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

Inner Demons and New Opportunities

Crew Quarters and Bridge, USS Serenity
Mission Day 8 - 0130 Hours
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It was necessary. They did what needed to be done. They accomplished the mission. They saved countless lives. But what had they become in order to achieve victory? With the lines they crossed, were they really any different from their enemy at the end of it all?

Lying there in his bed, Jace Morgan saw the Vorta commander. He tied the Vorta down while Dr. Hall shoved a needle in its arm and pumped it full of psychoactives. She had melted that creature’s mind, compelling it to give the order that led thousands of Jem’Hadar to lay down their lives. Wasn’t that how it would have turned out eventually anyway, a bunch of dead Jem’Hadar? Starfleet would have eventually cleared the streets, but it would have come at a higher price. Dr. Hall’s illegal psyop had saved hundreds, if not thousands, of Starfleet officers and Nasera residents from a prolonged ground battle. Did that make it ok?

Lieutenant J.G. Jace Morgan knew he wasn’t going to sleep with such thoughts bouncing around in his head. He climbed out of bed and started pacing around the room.

His mind drifted to what came after the battle was over. He had just stood there as Commander Lewis raised his sidearm to the Vorta’s head and pulled the trigger. He didn’t object as his boss murdered their prisoner. Did the Vorta deserve to die for its sins? Probably. But was it right for them to be judge and executioner? Not according to the law. They criticized the Dominion for their blatant disregard for life, but at that moment, did they have any more regard for the sanctity of life than their enemy?

As Morgan looked out at the stars, his thoughts turned to those lost in the battle for Nasera. Over nine hundred souls given to the deep. He couldn’t even wrap his head around that number, but within that number, there were four that were deeply personal and all too real for him, his teammates who gave their lives on Nasera.

Why was he still here when Nam Jae-Sun, Brock Jordan, Kora Tal, and Jason Atwood were not? Nam had a soul of pure goodness. Jordan was the best mentor he’d ever had. Kora survived the trials of Bajor and never lost her heart. And Atwood had the convictions of a man that would never break. Each of them had given their lives for the mission, for their fellow officers, for the freedom of Nasera. Meanwhile, what had he done? Violate the very ideals they had died to protect?

No, he told himself. This was not a healthy line of thought. Lock it up. Box it away. Move on. That’s what Commander Lewis did. Lots of little boxes. He needed to be more like Commander Lewis. During the day, it wasn’t that hard. He could keep himself busy. But at night, when he shut his eyes, it all came flooding back in the stillness of the night.

Maybe all he needed to do was make himself busy again? 

Lieutenant J.G. Jace Morgan sat down at his desk. He picked up a PADD and pulled open the latest sensor readings they’d collected as they stalked behind enemy lines deep in the Deneb Sector. The USS Serenity was no warship. Sure, they’d been able to take out a supply convoy to weaken the enemy’s engine of war, but what could a lone Duderstadt light cruiser really do to truly cripple the Lost Fleet’s capabilities? As he stared and stared, suddenly it dawned on him.

He tapped his combadge: “Morgan to Shafir.”

For a few moments, there was no response. 

“Shafir here,” a groggy voice finally replied. “Jace, do you know what time it is?”

“Oh crap! I totally didn’t realize how late it was,” Morgan apologized. Disoriented by his thoughts and excited by his epiphany, he’d totally forgotten it was the dead middle of the night. “I’m really sorry Ayala. We can totally do this in the morning.” But deep down, he hoped they could do it now. He didn’t want to lie back down alone with his thoughts.

Ayala Shafir wanted to just chuck the combadge against the wall and pass back out. It had been a long day, in amongst weeks of long days, and she hadn’t been sleeping well. Still, she was worried about Jace. While Nasera had been hard on all of them, Jace had been particularly out of sorts ever since. “No, no, Jace, it’s totally alright. I’m not exactly ready to be a Starfleet officer at the moment, but if you want to come over to my quarters, we can chat.”

“I’ll be right over.”

Morgan closed the link and made his way to Chief Petty Officer Shafir’s quarters. In the silence of the empty corridors, he started thinking again. Thinking wasn’t good. By the time he arrived at Shafir’s quarters, he’d forgotten why he had even come.

“You look like shit Jace,” Ayala Shafir said as she welcomed him in. The lithe woman, dressed in nothing more than a black bedtime slip, had a chamomile tea in her hand and a concerned expression on her face.

“I… ummm…” Morgan said, fumbling with his words as he walked in and collapsed on the sofa.

As she slid down next to him, she could see his hands were shaking. He looked like a shadow of his former self. Ayala Shafir knew that look well. She’d been there before. And she’d almost lost herself. “What’s on your mind buddy?” she asked gently, looking deep into his eyes.

“I don’t know Ayala. I really don’t know,” he replied. “Like why do we do it? Is it really worth it? Should we just give up?” His tone was desperate and broken.

“What brought this on?”

“I was just thinking about everything that happened on Nasera…”

“Well, you see, that’s your problem,” Chief Shafir interrupted. He looked at her confused. “You’re thinking. That never gets you anywhere good. Just accept that it is what it is. We did what needed to be done.”

“Ayala, you weren’t there,” Morgan insisted. It wasn’t so simple. “We tortured that Vorta.”

“So that our people would live to fight another day. Our people,” Shafir reminded him. “You didn’t see what Elyssia and I saw when we came out of the tunnels. These kids, a sea of yellow, teal and red, they weren’t ready for the horrors that awaited them on the streets of Nasera. They were dying by the dozens as they tried desperately to clear out the Jem’Hadar block by block.”

“And then I stood there as Lewis executed him.” That didn’t have to happen, Morgan knew. The battle had already been won by then.

“The Vorta? Yeah, serves that sadistic piece of shit right,” Shafir countered, a deep hatred in her voice. She had no sympathy for that evil creature after all it had done. “Instead of thinking about what Commander Drake said to you, all that crap about it being a war crime or whatever, just remember how you felt when that monster murdered Jason.” She flashed back to that moment in the town square when the Vorta killed Petty Officer Jason Atwood and six innocent colonists for no reason other than to send a message. Jason had died because of the Vorta’s cruel game, a twisted psyop to force the population to do its bidding.

“I guess…” Morgan still didn’t look at peace.

“Look, at least you got to send an evil creature back to the gates of hell where it belonged,” Shafir continued. “I had to blow up Brock, to send our friend beyond the veil, because the only other option was to let the Jem’Hadar recapture the planetary defense system.” She shivered as she remembered that moment in the tunnels beneath Nasera City. If she hadn’t done it, everyone on the Polaris would have died, the mission would have failed, and the eight million on Nasera would still be under the yoke of the Dominion. “Every night, when I close my eyes, I see that detonator in my hands. But you know what I remind myself? It had to be done. Just like what you guys did.”

Morgan nodded. That was what he needed to keep telling himself. It had to be done. What he and Commander Lewis and Dr. Hall had done, it had been the only way to guarantee the freedom of Nasera and save the lives of their fellow officers. He needed to box up his emotions and move on. Just like Ayala Shafir. Just like Dr. Hall. Just like Commander Lewis. It was easier said than done, but he’d keep on trying, day after day, what other choice did he have?

Pulling himself from his rut, Lieutenant Morgan looked down at the PADD in his hands. He hadn’t come just to weep at the feet of a fellow shadow. “Take a look at this.” He passed the PADD to Chief Shafir. “The nodes I’ve highlighted are subspace communications relays we’ve detected in the last few days. Do you see the pattern?”

In her exhausted, half asleep state, Ayala didn’t see it.

“It’s a hub-and-spoke network with supernodes connected to form a multi-star mesh,” he explained. “My guess is that, in their haste, the Lost Fleet didn’t have the time or materials to create a fully connected mesh. Instead, they set up a few high energy hubs, and then the majority of the relays could be cheaper, easier to deploy nodes that only had to reach those supernodes. Knock out the hubs, and the whole thing collapses.”

“Or hack them,” interjected the Chief, suddenly getting very interested. “And we have eyes over the whole thing.” That’s the real reason the Lieutenant had woken her in the middle of the night, because if anyone could find a way to hack the Jem’Hadar, it was Ayala Shafir. “How much ELINT did we capture?”

“Payloads, ciphers, switching protocols,” Lieutenant Morgan replied. “More than enough.”

“Interesting,” Chief Shafir mused as she skimmed the traffic logs. “You might be onto something here Jace. I’m going to need more than a chamomile for this though.” She stood up and walked over to the replicator. “Quad soy misto.” 

Once she had the coffee in her hands, she sat back down on the couch and got to work. The need for sleep had been overcome by caffeine and excitement, and the emotional baggage had been forgotten in lieu of the highly technical work before them. Two hours later, they had all the major details ironed out.

“I think it’s time we call the Commander,” Shafir said as she reviewed their work.

“And interrupt his beauty sleep?”

“Have you seen that dude? There’s no amount of sleep that will make him beautiful,” Shafir laughed. “And besides, he lives for the mission. He’d be more mad at us if we wasted a couple hours of time waiting for him to get up.” She tapped her combadge. “Shafir to Lewis.”

“Lewis, go.” His response was almost instant, and his tone was far too alert for 0400 hours.

“Commander, I think we’ve got something. Jace and I are over in my quarters.”

“I’ll be right there. Lewis out.”

Shafir looked over at Morgan. “See? I told you,” she said with a smile.

Not even three minutes later, Commander Lewis was at the door of Ayala Shafir’s quarters. Freshly out of bed, he was still in baggy sweatpants and a tank top, but he had his game face on. “What’ve we got?” he asked, all business, as he gave the pair a once over. While they too were dressed for bed, they looked like they’d been hard at work for a while now.

“We have found a way to compromise the Lost Fleet’s means of communication,” Shafir explained, handing the PADD over to the Chief Intelligence Officer. “Think Enigma-scale potential impact.” From her childhood hacking days to her days as a digital systems specialist in Starfleet, Ayala Shafir had always dreamed of such an opportunity.

Commander Lewis quickly reviewed the plan. It made sense, and it was something they could accomplish even on the lightly armed Serenity. If they could crack a handful of the supernodes, they could exfil a tremendous amount of the Lost Fleet’s military communications, including ship dispositions, battle plans and logistical chatter. It would be a gold mine for the Fourth Fleet’s efforts to retake the sector.

“And you think you’ve got what you need to actually pull this off?”

“Get me aboard one of those nodes and absolutely,” Shafir assured him. “I may have been playing with sandcastles when you all faced them the last time, but seventies era Dominion systems are pretty archaic by our standards. This’ll be far easier than when I hacked Stardust City’s main computer core.” Shafir smiled at that thought. It had been one hell of a mission she and Lewis had gone on a few years back while in private enterprise.

“Alright,” Lewis declared as he spun on his heels and headed for the bridge. “There’s no time to waste.”

“Jake, would you mind if I changed first?” asked Shafir. The lacy trim of her skimpy black bedtime slip was hardly a work-appropriate uniform, and suddenly she felt self conscious.

“Really?! That’s what you’re worried about Ayala? We got a Lost Fleet to compromise,” he laughed. “You may give Ekkomas a bit of a shock, but I’m sure he’ll live. Come on.” He gestured for the two operators to follow, and so they did.

Up on the bridge, the night shift was quiet and uneventful. Lieutenant Commander Ekkomas Eidran reclined lazily in the captain’s chair, reading the latest articles from the FNN, while the rest of the officers, flight controller included, looked half asleep. 

Eidran heard the sound of the turbolift open and turned to see the three pajama-laiden operators rushing forward. “Ummm, folks, I hate to point out the obvious, but your crew quarters are down on deck seven,” he noted as he tried to process the strange scene. What were they doing up here at this hour, and where were their uniforms?

“We have a new mission,” Commander Lewis said in a business-like tone as he handed his PADD to Lieutenant Commander Eidran. Without giving Eidran time to read any of the material Chief Shafir and Lieutenant Morgan had prepared, Lewis stepped onto the command island. “Helm, prepare to adjust heading for coordinates two six two point four three by three nine five point seven four.”

The tired flight controller looked up, caught in the midst of a daydream. This was highly unusual. The Ensign looked over at Lieutenant Commander Eidran for guidance, but the Officer of the Watch just shrugged. He, like the young Ensign at the conn, had no idea what was going on.

“Ensign, Commander, do you two really want to just keep racing across empty space twiddling your thumbs, or shall we cut the Lost Fleet off at the knees?” Lewis asked aggressively.

A change of plans at 0400 without a briefing or anything seemed a bit strange to him, but that prospect did sound attractive. Lieutenant Commander Eidran wasn’t going to argue with Reyes’ right hand man. He relented with a nod, and the flight controller began calculating a new course. “Bearing zero four two mark five to coordinates two six two point four three by three nine five point seven four,” he reported shortly thereafter. “On your order.”

“Warp 9.9, engage!”

The dark thoughts Lieutenant Morgan and Chief Shafir had been wrestling with earlier, they’d been all but forgotten, boxed up and put on the shelf. They had a mission. It was time to give the Fourth Fleet an edge, one far more impactful than just fragging a supply convoy or passing along some sensor readings as they’d been doing since leaving Nasera.

Comments

  • But the question does beg, did they do the right thing in the end. Their morals being tested on the ground as Morgan idea of what the Federation is slowly turning on him. Insane if you think about it. But in so many ways correct. Lewis is going to drag this crew through hell, until he finds reason to finish it in his own mind. Wonderful post as always, enjoy it a lot!

    June 12, 2023
  • Jake Lewis

    Squadron Intelligence Officer
    USS Serenity Commanding Officer

  • Ayala Shafir

    Intelligence & Computer Systems Specialist
    Hazard Team Member

  • Ekkomas Eidran

    USS Serenity Executive Officer

  • Jace Morgan

    Deceased; Formerly
    Operations Officer
    Hazard Team Member