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Time is of the Essence

Posted on Sat Oct 9th, 2021 @ 10:01pm by Subcommander Kaiae t'Lien & Colonel Sehan t'Varis & Lieutenant Hatham tr'Krotash & Freya Mannerheim

Mission: Chapter V: The Calm Before The Storm
Location: Commander's Ready Room, Ourainavassa
Timeline: 238703.02

Raven was in the middle of reviewing some reports from engineering, when she heard the familiar noise of someone transporting into the room. Not expecting anyone to arrive in that manner, she immediately reached for her sabre, which was leaning against the side of her desk, until she recognised her surprise guest as Captain Mannerheim.

"Sorry for the sudden visit, but this can't wait," Freya stammered. "I just had a meeting with the admirals at Task Force HQ, and we immediately jumped here once we confirmed what they had told us."

The Captain did not look well. Dark circles under her eyes indicated a severe lack of sleep, her hair and uniform were messy, and the normally so carefully applied makeup was smudged. It was clear that there was bad news. The Colonel pointed at the sofa in the corner of the room. "Please, sit. Can I get you a coffee, or something stronger?"

Freya nodded. "I think after this, I need something strong. Are you familiar with the cocktail they call 'blue madness'"?

Raven chuckled. "Dark rum and Romulan Ale mixed in equal parts, yeah. That bad?"

She went over to the liquor cabinet next to her desk and poured the drink, handing it to the Captain before sitting down next to her. "What happened?"

Mannerheim necked half of the drink in one go, before taking a deep breath. "Okay, I needed that. It's been a hectic week since yesterday." She held up her hand before Raven could say anything. "Time travel, remember? Twenty-four hours ago, relative time, Greaves came to me in my office. She had analysed the images we had taken around the asteroid base where Vulture keeps the captured refugees. And she found this." She activated her holo-PADD, showing the images of the debris around the base. "Took me a moment to see it, but this is what's left of our sister ship, Discovery. Once we had verified that the debris is indeed from that ship, we jumped to headquarters and reported in. But it gets worse."

Raven shook her head. This was not good news. The fact that Vulture's people had detected and destroyed one of the ships in the task force could only mean one thing: they were now aware of the involvement of the time travellers.

"When I reported in," Freya continued after taking another sip from her drink, "the Admirals told me to hurry up the operation against Hobus. Our time scales have been off. Unless we react quickly, we expect a catastrophic event in about two months. I know, I also thought we had longer than that. I wanted to come here straight away and let you know, but then things escalated. Just as we were about to jump away, a Zhat Vash battle fleet arrived and attacked Task Force HQ. We were able to drive them off, but we took heavy casualties. The Amelia took heavy damage, and we had to transfer to a different ship. We lost four vessels in the fight, three Terran battlecruisers and a Federation timeship. Twenty-six of the Amelia's crew were killed."

The Colonel fell back into her seat. Things were definitely looking more dire than ever. "So... were you able to repair your ship, is that why you spent so long before jumping back here?"

Freya hung her head. "No. Look outside the window."

Raven did as she was told, and spotted a large, strange-looking ship docked next to the Ourainavassa. Its hull was of an angular design, and nearly black, except for some gold-coloured markings. On the side of the ship, its registry was painted in white. "I.S.S. Amelia, NCC-1939-F", the Colonel read out loud. "So, a new ship then?"

The Captain nodded. "Möbius-class temporal destroyer, retrofitted with a spore drive and cloaking capability. Originally commissioned as the Admiral Yamamoto, she was recommissioned because of the associations that name has in your universe."

"An impressive vessel. Hopefully that will give us the edge over our enemies." Raven sighed. "Has Ellie been able to figure out what our enemies are up to?"

Freya put her hand on Raven's shoulder. "Lieutenant Commander Ellie Greaves was killed during the battle, trying to help evacuate the lower decks. I'm sorry."

Raven was stunned. After spending years believing that Ellie was dead, only for her to return and break her trust, they had finally begun to repair some semblance of friendship. And now she was gone, for good. She shook her head. "No time to grieve. You say we have two months? Then we need to accelerate things."

She tapped her own badge. "Subcommander Kaiae, Lieutenant Hatham. Please report to my ready room at once."

Hatham had been preparing to meet with Kaiae and then head to Raven, but at the summons he had headed directly there. Coming through the door, he gave a Romulan salute. "Reporting as requested, Colonel."

Captain Mannerheim smiled at the salute, and, quickly standing up, responded to it with the Terran equivalent. "Lieutenant Hatham, good to see you again."

Raven simply nodded a greeting. "Yes, morning. Do you know if the Subcommander is on her way? She will also want to hear what the Captain just told me."

Hatham nodded. "I was on my way to meet her so I imagine she will be here shortly."

"Excellent." Mannerheim took another sip from her drink. "While we wait for the Subcommander, how are things on the James Bedford? Have you started defrosting its passengers?"

"The ship is space-worthy and we're working on getting a cloak installed," Hatham reported. "We've been reviving passengers selectively with the help of the doctor." It was nice to have one willing to put down trouble with a bat'leth if one turned out to be Tal'Shiar. "Fortunately they have checked out so far, and two are former Galae that some on our crew had served with and could vouch for."

The Captain sighed with relief. "That's the first good news I've heard in days. If you need any assistance, say the word and we'll have a few of our engineers over there in no time. Same goes for parts, if you need something you can't get, we'll get it to you before you even place the order." She chuckled at her own joke. "Well, not exactly, because paradoxes are a bitch, but you know what I mean."

"Understood, sir. And appreciated," Hatham replied. "We could use whatever tech you can offer without breaking the timeline that might give us an edge."

Mannerheim nodded. "I will arrange for the Chief Engineer to get in touch with you to discuss your requirements. Same goes for this ship. With the way the situation has developed, we need to be ready for anything."

Hatham nodded. "I'll have a list ready."

"Very good." Freya checked the chronometer behind the desk, and turned back to Raven and Hatham. "Your Subcommander is running quite late, and I do need to get back to my own ship. Lieutenant Hatham, would you mind if we proceeded? You can then relay the content of this meeting to your colleague."

As if cosmically summoned for the sheer irony; the doors opened again a moment later, admitting Kaiae, who in lieu of the salute Hatham had given gave a respectful dip of her head to Raven; then a calculatedly cautious one to Mannerheim. Given the mixed presence, she decided to say nothing at the moment about the fight she’d been delayed by breaking up at the time of the summons; though she was painfully aware she was undoubtedly lacking in the balance of somehow maintaining discipline among the personnel who she had inherited leadership of, while operating in an environment where the rules might be different for the man across the table. Twice over so for that matter with Mannerheim’s crew in the mix. The closest she had come to it before was during the war; when the Empire and the Klingons had both shared DS9 with Federation crew and officers, and their more tertiary allies like the Bajorans; four or more services in one small bar to drink; each with their own rules of behavior and their own consequences for breaching them. But she had been a junior officer, then; bound to obey and to ensure that of those she outranked; but not to consider or amend the policies themselves. And from the look on Mannerheim’s face, hard as it might be to read humans sometimes, she had the distinct sense that their day was about to go further astray.

Raven chuckled at the irony of the situation as Kaiae walked in. "You should have said that earlier, Captain. Somehow you have summoned her here through the universal sense of humour."

Freya shrugged. "Or maybe the Subcommander was on her way but something needed her direct and immediate attention. Either way, it is good to see you, Subcommander. Please, both of you, take a seat," she added, pointing at the sofa Raven was still sat on, and returning to her seat herself as Raven rolled her eye at how the Terran Captain had ursurped her authority in the room. She did not, however, protest.

Once everyone had been seated, Freya continued. "First, Subcommander, let me catch you up on what has been discussed while we were waiting for you. Lieutenant Hatham has given me a quick update on the status on the James Bedford, and I will instruct my Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Commander Pogue, to provide any assistance she is able to speed up the repair and refit of the vessel. As I said to the Colonel before we called this meeting, a lot has transpired in what has for you been less than 24 hours. In that time, thanks to time travel, my crew and I spent a week at our headquarters."

She picked up her glass, but found it to be empty. Without as much as a nod, Raven took it, and went to get the Captain a refill, while she continued.

"While we were scouting the reported location of where Vulture is reported to be holding the refugees, we found a small debris field along with the installation we expected, which we found to be quite well-protected. Later analysis of our scans of this debris revealed the identity of one of the destroyed ships. Our sister ship, I.S.S. Discovery. I immediately ordered us back to headquarters to report this to the admirals in charge of the task force."

While she spoke, Raven had finished mixing another drink, which she placed in front of Freya, as well as some ale for Hatham and Kaiae.

Freya took a sip from her drink and nodded her thanks. "However, as grave as the news of that loss may be, it was not the only thing discussed at that meeting. Analysis of various timelines by the task force has given us a rough date of the event we aim to prevent. We have nine weeks." She paused to let the words sink in. "When we left command, a small number of Zhat Vash vessels arrived and attacked. Four ships were destroyed before we could drive them off. The Amelia was damaged beyond repair, with the loss of twenty-six crew, including Lieutenant Commander Ellie Greaves. Given the severity of the situation, the admirals have seen fit to recommission a new Amelia, a a ship much more geared towards combat operations rather than scientific analysis."

She took a breath as she finished her report, and leaned back in her seat. "So, there we have it. The Zhat Vash know of the Task Force's involvement, and we have much less time to act than we had hoped. Which means we need to speed up our plans. Including both the liberation of the refugees and the evacuation of civilians from Romulus."

9 weeks The news hit Hatham like a punch in the gut, perhaps harder since few could punch him hard enough to have the effect of that news. He downed the ale. "We will have to make some changes in our plans," he said, more to Kaiae than anyone else. "The Galae among the refugees can pilot the hospital ship. We'll bring in those our own have vouched for, and Qowat Milat novice - she'll be little good handling a ship, but she should be trustworthy, and we'll need an honest report on Oriens Delta."

"You'll get that." Kaiae said dryly; using years or decades of trained response to cover any reaction or initial reflex, no matter how shocked or strong; the survival skills of a Galae comms officer, who might frequently find herself caught between the orders of her commander, the Tal Shiar, the Tal Diann, the Senate, the admiralty...all demanding things mutually exclusive, and perhaps imparting information quite confidential and shocking in the process. And in that trained instinct, the opposite of that impressed upon the Qowat Milat; who would have had little issue with telling each of those parties to, in human parlance, "go straight to hell" if that was what was required.

Processing information while using that initial, bland reaction as cover for the time was another such skill; but in this case the time didn't do much to work through or mitigate Kaiae's initial reaction to the revelation; a shock more poignant than what had come over her the night Areinnye had sought her to pledge to this cause, or even than when the words Zhat Vash had crossed their notice for the first time in something other than myth and legend.

"There is little time to be spent in any endeavor not strictly required, then, before moving on such efforts." An acerbic voice at the back on Kaiae's mind mixed dark humor with the otherwise overwhelming shock and despair that had almost overtaken her; observing that if the timeline was accurate, they would have had little trouble getting a veritable phalanx of Qowat Milat to sign onto their cause had they been available; for the odds of success had just perhaps joined the most vaunted of old fables in the textbook definition of an impossible lost cause. "Is there any other information of note?"

Freya shook her head. "Not for now. Be advised, however, that while the previous Amelia was a science and scouting vessel, our new ship is primarily geared for combat. More heavily armed, faster, stronger shields. We also continue to have the displacement activated spore hub drive at our disposal. However, we no longer have the ability to cloak, and our scientific equipment is much less than before. Still, with the mission parameters as they are now, I believe that is for the better. We also have more space for cargo and passengers, so, should you require our assistance in the evacuation operation, we would be more than happy to help."

"Do you simply lack the power available to do so?" One of Kaiae's eyebrows rose somewhat at the pronouncement--that a ship designed for combat should mean redesigning it to remove the ability to cloak was beyond foreign towards inconceivable. "Our engineering crews may well be able to retrofit the ability." She was still far from certain she trusted Mannerheim and her crew; but the new timeline was a new level of desperation, as well; placing their backs squarely against the wall in that way which went beyond even that of those with nothing left to lose: Those with just one thing left to lose; and the singular focus and drive that enured.

"The Möbius-class was simply not designed with such a device in mind. With the spore drive fitted into it, which wasn't intended in the original design either, the power grid is under enough strain as it is. Remember, Subcommander, that the engineers who built her have almost five hundred years more technology at their disposal. And I believe they are currently working on a possible solution. Once it has been found, we will jump back for retrofit." Freya smiled, surprised at the co-operative mood in the Subcommander. "Regardless, our stock in fuel for the spore drive is highly limited at present, and using it to jump across time and into a different timeline, as well as different spatial co-ordinates, takes a lot of it. I'd rather make do without a cloak than without the spore drive."

For perhaps the first time in her mere four decades of life, this pronouncement or those like it actually made some degree of sense to Kaiae as she gave a brief nod of acquiescence to the point; the choice of a quick, powerful strike or abilities likewise over a careful, calculated one; with her own focus of effort and disregard of consequences narrowed so sharply and suddenly on the latest news that she would quite well perhaps have agreed to sell the specs to the cloak, the singularity core, and the entire Mogai class outright on the Ferengi auction circuit if she thought doing so would save as many of their people as possible. Who are you in the dark? went another human saying she had encountered during the war. She was rapidly discovering the answer was rather more shocking than she had expected, in her own case.

"Then we'll take the cloak for the hospital ship," Hatham cut in. He nodded to Mannerheim. "Ideally we won't need anything as last minute and dramatic as a spore drive ship popping in and out to rescue our families, but I appreciate you making the option available. For now, I need to comm several contacts and push our timeline forward." Looking at Kaiae, he added. "We need to reach out the chef's friends too and inform them there's been a change in timeline and priorities."

Freya nodded. "I will be sure to remain on stand-by once you launch your operation. Like you said, just in case."

Raven smiled, happy to see the Romulans and the Terran actually working together. "If needed, the Ourainavassa would of course also be available for support. I am sure we can figure out a way to mask our warp signature so they don't immediately figure out who we are. Or provide a distraction."

"Thank you. I believe by the standards of your species--" Kaiae dipped her head ever-so-slightly towards Freya "--we are about to be rather rude, but given this information we must move rapidly." She gave a brisk, firm glance to Hatham, tilting her chin again ever-so-slightly towards the door, an equally firm but carefully measured nod at Raven...And headed for the door with swift efficiency, not bothering to look back or await a response.


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