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Gamma Section Mission

Posted on Thu Jul 20th, 2023 @ 10:17am by Lieutenant Alexis Ryan & Commander N'Garzi Zora & Ensign Quinn Alka-Sutton & Lieutenant Leah Bailey & Petty Officer 3rd Class Sam Saghir
Edited on on Thu Jul 20th, 2023 @ 12:04pm

Mission: Wrath of the People
Location: Bridge
Timeline: MD08
2519 words - 5 OF Standard Post Measure

"All right, ensign, ease us in around quarter impulse."

Already used to doing the bulk of her work in a variety of cramped spaces, Ryan sat upright in the Gamma Section's command chair somewhat thankful for the intimate workspace that left her feeling far closer to the helm and, at least psychologically, decently connected to its operation. The last of the three sections to enter the field, the Science-lead portion had encountered modulation issues in its regenerative shielding that had required attention before they'd even left the starting gate. As a precaution, Ryan had ordered a quick test of the ablative armour in the process, spurred by the recollection of promises made and a general unwillingness to limp home full of holes. The delay hadn't cost them too much, they had been slated to be the rear point of triangulation in any case, but agitation still lingered. The Lieutenant did her best to curb her own, aware that those stationed around her were already unnerved by the prospect of babysitting temperamental systems.

"Aye, sir."

"Good work. Lieutenant," Ryan addressed the woman to her left, "How's our path looking?" It all hinged on the shuttle's breadcrumbs actually lingering long enough for the final section to detect.

"Signals are coming through clear and strong for now," Leah replied. "Shuttle links are strong. The Alpha section is a little less clear...probably the distance; it's possible the radiation is stronger near their position."

Sam sat at the intelligence relay station on the bridge; once again woefully aware that he was most definitely not certified for bridge operations. With P'rel...being P'rel...they were short handed however, and his imagery analysis credentials seemed to be enough to put him on the bridge. The station seemed so oversized, though he concluded it was his own nerves giving a lack of proportion to things. "Sensor relays are weak..." he reported nervously, "uhhh the links are are there b b but the radiation is limiting the qual quality of what we are getting back..."

Ryan's brow flickered, a hint of concern that possibly only Bailey had the experience currently to decipher, but remained otherwise poised. Eyes still fixed straight ahead, the Lieutenant nodded her understanding of the updates. "How are our communication channels, Quinn?"

Quinn frowned at the console, watching readouts and listening to the static hiss on the earpiece, "Hmm... there's uhh... a lot of interference going on. We've got a fairly solid link with Alpha, though just barely - they're far enough out I think the radiation is causing problems." Their fingers flew across the console, "The connection with Beta isn't consistent but we're still able to do regular check-ins." As they finished speaking there was a series of bursts in the static interference and the console chirped, "I just lost them again, working to stabilize."

Though it technically wasn't possible to sit any straighter, Ryan found her way to the very edge of her seat in an attempt to avoid leaning over shoulders. "Pick up the pace a little, ensign," she quietly ordered the young officer on the helm. The delay to their start had been worrying and it had gone against the grain to rush through trouble-shooting fixes to primary systems but there hadn't been a lot of choice. Turning to Bailey, Alexis shared a moment of silent concern with the woman before quietly asking, "How's our patch-up job holding?" The last thing they needed was for the shields to go offline.

"Well, it's a patch-up job," Leah replied, as though that would explain everything she needed to know. She frowned. "I'm not sure this is entirely radiation interference. As much as we try to compensate, it doesn't seem to be making a difference. If we had some more sophisticated equipment on board I might be able to work out a solution, but that would take hours."

Ryan nodded slowly, having learned in a very short time to trust her colleague's instincts. If Leah felt something was off, Alex generally felt a lot more secure in trusting her own intuition, which was currently leaning towards hesitant trepidation. Something didn't feel quite right. "Any luck raising Commander Shan, Quinn?"

The biologist frowned at the console, "Sort of?" Quinn remained quiet for a moment and then - conscious of the eyes on them - realized they needed to explain more, "Sorry... I'm just... well, I'm getting a clear read from the automated transponder from Beta right now but..." There was another pause, "All I'm getting on the communication channels is static. Uh... sir."

"Captain..." Sam mumbled, before realising the Lieutenant probably hadn't even heard him. "Uhmm S sir! Sir!" he called instead. "Visual sensors are recording spikes in the tertiary ultra violet range, and we are detecting a rapid increase in nebula gas temperatures, consistent with weapons fire..." he hoped he was wrong. He really, really hoped he was wrong.

It was finally enough to pull Ryan to her feet. "Coordinates?" The brief silence that followed earned a tolerant sigh from the Lieutenant as she crossed to stand behind Saghir's chair. "I'm aware of the limitations, I need best of educated guesses as to which of our sections is under fire."

Sam worked the console, trying to best analyse the field depth data from the limited information the sensors were able to pull. "Best educated guess.... Beta section...?" he said as more of a question than a response; "B-But I must stress educated guess Captain..." he grimaced at the screen, trying to pick through to see if he could be of any more use.

"Back us off, ensign."

The slightest hesitation from the helm was permissible surprise, though the order was followed without any need to repeat it. Staring over Saghir's shoulder at the readouts, Ryan then straightened and tapped the nail of her index finger against the back of the chair before turning to approach the tactical station.

"Quinn, keep trying to raise our people. Focus on hailing Lance."

"Ah... y-yes, sir." The mention of weapons fire had immediately sent a wave of panic through Quinn. Deep breath, you can do this, they repeated to themselves, moving hands across the panel to once again make a connection with the Alpha section. A frown crossed their face almost immediately, "Uhmm... sir... I'm not reading anything from Alpha. Nothing at all - not even the automated transponder - the only way that would happen is if someone purposefully disabled it or..."

Leaning against the terminal, the Lieutenant fluttered her fingers against the sides. "Security reports after the station attack made mention of a disruptor pulse that knocked their primary defenses off-line," Alex mused, her recollection directed at Leah but spoken loudly enough to include the entire Bridge. "Zade speculated, reasonably, that any ship making a habit of operating in this sector would have needed to compensate for the unpredictable combustibility of the radiation field." She bobbed her head as she rephrased for clarity. "Standard phaser fire carries too much risk, they'd wind up igniting their own fuel cells."

"Standard phaser fire would carry some risk, yes. However if someone were using a disruptor-type weapon, the unique properties of the system would likely negate modified shield harmonics..." Leah theorised. "Far more dangerous, and would easily bypass Starfleet standard shielding."

"So they shoot to disable and rely on their boarding parties to secure their objective. Sam, is there any reason to believe this ship expects a third target?"

"I uhhm..." he stammered, "uhhh no. No ma'am..." he managed, eventually. 'Oh no...' he thought, were they about to go into combat? Again?

A pensive, taut silence descended onto the Bridge as its commanding officer stood frozen in thought. Recent history was only minimal use, but as Ryan cast her mind back through the years, the stirring of ancient instinct and messages rammed home time and time again flared with a sudden brilliance that cast off the tarnish of disuse. Almost immediately, her own words returned to haunt her, the subconscious recognition of their predicament for what it was finally emerging not as an evaluation of their enemies' tactics, but as a viable choice to inform their own. For a moment, Babanin's smug face taunted her, setting the Lieutenant's jaw in determination, and she straightened to begin tapping at her console.

"Helm, keep this heading and maintain pace. All stations, I want power cut to all auxiliary systems, we need to reduce our energy signature. Quinn, monitor the comm. channels for any sign of our people but close hailing frequencies, I want us as silent as possible."

The half-Bajoran blinked for a second, registering what they were being asked to do. Then, slowly, a nod, "Aye, sir. Closing hailing frequencies and switching to passive monitoring only." Their fingers tapped the pad and at last some of the panel went dark; the hiss continued in their ear, background static with the occasionally burst of unrecognizable noise as the ship listened for those sending out transmissions, but otherwise the comm panel was essentially off now. "External comms offline and automated transponder powered down."

"Sam, I'm going to need you to keep a close eye on our immediate surroundings. Find me a sizeable radiation cloud between us at the others."

Sam stared off into the universe, imagining that he was pretty much about to die. Why oh why did Starfleet insist on putting its command centres right on top of every section of every ship like a nice convenient target. There was some kind of humming off in the distance and - "Oh uhhh erm yes, yes Captain. Yes"...he rapidly bumbled as he spun around and collated the sensor telemetry.

"Now, you all deserve to know that I intend to create us some intentional misdirection. This will involve igniting the combustible elements of the field directly ahead of us. Calculating distance will be critical," she warned both Saghir and pilot, "If we're too close when it goes up, we'll draw it back on us like a trail of gunpowder."

'Oh my god...' thought Sam, his guts cramping up like Finalean Pot Worms.

"That's...scientifically brilliant. But not entirely in the Starfleet playbook," Leah noted, shooting Ryan an impressed look.

"An old Maquis trick," the Lieutenant admitted, distancing herself immediately from whatever feelings those words evoked. There would be time later to reflect on having to dip into this long-buried bag of tricks so soon after claiming abandonment of all association. "Lack of accuracy in sensor data means that any explosion is going to light up the immediate area and render it too volatile for reliable readings. If we make it impressive enough, it'll look like the entire section went up. In essence, we're faking our own deaths. It'll reduce our own visibility considerably but the only advantage we have at the moment is their lack of anticipation."

"Faking....sure..." Sam muttered under his breath, narrowing down the options on the sensors.

It was a risk. If they did nothing and simply tried to approach without the decoy, they might get lucky and remain unexpected. Disabling two sections afforded the pirates too many pieces of the puzzle, however, and Ryan wasn't about to bet the lives of the entire crew on the ignorance of their attackers when it came to the specifications of Starfleet vessels.

As the lights around them switched to emergency settings, Ryan brought the phasers online and drew a breath in through her nose, which she exhaled slowly.

"Once we trigger the interference, we'll have a limited amount of time to make use of it. Set course for Beta section's last known location, emergency protocols only. This is hide and seek, people. Sam, you got something for me?"

"Two options Captain..." the young, terrified, Petty Officer reported, wishing to every god in the known universe that Lieutenant P'rel or Ensign Wrea would magically appear and take over. "Bearing 005 mark 018, and bearing 314 mark 347...".

A brief moment of eye contact with Bailey was the only hesitation Alex allowed herself. There wasn't time to explain that she only knew this manoeuvre in theory, regaled in stories and proven effective only because those who had lived to tell the tale had made sure to do so, ad nauseum. It also wouldn't have been appropriate to point out the flaws in the plan, even if the thud of her own heart-rate against her chest felt loud enough to rival Saghir's palpable distress. She could have turned them around, saved the people she was directly responsible for. Gone back to the station, rallied Zora, requested formal back-up. Reached out to the fleet of compatriots who were supposedly sworn by the same set of guiding principles that she'd pledged to uphold to render aid. The self-same people who were currently trying to bury Jacob Kane alive.

Once more, the self-satisfied tone of the prosecution echoed in her ears.

"You must have learned great deal, spending so much of your dewelopmental years as a terrorist."

Stories were just stories until you ran them as simulations, over and over in an attempt to figure out what went wrong. A final push too far, miscalculation under fire, the sound of a hourglass spilling its last grains of sand into the heaped pile below. It also probably wasn't the time to point out that this was likely to be the strategy that had ultimately killed her father. This wasn't personal.

"Leftenant Ryan, you're a terrorist aren't you...?"

Targeting the larger of Saghir's options, Alexis drew in a deep breath and lifted her chin. "Timing is everything. If we leave now, there may not be a crew left to save. Our priority is Beta section, they are close enough that we should reach them before the interference disperses. All stations, prepare for ignition on my mark."

She exhaled.


Simulations never quite got the details right. The resulting impact to the shields was easy enough to anticipate, the violent shudder of residual aftershocks as the primary explosion set off the predictable chain of smaller ones that fed all the way across in a horizontal streak of violent crimson wasn't much of a surprise either. Her own hoarse voice ordering helm to back off, the momentary freeze as they waited to see if the pocket of calm space they'd moved into would be enough to protect them whilst the sympathetic detonation resolved itself. Ryan could have predicted it all. It was the smaller things, like the dig of her nails from clenched fists almost drawing blood, or the disproportionate pang of ancient grief, or the sudden desire to retract any interest she'd ever had in command progression, that left the Lieutenant in stunned silence as the seemingly-inevitable failed to happen. The vibrations slowed and then stopped entirely and, for a moment, a collective bated breath hinged on the answer to their commander's calm question.

"Are we clear to proceed, Sam?"

Sam winced at the question, as if the entire mission depended on his answer. He made a sort of vaguely affirmative squeak, and nodded once.

"Then take us in, ensign."


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