17.2.16

Unofficial 16A

Unofficial Literary Challenge #20: Nibiru, Part I

In the unlit, nearly empty Operations center of Starbase 55, Captain Samya sat working diligently at an Ops console not in any state of awareness for the overly windy swooshing sounds of the nearby turbolift.

"Burning the midnight oil?" asked Admiral Cloud, slyly, more sure than anything that he was being original with the use of that phrase.

Ignoring the failed attempt and his sudden creep-like presence, the second Human replied, "Huh? Oh, no. I'm reinforcing local systems so that we can finally get back to Tier V construction."

"Damn that computer virus hologram that knocked us all the way back to Tier II," Cloud cursed to himself and at his holographic Intelligence officer. "How is Mayhem even still in Starfleet?"

Breaking off her lean from her console, Samya paused. "More to the question: Where'd all the extra decks go? Never mind. I'm sure the answer is as comprable as the premise."

"Don't you mean comparable?" Cloud tilted his head, slightly in confusion, suddenly gaining a view of her console. "Wait. That's not local system reinforcement at all? You're accessing intel on the Solanae to find your lost sister!"

With the jig up, Samya looked straight away. "Fine. But can you blame me? I don't exactly maintain a social roster for interpersonal proxy. Besides, you're no Starfleet boy scout yourself. How does a starbase operate without a night shift?"

"The shift rotation is easier this way! You know how I hate too many padds on my desk. Why are you even on this station all the time? Don't you have your own starship?"

Turning to him, Samya threw up her arms. "The Dropzone is a Defiant-class! That's like asking a valding Lurian to do his drinking on a Klingon shuttlepod!"

"Ah, perfect analogy," Cloud appraised. "Anyway, I came here because I need you to join your task force in the Azure Sector to investigate an alarming set of pseudo-anomalies."

Sighing, the tactical officer turned in her seat. "Fine. But, why us? Why not Captain Shon and the Enterprise-E, since everyone seems to love them so much? They think they're so good."

"Unfortunately, they're in the Bajor system, catching up with all the new Mirror Leeta stuff. It's quite confusing, timeline-wise; they're there, but they're here, but they're there? Non-time travel mechanics gives me such a headache."

---

Later, the Steamrunner-class U.S.S. Tsunami exited warp and joined the Dropzone in the Azure sector near several small, spinning black holes.

"Burning the midnight oil, Captain Samya?" came the sly hail from Captain McCary on the Tsunami.

The Dropzone answered back, relieved. "I know it's the middle of the day, but you hit the nail on the head with that phraseology."

"The last time we were all together, we were ambushed by the Seventh Fleet," the one-quarter Klingon commented with a hint of concern at his joining her. "They suspected we were Changelings masquerading as masquerading Undine." 

Samya waved it off, deftly. "Yeah, but we set them against Battle Group Omega after we masked Omega's signatures as Borg ships. They were attacking each other for weeks!"

Just then, the Akira-class U.S.S. Hijinx dropped out of warp and approached. "Well, this is a sight of implausibility to be had. Any preliminary scans or snarky one liners yet?" came Captain Reynolds' hail from her ship as she split everyone's screens two-ways.

"You know as well as we do that we're supposed to form a giant arrow in the direction of the anomalies, first," Samya reminded.

Rolling her eyes, the Betazoid replied, "Great. I see we're maintaining typical Task Force Epsilon procedure. Why don't we just paint targets on our hulls while we're at it?"

Next, the Centaur-class U.S.S. Jenova dropped out of warp and took first position near them. "What?" Captain Iviok asked, splitting the screens three-ways. "Are we not doing the pointy thing?"

"Task Force Epsilon is going to forego the pre-mission formation this time around," suggested McCary. "Also, let's not broadcast the royal fanfare either."

The Andorian threw up his arms. "So we worked triple shifts on our Tier 1 engines for nothing? I lost two men to excess technobabble! Anyway, why are we even called Task Force Epsilon? Aren't the Greek letters re-assigned per crisis, per grouping?"

At that, the Intrepid-class U.S.S. Crucial dropped out into normal space right next to the other ships. Captain Menrow hailed from his Bridge, splitting all screens four-ways. "To answer your question, which I am just assuming since I was at warp at the time, Starfleet has put us and several other grouped starships on long-term task over the Federation's rehashed storyline ambitions. Thus, we will likely never be disbanded until something original comes along."

"Then I suppose we should all get to the space thing that's usually a one-ship space thing," McCary concluded.

Reynolds replied, "We're still missing our command vessel, the U.S.S. Phoenix-X. Anyone see them?"

"Uh, it's been forever since we heard anything from Captain Seifer," Iviok answered. "I just figured they died from that undead-like virus thing; seemed like screaming in sheer pain and horror was a good way to go."

McCary stepped up. "Actually, Samya and I ran into him in a hacked incarnation of Winter Wonderland, recently, after which he reportedly returned to his ship just fine."

"In our off-hours, we investigated his second sickness and found no signs of malevolence," Samya reported. "As for the ailment itself, we still don't know where it's coming from."

Reynolds tapped her chin in thought. "Is this because the LCs are dead? Oh, LCs are what I call Last Calls, which they stopped doing at 602 Club ever since we got hit with, like, three wars at once. Anyway, who's in charge if there's no Phoenix-X?"

"According to Starfleet Regulation 191, Article 15, in any situation involving more than one ship, command falls to the vessel of the Intrepid-class variation," said Iviok.

Widening his eyes in shock, Menrow replied, "That's me! I knew this spoon-beast would come in handy. And everyone said I was just asking to be lost in some random Quadrant of complete absurdity." 

Rubbing his hands together in excitement, Menrow brought up the space visual, splitting every screen, now, five-ways.

"So, what have we got here? A bunch of black holes?" Menrow observed before processing. Then, in disgust and a sudden dash of hopes, replaced with frustration, he declared, "That makes no sense!"

Reynolds chimed in. "He's right. Normally, they're collapsed stars and too concentrated to co-exist without orbiting or merging themselves."

"My ship is reading an inconsistent flow of thermal radiation coming from those swirly-curlies. They appear to be sputtering in and out of the space-time continuum!" Iviok reacted. "Oh, and they're all drifting toward us."

Everyone watched as their ships became immobilized under intense gravimetric suspensions. Then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, the Prometheus-class U.S.S. Phoenix-X coasted, just far enough from out behind the black holes and slowly began passing the group, on a nose-down, 60-degree angle.

"That's Captain Seifer's ship!" exclaimed Reynolds in shock.

Menrow sighed in alleviation. "Phew. Well, that's a relief. All this task force commanding was making me thirsty. Margaritas, anyone?"

"Hold that indispensable thought. I'm not reading any lifesigns on-board the vessel," reported Samya. "It's as if the polygons didn't spawn at all-- er, I mean, everyone evacuated for some reason."

Iviok crossed his arms. "And here we were, ready to dismiss that over-nacelled-mashup because we wanted to break standard procedure. Seems when people are grouped, they come to poor conclusions."

"This is why our task force was used as cannon fodder during the Iconian War," McCary stated. "We told everyone we wanted to negotiate each battle with diplomacy, and that group-think got our comm signals all entangled."

Reynolds added, "My ship still blasts microphone feedback every time I hail someone."

SCRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Everyone quickly turned down their volume controls.

"Would it be better if we weren't near each other? Would that make things right?" interjected Captain Menrow. "As Epsilon's acting commanding officer, I hereby rule we do all we can to work autonomously, in far proximity from one another, however vexing it may be to accommodate, to complete whichever mission we perchance be assigned."

As they nodded in agreement, all five Captains were suddenly beamed off their ships and onto the Bridge of the Phoenix-X.

---

There, together, on the Prometheus-class vessel, they found holographic virus and Starfleet Intelligence officer Lieutenant Commander Mayhem standing over an operations console.

"Oh, hello," Mayhem greeted, turning to take notice of them. "Are you familiar with the Nibiru? Well, they're this week's alien of the week."