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Part of USS Polaris: The Voices of Deneb (The Lost Fleet – Part 2) and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

A Predator Stalks in the Night

Bridge, USS Serenity
Mission Day 6 - 2200 Hours
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They stalked through the night, trailing the Dominion battle group as it rushed towards… nowhere? Their heading had no apparent destination, but the Jem’Hadar never did anything without purpose, so the Serenity followed, masking its warp signature through complex subspace field mechanics and keeping emissions otherwise at minimum.

Commander Lewis stood on the quiet bridge. It was just him, Lieutenant J.G. Jace Morgan at ops, a petty officer at the conn, and an ensign at tactical. While stalking a Jem’Hadar battle group was nerve racking in concept, in reality, this was a fairly chill affair.

“Status report?”

“Same as last,” Lieutenant Morgan replied disinterestedly. “Battle group bearing zero zero zero, warp nine point six at one point two.” 

At that distance, the Jem’Hadar battlecruisers were faint flickers on their passive sensors, and the Serenity was just background noise to them. This equilibrium would hold until either party engaged active high resolution scanners, and even if that happened, the Serenity could just turn and burn as they could make double the superluminal velocity of their seventies era prey. The Commander would have prefered not to turn and burn though, as they did want to find out what the battle group was up to.

Commander Lewis came up next to the Ops station. “And what about the status of my shooter?” he asked quietly, recalling what Elyssia had told him about Morgan’s conversation with Drake. With nothing better to do, he figured he might as well do a little wellness check.

“Just bored with nothing to shoot,” replied Morgan nonchalantly.

“That’s not what I meant,” Lewis clarified. “How are you holding up with everything that happened on Nasera? I know the operating parameters were… less than ideal.”

The question caught Lieutenant J.G. Morgan off guard. He expected brutal drills and intense missions from Lewis, but not such human questions. “Honestly, I’m just trying to box it all up,” answered Morgan. “I figure it’s easier that way. That’s sort of what you do, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” admitted Commander Lewis. First you rationalized your choices, and then you compartmentalized them. A quarter century of doing that had made his mind just a pile of little boxes. Morgan was a skilled young operator, and if he saw it this way as well, Commander Lewis figured he’d go far in their line of work. Maybe Elyssia’s concerns were unfounded.

The Lieutenant was about to say more, to admit that his attempts to box it up weren’t working, that he wasn’t sleeping, that he was struggling to eat, that Drake had gotten under his skin. But the sound of an alarm at his console cut him off before he could say any of that.

“Oh shit!” Morgan shouted as his hands flew across his console. “They’re going active…”

Commander Lewis didn’t even wait for him to finish that sentence. “Conn, all stop!” he shouted at full volume, shocking the flight controller out of a relaxed daydream. Their stealth techniques at warp worked against passive sensors but not active scanners. “Ops, full black!”

The flight controller collapsed their warp field, decelerating the Serenity from two thousand times the speed of light to a near stop in seconds. No amount of inertial dampening could keep up with the immense g-forces of that momentum shift. 

The three officers at their consoles managed to stay situated, but Commander Lewis, standing by the Ops console, flew clean and clear over the command island, slamming into a support beam near the conn. As he tried to stand back up, he felt a surge of pain in his left leg, and his left arm was completely limp.

The lights went dim. The consoles went dark. The din of the environmental systems dulled. All across the ship, everything that wasn’t necessary to life support and essential logistics powered down.

Where they’d emerged out of subspace, the Serenity rolled stern over bow, propelled by nothing but the momentum carried from the rapid deceleration. In this empty region of space, there was nothing to collide with so the flight controller didn’t even risk using the impulse thrusters to stabilize them. Even that slight increase in energy could increase the likelihood of the active, high-resolution scanners picking them up.

“Did they light us up?” Commander Lewis steadied himself against the railing.

“Not before we powered everything down.”

Commander Lewis’ combadge chirped.

“Let me guess,” came the voice of Admiral Reyes. “They tried to paint us.”

“How ever did you figure that?”

“Because I’m pinned underneath a dresser that decided me and my bed were an optimal resting place,” Admiral Reyes answered. “And no power now except emergency lighting.”

“We’ll send someone down to help you do some rearranging,” Commander Lewis kidded. The officers on the bridge looked horrified. They’d totally just injured an admiral. “And once you dust yourself off, you’re probably going to want to get up here. I suspect things are about to get interesting.” For fourteen hours, the Jem’Hadar had maintained a consistent operating rhythm, but suddenly  that pattern had changed.

“I’ll be up shortly,” Reyes replied with labored breath as, four decks down, she fought to lift the dresser that was now on top of her. “Do a ship wide check and make sure no one was seriously wounded by that little stunt. There are bound to be some scrapes and bruises.”

“Understood.”

By the time Admiral Reyes arrived on the bridge ten minutes later, a medical technician was tending to Commander Lewis. He had dislocated his shoulder and fractured his tibia. 

“Sir, we should really get you to sickbay,” the tech was saying. “I can’t fix your leg here.”

“I’ll be fine,” Lewis insisted. He’d suffered far worse without the amenities of a starship, and he wasn’t going to chill in sickbay just as things were getting interesting. He popped his shoulder back into place, and then limped over to the admiral, using a railing to keep the weight off his leg.

“What happened?” Reyes asked.

“Battlecruisers went active with scanners,” he reported, ignoring the pain. “We responded with all stop, full blackout. We have no indication they saw us before we turned into a five hundred meter long piece of high velocity space debris.”

“And the crew?”

“Well, they’re all awake now,” Lewis laughed insensitively. Reyes shot him a glare. “About sixty injured, mostly minor scrapes. Five in sickbay being checked for more significant injuries.” Since it was the night shift, most people had been in the quarters, minimizing impact.

“Our friends,” Admiral Reyes then said, looking out into the blackness of the empty space where they now freely floated. “Are they still at active?”

“Negative. They stopped active broad spectrum scans about two minutes ago.”

“Alright,” she said, turning towards the Ops station. “Lieutenant Morgan, bring passive sensors back online and let’s see what’s changed.”

“Coming online now… Oh, that is interesting,” Morgan mused, trying to understand what he was seeing. “Jem’Hadar battle group is no longer at warp, just sitting in the middle of nowhere, and I’ve got new inbound pings converging on them from the edge of our range.”

“What sort of inbound?”

“Can’t be positive at this distance, but they look like Breen heavy supply ships. Six of them.”

Admiral Reyes wanted to get closer. They needed to get closer to get a higher resolution picture of what they were seeing. They’d need clear evidence to keep her out of the line of fire of Commander Drake, the Polaris’ auspicious JAG who had already shown he was not above going after them for doing what needed to be done if they didn’t cross their t’s and dot their i’s.

“Bring propulsion back online,” Admiral Reyes instructed. “Prepare to return us to warp.” Although the Jem’Hadar were clearly trying to avoid being seen, running their sensors in passive except for that one brief moment, there was always a chance they’d get lit up again. “Tell the crew to buckle up. If they light us up again, we’re sending everyone for another ride.” Then she looked over at Lewis.  “And Commander, get that leg fixed up in sickbay while we’re en route. Don’t need you walking around like a gimp when the fun begins.” She was about to take the gloves off them, and she knew her favorite shooter wouldn’t want to miss that.

Comments

  • I love the suspension of this post, it draws you in on making one curious of what these ships are doing out there. But now they are trying to find the one that is hunting them. Of course a full stop and blackout would make some injuries, thought I am surprised that it is so light and few. Great work!

    June 9, 2023
  • Oof, you got me right in the gut with that grim opening. "A quarter century of doing that had made his mind just a pile of little boxes." Doesn't only explain a lot about Lewis, it felt like an ominous bit of foreshadowing about Morgan. That won't go well. With Serenity screeching out of warp, I really enjoyed the imagery you used, the way the ship was tumbling through space. The way the crew were rattled around their rooms like rag-dolls. It really gave the piece a lot of weight. Now they're sneaking up on a rendezvous in space with the Breen. Exactly what trouble is the Serenity about to get into now??

    June 10, 2023
  • Allison Reyes

    Squadron Commander
    ASTRA Director

  • Jake Lewis

    Squadron Intelligence Officer
    USS Serenity Commanding Officer

  • Jace Morgan

    Deceased; Formerly
    Operations Officer
    Hazard Team Member