USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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The Hunt Is On

Posted on Tue Sep 20th, 2016 @ 3:40pm by Rear Admiral David Hutchinson Sr & Lieutenant Elsa Johansson & Lieutenant Commander Rafael Muñiz & Commander Carl Redmond & Lieutenant Ian Tilston

Mission: S1E1 - Booby Trap
Location: The Nebula
Timeline: Mission Day 7; 08:30-09:30

The atmosphere aboard the USS Renown was intense. They had been hiding from their enemy for what felt like forever and there was not even a whisper from their away team on Rakhar. Captain Hutchinson had decided to break their cover and retrieve them - he felt it was too risky to leave them alone for any longer.

"Mr Tilston do we have anything on sensors?" David asked.

Ian had yet to detect anything so far. He was scanning on all frequencies and the Renown's recently upgraded sensors were still not detecting anything.

"Nothing yet sir" Ian reported.

The Renown had been taking a zig zag course to throw off any potential ambush - but even the experienced Captain Hutchinson knew that they weren't the hunter - they were the hunted. The veteran Excelsior-class starship would be a key addition for The Consortium if they were to capture it. Hutchinson had decided if they were outmatched he would destroy the ship rather than let it fall to the enemy.

"Keep scanning. Make sure all torpedo bays are loaded and ready to fire the moment anything comes into range" David ordered.

Lieutenant Commander Redmond on the Operations post suddenly picked something up - it was faint - but it was enough to catch his attention and potentially give them an advantage.

"I think I have something sir. About half a million kilometres away. Whatever it is it's big and it's moving - it won't be long before they pick us up whoever it is" Carl reported.

David had heard enough. It was time to get ready for action.

"Prepare to bring us about on my command. We're going to go after them before they come and find us" David ordered.

=/\="Mr Muniz we're going to need all the speed you can give us"=/\= David said.

Rafael and his engineering team were working hard to keep the Renown moving - any more speed could be problematic but if the Captain wanted more speed they were going to give it to him.

=/\="Aye Captain"=/\= Rafael responded.

David waited patiently for the Renown's moment - or would they be detected and ambushed before they had time to deliver the first strike?




"They're coming at us, Commander," the helmsman told the Russian Marine in the center chair. "And they're coming hard."

A cruel smile formed on Dmitri's face that caused more than one of the Cukela's bridge personnel to focus more intently on their duties. Dmitri didn't appear to notice. He had been hunting for the Renown for days, and now that he had found her, it looked to be ready to land in his lap. He just had to take precautions. From what the Consortium files said about Hutchinson, he had the sort of "Death before Dishonor" outlook that could be troublesome, particularly since the Consortium wanted to add the Renown to its growing fleet.

"Reverse course, and let them starting making up some distance," Dmitri order. "Just not too much distance. They won't appreciate it if they don't have to work for it. Deploy proximity fused torpedoes, and make sure they're silent as soon as they're laid. Tell our two cohorts to start converging but mind their sensor presence. I don't want the Renown to know until it's too late." Dmitri opened up a comm link to his Marines. " Polamalu!"

"We're ready to go when you give the word," the voice on the other end said.

"As soon as they're in position, we're going to drop their shields as soon as we can. Get that bridge secured," Dmitri order.

"Aye Aye, Commander!"




The Renown was making up ground on the Prometheus-class starship. The engines were working hard and Commander Muniz and his team were struggling to keep the impulse engines from overheating. Captain Hutchinson needed that speed - but if he carried on there'd be no engines left and they'd be a sitting duck that could move on thrusters or warp drive only.

"They've seen us Captain. It's a Prometheus-class" Redmond reported.

Hutchinson nodded. "Transfer all command functions to the battle bridge - we're moving down there. Once we're there Mr Redmond deactivate life support functions on this deck. If they're going to beam aboard the ship it'll be the bridge - but they'll have to lower their shields to do so. Let's go people"

Ten minutes later the Renown's battle bridge - fitted as part of its refit for Dominion War service - was a hive of activity as they hunted down the Prometheus-class starship. David knew they weren't exactly an even match but if he played his cards right they could escape in one piece and find somewhere else to hide.

"Shut down all command and life support functions on Deck 1. Make sure it looks like that's not the case however - if they spot that they won't fall for it" David ordered.

Carl nodded. A few moments later the plan was in place.

"All done Captain" Carl reported.

Ian was optimistic about beating the Cukela. It was a Prometheus-class but the Renown had been fitted with ablative armour and quantum torpedoes. He was confident they could put up a good fight.




"They're coming up on our ad hoc minefield now, Commander," the Cukela's helmsman advised his captain. "Their course indicates they are unaware of what they're approaching."

"Give them something to distract them," Dimitri advised. "Have our other two elements start closing in and making long distance shots."

The other two components of the Prometheus appeared on the central display, showing the Renown was effectively surrounded.




With the Renown surrounded David decided it was time to implement his plan of attack. He knew in normal circumstances the Renown wasn't going to overcome the Cukela - but in these circumstances where every single advantage of the Prometheus-class was negated he felt somewhat confident.

"All stop. Target the secondary and tertiary sections of the enemy vessel and wait for my command. If we can disable their warp drive we can make a run for it" David ordered.

Tilston nodded. "All stop - all forward and rear torpedo bays are loaded. We can also...with risk...fire the phasers - all are ready to go at your command Captain"

"Are the Marines and Security teams deployed?" David asked.

Ian again nodded. "Yes Captain"

Hoping there weren't any other friends of the Cukela in the area David decided to make sure before they decided to tackle the Prometheus-class in multi vector assault mode before they were able to render the Renown defenceless.

"Mr Redmond - are there any other vessels in the area?" David asked.

Carl knew the sensors weren't very effective so he knew nothing outside the limited range they had would not show up - although he was fully aware they could be a fleet waiting for them just outside the nebula.

"Negative sir" Carl replied.

David nodded. "That's good to know...although there could be some of their friends waiting for us outside the nebula. Let's wait and see who's brave enough to make the first move...keep your finger on that button Lieutenant Tilston. If they fire - you fire"

"Aye Captain" Ian said.

-----

"She's come to a complete stop, Commander," the Cukela's helmsman informed his Captain.

"Of course they have," Dmitri smiled, looking down at his PADD. He was looking at the file the Consortium had provided on the Renown, including all her updates. Such information was one of the benefits of being a starship captain in the fleet of the true power in the Quadrant.

"Have the other two elements swing this way and this way," Dmitri said, indicating routes that would take the other two elements out of sensor range of the Renown to rejoin with the Prometheus. "Reduce speed, but keep that minefield between us and the Renown as we drift away. If she wants to give chase, she'll get a quick surprise. Contact Fleet Command with the location of the Renown and send tight beam communications at the Renown to activate her assets on board her. I want to see some explosions."

"Aye aye, sir," the bridge crew responded as they began responded.




David grew tired of waiting. He wanted to put this to bed and get out of there before they could call any reinforcements in. However - just before he gave the indication to fire Redmond interrupted and warned his Captain that firing would be foolish.

"There's a minefield between us and that ship Captain. It isn't massive but it's enough to destroy us if we went too close. I would suggest moving off and detonating one of the mines as we're putting some distance between us and it" Carl said.

David knew this was his one chance to disable the Cukela - and if it meant disabling his own ship and preparing to scuttle it then so be it. He wasn't going down without taking his enemy out first.

"Transfer all shields forward and give them all the power you can spare. We're detonating that minefield" David replied.

=/\="Mr Muniz. I'm going to need full reverse from the impulse engines on my command"=/\= David ordered.

Rafael wasn't happy at the prospect of working the Renown's engines even harder than they had been already - but it had to be done - especially as the Captain had requested it. Rafael knew that in this situation David knew what he was doing.

=/\="Good to go on your command Captain. Make it count - Muniz out"=/\= Rafael replied.

Ian knew this could be a masterstroke or it could be a disaster - or they could fall in the middle.

"Shields ready. Forward bays ready to fire" Ian replied.

=/\="All hands this is the Captain. Brace yourself - I repeat - brace yourselves"=/\= David said.

David stood up and looked out of the view screen at the nebula. He waited for a few moments before deciding to give the order to fire.

"Fire" David ordered.

Ian fired two torpedoes into the minefield which detonated as planned - although seconds later the Renown - which had moved on full reverse exactly on cue - was hit by the massive shockwave which had been amplified by some of the unstable gases in the nebula. Alarms sounded all over the Excelsior-class starship as it was thrown from its original position.

"Shields and the warp drive are offline...we've got power relays blowing out all over the ship!" Carl roared over the commotion.

David hoped that his enemy had received the same amount of damage as his ship had. Although his weapons were still operational he knew if the Cukela had any degree of shielding left he was faced with scuttling the ship he had grown to love and planned to command until the end of its - and his- career.

------

"The Renown is firing on our 'minefield', Commander," the helmsman told Dimitri.

"She's what?" Dmitri said, standing up from his chair. He had gambled that between the nebula itself and the passive manner that he laid the torpedoes, it might have caught the Renown unaware.

"Dollsno biyet preeyatno Bogom," Dmitri muttered underneath his breath.

Before someone could inquire what he had said, the torpedo shot from the Renown exploded the dormant torpedoes lying between the Renown and the Cukela. The Cukela had already been retreating and had reinforced her forward shields. Still, the blast wave rocked the ship, momentarily playing havoc with the inertial dampeners.

"Report," Dmitiri demanded as warning sounds and lights went off over the bridge.

"Shields holding, propulsion is online, weapons are good," his helmsman replied.

"Move in and prepare for..." Dmitri began to order when the engineering officer on the bridge cut him off.

"Transporters are offline, sir," Dmitri was informed. "Sensors were overloaded by that shock wave, but are autocalibrating. Docking and shuttlebay are reporting fires. Under control, but..."

"Bilyad!" Dmitri studied the sight of the Renown in front of him. "What about her?" he said, pointing at the Federation ship.

"Shields down, explosions over the ship," the helmsman advised, then turned back to Dimitri. "She's dead in the water, sir."

"And our other two elements?" Dmitri asked.

"Minimal damage, awaiting orders."

Well, it wasn't the quick kill he wanted. Most of his best marines were with him, but the other two parts of the Cukela had a fair share of "Irregulars" commanded by hard charging noncomms.

"Tell our other two elements to close in and commence boarding. Bypass the main bridge. They'll have rerouted everything to their battle bridge by this time. And get the okhuyel sensors and transporters back online," Dimitri shouted.




David had managed to get a report - their weapons were still active but now they had no method of propulsion. He decided to go for the next shot - the full blast on the phasers followed by a spread of torpedoes.

"Can we still fire the phasers?" David asked.

Carl nodded. "Yes. But it could take out more systems with it - it's a risky move sir. If we lose anything else we'll be fighting hand to hand on the ship"

"Fire the phasers at the enemy ship. Once their shields are down fire a spread torpedoes at them. If we can damage the primary section we can attempt to get out of here on the warp drive...if it doesn't tear the ship apart in the process" David ordered.

Carl nodded again and carried out his order. Moments later the phasers were set to maximum power and fired at the Prometheus-class starship and hit the shields exactly where it was targeted. However it had also taken out more power relays - whilst tactical systems were still unaffected it was causing problems for everything else on the ship.

"Torpedoes Mr Tilston" David said.

Ian carried out his ordered and fired a spread of torpedoes to detonate before impact but close enough to do some damage to their enemy. The two other sections of the ship were still around but David was more concerned with disabling the primary hull.

-----

Dimitri smile was both humorless and predatory.

He knew the mistake that the Captain of the Renown had made, initially thinking the Cukela had given up its advantage by splitting up, and only belatedly realizing that separating into three sections actually increased the Cukela's effectiveness. That mistake was going to deliver the Renown straight into Dimitri's lap. Or rather, into the Constorium's lap.

The Renown was concentrating what little armament it still had control of at the "primary" section of the Cukela, and on any other ship in the Federation Fleet, that would be the tactic to pursue. But a Prometheus class ship was different. Every other ship in the Fleet separated to protect the non-combative section of the ship from impending battle. The Prometheus separated for tactical advantage. It had been specifically designed for each section to have its own drive and warp capability. On its impromptu shakedown cruise, the Prometheus had outperformed the task force sent to rescue it and, utilizing its ability to separate, had handily defeated three Romulan warbirds.

The Renown was ignoring two warp capable warships closing in on it, two ships that had the same advanced weaponry, armor and shielding that the Renown had been upgraded with. With the Renown's shields down and her drive out, the two parts of the Cukela converging on the Renown would ravish her systems before launching boarding parties to capture her. And with a bare minimum of luck, the main section of the Cukela would be able to join in for the kill. With the most advanced shielding and armor in either its home quadrant or Consortium territory, the Cukela had won this battle even before it started.

Perhaps he didn't have the genius of the chudnoy, Dimitri reflected, but he had done well for himself. Perhaps he was even smarter thn the chudnoy, since he was getting results, and not scholarly accolades.

Countermeasures, maneuvering and a technology that had been incorporated into its design, rather than added on, let the "main hull" of the Cukula endure the portion of the Renown's torpedo spread that had gotten through.

"Report, helm," Dmitri ordered, as soon as the ship settled down.

"Shields holding, damage control reporting everything under control," the helm answered.

"Swing around, plot the apex of the vector of the other two sections," Dmitri order. "And tell me that our transporters are back online!"

The helmsman turned around to report, and his eyes widened. Dmitri immediately rolled out of the command chair, his hand instinctively reaching for a knife in his uniform, throwing it at a target as soon as he spotted it. The end result was Dimitri looking at a crewman with a phaser in his hand, a knife sticking out from his chest, and a stunned look on his face. The crewman held that position for a second, before collapsing on the deck.

Dmitri scrambled to the chair, hitting the comm. "Security, report. We may have a potential mutiny occurring."

"Under control, Commander," the voice at the other end of the link reported. "There was an attempt to take engineering, but it was thwarted. We are making sure key points on the ship are secure."

Dmitri was about to respond when the helm called out. "Commander, the...the other sections."

Dmitiri looked at the screen and the tactical display in stunned silence. Finally he muttered, " Frigidnoy sukoi."

-----

Her name was Elsa Johansson, but she was commonly referred to as the Ice Queen, particularly behind her back. Part of this, of course, was her name and appearance. Elsa was, in a word, stunning, with her clear, unblemished skin, her pale blonde hair, her ice blue eyes and her statuesque build that would have made her a shoo-in for a regional "bikini team" that had become defunct three centuries ago. Part of this was her standoffish personality. Elsa did not merely brush off personal advances. She refused to acknowledge them, and was offensively dismissive to anyone foolish enough to push their interest.

And part of the moniker "Ice Queen" reflected Elsa's calm demeanor in any condition.

Before Dimitri had taken over the Cukela, Elsa had been a young officer fresh out of the Academy, who had transferred from Flight Control to Engineering. She was slated for an early promotion to Lieutenant JG due to her calm demeanor and actions in an engineering emergency, when Dmitri had taken over the Prometheus. Elsa had been one of the many officers and crewman who had been off duty and asleep, who were subsequently rounded up, imprisoned, and given a choice to join up or face the consequences. That was when Elsa formulated her plan for a "counter-mutiny." In the following days, Elsa managed to avoid the purges and Consortium "psychological engineering" and quickly made her way up the new ranks of the Cukela. At the time of the battle with the Renown, young Elsa held the rank of Lieutenant Commander, with the position of Chief Engineer and Second Officer of the ship.

During her meteoric advancment, Elsa also quietly assembled a cadre of individuals who were still loyal to the Federation or, at the very least, had become disenchanted with the Consortium.

When the main hull of the Cukela had started the engagement with the Renown, Elsa was in command of one of the split off sections. Seeing her opportunity, she used the cadre of Marine noncomms and security personnel on the section still loyal to Starfleet to secure control. She maneuvered her section to fall incrementally behind the other section. Without warning, Elsa unleashed hell on the aft section of the other section, knocking out its shields and drives. Before the dust settled, boarding parties had transported over, and Elsa found herself in command of two thirds of the Cukela, even if one third was adrift and powerless in space.

-----

Dimitri watched silently as his plan fell apart. All because of one person.

His helmsman had to ask him twice for orders.

"We're leaving the area," Dmitri finally decided.

"Sir?" The helmsman asked, before realizing the consequences of question the commanders orders.

Dimitri hated retreating. Even with the turn of events, Dmitri felt sure he could recapture the rogue parts of his own ship, as well as the Renown. After all, the main hull of the Cukela had all the Consortium surprises.

But the Vindex was out there, also looking for the Renown. And Dimitri knew that he wasn't in shape to fight a healthy Vindex.

"We fight another day," Dimitri replied, before giving the orders that would leave the field of battle to the Renown, heading in the opposite direction from where he knew the Vindex was.

------

Elsa's face remained stoic, but her heart ached as she watched the main part of the Cukela exit the area. It had been a long shot, but she had hoped that her plan to get all the Cukela would have worked. The Cukela's warp exit meant that people who had trusted her had died. It had been their choice, but it didn't mean it hurt any less.

She instructed that the Renown be raised. As soon as she was acknowledged, she took off her rank tabs and identified herself. "Ensign Elsa Johansson. I'd...we'd..." Elsa looked around her bridge than back at the screen. "We'd like to come home, sir."




Carl opened the transmission and David listened. He could see that both sections of the Cukela that were now under her control were not on an attack run to the defenceless Renown. David's plan may have worked before - but he hadn't taken into account the Cukela may have received modifications to its standard specification.

"Give me one good reason why I should believe you" David replied.

He wasn't going to believe her so easily - even if her portion of the Cukela had attacked another and saved the Renown from being destroyed. They'd still sided with the Consortium and for that David knew they needed to face the consequences.

Elsa paused, the countenance on her face solemn and unyielding. "Because, sir, I have a warp capable ship with fully functional shields, and you do not. Because a single quantum torpedo launched from my ship would have already reduced you, your crew and your ship to their component atoms. Because the standard Federation technology that my ship possesses, including its automodulating shields, render whatever last gasps your ship can throw at us moot, just as they were moot against the main section of the Cukela. And because the people running and controlling this ship have endured untold trials and tribulations to get back to this point. Some have given their lives. If you don't want us back, sir, say so, and we'll be on our way." Blue flames seemed to be shooting from her eyes as she added, "But by Himmel, sir, I will not stand here and let you question the honor of men and women who endured life under the Consortium for the opportunity to get the Cukela out from under the Consortium sway, even when it cost them their lives."

Elsa closed her eyes and drew a deep breath before continuing. "My apologies, sir. I've --- we've been through a lot just to get this much of the Cukela back to Starfleet. I suppose we --- I was expecting a different reaction." Elsa's face became grim as she continued. "The current encounter rushed our hand, sir. If we had had another two weeks, I think we could have given you the Cukela back in one piece."

"I can take you back on one condition. You tell me all you know about these bastards - and then we can talk" David said.

Elsa raised an eyebrow at the captain of the Renown's rejoined, but merely replied, "It will be our pleasure, sir." Once again, Elsa's thought drifted to the main section of the Cukela that had spirited away. Two more weeks, and she would have been able to give Starfleet every secret that bastard Dimitri had been hiding, even from his command staff. But that timetable had been sacrificed to save the Renown, and Elsa did not regret that decision in the least

The sensors beeped on the Renown - they had detected a much larger starship in the form of the USS Vindex. It was armed to the teeth and could outgun both ships - but which side was it on?

"We have an incoming sir. Sovereign-class" Carl reported.

David nodded. "Identification?"

"It appears to be the USS Vindex. Last reported to be with Starfleet" Carl responded.

David turned to the operations officer and decided to bring his colleagues home. He wasn't taking any risks however - they would be beamed into a confined area until they could be vouched for and trusted. He turned to face the screen again.

"Get everyone into one space. You will be beamed aboard this vessel and we can talk properly" David ordered.

"You might also want to take control of the Consortium loyalists we took prisoner while saving your ship, sir" Elsa replied dryly, as one of her bridge officers advised her of the arrival of the Vindex. "Both on this section and the one we damaged and captured before it could attack you. At the very least, it will prevent any surprises. I'll order my people to segregate the two groups, and await beam off, as well as your boarding parties to take control of these two sections.

After having the screen muted briefly he instructed Carl to beam them into an empty cargo bay with full forcefield protection. The screen was then unmuted again.

"Standby" Carl said as he looked at the screen.

Elsa received acknowledgment from her cohorts that the Consortium loyalists she had taken prisoner were separated, secured, and ready to be beamed aboard the Renown. And so were those people who had followed her, and had save the Renown in the process.

"Ready to be beam aboard, sir," she acknowledged.




David nodded. "We'll beam the enemies over first then take control of those two sections. At the very least we can render them useless for the foreseeable future. See to it Mr Tilston - take the Marines with you too. Prepare to restore life support to Deck 1 - we'll head back up there once we leave the nebula"

Tilston left the battle bridge to carry out his orders. Half an hour later the Vindex had still not made contact but was very close to their position - David had taken Elsa to one side and decided to question her. The two sections of the Cukela had been sabotaged sufficiently to render them inoperative for a good while - plenty of time for the Renown to escape.

"So...why now? Why decide to come home now?" David asked.

"It wasn't our plan, sir," Elsa admitted. "The plan was to try to retake the Cakula two weeks from now. When Commander Bogolyubov began searching for your ship, we tried to impede his efforts. Unfortunately, the Commander is anything but an idiot, and neither were the people loyally serving him, so there were limits to what we could do. Then we were faced with the present situation. As I said, the Commander is not an idiot, and he knew how to best use the Cakula for the multi-vector assault mode it was designed for. We..." Elsa paused, then visibly braced her shoulders to take responsibility for a decision she alone had made "...I was faced with a situation where the Renown would be destroyed or, even worse, captured and added to the Consortium fleet. In the latter case, the individuals I had worked to put in key positions for my upcoming attempt would have either been moved to the Renown or to different posts from where I needed them. So I moved to act now. Worst case scenario, the Renown is saved and the Cakula is crippled and is no longer an effective asset for the Consortium. Which is what happened."

Elsa paused before adding, "And I can give you the names of the intelligence assets Commander Bogolyubov was controlling. Which..." she said with an air of resignation "...isn't as extensive of a list as I wish I could give you."

David listened. It seemed pretty convincing but he was hoping to hear a bit more. Still - the list of operatives would come in somewhat useful. He analysed what was said and seemed to think that Elsa's actions alone spoke for themselves - they'd turned against their Commanding Officer and attacked the other parts of their ship. He knew the Renown was going to be destroyed because of his error of judgement - and he was grateful it wasn't.

"Your actions have saved a lot of lives on both sides. For that I thank you - any information whatsoever you can give me would be much appreciated. Plus...if there's any engineers amongst you we could do with putting this ship back together again. I'll consult with my XO and Senior Staff and we'll come to some sort of arrangement. For now however all I can do is ask for your patience and hope that we can start repairing the relationship between yourselves and Starfleet" David said.

"Some of my people were like me, sir," Elsa began. "Captured before we knew what was going on, and trying to get back to Starfleet when we could. And make no mistake, sir, Starfleet might have abandoned them, but they never abandoned Starfleet. Some...well, some chose the wrong side, realized they made a mistake and jumped at the chance to make amends. I'm just a junior officer, sir, but I think those people should be given special consideration, because neither you nor I would be talking this over if it weren't for them."

"As for me," Elsa said, the hint of a smile tugging at the right corner of her mouth, "If you want to throw me in the stockade, as long as I get a decent bed and three meals a day, I won't complain. It'll give me a chance to catch up on my sleep."

David's neutral expression turned a smile. She could see Elsa had a point and that what she was saying was genuine. He nodded and agreed it would be fair to give them the consideration they deserved - he would bring that up with the senior staff as he planned to call them for a briefing.

Just as he was about to speak he was interrupted.

=/\="Sir - the Vindex is approaching. Commander Ainscow wishes to speak with you urgently"=/\= Carl said over the comm.

David nodded. =/\="Very well Commander. I'll be there shortly"=/\=

"Agreed Lieutenant. I shall let you get some sleep and we'll talk this over later - I'll deal with the Vindex and we'll go from there. Thank you Ensign. You're one of the good ones" David said.

 

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