Passing of the Torch

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Dec 21, 2019.

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Pava's protective instinct for Sandhurst kicked in early but one has to wonder if he's not overplaying his hand here a bit.

    The man is nauturally gifted at issuing veiled, and not so veiled, threats but the question is, was it appropriate to do so here?

    Maybe Pava is still adjusting to this new life as well.
     
    TheLoneRedshirt and Gibraltar like this.
  2. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Ironic, in that Bartolo actually showed maturity and good leadership qualities in his interaction with Sandhurst. Maybe Pava assumed that Bartolo had given Donald a hard time and decided to intervene. Or maybe Pava just doesn't like Bartolo. Either way, the bad blood between the two could cause serious problems if the ship gets into a real (as opposed to simulated) battle situation. More than academic grades will be on the line. Hopefully the cadets' performance improves before they face the real thing.
     
    Gibraltar likes this.
  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    USS Pétain

    Lieutenant Sonel made sure to play the transmission back a second time to make certain he’d heard it correctly. He knew his report would set in motion a great many things, most of them quite serious, and the fastidious Vulcan needed to be assured he was on firm footing.

    Once Sonel was certain of his facts, he touched a hand to his combadge, summoning the scout ship’s commanding officer, Lt. Commander Gioele Raffaele.

    Raffaele’s response was unsurprisingly disjointed. “Wha— what the hell, Sonel,” he groaned. “It’s not even 0600 hours.”

    Raffaele was nursing a hangover. That in and of itself was not unusual, seeing as Raffaele was a functioning alcoholic. The degree to which he was functional, however, depended on the day in question.

    Ever the pragmatist, Sonel merely said, “I regret that the interruption is unavoidable under the circumstances, Captain. We’ve received confirmation from an asset in the Cuellar system that the Second Order’s fleet has departed their layover four days ahead of schedule. This, coupled with our information on their increased logistics timetable is suggestive of imminent military action.”

    There was the sound of fumbling in the background, and then the hiss of a hypospray. “Understood,” Raffaele replied in a steadier voice. “On my way.”

    Sonel and the other twenty crew of the intelligence scout Pétain tolerated Raffaele’s drinking because when he was sober, the man was one of the finest intelligence analysts and commanding officers any of them had ever encountered. Raffaele had been a rising star in Starfleet Intelligence until his problematic drinking had resisted multiple attempts at treatment, and in lieu of outright termination, he’d been shunted into the open command billet of what amounted to a mobile intelligence platform.

    Stationed along the Federation/Cardassian border, Raffaele and his crew had been tasked with keeping eyes and ears on the ever-scheming Cardassian Union. They were part of an early-warning system that would, hopefully, alert the Federation to any aggressive actions by the Union before lives were lost.

    Raffaele entered the command center moments later, his uniform rumpled and creased. It wasn’t easy to do with a form-fitting one-piece jumpsuit, but somehow he managed to pull it off. Sonel’s heightened olfactory senses could easily detect the alcohol on the captain’s breath and seeping from his pores.

    The ‘bridge’ of Pétain, if it could be called that, was a small, Spartan affair. All the workstations were set into claustrophobic alcoves save for the expansive intelligence analysis suite, the largest console in the compartment.

    Sonel decoupled the lock on his chair and moved it along its floor track to make way for Raffaele as he took the compact folding jump-seat next to him. “Let’s see what we’ve got here,” he muttered blearily.

    A flurry of charts, graphs, and intel reports popped up on various screens in front of him, and Raffaele drank it all in, despite his being at considerably less than one-hundred percent.

    “Well… shit,” he said gravely after a few minutes. “I was really hoping you were wrong, old chap.”

    “Then you confirm my analysis,” Sonel summarized.

    Raffaele heaved a sigh. “Yes,” he said grudgingly.

    Sonel nodded sagely. “Then it is incumbent upon you to ‘show me the currency’, sir.”

    The captain gave his Vulcan XO a theatrical look of surprise. “You’re hustling me? Now? When we’re likely on the brink of war?”

    “A bet is a bet,” Sonel offered stolidly. “You yourself set the parameters. Double-or-nothing, due to your recurrent losses in our poker game.”

    “I don’t recall that, Mister Sonel. You must be mistaken,” Raffaele dissembled, clearly stalling.

    “With respect, Captain, I beat you like the proverbial expired equine. By the rules of our financial arrangement, you must make good your wager.”

    Raffaele gave another faux-sigh. “Fine.” He called up an ancillary display to deliver the required latinum from his personal stores with one hand as he flagged their collective intelligence assessment for immediate delivery to Starfleet with the other.

    “Would you care to double down, Lieutenant? We could bet on the Second Order’s intended targets?”

    Sonel raised an eyebrow. “By my calculations, I have already nearly depleted your present stores of gold-pressed latinum, making further high-value wagers a losing proposition from my standpoint. Additionally, betting on potential Cardassian targets where Federation citizens would be the intended victims is morally questionable.”

    Raffaele shrugged. “You make a good point. Okay, all wagers aside, where do you think they’ll hit first?”

    “Based on the capabilities of the Second Order, the military craft involved, and given Legate Verun’s tendency towards exercising caution and utilizing overwhelming force, I believe their intended targets to be somewhere in the vicinity of the Setlik or Ronara systems.”

    Raffaele drummed his fingers on the lip of the console, lost in thought as he contemplated this. “Very well considered, my friend. However, with the information we received last month about Verun’s tenuous relationship with Central Command, I believe that he needs to do something big to salvage his reputation and his career. He’s got a host of young bucks nipping at his heels who’d happily take his place and would love to launch something daring with a high-degree of difficulty in order to make a name for themselves.”

    “You’re suggesting an attack on the two closest, less well defended targets is too conservative for him at this juncture?” Sonel inquired.

    “I do. Even if they razed both of our colonies in that sector, we’re only talking fifteen-thousand inhabitants. It’s an attention-grabber, to be sure, but Verun needs something more ambitious. Our logistics analysis confirmed he’s had elements of the Fifth Order’s shock troop contingent transferred to his command for an indeterminate period. That’s nearly doubled his surface-troop strength. Given that unit’s experiences with seizing and occupying inhabited planets, it suggests that he intends to take something big and keep it.”

    “A more concentrated number of larger Federation colonies?” Sonel posited.

    As he called up a star chart, Raffaele tapped the display with his finger. “Here.”

    “The Pleiades,” Sonel noted. “The Detapa Council has been exerting diplomatic pressure regarding the recent expansion of the Federation’s footprint there.”

    “If Legate Verun could seize our colonies in the Pleiades Cluster, not only would he solidify his standing with Central Command, he’d also get his foot in the door politically with the Detapa Council. He’d be effectively untouchable, even by the Obsidian Order.”

    “Will Intel Command agree with your assessment?”

    Raffaele smiled disarmingly. “They’ll have to. After all, I’m right.”


    * * *​


    Sandhurst’s half-hearted attack resulted in th’Skaar side-stepping, tripping him as he passed, and then assisting his descent to the padded floor.

    “Use your opponent’s momentum against them,” the commander instructed as he helped Sandhurst back to his feet. “If you’re facing multiple threats, keep as many of them off balance as possible. While a threat is busy picking themselves off the ground, they’re not attacking you.”

    Th’Skaar gestured for another cadet to come out onto the mats and join Sandhurst. Midshipman Regina Daughtry stepped forward. The Andorian officer moved back and invited the two cadets to attack. Daughtry came at him first, ahead of the reticent Sandhurst. She threw a punch at th’Skaar, which he blocked and then closed the distance to grab a hold of her, drawing her in and using her as barrier to thwart Sandhurst’s following attack as he grappled with her.

    “Try as much as possible to use one threat as a barrier to the others. Unlike popular entertainment portrays, your enemies won’t attack one at a time. They’ll rush you all at once if they can.”

    He set the class to sparring among themselves, more senior cadets instructing the junior ones under th’Skaar’s watchful eye.

    Lar’ragos was moving to pair up with Sandhurst when Bartolo intercepted him.

    “Mister Lar’ragos, with me.”

    He dutifully followed the larger man to a corner of the mat-room. Bartolo turned to face him. “Attack.”

    Lar’ragos advanced, throwing a slow training punch which Bartolo easily parried and then answered with a series of strikes; jab, cross, uppercut and hook. Lar’ragos blocked some of the blows and covered his face with his forearms to absorb others.

    They fell into an easy rhythm with one playing the aggressor and then the other.

    “It’s good that you’re looking out for Donald,” Bartolo said, blocking a strike before dropping to a crouch and delivering a low-power blow to Lar’ragos’ exposed ribs, “but you’re missing the whole picture.”

    “Picture’s pretty clear from where I’m standing,” Lar’ragos replied, driving a hook at Bartolo’s head which he intercepted with a gloved hand.

    “You’ve known the kid for two weeks.” More combinations now, changing up the tempo and targets on one-another’s bodies. “I’ve been with him for a year. There’s a method to what I’m doing, one you’re not privy to.”

    Lar’ragos threw a kick at Bartolo’s legs, which the larger man blocked with a raised pad-clad shin. “So bullies have better organization than when I was young,” Lar’ragos remarked dryly. “I guess that’s progress.”

    “Donny’s just like my kid brother, a total gear-head. Great with machines, not so good with people.” Punch, kick, block, punch. “That awkwardness makes him a target for real bullies, and unfortunately the academy still has its share of them.”

    “I’ve noticed.”

    Their tempo increased along with the power behind their strikes as each man came to their own determination that the other could cope with such.

    “I give him grief, but never more than he can handle. I’ve also marked him as my ‘territory.’ Other would-be bullies know the only person who can mess with him is me.”

    “Then why mess with him at all? Why not just leave the kid alone?”

    “Because he has to learn. Life is friction and humanoids are cliquish. We handle him with kid gloves here and then what? His first assignment out of the academy and he’s got some jackass junior lieutenant trying to make his name by riding the ensigns into the deck. How’s he going to deal with that if he’s had no experience with it?”

    Their conversation was cut short by th’Skaar calling the training session to a close. The other cadets filtered out heading for the sonic showers, but Bartolo and Lar’ragos remained in their corner. The Andorian gave the pair a questioning look.

    “With respect, Commander, Mister Lar’ragos and I have some issues to work out.”

    Th’Skaar looked from one to the other and then nodded fractionally. He turned and left without a word.

    Bartolo turned to look at Lar’ragos. “You’ve been holding back. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

    “That’s a bad idea,” Lar’ragos warned.

    The security cadet rushed him, throwing punches at full speed and power as he did so. His suspicions were confirmed when, seconds later, he was face-down on the mat with his arm locked agonizingly behind his back. He tapped out and Lar’ragos relinquished his grip.

    He rolled over to look up at the smaller man. “Sciences? Really?”

    “New leaf,” Lar’ragos answered. He extended at hand to Bartolo and pulled him to his feet.

    “Starfleet’s good for that, Lar’ragos. Countless people have joined to remake themselves or redeem themselves.”

    “You think that’s what I’m doing?”

    “Maybe. I don’t really care. That’s your path; I have my own. You’re right about me being a legacy. My grandfather retired as an admiral, and my mother died commanding a starship in battle against the Tholians. I’ve trained my entire life for this. I know who I am and where I’m going. Unless I miss my mark, you don’t know any of those things.”

    Lar’ragos bristled at that. “You sure you shouldn’t be a psychologist?”

    “No, I’m a leader, born and bred. I’m also pretty good at reading people.” Bartolo removed his sparring gloves and moved to towel off. “I’ve only got a year left before I graduate, and Project Sandy won’t be completed by then.” He gave Lar’ragos a meaningful look. “Are you up to the challenge?”

    Lar’ragos had no answer to that.


    * * *​
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
  4. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2001
    Location:
    The Hub of the Universe
    A few interesting and unexpected turns of events. The new angle on Bartolo is intriguing, and I very much enjoy the concept of an intel ship, and your less than traditional take on both the Vulcan Sonel and his commander. One thing I've always appreciated about your particular twist on the Trek universe is that its inhabitants still may have very "human" foibles. Alcoholism is an interesting choice in the age of synthahol, as is the very practical idea that it can be mitigated with a simply hypo. And then, of course, we have the Cardasians in the wings. I'm on the edge of my seat. :bolian:
     
    Gibraltar likes this.
  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    ^ Oh, no, the hypo merely takes the edge off of his hangover. This Raffaele is an outlier, a human for whom the genetic therapies and addiction rehabilitation clinics have all failed. He doesn't drink synthehol because as Robert Picard observed, "It never leaves you out of control."

    He'd have been drummed out of Starfleet if it weren't for his genius as an Intelligence officer. As it is, his own crew has to cover for him to prevent him from being cashiered out of the service.
     
    TheLoneRedshirt and SolarisOne like this.
  6. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    I agree that you always show fascinating glimpses of what society may look like in the 24th century. Anti-intoxication injections, I think, are something we've come across before, but the idea that you can use it to manage alcoholism is a real interesting concept, one which almost begs further exploration.

    Anyway, this is not that story. It's a far better one.

    One where we finally learn where Pava got his mandate to become his brother's keeper, his future captain and friend Donald. Lovin' it.
     
    TheLoneRedshirt and Gibraltar like this.
  7. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    The crew of the Petain are intriguing and come to us already fleshed out. The alcoholism calls to mind some of the better ST novels I've read and I think, adds an interesting complication to this looming crisis.

    Now we see that Pava is not infallible and that Bartolo isn't the buffoon he first appeared to be. In fact, Pava jumped the gun in trying to shield his new friend from someone he assumed was a bully, without considering the larger training objective, or for that matter, bothering to find out who Bartolo really was.

    The fun continues!
     
    Gibraltar likes this.
  8. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2001
    Location:
    The Hub of the Universe
    It's funny, in my mind I had a feeling Raffaele might perhaps have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism that would not be easily quelled by even 24th century medical advances and/or the "idealistic" Federation society. Sounds like we were thinking along similar lines. And I like your consideration of the Robert Picard "philosophy". Also, I may have overstated it, but I also was thinking they hypo would only help alleviate the hangover symptoms. I think you did a good job of conveying that idea, and that it didn't "cure" him. I really like the idea of exploring this unusual (for the Trek-verse) angle on the human condition.
     
    TheLoneRedshirt and Gibraltar like this.
  9. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    * * *​

    “Oh, pretty,” th’Skaar remarked as he took a seat next to Morozov in Sagan’s conference room. He gestured to the image of a starship on the compartment’s viewer which Morozov appeared to be studying. “That’s the new Niagara-class, isn’t it?”

    “Yes. This is the Robau,” Morozov replied with a wistful sigh. “Scheduled to launch from Utopia Planitia in eight weeks for trials and shakedown.”

    Morozov turned to see th’Skaar’s suspicious expression. “It’s… not what you think. Probably not.”

    “You’re thinking of putting in for another command?”

    “Not me, no.” Morozov let that thought linger as th’Skaar digested it.

    The Andorian’s antennae went rigid with surprise. “You mean for Adi to command her!” he blurted.

    Morozov cocked his head. “I’ve had worse ideas.”

    “You’re trying to… get the choir back together?” th’Skaar asked.

    “Band,” Morozov countered. “And yes. If you and Carol are agreeable, we could present this to the captain as a united group.” He turned to th’Skaar and gestured to encompass the ship as a whole. “Tell me this doesn’t feel right, Scar. All of us back here, working towards a common purpose.”

    Th’Skaar placed a hand on his friend’s arm. “That’s a lot to drop on someone so suddenly. We all have other obligations now. Yes, we were all able to arrange to get away for five weeks to shepherd a cadet cruise, but that’s a far cry from becoming active Starfleet line officers again.”

    Morozov stiffened. “So, that’s a ‘no’ from you?”

    “I would never dismiss the idea so quickly my friend. However, I have three mates and among us, five children who I’ve only recently come to know again after years of absence. Going back to active duty would throw our family into chaos.”

    The Russian nodded soberly. “I understand. I’m sorry to have sprung this on you so abruptly.”

    “Don’t be. Your passion for this is genuine, and I share your feelings for our time aboard Prokofiev.”

    They were interrupted by the alert klaxon. It blared three times in unison, followed by, “Senior officers and midshipmen department heads report to the bridge.” The captain’s voice issued from the overheads. “We have been alerted that Cardassian military forces are converging on several Federation colonies along our mutual border, and Command has placed all vessels in this region on red alert.”

    Morozov’s face tightened with anxiety as he rose from his chair. “I was hoping this could be avoided.”

    His face was serene, but th’Skaar’s antennae twitched with apprehension. “It appears the Cardassians have other ideas.”

    * * *​

    The troop billet aboard the Cardassian military transport Grutaal was anything but luxurious. The soldiers housed here slept on bunks stacked five high in the dank, musty, and poorly lit compartment.

    Dal Durak Var sat on his floor-level bunk, listening to the strains of Oltari highlands music wafting from two stacks over. The tune from the Banik Province on Cardassia Prime was an uncomplicated rural musical strain. Despite its simplicity, or perhaps because of it, the melody served to sooth the young man’s nerves as he prepared for his first time in combat.

    Next to him atop his bunk Var had laid out his plasma pulse rifle, four energy-cell magazines for the weapon, his combat knife, and his grandfather’s battered old scatter-gun. He had tended to each of the other weapons, readying them for whatever was to come. The knife he sharpened slowly against a whetstone that his father had used during his own military service.

    Arvik approached, his own rifle slung over his shoulder. “Have you heard?”

    Var, still focused on honing his blade, merely grunted in response. “Heard what?”

    “Why we’re being deployed, of course.”

    Var paused, looking up at his excitable friend. “I assumed it was for the greater glory of Cardassia.”

    “Well, of course!” Arvik exclaimed. “But it’s in response to the Federation attacks on our colonies.”

    His knife rasped against the stone again. “First I’ve heard of it.”

    Arvik gestured towards the oval-shaped viewer set into the nearest bulkhead, cables snaking to it haphazardly, a clear last-minute addition to the billet compartment. “Our colonies in the Chin'toka and Crolsa systems were bombarded by Starfleet after our ambassadors confronted the Federation about arming the Bajoran rebels.”

    Var appeared skeptical. “That seems quite… bold… for the Federation.”

    His friend’s head bobbed animatedly. “Yes! It’s clear their peace overtures were only a ruse to try and lull us into passivity!”

    “Lull us into…?” Var laughed. “I doubt you’ve ever used that phrase before in your life. You repeat the media ministry’s proclamations like a Toalia’an Mimic.”

    “It’s what they told us,” Arvik insisted. “We must be ready to take our revenge on their own colonies now. They butchered our women and children, and we cannot let that go unanswered.”

    Var nodded towards Arvik’s rifle. “You’ve never shot anyone with that before, let alone an unarmed woman or a child. You may find what awaits us is more difficult than you’d imagined.”

    Arvik glanced around and then whispered, “You shouldn’t speak so, Durak. The Obsidian Order has operatives everywhere. Such cynicism could place you in their sights.”

    “You are correct, of course,” Var conceded. “My words were ill chosen. I am… anxious about what lies ahead for us. My father told me that war experienced firsthand is far different than how it is portrayed in the popular entertainments.”

    His friend gripped his shoulder in an overly enthusiastic gesture of camaraderie. “We shall face combat together as a unit, just as So-Dal Urtrim has drilled us these many months.”

    Var gave him a smile that was devoid of genuine warmth. “Of course we will, my friend. I too am eager to prove my loyalty to the state.”

    “For Cardassia!” Arvik called.

    “For Cardassia,” Var repeated in a voice more subdued.

    * * *​

    The klaxon and announcement from the bridge had roused both cadets from their bunks, and Sandhurst and Lar’ragos hurried into the corridor from their cabin with the young engineer still pulling on his uniform jumpsuit.

    Sandhurst turned in the direction of the nearest turbolift but paused to glance back at Lar’ragos. “What’s your emergency post?”

    “Damage control team five,” he answered. “Somewhere on deck six forward of frame Seventeen-Baker. You?”

    “Main Engineering,” Sandhurst said, his voice thick, Adam’s-apple bobbing.

    Other cadets and enlisted personnel raced past them in either direction and Lar’ragos could read the tension emanating from Sandhurst as easily as a holographic billboard.

    “It’ll be fine,” he assured the young man. “Just do what your section leader tells you. Keep your mind on following your orders and addressing the task at hand. The rest will take care of itself.”

    Sandhurst bobbed his head, a hint of color returning to his features. “Yeah, sure. Thanks.”

    Then he was gone.

    Lar’ragos gave himself a moment to watch the retreating cadet before looking down at his hands. His left hand trembled, ever so slightly, and he curled it into a fist. “Every damn time,” he muttered.

    * * *​
     
  10. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    'I have a bad feeling about this', is what I'd say if this were a Star Wars story.

    But let's face it, things aren't going to go well for anybody here.

    I liked the Cardassian propaganda machine in full swing here. Reminds me that Cardassians aren't bad people. It's their leaders who haven given them such a terrible reputation. I loved Pava's nerves catching up with him at the end. Or maybe something else? Regardless, nicely done, eager for more!
     
    Gibraltar likes this.
  11. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Nehru Colony, Arandis IV

    “It’s not fair, mom, she’s twice as strong as anyone on our team!”

    Ciadra McCullough nodded as she scooped salad onto her plate from the serving bowl. “Yes, honey, she’s Vulcan.”

    “Mom, I know that!” Presley practically wailed. “But she’s so fast!

    “You have strong players on your team as well, dear. You’re one of them.” Ciadra was being irritatingly rational, she knew, but it was her only effective defense against her daughter’s righteous indignation.

    “But with them playing T’Priel as an attackman, they’re damn near unstoppable.”

    “Language,” Ciadra chided. “And despite T’Priel’s abilities, Springbrook Prep has defeated Rennley Academy by a substantial margin their last two games.”

    “Prep has the Dantalli sisters,” Presley observed, as though Ciadra didn’t already know that. “And it takes both of them to keep T’Priel away from the goal.”

    Ciadra looked across the table to her wife, but Ja’Vari merely grinned and shook her head as she speared a fork-full of Thettlefish. “Oh, no. Don’t try and drag me into this. I wanted her to play football. You were the collegiate lacrosse champion.”

    “Mère, I’m good at lacrosse!” Presley said in her most deeply offended tone, giving Ja’Vari a baleful glare full of adolescent outrage. “Football is for fragile glass-girls who can’t handle a stick.”

    Ciadra gave Ja’Vari an impish smile. And now you’re involved, my dear. She took a bite of salad and was trying to decide whether or not the dressing needed more ama-spice when her handheld comm-link warbled a three-tone alert, accompanied by a distracting red flash.

    “Damn it,” Ja’Vari sighed in exasperation. “Not another drill! I thought you’d told them to knock that off during dinner-time?”

    “Language, Mère,” Presley admonished with a smirk.

    “I’m sorry,” Ciadra mouthed to Ja’Vari as she collected the comm-link and rose to her feet. She walked through the kitchen and stepped outside into the cool night air. “McCullough here.”

    “Boss,” came the apologetic sounding voice of her shift supervisor at Colony Operations. “I’m sorry to bother you during supper, but we just received a regional alert from Starfleet Command that there’s a Cardassian task force inbound. They’re not sure where the Cardies are going to strike, but they’re pretty certain it’ll be someplace in the cluster.”

    Ciadra felt an electric shock race up her spine at this revelation, and her dinner settled into the pit of her stomach like a stone. “Shit.” She turned and opened the door just long enough to call to Ja’Vari and Presley that there was an emergency at Ops and she had to go. Ciadra’s mind raced as she took the steps two at a time down to where the family’s flitter was parked. “Please tell me Starfleet has ships in route?”

    “The border cutter Janah is nine hours away. No word on the nearest starship yet.”

    She climbed into the flitter, powered it up, and continued as the comm-link synced with the vehicle’s systems and went to hands-free comms. “I want a full level-two diagnostic on all orbital assets and the torp-launchers on the ridge. Call Fergus and tell him I want him to get his ass up there and check the equipment personally. We can’t afford to have anything fail because someone forgot to update the targeting software again.”

    “On it,” he replied.

    “Have Borenson head over and open up the civil defense shelter. I want him to make sure the shield generator is functional and the replicators are working and have sufficient protein stores and battery backups.”

    “Copy that, boss.”

    Please let this be a sensor error or some damned ill-timed Starfleet drill, she thought fervently as she piloted the flitter over the houses and civic building below towards the Operations complex. Living so close to the Cardassian border was a risk each and every colonist lived with daily, but the thought of actually having to fend off an attack by the militant species was almost too harrowing to contemplate.

    Nehru Colony had an orbital defense grid of some two-dozen phaser-armed satellites and a battery of photon-torpedo launchers up on Guffin’s Ridge, but those were their last line of defense. Starfleet had always been intended to forestall such aggression merely by their presence, but they’d cut their scheduled patrols through the cluster by more than a half after the armistice had been signed.

    The idiots who signed that document live on Earth, the safest world in the heart of the Federation, Ciadra thought uncharitably. Nobody out here on the border would have been so foolish, but then the Federation Council had never seemed too terribly inclined to heed the warnings of colonists in the hinterlands.

    * * *​

    There were so many overlays displayed on the viewscreen’s map of the border region that the image threatened to evoke the work of Jackson Pollock. Sagan’s senior officers sat at the conference table while the midshipmen department heads and commissioned instructors stood shoulder to shoulder, ringing the far side of the table.

    Captain Tinubu’s voice carried throughout the compartment and over the intraship to the entire crew. “The Second Order is on the move, and Intel estimates they’re carrying somewhere in the vicinity of seventy-five hundred troops which they intend to land on some or all of our colonies in the Pleiades Cluster. Starfleet and the Border Service are spread perilously thin out here, and so Sagan’s presence is doubly important.

    “I’ve conferred with the captains of Oberon, Stargazer, Thevid, and McAuliffe, and barring any overriding orders from Command we’ve divided the Pleiades into areas of responsibility. Sagan is assigned to safeguard the colonies in the Arandis and Sterope systems. If neither of those systems are attacked, we’ll assist McAuliffe in watching over the Tageta and Maia systems. The border cutters Janah, Bluefin, and Thrasher are also being deployed, along with a number of smaller patrol corvettes.

    “Starfleet is sending everything they can from the nearest starbases and sector patrol routes, but the closest help is over four days away.”

    This drew a few audible intakes of breath, mostly from the assembled cadets.

    “These are far from ideal circumstances, but we are all that stands between hundreds of thousands of Federation citizens and either slavery or death. We’re all aware of the fate that befell the Bajora and a half dozen other species whose worlds the Cardassians have conquered and occupied.

    “I know I can count on each of you to perform your duties to the utmost. Your lives, the lives of your shipmates, and those of our colonists all depend on it. I will relay additional information as it arrives. Please resume your posts.”

    Tinubu toggled off the intraship and ordered the senior staff to remain behind as the cadets and junior officers staffing non-critical posts exited the briefing room.

    “Teper' my v der'me,” Morozov whispered softly, rubbing his temple with one hand.

    Dr. Cavanaugh looked to Tinubu. “Okay, how bad is this really?”

    Tinubu fixed her gaze on the physician. “To put it bluntly, Doctor, I expect that we’ll be buying time for these colonies with our lives. Given the size of the force that Intel believes we’re confronting, despite our technological advantages, there’s no realistic way we can do anything but slow them down. The tougher we make the going for them, the more time Starfleet has to bring greater resources to bear to blunt this attack.”

    “Okay… so, pretty bad then,” Cavanaugh calculated.

    There was a collective bout of mordant laughter.

    Tinubu collected herself and then looked at each of them in turn. “None of us were expecting this, especially not the young people in our care. For what little it’s worth, I’m sorry. If this does end up being our last stand together, I can’t imagine a better group of officers with whom I’d want to make it.”

    There were nods of affirmation all around and Morozov spoke for the others. "We'll follow you anywhere, Captain."

    * * *​
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2020
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    The slow build up is creating a lot of tension. Things are going to go bad here, I fear, very very soon. And I don't think anyone is going to be truly ready for this.
     
    Gibraltar likes this.
  13. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Sometimes in Trek lore it's easy to overlook the cost to civilians in the myriad conflicts between the powers. Very nice chapter - a sobering segue from tranquil and "normal" family life to the planetary version of red alert. And the cavalry? A lone border cutter 9 hours out. I'd say the outlook is grim. And what will Sagan's role be? A ship full of cadets are hardly the tip of the spear needed against a Cardassian battle fleet. Of course they have Pava, but still . . .
    (Thanks for the shout-out to Bluefin. :) If memory serves, Akinola was still a master chief petty officer at this time and Captain Darby Reninger was C.O.)
     
    Gibraltar likes this.
  14. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    I think we're all going to see how Pava and Sandhurst shared blood together on this mission. In particular, this could prove to be a young Sandhurst's defining moment, the type of event that strengthens a person if you survive it.

    Will be on the lookout for more!
     
    Gibraltar likes this.
  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    USS Pétain

    “I would take this opportunity to remind you that Pétain is an Oculus-class reconnaissance vessel, not a combat-rated starship,” Lieutenant Sonel offered to his commanding officer in a subdued tone.

    He sat next to Lt. Commander Raffaele at the combined Helm/Ops station situated at the front of the scout’s cramped command center.

    Raffaele nodded sagely at his XO’s counsel. “I have never been more aware of our ship’s limitations than at this moment, my friend,” he replied soberly.

    “Then wouldn’t the logical course of action here be to withdraw from the path of the Cardassian advance and utilize our superior sensor suite to keep Starfleet apprised of their movement and course of deployment, sir?”

    “Eminently logical, Mister Sonel. My congratulations to you on your multi-faceted grasp of our present tactical situation.”

    That, Sonel knew from long experience, translated to, ‘I’ve heard your argument and I’m going to do what I want anyway.’ Nevertheless, the Vulcan had said his peace.

    Raffaele piloted Pétain slowly through the harrowing jumble of asteroids that comprised the Desarn Belt, an accretion disc of proto-planetary debris in the inner regions of the Loval system. This system had been identified as the site of an as-yet unfounded Federation colony, intended to be established on the Class-M fourth planet within the next six months. However, Loval had also been selected by the advancing Cardassian Second Order as an excellent staging area for launching attacks on its neighboring star systems which did support existing Federation colonies.

    “We and the other Starfleet ships in the area have seeded the border with sensor drones and Command has doubtless re-tasked the Archimedes Array to surveil this whole region. That makes us largely superfluous. I won’t sit idly by in relative safety while our colonists are crushed under the Cardassian boot. The situation demands we take greater risks in order to slow the assault.”

    Raffaele toggled a directed comms-laser to one of the ship’s three work-bees which hovered near the surface of the asteroid Pétain herself was using for concealment. “Chief, how goes your progress?”

    Chief Petty Officer Makwetu replied, “It’s coming along, Captain. We’ll have the lifepods joined and anchored in the next hour. We’ll need additional tritanium to shield the fusion reactor from sensors if we want to remain undetected, though.”

    “If there isn’t enough in stores, you can strip out whatever interior bulkheads in the ship you need to in order to make it work,” Raffaele directed.

    “Aye, sir.”

    Raffaele turned to direct his gaze on Sorel. “Please begin preparations for evacuation, Lieutenant. The crew has one hour. Space will be limited, so no personal belongings. Our temporary lodgings may have to suffice for days or weeks.”

    “Immediately, Captain.” Sorel paused. “May I inquire as to how your plan is going to be executed, sir?”

    “Not quite yet, Lieutenant,” was Raffaele’s patient reply. “Soon, though.”

    * * *​

    USS Sagan

    “Incoming message from Bluefin, sir. They report they’ve carried out a hit and run attack on the Second Order’s left wing. Two Cardassian cruisers reported damaged, and a troop transport crippled.” The communications officer shot a pointed glance at the captain. “Bluefin’s sustained significant damage to her impulse drive and has had to withdraw for repairs. She’s set course to rendezvous with Thevid.”

    “Acknowledged,” Tinubu said, perhaps more brusquely that she’d intended. The others were doing their part, and now it was her turn to take her ship and trainee crew into harm’s way. Contemplating that rash course had been one thing, but as she looked around at the fresh faces of the cadets manning some of the auxiliary stations on the bridge, Tinubu experienced a brief pang of regret. How many of these young people would die under her command? People who might have gone on to have fulfilling careers and long lives, instead sacrificing their futures on the altar of her hubris.

    “Relay my compliments to Captain Reninger. That’s one hell of a tally for an old cutter.”

    “That’s going to be our group,” Morozov noted from his station. “Their course indicates that they’re heading for the Arandis system. They’ve now passed out of Bluefin’s area of operations.”

    “Second Order’s projected ETA to Arandis?” Tinubu asked.

    “Fifteen hours if they slow to accommodate their damaged ships, seven hours if they leave them to catch up.”

    “We’ll call it seven hours, then,” Tinubu declared. “Now that we’re setting defenses in place, every minute counts. They won’t dally.” She turned to th’Skaar. “What are their numbers?”

    “Four Gedik-class cruisers, five Likasa-class destroyers, six frigates and eight personnel transports.”

    Tinubu gestured to the communications officer. “Inform McAuliffe that Arandis looks to be the initial thrust for this wing of the attack. We’ll need them to back us up if it looks like Tageta or Maia aren’t priority Cardassian targets.” To th’Skaar she said, “Commander, lay in a course to Nehru Colony at maximum speed. I want to implement your contingency plan for landing additional personnel to assist with the colony’s surface defense.”

    She dared not give voice to it, but Tinubu wanted to ensure that even if Sagan were destroyed defending the colony, there would still Starfleet personnel on the surface to augment the colony’s civilian constabulary. Their contribution to the colony’s defense might only be measured in hours, but those hours might make all the difference.

    “Yes, sir. I’ll have Lieutenant Wójcik begin making a list of candidates for the surface team.”

    * * *​

    “You still awake?”

    Lar’ragos lay atop his bunk on the other side of the cabin, staring at the ceiling. After a moment he replied, “Yes. Why?”

    “Is being on alert always this dull?” Sandhurst asked.

    A chuckle prefaced Lar’ragos’ reply. “No idea.” He turned his head and could just make out the pensive expression on Sandhurst’s youthful face in the dim light. “Hey, it’s my first time, too,” he added. “If I had to guess, though, they’ve stepped us down to yellow alert until we actually make contact with the Cardassians. The next time we go to battle stations, there’ll be shooting.”

    “What’s it like? Combat, I mean?”

    “Well, I’ve never been in ship-to-ship combat where I was a participant. I’ve been a passenger on ships that were attacked a few times. That’s all about naked terror and helplessness. I would imagine it’s pretty close to the simulations we’ve been running.”

    “Okay,” Sandhurst countered. “What about surface combat?”

    There was a long pause, followed by the El Aurian’s deep sigh. “Also terror, just a different flavor. On the ground it’s all confusion and chaos, mostly. Regardless of all the technology they weigh you down with, there’s still too much going on to really understand the full picture when you’re in the thick of it. If you’re advancing or defending with a defined front, that’s one thing, but when it all goes sideways, and it always does, it turns into stumbling about and bumping into the enemy. Then when you find them, you try to neutralize them before they do you.”

    “Neutralize?” Sandhurst sounded dubious. “You mean kill, don’t you?”

    “No, not necessarily. Our phasers wouldn’t come with a stun setting, otherwise.”

    “And will the Cardassians also have their weapons set to stun?” The tone of his voice suggested Sandhurst already knew the answer.

    “Probably not,” Lar’ragos conceded. “The Federation’s idea of warfare is a bit… unconventional, at least in my experience.”

    “You were a soldier,” Sandhurst said. Not a question, but a statement.

    “I was. Very long ago, and very far from here.”

    Sandhurst turned his head, studying Lar’ragos’ silhouette in the soft glow of a nearby LCARS panel. “Were you any good at it?”

    “I’m still here,” Lar’ragos replied laconically.

    “Commander Morozov said I’m going down to the surface. He says he needs me to help set up phaser-emplacements, shield emitters, things like that.”

    “Yeah, you went and proved yourself useful,” Lar’ragos said with a chuckle. “That was your first mistake.”

    “What about you?”

    “Me? No need for a junior science cadet down there. I’d guess they’ll find more use for me up here doing damage control or something.”

    “But you were a soldier,” Sandhurst protested.

    “I was, emphasis on past-tense,” Lar’ragos riposted. “Now I’m a Starfleet cadet. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that comes with a great many rules and behavioral expectations.”

    A long silence followed, and just as Lar’ragos began to let his mind wander and drift towards sleep…

    “I’m scared,” Sandhurst confessed. It wasn’t a plaintive admission, merely a statement of fact.

    “Me too,” Lar’ragos said.

    * * *​
     
    Blip, Galen4, CeJay and 1 other person like this.
  16. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Something big is going to happen soon. I can feel it. All I can say is that whatever happens, Sandhurst and Lar'ragos are going to be smack dab in the middle of it. I hope they survive...

    I wouldn't want to give anything away. LOL!
     
    Gibraltar likes this.
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    See Pava is only human as well (except, of course, he's not).

    But I agree, this story is becoming a pressure cooker and sooner or later things are going to explode. Not everyone is going to be left standing in the end, I'm sure.

    I'm curious to see how Sandy and Pava face their first ever crisis together. God knows there'll be plenty more after this.
     
    Gibraltar likes this.
  18. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Really liked the conversation between Pava and Sandhurst. No false bravado, no chest thumping, just two men unable to sleep, contemplating their mortality - Sandhurst fearing the unknown, Pava fearing the all-too-well-known.
    Yes, we know they will survive, but they don't know that, which makes their apprehension all the more genuine.
    Oh, and glad Bluefin survived their encounter with the Cardassians. Hope the paint didn't get scratched too badly. :D
     
    Gibraltar likes this.