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SD242007.03 - Plot Log - "Making Friends"

Posted on Thu Jul 2nd, 2020 @ 8:42pm by Brigadier General Jonathan Grey

1,977 words; about a 10 minute read

Mission: The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Location: Versailles
Timeline: Current

=^= Main Ops =^=

Sparks showered down from above, as the maintenance crew welded the last beam in place. While most Starfleet materials didn't require welding, as such, the usual materials were needed elsewhere. This would all have to be undone and redone in time, but for now the Ops crew needed something cheap and nasty to keep more ceiling panels falling down on their heads.

Off to one side of the room lay a small stack of warped beams; the underlying reason for the ceiling panels becoming unstuck. There was also a set of straws, with the short one being held by a crewman that was, tactfully, explaining that the reason the roof had collapsed was the size of his office. Weight had little meaning on the station, but it meant a lot to a black hole's gravity.

Simply put, the concentration of armor plating around the General's office had been its own downfall; warping the beams around it when the black hole had first appeared, before crashing down behind the yeoman's desk (which was now the General's desk).

Once the maintenance tech was done politely explaining how the General's own paranoia was directly responsible for his own wrecked Ops room, he stood nervously to attention, only to be calmly dismissed. Compartmentalization, quite possibly the longest word the General knew, was often the key to a successful campaign. As the survivor (if not necessarily the victor) of many campaigns, Grey was good at this.

Even if he couldn't spell it correctly.

In any case, he had bigger fish to fry than a crewman who, in hindsight, was only giving him useful information.

Except this next fish, the General mused, might be about to eat *him*.

"Sir," called his yeoman, bent over the desk console in the General's new office, "the signal's coming through."

At a quick trot, the General rushed inside the office and pulled the door shut behind him, using a welded-on handle.

"Computer, secure the room." he commanded, for what it was worth.


Grey rounded the corner of his desk and came up alongside his yeoman. They exchanged nods, the connection went live, and the yeoman retreated to a corner.

The logo of Starfleet command shone on the screen, illuminating the General in the darkness of his office. After a few moments, the image changed to a video feed.

"General Jonathan Grey, confirm transmission please." announced an old Lieutenant on the screen.

"Confirmed. Signal is clear, line is secure." he replied, briskly.

"Thank you General. Admirals, we are clear to begin." said the Lieutenant, stepping aside to reveal a large, curved, oaken table. The shutters behind it let through only slivers of light, but the room was well-illuminated in any case; the polar opposite of Grey's dingy office, with cables hanging down the walls.

One by one, three people walked into view and sat at the table. Some held themselves more upright than others, like a modest geriatrics parade, but it was the eyes that told the real story.

These were the *big* fish.

"General Grey," barked Admiral Praxis, a familiar though highly unwelcome presence, "you were commanded to attend this meeting today as the final stage before our deliberations."

"Deliberations, admiral? I was told that this was a briefing." Grey replied, feeling wrong-footed.

"Yes, General." came a voice that shocked Grey with how smooth it was, gliding easily between the lips of a silver-haired Andorian woman old enough to be his grandmother. "We have requested your presence so that you may brief us on the state of Versailles. Armed with this information, we can begin the process of deciding what the next step should be."

"Next step? I don't understand." objected the General, aware that the woman's calming tones were lowering his own defences, and not liking it. The Andorian was clearly a diplomat, and a good one.

"And you don't need to, General." stated the third member of the room, who wore a uniform that, on inspection, was edged with green. Likely a Major General in the Marine Corps, Grey decided. Getting stuck behind a desk was a hard fate for a marine, but there were worse ways to end a violent career.

"Can I at least ask your names, sirs." Grey asked, finally taking his own seat.

"Fine." hissed Admiral Praxis, who was clearly enjoying this little get-together as much as Grey was. "You know my name. This is Admiral T'Chula." he stated, gesturing to the Andorian woman who inclined her head. "And this is General Dran." he finished, gesturing to the bald, brown-toned Major General who towered over the other two.

"Thank you, Admiral." Grey replied with even tones, reigning in his dislike for Praxis. There was a time and a place to tweak the fool's nose, and this wasn't it. Something was going on here, and Grey didn't like the sound of "next step".

"So, status report. Now." demanded Praxis, glowering at the camera.

"Yes sir. One moment." said Grey, pulling a padd from his pocket, containing the summaries he'd been pulling together via word-of-mouth and the occasional meeting.

"Our overall status is low risk, high stakes. The power system has been our focus, so we've been able to keep the station in a fairly stable orbit around the black hole. We've even been able to avoid the worst of the gravimetric shears, so key systems are usually functioning, if at low power. The station is still viable." he added, emphasising that last point.

"Viable? It's a wreck!" exclaimed Praxis, gesturing to a padd of his own. "Riots in the spindle! Raiders in the rings! You're even using one of your own corridors as a power conduit!"

"We've resolved most of the rioting in the spindle." said Grey, ticking off the points on his fingers. "We're moving our attention to the rings, so the raiders won't last long. Plus, the civilians there are banding together, so I'm not too concerned. And yes, the corridor was used as a conduit. We were sabotaged. It was a quick fix."

"Is it *still* a power conduit?"

"I'm...not sure. I'm asking people to prioritise repairs and peacekeeping over reports. The crisis hasn't ended yet, and thousands of people are still in danger here!"

"A good Captain would stay on top of his people!"

"They're Starfleet officers, not camels!" snapped the General, glaring at the screen. "And each of them bears the burden of many times more men and women than most Captains do."

"We are aware of the numbers, good General." said T'Chula, making calming gestures to both parties. "And nobody is questioning that there *is* a crisis here. If I may return to an earlier point?" she asked, deferential despite her rank.

Though he was still sure that he was being manipulated, Grey still appreciated the courtesy he wasn't owed, and gave her an amiable nod, simmering down.

"Are you quite certain that the station is still viable in the long run?" she asked, carefully avoiding accusations.

"I...I think so, yes. If we can remove the black hole from the equation, I think we can repair the damage that has been done without external help."

"Oh? How so? Your predecessors needed a great deal of external help to bring the station back up to strength."

"Yes Admiral, and most of that strength is still here. We are under sustained assault by the gravity of the black hole, and it is affecting our systems, but I am to understand that it is the continuous nature of the assault that is causing our problems. Most of our systems are still fully functional, they just act unreliably due to the intense gravity."

"So once the black hole situation is resolved..."

"We should be able to resolve the damage to key systems fairly quickly, being able to devote our full strength to repairs, and not just an endless and unpredictable damage control. The superficial extensive, I admit. The carpets are a write-off."

"Check your tone, General." intoned the Major General on the screen, breaking his silence. Meeting the giant's gaze, Grey felt no real anger there, only a cold professionalism. He could respect that, even if he'd never share a drink with the guy.

"Yes sir." said Grey, reminding himself that though these tiny people on the screen seemed surreal in the dark, this meeting was important. Though, he reminded himself, he still had no clue why.

"So, what's your plan to resolve the situation?" asked General Dran, leaning forwards.

"Well, Plan A was to somehow neutralise the black hole. It arrived in a cargo ship, so I figured...but that won't work. Our scientists have determined that once the singularity unfolded into a full black hole, that's it. I'm told it's unstable, so we could let it burn itself out. Technically."

"Speak plainly marine."

"Sir." replied Grey, feeling his training prod him. "That black hole's a long-term hazard. Best guess? Years. We might last that long, but we'd be a ghost town. No defending anything. No coordinating the regional fleet. Just hanging in there day by day."

"Plan B?"

"We move the station."

"Chance of success?"

"High, *if* we can get enough ships. Even at full power, our thrusters can't counter the black hole's gravity alone. Expanding our orbit would be meters at a time, and we'd have no power for what limited gravimetric-shear evasion we have in our current orbit. We'd get ripped apart, and DS9's little warp bubble trick wouldn't help us either, not this close to the black hole."

"Don't tell us what you *can't* do."

"Yes sir. We need enough ships to pull free quickly. Not enough regional ships to do that and keep the peace, so we'd need more. Klingon and Romulan delegations are arriving soon, and I'll negotiate for use of their ships."

"Why didn't you speak to us?"

"Because Praxis is our allocated POC. Frankly, negotiating with Klingons and Romulans seemed easier."

"How DARE you!" screamed Praxis, jumping to his feet and slamming his fists on the table. "I will strip you of your command you wretched, jarheaded, bastard of a cu-"

"Enough, Admiral." said Admiral T'Chula, shocking Grey yet again with the way her dulcet tones had suddenly gained cutting edges. "You know full well the protocol for such a crisis. Until he poses an evitable threat to the station, or the crisis is over, he is in command."

The look on Praxis' face was one of consummate fury, dragging his prune-like features inwards like that of a cat, concentrating his anger in the middle of his face.

Grey needed every fibre of his body not to smirk. It helped that General Dran was watching him like a hawk, well aware what Grey was thinking.

"Plan C, General?" prompted Dran, getting Grey back on track.

"Sir. Plan C is...nonoptimal. To keep the station alive, we need more personnel than can be shipped out in one go. I've done the math, and we'd need to leave about two hundred people to get eaten by the black hole."


"I agree. Still, if we get at least half of the ships we'd need for Plan B, we might be able to extract the spindle on it own. We'd lose the rings, but we'd be able to evacuate all of the people."

"Still unaccaptable. The materiel loss of the rings-"

"Is still preferable to the loss of 200 of the station's crew. Agreed?"

"Hrr. Agreed." grunted General Dran, nodding briskly.

"Well, I think we have enough data for now, General Grey." stated Admiral T'Chula. "We will contact you when we have the results of our deliberations."

"Yes, sir." said Grey, cut off by Praxis before he could finish.

In the sudden darkness of the room, the General sighed.

This was only going to get worse.

=^= End of Log =^=

Brigadier General Jonathan Grey
Commanding Officer
Starbase Versailles


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