January 2007

Star Fleet Fiction Continued

He picked out the captain,


A Mission of Vital Importance
by Randy O. Green
Chapter 2
arp Lab, Research Facilitiy, Coration-III-Moon

Warp lab, Research facility, coration-III-Moon

He focused harder on the screen, occasionally speaking a command for the computer to change a value. The computer displayed a Warbird class cruiser, the mainstay of the Romulan fleet, within a simulated warp bubble. He watched as the lines of the warp bubble reacted to computer-generated weapons fire. Each

time the Warbird fired its lasers or bolted its heavy plasma weapon, the warp bubble would collapse and the Warbird would spill half its guts as it abruptly transitioned back to normal space.

Vilenus sighed and sat back. He reflected back to when he had first begun the project twelve years before. Warp travel was still in its infancy. Ships were able to travel at faster-than-light speeds, but only by using the power of their impulse engines to move at trans-light speeds. And the impulse-created warp bubbles were far too fragile to allow combat at faster than light speeds.

But House Antreidies had dedicated a large amount of money and time to solving that problem. With Ruvellus’s ascent to Emperor, Senator Antreidies had managed to get their funding doubled. More importantly, the Senator’s people had got him access to data that had advanced his research tremendously. He

had never asked the grim-faced Pente-Centurion who had delivered the data where the man had got it. Obviously, the original sources including sensor scans of Gorn and Federation ships, and the wreckage of a Federation cruiser. He suspected the appearance of the data had something to do with House Rama’ch’s fall from grace, but he knew he didn’t want to ask the necessary

questions to confirm his suspicions. He also knew better than to suggest that all of the Houses working on warp technology should pool their knowledge for the good of the Empire. Nobody knew how much data the other Houses had to offer, and Vilenus was certain that some houses just took the research money and didn’t do the actual research.

Nothing was sacred in the pursuit of true tactical warp power. The stakes were huge for the Houses and whoever solved the final pieces of the warp puzzle would gain an enormous amount of prestige. To add even more pressure on the competing Houses, two things had happened.

First it had been discovered that the Federation of Planets, the empire to the galactic west whose invasion Romulan warships had stopped twenty-one years earlier, had crossed the technological hurdle between non-tactical warp and tactical warp.

Then, scarcely a year ago, a Romulan warship had survived an encounter with the Romulan’s blood enemy, a Gorn light cruiser equipped with tactical warp.

How the Gods of War could favor the alien lizards that he despised and feared so much with this advantage, he could not understand. The mere thought of coming face to face with one of the hideous lizard folk was almost enough to paralyze him with fear.

He shuddered as he thought of what it must be like to die at the hands of one of them, its expressionless eyes boring into him as its needle sharp teeth tore into his flesh. He shook his head to clear the vision out of his mind. Perhaps this was the way of the Gods to toughen his race in preparation for the return march to the home world of their ancestry.

He leaned forward again, watching the simulation play through again for the hundredth time today. He tweaked the ship’s matterantimatter plasma induction rate through its warp coil and studied the results. With gathering excitement he watched the miniature ship fire its lasers. The warp bubble wavered, then firmed up again as the lasers stopped firing.

He keyed in the commands that bolted the Warbird’s heavy plasma. As the plasma fired, the simulated lines of the warp bubble oscillated wildly for several seconds. Then, as before, the Warbird slewed sideways, shedding its engines and trailing debris as it suffered a catastrophic breakdown.

He sat back, trying to decide what to do next. The momentary elation of the initial success with the lasers was past now, and he seemed to be moving in slow motion. He came to a decision.

He was close, very close. But as worn out as he was, he knew he had to have some rest. Setting the computer to try numerous variations on its own, Vilenus stood, eyes watering from the strain of staring at the screen. He walked to the double doors that led into the corridor and passed through them, locking them electronically as he did so.

His quarters called his tired body silently and he reflected that thoughts of the coming conquest of the galaxy would have to wait another day. Tomorrow he would have a high probability of success in the simulators with a little more tweaking of the plasma induction rates.

As he walked, he allowed himself to think of the honor that would fall on his line when he informed Senator Antreidies that he had been successful in his quest to bring tactical warp power to the galaxy’s ordained rulers.

Yes, tomorrow was going to be a glorious day. Of course, too often, he had gone to bed certain that something he discovered at the end of one day would solve the entire problem on the morning of the next day. This time, however, felt different.

Gorn Cruiser First Strike

Ssquartz stepped off the transporter pad. The way the new technology converted his molecules into a matter stream and reintegrated it up to ten thousand kilometers away did not sit well with him at all. He checked behind him to make sure the other members of his team had successfully made the trip, half-expect-ing to see a pile of torn flesh in place of at least one of them. But from Rackss’ and Sstantss’ scaly grins, it appeared that not only had everyone made the trip uneventfully, the rest of his team had actually enjoyed the experience.

The transporter technician was staring at him with a peculiar expression. Ssquartz stopped and looked down at himself, again making sure he had the correct number of arms and legs. Not seeing anything amiss, he looked again at the technician.

“Oh ssorry ssir. From the way everyone hass been talking about you, I thought for sure you would be eight feet tall.”

Before he could reply, Jagg broke in from behind him.

“That’ss ok Ssenior Crewman. We weren’t sure hiss head would fit in the transsporter beam.”

Ssquartz walked on, ignoring the good-natured insults and shouldering his gear. A chorus of scaly hisses broke out from the rest of the team as they laughed at the now discomfited transporter technician. His team filed out behind him, tactical gear in hand.

“Ssenior Lieutenant Ssquartz, thiss way pleasse.” Ssquartz nodded to the young Ensign who had appeared at his elbow.

“Are you taking uss to meet the Ssenior Captain, Ensign?”

“I wass ordered to sshow you your quarterss firsst, Ssir. Once you are ssettled in, I am to take you to the Sstrike’ss briefing room.”

“Thank you, Enssign.”

They followed the Ensign to the turbolift. Ssquartz noted that the ship, a sub-light cruiser that had been refitted with the new tactical warp engines, was well maintained and seemed to be in tip-top condition. The crew they met also seemed to be well disciplined and in good spirits.

He dropped his gear off in his stateroom, and made sure his team members were settled in before he fell in behind the Ensign. The Ensign didn’t seem to be in the mood for conversation, so Ssquartz just followed him in silence.

They entered the briefing room. Six officers were seated around a table, apparently waiting for him to join them. The officers stood up. He picked out the Captain, Senior Captain Laer Dardiss, and saluted him. The Captain returned his salute, and offered him the chair across from him.

“Welcome aboard, Ssenior Lieutenant Ssquartz. Iss Red Diamond Three ssettled in?” The Senior Captain inquired of him.

“Yess they are, Ssenior Captain. The Firsst Sstrike hass better accomodationss than we are ussed to, I am glad to ssee.”

“That’ss good Lieutenant. The sship iss starting to sshow itss age, but the new enginess sshould extend itss service life by another decade or sso. We were pulled from the Paravian border after the loss of the Whiptail to deliver your team.” Ssquartz felt an inward chill at the mention of the fanatical Paravians. The Captain continued.

“I wass not given the full detailss of the mission until a few minutess ago. I wass about to relay the information to my command team when you came aboard. I decided to wait until you came up to brief them on the mission and my propossed route. Then you can run through how you hope to accomplissh your sstrike.”

And so it began.

Freighter MDCXXVII

“Is this the best transportation they could get for us?” Johannes Tiercellus looked around in disgust. His team was busy stowing away their gear in the passenger quarters of an old beaten-up tramp steamer. He watched closely as the freighter’s crew haphazardly loaded the ship’s manifested cargo, disapproval of their carelessness showing plainly on his face.

“This rust-bucket is capable of faster-than-light, despite her looks. Plus there are dozens of freighters in flight between the stars at any one time. She won’t attract the same amount of attention as an unscheduled visit by a warship would,” Copern pointed out.

“I wasn’t debating the method of delivery, Haule, just this ship.” He sighed. “When will the crew get their act together?”

“And what act is that Pente-Centurion?” A new voice spoke behind them. They both turned to see who had spoken.

A tall, thin, sharp-nosed Romulan clad in black coveralls faced them. “Carthos Rama’ch, at your service. I’d be pleased if you weren’t so hard on my crew, Centurion. They’ve delivered and picked-up more covert operators from more hell-holes than you ever knew existed.” He nodded at them and started to turn and leave.

Tiercellus couldn’t help himself; the freighter Captain did not know his place.

“My pardon, Mister Rama’ch. I was not aware from the shape your ship is in, that it could have delivered or picked up anything.” He saw the freighter Captain stiffen in anger and the man’s next words came out in a clipped tone.

“Just remember, boy, I just have to deliver you. I don’t have to pick you up again.” The tall man turned and strode off.

“What’s his problem” Tiercellus asked Copern angrily.

“His family lost its House status a few years back. He blames House Antreidies for the loss of prestige, which is why he has agreed to deliver you.” She could see the worry in his eyes.

“Don’t worry Johannes. He is a professional, and his crew also, despite the look of things. If you succeed, a large part of that success will be due to him.”

“You’re probably right,” he grimaced. “But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

The Romulan Frontier

Across the Romulan-Gorn border, at widely separated points, eight starships drove as fast as their new warp engines would carry them. They did not engage the Romulan ships that sought in vain to block their path into the Romulan interior, and used the superior speed of their new warp engines to bypass the slower Romulans. As soon as the warships passed the initial line of defense,

the Romulans sent out an alarm and then returned to their patrol routes, trusting in the ability of the Empire’s internal defenses to destroy the invaders.

The warships drove on, each one with a Vanguard team onboard, trusting in their ships and the suddenness of their assault to achieve their objective, the total destruction of the Romulan Empire’s tactical warp research facilities. Each ship would visit numerous planets, comets, asteroids, and other places, leaving behind nothing except wrecked facilities and the impression that they might have picked up or dropped something.

Bridge, Warbird Skua, in Orbit over Coration-III

Ante-Commander Tama Drusus observed his bridge crew carrying out their duties with quiet satisfaction. A skeleton crew, each member of the bridge crew was a professional and had crosstrained intensively so that in emergencies, they could cover for each other. This was something that he demanded of all crewmembers on his ship.

They had been in orbit nearly a week now. His ship, the Warbird Skua, circled Coration Three with the Snipe-class frigate Corvus orbiting closely behind them.

Drusus looked at the main view screen. It held a lovely view, a blue-white globe that floated in the void silently. As he watched, a line of darkness began to creep around the edge as they began to pass behind the planet. He stared entranced. He loved to watch the terminator line race across the surface and the glow of the sun replaced with the scattered lights of a small colony.

Most of his crew had been on shore leave, trying to get some rest and relaxation on the planet before they had to return to duty. Unfortunately, the planet was very hot and humid, and full of hostile life forms, none sentient. All of this added up to a planet that was not very attractive to colonists, even though it boasted a small colony. So they had been unable to get much relaxation on the planet. Suddenly tired of thinking about the planet, he allowed himself to reflect back on his last mission.

They had been part of a three-Warbird squadron that had destroyed a Gorn cruiser four months back, but the destruction of the Gorn had been balanced by the loss of two Warbirds. He marked himself as lucky also. If the Gorn ship’s new technology engines hadn’t broken down at a critical moment, he was not sure the Skua would have survived the battle either.

After he had filed his reports on the battle to Military Command, he had been ordered to take his crew and meet the Corvus at Coration Three for some R&R before the two ships returned to patrol duty.

And he was anxious to get back on patrol. The opportunities to gain glory here were slight, and acquiring the favors of local noblewomen did not count. He waited impatiently as two shuttles approached with the last of his returning crew members. He hoped that they would be able to get underway to the Gorn border within the hour.

“Ante-Commander,” his communications officer, Ante-Centurion Seanu Rahames looked his way, holding his earpiece in one hand. “We have reports from several border patrols that Gorn cruisers and destroyers, all tactical-warp equipped, have crossed the frontier, traveling in many directions into Romulan space. One ofthem is headed here. Shall I go to battle stations, Ante-Commander?”

Drusus thought for a moment. Coration Three was pretty close to the border, but it was unlikely to be a target unless the Gorns had a better intelligence agency than he gave them credit for. On the other hand, he had never claimed to be able to discern what the Gorns were thinking and what they would target.

As for warning time, the new, faster-than-light radio’s transmissions were barely faster than the fastest observed Gorn ships and a marauding Gorn might be only light-minutes behind the warning. It wouldn’t do his career any good for his ship and the Corvus to be caught unaware; even though it was unlikely an attack was on the way. The only thing of military value in the star system were a few small mining posts and House Antreidies’s research facility, but it was improbable that the lizards even knew that was here.

He made a decision. Even though an actual attack was unlikely, he had to honor the threat, and it was a good opportunity to mesh with the Corvus and get some training before they began patrolling the border together.

“Ante-Centurion, bring us to battle stations as soon as the crew is all accounted for. It will do them good to get some practice at drill before we get back to our patrol route. Notify the Corvus also. I’m sure Ante-Commander Casifax will love the chance to knock the rust off of her crewman with some drills.”

He settled back in his command chair, waiting to see the results of the surprise exercise.

Gorn Warp-Refitted Destroyer Tusk

The Gorn destroyer Tusk bore deep into Romulan space. The ship had drawn the most difficult assignment of all, a deep-strike mission in the Coration system. Junior Captain Wisseth Rarxarth was not happy with the assignment, as he knew the chances of success were small. But he knew that Admiral Tonal’sson thought that the distance from Coration-Three to the frontier would mean that it was not as heavily guarded as the colony worlds closer to the Gorn frontier.

The only reason they knew about the place at all was because of a lucky break. An intelligence team sifting through the wreckage of two Warbirds destroyed four months back had recovered the captain’s Log from one of the ships. They had decrypted and deciphered it and discovered that the Captain had been an agent for a competing Romulan House other than the one in control of Coration Three and had detailed plans on the moon base housing the Romulan research team.

He hoped Red Slasher Four would be able to use the plans to good effect. He didn’t want to stay in Romulan space for any longer than necessary. He didn’t want to leave Red Slasher Four behind, but would if he had to.

Romulan Frigate Corvus

Ante-Commander Raxx Casifax was perturbed. This was only her second ship since graduating Imperial Command School, and the Corvus was her first command. She had received the invitation from Ante-Commander Aurellius to form up on his ship in anticipation of combat and was in the process of doing so, but she had left her shuttle with one team of marines at a research facility on Coration Three’s moon.

The marines had been touring the state-of-the-art research area at the request of a representative from the Antreidies family. The representative must have known the young Marine in charge of the detachment was a distant cousin of Emperor Ruvellus, and was seeking to curry even more favor than House Antreidies currently enjoyed.

No matter. She had left instructions for the young Major-Centurion to take over the defense of the research facility. She hoped it would help season him a little, before he got thrown into a situation where the lives of many others would depend on his ability to think under the stress of combat.

Ante-Commander Casifax turned back to the matter at hand, which mainly consisted of catching up to the Skua and continuing the melding of her tactical skills and her crew into a weapon of the Romulan Empire. To Be Continued…