Keyla Detmer tamped down the anxiety that was coiling between her shoulder blades and kept her fingers poised above the navigation controls as the USS Discovery slid off this tendril of the mycelial network and dropped into Normal Space. There was the customary blur as the enhanced image of space beyond the transparent tritanium of the viewscreen changed, and the slight shudder through the deck plates as if the ship was flexing its muscles. Immediately her hands went to control board before her.
“Detmer, set course one-seven-six by three-three-five. Full impulse.” Captain Lorca ordered, standing in the center of the bridge, his hands balled into fists at his sides. He was feeling the tension, too, Keyla thought. Or maybe he was just always wound that tightly. She’d seen plenty of evidence to support both theories.
“Aye sir, coming to course,” she dutifully replied. Beyond the viewscreen, unfamiliar stars blurred to the left as the big ship pivoted starboard on her X-axis and her impulse engines kicked in.
“Astrometric charts confirm we are again in Romulan space,” Saru worried from his station.
“We sure are, Mr, Saru,” Lorca said with nonchalance that felt like a provocation. “Mr. Rhys, scan for enemy vessels, passive sweeps only. We don’t need to advertise our presence here.”
“Captain,” Saru pleaded, “as your First Officer I feel the need to remind you that we are in violation of the Treaty of Algeron.”
“Noted, Mr. Saru,” Lorca said, then, without skipping a beat: “Mr. Rhys, what have you got?”
“Um, no apparent vessels on passive sensors, but we are reading a high-frequency micro-burst transmission from the sector.”
“Locate and put it on the main viewer. I’m pretty sure I know what it is.”
“We’ll have to go to active sensors, sir,” Rhys said, gulping his words slightly. Keyla knew he was wrestling with his inherent terror of disappointing the captain, and inwardly she groaned at the prospect of their next lunch together and Rhys's latest iteration of “he never gives us any support, just criticism…just like my dad!” She decided she’d let Lieutenant Owosekun pat him on the back and say consoling things this time. She was better at it, anyway.
“Go ahead, Mr. Rhys. If that’s what I think it is, they already know we’re here.”
“Um, aye sir.”
“And stop saying um, Lieutenant.”
“Aye sir,” Rhys said in a stricken voice. “On screen now.”
The view wobbled and dissolved, replaced instead by an image of a large, cylindrical probe, its surface prickly with antennae and sensor wands, and topped with a large transmitter/receiver dish.
“Captain, scans indicate it is a Romulan sensor buoy,” Saru said, still worried. “It seems to contain several dozen forms of active and passive sensor systems. No doubt a listening post intended to alert them of any incursion across their borders.”
“No doubt,” Lorca said, almost buoyantly, and Keyla wondered if he wasn’t just screwing with them. If he hadn’t just used a super-experimental, civilization-altering means of transportation to endanger a peace accord just to get a rise out of his crew. She’d seen plenty of evidence to support that theory, too.
“Sir,” Saru said more firmly, “if the Romulans detect our presence here, they will regard it as an act of aggression on the part of the United Federation of Planets…”
“Well, then they better hold on to something, because we’re about to get a lot more aggressive.” Lorca turned to Rhys. “Target and destroy it.”
The bridge went silent, and for a moment, and all that was audible were the ambient sounds of the great ships systems--the hum of her bloodstream, the blips and pings of her brains--and then:
“Firing phasers, sir.”
The viewscreen lit up with the barrage of red bolts and the messy smear of white light as the listening post exploded.
“Engineering,” Lorca called out through the comm system, “Prepare to jump!”
“Standing by, Captain,” Michael Burnham’s voice came through the speakers.
“Get us home, then!”
The ship trembled, flexed its muscles again, and the stars on the viewscreen slid back to the familiar. Keyla wondered what Burnham would have done if she had been on the bridge a moment ago.
“Captain,” Saru said, sounding as shocked as Keyla had ever heard him, “We have just committed an act of war against the Romulan Star Empire.”
The bridge went silent again. So…we did that today, Keyla thought, feeling a pang of hysterical giddiness. She didn’t look around, didn’t want to see anyone else’s reactions, just kept her gaze on her controls.
“Someone sure did, Mr Saru,” Lorca said casually. “Someone did.”