Captain’s log, stardate…
Limis sat in the command chair attempting to record a log entry. Each time she started, the recorder shorted out. She rolled her eyes after the second attempt and turned off the recorder on the control panel on her right. “Like this ship was put together by monkeys,” she mumbled.
“What’s that, Vira,” Arnit asked from behind her. He had just stepped off the turbolift after having received Kozar’s text message.
Limis rapidly stood up and turned around. All her years in the trenches gave her those kinds of reflexes. “If we were still in the Resistance,” she scowled, “I’d kick your ass for scaring me like that.”
“Just making sure you still have those survival instincts,” Arnit replied, pacing towards the center of the bridge. Looking at the viewscreen, he said, “I see we’re in the nebula. Set a course bearing one-three-seven mark two-six.”
Carson looked up from her console in confusion. “Captain?” she said.
“What he said, Lieutenant,” said Limis.
Kozar looked away from the mission operations station behind tactical. “There’s magnetic turbulence on that heading,” he reported. “You copy, Carson?”
“I see it,” said Carson, entering a course correction.
The ship still caught a piece of that magnetic turbulence and the bridge shook. “We went through worse in the Badlands,” Arnit complained.
“We still should play it safe whenever possible,” said Limis. “We still need to have a ship to get there.”
“Approaching the planetoid,” Carson reported.
“Anything on sensors?” Kozar asked Morrison at tactical.
“If there’s a base down there,” Morrison answered, “we wouldn’t know it. The nebular gases are still playing hell with the sensors.”
“I would suggest going into a high orbit outside transporter range,” said Arnit taking a seat in Kozar’s empty chair upon seeing the first officer making a beeline to it.
“He’s right,” Morrison replied. “I’m reading a warning buoy which turns on and off at random maneuvers. It’s a brilliant maneuver.”
“Kozar,” Limis said, looking up at the commander, “We’ll use the shuttles to conduct reconnaissance. Assemble the designated pilots and have a plan in one hour.”
Chaz Logan provided Erhlich Tarlazzi and Rebecca Sullivan a look at the shuttlebay to introduce them to a unique class of shuttles supplied by Starfleet Intelligence. These shuttles had no markings of any kind that would immediately give them away to an enemy. The locator transponder could be modified to appear to be any ship of their choosing.
“Normally, only Starfleet Intelligence uses these shuttles,” Logan explained. “During wartime, however, these shuttles are important assets to any ship.”
“Just out of curiosity, sir,” said Rebecca, “What is the point of distinct markings on a starship or support vessel? That seems self defeating.”
“In the event a ship is destroyed,” Logan answered, “we can still identify it from a few pieces of debris.”
“Of course, in the Maquis,” said Tarlazzi, “we could just scratch those markings off those old rebuilt fighters.”
“Sorry to rob you of that honor,” Logan quipped.
The comm chimed and Limis called. “Bridge to Commander Logan. Please report to the briefing room. Rebecca, I’d like you there as well.”
“Acknowledged,” Logan replied. “Sh’Aqba,” he called to the Andorian engineer present in the shuttlebay. “Finish giving Tarlazzi the runaround. Make sure he doesn’t break anything.”
Tarlazzi waited until Logan had left the shuttlebay before deciding to mock him. “’Make sure he doesn’t break anything’,” he said to sh’Aqba. “What’s the worst that can happen? I mistake an isolinear processor for an antimatter containment grid and the whole ship blows sky high?”
“Your hypothetical scenario notwithstanding,” said sh’Aqba, “that is possible, but highly unlikely. Technology continues to advance, so you may not be familiar with the latest innovations.”
“Fair enough,” Tarlazzi relented. “But he acts as though I could injure his child by pressing the wrong button.”
“Starfleet engineers can’t help but be proud of their work, Mister Tarlazzi.”
Logan and Sullivan arrived at the briefing room where Limis was waiting for them. Kozar and Morrison were also present, as was Sara Carson. Arnit was by Limis’s side. Why she stuck up for a man she divorced was peculiar. Maybe it was getting used to a new commanding officer. Logan, like the other Starfleet vets, still couldn’t help being suspicious of their guest.
“Now that we’re all here,” said Limis, “we’ll be launching a reconnaissance mission to the planet to verify that there is in fact a Jem’Hadar breeding facility on the surface.”
“Commander,” she continued looking to her right to Kozar.
Kozar walked over to the display screen, which showed a topographical display of the facility’s vicinity. “We’ll be sending two shuttles to conduct massive scans of the surface,” he said to the group. “We’ll stay just outside of visual contact so we’ll appear to be one of their patrol ships.
“I’ll lead one team,” he continued. “Mister Logan, you’ll lead the second team.”
“Rebecca,” said Limis, “I’d like you to accompany Kozar. Consider this on-the-job training. Carson, you’re with Logan.”
“I’d like to accompany one of those teams,” Arnit offered. “I know the terrain.”
“We prefer not to put civilians in danger,” Kozar answered.
“Was I asking you, first officer?” Arnit growled.
Limis raised a hand to quiet the argument. “Gentlemen. This is one protocol I’m going to abide by, despite your knowledge of the planetoid.”
Second Ulin’talag had taken command of one of the smaller Jem’Hadar fighters. Two of those fighters had been dispatched to monitor the activity of the shuttles that had just departed the Lambda Paz
. After seeing the shuttles move closer to the atmosphere, he sent a message to Otan’irix, in command of the other fighter. “They’ve reached the atmosphere,” he announced. “I’m setting an intercept course.”
“The First’s orders were to monitor only,” the Third replied.
“I know the First’s orders. They cold take what they learn and bring others to destroy the facility. We normally shouldn’t question our gods. But their plan has no guarantee of success. Lay in an intercept course. Prepare to attack.”
Shinar sh’Aqba supervised modification of the communication system on the bridge. Engineering teams had already made the necessary changes to the communications antennas throughout the ship. Now came bringing the bridge controls online. “Try it now,” she told a technician at the mission operations station on the starboard side of the bridge.
Sh’Aqba then walked over to the operations console. “We now have audio communications with the two shuttles,” she reported.
“Open a channel,” Limis commanded. “Lambda Paz
to shuttles one and two. Can you read us, Commanders?”
“We hear you loud and clear, Captain,” Kozar replied.
Logan’s comm channel then piped through. “Getting a clear signal.”
“We’re within sensor range of a large structure,” Kozar reported. “Lifeform readings detect a large number of Jem’Hadar and Vorta. Minimum power levels.”
“What are your scans picking up, Logan?” Limis asked.
“Closer range scans reveal what look like incubation units,” Logan reported.
Static suddenly filled the comm channel before it cut out. “What’s going on?” Limis demanded of sh’Aqba. “Get them back.”
“I can’t,” sh’Aqba responded. “Some kind of communications dampener.”
Morrison’s console then sounded. “Two Jem’Hadar fighters entering the atmosphere from the far side of the planet,” he shouted. “Closing in on the shuttles’ position.”
“Why are we just now detecting them?” Limis asked.
“They emerged from a dense hydrogen pocket.”
“Conn,” said Limis to Huckaby, now manning the helm, “set an intercept course. Red alert.”