"Transporters, get as many crewmen off of the Thiefbreaker as you can right now. Emergency rates."
"Shuttles impacting Unknown Four and detonating. Unknown Four appears to be almost destroyed and we show the tractor is now operating off its buffer capacitor. As far as we can determine, Unknown Four has no more operating power systems. It should be dropping that tractor in a moment."
"All power to movement. If we have to, we can drag this dog with us through the vortex and deal with them on our side of this hellish trap. Get us to the vortex now! Have the special shuttle self destruct now."
"Captain, tractor link broken. Accelerating. Vortex at twenty thousand kilometers. Thiefbreaker signals they are setting scuttling charges and transporting the rest of the crew. Transporter room reports they have recovered at least 40 crew from Thiefbreaker already. Some trauma cases. Thiefbreaker is firing a defense phaser. Good hit. Unknown Four appears to have a warp containment failure buildup."
Then the last Vampire slammed into the Thiefbreaker leaving it a powerless wreck with fires exploding out of the gaping wounds on its bow as Unknown Four exploded, but the nuclear scuttling charges failed to blow.
"Unknown One is firing both bearing delta masers."
The Doomward shuddered at the distant explosion of Unknown Four and the masers hitting unshielded systems. "Probe bay vented to space, heavily damaged. Special shuttle self-destructing. ESG number two is not reporting. Starboard phasers report a superconductor has been severed at the capacitor out feeds. All tractors are now unresponsive. Damage Control Team Two responding to tractor number one; Damage Control Team One is reponding to to ESG number two."
"Weapons, reserve power to any phasers bearing aft. Hit the Thiefbreaker." Then, with an unfelt shake and chilling sensation, Doomward entered the vortex.
"Captain, no signals detected, no targets. Engineering reports tides in the antimatter flux now stabilizing. Power is at 22% and rising. Vortex has jumped and the remaining cloud is now dispersing."
"Understood. Get us away from here and out of the cloud, and raise some general reinforcement. Make Warp 1.9 as soon as the engines stabilize directly away from the center of the cloud. All spare power to damage control.
"And give me an all-hands channel.
"Shipmates and companions. Today we rode into the clouds of the death spirits and emerged victorious. I salute you and our life brothers and sisters from the Thiefbreaker. I am proud to be your brother."
Only the dead and unconscious failed to raise a victory howl.
Bridge, Lyran CW Doomward, three hours later
"Captain, I still think we can get navigation repaired enough to get a position fix if we can't raise the fleet."
"Very well, Senior Lieutenant," Thr'Uule said, leaning back in the command chair while a medic continued giving him a transfusion. "As soon as we have the sickbay power restored and the long-range comm array working you can lead the damage control team on it."
"Captain," rasped Kurq from the communications console bypass he was working on, "I think communications is repaired as well as it can be. I only have about half the frequency band. Powering up. Scanning fleet frequencies ... the ones I can. I have beacon 31 delta 2. We are definitely in Lyran space. Message arriving on loop addressed to Thiefbreaker in code denaf. Message reads 'reinforcements en route, estimated arrival...' the time stamp puts that at two hours. Message continues "contact sector command soonest."
"Reply in code denaf, 'Doomward to relief force. We are heavily damaged. Thiefbreaker destroyed. Require aid. Vortex has disappeared.' Mark it 'urgent' and send it.
"When they get here, we need a tow and some fresh food. Their sickbays have to be in better shape than ours.
"Oh well, it may have been more than this cruiser was designed to handle, but we handled it well. Senior Lieutenant Grnn'ita, you have the conn. I think that Corporal Drq'Io here can lever me into that wheelchair and take me to sick bay. I'd like to visit the wounded. And Senior Lieutenant, you did well. When we join the spirits, I'd like to think I can depend on you for advice." "Absolutely, Captain. And I'll bring along the commandos for their witty conversation."
"Right. Too bad the pool was destroyed along with the biophysics lab. We'll have to call the tournament a draw, I guess.
"Ah, Corporal, I think you know the way."