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Part of USS Elysion: Chain of Command and Bravo Fleet: Phase 1: Omega

Chapter One – Twenty-One

USS Elysion, Gradin Belt, Delta Quadrant
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Ransom’s Quarters | Deck 3 | USS Elysion
21:19 Zulu

Jack Ransom lifted the corners of both cards which lay in front of him just high enough that none of the others seated around the table could see and glanced down at them. His expression remained impassive as he lowered the exposed corners back down to the green baize once more. He looked at the older man seated opposite him.

“I’ll keep them,” he said quietly.

Peter Valentine, ship’s surgeon and veteran of a thousand late-night card games over his sixty-two years gave a long, low, drawn-out sigh. “It’s je m’y tiens,” he corrected.

“Which means I’ll keep them,” replied Ransom with a wry smile.

“Je m’y tiens,” Valentine repeated, his tone level. “We’re playing Vingt-et-un, not fucking Pontoon… Captain, sir.”

To Valentine’s right, John Hobbes almost choked on his cigar, coughing a thick cloud of smoke towards the ceiling. Ransom grinned and looked at Thill Chivras with a gleam in his eye.

“You going to let Lieutenant Commander Valentine speak to his commanding officer like that, XO?” Ransom asked as he raised his beer tumbler to his lips.

“I certainly am not,” the Andorian agreed. He turned to face the older man. “Doctor Valentine. Please refrain from using such language when addressing Captain Ransom.”

“Well, that certainly told him,” Hobbes said with a grin as he splashed another measure of rum into his glass.

“I thought so,” Ransom agreed.

“My apologies, XO,” Valentine began slowly. “I promise never to admonish the captain publicly ever again.” He took a large swallow from the glass of ruby-coloured wine on the table in front of him. “Even when he is fucking wrong.”

Both Hobbes and Ransom erupted in raucous laughter, and this time even Chivras couldn’t help but smile.

“Alright,” said Ransom. “Are we playing this game or not?

Hobbes suddenly frowned, his rum glass frozen half-way to his lips. “We just dropped out of warp.”

Ransom turned to reach for the communicator attached to his uniform jacket, hanging on the back of his chair when the internal comm pinged.

The clearly-identifiable calm tones of Layla Thorne filled the compartment. “All hands, yellow alert. This is not a drill. Captain to the bridge. XO to the bridge.”

Main Bridge | Deck One | USS Elysion
21:24 Zulu

Ransom and Chivras stepped out of the turbolift to find Lieutenant Commander Thorne standing in the centre of the bridge, snapping a series of orders. Both newcomers could see immediately that all holographic control panels were inactive, and the consoles in standard configuration all displayed an identical image of the Greek letter omega.

“Captain on the bridge!” called the chief of the watch.

“What the hell’s going on?” demanded Ransom, moving towards the centre of the bridge.

Thorne turned to face him, her face a mask of concern. She ran a hand through her golden hair. “Captain,” she greeted him, the relief evident in her voice. “We dropped out of warp and now helm is unresponsive. The main energiser is still on line, but something is preventing us from going to warp. Then there’s this…” she extended an arm towards a wall of monitors all displaying the same image. “This… symbol.”

“It’s Terran. The last letter of the Greek alphabet.” Ransom tapped his communicator. “CHENG, Captain. Report.”

The voice of John Hobbes came back immediately. “Everything’s a-ok down here, Skipper. Green lights across the board. For some reason, I just can’t give you warp speed. I’m locked out.”

“But the warp core’s ok?” Ransom asked.

“The core’s fine, Captain. We’re not gonna breach if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m running diagnostics across all systems now. I’ll keep you informed.”

“Thank you, John. Ransom out.” The captain moved to the repeater console built into the arm-rest of the middle seat of three which occupied the command area of the bridge and tapped in a series of command override codes. Immediately the Greek symbols displayed across all of the bridge consoles were replaced by the familiar LCARS interface design and the holographic control surfaces positioned above them reactivated.

“Captain…” Chivras began.

“XO, maintain yellow alert. Confirm the status of all decks and liaise with engineering for updates. Run level three diagnostics on all primary and secondary systems. Make sure we are ready to move as soon as I give the order. You have the bridge.”

The confusion at the orders being given by his friend and commander was clearly etched on the Andorian first officer’s face. “I have the bridge? You’re going somewhere?”

“My ready room,” Ransom replied, already crossing the bridge in that direction.

“Captain…” Chivras began with a frown.

“Just carry out my orders!” snapped Ransom impatiently as he disappeared through the starboard doorway which led to his ready room.

Silence filled the bridge for several seconds as Chivrass processed what had just happened. In all of the years that he had known Jack Ransom, and certainly during the three years that he had worked under him as his executive officer, he had never before seen him behave in such a way. And he had never before spoken to him like that in front of the crew. He felt his antennae twitching in a combination of both anger and embarrassment.

“What the hell?…” whispered Ensign Brace from his position at the conn station.

“Mind your panel!” Chivras shouted at the young Bajoran, his emotions now having a target at which to vent. He turned on Thorne next. “You heard the captain’s orders, Commander! Carry them out! Or has someone decided that you’re no longer the officer of the watch and neglected to inform me?”

“No sir,” replied Thorne. “I mean, aye sir.” She turned away and began issuing orders to the operations officer and the chief of the watch. Chivras watched her for a moment before crossing to take his usual seat to the right of the captain’s, his jaw clenched.

Commanding Officer’s Ready Room | Deck One | USS Elysion
21:28 Zulu

“Computer, seal access to this compartment,” Ransom’s words were tinged with anger. He slipped off his uniform jacket and tossed it onto the couch by the window as he continued to his desk. There, as expected, the letter Omega was waiting for him, staring back at him from the screen of his desk console. He dropped into the seat behind the desk and ran his fingers through his hair. Just like Chivrass, he was angry. Not because of whatever it was that needed to be done next, but because he would have to lie to his crew about it – or at the very least neglect to give them all of the facts. And because this was about Omega, he was fully aware that it was quite possible that by his actions, he could be putting his crew’s lives in danger. They deserved better.

“Display secure data file Omega One,” he instructed.

“Voiceprint confirmed. Recognise Ransom, Jonathan T. Commanding Officer. State clearance code.”

“Clearance code Ransom-five-six-six-nine-indigo. Clearance level 10.”

“Clearance code acknowledged,” replied the computer. “Omega particles have been detected 1.2 light-years from this vessel’s current position. You are required to immediately implement the Omega Directive. All other mission priorities have been rescinded. All other considerations are secondary.”

Ransom sighed. “Shit,” he said softly, realising that even up until this point a small part of him had been hoping that this was nothing more than some sort of drill. But it wasn’t. This was real.

“Show me,” he said.

A yellow holographic representation of a planetary system materialised above Ransom’s desk, consisting of a small Class L planet, orbited by two moons. Ransom read the sensor data which streamed vertically past the image.

“Eskon IV. A Turei terraforming and mining colony. Computer, has Omega been detected close to the colony?”

“Unknown at this time.”

“What’s the population and makeup of the colony?”

“Most recent census data available from Mithrar Anchorage indicates one-hundred sixty five adults and forty-four children.”

“You bitch,” Ransom whispered.

“Please restate the query,” the computer replied.

“Doesn’t matter. Am I likely to get any support from Federation specialised containment teams at this time?”

“Negative.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Ransom mused. He crossed to the couch and shrugged into his unform jacket once more. “Alright. Let’s get on with it. Computer isolate this exchange and all associated sensor data, Starfleet Command Eyes-Only. Command authorisation Ransom-five-six-six-nine-indigo. Unseal this compartment.” The computer beeped it’s affirmation and Ransom moved towards the door which opened at his approach.

Main Bridge | Deck One | USS Elysion
21:40 Zulu

Crossing the bridge once more, Ransom took his seat. He could tell by the expression on his XO’s face that the Andorian officer was seriously pissed off with him. And to be fair, he had reason to be, Ransom conceded. He hoped that the man would be able to contain his emotions until they had a chance to talk in private.

“Helm, set a new heading. Zero-seven-eight degrees, mark fifty-two. The Eskon system,” he ordered.

Ensign Brace tapped the new destination into his console. “Aye sir. Heading set.”

“Warp nine. Engage.”

Chivras inclined his head towards Ransom. “Do we need to talk?” he asked quietly.

“We do,” Ransom agreed. “But not right now. Chief of the Watch – ask Lieutenant Commander Hobbes to come and see me in my ready room at his convenience.” He looked up and behind him to where Layla Thorne stood at her usual position. “Layla, can I speak to you in private please?” he pointed to his ready room door.

“Of course, sir,” Thorne replied with look of confusion.

“Captain?…” Chivras ventured once more.

Ransom stood up. “Chief of the Watch – the XO has the bridge,” he called out as he walked with Thorne to his ready room. Commander Thill Chivras, Executive Officer USS Elysion watched them go and swallowed hard.