Chapter 6 <cont'd>
Sandhurst called the meeting in Europa’s
observation lounge to order. Present were the senior staff, as well as Commander Worf, while Captains Lobanov, T’Ser, and Lt. Commander Kircheis were attending via holo-presence, their avatars seated at the table by means of their ships’ own holodecks and the conference room’s emergency medical holo-emitters.
“Our long-range reconnaissance probes have provisionally identified the next incoming transient formation. This one consists of one-hundred thirty-eight separate vessels of various sizes ranging from about the size of a Defiant
-class up to ones measuring nearly a half-kilometer in length.”
Sandhurst toggled the interface in the table’s surface, calling up a display on the viewscreen set into the inner bulkhead. Cross-sections and corresponding analysis of the long, vaguely cigar-shaped alien vessels scrolled across the screen.
“Our comms intercepts from this group indicate that they self-identify as the Ferou. Their armaments appear quite advanced, to include some manner of interphasic missile weapons that we believe may be able to thwart standard shielding.”
“Like the ones the Amon used on In’Drahn station?” T’Ser posited.
“Very similar,” Sandhurst replied. “Perhaps even identical technology copied or stolen by the Amon.” Turning back to the viewer, he continued, “Cumulative life-readings from the fleet indicate some eight-hundred thousand individuals residing aboard these ships.”
The viewer pulled back to show a two-dimensional rendering of the sector, showing the course of the flotilla. “They’re proceeding at Warp seven-point-two, which is the fastest sustained speed we’ve seen yet from one of these groups.”
Lobanov inquired, “What’s the Ferou’s ultimate IP with the Alpha Quadrant?”
Lar’ragos, who still held the position of TFV’s chief Strategic Operations Officer, fielded that question. “We project their course will have them skirting the Romulan border and then plunging headlong into the center of the Tholian Assembly.”
That brought a round of whistles and groans from around the table, as all the officers present were familiar with the Tholians’ rabid territoriality and xenophobia.
“We’ve developed a baseline translation matrix for their primary language,” Lar’ragos continued. “We’ll begin transmitting the standard warnings regarding their upcoming entry into the Alpha Quadrant, to include some saber-rattling on behalf of the Tholians.”
Counselor Liu remarked, “Now we’re making threats on the behalf of other governments?”
Sandhurst looked sidelong at Liu from the head of the table, a wry smile briefly taking shape on his lips. “It seems only sporting to let them know about the proverbial hornets’ nest they’ll be kicking over should they blunder into Tholian space.”
“What’s our analysis of their place on the diplomatic continuum?” Kircheis asked.
“That’s been hard to determine thus far,” Lar’ragos responded. “Our scans of their vessels haven’t turned up much in the way of combat-related damage indicators. So, either they go out of their way to avoid conflict, or their weapons and defenses are superior enough that nobody gets close enough to hurt them.”
Worf inquired, “Do we have any intel on this species from the database downloads we extracted from the Voranti?”
Shanthi, who’d spent weeks pouring over the information culled from the Voranti since Europa’s
brief boarding action against one of their ships, addressed that. “No, sir. There are references to numerous other species involved in the exodus, but the Ferou aren’t among them. Given the disparity in the speed of the formations, it’s likely that the Ferou have only recently caught up to the Voranti and En-Il-Que.”
“And speaking of the En-Il-Que,” Lobanov interjected, her tone blatantly disingenuous, “what is the three-A on your raid against them?” The acronym stood for After-Action Assessment, an estimate of the total damage to an enemy’s military assets and infrastructure.
If Sandhurst took offense to the senior captain’s tenor, he didn’t let on. Rather, he turned to address her. “Based on our initial estimates, supported by the recon probes we left in-system, we destroyed a total of eight capital ships and seven more support craft. We neutralized fifteen orbital weapons arrays, wrecked a defensive outpost, and completely annihilated their main shipyard and their primary orbital docking facility.”
He turned back toward the viewer, typing in commands to call up a diagram of the DL- 40637 star system. “As you can see here, the cloaked mines we deployed during the raid have resulted in sixteen detonations, costing the En-Il-Que a further five ships destroyed, and four more crippled, two of which had to be scuttled.”
“Aren’t you forgetting to mention that the En-Il-Que have begun mine-sweeping operations utilizing shuttles manned by Deobeen hostages, Commodore?” Lobanov added frostily.
Sandhurst met the captain’s gaze without flinching. “No, I did not forget
to mention it. That fact, while unfortunate, is of no consequence. Our mission was to deal a sizeable enough blow to the En-Il-Que that their ability to depart the system en mass would be compromised. The mission was a success.”
Lobanov was undaunted, and replied acidly, “So, we’ve now stranded a hostile aggressor species in the system with the people they’ve conquered. Did it not occur to you that your attack may have turned a brief foraging effort into something akin to the Occupation of Bajor?”
“That is also not my concern, Captain,” Sandhurst answered matter-of-factly. “The En-Il-Que had already attacked and occupied the Deobeen’s system. We have ensured that for the time being, they will continue to remain there, minimizing their threat to the Alpha Quadrant in general, and the Federation specifically.” He sat back in his chair, his expression unchanging. “If you are unable to cope with the operational necessities of this assignment, Captain Lobanov, I can easily reassign you to something more in keeping with your comfort level.” He picked up a padd and made a show of tapping idly at it. “I trust Lt. Commander Zedo has everything necessary at hand to seamlessly take the helm of Giacobini?
Lobanov’s expression hardened. She’d clearly been unprepared for this upbraiding in the presence of her fellow captains. “That will not be necessary, Commodore.”
“Very well, then.” Sandhurst set the padd down, gazing around the table to look at each of the captains in turn. “Europa
will proceed at transwarp to make First Contact with the Ferou, following our warning broadcasts. Valiant
have received new orders to begin looking for uninhabited Class-M worlds in this and the adjoining sectors where we might settle anyone who’s willing. They’ll begin that assignment as soon as Galaxy’s
tow to In’Drahn is complete. Meanwhile, Gallant
will begin laying cloaked mine fields in the path of the incoming formations. Hopefully, they will not be needed.”
Again, Sandhurst looked around at the assorted faces of the Starfleet officers. “Is there anything for the good of the order?” No one gave any indications of a desire to speak. “Very well, then. Let’s get to it.”