“Shields down to eighty percent,” came Ch’tkk’va’s cool response to the latest hit from the Vaadwuur raiders, their principal target being Atlantis versus the less combat capable Va’th.
They had been jumped by the Vaadwuur pouring out of a previously unknown interface to the Underspace and only the good graces to have been at yellow alert had prevented serious damage in the surprise attack. But that still didn’t mean Atlantis was ready to respond straight away as status fatigue had been setting in. Or at least it had for some as Ch’tkk’va had already started proportional return fire.
“Damn!” Mac hissed through his teeth. “Michaels, get us away from the planet, full impulse. We need room to move. Ch’tkk’va, pick your targets as you can and fire.” He slammed his own finger down on the red alert command in the Captain’s chair arm and at that very moment throughout the ship the klaxons would have started, ramming home the point made with the first Vaadwuur barrage.
“Silvia, inform the shuttlebay, I want everything in the bays out right now!” he ordered the Gamma shift ops officer and received the perfunctory acknowledgement just as another disruptor blast rocked the ship.
As Atlantis broke away from the planet, Pathway of Forgotten Dreams, four of the six assault craft pursued the much larger craft, illuminating its shield bubble with weapons fire and in turn receiving the same punishment. One of the craft had the unfortunate timing to be in the right place for multiple port-side arrays to draw target on the ship at once and, one beam after another and another lashing themselves against its shields until they failed, the hull rapidly giving way under continued assault and the craft spinning out of formation, it’s engines rapidly failing it.
Two fighters, the only fighters Atlantis carried, launched themselves at the enemy from the port shuttle bay, both lashing out with their limited firepower before interposing with the Vaadwuur forces. They weren’t meant to be decisive, they couldn’t really be with their weapons, but they could harrass and harrym draw attention and focus, giving the large ship a better chance and numerically superior force.
Elsewhere in the distance the Va’th lumbered along in his orbit, his own shuttles and two of Atlantis’ larger Type 11’s playing escort and dancing around with the assault ships, while he lashed out with his weapons, taking shots where he could. While nearly the same size as Atlantis the People’s ship wasn’t nearly as mobile or advanced, but with the right assistance was able to defend himself.
There were no jokes about making the earth move, or cries foul of a night ruined, just two figures moving in the reddened dark of the Captain’s quarters scrambling for clothing. Clothes snatched from where they had been discarded, sometimes successfully donned, others thrown at the other figure for them to put down and reattempt momentarily. A few hops as boots where donned, undershirts tucked into pants and both women were out the door as they tried slipping their uniform jackets on, only to stop, swap them as they slipped into the turbolift and try again with the order of “Bridge!” simultaneously.
“Shields at forty percent,” Ch’tkk’va announced, lights flickering on the bridge and sparks showering from an unoccupied console as a minor power surge blew the displays out.
“Torpedoes free!” came a shout from the turbolift as both Tikva and Adelinde both spilled out, the later heading straight to Tactical, not to relieve Ch’tkk’va but to assist. One more set of eyes couldn’t hurt along with some compound ones.
Halfway to his own feet, Mac settled back down as his Captain threw herself into his own seat just as the bridge rocked once more. “Any hails?”
“None,” he responded as the starscape through the main viewer slewed wildly as the Ensign at the helm threw them into another set of evasives. “I haven’t tried either, they started straight away.”
The ship was again rocked, violently, throwing people from their seats or off their feet. He heard someone fall behind him, but it wouldn’t have been Ch’tkk’va since he knew nothing could throw the Xindi-Insectoid easily. Gathering his wits, he could see Tikva on the floor, as well as Ensign Michaels, who was moving very groggily. “Med team to the bridge,” he shouted after jabbing a quick comm key on the chair arm.
That was his first response, his next was to get to the helm himself but was beaten as he saw Tikva settling herself into the seat and with three keytaps reconfigured the console to her liking. He shook his head, settled back in the chair and let his training take charge.
He was in the command chair; therefore, he was in charge.
“Evasive pattern Baker Six. Tactical, pick a target and give them everything as we pass,” he ordered as the slight tug of acceleration hit as the ship wildly swung around in a manner he wasn’t expecting, bringing the bow to bear on the enemy ships in a large-scale game of chicken, the planet a distance object past the enemy fleet.
As Atlantis pushed back the assault ships split off, letting Atlantis through them with withering fire on both sides, another assault vessel peeling off with plasma and atmosphere exhaust trails where phaser fire had ripped the hull apart. Another took two torpedoes, but the shields held as they spun around to pursue, throwing fire at the fighters on their tails.
“Va’th is reporting shields about to fail,” came from Silvia at Ops.
“Full impulse to Va’th, quantum torpedo spread at the ready. I’m tired of this game,” he said, muttering the last bit to himself as the planet in the view screen started to get very large again.
A Vaadwuur assault ship found itself the center of attention, as Atlantis bore on it, phaser fire lashing at it, Va’th’s own weapons too, then the twump twump of two launchers firing and blue-white lights sprang forth from Atlantis. The first slammed into shields, the fury of annihilation wasted upon them but burning them away for the second torpedo which found its mark on the hull, those same energies wasted on shields now chewing through a hull, burning it away, then the interior and those held within. Very quick enough of the ship was ionised plasma that the precious antimatter kept aboard couldn’t be contained and the ship then exploded.
It’s dying breath however was a volley that blew apart one of Atlantis’ shuttles that had been pursuing its companion, exploiting a gap in that ship’s defences.
“Fuck,” Mac muttered as he watched the planet disappear out of the bottom of the viewscreen, Atlantis pitching up and away from the atmosphere.
Captain Korlin gripped the arms of his command chair as his crew fought the People’s ship Va’th for all of its glory, alongside the two shuttles that had been recalled and two of the larger shuttles that Atlantis had assigned as escorts.
Va’th wasn’t a combat vessel, he was an explorer, which did necessitate the occasional fight unfortunately, and in this situation, it was baring out as two assault ships had decided to target him. They’d taken their fair share, dished out some as well, but Va’th just couldn’t maneuver like these assault ships could, or Atlantis. These Federation folks truly knew how to build a starship, he’d grant them that.
“Shields down to fifteen percent,” came a report from the limited Tactical station and Korlin nodded. He was in the process of trying to figure out his next course of action when his viewscreen was taken up momentarily with the bulk of Atlantis flashing past him after two bright blue lights. Then a massive flash of light from below.
“Atlantis has destroyed one of our attackers. Only three ships left!”
“A chance then! Hil, message Atlantis, we can handle our last one,” he ordered, then turned to his XO. “Prep for after action recovery. If anyone’s alive in those wrecks, I want to know.”
“Va’th says they’ve got their last attacker,” Silvia responded from Ops.
Mac could make out the shape of Rrr in the wings, having taken another duty station and leaving his junior in her place for now, no doubt taking some pressure off of her, but ready to take over if need be. He tossed a glance to the sentient rock pile and nodded, acknowledging that he’s seen them before focusing on his job again.
“Right, bring us back around on our two, let’s lay back into them. Helm,” he felt weird saying that, knowing his Captain was sitting in that station, medics having just arrived and tending to Michaels, “I want to graze shields with one of these jerks. Silvia, prep the plasma exhausts on both nacelles. We’re going to dump plasma all over one of these jerks.”
An ‘aye’ came up from Ops and Mac caught the smirk on Tikva’s face as she entered in a series of commands and brought Atlantis in a wide loop of Va’th and back into another charge on their two raiders. Yes, he was ordering the dump of warp plasma, yes that would mean they couldn’t go to warp for a bit, but it was either these people or all of their people on the ground and he wasn’t going to let that happen.
Shots were traded across the empty void, Atlantis’ arrays affording it the ability to hit multiple targets, not for damage, but to keep them off guard. For true damage shots would need to be focused, power diverted to just a handful of arrays at a time. But the larger ship kept ringing away at the Vaadwuur shields, keeping them flaring for all to see.
Eventually however Atlantis swerved at the last moment, bringing the ship far too close to one of the others, the assault craft diving to avoid a collision and Atlantis seemingly allowing it, but a trail of bright green warp plasma, which had started moments before the dive, find its home, sticking to the ship’s shields, collapsing them and then settling on the hull, the vessel now wreathed in the sickly green gas burning at its hull, consuming sensor mountings and blinding the ship. It wasn’t out of the fight, but what couldn’t be seen couldn’t be hit.
Now one on one the two separate fights didn’t last long. Atlantis dispatched her last target moments before Va’th sent his Vaadwuur ship spiraling into the atmosphere, tractor beams trying desperately to grab the ship and hold it in orbit but inertia and interference from battle damage had their way in the end.
Only the one ship survived and soon enough all of its weapons were systematically disabled by pinpoint fire from Atlantis, it’s engines too and then taken under tow.
“No bogies left, bogey three is disabled and undertow,” Ch’tkk’va announced calmly.
“Stand down red alert,” Mac ordered and immediately the lights changed, the yellow alert klaxon blaring briefly to signify the status change. And then was on his feet straight away, closing distance with the helm and Tikva as she got to her feet. “Ship is yours ma’am.”
“You did good Mac.” He could see she was slightly flushed, with a slight wild look in her eyes, that look of a pilot back in the seat after too long away. “Which shuttle did we lose?”
“Rangitata, Ensign Li and T’pau,” Rrr answered from his station, turning to face the bridge. “No survivors.”
Silence descended on the bridge and eyes turned to Mac and Tikva. Then he turned to his Captain as well. “I’ll handle it,” he said quietly.
She nodded to him, gave him a pat on the arm and a thankful look, then stepped past him to address the bridge in total. “I want all survivors on that ship in the brig and double the guard. Get all our shuttles as well, then I want them on CAP until I say so. Mac, I’ll get T’Val to handle it when she brings Grey in.”
“We lost two of our own because someone else couldn’t play nice, but that doesn’t mean we descend to their level,” she continued and turned to face him with a slight smile. “Mac, I’ve got the bridge for now, go sort out the details.”
“Aye ma’am,” he answered and started to head for the turbolift.
“Rrr, get me Camargo, I want to know how she’s gotten with that artifact. And then have a message ready for Starfleet. When we get our next burst, tell them we need a bigger hyper-subspace window, we’re going to send them everything we can from Camargo’s work, let them deal with it on their end.”
Mac stepped into the turbolift just as the bridge started to settle back into a hive of activity, the doors closing shut and leaving him with his solemn duty.
“Well, I mean, it’s certainly a find, and damned impressive too,” Camargo said as she looked at the recovered artifact with her Captain, “but the team can’t really make much more of it. It’s incredibly dense data too, but not as much as we could store in that same volume.”
“Well Captain,” she said, looking to the shorter woman. “All of our long-term storage medium aboard ship are meant for a few hundred years at best really. Black boxes and the like, so someone can piece together what happened should something go wrong. Everything else has a failure rate, but it’s because it’s highly active read-write media. But this stuff,” she waved her hand at the crystal orb,” is more like the storage media on Memory Alpha. It’ll outlast the Federation.”
“Well, hopefully that’ll never happen. So it’s long term storage?”
“More like engraving data into stone tablets. You write to this stuff, you do processing elsewhere. This is a permanent archive. But because of that it’s not immensely data dense as it has to be clear enough to last eons despite radioactive decay, cosmic radiation…” she was going to continue but a smile and raised hand from her Captain stopped her.
“Okay, so we’ve got a Tkon encyclopedia set but we still can’t read it.”
“No ma’am. But the boys and girls here in geo-sciences have fully mapped the sphere. We’ve got a full model of it sitting in the main computer right now that we’re running simulations on.”
“Huh. Okay.” She watched as Tikva looked all around the lab, then back to her. “Keep working on it. We’re also going to need your team to take a break for about ten minutes soon so we can encrypt and compress a copy for sending back to the 4th Fleet Command in about five hours when they hail us via hyper-subspace. That be a problem?”
“Uh, no ma’am,” one of the scientists said as she stood, a few hours all doing the same. “Gives us a chance to go grab some food and stretch our legs.”
Camargo smiled as she watched her Captain smile at the comment and wave everyone out of the room, her and the Captain on their heels. “I’ll go give Rrr a hand with the compression, make sure that what Command gets is what we have. Then I’m going to go try a few new decoding ideas myself.”
“Sounds good Lieutenant, oh and Camargo, tell the team planetside they can stay for a bit longer. We’re not going anywhere just yet.”
The play was the thing and she had resolved herself to playing her role properly, to start with at least. The guest chairs had been removed, so there was only the option of standing before her desk. The desk itself cleared of all artifacts that this was a working office, even the computer terminal had found a new home on the display cabinet behind her. The only thing present was a single padd on her desk, two photos on it.
One of Vulcan stoicism, the other a bubbly fresh-faced human whose grin seemed permanently affixed. And both of them casualties because of her actions in staying when they could have left, but others for fighting when they could have talked.
She stared at them both for a while, not sure how long, before the door was opened and in stepped Mac, then a security officer, then a Vaadwuur man, his hands in cuffs, then two more security officers, then Adelinde.
Her rocks, both of them in this situation. One professional, the other personal and both oh so needed.
Never had someone die under our command before.
Not like we’ve seen it though. Remember Trafalgar.
Not fair. We lost a lot of good people.
But it’s different because we’re in charge now?
Mac stepped around without a word and took up station behind her, his hands behind his back. The three security officers and Adelinde all formed a semi-circle, preventing this particular man from escaping, not that there was anywhere to go.
“Commander Pilt. Why did your people fire on my ship without warning?”
“You desecrate Vaadwuur holdings. You knew what you were doing when…”
Thankfully he stopped when she quietly raised a single hand. She held the silence for a moment, sensing the rage of this man. Then she lowered her hand, and spoke. “You never hailed, never spoke. You just attacked. Why?”
“Because you Federation types tried to get us all killed. You sold us out to the Turei and they harassed us for years. You’ll all pay for your actions. As you sold us out, we’ll destroy you all!”
She again raised her hand, waited another moment, then spun the padd on her desk around and pushed it so the Vaadwuur man could see the pictures on it. Of course he never even looked at it, just at her. “Your foolish arrogance, your refusal to so much as talk to me, cost the lives of two of my crew and many, many more of your own. Words could have saved lives.”
More anger, more rage, all impotent.
She shook her head and waved for the guards to take the man away and as soon as he was gone, she indicated for Mac to park himself on the edge of her desk. “We can’t keep them aboard ship forever.”
“Can’t space them either,” Mac replied.
“Sure as hell not letting them loose.”
Mac mulled for a moment, stood and went over to the replicator, returning a moment later with two cups of coffee. “Could ask the People.”
“Maybe,” she said wistfully as the cup was accepted, then held under her nose for a brief moment. “Maybe.”