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Change of Orders

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USS Bristol.
USS Huntsville.
USS Dallas (Cobra-class support ship.)

Currently on patrol assignment in coordination with both the USS Gainesville and the USS Washington.

Sector 23. Grid 11. Near Outpost 47.

Stardate 23139.4


Captain Chad Whitehead turned in his command chair on the bridge of his Cheyenne-class vessel and said: “We just lost contact with the USS Anchorage? Are you sure about it, Vela?”

The ship's Communications' Officer nodded. “I was just speaking with Captain Jerry Valenti when everything went silent.” The young Terani female officer said—her furry humanoid face bunched up in concentration—as she had her console replay the last message that the Oberth-class ship sent on a coded frequency.

Chad listened to the calm voice of Jerry himself—relaying some information they had found while exploring a previously thought region of abandoned mining facilities, depots, and storage areas.

Then the message ended abruptly by what sounded was like an old tire screeching—followed by a muffled explosion.

“Damn. Starfleet has no business sending in science assets into a contested area—even if they are relatively well armed.”

“What should we do, sir?” The Terani officer queried hesitantly.

Chad turned and looked to his First Officer: A fellow Louche Prep School classmate and graduate from Starfleet Academy; the Class of '24.

“What do you have for me to play with, Sarah? Better be something good. Or the Vice-Admiral is going to have some pretty choice words with all of us before this little affair is over.”

The Oregon native was all business—despite her commanding officer's attempt at humor and levity.

“Well, I haven't been able to find anything interesting on the ship's long range sensors. The area is clear for the moment.”

Chad chewed on a thumbnail thoughtfully. Then noticed her noticing him and stopped doing it.

“Sorry, Commander: Old habits.” He offered with a quick apology.

Lieutenant Kyle Harper raised his hands from Tactical and Weapons—in order to keep Sarah from scolding him once more.

“Sir? What about sending in the Granite Falls to go in and investigate?”

“Paul Carter's ship? That thing is just a glorified, reconned gunboat. Hardly suited for fire support by today's standards.”

“Even with its updated hardware? I find it hard to believe that an  Akyazi-class would be that quickly overwhelmed in a running gun battle.” Sarah said coolly. “Didn't they say that about the new Centaur-class two years ago—after its namesake came off the line?”

Rather than argue the point to his dedicated First Officer, Chad accepted her line of reasoning.

“Point taken, Sarah. All right. I'll have Paul take quick look. But if there's any sign of trouble...?”

The other woman nodded. “Understood, sir.” Then moved out of her chair to get to the upper control stations in the back. She leaned over and whispered something to Ensign Erica Brunswick along the way and then met up with Vela at her communications station.

The Terani looked up with her opal-shaped green eyes; fleck with particles of gold in question.

Sarah nodded. “Go ahead. Contact the Granite Falls. Inform Captain Carter that he's to proceed to the last known position of the Anchorage and to proceed with all due haste; maximum warp.”

The other woman nodded. “Yes, ma'am.” And went to work sending the message.

Sarah Hickman leaned over the railing and said: “Orders are being sent, Captain.”  

Chad nodded. “Very good.” He praised lightly—while stewing on what to do next. But Ensign Nathan Packard turned away from his helm console for a moment and asked the obvious question that was now preying on his commanding officer's mind.

“Do we continue on, sir? Even in light of these events?”

Sarah tried not to smile at the sudden exchange—which has an immediate effect on Chad's overall demeanor. But the ensign was one to state the obvious; being quarter Betazed himself.

“Stop it...” the man warned briskly. “I told you not to do that.”

“Do what, sir?”

“Read my mind.”

“I'm not even a full empath, Captain. I can only get a sense of the occasional impression. Not one person's thoughts. Not like my grandmother anyways. And that was torture enough as an up and coming seven-year-old—just looking to fit into human society.”

From the side of him, sat Lieutenant Emily Benson. The Bristol's only ace in the hole Navigation's Officer. She glanced at him in a teasing fashion, leaned over and whispered: “You can always read my mind, Nathan.”

The younger man blushed a bit, but couldn't deny how Emily felt about him since he transferred from the starship Potomac—after a long tour through the Pearl's Eye Nebula on a three year science mission—mapping out the region in question for placement of a Galileo-class scientific sensor array.  

“I told everyone...I can't do that.” He objected at that point. Then he dared to glance over at Emily—who wore something close to a hurt look on her face.

“Not even for you. I'm sorry. I wish I could. But that would mean—um...?”

“I know,” she said with a quiet and envious sigh. “You would breaking so many cultural vows with that one.”

“And my Nana Mattie would be cross as you could get out—if she found out her great-grandson were violating other people's thoughts and minds.” He said—before his captain intruded lightly on their conversation.

“—as much as I hate to say it, but Ensign Packard here does have a point. The Bristol and Huntsville are the only two ships in range of the Anchorage. And the Inar star system is only three light-years distant. We could get there in a matter of hours at best.”

“Yeah, but that would mean...abandoning our current patrol route and—?” Kyle thought to interject uneasily.

“—leaving this sector open to possible raider activity. And the Dallas wouldn't last long in a fight anyways.” Chad acknowledged. “It's a bit of a tough call we have here, boys and girls. But Starfleet wasn't always about the rule book back in the day. The frontier of space was always in a constant state of flux, and ship captains had to make on the fly decisions that could affect the whole entire region or even the Quadrant—in question.”

Sarah laughed softly in response. “While Chad may have said the truth, we are still living in an age of exploration and expansion. But we are also better equipped to making the right decisions—rather than the wrong ones.” She glanced down at him for a moment. “Right, Captain?”

The man sat stapled into his chair—clearly outmaneuvered on two fronts.

“Okay, okay. You have me there, Sarah. I wasn't going to bring up that little mishap with the Goreli warship we tangled with four months ago.”

“Not your fault—entirely,” the woman recalled; sliding past Kyle and returning to her seat. “They thought we were the aggressor party and attacked—after we entered their system with our shields down.”

“—which was a rookie mistake.” Kyle muttered under his breath.

Chad turned back and looked at his Tactical Officer with utter annoyance. “You say something, Lieutenant?”

The other man shook his head. “Nope. Nothing at all, sir.”

Sarah reached out to touch Chad's arm. “Simmer down, Marc. He was just commenting.”

The other man sighed. “It seems to be a problem of discipline on board ship lately. Maybe I've been too lax as their commanding officer.”

The other woman chuckled. “Let's not go through this again, Captain. You have a loyal crew. More so than most starship commanders in the Fleet. The occasional lapse in personal judgment isn't the sign of the end times here. It gives everyone a chance to voice what's on their most immediate minds.”

“So you're defending what Kyle said about me?”

The other woman paused. “I think he's just being himself, sir. He knows...hell everyone knows how good a captain you are in the heat of battle. You have the medals, commendations, and citations to show for it—especially during the Cardassian border wars; which you and your former captain took part in on the Valley Forge.”

“Now you're just buttering me up.”

Sarah Hickman smiled. “I wouldn't be a good First Officer if I didn't know both your overall command sense and service record inside and out.”

“Score one for the Scarlet Tiger.” Emily quipped suddenly—drawing a light round of laughter from the rest of the bridge crew in turn.

“Better believe it, Mister.” Sarah said with open pride in her voice. Then she glanced over at her captain. “We still can act, sir. But we need orders from the Vice-Admiral before we do that.”

Chad nodded. “That's what I was thinking—before I was so rudely interrupted by a certain someone over at his helm station.”

Nathan didn't budge from the incriminating comment.

“Guilty as charged, sir.” He volunteered freely.

The tension level dropped a bit in the interim—as Chad looked around one last time; before zeroing on the Terani Communications' Officer herself.

“Vela? Open a channel to the Gainesville. Tell them we have a situation here and we need orders.”

“Yes, sir.” The woman immediately pounced and made a few adjustments to her console. Then she nodded a minute later. “I have their Communications' relief watch officer. He says that the Vice-Admiral is presently off duty. It's still mid-morning watch for Gamma shift over there.”

“Who is presently in charge?” Chad wanted to know.

Vela checked. She laughed a little. “Ensign George Grays.”

“Oh, the poor man...” Sarah breathed in quiet sympathy. “He's about to have his rank pulled on this one—and there is nothing that he can do about it.”

The captain nodded slowly in return. “Well, we have to have command authority on this one. And I can't have a lowly ensign issue orders on the account that he has none.”

“Actually, sir? General Order Five; section 23: “In absence of a command staff while on watch, the current relief command officer has the full authority to conduct matters of state while on board ship—including direct communications on behalf of the vessel's captain.”

The man nodded cagily. “But not before a possible combat situation. Mr. Grays would have no legal authority on the matter—except to get a hold of his immediate superior and ask for guidance.”

Sarah grinned. “So now we're going by the rule book? That's not like you, Chad.”

“Parker's been a bad influence on me for awhile now. So sue me.” The man responded archly.

“I think that woman has been a bad influence on everyone in the Fleet. She has a lot of fans and admirers to boot.” The woman said pleasantly.

“Not just those in the Command branch.”

Chad smiled back. “Fine. Let's do this by the book. Vela? Ship to ship visual—if you please.”

“Coming right up, Captain.” The Terani answered back with swift succession.

The forward view screen in front of them changed over to the elegant bridge layout atypical of a New Orleans class ship.

It was nothing like what they had for a Cheyenne-class.

And for a brief moment, Captain Whitehead envisioned himself commanding one of those beauties.

“You're on, sir.” Vela prodded gently.

Chad cleared his throat a bit and searched out the ensign in question who was presently sitting in the center seat–along with two other relief watch officers.

“This is Captain Chad Whitehead of the USS Bristol. Patrolling Sector 23 of the Neutral Zone. Are you Ensign George Grays?”

The young man stood up from his chair and nodded. “Yes, sir. I'm Ensign Grays. Were you the one who requested a meeting with the  Vice-Admiral?”

“Yes.”

“I'm afraid she's currently indisposed at the moment. She's having a private subspace meeting with Captain T'ik of the USS Georgetown.”

“Can you get her for us? This is rather urgent.”

“The Vice-Admiral has given me full authority to act on her behalf, sir. You can freely say what you have on hand.”

The man looked at his First Officer for a second. Then glanced back at the view screen in question.

“Very well. I am requesting to immediately break from my current patrol duties along with the USS Huntsville—and go and investigate the apparent loss of the USS Anchorage in Sector 16. In the Inar star system. We believe a hostile party may be responsible for the ship's destruction and loss of all hands. As such, I'm ordering both vessels to battle stations as soon as my request is cleared. Acknowledge?”

Ensign Grays looked back at both his relief watch officers and nodded.

“Orders acknowledged. Change of mission is approved on this stardate. Please transmit whatever information you have on the current situation to Captain Erika Johann on the USS Washington. She will relay the data to the Vice-Admiral—once it has been analyzed and verified. Until then, keep an open channel to this fleet at all times. If the situation is too hot to handle—? Return to your original assignment as quick as possible. Do not engage further on the matter. Leave the area. Copy?”

“Change of orders acknowledged, Gainesville. USS Bristol out.”

Sarah Hickman leaned back in her chair. “I should be an ensign more often.” She giggled. “Oh the havoc I would wreck on the most unfortunate to ever cross my path...?”

“I can still arrange that, Commander.” Chad reminded her—before ordering Vela to open a channel to the Huntsville.

The Communications' Officer nodded a few seconds later.

“Captain Victoria Hanes on the line, sir. Do you want visual?”

“Negative. This will be short and quick.” The man said without any preamble—before speaking over the open circuit.

“This is Captain Whitehead speaking. As of this stardate, both ships are to rendezvous with the USS Granite Falls and assist Captain Carter in possible search and recovery operations. If loss of hands is confirmed, we are to locate the hostile party responsible within the star system itself and terminate with extreme prejudice. If not, we are to return to these coordinates with all due haste and report in. Copy?”

“Orders acknowledged, Bristol. Breaking off from Section 14 and will rendezvous with your vessel in three minutes, nineteen seconds. Anything else?”

“All hands to battle stations.” He said smartly. “This is no drill. As soon as you join us, we will proceed to Sector 16 at maximum warp. Shields up. Weapons hot.”

“Acknowledge receipt of orders, Captain. Huntsville out.”

The channel died then. Chad looked around for a moment.

“You heard the orders. All hands to battle stations.” He relayed to his bridge crew in question.

Everyone nodded and the alarms sounded throughout the ship as the crew manned their posts.

“Mr. Benson. Set a new course: 119 mark 16. Mr. Packard? Warp 9.3—as soon as the Huntsville falls into formation with us. Have us take the lead. We'll discuss strategy while en route.”

“Aye, aye sir.” Both of them acknowledged smartly. “What about Captain Holster aboard the USS Dallas?”

Chad reclaimed his seat soon after that.

“Tell Timothy to remain on station until we get back.” He said—just as Kyle reported the ship was ready for battle.

“Forward phaser banks charged and ready. All torpedo bays standing by.” He relayed from his position.

“As soon as we drop out of warp, go to Condition Alpha-3.”

“Alpha-3 confirmed.”

Sarah was a bit curious by that order.

“Alpha-3? That hasn't been used since General Order One was implemented after the start of hostilities during the old Romulan War with Earth's forces.” She said.

“I have no authority to declare an actual General Order One, but Command has allowed starship captains some leeway when using Condition Alpha-3 under certain conditions. This would be one of them.”

“What does it mean?”

“Local disaster involving allied ships and personnel in an undeclared combat zone.” Chad explained—as Nathan reported that the Huntsville had arrived on station exactly three minutes later.

“Any friendly assets in the area are ordered to respond under that mandate.”

“We're good to go, sir.” The helm officer reported. “All ships ready to jump.”

Chad leaned forward in his chair. “Punch it, Ensign: Maximum warp.”

***

Artwork by Jetfreak-7
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© 2021 skywriter33
Comments4
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sierra223's avatar

Very intriguing. Well written and engaging. Can't wait for me

skywriter33's avatar

Would you believe I wrote 90% of the story arc off line while high off my medications and pain?


It's amazing what you can do when your mind is fried from both and your muse is like: "Come on, baby! Let's rock!" lmao


So here you go. ^_^

skywriter33's avatar

"The Lone Survivor" is up if you want to read that as well. I should be getting another this morning from Jetfreak.