Meetings suck. But they're a necessary evil when in a large organization.
And by this point my Federation was getting fairly large.
My biggest problem is that I tend to get sidetracked.
There's always something interesting, a new rabbit hole, which almost always sucks me in.
And when it sucks me in I drag everyone with me...
Ian Munro was monitoring the gravitic and quantum sensors installed on Njord. These allowed the Federation to keep an eye on the gross activities throughout the System. At close range, under ten light-seconds, he could just about read the name of a ship off the hull. Well, maybe not, but he could certainly tell you the composition of objects, as well as their size, mass, speed, acceleration, and course.
As the range increased the finer details were lost, but out to about five light-minutes the system was capable of discerning ships from space debris as well as basic course information. Beyond that the data was more problematic and Diana had to take over. She had the processing power to compare a huge quantity of readings and infer the data that couldn’t be directly observed. Out far, though, all he could see were planets and asteroids as well as high-energy events. There weren’t many of those; space, after all, is big and mostly empty.
Now, though, it was as if he’d hit a jackpot.
“Colonel, you ought to look at this.”
“What is it, Mr. Munro?”
“We’re picking up a pair of explosions, big ones.”
“Where? How far away? How big?” Whitmore didn’t wait for the answer but came to his station.
“Nothing close, Colonel. Roughly a light-hour. And they’re, well, they’re simply huge. I don’t know how many megatons, but it’s a bunch.”
“And we are detecting gamma spikes from them both,” Pipher added. The gamma rays wouldn’t reach the station for nearly an hour, but their existence could be picked up by the quantum sensors.
“Gamma spikes? Those are associated with antimatter bombs!”
“Correct, Colonel.” Pipher’s usually-subtle German accent stretched her rank to three syllables. “What’s more, these spikes match the characteristics of the spikes associated with other detonations on record.”
“So a pair of incoming bombs just spontaneously exploded?”
“Make that three, Colonel,” Munro said. “Fifty-six light-minutes.”
“And the spike?”
“Also a match,” Pipher confirmed. “A very interesting sequence, Colonel. This feels to me as if they were destroyed from the source.”
“A self-destruct, Horst?”
“What’s even more interesting, Colonel, is the timing of the explosions,” added Diana. “They are all identical, if the signal which triggered the detonation was a self-destruct signal sent from Titan.”
“If Titan sent out a signal to their antimatter bombs, ordering their destruction, then the propagation of the light-speed signal exactly matches the time frame we are observing.”
“Why would Titan set off their bombs in space?” mused Whitmore.
“I have an idea,” said Montana, who had just entered the CCIC. “And so do you, Davie, if you think about it.”
“Enterprise and their mission?”
“Enterprise and their mission,” Montana agreed. “Kendra can be awfully persuasive.”
“I know,” Whitmore said, smiling and gesturing at her uniform.
“Incoming transmission from Enterprise,” Diana announced.
“Speak of the devil. Put them through.”
“Njord, Enterprise,” Cass was saying.
“Enterprise, Njord. Whitmore here.”
“Colonel, good to hear you. We’re en route, ETA eight minutes.”
“Thank you, Commander.”
“We need a priority medical evac.”
Whitmore’s face reflected her surprise, but she didn’t allow it into her voice. Instead she started sending commands through her implant as she answered. “Roger, Commander. We’ll have a medical party waiting. Patient?”
“Lieutenant Burg,” Cass said flatly. “Downloading current status to Medical.”
“Cass, what happened?” Montana interrupted.
“She took a shot meant for Kendra,” Cass said, the emotion coming through. “Major damage to her shoulder, collarbone, and upper chest, as well as a subdural hemorrhaging in her brain.”
“Oh, crap. How’s Alley?”
“Hasn’t left sickbay since LJ transported aboard,” Cass said. “ETA four minutes.”
“Bay is clear,” Spurgeon said, having been looped into the conversation.
“Standing by with a medical team,” said Dr. Miller. Serenity wasn’t the primary physician aboard Njord, but she’d been lured away from the second spot at the UE’s Medical Directorate. She was angling for a post to the TFS Pioneer once it was commissioned.
“We’ll take care of her,” Whitmore said more gently. “Anyone else?”
“No, but there’s going to be one hell of a debrief. Enterprise, out.”
“How’s LJ?” was the first question out of Whitmore’s lips when Kendra’s Starfleet advisors, the ranking officers in the fleet, gathered.
“They’re still evaluating her, but Dr. Miller’s optimistic. Between the first aid Petra and Cass did and her nanobots, well, they probably saved her life. Of course, the HMO might just annoy her into waking,” Kendra replied. “And Alley’s hovering over her as well.”
“Let’s get this out of the way: what the hell were those explosions about?” asked Montana. There had ended up being twelve, the closest only three light-minutes away.
“All the antimatter weapons Titan had launched at Njord. There won’t be any more, either. They’ve signed over to our side.”
At this the room erupted in cheers. Artemis was the greatest individual threat. Titan’s contribution, though, was frightening for its randomness and devastation if they should miss even one. Only Kiri seemed subdued, and Cass looked over to her.
“Kiri? What’s wrong?”
“I’m just considering deployments,” said the veteran Naval officer.
Kendra had tuned in now as well.
“Go on. What about them?”
“Well, now we have two allies, right?”
“And between them we are going to have to provide the protection against Artemis and the Union retaliating?”
“There’s only the two of us, Kendra, Endeavour and Enterprise. Sorry, I meant Admiral. The math doesn’t work.”
Kendra waved off the informality. “And you’re wondering how we can cover them both?”
The teenaged hologram appeared. “Hi Kendra, hi everyone, boy, I don’t usually get to sit in on these sort of meetings, it’s been a long time since the last one, hey, why’s everyone so glum, is that about LJ, I know she’s going to be just fine.”
“Hecate.” Kendra put just a hint of steel into her voice.
“You have some news?”
“Oh, yes, great news, both Defiant and Defender are finished, they’re ready for their acceptance trials, and I figure those won’t take more than a week, I’ve been doing systems tests as we went along and fixing all the little glitches, though there really weren’t too many, and now the fabber is already working on the gas mine parts, those are going to be interesting, and I’ll have the second fabber online by August, that’s going to speed up production for Pioneer and Constitution.”
“Good job, Hecate. Thank you. We’ll talk more later.”
Hecate wasn’t quite done. “I’ve got time now, what did you want to talk about, do you want me to guess or –”
“No problem, Admiral.”
“As Hecate said, the Defiant-class ships are completed. We need crews for them, specifically captains.”
Whitmore looked puzzled. “We discussed this before the Titan mission, Admiral, and I thought it was settled. You had the two recruits you found groundside?”
“Resler and Rene, yes, but during this mission, well, I had opportunity to have a change of mind.”
Eyes widened around the table. It wasn’t surprise at Kendra changing her mind; she was famous, or perhaps notorious, for her flash decisions. Rather it was the after-the-fact nature of the change which caught everyone’s attention. She never unilaterally altered agreements.
“Kendra, what’s going on?” said Cass, speaking for the group.
“You were there,” she said, cryptically.
“There? On Titan? Of course I was,” Cass answered. “What did you see that I missed?”
“The change in Petra.”
“Lieutenant Orloff?” Cass’s brow furrowed as she concentrated. “She was certainly determined, I’ll give her that.”
“She was all in, Cass. Once she recognized what needed to happen for the mission to succeed, she jumped to places that we hadn’t gone yet. Remember, it was her idea to knock out the landing craft?”
“And now consider the role the Defiant is going to take.” She could see the comprehension spreading across the room and jumped on it.
“Kiri, you and Alley were the perfect people for the first two starships: experienced in three-dimensional thinking, flexible, and committed to the ideals that we’re now fighting for. But, for the Defiant-class ships, we need a mindset which is totally focused on keeping our people alive. Cass, remember what she said, when I asked her about her switch in perspective?”
Cass nodded slowly.
“My change, then, is to put her in Defender, with Rene as her First Officer. We’ll leave Resler in Defiant, and I think we should consider bringing Huff in as her XO.”
Whitmore looked startled, then relaxed. “That makes sense. He spent nearly as long in the Navy as I did, so he’s as good a source of tactical information as we can give her.”
“Not disagreement, but a consideration,” said Kiri. “Won’t Rene be disappointed not to get command?”
“She has less experience than Resler,” Whitmore countered. “And I don’t believe we’ve officially offered her the position, just that she’s being considered.”
“And if she proves her bones as XO, she’d certainly be strongly positioned for the next Defiant-class,” said Sanzari, who was in the same position for the Constitution.
“Oh, one more point,” said Kendra. “Before we get to the boring bits. We’re going to need a name, and a few people to pad out a crew.”
“A crew?” said Whitmore. “For what?”
“Well, turns out that the Kepler’s first officer, who was in command when we encountered them in orbit, has no particular love for the Union, and he’s asked to come over to our side. Along with about 80% of his crew and his officers.”
“And you didn’t think you should lead with this?” said Kiri.
“Well, I had planned to do this in an orderly way, but then there were the bombs and we were off. The larger point is the Kepler, or whatever it gets named, could provide local coverage for Titan.” She sighed. “I know I’m going to regret this. Hecate!”
Her avatar reappeared. “Yes, Admiral?”
“Diana have a chat with you?”
“You can loosen up a little bit. Try to remember to breathe.”
“I don’t have to breathe, Admiral.”
Kendra ignored it; that was a rabbit hole she didn’t need to explore. “Hecate, are you familiar with Copernicus-class cruisers?”
“Yes, Admiral. I have access to all of the Federation database, and Harpo can get me into the Union database if I need it.”
“Good. I want you to think about what upgrades you can do with the fabricator, quickly, to a Copernicus. You’re going to have about three days to figure it out before you have to do anything. Questions?”
“How quickly is quickly, Admiral?”
“Communications, weapons, defense, engines.”
“My preliminary calculations suggest that I’ll be able to improve her offensive firepower and her inertial compensators, which in turn will allow for greater acceleration, Admiral. Installation of a full Q-Net suite will compromise the improvement of spinal weaponry, while application of a standard coating of CeeSea will take nine days.”
“Keep thinking, and we’ll talk later. Thank you, Hecate.”
For just a moment, Hecate’s normal personality leapt forward. “You got it Kendra! I mean, you’re welcome, Admiral.”
The avatar disappeared.
“Diana, maybe a little less of a stomping next time?”
“Of course, Admiral.”
“Was Kepler a factor in your thinking with the captaincies?” asked Kiri.
“A bit. If Titan can stand off most of the Union ships, and be able to scream for help, well, we can get to Titan in ten seconds, minus, even in a Defiant.”
“I see your point.” Kiri was serious, then she brightened. “And it’s going to allow both of the other ships to get back to what we want to do, isn’t it?”
“Yes!” Cass’s voice may have been just a little loud. “I mean, that’s a very good point, Captain Stewart.”
“Good! It’s settled. Now, onto the debrief. Commander, since you’re sitting in for Captain Martinez?”
“Thank you, Admiral,” said Cass, again totally under control. “We departed Njord on schedule. Proceeding at warp two, we…”