Shield of the Federation
by Randy O. Green
Part Three of six
"Distance to enemy light cruiser, one hundred and fifty thousand araterreks, Major-Commander," Antonius Terralis twisted around to face his sensor operator, Pente-Centurion Rinaldo Vesperus. The Romulan was a fine junior officer, but he was not a member of a major house. Therefore, it might be years before he was sent to a command school and promoted to Tribune. He nodded for the young officer to continue.
"Speed, warp two point seven. They are still too far away for name discrimination sir. However, our intelligence sources indicate that the U.S.S. Groton might be in position to respond to our incursion, Major-Commander. The same sources report that she has just received the latest refit. A Cygnan named Jankae is the name of the Captain of record," Vesperus sneered. "A Cygnan will be no match for us, Major-Commander. They are used to fighting the drones of the Klingons and Kzintis. He will not be able to deal with the speed and power of our plasma torpedoes."
"Pente-Centurion, I did not ask for a tactics dissertation." He saw the centurion stiffen in anger. "No matter if it is a Cygnan we face or not, Star Fleet training is quite thorough. You would do well not to underestimate your enemy." No matter if Vesperus was a fine young officer or not, he could not be allowed to think that he knew more about the art of war than a Housed noble. He turned away from the now-silent Centurion.
"Major-Centurion Damone, is the heavy torpedo armed as we have practiced?"
"Yes Major-Commander. It is just finishing up its arming cycle. Warhead strength is doubling now."
Antonius Terralis nodded in satisfaction. In the simulators, he had learned to use the maneuverability of the Sparrowhawk, and the power of enveloping torpedoes to wear down opposing starships. It was very different from the style of combat he preferred, he reflected, where the sheer damage of the War Eagle's heavy torpedo made this tiresome dance unnecessary.
"Launch the torpedo as soon as it is fully armed." He didn't have long to wait. A few seconds later the plasma torpedo burst out of its launcher and began racing toward its impending appointment with the Federation ship.
"Ante-Centurion Vettia, bring us to heading 210, inclination 4. Keep our speed at warp three." He paused for a second as the helmsman completed his commands, before he issued his next set. "Continue to cycle warp power through the batteries and at no time allow the Federation ship to close to within eighty thousand araterreks." He had no desire to be on the receiving end of an alpha strike consisting of four overloaded photons. He had made that mistake one time too many. "Damone, as we turn across their front, fire the heavy phasers before the right side mount goes out of arc."
He leaned forward in his chair as he watched his torpedo close on the Federation ship. The next few seconds of this battle would be crucial. He heard his phasers fire and saw the beams impact against the nose of the light cruiser. He could not help it as a smile flickered over his face. He was Romulan and this was where he belonged, in the heat of battle.
The Furious heeled over and raced away.
"They have launched an enveloping torpedo and are turning across our bow, Captain," Klahish said as he straightened up from his sensor station.
"Range to target?" he asked, knowing even as he spoke that the Romulan was still out of range of his overloaded photon torpedoes.
"One hundred thousand kilometers, Captain," the Tellarite sounded tense.
"Still moving at warp three Captain."
Jankae thought for a few seconds. The Romulans he had fought in the past had all closed in behind their torpedoes. This made them vulnerable to a mid-range photon volley and weasel launch. Apparently, this one would be using a different approach. He felt a rare moment of indecision. Should he ram the torpedo, accepting the weapon's damage at full strength, or turn tail and run, until the warhead strength had dropped to what he considered an acceptable level of damage to take? Abruptly, his moment of indecision was interrupted.
"Captain, the Romulan is firing phasers!" Klahish warned.
"Reinforce the number one shield!" The ship shook slightly as three phasers scorched the front shield. "Damage Klahish?"
"Shield down ten percent, Captain. We did not have enough reserve in batteries to counter the damage, even at this range."
Jankae nodded. The battery array on the Groton was less than impressive. It was a shortcoming of the ship's design, in his opinion, but it undoubtedly let the construction yards get them into service faster. "Arnold, turn to port sixty degrees and let's put some age on that plasma."
"Aye aye, Captain," the helmsman replied. Jankae felt the ship begin its turn and automatically leaned into it. His eyes went to the tactical display showing the Groton turning and the enveloping torpedo closing on them with alarming speed. And as it drew closer he noticed that the Sparrowhawk had reversed its turn and was now angling in behind them. He cursed quietly to himself. He was being outmaneuvered.
"Warhead strength, Klahish?
"Warhead strength has dropped almost a quarter, Captain. We can't outrun it much longer, though."
"Arnold, hard to starboard. Let's get the business end pointed back to where it can do business. When the torpedo reaches ten thousand kilometers, fire the five, six, and eight phaser mounts."
"Aye aye, Captain," the young lieutenant replied. The next few seconds seemed to pass very quickly as the plasma torpedo bore down on them. Jankae watched as the young human programmed the firing instructions into the fire control system carefully. The torpedo closed.
"Firing, Captain," Arnold reported. Three bluish white beams of pure energy sliced into the body of the torpedo and its fiery red glare diminished slightly. Jankae stabbed the ship-wide intercom button.
"Brace for torpedo impact," he spoke, gripping his command chair restraints as he did so.
Wham. The Groton lurched as the torpedo impacted the ship's shields. Jankae winced as the chair restraints cut into his legs. The tactical display showed the shields flare brightly as they struggled to dissipate the enormous energy of the plasma warhead. After a few seconds, they succeeded.
"Shield status Klahish?" he watched as the engineer consulted his instruments.
"Each shield is down by twenty-five percent, Captain."
"Range to the Romulan?"
The Tellarite straightened up for a second, consulting other instruments. Finally, he answered.
"Distance is varying between one hundred thousand, and one hundred twenty thousand kilometers, Captain. They are matching our course exactly." He consulted a third set of instruments. "We have a second plasma launch, Captain, from the starboard engine mount. Warhead strength is consistent with the light plasmas the Sparrowhawk is known to carry."
"Arnold, sixty degrees to port! Klahish, reinforce the facing shield!"
"Done, Captain!" Scarcely had the Tellarite spoke when five Romulan phasers spat their destructive fire at them. This time, luck was with them, and only two phasers connected with the Federation ship.
"Damage, Klahish?" Jankae asked once again. This is getting tiresome, Jankae thought to himself.
"Number three shield down another seven percent, Captain." Jankae looked at the tactical display. This was not going at all to his liking. The Groton's shields were being sandpapered away. He had surrendered the initiative to a more maneuverable ship when he had turned away from the first plasma, and he was not sure he knew how to get it back.
He looked around him at the rest of the bridge crew as they silently awaited his next orders. All of them trusted in him to do his job and come up with the correct decisions that would enable them to protect the Federation. He suddenly felt helpless.
A wave of anger passed over him. He clenched his fists. He had never failed his crew before. He didn't plan on failing them now.
The bridge shook. Tasrt grimaced as the impact of the fourth plasma torpedo made his ship vibrate like the strings on a Vulcan lyre. At several stations around the bridge, he saw members of his crew thrown around like rag dolls. A cursory glance at each crew member showed that none of them had any serious injuries. Satisfied with the health of his bridge crew, he turned to his first officer to ask for a damage report. The elf-like Arcturian was already speaking, the musical tone of his voice belying the deadly seriousness of his message.
"Number two shield is completely down, Captain. We were able to degrade the two torpedoes that hit it sufficiently with distance and phaser fire to prevent any internal damage. Number three shield is down to fifty percent, and the number four shield is also down to fifty percent." The Arcturian paused for a moment as he consulted his wireless PADD. "All decks report no damage, but sick bay is reporting a couple of casualties with broken limbs."
"Thank you, Lieutenant Commander." He grimaced again. No matter how many times you had combat drills, some rookie crewman would get his arm broken when it came down to the real thing. His eyes went to the tactical display again. The two Romulan destroyers had not rushed him as he had expected. They had string-launched their torpedoes from a distance and maneuvered in such a way so that he had never got either one of them within range of his two overloaded photon torpedoes.
He also still had his two plasma torpedoes, but at their present speed and range, he doubted if he could score a hit on either target. He scowled. He had lost almost half his shields, and at the current rate that they were being destroyed, would lose the rest of them before he could clobber one of the two dancers with his potent photon and plasma combo.
He glanced at the tactical display again. The two Romulans were now paralleling the Genghis over two hundred thousand kilometers away, no doubt reloading their torpedoes so they could take out the other half of his shields. I am playing the enemy's game, he thought to himself, and I am going to lose it very quickly.
Abruptly a thought crossed his mind. His gaze intensified as he verified the position of the raiders. Then, for the first time since the battle had started, he smiled. While the two enemy ships hadn't really made a mistake in their maneuvering, they were no longer interposed between his ship and the position of the Groton.
"Lieutenant Mazaki, discharge the photons!" he ordered his tactical officer. "Helm, increase speed to warp three point one four, heading two one zero, mark four. As soon as we reach a safe distance, take us to warp six." I will link up with the cruiser, and that will give us more options, he thought.
He twisted around to look back at C'Dlett. "Lieutenant Commander, route the energy we've gained from dropping the photons into the rear shield. I have a feeling we might need them intact for the next round."
"Aye, Captain." The crew complied with his orders, and a moment later the Genghis turned hard away from the enemy ships and began its acceleration to strategic warp speed. Tasrt watched as the two Romulans struggled to match his new course and acceleration but they steadily began to fall behind. A second later both ships fired all their bearing phasers. The rear shield flared.
"No permanent shield damage, Captain," the Arcturian reported. "They did burn off most of the reinforcement."
"Accelerating to warp six Captain," the helmsman announced. Around them, the bridge lights dimmed briefly as the warp engine demanded the lion's share of the power it was producing to transition them to strategic warp speeds. Then they were back to normal as the ship's computer compensated for the power demands.
"Sensors indicate the two Romulans are beginning their transit from tactical warp, Captain." The Arcturian paused for a moment and Tasrt waited patiently for him to finish.
"Computer estimates we will reach the Groton's position at least two minutes ahead of our pursuers."
"Thank you, C'Dlett. Let's hope that will be long enough for us to make an impact on their engagement. Mazaki, begin arming the photons again, slowly. Also, C'Dlett, get a squad of Marines up here. I want to get close enough to the Sparrowhawk to bloody his nose. I don't want any uninvited guests showing up without the proper reception." He settled back into his chair, hoping that this gamble would be worth it, and that there was still a Groton to assist.
Antonius Terralis watched in glee as another enveloper smashed into the Federation light cruiser. The enemy ship lurched to the side, damage apparent even at this range. He ordered another turn, considering the situation. The new tactic was working better than he could have hoped. He leaned into the turn as the Furious again arced away from the ship that was in dogged, but futile pursuit of them.
He felt a twinge of admiration for the Federation captain that was his foe. He would have sworn that none of the spineless Federation member races had the stomach for such a prolonged battle, and would have tried to disengage by now, especially since it was becoming readily apparent that there would be but one outcome to this fight. A wave of pleasure swept over him. He was sure that the tapes of this battle would be used to teach new officers how a Sparrowhawk should be fought. Better still, his political star would begin to rise again with the news of this victory.
"Major-Commander, sensors indicate a Federation destroyer closing rapidly!" The voice of Ante-Tribune Ardan Rugelion, the first officer, brought an abrupt halt to his pleasant reverie.
"Try to contact the Sling and the Rapier and see why they failed to destroy their target!" Anger clouded his thoughts for a second at the inability of his subordinates to detain the Federation ship. Then he glanced at the tactical display. He felt the blood drain from his face. The ship was close, almost to tactical combat range! The timing couldn't have been worse. Not only was he caught between the light cruiser and the onrushing destroyer, he was virtually weaponless. If he didn't act quickly he would be crushed between the two.
He considered his options. The destroyer was too close for him to disengage without a fight against this new threat. But until his plasma torpedoes were reloaded, it would be foolish to engage two opponents with only a few phasers ready. That only left him one option.
"Rugelion, engage the cloaking device. Vettia, slow us down enough to continue arming all the torpedoes." A minute passed before he ordered another decrease in speed, hoping to break any lock-on the two Federation ships might have maintained. After a moment, he heard Vesperus stir behind him. He turned to face the Ante-Centurion.
"Major-Commander, readings indicate we have successfully broken contact with both enemy ships."
Antonius Terralis nodded at the good news. He had just committed one of the cardinal sins of cloak warfare by cloaking without a clear line of retreat and a clear plan on where and how to uncloak. He also knew that even without a lock-on to his ship, the Federation vessels would eventually pound his ship to pieces if he didn't uncloak and resume the fight. It was just a matter of time.
He leaned back in his command chair and tried to think through the situation logically. He knew he would have to uncloak soon. It was likely that the two Federation ships were even now closing on his position, trying to triangulate and coordinate their weapons fire. It was also likely that the Sling and the Rapier would return to the battle shortly. With this knowledge, a plan of action came to him.
"Damone, notify me as soon as plasmas are fully charged and are being held. Rugelion, get a distraction shuttlecraft ready. We'll need it to protect us until we are fully uncloaked. Vesperus, as soon as the Rapier and Sling arrive, send them a coded transmission ordering them to target the light cruiser with a full salvo of torpedoes. It must die if we are to triumph."