Hadad was too experienced to allow the death of Ensign Levvy to undermine his concentration or adherence to protocol. Or perhaps he was just desensitized, considering the dozens of colleagues he saw die in the war, many of them under his direct command. This was hardly any different.
At least, that’s what he told himself.
The problem was, they weren’t at war any longer. And Levvy had just been an over enthused kid, who likely would have flourished in his career once he was properly seasoned. There had been a marriage waiting in the wings. And damn it all, Hadad would have been his protégée’s best man.
A deep melancholy crept through his spirit as he swung the fighter back towards N’Skatia. He noted that the anomaly had already begun to collapse. As a precaution, he kept well outside its maximum displayed range----for an unstable singularity was the very definition of unpredictability.
He keyed into the planetary COMM network to monitor communications and began updating his command base.
“Virgo, this is M-3…intruder has crashed near Para. Looks like they shed nearly half their bulk on the way in…reports of massive destruction along the intruder’s flight path. Preliminary estimates on casualties are already in the hundreds.”
He heard an overlapping murmur of voices behind the operator as he responded. “M-3, hold station for new orders. Musketeers One and Two have been recalled from the outer edge and are in route to your position. We’ll be coordinating with Space-Ground Rescue to render assistance. Be advised that N'Skatia is on military alert and has vessels heading to the crash site. As of now, Starfleet wartime protocols are in affect, FPCON-Delta status. Lock radio for secure and encrypt
We’re already prepping for a full-scale invasion. Hadad observed darkly. His battle honed mind automatically began weighing the tactical situation and writing mental reports.
In the plus column, if the ship housed an occupation army, there was a good chance they’d suffered casualties during the crash, to say nothing of trying to mount an offensive from a damaged command base. Regrouping efforts would take time and the element of surprise would be lost.
On the other hand, the enemy could entrench their position until reinforcements arrived, while keeping the local military off guard. N’Skatian defenses were limited, and to comply with their demands for a diminished Starfleet presence, Virgo only had four----no, he corrected dismally, now just three lightweight fighters to offer up for combat.
Any real help was two weeks away.
Of course, there was also an aging Excelsior
class starship bringing the Royal Family in for the accession ceremony, but they weren’t due for another two days. Their arrival barely qualified as an asset. It would take more than some old bucket to tip the scales here. Hadad would only gain the headache of another CO, no doubt brimming over with self-importance and short on common sense.
Part of him held out hope that this would be resolved through diplomatic channels. Perhaps it was all an accident perpetrated by an overzealous race of explorers.
Yet, each time he looked for solace, he was forced back to a single thought:
The alien ship had been in Federation space for only thirty-seven minutes.
Only thirty-seven minutes and there was already a body count.