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 Post subject: Star Trek: Challenger.
PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 7:45 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2009 1:00 am
Posts: 248
Location: Aboard the Warstar Irkalla
Hi, everyone!

I've decided to step away from BSG for a little while and clear my head with a little 'trek.

This is actually an OLD book of mine that I've re-done. I hope everyone likes. As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.

Love, Mia x x x

Chapter 1

Sector 004, Polaris Refit Shipyards. December 20th, 2380

The bleakness of interstellar space is immense, an endless black void silhouetted by the twinkling of countless distant stars. All was peaceful, still and quiet. That’s exactly what Captain Jonathan Reed thought as he looked out of the shuttlecraft’s viewport. Far in the distance he could see the looming blue orb of a planet. Turning to his pilot the captain asked “Lieutenant-Commander Neeley, is that Polaris?”

“Yes, sir” Lisa Neeley answered from the chair to his left. “That’s the gas giant Polaris”.

Reed nodded and leaned back in his seat. Reed could tell that the young officer with him was uncomfortable in silence, so in an attempt to relax her he asked her a question to which he already knew the answer. “So, commander” he started “why the hell is Polaris the only planet here?”

“From what Starfleet can understand, the planet Polaris was once in another star system. Our best guess is that the star in that system died, taking its gravitational pull with it. Polaris slowly drifted out of the system before losing her relative speed and inertia and coming to stop here. That’s why it’s called the Polaris system. One system, one planet, no star” Neeley answered, reciting from memory.

Reed nodded and smiled. Knowing that the woman who was his new tactical officer was relaxing made him happier. He turned in his chair and looked around the old shuttle that were in. “An old Type-5L shuttle. I haven’t seen one of these in years, yet alone been in one”.

Neeley smiled before she answered simply “We’re using her because she was the only shuttle aboard the Challenger when we arrived aboard her”.

“Hmm” replied Reed. He had been led to believe that there was a half full complement of shuttlecraft aboard his new command.
Turning to her new captain, Lisa Neeley asked “Sir, if it’s okay for me to ask ... could you tell me the history behind this ship. I know her class was short lived, but that’s all”.

Reed smiled to himself, folded his arms across his chest and closed his eyes before answering “Of course. The Challenger-class dates back to the Niagra-class starships, a design offshoot from the Ambassador. Starfleet designed a complete new set of technology, as massive a leap at the time from the tech aboard the original Constitution-class ships compared to the refits. Instead of a round saucer, the Advanced Starship Design Bureau created the idea of an oval, better capacity internally but no real impact on the ships warp field. After they’d designed this technology they started incorporating it into the vessels of the time. Naturally they started designing new ships, the Galaxy and Nebula-class vessels, but before those they built a smaller class of ships. The idea was for our ship, the USS Challenger to be a one-of-a-kind starship. Unique to test the ideas of the time ... saucer and nacelle design. Anyway, compared to ships at the time our ship proved far superior ... so Starfleet Command ordered more of this class to be built. Challenger left spacedock for the first time in 2350 and less than two years later, four more of this class had been built and pushed into service. As the ships were more thoroughly tested it was found that the warp core was lacking power, but with the USS Galaxy herself nearly complete and the first two Nebula-classes practically ready to leave spacedock Starfleet chose to ignore it and simply ended the production run of this class. These ships were forced to soldier on with no real upgrades. One starship, the USS Buran was annihilated at Wolf 359, but to give the underpowered starship credit, she was one of the last starships to be beaten in that battle. Our ship was retired within weeks of Wolf 359. Others served through to the Dominion war and were battered mercilessly before they too were retired”

“And now Starfleet wants us to put this geriatric, underpowered ship back to space. The reason I can’t understand is why” Neeley confessed with a shake of her blonde head.

Reed took a careful breath, opened his eyes and answered “Because there’s a new Borg threat”. Lisa looked shocked at the revelation but Reed added sternly to her “That information stays between us for now. I’m going to tell the new crew soon enough. Besides, you’re my tactical officer. If you know what we’re fighting then maybe we can be better prepared”.

Lisa turned back to her console as Reed looked out of the forward viewport. Polaris had just passed their left side and was retreating into the distance, before them growing ever larger was the Polaris Refit Shipyards. Until recently this old base, nearly eighty years old had been reduced to a skeleton crew, but Starfleet Command had decided that other old ships, not just Challenger were to be retrofitted here and had assigned a large number of personnel from the Starfleet Corps of Engineers.

They sped past a small Oberth-class starship that was towing a massive Galaxy-class warp nacelle towards the now looming Polaris shipyard. Nodding to the small, venerable vessel Reed swivelled his chair around and looked into the aft cabin. Crammed into the shuttle were twenty junior Starfleet personnel, some fresh from the academy. Most were crewmen with the odd junior-grade lieutenant thrown in for good measure.

Addressing them all Reed said “As you are aware, we are moving towards the Challenger. What can any of you tell me about this class of starship?”

One young lieutenant raised his hand cautiously. Reed nodded to her and said simply “Yes”.

The young woman took a deep breath before answering clearly “All vessels of the Challenger-class started life as another vessel. They replaced the aged Akula-class starships. Following Starfleet’s standard policy, vessels that are being retired return to spacedock where they are completely disassembled. The ship becomes a bare skeleton, then the hull, bulkheads and deck plates are removed until the vessel in totally taken apart. Those materials are then re-used in the construction of the vessel to replace it, once the materials are used new materials are brought in to finish off the new starship. The starship that donated her life for the Challenger to be created was the USS Askagi.”

“Very impressive” Reed answered with an approving nod and a smile “you’re absolutely correct. The Challenger-class was approved after the Akula-class ships you mentioned proved that one starship can have a warp nacelle mounted above and below the starship. With the massive technology leaps made after the Ambassador-class vessels, Starfleet decided that they would make a whole new space frame to accommodate these new technologies. Challenger-class vessels tested the revolutionary new saucer and warp nacelle designs. The elliptical saucer was a massive leap forwards as well as the next generation of computer core and software. The LCARS system was truly introduced along with a new generation of warp core. I thought you should all have a last bit of history lesson before we get aboard. Now, the vessel will be in a sorry state. We have very little time to get her operational. Drop your luggage in your quarters then get to your duty stations. Make me proud, all of you”.

“Captain, we’re approaching the ship” Neeley announced.

Turning his attention back to the forward viewport he could see the base out of the forward viewport. Resembling a much smaller version of a standard starbase this station had four central arms extending from the central point of the station leading to four massive domes. Each dome opened to be a sealed drydock for a vessel along with the accommodation for two starships in the main base. As the shuttle sped closer Reed could see that the doors at the top of the primary dock were wide open ... and his starship was sitting there.
Leaning forwards in his seat he soaked in every line and curve of the ship. The elliptical saucer had the blocky engineering hull extending directly out the back. One warp nacelle was atop a large portion of hull extending above the secondary hull like the conning tower of the ancient Earth submarines. The second nacelle was on a short pylon directly below the secondary hull. “She’s not exactly a looker, but she’s sturdy inside”

“She’s beautiful” Reed retorted simply.

Lisa smiled to herself as she gently banked the shuttle around the ship they had now reached on a lap of the Challenger. “I’ve spoken to a friend of mine aboard the Galaxy-class USS Nightwatch, she’s the tactical officer.” Neeley added. “Nightwatch has been in drydock for the last month having her phaser arrays upgraded from the bog standard type-10 to the type-12's used on the Sovereign and new build Galaxy-classes during her refit. I’ve managed to get the type-10 components sent over to us ... and they’re installed”. Reed’s face lit up at what his tactical officer was telling him, but she hadn’t finished yet. “My friend has also sent over their old shield generators and power couplings for us. They’re installed as well ... along with their old targeting sensors”.

“So we’ve basically got a Galaxy-class weapons and defence suite” Reed said.

Lisa nodded briefly before answering “We’ve sourced the original warp core and it’s being installed ... but our chief engineer isn’t hopeful about there being much power. Not unless we can get Starfleet Command to send us out new components”

“There won’t be any” Reed stated simply. At that remark all chatter in the back of the cabin stopped and Lisa looked at him in alarm.

“But sir, without any modern components...” Neeley started.

“That’s the end of it” Reed snapped. “Command have decided that our whole job is to get a mothballed starship back onto the front line as quickly as possible, they’re not willing to let us have time or resources that can be used to get more modern starships as close to the technology in the Intrepid and Sovereign-class starships”.

Lisa shook her head in exasperation as she aimed the bow of their shuttle towards the shuttlebay at the back of the secondary hull. Jonathan hoped that they would land soon as he rubbed his hands over his clean shaven face and stretched his legs. These shuttles weren’t made for a man of six foot he thought.

Aboard the USS Challenger NCC-60445, Shuttlebay One, Five minutes later.

Captain Jonathan Reed stepped up onto the podium that had been set up in the shuttlebay. He turned to address his new crew, all the senior staff were assembled before him and all the ships off-duty crew members eagerly awaiting their first glimpse of their new commanding officer. Reed looked down at the small padd he was holding before he said “From Starfleet Command to Captain Jonathan Reed, regarding USS Challenger. You are hereby requested and required to take command of the aforementioned vessel effective immediately. Signed, Starfleet Command. Stardate 479901.3”.

Reed set the padd down on the small dais before him and said as he looked out at his crew “Firstly, I want to thank all of you for being here today. I realise we’ve got a great deal of work to do before this ship is fully ready but from what I hear you’ve all worked wonders already.” He took a deep breath and continued “We know there is a new Borg threat looming, one that will make the Dominion War look positively tame by comparison”. He stopped for a moment to allow the shocked murmurs to pass through the assembled Starfleet personnel before continuing “I know this isn’t the kind of speech you were all expecting, but I make it a point to always be honest to the people under my command. If you know what’s happening then you can do your work as best as possible. This is an old ship, but our tactical officer has already been able to quite ingeniously overhaul our phasers and get far more power out of them. Our chief engineer will be getting this old ship far more power and speed than she’s ever had before. You’ve already all made me proud, and I know you’ll all continue to do so. That’s all, and thank you.”

Reed nodded to his first officer, and the Trill woman smiled and nodded back at him. She turned to face the crew and said loudly “Okay everyone, let’s get back to work. Dismissed”. Immediately the crew all started to move quickly from the room, many of the off-duty personnel choosing to go straight back to their usual duty stations knowing that there was a new Borg threat out there.

Kell Perim, the first officer stepped towards Reed as he stepped down, the other senior staff crowding around him. Perim smiled at him, shaking his hand before she said “I was wondering when you were going to arrive”.

Reed laughed before answering “Old friend, if I hadn’t known you for ten years, I’d kick you into touch”.

Perim smiled before she turned to the assembled officers and said “Captain, may I introduce you to your senior staff”. Reed shook hands with all of them before he said “So ... shall we get to the bridge?”

“Erm...” said Kell “we can’t”. Reed looked at her for a moment before she elaborated “The bridge is empty, empty. No chairs, consoles ... even carpets”

“The carpets?” Reed asked, shocked.

Kell nodded before she answered quickly “There aren’t any carpets anywhere in the ship. We’re ready to replicate them but I was waiting for your choice on colour”.

Reed laughed before he answered “That’s something we can figure out later. For now I want to know how operational we are. Lieutenant-Commander Neeley has already brought me up-to-date on the tactical and shield systems, but I need to know where we stand”.

Kell motioned for Lieutenant Daggre to step forward. The Xindi chief engineer looked at Reed and explained “Captain, we’ve managed to put the warp core back together and reinstall it. Warp power has been restored and I’ve managed to squeeze a bit more power from it. Unfortunately, our top speed is still a maximum of warp nine-point-two. With the computer power available, there just isn’t enough raw computing power to be able to recalibrate this ... unstable warp field quickly enough to get more speed. For that, we’ll need the primary and secondary computer cores available to the Galaxy-class ships out there now”

“No chance” Reed answered with a shake of his head “I’m sorry lieutenant, but we’re damn lucky we were able to get our hands on the warp core, it was going to be stripped down, rebuilt and put into one of the Galaxy's that are still under construction. Starfleet Command was very clear about one thing, they’re willing to let this ship get as operational as she was when she was retired, but there are to be no resources diverted to the vessels being reactivated here”

“You mean we’ve got to fight a war against the Borg with technology that’s effectively forty years old!?” Daggre exclaimed.

Reed nodded to him, but the chief engineer took a few deep breaths to compose himself. He looked at Reed before he said “I know we’re an old ship, but I might be able to make us look modern”. Reed raised his eyebrows in surprise and question at the officer’s statement. Finally the engineer realised that he needed to elaborate so he continued “The LCARS displays are ready to be brought operational, at the minute we have to use emergency software from the last Excelsior-class ship in service. I’m ready to upload our old software, but I can modify the colours of the displays from the usual pastel colours to the multi-tone blues from the latest Sovereign-class ships like the Enterprise-E now has. I was actually one of the senior engineers during her last overhaul and refit, so I’ve already got all the templates and patterns ready to use ... I thought I should check with you first.”

Reed smiled broadly before he answered “Do it, upload them and we’ll at least look more modern” before he turned to Kell and said “There’s your answer. Blue carpets to match the displays.”

“Black chairs with charcoal console components will set it off nicely” Kell added with a smile.

Reed rolled his eyes at her as he said “Fine, you’re the ships new interior decorator. Now, let’s get to the battle bridge and see how ready we are”

Chapter 2

Aboard the USS Challenger NCC-60445, Sector 004, Polaris Refit Shipyards. December 23rd, 2380.

Jonathan Reed walked into the battle bridge of his starship and made his way to the command chair. Glancing at the main viewscreen he saw a different vista to that he had become accustomed to over the last three days. Hours earlier the Challenger had been towed from her drydock to a smaller, spider-like dock facility to complete her final preparations. The battle bridge was an exact copy of that originally fitted to the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D when the now legendary vessel had been launched. It looked very different to when he had first stepped into the room three days ago, and was now fully operational.

The bare flooring had been covered by a deep blue carpet, the main LCARS systems were now operational and displayed on all the consoles and all the lights were on. The main bridge was still being pieced together, not an easy task at the best of times, but it did give Jonathan the chance to not only design a bridge refit but to choose how the bridge would be laid out as well. His mind had first darted to a copy of the bridges of the Challenger’s larger cousins, the Galaxy-class, but then he considered all the different designs used on the Nebula-class vessels, and then the newer ships before going to the bridge of the USS Excalibur he had served aboard for so long.

Jonathan knew that a ships bridge would stay with it for her entire life ... or usually, anyway. The bridge was a critical part of the ship, the nerve centre of the vessel. It was important to get the design and look just right for not just him, but for his entire crew and any officers that might go on to command the ship.

As he lowered himself into his command seat he couldn’t help but smile to himself. The LCARS system that had been brought operational by his chief engineer was the exact same multi-tone blues that were to be found on the bridges of only the very latest Starfleet ships. “An old system with a new covering” Reed thought as he relaxed in his seat.

As Reed drank in the atmosphere around him of his first command his ops officer, Lieutenant Lian T’su looked around from her console in front of him and said “Captain, I think you’ll want to see this”. The ship was now in a spider-like spacedock enclosure, a smaller version of those used to construct the Galaxy and Nebula-classes. She had moved to it from the protected confines of the larger dock a day earlier to make space for another starship. Reed looked at the viewscreen and a moment later the image changed to show a starship approaching. Reed squinted at the vessel for a moment before his first officer, Lieutenant-Commander Kell Perim looked up from the secondary science console at the rear left of the bridge, looked at the viewscreen and said

“My god, is that a Galaxy-class starship? She looks ... different”

“She’s a prototype” answered Reed “the USS Entente. Based on the Galaxy II-class ship, she’s got the complete internals from the Sovereign-class ships. She’s been given an extra section of hull behind the neck, it’s basically a larger version of the middle pylon from the Nebula-class ships with a tactical pod mounted atop.”

Kell Perim let out a low whistle before she said “Erm ... she’s got a lot of damage”. Reed nodded his head as he surveyed the damage. There were massive rents in her hull, whole chunks torn out of her saucer and secondary hull. The port nacelle was a shattered wreck. Molten, fused warp coils were exposed, residual warp plasma still trailing from the decimated systems. Jonathan could see a black, gaping charred wound where the ships bridge had once stood. It had been turned into nothing more than a crater that bored down to deck six.

Lieutenant-Commander Lisa Neeley continued to look down at her tactical console directly behind the command seat as she said “The Entente’s main power’s off-line. She’s lost weapons and long-range communications. They’ve got limited low-warp speeds and their phaser banks are exhausted. I’m not reading any torpedoes left aboard her”

“The Entente had a crew of nine hundred” Reed stated as he swivelled his chair to look at Perim “How many life-signs are aboard her?”

The ships first officer looked at her board for a moment before she muttered quietly “One hundred and sixty-one life-signs”. A stunned silence fell over the battle bridge, no-one knew what to say or do.

Finally Reed leaned forwards and ordered “Ops, hail them”.

A few seconds later the image shifted to show a tired looking officer. His uniform with the gold undershirt was streaked with dirt and lubricant. The blond haired, round-faced man looked at the main viewer and said “I’m Commander Mark Rolston of the USS Entente

“Captain Jonathan Reed of the USS Challenger” Reed answered with what he hoped was a casual smile “been in the wars, commander?”

“Yes, sir. You could say that” Rolston answered. He leaned back in the command chair, let out a sigh and said “I’m the Entente’s chief engineer. We were at Acamar on our shakedown cruise when we picked up a distress signal from the USS Bhutto, saying she was near Barolia and was being attacked by the Borg”.

“Say that again, commander. The Borg?” Reed asked.

“I know” the engineer answered with a nod. “Before we could break orbit and head to assist we picked up a Borg cube entering the Acamar system. There were two other Starfleet ships there, the Nebula-class starships USS Malinche and USS Leeds. We all broke orbit and moved to intercept, but the Borg just smashed the other ships to pieces. We were taking one hell of a pounding, and I was down in main engineering. With one of the last hits we took the dorsal shields collapsed ... and the Borg fired at the bridge. Deck one was vaporised instantly, and it left a crater on top of the saucer. It extends all the way down to deck six. We lost the bridge and entire command staff ... as well as the primary shuttlebay. I realised I was the last command-level officer alive so I took command of the ship from engineering. With the bridge gone and the ship drifting in space the Borg ignored us from that point and started bombarding the planet. We’d got a shattered warp nacelle, the shield emitters were all but gone and the phasers were burned out. I didn’t know how many crew were left alive so ... so I did the only thing I could. With an unstable warp field I pointed the bow towards Earth and jumped to our top speed ... warp one-point-three. The Borg ignored us and we managed to get away. I powered up the battle bridge and managed to get beta watch to their posts here. We’re making all the repairs we can, but we’re in pieces over here”. The officer hung his head and muttered “we’re broken”.

Kell Perim had moved from her console and was standing next to Reed. She whispered to him “Sir, they need help stabilising their systems ... but none of the other spacedocks can accommodate her. Ours is the only one that can reconfigure itself to be large enough to house a Galaxy-class ... and even then it’s pushing it”.

Reed nodded to her before he looked up at the viewscreen and asked loudly “Commander Rolston, are your bridge crew proficient with docking within the confines of a spacedock?”

“They’re qualified, but I’m not” the engineer dejectedly answered.

Reed let out a low sigh before he said “I’m going to have my ship move clear of this dock. I’ll have my first officer beam over, she can take temporary command long enough to dock your ship, understood?”

“Yes, sir” the officer answered, looking relieved “your officer will replace me”

“Only to dock the ship, I want to make that perfectly clear” Reed reiterated. “I need her aboard the Challenger, we’re not ready for space ourselves”

“Understood” Rolston acknowledged with a nod “Entente, out” before he closed the channel.

At the same moment the main viewscreens image changed back to showing the Entente, the Challenger’s chief engineer stepped out of the turbolift. He stopped dead when he saw the battered starship and asked aloud “What the fuck happened to her?”

“Language, Daggre” Reed snapped. He didn’t approve of swearing, especially on the bridge.

The Xindi officer muttered “Sorry, sir” before he turned back to the viewscreen and asked “What happened?”

“The Borg, that’s what happened” Reed stated. The captain took a deep breath and asked “How ready are we to put to space?”

“Not ready enough” the engineer replied. “We’re still calibrating the warp field. We’ve drastically improved the computer cores ability to re-compute a stable field at high warp thanks to my ingenious ideas, but we’ve still got a lot of systems still in pieces”.

Reed turned to look at him and asked “Do we need the spacedock to get the work done?”

Daggre though for a moment before he answered “No, we don’t need the spacedock”

“Good, because I’ve already told the Entente that she can have our dock.” The chief engineer’s eyes went wide in shock, but Reed continued “I need you to access the engineering controls up here. I need the impulse engines operational right now. We’ve got to move before that ship falls apart”.

“I’ve already contacted the spacedock and they’ve removed all external support to us as of ... now” Kell added. The lights flickered for a moment as all outside assistance was cut off, but the systems immediately came back to full life. Reed smiled to himself for a moment but Perim continued “Spacedock’s now reconfiguring to house the Entente, but it’s going to be extended out to its limits.”

“We’ll have to deal with that later” answered Reed. A second later Daggre nodded at the captain. Reed looked forwards at the two officers before him and said “Lieutenant Lavelle, time to use your helm console. Power up the impulse engines and manoeuvre us clear of the spacedock”

“Aye” answered the man with a broad smile. Reed looked at one of the other Enterprise-D veterans and said “Lieutenant T’su, hail the Entente and tell her to stand by. Kell, it’s time for you to shine”

“I’ll be back for tea” the Trill first officer answered with a smile as she jumped into the turbolift.

Less than a minute later Lavelle said “Sir, we’re ready to move out”.

Reed nodded at the younger man and said “Engage”. All around the exterior of the Challenger the ships running lights snapped on. Her navigation lights started flashing and the impulse exhausts started to glow a familiar brilliant red. Thrust was expelled from the impulse exhausts and the ship started to creep forwards.

The dorsal thrusters fired and pushed the ship down, clear and away of the spacedock. The Challenger was moving under her own power again for the first time in years. Reed didn’t bother to silence the bridge crew as they let out a mighty cheer. All through the ship the crew were cheering and yelling in happiness. Reed knew that if they were to fight the Borg then they needed to keep their morale high. He was determined to let them have their moment. As the cheering started to die Daggre announced from the console Kell Perim had vacated “Captain, the first officer’s aboard the Entente. I had her beamed directly to their battle bridge”

“I appreciate it, Daggre” Reed answered. He motioned for the engineer to come to him and as soon as he had Reed said “Let’s go through what issues are still outstanding”

Aboard the USS Entente, A few minutes later.

Lieutenant-Commander Kell Perim materialised at the back of the battle bridge. As soon as she appeared she stood rooted to the spot and looked around her. The battle bridge was bustling with activity, but the command seat was empty. She walked towards the helm as the young officer there turned, saw her and asked “Commander Perim?”

“That’s me” Kell answered with a smile as she looked around the compact battle bridge. It was nearly identical to the main bridge of the Defiant-class starships, but the single combined conn/ops console had been replaced by the helm (otherwise called conn) and ops stations.

The young woman at the helm smiled before answering “I’m Lieutenant Liannan Phillips”

“That name sound familiar” said Kell “I’ve heard of you before, haven’t I?”

Louisa smiled for a moment before she answered “That’s because you probably have. My big sister, Commander Amelia Phillips is here at the Polaris Refit shipyard. She’s waiting for one of the ships to arrive. I think she’s being made the first officer of one of the ships that’ll be coming here. Her fiancée’s here as well waiting to command another ship”.

Kell just smiled before she said “Well, I’ll have to keep an eye out for them. In the meantime, where’s Commander Rolston?”

“He’s down in engineering” replied Louisa “he went down there as soon as he got off the comms to Captain Reed. He muttered that commanding the ship was your problem now and left me in command of the bridge.”

Kell Perim’s face flushed red with anger. She took a deep breath in before she said “Fine, he’s an unprofessional officer ... we’ve now established that little fact.” She sighed again and put her hands on her hips. She pursed her lips before asking “Are we ready to dock the ship?”

“Yes, ma’am” Louisa replied. She looked at her console for a moment as she called up a complete damage report. “Do you want me to put this on screen?” asked the young, inexperienced officer.

Kell nodded to her and a moment later the data appeared on the main viewer. Moving so she was standing between the consoles and the viewscreen, Kell watched the screen for a moment as all the damage scrolled through. She shook her head as she said aloud “Primary power grid is in pieces, the sensor array’s smashed to bits, the targeting arrays are fried, the phaser arrays are burned out and the torpedo launchers are in pieces. The shield generators are all but gone...” she tapered off as she sighed. Louisa moved from her console and stood next to Kell.

The young woman looked at Perim and said “I’ve just received a message from main engineering. The shield generators will be operational within ten minutes. Tactical repair teams are already replacing all the used phaser array power cells so that’ll give us phasers back within a half hour. The torpedo launchers are still in pieces, it’ll take a few days to repair them”

“At least there’ll be some sort of defence and weapons back soon” Kell answered “can the ship still separate?”

“Technically yes, but the power couplings to the docking latches have been severed. We can’t separate safely until they’ve been completely repaired, but personnel can go to the manual release hatches and disengage them.”

Kell nodded in understanding before she asked “Warp drive?”

“Commander Rolston was able to get the warp drive operational, but the warp plasma has to be routed through the secondary EPS relays to the nacelles. With only one working nacelle we can’t really generate a stable warp field. It was a rough ride back, I can tell you that”

“With an unstable field, I can believe you” Perim retorted. She looked around the battle bridge before she said “It’s just like the Defiant’s bridge”

“Yeah” Louisa said “just with new helm and ops. I like it this way”

“No doubt” replied Kell “what was the main bridge like?”

“The same as those on the Luna-class ships. It was nice ... before it was vaporised, that is. You know, it’s funny ... my quarters have been destroyed too”

“I’m sure some new, bigger quarters can be arranged for you” Kell replied with a wink. Phillips smiled before Perim added “Come on, let’s get the ship docked, then we can sort everything out.” Phillips nodded before returning to her station. Kell Perim walked to the command chair and lowered herself into it, smiling broadly.

The Challenger’s spacedock was clear, sitting ready for the massive starship. Technically, the Entente could have docked in four other bays ... but none of the other massive bays were operational yet, they still needed at least another day to get them working.
Kell couldn’t help but think it was absolutely insane that Starfleet Command expected old, near dead starships to be brought operational at a base that wasn’t fully online itself. She looked at the console to her left and after typing a few commands she received a flashing message giving her some good news, she had just sent a complete damage report of the ship to the console in Captain Reed’s ready room. As soon as he looked at it he would know the exact status of the ship.

Kell looked at the viewscreen and ordered “Lieutenant Phillips, lay in a course to take us into a position directly aft of the drydock, thrusters only. Three hundred kph.”

“Aye, ma’am” Louisa answered as she entered commands into her console.

Slowly the Entente started moving forwards, gently swooping around as she crawled forwards. The drydock had extended itself into its most fully open position and finally the ship came to a gentle stop behind the massive structure, her bow pointed directly in.
Kell consulted the console to her right before she ordered “Engage the stern thrusters and move us in, thirty kph. As soon as we’re in position bring us to a full stop. Ops, prepare to receive umbilical support and airlocks. Helm, engage”.

USS Entente slowly started to thrust herself forwards. Plasma had stopped leaking from her shattered nacelle and her EPS systems had been secured. Kell saw that items on the damage report next to her were changing from white text to green, indicating the repairs were done. It took the ship nearly three minutes to manoeuvre in, and by the time the massive clamps had finally closed around the ship the shield generators and phaser arrays were back on-line. Things were starting to look up for the battered starship. She could now defend herself from attack and lash back out at an attacking force.

Kell Perim wondered if this was how all Galaxy-class starships would finally look, but she shook the idea out of her head as umbilical supports providing power and air connected to the ship at the same time as the airlocks allowing personnel to walk from the ship to the station.

Looking at her displays still Kell ordered “Lieutenant Phillips, power down the thrusters. Disengage the impulse engine exhaust systems and secure all stations.” A moment later the propulsion systems of the ship had been completely shut down, the Entente wasn’t going anywhere. Kell decided that she could spare herself a few moments so she relaxed back in the command seat and drank in the atmosphere of the battle bridge around her.

Two hours later.

Reed was sitting in the pitifully small ready room adjacent to the battle bridge. The room was barely big enough for the small desk and two chairs. There was a very small bathroom, or head as it was known behind the desk in what was little more than a walk-in closet but that was it. The small monitor on the desk was active and displaying a long list of systems that were still not operational.

Reed leaned back in his seat, ran his fingers through his hair and let out a sigh. He looked at the man sitting at the other side of the desk and sighed “Daggre, I’m getting confused. You said the secondary systems are all operational”

“Yes” the Xindi chief engineer answered with a tired sigh of his own. He put his own padd down on the desk and continued “the secondary’s are completely operational. The primaries are still in pieces being rebuilt one component at a time. We’ve got the shield grid operational. Torpedoes and phasers are working, but the aft and ventral targeting arrays are still in pieces. The navigational sensors are working, but there are still blind spots in them, we’re having software issues. As it is, we can navigate at warp, but we’re in no condition for a fight.”

“If the Borg turn up, then we’re not going to get much choice.” What none of Jonathan’s crew knew at that time was that Barolia and Acamar had been completely annihilated by Borg attacks. The USS Bhutto had been lost at Barolia trying to defend the planet, but there was nothing that a single Sabre-Class ship could do against a cube. The ships tactical officer had beamed over and attempted to infect the Borg with the specialist multi-vector pathogen designed to infect and destroy the collective ... but his bungled operation had handed the Borg that deadly weapon rendering it completely useless against them.

Reed had a heavy weight resting on his shoulders, all Starfleet captains did. Every starship commanding officer knew that the Borg were coming and that the fighting was going to be heavy. The USS Enterprise was racing back to Federation space to bolster the line, other infamous ships were standing ready to fight. The USS Voyager was preparing for combat. The USS Titan was far from Starfleet space on a mission of exploration, it was doubtful they’d make it back in time. USS Defiant was still at Deep Space Nine getting ready to fight for her life.

Challenger wasn’t as ready as she ideally needed to be, but that was a moot point now. Through the ships internal comms system Jonathan heard T’su say “Bridge to Captain Reed”

“Go ahead, Lian” the captain answered as he looked up at the ceiling.

Immediately his ops officer said “Captain, you’re receiving a priority hail from Starfleet Command”.

“Pipe it through here” answered the captain. He put his finger to his lips in a gesture for Daggre to be silent. The engineer nodded his understanding before Reed entered commands into his console. A second later the image of Admiral Nechayev appeared. He smiled at her and said “Admiral, this is a pleasant surprise”.

Nechayev gave him a tired, strained smile and said “Captain. Congratulations on your first command. Shame it’s such an old ship”

“Old, but there’s life in her yet, admiral” answered Reed. “We’re overhauling the systems we can with parts we can replicate, but there’s only so much we can do”

“I know” answered the blond-haired senior officer. “Your ship is the reason I’m contacting you”. She saw the surprised look on Reed’s face and said “Quite frankly captain, we expected it to take you at least six months to get your ship operational. I know that you’re not completely ready, but you’re damn near and your crew have only been at it for a little over a month. I know you’ve already given your drydock to the Entente. I’m very grateful you did that, captain. She’s a very important ship to us and you effectively saved her”.

Reed blushed slightly but didn’t answer. Nechayev smiled at him again before she said “I’m sending you the specifics of your orders now, but the short version is that I need you to put to space now”

“Admiral, we’re not ready for space-flight...” started Reed but she held up her hand to silence him.

As soon as he went quiet she continued “We’ve got a fleet of automated tugs at the Qualor II depot. They’re getting tractor beams onto all the remaining Challenger, Cheyenne, Freedom, New Orleans, Niagra and Springfield-class ships ... including the sister of your ship that was decimated at Wolf 359, the USS Buran. Unfortunately I can’t spare any ships to escort this ... ragtag fleet of ships to the Polaris Sector. I want them all repaired and refitted just as your ship has been”

“Admiral...” started Reed carefully “there are other ships here. The USS Olympic, for example” he said referring to the lead ship of the Olympic-class.

Nechayev shook her head before answering “No, she’s down for major work to her warp core at the moment. The Springfield-class USS Shelbyville was only retired seven months ago. I know that work on stripping her systems had barely begun so you might find her useful if you can get her working on your trip back”.

Reed sighed and nodded before he asked “When are we to ship out?”

“Within the hour” Nechayev replied, completely ignoring the shocked look on Reed’s face. “You need to get there quickly, so I expect you to go straight to high warp. That’s all. Good luck, captain. Starfleet command out”, and the channel quickly closed.

Daggre looked at Jonathan and exclaimed in horror “High warp within the hour?! The warp reactor’s barely operational, we need days until I can give you that!”

“Well, time has run out” Reed answered with yet another sigh. He leaned forwards in his seat as he added “I’ll be calling for at least warp six within sixty minutes, you’ve got that long. Understood?” The engineer simply nodded and stood up. “Dismissed” Reed added allowing the engineer to dart from the ready room. The captain enjoyed a few minutes of silence before he touched his comm badge and said “Commander Perim, please report to my ready room”.

Ten minutes later.

Lieutenant-Commander Kell Perim, the first officer of the USS Challenger came rushing out of her captains ready room. Immediately she moved to the centre seat and sat in it. Looking at the helmsman she ordered “Lieutenant Lavelle, lay in a course for the Qualor system. Make your speed full impulse ... for now”

“Ma’am?” Sam asked as he turned around to face her.

At that moment Jonathan stepped out of the ready room and asked bluntly “Problem?”

“None, sir” Kell answered as she surrendered the centre seat to him.

Reed sat down and asked “Course and speed set, Mr Lavelle?”

“Erm ... aye, sir” Sam replied as he turned back to his console and frantically entered commands. After a moment he added “Ready”

“Engage” Reed ordered with a small motion of his hand. The ship started to move forwards with speed and grace, but after only a few seconds an alarm sounded at the tactical console.

Lieutenant-Commander Neeley looked at her station for a moment before she said in a panicked voice “Captain, there’s a ship entering this system, it’s Borg!”

“On screen!” Reed barked. The viewer changed quickly to show a Borg vessel. Small in comparison to the usual cubes or even spheres, the ship was clearly a scout. Roughly the same size as Challenger but Reed knew it would be considerably more heavily armed.

“Red alert, shields up!” the captain commanded. “Arm all weapons and prepare to fire. Lieutenant T’su, send an emergency hail to Starfleet Command. Tell them a Borg scout ship has entered our system and we’re moving to intercept. We need immediate reinforcements.”

The young woman’s fingers danced quickly across her console as she rushed to send the message. When she nodded to him a few seconds later Reed let out a sigh of relief. Now Nechayev knew that the Borg were in a system so close to home she would send every available ship, but until then ... they were on their own.

Reed let out a tense sigh before ordering “Helm, lay in an intercept course and engage at full impulse. Tactical, as soon as we’re close enough I want you to target their shield grid ... let’s see if we can get their shields down as quickly as we can”

“Shields are at one-hundred-percent” Neeley offered “all weapons are armed and ready to fire ... we even have a complement of two dozen quantum torpedoes”. When she saw the grin on Reed’s face she said “Courtesy of a friend”

“Must be a damn good friend” Reed answered with a nod. “Arm them and get them in the tubes”. The Borg scout ship suddenly turned away from the heart of the system and moved towards the Challenger. The old ship under Reed’s careful orders accelerated to her top sub-light speed and rushed away from the near-defenceless spacedocks and ships there. The Borg closed in on their target, but Challenger was nearly ready for them.

On the battle bridge Reed stared anxiously at the viewscreen. Down in main engineering Daggre was working as quickly as he possibly could. Power from the emergency batteries was ready, new channels set up from them to the shields to provide more assistance if it was needed. The power hungry phasers were fully charged and ready to fire at the advancing Borg threat. The seconds ticked by as the two ships moved closer to each other. Suddenly the Borg’s phasers lanced out through space, smashing into the Challenger’s shields.

Sitting in his command chair Reed heard Lieutenant T’su mutter “At least now we know the range of their weapons”.

Reed decided to discipline her later, for now he ordered loudly “Return fire!”

“We’re not within range yet, sir!” Neeley replied.

Reed gripped the armrests of his chair and barked out “Helm, come about heading one-three-nine mark seven, full impulse! Tactical, start firing as soon as we’re in range!” The tactical officer nodded her understanding as the old ship spun about to go nose-on-nose with the cybernetic enemy bearing down on them. Within seconds the Challengers' phaser banks fired their pure energy beams at their deadly foe. The Borg ship veered off to starboard and Reed smiled.

The enemy were clearly unhappy at fighting so the captain ordered “Helm, stay with them. Keep us within firing range, but give us room to manoeuvre”. Lavelle nodded his understanding at the same time another phaser barrage was unleashed from the ship. The Borg’s shields stayed strong, fending off the Starfleet’s attacks ... until Lavelle repositioned the ship. He rolled her to the port side which gave the saucer section’s upper and lower phaser arrays firing arcs. Both of the phaser arrays, formerly type-9 now type-10 phaser strips mounted on the hull released their maximum rated energy discharges.

The Borg’s shields started to buckle under the prolonged phaser blasts and finally completely collapsed when a spreads of six quantum torpedoes hit at the exact spot the phasers were targeting.

Reed was staring at the viewscreen and saw the instant that the Borg’s shields collapsed. The status display on his armrests showed that his own ships shields were down to sixty-percent. Either way, he had to end this soon. Before Neeley could give him a report he ordered “Helm, roll us around, seventy degrees to port. Tactical, target their primary power-distribution nodes and hit them hard”.
Reed saw Kell Perim’s confused look and elaborated “Reports from USS Voyager said that they engaged a ship the same class as this in the Delta Quadrant and was able to destroy them by detonating a torpedo near the power distribution nodes”.

Kell nodded her understanding as she went back to working her console. The Borg however, were far from dead. They released a concentrated barrage of phaser fire at the ship and managed to buckle Challenger’s dorsal shields. Residual energy penetrated through and smashed into the unprotected hull plating. The hull plating was torn away from where the main bridge stood on deck one ... but there was no-one there. Shocked by the sudden attack Reed ordered “Maintain fire!” Behind him wall mounted displays and small consoles exploded in a shower of sparks, debris hurling across the bridge. Reed ducked down to protect himself from the worst of it.

Reed was angry that the Borg had focused their attack so tightly, deliberately targeting the bridge to kill the captain. Him.
Another brace of torpedoes raced from the Starfleet ships launchers. Phasers lanced out simultaneously only to be followed by another four torpedoes ... the last of the quantum torpedoes. Straight away the photon torpedoes were launched from the aft launchers. Challenger started to pirouette around under the expert guide of Lieutenant Lavelle. All the ships phaser arrays fired as they came into line of sight against their foe. Torpedoes continued to streak from the fore and aft launchers. Within a few more seconds explosions started to ripple along the entire length of the Borg scout vessel ... from the inside.

Reed ordered “Cease fire. Helm, move us to a safe distance”. The impulse engines pushed the old Challenger-class starship away from the Borg ship as it vaporised most of itself in a spectacular explosion. For the second time that day a massive cheer resonated through the bridge, and Reed swore he could hear it coming through the deck plates as well. The entire crew were cheering. They had fought the Borg threat and won their first round.

Reed looked at T’su and ordered “Lieutenant, get me Admiral Nechayev at Starfleet Command now. Mr Lavelle, take us back to the Entente at full impulse. Engage”.

Chapter 3

Aboard USS Challenger, Polaris Refit Shipyards. December 24th, 2380.

Jonathan Reed sat behind his desk and looked at the face of Admiral Nechayev. She smiled at him as she said “I’m very impressed that you were able to destroy the Borg scout. It wasn’t a cube, but it was still formidable ... any Borg vessel is”

“Thank you, admiral” answered Reed. “We took a fair amount of damage. Are we still needed to head out to Qualor II?”

“I’m afraid so, captain” answered Nechayev. Reed’s shoulders slouched ever so slightly in disappointment. Nechayev continued “I know that you’ve taken damage so I’m willing to allow you another twenty-four hours to make repairs before I have the ships leave the depot. You can meet them en-route.”

Reed nodded to her before he said “Admiral, whilst we were successful in destroying the Borg ship, it took a hell of a lot to do so ... and she was only a scout...”

Nechayev was getting impatient so restraining herself from rolling her eyes and said “Spit it out, captain”

“Ma’am, I need permission to refit the Challenger. With nearly forty year old tech we don’t really stand a chance” Reed replied simply.
“No” Nechayev answered quickly and sharply “the whole point of what you’re doing is getting as many ships on the line as possible. We can’t afford the time of overhauling them”

“Then at least allow us to do it on the fly” Reed pleaded. “If we’re allowed access to the USS Entente’s computer database we can replicate modern parts we need and integrate them into our systems. Please, admiral. We deserve at least that. Other than the Enterprise we’re the only ship to successfully engage the Borg.”

Nechayev was losing her patience but she couldn’t help but smile at the audacity of this captain, and such a newly promoted captain at that! Finally she nodded slowly at the screen and replied “Fine, you can download Entente’s computer database and see what you can do to improve your ship, but do it on the fly. You’re to leave the system in twenty-four hours, understood?”

“Yes, ma’am” Reed answered “Thank you”. He took a deep, relaxing breath before he asked “What about Entente? Is she to remain here or return to Earth?”

“Ideally I want her home” Nechayev answered “but is that possible?”

“If you would prefer, admiral. We have to pass fairly close to Sol system to get to Qualor II. If the Entente can’t travel at warp then we can tow her at our top warp towing speed to Utopia Planitia.”

Nechayev smiled at this and asked “How fast can you tow a ship at warp speed?”

Reed though for a moment before he answered confidently “Well ... the Entente can travel under her own power at a maximum of warp one-point-three. We can only tow at warp four so we can get her to you in about five days ... that’s because of the such low speed”.

Nechayev continued to look at him intently before answered “Okay. I was thinking of having a ship warp out to you with a new nacelle for her, but you can bring her home. I need Challenger with the ships from Qualor II, but the Entente takes priority”

“With respect, admiral ... we can go one better that that”. She looked confused for a moment so he elaborated “If we have the Entente eject her damaged warp nacelle and leave it here they can prepare their ship for the new nacelle en-route. If you have a ship lay in a course here with a new nacelle at their top speed we’ll meet along the way. We’ll have to go full stop to actually fit it but that shouldn’t take any more than twenty to thirty minutes. We can then resume towing her there, freeing up your ship. If they can get it fully working then they can travel under their own speed and we can get there faster. We can leave the Entente at the boundary of Sol and she can enter the system herself, that’ll allow us to get to Qualor that bit quicker”.

Admiral Nechayev thought for a moment before answering “I’ve got an Oberth-class starship that’s not needed for anything, the crew are just sitting on their hands at Utopia Planitia ... I’ve recalled all the Oberth and even the newer Nova-class science vessels. They’ve got no chance against the Borg. Yes, I’ll send the USS Shepard out with a new nacelle. I’ve got a Starfleet Corps of Engineers ship, the Sydney-class USS Tiowa

“She’s still in service?” Reed asked, clearly surprised.

Nechayev nodded for a moment before she answered with “They’ve still got their Daedalus-refit class ships along with their Olympic and Sydney-class vessels. They’ve got a few Sabre-class ships, but that’s it for newer tech. Anyway, we’re getting off-topic. They’ll meet up with you and provide assistance where needed. If Entente can get under her own warp power, the USS Shepard will escort her back, the USS Tiowa will continue to the Polaris Shipyards ... they’re needed there. They’ll be carrying some crew for the vessels you’re bringing back”

“I could do with the Tiowa coming with us. They could really help, and if they’re carrying engineers to work on the ships then they can get to work sooner...” Reed stated.

“Enough!” Admiral Nechayev said with one hand held out to the screen. “You don’t stop until you get your way, do you?!”

Reed fell silent, suddenly scared that this was going to go down as one of the shortest captaincies in Starfleet history.

The admiral shook her head before she said “I’m going. If it keeps you quiet and out of my hair, then yes. The Tiowa can accompany you to Qualor II. Starfleet command, out”. The screen suddenly changed to show the Starfleet insignia. Reed let out a sigh of relief. He’d kept his command and somehow managed to get his own way. Today really was turning out to be a good day. He leaned back in his seat and sighed deeply. He looked at the sofa in his sanctum, staring into the face of Kell Perim. His first officer had been present for Reeds' entire conversation with one of Starfleet’s most senior officers. “Well?” he asked her “How do you think I did?”

“Nechayev’s a complete hard-ass” Kell answered with a smile “it’s practically impossible to get anything out of her at the best of times, but you’ve managed to get an extra day and a shipload of engineers. They could help us get the rest of the ship operational while we’re on our way, at least that way they’ll get hands-on experience of working on this old tech”

“A damn good idea” Reed replied with a smile.

Kell relaxed back before she said “You know, Commander Rolston won’t be happy about commanding the ship back to Earth. When I boarded he’d already left the bridge and was back in main engineering. I contacted them before you spoke to the admiral, he still hasn’t returned to the battle bridge ... he just won’t.” Reed looked sceptically at her but she just said “Honestly, sir. He won’t command that ship”

“Feel up to taking charge whilst she’s under tow?” Reed asked.

“No way” Kell replied with a nervous laugh “noooooooo! You’ll have to take charge over there, sir. I don’t want to at all”.

Reed thought for a moment before he answered “We’ve got a day to think about it. For now, let’s concentrate on ourselves for the time being. Now, where do we stand with repairs?”

“The damaged consoles on the battle bridge have already been replaced. The damage was from power overloads in the screen membranes themselves, the circuitry was still good. The battle bridge is fully operational again. The shield generators have been repaired, it was just some components that weren’t up to scratch ... they just failed under the Borg fire” Kell reported.

“I’m not surprised” Reed replied. He looked at his first officer before he continued “But I can get my hands on Entente’s database. With all the latest tech from that ship we could replicate parts and fit them. We could really spruce this old girl up”. Kell couldn’t help but smile at Reed’s enthusiasm for giving this old, near decrepit starship another chance at life.

The first officer nodded to Reed before standing and saying “I’ll go set up a direct link with Entente’s computer and download her entire database. You want a copy routing through to here?”

“No” Reed answered with a shake of his head as he too rose to his feet “I need to head over to the Entente myself and have a word with Commander Rolston.”

“Good luck” Perim stated with a smile.

Reed returned it before he said “Oh, by the way. Once Entente’s warp nacelle is clear of the ship, have a shuttle tractor it close to us. See what we can salvage from it ... and what tech we can steal to upgrade our own warp drive, we have got identical style nacelles after all”

“Aye aye, sir” the first officer answered mischievously.

An hour later.

Captain Jonathan Reed materialised on the transport pad in transporter room seven. Standing at the foot of the pad was Commander Mark Rolston. He was wearing a fresh uniform, his face was clean shaven and he looked a lot better than when Reed had first seen him.

“Permission to come aboard?” Reed asked formally.

“Granted, sir” Mark replied with a smile.

Reed stepped down from the pad and shook the engineers offered hand. “It’s good to meet you in the flesh, sir” Mark said cheerfully.

Jonathan gave him a strained smile before answering “Likewise, but I have some pressing questions, commander”.

“Sir?” Mark asked, clearly confused.

Reed motioned to the transporter room door and said “Let’s walk and talk.” Rolston nodded and stepped forwards, Reed alongside him. As they walked down the deserted corridors Reed asked “Commander, when my first officer beamed aboard to dock the ship with the shipyard, why weren’t you on the bridge?”

“Well...” Mark started, clearly uncomfortable “I’m an engineer, sir. My place is with the engines, not on the bridge”

“Like it or not commander, you are the senior officer aboard and command of this vessel falls to you” Reed stated.

“I don’t want it” Mark snapped. He took a deep breath to compose himself before continuing “captain, I lost my entire command staff in the attack. The ship was being held together with nothing more than willpower, I was needed at my post.”

“Yes, which is now on the bridge” Reed reiterated. Mark’s back stiffened but Jonathan wasn’t going to let this subject go so easily “whether you like it or not commander, this ship is now your responsibility. Luckily for you I asked Admiral Nechayev is she would like us to tow the Entente back to Utopia Planitia when we leave in less that twenty-three hours ... and she said yes”. Mark stopped dead mid-stride and stared at Reed in shock. Reed gave the engineer a stern look before continuing “I talked her into sending a starship out here with a standard Galaxy-class warp nacelle.”

Reed started walking again and Mark rushed to keep up. As Reed rounded a corner he said “I’m planning to take Entente under tow and head home at our top towing speed. If everything goes according to my plan then when the USS Shepard arrives with the nacelle we’ll drop out of warp and immediately fit it to this ship. As soon as it’s attached we’ll resume our journey. The USS Tiowa that will be accompanying the Shepard will also be with us. Providing that your engineers are competent enough to get the warp drive operational again utilising the new nacelle then Entente will continue to Earth with the Shepard whilst the Challenger takes the Tiowa onto our real mission. Assuming your people can get the warp drive routed to the new nacelle and get any more than warp four then you’ll be fine ... if not then you’re going to force us to continue towing you back home. I can tell you now that will not please Admiral Nechayev as she wants us at Qualor II as quickly as possible.”

Rolston was looking very worried. He shifted nervously on his feet as they came to a stop, waiting for the turbolift to arrive. Mark looked at the captain and asked “What ... erm, what do you need me to do, sir?”

“Firstly, I need you to eject the port nacelle and get ready to attach the new one. Seeing as we’ll be doing it on the fly I expect your personnel to get everything ready. How long will you need to actually attach it?” Reed demanded.

“If we get everything prepped we can tractor the nacelle into position, then attach the magnetic interlocking clamps ... we’ll have to install fresh explosive bolts ... three hours?”

“You’ll have less than thirty minutes” Reed stated. Mark’s shoulders sagged even further. Reed took a deep breath before he said “Listen, you’re a more than competent engineer. You know how to keep your engines and ships systems operational but in your mind you’re not a commander. Fine, I’m going to meet with your bridge crew and see who can command this ship. I know that things have been hard for you and I don’t want you to think I’m an unreasonable hard-ass. I’m not, I just need to call you up on the mistakes you’ve made.”

“I know” Mark quietly answered. The pair stepped into the turbolift as soon as the doors opened.

“Battle bridge” Reed ordered, and immediately the doors closed. The captain looked at the chief engineer he said “You need to get ready as quickly as possible. I know that your people have already got the shields and phasers operational so you can defend yourself. What you need to do is get the power grid stable, the warp core working and ready to integrate that nacelle”

“I can do it in thirty minutes. It won’t be pretty and we won’t be able to get maximum warp from it” Mark started to answer.

“I don’t care about max warp” Reed stated as the turbolift slowed “just faster than warp four.” The turbolift doors slid open but Reed stood still. Mark looked at him as he said “Commander, I need you down in engineering. Head down there now, I’ll have someone else take command” before he stepped out of the lift, the doors closing behind him.

After a few seconds Reed heard the lift race away so he stepped towards the command seat. Walking slowly he looked at the bridge around him. As he walked forwards a middle-aged looking man in a gold shirted uniform stepped towards him. The officer smiled broadly and said “Captain, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Lieutenant-Commander David Jason, I’ve taken over as the senior tactical and security officer.”

Reed shook the man’s hand and asked warmly “So, what was your job before the ... loss of the command staff?”

“I was the deputy security and tactical officer. I’m qualified for bridge duty and regularly command Delta watch.”

“You’re used to commanding the ship?” Reed asked.

The officer nodded to him as he answered “Yes, sir. At least during the night watch when nothing too much happens”.

Reed smiled again as he placed his right arm around the other man’s shoulders and said “My son, today is your lucky day!” He saw the confused look on Jason’s face so removing his arm he said “Commander Rolston isn’t going to be commanding this or any other starship anytime soon.”

Reed handed a padd to the former tactical officer and said “You are in command of this ship now, at least until she returns to Utopia Planitia. The specifics of what’s going to happen in just under a day’s time are on that padd. I’ve already discussed it with Commander Rolston as it’s quite an engineering related task ahead. Suffice to say, you’ve got about twenty-two and a half hours to get this ship ready for the Challenger to take under tow.”

“Understood” Jason answered “we’ve already taken aboard over a hundred engineers from the space station. I promise you sir, we’ll be ready to go”

“I believe you, I really do” Reed replied as he looked around the bridge again “Now, maybe you can give me a tour?”

“Gladly, sir” the new commanding officer said. “Gladly”.

Aboard the USS Challenger, December 24th, 2380.

Lieutenant Daggre walked onto the bridge and stepped over to the command chair. The battle bridge layout was just the way the engineer liked it, small, compact and functional. There wasn’t anything there that didn’t need to be there.
Looking at Reed the engineer heard his captain say “Dag, you look like hell”.

The engineer smiled when he heard the captain’s nickname for him. Daggre sighed before he said “Captain, every system aboard this starship is now operational ... except for the main bridge”. Reed sat there stunned for a moment as he tried to take in the news. Finally he broke into a broad smile and said “Damn well done, my good man. That’s truly exceptional news!”

“Thank you, sir” the chief engineer answered. “It’s been a struggle but we’ve got it done. We’ve integrated as many new components as we could from the Entente’s computer database. New software updates and uprated thrusters specs ... we’re nearly sixty percent more maneuverable than we were, and I’ve updated the warp core. I managed to create a new lining for the reaction chamber which boosts power by nearly twenty percent. As you’re aware, our top speed used to be warp nine point two for twelve hours, well with the improvements I’ve made I can give us a top speed of warp nine point eight”

“For twelve hours?” Reed queried.
The captain’s jaw nearly dropped and hung open in amazement when Daggre answered “No, indefinitely. We can sustain that speed for as long as we have fuel”.

“My god, Dag ... that’s incredible. The Galaxy-class ships can only maintain warp nine point six and that’s for twelve hours!” the captain exclaimed.

Daggre smiled in thanks before he answered “Well, the original batch can, the ones built later also known as the Galaxy II-class can do the same as what we can now ... but thank you, sir”.

Reed smiled and nodded before replying “Damn good work. Has that increased our towing speed?”

“Yes, sir. Warp six is what we can do now, warp seven if towing a smaller ship” the engineer explained.

Kell Perim walked over and added “Damn fine work, Dag”.

The engineer nodded his appreciation again before Reed said “Get down to your quarters and get a few hours rest before we ship out, you look dead on your feet”.

Daggre nodded in agreement as he said “It’s been about three days since I slept, I could do with some rest, it’s been a lot of hard work getting everything up to standard”

“Go get some sleep before we ship out” repeated Reed. The engineer nodded his understanding before he turned and left the room. Kell Perim could see the ships tactical officer was itching to speak to the captain so she turned and made her way back to the console she had commandeered.

Lieutenant-Commander Lisa Neeley walked over to Reed’s command chair and said “Captain, a word?”

“Go ahead” Reed answered with a nod.

Neeley handed him a padd before she said “Latest reports suggest that conventional weapons a practically useless against the larger Borg ships. Well ... I’ve got a partial solution”.

Reed’s interest was piqued now, as the captain raised his eyebrows Neeley added “During the Dominion War the Jem’Hadar attack ships used powerful weaponry to penetrate the shields of Starfleet ships. Well ... I’ve spent the years since the war studying their technology ... I was actually part of the team form the USS Defiant that captured a Jem’Hadar attack ship. Anyway, I can modify the phaser arrays to fire a phased polaron beam, that’s what they used against us. I’m hoping that the Borg don’t know anything about it. We might be able to do some real damage before they adapt to it”.

Reed nodded for a moment before he answered his tactical officer eagerly “If we incorporate a random frequency modulation setting as well as putting randomised anti-proton particles through the crystal emitters we’ll really throw them off. Good work, let’s start making those changes”. Time until their departure was rapidly looming and with the Challenger now ready to go everything rested on the massive Galaxy II-class USS Entente.

Aboard the USS Entente, One hour later.

Lieutenant-Commander David Jason sat in the command seat on the battle bridge of the USS Entente. He looked at the display to his left before turning to the junior officer at the engineering station and asked “Crewman Griffin, what’s the status of the port nacelle?”

The young man looked nervous for a moment before he answered “It was removed from the pylon two hours ago. The explosive bolts have been replaced, the EPS and plasma flows are setup and ready for the new nacelle to be fitted, sir.”

Jason smiled broadly before he asked “So all we need is the warp nacelle?”

“Yes, sir” the young crewman answered “we can fit the new nacelle within ten minutes ... providing that it’s ready and configured”.

“I’ve already spoken to Lieutenant-Commander Browning, he’s the chief engineer on USS Shepard. The nacelle’s all ready to just attach. They’ve already briefed their shuttle pilots on exactly how to get it into position and where to mount it” Jason added. “We’ll have two working nacelles again soon.”

“The secondary power grid’s been reconfigured to completely take over from the primary. The warp core’s online and we should be able to go to warp eight with the new nacelle.” The young crewman explained.

Jason smiled and nodded his pleasure at the young engineer who immediately turned back to his console. Jason opened his mouth to speak to the young woman at the helm but Ensign Virginia Wabber called out “Commander, we’re receiving a hail from the Challenger. It’s Captain Reed”.

“On screen” the ships temporary commanding officer ordered. The image on the screen changed to show Captain Reed sitting in his command chair on the battle bridge of the Challenger.

Reed smiled at the younger man and asked “Commander Jason, is the Entente ready to move out?”

“Yes, sir” the tactical officer answered with a proud smile and a nod “our engineering personnel have got the damaged nacelle removed. The damage has been repaired and we’re completely ready for the new nacelle. My engineering department tells me we can have the new nacelle actually fitted within ten minutes and be warp capable within an hour.”

Reed smiled at the officer before he said “You’ve done a damn fine job. I’ve got one more thing for you to do”

“Sir?” asked Jason.

He leaned forwards in his seat as Jonathan Reed nodded and continued “I need you to get into the ready room and use the replicator ... full Commander David Jason. You’re not wearing the right rank insignia as well as you’re in the wrong colour uniform, you should be wearing a red undershirt now you’re on the command track”

“But I’m not, sir...” Jason started.

Reed smiled broadly for a moment before answering “Commander, you don’t understand. I sent a message to Starfleet Command regarding the Entente as well as my recommendations as the senior ranking officer here. They agreed that you should be transferred onto the command track and promoted so that you can serve properly in your new role as the ships first officer. I’m sending you encrypted orders now, they’re from command confirming everything I’ve told you. Now ... for the real business. If your ships ready to go, then I want you to leave the spacedock in ten minutes, we’ll be in position to tractor you. Challenger, out”.

Reed’s image disappeared from the viewer showing the inside of the sealed spacedock once again. Jason leaned back in his seat, let out a sigh and instructed “Lieutenant Phillips, please have all personnel clear the airlocks and umbilicals. All EVA teams need to be back aboard within five minutes, as do all personnel that are aboard the spacedock. I want them beamed back as a priority”. Louisa Phillips nodded her understanding as she started distributing orders. David stood up, straightened his uniform jacket and said “I’ll be in the ready room”, before he walked briskly from the battle bridge.

Aboard the USS Shepard, At the same time.

The old Oberth-class starship streaked through space at warp speed. The old ship was towing a Galaxy-class warp nacelle behind her at warp six point nine. Flying alongside the ship was the USS Tiowa, an old ship that was only two years younger than the Shepard. This particular Oberth-class vessel was something of a legend within Starfleet.

She had served faithfully for many years before she had been ordered to join an attack fleet that had been hastily assembled at Wolf 359, she was to help intercept the Borg cube there. The old ships shields had been penetrated easily by the Borg who did minor damage to the ship before beaming off its entire crew, assimilating them and turning them into drones. The ship was left floating helpless in space, devoid of a crew.

When the Starfleet Corps of Engineers ships as well as the medical and salvage ships had arrived nearly a day later the ship was re-boarded pretty much straight away. Powered up and with minor repairs she was pushed back into service within a matter of days along with the Cheyenne-class USS Ahwahnee that had suffered the same indignity. Now she was on her way to help another ship that had also suffered at the hands of the Borg.

She wasn’t a Corps of Engineers ship unlike her escort, but rather a humble science ship that went around Federation space updating star charts. She had been at Utopia Planitia when Admiral Nechayev had called for her to serve as a high speed courier. The ship’s captain had agreed, happy simply to be back at space at a time when all other science ships had been recalled for their own safety.

The ships chief engineer, Lieutenant-Commander Benjamin Browning leaned back from his seat and looked at the readout, the throbbing warp core visible on the other side of the transparent barrier before him. The ship was racing as fast as she could whilst still towing the nacelle. Browning had already shortened the tractor beam length, bringing the large object they were towing to within thirty metres of their hull to get the best possible speed. His engineering team was adjusting the matter-antimatter mix on a minute by minute basis to wring the best out of the old warp engine. Browning let out a low sigh, turned to his second in command and asked “Lieutenant Watkins, any more word from the Entente?”

“Not since you last spoke to them” the young woman answered. “I know that they’re ready, waiting for the nacelle but that’s it. How long it’ll take them to attach it and get it operational is another question”.

Browning smiled at her before he answered “Lieutenant-Commander David Jason is an old friend of mine, we were roommates at the academy. Believe me, if he says they’re ready then they’re ready ... that or he’ll put a boot up their asses”. He chuckled for a moment before closing his eyes. The young lieutenant just shook her head in amazement and turned her attention back to the reactor. She just hoped that they wouldn’t run into the Borg any time soon.

Aboard the USS Entente, Ten minutes later.

Commander David Jason stepped briskly out of the ready room sporting his new uniform and rank insignia. He went straight to the command chair which he sat down in and asked “Lieutenant Phillips, are we ready?”

The young helm officer looked back at him before answering “Yes, sir. All personnel are aboard and we’re completely disconnected from the station. We’re ready to leave on your mark”.

Jason nodded to her before continuing “Ensign Wabber, contact the station and order them to open up the forward docking legs.”
The young woman spent a moment entering commands before she replied “Ten seconds until they’re fully retracted”.

“Impulse engines and thrusters are fully operational. Shields are standing by and navigational systems are operational” Louisa added.
Jason David waited until the legs before the massive ship were fully retracted before ordering “Helm, take us out ... full thrusters. Signal the Challenger and tell them we’re ready for our lift”

Challenger’s already in position outside spacedock waiting to take us under tow”.

David smiled before saying to the young helm officer “Phillips, get us into position”. Louisa’s hands flew over her console and the large ship started moving forwards. It took less than a minute to clear the spacedock before moving into formation directly behind and slightly below Captain Reed’s ship.

A few more minutes passed before Louisa said “Commander, we’re in formation. We’ve matched the Challenger’s speed and course ... we’re at full impulse. They’re ready to engage the tractor beam.”

David nodded his consent at Louisa before he muttered to himself “Let’s get this over with”. Jason wasn’t happy with the fact that the ship had to be towed along, devoid of her own autonomy but he knew that it was necessary to get back to the Sol system and get the ship repaired as quickly as possible. He knew that the Entente was going to be needed to defend the Federation, he just hoped the vessel he was now first officer of could be repaired quickly enough to make a difference.

Captain Jonathan Reed stared at the viewscreen as the next series of delicate manoeuvres took place. Challenger was moving forwards at full impulse power. Entente was closing in on them, getting herself into towing position. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity Kell Perim called out from one of the auxiliary consoles “Captain, they’re in position”.

Reed nodded before ordering “Engage tractor beam. Have them shut down their impulse drive”.

Lieutenant T’su worked her control board for a moment before nodding and answering with a smile “Captain, we’ve got them in the tractor beam. The impulse engines are down and we’ve got full control”.

Reed smiled at the efficiency of his new crew before ordering “Helm, lay in a course to Sol system, let’s start at warp one”

“Ready” Lieutenant Sam Lavelle replied a few seconds later.

Reed savoured the moment, for the first time in years this old ship was ready to go to warp under her own power. Reed made a small motion with his hand before he ordered “Engage.”

Kell Perim turned to look at the viewscreen as she smiled broadly. The stars started to stretch on the screen before they broke the warp barrier and achieved faster than light travel. The stars streaked past the ship as she towed her charge. Reed looked around the bridge, gauging the mood of the officers around him.

The captain could tell that they were all calm, nothing was wrong and they were all comfortable. He let the minutes tick by before he ordered “Right ... we all seem stable. Let’s kick it straight up to warp three. It’s a bit early, but there’s no better time to test the crew and ship. Lieutenant T’su, keep a close eye on the shearing factors on the tractor beam. Lieutenant Lavelle, warp three if you please. Engage”

“Warp three” Sam answered with a nod of his head as he entered commands into his console. The ships engines surged as she pushed forwards, her speed increasing from the speed of light to warp three, forty two billion kilometres per hour. The Challenger didn’t flinch as she ramped up her speed. Like a faithful old steed she took the change in velocity in her stride and charged on.

“Tractor beam stable, captain” Kell Perim announced from her console. Reed nodded his acknowledgement, but Kell moved from her console and stepped over to the command seat. She leaned over and said “Captain, I’ve had an engineering team working on the main bridge. We’re not far from finished and I’d like to continue work on it ... with your permission.”

Reed smiled at her before answering simply “Go ahead, I can’t wait until it’s finished.” Kell smiled back and walked away before she stepped into the turbolift.

Kell Perim stepped out of the turbolift as soon as the doors sighed open. Immediately she smiled as she saw that the deck was now covered with a deep blue carpet. The bridge was based primarily around the bridge of the Galaxy-class starships. There were the conn and ops consoles towards the front of the room, the walls down the sides of the rooms had the consoles and panels that the Enterprise-D had sported after her last refit, shortly before she had been destroyed at Viridian III.

The consoles across the back of the room had been replaced by a large MSD and two freestanding consoles at either side of it facing forwards. The large tactical horseshoe was still in place but was no longer wooden, but an old material used on Earth many years ago called carbon fibre, but there was only one command chair on raised steps.

The first officers and councillors seats had gone and there were another two freestanding consoles in front and to either side of the captains seat. All the console housings weren’t plastic polymers but the old carbon fibre, charcoal in colour. Kell thought it looked really good especially with the black seat covers, blue carpet and blue LCARS displays. The conn and ops consoles were in place and were being worked on by engineers. The sole command seat was in place and the two consoles in front of it were also being fitted with membrane covers. The two aft consoles by the MSD were laying on the deck, waiting to be worked on.

The consoles on the port wall of the bridge were active but the ones on the starboard side were still having their membrane coverings fitted ... the left half of the MSD was lit, the other half dark. Kell looked around the room and although it was still far from operational it was amazing how much work had been done, considering that twenty-four hours ago the room was completely bare. She picked up a spare tool kit from its place on the floor at the foot of the MSD before she turned her attention to what she had dubbed the “command consoles” by the captains seat. Moving to the one on the right side of the seat she kneeled down and started connecting the loose isolinear circuitry within. She was determined to get the bridge operational by the time the ship reached the Tiowa and Shepard.

Captain Jonathan Reed sat at the head of the table in the secondary conference room, adjacent to the battle bridge. The entire senior staff were assembled ready to give their captain proper reports at their first official staff meeting. Reed looked at his chief engineer, Lieutenant Daggre. He was one of the few Xindi serving in Starfleet, many were still weary of the species after they had attacked Earth over two hundred years ago. As a Xindi primate he was very similar in appearance to most other humanoid species. Reed looked at Daggre and asked “Lieutenant, would you care to start us off?”

“Thank you, sir” the veteran Starfleet engineer answered. He took a deep breath and looked around the other assembled officers before he added “I know many of you might not believe me, but sir ... but my engineering teams have upgraded the tractor emitters with technology we got from the Entente’s main computer banks. They’re so much better that as of now we can tow the Entente at warp eight. That’s one thousand and twenty four times the speed of light, about one thousand, one hundred and three trillion kilometres per hour.”

Reed was beyond impressed at his chief engineers work. To be able to tow a ship nearly three times her size at that speed was nothing short of incredible. He looked at his chief engineer and asked “Dag, at this speed how long will it take us to get to Earth?”

“The distance we’ve already travelled ... a few days.” Reed’s mouth hung open in shock. His original time estimate to Admiral Nechayev was now completely irrelevant. As he nodded his approval at his chief engineer as everyone else gave him either thumbs up signs or were saying “Well done”.

The engineer started to blush so Reed jumped in to save him and asked “Lieutenant-Commander Neeley, what can you tell us?”

“Well, sir” she started “my teams have, in concert with engineering personnel, finished modifying the phaser arrays. They’re capable of normal fire as well as now being able to emit a phased polaron beam. In theory we should be able to penetrate the Borg’s shields”

“Yeah, but how quickly will they adapt?” Lieutenant Lavelle asked.

Lisa Neeley looked Sam in the eye before she answered “Every phaser blast is not only set to a random modulation, but the crystal emitters are randomised as well as random anti-proton particles getting leaked into the beams. If I’m right, then we can use this weapon roughly fifty times before either we damage the array firing it or they adapt to all the posible frequencies.” This too received approving nods from the rest of the senior staff. Reed sat there and listened to other reports from his conn and ops officers, they both agreed that their systems were fully operational.

The Challenger was as ready as she was going to be and she was a lot better than she was supposed to be. Reed listened to his officers before finally after everyone had fallen silent he said “Thank you all, report back to your posts...”

“Actually, there’s one more thing, captain” Kell Perim added. Everyone’s attention shifted to focus on her before she said “As of twenty minutes ago the main bridge was brought operational ... that’s where I was before you called this meeting. It’s waiting for you, captain”.

Reed smiled broadly before he stood up, looked at his officers and said “Then let’s head up there. Kell, I can’t wait to see what you’ve done with it. Dismissed”. The officers hurried from the room to the nearest turbolift that would take them to their new bridge. They all rode in silence as they were sped around the ship. A minute later the lift slowed and then stopped. The doors sighed open and they all took their first steps onto the new bridge.

As the senior staff walked around the bridge admiring the newness of it Reed stood still at the turbolift doors, drinking in the sight of the stunning new bridge. As he walked to the command chair he ran his hand over the tactical horseshoe and asked “Kell, what material is this?”

“Carbon fibre, sir” Kell answered with a smile “It’s a lightweight and relatively strong polymer from old Earth days. I thought it set off the bridge nicely”.

“Well” Reed answered with a laugh “I did appoint you as interior designer”. He slowly sat in his command chair as his senior staff took their stations. Duty shift personnel emerged from the second turbolift and also took their places. The new bridge was fully manned, and Reed loved it.

Aboard the USS Shepard NCC-4398, December 28th, 2380.

Commander Terri Pegg crossed her legs as she leaned back in her command chair. Sitting on the bridge of her beloved Oberth-class starship she felt more tense than ever before. Her ship was nearly one hundred years old, one of the second batch of Oberth-class made. The computer consoles sported the latest blue-toned LCARS displays and she had to admit that the displays were now much easier on the eye. Her first officer, Lieutenant-Commander Hermann Schwent stepped out of the turbolift to her left and walked towards her. He stood next to her command seat, facing the turbolift and asked “How are you, captain?”

“Fine, Hermann. Fine, thank you” Terri answered with a kind smile. She paused for a minutes before she added “Actually, I’m not all that great. We’re out here, carrying a warp nacelle with no real escort. The Borg are appearing everywhere and we’re a prime target”. She let out a small sigh and shook her head. Hermann just stood next to her, lending an ear for her worries. Ten years her senior, Schwent had seen a lot during his career. He looked around the newly refitted bridge and checked all was well whilst Pegg had a moment to herself.

Finally to break the tension Hermann said “I must say that I like this new bridge”.

Terri nodded for a moment before she answered “It’s basically the same bridge shell as the battle bridge of the massive Galaxy-class ships. We’ve got this layout after I found it in Starfleet archives. An old Miranda-class ship was refitted just before she was lost at Wolf 359, the USS Saratoga. Her bridge was a fine design, so I asked the Starfleet Corps of Engineers to fit an identical one for us”.

“It certainly suits the design of this ship” Hermann retorted with an appreciative nod. The captains command chair sat alone in the centre of the bridge which meant the first officer had no dedicated console or seat. Instead, Hermann preferred to stand next to his captain or walk around the bridge checking in on the other officers. He quickly turned his head and looked around the room, checking there were no problems.

No sooner had Terri looked back up at the viewscreen, her ops officer announced in a loud voice “Captain, there are two vessels approaching us at warp. Port bow, intercept course”.

“Red alert!” Terri called out as she jumped up out of her seat. Turning to her left she rushed to the tactical station and ordered “Shields up! Arm all phaser banks and torpedo tubes”.

Hermann stepped gently forwards, heading to the helm and operations consoles that were between the captains seat and the viewscreen. “Operations” he ordered calmly “hail the vessels, standard challenge”. Turning to face Terri he said “They’re probably the Challenger and Entente”.

“Yes … yes” Terri replied as she quickly made her way back to her seat.

Hermann suppressed a small sigh and nodded when the ops officer announced “Sir, their identity is confirmed. USS Challenger and Entente”.

“Alter our course so we come up alongside the Entente. Engineering, prepare to get that new warp nacelle into place as quickly as possible”. Around the bridge, the personnel scrambled to carry out their new orders, and in the middle of it all, Terri sat silent.

Aboard the USS Entente, Minutes later.

Commander David Jason looked at the viewscreen at the front of the battle bridge and said “Captain Reed, we’re all ready here for the new nacelle. The engineering crews have done sterling work. Did you receive the last of the quantum torpedoes on schedule?”

“Yes, thank you commander” Reed answered with a smile. “It was very generous of you to swap out all our photons for quantum’s.”

“The least we could do, sir” Jason said. “The torpedo launchers are still being rebuilt so we can’t fire them anyway, better they be put to good use. We’ve still got half our load of them so we will be fine. The last batch of state-of-the-art spare parts have just been transported over to you…” he said but was interrupted by an alarm sounding at the tactical console.

The young officer manning the station called out “Commander, prototype sensors are showing a Borg tactical cube on an intercept course. They’ll be with us in seventeen minutes!”

“Damn it! Captain, did you hear that?” Jason asked.

Reed nodded his head and answered simply “Yes, commander. We haven’t got time to get that nacelle attached, we need to get those two ships out of here”.

“We can do it!” shouted Mark Rolston as he ran onto the bridge. “Captain, if we curve around and rendezvous with the Sheppard we can do this at warp.”

“No way” Reed snapped “that’s crazy. How will we get them close enough to attach?”

“If Challenger shunts all power to your warp drive you can reinforce your warp field. Shepard could theoretically remain in your field for seven minutes with us. If they can use their own tractor emitters to lock it down into place we could initialise it and all fly without slowing to sublight.”

“The strain will tear us to pieces” Dag snapped as he appeared to Reed’s right. “Shepard’s tractor emitters aren’t accurate enough to complete the linkup, this is insane.”

“It’s this or we all die” Rolston retorted sharply. “Please captain, trust me.”

Reed looked at the pleading face of the engineer and slowly nodded. “Make it happen, now. No arguments, Dag” he added as his own engineer opened his mouth to object. “Tactical, power up the shields and arm all weapons. Bring the phaser modifications online and prepare to use them. Dag, shunt everything we’ve got to the warp field.”

“Helm, bring us about gently so the Shepard can enter our warp field” Kell Perim ordered carrying on her captains orders. “All hands, this is the XO. Prepare for a very rough ride.”

Reed sat with his eyes glued to the viewscreen. The USS Shepard rushed closer to them until there was a bright flare. The smaller ship entered the Challenger’s warp field. “They’ve disengaged their warp drive!” Kell announced from next to Reed. He glanced at the unoccupied console on his other side then back at the viewscreen. The Oberth-class ship glided into position with the nacelle, her thrusters firing as she struggled to get into position.

“Can we help them with tractors?” Reed asked.

“No way” Dag answered from behind the captain “I’m barely maintaining the warp field as it is. If this isn’t done in the next ten minutes we’ll be left without warp!” As if to punctuate his point the deck started vibrating harshly below their feet. Challenger was struggling but still giving everything she could.

“Tactical, what’s the status of the Borg ship?” Reed demanded.

“She’s a tactical cube and she’s detected us. The Borg are accelerating and will be with us in eleven minutes.”

Reed let out a small sigh and gripped his armrests briefly. “Looks like we’re going to be fighting the Borg again. Kell, can the Shepard and Tiowa be of any help?”

“None” his first officer replied as she turned to face him. “They’ll be vaporised with the first hit they take.”

“Then have the Tiowa break formation and head to Polaris at maximum speed, maybe the spacedock can keep them safe. As soon as the nacelle is attached to the Entente they’ll have to escort the Shepard to safety. We’ll cover their retreat” Reed ordered.

“We won’t survive” Kell muttered quietly. Reed nodded to her, silently agreeing.

Aboard the USS Entente, Eight minutes later.

“Double-check those alignment readings!” Mark Rolston shouted as he rushed from console to console in main engineering. “Engage the magnetic docking latches and secure the nacelle. Burton, secure the plasma flow ports and polarise them. Carson, authorise the link to the main nacelle control systems and slave it to the master boards. Come on people, move it!”

The turned on his heel and ran to his main command boards. Seconds was all it took to review the work before he opened the EPS taps and allowed high pressure warp plasma to flood into the new nacelle. The instant the flow hit the minimal acceptable levels he recalibrated the warp coil controls to accept the new components. Moments later he slapped his comm badge and announced “Engineering to bridge! The nacelle is attached and it’s powering up! I’ve given you everything I can to the shields and phasers. We can move out of Challenger’s warp field!”

Phaser bolts slammed into Challenger’s shields, flaring them brightly. The bridge crew clung on tightly to their stations under the onslaught. “Borg are firing again!” Neeley shouted from tactical “I’ve still got no power for weapons!”

Entente is signalling ready to break formation!” Kell called out over the sound of impacts.

“Not a second too soon” Reed answered. “Manoeuvre us clear, now. Drop to impulse and bring us about. All power to the weapons. Lisa, let’s see how the Borg like your new phasers.”

As a spread of blue quantum torpedoes fanned out from the back of Challenger and smashed into the Borg shields the USS Shepard reengaged her warp engines and sprinted ahead of the other two starships. Challenger and Entente gracefully flew away from each other and slammed down to impulse speed. The Borg did the same.

Immediately Challenger started firing with every phaser array that had an angle on the Borg, Entente joining what firepower she had working to the mix. After the first few blasts smashed into the Borg shields the results were dramatic.

“Borg shields are down!” Neeley called out joyfully. “Firing torpedoes.”

“Kell, signal Entente to use her heavy phaser cannon to hit them hard.” Reed ordered quickly. “Helm, keep moving, don’t give them a clear shot at us.”

Kell nodded her head and passed the order to the larger ship. The two Starfleet vessels swooped over the much larger tactical cube like vultures, pounding away at their sworn enemy. The Borg pounded them back as hard as they could but in less than two minutes the Borg ship exploded into a massive cloud of debris. Looking at the viewscreen on his bridge Captain Reed ordered “Stand down from Red Alert”.

That one sentence sent a wave of cheers and applause through his ship. Challenger had destroyed another Borg foe. Over the celebrations around the room Reed heard Kell announce “Commander Jason is hailing us”.

“On screen” Reed ordered. Instantly the celebrations quietened to a whisper and he stood from his chair.

As soon as David’s image appeared on the viewscreen the acting captain said “Captain Reed, that’s one hell of a modification you’ve made to your phasers”

“We do what we can” Reed proudly answered. “What shape is the Entente in?”

“Minor damage, nothing disastrous thanks to those transphasic shield upgrades you sent us. We’re fully warp capable and ready to rock. Torpedo launchers are still out for the count but they’re not far off” answered Jason.

“You can thank Admiral Nechayev for the shields, she’s had the specs passed around the fleet now” Reed replied. He paused for a moment before he asked “Are you able to continue to Sol system without us?”

“Absolutely, we can escort the Shepard back. I’ll be honest, I would feel much better if we could get those phaser upgrades from you” Jason replied.

Reed nodded to him before answering “Of course, we’ll transmit the specs over now.” He nodded to Kell who sent the information straight away. “We’ve already signalled the Tiowa to come to us, the Shepard has already turned around as well. As soon as our friends arrive we’ll be under way.”

“Captain Reed, it has been a privilege and an honour to fight with you, sir” David said sincerely.

“The feeling is mutual, Commander. Challenger, out.”

PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 7:47 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2009 1:00 am
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Location: Aboard the Warstar Irkalla
Chapter 4

Aboard the USS Challenger, January 6th, 2381.

“Helm, bring us around and join formation. We have point” Captain Reed ordered as he looked at the fleet of abandoned Starfleet ships on the viewscreen. The Impulse engines gracefully pushed the ship around in an arc. Within minutes they had taken their place as leader.

Daggre looked at the fleet on the viewscreen and stated simply “They need a lot of work, sir.”

“I know” Jonathan replied as he stood.

Kell turned to him and smiled warmly. Smiling back at his old friend she said “Captain, a status update on the fleet. All vessels have a crew of twelve personnel, all engineers. They’ve restored life support and basic shields to all ships. Automated tugs are still with all ships and ready to jump back to warp at your command.”

“We’ll leave it six hours before we go to warp, I want us and the Tiowa engineers a chance to get a quick look at what we’re working with”. He let out a small sigh and asked “Are any of those ships useful in a fight right now?”

“Yes, sir” Kell answered with a nod. “Admiral Nechayev was right about USS Shelbyville, she’s basically ready to use. Her tech is as out-dated as ours was when we boarded. In addition she’s got no antimatter, dilithium or deuterium but we could fix that.”

“We need another ship to help us protect this fleet. Kell, I want you to take Dag and an away team over to the Shelbyville. Assume command for now and get her working as best as you can. I’ll see about getting you what fuel I can. Take as many engineers as you need from Tiowa, the Shelbyville is our priority right now” Reed instructed.

“Understood, sir” Kell replied. She nodded to Dag and the pair left the bridge swiftly.

Reed moved to stand at the command panel that Kell had just vacated and pulled up a status report of the ships out there. Many of the Wolf 359 veterans still had massive hull damage from where they’d been pounded by the Borg yeas before. He shook his head and wondered just how bad things were if these floating corpses were being called upon for defence.

Scrolling through the pages until something caught his eye Reed stopped and went back slightly. Something had missed Kell’s expert eye, the USS Rhapsody was in the same condition as the Shelbyville. “Another diamond in the rough” Reed muttered as he called Neeley over.

Aboard the USS Shelbyville, Minutes later.

Lieutenant junior grade Marius Coxx sat back in the captain’s chair and looked around the deserted bridge. One of only twelve people aboard, the young man had been told to stay on the bridge to keep an eye on the ships systems as they were brought systematically back online. He was far past his due break and had decided to take ten minutes to relax. Hearing the sound of a transporter effect he bolted up from the chair and turned to face it.

As Marius spun around Kell Perim, Daggre and the bridge staff from gamma watch materialised.

Smiling at the young man, Kell asked “Seeing what the big chair’s like, lieutenant?”

“Sorry, sir” the lieutenant answered immediately “I was overdue my break and decided to take a few minutes…” he hastily tried to explain.

Kell just chuckled and answered “It’s okay, I used to do the same thing. I’ve been ordered to take temporary command of the ship and get her as operational as we can. Lieutenant Daggre here will be my temporary chief engineer.” Turning to the bridge staff she motioned to the consoles around them and said “Take your stations, get me a complete report on what we’ve got. Dag, I’m going to need you to set up a direct datalink with Challenger and get a copy of the database we got from Entente. Let’s see what upgrades we can get working ASAP. Focus on shields, phasers and warp drive.”

Dag nodded before turning to the master engineering console on the bridge to establish the link.

Kell turned back to Coxx and instructed “Lieutenant, hustle down to engineering and let the others know that we’re aboard. Personnel from the Corps of Engineers ship Tiowa will be aboard shortly. We need to get this ship ready, so get to it.”

“Yes, sir” Coxx enthusiastically answered before rushing from the bridge.

Kell sat herself in the command chair and started reading from the padd she had brought over with her. The latest combat reports from around the Federation weren’t good, but their route to Polaris was clear, at least for now. She stared at the padd until the writing began to blur together. She was grateful when her temporary operations officer announced “Commander, I’ve got a report for you.”

“Let’s hear it” Kell answered as she set her padd aside.

The young man nodded and after consulting his own padd he said “Basic primary and secondary systems are operational. We have basic shields and phasers. Torpedo launchers are operational but a moot point seeing as we have no torpedoes to fire. We’ll be fully impulse and warp capable once we’ve refuelled. The chief has downloaded Entete’s database and is about to make upgrades. LCARS will be going down as the software is uploaded but it’ll only take a minute at most.”

Kell sat entranced as the officer continued his report.

“Engineering reports that the new database is also tied into the ships replicator network, and that is up and running. New parts are being replicated as we speak. The first two teams from Tiowa beamed aboard a minute ago and the last two will be over here anytime now. With the teams aboard we will have thirty-seven engineers aboard including Lieutenant Daggre. We on the bridge are the only other staff aboard” the officer finally finished reporting.

“We’re going to be working long hours for a little while to get this ship up and running” Kell replied, loudly enough for the entire bridge crew to hear. They all turned to face her so she continued “I’m not going to lie to you, Starfleet’s doing badly in this war. There’s no need to despair, there have been successes against the Borg. You were all aboard the Challenger both times we’ve destroyed a Borg ship so you know the tech upgrades work. Right now our priority is to get this ship ready to fight, ready for her new crew to come aboard and enjoy the fruits of all our hard work when we get back to Challenger. I want all systems upgraded as soon as possible, that’s your priority.” Kell had barely finished her sentence when the ships displays all flickered off. Some looked around concerned but she soothed them explaining “The chief is uploading and activating the new LCARS systems. As soon as they’re operational I want you all back to work. That’s it” Kell reassured them.

Patiently they all turned back to their consoles waiting, but less than thirty seconds was all it took before they came back to life.

Daggre prowled around main engineering inspecting the warp core. It was an old design, one that Starfleet had phased out of service years earlier but in his opinion it still held great potential. Turned to the senior engineer that had already been stationed aboard when they had arrived, Lieutenant junior grade Jane Winters Dag said “The problem’s with the design itself. All the parts work beautifully, but put together they just don’t work.”

“Such as, sir?” Jane asked with genuine interest as she made nodes on her padd.

Dag sighed gently before answering “Just small things, like ... like the antimatter injectors just aren’t quick enough, they don’t pump it in with enough pressure. The warp plasma relay conduits from the reactor itself are too narrow before opening up immediately to the two EPS relays that are too big before getting shunted into the conduits. None of these problems are insurmountable in themselves, but all together they’re time consuming to fix.”

Daggre thought for a moment before he said “Right, this is what I want doing. While we’ve got a cold warp core we’ll get the modifications done. Get two teams of four engineers and assign one team to each of the EPS relays I mentioned and pull them. Replicate new ones from the database, they’re already tagged as the ones I made for the Challenger. I want two other teams to pull the conduits, they don’t need replacing but once they’re open you can use the manual operating systems inside to select the conduit size we need. Decrease it by ten percent, that should do it … oh, and reconfigure the manual operating systems to accept commands from the master control boards here in engineering, I don’t want to have to shut down the warp core every time we tinker with the flow system.”

The young woman was nodding her understanding and was entering commands into the small device frantically now. As Dag paused she entered the last pits of information before looking him in the eye. The engineer smiled to her and said “Get those crews working on this right now. As soon as you’ve dished out instructions come meet me over at the antimatter injectors. I’ll replicate new ones and I’ll teach you how to replace them properly, none of this shite you learn at the academy.”

The pair shared a smile before Jane rushed off to carry out her duties. “Huh, she’s a good learner. I want to keep her” Dag muttered to himself before he walked over to the large engineering replicators in the storage room just off main engineering and started making what he needed.

Aboard the USS Buran, Ten minutes later.

Captain Jonathan Reed materialised on the bridge and was immediately plunged into near darkness. Calmly he switched on the torch he had strapped to his right wrist and shined it around the room. For the moment the general condition of the room was of no concern to him, only getting lighting working was.

Breathing deeply a few times, Reed took a few measured steps across the decking. “Well, we’ve got life support and artificial gravity. A little cold, though” Jonathan muttered to himself. He bent down and put the heavy-duty toolkit he had brought with him on the floor before shaking the feeling back into his left hand. The toolkit was damn heavy.

Only a few individual icons were illuminated on the consoles around the captain so he walked to the nearest one and shone his light at the composite framework that housed the computer systems. It took only seconds to find the large white stencilled word MISSION OPS. He’d already taken the time to memorise the layout of the ships bridge so instantly knew that he was standing at the port side consoles along the perimeter wall of the bridge. To his left would be the environmental control systems and after that was damage control.

Carefully making his way around the toppled chairs to the damage control board Reed studied the readouts. He nearly jumped out of his own skin when Lieutenant Neeley’s voice boomed from his comm badge, reverberating around the otherwise deserted room. “Challenger to Captain Reed. How’s it going over there sir?”

“Jeez Lisa, you scared the hell out of me” Reed answered as he willed his heart to slow down its frantic beating. Instinctively he knew that Lisa would be amused but nervous of her commanding officers wrath, his answer to her wasn’t one that a crew normally heard from their captain.

Forcing himself back into a more authoritarian tone he said “I’m looking at trying to get what power I can to ships systems. Artificial gravity is operational as well as life support, but it’s not working properly, there’s definitely a chill in here. Stand by” Reed added as he looked again at the display. He entered commands into the mostly lifeless console and within seconds was rewarded with the lights slowly flickering on and the consoles coming back to life, even if they did flicker intermittently.

“Lieutenant-Commander, I’ve restored emergency battery power to the bridge. I’ve got lights and somewhat working consoles” Reed explained as he switched off his torch and looked around the bridge. There were blown out pipes hanging from the ceiling overheads and consoles that had exploded years earlier, their components still littering the dirt and rubble strewn carpeting. Most chairs were upturned and he could still see dark smudges of bloodstains on more than one. “It looks like when the SCE recovered the ship from Wolf 359 and towed it to Qualor they didn’t bother with cleaning … or repairs.”

“Wait, she’s exactly as she was found after the Borg attack?” asked a shocked Neeley.

“Yeah” Reed replied. “The inside is the same, the only work done is on the outer hull, courtesy of the automated tug that’s towing her. I’ve got to say, I didn’t realise they did repair work” he admitted.

“Yes, sir” Neeley answered. “After the Dominion war the, Starfleet Corps of Engineers looked at the time taken to tow a crippled ship back to spacedock at the mid-range speed these tugs are capable of as wasted. They upgraded the fleet with micro servitor manipulator arms and industrial replicators. They figured that if the hull breaches could be sealed en-route by the tugs then surviving crew could get into damaged areas that much sooner to effect critical repairs.”

“Interesting history lesson” Reed said with a smile. “What’s your status?” he asked.

“I’ve got the teams together and we’re ready to beam over to the Rhapsody. From the sensor information we took we should be able to get her operational within about six hours. The big problem is going to be fuel” Lisa replied.

“What about it?” Reed asked.

Neeley sighed gently down the comm line before she answered “Not that I want to give you bad news, but all ships from the depot were stripped of their antimatter, dilithium or deuterium when they were mothballed. Challenger’s only got a light load of fuel as it is so we can’t really transfer any over. Tiowa only carries enough for herself as it is.”

“So basically, even if we can get some ships operational we’ve got no way to fuel them so they’re useless” Reed answered.

“Yes, sir” Neeley admitted. Reed clenched his fists into balls and silently cursed the admiralty. In his opinion their short sighted orders were going to get them all killed or worse, assimilated.

“Okay. I want you to get Admiral Nechayev on a secure line for me, route it to the bridge over here. I’ll get the viewscreen up to speak to her. We need fuel. As soon as you’ve got the comm sorted I want you to hustle over to the Rhapsody and get her as operational as you possibly can, understand?” Reed instructed.

“Yes, sir. Stand by for comm line, Neeley out” the woman replied.

Reed picked up the chair for the damage control station and stood it upright so he could sit. For two minutes he worked frantically until finally the secondary systems started coming back to life. Letting out a grateful sigh he said aloud “Computer, what critical systems are now operational?”

For a few long seconds there was no reply but thankfully the feminine computer voice finally answered “Life support and artificial gravity systems are operational. Subspace communications, internal force-fields, library computer access retrieval system is operational. Thrusters are operational” Reed leaned forwards to call up another screen when the computer dropped one last piece of information that froze him in his tracks. “Impulse engines are operational”.

“How, when there’s no deuterium aboard?” Reed queried.

“Emergency deuterium containers in impulse secondary assemblies are intact and fuelled” the computer stated simply.

“Computer, activate the impulse engines in power-generation mode only and route all available power to primary and secondary systems.”

The computer beeped twice to tell him that the comm line was ready so he authorised it and rushed to the centre of the bridge, standing just in front of the command chairs. As Nechayev appeared on the screen she said simply “You’ve got thirty seconds of my time, captain”.

“We need fuel” Reed answered quickly. The admiral raised her eyebrows slightly so he barrelled on “We have managed to get one, maybe two ships here basically ready to fight with standard systems but before we can even work on any more we need fuel. Antimatter, dilithium and deuterium pods were removed from these ships once they got to Qualor. With our hands tied there’s not a damn thing we can do, admiral. I’ve lucked out in so far as the Buran has emergency deuterium canisters in the secondary impulse assemblies, but only the Challenger-class of ships had that design feature.”

Nechayev smiled briefly before she answered “You’re in luck. The Entente managed to get back to Sol system without further incident thanks to you and your crews protection. She’s swarming with engineers making repairs and upgrades, but she can so that on the move. I want to keep her out of the fighting, so I’ll ship her back out carrying fuel pods for you. Can’t you wait until you get to Polaris?”

“We could but if we’re attacked then we can’t defend ourselves and every single one of these ships will be lost. No choice, sir” Reed replied.

“She’s on her way, Starfleet Command out” Nechayev retorted as she closed the channel.

Reed let out a low laugh as he muttered “Gee, she really likes me” before he turned his attention back to the damage control board. He spent five whole minutes watching as power swept through systems that had lain dormant since the fateful battle against the Borg so many years earlier.

Reed had noticed the computers voice almost had a slight stutter when it had given him his verbal report so he called up the main computer access files and set to work to repair that. He scrolled through and found a master computer file had been badly corrupted.
Confused as to how badly this could be affecting the computer he simply wiped that portion of software and replaced it with copies stored in the secondary computer core. The instant the transplanted data files were activated systems immediately came active.
Blinking rapidly in surprise Reed looked around the room and rushed over to the tactical console directly behind the command chairs. He looked down at the display and entered a few commands to refresh the information there. He did that twice before he actually believed what the displays were telling him.

Tapping his comm badge he said into it “Captain’s Log, supplemental. I’m currently aboard the USS Buran attempting repairs and I’ve made a startling discovery. It seems that the Borg tested a computer virus against the Buran without much success. It did however corrupt some critical software for the main computer core, mid-battle I doubt the crew were aware of its infiltration. After purging it I can see that the ships shield generators whilst suffering some damage are actually useable, as are her phaser banks. Thanks to the hull patching the automated tug has made I can get most things working, it’s a massive surprise when you consider the sheer damage this ship took at the hands of the Borg. End log” he added hastily as engineers beamed into the bridge in front of him. They looked around in some shock before standing to attention as they saw the pips on his collar.

“Sorry, sir. I wasn’t aware that anyone was over here yet” a young Ensign said. Reed smiled at her and noted her slight nervous stutter.

As Reed thought “I can’t fix another speech impediment” he took note of her facial features and asked “What’s your name?”

“Ensign Rachel Barclay, sir. Lieutenant-Commander Reginald Barclay is my uncle” the woman answered.

“I thought you resembled him. If you’re as good an engineer as him then we’re all very lucky. Ensign, I will be transporting back to the Challenger soon so I want you to co-ordinate the repair efforts aboard ship. I’ll have my crew send over the specifics of all the work we’ve done to our ship, get the modifications done as quickly as you can.”

“Un…un…understood, sir” the young woman stammered.

Reed nodded to her and instructed “Get your people down to main engineering and start work, I’ll make sure the details are waiting down there for you” before he tapped his comm badge and said “Reed to Challenger, one to beam back. Energise.”

Aboard the USS Entente, January 8th, 2381.

“Sir, we’re closing on the fleet” announced Lieutenant Louisa Phillips from the helm without turning from her station. “The fleet has already slowed to impulse speed”

“Slow to full impulse and move us into formation. Hail the Challenger” instructed Commander David Jason from the command chair. As soon as Reed’s image appeared on the main viewscreen Jason smiled at him and said “Captain, always a pleasure to help the man who saved Entente”.

“You’re too generous with your praise” Reed answered with a smile of his own.

Jason’s face took on a serious turn as he said “I’m sorry to be brief but intel puts two Borg spheres heading for Polaris. We need to leave in the next half hour to beat them there.”

“What ships will be standing alongside you?” Reed asked.

The pair shared a knowing glance before Jason answered “The Olympic will be there along with the Crazy Horse, Elkins and Yeager. Don’t worry, we’ll give them one hell of a fight”

“I’m sure you will” Reed answered solemnly.

Jason waited a heartbeat before he said “I thought that we may as well make this milk run to you worth it. I’ve brought you as many fuel pods as we could cram aboard, also I’ve got aboard passengers for you. Admiral Nechayev had the crews of all the old science ships that were safe-harbouring at Utopia Planitia beamed over so you’ve at least got people to operate what ships you can get working.”

“I’m very grateful, commander” Reed answered sincerely.

Jason nodded to him for a second before he said “We’re launching all the shuttlepods we’ve got aboard, they’re sublight only so no use as escape craft in this battle. They’ll tractor in all the pods, we’re going to have to jettison them, albeit gently because we’re so short on time. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologise” Reed instructed. “Your crew has done me a massive service and for that I thank you. You’ll do well against the Borg, remember to keep moving and have the computer constantly re-modulate your shields”.

“Will do. Good luck, Entente out” Jason answered as he closed the comm channel. Reed watched as pods and small craft raced from the massive starship into space. In under a minute the passengers had been beamed over to Challenger and the USS Entente warped away to her fight against the Borg. Reed continued to look at the viewer after the starship had left. A moment later he instructed “Lieutenant T’su, have those pods brought aboard the ships as quickly as possible. I want the captains and first officers that beamed over brought to the conference lounge immediately, I’ll wait for them in there”.

The young woman barely managed to answer “Aye, sir” before the doors closed behind her captain.

“As you’re all aware, work on the starships here is progressing as well as can be expected under the circumstances” Reed said as he started the meeting. “A lot of improvements were made to Challenger by my chief engineer, he has sent those improvements around this fleet. You’ll find your lives a little easier thanks to his overseeing this from an engineering standpoint. The very latest versions of the LCARS software has been uploaded to every ship here. The design problems that plagued these ships in their service were ignored by Command because the Galaxy and Nebula-classes were going to replace them, but those flaws have been corrected. I have given you all the specs we received for the Transphasic Shields as well as the phaser upgrades my tactical officer has designed.

The Challenger-class USS Kearsage is ready to go and fight right now, that’s where you come in Captain Desali” Reed added as he nodded to a tall, ebony skinned woman. “Command wants you and your staff to take command of the Kearsage had head at maximum warp to Vulcan, you’ll be part of the defensive line there headed up by the USS Atlas. Don’t worry, you’ll get a full crew and rearmed once you’re there. You need to leave soon”.

Desali nodded to Reed and passed her first officer a padd that she had been entering instructions onto. Turning to the other captains Reed said “The Freedom-class USS Rhapsody is ready to fight so she’ll be under your care Captain Labelle. Captain Frakes, the Springfield-class USS Shelbyville is your steed.”

Reed shifted in his seat as he looked at the assembled personnel before adding “My armoury staff have been working flat out for days making quantum torpedoes, we’ll start transferring them over shortly to you. I want the rest of you to simply pick a ship and get your people over there.”

Reed laced his hands together for a minute and composed his thoughts before he continued “I know that most of you have been captains for a lot longer than me so you technically have seniority. I also know that you may feel a little awkward about a “junior” captain dishing out orders to you, but Admiral Nechayev placed me in command of this operation. Factor in that I know the condition of those ships and have gone over and done work personally, I know what’s best here. I feel awkward about telling you what to do as well, but we can all work together and get this done. Thank you all, dismissed.”

Reed blushed visibly when the captains in the room applauded him followed closely by their XO”s.

“Nicely said, supreme leader” quipped Desali as she walked past him on her way out. Reed waited patiently as they all filed out before he returned to his own bridge.

Chapter 5

Aboard the USS Challenger, January 9th, 2381.

“We’re looking good all-round” Kell Perim stated as she stood next to Reed’s command chair. The captain skimmed the text on the padd as she continued “The Rhapsody and Shelbyville are ready for combat, their repairs and upgrades are complete. The Buran is coming along well but she’s without a command staff, there weren’t enough to go around. The other ships have restored their shields and upgraded them. They’re all capable of warp and are ready to go.”

“Excellent” Reed answered as he passed the padd back to her. “Have the fleet drop to impulse. I want the tugs disengage from the ships, we can move faster under our own steam. We need to get back to Polaris and see what’s happening there…”

“Incoming priority one signal from USS Entente!” T’su called out.

Reed and Perim shared a worried glance as the captain ordered “On screen”. Commander Jason’s face appeared on the viewer and he said without preamble “Captain, we’ve damaged the ship again”.

“You’re becoming a menace” Reed replied, matching the other man’s humourless comment. “What’s your status?”

“We destroyed one sphere, but it cost us. All ships here are crippled. We’ve got warp drive and partial shields but the weapons are useless. Our phaser arrays are depleted and the targeting sensors are smashed. Captain, the second sphere couldn’t penetrate the defensive fire so it’s changed tactics. It’s heading to you at high warp. I’m sorry, she left about twelve hours ago but we’ve only just been able to get a signal to you”

“They’ll be here any minute” Perim muttered worriedly as she turned to one of the command consoles. The fleet immediately dropped to impulse and the tugs moved away from the Starfleet vessels.

“We’ll do what we can, I appreciate you telling me” Reed stated. He saw Perim still pounding commands into the board so he added “Concentrate on repairs to the ships you have there in case we don’t stop them and they swing back. We’ll see you soon, Challenger out.”

“…at maximum warp. Engage” Perim ordered. Reed only caught the end of Perim’s orders but already knew what she had just completed. Within moments the fleet was heading to Polaris under its own power.

As Kell turned back to face Reed the captain said “Kell, we need every ship we can muster to fight off the Borg whilst the rest of the fleet makes a break for it to Polaris. Signal the Rhapsody, Shelbyville and Buran to close up on us. I want you to take command of Challenger while I go over to Buran…”

“No” his first officer said sharply. “The Buran isn’t repaired enough to survive an encounter with the Borg. You’ll be killed, I’ll get over there and have her ready to fight”

“My way, you survive and get the fleet back to base…” Reed started.

Kell spoke over him and stated simply “You’re more experienced with command than I am. You’re needed to lead this fleet, not me. Besides, Buran has warp drive working now, we can make a run for it if it comes to that.”

Reed knew she was lying but accepted the stoicism his old friend was showing. He stood, shook her hand and said “Lieutenant-Commander Kell Perim, I hereby promote you to full commander. Take command of USS Buran.”

“Doesn’t Starfleet Command need to approve a promotion to full commander?” Kell asked with a small smile.

“We’re in a state of open, declared warfare” Reed answered “regulations state I can give battlefield promotions in these circumstances. Get your insignia changed and take your new command. Good hunting”.

Kell went to shake his hand again but then stopped and hugged him instead. Reed put regulations aside and hugged her back as he whispered “Don’t die on me, old friend”

“Wouldn’t dream of it” Kell whispered with a nod before she rushed from the bridge, already calling gamma watch to the transporter room with her.

Reed was too keyed up to sit back in his command seat so he took a slow walk around the bridge. He stopped at every station and spoke to the personnel there, offering encouragement and words of advice. Ten minutes later he sat back down in his command chair as T’su announced “Captain, Commander Perim is aboard the Buran and the ship has moved up alongside us. Starships Rhapsody and Shelbyville are now in battle formation with us … stand by. Stand by” Her last two words came out several octaves higher than her last sentence. Finally she turned from the helm to look at Reed and said “Borg sphere is now on sensors. Four minutes to intercept.”

“Mister Lavelle, have the attack group alter course with us at the head. Move to intercept the Borg.” Reed took a deep breath and tapped a control on his armrest before he added “All hands, this is the captain. We are about to engage the Borg. Red alert, all hands to battle stations.”

Aboard the USS Buran, minutes later.

“Commander, we’re as ready as we’re going to be” Ensign Mark Wheaton said from the helm. Perim nodded as she lowered herself into the captains seat, the first officer and counsellor’s seats beside her empty.

“The Borg like to try to ram into their enemy now so be very careful of that, helm” Perim advised. She looked over her shoulder to Lieutenant Samuel Hawk at the tactical station. The younger brother of the deceased Sean Hawk, formerly of the USS Enterprise looked her in the eye and nodded.

“Shields are up and holding as strong as the engineers can make them. Quantum torpedoes were transferred over and are loaded ready to fire. Phased polaron phasers are ready to fire” Hawk reported.

“Let’s do this” Perim said as she turned once again to look at the viewscreen. The bridge was in a much better condition that it had been when Reed had come aboard. Most of the critical repairs were done, but the old blood stains were still present.

“Commander, we’ve all received new orders from Challenger. We’re all being ordered to target our new phasers on a specific area of the Borg shields. Captain Reed says to follow up with three barrages of torpedoes at the same location. The first two immediately, the second after his signal … apparently all ships will know what the signal is.”

“Great” Kell muttered. “Tactical, prepare to fire.”

A matter of seconds later Borg weapons fire impacted on the small group’s forward shields. “Fire phasers!” Kell ordered. As one, the four ships lanced out with concentrated phaser strikes. Their overlapping fire from all arrays that had an angle at the target discharged their beams, pummelling the Borg shields. “Fire torpedoes!”

“Salvo one away…” Hawk called out. A handful of seconds later he added “Fleet salvo two is away, preparing for number three!”
“Commander, the Challenger!” Ensign Juan Cussler called out from ops.

Kell’s eyes snapped to the viewscreen and she muttered “Oh god, no…”

Aboard the USS Challenger, at the same time.

“We’re ready!” Sam Lavelle announced loudly from the helm as the Borg phasers struck the shields.

“First torpedo salvo is away!” added Neeley, closely followed by “second is away!”

“Helm, engage!” Reed barked. The Challenger’s impulse engines pushed past their designed safety limits and streaked the starship forwards. The bow of the proud starship chased after the second volley of torpedoes and as they impacted, most passed straight through the Borg’s shields and exploded against the sphere’s hull. They’d made a gap!

“Hang on!” Sam called out nervously as he frantically entered commands into his console.

“Third salvo is away” Neeley commented “guess they recognised the signal!” she quipped.

Reed gripped the arms of his chair as the Challenger flew straight through the hole in their enemy’s shields and came within half a ship’s length of the hull.

“Nose up!” Reed ordered but Sam had already thrown the Challenger into a climb over the latticework hull. “Pinpoint barrage!” Reed ordered “Auxiliary power to the ventral shields!”

On the bridges of the other ships the crews couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Challenger’s suicidal run at their enemy had placed the Starfleet ship inside the protective shield bubble of the sphere. They saw as the phasers struck out with pinpoint accuracy at point-blank range, they were much too close to fire torpedoes. Challenger swooped over the Borg’s hull like an attacking pit bull, sinking her teeth into every bit of hull she could find.

The sphere, already damaged from its encounter with the Entente and her fleet was suddenly having massive gouges torn out of her. Explosions were rippling across the massive surface as Reed’s desperate attack continued.

Kell Perim watched as Challenger made a forth orbit of the Borg’s ship, her phasers still firing wildly. “Tactical, continue to co-ordinate our phaser strikes with the other ship, but keep the blasts ahead of Challenger. Let’s make sure she’s got a hole to come out of.”

“No need” Hawk answered “Borg’s shields are down!”

“Order the fleet to hit them with everything!” Kell snapped as she jumped to her feet.

The deck suddenly pitched wildly below her as the ship was smashed by a stray shot from the Borg. Buran swung out of formation briefly before Wheaton pushed her back into position. The Rhapsody immediately swung across Buran’s bow, throwing themselves into the shot that had been destined for the Buran’s damaged shields.

Perim’s eyes found the viewscreen again just in time to watch as the Rhapsody tumbled away, out of control. Her shields completely failed. The Shelbyville meanwhile ignored the other ships and fired continual barrages of torpedoes from all her forward torpedo launchers, her phasers threatening to burn themselves out as they continually fired their deadly beams at the Borg. As Challenger moved away from the enemy she fired a final spread of torpedoes deep into a hole they had punched deep into the Borg vessel. Seconds later the Borg ship immolated itself in a massive conflagration of crimson flame and debris.

As the explosion cleared from the viewscreen Reed ordered “Move us to the Rhapsody and get her undertow. Have the Shelbyville and Buran form up on us, we’re going after the fleet. Stand down from red alert.” Once again the crew cheered about the destruction of yet another Borg ship. The Challenger snared the Rhapsody in a tractor beam and swung her bow towards the fleeing fleet. With Buran to her port and Shelbyville to her starboard the three starships entered warp together, victorious.

Chapter 6

Aboard the USS Challenger, January 11th, 2381.

“I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I am with you and your people, captain” Nechayev spoke from the screen, a rare smile on her face. “Three Borg ships destroyed by a ship that was until recently retired. Beyond impressive.”

“We had help on two of those kills, admiral” Reed admitted.

“Yes, but the ships used on the third attack were using the same repairs and retrofits pioneered by you and your crew. How are the other ships in the fleet?” Nechayev asked.

USS Rhapsody suffered serious damage to her shield emitters, she was still using her original systems. They’re being pulled and replaced by new units that we’re assisting her crew in replicating. USS Buran suffered minor damage but she’s ready to fight again if she absolutely has to, although most of her systems are patched. The damage from the battle of Wolf 359 is still very evident” Reed answered the admiral.

“You’ll be pleased to know that the Kearsage is at Vulcan and ready to help hold the line. The crews of Atlas and Prometheus are helping Captain Desali modernise her ship as much as possible on the fly” Nechayev stated.

“That’s good to hear. What are our orders, admiral?” Reed asked as he leaned back in his chair.

Nechayev looked at him thoughtfully for a moment before she answered “I want you and your “fleet” to hold position at Polaris for now. I can guarantee you three, maybe four days of quiet so I suggest you use them well. As a reward for your hard work I have instructed the shipyard there to transmit a complete copy of the most up-to-date tech library transmitted to you. I know I said no to this, but you’ve more than earned it. Command crews for those ships are already en-route to you, the temp crews have to come home.”

“Understood” Reed answered.

“You can consider Challenger to be the flagship of that fleet. Do what you can and await further orders. Get everyone ready, this war is really heating up and I’m not certain what the outcome is going to be. Captain Picard has requested reinforcements to be sent to the Azure Nebula to form an expeditionary force, but you’re not going to be part of it. I may need your ships to fall back to defend Sol system so be ready”

“Understood, admiral” Reed replied with a nod. “There is one last thing. With the serious losses we’re taking to the Borg I would like to suggest that my first officer be given command of the Buran. There isn’t a command crew tagged for her and Kell did a sterling job commanding her in battle. I've given her a battlefield promotion to Commander...”

Nechayev smiled at him as she caught his eyes drift away for a split second. She realised that his XO was sitting in the ready room with him so silently nodded her agreement to him. “I’ll be cutting you new orders immediately, captain. Starfleet Command, out.”

Captain Reed relaxed back in his seat and regarded his first officer sitting on the other side of the desk. “You did a damn good job commanding Buran during the assault, Kell” he said to her.

“Not really, we took damage…” Kell tried to say.

“To a ship that was only partly operational to start with” Reed spoke over her. “There was no serious damage to the ship and it was quickly repaired by the engineering teams aboard. Kell, every ship took damage of some sorts. This is the Borg we’re on about, they’ve been smashing their way through the very latest and advanced ships we’ve got. You were always going to take damage at their hands but your leadership kept it down to a point where it was not only manageable but minor. I’m proud of you.”

Kell Perim blushed slightly but Reed carried on and smiled at her as he said “You heard me tell Admiral Nechayev that you should have Buran, and I stand by that judgement.”

Further speech between the two was interrupted by the voice of Lieutenant T’su coming through the comm system. “Captain, we’ve just received secure data packets from Starfleet Command. There’s one here for Commander Perim too.”

“Route them here” the captain ordered before he closed the channel. Looking at the small computer on his desk he read through his new orders, to maintain position there and make as many repairs and refits as possible, just like the admiral had said. In less than a minute he had turned the computer to face Kell and said “Take a read of your orders, I’m getting a drink.”

Perim immediately opened her encrypted orders as Reed walked over to the replicator near his desk and said into it “Computer, cool mango juice.” As soon as his drink appeared in a whorl of particles he picked it up and turned back to Kell. She sat staring at the computer with her mouth agape. “Commander, something wrong?” he asked, playing along.

“The … the admiral agrees with you. My promotion to Commander has been ignored and I've been leap-frogged to Captain and assigned command of USS Buran” she whispered.

Reed smiled broadly at her and gave her a congratulatory slap on the back. “Well done, Kell. You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you but Challenger is here to help. What’re the orders for Buran?”

“We’re ordered to remain here at Polaris with you. We’re part of your fleet and have been ordered to shadow you until further notice.”

Kell hadn’t noticed that whilst she had been talking, Reed had stalked a few paces back to the replicator and quietly ordered something. She turned and looked at his outstretched hand, only then seeing the single gold pip sitting in his palm.

She stood up as if in a daze, Reed immediately fixing the new insignia to her collar. “Congratulations, Captain Perim” he said before he hugged her. “Let’s go tell the crew” he suggested and led her out of the ready room onto the bridge.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 3:17 pm 
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Nice story, can´t wait on the next one.

Ever thought about a Cheyenne or Stargazer and the Prometheus her main engineering?
Even better, that core could form one long range exploration core or two war cores that you could give those Klingon crystals in order to make it generate even more power.
Sure, in that two core mode they would eat up fuel, but in battle you want power more, so that could be a win win cause to look into.
And they are four nacelle starships, so fast reaction ships.
On that, would Picard his Cheyenne also be in that fleet, by change?

Anyway, till the next chapter and thanks for the read.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:45 am 
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Hi Vianca!

You must be a mind reader, because I'm working on incorporating a Cheyenne class into this, probably the one lost at Wolf 359. Also I've got a mod of the Prometheus on the drawing board.

Love, Mia x x x

PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 6:52 am 
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Mia_36 wrote:
Hi Vianca!

You must be a mind reader, because I'm working on incorporating a Cheyenne class into this, probably the one lost at Wolf 359. Also I've got a mod of the Prometheus on the drawing board.

Love, Mia x x x

Lol, check my picture.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:08 pm 
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So sorry to bump your post Mia but either something’s wrong with my settings or your ignoring me Vianca - which is it cos I’m trying to contact you and you aren’t replying!
I’m sorry to be so blunt but if I’ve done something wrong please tell me, I don’t understand!

PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:20 pm 
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Ps will post a reply to your story Mia just been mega busy at work sorry! From first viewing it’s bloody great xx

PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:30 pm 
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Ivanho wrote:
So sorry to bump your post Mia but either something’s wrong with my settings or your ignoring me Vianca - which is it cos I’m trying to contact you and you aren’t replying!
I’m sorry to be so blunt but if I’ve done something wrong please tell me, I don’t understand!

Its being snowed over after work.
Read them just before going to work, then after work...


PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:57 pm 
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Thank you for replying Vianca just wanted to know your ok

PostPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2017 9:58 am 
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Just finished reading - outstanding Mia, you certainly have a good knowledge of the star trek genre.
A very enjoyable read, will look forward to your next chapters, bravo

PostPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2017 4:54 pm 

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Hey guys, please move the conversion to the discussion forum. There is a thread started on this story. Thanks

PostPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:42 pm 
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Sorry that was my fault

PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:27 am 
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Hi, all!

After a little time off, here's the next part of Challenger. Enjoy.

“Well done, Kell. You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you but [i]Challenger is here to help. What’re the orders for Buran?”

“We’re ordered to remain here at Polaris with you. We’re part of your fleet and have been ordered to shadow you until further notice.”
Kell hadn’t noticed that whilst she had been talking, Reed had stalked a few paces back to the replicator and quietly ordered something. She turned and looked at his outstretched hand, only then seeing the single gold pip sitting in his palm.

She stood up as if in a daze, Reed immediately fixing the new insignia to her collar. “Congratulations, Captain Perim” he said before he hugged her. “Let’s go tell the crew” he suggested and led her out of the ready room onto the bridge.

Chapter 7

Aboard the USS Buran, February 27th, 2381.

“Mister Cussler, what’s our status?” the now Captain Kell Perim asked as she strode from the turbolift onto her bridge.

Smiling at the man she had recently promoted he turned to her before answering.

“Captain, we’ve got some good news” the newly promoted Lieutenant Juan Cussler, Perim’s operations officer answered. “Repairs to secondary systems are all complete. The primary’s are still being worked on but they’ll be up soon. The chief has taken this opportunity to make additional refits to the primary systems to increase their capability.”

“That’s excellent news” Kell replied with a warm smile. “She’s an old ship, but she’s our old ship now. We’ll get her just as up-to-date as the most modern of ships out there.”

“I don’t doubt it for a minute, captain” the officer answered with a smile of his own.

Kell made her way to the command chair and sat. Reflecting back on the day, she decided it had been a good one. After her people’s performance against the Borg two days earlier she had promoted her senior staff. Both conn and ops officer had been elevated to Lieutenants from Ensigns, the same done for her chief engineer. The tactical officer, already a Lieutenant, Kell had promoted to Lieutenant Commander. Another senior rank on the bridge would be useful she had decided … besides, her crew had earned it.
Buran would normally operate with a crew of three hundred. Now, she held only eighty. This old ship was coming together nicely, and Kell felt nothing but excitement. Kell knew that a matter of days away, there was a ship carrying more crew, already on their way to Polaris Station. Aboard were crew she desperately needed.

With the fleet now at Polaris, work had begun in earnest to get them as operational as possible. The push to get Buran ready was a strain on the crew, but with fifty engineers from the station rotating through every day, the job was a little easier.

The turbolift doors sighed open again and a weary looking Lieutenant Rachel Barclay stepped out. Turning to her Kell greeted warmly “Lieutenant, good to see you. How’s the ship looking?”

“I’ve got nothing but good news” the young woman answered, as she did Kell noticed the fatigue in her voice. “The warp core is retrofitted with the augments Lieutenant Daggre designed for the Challenger, as well as some more he transmitted based on more tech he’s got his hands on since the fleet arrived here. We’ve got full warp capability, far more so than when Buran last saw service. The phaser arrays have been upgraded to Galaxy standards now and the shield emitters have been completely overhauled bringing them up to the latest standards. I’ve had a few ideas to tweak the phasers and shields further and I’ve got three teams on that now.”

“That’s exceptional work, Lieutenant” Kell congratulated her chief engineer.

“Thank you, captain” Rachel replied. “We’ve got the replicator system overhauled and up and running. The sensor arrays are fully repaired, but they’re still to their original standards, we simply haven’t been able to get them overhauled yet.”

“That’s fine, you’ve pulled off miracles as it is. The hull is sound?” Kell asked.

“Yes, captain. The automated tugs replaced the missing basic structure from when the ship was holed at Wolf 359, but the compartments refitted there are still completely blank. We can get people on that once essential work is complete” Barclay stated.

“That’s perfectly fine for now. Rachel, I want you to consider yourself off-duty for the next few hours and to get some sleep, you’re dead on your feet” Kell gently ordered.

“Sleep. Huh, I think I remember that” Rachel joked. “Thank you captain, I’ll be back in main engineering once I’ve got some shut-eye.”

“Your hard work is appreciated. Dismissed” Kell answered with a smile. As soon as her engineer had left the bridge Kell looked to Samuel Hawk and said with a smile “So, we’re as ready as we’re going to be. Time to tell Captain Reed and Admiral Nechayev.”

“Have fun” her tactical officer replied with a smile of his own.

“Unfortunately, with everything that’s going on Admiral Nechayev can’t be on the line with us, but I have just spoken to her” Jonathan Reed stated simply, alarm bells going off in Perim’s head at his blunt manner. Reed sighed deeply as he looked across the screen at Kell and her impromptu first officer, Lieutenant Commander Samuel Hawk.

“Kell, I’ve got to be blunt with you. The Expeditionary Group that Picard put together … it’s gone” Reed added. Kell gasped slightly, her first officer visibly blanched as Reed composed himself and continued “The fleet assembled at the Azure Nebula and tried to make a stand … but they were annihilated in moments. The Borg simply smashed ships out of their way … rammed them and didn’t slow at all. A handful of ships are trying to make emergency repairs, namely USS Voyager … but with her damage she’s out of this war for good.”

“How bad does it get?” Kell asked, already dreading the answer.

“Seven thousand Borg cubes have dispersed throughout the Federation as well as turning towards Klingon, Romulan and other worlds around us. This is an extermination … and we don’t know if we can win” Reed said dejectedly.

“The month we took getting this fleet back from Qualor was a bad one for Starfleet, but it kept us out of the fighting on the front lines. It’s at least given us time to train what crew members we have and to get the ships as operational as we can” Kell replied. “We’re a fleet of patched together geriatrics, but there’s still the will to fight. Where do Command need us?”

“That’s the thing” Reed replied. “They know that we can’t even get back to Sol system before the Borg arrive so … so we’ve been told to wait our asses here. If everything fails … if it all goes …” Reed chocked back “if the last lines of defence fall then we’re going to load up everyone we can and run as far and as fast as we can. If Earth goes, then we’ve lost, it’s that simple. Right now we have to focus on survival.”

“Jon … the idea of simply upping and running…” Kell started.

Reed spoke over her answering “I know. For what it’s worth Admiral Jellico has just spoken to Captains Picard and Dax, Admiral Nechayev told me as much. Jellico has ordered Picard and Dax to prepare to have an exit strategy out of Federation space in what is looking like the likely event that Starfleet defences fail and the Borg prevail. Now, we don’t want to run … hell, every fibre of my being is screaming to stand and fight but we have to consider the fact that we will lose. If that happens then I want the fleet to be ready to move out as fast as possible.”

“So … what do we do?” Kell asked, stunned.

“I’ve already spoken to the starbase and all ships are being loaded with as many provisions as they can carry. All personnel not assigned to ships are already aware that they may have to evacuate with only a moments notice. Transporter rooms across the base are ready to start mass transports of personnel onto ships ready for complete evac.”

“Jon, these ships aren’t designed for long-term deep space. The distance we’d have to travel to be safe from the Borg … the ships simply aren’t designed for that” Kell argued.

“I know” Reed retorted. “We’ve lucked out in so far as two ships. The USS Sir Galahad is a one-off vessel. The upper hull of an Oberth permanently attached to an old C-class maintenance drydock and she’s arriving here within twenty minutes. The second ship is the USS Alberto, a modified Excelsior-class ship. Her lower secondary hull has been lengthened considerably, she’s spent the last thirty years doing long-term colonisation runs helping carry everything a new colony could possibly need. She’s crammed to the ills with everything from spare parts to dilithium to general consumables. Unfortunately we don’t have a tanker available, but we’ll have to load up with as much fuel from the Polaris yard as possible.”

“This … this sounds too thought out. This isn’t a fall back plan … you’re planning on running” Kell stated, almost accusingly.

Reed narrowed his eyes at her before replying “Kell, we’ve fought the Borg and so far, we’ve been lucky. They’ve just annihilated a fleet of ships much bigger than ours. With these number of hostile ships any defence we have is little more than a fleeting hope. Now … Admiral Jellico has dispersed the schematics for those Transphasic torpedoes, so I want as many of those constructed as possible. We have to plan for the worst case scenario and we have to be ready for it. This isn’t up for debate old friend, we’ve got to be ready.”
Kell sighed deeply before nodding slightly. “I understand. I don’t like it, but I understand. We’ll be ready. What’s going on with the crew we’re waiting for?”

“They’ll be here on schedule so long as there aren’t any problems en-route, but they’re the only reinforcements we’re receiving” Reed answered. “Be ready my friend. Reed, out” Kell’s long-time friend added before closing the channel. Almost immediately his image disappeared and was replaced with the Federation Starfleet icon.

“What the hell are we going to do?” Lieutenant Commander Samuel Hawk muttered.

“We’re going to be ready to fight … and to run” Kell replied with a firm nod. “We’ve got our orders and we’re going to carry them out.” Kell thought for a moment before continuing “Sam, I’m going to need you to immediately start coordinating our resupply, absolutely everything you can think of for long-term deep-space operations. I’ll speak to engineering and get work started on those torpedoes. I want personnel already assigned to the ship to now double-up on quarters … three to a room if realistically possible, we need to clear as much space for … for possible survivors as we can.”

“Understood” Sam answered with a nod before being dismissed and rushing from the room.

Kell took a moment for herself before opening a comm line to the bridge and saying “Captain Perim to Lieutenant Cussler. Juan, I need to see you in the ready room.”

“On my way” came the answer, quickly.

Moments later the young operations officer stepped into the ready room briskly. Looking at him Kell said “Lieutenant, I need to start preparing a course with you … out of Federation space.”

USS Buran. Four hours later.

“What a day” Lieutenant Juan Cussler sighed as he stepped through the doors into his assigned quarters.

“What’s up, babe?” came the answer of Juan’s roommate and true love, Lieutenant Mark Wheaton looking up from his place of the room’s small sofa at the man he loved.

“I’ve spent the last four hours with Captain Perim charting a new course and … and sorting out other things.” Juan desperately wanted to tell his partner about the system the pair had devised to beam people from any inhabited Federation planets they passed in a fair system, taking an equal amount of people from various sites around those planets. Kell however had told Juan in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t to discuss this or the course out of Federation space the pair had devised.

“Wanna talk about it?” Mark asked, his voice sympathetic.

“Can’t. Orders” Juan replied as he propped himself onto the sofa with a loud thud.

“Okay” Mark said. Sliding his arm around Juan’s shoulders as the ops officer lowered his head onto Mark’s shoulder, the pair sat comfortably in silence for a few minutes.

“So” Juan said finally, “how was your day?” The long running joke between the pair brought a smile to their lips. Sitting next to each other at the front of Buran’s bridge, they both normally knew exactly what the other was doing, but it still never hurt to make small talk.

“Oh, rushed off my feet” Mark answered jokingly. “Sitting stationary at a starbase is really taxing for any helmsman, yet alone the very best like me.”

“Of course, dear” Juan spoke through a loud yawn. “Had any food?” he slurred.

“Not yet, was waiting for you to get home. I was thinking we could sit down with a big old bowl of spiced enchiladas…” Mark spoke, his voice trailing off into nothing as the first snore escaped Juan’s lips.

“No, no, no” Lieutenant-Commander Samuel Hawk spoke loudly to a trio of crewmen as they tried to man-handle pallets from an anti-grav to the deck. “Those engineering supplies are for cargo bay four, not three!” the first officer added loudly. “I know you’re working hard and we’re all tired, but we’ve got to get this done, people!” the officer added before consulting the padd he carried.

Sorting out all the supplies they would need took a while but Polaris station was finally getting them transported aboard the ship as fast as they could. They’d had to wait their turn, Challenger taking priority as the fleet’s flagship.

“Once you’ve got those pallets secured in the right bay you need to get the next transported load settled into cargo bay five, they’re medical supplies so take care with them.”

“Aye, sir” chorused back at him before Sam turned on his heel and rushed to deal with the next issue on his ever lengthening list.

“Lieutenant Barclay!” Captain Perim called over the loud din in main engineering. Engineers were rushing around, making repairs, refits and generally getting the ship as ready as possible.

“Captain!” Rachel answered before weaving her way through her people over to her commanding officer. “Sorry about the bustle, we’re all moving as quick as we can down here.”

“No need to apologise” Perim replied with a tired smile. “How’re we looking on those torpedoes?”

“I’ve got two teams on it, that’s all I can spare right now” the nervous young woman answered quickly, her body permanently moving. But … I have lucked out.”

“How so?” Kell asked, her interest peaked.

“Well…” the engineer started. “We realised that there’d be no real need for the science lab just off main engineering, so we’ve re-purposed it” Rachel added as she led the way into the side lab.

The door the good sized room sighing closed behind them as they entered Rachel continued “I spoke to an old Academy friend of mine, he’s been assigned to the Tiowa as her chief engineer. Anyway, he managed to pull a pair of industrial replicators from long-term storage and signed them over to me. I’ve turned this lab into a specialist engineering workshop to replicate whatever heavy-duty parts we need that we wouldn’t otherwise have in stores or normally be able to replicate. I’ve hooked them up to the main power grid but I’ve also installed their own power cells. I figure that if main power goes down and we need to replicate new parts then we still can do so.”

“That’s first-rate thinking there, lieutenant” Kell answered proudly. “How’s the ship?”

“She’s good” Rachel replied as she ran her hands through her hair. “All the areas replaced and repaired by the tugs are secure. All main systems are installed in those areas but the rooms are still blank shells. The quarters have got working doors and bathrooms but the replicators still need installing. Whoever moves into those areas can requisition whatever they need, but right now that’s not a priority.”

“Agreed. Where do we stand with critical systems?” Kell added.

“Warp drive is purring like a kitten. I’ve installed all the mods from Commander Daggre as well as improving on them as I reported earlier. Weapons and shields have received the same treatment. Right now there’s nothing more we can do them. Life support is up and stable, both computer cores are all good now we’ve received the latest upgrades for them. As it stands we’re getting the last bit of upgrades finished” Rachel answered.

“Your work has been exceptional” Kell said, trying to instill some much needed confidence into her chief engineer.

“Thank you, ma’am. I’m sorry, but if you’ll excuse me I need to get down to the fab room and check on those torpedoes for you” Rachel stated.

“By all means, carry on” Kell replied as she stepped aside and allowed her engineer to pass.

Kell spent a moment taking in the buzz of main engineering. Her ship would soon be as ready as she was going to be for war against the Borg. They were already cramming in every bit of supplies they could possibly carry, preparing to run should they need to.

The captain sighed deeply before turning and making her way back to the bridge, she had a call to make.

One light-year from Polaris station. An hour later.

“Kell, this is a surprise. Congratulations on the promotion, by the way. Those extra pips look good on you” the smiling voice on Kell’s computer screen atop her desk said warmly.

“Thanks. Congrats on getting a ship of your own” Kell answered.

Laughing, the man on the screen said “Kell, we both know that a Freedom-class starship isn’t exactly the glamorous first command everyone dreams of. The Firebrand was pretty much decimated at Wolf 359, but at least the automated tugs were able to make all the structural and internal spaces repairs needed, just like your own ship.”

“Listen, Nick … I wanted to talk to you” Kell said quietly.

Leaning towards his own desktop unit, Commander Nicholas Sanders asked “Kell, what’s wrong?”

“Nick, you’ve received our orders to prepare to run, I take it?” Kell enquired.

Leaning back in his chair and letting out a deep sigh Sanders replied “Yeah. Yeah, I got those orders probably just after you. We’re loading the Firebrand up with everything we can to prep for a deep-space run. We’re not designed for that kind of duty, so we’re making changes to ships systems on the fly.”

“Where are you at with your upgrades and refits?” Kell asked, and immediately regretted her question when she saw Nick’s face fall.

“Not good, truth be told” Sanders replied. “The shield generators were completely fried. We’ve managed to swap half of them out and replace them with modern units, but I’ve only got a crew of forty over here, Kell. The phaser upgrades are next on the list. Photon torpedo launchers are operational, but they’re still waiting to be brought up to quantum torpedo standard. The secondary computer core is up, but the primary’s still shot. The power couplings to it need completely replacing before error-checking of the core’s hardware and then installing the ships operating systems from protected backups. If we went into combat right this minute, then we might be able to make a difference … if we rammed the Borg ship at warp.”

“Nick … I had no idea the Firebrand was in such bad shape” Kell gasped.

“We’re got all the replacement components aboard, ready to install and bring online, but without the personnel to actually fit the hardware…” Sanders replied, his voice trailing off.

“I’ll beam over and give you a hand” Kell offered. “I can ask around the ship for volunteers…”

“No” Sanders answered firmly. “Really Kell, I’m honoured that you’d offer your old Academy classmate that kind of help, but you’ve got your own ship to bring operational. No, you need to focus on the Buran before even thinking about Firebrand. I’ll speak to Commander Daggre and see what he can do. The bright side is that the warp core is operational … even if it is still at its original specs.”

“Nick … I … I’ll do something. Trust me, I’ll do whatever I can to help” Kell said, iron in her voice.

“I know, I appreciate it” Sanders answered, resignation in his.

Aboard the USS Entente. At the same time.

“Hard to port! Re-route emergency power to the phaser cannon, get me a clear shot!” Commander David Jason shouted over the sound of explosions.

“The shield emitters are completely gone!” Ensign Virginia Wabber called out from her ops console. “We’re got wide-spread hull breaches. Main engineering … main engineering is completely vented to space. We’ve lost the compartment.”

“Seal the emergency breaches and re-route and engineering and warp core functions to the engineering consoles up here” Jason ordered as his ship was carved to pieces around him. Realising that his chief engineer, indeed most of his engineering staff would have been in the breached areas Jason felt a pang of loss, but forced it aside. He knew that this wasn’t the time to grieve, that would come later … assuming any of his crew survived.

“I’m struggling to line up a shot” called out Lieutenant Louisa Phillips from the helm. “The impulse engines are damaged … I’ve lost over half the thrusters!”

“Just get me a target” Jason ordered as another Borg torpedo slammed into the ship, burrowing deep into the saucer section before exploding. The ship trembled under the onslaught.

“Status of the Lexington and Monitor?” Jason demanded, referring to the two Nebula-class starships with his own Entente.

Lexington was destroyed, Monitor is … wait … oh god, no!” Wabber answered as they all saw the USS Monitor explode on the bottom right side of the static-tinged viewscreen.

“Ensign Wabber … send out a distress signal to any ships within range. Launch the log-buoy and prepare to abandon ship” Jason ordered.

“The Borg will just pick off any escape pods that launch” Louisa advised from her own dying console.

“We’ve lost most of the crew, there’s just enough of us left to get everyone off in the shuttles. Get everyone to them and prepare for computer-controlled simultaneous launch. They’ll all come out of the shuttlebays at war. Hopefully, that’ll give the shuttles enough of a head-start to get out of Borg sensor range while the bastards finish carving Entente to pieces."

Aboard the USS Challenger, minutes later.

“Captain, I’m picking up a Starfleet distress signal. It’s the USS Entente” Lian T’su announced from her ops console.

“On speakers, Lieutenant” Reed ordered, a lump rising to the back of his throat.

Tense seconds later the desperate voice of Entente’s senior ops officer, Ensign Virginia Wabber came though. “Attention any friendly vessel, this is the Starship Entente. We have engage a Borg tactical cube approximately one light-year from Polaris shipyard. Our support vessels, Lexington and Monitor have been lost with all hands. We have catastrophic damage and request emergency assistance. Repeat, this is the Starship Entente. We have engage a Borg tactical cube…”

Speaking loud enough to cause T’su to cut off the message Reed demanded “Have we got a fix on their location?”

“Yes, sir” the younger woman answered quickly.

“God damn it, I won’t leave them all to die. Lieutenant T’su, signal the fleet that Challenger is moving to assist Entente and that Buran is in command until we return. Mister Lavelle, bring our bow towards the Entente and go to maximum warp. Engage.”

Kell sat at her ready room desk drinking a cup of hot coffee, gazing out of the viewport. Blinking quickly, her eyes re-focused on the Challenger. “She’s coming about” Kell muttered a heartbeat before the small fleet’s flagship leapt into warp.

Slapping her hand down on her comm badge so hard she was sure it would leave a bruise Kell called out “Perim to the bridge. What’s the Challenger doing?”

“Captain, I was about to call you to the bridge” Lieutenant-Commander Samuel Hawk replied. Tapping the line closed, her mug already discarded atop the desk Kell raced the few paces across her small sanctuary and rushed onto the bridge. Making her way directly to her command chair Hawk continued “We received a distress signal from USS Entente stating they had engage a Borg tactical cube. Their two support ships, both Nebula-class have been destroyed and Entente is crippled.”

“Damn it” Kell snapped. “Helm, lay in a pursuit course of Challenger and…”

“With respect Captain, we can’t” Sam interrupted.

Kell turned her ice-clod gaze to her first officer. If the man was intimidated he didn’t let it show as he added “Captain Reed signalled that Buran is in command of the fleet until Challenger returns. With no other senior officer here who knows the fleet like us, we can’t warp away.”

“God damn you, Jon” Kell cursed as she sunk back into her command chair. “Damn you.”

“Yes, that’s it! Hard to starboard and hit them again!” Jason crowed as the blast from the Entente’s massive phaser cannon finally hit the Borg ship.

“I’m trying!” Phillips snapped as she tried to bring the ship onto its new heading.

Jason opened his mouth to call out more orders when half-dozen electric-blue orbs raced past his ship on the viewscreen. A heartbeat later the exploded against the Borg shields. “No … it can’t be help” Jason managed to mutter just before his viewscreen showed an even more amazing sight. A Challenger-class starship curving over his dorsal hull, her phaser arrays ablaze with plumes of golden Starfleet fury.

“Commander, USS Challenger sends the following signal … Attention Entente, the cavalry is here. Get your tail out of here ASAP and we’ll deal with your disgruntled customers. Regards, Captain Reed!” Wabber called out.

“Damn it, I should have known” Jason replied, a smile appearing on his face for the first time in hours. “Helm, take us to warp and…”

“Warp power is down. With force-fields down the surviving engineering teams can’t even get in there to make repairs” Wabber interrupted.

“Then signal the Challenger that with warp drive down we can’t withdraw … so we stand to the last breath. Helm, get me a shot with that damn cannon!” Jason snapped, new fire burning in his heart. Captain Jonathan Reed had saved them all once before, maybe … just maybe he could do it again.

Entente can’t withdraw, their warp drive is down and impulse is sporadic. We’ve got to deal with the Borg before we can all get out of here” Lieutenant T’su reported from her board.

“Then let’s deal with this ourselves. Lieutenant-Commander Neeley, bring your transphasic torpedoes to bear and fire!” Reed ordered.

Seconds later the blazing orbs of the new torpedoes appeared on the viewscreen, racing away from his ship and towards the Borg. Rising from his command chair Reed took a step forwards, determined to see this renewed assault on his feet.

“Five seconds to impact … four … three … two … one … impact” Neeley called out form her weapons station. The effect on the viewscreen was nothing short of cataclysmic. Explosion from the torpedo detonation appeared on the Borg’s hull … followed by sympathetic explosions across the massive cube-shaped ship. Seconds later it succumbed to a final, fiery death as he internals completely detonated, ripping outwards through the hull.

“Borg ship … is destroyed” Neeley announced, her voice carrying the surprise and awe she felt at the new weapons being fielded by Starfleet.

“Good. Stand down red alert and get a tractor beam on the Entente, we’re taking her back to Polaris with us. Ops, send a priority signal to Admiral Nechayev on the most secure code we’ve got. Tell her that Challenger has destroyed the Borg tactical cube at these coordinates with our new party favours. Inform the admiral that we’re in the process of assisting the Entente’s survivors, after which we will take Entente under tow back to Polaris and salvage the ship is possible.”

“Understood, sir” Lian answered, her hands already working her board as she composed the message. Minutes later the Challenger leapt back into warp, Entente nestled safely below the ship in a tractor beam.

“Commander Jason, if we keep meeting like this people will start to talk” Reed joked as he walked into Challenger’s bustling sickbay.

Pushing himself up from the biobed he was being checked over on Jason answered “Captain, another perfectly-timed rescue from the best captain in the fleet. You have mine and my crews thanks.”

“Think nothing of it” Reed retorted with a wave of his hard, trying to cover over his embarrassment at the praise. “It would seem that we can’t leave Entente alone for any length of time without her getting into a fight” Reed joked.

“Yeah. I just with the crews of the Lexington and Monitor had been so lucky” Jason replied as he stepped away from the bed and walked over to Reed. An exasperated nurse sighed dramatically before turning to her next patient.

Not willing to risk incurring his medical staff’s wrath Reed led the younger man out into the corridor and both started for the bridge.
“How bad is the Entente?” Jason asked.

“The freshly promoted Lieutenant-Commander Daggre reports the damage to the ship is extensive. He’s working with the uninjured members of your surviving engineering staff as we speak. Your port impulse engine is repaired and providing main power to remaining systems … the starboard and aft impulse engines should be repaired within the hour. Force-fields have been restored and under Daggre’s supervision several workarounds are being put into place to restore warp drive, but you will have to make proper repairs as soon as possible. Seventy percent of your shield generators a completely fused, they need entirely replacing and the targeting sensors are destroyed. At the moment you can fire weapons but they must be targeted manually using optical systems” Reed reported.

Jason let out a dejected sigh as he answered “Well, there goes our weapons accuracy. How … how many survived?”

“There are three hundred crew left” Reed answered, not sugar-coating the bad news.

“Back at Utopia Planitia we took on five hundred crew to supplement the original One-hundred-sixty survivors from Entente’s first battle. Now I’ve lost over half my crew … again” Jason stated.

“Hey, get those thoughts out of your young head, now” Reed answered firmly. “You went up against a superior for with only three ships, two of which were first-generation Nebula’s. It’s a miracle that you kept any alive. A testament to your command decisions.”

“Yeah … doesn’t make me feel any better though. Hell, you’ve managed to take a fleet reject from mothballs and destroy … how many Borg ships now? Three?” Jason retorted.

“Yes, three … but that’s with a ship that my crew have custom refit to within an inch of its life. All our upgrades were off-the-shelf ideas cobbled together with whatever we could get our hands on. Face it, you did a damn good job” Reed encouraged the commander.

“My god, I was hoping the damage wasn’t this extensive” Jason muttered as he walked around his ruined battle-bridge. The stench of burnt circuitry and extinguished electrical fire clung to the room.

“The secondary systems are up, but that’s pretty much it. Lieutenant-Commander Daggre is cannibalising the sensor systems of several shuttlecraft at the moment. He’s going to install those sensor systems around the ship and re-tune them to serve as tactical sensors to give us back targeting capability. It’ll take him another day to complete the work … a week to rebuild and replace the primary targeting arrays” Lieutenant Louisa Phillips reported as she looked down at her own dead helm console.

“We’re held together by wishful thoughts” Jason muttered as he brushed dirt and debris from his command seat.

“We’ll put her back together. Hell, we’ve already had the practice lately” Louisa quipped.

“Yeah … with no chief engineer, less than ten percent of our engineering staff and a critical lack of parts” Jason retorted.

“Sir, Lieutenant-Commander Daggre has already restored power to the replicator systems, including the industrial replicators in main engineering. We’ve got access to the parts we need to get the repairs done. If we can sit still for long enough we can get the hull breaches in engineering patched. I don’t know what we’re going to do about the shield emitters, but we’ll come up with something” Louisa answered, trying to comfort her commanding officer.

“Well” Jason replied, letting out yet another sigh “Captain Reed has been good enough to offer Challenger’s support. Get a list together of what critical components we need right now and send them over to Challenger. They’ll be replicated over there and installed by Captain Reed’s people as soon as the can.”

“That’s good news” Louisa said. She entered commands into the padd she held, calling up critical repairs needed to transmit the list of parts required to Challenger.

“Oh, and by the way” Jason added. “Find yourself a working replicator and get yourself Lieutenant-Commander pips. I’ll enter into the ships log that I’m giving you a battlefield promotion, you’re my new XO. Congratulations” Jason finished before stalking from the room, leaving a shocked and surprised Louisa Phillips alone on the shattered battle bridge.

PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:02 am 
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Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2007 1:00 am
Posts: 609
Now, do they still have those tugs?
They sound very usefull, you know.
A first act could be repairing the Etente her hull, then tugging that station along, if they have too run.

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