Border Dispute, Part 4

Main Engineering, USS Nightingale
Romulan Neutral Zone
Stardate 66478.15

Commander Brighton approached engineering, unzipping his uniform jacket as he approached. The heat in the corridors was nearly unbearable. Turning the final corner, he raised his wrist light to see a few of the engineering staff on the outside of the door.

“Report?” he asked to anyone who would respond.

One of the officers who was leaning against the wall stood at attention, “Lieutenant N’Vol, sir. Warp core specialist. The air cycling system is currently down on this deck. We’re waiting for a repair team to fix it before we go back in. The heat from the damaged warp core is making it impossible to work. We took it offline, but it is still giving off considerable thermal heat.”

And just as quickly, the lights flickered, and Brighton could feel fresh air being pumped into the corridor as the temperature drop could be felt on his skin. “Back to work,” he joked to no amusement from the Vulcan.

Commander Brighton and the Nightingale engineering staff made their way into the ships unimpressive main engineering. “So what is the systems status?” Brighton asked as the rest of the engineering crew seemed uneasy and sombre. 

“Lieutenant Savrek, sir,” a female Andorian officer stepped forward. “There was some type of strike on main engineering. We’ve been down here with no situation report or ability to contact the bridge without sending someone up. Most of the engineering crew are gone, and the damage is extensive,” she said pointing to the master systems display of the ship blinking with alerts everywhere. “The warp core had to be taken offline for safety reasons. Life support is still functioning, but as you’ve found first hand, it isn’t in perfect condition, either. We have power surges across the ship that are blowing out power conduits and impacting nearly every secondary system. And if that weren’t enough, power reserves are low. Dangerously low.”

“The priority should be assessing any warp core damage, and getting it back online. That’ll solve our power issues, as well. Who is in charge here?” Brighton asked.

“All of the engineering leads are gone, sir. You’re in charge,” Savrek commented.

A soft sigh left Brighton’s lips. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, “Very well. Let’s break everyone up into teams. We have work to do.”

The teams were small, after all, there weren’t many left who weren’t injured by the volley thrown at them across the engineering section by the Warbird. They dispersed into the various remaining areas of engineering. 

There wasn’t much to see. Only a fraction of the panels were operational and even they were becoming difficult to use through risk of the panel shorting out or the constant flickering. Across engineering itself however, there were scorch marks from fires, collapsed supports and rubble strewn across the floor and on top of consoles.

Brighton assigned himself to investigating the safety systems. The console in question was barely functional, flickering in and out of life every second and a half or so, causing Brighton’s temples to begin to hurt after a few minutes of battling to read what was on the screen. He rubbed his eyes with his forefinger and thumb and sighed. This was going to take a lot longer than he’d like with a Warbird, no matter how disabled, sat just outside the hull.

Finally giving into his frustration, he hit the console with the side of his first, the console finally sustaining power. He laughed to himself, a little concussive re-calibration. While the console was alive again, what he was reading was less than desirable. A large portion of the readout was red. 

Brighton tapped his communicator, “Engineering to Captain Tannen.”

A moment later, Tannen responded, sounding a little like he was in a very small space. “Go ahead.”

“Captain, the damage is extensive. It’s going to take a bit of time to get back up and running, starting with safety systems, exterior plating and the core. Nothing particularly taxing, just time consuming,” Brighton paused, continuing to read the display in front of him.

Tannen’s breathing could be heard over the communicators. He must be EVA. What the hell is he doing? Brighton through to himself as he realised why the Captain sounded so strange. His thought interrupted by Tannen’s response.

“Understood, Chief. How long are we talking?”

“About 6 or 7 hours at least. It’s the best I can give you with what I’ve got, sir.”

“Let’s make it closer to the 6 rather than the 7. Tannen out.”

Brighton began resetting the safety systems, one by one. Reassuring mechanical and electronic noises came from the direction of the core before the console shorted out, sending a shower of sparks into the air and shocking Brighton’s finger tips.

“God dammit!” the Chief Engineer exclaimed, “N’Vol, can you get over here and help me get this console back up and running?”

The Vulcan engineer dutifully made his way over, “Commander, are you injured?”

“No, I’m fine. Let’s just get this bloody thing going again.”

Border Dispute, Part 3

Main Bridge, USS Nightingale
Romulan Neutral Zone
Stardate 66478.12

The turbolift doors swooshed open to reveal a dimly lit main bridge of the Nightingale. Aylen raised her wrist to bring her light beacon to eye level as it passed by several of the ship’s crew and a few scorch marks along the walls of the bridge. “Looks like the whole ship is on emergency power,” she commented rhetorically, something everyone else already could see for themselves. As the Valiant’s captain and first officer stepped off the turbolift, Commander Branson raised her voice to get over the bustle, “We’re here from the Valiant to render assistance. Who’s in charge here?”

The blonde woman from the distress call came forward, looking bruised with a deep cut across the left of her brow, her uniform in tatters, though her confidence shone through her voice, “That would be me, commander. Comman-,” she caught herself, “I guess, it’s acting Captain now, Alison Lewis,”

Tannen looked around the bridge. Crewmen worked to help injured others and trying their best to get the ship up and running again. There was a thick layer of fear in the air. 

“How many injured are there?” he asked as his gaze returned to the Commander.

“We took a few heavy hits and somehow managed to give a few good shots back. Sickbay is struggling to cope. We have around 40 casualties – dead or injured. I guess we can take some comfort in the fact there was only one fatality,” Lewis’s expression became vacant. She couldn’t quite bring herself to accept that her Captain had been killed in the attack.

“T’Lar, make your way to sickbay. Do what you can there. Bring aboard more medical staff if you have to,” instructed Tannen. The Vulcan doctor nodded and made her way towards the turbolift.

Lewis continued, “Captain Blake was found in her quarters. She had managed to activate the Romulan Protocol before it was too late for her.”

The away team were familiar with the Romulan Protocol, though thankfully never found themselves in a situation to enact it. Even though relations with the Romulans had changed in recent years, there were still elements of the Romulan Star Empire to be wary of that meant the protocol was still part of Starfleet emergency procedures. Tannen believed Mheven to be one such woman.

“She was in her quarters?” Tannen asked.

Lewis straightened her uniform as best she could. “Aye, sir. We believe when the attack began Captain Blake was making her way back to the bridge before she got injured but didn’t manage to make it out of her quarters before giving the command to the ship’s computer. So right now, the computer is locked out and has encrypted all data. We still have manual systems and life support.”

“Understood. Chief, can you work with the computer down? Let’s not make it too easy for our friends to obtain information they shouldn’t be.”

“I’ll do what I can, sir. Though I don’t know how bad the damage is for sure without getting down to Engineering myself. We’re on auxiliary power as it is and a few folks down,” Brighton’s expression looked exasperated, “but, Captain, I’m not happy about repairing her to be given to the Romulans.”

Tannen looked to his first officer. They had known each other just long enough to be able to read each other’s body language. Branson knew that Tannen wasn’t going to let that happen.

“Chief, get yourself down to Engineering. There are wounded and the core is offline. Find out what state we’re in and what’s going to need to be done. Captain Tannen and I will worry about the Romulans.”

As Brighton left, she turned back to Lewis. “Talk us through what happened. The distress call mentioned something about a navigational error?”

“I was on duty, Captain Blake was in her quarters. We were en route to our next survey assignment along the Federation side of the Neutral Zone. Everything was green. Dallon ran a routine course check and that’s when we realised the Nightingale was off course,” Lewis recalled.

“You were off course and it took a navigation check to realise?” Tannen’s tone was one of surprise. In his experience, there would be a warning that the ship was off course the second it was a degree out.

Lewis continued, “That’s just it. Nav systems reported we were on course. Dallon spotted that the detailed star charts didn’t match up to what the computer was telling him. Then before we could change course, a Warbird was on top of us, decloaking and opening fire with no warning. We managed a return volley but the next salvo from the Romulans took out our shields and scored a direct hit on engineering, disabling engines. 

We knew we were outmatched so I’m surprised we did as much damage to them as we did. They demanded our surrender and I complied provided we could tell Starfleet what had happened to minimise diplomatic repercussions. That’s when I sent the distress call.”

Something didn’t add up. Navigational systems very rarely ever have issues unless there’s external interference from anomalies, none of which the Valiant detected in the area or, worse, sabotage.The Romulans themselves were on the scene incredibly fast. 

Branson sighed lightly before verbalizing what she and the captain were both thinking, “Sabotage?” Tannen simply added an agreeing nod.

“I’m not sure how,” Lewis responded.

“That might be up to us to find out. This all seems too coincidental. And when the Romulans are involved…” Branson trailed off slightly. She finally turned to Lewis, “Check for anything out of the ordinary in the ships navigation system or logs; deletions, modifications, strange programs. Something will be there, I’m sure of it.”

She turned to the Captain Tannen, “Orders, captain? Do you want me to assist in engineering?” 

“No, Commander, I think you and I had better take a look at the navigational array itself. Something doesn’t seem right. When was the last time you went for a walk?” Tannen said, stroking his chin in thought.

Border Dispute, Part 2

Transporter Room, USS Nightingale
Romulan Neutral Zone
Stardate 66478.06

The dazzle of the transporter beam faded away from Tannen’s vision to reveal a transporter pad that had seen better days. Casting his gaze around, he caught the eye of the broadly built Lieutenant Commander Brighton, the Valiant’s Chief Engineering Officer. He stood with one hand filled with an equipment case, his other stroking his auburn beard in disapproval.

“The Nightingale has certainly seen better days, captain,” he said, his thick southern Irish accent reflecting his disapproval.

“That it has, Mr Brighton. Get to Engineering as soon as you can. I want a full damage report within the hour,” commanded Tannen. Brighton responded with a curt nod of acknowledgement and left the transporter room, a little surprised the doors opened of their own accord. “Aylen, you’re with me. Let’s get to the bridge and see what help we can be there.”

“Once the additional medical personnel have arrived, I shall proceed to sickbay, captain,” T’Lar reported, “I will keep you updated with progress. Please send any injured crewmen to sickbay.”

Border Dispute, Part 1

Main Bridge, USS Valiant
En route to Romulan Neutral Zone
Stardate 66478

Captain’s Log, stardate 66478. The Valiant is en route to the Romulan Neutral Zone after receiving a subspace transmission from Vice Admiral T’Sai at Starfleet Command. It appears that one of our ships, the U.S.S. Nightingale has suffered a navigational error and entered the Romulan Neutral Zone. By the terms of the treaty made after years of conflict with the Romulans, this may be considered an act of war, especially now. The Romulans have already red on the Nightingale, crippling her on the wrong side of the border, and claim the crew are now prisoners of war. As the nearest ship to this critical situation, we have been ordered to assist the Nightingale and defuse the situation whatever way we can.

This could not have come at a worse time for both the Federation and the Romulans. Following the Hobus disaster, relations are delicate at best and intelligence has indicated that the Romulans are looking to blame the Federation for the loss of their homeworld, Romulus.

We are under orders to not enter the Neutral Zone under any circumstances from Admiral Hughes. I can only hope the Romulans are feeling charitable enough to let us beam over to the Nightingale and rescue the crew.

Tannen sat back in his seat and sighed. Along with the communication from Admiral T’Sai, he had sent over a copy of the distress call from the Nightingale. Tapping a button on the console of his chair, the fuzzy image of a dishevelled Starfleet Officer aboard a badly damaged bridge appeared on the screen. The audio crackled.

“This is Commander Alison Lewis of the Federation starship Nightingale. A navigational error has caused us to enter the Neutral Zone and we have exchanged fire with a Romulan warbird. Captain Blake was killed in the attack and we have lost main power. Warp drive is offline and ships systems are down but life support is good and holding. Repairs are underway but we have lost most of our engineering crew. The Romulans are claiming we are now prisoners of war and insist they will take us to Rator III for trial once their ship is repaired. We don’t want to give in to their demands, but we also don’t want to start another war. Starfleet, please advise.”

Looking over the bridge crew of the Sovereign-class vessel, Tannen could see the wave of surprise spread from crewman to crewman. There was something about this that he had expected somehow. It was only in recent memory that the Romulan-Federation relationship had begun to warm, though there were still groups and individuals on either side that could not accept things were changing. Tannen was one of those people. Romulans, to him were deceitful, paranoid, and spiteful creatures. Hobus, while not caused by the Federation, would only serve as a justification for the Romulans that were left to retaliate.

“Thoughts, Commander?” he said, turning to his first officer, Commander Aylen Branson.

“A precarious situation, to say the least, captain,” Commander Branson let out an audible sigh of frustration. “On one hand, we should do everything we can to help the Nightingale. On the other, we don’t want to start a war with the Romulans. Especially not now; their government might be in chaos, but their military seems more organized and ready than ever. However, I don’t think there’s a problem with us throwing a couple scans into the Neutral Zone for the Nightingale once we arrive,” the first officer suggested with a smirk.

“ETA, Ensign S’rell?” asked Tannen.

“We will reach the edge of the Neutral Zone in approximately 2 minutes, captain,” the ensign replied, her Caitian tongue adding a slight hiss to her words.

“There’s certainly benefits to being that close to the Neutral Zone,” the captain continued, “Any information on what the Nightingale was doing prior to their navigational issue?”

Before Branson could answer, the Caitian ensign at the helm interjected, “We’re now entering visual range, captain.”

“On screen, maximum magnification,” Tannen commanded.

The viewscreen switched from the warped starfield around them to that of the Nova-class Nightingale, showing significant damage to it’s outer hull with lights flickering in the windows across the ship, with a backdrop of a blue-green Romulan Warbird in a similar state. It looked to Tannen as if the Nightingale, small as she was, had given as good as she had got.

“Looks like a hell of a fire fight,” first officer Commander Branson commented. Turning in her chair she ordered, “Try and hail the Nightingale.”

Lieutenant Commander Rayah responded, “We’re actually being hailed, commander. By the Romulan ship.”

“Certainly didn’t expect that, captain,” Branson said with her head turned towards her commanding officer.

“That makes two of us, Aylen. Let’s play this carefully,” Tannen paused, he was entirely unprepared for this turn of events, “We need to convince them to allow us to beam aboard the Nightingale,” he turned to the Valiant’s Bajoran tactical officer and nodded.

Now the image of the Nightingale changed to that of a dark haired Romulan woman, clad in the uniform of an officer in the Romulan Star Empire. There was a definite air of arrogance about the woman on the viewscreen, one that Tannen had assumed was true of all Romulans.

“Greetings. I am Captain William Tannen, of the United Federation of Planets starship, USS Valiant,” Tannen stood and took several steps closer to the viewscreen before continuing, “We are responding to a distress call from a starship that has strayed into the Neutral Zone as a result of a navigational error.”

“I care not for your excuses,” the Romulan Commander, Mheven, crassly yelled at the view screen from her dimly lit command center. “That ship is my property, and its crew are going to be taken to stand trial for war crimes against the Romulan Star Empire. Perhaps this will be a lesson to your Federation that unauthorized entry into the Neutral Zone will not be tolerated.”

Tannen clenched his jaw in frustration. Typical Romulan nonsense he thought to himself.

“As I said, Commander, there was a navigational error that occurred, causing the Nightingale to stray into the Neutral Zone. This was an unfortunate mistake as a result of a malfunction, I’m sure you can understand that? I’m not sure such a malfunction constitutes a war crime.”

“A Federation vessel crossed into the Neutral Zone!” the Romulan commander slammed her fist onto the arm of her command chair. “That is an act of war and will be treated as such! If we choose to claim the vessel and crew to try them for war crimes that is our prerogative to defend ourselves! We were also well within our rights to defend ourselves from a Federation vessel crossing into the Neutral Zone, and will do the same if your vessel does as well. If your Federation can’t abide by its treaties then the Romulan Star Empire will not sit idly by.”

Commander Branson leaned into her captain’s hear so that the Romulan couldn’t overhear them and whispered, “Something is up, but we should request permission to beam over to the Nightingale. Even if we let her take it, the ship needs extensive repairs to be warp capable.”

Tannen nodded before he responded to his Romulan counterpart, “Commander, both ships appear to be damaged. From the look of things, the Nightingale isn’t going anywhere fast. Our sensors show that its warp engines are offline. At least let us tend to our wounded and repair the ship so that we can get it out of the Neutral Zone, before this incident escalates further. The Valiant will stay in Federation space, we will beam a team over to enact repairs and aid the Nightingale’s medical staff. When complete, our team will return to the Valiant.”

The officers on the bridge exchanged a handful of nervous glances. They’d been serving aboard the Valiant for the last eighteen months together, but there were still times that they couldn’t yet read the captain or his motives particularly well. On this occasion, they were shocked that Tannen would just give up Starfleet crews as prisoners of war.

The Romulan commander raised an eyebrow before capitulating, “Very well, captain. But only medical and repair personnel, and no crew are to leave that vessel. Once we have repaired our vessel, I’m still taking that ship and its crew back to Rator III with me. Is that understood?” Mheven’s condescending tone was unrelenting.

“Understood. I’ll keep you updated,” Tannen said with a nod before the communication was ended. He turned to Branson, “Commander, you’re with me. You too, Rayah. Let’s get the chief and doctor too and meet in transporter room 3.”