Chapter 6 – Committed
Star Station Echo
Office of Rear Admiral Morgan Bateson
Commander, 7th Border Service Squadron
“Sir, priority message coming through from Admiral Bouvier.”
“Thank you, Varnosh. Put her through.”
Vice-Admiral Deidre Bouvier’s thin face appeared on Bateson’s terminal, her small dark eyes darting to and fro. She did not appear happy, but considering Bouvier almost never looked happy it was difficult to gauge her mood.
“Bateson, you are to recall Bluefin immediately.”
Morgan felt his jaw clench but he refrained from an angry retort. “May I ask why?”
“It’s called the chain of command, Admiral. The C-in-C tells me to recall all Border Service assets in the op-force area. I tell the Squadron Commander – that being you, and you tell the cutter commander, that being Akinola. Can you grasp that?”
“Yes sir, the concept is familiar.”
Bouvier glowered. “From your general attitude, Bateson, I doubt that. You have your orders, get it done. Bouvier, out.”
“Charming as ever,” he muttered. Bateson leaned back in his chair, a pensive expression on his face. “Op-force area,” he murmured. “Now why did she refer to the alien ship as ‘opposing force’? It hasn’t made any hostile moves.”
He let out a long sigh. It had been a long-shot at best. At least Bouvier, through her majestic sense of vanity, had provided an extra 36 hours for Akinola. He doubted Bouvier realized that he had played her for the extra time – not that it mattered one way or the other to him.
“Varnosh, open a channel to the Bluefin
. Time for the boys and girls to come home.”
“Aye sir, I’ll get right on it.”
“Thanks.” Bateson tried to remain philosophical about the situation. After all, the job of the Border Service was law enforcement, border security and rescuing the wayward space-farer. First contacts and scientific investigation were better suited to Starfleet – even if sending an Akira-class ship seemed like major over-kill.
He stood and made his way to the replicator for coffee before doing battle with a stack of PADDs. As a mug of Colombian dark roast materialized, his terminal chimed for attention.
Varnosh’s face reappeared on the screen, his expression perplexed, “We are unable to establish a subspace link with Bluefin.”
Bateson frowned. “What’s the problem, Lieutenant – a technical glitch?”
“Our com-techs are working on it, but the problem does not appear to be on our end. There is some sort of spatial interference in the vicinity of Bluefin’s last known coordinates.”
The Admiral grunted. Communication problems arose from time to time, but it always made him nervous to lose contact with any of his cutters.
“Keep me posted, Varnosh. I want to know the moment you re-establish contact with Bluefin
. If there is no success within an hour, I’ll turn Scamp
around to investigate.”
* * *
“Leaving the Molari sector, now entering sector 7432,” announced Ensign An’Shiil.
“Thanks, Drii,” replied Lt. Bane, absently. The announcement wasn’t required but it was a reminder they were still headed toward Klingon space.
Nigel had no doubts the Klingons would soon pick up the ‘Shroom on their long-range scanners. He wondered what they would make of it.
He also wondered what they would do about it.
A rumbling noise reverberated through the hull, bringing Bane back to the present moment.
“That didn’t sound good,” he remarked.
“The gravity wave is increasing in magnitude,” announced Lt. (j.g.) Rune. “It’s strengthened an additional 8%.”
“Has it increased speed?”
“Negative,” replied Ensign An’Shiil. “However, our power output is equivalent to warp 5.6.”
Another rumble resonated through the hull. This time, Bane could feel it. “Increase power to structural integrity fields.”
“Aye,” replied Rune. “Boosting SIF with auxiliary power. No hull breaches or shield degradation to report.”
“Good.” Bane wasn’t overly concerned – the Bluefin
was designed to navigate Class 5 ion storms with relative ease. She was overbuilt in critical areas and her hull was hardened against radiation. His greater concern was whether they would be able to keep pace with the Star ‘Shroom should the gravity wave continue to strengthen. Once their power output exceeded warp 8.5, time would be against them. The old cutter could maintain warp 9 for about six hours before the mains would automatically shut down.
* * *
“You’re correct, Captain Akinola. I am holding something back,” admitted Captain Franklin.
The Nigerian C.O.'s brow furrowed. “Oh? Care to enlighten me?”
Franklin paused, twisting the mug of coffee in her hands. “Six months ago, I was within a heartbeat of firing a spread of quantum torpedoes into the Queen Elizabeth VII
. Do you remember that?”
“I could hardly forget.”
“You asked me to do something that day – do you remember what that was?”
A nod. “I asked you to trust me – to give my boarding teams time to retake that ship,” he replied.
She fixed him with her steady gaze. “Exactly. And I did trust you, Captain. I held off firing those torpedoes and your people came through. A lot of people are still alive because I trusted you.” Her gazed returned to her coffee mug. “You don’t know how close I was to pulling the trigger and blowing that star-liner to kingdom come.”
Akinola was quiet for a moment. “I’m not sure that the situations are equivalent, Captain Franklin. All I want are a few answers. I’m not about to open fire on anyone.”
She glanced back up. “I understand. And you have my word I will tell you all that I can. But I'm asking you to trust me with what I cannot yet tell you.”
Captain Akinola leaned back and folded his arms, fixing Franklin with an appraising stare. He finally began to nod slowly and said, “Alright, Captain – I guess you’ve earned that,” for the moment
, he amended silently. He leaned forward and clasped his hands together on the table.
She nodded, grateful that the old cutter driver was willing to meet her half-way. She glanced at her husband and her First Officer. “What I’m about to say is new to my officers as well. The orders I’ve received are clear in theory but difficult in practice.”
She returned her attention to Akinola. “We are ordered to establish communications with that vessel and ascertain its intentions, whether they be peaceful or hostile. If attempts to communicate fail, we are to board the vessel and question the occupants directly, seizing the vessel if necessary to prevent it from crossing into Klingon space.”
“Seize it? Forgive me, Captain, but we’re outside of any system boundaries and that ship has yet to make an overtly hostile move. We have no probable cause to board that vessel without an invitation.”
“My orders say otherwise, Captain Akinola.”
“Sam, is that what Glover told you?” asked Vanboerner.
Franklin shot her husband a warning look but nodded.
“Terrence Glover? He’s the one who sent you and wanted us to return to base, right?”
She hesitated. “I’m not sure how you know that, but yes.” Another pause, “And I have to wonder – why are you still here, tagging after that ship after you were ordered home?”
Akinola smiled. “Apparently Admiral Glover managed to tick off my Squadron Commander, who in turn, bumped it up the chain to our Service Chief. So, until I receive a recall order from Admiral Bateson, you’re stuck with us.”
She chuckled. “We’ll let the brass sort that out. Until then, it only make sense for us to work together – agreed?”
The older captain rubbed the stubble on his jawline. “Fair enough, but I still don’t see how . . .”
“Frak!” thundered Gralt loudly. He was reading the message from Rune regarding the intensifying gravity wave.
He looked up to see the other officers staring at him. T’Lyr’s face was tinged a slight green. Captain Franklin looked startled; Vanboerner appeared amused while Xyrel merely lifted an eyebrow. Commander Strauss had lowered her face into her palm.
“Is there something you’d like to share with us, Commander Gralt?” asked Akinola, his voice dangerously low.
“Yeah, we’ve got a problem. That deity's whore of a gravity wave has intensified and it’s forcing us to use more power to keep up with that damn ship.”
“How much more power?”
“Our power output is at warp 5.3 to maintain warp 4.6, and it appears to be getting worse.”
Franklin turned to Akinola. “Captain, with your permission, I’d like to contact Resolute
to see if they are experiencing the same effect.”
He nodded. “Certainly. And listen – since we’re collaborating on this, call me ‘Joseph.’ All this ‘Captain’ back and forth is getting confusing.”
Franklin smiled. “Agreed. Call me Sam. Excuse me a moment.” She stood and stepped into the corridor.
Vanboerner turned to Gralt. “I take it this gravity wave increased when the alien ship went to warp.”
The Tellarite nodded curtly. “You bet your hairless pink ass it did.”
The cutter rocked slightly, accompanied by an ominous rumble that reverberated through the hull. The cups on the table jittered slightly, sending ripples through the assorted beverages.
Gralt stood, “Captain, I ought to be in engineering.”
“Go.” As the engineer left, Akinola tapped his combadge. “Akinola to bridge.”
“Bridge, Bane here.”
“What’s going on, Lieutenant?”
“The energy wave is strengthening. No worries with structural integrity, but the mains are having to work harder to keep up with the ‘Shroom.”
Franklin stepped back into the ward room, a look of concern on her face. “I can’t raise the Resolute
Akinola glanced up at Franklin. “Lieutenant Bane, what’s the status of Resolute
– do we still have her on sensors?”
There was a momentary pause. “Yes sir, she’s keeping pace about 150 kilometers astern.”
“See if you can hail her. Captain Franklin can’t reach her with her combadge.”
“Yes sir, stand by.”
“Probably just a communications glitch,” said Franklin, as much to reassure herself as anyone else.
Bane came back on the channel. “Sir, there’s some sort of interference with our subspace signal. My guess is the radiation from the ‘Shroom is creating the problem. We can set up the laser-com link with Resolute for inter-ship but we’ll be out of contact with anyone else.”
Akinola frowned. “Make it happen, Lieutenant. Let me know when you have that link established.”
“Aye, Skipper. Assumin’ the blokes on Resolute have ever used the laser-com, we should have the link up in a minute.”
Franklin smirked. “I have every confidence my people can handle it.”
“You heard the lady, Mr. Bane. I’m sending Captain Franklin up to the bridge so she can talk with her ship. Keep us posted if there are any other changes with the alien ship.”
“You can count on it. Bridge, out.”
Franklin turned to Vanboerner. “Yes, John?”
“Chances are if the interference is strong enough to affect a subspace signal, it’s likely to interfere with the transporter’s targeting scanners.”
She frowned. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“You can use our Stallions for ship to ship transport,” offered Akinola. “No offence, but they can handle this type of environment better than your shuttles.”
“I appreciate that,” replied Franklin. “I’ll be back as soon as I contact Resolute
* * *
The Trill Operations officer hurried toward Admiral Terrence Glover with a PADD and an expression of concern.
Glover’s expression, by contrast, was one of annoyance. “Walk, Lieutenant, you’re not a plebe.”
“Sorry, Admiral, but we’ve lost contact with the Resolute
Glover took the proffered PADD and grimaced. “Sector 7432 . . . any distress signal?”
“No sir. We’ve made several attempts to contact them. From this distance and through so many relays, it’s difficult to ascertain the problem.”
“Difficult is not impossible, Lieutenant Rynul. I expect results, not excuses.” He brusquely shoved the PADD back at the Trill.
“What’s the closest vessel operating under Vanguard protocols?” continued Glover, his tone more even.
, sir. She’s three days distant from Resolute
at maximum warp.”
Glover considered this. Captain Shiran Ch’Hranuth was a seasoned combat veteran. Moreover, he had not expressed misgivings about the parameters of Operation Vanguard as had some captains, including Samantha Franklin.
carried two of the code-Alpha “special” weapons to be used as a last resort.
“Very well. Dispatch the Akagi
. Notify Captain Ch’Hranuth that I will soon be in touch with special orders. I’ll notify Admiral Brandies of the situation.”
* * *