UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Feb 16, 2012.

  1. Dnoth

    Dnoth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Hell's bells. That's not good. Just when Sandhurst was getting in a groove, he shows up.
     
  2. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Only the Baron knows for sure, and I'm pretty sure he isn't going to be publicizing that. :vulcan:

    Ain't it the truth?! :lol:

    Yeah, Donald's none too excited about it, either. ;)

    "So, Mr. Baron, tell me everything you remember about your mother..."

    Pava got lucky last time. It just turned out that he happened to be better than the Baron in one particular skill set. :evil:

    The Baron is a definite buzz-kill to be sure. :rommie:

    Thanks for the comments folks! They're much appreciated.
     
  3. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

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    Caught up now.
    Yikes...nothing like having your own personal tormentor dogging your heels and appearing at the worst possible time. I hope someone finally punches the Baron's ticket this time.
    He really needs to go away.

    Another exciting twist! Keep it coming!
     
  4. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    TFV - Operation Vanguard (Chapter 6)

    T’Ser stormed into Sickbay with Verrik close behind as the nursing staff eased the semi-conscious Sandhurst onto the examination table. The clamshell support frame locked into place over him and the imaging systems began a comprehensive scan of his physiology.

    “How the hell does someone get into the captain’s cabin and assault him without so much as tripping an alarm?” T’Ser directed the acidic query to Verrik, who maintained his accustomed Vulcan dispassion in the face of her ire.

    “Unknown, Commander. My investigation into this incident has only just begun.”

    Sandhurst ’s eyes fluttered as he perceived Taiee’s face above him. “B- Baron,” he whispered hoarsely.

    Taiee’s concerned expression tightened into a grim mask of dread. Her abrupt change in demeanor did not go unnoticed.

    T’Ser looked to the nurse practitioner. “What’s that mean, Lieutenant? What or who is ‘Baron?’”

    Taiee busied herself prepping a surgical protoplaser. “Uh… I’m not entirely sure, Commander.”

    The XO took hold of Taiee by her upper arm and pulled her gently but insistently away from the exam table as the medic passed off the protoplaser to the LMH. “Don’t lie to me, Lieutenant,” T’Ser said in a low whisper. Her facial expression was made all the more severe by her upswept eyebrows and pronounced scowl.

    Taiee sighed reluctantly. “Okay, sir, fine. The… entity the captain mentioned is highly dangerous. All the crew assigned to Gibraltar during our encounter with the Baron were sworn to secrecy and all records of the event were ultra-classified. I can’t even discuss it with you until and unless I receive orders to do so from a higher authority.”

    “And who would that be?” T’Ser pressed insistently.

    “Starfleet Command or Temporal Investigations, sir.”

    T’Ser’s face underwent a minute transformation as she forcibly quelled her frustration and anger, realizing that neither would help her under the circumstances. “Understood,” T’Ser said evenly. “What’s the captain’s condition?”

    “He’s suffering from a Class-II concussion with minor and repairable neurological damage. His left arm is broken in two places, he has two fractured ribs, one of which has punctured his left lung. Overall, his injuries are moderate, and not immediately life threatening. His prognosis is very good for complete recovery.”

    “How much danger is he in from another attack?” T’Ser inquired, giving Taiee the opportunity to reveal a morsel of information without broaching her ironclad orders.

    “If the entity had wanted the captain dead, he’d be dead,” Taiee said gravely. “If it wanted to destroy the ship, we’d all be dead right now. Sandhurst’s alive because it wants him alive, sir.”

    The XO absorbed that in silence for a moment before releasing Taiee to her duties with a subtle nod. “Thank you, Doc.”

    *****

    The Taskforce Operations Center, or TOC, was a large circular compartment, twice again as large as Europa’s bridge. The center was equipped with a dozen different reconfigurable workstations arrayed in a semicircle. These faced outward towards eight large viewscreens that ringed the outer bulkhead. On each of these holo-screens was displayed various stellar-cartographic, signals-intercepts, and associated intelligence data on the territory where Task Force Vanguard was located, the species inhabiting those areas, and those species detected inbound as part of the great refugee migration.

    Intelligence officers, linguistics experts, science technicians, engineers, and a host of other area experts took shifts in the TOC, pouring over reports and sensor telemetry generated by Europa and her fellow TFV vessels.

    In the middle of the TOC was a circular table supporting four workstations that served as the central nexus for the most critical information distilled by the staff manning the outer ring of consoles. At present, the TOC supervising officer, Lt. Commander Pell, sat with T’Ser, Counselor Liu, and Chief Science Officer Shanthi as the ship’s sensors tracked the impending encounter of the approaching nomadic group with the Husnock vassal race crewing their former masters’ warships. Verrik stood alongside the display table, his attention focused on the two-dimensional tactical display gracing one large viewscreen.

    T’Ser was still brooding over the attack on the captain, as well as Admiral Jellico’s refusal to immediately disclose the nature of the threat that potentially faced the crew of Europa. She had quietly discussed the matter with Pell, but the diplomatic officer had recounted that while she knew something deeply traumatic had happened to Sandhurst shortly before she transferred aboard Gibraltar, he’d never explicitly discussed the details with her. Pell knew the entire matter was highly classified, but nothing more.

    “Five minutes to intercept,” the computer announced.

    “Incoming formation is dropping to impulse speeds,” called out an operations specialist as he narrated the holographic three-dimensional plot map of merging ship formations projected above the centralized situation table.

    Three Class 5 covert reconnaissance probes had been launched by Gallant to loiter near the battle zone and collect close-range sensor information on the encounter. These figures would complement the data gathered by Europa and Galaxy’s sensor arrays and whatever flotsam Gallant was able to recover after the expected battle.

    As the moment approached, the technical staff began coordinating their information in hushed, professional tones.

    “Detecting hull composition of inbound vessels as crystalline-infused terminium interwoven with high-density ceramics…”

    “…inbound vessels have routed power to defensive systems and weapons. Reading nominal shield output of one-point-six million TeraJoules. Weapons appear to be self-propelled and independently guided missiles with fusion-primed cobalt warheads, medium range proton-pulse cannons, and low-yield point-defense disruptors…”

    “Hostile intercepting local craft have been confirmed as utilizing Husnock technology. Weapons load-outs conform to those identified aboard In’Drahn station, to include high-yield jacketed-tetryon emitters and gravitic-warhead self-guided torpedoes…”

    T’Ser cast a sidelong glance at Pell. “Sounds as if the former Husnock slaves have quite the edge in firepower. So why do they keep getting tossed out of the local star systems by smaller forces?”

    Pell shook her head. “No idea, but it’s a very good question. Perhaps this engagement will shed some light on that mystery?”

    “Vessel formations have closed to within one-million kilometers of one another. Power buildup detected in the weapons arrays of both groupings. For tracking purposes, the refugee group will be designated Threat-One, and the intercepting force will be designated Defense-One.”

    And as the occupants of the TOC watched, battle was joined.

    In just a matter of moments, it became obvious to the onlookers how the former vassals of the Husnock had been repelled by their stellar neighbors despite their having such advanced weaponry. The reckless maneuvers and amateurish tactics of their badly coordinated attack gave the inbound alien fleet precious time to react, an opportunity they seemed determined not to squander.

    It was also apparent that the former Husnock slaves had only a limited understanding of their ships’ capabilities, as valuable power that could have been used for weapons or defense was misallocated to tertiary systems. Thus, their shields were weaker than they should have been, and their weapons packed far less punch than they would otherwise.

    While the refugee fleet’s smaller picket ships maneuvered to envelope the attackers, the larger cargo-haulers and personnel transports diverted around the poorly executed blockade attempt. Though less well armed, the refugee frigates used their limited weapons to good effect, concentrating their collective fire on individual vassal ships until they’d breached their shields and crippled the vessels’ weapons arrays and engines.

    “Threat-One picket ships are limiting their targets to engines and weapons emplacements,” the technician at the tactical station noted.

    “That is a positive indicator,” Verrik observed. “They are exercising discretion and potentially demonstrating mercy.”

    “Or they’re simply conserving energy and not wasting resources on targets that have been neutralized,” Pell countered.

    Verrik inclined his head towards her, conceding the logic of her argument. “Or that…”

    In just a little over ten minutes, the lopsided battle had concluded. Nine Husnock warships, previously a force that would have made entire star systems tremble, lay helpless in the wake of the advancing alien fleet.

    Two of Threat-One’s picket ships had been destroyed, and two more had been so badly damaged that they were taken in tow by their fellows.

    The Threat-One formation took no action to scavenge materials, foodstuffs, or prisoners from the ships they’d left adrift, and seemed only interested in reforming their flotilla and getting underway as quickly as possible.

    In less than twenty minutes after the armed confrontation, one of the two damaged frigates had been sufficiently repaired to carry on with its brethren, while the other was abandoned and scuttled. The formation of ships transitioned back into warp and powered away from the otherwise unremarkable patch of space.

    Pell took a few moments to peruse the information collected by Europa’s sensors, as well as from Gallant’s reconnaissance probes. She offered a grim smile. “We’ve got some excellent data on their available power curve, weapons, and defenses.”

    “How about their biology, Commander?” Shanthi asked.

    “That’s going to take a bit more time to collate,” Pell replied. “All our sensors were set to gather data from energetic emissions,” she explained. “I doubt we got much at all aside from basic life-signs. We’ll probably have to wait for Gallant to collect samples and take more refined bio readings of any intact fatalities in the flotsam.”

    “Cheery thought,” T’Ser remarked suddenly as she stood. She appeared haggard and morose, her strength sapped despite her superior Vulcan constitution. “I’ll leave you to your work. Keep me apprised of anything significant. I’ll be on the bridge.”

    Shanthi cast a glance in T’Ser’s direction as she exited the compartment. “I’ve seen that look before,” he remarked with quiet solemnity.

    Pell looked up from her console to spare the science officer a curious frown. “What look?”

    “The XO,” he replied distantly as his hands fluttered deftly across his display. “She’s got the same look Commander Ramirez did last ti—“ he fell suddenly silent.

    “Last time… what?” Pell inquired.

    “Nothing,” Shanthi said with a curt shake of his head as he fixed his attention on the data scrolling up his monitor. “Sorry… classified.”

    Pell watched him a moment longer before returning to her own console. As she did so, she forced herself to take her concern for Donald Sandhurst along with her conflicted feelings about their troubled relationship and bury them down deep within her. Pell had saved a place for Donald in her mental crypt, alongside her deceased husband Soyam. Only then, with the emotional turmoil locked safely away, could she concentrate on the task ahead.

    *****
     
  5. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    After all the craziness that's been happening, this feels like a nice little change of pace chapter. Which is interesting considering we get to witness a massive space battle unfolding.

    What I found much more interesting than the battle however was the focus on T'Ser and how she is handling the latest developments regarding this - to her - mysterious new foe. We don't get to see what exactly she's thinking here but I don't envy her for being put into a very difficult position. Oh well, trial by fire, and all that.
     
  6. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Thanks! :D
     
  7. Dnoth

    Dnoth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, it's nice to know the former slaves don't know how to properly use Husnock technology. There's one advantage...of course with the Baron around, it might be negated.
     
  8. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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  9. Count Zero

    Count Zero No nation but procrastination Moderator

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    Cool, thanks for posting that. I can now imagine the setting much better.

    Poor T'Ser, being out of the loop for the moment but I bet that the moment she learnes the details about the Baron she'll wish she'd never asked. Looking forward to more. :)
     
  10. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    TFV - Operation Vanguard (Chapter 6 continued)

    T’Ser’s hooded eyes remained fixed at an indeterminate point somewhere ahead of her as she struggled to absorb the startling and ominous contents of the reports she’d just read. She had to backtrack along her path after missing a corridor intersection and then a turbolift alcove while en route to the captain’s quarters. Her head was fairly spinning with the idea that on top of everything they already faced, this completely random variable had now been dropped into their laps.

    Upon waking in Sickbay, Sandhurst had authorized the release of all the after-action documents generated by Gibraltar’s senior officers following the ship’s encounter with the mysterious and malevolent entity known as the Baron. Apparently such a provision for emergency notification had been made in case of an encounter with the Baron while out of real-time comms range of Starfleet Command. He’d instructed her to read those logs before coming to see him.

    T’Ser mused that this mission had been harrowing enough before the unwelcome addition of a psychotic inter-dimensional warlord with a vengeance fixation. Part of her chaffed at having been kept in the dark about this threat while the other, more rational part of her understood the magnitude of the reaction that the revelation of the Baron and his abilities might have elicited if they’d become common knowledge.

    Sandhurst bid her to enter at her prompt, and she found him in uniform at his work desk, with multiple padds occupying the tabletop along with his computer interface. A half-eaten sandwich and a cold cup of coffee sat forgotten beside the data terminal. He waved her towards a seat facing the desk. “Morning, Exec,” he said with his customary nonchalance.

    “Sir,” T’Ser acknowledged with a nod as she seated herself. “You’re looking much better.”

    “Thanks,” he allowed with a small smile. “Is it safe to assume you have many questions?”

    She cocked her head to once side. “Actually, not really. The after-action documentation was almost ridiculously comprehensive.” T’Ser leveled a no-nonsense look at Sandhurst. “What I’d really like to know is how you foresee this impacting our mission, sir?”

    Sandhurst sat back in his chair and regarded her solemnly. “It doesn’t, not really.” He scratched behind one ear as he often did when under great strain. “Whatever the Baron’s endgame, I’m only a small part of it, the icing on the cake. His towering ambition goes far beyond crushing an ‘insignificant’ opponent, no matter how much pleasure he derives from it. Until he plays his hand, we continue on as if he’d never been here.”

    “Can we? I mean… realistically?”

    Sandhurst gave her a quizzical look. “Can you explain how he got into my quarters without triggering an intruder alert?”

    “No,” T’Ser answered reluctantly.

    “And could you prevent him from doing so again, short of posting an armed guard on me twenty-four hours a day?”

    “No, and as for a permanent guard detail, Verrik’s strongly recommended just such a contingency.”

    “I know,” Sandhurst allowed. “But I’m not going to have someone babysitting me at all hours. As the captain, I think I’ve earned some reasonable expectation of privacy.” He gave T’Ser a carefully crafted wry smile, but his eyes failed to play along and the gesture appeared flat and forced. “Besides, if the Baron decides to kill me, posting a guard on me would only result in two deaths instead of one.”

    T’Ser digested that in silence.

    Sandhurst seemed about to change topics when T’Ser blurted out, “Aren’t you afraid?” She immediately regretted the question the instant it had left her lips. In the heat of the moment, she couldn’t say precisely why she’d posed the ill-advised inquiry.

    An awkward silence followed as Sandhurst seemed to consider the potentially impertinent query. “Yes, T’Ser, I’m terrified. That… man… the things he’s capable of, what he did to me…” Sandhurst’s eyes shimmered as he fixed his gaze on his first officer. “I know you understand, Exec.”

    T’Ser nodded numbly, all too familiar with the kind of ordeal Sandhurst had survived at the hands of the Baron. Four years earlier, while on what was billed as a diplomatic mission to the planet Tiaita, T’Ser had been abducted by one of two warring factions and had herself become the victim of sadistic torture by religious extremists. “I’m sorry—“ she began.

    “No, not at all,” Sandhurst murmured. “You deserve the truth. I’d rather die than fall victim to him again, but for the time being he’s holding all the cards.”

    As T’Ser struggled to banish memories of her own tormentor, Sandhurst steered the conversation away from the mutually painful topic. “Back to business,” the captain said as he turned his desktop computer terminal towards her. A starmap was displayed there, charting Europa’s course ahead into the adjoining sector.

    Galaxy will be initiating First Contact with the refugee formation that just steamrolled the locals with Gallant backing them up. Giacobini has opened relations with a nearby stellar cluster and is attempting to parlay their contact into a mutual defense pact with a half-dozen planets that share a loose trade coalition.”

    “And that leaves us to…?”

    “Starfleet’s tasked us with moving into the adjoining sector where a sizeable refugee fleet has entered an inhabited star system that supports multiple Class-M planets. We’re to go and reconnoiter the situation, size up the invading force, and report back to Command.”

    “So,” T’Ser noted with a tired smile, “a milk run?”

    “There are no milk runs out here, Exec,” Sandhurst admonished gently.

    “Yes, sir,” she acknowledged.

    Sandhurst’s door chime sounded again.

    “There’s my sixteen-hundred appointment,” the captain said. “Forgive me for chasing you out, Commander, but this is one of those one-on-one meetings.”

    “Of course,” T’Ser said, standing and moving for the door. They parted at her approach to reveal Counselor Liu standing patiently on the other side. T’Ser found herself smiling involuntarily at Liu’s unexpected presence.

    “Tag,” T’Ser announced to Liu with a wink as they passed one another. “You’re it.”

    Liu gave the first officer exaggerated ‘turbolift eyes’ as he scanned her up and down admiringly. “Yay. What do I win?”

    “Hey, is that professional?” Sandhurst called out to Liu from his desk.

    Liu jerked a thumb in T’Ser’s direction. “She started it, Captain.”

    “What, precisely, would you care to ‘win’, Counselor?” T’Ser asked, the question laden with innuendo.

    Liu suddenly looked vaguely uncomfortable, unsure as to whether T’Ser was still kidding. “I… uh…”

    T’Ser smirked and rolled her eyes. “Boys.” She turned abruptly and sashayed down the corridor with cat-like grace as a confused Liu looked on.

    “Hello?” Sandhurst said loudly. “Remember me? Your stalwart captain wrestling with deep-seated emotional scars?”

    “What…” Liu wondered aloud, “… the hell was that?”

    “Don’t care,” Sandhurst replied. “Get in here and fix me, damn it!”

    *****
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2012
  11. Dnoth

    Dnoth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That scene was wonderful. The interaction with Liu and T'Ser was perfect to lighten the intensity.
     
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Seconded. That was a really great chapter. Angsty and brooding in the beginning and then unexpectedly light and humorous towards the end.

    Really liked T'Ser's and especially Sandhurts' anxieties being laid bare in this chapter just as much as the little episode between T'Ser and Liu. Is there something going on here? If so, the counselor is clearly the last to know.
     
  13. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You certainly increased my estimation of Sandhurst further.

    False toughness helps no one; it's far better that he is capable of admitting how he feels. What one won't acknowledge can't be dealt with.

    I'm also glad that Sandhurst has someone to relate to, in T'Ser.

    I'm not sure if the Doctor Who crossover is my cup of tea, but I am at least pleased with the thoughts and reactions of your characters; they, at least, strike me as realistic.
     
  14. Blip

    Blip Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    As long as he's not so honest with the rest of the crew beyond T'Ser and his counselor, I'd agree. There is a place for that "false toughness" too.

    I totally agree on the DW crossover though. I was comfortable last time in that there wasn't anything specific to tie the two together, so that it could easily have been a member of another of the ST universe's super-powerful races... I'd recommend keeping that association with DW to an absolute minimum.
     
  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In reference to Sandhurst's confessions here, a human being must be able to acknowledge and confront his/her vulnerability in a safe environment. However, this is not a face he would ever show the crew at large. T'Ser is a kindred spirit based on what she too has withstood, and the counselor is the person entrusted with keeping Sandhurst on an even keel.

    In regards to the Baron, I agree wholeheartedly. This time around, the Baron has been an unwilling inhabitant of ‘our’ dimension for a very long time, and much of what might have linked him to DW canon and/or mythology has long since passed into the mists of history. He exists now largely as egotism unchained, more a malevolent force of nature than a complex, conflicted individual… more caricature than man, perhaps the ultimate tragic failure for someone of his esteemed pedigree.

    The question then becomes, when faced with as determined, neigh-unstoppable an antagonist, what lengths might an individual go to in order to protect himself and those he cares for? What compromises might be made in the name of righteous defense, or worse yet, vengeance?
     
  16. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I agree that Sandhurst wouldn't show this to the crew at large. But I think it's good that he doesn't make the mistake of thinking that because he's the captain, he has to bottle everything up and never give any hint under any circumstances that he might be suffering.
     
  17. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    You mean like... maybe... *cough* Terrence *cough* Glover?! ;)
     
  18. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

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    Wow. Deep.

    And here I was just gonna say I thought your last installment was pretty neat-o. :p

    In all seriousness, I have to agree with what was said above: not only is it appropriate, IMHO, for Sandhurst to bring T'Ser into this aspect of his life, but the commonality of their past experiences can provide a wonderful dramatic springboard for their relationship. Also, on a somewhat simpler level perhaps, I continue to marvel at your ability to "humanize" your characters and bring their individual character traits to the fore in such a smooth and unselfconscious manner. I'm speaking in particular about that last exchange between T'Ser, Liu and Sandhurst. That scene played out incredibly vividly in my mind, and seemed so ... "real". I particularly liked Sandhurst's last line. :techman:

    Finally, as I've mentioned before, I am not overly familiar with the Dr. Who universe (though I am working on remedying that), so my experience of The Baron may be a bit different from others here. And in that regard, your comments above help give some helpful insight into his particular flavor of ... insanity, if you will.

    As always, looking forward to seeing what happens next.
     
  19. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I was trying to be nice. But yes, that's exactly who came to mind. ;)
     
  20. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    TFV - Operation Vanguard (Chapter 6 continued)

    The mood in the observation lounge was understandably tense as Sandhurst entered and settled into the last remaining unoccupied chair. He was usually the first to arrive to such gatherings, and his late appearance suggested that he’d just finished some kind of high-priority conference.

    In addition to the senior staff normally present for such briefings, Second Lieutenant David Tiedermeyer was also on hand, looking vaguely uncomfortable in his Marine combat utility fatigues while surrounded by Starfleet uniforms.

    Sandhurst looked around the observation lounge, studying the faces of his senior staff as he prepared to make his unwelcome announcement.

    “I’ve just been informed by Admiral Jellico that as of seven days ago, the Nyberrite Alliance has ceased to exist as a functional political entity. The fourth wave of nomadic alien ships passing through the Alliance’s territory succeeded in destroying or scattering the last of their navy. Two more of their member planets were rendered uninhabitable by some kind of biogenic weapons we suspect were designed to initiate a wide-scale terraforming process for whatever lifeforms are to follow.

    “Their few remaining warships are escorting convoys of cargo carriers and passenger liners towards Federation space. Starfleet and the Colonial Office are scrambling to try and find Class-M worlds to put the Nyberrite refugees on without using those already set aside for potential colonization by cooperative nomadic groups.”

    Pell closed her eyes for a long moment, whispering a silent prayer as she contemplated the destruction of the unique Nyberrite confederacy. “Some of the most ancient and influential races to inhabit our quadrant in the past million years… now broken and scattered like leaves on the wind,” she muttered dourly.

    Sandhurst nodded in gloomy agreement. “Let’s make sure our Federation doesn’t follow suit.” He held Pell’s gaze for a moment longer. “Your presentation, if you please, Commander.”

    Pell stood and took a brief second to collect her thoughts before using her padd to call a holographic image of a star system into being above the briefing table. The concentric circles of seventeen planets surrounding a large orange star appeared as the individual worlds tracked along their orbital paths.

    “We’re heading for the DL-40637 star system. The system’s inhabited by a space-faring culture of humanoids which evolved on the second planet and have subsequently colonized three other Class-M planets in the system. Their technological development is equivalent to Level 3 Pre-Warp on the DeSchault Index, but their aptitude with data systems and artificial intelligence rivals that of mid-23rd century Vulcan.

    “Eighteen days ago, one of the oncoming nomadic fleets, identified by our advance probes as the En-Il-Que, entered the system after ignoring repeated warnings from the inhabitants to halt their advance. The two sides have been embroiled in a shooting war since then.”

    Graphical representations of the En-Il-Que’s advance into the system materialized as a series of red lines. Blue icons signified the inhabitants’ defensive lines and maneuvers, which Verrik immediately recognized as being especially innovative, flexible, and effective.

    Pell continued her narration, “We believe that the locals, who call themselves the Deobeen, have utilized their advanced AI system to create a layered defense strategy that’s slowed the En-Il-Que’s offensive considerably. Although the Deobeen are utilizing limited weaponry, to include thermonuclear missiles, enhanced x-ray lasers, and plasma cannons, and the fact that they possess no advanced energy-based shielding, their ambushes, mine-fields, tactical feints, and outflanking maneuvers have caused havoc with the En-Il-Que’s invasion plan.

    “As it stands, none of the core, inhabited planets have yet fallen to the En-Il-Que, but they’ve lost a number of smaller outposts and more remote military installations. The invaders’ main fleet formation is on schedule to make planetfall on the Deobeen homeworld in approximately seventy hours.”

    Pell resumed her seat and looked toward Sandhurst . Before the captain could comment, Lightner spoke up. “Please tell me this isn’t going to be another horrible spectator event, sir.”

    Sandhurst gave the lieutenant a questioning look that begged elaboration.

    Lightner seemed uncomfortable, but having given voice to his reservations, he was now committed. “Having to watch that last fleet beat up on the locals was bad enough. Sitting by while an alien horde ransacks an entire star system is going to be infinitely worse.”

    Juneau, who felt similarly, quickly added, “About that, sir. How does the Prime Directive apply here? If it’s more likely than not that we’re going to have to engage in hostilities with the En-Il-Que when they breach the Alpha Quadrant, wouldn’t it make more sense to hit them now when they’re otherwise occupied?”

    Sandhurst looked between the two young officers before answering. “Would it make sense? Yes. However, those aren’t our orders. For all we know, the En-Il-Que may not make it to the Alpha Quadrant. Perhaps they’ve decided to conquer and settle this system, in which case what happens here between these species isn’t any of our concern. Regardless, what we have here is an opportunity to observe their offensive capabilities, so that if we do end up in a conflict with them later on, we’ll have the upper hand.”

    Juneau and Lightner shared a glance, both of them looking largely unconvinced.

    Sandhurst took the opportunity to look around the table at the others. “I understand the mission we’ve been given is a difficult one, but it’s vital we complete it to the best of our abilities. We’re certainly in no position to come riding to the rescue in this situation. In fact, both our present orders as well as the PD forbid it. Like it or not, we’re observers in this situation, nothing more. Is everyone clear on that?”

    There were reluctant nods around the table as the senior staff acceded.

    “I want everyone to focus on what’s at stake here,” Sandhurst pressed. “There are over one-hundred and ninety billion people depending on us to do everything in our power to prevent this cumulative juggernaut from slamming into Federation space and wreaking untold destruction. And that’s just the Federation. There are uncounted billions more Klingons, Cardassians, Romulans, and hundreds of other Alpha Quadrant species just as desperate for us to do our jobs here and now.”

    Most of the participants were giving the captain their undivided attention, while Ashok appeared to be concentrating on a padd and Juneau carefully inspected her hands that rested in her lap. Counselor Liu seemed interested in the others’ reactions to Sandhurst’s proclamation.

    Sandhurst's expression hardened fractionally. “Our assignment is to locate, assess, contact, and if necessary, interdict any alien formations that threaten our home quadrant. This is the ‘assess’ portion of that mission profile, and it consists of having to sit and watch as other species fight one another for their lives while we make scans and take copious notes. It’s cold, heartless, thankless work, but it needs to be done and we’re going to do it.”

    Sandhurst stood abruptly, and the other officers followed him to their feet.

    “I want the TOC fully staffed by thirteen-hundred hours, the main sensor array calibrated for detailed technical scans, and four Class-4 probes on hot standby in the forward tubes. Tactical, have contingency plans in place for if we inadvertently become a target, and have Marine and security personnel stationed at all vital command and control nodes aboard ship. I want Medical prepped for casualty triage should we need it.”

    Rather than make eye contact with his subordinates, Sandhurst made a show of typing commands into the LCARS interface in the table top. “Make it happen, people,” the captain ordered. “Dismissed.”

    *****
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2012