Fiction – It’s Always Darkest…

Earth_Spacedock_damagedJust a little piece of fiction I wrote a while ago, at the final battle of the Iconian War. Jay – if you’re reading this, hope it’s okay to use your characters/toons!

—————-

The star field streaked by on the main viewscreen, as the ship zipped along at full warp speed. If one ever slowed down to look — really look — one could not help but marvel at the wonder of interstellar travel. For any intelligent species to achieve Faster-Than-Light speed, this was a new reality that their respective ancestors had never even dreamed of.

To T’Leia, the intellectual and technological achievements behind warp speed were precisely that: a Marvel. Even having been a starship captain for six years, she has never grown tired of observing the universe streak by in her daily travels.

Even today, as she sat in the captain’s chair, surrounded by bustling activity on the bridge, and a palpable tension among her crew. Even as she checked the latest reports coming in, T’Leia took a brief moment to be amazed at the fact that she was travelling many times the speed of light, a feat that anyone should be rightly proud of.

“We are being hailed by the Phoenix, Captain.” Lt. C’Rulir announced, shaking T’Leia out of her thoughts. “Admiral West is requesting a final briefing.”

“Acknowledged.” T’Leia looked up. “What is our ETA?”

The sleek Caitan checked her console quickly. “Sixteen minutes to Sol.”

“Answer hail, main screen.”

T’Leia turned her gaze towards the main view screen, as images of other task force captains came on one after another, arranged in three rows of threes. Captain M’eew of the USS Ocelot, Arthur Dent of the USS Korolev, Heidy von Bach of the USS Inquest took up the top row, while the bottom were Captain Dib of the Ferengi ship Latinum Lady, Zdrossk of the USS Serengeti, and a Starfleet symbol representing the USS Katana. The middle row is Admiral West of the USS Phoenix, flanked by Vohra of the USS Hoarfrost, and Kala Kendris of the USS Pallas Athena. Human, Vulcan, Caitan, Bajoran, Andorian, Tellarite, Ferengi, even A.I. — they represented a microcosm of the cultures and species that made up the United Federation of Planets.

“Thank you all for joining this last minute conference call.” Admiral West addressed the captains of Task Force Jenolan-Beta. In the old days, T’Leia privately reflected, many of the captains in this very task force would be too young to be captains in the old Starfleet, but times were changing. “I just received a subspace transmission from Earth. The message was partially scrambled, likely due to jamming signals; my communication officers have just finished putting it back together.”

“I hope you have some good news, Admiral.” Captain von Bach interjected. The German-born child-prodigy was always quick with a quip, but today even she sounded strained.

“I’m afraid not, Captain.” West shook his head. “Starfleet is reporting over eight hundred Herald ships currently in-system, and the battle is going poorly. Spacedock is taking heavy fire; Herald ground forces have landed at the Utopia Planetia Fleet Yards facilities. 12th Fleet will arrive in thirty minutes, and a joint Klingon-Romulan battle fleet is also enroute. Six separate Starfleet task forces including us, one Andorian militia squadron, and forty-one individual vessels are all converging to reinforce within the hour. As you all know, Commander Axtriv is also enroute with his Delta Alliance Battle Group, trailing us by eleven minutes.”

“Oy vey.” von Bach observed succinctly.

“It’s still not going to be enough, is it?” Captain Dent asked. It’s the question everyone was probably thinking anyway.

“Starfleet doesn’t believe so, no.” The Admiral confirmed, and tapped the touchscreen on his chair’s armrest. “I am forwarding the priority message to all of you now. The Federation Council and Starfleet Command believe we are out of options. They have greenlighted the use of the Krenim weapon as soon as it is ready.”

There was predictably a round of murmurs among the captains. On T’Leia’s bridge, the crew members exchanged worried, uneasy looks.

“That’s… really bad.” Captain M’eew reached up a clawed hand to rub at the bridge of his feline nose. “I didn’t think they have sorted out how to apply the temporal insertion yet.”

“Technically they have,” Captain von Bach interjected. “It’s the temporal impact that they haven’t sorted out. The further back you apply an insertion, the more ripple effects it will generate, but when you’re trying to root out a problem as ancient as the Iconians…”

“That is correct.” West noted, quoting the report. “But given the situation, it would appear that we are all out of time. If the Krenim weapon is not deployed now, we may not have another opportunity. Their insertion point is classified, but at this point that is out of our hands.”

“So I guess we’re expected to hold back the Heralds for as long as we can, and buy time for the Krenim weapon.” Kendris observed grimly.

“It’s like what the Klingons always say,” Captain Vohra interjected. “It’s a good day to…”

“Don’t say it!” Surprisingly, von Bach, Dib, and M’eew all called out in unison. Zdrossk added a grunt and a murmur in typical Tellarite fashion; thankfully it was sufficiently muffled that no one else could make out what he said.

If West found it amusing, he made no note of that. Instead, he sat up straighter in his chair and cleared his throat. “Captains, we have fourteen minutes before we arrive in Earth’s orbit. Our obvious priority is to protect the Krenim weapon upon our arrival; I want the Phoenix, the Pallas Athena, Serengeti and Hoarfrost  to remain in tight formation, and shield the Inquest, Korolev and Ocelot. The Katana will take point with the Latinum Lady and the Horus; we will be plow the road for the task force. We need to stay in close contact to support each other. We will fight our way to the Krenim weapon and make our stand in its vicinity.”

“The Latinum Lady will take the port flank.” Captain Dib volunteered with a nod. “You okay with taking starboard, Captain T’Leia?”

T’Leia nodded. “That is acceptable, Captain Dib. Admiral, might I recommend Earth Spacedock as our initial rally point? Starfleet is no doubt making a stand around it, and if we can link up with any vessels for a coordinated push towards the Krenim weapon, it would increase our chances of success.”

Admiral West considered T’Leia’s words for a few seconds, before nodding. “Agreed. We will head for Spacedock as soon as we drop out of warp. Any other questions?”

“Before we go,” Kala Kendris spoke up then. “I just want to say what an honor it has been to have served with you all.” It was inevitable, and even T’Leia felt a twinge of sadness upon hearing it.

“Never thought I’d die in battle with such a smelly pack of mastiffs,” Captain Zdrossk added, his Tellarite tone solemn and gruff as always. “Never thought I’d consider it an honor either, but here I am.”

“Aye, but we’re not dead yet.” Dent said, perhaps attempting to provide a morale boost. “We may still live to see each other.”

“Drinks on me to anyone who doesn’t die.” Dib added with a dark grin.

“Agreed.” Admiral West chimed in. “If there are no further questions, I suggest we adjourn this meeting and prepare ourselves.” He spared a look in T’Leia’s direction on the screen. “As the Vulcans say, live long, and prosper.”

There was a series of goodbyes and announcements of departures as each captain blinked out of the viewscreen. Just as von Bach and Vohra both left, the former said to the latter, “Wenn du stirbst, will ich Irh Zimmer?”

—————————————————

The USS Horus dropped out of warp into a scene of terrible devastation: Earth’s orbit was the scene of a massive battle still in progress. Earth Spacedock was aflame in the distance, but the station’s powerful weapon installations continued to fire, proving that it wasn’t going down without a fight. Everywhere that the eye could see, Starfleet vessels, orbital weapon platforms, planetary militia ships, and small groups of allied Klingon, Romulan and other alien vessels were engaged in battle with a huge Herald fleet.

But to T’Leia, of more immediate concern was a pair of Herald Quas cruisers and a group of four Baltim frigates just up ahead, as they pounded on an old Excelsior-class cruiser.

“Full impulse! Attack pattern beta. Torpedo spread on the lead vessel. Stay on the Katana’s flank.” T’Leia told her officers calmly, although she was anything but calm. The Horus burst into action, flying straight at the rear of the unsuspecting Herald cruiser to lay down a barrage of withering fire from its multiple cannons and torpedo launchers.

The rest of the Task Force arrived within seconds of the Horus, and a few more seconds passed as they got their bearings. As the first Quas’s rear shields buckled under the Horus’ firepower, its vulnerability is quickly exploited by the rest of the fleet; the USS Katana and the Latinum Lady accelerated and quickly joined the Horus, while the two of the cruisers, Hoarfrost and Serengeti, advanced into range to fire at the Herald ship. Under the combined devastation of the five ships, the Quas began to list as its hull was breached, before it exploded brilliantly into a thousand pieces. Meanwhile, the two Odyssey-class dreadnaughts, Phoenix and Pallas Athena lumbered forward, shielding the three science vessels with their massive hull and beam arrays, allowing the Inquest to activate an artificial gravity well near the second Quas, which quickly pulled the Baltim raiders in, crushing their hulls and meshing them against each other.

The Horus turned about hard to port to fire its devastating cannons on the trapped Herald ships, followed closely by the Latinum Lady, leaving the Katana to stay on point for the rest of the task force. The rest of the ships accelerated, firing beams, cannons and torpedoes into the cluster of enemies, destroying one after another of the smaller Herald ships quickly as they flew past. Their coordinated arrival caught the Herald rearguard by surprise, and the enemy paid the price…. for the moment.

“Rejoin the task force.” T’Leia gripped the armrest of the captain’s chair, while she visually scanned the main viewscreen of the task force’s relative position. “Stay on the Katana’s starboard, maintain distance ahead of the Pallas Athena at 4,500 meters.”

“Captain, we have a trio of Quas cruisers and twelve… no, wait, thirteen escorts breaking off the main force. Interception course from starboard, 25 kilometers and closing. A Vonph Dreadnaught on the port, 40 kilometers, with a flight of nine Baltim raiders.” Lieutenant McNabb reported in from his tactical console. T’Leia quickly reflected that the burly Scotsman has been at her side for the past several years, and even on this darkest day, he was still here. It was oddly comforting.

“Acknowledged.” T’Leia noted and tapped a few keys on her console to display the relative positions of the task force and the incoming enemy ships. “Calculate coordinates for an attack run, execute only on my command. Bridge to Engineering, route full power to weapons.”

As the crew hurried to carry out her orders, T’Leia sat back in her captain’s chair and waited. It took no more than two or three seconds, but it seemed far, far longer, before Admiral West’s voice came across the channel. “All ships, hard to starboard. Close and focus fire on the lead Quas. Ocelot, bring down its shield. Korolev, start working on the second Quas.”

“Aye, sir.” Captains M’eew and Dent answered in unison.

“Inquest, you’re on Gravity Well duty, I want the Baltims dead in the water.” The Admiral added.

“You got it.” von Bach replied quickly. “In eight seconds.”

“Roger that.”

“Engage.” T’Leia announced as soon as she saw the Katana banked right, along with the rest of the task force. It was quite a sight to behold, the pair of slow-turning Odyssey-class dreadnaughts, along with a Presidio and an Eclipse, shielding three smaller Science ships, as the Horus sped up and pulled away ahead of the pack. The Task Force and the Herald battle group quickly closed with each other – with the Horus in the lead, she was the first to exchange fire with a pair of Baltims speeding directly at her.

“Mister McNabb, scatter volley!” T’Leia sat up straight now, as energy fire streaked by the main screen, followed by an explosion that sent a violent jolt through the escort ship. “Lt. C’Rulir, bank starboard after the first pass.”

“Shields at 84%. Weapons firing!”

The Horus’ dual cannon pods spewed forth a frightening amount of phaser pulses that pounded and shredded the frontal shields of both Baltims: at the speed they were approaching each other, the Horus didn’t have the time to finish them off, but that was the plan. Following close behind, the Katana and the Latinum Lady took advantage of the stripped shields and destroyed both ships with a barrage of beams, cannon fire and torpedoes before the Heralds knew what happened. The Horus merely continued on, strafing the second and third waves of Baltims before peeling away abruptly — just in time for a massive gravitational distortion to erupt in their midst, slowing their advance, then stopping them, and finally pulling them into the artificial gravity well. Captain von Bach was well-known for her frequent tinkering to maximize the effects of artificial gravity wells, and she was doing her job now.

“Swing us around and focus fire on the lead Quas. Evasive maneuvers.” T’Leia barked an order as she checked the relative ship positions on her captain console. On command, the sleek escort ship made a full turn, weaving and bobbing to dodge the antiproton beams firing from the Herald cruiser. There was another explosion that rocked the Horus, this one violent enough to knock a couple of bridge officers off their feet.

“Damage report!” T’Leia shouted without looking away from the view screen, where she could see the rapid approach towards the firing Quas.

“That was a direct hit. Shields at 42%.” Lt. Broxton reported. “Minor hull breach on decks 2 and 3. Structural integrity field holding.”

“Stay on target. Mr. McNabb, open fire.” T’Leia added after a nod of acknowledgement.

Once more the Horus fired her forward cannons, laying down a barrage of withering fire against the lead Herald cruiser even as it returned fire. The Horus might have superior firepower, but the escort was most certainly less durable; such an exchange of fire could go either way… were it not part of the plan.

Multiple energy beams slammed into the Quas while it was focused on the Horus; spearheaded by the Katana and the Latinum Lady, the four cruisers of the task force had adopted a wedge formation as it approached. The combined firepower shredded the Quas’ shields in seconds, and a trio of torpedoes blew apart the Herald ship in a brilliant display.

Still, the battle was far from over; one of the remaining Quas and most of the Baltims were still caught in the gravity well, but the last Quas and three of the Baltims remained free and were already returning fire. T’Leia could see the Korolev was draining the shields of the Quas with a Tachyon beam, and in turn the Korolev was singled out for retaliation; not for long — the Pallas Athena maneuvered into an interposing position to physically block the Herald fire, and began a broadside duel with the Quas. The quick action saved the Korolev from serious damage, and the Pallas Athena was quickly assisted by the rest of the task force.

“Horus, Latinum Lady. Follow the Katana. I am sending it in.” Admiral West called through the intercom.

There was no need for an acknowledgement. T’Leia adjusted the readings on her console and nodded to C’Rulir. “Adjust heading, mark one-zero-one-two. Stay on the Katana’s wing.”

The Horus and the Latinum Lady formed up on the Katana’s flanks, and turned towards the Herald ships trapped in the gravity well. The trio of ships simultaneously let loose their weapons, beams and cannon pulses and torpedoes all slamming into the mass of Herald metal grounded against each other. As one Baltim exploded, its warp core breach caused immense damage to the surviving ships; they were caught in a chain reaction of death that T’Leia hoped she would never find herself in.

Task Force Jenolan-Beta managed to wipe out a couple of wings of Herald ships while sustaining minor damages, at least; not a bad start by any means. With the path cleared, the Katana, Horus and Latinum Lady fell back to rejoin the rest of the task force – and T’Leia saw that the Ocelot was now towing the damaged Excelsior-class ship, the USS Expedia, behind her. It was still not over — coming up behind the task force was the Vonph dreadnaught and a flight of Baltims, and the Herald raiders were gaining on the slow-moving cruisers.

“Enemy escorts approaching on our sixes,” C’Rulir reported and spared a backwards glance at T’Leia.

“Stay in formation, keep your heading towards Spacedock. We can’t afford to be distracted from our main objective.” Admiral West announced through the communication channel. “We are setting up a crossfire matrix as we go. Horus, Latinum Lady, you’re flying free escort.”

“Acknowledged.” T’Leia turned from her comm to C’Rulir. “Bring us about on an intercept course, Lieutenant. Coordinate with the Latinum Lady’s conn.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The Horus and the Ferengi ship peeled off once more, leaving the Katana to fall in with the rest of the task force as they formed into a sphere formation to maximize cross-fire. From the corner of her eyes T’Leia saw the Aquarius escort launching from the rear of the Serengeti, while the science vessels moved to the center of the formation. In the distance, the Herald Vonph dreadnaught loomed, preceded by its flight of Baltim escorts.

“Maximum power to forward shields.” T’Leia gripped the armrests of her chair again. “Scatter volley, and fire a full torpedo spread. Prepare to fire emergency retro rockets after first pass.”

The Horus and the Latinum Lady sped towards the onrushing Baltims — both sides opened fire at almost the exact same time. T’Leia pressed herself back into the captain’s chair and held her breath, waiting for weapon fire to hit.

“This is for you, father.” She whispered to herself.

—————————————–

 

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7 thoughts on “Fiction – It’s Always Darkest…

  1. Ausgezeichnet! (Outstanding!) 🙂

    (standing ovation)

    That.
    Was.
    Awesome.

    First of all, I have to say I am so humbled and honored that you decided to use some of my characters in your story, and I think you did a great job with old Jay there. I’ll have to fill you in on some more details about him, his story, and his ship, and his, um, “unique” command style (They don’t call him “Wild West” for nothing! lol).

    Admiral Jason “Jay” West’s personal flagship is the Odyssey-class USS Phoenix (NCC-97021), while the USS Katana is a highly classified former Section 31 advanced prototype warship that’s not even supposed to exist according to Starfleet Command and the Federation Council (plausible deniability and all that). Basically it’s a big, black (or very dark grey), mean, nasty, flying weapon of a ship; think of it as a STO version of the Vengeance from Into Darkness, for those special occasions when things have to be killed, like *immediately.* It was entrusted to him by Fleet Admiral Janeway as a “last ditch/just in case” sort of measure, to be used only in case of a dire emergency, which ended up happening all too commonly during the war.

    Admiral West once said that he hates “that damned thing” because as he claimed, “it’s an affront to everything Starfleet’s supposed to stand for,” though after the war he admitted that he and his fleet “needed it, and we would’ve been a hell of a lot worse off without it.” It’s interesting to note that West refers to his flagship the Phoenix as a “she,” while referring to the Katana as an “it,” showing his clear preference for his beloved “old bird” (or “old girl”). But the Katana kinda grows on him after a while because it did end up saving a lot of lives in the end.

    Both ships were present at the final battle in the Sol system, with Admiral West directing the fleet from the Phoenix and controlling the Katana remotely as it had been set up as a drone ship and kept cloaked until needed (the Katana has an advanced cloaking system composed of several decentralized redundant cloaking devices and can operate completely autonomously with its own AI “mind” if needed, which is kinda scary). Following the war West happily gave the Katana back to Section 31 and took the Phoenix on a 5-year mission to explore distant unknown regions of the Delta and Gamma Quadrants.

    A few other things:

    Dean Hawkins (my old eng Fed) was captain of the Bismarck, and Arthur Dent (my sci Fed) is captain of the Korolev (just swap them around).

    I changed Hawkins’ name to Alexander Jordan (aka “AJ”); technically the same toon with a new name as I didn’t want to create another redundant eng Fed alt.

    My own in-story reason is that Captain Hawkins was killed in action (RIP, Dean-o) when his battlecruiser the USS Bismarck was destroyed in a battle with the Herald fleet while buying time for Admiral West’s fleet to escape earlier in the Iconian War, with AJ, Dean’s first officer who was severely injured and barely survived the battle, as his replacement. Admiral West then promoted AJ to captain and gave him command of the Odyssey-class USS Endeavour.

    As for Arthur Dent, he’s a bit of an anomaly. lol 😉 (I plan on changing his name too, so he’s not a crossover toon from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy anymore). He’s a total science guy and not really trained or equipped for combat, but he and his refit Intrepid-class USS Korolev (named after one of the ships from Prelude to Axanar) nonetheless stepped up to the plate during the war, supporting Admiral West’s combat ships with its long-range scanning, recon, jamming and shield draining abilities. He was instrumental in helping in the defense of the Sol system in the final battle against the Herald fleet by detecting the incoming Herald dreadnaughts long before they arrived, giving the allied fleet more time to prepare their defense.

    So yeah, Heidy, you did pretty damn good there and I’m really happy with this. 🙂

    Like

    1. Yikes, that kinda contradicts what I wrote here. Oh well, alternate timelines and everything! 🙂

      For my toons, Heidy’s long-time ride the Fleet Recon Sci-Vessel USS Inquest (mentioned in a couple of old posts) took heavy damage at the Battle of Sol, which subsequently led to Heidy and her crew transferred to the Pathfinder-class USS Cassini; the Cassini was assigned to a 3-year deep space mission in the far reaches of the Alpha Quadrant.

      Likewise, Kala’s Oddy USS Pallas Athena took moderate damage and underwent extensive repairs. This explains the interim period when Kala was flying the Command Cruiser USS Argus Panoptes, until she picked up the T6 Oddy — supposedly the refitted and updated USS Pallas Athena-B.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another thing: Admiral West is an ornery old Dominion War veteran, born in 2353, and having served as a young MACO trooper against the Jem”Hadar back then, and later serving as a helmsman and tactical officer on Picard’s and later Data’s crew aboard the Enterprise-E, making him about 57 as of 2410.

    So I’d think Jay’s age seems about right for an admiral, tho he still might be considered a bit “young” as Picard was 59 when he took command of the Enterprise-D as a captain.

    Like

    1. There, did a few edits and removed reference to Jay’s age. Switched Dent to the Korolev, Jay to the Phoenix and removed mention of Hawkens and the Bismarck. Now it’s… more or less consistent!

      Liked by 1 person

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