Shield of the Federation
by Randy O. Green
Part five of six
"Captain, we have a communiqué from the Dorsey Pender!" C'Dlett informed him. Tasrt looked back at diminutive Arcturian, raising an eyebrow as he did so. "It's a Martian National Guard frigate, sir, the one that guards McPherson's World against pirates and privateers. They are responding to the Groton's call for reinforcements and say they are making all the speed that they can, but it will be another ten minutes before they arrive."
Tasrt nodded. He didn't believe that the Dorsey Pender, which was older than anyone in its crew, would turn the tide, but he would accept any help he could get. Before he could think further about the ramifications of the arrival of the Guard frigate, the tactical officer broke in.
"Plasma torpedoes launched, Captain. One pseudo-torpedo also launched as ordered. Impact in seven seconds, target speed is warp two point one five," Mazaki announced. Tasrt nodded. He struggled to watch the progress of his weapons and those of the enemy. He found his gaze focusing on the Romulan weapons and watched with a growing sense of helplessness as two of them, their brilliant red glare only slightly diminished by phaser fire, penetrated the battered number one shield of the Groton. Fires bloomed all over the hull of the ship.
Turning slightly, the SparroHawk launched its last torpedo and loosed a volley of phaser fire at the beleaguered cruiser. The phaser fire ripped through the remnants of the number six shield into the primary hull of the ship. The powerful beams left a trail of molten wreckage along their impact trail. Tasrt saw the Groton's tractor wink out, but he couldn't tell whether it was from damage or the Sparrowhawk breaking the beam with negative tractor energy. He turned back to his first officer
"Yes, Captain," the Arcturian replied.
Its weaponry almost spent, the SparrowHawk gracefully executed a full one hundred and eighty degree turn toward the Genghis and began accelerating smoothly. The cruiser's Captain had evidently decided to bull his way past the destroyer by dint of sheer power. As the ship turned, it spit the last of its defensive phasers at the Groton. More fires erupted and the Groton slowed noticeably. He watched with clenched fists as the Federation ship struggled to turn away from the onrushing torpedo. He almost missed the first shuttle launch from the heavily damaged ship as it continued its slow turn. Evidently the shuttle carried the first evacuees from the doomed ship. He'd try to get within transporter range of the shuttlecraft before he departed the area. If he had a chance to depart the area.
The torpedo impacted, but the Groton had turned just enough to take the brunt of the warhead's explosion on the relatively intact number five shield and only a minor amount of damage struck the cruiser. Tasrt watched in admiration as the Groton doggedly began to again turn its nose in pursuit of the fleeing Romulan, hopeless as that pursuit surely was. Then the time for admiration was past as the distance between his ship and the SparrowHawk narrowed rapidly. He watched in dismay as the Romulan adroitly maneuvered to take the plasma torpedoes on its portside shields.
"Helm, slow to warp two point five. Mazaki, lock all heavy phasers and the photon torpedoes onto the target. It looks like we'll get one good shot. We may not get another one so make it count." He knew the tactical officer only designated targets for the phaser and torpedo crews to fire upon, but he still preferred to think that the skill of his bridge officers had something to do with the success of their efforts.
"Aye aye, sir," Mazaki replied, gazing intently at his computer screens as if he believed the same thing.
"C'Dlett, excess energy to the number one shield. The SparrowHawk's weapons won't recycle before we reach firing position, but I want to be ready for any surprises."
"Aye, Captain," the Arcturian replied. "Range to target, forty thousand kilometers. Target speed is now two point three five and accelerating."
"Mazaki, fire at twenty-five thousand kilometers. I don't want to take any feedback from the torpedoes."
Tasrt watched silently as his ship came nose to nose with the Romulan. He knew that the Romulan captain had made a mistake by cloaking, and he intended to punish him for it. But he knew the damage he could inflict would not be enough to destroy the interloper. Hopefully, however, it would be enough to persuade the Romulans to leave. Or at the very least, give him enough time to evacuate the survivors of the Groton.
The scatterpack blossomed. Tasrt stared incredulously as six automated killers separated from their bus vehicle and began to seek the Romulan light cruiser. The shuttle he had almost overlooked had not been filled with evacuees after all! Instantly, Tasrt reacted.
"Helm, slow to warp two point one five! C'Dlett, reroute energy from shield reinforcement and movement to tractor! Get another squad of marines in position to protect the tractor control systems." He felt the ship slow in response to his orders and he could hear C'Dlett working frantically in the background.
"Firing weapons, Captain!" Tasrt watched as the tactical officer pushed the buttons that transmitted firing orders to the torpedo and phaser rooms. Six phasers tore into and through the front shield of the Romulan ship, burning into the superstructure of the sleek ship with vicious efficiency. Two overloaded photon torpedoes arced across space. One missed, but the other impacted solidly against the hull. The Romulan ship seemed to stagger in its approach, then again surged toward them.
"Activate tractor, Mister C'Dlett."
He tensed subconsciously. He was taking a gamble in tractoring a bigger ship, but if he didn't, the Romulan would probably outrun the drones, and the sacrifice of the Groton would be in vain. He also hoped the Romulan had reduced the energy he had in negative tractor once they had broken free of the Groton.
The tractor beam activated. The Romulan seemed to slam to a halt, as did the Genghis, the blue-white beam of the tractor linking them together as if they were metallic butterflies bound together by a spider's web.
The Romulan flailed at them, the Captain perhaps realizing that he wouldn't be able to turn in time to destroy all the drones inbound with his remaining phasers. Four deadly beams impacted against the front shield of the Genghis. The ship lurched again. The closeness of the range made the powerful weapons deadlier. The shield collapsed.
Almost immediately, the air began to sparkle in several places around the bridge. Tasrt unbuckled his chair restraints and threw himself to the floor as the Romulan boarding party materialized in their midst. Phaser fire began to whine as the marine security team traded fire with the just-materialized intruders.
The outcome was never in doubt, for the defenders had been well-prepared. A moment later, the only survivor of the attacking force was a young Romulan warrior who had been unfortunate enough to beam in within striking distance of C'Dlett. The Romulan, perhaps knowing that Arcturians would only defend themselves if attacked, had turned his weapon on the Captain. But C'Dlett was of the Ferkite Order and, unlike most of his fellow Arcturians, felt no restraint in battle.
Tasrt and the remaining Federation marines watched in astonishment as C'Dlett, in a flurry of motion, landed half a dozen kicks and punches on the Romulan stormtrooper. The last, a flying circle kick, had connected squarely with the Romulan's face. The Romulan staggered backward, nose spraying green blood, and then dropped to the floor without a sound. Tasrt grinned as the little elf came out of the kick and landed in a classic Sinchat pose. The Arcturian bowed toward his fallen opponent, and then moved back to his station without a word. A couple of the Star Fleet Marines clapped their hands in appreciation as the rest of them moved to bind the enemy soldier.
Tasrt stood up and sat back down in his command chair. "Nice form, Mister C'Dlett. Is the ship clear of intruders?" He asked. He watched as the first officer checked his computer screen. After a moment, the Arcturian answered.
"Yes, Captain. We lost a plasma torpedo in one of the raids, but the raid that targeted the tractor beam controls was repulsed with no damage to the ship."
Tasrt checked the tactical display again. The two undamaged Romulan ships were closing rapidly now, as were the six drones. The Groton was still limping toward them, even though the ship was almost toothless. He looked at the position of the destroyers, verifying to him that the drones would impact before the two destroyers could kill them. It would be close.
"Helm, stay on this heading. Those drones have got to even up this battle for us. We'll try to push him closer to them if we can."
"Romulans are launching plasmas, sir. Four torpedoes inbound. Ships are veering off," C'Dlett reported.
"The Groton, sir." Tasrt nodded again. The Groton was indeed doomed. With only a tattered number four shield to protect them, and no way to bring it into play, the battered ship would go down. He looked at the range and saw that the ship would die just before they got to within transporter range. There would be few survivors.
"Release the tractor, Lieutenant Commander. Mister Mazaki, accelerate as hard as possible to warp two-point-eight-eight. We'll need the speed to disengage if those two circle around for another pass. Hard to starboard sixty degrees. Mister C'Dlett, let's get repairs started on the number one shield."
His eyes drifted to the view screen. Upon it, the SparrowHawk limped through space, all of the fight gone out of it. It had been a beautiful ship. He almost regretted that he had been forced to become an agent of its destruction.
"Thirty thousand kilometers till impact, sir," C'Dlett informed him. He nodded without answering, reluctantly resigning himself to the death of the Groton.
Arnold struggled to breathe through the respirator he had taken from the damage control locker. Acrid fumes stung his eyes and he could barely see. Around him members of another damage control team desperately sought to find the point where deadly coolant fumes from the destroyed phaser mount continued to seep in. His skin itched horribly.
He sat at the torpedo firing console. Beside him sat the backup torpedo crew, an Ensign, a technician, and an Junior Petty Officer. Normally there were two technicians and an officer for each photon tube, but all the primary crew members had been incapacitated by the gas and were either dead or on the way to sickbay. The rest of the backup torpedo room crew members were busy fighting fires, or on casualty recovery details.
To make matters worse, half the torpedo control consoles in the room were now offline. He had just now managed to reboot his console. Precious minutes had gone by while he and the other two crew members tried to re-route power from one of the other consoles. They had finally succeeded, but he had felt the ship being hammered several times by enemy weapons while it was relatively defenseless. He knew that the ship had to be very close to exploding, but they had no choice but to continue their efforts. Half the Groton's heavy weaponry was now useless. The physical damage inside the control room was negligible, but either the tubes themselves had been damaged, or the control circuits were down.
He slaved the adjoining targeting console to his. Normally each torpedo was fired separately, with each using the targeting data calculated by its own operator and targeting system, something he was not sure the two crewmen working with him could do with any degree of certainty. Now the two remaining torpedoes would be fired in a salvo. He checked the status of both remaining torpedoes and was relieved to see they were both still fully overloaded. So the problem with the other panel was in the control circuits, not that it mattered at this point.
Next he brought up a monitor showing the current tactical situation. He almost froze in dismay. The screen showed four plasma torpedoes barely twenty thousand kilometers away. The SparrowHawk they had been chasing was heavily damaged. It was also still moving and almost out of range. The Genghis was angling their way, but he could tell it would be just out of transporter range when the torpedoes hit. The certainty of his death enveloped him. And with that certainty, a desire to punish his killers rose with a white-hot fury.
"Let's take them with us, sir," the Junior Petty Officer spoke. His voice held a somber tone that was fraught with anger at the realization of his own mortality. Evidently he felt just as Arnold did. Arnold nodded in reply and bent to work. His fingers flew across the keyboard as he inputted the firing solution for the salvo. Next he keyed in the final commands that freed the two overloaded torpedoes for firing.
Arnold sat back in his chair. He didn't even bother to watch the track of the plasma torpedoes burning their way through space toward him. He only had eyes for the target and his brown eyes glittered with hate.