Most of the ten officers in the conference room weren’t used to being there, junior officers not privy to senior staff meetings normally briefed by their department heads. That alone was enough for the room to be a bustling hive of muttering and discussion, and the promise of an inter-department priority assignment with select officers kept that discussion alive.
It also meant almost nobody looked up when Kharth walked in, with Lieutenant Thawn as the sole exception. But neither woman made eye contact as Kharth headed for the top of the table, trying to ignore her own trepidation at claiming the seat normally reserved for Captain Rourke or at least Commander Valance. Dathan was sat at her right, across from Thawn, with her stack of PADDs spilling in front of the head seat, but without looking up she swept them back up at Kharth’s arrival.
The security chief stopped at the top table and cleared her throat. When that didn’t stop the hubbub, she rolled her eyes and clapped. “Hey! Listen up! Yeah, you’re in the conference room, but the captain has better things to do than brief you lot.”
Mostly the officers look chastised as they fell silent, the silent Thawn somehow the most abashed. Dathan had a slightly indignant eyebrow raised, but Kharth was surprised to see the most defiance in the eyes of Drake, sat next to her and folding his arms across his chest.
“I’m sure shore leave was great,” Kharth pressed on. “But you got it as a luxury and that’s over. We’ve got work. You’ve all read the situation report and if you haven’t, get out of my briefing room.”
Drake rolled his eyes. “Yeah, we read it. We’re not seven.”
She chose to ignore him. “We’ll be deploying all our shuttles and the runabout on this operation to sweep the system, following the sensor readings we’ve traced so far of possible D’Ghor locations and activities. This is going to be the sort of work demanding intense attention to detail through hours of boredom, and then if it goes wrong it’s going to be highly violent. This is why you’ll be deployed with paired flight-teams, so each pilot has a co-pilot for sensor analysis, combat flight, and, you know. Company.”
“Get ready for a lot of dull card games,” Drake drawled.
“Get ready to stare at repetitive sensor scans for hours as you move from place to place and find nothing 99% of the time, because if you blink you might miss that 1% and someone dies,” Kharth snapped. “Now, Captain Rourke and Lieutenant Dathan consulted data from the Odyssey and Discovery and with our CIC whipped our a search pattern for all of our teams.” She thumbed her PADD to bring up the three-dimensional map of the Haydorian System, lit up with possible hot-spots and the flight routes.
“Which is, what,” said Drake. “Five Endeavour teams and thirty from Odyssey? Yeah, we’re gonna make an essential contribution.”
“Thirty-four if they deploy their runabouts,” murmured Thawn.
“Thanks; my point wasn’t made without that addition.”
“It’s more like… four and a half,” Kharth said, finally wrong-footed. “The Percival is still out on Commander Valance’s operation. They’ll be given a part of the sweep to scan and observe from their place in orbit of Haydorian IVc. Their operation should conclude within forty-eight hours, at which point they’ll step in.”
“Good,” said Drake. “I was worried we were going to be a pimple on the backside of this operation, but knowing that the Percival might bring us up to full-strength will really turn the tide.”
“Did you wipe out on the slopes and make an idiot of yourself in front of everyone on shore leave, Drake, or are you desperate for that experience in the middle of my briefing?” Kharth snapped. “D’Ghor are in the system. They’re a threat to the array’s construction. Can it, and listen.”
She cleared her throat as he lifted his hands and settled back. “Lieutenant Dathan will be staying on Endeavour and liaising from the CIC, from where Captain Rourke will also have operational command. Our four flight teams are as follow: Drake and Athaka on the King Arthur, Arys and T’Kalla on the Lancelot, Starik and Shikar on the Bedivere, Yorand and Juarez on the Galahad.” This almost drained the Flight Control Department dry, but Captain Rourke had agreed that the Gamma Shift officers would serve well enough on Endeavour to assist the final stages of repairs and the necessary calibrations of flight systems. She’d intended to pair experience with inexperience, and most of the inexperience came from Drake’s department – but his latest attitude was making her wonder about pairing him up with the mild-mannered Athaka.
But Drake’s eyes were turning on her and Thawn. “And you two will be sunning yourselves while we’re out there?”
“Myself and Lieutenant Thawn will be on the Aquarius with the command team from the Odyssey. It’ll be operating as a mobile command base for the shuttles to feed data back, which we then relay in update packages to Endeavour’s CIC. Plus, rapid response.” Thawn looked about as displeased as Kharth was with this pairing, but there really was nobody better on board for analysing and packaging large chunks of data, especially if it was being sent to the CIC whose systems Thawn was intimately familiar.
Drake glanced between them. “Grand plan,” he said, in a voice too neutral for her to call him out on sarcasm, his meaning painfully transparent.
She ignored him and looked to the other flight teams. “Your search patterns have been sent to you and the shuttles, which Chief Koya has got prepped. This could be several days of work, so be prepared for close-quarters living. And remember.” Kharth looked up and down at all of them. “Let’s not make idiots of ourselves in front of the Odyssey. Questions?”
Thankfully it was T’Kalla who rolled her eyes. “Got your priorities in order there, I see, Ell-Tee. What’s our engagement protocol?”
“Confirm to the Aquarius if you have a point of interest, scope it out, request permission before confronting. We might have situations with loose warriors on planetary surfaces, so in some cases we’ll want you monitoring and following while backup comes in. Take action only with direct permission, or if there’s an immediate threat to life.”
“Or if we’re really sure we can take them and beg forgiveness later,” said Drake.
That was always the rule, but she wasn’t going to give him that freedom. “If that’s all, then you have your instructions. Get to your ships.”
The flight teams left, and Dathan stacked her PADDs as she stood. “I’ll of course be in the CIC, immediately available on comms. I know Lieutenant Thawn knows how to package data so the CIC processes it ASAP, but prioritise getting me that information. I can multi-task.” She hesitated. “I wouldn’t normally ask. You’re confident on your flight team for the King Arthur?”
Before she could think, Kharth had glanced at a Thawn who was still needlessly studying her PADD. She looked back. “You mean, Drake’s got something itching under his skin right now and it’s concerning? I’m going to assume he’s grumpy he missed out on shore leave for what’s likely to be very boring.”
“Boring, but duty.” It was the most emotion Kharth had heard from Dathan, and despite being predisposed to take against the Strategic Operations Officer, she had to agree with the sentiment.
Dathan left, and Thawn stood slowly, hesitantly. “Lieutenant…”
“Something you need for mission prep before we head to the Aquarius, Lieutenant?” Kharth asked coldly. After another heartbeat’s hesitation, Thawn shook her head. “Thought not. Pack up and I’ll see you there.” Kharth headed for the door, but with a bitter taste in her throat she had to toss back, “Just remember to bring your spine on this mission, right?”