Stardate 53115.7: Bridge, USS Nightingale
John walked onto the bridge of the Nightingale in a rush. He had been down in engineering looking at the warp core, for nothing more than old times' sake. When he was a helmsman on other ships he use to spend hours looking at the warp core as a way to relax and think of solutions. The core's constantly changing colour scheme seemed to give him inspiration like nothing else could. At the moment he certainly needed the inspiration for a number of problems. The location of the USS Brave, his failing first officer and the crews apparent poor moral was enough to deal with without having the added pressure of a possible problem with not just one but two other nations, the Gorn and Geckonians. Despite Han's assurances that the Geckonians had only peaceful intentions towards the Federation he could not help but feel that they could be partly responsible for the Brave's disappearance.
"Report," he said as he left the turbolift, noticing that Dan was on watch.
Dan looked up to the Captain and removed himself from the Captain's chair, just in time for John to reach the centre piece to the bridge, "we have just crossed into Geckonian space Captain," Dan reported.
John sat down in his chair and rubbing his hands down the arm rests slowly. "Good," he responded, "have sensors picked up any vessels yet?"
Williams, who was at his science station to the port side of the bridge, quickly ran his hands over several consoles, the panel beeping in a merry tune. "Long range sensors have not detected a single vessel," he reported calmly, "however there does appear to be a lot of sensor interference going on."
John noticed Dan sitting down in the chair to his right, John thought about giving a friendly smile at this point, but it was not the right time nor were the two currently on those terms.
"Is the sensor interference natural or artificial?" Dan asked in a commanding voice.
"Definitely artificial," Williams responded confidently, his hands busy over the consoles at his station, "looking at this data I would say it wasn't Gorn technology," he paused slightly turning round from his console to look at the Captain. John could just about hear what was coming next in his head; it was something that he hoped he would not hear. "It seems that the Geckonians are attempting to block sensors from working in their space."
Hans, who was standing at the rail behind the Captain's chair, near a small console walked towards to the science station, "that doesn't make sense," he stated.
"Why not Commander?" asked John watching his mission advisor's puzzled look.
"I have never known the Geckonian military to block sensors," Hans replied, on reaching the science console with Williams in front of him he seemed to look over the readings, "but they are certainly blocking the sensors of all vessels."
John looked at Dan, "why would they block sensors in the area?"
"To stop someone from using them?" Dan replied, his point obvious, but it was the only explanation, "but whose sensors are they trying to block?"
"Perhaps they detected us entering their space and they don't want us in?" Shrak asked, her posture at the tactical station more relaxed than John had seen her for some time; she was probably enjoying the thought of having some kind of action on the ship.
"My people would not have been able to set this up in this amount of short time," Hans replied, "to create a field of this size; it would take hundreds of ships, days to create." Hans walked over to the helm control station where Chloe Visitor was still piloting the vessel, John had noticed that she and Torlik had not joined in the conversation, but whereas Torlik had seemed to be a listener to the conversation, Chloe seemed to be ignoring the conversation completely.
"Miss Visitor," John said, "if we carry on our current speed, how long until we reach the location of the distress signal that the USS Brave responded to?"
Chloe tapped on her console, "one hour sir," she replied with a little hesitation in her voice.
"What is it Lieutenant?" Dan asked standing up joining the mission advisor at the console at the front of the bridge, both of the men scrutinizing the readouts on the console that Lieutenant Visitor was trying to gently use.
"There seems to be some debris slightly closer than that, on the flight path," Chloe replied, her voice uncertain.
"The USS Brave would have flown through that area on the way to the distress signal," Williams added.
Hans looked at the scans on the console and frowned, "I would suggest that we check out the area before proceeding to the distress signal's position." Dan seemed to nod at the suggestion that the mission advisor made.
"Shrak," John tried to regain the attention of his Andorian tactical officer, "do you foreseen much danger in the action?"
Shrak shook her head.
John raised himself from his seat and pulled instinctively down on his shirt. He looked around the bridge and saw a number of the crew, including all the senior officers on the bridge; Commander Walker, Lieutenant Commander Hans, Lieutenants Visitor and Shrak and Ensigns Torlik and Williams, were focusing their attention on the Captain. "Helm, set a course for that debris field," he ordered nervously, "Williams, can you tell if the debris is the USS Brave or not?"
Williams punched more commands into his computer terminal on the bridge. He quickly read out some of the readings under his breath, something that John could not hear and was not happy about hearing.
"I doubt that much of the debris is that of the Brave sir," he said, "half of the hull components seem to be made from Polyduranide," he turned to face Lieutenant Commander Hans who seemed to be nodding.
"Polyduranide is used in the construction of Geckonian military vessels," Hans stated out loud across the bridge, "Starfleet don't construct vessels with Polyduranide." He paused for a second looking at the sensor logs on the navigational computer, "it seems too large to be a single vessel," he stated, "I would say that at least seven Geckonian vessels were destroyed by the amount of Polyduranide at the location."
John noticed something on Hans face; he looked a mixture of sadness and anger. The realisation that the Geckonians had lost some vessels in the area had come to Hans and John. A new question now surfaced in John's head, was the USS Brave responsible for their destruction?
John looked across the room at Williams and wondered for a second, "Williams you said half of the debris field was polyduranide," Williams turned his attention towards the Captain, "what is the other half of the debris field made of?"
Williams shrugged his shoulders in a poor gesture for a Starfleet officer, "I don't know Captain," he replied afterwards, "sensors can't identify it."
Hans walked up to the centre of the bridge, standing next to John and Dan. John noticed the warmth from the suit that Hans wore he was that close and felt a little uncomfortable with the temperature that the undergarment was radiating out from his body. "The USS Brave is not there," Hans said his charm for the obvious continuing.
"Maybe so Commander," John said returning to his chair, the snug seat wrapping itself around him like a child's blanket, reassuring and comforting, "but it seems more than logical that the USS Brave was there and that a clue of the events that led up to her disappearance; could help us track her down."
"Course laid in Captain," Visitor stated loudly, John thought she must have been waiting a while for her orders but had been too shy to say something in amongst the other officer's talking about the debris field.
"Engage, warp nine Lieutenant," John ordered.
Stardate 53115.7: Captain's Quarters, Gorn Imperial Cruiser Vor
General Slov sat on the floor of his lavish quarters on the Gorn Imperial Cruiser Vor. One of the latest cruisers to be designed and built by the Gorn Empire, it boasted an impressive military capability. Her seven disruptor banks and five phaser arrays coupled with the three pulse firing torpedo launchers made her one of the most heavily armed vessels in the region. Certainly more than a match for any pathetic Geckonian vessel that patrolled nearby.
Its initial combat had proven its worth in the field, destroying eight Geckonian vessels in a matter of minutes. The weapon banks on the ship tearing holes right through the disgusting Geckonian hulls. But the initial battles against the horrid blood enemy had not all gone great, some were even disasters. The General knew his career rested on the results of one key battle now, the fight for the Geckonian home world. The warm sandy jewel, in the heart of the Geckonian nation, was where most of the enemy fleet had retreated to a couple of days ago. The rest of the enemy vessels; some estimated twenty five had formed raiding parties and were ambushing any of his forces that seemed opportune. Slav had lost two resupply ships in the last twelve hours due to this.
However the raiding parties could do nothing against his main force that was nearing to the Geckonian home system. He had amassed a fleet of three hundred vessels in order to capture the system. But unfortunately, due to untimely circumstances the Geckonians now had two hundred and fifty ships in the system, more than four times than what Slov had intended. The interference of the Federation made his thoughts turn to what else might be in the system waiting for him, a Federation task force perhaps? Just a handful of Starfleet warships could turn the close battle he was now anticipating into a bad bloodbath for his men to endure, something that would certainly end his political career and more than likely his life.
Calling off the attack would be just as dangerous to his career. His enemies back home would use his failure to defeat an inferior neighbour, an excuse to remove him from the ruling council that gave him protection from potential political assassins. There was every right to fear assassins on the Gorn homeworld, political motivated murders were responsible for two hundred deaths and three civil wars in the past decade. Slov himself rose to prominence by killing off his mentor General Ipil when he surrendered his forces during the land assault on Geckonia in the last war. At the bottom of the political ladder murder and assassination plots were events to be embraced, at the top they were something to be feared.
Slov had the reserves of his fleet, including his own flagship, scanning the Federation - Geckonian border. He hoped that any task force that Starfleet sent, he could intercept before they reached the main battle. His hope lay in a couple of facts; the first being the small amount of time that Starfleet would have in getting a task force together in order to aid the Geckonians and the second was the current condition of Starfleet. Slov knew that if Starfleet wanted to help the Geckonians they would have had only a matter of days to piece together a relief force. Given that their commanders would most likely want to keep a strong presence along the borders they shared, Slov estimated that Starfleet would only be able to send ten to fifteen ships. To combat this Slov had thirty ships, he would hopefully outnumber them two to one. It was also no secret that Starfleet was suffering from man power shortages and vessels which were in need of major maintenance. Since the end of the Dominion War, both man power and maintenance were in high demand and short supply in Starfleet, and Slov hoped that this was something still in his favour.
The door to his cabin swung open and in the doorway stood Major Drang, his tactical advising officer. Slov knew that of all the people on the vessel he know had, he was the most likely to attempt to take his life, but he was the best tactical officer around and that made him a valuable officer, for the moment.
"Sensors have detected a Federation vessel entering Geckonian space General," Drang reported, his voice typically slow and the under laying scratching of the back of the throat piecing the air like a dagger, like the one that Slov imagined was poised in his back, held by this man.
"Just one?" Slov questioned, "Starfleet would surely send more than one. Have you checked the readings? The Geckonians are using strong sensor blockers."
Drang nodded confidently, "the Federation vessel is going to same co-ordinates as the previous vessel."
"Why would they go..." Slov quickly paused as he thought about the only explanation, and for the first time he thanked his luck. "The Brave must not have made it back to Federation space," he announced a loud, "which means Starfleet has no knowledge of the war." Slov's voice sounded excited.
"How can you know that sir?"
"Because one ship travelling in the wrong direction is not what Starfleet would do," Slov's career and life might be saved at last, "we need to make sure the vessel does not report what is going on, set an intercept course and prepare for battle," Slov's order was sharp and concise.
His tactical officer gave a wide, sinister smile and left the room. He was more than likely happy to engage the Federation once again. Slov did not matter about such things, his mission was to capture the Geckonian home world, and he would order his forces to engage the enemy, the quicker he did it, the more chance he had at completing his mission, and now it looked more evident that he could do just that.