routine border patrol
Following the fall of DS9
For smaller starships, the Mess Hall served as the center of social activity onboard. For larger ships, it was the ship’s bar. In the case of the New Orleans-class frigate Orlando, the same room served both purposes.
With three shifts operating a twenty-four-hour rotation, there were always people coming and going, and every social group had their own favorite table. Early in their friendship, Commander Dana Sinclair and Doctor Amanda Clarke had claimed a two-seat table in the room’s lower level, and that’s where Dana found her friend.
“Hi,” Dana began with a nervous smile, setting her lunch tray on the table.
“Hi,” Mandy replied somewhat flatly. The two women were close to the same size and age, although they couldn’t be more different if they tried. Mandy had long blonde hair and a prominent nose, and her slender build made her seem taller than she actually was.
On the other hand, Dana was a bit heavier, and she wore her dark brown hair short, usually no longer than jaw length. She’d developed such an ingrained habit of tucking it back behind an ear that she had it cut short on that side.
Dana felt a profound sense of relief that Mandy was even speaking to her. After last night, she’d been expecting a much more hostile reaction. She had broken the cardinal rule of bedroom protocol by sneaking out while Mandy was sleeping. Dana had had what seemed like perfectly valid reasons at the time, but now she wasn’t so sure.
Mandy arched an eyebrow as Dana sat down. “So about last night,” the blonde began.
“Not here,” Dana warned, making a show of looking around. For the most part, neither of them had any cause to feel ashamed. However, she didn’t think the crew wanted to overhear senior officers discussing their intimate encounters, especially not while they were trying to eat lunch.
“That’s fine,” Mandy replied. “But for the record,” she lowered her voice, “after what you pulled, it’s not happening again.” Mandy kept her tone friendly, but Dana didn’t doubt her sincerity for a moment.
“Understood,” Dana nodded. “But I do want to talk about it later in private.”
Mandy shrugged, but before she could answer, the yellow alert klaxon sounded.
The Orlando’s bridge shared many design elements with the Galaxy class, even though this ship was a few years older. The biggest difference was the two side-by-side command chairs. Clearly Starfleet had intended the command team to operate as more of an equal partnership. At least that’s how Captain Dorian Hos had always run it.
Now however, he was standing in the middle of the bridge, studying the main viewscreen. The captain was a tall, broad-shouldered man with dark skin. Indistinguishable from a Human in his late forties, although the El-aurian was over three centuries old.
When Dana stepped out of the turbolift, she noted the screen had been set to display the long-range tactical plot rather than a visual image.
“A Cardassian warship just entered sensor range,” the captain explained as Dana took her place at his side. “It appears to be alone.”
“Have they spotted us,” Dana asked. The Orlando’s external sensor pods extended her area of awareness far beyond many other ships her size. This made her ideal for long-range patrol and reconnaissance missions, as it allowed her to shadow other vessels by staying outside their sensor range.
“Not yet,” the El-aurian shook his head. “I thought it would be best to track them, see what they’re up to.”
Dana couldn’t argue with the cautious approach. Orly’s sensor pods might give her a huge tactical advantage, but the ship was twenty years old and woefully obsolete by modern standards, even with her most recent tactical upgrades. She could easily handle ships her own size or smaller, but taking on even a single Dominion battlecruiser would be suicidal.
“They’ve got to know this is Federation space,” Dana scowled. “So what the hell are they doing?”
“I guess we’ll see,” Hos grunted. “I think we should run silent though, just in case.”
“Yes sir,” Dana agreed, tapping her badge. “All hands, rig for silent running! Orlando does not transmit under any circumstance!”
Seated at the OPS console, Ensign Avery tapped a few controls. “Silent running engaged, comm silence, passive sensors only.”
Now they had only to wait and see.