Star Trek Colony

USS Sargasso was dying.

“Stardate 2375 lost in the battle for Cardassia” would be her epitaph.  A few lines in the Starfleet archives and on the federation war memorial cylinder orbiting earth would be all that remained of the once proud Nebula class vessel.

Lieutenant Gabriel Harata watched the hull burning below him as his escape pod accelerated away from the mass tomb of his colleagues and friends, his assault shuttle still moored securely to the aft superstructure.  He was out of the fight almost before it had begun.  A preemptive Jem’Hadar strike had caught them before the majority of the fleet had even engaged the enemy.  The Breen weaponry had immobilized the Sargasso, robbing her of power or shields.  Harata and the men of his marine ship to ship assault squad had been boarding their shuttle when the abandon ship order had been given.  Three years of close quarters combat training, five months of combat experience, and countless hours of practice had culminated in diving for an escape pod three minutes after their ship was engaged.  His life now depended on other men in other vessels to win the battle and come to his aid.  Judging by his view tumbling through the tangle of burning Federation ships, it might be a long wait.  Outside his viewport he watched helplessly as the battle raged on, ships and men dying in the soundless vacuum of space.  His skin tingled and spasmed with the stabilizing of the stasis field as he watched the Sargasso flare and explode.  The field stopped time with the image burning into his retinas, the last image they would record for nine long years.

 

Chapter One

Sound was the first thing to return.  A dull monotone beep which repeated every ten seconds, it was the familiar sound of yellow alert in the squad bay.  Much better than the brazen klaxons of a full alarm, the sound was still disconcerting as it intruded into the stasis induced peace of oblivion.

Opening his eyes the first thing he saw was something he didn’t, the imagers and instruments which had been limiting his peripheral vision were gone.  His combat helmet had been removed.  His last memory was being in full battle dress and watching out the escape pod’s viewport as the Sargasso flashed into history.

“Get up Marine.”  The voice was unfamiliar and feminine, the tone pleasant but insistent.  “Your gear is stowed beneath your rack, full turnout and combat ready in six minutes, initial briefing in seven.”

Harata sat up to see the speaker, an attractive officer in Starfleet blue wearing the insignia of the medical corps.  She continued down the room, rousting other marines out of their chambers.  He had never seen so many stasis pods in his life.  An entire cargo bay full of the coffin shaped canisters.

Harata knew his questions would have to wait, he allowed his training to take over.

In full combat gear he was escorted through the seemingly deserted halls of a Starfleet vessel six minutes later, a very old one by its appearance.  The corridors were lined with conduits and bulkhead supports he had never seen outside of museum ships.  If the war had gone so poorly that mothballed vessels were being pulled into service, than the entire fleet must have gone the way of the Sargasso and he felt lucky to be alive.  The close quarters assault rifle suddenly felt comfortingly solid in his grip.

Perhaps this was payback time.

Entering the shuttle deck he was relieved to see that the assault shuttle being prepped was the most current design, just like his previous craft.  Harata was ecstatic to see that many of the men forming up beside her were just as familiar.  At least half of his squad had survived.  His hopes of happy reunions were cut short however by the deck officer piping the Captain onto the flight deck.

Harata formed up with his squad as a woman in the gold command uniform of Starfleet began her address.

“Marines I am captain Harriman of the CSS Roanoke, and your current commanding officer.”

Harata glanced furtively at the marines in his team; their raised eyebrows told him he hadn’t misheard.  CSS?  All Starfleet vessels were prefixed USS, and he’d never heard of the Roanoke.  The Captain must have caught their questioning glances.

“I know you all have questions, but most of them will have to wait until later.  The Olmec, an Excelsior class vessel and part of our fleet, has been unresponsive for seventeen days.” The captain paused her pacing and turned to face them.

“She was scouting ahead of us when we lost contact.  We’re on approach to her position now.  She’s adrift and sensors indicate main power failure and intermittent life signs, we are too far out to read if they are human or known federation members.  Your mission is to board and secure her for medical personnel.   Any unknown life forms may be considered hostile.  Use your best discretion.”

Looking over the assembled group she paused before asking, “Any questions about this assignment?”

There were none.

“Full schematics and layout have been uplinked to your tacticom systems.   If there are no questions then mount up, we will be orbiting at 2,000,000 kilometers and we’re not geared up for a fight. Most of the crew is still in stasis.  Cloak your approach and be careful, we won’t be able to back you if the situation goes sour.”

Shuttle prep and dust-off went by the numbers.  Even the unfamiliar members of his squad knew the drill to perfection.  Harata double checked the calibration of the fire control systems as the pilot of the shuttle lifted off and activated the shuttle’s cloak.

A heavy hand clamped down on Harata’s shoulder and a familiar voice invaded his ear.

“Good to see you alive Gap rat; do you know what’s going on here?”

Harata smiled at the nickname. Gap was an abbreviation of the Polish pronunciation of Gabriel, GAHP-ri-el, in his step mother’s native Poland.  A legacy of his rather unusual heritage, his father was Japanese, and his biological mother an Orion slave girl.  The rat portion of the name had come later.  Having developed a talent for squeezing through the smallest of gaps in any enemy’s defenses, his last name of Harata had provided his fellow marines with all the ammunition they had needed.

Glancing up from his controls Harata was pleased to see the familiar snout of his oldest friend and second in command.   Grumin, Grim to his friends, the Tellerite’s true demeanor was anything but.  Eternal optimism and unparalleled engineering skills had set Grim apart from the other marines.  Rumor had it that Grumin had obtained multiple doctorates in engineering before his falling out with the Tellerite government and joining Starfleet.

“Grim you hoary old boar, I’m glad to see you’re still breathing as well.  And I have no idea what is going on here, outside of our briefing.”

Their conversation was cut short as they passed beyond the shuttlebay doors.   Both men gazed in wonder as they saw the ship, or more correctly ships they had emerged from.  Still traveling at warp the Roanoke was part of a convoy of twenty Starfleet vessels, all tethered together in a compact bundle being towed by an enormous craft.  The pilot exhibited exceptional skill in weaving the shuttle out of the complicated mass of nacelles, superstructures and pylons.  Some of the ships were tethered upside down to form into the most compact bundle, and at least one was even perpendicular to their direction of travel.

“Looks like a museum out there Grumin muttered.  All of those ships are at least eighty years old, maybe older.”

“Except that one,” Harata added, pointing to the lead vessel.  A hulking giant with the streamlined appearance of the most advanced generation of Starfleet designs.

“I’ve never seen a vessel with six warp nacelles before,” Grumin observed.  “She must be towing all of the others, the warp field is enormous.  I once wrote a theoretical paper on the possibility of building a starship capable of towing a small moon or large asteroid, I bet that could almost do it.”

“We’re nearing our drop point, falling from warp in ten seconds,” the pilot cut in.

Grumin returned to his seat and strapped in, Harata returned his focus to the weapons console.

Only a slight stutter could be felt as the shuttle passed out of the convoy’s warp field.

“ Ahead one quarter impulse,” the pilot announced.  “We’ll drop down as we approach.  Sensors indicate nearest star system is one point two light years away, nothing but the Olmec in proximity.”

The Olmec came into view quickly, and again the pilot demonstrated his skill in making his approach.  Within a minute they had made a full orbit of the drifting vessel and completed all their passive scans.

“Interesting burn patterns,” Grumin commented as he again crouched behind the pilot stations.  “Looks like very low power, or poorly focused phazer fire, almost has the random pattern of electrical arcs.  How could such low power weapons have penetrated her shields I wonder.”

“I don’t know,” Harata answered. “Scans show multiple hull breaches, but minimal internal damage.  Primary systems seem to be shut down, not inoperative.  Looks like most of her crew is still in stasis, which is good, as she’s vented most of her atmosphere.”

“Could you swing around the bow again,” Grumin asked the pilot. “I’d like to verify something.”

The pilot complied.  Leaning back he said “My name is Braddock by the way, James, and I was curious about that as well.”  The pilot deftly stopped the shuttle a hundred meters off the bow of the Olmec.

“I never heard of an excelsior class vessel named Olmec.”  James continued, nodding towards the ships name emblazoned across the hull. “Let alone a CSS Olmec with no registration number.”

“Well then, let’s go meet her in person.   Braddock, can you get a transporter lock on the secondary bridge?  Sensors show there is still atmosphere down there.”

“Sure can, want me to accompany the team, or hold station here?”

“Hold here, keep a lock on us, life signs are still hard to read.  Looks like most of the crew is still in stasis, but there is something moving over there, something unlike anything in our data base, something big.”

“Aye aye sir.”

Harata took his position on the transporter pad and the shuttle evaporated around him.  Harata’s eight man squad materialized in the center of the auxiliary bridge in two concentric circles.  The outer ring of men in defensive crouches, weapons at the ready, the men behind them standing, each facing outward in different directions, all quarters of the room were covered the instant they arrived.

“Looks intact,” Grumin muttered rising to his feet and moving to the sensor station.

“Do we have internals?”  Harata asked.

“Yes.  I’m showing 651 crewmembers in stasis, twenty nine bodies spread throughout the ship, and one very large something in engineering.”

“Any video feed in engineering.”

“No, and whatever it is just changed direction.  It appears to know we are here, moving this way quickly.”

“Do we have internal controls?”

“Will have them for you in five.  I need to power them up, we do have sufficient battery.”

“Good.”  Harata pulled up the Olmec’s deck plans on his tacticom.  The holodisplay projected on the faceplate of his helmet.

“Seal all paths to us except through deck eight corridor C, looks like a good place for an ambush.”

“Will do.”

Looking at name plates made necessary by the combat armor and helmets Harata picked a man at random.  “Marine Mason, you stay with Grim, the rest of you with me.  Touching his com button he added, Braddock, you still have us on lock?”

“Yes sir,” answered the voice in his ear.

Harata had chosen deck 8 corridor C because it was one of main arteries of the ship.  Running nearly the entire length of C deck, it was also twice as wide as the passages branching off of it, running primarily to abandoned living quarters.  Whatever was approaching would have limited concealment and no cover.  Arriving at his chosen point of ambush his lead Marine, a half Romulan woman by the name of Meica Ostrow set up the portable shield generators his squad carried, configuring the shield to cover the width of the corridor to a height of one meter.   His fire crew readied their combat rifles and crouched behind the shimmering barricade.  Recognizing that his squad showed their inexperience by forgetting to assign a rear watch, Harata assigned two men to that post, and took his position on the firing line.

Their quarry appeared moments later, Harata had never seen anything like it. The creature moved with swift confidence at a dead run, neither increasing its speed, or changing course when it rounded the corridor and spotted the ambush.  Its only change in behavior was it began to shimmer and blur, becoming less distinct.  Before becoming an amorphous smudge Harata had the distinct impression that a large spiny werewolf was bearing down on them.  His Marines opened fire without being given the order, the correct decision.

The Starfleet close quarters assault rifle was the only projectile weapon still in service.  The primary round was a four millimeter high density pellet which had chemical, electrical, and neoro-phasic stunning properties.  More effective than a phaser’s stun setting the pellets had proven effective in stunning and sedating every known corporeal species except the Horta and had been developed specifically to combat the Borg threat.  Traveling at more than four hundred meters per second they would penetrate almost any physical armor to deliver their triple threat payload.  A fact which had occasionally compromised their designers less than lethal aspirations.

They failed to stop the creature.  Harata had purposely delayed fire, giving his marine’s a chance to fell the threat on their own and checking the rear guards discipline.  He had chosen two men who had not previously been in his command.  Both men performed perfectly, with their team opening fire behind them each continued to scan his assigned fire zone, trusting their team mates to protect them.

Harata set his weapon’s power setting to the highest level.  At this setting the pellet would leave the muzzle at two thousand meters per second and explode a twenty centimeter hole in any known organic material on impact.  He fired a three round burst as the creature closed to within three meters of the barricade.

Smashing into the barricade the alien collided with such force that the shield could not repel it backwards, but instead directed its momentum straight up into the duranium ceiling, with a bone jarring thud.

Falling down onto the assembled men it lost its light bending ability in its death throes, and rematerialized into the savage spiked creature Harata had first glimpsed.

Activating his com Harata inquired, “Grim, you have anything else moving anywhere on the ship?”

“Negative lieutenant, only life signs are us and the crew in stasis.  What did you find down there?”

“The big bad wolf my friend, I’m glad you stayed there.”

“Sounds like I am too.”

 

Captain Harriman paced the bridge incessantly, her boots vainly attempting to wear away the deck plating that was older than she was.  She was contemplating a third cup of coffee when her com officer signaled her that a link had been established with the boarding party.

Harata’s green complexion filled the viewscreen.

“What’s your report lieutenant?”

“All of the crew awakened early from stasis are dead, including the entire command staff.  Logs indicate an attack by three small vessels with primitive phasers.  Grim, our best engineer, is trying to figure out how the shields were bypassed, he’ll have a better report for you when you arrive.  Warp engines are operative, but shut down.  We’re attempting a cold start now.  We should be fully operational in just under three hours.”

“Any casualties on your team?”

“Negative ma’am, ur, captain.  Only one hostile was on board when we arrived, no weapons or clothing, appears to have been a non sentient species.  I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Sounds good Lieutenant, we will rendezvous with you shortly, I’ll have medical and engineering personnel beamed aboard to take control of the Olmec.  My complements to your team.”

“Thank you captain.”

The viewscreen blinked back to its previous view of the unfamiliar stars.

 

Lieutenant Harata waited outside the command conference room with the rest of his team for debriefing.  The reports had been filed and he had been pleasantly surprised when the captain had called for a face to face meeting with him and his squad.  Now that the moment had arrived however, he paced the hall anxiously, concerned that perhaps the new captain was unimpressed with his handling of the mission.  They had killed the only being who might have given them more information on the attack of the Olmec after all.

When the doors opened and an ensign called them into the room, it was with some trepidation that he entered.  His misgivings grew when he realized that the entire bridge staff of the Roanoke was waiting for him.

“Be seated Marines.”  The captain ordered.  “Let me introduce you to the rest of my senior staff.  Commander Landscomb is my chief engineer, lietenant commanders Singh and Penbrook are science and medical officers, and lastly Commander Corr is my Tactical officer, and XO of the Roanoke.”

Harata had taken his seat and was surprised to note that the only non-humans in the room were members of his squad.   Himself, half Orion, Grim a Telerite, and Meica a half blooded Romulan.  An all human bridge crew was an extreme rarity in Starfleet, and the thought made him uncomfortable.

“Before we get started lieutenant I want to emphasize again that your team performed admirably, and there are only a few questions we would like to put to you.”  The captain commented, in and obvious effort to lessen the heightened apprehensions in the room.  Glancing at her datapad she continued.

“Corporal Grumin, Commander Landscomb is curious to know how you managed to bring a JN7 antimatter reactor online in only three hours when the cold start protocols call for at least six.”

Grim smiled nervously,” Well captain, battery power had been maintained.  Re-energizing the Phaze inverters and induction coil stabilization protocols were unnecessary.  That alone saved an hour and a half.”

Commander Landscomb leaned forward in his chair.  “Yes Marine, but the protocols also call for recalibration checks on the primary systems, which you also ignored.  You should have waited for an engineering crew to re-start the engines.  The protocols exist for a reason.”

“Yes sir they do, Grim smiled broadly,” letting his tusks show.   “The protocol was written for the cold start of untried, repaired, or damaged engines.  The Olmec’s warp core had suffered an automated shut down twenty four hours after the computer determined no qualified personnel remained on the vessel, the primary monitoring systems had remained online.  There was no need for recalibration.”

“You seem awfully well informed of engineering protocols for a marine corporal.”  Commander Landscomb seemed surprised.

Harata wasn’t, Grim had been on the committee which had written them.

Grim, true to his nature said nothing of that fact.  Like all Telerites he found joy in winning the debate, any debate, preferably leaving his opponent as dumbfounded as possible.  Letting Landscomb know his past would spoil the fun, especially if the man was so poor at the art as to not have studied his opponent prior to the contest.  (With Grim nearly every conversation was a contest.)  Grim had memorized the resumes of all of the Roanoke’s bridge officers an hour after the debriefing had been scheduled.

“Yes sir I am.” Was his only response.

“Well since you didn’t blow her up, there is no harm done I suppose, but in future you will not initiate major engineering operations without qualified personnel.  Is that clear?”

“Certainly sir.” Grim answered, his voice pleasant, his smile vicious.

Harata suppressed a smile of his own.

“And now for you lieutenant,” interrupted the captain and his hidden smile died.

“I’ve read your report, and understand the reasons you used lethal force on the unidentified alien. I concur with your decision; the medical report confirms that it was not a sentient species in any case.  Probably some sort of watchdog left behind by the real attackers.  My log entries will be favorable.”

The captain consulted her datapad.

“Corporal Grumin, what did you determine on how the enemy penetrated the Olmec’s shields?”

“They were quite ingenious,” Grim replied.  “They used archaic technology to great effect.  Tactical genius actually,” he muttered to himself.

Grumin pulled what appeared to be a strand of fine silvery hair from one of his many pockets.

“They used high tensile superconductive fibers.”  He held up the strand.  “When the fibers contacted the shields being radiated by multiple generators simultaneously, it caused phase and power fluctuations throughout the entire system, concurrently creating gaping holes in the defensive grid.   That is what gave the appearance of random, and uncoordinated phaser scoring on the Olmec’s hull.  Very crude but equally effective.”

Grim gazed affectionately at the strand he held.

“ I must say I admire the audacity of overcoming a radiant field defense with a material projectile offense.  Lower technology aside, these people may prove a force to be reckoned with.”

“How can we defend against a similar attack?”  The Captain asked.

“The simplest solution is often the best.  The Olmec’s crew probably didn’t fire on the incoming projectiles because they didn’t recognize the threat.  Assuming that their speed and vectors would permit such a defense, it would probably be effective.   Reconfiguring the shield emitters to counter the chaotic and random power fluctuations that contact with the filaments would cause, will take weeks, if not months.”

“You think destroying the strands is our best option then?”

“The Olmec’s data logs confirm that the she never fired at all, she was ambushed without provocation.  Whether by luck or skill her attackers disabled her in the first salvo.  Had she been running with her full crew out of stasis the outcome may have been different, but allowing these strands to contact our shields en mass would likely disable them.”

“I’ll make use of your recommendation Doctor Grumin.  Harriman responded, letting the Telerite know she was not as ignorant as her staff to his history.”

Turning to her bridge officers she continued, “Bring the crew out of stasis, we’re accelerating the timeline to counter the current threat, you’re dismissed.”

Returning her attention to the Marines she added.

“Lieutenant, I would like you and your squad to remain for a moment, I have new assignments for you, and I’m sure you have many questions.”

After the bridge crew had filed out Captain Harriman gestured Harata and his squad to take seats.

“Has anyone briefed you on our current status and mission Lieutenant,” she asked.

“No Captain, and we would appreciate the intel, the last thing I remember was watching the Sargasso burn.  Stardate on my datapad would indicate that was almost a decade ago.”

The captain got up from her chair and began pacing the small conference room, her anxiety evident.

“The War with Cardassia frightened the Federation,” she said.  “Even before the conflict began drawing to a close, high command put into place Protocol Eleven.  The war with the Breen, and the Changelings from the Delta quadrant had shown the vulnerability of the human race.  If we had lost that war all of humanity may have been forfeit.”

The captain stopped her pacing and stared out the viewport at the passing stars.

“When we first took to the stars we believed that the human race was ensuring its survival.  The loss or destruction of a single planet would no longer threaten our species with extinction, but our explorations brought us into contact with violent and predatory societies that nearly wiped us from every star system.  The borg, the changelings, and others.”

The captain returned to her seat to speak to the marines more directly.

“Protocol Eleven is a colonization project.”

“But we have hundreds of colonies,” Interrupted Harata.

“Yes, but not like this one.  We’ve jumped the gap.  As you know the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, and all of our previous colonization has occurred spreading out from earth along a single arm of the galaxy, in contact by proximity and memory to all of our other colonies.”

“But not this fleet,” she tapped the conference table for emphasis.

“This fleet has spent the last nine years at high warp, with a second fleet of colony ships right behind us.  We’ve crossed almost fifteen hundred light years of empty space, carried by the Valhala.  No other race would ever dream of following us here, and no race we encounter here is likely to back track us home.”

“We are entering truly uncharted space, and all records of our departure have been purged from star fleet records.  You are all listed casualties of war.  You didn’t survive the last battle of the Sargasso.  She and numerous other starships were declared lost with all hands, and before you get angry I must tell you that was not my decision.  I myself was volunteered for this mission without my knowledge.  I left behind a daughter who thinks I’m dead, and grandchildren I will never meet.”

“Starfleet felt the survival of the human race merited such sacrifice.  I don’t know if I can gainsay their decision, but either way I can’t change it.  The Valhala, and the Elysium behind her are the only ships in the fleet capable of making the journey without resupplying.  And their reserves will soon be gone.”

“We’re here now marines, there is no going back.”

 

 

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