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Light the Fires

Posted on Wed Mar 17th, 2021 @ 12:13pm by Captain Osegan Trenna & Ensign Geoff Martinsen & Lieutenant Commander Arthur Talbot & Lieutenant Evaad Hessen & Lieutenant Praxalin Chromis & Chief Petty Officer Juliana Nuñez

Mission: Beacon
Location: Bridge
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1230

Once they'd returned to the ship after their meeting with Admiral O'Connell and Commander Kos, Trenna had tasked Talbot with working with Engineering to get them ready to get underway as soon as possible. Though both O'Connell and Kos had downplayed it, there were reasons to be concerned about this comm signal that had appeared.

The turbolift doors parted and Trenna saw Martinsen sitting at the Operations station, the only person in the room. With them being in port, the Bridge was being minimally staffed, and, though an Ensign, Martinsen was more than capable of standing a bridge watch while docked.

"Recall any crew who are not on board," she ordered.

Geoff jumped slightly, having not heard the turbolift doors whoosh open. "Sorry, Captain," he said, regaining his composure. A hand reached up and smoothed his hair, a nervous habit he'd had since childhood. "Of course, Captain, I mean."

"Signal all departments to prepare for departure," she added as she moved to her chair. She turned to her small console mounted on a short column between her and Talbot's chairs and pulled up the duty roster. She keyed in a quick command to notify alpha shift to report to their usual duty stations.

"Osegan to Talbot. Status in Engineering?"

=====

Artie, who thought he had been in Engineering for only a few minutes, was shocked to see how much time had passed in such a short window. A team from Gamma Command, at the request of the senior engineering officer, had come aboard to perform an independent survey of the primary EPS grid. Evidently, some unspoken concerns had arisen following their last mission. Though the survey team was just a few minutes away from finishing, too many systems had been taken offline and it would take a while to properly restore them.

"Still working on it, Captain," Artie replied as he sat back down at the pool table. "Half of the primary systems are still shut down, and we are preparing full restarts and startup diagnostics right now."

"Understood. Get things squared away as soon as you can and then get up here."

"Acknowledged." Artie tapped his badge to close the channel. Though it felt like old times, working in Engineering, he felt the tug of other responsibilities on the bridge and throughout the ship. Why, oh why, did Starfleet have to send out the Altai with such little support?

=====

"Most of the crew are back, Captain," Geoff reported 20 minutes later. "Got a couple more on the way still."

Trenna and Martinsen weren't alone on the Bridge anymore; several people had filtered in and were manning stations. That included Petty Officer M'Kae, who was now serving as acting Chief Tactical Officer.

Artie should be getting closed to wrapping up, she mused.

The turbolift doors opened, depositing Commander Talbot on the bridge. Instead of assuming his typical station, he nodded at the Captain and moved over to the Engineering station to discuss a few things with the officer assigned there, Ensign Hawkins. At the commander's prompts, Hawkins accessed the warp drive monitoring system. Artie quickly pointed out a few items of note before shifting back to a side-cutaway schematic of the ship itself. He had a couple places of interest to watch out for over the next day on the ship, but nothing too concerning.

Lieutenant Evaad Hessen followed moments later, having come up through the lift on the opposite side of the bridge. His downtime had been well earned and well enjoyed, and he was already back aboard, checking over his team's work in the cargo bays when the order to the bridge had come in. He nodded to the Captain and First Officer as he took his position.

When Hessen arrived, Geoff turned Ops over to the Betazoid and assumed his usual spot at Flight Control.

As the last of the crew arrived and took their places, she began giving orders. "Mister Martinsen, plot a course to the Quimalia system. And stand by on thrusters. Mister Hessen, we'll need clearance to depart."

Geoff hadn't heard of Quimalia, but it was easy enough to find in the navcharts. He mapped out a route and ran some ETAs at different warp factors, just to be ready.

"Deep Space Eleven Traffic Control has provided launch clearance," said Evaad. "Docking Bay door opening now."

"Thank you, Lieutenant," she said, looking over at Ops. "Cut us loose."

“Yes, ma’am,” he answered as he worked. “Lines disconnected; we are under our own power. Moorings clear. Ship is secure for launch.”

Her gaze returned to the main viewscreen. "Ensign, let's go."

Geoff gave a stiff nod and then lit up the thrusters. Even though he knew that it was just his mind playing tricks on him, the young pilot could feel the vibrations of the ship slowly being forced away from its inertia. It was like he was in the cockpit of an old Earth space shuttle, booster rockets igniting as a countdown was being announced in the background.

The ship glided forward, slowly distancing itself from the docking port it had inhabited most recently. Directly ahead, the massive bay doors had retracted, space framed like a painting hanging on a wall.

=====

With the ship underway, Trenna rose from her chair. "Commander, have the senior staff meet in fifteen minutes. I'll join you then."

"Aye, Captain," Artie said as the Captain disappeared into the Ready Room. "Misters Hessen, Martinsen, and M'Kae, that meeting will include the three of you. Make sure to bring up your relief officers before then."

"Yes, sir," Evaad replied, already having a sense of what this was about. He checked the duty roster and work schedule for his relief. He had a few names to choose from, and selected Ninan Quispe Chambi, given her good work during his brief impromptu holiday. "Ensign Quispe Chambi to the bridge," he said into the comm system.

Me? Geoff thought. His eyes were fixed on his console. This has to be a mistake.

"No mistake," Evaad said to Geoff with a wry smile.

Artie then looked to his nearby monitor to call up the ship's manifest. Though he was the Executive Officer, and intimately familiar with the crew compliment, he still needed to verify that he was about to contact the right people, especially due to the ship's lack of senior officers. "Bridge to Lieutenant Vadess, Doctor Vasquez, and Lieutenant Bhavani. Please report to the Observation Lounge in fifteen minutes."

Following the surgeon's acknowledgement, confirmations quickly followed from the Bolian senior engineer, and the Barzan science officer.

=====

Trenna walked walked into the briefing room exactly fifteen minutes later, steaming mug of coffee in one hand and a PADD in the other.

"I trust you all took advantage of our time in port," she said to officers assembled. "Sorry we had to cut it short."

She sat down at the head of the table and took a sip of coffee. "Commander, let's start with quick department status reports."

Artie nodded and replied, "Of course, Captain. Lieutenant Vadess, we'll start with you. Engineering status?"

Vadess, a typically nervous Bolian, stammered in her reply. "Well, uh, all systems are functioning at nominal parameters. There was a, uh, problem with the, uh, impulse manifold not wanting to give us full power. But Commander, uh, Talbot helped us to straighten that out. The regulators, you see, had gotten, uh, stuck thanks to some plasma buildup. We solved it with a high-pressure flush of the, uh, system. For a moment there, I was, uh, worried that we'd have to dismantle half the engines, but there's no need to, uh, worry about that now. They'll perform, uh, admirably and at top, uh, performance. Captain. Ma'am."

Artie provided a comforting smile to the uncomfortable senior engineer. "Thank you, Lieutenant. On to science with Lieutenant Bhavani."

The Barzan woman nodded, inhaling a puff of gases native to her home planet. "Science is ready," she calmly and succinctly reported. "We had an opportunity to realign the sensor arrays while in port and installed a few diagnostic subsets to aid us in situations like we faced in the last mission. Our probes have been restocked as well."

The Commander nodded, saying, "Thank you, Lieutenant. On to medical, Doctor Vasquez?"

The Hispanic Doctor nodded. "Sickbay's been restocked for our next voyage. I even managed to procure some extra supplies should they be needed."

"Next up is Tactical with Petty Officer M'Kae," Artie announced, looking to the next person in line.

The Caitian Petty Officer licked his lips before speaking. "Torpedo inventory has been logged and verified. Phasers and deflector maintenance has finished, and all systems are running at nominal capacity."

"Thank you, Petty Officer," said Artie. "Mister Martinsen, Flight Control?"

Geoff froze. I shouldn't be here, he thought. It wasn't that long ago that he was a cadet. Now, less than a year later, he was in a senior staff meeting. "Good," he finally blurted out. The Ensign could feel his face warming from embarrassment. "Sorry...I mean...everything is good. Flight control is five by five."

He tried not to look at either Commander Talbot or Captain Osegan. He just knew they were second guessing inviting him.

Artie moved to the next person in line. "Miss Nuñez, what's the status of Security?"

Senior Chief Petty Officer Juliana Nuñez was as confused as to why she was in the senior officer briefing as M’Kae and Martinsen. But she was prepared. She had watched previous security chiefs, back when the Altai had one, and knew enough about the department to answer correctly and succinctly. “Newly arrived security officers are being trained on our procedures. Patrol schedule is being adjusted for maximum efficiency. Truthfully, our recent losses have shocked a few of our numbers, but Counseling department is working with everyone.”

Last in line was the Chief Operations Officer. Artie nodded to the Betazoid Lieutenant and asked, "And Mister Hessen, Operations status?"

“Systems working within normal parameters,” Evaad reported. “Star charts have been updated with most recent data from other exploration missions. Cargo bays are fully restocked. Two of our shuttles were exchanged with new ones at Gamma Command, and our entire flight is being run through a maintenance cycle.”

"Thank you all," Commander Talbot offered the senior staff. "Captain Osegan, I'm pleased to report that the Altai and it's crew are ready for the mission briefing."

Trenna took a gulp of her coffee. "Thank you, Commander. Three years ago, a Federation astrometric survey team passed through the Quimalia system. It was a very routine mission by all accounts. The team completed their mission in two days and then continued on their way. They didn't find anything remarkable, so much so that the team's mission logs are a quick, boring read. Just a couple lines each. That was the last Federation presence in the system."

She picked up her PADD and touched a control.

"They're coming. They're coming. They're coming. They're coming. They're coming. They're coming. They're coming. They're coming."

"That," Osegan continued, talking over the words coming over the speakers in the room, "is the message that is now broadcasting in the Quimalia system. Instead of being a new player on the intergalactic scene, this is a Federation signal."

Her eyes moved around the room, giving her staff time to process the information.

The Barzan science officer was the first to speak. "Did the survey team leave behind any probes that could have been commandeered or reprogrammed?"

Artie wasn't sure how to answer that. Probes were designed to have a temporary lifespan, but it wasn't the first time he'd heard of a probe be intercepted and altered. "Starfleet doesn't seem to think so, especially given the remote location of this system."

“Probes from three years ago...used for astrometric missions...” Evaad said, his mind working on the possibility, “their operating systems did have some exploits that foreign powers had used to commandeer them, but most had been identified and closed by the time of the Quimalia survey. Also, those all required previous understanding of Starfleet technology and computer code, something incredibly unlikely out here.”

Juliana spoke next. “Have their been reports of missing Federation ships in that area of space? Someone who might’ve crashed, or had their ship stolen and brought to Quimalia?”

The captain shook her head. "Nothing that's been made available to us. Lack of information is one of the problems. Given the cryptic message, Command wanted to be ready. And why we've been assigned to investigate."

"It's possible that we'll get more information from Gamma Command before we get to Quimalia, but we can't count on it. Let's keep 'captured or stolen Federation ship' as an option. Other thoughts?"

"I'm not ready to rule out this is an ambush of any kind," Artie remarked. "I suggest launching a couple long range probes before we get into the system. Rig them for remote self-destruct and full-power scans."

"You would learn more from listening, than by reading the shape of the wind with smoke."

A tall alien in the blue-collar of a science officer stood in the doorway to the conference room. He was tall, spindly, but human form in shape with two arms, two legs and a head. But from there the character generating algorithm of genetics had been set it seemed too random. Light moss coloured scales that caught the light, with a crest of bright blue feathers currently flattening down against the aerodynamic smoothness of his head. A black beak, like that of a parrot, lacked softly as he weaved his four-fingered hands together.

"An apology for my tardiness. I am Lieutenant Chromis, your new science officer assigned here. I was outside listening to your meeting, seeking understanding before entering but saw plans moving forward into solid form," he said, his amber coloured eyes flicking from face to face. "Might I put forward the idea that sending long-range probes to the system is wisdom, but perhaps with a subtle tone instead of an overt one. Probes can be set to passive data collection, and on minimal power be sent through the system with little chance of being detected. We could then pick them up in the far side, and interrogate their cached data without alerting anyone or thing to our presence. Somethings react poorly to loud noises, even in the limitless confines of a star system."

Trenna stared up at the newcomer. "Welcome," she said, her eyes examining the science officer's feathers. And scales. And beak. "Glad to have you onboard, but I wish we'd gotten a heads up about your arrival," she said, shooting a look at Talbot.

"Have a seat, Lieutenant," she directed, motioning towards an empty chair before looking around the room. "Thoughts on the Lieutenat's idea?"

“It should work,” said Evaad. A light pain was starting to develop behind his eyes as the thoughts from the most unfamiliarly alien Lieutenant Chromis came unbidden into his head, but he could still concentrate. Mostly. “Drop out of warp maybe twenty astronomical units away from the system, launch the probe, give it a burst of speed but then deactivate its engines, warp to the other side and wait for it...hmmm...it’s always possible we’ll be detected warping into the system’s vicinity by whatever it is sending the transmission but that’s a risk regardless of what we do. The passive probe gives us the best chance at seeing what’s deep in the system without increasing odds of detection.”

"Speaking of detection, the voice in the communication...what language are they speaking? The universal translator can obfuscate meaning for clarity on occasion if the speaker is not using Federation standard. What is a bird to one, is a sentiment to another," Chromis said as he sat down. "I have good ears, even though you can't see them. It might help to clarify who 'they' are and what is meant be 'they're coming'."

"If we knew that, Lieutenant, we might not be on our way there," Osegan stated. "Our mission is to investigate. Gamma Command's SIGINT team is still working on it, so we might get more answers."

Which you'd had known if you had been on time, Geoff thought. He didn't know anything about this new guy, Lieutenant Chromis, but he didn't like him. After a minute, Martinsen had to admit to himself that his opinion of the science chief was deeply colored by how scary he looked.

She studied Chromis' face again, taking a moment to decide on her orders. "Lieutenant," Trenna said finally, her eyes shifting towards Hessen, "work with Lieutenant Chromis. Run some simulations. I want to be ready before we get within sensor range of Quimalia."

“Yes, ma’am,” Evaad replied, sensing her confidence in him to lead this team.”

"While I'm sure you're very capable, Lieutenant," Osegan directed at Chromis, "I want Mister Hessen taking the lead. Nothing against you, but Hessen has earned my trust and respect. If the situation weren't as possibly dire as they might be, I might make a different decision."

"An understandable and admirable note of caution, Captain Trenna." Chromis's amber eyes went from Osegen, to Hessen. "I look forward to working with you towards our mutual goal."

"I'm glad you understand," the Bajoran woman replied. "And Osegan is my family name. Traditional Bajoran naming structure."

"So noted," Chromis said with a bob of his head. "I have spent a considerable time on Bajor, it was lax of me to make so easy a mistake. An apology."

"Lieutenant," Trenna continued, addressing the Operations Chief, "Include Ensign Martinsen too."

Hearing his name, Geoff fought his instinctual urge to stare at Hessen. Instead, his eyes darted around the room. The Betazoid was unnerving with his ability to hear everyone's thoughts all the time, which put the Ensign on edge.

To say Martinsen’s unease was easily detectable was an understatement. Many were put off by Evaad’s ability - or rather his disability - but he had learned to accept that that was how many people saw him. “Yes, ma’am.”

Artie remained still in his seat. He found himself agreeable to the new science officer's recommendation on how to insert the probes into the Quimalia system. He made a note to check in on that planning team when possible. "As for when we do arrive to the system, we should be prepared for anything. If we don't go in weapons hot, we should have them at least on standby, as well as a communications buoy that's ready to launch at a moment's notice."

"We're on the same page, Commander. I'm putting you in charge of getting the ship prepared for whatever we find. Draft up some plans with input from everyone here. Ensign, we're about three days out, right?"

"Yes, Captain. Well, three and a half days out," Martinsen answered. "To be specific."

Trenna nodded. "Let's review your plans in the morning, Commander. 0630 in my office."

Artie nodded to the Captain. "Aye, Captain." There was still plenty of time in the day to meet with those whom he needed to and get everything pulled together.

She looked around the room. "Anyone got anything else?"

Commander Talbot shook his head, finding that he had nothing to add.

"I will integrate myself fully within the crew before I ask of them any boons, Sir." Praxalin added.

Evaad remained silent.

She dropped her PADD, which landed on the table with a bang. "Get to work."

 

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