May 2007

Star Fleet Fiction

A Mission of Vital Importance Chapter 6

by Randy O. Green

Tiercellus saw Metellus staring accusingly at him as they removed their helmets in the safety of the shuttle. He held up a hand to forestall Metellus' furious argument.

"That Gorn had the heart of a warrior and he deserved to complete his mission."

"But it was a big risk Tiercellus. What if the Gorn had detonated the weapon instantly?"

"Then, we would all be dead," Tiercellus replied. "But I felt that I owed the Gorn his victory, one warrior to another."

Metellus started to argue again, but a bright flash stopped him. The automatic filters over the shuttle's portholes stopped most of the light flash, but they both knew what had happened. The two men relaxed back into their harness, and in a subdued tone, began to construct their after-action report.

Bridge, Gorn Destroyer Tusk
"Detonation on the moon'ss ssurface Captain!" Tarkanss reported excitedly.

"Our nuke?" Rarxarth asked. His science officer was still checking his sensors.

"No... a Romulan device. But it was nuclear nonetheless. The basse is desstroyed."

"Any sign of the team?"

"Romulan cruisser at fifty thousand kilometers, Junior Captain. Frigate at sixty thousand kilometerss." Progernsst reported.

"No ssign of the team, Junior Captain. All communicationss with them hass ceassed," Bel Furioss informed him.

Rarxarth felt like he had been clubbed, and looking around at his crew, he could tell they felt the same way. Had his futile attempt to draw the Romulans away from the planet contributed to the deaths of Red Diamond Four?

"If we had sstayed to fight, Junior Captain, we would almosst certainly be dead by now," he heard Tarkanss say. He looked around again, and saw that the rest of the bridge crew agreed with his science officer. The moment of self-doubt passed.

"Launch the planned atomic missile at the base, set for surface burst. Hard to starboard, Mark 206, Inclination 60. Let'ss go around the Romulanss, get a long-range damage assessment, and get out of here. There'ss no way the team could have ssurvived. Am I not correct Tarkanss?" Rarxarth turned to his science officer, hoping that the Geydarian would tell him there was a possibility he was wrong. He was disappointed.

"None, Captain." The Brown Stripe shook his head slowly.

"Thankss, Tarkanss." Turning to his helmsman, he gave the next order. "Launch a missile at the frigate. That sshould give them ssomething to worry about asss we dissengage."

Two missiles leapt from their racks, going in different directions.

"Warbird iss firing, Junior Captain!" Tarkanss hissed, instinctively clutching his science console for support.

"Brace yoursselvess!" He managed to yell.

ship

Bridge, Warbird Skua
"Fire plasma torpedo!" Drusus screamed. He had seen the destroyer changing course and realized the Gorns meant to avoid combat all together. The base he had sworn to protect was now a radioactive crater.

Pente-Centurion Junias Tobias pushed the button that authorized the firing of the ship's heavy torpedo. A half second later, the weapons crew detonated the torpedo in it's launch tube and a super-hot plasma beam streamed toward the destroyer. This time it didn't miss. Drusus saw the number two shield of the destroyer collapse as the massive energy bolt overwhelmed the ship's defenses.

"Damage report, Trenma."

The tall, thin Romulan squinted at his instrument panel.

"Heavy damage, Ante-Commander. The ship's armor was penetrated and my computers show numerous fires all over the ship. Warp output has been reduced by almost fifty percent. They lost a missile rack and both bearing lasers. In short, they are hurt, but they can still disengage. And they are still outside of laser range," he finished disappointedly.

Drusus stared at the screen, mentally trying to will the Gorn destroyer a few kkilometers closer.

"Is the Corvus within plasma torpedo range?"

"Just coming within range, Ante-Commander," Trenma reported. "The Gorn didn't quite turn in time."

"Good. We may drag them down yet."

Bridge, Frigate Corvus
"Range fifty kilo-kilometers Ante-Commander!"

Casifax smiled, for the first time since the Gorn destroyer had attacked them. Her lips curled into a sneer as she regarded the damage inflicted on the enemy vessel by the Skua.

"Fire plasma," she ordered.

At her command a stream of plasma was unleashed and crashed into the number three shield of the Gorn destroyer. Again, the shield was overloaded and the stream impacted violently against the hull of the beleaguered Tusk. Only the fact that the torpedo struck an undamaged shield saved the raider.

Even so, Casifax saw it wasn't enough. The Gorn slowed, but it managed to stay out of range of laser fire from the two Romulan warships, dancing tantalizingly close. "

Skua has destroyed two of the atomic missiles, Ante-Commander," her science officer reported.

"Arthol, target lasers on remaining missiles and destroy them at fifteen kilo-kilometers."

"Yes, Ante-Commander." A moment later, two reddish laser beams leapt from her ship and erased the two missiles from existence. Satisfied, she gave her next order.

"Continue to pursue the intruders, Arthol. They must be driven from Romulan space." Another thought crossed her mind. "What happened to the freighter?" She asked her science officer.

"Freighter is recovering its shuttle. I surmise that since the detonation at the moonbase was Romulan in origin, the freighter must have delivered it."

"Silhouette and computer interrogations stored?" she asked him.

"Yes, Ante-Commander. We should be able to track them down after we destroy the invader."

She sighed with satisfaction. If the lizards managed to evade them, at least they would have a scapegoat for the Emperor, as weak as she thought he was, to take his wrath out on. She relaxed back in her command chair.

"Continue the pursuit."

The little frigate fell in behind the Skua, as they pursued the crippled Gorn destroyer.

Bridge, Gorn Destroyer Tusk
Rarxarth grimaced as the medic finished applying a plasskin patch to his injured side. Even though the plasma weapons hadn't directly hit the bridge, the impact had thrown him out of his command chair and into a console. The console had shattered under the force of his impact and he had received a nasty electrical burn. It was better than what had happened to his emergency bridge crew. The emergency bridge had taken a direct hit and had been vented to space. Eight Gorns had died a gruesome death within seconds.

"Complete damage report, Ssenior Lieutenant Tarkanss." He winced again as the medic patted the patch experimentally, testing its durability.

"Armor belt completely compromissed. Officer quarterss desstroyed, crew quarterss eighty-five perssent desstroyed and the impulsse enginess are wrecked. The transsporter iss damaged. Two lassers and a missile rack are alsso desstroyed." He paused, checking his instruments again. "The warp enginess are at fifty percent efficiency, and engineering reportss the enginess are lossing magnetic flux. They report they are having to gradually decreasse the power of the matter-antimatter plassma reaction jusst to keep them from exploding. We have barely enough power to leave the area, and not enough to get home." He reported gloomily.

Rarxarth felt a wave of despair wash over him, but he fought it off. He would not give up until his destroyer was a burning wreck. Turning away from his despondent science officer, he gave his next orders.

"Furioss, archive the log filess and transsmit them to Fleet Headquarterss. Progernsst, sset a coursse for the link-up with Firsst Sstrike. Maintain the besst sspeed engineering can give you. Let uss hope we don't meet a Vulture or two on the way home. Or anything elsse." He added, knowing they would have a tough time with anything they could not avoid.

Bridge, Freighter MDCXXVII
Carthos Rama'ch watched his indicator lamps as the returning shuttle began its landing pattern. As soon as he had confirmation of the shuttle's safe return, he gave the order to depart orbit from around the moon. He made sure it was in a direction away from the retreating Gorn and the dogged pursuit of the two warships. Then as soon as they were out of sensor range of the two Romulan warships, he nodded to Copern.

Copern returned his nod. She docked her PADD with the ship's computer and began overwriting its memory files and giving the ship a new identity and recognition codes.

While she was doing that, Carthos Rama'ch entered a few commands into the auxiliary control computer. At his command, part of the ship's superstructure was detached with the aid of explosive bolts and the ship's silhouette changed dramatically. Then he linked his PADD with the ship's backup systems. Within an hour, the ship was no longer identifiable as the beaten-up tramp steamer it had been. At his command, the "freighter" accelerated at a rate no freighter should have been able to.

Bridge, Gorn Cruiser First Strike
"Ssenior Captain!" Laer Dardiss snapped awake as his science officer spoke. "Ssensorss have detected a warp energy field conssisstent with Gorn enginess approaching." Trenma paused as his computer continued to refine the data it was receiving. Dardiss saw him grin in triumph a minute later. "It'ss the Tussk, ssir!" He said, eyes sparkling with pride.

"Any ssign of purssuit?"

"Two impulsse warp ssignaturess in purssuit, computer dessignated Force A." The gray scale consulted his instruments again. "I alsso show a trio of enemy sshipss, computer dessignated Force B, approaching on an intercept vector. The Tussk'ss power output is declining alsso. They seem to have ssuffered a lot of combat damage and warp output iss down to fifty percent," he noted with concern.

"Can we reach them before they are intercepted?"

"Yess, Ssenior Captain. But I do not think we will be able to tow the Tussk home without engaging the Romulanss."

"Any idea what ship classes we will face if we do?"

"One moment, Senior Captain." A long moment passed as Trenma waited for the range to close enough for his sensors to match impulse engine signatures. Finally, the Gorn answered. "Force A is compossed of a Warbird class cruisser and a Ssnipe class frigate. Force B," a long pause followed. "Force B conssistss of a Ssnipe, a Warbird, and one of the new Vulture class dreadnoughtss."

Dardiss didn't hesitate. If the force hadn't included a dreadnought, he would have considered the chance to destroy a couple of widely separated Warbirds worth the effort. But the twin plasma torpedo tubes on the Vulture drove the risk of not making it home again too high.

"Junior Lieutenant Ss'Arnath, match coursse with the Tussk and closse to within transporter range. Ssenior Lieutenant Finolce, contact the Tussk and tell them to prepare for ship wide evacuation. We'll have to sscuttle the Tussk. We can't let the Romulanss get their hands on her warp technology."

The First Strike matched course with the shot-up destroyer mere moments before it was caught between the pincers of the Romulan forces. Utilizing the new transporter on the refitted heavy cruiser, and the four shuttles on the Tusk that had miraculously survived the battle, the remainder of the destroyer's crew was rescued in record time. A moment after the rescue was complete, a battered Junior Captain Wisseth Rarxarth stood on the bridge of the First Strike, hunched over slightly and grimacing whenever he put too much pressure on his wounded side.

"Thankss for the rescue, Ssenior Captain Dardiss. We would not have made it much farther before I would have had to, as my young helmsman putss it, feed the Romulanss lasser beamss." His voice hid the pain he felt as he stared at the drifting wreckage of his destroyer.

Dardiss grinned back at him, before his face turned abruptly serious. His gaze followed where Rarxarth was looking, and he understood what he needed to do.

"Sshe wass a good sship, Junior Captain," he paused, before continuing. "And sshe completed her final mission." He watched as Rarxarth slowly nodded at the truth of his words. "The Romulanss sshould not have the opportunity to paw through her like a pack of sscavengerss. We sshall give her the dignity of an honorable death. I will allow you to give the orderss to fire."

He saw Rarxarth digest his words and slowly nod in agreement. He saw the green scale straighten up despite the lingering pain in his side and stare at his command one more time. Rarxarth had, of course, set the self-destruct before he abandoned his ship, but such things could not be totally relied upon, and a good ship deserved to die under the fire of weapons, not her own scuttling charges.

"Junior Lieutenant," he began, noting Progernsst's rank. "Launch a sspread of atomic missiless, and ssalvo all bearing lasserss the moment the missiless explode."

"Yess, ssir." Progernsst answered. "It iss my duty and my honor ssir."

Two missiles launched from their racks and began to home in on their helpless target. Not caring that they were attacking a friendly ship, the two missiles closed on the Tusk, then annihilated themselves in twin atomic blasts within ten kkilometers of the ship's hull.

Immediately after the explosion, five greenish-tinted Gorn lasers spat from the First Strike and spent themselves on the wreckage of the Tusk. The last two beams ignited an explosion in the ship's upper warp engine, and the Tusk died a fiery death.

"Ssensorss indicate no debriss ssurvived that is large enough for the Romulanss to analyze, Ssenior Captain." Tarkanss reported. "Also, Force A Romulan warsshipss are ninety kkilometerss away, Force B warsshipss are one hundred kkilometerss away."

Dardiss nodded. It was time to leave. The Romulans would not be happy that they had snatched their intended prey from certain death.

"Set coursse for home, Progernsst. Thiss sspace sstinkss of Romulanss."

The First Strike turned and accelerated directly between the two forces of Romulan warships, displaying the Gorn's superiority in speed and maneuverability one last time as they literally thumbed their snouts at the Romulans. Then they reached the threshold of transit warp, and in the blink of an eye, they were gone.

Captain's Quarters, Freighter MCDXXIV
Rama'ch looked up as Haule Copern entered auxiliary control. She looked tired, but relieved. She started to say something to him, but he held up a finger.

"Isn't there someone down in his quarters that you need to ... debrief?" He stared at her and smiled knowingly.

She flushed, but returned his smile.

"Thank you, sir. I do believe a de-briefing is in order." She turned and marched out, as Rama'ch returned to his work with a grin.

Admiralty House, Ghdar-III
Senior Commander Fecssckton finished his briefing with a flourish. He stepped back from the hologram that showed the results of all eight raids and waited for the questions that were sure to follow. He was not disappointed.

"It lookss like we owe the Romulanss some gratitude, Ssenior Commander. If it had not been for them, the ssacrifice of Red Diamond teamss Four, Ssix, and Sseven, along with heavy cassualtiess on the other teamss would have been for nothing. Not to mention the loss of the Tussk and the Claw. Is this not correct, Ssenior Commander?" Admiral Tonal'sson asked him.

"Esssentially, Ssir. We ssusspect another Romulan team or a House Security team may have interfered in Red Diamond Sseven'ss operation also, but it is difficult to assscertain if this is true or not. The target wass desstroyed, however."

"And the Romulanss will take yearss to recover from thesse raidss?"

"That iss our belief. Ssir. We sshould have at leasst a decade to concentrate on the Paravianss."

"I do note," General Ssliakish said, "that in the three cassess where Mariness landed with the commandoess, all were successful, but that both failed attackss were by the Diamond teamss alone."

Admiral Tonal'sson let out a long slow hiss. That argument would continue in history books for decades.

With the Romulan peril sidetracked for the moment, he could afford to recommend that naval assets be moved to the Paravian theater of operations. After all, the Romulans could not be insane enough to continue to attack a markedly superior navy with those scows they called warships. A small doubt remained in his mind as he gave the orders to begin moving fleet elements.

Could they?

Imperial Throne Room, Romulus
Emperor Ruvellus stared at the black-suited Romulan kneeling at his feet. He glanced around the room, checking to make sure his technicians had activated a privacy screen and also to make sure his bodyguards were within a few steps.

"Rise." He waited a moment as the tall, thin Romulan stood. "Are you implying, Rama'ch, that House Antreidies and House Aurellius were responsible for the death of my cousin?"

"Emperor, I am not. I am only saying, that in the course of my last trading run, a log came into my possession. Under a thorough examination by technicians of House Casifax, the log established that it was a Romulan team that destroyed the Antreidies facility on the moon of Coration Three. One that wore the colors of House Aurellius."

"But why would ..." Ruvellus didn't finish the sentence. Praetor Aurellius might have found a way to bug his conversations despite the privacy screen. Then he understood. It was all a plot. House Antreidies and House Aurellius had struck at him indirectly, by killing his cousin. He peered around nervously, trying to ascertain which one of the technicians or which one of his personal bodyguards might be in the employ of one of the two Houses. He could feel unseen eyes upon him, no matter which way he looked.

"Sir?" He heard the questioning tone in Rama'ch's voice.

Hastily, Ruvellus pulled himself together. It would not be good for the Emperor of the mighty Romulan Empire to appear unwell. He needed to make a point to appear strong again. Shuddering slightly, he began again.

"Carthos, this ‘warp space' idea is draining the Empire's resources, and we still aren't any closer to having true tactical warp drive than we were twenty years ago. Since House Aurellius and House Antreidies have allied themselves against me, I will cut their funding to nothing, and double the allocation for Masking Device research for House Sorkalif.

"This alliance between Houses must not go unpunished!" he finished with a ring of steel in his voice that he hadn't felt since he had ascended to Emperor, and could not know he would never feel again. "I shall take steps." The heads of these houses shall die, he thought to himself. Without more backing, he could not disband the houses, but some of their holdings could be distributed to more loyal houses. Staring at Carthos, he was suddenly struck by how noble the black clad Romulan looked as he stared back at him. A sudden idea struck him. The man had to be rewarded!

"Since you are the one who brought notice of this plot to me, Carthos Rama'ch, I will grant you one favor, and I will do all that is within my power to make it so. What would you have as your reward?" He was feeling magnanimous after deciphering the true nature of the plot against himself.

The tall, thin Romulan looked up and stared piercingly into his eyes. All Ruvellus could see was the strength and character of the warrior.

Rama'ch's lips formed a thin smile.

"I ask only one thing from my glorious Emperor. Support our petition in the Senate to reinstate House Rama'ch."

Ruvellus bowed his head in thought. Adding House Rama'ch back into the Game of Great Houses would help him continue to play one house off another more effectively. It could be given some holdings from the two disgraced houses. He would have to spend political capital to make it happen, but it would be worth it.

"Done," he smiled. It was good to be the Emperor.

THE END…look for a new story next month!

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