It's taken me longer to get back onto the Talarian Incursion than I planned, but I just have two more to go. So without further ado, here is the penultimate piece.
* * * * *
STAR TREK: THIRD CUTTER SQUADRON
H’krii – Find The Crack
Day eight of the incursion and they were still on silent running. The H’krii
had been out on their own since the announcement of the Cyclops
’ destruction, conducting covert reconnaissance of Talarian fleet movements and strengths, then sending out comm probes to relay their findings. They hadn’t been able to respond to any communiqués as it would give away their position and they’d have to run like hell—the scout ship was no match for the greatly improved weaponry the Republic now had at their disposal.
Lieutenant Commander Ilahn knew all of this; he knew that the H’krii
had to keep a low profile and monitor what was going on for the benefit of the Squadron and the task force, but they were cut off from the news on how the invasion was progressing, who was winning and how badly they had been hit.
A sigh escaped his lips.
“We’ll be alright,” Chief Nadi stated from her seat at Ops.
He looked over at his fellow Deltan, who still faced her console, looking over the various sensor displays and readouts. He couldn’t help but smile a little at his Chief of the Boat, she was often the one on the crew who tried to boost morale—exactly when it was needed.
She turned back to him and fixed her deep drown eyes onto him, with such intensity that it was hard to refute what she said next. “We may have a bruise or two, the occasional bloody nose, but however bad it is for us, they’ll have it worse once the full fleet gets mobile.”
“I hope you’re right, Nadi.”
“You can count on it.”
With that she turned back to her displays, whilst he returned his attention to the Conn. With only two of them on the Bridge he preferred to man a console, rather than sit in his designated chair—he only did that when they were at red alert and all eight of the ship’s crew were at their stations.
According to what he saw, all was quiet. They remained on course, their speed constant at warp four (any faster and their warp signature would be too easily detected and traced, even with the graviton pulse they were using to disperse their emissions), and the navigational array showed nothing ahead of them. There wasn’t much more he could determine from the sensors as they were set to passive sweeps, whilst the H’krii
itself was on Grey Mode so as to limit their energy output as much as possible.
It wasn’t often they took such extreme precautions to maintain a low profile, in spite of that however his crew had put their training into practice without a thought—as though they operated in such a manner every other week. It was times like these that made him even prouder to command the H’krii
and her small complement than he already was.
They went about their duties under an easy quiet. It was something that Ilahn had always been conscious of when he’d first been given command, he wanted to have a relaxed and easy going feel to his ship, which was why he allowed them a lot of leeway when it came to uniforms (he preferred to work in his red duty shirt and waistcoat, Nadi was just in her duty shirt with the collar open) and didn’t stick to the rigours of protocol (he called his crew by their names and they call him by his, well most of them did). No doubt others in the Squadron thought that there were continuous orgies going on throughout the ship, or that they ran through the corridors naked—he’d heard all the jokes possible for a ship staffed just with Deltans.
The quiet was broken with a chirp from Ops. He looked over just as Nadi was answering the alert and studying the latest sensor sweeps. After only a few seconds, she glanced back at him, her face serious.
“Three Talarian ships have just entered sensor range.”
“Have they spotted us?”
She looked back at the display and shook her head. “Negative. They are on a heading of two-one-six-mark-zero-zero-three, holding steady at warp six.”
Ilahn quickly brought up the star charts for the region and plotted their most likely heading. What he saw puzzled him.
“They’re course will take them towards the Hedakas System,” he mused aloud. “There’s nothing there.”
Hedakas was a system on the outskirts of the Republic, but despite its location it was seen as strategically unimportant. It only had a gas giant and three barren moons, none of which contained anything worth mining. Why three ships would be falling back to there was a mystery.
“From the looks of these readings, I’d say they were freighters.”
He turned back to the Operations Manager, an eye brow raised. Tapping the intercom he announced, “All hands to stations.”
Rising from the Conn, he moved to Ops and looked over the readouts, a theory starting to form in his mind. He and Nadi worked on the sensors, squeezing every last iota of data out of the passive sweeps that they could. Three minutes after he had called everyone to their posts, the doors opened and in marched Lieutenant Yinn, immaculately presented in his full uniform.
He glanced at his Tactical console then at Ilahn and Nadi. It took a split second for him to decide and approach them.
Ilahn didn’t look up from the screens he was monitoring, hoping that his theory was right. “We’ve just picked up three Talarian freighters. I want to monitor their movements; I think we might have found something useful. Keep monitoring sensors, make sure no warships sneak up on us.”
“Aye sir,” his XO replied, turned on his heel and moved over to Tactical, just as Petty Officer Ama stepped onto the Bridge and took her place at Conn.
“Ama, lay in a parallel course to those freighters. Maintain warp four.”
“Yes Ilahn,” the flight controller replied and adjusted their heading.
There was silence on the Bridge as the four Deltans worked quietly, each of them keeping a close eye on their sensors and readouts, just as they had done since the incursion had begun. Ilahn was immensely proud of his little ship and his crew; he had assumed command of the H’krii
two years ago and been able to handpick his small crew, all of whom had continued to serve under him since the very first day. All-Deltan crews were a rarity in any division of Starfleet, so the chance to serve on such a ship was rare, but he had wanted to let himself and others of his people have a chance to flourish in an environment where they had no restrictions imposed on them by the Oath—the same way all-Vulcan crews avoided the more turbulent emotions of others and all-Andorian ships were a little more militaristic than most others. Over the last two years, he had shown that his people were more than up to whatever challenge was given to them.
They continued to follow for almost an hour, the freighters remaining just within sensor range due to the differences in their speed. But they kept the Talarian ships in their sights, aware they were now within the Republic’s territory, but they had yet to detect any other ships close by. He moved from console to console, helping out the one manning the post and looking over their results himself. The theory that had presented itself seemed to be holding.
“Where are their other ships?” Nadi asked.
There was a moment’s pause on the Bridge. They had all been thinking the same thing, but no one had voiced the question until now.
“I think,” Ilahn began slowly, attracting the full attention of his crew, “that they’ve pushed so far and so fast into Federation space, that they’ve devoted so much of their forces to the advance that their support lines have been left unprotected.”
From what they had witnessed, the Talarians had plied at least a third of their Militia into the invasion with the primary object to seize as much territory as possible. As the advanced forces lead the attack, others were being left behind at the planets they had claimed to try and subdue the inhabitants and fortify their locations. It was a full-scale operation, but as Starfleet built its forces to repel them, they would divert more and more of their ships into holding the new boundaries they had created. It left an opening in their flank, one Ilahn hoped they had discovered.
“Ilahn, the freighters have entered the Hedakas System,” stated Ama.
He looked at her. “Drop us out of warp and hold position.” Then he looked at Nadi. “Ready a class-three probe, launch when ready.”
“Aye,” she replied, turning back to her controls. Class-three reconnaissance probes was designed to be undetectable, unless you exactly what to look for, and travelled at over warp nine. It would reach the system in a matter of minutes and start to compile data for them. “Probe launched,” she announced a moment later.
They only had to wait eight minutes for the probe to start transmitting. Ilahn was standing at Ops when the telemetry came through. He brought up a tactical display of the system, showing the star, gas giant, three moons, and, most importantly, the three freighters. They were heading for the planet, their course direct and holding steady at maximum impulse. The probe slowed down and moved further into the system, as it did several other contacts became obvious in the planets orbit.
“What are those?” he asked.
Yinn got in first. “They look to be orbital weapon platforms. We’ll need to get the probe closer in order to get more on their design and capabilities. I’m detecting over sixty of them so far, dispersed in a defensive grid around the planet.”
“I’ll edge the probe in closer, but we can’t get too close or they might detect the scans,” reported Nadi.
“As close as you can, Nadi,” he instructed, not taking his eyes from the three ships.
They were getting closer and closer to the gas giant, their course never altering, though he did note their speed decreased. What he did find unusual was that they weren’t moving to establish a standard orbit. Ama confirmed it a moment later.
“It looks like they’re heading into the atmosphere. Why would they do that?”
A chirp for the probe data answered her question.
“I’ve got a large metallic signature coming from within the upper atmosphere,” Nadi exclaimed, her body trembling in anticipation. “It was obscured from our long-range sensors by the gasses, but the probe has gotten close enough for a more thorough sweep.”
“It’s a supply base,” Yinn stated resolutely.
Ilahn smiled. Just as he’d hoped, they had stumbled onto their forward supply depot. No other Talarian bases were this far forward, so none of them would be suited for them to use to press the advance. Without this one base, their supply lines would crumble and the invasion would be halted.
“Nadi, keep the probe as close as possible and get me all the data you can. Yinn, begin assessing the tactical capabilities and threat of those platforms. Ama, keep monitoring for other Talarian ships,” he ordered quickly, moving to the communications board as they all acknowledged.
He set the scrambler, security encoded the message and then hit record. “This is the H’krii
. We have located what looks to be the Talarian supply base for the invasion, located within the atmosphere of the gas giant in the Hedakas System. There have so far been no patrols or warships in the region, but the planet is defended by weapon platforms in orbit—capabilities of which we are still assessing. All data on the platforms and the base is included with this transmission. We remain undetected and will continue to monitor the situation. All additional information will be sent out every three hours.”
Once he stopped recording, he pulled the isolinear chip onto which it had been recorded and tapped a signaller on the console. As he waited, he had Nadi transfer all the data they had gathered into other chips. A few moments later, Crewman Oron entered the bridge and approached him.
“You signalled, sir?”
“Oron,” he began handing the four chips to him, “install these on the next communications probe.”
“Aye.” With that the handsome Deltan hurried out as quickly as he entered, heading to the launcher bay directly below them.
Ilahn waited for only five minutes before he saw the comm probe was ready. He launched it. The probe would head back for Federation space, programmed on a course towards Star Station Freedom, but once it picked up the proper codes from a Starfleet ship it would zero in on its position and start signalling for retrieval. Like the class-three, it was fast and hard to spot, which would allow it to get to where it needed to go. Afterwards, Starfleet would be able to end this incursion in one short, sharp move.