The instant the torpedoes were hot, the Captain's cry of Fire! was matched by the arms of the foe, as Igneous fired an overloaded disruptor into, then through, the tatters of the number two shield. Damage report klaxons began sounding loudly until they were turned off and the ship rocked and swayed.
        "Damn! How can you miss something that close, and that big?"
        Giles interceded for the officer. "We've been fortunate so far, Captain; sometimes things just even out."
        They had done insufficient damage to destroy the weapons array on the number three arc, and Harris could feel the momentum of the battle shifting away from him. "If we can just hang on long enough to blast a blind arc in its guns, we'll win this fight." He pounded his armrest in emphasis. "How long until that scatter-pack releases, Giles?" he asked, knowing they had so far failed to inflict enough damage to neutralize the foe's close-in defense system.
        "Releasing now, Captain! Minor dust damage, drones closing fast. Blast!" Giles gritted as he watched the mysterious defensive system deal with the drone cloud with almost contemptuous ease. Only one drone even made it within 20 thousand kilometers, and it vanished the next instant. What he would give to unlock the secrets of that system! With that technology, the Klingons would be deprived of a major part of their battle tactics. However, his sensors gave him nothing usable, and he sighed in defeat.
        The captain turned to communications. "Keep trying to inform Star Fleet of our situation." His head snapped to his weapons officer. "Take the drone racks offline, reload the ADDs. Use the phasers until the photons are ready again. All stop, use a tactical warp turn to move the number six shield into arc along that spine, and be ready to accelerate at warp one towards the enemy." He forestalled Giles's bolt upright with an upraised hand. "I know, that's very close to feedback range, but in case you hadn't noticed, we're running out of forward shields! If we hit hard enough, maybe we can make that blind spot I'm betting all our lives and more on. What's it making this time?"
        "Another disruptor, Sir."
        "Any extra power on the number six shield. Guns, fire two phaser-1s as soon as they're cycled. Be ready!" Before they could turn, Igneous, again somehow sensing what the Norris was about to do, fired that overloaded disruptor through the hole of the number two shield. Sparks flew and cries of agony erupted as some of that damage flowed to the bridge, and in the flickering lights Harris could see some of his people were down, and not moving. The flash of their own phaser fire seemed puny in comparison.
        "Damage report!"
        "We've lost one of the heavy phasers, as well as some of the cargo, in addition to the damage here, Sir," replied a shaken, but still steady Giles, and Harris drew strength from his XO's courage. "But we also took out its number three weapons mount, Captain!" Moments later the other four heavy phasers cut a deep furrow along the face of Igneous, bringing it that much closer to destruction.
        "Get that phaser repaired as a light phaser, immediately. Forget the batteries, put everything we can spare into arming the photons. Try and keep the number six shield facing it, be prepared to do a tactical warp turn again. We can enter its number three weapons arc safely now, since that gun is silenced."
         Giles jerked in shock. "Plasma-R launcher forming in the number two weapons arc, Captain!"
        "Shuttle bay, launch that weasel, aft, now!" screamed Harris in reply. There was barely time to brace themselves, and no time for the decoy shuttle to get far enough away, as the collateral damage shook the ship and dissolved more than half of the ship's rear shield.
        "Get fire control back up fast, Guns! Fire alpha strike when we're ready!" Harris was ready to destroy this enemy, and his anger was almost hot enough to add to the damage he was about to inflict.
        "Solid hits, Sir! Good focus on the phasers, it just lost its number five weapons arc, as well as its close-in defense system," noted Giles. "A bit too late, but at least it's gone now."
        Quietly Giles also mentioned, "The shuttle bay is empty now,
Sir, no time to break out and ready any spares."
        "Don't you think I'm aware of that?" snapped back Harris. "Risks happen!"
        A new gleam appeared in the captain's eyes. "Tractor Igneous!" Ignoring the startled glances of his crew, he waited until the beam was reported affixed and firm.
       "Captain, I strongly urge we start building up some speed and distance; we don't have the decoy option any more. We're also dangerously close and won't have time to react to more drones," grated Giles through tight lips.
        "No," replied Harris with a firm shake of his head. "We're fully committed now; we don't have power to run. We'll fight here. Xanadu doesn't have time for us to play an attrition game. It's what, almost 70 percent destroyed?"
        Giles managed a curt nod. "That's my best estimate, Sir, but another type-R plasma torpedo will vaporize us."
        "What's the old saying, 'who wants to live forever?' Even if it all but destroys us, we can repair when it's dead, am I understood?" No one on the bridge could meet his fierce glare in opposition.
        "Rearm the photons. Recharge batteries and phasers." A chorus of ayes replied to his orders. "Giles?"
        "Hellbore in arc!"
         His cry was almost lost as the Captain's bellow of "Fire all phasers!" rang out and the ship shuddered yet again as the enveloping enemy weapon crushed shields and battered the Norris.
        Giles dragged himself back to the sensors and began reporting to Harris. "Photon launcher B destroyed, as well as all batteries, cargo, and hull; fires in the engine room; warp is down approximately fourteen percent; impulse at 50 percent; and two more phasers are gone. Tractor holding, number three weapons arc confirmed destroyed, Sir! We've done it!"
        Captain Harris shook his head. "I'll dance when it's dead, Giles. Rearm the other photon quickly, and when it's hot, blast that thing." He tried to smile.
        "At least, now with only one photon, we've got a little energy left to reinforce against our own feedback!"