SEASON 3: EPISODE 04
TO DELIGHT IN THE INHUMAN WORD: Part Two
Commander Susan Core passed the PADD over to Captain Masters.
“Here’s the report, sir,” she said as Masters accepted it.
The captain gestured for her to have a seat. They were in his ready room off the bridge. The room was the captain’s personal office but given the presence of a bed, bathroom and replicator it was almost a secondary quarters for the commanding officer.
He probably just comes in here for a nap and leaves me to do all the work, she joked to herself. That’s what I would do if I was an almighty starship captain.
A grin crept to her lips. Masters noticed and raised his eyebrow. Core waved the expression away as nothing. Some captains would be insulted by the insinuation that they slept while on duty, true or not. However, she was not concerned that Masters would be if she had voiced her thoughts, they had served with each other long enough and were close enough friends that they could tell when one of them said something in jest. Core would not have said her thoughts to her previous CO, Captain Jeong. Jeong had been a more serious man and he had demanded a higher level of decorum between him and Core in their roles as captain and first officer.
Masters started to read the contents of the PADD. Core had been given the task of getting details of what happened to the Klingon ships from the survivors. That had been an interesting experience as most of them seemed to have no idea what was going on other then they were in a battle. A few, such as Commander Thopok, had been more helpful as they were on the bridge so had witnessed the events that had transpired. Thankfully Letac had managed to get the MalbeB’s data recorder to piece together the events, taking out the usual Klingon hyperbole when it came to their combat actions. However, it had to be noted that these Klingons were not as boastful as others she had met, they seemed more reserved, even embarrassed by the events. She guessed that getting saved by a Federation ship was not something a Klingon enjoyed as they did tend to view the Federation as weak and peace-loving.
“Highlights?” Masters asked. He did not seem overly interested in the entire situation. Core knew that Masters had a fair bit on his mind, such as running the task force’s second cruiser wing and that he was working against the clock to complete plans for some operation for Starfleet Command. This meant the engagement involving Klingon forces was not high on the list of things that he needed to bother about.
“We’ve gone through the battle site and the computers of the MalbeB to confirm what we’ve found with the brief interviews we got with the crew from that ship. A small Klingon hunting party of five ships, one Vor’cha heavy warship, two B’rels including the MalbeB, a Kelvar frigate, a Tormag light cruiser and a Jen’thar assault cruiser attacked and destroyed a convoy of eight Karemma starships and their escorts, six attack ships, not far from here. They were back on the hunt and were cloaked when a second Jem’Hadar force of one destroyer, a fast attack ship and six attack ships arrived, likely responding to a call for help from the convoy they destroyed.”
“There was a fast attack ship here?” asked Masters suddenly interested.
Core nodded. “We missed it. It was the last ship destroyed by the Klingons. The other bird of prey rammed it just before we got here. So we’re still zero in that category.”
Masters let out a sigh and she could tell he was wishing they had got to the battle sooner. It had to do with arriving before the fast attack ship had been destroyed so they could have engaged it. It was not that he did not care about saving the lives of their allies, Core knew he did. It was just that the fast attack ship had built up a bit of a reputation on the Swiftfire and it was the number one vessel the crew wanted to engage and destroy.
So far the Swiftfire had encountered and fought against every single type of Jem’Hadar ship in service but the fast attack ship. Even the light battle cruiser, which according to the intelligence reports Core had read, was the rarest of the types of ships the Dominion had brought with them from the Gamma Quadrant. Currently the new Jem’Hadar battleship was the rarest vessel given it had only recently entered production, but in that case the crew was not in much of a rush to tussle one-on-one with that brute. It was not that they had not been in a battle with a fast attack ship present, they had, the problem was they never met and exchanged pleasantries.
It was a little odd thing to focus, especially as over three thousand Klingons had died in the engagement. It was just something that crew could focus on, something that they could distract themselves from the more unpleasant parts of war. She was sure that the Vulcan members of the crew would have something to say about the illogicalness of emotional beings trying to hide from reality; in fact they usually had something to say about every topic imaginable!
She continued with her report, “The Jem’Hadar opened fire on the Klingons who were unaware that the Jem’Hadar had detected them despite been cloaked. They destroyed the Vor’cha before the Klingons understood what was going on. By the time they decloaked and engaged the Jem’Hadar they were squarely on the back foot. They did their best to fight back but it was an impossible position.”
Masters just nodded along with her report. He was going through her report at speed, looking to see if there was anything in there that he needed to know or ask her about.
“What’s the state of the Klingons we rescued?” he finally asked.
“Nine are in sickbay, six have serious injuries but Murphy is confident that they will all make it. On a side note, Karak allowed them to beam a bit of cargo off of the MalbeB before we scuttled her. They brought the odd personal item and several barrels of bloodwine.”
“And a dozen or so bottles as well. That ship seemed to be packed with the stuff. They’ve set up in Fire.”
That got a reaction from the captain. He was not overly pleased to hear this news. Not that she was surprised, who wanted drunken Klingons on their ship with nothing to do?
“Are they causing problems?”
“Not yet but they haven’t had much chance to get drunk yet.”
Masters rubbed his head. “Just what I need, a bunch of drunken Klingons on my ship! How long until we can offload them?”
“I got in contact with the Fifteenth Battlegroup, which they were from and was told they wouldn’t have a ship in our area for another five days.”
“Five days! Five days,” repeated the captain sounding displeased. “I can see this ending with us transporting them to the Klingon ship from the brig. Who’s in charge of the Klingons?”
“A Commander Thopok. He was the third officer on the MalbeB,” she recalled. “The other senior officers were killed.” This next bit of information was not going to help make Masters feel any happier but she decided to tell him. “There is something a bit odd about him.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“For a Klingon he’s quite reserved, almost downtrodden. I don’t think he has a lot of support from his crew. I saw one question his orders and he did nothing.”
“Nothing,” she confirmed. “No yelling or threatening. Not even one of their playful punches to the face.”
The Klingons were a warrior culture and as such they seemed to enjoy working violence into everything they did, even their command style. That included summary executions. Core had told Thopok that executing his crew would not be tolerated while they were guests on this ship. She also warned him that if they felt any violence got out of hand, which was a measure to be decided by them not the Klingons, the parties involved would be placed in confinement. Thopok did not seem overly concerned with the ship’s rules; he in fact just seemed generally disinterested.
“I like the sound of this less and less,” Masters sighed. “However, I don’t see a need to deviate from our current schedule just to get rid of the Klingons a day or two sooner. Order Ensign Cole to get us back to our patrol route, I’ll update the admiral on our status and new passengers.”
“Well, at least we’re back in the fight and not on diplomatic missions,” she added.
Masters scoffed. “I don’t think we’ll need to worry about that. I doubt Starfleet Command will be sending us on another one of those for a long time.”
The Swiftfire had recently undertaken an ill-fated first contact mission. The captain had clashed with the ambassador sent to handle the diplomatic side of things, who also happened to be the father of one of the senior staff, and it had ended when the planet they were visiting erupted into a devastating nuclear war that had likely wiped out most, if not all of the population of the planet. She was just glad that their luck in the war so far was not as bad otherwise they would be a dispersed atoms floating around space right now.
“I better get back to...whatever it is I do on this ship,” she said with a playful smile.
“Making rumours and causing havoc?” joked Masters.
“Imagine how boring the ship would be without me,” she said as she stood.
She was almost to the door when she heard Masters reply wistfully, “It would be bliss.”
“No appreciation for humour,” she murmured, which just served to make Masters laugh.
Rear Admiral Jennifer Douglas shrank the communications window as she brought up additional information on her display.
“Those Klingon ships shouldn’t have been anywhere near that area,” she commented.
That resulted in a nod of agreement from Captain Masters of the USS Swiftfire-A. “We came to the same conclusion. I thought that it might be that our information was a bit out of date. Have you worked much with the Fifteenth’s commander?” he asked.
Douglas shook her head. “I never heard of General Juhless before we were assigned to this area. From what I’ve read about the Fifteenth Battlegroup it’s hardly a model unit. It has never been positioned anywhere of importance. Pretty much it seems to be a cobbled together group that the Klingons use to patch up holes in their lines. They don’t seem to have to discipline or training of one of the major battlegroups,” she explained with a slight sigh.
Klingons could be a very difficult ally. They were prone to aggression that made them quick to fight and slow to retreat. Douglas was not surprised that a group of their ships would venture well outside of the zone they were meant to be responsible for. While their discipline and tactics were questioned often by those in Starfleet the results they were capable of producing often quietened these voices. Sometimes insanity and sheer bravado could be worth several well timed and planned attacks.
From the report Captain Masters had given her the Klingon wing had destroyed a convoy of freighters that were full of supplies bound for the Dominion’s positions in the Kalandra sector. That plus the destruction of an additional six Jem’Hadar warships operating in their area and the losses suffered by the Klingons no longer seemed that pointless. Douglas had to wonder how the Klingons knew about the convoy when she did not or why they did not share that information with her so she could have dealt with it since it was in the area she was meant to be in operating in. Of course it was always possible they had no idea and had just stumbled on the convoy in a very wide ranging hunt.
“We’ve already contacted the Klingons and they say another ship can meet with us in around five days.”
“Will you be fine to handle the Klingons until then?” Douglas asked.
Captain Masters nodded. “I believe so. We only managed to save seventeen and over half of them are in our sickbay at the moment. I’ve made the decision to return to our original patrol route and continue.”
Douglas gave must a supportive nod to show she agreed with his decision. At this moment she could not afford to have a ship leave its duties for several days. At the moment Task Force 59 was holding a reasonably crucial link in the alliance lines just on the edge of the Kalandra sector. Their main role was to make sure the Dominion did not launch an offensive around the edges of the sector unnoticed and attack the forces holding the Kalandra system from the rear. An additional object was to put pressure on the Dominion supply lines if possible, which the Klingon party seemed to be doing when it was all but destroyed.
“That was not a small force that destroyed the Klingons. Have you detected any other large movements of ship?” she asked.
“No, none of my wing has reported much in the way of enemy contacts. The Jem’Hadar’s presence was almost as much of a surprise as the Klingons!”
“There might be a significant force just out of your sensor range. I’d advise extra caution.”
“I’ve taken that precaution and have already passed on the message to the rest of my wing.”
“Very good, captain. Is there anything else I need to be made aware of?”
She was about to dismiss him when she recalled something else Captain Masters was also working on. “How goes the Operation Chestnut revisions?”
A slightly weary look came to Masters’ eyes. “Getting there, admiral,” replied Masters. The plans were obviously taking up much of the captain’s time. “I’ve yet to confer with Captains Amphlett and Werfel but it will be ready on time.”
“Very good.” Douglas thought for a second if there was anything else she needed from him. “That should do for now, captain. Keep me updated if anything changes out there and good luck.”
Masters returned a farewell and Douglas closed the channel.
The Swiftfire had been part of her Task Force 59 for around three quarters of a year and was part of the doubling of her task force after the successful destruction of a Jem’Hadar type-1 carrier after Operation Return, which the Swiftfire had been involved with when it accidentally intervened in an operation the task force was conducting. Douglas had let it join for the actual attack on the super carrier as she needed all the ships she could get her hands on at the time.
Douglas silently berated herself for using the term ‘super carrier’. Originally the carrier they had attacked was known as a Jem’Hadar super carrier as at 900 metres in length it was far larger than the Federation carriers in service. However, thanks to a failure in intelligence they were unaware that the Jem’Hadar operated a second class of carrier, one that was a third longer than the ‘super carrier’. This oversight had occurred as the design for that carrier was very similar to the Jem’Hadar battle cruiser and due to its size at over 1,200 metres Starfleet Intelligence had considered it a battleship or command ship. It took Starfleet around eight months to realise it was actually a carrier. Given it was more ‘super’ than the super carrier their designations were changed with the ‘super carrier’ changed to type-1 (as it was the first recognised carrier) and the larger carrier became the type-2 carrier.
Douglas updated the Swiftfire’s position and replotted its patrol route given this new delay to see if there would be any issues. There seemed to be none, the detour to help the Klingons had minimal effect on the Swiftfire’s patrol.
Of course it had to be the Swiftfire that ran into something odd, she thought. That ship seemed to attract it.
The Swiftfire did seem to find itself in the middle of events. The ship had so far managed to get trap behind enemy lines, singlehandedly capture a notorious pirate group, get trapped in a temporal anomaly, be involved in the Romulans liberating a Federation planet, that was just to name a few. It spoke to the crew of the Swiftfire that despite all this they had kept the ship in one piece.
It also spoke to their commanding officer, Captain Jonathan Masters. Douglas’s first interaction with him was just before the war when she had led a task force into Klingon space to hunt for the rogue USS Fury, not to be confused with the USS Fury that currently served in her task force. Masters and the Swiftfire had been deployed a little later to join her. He had been specifically chosen due to his knowledge of the captain they were hunting and it proved to be crucial in stopping the rogue Fury.
At that point she knew nothing about him and it was not until the Battle of Guyra that she made the connection between Captain Jonathan Masters and Admiral Dalton Masters. During the lead up she had met with the other tactical wing commanders of the Fifth Fleet for a briefing, which Admiral Masters had also attended as he was taking command of one of the tactical wings. After the briefing she heard someone mention that Admiral Masters would have his son in his tactical wing, after that it was not hard to figure out that Jonathan and Dalton were father and son.
Admiral Dalton Masters was a legend in Starfleet from an already legendary family. His father had served as a well regarded Starfleet captain before going into politics on Earth. His grandmother had also reached the rank of admiral and was in charge of the Starfleet Advanced Technologies division for some time. Dalton had managed to eclipse his ancestors through service as a starship and later fleet commander. There were few conflicts in the last fifty years that Dalton had not taken part in.
Dalton was relatively well known on Earth due to his service with the First Fleet stationed in sector 001, but it was during the Cardassian Wars that he made himself well known in the Federation. In particular was the Battle of Iadara where Admiral Masters led the Seventh Fleet in the defence of the Iadara system. Admiral Masters’ fleet routed the Cardassian Sixteenth Order that was tasked with taking the Iadara colony. That victory and a series of bold counterattacks by Admiral Masters gave him a reputation as a master tactician and fleet commander.
Following his service in the war it was heavily expected that he would be promoted to fleet admiral, a final step before becoming the commander in chief of Starfleet. However, that did not happen, instead Admiral Rekris received that promotion and would eventually become the commander in chief of Starfleet. It was considered by some that it was due to Admiral Masters’ more hawkish stance and that Rekris was selected as he was seen as a more moderate flag officer. Douglas had only had one meeting with Admiral Masters during the special briefing when Captains Masters, Amphlett and Werfel presented Operation Chestnut. It was hard to separate the man from the legend.
During the Battle of Guyra, Jonathan had been given command of a wing by his father, which suggested a touch of nepotism. No matter what his family’s reputation when the Swiftfire joined her task force she was not going to give the inexperienced Captain Masters command of one of her wings just because of his name. However, despite her early reservations when the opening in cruiser wing 2 for a new wing commander came about she placed Captain Masters in command in recognition of his actions with Task Force 59.
Douglas had on one instance clashed with Captain Masters but she knew you could not get on ever someone 100% of the time and she was more than happy to have him as part of her unit. Recently she had to dispatch the ship on another task, which she was less than pleased about. However, Starfleet Command had specifically ordered that she release the Swiftfire for the diplomatic mission. Douglas had been prepared to lose the ship for a month or more and was glad when it returned after only two weeks. The results of the Swiftfire’s mission however did not make good reading. The outcome was nothing short of disastrous, with the planet they were making contact with descending into war. The ambassador whom had accompanied them had been less than full of praise for Captain Masters. However, Starfleet Command had decided that no action was warranted against the captain and his crew. It did seem that he got caught between his duty as a Starfleet officer and schemes of the Diplomatic Corps. It was probably just a sign of his inexperience. A few more years in the centre seat and he would be better able to juggle these sometimes conflicting demands.
She brought up a map of her entire force’s current deployment. Douglas currently had three wings at forward positions patrolling the length of their control zone. Her other three wings were back at secondary positions ready to reinforce the forward positions. The second cruiser wing led by the Swiftfire patrolled the area closest to the Tenth Fleet, left of centre on her map display, the Sherman’s destroyer wing one held the centre position and the Pacific’s Excelsior wing was to the right and closest to the Fifteenth Battlegroup. The Renown’s destroyer wing two was at a secondary position that would allow it to reinforce the left side of their zone, which was the more dangerous given its closer proximity to Kalandra while her wing and the carrier wing were at a middle to right position so they could reinforce those lines and the left without too much of a delay.
Their position was to plug a hole between the lines of the Starfleet Tenth Fleet and the Klingons to their right, or at least that was where the Klingons were meant to be. In comparison to the forces flanking the task force they were miniscule, but by using them to plug this wide gap allowed for the two flanking fleets to hold tighter lines.
Of course that meant Task Force 59 was in a noticeable weak spot and that did make her nervous. A Dominion attack would most likely focus on them so to flank the Tenth or get behind the Fifteenth. If that happened their role would be to notify the two fleets and do their best to delay the enemy until reinforcements arrived. If they were hit by a significant force holding their lines would be impossible. In that case they had a fallback position in the Mimba system, where they would be better able to engage against overwhelming odds.
She plotted the locations of the Klingon attacks to see if there was anything to be gleamed from this information. She shook her head. The Klingons were operating well outside their area. Douglas had to talk to her Klingon compatriot and get an update from her on the Klingon’s force development and strength. If the Klingons knew of increased activity in her zone, especially near cruiser wing two’s patrol area she needed to know and make a decision on whether or not to shift the Renown’s wing forward to strengthen the forward line.
What am I talking about? she questioned herself. Given the Swiftfire’s luck there's no doubt that there something out there waiting for them.