STAR TREK: THIRD CUTTER SQUADRON
Freedom – The True Cost
Every hour brought new reports and statistics to her desk. Rear Admiral T’Rona read them all thoroughly, remembering each name of those killed, wounded or missing. Command of the Starfleet forces in situ to repel the Talarian Militia had been assigned to Vice Admiral Coburn out of Starbase 375. Headquarters undoubtedly believed that the Starfleet ships would react better to the strategic planning and orders of Coburn, a decorated combat officer, than they would a Border Dog.
Had T’Rona been concerned about her ego or sense of self-importance, she would have taken offense, however such concepts were illogical—more so given their current situation. She was in constant contact with Coburn, supplying him with all the tactical and strategic information she had gathered over the years, so that he knew as much as possible about the region. Whilst he saw to the fighting, it fell to her and everyone else on Star Station Freedom to handle the fallout from the battles and engagements.
Every berth the station had was occupied by damaged ships, whilst their infirmary was overflowing with casualties. Every engineer and technician onboard was on double shifts, whilst vacant quarters had been converted into wards for the injured. They had even taken over the sickbay onboard the cutter Silverfin
, which was still stuck in dock—the pace of the refit work having slowed due to the station’s techs being redistributed to other ships.
Fortunately the attack on Freedom three days earlier hadn’t caused serious damage. The surviving crew of the Talarian cruiser were being held in the brig, whilst the ship was in a parking orbit around the base. It had been an odd experience; taking fire from hostiles and being unable to manoeuvre out of the way, she had been onboard Star Station Freedom as Squadron Commander for five years, and in all that time they had never once been fired upon. Due to the attack, Starfleet had assigned the Constellation-Class U.S.S. Starseeker
to guard the base until hostilities ended. The old ship was well past its prime, but she had shields and weapons and freed up a newer vessel for the front.
The door chimed.
From where she sat, when the doors parted there didn’t appear to be anyone awaiting entry into her office. That combined with the sound of four pairs of skittering limbs let her know exactly who it was, before Lieutenant Commander T8 Blue’s head popped up on the other side of her desk. Her Nasat aide had a habit of moving through the station on all eight legs, which allowed him to get up to a good speed and easily weave through the predominately humanoid crew.
He let out a stream of weary clicks, before handing her a PADD. “The latest reports from the front, sir.”
“How bad?” she asked.
“Just one ship lost, another four badly damaged. One thousand, six hundred and eighteen wounded. Two hundred and seven dead. However they held the line and gained ground close to the Galen System.”
As he gave the brief version of events, she was looking at the datapad—which held the full reports of the battles and outcome, as well as some additional information from Starfleet Intelligence. Blue stood quietly as she looked at the after-action report, which included the extent of damage the starships Othello
, and St. Enoch
had sustained. The Garv
could handle its own repairs; the others however would all need time in dock. As for the injured, many would need treatment at Freedom or another facility.
The door chimed again.
This time the doorway was filled with the broad shoulders of Commander Lucas Garrett, Freedom’s CO. He strolled in, a tense look on his face and a PADD of his own in hand.
“Admiral, Tate,” he said by way of greeting, using Blue’s common nickname.
“Commander, is there a problem?”
He reached her desk. “You could say that, sir. I’ve just been informed by the SMC, that a transport will be arriving at nineteen hundred hours.”
“Starfleet Marine Corp?” Blue asked. “Why are they coming here?”
“They have five hundred jarheads ready for deployment. In the meantime they want to use us as a staging area, until they can be distributed to the task force.”
T’Rona’s eyebrow shot upwards. The SMC already had a number of units deployed to help increase their fighting force, especially for ground combat, but she had never been told of additional troops coming to the station. She made a mental note to speak with Vice Admiral Coburn at her earliest convenience.
“Can we manage another five hundred people onboard?” she asked.
“I can get a couple of cargo holds fitted out as barracks, but we’re pushing out cargo capacity as it is. We can’t accommodate more than a couple hundred.”
“What about the transport they’re coming on?” Blue queried.
“I already asked about that. Once it’s beamed them over, its withdrawing back to Starbase 300.”
Blue made an annoyed chirp. “They’re dumping them on us and expecting us to handle it?”
“Yup,” Garrett said simply.
T’Rona was looking at the PADD her attaché had given her, with the list of wounded needing hospitalisation at a facility already beyond its limits. She then looked up to the two officers before her, men whose opinions and input she had come value over the years she had worked with them.
“Commander Garrett, am I correct in assuming the Starseeker
doesn’t have a full complement onboard?”
He nodded. “Yes sir. There are only one hundred and eighty onboard.”
“Inform Lieutenant Commander J’pohs that we will require the use of the empty quarters. We will take on two hundred of the marines; the remaining will be beamed to the Starseeker
. Also have Master Chief Colt increase security on the Arcade.
“Commander Blue, check with Doctor Valentine. See how many patients are stable enough for transferral, then have them ready by the time the transport arrives.”
“T’Rona to Yavin,” she called into the intercom.
“Yavin here, go ahead Admiral,”
the station’s Communications Officer replied promptly.
“Ensign, open up a priority channel to the marine transport and route it to my office.”
She studied Garrett and Blue, the former was smiling widely whilst the latter’s antennae were twitching excitedly—they both knew what she had in mind. T’Rona was well-known for her meticulous organisation, as well as the highly logical arguments she used to get what she wanted—both highly useful for commanding a Border Service Squadron.
Garrett and Blue departed her office to see to their new tasks, so she was alone when her desktop computer screen came to life. The emblem of the Starfleet Marine Corps appeared, before being quickly replaced by the weathered face of a Bolian Major.
“This is Major Breis of the
“Rear Admiral T’Rona, Commander of the Third Cutter Squadron.”
The Bolian’s posture stiffened further—something she had not believed possible. “Yes ma’am. What can I help you with, ma’am?”
“Major, I understand you will arrive at Star Station Freedom in several hours, where you will then offload five hundred marines for deployment along the front.”
“Yes ma’am. Starfleet Command requested reinforcements against the Talarians.”
“We are presently making arrangements to accommodate them, however we are currently close to maximum occupancy—with so many damaged vessels and injured personnel using up a substantial portion of our resources, and more due in within a few hours.
“As I understand you are returning to Starbase 300 after offloading the marines.”
he said again, his brow furled slightly.
“Major, with your vessel empty on the return trip, it would be logical to move as many patients from Freedom to SB300—so that we can continue offering emergency treatment and care to the injured from the frontlines.”
“I’m not sure we can do that, ma’am. My orders were to offload and depart ASAP, another contingent of troops will be arriving for deployment along the Tzenkethi border—in case they try to use the situation to launch an invasion of their own.”
“Major, if we cannot transfer stable patients to another facility, we will not be able to receive any others. The loss of life would be unacceptable. If necessary, I will contact the Sector General for the SMC and lodge a formal request—he owes me several favours. However, I would rather not have to, but rather establish an agreement between us.”
Breis hackles were raised, obviously he didn’t like the thought of having the Sector General being dragged into things—something she could understand, General Mrr’Shaa was a force to be reckoned with.
“It won’t be necessary to involve the General, ma’am. I’m sure we can hold back for a short time, as we load on as many injured as are able for travel.”
She bowed her head slightly. “Your assistance is appreciated, Major. We will be ready to receive your troops as soon as you arrive.”
Iwo Jima out.”
The channel closed and her monitor went dark again. With that task seen too, she looked back at the damage reports of the incoming ships. She then brought up the latest status updates on the ships already in dock, most were still too badly damaged to leave and those that did have warp drive had little shielding or weaponry, not to mention severe structural damage which would only be further compromised at warp speeds.
“T’Rona to Weir.”
“Weir here, go ahead,”
the Squadron Maintenance Officer replied with her thick German accent.
“Commander, we have three more damaged ships incoming. Can we make any space for them?”
After a short torrid of German profanities muttered under Weir’s breath, she responded. “Admiral, we’ve got fourteen ships in dock, all damaged, all needing major repair work. We’re patching up what we can, but it’s all temporary work—enough to get them to the nearest dry-dock. But none are ready for departure.”
“What if we rotate the ships in dock? Leave the ones that need more extensive work, but have the others orbit the station for regular intervals.”
“Sir, all ships need extensive work—it’s all just degrees of how worse the situation is on each.”
There was then a heavy sigh over the comlink. “I assume if they’re coming here, then they can’t get to anywhere else?”
“Very well, Admiral. I will see what I can arrange.”
“I know you will, Commander. Keep me apprised. T’Rona out.”
Taking a moment, she closed her eyes and followed some basic meditation techniques she knew. The terse situation over the last week had left little time for rest, but she always tried to fit in a couple of brief focusing exercises a day, so as to keep her mind sharp and focused. Vulcans could cope with little sleep over long periods, but even their bodies had limits, and long periods of tension could fray even the strongest resolve.
“Ops to Admiral T’Rona,”
Lieutenant Commander Areia’s lyrical voice called through the comgrid installed in the ceiling.
She opened her eyes as soon as the channel chirped open. “T’Rona here. Go ahead, Lieutenant Commander.”
“Sir, we’ve just received word from the
Pisces. They have detected a very faint distress signal in the Yento Sector.”
“The Cam Rahn Bay
?” she asked, the slightest hint of hope colouring her tone.
The U.S.S. Cam Rahn Bay
had last been seen three days ago, leading two frigates away from a troop convoy. Since then, all contact had been lost. She had managed to secure the use of the Sabre-Class Pisces
to search for her missing cutter, but their search had come up empty; until now.
“They’re unsure at present, sir,”
Areia admitted, sounding despondent. Even for a Deltan, she was emotional; her feelings swayed her strongly—although strangely she was also the best poker player on the station. “It was only a partial transponder code they were able to verify before the signal was cut off, but what they did get matched the
She quickly brought up a tactical display and focused in on the Yento Sector. Starfleet was spread lightly in the region, only the Pisces
and five other ships were patrolling the front in that sector. She then spotted exactly what she needed.
“Commander, the Bonito
is in close proximity to the Pisces
. Have them move to assist.”
“Thank you. T’Rona out.”
Rising from her desk, she headed over to the replicator and ordered a Tellarite spice root tea before standing by her viewport for a moment and looking out. From her office she could see the damaged Talarian cruiser, a constant reminder on their current situation. Vice Admiral Bouvier, the Commander of the Border Service, would be awaiting her latest report on the incursion. T’Rona was supplying her with all the reports and statistical data that came through Freedom, as she would continue to do so until the conflict was concluded. Once it was over, she would need to have a serious talk with her superior, once again reiterating her request for reinforcements—something she had been asking Bouvier for since last summer.
“Yavin to T’Rona.”
“Go ahead, Ensign.”
“Sir, we’ve just received a priority message from the
Yamaguchi; the Talarians have launched a new offensive from the Castal System.”
She looked over at the large monitor on the bulkhead opposite her viewport, on which was a display of the Squadrons entire operational area. From Castal they were within striking distance of several other colonies, as well as the member planet of Grazar.
“Relay the message on to Starbase 375, then monitor all channels. T’Rona out.”
She turned back to her desk and sat down, there was still a lot to do and not enough time to get it done. On her desktop there were the lists of dead and injured, as well as evacuee status, damage report, intelligence analyses—all of which needed her attention. Stifling a yawn, she picked up the first PADD and set to work once again.