EPISODE 4.40 - “THE HORNET’S NEST”
written by Travis Cannon
Captain’s Log - Stardate 58395.38:
Admiral Anton went before the Federation Council today to inform them of what has been going on, and to give them the news that the So’ja have been plotting a war. The Pioneer has spent the last couple of days being repaired from her encounter with Tyson Calok. I was brought back to DS5 aboard the U.S.S. José Mendez, along with Dutton’s replacement, Admiral Toshio Kawamura, whom I briefed on the Oralian Sector and the current situation. The entire mood around the station is tense. No one knows what’s going to happen next. All we can do is wait...
That’s all they were doing aboard the U.S.S. Regal, waiting. The Excelsior class ship was on its way back from Tulop and were approaching the Trajan Nebula. Captain Preston Ramsey stood in the center of the bridge, his first officer, Commander Laura Quentin, sat at the science station with the science officer going over the ship’s sensor scans of the nebula.
Ramsey crossed his arms behind his back and walked up behind his helm officer.
“Approaching Trajan Nebula, Captain.”
Ramsey looked up at the view screen and saw the blue and pink gaseous nebula dissolve in front of them. He turned towards the science station.
“Any unusual signals coming from the nebula?” he inquired.
“None, sir,” Laura Quentin said.
Ramsey nodded. He was not the only one who had been shocked to learn that Admiral Jonathan Dutton had been a clone operative working for the So’ja. Learning of that had allow aggravated the already tense feelings aboard the Regal since the assassination attempt on President Korvin Mot.
The Regal went by the nebula without incident.
Ramsey’s first officer, Laura Quentin stepped away from the science station and stepped down into the command center of the bridge with her captain.
“Do you really think they want war, sir?” Quentin asked quietly as she stood next to Ramsey.
Ramsey inclined his head in thought. His eyes looked distance, deep in thought. His thin lips pursed.
“It sure seems as such, Laura,” Ramsey said. “The attack on the President is not something we can just forget. They penetrated Earth’s defenses in such a way that has not been done since the Breen attack during the Dominion War. Granted it was not as catastrophic as the Breen’s attack, but the So’ja assassination attempt had more psychological results.”
Ramsey turned and looked at Quentin. He narrowed his eyes.
“It showed us that we are vulnerable,” Ramsey said, and glanced back up at the view screen. “We’re not indestructible. We have our weak spots.”
A computer console bleeped alert Ramsey’s senses. He turned towards the sound and found himself looked at the tactical station. His tactical officer’s expression was one of confusion and terror.
“Sir?” Smith said looking up. “The sensors are reporting picking up something very strange.”
“Strange?” Ramsey said, gesturing for Quentin to go to the science station and work with the Bolian science officer, while he - Ramsey - went to the tactical station to confer with Lieutenant Smith. “What do you mean, strange?”
“It’s not like anything I’ve seen before, sir,” Smith said, examining a graphic analysis that had appeared on his console’s screen.
Ramsey worked his way around the tactical station to look down at the console, himself. His eyes widen with terror.
“I’ve seen this wave formation before,” he said softly to himself. He jerked his head up from the console and towards the science station. “Laura!?”
“I see it, too, Captain!”
Ramsey stepped out from behind the tactical station and rushed over towards the helm.
“Ensign, go to warp 9, now!” Ramsey ordered.
Suddenly the ship rocked violently. Ramsey feel backwards and hit his head on the edge of this command chair. He stumbled up, and stared at the view screen as he saw a ship decloaked in front of them. It has three wings, and was a light orange yellowish color. Ramsey could not believe what he was seeing. The attacking ship appeared So’ja, but not. Ramsey watched in horror as the ship circled the Regal like a hawk preparing to strike its prey.
The so’ja ship fired. And the Regal shook. Sparks flew from every console.
Ramsey stumbled forward towards the helm, only to find the helm officer dead. Ramsey held back his tears as he pushed the young ensign off the helm console and slide himself into the station’s chair. It had been a while since he had had to pilot the ship. Ramsey braced himself as the so’ja ship made a pass firing at the Regal. The ship shook and more sparks fell out across the bridge.
Ramsey looked down at the helm and punched in the command for an evasive maneuver. The Regal turned sharply to go into the Trajan Nebula.
“Sir?” Quentin shouted from the science station. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m taking a lesson from James T. Kirk,” Ramsey said. “Remember Mutura?”
“But, sir,” Quentin responded. “Ship sensors were different back then.”
“I know, but still,” Ramsey said. “If the Trajan Nebula is anything like the Venka, it’ll be a bumpy ride... not just for us, but for them.”
“There coming aboard, Captain!” Smith shouted from the tactical station.
“Damn!” Ramsey cursed. “We’re not going to make it.” He eyes seemed to glaze over, then he snapped back in action and reality. “Send a distress call! And brace for impact.”
From behind him, Lieutenant Smith press down on a button the automatically sent an distress call out and also sent an emergency transmission to the closest Federation communications array.
The Regal’s retreat into the Trajan Nebula was cut short when the so’ja destroyer cut across her bow and fires an array of pulse weapons. The Regal the shields gave way, and the so’ja ship swung around the port side of the ship and position itself just of the Regal’s stern. A disrupter blast pulsated across the rear nacelles of the Regal. The port one fractured and broke from the rest of the ship, sending the Regal spinning out of control into the Trajan Nebula. The so’ja destroyer swung up and away, disappearing into subspace as it went to warp.
Captain Benjamin Kelsoe stretched his legs. He was feeling better, and could now walk without the assistance of the crutch. He stood up and walked around the quarters he had been assigned aboard Deep Space 5. The Pioneer had received server damage from Tyson Calok, and it was lucky that the Fortune had been on its way to rendezvous with them, otherwise it would have taken them a long time to get back to DS5.
The door chimed.
The door opened with a hiss and Commander Connor Burt stepped into the room. In his hand he held a data pad, which he held up and shook.
“Repair progress on the Pioneer,” Burt said, tossing the PADD onto the lounge table and collapsing on the nearest chair.
Kelsoe stepped over to the table and picked up the data pad. He glanced down at in and scanned through its contents.
“Its coming along slowly,” Kelsoe said.
“Yeah, well we lost our port nacelle,” Burt explained. “We have to wait for the Pinafore to arrive; Her cargo holds are big enough to transport our replacement nacelle.”
“Having a small ship does have some advantages, Connor,” Kelsoe said.
“Ha! Like what?”
“For one thing,” Kelsoe said, tossing the PADD back on the table, and easing down into the chair opposite Burt. “We are faster and more maneuverable.”
“Tell that to Tyson Calok!” Burt said. He paused for a beat and his face became expressionless. “Any news from Earth?”
Kelsoe looked up.
“None,” he said. “Admiral Anton’s has been in talks with the Federation Council and the President for three days. Rumor has it that the Federation Council has already begun debates on whether or not it should declare war on the So’ja Coalition.”
“If I were a Senator, I’d vote to blow those sons of bitches out of the water,” Burt grumbled.
Kelsoe eyed Burt, who only nodded and stood.
“The crew would like to know when you’ll be joining us in the Officer’s Lounge,” Burt said.
Kelsoe scanned Burt’s face, catching the hidden meaning.
“Yeah,” Kelsoe said with a nod. “How is Zimmer?”
“He’s doing fine,” Burt said. “Though I think he’ll do better knowing that you have faith in him again.”
“What the hell,” he said standing up. “After all, it’s a been a while since I’ve seen Sam.”
“There! That’s the spirit!” Burt said, giving Kelsoe a friendly slap on the back.
The Officer’s Lounge was filled with most of the crew of the Pioneer. A large table in the center seemed to be where the senior officers had gathered. Kelsoe was surprised to see the Braxis had joined them there and was stilling at a corner spot, sipping his Vulcan tea, and listening to the conversations. The group - as well as the entire place - gave a raucous cheer when Kelsoe entered the lounge along side his first officer.
Kelsoe was given a spot at the head of the table, and Sam, the lovable bartender, brought him a synthetic brandy per his request. Kelsoe sipped the synthesized beverage and listen to his senior staff talk. Most of it was gossip and/or about the recent elections, bring Korvin Mot to the presidency. He noticed that everyone seemed to be avoiding the topic about the attempted assassination and the coming conflict between the Federation and the So’ja Coalition.
Kelsoe noticed Eric Zimmer sitting quietly at the bar, and decided that it was time to have a talk with the young ensign, who had been blame for almost starting a war with the So’ja. Now, however, the truth had been brought to light and it was now known that Ensign Zimmer had done nothing wrong. The entire thing had been an elaborate set up by the clone Admiral Dutton and his So’ja superiors. Kelsoe eased himself into the chair next to Zimmer, who looked up at his arrival.
“Sir!” Zimmer said, starting to stand in formal greeting.
“At ease, Ensign,” Kelsoe said. “We’re all off duty right now. The Pioneer won’t be fully ready for a couple more days.”
“Yes, sir,” Zimmer said, sitting back down in his chair.
There was an awkward pause of silence.
“Look,” Kelsoe said. “The past couple of months have been stressful and confusing. I’d like to apologize for accusing you of firing upon a Coalition vessel within the Venka Nebula. We now know that it was you who was fired upon.”
Zimmer looked up. “What does this mean now, Captain?”
“Well...,” Kelsoe paused thinking of what to say. “It means that you’re no longer in the dog house, so to speak, Mr. Zimmer.”
At hearing himself being restored to the friendly “Mr. Zimmer,” the young ensign smiled.
“So everything is as it was, then?” he inquired.
“Yes,” Kelsoe said, smiling in return, and sipping his synthetic brandy. He stood and gestured towards the table with the senior officers.
“Come over and join us,” Kelsoe said. “I’m sure there’s room for you.”
Zimmer’s grin widen and he stood and walked over to the table with Kelsoe, where he was greeted with a rowdy cheer from his comrades. Kelsoe watched as Zimmer was reintegrated into the group and smiled to himself. Burt leaned over.
“Now, Ben, wasn’t that worth coming down and getting out of your solitude?” he asked, grinning.
“Yes, Connor,” Kelsoe said, with a small grin. “Yes it was.”
Admiral Toshio Kawamura stood behind the desk in his new office aboard Deep Space 5. He had arrived earlier that week aboard the U.S.S. José Mendez, but he was still settling down in his office. His bonsai tree, sitting on his desk, was the only thing that felt like home. During the journey from Earth to his new command, Captain Benjamin Kelsoe of the Pioneer briefed him the sector in which he would now be the Federation’s most senior officer. However, with the impending conflict between the Federation and the Coalition approaching, the Admiral would soon not be the only high ranking officer taking up station aboard DS5.
The door hissed opened and Lieutenant Albert Buerk, the station’s security officer walked in along with Ensign Qupec, Kawamura’s personal assistant. He could tell at a glance that Buerk was obviously attracted to Kawamura’s female assistant - on that matter Kawamura could not blame Buerk: Qupec was a very attractive, at least for a Vulcan.
“Admiral, Lieutenant Buerk has just informed me that the Normandy will be arriving in four hours,” Qupec said in a very monotone voice - pure Vulcan!
“Ah, good,” Kawamura said in his deep guttural voice. “Do you know if the Normandy has aboard it any of my other personal items? So far all I have is my bonsai tree.”
“Sorry, sir,” Buerk said. “But that’s not what the Normandy is carrying. She’s Admiral Truman’s flagship. He’s on his way here to oversee the reinforcement of DS5. I just got off the intercom with Admiral Carla Frigg of Starfleet Personnel, and she told me that Starfleet Command has decided to station over a hundred marines, and each ship will be having an addition of four MACOS to their crews.”
“Starfleet Marine Corps has decided to bring back the MACOS?” Kawamura inquired.
“Yes, Admiral,” Qupec chimed in. “I spoke with Admiral Pavoc earlier today, sir.”
“You’re sponsor back at the Academy?” Kawamura said.
“That is correct, sir,” Qupec said in her soft, yet sensual, monotone voice. “Admiral Pavoc informed me that it was his idea to bring back the MACOS, saying that, after reviewing intelligence on So’ja fighting tactics, deemed it highly probable that, if this conflict occurs, there would be a great amount of hand to hand combat.”
Kawamura stared at her for a while until he finally nodded.
“I would concur with that assessment by your former mentor,” Kawamura said grimly. “It is a sad fact to admit, but the conflict of which you speak is most likely going to occur, and there will most likely be a tremendous loss of life.”
The doors parted again, and this time Captain Curtis Anthony stepped in. Anthony had previously been the Commander of DS5, but due to the coming struggle, command of the station had been changed to Admiral Kawamura, and Anthony had been reassigned to Starfleet Intelligence. He was now serving aboard the station as the commander of SI’s local intelligence outfit, which the senior staff had next named “SI-5” - playing off of the old secret agent organization in the British Empire: MI-6.
Kawamura glared at Anthony.
“You look out of breath, Captain! What’s the matter?”
“I’ve just picked up a distress call from the U.S.S. Regal,” Anthony said.
“Well, where is she?” Kawamura asked.
“She’s making her return trip from Tulop, sir,” Anthony reported. “According to our communications the Regal sent out it’s distress call some where around the Trajan Nebula.”
“That places them deep near So’ja territory,” Buerk observed.
“Is there any ship’s that can reach them?” Kawamura inquired.
“The Hood and the Independence are the only ship’s close enough to respond, however, they are not close enough to reach them in time,” Anthony said.
Kawamura nodded gravely. “It’s a difficult decision to make, but I have to go with what my father told me: ‘Never leave a man behind.’” He paused for a beat. “So, this is what we are going to due: One, we’re going to order the Hood and Independence to rendezvous together and head for the Trajan Nebula. If we can save the ship, we can at least save the crew. Two: I want a direct line with Admiral Anton as fast as possible so I can inform him of this latest development.”
“Sir, we don’t even know if the So’ja are the ones who caused Captain Ramsey to order the distress call!” Buerk objected.
“I know we don’t have the evidence to prove it, young man,” Kawamura said, turning to look at Buerk. “But I can feel it in my gut. Tell me that you don’t?”
Buerk and Kawamura locked eyes for a moment, and Buerk looked away.
“No, sir, I can’t.”
“Very well, then,” Kawamura said. “Let’s proceed!”
Anthony nodded, and left to contact the two ships, while Qupec went to the view screen mounted on the side wall to opened up a direct line to Starfleet Command.
Admiral Christopher Truman stood in the main nexus of the station, surveying the scene as Starfleet personnel rushed about preparing for war. Truman had just arrived and announced that the Federation Council had made its decision on the So’ja matter: Just over an hour ago the President of the Federation, Korvin Mot, had announced that the Federation had declared war on the So’ja Coalition for wanted acts of terrorism and aggression towards the Federation. The So’ja Coalition quickly responded by drafting their own declaration of war.
Admiral Truman stepped across the nexus, the people rushing about parted and a path quickly formed for him. He stepped briskly towards the Officer’s Lounge, which had been temporarily been converted into Command HQ for Truman and his personnel. Admiral Kawamura awaited him with a grim expression. Truman nodded, and spoke in his gravely voice:
“The Regal’s the first causality of the war, I take it.”
Kawamura grunted and nodded. “The damn reptiles made the first move.”
“That they did,” Truman said, looking around. “Where’s Captain Kelsoe?”
“Here, sir!” came Kelsoe’s voice. A couple of crewmen parted and Kelsoe stepped through with his first officer not far behind.
“Admiral?” Qupec suddenly appeared at Kawamura’s side. “I have a report from Captain Hessman of the Independence.”
“Yes?” Kawamura said, “What does she say?”
“Captain Hessman reports that the Independence won’t be able to reach the Regal’s last known location on time to assist any survivors,” Qupec said, as unemotional as ever.
Kawamura exchanged glances with Truman and Kelsoe. “What about the Hood?”
“Captain Spartan’s report was the same, sir.”
Kawamura nodded, dismissing Qupec, who then left. He turned his attention to Truman.
“Damn sticky situation, Chris,” Kawamura said.
Truman gave a curt nod of agreement and then looked at Kelsoe.
“Captain Kelsoe, I have I gift for you,” Truman said.
“A gift?” Kelsoe inquired, looking confused.
“I believe you’ve heard that Starfleet Command and Vice-Admiral Tuff have re-instituted the Military Assault Command Operation teams for Starfleet ship that will be engaged in the war.”
“Yes, sir,” Kelsoe nodded. “I did hear about that. The Marine Corps will be taking that up, right?”
“Correct,” Truman said, and turned. He snapped his fingers and the personnel all froze. “Major Morgan, if you please!”
Kelsoe turned to see a group of fifteen Marines. A man with thinning blond hair, a man Kelsoe’s instantly recognized, lead the group as they marched into the center of the Officer’s Lounge, stopped and turned on their heals to face Kelsoe and the two Admirals.
“Damn,” Kelsoe heard Burt mumbled under his breath.
“Major,” Admiral Truman gestured for the blond Major to step over.
The Major strode over, holding his plasma rifle at ease in one hand. He saluted Admiral Truman and Admiral Kawamura.
“Major James Morgan of the Fifteen Marine Battalion reporting as ordered, sir,” he said.
“At ease, Major,” Truman said.
Kelsoe watched as Morgan lowered and his shoulders and relaxed his body on command. He was amazed at the implied physical discipline in the Major’s movements.
“Major Morgan,” Truman continued. “You’re MACO team has been assigned to the U.S.S. Pioneer. This is Captain Benjamin Kelsoe, the commanding officer of the Pioneer.”
“Captain,” Morgan said, nodding in recognition.
“As of this moment, the Pioneer is being repaired the docks,” Truman went on. “But as soon as it is ready for departure you and your MACOs will be aboard it to serve with her crew. You will report directly to Captain Kelsoe, so I suggest you take some time to get to know one another.”
“No need, sir,” Kelsoe said, smiling. “Jim and I go way back.”
“It’s good to see you again, Ben,” Morgan said, shaking hands with Kelsoe.
Burt gave Kelsoe a quizzical look, as did the Truman and Kawamura.
“We both grew up in the same orphanage in Montana, sirs,” Kelsoe said.
“Then working together won’t be a problem,” Truman said.
“None at all, sir,” Morgan said, beaming.
“Good,” Truman said, feeling self-satisfied. He then paused in thought. “Major Morgan, have you had the chance to met with any of the other MACO commanders?”
“Yes, sir,” Morgan said. “All have been briefed by the Corps. and are eager to join their crews.”
“Well need them in action soon enough,” Truman said grimly, his gravely voice sounding deeper than ever.
“Sir!” Kelsoe spoke up. “We still have time to rescue the crew of the Regal. I know the sector very well.”
“I know, Kelsoe,” Truman said. “But the Pioneer is in no condition to pursue that objective.”
“Admiral!?” Kelsoe said, turning to Kawamura. “The station has a ship, it’s not being used at the moment, perhaps you can temporarily assign command of it to me and I can take her out. We’ll reach the Regal much quicker than the Independence or Hood could.”
“Commander Burt?” Truman said, raising an eyebrow.
“I’m with him on this one, sir,” Burt said. “We can’t leave Captain Ramsey and his crew out there.”
Truman and Kawamura exchanged glances.
“As the Marine Corps. says, ‘leave no man begins,’ sir,” Major Morgan spoke with authority.
Truman sighed and looked at Kawamura.
“It’s your call, Toshio,” Truman said. “Technically the Imperial is your ship.”
Kawamura looked from Truman to Kelsoe and nodded.
“You have her, Captain,” Kawamura said.
The U.S.S. Imperial, a defiant class ship, had finally arrived at its destination: the Trajan Nebula. On the bridge Captain Benjamin Kelsoe sat frustrated in the captain’s chair. He turned and look towards Commander Burt, who stood beside him. Burt shrugged.
“This is where the Regal’s last reported location was, Captain,” Burt said. “Lieutenant Craig?”
“Run a sensor sweep,” Burt commanded. “Look for anything that can possible be read as evidence of the Regal’s presence in this area.”
“Yes, sir,” Craig said, and then turned his attention to the console in front of him. He start typing quickly, and the rest of the bridge became silent.
Kelsoe rubbed his forehead and turned towards Braxis, who sat with his back towards the center of the bridge, examining the science station monitor. Braxis turned around, almost as if he had sense Kelsoe’s eyes on his back.
“Captain?” Braxis inquired in his normal non-emotional voice.
“Anything about this seem strange to you?” Kelsoe inquired.
Braxis nodded, acknowledging the question. He thought for a while, then raised an eyebrow. Burt looked at Kelsoe with a smile.
“Yes got something, sir!” Burt said, beaming.
Braxis merely stared.
“Captain,” Braxis said. “There is nothing strange about the current situation. The So’ja have made it clear that they do not like us. It was only inevitable that a conflict would arise between our two governments.”
“Yes, yes, we know that, Brax,” Burt said, exacerbated. “What the Captain was asking about was the Regal.”
“I understood the question, Commander,” Braxis said. “I was merely commenting on the larger situation. If the Regal is not here at this moment, then perhaps the have gone.”
“Well duh!” Burt exclaimed. “What were could they have possibly gone?”
“The Trajan Nebula,” Braxis said, raising as eyebrow.
“Captain,” Braxis said, turning his attention towards Captain Kelsoe. “You yourself have retreated into a nebula during a battle; is it not logical that Captain Ramsey would do the same?”
Kelsoe thought for a while, and then nodded.
“Captain!” Craig exclaimed from behind. “I’ve picked up residual evidence of what appears to be weapons fire from a So’ja warship.”
“The So’ja must have attacked the Regal,” Burt said.
“Any idea on the direction the Regal went?” Kelsoe inquired.
Craig spun around in his chair to face Kelsoe.
“The Trajan Nebula, sir.”
Kelsoe and Burt exchanged glances, the later turned at Braxis to see if the vulcan would gloat over his correct deduction, but was not given the satisfaction of a response.
“Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe said in the meantime. “Take us into the Trajan Nebula.”
Zimmer nodded and turned towards the helm console and type in the appropriate commands.
The ship shook and Kelsoe gripped the arms of his chair, Burt staggered a bet, but steady himself by grabbing the back of the command chair’s headrest. Kelsoe’s eyes were locked on the view screen, which showed the blue-red gas particles of the Trajan Nebula.
“Anything on sensors?” Kelsoe inquired.
“Nothing yet, sir,” Craig said from his station. “We’re experiencing some interference from the nebula.”
Kelsoe and Burt exchanged glances. Burt turned and walked up behind Braxis. The ship shook again, and Burt staggered forward a bit. He braced himself against the science station. Burt gripped the side of an open chair next to Braxis and pulled himself down into it. The ship shook, again.
“Mr. Zimmer?” Kelsoe said.
“Sorry, sir,” Zimmer responded. “There some pockets of vapor that’s disrupting the impulse engines.”
“Well, do you best, Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe said, glancing over at Burt, who was wearing a grim expression.
Burt leaned over to Braxis.
“What about you, Brax?” Burt inquired. “Picking up anything on the sensors?”
Braxis turned and looked at Burt with a cold expression.
“I have not,” Braxis said. “As Lieutenant Craig asserted earlier, the nebula is interfering with ship’s sensors.”
Burt nodded, frustrated. “I just wish that we could actually see where we are going. This nebula is as thick as pea soup!”
Captain Kelsoe watched this banter from the corner of his eyes, as interested in Braxis’ responses as Burt was. Considering the main part of the conversation to be over with, Kelsoe returned his attention to the main view screen. The nebula’s blue-red particles spread across the screen in a seemingly never ending parade. Kelsoe’s thoughts started to drift, when suddenly a chirp from the communications station called him back to reality.
“Tracy?” Kelsoe inquired.
“I’m picking up something, sir,” Tracy said, narrowing her eyes as she examined the console in front of her. “It’s distorted. I’m working on cleaning it up. One moment.”
Kelsoe felt the entire bridge become focus on that moment, as they waited for word from Tracy on whatever it was she was receiving. Even the ship itself seemed to concentrate on the moment; it stop shaking and was running smoother than before. Kelsoe turned the chair slowly, lining himself up with a straight line of sight with Tracy. After what seemed like an eternity, Tracy spun around in her chair to face the captain.
“Captain Kelsoe,” she said in her sweet voice. “We are receiving the Regal’s distress call.”
The whole bridge seemed to sigh with relief. Kelsoe smiled a bit, knowing full well that it was unwise to get his hopes up.
“Can you trace the transmission to its source?” he inquired.
“Already done, sir,” Tracy said, returning his smile. “I’m sending it helm as we speak.”
A second passed and Zimmer spoke up.
“Course received, Captain.”
Kelsoe shifted his chair to face the view screen.
“Very good, Mr. Zimmer,” he said, and then glancing over at Tracy. “Well done, Miss Carson.” Turning back to Zimmer, he then said, “Best possible speed, Mr. Zimmer.”
Captain Benjamin Kelsoe sat on the bridge, silent with his thoughts. Before him was the view screen. He watched carefully as the vapor particles, as dense as the thickest fog in San Francisco, slowly parted to reveal a very heavily damaged ship. Kelsoe recognized it immediately; it was the Regal. Kelsoe lean forward.
“None, sir,” Tracy Carson said from her station. “I’m just receiving the automatic distress call.”
Kelsoe cocked his head slightly, so that his eyes were still on the view screen, but his attention was on his first officer.
“Connor,” he said softly so that only Burt could hear him. “I want you to take the an away team and find out if there are any survivors.”
“Should I take the MACOs?” Burt inquired, arching his eyebrows.
Kelsoe nodded. “I’d say that would be a wise choice.”
Major James Morgan stood in front of Commander Burt. He held up his Starfleet issued assault rifle, and aimed it into the darkness of the corridor. Morgan held up his right hand in a fist. Three fingers popped up and then quickly thrust back into a fist moving forward. Three marines moved forward, all holding their assault rifle at the ready position.
Morgan turned and nodded to Commander Burt, who in turn removed his phaser from its holster. Dr. Chase Braga, who was reluctant in bearing a weapon, soon did likewise. His medical staff stood behind the remain MACOs. Commander Tuff, outfitted as the MACOs were moved forward, and positioned himself slightly behind Morgan.
“Do we really need to be this cautious?” he inquired.
Morgan turned slightly, still keeping his attention on the dark corridor, and said, “If the So’ja had fired upon this ship, they could have been intending to board.”
Tuff thought for a moment and then nodded in agreement.
“I concur,” he said. He turned back toward the medical staff. “Miss Gennaro, may I borrow your tricorder?”
Crewman Gennaro slipped her tricorder from its holder and handed it to Tuff. Tuff flipped it open and scanned the corridor. Morgan glanced over, rising an eyebrow in curiosity.
“Anything?” he inquired.
Tuff shook his head. “Nothing.”
“All clear.” One of Morgan’s corporals had finished scouting the area ahead of them.
“All right,” Morgan said, turning back to Commander Burt. He paused and then stepped out in the corridor. “On me.”
The MACOs quickly assembled around Morgan. Morgan retrieved a PADD from his armored vest and held it out in front of him. He clicked it on and a diagram of the ship appeared.
“Okay,” Morgan said, skimming the diagram. “It looks like were in sector G, level five. If there are any survivor they should be in either the bridge, engineering, or the mess. Mendez,” Morgan looked up towards on his corporals. “I want you to take Rawlings and Jacobs, and secure the mess. Sergeant Watts, you take Robinson and Chiang, and secure engineering. Xan, Humphrey, and Bolovok, you’ll be coming with me to the bridge. Understood?”
His team nodded.
“All right,” Morgan said, replacing the PADD, and turning around. “Commander Burt, Commander Tuff, doctor, if you’ll just come with me, well see if Captain Ramsey and his bridge crew have survived.”
The groups separated, each going their own separate way to their destination. Major Morgan walked with Private Xan and Private Humphrey flanking him. Burt, Tuff, and Dr. Braga were in the middle, followed by Corporal Bolovok, the Vulcan.
“Turbo-lifts are down,” Morgan announced as they approached the main turbo-lift. “We’ll have to use the Jefferies tubes,” he said as he slung his assault rifle over his back.
“No complaints here,” Tuff said, doing likewise.
Both Commander Burt and Dr. Braga suppressed groans.
They made their way slowly through the Jefferies tubes, having to pause a couple of times for Burt and Braga. Burt told himself he would work out more, Braga was just shocked that he wasn’t in as good of physical shape as he expected he was. The reached level one in thirty minutes, which as the speed they were going was pretty good.
Corporal Bolovok popped the last hatch and was the first out of the tube and into the bridge. Within minutes they all found themselves standing in the hazy ruins of the bridge of the Regal.
Braga immediately produced his tricorder and began scanning the bridge for lifesigns. The group spread out, searching the ruins for the crew. Tuff stood beside the helm, and knelt down to close the eyes of the young ensign who had been the pilot. Along the rear of the bridge, some debris shifted and a cough was heard. Braga and Burt pushed forward and with the help of Corporal Bolovok and Private Xan removed the overlaying bulkhead debris to help up the one of the ship’s crew.
“Who are you?” inquired Bolovok in the standard uncaring Vulcan voice.
“Lieutenant Smith,” he said, blinking in the light created by the flashlights all point at his face. “Ship’s tactical officer.” He gulped. “Is the Captain...?
The noise of debris being pushed aside caused everyone to turn and look towards the center of the bridge. Out from the rubble staggered Captain Preston Ramsey, helped to his feet by Private Humphrey, who he thanked. Ramsey looked up and say Smith and smiled. His expression then became grim, when Major Morgan called for Dr. Braga.
Braga jumped over a fallen bulkhead towards what remained of the science station. Major Morgan was pulling a woman from the rumble. Ramsey climbed over the debris to assist.
“Laura?” he called.
Major Morgan looked up. “Doctor?!”
Braga quickly unlatched his medical kit and became scanning the first officer as soon as his medical tricorder was in hand. Burt and Lieutenant Smith approached from the rear of the bridge and were helping another crewmen out of the rumble. Smith looked up and saw Captain Ramsey bent over Quentin’s body.
“Captain?” his voice was shaking.
Ramsey looked up, his eyes watery. He turned towards Braga.
“Doctor? Please?” the Captain was obviously troubled.
Braga’s eyebrows narrowed. “She has an hairline fracture in her skull.” He paused. The rest held their breath in anticipation. “The does not appear to be any damage to her brain, but I’ll have to get her to sickbay first.”
“Sickbay!” Morgan said snapping his fingers. He tapped his commbadge. “Morgan to Mendez?”
“Sir?” came Mendez’s voice.
“I need you to check on sickbay,” Morgan said. “See if any survivors are there.”
Morgan looked up at Burt, who nodded.
“Tuff,” Burt said. “Let’s go check out sickbay.”
Tuff squinted and nodded and they were off.
Captain Kelsoe leaned forward and handed a recently replicated cup of black coffee to Captain Ramsey of the Regal. He then returned to the couch and sat down, looking across the room into Ramsey’s eyes.
“I’m sorry about your ship, Captain,” Kelsoe said after he took a sip of his coffee.
Captain Ramsey sat there holding his coffee and only nodded in response.
“I’m sure that they’ll build another,” Kelsoe said, trying to make conversation.
“Oh, they will,” Ramsey said. “I’ll make sure of that. And not just a replacement, but an almost duplicate.”
“Excelsior class?” Kelsoe questioned. “You sure you wouldn’t like an Akira or Intrepid?”
Ramsey looked up and Kelsoe could was told to drop the subject just by the look in the captain’s eyes.
Ramsey shook his head with not particular gesture in mind, and merely sipped his coffee.
“How’s my first officer?” he inquired.
Kelsoe stood up and stepped over to the desk. He pressed on a button that opened a direct line to sickbay.
“Dr. Braga?” Kelsoe called. “How is your patient?”
“She’s doing fine,” Braga said over the intercom. “We got her over here just in time. If she’d been stuck over on the Regal for an hour longer. This sickbay a is kinda cramped, I was wondering if we could set up a triage in the mass and the...” Kelsoe noticed Ramsey’s expression and interrupted.
“I know we have a small ship. Take all the room you need, doctor,” Kelsoe said. “Thank you. That’s enough, keep up the good work. Kelsoe out.”
Kelsoe disconnected the line and returned to the couch. He placed his coffee cup down on the lounge table and crossed his legs.
“What happened, Captain?”
Ramsey’s eyes were filled with terror. “We were returning for a diplomatic mission on Tulop when suddenly the leather skins came out of nowhere and attacked...” he paused and gulped down some coffee. “Damn those bastards.” He looked up at Kelsoe. “No warning!”
“I don’t know if you’ve heard,” Kelsoe said conversationally, “But the Federation has official declared war on the So’ja.] Coalition.”
Ramsey nodded. “More reason for a new Regal to be built and be out on the front lines.”
“I don’t know if that’s necessary,” Kelsoe said. “I’m sure you need some...”
“Counseling?” Ramsey retorted. “Wasn’t that what you were going to say? I need a shrink?”
“Well you’ve experienced a traumatic...”
“Bullshit!” Ramsey spat. “I need to fight. The damn scalys killed my CONN officer. He was just a kid, Ben. A kid! The scalys have no respect for life. If they want a war, I say we give it to them!”
Kelsoe eased up to his feet.
“You’re loosing it, Preston!” Kelsoe roared. “You’ve lost your ship and your out for blood. I understand how you feel. My wife was aboard the Enterprise during the Borg Incursion of 2372. She was in engineering, the first place the Borg assimilated. Picard could have tried to rescue them from the Borg, like we had done for him when he was assimilated, but he didn’t. For a while I blamed him for her death, but after many hours of counseling I have managed to get over her death.”
“You can never get over someone’s death,” Ramsey retorted.
“But you can managed through it,” Kelsoe said. He sat down on the lounge table, no directly in front of Ramsey. “Look you can either hide from you feeling or deal with them. I chose to deal with them. And though I may never recover, I can still perform my duty to the best of my ability. Will you?”
Ramsey stared at Kelsoe.
“Does it help?”
“Yes,” Kelsoe said nodding. “It does. But just don’t expect it to work over night.”
The U.S.S. Hood and the U.S.S. Independence arrived shortly after Kelsoe’s meeting with Captain Ramsey. Doctor Braga supervised the transfer of the Regal wounded from the Imperial to Hood and Independence, while Commander Tuff and Commander Braxis investigated the Regal to confirm Captain Ramsey’s story. Captain Kelsoe stood in the middle of the Imperial’s bridge awaiting their report.
Burt enter the bridge through one of the side does and walked up begin Kelsoe.
“A dispatch from DS-Five has just announced the So’ja Coalition has matched our declaration of war,” he said.
“To be expected,” Kelsoe said. He turned and looked at Burt. “It’s all spiraling out of control, Connor. It was almost four years ago that we started our mission of exploration and now everything is falling apart. What happened?”
“The leather skins wanted a fight, Ben,” Burt said bluntly. “And I’ll be a jackrabbit uncle if we don’t stand up to them.”
“I don’t know if it was them who started this, Connor,” Kelsoe said. “What if what the So’ja said was the truth? What if we were the imperialists coming in a forcing our beliefs and systems onto a complete foreign plate?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Burt said. “At least not anymore. We’re at war, Captain, and there ain’t nothing we can do about that.”
Kelsoe stared into Burt’s eyes to see whether or not Burt truly believed what he was saying. He only needed a second to know it was true.
“Captain,” came Tracy Carson’s voice.
Kelsoe turned and looked at his communication officer.
“The Hood and Independence are taking their leave,” Carson said. “Captain Hessman of the Independence gives us her best.”
“Tell them God speed,” Kelsoe said.
Carson nodded. Kelsoe turned to the view screen to watch the two mighty starships disappear into subspace heading in the direction of Deep Space Five. Behind him the doors hissed opened and Tuff and Braxis entered. Kelsoe turned around and nodded.
“His story checks out, sir,” Tuff said.
“The disrupter blasts along the hull of the Regal are differently that of So’ja origins, Captain,” Braxis asserted in his usual Vulcan way.
Kelsoe nodded. He had not expected them to denounce Ramsey’s story. It was pretty clear that the So’ja had done it. That tactics involved were not entirely So’ja, yet seemed familiar.
Kelsoe turned towards the command chair and stopped.
Now he remembered where had seen that tactic before. It was Romulan. L’Mar! He was working with So’ja. The Romulan would not attack the Federation, not now. It had to be the So’ja. One of those new So’ja warships must over attacked.
Suddenly the bridge was bathed in red light, and everyone was screaming. Kelsoe cocked his head toward Lieutenant Craig at his operations station.
“Two So’ja warship’s off the port bow?”
The view screen flickered over to show the two massive So’ja-Romulan hybrid warship come into view just from beyond the Trajan Nebula.
“Mr. Zimmer,” he commanded. “Prepare to for warp.”
Zimmer nodded, and begin punching in the commands on his console. Kelsoe stepped down behind him. Suddenly from behind the So’ja ships a small craft appeared and sped towards them.
“Ah hell!” Burt exclaimed.
Kelsoe swiveled around and stared at Burt.
“It’s Calok,” Burt explained. “He’s brought along his fancy up graded scout ship.”
Kelsoe returned his attack to the view screen. Calok’s scout ship was intend fancy as Burt had put it. It’s impulse speed was unmatched. Calok’s craft was in weapon range within seconds.
“Mr. Zimmer!” Kelsoe called.
“Aye,” Zimmer said, the tension visible in his voice.
The Imperial spun around and slowed for just a second before the warp engines kicked into drive to take them to subspace. That second was all Calok needed. A burst of blue plasma shot out from his ship and collapsed the Imperial’s warp field. Calok made a pause around the Imperial as the So’ja warships drew closer.
“Warp engineers are off-line!” Zimmer announced.
Kelsoe swiveled on his heels. “Braxis...!”
Before Kelsoe could finish his command the So’ja warship had commenced firing on the Imperial. Two heavy battle cruisers against a Defiant class scout ship. They were no match. Their shield were done within minutes. Calok’s ship made one more pass, taking out their warp engineer permanently.
Suddenly everything seemed to go into slow motion. Kelsoe watched on the view screen as the two warship’s pounded the small Imperial craft. Tuff’s station exploded in an array of sparks, and Tracy’s console went dead. Craig jumped from his seat to assist Tracy, while Braxis was helping Tuff off the floor. Burt ran forward and stood next to Kelsoe, and reached out for him.
Kelsoe then felt something strange.
Commander Connor Burt stumbled forward toward Captain Kelsoe.
“Ben!” he cried.
His eyes filled with terror as the red light on the bridge merged with a green color as the green light engulfed Kelsoe.
The green light subsided and Captain Kelsoe was gone.
The U.S.S. Imperial shook violently as it was pummeled by the disrupter blasts from the big So’ja warships. Burt grasped the thin air where Kelsoe had once been. He looked over towards Braxis and Tuff, who stood there in shock. Burt fell backwards into the command chair as the ship rocked under the constant bombardment of the warships. He glanced up and saw Calok’s ship sped towards on of the warships, which had turned around and were beginning to head away.
“Mr. Zimmer!” Burt called out. “Follow that ship.”
Zimmer turned around in frustration. “Our engines are out, sir!”
“Do something, damn it!” Burt raged. “They’ve got the Captain!”
But it was too late. As soon as Calok’s ship had docked with the So’ja’s, it vanished into subspace. The remaining ship continued to pound the Imperial. Craig spun around from his station.
“Emergency force fields are beginning to buckle, sir,” Craig shouted over the chaos on the bridge. “We’re loosing structural integrity.”
Braxis and Tuff glanced at one another and Braxis stepped forward.
“Your orders, Commander?” Braxis inquired, almost with an expression of desperation on his face.
Burt gripped the arms of the command chair as the ship received another hit. He remained silent. His mind racing through what had just happened.
“Orders, Commander!?” Tuff shouted, stepping forward.
Burt’s eyes had a glazed over look, and he remained silent.
“Commander!?” Tuff roared. “Your orders! Now!”
The Commander remained silent. The So’ja warship hung above them, not relenting.
Burt, with an unfocused mind, turned slowly to look at Tuff and opened his mouth to speak. The bridge buckled as the ship receive yet another severe hit, this time the shield did not hold. The Imperial spun around, out of control.
The engines were disabled, and the ship was loosing power. Burt sensed that this might be the end as the Imperial drifted towards the Trajan Nebula, to be lost in its vast particles just as the Regal had.
Tuff appeared at his left side.
“Commander, you most issue your commands,” Tuff said.
Burt turned towards Tuff and Tuff nodded, receiving the silent orders.
Tuff turned towards Craig, since Tracy’s station had lost power, and issued the order to send a distress call.
To be continued...