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The Phantom Menace

Posted on Saturday, 13 June 2020 - 1:26am by Captain Barret Stillwater & Commander Soral & Lieutenant T'Lanna Vali & Lieutenant JG Surev & Lieutenant JG T'Amar & Lieutenant Alex Kingsley & Lieutenant JG Adrianna Eberhardt

Mission: Operation: Iktomi
Location: USS Standing Bear | Deck 01 | Conference/Briefing Room
Timeline: MD 2 - Concurrent with "Mother Knows Best"

In the USS Standing Bear's Briefing room, Commander Barret Stillwater and his First Officer, Lieutenant Commander Soral were seated with five of their crew: Science, Engineering, Operations, and Intelligence were present and accounted for. The meeting started as soon as Commander Stillwater cleared his throat and directed attention of all individuals present to the mounted viewing screen at the end of the room. It was a sight that pulled at even his ironclad heartstrings; The SS Adirondack and SS Blue Ridge in pieces, nacelles 'ripped' off and their hull plating scorched. Both of them curry class starships.

"What you are looking at are the SS Adirondack and the SS Blue Ridge, or what's left of them" announced Stillwater. "These old starships were still in service as carriers, most recently ferrying cargo to and from Risa."

"Risa?" Lieutenant Kingsley repeated in surprise. Everyone thought of Risa and thought an amazing place to have some R&R, not destroyed cargo ships. "Were there any survivors?"

Stillwater nodded. "Fortunately, most of the crew were unharmed, but there were dozens of casualties, and a few fatalities" he replied with a strong bass voice that commanded attention. "This is not an isolated incident. Hundreds of starships have been attacked along this and several other routes that are heavily trafficked by merchant and cargo vessels, but the severity and frequency of such attacks has increased in recent months. Starships are being ripped apart and boarded, looted of precious cargo."

Soral chimed in. "What is the this precious cargo? It might help to know if it's random or if there is a link between what was taken."

"The cargo of the vessels attacked has been everything from culinary supplies and exotic spices to technology and computer components. A few vessels were carrying museum pieces, artwork and jewelry, but others medical supplies" he explained. "As you now notice...everything but the kitchen sink."

"What about analysis of the sensor logs and debris? Any indication of those responsible?" Alex queried.

"That is where you will come in" he said to the Chief Science Officer. "I am having all sensor readings being sent to us. We believe that we are dealing with a bunch of marauders and pirates."

"Understood," Kingsley nodded.

Stillwater bridged into more details "Some of the most recent attacks have shared a similar modus operandi" he said as his gaze shifted over to the Ship's Psychologist. "I will be needing your assistance and expertise, Lieutenant Vali."

T’Lanna nodded. “I’ll do my best Sir. What we need to know is what are they doing with all these supplies? They must have one hell of a storage area, either on an asteroid or planetary base.”

"If not several" he replied. "I do not believe in making accusations without evidence to support a hypothesis" he said with a small glance at Kingsley, expecting a science officer to appreciate that. "However, we have been placed as part of a flotilla and the Admiral overseeing the flotilla strongly asserts that the Orion Syndicate are behind this or at least have a part to play."

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that part," Kingsley commented lightly. Nothing skewed analysis quite like believing you know the answer before you had even started.

Soral supressed a smile at his wife's comment. He made notes. "Sir since we are down a chief Tactical and I have held the post I can help out there with your permission."

"You and I both have tactical experience, and that was something that dragged us into this flotilla assignment."

"Indeed. Department wise do you wish the task of ensuring our SEC/TACT team is ready or if you wish we could both take the task." He was alright either way just as long as the CO knew if away teams were needed Soral would take it. There were regulations about a Captain staying onboard...although he wondered. Stillwater reminded him of Kirk in some ways, one of Soral's personal heroes.

"Coordinate with ranger you picked up on your trip to Vashti, he hasn't left and I suspect he will be of value to the crew. Prepare an enlisted security team."

"Understood sir."

Stillwater shifted his gaze to the Goldenrod clad Vulcans, his new Chief Operations Officer and Chief Engineer. "Lieutenant Surev and T'Amar," began the Commanding Officer. "You two will be crucial in helping either convict or exonerate the Orion syndicate. I've been ordered to proceed towards the Risa system along one of the trade routes. There are several locations of starship debris along the way to Risa. We will need to investigate and study the physical evidence left behind."

"The truth speaks for itself," Surev said, his attention still focused on the screen. "What can be discerned from analysis of the damage and blast patterns will be done."

T'Amar nodded in agreement. "The recovery of the ships flight recorder, and any functional remnants of the computer, and pertinent chip sets should confirm the physical evidence retrieved along the way."

"Petty Officer Baciami, there will be a great deal of data heading our way as we coordinate patrol and investigation with several other vessels part of the flotilla. Prepare for some late nights and unwelcomed early mornings."

The petty officer nodded, "nothing coffee cannot help with, sir. I don't sleep much anyway." This would certainly be a welcome mission, "equally, if I can be of any assistance in other ways, let me know."

T’Lanna looked at Stillwater. “If these pirates are attacking vessels they consider to be carrying things of value, then why don’t we simply offer them a bait ship?”

"Tactical thinking, Lieutenant, and exactly the sort of thinking I like to hear" replied Stillwater. "We know what they like. We just need to set the trap, but so do after we have more knowledge of who or what we are up against" he noted. "Accounts have labeled the ship a Spectre or Phantom of a menacing nature."

T’Lanna nodded. “To coin a Vulcan phrase ... fascinating!”

Stillwater looked towards the Chief Operations Officer "This phantom has attacked without detection. Ships often do not detect it until it is too late. I suspect it either has jammed sensors of uses the natural effects of nebulae in the region to it's advantage."

"I will coordinate the teams efforts with science and engineering to enhance sensors." She replied matter-of-factly. "It seems feasible to counter the effects of the nebula, however, it will likely take considerable time to determine their jamming technology without sufficient evidence of their technology. A review of known jamming technology should provide us a foundation to work from."

Adrianna piped in, "if you're going to use a bait ship, you're going to have to make it actually look the part. If they are in and out, seemingly undetected, then they have been monitoring the trade route. You'd have to plan it to look like something that only passes so often, for example, arms or rare items and top up supplies. But in liue of something that should be. It's easy enough to forge the paperwork and route schemes, but we'd need to be subtle about it. I'd suggest we more intercept something that should be. Instead of making something new."

T’Lanna looked at Barret and Soral curiously. “Did any of the attacked ships have telepaths or empaths onboard? I’m wondering if anyone sensed the approach of the ship? Actually ...” She paused. “How’s about we add some high price bait to our lure ship? I believe Borg parts are worth a lot on the black market these days, so how’s about I act as bait?”

Stillwater was taken aback by the offer, but knew how enticing it may be. "I agree with you, Petty Officer. It will need to be a sort of ship that travels the route infrequently, but carrying an Ex Borg may be the peanut butter on the oat cereal" he replied, a reference to how he'd like to set rodent traps before he stopped the senseless violence against the home intruders.

"Lieutenant Vali, when we set the trap you will be assigned to that away team" said Stillwater. "As for your question, no. There were no reports of any telepaths or empaths sensing anything, but that doesn't surprise me. They do have their limitations."

T’Lanna nodded. “Yes Sir, if I sense anything I’ll give as much warning as I can.” She knew Raith wouldn’t it but she didn’t plan on putting herself at risk.

"I would not be surprised if they have constructed parts of their hull with some sort of alloy that blocks them from being penetrated by said abilities, but be on alert nonetheless, Lieutenant" he said to the woman. "Until we know who or what we are dealing with, we are all going to be on alert. My orders are to take the Standing Bear into the region of space, traverse the route to Risa and investigate the scene of wreckage for clues. We do have free liberty to stop any marauders or pirates should we encounter them. Likewise, old maritime rule applies. If we receive a distress signal, we are obligated to respond to it."

"Sir," Soral began. "If I may if we cannot stop these marauders what is the point of investigation. It is not logical that we investigate find the response yet do nothing to stop the marauders."

"I did not mean to imply that we are doing nothing, Commander" he said swiftly. "On the contrary. We are already doing something. The presence of a flotilla in the region along these routes may not be much, but it is something. It shows the Federation finally taking action and flexing a bit of muscle, but we are only one ship part of others. Our investigation will be crucial in how the Federation and Starfleet proceeds.

The Commanding Officer cleared his throat. "You may not have noticed, but Doctor Ryan Rose is not currently aboard and the Runabout, Casablanca is not presently in the shuttlebay. That is because Cadet il'Vastam and Doctor Rose were sent on a special assignment while we rested here taking on new crew and enjoying a bit of shoreleave. They were sent to Xanthan to make contact with an informant who we believe has information pertaining to what has been going on along the trade routes. I am anticipating the Casablanca to return soon."

Soral raised an eyebrow. A cadet and Medical Officer? Odd choice. "A doctor and a cadet?" He asked just because he had very little filter left at this moment.

"That cadet is not Starfleet Academy, Soral" replied Stillwater. "He's Exploratory Corps on loan to us with advanced studies, and his education when completed will earn him lieutenant's pips. He's a pathfinder with more training and experience under his belt than most ensigns have in several years, and Doctor Rose is as non threatening of a choice as any. This needed to be kept small, contained, and swept under the rug."

"In other words there was something not quite...what's the word ...Kosher about this mission. Fascinating."

"I don't believe in leaving stones unturned" replied Stillwater. "I also will not stand for prejudices clouding judgment. There are flag officers who are convinced that the Orion Syndicate are behind these attacks. I am not convinced without evidence, and there was an informant willing to provide information. I made a decision to explore that opportunity. Now, if anyone has additional questions...stay behind for a few minutes. Otherwise, you're all dismissed. Once the runabout returns, we will be disembarking."

"Lieutenant Kingsley will you stay behind a moment with me and Commander Stillwater."

T’Lanna stood ready to leave with everyone else, she offered a polite smile to Stillwater and Soral before heading on her way.


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