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One Minute To Midnight

Posted on Sep 17, 2017 @ 5:33am by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Sep 17, 2017 @ 5:34am

Mission: The Romulan Way

= One Minute To Midnight =

(cont’d from “Crosshairs”)

***************************
LOCATION: USS PHOENIX
SCENE: Bridge
STARDATE: [2.17] 0916.1601


“How is this communication possible?” Jake asked, but Ael Velat had already started shaking her head.

“We must keep some secrets, Commander. All you need to know is that it is possible.”

Jake decided not to press the issue; right now, there were bigger concerns than ferreting out the Tal’Shiar’s secret handshakes.

“Okay,” he said. “Fine. So what do we say to Herut?”

“We start by letting him know we weren’t destroyed,” Eve said. “As a Tal’Shiar agent himself, he’s in the best position to determine where Commander Jaron’s loyalties lie.”

“An’ if Herut’s with the war hawks?” Kass muttered bitterly.

“Then he will no doubt find a way to alert the warhawks to our presence,” Ael said. “It is a risk, but it is also our only option.”

Jake drummed his fingers on the armrest of the captain’s chair. If he did nothing, the Phoenix would be safe - for now, at least. Signalling the Shai’Dan meant risking exposure to the warhawk fleet, which Jake was certain would mean military confrontation. On the other hand, if the Shai’Dan was loyal to the Praetor, working together could be the only way to defuse this situation without triggering a war between the Federation and the Romulans.

“Okay,” Jake said at last. “We establish communication with Herut. Assuming we aren’t blown out of the sky shortly thereafter, we can figure out our next move.”

Kass frowned at Jake. “Ya can’t trust her. She’s Tal’Shiar. They could be talkin’ in code fer all we know!”

“A few minutes ago we didn’t know they could talk at all,” Jake said. “If we want to resolve this without violence, at some point we’re going to need to take something on good faith.”

Jake turned to Ael. “What do you need?”

“Access to your long range communications system,” Ael said. Jake looked over at Mackenzie Procter, standing at tactical, and nodded. Procter didn’t look any happier than Kass did. Ael Velal stepped up beside her, glancing impatiently down at the console as she waited for Procter to vacate her station.

“Permission to lockout all other primary functions, sir?” Procter asked Jake.

“Granted, lieutenant,” Jake nodded. “I assume that won’t be a problem, senator?”

“Not at all,” Ael smiled. Procter proceeded to lock down the station, then stepped back to allow Ael to take over. The Romulan’s hands settled comfortably over the controls, as though she were intimately familiar with the operation of a Starfleet tactical console. Procter stood at her elbow, ready to push Ael away at Jake or Kass’s order. Meanwhile, all eyes on the bridge were on Ael.

After a moment, Ael looked up from the controls and smiled pleasantly at Jake. “The line of communication has been established. Herut is quite pleased to hear we did not crash land on the planet below.”

Jake looked to Lt. Byte, seated at Ops. “Do we have a read on the Romulan fleet?”

{{Aye sir,}} the android said. {{Their position is unchanged.}}

“If they move, I want to hear about it,” Jake said. He then looked back at Ael. “I take it Herut is as eager to see this situation resolved as we are?”

“Maybe more,” Ael said, glancing back down at the console before her. “The PHOENIX’s withdrawal has forced Commander Jaron’s hand; he was about to decloak and demand the release of the Praetor.”

“And if Nevar refuses to comply?” asked Jake.

“The Shai’Dan could not stand up to the warhawk fleet on its own,” Ael said. “Most likely, Jaron would attempt to withdraw and notify the Senate of Nevar’s betrayal.”

“Which likely means civil war,” Eve said.

“Which the Tal’Shiar would prefer to avoid,” Ael said. “Herut will neutralize Commander Jaron before he lets him notify the Senate.”

“I knew it,” Kass growled. “They’re with Nevar.”

“We are with the empire,” Ael said. “If it helps, in my personal estimation, it would be better if Nevar’s coup were to fail. Many Romulans would have to die to ensure the warhawk domination of the senate, and as a Tal’Shiar agent it’s likely I would have handle some of that personally. I abhor the needless spilling of blood, Romulan or otherwise.”

“Why do I find that hard ta believe?” said Kass.

“I’m offering to help you, aren’t I?” Ael countered.

“The fleet is our biggest concern right now,” Jake said. “What are the chances the Phoenix and the Shai’Dan could engage and defeat them?”

{{It seems probable that the enemy fleet is not aware of our position,}} Byte said. {{If the Shai’Dan and the Phoenix engage in a simultaneous first strike, we would likely inflict significant damage to the warbirds.}}

“Herut seems to agree,” Ael said, looking up again from the tactical console. “The Shai’Dan can be in position in two minutes-”

“No,” Jake cut in. “If we open fire without giving them a chance to stand down, you can kiss the peace process goodbye.”

“If Nevar is allowed to keep the Praetor, the peace is already dead,” Ael said. “Strike now, strike decisively, and end this!”

“There has to be a way to disable the fleet without blowing them up,” Jake said. “Romulan ships can’t fire while their cloaking devices are engaged, can they?”

“Why would they cloak their ships now?” Ael asked.

“They wouldn’t, unless we make them.”

“And how are we going to do that, Commander?”

Jake slapped his comm-badge. “Bridge to Ensign Ryan.”

[[Ryan here.]]

“I’d like you and Ensign Chaucer to report to the bridge,” Jake said.

[[Aye sir,]] Lynette said. [[We’re on our way.]]

“What is this about?” Ael asked impatiently. Jake looked at her.

“While we were in orbit about Romulus, somebody tried to remotely access the Phoenix’s computer,” he said, searching Ael’s face carefully. “Though I bet the Tal’Shiar already knows all about that.”

Ael’s expression betrayed nothing. “Even if this were true, how does it help us now?”

“I had my officers reverse-engineer that signal,” Jake said. “Our hope was to find out who’d ordered the hacking attempt in the first place, but if we can gain remote-access to Romulan systems…”

“We could force their ships to engage their cloaking devices,” Eve said, her eyes widening with realization. “They wouldn’t be able to fire on us!”

“Until they figure out we’re inside their system,” Kass pointed out. “Once they force us out, they get control of their ships right back.”

“Lynette and Chaucer can stall them for awhile,” Jake said. “Long enough for us to convince Nevar to return the Praetor and the captain.”

“And if they can’t?” Kass asked.

Jake’s expression hardened. “Then we disable or destroy their ships before they get control back. With cloaks engaged, their shields will be down, and we can spot them through gravimetric distortion the same way we found the Shai’Dan.”

“Between our two ships, we have enough firepower to do it,” Ael mused. “It could work.”

“You’d order the fleet destroyed?” Kass asked Jake quietly.

“If they give us no choice… yes, I will.”

Kass nodded. “Okay. Let’s do it.”

Jake returned her nod, then looked at Ael. “Tell Herut to move the Shai’Dan into position.”

Ael turned her attention to the tactical console as the turbolift doors parted and Lynette Ryan and Chaucer stepped onto the bridge. Jake told them what he wanted, and the two ensigns moved to the bridge’s engineering station to establish the link with the Romulan ships.

“They’re going to know we’re in the system once we establish the connection,” Lynette said.

“Then you’ll need to act fast,” Jake said. “I want those ships disabled before they know what we’re up to.”

“We can do it,” Lynette nodded.

[[My name is Chaucer,]] buzzed Chaucer’s Vox.

“I know you can,” Jake said.

“The Shai’Dan is standing by,” Ael reported from tactical. “Awaiting your signal.”

“Connection established,” said Lynette. “Accessing their system now.”

=[/\]=

LOCATION: Azri Drakara System

SCENE: Space

The fleet of Valdore warbirds, a dozen strong, floated weightlessly in the space between the planet below and the space station they’d been deployed to protect. Believing the Phoenix either destroyed or fled, and themselves to be the only ones remaining in the system, the Romulan officers had made a critical mistake.

They had started to relax.

And so it was that, by the time they detected the remote access to their ship’s systems, the combined efforts of Lynette Ryan and Chaucer had already started to have an effect. Romulan officers found themselves locked out of primary systems, and they watched in confusion as those systems began to activate on their own. One by one, the Valdore warbirds began to disappear, shimmering into the perfect, unbreakable invisibility of a Romulan cloaking field. First one ship, then another, then another, and on and on until, in the space of 18 seconds, the entire war hawk fleet had vanished from sight.

And a few minutes later, the Phoenix and the Shai’Dan moved in.

=[/\]=

LOCATION: USS PHOENIX

SCENE: Bridge

“It’s working!” Lynette reported from the engineering station. She sounded excited, as if she’d only halfway expected this plan would work. She looked at Jake, her eyes wide, her expression exuberant. “Romulan ships are engaging their cloaking devices!”

“Good work, ensigns,” Jake smiled. Then he looked at Byte. “Open a channel, system wide transmission. I want to make sure they all get this.”

Byte established the comm-link, then nodded to Jake.

“Romulan forces,” Jake said, his voice pitching a little lower to give it more of a commanding edge. “Now hear this. Your ships are defenseless, and we have our weapons trained on your positions. Stand down and return Praetor Radiak and the Starfleet crew immediately, or we will be forced to open fire. You have 60 seconds to comply. Commander Crichton out.”

He signalled Byte to cut the connection, then glanced at Lynette. “Can you keep them locked out for that long?”

“Aye sir,” Lynette nodded.

“So now what do we do?” Eve Dalziel asked.

“Now we hold our breath,” Jake said. “Start the clock.”

=[/\]=

NRPG: Will the war hawk fleet stand down, or will they force the Phoenix into battle? Will Nevar attempt to deploy the station’s wormhole or terraforming weaponry against the Starfleet crew? And what about our away team trapped aboard the station?

Let’s get this one wrapped up, folks!

Shawn Putnam

A.k.a.

Jake Crichton

Executive Officer

USS PHOENIX

 

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