Captain’s Log: Stardate 51459.4
We have successfully completed the first part of our escort mission to Deep Space Six and our outward journey was largely uneventful. We didn’t encounter any of the unknown hostile forces that have claimed several of our supply convoys in recent weeks and activity along the Neutral Zone border was minimal, with no evidence as to whether these attacks are from Dominion forces who have managed to cross Federation space somehow undetected or Romulan forces taking advantage of our concentration being focused elsewhere.
As it will be several days before we begin our return voyage to Starbase 88, I have granted shore leave on DS6 to those members of my crew who request it.
Sara Parker watched as Jonozia Lex surveyed Deep Space Six’s massive crew lounge from across their table on the upper level. Sara could see that her husband was pleased to see many of his crew, including much of the senior staff, had taken up his offer to use the Starbase’s facilities for some much needed R and R. The two big exceptions were Simok, who was not willing to pass up an opportunity to work on Argus’ systems while docked at such an advanced facility and who had remained in main engineering, and Thomas Patel, who had remained in command of the ship.
From where she sat Sara could see Cassaria, Dulmis, Arkin and Sheridan relaxing on two large settees in front of one of the giant floor-to-ceiling windows that allowed the terrestrial area of the Starbase to be seen. She watched as they spiritedly laughed and chatted between themselves. “It’s good to see them relaxing like that, isn’t it?” she said.
Lex turned towards her and nodded. “I’m happy to see them putting the war out of their mind,” he replied, “even if it’s only for a couple of days.”
Sara looked carefully at her husband. His reply hadn’t been filled with much enthusiasm, as if something was weighting on his mind, and she realised that he was holding something back from her. “What’s happened?” she asked.
“We received word this morning that the Fifth Fleet retreated back to Starbase 47,” replied Lex, his voice becoming a little more positive as if a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. “The Dominion captured the Iadara system and have taken control of the Argus array.”
Lex had increasingly turned to his wife for comfort as the course of the war continued to turn against the Federation, and she was happy she had taken up his offer of the science officer’s position on the Argus as she was now there when he needed her most. One of the consequences of this though, was she knew just how badly it was all affecting him and, by extension, the rest of the crew. With the stalemate that had developed following the Dominion’s retreat from Deep Space Nine back into Cardassian space three months ago, morale had improved considerably, but now that the stalemate had been broken and the Dominion war machine was on the move again, she feared another downturn. It also meant that the attacks on Federation ships along the border of the Romulan Neutral Zone could no longer be considered separate from the rest of the war, adding more stress to the situation. All that remained was the realisation of their worst fears - the entry of Romulans into the war on the Dominion’s side. Sara asked her husband and he responded by shaking his head.
“Not yet,” he replied, “but if they have we’ll know soon enough.”
“It’s possible this is just an attempt to drive a wedge between us and the Romulans and get them in to the war on the Dominion’s side,” suggested Sara, trying to lighten his mood by looking for alternative explanations. “With everyone on edge at the moment it won’t take much for some unfounded accusations to start floating about.”
“That kind of thinking could easily be what the Romulans are counting on,” replied Lex in a snide tone.
“Jono!” exclaimed Sara in disbelief. She’d never heard her husband speak with such venom in his voice.
“I’m serious, Sara. I’ve dealt with Romulans before and it’s well within their modus operandi to use such underhand tactics to force our hand.”
“And you don’t think that the Dominion would attempt to use such a preconception against us?”
“Possibly,” Lex conceded, but it was obvious he was unconvinced.
“Definitely,” said Sara pressing her point further. “They did it on Earth two years ago with Admiral Leyton and they’ve caused two wars; firstly between the Klingons and the Cardassians, then the Klingons and the Federation. They even tricked the Tal’Shiar and the Obsidian Order into attacking an empty planet so they could wipe them out. The Dominion’s strategy is all about divide and conquer.”
“Your last example demonstrates the Romulan mindset perfectly,” countered Lex. “After the Tal’Shiar assured them they were doing the same thing, the Obsidian Order threw everything they had behind destroying the Founders. But the Romulan’s didn’t commit all their forces, despite having a changeling in their midst, and the Cardassians took the full brunt of the defeat.”
In all the years Sara had known her husband she’d never seen him so readily pigeonhole an entire race of people and she didn’t know of any encounters that he had had with Romulans that would make him go against his normally very accepting personality.
“You make it sound like there were no Romulan losses at all,” she said. “Half the fleet was made up of Warbirds.”
“Sure, it has badly weakened the Tal’Shiar, but it wiped out the Obsidian Order. That in turn has led to the fall of the Cardassian Government and allowed the Dominion gain a foothold in this quadrant and force this war,” said Lex. “I’d say that the Romulans definitely came out the better off of the two.”
“Jono, neither of them came out of that failed attack well off,” replied Sara. “It’s likely that the reasons we’ve been unable to bring the Romulans in on our side so far is because of their losses during that attack and their signing of a non-aggression pact with the Dominion is a symptom of that. It shows just how unwilling the Romulans are to fight them.”
Lex was about to reply when his commbadge beeped and he tapped the miniature Cochrane delta on his left breast. “Lex here, go ahead.”
“Captain, this is Starbase operations,” said the male voice from his commbadge, “please report to briefing room 3.”
“Acknowledged,” he replied, before tapping the commbadge, to close the channel, and leaned over to plant a kiss on his wife’s cheek. He smiled at her and said, “We’ll finish this later.”
“Be sure of it,” she replied, smiling back.
Lex stepped out of the turbolift into the corridor outside briefing room 3 and paused to compose himself before he entered. The conversation that he had just had with Sara had unsettled him more than he had let on to her and he hated that he was unable to tell her why he felt the way he did about the Romulans.
I wonder if Jean-Luc is still affected by that mission? He wondered, before finally shaking the thoughts from his mind, straightening his jacket and entering the briefing room.
Lex was greeted by four people who were seated around the far end of the briefing room’s long rectangular table in front of the viewscreen. At his arrival the person sitting at the head of the table rose to his feet and Lex immediately recognised him as Deep Space Six’s commanding officer, Admiral Rothschild. Rothschild was an imposing man, well over six foot in height and with broad shoulders. His closely cropped snow white hair was a stark contrast to his dark skin and gave him an air of experience and distinction.
“Welcome, Captain Lex,” he greeted in his south African-accented baritone voice, extending his hand to the Trill.
Lex took it happily and was rewarded with a firm shake of his arm that he’d still feel a couple of hours later. He then took the seat to the Admiral’s left.
“Now that we’re all here, I’ll introduce everyone.”
Admiral Rothschild then went through the introductions to each other in turn. First up was Captain Juan Roldán, the commander of the USS Spectre, who sat to the Admiral’s right. He was of Mexican ancestry and a few years older than Lex, but with a similar build. His dark black hair had been neatly styled into a Starfleet standard side parting. On his right sat Commander Naomi Tsukino, a petite Japanese woman about Lex’s age whose features seemed to constantly have a look of determination etched upon them. She commanded the USS Alexander, one of the two Defiant-class starships permanently assigned to the Starbase, and also served as Rothchild’s first officer. Finally to Lex’s left sat Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Lisley, who served as the Admiral’s adjunct. In her late twenties, she had European features, shoulder length black hair and spoke with an English accent.
With the introductions complete the Admiral began the briefing. “What’s you’re about to see is classified top secret,” he prefaced, before pressing a button on the table, turning his attention to the viewscreen as the image of the Federation seal was replaced by a starscape at warp. “This footage was transmitted to Starbase 185 three hours ago by the USS Bonchune. The Bonchune had been sent to intercept an experimental starship, the USS Prometheus, which had failed to make contact at their last allotted check-in time.”
Lex could now make out the small starship at the centre of the screen that was growing larger by the second. Eventually Lex could make the sleek arrow shaped features common to Starfleet’s more recent designs as well as four warp nacelles.
The Admiral continued the briefing, “During their approach the Bonchune repeatedly hailed the Prometheus with no response, and as they got close, the Prometheus’ shields were raised. Then this happened.”
As the Prometheus filled the screen, Lex saw that it had began to implement a saucer separation – before realising that it wasn’t just the saucer that had separated, but that the secondary hull had split as well. On top of that, all three parts were warp capable, small nacelles having risen out of the saucer section’s hull and the four nacelles from the stardrive splitting between its two halves. Two of the three sections then disappeared off screen on trajectories that would allow them to surround the Bonchune. This was soon confirmed as phaser fire erupted from the remaining section’s arrays, sending the screen blank before the Federation seal returned.
Admiral Rothschild turned back towards the table, “The attack disabled the Bonchune, killing 52 of her crew and injuring 86 more.”
“What was that?” asked Roldán, beating Lex to the same question.
“The Prometheus employs a multi-vector assault mode. It was developed after the USS Enterprise successfully deployed its saucer separation during the Borg incursion on Stardate 44001.1,” explained Rothschild, “In addition to this feature it also has 14 type XII phaser arrays, 6 Quantum and Photon torpedo launchers and the latest generation of ablative armour and metaphasic shields. She’s also one of the fastest ships in the fleet, capable of warp 9.9975.”
“I can see why the Dominion would want to get their hands on it,” said Lex.
“The Dominion hasn’t hijacked it,” said Rothschild, “the Romulans have.”
“The Romulans?” asked Roldán.
The Admiral nodded solemnly, “When their hails where initially ignored and the Prometheus raised its shields, the Bonchune did a full sensor sweep of the ship. They found 15 Romulan life signs aboard and no sign of the original Starfleet crew.”
“Does this mean that the Romulans have entered the war on the Dominion’s side?” asked Lex.
“There’s been no formal declaration of war so far,” replied Rothschild, “and at the moment Starfleet command it treating this as an isolated incident.”
“Admiral, between this and the attacks along the Neutral Zone they’re not really looking like allies at the moment,” said Lex.
“The perpetrators of the attacks along the Neutral Zone are still unconfirmed at the moment, Captain Lex,” replied the Admiral. “The fleet’s resources are stretched too far right now as it is and we can’t afford a war on two fronts, so if the Romulans aren’t prepared to join us, it’s in our interests to keep them out of the war as long as possible.”
Thanks to his recent conversation with Sara, Lex’s sense of déjà vu was growing, so he decided that it was probably best to drop the subject. Starfleet was quickly getting backed into a corner and their options were dwindling. The worst thing was that everyone could see it coming.
“So you want us to go after it?” asked Tsukino, opening a new line of questions.
“Yes. I’m sending the Spectre, Alexander and Defender after the Prometheus,” confirmed Rothschild, causing Lex’s eyebrows to rise when his ship was neglected to be included. The Admiral pre-empted Lex’s next question, “Captain Lex, I want you to take command of the Defender and assemble a crew from among your people on the Argus. The Argus, under Commander Patel’s command, will remain here to defend Deep Space Six.”
Lex nodded in understanding.
“Are there any further questions?” Rothschild completed, wrapping the briefing up. When nobody responded he finished with, “Then you’re dismissed.”
The four officers began to rise from their seats and Roldán, Tsukino and Lex headed for the door.
“Captain Lex, would you remain behind for a moment,” requested the Admiral and Lex returned to his seat. Rothschild turned to Lisley, “Commander, please wait for me outside.”
“Aye sir,” she replied and exited the room.
After the door had closed behind Lisley, Rothschild turned to Lex, “What are your impressions of Commander Lisley, Captain?”
“She seems a capable officer, sir.”
“Indeed. Too capable to be stuck in a desk job babysitting and old codger like me,” he replied, speaking candidly. “She’d make you a damn fine first officer.”
“I already have one of those, Admiral,” Lex replied with a smile.
“If Lisley is too capable to be stuck behind a desk, then Patel is long past due getting his own command, especially with the war on,” replied Rothschild. “I guarantee you that you’ll be looking for a new X-O within the year and you could do a lot worse than Liz.”
“Coming from you that is one hell of an endorsement, sir.”
“I get the feeling that you’re not entirely convinced,” he said. “Look, I’ll assign her to the Defender as first officer and you can evaluate her yourself.”
“It’s not that I’m not convinced of her ability, Admiral,” responded Lex. “I’m just not convinced that I need to be looking for a new X-O.”
“Never hurts to keep your options open though, Captain.”
“Agreed, sir,” replied Lex, accepting the offer. “I’ll include the Commander as part of Defender’s crew.”
“Thank you, Captain,” said Rothschild, “Good hunting.”
“Thank you, sir,” replied Lex, getting out of his seat and heading for the door.
“…of course nobody told him that Hermats are hermaphrodites,” said James Dulmis, finishing up another one of his stories from his time spent on the Thunderchild. “When he realised his mistake he turned very red in the face and I don’t think he could have disappeared any further into his seat without becoming part of it.”
Another round of laughter erupted from the group that Kate Sheridan found herself swept up in yet again. She was unable to remember the last time that she had relaxed like this with a group of friends, and she’d thoroughly enjoyed spending the last few hours with Arkin Jora, James Dulmis and Bimitri Cassaria.
Something in the periphery of her vision caught her attention though and she turned her head in that direction for a better look. About two tables over sat a woman who seemed to be staring directly at Kate until the moment that Kate looked in her direction. Their eyes met for a moment before the woman hurriedly looked down at the padd in front of her, and Kate continued to stare for a moment before a hand on her shoulder caused her to jump a couple of feet in the air.
“Sorry, Kate, I didn’t mean to scare you,” apologised Sara Parker from behind, withdrawing her hand as she did. “Mind if I join you?”
“Umm, sure,” replied Kate, a little flustered.
“The more the merrier,” said Cassaria with a smile.
Sara dropped into the empty armchair at the head of the low table as Kate turned her attention back to the woman who had been staring at her a few moments earlier. To her surprise though, the woman had vanished and she couldn’t see her anywhere in the immediate vicinity. There had been something familiar about her that Kate couldn’t quite place her finger on.
“Looking for someone, Kate?” asked Cassaria, turning to look over the back of the couch.
“There was a woman…” Kate replied, trailing off. She shook her head, “Never mind.”
“You both knew each other before you joined Argus’ crew, didn’t you, you and Cassaria I mean?” asked Sara.
“Yeah,” replied Kate, thinking about her long friendship with the Counsellor. “All the way back to the Constitution.Bimitri was the ship’s counsellor when they found me.”
By the way they were looking at her it was evident that neither Dulmis nor Arkin had heard the story behind Kate’s arrival. It surprised Kate. She thought everyone knew what had happened to her. Everyone certainly seemed to have an opinion on it. “Bimitri, do you want to tell the story,” she said with a smile, “as you where actually awake for it.”
Cassaria nodded and smiled, “As I recall we were in the middle of a diplomatic mission to the Klingon colony on Forcas III…”
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