From the center chair in the Taskforce Operations Center, Admiral Jellico reflected that now was proving a hell of a time to have sent Gallant
off on a reconnaissance mission. As the large starship bucked and trembled from multiple weapons impacts, part of him struggled with the urge to proceed to the bridge and take command of the situation. He knew better, of course, to interfere with Captain Scott’s battle tactics, but he felt disconcertingly impotent to be a mere observer of the ongoing exchange.
And to think that this First Contact had started out so well…
Bridge, USS Galaxy
“Course zero-four-nine, mark one-one-three!” Captain Tryla Scott barked. “Hit the lead ship with photons, save the quantums for their escorts. Continue using the phasers as point-defense against their missiles.” She spared a quick glance over her shoulder to where her XO was overseeing damage control from an auxiliary station. “Worf, how are we looking?”
“Not good,” the large Klingon replied. “Shields are failing. We have hull breaches on decks four and five, and our dorsal saucer phaser emitter is damaged. In the secondary hull, we have breaches on decks thirty-three through thirty-six, as well as a direct hit to our main navigational deflector. The port nacelle has been punctured and engineering says we’re leaking drive plasma. We’ve also got power fluctuations in the secondary hull due to numerous power couplings and EPS waveguides sustaining damage.”
Her Operations officer dutifully reported, “Casualty figures coming in from Sickbay, Captain. Twenty-seven confirmed dead, forty-six injured, five of them critical.”
Scott turned back to face the viewscreen, still trying to determine what had suddenly provoked the unexpected assault by a seemingly peaceful refugee species. They’d established diplomatic contact over subspace days prior, and the Voranti had given every indication of being non-hostile and welcoming of the Federation’s proposed assistance.
had been welcomed alongside the Voranti flagship, and right when the alien delegation had been scheduled to beam aboard, the starship had been struck by weapons fire from all quarters simultaneously. With their shields down, their attackers’ weapons had carved into the ship’s hull with ease, wreaking havoc.
Since then, Galaxy
had been involved in a running battle to evade the Voranti’s dogged pursuit, which Scott was at a loss to explain. It was as though the Voranti were out to settle a score.
Now with their nav-deflector and one of their nacelles out of commission, achieving warp speed would be impossible, and outrunning their pursuers at impulse speeds was equally futile. They would have to ‘run and gun’ until they could carry out the necessary repairs to make them warp-capable. Otherwise, Scott brooded, she’d have to consider the Alpha Option.
They had returned to the Government House, the parliamentary building situated in the idyllic artificial countryside with its breathtaking crystalline dome arching overhead. Once again, the assorted horrors of the Husnock’s genetic manipulation were on display in the form of the appalling, malformed bodies that comprised the assembly of their former vassals.
Upon their arrival at the station, DuaNam, the speaker for the assembled species, had confirmed that the beings who’d stormed Europa’s
bridge were indeed the infamous Amon. The Borg cube, however, was unknown to them as an Amon warship.
As a sign of good faith, T’Ser had first delivered to the Habertaem an improved version of the anti-pheromone compound that Taiee’s medical team had continued work on since they’d last departed the station. The captain wanted to make it clear that delivery of the serum was not dependant upon their cooperation with drawing in the Amon.
T’Ser stood at the rostrum, staring uneasily into the distorted faces of hundreds of the Husnock’s former slaves.
“We were all fortunate that the Amon did not arrive to investigate the activation of their device,” DuaNam insisted. “Now you return asking permission to interfere with that very same instrument for the stated purpose of drawing out the Amon?”
“They attacked our ship and abducted Captain Sandhurst,” T’Ser replied, trying valiantly to keep her tone neutral.
“We grieve the loss of your captain,” DuaNam offered, “but we fail to see how inciting the Amon will be to anyone’s benefit.”
Pell stepped forward, waiting for an approving nod from T’Ser before speaking. “We don’t believe that the Amon intended to kill the captain. In fact, they seemed to take significant care not to cause any fatalities in the course of his abduction. It is our hope that Sandhurst can be returned to us unharmed, but until we are able to open a dialogue with the Amon, we cannot negotiate with them for his return.”
DuaNam emitted a gurgling, choking sound that T’Ser interpreted as a snort of derision. “The Amon only rarely negotiate, and we have found them to be highly excitable if provoked or interrupted unexpectedly.”
“We will make it abundantly clear to them that the Habertaem and your allies are not responsible,” T’Ser.
“You mean providing the Amon are in a mood to listen?”
T’Ser and Pell remained silent.
“We of the assembly must discuss your request, Captain T’Ser,” DuaNam said with a hint of reluctance that the Universal Translator conveyed quite proficiently. “We do acknowledge that you delivered the new pheromone-suppressant to us before making this appeal,” the Habertaem leader noted.
T’Ser stepped down from the dais, and was joined by Pell and Lar’ragos. The captain folded her arms across her chest, frowning as she whispered, “They’re about as eager to push the Amon’s doorbell as I anticipated.”
“After what the Amon did to us, can you blame them?” Lar’ragos queried.
“Not really,” she confessed.
“On a positive note,” Pell announced, “we’ve taken on substantial stores from the Habertaem. In trade for two of our spare power-converter modules, we’ve received enough duranium alloy and replicatable matter stores to complete the repairs from our skirmish with the Amon and fashion a new warp reaction chamber without having to fall all the way back to our warp-sled. That’ll save us two-and-a-half weeks of travel time.”
“Thank the heavens for a piece of good news for once,” T’Ser sighed.
Pell added, “And that’s not all. The Husnock industrial replicators aboard the station are decades, maybe centuries in advance of our own technology. If we can convince the Habertaem to allow us access to those fabrication systems, we might be able to design and build a new warp drive in a quarter of the time, and from materials far stronger than Federation science has yet developed.”
T’Ser raised an eyebrow. “You know how enthusiastic Mister Ashok is about things being ‘new’ and ‘exciting’.”
“Big Blue will suck it up for the team, sir,” Lar’ragos answered. “But I have my doubts as to how innovative or effective any design he generates is going to be.”
Pell gave the El Aurian a skeptical look. “Perhaps, but for now, Ashok’s the only game in town.”
T’Ser looked between the two lieutenant commanders. “Just make sure we’ve got those supplies safely aboard as quickly as possible. If their assembly decides to deny our request, we’re going to send a photon at the last known coordinates of that Amon array anyway.”
“I want Captain Sandhurst returned safely more than anyone,” Pell said. “But are we really willing to risk the only safe port Operation Vanguard has been able to arrange in the Delta Quadrant for a single person?”
The disbelieving looks on T’Ser and Lar’ragos’ faces were answer enough.
“Hell yes…” T’Ser began.
“…we are,” Lar’ragos finished for her.