Chapter 5: Distress
Lt. Higdon walked over to Commander Hovey. "Commander, could you accompany me down to Engineering? I may need your assistance with some computer matters."
Hovey looked up from his duty station stood up and adjusted his uniform. "Of course, Lieutenant. After you," he replied, pointing toward the exit.
Both officers made their way to the hatch and down to Engineering.
Captain Seals looked over at his Chief Communications Officer. "Status report, Mr. VanEseltine."
Commander VanEseltine responded. "Sir, all channels are clear at the moment. Sensors are picking up nothing unusual."
"Good. Commander Johnson, estimated time to arrival at Deep Space Nine?" asked Seals.
Commander Johnson turned her head to look at Seals. "Estimated time of arrival is six hours at present speed and course, sir."
Seals swivelled in his chair and looked at his Executive Officer. Lt. Col. Smith was going over some weapon supply reports on his padd when he looked up at Seals.
"Sir, do you have something on your mind?" asked Smith.
Seals rubbed his chin a little and had a questioning look on his face. He replied in a soft tone. "Bill, something Admiral Parker said to me has been sticking with me since day one. He said that there were things he couldn't tell me but assured me that we were an important part of a bigger picture. I'm just curious to know what that picture is and who is painting it."
Smith nodded his head in agreement. "I know what you're saying. I have been milling around that same thought. General Storm told me that I would be going on an important mission for the Federation that involved a little retribution and taking the offensive and, of course, I was jumping at the chance to give some back to the Dominion. But the way and means of this mission, with the Marines getting involved in Starfleet Intelligence, kinda gets me on edge."
Seals nodded back. "I think that we have to be wary of anyone other than those on the ship, because I have a feeling that things are going to get worse before they get better."
"Sir, I'm getting a distress signal on all channels," said VanEseltine.
Seals straightened up in his seat. "On speakers."
"This is ... crackle ... Oklahoma ... crackle ... under attack by ... Crackle ... many casualties. Systems ... crackle ... life support failing. Request assistance from any ship in area ... crackle ... sector 29 ... ship is ... crackle ... and firing while ..."
"That's all, sir. The signal appears to be jammed at the source. I could have the computer compensate for the jammed signal, but it would take a while to decipher it." The look on VanEseltine's face was serious.
Chief Urban looked up from his station. "Sir, the Oklahoma is a Starfleet Excelsior-class starship. Files indicate it was on a training mission with new recruits about forty-five minutes from our current location."
"Mr. VanEseltine, try to establish communications with the Oklahoma and then notify Starfleet that we are going to intercept. Commander Johnson, reroute course and plot an intercept course for sector 29."
Johnson tapped the coordinates into the navigational computer. "Course plotted, sir,"
"Warp nine ... engage," Seals commanded.
Smith stood up and loudly proclamed, "Red alert!". Then he walked over to Chief Urban's security station. "Chief, I want you to get a squad of your best personnel and station two on the bridge and the others in key areas that allow access to the bridge. I don't know what we're going to find when we get there but I want to make sure whatever is pounding the hell out of an Excelsior-class ship doesn't surprise us."
Urban nodded. "Yes, Colonel, I'll get on it right away." Urban then walked away from his security station and tapped his comm badge. "Squad Echo, report to Security Station Lima. I'll meet you there." Then he left the bridge.
Smith assumed the tactical controls. "Sir, I'm assuming Tactical until Chief Urban returns,"
Seals agreed and looked over to VanEseltine again. "Any luck communicating with the Oklahoma?"
VanEseltine shook his head. "No, sir. All I'm getting is dead air."
Seals had a grim look on his face. Who would have the gall to attack a Starfleet ship in Federation space? Now there was no communication with the ship at all and the message that did get through was very puzzling. He knew that when he got there, if the ship that attacked the Oklahoma was still around, there was going to be hell to pay.
Minutes later Chief Urban arrived with two security officers and reassumed his post at the tactical controls. Smith moved away and opened up the weapons locker and one of the security officers helped pass out hand phasers to the crew. Smith grabbed a compression phaser rifle and slung it over his shoulder and walked back down to his seat.
Seals put his phaser in his uniform holster and looked at Smith. "Looks like we're ready for anything. I just hope we don't have to use these."
Smith looked over his phaser rifle to ensure it was in working order. "I hope we won't have to use these either. But if someone does happen to make it onto the bridge, they won't be happy."
The Gryphon sliced through warp space toward its rendezvous with the Oklahoma.
"Sir, coming up to Oklahoma's last known position in three minutes," Johnson said.
Seals shifted in his chair. "Engage cloaking device. Slow to full impulse. Commander VanEseltine, scan the area in question and give me a report."
"Cloak engaged, sir. Systems functioning properly," reported Lt(jg) Anderson.
VanEseltine turned around in his chair and looked at Seals. "Sir, sensors pick up indications of tachyon particles around what remains of the Oklahoma."
"On screen," demanded Seals as he stood up from his chair.
The view screen came to life and the lifeless form of the Oklahoma came into view. Both warp nacelles were blown off and the primary saucer section was missing large sections. The ship was slowly listing in space and void of any signs of activity.
Smith looked over at Urban. "Chief, pull up the schematics on the Oklahoma."
Urban nodded. "Sir, schematics up."
Smith walked over to one of the stations and downloaded the schematics into his padd. He then walked over to his seat and flipped through the pages of schematics. Smith then looked at Seals. "Sir, according to this, the Oklahoma was fitted for training duty for Starfleet Academy and was on a routine mission gathering samples of spacial matter. Crew complement at the time was minimal--forty at best, most cadets. Weapons on line were phasers and no photon torpedoes. Shields seemed to be minimal as well. That ship had no chance."
"This is a travesty. Scan for life forms," Seals said grimly.
VanEseltine looked somber. "No life forms present, sir. But then again, the ship that did this might be interfering with sensors as well."
Seals looked at Smith. "Well there is only one way to find out then. Number One, you know what to do."
Smith stood up and tapped his comm badge. "Captain McBride, assemble a fire team and meet me in Transporter Room Four. Equip with battle gear Beta. I'll be there in a minute."
The voice of McBride came back. "Aye aye, sir. Fire Team Omega will be there."
Smith started to walk toward the hatch. "Have someone from Medical meet my squad in the transporter room."
Seals turned to watch his Executive Officer go. "Number One, good hunting."
Smith gave his Captain the thumbs-up and said, "Semper Fi." Then he walked through the hatch.
"Sir, now approaching the Oklahoma. Coming to a complete stop," announced Johnson as the Oklahoma loomed larger in the viewscreen.
"Maintain this position. Any sign of vessels in the area?" asked Seals.
"No, sir. Scanner sweeps are clear," responded VanEseltine.
Seals was going over the situation in his head, wondering what provoked this and who was out there. He wondered what the Marine away team would find on the Oklahoma and what he would do next, but his train of thought was interrupted by a report from his XO.
"Sir, we're on board the Oklahoma and the bridge is decimated. It looks like there was a fire fight of some sort in here with disrupter burns and phaser burns on the wall. The crew on the bridge are dead or disintegrated. We're gonna continue our sweep down to Engineering to see if we can find any survivors. Looks like Romulans might've did this, but I'm not seeing any of their blood on the floor. Only human blood, sir."
"Continue sweep, Colonel. Inform me of any new findings," said Seals.
"Aye aye, sir," said Smith and the signal ended.
Suddenly a bolt of white light smashed into the Engineering section in the Oklahoma's secondary hull. It blew a large hole through the hull, just underneath where the port nacelle used to be.
VanEseltine swivelled in his chair quickly. "Jem'Hadar ship decloaking on the starboard side of us, sir!"
"What!" yelled Seals in surprise.
Suddenly, a report came from the away team. "This is Captain McBride. We have Jem'Hadar troops storming the ship. Request reinforcements. We've got the majority of them held off at a collapsed juncture, but we'll need more men to fight them all off!"
"Extend shields to the Oklahoma to prevent any more troops from
beaming over and lock weapons onto the Jem'Hadar ship. I'll show them what
happens when you mess with the best," growled Seals. "Fire at
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