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Star Trek Elita - Things Change by Rony Tal

Chapter 1


U.S.S. Elita - bridge

U.S.S. Elita - dedication plaque

Captain's log, Stardate 55478.4:

We arrived at StarBase 1005, by the Gamma Quadrant side of the worm-hole. I was summoned by Admiral Wyngarde to an urgent discussion, due to the grim situation of the Epsilon Fleet. At first, the Northern Star incident, then the uncover of Ocean View Station and the destruction of the U.S.S. Discovery. And all of these events were aside of the daily attacks of the Dominion against most StarFleet ships patrolling the Neutral Zone. In a recent attack, upon the U.S.S. Phenomena, the Captain of the ship was killed. That is, I believe, the reason for this emergency meeting.

However, since we are at a StarBase, it is an opportunity to have a few refits done on the Elita, a number of rippers which are well over due since our battle with the Northern Star. Also, it is a chance for me to give Chief Thomas something he had coming to him for a long while.

"Chief Thomas is arrogant, stubborn, impatient and at times, dangerously independent" Captain Tal said, while standing on a small podium, in the center of shuttle bay 3, surrounded by well over two hundred crew members of the Elita. "Yet, had he been one to follow orders without any thought or doubt to him, he would have been another of many, and not the out-standing officer and engineer that he is".

By Captain Christopher Tal was Chief Aaron Thomas, who was smiling widely. Christopher then turned to face Aaron, as if none of the senior staff, engineering team or any other personnel was there.

"Aaron, ranks do not come by easily", he said while raising a small black rank pipe. "They are earned by hard work and dedication, and while you may have your own ways of carrying out your duties, ways which are... interesting" the Captain said with a smile and the lift of an eye brow, "Your exceptional ways are most welcome on this ship".

The men and women of the Elita burst into a short laugh as Christopher tapped the back of Chief Thomas.

"Lieutenant Aaron Thomas, I am hereby promoting you to the rank of Lieutenant Commander with all the duties and privileges thereof ", Captain Tal said as he placed the black rank pipe on Chief Thomas' collar, aligned with the golden per already there, while the crew of the Elita cheered in the background.

"Exquisite job, Commander", Christopher added while shaking Aaron's hand. "Thank you, sir", was all Aaron answered, as he stepped forward and faced the crew.

"Will you all just shot up for a second" he shouted to the cheering crowd, with an ear-to-ear smile spreading on his face. "On my first day as the Chief Engineer of the Elita, it was becoming very obvious that the men under my command don't know a damn thing about engineering".

The crew burst into laughter once more.

"Nothing is perfect in this crazy universe, and these times are as far from normal as possible", the cheering subsided, as Aaron's words took a bit of a serious tune. "But you know what, Captain?" Aaron turned to Christopher, by who was Commander Lorei Karin. "Of all the slow-witted, brain-lacking, un-imaginative crews in the Fleet, you have the best damn one". The Captain smiled, as he came to learn Thomas' unique way of expressing appreciation.

Then, just before going down the small, rapidly built podium, the Chief turned once more to the crew, "I wouldn't serve on any other ship and with any other crew", he shouted. "God bless you idiots".

The crew cheered once more for the Chief they came to know so well in the passing months. As he was making his way to his team, Captain Tal and Commander Lorei also made their way off the podium.

"I thought Thomas was only due for rank next year", Lorei said to Tal as they made their way out of shuttle bay 3. "Something to do with disobeying orders when he served on the Nova?"

"You are not mistaken", Tal replied as they entered the turbo-lift on their way to the bridge. "But I asked Admiral Wyngarde to sweeten his sentence, the Chief does deserve it".

"What are you taking to the meeting?" Lorei asked.

"Everything we already submitted to StarFleet, along with the new data we collected", Tal replied. "However, I doubt this meeting is for reports alone".

"What then?" Lorei wondered.

"I believe the Admiral is going to talk to us about operative plans".

"You mean 'Acts of Aggression'?" Lorei asked.

"The very same", Tal replied as they entered the bridge and walked into the Captain's ready room. A few seconds pass their entrance, the door opened again as Petty Officer Amber De Volchi, a yeoman to the captain, entered as well. She was a young human girl with black straight hair and big black eyes.

"Is everything in order, Ms. De Volchi?" Tal asked the young human.

"Almost, Captain", Amber replied. "Lt. Commander Thik'kar' will arrive earlier then anticipated".

"Really?" Tal wondered. "And why is that?"

"He will be arriving onboard one of the Viper Fighters, Captain", Petty Officer De Vochi answered. "He insisted on piloting one of them by himself".

"I see", Tal said, smiling at Lorei. "I trust you will take good care of Commander Thik'kar once he arrives, Commander?"

"He's our new Flight Deck Commander", she said, sounding relived. "I've never been happier to lose a position".

"No doubt in my mind, Commander", Tal replied. "I better be off now, I have a sort of reunion before the meeting".

"With who, Sir?" Lorei asked.

"Old classmates..." Tal smiled. "Take good care of the Elita, Ms. Lorei. I shall be back in about ten hours". With that said, Tal exited his ready room and made his way into StarBase 1005.

Captain Abigail Izenbach entered mass hall of StarBase 1005. The Petty Officer at the door asked her if she knew where the senior officers' lounge was, but she dismissed him with a smile, saying she meant to come here.

She walked quickly to the window table which was with a direct line from the entrance. Christopher was already sitting there when he saw her coming, and stood up.

"Christopher!" she said quietly, and gave a warm hug to the captain who was almost a head taller then her.

"God, it is good to see you Abby!" Christopher said as they both took their sits. "How have you been?"

"I'm good", she said.

"How are Michael and the kids"?

"Very well", she replied, "Although my son doesn't really like the idea of living on a ship. My daughter, on the other hand, is a born StarFleet".

"Wonderful, Abby", Christopher said.

"And what about you, Christopher?" Abigail asked with a smile. "A new lady in your life?"

"Well, now that you mention it", Tal smiled.

"Let me guess", Abigail said, lifting and eye-brew. "Commander Lorei Karin".

Christopher burst into laughter, "You read me like an open book, Abby".

"Your X.O., although being female, is not considered a mate", she said with a smile.

The two set a while longer, before the Petty Officer at the entrance of mass-hall, caught their attention, along with every other man in the room as he made his call of attention.

"Admiral on deck", the man proclaimed as loud as he could.

At the door was Rear Admiral (lower half) Philip Cardy.

Philip waved his hand in a sort of embarrassment, dismissing the attention. He then made his way to the table where Christopher and Abigail were sitting. Abigail got up and hugged him.

"It's good to see you Philip", she said to the tall, dark haired man.

"Meeting here was your idea, wasn't it?" he asked her, and Abigail began laughing.

Christopher shook Philip's hand, "It always amazes me how embarrassed you become in front of enlisted men, old friend, or should I say 'sir'?"

"You should know better then that, mate", Philip replied, his London origins showing. "I'm sorry I was late, but there were a few things I had to do".

"Shouldn't we be moving along any way", Abigail asked.

"Yes", Christopher replied. "The Admiral is due to arrive in fifteen minutes".

The three officers left mass hall and made their way to the turbo-lift. It took them high, from deck 56 to deck number 4 of the base, where the meeting was about to take place.

"So mate", Philip asked Christopher on the lift. "Have you heard of Amanda lately?"

"Amanda?" Abigail interrupted. "Your old girlfriend, from our third year in the Academy? Why would you hear from her?"

"Well", Christopher smiled briefly. "We met a few years back, and we still do every few months. But I haven't heard from her since I took command of the Elita".

"Met?" Philip smiled, feeling like a first year cadet. "That's what you call it?"

"Had you not been a superior officer, Philip, I would have punched you", Christopher said as the doors of the turbo-lift opened and they stepped out to main operations. Once dismissing the personnel from attention, Philip, Abigail and Christopher entered the meeting room, which made the viewing of the warm-hole possible.

"We will continue this dissection later", Philip said as they entered. The three of them might have been best friends most of the time, but now they were officers of the fleet with work on their minds.

About the table were already four captain ranked officers, and one commander.

Christopher, Abigail and Philip took their sits, and kept talking among themselves and with the other officers. About five minutes later, a Bolian entered the room. He was Rear Admiral (upper half) Jol, Chief of Staff of the Epsilon Fleet and second in command to Admiral Wyngarde.

He entered quietly and stood by his chair, the closest to the head of the table to the right. Philip was standing in front of him and the others stood up by their seats as well.

A few seconds later Vice Admiral Carlton Wyngarde entered the room. "Attention!" called Admiral Jol and everyone starched their backs standing as the Commander in Chief of the Epsilon Fleet made his way to his chair at the head of the table.

"Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, please take your seats", the Admiral spoke in a very serious tone. "Before we begin I'd like each of you to introduce yourselves, so every one will be officially acquainted. Philip, you may begin".

"Very well, Sir", Philip spoke first. "I am Rear Admiral Philip J. Cardy. Chief of Operations of the Epsilon Fleet".

"Captain Abigail Isenbach", said Abigail, "C.O. of the U.S.S. Neverland".

"I am Captain Christopher Tal, Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Elita", Tal said.

By him was sitting a black haired female Vulcan, "Captain T'Alim, Commanding officer of the U.S.S. T'Pol".

"Captain Segath Vag'gar", said the Andorian male by her side with a strong voice, "Captain of the U.S.S. Valiant".

On the other side of the table was a Bajoran man, "Captain Isak, C.O. of the U.S.S. Orpheus".

"Captain Sebastian Albrecht", came the assured voice of an elder man, "Commanding Officer to the U.S.S. Felicity".

"I am Commander Parker", said a young human male, "Temporary Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Phenomena".

"And I am Rear Admiral Jol, Chief of Staff of the Epsilon Fleet", said the Bolian.

Admiral Wyngarde nodded, and then spoke again.

"Well, this is the first meeting of wing 57 since I entered this position five month ago. The meeting was meant to be at least six hours, but we will have to cut it short to two hours flat, so I would like it to be as efficient as possible", he said and continued. "We are here to discuss the fleet's situation in the Gamma Quadrant in large, and of the sectors you are in charge of in details. I would like to be as open with you as possible by saying that what ever decisions we make here today would have a direct influence on the way in which the Federation would handle itself in this quadrant".

The Admiral scanned the senior officers with his eyes, to make sure his words were clear, and then moved on.

"Philip, if you may?'" he said.

"Thank you Admiral", said Cardy and activated a holographic image of the Neutral Zone. The map showed seven blue lines going in circles in several different parts of the zone. "These are the sectors and systems for which wing 57 is responsible, broken down in to ships' patrolling sectors", Cardy said to the Captains. "These sectors do not take into count the survey vessels and escort ships, A.K.A. wings 58 & 59". Once said, the map showed a few dozen blue spots on the map, followed by over a hundred red spots.

"The blue signals represent missions the ships of this wing were given in the passing six months", Admiral Cardy explained. "The red ones are attacks over the same period of time. As you can see, the attacks are far greater around these sectors", said Cardy and the map focused on three sectors. In the middle of them was the location of the former Becka Nebula. Most of the red spots were gone, with the exception of two. "These sectors are also where the U.S.S. Discovery was destroyed and the Northern Star Incident took place", Cardy said and turned his look to Christopher, "Captain Tal, since your ship took a major part in both cases, any words on the matter?"

"Yes, thank you, Admiral", Tal said and made his quick presentation. "In the passing three months a number of events made my senior staff and my self realize several things. The acts of Captain Thworn of the Northern Star made it clear the Dominion do not want peace. The discovery of the Lunas 001 proved to us that the Founders' god-like acts of genetic engineering have taken a major step forward. Extreme work of espionage, frequent attacks against ships of the fleet, along with the development of new ships and weapons, brought me to believe that in a time period of five to ten months, we could expect a serious attack against a colony or a star base deep within Federation space". Christopher took in a deep breath and finished his words "I recommend we begin preparations for this future attack by requesting support from StarFleet Command and moving most available ships of the fleet to security missions".

"I second that proposal", said Captain Vag'gar. "In the passing months my ship was attacked on a daily basis by Jem'Hadar attack ships and Resaraa fighters and battle cruiser. We've been making runs from Ocean View Station to Neo-Terra and back just to fill our torpedo banks. I see the logic in Captain Tal's words. We should be ready for an attack of massive proportions".

"They are testing us", said Captain Albrecht. "They attack in small numbers and fall back. They want to be sure we won't chase them back. The Breen did the same damn thing back in '54. I wouldn't let them see we are scared of them. These matters can and should be handled on a diplomatic level".

"With all due respect, Captain Albrecht", Vag'gar spoke in an angered tone. "Your optimism is very badly placed. The Dominion wants us out of this quadrant. Period".

"Understandable", Captain T'Alim said in a cold Vulcan manner. "They still see us as strangers here, with a lacking excuse for remaining in what was once their space. I'm afraid this status quo of violence is due to last for some time".

"It is a prophecy I am not willing to share, T'Alim", Abigail seemed aggravated at the Vulcan's remark. "We should pressure a diplomatic meeting on the Dominion. We need to talk to..."

"They will not talk to us, Abby", Christopher interrupted. "If we wish to converse with the shape shifters, to negotiate with them, we also require a situation in which they have a reason to do so".

"We need to have a hold of them", Vag'gar simplified Tal's words, "by means of territory such as solar systems and space".

"Guarding our own borders is proving to be hard enough", Captain Isak said, "We shouldn't add to it by conquering more territory which shall only prove more hostile".

"I'm not saying we take the Gamma Quadrant by force of conquest, we're not Klingons", Vag'gar replied. "But a series of attacks on strategic systems would explain our stand best to the shape-shifters".

"Admiral, I doubt an escalation in our relationship with the Dominion is a solution to this problem", Admiral Jol said to Admiral Wyngarde.

"That is the very problem, as I see it" Wyngarde replied and the room was silent. "I do support the assumption that these growing attacks are a test, to see how far they can push us until we would retaliate in a severe manner".

"Our latest incident was not a test", said the young Commander Parker in a low voice. "It was a fully planned battle with the mission of destroying the Phenomena". Although Parker interfered with the Admiral' words, he was allowed to continue by a nod of Admiral Wyngarde's head.

"Had it not been for the quick support of the Orpheus and the T'Pol, their plan would have succeeded", Parker added. "A Jem'Hadar Battle cruiser, with the support of over twenty attack ships is a threat even to the Sovereign Class. That wasn't a hit and run mission, it was a declaration of intentions. I support the offer of Captain Tal and Captain Vag'gar. However I do not believe it would be sufficient to only protect our borders. I believe we should consider initiating operation: 'Acts of Aggression'".

 

Chapter 2

The doors of the turbo lift opened at the control room of Flight Deck. Lt. Commander Warren Blake stepped out into the busy room. As always, the strap of his Phaser rifle was hanging behind his back. He looked around at the personnel who were working as hard as they can to make any improvement possible before leaving the base. Blake walked over to the window of the control room, viewing down on the shuttle bay itself. The Elita, like any other Akira class ship, has three shuttle bays, which spread form the rear end of the saucer to the front and are located on decks 14 & 15. A shuttle or a fighter would board the ship through shuttle bay 1 or 2, at the rear end, and would then exit again through shuttle bay 3, on the front of the saucer. Between the bays are the maintenance shafts, where fighters and shuttles are checked and prepared. The control room is located as part of deck 14 and oversees all shuttle bays. The two decks combined, with all personnel, shuttles and fighters are called Flight Deck. The normal capacity of an Akira class ship enable the carrying of over thirty fighters and dozens of shuttles, although until today, while the shuttle storage of the Elita was at full capacity, there were only several fighters on board. As Blake viewed the shuttle bay, five Viper Fighters were already there and the work on them already started. Five more will arrive today, one of them piloted by the new flight deck commander himself.

Blake made his way down to the bay. He wanted to take a closer look at the fighters. As he reached the deck floor he heard a thundering voice giving orders to the technicians working on the fighters. Although the orders were loud and clear, Blake didn't seem to hear the man shouting. He was simply speaking in a very clear, loud and calm voice.

Blake found who that man was rather quickly and all things made sense to him. He walked closer to meet Master Chief Petty Officer Sakal, the Vulcan Chief Technician of Flight Deck.

"Master Chief Sakal", Blake turned to the tall, and some what old, Vulcan.

Sakal faced Blake with a perfectly calm, very Vulcan, expression. "Lt. Commander Blake", the Vulcan nodded. "How may I be of assistance to you, sir?"

Blake didn't let is shock be seen, but it was the first time an enlisted man of such seniority addressed him as 'sir'. On the most part, once men are given rank of Chief Petty Officer, they tend to address only high ranked officer by 'sir' and the same is done on the Elita, with the exception of Captain Tal and by most, Commander Lorei. Sakal, as it seemed, was a unique NCO.

"I was wondering how things are going down here", Blake said to Sakal. "Thought I might drop by and give it a look my self".

"Be my guest", Sakal replied. "The rest of the fighters shall enter within five minutes. As you can see, we take each of them apart and then reassemble them".

"Any fighters ready yet?" Blake asked with the enthusiasm of a child.

"Only Fang 1", Sakal stated and pointed to the fighter placed at the other side of the bay. "We worked hard on that one. The others would take about ten hours longer to be made ready".

"I would give them a few hours longer, Mr. Sakal", came a deep voice, from behind Blake.

Warren turned around to face Lt. Commander Thik'kar, an Andorian.

"Commander Thik'kar?" Blake asked with a smile.

"Call me Dureken", the Andorian said and shook Blake's hand. "You're Warren right? Tactical Officer?"

"The very same", Warren replied. "A pleasure to meet you, Dureken, I'll take it you're the not so official type huh?"

"Guessed right", Dureken replied. "Except with Mr. Sakal here" The Andorian smiled at the Vulcan.

"The forms in which you address me are to your liking, Sir", Sakal replied. "If you have no further use for me within this conversation I shall continue with my work".

"Go ahead", Durenke said and once Sakal moved along he turned back to Blake. "That guy is the most professional man in StarFleet. Served with him on the U.S.S. Rabin a few years back, Captain Tal was very lucky to get him".

"I would say the same thing about you", Blake said with a smile. "I read your file. The Christopher Pike Medal of Bravery? What the hell did you do?"

"Nothing out of the ordinary", Durnken said smiling. "I left my ship in a shuttle and took command of a fighter squadron. Had it not been the battle for DS9 I wouldn't have gotten anything for that, I know of braver man".

"DS9? At 2374?" Blake asked as they started walking about the bay.

"The very same", Durnken replied. "I'm guessing you took a part in it?"

"The U.S.S. Majestic", Warren answered.

"The Majestic?" Durenken said. "I thought that ship was destroyed..."

"Yup", Warren replied. It didn't show completely, but it was obvious to Thik'kar that Blake felt more pain then he showed. "All hands lost with the exception of ten".

"It was a good ship, my friend", Durenken tapped Warren's back.

"It was four years ago, that's a long time", Warren replied, forcing a smile on his face so not be dragged into a discussion of war. "The Captain won't be back for a few hours longer. How about I'll take you to meet Commander Lorei and then I'll give you the grand tour?"

"Well, I served on two other Akira ships, so I'm not sure I'll need a tour", Durenken said. "What do you say that once we meet the infamous Commander Lorei, I'll show you everything there is to know about the Viper Fighter?"

"It will be a pleasure", Warren said and the two of them walked over to the turbo lift.

"By the way, when did you hear about Commander Lorei?" Blake wondered.

"I met one of your helm officers earlier on", Thik'kar said, "the special one".

"Erim... " Blake burst into laughter, thinking what the young Cardassian had to say about Lorei. They then entered the lift and made their way to deck 2 and the senior officers offices'.

At deck 4 of StarBase 1005, inside the discussions room, the commanders of wing 57 of the Epsilon Fleet were still arguing over the acts which should be made to bring an end to the violence cycle at the neutral zone. Commander Parker's suggestion was faced with great objection by Admiral Jol, Captain Izenbach and Captain Albrecht. The thought of such an operation, being done as a Federation inchoative, angered them to no end. To Parker's side stood Captain Tal and Captain Vag'gar. The idea of attacking the Dominion was not appealing to them, but they found it a reasonable course of action at these times.

"Do you completely understand the meaning of this plan?" Albrecht turned angrily to Tal and Vagg'ar. "You are suggesting we will commence a series of attacks against major Dominion out-posts and ship yards! 'Acts of Aggression' is meant to threaten the Founders home-world, which we are not even sure is at the location we suspect it to be".

"The shape-shifters need to understand we are here to stay", Vag'gar said.

"We are here to live by them", Abigail replied. "Not conquer them".

"I'm afraid your hope of co-existence with the Dominion is a bit unrealistic, Captain Izenbach", Captain Isak pointed out.

"Why?" she replied. "We already have trading relations with some of the Dominion minor species".

"Our problem is with the Founders, Abby", Christopher said. "They may let us trade with the people of the Dominion, but they still attack us on the boarder. They enjoy both our economical support and our desire for peace".

"And you believe an attack inside Dominion space would be a solution to this?" Admiral Jol asked sarcastically.

"Keep in mind Admiral, that so far there were no attacks on civilian targets", Christopher said in a firm voice. "That is a fact which will not be true for much longer. It saddens me to admit that the destruction of StarFleet vessels is some what legitimate in acts of war, after all StarFleet is the military force of the Federation and every StarFleet personnel know the risks in our missions. But what of the men and women of the Federation, The civilians StarFleet is meant to protect? What if the next attack would be against the people of New Bajor or Rida V?"

"Calm down, Captain Tal", said Admiral Wyngarde and the room went silent. "This discussion is well and done and these are my decisions after listening to all of you".

The holograms were turned down and all men turned to hear the Admiral orders.

"I shall conclude as I have started", the Admiral begun, "we are in a problematic situation to say the least, and every claim made here today is well and valid. I must admit I agree with the tune carried by Captain Tal, we cannot allow these attacks to be carried and aimed at civilian targets, nor can we continue and tolerate any aggression against StarFleet ships. By so I am referring to this violence status quo as pointed out by Captain T'Alim. However, war is absolutely out of the question and I won't dare give a command which should lead us to the very thing the Federation has been trying to avoid for the passing four years".

The Admiral stopped for a moment and looked at the faces of his captains. He focused on Christopher, his protégé of long years.

"Captain Izenbach", the Admiral continued, "You are hereby ordered to do all in your power to arrange a meeting with a shape-shifter, in order to make our stand as perfectly clear as possible", Abigail was shocked as to the order she was given. She might be a top diplomat, but this mission should prove very difficult.

"Can you arrange such a meeting?" the Admiral asked.

"I believe so, Admiral", she replied. "However, the Dominion would demand my ship would enter their territory and I would like an escort at such a situation".

"If the Admiral allows it, you will have the Valiant at your side at all times", Captain Vag'gar stated.

"So be it", Admiral Wyngarde approved. "Moving on, the option of initiating 'Acts of Aggression' will be brought up by my-self to the Commander of StarFleet, next month", the Admiral looked at both Philip and Christopher while saying this, "I would require your aid on this matter, both of you" and they both nodded in acknowledgement.

"For the time being, the patrols and mission of wing 57 will be without change", the Admiral concluded. "Yet there is still the matter of the U.S.S. Phenomena. I have given this matter much thought and it came to me that a captain of a flag ship should be a man of great character and talent", the Admiral looked at Commander Parker, "Had you been more experienced, Mr. Parker, I would have made you C.O. of that ship, yet I would like for the Phenomena place in the fleet to be of greater influence. Thus, I shall hand the command of that ship to you", he said and turned to Philip, who's expression was of sheer amazement. "I want the Epsilon Fleet's Chief of Operations to be a bit more active on the filed work and I know you would like to do so as well, Admiral Cardy. A doubt in you mind?"

"Not at all, Sir" Philip replied.

"Then it is done", the Admiral ordered. "You shall act as both the Chief of Operations and C.O. of the U.S.S. Phenomena, effective immediately. With this note I am concluding this meeting; we shall meet here again one week before the presentation to the Commander of StarFleet. You are all dismissed".

The captains got up and begun exciting the room, once Admiral Wyngarde and Admiral Jol left. Philip sighed to Christopher and Abigail that he would meet them later on, and walked out with Commander Parker at his side.

"Tell me, Captain Tal", T'Alim turned to Christopher. "Is Lt. Commander T'Jenn the Chief Medical Officer of your ship?"

"Indeed she is", Christopher replied. "Do you know her?"

"That much can be said", the Vulcan replied. "Would you tell her I asked of her well being?"

"Of course", Tal said and T'Alim bid him farewell.

Christopher saw Abigail leaving the room as well. By her was Captain Vag'gar who stopped and walked to Christopher just before leaving.

"You and Captain Izenbach know each other a long time, Captain?" the Andorian asked.

"Yes, why do ask?" Christopher wondered.

"She seems to be mad at you, as only friends can be", Vag'gar replied and Christopher could not help but feeling angry as well. He hated when matters of the fleet intervened with friendships and relations.

"She is a talented woman ", Tal said to Vag'gar, "you will enjoy working with her".

"No doubt in my mind", Vag'gar said and shacked Christopher's hand. "See you in a month", said Tal and Vag'gar left and rejoined Abigail.

Christopher had begun collecting his files and data-pads. He stopped for a moment and walked to the window. The worm-hole opened and a ship passed through. It was the U.S.S. Valiant, the Prometheus class ship under the command of Captain Vag'gar. 'They must have collected something on the other side while their Captain was busy' Christopher thought. He liked the design of the Prometheus class very much and was well aware of how powerful these ships are. He felt relived knowing Abigail will have one of them for support on her mission. The Neverland, of which Abigail was in command, was a Norway class ship. These vessels are not lacking fire power on their own, but when fitted for diplomacy, as the Neverland is, and not for battle they are in need of a safety net. "One can never be too safe in this universe" Christopher whispered to himself. He suddenly had a strong need to be back on his ship.

"Lights off", Warren said as he entered his quarters. He was tired, extremely tired, and not in a mood for lights. That day went much slower then he thought it would, and for most of the crew it wasn't even over yet. First of all, he placed his phaser rifle in its place, above a cabinet in his bedroom, locked with a force field. He walked back into the living room and opened his vest. He walked to the replicator, thought for a second, "Coffee, vanilla flavored, with cream", he said softly and held his eyes, while the replicator created both the beverage and the cup out of thin air. Warren held the warm cup in his hand and made his way to the couch in the middle of his living room. He set down and took a sip of the coffee and felt much better.

"What a day", he said to himself. For the past eight hours they've been working on whatever possible refit which could have been done to the ship. They reloaded the torpedo banks, changed the main launching program and repaired so many of the weapons pod systems, Warren had never seen so many engineers at that spot of the ship. He felt more lucky then tired, as he thought about the fact that his department might be finished for this run, but over at science, engineering and sick bay they still had a lot of work ahead of them. Chief Thomas deactivated the warp core so they could refuel the matter and antimatter tanks, 'What a pain' Blake thought, although the one he pitted the most was Lorei. 'How does she have the strength to deal with all that management crap' he thought to himself, 'I would go crazy if I had to deal with that all day, or be in meetings like the Captain'. The truth was, Warren really wanted to be back on route into deep space.

The noise from his bedroom got his attention. He wasn't sure what it was, but he wasn't sleepy any longer. He placed his cup on the table and walked over, quietly to the dark room. He did not enter it, simply placed his head in a position which enabled him to see that his phaser was missing. That was the moment that Warren was shot straight in the chest and fell back. He used the force of the fall and pushed himself back and on to his feet. "Lights" he said but the one who shot him shot again, this time at the door and knocked it down so he could run through it. The alarm was on all over the ship ever since the first shot. Blake ran out of his quarters and into the hall way and after the man who shot him, the intruder. He pressed his badge, "This is Lt. Commander Blake to all security personnel of the Elita, there is an armed intruder onboard, deck 4, sector C, security breach code red, I repeat, code red".

By then, Blake was beginning to catch up with the intruder, yet when they got to the turbo lift the man shot again, at the door. He then jumped into the open shaft and plumed down.

"Blake!" the voice of Commander Lorei came through the com-link, "What the hell is going on?"

"I have no idea, Ma'am, but some one just stole my gun when I was in my quarters and shot me", Blake said while running to another lift. "Lucky for me that was set on level 1 power".

"What? You were shot?"

"Yes, Ma'am", Blake said as he was joined by security personnel at the nearest working turbo lift. "I would recommend we detach from the base and exit into space so whoever he is, won't leave the ship".

"Good idea, Commander", Lorei said. "Find this man and neutralize him, I'll get the Elita out of the base, Lorei out".

On the bridge Commander Lorei turned to Lt. Monica Wellsh, operations officer of the Elita.

"Initiate the emergency departing sequence, Lieutenant" Lorei commanded, "And get me the base commander and the captain on screen".

"Yes Ma'am", Wellsh replied, and within seconds Commander Tesk, a Tellarite, appeared on the screen.

"What happened, Elita?" Tesk asked, wearing a serious expression on his face. "You have an intruder onboard?"

"That is affirmative, Commander", Lorei replied. "We are departing the base by emergency protocol with over two-hundred engineers of your base. We can't and won't beam anyone off the ship until the hazard has been neutralized".

"Understood", Tesk replied. "I'll have a marines infiltration unit ready in case things get out of hand and have your way out of the base cleared, good luck, Tesk out".

The screen went black and Monica reported "We are moving in one quarter impulse, heading out of the base".

"And the Captain?" Lorei asked.

"I don't think he knows yet and I can't get a hold of him since we detached from the base computer", Monica replied. "I notified the base' operations situation room, they'll contact us as soon as they get to him".

"Very well", Lorei replied, keeping her cool, "Inform me as soon as they do", she said.

The Elita moved through the gates of StarBase 1005 and into space, with Commander Lorei Karin on the bridge as acting captain. Lorei did not like that situation. They have been boarded before in different attacks, however, this was the first emergency she had to handle completely by her self, and unprepared she did not like it one bit.

On deck 7, Lt. Richard Foreman, who was Blake's deputy in all matters of security of the ship, joined his commander on the lift on its way down. Blake was handed a phaser pistol and the other five men with him were armed as well.

"You were shot, Sir?" Foreman asked as he looked at the missing piece of cloth on Blake's chest.

"Leave it for now and report", Blake commanded.

"The stolen weapon was found on deck 10", Foreman reported without hesitation, "Which means he could be anywhere, that's the largest deck on the ship. However, that's not our only problem".

"What more then?" Blake asked.

"There are over seven-hundred people on the Elita, Sir" Forman replied. "Each and every one of them is with a StarFleet badge".

The lift stopped at deck 10 and they exited it.

"Richard, I want a full security lock on every deck, essential personnel only", Blake said to his deputy. "Concentrate all non Elita personnel in storage bay 5 and run a full background check on each and every one of them".

"Will do, Sir", Foreman replied and began handing out missions and orders over the com-link to the security personnel of the Elita. All systems controls were moved to the bridge which allowed Blake and his men to scan the ship from top to bottom with every one on the Elita waiting for this situation to be handled.

 

Chapter 3

"You have some nerve, Christopher!" Abigail raged. Christopher, Philip and herself were in Philip's quarters on StarBase 1005. The meeting with Admiral Wyngarde was done several hours ago, yet only now the three of them had a chance to meet again. Philip was sitting on his couch while Christopher and Abigail were standing. In fact, Abigail was sort of strolling about the room other then standing. She was furious.

"I stand by what I said, Abby", Tal defended himself.

"I have no problem with what you said, Christopher, if that is truly your professional analysis", she said, crossing her harms, "My problem is with the way you said it. You crossed me at every turn, made my opinion seem useless and lacking, as if I was a foolish ensign who knew nothing of diplomacy and the Dominion!"

"You are giving this matter a proportion it hardly deserves", had Abigail not been Christopher's friend for many years, his reaction would have been much fiercer. "But if to be truthful, Abby, sometimes your optimistic ways blinds you. The Dominion are not Romulans or Cardassians. They do not have a people behind them".

"Are you about to give me a lesson of imperial cultures now?" Abigail asked with brut sarcasm, "or perhaps you will find it fitting to enlighten my views of the monarchy concept? Or the blinded worship of a demi-god?"

"Will you two stop it? Please!" Philip had enough of both of them. "I remember you doing the same bloody thing in the academy, couldn't agree on anything!"

The two of them looked at him, sitting there, watching over them like he always did.

"You two are brilliant, each at the field of your expertise", he said, while sanding up. "I did not invite you to my quarters so I could hear this debate at first hand, and to be honest I'm growing quit weary of it".

Philip walked to the other room, leaving his friends in silence. A few seconds later he returned with a bottle of wine and three glasses. He quickly purred the wine and handed each of them a glass.

"Let's keep matters of the fleet within the walls of offices and bridges, shall we?"

Christopher looked at Philip and then moved his gazed to Abigail. He smiled briefly and raised his glass towards her. It took her a moment, but eventually she replied and the three of them made a toast and drank the wine.

"Wonderful taste, Philip", Abigail said. "Where is this wine from?"

"What do you mean? It's from Earth", Philip said, "Made in the old fashion way at a town in north Britain".

Their conversation was interrupted by an incoming call Philip resaved in his study.

He told them he'll be back in a few minutes and went in to hear the massage. Within seconds he called Christopher into the room.

"The U.S.S. Elita has an intruder onboard", an officer of the base informed him, "they activated an emergency lock and began exiting the base in order to prevent the intruder from leaving the ship".

Christopher made his way to the window and watched his ship leaving dock, with him still on the base. He knew nothing could be done, since he couldn't be beamed up, due to the shields being raised.

Christopher gazed at his ship, "What the hell is going on?" he asked, mostly to himself.

Blake and Foremen were heading for Main Engineering, based on Foreman's assumption that if anyone wanted to cause major damage to the ship it could be done best through the warp core.

As the two officers entered the engineering hall, escorted by ten other security personnel, they noticed an unusually large amount of men at the deck, due to the high number of engineers and technicians from StarBase 1005 added for the repairs and work.

The team was approached by Assistant Chief Engineer; Ensign Samuel Rose.

"What the hell is going on?" Rose asked.

"A lot of people are asking that question today", Blake said, "Is Chief Thomas here, Sammy?"

"Yeah", the young man said. "He got here as soon as the alarm went on; he just got into his office to make sure..."

"Has any one been running in here since the breach?" Foreman asked Rose. "Anyone seemed to be a bit panicked?"

Rose, lifted an eye brow as if he was a Vulcan. "Are you kidding me?" he nearly shouted at Foreman, "Of course people have been running in here and of course people are panicking! There's an intruder on the ship! What kind of a fucking question is that?!?"

"Calm down, Rose, and watch your mouth!" Blake ordered and then turned to Foremen. "Same as we agreed, get all none Elita men out of here, go!"

Foreman moved to carry out his orders and Blake walked over to the warp core. He bent over the guard-rail and looked down, seeing the rest of the deactivated core. It wasn't as impressive now as it is when fully functional.

"Get away from there!" Chief Thomas shouted at Blake, who nearly lost his balance just by that. Blake turned and walked over to Thomas.

"Well? Did you get the intruder?" Thomas asked in almost a blaming tune.

"No, not yet" Blake said as he was joined by Lieutenant Foreman.

"Any leads?" Thomas wondered.

"He was male", Blake said and felt useless, "that's about it. I'm not even sure what he was wearing and what he looked like".

"I heard you were shot, you're lucky you're not dead" Thomas said.

Blake didn't reply, simply nodded and turned away. He kept looking around, feeling helpless. He had no clue where who ever shot him could be or who it was.

"Keep your man at Main Engineering for now", Blake heard Foreman briefing Chief Thomas. "We'll be back later on, once we're done with the other departments".

Blake was already walking towards the exit when something Foreman said struck a nerve. "By the way, Chief", Foreman said, "congratulations on your rank".

Blake turned around and zoomed on Thomas's collar. On his right side were two gold rank pips, two only.

Blake took out his phaser and shot Thomas straight in the chest. "What the Fuc..." Rose shouted as he watched the man fall back, turning into a shiny brown ooze.

"A changeling!" Foreman said in shook and aimed his weapon, same as the other security men did, at the shape shifter. They found the intruder.

The entire crew present at the deck looked amazed as the shape shifter took the form of a Founder. His shape was large, at least a head higher then Blake. His wears were in a body like color and set tightly about is formed muscles. His, obviously stolen, comm-badge was made useless by Blake's shot.

"Blake to Lorei, we got him at Main Engineering", Blake said into the comm-link, "It's a Changeling".

Lorei response might have come through, yet Blake, or any one else at Main Engineering for that matter, paid no attention to it. That was due to the fact that a few seconds after forming a solid body, the shape-shifter sprinted straight at the warp core. By now Blake had come to realize the fact that this changeling was not ordinary. First, he was fest enough to elude each and every shot made at him, and then when he reached the guard-rail he simply tossed himself, head first, down the warp core shaft.

"What the hell did he just do?" Rose was not only amazed, he was stunned.

"If he survives that fall, where can he get from there?" Blake asked Rose.

"Get?" Rose did quit understand. "If he isn't killed he can get where ever he wants, the computer core, maintenance shafts, the shuttle bays, the holode..."

"Shuttle bays?" Blake looked at Foreman.

"He's gonna leave the ship!" Foreman stated and Blake, followed by his security team, ran out of engineering towards the lifts.

"Commander Blake, report at once!" Lorei angered voice burst through the comm-link.

"He's going down to the shuttle bays!" Blake shouted through the comm-link, "I'm guessing he'll try to get off the ship and back to Dominion space".

"I'll inform Commander Thik'kar, get there as fest as you can".

"Aye, aye Ma'am!" Blake responded and made his way down to the Flight Deck.

The sight on Flight Deck and shuttle bay 3 was frightening to say the least, as Blake and his team entered the bay through different lifts and pass ways, they met with massive phaser fire.

Blake moved closer to Commander Thik'kar, who was taking cover behind one of the shuttles.

"Any injuries, Dureken?" Blake asked the Andorian.

"That's affirmative", Thik'kar replied, "Two were hit when that thing entered the bays, one of them is critical!"

"Medical teams are on their way", Blake said as a phaser blast missed his head just barely. "Where did he get a phaser?"

"A phaser?" Thik'kar said, "He has three of them and he moves all the time, I have no idea how he's doing it but he's getting to one of the shuttles with enough ease".

Blake and Thik'kar raised their heads in order to get a glimpse of the Changeling's whereabouts. As they looked onward, they spotted him making his way towards a type 9 shuttle.

"Fire!" Blake ordered and the security men along with every armed personnel on Flight Deck opened fire towards the shape shifter. A few hits were made, yet they didn't stop him. Perhaps they could have killed him had they wanted to, yet the orders were to fire on non lethal power setting. By the time Blake switched his own phaser to a power level which might have stopped the shape shifter; he was already on the shuttle.

Thik'kar, who realized the shuttle was powering up and began moving towards the bay's exit doors, gave a command of his own to the control room, via the comm-link.

"Activate a one way field", he yield into the link, "Let him leave the ship!"

"What are you doing?!" Blake raged, "You have no authority to..."

"If we don't let him out, he could open fire using the shuttle's phasers, either at us or worst yet, at the doors, blowing them open. Once he is out we can get a hold of him by either firing the ships phasers or with the tractor beam".

"Both systems are off line!" Blake said as the shuttle was exiting the ship. "And the warp core is out as well so we can't go after him and I'm not sure if there's any other ship outside the base. If he goes into to warp speed he could reach Dominion space within a day".

"He's not going into warp", Thik'kar said and his gaze turned to Fang 1, the prepared Viper fighter. Blake followed his gaze. They both got up and ran towards the fighter. As Blake placed himself at the operations seat, in the back, Thik'kar took the front seat, activating the controls of the fighter.

"Warp core activated, thrusters are on line", the Andorian reported, "Thik'kar to control room, initiating departure of Fang 1".

To the acknowledgment of the control room, Fang 1 levitated above the deck and began exiting into space.

"Shields are at 100% and weapons systems are fully functional", Blake reported.

As they exited the bay, Blake systems identified the stolen shuttle making its way to the outskirts of the solar system.

"Fang 1 to Elita", Thik'kar opened a channel. "Can you tell us where the shuttle is heading?"

"This is the Elita", came the voice of Commander Lorei through the comm-link, "seeing as you two have decided to embark on this mission all by yourself with no permission whatsoever I assure you, your return will bring about as much investigations and reports as I could conjure, but for the time being your improvised plan is the best at hand. We believe the shuttle is heading towards Avalanche Ocean, it's making its way outside the solar system at full impulse",

"We just received the co-ordinates", Blake replied, "Setting course. That shuttle won't make it into warp".

"Once we have all systems operational and the Captain on board we'll be following you", Lorei said, "be careful, Elita out".

Fang 1 left the Elita as Thik'kar shifted its direction.

"Can we catch up with him", Blake asked, as he himself went over the systems.

"We better", Thik'kar said. "Keep in mind that the type 9 can keep a speed of Warp 6 for a few days, while fighters aren't meant for deep space travel. If we don't get him now, we can't prevent him form reaching the Ocean. What I'm not getting is why he's going into Avalanche Ocean when he can try and reach a closer, open border?"

"Two reasons as I see it", Blake said, "Dominion ships won't wait to hear the hails of the shuttle and if no one knows he is coming he's as good as dead. Another reason is it would be harder for larger ships to follow him".

"When did you go through Starfleet Advanced Tactical Training?" Thik'kar asked.

"The beginning of '76" Blake said, "How did you know?"

"Takes one to know one", Thik'kar smiled. "Full impulse!" He said and the fighter shot itself forward in nearly light speed.

"Get as close as you can" Blake told Thik'kar. "If we threaten him enough he might stop or try and reach one of the planets".

"Define threaten", Thik'kar asked of Blake with a lift of an eye brow.

"Pulse phasers", Blake said, and already begun taking aim.

Thik'kar nodded and activated an impulse boost by injecting all the engines at once and pushing the reactor to its limits, sending Fang 1 onward with increased speed. Inside, both men felt as if the fighter was about to fall apart within seconds. Blake made the blast of pulse phasers just as the fighter swooped meters away from the shuttle and passed it, hitting the nacelles of the shuttle directly and cutting them off. Thik'kar turned the fighter around for another attack, this time Blake had the shuttle's life support system for a target. The pulse phasers cut through the ships shields and hull, as if they never excited.

The shuttle lost control immediately, yet it seemed the Changeling was able to regain it, as he was now heading towards a desert planet.

 

Chapter 4

"Energize" Lorei said into the comm link, passing the order down to the transporting chief. Within seconds the blue quantum haze appeared on the bridge of the Elita, forming the body of Captain Christopher Tal.

He quickly turned around and walked to his chair.

"Report", he demanded and Commander Lorei provided him with the information he's been waiting for.

"The intruder turned out to be a changeling, Captain", she said, taking the sit to his right. "He was able to highjack a shuttle and since he activated it within shuttle bay 3, we had little choice but to allow him a safe exit into space. Lt. Commander Blake and Lt. Commander Thik'kar followed him using the only Viper Fighter we had fitting for duty – Fang 1".

"They went into warp?" Tal asked, looking over to the operations station.

"Negative, Sir", Lt. Wellsh replied, "We are still able to track them within the solar system. Fang 1 attacked the shuttle, which seem to be with out warp capability, but heading towards an orbit of a planet, the fifth of this system".

"What type, Lt?"

"It's a class P planet, sir", she replied. "A desert world, with less then 1.5 percent of oxygen in the atmosphere".

"The Changeling won't allow himself to be caught", Tal said. "Chief Thomas, how soon before we can reach them".

"I need fifteen minutes to get the reactor on line", the Chief replied. "We'll be there in twenty minutes once it's done, with all systems operational, but the warp core".

"You have ten, Chief, make it happen", Tal ordered and turned to Targo at the helms. "Ensign, once we can move get us to that planet as fast as you can, am I clear?"

"Aye, aye sir", Targo responded.

The officers of the Elita moved on to carry their missions. Lorei remained next to Tal.

"We are trying to understand when the shape shifter came on board, so far with little success", she said.

"I wouldn't lose any sleep over that matter", Tal replied in a calm tune which proved a surprise to Lorei, "We made enough stops and let several people on the Elita, along with equipment and other products. A Changeling could pass as almost anything".

"Still, it is troubling me, Sir", Lorei said, "With your permission, I would like the next senior staff meeting to discuss this incident in the sense of avoiding a future one".

"Commander, I believe our next senior staff meeting would touch the outcome of this incident in more then one aspect".

"Could you explain further, Captain?" she wondered.

"I believe, Ms. Lorei, we are witnessing a major turning point in Federation-Dominion affairs", Tal replied, "And I wish I could say it would be for the better".

"The Admiral gave any irregular orders at the conclusion of the discussion?"

"'Acts of Aggression' was brought up", Tal said quietly, "And the Admiral wishes to present the idea, along with every possible view point, to Starfleet Commander. The project was assigned to Admiral Cardy and myself".

"How long?" Lorei enquired.

"Three weeks before it's shown to the Admiral, and a month before we go to Earth" Tal said, "I expect long office hours and many visits to the starbase".

"Captain, I got the reactor going" Thomas' voice came through the com-links, "We're good to go!"

"Ensign?" Tal turned to the Cardessian helmsman.

"Course is set, Sir" came his reply.

"Engage!"

The Elita raced onward in full impulse, narrowing the distance between itself and the desert planet.

A few minutes later, Lt. Wellsh reported "I'm detecting both vessels sir, the shuttle is on a collision course with the planet. It's a suicide attempt".

"Hail Fang 1, Ms. Wellsh", Tal ordered.

"Fang 1 here", came the voice of Lt. Commander Blake over the comm-link.

"Fang 1, this is Captain Tal", he spoke clearly into the comm-link. "Activate your tractor beam and slow that shuttle as well as you can, we will be assisting you within seconds, Elita out".

Tal's orders were loud and clear. Without saying a word to each other, Blake and Thik'kar carried them out.

Fang 1 moved closer to the shuttle, which by now was entering the planet atmosphere. The fighter moved above it and turned 180 degrees, at the precise moment when Blake activated the tractor beam. The fighter throttled as the forces of gravity pulled both vessels down.

Thik'kar tried to maneuver, but was unable to control the fighter. The engines were too weak to pull out of the atmosphere, and the additional mass of the shuttle only quickened the fall.

"I'm trying another impulse boost", Thikkar said when he realized they will soon pass the point of no-return. "Let's hope it works" he said

"What are the chances?" Blake asked.

"You don't wanna know"

"I believe you... do it!" Blake said, knowing that other wise both vessels will crash on the hostile planet. Thik'kar injected whatever fuel they still had to the engines again. The fighter flew up, dragging the shuttle with it. The effect on the shields was devastating and the damage done by both heat and pressure nearly tore the ships apart. Thik'kar gave a final push, directing whatever power they still had into the engines, making a final burst of full impulse and thrusting both the fighter and the shuttle out side of the atmosphere. As the exit was done, the power level within the fighter dropped to zero. The two ships were now floating in space with no power to move. As the fighter floated about, Blake had to turn his head from the windshield to avoid the strong, blinding light coming from the star of the system.

"Close the cover", Blake asked of Thik'kar.

"No need for that, my friend", Thik'kar said and Blake raised his head forward, as the shadow of the Elita covered him from the light of the star.

"We did it, well done Warren", Thik'kar turned to his partner.

"Thanks, you too", Blake replied. He set with distinct uneasiness as an expression of pain filled his face and a low moan burst out of him.

"What happened?" Thik'kar asked.

"I'm not sure, but that shot from earlier really hurts now"

"You were shot?" Thik'kar asked with shock.

"Yeah", Blake said. "That thing shot me with my own phaser gun. At least it was level 1 setting".

"I think you might have broken something then", Thik'kar said. "I'm surprised it didn't bother you before".

"Forget about it", Blake said. "Let's just lay back. We have a few moments until we reach the ship, and Lorei with her questions".

The two men felt their fighter being tugged into the bay. Only then they allowed themselves to breath with ease.

Captain's log, Supplemental:

This incident will change things, and not for the better I'm afraid. I would not at all be surprised if in the future, we might find the Dominion intended such an incident to accrue, hoping it will push us into a hasty act of war.

At any point, the bottom line is quit clear – a Dominion spy was discovered. Sadly, while Fang 1 survived the pressure and heat of the planet's atmosphere, the Changeling within the shuttle attempted no such thing. Dr. T'Jenn stated that he died shortly after entering the atmosphere.

As I understand it, no official attempt to contact the founders will be made, and this entire incident will be kept as silent as possible.

However, it will have an excessive influence on the form in which the Gamma Quadrant situation will be presented to StarFleet Commander next month. In the meanwhile, we have left StarBase 1005 and are heading towards the Jelga system at warp 5 for routine patrol duties.

I seem to have a lot of work ahead of me.

Captain Tal set in his ready room. Above his desk a hologram of the quadrant was being projected, filled with tactical marks of different star-bases, colonies and ships patrol routs of both sides. Lt. Commander Blake was sitting in front of his commanding officer. It's been six days since the shape-shifter was discovered on the Elita and shot Warren in the chest, yet the ship's Tactical Officer spent the passing two hours with the Captain, going over the operative plan dubbed 'Acts of Aggression', attempting to clarify a few gaps which have been overlooked when the operation was first conjured.

"This tactical maneuver is out of the question", Tal said to Blake, pointing to a border line solar system, where an attack against a Dominion shipyard is planned. "Not with these forces, five ships are not enough".

"Well, the main idea is to send a Prometheus class as a task-force leader, sir", Blake responded. "And as far as we know, there aren't any staler defenses orbiting the shipyard".

"When was the last time we received updated intelligence data regarding that system?" The Captain Inquired.

"A month ago, Sir" Blake said, zooming onto the system and projecting a holographic image of the yard.

"A month? That won't do", Tal said. "We need better accesses to intelligence sources".

"I have a friend on board the U.S.S. Firenze", Blake replied. "It's collecting Intel at that sector; I might be able to provide us with more recent information".

"That might prove sufficient now, but we need better intelligence than that if we truly hope to improve this plan", Tal said, just as the door of the ready room hissed open and Commander Lorei stepped in.

"You know what I think of that demand, Captain", Blake said. "If you truly wish for this work to be efficient, we have to do it from Star Base 1005".

"Yes, yes, I know, Mr. Blake", Tal said, turning his gaze towards Lorei. "What do you say to that, Commander? They're trying to make me a staff officer again".

"Not your intent, sir?" Lorei said with a smile. She knew how much the Captain hated desk work.

Tal nodded with approval and turned once more to his Tactical Officer, "We will meet here again at sixteen-hundred hours tomorrow and finish this draft", he told Blake. "Get whatever information you can, and we will see where we are going from there".

"Yes, Sir", Blake replied while shutting down the projection, "In the meantime I'll hand it over to Monica. I'll bet she and her officers could contribute to the development of this plan".

"Very well, bring Lt. Wellsh with you tomorrow then", Tal said. "You are dismissed, Mr. Blake".

"Thank you, sir, and good night", Warren said and left the ready room.

"He got back on his feet very quickly", Lorei said to Tal, once Blake left the room.

"Very impressive", Tal added. "Dr. T'Jenn informed me four of his ribs were broken when the Changeling shot him".

"I suppose T'Jenn helped his rapid healing, but Warren is a very determined officer", Karin added, taking a seat in front of Christopher.

"Yes he is", Tal said.

"Have you had a chance to go over the report I submitted to you?" she asked.

"I did, good job", Tal replied, "but are you sure the security re-arrangement you offer is not over the top?"

"I don't", Lorei said. "I won't have a similar incident happen, not while I'm the First Officer".

"Very well", Tal replied. "Then you have my approval".

"Thank you, Captain", Lorei said. "I'll make sure Lt. Foreman is executing these reforms a.s.a.p."

"Very good, Commander", Tal said. "What else?"

"How far have you gone with 'Acts of Aggressions' to this point, sir?" Lorei asked, making Tal stop writing on his padd.

"In what sense do you mean?" he wondered.

"Warren told me you don't like this plan", Lorei said. "You don't like were it's going, where it's taking us".

"Really? He did?" Tal said, leaning back in his chair.

"Yes, Captain", Lorei replied. She wasn't sure why she was smiling other then the fact she might have gotten Warren into a bit of trouble. "Is he wrong?"

Tal gazed out side his window for less then a second, then pressed two buttons on his desk. Soft yet rhythmic music was heard. Christopher leaned back with more comfort as he heard it play.

"Bach?" Lorei asked

"Indeed", Tal replied. "This is his Brandenburg Concerto number 4 in G Major".

"Are you tense, Captain?" Lorei asked bluntly.

"I believe so", Tal said. "Admiral Cardy has appointed me responsible for the Ora'ak region tactical plan. I have only been reviewing it for four days, but as it seems to me, we don't have enough ships to pull that kind of move and I can not believe StarFleet Commander will authorize this kind of a plan to begin with".

"Do you think this operative plan is a bad idea?" Lorei asked.

"I don't think it's a bad idea, Commander, I think it's a bad plan", Christopher replied. "So far, I am not at all convinced these actions will produce the final outcome we expect and hope for".

"I thought you supported the offer of initiating 'Acts of Aggression'" Karin asked.

"I did, but only due to the situation we have on our hands at the very moment", he said, "If to be blunt, I never supported our entering into this quadrant so early. I think the Federation should have waited a few years longer, try and understand the Dominion a bit better, before we made the planets and systems here into the home of millions of people. We should have explored more".

"You mean the quadrant itself?" Karin didn't seem to fully understand what Christopher meant.

"I mean this entire situation", Christopher replied. "We were barely out of the war and before we knew it we were setting course to this new frontier at maximum warp. We never gave it enough thought".

"I disagree with your approach, Captain", Karin said, while getting up. She walked over to the replicator. "I, for one, don't believe in long range explorations. If we want to know what it is we deal with we need to actually deal with it. Any thing to drink or eat, Sir?"

"Cappuccino please", he said.

Karin nodded, "cappuccino, hot. Coffee, black, hot", she said and the replicator quickly filled the order.

"But I suppose that by 'exploration' you are referring mainly to passion and less to actual field work", Karin said as she took the cups to the table and handed the Captain his own.

"Thank you", Christopher said and continued with the conversation. "You are partly correct. However, what we are doing in this quadrant these days is not exploration. It's colonization".

"Again, Sir, a definition we do not agree about", Karin said.

"Colonization is not a matter of definition, Commander, it is a course of action", Christopher replied, "One which has been used by the Federation since its foundation".

"And you believe this course of action to be..." Karin thought for a second, "...misguided?"

"No, I believe it to be a diversion of course", Christopher said, crossing his arms over his chest.

"If to be frank, Captain", Krin lifted an eye brew, "I have no idea where you are going with this".

"I'm at fault then", Christopher smiled, "I look at StarFleet and its commander and I can't help but feel we have become so overwhelmed by wars and diplomacy, we seem to have forgotten the true goal, set by the founders of the Federation, for this fleet".

"We don't explore enough", Karin said, "Is that your point?"

"Precisely", Christopher was pleased to see his X.O. understood him. "When I was assigned to this command I instated on making Dave Mai my Second Officer as well as Science Officer, since I wanted a man whose entire state of mind was aimed at new ideas. I have much faith in Warren Blake, but I can not say I look at him as an explorer... nor myself".

"And you believe the lack of this quality diminish from your ability to command?" Karin asked, knowing the Captain could never agree with what she said.

"I do not think we are missing the passion for exploration", Christopher said, trying the best he could to express his thought, "simply the practical capability of performing such a mission to the outmost success. Then again, exploration is not the main mission of the Elita".

"True, Captain", Karin said, holding the warm cup in her hands, "coming to think of it, I believe the junior post I enjoyed the most was on board the Enterprise. That is a true exploration ship by all means".

"What was your assigned post?" Christopher asked.

Karin smiled briefly, "It wasn't that long ago, really", she said. "I was already a full lieutenant at the time and Commander Riker assigned me to the Operations Department to work on an A.Q.S. project".

"Artificial quantum singularity, am I correct?" Christopher asked,

"Yes", Karin said. "However, the operation department on the Enterprise is a bit differently than on the Elita. I had many chances to work with the Captain".

"And I can only guess you did an excellent job", Christopher said. "I remember reading Picard's recommendation to promote you".

"Yes", Karin replied as her chicks turned a bit red, "it was an incredible privilege to work with him".

"How clearly do you remember your first day at this post? As First Officer of the Elita I mean" Christopher wondered.

"Crystal clear, it was barely three months ago", Karin replied, sipping from her coffee. "But it's the same for every post I was ever assigned to".

"I know what you mean", Christopher said. "Before I made captain, I was assigned to the U.S.S. Darwin as First Officer, I can't believe it has been five years already, it was a beautiful Ambassador Class ship", Karin noticed her captain's eyes had a glow in them as he spoke of the Darwin. "My Captain was a Vulcan man named Sovox; he commanded that ship for 55 years".

"That is a very long time", Karin said with amazement, "even for a Vulcan".

"Indeed it was", Christopher said, remembering his last captain. "At our first off duty conversion we got to talking about exploration. You see, it was the middle of the Dominion War, and most of our missions were of combatant nature. He asked me what I thought about ships still patrolling in the Beta Quadrant at time of war and I answered what I thought was right, that it is a mistake to use these forces at such a way".

"What did he say?" Karin wondered.

"He asked me what we are fighting for", Christopher said, "It took me a while to realize what he meant".

"I graduated into the war", Karin said. "I wasn't even sure what to make of it. A former Bajoran refugee thrown into the biggest conflict the quadrant has ever known, with my home-planet in the middle and me hundreds of light-years away. It didn't take me long to figure out what I am fighting for when they assigned my ship to the front lines".

"Commander, I hope not to open old wounds", Christopher said carefully. "But when were you last to your home world? When did you last visit Bajor?"

"Star date 46458.2", Lorei replied immediately. "The Terran date was June 17th 2369, just a few months after the occupation ended. I was a third year cadet. My professor demanded I'd be given special leave. That day, fourteen-O-six-hundred-hours, was the first time I stepped on Bajoran ground in seven years. I don't believe in colonization, Captain. I believe in taking steps forward. I believe in dealing with the hand you were dealt while looking forward to the next game".

"To the dawn of tomorrow", Christopher said. "To looking ahead, pass the next star".

"Aye, Sir", Karin replied.

"Yes Ms. Lorei", Christopher nodded slightly, "that is what we fight for".

There was a short period of silence.

"Do you still speak to Captain Sovox from time to time?" Karin asked.

"I wish I could have", Christopher replied. "He was killed during the final battle of the war".

Once more, Karin broke the very short silnce, "I'm so sorry", she said, a bit embarrassed due to her lack of tact.

"So am I, Ms. Lorei", Christopher said quietly. He pressed the buttons on his table again and the music stopped

"Back to business, Captain?" Lorei asked.

"Indeed, I believe we lingered long enough", Tal replied.

"Aye, Sir", Lorei said and placed three data-padds of the table.

"What are those?" Tal asked.

"We received a few replies to some of our posting requests", Lorei said, "The most immediate one is of a Ship Counselor".

"Huh, it's about damn time!" Tal said, sounding very pleased. "How soon?"

"Hopefully, next month", Lorei replied, "But I think it would probably take an extra two".

"Unfortunate, yet acceptable", Tal said. "Have we received a reply regarding additional Aviators for the fighter squadrons?

"Yes, Captain, the additional pilots should be arriving over the next month as well, however..."

The beeping sound of the comm-link intruded Lorei's words.

"Sir, we are receiving a distress call", came the voice of Lt. Commander Mai.

Both Tal and Lorei got up and exited the ready room into the bridge of the Elita.

"Report", Tal ordered, taking his seat.

"A civilian ship, Captain, the S.S. Sunstreaker", Mai said. "They are attacked by Jem'Hadar attack ships, I'm scanning five vessels".

"We could reach them in less then a minute if we go to maximum warp, Sir", Ensign Targo reported from the conn.

"Agreed", Tal decided, turning his head towards Chief Thomas at his station on the bridge, "Make sure it is possible, Chief".

"Consider it done, Captain", Thomas replied.

"Red alert, shields up!" Lorei commanded and the red lights began flashing throughout the ship, sounding the alarm, "All hands; battle stations".

"Mr. Blake, arm phasers and photon torpedoes", Tal said.

"Yes, Sir", Blake replied.

"Mr. Targo, set course", Tal ordered. "Maximum warp".

"Aye, aye Sir", Targo said.

"Phasers are charged, torpedo tubes are armed and ready", Blake reported.

"We're good to go, Captain, just give the word", Thomas shouted from his post.

"Course is set, Captain", Targo reported at last.

Tal looked at Lorei who was sitting at his side. "Here we go again", he said to her and turned his attention to the helms once more.

"Engage!"

 

- The End -

 

Credit where credit is due: The amazing Viper class fighter was designed by Andrew J. Hodges.

 

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Last modified: 10 Apr 2012 
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