“For the record, I think this is a mistake,” said the lithe Kriosian first officer as she stepped into the turbolift next to Captain Glover.
“Bridge,” said Terrence and then shot Nandali Kojo a sidelong glance. “Just because you keep saying that doesn’t mean I’m going to change my mind about this.”
The woman with the cinnamon-colored skin was not willing to drop the matter just yet, she was too much of a fighter to give up so easily and Terrence was hardly surprised. A woman who had once been married to a Klingon warrior knew how to fight her battles. “Donners is inexperienced and untested. Being a first officer on a starbase and your father’s adjutant does not make her qualified to lead men into battle. You should have let me lead the away mission.”
Kojo also tended to speak her mind quite freely. It was a tendency Glover could respect. Most of the time. “I don’t care for your tone, Commander.”
“This mission is too important to allow a novice taking the reigns,” she continued as if she had not just been reprimanded by her superior officer.
“We were all novices sometime.”
“The safety of the entire quadrant could be at stake here. Do you honestly believe this is the kind of mission that suits itself as her proving ground?”
He smirked at that. “Always been big on trial by fire.”
She responded with a serious expression. “All due respect, I think you’re letting your personal feelings for Captain Donners cloud your judgment.”
“Computer, halt lift.”
The turbolift immediately stopped and the broad-shouldered captain of the Cuffe
wheeled on his first officer, causing her to flinch slightly by the unexpected gesture before quickly steeling herself again.
“Respect has been sadly lacking from this entire conversation, Commander. I believe I give you plenty of leeway on this ship to speak your mind but you’re dangerously close to stepping over that line,” he said, his voice low but firm. “Amaya is a friend and nothing more and if I were really as concerned about her as you seem to be implying, I would have made sure that I’d lead that mission not you and certainly not her. And if that had been the case, would you have preferred her to be in charge of Cuffe
while I’d be gone?”
To her credit, the woman held his piercing gaze and Terrence couldn’t help but admire her for it. “I suppose not.”
“That’s what I thought,” he said and turned back around to face the doors. “Computer, continue.”
“Just a friend and nothing more?” Kojo mumbled under her breath and aimed a furtive glance into his direction.
He had a little smirk on his face. “Absolutely.”
The doors to the lift opened and the two officers stepped onto the bridge.
“Report,” Kojo barked, beating the captain to it by a mere heartbeat.
Lieutenant Commander Bheto quickly rose from the command chair in one fluid motion, her blue antennae sanding at attention. “All shuttles and runabouts are on course and on track to make planetfall in exactly …” she shot a quick glance at the countdown displayed at the corner of the main viewscreen, “seventeen minutes and twelve seconds.”
Kojo nodded and the Andorian returned to her usual station at operations while Glover reclaimed his seat.
Operation Pandora’s Box as Donners had taken to call it, presumably because of both Omega’s and Agamemnon
’s Greek connections and more importantly the danger inherent to the unstable molecule, was now well underway and as far as Terrence could recall, it was perhaps the single largest operation he had ever been part of involving only two starships. A total of 200 security personnel and Marines, ferried on twelve shuttles and two runabouts were about to engage a significantly larger force in a ground battle without the direct assistance of transporters or effective orbital bombardment. He didn’t exactly envy Amaya for having chosen to lead that mission.
“Captain, we may have a problem,” said the Andorian only moments after she had taken ops again.
“We’re not even two minutes into this mission, Commander. How about holding off with problems until we are further along?”
“I wish it could wait,” she said.
Glover stood and took position behind Bheto, Kojo quickly joining him at his side. “What is it?”
“Romulans, sir,” she said.
“Toreth is making a move. Now?” asked the first officer.
But Bheto shook her head. “It’s not the Khazara
. She has remained cloaked ever since the attack on the Borg vessel. This is worse,” she said and then manipulated her controls to display a tactical map of the sector onto he main screen.
Glover looked up to see the Iota Crucis system along with a number of small blue Starfleet deltas indicating Cuffe
and the shuttles and runabouts approaching the moon. Not too far away was an icon symbolizing the disabled Borg ship. Other than that, he found the map showing nothing else of note.
Kojo seemed to have arrived at the same conclusions. “What are we looking at here, Commander?” she said, her voice betraying a hint of impatience.
“Give me a moment,” she said and worked on her console again.
The screen was overlaid with a higher resolution sensor filter and then zoomed in closer to a position less than a light-year from Iotia Curcis IV to focus on three blurry signals, barely visible with the naked eye.
“Okay,” said Glover. “What’s that?”
“My best guess is that those are three Romulan warbirds on a direct intercept course and traveling at full impulse under cloak.”
“Then why can we see them at all?” said the first officer.
“The recent release of Omega molecules is playing havoc with the fabric of subspace in this system and beyond,” she said. “Commander N’Saba might be able to explain the science better than I can, but to put it in layman’s terms, the Romulan cloaking devices seem to be unable to cope with it when traveling at high impulse.”
Glover nodded, pretending the explanation didn’t bore him. “The more important questions is how much time do we have until they get here?”
Bheto looked up. “At their current rate of travel, I say less than three hours.”
The first officer attractive facial features turned into one of grave concern. “That’s not giving us a lot of time for the away teams to locate and destroy the Omega molecules.”
“There is always something,” Terrence muttered and headed back to his chair. “Glover to Rojas.”
“Commander Rojas here, go ahead, sir,”
the chief engineers voice responded over the internal comm.
“Pedro what’s the progress on your fancy resonance chamber?”
“We’ve all but finished with the exterior framework. We’re now in the process of calibrating the actual resonance force fields. It’s a tricky process but N’Saba thinks we can start testing it within an hour or so. Maybe two.”
Glover sighed. “Pedro, I’ve told Donners and everyone else that we’re all but done with this thing and now you’re telling me this? You’re not going to make me a liar now, are you?”
“This is very sensitive equipment we’re talking about. If we don’t get this just right and we try to beam the molecules into the chamber, we might blow us up in the process. Not to mention destroy half the quadrant.”
“Do me a favor and spare me the lecture on the inherent risk of the Omega molecule. Trust me, I’m well aware. Just get this done and done fast. Glover out.”
“Put me through to Captain Donners on the Nelson Mandela
Moments later Amaya’s face appeared on the view screen, sitting in the pilot chair on board of her runabout. Glover wasn’t surprised that she was helming the small vessel herself. She was about as hands-on a captain he had ever encountered.
She handed the controls over to her pilot before she turned to face her fellow captain. “I don’t like that expression,”
she said, apparently quite able to read the worry lines crossing his brow.
“No reason you should,” he said. “We’ve detected more Romulans on their way to crash our party. They’re limited to impulse thanks to the subspace damage but they are already close enough for us to smell their ale. We have three hours, maybe less.”
she said. “Toreth did mention that her reinforcements were on their way. Once they get here, with the
Khazara already lurking, we’ll be completely outgunned.”
Glover nodded. “You may not have time to try and neutralize every single particle you find down there. Which means you may have to beam them right into our resonance chamber instead.”
She looked suspicious. “I’d be more comfortable shutting things down from the ground than start beaming unstable molecules onto your ship. Besides, will the chamber be ready?”
“Yes,” he said with utter confidence.
It was enough to convince her and she nodded. “Alright. We’ll try our absolute best to neutralize the molecules first but if we do run out of time, we’ll use the resonance chamber. Once Omega is out of the picture we’ll scuttle the generators and the Romulans should lose their designs on the Xenarth and this system.”
“That’s the plan.”
She looked pained at that. “You know what they say about plans.”
“All we can do now is let it play itself out and deal with any problems if and when they arise.”
She nodded in agreement. “We’re less than fifteen minutes from insertion.”
Terrence glanced at the view screen. “Orbital bombardment will commence in eight,” he said. He hadn’t agreed initially with the plan that would commence a fake orbital bombardment before the shuttles had even made contact, arguing that it would cause them to lose the element of surprise. But he also understood that it was necessary to mask their true intentions, drilling deep into the surface of the moon to allow the assault teams to attack from below.
“Make sure your aims is true,”
she said. “We’re going to be right in your line of fire.”
“I’ll try to remember that,” he said with a smirk. “After all you still owe me that dinner you promised me back on DS5.”
She smiled good-naturedly. “We make it out of this in one piece and you’ve got yourself a date, mister.”
“I’ve already picked the wine.”
She nodded sharply. “See you on the flipside, Captain. Donners Out.”
And with that she disappeared from the screen.
Kojo aimed a rather displeased look at her captain after the channel had closed.
Terrence felt what was coming and pre-empted it. “Stow it, Commander.”