Obsidian Command

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Musical Chairs

Posted on 16 May 2023 @ 9:57pm by Commander Calliope Zahn & Ensign Marcello Wiser & Captain Corvus DeHavilland & Lieutenant Louke Haille & Commander Anson Corduke MD & Major Declan Finn & Lieutenant Tahriik
Edited on on 27 Aug 2023 @ 12:49pm

Mission: M3 - Into the Deep
Location: Bridge - USS Pathfinder
Timeline: Following The Unknowns
4239 words - 8.5 OF Standard Post Measure

”Give me something,” Captain DeHavilland sighed heavily, looking over Calli’s shoulder at the operations station she was sharing.

The storm on the planet was the biggest she’d ever seen outside of a Gas Giant, nearly consuming one whole side of the planet with the tiny little spit of land that her people had landed on completely obscured by the storm. If they were alive, and she certainly hoped they were, the ascension out of that was going to be one hell of a ride. But the longer they sat here without any information to go off of the more she was convinced that they were either dead, or incapable of leaving. She couldn't bear the first so she was convincing herself minute by minute that it was the latter. That they needed to go and get them.

Calliope was doing her best to cut the sensor noise, but the increasing storm energy was resonating with the Kelbonite scatter. Saaba had pointed her to a probe relay, but half of the links had winked completely out. They weren’t in line in the chain any longer and the signals were broken. “The relays are gone. The Kelbonite is resonating with the electric interference, and on a several fold increase. It’s worse than it was when the Acamas got out of it already.”

Corvus glared at the screen Calliope was working on as if she might be able to will it into getting a solid read on the team. Could they really be dead? Could this storm have been that bad? No. Her team was stronger than that. The Marines made it down and they found their target, she had no doubt about that. But she did have doubts about the Pyrryx that they knew was down there. She’d seen what these powerful warriors could do to a terran sized being, and she knew Declan well enough to know that he probably wasn’t tiptoeing around the bigger, stronger, nastier baddie.

That thought triggered a deeper reaction, one she didn’t expect she’d have. Stamping her foot with frustration, she paced over to the front of the bridge where Callum’s holo was still projecting - an omnipresence on her bridge anymore. He noticed the attention being directed at him, but was talking to someone off holo. “Double-check the readings,” he muttered, now glancing over to Corvus.

“We can’t afford to keep waiting, Callum. I’m going to take the Pathfinder down and get them myself. Our sensors can cut the kelbonite interference. We’ll transport your team and your shuttle off and come right back,” she declared.

Lachlan bristled visibly, adjusting in his seat, “You’re sure you want to risk that? That’s a bloody fecking big storm,” he said waving off towards his forward glass.

“We don’t have the time to waste anymore. We’ve given them every opportunity to come back. We have to go and either get them, or… confirm that there’s nothing left to get. If that’s… if that’s the case, we have to prevent contamination and collect what we can.”

“They’re long past the Prime Directive,” Callum shook his head dismissively.

“The last thing we need is the Pyrryx to have access to any more than they already do. Either way, we have to go down. If we could afford to wait for this storm, I would. We go down now.”

Standing at the side station, Calliope was hardly able to believe what she was hearing. The Pathfinder was designed for atmospheric flight to a limited degree. The storm below would seriously test the design limit. What was more, Calliope agreed with Callum— the logic of saving technology was stretching the cause. Knowing she wasn’t going to make any progress on the scanners anyway, Calliope cut around the bridge to touch Corvus on the arm and draw her aside.

“Did you find something?” Corvus asked quickly, realizing as she asked that wasn’t what Calliope wanted to talk about.

“Captain, with all due respect,” Calliope said quietly, privately, apart from the Comm with Callum or the rest of the bridge. “The risk to the ship and everyone aboard… for the chance at getting a signal lock…?”

“There’s thirteen Starfleet lives on that planet,” Corvus answered with a shake of her head. “I won’t leave them here to be the next generation of Camp Sunrise. Since they can’t get to us, we have to go to them.”

Calliope visibly bristled. She had wanted to boomerang back out with a fresh team when she had landed; her aim in even returning without the rest of her team had been to ensure she could leave the delegates and the woman and children they had recovered in a safer situation, and get Gunnarsen to sickbay. Now the entire ship? “But the windshear. I could barely get the Acamas back… I… I don’t think Camp Sunrise is going to accommodate us all, either, Corvus.”

“It can be done,” Corvus replied quietly. “It’s a risk, yes, but we stand a better chance than sending another shuttle to get tossed about like a bath toy,” she said, defending her position quietly, gunshy of being overly demonstrative with Calli lest she end up with another situation like she’d had with Declan. She kicked herself again for being so stupid as to kick him off the bridge. If only she’d been more patient with him, they wouldn’t be in this mess. It took everything she had to keep that off her face.

Calliope, sensing Corvus was at least listening, decided to press a little harder. “No, you’re right— even though we’re not as maneuverable, we can use mass to the advantage for stability. But don’t you think, if they are still alive, the Demophon will push through if we give them the chance?”

“How much longer can we aff-,” Corvus began, interrupted by a series of shrill beeps from terminals on their side.

Captain Callum shot up from his chair on the holo booming, “Report!”

Corvus turned from Calli and hurried to the tactical arch, Calliope a step behind her. “What is it?” she asked the Tactical officer.

Saaba was leaning into the console as if her ready stance was going to give the young Bolian some advantage against what she was seeing on scopes. “There’s three vessels. One… looks like some kind of transport. The smaller two are flying escort flanking pattern. Computer registers the design of the ships as Pyrryx. They’ve dropped out of warp in near space.” That was a risky move. One only taken when you wanted to risk navigation hazards in favor of getting the drop on someone. “Approach vector and speed puts them at a probable eta for weapons fire range in two minutes!”

Calliope exchanged a quick look with Corvus.

“I still hate your plan,” Calliope said, tacitly admitting they would have to try it. “For the record.”

“I’ll put it my log,” she smirked crookedly. “Get Wiser up here, now,” she ordered, hurrying around to the Captain’s station to consult the more finite readings there.

That was at least smart. Calliope knew that Zletze hadn’t anywhere near the time in the training simulator specifically on flying the Nova class in atmospheric conditions. Wiser, on the other hand, had been obsessive about it, and Calliope knew he could translate his practice time to current conditions, if anyone could. It wasn’t thirty seconds before Wiser was on the bridge, but those seconds were a lot in the current situation. Calliope met him at the turbo lift, looking to update the Ensign as fast as possible. It hadn’t occurred to her until that very moment that Wiser should have already been at the helm. Why the hell were they summoning the Alpha to replace the Beta in the first place?

“Ensign, you’re needed to relieve Ensign Zletze. We have to take the Pathfinder into the storm to try to get a signal lock on the remaining members of the away… teams.” She paused as she wasn't sure if there was now technically one team or three. It depended on where they had all ended up, she supposed.

Wiser looked shocked. Not the kind of shock that had just come on suddenly from the recent news, but the sort that had set in some time ago and stayed. He clearly had missed a shave and his eyes were out of focus. So out of focus they were looking through her, Calliope felt. His words seemed heavy and slow. “No, ma’am. I won’t take the ship into the storm.”

Wiser had never said no to her asking for anything. Calliope knew something was deeply off. Not wanting to make a spectacle of him, she spoke quietly and closely. “I’m ordering you to the helm, Ensign.”

“Commander Quinn had orders for me too, Ma’am.” Wiser was breathing weird, almost ready to break apart emotionally. “Orders to put my crewmate in danger. And now Ensign Jup might die. I won’t do it again.”

“Wh.. when was…?”

“The Korinn fighters, they got a pot shot at us, with shields down. He wanted shields down, like a sitting duck on the water. We just got back not long ago. From looking for you.”

It clicked. Calliope realized now the answer to her question about the type-11 on the flight deck, the one with the hull damage. A surge of outrage hit her first and she swallowed it back with the angry bile. Corvus had sent Lance to try to find the Acamas. Lance, who she had told to stay with the ship. Lance who was clever enough to find a way not to go on a fool’s errand by some other excuse he could have made. Corvus, who should have known better than to send someone without any field experience, regardless of his rank. This was not the place or time. But she vowed to find the place and time later.

“Wiser… Marcello.” She put a hand on his shoulder. “You’re relieved of duty. You’re not fit at the moment.” She made sure she controlled her tone so he would know he wasn’t in trouble for it. By declaring him unfit, she wasn’t going to consider him to be refusing an order. He nodded and ducked back into the turbolift, the door of which hadn’t closed since he had arrived as he had been standing in front of it with Commander Zahn. She stepped back so the doors would shut and allow him to leave.

Calliope straightened out her shirt and turned back to the bridge to address Corvus. She didn’t bother with any more confidential tones. “Captain, Mr. Wiser is unfit for duty at this time.” Calliope let the captain sort out how that might have come to be, leveling a gaze across the bridge. “We don’t have a qualified helmsman to carry out your orders.”

Corvus instinctively looked past Calli to the lift where she’d seen Wiser come out and ground her teeth with frustration. “Shit…” she growled, nodding and shaking her head at the same time. “Right. I need you at the secondary terminal. I’ll take the helm,” she ordered, waving her to follow.

Calliope tilted her head. “While I appreciate the order, and the faith in my skills, I trust Lieutenant Haille as operational support on this maneuver, Captain.” She folded her hands behind her, initially uncertain if by carefully declining the order she was going to garner fresh ire from Corvus. The fact remained that Mr. Haille didn’t deserve to lose his seat just because Corvus had what felt to Calliope like a moment harkening back to them once-upon-a-time as Senior officers together, side by side in those same roles, pulling off just this type of thing. …At least it was nice that Corvus remembered they were a good working team. As Calliope intuited the shared sentiment behind the reflex of ordering her to the ops station, it made it slightly harder to be angry. There was a glint in her eye. “Besides—” Calliope moved instead to the Captain's chair and crossed her legs as she sat down, drawing her hands over the armrests. “Someone has to call the shots.”

Corvus didn’t have the energy left to argue that one, she just turned to the helm station and sat down. “You can be my eyes and ears, Calli,” she said, engaging the thrusters and making the calculations at the helm to take them down. “Mr. Haille, redirect power to the atmospheric thrusters. Power down weapons, and give me every bit you can.”

“Aye, Captain.” Grateful that she was capable of piloting the ship, Louke focused on his task at hand, rerouting all power towards power and control of the vessel. In retrospect, he most likely could have taken the helm if necessary; he wasn’t sure what had happened to the pilot on the Acamas, only that the monster they were flying into had time to grow even more ominous. Louke had flown in some dicey situation, but never a craft of this size and with this many lives relying on his skill and accuracy.

“Mr De La Fuente,” Calliope called. “Please model for helm a vector and angle for the ship to enter the storm winds. Best estimates. No time for being picky with it.”

“Understood. I’m on it,” De La Fuente replied, feeling much more comfortable in this station. It might not have been the Alexander but it was closer to what he was used to.

“Engineering, please reinforce structural integrity fields.” There was a yes ma’am from the back of the bridge. Then Calliope turned to the hologram from Theseus, addressing the comm link. His bridge had seemed a little occupied with their own concerns in intercepting the incoming Pyrryx, and it was time they made sure they were both fully aware of the other ship’s movements. “Captain Callum, this is Commander Zahn. Be informed, I’m coordinating as Captain DeHavilland is electing to pilot the Pathfinder to move below the storm interference in hopes of recovering the remaining personnel with the advantages our sensor array supplies.”

“Make it quick, Commander,” Callum declared sharply, turning his attention right back to his own tasks.

As the Pathfinder angled downwards, Calliope’s stomach was dropping. It was an unnatural angle to take a full sized ship. The kind of angle that your gut told you was not going to end well as gravity had its word on the matter. The arms of the hurricane were all that filled the forward viewer now. Calliope leaned on the shipboard comm. “=All hands, all hands, prepare for turbulence. Brace yourselves, people.=”

Eyes monitoring the levels, Louke steadily adjusted the flow, putting as much as could be spared into propulsion, while directing a good amount to the stabilizers. He would have preferred more, but from what he could see of the storm read-outs, speed to get through the worst would be more beneficial in the end.

“Captain!” De La Fuente called out as they began their approach, “One of the Pyrryx vessels has broken off, it’s on an intercept course!”

Corvus flicked her eyes briefly to the panel in front of her showing that there was in fact one of the Pyrryx approaching, she adjusted their vector downwards a little sharper. “Cesar, plot an adjusted course using this vector,” she called out.

“Modeling now!” De La Fuente answered

“Saaba, get us a shield bubble with near-shape dynamic.” If anything, it would help the flight control and take the pressure off the nacelles. Of course, they’d have to drop it to transport people if they got the life signals they were looking for. But Pathfinder didn’t have to go with-out just at the moment. “Charge the phaser banks.”

“Weapons charging.”

“Who knows,” Calliope said as the ship bucked over the bout of turbulent resistance which practically skipped them like a rock.The sudden motion was dulled by the Inertial Dampeners, but she could feel some lift out of her chair. The ride was about to get wild. “Maybe they’re not crazy enough to follow. Stay sharp though. If that ship comes into range, get a weapons lock, Ms. Saaba.”

“Oh, they’re crazy enough, Commander!” Saaba called back. It only made sense with the risk profile the Pyrryx had in their other engagements on file. A little wind wasn’t hardly going to stop them. “It’s in range, but I can’t get a weapons lock! Imaging is refracted.”

The stealth design, Calliope realized. It worked like the armor they wore too.

From the helm Corvus watched a flickering lance of greenish-blue light shoot past their starboard bow and she instinctively juked down and rolled the craft left just in time to miss a second shot that would have impacted square on their aft shields.

“Increase power to rear shields,” DeHavilland called out.

“Increasing power.” They were flying with the shear rather than directly into it, now - allowing a bit of a natural boost to the speed and allowing Louke to direct the excess into the shields. When he was confident they would hold at full capacity, he turned his attention back to propulsion and life support - assuring himself the one was holding without needing more energy, and the other was stable with the power given.

“Fire a low energy phaser burst spread,” Calliope ordered. “see what lands and get a lock on that.”

Saaba followed through. But the pepper of shots she placed struck nothing. Besides counting storm interference, the sensors were working with a ghost image probability and Saaba had to choose one arc at a time. “No fix.”

Calliope gripped the armrests as the ship continued to lurch, between the storm and now Corvus anticipating fire. “Keep peppering. It only takes one positive to resolve the sensor refraction.”

“I doubt they can see us any better than we can see them,” Corvus called out, physically wincing at the controls even though there was nothing haptic about them that would require a physical exertion. Just the knowledge that what she was doing was forcing the resistance that they were all feeling pulling them down into the deck plating. “Fire phasers in a circular pattern aft from mark one-three-five to two-two-five,” she ordered quickly, grunting with everyone else as the ship dropped in the air dramatically and then was buffeted right back up.

Carrying out the order, Saaba circumscribed the coordinates given with the aft array. Her targeting computer lit up with a positive mark and Saaba was just excitedly calling it out when Calliope swore. The Pathfinder had highlighted her own vector for the enemy in the searchlights.

“They’re firing torpedoes!” Calliope called out before Saaba made the connection. The tactical display worked out the speed and distance of the approaching warheads. There were four enroute. “Saaba—”

Calliope hadn’t gotten the directive out before Saaba was yelling, “Engaging countermeasures!” She was bursting the phaser array along the projected path, but the shifting winds moved both the ship and the guided missiles. One she took out in short order, but was sweating too hard about the three yet to go to feel any victory.

“Captain,” Calliope called, “is it too much to ask for more elusive evasive maneuvers?” From the command chair, Calliope was doing her best to assist Ops as Haille was working with the shields and propulsion.

“Not in this soup,” Corvus called back, shaking her head. “We’re fighting them and the shear. Either is likely to rip us to bits,” she growled with frustration.

“It’s nice we have options. Miss Saaba, they’re getting a lot closer, don’t you think?”

Saaba landed another shot on a second torpedo, and it formed a shattered umbrella of debris in their wake. “Only half of them, ma’am.”

Calliope gripped through more of the lurching and then tried for some encouragement. “Keep trying for the top score here.”

While the aft phasers had to cycle back through the firing array, there was far too long of a pause. By the time Saaba was firing again, she had to pick one of the remaining two enemy torpedoes. She took it out just as its compatriot struck the shields.

There were the none-too-pleasant bridge alarms marking out the positive contact, but before anyone could make a report as to the effects, the Inertial Dampeners were overwhelmed. The blow against one side of the aft shielding had pitched the entire ship to port, throwing out the attitude control. There was a scramble on the bridge as people tried to maintain their seats at stations.

“Shit!” Corvus exclaimed from the conn, desperately trying to right the ship and prevent a lateral spin in synch with the shear’s rotation and the spin of the storm. That turning correction put them all but facing the Pyrryx vessel and she had no choice in it. All she could do was pitch up, max the thruster and pin everyone to the backs of their chairs as they made a desperate climb up out of the storm with the hope that they could do a better job of shaking off their pursuers outside the storms influence.

Thankfully the Pyrryx vessel was not so well handled as the Pathfinder and was only just committing to a turn having been fully committed to a weapons blast that ripped through the open space that they had been in moments before. They passed harmlessly right over the top of the vessel and back up towards the darkening glow of space.

“Enemy ship is coming about!” Saaba announced when she managed to haul herself upright at her station, using the station itself to support herself back to her feet. “Aft shields are at 43%”

As the larger Pyrryx made its wide turn towards them, it was buffeted suddenly in a conflagration of blue hued explosions that shook the vessel hard to starboard, pushing it into the prevailing winds which it was unable to fight free from and had no choice but to turn into them. As the large vessel made that turn, several lances of rippling green light shot forth from it, trying to hit the small object that had burst from the clouds a moment before, ascending rapidly towards the Pathfinder just as fast as the Pyrryx vessel was sinking into the clouds.

“Captain, you’re not going to believe it! It’s the Demophon!” Saaba all but cheered.

The hologram of Captain Callum had long since faded when they entered the atmosphere, but as they ascended quickly, a new one appeared. The smirking face of Commander Brightwood aboard the Demophon.

Corvus all but stood up from her console to look at the holo, “Demophon, tell me you got everyone!?” DeHavilland demanded sharply.

“Aye, Captain. My lot, the five Marines that dropped, three extras we found, a castaway, and one dead Pyrryx,” Brightwood answered, oddly chipper for a man running from a world-sized hurricane with a Pyrryx somewhere on their tail.

“Understood. Set your course as follows,” she said, sending coordinates to his station that matched their flight path out of the planet. With Demophon located there was no need to linger about any longer. “Get aboard and get to the Bridge. I need a helm officer,” she ordered.

“Roger that, Captain. On our way,” Brightwood answered, turning the ship to the coordinates.

“Captain,” Major Finn’s voice said, appearing a moment later at the back of Brightwood on the holo.

She looked over at him, her expression lingering on him a moment longer than it really should have before she nodded, “Major?”

“Theseus’ Chief Tactical is here too, you’re going to want him on the bridge.”

“Agreed. Chief, join Mr. Brightwood.”

“Aye, Captain,” Tahriik answered, a disembodied voice from somewhere off the holo feed.

Corvus looked back at Declan, lingering there a moment longer and then returned to her station. “Open the bay doors, Commander,” she ordered.

“Already on it, Captain,” Calliope affirmed. It was a hot pick up as they had to drop the shields and were still keeping watch for the Pyrryx vessel to raise its head over the clouds at any moment.

“Commander!” Declan called out, pointing off the starboard bow where one of the Pyrryx vessels was now, clearly giving chase to them.

“Shit!” Grayson exclaimed, “Quickly now, Pathfinder. Open that door!” He cried out, banking hard towards the larger craft. Brightwood maneuvered the runabout so that the aft section of the Pathfinder was now visible and began to loom larger and larger on the forward glass at a speed no one was comfortable with. As they passed between the nacelle’s the holo feed’s terminated and soon the shuttle bay was all the could see as they drew into the small space and he all but skidded the runabout off the deck. He powered it off quickly and shot up out of his chair, Tahriik a step behind.


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