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Entering Orbit

Posted on Wed Apr 20th, 2022 @ 10:53pm by Captain Dirk Taggart & Lieutenant Commander James Trallos MD & Lieutenant Henry Castle & Lieutenant Adora (Addie) Hart & Lieutenant JG Emony Kyl & Lieutenant JG Vespa Kale & Lieutenant JG Camille Lévesque PhD

Mission: The Koldaran Encounter
Location: Bridge - Entering Orbit Tabula Rasa
Timeline: Episode 1 Day 1 0800

Captain Taggart sat in the center chair as he watched Tabula Rasa grow larger in the screen. The growing planet also gave rise to the hope of a few days of relaxation with Abby. Strangely he hadn't heard from her since their last comms transmission a few days ago. With a sigh he redoubled his efforts to focus on the task at hand. Though entering orbit around a planetary body was routine at this point, it was always complacency that killed he thought to himself.

"Continue on course to bring us into an orbit, reduce speed and confirm comms channels are open, we should hear from the outpost on the planet's surface soon. let's begin procedures for orbital entry, all departments check in," the Captain requested.

"This is Vespa reporting from Sciences. Everything green across the board." she reported, the Science Department reporting prime status.

Camille stood at Science I, confirming Lieutenant Kale's report with a simple nod.

"So far so good here, Captain." Emony reported from the Tactical station. She watched it carefully, ready at a moment's notice to react to any sudden threats.

"We should hear engineering check in momentarily," the Captain began, "in the mean time does anyone have any fun plans when your feet hit the sand?"

"Engineering to Bridge." The voice of Lieutenant Castle called out over the comm. "All systems optimal for orbital entry. As the former project supervisor of Tabula Rasa, if anyone wants directions, let me know."

“There he is now,” Camille observed with a grin. “I see my time being split between lying in the sun and digging in the sand for bugs. The reports show a very diverse ecosystem!”

Dirk enjoyed the small chatter on the bridge and he allowed it to continue as the Pennsylvania slipped into orbit. He watched hopefully on the screen for the Astraea and was surprised they weren't here yet. Captain Laurens wasn't limping along with a bad engine like he was.

"Lévesque, run a long range scan and see if you can detect any signs of the Astraea. They were supposed to meet us here."

"Aye, Capitaine," Camille said as her head went down and she went to work. Her eyes scanned across the sensor logs and the readings of everything in local space. She sent out multiple pings along the active subspace sensor array. "I'm not seeing them, sir. They don't appear to be in the system."

Surprised at finding nothing Captain Taggart turned to his security chief, "Kyl, try to see if you can find any comms traffic. They were supposed to be here."

"Aye, sir." Emony replied and began pulling comms logs and incoming traffic. One flagged almost instantly. She pulled it up, "Captain, I have a priority one distress signal on encrypted Federation frequencies."

"Put it on screen Kyl," Taggart commanded as he his worst fears were realized.

Addie had been standing in the turbolift, doors closed, procrastinating. She had been asked to join the senior staff on the bridge for their arrival at Tabula Rasa, yet on the bridge was the last place she wanted to be. She took a step toward the door, then another step back. It had been even harder since she had stopped seeing the Chief Medical Officer for her anxiety, but deep down she knew that the only way she was ever going to get over what happened was to conquer her anxiety and fears instead of drowning in them. Moving forward, she stepped through the doors onto the bridge. For just the briefest of moments she found herself trapped back in that moment again, the screaming, the noise, the anger, the hate. It overwhelmed her. She closed her eyes for a moment and drew in a deep breath, the noise in her mind clearing just in time for her to hear Lieutenant Kyl's response and the Captain's order for the message to be played. Opening her eyes, she saw a vaguely familiar face on the overlay screen of the forward windows.

"This is Fleet Captain Abigail Laurens of the USS Astraea requesting support from any Federation vessels in the sector. We are in the II-96 system and we have engaged the Koldaran on Odraiclite. I repeat. We are in the II-96 system and we have engaged the Koldaran on Odraiclite and are requesting immediate support from any Federation vessels in the sector."

"Helm, Lay in a course now," Captain Taggart commanded, "Security, I want this recorded, I will replay it again in quarters later. Can we tell how long ago this was sent? What's the time stamp on the message?"

Camille was studying her instruments. "I'm having trouble determining that with any accuracy, Captain," she reported. "The message was mostly intact but much of its metadata has been corrupted. It will take me a few minutes to confirm how old this is."

"Thank you Lévesque, keep trying please," Taggart said as he ran through a dozen scenarios mentally, each one more dire than the previous one.

Addie saw the sudden change in Captain Taggart's demeanor, the tension in his shoulders, the terseness in his voice. She moved forward, standing behind his chair, resting a hand gently on his shoulder, a silent offer of reassurance.

< Science Lab >
In the heart of the Science labs, the audio from the bridge carried over. There, a binary entity familiar to all started to fidget. Started to worry. "K.. Koldaran? Oh no." Vespa said softly.

< Bridge >
Captain Taggart shrugged off the Counsellor's hand from his shoulder, as he stood up. The words played through his head repeatedly, "Engaged with Koldaran, help from a any Federation ship," she said. As he pondered his next move he realized he needed more information. The only contact he had with the possibility of knowledge was Lieutenant Kale the Dalacari.
=/\= Lieutenant Kale to the bridge ASAP=/\=

=/\= I'm on my way. =/\=

She must have ran. Ran from the science labs, through to the Turbolift, and tapped her feet extra impatiently until the doors at the bridge opened and she came onto the bridge. "Sir. If it's the Koldaran, those people are in grave danger."

The turbolift opened and the doctor strolled out. "What's with all this commotion?" He asked as he walked down to his chair to the right of the Captain. He had sequestered himself in his medical office for some time studying the new exobiology of the Quadrant since it appeared they would be here a while.

Captain Taggart was about to ask Kale a follow up question when he was interrupted by the XO; "Standby Trallos, we will have a sitrep in a moment."

Taggart turned to Kale, "What can you tell me of the Koldaran, and why are they in grave danger?"

For some it may have been the speed with which Vespa made it to the bridge that alerted them to the seriousness of the situation. To others it may have been the breathlessness or the thinly veiled hint of urgency in her voice as she spoke. For some it may have simply been the ominous use of the words 'grave danger'. For Addie, it was all in the eyes. The wide eyed Vespa that stepped onto the bridge portrayed something much beyond what most would comprehend. To Addie though it was a look that would be forever etched into her memory. A look of fear. For the slightest of moments the bridge around her started to swim again, her head filling with voices and noise. She shook her head quickly, a sharp intake of breath of her own before she took a step toward the science officer, resting a hand gently on one of her arms. "Lieutenant?" she spoke gently, a gesture of support, an offering of strength. What ever these Koldaran were, they had the ship's resident Dalacari incredibly spooked, and that, at least to the Counselor, was not a good sign.

"Because the..." Vespa paused to catch her breath, Addie's presence a welcoming anchor to reality. Her quiet self gave the counselor a thankful nod, while her more talkative self continued.

"Because the Koldaran don't take prisoners. They're a vast militaristic dictatorship that conquers worlds, converts them over decades into fetid swamps to use as..."

"... breeding pools for the next generation of Koldaran. Worshiping their Admiralty like gods, they're always on the hunt for the next conquest. The Ts'usugi and my people have..."

"... been at odds with them for, well, as long as I can remember. A major part of the Three Dawns Accord is a mutual defense pact against them." she continued. Pausing only to catch their breath.

"They're bullies with disruptors, under orders from their gods to conquer world after world." a pause, "As part of the Accord, I have to inform the nearest Ts'usugi..."

"... ship of this latest sign of Koldaran presence."

Emony blinked at this news. It was like the Borg, the proverbial boogeyman that everyone in the Federation still feared two decades after their last incursion. Except...somehow worse in some ways. As if the intent was somehow even worse because it wasn't a part machine directive, it was willful belligerence.

And that sort of behavior struck a chord with her, but her duty demanded she approach it like a professional. Belligerence did not beget more belligerence.

"Sir, if we can locate a Ts'usugi ship, then getting a transmission off to them will be easy enough." Emony offered, "Otherwise, I recommend we be prepared that we're going to be warping into a potentially hostile situation."

"Capitaine," Camille interjected, "I can confirm that the message is between four and five hours old." The Astraea had apparently been fighting alone for no small amount of time.

"Noted Kyl, set yellow alert, we're roughly 20 hours away at our current speed, when we are a couple hours out we will go full red. With the age of that message, the Astraea crew will have been engaged roughly 24 hours at our time of arrival, I want us ready to hit the ground running when we get there," Captain Taggart said to his officers.

"We don't need to find a Ts'usugi ship. I can contact their central communications hub and have them route a message." Vespa paused, "It would mean tuning the ship's..."

"... comm array to a specific carrier frequency, but only for the length of the communication. Also, what I'd be showing you is technically a state secret of the..."

"... Ts'usugi, so I'd have to ask that you value their privacy and not use that frequency frivolously." another brief pause, "With your permission, and agreement, I'll..."

"... make the necessary adjustments."

"Proceed Kale, feel free to contact your former Captain as well. The Dalacari will need to know what is happening as well." Taggart hadn't met the Captain but was aware of the agreement between them and the former ship's Captain Kamar.

< Main Engineering >

The distress signal and subsequent conversation had been on an open comm line coming in, allowing the Chief to have access to real-time information, without bothering the Bridge crew with his side. Looking around the room, Lieutenant Castle took a deep breath. "Okay people. We have work to do. We have 20 hours to make sure this ship is ready. Lorat, how long for a Level 3 Diagnostic of primary and secondary weapon power grids?"

"About 13 to 14 hours. That can change depending on if-"

"Get it started." Castle knew all too well how estimates were just that. "Reanni, status of the Core?"

The Warp Core systems engineer checked her screen, hands trembling. "98% of nominal, according to specs, Lieutenant."

"You're rarely gonna see a core operating at 100." He pointed at one of this diagnostics experts, whose name he could never remember. "Tertiary plasma control systems on Deck 8?"

"We found the fluctuation need to replace some components, estimate about 3 hours to get the entire junction back up and online."

"Castle nodded, as he walked over to a wall unit, and grabbed a repair kit himself. "Get me two of your people. I wanna take a crack at this thing myself." He headed for the large double doors, as two engineers joined him. "Holbert!" Castle paused on his way. "You're in charge down here till I get back. Keep my engine room together, yeah?"

< Bridge >

Vespa made her way over to the science terminal, excusing herself for a moment as her binary form snuck past her station chief, "Pardon me, sorry. You can stay and observe the contact if you want. It's not private, just secret. I... oh that sounded odd." she apologized to Camille. Then she switched the science station's focus to the communications array. Once in, she adjusted the frequency of the Pennsylvania's comm systems. Lower. Lower. Lower. Then she sent out a hail. Nothing broadcast on these frequencies, they were almost entirely unused. Nothing used these bands.

Then what exactly was answering the hail?

The image on the screen was a Ts'usugi male, dressed in a simple black uniform with silver hexagons as a pattern throughout. The entire area around them was lit up in a soft violet light. It almost looked sinister, aside from the Ts'usugi's welcoming demeanor and what passed for a smile from their people.

"You've reached the network." he responded. Vespa gave a nod, "I'm Vespa Kale, provisional citizen of Ts'usu by right of the Three Dawn Accord." and the figure on the screen ran a sequence through the terminal on his side. "Citizen Kale, the network greets you as a friend in good faith. How can the network assist you?"

"I've been informed of Koldaran activity at the Odraiclite system. This intel is at least five hours old, by Federation standard. I'm sending you our position..."

"... to coordinate support. There's already a Federation presence there, attempting to repel the Koldaran." she reported. That last bit caught his attention specifically. Though he didn't verbally make a mention of it. "Please hold while the network assists." and a few commands were run on the network's side of things.

"The IDS Western Dawn, a Class Four Battleship is in proximal range. The IDS Journeyman Approach is on escort duty with the Dalacari Explorer DNC Curiosity. All three craft are in proximal range and have been notified of the Koldaran incursion." a pause, "The network acknowledges your observance of the Accord, Citizen Kale. Can the network assist you further?"

Vespa thought about it, then chimed up, "Can I request usage of personal buoy rations?" and the operator nodded, "You have the right. You have seventy two rations remaining." and she considered. "Personal files from Dalacar server. I'd like the fabricator reciepe for ..."

"... the three trending drinks on Dalacar, along with the Slidewinder, and the three trending meals. Also, can I request the latest images of the three craft that are..."

"...enroute to the engagement for visual identification?" she asked, and the operator gave a nod. "Please hold. The network is retrieving the information requested. You have fifty three rations remaining after this download." for the amount of data she requested, the time it would take to process that request would pro...

"The network has processed your request, standby for transmission." and the operator sent over the data to the Pennsylvania's computer. The files were scrubbed by the Federation system and deemed free of malignant software. The processing power of that network must be staggering.

"Can the network assist you further, Citizen Kale?" the operator asked, and Vespa gave a pair of smiles. "No, you've been a marvelous help, thank you."

"Operator, signing off." and the connection was cut. Vespa took a breath, "That's the Ts'usugi Buoy network. It's the fastest, most secure, and most reliable communications hub in the Delta quadrant." she paused.

"I got the visual identifiers for the three ships we'll be seeing at the engagement. So that you know who not to shoot." she giggled a little. "Also, sorry but it was a connection..."

"... to home, and I promised my friend drinks." one of her forms turned to regard Addie. "My obligation is done. The Ts'usugi have been informed. We can..."

"... proceed at your discretion, captain." she finished, as she returned the comm array to standard Federation frequencies.

Trallos leaned back into his command chair just to the right of Center. He watched the yellow warning lights flash slowly on and off. Medical would be fine and he would check on everything prior going to red alert, but until then, he had time to sit. He looked at his screen next to him, all stations still showing ready still. He reached down over the right side of his chair and touched the handle of his medical bag.

Tapping a few commands he loaded his chair screen with operations scanning. Data scrolled from various displays for him. He would leave tactics to the Captain and help as he could being an extra set of eyes. The doctor would make himself useful someway until he got more experience and assuming they lived through this, he would be getting a lot of it.

Taggart sat in the Captain's chair, tense but determined. He ran a hand through his hair before opening a channel to the entire ship, "Crew of the Pennsylvania, this is Captain Taggart. We have received a distress call from Captain Laurens of the USS Astraea and we are currently en route. Before making our final approach we will be going to condition red. I am setting yellow now in anticipation of this. I want all watchstanders not currently on watch to make sure your areas are secure and we are ready for a possible engagement. I want all non duty watchstanders to prestage any equipment necessary for damage control. I when finished I want you all to try to rest while you can. I will update all of you when I learn more. Good luck and Godspeed crew."

He finished his speech with a heavy sigh before reopening the channel for his department head's below deck. "Am I forgetting anything?"

The silence that followed on the bridge spoke volumes as the Pennsylvania traveled into the face of danger.



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