April 2007

Star Fleet Fiction Continued

A Mission of Vital Importance: Chapter 5

“The Moon base reports they are under assault by commandoes, Ante-Commander,” Rahames informed his Captain. “We also have a communiqué from the freighter we detected earlier, requesting our protection from the Gorn.”

Drusus digested the information with a grim nod and gave his next order to his helmsman, Pente-Centurion Tobias.

“Put us into orbit over the moon base. If they won’t let us catch them, then I’ll make them come to us. They won’t sacrifice their assault team without making an attempt to retrieve them.” He turned back to Rahames. Tell the freighter Captain to stay out of the way.”

The Skua parked itself over the base, the Corvus close behind it.

Bridge, Gorn Destroyer Tusk
Rarxarth hissed a soft Gorn curse. The Romulans had failed to take the bait, and worse, he had surrendered the initiative to them without a fight.

“Atomic missile rackss reloaded, Captain. Lasserss rearmed and sshield number ssix back at full sstrength.”

Rarxarth took a deep breath, racking his brain for a workable option. There was no other choice but to make another pass to retrieve Red Diamond Four.

“Come about, Progernsst. Keep the number one sshield to them and prepare for the lasst battle pass. Launch two missiless targeted on the Ssnipe. Asss ssoon asss the rackss recycle, fire two more at it, and continue to follow them in.” He banged on his intercom switch. “Transsporter room, I want you to lock onto the team and beam them out at the lasst possible minute. I want them to have asss much time asss we can give them to complete their mission. Contact them directly to coordinate.” He pushed another button. “All deckss prepare for incoming fire.”

He tried to settle back in his blocky command chair but was unable to. He found himself staring at the screen as the two Romulan ships slowly grew in size. The sensors magnified the garishly painted bird on the underside of the cruiser and it seemed like his own personal Paravian mocking him. He pushed the thought aside. It was extraction time for the team.

“Full sspeed, Progernsst. It’ss feeding time.”

Research Facility, Coration-III-Moon
Foedd turned and gave a fist up sign, signaling he had the bypass rigged. Tranxkss motioned Skathss, who had been doing a tricorder scan of the far side of the bulkhead. Skathss held up three stubby fingers. At this, Ensigns Ylanh and Dithss balanced themselves in a kneeling stance, their lasers extended in a firing position in front of them. Tranxkss motioned for Foedd to trigger the bypass.

The bulkhead swoshed open. There was a blast of atmosphere as the area behind the bulkhead vented. Then the air was filled with weapons fire as the Gorns and Romulans opened up on each other from close range.

Ch. 5 Art

Two Romulans died in the first seconds, their unarmored vacc suits no match for even a glancing laser blast. The third one managed to live long enough to down Dithss before he was virtually torn in half by Gorn weaponry. Dithss crumpled to the floor, his armored vacc suit bleeding air and Gorn blood from more holes than Tranxkss could count. He motioned his team on, knowing he would have to mourn his team member later.

Tranxkss stepped over the last Romulan, following his team as they rushed down the hall. He took a quick glance at the Romulan and was chilled to note that unlike the first two Romulans they had killed, this one was a marine. Probably a visitor from one of the ships, he reasoned. He hoped there weren’t too many more of them.

Bridge, Romulan Frigate Corvus
“Are lasers rearmed, Pente-Centurion Arthol?” Ante-Commander Casifax asked her helmsman.

“Both lasers are armed. Plasma torpedo is almost armed,” the young Centurion answered. He paused for a second, checking a new reading. “Gorn has launched two missiles,” he added.

“Ante-Commander, freighter has launched a shuttle and it is heading for the moonbase,” her communications officer informed her.

“What are they playing at?” Casifax mused, an alarm ringing softly in her head. “Interrogate the freighter’s nav computer and store its registry for future review. It could be a secret Gorn raider.” She returned her attention to the battle as she stared at the electronic image of the Gorn ship and two missiles speeding toward them.

“Hold the lasers for point defense. Our torpedo and the one from the Corvus should damage him enough to keep him from escaping. Once we pin him down, he is ours.” She refused to allow herself to consider the unlikely chance that both torpedoes might miss.

Surely the Gods of War wouldn’t allow that again.

Shuttlecraft, Approaching Moon of Coration-III
The shuttle dove down toward the besieged moon base. Seven armored, vacc-suited soldiers sat almost motionless, strapped on the bench that ran around the shuttle’s troop compartment. All save one. Pente-Centurion Johannes Tiercellus nervously checked the magazine in his assault rifle for the tenth time. Next, he caught himself unconsciously scrunching down in his armored vacc suit, waiting for the defensive fire he had come to expect in shuttle assaults. He saw his second-in-command, Centurion Efedra Mettellus, laughing at him through the tinted faceplate of his vacc suit. Tiercellus keyed a private channel between them.

“What are you laughing at?” he asked the big Romulan.

“You. Relax Johannes. It’s just another operation, no different from all the other missions we’ve been on in the last three years.”

“This one just feels wrong, Efedra. We don’t have our normal backups with us. We’re attacking a House that may have discovered the secret to fighting at warp speeds, something we desperately need in our war with the lizards. We’re doing this just to help our House ascend to a more prominent role in the affairs of the Empire. If the Gorns don’t succeed, we’ll have to finish their dirty work for them. It’s like we’re collaborating with the enemy,” he finished, shrugging his huge shoulders helplessly, forgetting that the motion was lost in his vacc suit.

“If it’s House Antreidies’ destiny to discover advanced warpdrive, they will do it, even if it means both the Gorn team and ourselves are destroyed here. If we succeed, or the Gorns do, it will mean they and their allies are not worthy to lead the Empire,” Mettellus answered. Apparently, his friend had no qualms about the coming action.

“Besides,” Mettellus cracked, “I didn’t notice you having second thoughts when Administrator Copern was around.”

Tiercellus grinned in spite of himself.

Research Facility, Moon of Coration-III
Major-Centurion Pertinax Ruvellus stared intently at a security monitor that showed the surviving three members of the Gorn commando team barreling down the hallway toward the room he was in. One held a scanning device that he had seen them use to discover where several of his marines and the station’s security team had waited in ambush for them. They had then used their superior weaponry to kill the defenders. Another seemed to be the leader and the last one carried a large package on his back. Ruvellus did not care to know what that package might contain.

The Gorns moved very fast in the hallways of the station, despite the encumbrance of the vacc suits they wore, and their huge bulk. He had donned his own armored vacc suit, as had the two remaining marines who waited in the room with him. All three of them tensely waited for the moment when the Gorns would burst through the door. Ruvellus never thought of retreat. It was not the Romulan way.

The civilian, Fale Vilenus, had ceased to cower behind him and was trying to download all of his data to a backup, but he didn’t think the man would be able to finish before the enemy reached them. He had donned his vacc suit only when Ruvellus had order him to, which was barely in time before the last of the station’s air had leaked out after the Gorns had destroyed the last bulkhead. Now he seemed otherwise oblivious to the death that was stalking him remorselessly.

Ruvellus motioned for his two marines to get ready. The Gorns were almost at the doors now and he crouched down behind the counter. He wished for the hundredth time since the assault had begun that he had access to heavier weapons.

The plasma weapons that had been employed by the base security team had been ineffective against the Gorn’s armored suits, and if he hadn’t made it standard operating procedure for his troops to carry armor-piercing firearms they all would have been dead by now. As it was now, even with the armor-piercing rounds, his brave soldiers had only brought three of the interlopers down at the cost of seven of his own and roughly the same number of base defense team members.

He saw the leader of the Gorns notice the video camera and raise his weapon toward it. The last thing he saw before the flash of the alien’s weapon was the Gorn’s snout seeming to fill the lens of the camera as he hissed into it. Then a flash of light and the video feed was gone.

“Courage warriors, for the Emperor,” he spoke over his tactical frequency. He saw the vacc-suited forms of his men raise their weapons to port arms in a salute to him and he could not help but feel a swell of pride at their bravery.

The doors burst open and two small, metallic items rolled in, coming to a stop between him and his two marines. Then time seemed to warp as everything slowed to a crawl. He chanced a burst of fire at the closing doors before he dove to the floor, seeking the protection of a stout piece of lab equipment. He felt, rather than heard; both grenades explode as they sent their deadly shrapnel ripping through the vacuum. He chanced a look over the equipment. One of his men was lying against a wall, his body grotesquely chopped in half by the force of the explosions and his green blood flash frozen everywhere. The other marine crouched against the wall, his weapon trained on the door.

The three Gorns burst in. The leader and the one with the strange scanning device pivoted to their right and leveled a stream of energy fire at his marine. He saw his warrior die as the weapons fire burned through his armor almost instantly. But the dying marine got off a burst from his automatic weapon that walked from the feet of the Gorn with the scanner to the top of his vacc suit.

The impact of the armor piercing rounds staggered the Gorn as the atmosphere from the vacc suit and Gorn blood puffed out and froze in a crystalline cloud. The Gorn leader caught him in his arms before he had a chance to fall to the floor in the light gravity. The leader began to ease the injured Gorn to the floor, apparently stricken by his friend’s mortal wounds when he should have been concentrating on the situation at hand.

Ruvellus brought his weapon to bear on the third Gorn, hoping that the impact of the armor-piercing rounds into the Gorn’s body would not set off the device he carried on his back. He saw the Gorn belatedly spot him from where he was crouching behind the lab equipment and he began to bring his weapon into line with Ruvellus’s body.

He didn’t make it. Ruvellus could feel their gazes lock even through the thick faceplates of their vacc suits as he pulled the trigger on his weapon. He felt the weapon rock in his hands as a stream of armor piercing rounds poured into the Gorn.

The Gorn slammed backwards into the other two and they went down awkwardly. The big Gorn managed to get off one blast that missed Ruvellus narrowly as he paused to reload. Ruvellus slammed a magazine home and hosed down the whole stack of Gorns again. He emptied the magazine, reloaded, and shoved the barrel of his rifle into the pile of bleeding, broken, vacc suited lizards. Nothing moved.

He watched a moment longer until satisfied that the aliens either weren’t alive or that none of them were a threat. He walked over and kicked the weapons out of their hands, and then safely out of reach before he examined them more closely. Two of them were clearly dead, but the leader’s vacc suit had automatically and successfully sealed the half-dozen puncture wounds in it.

Ruvellus still didn’t think the lizard would survive his wounds but as he looked into Gorn’s face plate and met the Gorn’s eyes, he could feel the defiance and hate, mixed with a respect that the being felt for him. He felt a small twinge of admiration for the warrior spirit of the Gorn but he pushed it away. He would give the Gorns an opportunity to earn his respect later, when the Empire capitalized on the promise of Vilenus’s device and the Empire absorbed the Gorn Confederation.

He turned away from the Gorn, his eyes searching for the scientist. He stopped and stared un-comprehending at the sight before him for a moment before the truth dawned on him. The blast the big Gorn had fired hadn’t been aimed at him. Fale Vilenus lay against the far wall, the upper third of his vacc suit open to space. His head was half-melted by the Gorn’s beam weapon and he was clearly, very, very, dead.

Pente-Centurion Ruvellus sighed. The loss of the researcher would hinder the Empire, he was sure. But he knew the facility here, and the mining post, still had Vilenus’s research stored and he was sure that House Antreidies would be able to retrieve the data and recover from this attack.

He saw something move in his peripheral vision. He turned toward the motion, his finger caressing his weapon’s trigger again. The surviving Gorn had pulled himself out from under his teammate and was trying to pull the device off the large Gorn’s back, but it appeared a broken arm and his other wounds were hindering his effort.

Sneering to himself, Ruvellus crossed the distance between him and placed his armored boot on the shoulder of the Gorn and gave him a hard push. The Gorn sprawled on his face, unable to catch himself. Ruvellus held his weapon on the Gorn, undecided on whether to put the Gorn out of his misery or turn him over to House Antreidies interrogators.

Another movement caught his eyes and he brought his weapon. Three Romulans in vacc suits with House Aurellius markings strode into view. He relaxed a little more, dropping the point of his weapon again. They must be a rescue team from the colony on Coration Three, or the Skua itself, he decided.

The leader paused and saluted him, and Ruvellus saw him glance down at the Gorns. Reflexively, he returned the salute. It was the last thing he ever did.

The two flanking Romulans brought their weapons up in a move almost too fast to follow and each one fired a burst into him. It felt like a hundred hammer blows to his torso but the unexpected betrayal hurt him almost as bad as the torrent of bullets that tore through his body and hurled him backward.

He landed on his side and heard the atmosphere leaking through the holes in his vacc suit. As death claimed him, the last thing he saw was the eyes of the Gorn he had shot, boring into his own as the alien stared at him from where Ruvellus had pushed him.

He could read no sympathy in the Gorn’s eyes.

Research Station, Moon of Coration-III
Tiercellus gazed down at the body of the Major-Centurion sadly. What a waste, he thought. Another fine Romulan warrior dead because of the politics. As team leader, he had in effect been the man’s executioner. The Game of Houses was beginning to sicken him, and he didn’t know how much more degradation his honor could stand.

He looked down at the wounded Gorn at his feet. He could see that the Gorn wouldn’t survive much longer without aid and he didn’t intend to give him any. But the lizard’s sheer unwillingness to die without completing his mission impressed Tiercellus. Even as he watched, the Gorn tried to drag himself closer to a discarded weapon. Tiercellus kicked it away.

“Device is ready to arm Johannes,” Metellus said in his suit’s earpiece. Tiercellus looked over his shoulder and saw that Metellus had un-strapped the team’s backpack nuke from his shoulders and had it set up. As Metellus and the other Romulan kept an eye on the wounded prisoner, he armed the device, thinking furiously as he did so. The timer was set for ten minutes, and could not be deactivated.

Looking over the Gorn team, he noticed a large object on the largest Gorn’s back. Pulling it clear, he noted that it probably was a nuclear weapon. Dragging it to the wounded Gorn, Tiercellus pantomimed setting it to explode. The Gorn stared at him with consternation for a moment, then reached over, punched three buttons, turned a key, and a digital display began to blink. Tiercellus could not read Gorn, but he had seen it before, and recognized numbers obviously counting down. With any luck, the Gorn bomb would go off first, and the Gorns would get the blame. He would not have deactivated his own weapon if he could have; there was no point in trusting the Gorn.

“Let’s go,” he motioned to the other two and the three of them hurried from the room. His last view of the room showed the Gorn determinedly working what seemed to be a communication device.

As soon as they entered the corridor, the three picked up the pace, collecting other team members as they went. There was an unspoken urgency to their movements and the team was soon running through the wreckage of the station as fast as their vacc suits would allow. Soon they reached the waiting shuttle and hurled themselves inside. Tiercellus plugged himself into the shuttle’s intercom system as soon as he got strapped in.

“Maximum rate departure, Pilot!” but the pilot had already launched the shuttle even as the hatch was closing. “Keep us low until we get out of detonation range!” He gripped his seat harness tightly. The shuttle vaulted into space, its thrusters kicking up a thick trail of dust as it accelerated low over the battered moonscape.

Research Station, Moon of Coration-III
Tranxkss knew he was dying, even as he struggled to communicate with the Tusk. His communicator had been destroyed by the impact of Romulan bullets. He knew the premonition he had as they began their attack had fulfilled itself. His whole team was dead. And the mission had failed.

Or had it. A Romulan commando team, evidently one from an enemy House, had arrived to finish the job his team had started. What a bitter irony that was. The mission that had cost him his life and the lives of his team might have been totally unnecessary.

He remembered catching the gaze of the Romulan warrior, the leader of the team had blown away the lone surviving defender who had stopped them. He had felt a sense of respect and honor for his team’s performance from the Romulan in that one brief moment of interspecies communion. He wondered briefly how things might have been if the Romulan race wasn’t composed of genocidal maniacs.

And the Romulan had left a device, one that was obviously a nuclear weapon.
And the Romulan had helped him set the timer on his own weapon.

He didn’t know why the Romulan had helped him and still set his own bomb. He had thought he had sensed a moment of kinship with the Romulan, but perhaps it was just something as simple as wanting a Gorn weapon to destroy the base rather than a Romulan one. But it really didn’t matter.

On the surface of the moon, a small sun was born.