Episode 01: "Vestal Hearth"
Location: Shuttlecraft Belor
Timeline: Day 01, 1432 Hours
ON: [[Shuttlecraft Belor, Day 01, 1432 Hours]]
With the simulated threat of an enemy attack bearing down on them, Stavros immediately set to work. She entered a quick keystroke into the helm. This caused the Belor's engines to hum audibly as the power passing through them increased. The nose tilted upward and the shuttle took off into the sky.
They had just passed twelve thousand meters when the first shudder went through the craft. At first, Stavros thought it might have been another one of Sullis' unexpected twists. She checked the sensors. Another shudder caused the shuttle to lurch sharply to one side before returning to center. If this was part of the test, something told here it wasn't going to be anything good. As the readings came back, however, she discovered it was nothing more than simple air turbulence. A couple of adjustments to their trajectory and the buffeting subsided.
In only a blink, the Belor was back where it excelled, the cold hard vacuum.
"Good ascent, Petty Officer. I'm sure the wounded jarheads we're carrying appreciate not getting space-sick back there."
Corbin booted up the next portion of the evaluation, and pointed just off the starboard now, "Now then, we've got injured, and the Vesta has pulled back to the edge of the system for a quick escape. What's your move?"
A moment passed in silence as Stavros quickly considered her options. Attempting to reach the edge of the system under normal impulse power was the tried-and-true method of achieving their goal. However, even if they shut down all non-essential systems to minimize their energy signature, traveling at impulse left them vulnerable to the possibility of enemy attack en route. An alternative would have been to use the shuttle's warp drive to complete a micro-jump that would enable them to cross the distance in a fraction of the time. This was a far riskier maneuver than traveling under impulse power, but it did mean less time out in the open.
"Proceed to the rendezvous coordinates," Stavros replied, "under impulse power."
Now that she'd made her choice, the young petty officer knew she would have to defend it. She brought up a map of the system showing their current location and where the simulated Vesta was holding position waiting for them. In between the two points was an asteroid field. "Assuming the attack ships are still out there, we'll want to keep a low profile," she explained, "Minimize our energy signature and use this asteroid field to get as close as we can to the Vesta." The route she traced with her finger still required them to cross a decent-sized gap of open space before reaching their final destination. It was a risk, but one she was far more willing to take at this point.
The evaluator nodded, ¨Smart thinking, I would do the same.¨ And to punctuate the point, Corbin tapped open the next sequence in the test, and Stavros´ sensor field was populated by threat contacts packed in clusters of three and four. All methodically searching the local space for the Belor in classic Jem´Hadar fashion. Most of them would never bother them, but one pair was conveniently timing itself to be right in front of their shuttle by the time they entered the asteroid belt.
The second part of this trial also gave a bearing & rough distance to the Vesta, and one Galor-class cruiser at the same range & bearing.
Stavros allowed herself a brief moment to absorb this new information. At first glance, the number of enemy contacts visible on the display might have been overwhelming. There were an awful lot of them. However, it quickly became clear the only immediate threat to the shuttle was the cluster of attack ships that appeared to be between them and the asteroid field. They were the ones, if any, who were most likely to detect the shuttle en route. Everything else was just "noise".
Letting out a breath of air, Stavros set about making the necessary adjustments. Lights around the cabin dimmed, unoccupied workstations blacked out, and several non-essential systems were reduced or taken offline entirely to help minimize their energy output as much as possible. Once she was satisfied that she'd done everything she could, Stavros eased the craft forward and set a course for the nearest edge of the field.
Seconds slowed to minutes as Sullis watched his student work, constantly double-checking her headings and power outputs. With every change, the sensor ghosts reacted a little, sometimes turning in their direction, other times stopping to conduct high-powered polaron scans for cloaked ships. A war was good for dissecting every minutia of an enemy.
After a long stretch of quiet, the Belor reached the outskirts of the system´s asteroid belt. On cue, the pack of Jem´Hadar fighters that were on their nose initiated a warp-jump to oppose them on the other side of the belt, before splitting their formation slightly and coming straight on towards them.
Stavros cursed under her breath. Her hand reached immediately for the power distribution controls, but then she paused. Just because the attack ships suddenly re-positioned themselves didn't necessarily mean they'd detected the shuttle. It was just as possible, especially given the scenario Sullis had laid out for her, that the Jem'Hadar were simply trying to flush out possible targets. The problem was, each possibility required a very different response. Either she could try to hide among the asteroids or she could try to make a run for it. There was no way to do both.
She glanced briefly toward Sullis. Right away, she realized there was no point. He wasn't likely to give her any indication, verbal or otherwise, of what he'd planned for this scenario. She was going to have to solve this one on her own.
Returning her attention to the front, Stavros allowed herself to continue with her initial instinct. She entered a series of rapid keystrokes into the console which caused systems all over the shuttle to come alive again. If the Jem'Hadar hadn't noticed them before, that certainly wasn't the case any longer. Stavros kept one eye on the readouts and, as soon as there was enough power, raised the shields. Then she brought the engines to full impulse and the Balor leaped forward.
Petty Officer 1st Class Corbin Sullis
Auxiliary Craft Pilot
USS Vesta (NX-94200)
Petty Officer 3rd Class Mara Stavros
Auxiliary Craft Pilot
USS Vesta (NX-94200)