SD242101.19 - Plot Log - "Heave Ho"
Posted on Tue Jan 19th, 2021 @ 4:31pm by Brigadier General Jonathan Grey
=^= Space =^=
The black hole was a featureless orb, surrounded by the sort of lensing effect typically witnessed by cautious scientists or the imminently unfortunate. Around the orb span a wide, orange disk that faded to grey at its edge.
Made primarily out of accumulated space dust, more than a little of the ring was made of bits from Versailles. Unstable as it was, the intensity of the black hole would fluctuate and cause strange visual effects, resulting in a ripple of gravitational force washing out from the centre and dragging the ring inwards in a sudden movement.
Anyone too close to the centre would be in for a bad day. Versailles was too close for a smaller ship, but a number of suitably paranoid people involved in the starbase's design had ensured that even the worst gravitational anomalies would be hard-pressed to do real, structural harm.
The decor would hit you in the head, but the room wouldn't decompress.
At least, that was the theory.
=^= Main Ops =^=
"...in three, two, one, *brace*!" cried an Ensign, gripping the sides of his console.
An instant later, the room rocked hard. Lights flickered as the still-limited power system pulled power from every system in order to preserve the occupants of the station. Fortunately the inertial dampeners had already been configured to handle the jump to warp, so the shudder quickly subsided.
"Status report!" barked the General, releasing his grip on the door frame.
"Sir, the black hole appears to be pulsing out gravity waves much faster and harder than it used to." announced a Vulcan Lieutenant from one of the rear consoles.
"The black hole appears to be more unstable than predicted."
"Meaning?" said the General, who suspected he already knew.
"The gravitational waves will increase in frequency, before becoming briefly continuous, followed by an explosion."
"And how long do we have to discuss this?" inquired the General, glaring at the big orange disk on his viewscreen.
"Based on the timing of the pulses, the explosion will not occur for a minimum of seventy-two hours." explained the Vulcan, setting a deadline on their lives with all the excitement of a Ritalin kid reading an essay on wheat farming. "However, at our present poition, the gravitational extremes will disable the station in two hours."
"Let's not stick around for that." declared the General.
Marching his way across the room, stumbling only briefly as an after-shock rippled its way back up from the bottom of the station, the General laid one hand on the comms console.
"Open a channel to the Ryde."
Beep beep, beep beep, boop.
"Channel open, sir."
At the front of the room, the oversized display screen flickered for a moment, and eventually decided to cooperate. A view of the black hole was replaced by the bridge of an Akira-class vessel; one of the many ships clustering out beyond the effects of the event horizon.
"General Grey, I wasn't expecting to hear from you until the day after tomorrow. Is something wrong?" inquired Captain Chot, the Bolian CO of the USS Ryde.
"In a word, yes. The black hole's decided to kill us all a little early." the General declared, with little time for nicities.
"What can we do?"
"Rally the fleet. We're towing the station now."
"Yes sir, we're on our way."
With a nod, the channel was closed, and the room erupted into activity.
Flight Control was the quickest on the draw, with a pre-configured message transmitted up the chain of fighters that linked the station to the outside world, beyond the comms-dampening effects of the black hole. As one unit, the fighters broke the chain and drew back to the station. They would be needed to aid in the tow, and they would also act as point defence in the event of an ill-timed raider strike.
The next to act was the Vulcan Lieutenant, triggering a macro designed to alert the station's departments. While the General's formal announcement would not go out for thirty seconds, it gave people a moment to wake up and roll out of bed. Nobody would want to be caught unawares by this, which was why a number of people were even now consulting life-sign sensors to ensure everyone was awake.
Finally, the General's voice boomed out of every grill across the station. With the fighters now closer to home, each one was able to relay and boost the transmission from the working transceivers, ensuring that the message reached the entire station.
"Versailles, this is General Grey." the voice blared, causing more than one officer to lean away from their station.
"If you are hearing this message, then we have been forced to move up our timetable. In the next five minutes, the station will begin moving away from the black hole. We anticipate no structural damage, but we do encourage you to find a room with the smallest number of unsecured objects. Leave public spaces and any open areas. Find something to hold onto. Good luck."
As the minimalist message wound to a close, the image on the viewscreen became grainy.
"Sorry sir, must be interference." apologized the Ensign liaising with Engineering, pushing a few buttons to try and isolate the problem.
"No." said the General, recognising the shape of the grains as larger ones appeared, "that's not interference."
=^= Space =^=
The shuttles flew in first, being less affected by the gravitational effects of the black hole. Swarms of them, mainly Starfleet and Civilian, took up position closest to the ring. They were joined by the station's larger maintenance craft, as well as the Romulan tow-drones, adding a vaguely green shade to the overall colour.
Each one a point of light in the darkness, it was as if the station were being mobbed by swarms of fireflies. Hundreds of these tiny craft were gathered here for the big performance, despite the fact that their overall impact would be minimal. Truthfully, they were mainly here to even out the effects of the warp field from the larger vessels, joining up the bubbles to form one large, contiguous, mass-reducing zone over the station.
Hot on their heels came the mid-size craft. Akira-class and Defiant-class vessels were the staple here, drawn from the station's defence force, the YaDalla Sector Patrol Fleet, and also the ranks of the Border Defence Force along the Azurean corridor.
Other ship types were also here, though no more than a few of each, their overall number was easily over a hundred. Civilian freighters of varying types and colours, more than one of which was trailing blue sparks in the void as their under-maintained engines strained against the pull of the black hole while also readying enough power to tow the station.
Bringing up the front, three Birds of Prey took up centre position, though in truth their mass could easily be overlooked among the menagerie.
Finally, the big ships joined the party.
For most people, seeing a single Galaxy-class ship was an event, and there were seven here. The pride of Starfleet, these ships were among the most vast and powerful ships ever created by the Federation, and were easily the most impressive in their day.
Even now, in a time where many Federation ship classes had better numbers for both bulk and power, a well-maintained Galaxy was something a foe ignored at their peril.
As they cruised into position, distributed evenly across the side of the station facing away from the black hole, a single (yet impressively large) Romulan D'deridex-class cruiser joined their formation.
In the middle of this vast cloud of hardware, the USS Ryde, an unassuming Akira-class, took a digital roll-call. It took a minute to cut through the interference of the black hole, as well as the radiation from more than a few unshielded nacelles on the civilian craft, but eventually the numbers came back in the green.
As the designated command and control craft for this effort, due to the General's caution over trusting his station's comms in the event of a power cut, the Ryde opened a channel to the fleet.
"Allied craft, this is Captain Chot of the Ryde. Establish tractor lock and stand by."
As a unit, beams of light lanced out from every craft, big and small. Locking onto the station, they held the vast behemoth firm, relative to the fleet. The station itself continued to orbit the black hole, and the ships moved with it, slowly coasting sideways as the Tactical officer aboard the Ryde watched the scanner with baited breath.
At the bottom of his screen was the black hole. The station was just above it, sitting on a circle displaying its orbit. Several inches further up, and safely away from the event horizon, was a symbol representing the shipyard. Between the station's orbit and the shipyard, a dotted curve linked the two. They had to initiate burn at just the right moment, or they'd miss the shipyard and it'd be several more hours before they could drag everything around for a second try.
A few, tense seconds passed.
The dotted curve turned green.
"Allied ships, initiate 25% thrust."
With the starbase firmly in their grasp, the fleet's engines glowed brightly in the dark shadow of the Starbase. Status messages flew back and forth between the bigger ships and the station, attempting to identify any sources of heavy structural strain. At this phase, the impact was light.
The force could now be felt on the station, where more than a few civilians took a tumble as the inertial dampeners struggled to compensate for both the black hole's interference *and* the irresistible force of almost one thousand tractor beams working in unison.
"Alright, 75% thru-"
Beep beep! Beep beep!
"What just hit us!?" shouted Captain Chot, standing up.
"A gravitational wave, sir!" replied the science officer, her hands a flurry of activity over the console.
"From the black hole?"
"Yes sir. The rate of contraction is increasing."
"So instead of two hours to get clear and three days to go to warp," said the Captain, reading from a summary message the station had sent him, "we have...?"
"Ten minutes to get clear, five hours to go to warp, and we just lost several ships. Several drones that're lost causes, a few shuttles, and one mid-size freighter. The station reports it can hold them from falling into the black hole with its own tractor beams, but can't spare the power for more."
"Then we better make this quick. USS Ryde to all allied ships; our timetable just got shorter; full thrust!"
"Sir, that'll damage the station!" objected the tactical officer.
"But if we don't, the black hole will wreck both the station and our fleet before we can get clear. Better a damaged station than a destroyed one, and us!" exclaimed the science officer.
"Stay calm." the Captain ordered her, as he saw his arm-rest console light up with text messages expressing concern over the order.
"Allied ships; if we don't speed things up, the station will be disabled, and we will be too. Estimate time to next wave; ten minutes. Give it all you've got!"
The engines of every ship flared blindingly bright in the darkness as every ship pushed their limits. The station was a fat little bitch, but it could not resist the sheer magnitude of the power brought to bear. Even its own thrusters glowed a brilliant white as it pumped every spare watt of power into the piddly things, turning two into melted globs of zero-gravity slag as it did so.
"Versailles reports heavy damage, but remains structurally intact." announced the comms officer aboard the Ryde. "The General shares your concern about the black hole, and says, I quote: 'She can take it.'"
Out in the void, various patches of the station flickered as their power systems suffered both the intense acceleration and the hit of another gravity wave. Injury reports flooded in from across the station, and engineering now had at least five plasma fires to contend with. Fortunately the turbolifts were still working, for now, and teams were able to reach the trouble spots quickly.
The next few minutes were a matter of crossed fingers and gritted teeth. Engines overheated, piping shuddered and clanged, secondaries were engaged, over-taxed, and some ships were even limping along on tertiary systems by the time the fleet neared "safe" distance.
Just as Versailles passed the red line, the black hole fired off another gravitational wave as a parting gift. This one still rocked the station, weakened as it was, but wasn't strong enough at this range to do any more harm.
With the Starbase at a steadily-widening "safe" orbit under its own power, the fleet disengaged their tractor beams and immediately ordered their crews to begin repairs. A few dispatched repair teams to the smaller craft that had been disabled during the tow, and other teams were assigned to aid Versailles in its repairs.
They had five hours maximum. Anything not warp-capable at that time would hit a shockwave of gravity and superheated matter as the singularity exploded.
While the ships could be evacuated if they had to, Versailles had no such luxury.
The clock was ticking.
=^= End of Log =^=
Brigadier General Jonathan Grey