SIM:The Fall of Astrofori One
For more information about the battle, see Battle of Astrofori One.
- Stardate 239510.18: "Federation Council announces sanctions against Romulan Star Empire for failed Duronis invasion"
- Stardate 239510.24: "Romulan Star Empire withdraws support from Astrofori One in response to Federation sanctions"
The events in this SIM occurred on stardate 239511.03.
((Astrofori One, Menthar Corridor))
It was an otherwise normal day on Astrofori One for the command deck. Minor docking disputes were at a minimum, no diplomatic incidents of note, and all of Starfleet contingent seemed to be in perfect condition - minus the flu outbreak medical staff were currently dealing with.
In the office of Cassandra Egan Manno, mission commander for Starfleet’s presence on Astrofori One, things were much as they usually were--which was to say, somewhere between “busy” and “crazy.” This morning, “busy” seemed to be the order of the day, which was just fine with Cassie. The past few days had seen a contingent of screeching Peppalexan monks visit the station, a trade conference that ate up most of the Comm Quad, and the Klingon holiday of Qo'bo'val--which, while interesting, had taken over six different entertainment establishments with the ritual reenactment of Kahless’s fight against Molor.
So, all things considered, a regular “busy” was just fine with Cassie.
Her aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Commander Gnisky, sauntered in a few minutes after Cassie arrived on duty, which was always a good sign. Gnisky wasn’t in any hurry, and that boded well for the rest of Cassie’s day. ::
Egan Manno: Today’s the day we’re welcoming the Cardassian poet?
Gnisky: And attending her reading tonight, Captain. Plus, there’s the committee.
Cassie did her best not to groan. The committee, which was overseeing the gathering of several dozen delegates to discuss the impact of Federation terraforming practices on type-O worlds, was the one thing she continued for forget about. It wasn’t that she wasn’t interested, just that others took care of all the details, and what she couldn’t do herself, she forgot at once. ::
Egan Manno: Is there a meeting today?
Gnisky: Tomorrow. But the organizing committee would like you sign off on forty-three of the proposals before then.
Egan Manno: Tag them for me, alright? I’ll take a look this afternoon.
Gnisky gave a nod and a knowing smile and bowed herself back out of Cassie’s office, while Cassie turned to her massive pile of unanswered comms and notes. Time, once again, to bail that sinking ship.
((Bridge, USS Minerva, on patrol along Astrofori One defense perimeter))
Captain Kaneshiro Tatsuya of the Minerva sat watch in his chair, not that there was much to watch with the screen showing only endless black space. The mood on the bridge of the Veritas class ship was quiet with only the beeps and hums of their consoles punctuating the silence as the crew diligently attended to their stations, that is, until the captain spoke up.
Kaneshiro: Next time we’re required to stop at the Anchorage, remind me to schedule them another health and safety check.
Lt. Commander Chaulok, the Minerva’s Vulcan first officer, looked over from her station behind the captain’s chair with a raised eyebrow. Although she had served with Kaneshiro for the last three years, she still found the human eccentricities such as “small talk” difficult to decipher at times.
Chaulok: I will program the computer’s calendar to trigger a reminder when the conditions are met, Captain.
Kaneshiro: Honestly, I’ve no idea how they get away with it. You *had* to have been even a little uncomfortable.
Chaulok leaned back, staring at the viewscreen with a perplexed expression as she cleared her throat.
Chaulok: I did not find the station’s particular environmental conditions that extraordinary in its divergence from order and cleanliness as seen with most non-Vulcanoids, sir.
The captain gave her an incredulous look.
Kaneshiro: Are you calling this ship ‘dirty’, Commander?
A few heads turned on the bridge to witness the exchange, another classic moment between Shiro and his XO.
Lieutenant JG Michael Goodwell glanced up momentarily, but unlike some of the others, he scarcely reacted to the comment. He was too focused on the readouts in front of him. Some might even say he was flying partly on autopilot given that the last couple of days had been monotonous and fairly routine. His focus was on performing his duties and he wasn’t feeling particularly social.
Goodwell: ::shakes his head and offers sarcastically:: I hope not, sir. I heard the maintenance staff have been working overtime to keep this ship spotless.
The Vulcan remained unfazed, however.
Chaulok: Not at all, captain. As the ship’s executive officer, it is after all my duty to ensure the Minerva exhibits the high standards you and I have set for the crew. Thus, I can confidently say this ship is exceptional in every sense of the word.
Shiro had to force his mouth closed, still a little shocked and humoured by his XO.
Kaneshiro: I’ll note that in my log.
A few chuckles were murmured but before Chaulok could continue the banter, a sensor alert began sounding from the operations console.
Ops: Captain, I’m picking up three. . .
The officer stammered suddenly, verifying she was reading her console correctly.
Ops: …*hundred* vessels on an intercept course.
The number was quite unexpected, but while the others on the bridge may have suddenly been shaken, Chaulok calmy verified the readings on her own console.
Chaulok: Confirmed captain. It appears to be a fleet of 322 small-sized vessels to be exact. Based on their trajectory, I believe they are actually headed towards Astrofori One.
Chaulok: The signatures read as Tholian.
The captain’s breath hitched in his throat as he considered his next action. They weren’t the only ship out here, but *three hundred Tholians ships*? There was simply no way *two* of them could take that on.
A Tholian fleet in the Menthar Corridor . . . but why? What purpose could it possibly have-
Kaneshiro: Red alert. Contact the Stalwart, and tell them to prepare for an attack by the Tholian fleet. Helm, set a course to rendezvous with them at maximum warp.
Chaulok: Aye, sir.
As their helm officer acknowledged the order, the Vulcan quickly called up the Minerva’s Defiant class counterpart which was patrolling nearby. Most of Task Force 105 had been diverted to deal with a sudden crisis on the Community’s home world in the Zeta Equulei system. The collective consciousness species had begun overtures towards membership with the Federation, and Starfleet in turn was eager to show its willingness to render aid.
Goodwell: ::brow furrows:: Sir, the Tholian fleet is hailing us.
The captain stood from his chair, breathing a little heavy.
The image of hundreds of small triangular vessels racing towards them was replaced by the bright orange face of the crystalline species.
Tholian Admiral: =/\= Federation vessel, this will be your only advisement. Your presence in this sector is a violation of Tholian sovereignty. Furthermore, the Assembly will no longer tolerate the threat to our security from the illegal outpost that you have installed. You have precisely one hour to evacuate from the outpost before its neutralization. =/\=
The comlink was closed before Kaneshiro could even get a word in. He huffed.
Kaneshiro: Sounds like they’re not in a mood to negotiate.
Michael shuddered as he recalled his last encounter with the Tholians about the Victory. They’d faced down a couple of ships that were intent on a craft they discovered floating dead in space, and they’d soon found themselves snared in Tholian webs. These guys didn’t fool around, and they never meant anything less than business. With all of the casualties during that particular encounter, he was prepared for that possibility with this one.
Goodwell: These guys don’t play around, Captain. Last time I met a group of them, they nearly destroyed the Victory with those Tholian webs.
Shiro took a seat back in his command chair.
Kaneshiro: Hail Astrofori One.
((Corridor Near Turbolift Station, Astrofori One))
Andrew Davenport, now a fully fledged FNS reporter, hadn’t set foot on Astrofori 1 for almost three years, though he had once lived here. Back then, he’d been chasing a conspiracy involving a member of the Federation Council.That rabbit hole ultimately led to being kidnapped, interrogated, and eventually marooned on an isolated Class-M world by the Maquis Reborn. He’d managed to escape, but only by sheer luck.
As the situation on A1 grew more complex and the FNS wanted more reporters on the station, Andrew’s editor (and new boss) had left the final decision to return to the station up to him. The reporter didn’t entirely know why he’d agreed, but his professional instincts told him it had been the right thing to do. Now, just three days after stepping off the slipstream transport into the familiar bustle of the station, Andrew was already regretting his decision. There was something very wrong on Astrofori 1, and everyone seemed to know it - if not the specific details.
Davenport: Commander! Commander Bakari!
Andrew recognized Msafiri Bakari from their briefly shared time together on the USS Garuda almost four years earlier. Much as he had been then, Bakari was Egan Manno’s right hand in managing the station, and Starfleet’s presence in the Menthar Corridor. If anyone but Egan Manno was likely to know what was going on, he was it.
Bakari: I’m sorry, Mr. Davenport, but there’s an urgent matter I need to attend to.
The 35-year-old adjutant to the Region & Starfleet Mission Commander for the Menthar Corridor & Astrofori One was walking with Lieutenant Lidia Ivanova, the station’s security chief, who looked annoyed at Davenport’s interruption.
Davenport: I can walk with you. I just need a few minutes.
Bakari: Talk quickly.
Andrew took the not-quite-a-rejection as consent to continue. ::
Davenport: Is there any truth to the rumors that the Kubarey are also withdrawing from the station?
Bakari: Not unless you know something I don’t...
Davenport: Most of the Kubarey population has already left the station station. After the Breen withdrawal, people are talking.
Bakari: I’m sure they are. All I can tell you is that we are current reassessing our operational plans with our Kubarey partners.
Davenport: Will there be an official statement from the Fleet Captain?
Bakari: When she crafts one, I’ll be sure you’re one of the first to get it.
Bakari was close to the restricted turbolift that would take him to the command deck. There was maybe time for one more question.
Davenport: If the Kubarey do withdraw, does Starfleet have the resources to maintain Astrofori 1 on its own?
Msafiri grimaced instinctually at the question. He couldn’t hide what he was feeling. The truth was no, they wouldn’t. It was already going to be difficult with both the Romulans and Breen gone, but if Starfleet were left alone, in all likelihood, the project would be abandoned.
Bakari: No comment. Will that be all, Mr. Davenport?
Before Andrew could respond, a sudden repeating alert began ringing throughout the station. The entire corridor, previously buzzing with low levels of conversation, came to a stop. Many looked puzzled - an emotion Andrew shared. He didn’t recognize the specific alert, but Astrofori One had always done things a bit differently compared to other Starbases he’d been on.
Davenport: What is that?
Msafiri looked up and around the station. He recognized the alert the last time he’d heard it on Deep Space 17. Before the Vaadwaur attacked.
Bakari: Nothing good. ::He looked over at Ivanova.:: Lieutenant, I think you’d better head down to the Comm Quad. There’s going to be a lot of scared folks down there.
Ivanova: Aye, sir. I’ll get my people ready.
As she went off to get her security teams ready for crowd control, Msafiri’s combadge chirped.
Egan Manno: =/\= Commander Bakari, Egan Manno. I’ve just received word that the Minerva has engaged the Tholian taskforce. You’re needed at the command post immediately.
Bakari: =/\= Understood, captain. I’m already on my way! =/\=
Bakari regarded Andrew, who kept a neutral expression - he hadn’t been meant to hear that message, but the ‘damage’ had been done. They exchanged a brief look - Bakari, perhaps considering whether he could do something to stop Davenport from reporting on these developments, and ultimately deciding it wasn’t worth the time. Bakari moved quickly to the priority turbolift that was waiting for him while Davenport sprinted to the nearest public terminal that could provide access the station’s subspace communication system.
The report he prepared for FNS was one of the shortest he’d ever written, but it contained the most important pieces of the story. “BREAKING: USS Minerva Leads Federation Forces Against Hostile Tholian Fleet on Approach to Astrofori 1,” the headline read in bold letters. The rest of the article provided the few details he had, and a notation asking his editor to add the relevant background on the already reported recent developments for the station.
His finger hovered over the submit button on his interface when another alert began to sound through the station. A chill ran down Andrew’s spine as he saw the reaction of the few Federation citizens nearby.
Egan Manno: =/\= Attention, all Astrofori One residents and personnel. This is Fleet Captain Egan Manno of the Starfleet mission. For your own safety, and on behalf of all governments and states represented on Astrofori One, I am ordering an immediate evacuation. This is not a drill. Proceed to the airlocks, transporter rooms, and bays as quickly as you can. I repeat, this is not a drill. =/\=
((Bridge, USS Minerva))
The bridge rocked with another hit, and Chaulok held onto her console to keep from falling over.
Chaulok: ::raising her voice over the sounds of weapons fire:: Captain, we are unlikely to prevail in this engagement.
Kaneshiro: Yes, *thank* you for that kind reminder, Commander!
Goodwell: ::shakes his head:: They’re hitting us hard. Damage reports incoming from all over the ship.
The ship rocked again, consoles sparking. When Kaneshiro whipped himself back up to a proper seated position, he yelled out a command.
Kaneshiro: Target the engines of the lead vessels - if we cut their legs off, maybe it’ll give us some breathing room.
It was kind thinking, given that they were in battle with a number of Tholian vessels (Shiro wasn’t keen on counting them), but it was the best idea he had. But the reality was that Chaulok was right - they were fighting a losing battle.
Chaulok’s voice called out again, this time announcing a call from the Stalwart. She put it on audio, Captain Tob Ch'rhiakrar’s voice filling the air. Judging from the background commotion, the Andorian’s ship wasn’t faring much better.
Ch'rhiakrar: =/\= Minerva, they’re generating another web. We need to coordinate our counterattack. =/\=
Kaneshiro: =/\= Agreed. =/\=
Michael scrambled to think, trying to recall how the Victory had eventually won out against the webs.
Goodwell: Graviton waves.
Kaneshiro: If you’ve got a plan, Goodwell, speak *up*!
On the viewscreen, one of the Tholian vessels could be seen strafing past the Minerva’s saucer section, nearly on a collision course. The Tholians were getting bolder in their maneuvers, almost as if they were taunting them.
Goodwell: Tholians are essentially hot crystals. They don’t respond well to high frequency soundwaves. The Victory used graviton waves to disable the Tholian ships it encountered. It gave them just enough time to get away. It might give us an edge to warn Astrofori One.
Kaneshiro: It’s worth a shot. Coordinate with the Stalwart.
Goodwell: ::nods:: Aye, sir.
Michael pulled up the screens on his tactical console toggling between the readings and text communications with the Stalwart tactical officer. They needed the element of surprise and couldn’t risk the Tholians picking up their comm traffic. The text communications were encrypted and even the best attempts to crack them would take a half hour, probably more. They didn’t need nearly that long.
Kaneshiro: Status on the web?
Goodwell: ::grimaces and shakes his head:: I’m picking up an energy build-up in their weapons systems. I’m working as fast as I can, but it’s going to be a close one, sir.
The Captain paused for just a second.
Kaneshiro: Helm, get us between the Stalwart and the rest of the building web.
Helm: Aye, captain.
Chaulok: I am rerouting auxiliary power to thrusters.
Kaneshiro: Lieutenant, how’s it coming?
Goodwell: ::fingers flying over the console:: Another minute or two at most. Making some last minute adjustments to account for the Tholian vessel’s current trajectory. It’ll take time for our systems to recover once we emit the wave. We may only get one shot at this.
Kaneshiro: One shot’ll do. ::brown eyes flickered over to the tactical console:: Just don’t miss.
Goodwell: Given that it’s my rear end along with the rest of the crew’s in the sling if I do, I don’t intend to. ::enters a few final commands and looks up:: There. Ready on your order, sir.
Kaneshiro: Full power to starboard shields - Lieutenant, you’ve got my permission to take out that damn web!
Gods help them if this went wrong.
Goodwell: Yes, sir!
Without another moment’s hesitation, Michael’s finger hit the final key on his console, glancing up to watch the show on the viewscreen. His heart thudded against his ribcage as he waited, the whole thing seeming to happen in slow motion. Finally, a flare from the Tholian ship’s aft section told them they’d hit their target.
Goodwell: ::studies the readouts and grins:: That was unexpected. We’ve managed to disrupt their weapons systems.
Kaneshiro: I’ll take it. Job’s not done yet.
A crackled hail from Stalwart seemed to punctuate the captain’s statement.
Ch'rhiakrar: =/\= Minerva, we’ve taken heavy casua… ::static:: ...bandon ship… ::static:: =/\=
There was another burst of static before the comline suddenly cut out. Onscreen, a brilliant flash of yellow light filled the bridge, and the crew looked up to see a collapsing web slice through the Defiant class ship’s hull like a piano wire.
For Kaneshiro, it was a prediction of their own future. They’d just lost a fine ship and crew to the brutality of a Tholian attack - their sole purpose being to distract the Tholian fleet before it reached innocent civilians that remained on Astrofori One. He swallowed, his chin raised for just a moment before looking away from the viewscreen.
They had to play their cards right from here on out. If they did that, they might be lucky. His crew might live to see another day. But from the second the Stalwart cracked under the pressure, he knew that this ship would not last the battle, no matter what creative solutions they intended to employ.
Kaneshiro: Did they launch escape pods?
A key reminder that they were still in the midst of a battle shot through the deck plating, the ship stuttering under the fire of Tholian weapons again.
Goodwell: ::studies the scans and sombers:: I’m reading some of them, sir. But not the full count. ::gaze drops his console and he shakes his head:: And we have another three minutes before systems are ready for another graviton wave.
Kaneshiro: Keep the Tholians attention on us - I don’t want a single vessel heading in the direction of those escape pods. Evasive maneuvers, Helm. Let’s not get caught in any more webs.
As if the Tholians had heard him, the ship came to a halt in space, the Helm frozen.
Helm: We’ve been caught in a tractor beam!
Goodwell: ::grimaces:: I’m trying to disable it, sir, but the targeting sensors took a hit with that last round. I’m flying blind here.
Kaneshiro: Status of Astrofori One, Mister Chaulok?
The Vulcan did her best to call up the last stream of information from Commander Bakari back at the station. Even if the report was out of date, it didn’t paint a promising picture.::
Chaulok: The station has begun launching all available craft. The latest reports, however, state that more than half of the station’s population remain aboard. The deadline the Tholians have prescribed is simply unrealistic, captain.
Goodwell: ::mutters:: I’m beginning to think that was the point.
Shiro had a decision to make. The lives of his crew or those remaining aboard Astrofori One.
Kaneshiro: How long would it take for the fleet to arrive at the station?
Chaulok: I would estimate at least 37 minutes. Given that we have only managed to destroy or disable 52 enemy vessels, we are unlikely to prevent the Tholians from reaching the station first.
Kaneshiro: If we could take out the Tholian command ship?
Obviously it wouldn’t diminish the time by *that* much, but the station would have one less thing to worry about, being blown to bits by a nightmare cruiser that, for the moment, had been content on just laying back on the outskirts of the skirmish, housing the fighters that had caused them the most trouble.
Chaulok: The Tholians are a hive society, captain, based on a strict caste system. It is likely the loss of significant leadership in their ranks would require them to wait for additional members of that caste to retake command.
That’s all he needed to hear to confirm his plan.
Shiro jammed his finger into the com panel.
Kaneshiro: All hands, this is the captain. Abandon ship. I repeat, abandon ship!
Goodwell: ::studies his console:: Assigned officers are reporting en route to the escape pods, sir, to help with evacuation.
For not the first time in her tour of duty, the Vulcan XO was bewildered by her captain’s actions.
Chaulok: Captain, what are you doing?
Kaneshiro: You’re right, Chaulok - the odds of us winning this battle are next to none, and I’d personally bet on none. Our best option is to get out of the way, but I’m not about to lay down with my belly up. ::To the helm.:: Lay in a collision course with the Tholian command ship.
Michael looked up from his console, his eyes wide. A collision course. Hell. Despite the anxiety coursing through his veins, he straightened, determined if he was going to go down, it would be in a blaze of glory. He wasn’t one to back down, even if it was a losing fight.
Chaulok moved around from her station, moving towards the helm.
Chaulok: Belay that, ensign. Get to the escape pods.
As the ensign looked back at the captain, unsure of what to do, the first officer turned herself to look back at Kaneshiro.
Chaulok: You need only a minimal bridge crew to execute this plan, captain. I will take the helm.
Kaneshiro: Is autopilot offline?
Chaulok: Autopilot will be unable to track the far more maneuverable Tholian command ship to ensure a direct hit. I estimate however a 14% increase in success if the helm remains occupied.
Goodwell: ::nods:: I can confirm that, sir. With our systems as taxed as they are, it might be even slimmer odds on autopilot.
The captain glanced between his executive and tactical officers.
Kaneshiro: Fine. But just for the record, I’ve told you both that I intend to blow up this ship, and you’ve decided to *remain onboard*?
Goodwell: It’s your call, sir. I’ll be wherever you need me. I’m not afraid of dying if that’s what it takes to protect those folks at Astrofori One.
It was a blatant lie. He had his wife and his unborn child in the forefront of his mind, but if this saved them then he was happy to do it.
Kaneshiro: Not today, Mister Goodwell. You’re coordinating the evacuation. It’s your job to keep those escape pods out of the Tholian view. ::He motioned to the turbolift.:: Get to your escape pod. That’s an order.
Michael was stunned, albeit grateful for the Captain’s order. There was still every chance he wouldn’t make it off the ship and just as slim of odds that his escape pod if he got there wouldn’t be picked off by the Tholians. His gaze lingered on the two officers who would remain, a feeling of pride swelling in his chest at having had the privilege of serving with two such fine officers.
Goodwell: ::nods:: Aye, sir.
Before Goodwell left the bridge, Chaulok called out to him.
Chaulok: Lieutenant Goodwell, it was a distinct honor to serve together with you. May you live long and prosper.
She bowed her head slightly as she looked over her shoulder and held up her hand in the traditional Vulcan greeting.
Goodwell: ::smiles:: It was a privilege serving with you, too, ma’am. ::glances at Kaneshiro:: Both of you.
Gathering his nerve, he moved toward the turbolift, praying that he managed to get out of this alive. He wanted to see his daughter grow up.
Once it was just Captain Kaneshiro and Chaulok alone on the bridge, it was eerily quiet once again, the silence punctuated now only by the sounds of weapon impacts and alarms.
Kaneshiro: Computer, activate self-destruct sequence. Authorization Kaneshiro-black-five.
Computer: Self-destruct sequence initiated. Input secondary authorization to confirm.
Chaulok: Computer, confirm self-destruct, authorization Chaulok-sigma-sigma-pi.
Computer: Self-destruct armed and confirmed. Awaiting final command.
Kaneshiro: Initiate immediate self-destruct upon forward collision with Tholian vessels.
The Vulcan checked her console’s sensor readings.
Chaulok: All escape pods have been launched, captain.
He gave a relieved huff, standing from his chair, acknowledging his very empty bridge. Not a bad ship for a first command. He’d had his reservations about the Veritas class vessel, about its position in the Menthar Corridor, but they seemed like such small things in comparison to what it’d just pulled off. Given the circumstances, it and his crew performed admirably against an overwhelming force. Though there was no one left on the bridge, aside from his steadfast XO, he held a sense of pride.
They’d done what they could for Astrofori One. This was the last card they had. This ship had gotten as many people out alive as it could.
Tugging down his uniform jacket, Shiro approached Chaulok and the helm.
Kaneshiro: So, Commander, ::he gave her a cheeky smile.:: Still think my ship is dirty?
She didn’t look over at him, busy inputting new coordinates to reach their target, but she did return one final raised eyebrow.
After the last of the escape pods had cleared the hull of the Veritas class ship, the Minerva veered off into a steep ascent, tracking the Tholian command ship.
Michael sat in the little pod, anxiously waiting as he huddled with a few other officers who were the last to get off of the ship. The craft shuddered slightly, jolted by the thrusters firing on occasion to correct its course, zipping through the black emptiness of space. The pods were away from the ship, but they still weren’t out of the woods.
He glanced out the small viewport just in time to see the Minerva collide with the Tholian ships, a bright red and yellow flare replacing the once mighty ships. His gaze returned to the inside of the craft and he reached into his uniform jacket pocket, pulling out a picture of his very pregnant wife. A small smile touched the corners of his lips, framing the side of her face with the edge of his thumb.
Goodwell: ::murmurs:: I’ll see you soon, honey.
((Comm Quad, Astrofori One))
The biggest problem with evacuating the station in such a short amount of time was the fact that the numerous transports already docked at the station were already overfilled with passengers who had already paid for the privilege. The captains of these vessels didn’t appreciate having their ship’s effectively commandeered, or being asked to stuff every available bit of space in their vessels with civilians who weren’t likely to be paying much of anything.
Despite the complaints, the work was nevertheless being done, and civilians and Starfleeters alike were all working together to empty the station before the Tholian armada arrived.
When Cassie arrived on the Comm Quad, it was emptier than she had ever seen it. Most days, she wished that the Quad was quieter. Today, she would have given whatever was in her power to give in order to see it fill again with people.
She was accompanied by Gnisky, her aide-de-camp, and Msafiri Bakari, the region’s--and her--capable and frightening competent adjutant. However, none of those roles would last very long, now with things heading the way they were.
Egan Manno: Gnisky, get me a stationwide channel. I want everyone who’s left aboard to hear me.
Gnisky: Right away, Captain.
Cassie heard, thanks to the cavernous silence of the emptied station, her own voice echoing back. Hopefully, if she could hear herself, then anyone else left aboard could hear her, too.
Egan Manno: =/\= I am Fleet Captain Egan Manno, commander of the Federation Starfleet’s presence on Astrofori One. If you are still aboard the station, leave immediately. This is your final warning. =/\=
Now, she thought, to see if anyone was going to come running.
Egan Manno: Astrofori One was meant to do exactly what we’ve failed to achieve here. ::beat:: In a way, I’m pleased that our failure is so complete. At least the derelict station won’t ever remind us of what might have been.
Msafiri wasn’t sure exactly what words to say in response, but an alert on his PADD made him breathe a sigh. They’d caught a break, although it had come at great cost.
Bakari: Captain, the latest sensor reports show the Tholian fleet’s advance has stalled. It looks like the Minerva and Stalwart were able to take out the fleet’s command ship.
She snapped from her reflective funk immediately, back to the business of saving what people she could.
Egan Manno: But only the command ship? What about the rest of 105?
Bakari: I’m afraid both ships were lost in the battle. They’ve bought us some time, though, while the Tholians regroup. The rest of the task force is still on their way, about forty minutes out.
Egan Manno: One Tholian command ship--for two of our own.
She closed her eyes for a moment, rather than ask the next question that occurred to her: How many people? How many lives had just been lost? But that wasn’t the kind of question a captain was allowed to ask, not before the end of the fight.
Egan Manno: I want us to be the last to go. No: I want to be the last to go. You two will go before me.
If at all possible, that was. Gnisky inclined her head, gently agreeing. She knew better than to argue something that really mattered. But she expected Bakari to say something--right before, that was, one of the final evacuees interrupted them.
It was Andrew Davenport. The reporter had a wide-eyed expression that often came with adrenaline.
Egan Manno: Mr. Davenport? What are you still doing aboard?
He was dedicated, she’d give him that. But, perhaps, dedicated such that his priorities weren’t quite where they ought to be.
Chasing after him was Lieutenant Ivanova. In the midst of the chaos, she didn’t have time for his antics.
Ivanova: I’m sorry, captain.
The tall woman gave the man a scornful look.
Ivanova: Mr. Davenport is being uncooperative with the evacuation.
Egan Manno: ::to Davenport:: I take it that we have you to thank for the story that ran, presumably based on what you heard me say to Commander Bakari?
Davenport: Yes. I… wait, you’re not upset?
She shook her head.
Egan Manno: I’m not here to argue or to fight with you, Mr. Davenport. That’s for after, assuming there is a substantial “after.” You need to leave, now.
Davenport: I’m not about to argue that.
She glanced at Gnisky and Bakari. Surely not? Surely the resourceful journalist that was Davenport hadn’t allowed himself to be cornered at the last moment, and he had some other card to play, some other trick up his sleeve?
Egan Manno: You don’t have a way off the station? ::beat:: Except, perhaps, after being arrested by Lieutenant Ivanova?
Ordinarily, Lidia would have agreed, but this wasn’t an ordinary day.
Ivanova: Captain, our security teams are being stretched to their limits trying to keep order during the evacuation. There simply aren’t enough ships for the number of people we need to get off the station, and once the crowds find out, I’m worried we’re going to have a mass hysteria on our hands.
Egan Manno: That’s a fair assessment, Lieutenant. Very well. Leave Mr. Davenport with us. You’ll leave with us, Mr. Davenport. And you can tell your stories after you go. ::beat:: In fact, I think you ought to. The last of us on Astrofori One.
The reporter looked around the deserted area, once so full of promise and diverse life.
Davenport: I think that’s a good idea.
He looked back to the fleet captain, who seemed focused on the task at hand, though he thought he could see some emotion bleeding through the veil of professionalism that defined so much of what he knew about Cassandra Egan Manno.
Davenport: What do we do now?
Egan Manno: Now? ::beat:: We wait.
Ivanova: Keep moving, everyone! Use all lanes!
Standing by her side was her ten-year-old son Misha, gripping onto her hand. She’d make sure he was personally aboard with her safe.
Misha: Mama, will be there be room for us?
She squeezed his hand as she continued to wave people into the transport with her other hand.
Ivanova: We’ll be okay, Misha.
The quantum slipstream drive had truly been their godsend. While the rest of Task Force 105 was still too far away, Admiral Washington had managed to convince a brave captain of a commercial slipstream starliner to divert to the station. Still, they didn’t have time to count their blessings as the unarmed passenger vessel would be shredded in minutes if it was still around when the Tholians arrived.
((Station Promenade, Astrofori One))
Msafiri watched the giant slipstream liner move away from the station gracefully before activating its drive, disappearing in a flash. He turned to see Davenport had been taking a holorecording.
Bakari: You better turn around and take some shots of the station. Probably the last images anyone will see.
Assuming they got out of here alive.
Davenport had never been much of a photographer, but he’d been using a body camera to record as much as he could since the announcement came through. It was one of the few effects he’d bothered to recover from his room. Still, he turned and used the imager on his recording device to take several high resolution holoscans. Bakari was right. People deserved to see this.
Bakari: When you write of today, just promise me one thing. Don’t focus on the destruction and fear. There will be plenty of that already. Tell the story of those that tried to help. People need to know there were helpers to the end.
Davenport: That’s an admirable sentiment considering everything that’s happening here, Commander. I can’t promise anything, but I will do what I can to avoid sensationalizing this. All I ever really wanted to do was show people the truth.
The Starfleet commander nodded and then gave a gentle pat on the man’s back.
Bakari: Come on, let’s get to the runabout and give Gnisky a hand prepping for launch.
Davenport: I gained some recent experience with Starfleet runabouts. I’ll help out however I can.
((Command Deck, Astrofori One))
To the best of their abilities, those were the last. There was no one left to escort aboard an escape vessel, no transports left to make, no ships or shuttles left in any of A1’s bays. Cassie was, true to her word, the last to leave--after Gnisky, Bakari, and Davenport had proceeded her. Now, the station was home, for a long moment, to a population of exactly one.
And even then, it wouldn’t be for long. She wouldn’t endanger anyone’s lives with one long, last look, especially as the Tholians were there. No, it was time to beam away.
Still, there was something sublimely beautiful about the station’s last moments. There were no crass torpedoes or disruptors to finish the station off. Rather, the Tholian fleet, several hundred ships strong, was weaving a web around the station, surrounding it as if with a massive shield that would keep it safe. Ironic, she thought. Ironic that it should be there to do the exact opposite.
She tapped her comm badge. This, too, was a moment that lasted far longer than she’d intended, as several epochs passed before her hand reached her badge. Even when she heard the signal chirp back at her, she couldn’t remember for a second, and then another, and then another, why she wanted to leave. Couldn’t she stay, and watch the weaving? Couldn’t she stay, just one moment longer?
Egan Manno: =/\= This is Egan Manno. I’m the last. Ready for transport. =/\=
In that final transporter stream, Astrofori One disappeared around her for the last time.
And so for one brief moment in time, not a soul remained on Astrofori One, the station now a monument to a lost dream as the web began to close.