THE QU'VAT MASSACRE: PROLOGUE (T)
Captain's log, stardate 51247.5. Starfleet Command has directed the Europa to patrol a sector of space near the Cardassian Union border, a few light years from Deep Space 9. With the return of the Klingon Empire within the Khitomer Accords, the Federation has granted High Chancellor Gowron to place a number of outposts along the entire border with the Cardassian demilitarised zone…
Patrolling assignments, along with escorting convoys of civilians or essential resources, were about as tedious as a starship could get, despite the fact that they were something essential, especially in wartime.
The fighting had been going on, bloody, for almost two years now, hitting different targets, not all of them military, and starting to push the available resources to the limit: some planets had seen the destruction of most of their cities and rural settlements as a result of fierce bombardments from orbit and consequent 'terrestrial' invasions by Jem'Hadar troops and their allies.
And it was precisely in the opposing line-up that one could find the Cardassians, with whom the Federation had signed an armistice in 2367 and a non-aggression pact in 2370, with the consequent establishment of a demilitarised zone where, four years later, some Federation vessels had been deployed with patrol duties and the Klingons had set up some control outposts.
The Klingons, blessing and a curse for the Federation: there was a time, during Kirk’s era and the first space explorations’, when the Federation and the Klingons had been constantly engaged in a sort of cold war until, in 2293, they were finally able to sit down at the table and draw up a peace treaty between the two powers, which went down in history as the Khitomer Accords.
Agreements from which the Klingons had decided to withdraw unilaterally in 2372, when the Federation Council officially condemned the invasion of the Cardassian Union led by High Chancellor Gowron. The following year, in 2373, at the direct request of Captain Benjamin Sisko, Gowron had reinstated the treaty between the two powers when the alliance between Dominion and Cardassian Union forces had threatened to throw the Alpha Quadrant into war. A war that was now being fought rather bloodily on several fronts.
Undoubtedly, therefore, it was not a rosy time, and the aftermath was likely to be even more worrying, especially if, of course, one were to consider all those worlds that would be in need of substantial reconstruction or massive support and assistance to those who would need it most.
Carefully analysing the sector reports, it could be seen that the last few weeks had been far too quiet for the area in which the Europa found itself at the time. As mentioned, the demilitarised zone had been a fairly recent invention, and one that had brought with it many problems, including the emergence of a terrorist group known as the Maquis, which had disbanded in 2373 following a targeted attack by the Dominion and the Jem'Hadar on behalf of the Cardassians. It had happened several months before, but now the perceived calm seemed to herald a coming storm, the extent of which was unknown, ready to pounce on all those it would encounter in its path.
Such were the thoughts that crowded the mind of Leeda Sevek, the first officer aboard the Europa for almost two years, following her early return from the Gamma Quadrant exploration mission and the departure of R'Mau, the previous executive officer, to take command of the Leonidas, one of the new Ares-class vessels designed by the S.C.E. with the idea of providing the Federation with more powerful battleships, should the opportunity to defend itself against outside assaults arise again.
Upon arrival on the bridge, nothing seemed to disturb the background hum of the active equipment. Most of the bridge stations were occupied by at least one officer or non-commissioned officer, with Lieutenant Rebim and Lieutenant Ferrari at the helm and operations stations respectively. At the tactician's station was a junior officer, belonging to the security complement under the command of Lieutenant Commander Moq, who, in turn, was seated in the captain's chair, overseeing the quiet activity of the early morning bridge.
«Commander,» Sevek greeted him, simply, «do you have anything to report from the night shift?»
«No, sir,» the Klingon answered her, rising and leaving his station, «nothing to report. With your permission,» he added, «I would withdraw from duty.»
«Permission granted, Commander,» Sevek nodded, «you are resting. I will see you tomorrow, at the start of Alpha shift.» With that, the Klingon headed for the turbolift that would allow him to reach the officers' quarters directly from the bridge, while the Bajoran First Officer took a seat in the Captain's chair previously occupied by Moq.
It wasn't strange that Captain T'Vok, Europa's commanding officer, hadn't been present on the bridge with the start of Alpha shift recently: constantly coordinating the patrol forces and those deployed in the clashes meant constant briefings and debriefings, necessary to keep up to date and intervene if and when the situation made it possible - that morning, most likely, she had been sucked in by the numerous reports that, for weeks now, seemed to be stacking inexorably on her desk.
«Lieutenant, what are our course and speed?» Sevek asked the helmsman, who immediately replied with a «One eight five point zero three zero, warp speed three, sir.» Nodding, the first officer asked if there were any anomalies to report, but Ferrari, at the operations station, shook her head: «At the moment, Commander, nothing to report: everything seems to be quiet out there.»
«Very well, Lieutenant,» Sevek replied, «let's maintain course and speed.»
«Aye, sir,» replied Rebim. At the tactical station, the duty officer set the sharing of the operations control panel, Ferrari validated this from her station at the front of the bridge, thinking to herself that the officer was beginning to get bored and was, therefore, going to take refuge in routine procedures. No harm done - it was standard procedure anyway.
After the Alpha shift was over, a few hours later, Ferrari was sitting at a small table in the forward bar, sipping a soft drink while scrolling through a PADD, containing the night's correspondence. Since she had reconnected with her family - at first, the family had not been particularly supportive of her choice to follow a military path, for her education and career - they had been in regular contact, although it was not always possible to interact in real time.
And it was with the latest stream of data that new things had come their way: the father, a civilian engineer collaborating on some military projects offered by Starfleet, had finally returned to Earth, after several months spent coordinating a team of technicians to develop new interplanetary defence armaments; the mother, a lecturer at a prestigious university, had finally returned to duty after a sabbatical devoted to research in the field of quantum mathematics.
News from the front came via the FNS, the Federation News Service, which implied that they both had a very vague idea of what was happening in the universe and the ongoing war with the Dominion. On more than one occasion, especially in the latter period, they had insisted that their daughter ask to be transferred elsewhere, seeing her promotion and consequent rise up the hierarchy within the Europa as unfortunate. Even in this last missive, the two had not failed to emphasise this, convinced that the life of an officer aboard a starbase or stationed on a planet was far less dangerous than that lived on a spaceship.
Given the information coming from Deep Space 9 - Ferrari had been in contact with some of the residents of the Cardassian station, which had been in the hands of a joint force of Starfleet officers and Bajorans’ for several years - life aboard seemed to be almost as interesting as life on the Europa or any other ships on a deep space mission.
Just from the correspondence from the space station, one thing in particular caught her attention: Dr. Lenara Kahn and Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax regretted that Lt. Eva Ferrari would not be present at their upcoming wedding. Attendance had been received well in advance, and nothing seemed to prevent the human from attending, considering how Europa was only a few parsecs away and, from what Ferrari said, the period was quite subdued and there did not seem to be anything in particular to do except continue patrolling various sectors on the Cardassian border. Yet stringent orders from Starfleet Command had prevented the lieutenant from even shuttling from Europa to the base, so he had had to decline the invitation.