Chapter 7 <cont'd>
“What are your impressions of the Federation’s tactics thus far?” Commander Xerix inquired of the others present at the large oval table aboard the warbird Cinecaar
. All six ships of their attack squadron were presently gathered in the upper atmosphere of a gas-giant, their leaders attending a commander’s conference prior to launching their planned assault.
Ejiul tr'Aimne of the Yowaen
cocked his head thoughtfully before replying, “I never thought I’d live to see the day when Starfleet finally found its backbone. The strategies and tactics employed by their task force in general, and Europa
in particular, are positively Rihannsu in their effectiveness.”
“Agreed,” Commander Suban tr’Utliss of the Roakel
offered in support. “That only serves to make the Federation more dangerous, not less. However, this new aggressive posture of theirs may work to serve our interests here in the Delta Quadrant.” She smiled thinly.
Sub-Commander Chalois kept her own counsel, conscious of the fact that although she commanded Vexam
, she continued to do so only at the sufferance of the others. This was compounded by her commoner ancestry, unlike the highborn pedigrees of the others, all of whom were affiliated with various great houses.
Until she achieved equal rank, Chalois would do well to tread softly in the presence of the other commanders. There were already rumors that some of her fellow warbird captains had labeled her ‘weak’, because she’d accepted Starfleet assistance rather than suffer the loss of her ship and crew.
Rather than participate in their entertaining but ultimately pointless debate over the Federation’s intentions, Chalois sought to direct the briefing towards their upcoming mission.
“We’ve learned some about the Ferou, both from our own probes as well as decrypted signals intercepts from Starfleet’s own reports on them,” Chalois stated. “However, much about them remains a mystery. We know they are highly advanced, even by the empire’s standards, and that their ships are able to sustain higher warp speeds for longer periods than any of the other invasive species we’ve observed thus far.”
Toreth grinned. “Always mindful of the next mission, eh, Sub-Commander?”
Chalois’ expression was a mask of studied neutrality. “It seemed appropriate, Commander. However, if you’d prefer to revisit the previous conversation, the floor is yours.”
“No, no,” Toreth laughed, waving away her concerns. “I had forgotten how tenacious you can be when an enemy is in your sights, Sub-Commander. If I recall correctly, you've always saved the more esoteric discussions for after the enemy’s necks were beneath our collective boot. You may continue.” He spared an admiring glance at Ejiul, both men having previously discussed their admiration for Chalois’ keen intellect and determination, not to mention her physical beauty.
She did so, proceeding as if he’d never interrupted. “What we don’t know is the exact biology of the Ferou, whether or not they’re humanoid. Their constituent hull materials prevent accurate biometric scans. Additionally, their weapons and shields appear quite formidable, but we have no accurate gauge of their tactical prowess in combat.”
“Meaning?” interjected Xerix, his tone abrasively haughty.
“Meaning, Commander, that although they are well armed, we have no idea if they can actually defend effectively against an attack. It’s possible that over the years their tactical profile alone has prevented others from mounting raids against them. If that’s the case, they may be all talon and no venom.”
“So much the better,” Suban crowed approvingly. “Are we still agreed on staging our opening attack to coincide with Starfleet’s First Contact with the Ferou?”
Xerix, senior among them, nodded emphatically. “Yes. Europa
has already made successful contact with them via subspace, and they’ll no doubt be fast friends by the time Starfleet arrives for their first face-to-face encounter. While this is occurring, we’ll string our cloaked mines in the path of their fleet. Then we’ll launch our strike from their flanks, hopefully prompting them to jump back to warp where they’ll impact our minefield at relativistic speeds. The destruction inflicted on them should be… significant.”
Inside, Chalois smoldered with fury at the idea of their using an ally’s First Contact as a staging ground for an unprovoked attack. However, to openly speak against the plan would be grounds for her ouster, a move that would effectively end her military career. Instead, she cloaked her disgust in the planning of operational matters. “And should Europa
move to engage us? What then?”
Toreth scowled as he envisioned such a turn of events. “They wouldn’t dare. They are our allies, and once battle has begun, they will have only two choices. They can join in our assault or they can flee like a pack of frightened hlai
, their tails firmly between their legs.”
Ejiul’s expression was similarly dour, but for a much different reason. “How can we be sure the Ferou will not voluntarily accede to Starfleet’s request to change course or settle nearby?” He glanced around the table, seeking like minds. “Should we not at least give them the opportunity to consider their options before moving to strike?”
“This course has already been decided at the highest levels of the Galae,” Xerix said evenly, a hint of danger tingeing his voice. “Access to Ferou weapons technology could advance Rihannsu arms by a generation almost overnight, and need I remind you that Europa
now possesses hyper-warp capability? Do any of you favor having a Federation battle fleet appear without warning in orbit of ch'Rihan? The very thought of our being at the mercy of as undisciplined and fractious a nation as the Federation freezes the blood in my veins.”
“So we initiate a sneak attack on their fleet and fly right into the sights of those very same advanced weapons?” Ejiul pressed, knowing his position and that of his family would soften any repercussions from his pushing the issue. “Is that really the best use of those few warbirds we’ve managed to fly intact through our wormhole?”
“When all is said and done, we will sift through the wreckage of their ships among our minefield for their weapons at our leisure,” Xerix announced coldly, his tone now brooking no argument. ”This discussion is now over