The gentle hiss followed by the soft bump noise indicated that the Aquarius was finally docked back in its aft compartment of the Odyssey. Separating with another calm hiss, the airlock unlocked and allowed for Commander Duncan to step through, followed by the crew he had taken. A round of applause and cheers erupted in the docking port as the group entered. Standing in the centre of the room, with Commander Hunsen and Doctor Slyvexs was Captain McCallister. The captain was joining in with the rest of his crew applauding Duncan and those he led. Still not looking one-hundred percent, the captain stepped forward to offer his congratulations to his counsellor with a firm handshake.
“Welcome home and congratulations Max.” McCallister said with a proud smile on his face. He looked tired and the colour in his face hadn’t completely returned, but thanks to Slyvexs’ amazing treatment he was back in his uniform and standing before them.
Surprised but happy to see his commanding officer off from the bio-bed where he last left him, Duncan shook McCallister’s hand in return. “Thank you sir, but you didn’t need the cheerleading squad for our return.”
“Absolutely not, from what I’ve heard the teams from Odyssey and Endeavour have done a fantastic job.” McCallister answered back. “You’ve not only saved our ship, our crew but rid an enemy from our own backyard. That’s an impressive feat. I’ll be placing commendations in your service record.”
“I appreciate it sir, but it was a team effort.” Duncan said, he looked over his shoulder and saw T’Rani quietly exiting with Doctor Slyvexs. It was obvious she was taking T’Rani to go and see her husband’s body.
Commander Hunsen stepped forward and congratulated his friend with a pat on the shoulder. “Well done Max.”
“Thanks Tremt.” He said back to the chief engineer. “I take it the Odyssey is almost repaired?”
Nodding in answer, Hunsen gave him a brief update. “We no longer have a massive hole in our side and a majority of systems are back up and running. Those left are undergoing final diagnostics along with a few tweaks here and there.”
Looking back to his captain, “I take it you’ve been fit to return to duty then sir?”
“Absolutely and I hear that a certain fleet emergency program was used in my absence?” McCallister jovially questioned.
“Ah yes.” Duncan said with a slight smirk. “I take it you want the ship back?”
“Indeed.” McCallister affirmed. “If Acting Captain Duncan is happy to transfer command codes.”
“Computer, this is Acting Captain Max Duncan. Deactivate Emergency Fleet Access Program Alpha-One-Alpha authorisation Duncan-four-seven-delta-romeo.” Duncan said allowed.
“Voice authorisation confirmed.” The computer replied. “Command codes have been transferred to Captain James Preston McCallister.”
McCallister smirked as power was transferred back to him. “Computer this is Captain James Preston McCallister, reporting for duty and resuming command of the U-S-S Odyssey, authorisation McCallister-one-four-alpha-tango.”
“Voice authorisation confirmed.” The computer replied. “This ship is now under the command of Captain James Preston McCallister.”
“I relieve you Commander Duncan.” McCallister said, shaking his counsellor’s hand again.
Shaking it again, Duncan smiled at the bittersweet moment. “I stand relieved sir.”
Looking around at the room, McCallister ordered everyone to be dismissed but kept both Max and Tremt nearby. “Max, I’m still not one-hundred percent and with both Karyn and Bexa both still in sickbay, I’m going to be needing a first officer. Seeing as you’ve dealt with most of what has happened recently, I’d be foolish not to have you by my side. Do you mind?”
“I’ll be honoured to do so sir.” Duncan smiled with appreciation of the captain recognising his efforts.
“Good.” McCallister said, pleased with the response. “Tremt has got me up to date with the repairs but I believe Captain Bennet wishes to discuss with us and others in the system our next game move.” McCallister indicated for them to depart from the large room.
As they entered the corridor, Duncan looked at his comrades. “Is the array finally online?”
Hunsen confirmed that. “Discovery and Shackleton finished the assembly about an hour ago. Along with that we’ve had other ships from the task force arrive to provide further support. They’re all at the moment deploying the weapon platforms that will protect the array.”
Making their way into a turbolift, the captain ordered for their cart to take them up to deck one – the bridge. “Any more problems with Governor Thelis?”
Shrugging his shoulders, the captain now answered. “I’m assuming Captain Bennet is in discussions with him and will update us shortly.”
The turbolift, being so fast, soon arrived at the bridge. Stepping out onto the bridge the three men were greeted with more formality as Senior Chief Petty Officer Court rose from the captain’s chair and announced their entrance, “Captain on the bridge!”
“As you are.” McCallister said, as he slowly made his way over to where Court was. “Report Tobias.” He ordered as he took his chair.
“All of our shuttles and runabouts have returned to us. Their crews are currently being checked over by sickbay before being allowed to return to duty.” Court shared. “The dockmaster has also given us permission to disembark.”
“I’m sure the governor would be happy to see us leave his dry-docks.” Duncan remarked as he took the chair that Commander Cambil normally sat in.
Court took the seat that Duncan would have to the captain’s left. “I’m not so sure that sentiment is shared with the engineers and crews from both shipyards.”
“What makes you say that Tobi?” Duncan asked.
“Let’s just say I had a chance to speak to a number of them, including the yard’s lead engineer and I don’t think the governor is as popular as we originally imagined.” Court stated.
“Well let’s leave Haydorian politics to the people of Haydorian.” McCallister said. He looked down at the helm and felt it was different not seeing T’Rani at the controls. Instead Lieutenant Jimes Goran, the Zaldan man who was T’Rani’s deputy, sat at the helm instead. Looking beyond his huge muscular and broad shoulders, the captain could see his webbed fingers ready to go.
“Lieutenant Goran, take us out of the dry-docks so we can rendezvous with the Discovery.” McCallister ordered.
Goran nodded and replied with an ‘aye sir’. The mighty Odyssey pushed itself through the docks orbiting Haydorian and was released from the constraints of the shipyard.
“We are clear sir of the Haydorian docks.” announced Goran. “Course laid into the Discovery.”
“Ahead full impulse.” McCallister commanded as he placed both hands on either arm of his chair. “Engage!”
Even though they could have all met via the use of holographic communication, Captain Bennet had insisted on everyone meeting in-person on his ship to discuss their upcoming situation. Sat around the large circular table in Discovery’s conference room were all of the captains that Bennet was currently working with. Discovery’s conference room was almost square-shaped in size with a set of three ceiling to floor windows set on an inwards curve looking out at the ship’s aft portfolio. The colour scheme of dark blues and reds ran through the decor, as one wall held the small golden models of the various past ships named Discovery hanging in glass cabinets. While on the opposite wall hung a huge monitor screen with various smaller ones around it. A wide console sat underneath, allowing for anyone to access the ship’s computer and input data into whatever they were presenting. A few plants dotted around the edge along with an impressive painting of the current Discovery was on display.
Captain McCallister and Commander Duncan were the last officers to arrive, seeing as the former had just recovered from his encounter with the Hunters and his counsellor had to assume command, it seemed appropriate for both men to be in attendance. As they took their seats, Commander Duncan smirked at his mother who was sitting on the opposite side to where he was and she returned a similar gesture. Once everyone had quieten down, Bennet spoke up.
Sat at the head of the table, which was a spot that had the inward curved windows behind it, the task force leader spoke up. “Ladies and Gentlemen, since our first gathering I am pleased to report that the Archanis Array is now fully functional and the rest of the detection grid along the border is working. Already we’ve been able to divert civilian traffic away from potential enemy ships approaching them and some ships from Task Group Twenty Seven have been able to remove others who have launched attempted incursions into Federation territory. However we have received some disturbing reports of a much larger D’Ghor force heading into the sector.” Pausing he looked over to the commanding officer of the Endeavour, “I’m going to hand over this next part of the briefing to Captain Rourke from the Endeavour to share what we have been informed and what his crew has discovered.”
Rourke stood, and picked up his PADD so he could flick his records of the sector movements to the conference room’s main display. “My Strategic Operations Officer has been monitoring reports from Admiral Beckett’s office. The long and short of it is that a D’Ghor force was picked up heading for Legera as part of the anticipated pending assault. When that force was next detected, it was much smaller in size.”
He tapped the PADD again, bringing the display zooming into the proximity of the Haydorian system. “If the analysis of sensor telemetry from a nearby civilian ship is correct – and I trust Lieutenant Dathan’s professional judgement, she was Admiral Beckett’s strategic advisor for a year – then what broke off from that force headed for Legera is heading here. Obviously they’re travelling in cloak, so our detection is imperfect, and it’s hard to know their numbers for sure. We initially anticipated at least a half-dozen Birds-of-Prey, but my Chief Science Officer actually suggests doubling that. Which could be fewer but larger ships. We expect the Array is their priority, or they’ll struggle to make further advances into Federation territory even if they prevail at Taldir, Archanis, and Legera.”
Listening to the captain’s information, it was clear that their efforts in the Haydorian system were far from over. Captain Nicola Duncan, the skipper of the Tereshkova, was the first one to speak up after Rourke’s presentation. “So I take it we’re not leaving here anytime soon?” She asked rhetorically. “Do we have any educated guesses on what else they may try to attack, besides the array?”
Bennet shook his head. “Not concrete enough to be certain but our best guesses are the Haydorian docks as well.”
Commander Duncan flashed a look to Captain McCallister before speaking up. “Is Governor Thelis aware?”
“He is.” Bennet answered. “He has agreed to spare the two Andorian Imperial Guard ships to help us in defending the system. They will be positioned close to the docks.”
“If anything we’ve seen from the Hunters, they are persistent in their objectives.” stated Captain Corbin of the Shackleton. The Betazoid captain scratched the stubble under his chin as he carried on talking. “Can we expect any back-up arriving?”
“Only one more ship, the U-S-S Ni’Var.” Bennet replied.
“The Ni’Var?” Canção repeated. “She’s an Akira-class and an all Vulcan crew if memory serves me correctly. In fact I know Captain S’Tella well but is she bringing a squadron of fighters with her or shuttles?”
Bennet had already spoken to the Vulcan woman earlier that day. “The former.” He knew hearing that a small squadron of Starfleet’s finest pilots would help. “She’s got a full complement of Valkyrie-class fighters.”
McCallister looked over to Rourke. “Captain, are we aware of any other moves by the D’Ghor? We know from Odyssey’s teams those Hunters they encountered it was mentioned more than once they were showing their brothers and sisters where to target.”
“That seems likely,” Rourke confirmed. “The good news is that most of those dispersed D’Ghor teams have been targeted and eradicated, though there is the possibility their radio transmissions will be intercepted by the strike force. It seems they were looking for weakly-defended sites which could be struck for maximum carnage: surface settlements, mining stations. Those in proximity to the Array and in the system core have, to the best of our knowledge, been found and destroyed. However.” He drew a deep breath. “At-risk locations on the system periphery are more likely to have a D’Ghor team in position, able to bring strike force ships to them and maybe even help an assault. My expectation is that though the Array will be their priority, some of their ships will try to hit these isolated civilian targets, some of them hours away from each other even at full impulse.”
Rourke shrugged as the scope of the danger became apparent. “It’s as brutal a plan as you’re afraid: They’ll hope to spread out our defences, draw them away from the Array, and punish us with the slaughter of civilians if we hold our ground.”
Speaking for the first time since the meeting started, Captain Thrian agreed with Rourke’s words. “Even with Haydorian’s planetary shielding, its ground-based weapons as well as the few weapon platforms it has in orbit, I hate to agree with Captain Rourke’s horrendous assessment but I think we are going to have a slaughter on our hands.” Pausing for a second, the Andorian shared his thoughts on the matter. “I hate to say it, but I think the array is our priority.”
“I agree with Thrain.” Canção supported with. “That said there must be a way in which we can have our cake and eat it too.”
“We can’t leave the system undefended.” Commander Duncan argued back, bewildered he was hearing this from two of Starfleet’s finest captains. “If we did that then we may find ourselves dealing with Haydorian seceding from the Federation, hell even the whole Andorian Empire. It’d be a political disaster!”
McCallister rubbed his beard, “Then we need to split our forces. I suggest we keep the Odyssey, Triton, Discovery and the Nobel with the array. While the Ni’Var and the pair of Andorian ships protect the main colony which would include the dry-docks. That leaves the Shackleton, Tereshkova and Endeavour to chase after other targets who attempt to go after other locations across the system.”
“That might work. We could separate both the Odyssey and Nobel – increase the amount of ships we have.” suggested Thrian. “Along with that we have a number of capable runabouts that if they were grouped into threes could help out further.”
“Do we have time to build and create any more weapon platforms?” Captain Duncan asked as she pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. “I mean doesn’t the Nobel carry an entire corps of engineers?”
Thrain spoke up, “We do but we may not have enough time. We could probably make and deploy a dozen if we’re lucky. However they will only be armed with pulse phaser cannons.”
“Then I suggest they try it, as another twelve platforms shooting even with just phasers would be enough to help protect the docks.” Captain Duncan advised. She looked at Bennet, “If we want to avoid a political fallout from Governor Thelis and the Andorian government then showing we tried to help with defence of their docks may go a long way.”
“Agreed.” Bennet said. He looked at Rourke, “Captain, how long do we actually have before they arrive?”
Rourke grimaced and shook his head. “It’s hard to be sure, but my Strategic Operations Officer suggests we have a minimum of thirty hours.”
“Right then we need to get moving. We’ll go ahead with what Captain McCallister suggested. I’ll advise Starfleet and see if there are any other ships that could spare.” Bennet said.
Before he had a chance to finish Captain Corbin interrupted him. “Sir, what does worry me is that even if we prevail here there are still three larger targets that may need us to help out.”
Nodding in agreement with his friend’s statement, Bennet responded. “If, as you say, we prevail here, then I will speak with Starfleet to see if it is worth some of us leaving the system to help out. Any questions or anything else?”
Rourke drew a tense breath. “For those of you who haven’t had direct action against the D’Ghor yet, I’ll make the combat protocols I’ve established on Endeavour available. Get them to your Chiefs of Security and see what’s useful for protecting against boarding parties. The Hunters have strained and exploited standard Starfleet procedure.”
“Oh I cannot wait for them to try it. I think we can just be as ruthless as them. A bit of poetic justice perhaps?” Canção commented with a mischievous tone. “Thank you Captain Rourke.”
Not completing agreeing with what the El-Aurian had said, Bennet flinched slightly at the end of Starfleet officers having to take action that was beyond the normal procedures. That said he knew the Hunters of D’Ghor had proven they were not the normal Klingon warriors. “Right everyone, thank you for your time. Dismissed.” Bennet said, ending the meeting.