I'm glad you like the idea. I hope people aren't getting impatient over my putting "Quality" on hold for a moment. But this idea was in my head so I had to write it and get it out there so I can get back to writing "Quality".
Captain Erasia had barely sat back down in her command seat before the Starfleet communique she had been waiting on had arrived. After reviewing it privately in her ready room and sending the message on to her taskforce counterparts, Tan thought a meeting with her senior officers was in order.
From the head of the long, polished black table, shaped like a Starfleet chevron, she watched the reactions of her crew to the images on the display behind her. They were a cross section of compassion, empathy, terror, and anger. They had mirrored the emotions roiling inside her when she first viewed the footage.
The images were of the planet Hestravar, a colony under the protection of the Nyberrite Alliance. The Alliance had sent the data on to Starfleet Command which had rushed it to the Empress.
The colony world, which reports had described as lush was a hollowed out shell of its former self. Deep, ugly gouges crisscrossed the planet like scar tissue. Buildings and other structures lined the ground like broken teeth.
The caliginous clouds ringing the planet, the result of a global nuclear winter, reminded her of the scenes of postwar Cardassia Prime. And images of the few wretched, disfigured, and broken survivors among the oceans of the dead would haunt her forever.
The carnage was created by what the Nyberrites dubbed harvester drones, city-sized spheres that had roved the planet, plundering it for bio-mass, atmospheric gasses, and mineral deposits. Nyberrite scientists predicted that Hestravar had only two weeks of sustainability left.
That was the fate that awaited the Tholians, the Romulans, or anyone unfortunate enough to be in the way of the Kothlis’Ka. The captained trained her gaze on Commander Sheppard until the man noticed.
He returned her gaze, a stricken and contrite look on his face. “My God,” he muttered, “I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else, even our adversaries.”
“I don’t see how we have much of a choice,” Dr. Segen pronounced, with palpable gloom.
“The Kothlis’Ka armada destroyed at least nineteen Nyberrite capital ships that had tried to defend that colony.” The Mazarite medic ran a hand through his salt-and-pepper hair. “We are severely outmatched.”
“We’ve been outgunned before,” Flight Control Officer L’Naar replied, her whiskers twitching in annoyance at the doctor’s defeatism. “We’ll find a way to turn the odds in our favor this time as well.” The calico-furred Caitian glared at the doctor, running her tongue over her sharp incisors as if she was considering making him into a meal.
“From what we’ve seen of this footage, and from the account of Captain Tanaka, I don’t see how that is possible,” Segen said, stroking his goatee and girding for a fight. The man had left Starfleet because of his pro-Maquis leanings and only returned under order due to the need for skilled medical personnel during the Dominion War. “This isn’t one of the Satie administration’s carefully orchestrated public events, where every ill can be cured by a dose of good old Federation know-how, our innate superiority, or manifest destiny. This is the real galaxy and there are threats out there that even we can’t defeat; civilizations that are far more advanced than us; that view us as nothing more than insects.”
“I don’t think any of us need that lecture…again,” Security Chief Moeller retorted, her blue eyes flinty. “You’ve aired your views quite exhaustively over the years, yet still you remain in the organization you constantly disparage.” That sharp jab drew several nods of approval among the senior staff. Tan stopped herself from joining in.
Why Segen had stayed on after the war was anyone’s guess. Tan suspected that he furtively liked serving in the Fleet, though the Mazarite was never shy about critiquing the military aspects of the organization.
“And I will continue to do so because it is my right as a citizen, as a sapient being,” Segen replied. “And you all know I speak the truth. This is not just an impossible battle; it is one that we should not be undertaking.”
Erasia’s eyes shifted to her first officer. Feeling her gaze again, Sheppard stiffened in his seat. He had voiced similar sentiments only days ago in her office. Now, his expression was full of consternation. The captain wasn’t sure if it was because he was now opposed to not interfering or merely because it was the doctor who shared his mindset.
“I’m not going to debate that with you Dr. Segen,” Erasia replied, smoothly, but firmly. “We are going to do our best to prevent another Hestravar.”
“Or a Narcissus,” Sheppard added.
“Despite the bravado I just don’t see that happening,” Segen wouldn’t back down. “The Nyberrite fleet was shredded by solid neutronium slugs. Our shields can’t stand up to that.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Moeller’s grin was feral.
“Excuse me?” Segen asked, incredulous at the security officer’s boast.
“Enlighten the man Katrina,” Sheppard said, beating the captain to the punch.
“Yes sir,” Moeller nodded at both Sheppard and Erasia before she continued. “Thoron shielding.”
“That’s theoretical,” the Mazarite scoffed.
“Not so,” Science Officer K’Baara waded into the discussion. “My counterpart on the Baltimore has devised a thoron-based screen that should be stronger than traditional shielding, which has thus far proven ineffective against the Kothlis’Ka’s neutronium weaponry.”
“What’s the drawback?” Segen pressed.
“The power drain will be significant,” The bronze Chezkenite science officer replied without hesitation. “We will need to draw power from every source, including weapons, propulsion, structural integrity, and life support, if we want to enact a long-sustaining shield.”
“How much will that affect our propulsion systems?” Lt. Commander Thav worriedly asked. Lt. K’Baara turned his enlarged head carefully on his thin neck to look at the Andorian engineer as he spoke to him.
“Warp power will be impossible and while full impulse is achievable, it’s recommended that the ship travel only at half-impulse or lower while the thoron screen is activated,” the science officer said.
“That will reduce our maneuverability a great deal,” Thav replied, not pleased. But the Andorian said nothing more.
“So that will reduce the yields of our armaments?” Segen nearly threw back his head.
“That reminds me of an old Earth saying about cutting off your nose to spite your face. That shield might buy us a few seconds but it robs the ship’s ability to actually damage Kothlis’Ka vessels.”
“While it might impede our phaser banks, our complement of photon and quantum torpedoes will remain unaltered,” Moeller pointed out.
“And there are other options available to us,” Sheppard added.
“The unmanned warp combat vehicles,” Segen said, his voice becoming frosty. He was a vocal opponent of the increased usage of the UWCVs since the Talarian Incursion. The medic felt that the weapons detached leaders and citizens from the real consequences of military action and could lead to adventurism.
“Yes,” the captain interjected, wishing to head off another futile bit of pique from the Mazarite. Though brilliant and often engaging, the captain wasn’t in the mood for Segen’s moralizing at the moment. “I also intend to use quantum mines to disrupt and alter the course of the armada.”
“It would help if the Tholians could send some of their ships,” Operations Officer Aarti said, “But so far, they have not responded to our long-range hails.” The thin Andorian’s expression conveyed her deep disappointment over the Tholians’ silence.
“Nor have the Romulans,” Sheppard added. “They might not know what’s coming their way, but more than likely they just aren’t replying. Perhaps they don’t want to be seen as getting assistance from us.” He shook his head, an expression of disgust contorting his features. “They would probably consider it a sign of weakness.”
“We’ll they’re getting our help whether they want it or not,” Erasia declared. “And I have every confidence in you all to have your departments ready to insure that this crew and ship performs at its peak.” They all nodded at her assertion, even a still reluctant Segen, to the captain’s challenge.
Erasia sat back and allowed herself a smile as she looked on at her senior staff as they talked among themselves, the din rising in the observation lounge. It was the best bunch of people she had ever served with, and she was honored that most accepted her decision to track down and impede the Kothlis’Ka armada. They trusted her with their lives and it was a solemn duty she had to respect to the utmost.
The weight of the responsibility turned her smile a bit sad. She cleared her throat and all of the side conversations came to a halt. Everyone shifted their attention back to her. Self-consciously Tan tugged down on her tunic and wet her throat.
“It is not my intention to dismiss the gravity of the task before us,” She nodded in Segen’s direction. He nodded back. “And Dr. Segen has made several valid arguments, and dissent is always welcome in my meetings, so for that I thank him.” She paused, unsure how to say what was in her heart. Eventually, she just let it out, “This might be our last meeting together…and I thought it might be appropriate to bring this meeting to a close in the ways we sometimes did on the Gral.”
Tan’s smile turned mischievous as she looked at Thav. “On my mark Mr. Thav.” The stocky Andorian sat up in his seat.
“I’m at the ready Captain,” the grinned.
“Mark then,” Erasia motioned.
Thav tapped his compin. “Energize.” The familiar whine and harsh blue-white light of the transporter effect gave way to a tray containing several glasses surrounding a bottle filled with a rich purple liquid.
“Nelag,” Tan said, impressed. Thav had promised that the beverage would be special, though the captain had thought he would pick something exotic, like a potion from the Gamma Quadrant or some other far-flung locale. Instead he had gone with her favorite Andorian spirit. The last time he had shared the libation with her was to celebrate the end of the Dominion War.
For a big man, Thav moved quickly, placing glasses in front of all of the senior officers. On the second round he poured quick dashes of the violet liquid into each glass. They all mimicked the captain as she held her glass aloft.
Tan knew that was as far as Moeller would go. Her Islamic faith forbade her from ingesting alcohol. “To the best crew in Starfleet,” Erasia toasted.
“To the best captain,” L’Naar said.
“Seriously L’Naar, you pick now of all times to buck for a promotion?” Aarti teased. The laughter afterwards almost felt as good to the captain as the drink.