The Last Days of the USS Starlight Pony (Chap 5)
Previously... Chapter 4:

Mirra and Thron immediately recognised what it was. Dr Armaat showed no reaction but blinked at the screen. Only Gepba was not clear at all what made the cargo so important.

“Decalithium?” Gepba asked.

“I am surprised that you do not realise,” Fludicus said simply, “Decalithium is the raw material for making Red Matter.”

And now...

The Last Days of the USS Starlight Pony (Chap 5)

All four officers now fully realised the implications arising from that raid, but otherwise they did not show any shock or horror at the revelation. 

Mirra was the first to speak, “Where did that decalithium come from?”

“A good question,” Fludicus replied, “Starfleet Intelligence has no idea how it got onto the freighter. In fact, there is no record of it. Not even the crews were aware of it.”

“So they had no idea it was there in the first place?”

“No one knew about the Decalithium until after the raid,” Fludicus said, “Starfleet Intelligence has a hunch that it came from the processing facility near Lackey III, knowing its... recent takeover by the Gorn. But we have no proof to support that.”

“Didn't anyone think of the idea that the material could have come from the Cardassian side?” Dr Armaat asked.

“That would have been a dead giveaway,” Thron pointed out, “Everyone audits and inspects the mines on the Cardassian side so thoroughly due to the True Way threat that no shipment could get through without anyone knowing.”

“The facility at Lackey III is a different story,” Gepba added, “With it being under the Gorn for a time as well as being so far deep within the Federation, oversight was an afterthought.”

“Regardless of wherever the stuff had come from, we should be aware that there are consequences for this  mission to fail,” Fludicus said, “We cannot have the True Way having Red Matter falling into their hands.”

Everyone was quiet, all too aware of Red Matter, Ambassador Spock and the Hobos Supernova. For the True Way to have that sort of power would be unspeakable.

“Knowing the True Way,” Dr Armaat said, “They would exploit it to advance their cause and at everyone's expense. One bomb would be enough to threaten Bajor or Cardassia alone.”

“They may not stop at one...” Mirra said, “They might as well go all the way to conquering the galaxy...”

The others simply shook their head at that prospect.

“With this in mind, our mission is clear. Find their bases and ships, search for any Red Matter and if need be destroy them before they get any chance to use the Red Matter,” Fludicus concluded, “I cannot overstate the repercussions of failure.”

Returning to the mission at hand, Fludicus laid out the battle plan, “We will start in the Badlands, specifically the location of the old Maquis Base. We will search the area, intercept any ships we come across and if needed,” everyone knows that it would be the most likely outcome, “destroy it.”

Fludicus then turned to Gepba, “Gepba, you are to proceed to the coordinates that I am about to give you. From there we shall conduct our mission. Once we arrive, you are to await further instructions.”

Gepba nodded.

Fludicus then turned to Thron, “I heard that engineering has gotten some new tricks in using the engines.”

“That's correct,” Thron replied, “The engineering crew has managed to increase power output by 20 per cent. We got plenty of auxiliary power in reserves now.”

“Could we divert them to weapons?”

“Not advisable,” Thron replied, “I have examined the circuitry and conduits of the weapons aboard. They are pretty old and delicate for the amount of power we got in auxiliary now. If we divert all that power into weapons we could overload the systems.”

“How about shields?” suggested Mirra, “we always have trouble trying to get the shields up to starch.”

“Let's go with that,” Fludicus agreed.

“We could do something like that...” Thron then noticed Mirra looking at him as though her had something else. Thron cleared his throat and continued, “Due to the engineering modifications, we are producing more warp plasma than we need – and eventually contain.”

“Is that a problem?” Fludicus asked.

“We need to vent out the warp plasma periodically, as to prevent the containment systems from overloading or the warp plasma leaking out into the decks - if such an occasion may let it happen.”

“How much? How often?”

“About 4 percent every two weeks?” Thron's reply got is attention, “I know it sounds a lot...”

“Is it possible to reduce the rate of plasma produced?” Fludicus asked.

“I could do that,”Thron replied, “But we are still tinkering with the engines and the warp core: there's still a few bugs here and there.”

“Keep the plasma at the meantime,” Fludicus remarked, “I suppose we can use it as some sort of smokescreen?”

“We can do better than that,” Thron replied, “My engineers think we can channel it through the nacelles. Any ship that tries to follow us would find themselves in a mess in our warp plasma trail.”

“We would be able to take the fight to them,” Mirra suggested, “All we need to do is get close to them and let loose the plasma.”

“That should not be an issue,” Gepba said, “I can get close to them with full shields and max engines.”

“I'll let you work three out the details,” Fludicus still liked what he was hearing, “Mirra, how are the weapons and shields?”

“As mentioned, the weapons are old and dated. But I am confident that we can use them in a combat situation,” Mirra replied, “Shields are a little weak, but if Thron could divert the extra power to the shields, I think we could get a bit more of an edge. Crews are trained and on the lookout for any intruders as always.”

Fludicus finally turned to his chief medical officer, Dr Armaat, “I trust that the medical staff is ready for casualties?”

“Always are,” replied Dr Armaat, “The Emergency Medical Holograms are ready and the nurses are on alert for any casualties that may arise.”

Fludicus took one final look at his senior crew, “All right then, seems like we are ready to sail into the unknown. Whatever awaits beyond the veil, we know who to expect. Let me remind you again: this is a classified mission. You are not to disclose any information until... further notice.”

The others nodded in unison.

“You have your orders,” Fludicus said, “You know what's at stake. We move out at at once. Dismissed.”

Thron, Dr Armaat and Gepba got up and left the briefing room. Only Mirra remained, still on her seat.

“Something you wanted to ask?” Fludicus knew that Mirra, as the first officer and one that has been by his side since his earlier days in Starfleet, had always something else to discuss.

“Two things Fludicus: I noticed that we have a small survey team aboard. Are they... aware of the mission?”

“Negative,” Fludicus replied, “They are not aware of our mission, but their work is vital to our mission and more. They are told that we are conducting some Badlands survey mission. We are to maintain that image.”

“Copy that,” Mirra replied, “On another matter, I believe that it is now my watch.”

“Well noted,” Fludicus conceded, “See to it that we get to the Badlands in a timely manner.”

“Acknowledged sir.”

“I could use a root beer while I am on downtime,” Fludicus said as he tapped his combadge as he headed for the door, “Mess hall, this is the commander. Double root beer, straight and chilled. Serve when I get through the door.”


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