February 2007

Star Fleet Fiction Continued

A Mission of Vital Importance Chapter 3

by Randy O. Green

"Computer on." He waited while the workstation flickered to life. After the device had finished powering up, and the PADD had finished its upload, he studied the dozens of simulation tests it had run overnight. There were a dozen variables ó it had taken him years to find them all ó and the key was to discover the exact combination that would work. Sometimes, a value for one variable was successful if four other variables were set in a certain combination, and unsuccessful if two others were given a different value. While it would be obvious that the solution was to find something that almost worked and tweek each variable in turn until it actually did work, sometimes a range of increases to one variable never quite reached a workable solution, meaning that some other variable (perhaps one he didnít know yet) had the wrong value. Selecting a likely combination, he gave the verbal command to start the tactical warp simulation.

He observed the Warbird break down twice more and made more notes in his PADD. Then he tweaked the plasma induction rate once more.

"Fire all lasers," he ordered. The lasers fired. The simulated warp bubble didn't flicker.

"Fire the plasma torpedo." The Warbirdís huge plasma torpedo detonated in its tube. He noted a small flicker in the warp field and waited calmly for the ship to spill its guts. It didnít. He held his breath, and made one last adjustment.

"Fire all lasers and the torpedo," he ordered the simulator program.

Obediently, the little Warbird did so. Five beams of energy burned miniature holes in the warp field for a second, then ceased as the Warbird finished its volley. With a jubilant snarl, Vilenus watched the little ship sailing serenely along, master of its own destiny.

As the Romulan Empire and House Antreidies would soon be, Vilenus swore, raising his fist in triumph. The simulator was only that, and it would take weeks or months to translate it into a full-scale working model on a real starship, but he at last had a direction to move toward. Everything else was just details.

Gorn Destroyer Tusk, Approaching Coration System

The Tusk dropped out of transit warp in the Coration system, sensors straining to catch and filter anything that might help the ship fulfill its mission and return to the Confederation.

Junior Captain Wisseth Rarxarth forced himself to remain calm as his subordinates worked to give him the information he needed to make the decisions that would mean life or death for them.

"Warbird and Ssnipe class sshipss ahead Captain, and I have a freighter at maximum ssenssor range." The Tuskís science officer, Senior Lieutenant Dass Tarkanss reported after a moment.

"No warning messagess from either sship Captain." Ensign Bel Furioss reported. She was the largest Gorn on the bridge and the only female.

Run

Rarxarth leaned forward, staring at the tactical view screen harder, as if doing so would give him a better view of the enemy warships. Even though all his combat experience had only consisted of lonely fights with Romulan frigates, he still felt that, alone, his ship could have handled the cruiser. But with the frigate backing it up, they might prevent him from accomplishing his mission. He discounted the freighter completely, as it was unlikely to be armed anyway.

"Can we get around them?"

"Undoubtedly, Captain, but the delay to do sso, might mean the difference between the success or failure of our mission."

Rarxarth only grunted in reply. Tarkanss was a good officer, but he had the annoying habit of verbalizing the obvious.

"Weaponss sstatuss?" he asked Junior Lieutenant S'slith Progernsst, his helmsman.

"Lasserss are armed and ready. Missile crews report ready also, Captain."

Rarxarth studied the disposition of the two enemy ships for a moment. The frigate lagged thirty thousand kilometers behind the cruiser, leaving a gap he could possibly exploit.

"Approach the Warbird on an oblique course, keeping our number ssix shield to them. Hold your fire until I give the order."

"Affirmative, Captain," Progernsst responded. Rarxarth watched him caress the controls that would designate a target for his laser gunners and missile crews.

The Tusk rapidly closed with its enemies.

Bridge, Warbird Skua, Coration System

"Ante-Commander! A Gorn ship has just dropped out of transit warp and is approaching rapidly!" The Skua's science officer, a stocky Ante-Centurion named Alistair Basilus announced, his voice reflecting the shocked surprise he felt.

"What!" Drusus sat up straight, sharing his Centurion's disbelief that the Gorns were actually attacking them here.

"Identify the Gorn ship-type as soon as possible. Centurion Rahames, send out a fleet-wide alert. If we fail to destroy him here, perhaps someone will be able to block his retreat." A few moments passed as the tension level on the bridge climbed quickly.

"Identification coming through now, Ante-Commander," Basilus announced at last, frowning. "Destroyer class, with the new tactical warp engines."

Drusus relaxed, just a little. At least it wasn't one of the refitted cruisers.

"Our weapons?" he asked Junias Tobias, his helmsman.

"Lasers armed. Plasma torpedo should be ready to fire by the time the lizards get within range," the Pente-Centurion answered, not stating the obvious. If the Gorn wanted to, he could circle around their slow ships, strike the planet, and leave with impunity before they could get into position to exact revenge.

Drusus sat back in his command chair and took stock of his options. Thanks to the early warning from the border patrols, the two ships in the system were underway, with weapons armed. And time was their greatest ally. Because they had sent the alert out so quickly, the longer the Gorn stayed in the system, the greater the chance that blocking forces would be able to ring them in and destroy them. But they were still at a severe tactical disadvantage due to the speed advantage the Gorn held over them. Hopefully, the Gorns had not shown the same propensity for weapons research as they had for warp drives.

He watched the tactical view screen intently. The Gorn came on, with no sign of an attempt to bypass them. Evidently, it had heard their alert and meant to go through them rather than around them.

"Centurion Tobias, keep the number one shield pointed at them to keep all our weapons in arc. Centurion Rahames, request the Corvus to fire on the same shield we target if possible."

"Range is fifty kilo-kilometers Ante-Commander," Basilus said briskly.

"Let him come closer, Tobias." The foolish Gorn was now within maximum range of his heavy torpedo, but he wanted the Gorn to come closer so he could maximize the damage done to the hated lizards with the additional firepower of his lasers. With the speed of the Gorn, it might be the only good shot they would have.

Bridge, Destroyer Tusk

"The Warbird iss ssending out an alert Captain," Ensign Furioss reported, flipping switches on her communications board as she did so.

"Ssteady on coursse, Lieutenant Progernsst. Disstance to cruisser, Tarkanss?"

"Warbird thirty thoussand kilometerss away, Captain. He iss turning to keep uss in hiss forward arc."

"Progernsst, launch the port atomic missile. Target the Ssnipe," Rarxarth ordered. "That will make him ssave a lasser until he identifiess the missileíss target."

"Twenty thoussand kilometerss, Captain," Tarkanss interjected.

"Fire portside lasser at the Warbird, Progernsst," Rarxarth ordered. A greenish laser beam licked out from the destroyerís wing and spent itself against the forward shield of the Warbird.

"No internal damage, Captain," Tarkanss reported. "Target sshield sstrength down twenty percent."

"Jusst trying to make him think we're going to fight it out here, Ssenior Lieutenant. Reinforce our number ssix sshield." Rarxarth growled in reply. Perhaps he had been overconfident in thinking he could have handled the Warbird alone.

"Warbird firing Captain!" Tarkanss warned. Rarxarth flipped his comm switch to a ship wide frequency.

"All deckss brace for incoming fire!" he managed to hiss.

The Warbird fired four lasers. One laser destroyed the atomic missile they had launched. Another laser targeted on them missed. The other two struck them and the destroyer lurched as the energy of the lasers dissipated against the reinforced number six shield.

"Sshield down thirty percent Captain," Tarkanss informed him. "Warbird energizing main torpedo!"

The front of the Warbird seemed to explode as it fired its heavy torpedo. The weapon detonated in its launch tube and a beam of pure plasma arced across the distance between them. Rarxarth could only watch as death reached for him.

But death didnít find him this time as the bolt missed by the barest of margins. The Tusk raced on, safely past the Warbird. Rarxarth only hesitated a second as he gave his next order.

"Hard to port. Put the Ssnipe on the number two sshield." Obediently the destroyer heeled over on its port side and neatly shot between the Warbird and Snipe, steadying on course as it did so. The Warbird futilely turned to follow.

"Range to the Ssnipe twenty kkilometerss, Captain. Sstarboard missile launcher unmassked."

"Launch sstarboard missile. Fire lasser bankss one and three."

"Atomic missile launched. Missile sspeed iss warp one point two, Captain. Lasserss firing."

Two green laser beams emitted from the saucer and right wing of the destroyer and washed across the thin front shield of the Snipe, almost downing it.

The frigate returned fire with its own lasers. One laser burnt itself out against the number two shield of the Tusk, and the other laser sought out the atomic missile. But the missile was a small, agile target and even though the near miss almost fried its electronics, it still managed to dive inside of ten thousand kilometers and explode against the Snipeís weakened front shield.

"Didn't expect that little bonuss," Rarxarth spoke out loud without realizing it.

Then the Snipe fired its heavy torpedo. A Romulan plasma stream again arced toward the destroyer. Again the stream missed. The Tusk raced on, leaving both Romulans chasing impotently in its wake.

Bridge, Warbird Skua, Coration System

Tama Drusus was furious. The impudent reptiles had slipped between two Romulan warships without a scratch! He only hoped his force could catch the Gorn before the raider caused a great loss of life on Coration Three.

"Tell the gunners to re-calibrate their weapons computer, Pente-Centurion Tobias," Drusus ordered, struggling to control the anger in his voice. He could see that Tobias had already started a sub-routine that would do so, but he knew he had to come up with something that might explain to the crew how they could miss with a plasma bolt from such a short range. The anger rose again inside him.

"Continue pursuit," he managed to choke out. The Gorn would pay for this insult to the Empire and the affront to his own personal honor he vowed.

Romulan Frigate Corvus, Coration System

Raxx Casifax was no less furious. A lizard had outmaneuvered her. Worse, the lizard had knocked down her front shield. She had been too eager to taste his blood and had fired only one laser at the incoming missile when two would have destroyed it without a doubt. If it hadnít have been for the armored hull of her frigate, they might have already had casualties.

"Maintain best speed, rearm all weapons, and get repairs started on that front shield."

"Affirmative Ante-Commander," her officers responded.

She turned to watch the view screen, intently watching the Gorn destroyer shrink in size with distance. "How many Romulans will die today before we destroy this interloper?" she murmured quietly to herself.

WarEagle

***To Be Continued***

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