Starship Reykjavík - The Event of the Season

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

  1. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    * * *

    “Now we know the Tholians will fight to protect the spheres,” Trujillo noted, addressing her senior officers in Reykjavík’s briefing room.

    “Not only that, sir,” Helvia added, “they’ll sacrifice their own vessels to protect the spheres from our weapons.”

    Trujillo gestured pointedly at the Magna Roman, emphasizing his observation. “It seems that attacking the spheres will be impossible without incurring Tholian casualties. With more compromised Tholians undoubtedly responding to the sphere’s transmission, waiting only compounds the problem.”

    Garrett still had the habit of raising her hand before speaking up. “Sir, sensor telemetry from Gol’s recon-sats indicate the sphere impacted by our photon torpedo incurred only minor damage. That torpedo was set to maximum yield. Our phasers had even less effect on the sphere’s structural integrity.”

    Trujillo looked at Helvia and the engineer, Kura-Ka, seated next to one another at the table. “Gentlemen, given that the spheres were unshielded, what about using a tri-cobalt warhead?”

    The Magna-Roman and Zaranite exchanged a glance before the senior of the two officers replied.

    “It could work, Commodore,” Kura-Ka answered. “Depending on the precise combination of structural alloys, a cascading tri-cobalt reaction might consume the entire sphere.”

    Helvia added, “However, we would want to have a backup plan, sir. If the spheres do have defensive screens that simply weren’t employed during Gol’s attack, they would render tri-cobalt devices inert. I would recommend bringing enough ships with sufficient armament capacity that we can blanket the target area with as many photorps as are needed.”

    “And what of the photon detonation against their web-structure?” Trujillo inquired.

    Garrett answered, “Readings indicate that the web-structure suffered moderate damage and the Tholians had to affect repairs to it. It looks to have set them back some number of hours.”

    Trujillo absorbed the information before looking to her XO. “Commander, what is your recommendation?”

    Davula considered her words before replying. “The longer we wait the greater the risk that Tholian reinforcements will nullify any tactical advantage we might have. Their second wave is due to arrive in a little over three hours. Though I’m a diplomat and explorer by nature, sir, I fear any further delays by Starfleet will only end up making our endgame here more costly for us. Right now there are fifty-three Tholian ships in that system, in three hours there will be eighty-two. Time is not on our side.”

    “If we make our move before their second wave arrives,” Shukla threw in, “it’s inadvisable to have Alamo join our attack. The Tholian reinforcements could easily lay waste the Draius-Arigulon star system before moving on to support the spheres if Alamo isn’t there to backstop their navy.”

    “I… may have a possible alternative to a full-scale assault, sir,” Garrett posited with some reluctance.

    Trujillo offered the younger woman an expression that invited elaboration.

    “The science officer on Orion came up with a plan based on some groundbreaking research being done in stellarforming, altering the output of main-sequence stars. The field is in its infancy, but they’ve already made some breakthroughs in initiating stellar flares and stellar prominence activity with infusions of trilithium and protomatter delivered by probe into the star’s photosphere.

    “It might be possible to fire such a device into the Longlax-Teko star at precisely the right coordinates to cause an X-class stellar flare large enough to engulf the spheres. That would conceivably destroy the spheres, or at least damage them sufficiently to interfere with their subspace broadcast capabilities. The Tholian ships present would have some opportunity to escape at near-relativistic speeds, should they prove cognizant of the danger.”

    Trujillo was clearly intrigued at this notion. “How long would it take to prepare such a device?”

    “Lt. Commander Reinhart and his team are already working on it. It may be complete by now, sir.”

    “How close to the star would a ship need to be in order to launch the device?” Trujillo asked.

    “Given the Tholian’s reaction to Gol’s torpedo launch against the spheres, I’d say prohibitively close, Commodore. They’ll almost certainly attempt to intercept such a launch. We’d need to be close, very nearly on top of them. However, a flight of torpedoes and decoys from several ships simultaneously might serve to camouflage the presence of the device.”

    Trujillo’s expression held more than a hint of disappointment. “So, the device wouldn’t make a full-scale run in on the spheres unnecessary?”

    “No, sir. It would hopefully make only a single pass necessary, instead of the task force having to hold position and bombard the spheres while simultaneously fighting off the Tholians.”

    Trujillo pointed at Davula. “Commander, contact Orion and inform their captain that Reinhart’s plan and device will be our primary strategy. He has one hour to complete construction on his device. I’ll want it and him transferred over to Reykjavík before the taskforce departs for Longlax-Teko. If the device fails, we’ll fall back on our original tactic of engaging the spheres with tri-cobalt warheads and the Tholians with conventional weapons until either they’re destroyed, or we are.”

    The briefing was adjourned, it’s attendees grim but determined.

    * * *

    “Commodore, I’ve just reviewed your plan. Our strategists and scientific advisors give you a sixty-two percent chance of that device working as designed,” Admiral Saavik offered over subspace in Trujillo’s ready room.

    The signal was jumpy and cut out intermittently due to the growing subspace interference the sphere’s broadcast was causing in the region.

    “I’d rather that than the twenty-three percent chance they gave us of surviving long enough in a standard engagement to destroy a half to two-thirds of the spheres,” was Trujillo’s reply.

    “Agreed,” Saavik said with a curt nod. “I’ve just come out of our high-level negotiations between the Federation Security Council and the Tholian embassy. The Tholians have acceded to our taking immediate action against the spheres, regardless of the consequences to their ships and personnel. They’re terrified by this whole business, as well they should be. They’ve lost count of the number of their ships that have been compromised by the broadcast. The Tholians can’t even venture into those affected areas to try and head off their own vessels for fear of being overcome themselves.”

    “Their decision is surprisingly pragmatic given the circumstances,” Trujillo remarked with surprise.

    “The Tholian military doesn’t know if what’s been done to their crews can be undone, and given the nature of their biology, they don’t want to facilitate the spread of this cognitive compromise to the rest of their population.”

    Trujillo’s expression darkened. “Sever the limb to save the body,” she said in a subdued tone.

    “Precisely,” Saavik acknowledged. “I hereby authorize your plan of attack on the Longlax-Teko star, the spheres, and the affected Tholian warships.”

    “Thank you, sir. I hope to speak with you again, soon.” Trujillo offered in parting.

    “Good hunting, Commodore.”

    * * *
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2023
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  2. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    Still spinning quite the yarn here. The Tholians are quite alien, which makes everything they do and everything we learn about their culture interesting - especially their diplomacy. Good job keeping a tech-heavy expo sequence compelling - easy to lose readers with that. And nice detailing about the growing impact of the spheres on communication and the nature of space in the region. Really great story premise.

    Thanks!! rbs
     
  3. Bynar0110

    Bynar0110 Captain Captain

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    This was a fun chapter to read.

    Tholians must have webs and webs of secrets.
     
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  4. Will The Serious

    Will The Serious Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2022
    Common ground? A seed for the future?

    There's some research on a grand scale.

    -Will
     
  5. pio1776

    pio1776 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2017
    well, that just got more interesting.
     
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  6. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    * * *

    Davula stepped into the ready room at Trujillo’s prompting, coming to attention in front of her desk.

    “At ease, Commander. How go the preparations?”

    Davula relaxed fractionally. “Lt. Commander Reinhart and the stellar probe have come aboard, sir. Ordinance division is loading the device in the forward-center tube. We’re fifteen minutes away from launching the attack.”

    Trujillo nodded distractedly, turning her monitor screen towards the former science officer. “I’ve been toying with something, and I need to know if it has any merit?”

    Davula instantly gathered that the device displayed on the screen was a modified communications buoy.

    “Could we mass produce enough of these buoys to mimic the broadcast from the spheres? I thought we might be able to drop them at the system’s edge and activate them at the same time as we’re attacking the spheres. Hopefully we might draw the Tholians away from the stellar flare and spare them the fate of the spheres themselves.”

    Davula surmised where this was going and took the opportunity to seat herself across from Trujillo, unbidden. “Sir, respectfully, I absolutely understand your wanting to save lives, but we just don’t have time to assemble these devices before our attack. Even if we could, the Tholians are right on top of the spheres themselves. They’ll be engulfed by the flare within seconds of the spheres and there wouldn’t be time for them to react, even if our broadcast was strong enough to catch their attention.”

    Trujillo’s expression hardened and she blushed, embarrassed. “Of course, Commander. I’m sorry, I…” she trailed off lamely.

    “I’m torn by the necessity of attacking the Tholians, too, sir,” Davula confessed. “It certainly appears they’re innocents caught up in someone else’s scheme. But we don’t know if the destruction of the spheres will break whatever grip that broadcast has on them. Even if your idea worked as you hoped, we could end up drawing still hostile Tholians to the edge of the system and having to fight all of them there, rather than allowing the stellar flare to do the job for us.”

    Trujillo shook her head slightly, an ironic smirk drawing across her lips. “I knew you were the right choice, XO. I appreciate your putting my head back on straight.”

    Davula mustered an awkward smile in response. “I appreciate the compliment, sir. For the record, I’m of the opinion that whoever set this plan in motion might have been counting on our inherent decency to tie our hands until it was too late.”

    Trujillo stood suddenly and Davula followed suit.

    “I should be on the bridge finalizing our attack plan. Thank you for hearing me out.”

    “My pleasure, sir.”

    * * *

    “We’re holding at Phase Line Alpha, sir,” Naifeh reported from the Helm station.

    Shukla added, “All Gauntlet vessels report ready, sir.”

    Trujillo activated her chair’s safety restraints and ordered her subordinates to do the same. She looked to Davula. “XO, initiate countdown to launch.”

    “Aye, sir. Fifteen seconds… mark.”

    Trujillo brought her swingarm console interface up, over and into her lap, having already checked and rechecked all possible task force attack formations. She could reorganize the squadron with the push of a single icon mid-battle, if necessary.

    She opened the intraship. “This is the commodore. Stand to red alert, all hands maintain battle-stations, damage control and casualty collection teams stand ready.”

    “…three, two, one… mark,” Davula announced. “Helm, execute.”

    Reykjavík and the task force jumped to warp in unison, initiating an emergency deceleration after only twenty seconds at warp five.

    Like Gol had done hours earlier, the ships of Task Force Gauntlet risked critical engine failure and a host of other catastrophic possibilities for the advantage of surprise. Warping into a star’s gravity well was not advisable under any circumstances, but this was the only way to arrive within weapons range without alerting their adversaries.

    “We’ve decelerated to sub-light,” Naifeh advised. “Impulse engines to full.”

    “This is Gauntlet-Actual, all ships open fire,” Trujillo communicated via direct laser-link, given that subspace communications were now impossible due to the cacophony of the spheres’ broadcast.

    Eighty-four photon torpedoes and twelve tri-cobalt missiles flashed towards the twin disk formations of the spheres and their slowly rotating Tholian satellites. This veritable wall of anti-matter warheads began to track towards individual targets and was followed by a fusillade of phaser beams, lancing ribbons of energy that briefly connected aggressor and target.

    The torpedoes impacted against the spheres and among the wildly maneuvering Tholian ships intent on sacrificing their own hulls to absorb the incoming ordinance. Phaser blasts shattered Tholian hulls where shields had been compromised and torpedo detonations savaged multiple vessels among the madly scrambling fleet whose ships were now racing in all directions.

    From Ops, Shukla called out, “Sir, Gol reports an unrecoverable critical pressure control failure in their warp reactor. They’re having to eject their core.”

    “Acknowledged, tell them to proceed under impulse power until we’ve cleared the star’s gravity well, then we’ll tow them out of the system,” Trujillo ordered, tapping commands into her console to account for that new variable. She suppressed a surge of concern for Glal, Jarrod, and their stalwart crew. She’d worried that the stress of repeated stellar proximity warp jumps might prove more than that ship’s engines could take.

    “Salvo two away,” Helvia noted dispassionately from the Tactical board.

    From the Science station, Garrett announced, “Tholian ships have abandoned their web-structure and are coming about, I’m seeing warp engine initiation indicators in multip—”

    “Evasive maneuvers, all ships!” Trujillo called out over the squadron laser-link, cutting Garrett off mid-sentence. “Kamikaze protocol!”

    A half-dozen Tholian ships jumped to warp on deliberate collision courses.

    Robau, an invaluable Abbe-class missile cruiser, proved a scant three seconds too slow on her slewing course to port. One moment she was ripple-firing volleys of torpedoes, the next there was an intense flash of light and a corona of superluminal debris fanning out in all directions. The quickly dying flare marked the final resting place of her crew of two-hundred and seventy-seven souls.

    An instant later, the sturdy Shras followed suit, annihilated by the FTL impact with a Tholian frigate. In less than three seconds, both of Gauntlet’s dedicated missile cruisers had been destroyed, cutting the squadron’s torpedo capacity by one-quarter.

    Robau and Shras are gone!” Shukla cried, cracks forming in the young man’s normally imperturbable demeanor.

    “Understood,” Trujillo grunted as a thermionic warhead crashed against Reykjavík’s forward shields, followed by a tetryon beam impact. She toggled a pre-set icon on her board, ordering the task force’s two Excelsiors, Yorktown and Yi Sun-Sin to assume the former positions of their fallen brethren.

    “All ships, close with the Tholian formation to prevent further warp-collisions,” Trujillo commanded over Gauntlet’s comm-net. “Time until we’re in firing range with the stellar probe?”

    “Sixty seconds, sir,” Helvia replied.

    This will be the longest minute ever, Trujillo reflected mordantly.

    Waves of fire and counter-fire slashed between the quickly merging formations. Starfleet had struck first and hard, destroying or damaging numerous Tholian craft, but the crystalline aliens still held the numerical advantage, and their voluminous return fire began to draw blood.

    The Chandley-class frigate Churchill stove in the bow of a Tholian destroyer with concentrated torpedo and phaser fire, only to have five thermionic torpedoes from three different ships impact almost simultaneously, shredding her shields. A barrage of follow-on tetryon blasts pierced her fractured hull, causing the ship to yaw wildly to starboard as she shed escape pods.

    Reykjavík’s port and starboard forward torpedo launchers continued to unleash flights of crimson missiles while the center tube remained silent, biding its time with the precious stellar probe.

    The attack-cruiser had been designed for battle, with dedicated power-systems intended to support a reinforced shield grid and near-constant phaser fire. As such, her phasers lashed out repeatedly in concert with her blistering photon volleys, clearing a path through the maelstrom of darting Tholian ships.

    “Reading multiple photon and tri-cobalt impacts among the spheres, sir,” Garrett reported. “I’m seeing tri-cobalt matter consumption cascades on at least two of the spheres, while seven others show significant surface damage.”

    “Distress call from Itoman, Commodore,” Shukla announced, seeming to have recovered some of his composure. “They report they’ve taken catastrophic damage to propulsion systems and their shields are failing. They’re adrift.”

    “Acknowledged,” Trujillo answered by rote, her mind compartmentalizing the desperation of the scout’s almost certainly doomed crew as she realized none of the squadron’s other ships could take her in tow with their shields raised. “Tell them to play dead until one of us can come back for them."

    “Five seconds until we’re in firing range with the stellar probe, sir,” Helvia said.

    “Maintain course,” she instructed, glancing down at the command console in her lap where individual starship icons had begun to flash yellow, orange, and in the cases of those destroyed, crimson. Multiple impacts against their shields threw Trujillo against her chair’s restraints.

    “Enemy fire increasing as we close with the spheres,” Helvia observed. “Shields holding, sixty-five percent across the grid.”

    Trujillo ordered, “Weaps, deploy decoys and countermeasures.”

    Specialized ports opened along the trailing edges of Reykjavík’s saucer, disgorging all manner of decoy drones, sensor-spoofing pods, and micro-torpedo sub-munitions designed to intercept enemy missiles in flight.

    The rate of incoming fire slackened as Tholian tactical sensors were jammed, duped, and otherwise discombobulated.

    Trujillo turned to look at Lt. Commander Reinhart, the science officer on loan from Orion and the designer of the stellar probe, seated at an auxiliary console on the bridge’s upper level. “We’re in range, Commander. Do your thing.”

    “Aye, sir,” he replied, gesturing to Helvia at Tactical. “Fire the probe, Lieutenant.”

    “Probe away. All available ships are firing torpedoes and decoy munitions to the same coordinates to cover the probe.”

    Trujillo input a new set of coordinates into her console, directing those Gauntlet ships still able to adjust course to initiate a looping strafing run on the spheres, now that the task force had sliced through the Tholian formation which was scrambling to pursue.

    She desperately hoped the probe would function as advertised, but had to continue to execute their attack as if it would fail.

    “Maintain fire on those spheres, Weaps,” Trujillo directed to Helvia at Tactical. “I want to see them burning.”

    With the center photorp launcher now free of the probe, Helvia unlimbered the full might of Reykjavík’s tactical suite. The ship disgorged a seemingly endless stream of torpedoes as phaser blasts fanned out in all directions, striking spheres and Tholian ships alike.

    “Structural compromise in nine of the spheres now, sir,” Garrett noted as a weapons impact jostled her in her seat.

    “Shields still holding,” Helvia reported. “Fifty-two percent, and I'm compensating for our overtaxed forward and dorsal generators with auxiliary power.”

    Reinhart called, “The probe has just penetrated the star’s photosphere. The warhead is detonating… now!”

    “Helm, bring us around to zero-two-five, mark three-zero-seven and maintain full impulse. Weaps, deploy a second round of decoys and target pursuing threat vessels exclusively.”

    Reykjavík came hard about, shooting past the remaining Gauntlet ships that had been following her lead and expelling a salvo of ordinance and collimated energy toward the madly corkscrewing formation of Tholians following in their wake.

    The wildly firing Reykjavík tore through the pursuing ships, scatting them in all directions as she made a beeline for the Itoman.

    “Engineering, does Itoman have sufficient structural integrity left to survive a tractor-tow at warp speeds?”

    The junior lieutenant manning the bridge’s Engineering station shook his head vigorously. “No, sir, she’ll come apart if we try.”

    “Weaps, drop some mines behind us and get ready to lower the shields. Ops, inform all transporter rooms that we’re going to be beaming Itoman’s survivors aboard.”

    On the main viewer, the burning hulk of the destroyer Honolulu drifted briefly into view and then was gone from sight, fleeting testament to the loss of her compliment.

    “Commodore!” Reinhart yelped from his station. “A level X-Nine stellar flare is erupting from the star’s surface.”

    “I’m going to presume that’s a good thing, Commander,” Trujillo replied dryly, inputting a series of coordinates and sending them to the Tactical station. “Weaps, before we lower shields for evac, the Tholian destroyer at these coordinates, make it disappear.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    The station’s weapons-firing alert was warbling almost continuously now.

    “Vessel neutralized, ready to lower shields.”

    “Drop shields and initiate transport.”

    “The stellar flare will reach the coordinates of the spheres in seventy-three seconds,” Reinhart said.

    Trujillo toggled open the laser-link to the task force. “Gauntlet, we’ve done what we came here to do. If you’re still intact, take any disabled ships or escape pods in your vicinity in tow and let’s get the hell out of here.”

    Reykjavík rocked savagely as a tetryon beam slammed into her naked superstructure, fracturing the saucer’s dorsal ablative armor matrix. Any bridge crew not lashed to their seats were thrown to the deck, with the exception of Helvia, who held on to his standing console like a piece of duranium statuary.

    "Hull breach on decks two and three, pressure doors and forcefields in place, sir.”

    “Weaps, set phasers to intercept incoming torpedoes. I don’t want to eat one of their warheads with our shields down!” Trujillo exclaimed.

    “Aye, Commodore.”

    “Twenty seconds until we’ve got all Itoman’s survivors aboard, sir!”

    Shukla advised, “Yorktown reports they have Gol in tow and are egressing the system, sir.”

    Thank you, Demora, Trujillo silently acknowledged.

    “We’ve got Tholians inbound, sir. Three cruisers and a frigate approaching from two-nine-seven, mark one-zero-four. They’ll be in weapons range in ten seconds.”

    Trujillo looked expectantly at Shukla, the man’s turban-adorned head low over his console in focused concentration.

    He looked up suddenly, “Transporter room reports thirty-six survivors recovered, Commodore. They’re moving several of them to Sickbay.”

    “Shields up. Helm, evasive course away from those ships until we’re clear of the gravity well, then kick us up to warp five.”

    Reykjavík shot ahead and then arced away from the pursuing ships, powering out of the star’s gravitational grasp as her aft torpedo launcher and phaser banks mauled the trailing warships.

    Trujillo leaned back in her seat, feeling the slack in her shoulder restraints and realizing they had been restricting the blood flow to her arms and hands. She opened and closed her fingers as her eyes were drawn to the task force status display on her laptop console.

    Five of sixteen ships lost, nearly twelve-hundred Starfleet personnel dead, not counting the casualties among the surviving ships. None of them had escaped damage in the melee. Suddenly Trujillo imagined those very same hands coated in blood, the end result of her strategy and tactics. She had consigned well over a thousand people and countless Tholians to their deaths in this otherwise unremarkable star system.

    The bridge had fallen quiet as the individual crew absorbed recent events and came to terms with their own survival.

    “Sir,” Reinhart said, shattering the silence. “The stellar flare has consumed the spheres and nearly all the remaining Tholian vessels.” He looked up from his displays, his face registering disbelief. “They didn’t even try to evade it.”

    “No,” she breathed, her voice heavy with loss. “Of course they didn’t.”

    * * *
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2023
  7. Bynar0110

    Bynar0110 Captain Captain

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    Excellent chapter.

    Poor Rachel Garrett and what the future has in store for her.
     
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  8. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This was a pretty intense chapter. Keep up the great work, Gibraltar.
     
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  9. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    Quite a gripping chapter. You had me gritting my teeth... I particularly appreciate Trujillo's concern for Tholian lives in advance of the attack - as well as her first officer's reactions. Superb character moment in an action heavy sequence - Thanks!! rbs
     
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  10. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Very true, but she still has over twenty years before that particular fate claims her. She will accomplish a great deal in that time.
     
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  11. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    That was some intense battling. No holds barred, edge of your seat kinda stuff. And as always Trujillo is cool as a cucumber under fire.

    And those loses, on both sides, just brutal. And for what? What nefarious power is behind all this? Stay tuned, I guess.
     
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  12. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    * * *

    It was distressingly quiet in Reykjavík’s large Sickbay. Only the soft trilling of diagnostic monitors could be heard alongside the occasional muted conversation.

    Patients filled the biobeds lining the curving outer bulkhead, some sleeping, others being tended to by medical staff. The fact that the atmosphere was so orderly, so sterile, somehow belied the horror these people had been subjected to only hours earlier.

    Reykjavík herself had suffered one killed and three others injured during the hull breach incurred while beaming the survivors of the Itoman aboard. However, given that the scout had been holed through after her shields failed, most of the rescued crew had been wounded to some degree. Reykjavík had also taken on additional injured personnel from other ships whose sickbay facilities were overwhelmed.

    Trujillo made her way through the compartment, stopping now and again to speak with an officer or enlisted rating. There was all manner of injuries among them, from missing limbs, to burns of varying degrees, to the aftereffects of explosive decompression and shrapnel from starship superstructures rent asunder by Tholian fire.

    After a time, Trujillo found herself at the bedside of Lt. Commander Erasmus Boone, commanding officer of the ill-fated Itoman. Half of the man’s face and head was encased in a bone-knitting cranial support frame due to his having suffered a significant skull fracture during the ship’s death throes.

    “How are you feeling, Captain?” she asked after finding the man’s gaze focused on her.

    “As well as could be expected, sir, under the circumstances.” He craned his head stiffly, constrained by the headpiece, looking around Sickbay. “I only see a few of my people here, and I’ve been unable to get any answers from your medical staff.”

    Trujillo nodded slowly. “What do you need to know?”

    “My crew,” he said heavily, laying his head back onto his pillow. “How many of them made it off the ship?”

    “Thirty-six,” she answered, straining to keep her voice neutral.

    “Just over half,” Boone rasped, closing his one good eye and fighting back tears.

    “I’m sorry,” Trujillo offered, unable to find anything else to say.

    “Did we do it?” he asked, struggling to maintain his composure. “Did we destroy the spheres?”

    “Yes, we accomplished the mission.”

    Boone blew out a shuddering sigh. “That’s something, at least.” He spent a moment staring at the ceiling before fixing his eye on Trujillo. “What of their second wave? Did Alamo engage them, or will we have to?”

    “Their second wave is still on the way, but they’ve slowed significantly. Their revised ETA is now eighteen hours. Starfleet and the Tholians are bombarding them with comms traffic, hoping to divert them now that the spheres' subspace broadcast is dissipating. Alamo’s still holding position in the Draius-Arigulon system in case they decide to attack the Draiians on the way here.”

    Boone reached out towards her, seemingly without realizing he was doing it. His voice increased in both pitch and volume. “They’ve got… what… thirty more ships in that second wave? My God, how do we fight them off after all the losses we’ve taken?”

    Trujillo stepped forward, taking Boone’s hand and speaking in a discrete tone. “Captain, lower your voice. Your crew needs you to be strong for them, despite the circumstances.”

    It took a moment for Boone to pull himself together. “Of course, sir. I apologize. I… I’ve never lost a ship before.”

    “It’s perfectly understandable, Captain.”

    “No,” he breathed quietly. “Not captain, not anymore.”

    * * *

    There was something about the impassivity of Saavik’s expression that angered Trujillo, as if the losses suffered by her task force were of no consequence to the admiral. Rationally, Trujillo knew it was the Vulcan mask Saavik reserved for such occasions, the façade of aloof control that contained the roiling emotions of her Romulan half lurking just under the surface.

    The abeyance of the local subspace interference allowed for a much clearer connection this time.

    “I’ve read your after-action report, Commodore. You are to be congratulated. Gauntlet defeated a threat formation of more than three times your number, and you destroyed the spheres while taking comparatively fewer losses.”

    “We’ve suffered over thirty percent ship losses and thirty-seven percent personnel casualties, Admiral. Nearly half our surviving vessels have taken significant damage. By Starfleet Tactical’s own criteria, Task Force Gauntlet should now be considered combat ineffective.”

    "Unfortunately, though that designation would be applicable in most circumstances, if the second Tholian formation continues on course you may be forced to re-engage, despite your losses.”

    “Understood, sir,” Trujillo replied, her stomach twisting at the thought. “Though I’d like to call upon Task Force Alamo to support us, the risk to the Draiian civilization is still too great. I’d recommend Captain Marshall keep his ships there.”

    “So noted,” Saavik said.

    “I--,” Trujillo began, then paused, glancing down to where her hands were tightly clasped in her lap.

    “Commodore?”

    “I was going to ask if it always feels like this?” Trujillo confided. “I’ve lost people under my command before, but… never so many, it’s… grotesque, like someone’s sick joke. Including the loss of Feynman from Task Force Scythe during our run in to Qo’noS, I’ve now lost six ships under my command.”

    Saavik’s expression shifted, her eyes offering a sliver of empathy. “It’s supposed to hurt, Nandi. The day the losses stop hurting is the day you need to resign your commission. This is what flag-level command can be. It’s actually easier to be a captain, responsible for only your own ship and crew, than being the one that has to order entire squadrons into battle.”

    The admiral leaned forward slightly, her face softening. “This is why I need you, and those like you. I can’t be everywhere at once, and the Federation is only growing larger by the day. Exploration and diplomacy are the lifeblood of Starfleet, but without the ability and the will to defend ourselves, all that we’ve built might crumble to dust.”

    Trujillo nodded, taking a breath to center herself. “Thank you, sir. I understand.” She reached over to pick up a data-slate, holding it up for the comm imager. “I’m forwarding recommendations for citations, Admiral. Lt. Commander Reinhart of the Orion for developing and building the stellar probe, and Commander Glal for the Gol’s reconnaissance of the Tholian formation and the spheres. There will be more to follow, as the individual ship commanders forward their reports and recommendations.”

    “I will sign-off on those and pass them along to Command. I’ve just had a conversation with Captain Marshall who’s requesting additional assets to help blunt any attack by the Tholian second wave.”

    “Marshall’s nothing if not persistent,” Trujillo rejoined. “Alex just hates missing out on a fight. What’s the border situation, Admiral? Any sign of a third wave?”

    “Task Force Palisade has been reinforced by a squadron of Border Service cutters and although they’ve detected movement from the Tholians from across the border, no third wave has yet materialized. The Tholians may finally be getting their house in order now that the subspace transmission has been terminated.”

    “Let us hope, for all our sakes, sir.”

    “If the second wave comes to their senses and can be made to return to Tholian space, our priority will be to scour the Longlax-Teko system for any remnants of sphere technology. Those are to be secured until a dedicated science and threat-assessment team from the Corps of Engineers and the Daystrom Annex arrive on scene.”

    “Understood, sir,” Trujillo acknowledged.

    ‘I know that you will keep me apprised, Commodore. My condolences on your losses thus far. I hope you might be spared any further.”

    “Thank you, sir. Reykjavík, out.”

    Trujillo terminated the transmission, only to have her ready room door chime some twenty seconds later.

    “Come,” she called.

    In walked Glal and Jarrod, both of whom still bore tears and dark smudges on their uniform jackets, courtesy of their two forays into a threat-occupied star system in the past five hours.

    “All done with Her Majesty the Ice Queen? Good! Ever fought the Tholians without a warp core? No? Well I have, and let me just tell you all about it.”

    Glal plopped down into a chair, with Jarrod following suit. He waved a thick-fingered hand at the secretive wall compartment that served as Trujillo’s bar. “And while I’m at it, Commodore, I would entreat you to break out the good stuff.”

    * * *
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2023
  13. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    Really liking the conversation between Saavik and Trujillo - able to express empathy when needed. And the mystery persists - which means the threat does as well.

    Thanks!! rbs
     
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  14. Bynar0110

    Bynar0110 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2022
    Location:
    Bynar0110-Ohio Valley, USA
    I really like how you portray Saavik.
     
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  15. mthompson1701

    mthompson1701 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2001
    Location:
    Out there, thataway
    Nandi Trujillo is 100% correct, Alex Marshall hates missing out on a fight.

    Good conversation between Trujillo and Saavik, and I also like the way Saavik was written.
     
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  16. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Agreed. The little glimpses into Trujillo's moments of doubt and reflection in this chapter and previous ones really make her feel human. Yes, she's a ferocious starship commander, but she’s no machine. Very nice detail, as always.
     
  17. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Captain’s Log, Supplemental:

    Task Force Gauntlet continues to affect repairs to our ships as the situation in and around the Longlax-Teko system appears to moderate.

    Starfleet Command has allowed a small group of Tholian ships (escorted by Starfleet) to help corral the second wave of compromised Tholian vessels which had been on course for the Longlax-Teko system. It looks as though whatever effects the sphere transmission had on the Tholians are of limited duration once the transmissions were stopped.

    I am grateful that no further battles need be had, as I take no satisfaction from destroying ships and their sentient crews enslaved by others.

    In the meantime,
    Reykjavík and the other ships continue to sweep the system looking for any remnants of the mysterious spheres for analysis by Starfleet.

    * * *

    Captain Alexander Marshall held Trujillo’s gaze across the light years, his image appearing on Trujillo’s computer terminal.

    “Commodore, I’ve just received confirmation from Command that Task Force Alamo is being disbanded and Excalibur is scheduled to embark on our deep-space exploratory mission after a brief layover at Starbase Earhart.”

    “Congratulations, Captain,” Trujillo offered with a genuine smile. “You’ve earned the chance to go exploring after all this.”

    “I regret we were not able to participate in the battle to destroy the spheres,” Marshall said, his expression tightening.

    “Think of the bright side of the equation, Captain,” Trujillo offered. “You and Alamo helped to safeguard eight-billion people, a species who was already considering applying for Federation membership. In their moment of need, you were there for them, and that won’t be forgotten.”

    Marshall nodded reluctantly. “There is that, I suppose…” he trailed off, wanting to say more, but deciding against it.

    “Captain Marshall, of the two of us, you may have made the correct decision in turning down that promotion,” Trujillo said candidly, though unable to articulate why.

    Marshall’s expression shifted, his curiosity evident. “How so?”

    “I’m discovering flag-rank isn’t all adventure and accolades. Making the tough calls is fine when your side crosses the finish-line intact, but when your decisions result in hundreds or thousands of flag-draped caskets… that’s where things become tricky.”

    “You think you made an error, sir, some kind of tactical mistake?” Marshall asked.

    “No, I did the best I could, given the resources I had available. Regardless, over twelve-hundred of our fellow personnel are dead. Trying to reconcile those two facts is… difficult for me.”

    “If it was unavoidable, Commodore, you shouldn’t fee—”

    “They’re already calling me the Widow-maker, Alex,” she interrupted, closing her eyes briefly. “I’ve gone from being a captain with some measure of renown for tactical proficiency to a ship-sacrificing butcher in the space of a few weeks.”

    Marshall sat back and to his credit appeared dismayed. “That’s awful, and unfair.” He felt a pang of guilt, given that he had suspected the same of her when Saavik had placed Trujillo in command of Gauntlet.

    “I appreciate you saying so, but it’s how some people feel about me now. I suppose that’s to be expected.”

    “People will always talk,” Marshall offered, “it doesn’t mean they actually know anything.”

    Trujillo nodded at this wisdom. “Take your ship and go exploring, Captain. Enjoy the freedom of being weeks or even months away from Command and its fickle fleet politics. A deep-space mission is something I now regret not having pursued. The admiralty will always be here waiting for you when you return, if that’s your ambition.”

    “I will, Commodore,” Marshall acknowledged. “And thank you, sir.”

    * * *

    A high-warp courier had delivered the two men to Reykjavík as Task Force Gauntlet was scouring the Longlax-Teko system for sphere debris.

    The missive Trujillo had received from Command identified the men as ‘strategic consultants’, a euphemism often used to obfuscate the identities of Starfleet Intelligence personnel.

    As soon as they were aboard, Mr. Escoffier and Mr. DeMarius had requested a meeting with the commodore.

    She granted them an audience in her ready room, initially observing that the two men carried themselves more like scientists than spies or operatives, lacking the reserved façades and evasiveness she had come to associate with those in the intelligence community.

    They began with polite small talk, and Trujillo tested the waters by touching on Commander Davula’s colorful theories regarding the provenance of the spheres and their possible motives of their creators.

    This prompted an interesting reaction from the pair, who exchanged a knowing look before turning to the business at hand.

    “Commodore, you’ve done some fine work here, and we’d like to request your assistance in continuing it, ” said Escoffier, the smaller and more bookish looking of the duo.

    Trujillo looked at him with open skepticism. “How so?”

    “As unlikely as it may sound, your first officer’s suspicions about the nature of the spheres encountered by Archer’s Enterprise, as well as those encountered by you, are essentially correct. We believe there is an extra-dimensional alien intelligence which is attempting to encroach on our space. The old Delphic Expanse was their first attempt to basically transform a swath of space to make it more compatible with their exotic biology.”

    “And you think these spheres manipulating the Tholians was their second try?”

    Escoffier shared a glance with DeMarius before turning back to Trujillo, looking a bit sheepish. “In point of fact, this was their third known attempt. There was a classified incident in the 2270’s where we believe they were trying to manipulate the energy patterns of the Helix nebula, turn it into some kind of massive resonance amplifier.”

    “For what reason?”

    “We don’t know for certain, as the plan was disrupted by the USS Kongo, which destroyed the spheres they encountered in the nebula.”

    Trujillo frowned, appearing confused. “Wasn’t Kongo lost with all hands?”

    “Yes, and the historical record reads that she was destroyed in a freak collision with a quantum filament. That was a cover story. The ship and crew met their end sabotaging a sphere that exploded prematurely, initiating a cascading collapse of the nebula’s sphere network.”

    Trujillo’s expression grew pinched. “What’s the reason behind this cover up? We’ve faced down other threat species before. What necessitates that whoever is behind this be kept so secret?”

    Another look was shared between the two men before DeMarius spoke up. “There’s a potential temporal component to all this. Starfleet Intel and the Department of Temporal Investigations suspect that this threat species has been engaging in this activity because they will be defeated by the Federation some decades or even centuries in the future.”

    The intensity of Trujillo’s stare caused Escoffier to shift uncomfortably in his seat. “You appear dubious, Commodore.”

    “You’re joking,” she accused. “Time travel? Future enemies attacking us in the past and present?”

    “We share your incredulity, but many people with far more impressive credentials than we possess believe it’s likely,” Escoffier explained.

    “Each iteration of the spheres is larger and more complex than the previous ones,” DeMarius offered. “Given their evident cloaking abilities, it’s nearly impossible to know where more of them may have been hidden within Federation territory.”

    “Why Reykjavík? We’re not a science vessel, and despite our recent upgrades, we still lack the scientific resources needed for this kind of work.”

    DeMarius made an expansive gesture with his hands. “Your ship is fast and has the tactical abilities necessary to cope with nearly any contingency. Additionally, given that you’re often called to diplomatic and military hot spots throughout the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, your ship being pulled from other duties on short notice would not appear suspicious.”

    Confusion was again evident on Trujillo’s features. “Suspicious? You make it sound as though someone is surveilling Starfleet deployments.”

    Escoffier nodded vigorously. “Indeed. If the temporal component of our working theory is correct, it’s possible that the Sphere Builders have gained access to Starfleet records at some point in the future. Utilizing those, they may make… or will be making decisions about when and where to position and activate the next series of spheres based on Starfleet patrol routes and deployments.”

    Trujillo rubbed the bridge of her nose, feeling a headache coming on. “I’m sorry, but this seems so entirely far-fetched.”

    DeMarius gave her a sympathetic look. “Commodore, I was highly skeptical the first time I was approached about working on this threat assessment group, too. If you agree to this assignment, we’ll provide all the classified materials gathered over the last one-hundred and sixty-eight years, which are substantial. They paint a rather convincing picture.”

    “I guess I’m still unclear as to what we would be doing, specifically?” Trujillo asked.

    “You’d be working as part of Admiral Saavik’s defense group, as you’d previously agreed. However, every so often you will be called away from those duties to investigate possible Sphere Builder activity. You might be called upon to scan a comet swarm, or investigate a nebula, or catalogue aberrant energy signatures from a stellar nursery. It’s entirely likely that your missions on behalf of our group will be few and far between.”

    Trujillo considered the pair for a long moment, weighing the potential threat posed by this allegedly time-spanning threat species. Her innate skepticism was outweighed by the death and destruction Gauntlet had just suffered at the hands of the Tholians, at the behest of those spheres.

    Nandi Trujillo decided in that moment that she owed the Sphere Builders a blood debt, and she hoped that she might have the opportunity to repay it in kind and in person.

    “I’m in,” she said simply.

    “Excellent, we’re very pleased to have you. Welcome to the Threat Analysis Working Group’s Team Four, colloquially known as the ‘Sphere Busters.’”

    Trujillo snorted. “Can I have a patch? I presume there’s a patch.”

    * * *
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2023
  18. mthompson1701

    mthompson1701 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2001
    Location:
    Out there, thataway
    What a nice way to close out Marshall and Trujillo's story. Maybe they'll run into each other again one day. I might get around to telling that exploration mission one day. I'm looking forward to reading more.
     
  19. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    When space gets weird in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?
    When you've got a sphere and it don't look good...

    Great series set-up. Allows Trujillo to have any number of unrelated adventures, but provides her a white whale she'll need to reckon with sooner or later.

    Thanks!! rbs
     
  20. Will The Serious

    Will The Serious Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2022