“Shakespeare always had a particular gift with words. In one of his tragedies, Macbeth looks upon one of his adversaries and thinks to himself, 'That is a step on which I must fall down or else overleap, for in my way it lies.' That is exactly what I think whenever the letters, "D-C-P," cross my desk. They often come in the form of an act of disrespect here, blatant defiance there, and a general atmosphere of snot-nosed superiority: they have no regard for beings they consider lesser than them. But this––this insanity in the Quadrants is the last straw. Give me time, and I will make them regret their hubris.”
The French Quadrantia Trade Route Crisis in 2799 was a flashpoint between the Delpha Coalition of Planets, France, and the Draconid Imperium in the years leading up to 2802. It resulted from the fact that the Delpha Coalition of Planets did not recognize French ownership of the French Quadrantia Trade Route and used it without paying France's toll. Given the DCP's advanced Tachyon Shift Drives, the French were oblivious to this until a DCP Blade-class battlecruiser broke down in the middle of the trade route on July 18, 2799.
When it refused to answer French hails, Sous-Maréchal Erl'me Matthias led a fleet of twenty-nine ships to confront the DCP battlecruiser. Nobody knows who fired the first shot, but when Marshal Aurélien Ortiz arrived on scene ten minutes later, all twenty-nine French ships had been destroyed.
“Have there been any changes?” Marshal Aurélien Ortiz said as he entered the bridge of the Galactica, a circular room built in the Rambo style around a singular point: the captain’s chair. Despite his shorter-than-average stature, Ortiz’s gait carried the authority of a Marshal of France. Even after twenty years of command, he hated the fact that he had to look up at most of his subordinates. However, that was not about to go away anytime soon.
“No sir, we haven’t received any new communications since the fleet went in.” replied Lieutenant Olish, a burly female Andorian communications officer who, judging all of her scars and battle experience, might have chosen the wrong career.
Ortiz nodded and took his place on the captain’s chair, relieving his first officer. “How much longer until we reach Point Alpha?”
“Five minutes at current speed,” the ship’s helmsman replied.
“Understood.” Ortiz activated the ship’s intercom through a set of buttons on his armrest. It was custom for the ship’s communications officer or the first officer to make ship-wide announcements while the Commanding Officer focused on his duties, but Ortiz often insisted that he do them himself. This was one of those times.
“Attention crew of the Galactica. An hour ago, a ship flying the identification of the Delpha Coalition of Planets dropped out of hyperspace in the middle of the French Quadrantian Trade Route. We do not know what their intentions are, only that they are violating our territory. By French colonial law, we are required to escort them out of the trade route if they refuse to pay the toll.
“When the ship refused to acknowledge our communications, Sous-Marechal Matthias ordered the fleet stationed at Station Q5 to intercept it. This was seven minutes ago. Since then, the ship has encased itself and the surrounding area in some form of dampening field, denying our sensors any information about what is going on in there.
“We are going to take command of that fleet and prepare for the worst. We might be headed towards a confrontation, so I want all decks ready to go to battlestations in two minutes. Ortiz out.”
Ortiz turned to the helmsman again. “Time?”
Ortiz gave a slight nod, apprehensive.
The Wreckage Edit
“Two minutes, sir.”
“Battlestations.” With that order, Ortiz sent the bridge into a flurry of activity. The lights dimmed, reduced to a dull red glow. Crewmen dashed to their places and double checked their respective systems, a maneuver that had been practiced many times before. The Galactica boasted one of the best records in the French Starfleet, capable of reaching full combat readiness in a minute and eleven seconds. It was easy for such a small ship, but it made Ortiz proud nonetheless.
“Forty-five seconds, sir. All decks report ready. We are at battlestations.”
“Charge all weapons and shields, I want a full scan of the area the minute we drop out of hyperspace.”
“Aye sir,” one crewman replied.
Ortiz counted down the seconds in his mind. He knew that many of his officers detested the hours, minutes, instants before a battle or event. The suspense, the knowledge that what lay beyond was unknowable, seemed to overwhelm them. Ortiz found joy in the thrill of anticipation.
“One.”The ship jolted out of hyperspace and fell into the scene of a nightmare. Where Ortiz expected to see the French fleet, he found only wreckage—the dismembered parts of once-proud starships. Ortiz staggered to his feet and admired the debris field with wide eyes. The attention of every single person on the bridge was riveted on that viewscreen, unable to look away until a crewman’s console flashed red.
“A piece of the wreckage is headed toward us eighty degrees off starboard!” cried the crewman, ripping everyone from their stupor.
Indeed, Ortiz could see what looked to be the saucer section of an Exeter-class hurling towards them at an ungodly speed.
“To port!” the Marshal hollered.
They all felt the inertial strain of the maneuver as the Galactica veered dangerously to the side, evading the debris by the width of a hair. As it flew by, Ortiz thought he spotted the French tricolor engraved on the surface of the saucer. It was charred, like the rest of the saucer, but the three colors—red, white, and blue—could still be made out. A second look confirmed his suspicions. The tricolor was bleached, pale, dead—as if it had spent millennia in space.
"Scan the wreckage," Ortiz ordered as the Galactica recovered its original heading. "I want to if there are any survivors. I want everyone to be on alert. The ship that caused it can't be too far off." He had a feeling that there would be no one left of the hundreds that had crewed those ships, but proof that this happened in the form of sensor logs could prove to be invaluable nonetheless. He had barely regained his seat when a crewman called his attention to movement on the viewscreen.
"I see it," Ortiz muttered impatiently. What his eyes had previously dismissed as a sensor glitch was slowly moving towards them, an oddly shaped shadow which had the texture of glass. "Analysis?"
"It's a mass of tachyons, sir. Usually, they can't be detected by sensors, but these have absorbed so much energy that––"
"It's them alright," Ortiz cut him off. The DCP was well known for their Tachyon Shift Drives which reportedly made a starship invisible and invulnerable. Was this one malfunctioning? Ortiz's thoughts were interrupted by the crewman at sensors.
"The tachyons are reverting back to normal matter!"
Ortiz sprung into action. They would have to get away, fast, or risk becoming wreckage themselves. "Helm, turn us around ninety degrees and get us out of this debris field. Tactical, prepare antimatter flares and couple that with shotgun torpedoes at setting four to detonate after five seconds. Helm, on my mark, execute a sharp bank starboard and drop us down thirty degrees."
"They're charging weapons!"
Ortiz had drilled his crew until they operated like clockwork, and time and time again they had proved themselves in battle. This was no different. As the DCP ship approached from behind, discharging a massive energy weapon, the Galactica disappeared in a flash of fire, confusing their sensors for long enough to escape.
- Ortiz - Commodore. You'll forgive me for skipping the formalities. Frankly, now is not the time. I've got an armed DCP warship loose on the trade route and twenty-nine of our starships are gone trying to stop it. I need your help, and we need to act quickly. We'll trade tea and fine words later, yes?
They were in the C.O.'s office aboard Station Q5, vacated for Ortiz's use as he planned a retaliatory strike against the DCP on the trade route. Outside the window, the fleet that was massing could be seen, composed of the Galactica, French forces from up and down the trade route, and a newly-arrived fleet of starships from the Draconid Imperium, commanded by Commodore Tasarus. The latter had transported over to discuss the details of their plan. They sat opposite each other, and Tasarus' jaw was agape at Ortiz' delivery. His brow furrowed and he sneered as he regained his composure of the situation.
- Tasarus - I beg your pardon maréchal?
- Ortiz - You heard me. Are you here to help me or not?
Tasarus lowered his head as he sat within a chair in Ortiz' office. He took deep, frustrated breaths before glaring down at the French Marshal before him.
- Tasarus - Marshal. I came here on behalf of the Draocnid Imperium to sort out a crisis. I did not expect to be met with an attitude as blunt and as disregarding of courtesy as yours. So in answer to your question, while I am here to help, I am seriously reconsidering why I should.
Ortiz stared at him with a flare of anger in his eyes. His patience already worn thin by the circumstances, he absolutely did not want to deal with the overbearing attitude of a Draconis.
- Ortiz - Fine. I don't like you either, but here we are.
He reached over and pressed a button on the desk, bringing up a holographic projection of the Trade Route, with the location of the attack highlighted in red.
- Ortiz - We are dealing with a D.C.P. Blade-class battlecruiser, a starship built explicitly for warfare. We don't know what it's doing on the trade route, but it seems like its FTL systems are malfuctioning, confining it to this area here.
He indicated the red area with his index finger.
- Ortiz - When we sent ships to intercept it with the intention––as per protocol––to offer them assistance before booting them off for not paying the toll, they covered the entire area in some kind of high-density dampening field which our sensors cannot penetrate. Since the field cannot move and our scouts around the area haven't seen any traces of it, tachyon drive or not, we assume it's still somewhere in that zone.
Tasarus studied the map carefully, examining the information that Ortiz was giving him, nodding slowly and calmly.
- Ortiz - When we sent a ship in that zone to find out what had become of our fleet, we found that all twenty-nine starships, including the flagship of the Sous-maréchal in charge of this station, had been lost.
- Tasarus - Did this ship have any form of support or did you send it alone?
- Ortiz - I went in alone, expecting to be able to take command of a full fleet. Turns out, there was nothing left. We did get a scan of the ship, and some valuable information to boot.
Ortiz handed Tasarus a datapad with the Galactica's sensor logs. The Draconis looked over them and appeared to snicker as he studied the image, for the first time since debrief, Ortiz could have sworn the commodore cracked a tiny smile.
- Tarsarus - Then it is evident, maréchal, that a retaliation attack should be conducted by someone with...a better understanding of D.C.P strategies.
Ortiz’s nostrils flared. This was too much. Was he going to allow himself to be talked down to, laughed at, and questioned at by a pompous Draconis prick? He opened his mouth to say something, but then, through sheer force of will, closed it again. As he glared angrily into the Commodores’ eyes, he realized that the Draconis wanted to provoke him. He wanted him to speak out of line to further discredit him. “I am a Marshal of France,” Ortiz fumed to to himself, determined. “I am better than this.” He returned to what he had been saying, determined to power through the rest of his briefing.
- Ortiz - It took quite a pounding during that fight. Its armored plating on the left side is close to buckling. If we can get its port shields down to at least thirty percent, we can finish it with one of the three Dominant missiles which are currently being installed on the Galactica.
- Tarsarus - I can have ITN vessels provide ion cannon barrages at that location. As I am sure the lost have realised, the DCP's shielding capabilities are not to be underestimated.
- Ortiz - Very well, then it's agreed. My forces are ready––how soon will yours be able to leave?
- Tarsarus - Final preparations are being made, give us an hour.
Tarsarus stood up from his chair.
- Tarsarus - You may find, maréchal, that discussions like this can move a little more promptly if one is courteous to his guests.
It was clear Ortiz didn't believe it.
- Ortiz - Perhaps. We will be ready in an hour.
Tarsarus huffed and looked Ortiz sternly in the eyes. He took a deep inhalation before he stormed out of the office.