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Securing the Valdore

Posted on 10 Aug 2016 @ 1:19am by Captain Vaanika Suresh

Mission: Risky Business
Location: USS Chimera
Timeline: MD5

Captain Vaanika Suresh sat in her Ready Room aboard the USS Chimera, sipping her Darjeeling tea, and pondered the current situation. They had arrived at the nebula three days ago, and still they had no idea as to the whereabouts of their target, the Romulan vessel Valdore. Indeed, they weren't even certain the damned ship was even here to begin with. But Commodore Terlexa had ordered them to search for it, and search for it they would.

She looked out the window of her Ready Room, at the swirling color patterns of the nebula, and was reminded of the colorful saris that women traditionally wore in her native India, back on Earth. Part of her longed to be back there, safe, and away from all of the political intrigue and backstabbing of the Gamma Quadrant. Back home with her family, her mother, three sisters and six brothers, helping their grandmother prepare Sunday night's curry, smelling the spices, stirring the sauce as the house filled with mouth-watering aromas, and the joy of being with her loved ones, one more time.

But another part of her quickly quashed that feeling, and reminded her that such a thing was impossible. The house had been destroyed in the Breen attack on Earth, along with the family she longed to be reunited with. All because Starfleet had been too weak, too afraid, too cowardly to act first.

Her train of thought was interrupted by the chime at her Ready Room door. She turned back toward her desk, and set down her cup of tea. "Come in," she called, her voice tinted with the faintest traces of an Indian accent.

Commander Simoneau, her First Officer, walked in. The tall and solidly-built officer immediately went to sit across her at the desk. He had a hint of a smile on his face.

"Tell me good news," greeted Suresh, his smile beginning to echo on her face.

"We may have something," confirmed Simoneau. After they'd entered the nebula, they had started sending out scouts to try to locate the Valdore. The absence of a fighter wing on the Intrepid-class vessels was a hindrance, but Suresh knew that their speed over the carrier-class vessels had been a determining factor in Terlexa's decision to send these two ships to search for the Romulan vessel. Still, they had a handful of shuttles and runabouts that could be put to use.

Shortly before entering the nebula, their long-range sensors had detected a sensor echo approaching at high warp - too distant to identify, or even determine if it was an actual ship, but it was enough to send warning signs down Suresh's spine. After they'd entered the nebula, she and Captain Kylar of the USS Cochrane had decided that a patrol would be monitoring their six, on the lookout for a possible pursuit. Word had soon come that the patrol had recovered a probe, which they later identified as coming from the USS Black Hawk. So now, in addition to searching for the Romulan ship, they also had to be on the lookout for a Starfleet ship.

The Black Hawk, that was Geisler's ship. Suresh remembered briefly meeting him at a reception on Deep Space 11, a couple of months prior. The man hadn't left any kind of impression, in fact she remembered thinking he was rather bland - definitely not someone she would have considered for command.

She focused back on Commander Simoneau. He was telling her about one of the scouts, coming across a derelict ship. One of many that they'd found so far, she was tempted to wave off the report. But while the pilot couldn't readily identify it, it did seem Romulan in design.

Suresh smiled. How many Romulan ships could be adrift in a nebula in the middle of the Gamma Quadrant? Probably not that many.

- - - - -

Six hours later, a team, comprised of Suresh, Simoneau, Chief Engineer Krex, Tactical officer sh'Hark, and two other junior Engineers materialized aboard the Romulan vessel Valdore. Since their sensors hadn't been able to confirm the presence of a breathable atmosphere, they had materialized wearing environmental suits.

Simoneau flipped out his tricorder, and started scanning the atmosphere. "The air is very stale," he said. "Looks like environmental controls stopped working some years ago. There are a few hull breaches. Blast doors are protecting the affected areas."

Krex was also scanning the ship. "The quantum singularity is still active," he read. "It wouldn't be too difficult to restore power, provided the systems are intact. There's no way to know the extent of the damage caused by twenty years of exposure to the nebula."

Suresh looked at the two officers. "Do the best you can," she said. "We have to get this ship out of the nebula, and to Deep Space 11 as soon as possible. It's the key to defeating Starfleet."

They walked through the ship, exploring various corridors and surveying the damage. Bodies were still lining the corridors, or slumped at workstations, desiccated after such a long time, but not decomposed. There was no light save for the beacons they had brought with them. Exploring this ghost ship made Suresh's skin crawl.

After exploring the corridors, they managed to make their way to the Bridge. They ran their palm beacons over the darkened consoles, shedding light on work panels and chairs that had been shrouded in darkness for the better part of two decades. Suresh's light fell on a hand that was hanging stiffly over the armrest of the Captain' chair. The skin was a dull grey, dry and parched, pulled tightly over the desiccated remnants of the muscles and tendons of the hand. She tilted the light upwards, and saw the face of the Romulan commander. It was impossible to determine his age given the body's current state. The eyes were open, and she was looking at two shriveled black marbles, staring forever into the darkness.

Before she could examine the Bridge further, the lights suddenly came on. She looked behind her, and saw that Krex had located what might be the Engineering console.

"I've got partial power restored to the Bridge," he explained. He pulled out his tricorder and scanned the console, using the device to translate the readouts. "Some systems were damaged by radiation exposure," he read out. "Weapons systems are off-line. Cloaking device destroyed. Engines..."

He hit a few keys, attempting to access the computer systems to run a diagnostic on the engines. After a few seconds, he shook his head. "I've got some work to do to get the engines on-line." He looked at his two engineers. "Let's see if we can find Engineering."

"What about life support?" asked Suresh before the Tellarite could leave.

Krex nodded. "Don't mind the smell, but you can take off your helmets." And with that, he led his small team of engineers out of the Bridge.

- - - - - -

Three hours later, Commander Simoneau looked at Suresh, smiling again. She was frankly getting tired of seeing him smile enigmatically before speaking, as if he had a secret he couldn't wait to tell her.

"Looks like Romulan sensors are a bit more efficient than ours," he said. "We've got limited sensor readings in the nebula."

Suresh felt her eyebrows raise. "How limited?"

"About two hundred kilometers," he said. "But the farther away we try to scan, the less reliable the sensor readings. This nebula's one hell of a pea soup."

Suresh nodded. "Still, it gives us an advantage over the Black Hawk," she affirmed. Starfleet sensors were blind to anything beyond a few hundred meters.

"That it does," agreed Simoneau.

Suresh hit her combadge. "Krex, where are those engines?" she asked without preamble.

"We're making some headway," replied Krex. "Give me two hours, and I could give you Impulse power. Warp drive will take a lot longer, but I wouldn't recommend going to warp inside the nebula anyway. Not without better sensors and with all those ghost ships lingering around."

"One hour. Suresh out." She tapped her combadge to close the channel, cutting short any protest the Tellarite could have made. She turned back to Simoneau. "Now let's find what we came here for."

After searching through the most obvious areas of the massive ship, they found the Thalaron generator in a room located a few meters away from the Engineering section. Shut down, the generator looked like a lotus flower with its petals closed in on itself.

Suresh smiled. This was a bright day for the Consortium indeed. With this weapon, they could being an end to Starfleet's presence in the Gamma Quadrant, taking out Starbase Unity, and crushing out Starfleet's top brass with one swift stroke.

They spent over two hours accessing the controls for the device, and carefully attempting to learn how it worked, stopping just short of arming it. Right now was too early to risk a misfire.

- - - - - -

The Valdore was a predator. With its unmistakable silhouette, reminiscent of an eagle diving for its prey, it was something to fear. But the predator had been through a lot. Damaged in the battle at the Founders' Homeworld, it had managed to escape the carnage, only to suffer a Warp drive failure halfway back to the Wormhole. Its crew dying, it had drifted, powerless, through the cosmos, and somehow had gravitated toward the Hadyn Nebula. There, the radiation present in this stellar nursery, coming into contact with the ship's circuitry through the multiple hull breaches, had slowly eroded the ship's systems - at least those that had not already been damaged by micrometeor impacts.

But the predator still had teeth. And, unlike its adversaries currently present in the nebula, it had eyes. It was near-sighted, but that was more than could be said for the others. It detected the Black Hawk, the Chimera and the Cochrane, flying in formation, from a hundred kilometers away.

Suresh examined the readouts with Simoneau, her blood boiling. She was trying to determine the exact meaning of the images she was seeing - was the Black Hawk being escorted by the two ships, as their captive, or had it bested the two Intrepid-class starships? She exchanged looks with Simoneau, who wasn't sure he could help her reach a conclusion.

As they approached cautiously, more details emerged through the sensor readings. Damage to the Black Hawk was substantial. The Chimera had suffered, as had the Cochrane, but not as much as the Akira-class starship, who had come under fire from two targets. The Chimera seemed to have suffered more damage from the Black Hawk's fighters than the Cochrane.

The fighters.

As they approached, the sensors were able to make out more details - such as the fighters also flying in formation around the three starships.

Fighters flying in formation. Since neither the Chimera nor the Cochrane had a fighter complement, that could only mean one thing. The Black Hawk had the upper hand.

Suresh was seething. She cursed Kylar for his weakness, and Geisler for his interference.

She knew one way to deal with this nuisance. They had no hope of attempting to regain control of their ships - the Consortium forces were vastly outnumbered. Indeed, Geisler had probably already outed them as aligned with the Consortium. She had no choice but to write off the Chimera and the Cochrane as being back in Starfleet's ranks.

But she had the necessary tools to ensure they wouldn't get to savor their victory for very long.

Simoneau followed her back to the Thalaron generator.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Arming the device," she replied. "Geisler won't get to bring this prize back to Unity. Set a direct course for the Black Hawk," she ordered.

She pressed the control panel and entered the arming sequence.

The lotus flower opened, and the room was bathed in a soft green light. A swirling pattern rose up from the flower. She could feel the deck plates beginning to vibrate beneath her feet, as the generator drew power from the quantum singularity. A shiver ran down her spine in anticipation.

The Thalaron generator began to charge as the Valdore approached the three Starfleet vessels. Suresh watched the three ships flying in formation on the viewscreen, as the warbird closed the distance to its prey. She knew the Federation ships were still blind. Her only regret was that they probably wouldn't know what hit them as their bodies turned to ash.


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