“Report!” Mac shouted as he barrelled out of the turbolift ahead of Tikva, down the ramp and straight to the command area of the bridge.
“The Pero’lin has locked weapons on us,” Lin stated flatly, nodded once to Mac then Tivka, and then turned to ascend the ramp on the other side to assume her posting at Tactical, relieving her duty officer in the process. “Showing disruptors are charged.”
“What the hell is she thinking?” Tikva asked Mac, who had the same look on his face as she did. “Rrr, hail the Pero’lin and if they don’t answer, go to an open channel.”
“Open channel ma’am?” her Gaen operations chief asked.
“Open,” she confirmed before turning to Mac.
“I’ll get Papakura on the horn,” Mac said before turning to his left and over to one of the consoles there, whispering orders quietly to a young ensign who had found himself trapped on the bridge during a red alert.
“Pero’lin is on the line,” Rrr announced, before opening the channel and filling the view screen with the opposing ship’s own bridge.
Commander Scali was just as unpleasant through the medium of a screen as she had been a few minutes prior in real life. Perhaps more so because the airs she put on were more in keeping with her actual surroundings this time. Scali just stared at Tikva, looking bored, like a teacher waiting for a student to stop talking before she’d say something cutting in return.
Unfortunately for Scali, Tikva had opted in the whole second she had to think about what to say, elected to say nothing. Just stare at the older woman, her arms crossed, feet shoulder-width apart. The difference between them was now in posture. Comfortably seated versus on her feet ready for a fight.
By not speaking, she was giving Scali nothing to work with. Aside from silence. Scali had retreated to her ship and thought to get one more provocation in and all she’d gotten so far was Atlantis answering a threat by raising her shields and the silent treatment over an open comm channel.
The silence lasted a solid ten, tense second before Rrr interrupted with a quiet cough after a chirp at his console. “Ma’am, Administrator Dryf is hailing all ships on an open channel.”
“Incoming warp signatures,” came Lin’s clearcut announcement from Tactical as well. “Nine Nausicaan vessels, one minute out.”
“Put the Administrator on,” she said, allowing herself a smirk.
The viewscreen split into two, Scali one on the right, maintaining her indifference, and Dryf on the left, looking like he was ready to explode. The Ferengi honestly looked flushed with anger, standing behind his opulent desk, hands planted on the surface so he could lean into his own monitor, filling the communication window mostly with his face. “What in the name of the Vault of Eternal Destitution are you two playing at out there?” he screamed across the void. “This is a neutral port! Shut down your weapons immediately!”
“Captain Theodoras –“ Scali had started to speak with her calm, soothing tone, only to be shut off by Dryf.
“I don’t care about the hoo-man! You’re the one with the weapons lock!” he screamed. “You powered up your weapons first! I won’t stand for this!”
“Administrator Dryf, if I could –“ Scali again tried to speak, and again Dryf spoke over her.
“You have until my security ships arrive to get out of here!” And then the screen filled with Dryf’s thumb as he jammed at his monitor, the channel going dead.
Leaving just Scali to remain.
“You think you’ve won here,” the Romulan said.
And Tikva maintained her silence. She kept the smirk though.
“I should destroy your ship for your insulting behaviour. No one speaks to a member of the Free State like you have,” Scali continued.
She couldn’t help the single bark of laughter. “I do. And you’re welcome to try. I reckon we could wreck your junker of a warbird before the Nausicaans arrive.”
Scali’s eyes narrowed as the starting contest resumed, precious seconds eating away. “I won’t forget this Captain Theodoras.” And then the line closed, Pero’lin occupying the viewscreen once more before it pirouetted slowly away and then jumped to warp.
Not ten seconds later and Mac was back at her side and Captain Sayil was occupying the viewscreen, head canted to his left. “That was…something,” he said by way of introduction. “Guess the Free State aren’t coming to the party then?”
“I don’t know if Scali was just trying to get a rise out of me, or actually fire on Atlantis, and frankly I don’t care.” She shrugged her shoulders and with that simple action let so much of the tension flow free she’d been holding the last few minutes. “Papakura ready to roll out?”
“Right behind you Captain Theodoras,” Sayil answered. “And if Scali decides she wants to try another round, we’ll be ready for her.”
“She’ll have to pull off a miracle to catch us. We’ll get underway in fifteen so tell your engineer to be ready for a damn decent sprint.”
“…and while I appreciate Commander Camargo’s suggestion of hitting Deptrock, I’ve elected for the other high-quality target.”
“Tower Ballroom,” Rrr clarified for the assembled senior staff in the conference room, rising to their feet and bringing up the specifics on the wall display. “The Leonis system, located on the far end of the Deneb Sector. While not a major target, it’ll give our partners a quick taste of victory over Dominion garrisons before we disperse into the surrounding systems to begin logistical raiding.”
“I’m not seeing any system defences,” Lin said. “Is that true?”
“Leonis Prime is a relatively new colony with a small population that was evacuated entirely before Jem’Hadar forces arrived.” The system map changed to just show the area around Leonis Prime itself, with only a handful of orbital points of interest. “Immediately around the planet is a small orbital platform for coordinating system traffic and managing the orbital transhipping depot. Its weapons compliment is only scary if you’re an asteroid. The other primary points are weather spotters and communications relays, providing global coverage. No real value of any sort.”
Another tap brought up a dozen purple contacts in a cluster near the orbital platform. “The last ships to leave the system did spot twelve Dominion vessels arriving in system, including one battlecruiser. It could however possibly be a battleship since the sensor data wasn’t the best.”
“When are we expecting the Klingons or Republic ships to arrive?” Gabrielle asked.
“Hot’keth already had ships in the area and is staging nearby. Commander Grel has a handful of ships nearby and is en route already. He’s taking time in transit to communicate with his government and get more ships sent to Deneb.” Tikva smiled with a slight chuckle. “And no, I don’t know where the Tholians are. They will arrive, in their own words, at the appointed time.”
“So, even if we all get blown up hopefully the Republic will still be sending ships to Deneb? Well, that’s kinda reassuring.” Gabrielle didn’t sound it. “And the Klingons?”
“I suspect,” Mac stepped in, “Captain Hor’keth has already spoken to his people, yes?” He turned to look at Gantzmann, who nodded her head in response.
“House Lorkoth is dispatching ships as we speak. And more KDF observers will be on their way as well. Apparently, an entire house mobilising for war is of great interest to the Empire. Hor’keth suspects other houses will send a few ships along as well to see just what is going on.” Gantzmann’s report brought on a bout of nodding heads from the staff.
“T’Val, we don’t have enough fighters, heavy shuttles and runabouts to contemplate using them against a Jem’Hadar task force,” Tikva continued, looking to her helmswoman. “But have crews standing by on the larger shuttles anyway when we arrive. Gear up for search and rescue on one and work with Ch’tkk’va to prepare for boarding actions with the others. If we can cripple and take a Dominion ship or two, it might tell us a thing or two.”
“Aye ma’am,” T’Val answered. “Though I would suggest we do have enough to use in offensive operations. Our biggest issue is how long it would take to launch.” T’Val took a breath in, a pause to think momentarily. “I shall have a proposal on your desk before the end of the day.”
“I shall have the Hazard Teams ready,” Ch’tkk’va answered. “Though I will keep Gold aboard ship to supplement Security for counter-boarding operations.”
“Good call.” Tikva then looked to Velan, seated on her immediate left. “Engineering ready?”
“As ready as we can be. I think we’re good to go. Just try not to let them prang up my ship too much, yes?”
“Always the goal Ra, always the goal. Right people, we’ve got two days to our rally point. Let’s make the best of it. We’ll be maintaining a communications blackout as well until we get there as well, so keep that in mind. Dismissed.”
“Want to talk about it?” Lin asked as she pulled Tikva down onto the couch in the latter’s quarters.
“About what?” Tikva asked as twisted and instead of the couch sat herself down across Lin’s lap.
“The Free State representative and whatever happened between you two.” Lin wrapped an arm around Tikva’s waist while she unclasped the collar on her uniform’s tunic. “See leaves the ship, then brings guns to bear on the ship. Something happened.”
“See wasted our time. Dragging out scheduling our meeting, then just sat there for an hour listening to Mac and I talk before saying now. I accused her of being Tal’Shiar and then when she tried to say she wasn’t I told her to shut it. Then, well, kinda ripped into the entire Free State. Might have also said she was culpable for the death of billions of Romulans.”
“She is,” Lin answered. “Or if she isn’t, then she’s culpable for letting those that are stay in power.”
There was silence between the two as Tikva leaned herself against Lin, just enjoying the closeness, the intimacy of the private moment. The taste of the love she felt radiating from Lin. But it didn’t last as intrusive thoughts came to the forefront for a moment.
“Are we doing the right thing? Racing into battle like we are? Should we divert somewhere else? Izar? Sevury?” she asked.
“You’ve already set the plans in motion,” Lin stated. “We’ll get that morale win like you wanted at Leonis and can reassess from there.”
“Yes, but what about –“
“You’ve already committed to the plan, love. Don’t worry about what-ifs and could-have-beens. Worry about what’s ahead of us.”
“Same advice as Mac gave me when I asked him about this an hour ago.” Tikva pulled away just enough to look Lin straight in the eyes. “You know, one day you’ll make a damn fine first officer.”
“One day,” Lin replied before she pulled Tikva into a kiss.
As it broke, foreheads resting against each other, Tikva couldn’t help the smile, couldn’t hold it back as it encompassed her whole face. “How’s the leg by the way?”
“Terax says it’s fine. It’ll itch for a few days thanks to how deep the cut was, but I’m fighting fit.” Lin grinned though as the truth of the question came to her. “Yes, I opted to have a scar.”
“Show me,” Tikva demanded as she got to her feet, pulling Lin behind her and into the bedroom.