small computer project. Lieutenant Michaels will be free to help and you’ll be allowed one other person. Unfortunately, you’ll have to lock yourself into a computer lab until you’re done.” Velan waited a moment, then continued. “I need you to set up a copy of the Atlantis’ core operating system, configure it to intercept all external computer commands and then feed a readout only of what it is executing to the proper workstations across the ship.”

“Sir?”

“The captain is concerned that our prefix codes might be compromised. We’re going to cycle them naturally, but she wants a trap for whoever might use them. Wants whoever might have them to think they’ve succeeded, that they are issuing commands to the ship’s computer, but in reality, they’re just executing commands on a virtual machine.”

“And the readout is so we can decide if we want to play along to drag them into making a mistake.” He was nodding his head in understanding. “Small problem though – intercepting prefix commands and preventing them from getting to the main computer is against regulations.”

“So’s letting the ship get compromised and blown out from under you,” Terax replied. Then he produced a padd and handed it to Gérard. “Written and signed orders from the captain and XO just an hour ago.”

A quick read over it and he added his thumbprint to the collection, acknowledging his receipt of the orders. “I’ll take Ensign Sumner.”

“Sumner? Jess Sumner?” Velan asked. “She’s –“

“A better programmer than we give her credit for. Honestly, I think she might be better off in Operations.” Velan waved at him, a ‘continue’ action. “She’s done three duty shifts in four days on deck 12 without incident.”

“So?” Velan asked.

“She’s not been in sickbay,” Terax answered. “Something is cursed about engineers working on deck 12. You can be quartered there, you can be just passing through, but if you’re working there, there’s an increased chance of injury on deck 12.”

“Stubby? You think she’s fixed Stubby?” Velan smiled, then leaned back with a slight laugh.

“That or she’s just better at dodging a psychotic cleaner.” Gérard shrugged. “Besides, she’s got the system qualifications. Michaels, Sumner and I should be able to get this done in a few hours.”

“Good. Run the virtual machine on the starboard core, then isolate all the command functions to port and engineering cores.” Velan then spent another few minutes outlining specifics, all detailed in the orders anyway, but insistent on briefing his officer on the task at hand, before letting him go to assemble his team and get started.

It left Terax and Velan alone in the office. The silence was deafening.

“Captain seemed pissed,” Velan said, breaking the silence and looking to the doctor who was busy closing up his kit.

“About a great number of things right now.”

“I meant about this mousetrap she’s got me setting Gérard on. What else could there be?”

The Edosian finished packing and stood to his full height, slinging the small pack’s strap over his shoulder. “Admiral Beckett’s orders. The arrival of the Papakura. Not knowing where to strike when we settle this matter here. That Gantzmann got hurt instead of her.”

“Oh, yeah, that last one.” Velan laughed just once. “Was it a good fight at least?”

“It was an idiotic, boneheaded, pointless bloodsport serving to hide the oft underestimated guile of Klingon politicians.” He sounded just like any other doctor would when talking about such pointless things that only served to make extra work. Then he cracked a slight smile. “But she kicked Hor’keth’s backside.”

“That’s our Gantzmann,” Velan answered. “Kicking ass and taking names.”

“And making blood allies,” Terax added.


“And that just leaves the last two.” Rrr was pacing between the console that Gabrielle and Mac were seated at and the holotank, having presented the last two possible targets. “Tower and Empress Ballrooms.”

As they spoke the four current target reticules floating in the holotank faded almost into nothingness and two new ones blossomed into existence. One was relatively not far from Atlantis and was marked ‘Empress’ while the other was practically on the other side of the Deben territories and labelled ‘Tower’. Neither bore a priority value, unlike the others.

“Tower,” Mac said with a nod.

“Leonis,” Rrr started. “On the coreward end of the Ciatar Nebula. Was attacked and occupied by Dominion forces last we heard. A majority of the colony managed to evacuate and formed a convoy heading to Farpoint Station. An attack here would be a power play, driving a wedge into the Dominion’s attack front and forcing them to reinforce their lines or turn back to stop us from pushing through into their logistics rear and causing problems.”

“No immediate threat to populate. No readily exploitable assets the Dominion can make use of. No defences worth a damn they can rely on either.” Gabrielle was throwing her objections out there but in a respectful manner. “It’d be a nice morale win, but strategically it’s minor. Its biggest value to us is as a staging point for larger actions in the Dominion’s rear.”

“Precisely,” Rrr contributed. “Take Leonis, regroup, repair, then let cloaked Romulan and Klingon ships disappear into the Dominion supply lines to do what they do best. Aided by Atlantis running around pulling Dominion forces around on a string to let our raiders do the best they can.”

“Not a bad idea. What’s Empress?”

“That is a complicated mess and an opportunity just ripe for the picking.” Gabrielle hopped to her feet, leaving Mac the only one seated. She rounded the console and waved her hand in the holotank, summoning up a series of windows with what intelligence there was of Breen world known as Deptrock.

“Breen dilithium mining operation called Deptrock staffed purely with slave labour. Starfleet Intelligence estimates a population between eighteen and thirty thousand all up across the various mines. That’s just the slaves though.” A window was pulled forward with planetary information. “One of the richest dilithium deposits for fifty lightyears, or so it’s suspected. Boiling hot during the day, and freezing cold at night.”

She waved the windows away and zoomed in on the strategic map hovering in the tank, placing Handl Dryf and Deptrock on opposite sides of the tank, with the Vadlox Nebula right between them. There was a decent-sized gap on either side, but only one mattered. “Navigate the Vadlox Nebula, pop out the other side, make a mad dash, wipe out the local defenders, liberate the slave population before we deny the mines to the Breen and zip on out before any response ships catch up. We then aim coreward and smash through Dominion forces while making for Farpoint and get orders from there.”

“I like it too,” Mac admitted. “Has some derrying-do with a cavalry charge feel to it. Swoop in, help the oppressed, smash up something important to the bad guys.” Then his eyes narrowed as he looked at Camargo. “What do you mean by denying the mines? Orbital bombardment? It’ll need to be something big enough they can’t just ship in new workers and start operations up again.”

Gabrielle’s smile was perhaps the most wicked thing Mac had ever seen on her face. It spread to her eyes as she stood up as straight as she could, proud of whatever was about to spill forth from her mouth.

“Ever heard of Praxis?”

Comments

  • Ah, and the plot thickens further - preparing for the next stage on so many levels is making this so exciting to read and want to read more. The countermeasure against someone using the ship's prefix codes against them is such a great idea. Will it work, though? Or am I feeling the presence of another changeling among the crew that will prevent the plan from working properly? And Gabrielle's smile is both naughty and powerful - Mac will certainly enjoy hearing her plan and the cheeky reference to Praxis - got to love it!! BIG BOOM!

    May 29, 2023
  • Aw man, now I'm sorry I had to nix Deptrock as Atlantis's next step! We could have seen the beauty of Gabrielle's Praxis plan! But needs must. This is a great chapter as a little linking piece, giving characters a moment of emotional quiet, setting up the endgame for the ship, and putting some pieces in key position for whatever comes next.

    Also obviously love Terax and Maxwell's interchange - human/French, blood/wine. Terax has been not-so-quietly stealing the show in every scene he's in. Good stuff!

    June 16, 2023