Saturday, April 4, 2015

Out of the Darkness--A Star Trek fan fiction short story


USS SARATOGA / NCC-31911-A
Ambassador-class starship

After the destruction of the Miranda-class USS Saratoga (NCC-31911) at the Battle of Wolf 359, Starfleet began making plans for a Galaxy-class vessel to next carry the name. Construction would take place at the New Seattle shipyards in orbit around the planet Izar (Epsilon Bootis 3). However, given the situation at the time, resources were redirected away from the larger exploration vessels with priority going to the smaller Defiant-class specifically designed to combat Borg cube ships. While initial construction had not yet started, materials and equipment specific to large exploration vessels were on location and just left in orbit next the facilities.

Everything changed as the possibility of war with Gamma-quadrant based Dominion grew. Larger vessels that could take on the battleships crewed by the genetically-engineered Jem'Hadar soldiers were very much needed in the face of recent Starfleet and allied losses. When the decision was made to begin building the new Saratoga, all construction on new Galaxy-class ships had been temporarily stopped to incorporate new features and improvements. So to avoid unneeded delays it was decided that the next ship to carry the name Saratoga would be an upgraded version of the Ambassador-class design.




The keel for the new Saratoga was laid on 2368, with accelerated assembly beginning six months later. The new USS Saratoga entered the war two months after the start of the actual conflict under the command of Captain Cynthia Boone of Mars. The ship served with distinction all through the conflict but narrowly avoided destruction at the Battle of the Tyra System. After the death of Captain Boone and with Commander Thrawn, the first officer, gravely injured Lieutenant Connor Douglas of Izar took command. After being cutoff from the main area of battle, the attacking Jem'Hadar ships began concentrating their fire on the Saratoga's main bridge and engineering sections in an attempt to finish off the ship.

With most major systems offline Lieutenant Douglas loaded several shuttle craft with photon torpedoes, remotely triggered their engines and ejected them from the landing bay at warp speed. The unorthodox maneuver completely surprised and destroyed the attacking Jem'Hadar ships. As the battle wound down the remaining enemy ships ignored the distant Saratoga, which at the time was essentially a lifeless hulk. Instead they chose to pursue the remaining allied vessels. That allowed the surviving Saratoga crew time to restore enough systems to eventually escape back to Federation territory.

After Saratoga crossed over into Federation space it was towed to the shipyards in orbit around the planet Axanar, where it spent six months in dry dock being repaired. It reentered active service under the command of the newly promoted Prown Thrawn of Andoria. For his clever improvisation during the combat Connor Douglas was promoted straight to the rank of commander to serve as the Saratoga's first officer. At first the Saratoga was assigned to Starbase 239 to provide protection for supply convoys headed towards the main battle area close to Bajoran space. However, when the Breen Confederacy attacked Earth, the Saratoga and three other ships were able to go to high warp and position themselves to intercept the fleeing vessels before they crossed back over into enemy territory. While the resulting battle was short and inconclusive it did allow Federation starships to get detailed sensor readings on the Breen energy-damping weapon to begin the process that would allow the allies to develop countermeasures.

For the USS Saratoga and its crew, the demands of war soon returned them to far less glamorous duties, but the universe is always filled with surprises.



Captain's log, USS Saratoga
Prown Thrawn in command
Stardate 52991.6
We are at present crossing sector 4451 on course to reach the Bajor in four days. All sixteen freighters in our convoy are fully operational along with our sister starships the Trieste, Buran, and Starling.

Word has gotten out that Federation and allied forces have begun the invasion of the Cardassian homeworld in an attempt to end this damn war. Early reports say that after taking heavy losses in ships and crew but Federation marines and Klingon warriors have landed on the Ebeen continent and have linked up with members of the Cardassian resistance. I have ordered that the convoy to increase speed to warp five and go to red alert. It is my hope to avoid any possible encounters with deep reconnaissance enemy starships.

***
Lieutenant Victoria Kinyor, tactical officer—from Earth, birthplace Kenya
Lieutenant Commander Tallas Bin, Science officer---Tellarite
Ensign Henry Reid, Helmsman—Earth, birthplace USA
Lieutenant jg Roberta Belzer—Earth, birthplace New Zealand



The bridge of the USS Saratoga was as silent as a tomb with everyone concentrating on their duties. The only real sounds came from the faint but constant hum of the life support systems and occasionally from the ship's computers when one of them needed to alert a crew member. Experience earned from the spilled blood of friends and colleagues had taught them all that at any moment Jem'Hadar, Cardassian, or now even Breen raiders could leave carefully camouflaged hiding places and attack. The only thing greater than the tense and demanding nature of wartime duty was the realization that just maybe the tide had turned in favor of the Federation and its allies. No one wanted to make a mistake with the possibility of victory and peace now within sight.

“Commander Douglas,” Lieutenant Victoria Kinyor, the tactical officer said, “I've detected a belief and very weak signal from a rogue planet that is 2.7 lightyears away from the lead elements of the convoy.”

Douglas turned the command chair around to face the young woman who was standing at the tactical station. “What type of signal?” He asked feeling that sickening combination of excitement and terror that had become all to normal since the start of the war.

“Analysis of signal's power and frequency suggests a Cardassian distress call but it was cut short as if they changed their minds.” The young officer answered.

“Bring up a tactical display of the rogue planet and begin a full scan of the body. Also, alert all the ships in the convoy of a possible enemy contact in the area.” The first officer said before swinging the command chair back to the front. Douglas then toggled a small button on the command chair before saying, “Captain Thrawn, please report to the bridge.”

Barely more than a second later, the lanky blue-skinned Andorian came rushing out of his ready room while at the same time Douglas vacated the command chair and took adjacent seat just to the right of his captain. “What do we have Number One?” Thrawn asked while claiming the command chair.

“A possible enemy contact,” Douglas said, “the signal was weak but Lieutenant Kinyor reports it could be a Cardassian distress call.”

On the main screen at the front of the bridge both Kinyor and the Tellarite science officer, Tallas Bin had posted all the information they had gleamed from their scans. The rogue planet was a fairly boring frozen rock that had been drifting in the depths of space for billions of years since being ejected from the solar system where it had formed. It had no atmosphere because the gases had condensed then fallen to the surface as it left its parent star behind making it impossible to support any type of carbon-based life at the surface. But life doesn't have to live at the surface on any world.

“The body is roughly fifteen thousand kilometers in diameter,” Lieutenant Commander Bim said from his spot at the operations station. “And the surface is covered with a layer of frozen nitrogen mixed with an array of other chemicals all common to rogue planets suggesting it was indeed ejected during the formation of a solar system.”

“Any sign of refined metals or power signatures?' Captain Thrawn asked.

The Tellarite's hands danced over the operations panel massaging the sensors to provide every possible piece of information possible. “Uncertain captain,” Bim said, “the planet has a curiously high level magnetic field with quite a few localized distortions of even higher power. It could mask a small ship like a raider.”

“Captain Thrawn,” the helmsman Ensign Henry Reid suddenly said interrupting the science officer with an eagerness a little to energetic to be acceptable, “should I set a course for the planet to check it out?”

Both Thrawn and Douglas inwardly groaned, at the start of the Dominion War the young helmsman was just a third-year cadet at Starfleet Academy. But due to the shortage of trained personnel many like him were graduated early and immediately placed on duty on ships that served support functions well away from actual combat. Unfortunately, circumstances let a few slip through to ships like the Saratoga that had not only seen combat but came damn close to being destroyed.

“No Ensign,” Douglas snapped playing the hard-nosed first officer, “keep your eyes on your duty station and your mouth shut.”

“Aye sir,” the chastised young officer said before going silent.

Douglas glanced over at his captain and noticed both of his antennas twitching in what amounted to Andorians as silent laughter. While a few Academy cadets had unfortunately seen combat, young Ensign Reid hadn't despite a rather immature desire to experience the thrill, all in the name of defending the Federation.

The Tellarite science officer showed an uncharacteristic patience for the young human by allowing a second or two to slip by before continuing. “As I was saying captain, small raiding ships could well be hiding on the surface using a minimal camouflaged force field. But what caught my interest besides the shallow seas of liquid water underneath the surface ice were the localized magnetic fields themselves, there are suggestions of mathematical patterns.”

“Both Thrawn and Douglas sat up straighter in their seats. “Number One,” Thrawn said, “maybe young Reid is correct. I think a reconnaissance of the planet is in order.”

Commander Connor Douglas had served as Thrawn's first officer long enough to know where this was leading. “I'll order one of the runabouts to be readied. And after a few seconds of chagrined hesitation, “Ensign Reid you will join me on the away team.”



Despite the appearance of looking like a simple short-range shuttlecraft Starfleet runabouts were in fact actual full-fledged starships in their own right capable of warp five speeds allowing them to perform missions that require long range interstellar travel. With the rogue planet less than three lightyears away Commander Douglas was grateful for such a short trip.

“Going into standard orbit, sir,” Ensign Reid said, “and beginning close science scans.” From the runabout's viewport the rogue planet looked like a sphere of frozen green ice. Since there wasn't a star anywhere around for lightyears the image was just a holographic trick. If they had viewed the planet without the image enhancements it would have appeared just as a black circle blocking out a portion of the stars in the background.

“Good job Ensign,” Douglas responded, “Lieutenant Belzer stay alert on the tactical scans. There's still a chance a few of our enemies could be hiding somewhere.”

“Aye sir,” the young security specialists said at the station where she sat.

Douglas was himself manning the runabout's weapons and shields ready to respond if in fact encounter enemy forces. But it didn't take long for both Reid and Belzer to find interesting things on the scanners.

“Commander,” Belzer called out, “I'm detected two small ships. One Jem'Hadar and the other Cardassian although neither is a danger because they're running on extremely low power.”

“Ensign, get the coordinates from tactical and plot a course to that location.” Douglas said prepping the weapons just in case despite the fact he didn't believe they would be needed.

Minutes later the runabout is hovering twenty meters above and in front of the two enemy ships. Both were partially encased in jagged ice structures with thin filaments of light running to them from beneath the surface. Near the Cardassian ship was a fresh crater that to Douglas looked like it had been created with energy weapons.

“I'm dropping shields and powering down weapons folks,” Douglas said to the other two people with him.

“Commander,” Reid said, “the magnetic distortions are off the scale here. Whatever is happening appears to have tapped into the systems of each ship. Shouldn't we keep shields up?”

“Ensign, what is the purpose of Starfleet?” Douglas asked while running several exobiology scans.

“Starfleet is the peacekeeping and defensive arm of the Federation.” He said not sure where Douglas was heading.

“Sounds like you were an admirer of Professor Stewart at the Academy,” Douglas said remembering his own classes with the cantankerous individual.

In an attempt to promote diverse views, and to observe the behavior of cadets, Starfleet Academy allowed Professor Anton Stewart to teach a class on possible threats to the Federation. Stewart was in many ways a paranoid throwback to the days when Earth was divided up into competing nation-states all believing in their own unique exceptionalism. He believed that the Federation was far too open and welcoming to alien species and that the borders should be closed with Starfleet being turned into a full-fledged military organization. Thankfully, most cadets ignored his rantings realizing that while his viewpoint ran counter to everything Starfleet and the Federation was dedicated to, suppressing his opinion would only make him a martyr to his few supporters.      

 “That sounds like some of the crap he tried to pass off when I attended," Douglas said. "No Ensign, our primary job is to seek out new life and new civilizations, I admit being cops and soldiers is part of wearing the uniform. But if we define ourselves under Stewart's parameters we will become no better than the old nations of Earth and they almost killed each other off with their fears. No, Starfleet is something far different and the sooner you learn that the better.”

“Commander how do you explain the Dominion and species like the Borg, they know nothing but conquest and assimilation,” Reid asked back.

“I admit, our way is the more difficult because we have to take chances and that means every once and a while we will find a lifeform that doesn't share our beliefs. But to hide behind defenses and constantly prepare for nothing but war is no way to live. You remember early twenty-first century history, back then the nations of Earth knew nothing but fear. Billions went hungry and died of simple illnesses because vast war machines had to be kept manned and up to date all because of the fear someone might be lurking in the shadows. Those fears feed on themselves and eventually lead to the Eugenics Wars and monsters like Khan Singh. The human race finally had to come to the realization that fear was poison and that the only way around it was to build bonds of trust no matter how hard it seemed before things started to get better.”

Douglas waited for Reid to say something else but the young man remained silent. “Okay Reid,” Douglas said, “land the runabout next the ships and then suit up. Unless I'm very wrong we're about to make first contact.”

***

Douglas stepped out of the now decompressed runabout and onto the surface of the planet. For a moment, he looked up to gaze at the glory of the galaxy without using any of the image-enhancements technology integrated within the helmet of his environment suit. “This is why we make the big bucks,” he said out loud.

“Excuse me sir,” Reid said puzzled at the expression he had just heard.

“Nothing, just keep your eyes on your tricorder readouts and your hands off the phasers. I'm not sure how this will unfold but I do not want any misunderstandings with the natives.” Douglas them switched on the image-enhancer inside his helmet turning the surface of the rogue planet into something he could see. When the image stabilized he started walking towards the enemy ships with Reid following behind.

“Commander,” Belzer called from the runabout, “energy levels just jumped again. And I'm detecting movement inside the Cardassian raider.”

Douglas and Reid were fifteen meters from the two ships when a humanoid form appeared out of the Cardassian craft. The computer generated images inside their helmets couldn't keep up so for almost a minute the emerging figure walking towards them was just a dark silhouette. As this was going on Douglas was playing with the universal translator mounted to the sleeve of his environmental suit. When Douglas and Reid were just a few meters away from the figure the resolution cleared up and they saw a Cardassian standing in front of them. It was a male and he was covered with oddly shaped shards of ice containing filaments of light which stretched back to the ship

“I am Commander Connor Douglas, of the Federation starship Saratoga, who are you,” he said not really knowing if he was addressing a Cardassian or something else.

The body of the Cardassian just looked at them for several seconds with pulses of light running along the filaments towards the ship and then back out to body. “We are the Troe,” it said slowly as if speaking was something unbelievably bizarre and new, “why have you invaded out domain?”

“My people and I have no intention of invading your domain. We will leave immediately if you want but the body of the being you control and the others inside the ships have attacked my people and wish to enslave them. We were watching for our enemies as we passed close to your domain when we detected a fragment of a distress call originating from here but as we scanned we also noticed your civilization. My people seek out new lifeforms in an attempt to peacefully exchange knowledge and ideas. On behalf of the Federation I offer friendship and the possibility of both our peoples developing a greater understanding of the universe.”

“Your words have meaning to us,” the Troe said speaking through the Cardassian, “but we have been alone since the beginning of awareness and knowledge of the beings living in the greater realm outside our domain is so new and strange. Please leave now, but we have learned much of the metallic structures that brought the first beings here. We will make contact with you when we are ready.”

With that Douglas slowly backed away and grabbed Reid's arm. “You heard the entity Reid, we are not welcome for now.”

Captain Thrawn had slowed the convoy to warp three to allow the runabout to catch up. Once Douglas and his people returned to the Saratoga, Thrawn pushed the convoy back to warp five. After briefing both Thrawn and a positively ecstatic Tallas Bin, Commander Douglas slipped off to Saratoga's bar to unwind. Much to his chagrin he was soon joined by Ensign Reid.

“Excuse me sir, but I have a few questions.”

“Have a seat then, and ask away,” Douglas said.

“Sir, how did you know the Troe would want to contact and not do the same to us as they had the Jem'Hadar and the Cardassians?”

“The short answer would be that I didn't really know what would happen. But we didn't try to blast holes in the ice like the Cardassians, that's why I powered the weapons down before we landed. Call it an educated guess, but from the looks of the landing site I got the impression that the Jem'Hadar probably shot up the first emissary the Troe sent forcing them to engulf their attackers. It also looked like at least one of the Cardassians tried to establish communications but something went wrong, maybe he got nervous and pulled a weapon.”

“So what you're saying sir is that you gambled our lives on a hunch all in attempt to avoid conflict?” The Ensign said trying to understand everything that happened.

“That's why we make the big money Ensign,” Douglas said with a smile.

That only confused Reid more, “But sir, we don't use things like money in the twenty-forth century.”

Douglas just groaned, “Go look up the reference on the library computer Ensign before I assign you to the biological waste reprocessing department.”

(Author's note: Just for giggles here are two pictures so you can get an idea as to what Andorian and Tellarites look like. Oh Yeah, Commander Douglas will return in another story.)

Captain Thrawn





LCDR Tallas Bim

3 comments:

Marja said...

Happy Easter Beach. My husband would love this he is all into star track and spaceships. I will have to read it to him as he doesn't like reading

The Bug said...

Fun fun!! I'm ready for more when you're ready to dish it out :)

Pixel Peeper said...

I was a teenager when I watched Star Trek in Germany - and I don't remember much of it, except that I had a big crush on Captain Kirk.

Your story makes me want to check if Amazon Prime still has all the Star Trek episodes. I know they did at one point a year or two ago, but at the time I didn't have time to watch any.