Part of Challenger: The Romulan War: A Shot In The Dark

EIGHT

Prowler (Captured Romulan drone ship)
Sunday, November 2nd, 2155
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Jack Conrad could feel the tension rising within the small team that were now standing around the command pit of the Prowler. They had crossed into enemy territory and were now on their approach to the Bassen Rift. So far no Romulan ship had stopped them or approached them. 

“It’s time.” Spoke Captain Müller as he looked at the sensor readings one more time from behind Conrad.

The young pilot couldn’t disagree with the Discovery’s skipper anymore. Their plan required them to shut down life support to avoid raising any more suspicion. For the rest of the ride they would operate wearing their environmental suits. While everyone suited up, Conrad remained standing at his control as he oversaw what the sensors were telling them. On the edge of their long-range sensors they could still pick up both Challenger and Discovery. Fleet Captain Burton’s plan required for both ships to keep far away to avoid raising any suspicion but not too far away that the team couldn’t rely on them to help out. Once everyone was in their gear, the young pilot handed over control to Commander Stanton while he put his suit on. The bulky bronze gear was never comfortable to wear, but he understood why it was necessary. Once life support was shut down they would switch off environment controls and the gravity plating. They needed everything to appear as realistic as possible so when the Romulans realised what was happening they would not have enough time to respond. 

Returning to the helm controls, Conrad reported they were now entering the Bassen Rift. Their long-range sensors were starting to fade; they were losing the signal lock on their cavalry. It was expected as they arrived in the Rift. “We’re two minutes away from the Romulan base sir.” The former cargo ship pilot added over the radio channel that now existed between their suits.

Müller stood with Stanton by what they had designated a mission ops station. It was currently giving them what they needed, scans of the base. Stepping into the Rift, which was a collection of emerald green gasses, the Romulan station appeared to be a collection of short cylindrical rings attached to one another with pylons. The largest ring was the central one, it appeared to have four docking ports on it. A Romulan Bird of Prey was docked and another drone ship was attached too. The station had a number of subspace antennas. Plasma cannons were attached on the edge of the larger ring too. That wasn’t what caught the attention of the Starfleet crew. The bright white glow that came from the middle showed them instantly the location of the micro-singularity. Their target.

Unbelievable.” Stanton stated as he continued to look at the readings. 

That’s one way of putting it.” Remarked Habiba. She stood at the science station looking at the same sensor images. “Captain there doesn’t appear to be much shielding around the singularity. I reckon the anti-thoron burst will do the trick we want.

Are you certain?” Müller asked.

Habiba nodded and Commander Wallis concurred. The Discovery armoury chief was standing by the weapons array. “I’m surprised at how easy this target will be.

Well let’s hope our little present on the border got their attention or the fact they never suspected we would attack them this close.” Müller remarked, “Okay, if everything is ready then I want us to implement our plan now. Raise the defence shields, charge weapons and fire the anti-thoron burst. Mister Conrad, now is the time for you to impress me with your amazing flying!

With pleasure sir!” Conrad answered as they implemented their attack run. 

   The Prowler swiftly spun on its axis to port and open fired against the base. The anti-thoron burst flew out of the belly of the drone ship and hit directly against the base.

It’s working,” Habiba remarked. “The gravitational pull is increasing, but the process is slow. We may need to direct more power to the anti-thoron burst.

“Won’t that make the micro-singularity bigger and badder than we want?” Major Yu asked. The MACO leader had been standing to one side, her phase rifle closed to her chest as she held on to a nearby handle while Conrad pushed the Prowler to its limits with its flying manoeuvrability. The g-force of his flying was starting to exceed the levels the inertial dampeners could compensate for.

Considering the major’s point for a second, the science officer looked at her readings and then went back to the captain. “I think it’s worth the risk, the sooner the base’s containment field fails the sooner we can get out of here.”

“It’s definitely worth the risk.” Stanton supported it. “Plus, we can’t have our surprise attack be counteracted by them increasing power to the containment field. It’s now or never sir!”

Müller didn’t take a moment to think about it, instead he just ordered Stanton to give Habiba the power she needed. As this happened the two Romulan ships that had been docked with the station had departed from their berths to begin to deal with the surprise intruder. The Bird-of-Prey slowly spun away as the drone ship flew away and turned back on itself to begin its attack run.

“We’ve got incoming targets and I am detecting the plasma cannons on the base charging up.” Wallis announced.

Knowing that their work was not complete, Müller ordered for Conrad to push the ship beyond its limits while Habiba and Stanton did their best to destabilise the micro-singularity’s containment field. Wallis had already started to use the weapons that the drone had to offer against the incoming Romulan vessels. His repeated use of its many particle cannons caused significant harm to the Bird-of-Prey’s starboard wing-like nacelle. Several more shots from the Prowler, which had not been hit by the Romulans yet, had disabled the green talon like ship as its left engine fell off in a blaze of glory. However, the other drone ship was forcing Conrad to move quickly from being hit. The vicious attacking vessel was relentless in its pursuit of taking the Prowler. Like a hurt soldier seeking vengeance for a former comrade betraying them, it was committed in its assault of the Prowler. The situation for the Starfleet team only got worse with the increased fire from the plasma cannons belonging to the base. 

That’s it!” Shouted Habiba, confirming that the containment field was breached enough and that the gravitational pull from the micro-singularity was high enough to ensure the base was destroyed.

The team cheered in victory but Stanton’s voice over the speakers in their helmets stopped them. “The singularity is increasing in size and power. I reckon it will become a strong enough black hole that it will collapse in on itself. We may not be able to escape it.”

“Then by all means Mister Conrad, get us out of here!” Müller ordered.

Conrad complied with the order and after two attempts at trying to engage the warp drive, he reported that nothing was working. 

Quickly trying to determine what had gone wrong, the engineer in the room soon knew what had happened after a system’s check. “Two of our plasma injectors were damaged.” Stanton stated as he moved hastily away from his station and began his way out of the command hub calling for Major Yu to go with him to assist. It was a race against the clock for their survival. 


Challenger NX-03

The moment they dropped out of warp, just outside of the Bassen Rift, Fleet Captain Burton stood up instantly. Arms crossed against his chest; the young captain took a few deep breaths as he glared at what was being shown to him on the main screen. Emerald gases whirled at what looked like a snail’s pace while the odd cobalt and golden sparks crackled against them. The Bassen Rift didn’t appear welcoming. Any other time the explorer within him would have appreciated the opportunity in discovering what made the Bassen Rift such a ghastly looking location. Despite the urge to have his science team collect as much data on it to analyse at a later date, he had a job to do. The mission he had committed them to had to succeed to ensure a victory for Earth and its commonwealth. 

“That’s a creepy image, it reminds me of something from Robert Burns’ poem Tam o’ Shanter.” Hathaway mentioned from the helm.

Agreeing with his pilot’s assessment, Burton could see how she had linked the imagery from one of the spookiest poems from Scotland to the view before them. “It does feel like we’re sneaking through a graveyard at midnight. Any sign of the Romulans or our team?”

Where Walker was sitting, hoovering his eyes over the scope at the aft part of his science station, he nodded his head as he looked away from it and swivelled his chair around to face inwards towards the centre of the bridge. Tapping on the main controls he spoke up. “I am picking up unusual amounts of gravitational energy coming from the location the team were heading into. They are significantly above the estimated levels we had calculated to help weaken the containment field around the micro-singularity.” Walker’s tone was filled with worry and concern. “I don’t like the looks of what I’m seeing sir, I think we need to go in and –”

A proximity alarm went off at Cortez’s station and she instantly interrupted the science officer. “Sorry Commander, but a Romulan Bird of Prey has just dropped out of warp and is entering weapon’s range within thirty seconds.”

Knowing they had to act swiftly if they were to save their team, Burton ordered for Hennessey to hail Discovery, but before the communications officer had a chance to open a channel, he was already informing his superior that their sister ship was hailing them.

“Open a channel.” Burton instructed, wondering if Müller’s first officer was thinking the same as him.

Sat at the helm of Discovery, it was apparent that Commander Alex Rodham was going to prove he could command the ship as well as fly it. “Captain, we don’t have time to save our people so if you’re happy with this then let Discovery take on this unwelcome visitor while you go in and get our team back.”

Rodham’s suggestion was sound as such Burton agreed instantly. After closing the channel, Burton knew they had their work cut out for them. Taking his chair as he instructed Hathaway to take them forward, he turned to his armoury officer as she announced the Romulan ship was about to come into firing range. “As we move off, give Discovery a helping hand. I want a full spread of torpedoes and shots fired from our aft phase cannons.”

Flying at full impulse, Challenger’s rear weapons came to life as they covered for Discovery to do a full belly-roll to face their enemy. Every single shot scored a direct hit to the oncoming green nemesis.


Prowler (Captured Romulan drone ship)

 

Grab me the spare plasma injectors in that locker.” Stanton ordered while pointing to the nearby cupboard that contained the parts that he needed to fix their warp drive.

Yu raced across the smaller engineering section of the Prowler while Stanton made his way over to the injector ports. Pulling the panelling off and dumping it down on the ground, the engineer pulled out his toolkit and started the job in decoupling the damaged components ready to put in the new gear. It didn’t take long for Yu to find what she needed and haul both injectors over to Stanton. By the time she arrived he was just pulling out the last one.

The speakers in their helmets came to life with the voice of Captain Müller. “Müller to Stanton and Yu – our problem is getting bigger!”

Tapping the switch on his chest that helped him respond, Stanton answered the hail. “What do you mean sir?” He asked as he started to install the first injector. 

Habiba took over from the captain. “Our warp drive is not going to be enough to help us escape from the gravitational pull, even if we detonate the torpedoes that are in the shuttlepods, the antimatter explosion won’t be enough.”

Cussing to himself, Stanton considered their options while Yu helped him with his work. “Martha, how much energy would we need to escape from the pull?”

The young science officer had already calculated their possibilities of survival as she answered her superior immediately. “I would say detonating the Prowler’s warp core, the torpedoes and the Romulan shuttle we were going to use to escape would be enough. We would need to use one of the shuttlepods though.”

“Do you think we could survive it Michael in one of the shuttlepods?” Müller asked next.

Just about.” He answered. 

“Alright, let’s do it. If you can excuse the major, then I want her and Nathan to begin emptying the shuttlepods with torpedoes while I’ll prepare the Romulan auxiliary craft to detonate its warp core. While I’m doing that, Michael, work on overloading the Prowler’s warp core. Jack is going to remain at the helm, doing his best to keep us away from any more fire from the Romulans. Martha can take over weapons control for now. Let’s move people!” Müller ordered. 

Stanton looked at Yu and gave her a reassuring nod before she left him to get on with his work. 

 

Running in an EVA suit was not something that Major Viktoria Yu liked doing. It was one of the few duties from her time with the MACOs as well as the Royal Canadian Navy that she did not enjoy. Having to do a job while stuck in some bulky suit, be it one to use in space or under the sea, was extremely tricky. As she moved through the Prowler, she wondered just what their possibility of getting out of here alive was. She had been in tight spots before and never once considered that she wouldn’t survive, but right at that moment there was a niggling feeling at the back of her mind telling her not to count their luck yet. The sweat was starting to pour down from her forehead and she couldn’t help but consider that this was it. Even when Challenger had been beaten to almost death by the Romulans and Carreons, she always knew they would get through it. Today though the opposite thoughts were almost overwhelming her. Approaching what was the hangar bay, she met up with Captain Müller and Lieutenant Commander Wallis. As a team they got on with their work, trying to ensure that perhaps they could cheat death today. 

 

Hopefully.

 

Keeping one eye on the sensors and the other on the flight controls, Jack Conrad had never felt so alive in a long time. The Prowler was responding to every touch, every command he gave it. If they hadn’t been at war with the Romulans, if they hadn’t had to capture this ship, if they weren’t using it in such an aggressive way, he may have complimented the Romulan ingenuity in their ship designs. However, that thought was completely overridden by his pure lust of revenge against them for atrocious horrors they performed against the Raven, his former home. Wanting to ensure that their mission was a success, he had no reason to object to staying in the command pit with Habiba while everyone else worked on their escape plan. With the gravitational pull increasing he was doing his best to push the engines beyond their limits while evading the fire from the other drone ship. 

How are we doing with those weapons Martha?” He asked as the ship continued to rumble beneath them.

After moving to the weapon’s control, Habiba had taken over from Wallis and she was trying her hardest to adapt to her new post without any prior experience. “Let’s just say I’d prefer to be moving those torpedoes then trying to get a weapon’s lock on that drone ship. It’s too damn quick.” 

Then try firing manually. Imagining it’s an asteroid you’re trying to scan, or for that fact some exotic alien creature that won’t sit still!” Conrad suggested. 

“I’m trying but it’s right on the edge of the gravitational pull. It’s like it knows to stay far enough from us.” Habiba remarked and then an idea entered her brain. “It’s the station!” She shouted as she scanned the base that was slowly breaking apart. “The station is transmitting commands to the drone ship.”

And what’s your point?” Conrad asked. 

“I’m firing at the wrong target!” She replied and turned her attention to the base. Turning their weapon’s array around, she targeted the base and opened fire. Specifically she was trying to take out the transmitters that were being used to pilot the drone ship. A number of hits from the Prowler successfully took them out and the drone just stopped. Completely lifeless it got caught in the pull from the singularity and like a dead bird falling from the sky, it tumbled across space and went smacking into the side of the base. Explosions erupted from the base as it was damaged further from the impact and before long was destroyed by the emerging black hole. 

The shockwave from the base’s destruction hit the Prowler knocking Habiba to the floor. As her head hit the deck she heard Conrad scream in delight as the Romulan ship and base were destroyed. Before her eyes closed she tried to call his name but she knew that he was delighted that he had taken out some revenge on the Romulans for what they did against his former family on the E.C.S. Raven. She smiled for him, pleased that he had achieved a personal victory then blackness took over.


Falling down on to the deck plating was slightly humiliating for Frank Müller. The unexpected convulsion that appeared to hit the Prowler had happened just as he stepped out of the Romulan shuttle. He had prepped it to explode by attaching a number of explosions around its small warp drive. Being picked up by Major Yu, he thanked Challenger’s lead MACO. 

Vielen Dank major.” He said in a thick German accent. “Müller to Habiba, Conrad and Stanton, report! Are you all alright?”

“Stanton here sir, Martha is unconscious, but I’m okay. That was the Romulan base going up in flames!” Conrad answered.

“I’m fine too and the warp core is ready.” Stanton said. “I’ll head to the command pit to help with Habiba and the final part of our escape plan.

“I’m on my way as well.” Yu said as she shot away from the captain at warp like speeds to help her fellow shipmates. 

Keep the ship together as long as you can Jack.” Müller ordered. “Nathan and I will unload the final torpedoes. Let’s do this people!”


Arriving in unison at the command pit, Stanton and Yu rushed over to where Conrad was trying to fly the ship and tend to their injured comrade. Lying in the recovery position on the deck plating, Habiba’s eyes were closed when Yu knelt down to her. Taking out her medical scanner she could see the science officer was still alive. 

I’ve tried to revive her but my medical knowledge is limited.” Conrad announced over their EVA communicators. 

Yu, who had some first aid experience, took out what she knew that Habiba needed to be conscious. Quickly placing the hypospray next to Habiba’s arm, she injected her with sixty ccs of inaprovaline. Habiba soon became conscious and her eyes fluttered as she tried to focus on what was going on. Helping her off the floor, Yu pulled Habiba up. “I’m going to take the lieutenant to the shuttlepod.” She told Stanton and Conrad.

 Both men nodded as the major left the command pit as she supported Habiba out and back down to the hangar bay. 

“I’m attempting to set up the autopilot to take over but the system isn’t responding to me sir.” Conrad said as he continued to get frustrated at the controls of the Prowler.

Systems are starting to fail; we won’t be able to remain here much longer.” Stanton remarked. He tapped the button on his chest and called out to Captain Müller. “Sir the ship’s computer systems are failing and we won’t be able to hold on much longer. If the torpedoes and the Romulan shuttle is ready to go then I suggest once Major Yu is with you that you board the shuttlepod. From here I can open the hangar bay doors to release the shuttle and torpedoes to make the first set of detonations and then Jack and I can join you in time by taking the other shuttlepod just before we detonate the warp core.”

“Are you sure?” Müller asked.

Conrad spoke up with a strong conviction in his voice. “It’s the only way sir. We’ll be right behind you.”

“Very well.” Müller said, “See you shortly.”

Turning to the pilot, Stanton told him to move the ship so that the hangar bay doors were in the right position so the torpedoes and the Romulan shuttle were able to detonate in the correct place. As Conrad did that, Stanton started to increase the pressure inside the Prowler’s warp core ready for their last detonation. 


After pulling Habiba into the shuttlepod, Yu listened to Captain Müller who briefed her about Stanton’s plan. 

Feeling she needed to do more to help her comrades who were still in the command pit, Yu spoke up. “Even if they succeed they still need to get the other shuttlepod out of here in time. Let me prepare the other pod at least sir!”

Shaking his head, Müller told her no. They would wait long enough on their own for their teammates to join them. He wanted both pods to launch at the same time.

“No offence captain, but that plan doesn’t make sense.” Yu protested. 

“Yu we don’t have time!” Müller shouted back at her as he got into the designated shuttlepod they were planning to use. 

Yu looked at Wallis who appeared as he didn’t know what to say to help. The young armoury officer was about to say something when something rocked the ship again further. At that point they could see the hangar bay doors starting to creak as explosions erupted around them. The Prowler was falling apart. Without thinking, Müller pushed Yu and Wallis into the shuttlepod and jumped in himself, closing the hatch behind him. 

Screaming at the situation, Yu looked through the viewpoint as she watched hangar bay doors break away from the ship, followed by the torpedoes they had laid on them along with the Romulan shuttle. Their pod was attached to the docking arm but was shaking under the pressure. In another blink of an eye the other Starfleet shuttlepod fell out of the ship and towards the black hole that had replaced the Romulan base. 


In the command pit, Stanton pushed himself up from the floor. Looking at his controls he saw what happened. The gravitational pull had spiked in power causing part of the Prowler’s shields to fail causing a massive hull breach in the hangar bay. Seeing their torpedoes, the Romulan shuttle and the empty Starfleet shuttlepod tumble away from them without detonating, Stanton just swore at the top of his lungs. Their plan was falling apart. Looking around he soon realised that Conrad was missing from the flight controls. He then saw the pilot lying on his back on the floor. Remorse soon overwhelmed the engineer as he made his way over to where Conrad was. The young pilot was alive but was choking as blood was being coughed up from his mouth. A shard of bulkhead had fallen and had gone through his suit. Rushing to take his helmet off, Stanton pulled the young pilot into his arms.

“Did we do it sir?” Conrad said in between dying coughs after his own helmet was removed.

Nodding at the pilot, Stanton felt life slowly disappearing from his arms. “We did Jack. We did.”

“Then Fleet Captain Burton can claim a victory for the good guys.” Conrad struggled to say. “He better give us medals.”

Chuckling at the tone Conrad was taking in his final moments, Stanton nodded. He knew this was it for them. “I’m sure he will.”

“It was an honour to serve in Starfleet again sir and to be posted on Challenger.” Conrad said as his final breath was taken and his body finally gave up.

“It sure was.” Stanton whispered, fighting back tears. 

More warning alarms went off and he looked up, seeing that the ship’s structural integrity field was failing, especially around his location. He knew what he had to do. Getting over to the controls he tapped the button that would release the shuttlepod and then he pressed the button that pushed the warp core to overload. Closing his eyes in that moment all he could think of was Alex. Tapping the button on his chest, he opened his final line to his teammates. Stanton to Müller, Wallis, Yu and Habiba. Jack is dead. Engage your engines to full as I’m about to detonate the warp core.”

No!” Yu shouted back in response. “Get here now Michael!” Using his first name was very unlike the major.

“Please sir!” Habiba pleaded.

“I’m sorry, but there’s no time.” He took a moment. “Someone tell Alex that I love him with all my heart and make sure that Lloyd knows that it was an honour to serve with him.”

Stanton took a breath and then said “Godspeed” before closing the channel. He was then swept from his feet as the command pit was destroyed by the black hole consuming it.


 Challenger NX-03

 

Arriving to see the Prowler explode under the pressure of a warp core breach, completely shook everyone on the bridge of Challenger. For a moment, Burton’s legs felt like they were about to give way to him so he instantly sat down in his chair. There was nothing he could see that showed that the team had survived their mission. Walker then gave a glimmer of hope.

“I’ve got Shuttlepod Two trying to escape. Their engines are close to overloading.”

Quickly, Burton ordered for Hathaway to move in and use the grappler to pull them out.

“Sir the grappler won’t be powerful enough to counteract the black hole’s increasing energy pull.” Cortez stated.

“Then we’ll transport them out.” Burton looked at Masuko, who took her que from the captain’s decision and raced across the bridge to head down to the transporter bay to pick up their team. As she moved from the engineering station by Cortez, the captain got in touch with sickbay and ordered Ben-Ami to meet Masuko with a medical team. “I don’t know what state they’re going to be in Kefira.” He added.

“Understood sir.” Ben-Ami said and she closed the channel.

At that point the ship started to shudder as it sat on the edge of the gravitational pull. “Grapplers away.” Cortez announced the large magnetic towing devices left from Challenger’s gut. 

“This is going to be tight sir.” Walker stated. “I’m pretty certain sir that the black hole may implode.”

“How long do we have?” Burton asked.

“Six minutes, maybe seven at the most but we need to be moving away if we want to survive this.” Walker reported with a doomed tone. 


Glad to see their latest addition of the engineering team waiting for her alongside Challenger’s third engineer, it didn’t take long for Masuko to give order out to Malone and Metaxas. They had already prepped the targeting scanners and were both operating nearby stations as the second engineer activated the transporter. “I can’t get a clear lock on all of them.” She stated.

Frustrated that the system was not doing what they wanted, Malone spoke up. “You may have to bring them in one at a time, Sakura.” 

“I’m narrowing the annular confinement beam.” Metaxas stated as his hands tapped away at the wall console he was operating. 

“I’ve got one life sign, bringing them in now.” Masuko stated as the medical team arrived.

The transporter beam faded out and appearing on the platform was Lieutenant Commander Wallis. Straight away Ben-Ami pulled Discovery’s armoury chief off and sat him down on the other side of the corridor as she started to scan him for injuries while he was helped out of his EVA suit. As she did that Masuko started to bring back another one. 

“My scanners can’t be operating right,” She said as she beamed back Habiba. “I’m not picking up the entire team.”

After Habiba appeared completely on the pad, she was guided off by Lieutenant Stewart. The science officer appeared in an almost daze like state as she pushed her helmet off she spoke through a gruff like tone. “Commander Stanton and Jack didn’t make it.” She pushed back the tears that were welling under her eyes.

The area fell silent at the news. Focussing back on her work, Masuko could see she needed to bring Müller and Yu back now. “Theo, realigning the pattern buffer. I’ve got one more shot at it.”

“Do it quickly.” Malone stated from a station behind her. “The shuttlepod is about to break apart and I don’t think the grappler is going to be able to pull them in anymore.”

Grabbing both life signs in one signal, Masuko pushed the transporter controls up and then down as she tried to rematerialise them. The transporter was not complying. “I’m having trouble here.” She paused as she tried to work out what was happening. “The gravity well is scattering their patterns. Their patterns are distorting.”

Being the ranking officer, Ben-Ami handed treatment of Wallis over to Doctor Payne (who had joined her and Stewart from sickbay), “Get them out of there Sakura!” She commanded.

“I’m trying.” Masuko said. “The phase discriminator can’t seem to isolate their lifesigns.” Looking over to Metaxas, she gave out one more order that she knew may help. “Theo, expand the buffers and narrow the confinement beam further.”

The moment he did it, Masuko pushed the controls one more time and this time they worked and as the patterns started to form there was another beep. Alarmed at what she was seeing, a fifty percent drop in matter within the pattern buffers, she realised that she had lost one of the signals. 

Within a few seconds Captain Müller appeared on the transporter pad and after materialising he instantly dropped to the floor, fainting from the pressure his body had just endured inside the pattern buffer. Ben-Ami moved straight away to help the fallen captain while Masuko did her best to find Yu. Then it hit her, the major’s signal had disintegrated. Yu was gone. Shock stunned the engineer as she realised one thing.  

She had caused Yu’s death.