Chapter two is up
Stardate 53105.0, USS Nightingale, Utopia Plantia
John sat on the scratchy metal chair that had been placed in his office, shifting his bum side to side in annoyance at the uncomfortable furniture. Even being the office space for the commander of the vessel, the space in the room was barely adequate. John was by no means big, yet he struggled to get in and out of desk and comfortably sit down. The furniture as well was of the most basic materials and design, more for practical reasons than anything else, there was no room for a flash desk on this ship.
A chirp at the door signalled a guest had arrived and wanted to speak to the captain, John put down the report he was reading and signalled for the guest to walk in. Commander Hawke strode through the door with a swagger that gave John the fondest memories of his executive officer. "Dan," John piped up, "how good to see you again."
"Commander Hawke reporting for duty, sir!" the man replied in a formal reply.
John hated the formal introduction that Dan had given him, he felt a cold shiver down his back at the thought of being called 'sir' all the time. "Dan please," he uttered, "In my ready room, it's John."
"And what do I say on the bridge?" Dan replied, he had come to full stop now, waiting at the front of the desk at attention.
"Captain will do fine." John stood up and shook Dan's hand hard, "Please take a seat," John threw his hand towards one of the two empty, which Dan quickly took. "You got here in good time," John commented, he had only finished meeting with the Admiral two hours before hand and had sent a message to Dan about the deployment moments afterwards.
"New Berlin and Mars Plantia aren't exactly the opposite ends on the galaxy John," Dan pointed out, "I borrowed a runabout."
"The exact orders have come through." John paused as he grabbed another report that was laid out on his small non-descript desk. "Nightingale is to proceed to Starbase one-one-two for collection of Mission Advisor before making towards last known location of the USS Brave," John read out from the padd in his hand, his voice carried an almost computer like sound to it.
"Mission advisor?" Dan queried, he ran a hand through his thick black hair and down the back of his neck.
"Lieutenant Commander Hans," replied John quickly, still looking at the padd, "The most senior Geckonian in Starfleet, the USS Brave went missing after it responded to a distress call in Geckonian space about three light years from their position along the Gorn border." John knew what the implication of the situation was; Starfleet obviously felt that the Geckonians were somehow responsible for the disappearance of the USS Brave, but being so close to Gorn space, John was not so willing to jump to conclusions.
"The Federation heavily trade with Geckonia," Dan replied, "has the Federation Cargo Authority reported any unusual activity?"
John shook his head, "they haven't a scheduled run for the next several weeks to Geckonia," John paused to look at something on the padd, "the last one entered Federation territory two days before the distress signal."
Dan shook his head, "didn't runs use to happen every couple of days?"
"That was before the Dominion War." John had considered joining the Federation's fleet of cargo ships just weeks earlier, before he had gotten news of his command. "Most of the cargo ships were used to ship materials to the front lines, a lot of them didn't make it out of the war," John gave a deep sigh of sympathy, "they are just too stretched at the moment to make all the runs they use to."
John sat back in his chair, his mind went back to the Dominion War, how as an Executive Officer on the Ark Royal he had seen so many young men and women die for the Federation in Starfleet. At least they had a chance of fighting back, the Dominion's targeting of freighters was indiscriminate and cruel, there was no chance that a freighter had against the might of a single Jem'Hadar attack ship, let alone the three to four that were often seen attacking them. John had felt really sorry for the men aboard those craft, but also admired their bravery.
"If they think this could be a combat situation John," Dan paused, "why are they sending us? We're not a combat ship; we have minimal, basic weapons; barely a full crew and we haven't even tested the ship."
John raised his eyebrows, he had never known Dan to be so outspoken. "We have enough to defend ourselves Dan," John replied encouragingly, "besides, it search and rescue, it's what this little craft has been designed for."
"With all due respect Captain," Dan's tone on the Captain was formal, John felt it was a warning with what he was going to say, "A sovereign class vessel is just as capable of taking care of injured crew as we are."
John leant back in his chair, "The sovereign class can't carry four hundred and fifty casualties; it can barely care for fifty."
John picked another padd on the desk. "We've only got a few hours until we are supposed to depart, we've got a lot of work to do before then." John threw a padd at Dan, who almost dropped it before grabbing it confidently, "I would like you to take care of the bridge functions and science and I've got weapons, engineering and medical."
Dan looked at the list; John could hear his thoughts almost, despite not being a telepath. "You think we'll be ship shape?"
"We'll be good to go Dan." John said. Even as he said those words, John felt something strange in his stomach, apprehension, John wanted to believe what he had said, but he truly did not know if his ship would be right.
Dan stayed in his chair motionless, John knew he had probably more to say on the subject, but he didn't want to hear it. "Dan you're dismissed, see to your orders."
Dan got himself up and walked out of the room. John's stomach clenched as his old friend left the room, as if something about their relationship was now about to change irreversibly, something that neither of them could control. John had the feeling that Dan was right about a few things, the Nightingale was no combat vessel and a Sovereign class vessel could effectively take many injured crewmembers to the nearest starbase. The Brave only had a crew compliment of one hundred and fifty people; most ships could convert a cargo bay into a temporary hospital.
John looked at the fleet deployments in the computer, he looked at the list of ships in the area, many of which were top, ship of the lines, the USS Hood, USS Surek and the USS Ambassador were three such ships that could probably do just as good a ship as the Nightingale in the state she was in.
Turning off the map of ship deployments, John took in the reality, it was his mission, his ships job to rescue the one hundred and fifty people on the ship. He had to accept that and do a damn good job about rescuing the people who could be trapped inside Geckonian space.
John had hardly heard of the Geckonians, other than the general knowledge passed out at the Academy, and he had never met one. Starfleet's own database confirmed that twenty four Geckonians served in Starfleet, but no personal information was ever divulged to Starfleet and the Anthropologists at the science department barely touched on the subject. What was known was the Geckonians were highly territorial and the idea of trade with Federation had taken years to negotiate.
The Gorn on the other hand were well known to Starfleet, from the first contact with them in 2267 when a Gorn vessel attacked and destroyed the original Cestus III colony. The matter was down to the diplomats soon after James Kirk had defeated their commander in some sort of hand to hand combat contest. A treaty in 2281 allowed the reformation of the colony. That system and several others were the border between the Gorn and the Federation.
Since the treaty the relationship between the two powers were more or less amicable, but not much better than that. John recalled several incidents in history where Starfleet and the Gorn had come to blows over matters in their early relationship. The more interesting one being about a space dwelling organism called Mimics which had resided in neutral space and were used by the Gorn as entertainment. If it wasn’t for the relocation of the organisms to Federation space, aided by the USS Ranger in 2330, the Mimics would now be extinct as their captivity was fatal to them.
However, John could not remember anything in the last fifty years that had stated any bad blood between the Gorn and Starfleet, in contrast there was signs of an improving relationship. The Gorn had helped Starfleet in the Dominion Wars providing a fleet that protected the area from the Dominion advances and even participated in a limited capacity in the Battle of Cardassia. Starfleet and the Gorn had even launched a few joint missions during the war, when a Gorn world was overrun by Jem'Hadar troops.
John thought about the possible scenarios, had the Brave been attacked by the Geckonians, an otherwise peaceful race who was more Xenophobic than aggressive. It seemed unlikely that the Geckonians, who had otherwise been polite neighbours had anything to do with the disappearance, but the distress signal had come from their territory, but it was not know if it was one of their ships that had sent the signal.
Perhaps the Brave had been attacked by the Gorn, an aggressive race that was known in the past to distrust the Federation, but had in recent years learned to get along with them. Intelligence reports from the Gorn homeworld, now secretly hidden under the pile of padds on John's desk, showed no sign that Gorn wanted to attack the Federation. In addition, despite the losses suffered to the Borg and the Dominion, Starfleet was by no means unable to defend itself from the Gorn, who in comparison still had a relatively small fleet.
Then there was one last option that no-one had yet mentioned, perhaps something else, something natural had happened to the USS Brave and her crew, a subspace phenomenon, a natural occurring disaster, which had disabled her. Perhaps it was nothing to do with the Gorn or the Geckonians. Maybe what had happened to the original sender of the distress signal had happened to the Brave.
Whatever the cause, John knew he wasn't going to get the answers sitting at his desk with his ship in spacedock. He stood up, pulling his shirt down and moved out of the room with a steady and speedy motion, he was off to find the V'ras, the Vulcan Chief engineer.