Approaching the Gaittithe

Posted on 19 Mar 2024 @ 12:46pm by Captain Harvey Geisler & Commander Terry Walsh & Lieutenant Commander Joey Geisler & Lieutenant Commander Camila Di Pasquale & Lieutenant Paisley (mUra) F'rar & Lieutenant T’Mari Rael & Senior Chief Petty Officer Mila Rasputin

2,887 words; about a 14 minute read

Mission: Return to Razmena
Location: USS Black Hawk
Timeline: June 17, 2390 || 0830 hours

Harvey's suspicions had worsened the moment the Gaittithe was supposed to first appear on the long-range sensors. The Black Hawk was steadily approaching the rendezvous coordinates at warp seven, which would have detected their sister ship roughly one hour out. All sensors returned was a patch of radiation that excellently obscured anything it surrounded. On occasions, they'd gotten a glimpse of deuterium, tritanium, and fragments of a warp signature. It was clearly far too dense for the Black Hawk's sensors to penetrate.

The Captain was not pleased at all when he declared red alert right at the 0700 shift change. For the last 90 minutes, the ship and its crew stood battle- and response-ready. Maintaining that state was tiresome for all, especially as nerves grew uncontested and unmatched.

Harvey himself remained on the bridge. When he was not sitting in his chair, he circled the bridge, reading displays and checking on each station's operator as he did. They'd all found that there was only so many times that the Captain could ask, "How's it going?" before getting an agitated response or a sigh. Therefore, by 0830, he'd retired to his chair armed with a fresh cup of Wilkins in a medium-sized steel mug. He finally set aside his cover, leaving it this time in the ready room. His eyes looked ahead to the viewscreen where the warp field continued to swirl.

Due to the radiation, the Black Hawk would have to drop out of warp three million kilometers away from the furthest edge of the radiation. They couldn't risk ramming whatever was inside the field, even on accident. Finally, the time came to drop out of warp. Harvey wanted to stand, but he chose not to. After all, the time to stand would come later, and he needed to not waste energy before it was needed.

"Helm, drop to full impulse," he ordered. "Do we have anything on the short range sensors?"

T’Mari had arrived on the bridge after cutting short her attempted rest, the sheer level of emotions on the ship was too high to even try getting a rest. Making her way across to her seat she offered a polite smile to Harvey as she sat down. Waiting to see what the report from the sensors would be.

"There's a lot of warp trails going towards and away from her, Captain," Karn said from Tactical. "Nothing newer than ten minutes."

At the Engineering console, Paisley piped up. "Including ours," she said. "Seems like a barrier of some kind, can't tell which yet, probes are out." She said. She had been in full contact with her team, too, ensuring the streams, hoses, Tubes and hulls were prepped in case of impact. The Black Hawk could stay in the sky for AWHILE if Helm could.

Harvey paused, wondering if one had to be of a specific size to get past a barrier. "That's all right," he told the new engineer. "We don't know what's in there, and I don't want probes to give whatever it is the wrong intention."

Looking over to Karn, the Captain asked, "Warp trails? Any chance they're Starfleet?"

Karn studied the readouts and cocked his head before he made an adjustment to the scans. "I have the Kwando's's signature and it looks like it was leaking a trail of plasma residue."

That got Harvey's attention. He rose immediately from his chair and approached the tactical station to stand next to Karn. "That can't be the cause of damage. Probably a trail that could lead us right to the Gaittithe. What do you think?"

"I'm not certain, Sir," Karn said honestly. "There's a lot of back and forth here. I barely got the Kwando's signature." He looked around and saw the Chief of Intelligence. "Could there be a signal in it, too?"

Joey moved her fingers over the display before her. “Analytics point toward the Kwando, Captain. It’s almost like… Morse Code. It simply states Pirates aren't responsible. Following."

"Aren't responsible?" Harvey echoed, his eyebrows arching a mile high in surprise. In the span of three heartbeats, a million questions floated in Harvey's mind. Four words had been given, and as simple as that message was, it was anything but clear. "The amount of warp trails we detected... are there as many going out as there are coming in?"

Karn checked the readouts again. "It's a jumble of trails, but maybe Ops could verify?" He suggested. "I'm making ten trails in and eleven out."

Harvey looked up to glance over at both the Ops and Science chiefs. To him, it certainly seemed odd that there were more exit trails than there were entrance.

Terry had been monitoring the squadron's progress and issuing their orders from the Squadron Operations console next to the Helm. So he'd only been half paying attention to the current conversation. "Huh, could a shuttle from the Gaittithe have made an escape? Or maybe there was someone on the inside who was able to get out before the initial attack happened. A conspirator who disabled something. Wouldn't be the first time the enemy had managed to infiltrate a Starfleet ship."

"Definitely won't be happening here again," Harvey remarked. In a flash, he remembered the time he'd been shot in his own ready room, and the time the Dolmoqour had managed to take over the ship using much of the Senior Staff as their puppets. He bet that if Camila was around, she would have sneered and offered a remark of her own.

"As for the exit trail," the Captain added, "we can certainly speculate as to what happened. Mister Karn, does that extra exit trail belong to the Kwando? Also, can we triangulate these warp trails? Where do they all lead?"

Karn checked the sensors and isolated the Kwando, working to put a time to the trails by the decay rate. "It was the Kwando, Sir and the last trail is the one with the message. They're all heading to Razmena."

Harvey looked at the sensor display and noted that not a single one was large enough to be the Gaittithe. "Well, whether everything adds up or not, we still need to confirm the status of the Gaittithe. You've got one side of their trajectory. But what about the other?"

"Probes are in," Paisley piped up. "Other is..untraceable," she said. "As I's almost as if it's being shielded. Ops, can you backdoor in?" She asked. This was out of her wheelhouse. She could tell you what the ships in the area were made of, if they had slipstream or Warp cores, and etc but she didn't know this kind of thing. She hadn't paid too much attention in her science classes. Damn it.

Karn shot a look at the new Chief Engineer, wondering what she was talking about. "She's not far off from her original assigned course according to the last data set that was transmitted before she went silent."

Paisley sighed, and fought the urge to send a jab back. "My apologies, I meant the second trajectory is untraceable," she said. "My probes are fine," she said. "Data coming On your screen, sir", she said, tapping at her screen.

"So she is there," Harvey muttered. If she wasn't far from her last stated coordinates, it would still be a good ten or fifteen minutes before they were in a range where they could run a full scan. "Put the coordinates on the viewer, increase magnification to maximum.

The sight made Harvey's blood cold. Because they were still far away, the visage of the Gaittithe took up less than one-tenth of the viewscreen. They didn't need to get any closer to see how bad of shape their sister ship was in. Both nacelles were gone, with very little debris left behind. There was one Bussard collector, likely mostly intact, though its outer shield was cracked. The weapons pod had been ripped away, leaving the mighty ship mostly defenseless. A couple of escape pods floated in the distance, and there was no sign of life to be seen, at least from this distance. There were some pits and scars on the hull. It was too distant to tell if there were forcefields keeping those breaches closed.

"Pirates aren't responsible," Harvey said quietly, remembering the code embedded in the Kwando's warp signature.

T’Mari suppressed a gasp as she saw the state of the Gaittithe the rise in emotions of those viewing the scene was there for everyone to feel without the need for her senses. “I err...I’m sensing...minimal life Captain. If there is anyone left...they’re not in a good way.”

Paisley nodded lightly in agreement.

It took everything in Harvey's willpower to keep a million thoughts from swirling in his head. Action was needed, and it was needed fast. Until the Black Hawk was in proper range, he would have to act as if there were survivors. Then there was the matter of securing the wreck, dealing with the pirates, and anything else that came up during all of this.

The time to issue orders had come. "Joey, get your team ready to transport. We'll determine an insertion point as we get closer. Take T'Mari and F'rar with you. Priorities for now are to secure any personnel and secure the ship's logs."

"Yes, Captain," Joey said as she rose to her feet and looked to the two women who would be joining her. "Make whatever preparations you need and meet me in transporter room one in five minutes." With that, she excused herself from the bridge to do her own prep.

T’Mari followed on behind Joey, nodding to Harvey she made her way off the bridge to go get what she needed.

"Yes, Captain," she said, stepping away. She opened a Comms to call her assistant to the Console. She headed for her office for her kit and supplies, and an EV suit, just in case.

"Commander Walsh," Harvey said, standing up from behind tactical and moving to the forward stations. "Have the squadron form a net on the other side of the Gaittithe. No one gets out until we get some answers."

"Understood," said Terry. He sent the instructions straight to squadron duty officer with the order to scramble. "It's done. The Squadron should be launching in waves in the next couple of minutes. These are the locations they'll be stationing themselves to form the net." He pointed to the small red icons on the screen.

Finally, Harvey tapped his badge. "Geisler to Chief Rasputin. I need you on the bridge immediately."

It wasn't but the work of walking a minute from the administrative offices that the Chief Petty Officer ruled with an iron fist and entered the bridge. She glanced around and took note of the others assembled, sparing Joey a warm smile as she approached Harvey. "You are wishing to be seeing me, Captain?"

Harvey turned to Mila, happy to have someone on the bridge who could handle some of his additional responsibilities. He held up a finger. "Two things. First, contact all ships in Belvedere. I'm placing this sector and the surrounding ones on yellow alert. All ships now required to check in every four hours."

He raised a second finger, now showing two digits on his right hand. "Second, configure Auxiliary One for Task Group Operations. We're going to need to keep the group's status close to hand as much as possible."

Mila was a bit shocked, but she kept her expression neutral as her mind raced with the protocols about to be invoked. "Of course, Captain," she said. "Is there being anything else?" She pictured herself getting into a friendly match with one Admiral Zachary O'Connell, but knew that Harvey didn't order things like this lightly.

"Just stick close," Harvey stated. The situation was still developing and he was certain there would be more to do. It was simply too early to know what.

"Da," Mila said. "I will be in Administration, Sir," she added as she turned and headed back to issue the alert.

Harvey had hoped that Mila would have stayed on the bridge, just in case he had anything else to relay. For now, he had to focus on the situation at hand. "Helm, what's our ETA?"

The Efrosian at the helm checked a readout and reported, "We'll be within proper sensor range in five minutes. Weapons range in eight. Transporter range in fifteen."

Harvey frowned. With all of the radiation, there was no way to shave any time off those estimates. "Very well," he said. "Keep an eye on sensors. As soon as we're in range, I want to know how many people are aboard that ship. Commander Walsh, if any of your fighters get close to escape pods, have them see if they're occupied."

"Roger that, Captain," said Terry. He wasn't sure if he wanted them to be or not. He was thinking either corpses or barely alive people.

* * *

The next eight minutes seemed like an eternity. Harvey slowly lapped the bridge, checking readouts over the bridge crew's shoulders. Silence reigned supreme, even though the steady beeps from monitors and control pads tried to break it.

Finally, the announcement came from the helm. Harvey pulled down on his uniform jacket and returned to the center of the bridge. "Mister Karn, standby weapons. Open hailing frequencies, all channels, Starfleet or otherwise."

Karn readied the phasers to standby and ordered the torpedo tubes loaded. "Weapons on standby, Sir."

"This is Captain Harvey Geisler of the Federation Starship Black Hawk. To those looting the USS Gaittithe, you have sixty seconds to stand down and depart the vessel. Anyone who remains after that time will be considered hostile and will be dealt with accordingly."

He turned around, raised a thumb, and ran it across his throat to instruct the crew to the close the channel. Once he heard the tell-tale sign that comms had been closed, he instructed no one in particular, "How are we on scanning the Gaittithe? Tell me there's signs of life other than pirates over there."

Karn looked at his sensors. "Two hundred and sixteen, Captain," he said.

"And no way to tell who's who," Harvey muttered. "How about the radiation in the area? I imagine transporters are possible, but extremely limited."

"Aye, sir," said F'rar's replacement, Lieutenant Kemm, at the Engineering station. "Maximum range has been reduced to one-quarter of the distance. And any transports we do need to be in small groups." He turned to the Captain. "Transporting all of the survivors off the Gaittithe will take nearly a full day. Because of the radiation, we'll have the purge the transporter buffers after every thirty persons. Otherwise, we could cause patterns to distort."

"Fuck," Harvey muttered, shaking his head. "Then we'll need to secure the ship and crew in short order." He glanced at the viewscreen to see several of the pirate ships starting to leave the bay. "Commander Walsh, let the first couple of those go, but detain the stragglers."

"Copy that, Captain," said Terry. He notified the Squadron Lead to let the first couple of pirate ships get away. Then to do what they'd been trained to do in order to detain the others.

Turning to Mister Karn, Harvey added, "Implement SAR protocols. Get every shuttle we have ready to transport survivors."

"Yes, Sir," Karn said as he tapped his combadge and began to issue orders to the Security department.

"Bridge to sickbay," Harvey said, returning to his chair in the center of the bridge. "We're about to have two hundred people inbound for medical attention. No idea yet the extent of the wounded. Make preparations to receive."

Harvey closed the channel and leaned back in his chair. He sighed, an obvious sign of his displeasure. Duty and responsibility to his fellow officers was the first priority, but if it were up to him, he'd chase each and every one of these pirates to their hearth.

* * *

===[DujlIj Hegh, Bridge]===

The pirate ship was cloaked and just within the adjusted sensor range. Beeps sounded at Galar's console. The Nausicaan Head of Security swore and sent the data to the command chair where Veshku, the Orion First Mate was seated. She, in turn, swore even more and then sighed. She got up and went to Kelinor's office to notify him of the USS Black Hawk's appearance and announcement. He walked out followed by Veshku and looked at the viewscreen. Kelinor shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. He knew that Geisler's ship would be just as screwed as his was in this area, but it still wasn't a chance he was willing to take. And things were going so well with this salvage operation, too.

"Son of a bitch," said Kelinor. "Get us the hell out of here."

Veshku nodded. "Impulse speed," she said to the helm. "As soon as we're well outside of normal sensor range, warp us out. Follow this course." She leaned down and input coordinates into the helm.



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