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A turn for the worse

Posted on Thu May 30th, 2013 @ 5:28am by Lieutenant Commander David Burkeson & Lieutenant Commander Soraya Delrisa & Lieutenant Lissan zh'Zarath & Civilian Haqtaj Matlh

Mission: Part of the Team
Location: Conference room

Harrison sat at the head of the conference table, his hands clasped loosely on the table in front of him.

“As of this moment, we are on yellow alert. I have received word from Starfleet on a secure channel of a build-up of Cardassian forces along the frontier. It is not what they would term a major build-up but by Cardassian standards these days it is significant.

“The reason we have been alerted is that the Cardassian military might be ready to make good on their threats to retake Roark Nor. I am reliably informed that tensions have recently arisen between the civilian government and the military with both sides jockeying for position.

“There is also the thought in Starfleet’s mind that we are all that lies between the Cardassian Union and Trill. A forceful push across the frontier here could see Cardassians push on to Trill before Starfleet could react. Latest analysis of Cardassian capability suggests that if they do attempt such a move, it would be more of a hit and run mission that a sustained attack. However, I think we are all aware,” he added coldly, “of both the strengths and limitations of our Intelligence services.”

From across the table Counsellor O'Reily rested his arms upon the table edge fighting the urge to shake his head at the information Harrison was sharing. It was hard at times to remember the large picture that continued to stir outside the station and in the Quadrant beyond. Life immersed in the problems of others didn't much scope in his professional inlet. To him, a victim of war at a young age, there was always another force filled with purpose of gain and bloodlust ready to take everything uninvited.

“Major Finn, you want to know what our defences are like." Harrison continued. "You might get to find out the hard way. Your marines are going to be kept occupied for a while. If this does blow up in our faces it will be boarding parties more than ground assault but who’s to say how this will pan out.”

"Understood." Finn said, "I have some reinforcements en route. We'll be getting in a MET in shortly and, over the next few weeks, I hope to build it up to a full MEU in strength, We don't have the starship resources to properly deploy an MEU as a unit but it will strongly bolster the system defenses when in place. There's also a battalion at Starbase 623 that can combat load onto available starships in less than twenty-four hours and be here in less than a week."

“Very good. Please advise the battalion to place themselves in ready status. Hopefully we won’t need them but a week might prove a long time. If they have to prepare to move out, I’d prefer that be done now. Oh and Major, no jargon, please. What is an MET and an MEU?”

"MET stands for 'Marine Expeditionary Team'." Finn replied, "It is a multi-mission unit designed primarly for integration with a working starship and consists of an infantry platoon reinforced with a flight of fighters, one of shuttles or runabouts and a small joint headquarters element. This greatly expands the mobility and independant operating capacity of the platoon. There is some variance based on assignment, but the one enroute here now has four Javilen Class and a pair of Arrow Class runabouts. Seventy two personnel total."

"An MEU, or 'Marine Expeditionary Unit', is the same concept expanded to the company level. In this case, an infantry company is reinforced with a composite wing consisting of two squadrons of fighters, one squadron of runabouts plus a few specialty and administrative craft. It's a significant force, between 500 and 600 personnel total and 50-60 craft, which is more than we can base on the station of course. Odds are we won't have a full MEU in-system at any given time however. They are designed to split into METs and we'll likely have at least half of that force assigned to area starships at any given time. Also, like all Marines, they are trained and equipped to operate from limited field-basing situations. There's a rapid-deployment Starfleet Corps of Engineers unit preparing to deploy here to begin building off-station housing for the refugees anyway, so constructing some field facilites for additional troops will not be an issue."

“Thank you, Major,” Harrison replied. Jargon was a pet hate of his but Finn’s explanation was succinct and not weighed down with a plethora of extraneous information like that of many experts anxious to show off their knowledge. For that small mercy, Harrison was thankful. “May I leave the organisation with you?” he asked, deeming that a more tactful approach than a direct order. “This is your field of expertise and I think marines would feel better about being bossed around by one of their own, rather than a Starfleet officer.”

“Commander Burkeson," turning his attention once again. “I am not willing to place myself or the lives of the people on this facility in the hands of Intelligence. You will be my eyes and ears. I don’t want any precipitate action...” Harrison offered Finn a steely gaze and he said this... “Starfleet was specific about that. They want to know what’s going on while they try to open a dialogue with the Cardassian government. It might be purely an exercise in sabre rattling.” Again he turned to Finn. “I don’t think so or, at least, I’m not prepared to assume so.”

"Well Sir, being a dedicated warship, a Defiant showing up is perceived as precipitate action often enough," Burkeson said. "I could plan a close-in patrol of the border nearest DS12, close enough to get them curious about what I'm doing there. When someone shows up to inquire, I could try to chat them up. Would that suffice?"

“Do it. You can use the excuse of smuggler activity, if you need one. I’ll provide you with written orders to that effect. In fact, I suggest you use it as an excuse for chatting the Cardassians up: ask them if they’ve seen any suspicious activity, that sort of thing. Advise them that we have received reports of small, fast craft crossing into Cardassian space as a short cut to the Ferengi Alliance where they’re disposing of contraband. Tell them they might see some more Federation ships around for a while but assure them they need not be alarmed; it’s only what you might call a police action.”

The sheer mention of the smugglers bought a instant clear picture into O'Reily's mind, he blinked and brushed his temples to clear the image before it offered him a tempting distraction.

“Lieutenant zh’Zarath, your people need to keep Starfleet appraised of all developments. Therefore, they need to be ready at a moment’s notice. Normal shifts will apply for now but that could change very quickly.

"Aye, Sir, I'll see to that," Lissan replied.

“Lieutenant TriMar, how are you coming with repairs to what passes as our fleet?”

Jar'Ho grunted, "The Steadfast is at ninety-seven percent, the Discovery is at seventy-five percent. The rest of them average between fifty and sixty percent. The ships will be fully combat ready in three weeks."

“Make it quicker. I want a show of force of our own ready before we need it. If the Cardassians cross the border our rag-tag bunch of pop guns will be of little use. What I plan to do is take a leaf out of Robert E. Lee’s book. We’re going to parade our ships in front of their noses as if we have many more available than we actually do. But we need them out in space to achieve that.

"You'll have your ships and in better shape than most Klingon vessels prior to battle."

“Commander Delrisa. You might be losing your new doctor sooner than expected. I think Doctor Mollington will be needed on the Steadfast. Or, rather, I hope he will not be needed there but that is where he will be best placed in the short term. I know Major Finn has his own team of field medics but a physician will be worth his wait in gold. For you, though comes none of the glory. I need you here. We still have a large population here with all that entails medical wise."

With the pending threat Nick was relived to hear Soraya would be staying on the station in relative safety.

Soraya nodded and made a notation on her padd. "We have twenty-two beds in use now, Commander. I may need to commandeer more bedspace or set up another clinic on the dock if we have an influx of wounded. We still have three teams of first responders who were trained for the Romulan refugee crisis," the doctor said.

Harrison nodded acknowledgement of the reply. “Do you know of any trained medical people among the Romulans?” he asked. “Personnel details are sketchy at best as many arrived with no papers and the influx was so great and so fast that only rudimentary checks were done back on Qualor.”

The doctor smiled wryly. "I'm still building relationships among the refugees and some are more suspicious than others, but I will make enquiries," she said.

“The same goes for you, Counselor O’Riely. There are going to be some very concerned people around here. They have long memories and the Dominion War was not all that long ago. Rumours are likely to spread like wildfire. I need you to keep and lid on tensions.”

Fixing the Commander with a steady gaze Nick nodded, "I understand, I do what I can sir."

“Lastly, Madame Ambassador, but by no means least. At this stage, the High Council has not been informed of developments. I would therefore appreciate it if you keep this to yourself. We are a long way from the Empire and it is not expected that events here will impact it."

Haqtaj looked surprised but nodded. "I see no reason to report on every minor squabble or fleet movement the Federation undertake. However, if this should escalate..."

"Rest assured that if the Cardassians cross in force and strike into the heart of the Federation then messages will be sent."

Haqtaj nodded again. "In the mean time, I will appraise our capabilities of a defensive stance. It will require the interruption and redirection of Romulan refugees. For the moment though, I would like to see the flow of ships to and from the base remain high. If The Cardassians are aware that a Nebula, Galaxy or even D'deridex could drop in on us at any moment, I think this will give them pause. Though when they do come, it will be in force."

“On the assumption that they will be monitoring us, that is a good suggestion. Would your Uncle ‘Ro be able to pay you a visit? Even an old B’rel is better than nothing.”

Haqtaj shrugged, "He is in the area. I will ask. I believe the Ghojrup is close as well. If I ask too many to visit, though, someone will ask why."

“Understood. Equally we do not want to alert the Cardassians. Too many sudden visits would look suspicious. However, Lieutenant TriMar's presence here will provide excuse enough in the short term.”

“Alright, people, inform your teams. We need to move on this. If the Cardassians are planning something, they are not going to wait on our convenience while we get ourselves ready.”

"Commander?" Burkeson said, looking up from the PADD he'd been working on since his earlier exchange with Harrison, "I've just been working on that route plan and something occurred to me. It might behoove us to reinforce the border surveillance satelites with a probe lattice to monitor the satellites themselves. The Cardassians monitor and test our satellite network routinely and probably know a few gaps, just as we know some of the ones on their side. A fresh network of small, low visibility mobile sensor platforms could close those holes. If we set the lattice a quarter light year back from the border and program their patrol tracks correctly, we should be able to do it with seventy MK2214 space surveillance probes. Clearly, we won't have than many here at the station, but if they could be procured before I leave, Steadfast could carry and lay them during the patrol. That would still leave me twenty warshots for self defense, which isn't great but an acceptable trade-off."

"Of course..." he added, "I wouldn't be upset if I could hook up with someone at the far end of the patrol and top off my magazines for the trip back."

"I can arrange that," Finn said, preempting Harrison. "I'll have the probes here in three days, if that and I'll work on a resupply option."

Burkeson glanced uneasily at Harrison then, after an awkward pause, replied quietly, "Thank you, Major."

Serge waited till most of the group were moving off before sidling up next to Harrison, "Um... excuse me, sir... didn't like to mentinon it before but... shouldn't we be preparing evacuation contingencies? I mean if the Cardassians do show up in force, we aren't actually going to fight them are we?"

Major Finn would probably prefer it if we did, Harrison thought sourly. “No, Lieutenant, we are not. Contingencies need to be prepared but do it quietly. I don’t want our guests getting spooked. They have been through enough without the threat of another evacuation to places unknown hanging over their heads. However, when you have a plan in place, run some drills. With this many people on board, we would need to be prepared for all contingencies anyway. Just call them fire drills or something like that."

Serge sighed in relief, "Yes, sir!"


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