October 2011

Burden of Duty, Debt of Revenge

     Captain Dunn watched the monitors with a savage glee on his face. The screens were filled with images of the damage done to the enemy vessel by his weapons. His mind's eye was filled with nothing but Anita Kessler, as she looked moments before she died. He pulled his attention back to the present soon enough to catch the tail end of the sensor operator's run down on the enemy's damage.
     "they're hurt, Captain. Not severely, but definitely hurt."
     "Thank you, Chief Petty Officer Stewart. XO, how about us?" Although he could get the general picture from his own displays, he liked to get the big picture from someone else's point of view.
     "Two phasers, one torpedo tube out; warp capability down by 6%, total power down by 15%. One shuttle is disabled, along with its docking apparatus. Not the scatter-pack. Minor damage on Deck five." That was crew quarters, Dunn thought, nobody there now. The XO droned on. "They hurt us more, but not by much. There was a hull breach on Deck six; damage control has got it locked down and temporarily sealed."
     "Fast work, good for them." Dunn said, dreading the answer to what he was about to ask. "Casualties?"
     His XO winced. "Not as heavy as they could have been, but heavy nonetheless. We've got twenty-four reported injuries, ten fatalities."
     Dunn nodded, taking in the information with no visible change. An image of Kessler appeared in his mind again and his anger and hatred of that ship out there returned, as hot as ever. "Engineering," he snapped, spearing the young officer with his gaze, "I want reserve warp power to maneuvering. We're going to pull a 180° turn, come straight back at him from behind. Guns, I know we don't have photons back yet - we'll hit them with phasers to take down a shield. That's what I want. Make sure the phasers are ready to go." His chair swiveled as he came back around to face his security coordinator. "Tell the Marines at the transporters to stand by for a hit-and-run, target phaser installations. Any of them. Their discretion."
     His orders were followed by a brief flurry of activity as they were relayed outward. He pictured the orders spreading through the ship, at each level of command affecting more people, right down to the young Marine private, sweating and nervous, who was even now drawing equipment for a hit-and-run. He typed in more precise orders to his helmsmen, sending him information on when and how far to turn.
     His new XO leaned in close as Dunn sat in the command chair, spoke in his ear, "Captain, our orders are merely to keep the Klingon occupied - to stay near him without being destroyed. I think we might be acting a bit more aggressively than necessary, especially in closing to transporter range with no heavy weapons armed."
     Dunn gritted his teeth, a portion of his mind screaming, you're not who you're supposed to be! He managed to respond logically and calmly, "We will close from the rear, where his heavy weapons do not bear either. We will destroy some of his point-defense capability, open the range while our photons arm, release a scatter-pack, then follow the wave of drones. Does this meet with your approval?" he finished sarcastically.
     "Captain, I did not mean to imply that. Perhaps we could drop the scatter-pack at longer range."
     "And watch them all be gunned down? A waste of munitions. I have made a decision, based on tactical information not available to some Admiral light-years from the action. I am going to get this ship. Think from that 'aggressive' perspective and I will have some use for your input. Until that point in time, I have a delicate maneuver to perform, and I suggest you sit down and do your job," said in such a fierce whisper that half the heads on the Bridge must have turned toward it.
     The XO responded with a stiff "Aye, Sir," then returned to his console, where he proceeded to line up preparations for the scatter-pack launch. Maybe he's not so bad after all, Dunn thought.
     "Captain," his helmsman reported, "power reserves on line, ready to initiate snap turn."
     "Very well. Execute as previously planned."
     The point in space entered into the ship's navigation computer as the turning point was upon them within seconds and the ship sloughed around. Dunn could hear the ship straining, noticed lighting dim slightly as the ship - his ship - fought her way around to face almost exactly opposite her previous orientation. Come on baby, hold together.
     She held, and surged forward at her previous velocity, the range to the enemy dropping as they cut across the curve toward her. Shaking his concern away, he ordered their headlong plunge continued. Gotta get this bastard.

     Lieutenant Kavesh sat tensely in his seat restraints. His battery of four phasers was still mostly intact, only two weapons had been damaged, and one of those should be repaired in short order. The crew operating the more seriously damaged weapon was probing its wreckage from their terminals while a repair crew twenty meters away tried to get through the locked hatch in the phaser compartment, ready to repair the damage. He checked the recharge meters on the two functioning weapons under his command, almost done charging. His communicator chirped, he glanced at his targeting orders before answering it. Almost charged and no firing orders. Now that's a change, he thought as he hit the accept key. Usually his targeting orders were changed every thirty seconds, often asking him to fire before the weapons were ready.
     "Port phaser battery, Kavesh."
     "Kavesh, this is Kelar, starboard battery."
     Kavesh smiled at the thought of not recognizing his old friend's voice. "Greetings, Kelar. Are you in need of advice on the operation of your phaser battery?" he inquired, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. Had they been in mid-battle, his reply would have been a more terse "What?" and nothing more.
     There was a snort form the other side of the connection. "Hardly from the likes of you, whelp. Tell me, have you weaned yourself yet, or did your brood mother withdraw her milk from you?"
     The eyes of the newer members of his crew widened at this insult, knowing that these words were enough to start a fight. The older hands just shared amused glances at the inventiveness of their superiors when coming up with insults.
     "You fatherless cur. I weaned myself from my mother yesterday. Are you still hiding behind yours?"
     Laughter rolled out of the com, the new crewmembers looked relieved, realizing it was a joke. "That was good, Kavesh. We need a coolant gauge diode. Have you a spare?"
     Kavesh looked at his senior technician, who checked his database and nodded. "We have. Send a technician over to pick it up."
     "Thank you, my friend. One of the techs is on the way over. In the meantime, it looks as if the Federation dog has turned and is heading toward us. Attention to your weapons."
      "Thanks for the reminder," Kavesh said sardonically, then signed off. The senior technician was already rummaging through the small parts bins, found what he was looking for and pulled out a small chunk of electronics. Kavesh checked the tactical display, found that the Federation ship was closing from astern, and rapidly. He checked, still no targeting orders.
      His com chirped again. "Port phaser battery, Kavesh."
     "This is the senior mechanician for repair team number two. Your weapon will be ready to fire momentarily. Repairs complete; we are sealing the access hatch."
     "Outstanding work," he said, signing off. He exchanged a glance with is own senior technician, who would have a meal with the repair mechanician tomorrow and thank him.
     Kelar's technician came and went, the successful technician returned with news of a functioning weapon. Kavesh informed the weapons officer of their improved status and received a hearty "Good work", which he quickly relayed to the crew. "Range is dropping rapidly," he said to his men. "We should be getting new targeting." He focused his attention on incoming data. "New targeting orders. Standard phaser shots, no aegis. Wing phasers only. Waist phasers stand by. Target the cruiser, no other special targeting orders." That is odd, Kavesh thought. The enemy is to the rear, and the waist phasers would have a better shot. The wing phasers would have to fire under the hull.
     The gunners acknowledged, compared his verbal orders with the computer data transfers, found them accurate. The waist phaser gunners started subroutines that kept their weapons oriented on the target, the wing phaser gunners sat poised in front of their boards, knowing that they might have to react quickly to a point defense request. Kavesh double checked their settings, then reported their readiness to the Bridge.
     The Federation ship drew closer. Kavesh, still curious about the choice of phasers, studied the readouts - ECM, speed, bearing. Aha, Kavesh said to himself, the Federation vessel will pass along the starboard side, and the waist phaser - the one still working - will have no shot. Unless the Captain turned to unmask the port waist phasers... but no, the Captain is keeping the enemy on the side where all the phasers are working. Good. His senior technician was reviewing the measurement points on the operating weapons, orange fingers flying over his panel keys. Not a bad crewman for one who serves. His senior gunner was reviewing the targeting setups of the gunners, even though he had already checked them twice.
     "Weapon five, you're drifting off target again. If it won't stay on, do it yourself. You," the senior gunner said, jabbing a finger at the technician. "Figure out what the hell is wrong with that gyro or I'll send you to the booth. You'll explain later why this problem was allowed to happen."
     The gunner paid closer attention to his panel, prodding the weapon back into line when it drifted off, and the technician busied himself looking for a fault.
     The Federation ship was closing fast. Kavesh knew they were seconds away from a weapons exchange. He checked the tightness of his restraints, prepared himself for the shock of damage and the order to fire. The Federation ship fired at six killikams; the flare of energy from her weapons rocking the Kagan. Simultaneously, the order came down to fire. He relayed the order as the ship shook, and his own wing phasers fired back, a tricky shot under the hull. He howled in triumph as two long black scars were burned across the hull of the Federation ship. The technicians started the recharge cycles, monitoring temperatures for signs overheating. The waist gunner waited eagerly for the order to fire, an order that never came; which was just as well, as the enemy ship never crossed his sights.
     Kavesh was absorbed in his work, so he didn't feel it at first, but then nobody else did either. The air seemed to have an electric quality; static seemed to surround him. He didn't notice anything until the golden shimmer started in three places in the room. He leapt upward with a roar of outrage, drawing his sidearm, seeing a blur of motion to his right that meant that the senior gunner, also a Klingon, had done the same. They took aim as the shimmers took shape and began to solidify. Kavesh fired his own weapon, simultaneously thumbing the general com button. "This is port phaser control room, we have been boarded!" was all he had time to say before the transport was done.
     The three Marines seemed surprised, but already had their rifles at their shoulders and swept the compartment. The unarmed junior personnel scramble for any cover they could find, which was very little in the spartan room; for the most part they were cut down. Kavesh managed to squeeze off one shot, watched one of the raiders fall before a beam slid across him, knocking his body to the side and down. Pain flared in his chest and ribs as he hit the ground. To one side was his senior gunner, clearly dead. To his other side was his senior tech, armed and uninjured, cowering behind his panel. Kavesh growled something fierce at him, furious at the technician's cowardice.
     In fractions of a second, he went over what he had seen as he fell. Three Marines, at least one down. He heard more shots, probably the Marines finishing off the rest of his crew or destroying the panels. He heard more fighting outside, reasoned the other members of this team must have materialized out there accidentally, which would account for the confusion among these three. He gestured savagely at his senior technician, then motioned around the edge of the panels. He jabbed a thumb at his chest, then jerked a finger over the top of the panel. The technician nodded, sweat gleaming on his orange skin. The firing had stopped on the other side of the panel, and Kavesh knew that they had only seconds before the Feds rounded the corner and killed them both. He held up a fist, and the technician nodded. Hold for my signal. He slammed his fist against the deck, propelling himself upward. The technician, taking the signal, slid around the corner already shooting. Kavesh came over the top of the panel howling, his hands wrapped around the butt of the disruptor in the approved two-handed grip for stability and accuracy. He swept the weapon across the two Federation Marines; both had their backs to him. They were just beginning to turn when they died.
      He moved to the door, and could hear the sound of small arms fire when he tapped the intercom. He motioned the senior technician to a position in front of the command panel, where he could observe the door and still have some cover. The man had to step over several bodies of comrades to get there, but he did it. Kavesh checked the visual monitor for the companionway outside of his compartment, taking note of the outside. Three Federation Marines, dead or wounded, but all down on the deck. One Hilidarian Marine, the original security guard, down. Two other crewmen down, part of a repair crew no doubt. Two Slirdarian Marines in battle armor were standing with a boot on two of the downed Federation Marines, weapons trained at their heads. Prisoners for interrogation. And who is this? Ah, an ESS man, of course.
      As Kavesh watched, the ESS corporal stepped over the bloody wreckage of the gunfight and tapped the intercom button. "Status!" While only a corporal, the Klingon snapped the word out like an order.
   "Battery secure," Kavesh responded. "I am the battery officer. We have casualties and severe damage. Three enemy dead." Kavesh tapped half of the security code that would open the door. While he could have tapped in all eight digits, he let the ESS man enter the final four, as per protocol. Kavesh and the ESS man found themselves facing each other's disruptors, and both knew the other was only a split second from firing - would have fired if an enemy was on the other side of the door, even though both knew it was safe. The ESS man had already scanned the compartment from the security station. Kavesh had scanned the hallway. They had communicated by voice, they already knew each other, and both had known the security code. Even so, combat was no time to take chances.
     "I will enter your battery," the ESS man said, raising his pistol to point at the ceiling. "You two, take the prisoners to the brig," he said to the Slirdarians behind him. This was, again, protocol. The enemy was capable of raiding the same location twice.
     Bodies were everywhere, the senior technician and himself were the only survivors of those who had been in the room. Some on the floor, some draped over consoles, one still, amazingly enough, in his chair, slumped over his panel. The command console seemed to be operating, but only one of the subordinate consoles was. One console was smoldering, he directed the still shaking technician to put the potential fire out. Another console was intermittently emitting a shower of sparks; Kavesh cut the power to that one.
     The ESS man produced a tricorder and began scanning the compartment for any explosive device that the Federation Marines might have left behind, and quickly found such a device on one of the bodies. He clipped a tag on it and called for the transporters to dump it overboard. By the time that was done, more Marines had arrived, Hilidarian dragons. Moments later, two crewmen appeared.
     "We were ordered to report," one said. Kavesh waved them into the compartment.
     He became aware of the com chirping insistently, went to answer. "Port phaser battery, Kavesh."
     "This is the XO. Security says your compartment is damaged but in our hands. Status?"
     "Running checks now. All but two are casualties," he looked at the Dunkar technician, who had checked them all, and indicated two were still alive. "Two critical wounded, the rest are dead. Three enemy ... " he looked at the ESS man, who gave the hand signal that all three were dead. "... all dead. The place is wrecked, but my panel still works and I can control if necessary. You have taken over my weapons?"
     "Command of your weapons is in Auxiliary Control," the XO responded. "Number eight is still under repairs, but the others are working. Advise me when you have a preliminary report."
     His senior technician was lowering the console top for the unit that had been burning. To Kavesh's questioning look, he just shook his head. Total loss then, in need of complete replacement.
     Kavesh pushed the technician into his seat, set him to monitoring all three remaining weapons. The two Hilidarians continued to glower over their disruptor rifles, while the ESS man gathered up the loose weapons from the original gunners, the Marine guard, and the Federation Marines. An ESS private came to collect them, and a medical team took away the wounded. Kavesh found his own panel wrecked, and placed himself in the senior gunner's station, having to pull the previous occupant's body away from the base of the chair first. Blood had dripped down the panel; he wiped it away with his hands, trying to clear the indicators. He was only partially successful; for the most part he only succeeded in smearing it across the panel face. He called the Bridge.      "This is the XO."
     "Kavesh, port phaser battery. I have one technician, nobody else. My command panel is non-functional, as are two of the four gunner stations. The men you sent are taking those. The two senior stations are functional. I can take over control if necessary, but I could use replacements."
     "Take local control of phaser number nine. Designated point defense reserve. Scan for drones. Auxiliary Control will control phasers four and five until replacement gunners reach your battery. When they do, contact Auxiliary Control to reassume control of phasers four and five. Out."
     The combat high began to wind down. He glanced at his watch to find that just under five minutes had passed since the last firing of his phasers. He also began to feel the pain in his wounds, most of which were minor cuts and serious bruises, plus the phaser burn that had scarred his chest.
     Why did they attack this compartment, Kavesh wondered. Even if we were completely knocked out, the phasers would still work under control of higher stations. It was something to ponder at a later time.
     The medic who had supervised casualty recovery had slapped a bandage on his most serious wound, but he still felt the blood dripping down his side under his uniform, trying to break his concentration. He ignored it, silently chanting a pain control mantra. Nano Tuka Wa. Nano Tuka Wa.
     He and the senior technician continued to scan for targets. The ESS man ordered the two Hilidarians to sling their rifles and drag the dead out of the compartment.
     The pain in his wounds was growing worse. He felt what seemed to be a piece of shrapnel working its way closer to his lungs. He concentrated on the pain mantra, resolving to seek serious medical attention soon after the battle. He leaned back in his chair, attempting to lose the pain pulsing down his side with every heartbeat. "One thing," he said to the technician next to him, having noted his highly inaccurate small arms fire, "if we survive this battle, you are to spend at least two hours taking intensive small arms training every week."