It resembled a small rod from the distance; a silver tube ringed by a band of deuterium tanks, sensor nodes, and habitat modules around the middle, with a spiky forest of antennae clouding the north and south poles.
A Federation listening post, one of dozens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands. Alone in space.
“And then she says ‘why don’t we go back to your place…’”
Nestor put down his coffee and let out a slow whistle. “What’d you do?”
“She was a lithe, sensuous Orion dancing girl. What would you do?”
They both grinned. Nestor turned back to his sensor console. “The old me would…go to warp speed with her.”
Kollkith chuckled and turned back to his own console, sipping whatever passed for coffee among the Caitans. “And the new you?”
“Has a wife and kids and is very content…besides, my wife would kill me.”
A small, meek beep cut off Kollkith’s reply.
“What was that?” Nestor asked, furrowing a brow slightly. The hundreds of ships that passed through this sector rarely warranted a beep.
“Anomalous contact, Grid 54.”
Nestor keyed up the information on his own console. “I’ve got it. Resolution is…fuzzy. Something’s obscuring it. Velocity is high.”
“Pirate with a jammer?” It wouldn’t be the first time.
“I’m not sure…” Nestor shrugged and moved to the outpost’s small communications board. “Outpost 32-A to USS Finch, repeat O 32-A to Finch. Please confirm and ID anomalous contact 4409 moving through Grid 54. Repeat, confirm and ID AC4409 in G54. Out.”
He sat back down at his console, content the problem was solved.
How wrong he was.
The Finch was one of the many venerable, and vulnerable, Oberth-class starships still carrying out its duty to the Federation. She was one of the more dilapidated ones, still used only due to the Dominion War and resultant shortfall of usable vessels.
Never graceful in the first place, the ship was further marred by her oversized Constitution refit-type nacelles, which replaced her broken down original equipment.
Her captain hated her. Her crew hated her.
But she still worked, and that, to Fleet Command, was all that counted.
The young ensign stared at an outdated LCARS interface, reading the text as it scrolled across the screen.
The captain, a fairly young Andorian female, moved to stand behind him. “Yes, Ensign?”
“Redirect orders from Outpost 32-A.”
“Very well. Science, redirect full-band forward sensors to Grid 52. Saturate.”
Though she was old and rickety, the Finch was a dedicated scientific/survey vessel, and her sensor systems were still respectable, even by modern day standards. During the war, many had been used as reconnaissance platforms…and had been torn to shreds by Dominion fighters during their escapes. The memory of those events sent a chill up the captain’s spine.
“I’ve got it, Captain Furdq.”
A black box appeared on screen, with a green line sweeping up and down, constantly filling in information. Icons representing planets and ships appeared and refined, sometimes changing classification. A small, question mark icon was moving with speed across the center of the grid.
The screen zoomed in.
“Again,” the captain repeated, unable to make sense of the image. It appeared, larger on the screen, yet fuzzy. The green bar swept up the display, focusing the image. It was a ship, moving at high warp; both the streaking stars and their instruments told them as much.
“Orion’s belt!” someone cursed.
It was a grayish green, asymmetrical mass, almost like some sort of demented interstellar starfish.
It was a Breen warship.
“What’s its heading?”
That was a direct course for the Finch.
“Engineering, prepare to give me emergency warp power.” The Andorian’s antennae curled with controlled panic and fury. She hurried to her chair, issuing orders all the while. “Helm, plot course for the nearest starship.”
“USS Dragon, Akira-class.”
It’d splatter the Breen ship across the stars. The captain restrained a sadistic smile.
The cobbled together warp nacelles pushed against the fabric off space, and the Finch took flight.
In their hurry, none of the crew remembered to forward the sensor telemetry to the outpost.
Goldblum, the officer at Tactical, muttered curses under his breath.
“What!?” she demanded, panicking, and half expecting Breen warships to surround them immediately.
“Nothing big…that damn plasma leak acted up again…interference is obscuring long range sensor feeds.”
She breathed a sigh of relief. “How much farther until we reach the Dragon?”
“Call ahead-nom wait, the comm. is down too, right?”
He nodded glumly. Of course. Just great. Someday, someday she would have a glistening Sovereign-class. Or a deadly Prometheus. Or a massive but graceful Galaxy. Something that granted prestige and demanded respect. Someday…
It was, of course, illegible to most races. Rings of concentric circles that overrode other circles, all bisected by lines that littered the screen, sometimes wavy, often straight. But to those who could understand the Breen language, the words were chilling.
‘TARGETS ASSIGNED. FIRST PHASE IN PROGRESS.’ Then, a personal touch of the commander transmitting the message. ‘VENGEANCE BEGINS NOW.’
They had made it, she reflected. They would drop out of warp. The plasma clogging parts of the ship would disperse, and they’d regain their long range communication and detection capabilities. The Dragon would come to their aid, and smash the Breen warship with torpedo after torpedo. The renegade Breen ship threatening this area would be destroyed, before major damage to shipping could occur. She smiled grimly.
The Finch was just in time to see the Dragon hammered by well over a dozen disruptor blasts simultaneous. It keeled over, already bleeding flame. Escape pods vanished as small Breen fighters systematically eliminated them. The color drained from the captain’s blue face, just as the power would soon be forcibly drained from the Finch’s shields.
“Escape course!” She couldn’t believe it! This couldn’t be happening!
They turned away, to find themselves confronted by the very Breen frigate they had been fleeing. The helmsman jerked the ship violently to port, allowing several disruptor bolts to miss through the space between the engineering section and the saucer. The tactical officer even managed to fire a single, meek phaser blast.
Disruptor fire and torpedoes hammered the Finch, quickly taking down her shields as if they had been constructed of paper. Her nacelle pylons snapped. Windows melted and caved in. Whole bulkheads collapsed. The saucer tumbled down and crashed into the engineering hull, propelled by the force of torpedo detonations on her dorsal hull; one of which had flattened the bridge into a metallic pancake. She detonated shortly thereafter.
The communication transceiver had never came back online.
Nestor lay on the console limply, blood idly dribbling down his neck. Half the screens were fuzzy with static, or black; their feeds cut off, or their power supplies destroyed. Those that still functioned showed alarming Red Alert screens and the sight of three Breen vessels hammering the outpost. Acrid smoke curled in the air, diffusing the blood red light. Kollkith lay on the floor, his face a bloody mess.
Nestor reached, with what little strength he had, through the pain, through the air, through the sparks of damaged consoles. He could transmit the distress call. He had to. Farther. Centimeters. Yes, he could do it.
Fire engulfed the station.
The Breen warships turned away from the station almost casually before wheeling about with surprising agility. They quickly joined their comrades.
It had begun.