The Point of No Return

Commander Jake Lewis, Lieutenant Garrett Bennett, Major Soya Renota, Lieutenant Commander Sam Moss, Lieutenant Jennifer Matthews and Lieutenant Commander Kretorg
Bridge on mission day 4 at 0440 hours

Darkness hung over the ready room, its lone occupant sitting in quiet contemplation staring out at the stars as they raced by. Looking forward down the bow, it looked no different than the starscape aft, but he knew that, on account of an arbitrary line on the map, they’d soon pass the point of no return, the point where, if things went wrong, they’d be completely on their own.

What would this mission bring? With time travel at play, his guess was no better than that of an elementary school child. What he did know though was that, should the Cardassians find them deep within their territory, there would be nothing they could do to talk their way out of it. For the second time in half a decade, he could be responsible for collapsing relations with an interstellar power – and this time, who knew what else as far as the timeline went. That meant they’d best not fail.

A chime on his display alerted him it was time to go to the bridge. Just a couple minutes now. Commander Lewis set his coffee cup down and stepped across his ready room and out onto the bridge. Although it was only 0440, the faces of several senior officers greeted him. So was the enormity of this moment.

Jenni looked up from her console, a rare event for her. Though the Bellona’s Chief Engineer preferred to confine herself to engineering, being present on the bridge this early in the morning gave her the perfect chance to stay in communication with everything that was going on and to see first hand how this ruse would work.

Kretorg was restless, knowing very well that the Klingon in him would want to have open battle, preferably close combat, but it was tempered by the sensibility of a disciplined human officer. Mostly. That was the theory. The ship’s Executive Officer sat down, got up again, paced, and tried to settle again, fiddling with his console. He felt exhilarated, but ‘in stealth mode’ he thought with an amused smile at his own private joke.

“Lieutenant Bennett, how we looking?” Commander Lewis asked as he approached the conn.

“We’re about 90 seconds from the border. No signs of hostiles in the immediate area,” the pilot offered, his fingers dancing over the controls as he trimmed their heading a slight degree and adjusted the warp field.

Stepping out of the lift after the doors slid open, Sam walked over to his station. The Chief Operations Officer watched as the Ensign at the station logged out. She stepped back and nodded, allowing Sam to slide into the station. It took him a few minutes to log in and read the notes left by the Ensign who’d formerly held the post.

“Lieutenants Moss, ready to engage our SIGINT countermeasures?” In particular, Commander Lewis was mostly referring to a set of ELINT modifications they’d prepared, such as a modified warp signature and use of different sensor bands, as well as some COMINT mimicking standard freighter chatter. When one did not have a cloak to disappear, the next best thing was to blend into the background noise as just another irrelevant vessel.

“Aye, sir,” Sam replied as his finger moved across his station like it was a piano. He began to issue commands from the bridge to other systems. His team had worked around the clock to ensure that everything, save life support and primary functions, would be turned off or masked when the time came.

Standing over Lieutenant Bennett’s shoulder, Lewis watched the conn’s navigation display as she ship approached the Cardassian border. “Lieutenant Bennett, take us out of warp.” The stars streaking by slowed and became stationary dots on the main viewer before them. “Lieutenant Moss, engage the countermeasures.”

Nodding his head, Sam’s finger flew across the touchscreen and with a stroke, non-vital systems were disable and the ship’s transponder was turned off. He had to suppress as smile since he wondered how the people at Starfleet and the local bases were acting when the IFF disappeared from their sensors.

“Lieutenant Matthews, how we looking on the warp signature mask? May we proceed?” It was the most critical aspect of their entire profile. Even the smallest slip up there and a diligent Cardassian sensors specialist might notice the variance that would give away their entire charade.

Jenni did not immediately reply, having been in the middle of another unnecessary level five diagnostic. Unnecessary for the purposes of the log, but very much necessary for her own peace of mind. A moment later, her console chirped and provided a green light in affirmation. “Good to go, Commander,” she reported.

With everything set, Commander Lewis turned back from the conn and approached the command island at the center of the bridge. Stepping up onto it, he turned to look forward and tapped the combadge. “All hands, this is the captain,” he began, an intense and serious expression on his face. “As of this moment, we are at EMCOM Alpha Two. Except where authorized by Command, the use of any external signals is now prohibited. You are all aware of the sensitivity of our current mission, so let’s get it done. Lewis out.” With that, he closed the ship-wide channel.

Although he mostly trusted the professionalism of his crew, he also knew the criticality of what they were about to do. “Lieutenant Moss, lock it down. All of it.”

Sam looked up and gave a grim nod as he brought up the communication system. His team had made it possible to lock down the communication system so that only internal commincation would be the only thing working. The new set up required him to be on the bridge and to input his command code so that it could be unlocked.

“We are dark sir,” Moss replied as he locked down the system.

Although Starfleet ships came with a set of safeguards that enabled strict emissions control, the fact they were intentionally emitting countermeasures meant those protocols had to be modified. “If someone so much as makes an attempt to pull a data file from the FNS or text their grandmother birthday wishes, I’ll meet them in the shuttle bay to space them myself,” Commander Lewis said to no one in particular as he took his seat in the Captain’s chair, eliciting a couple concerned looks from the bridge crew.

“So it begins…” Kre remarked with a grin.

“Well, if I didn’t know better, and I was seeing these readings we’d look like a Mark VI Galor on patrol, with a bit of imbalance in the port nacelle. Our Chief Engineer really should get on that,” Bennett chirped from the CONN.

“Are you saying that I need to fix something?” Jenni quipped from the rear of the bridge, her tone dripping with a bit of sarcasm. “Or should I make the rudder a little more difficult to manipulate?”

“If you’re going to manipulate my rudder you could at least buy a guy a drink first,” the pilot chuckled.

The engineer just shook her head and looked back to her console. “Not my type,” she muttered under her breath.

“Alright Lieutenant, lay in our trajectory for the Rolor Nebula and take us back to warp.”

“Aye Captain, Rolar Nebula, warp 7.” Bennett responded as the view screen began to streak as the ship hurdled back to faster than light speed.