Forward: Unknown events in the far reaches of our galaxy displace vast numbers of alien societies, pushing them inexorably in the direction of the Alpha Quadrant. As alien fleets mass towards Federation space, Starfleet launches Taskforce Vanguard to meet the impending threat. In the meantime, some “refugee” vessels, traveling ahead of the migration pack, already begin arriving at the Federation’s doorstep. Some may be benign newcomers, immigrants seeking a new home. Others travelers may have a darker objective… ( "Refugee Crisis" Logo courtesy of CeJay) Star Trek: Intrepid Hydra’s Arrow But if our hopes are betrayed, if we are forced to resist the invasion of our soil, and to defend our threatened homes, this duty, however hard it may be, will find us armed and resolved upon the greatest sacrifices. -King Albert II Day 1 The goliath appeared from nowhere. One moment there had been relatively empty space containing quantum fluxuations, stray hydrogen atoms and background solar wash. Then, without warning, a vast object shimmered into view, blasting forward at nearly one quarter the speed of light. Most space faring humanoids would have found the black and gray obelisk ecstatically displeasing. It had no banners or markings. There were no elegant hull extensions that might be equated to a bridge or engineering area. Even if any of those traits had been present, they would have been lost among the forest of towering spikes that covered the entirety of the hull. From a distance the spiny profile was reminiscent of an overgrown bacterium. The intruder held its course relentlessly, bearing down on its target with the unfettered determination of a guided missile… Starbase Virgo One N’Skatiee System September 2377 Commander Penny Ferris stumbled out of the turbolift and into Virgo One’s Operations room, nearly falling on her face in the process. Her ungracious arrival was accented by a flushed complexion, disheveled hair and a clumsy attempt at securing the upper turtleneck of her uniform’s undershirt. Ferris was a human in her mid thirties whose features were cut from African, German and Italian cloth; a mixed lineage that gave her amber skin, raven hair and a square jaw. She possessed a beauty that was independent of makeup or attire and hearty enough to survive even the worst grooming habits. (A theory that was now being put to the test, since the red alert had interrupted an intimate encounter with Chief of Operations DeBrowskie.) She tied her hair into a sloppy ponytail and almost collided with a crewman who was sprinting for his post. The young man staggered back from the near miss, did a double take upon seeing it was Virgo’s CO, and quickly gushed out an apology. Ferris ignored him and made her way to V1’s command platform, her mind spinning through invasion scenarios that included everything from a Borg attack to a new Dominion War. She found Lt. Polef just where she expected: bent over a transparent table nearly two meters long. Know as the Situation, Logistics and Intelligence Center, or “SLIC” the console equated to an Operations post on a starship. “Status report!” Ferris demanded. The portly Bolian was so immersed in the floating holographic displays and data screens before him; he didn’t bother to look up while responding. “An unidentified vessel just appeared near N’Skatia. Contact is on an inbound vector towards the planet’s southern hemisphere.” “What the hell? How did they get past the outer markers?” “Some type of cloaking technology.” Polef answered tightly. “They were on top of us before we knew what happened.” He used a meaty finger to indicate a wire frame graphic of the oblong ship. “She’s a beast----over five kilometers long and moving fast. At this speed, they’ll hit N’Skatia in just under eighteen minutes.” Ferris cocked her head, appraising him suspiciously. “What do you mean ‘hit’ N’Skatia? Aren’t they on orbital approach?” “Oh no, no, no, commander.” The fifty-nine year old Bolian was old for his rank, but only because he had allowed his career to unfurl slowly. His love affair with teaching had kept him behind a podium for fifteen years, where he tortured cadets with the minutia of hyper-dimensional algorithms. As usual, he had fallen into “lecture hall mode” without thinking. “As you can see here, the intruder is on a twenty degree approach angle with no drop in speed. And with their mass, I don’t see how they can brake in time for a soft landing. I see this thing detonating on impact with the atmosphere,” He shook his head. “Either that, or it’s going to be a landing for the history books.” She stiffened. “Hail them.” “We have, ma’am. And we’ve sent friendly greetings in all known languages. They won’t talk to us.” Her eyes traveled to the wall monitors. “Who are they?” Someone shoved a PADD into Polef’s hand. His head bobbed over the contents as he answered. “We don’t know. Their profile doesn’t match anything in Federation records.” Ferris compressed her lips anxiously. “Show me N’Skatia’s orbital defense grid.” A holographic sphere hovered over the board, circled by a necklace of rubies. Without being told, Polef added a pulsing orange trail that ended below the planet’s equator. “They’ll enter beyond the range of the defense platforms.” Polef said, spotlighting the obvious. Like those floating relics would do more than scratch their hide anyway, Ferris thought caustically. It was bad enough that the N’Skatians had an outdated and barely functioning military; to make matters worse, they had insisted on a minimal Starfleet presence in their sector---all to satisfy what Ferris considered an extreme and misguided adherence to pacifism. Of course, they could afford such indulgences. Because of its remote location, N’Skatia had been spared the horrors of the Dominion War. And being Federation members for only two years, they had missed, or remained blissfully unaware of other deadly threats in recent history. She couldn’t help wondering if they were now in the process of reevaluating their belief system. Polef brought her back to the moment. “Commander, Musketeers Three and Four just reported in. They have the intruder on sensors.” He drank in the new data window, his spirits elevating as he read through the transmission. “You won’t believe this, but they’re actually close enough for an intercept.” “How long?” He reviewed the transmission once more before responding. “Less than four minutes at full impulse.” *** “Starbase Virgo One, this is Lieutenant Commander Hadad. We’ve matched speed with the intruder and have assumed bracketing positions just forward of the central axis. Do you copy?” “We copy, M-3. Hold station and stand by for orders.” Ali Hadad was a fifty-two year old pilot with over five thousand star hours under his belt, some of which included sixteen combat sorties during the Dominion War. It took nothing short of an angry wife to rattle his nerves. But this… He goggled out his cockpit window at the forest of menacing quills. From a distance the invader had resembled a porcupine, but up close, each spike looked the size of a skyscraper.