Timeline: 1 hour after "Taking Off Again"
The time had passed and everyone had been able to take a short break before the Katana came back out of warp into the remains of a battlezone. The gutted hulk of what appeared to be a Negh'var class Klingon Battlecruiser spun slowly in space before them and again, the enemy had already left the area after ensuring there was no one left alive. It was certain that the Klingons fought to the last person, at least, and judging by the angle at which the bow was crumpled, the Captain had tried to ram the enemy ship - a common enough Klingon tactic.
Pressing her comms, Farenia opened a channel directly to sickbay. "Doctor, I doubt we'll have any survivors for you, but please stand ready nonetheless."
"Understood, Captain." Ian said, looking at his intern and head nurse and shrugging slightly. It wasn't as if the ship had a huge medical staff, but since word had come down, they'd been on high alert, prepping sickbay and the shuttlebay if need be to treat incoming patients. Now all that work had been for naught. "I'll prep the morgue for autopsies if you require them. Sickbay out."
"Helm, bring us alongside her." Farenia continued. "Clio, get as detailed scans as you can." Then she glanced up at the Tactical station where a random ensign she hadn't met yet was manning the station. "Ensign, keep weapons ready just in case." Then she leaned in closer to her XO. "It looks like the work of the Drej again. Your thoughts, Commander?"
"There doesn't seem to be much left to scan." Seated at her usual place in the rear of the bridge, Clio had tactical, science, and intelligence sensor programs running simultaneously, absorbing as much information as possible. While she'd initially been reluctant to call one of the unseasoned junior officers to tactical, his being there did give her more opportunity to run scans and figure out exactly what had happened.
"Weapons signatures?" Arivek asked.
Clio checked her tactical readout and bit her lip, not liking what she saw there. "Drej plasma. Romulan and Borg plasmas leave a different trace... this is definitely Drej."
With a soft trilling and hiss, Ian appeared on the bridge, using the holopresence system to manifest himself at one of the unused consoles aft of the tactical station. He wasn't immediately necessary in Sick Bay, his orders to prep the morgue having been handed off to his head nurse, so he decided it would be more helpful for him to monitor the situation on the bridge instead. He knew better than to ask if the captain had ordered a scan for lifeforms yet, so he just waited, watching the Klingon vessel drifting.
The turbolift doors closed behind Jenni as she stepped out onto the bridge. She hadn't been summoned, but after all of the craziness, Jenni felt her place was here until they knew more. At the mention of the Drej, Jenni crossed the bridge to stand near the officer at the Engineering station to observe the readouts for herself.
"Assemble an away team with EV suits..." Was all Farenia got out before three full sized D'deridex decloaked off the opposite side of the derelict Negh'Var, right in the middle of the view screen. They were still at red alert because of the Drej and now a Romulan ship too? Farenia's gut had a sinking feeling.
And then things got worse.
Three Vor'cha battlecruisers, a Negh'var, and almost a dozen B'rel class Klingon ships decloaked.
"Fuuu..." Is all Farenia got out before the comms started ringing off the hook from both parties.
"Looks like we've just become very popular all of a sudden." Ian quipped quietly. Things were tense, to be sure, but at least the Klingons and Romulans were hailing them and not, say, raining destruction down on their little ship or each other. Ian had been in plenty of tense situations before, but the role of a doctor was fairly simple: Mend the wounded. If things went south, there wouldn't be any shortage of wounded to mend, so his role in things would be clear. "D'ya think they like root beer floats?"
Arivek looked over at the man with a confused look. He opened his mouth as if he was about to ask, but then thought better of it, turning back to the large view screen.
Jenni too was surprised at the doctor's reaction. Her gaze remained fixed on her console as she immediately sent out readiness requests to the damage control teams. Better safe than sorry at this point, especially since things could get ugly very fast.
Fielding calls from both squadrons of alien ships, Clio gave up on the universal translator and spoke to each commander in their own language, giving them all the same 'please stand by for further contact' message before clearing her board long enough to get a lifesigns scan of the derelict. "We're too late... there's no one alive over there." Not a moment had passed before her console lit up again with angry inquiries from both the Romulans and the Klingons. Trying to field the calls without anyone feeling slighted, she quickly grew frustrated and said in rather rapid Cervan, "I cannot speak to all of you at once. One at a time!" Pausing for the universal translators on each respective ship to translate the message, she then looked over at Farenia. "The Romulans want to know how we killed all of the Klingons without destroying the ship. And the Klingons want to know why we attacked their ship under a flag of truce. You have about thirty seconds before they all start shooting."
"Ok, the Romulans aren't as important in this situation," Arivek stated, standing as he walked towards Clio's station. "Let's talk to the Klingons first. Send them our sensor data before we get them on the phone. Let's show them the weapon signatures."
"Offer them our databases from that ancient station as well. Don't let on that we have a good idea which solar system the Drej are from though. That bit of information... They're likely to just try starting a war and getting wiped out." Farenia added as she stood and took a few steps forward to compose herself.
"That's the last thing the Federation needs," Arivek stated, looking back at the Captain, "Destruction of the Empire."
"Stand by." Clio quickly gathered the proposed data, sending it to both squadron commanders rather than just the Klingons. The Romulans were just as likely to start shooting, and she had no intention of giving them any reason to do so. "I'm not sure they're convinced..."
"Unless someone knows about some sort of cloaking device we have hidden away..." Farenia mumbled before nodding to the viewscreen. "Let's put them both on screen and see if we can't work this out then." When the screen flashed to the face of the two squadron commanders, Farenia put on her best Vulcan impression and addressed them. "I am Captain Meowlith of the Federation Starship Katana. To whom do I have the honor of addressing?"
"General Denova of the Klingon Defense Force. We demand to know why you have open fired on our vessel, despite having a treaty with the Empire," came the voice of a stately Klingon woman who looked as if she was about to rain fire and brimstone down on the next person who spoke.
"Commander Vriha t'Llaaseil of the Imperial Warbird Hachae. We are similarly concerned with what we have found here." The Romulan commander looked no less likely to rain fire and brimstone, though her tone was cooler than Denova's. "Is there not a treaty between our three peoples?"
Farenia nodded to each in turn before adopting a 'Vulcan Lecturer' stance. "Greetings to you both. As our transmitted data indicates, we are not the ones that fired upon the ship in question. As your own sensors can verify, the weaponry used was a high power energy-plasma effect that Federation starships are unable to produce with standard equipment. On top of that, the fact that we have zero damage from disruptors of any sort should corroborate this. Also, do you really think that this ship would even have a fraction of the strength needed to destroy a warship of that size, let alone necessitate the use of a distress call on a Klingon ship?"
Denova sat there for a moment in silence. While most Klingon men would have immediately spoken out of anger and rage, she was a bit more level headed. And this is what made her a great leader in the KDF. She could outthink all the others. "This is understandable," she said, before looking over at the Romulan Commander. "I do have to wonder what brings you to this area of space."
"We picked up a distress call from the Veranus. It did say 'any ship in range', and last I heard we were allies of a sort." Vriha clearly held some respect for the Klingon woman, grateful that Denova's first action wasn't to start shooting at her warbird. "We arrived under cloak in case the attackers were still here."
"How convenient that you were so close to the action, even being so far from home space," Denova stated, her eyes showing her distrust.
"Another reason for caution. I admit that if we had a cloak as well, it would have also been employed upon approach. We've also forwarded you both the databases from an ancient starbase filled with survivors of attacks from this new race, the Drej. They appear to be comprised entirely of plasma based energy." Farenia interjected, hoping to keep this meeting civil.
"And they're probably still around here somewhere." Ian weighed in. So that maybe all of the guns on the other ships weren't quite so inclined to be pointed in their general direction.
"The Veranus is far from home, as are you," Vriha said calmly, already looking over the information that Clio had sent. A plasma-based race with weaponry that far outmatched those on her warbird. "These... Drej are a concerning problem. With the power they seem to have, I find it surprising that your ship survived, Captain Meowlith. The Intrepid class is not renowned for its tactical capabilities."
"Indeed not," Farenia started, trying to figure out how to explain that one. "This ship does seem to have a knack for surviving what it shouldn't though. Possibly due to a few uncommon human designs resulting in... Unorthodox results."
"I have defeated enough human ships in my lifetime. My armada and I could make quick work of you," Denova stated, sitting back in her chair. "How do we know this information is factual?"
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Clio could take a lot of nonsense, but she wasn't going to sit in the back of the bridge and be accused of lying when she and others had damn near been killed getting that data in question. She got up from her seat there, incredulity and insult obvious on her face. "Tell me, General, how in the hell would we benefit from sending you false information? Between your ship and the Hachae, we are outmatched. Lying or altering the data would get everyone on this ship killed. Do you honestly believe that I would be that stupid?"
Farenia watched Clio as she spoke, her emotions carefully hidden, but inside she was both scared and cheering. Turning back to the viewscreen, she addressed the two captains. "My mate speaks true. What evidence do you have of deception on our part?"
"You humans are prone to lying. The only culture worse is the Romulans," Denova said, throwing a glance to her Romulan counterpart.
Vriha gave Denova a sharp look, distinctly annoyed. "I beg your pardon."
"Are Vulcans known for lying?" Farenia asked, brushing her hair behind her ears just to make sure they were in full view.
"I am not human," Clio added, also moving her hair behind her ears. Hers were not so pointed as Farenia's, so she would never pass as a Vulcan. "Prove you have evidence of deception or bite your tongue and keep your opinion to yourself!"
"Need I remind you that you have little authority here?" Denova asked, a vengeful smile spreading over her face. "The only ship here that can give mine any run for its money is Vriha's. And even then, she is extremely outnumbered. I did intend to imply that you were, merely asking what evidence you had that you weren't. You would do well to understand the difference."
"And you both assumed that we had destroyed the large ship now floating between us. Not a very logical conclusion." Farenia changed tracks then, trying to steer the conversation back to the Drej. "As for this new race, it seems that plasma exhaust and ionized nebula gasses throw them off rather easily. Metaphasic shields also prove more effective than conventional shields. We're still working on effective weapons, but the gas emitters are proven to be effective as seen in the records from the ancient space station we encountered."
"Mine was an inquiry as to whether Federation technology has indeed progressed that far. An erroneous assumption that you have since corrected." Vriha looked not at Farenia, but at Clio standing behind her. "As to whether we believe the information true, the Cerva have never attempted to deceive us, despite our many conflicts. And Federation reports that have been falsified carry a unique signature, one this information lacks. My next question is how to adapt Federation metaphasic shielding technology to work with a singularity power source. Our own attempts have not been successful."
"Commander Matthews, do you have any recommendations?" Farenia asked, turning to her Chief Engineer.
The engineer's eyebrow arched. She had little experience with quantum singularities aside from the normal irregularities within subspace. "Metaphasic shields are attuned to each ship's warp shell and the effect it has on subspace. While Starfleet and Romulan ships use subspace to travel, we interact with it very differently. Maybe if the shield emitters are polarized and the warbird's singularity matrix is adjusted to prevent tetryon buildup... it might be possible."
"That seems logical enough. However, I myself am not an engineer." Vriha glanced over her shoulder to an engineering officer at the rear of the bridge who was working on the problem presented. Receiving a nod in return, she turned her attention back to her viewscreen. "It appears to make sense to my engineers. I believe we'll try it."
"Excellent. Is there any further way that we can be of assistance to the both of you?" Farenia inquired somewhat pleasantly.
"You have satisfied my curiosity and potentially solved a problem that we did not have the answer to. I believe that is all we require." Vriha had little doubt that Denova would not be satisfied, but she saw no reason to continue the debate. "It would be best if we departed to warn our respective governments about this threat."
"I'm sorry," Arivek said, taking a stand next to Jenni. He looked at her with an apologetic face. He hated to openly contradict her, or to throw doubt her direction, but he couldn't allow information to be utilized if he knew it wouldn't work as expected. "In order for that to work, you'll need to be concerned about baryon particles, not just tetryon. Metaphasic shields have a tendency to pull baryon particles into them from outside sources. I don't think I have to explain to you why those would be bad entering your quantum singularity. You'll have to be conscious of that and deal with them or they could destabilize the singularity."
"Indeed there seem to be several challenges in the way. I propose we collaborate to get all ships here outfitted with..." Farenia was then interrupted by the alarms going off again. Stepping back to her chair, she glanced over the status readout. A Drej dreadnought was inbound.
Jenni hated to openly contradict Arivek as well, but with him being the Executive Officer and sensors reporting a Drej ship was inbound, she decided to keep her mouth shut. Certainly baryon particles were always a concern, but if they never entered a Starfleet warp core, then they certain wouldn't enter a singularity. For now, however, whether they were staying or going, her place was no longer on the bridge. She had an engine room to get prepared for action. With a nod, Jenni rose and entered the turbolift.
"The fun never ends around here." He flashed a crooked grin, then began tapping on the PaDD clinging to his wrist, putting in his own disappearing act. Sickbay was already prepped for Klingon casualties, and to some extent was prepared for Vulcanoids, but he wanted to be ready to treat full-blooded Romulans, as well, if it came to it.
"Looks like we have guests. They will dine in Gre'thor tonight," Denova stated, her eyes sparkling with the joy of combat.
"I wouldn't count on that," Vriha stated simply, having gotten a decent enough look at the sensor scans of the Drej vessels by now.
"They're charging weapons!" With the red alert having gone off as soon as the Drej ship was detected, Clio's shouted warning was more for the benefit of the young officer at the tactical station.
"Ready weapons and get those metaphasic shields online," Farenia called out as the dreadnaught popped out of warp like a giant christmas tree ornament lit up like a sun. It wasted no time in firing its main weapon at one of the Romulan ships, melting through the double hull so fast, there was no time for the singularity core to destroy the ship.
"Attack pattern Tango Three! Fire a full spread of torpedoes at will!" Farenia called out as the tip of the spear like behemoth of a ship started charging again and smaller ships a third of the size of the Katana were launched out of the sides.
"I'm crazy, not stupid. I've had those online since before I knew it was a Drej ship incoming." Despite their suddenly dire situation, there was a note of humor to Clio's response. She'd been firing the weapons too if it weren't for the young officer at the main tactical station. "The Romulan squadron is activating battle cloaks, but their weapons were online."
That was when the Drej fired again, this time on one of the larger Klingon ships. Thankfully they had their metaphasic shields up and escaped with some melted hull armor. The entire Klingon fleet opened fire upon the Drej dreadnaught and though it seemed to easily absorb the disruptor fire, it looked a bit like they weren't dealing too well with it, green flares replacing the electric blue.
The Katana dived into an evasive attack barrel roll loop, firing torpedoes at will at the frigates it was launching. Two of them burst into rapidly expanding plasma clouds shortly after and several of the smaller Klingon ships focussed on the others. "Coordinate our attacks with the Klingon battle group for maximum effect."
The third time the Drej fired, they hit one of the B'rel class dead on and all but melted it completely with what looked like a much more powerful blast than the first two. The only thing left was one of the wing disruptors and the rest of the B'rel class ships scattered and avoided the front firing arc of the dreadnaught.
After another minute of combat, the Katana was running low on torpedoes and had suffered a few close misses, but the Drej frigates were all destroyed and the dreadnaught was venting energy in several places. The Klingons had lost a Vor'cha and most of the B'rel class in the battle group, but they were still fighting with unabating viciousness. Thankfully, the Romulans were mostly staying out of the fight, occasionally doing hit and run attacks on the dreadnaught's aft quarter before vanishing again.
One of the badly damaged B'rel scouts took that moment to maneuver into a ramming attack, hitting ninety percent of the speed of light before ramming into the side of the dreadnaught right into one of the breaches. The subsequent warp core breach rocked the other ships and all but vaporized the dreadnaught, the scraps of it losing cohesion and decomposing into a rapidly expanding and cooling cloud of plasma.
Sighing heavily, Farenia relaxed a bit. "Drop us to yellow alert and signal the other ships our status. Did we take any casualties? Any major damage?"
"Reports coming in, Captain," Arivek said, still sitting in his chair. "We've had a single casualty, a few wounded. But all-in-all, we've made out better than our other engagements," he said.
"The Romulans fared better than the Klingons... looks like the battle cloak is a serious advantage when it comes to fighting Drej." While the Klingons had lost many ships from their squadron, most of the Romulan squadron remained... though more than a few bore new battle scars. Clio ran the data, looking over it. "Disruptors seemed to do the most damage... though there are some interesting readings where Romulan plasma weapons hit Drej plasma hull. And on the topic of weapons... we're going to have to restock our torpedoes at a starbase. We don't have enough left to fight off a Borg probe, let alone a Drej battlegroup."
Farenia tapped her status console a few times, looking over the damage readouts. "We're supposed to meet up with the Hera in two weeks. Let's see if we can arrange to meet up a bit sooner. The Captain's promised me some special torpedoes anyway."
Clio raised an eyebrow at her. "Captain Telvan has 'special' torpedoes. Why am I not surprised?" She shook her head slightly as she sent the query to the Hera, asking to move the resupply date up a bit in light of their situation. "Depending on their exact location, it may be a short while before they're able to answer."
The response came back immediately, however - They were near the nebula that ancient space station was in and could rendezvous within fourteen hours.
"...or they could be lurking nearby, almost close enough to overhear our conversation." Clio took a moment to check the Hera's position, finding them to be startlingly nearby indeed. "They're already en route. Estimated fourteen hours of travel time... less if we take up an intercept course to meet them."
"Send the group commanders of our new friends our flight plan and contact information and plot a course to meet the Hera." Farenia replied.