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Old September 13 2013, 07:34 PM   #1
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Lower Deck Tales: Celestial Fire

Lower Deck Tales

Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.
– George Washington

“We have now received confirmation from a number of independent sources that Starfleet carried out a counter-attack against Talarian forces at some point around 0400 hours Federation Standard Time. Our sources tell us that Starfleet once again utilized so-called UWCVs or Unmanned Warp Combat Vehicles to carry out the assault. This marks the third time Starfleet has used these weapons against the Talarians since they began their incursion into Federation territory last week and following heavy initial losses on the Federation side.

The target appears to have been a Talarian starship facility and early estimates confirm that the facility along with three to four starships either being built or undergoing refits have been destroyed. We take you now live to the Palais de la Concorde in Paris, Earth for a press conference by Federation Press Secretary Nellen Tore.”

The newsfeed which had been playing footage of Talarian and Starfleet starships in combat—a trained eye would have noticed that most of it had been taken not from the current conflict but from the Galen border wars dating back over two decades—was replaced by the image of a podium adorned with the Federation seal. A tall woman with an elaborate hairstyle, featuring two small buns on the top of her head and a prominent ridge running up her nose and forehead stepped up behind it. “I have a quick statement to make and then will take a limited amount of questions. There will be a follow up briefing this afternoon with additional details,” she said and then quickly looked at a padd she had brought before placing both her hands at the side of the podium and glancing at the press corps sitting in front of her but which was hidden from the newsfeed. “At 0418 hours this morning, the Starfleet vessel USS Eagle—a Nebula-class cruiser, for those of you who find that information pertinent—launched four unmanned weapon platforms against a target in orbit of Castal VII. At 0525 we received positive confirmation that the targeted starship facility along with three vessels stationed there were destroyed or disabled in the attack. All four assault crafts returned to the starship Eagle under their own power and were retrieved at 0611 hours.”

“Do you have a Talarian casualty count yet?” a voice from the audience asked.

Tore consider the man sharply. “No, not yet. Those details will follow in the later briefing. And I’m not finished with the statement, I’d appreciate if you could wait to ask your questions until then.” She took a small breath before continuing, now looking directly into the newsfeed’s visual pickup. “President Satie and this Administration want to make it clear, not just to the Talarians, but also to any other foreign power which seeks to engage in unprovoked and unjustified war against the Federation, that we will go to whatever lengths are necessary to protect our citizens and our territory from any and all foreign aggression. Any attack on the Federation will be met with unprecedented military force. And those who believe that we will continue to merely defend ourselves against attacks should take heed from today’s events. We will, if necessary, strike anytime and anywhere, against any and all legitimate targets to encourage the Talarians to immediately withdraw from our territory, as well as discourage any other power seeking aggression against us,” she said, letting that sink in for a moment. “I will now take a few of your questions.”

The same voice as before beat everyone else to it. “Does this signal a tactical change in the way we will fight off this incursion?”

She nodded. “I believe that’s what I just said, Borus. Please pay attention.”

“And this more aggressive stance is not limited to this current conflict alone?” said another voice, this one female. “The president is declaring a new military strategy, then?”

“That is correct,” the press secretary said. “We will, wherever necessary, bring to force the entire power of Starfleet with extreme prejudice whenever we see our borders and our citizens threatened in a manner such as this.”

“Selik for FNS.”

Tore rolled her eyes. “I know full well who you are Selik. Everyone here does, you don’t have to introduce yourself every time.”

There was a soft chuckle going through the crowd but the heavily pragmatic voice continued unperturbed. “The Federation has suffered heavy losses during the recent Dominion War. Some estimate that Starfleet has lost 53% of its ships and personnel during that conflict alone. Am I correct to assume that this new strategy will mostly be based on Starfleet’s recently introduced UWCV platforms?”

“Unmanned warp combat vessels will form a key element of Federation military policy moving forward, yes,” she said and nodded her head. “And we expect to rely on these platforms to a significant degree should the Talarians not abandon their current designs.

But let’s make one point particularly clear. The Federation will no longer tolerate this form of aggression and our enemies will have no place to hide if they decide to test us in this manner. We will find them and we will destroy them. Wherever they may be.”

* * *

“About damn time that we showed some teeth. And those things are just the way to do it. We’ve been testing them since the final days of the Dominion War but never got around of deploying them,” said Kerra Owens while she was sipping on a large glass of orange juice and watching the newsfeed displayed on the large window turned monitor of her living room.

Her husband, Vincent, was serving French toast, serving it up on multiple plates on the counter of the open-plan kitchen. “I don’t know how I feel about that. Satie is practically sounding like a Klingon. Is that who we are now? Belligerent and with a take-no-prisoners attitude towards war? The Federation was founded on the prospects of peace and collaboration and now Starfleet is essentially sending out automated machines to go into battle for us.”

Kerra, already wearing her crimson red uniform shirt along with the four golden pips decorating her collar turned towards him with a look of surprise etched into her features. “You can’t be serious? We’re just defending ourselves here. The Talarians started this, sending entire fleets against our outlying border colonies without provocation. A number of worlds have already fallen, Starfleet and the Border Service have lost ships and a lot of good people.”

“I’m not disputing that,” he said. “But I don’t like the idea of war getting too easy. Of some people light-years removed pressing a few buttons to destroy the enemy. If that’s all that it takes, what’ll stop us from starting the next one?”

“Vince, you know I love you but you’re a hopeless idealist.”

He shrugged. “Better an idealist than a warmongerer.”

“I don’t like war any more than the next guy, and I’m positive Satie and Starfleet Command aren’t looking for one, but we can’t afford to just sit back and take another hit on the chin like that. Not after what we’ve been through.”

“I’m not a total pacifist. I believe in fighting back if somebody’s trying to take away our freedoms. But I don’t want to see mindless machines doing it for us.”

His Starfleet wife considered that for a moment. “Okay, here’s a hypothetical questions for you, I hope you will never have to face. Say the Talarians come to Earth and my Sol Defense Squad has to go out and fight off the attacking fleet. Would you rather have me go out there with a crew of living and breathing people trying to hold off the enemy or would you prefer we send out the UWCVs, which might not only stop them in their tracks but do so with no casualties on our side.”

“That’s not fair. Besides that’s self-defense,” he said and pointed at the winding down news broadcast on the screen. “What we did here was an attack deep behind enemy lines.”

She emptied her glass of juice. “War isn’t fair, now is it? Besides the difference is merely semantic. The Talarians attacked us. We are defending ourselves by making the war too costly for them to continue. Surely you can see that.”

“I’m worried about where we draw the line.”

“You’re worried about the sun coming up in the morning,” she said with a grin. “You have to be able to believe in the institutions we have put in place to make these determinations. About much smarter people than you and me making these calls for us and for the good of all the Federation.”

“Honey, you’ve never sounded more like a Starfleet yes-girl in all your life,” he said with a frown. “What if those institutions fail us? What then?”

“Then my dear husband, we’re all doomed,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes.

“That’s what I thought,” he said and took a bite out of his French toast.

Captain Kerra Owens turned to look at the third person in the room, the young man in his cadet uniform sitting quietly by the counter and munching on his breakfast, keeping his head down. “Rhory, would you not like to come to your mother’s defense here, seeing that you are one of those smart people the Federation’s future rests on.”

“I’m not that smart, mom. Just another first-year cadet among thousands,” he said without looking up.

She took a step closer. “Really? You could have fooled me seeing that you aced every Starfleet Academy aptitude test ever devised and are well on your way to fulfill your dream of becoming a Starfleet captain one day just like your old lady,” she said and looked at her clearly equally proud husband. “What did Professor Sullivan call him again?”

“I think his exact words were: ‘The damn smartest sentient being this side of Vulcan.’”

“He did not say that!” Rhory Owens insisted, putting down his food and standing up.

“Hey now, you can’t help being a smart cookie,” his mother said with a grin. “Runs in the family.”

“Whatever. And just to be clear, I want to be a starship captain. Not an officer in the Defense Squad. You know, like my cousin on Eagle?”

Kerra gave him a mocked hurt expression. “Don’t wound me so.”

“Sure, you could be another boring old starship captain, gallivanting around the galaxy like the famous Michael Owens, even if he seems to be spending most of his time these days sitting near a border and launching fancy missiles at our enemy from a safe distance,” said his father.

“Vince,” Kerra warned him, clearly not appreciating his condescending tone while speaking of her cousin-in-law.

He raised his hands defensively. “I’m just saying, the real glory is in science.”

“Actually, I was thinking working myself through operations. Wear a gold shirt before trading it in for red.”

Vincent Owens uttered a puff. “Operations officers are nothing but glorified administrators.”

Rhory quickly picked up a few padds and headed towards the door. “Whatever you say, dad, I gotta run, I’m gonna be late for classes.”

“Dinner at seven tonight?” his mother called after him.

“Sure,” he said just as he slipped out of the door.

* * *
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