The Hunt (Part One)
Episode One: Back on the Highway to Hell
Timeline: MD 6: 0245 hours
Captain Nathan Cowell could not sleep. It wasn't unusual for the Old Man to suffer bouts of insomnia from time to time, especially in the Delta Quadrant. He didn't care for the place much, and knew more about it than any other man or woman in Starfleet. It had been his home before the Borg drove his people off their home world and nearly to the brink of extinction. Far too many memories tended to jump out of their dark corners in Nathan's mind, which generally resulted in Nathan abandoning the endeavor entirely.
Nathan trudged through the mostly empty corridors of his ship, his movements slow and lacking outward purpose other than to continuously propel him forward. The few people he did happen upon stood to one side to allow the Captain to pass undisturbed, not daring to speak lest they interrupt him or further add to the foul mood that could almost be visibly seen hanging around him. When his course brought him to the bridge of his ship, Capt. Cowell was surprised to find that Cmdr. Toddman had pulled the short straw and the mid-watch as Command Duty Officer. He was, however, not sitting in Nathan's chair, a fact the Old Man took notice of.
"How stand's the watch, Mister Toddman?" Nathan inquired, not sounding the least bit interested in the answer to the question.
"Captain on Deck." Alex DuQuesne called out, when she turned toward the Captain's voice. Now maybe the night would liven up a little with the Captain here. Mid-watch was...Well boring.
"Nothing much to report, Sir. All is quiet, we're on course and on time. The only thing of significance was the completion of all repair works at 01:30 hours." Toddman reported before swinging his chair round to face his console again.
Nathan merely grunted and sank down into his chair, his cheek coming to rest on his propped up fist. The view screen had been turned off when Nathan arrived, doubtless because the people on the mid-watch usually didn't have any more lighting than was absolutely needed to get by. Nathan didn't blame them in the least for wanting it dark, it was, after all, supposedly night somewhere in the universe, and with a vast majority of the crew dead asleep it stood to reason that some parts of the ship reflected it. Even so, the Captain tapped his override code into the arm rest console and brought the viewer online, revealing the streaking star field before them.
Lieutenant Paul Akron turned to his Captain, though his exact facial features were obscured by the poor lighting, "Is something amiss, sir?"
Again Nathan only grunted in reply, as if not fully coherent and willing to give actual answers. Paul maintained his vigil of his Captain for a long moment before deciding he'd gotten all he was going to get before turning back around to his station. It wasn't until the console behind Nathan, manned by Lt. McChet, chirped loudly that the Old Man seemed to notice anything around him.
"Report, McChet," Nathan half-grumbled.
"Sensors indicate a distress beacon, bearing 112 mark 87, three minutes out at current speed," the Security Officer remarked.
"What's it say?" Cowell asked dryly.
"It's an automated signal, sir. It doesn't say much of anything. It's broadcasting on all the upper communication frequencies, sir, so I can safely assume it wasn't meant solely for us," Chet responded.
"Akron," the Captain said with a bit of a huff, "Change course and intercept the distress signal. Bring shields and weapons to standby, Mister McChet."
"Aye, sir," the man said with a nod, unbeknownst to Nathan who hadn't bothered to turn around to address the man the entire time.
Alex scanned the area of space with the distress beacon but sensors were either being interfered with... or deliberately blocked. "Sir," she spoke up "I'm unable to get any sort of concrete reading from that area of space. It's possible that ship in distress is damaged causing some sort of interference, but I'd recommend caution," she trailed off looking her board.
Toddman scanned over the sensor data for a moment, something seemed off. His eyes narrowed with suspicion. He swung his chair round to face the Captain again, "Captain, I agree, we should use caution. From my experience, the data suggests a localized jamming signal. It could be a natural phenomenon, but I wouldn't suggest brushing it off as such."
Nathan rubbed his chin in thought while weighing the odds of there being a trap set. The odds were good that it was a trap, but it was as equally likely a ship was sitting in a region of space that acted like a jamming field and their automated distress beacon was the only thing strong enough to cut through. If anything, the ship wasn't a helpless little snowflake in the middle of a volcano, and it was with that imagery in mind that Nathan made a decision.
"Take us to yellow alert, Mister McChet. Raise shields and make sure we've got one in the chamber just in case things really are as dicey as the paranoia suggests," Nathan remarked, "Continue on our intercept course, Mister Akron. If this isn't just a hoax, I'd rather not leave someone to die."
Paul nodded from his console and continued his monitoring of the situation. The time that elapsed between their conversation and the ship dropping out of warp was less than two minutes. When the view screen shifted from the streaks of warp flight to the image of a ship that looked rather thoroughly beaten, Nathan's mind began to relax a bit.
"Well, looks like someone does need our help out here," the Old Man said before he heard the chirping of the tactical console.
"Captain, I'm picking up five ships we hadn't been able to see before we arrived, they fit telemetry associated with Hirogen vessels from the Voyager tactical files."
"So it was a bit of both. Someone is being used as bait in this little trap of theirs..." Nathan muttered unhappily before the ship began taking fire.
Several consoles in the rear of the bridge exploded under the weight of the feedback the Hirogen weapons were causing in the Arizona's systems. Nathan glanced back to see that no one had been injured at the stations, given that they weren't being manned at the time.
"Report!" Nathan demanded.
"Shields have all but collapsed, Captain. All five ships fired on as simultaneously and managed to drain the shields almost completely," McChet responded to the Captain's demand.
Nathan slammed a hand down on his arm rest, "Bastards are going to board us!"
"Open a channel to all hands," Nathan said before the tone of an open channel rang out through the compartment, "All hands, this is the Captain. We are under attack. Report to your battle stations immediately and prepare to repel a boarding party!"
To Be Continued...