Check out our latest Fleet Action!

 

Part of USS Shepard: Mothballed and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Chapter 1

USS Shepard, Avalon Fleet Yards
March 2401
0 likes 469 views

“Dropping out of warp into the Avalon System in three…” Mack stated, tapping a few times on his helm console before looking up at the viewscreen. “Two… one.”

The streaking starfield of FTL travel recessed as the Avalon Fleet Yards zoomed into view. Tallera couldn’t help but let out a little whistle — this was by far the largest collection of orbital facilities she’d ever seen. Even if the core Probert-class starbase was smaller than the Starbase Bravo, the expanse of subsidiary stations, drydocks, and construction yards far outstripped that of Bravo Fleet’s HQ, to say nothing of the humble defense and maintenance orbital systems around New Romulus. 

“Let me tell ya, it sure does feel good to be back on deployment,” Vic said with a deep, contented sigh, stretching his arms over his head until his shoulders popped. All those months of repairs, training, travel time, and that business with the Sheliak…”

“Don’t get too excited, LT,” Zelenko said from her command chair. “This is just our jumping off point. We’ve still got a few days’ travel time until we reach our AO.”

Fully arrived at the AO or not, Tallera had to agree with Vic. While it was projected that they’d only spend a few days of repairs and restocks at SBB before heading off again, the brass had seen fit to give the Shepard a few upgrades in light of the nearly mission-ending phaser burnouts that had been experienced during their fight with the  Hazari. While Tallera was glad that she’d be able to more reliably fire proximity blasts now, she most certainly wasn’t glad to be stuck hanging around the starbase for upwards of a month while Shepard underwent a phaser EPS overhaul, to say nothing of the mandatory training exercises to get the crew acclimatized to how the new systems ticked.

“Message from Avalon Command, Sir,” T’Vrin announced, prompting a nod from Zelenko in response. A boatswain’s call sounded on the bridge, and the message began.

Shepard, welcome to Avalon Fleet Yards. Your ship has been directed to Langley Station to rendezvous with the CO of the USS Majestic to receive further orders. Avalon Docking Authority is assuming control of your vessel.”

The Shepard lurched ever so slightly and Mack raised his hands from the console with a bit of apprehension.

“Can’t say I’m big on this upgrade,” he mused aloud to no one in particular. Tallera smirked, content to sit back and gaze at the array of ships under construction and refit as they cruised past. The longer-range remote access system was something Starfleet had been putting into a few ships as of late, supposedly as a predecessor to some kind of all-new command and control software that was to be integrated in the near future. 

To keep her mind from wandering, Tallera opted to see how many ships she could identify as the Shepard maneuvered through the drydock fields. Sovereigns and Inquiries were easy to pick out from their size alone. The distinctive catamaran hulls of Akira and Alita classes were easy targets as well, to say nothing of the now very familiar contours of the numerous Reliants under construction. The Shepard herself had once been amongst those little patrol frigates in their section of the yards, and Tallera had to admit that there was a sort of romanticist emotionality to bringing the ship back to where she was “born.”

The Shepard banked to starboard, and what Tallera assumed was Langley Station came into view. It was one of the older, dumbbell-shaped Presidium class stations, its somewhat awkward and gangly shape betraying its lack of import compared to the bulkier command stations she’d seen. Only one other vessel was docked on it — one of those catamaran-hulled Alitas she’d seen earlier.

“I assume that’s the Majestic,” Vic spoke up, gesturing to the vessel. “Man, those Alitas sure are funny looking. Do you think having the nacelles sit that much higher than the ones on Akiras messes with their center of mass?”

“I’m sure the engineers considered that, Travers,” Zelenko said with a slightly sardonic grin as the Shepard pivoted to dock alongside the larger ship. The commander then stood, straightened her uniform, and rolled back her shoulders as she so often did before making an announcement. “Bridge Crew, you are now off duty. S’Geras and I are off to meet up with the Captain of the Majestic.”

“Crew dismissed,” S’Geras said gruffly in confirmation, and the quartet of remaining officers began placing the ship in standby mode and shutting down their consoles.

 

“Hey, Mack,” Tallera said after the Commanders had departed. “I’m heading down to Six-Forward to meet Rysana and Dreval. Want to come?”

“Nah, sorry Tallie,” he said with a weary grin. “I’ve gotta catch up with that tactical training Zelenko assigned, I got behind during the chaos with that Sheliak incident. How’s your helm training going?”

“Oh, uh, fine,” Tallera replied, taking up an awkward pose with her elbow on the console in an attempt to look casual. “No issues there.”

“Hey, good for you. Feel free to hit me up if you need help, of course.”

“Uh, yeah. Same goes for you.”

“Thanks.” Mack stood, turning towards the turbolift. “I should be done in time for Bad Movie Night in Vic’s quarters. You’re still on for that, right?”

“Absolutely.”

“Great. See you there, pal,” he said with a pat to Tallera’s shoulders, and without another word, disappeared into the turbolift, leaving the Romulan alone on the bridge. 

Tallera sighed, then slunk down in her chair. In truth, she was massively stuck on the Basic Atmospheric Defensive Maneuvers section of her course, and had been procrastinating the hell out of it simply because her repeated failures to pass the training modules had left her so frustrated. The sort of twitchy, instinctive flying that it required was so contrary to her cautious and thought-out way of doing things, and it never took the simulated bandits more than a few minutes to turn her shuttlecraft to ashes during the holodeck training sessions. She’d begun to massively resent being asked to take the program by Zelenko — after all, she was a tactical officer, not a helmsman, and she doubted these sort of maneuvers would help her “sync up” better with Mack during combat or whatever the Commander’s justifications for assigning the courses were.  She’s even begun to feign technical difficulties regarding the programs when asked for updates.

Of course, this wasn’t to say that she needed to ask Mack for help. Oh, no — the only thing worse than repeated failure was admitting to the repeated failure. As of now, her strategy was to try to forget about it as it slowly ate her up from the inside out, and eventually she’d figure out some way to pass the class or get out of it. Probably.

 

 

The doors to one of the myriad of temporary-use rooms on Langley Station swished open, revealing to Zelenko and S’Geras an office-like space with a large desk, behind which was seated a middle-aged Trill man. He was handsome in that sort of classically-dashing-captain kind of way, with salt-and-pepper hair, a strong jaw, and the iconic spotted pattern of his species running down the sides of his forehead to the neckline of his uniform. The Trill looked up, shot the pair of officers a wry smile, and nearly bolted over to the door to greet them.

“Command Staff of the Shepard, I’m assuming?” he said, reaching out to shake their hands and resuming speech before they had a chance to respond. “Talen Varis, Captain of the Majestic. Great to have you two here, I’m sure you’ll be a great asset to the operations we’re running.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Zelenko replied, her posture still that of attention.

“Come on in, take a seat,” he said, gesturing to the pair of chairs across from him at the desk. “You two need drinks? You’ve sure had quite the trek out here, as I understand it.”

“We’re fine, thank you. And… it did get rather exciting at times,” Zelenko said with her usual slight yet friendly grin. 

“From the sounds of things, you two have had some rather unique excitements as of late. You’ve been on, what, three missions on the Shepard, now? And two of them have turned into run-ins with completely unexpected hostiles?”

“Something like that,” S’Geras nodded. “Though that business with the Sheliak wasn’t a mission, so to speak. More like a pit-stop.”

“All the more to my point. And some of the creativity and initiative your crew has shown during these run-ins is why I requested you out here.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Zelenko formally replied.

“That’s not just flattery, either. Let me explain the situation here. Now — you two have read the situation reports and briefings, you know all about the issues we’re running into out here. Decades of an inward-looking Starfleet creating a power vacuum in the more remote border territories, organized crime stepping in, so on and so forth. But the real issue we’ve run into out here, and why I requisitioned you two in particular, is that we’ve seen a frankly rather gigantic spike in Romulan technology winding up in the hands of the Orion Syndicate out here.”

Zelenko raised her eyebrows. “Romulan technology?”

Captain Varis responded with a somber nod. “”Mm-hmm. It’s to be expected, I suppose. When the Star Empire collapsed into warring factions, there was no way all those massive weapons stockpiles they had were going to be 100% accounted for. And if some former admiral wanted to make a comfortable life for themself, selling off a few guns, cloaks, or entire starships to the black market was a very easy way to do it. After all, authoritarian regimes operate like organized crime on the best of days, just with the legitimacy of a state or military behind them. You take away that legitimacy, and, well, a lot of Tal Shiar operatives found out pretty quickly that they already had all the skills one needs to succeed as a mob boss.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s far from the first example of this happening in history,” Zelenko stated in agreement. “What kind of hardware are we looking at, Sir? You said whole ships are making their way out here?”

“Well, the Syndicate fleets are sure not going to be bringing a D’Deridex into battle anytime soon,” Varis continued. “Staffing issues aside, capital ships are far too maintenance-heavy for a gang of criminals, not to mention how much attention they would grab. We haven’t seen anything larger than light frigate or corvette-style warbirds, and many of the ones we have seen are quite old. So, nothing the Shepard wouldn’t be able to handle one-for-one. The issue is that the Syndicates have been quite clever with implementing these ships and the technology they’ve stripped from them. Raids from cloaked ships are becoming more and more common, and a vast majority of the ‘official’ Syndicate ships are fielding military-grade disruptor and plasma weapons. To make matters worse, the tactics they’ve been using are consistent with those used by the RSE, which means they’ve either got Romulans in their midst or have received training from ex-Star Navy personnel. Now with all that said, I think it’s quite obvious why I wanted a ship that’s got first-hand experience fighting criminals armed with Romulan technology.”

“One could say that,” Zelenko replied with a slight chuckle. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do some good out here.”

“I’m sure you will be. I know that it’s a bit odd for someone like me from Seventh Fleet to requisition one of your Fourth Fleet ships, but I think you’re just the kind of officers I need out here.”

“I’m glad to hear it, Sir.”

“As am I. I’ll send you two some more detailed dossies about persons and places of interest momentarily, and I’ll have direct assignments for you within a week. For me, that’s all for now.” Varis stood, and the two Shepard officers followed his lead. “I’m very much looking forward to seeing what your crew can do.”

 

 

Tallera let out a relaxed sigh as she stepped into the Shepard’s Six-Forward lounge, the social nucleus of the patrol frigate. It was a long, slightly narrow room running along the bow section of the ship’s largest deck, with wide, floor-to-ceiling windows providing a panoramic view of the fleet yards around them. 

Towards the center of the lounge, Tallera could see Rysana and Dreval seated at the bar, and happily made her way over to them. As much as she enjoyed hanging out with Mack and Vic, their presence on the bridge with her for most of her working hours had recently been making them feel like a reminder of the training assignments she was struggling with. Rysana and Dreval were completely removed from her sphere of work, so when she was around them, she was able to let herself let go of her obligations just that much easier.

She grabbed a neat MelShat from the replicator on her way over, then happily took a seat with her friends.

“Hey hey, Bridge Buddy,” Rysana said with a wave as she took a seat. “Welcome to off hours.”

“Thanks. Welcome to the Avalon Fleet Yards,” she said, gesturing to the view outside the large windows. “Sometimes I thought we’d never actually get here.” She took a swig from her beverage, then sighed contently. “We really need to get a bartender, having to get your own drinks from the replicator just feels weird. How have we not picked one up yet?”

“Civilians tend not to flock to ships that are small and ships that are designed for combat. Shep is both,” Rysana said, offering up a sardonic toast with her own glass of Saurian Brandy. 

“Cowards,” Tallera snarked, clinking her glass against the Andorian’s. Rysana had advised her against bad-mouthing civilians in mixed company a few months ago, which, as a good exchange officer, Tallera had taken to heart as another example of cultural differences she needed to abide by. Of course, she still enjoyed flagrantly and playfully disobeying her when in just her and Dreval’s presence. 

Dreval, meanwhile, had his eyes locked on the FNN broadcast playing on a nearby screen. Tallera followed his gaze, and was met with another talking head discussion of the recent upsurge in conflicts along the Breen border. Many of the crew, Tallera among them, had been intently following the conflicts with the enigmatic civilization since they’d began a few weeks ago. The mystique of the Breen was always something of an attention grabber, particularly given their history in the Dominion War.

“Any new developments on the Breen front?” Tallera asked the Vulcan, nodding towards the newscast.

“None of particular note,” he replied. “Task Force 514 seems to be sufficient to stem the tide as of now. FNN claims that order should be restored shortly.”

“I’m surprised that the news isn’t playing up the danger for views or something.”

“Federation News usually does not partake in such theatrics. It is there because an informed public is crucial to a functioning democracy.”

“Right, right. Well, good on the lads of 514. I’m sure that will be a fight to tell the grandkids about someday.”

“Indeed.”

Dreval’s combadge pinged, interrupting the conversation. “Ensign Dreval here,” he said, giving the badge a tap.

“Hey, Drev, it’s me, Cadet Rozar,” the badge chirped back. Dreval’s jaw could be seen to ever-so-slightly clinch, prompting suppressed giggles from his compatriots. “I’ve got about 45 questions for you before my next shift begins. Do you have some free time?” 

“I do, Cadet,” Dreval responded, his tone unchanged but jaw still clenched tighter than normal. “I shall rendezvous with you in the damage control room momentarily.” He switched off his badge with another tap, not allowing the Cadet a response.

“Uh oh. Looks like your squire’s in trouble, Dreval,” Rysana smirked, prompting a laugh from Tallera. Eryn Rozar was an engineering cadet that had been assigned to the Shepard during its repairs, and Dreval had been assigned to be a mentor to him, likely due to Zelenko’s trust in the Ensign. Dreval, for his part, had been quite unable to hide how much he disliked having to look after the incessantly chatty boy who seemed far too desperate to overachieve.

“Indeed. I shall return shortly.” Dreval said as he stood and walked off, his posture unusually slouched for a Vulcan.

“Ugh, poor guy. Stuck with babysitting duty,” Rysana said, shaking her head in sympathy before pounding back her glass of ale. Tallera, meanwhile, simply wondered in silence if she’d prefer Dreval’s current annoyances with those of her own.

 

 

Jimena Zelenko sat at her desk in her quarters aboard the Shepard, calmly reading through the information Captain Varis had sent her. It seemed to be relatively standard Syndicate activities — aside from the second-hand Romulan gear, of course — and would be combated in the same way the Federation usually did: with vast infrastructure projects to raise standards of living and reduce the appeal of a life of crime. While that was going on, patrol boats like the Shepard would be keeping the peace, investigating shady targets, and trying to find persons of interest. So far, the Boss of the local Orion Syndicate seemed to be a woman named D’rali Sevra; an archetypical “Mafia Princess,” based on her dossier. As of now, the Federation didn’t have any real legal justification for an arrest, which was also typical of mob bosses. After all, the legendary Earth gangster Al Capone was done in by tax evasion, not any of his other, much larger crimes. That would probably be how the Federation dealt with Sevra.

Even if they did manage to find a way to trace criminality back to her, actually finding her might be an entirely different matter. Despite Federation Intelligence watching her like a hawk, Sevra seemed to just appear in one colony or station and then reappear somewhere else. A Romulan cloaking device was the likely culprit for this, but as with all things related to this sort of operation, there were near-infinitely more possibilities, too.

Zelenko massaged her temples. In many ways, this sort of policing would be a much more complicated task than escorting freighters through dangerous space. There were just so many gray areas, and there were almost always civilians that the Syndicate would artfully place in the crossfire.

Her monitor pinged with a message notification, snapping her out of her worries. Opening her inbox, she was surprised to see a text communique marked high importance from Fleet Admiral Ramar, Commander of Bravo Fleet.

Curiosity more than piqued, Zelenko opened the document, and her eyes gradually widened as she read through its contents.

… unknown Dominion fleet operating in concert with Breen forces…

…defend Federation space…

…Fourth Fleet to make haste to Deneb sector…

…Trust only the Fourth Fleet.

Comments

  • I love the references of Shepards mission in the Blood Dilithium that ego's into this post and with the crew. Also the snips and hints of Picards references. It feels like a natural beginning for the crew doing their daily duties when the message of 4th is coming in and most likely changes everything. Looking forward to more! Awesome job!

    May 29, 2023
  • Oh, I love the nod to PIC with the ship's automation at the start there. Who knew a minor annoyance like that could create so much foreboding? This is my first time meeting your characters, and Tallera is already deeply relatable, from her procrastination on her training to her avoidance of certain crewmembers when thoughts of work become too much. Using the Trill captain as a vehicle for summarizing the Shepard's previous adventures was well-done, but overall I really enjoy your writing style and characterization and hope to go back and read your earlier missions sooner rather than later if I can!

    May 30, 2023
  • Great story which ties up the last mission during the Blood Dilithium campaign to the new threat of the Lost Fleet, I can't wait to see what the Shepard gets into after receiving word about the return of the Dominion to the Deneb sector. Great work at setting the scene with this chapter.

    June 3, 2023
  • An elegant introduction to the Shepard's Lost Fleet mission. I was intrigued by the Orion/Romulan mission the Shepard crew had been called in for, only to later be called to the Deneb sector. I hope this gets revisited after the Breen and Dominion are dealt with. With that said, I hope we can see Zelenko and her crew put those recent Shepard upgrades to the test and maybe blow up a Dominion ship or two.

    June 3, 2023