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On Patrol

Posted on 23 Feb 2021 @ 12:30pm by Captain Harvey Geisler & Commander Terry Walsh & Lieutenant Commander Joey Geisler & Lieutenant Commander Gemma Alexander & Lieutenant Commander Camila Di Pasquale & Lieutenant Commander Arjin Djinx & Lieutenant Avery Stuart Ph.D. & Lieutenant JG Charles McCullen
Edited on on 17 Mar 2021 @ 1:47am

Mission: Extinction
Location: Main Bridge
Timeline: Mission Day 21 at 1000

Captain's Log, Stardate 67260.7.

It's been three weeks since our reactivation and reassignment to Belvedere. Already, our pace and activity is unable to compete with our wild shakedown at the start of the year. Piracy may be on the rise, but we have seen none of it since our encounter with Kelinor. We've been tasked to find pirate havens, but two weeks of searching remote sectors have proven fruitless so far.

Today, we begin exploring the uncharted Argatha sector. Hopefully, it will yield something worth investigating.

===[Ready Room]===

Harvey sat behind his desk in the Ready Room. Following the recent refit, Harvey's desktop terminal had been removed in favor of a new holographic workstation. The terminal still had the ability to turn the side facing a visitor to his office opaque, just in case privacy was needed. In fact, any time the door chime sounded, it would immediately activate the feature, giving the Captain the option to share his monitor if he wished.

At the moment, a star chart for three sectors floated above five padds laid out on his desk, each one containing status reports from five of Belvedere's assets. Harvey had already reviewed them twice, but he was more fascinated by what appeared on the three sectors. In the middle was a Starfleet delta, indicating the Black Hawk's current location within the Argatha sector. The nearest starship was over four lightyears away, the USS Vasco da Gama. Harvey had mixed feeling about that particular ship, given its unexpected role last year with the Finnean Convergence Zone. But the da Gama was not a part of his task group, rather part of Gamma's science corps and tasked to survey a gaseous anomaly.

Ten other Starfleet deltas could be seen on the sector maps, including the USS O'Carroll patrolling the next sector as part of its mission to respond to the USS Altai should it need support in the Quimalia system. Several other insignias could be seen on the map, including five Jem'hadar attack ships conducting war games in the third sector, a Ferengi merchant fleet in the A'trokq system, and a Romulan Valdore traveling through the area at warp. There were also a few independent traders and merchants gliding through the sectors, each one within range of a Belvedere vessel, having already cleared them for passage in the area. Though each one claimed to be unwilling to trade or otherwise cooperate with pirates, Harvey wouldn't believe it until there had been enough quantifiable proof. Until then, simple observation was required.


Sitting at helm, Charlie was buzzing with excitement. After two weeks of fairly mind-numbing navigation, the Black Hawk was finally doing something that every person in Starfleet dreamed of doing, what every helmsman and pilot yearned for in their bones. The chance to explore an uncharted sector, to make maps and name planets, to make first contact. The young lieutenant's imagination was awash with the possibilities that lay ahead. All tempered, somewhat, by their mission and the task at hand. Navigating through uncharted space was something he'd trained for but not something he'd ever done before. Only being able to 'see' as far as the range of the navigational sensors was keeping him very much on his toes. Constant minor course changes and hyper vigilance were the order of the day.

The computer beeped, drawing his attention to a comet making its lonely journey through space. It was two points to starboard, not directly in their course, but Charlie nudged the helm a point to port anyway, just to be sure. One couldn't tell what kind of debris the wanderer would have around it. He spared a thought, and a little grin, for the stellar cartography and science department, who, he imagined, were having an absolute field day. He wondered what they'd name it, if it didn't already have a name.

Arjin and his department were running extra time since the ship had departed for an uncharted sector. He had to reallocate some of his crew, just to keep up with all the new data that came in all the time. He had spent more time in astrometrics than ever since he was aboard the Black Hawk.
He was in the midst of remapping some of the already made charts when his attention was drawn towards a beep from the computer. A quick sensor sweep brought into view a comet. He quickly adjusted the parameters on his console to get as much info about it’s composition as possible. He made sure to catalogue the newly found comet in a separate folder, filed under the standard Federation nomination used. A combination of letters and cyphers that made it possible for everyone to directly locate it. A busy busy day like almost every day as for lately.

There had been so many new changes, new crew and new protocols since the Black Hawk-A had left the most recent damages sustained in the nebula. Now every crew member's background was thoroughly investigated and cross-checked. Four personnel had been dismissed from Starfleet for certain things in their backgrounds which had been falsified. Every new crew member had been asked a series of questions, probed by a Betazoid and each had been subjected to various methods of lie detection. Many had considered it harsh and unfair, but the Security Chief had the Captain's backing on these things and they had a choice to stay and submit to the new protocols or request a transfer to a new ship. With a note stating they rejected Security protocols on their permanent personnel files.

Now the Security Chief sat at her station on the bridge and activated the latest in anti-piracy protocols into the ship and sat back to monitor her console.

Joey sat at the Intel console going over the latest reports from her department. Many sources of intelligence were coming in, and while a few of them had to do with Kelinor, a man they'd encountered a while back, those leads seemed to go nowhere. Still, there were other pirates out there, and it was her job, as well as those that she worked with, to find them.

Dijaat was trying to remember the last time he slept for more than six hours at night. It had been two weeks since the repairs had completed and he was still putting out small fires across the ship. Sitting at the engineering station on the bridge was also making him pine for the solitude of his office down in main engineering. Instead he was going through his checklist.

There had been the improvements to the sensor systems and tactical display so that when they did meet a pirate it would be easier to kill that pirate. And, he'd been working on getting up to speed on the minor refits that had been completed on the primary computer core. Now if he could just get the shield efficiency rating up another one percent he'd be happy.

From her seat on the bridge, Avery was enjoying the relative quiet and calm. She imagined other bridge officers may have been fighting boredom the last couple of weeks since they'd been ordered back into service, but the counselor saw this as an opportunity to regroup after the traumatic and chaotic past few months. While it was true there was no shortage of things to do in light of the crew changes and recent repairs, for Avery included, for the first time in a long while, she was hopeful the crew would find a way to press forward and to find the motivation to re-commit to Starfleet and its ideals.

Terry could have fallen asleep to the sound of the various chirps, whirs, and beeps of the bridge around him. It was, oddly enough, calming. In fact, he stretched his legs out and crossed his ankles to relax a little more. The big guy would take it whenever he could sneak it in lately. "Well, what have come across so far?" he asked.

Arjin looked up from his console. He addressed his superior sitting in the front chair. “Not much really Commander. This comet is as exciting as it gets so far. Besides that we have also seen a Class A star without any planets around them. Nothing else to write about I am afraid.”

Avery smiled. "I'm not saying I want this to go on forever, but can we all acknowledge we could use a bit of boredom of late?"

"I don't know about the boredom," said Terry as he turned to the counselor, "but I'm just happy for a bit of relaxation. Though after two weeks of nothing, it's starting to get monotonous." He turned his attention to the viewer, "Chasing comets instead of finding pirates...what's the world coming to. Thank you Mr. Djinx. Helm," he directed to McCullen, "take us to the next spatial grid and begin another standard search pattern. Hopefully we'll find something there."

"I'd sooner take the boredom than having the Captain and Exec trying to break the ship apart," Dijaat stated from the engineering console, "It just adds more work for me to patch up the various holes that they keep punching into the hull plating. And, the smell of burnt popcorn hasn't quite gone away in the cargo bay either."

"Aye sir," McCullen responded, his fingers tapping a discordant tune as they worked across the console establishing a new course, turning the Black Hawk in the right direction and orientation, bringing the warp coils online and charging the nacelles as the ship swung to starboard and ten degrees down. The computer provided an informatory beep to tell him they were aligned and then he punched it at warp five.

After more time spent in the new grid and at the end of their shift, The ship’s long range sensors picked up a star system that could be interesting to explore.
“Commander. Sensors have picked up a star system with 11 planets and 2 asteroid belts circling around a red dwarf star. Should we take a look?”

Eleven planets to set up a base of operations and plenty of hiding places in the asteroids, Camila thought as she brought up the reports. She also knew dwarf stars could throw off enough stellar radiation to mask energy signatures if someone were bold enough to use one to hide. "I suggest a Class 5 probe first, Sir."

"We should," Terry said to Djinx. "But, Miss Di Pasquale is right, let's not run in to the unknown. Get the Class Five probe out the door first. Mr. McCullen, continue the standard search pattern, but have a course ready for this new system. Commander Di Pasquale, have our shields and weapons on standby once get we get the information from the probe. If there are pirates hiding around those planets or a pirate base in the asteroid belts, I want to be ready to disable them immediately." He paused a second before continuing. =/\="Walsh to Alexander, we might be entering a system where pirates could be using a couple of asteroid belts to hide. Have the squadron on standby for launch."=/\=

"Standard search pattern, aye." Charlie acknowledged from the helm, cancelling the course he'd already entered but keeping it in the buffer for later use and returning to the previous search pattern course.

Arj́in gave the orders to prep a class 5 probe. With the limited data from the long range scanners, and using his astrometric skills, he plotted a course for optimum output in a minimum time frame.
“Lieutenant Commander Di Pasquale: the probe is ready and the course plotted. If tactical is okay with it, it can be launched.”

Camila looked it over and gave a nod. "Launch away, Commander," she said.

With a few inputs on his console, the probe was sent on its way towards the unknown star system. It’s passage would be the first presence from Starfleet ever there.

The doors to the Ready Room opened, permitting the Captain to depart. He immediately held a hand up to Commander Walsh, indicating that he wasn't here to take command of the bridge, at least for the time being. He approached the Intelligence station and handed a couple padds and isolinear chips to his wife. "This is the weekly updates from the rest of the Task Group. There's a few repeat transports, and a new Ferengi outfit. It's worth a look into."

Joey accepted the padds and chips from the Captain. "I'll look into it, Captain, and if anything interesting pops up, I'll let you and Commander Walsh know."

Terry watched at the probe scooted across the black and disappeared into the mysterious system. When he heard the Ready Room doors, he scooted forward and was about to get up. Then he saw the Captain's hand. He settled back into the chair for the moment and continued with his thought. "Lieutenants Akorem and Parker, I want the clearest picture we can get of what's in that system. Make sure enough power is where it needs to be for that to happen. Commander Geisler, I hate to add to your work, but as soon as we get any solid information back from that probe, see if Starfleet Intelligence has anything. Just because we're finally getting around to charting an area of space, doesn't mean that someone else hasn't already."

There were very few words that could suddenly divert the Captain's attention, and one of those just happened to be uttered moments after Harvey entered the bridge. "Probe?" he echoed to the bridge crew. "Did we find something?"

Joey's attention went to Terry. "Yes, Commander," she agreed. Her work load had indeed grown within a matter of seconds, but she appreciated staying busy. Besides, if there was something to be found, she'd definitely find it.

"No, Sir," Camila answered the Captain. "However, with eleven planets and two asteroid belts, I suggested it. It makes more sense than going in blind or depending on long range sensors." She gave the Captain a slightly challenging look to see if he was going to back her or not in front of the crew.

Harvey raised an eyebrow, not sure what exactly it was that he walked into. "Any telemetry from the probe yet? Or do we have a bit still before it's in range?"

“The probe has just been launched. It will be approximately 4 minutes and 24 seconds before the first data will reach us, Captain.”, Arjin offered.

The Captain nodded, thinking that the next four minutes would be long ones indeed. "In the meantime, what's our status?"

"Engineering is doing great except for one minor hiccup relating to the shipboard holographic systems," Dijaat stated from his console answering the Captain. "The Emergency Medical Hologram interface may not be able to access some areas while it's being fixed."

"As long as the EMH doesn't get corrupted and turn into a serial killer or sociopath, we should be fine," the Captain stated. It had only been a few weeks since the HASA incident, but it was not something he wanted to repeat.

"Or others infiltrating the crew," Joey stated as her fingers moved over her console. She hadn't meant to say that out loud, but Camila had already approached her regarding that very matter.

"After the fun of that experience Captain," Dijaat began, "I can assure you that I went through every subroutine for our commonly used holographic programs piece by piece. The EMH is just like he always was... If not a bit annoying with that asking about the nature of the medical emergency." Dijaat shrugged without turning away from his console, "Of course, I think he was getting a bit annoyed when I kept activating and deactivating him during my field tests."

"I am no medical doctor, of course," Avery chimed in, "but I've certainly gotten a lot of practice lately with basic first aid and some more advanced skills. I'm certainly prepared to help out in Sickbay if the EMH needs a break from us, or vice versa," she added with a touch of mirth. They were far from fully psychologically recovered from all they had been through, but Avery was encouraged they could talk about it as a group and we're not running from the reality of their fears. If she had learned anything about survival of late, it was that there could be no sacred cows, so to speak.

As the telemetry came in, Arjin started to share it with everyone on the bridge. The data revealed more details of the distant star system as it travelled along. The outer planet was a small Class B type with no moons surrounding it. Next came the first asteroid belt. It revealed not to be a too dense one. It was followed by two class J planets, one class I and one class S planet. All had multiple moons. Next came the second asteroid belt. This unlike the first one was a dense one. Next came a class L planet with three moons surrounding it. Followed by a class M and a class P planet. Both with two moons. The last three were a class H and two Class B planets with one moon encircling them. On its route through the system, the probe could not detect any life signs. Maybe there were none, or maybe they were just hidden from the probe’s trajectory.

Harvey monitored this telemetry while standing behind Djinx at the science station. He considered asking for the probe to be redirected to the Class M planet, or perhaps several of the moons, to see if there was anything to learn from them. But Harvey had to admit that three weeks confined to a starship and just staring out the windows to the velvet vastness of space was getting kind of old. "Helm," Harvey ordered, "Let's take a break from our search patterns. Set a course for this system, specifically the Class-M planet. Best possible speed."

"Aye sir, best speed," Charlie responded, adjusting the course to bring them into orbital distance of the class-M planet, disengaging their current course and firing the thrusters to realign the ship, he brought her up to full impulse, waited for the speed to climb and then punched it, direct to warp 9. "ETA three minutes, captain."

Terry nodded as he stood. It was about time they had something to go on. He stepped from in front of the chair and glanced to Harvey. "Captain, she's all yours if you'd like."

Harvey nodded to Terry. He hadn't planned on spending some time on the bridge until the afternoon, but curiosity had gotten the best of him. Harvey accepted the vacated chair and sat down, eyes fixed on the viewscreen ahead.

Camila had listened to the report of the probes telemetry, but she didn't exactly trust it. Or anyone these days. Still, she had a job to perform and she turned her attention to tactical configurations designed to cause the most damage for any enemy that revealed themselves. With only one Class M planet, that only meant that they might be there or they might not be oxygen breathers or even humanoid and she had long since decided that prepared meant striking the moment the order was given.

The Black Hawk dropped out of warp a half a million kilometres from the planet, deep within its gravity well. Normally it would have been far too close for comfort, but given that they were pirate hunting and surprise was an advantage Charlie had taken the risk. He let the ship's momentum carry them forwards, turning her side on and applying a squirt of impulse power to get the speed needed for a high orbit, parking the ship on the fine line between falling and skeeting off into space. He let the computer do the fine-tuning as he announced to the bridge, "orbit established, we're uh... in orbit."

As soon as the ship had entered orbit, Harvey raised an eyebrow. The planet on the viewscreen seemed grayer than he expected from an M-Class planet. He could make out some land masses and bodies of water, but no proper shapes or defined lines were visible. "Commander Djinx, what do you make of that?"

Arjin frowned as the sensor readings were not clear. They were having trouble penetrating the dense atmosphere. “I am not sure Captain. The atmospheric pollution surrounding this planet prevents us from getting clear sensor readings. There are some very blurred outlines of continents and some that might indicate structures. But I cannot say what they are. As to the atmosphere itself, it could be the remnant of some sort of catastrophic event or it could have been like this since the planet formed. To know for sure we would have to penetrate the atmosphere to analyze it so we can recalibrate sensors to get a better reading. I would suggest sending in a probe.” He was going to await orders when his eye caught the latest telemetry from their first probe. “And Captain. It seems that there are not one but two stars in the center of this system. They are so close and similar it was unnoticeable at first.”

The Captain shook his head. A planet with an atmosphere they couldn't penetrate sounded like a great hiding spot for some pirates. "Mister Djinx, let's go ahead and send a few probes throughout the system. A couple extra probes in orbit around this planet wouldn't hurt too much either. Miss Di Pasquale, rather than send a probe through the atmosphere, I'd rather you take some boots on the ground. Take a shuttle, and use your discretion on how long you stay. Take whomever and whatever you need."

Arjin nodded. “I will send out probes to the most likely candidates for hiding places, Sir.” He began the programming them before sending them on their way.

"Yes, Sir," Camila said as she turned the bridge over to a Security Ensign as she started mentally selecting those she wanted to go on the away team. A drone pilot for certain. Did she send her Assistant Chief or leave her on the ship? Would the Captain approve of his wife going? She dismissed the questions and made a list of equipment they would need.

Harvey then tapped his badge. "Bridge to Commander Alexander. Deploy the squadron on a standard combat patrol. Maintain regular communication with the bridge."

Alexander, just finished her pre flight in the cockpit of her fighter having used the time to prepare and brief the squadron as instructed by Commander Walsh previously. "Acknowledged Sir. Wings away. Alexander out." She glanced at the part of the HUD that showed squadron readiness, all was green after everyone finished their preflights. She contacted their Hub and Alpha Squadron, "Spin it up, Air Boss. Time to dance, Alpha, Combat Formation Beta 2 upon open space."

Terry had walked back to the Executive Officer stand to take his place. The things he heard and saw didn't make him feel any better about any of this. They weren't in the dark as much as they'd been earlier, but the lights were still dim.

Avery did her best to ignore the knot in her stomach as the information came in and decisions were being made about sending in a team to explore further. Rationally, she knew they had a job to do and could not afford not to investigate any places where pirates could hide. She also knew she was surrounded by people who could take care of themselves and had proven so on many occasions. Still, Avery was feeling protective of everyone, and the thought of being separated from anyone of them what is not without its stresses.

Harvey shifted in his seat, looking out the viewscreen ahead of them. This planet and its atmosphere reminded him somewhat of the Dolmoqour homeworld, but at least there there were signs of life. This situation had an eerie, yet calming feeling to it. Maybe, just maybe, for once in the Black Hawk's service, they were facing a mystery that lacked any urgent danger.


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