Starship Reykjavík - The Event of the Season

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Jan 4, 2023.

  1. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    * * *

    Task Force Gauntlet was now two and half hours out from the Longlax-Teko system, trailing the first wave of Tholian ships by two hours.

    The meeting had reconvened on the ship’s more spacious recreation deck, as the briefing room had proved too confining for the growing number of officers involved in mission planning and task force coordination.

    A large conference table had been established here, twice the size of their typical briefing table. The portable consoles crammed into the briefing room had been relocated as well, spaced farther apart in this more forgiving environment.

    Rachel Garrett stepped up to a dais in front of a crowd of a dozen senior officers and science specialists, to include Trujillo and Commander Davula. Her briefing would be transmitted to all twenty-four ships comprising both task forces. She activated the large viewer set into the second story bulkhead above their heads, calling up the previous image of the ring of spheres in close orbit of the orange star.

    “Thank you for joining us. This report is the combined product of personnel from across Task Forces Gauntlet and Alamo, with input from the Federation Science Directorate.”

    Garrett inclined her head towards Trujillo. “Commodore, it is our collective assessment that the spheres are generating a very powerful subspace field between them. This field, in turn, is creating a gravitational lensing effect. That lensing effect is focusing and modulating the star’s natural energy emissions into a coherent subspace signal of enormous power.”

    Trujillo stood, arms crossed, her chin braced on her right hand in a thoughtful posture as she absorbed Garrett’s report.

    “That signal is being broadcast deep into Tholian territory and appears to intersect what we believe to likely be their home star system.”

    “The purpose of this signal?” Trujillo inquired.

    “Unknown, sir. It doesn’t appear to carry any message or code that we can divine, only a specific energy signature, amplified immensely.”

    Trujillo asked, “If this broadcast is so powerful, how is it that we’re only now becoming aware of it?”

    “The subspace frequency modulation is very high into the G-Level bands, not a frequency range any known species utilizes for communications. It’s not something we would typically scan for, sir.”

    Lt. Commander Kura-Ka, Reykjavík’s Zaranite chief engineer, had been requested to attend the briefing. The man rarely left the confines of his engineering decks and eschewed most social contact with his fellows. He turned his fleshy head towards Trujillo, speaking through the facemask which provided him a steady stream of fluorine-rich gas. The mask gave is voice an oddly artificial quality.

    “Sir, it might help to think of the subspace realm as a layered barrier, the energetic boundary between dimensions. We utilize some of these nearer layers to convey faster-than-light communications, and other layers can be thought of as the tractive surface upon which our warp drives anchor in order to bend space around our vessels for propulsion. Many of the deeper bands of subspace frequencies are garbled by the natural background radiation emissions of stellar bodies and our universe itself. Our sensors are calibrated to filter out this ‘noise’ or they would be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the energies translated through those media. The sphere-amplified signal broadcast by this star is within that deeper range, and was thus invisible to us until we deliberately searched it out.”

    Trujillo, over twenty years on from her Academy subspace physics courses, nodded appreciatively. “Thank you, Commander.” She realized that with the ship’s recent turnover of senior officers, only Kura-Ka was comfortable enough with her to have explained it in such a simplified way. Someone as junior as Garrett dared not for fear of causing offense.

    “Any theories as to how these spheres suddenly appeared in a Federation controlled system without anyone noticing their construction?”

    “The reports from the twenty-second century Enterprise indicate that several of the Delphic Expanse spheres they encountered were capable of cloaking themselves. The scans we’ve received from the Shar’ar Array suggest that these spheres are in the vicinity of twelve-hundred years old, meaning that they may have been built at the same time as those in the Delphic Expanse.”

    Trujillo mulled that over, not liking the taste of it. “So, we could conceivably have had dozens of cloaked spheres the size of moons hiding in this system for over a thousand years, and we’ve just been blissfully unaware?”

    Garrett swallowed, discomfited by Trujillo’s growing intensity. “Yes, sir. That’s quite possible… probable, in fact.”

    “And now to the Tholians,” Trujillo said. “Do we know any more about what they’re doing, or why?”

    “We have no firm answers, sir, only a handful of theories. The most popular hypothesis among the participating science personnel is that this energy transmission somehow interacts on some fundamental level with Tholian biology. Lt. Commander Stavek from Excalibur has just completed some modeling utilizing a crystalline lattice that mimics what little we know of Tholian neural pathways. It appears that the frequency might create a resonance within their neural structures that could potentially lead to aberrant neurological activity.”

    Trujillo’s eyes widened fractionally at this. “You’re suggesting it might affect their neuro-cognitive functioning?

    “Correct, sir.”

    “So the unusual behavior the Tholians have been demonstrating with this incursion might simply be a physiological or psychological reaction to this massive energy broadcast?”

    Garrett nodded. “Possibly, sir.” She inclined her head towards where the bullish Titus Helvia stood, dwarfing his portable console. “As Lt. Helvia posited sir, moths to a flame.”

    Trujillo blew out a long breath as the weight of that premise settled over her.

    “Sir,” Davula interjected, pausing to wait for Trujillo’s nod of approval before continuing. “I had a passing interest in the Delphic Expanse as a cadet, and there were many rumors regarding their creation and purpose. Oddly, many of the mission records from those sphere encounters, the entire Delphic Expanse expedition itself, actually, are still classified. A mission that predates the founding of the Federation, mind you.

    “One of the most prominent claims was that whoever built them did so as a prelude to invasion, essentially spatially terraforming entire sectors to be more compatible with their physical forms. The Xindi were supposed to have been agents of this group, trying to disrupt any cohesion among the regional spacefaring powers to prevent their invasion plans from being thwarted.”

    Helvia’s reaction to this statement was a disconsolate grunt of skepticism.

    “I’m not sure I’m prepared to entertain temporal conspiracies on top of all of this,” Trujillo rejoined, waving a hand expansively in the general direction of the approaching star system. “But are you implying that these spheres are beaming this signal into Tholian space intentionally as a way of sparking a war between ourselves and the Assembly?”

    Davula’s expression was as earnest as Trujillo’s was incredulous.

    “Yes, sir. Think of the engineering and logistics effort necessary to build and presumably hide these massive machines. It can’t be simple coincidence that this signal was directed into the heart of Tholian space at the specific moment most of Starfleet was busy shoring up our border with the Klingons.”

    Trujillo shook her head. “I’m sorry, Commander, but I’m not there yet. We’re trying to discern the motivations of someone who built these structures over a millennia ago. Believing that their intent was to spark a war between two powers who wouldn’t rise for another thousand years is too much a stretch for me.”

    Shukla raised a hand, speaking only after the commodore’s tacit acknowledgment. He stood from his seat, the polished Starfleet arrowhead emblem on his turban catching the light.

    “Sir, regardless of whether the signal broadcast was intentional or not, now that we’re theorizing that the Tholians might be reacting reflexively to it, what is our moral obligation in these circumstances? Is it appropriate to open fire on beings who’s cognitive functioning may have been compromised?”

    Trujillo dipped her head for a moment before looking back to Shukla. “That, Lieutenant, is an excellent question. Seeing as we’ve now strayed into the area of command purview, I’m going to have to ask everyone but Commander Davula to clear the compartment.”

    As the assembled personnel exchanged glances and began collecting their belongings and heading for the exits, Trujillo turned to the audio/visual pickup transmitting the briefing to their respective task forces. “Captains, please do the same. I’m calling a meeting with all of us and our XO’s in fifteen minutes to discuss where we go from here.”

    Confirmations from the other starships began to filter in and Trujillo muted the channel, reaching out a hand to grab Garrett gently by the upper arm as she moved for the exit.

    “Nice work, Rachel. My thanks to you and your team for a tremendous effort in an extreme time crunch.”

    Garrett smiled, touching a hand to her new lieutenant’s insignia on her shoulder flash. “Thank you, sir. Seeing as you’d just promoted me, I didn’t want you rescinding these.”

    Trujillo chucked, swatting her shoulder playfully. “Off with you.”

    Her combadge chirped three times, notifying her of an incoming comm, coded private. Trujillo moved to an isolated sitting alcove with a computer interface, routing the transmission there.

    Captain Marshall looked at her from the star system her task force was currently passing, his expression pinched.

    “Yes, Captain?”

    “Is this a democracy now, Commodore? Are we putting this to a vote?”

    Trujillo took a moment to center herself before replying, not wanting to upbraid Marshall for something she herself might have taken exception to under different circumstances.

    “I’d like the opinion of the other commanding officers available to me. The final decision will be mine.”

    “And if you stand down and I disagree?” Marshall asked icily. “I still have eight ships, and if the Tholians are compromised as your science officer suggests, they might not be able to put up much of a fight.”

    “If that’s the case, Captain, I would issue orders for you and your task force to stand down as well.”

    “You’re in command of Gauntlet, I retain command over Alamo. I don’t recognize your authority to order me to do anything in such circumstances. While I respect the fact that you do outrank me, I think you're making the wrong decision on this one. Gather the information, stick to the facts, and make the call based on that, Commodore. Too many opinions can get in the way of good judgement.”

    Trujillo cocked her head. “In that case, I’ll confer with Admiral Saavik and she’ll order you to stand down. If I have to go over your head to snap you into line, I’ll do just that. I’m not interested in having a pissing contest in a potential war zone, Marshall.”

    “I'm not interested in having a pissing contest either, Commodore. We don't have time for that. However, this could all be a ruse for the Tholians to get their hands on those spheres. They barge in here, deliberately acting against type to confuse us and delay our response, with their government playing dumb. Meanwhile, while we’re wringing our hands, they get a firm foothold in a Federation system and have the chance to study those spheres and their advanced technology firsthand. That should be us getting our hands on that technology.”

    “That may well be the case, Captain. Alternately, we could wipe out the Tholian formations and start a war when it becomes apparent to their government that their soldiers weren’t in control of their faculties and were unable to defend themselves. We don’t know enough yet, and I haven’t made any final decisions as to our next steps. I do want to hear the counsel of my fellow captains, seeing as they’ve got skin in the game, too. Either way, Saavik will back my play.”

    “Like she backed Markopoulos?” he retorted. “You carried out his plan with the Klingons flawlessly, and she still put him out to pasture because of the political blowback. Now she’s pulling your strings, and she’ll either make you dance to her tune, or she’ll cut those strings and watch you fall. There are admirals above her, too. Consider that, Commodore. Some of them happen to be friends of mine, and I'm not afraid to go above your head either. Either way we are at an impasse.” He paused to take a deep breath to cool off. "Now, I suggest we let bygones be bygones, and find a way to work together on this one. It's not going to do either of our taskforces any good if we can't."

    Trujillo nodded grimly. “Politics is the price of promotion. Ultimately, we’re all expendable in that respect. I’m not filtering my decisions about taking the Federation to war through the prism of career longevity. I’ll make the call the circumstances dictate, and you’ll either follow my lead or I’ll have you replaced as Alamo-Actual.”

    Marshall bit back a heated reply, taking a moment to collect himself. “Understood, Commodore. Excalibur, out.”

    The screen reverted to the Starfleet logo and Trujillo stood and took a series of deep, cleansing breaths of her own.

    Her combadge chirped again.

    “Bridge to Commodore Trujillo, the Tholian formation designated TF-1 has just entered the Longlax-Teko system.”

    “Understood,” she replied. “I’ll be sending Lt. Shukla topside to take the conn until we’re done with the command conference.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    She deactivated her combadge.

    “Goddamn starship captains,” she muttered to herself. “Is this what it was like dealing with me?”

    * * *
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2023
  2. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jun 18, 2021
    Hats off and a prize for the most brilliant Trek technobabble I've encountered (and I say that with no shortage of envy)!

    I'm also bowled over by the exchange between Trujillo and Marshall. That was extremely top-level political power-play strictly in the service of morality. Both keenly aware of the political realities and the gravities of their mission.

    Bravo! rbs
  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Thank you for the high praise! :o

    As an aficionado of military history, these kinds of disagreements between high ranking commanders are actually quite common. They usually don't devolve into 'nyah-nyah, I'm gonna call my favorite admiral/general' but it's also not unheard of. In this case, I'd like to think both officers have valid viewpoints, most especially given the highly conjectural data points that are driving their decisions.
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Well, that was low-key intense. You could really sense the stifled frustration threatening to bubble over. I’m glad it didn’t devolve into a shouting match. This was actually much more interesting. Two people with strong opinions, lots of responsibilities, and powerful friends.

    Also “Goddamn starship captains. Is this what it was like dealing with me?” is an instant classic and likely something uttered by a great many new flag officers who made their names sitting in the center seat, frustrating their superiors.
    Gibraltar and Robert Bruce Scott like this.
  5. Bynar0110

    Bynar0110 Captain Captain

    Sep 25, 2022
    Ohio Valley, USA
    In really enjoying reading Rachel Garrett
    Gibraltar likes this.
  6. Will The Serious

    Will The Serious Captain Captain

    Nov 5, 2022
    Marshall could put up with a vote or simply follow orders, either way, it looks like he's ready for battle and it's not against the Tholians.

    Obviously a commodore has to know how to fight on multiple fronts. The interior front is always the most critical to hold.

    What a great dynamic building up here. Marshall's character is well constructed to need the strong-hand approach. Trujillo didn't flinch in showing she can be the one to give it to him.

    As always, your prose really flows.

  7. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    *Author’s Note: thanks to mthompson1701 for helping to craft and co-write this scene with me.

    USS Excalibur

    Commander Tristienne D’Vorr stepped out of the turbolift on deck three. She had been ordered by Captain Marshall to remain in auxiliary control, but she had another matter, a personnel matter, that required her urgent attention. The Caitian walked several meters down the corridor passing several crewmen whom she nodded to. She then found the cabin she was looking for and activated the door chime.

    “Who is it?” asked Captain Marshall over the comm.

    Tristi pushed a few buttons, initiating a command override to allow the doors to open and stepped inside the dimly lit room. “It’s me Captain,” she replied.

    “I didn’t give you permission to enter,” he replied as he laid in his bunk staring up at the ceiling.

    “Well then, you can file formal charges if you wish,” said D’Vorr.

    “I don’t think we need to go that far, Commander,” said Alex. “Who’s handling things in Auxiliary Control?”

    “Zarv,” she replied.

    “Well, we’re only as far away as the nearest comm terminal,” said Alex knowing that while the engineer was competent in the center seat, it was not his preferred place.

    “What’s going on Captain?” D’Vorr asked bluntly.

    Marshall took a deep breath, exhaled, and said, “She threatened to remove me from command of the task force. Nandi Trujillo actually threatened to take this away from me just like Saavik did.”

    “When did Saavik do that?” asked Tristi.

    “Before I ordered you to hail the task force commanders,” he replied, “I argued against this mission. I told Saavik we were better off exploring, so that some piece of the Federation would be preserved, but she wouldn’t listen. Then she said she’d relieve me of command if I didn’t do it, and threatened to reassign me, and give the center seat to a subpar captain that couldn’t find the turbolift if his life depended on it.”

    “I see,” said Tristi, “so rather than let the crew be commanded by an inferior captain, you went along with Saavik’s plan.”

    “Yes, only because I felt like I didn’t have a choice,” said Alex. “I decided if I had to do it, if I had to put us on a suicide mission, and that’s what this is, I was going to do it my way. Then Saavik assigned Trujillo to head up Gauntlet.” His eyes closed for a moment as he recalled Trujillo’s exact words, “I’ll make the call the circumstances dictate, and you’ll either follow my lead or I’ll have you replaced as Alamo-Actual.”

    “So, just follow her orders, and that won’t happen,” said Tristi.

    Alex then sat up on the edge of the bed, and faced her. He said, “What if she’s wrong? What if Trujillo is wrong? It’s not what I would do under the circumstances. It should’ve been a combined fleet. We don’t have enough numbers to be effective out here.”

    “This isn’t your mission. It’s not yours to command. The Klingons are the reason why we don’t have enough ships out here,” countered D’Vorr.

    “Well, it should be,” said Marshall as he raised his voice a bit, now up on his feet. “My seniority should count for something. I was commanding a starship while Nandi Trujillo was still a lieutenant.”

    “It only counts when you have the higher rank, and right now that’s Trujillo. She is the superior officer.”

    “No, she’s merely a higher ranking one,” said Alex. He softened his tone as he asked, “Remember what you asked me when you first came on board?”

    “About Tomed? Yes, I do, and you said to never ask you about the Tomed Incident,” said D’Vorr.

    Alex decided it was time to level with her. “I was on the Athena, and when Captain Urum got killed I got up from the helm, and assumed command. Guess who the Tactical officer was?”

    “As I recall it was Trujillo.”

    “That’s right,” he said with a slight nod, “She’d fire her phaser before looking at a situation objectively. That being said, I wouldn’t have been able to get Athena out of that situation without her. What did Starfleet do? Give me an attaboy, pinned a few medals on my chest, promoted me, and gave me command of a starship.”

    D’Vorr nodded now that she understood the relationship between the captain and the commodore better. “Let me guess,” she said, “you were hoping to succeed with this crisis so that Starfleet will take notice and give you that promotion.”

    “Yes, maybe. I don’t know,” replied Alex, unsure of himself, “I turned down a promotion to commodore once already.”

    “Why? When?”

    “A few months ago. It was around the time you came on board while we were still at Starbase 47. Admiral Blackwell called me into his office and offered it to me. I turned it down. I told him I had the rank I wanted, the ship I wanted, and the crew I wanted. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Since then, I’ve come to realize that I’ve got maybe ten to fifteen years left in the center seat. I’d like to be more than just a footnote in the annals of Starfleet history.”

    “You know those people in the history books are the exceptions, not the rule,” said Tristi.

    “I know that,” said Alex. “I also know that what’s going on with the Tholians is damned peculiar. They’re in Longlax-Teko system probably gathering data on those spheres, and we’re sitting on our thumbs. We should be going in, repelling them out of there, and analyzing the spheres for ourselves. It worked against the Klingons.”

    “We can’t deal with the Tholians the same way we dealt with the Klingons. Especially since like you said, the Tholians are not behaving like normal. You can’t always apply the same tactics to every situation.”

    “That’s true, and you’re right. I was hoping to maybe, just maybe influence Trujillo enough that Starfleet would notice, and give me some recognition.”

    “We all deserve recognition, Alex,” said D’Vorr.

    “I’m not going to dispute that,” he replied. “Saavik didn’t behave logically.”

    “What do you mean by that?” she asked.

    “If Saavik had been logical, she should’ve put the most senior officer in command of Task Force Gauntlet. If I had accepted promotion to Commodore, I would be the senior officer. I was hurt when she told me I would be commanding Task Force Alamo. I felt like she signed our death sentence. To defend Federation territory with only seven ships when the Tholians have… how many was it?”

    “Sixty-four,” replied D’Vorr.

    “Right,” said Marshall. “Those are overwhelming odds, and the only reason we’re still here is because the Tholians are not behaving like they normally would. Let’s face it, the only reason Trujillo is a Commodore is because Saavik wants her to be one.”

    Tristi offered, “Did it occur to you that Saavik put Trujillo in command of Gauntlet because she knew Trujillo would get the job done?”

    Alex sighed, “That thought had crossed my mind, but not until a few minutes ago.”

    “Has it also occurred to you that just like you needed Trujillo to help you get the Athena out of harm’s way during Tomed, she needs you now to help her make this mission succeed?”

    Marshall took a moment to consider what the Caitian was saying before he replied, “I hadn’t thought of it quite like that, but you do make a very valid point.” He walked over to the food replicator and asked for a glass of cold water. He took a small sip from the glass. “We were supposed to be out in deep space right now. We were supposed to be exploring. That’s the reason why I joined Starfleet.”

    “It’s why I joined Starfleet too, but orders are orders, and we go where we are needed the most. Right now, that’s here. This ship, this crew would benefit more from a captain that was level headed, not someone trying to be a hero again.”

    “I won’t dispute that,” said Alex.

    “I have to say that what you did earlier on the comm with Trujillo, she could call that insubordination,” said D’Vorr, “You might want to extend the olive branch before it’s too late.”

    “You might be right about that,” said Alex. He exhaled a very deep breath. He then said, “There are only two other people I’d let talk to me the way you just did, one being Doctor Gustafson.”

    “And the other?” she asked.

    “My wife,” replied Alex as his eyes went to the picture of his wife that he kept on the bedside table. He thought for a few seconds, and came to the conclusion that D’Vorr was right. He said, “I need you to get Commodore Trujillo on the comm, and tell her that I want to talk to her privately. I don’t want anyone to overhear what I have to say, and I’d like it on a secure channel.”

    “I’ll take care of it,” said D’Vorr as she turned to exit the room, “Oh, and sir?”


    “Welcome back.”

    “Thank you,” said Alex as he watched her leave. He then walked over to the small desk in his cabin, pulled out the chair and sat down. He needed more time to think, to consider what he was about to do. Deep down, he still held the conclusion that Tristienne D’Vorr was right, and that he was being a basket case. He only hoped it was not too late to extend that olive branch.

    “Captain, I have Commodore Trujillo for you,” said D’Vorr over the comm system a few moments later.

    He tugged on his uniform jacket, and called out, “Put it through in here.” He watched as the image on the desktop monitor changed to the face of Nandi Trujillo.

    “Go ahead, Captain,” Trujillo said guardedly from the confines of her ready room.

    “I’m going to get right to the point,” said Alex. He took a deep breath and cleared his mind. ‘Here goes,’ he thought to himself. He said, “Commodore, I’d like to apologize for my earlier behavior. It was brash, rude, and uncalled for. It’s not something I would tolerate, and if you want to reprimand me for it, I won’t fight you on it.”

    Trujillo studied him for a moment before inclining her head. “This is an imperfect situation where we’re dealing with ambiguous information and grasping at straws. You and I had an honest disagreement as to our respective authorities and our prospective courses of action. Granted, I would rather you had made those statements from the privacy of your ready room rather than from the middle of a crowded bridge, but that’s something for you to address with your crew, should you choose.”

    “I understand,” said Marshall with a nod. “You tell me what to do, and I’ll do it, no questions asked,” he added.

    “I appreciate that,” she replied, “but I don’t demand blind obedience, Captain. You have decades of experience and may well have a better take on a given situation than I do. I expect your honest opinion, which I will give due consideration. I don’t care about who gets the credit for what, only about the results. In my chain of command, the people under me get the credit for success, and I take the blame for failure.”

    “I’m going to level with you,” Marshall said candidly. “The reason why I did what I did is because I think our roles should be reversed. You should still be a captain, and I should be a commodore,” he continued, before explaining to Trujillo what he had told D’Vorr earlier.

    Trujillo nodded. “I’d gathered as much. As I said before, I know the circumstances are awkward.”

    “I had my chance for it, and I didn’t take it. Part of me regrets that decision now. I can only ask for your forgiveness, and I hope we can still work together on this. I think it would be better that way all around.”

    “There’s nothing to forgive, Captain. As far as I’m concerned, this was a disagreement between two opinionated officers. If Command hears word of any of this, it won’t be through me.”

    “I appreciate that Nandi, and Command won’t hear anything about it through me either,” said Alex feeling some sense of relief. He knew he had behaved like a fool, and the current crisis was not one that would resolve itself. “So, Commodore, where do we go from here?” he asked.

    “You’ll hold your position with Alamo. Just because the first wave of Tholians bypassed the Draius-Arigulon system doesn’t mean the second wave will. Once we’re confident the Draiians aren’t in any danger, Gauntlet and Alamo will link up outside the Longlax-Teko system. I’m tasking Gol to reconnoiter the spheres and see if there’s any reaction from the Tholian ships. Once we have more information on what’s going on in there, I can decide if we’re going to wait and see or charge in there and contest their incursion.”

    “Understood, Commodore,” Marshall affirmed agreeably.

    “I’ll be in touch, Captain. Reykjavík, out.”

    In her ready room, Trujillo sat back in her chair, laying her head against its headrest. The conversation had gone better than she had dared hope, and it appeared Marshall might not be the thorn in her side that she’d feared. She would keep her word, and hadn’t divulged any of their argument to anyone, not even Admiral Saavik. Marshall, however, had been openly insubordinate to a superior officer in front of his senior staff and enlisted personnel, and unless his crew was ferociously loyal, something like that would be a tale for the telling over drinks on a dozen starbases within weeks.

    Ultimately, it was not her problem. With her personnel issues now in order, the mysteries and dangers of the Longlax-Teko system awaited.

    * * *
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2023
    CeJay, Blip, Orbing Master and 5 others like this.
  8. Will The Serious

    Will The Serious Captain Captain

    Nov 5, 2022
    Great character moment. I very much appreciate when a character or group of characters can show some grace in the face of opposition. Good for Captain Marshall.

  9. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jun 18, 2021
    Nicely done on the backwash. A good study in leadership - particularly from Trujillo. When training new managers I often tell them that no one has a problem with any of your employees. They have a problem with you and you get to decide whether you have a problem with your employee.

    Marshall might have to provide some context and training for his bridge officers, but if they were tuned in, they heard what Trujillo heard - a spirited debate. He's a bit of a hothead, but that can be very useful on occasion. Ultimately, it was a good decision for him to not accept the promotion. He wasn't ready for it. He's probably come to that conclusion as well - which highlights the age/experience issue as well and I'm glad you're touching on it.

    Thanks!! rbs
  10. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    That was a great addition to the story and it added some great context to the characters.
    Robert Bruce Scott and Gibraltar like this.
  11. pio1776

    pio1776 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jan 9, 2017
    Does Marshall have anyone in his family serving in the Romulan War, might explain wanting to be a hero...
  12. mthompson1701

    mthompson1701 Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 18, 2001
    Out there, thataway
    Ok, let me clear something things up since Alexander Marshall is a character I created from my Starship Excalibur series. He and the Excalibur crew I consider to be on loan to Gibraltar for this story since we're both writing in the 2320's. There have been other adventures that the Excalibur crew have happened with Alex Marshall in command, I just haven't written about them. You'll continue to learn more about him, and the other characters in future Excalibur stories.

    The line about his promotion is actually a spoiler for an upcoming story that I'm in the process of outlining. I figured it was safe to include it, so that if you're reading the series in chronological order then his promotion offer would have already happened, and he turned it down willingly. Not because he wasn't ready, he simply didn't want it even though there are certain people in the fleet that want him to have it. His rationale at the time was that he had the rank he wanted, the crew he wanted, and the ship he wanted. He may not be ready for it, but once you read Into The Fire (the story I'm outlining that has yet to be written) it'll hopefully make more sense after that. I know how the Excalibur and those characters got from where they are in The Long Goodbye, to where they are now during The Event of the Season.

    I figure this confrontation with Trujillo was just a moment of weakness on his part. We all have them. I prefer to write characters with some flaws. Besides conflict leads to drama when you're writing.

    As to whether Alex Marshall has relatives that served during the Romulan War, I don't know. I haven't thought his background that far back. I'm not sure I would include something like that unless it had to become relevant to the story.

    I'm quite pleased with where the characters are, and I don't really know what's in store for the Reykjavik or the Excalibur. So, I'm just going to sit back, relax, and see what happens from here. I'm looking forward to seeing where things are going.
  13. Will The Serious

    Will The Serious Captain Captain

    Nov 5, 2022
    :p That is basically how I write. It's like reading a brand new story only even slower.

  14. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    I loved the inclusion of Fortitude. I hope we see her again if possible. I also love seeing Excalibur in this story with the Reykjavik.
  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    * * *

    The Akyazi-class perimeter-action ships had been built for speed, a fact that Commander Glal intended to use to his advantage. The compact vessels were sturdy, built for combat, and part of the same design lineage that had spawned the Shangri-La-class attack cruisers just before the signing of the Khitomer Accords were believed to have made such martial designs obsolete.

    The Gol dropped out of warp in-system, a perilous feat in and of itself, risking a potential warp core implosion or the destabilization of the Longlax-Teko star. It was necessary, however, as the only alternative would have been a long haul to the same location at full impulse from the system boundary, a journey taking well over an hour in full view of both the Tholians and the spheres.

    The ship’s bridge was a third smaller than Reykjavík’s, which Glal found oddly comforting. He mused that on some level it must remind him of the close confines of a Tellarite birthing creche. Glal sat forward expectantly in his chair as the chief petty officer at the helm announced their deceleration from warp.

    “Solar polarization on the main viewer,” Glal ordered. “Visual on the spheres.”

    “Detecting fifty-five Tholian vessels in close proximity to the spheres, sir,” the ensign at Operations reported.

    The viewscreen image came to life, the massive star’s luminescence reduced so that the spheres and their accompanying Tholian vessels could be seen.

    Glal’s curse in his native tongue went untranslated by his communicator as he stared at the scene before him.

    The Tholian ships had assumed a circular formation mirroring that of the spheres themselves, and were rotating counterclockwise, the bows of their vessels directed towards the mysterious orbs. From the after-most sections of the Tholian craft came a multitude of energized tendrils, the vaunted Tholian Web of legend. These tendrils were being woven into an expansive conical pattern, as though the ships themselves were a great loom producing a funnel of pure energy.

    Several whispered conversations between personnel broke out on the bridge at the sight of this phenomenon.

    “Quiet on the bridge!” Glal barked. “Maintain your posts.”

    The ensign at Ops called out, “Captain, I’m detecting a fourfold increase in the power of the sphere’s transmission directed at Tholian territory. If the power level continues to increase at this rate, subspace communications will be negatively impacted with increasing interference.”

    “How soon until we’re unable to punch a signal out to Task Force Gauntlet?” Glal asked.

    “I estimate thirty-seven minutes, sir.”

    “Understood. Route auxiliary power to our comms transceiver and begin sending sensor telemetry and visuals back to the task force.”

    He looked to where Gael Jarrod, his XO, sat at an auxiliary console on the bridge’s upper level. “Thoughts?”

    “Perhaps we should issue challenge? They are in our territory. They’ve refused to speak to us so far, but maybe now that they’re at their destination they’d be more inclined to talk?”

    Glal opened a subspace channel in the clear from his armrest interface. “Tholian vessels, you have entered Federation space without permission and have taken up position in a Federation star system. This is a hostile act. You will come about immediately and return to Tholian space or we will take the defensive measures necessary to protect our territory.”

    The wait for any response from the Tholians or the spheres was agonizing, but after three minutes it became apparent that no reaction was forthcoming.

    “That’s… unsettling,” Jarrod noted. “I’d almost feel better if they were wheeling about to attack.”

    Glal grunted sourly. “Yes. They do seem rather preoccupied with whatever they’re doing.” He opened another channel, this one secured and encrypted, to Reykjavík. Gol to Gauntlet-Actual, you should have live telemetry from us. No reaction so far to our presence. Standing by for further instructions.”

    * * *

    “Gauntlet-Actual acknowledges, Gol. We’re going over the telemetry now. Hold position and increase the intensity of your scans of the spheres.” Trujillo replied from the command chair of Reykjavík.

    Trujillo sat back in her chair, looking over the readings coming in from Gol on her swing-arm console laid across her lap. She elected to give her senior officers time to digest this new information before updating her on their findings.

    She felt a tickle of apprehension at the bizarre behavior of the Tholians, at the thought that such a potent and enigmatic species might have become someone else’s unwilling pawns. A power which could do that might be capable of even greater depredations.

    “I can confirm Gol’s readings of the increase in the intensity of the transmissions, Commodore,” Garrett advised from the Science station. “The energetic structure they’re spinning appears to be both amplifying the intensity of the signal as well as directing it in a wider arc, propagating the transmission through a significantly larger volume of Tholian space.”

    Davula rested her hands atop the safety railing, looking across to Trujillo. “That means more Tholian ships will be coming, sir.”

    Trujillo nodded, coming to the same conclusion. “Alert Command, let them know there’s a strong possibility of more Tholian incursions across a larger section of our border.”

    She pushed her swing-arm console aside and stood, moving to Garrett’s station. “Lieutenant, is there any way we might jam this transmission? Perhaps all of ours and Alamo’s ships interfering with that frequency range simultaneously?”

    Garrett shook her head fractionally as she crunched the numbers, her fingers dancing across her console interface. “No, sir. Given the overwhelming power of the signal, it would take hundreds of ships and dedicated communications arrays to even begin to interfere with the transmission. And that’s at its present strength. If this exponential growth in signal strength continues, nothing I know of would be able to stop it.”

    Trujillo frowned, then nodded her understanding as she patted the young woman on the shoulder. She moved to the standing Tactical station and the imposing form of Lt. Helvia. “Weaps, given the scans we’ve received of the spheres, would they be vulnerable to our weapons?”

    “Unknown, sir. The original spheres were durable enough to withstand the NX Enterprise’s primitive photonic warheads and phase cannons. Enterprise used a deflector pulse to compromise the sphere’s interspatial manifold, which set off a chain reaction that destroyed all the spheres in the Delphic Expanse.”

    Trujillo glanced at Kura-Ka, the engineer having made one of his rare appearances on the bridge.

    “Commander, could we duplicate the pulse Enterprise used?”

    Kura-Ka inclined his head. “Yes, sir. However, these spheres are significantly larger than the ones encountered in the 22nd century, and the consensus of several senior engineers in the task force is that they’re appreciably more advanced.”

    “You’re suggesting these versions might have been hardened against such an attack?”

    “Quite possibly, sir. There would be little point in positioning devices here that proved vulnerable to our technology a century and a half ago. We’ve not been able to locate an interspatial manifold access on the exterior of any of these spheres, leading me to believe those networked relays are located within the sphere’s interior or that these spheres operate on different principles than those encountered by Archer’s Enterprise.”

    Trujillo absorbed that while moving toward the command chair, only to be intercepted by Commander Davula. The XO spoke in hushed tones, for Trujillo’s ears only.

    “Sir, Command has confirmed my report, and they’re rerouting Task Force Palisade to the Federation/Tholian border.”

    Those were the thirty-two ships that were to have arrived at Longlax-Teko to supplement Gauntlet and Alamo.

    The commodore sighed, cocking her head thoughtfully. “I don’t envy Admiral Koizumi that assignment, but given the circumstances it makes the most sense strategically.”

    She resumed her seat, deep in thought. Her favored course of action had been to wait for reinforcements before provoking the Tholians or testing the spheres’ defenses. That was no longer an option, as their reinforcements had been diverted, and the longer she waited the more Tholian ships were likely to be drawn to this phenomenon.

    Trujillo opened the comms to the Gol.

    “Commander Glal, status of your surveillance satellites?”

    Glal’s face, framed by his scruffy beard and tusks, appeared on the viewer. His scout ship’s small bridge was visible in the background, to include Gael Jarrod analyzing sensor telemetry at his station.

    Trujillo found herself fighting to focus on Glal’s image while unconsciously toying with the wedding band on her finger.

    “We’ve deployed our surveillance sats, sir, and we managed to cobble together a subspace signal amplifier that should enable us to maintain contact with those satellites for a few more hours.”

    “Excellent work.” She steeled herself for her next exchange. “It appears it’s time to poke the bear, Commander.”

    “Ah, yes, just so,” Glal nodded agreeably. “That’s one of those small rodents that scurry about up in Terran trees, right?”

    “No, Glal, that’s a squirrel. Bears are the large, lumbering hairy things with the big teeth and huge claws.”

    “Oh, well, in that case that sounds like a rather terrible idea, sir. Still, we’re all in, in keeping with this ship’s theme. Did you know the quote on Gol’s commissioning plaque is: ‘You want us to do what?’”

    Trujillo had to fight to keep from chuckling, thankful for Glal’s ridiculous sense of humor at the darkest of moments. She also found herself desperately wishing that she had assigned her former XO and her husband to any other ship in the task force than this one.

    “One pass on their formation, Commander,” Trujillo ordered. “Target one of the spheres with your forward weapons and send a few photons from your aft battery into whatever it is that the Tholians are building. Then get the hell out of there.”

    All seriousness now, Glal nodded again. “Aye, sir.”

    “Commodore,” Garrett broke in, “if I may?”

    Trujillo gestured towards the viewer and surrendered the floor.

    Garrett continued, “Commander Glal, be advised that the confluence of sphere and Tholian activity has created increased gravitational shearing stresses in proximity to the star itself. I would advise against attempting to engage your warp engines any closer than three au from the star on your egress from the system.”

    Glal turned and pointed to someone offscreen, apparently confirming with a subordinate that Garrett’s advice had been heard and understood.

    “Thank you, Lieutenant, and congratulations on your promotion.”

    Garrett simply dipped her head at Glal’s recognition of her advancement.

    “I’m always up for a bracing stern chase, Commodore,” Glal remarked, attention returned to Trujillo. "Just have someone standing by to pry the Tholians off our tail if it comes to that.”

    “We’ll be ready,” Trujillo affirmed. “Begin your run in ten minutes… mark. We’ll need to notify Gauntlet and Alamo of what’s about to happen.”

    Glal tossed a jaunty salute towards the viewer pickup and began to reach for the armrest panel on his chair to close the channel.

    “And Commander…” Trujillo said quickly, causing Glal to pause. “Good fortune.”

    “To us all, sir. Gol, out.”

    * * *

    USS Gol
    Longlax-Teko System

    “Three, two, one… mark,” Jarrod called out.

    “Helm, one-quarter impulse. Steady acceleration curve up to half-impulse as the spheres enter our weapons envelope,” Glal ordered.

    “Aye, sir. Executing.”

    “Tactical, full spread of photons on target designated ‘Sphere-Seven’ followed by phasers, same impact coordinates. As we pass and begin the slingshot maneuver around the star, fire aft torpedoes on target designated ‘Cone-One’.”

    Gol leapt ahead, rushing headlong towards the surreal formation of spheres and their weirdly spinning Tholian vassals.

    The ship’s red-alert indicators pulsed in steady rhythm, complementing the blood-red emergency lighting activated to preserve the command crew’s night-vision should primary illumination fail.

    “Seven million kilometers to targets and closing,” Helm advised.

    “No reaction detected from the Tholian ships or the spheres yet, sir,” Ops reported.

    Glal reached out a hand to toggle his seat’s safety restraints, anticipating that when a reaction did come, it would be dramatic.

    The ship trembled, as though experiencing turbulence.

    “What’s causing that?” Glal asked.

    “Spatial and subspace disruptions, sir, byproducts of whatever they’re doing here. This is what Reyky’s science officer was warning us about.”

    Glal grunted dourly, eyeing the viewer as they plunged into the star’s gravity well, the spheres growing from specks to small moons as the rotating formation of Tholian ships continued to build their conical amplifier.

    “Restraints, everybody,” Glal instructed. “I don’t need anyone flung into me and risking my ravishing good looks.”

    “Five million clicks, approaching one-half impulse.”

    “Active targeting,” Tactical announced. “Targets locked.”

    “Tholians are still occupied, no detectable response from the spheres.”

    “Four million…”

    The audio-alert sounded from the Tactical board. “Forward torpedoes away!” the junior lieutenant at the station announced breathlessly. Glal figured it was likely the first time the young woman had ever fired in anger.

    “Rolling thirty degrees to port,” the Helm called out as the ship jolted again. “Subspace chop is increasing along with solar wind density. Beginning approach to slingshot initiation.”

    “Movement!” Ops blurted excitedly. “Three Tholians ships have broken formation.”

    “We’ll be in phaser range in six seconds.”

    “Star’s thermal output approaching twenty-five hundred Kelvin, Captain. Shields are holding, but any incoming weapons fire is going to be problematic with the increasing strain on the shields.”

    “Acknowledged,” Glal said calmly, masking his own growing unease.

    “Sir, those Tholian ships are moving to intercept our torpedoes.”

    “Point defense fire?” Glal asked, trying to read the sensor returns on his abbreviated armrest interface as the ship’s juddering increased.

    “No, sir, with their superstructures. Impact! Three of our four torpedoes have struck two Tholian ships and one has just impacted the surface of a sphere.”

    “Coming to course two-three-seven, mark zero-one-two, accelerating to three-quarters impulse and beginning slingshot maneuver,” Helm announced.

    “Aft torpedoes away,” Tactical advised, her voice more controlled this time.

    “Incoming fire!” Ops cried out. “Tholian ships are firing thermionic torpedoes and—”

    Gol bucked, hard, causing consoles throughout the bridge to flicker momentarily.

    “…and tetryon beam weapons,” Ops resumed, finding his voice after the blow.

    “Beam impacts, port-aft quarter, shields holding but I’m having trouble getting them to firm up.”

    “Full impulse,” Glal growled, “initiate slingshot maneuver.”

    “Three-thousand Kelvin, shield generators three and four are beginning to redline, sir!”

    “All auxiliary power to shields and impulse engines,” Glal replied.

    "Two Tholian vessels in pursuit, sir. They’re following our course and acceleration curve.”

    “Aft torpedoes have impacted on the Tholian energy structure, sir. Stellar radiation interference is partly masking our sensor returns, I can’t see if there’s any effect.”

    “That’s why we left surveillance sats behind,” Glal reminded the young man. “Let Gauntlet worry about battle-damage assessments, we’ll worry about getting out of here intact.” He looked to Jarrod out of habit, then shifted his gaze to the Tactical officer one station over. “Open fire on our pursuers, all aft weapons.”

    "Aye, sir,” she answered, intently focused on her displays. “Torpedoes away, firing phasers.

    “Thirty-five hundred Kelvin, Captain. Recommend we increase distance from the star as we come around.”

    Gol was shuddering constantly now, accompanied by the alarming groan of her superstructure warping and flexing under the strain.

    “Direct hits!” the young woman at Tactical crowed.

    “Helm, ease our course away from the star as we come around. Engineering, all remaining emergency power to shields and structural integrity fields.”

    “One of the pursuing ship’s shields have collapsed… whoa, there she goes!” Ops called. “Stellar radiation got her, sir. The other ship has also taken shield damage and is withdrawing.”

    Glal emitted a satisfied grunt. “Reroute all weapons power to shields and fields.”

    “Three-thousand Kelvin and dropping, sir. Shields are stabilizing and shearing stresses on the hull are abating.”

    Glal craned his neck around to fix his gaze on the chief engineer, the tiny woman’s sweat-sheened face illuminated by multiple pulsing red indicators on her board. He gave her a thumbs-up, his second favorite Human gesture. “Say, Lieutenant Galvez, you did a really good job on that refit!”

    Galvez smiled back at him, the expression not wholly genuine due to her adrenaline rush. Her eyes were still wide with fear.

    “Slingshot completed, sir. We’re now in excess of full impulse. If we don’t throttle back, we’ll incur time-dilation effect.”

    “Reduce speed to full impulse,” Glal replied, holding a deep sigh of relief in check for the sake of his inexperienced crew.

    He opened the intraship comms.

    “Crew of the Gol. Thanks to your hard work and tenacity, we’ve just completed a contested reconnaissance mission into hostile-controlled territory. For a crew that was just thrown together from a dozen different ships and a starbase, you’ve demonstrated excellence in the face of danger. Well done, everyone. For those of you who didn’t apply sunscreen liberally prior to this mission, Sickbay is open for business.”

    Glal retracted his chair’s safety harness. “Ops, do we have clear line-of-sight back to Gauntlet for subspace comms?”

    “Yes, sir. We’re around the far side of the star and the subspace interference here is reduced. I can punch a signal through if you’d like?”

    “That’s alright, Ensign. I’m just sending a text transmission, I’ll handle it.”

    He coded the message private and personal, for Commodore Trujillo.

    ‘From: CO, USS Gol. To: Gauntlet-Actual - Mission accomplished. Nandi, you owe me a bottle of the good stuff.’

    * * *
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2023
  16. Bynar0110

    Bynar0110 Captain Captain

    Sep 25, 2022
    Ohio Valley, USA
    Excellent Chapter.
    Gibraltar likes this.
  17. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jun 18, 2021
    Glal just leapt to the top of my favorite UT captains. A gutsy, wise-cracking tellerite with a deft hand for human morale - superb character. Great first officer. Stellar captain. I'm rooting for him to get his own series.

    Wouldn't be a tholian story without their webs... curiouser and curiouser... Lots of classic elements. Sphere builders, tholian webs, you've got a great mystery going here.

    Thanks!! rbs
  18. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    I agree with RBS. Glal should get his own series. Maybe he should get Fortitude?
    Gibraltar and Robert Bruce Scott like this.
  19. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Nicely done. A tense segment interspersed with humor and yet only a piece driving this mystery laden narrative forward, which I’m sensing we’re slowly getting closer to unraveling.
    Gibraltar and Robert Bruce Scott like this.
  20. Will The Serious

    Will The Serious Captain Captain

    Nov 5, 2022

    Nicely done. The slingshot maneuver was a great addition to the intensity. The gallows humor caught me by surprise. I haven't been following the story long enough to get a good sense of Glal's character, but now it's coming together for me.

    Hungrily waiting for the next installment.

    Gibraltar and Robert Bruce Scott like this.