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The Elder Statesman

Posted on Thu May 23rd, 2019 @ 10:18pm by Captain Liarra Von

Mission: Starbase 332, Where Are You?
Location: USS Carthage, Bridge

The characteristic star lines of a ship at warp filled the viewscreen on the Carthage, providing a calming backdrop to the bridge crew’s conversation. “Three years, sir,” answered Ensign Joseph Garcia, the young man sitting at the helm. “Three wonderful years. The day I met Savannah was the greatest day of my life!”

The man in the center chair, Lieutenant Commander Glenn Baker, was all smiles. “Well, congratulations, Ensign. I’m sure you’re going to be very happy together.”

“Well, she hasn’t said yes. Not yet. I still have to actually propose.” Garcia shrugged. “Next week is our anniversary. I was thinking of proposing then. Is that too cliché?”

“Probably,” said the voice of operations officer Lieutenant Taylor Burke. “But you’ve always been a little cliché. Don’t worry, Joe. She’ll say yes.”

“I know. I just wish the timing could have been better. I know Savannah would have wanted her family to be at the wedding. Getting stuck in the middle of nowhere wasn’t exactly the plan.”

Baker shook his head. “It wasn’t the plan for any of us. I’m sure Captain Von has someone working on a plan to get us back. Have a little faith.”

“At least you won’t have to deal with the in-laws out here,” added tactical officer Lieutenant Tucker, a mischievous grin on his face.

“You’re not helping, Warren,” Burke admonished. “The poor kid is nervous enough without your input.”

“You’re going to do fine, Joe.” Glenn hadn’t been on the Carthage for long. It had only been for a few months, but he had already established quite the bond with his officers and crew. Officially he was the executive officer of the Carthage, with the ship officially falling under the command of Captain Liarra Von as part of the Three Three Two’s garrison. But when the ship wasn’t needed by one of the station’s senior staff, he had been serving as the acting commanding officer, often on missions such as this one. For their current task, the USS Carthage was flanked by the smaller Centaur-class USS Yucatan and sent away from the station to increase the overall sensor range. The Jackal and Montreal had been on similar missions, each paired with a volunteer from the starships presently stuck in the station’s main dock. The six ships, along with the station itself, would be able to use their sensors in tandem to triangulate the station’s position in the galaxy. Or at least that was the idea.

“Thanks, sir. It doesn’t mean I’m not still nervous. Anyway, I’m thinking that we’ll start with a walk through the Promenade, then head to dinner…” Garcia’s train of thought was interrupted by an alert from his console. He spun his chair around and examined his controls. “Sir, we’re nearing the coordinates provided by Lt. Whitlam.”

“Thank you, Ensign. Prepare to drop out of warp. Lt. Tucker, hail the Yucatan and coordinate with Ensign Garcia so both ships stay on course.”

“Aye, sir,” came the reply from Tucker as he got to work contacting his counterpart aboard the Yucatan.

Moments later both ships decelerated from warp, leaving behind a flash of light as they slowed to impulse speeds. Aboard the Yucatan Captain Xander Robertson ordered his helm to take up their position thirty kilometers off the port bow of the Carthage. Signalling back to their traveling companions, both ships began their sensor sweeps of the surrounding stars. The entire process was set to take three hours to complete the full sweep of scans, during which the two ships hung relatively motionless in space. Although they were only a few lightyears away from the station’s current position, the realization that they were seeing stars likely never seen by Starfleet was not lost on the crews.

For over two hours the sensor scans went flawlessly. Lt. Tucker was just about ready to confirm that the process was complete when a proximity alert sounded from the tactical station. “Captain, I’m picking up something on sensors, closing fast.”

Baker turned away from his PADD and spun his chair in the direction of his tactical officer. “Can you be a little more specific, Lieutenant?”

“I’m not sure I can, sir. It appears to be some sort of life sign.”

“Put it on screen,” Baker replied, turning back to face the front of the bridge. In front of him the viewscreen shifted to show a brown amorphous form. He leaned forward in his chair. “What are you?” he asked to the air, not really expecting anyone to answer.

“Correction, Captain. It’s not a lifeform. I’m detecting many lifeforms. Thousands of them.”

Burke was already working on her controls. “Agreed, Captain. I can’t get an accurate lock, but whatever that it, it’s not a single organism.”

“Get me the Yucatan,” Baker commanded.

The screen quickly shifted again to show Captain Robertson’s bridge. “What the hell are we looking at?” Robertson asked immediately, forgoing the usual pleasantries.

Baker shook his head and shrugged. “I was hoping you had a better answer. Lieutenant, try to hail them.”

Robertson shook his head on the viewscreen. “We already tried that. Our sensors aren’t picking up any kind of communication equipment.” Baker turned towards his tactical officer, but Tucker shook his head in confirmation. Baker looked back at the screen as Robertson continued. “Whatever it is, it’s moving right towards us. We don’t yet know if they’re intelligent, but let’s keep trying to contact them. We’re going to go on mute, but let’s keep this channel open.”

“I was just about to suggest the same thing, Captain,” Baker replied. “We’ll be here.” Pressing a button on his chair console, Baker muted the comm and changed the viewscreen back to the previous image. Although it was only a brief conversation, the cloud was much larger in the frame. “Did you magnify this, Lieutenant?”

Tucker shook his head. “No, sir. They’re just that much closer. But I do think I can get us a better look.”

Baker nodded and stood from his chair, moving closer to the viewscreen. Behind him Tucker worked his controls to magnify the image. As he did so, the image on the screen grew several times larger. What was once an amorphous cloud was much more clear. It was not a cloud at all, but a swarm. Thousands of small creatures were flying about, holding some sort of formation in the chaos. It was difficult for the Carthage crew to get a close look at the individual members of the swarm, but some details started to pop out. The organisms themselves were not identical, but all appeared to be insectoid in appearance. Their many legs were tucked up under their bodies, but some of the arms bore sharp claws. Large mandibles and multifaceted eyes adorned the front of their bodies, and all appeared to be covered by a thick carapace. Despite being a swarm of thousands, the group seemed to move as a whole, with individual members of the swarm almost flying in a formation. Baker was at a loss for what they were, or how they were able to survive in space. Regardless, they were certainly unlike anything that he had seen before.

Baker moved towards his operations officer. “Lieutenant, let’s try to get as much sensor data as we can before we head out. I’m sure our scientists back on the station would love to study these things.”

Burke nodded as she got to work on the sensors. “Aye, sir.”

“Captain!” Tucker called out from the rear of the bridge. “The swarm is accelerating. They’re heading right for the Yucatan!”

“On screen and unmute the channel,” barked Baker. Sure enough the swarm’s heading changed and they headed for the other ship, which was closer to their current position. “Captain Robertson, what’s your status?”

“Helm, engines full reverse. Keep some distance between them,” the captain’s voice said from the other end of the channel. “We’re fine, Glenn. I think just wanted to take a closer look. They’re probably just as curious about us as we are about them.” Suddenly on the viewscreen several of the creatures broke formation and launched towards the Yucatan, impacting hard against the other ship’s hull. The once calm bridge on the other end of the open channel turned into chaos. “Red Alert! Shields up! Helm, evasive maneuvers!” The orders became more incomprehensible as the ship was rocked by impacts and heavy explosions. Suddenly the channel when quiet.

Baker spun around to face his tactical officer. “Get them back!”

“I’m trying, sir. They’re not responding to hails.”

Burke spoke up from operations. “Sir, the Yucatan has suffered heavy damage. Weapons and communications appear to be down!”

“Red Alert!” Baker shouted as the bridge lights changed to reflect the new ship status. “Garcia, bring us about. Tucker, arm phasers. Let’s see if we can frighten them off. Target the center of the swarm.”

“Aye, sir. Target locked.”

“Fire.” The red glow of phaser fire erupted from the underside of the Carthage’s saucer, streaking across open space and into the heart of the swarm. Pieces of the Yucatan’s outer hull floated away as the insectoids landed on the surface and tore into the ship, seemingly unphased by the fire from the Carthage. “Try to target the individual creatures. Maybe killing a few of them will scare them off. And add a pair of photon torpedoes to the mix and fire.”

“Aye, Captain,” was the answer from tactical. More phaser fire sought out the insectoids as the bright flash of two photon torpedoes detonated near the swarm. A few of the creatures reeled from the attack, but the torpedoes were largely ineffective. It was effective, however, at causing the swarm to lose interest in the Yucatan. Instead, several waves moved away from the swarm and accelerated towards the Carthage. “Sir!”

“I see them.” Baker returned to his center chair and held on tight. “All hands, brace for impact. Mr. Tucker, fire at will.” More phaser fire shot from the underside of the Carthage. Undeterred, the creatures barreled into the saucer, their hardened carapace allowing them to immediately piece the hull. The ship rocked from the impact as the creatures started to tear through the outer plating. “Status report!”

“Shields are up sir, but they did nothing to stop them. I’m detecting hull breaches on decks 9, 10, 13, 14, 17, 19! They’re hitting us all over!”

“Garcia! Evasive maneuvers. See if you can shake them off!” The ensign went to work, his fingers frantically tapping on his console as he attempted every maneuver he ever learned at the Academy.

Beside him Burke poured over her sensors. “Sir, it’s not working. The ones that have hit have attached themselves to the ship and are cutting through the hull. I’m detecting breaches on interior decks. Captain, they’re using some sort of acidic substance to help burn through the hull.”

“Is there anyway that we get them loose? Electrify the hull?” asked Baker as the ship continued to shudder. A console exploded at the rear of the bridge.

“I can try, but it could take some time.”

“Time is not something that we have. Do it quick.”

Baker gripped the arms of his chair tightly as Tucker spoke up behind him. “Sir, the Yucatan communications are back online. They’re hailing us.”

“Put them on! Captain, how are you holding up?”

“Not well,” replied the shaking voice of Captain Robertson. “They’ve mostly left us alone once you pissed them off. We’re sitting ducks out here. Against that swarm, neither of us are going to last long.”

“Agreed. Is your warp drive online?”

“For now. Maybe jumping to warp will knock them off of us. We’ve suffered a lot of damage over here, Glenn. It’s not going to be smooth.”

“Alright. Get out of here. We’ll be right behind you.” With the channel closed, Baker gave more orders. “Garcia, bring us about and lay in a course back towards the station. Best possible speed!”

“Aye, sir,” Garcia replied with a shaky voice as he submitted the commands to the computer.

With most of the swarm’s attention on the Carthage, the Yucatan pulled away first. As they powered up their battered warp drive, the swarm surged again in the direction of the Carthage. This time a wave pierced the port warp nacelle, shattering the outer casing and causing the ship to rapidly expel warp plasma. Before the Yucatan could react, a secondary explosion ripped its way through the port pylon of the Carthage, straight through the secondary hull. In a matter of moments, the anti-matter stores ruptured as the secondary hull buckled, sending out a shock wave of plasma, anti-matter, and debris. The catastrophic damage cascaded through the hull, causing the saucer section to explode in a brilliant flash of light.

With the swarms full attention now on the Yucatan, the smaller ship engaged their warp drive, leaving behind nothing but the insectoids and debris. For the moment the Yucatan was safe. But the elder statesman of the Starbase 332 garrison, the mighty Carthage, was no more.


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