((Deck 1, Conference Room, USS Arrow))
Perhaps it was karma.
He’d always enjoyed the strict maintenance of command- ordered information, a steady stream of connections, an understood hierarchy that ensured officers and departments weren’t skipped. It was so beautiful, in an efficient sort of way, and he’d clung to it most fervently.
It was, therefore, an interesting test of resolve when Shayne was informed that, contrary to the norm, the briefing for the staff would not be given by him, but by the flag officer that had- apparently poorly- acted as Arrow’s command linkage in the Alpha Isles.
So it was with an unusually justified expression of grimness that he greeted the senior staff as they moseyed in one at a time. Despite his rancor, he couldn’t help but appreciate the clear indications of a vacation well spent among his staff. Some were a shade darker, a result of Casperia’s tanning suns. Some looked sharper and better rested- or more muddled, for that matter. As long as they were fit to dress themselves, he was content- at least for the moment. They’d not be encountering anything so dangerous so as to require their immediate and tip-top condition this close to Casperia, but they wouldn’t be in orbit of the pleasure planet forever.
Which brought him back to the briefing that had been taken out of his hands. What could be so important, so interesting, so critical, that it couldn’t be passed to him first? What demanded the whole senior staff see it as one?
As the last stragglers entered, Shayne remarked on the timeliness of each of them. Having only learned that he’d be expected to have his senior staff assembled an hour previously, it was no small feat that they were all at least basically on time. Shayne faced toward the monitor in the room, which faced away from the rest of the table.
Shayne: Help yourself to a muffin and coffee, folks- this wasn’t my idea.
His ability to keep his objections with previous commanding officers private was something that had served him well, and he’d always despised how comfortable Renos had made the early briefings. However, as a commanding officer himself, he saw the logic and sense behind it- and here, not only would it provide some sustenance for his rudely awoken senior staff, but it would prove that nothing would shake the Arrow. Over a year into their mission, and Shayne still got the sense he wasn’t trusted with the full investment of Starfleet. A show of order and discipline might go a long way to easing that suspicion.
With a customary blip and blirp, the channel- a secured command clearance tight beam- connected, and on the screen appeared the admiral of the hour.
Admiral Thy’quirn, whose last name, at least, was somewhat pronounceable, had been the point of contact for Shayne in terms of higher-level Starfleet conversations. They both had an attitude, and Shayne was under no delusions that the Andorian man liked the captain. The feeling was mutual. Both thought the other arrogant, balefully disrespectful, and ill-equipped for the missions they were handling. A good situation for any aspiring chain of command.
Thy’Quirn did not bother with a preamble.
Thy’Quirn: As of approximately 24 hours ago, the Sheliak Corporate has declared war on no less than a dozen non-aligned worlds, many of them close allies of the Federation. The cold war just got hot.
Shayne knew something had to give, but the news was grim nonetheless.
Shayne: Is the Federation in danger of attack?
Thy’Quirn: Who knows? But I will say that nine of the attacked planets had explicit treaties with the Sheliak, all of which have been tossed out the window.
This news actually caused the captain to breathe a disbelieving question.
The Sheliak Corporate was a formidable and deeply xenophobic group of legalistic zealots. The only thing that had stopped multiple encounters with the Sheliak from turning into bloodbaths (or brutal examples of “pest control”) was the legal documentation that existed between two worlds or bodies. Through this, the Sheliak had stipulated some control to the “lower life forms” they considered humans to be. For them to depart from this absolute tendency was… alarming. Almost incomprehensible.
Thy’Quirn: And there’s more.
He leaned forward, stumpy antennae angling with hostility.
Thy’Quirn: We have evidence that the Sheliak will be using metagenic weapons.
That sealed it. Whether or not they were attacking Federation planets, the Sheliak were a threat to the galaxy.
Shayne: What are our orders, admiral?
Thy’Quirn: I’m glad you’ve asked. Regardless of what the Federation Diplomatic Corps is able to maneuver, we can’t allow the use of metagenic weapons.
In the center of the table, the holographic projector sprang to life. Within it was held a convoy of ships, each of them of the same blocky disposition as most Sheliak crafts.
Thy’Quirn: This fleet is, at best estimate, going to reach the planet Mercia IV in less than twelve hours. Your goal is to intercept them before they get there, engage this ship…
One of the ships enlarged as the others fell away. It was bulbous, and monstrous, and looked every bit as angry as a person would need to be to use it.
Thy’Quirn: …and end its ability to launch metagenic weaponry. If they proceed to Mercia IV, you’re to protect the planet as best you can. If they don’t, withdraw and standby for instructions.
The hologram ended, and Shayne tentatively turned back toward the screen, a little paler but no less determined.
Thy’Quirn: One last thing, captain. Intelligence reports indicate that this is not a smooth, coordinated engagement. Our listening posts near Sheliak space have indicated severe political and social strains within the Corporate in the last year, and these attacks bear more resemblance to… an explosion than an invasion. Why it’s happening now, no one can say, but in the face of the ruin they’ll spread, it doesn’t matter much. Good luck to your ship and crew, captain. Thy’Quirn out.
The channel closed, and Shayne turned towards his officers, trying to present an air of authority and confidence he simply did not have.
Shayne held up a hand, sympathetic but steadfast.
Shayne: I will hear each of you in time, but first we must set a course for Mercia IV and… prepare to engage the enemy. Commanders Waters and Serinus, I leave those matters to you respectively. Mr. Dewitt, send a coded message to the Mercia IV colony- tell them to prepare for evacuation or shelter as their means allow. Commanders Collins and R’Ariel, your departments will work in tandem to find resistances or cures to the metagenic virus. We will not take the chance that this convoy is alone equipped with these weapons. Mr. Nakada, I want you to extract every scrap of speed there is to be had out of the old girl. Dismissed.
As the crew stood to attend to their duties, Shayne interjected.
Shayne: Commanders Rodan and MacKenna- a moment, please.
He almost scowled- there were too many commanders aboard. Some would need ships of their own someday.
The room cleared save for the two individuals Shayne had requested to remain.
Shayne: I’ve never known Starfleet to order preemptive strikes. What’s your take?
Rodan and MacKenna, besides being among Shayne’s trusted senior staff, were also best equipped to make judgements on the veracity of Starfleet’s commands, though it needed to be done in quiet, darkened rooms- interpreting orders might be seen as insubordination.
Captain Randal Shayne