Episode 7: Into The Fire
Location: Starbase 214
Timeline: Day 146 at 1400
Lieutenant Commander Katherine Watkins stepped into the main operational centre of Starbase 214 with a hot cup of coffee, creamy and sweet, in hand. This assignment had been dull, and as she approached a year in the role of station XO, routine had begun to set in. She smiled and nodded to the crew, all of which were nursing their own hot morning drinks. All except the Tactical Officer.
“I was just about to contact you, Commander,” the older Betazoid man told her as he beckoned her to his monitor. “These showed up on sensors about two minutes before you came in.”
Katherine’s brow furrowed. She didn’t like what she saw. She tapped her commbadge. “Captain Gral to the bridge,” she called, her Australian accent making at least two bridge crew smile despite the nervousness that was beginning to plague them.
Five minutes later, Captain Tora Gral, the stations commanding officer and ageing Tellarite, hobbled his way into the command centre of the ancient Regula-class space station and approached the aft Tactical station where his first officer was conversing with the stations resident Betazoid. Through his gravelly voice, he addressed the two. "What is it Commander?" he queried as he came to a stop and rested a hand on the top of the console.
“Alrakis Pact ships, sir,” Katherine explained. “A decent-sized task force, largely Breen and Talarian. At least twelve ships, but possibly more. At this distance, it’s possible our sensors aren’t resolving each individual ship. But their direction is unmistakable. They’re going to the Wastelands, sir.”
Gral frowned as he looked at the readout on the display and the make up of the Alrakis Pact Force. Even out here, in the dead end of known space, news had reached them of the formation of the Pact and the incidents near the Inconnu Expanse, but the wise old Captain, a former war hero who had earned his quiet spot on the edge of known space, hadn’t expected them to change direction to the Wastelands. At least, not so soon. “Contact Starfleet. Relay to them the data and continue monitoring,” the Tellarite ordered before hobbling over to the pool table in the center of the room and taking a seat. He rubbed his chin as he entered contemplation mode.
Katherine walked around Ops to stand next to the Operations Officer. The two worked together to compose a quick message for Starfleet Command and send it. “Message sent. Tactical, continue monitoring. Ops, divert power to long-range sensors. See if we can get an accurate reading on that fleet.”
"Any indication of their trajectory?" the Captain queried.
“One-nine-nine-Mark-eight-seven,” Katherine replied. “Right into the Wastelands. I can’t identify any specific destination therein.”
"We've spent months scanning this entire area with the sensor upgrades sent by Starfleet and there is no indication of anything out that way that could possibly be drawing their attention," a fourth officer spoke up, an Andorian in teal turned from his seat at the other side of the command center. "What could they possibly be looking for?"
The ageing frame of the Tellarite commander turned to look at his Science officer and gave him a stern look. "The sheer fact they are here is reason enough for alarm. We don't need to know what they are looking for, only that they are here and pose a threat to Starfleet given the situation in the Inconnu area. It is very possible these vessels are the ones responsible for the near destruction of both the Brier-Ridge and the Charleston," he reminded all that were present.
Katherine nodded. Those were some of Starfleet’s most advanced assets and they were almost killed by some unknown force. The information she’d seen didn’t make her believe it was Pact forces, but if it was them, then it meant they had a new weapon of unbelievable power. Or a new ally.
The operations console chimed, and she went to read it next to the chief. “Good news, sir. Looks like Starfleet is sending reinforcements. Four ships, led by the Nogura.”
The anxiousness in the Ops center seemed to dissipate at the news that there would be Starfleet reinforcements on the way, but for the Captain, it was a sad and dangerous indictment of the situation they were in. "Listen up," he called out in the most confident and strong sounding display he had given in an age, "four starships is nothing in the grand scheme of things; nothing more than an attempt to show the Pact that this station has not been entirely forgotten about. Whoever the Nogura brings with her, they will be no match for whatever awaits them out here!" the Tellarite barked as he rose to his feet and looked around the command center. "Besides," he began again, "even at maximum warp, those ships are still an age away. If the Pact armada heads this way, we will be powerless to stop them. If anything, the presence of the Nogura and her task group makes us more of a target, a challenge almost, and more of a reason for the Pact to linger. While Federation starships are present here in the expanse, the Pact..." he wandered over to the nearby window that granted him sight of the Wastelands expanse, "...well, they'll be here to stay."
Meanwhile, on the sensor readouts, one of the Breen vessels blinked out of existence. The projected trajectory of the other ships were suddenly altered, as if they were turning to investigate. One of the Talarian signals from the other side of the formation disappeared. The remaining signals then turned into a chaotic mess, as if they knew not what to do.
Gral looked at his senior officers and didn't even try to hide his worried expression at the sudden disappearance of two sensor signals and the subsequent reaction of the rest of their fleet, all of the vessels seeming to flee the scene in a variety of directions. Whilst the presence of the small fleet of vessels was worrying enough for the wily old Tellarite, the fact that something, or someone out there had caused these vessels to flee was even more disconcerting. "Commander, get on the line to Starfleet Command" he called out in his quiet, gravely tone, "I suggest they get that task group here a hell of a lot quicker than planned..."
“Yes, sir,” Katherine said, her own expression showing her concern. “I’ll sleep a lot more comfortably with reinforcements here.” She sent a message, as well as their sensor logs showing the disappearance of the Pact ships, to Command with high priority. “Hopefully those ships will be ordered to rush, Captain.”
A response was not sent in the form of a reply. The sensors, however, indicated that the message had been received as the speed of the Starfleet vessels now registered as travelling at maximum warp.
"Good news, Captain," Katherine said, a growing smile on her face, the stress starting to dissipate. "Reinforcements have increased speed. As you said, they're still an age away, but they are taking this seriously."
Turning back to the nearby view port, Gral stared out into the starfield beyond his derelict little station as he considered the future for his crew. In the days ahead, there would be much to do, but for now, all they could do was watch and wait...
* * *
Seven flashes of light appeared in different directions as the routed Alrakis fleet escaped to warp speed. Debris, crystalizing warp plasma, freezing bodies, and lifeless hulks of starship remains slowly dispersed across the area, still following their chaotic maneuvers so hastily executed before destruction. Three vessels sat in the silence of the nearly starless backdrop. Their dark hulls made it nearly impossible for the naked eye to spot. They sat silently for a few moments, as if they were deciding whether or not to follow their prey. A heartbeat later, weapons fire streaked out from each ship, tearing away at the lifeless hulks, until the weaponry reached the computer cores of each ship, fusing them beyond recognition or readability. Satisfied that their secret was safe, the three vessels disappeared, returning to their vantage point.
~To Be Continued~